Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the North Atlantic Council meeting in Foreign Ministers session

  • 04 Dec. 2012
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  • Last updated: 05 Dec. 2012 08:56

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Today NATO agreed to augment Turkey’s air defence capabilities by deploying Patriot missiles to Turkey.

Turkey has asked for NATO’s support. And we stand with Turkey in the spirit of strong solidarity. To the Turkish people we say: we are determined to defend you and your territory. To anyone who would want to attack Turkey we say: don’t even think about it. 

We welcome the intention of Germany, the Netherlands and the United States to provide Patriot missile batteries – subject, of course, to their respective national procedures. The systems will be under the operational command of NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

And I want this to be absolutely clear: this deployment will be defensive only. It will in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation. And it will contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the Alliance’s border.

Today’s agreement follows consultations in the framework of Article 4 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Consultations held at Turkish request and, of course, the North Atlantic council will regularly assess the developing situation and the implementation of the deployment.

NATO’s ultimate task is the protection and defence of our members. Today, we underline once again our steadfast commitment to the security of this Alliance and our full solidarity and resolve to protect our populations and territories.

I can also inform you that the NATO ministers unanimously expressed grave concerns about reports that the Syrian regime may be considering the use of chemical weapons. Any such action would be completely unacceptable and a clear breach of international law. We call for an end to the violence in Syria, violence which represents a serious threat to security and stability in the region. We fully support the efforts of the international community to find a peaceful solution.

Today, we also discussed our partnerships – the way we work with countries and organisations from around the world to improve our shared security.

Partnerships are at the core of NATO’s business. Partner countries have played a significant role in all our recent operations. Indeed, eight partners have already made a firm commitment to our future mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces. And they are part of the planning process.

Partners also have a valuable voice in our political dialogue.  We have maintained our strong engagement with partners countries, in everything that we do.

Our partnerships bring great benefits. And they have the potential to bring still more. That is why we will continue to explore new ways to strengthen our cooperation with our partners in the years to come.

One of NATO’s most potent tools is our Open Door policy. Today we discussed the progress made by the four countries which aspire to join the Alliance.

We reconfirmed our continued commitment to the Open Door policy. We stressed our determination to continue helping these countries move closer to achieving their aspirations.

And we highlighted the importance of all these countries making the maximum effort to meet the standards of NATO membership.

With that, I am ready to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: And we apologize. We seem to have a slight technical problem with the interpretation. Hopefully it will go away or perhaps turn itself down.

We’ll go with the Turkish media over there.

Question: Sirta Chukton (ph), from IHA News Agency.

Mr. Secretary General, I’d like to have a couple of questions, if you allow me.

First of all, at this point can you confirm any technical details about this decision? Like how many missiles are going to be deployed? For how long?

My second question will be NATO made it clear that it is for defence, but what is not still very clear to me is the rule of engagement and the cause for engagement. At what stage are these missiles going to be used?

And the third one is that is there any possibility in the mid- and long-term future that these missiles can become a part of the NATO missile defence system capability?

Thank you very much.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Firstly, no, we have not had technical discussions today. It’s been a political discussion and a political decision. Now will follow the technical implementation of this political decision.

As regards rules of engagement, we follow normal procedures. Such a decision is always or in such a decision is always included rules of engagement agreed by all 28 NATO Allies.

And finally, on missile defence, no, this deployment of patriot missiles is not part of a NATO-based missile defence system.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: Lady over there.

Question: Hi. Margaret Brennan, from CBS News.

Secretary General, the decision today protects those within Turkish air space. But we know more than 38,000 Syrians have been killed from aerial bombardments and attacks by their own government.

Is there no moral imperative for NATO to do something to protect those Syrians?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: It’s absolutely outrageous what we’re witnessing in Syria, and I strongly condemn the crackdowns on civilians in Syria. I think it’s a responsibility for the international community to ensure or to facilitate and ensure a peaceful political solution to the conflict in Syria sooner rather than later.

NATO’s responsibility is to protect populations and territories of NATO Allied nations.

Question: Secretary General, (inaudible), from ABC, the Spanish newspaper.

Mr. Secretary General, can you be more specific about the reports about the chemical weapons and which is the relation of this threat with the systems(?) who are going to be deployed in Turkey?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: No, I can’t be more specific, but based on reports from Allied nations that monitor the situation, NATO ministers unanimously expressed their grave concerns about these reports.

Let me stress that the deployment of the patriot missiles will take place, irrespective of these reports. The aim of the deployment is to ensure effective defensive protection of Turkey against any missile attack, whether the missiles carry chemical weapons or not.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: We have time for two more questions.

Question: Mr. Secretary General, Nourredine .... (inaudible) from al-Arabiya.

In the past there had been enough inaccurate intelligence reports regards weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This is very, very long in the past, but today Mr. Lavrov said that he’s (inaudible) regarding moving the chemical materials in Syria by the Syrian regime is rumours. Again, I would like to ask you how relevant are the latest reports on the matter?

And in your mind, does NATO have plans or able to do any military action since these chemical threats are on the border of NATO territory, if it has to do so?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Our position remains the same. We have no intention to intervene militarily. There’s no change in our position, but of course we will do what it takes to defend and protect our Ally, Turkey.

And as regards the credibility of the report, as I told you, 28 NATO ministers, foreign ministers unanimously agreed to express their grave concerns about these reports.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: Beta News Agency.

Question: (Inaudible), Beta News Agency. Secretary General, can you specify a little bit more on the Balkan countries’ possibility to approach to reach standards for membership in NATO?

And the second question is did you discuss, or did the Minister discuss the situation in Kosovo? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, we discussed the situation in Kosovo. The E.U. High Representative Ashton also participated in the meeting and that gave us an excellent opportunity to also compare notes and ensure that NATO and the European Union cooperate and coordinate closely when it comes to the situation in Kosovo.

On the one hand, we are pleased to see improvement in the security situation during recent years. On the other hand, we also realize that the situation in the north is still volatile. This is the reason why NATO has postponed the decision to further reduce KFOR troop presence.

We still monitor the situation. We fully support, the E.U. facilitated a political process and we would encourage Pristina as well as Belgrade to do their utmost to find political solutions to the situation in and around Kosovo. All ministers expressed their support for a continued open-door policy. Our door remains open. We want a credible open-door policy which on the one hand means that we will not compromise on criteria for joining the Alliance. We want to make sure that countries that aspire to become members of NATO also fulfil the necessary criteria before they actually join our Alliance.

But on the other hand it also means that we are strongly committed to ensuring steady progress in their relationship with NATO. In other words, also encouragement so that we will assist them in carrying forward the necessary reforms.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much. That’s unfortunately all we have time for tonight. We’ll see you again tomorrow. Thank you.