BRUSSELS, Mar 5 – NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called Thursday for the alliance to resume top-level talks with Russia which have been frozen since last August’s war in Georgia.
Scheffer said ties between the alliance and Moscow had shown a marked improvement after lower-level talks and hoped that a ministerial meeting in Brussels would approve the resumption of contacts at the highest level.
"My inclination is a positive one, so let’s hope that ministers agree with me," he told reporters ahead of chairing talks with NATO foreign ministers.
When asked when talks in the so-called NATO-Russia Council would resume, he said: "I hope sooner rather than later."
The alliance’s foreign ministers are expected to give their green light to the resumption of the high-level ties with Russia while reassuring Georgia and Ukraine that they have a future in the military alliance.
Although official high-level talks between NATO and Russia were put on hold since August over Moscow’s war with Georgia, the talks resumed informally in December.
NATO diplomats confirmed Wednesday that an in-principle agreement had been reached to end the freeze.
The first official meeting could take place at the level of ministers after NATO’s 60th anniversary summit in early April, the diplomats said.
In an effort to ease the concerns of Georgia and Ukraine, both striving to join NATO in the face of Russian objections, the ministers will also meet Thursday with Georgian and Ukrainian representatives.