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Updated: 26-Jul-2005 NATO Speeches

NATO HQ,
Brussels

25 July 2005

Monthly video briefing on current issues

by the NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

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Audio file .MP3/4690Kb
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Biography
James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Hello and welcome to the latest in our series of briefings on what's happening here at NATO Headquarters.

It has been an eventful month in international security, and that, of course, includes here at NATO and the subject on everyone's mind, on everyone's lips is terrorism. There have been a series of very significant attacks that have been front page news around the world. Of course, the attacks in the tube in London were perhaps the most surprising, but there have been a series of attacks in Iraq, attacks in Turkey and of course, attacks in the tourist sites of Sharm-el-Sheikh and Nama Bay in Egypt as well. So terrorism is certainly something on all of our minds.

The Alliance, the day after the terrorist attacks in London, held a special North Atlantic Council session, lowered the flags here at NATO Headquarters, all to express our solidarity with the people of London, with the people of the United Kingdom and our solidarity as an international community to continue to combat the threat of terrorism.

The Alliance, of course, has taken fighting terrorism as one of its principal missions, particularly since September 11th, 2001. That's why we're in Afghanistan. Not only to help Afghanistan find its feet as a functioning democracy and a country at peace with itself and with its neighbours, but also to prevent it from backsliding into once again becoming a haven for terrorism. The Alliance, alongside Operation Enduring Freedom, has been successful in doing that; in helping Afghanistan, as I say, become a peaceful country, a country with self-sustaining peace and growing prosperity.

We have a naval operation in the Mediterranean helping to defend against terrorism, and the Alliance, of course, is working on a whole host of technological improvements; technologies that can help defend and deter against terrorism.

We received here at NATO, the North Atlantic Council received at NATO, just in the past few weeks, a briefing from our Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment. One of his responsibilities is to help guide the process of investing in technologies that can help defend against terrorism and he updated the NATO nations on where we are on these very important projects.

For example, a laser that can help detect at distance an improvised explosive device, a home-made bomb. These are obviously the weapon-of-choice for many terrorists, as we've seen in the London bombings, but as we've seen really around the world, including every day in Iraq, but also elsewhere.

This laser, which is under development, it is a prototype, it is a laser project being led by the Spanish government, supported by the United States, but in the NATO context, can, as I say, detect at a distance the use or the potential presence of an improved explosive device and obviously as it develops and becomes a working, workable technology, it can have major advantages not only for militaries, but also for civilian use as well.

There are other technologies under development. For example, technologies to prevent airliners and large aircraft from shoulder-fired missiles; to prevent... protect helicopters from rocket-propelled grenades; to protect ships and ports and harbours from terrorist attack, and the list goes on.

So we are, the Alliance is working on these issues. Of course, the work on these issues has been given new salience and new impetus because of the spate of recent attacks.

I mentioned the attacks in Egypt at Sharm-el-Sheikh and Nama Bay with very, very high levels of casualties, both those killed and those injured. The NATO Secretary General, on behalf of the Alliance, released a statement in condolence and solidarity with the victims of the attack, but also with the government of Egypt. And in it he said that these attacks demonstrate that people of all nations and of all faiths are the victims of these kinds of indiscriminate attacks. That is why the international come has to stand together as a community, as an inclusive community, to combat those who would use these methods, indiscriminate slaughter and terrorism, to achieve whatever goals they claim to be supporting.

So terrorism is certainly on our minds here at NATO Headquarters, as it is always, and our work has been given even more impetus and more salience as part of the international community's response to this threat.

Let me turn now to the Balkans. Another issue which is, of course, always on our agenda here. And there were two major political events in the past month related to the Balkans.

One was the visit of Soren Jessen-Petersen, who is the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Kosovo, and he came to visit our Secretary General, the NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, to discuss ongoing events in Kosovo. As you all know, this is a very sensitive period for Kosovo as the NATO ambassador, Kai Eide, the Norwegian ambassador, has been appointed by the UN to assess the political progress in Kosovo. In particular, but not limited to, the standards progress. In other words, how much progress Kosovo is making in meeting the international standards that have been set for it by the contact group, the contract group plus in which NATO participates.

These standards include, of course, improving the climate for minorities. That is, their freedom of movement, their ability to work, their participation in Kosovar institutions, and also the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

There are other issues as well, including decentralization of powers, which Kai Eide, Ambassador Eide is looking at as well.

Soren Jessen-Petersen came to NATO to discuss with the Secretary General how much progress is being made, his vision of where the process is going, and what he considers to be essential if we are to move as an international community from a standards evaluation, to get a positive note of standards evaluation and move then to status talks. In other words, talks on what the final status of Kosovo, the political status of Kosovo should be.

In that meeting he and the Secretary General reiterated their desire to see the decentralization process go forward, to see the Kosovar Serbs participate in the provisional institutions of self-government, and to see the dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade continue and to deepen beyond technical talks to political talks.

The Secretary General followed that trip, that visit by Soren Jessen-Petersen, with a visit of his own to Belgrade. There he met with the full political leadership of Serbia and Montenegro as a country. Also with the leaders of Serbia and the leaders of Montenegro.

He accomplished one very practical goal, and that was to sign with the government of Serbia and Montenegro, with Vuk Draskovic, the Foreign Minister, an agreement on lines of communication. This is a technical agreement similar to what NATO has with a whole host of countries, which could and can facilitate logistical transit for NATO equipment and personnel to supply KFOR in Kosovo.

As I say, it is a technical agreement. We have similar agreements with many other countries. But it does demonstrate that relations between NATO and Serbia and Montenegro have reached a new level. That is a very positive and important political signal, even as the lines of communication agreement also offers a very practical element to cooperation.

The Secretary General also delivered some very important messages on behalf of NATO to Belgrade, and one of those messages was very much to support the Kosovar Serbs in their move to participate in the provisional institutions of self-government.

It is very clear that the process of standards evaluation is moving forward, and if and when a decision is made, the status talks, those two will move forward, and they'll move forward with or without Kosovar Serbs. The Secretary General made it very clear that he believed that it was in the interests both of the Kosovar Serbs, but of Kosovo more broadly to have them as part of the process. And therefore encouraged Belgrade to support the Kosovar Serbs to move into the provisional institutions of self-government and participate fully, take their full place in Kosovo's political life as we enter this very important time.

He also encouraged Belgrade, as I have already mentioned, to have a deeper, more political discussion with Pristina on issues of common concern. This would be an important political step, again, to help build trust and confidence as we enter this difficult and sensitive time in Kosovo.

Let me turn now briefly to Darfur. Simply to give you an update on how the airlift is going. As you know, both NATO and the EU are, at the request of the African Union, supporting the AU in its effort to reinforce the mission in Darfur, its mission in Darfur, with additional troops, additional African troops that NATO will airlift, NATO and the EU will airlift and are airlifting into Darfur.

NATO has begun this and it is going well. The Nigerian forces have been airlifted with NATO support into Darfur. Now the Alliance is airlifting in Rwandan troops and this rotation will continue all the way through September. It is going as it should on schedule. The Alliance is also providing training for African Union Headquarters staff to enhance their ability to take on this kind of very large-scale operation from command and control to logistics to overall oversight over such a large area of operation.

In that same vein, NATO, along with the European Union, along with the United Nations, will be supporting the African Union map exercise. This MAPEX, as we call it, is designed to help give African Union officers better knowledge of the area of operation in which their troops are operating, and also to give them a longer-term enhanced capability simply to be able to manage this kind of large-scale operation.

The Darfur mission for the African Union will not end tomorrow, so this kind of capacity building, for what will be a long-term mission, we believe will be very important. Again, this is all at the request of the African Union and NATO is there to support the AU in this very, very important issue.

Let me turn very briefly now to September, because this will be the last briefing on the web until September, simply to preview for you one major event that we're having, and that will be an informal meeting of Defence Ministers in Berlin early in the month. By informal I mean that no concrete decisions are expected to be taken on the different missions or operations, for example, or on budget. But since we have had a Defence Ministers' meeting recently which took many of those important decisions, this meeting does come at a good time to allow ministers to reflect in a more political way on some of the very important issues on their agenda.

For example, the NATO Response Force will reach full operational capability in 2006, but there are questions relating to where it will operate, how it will be funded, for example, that ministers will want to discuss. They will also want to look at the long-term future for NATO in Afghanistan as part of the international community's efforts to support the Karzai government once we have moved beyond what is called the Bonn process. In other words, once the elections, the district and provincial elections, have taken place the international community will want a new approach that will, of course, take into account the issue of narcotics.

So ministers will want to discuss that as well; as well as the future of the mission in Iraq, the long-term mission, the long-term future of our overall approach to enhancing our capabilities. This is something that the Secretary General will certainly wish to discuss with Defence Ministers. How to give new impetus to the military side of our transformation, to ensure that the allies have, and the Alliance has a body has, all the military capabilities we do need.

This process has been started for many years, so it is certainly not a one-shot event. It is a process and it must continue, and ministers need to discuss how to keep up the momentum, and they will do that in Berlin, while discussing, of course, many other issues.

That's it for this briefing. Thanks for clicking in.

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