Updated: 22-Jun-2005 NATO Speeches


21 June 2005

Opening statements

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and H.E. Mr. Hoshyar Zebari, Foreign Minister of Iraq

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Good afternoon, bonjour, and welcome to this special meeting of the North Atlantic Council, and may I extend a very warm welcome to the Foreign Minister of Iraq. Mr. Hoshyar Zebari. Minister, you are very welcome indeed.

It's a great pleasure for all of us to have this opportunity to exchange views with you, Mr. Minister, on the evolving situation in Iraq, and of course on the NATO training implementation mission.

This year's elections in Iraq and the formation of a democratic government are milestones in the history of your country, and let me congratulate you and your people, or your people and you, I think I should say, on this achievement. And in accordance with the decision which was taken by the NATO Heads of State and Government in Istanbul, I can assure you of NATO's continuing support in the training and equipping of your security forces.

En fait, l'OTAN est sur le terrain depuis août dernier et facilite la formation de nos forces de sécurité. L'Alliance dispose également d'une formation en dehors de l'Irak de même qu'elle coordonne les offres faites par les pays et les dons d'équipement à l'Irak. Nous avons déjà beaucoup fait ensemble depuis la mise en place de la maison de formation de l'OTAN l'automne dernier. Et cette mission continue d'évoluer. À cet égard, nous nous réjouissons à la perspective de voir s'établir le Centre de formation et de doctrine à Ar Rustimiyah en septembre.

Throughout this process a key ingredient of NATO's training mission has been to take careful note of your government's priorities and requirements to better adapt our activities to the actual needs of Iraq's new institutions. We are thus again very grateful, Mr. Minister, that you have taken the time to be with us this afternoon, to hear your assessment and the possible way ahead, and Minister, you might want to comment as well, as we were able to briefly discuss, your expectations and analysis of the conference, important conference, which is going to take place in Brussels tomorrow.

Minister Zebari, you're very welcome indeed. Please take the floor.

HOSHYAR ZEBARI (Foreign Minister of Iraq): Thank you. Thank you Mr. Secretary General, Your Excellencies, thank you for inviting me to NATO Headquarters again. This will be my third visit since we began dialogue almost a year ago.

On July 13th last year I address Your Excellencies about the progress and challenges facing my country in our democratic political transition. I also recall the preceding statement issued on Iraq by the Heads of State and Government at the Istanbul Summit in June last year, which declared NATO's full support for the process of change in the new Iraq.

The 5th of November, 2004, I visited again with the previous Prime Minister Dr. Iyad Allawi, and I remember well the visit to Iraq of His Excellency, the Secretary General, Mr. Scheffer, on December the 3rd.

My visit today is timely as it coincides with our participation in the International Conference on Iraq that starts tomorrow here in Brussels. This will provide an important platform for our government to address the international community on its vision and priorities, and what it needs to help us recover. We need the international community to share the burden in the process of stabilizing and rebuilding our country. NATO has an important role in helping us to achieve that.

We are pleased that NATO is continuing to be engaged in providing assistance to the multinational force and to my government with the training of our security forces. There is no doubt that our contribution... that your contribution and your presence on the ground plays a major role to the build-up, training, and equipping of our armed and security forces.

My government, which was democratically elected by the people, is grateful to you for your continued engagement and assistance. We also believe that one of our top priorities and challenges is to improve security.

Without security there is very little that can be done. The entire political process, and the reconstruction of Iraq, depends primarily on building up a viable Iraqi security force that can protect the people of Iraq and defend its borders.

After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein we have had to start almost from the beginning to build a new Iraqi army from the bottom up. This task needs your further assistance, and ongoing commitment. We are aware and we appreciate that; the offers and the ongoing training provided by a number of NATO member states.

Our preference is still to see such training and resources being deployed on the ground inside the country, but at the same time, we do take note of some of the offers by some members of the NATO organization to provide this training outside.

I'll give you a brief picture of what achievements have already been accomplished.

Our forces are active proof that the training process is providing tangible results, and day by day, the Iraqi national guards and the army, the police, are improving their performance and combat capabilities. Our forces are also assuming more and more responsibilities from the MNF in different parts of the country.

In addition, we also see the results of training in the field of command and education and in adherence to the new military doctrine.

For some time now they have increasingly shifted from defensive posture to a more offensive position to provide security and face up to the terrorist attacks carried out by the terror networks of Saddamist Islamic fundamentalists and ordinary criminal gangs, who all share the same goal, to undermine stability, security and the work of the new government. In terms of numbers, we see progress. In terms of equipment the delivery has improved in quality and quantity, although we do need this process to be accelerated. Our units deserve to arm themselves with more effective weapon system.

Our armed and security forces have also improved their intelligence, thanks to the support of the local people. There have recently been numerous cases when these intelligence leads have led to the detention of many key terrorist leaders, and foiled many of their plans to carry out attacks and inflict their damage on ordinary Iraqi people.

We are aware of the plans to open the Joint Military Staff College in Rustimiyah on the 25th of September this year. This would be a landmark development for providing first class training for the new Iraqi junior and senior staffs. We appreciate the work of General Rokos in this regard, and General Petraeus who have been very, very helpful. And also we are aware of the programs for NATO schools to continue this task.

The new transitional government has a clear vision and priorities to accomplish its goals to reconstruct the country. It is important in the critical field of security that close coordination is established between NATO and the Iraqi Ministry of Defence in order for Iraq to benefit the most from joint cooperation. Significant progress has been made. This must continue at the same time as we advance on time and on course in the political process. We are committed to the deadlines set out in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 and we believe that as we progress on the political track and process this will have an impact on the security situation.

We are grateful to your efforts, Mr. Scheffer, personally, and to NATO, but we also seek your increased engagement. It is not just a question of numbers in our forces, but also the quality of leadership and the ability of the forces to be self-reliant.

We are confident that you would continue the program to help us with that level and help us meet our goal of developing self-sufficient security forces to secure and defend the interests of Iraqi people. We, indeed, are seeing a great deal and tangible results coming out of your efforts. I mean, since last year up to now I can say that our forces really have made a good progress.

On the political track process also I'd like to report to you that again we proved really that this government, or the previous government, has met every single timetable asked or demanded by the international community.

And recently we succeeded in making the Constitutional Commission inclusive. New members have been added to those who were elected; from 55 another 15 Sunni Arab have been added to that Commission in order to have their say in the future of their country and their constitution-writing process, and another 10 members would be serving as experts or advisor, so now we have a truly representative, a truly... a body that represent all the Iraqi communities.

We were supposed... we are now actually in the process to start the process of writing the constitution. This must be finished by the 15th of August. And also this really needs to have the approval of the majority of the Iraqi people through a referendum by October. And then we will have a new election at the end of December.

So these coming months are very important, very critical for the success of this process in Iraq. We are confident as Iraqi, thanks to the support we are getting from the multinational forces and their commitment, their dedication, our own ability also to move to finish this process successfully. We are capable of defending ourself as Iraqi, but we need your support, we need your assistance.

As I said in my opening remarks, really we started from the beginning. Tomorrow also is an important date for us. The International Conference on Iraq will be attended by 80 countries, and organizations. This international platform is basically requested by the government of Iraq in order to address the international community, ask them to be re-engaged in the stabilization and reconstruction of Iraq.

We believe that the consequences of failure in Iraq are... will go far beyond Iraq itself. And that's why the stakes are high., that's why we need the contribution, the assistance of many countries for us in the three designated fields of this conference; political, economic, rule of law, strengthening justice, training of police and security forces.

Our message here really that we are going to set our visions in all these different fields, and we'll ask those participants to see what they can do, what can they offer in each of these fields. We are optimistic and we hope that the conference will be a successful event for Iraq and for all those who would participate in that conference.

Once again, Mr. Scheffer, thank you very much for giving us this opportunity and I'm ready to take whatever questions you (inaudible) their excellencies...

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