Updated: 24-May-2005 NATO Speeches

Åre, Sweden

24 May 2005

(Check against delivery)

Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)
Security Forum

Secretary General’s Speaking Points
Informal Working Dinner
for EAPC Foreign Ministers/Heads of Delegation

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here, in such a beautiful location. I would like, through Minister Freivalds, to thank our Swedish hosts for their very generous hospitality.  And I would also like to extend a special welcome to Kemal Dervi, the Administrator-Designate of the UNDP, who joins us this evening.

In a world in which managing security has become ever more complex, it is essential that likeminded nations get together to discuss the key security challenges that they face together.  Developing a common understanding of today’s challenges is the first step towards finding effective solutions.  That is why having a security dialogue is so important.

The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council is a reflection of this need for dialogue.  For almost a decade now, the EAPC has been the key body for consultations between the NATO Allies and their Partner countries.  In the framework of the EAPC, we were able to address a range of security issues, including many that  never made it into the press headlines.  And, as a result of our discussions, the bond between NATO members and Partners has grown stronger and stronger.

Tomorrow, we will hold the first ever EAPC Security Forum, which is something of a new experiment.  It will bring together not just Government ministers and officials, but also representatives of civil society, including NGOs and academics, as well as journalists. This new concept will broaden and strengthen our dialogue.

But this does not mean that meetings among government officials, such as the one we are having tonight, are not valuable. On the contrary, I believe that free-flowing and open discussions among the Ministers and Government officials gathered here is of enormous value.  I also believe that there is plenty to discuss.  Because there are some serious challenges to our security for which we need to find common solutions.  And tonight’s discussions will be particularly interesting because we are seeing movements in many fronts.

One challenge for all of us - one we have been dealing with for more than a decade - is the Balkans. We will, in particular, discuss the way ahead in Kosovo. Recent signs there are encouraging, such as the cautious resumption of the Pristina-Belgrade dialogue and the calm reaction of the indictment of former Prime Minister Haradinaj. But there remains a lot more to do towards meeting the standards before talks on the final status can begin. And the world will be watching Kosovo. During this critical period, KFOR will maintain its operational capability.

Another common challenge is Afghanistan. Significant progress has been achieved,  but recent news shows us that there is still a lot of work to be done.
The international community, including NATO, is committed to continue to work to strengthen state institutions. On the other hand, opposing forces have not given up their fight.

We must therefore remain vigilant, and fix our eyes firmly on the challenges that lay ahead.  In doing so, we must ensure that our Afghan Partners are in the lead.

ISAF is now expanding to the West and I am confident that we will have completed this process by next September.  A further key priority is support for the parliamentary elections on 18 September. Work is also already underway within NATO on ISAF’s further expansion to the South, with a view to completing such expansion by mid-2006. However, let me be clear: we will be operating in a more challenging environment and must therefore make clear that ISAF has the right, robust forces to get the job done.

Of course, we also need to consider, as we look further down the road, the post-Bonn strategy. Such an effort cannot be seen is isolation but must be closely coordinated with other key players, including the Government of Afghanistan, the UN, and the EU.

But these are not the only issues we will deal with. This forum shares a strong interest in the developments in the entire Euro-Atlantic region. In the Caucasus, for example, we hope to see some movement soon. Minister Zourabichvili could not be here with us tonight because she is hosting talks with her Russian interlocutors on the withdrawal of the Russian bases in Georgia. Talks are also continuing among Baky and Yerevan on resolving the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.

We will also certainly discuss the significance of the recent developments in Central Asia. In this regard, let me stress that NATO is deeply disturbed by the recent violence in Uzbekistan. We condemn the reported use of excessive and disproportionate force by the Uzbek security forces and support the UN’s call for an independent international inquiry. We urge the Uzbek authorities to allow such an inquiry. All our Partners have undertaken commitments to fundamental freedoms and human rights, which we expect them to fulfil.

Indeed, sharing common values  support for democracy, liberty and the rule of law  is what binds us together, and it is why there is such strength in our Euro-Atlantic Partnership. We must together nurture and build on these values.

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