NATO must discuss causes of Caucasus crisis with Russia – Lavrov

By RIA Novosti,

Moscow : Russia and NATO must resume their dialogue starting with discussions on the causes of the August conflict between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia, Russia’s foreign minister said on Friday.

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NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer had and informal lunch on Friday with Russia’s envoy to the military alliance, Dmitry Rogozin, as the two sides start to normalize relations after almost all cooperation was halted in the wake of the conflict in the Caucasus and Russia’s recognition of the disputed Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“Now that our NATO colleagues say it is feasible to restore relations, we will be insisting that this restoration will begin with a discussion of the causes of the Caucasus crisis, which our NATO partners avoided in August,” Sergei Lavrov said.

“It was by no accident that during Russia’s suppression of Georgia’s aggression on South Ossetia, Russia urged to hold a session of the Russia-NATO Council, to consider the situation,” he added.

But he said the proposed session was not held “because one of NATO members categorically refused the proposal,” without specifying which one.

In response to NATO’s decision to halt cooperation, Russia froze a number of programs, including the Partnership for Peace program, halted cooperation with NATO’s Moscow office and called off the NATO chief’s visit to Moscow. Russia also canceled all joint-NATO naval training, including NATO visits to Russian ports.

Russia did not halt work with NATO in regard to arms control, cooperation in airspace, and the war in Afghanistan.