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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - BRUSSELS — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday said that the issues that NATO defense ministers will discuss over the next two days in Brussels, includes support for Ukraine, strengthened deterrence and defense, NATO operations and missions and the situation in the Middle East.
He was joined by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is at NATO Headquarters to take part in the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, alongside more than 50 countries.
Stoltenberg told journalists ahead of the meeting that “we will further strengthen our relationship and help Ukraine move towards NATO membership.”
Thursday’s discussion will focus on deterrence and defense. They will also address NATOI’s missions and operations, including in Kosovo and in Iraq, and discuss the recent damage to undersea infrastructure between Estonia and Finland, said the NATO chief.
Defense ministers will also discuss the situation in the Middle East in the aftermath of developments in Gaza and attacks by Hamas against Israel.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant will brief NATO ministers tomorrow on Israell’s response, he noted.
On his part, Zelensky told journalists that he will discuss with the NATO defense ministers about priorities on “how to push Russia out of our native land.”
The Secretary General told President Zelensky that “your fight is our fight, your security is our security, and your values are our values. And we will stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes”.
He indicated that “we will further strengthen our relationship and help Ukraine move towards NATO membership”.
Allied defense ministers will meet with their Ukrainian counterpart, Rustem Umerov, in the NATO-Ukraine Council this afternoon to discuss the situation in Ukraine and NATO’s continued support.
Tomorrow’s (Thursday, Oct. 12) discussions will focus on deterrence and defiance. Ministers will take stock of the work under way to resource and exercise the robust defense plans that Allied leaders agreed at the Vilnius Summit.
They will also address NATO’s missions and operations, including in Kosovo and in Iraq, and discuss the recent damage to undersea infrastructure between Estonia and Finland.
Regarding this incident, the Secretary General said that “the important thing now is to establish what happened and how this could happen. If it is proven to be a deliberate attack on NATO critical infrastructure, then this will be of course serious, but it will also be met by a united and determined response from NATO”.
The United States said it would give Ukraine a new military aid package worth $200 million as President Zelensky traveled to NATO’s headquarters in Belgium to press for more support for his war-ravaged country ahead of the onset of the cold season.
“I’m proud that the United States will announce its latest security assistance package for Ukraine, valued at $200 million,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said alongside Zelensky at the opening of a meeting of the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
Austin said the new package will consist of air-defense, rocket, and artillery ammunition as well as anti-tank systems, among other things, adding that Washington “will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen told the Defense Contact Group that his country will deliver the first US-made F-16 warplanes to Ukraine in the spring of next year. In August, Zelensky said Denmark had approved sending 19 of the advanced warplanes to Ukraine.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said after meeting with Zelensky that Belgium will send F-16s to Ukraine from 2025 and provide their maintenance.
“Belgium from 2025 on will be in a position to supply F-16s to Ukraine,” De Croo told a news conference without elaborating on the number of planes Belgium intends to send.
Zelensky, whose visit also came ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers and a gathering of the NATO-Ukraine Council, said Ukraine needs more weapons to protect civilians, its energy infrastructure, and its food exports.
“What we are seeing now is that [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin is preparing once again to use winter as a weapon of war, meaning attacking the energy system, the gas infrastructure. We need to prevent that,” Stoltenberg said after the meeting.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said the International Fund for Ukraine — a group of countries including Britain, Norway, the Netherlands, Denmark, and Sweden — would announce in Brussels a 100 million pound ($122.70 million) package to support Ukraine’s armed forces including equipment to clear minefields.
Zelenskiy on Tuesday visited Romania, Ukraine’s NATO neighbor, where he held talks in Bucharest with his counterpart, Klaus Iohannis. — Agencies
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