Updated: 29-Nov-2006 NATO Speeches

Riga, Latvia

29 Nov. 2006

Closing press conference

by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

28-29 Nov. 2006 - NATO
NATO Riga Summit
23 Oct. 2006 - NATO Photo icon
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29 Nov. 2006 - NATO
Closing press conference
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  •   Remarks to the press
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  •   Questions and answers
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  • Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Let me make a few remarks before taking questions on one and a half day of NATO summit, starting of course by thanking once again President Freiberga, the government, and the people of Latvia for organizing such a wonderful summit.  It was said many times around the table yesterday night at the dinner and this morning, and I want to repeat this here publicly:  "Latvia, thank you very, very much indeed." 

    Ladies and Gentlemen, this has been called and has been labelled in the  run-up, as a transformation summit.  And I think if I use the word "transformation" nothing could demonstrate more clearly how much Europe has changed for the better, transformed, than the fact that this summit is taking place here in Latvia that is democratic and a Latvia that is free. 

    We came to Riga expecting to make real progress and to move the yardsticks substantially.  And I think we've done that, I think we've done that.  Let me brief you on last night's dinner and then on this morning's session. 

    Last night's dinner was completely focussed on Afghanistan as expected.  I mentioned to you the key points coming out of that dinner: a strong message of determination and solidarity; the restating that Afghanistan is a long-term commitment, entered into by the NATO Allies; the sense of real progress being made. 

    I said there's not a slightest reason to voice doom and gloom over Afghanistan if you look at what has happened since 2001, the millions of refugees coming back to the schools, to health care, the President, the Parliament, the roads being built, the schools being built. 

    In other words, the conclusion of the dinner yesterday was  it is winnable, it is being won, but not yet won, because we have, of course, many challenges in Afghanistan. 

    The third element:  Heads of States and Government clearly indicated yesterday at dinner the need for a comprehensive approach:  political, militarily, economically.  NATO, but not only NATO, very much also the United Nations, the European Union, the G8, the World Bank. It was clearly understood that the answer in Afghanistan is not a military one.  NATO is creating conditions for reconstruction and nation-building to take place.

    There was a clear commitment by all twenty-six NATO Allies that in an emergency -- and this is the discussion about the caveats as we have discussed a few times before -- that in an emergency, they will support each other.  That is the most fundamental demonstration of NATO solidarity.  We have made real progress on caveats after a fresh look and a new discussion we had here in Riga, a number of missions have diminished the caveats.  And the result is, as we speak, about 20,000 of the total of 32,000 NATO-ISAF forces are now more useable than they were for combat and non-combat missions.  We've made progress on the forces integration - on filling the requirements in Afghanistan.  Nations have pledged additional fighters, helicopters, several infantry companies and embedded training teams for the Afghan National Army. 

    If you look at the combined joint statement of requirements, excusez le mot, "the  requirements", that combined joint statement of requirements has now an overall fill of about 90%... nine-zero percent.  That is not 100%.  So we still have to work on the 10%. 

    But I can tell you that early next year, the maneuver force as it is called the commander of ISAF has available will increase from three to four battalions, that is the Polish battalion we have discussed before.  And I thank once again Poland very much for providing it and three United States' battalions that will be his maneuver force. 

    Another element at the dinner yesterday was there was support for the idea launched by President Chirac yesterday morning in a newspaper article and by myself in a speech for the German Marshall Fund.  And we were not in touch President Chirac and myself before.  But it is the idea for a contact group on Afghanistan.  And the result of the dinner was that I, as Secretary General of NATO, has been tasked as we call it... government have asked me to think about and to forward proposals on the possibility of a contact group for Afghanistan.  And that is, of course, a contact group which is not only relevant for NATO but stretches wider because there are, as I said, many more international organizations active in Afghanistan. 

    A number of nations yesterday, at the dinner, promised to devote more resources to civilian efforts.  If I talk with you about military-civilian integration about the answer being reconstruction and development, it is important that nations devote more resources, financial resources, to civilian efforts.  So the bottom line, I think, about our discussion is that five years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan is making real progress to build a society that is democratic under Afghan ownership. The Afghan people and the Afghan government have their responsibility.  And that is no longer a threat for the world.  That was yesterday's dinner.  As I said, Afghanistan. 

    Today, we made substantial progress in a number of political areas.  You have seen the Riga Declaration, so you have seen that we have sent a clear signal to the countries who have Membership Action Plan, the countries in the Western Balkans and who are aspiring NATO membership.  That's on our next summit in 2008.  Those nations that meet NATO standards will receive invitations. 

    Staying in the same Western Balkans region, I think we have decided to take a very important political step, the important of which, in my mind is very great indeed, and that is that we have offered partnership for peace to Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro.  Why do we consider this so important?  Because this will help to bring the full region more fully into the Euro-Atlantic family.  We have the nations with Membership Action Plan.  We now have the others in NATO's Partnership for Peace.  And that's another step I think.  Another important political step the Alliance has taken to give a message of openness at this transformation summit here in Riga. 

    Of course, when we talk about Serbia and when we talk about Bosnia-Herzegovina it's important to note that we do expect both countries to cooperate fully with the International Tribunal, the ICTY in The Hague.  And we'll keep up the pressure.  You'll find that also in the Riga Declaration.

    You see now an agreement to deepen our partnerships with countries in Europe and beyond and also with out global partners beyond the Euro-Atlantic area.  And you've seen of the launch of training cooperation offer to our Middle Eastern countries in the framework of the Mediterranean Dialogue of NATO and the so-called Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. 

    If I go to the military transformation site, I think we've made substantial improvements to NATO's ability to project forces in a modern... and what we call expeditionary way.  We have full operational capability for the NATO Response Force.  That wasn't easy, as you know, many times I had to tell you we're almost there but not entirely there yet.  We are there.  We have full operational capability for the NATO Response Force.  A major accomplishment because it gives the Euro-Atlantic community unprecedented capability.  And I'm happy to be able to tell you that we met our target.  We also have agreement in the same vein, staying for a moment, with the NATO Response Force on a new system of funding for what we call "short notice deployments” of the NATO Response Force and then more specifically the most expensive part which is the airlift for elements of the NRF. 

    I think that will be an incentive for nations to commit to future rotations of the NATO Response Force.  We have the C-17 initiative.  You saw one sitting on the tarmac of Riga Airport where a number of allies and one partner nation have joined hands.  We had, already of course, the SALIS initiative, the interim solution for strategic airlift.  And you should see these initiatives also of course in relationship to the coming into service at the later stage of the A400-M. 

    We signed the contract for theatre missile defence.  We agreed for better coordination between NATO's special forces.  We're moving to the contract phase of Alliance Ground Surveillance.  And you'll see in the Riga Declaration as well what I call a rather strong text from language on defence spending and the need for defence and the need to hold the slide of defence budgets.  I consider this important.  I've been calling for adequate defence spending for a long time now. 

    I also heard this morning, today, a strong call for a more intense and stronger cooperation between NATO and the European Union and I also need to mention Afghanistan and Kosovo to give two examples of areas where this is very necessary indeed. 

    So as the Heads of States and Government leave Riga today, I think they leave an Alliance and Secretary General who can conclude that we're stepping up our efforts in Afghanistan, that we are deepening our political engagement across Europe and beyond and that we are modernizing our military capability to project stability.

    And if you would ask me "Has this summit lived up to my expectations?", my answer is an unqualified yes.

    Questions and answers

    Q: Dan Dombey, Financial Times.

    Secretary General could I ask whether you anticipate any discussions or negotiations, either in Brussels or in Mons, about what exactly... how exactly the relaxed or lifted caveats will apply to the people in theatre in Afghanistan - whether you're going to have to negotiate what an emergency means or in extremis means in this instance?

    And could I also ask you with regard to the PFP for Serbia how important is it for considerations of the final stages of Kosovo in that? How important is it at this very crucial time for Serbia, with the January elections and with the Ahtisaari Report, to send out a signal to Serbia that the Euro-Atlantic community is still very interested in developing strong ties with Belgrade?

    Thank you.

    De Hoop Scheffer: Let me start with your last question first. It is of course certainly the case that the Allies have wanted to give a political signal to Serbia and to Bosnia-Herzegovina, but you asked me specifically about Serbia. You might know that I have long been of the opinion that this was the right way to go, but it led to discussion between... it was not so easy because we have of course, as far as Serbia is concerned, let me repeat it once again, the ICTY, the Tribunal in The Hague and the co-operation with the ICTY.

    NATO as you know supports President Ahtisaari on his proposals to be presented on Kosovo. I do consider it important and that's what I've always stressed in my conversations with my Serb interlocutors that indeed Serbia gets a signal that it is an important player in the region and that NATO... the NATO Allies consider it important to strengthen the political ties with Serbia, which is of course in fact what we have done, and with the others, by granting Partnership for Peace.

    On your first question: no, there is no negotiation on what an emergency is. An emergency is defined and will be defined by one man and only one and that is the Commander of ISAF.  You can't of course come to a definition of an emergency when you're standing behind the rostrum from here or when you're sitting in an armchair around a table. It is of course the case that we agree on the emergency, "in extremis" as the military call it. There are situations I can think of where, for specific forces, but I gave you the figures - 26,000 of 32,000 are now manoeuvrable - that a certain capital will want to take a final decision. But that can be a matter of a very short time indeed. But on emergencies there will be no negotiation.

    Q: Secretary General only four days ago in Brussels you said that Serbia hasn't done anything concerning ICTY. Mladic is at large. Politicians in Serbia don't even publicly say that Mladic should be arrested and now in conclusion we see that Serbia has made significant progress. Can you explain that progress?

    And of course where Kosovo stands  having in mind Resolution 1244 - should Kosovars be happy that they too are invited in PFP?

    De Hoop Scheffer: In a critical and difficult negotiation process, you will appreciate that I do not show all my cards to you or your colleagues because that might create confusion, to put it very mildly. We have seen intensified relationship with Serbia speaking about the NATO-Serbia relationship that goes from a military liaison office to tailored co-operation programs. At a certain stage the moment comes to take a political decision and I'm doing nothing away from what I told you and your colleagues in Brussels about the necessity of co-operation with the Tribunal in The Hague.

    I'm not taking a step back and the Allies have not taken a step back. But they have wanted to give the signal I gave you and I gave you in my answer to Dan Dombey's question, and that is I think of importance, and that is a signal to the two of them, where there is this problem with the ICTY and Montenegro as you say with a completely clean slate which is quite justifiably so now also in the Partnership for Peace.

    Read the text of the Riga Declaration. There is the monitoring clause, but you will forgive me that in the run-up to such a decision and in my job of trying to get all the Allies together with all the noses pointing in the same direction, I'm not going to show you all my cards.

    Q: (Inaudible) Ma'ariv in Tel Aviv. Has the latest cease-fire around the Gaza Strip come up at all in your discussions and has anybody raised any suggestions of how the Alliance might contribute to stability there?

    De Hoop Scheffer: It has not come up because the Middle East as such, important as it is, was not on the agenda. You know that NATO, NATO Allies, that NATO doesn't play any direct role in the Middle East. And important as these developments are and I think you and I will not disagree here, it was not discussed around the NATO table.

    Q: Mr. General Secretary there has been very little said about Central Asia, however it's very important in terms of your mission in Afghanistan and as you probably know that you have the worst relationship with Uzbekistan as has been reported. And how are you going to pursue the policy, on Uzbekistan especially, in the wake when people you've met there, for example several years ago, are under arrest today?

    De Hoop Scheffer: Well you are giving part of the answer to your own question I think. But first of all let me start with Central Asia more in general. You see in the Riga Declaration that one of the ambitions of the Heads of State and Government of NATO is clearly to strengthen existing partnerships and that very much is relevant for Central Asia. May I give you the information - you might know it - that President Aliyev of Azerbaijan came to address the council in Brussels not that long ago; that we expect a visit by President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan soon; that we are in close touch.

    But if you ask me about Uzbekistan I have to regret the fact that in the meetings of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the EAPC in Brussels, and that is also a central element of our partnership we want to strengthen, Uzbekistan unfortunately still has the policy of the empty chair. What can I do about it? I would like to see them there tomorrow because you might have disagreement and we have disagreement with Uzbekistan after the Andijan incidents, but it's difficult to talk to an empty chair.

    Q: Mike Evans from The Times.

    General Jim Jones yesterday mentioned that the capabilities in Afghanistan have reached 85 percent; you mentioned 90 percent. So have you managed to get an extra five percent over dinner last night?

    De Hoop Scheffer: Yes we have. These talks have been going on. The CJSOR is, as we speak, filled for 90 percent. If I had been a bit more defensive in my remarks, I could have told you as well that I have never seen and NATO has never seen a CJSOR filled for the complete 100 percent, as we have never seen an operation without caveats. But I did not want to be defensive and that's why I mentioned the 90 percent.

    Q: Hello. I want to ask about enlargement. Only in case of Croatia you mentioned that they have to work in increasing public support for the membership aspiration. Does this mean that the lack of public support might become an obstacle for Croatia to join NATO?

    And did you formally decide in fact the next Summit will be in 2008? Can you be a little bit more precise about timing and eventually the place?

    De Hoop Scheffer: I cannot be specific about the place at the moment, but as soon as there is a venue... I'm not going to say you'll be the first to hear, but it will be communicated to you.

    As far as your question about Croatia is concerned, the Allies note, and that will come as no surprise to you nor to the Croatian government or the Croatian people or to me, that in Croatia there's a certain lack of support for NATO membership. You have not seen the Allies in the Riga Declaration creating extra conditions in that regard. I think the text of the Declaration is very clear indeed on what the Allied Heads of State and Government have decided.

    You may rest assured that there will be a Summit in the spring of 2008, but I cannot tell you where it will be.

    Q: Secretary General, can we return to Central Asia. How will the role of airbase in Manas, Kyrgyzstan develop in the context of strengthening the role of... the operations of NATO in Afghanistan and are there perspectives of enlargement of airbase mission in Manas, Kyrgyzstan?

    De Hoop Scheffer: I know and you know that Manas plays an important role. You ask a bit too much of me if you ask me what exactly the future of Manas will be. It's an important base for our operations in Afghanistan, but as we speak I do not know of any concrete plans existing, but it might well be that that's the case. But you are asking me a bit too much detail now I'm afraid. But I might have a collaborator somewhere around who can fill you in more in detail about the future of Manas, but take my word that it's very important for the NATO-ISAF Operation.

    Q: When countries are invited to the PFP, how you plan to continue the pressure on the Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia regarding the war criminals? And why is Montenegro amnestied from that pressure? We know that Karadzic is born in Montenegro, he has a family there... and in the end we don't know, maybe he is hiding there.


    De Hoop Scheffer: Well you'll remember that when Carla Del Ponte, the prosecutor, lastly reported on that part of the world, the Western Balkans, she gave Montenegro a clean slate. So that I think is a fairly strong argument. I mean Allies decide about the politics, not the prosecutor, but that's a fairly strong argument. And I can only repeat what I answered in questions to your colleagues - read the text of the Declaration. Allies will go on monitoring; but they have, I think for good reasons, taken the very important political decision to have Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Partnership for Peace.

    At a certain stage, as the French say "Il faut trancher." You have to take a decision: either you do not do it or you do it. And the Allies, with my personal full support, have decided that they were going to do it and I think that is a very important political result of this Riga Summit which we should not underestimate.

    Thank you very much.


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