by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen in his capacity as NRC Chairman, after the Informal morning session of the NATO-Russia Council in Sochi, Russian Federation
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Hello. Welcome to this press conference after the NATO-Russia Council. The Secretary General and Chairman of the NRC will start with a short statement and then we'll be happy to take a couple of questions. Secretary General.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): Thank you very much. I've just chaired a very constructive meeting of the NATO-Russia Council held at the invitation of President Medvedev, and with the participation of Minister Lavrov and Deputy Defence Minister Antonov.
And this shows our continued commitment to cooperation, as we agreed in Lisbon last November. The spirit of Lisbon lives on and it continues to guide us. Cooperation is the best choice, partnership is the only path forward.
Today we agreed to continue our cooperation and to consolidate it. All 29 members of this Council face the same threats and challenges, so we must combine our political will and our resources to tackle them effectively because NATO and Russia have a shared responsibility in strengthening the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area.
And since the Lisbon Summit our cooperation has gained new momentum. Take terrorism. Just last month NATO and Russian fighter jets held their first ever joint exercise over Poland and the Black Sea. They joined forces to intercept civilian planes that simulated a terrorist hijack like the 9/11 attacks. And soon, in Paris and St. Petersburg, we will test a joint system to detect explosives on suicide bombers in our subways, train stations and airports to stop an attack like the one that struck the Domodedovo Airport in Moscow earlier this year.
Both these exercises would have been hard to imagine not so long ago. Both are excellent examples of how much we stand to gain by working together.
We are also jointly investing in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan, supporting the Afghan Air Force and training officers to fight the drugs trade across the region. Officers trained by NATO and Russian specialists have participated in some of the largest heroin seizure operations in the region. This is an investment today that will strengthen our security tomorrow.
Practical defence cooperation provides a firm basis for our partnership and we intend to develop a defence transparency dialogue to make it even stronger. We saw that cooperation in action last month. NATO and Russian naval forces combined to rescue personnel from a submarine. This was a high-level event, involving the head of the Russian General Staff, General Makarov, and the head of NATO's Military Committee, Admiral Di Paola. And the good news is that they were both rescued.
Today, we restated our commitment to pursue missile defence cooperation in the NATO-Russia Council. We heard briefings from both NATO and Russia, which clarified some important points about our plans and capabilities. We did this in the spirit of transparency and reciprocity; in the spirit of frank, open and frequent dialogue; in the spirit of Lisbon.
Many key issues still need to be addressed. We never said we would agree on missile defence overnight, or even in a few months. This is too important for all of us. But because it is so important, and because we all stand to gain by working together, we are determined to keep up the dialogue and to keep up the work. And we are making progress in matching our visions of the missile defence project.
We also exchanged views on Libya. In Lisbon, we agreed that the NATO-Russia Council should be a forum for discussions on all issues and at all times. We take this very seriously. NATO regularly briefs Russian representatives on Operation Unified Protector for Libya.
Our mandate is clear, United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, which authorises all necessary means to prevent threats and attacks against civilians. Everything NATO does, together with our partners, many from the region, is in full compliance with that mandate.
So this has been a very constructive meeting. And I look forward to the meeting with President Medvedev later today. I am confident this will provide additional momentum to our joint endeavour.
We have come a long way from Lisbon to Sochi. And from Sochi, we can be confident about the way ahead. We have done a lot to translate words into deeds. And we still have a lot to accomplish together.
My hope is that we can all meet again in less than a year at the NATO Summit in Chicago, and that we will be able to agree on a solution on missile defence that can make the security of NATO territory and of Russian territory more effective. Let's build the path of partnership together, from Sochi to Chicago.
Sochi has provided a beautiful and inspiring venue for this landmark meeting, so I would like to thank our Russian hosts for their warm hospitality.
And now I'll be happy to take your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU: And please don't forget to introduce yourselves and your media organization. We'll start over there. Reuters. Second row.
Q: Secretary General, I'm David Brunnstrom from Reuters. I was wondering... the head of the NTC Mr. Jalil said in an interview over the weekend that Qadhafi wanted to live in retirement in Libya when he steps down. I wondered if that's an acceptable solution for NATO? Also, have NATO and Russia managed to narrow their differences over interpretation of the Security Council Resolutions on Libya?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Firstly on the Qadhafi end game, if I may use that term, it is for the Libyan people to shape the future of their country. And the mission we are conducting together with partners aims at meeting very specific military objectives, and as you will recall, we have defined three military objectives: firstly, a complete end to all attacks against civilians; secondly, a withdrawal of Qadhafi forces to their bases; and thirdly, immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need.
So we are focused on the accomplishment of this military mission. In a parallel political track, it is for the Libyan people, possibly assisted by the international community, to find a political solution to the problems in Libya, and I would stress that the only acceptable solution would be to accommodate the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people and see progress in a transition to a fully-fledged democracy in the country.
And on the second part of your question, the Russian side has voiced some concerns related to our operation in Libya. We have stressed, as I have done at this press conference, that we are carrying out this operation in strict conformity with the UN Security Council Resolution. We have been mandated to take all necessary means to protect civilians against attacks, and so far we have been very successful in protecting civilians. We have prevented a massacre on the Libyan people, we have saved numerous lives so we have successfully implemented the UN Security Council Resolution.
OANA LUNGESCU: The person behind. We now have a microphone.
Q: (Inaudible...) … Spanish Television. Mr. Rasmussen, as you know Mr Jacob Zuma is here in Russia. Are you going to find time to have a meeting with him, maybe (inaudible) … dialogue … as we all know the situation in Libya. Are you going to find time to have a meeting with him?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: It has not been planned yet, but if time permits, if the President's time permits and our programme permits, it would be an excellent opportunity to continue the dialogue with other actors on the international scene. We attach very strong importance to a dialogue with countries in the region, including in Africa. We are constantly in contact with the African Union, and of course, it's also part of that dialogue to discuss the situation with individual African leaders.
OANA LUNGESCU: Polish Press Agency, over there.
Q: (Inaudible...). Have you managed to (inaudible...) missile defence?
OANA LUNGESCU: We have had a very constructive discussion. I had a bilateral meeting with Minister Lavrov before the NATO-Russia Council met and our main focus was on missile defence and we had an indepth discussion on specific issues.
During the NATO-Russia Council meeting we had again an extensive discussion based on two briefings from the NATO side and from the Russian side. I am not able to report on concrete progress but I do believe that the way we have handled it at this meeting serves to clarify a number of outstanding issues, and in that respect it has facilitated further progress in our deliberations on missile defence.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. That's all we have time for now, but the Secretary General, together with Foreign Minister Lavrov, will be back a bit later.