Sun, 16 May 2021

Ukraine, Afghanistan in Spotlight as Blinken Visits Brussels

Voice of America
13 Apr 2021, 17:35 GMT+10

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken headed to Brussels on Tuesday to meet with European and NATO allies on a range of issues, including Russia's buildup of forces along the border with Ukraine and coalition operations in Afghanistan.

The visit comes three weeks after Blinken was in Brussels for a summit with his counterparts from NATO member states. Blinken spoke of the priority for the United States to focus on strengthening ties with allies during the previous meeting.

"Glad to be heading back to Brussels. The United States is committed to rebuilding U.S. alliances, particularly with our NATO Allies," Blinken Tweeted on Monday. "We remain steadfast in our support for NATO as the essential forum for Transatlantic security."

Blinken's schedule Tuesday includes talks with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.

Russia's recent movement of troops to the border area has raised concerns in the United States and elsewhere.

Blinken spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about the situation Monday and said there was mutual agreement that "Russia must end its dangerous military buildup and ongoing aggression along Ukraine's borders."

Philip Reeker, the U.S. acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters in previewing Blinken's meetings that NATO talks about Ukraine would bring calls for Russia to show restraint and refrain from "escalatory actions."

Joining Blinken in Brussels is U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Another major topic of discussion will be the situation in Afghanistan just weeks before a May 1 deadline set an agreement between the administration of former U.S. President Donald Trump and the Taliban for the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 U.S. forces from the country.

Reeker said those talks would be an opportunity to follow up on discussions about Afghanistan from the ministerial meetings last month. Blinken said during the March talks that the United States wanted to "listen and consult" with NATO allies, while pledging to "leave together" when the time is right.

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