From the event

  • Press briefing by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

25 June 2008

Press briefing

by NATO Spokesman James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): I think this is the all-time latest that we have ever started one of our press briefings and you know who to blame.

UNIDENTIFIED: The military again.

APPATHURAI: Yes, the guy sitting over there. So my apologies for that.

Let me get right to business so I don't hold you up here too long. I heard the traffic was bad getting up here, and I hope the traffic isn't bad getting back down. But thank you for coming all this way.

Let me just discuss a couple of agenda issues and then we can take questions.

One is, as you know, on Monday the Secretary General went to Kosovo, met with COMKFOR. He met with the heads of... well, the new UN SRSG, the head of EULEX, Mr. de Kermabon and the Deputy of the ICR. He met with President Sejdiu and Prime Minister Taci, Mr. Ivanovic, senior representative of the Serb community, and then went up to Camp Nothing Hill which is in the north of Kosovo.

The takeaways I would give from this meeting are as follow... from those meetings, would be, in my assessment, as follows. First, and according to COMKFOR the situation, the security situation is calm, but fragile he has the forces he needs at present to deal with the mandate that he has been given to ensure a safe and secure environment, freedom of movement, and the Secretary General has been, or is reassured that the necessary resources are in place and the necessary reserves are in place if COMKFOR needs them and that, of course, reinforces the message that we heard from Defence Ministers a little while ago.

The discussions with the representatives of the other international organizations, of course, focused on who will do what through this transition period now that the Kosovo constitution has come into force, powers are being transferred, the U.S. mission is going through a transition, the European Union is deploying increasing numbers of personnel and taking on increasing responsibilities. In Kosovo it is obviously important that the international organizations work out between them who will do what.

I think at the end of those discussions the Secretary General was confident, A, that there is the right spirit of cooperation between the various organizations, and B, that as this transition period goes forward there will be, we hope, and will work towards, having the necessary arrangements in place, including, of course, ensuring, that is one of NATO's primary concerns, that there is no policing gap through the transition period.

The Secretary General discussed with the President and the Prime Minister, A, the security situation, and he commended them, and indeed urged all communities in Kosovo, but commended them for the restraint that has been shown, the moderation that has been shown throughout this transition period. Very, very important for all in Kosovo, that all communities continue to demonstrate that.

They also discussed the new tasks which NATO governments have agreed that can be taken on and these are in essence to oversee the standing down of the Kosovo Protection Corps and the standing up of the new Kosovo Security Force.

This new Kosovo Security Force will be moderate in size, 2,500, with 800 in reserve. It will be lightly armed. No heavy weapons. It will not be an army, not envisioned, not structured, nor mandated to be army. But a security force which will have clearly defined roles to deal with, for example, emergency response, consequence management, and it will be overseen by NATO. The standing up of this security force will be overseen by NATO and that will include that NATO will work with the Kosovar authorities to set standards for the hiring of... the vetting and hiring of the employees of the new Kosovo Security Force.

There will not be a one-to-one transfer of KPC staff. The KPC will be stood down. The KSF will be stood up. These will be separate processes, and each individual who joins the KSF will have to meet the standards of the KSF.

The Secretary General was very clear in his press conference, but let me repeat again, this is seen by NATO as fully within UN Security Council Resolution 1244, as UN Security Council Resolution 1244 calls for NATO to play a role in ensuring a safe and secure environment, and allies believe that this falls within that mandate.

Tomorrow... sorry, well, let's deal with it in chronological order. Today, a few things to mention.

One is, the 24th... no, it was yesterday, so yesterday the first staff level meeting was held to open Intensified Dialogue... to open "the" Intensified Dialogue with Montenegro. The Deputy Foreign Minister, Ms. Radulović and the Deputy Minister for Defence Mr. Jovanović met with our Deputy Assistant Secretary General Bob Simmons Jr. They discussed Intensified Dialogue, they discussed what NATO expects with respect to aspirants, and of course, NATO's current political agenda. The Deputy Minister Radulović handed over Montenegro's IPAP, Individual Partnership Action Plan, and then further meetings will be held.

Today, two things to mention. Here in this building the NRC is taking place, the NATO-Russia Council is taking place right now. Two items on the agenda are Afghanistan and Kosovo. On Afghanistan the Russian delegation will include the Russian ambassador to Afghanistan. His name is Zamir Kabulov, K-A-B-U-L-O-V, who has long diplomatic experience in Afghanistan, but who is considered in Russia as an authority on Afghanistan. And there will be... there is right now a discussion on Afghanistan taking place.

That will be followed by a discussion on Kosovo, where I'm sure the Russian views will be clearly heard.

Also today we have what you might know of, and what I rarely refer to, but due today, the NATO Science for Peace and Security Programme, which caries out a number of projects, in particular with our partners, science projects that aim towards building peace and security.

Today they are celebrating in Baku the destruction of the last remaining stocks of what they call melange, rocket fuel, in Azerbaijan. About 1,300 tonnes of this highly toxic and corrosive material have been destroyed. All the stocks of this rocket fuel that have been stored in Azerbaijan since the Soviet period have now been converted into a non-hazardous low-grade fertilizer, using an environmentally safe, because NATO is an environmentally proactive organization, chemical process. It was conducted... this project was conducted with the use of a mobile conversion plant operated by the NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency, and it will be moving on to Uzbekistan, where another 1,000 tonnes or so need to be destroyed.

Final point, and then I'll be happy to take your questions. Tomorrow the Secretary General, and happily me, as well, will go to Rome to meet with the President of the Italian Republic, Mr. Napolitano, the Minister of Defence, Mr. La Russa, and then with the President of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate, Mr. Dini, and finally with Prime Minister Berlusconi before returning.

Obviously while there are a number of issues to discuss, Kosovo is one, Afghanistan is another, Afghanistan is an issue which the Secretary General has also recently discussed with Minister Frattini, who was just here in his office, and who will not be in Rome tomorrow. The Italian government has made it clear that they intend to be more flexible with regard to caveats, and in particular have said publicly that they intend to reduce quite significantly the time of consultation which Rome would ask of ISAF, before the use of their forces, use of Italian forces in particular situations. That is something that is very welcome, but we will see the details tomorrow, the full package of what the Italian government is considering in consultation with the Minister of Defence, of course and the Prime Minister in particular on these issues.

So I'll be able to tell you more tomorrow. But certainly the general intent of relaxing caveats, reducing restrictions, I think is clearly welcomed by this organization.

That's what I wanted to say and I'm happy to take your questions. Mark, and then we'll go over there.

Q: James, as you say, EULEX is now taking up certain responsibilities on the ground in Kosovo. Is it any clearer yet how NATO will interact with EULEX in terms of cooperation? I am thinking of things like intelligence sharing and communications and so on? During discussions was anything worked out in terms of bilateral agreements, for example, that would help, or any other type of arrangement?

APPATHURAI: I have to say there were not extensive discussions on the precise details between the Secretary General and Mr. Zanieri. They kept their discussions to the strategic level. The general intent, and I'm sure that that intent will be met, is to ensure that at the appropriate time the necessary arrangements, the appropriate arrangements are in place, to allow for the necessary cooperation.

The EU mission has only begun its deployment and that deployment will take several months as I understand it. Until such time as a full transition is in place, EULEX is still... sorry, UNMIK is still the... and will be for quite a few months to come, the civilian body with which NATO needs to relate. At such time when UNMIK, if and when UNMIK formally closes its doors and the transition is complete to EULEX, at that time the necessary arrangements will need to be in place. Until then NATO can relate to, and will relate to UNMIK. That being said, these arrangements do need to be put in place, you're absolutely right. And the discussions are continuing.

I think we're there and then we'll come back.

Q: James, a pure technical question concerning the Kosovo situation. So far as they know KPS... KPC, Kosovo Protection Corps...


Q: ...was formed on the base of the fighters of UCK, so-called Kosovo Liberation Army...


Q: And if there will be some kind of transition, just technical issue, will all these guys come into the Kosovo Security Forces? And related to that, as far as I know, KPS... KPC was completely prohibited to wear weapons, but they constantly were wearing such weapons. So that now KSF will be allowed to carry such weapons, so there is a guarantee that they will not obtain... carry weapons themself. In other words, who will be supervising those forces.

And related issue, what will be the principle of composition for these forces? Will there be some kind of Serbian community included?

APPATHURAI: The... first... I can answer the first question very clearly. No, there will not be an automatic transition of the KPC staff members into the KSF. They will be stood down, and I might add, there is more than one trust fund being put in place to which NATO allies and others can and will contribute, to facilitate their training and reintegration into civil society, for those who wish to do that.

So there's a very clear process of standing down the KPC, which is autonomous to, separate from, the standing up of the KSF.

As I mentioned, any individual applying to the KSF will have to apply in essence from a clean slate, meeting the criteria of the KSF, which are not the criteria, if there were criteria, I'm no expert, on the KPC. And NATO will help to set the standards in consultation for what they are, and help with the vetting process.

So these should be seen as two separate processes. By the way the KPC is much larger than the KSF will be, so by definition you couldn't see that kind of transition and to fill with... and to finish what you're saying, the KSF is clearly envisioned to be multi-ethnic and there will be slots for all communities.

You know, as to what kind of numbers of representatives from minority communities, and particularly Serbs will apply, and how the process will be managed to take that into account, you raise a very good issue. But I guarant... what I can say is it’s envisioned to be, designed to be, multi-ethnic and there will be provision made to ensure that positions are available to the minority communities.

NATO will provide oversight, certainly for the coming period in the standing up of the KSF. I don't know that there are any plans for what happens behind that. There may well be, but I'm not aware of how. But certainly NATO will provide oversight of the standing up process and they are... the KSF will have the authority to have small arms and we have ensure that they have small arms.

Q: But from an administration who will supervise them? Will it be UN administration, EU or local administration?

APPATHURAI: There will be a civil body established in the Kosovo government that will oversee it. And NATO is helping to stand up also the civil body that will oversee the KSF.

Q: This is a very much related question. I can't remember the figure, but I understand Kosovo has one of the highest unemployment rates in the structure Europe. You're about to add to that rate. What steps... you mentioned there were going to be some funds, but what steps are you going to be taking and how much is NATO going to be involved in ensuring you're not going to be creating a large pool of unemployment, disgruntled young men with military training running around Kosovo with nothing to do?

APPATHURAI: Well, you hit a very important point. NATO has long experience with our partner countries, in Partnership for Peace, in assisting in the demobilization of armed forces, helping countries to downsize what are often very, very large armed forces, and help the personnel make the transition into the post military world. And I think Ukraine is one of the clearest examples that has gone from an army of one million to an army of 200,000. And NATO has helped, not been the only one certainly, it's been Ukrainian lead, but NATO has helped provided training, and that is the key, helped provide training for civilian employment to... let me rephrase that. NATO has helped the Ukrainian government provide training for civilian employment for demobilizing military personnel.

As I said, NATO's going to set up a trust fund, if not two, to help provide precisely the kind of training to allow for transition so that we do not see, as you said, disgruntled young men running around unemployed with guns.

So we've thought it through and we'll be part of that process.

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: Yes, sorry.  

Q: What sort of figures are we talking? Like you said the Kosovar security force will be significantly smaller than the KPC, do you know how many people are going to lose their jobs?

APPATHURAI: I can find out in a minute, but I can't remember. Off the top of my head it's around 3,500, but I have to check it. I don't know if there's any experts now on the size of the KPC in the room? No? Okay. We'll find out. Easy to find out. Sorry about that.

Q: Yes, same subject. What kind of light weapons are we talking about? You don't have to be too detailed, but I mean, they're not going to be allowed artillery I assume, but these are just handguns, that sort of thing?

Secondly, where will they be stationed around the country? And third, what's the drawing line between emergency response on one side and a military reaction? How do you define that mission?

APPATHURAI: I am no expert on these subjects, so let me be very careful as to what I say. The first thing is, and I'm not trying to obfuscate, I think a lot of this now rests... now needs to be defined, because the decision to take the... the principles have been agreed, but the details now need to be defined, and the decision to begin implementation was only taken, as you know, a few days ago.

We have now a very few people on the ground, civilians, who have begun to engage on this issue. And on defining exactly what it all means.

My personal view is light weapons doesn't include artillery, and I do believe it means sidearms, small arms in the current definition, but I'm pretty confident on that.

As to where exactly they're going to be based I think the idea is the KSF would be operating throughout the country and indeed... throughout the country, throughout Kosovo, let me be very careful, in an organization where all allies have not recognized yet, throughout Kosovo. And that includes, of course, very much the importance of having representatives from all the various communities.

What was your last question?

Q: Military versus emergency response. How do you... where is the protection... not the protection force, the KSF going to stop and NATO will pick up? You're not talking about flash floods here...

APPATHURAI: Well, I think to a certain extent yes, we are talking about flash floods. To a certain extent there is a response to civil emergency roles and that is very clearly defined. There is a clear line, which you know very well, between what is the role of the military and what is the role of non-military organizations, which are up to the level of police, robust police, paramilitary police and the roles that they carry out.

But the rules of engagement, the weapons, the roles and responsibility of the military and the authorities under which they operate are clearly defined and are different from those of civilians.

Now where exactly the line is drawn I'm not sure it's a 100 percent clearly defined yet, but  I don't know it. So I have to go check.

Q: But that still needs to be defined, right?

APPATHURAI: I don't now if it still needs to be defined, but if it does I don't know... do you know the answer?

UNIDENTIFIED: I was just (inaudible...) and I'm not a particular expert...

Q: Can you use the (inaudible)...

APPATHURAI: Microphone.

UNIDENTIFIED: I’m not a particular expert on the detail of it, other than light arms would obviously not include artillery, would not include mines, would not include machine guns, it wouldn’t include anti-tank weapons, that kind of equipment.

I have seen a general description of the tasks that would be afforded the Kosovo Security Force and it is exactly as James describes, that is to say, consequence management, light... light security. It is by no means, shape or form a military force in the way that we would recognize it. The actual line of when does your security force have capabilities to do something other than that military in terms of the actual here's the five tasks they'll do I can't give that to you right now, but I can say from my recollection of what I have read, it's very clear that it is being structured and organized to specifically exclude an ability to have or to conduct military-related operations.

Now, is there... is there... you still need command and control elements to be able to respond to natural disaster, or a specific low grade security requirement, yes, but it does not imply at all that there are capabilities for military-related activities.

But it certainly does warrant, I think, some more detail for you at a... in short order when we identify somebody who's...

APPATHURAI: When there is more detail. When there is more detail.

UNIDENTIFIED: ...who can do that and the detail has been more completely fleshed out.

Q: Can they do riot control?

APPATHURAI: I think that that would be included as part of their tasks, yes.

Q: I'll just keep going on the same issue with you.

APPATHURAI: Turn the spit one more time, right? Thanks.

Q: Why does NATO feel the need to vet these people that would come into the security force? What type of criteria, and I'm particularly thinking of, I don't know, crimes or blood on your hand type of criteria, and then technically what stage is NATO up to. You were in the training phase the last time... sorry, the preparation planning phase...


Q: ...the last time I heard. What's the sort of timeline? Where are you?

APPATHURAI: Why does NATO feel the need to vet? Or to assist the process? And I want to be very careful here, because again we have recognizers and non-recognizers. It is in the interests of all the NATO or the KFOR countries and of the international community more broadly that the standing down of the KPC and the standing up of the KSF is done in such a way as to ensure that it is democratically controlled, that it is multi-ethnic, that it meets the appropriate standards with relation to professionalism, and with regard to professionalism. In that context NATO allies believe, regardless of the resolution of the status issue, this process should be overseen by the international community, in this case by NATO, to ensure that those necessary standards are met.

So that's the reason why the allies have all agreed to this, regardless of their position on status.

As I said, there are personnel already in place and a very limited number to begin now fleshing out the detail of what has been agreed in principle and in principles by the allies. The initial operating capability of... oh sorry, the first phase of standing up the KSF should be completed towards the end of 2009. Then we will see a few years later when it becomes fully operational. But that's the general timelines they're using.

Q: (Inaudible...)?

APPATHURAI: The criteria need to be defined. The specific criteria now need to be defined by NATO in consultation with the Kosovar authorities. That is one of the things that is being done right now.


Q: What does the Secretary General expect from Italy on Afghanistan?

APPATHURAI: Ah, not Kosovo Security Forces. Love that question.


APPATHURAI: First, and the Secretary General, I have to say, said this, I think, particularly just yesterday and I don't know if it was printed because my Italian isn't what it used to be, but if you look at what Italy is contributing to NATO, not just on the military side, but on the civilian side, it is really quite substantial. There's about 2,300 Italian troops in Afghanistan, there's 2,300 Italian troops in Kosovo. There's Italian personnel in the training mission in Iraq. Italian ships in the Mediterranean.

And that's just on the military side. We also have, of course, a new senior civilian representative, Mr. Gentilini, who will be taking up his duties very soon, and I don't need to mention, of course, my colleague...

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: Yes, of course. The new chairman of the Military Committee who's taking up his position quite soon, which will be a quite transition to Brett in a moment, to discuss that.

So overall, already, the contribution is very significant. If Italy chooses, as I mentioned, to relax the restrictions on the use of its forces, that will be very, very welcome indeed. Indeed, as I said, as a concrete contribution to the effectiveness of the operational commander, who needs it, and as a political signal of solidarity with the other allies, some of whom face quite a very... quite a challenging military environment. But it will be up to the Italians to define what it is that they want to do and when they want to do it.

I think we had a question back there and then Brett, I might come over to you, if you don't mind, for a...

Q: Greek Foreign Minister said after the meeting with Condoleezza Rice, ah yes, that it's impossible to find the solution because she said it's very difficult and complicated, until 9th of July. So is it possible to postpone this deadline, this date?

APPATHURAI: I saw those comments. I have to say I have heard no discussion of postponing those dates. I'll be very frank, I don't anticipate a postponement of the July 9th ceremony, which we will hold here, I believe in the (inaudible) theatre. Be very honest. This is when accession protocols, Croatia and Albania will be then take their place, or a first place in NATO. In other words, their ambassadors will sit at the NAC table, not in alphabetical order, but next to the Secretary General. In most meetings Albania and Croatian diplomats and military personnel will be then participating.

Q: Can I just follow up?

APPATHURAI: Yes, yes, please.

Q: After July the 9th, can you just run through what the procedures are and the timeline before Croatia and Albania become full members of NATO and during that process would there then be still a chance, at least theoretically for Macedonia to somehow catch up?

APPATHURAI: Sure, but it becomes more complicated.

In essence what happens after the 9th of July is that the national governments, the national parliaments will have to ratify the amendments to the Washington Treaty which the amendments will basically add the names of these two countries. And we are then into the ratification process, in the 26 parliaments or whatever variation on parliament you have.

When that is done then the instruments of ratification are deposited with the depository state, which is the United States, Washington Treaty, and then the acceding countries can ratify the amended Washington Treaty, which includes 28 or 29... you know, the new names.

There is no way, of course, to predict the timelines. You all know the ratification processes are varied and sometimes difficult... Or not difficult, but can take a while. And in the case of some countries, takes quite a long time.

Everybody has the context of the NATO Summit at the beginning of April in 2009. Everyone understands that context and I'm sure everyone's aiming for that. As to whether or not we will get there, I don't know, but I hope so.

To conclude, when it comes to bringing a third country into the ratification process obviously it becomes a little bit more complicated, because if... even if the necessary, the accession protocols are signed, if the accession process, or if the ratification process has already taken place in five or six parliaments they would then have to go back again to do it again, for the third country. It wouldn't be done as a package, but individually and that would obviously have the potential of delaying the process, at least for that one... for that one country.

So that is the complication of missing the July 9th timeline.

Q: So I can conclude that we are missing NATO if we are missing (inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: Nothing is impossible. And obviously people can work very fast and everybody wants to see, and this was clearly the message coming out of the Bucharest Summit, all the NATO countries want to see all three countries, all three of the aspirant countries join NATO and join us a soon as possible. So I am... and we are always optimistic, but you also have to be realistic and it is very complicated.

I think Brett was going to use this opportunity to inform you on a wonderful event, certainly for the Italians taking place this Friday.

COLONEL BRETT BOUDREAU (Public Information Advisor for the International Military Staff): Thanks you, James. Just to let you know that on Friday afternoon some 20 or 20 chiefs of defence will be in town to witness the handover of the chairmanship of the Chairman of the Military Committee from Canadian General Ray Henault to the Italian Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola. Again, that's Friday, early Friday afternoon. Regrettably there'll be no media opportunity for that, but we will make available video and imagery on the website. I expect that'll probably be about 16:00 or so. General Henault will retire after 40 years of military service, three as the Chairman, four as the Canadian Chief of Defence before that. And he'll retire to Manitoba and do some golfing and some flying.

And as for myself, I'll be back... I'll be heading back to Canada as well and I'm taking up duties on the Afghanistan file within the Canadian government and one of the two replacements of both myself and Lieutenant Colonel Tony White, with whom you worked, is at the back here, Commander Giovanni Giancarlo(?)... Agalfo(?), sorry, will be helping man the office. And he'll be available at the same phone numbers that I was, at least land line, to take your questions.

So if there's any other questions on that I'm happy to take them.

APPATHURAI: Let me say, for my part, before I see if there's any questions, this is your last, I think... is this your last weekly briefing to us? And to thank you on behalf of all of us for all the support you've provided to us.

I can tell you there's never been closer cooperation between the militaries and the civilians, on the media side, until you arrived, and you led it and I thank you for it.

BOUDREAU: Thank you.

APPATHURAI: Any... go?

Q: On the Kosovo Security Force...

APPATHURAI: No no no, James.

Q: Just after North Atlantic Council was visiting Kiev, German ambassador in Ukraine already was in time to state that German position on Membership Action Plan for Ukraine is not changed. So that I don't prejudge any decisions of the December ministerial, of course, but could you please give some image of some, you know, some ideas what was the general impression of the ambassadors visiting Ukraine, and conclusions they made maybe some concrete things should be done in advance.

Q: Thank you for that question. I would say the following: First, the ambassadors had a very informative visit. They learned a lot about the range of Ukrainian public opinion, but also had the opportunity to speak out. So the outreach activities on the second day, after Kiev, I think were considered to be very, very fruitful for them, very informative for them as well.

In Kiev the impression I have, that they left with was first of a government quite unified on Euro-Atlantic aspirations. And not just the President, but also the Prime Minister, spoke out very clearly in support of that goal. They also laid out clear plans for how to reach it. So I think the ambassadors left with clear statements and a clear project of work laid out before them, that the Ukrainian authorities intended to implement.

The Secretary General, and I think many of the ambassadors, made the point that they believe that while the plans, of course, are for the Ukrainians to implement, it is NATO's view that they need to be fully or properly funded. Funding is a very appropriate element of this, that public diplomacy is obviously an important aspect, and they contributed in their way on that day to implementing it.

So as a visit I think it was successful. From our point of view. I think it was probably successful from the Ukrainian authorities as well. Now as to where... what conclusions the ambassadors individually drew, that, of course, I wouldn't say they drew the 100 percent identical conclusions, and you'd have to ask them. And we will have to see in December what this assessment delivers, as you quite rightly pointed out. But if I were to take two takeaways, it would be the unified position of the government, and a very successful, from our point of view, despite the occasionally scuffle of the outreach.

Q: (Inaudible...)...

APPATHURAI: Sorry, was it...?

Q: ...demonstration, protesters (inaudible...) to the (inaudible)?

APPATHURAI: Well on the contrary, you know, we all have... we all have demonstrations in countries at one day or another, and that's what democracy is all about. These were non-violent demonstrations. Nobody threw tomatoes, nobody threw eggs, which I know has happened in Ukraine, and...

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: ... and not too long ago in NATO demonstrations. But everybody was in general, with I think one or two exceptions, quite civilized and made their point of views clear. And did it in a very robust and entertaining way.

So, nobody has any objections to that. That's the way it should be.

Q: Just to give Georgia equal time on that question...


Q: ...what is the Secretary General's assessment of Georgia's handling of the ongoing altercation with Russia? Has its strengthened or weakened the case for a MAP in December?

APPATHURAI: The Secretary General met with President Saakashvili... was that Friday? On Friday. President Saakashvili was here and they had a long discussion of the security situation. And the regional political situation.

In essence President Saakashvili gave his assessment of relations between Georgia and Russia and the situation in Abkhazia, the Secretary General repeated the positions which you know, because he has said them before. A, that all parties should exercise the maximum restraint. B, that the presence of the so-called Railway Forces is not contributing to security, does not seem to be under any kind of legal framework, and that they should be withdrawn. I seem to recall having seen remarks by Sergey Lavrov that that was the plan, that they should be withdrawn soon, but that was simply press reporting.

The Secretary General also expressed his view that the Russian moves to establish formal legal links with Abkhazia and South Ossetia also did not contribute to, but indeed detracted from security and stability in the region.

And they promised to keep in touch.

Q: I'm expecting disappointment, but I've just read the story saying that the Russian Foreign Minister has said the Americans are trying to start unofficial talks with Lithuania and he said because their talks with Poland on missile defence have hit snags.


Q: I understand this is a bilateral issue, but I also understand this has bearing on NATO. Will you say something on this? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: I have seen remarks by American officials that this is a possibility. I've seen these remarks in the press. I have also seen remarks from Lithuanian officials that no formal talks or to my understanding, not even informal talks on... when they say no formal talks that's what I saw. That no formal talks have taken place and that my understanding is that the discussions are now between Poland and the United States, Czech Republic and the United States and that's as far as I know.

Good. Thanks guys, and ladies. I use guys in the generic term.