Online pre-ministerial press conference

by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs

  • 30 Nov. 2020 -
  • |
  • Last updated: 04 Dec. 2020 07:18

(As delivered)

Online pre-ministerial press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs on 1 and 2 December

Good afternoon.

NATO Foreign Ministers will meet over the next two days to address key issues.

We will discuss the NATO 2030 project and the continued adaptation of our Alliance.
As well as Russia’s military build-up.
The rise of China.
And our  mission in Afghanistan.

We went into Afghanistan to support the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

And to ensure that the country is never again a platform for international terrorists to attack our homelands. 

We have been there for almost two decades.
And the country has come a long way.
We now see an historic opportunity for peace.
It is fragile, but it must be seized.

As part of the peace process, we have adjusted our presence.

The United States has recently decided to further reduce its troop numbers.

But NATO’s training mission continues,
with over half of the forces from European Allies and partner nations.

No one wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary.

In the months ahead, we will continue to assess our presence based on conditions on the ground.
We face a difficult dilemma.

Whether to leave, and risk that Afghanistan becomes once again a safe haven for international terrorists.
Or stay, and risk a longer mission, with renewed violence.

Whatever path we choose, it is important that we do so together, in a coordinated and deliberate way.
Ministers will also address Russia’s military build-up around the Alliance.

Russia is modernising its nuclear arsenal and fielding new missiles.

It is deploying more forces in our neighbourhood, from the High North to Syria and Libya.

We also see an increased Russian presence as a result of the crises in Belarus and Nagorno-Karabakh.

So, Ministers will discuss what more we should do to respond to Russia’s growing military activity. 

And to maintain the arms control regime. Including limitations on nuclear warheads, as the New START treaty is due to expire next February. 

We will also be joined by the Foreign Ministers of Georgia and Ukraine in a separate session.
To address the security situation in the Black Sea region.
And our support for these two valued partners.


NATO foreign ministers will also assess the global shift in the balance of power with the rise of China.

We will be joined by our Asia-Pacific partners:  Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.
And also by Finland and Sweden,
and the European Union High Representative.

China is not our adversary.

Its rise presents an important opportunity for our economies and trade.
We need to engage with China on issues such as arms control and climate change.

But there are also important challenges to our security.
China is investing massively in new weapons.

It is coming closer to us, from the Arctic to Africa.
And by investing in our infrastructure.

China does not share our values.
It does not respect fundamental human rights and tries to intimidate other countries.

We must address this together, both as NATO Allies, and as a community of like-minded countries.

We should, therefore, continue to consult closely, and cooperate where possible.
To bolster the resilience of our societies
and to protect the values and norms we share.

So as we face new global challenges, we will discuss how we can make our strong Alliance even stronger.

Earlier this year, I appointed a group of experts to support my work on NATO’s continued adaptation – the NATO 2030 project.
The group will brief Ministers on their findings.

Their report is one input into NATO 2030.
I will continue to consult with civil society, young leaders, parliamentarians, the private sector, and of course with Allies.

Based on all of this, I will put forward my recommendations to NATO Leaders, when they meet next year.

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

OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: Thank you, Secretary General. We’ll now take the first question from Thomas Gutschker, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

THOMAS GUTSCHKER [FAZ]: Yes, good morning. Thank you very much. Secretary General, two questions on Afghanistan. Now, first, could you please clarify the current numbers? Last week, you said to parliamentarians it was less than 11,000, while a week before that you mentioned 12,000 or less than 12,000. So where are we exactly now? And the second question: which signal is NATO sending to the Taliban when it has been reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year, with increasing levels of violence and no truce, no real truce inside and no real concessions by the Taliban in the peace talks so far. Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: First of all, I think we have to understand that NATO has adjusted and changed the number of troops in Afghanistan over many, many years.

Not so many years ago, we had more than 100,000 troops in a big combat operation. Then we, after that, we have gradually reduced our presence and now we are, well, let me say, roughly 11,000, but this varies a bit. But roughly 11,000 troops in a Train, Assist and Advise mission. More than half are non-US troops coming from European NATO Allies and partner nations.

So, it has been a gradual reduction and that has been possible because we have invested so much in training the Afghans. We have enabled Afghans to protect their own country. And I strongly believe that the best way to stabilise Afghanistan is to train, assist, advise the Afghan security forces so they can be in charge, be responsible for their own country.

Not only do we train them, but we also fund them and Allies have committed to provide funding through 2024.

Then, the main issue is that in the US-Taliban agreement, it is stated that all international troops, also NATO troops, should be out of Afghanistan by 1 May. That’s the reason why we are now faced with a very clear decision, a very difficult choice to be made, which actually represents a dilemma for all of us. And that is either to stay, because we assess that Taliban is not living up to their part of the agreement, not delivering on their promises, but then, of course, risk continued fighting, long-term continued military involvement in Afghanistan; or to leave, but then risk jeopardising the gains we have made in fighting international terrorism and preventing Afghanistan from being a platform for launching attacks against our countries.

This will be a hard and difficult decision, and there is no way to try to deny that. But my message to Allies, when we are going to discuss this tomorrow. But also as we prepare for the upcoming defence ministerial meeting in February, where I expect a final decision to be made on this issue, is that whatever we do, whatever the final conclusion will be, we need to stay coordinated and we need to act in an orderly way.

We are extremely grateful for the German commitment to Afghanistan. Germany has been there for many, many years, one of the largest force contributors to our mission in Afghanistan. And Germany does exactly what NATO is aiming at, and that is to help and train the Afghans. You are responsible for a presence in the north, you are a lead nation, framework nation there. And, therefore, Germany, of course, will be part of this consultation. And I will consult closely with Berlin as we move forward.

OANA LUNGESCU: For the next question, we go to London, Keir Simmons from NBC.

KEIR SIMMONS [NBC]: Thank you very much, Sectary General. Have you had, or could you describe, any communication that you have had with President-elect Biden or his transition team, in particular in regards to the decision over Afghanistan? This, of course, is a pivot point in politics in America and does that make the decision over Afghanistan for America’s NATO Allies that much more difficult?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I had an excellent phone call with President-elect Joe Biden. We have known each other for a long time and his background as Vice- President, as a former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gives him a lot of experience when it comes to security issues in general and NATO in particular. And I know Joe Biden as a very committed supporter of the cooperation, the bond between North America and Europe and of NATO.

I’m looking forward to working with him and also with Kamala Harris, the Vice- President-elect. And they have both expressed strong support to NATO.

There is one president at a time in the United States and now we are working with the current administration. After the transition in January, we are, of course, working with the incoming Biden administration. We will then work with what is then going to be the Biden administration.

In my phone call with President-elect Joe Biden, I underlined the importance of Afghanistan and I also pointed out the dilemma we face, that, of course, there is a price if we decide to stay, but there will also be a price if we decide to leave. The price of staying is, of course, continued military involvement in Afghanistan, a price in treasure and in blood. The price of leaving is the risk of jeopardising the gains we have made. And I think it’s better to be honest that there is no easy solution to that dilemma. But I look forward to discussion with foreign ministers tomorrow and then to continue this and then to also to make the decision with the new Biden administration next year.

OANA LUNGESCU: And for the next question we go to Alexia Tasouli from Open TV, Greece.

ALEXIA TASOULI [Open TV – Greece]: So, thank you, Secretary General. My name is Alexia Tasouli, I’m a diplomatic correspondent from Greece. My question is about the developments in Eastern Mediterranean. You have announced that deconfliction mechanism was established between Greece and Turkey following your efforts and talks between the two countries. But we have seen escalation instead of de-escalation since the Turkish vessel Oruc Reis stayed in the area, which also included the Greek continental shelf for months. And Turkey has carried out exercises near Greek islands demanding their . . . their militarisation. So, has NATO fulfilled its mediation role on this issue? Are you satisfied? Has the deconfliction mechanism worked? What more NATO can do? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I continue to be concerned about the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and that’s also the reason why we continue to work on how can we help to deconflict, how can we help to reduce tensions.

I also clearly stated that when the ship Oruc Reis is in port, as it is from today, as far as I have been informed, that helps to reduce tensions and makes it easier to make progress also on deconfliction.

I welcome the fact that through the deconfliction mechanism we have established at NATO, with support and of course engagement from the two NATO Allies involved, Greece and Turkey, we have been able to put in place communication lines which can help to reduce the risks of incidents and accidents, and, if they happen, to prevent them from spiralling out of control.

We had also been able to cancel some military exercises on the national days of Greece and Turkey.

I have put forward proposals on how to further strengthen this mechanism and how to further reduce the risks for incidents and accidents. But, of course, we have to find ways that is working for both Greece and Turkey. But I will continue to work on this because for me, it is important NATO, as an Alliance, when there are differences, disagreements, as we now see between Greece and Turkey, that NATO is a platform where we can sit down and, in an open way, address differences, but also try to find positive steps in the right direction.

I also hope that military deconfliction at NATO, where we have seen some important steps in the right direction, can help to pave the way to negotiations addressing the underlying main problem. And this is something Germany is working on, but also some other countries and NATO, of course, strongly support those efforts. NATO is not part of those negotiations on the underlying problem.

What we have been working on is the military deconfliction. And I’m not saying that all problems are solved. I’m not saying that everything is fine. But I’m only . . . and we are still concerned, but I’m saying that NATO has proven an important platform to deconflict and to prevent incidents and accidents. And that’s important because we have seen previously in the 80s and 90s that incidents and accidents in the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece actually led to casualties, to fatalities. And we must do whatever we can to prevent that from happening again.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you, we can now go to Lorne Cook from Associated Press.

LORNE COOK [AP]: Yes, Secretary General, good afternoon, I hope you can hear me OK. I have a question on the future of NATO and the . . . and the report that’s just been . . . is going to be submitted tomorrow. Russia sees one of NATO’s major weaknesses as being its slow decision-making, especially as more countries are joining. And some of the actions by Allies are starting to make me wonder if sometimes do they really share the same idea about collective defence, whether it’s the US unilaterally taking troops out of Afghanistan, or Turkey using the S-400s, tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean there, involving four Allies, among other things. So in terms of NATO 2030, how can the Alliance change this? Isn’t it time for NATO to shift to some other kind of formula than unanimity? And what kind of suggestions have you seen in the Reflection Group report that would improve the political aspects of decision-making?

JENS STOLTENBERG: As the report will be discussed by foreign ministers tomorrow, I think I will wait until that discussion before I go more into details about the report.

What I can say is that I appointed this group to support me in my work on NATO 2030, because I will, based on the input from the report, but also based on input and guidance from parliamentarians, from academia, from private sector, and also, of course, consulting closely with all 30 Allies, I will then develop my proposals for the heads of state and government when they meet next year. And I’m looking forward to that because NATO has proven to be a very agile Alliance.

We have, just over the last years, implemented the biggest adaptation of this Alliance in a generation, with the deployment of new battlegroups in the eastern part of the Alliance, stepping up in the fight against terrorism, increased defence investments, setting up new commands also for cyber. We are setting up a new Atlantic command in Norfolk. So, NATO is actually doing a lot, but we need to continue to adapt. And that’s the reason why I will then put forward my proposals for heads of state and government when they meet next year.

OANA LUNGESCU: And for the next question, we can go to Guldener Sonumut from NTV Turkey.

GULDENER SONUMUT [NTV Turkey]: Secretary General, thank you very much. I have two questions. The first question is regards the report that you will present tomorrow. It is just the first the initial report that will pave the way to a long discussion, Youth Summit, Business Summit and then Leaders Summit in 2022. And to the . . . and what is the main topic, which would be the more important? Is it reforming the . . . the internal reform of NATO, or the political reform of NATO? And my second question is that since President-elect Biden will come into force. Do we envisage a kind of summit or mini-summit, physically or virtually in March, April? And is it also the time to review the Strategic Concept of NATO, which is also almost dating for almost more or less 10 years? It wasn’t the proper environment when Trump was President. Do you think that Strategic Concept should also be deeply reviewed? Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: I have stated some weeks ago that I think the time has come to renew, to update the NATO Strategic Concept, because the security environment which we are facing has fundamentally changed since we decided the current Strategic Concept, back in 2010.

Then I have invited Joe Biden, President-elect Joe Biden to a NATO summit in Brussels early next year; the specific date is not yet decided. But there will be a NATO summit and, of course, all NATO leaders will be there, and of course also the newly-elected . . . the President-elect, Joe Biden. And I’m looking forward to welcoming President Biden next year to a NATO summit here in Brussels, because that’s the best way for all Allies’ heads of state and government to meet, to sit down. And at that summit I will also put forward my proposals on how to continue to strengthen and continue to adapt NATO as an agile and strong Alliance.

My objective with NATO 2030 is that we have to make sure that NATO continues to be a strong military Alliance. That also requires continued investments, also to keep our technological edge. That NATO becomes a stronger political Alliance to address a wide range of security challenges. And NATO is unique, because NATO is the only institution, the only organisation that brings together North America and Europe every day here at NATO, in NATO. And we need to use that platform to further strengthen the transatlantic bond, but also to have open discussions when there are differences and disagreements between Allies. Because then NATO is a platform to address those differences, as we, for instance, have done in the Eastern Mediterranean, where there are differences between NATO Allies, but where NATO has provided a platform to at least deconflict, to help to reduce tensions.

So, I’m looking forward to continue the project NATO 2030 and to have a discussion then with the foreign ministers tomorrow, but then after that continue the work and then present my proposals for heads of state and government.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you. The next question comes from Evelyn Kaldoja from Postimees in Estonia. Evelyn, please go ahead.

EVELYN KALDOJA [Postimees]: Yes, hi. I would like to ask about, again, about Afghanistan. What does it mean for Resolute Support, as far as you know, the US troop withdrawal?

JENS STOLTENBERG:  The US troop withdrawal will, of course, reduce the US presence in Afghanistan. But the NATO Training Mission will continue in its current configuration, meaning that we will maintain the different bases, including the German-led base in the north, Mazar-e-Sharif, and then the Italian-led in the west, Herat. And then, of course, the NATO presence, for instance, in Kabul, where Turkey has a lead role at the airport. And we have UK troops and we have, of course, also Estonian troops in Afghanistan. And the NATO Training Mission will continue and European NATO Allies and partner nations have all stated clearly that they will continue to sustain their troop levels in Afghanistan.

So the NATO Training Mission will continue. Also, because the US has made clear that the reduction of troop numbers will not undermine US’s . . . US will still be committed to and still be able to deliver key enablers for the rest of the NATO Training Mission, meaning, for instance, air transport, medical support, intelligence and so on. So with continued US enablers, with the continued commitment from European Allies, we will continue our Training Mission in Afghanistan.

But having said that, we are also now preparing for a very hard and difficult decision next year, when we have to assess the progress in the peace process. We welcome, of course, the peace talks that are taking place in Doha. That’s an historic opportunity, it’s the first time Taliban and the Afghan government negotiate, sit down, meet at the same table. These talks are fragile. These talks are difficult. There is no guarantee for success. But they are the best – and actually now the only – path to peace. And, therefore, this historic opportunity has to be seized. We call on Taliban to meet all their obligations to deliver what they have promised. But I also call on the Afghan government to seize this historic opportunity for peace and to negotiate in good faith.

Then, we need, together with the new Biden administration, next year, to make an assessment of whether we believe that the conditions are in place, that Taliban has delivered what they promised to agree to, to a degree that makes it possible for us to leave, or stay. And again, as I said, if we stay, then we risk continued involvement in a very difficult military conflict and increased violence. But if we leave, we risk to lose the gains we have made over a decade or two decades in Afghanistan. And it is important that we prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. And, for instance, we have seen ISIS trying to get a foothold in Afghanistan. And it is important to prevent ISIS from trying to re-establish their terror caliphate they lost in Iraq and Syria to try to re-establish that in Afghanistan.

So, I’m only preparing all Allies and all partners on a challenging, difficult dilemma and decision we have to make, together with a new administration in the United States, as Allies, as partners early next year.

OANA LUNGESCU: The next question goes to Tamara Nutsubidze from Georgian TV.

TAMARA NUTSUBIDZE [Georgian TV]: Thank you for this opportunity. As we know, you already met with the members of Reflection Group, they prepared a report which will be released after tomorrow. So can you tell us more details about, Georgia in this group, in this report, and which kind of cooperation can we expect 2030? And also, very important issue about the Membership Action Plan - in which stage are Georgia now and when do you think our country can expect a MAP?  Thanks.

JENS STOLTENBERG:  One aim of NATO 2030 is to strengthen NATO as a political Alliance, and that also means working, strengthening, working with partners, including with a partner like Georgia. Georgia is a highly-valued partner, and the partnership between Georgia and NATO makes us all safer. And, therefore, I strongly believe that this partnership is not only good for Georgia, but also good for NATO.

Not least because Georgia contributes to NATO missions and operations, especially in Afghanistan, where Georgia has contributed forces, troops, for many, many years and a high number of troops.

We are working closely with Georgia in the Black Sea, in the Black Sea Region. We provide political support, but also practical support to Georgia. We have stepped up our support by also now doing more in the maritime domain, including with the training of the Coast Guard. We have more sharing of air traffic radar data, and are working jointly to address hybrid threats, as well as conducting joint exercises in the Black Sea Region.

I will not speculate about any dates when it comes to membership, but what I can say is that the decision taken at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 still stands. I strongly believe that the best way for Georgia to move towards closer to NATO is by continuing to implement reforms, to modernise their security and defence institutions and NATO Allies and NATO are providing support. And we also have more NATO presence in Georgia, for instance, with the NATO Training Centre outside Tbilisi.

OANA LUNGESCU: For the next question, we can go to Paris and Jacques Hubert-Rodier from Les Echos. 

JACQUES HUBERT-RODIER [Les Echos]: Yes, Jacques Hubert-Rodier from Les Echos. Thank you, Secretary General. I have a question about: do you expect a real improvement in the transatlantic link between the US and the European Allies? And I was thinking especially to Germany, between the Americans and Germany, we had a very tense period. What do you expect with the next American administration?

JENS STOLTENBERG: President-elect Joe Biden is a strong supporter of NATO and he is not only a strong supporter, but he knows NATO well. And I think that’s a good thing for all of us. And I have known him for many years. I met him in my former capacity as Prime Minister of Norway, then he was Vice-President in the United States. And then his experience also as the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the US Senate, also has given him unique insights in the importance of NATO.

So I expect that, in the coming years, we will be able to further strengthen the transatlantic bond. A strong NATO is important for Europe. We are dependent on the security guarantees of the United States, and, of course, both Canada and the United States being important for European security, with troops, with exercises, with military presence in Europe. That is important for our security. But, at the same time, a strong NATO is also important for the United States. Not least when we now see that the global balance of power is shifting, with the rise of China. And sometimes when I go to the United States, I hear people being concerned about the size of China, the size of their economy, the size of their defence budget, the many advances they are making within different areas of technology. But then my message to the Unites States is that, well, if they are concerned about the size of China, then it’s even more important to keep friends and Allies in NATO close, because together NATO Allies represent 50 per cent of the world’s GDP and the world’s military might. So, as long as we stand together, we are safe. And that’s the strength of this Alliance.

So, I’m looking forward to working with the new administration. And I also know that there is a strong bipartisan support for NATO in the United States. Every time I go and meet people from the Congress, from the Republican and Democratic Party, they all assure me that they are a strong supporter of NATO and, therefore, I think that’s a strength that this has such broad bipartisan support in the United States.

OANA LUNGESCU: And the next question goes to Aalla Ahmed-Hemken from Rudaw in Germany.

AALLA AHMED-HEMKEN [Rudaw]: Oh, hello. I’m on the way to next interview. Thank you very much. My question is this: I would like to know if NATO plan to continue fighting against Daesh/Islamic State in Iraq and Syria next year? What’s your strategy and what’s the concept from . . . from NATO for next year in this area? And can you go please, can you tell me what else, what, what you want to do there. And, you know, Iraq is important country in Middle East. Thank you very much.

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO will continue to fight terrorism, we will continue to fight ISIS/Daesh and we will do that in many different ways.

Of course, our presence in Afghanistan is about fighting terrorism. We have seen al-Qaeda, but we’ve also seen ISIS operating in Afghanistan.

We are now stepping up in Iraq. We have a Training Mission in Iraq. We provide support to the Iraqi security forces, but we are now in the process of stepping up, enhancing our presence in Iraq to provide more support. And NATO is, of course, a member of the US-led Global Coalition to fight Daesh/ISIS.

We are also working with other partners in the region, like Tunisia, like Jordan and other countries, to help them fight terrorism, build capacity and provide help in different ways.

I think that perhaps the most important message I have on fighting terrorism is that the best weapon we have is to train local forces. That’s exactly what we now have done for several years in Afghanistan. And that has also made it possible for us to reduce our military presence. And then the Afghan security forces are doing more and more. And that’s also the aim in Iraq. We need to prevent ISIS from returning. The best way of doing that is to enable the Iraqi security forces to be able to fight Daesh and to become stronger. So, NATO as a training Alliance, NATO as an Alliance, a platform where we support, train, assist and advise security forces in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan, are key tools in the fight against international terrorism.

OANA LUNGESCU: The next question goes to Shershah Nawabi in Kabul from Pasbanan Media Group.

SHERSHAH NAWABI [Pasbanan Media Group]: Yeah, thank you so much, your Excellency, and hi to my colleagues around the world. I want to ask that, currently, as you see, the situation in Afghanistan is getting . . . worsening, we are in a peace talk with the Taliban … [inaudible] we are seeing that the violence level is increasing. So I want to … [break in video connection].

OANA LUNGESCU: Yeah, we seem to be having problems with that question from Kabul, so we’ll go to Bucharest next. Robert Lupitu from Calea Europeana.

ROBERT LUPITU [Calea Europeana]: Thank you so much. Mr Secretary General, you mentioned that, in your introductory remarks, that you’ll have a discussion on the Black Sea Region. So I want to ask you, how does . . . how does NATO intend, and how will NATO continue to strengthen its defence posture in the Black Sea, considering also the incoming Biden administration, and what’s your take on that for the Black Sea? And also, given the recent exercises that both Allies, Romania and the United States had in the Black Sea in the Mihail Kogălniceanu air base a few days ago? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: The Black Sea Region is of strategic importance for NATO and all NATO Allies, and we are working closely with our two highly-valued partners, Georgia and Ukraine, in the Black Sea Region, and, of course, also three NATO Allies, Turkey, Bulgaria and Romania are littoral states. So, NATO has a significant presence in the Black Sea Region. We have a maritime presence; we recently had Allied ships exercising there. And we also have a deployment of a training brigade, a Romanian-led multinational brigade in Romania.

So, we have increased the NATO presence in the Black Sea Region and we are working closely with Ukraine and Georgia as partners, because we have seen that Russia has violated the territorial integrity and sovereignty of these two countries, with the illegal annexation of Crimea, and the presence of Russian forces in parts of what is actually recognised Georgian territory.

We are stepping up our political support, our practical support, and we see that Russia is increasing their military presence, not least in Crimea. And that’s reason why we need to further strengthen our presence in the region, and to also address this with our partners Georgia and Ukraine, as we’re going to do on Wednesday when we meet with the foreign ministers from these two partner countries.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. And for the final question, I’ll actually read the question that Shershah Nawabi from the Pasbanan Media Group in Kabul just sent us, because he couldn’t establish the video connection. And his question is: what is your reaction, Secretary General, to the levels of Taliban violence in Afghanistan?

JENS STOLTENBERG: I condemn the violence. I condemn the attacks. And we have seen over the last months and weeks several attacks. Some are conducted by Taliban, some attacks ISIS claim responsibility for. But what we know is that Taliban is responsible for attacks and the level of violence is far too high. And, therefore, we call on Taliban to reduce the level of violence, to engage in good faith  in the peace negotiations in Doha and to live up to their commitments, which includes also to break all ties with international terrorists, to break all ties with al-Qaeda.

So, I think we should not underestimate the challenges we face in Afghanistan. We see violence, we see an unpredictable and difficult military and political situation. But at least there are now talks. We welcome those talks and we expect the Taliban to engage in those talks with good faith.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much, this concludes this press conference. Secretary General, over to you for any last words you want to say.

JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you so much for joining me on this virtual press conference. I think this works very well, but I’m looking forward to seeing you in a normal way, hopefully, sometime soon next year. In the meantime, stay safe.