From the event


3 Oct. 2007

Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Ms. Helen Clark

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Good afternoon. Let me start by telling you what a pleasure it is to have a third meeting with Prime Minister Clark of New Zealand. Two in this building at NATO here, and I had the privilege, as you know, some time ago, already to travel to Wellington and meet Prime Minister Clark.

Geographically wide apart, but defending the same basic values, that's how I like to describe the relationship, and the focal point, of course, here is Afghanistan, where New Zealand in the Bamiyan Provincial Reconstruction Team is making an essential and highly appreciated contribution to the United Nations' mandated NATO-ISAF force in Afghanistan.

So that creates an important bond, I think, in the political sense. We try, from the NATO side, to include important nations, contributors, like New Zealand, as much as can practically, but also politically, in our endeavours. And I can add that Prime Minister Clark and I a few moments ago signed a security agreement which will make it easier to exchange information between New Zealand and NATO. Also that includes classified information.

A final word from my side, before listening to Prime Minister Clark, you know that the NATO Riga Summit in November last year made a specific point in building up the relationship with our global partners—we call them contact countries; I don't like the qualification that much—but nations like New Zealand, Australia, Japan and others, because they play such an important role in NATO's operation and missions, and we're now trying to bring reciprocal added value, if I may put it this way, New Zealand can bring added value to NATO. NATO hopes to bring added value to New Zealand, also, in the practical sense. And we're trying to build on a tailored cooperation package to see where we can intensify our cooperation.

So Prime Minister, it is a pleasure to greet you once again at NATO and thank you once again for what New Zealand does in the framework of the NATO-ISAF operation.

HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister of New Zealand): Well, thank you, Secretary General. It is the third time that we've met and what has been the subject to bring us together has been around the cooperation in Afghanistan, and New Zealand's been active there since late 2001, but the Provincial Reconstruction Team, which we began in 2003, has eventually come under the auspices of the NATO organized ISAF operation. And we've been very happy to work with NATO in that capacity.

Now that opened up the need for us to have a more regular basis for information sharing and we entered the less formal agreement on that while we work towards this treaty level agreement, which we've jointly signed today.  

Obviously the nations of NATO and New Zealand have common values, often approach the world on a very common basis, so it's a natural fit for us to be working alongside you in Afghanistan and we're very satisfied that the contribution that our people are making through the Provincial Reconstruction Team, through the training of the Afghan National Army, in the Headquarters in Afghanistan, and separately alongside the European Union Police Mission, is making a difference to Afghanistan, along with the small aid program that we had. So it's been a pleasure to come back today and formally sign this agreement which we talked about first two or three years ago and see it come to fruition.

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Questions.

Q: Paul Ames from the Associated Press. Prime Minister, you signed an agreement today with the European Union regarding police training in Afghanistan, and now you're talking about Afghanistan with NATO, do either of these events mean that New Zealand will be sending more personnel to Afghanistan, either military or police?

CLARK: We've got a fairly settled contribution there. We have three people in the police training program, and that goes back some time to when it was under the auspices of a German-led program, but we've now transferred that to the European Union program.

With respect to Afghanistan, we're satisfied that the Provincial Reconstruction Team we have is about the right size to do the job required of it, and we feel we have made a contribution to getting stability in that particular province. We've had the two Afghan National Army trainers for quite some years now and of course, the Headquarters contribution.

We have, in the past, had deployments of special forces, about three of them, but the settings we have at the moment are the ones that are appropriate for us.

Q: Pascal Mallet, AFP

et, News Agency. Mrs. Prime Minister, what kind of information is New Zealand going to exchange with NATO, because I know it's probably about some state secrets or whatever, or military secrets, but what kind exactly of information, knowing that New Zealand belongs already to this huge antenna(?) network with England, Canada, the U.S. and Australia throughout the world, exchanging already a lot of information. So what's new and what is the added value?

CLARK: It's correct that New Zealand has a long association with what is called the "Five I's Intelligence Community", which involves the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. But this initiative with NATO is a different and new initiative and it is about our ability on an ongoing basis to exchange classified information.

Now, we've had to do that on an ad hoc basis prior to the signing of these agreements because New Zealand can't be expected to make a contribution in the overall international effort in Afghanistan if it doesn't have the information it requires to do that properly and keep its troops and contributors as safe as possible. So it is important for us to have a good agreement around the exchange of classified information.

Q: Sorry, can I just follow on from there? Are you saying that this information will now be exchanged on a regular basis, rather than as and when New Zealand forces in, for example, Afghanistan might need to know about some security threat that's operating in their area? Will it be a regular exchange of information and does this mean that we're sort of moving more towards some kind of cooperation with...?

CLARK: In effect it's an agreement which enables us to have the information we need in order to make the contribution we make in Afghanistan. So it really clears any barriers away as to what New Zealand should have. We should have what is relevant to our being able to operate there. It's confined in that sense.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: And let me underline what the Prime Minister was saying a moment ago, that this is, of course,  this has a great importance for the well-being of the soldier on the ground who are doing the tough work there, and I think that is a very important element, for the rest of this, as the Prime Minister says.

APPATHURAI: That's all we have time for, I'm afraid.