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19 Oct, 2010 10:28

Moscow accepts invitation to participate in NATO summit

President Dmitry Medvedev has said that he will attend the Russia-NATO summit due to be held in Lisbon, Portugal next month.

"I would like to announce that I will attend the Russia-NATO summit in Lisbon scheduled for November 20. I believe that it will help to find necessary compromises as well as to generally develop dialogue between Russia and the North-Atlantic alliance,” Dmitry Medvedev said.

The announcement was made in Deauville, France, after a tripartite meeting between the Russian leader, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The alliance will gather for its summit in the Portuguese capital on November 19-20 to define its course for the next ten years. NATO reform, the new Strategic Concept and missile defense are expected to top the agenda of the meeting.

Earlier, the organization’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen offered Moscow the chance to hold a NATO-Russia Council (NRC) summit in the framework of NATO’s gathering in Lisbon. He expressed hope, the body’s website cites, that the Russian side would accept the invitation as the agenda “is getting a substantial boost: with more co-operation on Afghanistan, a joint review of the challenges we face together today, and a more effective fight against terrorism and piracy.”

The alliance’s chief praised Medvedev’s decision to take part in the summit.

“The Summit will be an important opportunity to deepen and broaden the political dialogue and practical cooperation between the NATO-Russia Council members, to enhance our shared security,” Rasmussen said on Tuesday.

It is expected that the idea of creating a NATO-based missile defense system which would link the existing American and European systems will be discussed at the November summit. On a number of occasions Rasmussen said that Russia should also join the project that would create a “security roof from Vancouver to Vladivostok.”

President Medvedev said that Moscow will only announce its decision on the matter after it gets a detailed proposal by the alliance.

"I think that NATO itself needs to understand how it sees Russia's participation in this project, what it will give, what agreements could be made and how we could work further," he told a media conference after the talks after with his French and German counterparts in Deauville. “Only after we finish assessing the proposal, we will be able to give a response.”

Established in 2002, the NRC summit at the level of heads of states was last held back in April 2008. The then-President Vladimir Putin took part in the event. After the war in the Caucasus launched by Georgia in August 2008, relations between Moscow and the alliance were rather strained. Now, despite the fact that Moscow and Brussels still have differences to iron out – especially in what refers to the sides’ stance on official Tbilisi – the situation has changed and both are willing to develop co-operation.

Troika discuss visa-free prospects

The leaders of Russia, Germany and France have met for an informal summit in the French resort town of Deauville to talk issues of global importance such as security, Iran and nuclear non-proliferation – as well as to discuss relations between Moscow and the EU.

Visa-free travel between Russia and the European states has yet again come under the spotlight at the troika summit. Moscow has long been pushing for easier travel rules to be introduced, saying that it could actually lift visa restrictions “tomorrow”. Visa-free travel would not only make life easier for millions of people, but would also help to develop trade relations as well as boost the travel industry. However, not all 27members of the EU have so far been thrilled by the idea and it will take time to come to a compromise.

In a joint statement issued following the talks, the three leaders expressed hope that the Russia-EU summit due to be held in December in Brussels will result in some progress on the path to scrapping visas.

Speaking at the joint media conference, Medvedev said that the EU’s position on the problem “is understandable, pragmatic” and is based on internal political situations in each of the member-states. While everyone does realize that visa regime should be lifted, he went on, everyone also understands that will is not enough to make it happen.

According to Medvedev, the leaders agreed "that it should be a process [with a timeframe] and we also understand that this process should have its 'road map’."

The host of the summit, Nicolas Sarkozy pointed out that both Paris and Berlin consider Moscow a friend, adding that the three states should yet bring their positions on the visa issue closer together and continue moving towards the goal “step by step”. However, the time frame that the French president mentioned is not really encouraging.

“Ten to fifteen years from now, a common Russia-EU economic space should be created, with no visas and with a common concept of security,” he told reporters.

Natalia Makarova, RT