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Friday, July 23, 1999 Published at 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK


World: Europe

Nato and Russia resume ties

Relations were strained during the stand-off at Pristina airport

Nato and Russia have resumed formal relations for the first time in four months since Moscow suspended ties because of the Kosovo crisis.

Kosovo: Special Report
Russia froze all formal ties with Nato and withdrew its military representative at alliance headquarters last March to signal its displeasure at the allied air strikes against Yugoslavia.

A Nato official described Friday's meeting of the Nato-Russia Permanent Joint Council (PJC) in Brussels as "positive and constructive", but said it dealt only with co-operation on the ground in Kosovo.

Nato ambassadors and their Russian counterpart said in a statement that they were "determined to do their utmost to ensure equal security for all inhabitants of Kosovo, regardless of their ethnic, political or religious affiliations".


The BBC's Nick Childs reports on relations between Russian and Nato troops on the ground
Russia and Nato expressed their "growing concern at the continuing departure of significant numbers of Serbs and members of other ethnic groups from Kosovo.

"They urge all Serbs and members of other ethnic groups to stay in Kosovo, and those who have left to return to their homes," the statement said.

Last-minute hitch

The meeting of the PJC at Nato headquarters was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but was called off at the last minute until the agenda could be clarified and a joint statement drafted.


[ image: Mr Ivanov said co-operation was possible between the two sides]
Mr Ivanov said co-operation was possible between the two sides
Russia, which has long-established historical and cultural links with the Serbs, had reportedly wanted to mention the situation of ethnic Serbs in Kosovo. Nato, meanwhile, had wanted to refer to war crimes by Serb forces in Kosovo.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said while on a visit to Britain on Thursday that if Nato wanted to restore relations, it had to build them on trust to avoid actions such as the bombing of Yugoslavia, "which seriously aggravate the situation in Europe and the world".

But he stressed that co-operation was now possible.

"I believe we are ready for such serious talks. If Nato shows a similar decisiveness, we shall agree to a further development of relations with the alliance."

Troops impasse

Friction over the Russian role in the Kosovo peacekeeping effort led to problems last month when Russian paratroopers stationed in Bosnia took Nato by surprise by flooding into the province to seize Pristina airport.

Russia, which had helped broker the peace between Nato and Yugoslavia, was seeking its own designated sector within Kosovo.

But because of Russia's close ties with the Serbs, Nato feared such a move would threaten the peace in Kosovo, creating a Serbian enclave within Kosovo which could threaten opportunities for creating a unified territory.

The impasse was eventually resolved in a deal which gave Moscow control of a 3,600-strong Russian force, although not in a separate Russian sector.

Relations back on track?

The PJC was set up in May 1997 as a forum for regular consultations between Nato and Russia, which has criticised the alliance's eastward expansion to sign up Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic as new members.

A Nato official said on Friday the ambassadors had also discussed some procedural issues aimed at getting regular PJC meetings back on track.

The joint council would probably meet again in September, he said.





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