Joint press point
by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern in Wellington, New Zealand
MODERATOR: Tena koutou katoa. Welcome everyone, welcome Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg for today’s press conference. The Prime Minister and Secretary General will make a few comments and then we’ll open the floor to some questions. Over to you, Prime Minister.
JACINDA ARDERN [Prime Minister of New Zealand]: Thank you. Morena, good morning everyone. Secretary General, can I start by saying I’m very pleased to welcome you to New Zealand, in your first official visit as NATO Secretary General.
Of course, we’re aware that you previously visited New Zealand before in 2011, while you were Norway’s Prime Minister, and we’re very happy to welcome you back in your different role. It does seem like an extraordinary amount has happened since our last meeting in Brussels in January, and we were reflecting on that before our meeting began.
Since then, our country experienced one of its darkest days, when our Muslim community was attacked in Christchurch. We sincerely appreciated the messages of sympathy and support we received from our friends from around the world, and I include in that our messages of support from NATO. I also want to acknowledge that you spent the day yesterday in Christchurch, meeting with members of the Muslim community and also the Mayor of Christchurch, and I know that your words would have been a comfort, particularly given your experience in Norway and the leadership role you had at the time that you experienced an attack on your soil. And I was reflecting again today, that was something that we spoke about when I met with you in January. And that really brought back to me the effect that this . . . what we experienced in New Zealand was something we would never have anticipated at the time I had that conversation with you.
Again, I acknowledge the experience that, not only Norway, but many other Alliance members have experienced when it comes to the horrors of terrorism. And we’re not only united in our grief, but united in our absolute determination to work together to halt the vicious cycle of extremism breeding further extremism.
Global threats like terrorism require global responses. And effective global responses do depend on partnerships and strong collective action. New Zealand and NATO, although separated by distance, are indeed connected through our close partnership and the many values we share in common. And these values include, of course, an abiding respect for democratic freedoms and human rights and a commitment to upholding the rules-based international order. NATO has contributed to the longest sustained period of peace in post-war Europe and this highlights the importance of multilateral institutions and the success they can achieve, something New Zealand has spoken often about. This is also important to New Zealand. Many of us, of course, have family ties to Europe, our businesses export there and NATO plays an important role in ensuring these trade and people-to-people ties are underpinned by a peaceful order.
This order and the certainty it provides is coming under increasing stress from a variety of challenges and we spoke about some of those today: ranging from terrorism, climate change, cyber security and issues such as maritime security. I’m grateful for the insights, Secretary General, and also the willingness identified to further the ways that we can work together.
And we also exchanged perspectives on issues of regional concern and I updated the Secretary General on issues like the Pacific Reset and New Zealand’s role in the Pacific.
New Zealand’s primary cooperation with NATO at the moment is through our deployment of New Zealand Defence Force military trainers to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. In June, I announced the extension of this deployment to December next year, mentioned that we were exploring ways to contribute to NATO’s Women, Peace and Security initiatives. This followed discussions I had with the Secretary General earlier this year in Brussels relating to the importance of integrating gender perspectives into conflict and peace situations.
Today I am pleased to announce that the New Zealand Defence Force will be taking up to three roles focussed on Women, Peace and Security issues within NATO’s mission in Kabul. Two positions will be filled by NZDF personnel from September 2019 for one year, while the third will be for a six-month period from May 2020. With a fledgling peace process underway, these roles will contribute towards safeguarding the hard-won gains Afghan women and girls have made since 2001, and to supporting women’s participation in the peace negotiations.
I do want to thank again the Secretary General for NATO’s continued leadership in Afghanistan, as the international community seeks to bring about stability and to create the conditions for a sustainable peace.
Today’s conversation underscored the value in exchanging perspectives with trusted partners. We work together to strengthen the rules-based order that we’ve all benefited from. And I do look forward to continuing such exchanges in our work together, both in areas where we are both deployed, such as Afghanistan, but also deepening in our connections in other areas of peace and security, where we have a mutual interest. Secretary General.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Prime Minister Ardern, Jacinda, first of all, thank you for the warm welcome and it is really a great pleasure to see you so soon after we met in Brussels at the NATO Headquarters in January. And it’s great to be back in New Zealand. While the North Atlantic and the South Pacific are far apart on the map, New Zealand is one of NATO’s closest global partners.
Over the years, we have worked together to end the bloody conflicts in the Balkans, to fight piracy off the Horn of Africa and patrol the Mediterranean Sea.
Today, we discussed New Zealand’s important role in our training mission in Afghanistan, including our shared efforts to protect women’s rights. And I welcome the offer from New Zealand to step up its efforts when it comes to Women, Peace and Security in Afghanistan.
And I want to thank you, Prime Minister, for your decision to extend the New Zealand’s deployment in the NATO training mission. Your trainers at the National Army Defence Academy in Kabul are helping the Afghans to create the conditions for peace and preventing Afghanistan from ever again becoming a safe haven for international terrorism.
We now see a real chance for peace in Afghanistan. We are closer to a peace deal than ever before and NATO strongly supports all efforts to achieve a negotiated political solution.
New Zealand also plays a valuable role in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. And I welcome New Zealand’s training efforts in Iraq, which complement NATO’s training mission there. Terrorism comes in many forms and wears many different guises, as we saw in Christchurch in March and in my own country of Norway in 2011.
Yesterday, as you said, I visited Christchurch and met with the Mayor and with first responders. And I visited the Al Noor Mosque, where I expressed my deepest condolences to everyone affected by the terrorist attacks. I was moved by the resilience of the local community. In the face of the tragedy, the people of New Zealand stand strong for diversity, democracy and tolerance. And I stand with you.
Prime Minister, I commend you for your response to the terrorist attack. Your outstanding leadership and courage have inspired and impressed people around the world. You have shown that freedom prevails over oppression, tolerance over intolerance and love always prevails over hate.
Many of the threats and challenges we see today are truly global, including terrorism but also cyber-attacks and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. So today, we discussed a range of areas where NATO and New Zealand could step up cooperation in the future, including cyber defence, maritime security and women’s full participation in decision-making and security institutions.
New Zealand’s values are NATO’s values. Together we stand for democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. And together we defend the international rules-based order, which makes us all safer and more secure. So, Prime Minister Ardern, thank you. I look forward to continuing to work with you to strengthen the close cooperation between NATO and New Zealand.
JACINDA ARDERN: Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.
QUESTION: Question to the Secretary General. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in the war in Afghanistan since it began. The United States is now in peace negotiations with the Taliban. Has the conflict been worth it in your eyes and when do you think it will end?
JENS STOLTENBERG: We welcome the fact that we are now closer to a peace deal on Afghanistan than we have ever been before. And NATO’s main task, main purpose of being there has been, and still is, to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorists. And the main purpose of the talks is to make sure that we have an agreement where we achieve exactly that. And we have to remember that the military presence of NATO and other international forces, including New Zealand, has created the conditions for peace talks and a peaceful negotiated solution, because we have sent a clear message to Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield. They have to sit down at the negotiating table and they will achieve more around the negotiating table than they will achieve on the battlefield. And by staying in Afghanistan, we have sent that message and created the conditions for a negotiated solution.
I welcome that we are closer to a deal. Of course, nothing is agreed before everything is agreed. We support the efforts of Ambassador Khalilzad. He consults closely with NATO Allies and partners. He has been many times in Brussels.
And I also welcome the fact that New Zealand, NATO Allies and partners, continue to provide support to the Afghan army and security forces. We need to train them to enable them to stabilise their own country. We went into Afghanistan together, we will make decisions on our future presence there together and when the time is right we’ll also leave together.
[CRAIG McCULLOCH [Radio New Zealand]: Craig McCulloch, Radio New Zealand, to the Secretary General. Are you disappointed that New Zealand is withdrawing from Iraq, given the challenge that remains there?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I welcome very much what New Zealand has done in the Global Coalition over a long period of time, training Iraqi forces, local forces. This is something we highly value. At the same time, we see that we have made a lot of progress. The caliphate, the territory that Daesh/ISIS controlled, they have lost control of that territory. Not so many months ago, they controlled a territory as big as the United Kingdom, eight million people. Now they don’t control that territory anymore.
So we are moving into a new phase. And therefore, I welcome the fact that New Zealand has committed to step up the financial contributions to training. Again, training local forces is one of the best weapons we have and we very much welcome the financial support from New Zealand in doing exactly that.
MODERATOR: Question from Sky News?
JACKSON WILLIAMS [Sky News]: Secretary General just at the back here, Jackson Williams from Sky News. You were Prime Minister of Norway when Anders Breivik killed 69 people at a summer camp. The alleged Christchurch mosque shooter claimed he was inspired by Breivik. And in recent days the Texas shooter claimed he was inspired by the alleged Christchurch attacker. What do these links say about the way we need to fight terrorism and do you see a link between these attacks and xenophobic politics?
JENS STOLTENBERG: I think what we see is that terrorism comes in many different forms and wears many different guises, but in the end it’s all about the same. It’s about hatred, it’s about violence, it’s about lack of respect for democracy and individual liberty, and the idea that you can use violence to achieve your political goals. So it doesn’t matter what kind of ideology or religion terrorists are misusing. It is all about the same. It’s about violence and hatred. And therefore we need to fight terrorism, regardless of the form the guise they use, because terrorism is contradicting our most fundamental values.
I am impressed by the way New Zealand handled the terrorist attacks in March. The way you stood together, the way you have stood up for our core values: tolerance, democracy, individual liberty, the freedom, the trust. And as long as we do that in New Zealand, in Norway and elsewhere, then the terrorists will not win, because as long as we are standing up for our values, they are losing, we are winning. And I am absolutely certain that our values are stronger than their values, because tolerance will prevail over intolerance and love will prevail over hate. And New Zealand is an example of the strength in that message and therefore it was also touching and an important experience for me to visit Christchurch yesterday, to meet with the people in Al Noor Mosque and the Mayor and the local community, the first responders, and to see how they have been able to deal with this very difficult situation in a united way and a way which has impressed the whole world.
JACKSON WILLIAMS [Sky News]: Just to the second part of the question, do you see a link between xenophobic politics and these attacks that I outlined, including the one at the Walmart in Texas?
JENS STOLTENBERG: We see that terrorists around the world are referring to each other. I’ll be very careful about commenting on El Paso, because that’s, you know, it happened very recently, and there is an ongoing investigation, so I will not comment on that. What I will say is that we all know that what happened in Christchurch and what happened in Norway, the terrorists conveyed the same message about hatred, but also about right wing, extreme right wing views. And it reminds us that terrorism comes in different forms - they misuse different religions and different political ideologies.
So they refer to each other, they try to inspire each other, but we just have to stand together and defy them, regardless of their political message, because this is about the violence, it’s about terrorism, it’s about crimes, it’s not about, actually, political views. It’s about crimes.
QUESTION: Secretary General. How effective have New Zealand’s defence force personnel been in Afghanistan? And would you personally like them to stay there long term? And Prime Minister, have you given much thought to that?
JENS STOLTENBERG: The New Zealand contribution to our mission in Afghanistan has been of great importance, partly because you provide high-quality trainers, advisers. You are part of our training efforts at the Military Academy in Kabul and, of course, the whole idea is that prevention is better than intervention. To train the Afghans to stabilise their own country is the best way to avoid us being forced back into combat operation in Afghanistan. And New Zealand has participated and is participating to those efforts. And I greatly value and appreciate those efforts by New Zealand in our training mission.
I also welcome strongly that New Zealand has been focussed and is stepping up its efforts when it comes to Women, Peace and Security, because we know that women are in many conflicts, also in Afghanistan, vulnerable. There will be no lasting peace without the full inclusion of, also, women. And the role of women in Afghanistan has been, how should I say, under pressure for decades - for centuries. Now, women have a stronger role in Afghanistan than ever before and that’s, of course, also very much because of the presence of NATO and partner nations, as New Zealand. And the presence of New Zealand trainers, women advisers in our mission helps also to recruit women to the Afghan police, Afghan security forces and that also strengthens the role of women in Afghanistan.
We will not stay longer in Afghanistan than necessary. But the thing is that we have to make sure that the gains we have made, both when it comes to making sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorists, which is actually important for our security, and the gains we have made when it comes to social progress, not least the role of women, are preserved. And that’s what we now are focussing on in the peace negotiations. And, as I said, we are sending a message that we stay in Afghanistan to create the conditions for a peaceful solution.
We have to also remember that we have totally changed the nature of our operation. We had more than 100,000 NATO troops and partner troops there in the combat operation as late up to 2015. Now, we have 16,000 troops in a train, assist and advise mission, showing that we are making progress; the Afghans are taking more and more responsibility for the security themselves. But we continue to support them and help them.
JACINDA ARDERN: Just to quickly answer your question. New Zealand’s obviously had a presence in Afghanistan for some time, but what Cabinet’s recent decision acknowledges is that the environment is changing. As the Secretary General has acknowledged, obviously, peace negotiations are underway and the decision we recently made around our troops, which is a slightly lessened presence from 13 to 11, but actually, really specifically targeting roles that can support the peace process. And as has been pointed out, one of the really important features of those negotiations will be: how we preserve the gains that have been made on behalf of women in Afghanistan in that time. So, today we’re confirming that three of our personnel, starting from two going into roles in the field from September 2019, will be focussed specifically on the role of women, supporting their role and the preservation of what’s been gained for women in Afghanistan, in support of the work that NATO is doing there.
So our role is changing, but so is the conflict there. And I think it’s right that we use New Zealand’s strengths, but also our values and reflect that in the job that we do in Afghanistan.
MODERATOR: Thank you Prime Minister and Secretary General. Thank you everyone.
JENS STOLTENBERG: Thank you.
JACINDA ARDERN: Thank you.