Moscow [Russia], December 1 (ANI): Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday blamed NATO enlargement for the Ukraine conflict.
"NATO enlargement posed a direct threat to Russia -- it was vetoed by commitments of Istanbul Declaration," Russia Today (RT) quoted Lavrov as saying on European security.
Sweden and Finland applied in May to join NATO in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Still, they encountered objections from Turkey, which accused the two Nordic countries of harbouring fighters from the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and other groups.
Stockholm and Helsinki deny harbouring fighters but have pledged to cooperate with Ankara to address its security concerns fully and lift arms embargoes.
Lavrov said Western European states are creating a dangerous situation by trying to exclude Russia and Belarus from the continent's security order.
He accused EU leaders of allowing the US to dictate policy, and surrendering their own interests to Washington, reported RT.
The West "is already trying to build a security architecture [in Europe] without Russia and Belarus. We don't need such security," Lavrov said during a video conference.
"The whole security [architecture] in Europe now comes down to it being completely subservient to the US," he claimed.
There were discussions in France and Germany about the creation of the EU's own military force a couple of years ago, Lavrov noted.
But those ideas have now been set aside, with both Paris and Berlin saying they would stick with the US-led NATO bloc, he said.
Instead of working towards collective security in Europe, the West is "digging dividing lines," Lavrov said. "When the EU and NATO understand the futility of their current line and the great risks that it involves, we [Russia] will look at what they'll be ready to offer us when they come asking to discuss some other possibilities."Moscow and Minsk, which already have a joint military grouping on the territory of Belarus, will continue to boost their security cooperation, the Russian foreign minister said.
Both countries realize the importance of such work, "considering the continued provocations, including those by Ukraine," he added. "All the necessary measures aimed at maintaining readiness to deal with any possible developments have been implemented," Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, the Russian FM also said that allegations that Russia is seeking peace talks with Ukraine as a ploy for a military build-up are false while responding to statements to that effect from top officials in Kyiv, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, reported RT.
The accusations are "ridiculous and unpleasant, because [those who make them] blatantly lie. We never asked for any negotiations. But we always stated that if somebody has an interest in a negotiated settlement, we are ready to listen," he stressed.
Lavrov noted that Ukraine and Russia were on the verge of striking a peace deal after talks in Istanbul in late March. At that time they inked a proposed agreement, which would have given Ukraine international security guarantees in exchange for neutral status, reported RT.
The Russian Foreign Minister pointed to the US, and to a lesser degree the UK, as parties who are allegedly directing Ukraine's actions. Washington pursues its goals of weakening Russia and benefiting from arms sales at the expense of the Ukrainian people, he said.
Lavrov added that the US and its allies have a pattern of rejecting ways to reduce tensions with Russia. Hostilities in Ukraine started after they refused to heed Russian warnings that the expansion of NATO was crossing a red line, he insisted. The military bloc brushed aside a proposed security deal, which in Russia's view would have addressed the issue, reported RT. (ANI)