NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday the situation at the border between Poland and Belarus is “deeply concerning” and the alliance stands ready to help its allies involved.
Stoltenberg made the comments in Berlin, where he met with outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the issue and others facing NATO member nations.
Poland and the EU accuse the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of “weaponizing” migrants, largely from Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan, by inviting them to enter Belarus and shepherding them to the Polish border, sometimes by force. Belarus denies the claim.
Polish troops have clashed several times with the migrants as they attempted to force their way across the border in recent weeks. Polish security officials have said there could be as many as 12,000 migrants in Belarus camped near the Polish frontier.
Speaking to reporters, Stoltenberg said NATO is concerned not only about Poland’s border with Belarus, but also with the borders of NATO allies Lithuania and Latvia, which have also experienced issues with migrants, though not to the extent that Poland has.
The NATO chief said the Lukashenko regime’s use of vulnerable people to put pressure on other countries is “cynical and inhumane.” He said NATO stands in full solidarity with Poland and the other directly affected allies.
Stoltenberg did note what he called some “steps in the right direction,” as Iraq has stopped the flights bringing people from Iraq to the border of Belarus and Poland and has taken people back.
Stoltenberg also said NATO is watching with concern as Russia builds up significant force near the border with Ukraine, and in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory of Crimea. He called on Russia to be “transparent on what they do. We call on Russia to de-escalate to prevent escalation and to reduce tensions.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.