Scheffer: NATO seeks Afghanistan transit deal with Russia
(dpa) - NATO hopes that Russia will soon agree to let international forces in Afghanistan transport equipment through its territory, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Wednesday.
"I hope the summit (of NATO leaders in Bucharest) might see closer cooperation with Russia on transit over land for non-lethal goods" for NATO and international troops in Afghanistan, de Hoop Scheffer told a meeting of politically-minded youths in Bucharest.
"That would be a major result," he said.
On Friday, NATO leaders are set to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for the highest-level meeting in years between NATO and Russia.
The atmosphere between the two has reached a new post-Cold War low in recent months, with disputes over US plans to site a missile- defence system in Central Europe, Russia's suspension of a key arms- control treaty and the future of Kosovo setting the sides at one another's throats.
But ahead of Friday's meeting, officials said that recent diplomatic signals indicated that the two sides could be ready to move closer together, with their common concerns with terrorism and the drugs problem in Afghanistan foremost.
"Russia is faced with terrorism too and I think it's important that we continue and expand our cooperation where possible," de Hoop Scheffer said.
NATO currently leads the 47,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under UN mandate in Afghanistan.
The mission is facing problems of both manpower and supply, making any attempt from Russia to provide an alternative supply route likely to be welcomed with open arms.