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EU and NATO to tighten cooperation to face emerging 'threats'

The European Union and NATO have agreed to work closer together to face "new threats" from Russia. The two also plan to adopt new strategies to ease the wave of refugees coming to Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

Federica Mogherini, the EU's foreign affairs head said on Thursday that members of the European bloc needed to closely work with the NATO "at all levels." The European Union's foreign policy chief was speaking to NATO foreign ministers at a meeting in Belek, Turkey's picturesque resort in the south.

"We (NATO and the EU) have challenges around us that unite us. We are different in nature but we share values," Mogherini said.

Military action against traffickers

Mogherini's comments came as the EU, together with NATO, planned to tackle human traffickers in Libya who were smuggling thousands of refugees into Europe. The leader said she was "aware we need to increase our capacity to respond to crises," but that this did not "necessarily mean a military approach."

However, Mogherini did not "rule out a military aspect" in the cooperation.

The United States said it could provide the EU with information on migrants, but the foreign policy chief refused to divulge details on the EU's plans in northern Africa. Details on the EU's policy to tackle migration were to be discussed in a meeting of European defense and foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday.

The bloc is struggling to deal with hundreds of thousands of migrants, who have fled conflict in Africa and the Middle East and have arrived in Italy and Greece this year. The EU's military exercise would involve destroying ships used by people smugglers before they could be used for transporting migrants.

Representatives at the Belek summit were, however, debating whether to begin the operation now or after Libya's warring factions had come to a consensus on governing the country. While France and the United Kingdom were not willing to wait, Germany expressed the fear that military operations now could jeopardize peace initiatives in the country.

Russia and the Ukraine

Meanwhile, in the second and final day of the NATO summit, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was facing "evolving" challenges from Russia and the Middle East.

"To the east, a more assertive Russia has used force to change borders and intimidate neighbors," Stoltenberg said. "To the south, violent extremism had reached a level unprecedented in modern times," he added, referring to the "Islamic State's" ("IS") barbaric practices.

The NATO head said the alliance would work to improve its capacity against Russia's "hybrid warfare" in eastern Ukraine - meaning, the combination of conventional military techniques with non-conventional methods, such as cyber attacks and propaganda.

The Ukraine conflict, which began with Moscow's annexation of Crimea in March last year, has left around 6,000 people dead, including civilians. A ceasefire between Kyiv and pro-Russia rebels has proven shaky and a lasting solution seems elusive. German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has however stressed that European countries would use the Minsk truce deal, signed in February this year, as a basis for future talks on Ukraine.

US and European countries accuse Russia of supporting rebels, who have declared a part of Ukraine's east as the Republic of Donbass.

mg/kms (dpa, AFP)

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