Russia and NATO to sign agreement before end of 2004

Russia and NATO will sign an agreement on the status of forces before the end of this year, Russia's Minister of Defense Sergei Ivanov told journalists in the course of his official visit to China.

According to him, the agreement stipulates the conditions for transit and temporary stay of the troops and arms of Russia and the NATO countries on each other's territory in the course of joint exercises or peace-keeping operations in third countries.

"When we and NATO agree upon our positions, specifically concerning the legal protection and status of foreign servicemen, we will be able to promptly prepare joint exercises," Mr. Ivanov noted.

He stressed that for now holding this kind of maneuvers with the participation of the armed forces of Russia and NATO requires additional discussion and agreement, concerning each of the participating sides.

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