“It was not an easy discussion but that is exactly why this meeting was so important,” he told reporters in Brussels.
“We had a very serious and direct exchange on the situation in and around Ukraine and the implications for European security. There are significant differences between NATO allies and Russia on these issues. Our differences will not be easy to iron out, but it is a positive sign that all NATO allies and Russia have sat around the same table and engaged on important issues. ”
The talks lasted about four hours – about an hour longer than expected, a source with knowledge of the talks told CNN.
The NATO-Russia Council (NRC) meeting comes as both sides are at an impasse, with growing fears that Russia could launch an invasion in Ukraine.
Moscow has rejected these allegations. However, Russia amassed up to 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border, and on the eve of the talks, the military began live fire exercises in areas near the border.
The United States, NATO and their allies are pushing Russia to defuse the situation. Moscow demanded security guarantees from the United States and NATO, including a binding commitment that NATO will not expand further east and allow Ukraine to join the military alliance. – what NATO is not prepared to do.
Rather than being designed as a bilateral NATO-Russia meeting, Wednesday’s meeting saw each of NATO’s 30 member states and Russia represented equally, in a forum of 31. The meeting is the second of three key commitments between the West and Russia this week.
On Monday, representatives of the United States and Russia sat in Geneva for more than seven hours of discussions.
The marathon talks, which the White House called “frank and blunt,” failed to produce a breakthrough. Another round of talks between Russia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – of which the United States is a member – is scheduled for Thursday in Vienna.
Ukraine said on Tuesday that it was convinced that the United States and other NATO countries would not take a decision “on the fate” of the country “behind our back” at the meetings.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi, Jennifer Hansler, Luke McGee, Katharina Krebs, Nikki Carvajal, Alex Marquardt, Mick Krever and James Frater contributed reporting.