Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister Ardern, Jacinda,
It’s great to have you here, welcome to the NATO Headquarters.
And New Zealand and NATO are far apart on the map but we are very close as partners. And we really appreciate the close partnership with New Zealand. We share the same values, we believe in a rules-based order and have worked together for peace and security for many years.
We also understand that many of the threats and challenges we face are truly global. Terrorism, cyber, proliferation of nuclear weapons, all these threats and challenges are a challenge both for NATO Allies and for New Zealand.
We welcome very much the close partnership. We see that in many different ways. We see that in Afghanistan where we have been working together for many years and New Zealand has contributed with personnel to the National Army Defence Academy, helping to train and educate Afghan soldiers and officers. And the purpose of our presence in Afghanistan is to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorism. It’s still a difficult situation in Afghanistan, but we strongly believe that the best way to help to stabilize the country is to train the forces, build local capacity so they can stabilize their own country.
We’re also happy and glad that New Zealand plays a valuable role in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. You are training Iraqi forces. NATO has trained Iraqi forces for some time but we’re now scaling up our presence in Iraq with a new training mission and in our meeting today, we discussed how New Zealand and NATO can best coordinate our efforts in the fight against terrorism. Both in Afghanistan, in Iraq and elsewhere.
New Zealand also has maritime capabilities, which contribute to our shared security and we have seen that especially in our joint efforts to fight piracy off the Horn of Africa.
The Alliance also benefits from New Zealand’s expertise and insight in Asia-Pacific security and we look forward to continue our close consultations. Today we discussed the full range of our cooperation. We identified the areas where we could do more together, including work on maritime security, cyber defence and Women, Peace and Security.
So I look forward to continue to cooperation with New Zealand and with you and once again, warm welcome to NATO Headquarters.
Jacinda Ardern [Prime Minister of New Zealand]: Thank you very much, Secretary General. Thank you for the warmth of your welcome. Obviously my first official visit here to Brussels, so obviously my first official visit to your new and expensive NATO Headquarters, but it's a real pleasure to be here with you and to receive this warm welcome. As you say, the security environment has changed remarkably in the last 20 years. Globalisation has, in many ways, particularly for a small country at a great distance from others, it has made the world feel that much smaller. And it has had positive benefits for a country like ours, that is often distant from traditional theatres of conflict, but which has always sought its role and its part in the defence of values and norms in which we hold dear.
But globalisation is also creating an increasingly complex security and economic environment, making that relationship between us all the more relevant, but also the need for us to be all the more dynamic and adaptable for the challenges that we face, including for instance cybersecurity. That’s why New Zealand's geographic isolation is no longer a barrier it once was - and that is why we cannot respond just to those security threats alone. And nor can any other individual state. The threats we face are truly global in their nature, but also in their impact, and that is why we will continue to make the case for collective action, because the case for it has never been clearer. And this is where our partnership with NATO is so important and where also it has the ability to be mutually beneficial. Although separated by great distance, we share common values: the values of democracy; the values of human rights; protecting fundamental freedoms; and increasingly the need to uphold the rules-based order. It's incredibly helpful for us to be able to share, as we have done today, insights on key security challenges, and identifying ways that we can work together.
Today, the Secretary General and I discussed how we can be swooped together to achieve those mutual goals, and of course we discussed issues of maritime security, terrorism in particular. We also had a discussion around some of the challenges in our region, in particular. I'd like to think New Zealand has a small… in fact, I know New Zealand has a small but highly-capable security and defence force. We’ve a well-earned reputation, which we discussed today, for providing high-quality personnel for international missions, and that includes to NATO operations. And we have supported efforts led by NATO to deliver peace and security in Afghanistan and Kosovo, for instance, and we continue to work alongside you and your members in many other theatres, to defend that rule-based order.
We did discuss the situation in Afghanistan and Iraq together today, and it is clear that international support is required in the region, to assist both countries to provide security, prosperity, the rule of law and, as we discussed today, to continue to see those improvements in excess to some of the things that we consider most basic, like for instance, education. I'm grateful to the Secretary General for his openness, his willingness to share his insights with me, and I thank you again for your hospitality and I look forward to continuing our important relationship together, between New Zealand and NATO.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you. Yes, please, TV New Zealand?
Question [TV New Zealand]: Hello, my name is Joy, I'm from Television New Zealand. Just a question: do NATO and New Zealand have plans together in Afghanistan or Iraq, going forward?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: New Zealand is helping and supporting the NATO mission in Afghanistan and we have many partners working together with NATO in Afghanistan, and we welcome of course that very much. Because, as I said, the reason why we are in Afghanistan is to make sure that Afghanistan not once again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism. We saw the consequences back in 2001, when the 9/11 attacks on the United States were organised/planned, from Afghanistan. And that’s the reason why we went in.
Then of course I understand that people may ask, we have been there for so long, so why should we continue to be there. Then I think it's important to remember that not many years ago we were part of a big combat operation, with more than 100,000 troops in combat operations in Afghanistan. Now, the NATO mission, which is supported… the Resolute Support Mission, which New Zealand is contributing to, is a train, assist and advice mission, where we help the Afghans stabilise their own country and the Afghans are now taking over responsibility for the security in their own country. And we highly value the contribution from New Zealand because it's high quality; the personnel from New Zealand are very committed, they are playing a key role in helping to educate and to build a national defence academy. And that’s the best way to help Afghanistan, and that is to help them develop their own forces, so they can create security in their own country themselves.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Deutsche Welle/National Public Radio.
Question [Deutsche Welle / NPR]: Hi, Teri Schultz, over here. To the Prime Minister, are you concerned by reports coming out of the US about the drawdown of troops, the potential, the expected drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, with you of course continuing your contribution there? And to the Secretary General, a momentous day for Macedonia; all of us who've covered this issue for so many years have waited for this. What is your reaction? Is the Greek parliament's approval the last hurdle that Macedonia had to becoming a NATO member? What's the next step? How quickly will this happen? Thanks.
Jacinda Ardern [Prime Minister of New Zealand]: Thank you. I'll cover very briefly the question that you asked. Obviously, the decision of other governments as to the way that they choose to deploy their forces, the length of stay for those forces, are ultimately decisions for those individual countries and their leaders.
What New Zealand focuses on is of course the nature of our contribution, the quality of our contribution, and in Afghanistan we know, with the individuals that we here… have there now, which roughly total 11, that we do have high-quality individuals providing an incredibly important role and as part of a wider team. And so that, for us, it's about our individual contribution; we don’t judge what we’re doing relative to others. Those are decisions for them.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: Let me just first add one small remark to the previous question on Afghanistan and Iraq, because I forgot to say anything about Iraq. We have launched a training mission in Iraq. We will of course welcome also contributions from New Zealand to that training mission. New Zealand is already present in Iraq, but we will of course… in the context of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, but we will also of course welcome contributions to the NATO training mission.
Then, on the decision in the Greek parliament today; this is an historic decision and it's a decision I really welcome, because the ratification of the name agreement, between Athens and Skopje, is historic because it removes an obstacle for Euro-Atlantic integration of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into NATO, and it's something we have been supporting for many, many years, and now we see that the name agreement has been supported by a majority in the parliament in Skopje and now also today in Athens. I would like to commend the leadership and the courage of Prime Minister Tsipras, but also of Prime Minister Zaev. They have made this possible and this has become possible because they have shown leadership which is really impressive. We will now move on with… in the process of getting FYROM as the 30th member of NATO, under it's new name, the Republic of Northern Macedonia. We will be able to sign the accession protocol shortly and then this protocol has to be ratified in the different parliaments, and after that the country will be a full member of the Alliance.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: The Newshub?
Question [Newshub]: Thank you. Secretary General, are you concerned about China and China's growing influence in the Pacific and the South Pacific? And is that one of the reasons why you see New Zealand as an important ally?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So, one of the issues we discussed today was the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, and of course we follow that closely for many reasons, not least because of the concerns we have related to the development of nuclear weapons and the nuclear programmes of North Korea, but also because we see other challenges in the region.
China is a growing power with growing economic might and military might, and of course we follow that. NATO is not present in the Asia-Pacific region, but, of course, we have partners in the region and for us it is important to always be able to deal with a changing security environment, and we see also that, for instance, when it comes to an issue which is now very urgent for European NATO Allies; the INF Treaty, that’s the treaty related to intermediate-range nuclear missiles. This treaty is now in jeopardy, partly… because Russia is developing new missiles. But, one of the reasons why Russia is developing these new missiles is that China is also deploying the same kind of missiles. So, this just illustrates that security is something which is interconnected and therefore, of course we also follow the rise of the… of China and their military capabilities.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Lady over there.
Question: [LAILUMA SADID, KABUL TIMES]: Thank you, Secretary General. I would like to ask about peace negotiation, even some time the Afghan government is not optimistic, but the people of Afghanistan are really optimistic. If a peace deal is reached whatever, NATO relations and assistance to Afghanistan will change? Or no? Thank you.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, we strongly support the efforts to find a peaceful and negotiated solution to the crisis in Afghanistan. And we welcome the initiative taken by President Ghani and we welcome also the talks between the US and the Taliban, and we hope that that can lead towards a process which includes, of course, the Afghan government.
I will not speculate about the likelihood of a success, but it is extremely important to support those efforts. The way NATO supports those efforts is of course to support the Afghan government: political support, practical support, and also through our military presence, because the purpose of our military presence in Afghanistan is to send a message to the Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. So, they have to sit down at the negotiating table and find a political solution.
Then I will expect that a political solution, a peace agreement in Afghanistan will also address the issue of presence of troops from other countries, including NATO, but it's much too early to speculate exactly what kind of consequences that will have, because that will depend on the character of the agreement.
We are ready to continue a partnership, the cooperation with Afghanistan and our presence is conditions-based and of course, a new peace agreement will have an important consequence for NATO presence in Afghanistan.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay, we can have time for one more question. Over there.
Question: I'm sorry, I didn’t have time to have a question at the previous briefing, so if I may: the question is…
Jacinda Ardern [Prime Minister of New Zealand]: It's obviously for me.
Question [Belarus TV]: No, for the Secretary General. Mr Secretary, what do you think… I'm representing Belarus, Belarus TV station, so the question is: how do you think, what risks does the withdrawal from treaty bring to such countries like Belarus, which are exactly between NATO and Russia? What should our politics do? Maybe join negotiation on … [inaudible] because our people are care about it.
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: The INF Treaty has been and still is extremely important for all European countries. Because these missiles, they can only reach targets in Europe. And the challenge and the problem with the new Russian missiles is that they are mobile, they are hard to detect, they are nuclear-capable, they can reach European cities, they have a short warning time, so by that they also reduce the threshold for any potential use of nuclear weapons in a conflict. That’s the reason why this treaty has been so important. And, as you know, it didn’t only limit the number of missiles, but it actually banned a whole category of missiles. That’s also the reason why we still call on Russia to come back into compliance, in a transparent and verifiable way. And that’s also the reason why I welcome the very strong message from all NATO Allies to Russia, to do exactly that. This is of course also important for Belarus, but I am only able to speak on behalf of NATO Allies.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you very much. This concludes this press point. Thank you.