Questions and Answers

at the press briefing by NATO Spokesman James Appathurai

  • 03 Apr. 2009
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  • Last updated: 07 Apr. 2009 15:06

Ms. Carmen Romero, NATO Deputy Spokesperson: The first question will go to DPA, please. Nick?

Q: Yeah, hi James. Nick from DPA. I know you are reluctant to talk too much about the process leading to the selection of the next Secretary General. However, how concerned is NATO that this discussion may steal precious time away from leaders tomorrow when they're supposed to discuss important issues like ISAF's operations in Afghanistan? Thank you.

JAMES APPATHURAI (Spokesman, NATO): You should have no doubt that they will devote all the time necessary to the Afghanistan discussion. This is our number one operational priority. It is no secret to anyone that the new U.S. President sees this as his number one... or a very high priority anyway for the U.S. administration, and to which the U.S. administration is devoting a lot of resources, a lot of personnel, a lot of attention.

NATO shares the view that we need to have... all the other NATO Allies share the view that we need to have a very fulsome discussion of this. The U.S. Strategy Review has had extensive input from the other Allies. So I don't think, I don't expect to see radically divergent views on strategic approach. But they will wish to discuss how we take this overall international effort forward with all the new elements that you know in terms of regional approach, greater civ-mil cooperation, greater civilian resources. And we, as NATO in that... let me speak now for the NATO Secretary General, we want to see deliverables. That is election support forces, mentor operational mentoring and liaison teams. We hope to see an agreement to have a more coherent approach to police training in the country, if possible, under a NATO chapeau.

So have no doubt they will discuss it extensively. If they need more time to discuss other issues, including more time to discuss the succession issue, they will take it.

Carmen Romero: the second goes to AFP.

Q: Oui. Deux petites questions. La première, quel serait l'impact, selon toi, James, d'un refus de M. Rasmussen sous prétexte qu'il a défendu la liberté d'expression qui est, je crois, une des valeurs de base de l'OTAN.

Deuxièmement, est-ce que tu peux nous dire si les Alliés ont imaginé un conseil OTAN-Russie plus fort, renforcé, d'un fonctionnement différent pour ne pas en revenir à la situation actuelle?

APPATHURAI: Je n'ai pas vraiment compris la deuxième question.  Vous pouvez la répéter s'il-vous-plaît.  Il y a un peu de bruit ici.

Q: I was just asking about NRC, NATO-Russia Council. I was just asking are the Allies convinced that it should change if not the format at least the way it worked before, because it did not prevent... a crisis to erupt. So is there any idea of a change in some ways?

APPATHURAI:   Pour la première question, évidemment, je ne peux pas beaucoup discuter. Les discussions au sujet de la secrétaire-général... du secrétaire-général...  Et ce n'est pas à moi, évidemment, de donner mes opinions sur telle ou telle discussion.  La discussion n'est pas close.    Ça continue.  Ça continuera demain.  Attendons la discussion demain avant de passer des commentaires.  De toute façon, ce n'est pas à moi de passer des commentaires.

Au sujet du NRC, ils n'ont pas discuté vraiment.  Franchement, jusqu'à présent tout ce qui est la mécanique du NRC.  Mais je sais que la Russie aimerait discuter comment ça fonctionne et comment on pourrait assurer que ça fonctionne mieux dans le futur.  Et les Alliés sont très ouverts à cette discussion.  Alors, je pense que bien qu'ils n'ont pas évoqué en grand détail aujourd'hui, c'était plutôt des questions de principe qu'ils discutaient aujourd'hui au lieu de mécanique que les questions que tu as évoquées, le fonctionnement du NRC, seront évoqués dans les semaines qui viennent.

Carmen Romero: BBC.

Q: James, Jonathan Marcus from the BBC. Good evening. Just to take you back to the selection of the new Secretary General, we had one of the joint hosts of this summit this evening very clearly saying that she was convinced that you would name a new Secretary General tonight. You're saying the discussion will continue tomorrow. What do you think will change tomorrow? Do you actually expect a decision tomorrow? I mean it's clearly in public only one country of the Alliance seems to object to Mr. Rasmussen. Do you think that they are going to change their objection by tomorrow morning?

APPATHURAI: Well I don't know and I wouldn't know. What I do know is that this is a two-day summit. Nothing is agreed here until everything is agreed. There's no reason for us to close the books tonight. Discussions amongst our Heads of State and Government will continue tomorrow. They wish to take this discussion into tomorrow. That was a shared view around the table; not one imposed for any reason. Many heads of state and government around the table expressed their view that it would make sense to continue this discussion into tomorrow. So let us see what more time will bring.

Carmen Romero: Bloomberg.

Q: Yeah, hi James. Jim Neuger from Bloomberg. Could you tell us how much time the leaders spent discussing the Secretary General today? Was it 20 minutes, a half hour? How many of them spoke? Did Mr. Gul speak? Mr. Rasmussen?

APPATHURAI: I couldn't divide it up that way because in essence they're doing one tour-de-table. Each head of state and government is speaking once, maybe coming back in to make a comment on what another might have said. But in general they're each taking one round, and I can tell you they're not being particularly brief in their interventions. So it's taking a little while. But I would say each and every one of them that has spoken until now has spoken to this issue and the other two issues as well. You won't be surprised that I can't name individual names or what they had to say. But each and every one has discussed the issue of succession.

Carmen Romero: Reuters.

Q: Hi, James. Paul Taylor from Reuters. Just to follow up on that question then: Can you tell us whether more than one country has expressed concern about the candidate for Secretary General?

APPATHURAI: Sadly even that I can't do; it's not for me to characterize as you understand. Even the numbers of positions, that's not the way NATO works. We have consensus or we don't. The discussion continues until it is finished. We always arrive at consensus in NATO. We will arrive at consensus on this issue as well, and until then the only way to qualify it is we don't have consensus yet.

Carmen Romero: More questions? I don't know... could you identify yourself please?

Q: (INAUDIBLE) ...from Turkey. Can you tell us please did you talk about other candidates except Mr. Rasmussen?

APPATHURAI: Again I have not named Mr. Rasmussen or any other potential candidate. It is not for me to do that. You know that there have been many very good names circulating. There has not yet reached consensus on any one name. That is the most I can say. We will get there. This Alliance always gets there, and it will get there in a timely way. Let us see how the discussions go tomorrow. That's the most I can say I'm afraid.

Carmen Romero: Another question.

Q: (INAUDIBLE) Are there any... basic agreement on the timing of the foreign ministerial level NRC.  And secondly, do you have any agreement on the formula in order to launch a review under new concept, on strategy?

APPATHURAI: Thank you. My understanding, while the heads of state and government have not discussed precise timings, my understanding is there will be a formal ambassadorial level NATO-Russia Council in the coming weeks, and there should be, if the Russian Federation agrees, and we hope they do, a ministerial level meeting before the June NATO ministerial; so probably sometime in May.

In terms of the mechanics of a strategic concept, many of the heads of state and government did give their preference, their individual preferences for how it should go. The Secretary General asked them specifically before they did their "tour-de-table", to give their views on this. And when they reach an agreement on the process, we will let you know. They have different views, but I think they're generally going in the same line. But of course there has been no agreement. I left halfway through the discussion to come and see you, so I can't give any conclusions yet. Hopefully tomorrow we'll have clarity on that.

Q: James?

APPATHURAI: .... I need to leave you because if not I'm gonna be trapped behind the U.S. President's motorcade, and you know how long that might take, so I'm gonna run back quickly before he leaves. Thank you for taking the time.