German Chancellor Angela Merkel said yesterday (15 July) that the European Union as well as the NATO military alliance should discuss security issues with Russia, in order to prevent conflicts arising.
"We believe we have found a mechanism to raise all this to a higher level within the existing institutions in Brussels – namely to the level of foreign ministers – in order to create an institutional partnership," Merkel said on Thursday at a joint news conference in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
"This is not directed against anything," Merkel added. "We need an intensive dialogue to avoid conflicts. If certain problems are not resolved, bigger conflicts could arise from them."
Russia's ties with the West hit crisis point in 2008 when it fought a brief war with Georgia. Differences remain over security, despite a recent warming in relations.
Medvedev has argued for a "new European security architecture" to replace NATO, which Moscow sees as an outdated Cold War institution, but the United States and its European allies have shown little enthusiasm for the idea.
Earlier in the day, Russia and Germany pledged to strengthen economic ties as Medvedev called Europe's largest economy Moscow's "key partner" for the future.
Merkel, who after taking office in 2005 initially adopted a more reserved attitude to Russia than her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, has increasingly warmed to Moscow, meeting Medvedev for the second time in just a few weeks.
Next conflict Iran?
US President Barack Obama expressed confidence last week that Israel would not attack Iran without first consulting him.
"It is unacceptable for Iran to possess nuclear weapons and we are going to do everything we can to prevent that happening," Obama told Israel's Channel 2 television. "I think the relationship between the US and Israel is sufficiently strong that neither of us try to surprise each other."
But Obama left a lot unsaid, The Guardian commented. He did not say he would oppose or try to block future Israeli air strikes on Iran's nuclear plants – only that he expected to hear about them in advance.
He also did not say that Washington would refuse to assist or participate, directly or indirectly, in any such attack. The US preferred a diplomatic solution, he said. But then came the familiar mantra: "I assure you I have not taken options off the table."
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)