Representatives of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Russia discussed their security differences face to face in Brussels on Wednesday, in a meeting that did not achieve concrete progress in the quest to defuse the crisis on the Russian-Ukrainian border.
At the end of the day of dialogue, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg found “significant differences” in positions and admitted that these divergences will be difficult to overcome.
“There are significant differences between the NATO allies and Russia on these issues and the differences will not be easy to bridge, but it is a positive sign that all the allies of NATO and Russia are sitting around the same table, “he said.
According to Stoltenberg, at the meeting NATO proposed to the Russian side to agree on a series of thematic meetings, although the Moscow envoys explained that they would need time to offer a response. “Russia was not in a position to accept the proposal. They have not rejected it either, although the Russian delegation made it clear that it needs time to return to NATO with an answer, “he said. “And of course at that time we will be ready to sit down” around the table for talks, he added.
Nevertheless, Stoltenberg argued that NATO will not make fundamental concessions or accept that Russia has a veto power over which country can join the military alliance.
“Ukraine is a sovereign nation, it has the right to defend itself. Y Ukraine is not a threat to Russia. It is Russia that is the aggressor. Russia has already used force and continues to do so against Ukraine, ”he added.
Differences in essential topics
At the same time, Russia’s envoy, Vice Chancellor Alexander Grushko, said that “the conversation was frank, direct, deep, intense, but at the same time revealed a large number of differences on fundamental issues.”
For the Russian diplomat, the expansion of NATO “will not solve any of the security problems”, and therefore considered urgent that the military alliance cease its expansion.
Grushko warned that the continued deterioration of the situation could lead to “unforeseeable consequences for European security”.
For her part, the US Undersecretary of State, Wendy Sherman, said that Russia went to the meeting “to present its concerns” on security matters, but that now Moscow was challenged to respond to the offer launched by NATO to hold a series of thematic meetings.
The idea, the US official pointed out, is convince Russia to “de-escalate the situation, choose the path of diplomacy and remain engaged in an honest and reciprocal dialogue.”
Cooperation between NATO and Russia, which had been frozen since 2014, broke down last October when NATO expelled eight Russian diplomats from its facilities, and in response Moscow decided to close its representative office before the military alliance. Faced with the crisis in Ukraine, the parties agreed to reactivate this NATO-Russia Council, as a way to re-establish a channel for dialogue.
Sherman had briefed NATO allies on Tuesday about talks he held in Geneva on Monday with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Riabkov.
The talks held by Sherman and Riabkov in Geneva were inconclusive, as for now Russians and Americans have remained firm in their respective positions.
Russia, for example, demanded from the United States and its allies a concrete guarantee that Ukraine will not join NATO.
The Russian delegation calls for the signing of binding agreements that close the door to the constant expansion of NATO and the realization of military maneuvers of that alliance along the Russian borders.
For their part, the Americans have made no concessions, but have made proposals to reduce the risks of conflict and initiate conventional and nuclear disarmamentexplained the new US ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith.
In that scenario, Washington would have assured Moscow that it has no intention of placing offensive weapons in Ukraine, but has denied any intention to carry out demilitarization in Europe, a European diplomat said.
With information from AFP
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