- Associated Press - Friday, February 5, 2016

AMSTERDAM (AP) - European Union defense ministers huddled Friday with NATO’s secretary general to discuss closer cooperation between the military alliance and the 28-nation bloc to tackle looming threats to the region.

The EU and NATO are working to beef up their responses to threats such as Russia’s increased military activity to the east and the Islamic State group’s threat amid violent conflicts in the Middle East and Libya.

“It is clear that no member state will be able to face” these challenges on its own, Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said after the meeting.

“There is war out there,” Hennis-Plasschaert added. “Nobody can deny it, and we cannot continue writing papers, we have to act.”

Foreign Ministers joined their defense colleagues for lunch to discuss a united front in defense and foreign strategy that is likely to be presented to EU leaders in June.

Ahead of the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the Obama administration’s announcement this week that it will propose quadrupling spending on its troops and training in Europe as part of the U.S. military’s accelerating effort to deter Russia after Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.

Stoltenberg called the U.S. move “an important sign and part of the adaptation of the Alliance to a more demanding security environment.”

The NATO chief said the alliance is closely monitoring developments in Libya amid reports that IS, also known by the acronym ISIL, is gaining strength there. Libya has been split between two rival governments since 2014, a consequence of the chaos that engulfed the country after a 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

“This just underlines the importance of fully supporting efforts to find a political solution, to reach a cease-fire and to have an agreement on a unity government in Libya,” Stoltenberg said. “Because that will be an important first step, also to be able to fight ISIL.”

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