Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Portugal, Rui Machete

  • 27 Apr. 2015 -
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  • Last updated: 28 Apr. 2015 12:23

JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General):  Thank you so much, Minister Machete.  And thank you for the warm welcome.  I appreciate very much this opportunity to visit Portugal and to meet with you. 

This is my first visit to Portugal as Secretary General of NATO.  And I would like to start by commending Portugal for being a staunch Ally; and also commending you for the way you are contributing to the collective defence of our Alliance.  

You contribute with the troops to our missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan.  You've done that in an excellent way for many years.  But you're also contributing to the enforcement of our collective defence in the Eastern part of Europe by providing troops, ships, but also airplanes to increase the air policing in the Eastern part of our Alliance.  This is important and this is something we highly value and very much appreciate.  

And it is important because we all face a new security environment.  We face a security environment where we see a more assertive Russia using force to change borders; to annex a part of another country as they have done in Ukraine by annexing Crimea. And this is the first time since the end of the Second World War that one country in Europe annexed a part of another country. And therefore this is something which requires a very firm and strong response from NATO. 

At the same time, we see increased turmoil, violence, extremism to the South of our Alliance, in the Middle East, in Iraq, Syria, close to or at the border of NATO Ally Turkey; but also in Northern Africa close to NATO countries in South Europe. So this is a new security environment... And the recent loss of life in the Mediterranean Sea is a tragic consequence of this instability we see. 

This is a human tragedy and we agree we have to be united in tackling this crisis.  It is a huge international challenge which demands a comprehensive response. And I welcome the decisions made by EU leaders; there is no simple solution to problems posed by migration.  It is about addressing the root causes and the instability in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. 

NATO is playing its part by assisting partners to build more stability. And we discussed during our meeting how we can contribute to that. This is why we will continue to work closely with partners to keep our neighbourhood stable. 

We're also responding to the behaviour of a more assertive Russia in the East.  We are doing so by doubling the size of the NATO Response Force from 13,000 to 30,000.  And the centrepiece of this new NATO Response Force is a Spearhead Force of which the lead elements are able to move within as little as 48 hours. 

And again Portugal is contributing to this reinforcement of our collective defence.  You're going to be part of the Spearhead Force in 2016. And you are hosting the Trident Juncture Exercise this year, which is the biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War. And it's actually also an exercise where we are exercising the new NATO Response Force. 

So this is a strong signal of NATO’s solidarity.  It is a strong example of how Portugal contributes.  And I welcome and thank you for your contribution.  And it underlines that NATO is able to defend all Allies against any threat. And that is the core message which NATO is built on, since it was founded in 1949. 

So Minister, I look forward to continue to cooperate with Portugal. And I thank you for your contributions. And I thank you for being such a staunch Ally in the Alliance.  Thank you.

RUI MACHETE (Minister of State and Foreign Affairs of Portugal):  Thank you very much.

Q: Mister Stoltenberg, good morning, ARTV(?), from Portugal.  NATO has got its own mission for the past 14 years, Active Endeavour Mission acting against  terrorism within the Mediterranean.  A lot of different people, yourself included, just now, have been defending the fact that the European Union members and also the NATO membership should have... should help the countries from where the migrants are coming from, especially Northern African countries.  How should that help?  And why shouldn't this mission be also a part of that work of helping those countries, specifically how should the European countries help those countries preventing the migrants getting into the Mediterranean?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  First of all, this is a human tragedy. And I welcome what the European Union has decided to do both to increase their presence at sea to help people in distress; but also to do more to counter the human trafficking which is actually the main problem now that people are smuggling and organizing the illegal traffic across the Mediterranean and earning money on that.

There are different roles.  The European Union is working on border controls, immigration policies.  What NATO does is that we help stabilizing countries in the region.  And I think we have to remember that this is not only about North Africa.  We know that many of the people who cross the Mediterranean are people coming from as far as Asia, Afghanistan, the Middle East. 

So what NATO is doing to try to, for instance, to stabilize Afghanistan where we have had a big operation for many, many years; and where we'll continue to support Afghanistan to stabilize that country is one element in a broad approach to try to do something with the causes of the refugee problems we see in the Mediterranean. 

We work with Jordan.  Jordan is a key country in the Middle East.  It is an island of stability in a sea of instability.  We have defence capacity building.  We help them with training, with the institution building to make sure that Jordan also in the future can contribute to stabilizing not only their own country but the whole region. 

We are now assessing an request from Iraq on how we can help Iraq stabilize, reform, build institutions, train, advise; so we can help Iraq become a more stable country. And we stand ready to do also defence capacity-building cooperation with Libya when the security situation allows.

And then I would like to also remind you on the fact that all the countries in North Africa, except for Libya, are partner countries of NATO.  And we work with them to help them to stabilize. And I would like NATO to do more of this.  Because I think that the idea of projecting stability without always deploying large number of forces is one key element to addressing the big challenges we see in North Africa and the Middle East.

Q:  Thank you very much.    Mister Stoltenberg, (INAUDIBLE).  Two-prong question: First was Iraq... a question such as everything today... Portuguese mission?  And the second one, there, (INAUDIBLE) practice.  And after the sensitive situation in these, NATO prepared to somehow compensate (INAUDIBLE)?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  First, on Iraq, yes we discussed Iraq.  All NATO Allies contribute in one way or another to the broad coalition fighting ISIL.  Some take part in the air strikes.  Some contribute in other ways.  And I also commend Portugal for contributing to the fight against ISIL.  And I think that it just... that it just underlines that Portugal in so many different ways is contributing to international stability and security. 

NATO is now accessing a request from the Government of Iraq, as I said, related to how we can do defence capacity-building, help, support, train, advise Iraq so they can take more responsibility for their own security.  If they are more stable, we are more secure. That's the idea with we are considering to do together with the Government of Iraq. 

And when it comes to the base, the US base which is now going to be closed... I have to underline that I understand that this creates problems for the people that work at the base and for the community. 

At the same time, this is a bilateral issue between Portugal and the United States. This is not a NATO base.  So it's not an issue which has been discussed or decided in NATO; because this is outside the NATO framework.  This is a bilateral arrangement between the United States and Portugal.

Q:  This is...


Q:  Anna Rodriguez from the Radio Renascença(?).  You talked about East Europe. Can Portugal be sending troops to Romania? How can you describe this mission in the East Europe?  And do you fear a spring offensive by the pro-Russians troops... forces?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  The reason why NATO has decided to increase our military presence in the Eastern part of Europe, so going from the three Baltic countries, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, is that NATO has to always provide credible deterrence. 

The main responsibility of NATO is to protect and defend all Allies against any threats. And we need credible deterrence to make sure that no one believes that it's possible to attack an Ally without a full response of the whole Alliance. And an attack on one Ally is an attack on twenty-eight. 

And since we have seen increased tensions... since we have seen increased Russian willingness to use force in Ukraine; but also before that in Georgia, in Moldova.  And since we have seen also increased Russian military activity in the air, more exercises, more snap exercises, we found it right to increase our presence. And Portugal has been and is an important part of that. You have provided ships to our naval presence.  You're going to provide the flagship or the command ship to our standing naval group this year.

And you are going to provide four F-16 aircraft to air policing in the Southern part of the Eastern part of the Alliance.  This is important. Those aircrafts are doing intercepts of Russian planes who are flying close to NATO airspace.  And it's showing that NATO is vigilant; that we are able and ready to respond. And you also have ground troops in Lithuania. And I also welcome that.

When it comes to the situation in Ukraine, I think the important thing now is to underline the importance of respecting the Minsk Agreement. The Minsk Agreement is the best possible foundation for a peaceful negotiated political solution to the crisis in Eastern Ukraine. 

And therefore we had to support it. The problem is that we see violations of the ceasefire. And we see violations of the Minsk Agreement.  And therefore, I call on both parties to implement the Minsk Accord in full; to withdraw heavy weapons; and to respect the ceasefire. And perhaps the most important thing to make this happen is to allow the monitors full access so they can monitor the ceasefire. 

What we have seen is that Russia has increased their support for the separatists.  They have provided about 1,000 pieces of heavy equipment, air defences, artillery as I said, tanks; and also advanced training which has given the separatists a capacity of launching new offences with very little warning time.  This is of course of concern.  They have the capacity. And then it just underlines the importance of doing whatever we can to support a full implementation of the Minsk Accord.