International

NATO voices concerns over Russian military presence in MENA region

New Europe - Zoe Didili

Russia’s increasing military presence in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is a matter of “great concern” for NATO, its Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday, stressing that the alliance is “monitoring closely” Moscow’s actions.

“We have seen the presence of fighter jets and mercenaries financed by Russia and all the Russian military capabilities,” Stoltenberg said in response to a question about Russia’s military build-up in the region.

He added that Russia’s efforts to boost its military presence extend beyond the MENA, as they also reach the Baltic region and the Black Sea as well as to the High North. He stressed that Moscow’s moves is the reason behind NATO’s increased readiness of its forces and behind its advanced investments in new capabilities.

“This is also the reason why … we are adapting NATO in response also to a more assertive Russia, which is investing heavy in new military equipment and also increasing its military presence along our borders, including in North Africa and in Libya,” Stoltenberg said.

When it comes to Libya in particular, the NATO chief reiterated the alliance’s support to the efforts led by the United Nations, for a political, negotiated solution to the crisis in the country, whilst welcoming the announcement for a ceasefire.

“We stand ready to provide support when the conditions on the ground, permit. Because we strongly believe that what we need is a political solution, and support the UN recognized Government,” of Fayez al-Sarraj, the leader of the international recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

Stoltenberg’s comments followed a meeting with President of Mauritania Mohamed Ould Cheikh El Ghazouani at the organisation’s headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.

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