Updated: 14-Dec-2004 NATO Speeches


10 Dec. 2004

Video Background Briefing

by the NATO Spokesman

Audio file .MP3/ 6791Kb
Video interview
James Appathurai

Hello and welcome to the special holiday edition in our regular series of updates on NATO what's happening on our agenda.

This has been a very busy period, a very busy month for NATO as is usual for the end of the year. We've had a series of high level meetings, important meetings, that not only illustrated what's on NATO's agenda but also gave direction on where the Alliance will go as an organization and also with our partners into the future.

On the evening of the eighth of December was the first ever meeting of the Mediterranean Dialogue countries, that is the seven countries with which NATO has a relationship on the southern side of Mediterranean and NATO members at the political level, largely represented at the level of foreign ministers.

This was a meeting that was first of all a celebration. A celebration of ten years of Mediterranean Dialogue, it has been ten years since the Dialogue was put in place and we have had this decade to get to know each other, to begin a discussion and to begin low-level practical cooperation. This meeting however, this dinner, was also a working dinner.

And the reason was that the representation at the political level for the first time indicated that the seven Mediterranean Dialogue countries and NATO nations wanted to take the next step. The next step in terms of deeper dialogue and more practical cooperation, to take the dialogue more towards a partnership in the same spirit perhaps as NATO has had with its eastern European partners in the Partnership for Peace.

The dialogue at the dinner, the discussion at the dinner, was very open between ministers. It was a very positive spirit with much discussion of where the practical cooperation should take place, of the need to build trust, of the need to build mutual confidence and the very clear assertion that NATO's relations with the Mediterranean Dialogue countries should take place on the basis of regional and national specificities, each country is different, has a different list of requirements, a different list of wishes and as a second principle, that this should be a two-way street, nothing will be imposed on any one.

But NATO has a menu of areas where it has an expertise and an expertise that might be put on offer, put at the availability of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue partners if they so wish and if they do wish, NATO stands ready to, as I say, deepen the dialogue and deepen the practical partnership.

NATO's Deputy Secretary General will very soon go not only to the region of the Mediterranean Dialogue but also as part of the parallel process into the Gulf to open up NATO's discussion with that region as well. The Secretary General himself will, in the coming months, visit all the Mediterranean Dialogue partner countries and he hopes, and we hope, that the next dinner at the political level will be held in one of the countries of the Mediterranean Dialogue to show how much the importance they attach - and we do believe they attach - to this process as much as we do, to taking it to the next level.

So this was a successful dinner, not just a celebration but also a working meeting and one in which we... on which we will build.

On the morning of the ninth of December began NATO's regular meeting of Foreign Ministers. And it was a meeting that had quite a lot of substance. The first item on the agenda for ministerial discussion was Afghanistan.

This remains a top priority for the Alliance and it is an area where there has been a significant amount of success. The President of Afghanistan, President Karzai, was inaugurated in the beginning of December and the Secretary General of NATO along with many other high level dignitaries attended that ceremony.

This was a very powerful symbol. The transition in Afghanistan over the past few years has been absolutely dramatic; it is one of the great success stories of the international community in the early 21st century. The progress that has been made has absolutely been startling and NATO is very pleased and proud of the role that this organization has played in contributing to that and of course always in support of the Afghan government as part of an international community effort to do more.

We have, as those of you who watch these videos regularly know, been providing peacekeeping forces for the capital and provincial reconstruction teams in the north of the country. Now NATO Allies are moving to expand that presence into the west.

We believe early next year, the Alliance will be in a position to announce an expansion into the west, very early next year; and of course Allies confirmed again yesterday at the ministerial meeting that they intend to provide more support, more military support, for the elections that will take place next year; the National Assembly elections at the local and municipal and national level which are of course a second very important step in Afghanistan's democratic development.

But NATO's rose in Afghanistan will not end at the National Assembly elections; this is a long term investment for what is obviously a long term project, a long term endeavour for the international community. So there was a deep political discussion amongst ministers about the future of the long term role for the international community in Afghanistan after the National Assembly elections or what we call the Bonn Process, the political roadmap that has led us to here, to this point, will technically have expired.
So we need a roadmap beyond that and NATO will play a part in developing that political agenda.

The international community also needs to look at what is very much a dagger at the throat of Afghanistan's future and that is narcotics. The international community must do everything possible to support the Karzai government, the Afghan government in combating this scourge. This is of course an Afghan government lead but the Afghan government will depend on the international community to support its efforts.

There has been a conference now held in Kabul just after President Karzai's inauguration to discuss the narcotics challenge and how to address it and NATO will play its part of course but as part of a broad international effort because the strategy must be comprehensive if it is to be successful and it must follow the lead always of the Afghan government.

The next issue on the agenda for ministers at the ministerial meeting was Ukraine, a political discussion of Ukraine. Now this is a fast moving situation and by the time you see this video the situation may well have changed from what it is when I have recorded it for you. In essence NATO ministers agreed that there has been now substantial political progress in helping to pave the way for a free, fair and democratic election on the 26th of December.

After discussing the importance of this, the importance of having an election that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people without outside interference, without violence and a process that respects the political integrity, the territorial integrity of Ukraine ministers also discussed the importance of support this round of elections on the 26th of December by providing as much as possible in the way of observers.

And ministers of course heard the calls of their colleagues and are providing and will provide a significant number of observers to this effort to ensure that the Ukrainian people and the international community can see the extent to which these elections are indeed free and fair and put in place a government that is legitimate and seen to be legitimate in the eyes of its people because that is what is most important.

And NATO is determined that it will of course continue its relations with Ukraine, these are very important relations. We intend not only to continue them but to deepen them.

A ministerial... an ambassadorial level meeting has been held immediately after the Foreign Ministers meeting to speak directly to the Ukrainian Ambassador to NATO to express NATO's continuing commitment to this relationship and that relationship will continue into the future.

Ukraine was also on the agenda for discussion between NATO nations and Russia in the NATO-Russia Council just after the morning North Atlantic Council meeting at the Foreign Ministers level here at NATO Headquarters.

Foreign Minister Lavrov sat around the table with his 26 NATO counterparts and they discussed Ukraine. They agreed together on a statement which set out, amongst other things, the position of the NATO-Russia Council, of the 27 members on Ukraine, on the importance of free and fair elections, on the importance of having the Ukrainian people having their voice heard in a free and fair election on the importance of avoiding violence and of the paramount importance of course of always maintaining the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

This was a significant political step that Russia and NATO countries came together to express the same principles, the same approach to what has been sometimes a divisive issue. So we were very pleased that that took place and that that took place here in the NATO-Russia Council.

NATO nations and Russia also agreed on two other areas of concrete cooperation. One is they signed, we signed, an exchange of letters which now govern Russian support for Operation Active Endeavour. There are Russian ships now in the Mediterranean that have been conducting familiarization exercises with NATO ships that are patrolling the Mediterranean, defending against terrorism and now because of this exchange of letters, these ships can support the Operation fully and so we're very pleased about this.

There was also the signature, or the agreement on a NATO-Russia Council action plan on combating terrorism which will help our countries work together to combat this threat which of course faces us all in very practical ways.

Finally we hope and expect that early next year NATO nations and Russia can sign a SOFA - a Status of Forces Agreement. What this does is govern an indeed allow for much better participation and cooperation on the military side by allowing for transit of forces and equipment, by allowing for joint exercises, making it much easier for us to train together, to work together, to get to know each other.

This is an agreement that NATO has with almost all of its partners, we're very glad that we're moving towards having it with Russia as well because it will simply help us to work better together.

Over lunch, NATO Ministers met once again to have an informal discussion on two key issues. One is Iraq. NATO Foreign Ministers took the decision at their meeting that they were in a position to significantly expand the NATO Training Mission that has been in Iraq, in Baghdad, since August.

Where there have been some 60 personnel there, the number will grow quite significantly as NATO expands its support to the Iraqi government in training senior Iraqi personnel, principally military personnel.

At the same time Ministers look forward to the next stage of expansion which will be to enhance our support for the Iraqi Training, Equipment and Doctrine Centre on the outskirts of Baghdad and that will take place in the coming months.

It is important to note that despite the divisions that have been quite obvious over Iraq in the run-up to the war and indeed during the war, NATO is a place where all NATO nations, from Europe and North America, are coming together over this issue. They have all given their political support for the training mission, they are all through NATO common funding and through the Headquarters providing financing for this mission and of course NATO nations even if they are not participating in training inside Iraq are contributing to it outside of Iraq as well; including in NATO schools but also on a bilateral level and I cannot forget that many NATO nations and the Alliance itself are playing an important role in coordinating the provision of equipment to the Iraqi security forces.

So this is truly a transatlantic effort, it is a transatlantic effort where divisions have been seen and seen quite clearly but we're pleased that in NATO the Alliance is doing its job to bridge the two sides of the Atlantic, to bring them closer together, even on what has been a very difficult and divisive issue.

Ambassadors... excuse, Foreign Ministers then turned their attention over lunch to the Balkans.

As those of you who have followed the website and followed these briefings know, early in December NATO brought to an end its successful SFOR mission, stood up a new headquarters in Sarajevo that had responsibilities for supporting defence reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in supporting the apprehension of those indicted for war crimes and carrying out other roles.

The Alliance will also of course support the new EUFOR, the European Force, called Althea, which will take over some of the primary security duties that NATO had had until the handover.

The Secretary General attended that ceremony with Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative. It was a good ceremony; of course the officials of the government were there as well because this has all been done very much in consultation with them.
And at the Foreign Ministers meeting here at the NATO Headquarters, ministers welcomed this transition and look forward of course to continuing their support to Bosnia and Herzegovina to help them meet their requirements first and foremost from a NATO perspective, to join the Partnership for Peace and a key roadblock preventing them from making progress is cooperation with the International Tribunal. Ministers reiterated the importance they attach to cooperation by Bosnia and Herzegovina and indeed also by Serbia and Montenegro, to cooperation with the International Tribunal, this is absolutely essential and ministers continue to insist on it.

Over Kosovo, ministers had a profound political discussion over the coming year. The coming year is one that is of great political importance. The international community has set standards for Kosovo, democratic and political standards that Kosovo must meet as we look to the middle... in particular the middle of 2005 when the international community will take a judgement on how Kosovo is doing in meeting those standards before substantial progress on status talks which will determine the final political status of Kosovo can move forward in a concrete way.

This is obviously of great political importance, it also brings with it of course, a certain political fluidity and Allies are very aware that KFOR, the NATO mission in Kosovo, remains absolutely essential to maintaining a peaceful environment in Kosovo and that is why they have agreed that NATO must maintain its current operational capabilities in Kosovo, in KFOR, and the Alliance will remain very vigilant and very determined to prevent any outbreaks of violence and to continue to provide a platform for the political process to go forward because this is absolutely essential.

That in a sense brought an end to the discussions amongst NATO Foreign Ministers but they did turn their attention immediately thereafter to the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council brings together 46 countries, the NATO Nations and all of our partners across Europe through the Caucasus and into Central Asia; to discuss key political issues on our agenda.

One of the key political issues on our agenda was of course and it remains, supporting efforts towards building peace and security in two critical regions: that is the Caucasus and Central Asia. There are national issues and regional issues that are of great complexity but also of great importance to us all and the EAPC countries discussed how they might together help support moves to resolve outstanding border disputes, address the threat of terrorism, address the threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other weapons in these regions in particular.

The Secretary General has appointed a Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia, Mr. Robert Simmons, who is also a Deputy Assistant Secretary General here at NATO and Allies and the Secretary General are moving closer to appointing two individuals, one for the Caucasus, one for Central Asia, that will act as liaison officers and they will be permanently based in the regions helping the Alliance to understand what is there, being a voice for the Alliance in those regions, helping to ensure continued political engagement by NATO in these regions.

That in essence was the broad sweep of the discussions that have taken place here in NATO during ministerial and political level meetings. They were very good, they took place in a very positive atmosphere. They demonstrated a real transatlantic consensus to move forward together, not to look in the rear-view mirror, not to get distracted over the prior divisions over Iraq but to move forward.

The spirit was positive, Ministers also bade farewell to a very well respected and well liked colleague and that is of course Colin Powell who made his final visit here to NATO as Secretary of State. Minister spoke very warmly and very honestly of their respect and personal feelings towards Secretary Powell and spoke about how they'll miss him but of course the Alliance also looks forward to working with his successor Dr. Rice who will soon be attending NATO ministerial level meetings here, of course.

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