Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani
Welcome to NATO Headquarters. It’s a pleasure to see you here in the new NATO building.
And I know that you have visited NATO before, but this is the first time I have the honour of receiving you at NATO as Secretary General, and therefore it’s a great honour to meet with you, Mr. President.
Mauritania is a committed partner.
And we have been working together through the Mediterranean Dialogue for more than 25 years.
I welcome Mauritania’s important contributions to regional security.
You are a leader in the G5 Sahel group.
And your forces are on the front line, countering terrorism in the region.
We are closely following the security situation.
And we are committed to the international fight against terrorism,
And NATO is part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
In these efforts, our dialogue with partners, including Mauritania, is essential.
NATO is committed to helping Mauritania strengthen its capabilities.
We have supported you in constructing safe munition depots, destroying obsolete ammunition and weapons, and training military personnel as they return to civilian life.
We have already helped establish four crisis management centres in Mauritania.
And we are now working together to establish two civil protection units focused on telemedicine.
By improving capabilities, this project will help to better coordinate and pool the operational assets of Mauritania’s civil protection and health system at local and regional level.
And later across the whole country.
Today, we discussed areas for further cooperation, and I am pleased to say we have agreed on an enhanced dialogue on counter-terrorism.
This dialogue can lead to greater cooperation between NATO and Mauritania, including on border security and countering improvised explosive devices.
And a team of experts will travel to your capital to further strengthen our cooperation.
We also discussed how NATO and the G5 Sahel can work more closer together, including through potential capacity building programmes.
In addition to bilateral issues, we looked at regional security, including in Libya.
NATO welcomes the ceasefire agreement reached last October as well as the initial outcomes of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum.
We urge all parties in Libya, and all members of the international community, to support the Berlin process, and the UN-led efforts.
We remain ready to provide advice to Libya in the area of defence and security institution building,
when political and security conditions permit.
President , thank you once again for the opportunity to meet.
We recognize the serious challenges Mauritania faces in the Sahel region.
And we are committed to helping you address them.
I look forward to strengthening our cooperation.
So once again, welcome, and thank you for coming to NATO.
Remarks by President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of Mauritania
NATO Spokesperson Oana Lungescu: Questions, starting with Al-Arabiya, Noureddine Fridhi. Noureddine, we can't hear you.
Noureddine Fridhi: Is it ok now? Ok, Happy New Year, even if it is a little bit late, but I have a couple of questions. My question to Mr President of Mauritania. Mr President what is the technical assistance that NATO could contribute to Mauritania? I’m talking about a situation which is increasingly unstable, and, according to many experts, missions such as the G5 Sahel have failed.
Mr Secretary General, my question is about Russian penetration in Libya and beyond Libya. My question is, how worried are you, regarding Russia influence in Libya whether directly, or via non actor state, but also there is Russian penetration in Sudan and mainly in the Republic of Central Africa. How worried are you that this penetration could be complicated say the stability of the region. Thank you.
President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of Mauritania: Regarding the areas where there could be a cooperation between Mauritania and NATO, the first thing I need to clarify here, is that it is not in the context of this visit, in this discussion, that we are starting cooperation with NATO. In fact, NATO and Mauritania, have been cooperating for many years now, in a number of fields. NATO support to Mauritania, regarding security issues is a significant contribution, it has produced tangible results and now what we are looking at, and this is actually what I was referring to in our discussions with the Secretary General, is the diversification and consolidation of the cooperation that we have and that is continuing to grow.
Now turning to the second part of your question I do not fully share your statement with regards the failure of the G5 Sahel and Barkhane Force. This is not an assessment that we share. In fact, it is quite the opposite. We are not failing here. In fact, we think that we are delivering significant results and that things are headed in the right direction.
And this allows me to express in my own name and on behalf of my G5 Sahel counterparts, express the gratitude we have for the support that we receive from our partners in general and for the Barkhane operation in particular.
I believe that the vision of my friend, President Macron, with whom I have just had a long discussion in Paris, this was within the context of a dinner, and of course, the issue of security and the G5 Sahel and all the related issues, was at the heart of our exchange.
And this vision illustrates a deep understanding of the stakes, that are in play, not just for the G5 Sahel area. We're talking about a threat which reaches well beyond the limits of this area, and where the deployment, which is carried out despite the significant human price to be paid. By doing this, President Macron is giving France, a leading role at an international level and perhaps some don't notice this today but we'll be thanking France, in the future, thanking France for having taken such a risk on behalf of the entire world. And I believe that this is an effort which is extremely worthwhile.
So, talking about a failure of G5 Sahel is also something I do not agree with. We feel that 2020 was a year when the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel has deployed more, has deployed more successfully, it is also a year when it was able to carry out more operations against terrorist groups.
So that would be my, my take on what you stated.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: On the question about increased Russian presence in Libya, and in Africa in general, of course this is something we follow and monitor very closely at NATO, it's part of a pattern of increased Russian presence, not only Libya, but in other parts of Africa and in the Middle East, in Syria and in the Black Sea region in Crimea, and also in the Baltic region and also in the High North. So the reality is that we have seen increased military build-up by Russia, from the High North all the way to the Baltic region, Black Sea, Middle East and North Africa. And this is something which is of great concern.
We are following the Russian military build-up, very closely. And this is also the reason why NATO has increased the readiness of forces, why we have invested more in new capabilities and why we are adapting NATO in response also to a more assertive Russia, which is investing heavy in new military equipment and also increasing its military presence along our borders, including in North Africa and in Libya.
When it comes to Libya in particular, we have seen the presence of fighter jets, of mercenaries, financed by Russia and older Russian military capabilities. For NATO this just highlights the importance of supporting the UN-led efforts to find a political, negotiated solution. We welcome the progress we have seen, we welcome the ceasefire, we continue to strongly support the efforts of the UN and also the Berlin Process.
We stand ready to provide support when the conditions on the ground, permit. Because we strongly believe that what we need is a political solution, and support the UN recognized Government.
So, yes, we see more Russian presence, NATO is responding, and we work for a political solution in Libya.
NATO Spokesperson: For the next question we'll go to Lorne Cook from Associated Press.
Lorne Cook: Yes. Good afternoon, Secretary General, Lorne Cook, Associated Press. I wanted to ask you about developments in the United States. The President there - and that's NATO's biggest member country – has been impeached for inciting an insurrection and part of that act was due to the use of disinformation and NATO has been trying to fight this for years. Is this kind of action acceptable from the democracies that make up the North Atlantic Alliance and how is consistent with NATO's values and doesn't it just embolden NATO’s enemies in fact.
NATO Secretary General: So what we saw in in the United States in Washington, last week, was a deadly attack on Capitol, on the heart of the democratic institutions of the United States of America, and that's absolutely unacceptable and I stated very clearly and very early that this was shocking, and that the outcome of the election has to be respected and that we have to make sure that our democratic values are fully respected.
I have confidence in the democratic institutions of the United States.
I look forward to a peaceful transition and I look forward to working with Joe Biden as the next President of the United States, I know that Joe Biden is strongly committed to our transatlantic cooperation, to NATO. And I know that he also, of course, would strongly support the idea of further strengthening the cooperation between North America and Europe.
Regarding the deadly storming of the Capitol in Washington, I think it's important that all those responsible, are held accountable. Democracy must always prevail over violence, and I'm confident that the democratic institutions of the United States will handle this challenge, they have seen especially during last week.
NATO Spokesperson: We can now go to Brooks Tigner from Jane’s Defence. Brooks, can you hear us?
Okay, I don't see Brooks. So, if we can maybe go to the next question from Rapide Info from Mauritania and Ahmed Bettar. I can see Brooks Tigner there, but we can't hear him. Brooks please go ahead, and you can ask your question now.
Brooks Tigner: Yes. Thank you for organizing this Press meeting. I just wanted to ask one question coming back to the Sahel: if there are any plans to launch or increase EU-NATO cooperation in the region to fight terrorism or perhaps to help out with joint training, and also would NATO be ready to provide indirect technical or operational support to the EU missions and operations in the region. I know that’s not the case now, but given the scale of the problem I wonder if this might be in discussion in the future. Thank you.
NATO Secretary General: Well NATO is in close contact and of course coordinating closely with all the relevant organisations, institutions in the region, including the UN but also of course, the European Union. I regularly meet with the EU leadership then we discuss these issues we look into how we can work together how we can support each other's efforts.
And of course, meeting the President of Mauritania, today we also discussed how NATO can do more both bilaterally with Mauritania, including stepping up our efforts in supporting them in their efforts to fight international terrorism, how we can work together on the border security, countering improvised explosive devices and many other areas. So we work bilaterally with Mauritania, we work with Mauritania in the G5 Sahel context, Mauritania holding the Chairmanship of the group, the G5 Sahel. And of course also then working with the European Union, then we will go into the different concrete projects.
We have decided to send a team of experts from NATO to Mauritania, as soon as possible to look into concrete activities, concrete projects and of course, that may also in some way or another involve working with the EU but I think it's wrong if I now speculate about what kind of concrete project that will be. We need to sit down with the countries in the region and in particular with Mauritania, to agree and to identify the different projects.
NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much. I think we can now go to Ahmed Bettar from Rapide Info from Mauritania, if the connection holds. Ahmed, if you can hear us, you can go ahead and put your question.
Ok, since I can’t hear Ahmed I have two questions in French: what role should NATO play when it comes to the security of the Sahel region. And when do you think of the support of Allied forces in the region and why are there delays. So those were the questions from the journalist of Mauritania.
So what would the role be for NATO when it comes to the security of the Sahel region and what do you think of the support of Allied forces and why is there a delay. Those are the questions put by the journalist from Mauritania.
President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of Mauritania: With regard to NATO's role, I think that we can better define the roles of NATO and of other players in the region, who are members of NATO. I think that it would be helpful to proceed this way. Because clearly NATO has a role to play when it comes to security in the Sahel region.
That said, when it comes to defining such a role, we need to think about NATO's role, relative to the role of other stakeholders who may or may not be part of NATO.
There are countries that are part of the G5 Sahel and have a special status with regards NATO because, for example, Mauritania, is part of the Mediterranean Dialogue so it would be helpful to clarify roles vis-a-vis these different players in the region.
Regarding the Alliance, and delays well, our view is that we actually welcome how expeditiously the Alliance came and provided support. We are very happy with how much has already been done. We're less than one year after the launch of this effort, again, there was the Summit in Pau, which I mentioned, and we did not discuss then all the measures and actions which could take place within the framework of the G5 Sahel.
And it was later that we defined that the Alliance should come and strengthen the measures we might take against terrorist groups in the three border area so the area which has a border between Mauritania, Mali and Burkina Faso.
We think that this is a project which is making steady progress, and our expectation is that it will deliver a fruitful outcome. This increases the focus which has been put on the security of region and this is very helpful, having further partners to come and help out.
NATO Secretary General: The Sahel region matters for our security, and for NATO it is important to work with our partners all over other countries in the Sahel region to fight international terrorism and different NATO allies participate in different ways.
And I would like to express my condolences to the loss of life from countries which are involved in this fight; France, but also the G5 Sahel countries.
NATO is now working with Mauritania, but also with other countries in Northern Africa, we will look into what more we can do to provide support. For us it is extremely important that we realize the dangers related to terrorism, to instability, and therefore when our neighbours in the Sahara region in North Africa are more stable we are also more secure.
We only provide support to Partners. We do some capacity building to support our regional partners, including Tunisia, Mauritania, and Jordan, and during the meeting with President Ould Ghazouani today, we actually discussed how we can further strengthen and do more together.
Also, in the area of countering terrorism and how NATO can step up and provide more capacity building. This is something new, we have been working with Mauritania for several years. But, we see a potential - untapped potential - for providing more support, for doing more together in the fight against terrorism.
And when the NATO Foreign Ministers met last fall, they also agreed that we should do more, also, in North Africa and Sahel, and this includes more help to Partners with reforms and capacity building, NATO led exercises with the focus on fighting terrorism and deepening our partnerships with regional organizations including the African Union.
So, NATO and NATO Allies, already play a role in fighting terrorism in Sahel and North Africa. We provide support capacity building to Partners, and we are now in the process of stepping up, and the meeting with the President of Mauritania today, and the agreement we have to do more together, both bilaterally but also in the G5 Sahel context, just demonstrates the commitment of NATO to fight international terrorism together with Partner countries like Mauritania.
NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much. This concludes this Press Point. Have a good evening. Thank you.