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Russia, Poland discuss US missile defense system

Poland will continue consultations with Russia over US plans to deploy missile defense elements in Europe, a senior Polish defense official said after a round of bilateral talks on Thursday.

Warsaw hosted negotiations between groups of Russian and Polish experts led by the two countries’ deputy foreign ministers, Russia’s Sergei Kislyak and Poland’s Witold Waszczykowski. The Polish-Russian talks focused on the US plans to install an anti-missile shield in Poland, and Kislyak sought to make the Polish side “aware of the risks of the planned system,” Polish news agency PAP reported. “It is necessary that all interested parties in the region exchange information and intentions,” “These were very interesting talks held in a favorable atmosphere,” Stanislaw Komorowski, Poland’s deputy defense minister, said, adding that an agreement was reached to continue consultations. He also said that the parties had exchanged opinions and discussed problems that could arise from the deployment or rejection of the missile defense project. Poland is motivated by the desire to know the views of its “neighbors, our partners, not enemies,” the country’s defense official said. However, the parties reiterated the right to make an independent decision. Kislyak echoed the statement saying that Russia, which will be guided by President Vladimir Putin’s initiatives on the issue, “offered quite neighborly positive arguments” during this first dialogue with Polish partners. At a NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels in December 2007, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski invited Russian experts to discuss missile defense deployment in Warsaw.

Earlier on Thursday, Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek held a meeting with his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk in Prague. The Czech official said his government would submit to parliament in April a missile defense bill that includes the placement of a US radar on the country’s territory. Tusk told the press on Wednesday that Poland had not yet received Washington’s guarantees that the deployment would enhance the country’s security. Tusk, who took office in November last year and has a more cautious approach to the US proposal than his predecessor Jaroslaw Kaczynski, said Poland and the Czech Republic would coordinate their activities concerning missile defense negotiations with the US.

Washington wants to place 10 missile interceptors in Poland and a radar in the neighboring Czech Republic, purportedly to counter a missile threat from Iran and other “rogue” states. Moscow fiercely opposes the US plans, saying the European shield would destroy the strategic balance of forces and threaten Russia’s national interests. (people.com.cn, rian.ru)