by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prior to the Extraordinary Meeting of the European Union Foreign Affairs Council
I am looking forward to meeting with the EU Foreign Ministers and to discuss with them the situation in the Middle East, which is of course important for all of us.
Let me start by expressing my heartfelt condolences to all those who lost their loved ones in the terrible plane crash outside Tehran.
This is a tragedy.
And it is important that we are able to establish all the facts. Therefore we need a thorough and transparent investigation.
And I call on Iran to fully participate and contribute to a transparent thorough investigation.
Over the past 48 hours, we have seen some reduction in tensions in the region. We need to build on that and to further de-escalate. And to further reduce tensions.
It is in nobody’s interest to have a new conflict in the Middle East.
Let me just briefly mention three urgent challenges we all have to face.
We need to continue to support Iraq. Both the EU and NATO are members of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh.
We have personnel on the ground, and both the Coalition and NATO have suspended training and capacity building in Iraq for security reasons. I spoke with Iraqi Prime Minister Al Mahdi this week. And I told him that we are committed to restart training as soon as possible. But then we have to make sure that the conditions on the ground permit us to do so.
We need to understand that the fight against Daesh is not over.
We have made enormous progress, but Daesh can return, ISIS can come back.
And the best weapon, the best tool we have in the fight against international terrorism is to train local forces to fight international terrorism.
And that’s exactly what we do in Iraq and that’s the reason why our cooperation with Iraq is so important.
And thirdly, we have to stand together. North America and Europe, we can achieve a lot when we stand together, as we have done in the fight against ISIS, liberating all the territory they controlled, liberating millions of people.
And therefore we need to stand together as we now continue to fight international terrorism.
And I spoke with President Trump this week. He called on NATO, on all of us to do more in the fight against international terrorism. And we are looking into what more we can do because international terrorism is a threat to all of us.
Question: Did NATO’s new drone capture any images of a missile attack against the Ukrainian plane?
Jens Stoltenberg [NATO Secretary General]: So I will not go into details about our intelligence. But what I can say is that we have no reason to not believe the reports we have seen from different NATO Allied capitals. And they have expressed concern about information indicating that the plane may have been downed by Iranian air defence systems. That’s exactly why we need a thorough investigation. That’s exactly why we need to establish all the facts. And that’s exactly why it is important that we have full cooperation from the Iranian side in such an investigation.
Oana Lungescu [NATO Spokesperson]: And question over there.
Question: Secretary General, yes, thank you very much. Secretary General, I’m just wondering, if the Turkish has the right to ask military help from NATO in Libya as a member, and do you have any comment to say about one of the members breaking a united – I’m talking about Turkey – breaking a United Nations’ resolution by sending the troops there?
Jens Stoltenberg: There has been no call for a NATO military role. What Allies have agreed previously is that we are ready to do capacity-building for the UN-recognised, internationally recognised government in Libya.
My main message and NATO’s main message is that we support the UN-led efforts to find a political peaceful solution to the conflict in Libya. That’s important for the people in Libya, but also, of course, important for all its neighbours, including NATO and European Union members.
Oana Lungescu: A question over here.
Question: As you mentioned, President Trump wants to do more NATO in Middle East. Could you tell me more detail? What are you going to do more in Middle East, especially in Iraq, or the other part … [inaudible].
Jens Stoltenberg: NATO has a wide range of capabilities, and we have shown throughout our history that we can do many different things, from diplomatic efforts, political efforts, capacity-building, military operations. So, of course, we have a wide range of tools.
I think it’s a bit too early now to conclude. We already do a lot in the fight against international terrorism. We have our Mission in Afghanistan where we train, assist and advise the Afghan security forces in fighting international terrorism. We have our presence in Iraq where we train Iraqi security forces, helping them to fight ISIS. We also do capacity-building, meaning helping to build the defence and security institutions. And then we also work with other countries in the region, including countries like Jordan and Tunisia. We work with them on issues like intelligence, special operation forces, capacity-building.
And on Monday, the King of Jordan will come to NATO and we will sit down and discuss with him how we can further strengthen our cooperation, because it is a fight which is important for all of us, the countries in the region and all NATO allies.
And then, it is very important to remember that this is not decisions NATO can just make alone. We are working with countries in the region. So when we do training in Iraq, we do that by invitation from the Iraqi government. When we work in Jordan and Tunisia, we do that after we have agreed with those countries how we can work together. And of course, also that’s the same in Afghanistan. So this is not only about what NATO wants to do, but also what countries in the region want us to do together with them.
Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much.
Jens Stoltenberg: Thank you.