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NATO Foreign Ministers convene in Brussels: Steinmeier calls for another meeting of the NATO-Russia Council

20.05.2016 - Article

On Thursday (19 May) and Friday (20 May) Foreign Minister Steinmeier attended the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in Brussels.

The Foreign Ministers of the 28 NATO states met in Brussels for talks on Thursday (19 May) and Friday (20 May). The consultations focused on preparations for the NATO Summit in Warsaw, the challenges facing NATO in the South and East, as well as the Alliance’s relations with Russia. Foreign Minister Steinmeier called for another meeting of the NATO-Russia Council to be held soon. The Council convened in April following a longer break.

The Foreign Ministers of the NATO member states
The Foreign Ministers of the NATO member states© Picture Alliance/Olivier Hoslet

Steinmeier said ahead of the meeting in Brussels that there was “a complex agenda with not so easy issues” but that he was very confident that “this will be a successful North Atlantic Council.” Among other things, preparations for the Warsaw NATO Summit in July, Eastern Europe and the Ukraine crisis, the conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as NATO’s relations with Russia were on the agenda of the two-day ministerial meeting.

NATO-Russia Council: “Consider holding another meeting soon”

With regard to Russia, Steinmeier called for another meeting of the NATO-Russia Council. He said it was especially important in view of the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Libya to include Russia in the political negotiations in order to move towards resolving these conflicts. The dialogue with Russia should therefore not be broken off now but, rather, intensified. Steinmeier stated he was glad that most states had accepted his proposal that another meeting in the near future of the NATO-Russia Council should be considered. He went on to say that the NATO Secretary General had agreed to invite Russia to a meeting at ambassador level in June. Although it had not been possible at the last meeting of the NATO-Russia Council to create an atmosphere in which problems could be solved, the meeting had fostered the exchange on existing problems and viewpoints. This was an important process, especially ahead of the forthcoming NATO Summit in Warsaw. On 20 April, the body convened for the first time following a longer break.

With regard to the Summit, Steinmeier was positive: “The preparations are far advanced.” He commented that one key issue at the Summit would be the implementation of the decisions on reassurance measures in Eastern Europe taken in connection with the Ukraine crisis. Eastern European member states’ expectations of the Summit were also discussed at the meeting in Brussels.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Secretary of State Kerry in front of the NATO emblem in Brussels
Foreign Minister Steinmeier and Secretary of State Kerry in front of the NATO emblem in Brussels© photothek/Thomas Trutschel

EU and NATO: Complex problems in North Africa and in the Middle East

On the second day of the meeting, discussions were held with Federica Mogherini, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on relations between NATO and the EU. In view of the ongoing conflicts in North Africa and in the Middle East, which affect both NATO and EU member states, greater cooperation between the EU and NATO is to be explored. Another item on the agenda was the situation in Afghanistan, particularly the future of the engagement of NATO member states there. Steinmeier reaffirmed Germany’s decision not to send any more combat troops to Afghanistan but to continue supporting the training of Afghan security forces.

Montenegro to become 29th NATO member state

On the first day of the meeting, the representatives of all 28 member states signed the Accession Protocol for Montenegro. Following ratification by the national parliaments, the Balkan state is set to become the Alliance’s 29th member state. Foreign Minister Steinmeier congratulated the Balkan state on this key step towards full NATO membership.

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