Russia may join NATO status of forces agreement

Russia and NATO are studying a possibility for the Russian Federation to join the multilateral NATO Status of Forces Agreement.

Our experts are at work now, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told journalists Friday, commenting on the recent reports regarding Russia and NATO's intentions to conclude a Status of Forces Agreement before the end of 2004.

The document was adopted in 1995 as part of the Partnership for Peace program. It determines the legal status of military personnel during their temporary deployment on foreign soil.

"Accordingly, the document is going to concern Russia and those NATO member-states where servicemen may be stationed when taking part in mutual exercises or training sessions," Alexander Yakovenko said.

Primarily, according to him, the Agreement is necessary for addressing practical issues pertaining to implementation, under the aegis of the Russia-NATO Council, of numerous mutual projects and cooperation programs.

The two sides have planned about one hundred events involving participation of military personnel for this year alone, with 20 of the above to take place in Russia, the foreign Ministry spokesman pointed out.

He said that experts have already conducted a few rounds of consultations on the issue. At present, the required inter-agency approval procedure is under way. "Given the fact that these steps are taking place amidst the ongoing administrative reform in Russia, it may take another few months to finalize the Agreement," Alexander Yakovenko said.

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