NATO Secretary General's monthly press conference

  • 11 Apr. 2011
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  • Last updated: 12 Apr. 2011 09:55

Good afternoon.

In Libya Operation Unified Protector is now in its second week. Together with partner nations, NATO is fully enforcing the United Nations mandate to protect the people of Libya.

NATO is taking vigorous action across Libya to prevent attacks against civilians and civilian centres. We are striking with care and precision to maximise the effect of our actions, while minimising the danger to civilians. This is in stark contrast to the pro-Gaddafi forces, who are besieging their own cities, shelling city centres. Gaddafi’s troops are hiding tanks in city centres, near schools and mosques. This is utterly irresponsible.

I am particularly concerned by the desperate plight of the residents of Misrata and Ajdabyia, who are terrorised by these brutal attacks.

NATO is keeping up the pressure to make the violence stop. Since Saturday morning, NATO aircraft have flown almost 300 sorties. We have destroyed 49 tanks, 9 armoured personnel carriers, 3 anti-aircraft guns and 4 large ammunition bunkers. The vast majority of the strikes took place near Misrata and Ajdabyia.

NATO and its partners have undertaken a challenging mission. It is our contribution to the world’s efforts to solve the Libyan crisis. I look forward to taking part in the Contact Group meeting in Qatar on Wednesday, which is set to provide the international framework for a lasting settlement.

I have also taken note of an African Union ceasefire proposal. Since the start of the crisis, NATO has been in constant touch with the African Union, as well as other regional and international organisations.

I want to be clear: there can be no solely military solution to the crisis in Libya. NATO welcomes all contributions to the broad international effort to stop the violence against the civilian population. 

Any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable. As the United Nations Security Council has made clear, there must be a complete end to violence and a complete end to all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians. 

Any solution to the crisis must respond to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people for political reforms.

NATO Foreign ministers will meet in Berlin on Thursday and Friday this week and begin the meeting by discussing the Libyan crisis. We will be joined by our partner countries in the Libyan mission – from across Europe and the Arab world.

Together with Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov, we will focus on Libya, missile defence and Afghanistan. The NATO Russia Council Helicopter Trust Fund is now up and running and will soon start to deliver a highly needed maintenance capability for the Afghan Air Force. This is an important signal of our joint commitment to stability in Afghanistan.

And we will meet our ISAF partners. The process of handing over lead responsibility for security to the Afghan Security Forces has already begun. NATO and the Afghan government have agreed an Enduring Partnership for the future. This sends a strong message that Afghanistan will one day stand on its own, but it will not be standing alone.

From Afghanistan to Libya, NATO and our partners are making vital contributions to bring security and stability. We are working with many other nations across the globe to help prevent crises, manage conflicts, and bring long-term stability.

And with that, I am happy to take your questions.

Oana Lungescu (NATO Spokesperson):  And please, don't forget to introduce yourselves and tell us which organization you're working for.  Europa Press.

Q:  Thank you Secretary General, Ana Pisenero, from the Spanish News Agency, Europa Press.  You've taken note of the political initiative from African Union.  Do you think that NATO and its partner countries might reduce a little bit of activities in the next couple of days maybe in Libya to give a little bit of space to see  if this political initiative can indeed bring a ceasefire on the ground?  Or do you think that NATO will maintain activities as we have seen have been intensified this weekend, particularly around Misrata and Ajdabiya.  Thank you so much.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  First of all, let me stress that we appreciate all efforts to find a political solution to the problems in Libya, including the African Union Initiative. 

But secondly, I would also like to stress that the guiding principle for us will be how to implement the UN security counter resolutions fully.  That is to protect the civilians against any attack. And our operational tempo will be determined by this clear goal to protect civilians against any attack. 

Oana Lungescu: Guardian.

Q: Secretary General, Ian Traynor of The Guardian.  You say that any possible ceasefire would have to be credible and verifiable.  Can you expand a little on what you mean by verifiable?  Who would possibly be doing the verifying?  Would there be some international presence on the ground?  How  would it operate?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Well, I think it's a bit premature to go into details as to how a monitoring mechanism can be established. But I have to say that we have seen quite a number of announced ceasefires. And they have not been implemented.

And for that reason, we need to establish an effective monitoring mechanism if a ceasefire is to be credible and if a ceasefire should live up to what is stated in the UN security counter resolutions, namely effective protection of the civilian population. 

Oana Lungescu: Radio France Internationale.

Q: Oui, Monsieur le Secrétaire Général, Pierre Bénazet de Radio France.  Poursuivre sur cette question du cessez-le-feu.  Quelles seraient les conditions pour un cessez-le-feu selon vous?  Le retour des forces dans les casernes.  Comment est-ce que vous pourrez estimer qu'il y a un cessez-le-feu?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: En ce concerne un cessez-le-feu, il faut qu'il remplisse trois conditions.  Premièrement, il faut qu'il soit crédible, incluant une protection efficace de la population civile.  Deuxièmement, il faut le contrôler et superviser efficacement.  Et troisièmement, il faut qu'il favorise un processus politique visant à implémenter des réformes politiques nécessaires et à satisfaire les désirs légitimes de la population libyenne.  

Oana Lungescu:  ANSA....

Q:  Yes, Marie Cistrani  from ANSA Italian News Agency.  I know that  in the last day you ask Italy and those other allies not to only make sorties but also strikes... to start make strikes.  And I'm wondering if you already received some positive answer for these members. They're from Italy and the others.  And how is the process to replace the 50 airplane that USA withdraw from the mission?  Thanks.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  First of all, let me stress that the United States is still part of our operation.  And the United States provides essential military assets to make sure that we carry out our operation effectively.  We have also received pledges from European Allies that they will increase the number of fighter aircrafts participating in the operation. 

I don't want to go into details as regard to my conversations with Allied leaders.  And the basic principle for NATO has always been that it is a national decision as to how national military assets can be used in our military operations.  Obviously, seen from a military point of view, our military commanders would like a maximum of flexibility in the use of the military assets at their disposal. 

Oana Lungescu:  ZDF.

Q:  It's Kai Niklasch from German Television ZDF.  There's a discussion about the humanitarian aid in this area.  And how would this be possible?  Would NATO be in charge to protect any aid?  Or would this be the case for the EU battle group?  What do you think?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  First of all, let me stress that I am very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Libya, notably in the city of Misrata. But the situation may also be severe in other parts of Libya.

Secondly, I think it is for the United Nations to be the leading coordinator of the delivery of humanitarian assistance. 

And thirdly, I do not see NATO in a leading role when it comes to humanitarian assistance.  I would appreciate if the European Union could take initiatives as regards the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Having said all that, I also want to make clear that if it is requested, NATO will, of course, be able to protect the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  But as you all know, it is also a bit of a controversial question to have a military organization to take part in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. And this is the reason why I want to reiterate that once again that NATO has no intention to play a leading role in the delivery of humanitarian assistance. But we do hope that other international organizations will make sure that we can deliver necessary humanitarian assistance to people in need in Libya.

Oana Lungescu:  Japanese Press.

Q: Fukushima, Japanese daily newspaper.  Last week, we heard that NATO has demolished almost 30% of the Libyan military capabilities.  Throughout this last weekend of severe attacks to the tanks and the vehicles, how do you assess the current result of the attacks? And secondly, if I may, since that NATO, Foreign Ministerial, NATO will also tackle the partnership program how to cooperate in things with NATO partnership.  In this new framework, after the Lisbon Summit, how do you intend to strengthen the ties with partner countries?  Thank you very much. 

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  I have not an updated figure as to how many percentage of the Gaddafi regime's military capacities we have taken out.  But definitely it is more than last week.  And last week, the assessment was that one third of his military capacities were taken out.  And after the latest strikes, it may be even more. 

As regards our partnership policies, there are several elements in our new reform package. Firstly, we want to reinforce our existing partnerships by strengthening the consultation mechanism within these partnerships and by opening for substance-driven corporation with, partners that go across and beyond existing partnership frameworks.

And next we also want to engage with new partners across the globe.  In today's world we need cooperative security if we are to accomplish our security tasks.  And to that end we want to reach out to major players across the globe.  We have already excellent partnerships with countries and major players across the globe like Japan, Australia, New Zealand South Korea and others. 

I think it would also give merits to have a more structured dialogue with emerging powers like India and China if we are to accomplish our security missions in the future.

Oana Lungescu:  NTR at the back.

Q:  (Inaudible) Schultz (?), freelance US journalist.  Could you please characterize sort of the type and frequency of communication that NATO has with the Libyan opposition, whether you think the type of accident that happened earlier... happened over the weekend will not take place again because of communication... a lack of communication?

And on a slightly different note with finances already at issue before you began NATO's role in Libya, how long can operations continue at this intensity with a war ongoing in Afghanistan before the Alliance is simply stretched too far financially?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: Well, first of all, I do not want to go into operation details on the contacts we may have. But I can assure you that we do our utmost to avoid very unfortunate incidents like the one we saw last week.  I strongly regret the loss of life. And we take all necessary measures to make sure that we hit the right target, avoid civilian casualties. 

As regards finance and the length of the operation, I think the decisive factor will be to accomplish the mission as requested by the UN Security Council, that is to protect the civilian population against any attack.  Of course, there are also financial aspects.  But I have not heard Allies raise this issue in... in this very context.  Because I think all Allies are committed to live up to the commitments under the UN security council resolution and that is to protect the civilian population in Libya effectively and take the necessary measures to that end.

Q:  (Inaudible) Agence Europe.  One question.  The follow-up on ceasefire.  Have you actually received any formal request from the African Union in order to stop airstrikes?  And the other question is if the situation on the ground continues to deteriorate in terms of protection assurance, would you advocate that case, some kind of more robust action from the NATO?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen: The last part of your question.

Q:  If the situation continues to deteriorate on the ground, would you advocate some more robust engagement from the Allies significantly?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  Firstly, no, we have not received any formal request as regards the implementation of any ceasefire.  And secondly we have no consideration... considerations as to taking more robust measures.  We are focused on implementing the UN security council resolutions fully.  And at this state, we don't see any need for strengthened measures.  We are enforcing an arms embargo, no fly zone.  And we take the necessary measures to protect the civilian population in strict conformity with the UN security counter resolution. 

Oana Lungescu:  I'll go with you.  Could I also please ask you to turn your mobiles and Blackberries to mute?  That would be, I think, we'd all be grateful for that.  Egyptian TV.

Q:  Thank you much, I'm Magdy Youssef (?) from Nile News, Egyptian Television. Gaddafi, is he still insisting that al-Qaeda is playing a big role in what is happening now in Libya?  Do you have information confirming that there is no... any raids in al-Qaeda or inroads in what is happening there thank you?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  We don't have any information that al-Qaeda should play a significant in what is going on in Libya.  Having said that, it is of course a matter of concern in the longer term perspective if this ends up in a stalemate that eventually could also make Libya a failed State that could become a breeding ground for terrorists and extremists.  And we should do our utmost to avoid that situation. And this is also a reason why I hope to see a political solution to the problems in Libya sooner rather than later. Because we know from experience that extremists and terrorists can take advantage of... and profit from long-term instability. 

Oana Lungescu:  (Inaudible)

Q:  Dear Secretary-General, I'm from China Central Television.  My question is:  "First, on the 10th of April, we know the Gaddafi has accepted the ceasefire proposal offered by the African Union."  So once he had accepted a peaceful road map, what's the NATO reaction of the Gaddafi's position?  Would you accept his exit or keep...?

The second question is...  You know, the Libya's situation is now the rebels and the regime has separately held his ground.  So if the... what's your reaction to the future Libya once the rebels and the regime keep its ground?  So there will be two governments or the other situation?  What do we do expect to see?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  First of all, we have heard and seen the Gaddafi regime announce and promise ceasefires in the past.  And they didn't keep their promises.  On the contrary, they continued to attack their own people systematically.  So I don't take such promises for face value. 

The only thing that counts is the reality on the ground.  And a ceasefire must be credible and we have to make sure that it also involves effective protection of the civilian population.

If I understand the second part of your question correctly, it's about possible partitioning of the country.  We should do our utmost to avoid that situation.  This is also reason why we have right from the outset made clear that we feel committed to the territorial integrity and unity of the State of Libya.  And I think a long-term and sustainable political solution to the problems in Libya should be based on one unity State solution.

Oana Lungescu:   NTB Turkey.

Q:  Yes, Sono Moud (?) from NTB Turkey.  Secretary General I have two questions.  First, if we compare Kosovo air operation with Libya air operation the level of... the amount of sorties and strikes are very low.  So my question is if you think that we have to limit of strikes, does NATO have the capabilities to increase the amount of strikes and the amount of sorties?  This is my first question.  And my second question is: "Did the Allies totally abandon the idea of arming the opposition?"

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  Of...?

Q:  In Libya, or let's say the arming... arming... arming the Libyan opposition.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  First of all, as regards, the operational tempo, I can inform you that in the first 10 days of this mission, NATO Allies and partners have flown over 1,500 across Libya.  And almost half of these were strikes. That's a rate of 150 sorties a day. And it's quite a high operational tempo.  And the number of daily sorties will be determined by one single factor, namely the protection of the civilian population.  And we will take the necessary measures to protect the civilians. And if it is necessary to increase the number of sorties in order to protect the civilian population effectively, we will do that. 

And as regards the second part of your question, we have been asked by the UN Security Council to enforce an arms embargo. And NATO Allies have decided to participate in an effective enforcement of that arms embargo. 

Oana Lungescu:  Ukrainian (inaudible). 

Q:  News Agency, Interfax, Ukrainian (inaudible).  My question is about Berlin.  We will have also NATO Ukraine Commission. What is for discussion for the minister?  What is his agenda? And what is the meaning of this meeting?  Thank you.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  Yes, Friday, next Friday we will have a meeting in the NATO-Ukraine Commission. And it is a follow-up to my very successful visit to Kiev in February.  I was very encouraged by my visit to Ukraine in February.  My talks with the political leaders in Kiev confirmed that Ukraine stays committed to the partnership with NATO within the current framework: the NATO-Ukraine Commission.  So at the core of our discussions, next Friday will be how we can further develop practical cooperation between NATO and Ukraine.

Oana Lungescu:  We've got time for two more questions. Both at the front:  Geo TV Pakistan.

Q:  Turkey, Pakistan and Afghanistan trying to solve... to reach some sort of consensus in Afghanistan.  And Pakistani President yesterday issuing a statement in Istanbul that Pakistani terrorism is basically due to Afghan War.  This discussion which has Turkey's backing which is NATO member... these discussions and these processes... Istanbul process between Pakistan and one that's in Turkey have your backing and NATO has given consent to these tri-party talks?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  We appreciate all initiatives taken with a view to solving the problems in Afghanistan.  And we have clearly stated that it also takes a positive Pakistani engagement to prevent terrorism and to find a political solution to the challenges in Afghanistan.

Oana Lungescu: Kuwait News Agency.

Q:   (Inaudible) from Kuwait News Agency.  You said you invited some other partners to the Berlin meeting. Can you tell me which ones are they?  Which Arab countries you have invited to the foreign ministers meeting?

Anders Fogh Rasmussen:  I can tell which partner countries have been invited to participate in our meeting in Berlin:  Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Morocco, Sweden and Ukraine.

Oana Lungescu: Thank you very much, hope to see you all in Berlin.