VILNIUS - NATO member states agreed on March 5 in Brussels to resume formal operations of the NATO-Russia council following a suspension over the Russia-Georgia war, Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas said.
"We had a lengthy and open conversation about the relations between NATO and Russia. I voiced my doubts whether the time has really come for resumption of the NATO-Russia Council. Nevertheless, we agreed that the council should be used as a form of dialogue with Russia on all issues including problem matters. If we want to make influence, we have to talk," Usackas told the Baltic News Service.
He said the participants of the meeting had not forgotten about Russia's failure to meet the commitments with respect to Georgia.
"We drew attention to the withdrawal of troops, the founding of bases and other matters. Concerns were voiced regarding Russia's relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Usackas said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledged her support for the Baltics, saying that they have not been forgotten despite resuming talks with Russia.
"Our engagement with Russia in no way undermines our support for countries like Georgia or the Baltics or the Balkans to be independent, free, make their own decisions or shape their own course without undue interference from Russia," AFP reported Hillary Clinton as saying ahead of her talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva.
The move to resume talks has been welcomed by other NATO members, despite the fact that Lithuania was opposed to the talks.
Lithuania had resisted consenting to the talks because leaders believed they had enough experience with Russia to understand how the country should be dealt with. Lithuanian officials said they were not satisfied that the provisions set out in the peace agreement had been satisfied.
To that end, NATO foreign ministers will meet officials from NATO aspirants Georgia and Ukraine to send clear positive signals that they haven't been forgotten, Usackas said.
The first official meeting of Russian and NATO officials is due to take place after the NATO summit scheduled for early April. As a rule, the NATO-Russia Council is a meeting place for ambassadors. Sometimes meetings involving ministers and heads of states and governments are also held.
Lithuania and the Czech Republic had been opposing resumption of the Alliance's official communication with Moscow.
However, renewal of high-level contacts between NATO and Russia was approved by many major Western democracies including the United States.
Among Russia's priorities in the talks will likely be the missile defense shield, which they vehemently opposed when Poland and the Czech Republic signed an agreement with the U.S. under the George Bush administration.
The missile defense shield was supposedly intended to defend against Iran but Russia reacted to the announcement aggressively, threatening Poland with a nuclear strike and threatening to deploy missiles in the Kaliningrad region, which borders Poland and Lithuania.
They have since halted plans on the deployment .