West skeptical over Russian security proposal for Europe

CORFU – The West told Russia yesterday that its proposal for a pan-Europe security pact must not undermine NATO or a continental security and human rights group. Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, after a meeting of foreign ministers of the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said discussion of Moscow’s proposal had been «frank» – diplomatic shorthand for sharp disagreement. «We don’t need a new structure. We have many at our disposal – UN, EU, OSCE, Council of Europe. We have the principles, we have the structures, let’s strengthen them,» French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters. The ministerial meeting of the OSCE grouping European nations, the United States and Canada, took place against a backdrop of tension between the West and Russia over Georgia. NATO expansion Moscow, for its part, is concerned at NATO expansion, possibly into former Soviet territory and US plans for a missile shield in central Europe. Russia sent troops into Georgia, a NATO «partner» country, last August to prevent Tbilisi retaking a rebel region. Though the US-led alliance and Russia on Saturday agreed to restore formal ties frozen after the five-day war, suspicions linger. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said Cold War-era institutions like NATO are unable to ease friction in a multipolar world. «Security can be either common or illusory,» his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said last week. Medvedev’s proposed Treaty on European Security would grant equal status to participating countries, rule out military alliances adopting policies detrimental to the security of the other parties and deny any country or alliance the right to maintain peace and stability on the continent. European Union officials said after the meeting on Corfu that delegates agreed to weigh new pan-European security scenarios but that nothing could replace NATO or the OSCE. Bakoyannis, whose country currently holds the chair of the OSCE, said work would continue in order to find new ways of meeting European security challenges. Progress would be reviewed at an OSCE summit in Athens in December, she said. Georgia stalemate There was no progress to break a deadlock over OSCE peace monitors in Georgia. Their mission expires tomorrow and Moscow has blocked a decision to extend their presence by insisting on recognition of independence for Georgia’s pro-Moscow, breakaway South Ossetia region and a separate OSCE mandate there. EU officials fear the monitors’ departure could reignite fighting, with Russian forces still in parts of Georgia. «(This is) maybe the beginning of a serious process in which we will take a look at the architecture of security in Europe,» EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said outside the meeting. «There are many (aspects of security) we can develop further (but) without putting at risk the basic structures that have provided fantastic stability for many, many years,» the former NATO secretary-general said, alluding to NATO and the OSCE.