Stoltenberg: NATO to hold talks with Russia

Merkel and Stoltenberg at the EU summit. Brussels, 15 December. [European Council]

NATO will hold a fresh round of formal talks with Russia on Monday (19 December) to discuss European security and the Ukraine conflict, according to alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg.

“I have invited members of the NATO-Russia Council (NRC) to a meeting on Monday at ambassadorial level at NATO headquarters to discuss topics of relevance to European security, notably Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said as he went into an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday (15 December).

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Russian Ambassador to NATO Alexander Grushko confirmed his attendance, saying Moscow hoped for “an open discussion” on matters of common concern, according to a RIA Novosti report.

The NRC brings together ambassadors from the 28 NATO member countries and Russia, and met regularly until the Ukraine crisis plunged relations with Moscow into the deep freeze in 2014.

In April, the council held its first meeting since June 2014 amid hopes the crisis might be easing but the talks instead broke up acrimoniously in what Stoltenberg called “profound disagreements”.

Another round in July, just after NATO leaders endorsed its biggest military build-up since the end of the Cold War, also made no progress.

Stoltenberg recalled that US-led NATO had suspended all practical cooperation with Russia over its role in Ukraine but stressed that political channels of communication had always remained open.

He previously said that maintaining such contacts was crucial to avoiding any misunderstandings with Moscow at a time of increased international tensions.

Stoltenberg gave no specific reason for convening the NRC on Monday but there has been growing speculation a meeting was on the cards, stoked by US President-elect Donald Trump’s more conciliatory approach to Moscow.

Russian officials were not immediately available for comment.

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