Updated: 28-Jun-2004 NATO Speeches

Istanbul, Turkey

28 June 2004

Opening statement

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the press Conference after the meeting of the North Atlantic Council
at the level of Heads of State and Government

NATO Istanbul Summit
High resolution photos

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a pivotal moment in international history. Afghanistan is preparing for its first democratic elections ever – but it needs help to make them a success. This morning, Iraq has assumed responsibility for its own future – but this new Iraq, too, will depend critically on the support of the international community, if it is to find its feet. And we must do everything possible to build bridges of trust and dialogue between strategically important regions of the world – including between the Euro-Atlantic community and the broader region of the Middle East.

This Summit is, therefore, very timely indeed. Because to address the most important security challenges, Europe and North America must work together. And here in Istanbul, Allies have demonstrated once again their common will to act together to defend our shared security and our common values.

Today, Allies approved a major expansion of NATO’s role in Afghanistan, in support of the Afghan authorities – with the resources to make it work. We made a commitment to help. We will meet it. We will play our part. And I will deliver that message to President Karzai tomorrow morning.

Afghanistan’s success at building a better future affects us all. The same is true for Iraq. The Iraqi people, through Prime Minister Allawi asked NATO for help. And we will help.

Allies have agreed, in accordance with UNSCR 1546, to offer NATO’s assistance to the Iraqi government with the training of its security forces. We will work out the details – the who, the where and the how – in the coming days and weeks. Between NATO nations, and, of course, with Baghdad as well.

But the basic message is clear. Allies are united in their full support for the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Republic of Iraq and for strengthening of freedom, democracy, human rights, rule of law and security for all the Iraqi people. By training Iraqi security forces and helping to develop their security institutions, we will bring forward the day that foreign forces are no longer required. That is a goal we all share. Thanks to the decisions taken here in Istanbul, and over the past days, NATO will help make it happen.

Istanbul is also a symbolic place for us to announce another major new initiative. It is vital, in this volatile world, that we build stronger relations between regions and between cultures. Turkey proves that this can be a success. It is a success we must build on.

Allies have agreed that we deepen, and broaden , our relations with countries to the south – north Africa, Jordan and Israel, and the broader region of the Middle East.

We will make our Mediterranean Dialogue more practical, more focused on substantial cooperation. And I hope we will see joint operations as well.

We will also make an offer, beginning today, to open a security dialogue with interested countries of the broader region of the Middle East. Let me be clear. This is an offer, and only an offer, for a 2-way dialogue, on issues of mutual interest. For this bridge of communication to be strong, it must be built together.

But I believe it will be strong. And I believe it is important. Because if we can help to break down misconceptions and build trust, that can only benefit our common security.

There are many other achievements of this Summit, so far. Allies have agreed to bring the SFOR mission to a successful conclusion by the end of the year, and I will discuss that with Javier Solana personally later today.

Heads of State and Government gave direction to implement a package of measures to better defend against terrorism – a threat with which this city and this country are grimly familiar.

They also endorsed NATO’s ongoing military transformation, including the NATO Response Force, the CBRN Battalion, and the new command structure. And they directed me, and the NATO Council, to ensure that our transformation process is fully implemented. Because transformation is not an event – it is a process.

We have some important meetings still to come. This afternoon, for example, we will meet with Foreign Minister Lavrov to take NATO-Russia relations forward. And I hope we will agree on Russian support to NATO’s Operation Active Endeavour.

Tomorrow, I will meet with President Karzai, and he will address the EAPC. We will also meet with President Kuchma, to discuss how Ukraine can move closer to Euro-Atlantic institutions.

But the central message of this Summit is already clear. In facing the security threats and challenges of the 21st century, Allies stand together. NATO is taking action to project security and build stability where it is needed today. And through our continuing – indeed never-ending – transformation process, NATO will remain the indispensable instrument to defend our freedom and our security.

Thank you. I am ready to take your questions.

Go to Homepage Go to Index