Russia warns on missile shield as NATO meets

7th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that NATO had refused to provide a written guarantee that its planned missile shield for Europe poses no threat to Moscow.

"Our friends in NATO categorically refuse to put on paper in legal form what they say verbally, namely that this missile defence project in Europe is not creating risks for Russia, is not directed against Russia," Lavrov said.

"We continue consultations but our legitimate concerns are not been taken into account," Lavrov told journalists during a visit to Lithuania.

Lavrov is due to meet his NATO counterparts on Thursday, who are hoping to calm Russian fears over their missile shield project which they insist is aimed at warding off attacks from so-called "rogue states", namely Iran.

NATO leaders are expected to tell the Russian official that the missile shield will go ahead, but that NATO still wants to negotiate a cooperation deal with Moscow, according to diplomatic sources.

But Lavrov said it was unrealistic to expect an agreement as long as NATO refuses to address Russias demands.

"They know too well what the situation is and unless they listen and hear what we are saying, I don't think we will be able to agree", Lavrov warned.

In response to NATO's missile shield plans, Russia recently activated a radar warning system against incoming missiles in its exclave of Kaliningrad on the borders of NATO and EU members Lithuania and Poland. Moscow has also said it was prepared to deploy Iskander missiles there.

But Lavrov, who came to the Baltic state for an OSCE ministerial meeting, insisted there was no cause for concern.

"During the last six or seven years we have withdrawn from the Kaliningrad region hundreds of pieces of heavy weapons and we will be certainly replacing some of these weapons with modern weaponry," Lavrov said.

"But this will be done exclusively within the competence of the Russian Federation and without any violation of any international obligations, so I don't think our Lithuanian colleagues or any other country in Europe should be worrying about this."

On the contrary, he said, Russia is concerned about NATO military forces around Russia, calling it a "gross violation" of a deal made before NATO's enlargement to include ex-Soviet bloc states.

"When we signed the deal between NATO and Russia, NATO said that there would be no substantial combat forces located permanently on territory on new members. This commitment has been grossly violated," Lavrov said.

© 2011 AFP

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