Stoltenberg invites Russia, NATO allies to new talks
Stoltenberg invites Russia, NATO allies to new talks

BERLIN: NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday he had invited Russia and allies of the North Atlantic alliance to new talks to ward off a possible Russian attack on Ukraine.

The proposed series of discussions in the NATO-Russia Council would be held "in the near future", he said following talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

They aim to "address our concerns but also listen to Russia's concerns, and to try to find a way forward to prevent any military attack against Ukraine," he told a news conference in Berlin.

The United States and its European allies last Wednesday held talks with Russia under the auspices of the NATO-Russia Council -- a platform that had not met since 2019.

While underlining significant differences between both sides, Stoltenberg had said then that NATO allies were ready for further discussions, but the Russians were unable to agree on the proposal to meet again.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that Russia was waiting for a response from the West on sweeping security demands put at meetings last week before continuing talks over Ukraine.

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Stoltenberg stressed that the alliance was ready to listen to Russia's point of view but would not compromise on principles such as NATO's ability to defend its allies.

"We send a very clear message to Russia if they once again decide to use force against Ukraine it will come with a high cost for Russia -- economic, financial, political sanctions. NATO allies also provide support to Ukraine," he said, a message also echoed by Scholz.

With tensions running high, "dialogue is even more important," said the NATO chief, stressing that his side will "make every effort to find a political way forward".

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