|Updated: 30-Jun-2004||NATO Speeches|
28 June 2004
by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
de Hoop Scheffer: We have had a very useful meeting today of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of Foreign Ministers. I am issuing a chairman’s statement but let me say a few words about today’s discussions.
You know how much the NATO-Russia relationship is a priority for the Alliance. And Allies are certainly pleased with the progress that has been made, particularly since the Rome Summit two years ago, to put this relationship on a very solid and productive footing.
Today, we consulted on key security issues, including Afghanistan, the Balkans, Iraq and the fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We also assessed our practical cooperation, including the military-to-military projects. This cooperation is very impressive indeed, and growing.
The 27 members of the NRC work together today, as equal partners, in areas that would be unheard of just a few years ago, including broad-based co-operation against terrorism, and ambitious joint projects in theatre missile defence, civil emergency planning, and search and rescue at sea.
We are also working to enhance the interoperability of our forces, to lay the groundwork for future cooperation.
Russian support to NATO forces in the maritime interdiction Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean, which we discussed today, would be a good and welcome example of cooperation in our common fight against terrorism.
Russian accession to the PfP Status of Forces Agreement would also go a long way to facilitating military cooperation. We discussed this, too, with Foreign Minister Lavrov indicating that finalisation of this critical agreement is expected by this year’s end.
Of course, Allies and Russia do not agree on everything. Russia has questions and concerns about certain aspects of NATO enlargement. Allies have concerns about the implementation of commitments Russia made in this very city, five years ago, to withdraw military assets from some neighbouring countries, Moldova and Georgia.
We do not shy away from these discussions. On the contrary. In the NRC, we have an effective forum where we can, and do, meet regularly to engage in open and frank discussion. And we now have a relationship strong enough to support those discussions, even as we take our practical cooperation forward.
So all in all, it was a positive meeting. A practical working meeting, yes. But also another illustration that this vital NATO-Russia partnership remains strong – as it should be.
I have time for a few questions.
Questions and answers
Q: The question is... Excuse my bad English. I would like to know the position of NATO concerning the adapted treaty for... well, it is...
de Hoop Scheffer: CFE.
Q: Yes. And do you still consider this treaty the cornerstone of European security or not? And when will be started the process or ratification of this treaty? Thank you.
de Hoop Scheffer: Thank you. Your English is very good by the way. The CFE Treaty is considered by allies, and I think there's no difference of opinion between Russia and the NATO allies, as a very important treaty. Indeed, as a very important building block in European security.
But now you know that there is this link between the ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty. It has to be of course... to come into force and have to be ratified by all relevant states. There's a link between the adapted CFE Treaty and the so-called Istanbul Commitments, as I mentioned in my introduction.
So we should have a hard look at these problems. These are the hard nuts to crack, may I say, in the NATO-Russia relationship. But it's good enough to discuss these things, as I did in a brief... brief, I must say, bilateral meeting I had with the Minister Sergey Lavrov just before entering into our working session.
So the importance is very big, I should say, but it is adapted CFE and Istanbul Commitments linked. Not only political, I should add, but also legally. I mean, there's also a legal link between the two.
Q: BBC Central Asia and Caucasus Service. Russia is very slow in withdrawing its forces and military bases from Georgia. Can this issue create problems in NATO-Russian relations?
de Hoop Scheffer: Let me come back, Madame, to my previous answers. Georgia, indeed, is one of the countries which is relevant to the Istanbul Commitments with Georgia and Moldova and then I should specify Transnistria because that's where the ammunition is, so a solution for the Moldovan problem will also have to be found, where Russia plays an important role, I think, in the solution to that problem.
As far as Georgia is concerned, you know that the Istanbul Commitments are also relevant to the bases in Georgia and I sincerely hope that the Georgian and the Russian governments can come to an agreement as far as the dismantling of the bases is concerned. But this is also a key element of the Istanbul commitments.
Again, a precondition for the ratification of the adapted CFE treaty, which is by the way, quite recently, as you know, accepted and ratified by the Duma in Moscow.
de Hoop Scheffer: Thank you very much.