Updated: 19-May-2004 NATO Speeches


19 May 2004

Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer,
and Mr. Alexander Downer, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia

High resolution photos
Audio file of the speech .MP3/2594Kb

de Hoop Scheffer: Very good morning to you. We just came from the Council where I think we had a historic first which is the address by the Honourable Alexander Downer, the Australian Foreign Minister to the Council and I think it was just an appropriate that he came and just an appropriate for NATO to invite him because we have so much in common and that's indeed historic first.

I mean Australia with its strong and solid reputation of participating and leading peacekeeping operations. The fact that we are discussing security and that the security questions Australia is facing, the region where Australia is is facing and the security questions NATO is facing, are of course very similar. It's terrorism, it's the fight against proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, of failed states. So I mean there is of course a great unity in thinking and analyses and that's the reason that Australia and NATO should cooperate... cooperating already, but should cooperate, I think, in a stronger and more expanded way in the future.

And you can imagine, you can imagine the subjects from indeed working together: counter proliferation; counter terrorism; civil emergency planning; military to military contacts; analyses of operations; where Australia is participating; where NATO is participating. So I can imagine many, many fields of common interests indeed where we can very fruitfully cooperate with NATO.

Minister Downer has made an impressive statement and speech in the Council. We've had a very lively discussion and it is, as I called it, an historic first but certainly not the last time that we have these kind of political cooperation and consultation. I will certainly, myself as the Secretary General, at a certain stage visit the region, visit Australia. I know I'm welcome as Minister Downer has told me.

So I think there's a lot to do, a lot is already going on but let me say that the Council has very much appreciated, and I very much appreciated, Minister Downer's visit to us to NATO this morning.

Downer: Well thanks very much Secretary General. I just want to say how delighted I am to come here to NATO, this is an historic day for Australia. This is the first time any of our senior political leaders has been to NATO and addressed the North Atlantic Council and it's a relationship we think is one that we can continue to develop.

It's, of course, during the Cold War the relationship between Australia and NATO didn't amount to much but nowadays with the different kinds of threats which are global in nature and not just regional, threats such as from terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, dealing with the problem of failed states, countries like Australia which are like-minded with NATO can work together much more effectively with NATO and we look forward to taking the relationship beyond what it currently is and that will be part of our work programme over the next few months.

I very much look forward to the Secretary General visiting Australia and our part of the world particularly those countries that form the backbone of the U.S. alliance network in East Asia, countries like Japan, South Korea as well as Australia. I think this is a great step forward for us in terms of building our global security profile and providing greater security for our own people as well as the peoples of our region to develop synergies with NATO and so I appreciate very much the opportunity I've had today to address the North Atlantic Council and to take the relationship forward.

Q: A question for the Minister and one for the Secretary General: Minister, I know that Australia has been cooperating with NATO in the armaments area are you planning on expanding that?

And to the Secretary General, the fact that you have an Australian Minister here and you've had Chinese visitors and other visitors in the last couple of weeks, is this a sign that NATO is going even more global?

Downer: Well for us in terms of armaments the key here is interoperability. We need to have interoperability capability above all with the United States of America which is our principal ally and is, if you like, very much the balancing wheel of security in the Asia-Pacific region.

But don't forget we work with other NATO countries as well. We obviously historically have worked very closely with the United Kingdom and we maintain very close ties with the British military in all sorts of ways. There are sixteen, I think, NATO countries in Iraq and we're in Iraq as well and so we work closely with those countries. In the context of that challenge we've had troops in Afghanistan in the past and we've worked with NATO countries in that context and so, we wouldn't necessarily always have the same equipment as NATO countries do though we have a good deal of equipment which is compatible and the same as, in many respects, the equipment NATO countries have but for us the key is interoperability and above all with our principal ally but also with other NATO countries and I think we're heading in the right direction there.

de Hoop Scheffer: As for your question, I think it's not a matter of NATO going global or not going global. NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation but, the fact that Minister Downer is here and that you see many other Ministers and Prime Ministers from countries, that there's this notion of indivisibility of security.

I mean if we go decades, of course, back... I mean you had, you had a completely different threat. When we still had the Iron Curtain and the Soviet Union and so on and so forth, now the threat is global. The threat is global and that is the reason that we are facing the same challenges and having to answer the same questions and there of course, a country like Australia, but we can mention many others, are very relevant to NATO and NATO is relevant to those countries.

And when Minister Downer mentions operations, I mean if you work side by side and you are side by side in operations it is very relevant to have these kinds of, let's say, political discussions leading indeed to notions like interoperability and working close together in those fields.

Q: I have a question to the Secretary General, I would like to know, apparently you gave yesterday a warning to the Ambassadors about the increasing lack of resources in Afghanistan. Can you, for NATO, can you elaborate on that?

de Hoop Scheffer: No I can't because I do not comment on Ambassadors lunches.
But as you know... as you know, we're preparing the expansion of the PRTs, we're preparing electoral support in NATO for Afghanistan.

Thank you very much.

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