NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday the alliance is “watching developments in Belarus closely,” and that NATO supports “a sovereign and independent Belarus.” Stoltenberg made the comments to reporters after meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The two leaders met to discuss pressing European diplomatic issues ahead of meetings with European Union defense ministers in Berlin.
In their bilateral talks, the two leaders also discussed the territorial dispute between Greece and Turkey, and the situation in Afghanistan.
Additionally, Stoltenberg mentioned the U.S. decision to pull troops out of Germany earlier this year and put additional personnel in Poland. The NATO chief said, “It is important that allies continue to consult closely because the U.S. presence in Europe is important both for the security of Europe and for the security of the United States.”
Ahead of the meeting with EU defense ministers, Stoltenberg added his voice to growing calls for a “transparent” investigation into the case of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Stoltenberg said there was “no reason to doubt” German doctors’ conclusions that the Kremlin critic was poisoned.
Navalny’s supporters say he was poisoned by a cup of tea at a Siberian airport. Navalny later became ill on a flight to Moscow. The plane made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk, where he was hospitalized before he was airlifted to Germany for treatment last Saturday.
Russia has not opened an investigation into the incident and a Kremlin spokesman said there was “no pretext” to do so. The EU leaders are meeting in Berlin because Germany currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union Council.