Press conference

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council with non-NATO KFOR contributing nations

  • 12 Jun. 2008 - 12 Jun. 2008
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  • Last updated: 19 Aug. 2008 10:16

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we have an opening statement by the Secretary General, and then time for questions. The Secretary General.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): I  hope you'll appreciate I planned my press conference as well after half time of an important football match.

But let me tell you something about the meeting which just finished in the framework, as you know, of the NATO Ministers together with our colleagues participating in the KFOR force in Kosovo.

First of all, I think you have to agree with me that this was a very timely discussion. In just three days Kosovo's constitution will enter into force and the political reality on the ground will change. One thing that will not change and that was reconfirmed in the meeting, and that is KFOR's central role in providing a secure and safe environment in Kosovo. KFOR has been, and will stay the bedrock of stability in Kosovo and that has been the case since its first deployment.

It will continue to be, also through and beyond the period of transition we are now going through in Kosovo. That was the clear and unanimous commitment of the Ministers around the table just a moment ago, and you'll appreciate that our first order of business was to ensure that we have the right forces, the right number of forces and the necessary reserves in place. And I'm confident, after our discussion today, that we do, indeed.

Of course, we also discussed the role NATO will play in implementing future security arrangements. As you might remember the NATO Heads of State and Government agreed at their summit in Bucharest that NATO stands ready to play that role, to support the development of a stable, democratic, multi-ethnic and peaceful Kosovo.

Now today allies agreed to take that forward. NATO will supervise the standing down of the Kosovo Protection Corps and supervise and support the stand-up and training of a civilian-controlled Kosovo Security Force, KSF.  That KSF will be a  new professional and multi-ethnic force, as I said, which will be lightly armed, as a security force. And initially the force shall be primarily responsible for crisis response, explosive ordinance disposal and civil protection.

As I said, this is a period of transition for Kosovo, for UNMIK, for the United Nations and for the European Union in Kosovo as well. And you also know, without any doubt, that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whom I had a bilateral meeting with in Paris this morning in the margins of an Afghanistan conference, is active in the regard that he now has sent his report to the Security Council and that he also has sent letters to the authorities in Pristina, President Sejdiu and President Tadic in Serbia.

Whatever those final arrangements will look like, whatever they will be, do not forget that KFOR has a Memorandum of Understanding, has a relationship with UNMIK, that KFOR has 1244, unless the Security Council decides otherwise, the KFOR mandate will be based on 1244. NATO is, as you know, not in the recognition business as far as Kosovo is concerned, so that KFOR mandate will not change. What is new is that the allies have agreed to the so-called new tasks, and I've tried to explain to you what these tasks are.

I leave it here, and I'm open, of course, for your comments and your questions.

Q: Mark John from Reuters. Secretary General, as you said, Ban Ki-moon has made proposals about a reconfiguration of UNMIK that would allow the EU to have some presence in Kosovo. At the same time, however, NATO states have been unable to review the OPLAN to define the ties between NATO and the EU on the ground in Kosovo.

How do you intend to deal with the possible confusion that that could bring in the months to come?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Now, as I said, that will certainly not bring confusion for the simple fact that we do have an OPLAN. We have an existing OPLAN and that OPLAN is as relevant as it was.

I do agree with you that in the course of the coming period, and I don't know what that exactly means, a limited period, we'll have to seek further arrangements. But at the moment, and certainly because as you know, there will be a relationship between UNMIK and the EULEX mission, UNMIK will reconfigure, but UNMIK will stay. The present OPLAN functions and will not cause any confusion at all, because in the present OPLAN there's a clear Memorandum of Understanding. So we know what we have to do in the relationship between UNMIK and KFOR, and European Union EULEX mission will have a relationship with UNMIK, but UNMIK is there, and for a certain period UNMIK will stay there.

But I take your point, that there will come a stage, but that's not imminent, that we have, of course, to relook into these arrangements and what they exactly will look like. There you have, of course, a valid point, but that is not relevant for the present situation and for some time to come.

Q: Just looking ahead to the discussions of Afghanistan tonight and tomorrow, have you asked for, or received from Secretary Gates a clarification of what happened on the Pakistani-Afghan border yesterday, and what concerns do you have that this incident, realizing it was OEF and not NATO ISAF, but nonetheless this incident might further complicate efforts to win Pakistan support in clamping down on the sanctuaries in the tribal areas?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: As you rightly say, there were no ISAF, no NATO forces involved. It happened that in Paris this morning I also had a bilateral meeting with the Pakistani Foreign Minister and of course this... yesterday's incident was mentioned, which will be investigated.

I made the point that despite this incident, and I'm not going to comment on this incident -- first of all, it has to be investigated and it would not be up to me, given the fact that no ISAF forces were involved, to comment -- but apart from that, the Minister, Foreign Minister and I agreed, Pakistani Foreign Minister, that what we need with Pakistan is, of course, first of all a strengthening of the military-to-military dialogue. You know about the existence of the so-called  Tripartite Commission, where Afghanistan and Pakistan and ISAF discuss military matters, including important matters concerning the boundary.

But secondly, that we do need, and you might remember that I was in Islamabad last year, and I hope to visit Islamabad again, we need also a more mature political dialogue between Pakistan and the international community.

I know that Kai Eide, the UN High Representative, will visit also Pakistan at a certain stage. As I said, I'll do the same. We need a political dialogue. It is crystal clear that that boundary, that border, presents problems because we have seen this increase in people crossing the border, making mischief in Afghanistan and then go back.

But I do this on the basis of my opinion, as I have voiced more frequently recently, that in that political dialogue I do consider Pakistan as part of the solution and I'll not start a discussion on the assumption that Pakistan is part of the problem.

Of course, this incident will be investigated, but I say again, I do not feel obliged or in a position to comment as NATO Secretary General.

Q: Ben Nimmo from the English Service of the German Press Agency, DPA. Secretary General, coming back to Kosovo and the complications of the handover, just for clarity, how do you therefore anticipate that the relationship between KFOR, UNMIK and EULEX will work? Would you see UNMIK as a sort of go-between between KFOR and EULEX? Or would you see it more that more and more EULEX staff will become double-hatted so that KFOR will talk to them when they're wearing the correct hat, so to speak? How do you see that actually functioning between the three organizations in practice?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Yes, if my name was Ban Ki-moon, which it isn't, as you know, I might be able to give you a detailed answer, or at least an indication in answer to your question, which is a relevant one, no doubt about that.

But for the moment I stick to my line that we have KFOR. KFOR has 1244 that is an extremely clear mandate, and until the Security Council decides otherwise, 1244 will be the basis for KFOR.

KFOR is, as you know, not a police force. KFOR is not a first responder. And I can add to the discussions that Ministers very much agreed with the line I have been giving you and colleagues many times. KFOR should not be brought in the position of a first responder. KFOR has its mandate, KFOR is a military force. In other words, KFOR, of course, and NATO, will follow closely what will be the follow-up of the letter Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has written, the follow-up of his report to the Security Council. I understand that perhaps sometime next week the Security Council will discuss his report, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's report.

I have to leave it here, because you talk to me as NATO Secretary General in my responsibility as the civilian head of an organization which runs KFOR and KFOR has a clear UN mandate, and that will not change.

Q: Chris Dickson, European Diplomacy Defence. Secretary General, just on the new tasks you mentioned, standing down with the one operation, standing up with the other, and also the existing mandate, are there any problems from existing allies, existing participants in dealing with these particular institutions? I'm thinking particularly of problems with the recognition of Kosovo and getting involved with different institutions that may have a national character.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, the answer is no in the sense that given the fact that NATO only decides on the basis of consensus, this morning when the NAC, North Atlantic Council agreed to the new tasks, it was by definition a decision taken by consensus. So the answer to your question is negative.

Q: Sir, do you think the incident on the Pakistani border with United States' troops puts any new emphasis on fulfilling a requirement for an additional ISAF battalion to focus on the border? Is there any indication that NATO members may be willing to find those troops for that mission?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, let me repeat that I'll not comment on the incident itself. It is correct that that border, also for the NATO allies, is of course important. You know that NATO allies or certainly a NATO ally is active in that regard.

You also know that Pakistan is seeking cooperation to make that border less porous than it is at this very moment. Let me leave it there.

There is a military presence at the border. You know the terrain is extremely complex and complicated. And it might well be a subject which will be touched upon at the dinner we're going to have soon and where the Afghanistan operation is on the agenda. But I have no concrete indications to say an unqualified yes, to answer your question with an unqualified yes.

MODERATOR: We have time for two more. One there, and then one there.

Q: Thank you, Marina (inaudible)... I just have a follow-up.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Where are you, where are you?

Q: Here.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Ah!

Q: Hello. You mentioned before in relation to the new task of KFOR that the decision has been taken by the 26 countries, but some contributors to KFOR, like Spain, have announced that they will not participate because they think that there is a kind of recognition of the independence of Kosovo with this new mission.

Did you agree with this point of view? Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, as I said before, NATO is not in the recognition business, and when I visited Madrid a few weeks ago I said that Spain's position, because NATO is not in the recognition business, is as legitimate as a non-recognizer as the position is legitimate for the recognizer. And Spain will decide for itself what it's going to do or what it's not going to do. But Spain has not stood in the way of consensus. But Spain is, of course, completely free to say at a certain stage this is the position we are going to take vis-à-vis those new tasks. Because Spain, as a non-recognizer, of course, will avoid doing things which might be interpreted as recognition. And I say, again, that is a completely legitimate position.

But Spain has not, and that was my answer to your colleague's question, Spain has not stood in the way of consensus. And that is how NATO works. We can now embark upon the new tasks. It is not absolutely clear if all allies are going to participate in those new tasks, but NATO as an Alliance will do it. And Spain is a sovereign nation and Spain can decide for itself what it wants to do. And nobody will be in the way of Spain if Spain would say we do it in a different way or we don't do it. That is completely clear.

But the consensus, all new tasks, was clear this morning and that is a formal decision by the North Atlantic Council.

MODERATOR: Last question.

Q: Yes, hello, (inaudible)... from Dagblad in Norway. You said just that KFOR has a clear mandate from 1244 and that it's not a police force, but what is KFOR going to do if let's say there comes ugly incidents where personnel from EULEX is involved in northern Kosovo. Will the KFOR just stand by and look what's happening, or will they then act as a police force?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I've learned in a long career -- you know what I'm going to say -- that I'm not going to answer iffy questions, because your questions start with an if. And B, I'm not a commander on the ground and I'm not going to give instructions to General de Marnhac. He was commanding KFOR. KFOR has a mandate and I mentioned, and you know this, which is to guarantee a secure and stable environment, and within the confines and the boundaries, the confines, I should say, of that mandate, the KFOR commander will take his decisions.

The fact that I made my remarks about KFOR not being a police force, means of course that we will look very carefully, but here again I come back to what is now in the framework and in the reign of the Security Council, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. For KFOR, of course, it is important that in this transitional phase under any circumstance there is a sufficient police presence, Mm-hmm. Police presence for now, which prevents KFOR to come in the role of the first... of the first responder.

But you can also imagine that no KFOR commander would stand idly by if there was an emergency and there would be people in harm's way. That must also be crystal clear. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: We're out of time. Thank you.