Updated: 14-Jan-2004 NATO Speeches


14 Jan. 2004

Joint point de presse

with NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer
and Mr. Jean-François Arnault, Acting Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations in Afghanistan

High resolution photos
Audio file .MP3/3157Kb

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer: Just to say very briefly that we've had a very interesting briefing to the... to the Council and of course the non-NATO ISAF contributors on the present situation with a number of elements, of course, very relevant to NATO as well.

Let me... let me give you one example, for instance, and stress that the collection of heavy weapons has begun and is proceeding...proceeding well at the moment. We, of course, discussed the upcoming elections, the results of the Loya Jirga, Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and I have made a plea to all nations, NATO and non-NATO ISAF contributors to see that the... that the still existing gaps in what we need, in fact, should be filled very quickly.

We've heard about PRTs. We've heard about a new PRT, Nordic PRT which is going to be established. So, there is good news from Afghanistan. And as we know, as I stated when I entered this building just over a week ago, Afghanistan is the number one priority for the Alliance.

We have decided that we'll have these meetings more frequently because it's of course the credibility, not only of NATO but of all the troop contributors to ISAF which is at stake to make this operation into a success. Very important period to come. Positive results of the Loya Jirga. Elections to be held. PRTs to be established. An operational plan being prepared at the moment for NATO. Lots of things to do. Still, of course, lots of things to be wished to be... but nevertheless good meeting. That's... I want to be brief my summary.

Jean-François Arnault: Well, this is, as I'm sure you all know, a fairly exciting time for the Afghan peace process. The adoption of a constitution in any country is a momentous event, but in a country that went through two and a half decades of war, it is even more of an achievement. And there is certainly on the part of Afghanis today a sense of vindicated dignity of having been able, as a nation, to take such an important step.

They have every reasons to be...to be happy because we also believe that this constitution has developed new links between Afghanistan and the international community. There are, in this constitution, a number of commitments that are made to democracy, to human rights, to the protection of minorities that certainly will find an echo in the international community at large.

That has created, as I said, I think, a new momentum. And we're very, very keen together with NATO to make the most of that momentum, to help the consti... the country take a further step towards the elections, but also take further steps in terms of more security for Afghanis. And this is where the contribution that NATO has already made comes into play, and as I said, this huge task that we can... the UN, the coalition, NATO and the NGOs, this huge task that we can achieve together.

So as the Secretary General has said, this is... this is a time to take stock, but also a time to take more ambitious steps towards the restoration of security.

Questions and answers

Q: Secretary General, Carmen Romero with the Spanish News Agency EFE. I would like to know which are the main gaps which the NATO countries still have to fulfil for the new PRTs, and when do you think that NATO will be ready to establish new PRTs?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, first of all, of course, more PRTs than the present ones. That is the PRT concept, as Monsieur Arnault has also indicated this morning, and we were convinced in NATO that PRT concept is a very good concept. So, we need more PRTs because... because they are doing good work.

Secondly, as you know, NATO has taken over the responsibility for the PRT in Kunduz. NATO is preparing for... for ISAF expansion. NATO is preparing an operational plan. I have... I have made an appeal on all the nations who are already doing a lot of things to do more because it's important than in more parts of the country, also in the more difficult parts, we'll be able to participate to security and stability. That's what I meant by the wishes I still have.

Q: Yes, for Mr. Arnault, you mentioned that it's the time to take more ambitious steps. What would you like to see NATO doing right now? What are the priorities for you in terms what NATO can do to help spread that security?

Arnault: Well, there are basically three fields where NATO has already contributed and fields that need further expansion of international assistance.

One has just been mentioned by the Secretary General and that is PRTs. Why PRTs? Because PRTs have now established themselves clearly as perhaps the best tool to expand the rule and the writ of the central government, expanding the police -- which is something that all Afghans want, they want the restoration of the rule of law -- expanding the police, expanding to some extent the army as well, need some point of support. And PRTs have been and can continue to be this. They really can make a difference in terms of restoring the rule of law, not only in Kabul, not only the main cities, but also out in the countryside. First point.

Second point, the disarmament. And NATO, tomorrow, starts a very, very ground-breaking exercise in the concentration of heavy weapons in Kabul. And we believe that this kind of initiative repeated elsewhere, where heavy weapons are currently deployed, can make a big difference in terms of... of really freeing the country from the rule of the gun.

And we also suspect that, as the electoral process unfolds, there will also be a need for international forces to bring support. This is a huge undertaking with hundreds and hundreds of registration teams and (inaudible) reporting sites being deployed throughout...throughout the country. The military aspect will not be key of course. The key aspect will be ownership of this process by Afghans themselves, but surely there will be an element of security assistance, and in due time, we are sure that NATO will be able to assist.

Q: Léon Bruno, Agence France Presse. A question for the Secretary General. The predecessor, the special rep at the UN, Mr. Brahimi, just Sunday, I think was in an interview, said that it would need at least up to.... well, you would need up to 10,000 soldiers. That would do the job for security in Afghanistan -- new soldiers of course. So, where do we stand on that? Is that credible? Is that going to happen, do you think? Or is it a much smaller number that were... that...

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, I do not want to wish to speculate about numbers now. But you know that NATO is thinking hard because of the fact that it's the number one priority, about ISAF, about ISAF expansions, about new PRTs, about force protection. I told you already that an operational plan is being prepared to the moment, and what will come out of that, we'll have to see later. But I can't... I can't, let's say, answer your question if it's how many thousands of forces it would be. There's a lot to do. It's a very important task.

And let me stress once again, standing...standing beside Mr. Arnault, how important it is that all international organizations active in Afghanistan work as closely together. I mean, United Nations, European Union, NATO and all other organizations presently in Afghanistan should work together to bring security and stability to the country. But it's not for me, at the moment, a question of numbers.

de Hoop Scheffer: Thank you very much.

Arnault: Merci bien, merci bien, au revoir. Merci bien d'être venu.

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