Monthly press conference
by NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen held in Brussels
I have just returned from Kosovo.
Together with the ambassadors of all 28 NATO countries, our partners in KFOR, and European Union representatives, I visited our troops and thanked them for the great job they are doing. I met local leaders and I visited the Pec Patriarchate, which KFOR has protected for many years, but which will soon be protected by local police.
I have visited Kosovo many times. And what I saw yesterday was clear progress on the ground, and a real sense of optimism in the people.
There is progress in terms of security, as the situation generally remains calm and stable. There is progress in the ability of the local authorities to maintain law and order, and to provide security for cultural and religious sites. And there is progress politically.
Je salue la décision de l’Union européenne d’entamer des pourparlers d’adhésion avec la Serbie et des négociations avec le Kosovo sur un accord de stabilisation et d’association. Ces décisions montrent que le dialogue est la voie à suivre. Je ne doute pas que l’accord entre Belgrade et Pristina sera mis en application de manière concrète et cohérente.
And KFOR will continue to play its role by ensuring a safe and secure environment for all people in Kosovo. This is a time of great opportunity for the whole region. And I urge all leaders and all communities to seize the opportunity and continue on the path of Euro-Atlantic integration.
Now let me turn to Afghanistan.
Two weeks ago, I stood at President Karzai’s side as he announced that the Afghan security forces will now take the lead for providing security right across the country.
This is a turning point for Afghanistan, and for ISAF.
For Afghanistan, it means that a key goal is in sight: a country where security is provided by Afghans, for Afghans. It means that decisions on when, how and where to act will be taken by the Afghan government and carried out by its army and police.
For ISAF, it means that we will no longer plan, lead or execute combat operations. But we will continue to help the Afghan troops on such operations, when needed. We will remain ready for combat until the end of 2014.
By any standards, this transition is remarkable progress.
Remember that, ten years ago, there were no Afghan national security forces. Five years ago, they were a fraction of their current strength. Two and a half years ago, at the Lisbon Summit, when we agreed with President Karzai on the roadmap for transition, some questioned whether it could be done.
We have shown that it can be done. And it is being done. Time and again, we have seen the Afghan forces stepping up to the challenges they are facing and managing them with ability and resolve. They have dealt quickly and competently with complex insurgent attacks without ISAF assistance while they still have work to do. We will continue to develop their skills, and their institutions and at the end of 2014, we will not close the book on Afghanistan. We will open a new chapter, with a smaller non-combat mission, to train, advise and assist the Afghan forces.
So this can also be a turning point for the enemies of Afghanistan.
The old Taliban saying that “you have the clocks, we have the time” no longer holds. And the Taliban can’t just wait us out.
The Afghan security forces are strong, and getting stronger. They are getting support and sustainment not just now, but for years to come. As they stand ready to sustain the progress of the past ten years, the international community will continue to stand with them.
And with that I am ready to take your questions.
Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): KUNA, the second row.
Q: Nawab Khan from the Kuwait News Agency. Sir, would you like to make any comments on what has happened in Egypt yesterday? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I am gravely concerned by the situation in Egypt. And I'm concerned by the reports of fighting and death. Egypt is an important partner for NATO through the Mediterranean Dialogue. And Egypt is a vital actor in the Middle East. So we're following the situation closely.
I call on everyone to exercise restraint and refrain from violence; to respect human rights, including the rights of minorities and the rule of law; and to work to establish a democratic and inclusive civilian government as soon as possible.
In this critical moment, it is vital for all sides to work together with a common goal of reinforcing democracy in Egypt.
Oana Lungescu: Geo TV.
Q: Khalid Hameed Farooqi, Geo TV Pakistan. Secretary General, after Doha opening and Qatar negotiation and opening of Taliban office, it is rather more win-win situation for Taliban. And Karzai is criticizing your negotiation with Taliban and he's... of its opening. Plus, he's attacking also Pakistan, that Pakistan behind Taliban, …. [inaudible] activities in Afghanistan. Your comment?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, let me stress the importance of a positive engagement of Pakistan. That's been our position right from the outset that we need a positive engagement of Pakistan if we are to ensure long-term peace and stability not only in Afghanistan; but in the whole region. And in that respect, Pakistani authorities, the government, the armed forces to do their utmost to fight extremism and terrorism in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
I also think Pakistan can play a crucial role when it comes to facilitating a political process in Afghanistan. As you know, NATO as such is not involved in that political process. But we have a very clear position on that. And that was expressed at the NATO Summit in Chicago.
Our position is that in order to ensure a successful outcome of a political process, three conditions need to be met. Firstly, that there is a strong Afghan ownership that the process is Afghan-led. That's a first thing. Secondly that those involved in that political process fully respect the democratic constitution of Afghanistan, including full respect for human rights. And that, of course, also includes women's rights. And thirdly, that those involved in such a political process cut their links with terrorist groups. If these conditions are met, I think there might be a fair chance to see a positive outcome of such a political process. And I think we should give it a chance.
Oana Lungescu: Japanese media, third row.
Q: Sorry, Japanese Daily Mainichi. I'm sorry. I have two questions. One is according to the German magazine Spiegel, the US surveillance agency NSA has a basement in NATO. Can you confirm this information? And the second question is very different.
Last month, Sir, President... US President Obama visited Berlin and made a speech. And he said: "We will work with our NATO Allies to seek bold reductions in US and Russian in tactical weapons in Europe." Sorry, Sir, tactical nuclear weapons within NATO. My question is: How do you evaluate this speech? And how you can rewrite such a bold reduction?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, I don't have any information about possible NSA facilities within the US representation at NATO. On nuclear weapons, I think that President Obama's Berlin speech is very much in line with the nuclear policies outlined at the NATO Summit in Chicago last year. At the summit, we clearly expressed the wish to work in the direction of a reduction in the number of tactical nuclear weapons. But we also added to that that such reductions should take place in a balanced way. And we... we expect to see our efforts in that direction reciprocated by the Russian side.
Let me remind you that since the end of the Cold War NATO Allies that possess nuclear weapons have reduced the number of nuclear weapons significantly... significantly. We're speaking about drastic reductions in the number of nuclear weapons on the NATO sides. We have not seen that reciprocated by the Russians. And that's why the president stressed and that's why NATO stressed at the Chicago Summit... that such reductions are desirable. But they have to take place in a balanced way.
Oana Lungescu: (Inaudible).
Q: Hi, my name is Takasha. I'm with NHK, a broadcasting corporation. I read... You bring us to the situation in Egypt. How do you look out at the military intervention in the political situation there? Do you think it's a military coup? Or do you think it was inevitable? And the second question is: How do you look at the possible impact or spill-over effect to the neighbouring countries, including Libya and Syria? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, I have commented on the situation in Egypt and expressed my grave concerns by the situation in the country and urged all parties involved to work to establish a democratic and inclusive civilian government as soon as possible.
I don't think the most important thing, right now, is a theoretical discussion about how to label what has happened. Whether it's a coup or not, I don't think the label is the most important thing.
The most important thing now is to find solutions that can lead to reinforcing democracy as soon as possible. As regards to possible spill-over, it.... of course it remains to be seen. But I think Egypt is a unique case. And I wouldn't expect any spill-over.
Oana Lungescu: Europa Press, the second row.
Q: Thank you, Secretary General, Ana Pisonero from the Spanish News Agency, Europa Press. Going back on the spying case, I understand that you don't have information whether the US has specific installations to do these kinds of activities. Have you talked directly to the US counterparts on this? Do you have guarantees that these kinds of activities have stopped? And how do you feel about them? I mean how do you feel about Allies spying on each other? Is this something that puts into question the own sense of an organization like NATO which... you know we're talking about sharing more intelligence information; but not spying on each other? So... a more political comment please! Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: No, I haven't spoken with my American friends because this.... NATO is not involved in this. And this is not a NATO case. And as a matter of principle I never comment on leaks or alleged leaks. And this is the reason why I don't have any comments on this case.
I'm very much focussed on strengthening the transatlantic relationship. We are friends. We are partners. We are Allies. And I think we should work together, to strengthen the bonds across the Atlantic. That's what I'm trying to do on a daily basis at NATO Headquarters. And that's why I warmly welcome the start of negotiations between the European Union and the United States as regards trade and investment. I do believe that like-minded countries like the European and North American Allies should work much closely together, not only when it comes to security; but also when it comes to economics.
Oana Lungescu: Behind, in the back.
Q: Can you hear me?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Yes.
Q: I am a bit surprised that you don't even express any curiosity to the US Mission about whether this is true that there are... that there is a central point of intercepts coming out of NATO offices. And if you are concerned about cyber- attacks and Internet leaks as you said is a priority for NATO, why wouldn't you at least try to get to the bottom of this... these allegations?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: As I've already said, NATO is not involved in this. I don't consider it a NATO... a NATO problem. I have no reason to believe that NATO security has been compromised in any way.
Oana Lungescu: Over here.
Q: Noureddine Fridhi from Arabian News Channel. Mister Secretary General, I used to know that in NATO College in Italy, when they invited the Mediterranean officers, one of the courses is that the military has no role to do in politics. And I would like to ask you if your... the NATO officers came into contact with the Egyptian military to know about let's say the final objective of their intervention until now.
I have a second question if you don't mind about Libya. After months and months of arms trafficking from Libya to Tunisia to Mali to Egypt, the Libyan prime minister came to you a few weeks before to ask for technical assistance. Are you in a position today to tell us how you are going to deal with the Libyan demands please? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First, on Egypt, let me just reiterate my very clear statement that we urge all parties involved in Egypt to work to establish a democratic and inclusive civilian government as soon as possible. That's our clear position and very much in line with our basic principles.
Now, on Libya, yes, I had a meeting with the Libyan prime minister. He and the Libyan foreign minister forwarded a request for NATO advice and assistance in building their security sector. We have sent a fact-finding mission to Libya to engage with the Libyan authorities to explore in which fields NATO could possibly give advice and add value. The fact-finding mission has now returned and reported back to the NATO Council. And we're, right now, looking closer into that report. And on the basis of these considerations and deliberations we will make a final decision as to whether and as to how we could possibly assist Libya.
Oana Lungescu: One last question from Jane's.
Q: Yes, Brooks Tigner, Jane's... Jane's Defence. A follow-up question on Libya precisely... One thing that the Libyan officials are maybe seeking, as I've heard is training... They recognize now that they do... their soldiers do need training. I'm wondering given the sheer size of Libya's military training needs beyond the elite officer core, will it really be feasible to conduct such training by the Allies or other countries outside the borders of Libya. Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: That's of course one of the options we are exploring. But no decision has been made yet. We need to investigate this thoroughly to really identify areas in which our assistance could be... or benefit to Libya. And we will.... As I said, based on the report from the fact-finding mission, based on our deliberations within the Council, we will make a decision on how we could possibly help the Libyans. And that, of course, also includes potentially the possibility to give advice as regards training, including training outside Libya. But no decision has been made. We are exploring different options. And it is very important to do that in a careful manner, to make sure that we use our expertise in the most efficient way to the benefit of Libya.
Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much.