NATO foreign ministers focus on world hotspots | News | DW | 23.04.2013
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NATO foreign ministers focus on world hotspots

NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels for what alliance officials said would be an "exchange of information" about troop exits from Afghanistan, the conflict in Syria and tensions in the Korean Peninsula.

Entering the talks, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said: "We can all see that the situation in Syria is getting worse. And we cannot ignore the risks of a regional spillover, with possible implications for allied security."

NATO has Dutch, German and US defensive Patriot missile units deployed inside Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, to deter any spill-over of shelling.

More than 70,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the United Nations. Two years of violence has also forced more than 1 million Syrians to seek safety abroad, burdening neighboring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq.

Ahead of the meeting German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged Russia to assist within the international community in defusing both the civil war in Syria and North Korea's recent nuclear threats.

"An appeal from us must go out from the international community, and not just from the West but notably from Russia, notably from China, that de-escalation is the imperative of the hour," Westerwelle said. "Negotiations are necessary."

"That applies also in Syria," Germany's foreign minister said. Russia had a "big role" to play in enabling a political solution, Westerwelle added, referring to Moscow's past backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

NATO ministers were also to be briefed on Afghanistan, where NATO forces are gradually handing over security responsibilities to Afghanistan's national army.

NATO plans to keep up to 12,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond its combat troop withdrawal completion in 2014 but the future terms for NATO advisors and trainers have not yet been agreed with Kabul.

A first visit for Kerry

Tuesday's gathering of 28 NATO foreign ministers represented the first visit to NATO headquarters by John Kerry (pictured above) since his appointment as US Secretary of State.

On Wednesday in Brussels, Kerry is due to host additional talks between Pakistan's army chief General Ashfaq Kayani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Kabul accuses Pakistan of supporting Taliban insurgents by providing border refuge. Pakistan, through its foreign ministry, said on Monday that it "remains committed to continue its positive and constructive role towards a durable peace in Afghanistan."

Last weekend, Kerry attended an international conference on Syria in Istanbul, Turkey, where he announced that the US would double its non-lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition with an addition $123 million (94 million euros) in supplies, including body armor and night vision goggles.

He urged other countries to follow suit amid sharp differences over the wisdom of providing arms to rebel groups, especially those with links to al Qaeda.

ipj/ccp (dpa, AFP)

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