Final press conference

with NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

  • 07 Dec. 2007 - 07 Dec. 2007
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  • Last updated: 05 Sep. 2008 15:53

De Hoop Scheffer: Let me then say a few words about the luncheon we had at ministerial level in the framework of our Mediterranean Dialogue.

As you know, this was the first such meeting since December 2004, also here in Brussels. I think the presence of the Ministers in itself is already a strong signal of shared interests between our Mediterranean Dialogue Partners and NATO and the ability to work together to tackle what I would qualify as common challenges. That alone is already an important political signal.

But there are also concrete examples where we are working together in a practical way. Let me mention our joint involvement in United Nations mandated peace operations in the Balkans and in Afghanistan where some Mediterranean Dialogue countries are helping NATO to fulfil our missions.

More specifically, if you want to hear the details, and if not, I'm going to give them to you, Morocco has, as you know, a long contribution to KFOR in Kosovo; Egypt is present in Afghanistan with a field hospital; and Israel has appointed a liaison officer for the support of Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean. So here you see some examples of practical cooperation.

I can add that we have just established a 3.4 million euro project to destroy obsolete and dangerous munitions in Jordan and soon we will do the same with and in Mauritania. And I can also note that Egypt and Israel have agreed on so-called ICPs, Individual Cooperation Programmes, with NATO which focus very much on interoperability and training. And I've expressed the hope that more Mediterranean Dialogue Partners—it's up to them of course—might follow in this regard.

I think the luncheon, as I said, was an important political event. Ministers agreed that our political dialogue and practical cooperation—and I've given you the examples—must go hand in hand. We had a good political dialogue and in reviewing international issues Ministers welcomed the outcome of the Annapolis Conference and they looked forward to the start of negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And even, as we all know, this is not a direct NATO issue, all Allies share a desire to see lasting peace in the region.

And I think I can say that during the luncheon, NATO and the Mediterranean Dialogue countries' Ministers underlined the particular importance of this particular political forum, NATO-Mediterranean Dialogue, which by bringing together European, North American, Arab countries and Israel, can contribute to further confidence building in the changing security environment in the region. So in this regard I think I can say that the meeting also had what I could qualify as a "post-Annapolis" element in it and I think that was important and many Ministers intervened, almost all Ministers intervened, in a very constructive way in this regard.

In sum, I would share the mood of the Mediterranean Dialogue Ministers and their NATO colleagues in saying that it will certainly not take us another three years before we hold another meeting in this format. I think the Mediterranean Dialogue partnership has delivered results and it has even more promise and we need to tackle together these common challenges proceeding on two tracks, the practical track and the political track, and in this regard I think it was a very good luncheon. About the (inaudible) you've heard, so let me stop here.

Appathurai: First question is there.

Q: Thank you. TV company Rustavi-2 from Georgia. What can you comment on Russia's some high-level officials' statements on recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia's independence and what would be NATO's position (inaudible)..?

De Hoop Scheffer: That's a question with an if and I don't answer iffy questions. You know that the position of the Allies is that the territorial integrity of Georgia must be respected and I think that one line says it all and says enough. I'm not going to go into any speculative mood at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, but neither on a Monday morning at 10:00.

Appathurai:: Next question is here.

Q: Secretary, Kosovo. Eight years ago your organization went to war for humanitarian purposes. As things stand, you may soon find yourself caught in a separatist war between two sides which is not something you went there in the first place. How uncomfortable does that make you feel? And secondly, if you could tell us, and my knowledge of this organization you usually work with the precision of a Swiss clock. Today's proceedings somehow dragged on. Was there any particular reason for that?

De Hoop Scheffer: Yes. Let me start with your last question because I think I can give a very positive flavour to my answer. The North Atlantic Council took a bit longer than expected. Why? I think my spokesman James Appathurai has alluded to that. Because there was a lot on the agenda. We had the Transatlantic dinner yesterday, Kosovo this morning, Kosovo again, Afghanistan, CFE, new threats and challenges, cyber defence and energy security, missile defence, 26 Allies, all 26 Ministers quite rightly wanting to intervene. Longer meeting.

Then came the NRC which also took a bit longer than expected because we discussed the fundamentals. I just alluded to them in answering—I'll not repeat that again—in answering one of your colleague's questions. So I had to apologize with the Mediterranean Dialogue Ministers who had to wait a bit for the lunch to start, but after that luncheon and after the NATO-Ukraine Commission, I say I agree that it was not the Swiss clock. So the reason that we are meeting here at 5:30 is a very positive one.

There was a lot to discuss and I think that I can say with justification that all the meetings have been very substantial. If you have a Mediterranean Dialogue lunch after three years, also very much inspired by our Mediterranean Dialogue friends and Israel, it is good to see the initiative also coming from that side and not only from the NATO side.

Kosovo, on the substance... we have a UN mandate for KFOR and KFOR has a very important task and also a very important responsibility and that responsibility is, I stress it again, for minority and majority alike to see that what is going to happen is happening in a climate in security and stability. And that no one should ever think that he or she could have the illusion that inciting violence is an option for Kosovo and that KFOR, in collaboration of course with the Kosovo Police Force and with UNMIK Police, is prepared for all eventualities.

That is what KFOR is for and as you've heard this morning, there was a very positive outcome of the meeting in the sense that KFOR will stay there; that we consider 1244 to be and to stay the mandate; that KFOR will not diminish in strength; that the Commander KFOR will have easy access to his reserves. But KFOR by definition, by definition, is impartial. By definition of its UN mandate, KFOR is impartial and KFOR will do its job and KFOR will do a job as it should do it. So that is the flavour I got from the meeting this morning.

Q: I wanted to ask whether NATO is concerned about the situation in Pakistan? And if NATO has any strategy to try to win people's minds in Afghanistan, especially after the deadly mistakes that occurred in these countries?

De Hoop Scheffer: It goes without saying that NATO follows the political development in Pakistan with the greatest interest, for the simple reason that Pakistan is bordering Afghanistan and that the situation cannot be entirely de-linked. Why? Because we have the border, or the line between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that we are doing everything together with Pakistan to see that that border is not a reason for increasing the trouble and the problems in Afghanistan, more particularly in the southern part of Afghanistan.

That is the reason I went to Islamabad as the first NATO Secretary General ever a few months ago. I had a discussion with my Pakistani interlocutors, including with President Musharraf. Why? Because we have a well-developed system which is called a Tripartite Commission in the military sense of having a Pakistan/Afghani/NATO dialogue. The Allies are of the opinion, and that was the reason I went there, that it is important also to have a political dialogue with Pakistan.

Now the Pakistani process will run its course. That's not up to me to comment, not up to NATO to comment. But you're right in your analysis that the Pakistani process... the outcome of it is, of course, by definition is important for NATO given the fact that we have 40,000-plus men and women in uniform on the ground in Afghanistan.

Appathurai::  Two more. One is there and one is there.

Q: (Inaudible)... Macedonia Channel Five. I would like to know if point 14 of the final communiqué which wording is "good neighbourly relations and mutually acceptable timely solutions to outstanding issues for the western Balkans" is a condition for an invitation at the April summit.

Thank you.

De Hoop Scheffer: Oh I can easily answer that because promoting cooperation in the region and good neighbourly relations is something I have learned, being involved in foreign policy for almost 30 years now, as one of the basic principles of any policy. So I think this phrase is no exception.

Q: (Inaudible)...

De Hoop Scheffer: This phrase is no exception to the general rule that good neighbourly relations and friendly relations are usually the basis for any progress in foreign policy and for the answers to foreign policy questions on the agenda. And if you want me to be more specific, then my answer will be that on the issue you're referring to there is, as you know, no direct NATO role or NATO responsibility.

Appathurai:: Next question is there.

Q: (Inaudible)... Dutch Reform Daily. I have something very different. Tomorrow at the 20th anniversary of the INF Treaty, the signing of the INF Treaty, there's a group of European mayors with American nuclear weapons on their ground. That group of mayors is writing an article with a plea that NATO will be helping removing what they call the last remnants of the Cold War, the 400 nuclear weapons in Europe. Is there any way, is there any possibility that NATO could be helping to meet the concerns of those mayors?

De Hoop Scheffer: I'm afraid not because NATO is not going to change its nuclear policy. That's my short answer. And by definition then I'm afraid that we cannot be helpful.

Appathurai:: Do you have time for one or two more?

De Hoop Scheffer: I have time for one or two more, yes.

Appathurai:: Okay. Well let's take these two then because they've been asking.

De Hoop Scheffer: Two James.

Appathurai:: Two. Two.

Q: How would you, Your Excellency, would you assess the cooperation within the framework of Istanbul Initiative?

De Hoop Scheffer: Oh as very positive indeed. A few rows behind you you'll see Ambassador Bisogniero, the NATO Deputy Secretary General and he and I, but as far as the travelling is concerned, at the moment he is very much involved, not only in the Mediterranean Dialogue, but also in the ICI. So he's visiting on a regular basis. I'm visiting. We're looking forward to a seminar which will be held in Bahrain next year. In other words, the ICI, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative is developing very well.

The same principle, by the way, is applicable. I mean, we keep the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative apart. The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative is based on the same quote/unquote rules and methods that we respect as specificity. It is not one-size-fits-all, but I think we can... I can say that the developments in this framework are very positive indeed.

Appathurai:: Last question is here.

Q: Is... again, a quote from the final communiqué. In this case it's point eight. You said that we urge both parties to refrain from making acts or statements that could undermine the security situation in Kosovo.

De Hoop Scheffer: Yeah.

Q: That in the very moment in which we are all expecting a declaration of independence by the unilateral or coordinated most probably. Is not a declaration of independence something that could be constructed as a statement that could undermine the security situation in Kosovo?

De Hoop Scheffer: I think you must separate that track from the other one. You should not mix them together. I think that is not helpful. But we must realize that as we speak today is December 8th... what is it?

Appathurai: Seven.

De Hoop Scheffer: Seven? And I'm very much in favour to have the process run its course. I think it would be very unwise for me as a NATO Secretary General, now the Troika report is in the hands of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and there will be definitely a procedure and a process in New York, that I'm going to speculate or make a sort of jump forward to what might happen at a later stage. You have seen, coming back to the question of your colleague, what is NATO's responsibility and what will be NATO's responsibility? That's the importance of this morning's meeting. Also in other scenarios that will be that KFOR, the international UN mandated, international presence, will be staying on the basis of Resolution 1244. Under what exact political circumstances that will be, that would be speculative.

We all know, unfortunately, that the Troika has not been able to report that parties agree. We know that parties disagree. And that the chances that parties will agree are—what shall I say?—very slim indeed and there I'm optimistic.

But let us distinguish please, NATO's role and KFOR's role from the political process.

Appathurai:: All right, (inaudible)...

De Hoop Scheffer: Ladies and gentlemen, may I wish you all a very good week-end at this late hour. See you soon again.