Updated: 07-Apr-2005 NATO Speeches


4 Apr . 2005

Video Background Briefing

by the NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

Audio file .MP3/3983Kb
Video interview
James Appathurai

Hello and welcome to the April edition of our monthly briefings on what's taking place at NATO. It has been in March a relatively quiet month. The Easter break allowed for all of us to take a little bit of a rest but we are now starting to hit high gear again.

The Secretary General at the end of March spent a lot of time in the plane on a very long tour to the south, to Asia, to Australia, to New Zealand and to Japan. These are three countries that contribute quite a lot to peace and security in areas where NATO is heavily engaged as well--in Afghanistan, also in Iraq and in the Balkans--so it only made sense that the Secretary General make what was the first visit of any Secretary General to Australia and New Zealand and the second visit of any Secretary General to Japan.

The discussions in Australia and New Zealand as I mentioned focused on what all of us can do together, NATO and these countries, and can do alongside each other in these critical, strategically important areas of Afghanistan, the Balkans and in Iraq of course. New Zealand has contributed very much, this was the first stop on the Secretary General's trip and he met with all of course the senior leaders as he did in Australia as well. Australia and New Zealand are countries with which NATO has what you might say are ad hoc relations.

With Japan, NATO has a slightly more structured relationship, a strategic dialogue, where there are biannual strategic level, high level discussions held alternately in Japan or here at NATO Headquarters and led generally from the NATO side by the Deputy Secretary General. These of course mirror the practical cooperation on the ground that we do do and the Secretary General in his visit of course took the political dialogue to a higher level, made a public speech, but also of course discussed where we might be able to work together more fruitfully. NATO and Japan have a security agreement, in other words an agreement on the exchange of classified information.

The Secretary General signed a similar agreement with Australia when he was there so that we could, between Australia and NATO, exchange classified information. This can only help of course to share views but also where and when practical cooperation is appropriate to do that.

Let me turn now to the agenda in April and the meet- the month began with a visit from Bob Zellick. Bob Zellick is the number two at the US State Department, Deputy Secretary of State, and he came as part of his inaugural tour as Deputy Secretary of State to Europe, to NATO and had a very broad ranging discussion with ambassadors touching of course on the areas where NATO is engaged, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in the Balkans, but also a much broader agenda.

There was a very open discussion of Darfur and what the international community might do to help assist in bringing peace and security to Darfur not just in the context of the peace agreement but also- the peace agreement between north and south, but also in the context of Darfur itself.

There was also a discussion as I mentioned of the political future for Afghanistan and a very open discussion of the Middle East, the Middle East peace process, and what role NATO might play potentially in the future, if asked and if required, to help support any kind of a peace agreement.

This visit by Bob Zellick was the first in a series of high level visits which will include the High Representative in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, who has also come to the Council, who has also discussed with ambassadors the future of that country, the future of its integration into Euro-Atlantic structures; and of course the month will proceed with a whole host of other visits.

One major landmark on our calendar for April is the Secretary General's Transformation conference which will take place 14th of April. This conference which takes place at a very high level, concentrates on NATO's political and military transformation. Transformation at NATO, of course, is an ongoing process as it should be. It is not something that is an event, it is a process, it doesn't start on Monday and end on Friday. It just continues at all times because of course the security environment is changing constantly and NATO needs to adapt to it and help to shape it.

The Secretary General will present his views, his initial views, on how to transform the political dialogue within the Alliance. This is something which has of course gotten a lot of resonance in the international community; something Chancellor Schroeder has mentioned himself in a rather well known speech a few months ago at the Wehrkundetagung, the Munich Security Conference.

The Secretary General will lay out some of those ideas; he may lay out some other ideas as well on the military transformation. NATO's two senior military commanders will also be there. They will also lay out their ideas on military transformation.

General Jones, the Supreme Allied Commander for Operations, will lay out his vision of how military operations are changing and how NATO needs to change too and to create new capabilities such as the NATO Response Force to help to be able to meet the requirements of 21st century peace operations.

Admiral Giambastiani - Ed Giambastiani, who is the Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation based in Norfolk, Virginia, will share his thoughts on other elements of transformation, for example, new technologies, new doctrine, the way in which NATO needs to change the way it works and the way it thinks to, again, be most effective as a peace actor in the 21st century.

Then other senior ministers, ministers of defence from newer and older NATO members, will come to share their transformation experiences. This will be an event that's open to the press so I hope there will be a significant amount of coverage of it. It is something which I believe we need to keep our focus on as publics, as press, as parliamentarians and as politicians, because of course transformation is essential if we are to be able as an Alliance to have the capabilities and the mindset we need to take on the many, many challenges that this Alliance faces.

The next major event on our calendar will be an informal foreign ministers meeting in Vilnius. This is part of the regular series of meetings at the ministerial that the Alliance holds. This particular meeting comes at an opportune time because it's a time when the Secretary General will discuss with NATO foreign ministers his ideas and their ideas on how to make NATO a more useful, a more fruitful, forum for transatlantic political discussions.

Clearly, there is a requirement for Allies on both sides of the Atlantic to share views and to have more open, more profound, political discussions on a broader range of issues early on in the decision making process to ensure that we have the best possible cohesion, concertation, and cooperation when we face issues together and that is exactly what NATO could be. It is a privileged political forum where the United States and all of its Allies sit on a regular and daily basis. It also has something unique and that is an integrated and very effective military structure to deliver results on the political decisions that are taken.

So it only makes sense to use NATO more as a political forum; the past few months and years have demonstrated how important and valuable that kind of political cooperation is, that kind of political consultation is, and the Secretary General will have a discussion with foreign ministers precisely on that subject.

It will not be the only subject of course; the usual agenda for NATO: the political future for Afghanistan beyond the Bonn Process; how to take forward the mission in Iraq; the political future for Kosovo, something where of course ministers will want to have a very open discussion, a very profound discussion, as the political situation in Kosovo evolves, as we move towards a discussion- an assessment, of how Kosovo is doing in meeting the standards set by the international community and as we potentially move, even this year, towards the beginnings of discussions on the final political stages of Kosovo. There are clearly issue for foreign ministers to discuss here as well.

Also during the meeting there will be an informal meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission at the level of foreign ministers. Foreign Minister Tarasyuk will, for the first time, hold a discussion with his NATO counterparts. This is, of course, a very important meeting. There is a new government in Ukraine that is finding its path, that is setting out its own agenda, for how it wants to develop its relations with Russia but also how it wishes to develop its relations with the West and that includes NATO and the European Union. Ukraine wants to move closer to NATO. This is a stated goal of the Ukrainian government and Foreign Minister Tarasyuk will come to Vilnius and will share with his counterparts in the NATO-Ukraine Commission how Ukraine wants to take that forward. And of course his NATO counterparts will respond with their own vision and hopefully a shared vision of how NATO can assist Ukraine in its reform, in its aspirations, to move closer to Euro-Atlantic structures.

On the same day, we will have a meeting at the foreign ministerial level, of course, of the NATO-Russia Council. This is one in a series of regular meetings; Foreign Minister Lavrov will come to Vilnius and discuss with his NATO counterparts the NATO-Russia agenda and how we can take forward our cooperation. There's a whole host of areas where NATO nations and Russia are working together. We are now working, of course, on agreeing a Status of Forces Agreement which will allow for NATO countries to have their forces on Russian territory, to train together, if necessary to transit Russian territory to other areas. This is an essential building block in closer military cooperation; we hope very much that it will be possible to agree this Status of Forces Agreement if not in Vilnius then as soon as possible- very possibly in Vilnius.

There are other areas of cooperation, for example, Russian support for Operation Active Endeavour, NATO's naval operation- its anti-terrorist and counter-terrorist naval operation in the Mediterranean. That too is moving forward and I'm sure ministers will want to discuss that in Vilnius.

That will bring out month to an end. I'm sure much will happen between now and then that I have not yet mentioned but that is the broad agenda.

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