Joint press conference
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah
Thank you so much Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and thank you so much for hosting us today. And I am very grateful for this opportunity to meet with you and to be here in Kuwait
And on behalf of the North Atlantic Council, I want to thank you and the government of Kuwait for hosting all of us here today.
Kuwait has been a strong and dedicated NATO partner for many years. And you help to build greater security and stability in the Gulf region.
Including through this very building – the NATO-ICI Regional Centre – which we inaugurated earlier today.
Minister, last year you and I signed a NATO-Kuwait Transit Agreement to facilitate the transit of personnel and supplies to our NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
And to make any future NATO activities in the region more effective.
Back in 2004, Kuwait was the first country to join NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative – the ICI.
Kuwait was also the first ICI country to establish an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme with NATO.
Today all four ICI countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – have these cooperation programmes with NATO.
This means that we will be able to step up our cooperation in many areas, including:
- Crisis management and the fight against terrorism;
- Energy security;
- Cyber defence;
- Defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons;
- Maritime security;
- And civil emergency management.
Our relationship with Kuwait and the other the ICI partners reached a new level last year, when all four countries opened diplomatic missions to NATO. So our ties are getting broader and they are getting deeper.
Today we held a meeting of the North Atlantic Council here in Kuwait.
Together with our ICI partners, as well as other countries, we are developing our cooperation and it is becoming stronger every day.
We discussed regional security challenges, and how we can work together to address them.
Including at this impressive new facility – the NATO-ICI Regional Centre – which we opened this morning.
It is the Alliance’s first such presence in the Gulf. And this centre will be a vital hub for our practical cooperation.
This is essential. Because our security is directly linked. We face the same threats, like terrorism and failing states. And we share the same aspirations for peace and for stability.
We have learned over the years that we are much stronger with allies and partners than we are alone.
So I am extremely pleased that our cooperation with Kuwait and our other Gulf partners is reaching new heights.
And I look forward to working even more closely together in the future. Including at our new Regional Centre here in Kuwait – a proud home for a promising partnership.
So thank you once again for hosting us and for making this very centre such a great success and enabling us to inaugurate it today.
MODERATOR: Now we would like to open the floor for questions please.
Q: Good afternoon Minister. You ... there is a message directed to Iran when are you going to convey this intended message to Iran and what are you expecting as a response? And now that we have Mr. Trump as President for the U.S. what are you expecting from the American Administration because Donald Trump has requested from NATO to increase their responsibilities and also to increase the contributions as well as (inaudible audio breaking up). So what are you demanding? So, who’s going to be now financing NATO in the future, this is the question for (inaudible audio breaks up)?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): I can comment on the question of NATO and the new U.S. Administration. I’m absolutely certain that the new President, President Trump and the new U.S. Administration will be fully committed to NATO and to the Trans-Atlantic Partnership and the importance of the security guarantees. I’m absolutely certain partly because this is in the interests of both Europe and United States. Strong NATO is of course good for Europe but it’s also good for the United States. Two World Wars and the Cold War have taught us that stability in Europe is also important for peace and stability in the United States, North America. And we have to remember that the only time that NATO has invoked Article 5 of the Collective Defense Clause was after an attack on the United States 9/11 2001 and hundreds of thousands of European soldiers but also soldiers from other countries have served in Afghanistan in an operation, military operation which was a direct response on an attack on the United States. So I think this illustrates that NATO and the partnerships that NATO has established is of course good for European NATO allies but it’s also good for North America and it illustrates the importance of NATO that we stand together that we protect each other so it’s also in the interest of the United States to have a strong NATO. Second, I spoke with President-elect Trump just a few days after he was elected in November and he conveyed a very strong message to me that he personally was very committed to NATO and the Trans-Atlantic bond and yesterday evening I had the privilege of speaking to the new Secretary of Defense, James Mattis and he expressed strong support to NATO. He’s an old friend of NATO. Secretary Mattis has been a Senior NATO Commander before. He knows this region, he has been in Kuwait, he has been in Iraq and he welcomed also the establishment of this Centre because Secretary Mattis said that this Centre provides an excellent platform for strengthening the cooperation between NATO and the countries in the Gulf region. So I’m absolutely certain that the new U.S. Administration sees and will support strengthening NATO both when it comes to collective defense in Europe but also projecting stability through our neighbourhood, working with partners like for instance Kuwait and other countries in the Gulf region. When it comes to who’s going to pay I fully agree with the message from President Trump but also the message that Secretary Mattis gave me, or told me yesterday evening when we spoke on the phone, and that is that we need a fairer burden sharing. European allies have to spend more, have to invest more in defense and I look forward to working together with President Trump and also with Secretary Mattis in pushing this agenda and make progress when it comes to increased defense spending among European NATO allies. We have seen some progress, some allies already meet the 2 percent guidance but we need more, we have a long way to go and I look forward to work together with the new Administration addressing the importance of defense spending. So, I’m absolutely certain that NATO will continue to adapt. NATO is the most successful alliance in history because we have been able to adapt and the establishment of this Centre in Kuwait today is yet another expression or example of how NATO is adapting to new security challenges and how we are working together with partners, close friends like Kuwait and other partners in the Gulf region.
HIS EXCELLENCY SHEIKH SABAH KHALED AL-SABAH (First Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs):
[TRANSLATOR:] With regard to the first question, I will visit tomorrow Iran to convey a message from his Royal Highness, our Emir to the President of Iran on the Iranian Gulf relations and all the issues that should be built on the international law and the relations established on the principles of the United Nations. Again I would like to congratulate Donald Trump and the new Administration for assuming office and I wish the American President all success and we look forward to continue our fruitful cooperation between our two nations at all levels.
Q: Omar Hassan (sp?) the French Press Agency. So, this message that you’re taking with you to Iran, are they going to contribute to solve the problems that we have?
HIS EXCELLENCY SHEIKH SABAH KHALED AL-SABAH (First Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs):
[TRANSLATOR:] Well there is a genuine willingness and desire to have normal and fair relations with Iran. We are all partners in this region and we have a common interest and we have huge capabilities on both sides be it on the Iranian or in the Arab side. So, opening a channel of dialogue and communication I think this will enable us to better benefit from our capabilities and resources and it will bring benefit to both sides.
Q: Salah al-Keen (sp?) (inaudible) ... future and (inaudible) cooperation. Do you envision this cooperation between (inaudible) to reach a (inaudible) between (inaudible) and NATO?
JENS STOLTENBERG: This Centre, the regional NATO ICI Centre is a Centre for strengthened partnership between NATO, the countries in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and with other countries in the Gulf region. This is not about, this is not a full-fledge military cooperation meaning any collective security guarantees but it is a way for NATO to work even closer with good friends, good partners in the Gulf region. And I think we really will benefit from closer cooperation because the countries in the Gulf region and NATO we face the same threats, the same challenges, terrorism, failing States, cyber-attacks and instability in our neighbourhood. And therefore we can work together in addressing terrorism; in addressing cyber-threats; and in building stability and that’s the reason why we so much welcome the establishment of this Centre. This NATO Centre in Kuwait is a new home for NATO and it it provides an excellent potential for expanding further our cooperation and we will also provide mobile training teams from our Joint Force Command in Naples that can work together with personnel and officers in the region. So we will expand our cooperation but this is about partnership; it’s not about collective security guarantees.
Q: Sahara (inaudible) from the Egyptian Agency. There was a proposal on ... to have some efforts on easing the tension between Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
HIS EXCELLENCY SHEIKH SABAH KHALED AL-SABAH (First Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign Affairs): There was mediation (sic) efforts. Well, the Saudi Egyptian relations are very important. Egypt is a very strategic geographic, (sic) very strategic country and that relations (audio breaks up) of course the relation between the Gulf States and Egypt should be at their best and now we’re facing the challenges and the common threats so everyone is keen on keeping good relations between the Gulf States and Egypt and everyone is trying to exert efforts to improve the relations everywhere and at every time.
MODERATOR: Last question please.
Q: Thank you your Excellency. (inaudible away from microphone)…Your Excellency this new Treaty signed between NATO and the Arab States? And is that door open between NATO and the (inaudible) other treaties with the other Gulf States or the Middle East States? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: What we signed today was an agreement on how to run this Centre with a clear mandate for this regional Centre for cooperation, for partnership. This is not a Treaty on collective defense or security guarantees but of course while working together, by helping each other we strengthen the security both of Kuwait, the other ICI countries and NATO because by working together we help stabilize our neighbourhood and when our neighbours are more stable we are more secure and when we work together for instance in addressing the all more important challenge of terrorism or cyber-threats then both Kuwait, the other Gulf countries and NATO becomes more secure. So this is a contribution to make all of us more secure, to regional stability and to peace but it is not a collective defense treaty; it is a platform for cooperation. It is a milestone and it is a proud house for enhanced cooperation between NATO and the Gulf countries.