NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has praised reform efforts in Montenegro ahead of the December decision on whether to invite the Balkan country with historic ties to Russia to join the Western military Alliance.

Stoltenberg told Montenegrin lawmakers Thursday that "we recognized the progress that this nation has made in pursuing reform, in contributing to international security, in promoting cooperation within the western Balkans."

Stoltenberg was on a two-day visit with ambassadors from NATO's North Atlantic Council. He says ambassadors came "to hear and see for themselves from the government, members of parliament, as well as from those who have doubts about NATO."

Montenegro's government has pursued NATO membership but the public remains divided. Washington has signaled support for Montenegro's bid while Moscow has opposed it.