by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the informal meeting with EU Defence Ministers
It’s good to be back in Berlin. And it’s good to also have this opportunity to meet with EU Defence Ministers. I think the fact that the NATO Secretary General attends the EU Defence Ministerial meeting demonstrates the close cooperation between NATO and the European Union.
We will address missions and operations. I will update the ministers on NATO's presence in Afghanistan. We stay committed to our presence there because we believe that's the best way to support the peace efforts and we see some encouraging progress. When it comes to moving towards starting inter-Afghan dialogue, inter-Afghan negotiations to create a lasting and peaceful solution to the crisis in Afghanistan.
I will also update the ministers on NATO's work on how to step up our presence in Iraq. Training local forces, training Iraqi security forces, building local capacity is the best way to prevent that ISIS is able to return, and both in Afghanistan and Iraq, NATO and the European Union are working very closely together, and we are now stepping up our efforts in Iraq.
Then of course we are following the crisis in Belarus very closely. It evolves at our borders. The people of Belarus must have the right to decide their own future. All Allies respect the sovereignty, the integrity, the independence of Belarus and NATO remains a defensive Alliance. We are vigilant, we are ready to protect and defend all Allies. But there is no military NATO build up in the region. So any attempt by the regime built in Belarus, to use NATO as an excuse or as a pretext to crack down on the demonstrators in their own country is absolutely wrong, is absolutely unjustified.
We are concerned about the situation in the eastern Mediterranean. What we need is de-escalation, is dialogue. Turkey and Greece have both been important NATO Allies for many years. And we need to find a way to resolve the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, based on the spirit of Allied solidarity and international law, and I welcome the efforts by Germany to mediate to find a way forward. And I'm also personally regularly in contact with both Ankara and Athens. I spoke recently with the Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis. And we continue to provide NATO as a platform for Allies to meet and discuss how to find the solution to this situation in eastern Mediterranean.