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Stoltenberg: "NATO doesn't want confrontation with Russia"

Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg, on a visit to Berlin, has appealed to Russia to stop its support of rebels in Ukraine. The head of NATO has also urged Germany to increase its defense spending.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO chief, Jens Stoltenberg, called on Russia to respect the borders of Ukraine on Wednesday at a press conference in Berlin:

"We call on Russia to respect the Minsk agreements, to use all its influence on the separatists to make them respect the ceasefire and to withdraw the support for the separatists," Stoltenberg said.

"NATO does not seek confrontation with Russia. NATO aspires for a more constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia. But to be able to establish that, Russia must want it, too," he added.

Stoltenberg also praised the German involvement in NATO, stressing that Germany will play "the leading role" in establishing NATO's fast-response troops, which is the most important NATO response to the Ukraine crisis.

At the same time, however, the head of NATO pressed Germany to increase defense spending, saying the country needed to show more leadership given its strength and influence:

"Germany is such a key country in Europe, Germany has the strongest economy in Europe and Germany is providing leadership in so many areas in Europe," Stoltenberg said, "But we're also looking for German leadership when it comes to investing in defense because we need to invest in our defense to be able to protect all our allies and to maintain the security and stability of Europe," he emphasized.

No progress yet

Chancellor Merkel said that the four-party meeting about the Ukraine crisis, which was originally scheduled for this Thursday and then postponed, might still happen.

"We are not ready yet, but we will be working on it with all our might", she said. However, Merkel could not say when the meeting can be expected to take place, adding that it depends on all the parties. The meeting, which was supposed to happen in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, has been postponed on account of significant differences in opinion.

The foreign ministers of Germany, France, Russia and Ukraine did not make any progress during a meeting in Berlin on Monday.

More money for defense

At a summit in Wales last year, NATO leaders agreed to aim for the alliance's target of spending two percent of economic output on defense within a decade.

Only Britain and the United States currently spend that much within NATO. Germany currently spends around 1.3 percent of its gross domestic product on defense.

dj/gb (Interfax, Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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