NEW YORK (Reuters) - NATO and Russia should step up cooperation on missile defense, aiming to endorse a plan by November to resume missile defense exercises and explore ways to link early warning systems, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
“In the longer term, NATO and Russia should work together to develop models for a combined NATO-Russia missile defense architecture,” Clinton said in prepared comments at a NATO-Russia Council ministerial meeting in New York.
Repeating assurances the United States believes the 28-member Western security alliance, founded to counter the Soviet threat, and Russia should be partners, Clinton outlined a raft of issues the two sides should work on together
“We believe that the best way to achieve this is by reinforcing the pillars that have supported European security for decades, not by negotiating new treaties, as Russia has suggested,” Clinton said.
She said NATO leaders should work out a plan to be endorsed at a summit in November which will pave the way for new cooperation, echoing a call earlier this month by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
Rasmussen has invited Russia to hold talks with the NATO states at the alliance’s November summit in Lisbon.
U.S. and Russian ties have been slowly recovering since tensions over Russia’s 2008 war with the pro-Western former Soviet republic of Georgia.
Proponents say U.S. President Barack Obama’s effort to “reset” relations with Russia have helped win Moscow’s support for sanctions on Iran, fresh military supply routes for the Afghan war and a new U.S.-Russian arms reduction treaty.
However, many differences remain, including U.S. objections to what Washington regards as Russia’s “occupation” of Georgian territory and Moscow’s deep suspicions about U.S. plans for a missile defense system.
RUSSIA CAUTIOUS ON MISSILES
Moscow has been cautious about the missile plan, even though NATO has said the system is designed as protection against a perceived threat from Iran, not Russia.
Clinton said it was important for both sides to restore and eventually modernize the Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, from which Russia has suspended its participation.
Clinton said she was encouraged that Russia had welcomed NATO’s offer to begin discussing a framework for reviving the CFE, saying the new START nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia provided a model for how to achieve this kind of agreement.
“We must ensure that the initial framework commits us to addressing all the tough issues if we want the follow-on negotiations to be successful,” she added.
NATO wants to highlight that the CFE principle of host nation consent for the stationing of forces on its territory applies to Georgia -- which rejects the stationing of Russian troops in its breakaway regions.
“We must have real military limitations and restraints where we need them,” Clinton said. “And all participating states, including Georgia and Moldova, must have the right to agree to the stationing of foreign forces on their sovereign territory.”
Clinton said improved relations could also lead to more transparency on exchanging information about military doctrine, strategy and force developments, and that the United States was prepared to offer an early briefing to start that process.
She added that NATO should also be willing to step up cooperation on counter-narcotics efforts, and should seek to develop a strategy by November to broaden their work together across Central Asia, an area of particular concern to Moscow.
“Tangible progress on such issues as missile defense, conventional arms control, crisis prevention and response, improved transparency, and security in Georgia would set the stage for closer cooperation in many other areas in future,” she said.
“If we can agree on the principles and goals, we can hammer out the details in the coming months.”
Editing by Jerry Norton”
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