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Lukashenko calls for ‘transparency’, consents to NATO observing Belarus-Russia drills

If NATO representatives wish to be present during the joint drills, they are welcome to do so, Alexander Lukashenko stated

MINSK, March 20. /TASS/. The Zapad-2017 joint Belarusian-Russian drills will be solely defensive in nature and NATO representatives will be able to observe them, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said on Monday.

Lukashenko made this statement as he examined a report on organizing the Zapad-2017 (West-2017) joint strategic drills of the Belarusian and Russian troops.

"I require from all of you to make this event transparent on the territory of our country and all measures accessible not only for our friends from the CSTO [Collective Security Treaty Organization], the EAEU [Eurasian Economic Union] and the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] member states but also for representatives of the North Atlantic alliance - NATO," Lukashenko said.

"We are not hiding and should not hide anything. If NATO representatives want to be present at our drills, you are welcome. Moreover, I’m already receiving such information and such signals from them," the state news agency BelTA quoted the Belarusian leader as saying.

"We are not shutting down from anyone. We will invite all those who wish to these exercises and you’ll see that they are solely of defensive nature," the Belarusian president said.

"Neither we nor the Russian Federation are going to advance on anyone in this direction and all the more so we are not going to provoke anyone here," Lukashenko said.

"We are preparing just in case to ensure our security in any situation," the Belarusian leader said.

Lukashenko told the country’s Defense Ministry to generally characterize "the efficiency of bilateral military cooperation with Russia."

"For me, this is also important ahead of a possible session of the Higher State Council. If there are some problems, I will be able to outline them for the Russian leadership and attract attention to more effective cooperation under our agreements on the defense of our Union [Russia-Belarus] State," Lukashenko said.

The Belarusian president also said that the joint drills on the republic’s territory "should leave only positive emotions in the memory of officers and soldiers and our guests."

"These are our people. We’ll have together to safeguard our defense and security," the Belarusian leader said.