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NATO-Russia Relations at 'Turning Point'

From left, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates are seen prior to participating in a NATO Russia Council meeting at a NATO summit in Lisbon, 20 Nov 2010

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that a meeting Saturday between NATO leaders and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev is a "turning point" in relations between Moscow and the Western alliance.

Rasmussen also announced that Russia has agreed to expand the transit of equipment through Russia to support NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Mr. Medvedev arrived at the two-day NATO summit in Lisbon on Saturday to lead talks on the NATO-Russia Council, the first gathering of the group since April 2008, just prior to Moscow's brief war with Georgia, a Western ally.

Rasmussen called the gathering a "true, fresh start" to the relationship, and emphasized that the 29 members of the council share important interests and the "same threats" to their security.

"The time has clearly come to modernize our relationship," Rasmussen said at the opening of the council meeting.

NATO is expected to invite Russia to take part in a U.S.-European missile defense shield, signaling the closest military cooperation between Moscow and the West since the end of the Cold War. It is not clear what role Russia would play in that defense system.

Mr. Medvedev received a red-carpet welcome in Lisbon on Saturday, the second day of a two-day NATO summit taking place in the Portuguese capital.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.