Tuesday 21 November 2017

NATO, Russia fail to narrow differences in Munich talks

Members of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic drive armoured vehicles, with a red flag showing St George slaying the Dragon, near Donetsk
Members of the separatist self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic drive armoured vehicles, with a red flag showing St George slaying the Dragon, near Donetsk
A Ukrainian serviceman holds his position in an APC near Artemivsk, eastern Ukraine, as fighting between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine surged in January, raising the death toll to over 5,300 people killed since April (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)
A woman and a child look through a bus window before its departure as people flee due to a military conflict in Debaltseve. The EU's foreign policy chief threw her support on Wednesday behind a call for a temporary truce in the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve to allow for the evacuation of civilians

Reuters World Service

NATO and Russia failed to narrow their differences over the Ukraine crisis in talks on Saturday but agreed they would keep talking to each other.

The alliance's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg held a 40-minute meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the Ukraine conflict, which has caused the worst crisis in East-West relations since the Cold Wara a generation ago.

A woman and a child look through a bus window before its departure as people flee due to a military conflict in Debaltseve. The EU's foreign policy chief threw her support on Wednesday behind a call for a temporary truce in the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve to allow for the evacuation of civilians
A woman and a child look through a bus window before its departure as people flee due to a military conflict in Debaltseve. The EU's foreign policy chief threw her support on Wednesday behind a call for a temporary truce in the eastern Ukrainian town of Debaltseve to allow for the evacuation of civilians
Ukrainian army soldiers being held prisoner sit in a hall inside a Russian-backed separatist military base outside Donetsk. (AP)
A woman stands outside clinic 27, damaged after shelling, in Donetsk, Ukraine (AP)

"It's clear that we assess the situation in Ukraine in very different ways," Stoltenberg told reporters after the meeting took place on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Russia and NATO, which tried after the Cold War to build a more cooperative relationship, have hurled accusations at each other since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea last March.

Read more here: End the war or face tougher sanctions, Merkel tells Putin 

That prompted NATO to suspend practical cooperation with Moscow. Western countries followed up with sanctions on Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, gestures during his talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and French President Francois Hollande, right, during a meeting which aimed to resolve the Ukraine crisis at the Kremlin in Moscow (Reuters)
Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, gestures during his talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and French President Francois Hollande, right, during a meeting which aimed to resolve the Ukraine crisis at the Kremlin in Moscow (Reuters)
It is understood that Mrs Merkel bluntly informed Mr Putin that Russia faced even tougher actions from Europe unless he agreed to help end the escalating violence that has put the Ukrainian army and economy on its knees (REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev)
Vladimir Putin with Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel (AP)
Francois Hollande and Angela Merkel at a meeting with President Petro Poroshenko of Ukraine in Kiev (AP)
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (C) shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande during their meeting in Kiev. Reuters
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (C) shakes hands with French President Francois Hollande as German Chancellor Angela Merkel looks on during their talks in Kiev. Reuters
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko (L) gestures to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ahead of their talks in Kiev February 5, 2015. Kerry said on Thursday Russian aggression in the east was the greatest threat to Ukraine, and that Washington, while seeking a diplomatic solution, would not "close our eyes" to Russian tanks and fighters crossing the border. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS)
Local residents wait to board a bus to flee the conflict in Debaltseve, eastern Ukraine. Five more Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in fighting with Russian-backed separatists in the past 24 hours, a military spokesman said on Thursday. Reuters

NATO accuses Russia of sending troops to support pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine, a charge the Kremlin denies.

"He (Lavrov) re-stated some of the well-known Russian positions and that just confirms that we have very different assessments about what has happened ... and what caused the conflict in Ukraine and also the increased tensions between Russia and NATO," Stoltenberg said.

He said he had voiced deep concern to Lavrov about the "very critical and serious situation" in Ukraine and underscored Russia's responsibility for the situation because of its support for the separatists.

Read more here: Putin: I don't want war with anyone 

He urged support for the French and German drive to reach a peace accord in eastern Ukraine and stressed the importance of respecting any agreement that was reached.

Lavrov did not immediately comment on the talks.

Stoltenberg said NATO and Russia had agreed to keep channels of political contact open and NATO would also keep open military communication channels with Russia.

Experts say more frequent Russian air and sea patrols close to the borders of NATO countries have raised the risk of an accident or clash. Germany has urged NATO to set up an early warning system with Russia to prevent any military accident from spiralling out of control.

Reuters

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