by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ahead of the meetings of NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs
So good morning. Today and tomorrow, NATO Foreign Ministers will address different pressing security issues, including the situation in the Middle East.
I welcome the extension of the pause in the hostilities in Gaza. This has allowed for much needed relief for the people in Gaza and also the release of more hostages and also the provision or delivery of more humanitarian aid.
We will of course discuss the situation in Ukraine. We see intense fighting along the frontline and we have seen waves of drone attacks against Ukrainian cities and we need to be prepared for more fighting and also more air and missile attacks against Ukrainian cities.
This just makes it even more important that NATO Allies continue to support Ukraine. And I welcome the recent announcements by Allies of additional support. Germany announced 8 billion extra Euros and the Netherlands 2 billion extra Euros. Just a couple of weeks ago we established the training center in Romania to train F-16 pilots. And there is also now the 20 countries which have established the coalition to provide more air defence and coordinate efforts to provide air defence to Ukraine.
So Allies are doing a lot and I expect also at the meeting today and tomorrow that Allies will reiterate their strong support to Ukraine. We will also meet with Foreign Minister Kuleba in the NATO-Ukraine Council tomorrow.
Then other issues will be addressed like China, the Western Balkans and also the threats and opportunities in our southern neighbourhood. And I will come back to them as we then address them throughout today and tomorrow.
With that I'm ready to take some questions.
Ansgar Haase, dpa: SecGen, how frustrated are you that there will be no flag raising ceremony for Sweden today? And is there any leverage that could be used to speed up the process?
NATO Secretary General: I had hoped for full accession of Sweden in NATO by this meeting. That has not happened. The good news is that President Erdogan has submitted the papers for ratification to the Turkish parliament and I expect the parliament to finalize their discussions and conclude as soon as possible. Because it will be good for all of us - for Sweden, for NATO, for Türkiye to have Sweden as a full-fledged member. We need to also remember that Türkiye has legitimate security concerns about terrorism, about working more closely together with NATO Allies on fighting a real terror threat. No other Ally has suffered more terrorist attacks than Türkiye. And therefore, I welcome that as part of this process, we have agreed to step up what to do in the fight against terrorism. Sweden has delivered. They are working more closely with Türkiye in the fight against PKK, against terrorist groups. NATO has stepped up its efforts and therefore I now expect that also Türkiye delivers on what we all agreed in Vilnius to finalize the ratification and work more closely together in the fight against terrorism.
Oleksandr Khymych, RBK-Ukraine: RBK Ukraine News Agency. Secretary General, do you expect a major breakthrough on the frontlines in Ukraine in some foreseeable future and what does Ukraine need to do so
NATO Secretary General: I'm very careful predicting the developments along the frontline because wars are by nature unpredictable. What we have seen is that the courage, the determination, this skills of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have impressed the whole world because we need to remember where we started when this war, when the full-fledged invasion happened last year.
We feared and many experts believed that Ukraine would collapse within weeks and that Kyiv would be under Russian control within days. That did not happen. The Ukrainians have been able to push back the Russian forces in the north, in the east and in the south. And they have liberated around half of the territory that Russia occupied at the beginning of the war. So this demonstrates the skills and the capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces.
NATO Allies have delivered unprecedented military support. I urge Allies and Allies are also committed to continue to deliver support. And we also know that the frontline has not moved over the last year but the intense fighting continues. And we have also to take into account that even though the frontline has not moved so much, the Ukrainians have been able to inflict heavy losses on the Russian forces with deep strike capabilities, with cruise missiles delivered by NATO Allies, so we need to continue to support them also knowing that the stronger Ukraine is on the battlefield, the stronger the handle will be on the negotiating table. So if you want a negotiated, peaceful solution, which ensures that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation, then the best way to get there is to continue to provide military support to Ukraine and that's what our Allies are going to do.
Dzenita Salihovic, Face TV/Bosnia and Herzegovina: Mr. Stoltenberg: does your visit to the countries of the Western Balkans have anything to do with Zelenskyy statement that the Balkans is Russia's next target? And Does NATO have any operational knowledge, intelligence data, about possible conflict in Balkans, especially in Bosnia?
NATO Secretary General: Also, I just returned from a visit to the region to Bosnia-Herzegovina, to Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia and I met also leaders from the whole region. And of course what we see there is that the tensions are increasing. We have seen increased tensions and inflammatory rhetoric in Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have seen actually some serious incidents of violence in Kosovo, including attack on NATO peacekeepers - 93 NATO soldiers were wounded, some of them were very seriously wounded. And we also saw the Banska incidents, where actually three people were killed in September in Kosovo. So these are serious incidents and we need to stay focused on the Western Balkans. At the same time, as we of course address the war in Gaza and also continue to provide support to Ukraine. Rest assured NATO will do what is necessary to sustain or to ensure stability in the region because this is important for not only the Western Balkans, but also for the whole of Europe and NATO. We have a presence there. We work together with European Union, the EUFOR force in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And we have a presence in Kosovo. And in light of the increased tensions we have, over the last few weeks, added thousand more troops to our military presence in Kosovo, and we will work closely with partners, with Allies in the region to ensure that we do what is possible to reduce tensions and to prevent any escalation of the conflict.
XXX: [inaudible] to speed up its ratification process, to share its roadmap to combat terrorism, as insisted by the Turkish parliament?
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg: What Sweden has delivered - and that is important because Türkiye has real concerns and they have legitimate concerns when it comes to fighting terrorism. PKK is not only regarded as a terrorist organization in Türkiye. Also Sweden, NATO Allies regard PKK as a terrorist organization. So therefore, I welcome the fact that the Swedish intelligence services and the Turkish intelligence services are now working more closely together and sharing more information and have also established a permanent mechanism to work more closely together to address legitimate concerns of Türkiye. I also welcome the fact that Sweden has removed restrictions on arms exports to Türkiye and because I strongly believe that Allies should be able to buy and acquire military equipment from each other. So therefore, I have stated that the time has come, also then for Türkiye, to finalize its part of this agreement to finalize the ratification. And I welcome therefore that the President has submitted the papers for ratification to the Parliament - he did that few weeks ago. The parliament in Türkiye - the Grand National Assembly - has started the processing and the discussions and I hope they can finalize that as soon as possible.
Merle Tilk, ARD: Secretary General, on Ukraine. The EU has difficulties to keep their promise on the ammunition. In the US, the aid is blocked and Congress and also the latest drawdown package was one of the smallest ever. Aren't you - at the same time Putin has shifted to war economy and they get weapons from North Korea and Iran. Do you think Ukraine has to think about a new strategy in order to prevail?
NATO Secretary General: It's our obligation to ensure that we provide Ukraine with the weapons they need. Because it will be a tragedy for Ukrainians if President Putin wins, but it will also be dangerous for us. Because then the message to all authoritarian leaders - not only in Moscow, but also in Beijing - is that when they violate international law, when they invade another country when they use force, they get what they want. So this is about the whole idea of a rules-based international order, where territorial borders are respected. And therefore, NATO Allies have provided unprecedented level of military support. This has really had an impact, made the difference on the battlefield, because the Ukrainians have been able to liberate around 50% of the territory that was occupied after the full-scale invasion.
The challenge now is that we need to sustain this support. And therefore, I welcome the very concrete announcement that's had been made of billions of extras euros from Germany, from the Netherlands; the establishment of this coalition to provide air defence. And also many other Allies announcing more ammunition, more weapons systems and so on.
I'm confident that the United States will continue to provide support and because it is in the security interest of the United States to do so. And it's also in line with what we have agreed. So this all Allies have stated again and again the last time at the NATO Summit with all the leaders present in Vilnius, that we will provide support to Ukraine, we will step up our support. And also, NATO has agreed to help them also to modernize their armed forces to ensure full interoperability between the Ukrainian forces and the NATO forces. And on top of that, what NATO does, of course, we have the US-led contact group for Ukraine - Ramstein format - with 50 nations. And they are of course also providing support, which makes a huge difference. So again, we just have to stay the course. This is about also about our security interests.
Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you