by NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the press conference following the meeting of the Council with non-NATO ISAF Contributing nations at the level of Foreign Ministers held at NATO HQ
We have just discussed the situation in Afghanistan.
The people of Afghanistan have made their choice clear. They want democracy. We salute their choice and the determination they have shown in both rounds of presidential elections.
The electoral process must run its course in a timely manner. Any allegations of irregularities should be addressed through the proper channels. And both candidates should play a constructive and responsible role.
This is important for the future of Afghanistan. And it is important for the future of our presence in Afghanistan.
Because in six months’ time, our ISAF combat mission will be completed. Afghan troops and police will be fully responsible for security across the country. Our goal is to launch a new mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces from the start of next year.
Today, we endorsed the detailed operational plan for that new mission, called Resolute Support.
But it is the Afghans who must take the next step. The necessary security agreements must be signed soon. Otherwise, we will not be able to keep any troops in Afghanistan from next year.
Let me be very clear. This is not what we want. That is not what both presidential candidates have said they want. But unless we have the agreements in place, it will be the only option available.
We also want to provide financial support to the Afghan forces. Today, we reconfirmed our commitment to providing funding to sustain them. The Afghan authorities must also live up to their commitment to tackle corruption and to contribute an increasing amount to the funding of their own forces.
So we still have challenges.
But we have shown our determination to continue playing our part in Afghanistan’s stability for the future. And Afghanistan’s leaders know what they have to do.
And with that, I'm ready to take your questions.
Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson): 1TV Afghanistan.
Q: Thank you, Sir, my question is: "Is it still only Americans who exactly announced the amount of the money that they're going to give and the number of the soldiers that will stay post-2014 in Afghanistan?" What are the commitments of the other Allied countries inside NATO to fund the security forces in Afghanistan? And also is there any exact numbers from other countries that the soldiers will stay in Afghanistan or not? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: This was a force generation conference, but a foreign ministers' meeting. And I stress this because we didn't discuss or decide on exact figures. You have already heard the US announcement. And actually we also heard concrete announcements from a number of other Allies in today's meeting. There will be a force generation conference at the beginning of July. And that will be the occasion to announce the final exact figures. So I'm not able to provide any exact figures at this stage. It will be for individual nations to do that. But I can confirm that a number of nations have already come forward with concrete announcements.
So in answer to your question, no, this will not only be a US mission. Other Allies and partners will contribute; and some of them in a quite significant manner.
Oana Lungescu: Radio Free Europe.
Q: Thank you, Mister Secretary General, how critical is a peaceful democratic transition of power in Afghanistan for NATO? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: It's crucial. I mean, NATO is a community of democracies. And in democracies, you have to build public and political support for your political decisions actually on a daily basis.
And when it comes to providing troops to a training mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014; when it comes to providing financial assistance to Afghanistan, it is crucial obviously that our publics and political leaders in NATO countries and partner countries do have trust and confidence in the Afghan political leadership and in the Afghan government.
So a credible political transition is, of course, of utmost importance. So I stress, once again, the strong need for a conclusion of the electoral process that truly reflects the will of the Afghan people.
Oana Lungescu: Rustavi.
Q: TV Company Rustavi 2 Georgia. But let me ask you about Ukraine. You called Russia to fulfil four things to Ukraine... de-escalate crisis in Ukraine... Do you have any time-term for Russia? And in case Russia will broke these commitments... will not fulfil your recommendation, what will be your next step. And you mentioned that you will not continue business as usual with Russia. Can you specify what do you mean? And will you cooperate with Moscow in the frame of a NATO-Russia Commission Council? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: No, we haven't set any deadline. But I would say the deadline is quite clear: immediately. I mean it's outrageous how Russia has broken its international commitments and its commitments to NATO-Russia founding documents. So I can't put it in any other way than request immediate positive steps from the Russian Federation to de-escalate the situation and engage in a constructive political process. Now, when we use the term that we cannot return to business as usual, it reflects our decision to continue suspension of our practical cooperation with Russia.
But as you know, and that refers to the last part of your question, as you know, we have also decided to keep channels open for a diplomatic and political dialogue. So at this stage, the NATO-Russia Council will continue to be a framework for such political and diplomatic consultations. And as you know, we had recently a meeting at ambassadors' level with Russia, a meeting within which we had a quite frank exchange of views. And I think it's very useful that we have such a forum to really send clear messages to Russia.
Oana Lungescu: Polish Radio.
Q: (Inaudible) Polish Radio. Mister Secretary General, let me return back to Afghanistan for a while, if you don't mind. You said about the details of the resolute support that only American gave the details at the table. On the other hand, in Afghanistan we had a problem with the electoral process because one of the candidates is accusing the other of fraud. So the whole electoral process is getting longer and longer.
So aren't you afraid of the let's say "timing" that if the Afghan president will not be chosen in some specific time, NATO will not be able to... or the Allies will not be able to lay down the proposals at the table, for example, the Wales Summit? So in other words, is it some kind of deadline that the electoral process should be finished in Afghanistan in a democratic way to give the NATO time to prepare the operation from 2015? Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, let me stress, if I understand you correctly, it's necessary for me to stress that the US is not the only Ally that has presented concrete figures. I've also heard concrete and also quite substantial figures from other Allies in today's meeting. But we have not made the final decision on the exact size and scope of the Resolute Support Mission.
As I mentioned, there will be a force generation conference at the later stage. So it's important to stress that other Allies also came forward with concrete figures. So it demonstrates a broad commitment to our future Resolute Support Training Mission.
Having said that, you're right: time is of the essence. And I hope to see a timely conclusion of the electoral process. Well, the latest information I have received gives me hope that despite challenges the electoral process will be concluded in due time before our summit in Wales; so that a new Afghan president can be inaugurated well before the summit.
And both presidential candidates have declared that they are ready to sign the necessary security agreements, shortly after they're in operation as president. So I'm also hopeful that when we meet in Wales at the beginning of September we will have the necessary legal framework in place. And we will be able to announce that the Resolute Support Mission will actually be deployed from the 1st of January 2015. That's our planning assumption.
Oana Lungescu: We have this lady over here. Second row, please.
Q: Hi, Sally Tahriq (?) from Iran's News Network. Mister Kerry said just a few minutes ago that more funding needs to be given to the defence sector. And he said: "We only need to look at the map to realize why, with Ukraine, Iraq and Syria." And he cited the example of the shooting in the Jewish Museum in Brussels. I want to ask you, considering the number of Europeans who were fighting in Syria for the ISIS right now. Over 2,000 people have been estimated!
What are the concrete measures that you think can be taken to counter the actions that they could possibly take when they come back to Europe. Are you going to bar these people from coming back to their home countries? Because as far as we can see it there is no action that can be taken. There is no concrete plan that can stop people like Manoush from coming back from Syria and engaging terrorist attacks in Europe. Thank you.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, I would stress that I agree very much with Senator Kerry that we need more investment in our security sector; also, in that part of the security sector that NATO represents, namely our armed forces. And this is an issue that will be addressed at the summit. And I hope we will see at the summit a common commitment to increase investments in defence.
But, of course, it goes broader. And fighters that return to their homeland in Europe are, of course, a matter of concern. You asked me: "What can we do about it?" Well, without going into too many details, I can tell you that it is an issue that has been discussed within our Alliance. It's not primarily a NATO issue. It's for security agencies more broadly.
But I think one of the efficient measures to counter the risk from such foreign fighters that return to our countries is a strengthened intelligence cooperation. And I think that will be at the core of our activities to counter this from such foreign fighters.
Oana Lungescu: With Japanese Media over there.
Q: Japanese TV. My name is Seito (?). My question is related to Afghanistan, also related to the partner. In Chicago, you invited some heads of States who take part in the ISAF Mission or co-operated with ISAF. And is there any, today, agreement with the ministers to invite partners to Wales. If yes, in which framework, which country?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen: We are about to now finish discussions and decisions on the exact format for our meetings at the summit. But we have not yet finished that work. So I'm not in a position today to tell you exactly the format of meetings. That will be decided shortly; because obviously for planning reasons we need to finalize it. But, yes, we are about to now conclude our discussions on that. But I can confirm that our partnerships will be a focal point at the summit. And it will also be reflected in meetings with partners at the summit.
Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much. This is a fitting end to this ministerial. And we'll see you at the summit.