Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain

  • 04 May. 2010 -
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  • Last updated: 04 May. 2010 17:50

Left to right: José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (Prime Minister of Spain) with NATO Secretary, Anders Fogh Rasmussen

Carmen Romero, Deputy Spokesperson: Good morning, we have time for short remarks and a few questions. Please Secretary General.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen (NATO Secretary General): It is a great pleasure to have Prime Minister Zapatero here today. We have had a very positive and constructive meeting. Prime Minister Zapatero and I had a very good cooperation, a very close cooperation as prime ministers and I look very much forward to continuing this positive cooperation in my new capacity as Secretary General of NATO.

Let me take this opportunity to express my strong appreciation of the significant Spanish contribution to our mission in Afghanistan.

I know that Spain, unfortunately, has taken casualties like other NATO allies. And let me take this opportunity to express my sympathy with the affected families.

I commend Spain for its strong commitment to Afghanistan and the additional troops provided recently to our mission.

Today, we discussed Afghanistan and the way forward in this critical year. We both agree that we have the right strategy in place; that security, governance and development need to go hand in hand.

Spain has helped the local government in the West of Afghanistan provide increased services and better governance to the Afghan people in this remote area.

In one of the poorest provinces in Afghanistan, Spanish military and development efforts are much needed and widely appreciated.

In addition, Spain provides high quality trainers and mentors for the Afghan National Army.

And training is a top priority. We need to train Afghan soldiers and Afghan police with the aim to start handing over lead security responsibility to the Afghans by the end of this year.

We also discussed today the future of the Alliance with an eye to the Lisbon Summit in November when NATO will approve a new strategic concept.

Among other issues we discussed how we can further strengthen and develop NATO's partnerships with other countries in the world.

We have partnerships with a number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

And we have partnerships with other countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Our partnerships are very valuable for NATO.

Partner countries provide essential support for our operations.

Our partnerships help to create stability in our neighbouring regions and beyond.

And our partnerships enhance our capacity to anticipate detect and prevent conflicts or crisis.

So I would very much like to further strengthen our partnerships through enhanced political dialogue and consultation; and also more information sharing with our partners and more training, education and capacity building.

In general, I'm pleased that Prime Minister Zapatero and I see eye to eye on almost all issues and look very much forward to cooperate with you and the Spanish government in the preparation of the summit in November.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (Prime Minister of Spain): Well, thank you very much, Mister Secretary General. To me, it's been a great pleasure to have this working meeting with you, Secretary General of NATO, which we've been accompanied as well by the Spanish Defence Minister. And I'm extremely pleased for two reasons: one is personal and the other one is political. The personal one is that has offered me an opportunity to renew the excellent relationship that we already had as prime ministers then; and now in your new capacity as Secretary General of NATO.

And then, as I was saying, there's also a political reason for being very pleased with this. For Spain, NATO, the Atlantic Alliance is its major security commitment. Spain has proven to be a reliable ally and will contribute to the new shaping, the new definition of NATO that will culminate in the summit in Lisbon in November.

And the Secretary General knows that in shaping this new strategic definition of NATO, Spain grants tremendous importance to two elements. One is the renewal of the political nature of this organization which is exactly what endows with the power it has around the world, as described by the Secretary General. And secondly to lead the right way on defining the new strategic potent definition of the Alliance in order for it to be able to tackle and therefore include all the new risks, these new security risks, of these terrible new security risks in this new era: terrorism in all of its manifestations.

And, of course, we talked about Afghanistan which is NATO's primary mission, right now, abroad. And we talked about what is at stake there for NATO. And there's a lot at stake. And we want to particularly thank the Secretary General for remembering the Spanish troops who lost their lives in a very difficult mission of Afghanistan.

We've also thought very important we renew this confidence in the current strategy in Afghanistan, which will be, we think, well be assessed how well we've done this in November at the summit. But we reaffirm, reconfirm in the validity and the worth of the current strategy there in order to achieve itself, to maintain, which is the transfer of responsibilities to the Afghan people itself having achieved that stability.

But therefore, our strategy in terms of the timeline, the horizon, the strategy, it's fine. We're happy with it. And we hope that the November strategy may afterwards be good to allow us to make the decision to transfer fully the responsibilities to the Afghans themselves. And Spain honours its commitments there; thinks that its soldiers are doing a good job. And the area of responsibility of Spain is an area that has improved significantly.

And finally, I've invited the Secretary General of NATO to pay a visit to Spain after the summer and before the Lisbon summit. We're interested in his visit being very broad in nature. We would like the visit also to have a high content in associates; being establish contact with different elements of Spanish society, for example the political groups in Parliament and more specifically also in other matters and different societal, not purely military matters in order to discuss the new strategic concept with the civil society, and not strictly military. We're very much looking forward to his visit, as I said, after the summer, before the summit.

So thank you very much Mister Secretary General. You are a wonderful facilitator of the relationship between NATO and Spain and its armed forces. And that's the spirit that NATO should always be advocating and defending. Thank you very much.

Carmen Romero: newspaper, please.

Q: Well, I have a question that can actually go to both of you. In it, it regards the nuclear weapons in Europe. For the Secretary General, how do the nuclear weapons fit into the new strategic concept? And what will be Spain's position with regard to nuclear weapons in the new strategic concept?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: I would like to make three points. Firstly, I share the vision of having a world free of nuclear weapons. And I think we should keep that vision and work in that direction. That's my first point.

Second point, I do believe that as long as nuclear weapons exist in the world, then NATO should also keep a credible nuclear deterrent.

And my third point, Alliance unity is crucial. Now, we will have a discussion until the summit. But I know that all allies have committed themselves to move in common. No one will take unilateral steps or decisions. We will make our decisions on the basis of consensus. So we will have a discussion yes. Nothing has been decided yet. But I can assure you that we will keep the Alliance united also on this point.

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero: Yes, I think that the Secretary General holds a very reasonable position. It's something that is very important in this debate on the strategic concept. And it would be following suit President Obama's leadership and the agreement reached with the President Medvedev in order to reduce nuclear weapons.

This fight to reduce nuclear weapons around the world is something that we should all be contributing to... And NATO should therefore also join this trend in its position of an organization for security in which deterrence plays an essential role. Therefore, debate, discussions always been present in the forging of the new strategic concept. And everything should be done to work towards a reduction of nuclear weapons around the world.

Carmen Romero: Last question, Antena 3 Television please.

Q: (in Spanish)

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero: (in Spanish)

Interpreter: The question was regarding Spanish president and the government, mentioning that tomorrow president will be holding a meeting with the leader of the opposition and the journalists asked what would be in the agenda? Whether there would be other subjects? It would also of interest to the Spanish population, measures to get the prices... to help employment and all that, and also the effect... the contagion effect of the Greek crisis on the Spanish stock market perhaps which has dropped significantly.

The response of the president of the government. Well, those are many questions in one. The meeting, of course, that we'll be holding... we'll be holding with leader of the opposition tomorrow. It will be about the support of the process to Greece; also the steps that are necessary to restructure the financial sector. Because the financial sector is key to the stability, the security and confidence. Other issues as well of course. The economy, it's only natural.

But regarding your side comment on 18 months having gone by without having an official meeting. That may be the case. But that doesn't mean that we haven't talked on very many occasions. Quite frequently, in fact, recently.

And well, this is a formal encounter in which we have called the leader of the opposition; but... and to invite the opposition; to open a dialogue and to reach an agreement with the opposition leader which is only natural in our part. But that does not mean that we do not have contact with the opposition.

Regarding the last part of your question, I don't have sufficient data with me right now to give an opinion.

Carmen Romero: Thank you very much.