by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council
I have just chaired a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. This is our third meeting this year. It was a long meeting but it was also a meeting with frank and open discussions on several important issues.
Our dialogue is not easy, but that is exactly why our dialogue is so important.
Today, we discussed three topics: Ukraine, Afghanistan, and transparency and risk reduction.
NATO Allies and Russia continue to have fundamental differences on the issue of Ukraine, how to solve the crisis in Ukraine.
This conflict continues to have a profound impact on the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic region, and it remains the primary reason for the current state of NATO-Russia relations. Improving the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains the priority in order to move towards the full implementation of the Minsk agreements. However, the situation remains fragile and violations of the ceasefire continue. Heavy weapons are still close to the conflict line.
And the access of OSCE monitors is still obstructed, including at the Russian-Ukrainian border. We welcome the ongoing diplomatic efforts to promote the implementation of the Minsk agreements by all sides.
We also had a frank exchange on the security situation in Afghanistan, including the regional terrorist threat.
Our analyses differ considerably.
But we all share the same interest in ensuring security and stability in Afghanistan. Russia provided a briefing on its policy in Afghanistan. And Allies set out NATO’s substantial efforts to strengthen the Afghan security forces.
It is important that everybody supports the National Unity Government. This is the best way to help fight terrorists in Afghanistan.
And achieve greater security and stability for the whole region.
We also discussed transparency and risk reduction. This remains a vital issue for the NATO-Russia Council. Last year we initiated a dialogue on air safety in the Baltic region.
Following that, an Expert Group led by Finland on Baltic Sea Air Safety was established. Their work so far is promising.
We have also made progress this year, by addressing both force posture and military exercises, including through reciprocal briefings.
Today, we exchanged information on recent exercises. Allies made clear that the scale and geographical scope of exercise ZAPAD 2017 significantly exceeded what Russia had previously announced.
At the same time, we agreed that the principle of reciprocal exercise briefings, including advance briefings, is useful. And I hope we will continue these exchanges in the next meetings of the NATO-Russia Council.
We also agreed that we can enhance transparency and predictability in the Euro-Atlantic area through contact among our senior military leaders.
We should build on these points of agreement to reduce risks of incidents and misunderstandings due to increased military activity in the region.
And with that I’m ready to take your questions.