Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of Foreign Ministers

  • 07 Dec. 2016 -
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  • Last updated: 08 Dec. 2016 15:03

(As delivered)

Good morning.

We have just concluded a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission with Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. And our meeting underscores NATO’s unwavering support for Ukraine. NATO Allies do not – and will not – recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. Today we discussed Russia’s continued aggressive actions, the importance of implementing the Minsk Agreements and NATO’s enduring support for Ukraine.

The security situation remains serious. Last month saw massive increase in ceasefire violations and they continue, with hundreds of explosions caused every day by equipment banned under the Minsk Agreements. Heavy weaponry has not been withdrawn and only 13 percent of the heavy weaponry registered with the OSCE can be currently traced. Russian-backed militants also continue to restrict the free movement of OSCE monitors, and some monitors have even become targets themselves. For example, on 9 November, impacts from heavy weapon shelling came down just 50 metres from monitors south of Donetsk. So this just illustrates the seriousness of the situation in eastern Ukraine and many violations of the ceasefire. Minister Klimkin today reconfirmed Ukraine’s commitment to the Minsk Agreements. Russia has a significant responsibility in bringing the conflict to an end. Diplomacy offers the only viable solution to the crisis in Ukraine. So it is unfortunate that last week’s meeting of the Normandy format was inconclusive. I call on all parties to redouble their efforts to implement the Minsk Agreements in full. As a first step, we need to see an immediate and full ceasefire. In the meantime, the international community must keep pressuring Russia to respect its obligations. Especially while the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains so serious, it is important that economic sanctions be maintained.

At the Warsaw Summit, we adopted the Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine. Our meeting today was an opportunity to review its implementation. Allies made fresh pledges of support with funding and advisors. And we heard more about the Ukrainian government’s progress on its ambitious reform programme. As Ukraine continues on its reform path, NATO and NATO Allies will continue to provide strong practical and political support. For Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and for its efforts to build a better future for all Ukrainians.

And with that, I’m ready to take your questions.

Moderator: Okay, we’ll start with Ukraine National TV over there.

Q: Thank you Secretary General. Andre Grodisk (sic) National TV of Ukraine. How does NATO control the distribution of the help not only according to this package but all the help that NATO contributes to Ukraine and how can you check the, that the implementation goes well? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg (NATO Secretary General): We are working in full transparency and we are taking all the necessary measures to ensure that aids, that that aid goes where it’s meant to go. And we and we all have an interest in that aid that we provide to Ukraine is delivered in the most effective and transparent possible way. So, we are ensuring that our support is effective in order to support Ukraine’s reforms we continue to provide anti-corruption training and advise to Ministry’s and a National Anti-Corruption Bureau. So part of our support for Ukraine is aiming at fighting corruption and it was also clearly stated during the meeting today that part of the reform efforts which NATO is supporting is also to fight corruption and and we are very focused on that our aid should be delivered in a transparent and effective way.

Moderator: UNIAN, first row.

Q: Thank you Secretary General. News Agency UNIAN Ukraine, Iryna Somer. You already touched the issue of comprehensive assistant package so I would like to know what exactly assessment for implementation of this (inaudible) by Ukrainian government, where are we now and what kind of time frame do you foresee for full implementation of this package? And second question is in the interview to Belgium newspaper Pope Francisco said that the Third World War is going on in the world and he mentioned, he mentioned Ukraine, he mentioned Middle East, Africa and Yemen what do you think about this? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: First of all we have a very comprehensive cooperation with Ukraine and we provide support in many different ways and we decided in Warsaw to step up and increase our support for Ukraine with the comprehensive assistant package we agreed in July and we have started to implement that package. And Minister Klimkin told us during the meeting that for instance Ukraine has now implemented 120 NATO standards in its Armed Forces as part of the modernization of Ukrainian Armed Forces.

Our trust funds are helping Ukraine with reforming its defense institutions and we also deliver support in different other in other different areas. Like for instance NATO and Ukraine are working on a regional air space security program which will improve cross-border coordination to better handle air security incidents, we also work together on cyber defense. We have a cyber defense trust fund where we are where we are establishing a Cyber Incident Management Centre to monitor and investigate cyber security incidents. We are also working for instance on the rehabilitation of wounded soldiers, medical rehabilitation and this program has so far helped 150 servicemen and women of the Ukrainian Forces.

And under our Signs for Peace Program we are engaged in more than 40 different activities with Ukraine in key areas including counter-terrorism and energy security. And we have a Defense Education Program and under that program we have trained 770 Ukrainian non-commissioned officers and instructors. And I could go on, but the thing is that we provide both help with reforming, modernizing the Ukrainian defense institutions including fighting corruption and we provide very practical support for instance when it comes to command and control cyber and medical rehabilitation and also for instance regional airspace security. So we will continue and and we will assess and we will make sure that we provide strong political support but also strong practical support for Ukraine.

I met his Holiness the Pope in Rome some weeks ago. We discussed the security situation the global security situation. We live in times with unprecedented security challenges with a more unpredictable and dangerous world and we see also violence and conflict many places. For instance in Ukraine and in Syria and Iraq but we do not see any imminent threat against any NATO ally and NATO is here to provide stability and to provide collected defense and the strength of NATO is the best possible tool we have to maintain peace and security and to also reduce tensions on the, in the global in the global arena. So we are we are of course also concerned but we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally.

Moderator: Wall Street Journal.

Q: Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the discussion on Russia last night. Were allies supportive of another NATO-Russia Council meeting? What was the level of progress on the enhanced foreign presence and are you worried, was there worry expressed about the continued buildup in the Baltic Region by Russia?

Jens Stoltenberg: We had a very good discussion on the on our relationship with Russia. And there is strong unity and a very clear message from all allies that our approach to Russia should build on the message, defense and dialogue. It’s not defense or dialogue but it is defense and dialogue. Based on the common understanding that our dialogue with Russia is not a sign of weakness but it is a sign of a firm predictable approach of NATO to our biggest neighbour. Russia’s there to stay, there is no way we want to or should try to isolate Russia. We need to engage with Russia in many different ways as NATO but also different NATO allies have dialogue, work with Russia in different areas.

So, I feel that there is a very strong support for that in the alliance. Also, based on the fact that we are able to deliver both on deterrence and defense, we are on track for instance when it comes to the deployment of the four battalions in the Baltic countries and in Poland and Secretary Kerry also updated us on the decision by the U.S. Congress to quadruple the funding for increased U.S. presence in Europe, quadrupling the funding for the European Reassurance Initiative and we are on track to have the enhanced foreign presence in place. Then what was the other part of the question? It was…yeah of course we are we are following closely the military buildup.

We have seen over many years also in the Baltic region so it is the aggressive actions against Ukraine, the illegal annexation of Crimea but also military buildup over many years also in the Baltic region which has caused proportionate measured defensive response from NATO. We don’t want confrontation we don’t seek confrontation but we have to respond when we see a more assertive Russia acting the way they have done in Ukraine and also with the military buildup close to NATO borders.

Moderator: Thank you very much that’s all we have time for unfortunately. But the Secretary General will be back after the Resolute Support meeting. Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you.