U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Albright won confirmation in Bonn and Paris yesterday that the U.S., Germany, and France are united on the fundamental issue of NATO’s enlargement. But, as expected, Albright was apparently unable to bridge differences with the two key U.S. allies on a French proposal for a five-nation Russia-NATO summit in April. In Bonn, Albright met with Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. In remarks to reporters afterwards, Kinkel said that "on the central issue we have reached absolute agreement." But he also voiced Bonn’s support for the French summit proposal — which would bring together the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, and Russia — arguing that "we have to do everything we can to make it easy for Russia to accept NATO enlargement." U.S. officials have indicated that they do not want the April summit to take place if NATO and Russia have yet to conclude a political agreement, as is likely to be the case, and Albright yesterday reiterated Washington’s lack of enthusiasm for the idea. Kinkel is to fly to Moscow today for talks with Russian leaders. (AP, The New York Times, February 17)
The atmosphere was friendly in Paris later in the day as both sides labored to ease recently tense French-U.S. relations. But Catherine Colonna, spokeswoman for French president Jacques Chirac, told reporters that France was still considering the April summit while Washington "preferred to concentrate on other channels." She also suggested that Albright, Chirac, and French foreign minister Herve de Charette had not raised during their talks the issue of France’s call for the U.S. to hand over NATO’s southern command to a European. Washington has long made clear that it is opposed to the proposal, and Albright reiterated that position in a French newspaper interview over the weekend. (Reuter, February 17) Moscow had frequently called for NATO to reform itself, a policy aimed in part at exploiting differences like this one between various NATO member-states.
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