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NATO’s Stoltenberg stresses importance of dialogue on contradictory issues with Russia

He addressed reporters after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich conference on European security

MUNICH, February 18. /TASS/. NATO and Russia should keep up dialogue on the problems that cause contradictions between them, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference on Friday.

He addressed reporters after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Munich conference on European security.

"I will say that there are well known positions from both NATO and Russia but I think it’s useful to have dialogue also on issues where we have different views, like for instance Ukraine," Stoltenberg said. "To update and to exchange views."

"<…> as you know what NATO has decided, and that includes the US, is to suspend all practical cooperation with Russia as a reaction to the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014," Stoltenberg said. He used the terms NATO and Western official quarters apply to the events of March 2014 when the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol severed administrative relations with Ukraine and reunited with Russia pending a massive vote in favor of reunification in a regional referendum.

"That decision [to suspend cooperation] still stands," Stoltenberg said. "But we have underlined that the suspension of practical cooperation does not mean that we suspend political dialogue."

" <…> we are strengthening our political dialogue with Russia, on a wide range of issues, Ukraine, military transparency, Afghanistan and today we discussed Libya and Syria and we are also looking into how we can strengthen our military alliance of communications," Stoltenberg said.

"So there is room for dialogue and for engagement with Russia even though we continue to suspend our practical cooperation," he said.

Stoltenberg admitted that relations between NATO and the West, on the one side, and Russia, on the other side, were better before the events of winter and spring 2014.

"We were for instance planning to destroy chemical weapons from Syria together," he said. "We worked together in many different areas and we had a lot of practical cooperation."

After the events of 2014, "the relationship between the West and Russia, ANTO and Russia has deteriorated and it hasn’t recovered since then."

"And what we see is a more unpredictable more dangerous world and we see higher tensions and of course that is something that is of concern for all Allies, but that’s exactly the reason why we continue to work for political dialogue, to de-escalate, to reduce tensions and to at least manage our relationship with Russia," Stoltenberg said.

"So yes, there is more unpredictability, yes, there’s more uncertainty, but that’s exactly the reason why we are trying to improve our relationship with Russia (…)," he said.