BERLIN German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on NATO on Thursday to strengthen cooperation with Russia and urged Moscow to send a signal to build trust, such as helping to settle a conflict in a Moldovan breakaway region.
With the alliance celebrating its 60th anniversary at a summit hosted by France and Germany next week, Merkel said NATO had to adapt to new challenges such as terrorism and energy security and build new partnerships in a post-Cold War world.
"NATO wants Russia as a good partner," she told the Bundestag lower house of parliament. "For 20 years, we've not been adversaries. The Cold War times are irrevocably over."
Moscow and Western partners have been at odds over a series of diplomatic and security issues in past months, including Russia's military action in Georgia last year and Moscow's gas dispute with Ukraine which cut supplies to Europe in January.
"We must build mutual trust ... In my view, some conflicts can be solved quite quickly and easily," Merkel said, referring to the 19-year conflict of Moldova and its Transdniestria region.
"Here, Moscow could set a sign showing its goodwill. That would bring us progress on many questions."
The dispute flared up in 1990 when predominantly Russian-speaking Transdniestria broke away on fears of Moldova's possible merger with ethnic kin Romania. Since then, it has been a source of instability on the European Union's border.
Last week, Moldova, Transdniestria and Russia agreed that an international mission may replace Moscow's peacekeepers in the conflict zone once a peace deal is concluded.
Merkel said she would address security issues with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Berlin next week and called on NATO to openly discuss common challenges, referring to the group's decision this month to resume formal ties with Moscow.
"NO GLOBAL NATO"
In her keynote speech, Merkel praised NATO as a guarantor of peace and freedom in Europe, expressing Germany's gratitude to the alliance 20 years after the Berlin Wall came down.
But Merkel also laid out NATO limits, saying:
"I don't see a global NATO. The alliance remains focused on North Atlantic partners' collective security. It can provide security outside its area, but that doesn't mean members across the globe are possible. They must be transatlantic."
Merkel defended Germany's participation in a NATO peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, which is unpopular at home, and reiterated that military action had to go hand in hand with efforts to rebuild the country's institutions.
"Our principle remains valid. No durable security without reconstruction. No reconstruction without security," she said, urging the Afghan government to do everything to ensure the country was ruled in "a good and efficient manner."
Merkel said she welcomed signals by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration that it would also focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan's regions in an effort to resolve the conflict.
Obama, who is expected to present a review of Afghanistan policy in coming days, will attend the NATO summit on his first visit to Europe.
(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers)