NATO to hold first Council meeting with Russia since 2014

8th April 2016, Comments 0 comments

NATO will soon hold its first formal talks with Russia since 2014, its head said Friday, signalling a thaw in ties deeply strained by the Ukraine crisis.

A meeting of NATO and Russian ambassadors will take place in two weeks at the US-led alliance's Brussels headquarters, Jens Stoltenberg announced in a statement.

NATO envoys and their Russian counterparts had met regularly until the Ukraine crisis plunged relations with Moscow into a deep freeze reminiscent of the Cold War.

They last convened in June 2014 amid mutual recriminations over who was to blame for the Ukraine crisis, with NATO incensed by Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March that year.

Stoltenberg said the meeting would focus on the Ukraine crisis and "the need to fully implement" the Minsk ceasefire accords, which have produced a tenuous calm in eastern Ukraine where Russia backs pro-Moscow rebels.

The two sides will also look at military activities, "with particular focus on transparency and risk reduction," plus the situation in Afghanistan and "regional terrorist threats," he said.

He said the meeting represented a continuation of a political dialogue as agreed by NATO leaders but warned "there will be no return to business as usual until Russia again respects international law."

Stoltenberg has always insisted the NATO-Russia council was open as a channel of communication despite the breakdown in relations sparked by Russia's intervention in Ukraine.

While relations were strained, the West was also looking for possible Russian help in Syria against the Islamic State jihadist group.

Moscow in September launched a massive military campaign to support its long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad, enabling him to win back swathes of territory from IS and rebel groups.

Stoltenberg said at the time that NATO and Russia needed transparency to avoid possibly dangerous misunderstandings, especially over Syria following the November shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by key alliance member Turkey.

© 2016 AFP

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