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NATO-Russia ambassadors to meet
by Staff Writers
Brussels (AFP) March 04, 2014

Hit Putin with Russia World Cup boycott: Green MEP
Paris (AFP) March 04, 2014 - Veteran Euro MP Daniel Cohn-Bendit on Tuesday urged European governments to threaten a boycott of the 2018 World Cup in Russia over Vladimir Putin's actions in Crimea.

"There has to be a response. The worst thing to do would be nothing at all," Cohn-Bendit told France Inter radio.

"The one thing that would really hit Putin would be saying that the Europeans and everyone who will go along with them will not go to the World Cup in four years time if he does not stop.

"He has to be isolated, politically and personally."

Cohn-Bendit, a member of the Green group in the European Parliament, said European leaders should try to engineer a situation in which Putin feels pressured to make political concessions, as he did in the run-up to the recent Winter Olympics in Russia's Black Sea port of Sochi.

In moves seen as designed to reduce friction with the West ahead of the Sochi Games, Putin granted a pardon to imprisoned opponent Mikhail Khodorkovsky, ordered the release of two members of the jailed Pussy Riot feminist group and dropped criminal charges against 30 Greenpeace activists involved in an Arctic oil protest.

Western governments are currently considering their options in terms of possible sanctions over Russia's action on the Crimean peninsula.

The United States on Monday announced the suspension of bilateral military cooperation with Russia.

Britain and the United States have also announced they will not be sending government officials to the upcoming paralympics. Their athletes will however still compete at the Games, which begin on Friday in Sochi.

NATO will hold a meeting with the Russian ambassador to the US-led military alliance on Wednesday, just one day after a second emergency gathering on the Ukraine crisis.

"There will be an NRC (NATO-Russia Council meeting) tomorrow at ambassadorial level. We expect it will take place in the afternoon," a NATO spokesman said Tuesday.

NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen had suggested the meeting Monday.

The NRC is the official forum for discussions and contacts between NATO and its one-time Cold War foe. It is regularly convened, for example during alliance foreign minister gatherings.

After the fall of communism in the 1990s, Russia established ties with NATO and has a wide range of contacts with it, over Afghanistan for example, and combating terrorism.

Those ties have been badly strained, however, by the Ukraine crisis and Russia's intervention in Crimea, home to a large Russian-speaking population and its Black Sea fleet.

On Tuesday, the 28 NATO member ambassadors met to discuss the situation after Poland requested "Article 4" consultations with its allies, citing a threat to its security.

This meeting was convened because "developments in and around Ukraine are seen to constitute a threat to neighbouring allied countries and having direct and serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area," Rasmussen said on Monday.

"Under Article 4 of the treaty, any ally can request consultations whenever, in the opinion of any of them, their territorial integrity, political independence or security is threatened," a statement said.

Rasmussen said Tuesday's meeting agreed that "Russia continues to violate Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and does not fulfil its international commitments."

"These developments have direct and serious implications for the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area," he added.

As a result, the NATO allies agreed "to intensify our rigorous and ongoing assessment of the implications of this crisis for Alliance security".

Diplomats said there was no discussion of any military operational planning, with the meeting focused on the need to review the situation regularly and to keep member states fully informed.

Article 4 meetings are quite rare but were held most recently after Turkey feared a spillover from the bloody conflict in Syria.


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