|Last update: 28-Apr-2005 11:11||NATO Update|
Russia to join Partnership Status of Forces agreement
NATO-Russia cooperation took a step forward with the signing by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on 21 April of an agreement that will facilitate the movement of NATO troops in Russia and of Russian troops on Alliance territory.
Minister Sergey Lavrov signed the Partnership for Peace Status of Forces (SOFA) agreement at the beginning of an informal meeting of Foreign Ministers from the NATO-Russia Council in Vilnius, 21 April.
The SOFA provides a legal framework for movements to and from Allied countries, partner countries and Russia of military personnel and support staff.Facilitating cooperation
“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, “I t will save us time by providing a legal basis for movement of people and equipment agreed in advance, and it will allow us to act together in new areas, such as strategic airlift. ”
The agreement will facilitate organising both joint trainings and exercises as well as real-world cooperation, such as the transport of NATO troops to Afghanistan.
The SOFA regulates legal status related to documentation, juridical questions, taxation, customs, etc. It is based on NATO’s 1951 Status of Forces agreement, with appropriate amendments due to the fact that Russia is not a member of NATO.
It is not a “basing agreement”, nor does it automatically allow every kind of transport – the sovereignty of parties to the SOFA will not be affected. All of its provisions are applied reciprocally – whatever status of NATO troops enjoy while in Russia, Russian troops enjoy while on NATO territory.
Most countries belonging to the Partnership 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, including the future of Kosovo, the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia and the peace process in the Middle East.
“ This political aspect of the NRC will become more important as we continue to deepen our practical cooperation in facing the security challenges before us – terrorism, WMD, or regional instability ,” said Mr. de Hoop Scheffer.