Ministers agreed that political and practical dimensions of the Mediterranean Dialogue should proceed in parallel.
Since the Istanbul Summit, the enhanced political dimension has gained both in regularity and substance: in addition to the Foreign Ministers meetings, there have also been two meetings of MD Defense Ministers in Taormina in February 2006 and in Seville in February 2007.
During their 2 December meetings, Ministers discussed the security situation in the region, with Ministers Tzipi Livni and Abou Gheit offering their insights into the follow up to the Annapolis process, as also did a number of NATO Foreign Ministers including Secretary of State Rice who attended her last MD Ministerial meeting.
While the Middle East Peace Process is not an issue currently on NATO agenda, the working lunch discussion offered a very useful opportunity for an exchange of views with countries deeply involved in this process.
Another important issue discussed at the Mediterranean Dialogue table was piracy, in connection to the NATO support to the World Food Programme. Ministers stressed the need for a much more comprehensive international approach to the piracy issue, which they remarked was not limited to the Gulf of Aden. That comprehensive approach, Ministers felt, should be led by the UN Security Council, particularly due to the legal implications of the issue of piracy.
Finally, Ministers also exchanged their views on the state of play of the Mediterranean Dialogue, tacking stock of the considerable increase in practical cooperation since their last meeting in December 2007.
The Mediterranean Dialogue Work Programme has been gradually expanded from more than 100 activities in 2004, to about 800 in 2008, 85% of which include military activities, in addition to Public Diplomacy, Civil Emergency Planning and Crisis Management. Additionally, six MD countries have signed NATO agreements for the security of classified information, and Military Attaches from MD countries have been assigned to the Partnership Cooperation Cell, at our Strategic Military Headquarters in Mons, facilitating interoperability. Our MD partners are also contributing to NATO crisis response operations, including in the anti terrorist Operation Active Endeavour.
As the Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, remarked: “The Mediterranean Dialogue is clearly demonstrating its value as a forum for political discussion and as a framework for practical cooperation and Ministers have agreed to further explore both aspects at its fullest”.