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Merkel says NATO summit with Russia is a 'good sign'

The NATO-Russia summit sends a positive signal, despite a "wide range" of differences between two sides, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said. Merkel also pledged military support to the ex-Soviet state of Lithuania.

Berlin and Vilnius have a "very good military cooperation," Chancellor Merkel said after meeting Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in Berlin on Wednesday.

"The protection of Lithuania still plays an important role, taking into account that Russia is a neighboring country," Merkel said at a joint press conference.

Germany is set to provide additional military assistance for the Baltic country, especially assistance protecting and monitoring Lithuanian airspace.

NATO is currently engaged in a military build-up near Russian borders, with the former USSR members Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia also set to host troops.

The Western countries and Russia have been flexing their military muscles since the outbreak of the Ukraine conflict in 2014. On Wednesday, however, Moscow envoys met with NATO representatives in Brussels, marking the first such summit since the escalation.

No 'business as usual'

Commenting on the Brussels' meet, Merkel told reporters that dialogue was important.

"From my point of view it was a good sign that there was a NATO-Russia meeting again and that they're talking," she said.

Watch video 02:53

Russia losing energy stranglehold on Lithuania

At the same time, there remained a "wide range of differing viewpoints" that the talks did not necessarily reconcile, she added.

Lithuania's President Grybauskaite also said it was important to keep the communication channels with Russia open, but cautioned that "this meeting today is not business as usual, not yet."

There was still no practical cooperation, according to Grybauskaite.

Preparing for Hanover meet

In addition to military tensions, the US and the EU have also been engaged in an economic boycott of Russian trade since the start of the Ukraine crisis. The EU is due to decide on prolonging the sanctions before the end of July, with the perceived implementation of the Minsk peace accord the decisive factor.

The Ukraine conflict would be one of the topics at the international summit in Germany next Monday, Merkel told reporters in Berlin. The German chancellor is set to discuss international crises, including fighting in Syria and Libya, with Presidents Francois Hollande and Barack Obama, as well as Prime Minister David Cameron and the Italian head of government Matteo Renzi.

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