Joint Press conference
of H.H.Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen at the conference ''NATO-UAE Relations and the Way Forward in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative''
NICOLA de SANTIS (Head MD & ICI Section NATO PDD): Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this press conference of His Highness Sheikh Abdallah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates and of His Excellency Mr. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary General of NATO.
His Highness Sheikh Abdallah will make some opening remarks, then followed by His Excellency the Secretary General. And then we are going to open the floor for questions. May I recommend to you to raise your hand, identify yourself and the media organization that you represent. And also say to whom the question is addressed to.
SHEIKH ABDALLAH BIN ZAYED AL-NAHYAN (Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates): Good evening. I would like to thank participants for to the attention they gave to this event and for joining us in this press conference. Your Excellency Mr Secretary General, we are extremely happy to welcome you in the United Arab Emirates today and to organise this important meeting. This is proof of the importance given by NATO to the strengthening and improvement of relations between the countries of the ICI, NATO and more specifically the UAE. Thank you for the trust you give us. Thank you for the cooperation. We are aspiring for an improvement of these relations which is very important to us and important to NATO as well.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): Thank you very much and I would like, first of all, to thank you, Minister Abdallah and the UAE authorities for your very warm and generous hospitality to me, the members of the North Atlantic Council and all the participants in this important event.
This was my first visit as NATO Secretary General and the first visit of the North Atlantic Council to the United Arab Emirates. I can tell you that I've been very pleased both by the way in which we have been received and by the content of our meetings.
In essence, we have had one aim for this conference: to deepen our dialogue in order to build mutual understanding and mutual trust; and we have met that goal.
What is the purpose of our partnership? They are fundamentally two, I think. First of all, to understand each other better and to fight misperceptions; and that alone would be enough to justify our meeting. But we have a second aim as well, to identify the challenges faced by the countries represented here from NATO and from the Gulf and to see how we can do more to fight them today. Terrorism and proliferation are only two examples.
And today we took a clear practical step to deepen our cooperation. We have signed this morning an agreement on the security of information between the UAE and NATO and that is a good foundation for future cooperation and I welcome it.
And I hope to see further development of our partnership within the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, and also further development of the relationship between UAE and NATO during my tenure as NATO Secretary General.
NICOLA de SANTIS: Thank you very much, Secretary General. We open now the floor, starting with a gentleman from the right.
Q: Thank you. My name is Habib Toumi from Gulf News. My question is to Your Excellency Secretary General. What is NATO's position and role in the Middle East peace process?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, I made some remarks on that this morning. Let me first of all stress that I don't foresee a role as such for NATO concerning the Middle East peace process. NATO is not involved in the Middle East peace process.
However, Allies have agreed that, and I quote, progress towards a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should remain a priority for the countries of the region and the international community as a whole.
And it is also key to the success of the security and stability objectives of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. And this is what I also referred to this morning, quoting the Quartet Road Map, and actually the text of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative agreed back in 2004 makes a similar point. So this is the position of NATO as it was expressed already in 2004.
NICOLA de SANTIS: Thank you. I think we're going to try the other side of the room.
Q: Thank you, I have a question for Mr. Rasmussen as well. I'm Gianfranco Astori from Italian News Agency ASCA. In your address this morning, Mr. Secretary General, you mention as a key priority of your activities, your future activities, the development of ties, between NATO and these partners in the Mediterranean and in the Gulf region. Could you please elaborate a little bit on it, especially in the framework of ICI, you have already mentioned it, and regarding the challenges in the Gulf area?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: I see possibilities both in the multilateral framework, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative and in bilateral relations between each individual country and NATO.
Multilaterally, I would like to see political consultations between NATO and the countries within the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative on a regular basis. I have also invited the members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative to provide ideas and inputs to the ongoing NATO process of developing a new strategic concept.
Actually, one of the seminars that we have organised to prepare a new Strategic Concept will focus on our partnerships. It will take place at the beginning of 2010 and we invite partners to give us ideas as to how we can develop the new Strategic Concept, with also a particular view to the development of our partnerships.
Bilaterally, I also see a scope for further cooperation. One of the tools is individual cooperation programmes between individual countries and NATO and within the framework of these programmes we can develop practical cooperation in a number of areas. One of the obvious areas is sharing of information and intelligence in order to improve our fight against drug trafficking, organized trans-border crime and also terrorism. And to that end it is of course crucial, that we have today agreed on security of information.
So, I see scope in a wide range of areas for further cooperation.
NICOLA de SANTIS: We're going to go into the middle here. Please identify yourself. Yes.
Q: I am Noureddine Fridhi from the Arab Television Al Arabiya. I have the first question to His Highness Sheikh Abdallah. Your Highness, NATO has asked the Gulf countries participating in ICI to cooperate and participate in the present dialogue of the new NATO strategic concept. What is the added value that can be given by the Gulf Countries, individually or as a group, to the present discussion on NATO’s Strategic Concept?
And I have a question to the Secretary General. Iran answered today the International Atomic Agency, with an answer that seems not to be enough satisfying for the international community. Are you worried about the development of the relationship between the international community and Iran in the weeks and months ahead? Thank you.
SHEIKH ABDALLAH BIN ZAYED AL-NAHYAN: I consider that the relations between the countries of the region and NATO should not be only viewed between a region and an alliance. There is also a strategic relationship between our countries and the Alliance. And all of those have been strengthened by the ICI. At the same time we have to know that we are living in a changing world. A world in which you have friends and enemies. And those enemies are not necessarily countries or institutions. At the same time our efforts must be increased in order to stabilise the region. The Gulf area was and still is and will remain and important area for peace and for international stability. And we do believe that the Gulf area because of its vivacity has a role to play, it has a mission. Our countries have a mission. But the international community also has a mission, and the great powers and NATO have a mission as well. We must cooperate to preserve, maintain and improve this area. In the Emirates we believe that our partnership with NATO is an important partnership that will allow us to develop our capacities, our knowledge. It will also help us to undertake some of the tasks we undertake, such as our mission in Afghanistan. We are proud as citizens of the Emirates to participate in Afghanistan. And we are proud of every citizen who has served in Afghanistan. For several years we cooperated with NATO and we also cooperate with the Alliance in Afghanistan. We believe that this participation puts us in a specific position. We understand the situation in Afghnistan better and it is important for an Arab and Muslim country to be on the ground in Afghanistan. And we know better how to cooperate and how to re-build and to develop Afghanistan. Your Excellency, I would like to thank NATO for all its efforts and for all its cooperation with our forces in Afghanistan. I believe this is a model of active participation and an example of the implementation of the spirit of the ICI.
NICOLA de SANTIS: Thank you. One question there in the middle.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Actually, there was a question for me also. (Laugh).
NICOLA de SANTIS: Sorry, a second follow up point, yes.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Concerning Iran, I would like to stress that NATO as such is not engaged in the talks with Iran. But obviously I am very much concerned about the Iranian nuclear aspirations and if Iran actually acquires a nuclear capability it might constitute a future potential threat to the members of our Alliance. Therefore, I also strongly support the ongoing international efforts to put a maximum of political and diplomatic pressure on Iran, to make sure that Iran complies with international obligations.
NICOLA de SANTIS: It is now your turn. (Smiles in the audience)
Q: (Inaudible...) from the Germany daily Frankfurter Allgemeine. A question to His Highness, Sheik Abdallah. To which, how much Iran is a common concern in the region and what do you expect from NATO to do? Thank you.
SHEIKH ABDALLAH BIN ZAYED AL-NAHYAN: It goes without saying that Iran is an important country in the area. Iran has interests with its neighbours. One of those neighbours are the United Arab Emirates. We are the most important economic partner of Iran in the area. Although we have good relations with Iran in certain fields, we have a constant discussion ongoing, because Iran occupies islands of the Emirates. It is no secret that the Emirates want to put an end to this occupation. We want to have thorough, honest, true discussions to free our land and if this does not succeed, the Emirates will accept international arbitration or it will present the case before the International Court of Justice. But, this put aside, Iran in an important neighbour of the Emirates and it has an important position that we respect. We respect its history, its civilisation. However, Iran has to also take into account the area in which it exists. It has to clarify its nuclear position. And Iran should stop intervening in Arab affairs. It should stop paying specific parties, Arabic or non Arabic, to create problems in some countries. There are several examples of such financial support by Iran. We believe that this dialogue, that this exchange with Iran, will continue and we do hope that it will continue through diplomatic ways. However, Iran has to take an honest initiative to reduce our fears and the fear of intervention in Arab questions and in internal affairs of the Arabic countries. Unlikely enough, with regard to the first point the nuclear programme, we believe this is a dialogue between Iran on one hand and the five plus one. With regard to second question, Iran has to clarify its position and its intentions. Everyone has condemned the terrorist attack that has recently take place in Iran. But Iran must also base itself on the same spirit, should not accept to take measures it will refuse from others.
NICOLA de SANTIS: We have time for a final question on this side of the table.
Q: I am (inaudible) from Gulf News UAE. I would like to ask His Highness Sheik Abdallah what does the UEA and GCC countries expect from the NATO if they were attacked? Will they seek any NATO defence umbrella? And the same question for the Secretary General what would NATO do in case the GCC were attacked.
SHEIKH ABDALLAH BIN ZAYED AL-NAHYAN: Your Excellency, would you like to start? (Laughs from both speakers). Go ahead. (Laughs in the audience).The question was addressed to you, Your Excellency.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Thank you. I though that we could hear something about the expectations before I answered (Laughs in the audience).
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, the NATO Treaty is quite clear. According to the NATO Treaty, NATO is focused on territorial defence and deterrence, which covers the members of the NATO Alliance. So that's what the Alliance is about. It's based on a kind of collective defence, founded in Article 5 of our Treaty. So that's really the answer to your question.
And I think the rest of your question is a bit hypothetical and I think it's a very clever thing not to give answers to hypothetical questions.
SHEIKH ABDALLAH BIN ZAYED AL-NAHYAN: (Laughs).
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: But the task and the purpose and the courage of NATO is very clearly stated in our Article 5.
SHEIKH ABDALLAH BIN ZAYED AL-NAHYAN: I believe that His Excellency the Secretary General of NATO gave a clear answer on the role of NATO and of its mission. There is another perspective to this concept. Some countries members of NATO have agreements with GCC countries and those agreements bind those countries to give assistance in case of necessity. The follow up question would be if those countries were linked to the process how would NATO react? As the Secretary General said I will not answer a hypotetichal question and he will not answer my question either. Thank you.
NICOLA de SANTIS: Ladies and gentlemen, on this note the conference ends. Thank you very much for participating and staying with us until this time.