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    Russia, NATO Must Reduce Tensions, West Ready to End Conflict - MSC Head

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    Russia and NATO need to reduce tensions between them, and the alliance has already shown willingness to put an end to the confrontation, the chairman of the Munich Security Conference told Sputnik.

    DAVOS (Sputnik) – "I think there is a willingness by NATO members generally and certainly by the European Union to end this conflict," Wolfgang Ischinger said.

    Ischinger added he was happy to see "willingness to stretch out hand to see how Russia will react to this" from the Western side.

    "We need to restore trust, we need what we call in our language confidence building measures. We need to restore discussions between Russia and NATO," the official stressed.

    "My impression is that 2016 is a very interesting year. It is going to be the most difficult year for the European Union ever, but it is also a year which offers the opportunity to reduce the risk of conflict and the level of disagreement between Russia and the West," Wolfgang Ischinger said.

    According to the official, Moscow could send a signal that investments from Western Europe and investors are welcome, "that Russia is interested in trust building and confidence building."

    "I see the opportunity, I see even the need to get our act together between Russia and the West," Ischinger said, stressing that it was impossible to establish peace without Russian participation.

    Relations between Russia and the West worsened in 2014, when the United States, the European Union and some other Western countries accused Moscow of fueling the Ukrainian crisis, and imposed economic sanctions against it.

    In response to the Western restrictive measures, in August 2014 Russia announced a one-year food embargo on products originating in states that imposed sanctions. The ban has since been extended for another year.

    Russia’s relations with NATO also deteriorated. NATO has been increasing its presence in Eastern Europe since Crimea rejoined Russia in March 2014 following a referendum the West refused to recognize as legitimate, instead blaming Moscow for violating Ukraine's territorial integrity. Russia has denied the allegations and has repeatedly stated that the bloc's increased activities near its borders undermine regional and international stability.

    NATO-Russia Council's work was suspended on April 1, 2014, after the alliance's foreign ministers issued a statement condemning Crimea's reunification with Russia.

    Last month, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg announced that the alliance had decided to keep channels for political contact open. Stoltenberg also spoke about raising the subject of reconvening the NATO-Russia Council to be used as a tool for political dialogue.

    The MSC is an international, nongovernmental, independent conference for discussing major security issues. Founded in 1962 for consultations between NATO member countries, it now involves representatives from Central and Eastern Europe, South Asia, and the Middle East, as well as former Soviet states. In 2016, the conference will take place on February 12-14.

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    Tags:
    NATO, tensions, Munich Security Conference, European Union, NATO-Russia Council, Wolfgang Ischinger, Russia
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