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​The state of Montenegro began final negotiations with NATO earlier this week to become the Alliance's 29th member state, officials announced. "Holding of the accession talks today is a mark of the progress made by Montenegro since regaining its independence" from the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1996, NATO Assistant Secretary General Thrasyvoulos Terry Stamatopoulos said. "NATO membership will reinforce Montenegro’s security and sovereignty," he added in the release. Montenegro began the process of joining NATO in 2009, and Alliance members will sign the official "accession protocol" to allow representatives to attend allied meetings after negotiations this week. Each NATO member will need to formally ratify the protocol before Montenegro can join the Washington Treaty and become a NATO member. "NATO keeps its door open, to complete our vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace," Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said. Russia openly opposed Montenegro's accession, and the process is sensitive at home, given NATO's bombing of targets in the country during the 1999 intervention in Kosovo, reported BBC News.