NATO has expressed hope to soon reopen military supply routes through Pakistan despite new transport agreements with other Afghanistan neighbors providing alternatives.
The U.S. recently said a negotiating team was returning home without a deal to reopen the routes. But NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Australia on Wednesday that he hopes Pakistan routes will reopen "in the not too distant future."
He says Central Asian alternatives could prove more costly.
Rasmussen said the NATO transit agreements with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan would give NATO forces more flexibility ahead of the planed withdrawal of most foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
"We want as many options as possible," Rasmussen said.
"Winding down a very comprehensive mission in Afghanistan is logistically quite a challenge, and to manage that we need as many transit opportunities as possible," he said.
However, Rasmussen also said officials were hopeful the transit route through Pakistan would be re-opened "in a not too distant future".
That route could also require cooperation from Russia to ensure access to sea ports, but Rasmussen said NATO already had an agreement with Moscow. He gave few other details.
"We have already a reverse transit agreement with Russia, and the fact that we have now concluded transit arrangements with a number of Central Asian states makes our transit arrangement with Russia even more effective," Rasmussen said.
He refused to comment on the costs of using northern supply routes, adding the system worked on a commercial basis with transport companies in the transit countries.
Rasmussen is in Australia for talks with Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith and to sign a NATO-Australia political agreement with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.