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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Expects May 27 NATO Deal

BADEN-BADEN, Germany -- Russia expects to sign an agreement on its relations with NATO on May 27 in Paris, President Boris Yeltsin said Thursday after making progress in talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Kohl said considerable differences remained to be ironed out, however, although most of the work on "the document'' had been completed.

Both leaders declined to give details of their negotiations on the planned eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Russia has vehemently opposed.

But Yeltsin, looking waxen-faced and tired, told reporters he and Kohl had been in broad agreement on the thorny problem.

"I want to announce here that on May 27 in Paris the leaders of NATO and Russia will sign the treaty. So we have to hurry," he said at a joint news conference with Kohl.

What the document will be called is one of the areas of disagreement, said Yeltsin's spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky. But he said the Russian president planned to be in Paris for the signing.

Yeltsin said he remained opposed to the stationing of any nuclear or new conventional arms on the territories of new members of the Western alliance, and he hoped Kohl would put his own weight behind Russia's arguments.

Kohl, referring to Yeltsin as "dear Boris,'' said: "The Germans will be helpful but we don't have the role of a translator.''

Yeltsin was invited to Germany to receive the "Man of the Year'' prize awarded to him by the German media last year. He could not come to get it as scheduled last November because of heart surgery.

Kohl said he was confident that with "good will on both sides" there could be an agreement with Russia before the NATO summit July 8 and 9 in Madrid that is expected to produce invitations to new NATO members. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are widely expected to become the first of the many eager Eastern agreed upon, there are big differences in the last, fifth, article, Kohl said.

He and Yeltsin refused to give details, saying it would not be helpful to negotiations.

But Yastrzhembsky told reporters later the fifth article concerned upgrading military structures of new NATO members, and how to differentiate between civilian and military structural refurbishment.

Russia made it clear it strongly opposes NATO's expansion eastward to include former members of the Soviet-dominated Warsaw Pact alliance.

"We consider it the West's biggest mistake since the end of the Cold War,'' Yastrzhembsky told reporters hours before the Kohl-Yeltsin talks. He had said Russia would not sign an agreement unless it meets Russia's expectations on limitations of weaponry on the territory of new member states. And he said it would be premature to say that it could be signed in Paris in late May.

That made Yeltsin's announcement a few hours later all the more stunning. German delegation sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Kohl would make it clear there could be no first-class and second-class NATO members. One possible compromise would be a step-by-step upgrading of the new members' military, with Russia being informed before each new step, the sources said.

In Washington, White House spokesman Mike McCurry said U.S. President Bill Clinton might attend a Paris signing if the charter is ready.

"It's not done, clearly not done," McCurry said. "They've got a ways to go. But we share President Yeltsin's sense that this would be an enormously important achievement because it speaks to the future of an undivided Europe that goes from the Urals to the United Kingdom."

Yeltsin also handed over to Kohl on Thursday archive material from the Weimar Republic era and from the files of the Soviet-backed former ruling party of East Germany, the Socialist Unity party, or SED.

Kohl described as a special gesture of friendship the return of part of the personal archives of Weimar Republic Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, assassinated in 1922 in Berlin, and of microfilms of SED documents.

The gifts were intended as a goodwill gesture by Yeltsin to defuse a spat between Russia and Germany over art treasures seized by the Soviet army after World War II.

The German government has been demanding the return of 200,000-300,000 art works and archive materials taken out of Germany at the end of World War II as recompense for war damage suffered by the Soviet Union.

However, the Russian parliament has now voted for a second time to declare the seized art works Russian state property. (AP, Reuters, AFP)

For example, improving a highway near a military base could be viewed either way.