by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the Jordanian Defence College
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by saying what a great pleasure it is for me to be here. Almost exactly four years ago today, I was the first NATO Secretary General to pay an official visit to Jordan, and I have been looking forward to coming back. At the outset, I want to thank the Jordanian Armed Forces’ Defence College for organising our meeting, and I would like to thank you all for attending.
I am very pleased that, during my time as NATO’s Secretary General, five years now as you just heard, the NATO-Jordan relationship has gone from strength to strength. And I believe this success is all the more remarkable when we look back at the start of our partnership. When NATO launched its Mediterranean Dialogue back in 1994, and when Jordan joined the process soon thereafter, no one could have guessed how far and how fast our relations would develop. NATO was still very much focussed on overcoming Europe’s Cold War division, and increasingly concerned at the mounting violence in the Balkans.
And I think it is fair to say that neither the member states of NATO, nor our southern neighbours who joined in the Mediterranean Dialogue process, thought, at that time, that it would take us where we are today.
Of course, we all agreed on the strong interrelationship between the security and stability of Europe and that of the Mediterranean region. We all agreed that, in economic terms, Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East were increasingly interdependent as well.
And against that background, it certainly made sense to talk together and work together, rather than to let the Mediterranean divide us.
But it was not entirely clear how we were going to give substance to the Dialogue. We did not really know what sort of practical projects we might pursue to complement our political contacts. And we were not assured that we would succeed in protecting our Dialogue from the ups and downs of the Middle East peace process.
Actually, as I speak, the region is unfortunately going through yet another dark moment when peace is in the balance and civilians suffer and fear.
But, today, we have every reason not only to welcome the success of the Mediterranean Dialogue – but also to be optimistic about its future. Because Jordan and NATO’s other six Mediterranean partners have become real stakeholders in the process. Mutual trust and confidence have clearly grown and are growing.
And from a cautious extension of NATO’s outreach policy, our Mediterranean Dialogue has acquired a genuine strategic value of its own.
Ladies and gentlemen, several significant changes in the international security environment have highlighted the urgency of our cooperation. Terrorism has come to affect all our nations. Weak and failing states have spread instability and unrest in many parts of the world. A growing demand for oil and water has raised the potential for violent conflict over those resources.
The proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction has slowly reached a tipping point, with Iran and North Korea continuing to defy the international community. Piracy has made a comeback, adding to the already considerable instability in and around the Horn of Africa.
One thing is clear: no single nation is going to be able to come to grips with these truly global challenges on its own especially at a time of increasing economic difficulties and financial turmoil.
They demand, these threats and challenges, a new level of engagement and international cooperation. And for the past few years, NATO has been at the forefront of such a concerted response. By tackling immediate risks and threats head on, in Afghanistan and other places. By modernising and restructuring itself to be better able to deal with future challenges. And by reaching out and involving more countries and institutions in a common approach to the new risks and threats - because again that is the only way we can hope to meet them successfully.
Jordan, ladies and gentlemen, has understood the need for common action, and it has responded very positively to NATO’s appeal. As I said when I first visited here four years ago, that strong engagement has not really come as a surprise. It reflects Jordan’s proven interest - over many years - and His Majesty King Abdullah’s personal commitment to contributing to security not just in its own region, but also beyond. It builds on Jordan’s extensive experience in participating in UN-mandated peace support operations, including those led by NATO in the Balkans during the 1990s and more recently in Afghanistan.
And it is fully in line with the robust stance which this country has taken in the international fight against terrorism.
Ever since Jordan joined the Mediterranean Dialogue process back in 1995, it has been interested in both closer political dialogue and greater practical cooperation with NATO. There has been significant progress in each of these two areas, especially in recent years, which has made Jordan one of the Dialogue’s most active participants.
Our political contacts have increased at all levels. In addition to a growing number of bilateral visits, Jordan’s Defence and Foreign Ministers have taken part in several meetings with all their Mediterranean Dialogue colleagues.
And my talks with Jordanian officials here in Amman have once again underlined the seriousness of the Jordanian Government in deepening our dialogue, and we very much welcome that.
But we are also very pleased at the steady increase in our practical cooperation these last few years, and the clear interest of the Jordanian authorities in taking that even further. Much of our cooperation is focused on defence and military issues, where NATO has particular experience and expertise.
Priorities include military education and training, defence policy and strategy, and enhancing the ability of our forces to work together. But our practical cooperation also covers areas such as the fight against terrorism, border security, air traffic management, and civil emergency planning.
Two years ago, Jordan was the first of our Mediterranean Dialogue partners to sign a so called Memorandum of Understanding with the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency - or NAMSA.
This has not only allowed logisticians from our different nations to exchange views on how best to support our military forces, especially in operations. But it has also made possible the launch - last July - of the first Mediterranean Dialogue Trust Fund project.
Under this project, several NATO nations as well as Austria, Finland and Switzerland - three of the Alliance’s European partner nations - are helping Jordan with the safe disposal of obsolete arms, munitions and unexploded ordnance.
It is I think a landmark project, with very concrete benefits for this country and its population, which I was proud to officially inaugurate yesterday at the Army Headquarters.
Over the past few months, here in Amman as well as back in Brussels, a lot of hard work has gone into the elaboration of a so called Individual Cooperation Programme – or ICP – to identify key priorities and guide our contacts this year and next. I believe that this programme, as well, is truly innovative.
Because it contains a number of new avenues for enhancing our political dialogue and practical cooperation which other Mediterranean partners may very well be interested in pursuing too.
For example, on the political front, we are opening the way towards more regular meetings between senior Jordanian representatives and the NATO Council, the Alliance’s highest political body, which is under my chairmanship.
And we are also setting up a NATO-Jordan Steering Committee, co-chaired by your Ambassador in Brussels and one of my Assistant Secretary Generals, to conduct a regular review of our cooperation and to give it further impetus.
As far as our practical cooperation is concerned, one important objective is to intensify our military-to-military contacts even further, in particular with a view to concrete cooperation in UN-mandated peace support operations.
This is an area where NATO itself has developed considerable expertise over the past fifteen years, which we are keen to share with Jordan, itself of course very experienced, and other interested partners. But we know full well that Jordan, too, has a wealth of knowledge and experience in this area, as well as significant capabilities, that we should seek to use more effectively to our mutual advantage.
One further, very important area of practical cooperation is public diplomacy, and this is dealt with in a separate Public Diplomacy Action Plan attached to the new Individual Cooperation Programme. Given the complexity of today’s security environment, it is vital that we all - NATO nations and Jordan - do our utmost to make sure that our publics understand the risks and threats to their security; and how we can be more effective in meeting those risks and threats by working more closely together.
So the Public Diplomacy Action Plan contains a number of interesting new initiatives to support that goal, including an agreed set of key messages and opportunities for closer engagement of journalists, academics and other opinion drivers.
Ladies and gentlemen, I mentioned earlier that, when NATO launched the Mediterranean Dialogue back in 1994, we could only hope that the initiative would not suffer too much from what I call the ups and downs of the Middle East peace process.
It is clear that NATO’s dialogue and cooperation with Jordan have developed very positively regardless of those ups and downs. And I want to commend Jordan for judging the opportunities offered by NATO on their own merits, and taking such a very constructive approach to our partnership.
But it is clear, ladies and gentlemen, that the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict continues to cast a shadow over the stability and prosperity of this entire region, and its relationship with the wider world. I, and all the NATO Allies, are watching with grave concerns the events in Gaza. Violence must come to an end. The UN Security Council Resolution must be fully respected. And all parties must take the steps necessary to allow the successful conclusion of the talks led by Egypt.
And I am confident, and I am sure, that Jordan will continue its own constructive role in favour of peace and stability in this so volatile region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Jordan has built an excellent reputation as a country that is not only willing, but also very able, to contribute to security in its own region and beyond. And that is why we in NATO have not been at all surprised by this country’s keen interest in working with the Alliance to tackle the many complex security challenges that face our nations.
NATO and Jordan can be very satisfied about the steady growth in our cooperation and dialogue over the past few years; and I think that our partnership still holds enormous potential.
In the years ahead, NATO will continue its policy of reaching out and engaging other nations in the difficult task of projecting stability and protecting our security. Jordan is a very active and highly valued partner-nation in that common effort, and I am confident that we will be able to deepen our partnership even further in the future. Thank you.