NATO and Russia agreed to resume political and military cooperation despite persisting “fundamental differences” on Georgia, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on June 27.
The decision was made at a meeting on the Greek island of Corfu between foreign ministers from the 28 NATO allies and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov.
The alliance froze ties with Russia after the August war in Georgia.
Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Scheffer, who also is a chair of NATO-Russia Council (NRC), said that discussions were “open and constructive.”
“Which means, that no one tried to paper over our differences, on Georgia for example,” Scheffer said. “But we agreed – and that’s a very positive conclusion of the meeting – not to let those disagreements bring the whole NRC train to a halt.”
“There is fundamental difference of opinions about the notion of territorial integrity of Georgia,” he said and added that differences also persists on Russia’s move to halt UN observers’ and OSCE monitors’ presence in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, respectively.
“But - and here comes the ‘but’ – despite the fact that I do not expect the twain [Russia’s and NATO’s positions] to meet in the near future, that is not a stumbling block any more for the fact that there are lots of things in NATO-Russia Council we can discuss,” Scheffer said.
He also said that “Russia needs NATO and NATO needs Russia” and named stabilization in Afghanistan, drug trafficking, Somali piracy, terrorism and nuclear proliferation in which the two’s joint efforts were required.
Scheffer said that during the meeting Minister Lavrov and other foreign ministers raised Georgia “extensively.”
“Those positions have not been nearing each other in this meeting at all,” he added.
Asked about NATO’s expansion plans, Scheffer responded: “NATO’s door is open – that’s the principle; you know that in western Balkans there are nations knocking on the NATO’s door.”
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, reiterated after the meeting that Moscow’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia was “irreversible.”
“All have to accept the new realities and the decisions taken by Russia after the conflict are irreversible,” he said.