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  • Flags fly at half mast at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

    Flags fly at half mast at NATO headquarters in Brussels. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 April 2016

The meeting will discuss military activities — focusing on transparency and risk reduction — as well as Afghanistan and regional threats.

A meeting of the Russia-NATO Council may take place within weeks for the first time since the Ukraine crisis erupted in 2014, Alexey Meshkov, a deputy Russian foreign minister, was cited as saying on Friday by Russian news agencies.

"I do not rule out it happening in the coming weeks," Meshkov was quoted as telling reporters.

NATO has previously said it could not convene such a meeting because of continuing differences with Russia over Moscow's support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine among other issues.

The NATO-Russia Council was established in 2002 but was effectively suspended months after the March 2014 reunification of Crimea with Russia. Both sides have now agreed to hold talks at ambassador level in Brussels in the next two weeks.

While the West and Russia remain at odds over Ukraine, the meeting is a sign of willingness to improve diplomatic relations that could help avoid any accidental military clashes in the region.

NATO has said any meeting would have to address the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and separatists in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 9,000 people since April 2014. The West accuses Russia of supporting the rebels, something Moscow denies.

As NATO accelerates its biggest military buildup in eastern Europe since the Cold War, the alliance wants to talk to Moscow about improved military transparency to avoid misunderstandings.

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