BRUSSELS, 21 March (BelTA-TASS) – The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has not received an invitation to send observers to monitor the Belarusian-Russian army exercise Zapad 2017 for now but welcomes the statement made by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, who mentioned the intention to make the army exercise as transparent as possible, BelTA learned from NATO's press service.
According to the source, no invitation has been received so far, but the opportunity to watch the maneuvers will be welcomed. NATO expects that channels of the NATO-Russia Council will be used to brief the Alliance about the exercise.
On 20 March as the report on organizing the Belarusian-Russian strategic army exercise Zapad 2017 was delivered to the Belarusian head of state, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko stated that the exercise will be purely defensive and NATO representatives will be able to monitor the exercise.
On 13 March NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stated in Brussels that every country, including Russia, has the right to stage an army exercise, provided it is done in compliance with international norms. In his words, NATO will welcome Russia's invitation for the Alliance's observers to monitor the exercise and hopes that the exercise will not lead to an escalation of tensions in the region.
According to Jens Stoltenberg, in 2016 NATO countries staged 107 international army exercises and took part in 139 national ones. Russian observers were invited to monitor ten of them.