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Europe

NATO and Russia Need to Work Together, Says Merkel

NATO and Russia need to work closely together in fighting militants and civilian reconstruction in Afghanistan, says Angela Merkel. The chancellor put aside differences with Moscow in the spirit of mutual cooperation.

German chancellor Angela Merkel with map of Europe in background

"We need each other," Merkel said of Russia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel extended an olive branch to Russia at an annual conference hosted by the German Atlantic Society in Berlin on Monday, Nov. 10. She said that NATO needed to reach out to Moscow in the run up-to a summit marking the 60th anniversary of the trans-Atlantic alliance next April to be held in both Germany and France.

Both NATO and Russia need to work together in addressing global security concerns, the chancellor emphasized.

"I think it is better to talk with each other rather than about each other," said Merkel, who has been a vocal critic of Russia on human rights issues. In the past, Merkel has even said she welcomed the prospect of Georgia and Ukraine joining the NATO alliance, a stance that Russia vehemently opposes.

But this time she focused more on cooperation with Germany's giant eastern neighbour.

"I know it is not always easy but I think it would be wise to send out a signal to Russia," she added.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attend the Russian-German forum St.Petersburg Dialogue at St. Petersburg's University in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008

Merkel puts aside differences with Russia's Dmitry Medvedev

Earlier, the European Union had agreed to re-launch its stalled talks with Russia on a wide-ranging partnership pact after negotiations had been frozen following Moscow's brief incursion into neighboring Georgia in a violent conflict over the breakaway province of South Ossetia last August.

"We need each other. We are partners," reiterated Merkel, saying that Russia and NATO together were a more powerful force against terrorism, nuclear proliferation and other security challenges.

Trans-Atlantic ties under Obama

Merkel also said she looked forward to strengthening the trans-Atlantic partnership with Barack Obama, who would be attending the April summit for the first time as US President.

The President-elect is likely to ask Germany for military and economic assistance in fighting Taliban insurgents once he takes office, but Merkel reassured her countrymen last week that she would resist any call from Obama to commit German troops in the volatile southern region of Afghanistan.

Merkel, however, sharply rejected public pressure to set a time limit on withdrawing German troops already deployed as part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, saying that they should remain until Afghanistan “can stand on its own two feet.”

The German contingent of NATO's ISAF is based in the quieter North of the country.

Fighting militants and civilian reconstruction

German tank as part of NATO's ISAF troop deployment in Afghanistan with US, German and Russian flags fluttering in background

Merkel resists committing more troops to fight the Taliban

The chancellor added that the ISAF mission in Afghanistan was a clear example of the security gains that could be made by not only fighting militants, but developing civilian infrastructure at the same time. Merkel explained that the only approach that would work in Afghanistan was "networked security" provided by both military and civilian elements.

NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also underscored Merkel's point that military deployments and civilian reconstruction were not mutually exclusive from each other and expressed confidence that NATO and the EU would work closely together under Obama's administration.

"Like his predecessors, the new president will make a review of policy," said de Hoop Scheffer in a speech at the same conference sponsored by the German Atlantic Society, a non-governmental organization that promotes public support for NATO and its Partnership for Peace countries.

"At such a time, it is not surprising if the United States will consider Europe a privileged partner. I see no need to worry," he said, adding that common security concerns bound the West together.

"NATO is at the core of the trans-Atlantic community. Let us use it and use it well," said de Hoop Scheffer.

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