From the event



17 Apr. 2008

Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq, Mr. Nouri Al-Maliki

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General and the Prime Minister will each make opening statements and then we'll have time for questions.  Secretary General.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  Let me start by saying that it is a great pleasure for us in the North-Atlantic Council to receive Prime Minister Maliki here today with a very important delegation including the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister, the Interior Minister, and the National Security Advisor.

If we look at the relationship between Iraq and NATO, I think I can start by saying that the NATO training mission in Iraq, up till now, has been very successful, but I do think that Prime Minister Maliki's visit this morning in combination with the communiqué of the NATO heads of state and government in Bucharest is also the start for more.

First of all, as you know, the allies decided to extend the NATO training mission until the end of 2009 but they also took the important decision to come to what is called in the communiqué a structured cooperation framework between Iraq and NATO, and in this way develop a long term relationship between NATO and Iraq.

Yesterday, Iraqi ministers already discussed concrete proposals in this regard with ambassadors with the NATO international staff and this morning I think Prime Minister Maliki very successfully addressed the council in mapping out the way forward as it is seen by him and by the Iraqi government.  So what now will happen, in the near future, is that we will work on the NATO side, on the Iraqi side, to give substance to this structured cooperation framework.  There are already Iraqi proposals on the table.  NATO will study these proposals, develop its own proposals, so that we can in the spirit of what I call joint ownership give the substance to this cooperation framework for the longer time and discuss the implementation of this structured framework.

So, in concluding the North-Atlantic Council meeting a moment ago, I told Prime Minister Maliki, on behalf of the ambassadors, that his visit is of course a very important one, a very important one indeed.  It is timely given the Bucharest Summit and the Bucharest communiqué and I would say, in conclusion, that it is the start of a new era in the relationship between Iraq and NATO.  It was crystal clear around the table this morning that all the NATO allies would like to see a stable, secure, and prosperous Iraq where we all have a lot at stake in the fight against those people who do not want not only to see stability and security in Iraq, but also would like to inflict damage on our society.  In other words, Prime Minister Maliki, ministers, delegation, you are very welcome at NATO and together we'll build a strong relationship between Iraq and NATO.  Thank you very much for coming, Prime Minister.

NOURI AL-MALIKI (Prime Minister of Iraq - Translated throughout): In the name of God, the most precious, the most merciful, I would like to thank very much Mr. Secretary General of NATO and all the representatives of NATO countries for the reception, for giving us the opportunity to give-- to show them the facts about what's happening in Iraq; these events, these developments in Iraq, which are in line with what the international community wants to achieve.

It was an opportunity for me, it was an opportunity for my colleagues, the ministers, to have a display about the recent events we have managed to achieve in Iraq and the more progress we want to achieve in the future.  Emphasizing, at the same time, that the efforts made by NATO in the training of our army and police, also in equipping and arming our security forces had a major effect on how these security forces behaved in the crucial confrontations we had recently.

And because of the fact that the battle is not only in Iraq, but it is around the world we feel that there is a need for more efforts, there is a need for more speedy operation in the equipping and training; we came here and we have a request to improve and enhance the support and the training and the equipping we receive from NATO.

Iraq has previously requested NATO to extend the period, the timeframe of its mission in Iraq and this has been achieved and now we are requesting the enhancing the activities of the NATO mission in Iraq to enable it to conduct more tasks and to help us in getting to our eventual goal of achieving self-sufficiency for our troops in preserving security.

And we are awaiting the NATO delegation to Baghdad with its new ideas and vision about the mechanism that will govern the relationship between Iraq and NATO at the same time we have asked them to continue the efforts that they're doing right now while this new mechanism is being worked out.

Mr. General Secretary(sic), thank you very much for giving me this opportunity.

APPATHURAI: First question is at the end.

Q: En fait, je suis journaliste de la chaîne El-Iraki (?).  Je suis journaliste d'Irak.  Je peux ajouter une question s'il-vous-plaît à Monsieur le Président.  Est-ce que de la collaboration entre les Américains et la NATO au niveau de la défense, est-ce que la NATO va prendre la place des Américains en Irak?   Et la deuxième question pour M. Al-Maliki.  Bien sûr, en arabe.  

SCHEFFER: L'OTAN ne va pas reprendre ou prendre la place des forces de la Coalition en Irak.  L'OTAN va continuer et élargir sa mission de formation et de l'entraînement en Irak.  Vous savez que récemment on a ajouté un entraînement, une formation de carabinieri sous la direction italienne pour ainsi dire.   Et on va développer comme je viens de dire pendant mes... mes... les mots de mon introduction, on va développer une sorte de cadre dans laquelle la coopération entre l'Irak et l'OTAN va être en place.  En même temps, comme le premier ministre a dit, on va continuer et certainement jusqu'à la fin 2009 la mission de l'entraînement et de la formation.

MALIKI:  (speaks in Arabic)

MALIKI: In fact, we are not talking about a start in the relationship here.  Actually, we came here to improve and enhance work that is already underway on the ground inside Iraq and we came here to improve it.

APPATHURAI: Next question.

Q: Thank you very much. (Inaudible)… Secretary General, you were talking about a new page, a new relation with Iraq.  Shall we expect NATO will fight with Iraq again (inaudible) in the ground, shall we expect you will send more or you will increase the number of people are making the training in Iraq?  (Untranslated)…

SCHEFFER: Let me say in English what I answered your colleague in French.  NATO will continue and expand the training mission.  It has been expanded by the gendarmerie training.  NATO will further develop, and that's based on proposals from the Iraqi side, the framework in which we are going to give shape to our cooperation on the basis of the Bucharest communiqué.

Why is this?  Let me make a more general remark.  Well, I think it's important that the international community, not only NATO, but other international organizations as well, contribute to the security and stability in Iraq, but let me say in English what I said in French is of course not NATO replacing the forces of the coalition in Iraq-- that's not the case.  It's developing a cooperation framework.  NATO has a large toolbox developed over the years and what we are now going to do is define what elements in that toolbox, on the basis of Iraqi proposals, on the basis of what is feasible within the alliance, how we can further strengthen and develop this relationship.

I mean, the Bucharest communiqué contains this very important line about the structural cooperation framework.  That's new, and we are going to give substance to that structural cooperation framework, that's the idea.

MALIKI: Regarding the other question, actually, we did not come here to request extra troops that would replace the Iraqi troops in the confrontations against the challenges.  We came here to ask for more training and more equipping but the major security responsibility in Iraq will remain on the shoulders of the Iraqi troops.

SCHEFFER: Let me add one element in answering my friend from Egypt.  Do not forget that the United Nation Security Council has clearly called on organizations like NATO to do what we are doing and to do what we hopefully are going to do.  So this is in the same vein and the same framework on the basis of a specific request by the UNSCR.

APPATHURAI: Next question is there.

Q: (Translated) First question is for Mr. Secretary General; it's a question from (inaudible) TV saying that Iraqi people are looking forward for NATO to support Iraq with the European and international expertise, especially that Iraq is now at the front of the confrontation with international terrorism.  Does NATO have a desire or a will to expand the support and assistance they provide to Iraqis?

SCHEFFER: My answer is yes in the framework I have given just a moment ago.  My answer's yes.  NATO is as much as the rest of the international community interested in, as I said, a stable and secure Iraq and if we can participate within the framework of NATO's competence, of course-- NATO's not the European Union, or NATO is not the United Nations.  Then we'll certainly do that and, I say again, the Prime Minister's visit is the start of developing this framework.

MALIKI: Actually, what we had in mind regarding the investment, the partnership with the European Union were very important aims but they were not less important than what we wanted to request from NATO regarding support, regarding help, and the training and equipping-- and we found readiness and helpful spirit on both sides.

APPATHURAI: Last question.

Q: Mark John from Reuters; Prime Minister, do you see a role for NATO in training the general infantry troops in Iraq which, until now, has been largely the domain of the coalition.  And Secretary General, have you agreed a date for NATO to send a delegation to Iraq to discuss and look at these issues?

MALIKI: This is-- that was part of what we have in mind.  When NATO trained police forces in Iraq, those NATO-trained forces showed effectiveness and strength. We will-- mostly what NATO can provide us with is anti-terrorism activities and some of these activities can be taken up by infantry and by the armoured-- the vehicles that the infantry use.

SCHEFFER: We have no concrete date yet but I can guarantee you that there will be a speedy follow-up of the Prime Minister's visit to NATO.

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