Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council on projecting stability and fighting terrorism at the level of NATO Foreign Ministers

  • 06 Dec. 2017 -
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  • Last updated: 06 Dec. 2017 20:37

(As delivered)

Good afternoon.

We have just finished a very good and productive meeting of the Foreign Ministers of NATO.

We have discussed ways to increase NATO’s role in projecting stability and fighting terrorism. Because instability abroad threatens us at home. From the Balkans to Afghanistan, NATO has great experience in training local forces and building the capacity of local institutions. These are the best tools to make our partners better able to defend themselves and to combat international terrorism.

This year, we started training local forces in Iraq.  In areas such as countering improvised explosive devices, military medicine, equipment maintenance, and reform of the country’s security institutions. 

I particularly welcome the contributions that our partners, like Serbia and Jordan, are making to these efforts. 

Today, Allies looked to the future of the NATO training activity in Iraq and expressed their full commitment to it. A number of Allies also announced that they will contribute to the new Crisis Management Center in Jordan, as part of NATO’s new capacity building package for Jordan. And I really welcome this contribution by several Allies.

As we look ahead to the Brussels Summit in July, we discussed how to engage further with our partners, to the south and to the east. We need to devote sufficient resources to these efforts, to make the best of the skills and capabilities we have.

We also discussed how our role within the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS should evolve as the Coalition moves from combat operations to stabilisation efforts. This is something that both the Coalition and the Iraqi government want.  The Coalition has recovered over 95 % of the territory claimed by ISIS and liberated seven million people.

But we must consolidate those gains. 

We know that projecting stability and fighting terrorism are generational challenges. There are no quick fixes. No overnight solutions. We have made progress and we are determined to do more.

Over lunch we discussed NATO’s Open Door policy. We agree that this is a historic success, which remains a key contributor to Euro – Atlantic security. Successive rounds of enlargement have secured peace in Europe and paved the way for European integration. Montenegro’s accession to the Alliance this year is the latest example. We also agree that accession is a decision for aspirant countries and the 29 Allies. Nobody else has the right to veto. In preparation to our Summit next July we have agreed that we will review the progress of each aspirant country by our next meeting of Foreign Ministers in April.

And with that, I am ready to take your questions.

Moderator: Okay. We'll go to the front row here. Please don’t forget to introduce yourselves and your outlet.

Q: Kurdistan 24. NATO and the global coalition are fighting to defeat ISIS in the Middle East and Iraq-Syria, but instead of ISIS Iranian Shia militia are having control many area in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain. Are you concerned about that? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: For us the most important thing is to support the Iraqi government forces to enable them to control their own country, and that's the reason why we helped them with different kinds of training activities, including building defence and security institutions. And we have to remember that this is an effort by NATO as an alliance but also many NATO allies are participating in different capacity and training activities in Iraq.

We are of course concerned about what we see as an effort by Iran to destabilize countries in the region. This is something many NATO allies have raised several times, and of course that's just adding arguments for us to continue to support and provide increased support to the Iraqi government.

Moderator: Over there, first row, gentleman over there, yeah. Thanks.

Q: My name is Omar from Alghad TV. I just would like to ask about was there any sort of agreement on how NATO's contribution would evolve over the next stage of fighting terrorism? And could you tell us about the program that NATO launched last January, the program of training Iraqi troops, and could you tell us any specific statistics about that?

Jens Stoltenberg: The training we launched in January was not training mainly targeting or aiming at training soldiers, what we are doing is that we are training trainers. The whole idea is that we should enable the Iraqi forces to be able to train their own forces. So that is something NATO has done many times before and the whole idea is that they should be in the long run independent on NATO. So we are training trainers, enabling them to train many more Iraqi soldiers in the different fields I mentioned, as maintenance or equipment, countering ID, military medicine, and then of course we also do a lot of institution building.

We didn’t agree exactly on what new areas we are going to move into and how we're going to step up our training activities because we will only do that if that's something which is closely coordinated with the Global Coalition to defeat ISIS and requested by the Iraqi government. But the coalition where NATO is a full member or is now discussing the transformation from combat operation to stabilization efforts, and there we foresee a greater need for the kind of capacity training activities that NATO can provide, and many allies expressed that they really believe that NATO should do more, but we need some more time to coordinate and also to do planning together with the global coalition and with the Iraqi government to decide exactly in which fields.

But this is about enabling the Iraqi forces to stabilize their own country. It's not for NATO to supplement or to replace the efforts of the coalition, but it is to make sure that we didn’t only win the war but also that we are able to win the peace, mainly to keep Iraq as a stable country.

Moderator: Okay, then gentleman also in the first row.

Q: Jordan News Agency Petra. Secretary…, Your Excellency, what plans do you have for increasing support to Jordan, and in which areas as one of your allies, especially there is growing instability in the region? And I have one more question, please. How do you see the impact of relocating the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem on stability and security in the Middle East and North Africa, and how the tensions that might emerge will affect you as NATO? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: We have just agreed a new defence capacity building package with Jordan. Jordan is a highly-valued partner, Jordan is a kind of an island of stability in a sea of instability in the region, NATO has been working with Jordan for many, many years, and part of the defence capacity building package we just agreed is this crisis management centre in Jordan where several allies announced that they are going to provide personnel support to use this centre as a new tool in helping and supporting Jordan.

We also have had some different training activities at the King Abdullah Training Centre and we also do capacity building with Jordan, and we're also working with Jordan when it comes to women, peace and security to make sure that we recognize and make sure that women have a role to play in the armed forces of Jordan.

So there are different fields, training, capacity building, and now also direct support to the crisis management centre in Jordan. Let me add that Jordan has also helped us in providing support for Iraq because we have also trained some Iraqi officers at the King Abdullah Training Centre.

When it comes to Jerusalem, I think the right thing now is to listen to the speech and not to start to comment on a speech we haven’t heard, and then listen to what the President has to say before we comment on the speech. In general, I can say that NATO as an organization is not directly involved in the Middle East peace process but allies attach a great importance to a just and lasting peace and comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, and especially in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Moderator: Okay, gentleman over there.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, during the press conference with High Representative Mogherini yesterday you mentioned that quick troops mobility across Europe need good infrastructure, and for that I think that NATO standards as such were agreed during the Cold War when many parts of the alliance were members of the Warsaw Pact. So is the infrastructure on the eastern part of the alliance a concern for NATO's defence and deterrence posture? And what has to be done in this regard? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: NATO is able to move troops across Europe today, and we have proven that through different exercises where we have moved troops, but we are focused on military mobility, on infrastructure, because we want to be able to move more troops more quickly, and that's exactly why we are working with the European Union to make sure that the infrastructure meets the requirement which are needed to move heavy equipment across Europe.

This is about roads, railroads, ports, airports and that kind of infrastructure. But it's also about making sure that we have the means of transportation, that we have the trucks and the railroad cars and all the other means of transportation we need to move. And again, we have that today but we need to scale up, to have more, to make sure that we have all the assets available if we need to move heavy equipment very fast or quickly across Europe.

This is partly about nations but also partly about the EU, and it's about NATO also defining requirements for moving military equipment, also from countries outside the European Union, not least from North America: United States and Canada. We have started this process, we have started staff to start talks with the Europeans, with the European Union, to analyse gaps, to try a mapping exercise, and then based on that we will move over together.

Moderator: Okay, lady over here.

Q: Thank you. I'm Assia from Assabah newspaper in Tunisia. As you know I'm coming from a country that is facing terrorist threats also. My question is very much related to any concrete measures or new strategy on NATO that counterterrorism efforts when it comes to non-NATO partners? And mainly going beyond the mere role of southern countries as the major police of the European side security measures while facing illegal immigration and threats and so on and so forth. Today there is a major question about coming back of the radicalized terrorists from Syria and Iraq and so on and so forth, so is there any new concrete measures to go beyond the classic road of just being the policeman of the northern countries?

Jens Stoltenberg: NATO has an important role to play in the fight against terrorism and to stabilize our neighbourhood, especially to the south, for instance North Africa and the Middle East. But NATO is not the only answer. Of course we need a comprehensive approach, we need the contribution from many different institutions and nations, because to fight terrorism is about civilian intelligence, it's about border control, it's about police, it's about addressing the neighbourhoods where many of the young people get radicalized, and it's also about managing other instabilities and challenges we see in the region, like for instance the refugee and migrant crisis.

So NATO is part of the answer but NATO is not the only answer. What NATO is doing is that we are working with partners like for instance Tunisia, we have a defence capacity package also with Tunisia, and many NATO allies are also providing bilateral support, we discussed that also during our meeting today.

NATO is not a first respondent to the migrant and refugee crisis, but we provide support to the European Union. For instance, our Operation Sea Guardian provides direct support to Operation Sophia, which is the EU operation in the Mediterranean. We provide logistical support, we share information, and we provide support in other ways. So NATO ships are helping EU ships to conduct their tasks in the Mediterranean. We also helped to implement a weapons embargo in Libya, and we are present in the Aegean Sea with our maritime presence of NATO ships there, helping to implement the EU-Turkey agreement on migrants.

So I think that you just have to understand that NATO has the important role, and in some countries we have a big presence, like for instance in Afghanistan, in other countries we do more capacity building, and in other situations we are providing support, for instance to the European Union. What we discussed today is how can we do more, how can we step up, both when it comes to partnerships in the region but especially when it comes to more long term stabilization efforts in Iraq.

Moderator: We have time for one final question from Agence France Presse over there.

Q: (Agence France Presse): Secretary General, thank you. Vladimir Putin has just announced he's going to run again for President of Russia next year. What is your reaction? Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: I met Vladimir Putin when he was elected the first time, just after he was elected when I was prime minister and he was elected back in 2001, that was my first meeting. I worked with him when I was prime minister of Norway, and now I work with Russia in another capacity as Secretary General of NATO, and one clear message from this meeting is that NATO strongly believes that our dual-track approach towards Russia, defence, deterrence and dialogue, is the right approach and has proven effective.

So we continue to have a political dialogue with Russia. But we don’t interfere in Russian presidential elections, so it's not for me to have any opinion about the presidential elections in Russia.

Moderator: Thank you very much. With that, we conclude the last press conference of this ministerial. Thank you.

Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you.