BRUSSELS -- NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has defended plans to open a liaison office in Moldova, saying it can help facilitate a practical partnership between the two sides.
NATO will "soon" open the office in the capital, Chisinau, Stoltenberg said after talks with Moldovan Prime Minister Pavel Filip in Brussels on March 30, describing it as "a small diplomatic mission with only civilian staff."
Stoltenberg stressed that cooperation activities between NATO and Moldova have been requested by Chisinau, and that the country's neutrality was being respected.
"It is absolutely possible to further strengthen our partnership with Moldova, fully respecting the neutrality of Moldova," he said.
Moldova’s pro-Western government signed an agreement with NATO on the opening of the liaison bureau in November.
But pro-Russian President Igor Dodon, who took office in December, has opposed the plan.
"A NATO office in Chisinau, in a neutral country, is a provocation," he told RFE/RL in February.
The Moldovan presidency is largely symbolic but Dodon's position has been strengthened by the fact that he was elected in a direct popular vote, the first president to win office through such an election since 1997.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak