Merkel hopes for "historic" cooperation with Russia
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday that she was hoping for an "historic" agreement to start talks on the possibility of linking NATO's new missile-defence system to Russia's one as she joined the second day of a summit in Lisbon, DPA reported.
On Friday, US President Barack Obama said that NATO leaders had agreed to set up an alliance-wide missile shield. Diplomats said the alliance hoped to invite Russia to start talks on cooperating with it at a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday.
"I think the cooperation with Russia will be a milestone. A former military opponent is clearly becoming a partner: it's a change in cooperation which you could call historic," Merkel said.
NATO's Friday decision paved the way for the US to bring parts of a long-range anti-missile system to Europe, and for NATO to create a computer programme which would allow NATO commanders to use the US and short-range European systems as a single unit.
Diplomats at the summit said that NATO leaders would formally invite Russia to "explore the possibilities" of cooperating with the system, predominantly by coupling its own early-warning facilities into the overall programme.
That was envisaged as a confidence-building measure, after a former US plan to site anti-missile systems in Europe without involving NATO or Russia in 2007 triggered a stand-off with Moscow.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was due to join the summit on Saturday afternoon and was widely tipped to accept the invitation to start talks.
There was still a long way to go before Nato and Russia share security responsibilities, but "the fact that we are taking this path at all is of utmost importance," Merkel stressed.
The NATO-Russia summit was also expected to call for more cooperation on training Afghan anti-drugs police and joint efforts to combat terrorism and attacks on passenger aircraft, and sign a deal expanding NATO's rights to transport non-lethal cargoes into and out of Afghanistan via the Russian rail network.