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NATO, Russia Council to meet on April 20 in Brussels | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

NATO envoys will hold their first formal talks in nearly two years with Russia on April 20 to discuss the Ukraine crisis and other security issues, the US-led military alliance said Tuesday. NATO has Afghanistan on the agenda as well.

“It is not a return to business as usual, but we do need dialogue,” said a NATO spokeswoman.

The forum bringing together Russia and its former Cold War adversary NATO was never officially suspended, but met last in June 2014 as Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula strained ties. Both sides have now agreed to hold talks at ambassador level in Brussels in the NATO-Russia Council.

“The date has been mutually agreed,” a NATO spokeswoman told reporters.

While the West and Russia remain in disagreement over Ukraine, the meeting represents a sign of willingness to develop diplomatic relations that could help avoid any accidental clashes in the region.

With the NATO rushing its biggest military build-up in eastern Europe since the Cold War, the alliance wants to talk to Moscow about improved military transparency to avoid misunderstandings.

NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Russia in April 2014 in protest against Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

NATO said high-level political contacts with Russia could continue but NATO and Russian ambassadors met only twice since the Crimea crisis broke out, in March 2014 and then in early June of the same year.