NATO Defence Ministers Meeting Over Syria, Afghanistan
The defence ministers of the NATO member countries are meeting in Brussels on Thursday over the situation in Syria and Afghanistan.
In a doorstep statement, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg highlighted the many challenges the Alliance is facing at present – conflict, instability, insecurity and a refugee crisis.
Stoltenberg noted that NATO was responding to these challenges by implementing the biggest reinforcement since the end of the Cold War, increasing its exercises and establishing six small headquarters in the countries on the eastern flank of the Alliance - Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
The Secretary General expressed hope that at today's meeting the defence ministers will approve the establishment of two more such headquarters in Hungary and Slovakia.
Stoltenberg added that the ministers will give final approval to the military concept for the enhanced NATO Response Force, which will make it bigger, faster and more capable.
He revealed that military commanders had confirmed that the Alliance already has the capabilities to deploy the NATO Response Force to the South.
The participants at the meeting will also make an assessment of the actions NATO needs to take in order to address current and future challenges ranging from cyber, hybrid to conventional attack.
Stoltenberg expressed concern about the troubling escalation of Russian military activities in Syria and the violation of Turkish air space by Russian fighter aircraft.
As regards Afghanistan, the defence ministers will discuss the security situation and the way forward for the Resolute Support Mission of the Alliance.
The participants are also to meet defence minister of Georgia to discuss options for deepening cooperation between NATO and Tbilisi.
Stoltenberg assured that NATO is able and ready to defend all allies, including Turkey against any threat and that the Alliance has readiness to deploy forces to the South, including in Turkey, if the need arises.
According to him, there was a renewed need for political initiatives to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.
The Secretary General expressed concern that Russian airstrikes were not targeting only IS, but also other opposition groups.
Stoltenberg called on Moscow to play a constructive and cooperative role in the fight against IS and end its support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Bulgarian Defence Minister Nikolay Nenchev is to hold bilateral meetings with his Greek and Georgian counterparts.
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