Updated: 15-Jun-2004 NATO Speeches


28 April 2004


by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at a dinner hosted by the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abdullah Gül

NATO Istanbul Summit

Dear Minister, Mrs Gül,
Dear Friends,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me start by saying how pleased my wife and I are to be here, in this wonderful setting that reflects the cultural and historical richness of Turkey. We are both well aware of Turkey’s reputation as a warm and welcoming country. You, Abdullah, personify that generosity – and I want to thank you most sincerely for making us feel so welcome.

Let me also thank you for inviting such a distinguished group of guests tonight, and thank them for being here. We cherish this opportunity to meet you in advance of the major Summit that you will host in your beautiful city. And I appreciate the presence of several well-known members of press and media. I hope that you will follow the Summit with interest.

Our visit to Turkey comes only five days after you celebrated the 84th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Grand National Assembly. I know that 23 April is a very important day in Turkey’s modern history, which Atatürk dedicated to the children, the next generations who would further advance the Turkish Republic.

Almost three quarters of a century on, Turkey is indeed a blooming country and a strategically important member of our Alliance of democratic states. And I am very glad that tomorrow I will have the opportunity to address university students - I have no doubt that their generation will continue to take this country even further.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In exactly two months’ time, NATO’s twenty-six Heads of State and Government will assemble in Istanbul.

Our Summit agenda will be based on two main tracks: Outreach to our partners and internal work on our transformation.

Indeed, the Istanbul Summit will have a strong focus on our partnerships with the EU, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and the Mediterranean and the wider region. It will address our missions in Afghanistan and the Balkans. And to succeed in our ambitions, it will also take forward NATO’s transformation agenda.

The core of NATO of course remains Allied solidarity and collective defence. But today’s threats also include terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts and failed states. A successful response to them require not only political resolve but also modern military capabilities and flexibility in using forces.

NATO nations have made good progress in acquiring essential capabilities through the Prague Capabilities Commitment, launched at our last Summit in Prague at the end of 2002. We have also overhauled the Alliance’s Command Structure. Furthermore we are creating the NATO Response Force.

But we must do more. In particular, we must make our forces and capabilities more “deployable and usable”.

Let me quote some figures that speak for themselves: 25 Allies, except the US, have some 1,5 million people in uniform. About 2 million if you count the reserves. But with less than 60,000 troops currently deployed in multi-national operations, they claim to be overstretched. However, the demand for NATO is increasing, not diminishing – because it is the most effective alliance in the world. But clearly, there is much potential to improve the proportion between what is available in Allies’ inventory of forces and what is actually used for NATO operations.

Simply put, Allies must enhance their ability to deploy sufficient numbers of troops and equipment quickly and over long distances, and to keep them there for as long as they are needed. With such improvements, NATO’s credibility can be maintained and strengthened.

They must also strengthen the relation between force generation and force planning. Defence planning processes of the Allies must be made more responsive to requirements for operations to which they commit NATO politically. Otherwise there may be a disconnect between our political ambitions and military means.

These are major areas that we are currently looking at in preparation for Istanbul. I hope that our Heads of State and Government will take important decisions in these fields.

The Istanbul Summit will also approve an enhanced set of measures against terrorism. We know that nobody is fully protected against terrorism. Unfortunately, this city has experienced this as well. It is obvious that NATO can not ignore this threat.

We have taken important steps to address this challenge already. But the Istanbul Summit is likely to take further decisions to enhance intelligence sharing, to strengthen our response to possible civil emergencies caused by terrorist incidents and to deepen co-operation with non-NATO nations and other organisations.

NATO’s current engagement in Afghanistan is our number one priority and will be high on the agenda at Istanbul. We are all aware that our own security is linked to the future of Afghanistan as a stable and secure country which is not a safe haven for terrorists.

Currently NATO is in the process of gradually expanding the International Security Assistance Force - ISAF - beyond Kabul. We are working towards the Istanbul Summit to increase the number of so-called Provincial Reconstruction Teams deployed in the countryside. Through these deployments we are helping the Afghan authorities in projecting stability and extending their authority outside the capital.

I am very glad that Turkey has made available one of your predecessors, Abdullah, as NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan. Minister Cetin has a very important role in the interface with the UN and other international organisations on the ground as well as the Afghan authorities including President Karzai. We could not have wished for a better High Representative.

Turkey, as former lead nation of ISAF, has great experience in Afghanistan. It continues to make important military contributions to the force, which I trust it will retain and perhaps even increase.

As we broaden our role in Afghanistan, we must not forget the Balkans. We have achieved a great deal in this region, but our work is not yet over. Recent events in Kosovo clearly demonstrate the continuing need for international engagement -- and NATO will stay committed to the Balkans, politically and militarily, even as we gradually hand over more of our responsibilities to the European Union in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

At Istanbul, we will also strengthen our outreach to and co-operation with our different partners.

First of all I hope that we can give further substance to the strategic partnership between NATO and the EU. We are doing quite well when it comes to cooperating in the Balkans. But we can go further.

NATO and the EU share many other interests and face common challenges. So we should develop our co-operation, in complementarity and without duplication. Turkey would benefit from such a close NATO-EU partnership – and it can be instrumental in bringing it about.

At our Istanbul Summit, we will also want to recognise NATO’s special relationships with Russia and Ukraine, countries that are of critical importance to security in the Euro-Atlantic area. These last few years, we have built a particularly constructive relationship with Russia – and I hope that we will be able to reinforce that relationship by welcoming President Putin here in Istanbul in June.

It is critical, also, that we bind NATO’s Partners in the strategically important regions of Caucasus and Central Asia closer to us. Turkey’s strong historical, cultural and economic ties make it a vital bridge to help project security into these regions. And the Istanbul Summit will refocus NATO’s attention in that direction.

Finally, the Summit could also strengthen our “Mediterranean Dialogue” and reach out to the wider region that some have called the “Greater Middle East”. As the model of a secular and democratic state in the Muslim world, Turkey is particularly well placed to help the international community strengthen its outreach in this direction.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the end of June, the world’s attention will be focused on Istanbul. People will look at our Istanbul Summit for indications about the state of the transatlantic relationship, and the health of the Alliance. I am confident that they will find both in fine form.

NATO is transforming to meet the challenges posed by a new, 21st century security environment. In so doing, it remains a crucial anchor of stability -- for its own members as well as many other countries in the Euro-Atlantic area. Turkey’s role and standing in this transforming Alliance have clearly grown and are set to increase still further.

Thank you.

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