Brussels, Jan 10 (MNN) NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday met with Olga Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine, ahead of NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting during the day.
Calling Ukraine a “valued and long-standing partner” which has the “right to choose its own path”, the Secretary General called the NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting an opportunity to exchange assessments of the situation on the Russia-Ukraine borders and to express NATO allies’ strong support for Ukraine and to coordinate ahead of diplomatic engagements with Moscow.
While NATO-Russia Council will hold a meeting on January 12 in Brussels, bilateral talks between the United States and Russia are on in Geneva. An OSCE meeting is also scheduled on Thursday.
Later, addressing a joint press conference with Olga Stefanishyna, the NATO Secretary General said that both of them had addressed the evolving situation in and around Ukraine during their meeting.
Stoltenberg reiterated that Russia’s military build-up continues on Ukraine’s border, with tens of thousands of combat-ready troops and armed with heavy capabilities.
NATO Foreign Ministers had on Friday called again on Russia to remove its forces from Ukraine and from the borders and demonstrate transparency to de-escalate.
Stoltenberg warned that “any further aggression against Ukraine will come at a high political and economic price”.
“NATO Allies are united in their support for all nations to choose their own path. This has been a fundamental principle of European security for decades.”
He said that NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting is a timely opportunity to express allies’ strong political and practical support to Ukraine and to coordinate ahead of diplomatic engagements with Russia.
“We will focus on European security issues, transparency related to military activities, risk reduction and arms control. We will listen to Russia’s concerns, but any meaningful dialogue must also address our concerns about Russia’s actions. And it must take place in consultation with Ukraine, as we are doing today.
“We are also consulting closely with other partners, including Georgia, Moldova, Finland, Sweden, and the European Union,” the NATO Secretary General said of the January 12 meeting.
Answering a media query, he said that many allies were providing bilateral support to Ukraine with training, capacity, equipment etc and he encouraged and welcomed bilateral support NATO allies provided directly to Ukraine.
As for NATO membership for Ukraine, he said that the alliance reiterated the decision made at Bucharest Summit in 2008 and stand by that decision. “We help Ukraine to move towards a NATO membership by implementing reforms, by meeting NATO standards.”
“…it is for Ukraine and the 30 NATO allies to decide when Ukraine is ready for membership. No one else has any right to say anything about that.”