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NATO Head Says Disagreement with Russia will be Hard to Bridge

INTERNATIONAL: The differences between Russia and NATO over Ukraine will be difficult to bridge, the head of the Atlantic alliance, Jens Stoltenber has said on Wednesday, after four hours of talks where Moscow pressed its demands for security guarantees from the West.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says that there are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia, and that these differences will not be easy to bridge. But it is still a positive sign that all NATO allies and Russia sat down together to engage on substantive topics.

Russia has forced the West to come to the negotiating table by massing some 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that aspires to join NATO.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said; "Russia raised the proposals that they published in December, aimed at addressing their security concerns. These include demands to stop admitting any new members to NATO and to withdraw forces from eastern allies. Allies on their side, reaffirmed NATO's open door policy and the right for each nation to choose its own security arrangements. Allies made clear that they will not renounce their ability to defend and protect each other, including with presence of troops in the eastern part of the alliance."

"On membership, and NATO's open door, all allies are united on the core principle that each and every nation has the right to choose its own path. This is enshrined in a lot of fundamental documents, many different documents, which are the foundation for European security. And therefore also allies totally agree that it is only Ukraine and 30 allies that can decide when Ukraine is ready to become a NATO member, no one else has anything to say. And of course Russia doesn't have a veto on whether Ukraine can become a NATO member."

Russia has military forces in Georgia, in Ukraine, in Crimea, and also in Moldova, and these forces are there without the consent of the governments of these countries, so they are uninvited and not welcome. And NATO allies, also in the meeting , called on Russia to withdraw those forces and to respect the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Georgia, of Ukraine, of Moldova.

NATO’s secretary general has made clear NATO is a defensive alliance. It has never forced, or coerced any nation into the alliance. The idea that NATO enlargement is aggressive is absolutely not true.

The troops’s purpose is to preserve peace, it's not to provoke conflict, it's to preserve peace and prevent conflict. And if Russia once again uses force against Ukraine, and further invades Ukraine, NATO then have to seriously look into the need to further increase its presence in the eastern part of the alliance.

Russia denies planning to invade but says it needs a series of guarantees for its own security, including a halt to any further NATO expansion and a withdrawal of alliance forces from Central and Eastern European nations that joined the alliance after the Cold War.

The NATO Head has said any use of Russian force against Ukraine would be a serious political mistake for which Russia would pay a high price.

He has reiterated NATO's position that only Ukraine and NATO can decide whether the country becomes a member.

However, Stoltenberg said NATO was ready for further talks with Moscow on issues including arms control and missile deployments. Russia has asked for more time to come back with an answer on this matter.

Stoltenberg's remarks made clear that there had been no breakthrough at the talks, two days after Russian and U.S. diplomats met in Geneva and reported no narrowing of their differences.

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