Stoltenberg warned Russia: NATO remains vigilant

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

© APA | NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg

# 21 May 2021 18:27 (UTC +04:00)

NATO remains vigilant against Russian aggressive actions amid increased troop presence around Ukraine, the head of the intergovernmental military alliance warned on Friday, APA reports citing NATO.

"Russia still has troops in and around Ukraine, more troops now than before the escalation ... NATO remains vigilant because this is part of a disturbing pattern of Russian aggressive actions," Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a press conference after a meeting at the Elysee Palace.

He added that NATO is committed to a "dual track approach of defense and dialogue" with Russia.

There has been a recent spike in violence in Donbas, southeastern Ukraine, where Kyiv's troops have battled separatist forces since 2014.

Commending France's active role in the Normandy format initiative for de-escalation of the military crisis involving talks with Germany and Ukraine, Stoltenberg stressed on the need for a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine conflict.

"We will uphold the rules based order against the authoritarian pushback from countries like Russia and China," he said.

The NATO chief is on an official visit to Paris for consultations ahead of the NATO summit on June 14 in Brussels.

French President Emmanuel Macron said the summit must deliver a political clarification on the "role and strategic priorities" of NATO, as the strategic concept dating back to 2010 has undergone major disruptions and needs to be updated to current times.

Alluding to tensions with NATO member Turkey, the French president warned that other allies shouldn't follow "contradictory national interests with security interests." He pointed out that such actions had taken place in recent years in Syria, Eastern Mediterranean, and Libya, etc.

Paris and Ankara have accused each other of supporting opposing sides in the Libyan civil war, and had confrontations over exploration of natural resources in the East Med.

On the fight against terrorism, Stoltenberg said NATO has increased its efforts for the training of soldiers in Iraq and support in the Sahel region. He added that it is beginning a new chapter in Afghanistan, where it was in the midst of ending a two decade military presence. NATO allies started the withdrawal of Resolute Support Mission forces from May 1.

Unveiling the future plans, following withdrawal of US and foreign forces, he said NATO will continue to provide advice and capacity support as well as financial support to Afghan security associations. It will also enable Afghan special operation forces access to overseas military education and training and fund the functioning of Kabul airport. "This will help NATO allies and the broader international community to continue to help Afghan people," he said.