by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the start of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs
Today and tomorrow, the Foreign Ministers of NATO will address key issues for our security. And set the stage for the Warsaw Summit in July.
Today, we will start by taking a historic step.
We will sign the Accession Protocol with Montenegro. As of today, Montenegro will have a seat at NATO’s table. Taking part in all our meetings as an observer.
We will then focus on one of the Summit’s main themes: how best to project stability beyond our borders.
Because we know that when our neighbours are more stable, we are more secure.
We will consider further training support for Iraq;
Look at expanding our maritime security role in the Mediterranean;
And assess possible support for Libya.
This evening, we will review the state of our relations with Russia, and our assistance to our eastern neighbours.
Our policy is clear.
The two pillars of our engagement with Russia are defence and dialogue. Especially in times of tension, it is important to keep lines of dialogue open, and seek more transparency.
Tomorrow, we will discuss how to take relations between NATO and the European Union to a new level at our Summit in Warsaw.
This could include three points.
A joint statement expressing our will to work even more closely together on hybrid threats, maritime and cyber cooperation; Playbooks to clarify in advance who does what in case one of our nations suffers a hybrid attack. And linked exercises to practice that coordination.
We will conclude tomorrow with a meeting on Afghanistan.
We will discuss our continued commitment to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces. And to sustain them financially through 2020.
Our discussion will be important and it will be a stepping-stone for our Warsaw Summit in July.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.
Oana Lungescu: ZDF, over there.
Question: How likely is that NATO mission in the Aegean Sea will be extended towards the South, towards Libya for example?
Jens Stoltenberg: Our presence, the NATO presence in the Aegean Sea, has helped to cut the line of the illegal smuggling and it is a part of broader international effort. And the latest figures indicate 90 percent reduction in daily arrivals. And what NATO has done is that we have provided surveillance, reconnaissance, sharing information real time with the Greek coastguard and the Turkish coastguard, with Frontex, and thereby helped them take action. And the NATO presence in the Aegean has also been important because it has provided an additional platform for enhanced cooperation between Turkey and Greece, and European Union. This has been important for the success of our joint efforts in the Aegean. We are now looking into what more we can do, also in the central parts of the Mediterranean. And we are looking into process of transforming our existing Active Endeavor Mission in the Mediterranean into broader maritime security operation. We will take the necessary decisions, enabling NATO to have the mandate to conduct different tasks in the Mediterranean, like surveillance, like interdiction, like counter-terror, and also assisting the EU operation in the Mediterranean, Sophia. So we are now in close dialogue with the European Union. I discussed this possible enhanced NATO presence and support to the European Union in the Mediterranean at the Defense Ministerial Meeting of the European Union recently and we will also discuss it at our meeting today. So, this is on the agenda, we are in close dialogue, and we are actively looking into what more we can do to expand our presence in the Mediterranean.
Oana Lungescu: ITAR TASS over there.
Question: Mr. Secretary General, do you envisage any kind of help from NATO to the Egypt in this situation with the air accident of Egypt Airlines? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: I will express my deepest condolences to all those affected, and also my condolences to France and Egypt. I know that there are national search and rescue efforts ongoing and that France and Egypt have agreed to cooperate and to work closer together investigating what happened. And we will continue to monitor very closely. If there is any requests for NATO assistance then, of course, we stand ready to help.
Oana Lungescu: Mitra TV, Afghanistan.
Question: Secretary General, the Afghan Government has finalized a peace process with a global terrorist, human right violator, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, actually who is on the US blacklist too. After 15 years of huge investment in Afghanistan, from point of view of NATO, is it not a setback for democracy and human rights in Afghanistan?
Jens Stoltenberg: There is no contradiction between continued military presence and continued support from NATO to the Afghan national armies and security forces and support for a political negotiated solution. Actually, I believe that pre-condition and an important foundation for any negotiated political solution is that we have a strong Afghan army and security forces. So NATO will continue to support Afghans building their defence capacities, train and advise them. At the same time I welcome all efforts to find a political, negotiated solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and I also welcome the continued efforts by the National Unity Government to work for peace and reconciliation. And I think it is important for us to support an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process because in the long run there is no other solution other than political negotiated solution to conflict in Afghanistan. The Afghan government has made very clear that they are open to negotiate with those who renounce violence, cut links to terrorist organizations and respect Afghan constitution, including human rights, and respect for women and children rights. So I think this just underlined that we have both continue to support the Afghan armed forces and at the same time continue to support their efforts to find political negotiated solution.
Oana Lungescu: TV Imedi.
Question: Mr. Secretary General, will you discuss the prospective of aspirant countries in this Minister’s Meeting. The Montenegro’s case is a huge message for Georgia. So, 50 days before Warsaw Summit what would you expect?
Jens Stoltenberg: Today will be a historic day because we will sign the Accession Treaty for Montenegro to join NATO. That is important for Montenegro, it’s important for stability in the Western Balkans, and it’s important for NATO. At the same time it sends a very clear signal it shows once again that NATO’s door remains open and we continue to work closely with Georgia. And we will continue to work with Georgia both on our political partnership, our political cooperation, but also when it comes to our practical cooperation. I participated not so many months ago when we inaugurated the New Joint Training Centre in Georgia, which is one example of how we are expanding, building up our practical cooperation with Georgia, helping Georgia to modernize, helping Georgia to reform, and helping Georgia to move on its path towards even closer integration further on the road to Euro-Atlantic integration, so we will continue to support Georgia, we will continue to work with them. We have the substantial package, and I’m certain that at the Warsaw Summit, the heads of states will recognize the progress which Georgia has made and also decide to continue to support the efforts of Georgia.
Oana Lungescu: Daily Sabah, lady over there.
Question: As you may also have followed up, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have recently called upon NATO to extend its missions and operations throughout the Black Sea, as well as other neighbouring states. They have previously called upon that too. So, will NATO extend its operations or when will it begin its operations in the Black Sea?
Jens Stoltenberg: NATO has already increased its presence in the Black Sea. We have done that as part of our assurance measures, which we decided to implement after the illegal annexation of Crimea, which of course affects the whole security situation in the Black Sea. So, we have already increased our presence in the Black Sea and in the Black Sea region. I recently visited Romania, I also recently visited Ankara and there I discussed both with the Turkish President, but also the Romanian President during my visit to Romania what more we can do in the Black Sea. So we are now discussing, we are now considering together with our Allies in the region, countries around the Black Sea, how we can do even more. And I know that there are talks going on also between Romania, Turkey, and Bulgaria how they can contribute to an enhanced, an increased NATO presence in the Black Sea. So this is on our agenda, we have already implemented increased presence and now we are looking into what more we can do.
Oana Lungescu: ARD, and this will be the last question. Lady in the middle please, pink scarf.
Question: There is US call for our NATO AWACS over Syrian airspace. Will you discuss it?
Jens Stoltenberg: We will discuss what more NATO can do to support the efforts of global coalition fighting ISIL. NATO is already playing key role in the global fight against terrorism. We work, of course, closely with our Ally Turkey, bordering both Syria and Iraq, the Ally most affected by ISIL and the violence in Afghan and Syria. We have deployed forces in Turkey as assurance measures with PATRIOT batteries, with NATO ships in Turkish ports, and also with AWACS flying over Turkey. And we have started training of Iraqi officers contributing to the efforts of Iraq to fight ISIL. And we are working with all the countries in the region to help them increase their capabilities to fight ISIL, keep their own countries safe like we are supporting Jordan and Tunisia. But then we are also looking into whether NATO can provide additional support to the coalition fighting ISIL because there has been a request for AWACS support. And that will be discussed during our meeting today. I think there is an open mind when it comes to support, but any concrete decisions have to be made on a concrete request looking into what kind of needs there are and what kind of assets, or what kind of possibilities we have to provide that relevant support. But this is on the agenda. It’s something that we will discuss today and tomorrow.
Oana Lungescu: Gentleman over there.
Question: Telewizja Republika from Poland. Mr. Secretary General, I want to ask you about your expectations for this Ministerial Meeting in front of Warsaw NATO Summit.
Jens Stoltenberg: I believe that this will be very important meeting, not least because it’s the last ministerial meeting before the landmark Summit in Warsaw in July. And we are going to actually address all the main issues which are going to be the issues we are going to address in Warsaw. So this meeting in that sense is important preparation for Warsaw Summit. We will address how NATO can do more when it comes to project stability to our neighbourhood, train, advice local forces to enable them to stabilize their own country and to fight terrorism and ISIL. That is what we do to address challenges in Iraq, in Libya, in North Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan. But then at the same we will address how NATO can continue to adapt to a more assertive Russia, and how we can continue to find the right balance between defence and dialogue, strong defence and political dialogue with Russia, but also the right balance between forward presence of NATO forces. We are looking into how we can increase forward presence of NATO forces in Eastern part of the Alliance, combined with enhanced ability to reinforce if needed. And this combination of some increased forward presence, and increased ability to deploy forces, to reinforce if needed is something that is very high on our agenda now and it’s something that is also going to be addressed at the Warsaw Summit. So this meeting, the Foreign Ministerial meeting, and the Defence Minister meeting in June are the most important stepping stones towards the Summit in July.