Updated: 06-Feb-2003 NATO Speeches

North Atlantic Council meeting

6 February 2003


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson

Council met this afternoon to consider proposals to task planning for prudent deterrent and defensive measures in relation to a possible threat to Turkey.

As I have said previously, there is complete agreement among NATO countries about their commitment to defend Turkey, and on the substance of the planning measures.

That remains the case. The Washington Treaty imposes responsibilities on all NATO members. These responsibilities will be met.

Where there has been a disagreement is over when to formally task this military planning. Not whether to plan but when to plan.

The Council this afternoon examined the arguments in great detail. We did not reach a final conclusion. But we have put a set of decisions under a silence procedure for agreement early next week.

Does that mean that there is continuing disagreement on the timing issue in NATO? Yes it does. But I am confident that we will reach a decision early next week.

To conclude, I should emphasis that there is no linkage between the timing of NATO’s decision and the debate about Iraq at the UN. We are not reacting to that debate but to a request that we should begin planning to deal with a threat to Turkey’s territory and people.

NATO’s solidarity with Turkey is not in doubt.

Questions and Answers

Q: (Klaus Prömpers, ZDF)... Secretary General, who besides Germany and Belgium proposed that there should be a silence procedure up to early next week? And what is the content? What is to be planned now by the military committee? AWACS, Patriots and other things? Could you enumerate a little bit?

Lord Robertson: I proposed that there be a silence procedure because that is prerogative of the Secretary General and the silence procedure will end early next week.

There is on the table a package of measures which would be prudent to put in place if there were to be any threat or risk to Turkey, and all we are talking about at the moment is taskings to examine the feasibility and the practicality of those measures. And I'm confident that we'll reach a decision on these taskings early next week.

Q: General, you know Bulgaria have been requested by United States for use of its air space... air base and anti-chemical unit. I would like to ask what would be the guarantee for Bulgaria and would you, NATO, consider discussing help for Bulgaria. We know we are not member yet, but...we act and we are considered as a member state.

Lord Robertson: Well, of course, any state is free to make its own decisions about what it does in relation to whatever is going to happen in the Middle East, and no decision has been taken about military action one way or another. But I'm only responsible for the NATO Alliance at the present moment and those measures that relate specifically to Turkey. That is what the North Atlantic Council is considering at the moment. It is not considering anything else.

Q: from the Arab Television MBC. Do you see NATO playing any kind of role in the crisis management in Iraq after the war, and if you allow me, could you comment a little bit on the communiqué published yesterday by seven of your next invited members.

Lord Robertson: Well I'm not jumping so far ahead as to talk about what might happen in the future in the region of Iraq. The United Nations has not completed its consideration of the inspectors' reports, and after that we'll presumably come to a conclusion on whether Saddam Hussein has complied with Resolution 1441.

All that NATO is considering at the present moment are prudent deterrent and defensive measures in relation to one member of the Alliance, which happens to have a common border with Iraq. And that has been the sole subject of our discussions around the table.

Any nations or any groups of nations are free to write whatever letters or articles that they want. I speak on behalf of 19 countries who are members of the Alliance.

Q: Paul Ames, Associated Press. Secretary General can you clarify for us exactly what this silence procedure means? Does it mean that the military will automatically be tasked with the planning once that runs out?

Lord Robertson: If nobody disagrees or breaks silence, as we say in the jargon of the trade. I put out a letter to all of the countries today, which includes a series of proposals that have been tabled. These proposals are immediately put into effect at the end of the silence procedure if no country has broken the silence procedure. So that would lead to an automatic decision in the case where all countries agree.

Q: Chantal Monet from the RTBF Belgium Radio. You said you would hope Belgium, Germany and France to join the other allies in a consensus. Is that a personal pressure on those countries? Especially Belgium?

Lord Robertson: I didn't mention the words Belgium, Germany or France.


Lord Robertson: I don't announce what the voices are inside NATO. We have to achieve a consensus, which means all 19 countries agreeing.

We've had a robust debate today about these technical issues of the military tasking and their timing. Indeed, the only discussion took place over the timing, because there is no doubt and no disagreement about the necessities for the measures themselves.

And I'm confident that by early next week 19 countries will agree to go ahead with these tasks because they are sensible, they are prudent, they are simply contingency plans, and they are in response to a plea from one country in the Alliance, and all countries are bound by the obligations of the North Atlantic Treaty.

Q: Sabine Rau, ARD First German Television. Could you please give us an idea, sir, on which basis the Council discussed today? I mean is it the original US list, or is it a reduced list? What was the basis?

Lord Robertson: Well, I am the one who puts the proposals to the Council after listening to the debates that have taken place, and we've had three weeks of debates on this matter. I'm not in a position to tell you what those proposals are, although I think you can probably guess what some of them are.

But they are not strictly speaking the proposals that were originally tabled because in NATO we operate on the basis of listening and of moulding as we go along. So they are designed to take account of the views that have been expressed over the weeks. And hopefully we'll achieve a consensus by early next week.

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