by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Foreign Ministers session
Good evening. We had a very good first discussion on the overall themes of our summit in the United Kingdom, next September.
At the Summit, NATO will be looking outwards, and to the future.
First, by investing in the right capabilities and in strong partnerships, so that we remain robust and ready to respond to future challenges.
Second, by reinforcing the transatlantic link which remains the foundation of our security.
And third, by taking stock of the progress of our mission in Afghanistan and preparing to open a new chapter in our engagement.
In ISAF we have built one of the biggest coalitions in recent history, including one quarter of the world’s nations. This shows how significant partners have become over the last two decades to our success as an Alliance. They add value to our operations. They provide insight to our consultations. And they enable NATO to foster change, and build peace and security in Europe and beyond.
Simply put: we need partners. And partners need NATO.
Therefore, we need to keep our political ties strong through regular consultations. And we need to retain what we call our interoperability – that is our ability to work and operate together - through more training and exercises.
Most of the challenges we face, now and in the future, go beyond the borders of nations or NATO. So it is vital that we continue to work with those partners who want to consult with us, and with those who can act with us. And it is vital that we assist those who need our help. This is an investment in our security, and an investment in our future.
Our experience from twenty years of operations also shows the value of building defence capacities as a way to bolster security in unstable parts of the world. It is more effective to provide support to countries before a crisis may come - to make sure that it never comes at all.
We are already working with a number of countries to help them build democratic and accountable security structures. To clear the damage caused by conflict. And to strengthen transparency and good governance.
Libya is a prime example where this can be useful. And our efforts in response to the Libyan government’s request for support are taking shape, in close coordination with those of other international actors.
So as we prepare for the Summit, we will also discuss how we might help countries beyond the Alliance build their own capacities. So that we can project stability through cooperation.
This afternoon Foreign Ministers have also discussed the situation in Ukraine. And we have just adopted a statement that expresses our views on the current situation in Ukraine.
“We follow closely the situation in the country.
We condemn the use of excessive force against peaceful demonstrators in Ukraine. We call on all parties to refrain from provocations and violence.
We urge Ukraine, as the holder of the Chairmanship-in-Office of the OSCE, to fully abide by its international commitments and to uphold the freedom of expression and assembly. And we urge the government and opposition to engage in dialogue and launch a reform process.
A sovereign, independent and stable Ukraine, firmly committed to democracy and the rule of law, is key to Euro-Atlantic security. Ukraine remains an important partner of NATO and the Alliance highly values Ukraine’s contributions to international security. Our partnership will continue on the basis of the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. NATO remains committed to supporting the reform process in Ukraine”.
With that, I’ll be happy to take your questions.
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): NPR.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Secretary General. Afghanistan, of course. How serious are you about conveying to President Karzai that the zero option is indeed alive and well? What is NATO's deadline if the U.S. is giving him until the end of the year to sign the BSA? He doesn't seem to think that this is a valid threat, regardless of your increasing reminders that there's a big financial cost to come with this, too, with international aid.
And was President Karzai invited to come to this meeting? You've got the Foreign Ministers and the Interior Ministers coming, but isn't he really the one that needs to get the message? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (NATO Secretary General): On the latter I think you know the answer, that it is a Foreign Ministers meeting and this is the reason why it is the Foreign Minister, the acting Foreign Minister, who is invited. And by the way, we have also invited the Minister of Interior, because he's responsible for security in the run-up to presidential elections in Afghanistan. So this is the reason why those Ministers are the invitees.
Now, let me stress that when you speak about a zero option, a zero option is not our planning basis, but, of course, the so-called zero option can be the unfortunate outcome of decisions, or non-decisions, in Afghanistan. Let me reiterate that we are prepared to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 with a mission to train, assist, advise the Afghan Security Forces. But it's no surprise that we have to make clear that we need a firm legal framework for our presence in Afghanistan.
So this is the reason why we have stated the obvious. Namely, we need a signature. We need, first of all, a signature on the Bilateral Security Agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan, and next we need a signature on a Status of Forces Agreement that will provide the framework for a NATO-led presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014.
I would be reluctant to fix an exact date... what is the exact deadline? But it is a fact that we need some time to plan properly that deployment after 2014, and in the case that there is no legal framework from the 1st January in 2015, we also need some time to plan to withdraw personnel and equipment.
I mean, this is just to state the obvious. It can't be a surprise, and I think that message has been delivered in very clear terms to the Afghan authorities.
OANA LUNGESCU: Associated Press.
Q: Hi, Mr. Secretary General. Could you explain what you think is the reason behind, and President Karzai has made these expressions, and could you tell us concretely, today, what the Ministers have decided in terms of trying to encourage him to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Afghanistan will be discussed tomorrow in the ISAF meeting, and that discussion will take place in the presence of two Afghan Ministers, so that will be the venue for delivering messages from NATO and ISAF Ministers to the Afghan Government. And I'm not going to guess about motives.
OANA LUNGESCU: Over there.
Q: I'd like to follow up with Libya. You mentioned Libya. Could you tell us what... you mentioned that there's going to be some changes. The requests of support are taking shape there. Could you just elaborate on what that means exactly?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, some months ago, actually last spring, we received a request from the Libyan Government to assist Libya in developing a security architecture. We have looked closely into that, and in collaboration with the Libyan authorities, we have now provided a platform for providing such assistance. And we are prepared now to assist the Libyan Government in developing their security architecture. We have established a small team that will work with the Libyan authorities, and in close coordination with other actors, international organizations, as well as individual nations, in order to ensure no duplication and complementarity in the way we assist the Libyans.
OANA LUNGESCU: (Inaudible).
Q: Thank you so much, Excellency. Mustafa Basherat from Radio Free Europe, Kabul Bureau. From the last two days that I am here in Brussels I have heard one message from everybody that if BSA is not signed NATO cannot continue their mission in Afghanistan. So I understand from this message that by now NATO has one mission that train Afghan Security Forces, but another mission that also may have been killed. Now, the mission is complete, but don't you think that right now thousand young Osamas living on the border Pakistan and Afghanistan, and after 2014 if NATO and ISAF leave Afghanistan there will be a new threat for the international community?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, but let me stress that I, too, hope that we will be able to deploy a train, advise, assist mission to Afghanistan after 2014. Don't make any mistake. We feel strongly committed to the future of Afghanistan. And the planned deployment of a training mission to Afghanistan is actually decided in collaboration with the Afghan Government. We made that decision at the Chicago Summit in May 2012. President Karzai was there. We agreed to establish that training mission beyond 2014. So this is still our intention, and we are continuing planning not to waste time.
So if we get an invitation from Afghanistan we are also prepared to deploy. But NATO is not an occupation force. We intend to help Afghanistan. And of course, it is a precondition that we get an invitation, and an invitation should be accompanied by a proper legal framework, and that's all.
Of course, at the end of the day it's an Afghan decision. We do not impose anything on Afghanistan. It's an offer from our side to actually help the Afghan Security Forces continuing their capability development, so we make sure that they will also be able to take full responsibility for security in the future.
So, at this stage it's an hypothetical situation that we won't be there after 2014. I still hope we will.
OANA LUNGESCU: One last question over there.
Q: TV Imedi, Georgia, Sandro (inaudible). You mentioned Summit 2014. Will it be enlargement-oriented Summit, I mean, concerning Georgia as well? Can we get Membership Action Plan or some other form of cooperation? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Today we have discussed the overall themes for the Summit. We have not yet decided on the exact agenda, so it's much too early to say anything about how we will address the open-door policy in exact terms, at the Summit. That remains to be seen. There's still nine months to go.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. Good evening.