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    RUSSIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER FOR STRENGTHENING CSTO-NATO CONTACTS

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    MOSCOW, March 18, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - The Commonwealth of Independent States environment is the natural traditional zone of Russian interests. Russia is exactly the same zone of interests for its partners in the Commonwealth, Russian first deputy Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Trubnikov said in an interview with journalists.

    "The course towards the development of goodneighbourly relations with the CIS is the top priority of our foreign policy. In conditions of the rapid development of the globalisation process, no state or regional association can remain isolated," he said.

    Russia is not going to dictate to its CIS partners with whom and how to develop relations, he stressed. "We believe that our partners, for instance in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan), will never wreck their allied obligations," Trubnikov said.

    To him, Russia together with its CIS partners is ready to deepen cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and above all arranging its relations with the CSTO.

    "From the pooling of capabilities of these two military-political alliances their members, the entire international community will benefit. Opposition to it will mean revival of the cold war. We do not want it and expect the same from NATO," believes Trubnikov.

    "We do not welcome the expansion of the North Atlantic Alliance, its coming close to the Russian borders, because of this simple reason: NATO should be transformed from a military bloc into a political organisation. Actually, controversial processes are developing in NATO. There are still forces within it thinking in the cold-war categories," the diplomat believes.

    Asked whether the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) can become a zone of conflict between Russia and the West, Trubnikov said: "There is no conflict in here. The goals of the SCO are stability and security for its six members. Broad prospects lie open for cooperation between the SCO and the United States in the antiterrorist and anti-drug spheres. Nor, is the SCO going to be fenced off from NATO. We hope that this vision of the gist of the SCO will prevail in the world and end all false rumour".

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