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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Primakov Hopes for Deal From Luxembourg Talks

STRASBOURG, France -- Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov said Monday he hoped to complete a draft agreement on future partnership between NATO and Russia in talks with the alliance's secretary general on Tuesday.


Primakov told reporters in Strasbourg on the eve of his meeting with NATO chief Javier Solana in Luxembourg: "I want this meeting to be the last one and to enable us to sign on May 27. The possibility of signing the document will be totally cleared up tomorrow."


The minister was speaking after talks with the so-called troika of past, present and future holders of the European Union's rotating presidency, led by Dutch Foreign Minister Hans Van Mierlo.


He repeated Moscow's denunciation of NATO plans to admit former Soviet bloc central European countries as "the most serious error since the end of the Cold War." But he added that a Russia-NATO document should minimize the repercussions on Russian security.


NATO sources in Brussels cautiously welcomed Primakov's comments, saying they could be interpreted as indicating Moscow realized NATO had reached its final position in the negotiations and was ready to conclude a deal.


President Boris Yeltsin has agreed in principle to sign an agreement with leaders of the 16-nation North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Paris on May 27, but U.S. and NATO officials have previously said they were not sure it would be ready in time.


The West has rejected Russian demands for legal commitments not to station nuclear or conventional forces on the territory of new NATO members or to build military infrastructure there. But it has said it has no plans to deploy nuclear weapons or permanently station forces there.


U.S. and Russian officials reported some progress after U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright held two meetings with Primakov in Moscow last week. "Mr. Primakov is a fine tactician and negotiator, and he will probably try for some little final concession to save face and Russian honor, but I think he realizes that NATO is now close to its bottom line. The Russians have to substantially modify their position to get an agreement," a NATO source said.


"If he is indicating he is ready, that is very encouraging indeed," the source said.


Earlier Monday, a Russian Foreign Ministry source told Interfax that Moscow and NATO had resolved most of the problems blocking agreement on a post-Cold War partnership, and progress now depends on NATO.


The source said differences remained on military matters and the onus was on Solana to make a breakthrough in his talks with Primakov on Tuesday.


"The Russian side has shown its negotiating partners its cards, and NATO has shown its cards," the Russian Foreign Ministry source said, according to Interfax reports.


The source said Moscow was sticking to demands for a clear, binding agreement on military matters.


"The Russian side insists everything here is utterly clear and concrete. NATO would like to get off with passionate declarations saying it has no plans, or intentions or reasons, let's say, for stationing nuclear weapons on the territory of new member states of this bloc," the official said.