by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of meetings of NATO Foreign Ministers and after a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council
Allied Foreign Ministers will meet tomorrow to address NATO’s adaptation to a changing security environment. We will reaffirm the vital bond between Europe and North America, on which our security relies, and pave the way for the Brussels meeting of NATO Heads of State and Government on the 25th of May.
During tomorrow’s first working session, we will look at how to further strengthen the transatlantic bond, with more and better defence spending and fairer burden-sharing across the Alliance.
NATO’s role in fighting terrorism and projecting stability will also be on the agenda. We will take stock of our work with partners, including our efforts in Iraq, where our training will help the Iraqi forces fight ISIL and our counter-IED courses will help save lives.
We will also hold a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. A strong sign of our continued commitment to Ukraine in the face of Russia’s actions. We will review the security situation,
Ukraine’s reform progress and NATO’s political and practical support for Kiev. Just this week, our Science for Peace Program is responding to Ukraine’s request for assistance. Following the explosion at the Balaklia arms depot, we are providing personal protection and demining equipment, as well as radio systems.
Tomorrow we will also assess the implications of Russia’s military build-up in Europe and beyond with key partners – the EU High Representative, Finland and Sweden.
NATO has a united position on Russia: strong defence and deterrence combined with dialogue. We are delivering on both.
Then some words about the NATO-Russia Council which I just chaired. It was a long meeting, it was a frank meeting and the meeting was constructive. This is the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council this year. Allies and Russia continue to have clear disagreements on the crisis in and around Ukraine. This was the first topic we addressed and the security situation remains of deep concern. Ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine have reached record levels, intense fighting continues and heavy weapons have not been withdrawn.
Earlier this week, the OSCE reported that prohibited weapons were being used “almost twice per minute” and OSCE monitors are not being allowed to do their job. They face restrictions on where they can go, and sometimes they even become targets themselves. The Minsk Agreements provide a plan for the settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine but most of their provisions are not being implemented. We call on all signatories to fully comply with their commitments. Today, Allies urged Russia to use its significant influence on the militants to meet their obligations in full. And raised serious concerns about Russia’s recognition of identity documents issued by the separatists, imposing the ruble, and seizure of companies. And all Allies reiterated their strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do not, and will not, recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea.
We also discussed the challenging security situation in Afghanistan. It is in all our interests to continue helping the Afghan forces to provide for their own security. That is what NATO and our partners are doing, with training and with funding and it is important that all actors support Afghan owned reconciliation efforts.
Finally, we turned to address military activities, and improving transparency and risk reduction. At the NATO-Russia Council in December, we made progress. NATO provided a briefing on Exercise Trident Juncture 2016, and Russia provided a briefing on Exercise Kavkaz 2016. Today, we took another step, through an exchange on our respective military postures. Russia gave a briefing on the three new divisions in its Western Military District. And NATO provided a briefing on the four battlegroups we are deploying to Poland and the Baltic countries. I look forward to future briefings in the same spirit of transparency.
This was a substantial meeting on topics of common concern. It is not an easy dialogue, but it is a dialogue we are committed to. And when tensions run high, it is even more important to keep talking with each other. To increase predictability and reduce risks.
And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.