01:45 GMT +319 November 2019
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    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg delivers a speech on European defence and transatlantic security at the German Marshall Fund think-tank in Brussels, Belgium, November 18, 2016.

    NATO Would Welcome Invitation to Observe Russia-Belarus Zapad-2017 Drills

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    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization would welcome an invitation to observe the upcoming Russian-Belarusian Zapad-2017 military exercises, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) — In November, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia and Belarus would hold joint large-scale strategic command-and-staff Zapad-2017 drills in September 2017.

    "Every nation has the right to exercise its forces as long as it’s done within the agreed international obligations and relations. We would welcome an invitation to observe the ZAPAD exercise. NATO strongly believes in transparency, predictability related to military activities like exercises. We will also welcome an advanced briefing on the exercise," Stoltenberg said at joint press conference with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas.

    The NATO invited Russia to observe ten drills held by the Alliance in 2016, Stoltenberg reminded.

    Belarusian Defense Minister Andrei Ravkov said in February that the drills do not impose any threat to the third countries, as the exercises are aimed at improving the defensive capabilities and strategic deterrence of the armies. Moscow has also repeatedly stressed that it would never attack any of NATO member states.

    On January 30, Stoltenberg said the Alliance did not see any threat posed by Russia to its eastern flank.

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    military drills, Zapad-2017, Jens Stoltenberg, Belarus, Russia
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