Doorstep statement by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen
before the NATO Foreign Affairs Ministers Meetings held at NATO Headquaters in Brussels
OANA LUNGESCU (NATO Spokesperson): Good afternoon. The Secretary General will start with a few words about this Ministerial and then he'll be happy to take just a couple of questions.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): Today and tomorrow NATO Foreign Ministers will meet here at NATO Headquarters. This meeting will be an important part of our preparations for the NATO Summit, which will take place in Chicago in May next year, and at the same time, we can review progress made since the NATO Summit in Lisbon a year ago.
I would like to highlight three areas. Firstly, Afghanistan. In Afghanistan we are on track. At the Lisbon Summit we outlined a roadmap for a gradual transition to lead Afghan responsibility for the security and recently President Karzai announced the second tranche of transition of provinces and districts to lead Afghan responsibility, which means that by the end of this year more than a half of the Afghan population will be living in areas where Afghan Security Forces have taken the lead responsibility for security.
At the NATO Summit in Chicago we will look beyond 2014 with a particular focus on a NATO training mission. It is of utmost importance to make sure that the Afghan Security Forces will continue to be able to take responsibility for security, also beyond 2014, and we stand ready to assist the Afghan Government and the Afghan Security Forces with a particular focus on training activities.
Second area - Kosovo. Overall, the security situation in Kosovo and the region is good and stable. But as you all know we have seen recent security incidents in northern Kosovo. I strongly condemn the violence we have witnessed. We have requested removal of all barricades to ensure freedom of movement in the area, which is part of the United Nations mandate.
The good news is that Belgrade and Pristina have reached an agreement on integrated crossings, and we have seen the removal of the first road block. But we need a removal of all barricades, we need complete freedom of movement. And I can assure you that KFOR stands ready to continue to implement the United Nations mandate in a status neutral and impartial way. We are there to protect all people in Kosovo.
And the final area I will mention is the relationship between NATO and Russia. We'll have a meeting in the NATO-Russia Council tomorrow. Foreign Minister Lavrov will attend the meeting.
Overall we have made significant progress in the relationship between NATO and Russia since the NATO-Russia Summit in Lisbon a year ago. We have seen progress in cooperation on Afghanistan, on counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, and I expect further progress in the coming year.
However, as far as missile defence is concerned, progress has been slower than I had hoped, and expected. As you know, we have decided to develop a NATO-based missile defence system to protect our populations against a missile threat. At the same time we have invited Russia to cooperate on missile defence.
Recently, the Russian President Medvedev made a statement with two parts. Firstly, he warned against the possibility of taking counter-measures if we don't reach an agreement on missile defence cooperation. But in the second part he kept the door open to continue to dialogue.
I want to focus on this latter part - the continued dialogue, and I hope that we can reach an agreement at the Chicago Summit in May. It's a shared interest to protect our populations against a real missile threat, and it would definitely be waste of valuable money if Russia started to invest heavily in counter-measures against an artificial enemy that doesn't exist. That money could in a more profitable way be invested to the benefit of the Russian people in job creation and modernization of the Russian society.
So I hope we will make progress from now until Chicago and take a new step forward in the cooperation between NATO and Russia.
OANA LUNGESCU: Tolo TV from Afghanistan.
Q: Mr. Secretary General, two days ago in Bonn the international community said a political settlement is key to win the Afghan war, and Pakistan is basically key in securing such a political settlement, especially in talks with the Taliban. What are... I mean, recently there has been a lot of problem with Pakistan, especially after the recent attack. Pakistan has blocked even the supply route. What are the promising signs you still have that keeps Pakistan as a strategic partner in the region, and how do you think Pakistan's role is important in winning the war?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, I strongly regret this tragic security incident, and I would like to repeat what I've already done, express my deepest condolences and sympathy for the Pakistani officers and troops that lost their lives, and sympathy for the Pakistani people.
The only way forward is a positive cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, between the United States and Pakistan, between NATO and Pakistan. I fully agree that at the end of the day we need a positive engagement of Pakistan if we are to ensure long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the region.
So there is no alternative. And I hope to see further progress in our relationship. We have offered a political framework for cooperation between NATO and Pakistan.
OANA LUNGESCU: Reuters.
Q: Yes, Secretary General, David Brunnstrom from Reuters. On Kosovo, would you see it as potentially positive or negative for the security situation in Kosovo if Serbia were to be granted EU candidate status on Friday in Brussels?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, first of all, let me stress that I'm not going to interfere with EU business. It is, of course, for the European Union to decide whether the Union will grant candidate status to Serbia.
But in general, I do believe that any step that can improve the relationship between countries in the region and the Euro-Atlantic structures, including the European Union and NATO, will benefit, not only the region, but Europe as a whole.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much. The Secretary General will be back for his press conference later today.