Joint press conference
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Frank-Walter, thank you for once again hosting me here in Berlin. I have visited Berlin several times as Secretary General and every time I appreciated the meetings with you.
We are close friends, we have been working together for many years and I also appreciate very much your strong commitment to the efforts of the NATO Alliance, to pursue the dual-track of both strong deterrence, defence and dialogue at the same time.
And I absolutely agree with you that the Warsaw Summit was a very strong expression of the unity in the Alliance, supporting this dual-track approach, with deterrence and defence.
And Germany, which is at the heart of Europe and at the heart of the NATO Alliance is a key Ally and appreciate so much our close cooperation. You are making significant contributions to different NATO operations.
From Afghanistan to Kosovo to the Aegean Sea.
You are playing a role in enhancing the defence of our Allies in the East, Germany being a lead nation for one of the battalions we are going to deploy in the eastern part of the Alliance.
And I, in particular, appreciate your strong personal commitment to the work and the efforts to find a peacefully negotiated solution to the conflict in Ukraine. This is important for Ukraine but it is of course also important for the whole of Europe and for our common security.
And at a time when the world has become more dangerous, Germany is stepping up to help maintain peaceful order in Europa and that is something I appreciate very much.
We've just discussed our relations with Russia. And Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its continued support for separatists in Eastern Ukraine have shaken the peaceful order in Europe.
At the same time, we cannot simply shut the door on Russia. Russia is our biggest neighbour and will be integral to future European security. NATO will continue to balance strong defence with meaningful dialogue. This is in our own interest. Talking to Russia allows us to clearly communicate our positions. And avoid the potential for accidents and misunderstandings.
I am grateful to Minister Steinmeier for supporting this dual-track approach of pursuing strong defence and dialogue together.
Frank-Walter, I welcome your recent proposal to engage Russia in renewed talks on conventional arms control in Europe.
It is a timely initiative and it provides valuable ideas for Allies to consider.
We need to update the rulebook of European security. We need more military transparency to prevent incidents and accidents spiraling out of control.
Allies are also working to update the OSCE's Vienna Document on military transparency.
As current chair of the OSCE, Germany is driving that process and you personally, you are playing a lead role in enhancing the agenda of transparency and risk reduction in Europe.
NATO can play an important role in reducing risk and promoting increased transparency.
So Frank Walter, I look forward to continue our work, to continue to work with you to address all these important issues.
TRANSLATOR: Kristof Santo (sic) from DPA. Mr. Stoltenberg, Mr. Steinmeier last week was, in suggesting new arms control talks and on the fringence of the OCE their conference yesterday in (inaudible) has been criticism that was raised that it would be proposed too early because Russia is not yet adhering to the existing treaties. So what do you think of the proposal and of the criticism voiced by the United States? Mr. Steinmeier a question to you. Spiegel is reporting today that the federal government wants to distance itself from the resolution on Armenia by the Bundestag. Is this truly the case and what are the political and legal implications, how is the binding character of this resolution?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): I welcome the initiatives and the proposals of Minister Steinmeier. I welcome it because we need to avoid a new arms race. We need to avoid a new Cold War and therefore we need to also look into how we can make progress on the arms control agenda. Of course there are many obstacles, there are many problems, there are many unsolved issues that the initiative from Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is about starting a process where we can look into different proposals and he put forward some proposals in his article, on his op-ed and then it is for NATO allies to consider and to discuss how we can move on and how we can relate to the different proposals. There is no contradiction between both focusing on how we can implement and make sure that existing agreements are respected and at the same time looking into how we can modernize and improve those agreements. For instance we have the Vienna document on transparency and risk reduction and we have to look into both how we can make sure that the existing agreements are respected and at the same time how we can modernize that document so it take into account new facts and new realities. For instance we have much more use of snap exercises and that is a loophole in the existing Vienna document, so we should consider how we can do something with those loopholes. For instance introducing snap inspections, snap observations or snap exercises. So there is no contradiction between urging the respect of existing agreements and at the same time looking into how we can modernize and update them.
FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER (German Minister of Foreign Affairs): Foreign language.
TRANSLATOR: When it comes to the relations with Turkey I have to of course explain that at the moment there are many fields of friction, not only since the attempted coup took place and the aftermath of this that is currently taking place in Turkey there was some friction before as well and some new fields have opened up. It is of course the task of foreign policy to reduce the fields of friction wherever they exist and to try and find possibilities of maintaining relations with Turkey and this with perspective for the future. In our most recent talks we had the impression that this is also something Turkey is interested in. The field we are currently discussing with Turkey are manifold, we are also discussing the arrestations that took place in the past amongst soldiers, teachers, researchers and we discussed that we expect the legal proceedings to be carried out on the basis of the rule of law. I am very grateful that the President of the Council of Europe has very much dedicated some time to this and the President of the European Parliament also did this yesterday. So we are discussing with Turkey the respect of the agreement on refugees as well as many other issues and amongst them the resolution of the German Bundestag and it’s binding character. So the German Bundestag has voiced an opinion on this itself many times. Firstly, the Deutch (sic), the German Bundestag has the right and the freedom to express itself on political issues but the Bundestag also states itself that not every resolution has a binding, legally binding character.
Q: Foreign language.
TRANSLATOR: Andre (inaudible) from Reuters. I have a question to both especially to Mr. Steinmeier. From Eastern Europe there is the demand for a European Army especially after Hungary and the Czech Republic were not very open to this proposal that you also made and do you think that because of the Brexit Referendum there is now a genuine opportunity for us in the E.U. to have joint armed forces and what would be the first steps? Secretary General, do you think that this is a contradiction to the objectives of NATO?
FRANK-WALTER STEINMEIER: Foreign language.
TRANSLATOR: If I may briefly comment on this. You pointed this out already for the S.P.D. this is not an entirely new idea. In the past we have made this part and parcel of our own declarations. Yes, as a matter of fact there is new momentum that has added to the debate not only from Eastern Europe and not always under the headline of European Army but if you read the paper of the Italian Foreign Minister from the second last week on the renewal of Europe we can find many things in that paper that I’ve also wrote down together with our French colleague Jean-Marc Ayrault when it comes to the renewal of the European Union in the field of migration and displacement as well as security and there is also a special focus in this paper of (inaudible) on an enhanced European cooperation on defense matters. Yes, therefore we have clearly seen an increase and growing interest amongst the member States of the European Union, not always in a European Army but yes an enhanced European cooperation.
JENS STOLTENBERG: And the European Union are faced with the same security challenges and we share territory and we also share member States. More than 90 percent of the population in the European Union live in a NATO country, so I believe that to strengthen the defense capabilities and capacities of European allies is good for the European Union, it’s good for NATO at the same time. And I’m strongly pushing for strengthening cooperation between European allies. I welcome also the strengthening cooperation between NATO and the European Union. We agreed on that in Warsaw where President Tusk and President Juncker and I signed the joint declaration underlining and outlining how we can enhance the cooperation between NATO and the European Union. And I also welcome closer cooperation inside the European Union among the different E.U. members on defense and security issues. The thing we have to avoid is duplication so we have to complement each other and for me it is important that we cooperate more closely but that we avoid duplication of the efforts of the European Union and NATO. And I’m certain that we will be able to find ways to do that in a way that benefits both Europe, NATO, European Union and NATO at the same time.
MODERATOR: That will be all.