Foreign ministers of NATO countries have assembled in Brussels for security talks as Russia presses ahead in its war against Ukraine and Israel enters the fifth day of a fragile truce with Palestinian group Hamas.
The Russia-Ukraine war appeared to top the agenda of the two-day summit which began on Tuesday, as NATO’s chief urged allies to continue supporting the war-wracked country amid funding hold-ups in Washington and Europe.
“I’m confident that the United States will continue to provide support because it is in the security interest of the United States to do so and it’s also in line with what we have agreed,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
“I urge allies, and allies are also committed to continue to deliver support,” he added.
Some $61bn in proposed US aid to Ukraine is being held up by the US Congress, while another $50bn package from the European Union is struggling to pass due to opposition from Hungary.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Brussels, said the funding delays show indications of “fatigue” from some NATO members 21 months into the war.Ukraine’s top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba will try to overcome such fatigue and lobby for continued NATO backing when he joins the summit on Wednesday.
Russia has said NATO expansionism is at the core of its grudge against bordering Ukraine, which it has repeatedly warned not to join the alliance.
More than 500,000 troops from Russia and Ukraine are estimated to have been killed or wounded since Moscow marched troops across its neighbour’s border in February 2022.
At least 10,000 civilians have also been killed in the conflict, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has said.
Broader regional security
Apart from the Russia-Ukraine war, NATO ministers also planned to discuss Russia’s “destabilising actions” throughout the region, including allegations it has been enabling undocumented migrants to reach neighbouring Finland.
Finland last week closed nearly all its border crossings with Russia after it said an influx of migrants arrived at its border with Russia.
Another topic on the agenda will be unrest between Serbia and Kosovo, where NATO has in recent months deployed more troops to reinforce its peacekeeping force following an attack on Kosovo police.
The ministers are also likely to address the seven-week war between Israel and Hamas, though it is not officially on the agenda.
Al Jazeera’s Vaessen said the ministers would discuss “not only the extension of the ceasefire [between Israel and Hamas] but a future for Gaza after the war is finished”.
Sweden’s membership bid
Hanging in the background of the summit is the membership status of Sweden, which has been awaiting ratification from Turkey and Hungary for 18 months.
Stoltenberg on Tuesday told Hungarian media he expected the two countries to approve Sweden’s membership bid without further delay, but gave no precise timeline.
The Turkish parliament started this month to debate Sweden’s bid to join after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched the process following a deal at a NATO summit in July.
Erdogan had delayed the ratification process over longstanding complaints Sweden is failing to act against Kurdish armed groups in its country that Turkey considers “terrorist” groups.
NATO’s other allies had hoped to formally welcome Sweden into the alliance at its Brussels summit, but Turkey’s ratification process is still at the committee level in parliament.