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Blinken in Brussels and Skopje: One of the Topics is the Western Balkans, Lavrov is Also Coming to North Macedonia

On Monday and Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will participate in the summit of the foreign ministers of the NATO alliance countries in Brussels, and on Wednesday he will lead the US delegation to North Macedonia, in whose capital, Skopje, the heads of diplomacy of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) will meet ).

One of the sessions at the meeting of NATO foreign ministers is dedicated to security and democracy in the Western Balkans.

“The stable, prosperous future of the Western Balkans must be based on good governance, the rule of law, multi-ethnic democracy and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” James O’Brien, Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia, told reporters in Washington.

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

The announcement followed an earlier warning from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this month, in which he said he had information suggesting Russia had a plan to destabilize 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 said the alliance is closely monitoring Russia’s activities in the region. But he said there is currently no perceived military threat to any NATO member in the area.

After the government of North Macedonia announced that it would briefly lift the flight ban and allow the plane carrying Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to land in Skopje for the OSCE ministerial meeting, he confirmed that he would attend the summit if Bulgaria opened airspace for the Russian delegation. .

A few hours after Lavrov’s statement, Bulgaria opened the airspace for the departure of the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs to Skopje, Russian Ambassador to Bulgaria Eleonora Mitrofanova confirmed to the Tass agency.

“We received a positive response to our note about the flight of Lavrov’s plane through Bulgarian airspace. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria officially informed us that our minister is allowed to pass through Bulgarian airspace,” said Mitrofanova.

Sanctions of North Macedonia and Bulgaria against Russia will remain in force 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 would be any interaction between Lavrov if he attends the OSCE ministerial meeting with the US delegation, but told VOA during a telephone briefing that Secretary of State Blinken “will have a good discussion with” his OSCE counterparts. on American “support to Ukraine”.

Blinken is supposed to attend the first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council at the level of foreign ministers in Brussels, as Kiev aspires to become a member of the alliance.

“The Council supports Ukraine’s close partnership with NATO. “Allies will continue to support Ukraine’s self-defense until Russia stops its aggressive war,” O’Brien said.

The NATO-Ukraine Council was inaugurated at the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12, and was attended by Ukrainian President Zelensky and other heads of member governments.

Council members met for a second time at the end of July to discuss security in the Black Sea following Russia’s withdrawal from an agreement to monitor grain exports from Ukrainian ports.

A third meeting was held in October to discuss significant aid to Kiev and to ensure that Ukrainian forces are fully equipped to cooperate with NATO.

The NATO-Ukraine Council is a joint body in which the Allies and Ukraine sit as equal participants in order to promote political dialogue.

Source: Voice of America