Rome, March 21- A "structured dialogue" must be forged between NATO and Russia to build relations and strengthen ties for common security issues, Italy's former foreign minister Franco Frattini said on Thursday. Frattini is a candidate for NATO's next secretary general position. A "reinforced consultation" must be formed between the Atlantic Alliance and Moscow to better face common security issues Europe and Russia have, including Afghanistan and the safeguarding of energy supplies, Frattini said at a meeting with the Italian press in Moscow today. Frattini is backed by the Italian government for the top NATO position, and to date is the only candidate for the post. His candidacy was officially presented at a NATO ambassadors' meeting in Brussels last year. Italy is the third contributor to NATO, and it has not appointed a secretary general in 42 years. "The nation would like to reclaim its important role in the Mediterranean, in the Middle East, in North Africa", Frattini said. Frattini went on to say that NATO and Europe needed to develop further relations with Russia and a free trade area from Vladivostok to Lisbon, as this was "the strategy for the next 10-15 years", Frattini said. "Otherwise Russia will look increasingly to China and the East", he said.