Updated: 02-Nov-2006 NATO Speeches


26 Oct. 2006

Press Conference

with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
at the Itar-Tass news agency

NATO-Russia relations
Audio of the press conference (.MP3/11.006Kb)

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we are very glad to welcome here in Itar Tass Jaap de Hoop Scheffer who, beside his very tough schedule, has found time to meet with us. He just came from the Kremlin where he met with President Putin and we would like to arrange our meeting in (inaudible) way. First Mr. de Hoop Scheffer will tell us a few words very briefly about his meeting and then you can ask your questions.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): Let me start by apologizing to you that I'm late. The reason is that I had long and interesting conversation with President Putin and an equally interesting meeting with a number of your colleagues, editors-in-chief of leading Russian newspapers and magazines.
Let me very briefly tell you that my conversations with President Putin, with the Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov and with his namesake Igor Ivanov, of course centred around the state of the NATO-Russia partnership; centred around the upcoming NATO Summit at the end of November in Latvia, Riga, where NATO's political transformation and military transformation will be discussed; centred around the different ways and forms of co-operation Russia and NATO have, be it in the military sphere where we have a lot of projects and things together; and of course we also discussed the important political themes which are relevant for the Russian Federation and for NATO.
So let me give you the opportunity to guide our discussion, to shoot your questions and comments at me, and then I'm quite sure that all the subjects that we have discussed will find their place. So you're in the lead as far as I'm concerned. The floor is open for your questions.

Q: Thank you. (Inaudible). Secretary General did President Putin raise concerns with you over Georgia's Intensified Dialogue with NATO and how did you address it?

de Hoop Scheffer: Of course this was raised by President Putin in the sense that he commented on the present situation between Georgia and Russia, not as much on the fact that NATO has decided to have an Intensified Dialogue with Georgia. That is a NATO decision and Intensified Dialogue says what it is; it is an Intensified Dialogue. But definitely Georgia was discussed.
I repeated, let me speak for NATO and for myself, I repeated the statement I made earlier that in this situation there is no relationship between the present problems between Russia and Georgia and the granting of NATO's Intensified Dialogue. I think there is no link and nobody should construct a link between the two.
I add that it is important for all parties, for the true parties in fact, to show restraint, moderation and de-escalation. And I hope that in this framework it will also possible that some measures which have been taken in this conflict by the Russian Federation could be lifted. And I think it's important for Moscow and Tbilisi at the same to see that these problems, this conflict, is solved in a way without escalation, but on the basis of moderation.
Finally let me say that of course we discussed the region in the widest sense. It is my strong belief and it is clear that also the NATO Allies are of the opinion that for the problems in Abkhazia and South Ossetia a peaceful solution will have to be found.

Q: Question from Itar Tass Agency. You were discussing the co-operation in the field of fighting against international terrorism. What are specific avenues for your co-operation in that field? How are you planning to operate in this area?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well we do that in many ways. Terrorism is a faceless global phenomenon and in other words the consequences of terrorism are felt in the Russian Federation as much as in the United States or in European countries like Spain and the United Kingdom and elsewhere. So NATO and Russia have a co-operative project in the fight against terrorism and this is certainly also an area where we should and we can further invest in the relationship between Russia and NATO.
Russia is I heard this afternoon, for instance, supporting indirectly, NATO's ISAF Operation in Afghanistan by playing an active role about the debts of Afghanistan in the framework of the Paris Negotiations. And of course NATO's operation in Afghanistan is also - not only - but is also an operation where we want to prevent Afghanistan becoming a failed state again and becoming an exporter of terrorism again.
More in general NATO and Russia have over the past years, and this is one of the focal points, worked together very closely in the fight against terrorism. Let me also say, because those subjects are linked, that mentioning Afghanistan we have an important project in the NATO-Russia co-operation in the sphere of counter-narcotics.
The third element I would like to mention and that is a very important development; a Russian warship, the Pytliviy, participated in the Mediterranean Sea in NATO's Operation Active Endeavour which was set-up after the attacks on 9/11 and which is basically an anti-terrorist operation.
As we speak, finally there is the exercise Lazio 2006 in Italy which also deals with what we call in our jargon consequence management. In other words, managing the consequences of a terrorist attack.
So you see from these examples that it is a very broad range wherever NATO and Russia work together in the fight against terrorism.

Q: (Inaudible)... Question again about Georgia. How do you describe that Russian measures, including transportation blockage and (inaudible) deportation of Georgians. It is sanctioned...how do you describe it and what is the explanation of Mr. Putin and what is the condition of the Russian side to lift the sanctions?

de Hoop Scheffer: Let me start by saying that you should ask President Putin what he said. I'm not going to interpret President Putin's words and I'm not going to say much more than what I've said because in the beginning you'll remember I said that there is no direct NATO role in this conflict between Russia and Georgia. Georgia has an Intensified Dialogue with NATO, but that should be de-linked from what is happening at the moment.
The only plea I am making is for moderation and I added, I think I'm quoting myself hopefully almost literally, that this is the moment for moderation and de-escalation on all sides, from both sides I should say. And that also means that I hope that the sanctions, the measures which have been implemented, or how should I say this,executed, put in place - that's the correct English... you can hear I'm a Dutchman and not a native English speaker - that I would hope that the time has now come to lift those measures.

Q: So you defy(?) the sanctions?

de Hoop Scheffer: I think I've been clear enough.

Q: The Russian leadership for quite a few years, but including right now, has often described the expansion of NATO eastward as unnecessary and if not unnecessary, provocative. How do you respond to that when you meet with them?

de Hoop Scheffer: I don't think those are the right qualifications. NATO's enlargement up until now has brought security and stability. So I do not see and cannot see anything negative about NATO's enlargement. You know NATO's enlargement is a performance-based process and I say again NATO is now 26. NATO's door is open as you know; NATO follows an open door policy. The Riga Summit by the way will not be a summit about enlargement. There will be no invitations in the Riga Summit. I think we'll see a signal of encouragement to those nations in the Western Balkans who aspire NATO membership. But that will be it I think for the moment. So there will be not in Summit where new invitations will be made. That might happen at a later stage. I do not know exactly when it will happen. It depends on performance. But I think that in general I should say that NATO enlargement has contributed to more stability and more security.

Q: Question from Iko(?) of The Planet. I would like actually to continue in the same vein the same question as my colleague has asked and that concerns the concerns of the Russian Federation with regard to NATO enlargement. The point is that for the last 200 years the major members of NATO were the countries that fought with Russia and sometimes even invaded its territory. So can you tell me whether NATO is ready to provide other guarantees, besides verbal guarantees, that the Russian Federation will be protected, taking into account that the former defence ring consisting of the countries of former Warsaw Pact and former U.S.S.R. Republic is now vanished. So how can you guarantee that?

de Hoop Scheffer: Let me start by saying that I do not share the assumption which is underlying your question. I do not share that. That's my first remark. My second remark is that do not forget that the NATO enlargement we have seen in its different stages, lastly in 2004, has made those nations you mentioned, explicitly or implicitly, also partners of the Russian Federation. This NATO-Russia partnership, do not forget, is not and that's more than just a bureaucratic difference. It's not a 26 plus one partnership; it's a 27 partnership. Which means that Russia, Russian Federation participates, as it is absolutely right, on an equal footing. Those nations in other words, after NATO enlargement who came into the Alliance, are now as much partners of the Russian Federation as are the other NATO Allies. And I keep saying I do think that we have seen a region of security and stability increase when NATO enlargement took place, and not decrease, but increase.

Q: Question from Business TV that concerns the Ukraine, that concerns Ukraine. And recently Ukraine and Russian Federation had some difficulties that was connected with gas issue and they were settled quite recently and the price of the settlement was $130 dollars as they say. And some experts say that this was some sort of settlement and agreement between Ukraine and Russia; that Ukraine would back up the accession of Russia to WTO or there would be some arrangement concerning the Black Fleet or Ukraine will refrain for some time from accession to NATO. What can you comment on that?

de Hoop Scheffer: I can be very brief. NATO is in the business of politics and security, not in gas and not in energy.
Thank you. Bye-bye.

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