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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, NATO to Meet on Combating Terrorism

Moving to further strengthen their newly warm relationship, NATO and Russia will confer at a conference Monday on the role of their military forces in anti-terrorist operations.

"It's a concrete manifestation of solid, good cooperation between NATO and Russia," NATO spokesman Yves Brodeur told reporters Friday.

During Monday's conference in Moscow to be opened by NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, "experts on both sides can sit and exchange their different views, trade experience and learn from each other," Brodeur said in a televised hook-up from NATO headquarters in Brussels.

The conference will highlight the burgeoning ties between Russia and NATO, which have seen a boost thanks to President Vladimir Putin's firm support of the U.S.-led war on terror.

"We are sitting and we are talking about issues that we hadn't even dreamed of discussing a few years ago," Brodeur said. "We find that we have a lot in common."

In May, NATO signed an agreement with Russia making it a limited partner and setting up a joint council for making decisions on counterterrorism, nonproliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, missile defense, peacekeeping, search-and-rescue at sea and other issues. On a trip to China last week, Putin said Moscow could deepen its cooperation with NATO if the alliance focuses on fighting terror and other growing security threats.

"By working together we stand more chance to achieve our objectives," Brodeur said.

Like the United States, NATO has acknowledged that some of the rebels in Chechnya have links with international terrorism, but the alliance also reaffirmed the need for a political solution to the conflict. The Kremlin, however, has rejected peace talks with the rebels, saying they are international terrorists.

"There is no way that you can ... find a solution to the problems posed by terrorism strictly by using military means," Brodeur said. "It's got to be accompanied by political action as well."

While not focusing on any specific conflict, like the war in Chechnya, Monday's conference will touch on the issue of the proportionate use of force to avoid civilian victims and violation of human rights while combating terrorists, Brodeur said.

Brodeur stressed that disagreements on some issues do not threaten the new links between Russia and the alliance.

"We have reached a stage of maturity in our relationship where we can disagree on fundamental issues but still keep going in other areas where we do have common interests," he said.

In a recent nationwide poll of 1,500 Russians, 56 percent of respondents said Russia should develop closer cooperation with NATO, while 23 percent were opposed and the rest were undecided. But despite the NATO-Russia rapprochement, 48 percent of those polled last weekend dubbed the alliance an "aggressive military pact," while 26 percent called it a defensive organization and the rest were undecided.

The poll, conducted by the independent Public Opinion Foundation, had a margin of error of no more than 3.6 percentage points.