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NATO seeks to engage in dialogue with Russia

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in 2016 the organization continued "political dialogue with Russia, holding three meetings of the NATO-Russia Council"

BRUSSELS, March 13. /TASS/. NATO seeks to engage in meaningful dialogue with Russia, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in his third annual report.

According to the report, "as part of an overall approach to its collective security, the alliance seeks to improve transparency and reduce the risk of escalation by engaging in meaningful dialogue with Russia."

Stoltenberg also pointed out that in 2016, NATO continued "political dialogue with Russia, holding three meetings of the NATO-Russia Council to discuss the situation in and around Ukraine, transparency and risk reduction, and Afghanistan."

Russia is a neighbor of NATO countries, so the alliance needs to build a constructive relationship with Moscow, Stoltenberg told TASS.

On Monday, Stoltenberg presented his third annual report as NATO Secretary General saying that the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) terror group’s activities as well as Russia’s policies were the main threats to NATO members’ security. Stoltenberg particularly pointed to "increasingly assertive Russian behavior" accusing Moscow of "illegally annexing Crimea and destabilizing eastern Ukraine."

NATO Secretary General went on to say that "ISIS is a terrorist organization, a brutal organization, responsible for terrorist attacks and the brutality we’ve hardly seen before. Russia is a neighbor, Russia is there to stay and we are striving for a more constructive relationship with Russia." "Therefore we so welcome the fact that we’ve been able to reactivate political dialog with Russia," he added.

Stoltenberg hopes Russia’s Zapad-2017 drills will not raise tensions

NATO expects Moscow to invite its observers to attend Russia’s Zapad-2017 military drills due in autumn, Stoltenberg said at a press conference in Brussels after presenting his third annual report. He also said he hoped that these exercises will not raise tensions in the region.

"Every nation has the right to exercise its troops and forces. That’s also the case for Russia," Stoltenberg said. "The important thing is that exercises are conducted in a way which does not increase tensions and which is fully in compliance with our national obligations," he added. NATO Secretary General also said that he "would welcome any invitation from Russia to observe Zapad-2017 and I also expect Russia to fully adhere to their international commitment… because that’s the best way to keep tensions down and avoid any misunderstanding."

Stoltenberg went on to say that "in December we discussed, how we can strengthen the Russia-NATO Council as a forum for briefings on exercises. I hope that Russia will be willing to brief on Zapad."

In his report, Stoltenberg pointed out that in 2016, "NATO conducted 107 exercises of its own and was associated with a further 139 national exercises." "In keeping with our international commitments, we also invited Russian observers to attend ten NATO exercises," the NATO Secretary General added.

Moscow and Minsk plan to conduct the Zapad-2017 (or West-2017) joint military drills in September on the Belarusian territory.