by the Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and President of the National Security Bureau of the State of Kuwait Sheikh Thamer Ali Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah during the ICI Anniversary Ceremony at the NATO-ICI Regional Centre

  • 16 Dec. 2019 -
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  • Last updated 19-Dec-2019 11:50

(As delivered)

Sheikh Thamer, 
Ladies and gentlemen. 

First, I would like to thank Sheikh Thamer for hosting us all. We really are grateful for the hospitality and the superb support we have got during our visit here to Kuwait and we also appreciate the opportunity to be here together all of us today and you have been able to make also feel very much welcomed.

Actually, as I said during the dinner yesterday this is the second time in 2 years that the North Atlantic Council is meeting here in Kuwait. So we feel very much at home. Actually I brought weather from Belgium to make sure we feel at home.

We are here together to celebrate 15 years of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. And to discuss how we all can work even more closely together for the benefit of our mutual security.

The launch of the Initiative at the NATO Summit in 2004, sent a powerful signal. We share common interests and common challenges. The launch of the Initiative at the NATO Summit in 2004 sent a very powerful signal. We share common interest and common challenges. Not least fighting international terrorism, and maintaining stability for trade and commerce.

Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have recognised the importance of dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO.

And the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman have also increased their engagement with NATO Allies.

This is vital, because the closer our cooperation, the safer we all will be.

For 15 years, NATO has engaged in regular consultation and practical cooperation with all Gulf partners at all levels.

Individual Partnership Cooperation Programmes have brought structure and focus to our cooperation with our Istanbul Cooperation Initiative partners. Under these agreements, a wide range of bilateral activities have taken place. Including on energy and maritime security, cyber defence, civil emergency planning, and non-proliferation and arms control.

Some of these activities have been facilitated by the  Regional Centre here in Kuwait.

The Centre has also helped NATO’s outreach to the Gulf Cooperation Council, to Saudi Arabia and to Oman.I am proud of the culture of cooperation that has developed between our nations surrounding vary activities at this Center. So let me thank you Sheikh Thamer for your personal commitment and personal efforts to establish this Center and since the inauguration in 2017 this Center has proven a great success. Really enhancing the cooperation between all our countries.


Our partnership is more important today than it has ever been before. We were just in London, marking the 70th anniversary of our NATO Alliance. In all its years, NATO has never experienced a more complex security environment than it does today.

To maintain our security, we need to be agile and prepared to respond to threats coming from all directions. From land, sea, air, space and cyber -space. From all directions. Also from State and non-state actors.

We need to protect our critical infrastructure and our cyber networks. Keep our sea lanes on communication open and prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons.  And we must continue to fight terrorism. 

NATO plays a key role in this fight. Working with our partners around the world to train local forces.A strong national defence is one of the best tools we have. As prevention is always better than intervention.

In Iraq, NATO personnel are helping Iraqis build, train and educate the military, so that Iraqis themselves can prevent the return of Da’esh. This is key for our security.

In Afghanistan, we continue to train and advise Afghan security forces, so they can fight international terrorism and create the conditions for peace. 

In Tunisia, we are helping to develop their cyber defences and their ability to counter improvised explosive devices.

We are working with Jordan to improve their defence capabilities.

And NATO works to build stronger defence and security institutions with all our partners in the Middle East and North Africa.

All NATO Allies, as well as NATO itself, are part of the US-led Global Coalition Against Da’esh. Despite significant progress made by the Coalition, Da’esh remains a threat. Conducting terrorist attacks here in the region and around the world.

The membership of Gulf States in the Global Coalition has been crucial. Because of the capabilities you bring to bear. But also to show the world that this is a battle between peace-loving peoples and those dedicated to violence.


Together, we have achieved a great deal. But there is more we can do. Our world is an increasingly unpredictable place. The best way to deal with that uncertainty is to be prepared.  

So we must continue to strengthen the links between our forces.  And their ability to work together. But as well as military cooperation, we should further deepen our political consultation. The bilateral relationships between NATO and individual Gulf states are of great importance. They enable us to better understand specific issues and concerns. And to address them together.

But as 70 years of peace and security in Europe has shown us, real strength comes from a multilateral approach. From working together. That is why we value so highly these meetings that bring all 29 NATO Allies together with all members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. To develop a shared outlook on the security challenges in this region. 


Ladies and gentlemen, 

This year we have celebrated several important milestones. The 70th anniversary of NATO. 25 years of the Mediterranean Dialogue. And now 15 years of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.

The partnership between NATO and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative has grown stronger over the years.

We have come to understand each other better. And work together more effectively.

But there is more we can do.

So as we look to the future together, we must work even closer together.  To deliver the stability we need in the neighbourhood we share.

Thank you so much