From the event

  • Pre-summit press briefing by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

26 Mar. 2008

Pre-summit press briefing

by the NATO Spokesman James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): I'd like to do two things: one is to run through with you the Bucharest Summit agenda and take any questions that you might have on the issues and the timings of things.  But before we do that, I would like to do something a little unusual in that you have heard me say, you've heard the Secretary General say, that NATO has been in the stone age when it comes to video issues.  And you're laughing-- the rye laugh of people who agree that we are in the stone age.  But we're getting out of the stone age; my desperate goal has been to make it to the 1960s where we could actually be on TV, and then one day, to move even farther forward into the 21st century and be on the web.

And thanks to a great contribution by the Danish Government about which you may or may not have heard; we've come a long way.  We will launch next week in Bucharest NATO TV.  A NATO TV Channel, which will have basically two aspects to it: one is for the public, one is for journalists.  And you will all have access to it.  We now have, as of yesterday, for the first time a deployed NATO video team in Afghanistan.  There will be a second team on its way in the coming days.  There will be three more teams on their way in the coming weeks, all of which will be put under the leadership of the Chief Public Affairs Officer with strategic direction on what they should do, set by this Headquarters, and they will produce a steady stream of a number of news-worthy video, stories, clips, raw footage every week and that will all be fed up when you-- this website will be available through the NATO website.  It will have pre-existing stories, in other words, developed stories.  It will also have footage and clips which are of broadcast quality available to journalists and we will keep this fresh all the time.

So we have made a quantum leap, I say again, thanks very much to an enormous contribution by the Danish Government and if this works, we're not launching it today, the launch is next week, and it will be online as of next week, but we have a little demo for what it's going to look like.  So let's give it a shot, folks.

(Promo video is shown)

APPATHURAI: That's what it will look like.  There will be a dedicated module on the website, as I say, with all the information that you need and that we need and it will be up and running as of next week, so hold your applause until then but I'm pleased that we have made a step forward and I wanted to give you a little taste of it.

Two issues: one is what's going on right now, and that is an exchange of views in the North Atlantic Council with the Georgian Foreign Minister David Bakradze, the State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Mr. Giorgi Baramidze, and the Deputy Minister of Defence, Giorgi Muchaidze, excuse me I probably mispronounced that-- this is of course in the context of the partnership between NATO and Georgia.  Georgia has an Intensified Dialogue.  The essence of the meeting is to discuss the progress Georgia has made in the annual cycles of reviews in our Individual Partnership Action Plan.

I think Minister Bakradze, the Foreign Minister was making-- taking the lead in the intervention for Georgia and it's going on right now so I can't tell you exactly what's happening but, of course, we are all aware of the context of Georgia's aspirations to move closer to NATO and the context of the upcoming Bucharest Summit.  I will report to you as soon as I can on the content of the discussions.

What I wanted to do was to give you, quickly, a look forward to the Bucharest Summit itself.  The programme has slightly changed and of course we have some more clarity on the essence of the subjects that are going to be discussed as well.  The Heads of State and Government will arrive in reverse protocol order at the Cotreceni Palace at 18:00.  At 19:00 there will be the working dinner for Heads of State and Government, chaired by the Secretary General as well as a number of other informal gatherings but the main show is the working dinner where we expect, and you can never predict what Heads of State and Government will wish to discuss, but we expect that NATO's operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo and the issues related to enlargement will be the main subjects of-- main topics of discussion.

That discussion will then continue the next morning beginning at 8:30 where you will again have, from 8:30 to 11:15, a meeting at 26 of the Heads of State and Government where, of course, the whole host of issues on the agenda can be discussed from enlargement to operations.  If those discussions spill over, outreach to the western Balkans, defence transformation, if the aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia to move closer to NATO need to be discussed, those would  be discussed, again, either in the evening or the next morning, the morning of the third.  At 11:35 there will be an extraordinary meeting of the NAC with invitees at the level of Heads of State and Government.

In other words, any or all of the countries invited to join NATO would be, in essence, invited to come into the room to sit down next to the Secretary General, not in alphabetical order, because they have not yet formerly joined, but to sit next to the Secretary General and then there will be at 12:35, after the meeting, a press conference with the Secretary General and the Heads of State and Government from any invited country.

At-- sorry, let me just gently point out, though, it is not of the same level of interest that at 10:30 on that day for whoever's coming I will do my own little press conference just to, sort of, get the day going.

EAPC working lunch; working lunch for EAPC Heads of State and Government will take place from 13:10 to 14:50, that is, NATO countries and all of our partners.  No formal agenda for topics of discussion but there are a whole host of security issues relevant, I think, to all of these countries.  Heads of State and Government are, of course, at liberty to raise whatever they wish to raise.

The meeting on Afghanistan-- high-level meeting on Afghanistan which opens at 15:15 will close, technically close, at 17:50 and there will be a press conference at 18:00.  That press conference should be in order that there will be opening statements at the press conference by the Secretary General (Inaudible), President Karzai, and UN Secretary General Ban in that order, and then we will have time for questions.

You know that this meeting, well-- the meeting in and of itself is a demonstration of what we call the comprehensive approach to Afghanistan that this is not simply a military issue, it is very much a comprehensive issue relating to the full spectrum of areas in which there needs to be international support for Afghan efforts and that includes governance, it includes reconstruction and development, and of course, the military aspects, as well.  So it is an illustration of the comprehensive approach and it is a demonstration of high-level, top-level international commitment by the major international organizations: UN, EU, President Baroso will be there, as well as High Representative Solana, the World Bank will be represented at a high level, and of course United Nations at the highest level along with NATO.  Kai Eide will also be there, by the way.

The-- but all the ISAF troop-contributing nations will be present as well, I think almost all of them at the highest political level, so it will be a demonstration of broad, high-level, top-level international commitment to Afghanistan.  There are two major documents being discussed within NATO but also with our partners and that means, as you know, a public vision statement which should set out for the public A, a confirmation of our commitment, B, a reconfirmation of why Heads of State and Government believe that what we are doing as an international community in Afghanistan is important, lay out a vision for the future of that international commitment.  That will be entirely coherent with the political military plan which will be a confidential document which is being developed also right now, which will set out in very specific terms where Allies and Partners believe that-- how we are doing in all the areas where NATO plays a lead or supporting role and where we think over the coming years, where Allies think over the coming years, we should focus our effort to build on the progress and the changes that have taken place over the past years.

As of, I think it's September of this year, ISAF will have been in Afghanistan for five years and so it is only normal that we assess the state of play and see where we, as NATO, can do more; how we can engage more effectively with our partners, and that includes very much, of course, under the leadership of the Afghan government, themselves.

So, press conference at 18:00-- I now say, completely off the record, I have absolutely no confidence that any one of these meetings will end on time but that's-- I'm reading in what it says on the piece of paper.  On Friday, 8:50 there will be opening session of the NATO-Ukraine Commission with President Yushchenko, of course.  The working session will begin at nine; it will end at 10:20.  There will be a 10:25 joint press conference by the Secretary General and the President of Ukraine at the media centre.  At 11:00 there will be the opening session of the NATO-Russia Council which will end at 13:00 and the Secretary General, as the chair of the NATO-Russia Council, will give his press conference at 13:05, followed immediately by President Putin in the media centre.  That is, in essence, the substance and certainly the schedule of the meeting and that is the big show for us, so I'm very happy now to take any questions that you might have on the schedule or on the substance of the meeting.

Pascale is first.

Q:Où en sont pour ce que tu peux en dire les discussions sur les sujets Georgie, Ukraine?  Qu'est-ce que les ambassadeurs ont dit aux Uk… aux Georgiens aujourd'hui par exemple, si on peut le savoir å peu près sur quoi a porté la discussion?  Voilà.

APPATHURAI:  Merci pour les questions.  La première question:  normalement, c'est soixante. L'idée, c'est soixante, à peu près soixante parce qu'on ne sait pas s'ils vont tous venir.  Mais la grande plupart, si ça se dit en français, la plupart, la quasi totalité vont venir.  Alors, on peut dire dans les environs de soixante.  Sur le fond, je ne pourrais pas te dire qu'est-ce que les ambassadeurs sont en train de dire à nos collègues de la Georgie, parce qu'il a lieu en ce moment.  Il y aura des discussions évidemment au sujet des "aspirations", je ne sais pas comment le dire en français "aspirations", les "aspirations" de ces deux pays qui vont continuer, je pense jusqu'à Bucarest.

Well, let's go here, and here, and here.

Q:James, how many invitees do you expect to be present at the meeting on Thursday morning, two or three?

APPATHURAI: It is, well, I'll tell you in my master's thesis in which I spent 18 months analyzing the Maastricht Agreement on European Union I predicted there would never be a single European currency nor a single European armed capability, so my powers of prediction are relatively limited.  And unsurprisingly, it was not made into a bestseller. (Laughter) The short version is I couldn't guess, I am certainly not paid to guess how many invitees there will be.  We certainly have to wait until the Heads of State and Government make their decision.  I'm sorry I'm not trying to obfuscate.

Q:Just a question on the choreography of all this; this meeting with the invitees, that's how it's going to work?  That those who are the lucky one, two, or three will be invited, the others will be told to stand outside like some sort of talent contest, is it?  And, secondly, for the EAPC, are you expecting President Putin to attend that meeting?  And then a quick question on the substance of this, the non-public part of the vision statement on Afghanistan; why is that non-public? I mean, does it have operational details in it which are sensitive and classified for that reason or what are the reasons that you're not making that public?

APPATHURAI: So, three-- to answer the, sort of, Eurovision song contest question first, that has been the choreography through all the previous rounds of enlargement and it is, I think, only normal to recognize the success of an aspirant country by bringing them into the room and having them take a seat at the table.  As I say, not in alphabetical order but as a recognition of the success that they have had in receiving the invitation to join at a certain stage formally in the period to follow.  As to the EAPC, President Putin is invited to the EAPC lunch, I don't know whether he will attend.  As to the documents, I would say the near totality of NATO documents are not made public; it is not our tradition to make all documents public.  And yes, of course it has operational details.  This is very much about specific steps that NATO as an organization will take to meet specific goals in specific periods and this is a document which will be a living document but which does indeed set goals for the Alliance and it will be, as I say, not public.

On the other hand, I don't think you should be too concerned because, as I said, the vision statement, which is a separate document, and it's public, will be entirely coherent with the confidential document which will go into more detail, in essence, more operational detail for day-to-day working purposes.

Well you're there anyway, I think we were-- I don't know where we were going.  Let's go here and then we'll go to Mark and then we'll go there.

Q:James, how many nations are contributing troops to ISAF today?  And my second question is that this public document on Afghanistan, when will it be made public?

APPATHURAI: There are 39 countries contributing to troops to Afghanistan; total number of troops is 47,000 or so as of latest count, of which for those of you who are interested about 17,000 are in the south region-- regional command south, that has gone up from 11,000 and 11 nations in mid 2006 to 17 countries and 17,000 or so troops now.

The-- was that right?  We just need to check that-- yeah? Okay.  I'm hoping I got that right.  The-- we'll just check that, so before you use it, thanks, it's in that report.  I'm sorry, what was your second question?


APPATHURAI: Oh, it should be released around the time of the meeting but it is being -- sorry, about the Afghan meeting on Thursday-- but it is being negotiated as we speak.  If the negotiations drag on then it might be a bit later but our goal is, and I believe we will meet that goal, to release it at the time of the meeting.  Should we go to Wana?

Q:On Georgia and Ukraine, is there any serious discussion of a sort-of halfway house, or sort-of positive signal sort of map?  How much concern is there about the latest pronouncements from President-elect Medvedev on any positive signal to them would destabilize the security architecture in Europe?  And, on the invitee or invitees, there's-- there are signals from Macedonia that, if they don't get invited this time around to any discussion on the name, would stop, how concerned are you about that?

APPATHURAI: Thank you.  On Georgia and Ukraine, until now, there has been, to my knowledge, no discussion of a halfway house.  So, unless I've missed it, it hasn't happened.  Second, on President-elect Medvedev's comments on possible invitations; everyone is aware of the regional context in which the aspirations of Ukraine and Georgia to move closer to NATO are taking place.  Our point of view from this building is that the history of the enlargement process has clearly demonstrated that it contributes to security and to stability throughout Europe and in no case has had the opposite effect and I don't think anyone could demonstrate that it has had the opposite effect.

Finally, NATO is not seeking out new members.  European democracies have the right to make their own defence associations and they have the right, according to NATO's guiding documents, to apply for NATO membership and NATO's door is open to them when they meet NATO's standards and when NATO Allies agree to invite them in.  That process is not open to influence from outside parties.  NATO will make its own decisions.  NATO countries will make their own decisions on enlargement and no outside party will have a veto or a droit de regard, an influence, on that process.

The-- now you're third question, I wrote down some sort of gibberish-- ah yeah.  NATO, as an organization, quite clearly has no role to play in the name discussions.  The NATO point of view is quite clear on the membership aspirations of the three countries, and that is that NATO, and that is all the NATO countries, wish to see those countries invited to join NATO.  That is the principle of the open door.  The name issue is obviously a potential complication but NATO is, as an organization, simply cannot get involved in this discussion.

Let's take it up here.

Q:Yes, for the extraordinary NAC meeting, in fact, I wanted to put the question technically, how many chairs will there be; 26 plus one and then one, two, three, more?  How many chairs have you prepared for the day? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: I can honestly tell you there will be enough chairs. (Laughter)  Yeah, there will be enough chairs.  I think Mark was next and then we'll come back in front.

Q:Yeah, I just wanted to-- I forgot the question on the two documents; on the public vision statement, will that, in any way, reflect or include parts of the benchmarks in that it will be more expanded and elucidated in the political military plan?  And as far as the political military plan goes, should we expect it to yield significant visible changes of NATO's strategy on the ground or is it more in the sense of a continuum of that, reaffirming some of the goals you've been speaking about for some months now?

APPATHURAI: Thank you.  I cannot and I'm really not trying to be deliberately unclear, but I cannot predict now what will be in the vision statement because it is open to a substantial amount of negotiation.  Right now, I have just seen the latest draft.  There are all kinds of open questions and language that is being debated.  It really would be premature for me to even hint as to what will be in it or what will be out-- I would not want to predict that and I have been at this in NATO long enough to know that it really can change right up to the last minute.

We shouldn't see the political military plan as revolution, it will be evolution.  It will reflect the changes that have been wrought in Afghanistan, much of them positive, and not least as a result of the international communities' engagement in Afghanistan.  The situation changes and evolves; in our view it is changing and evolving very much for the positive and if you heard, well you didn't hear, but General Cone's briefing, it was encouraging.

So, the plan will, as I say, take stock of where we are, lay out the groundwork for where we want to go in the coming period as an organization and in cooperation with our partners; you know that many Allies have said in public, as President Sarkozy has said in public, that we wish to move as quickly as possible to a stage at which we can envision transitioning to a situation in which the Afghans, from a security point of view, are taking the lead in a very substantial way and we can play a more supporting role, and that is one of the elements of the political military plan where you will see, I hope, a clearly defined road forward with the necessary resources and, as you say, benchmarks, if that's the word you want to use, attached.  So, it will define clearly, for example in this area, where we want to go, how we wish to do it, and the tools necessary to get there.  That is only one of the many areas in which it will engage.

I think you were next up here.

Q:Yes James, what is the message that the Secretary General wishes to convey to Mr. Putin in Bucharest?

APPATHURAI: Well, I think I'm going to have to let the Secretary General speak for himself but I don't think we should see-- let me start again, I don’t think we should see this meeting as a meeting where the Secretary General is conveying a message to President Putin or vice versa.  This is a NATO-Russia Council meeting; it sits at 27, not at 26 plus one.  The Secretary General chairs the meeting; he does not speak for the NATO Allies in this context.  They will wish to discuss a whole host of issues, and you have read about many of them in the press including stepping up our cooperation when it comes to counter-narcotics with regard to Afghanistan and a whole host of other areas.

There are a number of issues on which NATO and Russia don't yet see fully eye to eye.  You know what they are.  And so, I'm quite sure those will all be brought to the table as well, but I don't think we should see this meeting, because it is not seen in that context here, as a method at which we deliver messages to each other.  I hope it will be an opportunity to clear the air on some contentious issues but certainly to lay a good foundation for stronger progress in the future, for stronger cooperation in the future.

Q:Yeah, on the Macedonian name issue, a week, ten days ago there was some chatter about a possible special meeting of foreign ministers, possibly on the sidelines of the EU meeting in Slovenia this weekend to knock this on the head.  Is that still a possibility or was it ever?  And on a side issue, for Bucharest, is this the meeting that will formalize the decision to locate the cyber defence centre in Tallinn or has that decision already been made?

APPATHURAI: To answer the first question, I am not aware of a special foreign minister's meeting on the margins of anything with regard to this, it may well be happening,  but it certainly isn't a NATO meeting and I'm not aware of it.  I don't know, Eric, if you've heard of this?  No? No?  Okay.

As to the second, I don't know the answer to that question either, but Robert will know the answer to that question-- but he wasn't listening.  (Laughter) Will Bucharest formalize a cyber defence centre in Estonia?  It's going on background now, folks.

ROBERT: It's part of the package, if you like, but, I mean, we're talking about the centre, which is in a way in (inaudible), and if you want to be very precise, there'll be a certain moment, I think probably more likely in the second half of the year which it will reach a full operational capacity.  But it's, as I say, I stress it's part of the various elements of the cyber defence policy and programme we hope very much will be fully blessed by the Heads of State, so, but there will be a special briefing tomorrow.

APPATHURAI: Yes, that's a good point.  We will have a special briefing on cyber defence tomorrow.  I think there was someone up here.  We'll go here and then here.

Q:A technical question on the invitations, I mean, will the Secretary General formally declare, I mean, which country or countries have been invited or we have to count the chairs in the room and secondly, will there be anything on the NATO Response Force at the summit? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: To answer the first question, you will certainly know at the press conference, I'm sure it will leak before then but you'll certainly know at the press conference which countries have received invitations.  On the NATO Response Force, there will be interventions on defence transformation.  I know at least one Head of State and Government intends fully to raise this but I'm sure he won't be alone.  That being said, this is not a defence ministers meeting.  I don't expect, to be frank, hours of discussion on the NATO Response Force.  There will be, I think, a general discussion on NATO transformation with regards to, for example, making sure there's necessary investment in defence, on cyber defence, I think very much on missile defence that it will certainly be raised at a certain stage; I believe in the morning of the second day, or the first full day, of the meeting.  So there will be a broad discussion of defence transformation in which the NRF may well come up.


Q:  James, this is-- over the weekend I was-- one diplomat, not to be quoted, said that most of the countries NATO is inviting to join are the former Warsaw-backed countries, and Russia is also a former Warsaw-backed country.  So, has there been any invitation to join NATO for Russia or from the Russians because there is no front where Russians and NATO are going to fight, they say?  And, he or she was very enthusiastic about knowing if there has been any talk on the subject.


Q:James, if one or more countries are in fact to join NATO, what is the time schedule from then on for that membership programme?

APPATHURAI: There are a couple of key steps.  One is the ratification process, and that is the deposit of the agreed ratifications with the depository state which is the United States Washington Treaty holder.  We would hope that the ratification process could move forward as quickly as possible, that is the expectation that could be measured in months and not years.  But I would not want, obviously, to put a timeline on it, it is dependent on 26 parliaments and it's very hard to predict when that would happen.  But certainly, we would be-- we would anticipate that governments would move very quickly to the ratification process.  That's the most I can say, really.

Q:Being a Dane, I'm quite interested in this NATO TV.  I would like to ask you, do you foresee, like, daily news on this channel or how often will news be put in on this? And another question about Afghanistan, can you in any way confirm or explain to us if you know if there will be any new contributions on troops on the summit?

APPATHURAI: To start with, the genesis of this issue was, and I think I've already mentioned it, the Danish Government recognized that NATO was not nearly up to speed when it came to the capability to develop, to gather, to edit, and to market video on NATO operations and stepped forward, alone in essence, to take the lead in creating a capability for NATO and funding it and financing it.  We have participated in the design and to some extent in providing the resources but they have really carried the ball on their backs on this and have presented, in essence, to NATO and in cooperation with my service a really excellent product, and as I described to you how it is being structured, we will populate the NATO TV channel with updates as frequently as we can.  It will not just be first to say current events.

We will also have, by the time of launch, as much of the archive of NATO video and audio already populating the website up to and including the weekly video blogs, archival material, etc.  And then, we will have a number of stories coming in every week, and I say it's daily, I don't know, but I could easily predict based on what I have already heard this morning that you would have ten plus news stories on that website every week which would be, as I say, one for your regular user and then a version which any TV station could draw on to use for their own daily broadcasts and we will certainly continue to populate that, that is a goal.

Q:  (Inaudible)… directly accessible by the public?

APPATHURAI: Yes, it will all be directly accessible to the public in an accessible-to-the-public format and then for media there will be a separate access point only for them and they will have dedicated access-- password access to it where they can go and download it in broadcast quality for news purposes.

Go back there.

Q:Pakistan is very key country to peace in Afghanistan but Pakistan has not been invited.  Is there any specific reason for that?

APPATHURAI: A, NATO-- there is no doubt that NATO recognizes the importance of our partnership with Pakistan, as does the Afghan government, that is why we have very formal structures, like the tripartite commission.  That being said, the countries that have been invited-- the countries that have been invited to the meeting are troop-contributing nations and major donors like Japan that is contributing some 20 million Euros per year to the NATO Provincial Reconstruction Teams.  So, we have restricted it very much to the directly-- the countries that are directly contributing within Afghanistan to the ISAF mission.  So there is no exclusion of Pakistan for any other reason than that, but have no doubt that we have very profound and daily contacts, of course, with the Pakistani government in its many forms.

We have to come here and then I have to come up.

Q:James, can you please say a few words about the agenda for NATO-Ukraine Commission?

APPATHURAI: The NATO-Ukraine Commission, I think, in essence, will focus on two things.  One will be the state of our practical cooperation and Ukraine's reform efforts.  You know that those have, in essence, restarted and that is something that has been welcomed already by the NATO Allies because there was a certain interregnum where they were not moving as quickly as they might have.  Now that period has ended and that's very good and NATO Allies will wish to continue to support the reform efforts within Ukraine, of course, according to Ukraine's priorities.

The second element will be, without a doubt, Ukraine's aspirations to move closer to NATO.  Allies will, I'm very sure, listen to what President Yushchenko has to say on this subject and will share their views, but I cannot predict what it is that they will say.

Let's go back there, we'll come up.

Q:Also on Ukraine, I just want to-- you said you haven't heard any discussion about any kind of halfway house; are you saying that the choice is MAP or the status quo, there's nothing else on the table?  And secondly, just practically, when do you expect the public announcement of the decision on MAP to be made or which stage of the proceedings would you expect that to come through and I think also you forgot my Danish colleague's question about the troop contributions to ISAF that you're expecting in Bucharest.

APPATHURAI: Sorry, back on the-- yeah, I did forget that.  To answer that question first; 11 countries, this is not new announcements but 11 countries have already announced increases for 2008 and I can provide you with a list, I don't have it-- I might even have it, no I don't have it right in front of me.  But, 11 countries have already announced increases; will there be more announcements around the Bucharest Summit?  I could not guarantee it but I would not be surprised, let's put it that way.

What I have said, very clearly I think, was I have not heard until now discussion of a halfway house.  Does that mean that there could not be further discussions between now and the summit, I do not know.  I do not know-- I really cannot predict what form or how this discussion will finish.  So I don't want to rule anything out or rule anything in, this discussion is very much alive, it is alive at the highest level and I cannot predict where it will go.

The public announcement you raised, was it on-- it was on what subject?  On the MAP-- exactly when will they--

Q:At which point-- will it be after the NUC or will it be before then, when do you expect the decision to be made and to be announced?

APPATHURAI: Hang on a sec--  you mean after the NAC with the invitees--  after the NAC meeting but before the MAP meeting with them?  Let me get back to you, I want to check on that, because I have not heard-- I have not seen the formal choreography, so we'll check on it and let you know.

I think there was someone I had ignored, there, for quite a while, and then back and then we'll come around…

Q:Yes, James, you told us that it's not a meeting of the defence ministers but I think that some defence ministers will go first and then could we expect some progress concerning capabilities which were addressed in Prague years ago?

APPATHURAI: There will be a working dinner, an informal working dinner, by NATO Ministers of Defence, chaired by the Romanian Minister of Defence.  Informal working dinner meetings, they are not expected to take concrete decisions.  Will they take forward their discussions on all these issues?  I am quite sure that they will talk about very specific issues, for example, helicopter provision-- not just for Afghanistan but for-- and not just for NATO but for the Euro-Atlantic community.  How do we do better at providing helicopters?  C17s, maybe.  There is no formal agenda; this is the essence of the (Inaudible)…

So it could all be discussed, there's no formal agenda and they're not expected to take concrete decisions but I do know, for example, that helicopters will be on the discussion-- on the agenda.  I would not be surprised if missile defence was also something ministers of defence wish to address and I would not be surprised if the C17 issue also was something they wished to address.  That being said, C17s are moving forward, as you understand-- as I've read in the press yesterday, Finland has announced that it wishes to buy 100 hours also.  So this is not a particular bone of contention but I can't exclude that it would be raised.

There and then there.

Q:James, I would like to clarify these many vague statements about stability and security when Ukraine and Georgia will find that-- sign the Membership Action Plan, can you tell us the point of view of NATO?  Georgia has to self-proclaimed and (inaudible) organized states inside its national borders?  So, do you think that the signing of Membership Action Plan and possible entry of Georgia to NATO will help to solve this frozen conflict that's on its stairs?  Thank you.

APPATHURAI: First, let me say, NATO's position on Georgia's territorial integrity is very clear, and that is that the NATO Allies firmly support Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Second, we have not, as an Alliance, linked NATO membership with -- or linked Georgia's aspirations to come closer to NATO with the resolution of these frozen conflicts, as you call them.  They are being dealt with by other international bodies, in particular, the OSCE and the leadership in resolving those issues should rest, from the NATO point of view, with them, OSCE, UN, and not with NATO.

I think we'll go here and then here and I think we'll be done.

Q:James, in one of the previous press conferences this issue of Pakistan not being invited was raised and later I read in Pakistani media that said because they are contributing with blood instead of money they are not being invited.  Isn't it a very strategic issue and not to be invited and for the new government coming in and the problems they're going to face?

APPATHURAI: There are-- there is no doubt of the importance of Pakistan's contribution to solving the problems of instability in the region from which Pakistan suffers as much as Afghanistan on different sides of the line.  But, the criteria which we, as an Alliance, have followed for invitations to the meeting are quite well defined.  There are a number of important countries making important contributions to the operation in different ways but that are not contributing troops and they are also not invited; contributing troops to the ISAF mission, let me be very clear.

So, as I say, no one is, in any way, diminishing the importance of what Pakistan has done and what Pakistan must do in cooperation with us and what we must do in cooperation with Pakistan to address this issue, but the criteria for invitations are very well defined.  Let me make one final point which I already made to your colleague, we should not ignore the very profound military-to-military cooperation, the high-level political engagement that the Secretary General has made with Pakistan, will continue to make I am quite sure with the new government as well as quickly as possible.

Yeah, okay, I'm running a bit out of time so let's go to these two and then I'm going to have to go, sorry.

Q:Let me ask you, where is missile defence exactly going to be discussed.  Is that only going to be discussed by the ministers of defence or also by the Heads of State, and how is that discussion going to be?  Is it just going to be a briefing from the side of the US or maybe the Czechs and the Polish, or is some kind of endorsement expected?  And a second question, we understand that President Bush is going to meet with President Putin before the summit somewhere on the Black Sea.  Could it be that any decision on MAP is only going to happen after these discussions?

APPATHURAI: I am not aware of any meetings between those two presidents, so I can't comment on it.  Missile defence I fully expect to be discussed by Heads of State and Government most likely on the first full morning, so in the formal NAC session on the Thursday morning.

Last question.

Q:  James, est-ce que l'Ousbékistan fournit des soldats en Afghanistan?  Parce que tu viens de dire qu'on invite, bon... Mais alors, il paraît que le président de l'Ousbékistan vient.  Alors, il y a une contradiction avec ce que tu as dit sur le Pakistan ou est-ce que je me trompe?  Je me trompe bien sûr.

APPATHURAI:  Il vient pour la réunion de EAPC, le lunch.  Mais je doute fort qu'il soit...  No, they are not.  I am...  it's confirmed.  They are not coming to the ISAF meeting.