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Lavrov pulls out of Russia-NATO meeting

Lavrov pulls out of Russia-NATO meeting

Russia's foreign minister has pulled out of a NATO-Russia Council meeting planned for Brussels this month to protest the alliance's upcoming military exercises in Georgia and the expulsion of two Russian diplomats from its headquarters, a senior diplomat said Tuesday.
Sergey Lavrov's decision to withdraw from the May 19 meeting was based on concerns about the exercises that start Wednesday and over the expulsions last week, which were in apparent retaliation for a spy case dating back to February, Russia's NATO envoy Dmitry Rogozin said in televised comments.
Russia is frustrated by what it sees as Western meddling in its traditional sphere of influence and opposes Georgia's efforts to join NATO. NATO maintains the war games in Georgia, which fought a short war with Russia last August, are not directed at Russia.
NATO deputy spokeswoman Carmen Romero said the alliance regretted Lavrov's withdrawal "because there are many issues of common and mutual interest that we could discuss between NATO and Russia."
NATO and Russia last week restored formal contacts that were suspended as a result of the Georgian war, and Rogozin told the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency that the disagreement over the diplomats would not lead to a renewed freeze in cooperation.
The NATO exercises, which continue through June 1, were initially to include about 1,300 personnel from 19 NATO and partner nations.
But some former Soviet republics have decided not to take part.
Among the countries to back out was Armenia, which is dependent on Russia for its economic survival. Four other former Soviet republics _ Estonia, Latvia, Kazakhstan and Moldova _ and Serbia have also pulled out, the Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported Tuesday.
Romero said that NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer hoped that the two sides could meet for talks soon.
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Associated Press Writer Slobodan Lekic contributed from Brussels.


Updated : 2021-02-27 15:31 GMT+08:00