Blinken will highlight ongoing support for Ukraine in Europe this week -US official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will highlight the NATO alliance’s ongoing support for Ukraine in its war with Russia in Europe this week, the top State Department official for Europe said on Monday, even as the war in Gaza continues to take up much of the Biden administration’s bandwidth.

The war between Israel and Hamas and heightened tensions in the wider Middle East have raised concerns that Washington cannot sustain the level of military and diplomatic support it has given Ukraine since Russia’s February 2022 full-scale invasion.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien also told reporters ahead of Blinken’s trip to Brussels that Blinken will highlight the ongoing commitment of the United States and its allies as he takes part in the first foreign minister-level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council in Brussels.

“This is part of the process of finding a place in the alliance, which we’ve always said is Ukraine’s future,” he said.

Asked about a report by Germany’s Bild newspaper that the United States and Germany were quietly nudging Kyiv into negotiations with Moscow, O’Brien said Washington does not have such a policy.

“We’ve always said that this is a matter for Ukraine to decide,” O’Brien said.

Blinken will address the rising tension in the Western Balkans, where NATO is looking at increasing its troop presence amid tensions in northern Kosovo, O’Brien added.

Blinken will also represent the United States at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Skopje, North Macedonia, this week, O’Brien said.

(Reporting by Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Chizu Nomiyama)