Updated: 22-Apr-2005 NATO Speeches


21 Apr. 2005

Closing News Conference

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

20-21/04/2005 - Vilnius
Informal meeting of Foreign Ministers

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Good afternoon. Rebonjour, à tout et à tous.

First, in what is this final press moment we have together, let me once again thank our hosts for welcoming us so warmly to beautiful Vilnius.

I think the meeting, which is the first NATO Foreign Ministers' Meeting— which was I should say—NATO's first Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Lithuania, is also, I think, a vivid illustration of the historic road this country, and this region, and, in fact, we all, have travelled. Lithuania is enjoying the shared values; shared by all of us. It is contributing to them as well, as we can see in Afghanistan today where Lithuania is taking responsibility for a Provincial Reconstruction Team. Very important development.

I've already spoken to you after the NATO-Russia Council and the NATO-Ukraine Commission. Let me focus now on the discussion amongst the 26 NATO members in the NAC—yesterday night over dinner and just a moment ago over lunch.

You'll recall that on the 22nd of February in Brussels the Heads of State and Government of NATO agreed to strengthen NATO's role as a forum for strategic and political consultation and coordination among allies. And they said to me, Secretary General, take this forward please.

Well, I think that's what I've done, and that's what we have done, and that's what ministers have done yesterday night and today. Because if you ask me what was the theme of this meeting it was enhancing political dialogue amongst allies. We know that we need it. We know that we have, as I've said before, to talk to each other.

NATO, as the essential forum for security consultation between Europe and North America, is the natural place to do that. And at our meeting here we have not just talked about beefing up the political dialogue, because that you can do for a long time, I think we've done it. And we started at last night's dinner. I think, in my long experience, not specifically as Secretary General, but also as a Minister, it was an excellent dinner as far as political dialogue is concerned, and I'm not the only one who was of this opinion.

We have done this last night, by discussing the Middle East. Not necessarily to come to firm conclusions or foreshadow a NATO mission. That is, of course, what I have to tell you. If we take on this broader political dialogue one should not, of course, conclude that when NATO is discussing a certain theme or subject, it will lead to a NATO operation or mission. That's of course... that's of course not the case.

But we discussed the Middle East, and of course, in discussing the Middle East the theme was, as you might know, introduced by Secretary Rice and the Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos. We, of course, spoke about the relationship between the peace process, between Israel and Palestinians, when NATO doesn't have a role, and NATO will not play a role. That's up to the quartets, not up to NATO. But we came to the conclusion that NATO, in its Mediterranean Dialogue, and in the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, is doing its share of building trust in the region.

And we discussed yesterday, over dinner, a number of other subjects as well, and what we did is, indeed, broaden the focus of NATO discussion. Not only being an Alliance which discusses the mechanics of our operations and missions. NATO is not a mere troop provider, but it should assess, and that's what ministers did yesterday, the political conditions within which it operates and develop its longer term strategies.

Of course, we did, and we continue to discuss, the cross-cutting issues, the horizontal issues, like terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The second important subject yesterday over dinner was the NATO-EU relationship, which is, I think, and ministers agreed with me, of vital importance. And we focused... ministers focused on the broad cooperation with these two organizations. Who are, by the way, not in competition with each other in any way. They're not the same. They're not the same. But they are in need to have a dialogue with each other on many facets. Be it military, be it reconstruction. Look at Afghanistan. Be it development, be it training.

I think it only makes sense to have a multi-faceted approach to multi-faceted problems. This was on the basis of a few remarks by German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.

And I think what we are going to try to find is a way in which we can, indeed, broaden the NATO-EU dialogue. Now we know, and you know, that there are some problems in this dialogue at the moment, which need a solution. For that solution it's like the tango—it needs two to tango. But I think we also discussed ways, and we might try those in the future, of having, on a very informal basis, NATO and European Union foreign ministers meet. But we had an interesting discussion and I think, recognizing, of course, each other organization's complete independence and autonomy. I mean, NATO is NATO. The European Union is the European Union. We are going to try to widen our dialogue.

What is, of course also important, is the NATO-UN relationship. We operate in Afghanistan, we operate in Kosovo, we operate with our training mission in Iraq under UN mandate. So this was definitely also a subject of our discussions.

In other words, enhanced political dialogue, if we say that, you can't bring that into a matrix. If you talk about military transformation and usability or deployability of your forces, you can develop a matrix. Forty percent useable, eight percent sustainable, as some of you might know.

Political dialogue you have to do. You can talk about strengthening this facet of NATO, but you have to do it and I think we did it, as I said, by discussing the Middle East yesterday.

Over lunch today we had, as planned, a discussion focused on our operations in Afghanistan, in Kosovo and the Iraqi training mission. To start with Afghanistan, there it is important that A) ISAF will further expand; B) that we support and are going to support militarily the provincial and parliamentary elections in September; C) that we're going to put together... NATO's input in what I call, and what ministers call the post Bonn scenario, because the Bonn Process for Afghanistan ends in September with the parliamentary elections.

Afghanistan needs longer-term engagement from the international community. Afghan ownership is here of the essence. With the United Nations, the donor community, European Union, a donor like Japan, NATO, they all are going to see how we're going to give shape to this post Bonn framework. NATO is going to have its share in that discussion, and that is what ministers discussed over lunch. As they did with Kosovo.

In Kosovo, of course, NATO is politically involved in KFOR. You all know about the situation. KFOR is going to stay on the basis of the same operational capabilities.

Ministers also discussed the Balkans more in general, where of course it is important to recognize accelerated cooperation with the International Tribunal in The Hague. I think we have seen positive developments. We are seeing positive developments in the region. You know the major hurdle, mentioning Mladic and Karadzic, remains. The incident we saw the Republika Srpska recruits for the BiH army will not help, of course. It is, to put it very mildly, an unfortunate incident. But it is clear that we also see progress in the region, in the Balkans, and that is what ministers discussed. It is clear that NATO is going to stay engaged in the region.

Then there was a third subject, which was discussed over lunch, and that is Darfur; specific, and the Sudan more in general. The humanitarian disaster, the mass murder taking place in Darfur.

The rainy season is approaching, and we have an incredible death rate every month, and I think it was very appropriate that we discussed Darfur. Not, to avoid any misunderstanding, not to have NATO boots on the ground in Darfur, not to play an active political role there, but to begin to think about answering the question which might come—which has not come, but which might come—from the side of the African Union—the African Union is in the lead here, together with the United Nations; not NATO, the African Union—for any way to support its mission, its mission, the African Union's mission, in Darfur.

So that's also a subject which was discussed, and which will be discussed around the NATO table. Javier Solana was present. The EU is doing its share. If I mention mass murder and mass killing there should certainly be no competition between NATO and the EU in this respect. That would be very bad indeed.

But if a question from the side of the African Union would come to NATO, through the UN, to be helpful in any way, planning, logistical support—not boots on the ground—planning, logistical support, then I think it would be discussed around the NATO table and that is also, in my opinion, an example of what we mean by political dialogue.

How this will further proceed I do not know, because I say again, and I can't stress sufficiently, that it is up to the African Union to take the lead here, as it is an AU, an African Union mission.

This is, ladies and gentlemen, in short what we discussed. I think we had excellent meetings yesterday night over dinner, in a very restricted format; over lunch, also in a relatively restricted format. We had, I think, very good meetings in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council and a very important and fruitful meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Tarasyuk.

So on the whole I return home, and I'm sure ministers return home, satisfied with this informal meeting here in Lithuania. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: First question, Mark.

Q: Mark John from Reuters. France has made it clear that it sees NATO... NATO should remain primarily a military alliance, and there are plenty of other organizations around the world, notably the UN, which are better suited to discussing strategic and policy issues that you've been talking about.

Given this position from a major Alliance member, is not the scope for enhancing its political dialogue extremely limited?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: No, I don't think so, because if you see what we have done, yesterday night over dinner and what we have done this afternoon, that is what our Heads of State and Government meant to say when they said what they said on the 22nd of February. And this political dialogue, of course, is on the one hand related to NATO's operations and missions, but you cannot say that while NATO is building trust—I mentioned the Mediterranean Dialogue, I mentioned the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative—that what happens in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, is not relevant. So that's the reason we discussed that.

In that framework there was a Minister who spoke briefly about Iran. Not that NATO—again, we have to avoid that misunderstanding—that NATO is in any way having any form of ambition to become proactive. But nobody can deny that there is a relationship and that NATO, as a political military organization, NATO is a political military organization, should be able to discuss these things. And again, that is what ministers have done over the past two days.

So... and I think, by the way, that bringing back Foreign Minister Michel Barnier's interventions, he took a very active part in the discussion.

Q: Právo Daily, the Czech Republic. Mr. Secretary General, did the ministers touch the question of the decision-making process within NATO, the flexibility of the decision-making process, in any way?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Yes and no. There was no discussion on how NATO decides, but there was, of course, a discussion which is related to the internal reform process I am driving, as Secretary General, and on the basis of which I'm going to hopefully present proposals at the end of this year when foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

That's also a consequence from the Summit on the 22nd of February, that apart from the political and military transformation of NATO it is clear, and Heads of State and Government endorsed, that NATO also internally, about the in-house way we do our business, needs reform, needs transformation.

That's a process driven by me. I asked, after having discussed this with defence ministers not that long ago in Nice, I asked for the political support from the side of foreign ministers for this operation, and I got it. That doesn't mean that they agreed, because there are no proposals yet, but I've got the political support to bring this process forward. But I do not expect, because this is an in-house discussion, I do not expect that in that framework we would touch the consensus rule.

I must say that over dinner the Dutch foreign minister yesterday made some remarks, which he had made in a speech a few weeks ago, on the decision-making process in NATO, but it was not picked up in the sense that that led to a discussion.

Q: Mr. Secretary General, I'm Michael Drudge. I'm with the Voice of America. Regarding Darfur, were those discussions purely hypothetical, or are you anticipating or perhaps even inviting the African Union to ask for help?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: They were certainly not hypothetical. Certainly not hypothetical. It was Secretary Rice who brought up the subject first. Echoed by a number of other ministers. Certainly not hypothetical in the sense that if... that's of course the if in this equation. If there would be a question or a request to NATO, landing on my desk as Secretary General—NATO, could you please assist us in any way?—as I have explained, no boots on the ground, but in the example I gave—that that would lead to a discussion. But I think we should not forget, and that's the important notion I was trying to bring across, that this is an African Union responsibility.

But I would not, let's say, call it hypothetical, also because of the fact that the European Union is already giving some form of assistance. But on the other hand, we should not forget that NATO has the most sophisticated planning machinery in the world.

But again, it is only when asked. I think we should make that distinction very clearly. And if we are going to be asked, to be quite honest, I do not know.

Q: Secretary General, Paul Ames from the Associated Press. On the sidelines of the meeting here, there's been quite a lot of discussion about the situation in Belarus. Was that raised by the ministers inside the session today, and if so, what were the conclusions from that?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: It has not been discussed in the meetings as such, but it hasn't escaped my attention that there were these meetings, which had not been discussed inside the room.

Q: Elise Labott with CNN. I'm sorry if you touched about this in your earlier briefing on the NATO-Russia Council, but does this new Status of Forces Agreement make NATO a full... make Russia a full partner with NATO? Do you see this moving Russia any closer to eventually joining NATO? And if not, do you think that this will lend to further Russian concerns about Ukraine eventually becoming a member of the Alliance? Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Ooh, that's a lot. The partnership between NATO and Russia, of course, does not change because of the signing of this agreement. Nevertheless, I think it's an important agreement, as I said this morning and I'm very willing and ready and able to repeat it for you. It is important because it offers lots of possibilities because we now have a set of ground rules on the basis of which, for instance, we can discuss support by the Russian Federation for the lines of communication we need for our operation in Afghanistan. It makes it easier when we would decide on common exercises. It makes it easier when we discuss interoperability and peacekeeping operations.

Having said that, as I said this morning, it's not a basic agreement. It is not that NATO is going to station forces on Russian territory. But it helps a lot, and in that respect I consider it an important element in the relationship which I think is developing very positively on the critical side of the matter, being able to do things together, but also in the framework, as I said this morning, and I'll not all repeat that, of the political dialogue.

I do not think it has anything to do, as you implied in the last part of your question, with the NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting and with the relationship between NATO and Ukraine, or Russia and Ukraine for that matter.

Q: Jochid Riesen(?) from the Wall Street Journal. Two related questions, sir, on Iraq. First, did the U.S. make any specific requests, either of NATO as an organization, or of member countries during these meetings for further assistance in Iraq?

Secondly, is NATO planning or considering expanding its role there?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: There was no request made. NATO is, as you know, in the process—but you shouldn't, I think, qualify that—of expanding its role, because we have decided to do that. NATO is doing its part as far as the training is concerned of Iraqi security forces—at the moment, as you know, in the Green Zone, in the international zone in Baghdad—and we are in the process of setting up, as decided earlier, and as decided, in fact, in Istanbul last year, to set up this training, education and doctrine centre just on the outskirts, or just outside Baghdad, because we want an output of 1000 officers a year inside, and 500 outside. You know there's training inside, there's training outside Iraq.

At the same time, we are continuing the process of equipping the Iraqi army. To give you one concrete example, I think we're in the process of—I don't exactly know where they are—of shipping Hungarian T-72 tanks to Iraq, to equip and supply the Iraqi armed forces.

So this is what we're doing, and this is what we are going on doing.

Q: Lithuanian Television. Secretary General, we all heard that Russia... that Ukrainian foreign minister told that he thinks Ukraine would be ready for membership by 2008. Commenting on that, Danish foreign minister said that by that time the most Ukraine can expect is membership action plan.

Now how real it is for Ukraine to have membership action plan by the next NATO summit, given that Foreign Minister Barnier told that... I mean, it is not only when Ukraine will be ready, but it is when we will all be ready that the Ukraine will be accepted?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Your question shows that I will stick to the line, as I explained this morning, that first of all, this is performance based. May I repeat, for those of you who weren't there, and the other ones have to indulge with me. It is Ukraine on the wheel. They are driving the car to what's fulfilling their ambitions, which is ultimately to become a member of NATO.

I see this morning's meeting as NATO, on the basis of the intensified dialogue, on the basis of the package of practical measures, telling that driver there are NATO petrol stations along the way, we'll help you, we'll refuel your car. I said it before, sorry if there's somebody hearing this for the second time. But that's the notion.

And if I say performance-based that means that I cannot, and we cannot, I think, and I think Mr. Tarasyuk, in his comments this morning, very well understood that. He said it himself.

I mean, we can't talk in the framework of month or years, and that goes for membership action plan, and that goes for... and it goes for membership. We can't do it. Because it's performance-based. That's the process, as it has been always in the NATO procedures.

Let me repeat only what I said this morning. Something happened in Ukraine, an Orange Revolution. And there is a distinctive partnership. And there was this discussion on intensified dialogue and there was this conflict... package of measures. So we're moving on. But no timeframes or timelines, I think it doesn't help the process.

Thank you very much indeed.

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