Russia ‘Will Attend’ NATO Summit in Chicago

A high-ranking Russian diplomat will attend a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20-21, the Kommersant daily reported on Monday, quoting diplomatic sources.

Zamir Kabulov, the presidential envoy to Afghanistan who also heads a Foreign Ministry department in charge of Afghanistan, will most likely fly to Chicago, the source told the paper.

There has been no official confirmation of the report.

Russia had been reluctant to accept an invitation from NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen to join the summit, which will focus on the situation in Afghanistan, as well as on the alliance’s European missile defense plans.

Relations between NATO and Moscow have grown sour lately over the missile shield issue, but the sides have cooperated closely in the war in Afghanistan, which has been the main source of heroine flowing into Russia through its porous borders with former Soviet Central Asian republics.

Russia has allowed NATO to transit cargos to and from Afghanistan through its territory, and its continued support is crucial for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Taliban as foreign troops are set to leave the country in 2014.

Moscow is preparing to allow the United States to use an airport in Ulyanovsk, the birthplace of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, to transit non-lethal cargo to and from Afghanistan.

Commenting on the invitation to join the Chicago summit, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently said the alliance has rejected Moscow’s requests to attend international meetings on Afghanistan held in Brussels, which gather representatives of NATO member states, as well as other countries contributing troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

He hinted that Russia would attend the summit if NATO agreed to invite it to other meetings on Afghanistan as well.

The Chicago talks will take place immediately after a G8 summit in Camp David on May 18-19, which Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is expected to attend.

The Kremlin said last week President Vladimir Putin would not be able to join the summit because he will be busy finalizing a new government after his inauguration on May 7. The White House said U.S. President Barack Obama, who discussed the issue with Putin in a phone conversation, “expressed his understanding” of Putin’s decision.


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