NATO does not want a Cold War, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told Germany’s Bild daily late Saturday.

Stoltenberg’s remarks came before the NATO-Russia Council meeting, which will convene on Dec.19.

“This is the signal for the NATO-Russia Council meeting on Monday: NATO does not want any escalation, it does not want a Cold War,” Stoltenberg said in the interview.

Stoltenberg said NATO must continue talks with Russia.

NATO ambassadors and Russian diplomats are expected to discuss the situation in eastern Ukraine during the council meeting.

NATO-Russian relations worsened following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March 2014 and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The UN General Assembly voted almost unanimously to proclaim the annexation illegal. Along with many UN countries, including the U.S. and the EU, Turkey does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.

Syria

On Syria, Stoltenberg said: “We are experiencing a terrible humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.”

He said that NATO would not take part in a military operation in Syria, adding: “It is sometimes right to use military means – like in Afghanistan. But, sometimes the cost of military means would be higher than the benefits.”

Stoltenberg expressed concern for a wider regional conflict in the case of NATO’s involvement in Syrian conflict, and said NATO partners agree that such a move would make the situation “more horrible”.

“Military intervention can not solve all the problems,” he added.

Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests — which erupted as part of the “Arab Spring” uprisings — with unexpected ferocity.

Since then, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced across the war-battered country, according to the UN. The Syrian Center for Policy Research, however, put the death toll from the six-year conflict at more than 470,000 people.

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