by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the meetings of the NATO-Georgia Commission in Foreign Ministers session and of NATO Foreign Ministers with non-NATO ISAF Contributing Nations
We have just had a very productive meeting on Afghanistan with the foreign ministers of the 50 ISAF countries and the Afghan Foreign Minister Rassoul.
We discussed how to make sure the handover of security responsibility to the Afghan forces continues to make steady progress.
And how to make sure that Afghan forces receive the support they need once they have taken full responsibility for their country’s security, at the end of 2014.
To that end, we are already planning a new mission to train, advise and assist Afghan security forces after 2014.
And as part of the international community, we will contribute to the funding of those forces.
At the Chicago Summit in May, we committed to play our part in developing effective funding mechanisms for the Afghan forces. For its part, the Afghan government committed to taking on an increasingly large share of the funding, as the Afghan economy and its own resources grow.
Today 52 nations reaffirmed these mutual commitments.
And we took a step forward in this regard by agreeing to develop further a funding mechanism which will complement the broader international efforts within a robust accountability framework.
Today we also had a good meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission.
We welcomed Minister Panjikidze to her first session in this format. And we thanked her, and Georgia, for their outstanding contribution to our mission in Afghanistan. And for their continued commitment to Euro-Atlantic integration.
Georgia’s commitment to NATO is solid. And NATO’s commitment to Georgia remains just as solid.
Today, NATO ministers reconfirmed the decision taken at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 that Georgia will become a member of the Alliance. And to this end, NATO will continue to support and assist Georgia’s reform efforts through the NATO-Georgia Commission.
We reconfirmed NATO’s unwavering support for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty within its internationally-recognised borders.
And we welcomed and encouraged Georgia’s efforts towards peaceful conflict resolution, to enhance security in its region and to reach out to the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia.
The challenge now is to maintain momentum. To ensure that Georgia stays on the path of democratic reforms.
We recognise Georgia’s strong reform record. But we also recognise that there is still more work to be done. Especially with respect to reforming the judiciary and strengthening the rule of law and media freedom and transparency.
NATO is determined to support that process. Our dialogue and cooperation will continue. And we will develop them further within the NATO-Georgia Commission.
So we look forward to a still stronger and closer relationship in 2013 and beyond.
With that, I am ready to take your questions.
Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): Slobo Lekic,AP.
Q: Yes, Secretary General, do you have any details about what happened to the Serbian Ambassador last night? And could you comment on his death?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen (NATO Secretary General): I am deeply saddened by the tragic death of the Serbian Ambassador Milinkovic. And I offer my deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. Ambassador Milinkovic was a highly-respected representative of his country. As Serbian Ambassador to NATO he earned the respect and admiration of his fellow Ambassadors. He was, indeed, a great asset to his country. He has performed outstandingly and he will be missed here at NATO Headquarters.
I don't have further information about the circumstances of this tragic death. That's for the relevant authorities to investigate.
Oana Lungescu: Georgian News Agency.
Q: InterPressNews, INTERPRESS News, Vazha Tavberidze. Just one month ago you expressed deep concerns about political imprisonment in Georgia and have you observed positive development since then? Should I repeat my question?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: No, no, I understand very well. Thank you. First of all, let me stress that in today's meeting we have recognized, we have acknowledged the very successful conduct of parliamentary elections on the 1st of October, and Georgia has, in that respect, passed a very important test.
We now look forward to seeing a smooth cohabitation between the new government and the president, and we look forward to free, fair and transparent presidential elements next year.
Obviously, we have also, in the meeting today, discussed the recent arrests of representatives of the former administration in Georgia. We have stressed that NATO has no intention whatsoever to interfere with these legal processes. But we have added to that that it is of utmost importance that the authorities in Georgia respect fully the fundamental principles of the rule of law and people who are arrested also are guaranteed due process.
And we have stressed that it's of utmost importance that these legal cases are not perceived as political persecution, and even the perception is here very important. So, in conclusion, we have expressed our appreciation of the reforms that have been carried through in Georgia. We have also stressed that there is still work to do.
Oana Lungescu: Shamshad.
Q: Rased Lufturahman from Shamshad TV Afghanistan. Afghanistan is once again in top three corrupt countries in the Transparency International Index. Did you talk with the Foreign Minister of Afghanistan about this issue and what was the assurance from Afghan side?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Foreign Minister Rasul raised this issue himself, and he reassured his colleagues that the government of Afghanistan gives it the very highest priority to fight corruption. And I appreciate that very clear statement because corruption makes business and the whole economy inefficient. Corruption represents waste of money and keeps countries, or hampers economic growth. In general, I have to say corruption is theft from the people. It's a crime. That's why it must be fought determinedly.
I have discussed this issue on several occasions with President Karzai and he and I agree that it must be given the very highest priority to fight corruption, and I'm pleased that Foreign Ministers Rasul, today, reaffirmed that this is the intention of the Afghan Government to determinedly fight corruption.
Just one more remark on that: We are in Afghanistan first and foremost for security reasons. We are in Afghanistan to prevent the country from once again becoming a safe haven for terrorism. It's not NATO's or ISAF's responsibility to fight corruption. That's a responsibility of the Afghan authorities.
But of course, having said that, there is also a secure aspect in this, because long-term peace and stability in the country is very much dependent on trust and confidence between the Afghan people and the Afghan Government. And if corruption continues it undermines that trust and confidence.
So it is a prerequisite for developing a stable society that the government fights corruption determinedly.
Q: National Public Radio.
Q: And CBS News. Teri Schultz, sir. Can you please give us... share any details from General Allen's status briefing from Afghanistan, particularly if he gave Allies and partners any idea of the size and scope of the U.S. Forces, which will impact, of course, their own deployments? And also if there's been any impact by the reinvigorated vetting process on the green-on-blue. Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes. No, he didn't give any figures. Of course, you're looking for that, so... yeah.
Q: General indications would be good.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, yes. No, I can't satisfy you in that respect. We don't have figures yet. We haven't made political decisions on that yet. We are still waiting for military advice, based on which we will take the political decisions.
But General Allen provided some other very interesting information, including figures that clearly prove that transition is on track also when it comes to security. We have actually seen a significant decrease in the number of enemy attacks in those areas that have been transferred to lead Afghan responsibility. And that's, of course, a very encouraging and promising development, because it proves that we are pursuing the right strategy. We hand over, in a gradual process, lead responsibility to the Afghans. The Afghan Security Forces are quite capable to take on that responsibility and we have seen significant and a steady decline in the number of enemy attacks in those areas that have been handed over in the first three so-called tranches.
That's very significant. And he could also report that the whole transition process and the build-up of the Afghan Security Forces is on track. So all in all it was a very positive presentation, which was well received by ISAF Ministers.
Oana Lungescu: We'll go over to that side, Georgian TV.
Q: Georgian Public Broadcast. Mr. Secretary General, do you see any sign in Georgia that cohabitation will work? Is it a new test for our country? And also I want to ask you again about the arrests as my colleague. We listened to your statement. Does it mean that on this stage that you are not concerned anymore? And you have not question marks on this issue? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, on cohabitation. Actually, the Foreign Minister today reported that an agreement has now been reached in Georgia between the president and the government on the appointment of a new chief of defence. As you know, this has been an issue for discussion during recent weeks. And that was, of course, welcomed by NATO Allies, because it is a clear indication that the parties involved try to move forward to ensure a smooth cohabitation.
We all know that it's not easy. Even in countries that have been well- established democracies for decades it's a challenging thing to ensure a smooth cohabitation.
We do realize that. But it was a very important signal that the Foreign Minister could give us today. So at least it's promising.
As regards our concerns, we have expressed our concerns also today, but we got assurance from the Foreign Minister, as I have got from the Prime Minister in previous meetings, that the government will not interfere with the judiciary. They will ensure that people get a due process. They will ensure full respect for the principles of rule of law. So we have got assurances and so far, so good, but of course we will now follow the development closely.
Oana Lungescu: German Television.
Q: Mr. Secretary General, Kai Niklasch, from German Television ZDF. I would like to understand the development of the position NATO has with regard to Syria. A few weeks ago NATO said it does not have any mandate, and yesterday you said if there is the use of chemical weapons there will be immediate international response. So what has happened over the last few weeks that you have changed your tone? Which kind of information did you receive?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes, but let me stress that our position remains the same. We have no intention to intervene militarily. We do believe that the right way forward is a political solution. We have stated that on several occasions and that position remains the same.
We have expressed our solidarity with Turkey and on the request of Turkey we, yesterday, decided to enhance Turkey's air defence, and we would expect three Allies to deploy Patriot missiles in Turkey. Also, in that respect our position remains the same. These deployments will be of purely defence nature. We have no offensive intentions. It's not a preparation of a No-Fly Zone.
So our position remains the same. But of course, we're all aware of the fact that the Syrian regime possesses chemical weapons and yesterday NATO Foreign Ministers expressed their grave concerns. And, of course, you could also consider that a timely warning to the Syrian regime that they shouldn't even think of using such chemical weapons.
Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. I know there are many other questions, unfortunately, that's all the time we have for now, but I know there are other press conferences following.
Thank you very much.