UPDATE 1-NATO seeks 'meaningful' dialogue with Russia early next year

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BRUSSELS, Dec 21 (Reuters) - NATO will seek meaningful discussions with Moscow early next year to address tensions amid a Russian military build-up on Ukraine's border, alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

"We remain ready for meaningful dialogue with Russia and I intend to call a new meeting of the NATO-Russia Council as soon as possible in the new year," Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels.

The NATO-Russia Council (NRC) was created in 2002 to facilitate consultation between the Western military alliance and Moscow, but relations are strained and it last convened in July 2019 despite repeated calls by NATO to revive the format.

Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops on the border with Ukraine and on Friday set out a list of demands including that NATO refuse to accept the ex-Soviet republic as a member and guarantee that no weapons or troops be deployed there.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he hoped for constructive talks with Washington and Brussels on Russia's demands for security guarantees as there were signs the West was ready to work on the issue.

Stoltenberg, however, made it clear that it was solely up to NATO and Ukraine to decide about a future membership of Kyiv.

"Any dialogue with Russia has of course to respect the core principles which European security has been based on," he said, adding that NATO would consult closely with Kyiv on any talks with Moscow.

"So we will never compromise on our right to defend all allies and we will never compromise on the right of each and every country in Europe, including Ukraine, to choose its own path." (Reporting by Sabine Siebold and Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Mark Heinrich)

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