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Updated: May 25, 2010 20:21 IST

NATO chief urges EU to clear obstacles to political cooperation

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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. File photo: AP.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. File photo: AP.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen issued a call on Tuesday for the European Union to remove obstacles to cooperation between the two bodies, which is hampered by long—standing tensions between Cyprus and Turkey.

Cyprus, an EU member, opposes Turkey’s entry into the club as long as the country maintains troops to defend Turkish Cypriots’ separate entity in the north of the island.

In return, NATO—member Turkey blocks any formal agreement between the military alliance and the EU, complicating relations in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and off the coast of Somalia, where both organisations are present.

Mr. Rasmussen, in a clear reference to Turkey, said “the EU must move to accommodate some concerns raised by NATO allies that are not at the same time members of the European Union.” Speaking in Brussels after a high—level meeting with EU diplomats, led by the bloc’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, he said non—EU countries which contribute to EU—led missions should be included “in decision—making processes.” He also urged the EU to “conclude a security agreement with Turkey” and to let the country sign a deal with the European Defence Agency, a move openly resisted by Cyprus.

At the same time, Mr. Rasmussen acknowledged that NATO should accept “that Cyprus is actually a country which deserves a seat at the table when we are having a dialogue between NATO and the European Union.” Ms. Ashton, talking to reporters alongside Mr. Rasmussen, did not comment directly on Mr. Rasmussen’s statements.

She only said there was “great strength and willingness across both organizations to try and find pragmatic ways of dealing with these issues.” Mr. Rasmussen recognised “political complications ... won’t be cleared up overnight,” but he insisted that in the meantime the EU and NATO “can still do a lot together” on military planning, procurement and operations.

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