From the event


26 Feb. 2008

Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the Prime Minister of Iceland Geir H. Haarde

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): A great pleasure to receive Prime Minister Haarde here at NATO Headquarters. It will not come as a surprise to you that when I tell you that the subject we discussed—as a sort of sequel to the conversation Prime Minister Haarde and I had on Iceland in Reykjavik when the NATO Parliamentary Assembly met there not that long ago—was first of all about Iceland, the situation around the position of Iceland vis-à-vis the air policing issue after the end of the presence of the American fighters on Iceland and related problems.

I know that Prime Minister Haarde, I know from his speech at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly is, like me, interested in specific problems related to the High North, to that part of the NATO area. We discussed that as well.

And the final part of our discussion was devoted to the NATO Summit in Bucharest.

I commended the Prime Minister, commended Iceland, on the very important contribution Iceland is making for the ISAF operation Afghanistan. I was able to see that myself once again last week when the NATO investors and I travelled to Afghanistan. If you go per capita I think there are about Icelandic citizens in the ISAF operation, and I must admit that in that regard Iceland is doing very well.

Being experts in aviation I remember the participation of Iceland at the airport in Pristina in Kosovo and now the important role in the office of the senior civilian representative and elsewhere in Afghanistan.

We went, as I said, through the Bucharest agenda, but for briefness sake I look at Prime Minister Haarde and give him the opportunity to say a few words.

GEIR H. HAARDE (Prime Minister of Iceland): Well, thanks very much Mr. Secretary General. As always it's been a great pleasure being here and meeting with you. We did cover a number of important points in our discussion. We mentioned air policing in Iceland, which is for us a very important continuation of the discussions and talks that we've had in the past. As many of you know we will have an air policing program covering Iceland and its air space starting this coming May, when there will be a French unit of four fighter planes coming to Iceland for six weeks.

So we went through that and the prospect for the continuation of this for the coming few years.

As far as the High North issues are concerned, this is obviously something that we are very interesting in, how to provide security in the High North and we have some ideas as to how we can work together on developing some new thoughts here.

Now as far as Bucharest is concerned, the Secretary General went through a long list of items. This meeting will have a full agenda of important international issues to discuss, including the operations of NATO, both in Afghanistan and in Kosovo and a number of other things that we also went through.

Again, thanks very much for briefing me on all those issues.

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Questions?

Q: Yes, (inaudible)... more specifically on the air policing. Can you be more specific? Do you see any... both of you, any obstacles in air policing in Iceland?

HAARDE: No, I don't see any obstacles. Rather on the contrary we are very pleased with the fact that several NATO countries have expressed their interest and willingness in contributing to this program, starting with the French this year. The Americans will take part. The Spanish will take part. The Poles. Hopefully also a number of other countries who have expressed interest. I don't have the list with me here. But I think this is very welcome news.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: It is indeed. And I discussed with the Prime Minister, I consider it my role and responsibility that if there's a need—I think there is no need as we speak—if there's a need to convince other allies to go to Iceland. There's a plus for them as well to have a deployment on Iceland for a number of weeks; that I'll be instrumental because this whole air policing issue,  I've been involved in it with the Prime Minister over the past years. I think it's important. I'm glad to hear Prime Minister Haarde say that the solution we have found it for Iceland a very acceptable solution. We both, the Prime Minister and I as NATO Secretary General, should be involved in ensuring and guarding the continuity and that's exactly what we'll do.

HAARDE: I should like to maybe add that I mentioned this issue at the Riga Summit about a year and a half ago and as a continuation of that, the Secretary General has always stressed that security is indivisible within the Alliance, and this has come out of those discussions and been cleared through the structures of this organization here.

APPATHURAI: Last question is there.

Q: In the Nordic member states NATO has been criticized for looking... focusing too much on the south and maybe not being not as involved in the North Atlantic itself as it should be. What can be done to make NATO more involved in the High North?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, first of all, I think that criticism is not justified, because I think there is interest. You might know that not that long ago Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Støre came to the North Atlantic Council to brief us on specific issues in the High North. Prime Minister Haarde is also very active in this regard. We mentioned both the NATO Parliamentary Assembly meeting in Reykjavik where there was attention for the High North. And we discussed it and the Prime Minister and I agree that we are going to find a way in bringing the issue also to the attention of a more general public.

So I think the criticism to the NATO allies is not justified, but at the same time I think we could find ways in... how shall I phrase it? In also making public opinion more aware that there is a High North and there are specific problems related to the High North.

APPATHURAI: That's all we have time for. Thank you.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Thank you very much.