by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) Dec 8, 2011
NATO and Russia failed to resolve a rift over a European missile shield on Thursday but agreed to press on with negotiations aimed at reaching a cooperation deal.
"On missile defence, we do not agree yet," NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after talks between foreign ministers of the military alliance and Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"But we all agreed that it is important to keep on trying, to keep on talking, and to keep on listening to each other's concerns," he told a news conference.
Seeking to assuage Russian concerns after Moscow threatened to deploy missiles near EU borders, Rasmussen reiterated that NATO allies "do not consider Russia an enemy".
NATO renewed its invitation to cooperate with Russia on the defence systems "so that they can see with their own eyes that it's not directed against Russia," he added.
Moscow wants NATO to provide a legally-binding document stating that the missile system is not pointed at Russia, but the transatlantic alliance says it has made enough statements to that effect.
"We want to have clear guarantees that the missile defence capabilities will not be targeted against our strategic capability," Lavrov told a news conference after the talks.
Moscow also suggests that both sides operate a joint missile shield, but NATO insists on keeping two separate systems with the former Cold War foes sharing data.
"We stand ready to dialogue provided legitimate interests of all parties are taken into account," Lavrov said. "We still have some time, but time is running out every day."
Rasmussen said he hoped a deal would be struck by the next NATO summit in May 2012.
Missile shield no cause for Russia countermeasures: Clinton
"We will continue to press forward on missile defence," Clinton told a press conference in Brussels after talks between NATO foreign ministers and their Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"It is certainly not a cause for military counter-measures," she said.
Seeking to ease Kremlin concerns that the system is directed at Russia's strategic nuclear deterrent, Clinton said it was aimed at countering a threat emanating from Iran.
"This is not directed at Russia, it is not about Russia. It is frankly about Iran and other state or non-state actors who are seeking to develop threatening missile technology," she said.
The NATO and Russian ministers failed to resolve their disagreement over the missile shield being built with US technology to protect Europe from ballistic missile threats, but they agreed to continue talks on potential cooperation.
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