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Blinken Off to Brussels as NATO Shores Commitment to Ukraine

The United States is joining member states from NATO this week in renewing the alliance’s “steadfast commitment” to Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s aggression, according to a senior State Department official.

Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to Brussels, where foreign ministers from NATO will gather from November 27 to 29.

On Wednesday, Blinken will lead the U.S. delegation to NATO member North Macedonia who is hosting a meeting of foreign ministers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe or OSCE in its capital Skopje later this week.

The United States is hosting the next NATO summit in Washington from July 9 to 11, 2024.  Blinken will discuss priorities for the Washington meeting with his counterparts as the alliance celebrates its 75th anniversary next year.

NATO-Ukraine Council foreign ministers

The chief U.S. diplomat is set to attend the first foreign minister-level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council as Kyiv aspires to be a NATO member.

“The Council supports Ukraine’s close partnership with NATO,” said Jim O’Brien who is State Department’s Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs.  “Allies will continue to support Ukraine’s self-defense until Russia stops its war of aggression,” he added.

The NATO-Ukraine Council was inaugurated at the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other heads of member governments also in attendance.

It convened for the second time in late July to discuss Black Sea security following Russia’s withdrawal from a deal overseeing grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

The third meeting was held in October to discuss substantial assistance to Ukraine and to ensure Ukraine’s forces are fully interoperable with NATO.    

The NATO-Ukraine Council is the joint body where Allies and Ukraine sit as equal participants to advance political dialogue.

Western Balkans

One of the sessions at this week’s NATO foreign ministers’ meeting is to address security and democracy in the Western Balkans.

“A stable, prosperous future for the Western Balkans must be based on good governance, rule of law, multi-ethnic democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” O’Brien said.

NATO officials have affirmed the alliance’s commitment to maintaining a safe and secure environment while contributing to broader stability in the Western Balkans.

The statement came in response to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s earlier warning this month, in which he conveyed information suggesting that Russia has a plan for the destabilization of the Balkans.

Speaking on November 21 in Skopje, North Macedonia, during the final stop of a tour of the Western Balkans, NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg stated that the alliance closely monitors Russia’s activities in the region.  But he said there is currently no perceived military threat to any NATO member in the area.  

North Macedonia, OSCE

After the government of North Macedonia announced that it would briefly lift a flight ban and permit the plane carrying Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to land in Skopje for the OSCE ministerial, Lavrov said on Monday he would attend the OSCE foreign ministers meeting in North Macedonia if Bulgaria opened its air space to the Russian delegation.

North Macedonia’s sanctions will remain in place against Russia for all other flights.

Most European countries banned flights from Russia after its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

O’Brien declined to comment on whether there will be any interaction between Lavrov should he attend the OSCE ministerial and the U.S. delegation but told VOA during a phone briefing that U.S. Secretary of State Blinken will “have a good discussion with” OSCE counterparts about U.S. “support for Ukraine.”  

Some material is from Reuters. 

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