Press conference

by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen following the working lunch of the NATO-Russia Council in Foreign Ministers session

  • 04 Dec. 2012
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  • Last updated: 04 Dec. 2012 21:07

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen

We have just had a positive and constructive discussion in the NATO-Russia Council. We discussed issues of strategic interest, such as Afghanistan and other international security issues.

We discussed Turkey’s request for NATO to augment its air-defence, to help defend the population and territory of Turkey, and to help de-escalate the crisis along NATO’s border.

As you know, in the spirit of transparency, I called Minister Lavrov almost two weeks ago to raise this issue. In the same spirit, I have just told him that I expect NATO to announce its decision today.

NATO’s position is clear: any deployment will be to protect Turkey. It will be purely defensive in nature. It will in no way support a no-fly zone or any offensive operation. It is a clear signal of NATO solidarity.

I stressed that point with Minister Lavrov the first time we discussed this issue. And NATO Ministers underlined it again today.

We also discussed ways to make the NATO-Russia Council more dynamic. And we agreed on a reinforced programme of activities for next year. It builds on our current cooperation, and explores new areas where we can work together.

In the past year, we have achieved a lot.

We have passed a milestone with the training of over 2,500 counter-narcotics officers from Afghanistan, Central Asia and Pakistan.

We have almost completed training 30 helicopter technicians, and provided badly-needed spare parts for the Afghan Air Force. 

We expanded our arrangement for the transit of goods to and from Afghanistan, to include combined transport by rail, road and air.

And we declared operational the NATO-Russia Cooperative Airspace Initiative, which aims to prevent terrorists using civilian aircraft in their attacks.

This is a good foundation for next year’s ambitious agenda. 

We will expand our support for the Afghan Air Force by providing training to technicians on more types of helicopter, and in new areas, such as developing the Afghan Air Force’s medical evacuation capability.

We will expand our counter-narcotics cooperation with dedicated programmes for Afghan police women, training on the use of dogs in the fight against drugs, and more courses in more locations than ever before.

And we will consider cooperation on the disposal of excess ammunition. This could make a significant contribution to safety and security.

These are all valuable projects, which can bring new vigour to the NATO-Russia Council. Because the NATO-Russia Council is a forum for dialogue at all times and on all issues. Our goal is a strategic partnership between NATO and Russia. And we are committed to working as 29 equal partners in the NATO-Russia Council to achieve that goal.

With that, I am ready to take a couple of questions.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: And with that, I’m ready to take a couple of questions.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: Lady over there.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, Russia said that NATO would need a new UN Security Council mandate for a possible training mission in Afghanistan after 2014.

Would NATO apply for such a new authorization? Thank you.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: Please introduce yourself.

Q: Elena Trenenko (ph), from Commercant Newspaper in Russia. Sorry.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: We have made a very clear statement on that. We did that at the NATO Summit in Chicago where we declared that we will seek a sound legal basis such as a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: Reuters.

Q: Adrian Croft, from Reuters.

Secretary General, you seem to link the patriot decision today to the chemical warheads in Syria. I wonder are patriots actually effective in intercepting a missile with a chemical warhead, and would that not be more dangerous?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: The patriot missiles will be effective as interceptors, whether attacking missiles carrying chemical weapons or not. So it’s not just because of the risk of the use of chemical weapons. It is a deployment that aims at protecting and defending Turkish territory and the Turkish population against any missile attack.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: Independent.

Q: Kim Sangupta, from the Independent in London.

Secretary General, you have said you’ve now spoken to Mr. Lavrov on several occasions and you have tried to convince him that the patriot deployment is purely defensive and not offensive. But have you managed to convince him of your case? And if you haven’t, how much damage will it do to future NATO-Russian relations?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Well, you’ll have to ask Mr. Lavrov himself whether he is convinced or not. But he has listened not only to me but also to ministers from NATO countries; and we have all declared that this is a defensive measure only, that we have no offensive intentions. Actually, I mean, it’s part of being a defence alliance that we stand ready to take necessary measures to defend and protect an Ally; in this case, Turkey. So I don’t think the Russians could or should be surprised.

Actually I do believe that a deployment of patriot missiles will serve as an effective deterrent and that way, de-escalate the situation along the Syrian-Turkish border because the mere fact that the missiles, the patriot missiles have been deployed make it necessary for any potential aggressor to think twice before they even consider attacking Turkey.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: One last question from the Russian media, if there are any questions from the Russian media, since this is the NATO-Russia Council. Not at all? That lady over there had her hands up.

Q: Natia Gogzadze, from RUSTAVA-2 TV.

Today you talk about Russia and Turkey, but tomorrow there will be NATO-Georgia Commission all done. Let me ask you about Georgia-NATO relationship after 1st October, which was appreciated as a test of democracy for Georgia. There were expectations in Georgian society that our chances to get MAP during this ministerial have increased. What kind of (inaudible) Georgia could, may have at this ministerial or there will emerge new barrier, a kind of test of democracy about cohabitation? Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: First of all, let me reiterate what we have also told the new Georgian Government, that the elections in Georgia lived up to democratic standards and that Georgia that way passed a very important test.

Now we look forward to a smooth cohabitation between the new government and the current president. We look forward to presidential elections next year. We look forward to elections conducted in the same democratic way as the parliamentary elections this year. We have never planned to have discussions on Membership Action Plan or any other steps at the NATO-Georgia Commission meeting tomorrow.

The Commission meeting tomorrow will be the first opportunity for NATO Allies to discuss Georgia’s NATO aspirations with the new government. And I'm very pleased that the new government has reaffirmed its NATO aspirations. So there seems to be a broad consensus in Georgia that Georgia will continue to pursue a future membership of our Alliance and in exchange, we have reiterated that the decision we took in Bucharest in 2008 that Georgia will become a member of NATO provided, of course, Georgia fulfils the necessary criteria, that that Bucharest decision still stands.

Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson: Thank you very much. We’ll see you later tonight.