Weekly press briefing

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

  • 29 Mar. 2006
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  • Last updated: 04 Nov. 2008 03:43

Thank you for coming. I have only three points to brief you on to begin and then I'm happy to take your questions.

One is on Belarus . There was a discussion this morning in the North Atlantic Council on ongoing developments in Belarus . I think it's worth, before going on, giving you a flavour of the current nature of NATO's relations with Belarus .

Belarus signed what we call the PfP Framework Document--in other words, engaged into the Partnership for Peace--in January in 1995. Its participation in PfP was almost non-existent until 1997 when a very modest program of cooperation began. It has remained very modest.

NATO cooperation activities with Belarus are focused on low-level, practical engagement, principally with the Ministry of Defence. Higher level political activities are avoided and official contact is typically at a relatively low level, even on the military side.

There are individual projects which carry on. One of course... one which has a strong link to civil society and that is the NATO PfP Trust Fund for putting beyond use 700,000 antipersonnel land mines in Belarus , which started this month, March 2006. The project is expected to be completed within six months and it is one that has been pushed by a non-governmental organization. A Belarussian non-governmental organization in that context has received support from the Alliance .

But that is, I think, important context for the discussions that are now taking place within the Alliance . Allies are now looking carefully at the relationship that NATO has with Belarus in the context of their deep disquiet over the conduct of the electoral process and events that have taken place since... I included, of course, the arrest of protesters in the past few days.

These discussions and this look at the NATO Belarus relationship is taking place quickly. It is taking place now. And we will see in the coming days another discussion amongst Allies as to their conclusions. That's the most I can say on that subject right now because I honestly cannot prejudge what discussions Allies might take.

But what is clear is the Allies are, like the Secretary General said in his statement, deeply concerned with the conduct of the electoral process, concerned also with events that have taken place since then, and in that context are looking carefully at the relationship that NATO has with Belarus.

Now there's plane travel. Cape Verde , the media day for the exercise, and I have to tell you, this is going to be very good. It will be a major exercise. It will be excellent visuals. It'll be quite something to see. And the best part is, we're organizing a free flight. NATO's organizing free flights to Cape Verde for the media day, which is June 22nd, 2006 . The flight will depart Brussels on June 21st and will come back on June 23rd.

For reservations please contact Commander Goyanes at SHAPE. His telephone number is 065-44-4309. His e-mail is jose.goyanes@shape.nato.int. Have your frequent flyer card ready please.

Finally, just to look forward to one event, which is, in fact, coming up next week and that is the high level event in Rabat , Morocco . This is an event which will bring together the NATO ambassadors, led of course by the Secretary General; political directors from the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries; and the ambassadors from the seven MD countries here in Brussels who will also be attending. To discuss two things. I've mentioned this to you before; an assessment of the Mediterranean Dialogue and its future, and there will be presentations both by a NATO nation and MD nation, and then a discussion. And as the second item, the practical dimensions of cooperation, and that is, for example, a discussion on Operation Active Endeavour, joint peacekeeping, and then there will be a conférence de presse at 12:45 of that day for those of you who have colleagues in Rabat or who plan to attend yourselves.

That is all I have to raise with you, but I'm happy to take your questions. Short, but sweet. Please.

Q: There's at least three parties of five which came to Ukraine Parliament, they used not anti-NATO, but maybe not favourable to NATO rhetoric in their pre-election campaign. What effect could it have on NATO-Ukrainian relations, from your point of view?

APPATHURAI: Thank you for the question. You will have seen the Secretary General's statement on the conduct of the elections, and that is all, of course, that he wishes to comment on, or that NATO allies wish to comment on in that the actual form of the Ukrainian government is up to the Ukrainian government to determine.

What he said in the statement is I do believe very much the sentiment amongst all the Allies, and that is they believe and expect that our good relations with Ukraine will continue, whatever government is formed. We do have a very profound and indeed, formal, relationship where NATO can provide expertise to Ukraine in terms of modernizing its defence establishment etc. And Allies want to continue to make that available to the Ukrainian authorities.

Whatever path Ukraine chooses in terms of its relations with NATO, its relations with other parties, it's for Ukraine to choose. But what NATO wants is to continue what we have, and that is a good, strong partnership and to keep making available the expertise that NATO has for Ukraine 's modernization.

Q: À l'issue des discussions qui auront lieu sur la Biélorussie, est-ce qu'on peut attendre quelques sanctions envers les représentants du gouvernement biélorusse?

APPATHURAI: Oui, c'est une bonne question. Je ne vois pas franchement quelles sanctions envers le leadership, l'OTAN en tant qu'organisation pourrait... pourrait décider. Comme vous le savez, l'Union européenne est en train de discuter des sanctions, par exemple des (inaudible)... etc.

Dans ma carrière à l'OTAN, je n'ai jamais vu l'OTAN imposer de telles sanctions. Je ne suis pas sûr que l'OTAN aurait cette capacité de toute façon. Je ne peux pas prévoir franchement qu'est-ce que les nations vont décider. Comme je vous ai déjà indiqué, les relations OTAN-Bélarus sont déjà de très bas niveaux, très, très limitées, très techniques. Parce qu'effectivement la démocratie au Bélarus était déjà en question.

Alors, l'OTAN a déjà, depuis des années, limite ses relations avec le Bélarus. Alors, c'est dans ce contexte que les nations regardent cette relation. Je ne pourrai pas, malheureusement, prévoir ces discussions. Mais je peux vous dire que ce sont des discussions qui ont lieu en ce moment qui vont continuer, qui vont aboutir assez bientôt.

APPATHURAI: Mark and Leon.

Q: James, could you just be a bit more specific about what sort of... you say low-level practical engagement, and also on the specifics of the Trust Fund, which is linked to the elimination of land mines. I mean, how much money, for example, has NATO given to that Trust Fund and on the practical cooperation as well?

APPATHURAI: In terms of the money, the money is just slightly over 200,000 euro and it comes from Canada and Lithuania . So I can be very specific on the money issue.

In terms of the types of cooperation that NATO has with Belarus , they are all at the, let us say, unclassified level in fact, so there's no exchange of classified information. And deal with very technical issues, such as civil emergency planning, border security, geography, international humanitarian law, medical services, public diplomacy--these are some examples--where Belarus has had a very, as I say, at a very low level and at a very limited level in terms of the number of contacts, engaged with the Alliance.

So that is what I mean by low level and technical.

Q: And this is (inaudible)... NATO officials going to Belarus for seminars on those sort of things or...

APPATHURAI: No, the inverse. Belarussian officials attending, of course, or participating in a seminar, rather than NATO officials going to Belarus . I'm not aware of any NATO officials going to... well no, that's not quite true. It is principally, if not exclusively, Belarussian officials attending a NATO seminar or an event organized by a NATO nation in the NATO context.

Q: Two questions, James. On Belarus , to keep that on, okay, I understand you can't prejudge conclusions, but what are the options? I mean if they met last week and discussed this, because you said last week that they discussed measures, and they again discussed it this morning, and they will again discuss it later, from what you tell us, what are they discussing if there are no potential measures that NATO could take? I mean, what could NATO take... either sanctioned or measures or what have you, in regards to Belarus ?

And the second question is unrelated so I don't know if you want to finish the Belarus stuff first, but the second is on Darfur . There was this Arab summit yesterday, I think, where again it was repeated that Sudan would not accept international troops. At the same time you have the UN. you have calls that the UN accelerate the "préparatif" for a potential UN force there, and then you have NATO in the middle of this and it's still unclear, you know, exactly what NATO could have as a role.

So, could you assess this situation for us? Have there been any contacts by the UN to NATO? Tell us where we are.

APPATHURAI: Thanks. On Belarus , again, unfortunately I simply can't go into what measures the Allies might choose to make, but I should clarify the level of discussion. You're aware of how NATO works. The Council meets once a week. Subordinate committees meet more regularly. So the Council discussed it today, as they did last week. A subordinate committee is working regularly on this issue, and when they come to conclusions it will be brought to the Council, so that is why I've mentioned it twice, but the work at the subordinate level, the political committee level is continuing.

As I say, they have been given a tight deadline to come to conclusions and bring those back to the NAC.

In terms of Darfur there have been, indeed, some developments. You know that the African Union Summit in Khartoum is looking at a resolution which I think is due to be agreed tomorrow on the nature of the AMIS mission and any possible follow-on future force.

It's also true that the UN Security Council is looking at this issue, and of course, NATO is very seized of it. Our training or capacity-building mission to the African Union and the airlift is, as you know, continuing.

Secretary General Kofi Annan called the NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer a few days ago and asked if NATO could consider to provide operations for providing support to ongoing peace efforts and possible future peace efforts in Darfur . The Secretary General has consulted with the Allies and as a result of those consultations NATO is developing a range of possible options for NATO support, continuing NATO support to AMIS, the African Union mission, in the bridging period prior to the UN takeover, and at the possibility of continued support to the implementation of a follow-on UN mission.

So to be clear, this is simply that NATO is on request to the United Nations looking at options for possible continued support to the AU in the bridging period and potentially support to a possible follow-on UN mission.

That process has just begun. We should be clear no one is discussing or planning or considering... I'll repeat, no one is discussing, planning or considering a NATO force on the ground in Darfur . That is not going to be one of the options. This is simply a supporting role that the Alliance might be able to play upon request of the United Nations.

Q: Follow-up to that. The Secretary General Annan called... could you tell us when he called the Secretary General?

APPATHURAI: Two days ago.

Q: And when did the decision., I assume this was a NAC decision to look at the range of options, so could you tell us when that happened? And second, it may sound a crazy question, without NATO sending troops to Darfur could you envision a NATO lead or NATO command of a multinational force under UN sponsorship?

APPATHURAI: In terms of the timing of the phone call, the UN Secretary General called my Secretary General, the NATO Secretary General, two days ago. I won't discuss the timing of NAC decisions, but this was indeed a NAC decision.

No one is discussing a NATO lead or a NATO command. That is not what has been raised. It is not being considered. Any NATO role beyond what has already been asked of the Alliance will be a supporting role only for an African Union lead, followed potentially by a United Nations lead. These will be AU or UN missions with a possible supporting role by the Alliance . Possible continued supporting role by the Alliance .

Q: James, thank you. I'm sorry for being late, and I hope you didn't talk about the point I'm asking about. Can you give just us more details about the NAC meeting six and seven in Morocco and what do you expect from this meeting?

And the second, you are talking about some optional in Darfur , but none of them is sending troops there, not troops. So can you give us more details about which type of other option can be? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: First thing, very quickly, for the Rabat conference, 6 and 7 April. Two main subjects... sorry, attendance will be the NAC, led by the Secretary General, ambassadors from the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries that are here, will also be coming, and political directors from the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries.

Two subjects. One is an assessment of the Mediterranean Dialogue and the way ahead. In other words, how to continue the move towards practical cooperation. And second is indeed to look at the concrete deliverables in terms of practical cooperation. For example, the support by countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue for Operation Active Endeavour, possibilities for future peacekeeping together. As you know, for example, Morocco has contributed substantially to NATO-led peacekeeping operations, and that is certainly something that is welcomed both from a practical and political point of view.

That is "en gros" the character of it. In terms of Darfur , I think we should envision any potential future NATO support in the framework or in the context of what NATO is already providing, extending that or building on that, but NATO is currently providing, as you know, logistical support in terms of airlift and capacity building. That, I think, should be seen as something of a framework for the kinds of support that the Alliance might provide in future if the NAC so decides.

Q: I've got a follow-on question. When is the current NATO support going to expire for the two parts, capacity training and transport?

APPATHURAI: The capacity training is due, scheduled to expire in the coming days. By the end of this month. The airlift has been, again, this is on request of the African Union, and the airlift is due to come to an end, according to the current request, at the end of May.

Q: (inaudible)...with Afghanistan and the apostasy case. What was the advice that we, NATO, gave to President Karzai in relation with this. And since apostasy is in the Constitution and is forbidden and is banned and is deemed to be worth of the death penalty, what is going to happen in the future? Are we going to tell every time the Afghanis that this is something that is not to be done, or okay. Thank you.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. The Secretary General spoke, as you know, directly to President Karzai, to express not only his personal concern, but the concern of all Allies, when Mr. Rahman was in jail and facing... potentially facing the death penalty for having changed religions from Islam. And the Secretary General certainly conveyed, as I say, Allies' concern about this issue, while respecting fully, and I think this is important to stress, while respecting fully the sovereignty of Afghanistan and its laws and its judicial system.

It is also true that there are fundamental human rights that have to be preserved, and that indeed to which Afghanistan has signed up to UN conventions on human rights, which include, of course, the freedom of religion.

So this is not an easy case. It is not a clear-cut case, but certainly NATO Allies, and I think all of our countries share a fundamental belief that any individual should have the right to choose their religion freely and safely. And the Secretary General conveyed that message directly to President Karzai and as you know he was certainly not alone.

As to the future of this, I cannot speak to that. I think certainly, as I say, all Allies came to Afghanistan to bring to it democracy, the right to choose their own system and their own way of conducting their lives and their political and judicial systems, but it is, of course, fundamental in NATO that NATO is an alliance of values and one of those values is, as I say, freedom of religion.

So I cannot speak to how this will go on in future, but President Karzai is certainly well aware of the profound concern amongst certainly some NATO Allies and the Secretary General made this clear about this case, and we will see how it goes forward in future.

Q: James, on Cape Verde, could you give us some description of that... the nature of this exercise in terms of telling how far or how close NATO has come to declare the full operational capability for reaction force, please.

APPATHURAI: Well, as you know, elements of the NRF have already been used. For example, during the Pakistan relief effort engineers and of course airlift were used for that, as well as earlier during the Katrina airlift operation.

The Cape Verde exercise will be a very important milestone in testing all of the major elements of the NRF and the naval element, of course, will have a role to play in all of this. In fact, the Secretary General is going tomorrow to Denmark , where there's a major exercise taking place. Six thousand military personnel are participating in a major exercise which will be testing the naval element of the NRF.

All this to say we are aiming to and are confident that we will be able, by the Riga Summit, to be able to declare that the NRF is fully operational. And this exercise is important because it will test many of the elements that were not tested during Pakistan . It will test the strategic reach, as we put it, of the NRF. In other words, the ability to deploy fast and far away, because that is, of course, one of the major elements that the NRF will have to meet.

Now you have all heard comments about this or that piece of the puzzle that has to be filled in. They are being filled in and the Cape Verde exercise should demonstrate that we are well on the road to getting there.

Q: I have a question about ISAF 3 in Afghanistan . My name is Dexter from the Dutch newspaper Trouw. We heard reports that the Canadians do not leave their compound anymore because of high tensions now with the local population. Are you aware of that? I see in your eyes that you don't.

APPATHURAI: I haven't seen those reports. I would be very surprised, knowing my fellow countrymen, if they don't leave their base anymore. I don't know if any of you have met General Hillier, but I have profound doubts that he would give orders not to leave your base.

I will look into that.

Q: Well, tension is because of the activities of the American Drug Administration, DA, who have a private company whose eradicating all these poppy fields, and that would have been the cause of all the troubles. I'm not sure about that.

APPATHURAI: I can tell you I sit in on the Secretary General's regular conferences with his most senior military commanders and even last night I heard no such reports.

Q: (inaudible)...to coordinate with the American Drug Agency?

APPATHURAI: Between NATO and ... not that I'm aware of. I mean, as you know, NATO has as one of its major Allies the United States . So I would be very surprised if they were conducting operations in the context of the drug enforcement agency of which the military or diplomatic sides were not aware. And if it were relevant to NATO I'm quite sure it would be brought to the NATO table. But I am not aware of this being an issue for Canadian soldiers in the south.

Q: Thanks.

APPATHURAI: I think we had someone else back there.

Q: (inaudible)...Frankfurt Allgemeine. James, on this issue of NRF and the financial side, the General Secretary has been talking a lot in recent weeks and months about how important it is to find some sort of common funding to support the NRF once it will be operational. Is there any progress to report on that?

APPATHURAI: The progress is that the talks are continuing and there is a specific discussion under way in NATO, indeed, about the funding in particular for the initial deployment of the NRF. That discussion has really only begun in a serious sense, and I would suspect that Allies are looking to the Riga Summit in terms of a timeline for moving forward in that area.

So I wouldn't expect any conclusions anytime soon, but I would see Riga as being a logical timeline for those discussions to finish. But I can tell you they have just started in the last few weeks. So if you know NATO, very few things, and especially discussions on money are unlikely to finish very quickly.

Q: Just back to Darfur . I just have a question on the procedure of it which I didn't quite understand. How can NATO receive a request from the UN Secretary General to look at support for ongoing operations given that they are AU operations? Wouldn't that request have to come from the AU, rather than the UN?

And secondly, could you define what this bridging period entails? I mean, how long will it last for and what actually will be going on during that bridging period?

APPATHURAI: I think the first part... to answer the first question, I am quite sure that Kofi Annan, when he makes a request to NATO, has done it in full consultation with the African Union. They are in direct and regular contact.

Of course, we are in regular contact with the African Union, so nothing will be done without the African Union's full support.

In terms of the bridging period all I could say to that is what you already know, I think, and that is that the African Union has in its own resolutions talked about a six month period after which they would look at a UN mission in the context of other conditions being met. So I believe that is the timeframe that is being considered, but that of course, will have to be fleshed out.

Q: So the bridging period refers to that six months?

APPATHURAI: I can't give you the exact time. How to put this? The details of that have not been worked out because this tasking has only just been agreed, so the details will have to be fleshed out, but the timelines, the political timelines are the ones that you know, that the AU has said six months from now they would considering handing over, and I believe that must be the period they're looking at, but I'll come back to you if that's incorrect.

Q: James?


Q: Do you think that Secretary General Annan phone also the European Union and I haven't seen for a long time EU or NAC meetings. Do you think they will talk very soon on these questions?

APPATHURAI: Good question. I do not know if Kofi Annan has spoken to the EU, but there will be a NAC-PSC meeting on Monday. Now I do not expect...

Q: How long?

APPATHURAI: Well it might last, because there will be briefings from the senior military commanders, surprisingly on Bosnia and Herzegovina . But I do not exclude that a discussion could take place informally, perhaps on other subjects, potentially on Darfur as well, but that remains to be seen. But there will be a meeting of the NATO and EU ambassadors on Monday.

Q: Question on Belarus . Can we expect a decision as soon as next Wednesday? And then second question on NATO... NAC-PSC, there was a meeting last week with Greg Schulte, if I'm not mistaken.


Q: He made it sound like that, but...

APPATHURAI: No no. There was no NAC-PSC meeting.

Q: So he only met the PSC maybe.


Q: All right, did Greg Schulte come to NATO?

APPATHURAI: I'm not aware that he did, but maybe I wasn't there, so... but I'm not aware that he did, to be honest.

Can we expect decisions next week on Belarus ? I can't give timelines, as I say, because I just don't know them. What I can tell you is the review of the relationship by, as I say, a subordinate committee, that committee has been given a very short timeline, so they will come back very quickly within the coming days, I hope, to the NAC. But I can't go any further than that.

Q: The decision doesn't have to be physically taken by the NAC. It could be a silence procedure or whatever?

APPATHURAI: I don't even know what decision would be taken, or if a decision would be taken. I don't want to prejudge any of that. All I can say is that the committee that's looking at the relationship will come back to the NAC with their thoughts in the coming days.

Q: But I mean, when there are APC(sic) meetings or I guess Belarus still attends them at the ambassadorial level, even, maybe not ministerial or whatever, is Belarus... I know that there was discussion of, I think, they're making a peacekeeping company, I don't think it was a whole battalion, and an MP platoon available for (inaudible)... how far is that, or has it already occurred?

APPATHURAI: You're right in terms of what Belarus is considering contributing to NATO-led PfP operations. As to the state of their development I do not know. I simply cannot comment on it. We could come back to it, but that's something I just can't answer.


Brooks Tigner, Defence News. I want to come back to this Mediterranean Dialogue, and I haven't followed this in a while, but I do remember when the whole thing was launched. There was this long laundry list of things NATO was going to do with these countries, including promoting regional security among the Mediterranean partners. That hasn't gone anywhere as far as I can see. Reform of their security sectors. NATO was going to help with that, but they've largely kept NATO at an arms length on that, unless I'm wrong, please correct me. And cooperation on proliferation against WMD.

What happened to all those items? Or is everything happening behind the scenes?

APPATHURAI: Well not too much, and I think... the first point to mention is what NATO makes available to them is first, what they have agreed that they want. NATO has gone cup in hand to these countries. This is a list of activities which all parties have agreed they wish to explore. That's the first point.

Second is, NATO stands ready to assist where those countries wish too move forward. And in all areas where we have moved forward it is based on mutual requirements.

That being said, on at least two of the issues that you've mentioned, I think there has been progress. For example, simply in terms of promoting regional... just dialogue at least, to my knowledge the Mediterranean Dialogue is one of the few, if not the only forum where all these countries sit together, Israel and the six, North African/Arab countries sit together and discuss regional security issues.

Last December when foreign ministers... when the Foreign Ministers met at a dinner there was a very interesting discussion of, for example, the question of nuclear weapons in the region, in which all of these countries sat together and discussed the issue. I think that was actually a very valuable contribution and one which I haven't seen in terms of its participation elsewhere.

In terms of proliferation I can be even more concrete that three of these countries made clear quite recently that they wish to support Operation Active Endeavour, which has as a very clear mandate to help prevent certainly terrorism-related proliferation, but certainly proliferation more largely.

So I think actually you can see very practical contributions. And as I mentioned, we have MD countries participating in NATO peacekeeping operations as well, and a lot of discussions that you don't see, and a lot of cooperations that of course you couldn't see because they are more confidential in terms of providing support and expertise when it comes to democratic reform of the military, when it comes to modernization of the military--and that includes things like budgeting and restructuring--when it comes to discussions on countering terrorism, when it comes to discussions amongst all the countries on WMD proliferation in the region.

These things are all happening. They just don't happen in a very public way. If you are interested in more information I can put you directly in touch with one of my colleagues, Nicola de Santis who can give you more details.

Q: But the Foreign Ministers meeting next month in Sofia , I know it's a little bit too early, but could you give me some indication or hint what would be the content of the meeting?

APPATHURAI: Absolutely. I can't give you precise details yet on the logistics in the sense of exactly when the meeting will take place because that's still under discussion, but I can tell you for Sofia at the end of next month there will be a NAC meeting, a meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission and a meeting of the NATO-Russian Council all at ministerial level.

It will begin, of course, with a meeting of the North Atlantic Council and they will discuss--you will not be surprised--two main elements. One is the political elements of NATO's ongoing operations. In other words, the future in Afghanistan , the future in Kosovo. They will look at the training mission in Iraq , I am quite sure. So they will take a long-term vision.

They will look to Riga . In other words, they will also look at NATO's political transformation and the major issues that have be part of that. They may also wish to discuss, and I would certainly not rule this out, broader issues. For example, security in the Middle East . This has come up now, I think, quite regularly and I'm quite sure Darfur will be on the agenda as well.

The NATO-Ukraine Commission will be an interesting opportunity, of course, to discuss with the new... in a sense, the new government in Ukraine , as to the direction that they wish to take in terms of their relations with NATO and I've already discussed what NATO, what direction NATO hopes this relationship will take as well. And finally they'll be meeting with Minister Lavrov and there are all sorts of elements of practical cooperation and other political issues which may well come up. But I can't speak on those yet because this agenda is still being revised.

So when we get closer to the date I'll be able to give you more details.

Leon ?

Q: (inaudible)... Is there any timeline associated with the tasking of the military committee? I assume... and I mean, any deadlines set. And second, you mentioned... was the Secretary General's... the UN Secretary General's request detailed at all and is the Secretary General's... the NATO Secretary General's request to the military committee detailed at all? In other words, I mean, you mentioned a range of options and then you said you have to look at them in the context of what NATO is doing now. So I mean, are we really looking at NATO would just continue the airlift and things like that? That's fairly defined and easy enough to do (inaudible)...

APPATHURAI: In terms of timeline it will be in the coming weeks. I can't be more precise than that, and I'm afraid on options I can't be more precise than that either, beyond what I have said.

The UN Secretary General asked for NATO support. The Secretary General and the Council have asked for the military authorities to develop, as I say, options. And that is as far as it goes, but as I say, we should look at this in the context of what NATO is currently providing. I simply can't go beyond that for all the reasons you can understand.

Q: Back again to NAC-plus-six in Rabat . Can you please tell me what is the difference between holding this meeting here or in Rabat ? And can you tell me also who's going to finance this meeting? Is it NATO or the Morocco government?

APPATHURAI: I think the major difference is symbolic. This is the first meeting of its kind to take place in a Mediterranean Dialogue country. I think it demonstrates that the relationship is developing in terms of trust, and in terms of public diplomacy. NATO has a real challenge to explain ourselves in Mediterranean Dialogue countries. We have a challenge in Canada, I can tell you, but we also have a challenge in Mediterranean Dialogue countries, to show what NATO is doing today and what it is today, and I'd say the challenge is probably a little bit greater in the Mediterranean region than it is in Canada, but maybe not that much.

So it's a good public diplomacy opportunity. It is a good symbol of how far the relationship has come, and I think those are the major differences.

In terms of funding, I frankly am not aware, but I would venture to guess that both parties are paying some portion of the costs.