NATO-Russia cooperation took a step forward with the signing by RussianForeign Minister Lavrov on 21 April of an agreement that willfacilitate the movement of NATO troops in Russia and of Russian troopson Alliance territory.
Minister Sergey Lavrov signedthe Partnership for Peace Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement at thebeginning of an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers from theNATO-Russia Council in Vilnius, 21 April.
The SOFAprovides a legal framework for movements to and from Allied countries,partner countries and Russia of military personnel and support staff.
“The SOFA will allow us to organise better a rich menu of cooperative activities”, said the NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, at a press conference, “It will save us time by providing a legal basis for movement of peopleand equipment agreed in advance, and it will allow us to act togetherin new areas, such as strategic airlift. ”
Theagreement will facilitate organising both joint trainings and exercisesas well as real-world cooperation, such as the transport of NATO troopsto Afghanistan.
The SOFA regulates legal statusrelated to documentation, juridical questions, taxation, customs, etc.It is based on NATO’s 1951 Status of Forces agreement, with appropriateamendments due to the fact that Russia is not a member of NATO.
It is not a “basing agreement”, nor does it automatically allow everykind of transport – the sovereignty of parties to the SOFA will not beaffected. All of its provisions are applied reciprocally – whateverstatus of NATO troops enjoy while in Russia, Russian troops enjoy whileon NATO territory.
Most countries belonging to thePartnership of Peace have signed the agreement. In the case of Russia,it will enter into force once ratified by the Russian Parliament.
Expanding political cooperation
At the meeting Ministers discussed a wide range of issues, includingthe future of Kosovo, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia andthe peace process in the Middle East.
“ Thispolitical aspect of the NRC will become more important as we continueto deepen our practical cooperation in facing the security challengesbefore us – terrorism, WMD, or regional instability ,” said Mr. de Hoop Scheffer.