MOSCOW (AFP) — US and Russian officials on Wednesday wrapped up two days of talks on Afghanistan, including plans to transit supplies through Russia for Western operations in the country, the US embassy said.
The talks came after Kyrgyzstan announced last week the closure of a US base serving as a vital route for supplies to Afghanistan, forcing Washington to seek alternatives ahead of a planned military buildup in the war-torn country.
The US delegation at the Moscow talks was led by US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Patrick Moon with Russia represented by deputy foreign ministers Sergei Ryabkov and Alexei Borodavkin.
The two sides discussed "many issues related to Afghanistan... including the transit arrangements for non-lethal supplies through Russia to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan," the embassy said.
Besides Russia, Washington has also been seeking agreement with ex-Soviet states in Central Asia to host supply routes.
Recent attacks on a supply route from Pakistan have also heightened the need for new routes.
Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was ready to give more help supplying Western operations in Afghanistan but only on the basis of full respect from NATO members.
"Additional steps are also possible. In April-May last year we discussed with NATO colleagues agreement on using Russian military aviation for sending supplies for the International Security Assistance Force" in Afghanistan, said Lavrov.
"What's important is that relations between Russia and NATO return to a normal course," he said, referring to Western condemnation of Russia's military thrust into Georgia last year.
"Relations need to be repaired and we're ready for that but normalising them is possible only by returning to the source, to the principles" of the founding documents of the NATO-Russia Council, a consultative body, he said.
"There it's written very clearly that we participate in the Russia-NATO Council on a national basis and not on a 26-versus-one basis or 26-plus-one, but as 27 members, and that we respect the principles of the indivisibility of security -- that the security of one cannot be secured at the expense of another," he said.
Both Russia and the United States have declared a willingness to improve their ties following President Barack Obama's election.
Kyrgyzstan announced the closure of the Manas base after the Kremlin announced 330 million dollars in aid and debt relief as well as a loan worth two billion dollars for the impoverished Central Asian state.
The ex-Soviet republic has denied that the decision to close the base was connected to the loans from Moscow.
On Wednesday, Russia's foreign ministry said Moscow would not discuss the base's future with Washington.
"There are no and there can be no discussions on this subject between the Russian and American sides," spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said in a statement. "This is a matter for a sovereign and independent Kyrgyzstan."
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