|Updated: 07-Nov-2005||NATO Speeches|
27 Oct. 2005
Briefing on current issues by the NATO Spokesman
JAMES APPATHURAI (Senior Planning Officer in the Political Affairs Division, NATO): Hello, and welcome to the latest in the monthly briefings on what is happening here at NATO headquarters and in the Alliance . And I would like to touch for this briefing on four, five main issues. I'd like to begin with the Pakistan relief operation that NATO has put in place in response to the terrible earthquake that took place in Pakistan just a few weeks ago.
NATO is not, of course, a humanitarian organization. It doesn't see itself as a humanitarian organization. There are others that do this very well. The UN, of course, first and foremost. But the Pakistani government, a few days after the earthquake, came to NATO, requested formally through a letter to the Secretary General NATO's assistance as part of the overall international effort in support of the Pakistani government and of course the support of the UN, with a very precise list of areas where Pakistan could use as much international support as possible.
Of course, in the circumstances, NATO could do nothing else but to lend its hand to the overall international effort. And the Alliance has done so. It is not possible for me, today, of course, to give you the most up-to-date information. But the day after I've recorded this, you will be slightly out of date. But I can give you the broad lines. And you can always come to the website here. We'll update that everyday as part of this international effort.
The NATO support effort has basically two main elements. One is an airlift operation with the military we call an "air bridge". And it has two main points of departure from Europe . One from Germany , Ramstein air base and from Turkey , and Incirlik is the name of the base. The operation from Ramstein, the airlift operation from Ramstein will in the end take some 200 tons of relief supplies to Pakistan , focussed mainly on tents, blankets and stoves. There will be some relief supplies coming also directly from Luxembourg . By the time you see this video, they should already be there. And there is an ongoing... as I say, as I record this, ongoing airlift operation at a much larger scale coming out of Incirlik in Turkey . The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has asked NATO to transport some 850 tons of relief supplies, again tents, blankets and stoves principally to Pakistan . And NATO has put on a major airlift operation involving a whole fleet of aircraft, principally from the NATO Response Force as well as some chartered aircraft to bring this over. We have six or seven flights going everyday to Pakistan . And indeed, the bulk of this airlift operation should be over by the end of October.
We have received here in NATO headquarters both the Secretary General and all of the allies and partners in a larger meeting. The head of the relief coordination of the Pakistani government who came in, once again, to thank of course NATO for its assistance, asked NATO nations, NATO as an alliance and partners to do more. And he certainly focussed as much attention as possible on the immediate relief supplies to try shield people who are out in the open, who've lost their homes as winter approaches. So tents, blankets and stoves were indeed the priority that the Pakistani government has set out. That is what the international community is doing. And UN and NATO, of course, are working in very close cooperation on this airlift of relief supplies. That's the first element of what NATO is doing.
The second is a deployment of troops and capabilities to Pakistan , to assist in the country where we can. These come principally again from the NATO Response Force. We have deployed an engineering battalion, comprising principally Spanish, Italian and Polish troops. And these would be deploying in the coming days and weeks from the time that I've reported this as well as what we call a "role II", role to place medical facility which can supplement the medical facilities in Pakistan, both the national and UN medical facilities. This is a mobile, multinational medical facility.
We will also be deploying water purification units and a small deployable headquarters element from the NATO Response Force that can help to coordinate not only what NATO is doing, that can provide logistical and planning support both to the Pakistani government and to the UN. Both Pakistan and the UN are facing enormous logistical challenges. And managing what is a huge international airlift operation, a huge international relief operation in some of the most difficult terrain. NATO, of course, has long expertise in logistics and planning. And the Alliance will of course lend its support to the Pakistani's authorities and to the UN as well.
The Deputy Secretary General has attended in Geneva the donor pledging conference that was chaired by, of course, the Pakistani authorities and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to set out for donors what the Alliance is doing and what more it will do. So this is an ongoing operation at the type that I'm speaking to you. It will continue for a certain period. But this will be a short period. NATO has the intention to provide humanitarian assistance. That has been asked of us in support of the Pakistani authorities requirements. This will be a mission of a relatively short duration. We only be there as long as necessary to provide immediate humanitarian relief and lay the ground for what will be a longer term reconstruction project by other parties that are, of course, more designed to kind of work.
That is the newest element on the NATO agenda. It is certainly taking up a lot of our time and effort here as it should, in a such a dire humanitarian emergency. But let me now touch on two or three other areas. One is Ukraine . The last month, here at NATO, has been in a sense Ukraine month in that a lot of high level of political attention has been paid to Ukraine . First the prime minister of Ukraine came to NATO, met with the Secretary General, met with the North Atlantic Council. Then the entire North Atlantic Council, led by the Secretary General went to Ukraine for two and a half days of both high level talks including with President Yushchenko and with Defence Minister Grytsenko and the Foreign Minister Boris Tarasyuk as well. But also very much to try to explain NATO to the Ukrainian people.
Clearly, the government of Ukraine has made no secret of its desire for Ukraine to join NATO. That is absolutely clear that there is a significant percentage of the population in Ukraine that does not support this. I'm sure there are many reasons. But one reason is there are many people in Ukraine who do not know the new NATO. Just as there are frankly many people in my own country, Canada , who do not know the new NATO. So the Secretary General in the Council, the Ambassadors, fanned out into two or three parts of the country, Kharkiv, Odessa and Donetsk to explain NATO, not to sell it but to explain it to those who might be interested in finding out more about the Alliance . They did that. There was enormous amount of attention paid to this visit in the media, simply to get the NATO message out, what NATO is today, what it is not. And I think it was a successful trip.
This was followed almost immediately by high level defence consultations in Vilnius on NATO-Ukraine cooperation in the context of our intensified dialogue, on membership and reform issues. Defence Minister Grytsenko laid out a very coherent and detailed plan for Ukrainian reform, particularly in the area of security sector reform. And the Allies, of course, listened with great interest. They continue to pledge or they pledged their continued support for Ukraine 's own reform effort... reform efforts that Ukraine has identified for itself and of course they stressed the fundamental point that remains within the Alliance . And that is that NATO's door remains open.
There is discussion many of you will know of a summit schedule, here, at NATO. At the time that I'm speaking to you, it has not yet been agreed. But the dates that are being proposed are late 2006 and mid-2008. And of course, the discussion about these potential summits has sparked discussion amongst aspiring countries. Ukraine is not formally a membership action plan but, of course, as I said, has made no secret of its aspirations to join the Alliance .
The Secretary General and the ambassadors made very clear... have made very clear Ukraine, as they had with all aspiring countries, that the proposed or purported summit schedule should in no way be seen as either including or excluding anything as prejudging anything. The road to NATO membership is moved on... by the pace of reform. It's a performance based process and it is not determined by dates, but as I say by the performance. And that is the message that the Secretary General and the Council passed to the Ukrainian authorities, to the Ukrainian people as they have done for all aspiring countries.
Let me turn now to Iraq . A little over a month ago, the Secretary General travelled to Iraq and opened with the Iraqi authorities, indeed with the Iraqi Prime Minister, an Iraqi training academy supported by NATO where the Alliance will concentrate its training efforts for senior Iraqi officers. You know, the Alliance is training some 1,000 officers per year, inside Iraq , and some 500 officers per year outside of Iraq as an overall effort to help Iraq and Iraqi authorities to provide for the security of their own country. That is a goal that the Iraqi authorities, of course, and the Iraqi people want. It's one that we support. And it is the best way, of course, to achieve stability and security in Iraq . Something which, of course, not only Iraq , but countries in the region, and the whole international community want to see as quickly as possible.
There now has been a successful referendum on the constitution. There will be elections coming up in December. The Alliance , of course, will continue to play its role, training and equipping Iraqi security forces.
Let me turn now to Afghanistan . The entire North Atlantic Council, that is the Secretary General, the NATO ambassadors, but also the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe , General Jim Jones, and the Chairman of the Military Committee, General Ray Henault, travelled to Afghanistan in the past few weeks to do two things. One is to assess the security environment and the political environment as it is today and second to look forward to what will be an expansion of NATO's operation in Afghanistan to include not only Kabul , the North and the West but also the South and eventually to the East as well. They met with President Karzai and the senior members of his cabinet. And they also travelled out to the regions both into the North and to the West. And the entire Council stopped in Kandahar on the way home. Because this will be where the forward support base will be, when NATO expands to the South. It will be the hub around which the spokes of the provincial reconstruction teams will be structured.
So this was a very important trip for the Council. And in essence, the sense they've got was that Afghanistan is making enormous progress. There have now been, of course, successful parliamentary elections to which ISAF, the NATO led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan made a significant contribution in terms of helping to maintain a secure and stable environment for the elections. So there has been enormous progress. There needs to be more progress. And indeed, the international community now needs to look forward to try to help Afghanistan deal with some of the major challenges that it has ahead of it, that means building a functioning national police force, a functioning and effective armed forces. It means putting an economy in place, of course led by the Afghan authorities, that is sustainable, that brings increasing prosperity to the people.
And as part of that effort, it means replacing narcotics as an essential element as it is today of the Afghan economy. Clearly, it is in no one's interest -least of all of the Afghan people - for Afghanistan to become a narco-State, to become critically dependent on narcotics with all the implications that has for organized crime within the country and corruption and the implications that will have for the rest of the international community as Afghanistan produces over 80% of the heroin produced in the world which ends up, of course, everywhere including in the streets and the schools of all the cities from which you are watching this video. So this has to be a multi-facetted international effort to help Afghanistan deal with the long-term issues that it has to deal with to be a sustainable, peaceful and progressing country.
The Afghan government will lead this effort. It will also lead what will be an international conference to set out this long-term comprehensive international strategy which NATO will be an essential part. There is discussion though not yet confirmed of a conference in late January, perhaps in London , led by the Afghans, precisely to set out this kind of long-term strategy. NATO will, of course, continue to play its part. The expansion to the South is well in train. There is discussion within the Alliance of the operational plan required for that.
And of course, the future relationship between NATO and Operation Enduring Freedom, the US led coalition which will be in essence "cheek-to-jaw" with NATO, working very, very closely together, but of course as separate missions with greater synergy to bring... help to bring peace and security in what is still an unstable and sometimes dangerous security environment, in what is still a long term international goal, to help Afghanistan find its feat in what is still something which the Alliance considers to be a great success of international community for the Afghan people first and foremost and of course for NATO too.
That is all that I wish to address....