NATO will seek a new meeting with Russia before the alliance holds its next summit in July, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday, despite deep disagreements between the two.
"Especially in times of tension, it is important to keep lines of dialogue open and seek more transparency," Stoltenberg had said Thursday before discussing with NATO foreign ministers the possibility of holding a new round of talks with Russian Ambassador Alexander Grushko.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the ministers' discussion as "contentious," but Stoltenberg said Friday that there was "broad agreement" that another meeting should be convened before the summit.
"We will now start to look into the modalities and the practical arrangements around such a new meeting," he added.
Steinmeier said it could take place in June.
Relations between NATO and Moscow have reached their worst point since the Cold War due to events in Ukraine since 2014, when Moscow annexed the Crimean peninsula and began supporting a rebellion erupting in the east after Kiev ousted its pro-Russian president.
NATO suspended all practical cooperation with Moscow after the annexation, which it said violated international law. Ambassadors and ministers from the two sides did not meet in the NATO-Russia Council for almost two years.
The hiatus was broken last month when Grushko held talks with his NATO counterparts. But Stoltenberg said afterwards that "profound" disagreements remained.
Germany and France nevertheless pushed for another meeting of the NATO-Russia Council before the military alliance's July 8-9 summit in Warsaw, to brief each other on decisions being considered and avoid misunderstandings.
NATO is for instance mulling the deployment of battalions to Poland and the Baltic states, which border Russia and have said that they feel threatened by Moscow's actions in Ukraine.
Such a move is likely to further antagonize Russia, which has said that NATO's eastward expansion threatens its national security. The Western military alliance has been keen to keep tensions with Russia from boiling over into military incidents.
The NATO ministers were also due on Friday to hold talks with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini about enhancing cooperation. The European Union has hit Russia with several rounds of sanctions over its actions in Ukraine.
Mogherini said the EU will discuss "in the coming weeks" whether to roll over the toughest of the sanctions, which hamper Russian imports and Russian banks' access to European capital markets.
"There is no discussion at the moment on increasing the level of sanctions," she added.
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