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NATO steps up Ukraine cooperation, reviews it with Russia

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is stepping up its cooperation with Ukraine but reviewing cooperation with Russia, the secretary-general of the alliance, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said today.

Speaking after talks with Moscow's ambassador to NATO, Rasmussen announced the review of "an entire range" of military cooperation and the suspension of a ground-breaking joint mission involving the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons.

At the same time NATO will "intensify our partnership with Ukraine", strengthening support of democratic reforms and helping boost Ukraine's army, including with more joint training and exercises.

Rasmussen said the situation in Ukraine "presents serious implications for the security and stability" of the region and that "continues to violate" Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

As a result, the 28-nation alliance will suspend its first joint mission with Russia, providing a maritime escort for the US ship Cape Ray, which will neutralise Syria's chemical weapons. The destruction of the weapons will go ahead nonetheless, he stressed.

NATO also decided to suspend staff-level civilian and military meetings with Russia "for now".

"We have put the entire range of NATO-Russia cooperation under review. NATO foreign ministers will take decisions on this in early April.

"Russia's actions have consequences."

But NATO is keeping the door open for political dialogue and is therefore ready to maintain meetings of ambassadors in the NATO-Russia Council, such as one that took place today, Rasmussen noted.

"I think this sends a very clear message to Russia and by balancing our steps in such a way that we on the one hand suspend daily practical cooperation but on the other hand keep a channel open for political dialogue, we hope that we can contribute to finding a political and diplomatic solution," he said.

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