Press conference

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer following the NATO Defence Ministers' working luch and meeting of NATO-Russia Council at the level of Defence Ministers

  • 13 Jun. 2008 - 13 Jun. 2008
  • |
  • Last updated: 19 Aug. 2008 12:39

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General will update you on last night's meeting, this morning's meetings and then we'll have time for questions. Secretary General.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): Good afternoon. To all of you let me, as James was saying, address two issues. Last night the working dinner the Ministers had, the NATO Ministers had. I briefed you yesterday already on the KFOR session. With our partners we continued the discussion on Kosovo and on KFOR over dinner, where Ministers, of course, exchanged views, first of all on the evolving political situation. But I gave you basically the elements last night, so if you want to know more you can bring that up in the Q&A.

We then turned to Afghanistan and we assessed progress in implementing the political military plan that was agreed by Heads of State and Government in Bucharest. I gave Ministers an update under my responsibility on the plan.

I would say that if I analyze or assess the present state of play my two key words would be encouraging, but not entirely satisfactory. We've had some real successes. First of all, we have more forces on the ground in Afghanistan. The total number is now close to 53,000.

Afghan capacity is increasing quickly. For example, almost 100 percent of military operations in the east now involve Afghan forces. And we're looking forward to Afghan forces taking the lead security responsibility in Kabul city in just a few months. You remember that this is what President Karzai announced at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in the beginning of April.

I think we're doing much better now in coordination between international organizations, thanks in no small part to Ambassador Kai Eide, the SRSG in Kabul and the head of UNAMA.  I think he's doing a great job. Not an easy one, in getting all his friends of the international community together, but I think he's doing very well indeed.

But I say encouraging, but not entirely satisfactory, because I think in some areas more can and should be done.

First, we need many more training teams, in our jargon OMLTs, Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams, training teams, for the Afghan National Army.

By the way police mentoring teams are also in short supply.

I think we must pay more attention to the regional relationship and of course, more specifically in the framework of our relations with Pakistan. Pakistan, as I said yesterday, must be part of the solution to a more stable region including on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border or boundary, whatever you prefer. We're looking at how to maximize what NATO can do to support the counter-narcotics effort. You know we are in a supporting role there. We might see what more we can do.

So there's still something to improve, something in areas where we can do better than we are doing. We also look forward to future roles including supporting the Afghan authorities in providing a safe and secure environment for the elections. You know presidential elections are coming up in 2009 and parliamentary elections in 2010.

One theme resonated clearly around the table yesterday night and that was the need for our Afghan partners to do more to fight corruption, to tackle narcotics and to improve governance, a theme I also heard when I attended part of the Afghanistan conference in Paris earlier yesterday.

The more that happens, the more the Afghan government will be able to deliver, the more the Afghan people, I think, will get off the fence and back their government, and that is, of course, key in defeating this insurgency.

So that, in brief, was the dinner last night. This morning, as you know, we turned our attention to transformation, where we discussed a few things to do in the sense that this meeting this morning, the meeting I think Secretary of Defence Des Browne announced the meeting we'll have in London in September, which will be a very informal one and an unscripted one and then the meeting in Budapest in October. And if you want a complete picture, a meeting in Krakow, in Poland in the spring in February next year.

We have to, through those meetings, provide the building blocks for what will finally, and hopefully happen, at the Summit meeting in Strasbourg and Kehl next spring.

For example, if we discuss transformation what are we talking about? Doing better on helicopters. May I mention the U.K.-French initiative for the training of helicopter crew, the upgrading of helicopters. But more in general seeing that we do better in providing the helicopters.

May I mention cyber defence? May I mention Alliance Ground Surveillance, where we are moving closer to a decision on the cost shares and on the basing, as far as AGS is concerned. 

Missile defence has been mentioned, of course, in the follow-up on the decision-making process in Bucharest. Defence spending. You know my mantra. Only six of the allies meet the informal, admittedly informal, two percent GDP benchmark. Only half of the allies make the 20 percent they should spend on new equipment.

We have an ongoing discussion on a certain worry I have voiced earlier on, the filling grade, if I may use that word, of the NATO Response Force. I think we should do better there as well.

It was a good discussion today. I can't say that all subjects discussed came already to a conclusion. We also are, as you know, in the process of modernizing, improving our defence planning and force planning procedures. A difficult, difficult and complicated and complex issues, but nevertheless, it should be taken forward as well.

So under the heading of defence transformation a host of issues has been discussed and we'll continue to do that in London, in Budapest and in Krakow. 

Let me finally turn to the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council which just finished. The discussion, as usual, was an open one. It was a clear exchange of views between the 27.

The bottom line, as you've heard me say before, is this, allies and Russia, still have distance from each other on the well-known issues -- NATO enlargement, the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, missile defence, Kosovo, Georgia. So there are not few issues on which we do not see eye to eye. But we use the NRC to discuss these, and we use the NRC, of course, also, to analyze and make an inventory of the many forms of practical cooperation we have.

Let me mention Afghanistan, Russia support to ISAF, including the land-transit agreement. We are working on an air transport deal in this regard. We have, on the basis of a discussion in Bucharest, stepped up our counter-narcotics training programme. Russia continues, a very important point, to participate in NATO's naval anti-terrorist Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean. A third Russian ship now is being prepared to deploy in the Med at the end of summer.

Defence and military cooperation is gathering pace. May I mention Russian contribution to various exercises. For example, on search and rescue, our cooperation in the sphere of theatre missile defence, the counterterrorist threats to civil aviation, logistics. In other words, there is a broad area where we have seen successes, and we are seeing successes in our practical cooperation. But let's not forget the NRC is also for discussing the more tough issues. This was, of course, a NATO-Russia Council in Defence Ministers session. We'll have, without any doubt, another one soon in Foreign Ministers session.

So I'm happy to report finally that in the NRC Ministers endorsed the NATO-Russia Council long-term vision for defence and military cooperation, which is primarily a list of objectives and mechanisms for meeting them, and an important foundation to guide our joint efforts in the next decade and a half, because it stretches over 15 years.

So an open and frank dialogue, but also, I think, pragmatic and certainly constructive.

Let me leave it here and invite you for your comments and questions.

APPATHURAI: First question's Chris.

Q: Chris Dickson, European Diplomacy Defence. Secretary General, if I remember rightly in Vilnius one of the issues in the NRC was notification by the Russians of any flights, exercises, manoeuvres, in international waters. There's no obligation, this was a courtesy that was asked by NATO to Russia. Have they been doing this? I understand there were some disputed flights in several areas over Estonia or maybe not. Regardless of the obligations of the Russians, have they been notifying you as you requested, of their manoeuvres in international... over international waters?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I have... I can't answer that. I have recently not heard about or read about any incidents in this regard. There is from time to time... there are intrusions as far as air space is concerned, but I have not... no information, or recent information anyway, about serious infringements, as we speak. 

APPATHURAI: The next question is back there. Pascal.

Q:  Monsieur le Secrétaire général, en ce qui concerne la Russie, bien sûr, vous allez nous répondre que vous n'êtes pas là pour parler à la place de M. Serdyukov..  Mais est-ce qu'il y a eu des discussions particulièrement tendues sur le Kosovo au lendemain de la double... enfin de l'annonce par l'ONU, d'un côté, que la présence internationale allait être reconfigurée, et de l'autre l'OTAN allait soutenir la création d'une force de sécurité civile. 

Et ma deuxième question est la suivante.  En ce qui concerne la police, est-ce que... ?  Je sais que c'est une question que l'on vous pose souvent.  Mais est-ce que vous pouvez garantir que...?  On demande de plus en plus de policiers et de formateurs de police pour l'Afghanistan.  Pouvez-vous garantir que leur sécurité sera assurée en dépit de l'absence d'accords persistants entre l'OTAN et l'Union européenne?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:   D'abord sur la police en Afghanistan.  On apprécie bien sûr les efforts de la part de l'Union européenne.  J'ai relevé la question des polices, plus que les aspects formatifs-formateurs de police.  Parce qu'il nous manque... il nous manque des équipes de formation quant à la police.

Sur votre question plus en général concernant la relation entre la FIAS en Afghanistan et la police, on a les arrangements sur le terrain qui, à mon avis, sur la base que j'ai entendue et que j'ai lue, fonctionnent bien.  Sur le Kosovo, on n'a pas relevé le Kosovo, ni pendant mon entretien bilatéral avec le ministre Serdyukov, ni au Conseil OTAN-Russie.  C'est bien sûr une discussion qui, d'abord, comme vous venez de dire est une discussion pour le plan politique plus que sur le plan de la défense.  C'est relativement tôt après la lettre du Secrétaire général Ban Ki-Moon hier.  Alors, pendant la réunion du Conseil OTAN-Russie le sujet de Kosovo n'a pas été relevé. 

Q: Mark John from Reuters. Secretary General, what can you tell us about discussions on the necessary backfill of the U.S. marines that will be leaving Afghanistan around October/November? And specifically, to replace the work that they're doing in Helmand at this moment?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I have no complete indications as yet about backfilling. You have to realize, a bit technical, but nevertheless, that those marines, the so-called 24th MEU, Marine Expeditionary Unit, was not generated against the CJSOR, so in the Combined Joint Statement of Requirements, was not the need for the 24 MEU. Nevertheless, it has helped a lot and is helping a lot and those marines are doing excellent work in the southern part of Afghanistan.

So my formal answer would be that if you use the word backfill there is no need to backfill that 24 MEU, because backfilling would be necessary if it would have been generated against the CJSOR.

Nevertheless, but it was not discussed in detail this morning, your question is a relevant one, but I cannot be more specific than I am at this moment. Formally, there's no need for a backfill in the material sense. I would like to see that when the 24 MEU will depart Afghanistan that we'll find a way of following up on their good work.

APPATHURAI: Back there, BBC.

Q: Rob Watson from the BBC. I noticed you singled out the theme... I noticed that was a theme that people had said that the Afghan government could do more. I'm wondering to what extent this indicates a growing frustration with the Afghan government, and more specifically, the talk of Afghan partners needing to do more, I mean, what exactly does that mean? Does it mean Karzai needs to fire people who are corrupt? Does it mean that he needs to stop doing deals with warlords? What exactly does a better effort from your Afghan partners mean?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, let me start by saying that I do now share... but that's analysis. I would never use, and there's no reason to use the word frustration, because there is no frustration. There is a very good relationship between certainly NATO. I cannot speak on behalf of other members. But I know since Paris yesterday that that is also relevant for other members.

There is, of course, a good relationship between the Afghan government and the international community. But it is important that apart from the activities from ISAF, NATO, European Union, G8, other donors, I can't speak on their behalf. It is important in Afghanistan that the other side of the medal, which is the fight against corruption and the bringing about the rule of law, is also taken very seriously and that is a message which clearly came out of the conference as far as I read about the results yesterday.

And that is a message which is also relevant for NATO. It is relevant for NATO that more gets done to fight corruption and more is being done as far as the rule of law is concerned.

I mean, finally, let me repeat, you know my opinion that the final answer in Afghanistan is not a military one. I mean, we are creating conditions for the development of a secure and stable environment, but that secure and stable environment needs the rule of law and needs to fight against corruption and needs to fight against narcotics.

And in that regard, I repeat, NATO all by itself, and ISAF all by itself, will not make the difference in this regard, but no frustration, definitely no.

APPATHURAI: Here in front.

Q: The Pravo Daily Newspaper, the Czech Republic. Mr. Secretary General, did the Ministers narrow the options or alternatives for the NATO missile defence shield? In preparation...

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No, they did not. They did not because it was not discussed in this detail. We are working on the results of the Bucharest Summit and this meeting comes too early after Bucharest to go into that kind of detail.

But at the same time, in this house, and elsewhere, the relevant committees are working on answering the question you raise. But it has not... that has not reached the political level yet.

APPATHURAI: We have time for one more. Yes.

Q: Oui, Monsieur le Secrétaire général (INAUDIBLE).  Hier, vous avez rencontré M. Ban Ki-Moon.  Vu le changement de situation au Kosovo, quel est le rôle?  Qu'est-ce qui est décidé pour le rôle de l'OTAN là-bas avec ce changement?  Et est-ce que vous abordé avec le ministre russe la proposition du président Medvedev de faire un sommet européen pour parler de la sécurité de l'Europe.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER:  Sur le dernier point, non.  Ma réponse serait non.  Je crois qu'il est important d'abord de savoir ce que le président Medvedev, quelles sont ses ambitions quand il dit "un nouvel concept stratégique" je ne suis pas d'accord avec lui. Je l'ai dit déjà publiquement quand à quel part de ses propositions seraient... l'OTAN est finie.  Le contraire est vrai.  Parce qu'il a...  Ces remarques... Il a lié avec des remarques critiques... des critiques sur l'OTAN.  Ces remarques ne sont pas justifiées.  Je ne les partage pas du tout. Mais je n'ai pas des informations sur les détails des propositions de la part du président Medvedev.  Il a dit un nouveau concept, mais qu'est-ce que ça veut dire exactement?  Je ne sais pas, je ne sais pas les détails. 

À la... Quant à la Kosovo, comme je l'ai dit hier, le rôle de la KFOR ne changera pas parce qu'on a 1244, la résolution, et la 1244 ne changera pas jusqu'à le Conseil de sécurité des Nations-Unies décidera sur une autre résolution.  La différence, c'est bien comme j'ai indiqué hier que l'OTAN va prendre, je dois dire, les responsabilités dans le cadre de nouvelles tâches pour la structure de sécurité, pour the Kosovo Security Force.  Ce n'est pas une armée; c'est une force de sécurité pour la formation, l'entraînement d'une force.  Alors, mais pour le fond, pour la KFOR, rien ne change parce qu'on a 1244.  Et si vous lisez les lettres du Secrétaire-général Ban Ki-Moon des Nations-Unies, il est d'accord avec moi.  La KFOR est là et la KFOR restera là. 

APPATHURAI: That's all we have time for.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Merci beaucoup.