Monthly press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

  • 06 Jun. 2011
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  • Last updated: 06 Jun. 2011 21:27

OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Good afternoon. Thank you very much for coming to the Secretary General's press conference before the Defence Ministerial Meeting on Wednesday and Thursday. The Secretary General will start with a short introduction and then we'll be happy to take questions.

Secretary General.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): Thank you. Good afternoon. It is now just over two months since we launched the operation to protect the people of Libya under threat of attack. We have an historic United Nations mandate and the contribution of several partners, including from the region.

Together we have made considerable progress. We have taken the momentum, we have turned the tide of terror unleashed by the Qadhafi regime. We have saved countless lives, and we have seriously degraded the ability of the Qadhafi regime to attack civilians, and we have relieved the pressure on cities such as Misrata.

The figures speak for themselves. Since NATO first took action to protect Libya's people we have kept up a high operational tempo with over 10,000 sorties. We have damaged or destroyed almost 1,800 legitimate military targets. That includes around 100 command-and-control sites which Qadhafi used to organize attacks on civilians. It includes over 700 ammunition stores which are used to supply his attacks. And almost 500 tanks, armoured personnel carriers and rocket launchers, which he used indiscriminately against his own people.

Our air crews have conducted operations with the utmost care and precisions to avoid civilian casualties. And the effect is clear to see. Qadhafi has lost his grip over much of the country. Every day those closest to him are defecting and deserting, and his regime is increasingly isolated at home and abroad.

Thanks to our operation a growing number of people in Libya can return to normal life without facing the daily threat of shelling. Aid can flow in from the north, the east and the west and across Libya people can begin to plan a future founded on freedom, not on fear.

However, Qadhafi's regime still poses a threat. Last week the United Nations Commission of Inquiry reported that his forces have committed widespread and systematic war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, torture, persecution and sexual abuse. It is an appalling catalogue of crimes. And those very same forces are still launching indiscriminate and illegal attacks against cities such as Zintan.

That's why we agreed to extend our mission by a further 90 days. We have intensified our military pressure and we are determined to continue our operation for as long as it takes.

Our message to the people of Libya is clear. NATO and partners are protecting you. Our message to the Qadhafi regime is clear. We started this mission and we will complete it.

And our message to the international community is also clear. We committed ourself to implementing the United Nations' mandate and we are keeping our commitment. Our operation is paving the way for a political solution, so that the people of Libya can shape their own future.

On Wednesday Defence Ministers of NATO and our contributing partners will take stock of the progress we have made and to look ahead. And I expect us to begin discussing how we prepare for the day after Qadhafi goes, because that day is coming.

Qadhafi is part of Libya's past. The future belongs to the people of Libya.

Nous devrions donc tous planifier l'avenir et nous tenir prêt pour la suite. La communauté internationale doit être prête à aider le peuple libyen à veiller à ce que le passage à la démocratie se fasse de manière pacifique et ordonnée.

Laissez-moi souligner lorsque notre mission sera accomplie je ne m'imagine pas que l'OTAN puisse jouer un rôle de premier plan. Je suis persuadé que d'autres ont les capacités et l'expertise nécessaire pour faciliter la transition en Libye à l'issue du conflit.

Et c'est l'ONU qui conduira cette transition. L'OTAN peut apporter sa contribution. Nous pourrions aider la Libye de l'après-Qadhafi à se doter de forces de sécurité modernes et démocratiques qui protégeront le peuple plutôt que l'attaquer. De nombreux pays alliés ont connu de telles réformes il y a deux décennies. Nous sommes prêts à apporter notre aide si nous sommes invités à le faire.

Le débat ne sera pas clos cette semaine. Mais nous devons l'entamer dès à présent parce que Qadhafi n'a plus le vent en poupe. Et nous devons tous préparer la suite.

And with that I'm ready for your questions.

OANA LUNGESCU: And please don't forget to introduce yourselves. We'll start with Agence France-Presse.

Q: Pascal Mallet, Agence France-Presse. Monsieur le Secrétaire général, vous venez de dire que vous n'imaginez pas que l'OTAN puisse jouer un rôle dominant après un cessez-le-feu, after a ceasefire. Qu'est-ce que vous voulez dire? Vous voulez dire que c'est UN, African Union, European Union, ou n'importe qui d'autres; mais pas NATO qui viendrait apporter les contrôleurs, les observateurs au sol nécessaires à vérifier le cessez-le-feu?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Laissez-moi souligner que toute... premièrement, c'est pour le peuple libyen de forger le futur de la Libye; mais en concertation avec la communauté internationale, et notamment l'ONU. Et c'est ma réponse à votre question. C'est pour l'ONU; c'est pour l'Union européenne; c'est pour l'Union africaine; la Ligue arabe d'assister le peuple libyen. L'OTAN va focaliser sur "l'implémentation" du mandat de l'ONU. Après, nous pourrions aider un gouvernement démocratique en Libye. Comme déjà dit, nous pouvons aider un gouvernement démocratique en Libye de développer le militaire, le secteur de sécurité envers un système plus démocrate. Mais c'est en particulier pour le peuple libyen de forger le futur de la Libye.

OANA LUNGESCU: Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Q: Yes, it's Dieter Eberling from DPA, the German Press Agency. Secretary General, two questions, if I may, on Wednesday evening you are probably going to try and force a consensus on the command structure reforms, which is an internal, but nevertheless important question. Since you are probably not giving us a glimpse of your proposals to Ministers, can you at least say that you are confident to reach an agreement this Wednesday evening about the future command structure?

And second question, you have deplored only recently the inability to reach the two percent defence spending target. How worried are you that future operations might not be possible if NATO members in their vast majority are not able or not willing to step up to the plate?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Firstly, on reforms, by nature I'm an optimist so I think we can reach an agreement during the Defence Ministers Meeting. As you will recall, the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November last year approved a framework for a reform of our military command structure. A framework, according to which we will reduce the number of posts in the military command structure considerably and also reduce the number of headquarters.

And in addition to that the Summit tasks me to present a proposal as to how we could locate the headquarters geographically. And that's exactly what I'm going to do. And hopefully we will achieve consensus on that. We will need consensus.

It goes without saying that it's a challenge. We all know that there are national interests at stake, but I base my optimism on the fact that Heads of State and Government made an agreement in Lisbon and it's my clear impression that all governments of all 28 allies will stick to the agreement we achieved in Lisbon last year.

On defence investment, defence spending. Yes, it is, of course, a matter of concern. We have to make sure that allies make the necessary investments in military capabilities that are fit for purpose. On the other hand we are also faced with economic realities and during a period of economic austerity also Defence Ministers will have to streamline their budgets.

And this is the reason why I have launched a concept that I call smart defence. The essence of smart defence is to make more efficient use of resources. So to speak get more for less by cooperating, by going for multinational solutions. And I think that's the only way forward. That allies pool and share resources, taking into account that individual allies will be faced with difficulties in acquiring expensive military capabilities, but in cooperation with others they will be able to acquire necessary military capabilities.

So my point is there is a way forward also during a period of economic austerity by strengthening multinational cooperation.


Q: (Inaudible...) Reuters. Coming back to Libya and the operations there, I have a question regarding the use of helicopters. Will you be asking this week for more nations to provide helicopters and do you think that their use during the air strikes that are happening now in the coming days or weeks will be... they will play a major part in the air strikes, or sort of additional part, or kind of what role will they be playing in the air strikes by NATO?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: We are constantly adapting our operation to the evolving situation on the ground, and this is the reason why helicopters are now used in the operation.

In general terms I will request a broad support for our operation in Libya, if possible increased contributions, if possible more flexible use of the assets provided for our operation.

As regards to the specifics, it's for the military to work out what is actually needed. But I think for the sustainability of our operation it is essential to ensure a support for our operation that is as broad as possible.

OANA LUNGESCU: Kuwaiti News Agency.

Q: Nawab Khan from KUNA Kuwait News Agency. Mr. Secretary General, you said in your remarks today that Qadhafi is part of Libya's past and you also gave some figures on the military assets which have been destroyed till now. So do you think that June there will be a decisive moment?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, I'm not going to guess about the timeframe, but what I can see is a clear progress. Firstly, as I mentioned, we have degraded Qadhafi's war machine considerably. Secondly, we see the opposition advancing in Libya. Thirdly, we see the regime being more and more isolated every day. Recently the G8, including Russia, requested Qadhafi to leave power. And we have also witnessed a number of defections from his inner circle.

And all these elements will put more and more pressure on the Qadhafi regime. So it is not a question if, but when he'll have to leave power.

OANA LUNGESCU: We'll go back to the first row. Alvise.

Q: Yes, Alvise Armellini, from the German Press Agency. Related to the question from the colleague from Reuters, I think in a recent speech you said that you were satisfied with the level of political support from allies to the operation in Libya, but you were somehow disappointed by the willingness to commit the necessary resources, so I wondered if you could expand on this and say what is missing, what are you looking for from allies to give to Libya in addition to what is there already?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: As already mentioned, we have been quite successful in our operation, and the good news is that when I called on allies and partners to contribute more at the Foreign Ministers Meeting in Berlin some weeks ago allies and partners actually stepped up to the plate. They increased their contributions, they allowed more flexible use of the assets. So in that respect I have been and I am still very satisfied.

Now I am looking to the future. We have, as you know, decided to extend our operation beyond the first 90 days mandate. And obviously some of those allies and partners carrying the heavy burden start to ask whether it would be possible to broaden the participation a bit. And that's the point I will focus on at Defence Ministers Meeting because I think that's also the essence of our Alliance, that allies that actually have the necessary assets at their disposal also contribute those assets based on the principle of solidarity.


Q: (Inaudible...), Secretary General, you spoke of an appalling catalogue of crimes. Does that mean that you think that Mr. Qadhafi's future is in The Hague? Do you support the idea of Prosecutor Ocampo to seek arrest or on the contrary you believe that this kind of future will only make him stick more to the power?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes, well, but the United Nations Security Council has already answered your question because it's part of the UN Security Council Resolution that the acts of the Qadhafi regime may amount to crimes against humanity. And we also know that the ICC prosecutor would like to issue arrest warrants. So it goes without saying that this is the clear position of the UN Security Council.


Q: (Inaudible...) du Quotidien d'Oran Algérie. Monsieur le Secrétaire général, il est clair que la guerre prendra un jour fin en Libye. Le régime libyen est condamné à finir. Par contre...

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Oui, c'est mieux, je crois.

Q: C'est bon comme ça? Alors, je disais que le régime libyen est certainement condamné, bien sûr qu'il y aura une fin aux opérations de l'OTAN en Libye. Mais le problème qui se pose aujourd'hui, malheureusement, il se trouve que les observateurs parlent de fuite d'armes en quantité importante vers le sud, vers les pays du Sahel notamment. Est-ce que ce risque... le risque après la fin de la guerre, le risque d'instabilité ou le risque de sécurité ne sera-t-il pas toujours posé en Libye? C'est-à-dire que la fin du régime libyen ne signifierait pas automatiquement la paix en Libye puisque aujourd'hui on sait qu'il y a beaucoup de quantité, beaucoup d'armes qui vont vers les pays, vers les frontières du Sahel. Ils ne nous échappent pas que l'AQMI, l'al-Qaïda dans cette région est très active. Est-ce que ce risque d'instabilité post-Qadhafi est pris en considération par l'OTAN?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Naturellement, c'est un risque: j’ai encourager la communauté internationale de préparer la préparation pour l'ère post-Qadhafi. Il faut assurer une transition pacifique envers la démocratie et comme déjà souligné, je n'imagine pas un rôle primordial pour l'OTAN. C'est pour l'ONU, l'Union européenne, les autres organisations internationales et régionales. Donc, il faut commencer cette préparation déjà, maintenant.


Q: (Inaudible...) with NPR and other media. I want to turn to Afghanistan, please. How concerned are you by reports that the Obama administration may be considering a faster draw down than had previously been envisioned, related in part to the death of Osama bin Laden?

And how would you characterize the relationship right now between ISAF and President Karzai? Thanks?


Q: NATO and President Karzai, ISAF, the relationship with the President. Thanks.

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First, on the draw down. Actually, I am confident that all decisions to be taken by the U.S. President will take into account the security situation on the ground. And I feel confident that the U.S. will not take any decision that will have a negative impact on the security situation.

We outlined a clear roadmap for transition to lead Afghan responsibility at the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November last year, and according to that roadmap we will start transition to lead Afghan responsibility already next month in seven provinces and districts representing 25 percent of the Afghan population. Actually, a very significant start of that process. And hopefully it will be completed by the end of 2014.

We stick to that timetable. But obviously during that process, or transition, you will see a gradual change of role that our troops play in Afghanistan from combat into support. And you may also see some withdrawals. But such reductions in the troop level will take place in an organized and coordinated manner, according to the principles all 48 ISAF partners have agreed.

So I'm not concerned. On the contrary, I think we're on track. I visited Afghanistan recently and I'm encouraged by what I saw. And all 48 allies stick with the timetable we outlined in Lisbon last year, but within that timeline you will, as I said, see a change of the role our troops play in Afghanistan.

As regards to the relationship between ISAF and President Karzai, I think we have the very best relationship. I had meetings with President Karzai when I visited Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago—a very positive meeting actually— where we focused on the future of Afghanistan and our future partnership. I think President Karzai realizes that the presence of international troops in Afghanistan is a prerequisite for a successful transition to lead Afghan responsibility.

He has outlined the goal to see Afghan Security Forces take lead responsibility all over Afghanistan by the end of 2014. And it's our clear intention to help him accomplish that goal. And I think President Karzai realizes that our presence is a prerequisite for a successful transition.

OANA LUNGESCU: German Television.

Q: I'm here, Secretary General. Kai Niklasch from German Television ZDF. You just pointed out that NATO does not want to play a major role in the post Qadhafi era, but can you give us an idea of when does the final curtain fall for NATO? When Qadhafi is dead or arrested? And does that mean that NATO is hunting after Qadhafi, be if he's dead or arrested then NATO's role would be over?

So just give us an idea of what you're hunting for and when the final curtain falls for NATO?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, let me stress that we do not target individuals. We are targeting critical military capabilities that could be used to attack civilians, including, of course, command-and-control centres that could be used to plan and organize such attacks. But we do not target individuals.

Having said that, NATO allies and partners endorse the international call on Qadhafi to step down. You will recall that the international contact group called on Qadhafi to step down. You will recall that the G8 group repeated that call and it has been endorsed by NATO and partner, NATO allies and partners at the Foreign Ministers Meeting in Berlin.

I would like to stress that we have two tracks. We have the military track, and we have defined three very clear military objectives for our operation. Firstly, a complete end to all attacks against civilians. Secondly, withdrawal of Qadhafi forces and paramilitary forces to their barracks. And thirdly, immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need in Libya. And we will continue our operation until these objectives are met.

In a parallel political track, the international community has put more and more pressure on Qadhafi and his regime and I also think it is hard to imagine a complete end to all attacks against civilians as long as Qadhafi remains in power.

So in that respect you might see a link between the two tracks, but the NATO track is a military track. We have defined the three very clear military objectives and we are there to fully implement the UN Security Council Resolution, no more, no less.

OANA LUNGESCU: We are fast running out of time. We have time for two very quick questions. Defense News.

Q: Defense News, Julian Hale. Just on smart defence, could you explain if you have any... if you're going to present specific proposals for pooling and sharing to Defence Ministers, and if you expect any sort of agreement on any broad areas in particular.

And also, how are you working with the European Defence Agency, because they're doing a similar exercise?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yes. We have outlined a roadmap according to which concrete proposals will be presented to Defence Ministers at their meeting in October. So what we will do this week is to have a preliminary discussion based on a briefing from Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, General Abrial. And we will receive response from Defence Ministers and on the basis of that we will elaborate more concrete proposals, hopefully for approval in October.

But I would add to that that it is an ongoing project, and I'm also working on that project with a view to the NATO Summit in May, next year. Because I attach very strong importance to this project. To my mind it is the answer to the economic challenges we are faced with.

And the second part of your question was about...

Q: How you're going to link up with... how you plan to link up with what the European Defence Agency is doing?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Oh yes, sorry. We have contacts with the European Defence Agency and it goes without saying that if we are to reach the full potential of multinational cooperation we also need cooperation and coordination between NATO and the European Union.

Within the European Union Defence Ministers have launched the project pooling and sharing of resources and actually these projects are very much in line with each other and taking into account that 21 countries are members of both organizations, it's common sense to ensure cooperation between the two organizations.

But as you also know, that cooperation must take place within what is called the agreed framework, which, unfortunately, also contains some restrictions as regards how close and intense we can make that cooperation.

But it's clearly my intention to ensure such cooperation between NATO and the European Union that we avoid waste of taxpayers' money.

OANA LUNGESCU: One last question, Geo TV, Pakistan.

Q: Khalid Hameed Farooqi, Geo Television Pakistan. Secretary General, it seems to be that NATO is relaxing surveillance activity along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, and 400 of (inaudible) Taliban terrorists cross into Pakistan and killed 35 Pakistani troops. Is it... there's a lot of section in Pakistani society think is it deliberate to just put heat... more heat on Pakistan to cooperate?

ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Not in the way you describe it. It's not to put more heat on Pakistan to cooperate, but it goes without saying that we need a positive engagement of Pakistan if we are to resolve problems in Afghanistan.

The cross-border activity is a matter of concern. And of course it's not acceptable to have sanctuaries just across the border from which the enemies of Afghanistan can launch their attacks on international troops, as well as on the Afghan people.

And to that end we need a close cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan and between ISAF and Pakistan. We have seen some progress, but I think there is potential for even closer cooperation.

OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. I'm afraid we're run out of time. Hope to see you all on Wednesday at the meeting of NATO Defence Ministers.