BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO and Russia will Friday hold their first high-level contact since the alliance suspended such ties after Moscow’s intervention into Georgia this August, a NATO official said.
NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will meet Dmitry Rogozin, the Russian ambassador to the alliance, in a move toward repairing disrupted ties, a NATO official said. “It will be an informal lunch in Brussels,” the official said.
The 26-member NATO agreed this month to gradually resume contacts with Russia, with European allies arguing that the freeze in ties was counter to NATO’s security interests.
De Hoop Scheffer said then the allies had asked him to see what political contacts would be possible and that the suspended ambassador-level NATO-Russia Council (NRC) would meet again on an informal basis at some point.
The NATO official said the purpose of the meeting would be for de Hoop Scheffer to assess when that might be possible.
Rogozin was quoted by Russia’s Interfax news agency last week as saying he had agreed on a “road map” on restoring relations in meetings with NATO officials and that he would have a working meeting with de Hoop Scheffer.
Russia has welcomed NATO’s announcement that it wanted to repair ties, saying it does not want a new Cold War. It says it had to act against Georgian aggression.
In a video message released Thursday, U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker said the United States sought “a cooperative relationship” with Russia, which he called an “important country.”
“We want to have a dialogue with Russia, but we want Russia to act as a modern 21st century partner for NATO,” he said.
At the NATO meeting early this month, de Hoop Scheffer stressed that the alliance shift did not mean it had changed its view that Russia had used “disproportionate” force in invading Georgia, or that it was acceptable for Russia to threaten to station missiles near NATO borders as it did last month.
The allies also reaffirmed a pledge — which had greatly angered Russia — that former Soviet states Georgia and Ukraine would one day join the alliance and pledged to step up help to them in that process.
Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Mark John