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Russia against pressure on Balkan states to join NATO - Lavrov

RIA Novosti

15:12 02/06/2011

MOSCOW, June 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is against external pressure on Balkan countries to join NATO, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday.

Lavrov commented on a statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who said on May 30 that all Balkan countries should join the alliance as they belong to the Euro-Atlantic structures.

"We believe that the accession to a military, political or some other organization is a sovereign right, and there must be no artificial external influence on this sovereign choice," Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his Bulgarian counterpart Nikolai Mladenov in Moscow.

Lavrov added that countries joining NATO automatically become members of the Russia-NATO Council, which operates on principles of indivisible security.

"According to these principles, none of the Russia-NATO Council member states must ensure national security at the expense of the security of others. This is a key element of the European security process for us," he said.

The Bulgarian foreign minister said, however, that all Balkan states should have the opportunity to join NATO.

"It is of paramount importance that our Balkan neighbors become a part of the European security system and share economic opportunities created by the European Union," Mladenov said.

The Balkan states include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro.

Greece joined NATO in 1952. Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia became NATO members in 2004.

Albania and Croatia joined NATO in April 2009, and in December 2009 Montenegro was granted Membership Action Plan (MAP) status, which is designed to assist those countries that wish to join the alliance.

NATO foreign ministers agreed in April this year to conditionally invite Bosnia and Herzegovina to join the MAP.

The accession of Macedonia to NATO is pending since the 2008 Bucharest summit. NATO nations agreed that the country would receive an invitation upon resolution of the Macedonia naming dispute with Greece.

Serbia claims that the membership in the NATO Partnership for Peace Program (PfP), which Serbia joined in December 2006, is "the proper scale" of its relations with the alliance.



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