Blinken to return to Brussels for talks on Ukraine, Afghanistan


FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the release of the "2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices" at the State Department in Washington, DC, U.S., March 30, 2021. Mandel Ngan/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return to Brussels this week for discussions on Iran, Afghanistan and Russian activities directed at Ukraine, a U.S. official said.

Blinken will join U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in Brussels. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity on Saturday, did not release additional details on the trip.

Austin was scheduled to visit NATO headquarters in Belgium on a trip that started on Saturday and also includes Israel, Germany and Britain, the Pentagon said last week.

The trip by two of President Joe Biden's Cabinet members coincides with increasing tensions over Russian activities near Ukraine's eastern border, where Washington says Russia has amassed more troops than at any time since 2014, when it annexed Crimea.

Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine on Friday of "dangerous provocative actions" in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region.

Turkey, a NATO ally, said on Friday the United States would deploy two warships to the Black Sea from April 14-15.

Blinken first visited Brussels in March for talks with European Union and NATO allies and pledged to rebuild and revitalize trans-Atlantic alliances.

(Reporting by Jonathan Landay and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

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