BERLIN (Reuters) – The Munich Security Conference will gather some 35 heads of state and government at its traditional venue in the Bavarian capital in mid-February, organisers said on Tuesday, after the 2021 meeting was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The conference, known as “Davos for defence”, brings together the world’s defence and security elite at the luxurious Bayerischer Hof hotel in Munich. It has been scaled down drastically this year to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.
The meeting on Feb. 18-20 comes at a sensitive time.
Russia has amassed more than 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, prompting the West to reinforce NATO’s Eastern flank with thousands of extra troops while trying to ward off any military conflict with a flurry of diplomatic talks.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will not attend the meeting, the conference’s outgoing Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger told reporters, adding it was not clear whether Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would accept his invitation.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are among those expected to come to Munich, according to Ischinger.
He said he hoped for clarity soon on whether U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will join the meeting, while China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi planned either to attend in person or virtually as the Winter Olympics in his country will still be going on at the time.
The foreign and defence ministers of Germany and France are among more than 100 ministers expected to be present in Munich, Ischinger said, as well Britain’s defence minister.
After 14 years as chairman of the conference, Ischinger is due to hand over the reins at the end of this year’s meeting to Christoph Heusgen, former Chancellor Angela Merkel’s advisor on foreign and security policy.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Catherine Evans)