OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Good afternoon. Thank you very much for coming. The Secretary General and Prime Minister Davutoğlu will start with a short opening statement. And then we have time for I think four questions. Secretary General.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): Good afternoon. It is indeed a great pleasure to welcome Minister Davutoğlu to NATO Headquarters. And it is a particular pleasure to do so at the beginning of such an important year.
In just one month's time, on the 18th of February, we will celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Turkey and Greece joining NATO. For six decades, Minister, Turkey has been a pillar of our security. And NATO has been a pillar of your security.
Turkey makes NATO stronger; and NATO makes Turkey stronger. That was the case when Turkey guarded NATO's southern flank in the Cold War. It is the case now as we build a better and more stable future in Afghanistan. And it will be the case in the future when Turkey hosts a vital missile defence radar as part of NATO's territorial missile defences alongside your other contributions.
For sixty years, we have faced and overcome challenges together. The world we live now in hugely different from the world of 1952. But it is no less challenging. From the economic crisis to violent extremism and from cyber warfare to stabilizing Afghanistan, we all face threats to our security.
How we address the challenges we face has evolved over these last 60 years. We must find new ways of working. And we must work with new partners. Turkey is already leading the way in that effort, building cooporation and consultation with new partners in vital parts of the world.
But in the midst of those many changes, the spirit of NATO is unchanged: an Alliance which is committed to the safety and security of all Allies; and Allies who are committed to the Alliance. For 60 years, that spirit has kept us strong. And Minister, I look very much forward to continuing our cooperation in that spirit.
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU (Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey): Thank you very much, Mister Secretary General. It is a great honour for me to be in NATO. It is a very familiar place for us, our home. But this time, for the Sixtieth Anniversary of Turkish Membership to NATO, I have the honour to meet with his Excellency the Secretary General and also with the NATO Council.
Turkish membership to NATO was a strategic decision in Cold War. From that time, in sixty years, international system has changed. NATO has been transformed. Turkey had a long process of reforms. But one thing has remained without any change. NATO has been one of the main pillars in our strategic planning and vision in Turkey. And Turkey has been one of the main contributors to NATO in the efforts of regional and global peace. And this will continue.
Today, we need NATO more... even more than in 1952. During the Cold War, NATO has functioned in a bipolar structure. And Turkey has been one of the most geopolitical... most important flank of NATO. We won Cold War. But at that time in 1990... early 1990s, many people discussed whether NATO will continue to be an important international security organization. In 1990s, it has been proven that NATO has contributed to regional and global peace through responding to the crisis, to several problems in this era of transformation.
And after 9/11, we had this time the challenge in Afghanistan. After 1990s, the challenges in Eastern Europe. Today, we are in a new international environment, in a new strategic framework.
And in this new strategic environment which bring new threats, new risks, new challenges, like the global economic crisis and its consequences in Europe, like the comprehensive transformation and unrest and transformation together in the Middle East and many other challenges in international arena, NATO can play a significant role to provide security.
And this, we had the experience of Libya last year. And Turkey in the middle of all these crisis points has been an island of stability, having economic development, strong economic dynamism, as well an active contributor to the regional peace around Turkey.
And here, in this new era, Turkey and NATO, together and as a family, where Turkey is part of the family, we will plan for the responding to the new challenges in the future. And the Sixtieth Anniversary of our membership will be a good opportunity to make a reassessment of all these common strategic priorities for further planning.
And I will welcome you, Mister Secretary General, to Turkey in February for our anniversary meetings, celebrations let me say. And of course, Turkey will continue to contribute in all NATO activities in an efficient way. Thank you very much for this opportunity for... and for giving this opportunity to address to NATO Council. Thank you very much.
OANA LUNGESCU: I'd be grateful if you could stick to one question, and also state too who the question is addressed to. NTV...
Q: Sonomut from NTV Turkey. My question is to Prime Minister Davutoğlu. Particularly, Iran has a very harsh statement with regard to Turkey, since Turkey has decided to host missile defence. I was wondering what is your position with regard to Iran? And will Turkey host this meeting with regard to the nuclear enrichment programme of Iran? Thank you.
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU: When you say harsh statements, I would like to remind many positive statements as well. Of course, for us, for Turkey, statements of our counterparts, president, minister of foreign affairs and other counterparts are important. And I am sure you'll realize several statements made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Salehi, even yesterday, today in Turkey he made a very positive statement regarding Turkish-Iranian relations.
So, of course, missile defence issue, rather in Turkey, is an important strategic decision taken by NATO. And as it's a purely defensive system as we have always underlined. And there is no target country or target region in this defence system. This is purely NATO project for the future planning of providing a security against ballistic missiles for the member countries. Therefore, it is not an issue of dispute between Turkey and Iran or between Turkey and any other neighbours. And last two weeks ago, I was in Iran. Today and tomorrow, Mister Salehi, he will be in Turkey.
As two neighbours having historic and good relations, we will continue to keep these momentum; while at the same time, of course, as member of NATO, Turkey be part of this strategic defence planning of NATO. And we will be contributing to this process in every sense.
Regarding the nuclear negotiations, as you know, during my visit in Teheran, Iran declared that they are ready to restart the talks. Before that I had a consultation with Madame Ashton. She, in fact, asked me to consult this with the Iranian side as well. And afterwards, I spoke with Madame Ashton again. Both sides declared the intention to meet and to restart the negotiations. Of course, it is up to both sides to decide. But as Turkey, we will be happy to host this new round of talks. Tomorrow, I will be having meetings with Minister Salehi on this issue. We hope that these negotiations will create positive results. An important international dispute will be overcome, thank you.
OANA LUNGESCU: Reuters.
Q: I'd like to ask the Secretary General about Afghanistan; because I know you've been talking about this today in your meeting. To what extent have you found out future targets on things like troop numbers and the amount of funds that are needed to maintain a presence in Afghanistan?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, I think it's premature to make any concrete assessment right now as regards the future and number of Afghan security forces. That will, at the end of the day, very much depend on the security situation on the ground by the end of 2014.
Having said that, we must, of course, make sure that the size and scope of the Afghan security forces are sustainable in a longer-term perspective, financially as well as security-wise. We are in the midst of an evaluation of that. So I think it's premature to present any exact figure at this stage.
OANA LUNGESCU: IHA News Agency.
Q: Sertaç Aktan, IHA News Agency, Turkey. My question will be addressed to Mister Secretary General. I would like to ask. The Republican candidate in the United States, Rick Perry, made some comments on Turkey's membership to NATO which he clearly opposes. And he said that he questions Turkey's membership. And he said that Turkey is not acting accordingly, properly as a NATO Ally. As the NATO General Secretary how do you evaluate these statements? This is the sixtieth year of Turkish membership to NATO. And we are here today because of that. How will you respond? This is a person who has big possibility, has some possibility of becoming United States president some day.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I strongly disagree with these statements. And to be very brief I have noted that the Turkish foreign ministry said that Perry's comments were baseless and inappropriate. And I fully agree with the Turkish foreign ministry.
OANA LUNGESCU: Al Arabiya finally.
Q: Noor (Inaudible) from Arabiya News Channel. I have a couple of questions for Secretary General. The security of energy routes in the Gulf are being threatened by Iran. What could be NATO reaction if this will happen concretely? And I share the question to Mister Davutoğlu, the Arab observers in Syria are under, let's say, very harsh critics. And maybe, they're failing every day, because the crime is going on. Where do you see the situation in Syria is heading? And are you worried about the probability of a civil war in this country?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Obviously, it is of utmost importance to make sure that energy supplies continue to flow through the vital waterway, the Strait of Hormuz. And I would like to stress that the Iranian authorities have a duty, to act as responsible international actors and in accordance with international law. But I would also like to stress that NATO has no plans of intervention.
AHMET DAVUTOĞLU: Yes, as you know, Turkey has supported the Arabic initiative. Before the Arabic observers went to Syria, I've participated in several meetings with the Arab League. First, I have to say that the Arab League initiative was not composed only by the presence of Arab League observers on the ground. Arab League observers are there to observe whether Syrian regime administration is fulfilling the commitment of other elements of the Arab League initiative, including withdrawal of the army from the cities, releasing political prisoners, etc. But unfortunately after the experience of the Arabic observers we do not see much positive progress on the grounds. This is the fact we have to admit. But we will wait until the Arab League observers submit the reports. And after the meetings of the Arab League, we're in constant consultations with them, we will make an assessment what could be the next and other steps if the Arabic initiative is not successful. But whatever Arab League decides, Turkey will be supporting the Arab League in all these efforts. Are we worried? Yes, we are very worried because killings are continuing every day. And there is not much change on the ground. It is all of our responsibility to respond to this crisis in order to contain it without further escalation. Thank you.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. (...)