NATO urges continued pressure against Russia over Ukraine


BRUSSELS, Dec. 7 (UPI) — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that economic pressure on Russia over its involvement in Ukraine must be sustained.

He referred to sanctions on Russia by the European Union, the United States and other G7 countries as “an important tool to send a very clear message that we do not accept that kind of aggressive behavior, the illegal annexation of Crimea and the destabilizing behavior in the eastern Ukraine.”

Stoltenberg added that NATO is supportive of the sanctions, and that since Russia has not changed its policies, the sanctions should continue, as should NATO’s regular meetings with Russian representatives.

“[In] the two meetings that we have convened so far in the NATO-Russia Council, the issues has been Ukraine, and even though we don’t agree on Ukraine I think it’s important that we meet around the same table and that we express our concerns, and that NATO allies and NATO can talk directly to Russia on Ukraine and … express our views on the importance of full implementation of the Minsk Agreements. We have seen a violation of the cease fire, we have seen that the Minsk Agreements are not implemented.”

Stoltenberg’s comments on Russia came in response to questions by reporters after he reaffirmed the military bloc’s commitment to Afghanistan in a daylong ministerial meeting.

Speaking in Brussels, he said NATO’s Afghan Security Forces have sustained losses but broad international support remains “strong and steadfast” in fighting “enemies across the country,” a reference to the Taliban and the Islamic State, and their affiliate groups. Stoltenberg also mentioned the $15 billion commitment, through 2020, agreed to by international partners in October.

“This year alone there have been eight major attempts to seize cities. All have failed. NATO will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces through our Resolute Support Mission, because we know that training local forces to fight terrorism and stabilize their country is the best way to project stability beyond our borders.”

Stoltenberg also thanked Turkish diplomat and NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Ismail Aramaz, “for his insights and commitment over the past two years.” Aramaz will be succeeded by German diplomat Cornelius Zimmerman, who Stoltenberg said, “knows Afghanistan very well and will continue our important work.

Stoltenberg’s comments ended a two-day summit of NATO ministers in Brussels; the second day, Wednesday, was devoted entirely to the issue of Afghanistan.

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