by NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu, joined by NATO Military Committee Chairman Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola and Commander of Operation Unified Protector , Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard (Opening remarks)
Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): Good afternoon – welcome here in Brussels and hello to colleagues joining us by video teleconference from Naples.
I expect you’ve seen the statement that the Secretary General issued earlier. It’s short so I will read it for those of you who haven’t:
“On Thursday morning at 0600 GMT, NATO took sole command of international air operations over Libya. The Alliance has the assets in place to conduct its tasks under Operation Unified Protector – the arms embargo, no-fly zone and actions to protect civilians and civilian centres. In line with the mandate of the United Nations Security Council resolution 1973, NATO’s focus is on protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas against the threat of attack.“
The Secretary General is in Stockholm today. You will find his speech on the NATO website as soon as he delivers it this afternoon. I expect he will express strong appreciation for the decision of the Swedish government to make a significant contribution to our UN-mandated operation for Libya.
Obviously, we can’t prejudge the debate in the Swedish parliament later hold this week on the pledge. What is clear is that Sweden is a valued and long-standing partner in our missions -- from Afghanistan to the Balkans. And NATO will do its utmost to involve all partners in reaching all decisions concerning our operations for Libya – as we do in all operations.
In fact, yesterday, the North Atlantic Council – the ambassadors of all 28 Allies – informed our partners about what we are doing in support of the United Nations resolution. We invited the nations that are part of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and other partners around the globe. I can tell you it was a big room, and the room was full.
And on Tuesday, the Secretary General took part in the London conference, together with leaders and foreign ministers from over forty nations and organisations. The conference sent a strong and clear message – the whole world is committed to protect the people of Libya. As the chair’s statement noted, participants – including regional states – welcomed NATO’s contribution in agreeing to take command and control of all military operations to enforce the UN resolutions. And it also made clear that the North Atlantic Council, meeting alongside its coalition partners, will provide the executive political direction to NATO operations.
At the end of this briefing I will give you an update on how we’re planning to help you do your job in covering these operations. And we will be joined in less than half an hour by Lieutenant General Charlie Bouchard, Commander of Operation Unified Protector. But first I will pass the floor to Admiral Giampaolo di Paola, Chairman of the NATO Military Committee.
Adm. Giampaolo di Paola (Chairman of the NATO Military Committee): Good afternoon, please allow me to start by thanking you all for attending this briefing.
Over the past week we have seen NATO gradually taking over responsibility of operations in Libya.
Today we can announce that NATO has full responsibility of Operation Unified Protector – which includes the arms embargo, the no-fly zone and actions to protect civilians.
This decision followed a constructive debate among NATO political and military authorities and has been taken by the Alliance in a remarkable short lap of time.
NATO is playing its role as part of the broad international effort to uphold UNSCR 1970 and 1973 in protecting civilians and civilian populated areas in Libya, from attacks or threat of attacks.
We have directed Supreme Allied Commander Europe, admiral Stavridis to launch the operation without any gaps while the transfer of assets is ongoing. All military activities are led from Naples by General Charles Bouchard.
NATO’s mission includes not only armed forces of NATO countries but also contributions from partners. We consider regional support as fundamental, in line with the principles and core tasks highlighted in NATO’s new Strategic Concept.
NATO is operating strictly whiten the framework of Resolutions 1970 and 1973.
I want to be clear. The focus of our mission is to protect the civilian population. We know that this is a challenging endeavor and the situation on the ground is complex. We are also aware that there is no purely military solution to the crisis.
NATO is not engaged in Libya to decide the future of the Libyan people. That is up to Libyans themselves. We are helping enforce the will of the International Community to protect them from attacks so that they can start shaping and deciding of their future, at hat better future for them and their community.
Now, I will be happy to take your questions, if any.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Please don't forget to introduce yourselves, and obviously if there are any questions from Naples we'd be happy to take those. I think the first question was The Guardian.
Q: Ian Traynor, The Guardian. A question for the Admiral. While the Americans have been keen to surrender command of the campaign to NATO, they have also been far and away the most active single contributor so far. Can you say to what extent the American contribution to the allied operations will diminish as a result of the change in command and control?
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA (Chairman, NATO Military Committee): Well, the United States is one of 28 members of the Alliance, together with the... there are 27 allies. Altogether they have decided that a unified chain of command under NATO was the best solution for dealing with this crisis from a military point of view, and because this means a unified chain of command, a unified political control of the operation. That is the first point.
The second, the United States of America will continue as part of the Alliance to provide unique capabilities to the Alliance effort, so therefore we are fully grateful to the United States for the contribution they'll continue to provide, and in particular some unique capabilities they do possess.
Q: Noureddine Fridhi, from Al Arabiya news channel. Can you explain to us the mission is to protect the population, of course, but the population are both sides, and you are working in an area which is Libya with its tribal components and as far as we understood until now, but not on the ground, of course, that some part of the population may still support Mr. Gaddafi and could be also harmed by armed operation. This is one question.
My second question, if you allow me, it's about the supplying the position with the... or the guerrilla with the armaments. Is that under your mission? And if not, imagine that one of the Alliance is coming with ship with armament to provide the people in Benghazi(?) with armament and would you allow him, or not?
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Well, first of all, first of all, we are... our mission is made of three parts .. effort in upholding the Security Council Resolution 1973 and I remind once again, the three line of action, not be repetitive, but this is the reality. It is enforcement of the arms embargo, enforcement of the no-fly zone, and interdiction activity to protect civilians who populate the area.
And that's it. Civilians who populate an area, under attack or threat of attack. And that we will do for all civilians. We don't look the ID card of civilian. We don't look the ID cards. We are on the same side of the …. But like we say.
Beside your hypothetical question it is a fact of matter than today the attack, try to attack is coming from one side, Gaddafi, Gaddafi forces. These are the fact of the matter. So that is help for second part of your question. NATO has not had any discussion of these issues, and so it's NATO, and I speak for NATO, we have not discussed at all the issues or we have not involved in any of your activity, or your hypothetical question.
I don't comment of what some allies or nation, now as a nation they do think or they will do. This is something that is not to me as a member of this Alliance to judge or to comment. Each one has his own area of responsibility.
Certainly we, we'll enforce the embargo and we will uphold the embargo. That is part of a NATO responsibility.
OANA LUNGESCU: DPA.
Q: (Inaudible) Mellini(ph) from the German Press Agency, DPA. Admiral, you mentioned that there are seven countries, non-NATO members who are taking part in the operation. Would you mind listing them and would you mind clarifying which NATO countries are contributing to Unified Protector.
And following yesterday's meeting, do you expect more non-NATO countries to join?
And if I may, just a follow-up on the previous question, it's very clear what you said that supplying weapons to the insurgency is not part of NATO's mandates, but if that were to happen as a result of individual countries' actions, that would seem to be in breach with the arms embargo that you are policing. So that would pose a very real challenge to your operation, so how would you react if there was a ship carrying weapons going towards Libya?
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Well, first of all, yes, I do mind because I think that it is up to those nations who contribute, or intend to, or will intend to contribute to come out and say if they want to. So I leave to these nations to make statement because it would be incorrect on my side to do so.
But when I say there are several, because there are several. As some of you already know in the press so you don't really to listen for me. You know better than me.
Anyhow, anyhow, there are several, and others express interest. And when I say several I mean several. Therefore, help for the Alliance, first of all, all NATO members having through the council, therefore through the government, agreed to NATO taking action, they have provided political support to that and they are contributing. You contribute to an operation not only with political support, but also in other forms, not necessarily providing let's say deployed assets.
If we are... if your question is referring specifically to the deploy assets, well, I can tell you that there are probably some 20 allies. Now I don't have exactly it, I have not counted each, but let's say some 20 allies which are providing in one line of action or in all three lines of action deploy the asset for this operation.
As for the second part, first of all, it is hypothetical question. Second, if I listen what the debate is going there are those who say that, it might be different interpretation, so it's not that clear if it would be in breach or not breach of the Resolution, and I don't want to comment on that.
Thirdly, we are upholding the Resolution, but there is a debate, and you know that this debate is ongoing now.
Q: Newton with CNN. There are reports now that the British and the Americans are not denying that they have intelligence forces on the ground right now in Libya. Will you continue to take direction, intelligence, from these people on the ground? And considering the UN Resolutions says that there should be no international intervention on the ground, how do you feel about this?
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Well, first of all the Resolution say there will be no occupation forces, which is that what the Resolution say. Occupation forces. And I leave to you to interpretation of what occupation forces mean. To me occupation forces means some... is a quite clear meaning, which is... for one.
For two, any nation, not the Alliance, any nation has the right to take the decision which pertain to sovereign government. We are collecting intelligence by allies. And the allies, they are providing to the Alliance the intelligence.
If these intelligence come from that sources or from other sources or definition is not for me to judge. They will provide intelligence, we will use it. It's up to that nation to provide us what kind of intelligence they want to provide, and we are not questioning which sources is coming from.
Q: Yes, (inaudible) from the Italian Newspaper (inaudible) from Milan. I'm here.
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Okay.
Q: It was the Bishop of Tripoli today has complained that raids by the coalition planes have caused 40 victims in Tripoli. I was just wondering whether you have any commentary on this? Thank you.
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: I have no information whatsoever, so I cannot comment on this because I have no information whatsoever. I note that just allied operations started at six o'clock this morning, and that, I think, means something. And that responsive for what the Alliance does.
Q: (Inaudible...) de Radio-France. Je ne sais pas si vous avez une idée précise sur les sorties, si ce sont plutôt des missions air-air ou des missions air-sol. Si oui, est-ce que vous avez une description de l'endroit où les opérations ont lieu. On a plutôt des rapports sur ce qui se passe dans l'Est de la Libye. Est-ce que l'OTAN a l'intention d'agir plutôt vers les montagnes de l'Ouest Zintan, Nalut(?) dans cette région-là.
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: While on one side I think that probably Charles Bouchard is in a better position than me to respond, but having said that not to shy away from your question, the operation that the Alliance will carry on are in response to the requirement on the ground, so the joint operation area, the NATO operation area include the whole Libya, so the operation will be carried for where it's necessary to protect... one, to protect the people, two, to enforce the embargo, three, to enforce the no-fly zone. The joint operation area is entire Libya and Libya air space. So there is no issue of east and west.
It is the situation on the ground and the threats that are driving our operation.
Q: Thank you. Admiral, Peter Spiegel from the Financial Times. Early this week Admiral Stavridis was testifying in Washington and talked about the possible need for a stabilization force and that NATO had the capabilities to do that kind of operation, obviously in Bosnia and whatnot.
Can you talk, if the Military Committee, or even the NAC started talking or planning at all for a stabilization force? And secondly, he talked about, I think the term was a ‘flicker’ that he was worried about of al-Qaeda or other Islamist elements in Libya, particularly within the rebellion. Can you talk a little bit about that and where that intelligence is at this point? Thank you.
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Well for the first part, the answer is not. Is no. The Alliance, the Council and for this matter not even the Military Committee discuss of any hint of the fact or ground forces, because the Alliance has been clear, so far the Resolution is clear, the Alliance has been clear so far. And that this, as I said so far, because this is the reality. What hypothetical questions we are posing I cannot answer that, because hypothetical questions can make 100 or 1,000 hypothetical scenarios and so therefore would be, I think, useless at this stage for me to comment on that.
As for the second part, what Admiral Stavridis said, that he has flickers, and you will understand better than me what ‘flicker’ is, although I do, and I'm not surprised. Are you surprised in any situation like Libya where Libya is located that there is al-Qaeda in that area, in Maghreb or is not a mystery. So are you surprised in any situation of lose of control of a lack of a control there might be attempt from al-Qaeda to get advantage of this. I'm not surprised at all.
So there are flicker, there are only flicker, but it is not... I don't think is really news.
OANA LUNGESCU: Obviously a failed state in Libya would be the worst case scenario. Nobody wants a failed state in Libya or breeding ground for extremism, which is why we think it's so important that the whole international community has heard the call from the UN to help stop the violence and to protect the civilians in Libya.
Q: (Inaudible) from Spanish News Agency EFE. The rebels have said... the Libyan rebels have said that the successful offensive yesterday from Gaddafi forces was possible because the presence of several thousands of soldiers coming from Chad, concretely from the Republican Guard from Chad. Do you have any confirmation of that?
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: No, I have no specific confirmation on specific element to provide to you. But that Gaddafi make use of... or try to make use of mercenaries is, as we say, in Italy, the segreto di Pulcinella
Q: You may want to translate that. (Laughs).
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Well, the segreto di Pulcinella I think everybody know who is Pulcinella and a political mask.
OANA LUNGESCU: DPA.
Q: Yes, DPA, Dieter Eberling from DPA, the German Press Agency. I have two questions. One, don't you think it would be an advantage if there were a joint interpretation within NATO members of what 1973 allows and what it prohibits? And second, you know the statement by Russian Minister Lavrov and you probably heard the statement by Mr. Rogozin as well, even much better than we did, warning against a creative interpretation of the Resolution and asking for more information about the future development of the mission and in particular operational information.
Are you willing to provide that to the Russian partners?
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Well, first of all when the Alliance make a decision it makes a decision by agreement by all 28, therefore our... there is today in the council, therefore in the Alliance, a unique interpretation of 1973. Then if the new events emerge and the NAC has to update its interpretation they will discuss it. But there is not such a thing as different interpretation as when the NAC take a decision. Otherwise the NAC doesn't take a decision. So therefore, we are unified in our interpretation so far, and if new element will emerge then NAC will discuss and we'll find a consensus position or not.
As for the Lavrov regarding I don't comment, but we have already had a meeting with Ambassador Rogozin and NATO-Russia Council which we give an information what the Alliance was going and was prepared to do. So there is no... the Alliance has nothing to hide to nobody. Not to you, not to the Russian, by the way.
Q: Klaus Hecking from the Financial Times. Just a quick clarification. The Resolution 1973 says no occupation forces and you said for you this is very clear, the interpretation. Could you just please clarify this for us. Does the Resolution mean there are any ground forces allowed on the Libyan territory by any circumstances or not?
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: For me no occupation forces mean that there not be land forces which are occupying the land. That is what occupying forces mean. And that is our understanding.
Q: First question, have NATO any contact with national congress of Benghazi now, to coordinate the operations. And the second question about what is the position of NATO... of an eventual(?) request from International Court to arrest Mr. Gaddafi and his clan.
OANA LUNGESCU: Please don't forget to introduce yourself.
Q: (Inaudible...), Dubai TV
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Well, as for NATO as such no, it's well-known that the contact with the ITNC transitional... Interim Transitional National Council is taken by the so-called (inaudible) group, it has been taken contact by nation, by the international community, the one who met in London for the London conference. So this is the kind of a political contact(?) which are taking place, because that is the popular level for them.
We are not coordinating operation with anybody, by the way, among all the members of the Alliance and all the members of the partners participating with us in this.
As for the second part, this is not in the Resolution, so therefore 1973, so it is not NATO members, NATO matter to do this. We, NATO, as such, and I repeat once again, we are strictly upholding the Resolution. If tomorrow will be other decision by the international community to (inaudible...) it is another story, but it's not to me to comment or speculate on whatever is the future.
OANA LUNGESCU: At the back.
Q: Jorge (inaudible...) Espanole (inaudible). It's two clarifications to my colleagues' questions. The first one is concerning the arms embargo. If I recall well the Secretary General said that the arms embargo will be applied to both sides, so if there is a vessel carrying weapons, even if it's from a coalition member does the NATO would block the vessel carrying these weapons.
And the second question, it's about the... again, about the ground forces. Do you have any soldiers, any ground forces, giving intelligence information to the airplanes that are doing the bombing?
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: As for the first part of the question, the answer is yes. If today there is a ship transporting arms or mercenaries, we will stop it, we will prevent that to happen. but I'm confident, absolutely confident, that none of the allies who are enforcing that solution is doing... thinking about doing what you have hypothized(sic) in your question.
If tomorrow will be other situation the Alliance will make his own mind on that.
As for the second part, no, we don't have NATO forces on the ground. If there are forces by nation, presence by nation, this is not NATO presence as such. That's what matters. Because we respond for NATO.
Q: A question from Mainichi News, Japanese area newspapers. Two quick questions. First... just a moment please. Well, you said several non-NATO countries are participating in the operation. Could you tell me how the command and control will work? Is it like ISAF or KFOR style?
And secondly, could you tell me, since the NATO objective is to protect the civilians and to enforce the embargos, how you can judge the completion of the mission and how long do you expect the duration or the length of the military operation?
Thank you very much.
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: Well, as a matter of fact, we have a chain of command which is a NATO chain of command, which has been established by Commander Europe. You know the command operation is General Bouchard in Naples and then there are two component commands, one in Ismay, one also in Naples. The maritime component command and the air component command.
In this command structure there are... the partner, they have presence with the representative, liaison, which allow them to have full visibility of what they do and so they have full visibility of what NATO does or what the forces does. So it's just through a matter of presence of partner in our structure.
As for the issue of how will we judge, but first of all, how we will judge if the arms embargo. So far we have no evidence of any, first of all, of any ship that try to breach the embargo. We are controlling the maritime flank and the air flank. The northern flank of Libya, maritime and air. We have no evidence whatsoever of any attempt to. And so that for us is a major success.
As for the need to protection the people, how we judge it, when the people will not be threatened or attacked that will be that we have accomplished our task. And by the way, the duration of the mission will depend on the situation. So far NATO has said up to 90 days. Up to 90 days. So far. Then we hope will be much less than that because that mean actually much less (inaudible). That mean that Gaddafi and Gaddafi forces abide to the Resolution because you know better than me what the Resolution ask for. Ask for the immediate cease-fire, or Gaddafi, Gaddafi forces to stop endangering their own people and to allow free and unimpeded movement for the humanitarian assistance. That are the three conditions that the Resolution is imposing on Gaddafi and the three line of action are just to facilitate this to happen. we hope that this may happen tomorrow, tonight. Unfortunately it's to us to decide. Is up to Gaddafi.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much, Chairman.
ADMIRAL GIAMPAOLO DI PAOLA: You're welcome.
OANA LUNGESCU: I think it's two o'clock in Brussels and hopefully we have Lieutenant General Bouchard in Naples. Do we? Can you hear us, Naples.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD (Joint Forces Command Naples): Oana, it is Lieutenant Commander Mitch Field. Oana, this is Lieutenant Commander Mitch Field in Naples. We're just waiting on the General. He should be with us very shortly.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much to the Chairman of the Military Committee. And before General Bouchard joins us I can tell you briefly we have had a lot of queries about media operations. NATO Headquarters will be the lead contact point for all media inquiries, so if you have a question please give us a ring, e-mail your question and I know lots of you already do.
We will be expanding our e-mail distribution list to include anybody who's accredited for either of our last two ministerial meetings, but again, if you want to be on that list let us know. You can e-mail the press office, which is email@example.com.
And of course, we will keep you updated by e-mail and on the NATO website with details of planned press events. I keep looking back to see if General Bouchard appears on the screen. Let me know when he's there.
As of tomorrow we intend to provide operational updates on a daily basis and we'll continue to organize regular briefings with the participation of the military as we have been doing. At this stage these briefings will take place twice a week. Again, we'll let you know if there are any changes.
And we'll do our best to webstream, to broadcast live by satellite all press points at NATO. You can find sound and images of all these NATO events on the website.
The plan is that Joint Forces Command Naples will provide daily operational updates. We're working out the mechanics of how we'll coordinate this so that we can distribute it as broadly as possible. We'll let you know as soon as it's up and running.
And as I'm sure you've seen, we've got quite a few desks prepared outside that some of you have already been using. We've got people who are ready to answer your questions, so we'll do our best to provide as much information as you need in as timely a fashion as we can.
And if General Bouchard is there that would be... great. He obviously has got an operation to run, but if you have any other questions in the meantime I will be happy to take those.
Okay. Let's see. Let's go to someone who hasn't asked a question before. Laurent. Here. AFP.
Q: Hi Oana. I was wondering will the nations that will take part in the ground strikes, will it only be the same nations that had been taking part in them from the coalition, or will other NATO countries take part in them?
OANA LUNGESCU: Well, these are operational details, Laurent. Obviously I can't go into operational details. You may want to ask General Bouchard. I'm not sure he can give you all those details. But what I can say is that the operational tempo has not changed significantly as a result of the transition of command to NATO at oh-six-hundred hours G this morning.
Q: Oana, you said there was a meeting yesterday here with the military and ICI countries. On what level was the meeting?
OANA LUNGESCU: It was at ambassadorial level with partners from the region, from all over the world, our global partners for the Euro-Atlantic Partnership, as I said, from the Mediterranean Dialogue, the ICI, that is Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, and they were kept fully abreast of what NATO is doing and what it intends to do in support of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973.
Q: Yeah, it's more... well, a big plea from my wide. I mean, I can understand that you are reluctant to talk about countries that are not members of the NATO, but I think it would help us all tremendously if we could get some sort of an idea of NATO members participating in that action. It's really difficult to write about this operation if we don't know who is involved.
I know the Germans aren't there, but I would like to know about all those who are participating, and are you planning to do that sooner or later, please?
OANA LUNGESCU: I understand, Dieter, that there are Germany military in the chain of command, obviously because all nations are represented at all levels in operations. But I also understand your plea for more details.
I'm hoping that General Bouchard can provide us with more figures and facts today, because he is the operational commander. And as soon as we have those facts and figures we'll work, Tony White here in the front row, who I'm sure you all know and who's been doing a terrific job together with all the team, will put those on the website and we'll let you know as soon as we have them.
Q: Yes, kind of following up. I mean, I don't expect you to divulge much details as the rules of engagement, but among the NATO countries contributing to the campaign can you say whether the word caveat is a factor at all?
OANA LUNGESCU: Again, I'm not going to go into operational details, but all 28 allies fully backed this decision and allies are involved in their way in this operation in support of the UN Resolution and to protect Libyan civilians. Everyone wants to fulfil their commitment to the UN and fulfil this UN Resolution to the utmost.
UNIDENTIFIED: (Inaudible...) see if they're ready.
OANA LUNGESCU: Naples, are you there? We know... we can see you're there, but we can't see anybody walking up to that rostrum. There is... General Bouchard is there, we'd be very happy...
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: We're still waiting on the General. He should be with us...
OANA LUNGESCU: ...to have him speak.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: ...in the next two to three minutes. Oana, can you hear me?
OANA LUNGESCU: Yes, absolutely.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: The General should be here within the next sort of two to three minutes. We're just waiting for him to arrive and as soon as he does we'll carry on with proceeding.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thanks. Very good.
So I think we had one question from Ana over there.
Q: Thank you. It's just can you confirm if NATO has opened an investigation to just clear that there haven't been civilian casualties, up to 40 according to the regime and the bombardments yesterday in Tripoli. I understand that NATO military sources have already said that they have opened an investigation, but from the statements of the President of the Military Committee, he has implied that this... you know, that NATO is responsible for their operations, but not for the others, so I don't understand too well. Are we investigating an incident where NATO didn't have command over it. Or... I don’t know if you can help me with this.
OANA LUNGESCU: We've certainly seen the press reports and I think the best thing to do is to ask General Bouchard, after his opening statement, to give us an update on what he has because he's in charge of day-to-day operations. He's much better placed than me.
Over there. Thomas.
Q: Do you have any news on the creation of the contact group from your side and it's clear that NATO's going to be a member of it and the number of countries that will be there will be the same countries that are participating, I assume, to the air strikes. But do you have any details on that, on how it's going?
OANA LUNGESCU: Well, I was in London. My understanding is that there was no detailed discussion, no decision on the number of participants in the contact group and its precise functions, so that is still a work in progress.
Q: Oana, can you elaborate a little bit about the meeting yesterday with partners, because in London we saw the Arab countries, some of them, enough (inaudible) let's say in terms of geopolitical role, were not in London. Some show up on ambassadors' level in London and they don't want to be... to show more than that.
Can you tell us in your meeting yesterday, we can imagine that you did not only brief them about what you are doing, but also you are asking Arab countries contributions. Did you get a positive answer about having new contributions from other Arab countries?
OANA LUNGESCU: Let me make clear once again, this was a meeting with all our partners. Obviously partners from the region, partners from around the world. It was a very big meeting indeed. And it was more than an information meeting. I won't go into the deliberations of the North Atlantic Council because we never do, but as it was noted in London there was broad support for NATO, assuming command and control of all military operations concerning Libya and partners around the world know NATO, trust NATO and they know that NATO offers the right framework in which such operations can be conducted with full involvement of partner countries in decision shaping.
Q: Oana, the Admiral says that the arms embargo is going to be enforced by sea. Why not by land? Because if you do nothing Gaddafi can still receive weapons from other countries. Are you afraid, or being in problems with other countries, or what's the question?
OANA LUNGESCU: It's a question we've been discussing before, Enrique. NATO is conducting the maritime operation to enforce the arms embargo. Of course, all members of the United Nations are under obligation to fulfil the UN mandate, so we also hope and are confident that Libya's neighbours will also enforce this arms embargo. We have certainly closed, or we're in the process of closing the front door and we think it's easier to smuggle shipments of arms and armed mercenaries by sea than through the Sahara Desert. But this is the embargo we are enforcing and we expect others to do their part of fulfilling all UN resolutions concerning Libya.
Q: I think there's a question at the back, at the very back. I think it's Griselda.
Q: Thank you, Oana. (Inaudible...) de la Radio Espagnole. Puisque vous prenez aujourd'hui le relai de cette opération, le commandement, est-ce que vous êtes dans votre esprit prêt pour une longue opération? Ou vous êtes plutôt prêt pour une opération plus ou moins rapide? Quel est l'esprit de cette opération quand vous prenez le relai?
OANA LUNGESCU: Ce sera la dernière question. Parce que je crois qu'on a le général Bouchard qui est en train d'arriver. On prend le contrôle de toutes ces opérations concernant la Libye avec le fort espoir qu'aussitôt que possible il y aura une cessation des violences et des menaces contre la population civile. Ce qu'on espère, c'est de voir le plus rapidement possible une solution politique. Parce qu'on sait qu'en Libye, on ne pourra pas résoudre cette crise seulement par des moyens militaires. Ce que les Libyens, la communauté internationale espère et attend, c'est une solution politique, une transition à la démocratie en pleine conformité les espérances légitimes, les aspirations légitimes du peuple libyen.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: Oana, Oana, this is Naples.
OANA LUNGESCU: Naples, over to you.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: The General's here now, so I'll start.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Again, it's my pleasure to introduce Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard of the Canadian Forces, Commander Joint Task Force, Commander for NATO's Libya Response Operations code named Operation Unified Protector.
General Bouchard is the commander of NATO and non-NATO assigned OUP Forces. NATO's operations in Libya which currently include enforcing the UN mandated arms embargo and no-fly zone.
And with that I'd like to turn over the podium to General Bouchard for a few remarks. Sir.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES BOUCHARD (Commander, NATO Military Operations in Libya): Well, thank you all very much for coming here today. I also want to thank Brussels again for connecting us in their news conference. Good afternoon, Brussels.
Let me kick this off by saying that NATO is now exercising the full spectrum of maritime and air operations. On Thursday morning, this morning, at zero-six-hundred hours Greenwich Mean Time, NATO took the sole command of international air operations over Libya.
The Alliance has powerful assets in place to conduct its tasks under Operation Unified Protector; the arms embargo, the no-fly zone and the actions to help protect civilians in civilian centres.
In line with the mandate of UNSCR 1973 NATO's focus is on protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas against the threat of attack from Libyan forces.
I'm pleased to report that the handover, the transition with coalition forces has been seamless, with no gaps in the effort. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that these are historic days. The speed and agility with which NATO has acted is the future of NATO. We are making history.
Early this morning NATO command and control issued its first order to fighter and support aircraft for Operation Unified Protector enforcing the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973.
NATO aircraft are covering these military activities. That means NATO has started surveillance and reconnaissance activities in the no-fly zone and this has taken place with coalition operations coordination.
The complete transition of units to NATO authority is a national decision for individual countries. These transfers are completed. NATO is fully responsible for the military effort. We have more than 100 fighter and support aircraft and more than a dozen maritime assets from several different nations under my NATO command.
To be clear, as of today, NATO is responsible for Operation Unified Protector. So far NATO, having already conducted more than 90 flights and sorties since early this morning. We already have more than 12 frigates patrolling in the Med with several others, support ships and helicopters.
Armed boarding teams on these ships are now ready to act if necessary. This is a clear demonstration of our allies' commitment to fulfil their obligation under the United Nations mandate and to show their resolve to help protect the people of Libya.
That means NATO ships, submarines and aircraft are fully enforcing now the UN Resolution 1973. We are cooperating with our partners in the region and internationally and welcome their contribution to this important mission. Our goal is to help protect civilians and the civilian populated areas on the threat of attack.
NATO is implementing all aspects of the UN Resolution in a balanced and impartial way. My thanks go out to our coalition counterparts. The handover of these responsibilities was seamless, without any gap in the international UN mandated military presence over Libya.
NATO's task is to close Libya's air space to all flights, except aid and humanitarian flights. NATO aviators and controllers will do everything they can to deny any use of air power against civilians. They will do so with care and precision and to avoid harming the people of Libya.
If ordered to do so NATO aircraft can engage any planes which violates the no-fly zone. And of course, NATO can act in self defence.
I know many of you are interested in the operational details and now that NATO has command we will be updating you on a daily basis with more specific information regarding this military effort. Without the great support of all contributors this mission could simply not have been accomplished. For that reason I want to emphasize the importance of this Alliance and its partners.
The speed and agility with which NATO has acted is the future of NATO and this is the future of the Alliance.
With that I'll be glad to take a few questions. Mitch, let's go to Brussels.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: Brussels, Oana, can we have two questions.
Q: We've got two questions that were already asked before, Lieutenant, General, if I may.
Europa Press and DPA, if you could ask your questions.
Q: Thank you so much. General, we hear that NATO has opened an investigation on the bombardments yesterday around Tripoli that could have caused up to 40 people. I understand that NATO didn't actually have the command yesterday for these kind of operations against the land objectives. I would like you to confirm that NATO is also going to investigate an operation that it did not lead? Is this the case?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES BOUCHARD: I am aware of this news report and this is initial reporting. But NATO took over command of Operation Unified Protector as of zero-six-hundred this morning. We are investigating and will report you the details once the investigation is completed.
Q: Okay, sorry, I'm Dieter Eberling from DPA, the German Press Agency. General, a very basic question perhaps. Could you please give us an exact figure about the NATO countries participating in this operation, and perhaps a figure about the non-NATO partners being active in this operation as well. Thank you.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES BOUCHARD: The exact NATO partners from my perspective can be provided by the Supreme Headquarters Allied Power Europe. As far as the allies they continue to add themselves to our effort as we speak right now. So we're working out the details, we're working out the transition of that part and welcome their membership and I'll make sure that you get some of the more details from Mitch later on.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: Thanks you, Brussels, for those two questions. I'm going to return back to Naples now. I do have questions from Naples. First question from this lady by here.
Q: Could I have some progress (inaudible...) that has already been made by a colleague of mine... as a (inaudible...) speaking of (inaudible...). What do you mean when you say investigating? What type of an investigation are you carrying out?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES BOUCHARD: Well, it's very simple. We are aware of this news report. We are aware that it's been published in the press and my investigation is to ascertain whether or not NATO forces were involved in this incident. And we will report details of that investigation.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: Second question.
Q: General, indulge with me if I persist, because on this issue it is more than a news report. It is the Bishop of Tripoli who is claiming to be an eye witness to what has happened and even if NATO was not in overall command obviously there may or may not be lessons to be learned, so I would like you to listen to what he said exactly so that maybe perhaps you can formulate another response, which is what I'm asking for.
Bishop Martinelli says, it is true that the bombardment seemed pretty much on target, but it is also true that when they hit military targets, which are in the middle of civilian neighbourhoods, the population is also involved.
And he goes on to say: Yesterday I said that bombardment had hit albeit indirectly some hospitals. To be precise one of these hospitals is in Misda, he said, mentioning a town about 145 kilometres southwest of the capital.
So basically what I'm saying is that apparently there is an eye witness that there were civilian casualties. Could you respond to that and your position on civilian casualties. And whether this is a lesson now that NATO has taken over?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES BOUCHARD: Well, I am aware of this report. It is a news report. And I appreciate the source of the news report, but it's worth... and I take every one of those issues seriously, in fact. But however, our command, NATO mission started at zeros-six-hundred this morning and we began operation under NATO flag today.
As far as lessons learned, let me restate that by saying that we are very careful in the prosecution of any of the possible targets that we have. We have very strict rules of engagement provided to us and we are operating within the legal mandates of our United Nations mandate 1973.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.
LIEUTENANT COMMANDER MITCH FIELD: We've got one final question, sir.
Q: Good morning, (inaudible...) News Agency in (inaudible). I would like to know about NATO, how it will control the boundaries, the southern boundaries of the country of Libya which should be the main door of terrorism and trafficking, and is it possible to suppose or hypothesize in the weeks ahead the deployment of ground troops there in that area? Thank you very much.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL CHARLES BOUCHARD: Good question. My mandate is to protect the civilian population and civilian centres from being under attack by Libya forces. Activities along the borders area are not... my mandate is quit strict and I will operate within my mandate.
As to any form of speculations as to any further involvement my mandate is clear. We will help protect and defend people, civilians and population centres against attack from Libyan forces.
Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. And maybe in closing I'd like to offer closing thoughts for those who are acting against the civilian population and the civilian centres. You would be ill-advised to continue such activities. I recommend that you cease these activities.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much, Lieutenant General and Naples thank you very much for everyone who's been listening here and there. And we'll stay in touch.