(CNN) — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that the meeting between the organization and Russia on the situation in Ukraine “was not an easy discussion”. Also, “differences will not be easy to overcome.” But he also stressed that NATO allies and Russia “expressed the necessity of resuming dialogue”.
“It was not an easy discussion. But that is exactly why this meeting is so important,” he told reporters in Brussels.
“We had a very serious and direct exchange on the situation in and around Ukraine, and the implications for European security. There are huge differences between NATO allies and Russia on these issues. Our differences will not be easy to overcome, but it is a positive sign that all NATO allies and Russia have sat down. around the same table and engaged in substantive issues.”
Representatives of Russia and NATO met in Brussels on Wednesday for the meeting High Level Conversations that seeks to calm rising tensions around military crowds Moscow is near the border with Ukraine.
A source familiar with the talks told CNN that the conversation lasted about four hours, about an hour longer than expected.
The NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meeting comes at a time when the two sides have been at an impasse. Meanwhile, fears are also growing that Russia may launch an invasion of Ukraine.
Although Moscow has denied such accusations, Russia already has 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine. On the eve of the talks, the army began live-fire exercises in areas close to the border.
The United States, NATO and their allies are pressing Russia to de-escalate the situation. For its part, Moscow has demanded security guarantees from the United States and NATO. Among them, a binding pledge that NATO will not expand eastward and will not allow Ukraine to join the military alliance. Something the organization does not wish to do.
“At this point, let me be very clear: Nobody is suggesting that we change NATO policy on enlargement,” Julian Smith, the US ambassador to NATO, told CNN on Tuesday.
The meeting between Russia and NATO
Rather than being seen as a bilateral meeting between NATO and Russia, Wednesday’s meeting represented each of NATO’s 30 member states and Russia equally, in a 31-nation forum. This meeting is the second of three major engagements between the West and Russia this week.
On Monday, representatives of the United States and Russia sat in Geneva for more than seven hours of discussion.
The marathon talks, which the White House described as “candid and direct,” yielded no breakthrough. Another round of talks between Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), of which the United States is a member, is scheduled to be held in Vienna on Thursday.
Ukraine said on Tuesday it was confident that the United States and other NATO countries would not take a decision “on the fate” of the country “behind our backs” during the meetings.
Veronica Straqualorsi, Jennifer Hansler, Luke McGee, Katharina Krebs, Nikki Carvajal and Alex Marquardt contributed to this report.