NATO head schedules special meet with Russia over Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg attends the start of the second round table during the Meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels on Oct 21, 2021 (KENZO TRIBOUILLAED / AFP)

BRUSSELS – NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has scheduled a special meeting of allied ambassadors with top Russian officials for next week as both sides seek dialogue to prevent open conflict over Ukraine, a NATO official said on Tuesday.

"Any dialogue with Russia would have to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, address NATO's concerns about Russia's actions… and take place in consultation with NATO's European partners," the official said, referring to the crisis in Ukraine.

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Deeply concerned about Russia's military build-up along Ukraine's border, the Western military alliance has been seeking a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council for months but the forum seemed in jeopardy after an espionage dispute in October.

The meeting of the council, a format used for dialogue since 2002, will take place in Brussels on Jan 12 after US and Russian officials hold security talks on Jan 10 in Geneva

The meeting of the council, a format used for dialogue since 2002, will take place in Brussels on Jan 12 after US and Russian officials hold security talks on Jan 10 in Geneva.

Moscow wants guarantees that NATO will halt its eastward expansion and end military cooperation with Ukraine and Georgia.

"Any dialogue with Russia would have to proceed on the basis of reciprocity, address NATO's concerns about Russia's actions… and take place in consultation with NATO's European partners," the NATO official said.

Maria Zakharova, Russia's foreign ministry spokesperson, confirmed that Russian officials will attend the NATO meeting in Brussels.

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and other senior Russian officials are expected to attend the Brussels talks, after meeting US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Geneva.

On Jan 13, talks will continue in the broader format of the Vienna-based Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which includes the United States and its NATO allies, as well as Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet states.