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Lord Robertson
Interviewed by the BBC's Paul Wood
 real 28k

Paul Wood reports from Moscow
"Russia has been sending out mixed signals about the visit"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 February, 2000, 17:21 GMT
Russia and Nato restore severed ties

Ivanov and Robertson It was the highest-level meeting since ties were cut

Nato and Russia have agreed to thaw relations that were put on ice over the alliance's air strikes against Yugoslavia last year.

The announcement came after Nato Secretary-General George Robertson met Russia's acting President Vladimir Putin and senior ministers - the highest level meeting since the alliance went to war with Serbia last March.

We have to do a very painstaking and difficult job to rebuild confidence
Igor Ivanov
Moscow froze its ties with Nato last year in anger over the alliance's bombing of its traditional ally.

Relations cooled further when Nato criticised Russia's military campaign against rebel fighters in Chechnya, and urged Moscow to seek a political solution.

"We are renewing our basic relationship. We consider each other as important strategic partners in guaranteeing security in Europe and the world," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said.

Role on world stage

Lord Robertson arrived in Moscow on Tuesday, just 24 hours after the visit was finalised following two months of delicate negotiations.

He said relations had moved from "permafrost into slightly softer ground".

Nato bombs Nato launched air strikes against Serbia last March
But Mr Ivanov said restoring full ties would depend on both sides being prepared to respect the conditions of the co-operation charter signed in 1997.

Moscow wants the Atlantic alliance to grant it an equal role in resolving international crises - and senior officials have frequently accused the United States of trying to dictate the world's affairs.

"We have to do a very painstaking and difficult job to rebuild confidence," Mr Ivanov told the Nato chief.

Lord Robertson and Mr Ivanov said they now wanted to rebuild trust, particularly through the Permanent Joint Council, which brings Russia and the 19 Nato members together.

The two sides agreed to discuss new security concepts and other military matters at the council.

Difference of opinions

Mr Putin said Lord Robertson's visit showed the importance Nato attached to its relationship with Russia.

I think we've moved from permafrost into slightly softer ground
Lord Robertson
Although he said Moscow was prepared to develop relations with the alliance, the disagreement over the bombing of Yugoslavia would not be easy to resolve.

And Lord Robertson restated Nato's concern over the campaign in Chechnya, in which human rights groups say hundreds of civilians have died and many thousands left homeless.

"We will make clear our view on Chechnya. We understand Russia's problems in Chechnya but disagree fundamentally with the methods used," he said.

"Russia and Nato are too important strategic players to talk past each other on key issues."

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See also:
14 Feb 00 |  Europe
Fighting in key Chechen gorge
05 Jan 00 |  Europe
Propaganda wars in Kosovo and Chechnya
19 Nov 99 |  Europe
Analysis: East-West relations must shift

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