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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Resumes Contacts With Russia After 8 Months

BRUSSELS -- NATO and Russia resumed formal contacts Wednesday, eight months after they were suspended because of last year's war with Georgia, officials said.

The agenda was dominated by continuing differences over Georgia and cooperation in the Afghanistan war.

"We should not shy away from a number of issues on which we disagree," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said before the meeting between ambassadors of the alliance's 28 nations and Russia's envoy to the organization, Dmitry Rogozin.

Wednesday's talks were held under the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, a panel set up to improve relations between the former Cold War foes.

"The NATO-Russia Council is not a fair-weather body," de Hoop Scheffer said. "It doesn't mean we always agree on everything."

But he noted that on issues such as piracy and the war in Afghanistan, Russia and NATO had continued to cooperate closely despite the diplomatic hiatus.

Formal ties were suspended following a five-day war in August. NATO nations accused Moscow of using disproportionate force to eject Georgian forces that had occupied the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

NATO heads of state approved the resumption of formal contacts at their summit earlier this month in Strasbourg, France.

Diplomats from both sides said one of the principal aims of Wednesday's talks would be to prepare a meeting between NATO foreign ministers and their Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that is tentatively scheduled for May 19. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to attend, officials said.

Igor Semenenko, a senior diplomat in Russia's mission to NATO, said his government also intended to discuss NATO's upcoming exercises in Georgia.

Moscow opposes Georgia's desire to join NATO and contends that the country is preparing for military aggression.