by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the joint press point with the Latvian President
Thank you, Mr. President, for your warm welcome. We just had an excellent discussion.
I want to commend Latvia for the leading role you are playing in European affairs.
You currently hold the EU Presidency.
You play a key role in NATO’s eastern defences. And you have kindly offered to host one of our new command and control units on your territory. All these contributions are very welcome.
I want to reassure you that NATO stands shoulder to shoulder with Latvia.
The Alliance’s responsibility is to protect and defend each and every Ally against any threat. And NATO’s support for its eastern Allies, including Latvia, was confirmed at the recent NATO Defence Ministers’ meeting in Brussels.
Here, more progress was made in implementing our Readiness Action Plan, including establishing an enhanced NATO response force and a very high readiness Spearhead Force.
In addition we continue with assurance measures.
NATO aircraft continue to police Baltic skies. NATO ships continue to patrol the Baltic Sea.
NATO forces continue to exercise on the ground.
During these challenging times, it is important that NATO Allies spend more on defence, and spend better.
And again I want to commend Latvia for your commitment to raise defence expenditure in line with the pledge that we made in Wales.
Mr. President, I thank Latvia for all your work during these difficult times.
We also spoke about the conflict in Ukraine.
The Minsk agreement is the best opportunity for a lasting peaceful solution.
What really matters now is implementation of the ceasefire and the Minsk agreement.
Today I am deeply concerned by the deteriorating situation in and around Debaltseve.
The refusal of the separatists to respect the cease-fire threatens the agreement.
As does their denial of access to the area for the OSCE monitors.
Russian forces, artillery and air defence units as well as command and control elements are still active in Ukraine.
Russia has supported the separatists with forces, training and advanced weapons.
And there has been a steady buildup of tanks and armoured vehicles across the border from Russia to Ukraine.
I urge Russia to end its support for the separatists.
And withdraw its forces and military equipment from eastern Ukraine in accordance with the Minsk agreement.
The separatists should halt all attacks immediately.
And allow OSCE monitors full access.
I support the call by the UN Security Council to all parties to implement their Minsk commitments.
We continue to believe that this agreement is the best way forward to a political solution to the conflict in Ukraine.