| 13 April 2024, Saturday |

NATO head schedules special meeting with Russia amid Ukraine crisis

According to a NATO source, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called a special meeting of ally ambassadors and top Russian officials for next week as both sides attempt to avoid open confrontation over Ukraine.

Concerned about Russia’s military buildup near Ukraine’s border, the NATO-Russia Council has been pursuing a meeting for months, but the forum appeared to be in risk following an espionage disagreement in October.

The council meeting, which has been a platform for communication since 2002, will take place in Brussels on January 12th, after security talks between US and Russian officials in Geneva on January 10th.

The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, flew to Ukraine on Tuesday for a two-day trip to show support for Kyiv, which aspires to join the bloc and NATO.

Moscow wants guarantees that NATO will halt its eastward expansion and end military cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia, which have territorial disputes with Russia.

Moscow also denies U.S. assertions that it is planning an invasion of Ukraine and accuses Kyiv of building up its own forces in the east of the country.

“Any dialogue with Russia would have to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, address NATO’s concerns about Russia’s actions… and take place in consultation with NATO’s European partners,” the NATO official said.

Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, confirmed that Russian officials will attend the NATO meeting in Brussels.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and other senior Russian officials are expected to attend the Brussels talks, after meeting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Geneva.

On Jan. 13, talks will continue in the broader format of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states.

The EU’s Borrell, who was central to the bloc’s strategy of increased sanctions on top Russian officials in 2021, believes “the EU cannot be a neutral spectator in the negotiations if Russia really wants to discuss Europe’s security architecture”, according to an EU spokesperson.

The European Union sees Ukraine as a “strategic partner”, the spokesperson said.

Borrell, accompanied by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, will visit Ukraine’s contact line with Russian-backed separatist rebels during his visit. EU foreign ministers are expected to discuss their next steps later in January.

  • Reuters