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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Joint NATO-Russia Council Holds Its Inaugural Meeting

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The joint NATO-Russia council held its inaugural meeting Friday, two months after signing a landmark accord governing relations between the Western alliance and its former Cold War foe.


The historic meeting, delayed a day following a disagreement over who should chair the gathering, immediately got down to work, agreeing to a set of procedures and a work schedule.


Under a compromise worked out by both sides, the meeting was chaired jointly by NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin and Belgian ambassador Jean de Ruyt, NATO officials said.


Opening in an "excellent atmosphere," delegates agreed to meet again at an ambassadorial level in Brussels on Sept. 11, prior to a meeting of foreign ministers in New York at the end of the month.


Further "16-plus-one" meetings would be held in December involving foreign ministers and then defense ministers, officials said.


"It was quite an occasion," said one senior NATO diplomat, who asked not to be identified.


"If anyone would have said four months ago that we would have a meeting together here now, before the summer break, there would have been a lot of skepticism," he said.


The session, the first since signing of the NATO-Russia Founding Act in Paris on May 27, went ahead after an agreement to run a three-member chairmanship.


Solana and Churkin are permanent co-chairmen, while ambassadors from NATO's 16 member states will rotate the other position for three-month periods.


Belgium is first alphabetically in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, so its ambassador takes over the first rotating co-chairmanship until the end of September, when it will be replaced by Canada.


The bickering arose because NATO wanted Solana to have a major role in the troika, while Russia wanted the chairmanship to be shared equally. Diplomats said the council meeting was able to go ahead only after Solana reached agreement late Thursday with Russia.