MODERATOR: The Secretary General has just had his meeting with President Rakhmonov of Tajikistan, and they'll both say a few words, and then we're open to a few questions. Okay. Secretary General first. Please, sir.
LORD ROBERTSON (NATO Secretary General): I've been delighted to greet President Rakhmonov of Tajikistan here, the first time that he's been to NATO headquarters, indeed the first time he's been to Belgium. It is only recently that Tajikistan has joined the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council and yet it is a very important country and one of the most important and sensitive regions of the world.
The President and I met in November at the Prague Summit meeting of NATO where the President was attending the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.
And at Prague, the NATO nations underlined how important the nations of Central Asia are to the security of the whole Euro-Atlantic Central Asia region.
And today we have discussed how Tajikistan and NATO can work more closely together to increase the stability and security of the Central Asian region.
I have explained that NATO is already helping with stability in that region by supporting the nations who are in the International Stability and Assistance Force in Kabul in Afghanistan. And the President has expressed his appreciation of how NATO is helping with this difficult task at this very important time.
And I'm looking forward to visiting Tajikistan later in the summer. Mr. President?
EMOMALI RAKHMONOV (President of Tajikistan): Ladies and gentlemen, in my meeting with Lord Robertson we have broached a number of topical questions, issues of a bilateral and international order. As you doubtless(?) know, last year, Tajikistan became a member of the Partnership for Peace NATO program, and we believe that this opens up for us completely new prospects for a very close co-operation in the most diverse areas.
Needless to say we attach great importance to our co-operation with NATO and we believe that the North Atlantic Alliance has all the necessary capabilities for effectively withstanding contemporary threats. Inasmuch as on both sides, we are committed to peace and stability in Central Asia and in Afghanistan.
We have had very detailed discussions about the situation in our region and in neighbouring Afghanistan, and have plotted out a road map for future co-operation.
Tajikistan has proposed to map out the framework and a format for engaging Afghanistan as a NATO partner on the same kind of lines as it is an OSCE partner, and our initiative in engaging this country in those goals and challenges which lie ahead of it, and which have been proclaimed by the OSCE have our full support.
And we have found convergence in our views that in the conditions of a modern globalizing world, there are real prospects for co-operation in terms of peace and security. And in that context, I think we can say that our region continues to remain in the centre of the world communities' attention. Tajikistan believes that NATO, as an organization which is responsible for supporting peace and stability in through a very wide area or expanse, must help us with very substantive assistance so that we can effectively resist new threats and challenges. Amongst these threats, of course, a particular place is occupied by the problem of proliferation of drugs. And Tajikistan, which is really on the front line in terms of resisting this kind of scourge, is relying on the support in its efforts in particularly this area. In conclusion, I should just like to say how grateful I am to Lord Robertson for arranging this meeting. Thank you.
MODERATOR: Okay. Questions please.
Q: It's Paul Ames from the Associated Press. Lord Robertson, could you explain to us what is NATO's reaction to the Turkish suggestion that they create a buffer zone along their border with Iraq to help refugees?
ROBERTSON: The Turkish authorities have briefed us that they are not putting any additional troops into Northern Iraq at the present time. And that is an assurance that was given to me by Prime Minister Gul when I spoke to him at the weekend.
The Turkish authorities have however said that if there is an influx of refugees from Iraq into the area south of their border, then they would prefer to deal with these refugees in a zone no bigger than 20 kilometres from their border. That statement has simply been noted because there is no upsurge of refugees in that area at the moment so this situation does not arise.
Q: Mr. Robertson, but if there is an influx of refugees, would NATO accept this idea? And another question, if I may. Has any country in the NAC suggested the possibility of cancelling the defensive action in Turkey due to the ambiguous position of Turkey in the Northern Iraq?
ROBERTSON: Nobody is suggesting that the existing Article 4 operation be in any way changed at the moment. Since there is no flood of refugees into the northern area of Iraq, the issue does not arise as to whether NATO agrees or not. It hasn't happened, therefore, the intention has purely been noted. No doubt if it happened, Turkey would want to raise it in here, but no decisions have been taken as yet.
MODERATOR: Last question.
Q: ... question to the President. I understand you submitted your country's proposal for how you would cooperate with NATO under Partnership for Peace. What areas does that cover? What took Tajikistan so long to join Partnership for Peace? And do I understand correctly, are you suggesting that Afghanistan become a Partnership for Peace member? And then to the Secretary General, if I may, is Afghanistan actually eligible for PFP?
RAKHMANOV: Well, I don't want to go into too much detail about it at the moment. But what I'll say is that we have discussed very much the kind of main areas for future co-operation. We will be doing that much more intensely after we have submitted the presentation document for our adherence to the PFP. Once we've signed it, and then of course in summer, in July, we will be discussing it in much greater depth in Dushanbe with Lord Robertson when he comes to visit us.
Well, in answer to the question about how long... why we have not become a member for such a long time, I would say that... I'd just like to remind you that we had a civil war of course in Tajikistan following the collapse of the Soviet Union from 91 to 93. And we spent 40 months negotiating with the various armed positions. And that really ate up most of that time until the year 2000 when we started to make advances to NATO.
I'd just like to remind everybody also that in that civil war, we suffered very heavy economic and psychological damage involving the loss of 150,000 Tajiks and 550,000 children were orphaned in the process, and it all amounted to the tune of some seven billion U.S. dollars.
Of course, your question is quite right when you said it's the last one, it's the last of the CIS countries, precisely because of these particular circumstances.
ROBERTSON: On your question, three of the neighbouring countries to Afghanistan are in the Partnership for Peace. So it's an intriguing question that you ask, but the answer isn't on the agenda yet.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen.