From the event


9 Apr. 2008

Weekly press briefing

by the NATO Spokesman James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Friends, now that the ever-late Paul Ames has... has arrived... hi, why don't we get going. Let me take a moment to touch on a couple of issues flowing from the Bucharest Summit. You might also have some questions on that subject, but let me begin with the decision that was taken in Bucharest to invite Albania and Croatia to begin accession talks to join the Alliance.

I can tell you that just a few minutes ago the Secretary General sent a letter to the Foreign Ministers of those two countries inviting them to send a team to conduct accession talks.

The process will follow the following path: formal accession talks will continue for some weeks. The accession protocols, as they are called, will be drafted as those discussions reach fruition. At some point in the summer, I don't want to give precise dates, but in the coming weeks and months, the Foreign Ministers of each of the invited countries will send a letter to NATO expressing their country's willingness and ability to respect the obligations and commitments under the Washington Treaty and the NATO Enlargement Study, stating their desire to receive an invitation to accede to the North Atlantic Treaty.

And of course, that will be received and approved by the Council. After that, the NATO Permanent Representatives would sign the accession protocols, which would begin the ratification process by Allies. And that has to take place before the prospective or the invited countries can ratify, because they must ratify the modified Washington Treaty, the Washington Treaty that takes into account the names of the invited countries.  

Now when the ratification process is complete—you understand it's impossible to give a date to this, because it depends on parliamentary procedures which vary in individual countries—when that is complete then the U.S. Department of State, and it is the U.S. because the U.S. is the depository state for the Washington Treaty, the U.S. State Department will tell the Secretary General that all the Allied instruments of ratification have been received.

At that point then the invited countries could accede to the Treaty and they would be invited to do so by the Secretary General. They would then have to complete their ratification processes of the adapted Washington Treaty. And then when that is complete they would simultaneously deposit their instruments of ratification, the new members, as they would be then, to the U.S. State Department. And that is...  would take place in Washington, or at least it took place in Washington last time because that is, as I say, the depository state. And  then there was a more formal ceremony. That was done in a relatively modest way and then there was a more formal ceremony welcoming them into the Alliance. I imagine it would be the same this time.

So that, just for your information, is the road map now for the invited countries.

There was one country, of course, that could not yet receive an invitation. That is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia1, and I know there has been a substantial amount of A, disappointment, and B, press commentary in that country on what happened in Bucharest.

I would like to take the opportunity to repeat what the Allies have agreed, and that is that an invitation will be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been reached. To... from NATO's point of view what happened in Bucharest was, in fact... or had a substantial element of moving forward for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia because this was a very clear statement that made it clear that in essence the single road block preventing that country from receiving an invitation to begin accession talks, is the name issue. And Allies encouraged the negotiations to be resumed without delay and expect them to be concluded as soon as possible.

I'll touch on ... you were all there, or most of you were there. Why do you have that smile on your face? (Laughs). A smile of support? Mmm. Of course.

Well, there are a number of other elements which I'll just mention in very, very short form which you may want to discuss or not. We will start work shortly on the development... we'll start shortly in intensified dialogue with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro. On Afghanistan you will have seen the public declaration, of course. Some of you, if you're German, may also have seen the confidential pol-mil document, from what I saw in Der Spiegel, but I don't think I need to go into too much detail.

On missile defence, as you know, we had a quite positive outcome. Heads of State and Government acknowledged that ballistic missile proliferation poses an increasing threat to Allied forces, territory and populations, that missile defence forms part of a broader response to this, that the planned deployment of European-based U.S. missile defence assets would provide a substantial contribution to the protection of Allies from long-range ballistic missiles, and of course, the Council has been tasked to develop options for a comprehensive missile defence architecture, which of course links the U.S. capability with current U.S. missile defence efforts.

Finally, I can tell you that relatively soon work will begin to draft the parameters of the declaration on Alliance security which should be adopted at next year's summit in Strasbourg and Kehl.

Okay, that's all for Bucharest and we'll come back to it. Let me just mention a couple of other... two other points, three other points and then I'll be done.

One is, you will have seen in the vision statement the importance of Afghanistan, the importance that Allies attach to a regional approach, in particular, with regards to Pakistan, addressing the challenges of Afghanistan.

Let me give you one example. Last week a border coordination centre was opened in Eastern Afghanistan in Nangarhar, which includes Afghan, Pakistani and NATO personnel. It provides for daily liaison, for a common operational picture and for an opportunity or capability to coordinate concurrent operations.

It is not the first. There will be a total of six of these centres opened up in the next... in the coming weeks and months. They will be on both sides of the border. So this is a manifest example of cooperation and coordination between the three parties.

Second issue I wanted to raise was the logic behind NATO TV because I didn't get an opportunity to speak to you beforehand. And I do know that there have been some concerns raised, at least in the German press.

NATO TV does not aim to be Reuters TV or APTN or any other independent news organization. But the thinking behind putting this system in place was relatively simple. It was, and you have heard the Secretary General's speeches on this subject, that we had no capability to generate video of what was going on in the field until very recently, no consistent capability, and to get it out to the public, and we wanted to do that.

Second, we wanted to show those parts of what's going on in Afghanistan that the media doesn't always cover, and that is, let's say the softer side. If it bleeds it leads, they say and if it doesn't bleed it doesn't lead. What we wanted to do was at least create a resource whereby if journalists, because I'll speak to the journalistic side of this, if journalists wished to cover a story, speak on TV or on the web to issues relating not just to operations, current operations, but also to other aspects of what's going on in Afghanistan, the reconstruction and development story, the governance story, we would be able to generate and have available that kind of video for them. And as well to package it in interesting stories for the public, which they could come to the website and see.

So we make no claim to cover each and every aspect of what's going on in Afghanistan. There are, of course, independent news organizations that do that. And I might add, that we have embedded journalists in NATO operations to a far greater extent than has ever been done before, precisely to allow journalists to have that opportunity as well.

But this was an attempt to broaden a little bit what was available to the public and what was available to the journalistic world.

One other point I wanted to mention then I'll stop, and that is that the new UN Special Representative of the Secretary General in Afghanistan, Ambassador Eide, will be at NATO Headquarters next week. He will meet with the Secretary General. This is obviously building on the very successful meeting that we had in Bucharest. It is a demonstration of the closer relationship... ever closer relationship between NATO and the UN in the operational sense, and very much in the sense of Afghanistan.

And we will hold a press conference with the Secretary General and him. We don't know the exact time. I'll let you know in a press release once it's been worked out. 

Q: Which day?

APPATHURAI: Wednesday, sorry. Council. Normal Council. He will brief the Council.

That is what I wanted to say.

Q: James, I have three separate questions, if I may.


Q: The name of this was border control centres?


Q: Yeah, okay, a question on that. Who's paying for that?


Q: Second question, Albania, or... does NATO want to argue that Albania's ministry of defence, its armed forces and its state of reform are up to NATO standards? Second question.

Third, missile defence, when does the Alliance begin the budgetary analysis, because TMD goes operational probably in 2011, which is conveniently... which will conveniently coincide with the 2012 U.S. link into the third site.

APPATHURAI: So what was the beginning of that question?

Q: When do you start the budgetary analysis from NATO's point of view of tying the U.S. third site into a NATO system? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: Good question. I... I'm afraid I'm not going to have good answers for at least two of those questions.

In terms of the centres, as to who is paying, I don't know. I imagine there is a cost-share between the three parties, but I really don't know how they're being paid for. I apologize. I also don't know when a comprehensive budgetary analysis of a possible link would be developed. They will now develop options, as you quite rightly know, for consideration by Allies. I would be surprised if budgetary considerations were not in some way factored into that analysis, but I would have to go and check as to exactly when a full budgetary analysis would be provided.

The Allies, in extending invitations to Albania and Croatia to begin accessions talks, have assessed that they are on the cusp of readiness for joining NATO. They should continue through the Membership Action Plan right up until the day of accession to continue reforms. So the Membership Action Plan remains in place. The requirement to continue reform remains in place. And we will continue to support that process. That applies to both of the countries that have been invited to accede. It also applies to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Let me add that the process of reform does not end once a country joins NATO. I think everyone of... every one of you who comes from a NATO country anyway, knows that all of our countries are engaged in ongoing reform processes. The countries that joined NATO most recently are also investing very heavily in continuing reforms.

Transformation for us is an ongoing process and I can tell you for my own country we are going through radical reforms and upgrades as well, so... when they walk through the door they will be ready for NATO membership and they will have to continue reforming, just like all of the other 26 Allies.

Q: Again, on Afghanistan, this border control centre, the name of which I did not really understand. Nagahar(ph)?

APPATHURAI: Nangarhar.

Q: Yeah. Where is it exactly?


Q: East.


Q: Is it the first to be opened?


Q: Ah, so there will be six and that is the first of the six. And on Afghanistan again, we heard that on the margin of the summit Mr. Karzai could have, or might have mentioned the fact that he would like to have a national army reinforced, the figure that was 80,000 would be considered as not enough. Did he mention any particular figure, the kind of 120,000 or 200,000 or whatever? And was it discussed within NATO already? Were there any formal requests from Afghanistan?

APPATHURAI: My understanding is that there is an agreed figure. It has been agreed by the Joint... now I'm going to... the cee(ph)... I know Carmen's going to correct me in a second, but I think it's the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, I think that's the right word. Anyway, the cee(ph) is to be discussed. But this is a multinational body led by the Afghans and they have agreed... the Afghans have an agreed target of 80,000.

I know that there are substantial discussions, not just in Kabul, not just in the Ministry of Defence, but elsewhere as to whether that is a sufficient size for the Afghan National Army. I know that there are some very senior Afghans who think the Afghan National Army should be bigger. I don't think that's a secret. But for the moment the agreed Afghan target, and I mean agreed with the international community, is 80,000 and that is the target towards which we are working.

I understand that the process of developing an ANA of that size is going forward quite a bit faster than had been originally anticipated, and we can expect, as I say, that that 80,000 will be reached before the original targets.


Q: Yes, (inaudible)... on Afghanistan, these border control centres. Can you just explain a little bit what they are and what they do? I mean, are they military people? Are they customs people? Are they coordinating... are they actually doing checks?

And then on the Balkans, is it in any way feasible that should Macedonia and Greece come to an agreement that Macedonia could catch up with the other two and they could all join together in terms of speeded up version of the process you talked about earlier.

And could you just tell us, what's the timeframe now for the Intensified Dialogue for Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina and what happens now with Serbia after Bucharest?

APPATHURAI: Thank you.  I can't give you too much more on the centres. I understand that they are military cooperation. For military, operational and other coordination.

Could the process be sped up once the name issue was... once the name issue is addressed, and we certainly hope that it would be addressed as quickly as possible.

There is a process which takes time. And two of the most unpredictable steps are the ratification processes. NATO can always move... or the NATO bureaucracy can always move as quickly as possible, but parliaments take the time that parliaments wish to take, so I could never predict how long the process will take.

(Buzzing noise)

Ah, here's Carmen. Huh-ha, that's about right. She's good. Daily meetings, yeah, was as I said. Yeah. Okay. I quote from my deputy. Daily meetings between ISAF, ANSF and Pakistani military to share intelligence and share common operational picture and de-conflict operations on both sides of the border. That's as good as it gets.

What was your third question, I'm sorry?

Q: The next steps with regard to Bosnia, Montenegro and Serbia.

APPATHURAI: Oh yeah, yeah, and I get four. Yeah, the next steps. Well, as I said, work will begin. I mean, it's only been a couple of days now on the development of Individual Partnership Action Plans with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, IPAPs as we call them.  And to start what we call an Intensified Dialogue on the full range of political, military, financial and security issues. And NATO also stands ready, and you have seen this in the communiqué to develop a relationship with Serbia that is more ambitious, that is more substantive. But of course, there has to be a desire on the other side. For the moment, certainly as we run up to the elections, I'm not convinced that we'll make substantial moves before then.

Q: Thank you, James. Two questions, one dealing with Afghanistan again and the other with the Caucasus. You said in relation with these border control centres that there will be a total of six. At both sides of the border, I understood that you said.


Q: Does it mean that ISAF is going to go to the other side for the first time that we know in an official way and with how many people and doing what, besides what Carmen said?

And the second question dealing with Georgia and Ukraine. The thing is being postponed until December to decide, to discuss they will become members in non-determined yet future. But what is that we are expecting for they to do come December, in order possibly to get the invitation to join the MAP. What is what they have to do? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. I don't know if there will be ISAF personnel on the other side of the border, so I'll have to go and check. That's the first thing.

Second is, Georgia and Ukraine, as you know the Allies have agreed to engage now in a process of intensive engagement, as they call it with Ukraine and Georgia, based of course on the very clear principle that these countries will become members of NATO.

This will... intensive engagement will be both at a high political... with both will be at a high political level and it says here, to address the questions still outstanding pertaining to their MAP applications.

I think you can expect to see relatively soon high-level visits to these countries. There are no calendars set yet. These things will have to be negotiated. But there will be, I think as quickly as possible, engagement between the NATO bureaucracy and the NATO international staff, and the... well, the governments of both countries, to address the many issues of concern to Allies, issues or areas in which both countries need to, and I'm quite sure are committed to, making improvements.

You will have seen, for example, that Prime Minister Tymoshenko has already come out publicly to address one of the issues of concern to Allies, and that is the level of awareness of NATO and what it really is today, in the Ukrainian population. Already the level of support for NATO membership has gone up in Ukraine, over the past year or two. But Prime Minister Tymoshenko has committed that her government will engage in a process of informing Ukrainians more comprehensively about the NATO of the 21st Century. And I think this is a process which NATO has already been helping to support because we have an information office in Ukraine.

So that is a good illustration of the kind of issues which are of interest to Allies. So we will have high-level political engagement with both countries to try to address these issues, and yes, there will be, as you quite rightly point out, a first assessment of progress at the December 2008 meeting.

That's where we are. Lila. Okay.

Q: Just a couple of technical small questions. On Croatia and Albania, once they're in, what carrots and sticks remain to encourage them to pursue their reforms, if such are necessary? And the second is, on the cyber defence centre in Tallinn, as I understand it it's an Estonian initiative funded by various Allies, open to non-Allies, if appropriate. How is it a NATO initiative, because that's what it's being portrayed as by some?

APPATHURAI: To address the first, what carrots or sticks are there? An Ally is an Ally. It has the same responsibilities and privileges as every other and NATO does not, as a secretariat have carrots or sticks over the Allies. Obviously NATO is not like the European Union. There is no supra-national body, there is no commission. It is fully intergovernmental.

The incentive to continue reform is very basic and that is real world requirements to reform, to be able to conduct operations with Allies, to do that in a way that is financially affordable and that is militarily effective. So we have certainly not seen a slackening of reform by countries who have joined NATO. Let's put it that way. They have been driven by the responsibilities of membership to keep it up.

Where NATO does help is by helping to shape reform, to shape consensus, approaches to reform which allow for interoperability, which allow for best practices to be shared, the NATO Response Force being a good example of that. So we can help stimulate a process which the Allies fully intend, even once they are members, or which Allies intend, once they are members, to continue.

The Estonian initiative.  The Estonian government has pursued the creation of a Centre of Excellence, but you're quite right, is not funded by NATO. In the NATO context we have a number of Centres of Excellences which take place in the NATO context and in support of NATO policy. You know that we have a NATO policy now on cyber defence which is being developed by the military authorities, but which is funded by individual nations.

I can give you another example of a very visible project like that, which is AWACS, which we use. It's a NATO asset in a very real way, but it is funded by, and staffed by, a smaller group of nations. This is a very common NATO practice of having a number of countries come together under the NATO umbrella to support a NATO policy, but to fund it and manage it outside the formal NATO structures. Please.

Q: (Inaudible)...

APPATHURAI: In other such initiatives that has been the case. I do not know whether or not this will be the case for the Estonian system, but I will... again, we can check it.

Q: Yes, coming back to the enlargement. I suppose that the purpose is to have the ratification process completed by the next summit, first. And secondly, who is going to provide the so-called air policing when they join NATO?

APPATHURAI: Ah! I have to say I had not thought about air policing until now. First thing is, ratification. I think everybody recognizes that it would be very nice to be able to formally welcome them into NATO, formally and fully welcome them into NATO at a celebration at the 60th anniversary in Kehl and Strasbourg. Will the ratification processes be complete by then? That is the question. I think it is nothing more than a technical issue, but it's hard to predict.

As to air policing, again, I'd have to come back to you. I don't think it is an issue of any concern to anyone. I don't know if... to be honest, I don't now the state of the air forces of either of these two countries. If they need air policing they will get it. There is no doubt. Slovenia receives air policing support from, I believe, it's Italy. And the geography of that region makes, I think, air policing not much of a physical or financial challenge for NATO.

That being said, I'm not sure that they're unable to provide for themselves. I simply don't know.

Q: James, recently Minister Lavrov mentioned that by all means Russia will not allow Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO. ... have you got in Bucharest some kind maybe of idea what kind of means the Minister was speaking about during the... I mean, NATO-Russia Council?  And it's relatively clear what kind of price Ukraine and Georgia are going to pay for. Is NATO ready to pay its own price for freedom of enlargement, let me say so?

APPATHURAI: The Russian government did not make clear in Bucharest what they meant or what Mr. Lavrov might have meant by all means. And that would certainly be a question to address to Moscow.

NATO Allies have been very clear, excuse me if I restate the policy, that they will make the decisions, their own decisions based on... well, they will make their own decisions on enlargement without outside influence. And Georgia and Ukraine, of course, if those are the two countries we're addressing, any aspirant country will have to make its own judgement. Both countries have made it very clear they want membership. I think with their eyes fully open as to their own situation. I think they probably understand as well as anybody what this means.

And so NATO's door is open to them and as you have heard, NATO Allies have said they will become members of NATO and we want to help... well, we want... NATO wants to engage intensively in discussions in that regard.

Q: About the... about France's return to the military structures, will that change anything both strategically or in practical terms?  For instance, will France's return make decision-making more difficult or easier?

Secondly, will France's return require any kind of approval of other Allies? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: First, to answer the last question, no, it is 100 percent France's decision if they wish to return to the integrated military structure. It is not up to a vote, but I can tell you if there were a vote they would get a unanimous vote welcoming it, so there's no controversy in that regard.

Do we expect it to make anything more or less difficult? My experience in ten years here is, at NATO, is that France is fully engaged in the operations. I'm not just saying this because I'm a spokesman, this is the truth. Ha-ha. I was waiting for you to get that. No... France is engaged in our operations in a very intensive way. They sit in the Council and are extremely active politically already. Political decisions are not taken without France's consensus already.

By coming fully into the integrated military structure it will formalize what is in many cases an informal French role on the military side. It will allow France fully to take its place in terms of the, as we call it, flags to post, officers in the integrated military structure, which of course is a little bit awkward, or impossible now.

And would allow France to take its seat in the Defence Planning Committee, which it does not at present choose to do. But France's autonomy to take its own decisions remains unchanged. And NATO's ability to take decisions, I think, will not be affected one way or the other.

Q: On the border control centre, can you tell us how many Pakistani military personnel will be deployed inside Afghanistan?

APPATHURAI: I can't. I don't know numbers. I simply don't. But let us not forget there are already Pakistani military personnel in Kabul in the Joint Intelligence Centre as well. This is entirely non-controversial for the Afghans. There should be no doubt.

Q: Concerning anti-missile defence, after Bucharest there have been different articles, commentaries in my country Bulgaria. We all know that the southern flank of NATO is not totally... well defended by the American anti-missile defence as it is proposed, and the commentaries were in two directions. One of them is that the American anti-missile defence could be extended to cover the southern flank of NATO, I mean, Bulgaria, Greece, Romania and Turkey. And the second option mentioned was that NATO capabilities for tactical anti-missile defence will be developed and integrated into the American system. How it is now?

APPATHURAI: My understanding, unless I misread, is that of course the various options are now going to be discussed, but that the options go generally in the direction of, as we have said before, bolting on, it's your second option. In other words, that the U.S. third site, for technical reasons, relating to the radar, relating to the kinds of defensive missiles that would be put in place, would not be technically capable of addressing the short-range low-level threats that would pose the most likely threat to southeastern Europe. And as a result a NATO system, which is designed to deal with shorter-range, lower-level threats, attached to a possible and likely U.S. system, seems to be the direction in which the thinking is going.

Q: On strategic missile defence, so what is going to be the next step for NATO? And  I have a second question which is, what are the implications of U.S.-Russia framework agreement reached in Sochi for NATO? Especially on missile defence?

APPATHURAI: The next steps are, and I quote, to task the Council in permanent session to develop options for a comprehensive missile defence architecture, to extend coverage to all Allied territory and populations not otherwise covered by the U.S. system for review at our 2009 summit, to inform any future political decision. I think that's as clear as I can be.

I have not seen any analysis of what came out of Sochi in that... or with regard to how it might affect NATO. So I have given you two unsatisfactory answers, but I'm sorry I have not seen anything that substantively looks into that.

Q: James, again on Afghanistan. There was a proposal by Gordon Brown to create a kind of trust fund. Was that endorsed or has some more work to be done to make that work.

APPATHURAI: The U.K. did announce at Bucharest that they will create a fund to help Allies and Partners improve their helicopter capability. The U.K. has put over five million pounds into this. It envisages that it will be spent both on capability upgrades, i.e. improving existing helicopters, so that they could deal with the environment in Afghanistan. It's hot, the air is thin. And also training.

This is currently a national initiative. It flows from the wider work on helicopters announced by Prime Minister Brown and President Sarkozy at the recent U.S.... sorry U.K.-French Summit. And it builds on larger work that's been running in NATO since June, with which you're probably familiar, on improving overall Alliance helicopter capabilities.

The operations in Afghanistan have made it clear that we have significant challenges when it comes to the helicopters that have been purchased for Europe, in a Cold War context, which simply have difficulty in Afghanistan. A, because of the dust that chews up the engines. Second, because of the altitude, and because of the heat. Many of them don't have the engines necessary to lift anything significant in summer, for example.

So the fund is currently national, but the U.K. hopes that other Allies will contribute to it to make it a multinational project, and of course, SHAPE, the military Headquarters is fully aware of this and is providing its support and context as well.

Q: Well, now Carmen tells us, via Pascal's GSM that...

APPATHURAI: (Laughs). Hey that's not fair.

Q: Back to border control, that the daily meetings... this will be daily meetings between ISAF, Afghanistan security forces and  PakMil to share intel, to ensure a common operational picture.


Q: This raises a host of questions.


Q: In my book common operational picture is fused detection, fused data streams, which do indeed give you a common operational picture. So is that what that's meant by that? Or is this sharing intel? And if so what kind of intel? Are we talking about oral, you know, human intel, or indeed, electronic intel? Because if that's the case then that would enable these border posts to call in close air support or to do targeted... because with NATO's network centric capabilities that are moving across the battlefield as we speak, they would be able to do that.

APPATHURAI: Would you really want me to go into that kind of detail?

Q: I do.

APPATHURAI: Yes, I'm sure. (Laughs). No look, we already have intelligence cooperation between the three parties.

Q: Sharing what kind of intelligence?

APPATHURAI: I don't have any particular desire to discuss what kind of intelligence and I don't think the military will appreciate my (inaudible)?

Q: Electronic? Electronic or human?

APPATHURAI: Sharing intelligence. We know what we need to know.

Q: Okay.

APPATHURAI: That's it, thanks.


Q: Bingo.


Q: Just clarification. James, could you please clarify the issue about the missile defence. You have said that the American missile defence, it's against long-range missiles. Yes, it is. And as I understand in Bucharest NATO is about to... to assess what's the options for the NATO missile defence which will cover south flank.

So this missile defence will be against short- and medium-range missiles. So what about the last part of NATO territory? They will be protected only against long range missiles?

APPATHURAI: Well, to start from the basic, the basic principle is the indivisibility of security and NATO solidarity. So that is what underpins all of this. The way in which the missile defence architecture is constructed is based on an analysis of ballistic missile proliferation, and of course, the more likely areas from which those threats might come.

The U.S. system will provide, of course, protection to much of Europe. We know this leaving out a certain, pardon the southeast, for technical reasons, and so the options that are being developed, and let's be clear they are just options, of course, will look into extending coverage against the most likely threats to that part of Europe that would not otherwise be covered.

So it is not... how to put this? It is a system designed to take into account real world proliferation.

Last one, and then I'm going to run. Oh sorry, second last one and then I'll run.

Q:  James, you've told that the new members of NATO have to continue the reform process, yes?


Q: In this regard, what do you think about the last shootings in Sofia? Thank you?

APPATHURAI: To be honest I'm not aware of shootings in Sofia. I've totally missed this.

Q: The fight against crime... organized crime there. Do you have any worries about it?

APPATHURAI: I have to say I have totally missed it, so I won't make any comment. Maybe next week, but now I don't know.

So this really is the last question because I didn't answer the last one.

Q: Bouke Bergsma for ANP, Dutch News Agency. I'd like to try once more on the border crossing centres. Maybe we should call you later, but there's a few questions. I figure the aim is to stop illegal border crossings by the Taleban. Will these border centres send out patrols in the area, or are they just on a road where cars or trucks pass?

What was on those posts before? Were ISAF there on its own? How many ISAF personnel is involved?

APPATHURAI: Right. All questions on which whether I do or do not, in some cases I do know the answer, I'm not at liberty to provide any more details. So that's, I'm afraid, where I have to stop.

Q: (Inaudible)...?

APPATHURAI: Well, you can. But I wouldn't be at any more liberty... (laughs), to provide detail later on than I am now.

Listen, there was already a press release on the opening of the first one of this... these statements, of these centres. I think it was last week. So you might want to go and have a look at that. It was in one of the wires actually.

Q: Do you have a firm date for the Strasbourg summit?

APPATHURAI: We do not. There is no firm date chosen for the Strasbourg Summit yet.

Q: (Inaudible)...?

APPATHURAI: You really can't tell, but if I had to put my money on it, yes, I would put my money on around April.

  1. Turkey recognizes the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.