by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
Today, Defence Ministers addressed the situation in the wider Middle East and North Africa. And what more NATO can do to contribute to stability and security. Conflict and turmoil in our southern neighborhood have caused untold suffering.
And they pose challenges for us. Driving the refugee and migrant crisis.And also fuelling the threat of terrorism.
This is why NATO and the NATO Allies have been engaged in the region for many years. And, working together with our partners from the region, we have made remarkable progress in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Liberating all the territory and the millions of people this brutal terrorist group once controlled.
Today Allied ministers reaffirmed our support to Iraq, and agreed in principle to enhance NATO’s training mission. In the first instance, this will consist of taking on some of the Global Coalition’s current training activities.
Ministers also agreed to explore what more we can do, beyond this first step.
Let me be clear:
NATO is in Iraq on the invitation of the Iraqi Government. And we will only stay in Iraq as long as we are welcome. Because NATO fully respects Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Everything we do will be in close consultation and coordination with the Iraqi government. I remain in close contact with the Iraqi leadership. And we have constructive discussions on the way forward for the NATO mission in Iraq. Our aim is to increase the capacity of the Iraqi armed forces so that they no longer require our support. Together we are committed to fight terrorism. And ensure that ISIS does not come back.
Over the past years, the Iraqi people and the Iraqi forces have demonstrated great courage and commitment in the fight against terrorism. We commend them for their sacrifices.
Ministers also discussed the situation in the wider Middle East and North Africa. And they decided to further explore what more NATO can do. To fight terrorism, build stability and strengthen our partnerships across the region.
We also addressed Afghanistan. As we continue to consult closely on the way forward. NATO fully supports the US-led peace efforts, which can pave the way for intra-Afghan talks. But the Taliban need to demonstrate that they are both willing and capable to deliver a reduction of violence. And contribute to peace in good faith. The aim of our Resolute Support mission is to strengthen the Afghan security forces, so they can fight terrorism and create the conditions for peace. And we will continue our discussion tomorrow with all our contributing partners.
Tonight, we will discuss our cooperation with the European Union. The EU High Representative/Vice President Josep Borrell will join us for the first time, together with our partners Finland and Sweden.
NATO and the European Union are two sides of the same coin. So we will consider what more we could do together to deepen our unique partnership and strengthen our security.
And with that, I am ready to take your questions.