Ukraine, Afghanistan top NATO-Russia Council meeting


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine, Afghanistan plus transparency and risk reduction were among the key issues discussed during Thursday's NATO-Russia Council meeting.

Speaking to reporters following the meeting in Brussels, Stoltenberg said NATO allies and Russia had some "fundamental" disagreements over Ukraine.

The Crimean issue and the conflict in eastern Ukraine remain "clear points of contention, and heavy weapons have not been withdrawn from the conflict zone," Stoltenberg said.

He went on to say the Minsk Agreements still provided the best solution to the conflict "but they need to be implemented, and the work of the OSCE monitors need to be allowed to proceed unimpeded."

Stoltenberg said the security situation in Afghanistan -- "which remains challenging" -- was on the agenda during Thursday's meeting.

"A stable Afghanistan is essential to regional security. NATO allies and Russia share a common interest to support the National Unity government and to work towards a free, safe and democratic Afghanistan," he said.

"The third and final topic we discussed was transparency and risk reduction," Stoltenberg said.

He said joint briefings on exercises and force posture at previous meetings of the NATO-Russia Council were important elements of ongoing dialogue.

"They help to limit the risk of misunderstanding, miscalculation and unintended escalation," Stoltenberg said.

"Russia briefed on the upcoming ZAPAD 2017 exercise, and NATO briefed on Exercise Trident Javelin 2017.

"It is a dialogue that can continue at future meetings of this Council," Stoltenberg also said, adding that these "voluntary exchanges do not substitute for the mandatory transparency required under the Vienna Document".

The document covers security-building measures among OSCE states, which include Russia, the U.S. and European countries.

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