BRUSSELS, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Despite Russia's decision to suspend its mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and to close the alliance's offices in Moscow, NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday that it will continue seeking ways to engage with Russia.
Addressing a press conference ahead of the two-day meeting of NATO defense ministers, Stoltenberg said NATO regretted Russia's decision "which does not promote dialogue and mutual understanding."
He added that NATO's policy remained consistent, and it remained "open to dialogue, including through the NATO Russia Council."
Earlier this month, NATO expelled eight Russian diplomats over allegations that they were conducting activities that were not in line with their accreditation.
Stoltenberg said the alliance regretted the fact that "the relationship between NATO and Russia is now at the lowest point since the end of the Cold War."
"For us, that's actually not an argument against dialogue, that's an argument in favor of dialogue, because it is exactly when times are difficult, we have challenges and problems as we have now, that we need to sit down and talk," he added.
"We will continue to work for dialogue because we believe that Russia, our biggest neighbor ... being there close to NATO; there's no way that we cannot talk to them and therefore we continue to strive for a better relationship with Russia knowing that this is difficult," he said.
On Monday, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Moscow decided to suspend the operation of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO in retaliation for the alliance's "unfriendly actions." Russia is also suspending the activities of the NATO Military Liaison Mission in Moscow and terminating the work of the NATO Information Office there.
NATO announced the expulsion of eight members of the Russian mission in Brussels on Oct. 6, calling them "undeclared Russian intelligence officers." Additionally, the number of Russian staff at the mission was reduced by half from 20 to 10.
Before that, the size of the Russian mission in Brussels was reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018.