by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission at the level of NATO Foreign Ministers
We have just concluded a very constructive meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission. NATO is grateful for Georgia’s many contributions to Euro-Atlantic security, especially the service of the highly-skilled men and women of the Georgian military. Many of whom have served in Afghanistan, where Georgia is the largest non-NATO contributor to our training mission. They are helping to build a more stable future for the people of Afghanistan.
Georgia also provides an infantry company to the NATO Response Force. This morning, we discussed NATO’s strong commitment to Georgia’s security and territorial integrity, and reviewed the many ways that Georgia and the Alliance are working together.
We remain concerned by the deepening of Russia’s relations with the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia. We call on Russia to end its recognition of these regions and withdraw its forces from Georgian territory.
We also discussed progress Georgia continues to make along the path of reform, including with its successful efforts to modernise its armed forces. The Alliance is fully committed to providing Georgia with the advice and tools it needs to advance toward eventual NATO membership. We continue to implement the Substantial NATO-Georgia Package. On which, together, we are making impressive progress.
Our armed forces are increasingly capable of operating together and planning is already underway for the 2019 NATO-Georgia joint military exercise.
Our Joint Training and Evaluation Centre in Georgia is up and running, and the NATO-funded Defence Institution Building School in Georgia has already trained around a thousand soldiers. In subjects as diverse as the rule of law in armed conflict, hybrid warfare and cyber security.
NATO continues to benefit from Georgia’s advice on security issues relating to the Black Sea. And we are engaged in increasingly close dialogue on the Black Sea region and the cooperation in the region.
We are also working together on a host of other issues.
Such as energy security, explosive ordnance disposal, cyber defence, intelligence, secure communications, and promoting the role of women serving in the Georgian Armed Forces.
In other words, NATO’s support to Georgia is concrete, and is making a real difference.
It is about action, each and every day.
Last night over dinner, NATO Foreign Ministers had a good discussion focused on two issues: Russia and North Korea.
We agreed that our approach to Russia decided at the Warsaw Summit in 2016 – defence and dialogue – has been effective. We have strengthened our collective defence, while remaining open to dialogue. We have sustained economic sanctions. And we are using our military lines of communication.
As we look to the Summit next July, we agreed we should continue to:
- Strengthen our deterrence and defence.
- Pursue dialogue in good faith.
- And support our partners in Eastern Europe.
Last night we also discussed the threat of North Korea.
As last week’s launch showed, North Korean ballistic missiles can now reach all Allies.
NATO strongly supports a peaceful, negotiated solution to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
So we need to continue our solidarity with our regional partners, Japan and South Korea. We need firm pressure on North Korea. And we need to keep providing strong deterrence, to keep all Allies safe.
And with that, I am ready to take your questions.
Moderator: We'll go to Georgian TV in the first row.
Question: Mr. Secretary General, Georgian Public Broadcaster. Now, during the press conference, you said that we will look into areas where we could cooperate even more closely, such as Black Sea security. Can you tell us more about it, how Georgia can further contribute on these issues, and about open door policy – what can we do, how we can prepare to make the Brussels summit successful for us? Thank you very much.
Jens Stoltenberg (Secretary General of NATO): We are looking into different areas where we can strengthen our cooperation, both using the existing tools, like for instance the training centre and… and the defence school. But we are especially looking into how we can do more together in the Black Sea.
So we are very grateful for the strengthening of the cooperation with the Georgian Coast Guard, exchange of information, because the Black Sea of great importance for Georgia but also of course for NATO. We have seen increased Russian presence in the Black Sea, and we see increased Russian military presence in Crimea, and we have also more NATO presence in the Black Sea region, and therefore the Black Sea region and cooperation there is of particular interest for NATO and Georgia.
When it comes to open door, I think that we have proven this year with the enlargement with Montenegro that NATO's door is open. We are continuing to provide support to Georgia. Georgia has all the tools it needs to move towards membership. And in the meeting we just had, allies commended Georgia for making progress on reforms – the rule of law, building democratic institutions, fighting corruption – and we will continue to help and support Georgia on that path, including modernizing its armed forces.
Moderator: OK. Third row, Wall Street Journal.
Question: Mr. Secretary General, Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal. I want to ask about the dinner last night and the discussion with Russia. You mentioned strengthening deterrence and pursuing dialogue.
Were there any things discussed about how to make the dialogue with Russia more real, besides the sort of NATO-Russia councils that sort of have very similar agendas, talk about the same things? Is there any way to move beyond that and get to a more real, mil-to-mil dialogue, say, or does the sort of situation in the Ukraine prevent any sort of moving forward on… on that dialogue?
Jens Stoltenberg: It was a very strong message from all allies that the approach we agreed at the Warsaw summit – defence and dialogue, not defence or dialogue – is an approach which has proven effective and which is supported by all allies.
We have delivered on deterrence and defence with increased forward presence of NATO troops in the eastern part of the alliance. We have increased the readiness of our forces, and defence spending is increasing. So we are delivering on the terms on defence.
But we are also delivering on dialogue, and it is important to remember that for two years there were no meetings in the NATO-Russia Council. But since the spring of 2016 we have convened six meetings in the NATO-Russia Council and raised difficult issues, like for instance Ukraine. This is important because it is… I really believe it is important that, when tensions are high, when the relation between Russia and NATO is… is, what shall I say, challenging, then it's even more important that we meet and that we also confront Russia with their aggressive actions in Ukraine.
But we've also been able to move forward on other issues, and we'll continue to look into what more we can do, for instance when it comes to air safety. It was initiated through a discussion in the NATO-Russia Council, the initiative which now Finland is taking forward to lead a ICAO process where we can agree on concrete measure to enhance air safety in the Baltic or over the Baltic Sea.
The reciprocal briefings on exercises are important because they are helping to provide more transparency, more predictability, and, in times with more military activity close to our borders, it is extremely important to avoid incidents, accidents, and, if they happen, make sure that they don't spiral out of control. So the reciprocal briefings on exercises is something we had… we… we're looking into how we can step up and… and do more.
And then I would also like to mention that, after a long period without any use of the military lines of communications, those lines have now been used, both by the Chairman of the Military Committee and by SACEUR, and they are both looking into how they can make sure that these lines are functioning and in place, having direct contact with the Russian Chief of Defence, General Gerasimov.
We will also look into other areas, for instance the question of hybrid warfare, and other issues that can be raised within the NATO-Russia Council and… and within the… the political dialogue with Russia.
Moderator: Tanjug, lady in the first row.
Question: Tanjug, Serbia. What is your opinion about security situation in the western Balkans, given the inflammatory rhetoric we can hear from all the countries? The last time after the judgment in the Perlitch (ph) case? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: NATO has played an important role in the western Balkans for decades. We helped to end two ethnic wars. Our first big military operations outside NATO territory was… was actually in the Balkans, Bosnia-Herzegovina and… and in Kosovo. And we still have a substantial NATO presence in the western Balkans with our KFOR mission in Kosovo, but also with military headquarters in, for instance, Sarajevo and in… in Skopje, and… and of course also we have now Slovenia and… and Croatia as – and… and Montenegro – as members.
We are working with our partners in the region, including with Serbia. I very much welcome the close partnership with Serbia. We received President Aleksandar Vucic recently here at the NATO headquarters, and… and we are strengthening our partnership with our partners in the western Balkans.
We call on all parties to… to do what they can to reduce tensions, to avoid inflammatory rhetoric, and to make sure that we not again see armed conflict in that region. The main responsibility for that is of course the countries in the region, but NATO will be there to help and support and to help make sure that we avoid any kind of armed conflict in the western Balkans.
Moderator: OK, we have NRK over there in the middle.
Question: NRK, Norwegian Broadcasting. Secretary General, you'll discuss Syria and the Middle East later today, I think, and what's your perspective on the possibility of the US moving its embassy and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel? Will that increase tensions in the whole region?
Jens Stoltenberg: It's for nation to make decisions on those issues, and that's a US decision and I will not speculate. Because President Trump has announced that he will give a speech later on today, but we haven't… this speech has not been delivered yet, so I think it's a bit early to comment on a speech that has not been delivered.
NATO is not part of the peace process in the Middle East, but NATO allies strongly support all efforts to find a peaceful, negotiat—negotiated solution to the conflict in the Middle East.
Moderator: Thank you very much. That's all we have time for now. Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you.