Press conference

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson after the NATO Defence Planning Committee Meeting

  • 16 Feb. 2003 -
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  • Last updated: 25 Jul. 2015 22:04

Chairman of the Military Committee, General Kujat (left) and NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson (right) at the press conference

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and thank you for your patience. It’s been a long day for all of us. But we have come to a conclusion.

Ambassadors of 18 NATO nations, members in the Defence Planning Committee of NATO, came to this building this morning confident that we had the elements necessary to provide the basis for a consensus decision.

The discussions today were both arduous but constructive. One country – Belgium – proposed amendments to a draft decision sheet which were discussed and considered at some length.

I am happy to announce that we have been able – collectively – to overcome the impasse we have faced for the past few days.

We agree on substance, we agree on timing and we agree on how to integrate our collective solidarity with Turkey in the wider context.

A political decision backed by consensus has always been the preferred choice of this Alliance. The search for consensus remains a cornerstone of how the North Atlantic Alliance operates.

It is therefore with great personal satisfaction that I can now confirm that the 18 NATO Allies, members of the integrated military structure, agreed today to task military planners to begin their work and advise Allies with military advice on the following possible missions:

  • preventive deployment of AWACS aircraft;
  • NATO support for the deployment of theatre missile defences for Turkey;
  • NATO support for possible deployment of Allied chemical and biological defence capabilities.

The military authorities will also review contingency plans related to the reinforcement of Turkey in the context of the current situation, and update these plans as needed.

These measures are intended to provide Turkey solely with defensive assistance.

Alliance solidarity has prevailed. NATO nations have assumed their collective responsibility towards Turkey, a nation at the moment under threat.

In closing, I wish to say that my choices were always taken having in mind the greater interest of the Alliance as a whole. My job as Secretary General of NATO is to lead the nations towards consensus. And that is what I’ve done today. Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers

Q: You got a decision here today on the base of 18. Do you believe you would have got the decision if all 19 had been around the table, if this was done at the NAC?

Lord Robertson: Well, we would have preferred to have a decision by the North Atlantic Council with all 19 members present. France is by its own choice not a member of the integrated military structure, and therefore not a member of the Defence Planning Committee. We reached consensus today. I think that’s a good thing. France has got its own position and can answer for itself. But today was a remarkable day with an important decision and a very firm and clear signal by the Alliance that we will stand by an Ally if that Ally is under threat.

Q: I have one question for Lord Robertson and another one for Mr. Kujat, please. Lord Robertson, you said on Wednesday that France, Belgium and Germany are destroying NATO. Why are they doing that, and how far does this perception of yours go?

Lord Robertson: I did not say that. I don't know where you heard it from, I certainly did not say that. I represent all of the nations in NATO. Those who are in the majority and those who are in the minority. My job - and it’s pretty painful at times, and it takes a long time, on occasion - is to get consensus amongst the allies because we operate by consensus, and by unanimity, and that is what we’ve done today. One nation was not… is not part of the… the Defence Planning Committee and that is their choice. But we have consensus among the 18 allies, and therefore the military defensive and contingency planning can now go ahead.

But I make no accusations against the good faith or the loyalty, or the reliability of any of the nations in NATO. I haven’t done it, I wouldn’t do it, and I certainly have not done it.

Q: I’m Mejamo… Czech Newspaper… How much these forces, AWACS, missiles and so on, can be used also to defend American bases in Turkey, from which an attack on Iraq could be launched?

Lord Robertson: These defensive measures, the integrated air defence system of NATO, which involves the AWACS planes owned by NATO, and the missile systems being provided by the Netherlands, and the missiles by Germany, fit into an integrated air defence system. They are designed for defence. It is the view of the Chairman of the Military Committee here, General Kujat, and of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Jones, that there is, in the current circumstances, a threat to Turkey from one of its neighbours.

Therefore, there is an obligation in the Alliance to take that into account and to respond with appropriate measures. That’s what we’ve done. These are defensive, prudent, defensive and deterrent measures. And we will move forward with their implementation as the decision sheet says today with urgency.

Q: Perhaps in German… (in German).

General Kujat: We are preparing our advice...we started with the work immediately. So I hope that this a question of a few days. But I can’t give you the exact timing, because the Military Committee has to decide. But it’s a question of a few days. And we will take that up as a matter of urgency.

Q: Secretary General, in your introduction you did not, I think, make a reference to the… to the linkage with the framework of the United Nations discussion, which one ally, Belgium, which blocked the situation for one week here, insisted was the most important point from their point of view. And you did not really insist on this point. Why?

Lord Robertson:You’ll be able to see the full decision sheet in due course, and you’ll see what all 18 allies have reaffirmed in terms of our commitment to the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. And that derives from the very forthright and tough statement by the NATO Heads of States and Government at the Summit in Prague in November. And it says that the decision to approve the planning of these protection measures is fully consistent with the deliberation and efforts in the United Nations.

I think… I’m not going to go into the detail of even these three paragraphs, but you’ll see that we have stated the obvious; that is we support the United Nations process; that these decisions are purely for the defence of Turkey. That these decisions do not prejudge any further decisions that are taken or could be taken. Now these are in the decision sheet. But they are facts and self-evident facts as well.

This is not a step towards going to war. It is a reaffirmation of our support for the United Nations, for Security Council Resolution 1441. And therefore, its implementation, which can be done if Sadam Hussein complies with the resolution, disarms, demonstrates it and convinces the UN Security Council that he has not any longer got weapons of mass destruction.

Q: In French, please. Vous pourriez nous dire, s’il-vous-plaît, quel est le poids du document dans lequel vous donnez satisfaction au gouvernement belge?

Lord Robertson: Well the… the document will speak for itself. And I don’t distinguish between those aspects that will give satisfaction to any of the 18 countries. They reached consensus; they all agree on every aspect of that. And what is in the decision sheet, what we spent a lot of time discussing, was a factual description of, first of all, our support for the UN process; secondly, for the essential defensive measures required by Turkey at this moment of danger, and our commitment to make sure that that ally continues to receive protection.

Could I just make one point about the… the other country that was not party to these decisions today. France has, all along, made it clear that it stands in solidarity with Turkey. And by not being in the Defence Planning Committee is not to… to in any way suggest that France is not part of that ultimate loyalty and commitment to the defence of an ally.

France believed that these measures were not yet opportune. That was its choice. It’s not part of the Defence Planning Committee. But I hope that people will not anywhere get a signal that it implies any less commitment. And all of the points in this decision sheet have been subscribed to unanimously by all 18 members of the Defence Planning Committee.