From the event


18 Nov. 2007

Weekly press briefing

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (Spokesman, NATO): We have the pleasure of the presence of Col. Massimo Panizzi who is the spokesman for the Military Committee and the Chairman of the Military Committee. We have a Military Committee meeting at the level of Chiefs of Staff taking place this week at NATO Headquarters, and Massimo has kindly offered to come down and give you a preview of what will take place in the meeting, and then I'll update you on a few issues, and we'll be happy to take your questions. Massimo, please.

MASSIMO PANIZZI (Spokesman of the Chairman of the Military Committee): Thank you, James. Good morning to everybody. As James said the aim of my brief intervention is just to tell you what's going on tomorrow and on Thursday. We will have... the Chief of Defence meetings that will take place at NATO HQ tomorrow and 20 of November. NATO's Military Committee in Chiefs of Defence session represents the highest military authority in NATO. Is good to remember that, and if you need, if you want, at the end of this meeting... I can leave you some descriptive brochure on the Military Committee, just to make understanding... how it's work, and also media advisory. And it meets on a regular weekly basis at military representatives level, but only three times a year at Chiefs of Defence level; once in the spring, once in the autumn, and once in an informal session in one of the member nations. The last informal session took place in Bulgaria, Sofia last September.

Tomorrow and Thursday's meetings will be concentrated in four main sessions. With the NATO member nations, with the NATO partners, with the Ukraine and with the Mediterranean Dialogue countries. Albania and Croatia will be joining the meetings for the first time, not as partners but as invited members. Also attending the Pakistan Chief of the Army Staff, General Kayani, and General Henri Bentegeat who is the Chairman of the EU Military Committee. The agenda is very full, intense. I will draft you now very, very quickly which will be the main issues.

The usual in depth update on NATO operations with particular attention to a more comprehensive approach in ISAF. In detail, importance of Afghan governance, the regional approach to border challenges, expansion of the Afghan National Army. In Kosovo, NATO EULEX interaction and the KFOR transition; maritime operations; long-term approach to counter piracy at sea. After they will discuss about preparation for summit 2009 agenda, that will be a very special year, 60th anniversary, further work on the command structure review, capitalizing on certain operational lessons learned with NATO partners, common discussions on a strategic vision for military cooperation with the Mediterranean Dialogue countries, furthering military-to-military cooperation with Ukraine, specifically in operations. This high level discussion will also provide military advice to the North Atlantic Council in preparation of the December foreign ministerials at NATO HQ, as you know. As usual imagery, video and stills coverage of the opening of all sessions will be available on the web, and usual article giving a brief resume on the meetings will be posted to web immediately after the end of the meeting on 20 November. But most important tomorrow at 1:10, 10 past one, the Chairman of Military Committee, Admiral Di Paola, will be available for a press conference at the Brosio Room; that you probably know. The media advisory has been posted yesterday; you probably received it. Anyway, I have copies in both languages, in French and English, of the media advisory for all details and points of contacts. That's all I have. Thanks, James.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. Let me update you on just a few quick points, then we're happy to take your questions on all the issues that Massimo raised as well as mine. First, let me give you a little update on where we are on piracy first because I know you're going to ask.

NATO has not been involved in the hijacking of the Saudi tanker. Our ships were not in the area. If you saw where this hijacking took place, it was quite far away from where the NATO operation is taking place. So let me get that out of the way. We have currently four ships participating in the operation. One Italian, one Greek, one Turkish, one UK. Two focused on maritime surveillance in the Gulf of Aden, two escorting WFP-chartered vessels into Somalia. They have until now escorted the delivery of 7,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid into Somalia. Let me quote a UN press release from the 11th of November. I have not drafted this press release, just to make the point.

It said: Chartered World Food Programme ships have been a frequent target for ransom-seeking privateers, but since the naval escort system began in November, no pirate attacks have been launched against ships loaded with WFP food despite 2008 being the worst year ever for piracy off Somalia.

Again, that's the World Food Programme, United Nations talking; not us. Just for context, I'm told there are 20,000 ships that transit the Gulf of Aden every year. Total acts of piracy annually represent less than one percent of the ships that transit the area, but of course it has gone up this year.

And just to visit points, the Secretary-General is right now in Valencia, speaking to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He's doing a speech in front of journalists as well as of course the parliamentarians, and then he will be at back... he then leaves tomorrow for Ghana where he will meet with the President, Mr. Kufuor. This is on invitation of the President, and Mr. Kufuor, of course has a prominent role in Africa. He will speak at the Kofi Annan Centre and then return home.

One final point to mention, Phase Two, this is on Afghanistan, Phase Two of voter registration has begun just a few days ago. Phase One was qualified as a success. There was a higher level of voter registration than the Afghan authorities and NATO in support had anticipated. Forty-three percent of those who registered were women which is one percent higher than during the voter registration process last year. And despite some difficulties related to security, these were quite limited, and in general this was positive Phase Two has started, as I mentioned, all voter registration centres are open. This is in Kabul and nine other provinces. After the first four days 170,000 people, including 60,000 women, had already registered. The Independent Election Commission initial assessment was... this was a huge turnout. The voter registration process has so far not been systematically targeted or disrupted. So at least this process is going well as we move to Phase Two.

That is all I wanted to brief you on to begin, but I imagine you have questions on issues which I can fully anticipate. Let's start right here.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Inaudible, News Agency of Ukraine). Colonel, I just curious what it will be agenda for meeting with Ukrainian chief of staff and in particular will you anticipate the spreading of the... more operations Ukraine would be involved in, and in particular what could be a development in the helicopter initiative... is initiated with UK and realizing with Ukraine. Thanks.

PANIZZI: Thank you for this question, very interesting. I think... I don't want to anticipate the conclusions of course of the meeting, but anyway concerning Ukraine and the operations, the involvement of Ukrainian troops in operations will be discussed. You know that Ukraine is a very important partner for NATO, and from the military point of view we also discuss of that last two weeks in Estonia. And one of the items that will be discussed is the agenda of the military activities and the cooperation for the next year. And concerning the helicopters, I believe that this issue will be raised during the meeting.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. Next question.

UNIDENTIFIED: Just a quick question on the flotilla on the NATO ships...


UNIDENTIFIED: We've had the names of the three ships that were earlier there; the Greek, the Italian and the Cumberland. Now there's a Turkish ship as well. Can you just give me the name?

APPATHURAI: Sure, it's Kokova; K-O-K-O-V-A.




APPATHURAI: Ha, a question I can answer. That's... I like these ones.

UNIDENTIFIED: James, what does the NATO think on the proposal of the Spanish Minister of Defence for more coordination between ISAF and Enduring Freedom, particularly to avoid civilian casualties? And also because Spain is conditioning in a kind of way, the sending of more troops to the fact that there's a change of strategy in Afghanistan. And also in a moment where the European member states are actually thinking as Mr. Kouchner sent a letter last Wednesday to Obama's councillors to actually increase the military presence of European member states. Second, if I may on Somalia...

APPATHURAI: Second? That was already three, but okay.

UNIDENTIFIED: Sorry. Sorry. Well, two related. On Somalia, once the like (BREAK IN TAPE) ships that are now of the NATO doing these duties against piracy, are they going to stay on once the rest of the ships finish all their routine exercises... I mean, does it have a permanent character, this mission from the NATO? And sorry, third if I may...

APPATHURAI: Sixth, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED: Sorry. It's concerning the proposal, Medvedev's proposal on the security, a new pan-European security treaty. Would the NATO be willing to discuss this? I understand that it will be something that will be worked upon at the summit, the 60th anniversary in Strasbourg and Kehl... I heard it will be preparatory according to Sarkozy for the OSCE conference that will take place later on which should be with the focus of this proposal. Thank you.

APPATHURAI: Yeah, okay. Thank you. I have seen Defence Minister Carme Chacón’s comments. First, on coordination between ISAF and OEF. There is already excellent coordination between ISAF and OEF. Not least because General McKiernan is at the same time... this is a relatively new development, commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, as well as in a separate chain of command, the NATO mission there. This was not done by coincidence. It was to ensure that there was full visibility and effective coordination between the two, the two operations, so that they can be mutually reinforcing but de-conflicted as necessary. And that does happen. Can it be improved? Of course, it can always be improved. I know that General McKiernan works very, very hard to ensure that there is full complimentary between these two missions, and that when it comes to civilian casualties, he has continued to tighten the rules by which soldiers on the ground, in both chains, call in air strikes to ensure that they do absolutely the utmost to minimize civilian casualties to the extent possible. But let me stress that what happened, for example in the recent wedding incident, this was not a NATO-ISAF operation, but let me make the point; there's I think it's important to make. It has been confirmed including by the Afghan authorities who investigated that what the Taleban did was hold people at a wedding prisoner, fire from the room, and draw fire down on this. Now this is not just me speaking; you can go and look it up yourself. This was confirmed by the investigation. So let us put the blame where it lies, and that is very much at what the Taleban, not OEF.

Change of strategy. We have a strategy in NATO, we have a mandate from the United Nations, we have an operational plan and a political military plan which of course takes into account and is coherent with the operational plan. We know that the United States is looking very broadly at its overall approach to the situation in Afghanistan. But when you look at what Minister Chacón has said, I think the elements that she mentioned are all being developed already, and that is engagement with regional partners, more civilian reconstruction. All of this is, better coordination between the military and civilian elements, all of these things are being pursued as much as possible. If other elements need to be taken into account, not least because of the American review, those will be discussed amongst allies and informally already are being discussed amongst allies.

As to an increased presence of European troops, I think NATO's viewpoint is very clear. We have a agreed statement of requirements. All 26 governments have agreed to what is necessary on the ground. They have not yet met fully what is in the statement of requirements. That being said, let us not forget that in the last year 7,000 troops have been added to the NATO-ISAF mission. Fifteen operational mentoring and liaison teams have been added to this operation. It is a continued upward climb in levels of forces, and the Europeans have grown in the last three years the size of their operation. Extremely substantially I think by 300 percent. In three years it has gone up 300 percent, the European presence in Afghanistan. So let no one think that the Europeans are not pulling their weight here; they are.

Somalia, will they stay on? Yes and no. The current... well, there's two parts to this discussion. The current deployment of SNMG-2 is due to come to an end in the middle of December. There is... this corresponds with the original timelines of the SNMG deployment, but also of course very usefully the European deployment will take shape at that point. So there should be no particular break in continuity, and the European mission, from what I can see, will be even larger than the NATO presence, and tailored more... let's say designed more for the mission that it has to... it is taking on. SNMG was halfway there before we gave them direction to change their mission. There's going to be a second discussion in NATO about a potential longer term role. It has not been decided that that should happen. I think the discussion will only begin later on in the year or early next year.

Finally on the new treaty. We have not seen, to my knowledge, any concrete proposals from the Russian Federation on what exactly President Medvedev means. If and when concrete proposals do come from Moscow, they will be discussed within NATO by the NATO allies, and they will decide how they wish to take this discussion forward.

Go here and then there.

UNIDENTIFIED: About Kosovo, in what way is the KFOR affected by this uncertainty about the illegal status of EULEX, on what basis EULEX will be present in Northern Kosovo?

APPATHURAI: I will make two points. One is the Secretary-General visited Kosovo a couple of weeks ago, and what struck me was the lack of coverage, and I mean that in a positive sense. Security, his presence there was not remarked in the context of an unstable security environment. Because it is relatively stable, and he too was quite struck by the stability in Kosovo, despite the political fluidity, the security situation has remained largely stable, and that is a testament to all the parties engaged there.

That being said, we as NATO and particularly KFOR, does not want to be in a position of being first responder or second responder during security incidents. We support the deployment of... an international police presence throughout Kosovo so that there is a Kosovar police presence, an international police presence, and then NATO bringing the military appropriately as the third line and not the first line or the second line. So we do as an organization have an interest in ensuring that these issues are resolved in a expeditious way, so that security is not compromised, and that the security structures that have been put in place and that work are not compromised as we go forward. I think it is important as a final political point that all parties in Kosovo, even as they manoeuvre through these very complicated waters, do not manoeuvre too far in terms of raising the political heat. There are political issues to be resolved. All parties should ensure that this does not translate into instability on the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED: I wonder if the military chiefs will discuss also the anti-missile programme in Europe? I mean the American one and the Russian counterpart? You know this is more of a political issue so far rather than military, but anyway in the last several days something like a rift appeared between France, Czech and Poland. And so I wonder if the military chiefs will discuss this matter?

PANIZZI: As you said it is a political matter (TAPE BREAK) not in the agenda, this particular issue. This... likely that something will come out on this issue, of course, but the main discussion is at a political level, so it's not up to the CHODs to make any decision or specific discussion.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. On this issue, let me make the NATO policy very clear and the NATO position clear today as it was a few days ago. All 26 allies have agreed that there is a growing missile threat to Europe. They have all agreed that there is... that missile defences are technically feasible against such missile defences. They agreed in Bucharest to study options for missile defence, taking into account the bilateral discussions between the United States, Poland and the Czech Republic. Those options will be discussed at the Strasbourg-Kehl summit next year. That policy has not changed.

PASCAL MALLET, AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE: I ask in French and you can answer in English. Of course we are free. The question... La question que je vais poser, c'est concernant ce que tu as dit à l'instant sur dès que les Russes auront proposé quelque chose on en discutera.  Je ne comprends pas comment on peut en discuter puisqu'ils n'ont pas été autorisés à proposer quoi que ce soit vu qu'il n'y a plus de réunion du conseil OTAN-Russie.  Donc, tu vois la petite contradiction.


UNIDENTIFIED: Une deuxième petite question, je voulais revenir sur cette question des missiles et des propos de M. Sarkozy.  Bien sûr, tu ne vas pas commenter les propos du chef d'État d'un pays membre.  Mais est-ce que d'un point de vue du Secrétariat général de l’OTAN la question de l'option zéro, c'est-à-dire l'offre Russe pas d’Iskander et pas de bouclier anti-missile est quelque chose de discutable ou est-ce que c'est inacceptable et par conséquent ne doit pas être pris en considération?

APPATHURAI: Merci. Pour répondre aux premières questions.  La Russie.... Sorry, let me speak in English; which is also to my benefit. There are two issues here, but the basic point is this. Russia's only window into the world is not the NATO-Russia Council. If it has concrete proposals to make, they can easily be made, and they can easily be made... to allies, discussed amongst allies, and would be discussed within a NATO framework regardless of how they are proposed. I might add that the fact that there are no ambassadorial level meetings of the NATO-Russia Council does not mean that working level contacts don't take place. No business as usual does not mean no business at all.

May I add (TAPE BREAK) example, a very positive example of cooperation has been between the Russian ship in conducting patrols off the coast of Somalia with the NATO ships, and one in particular we have had good cooperation in rather tense moments between the Russian ship and ours. So it can work, it does work at the working level. Can we do... at a certain stage I imagine it will move back to a higher level, but as I say there are plenty of ways to make this proposal, not just through ambassadorial-NRC meetings. Let us wait and see if and what is the detail of the Russian proposal.

It is certainly not for the... and I like this expression, secrétariat général, to comment as you said on what a Russian president... or a French, the French president has said. Missile defence, the bilateral missile defence project is between the parties, the three countries involved. Our view on the threat of deploying short-range missiles dual-capable, in other words, nuclear capable missiles into the heart of Europe and pointing them at European allies is one of disapproval, and I would not make linkage between these two issues.

UNIDENTIFIED: James, it's about Somalia. You said that NATO, the four NATO ships are not involved in the operations surrounding hijacks... or tanker. Is it foreseeable that this will change in the coming days? And if not, does that mean that there is no NATO capability at all in the area where the tanker is floating at the moment?

APPATHURAI: There was not a NATO capability in the area when this incident took place. It was miles, as you know, thousands of miles away from where the NATO operation was due to take place. NATO's mission is divided in essence into two parts. One is as I mentioned to do escort of WFP ships, the second is to provide anti-deterrent... deterrent patrols, and as you're well-aware, NATO ships have intervened more than once in defending ships against acts of piracy. But the NATO mission does not involve, as far as I'm aware, boarding ships that have already been taken hostage to try to free the crew. That is a different mission which NATO has not been assigned.

UNIDENTIFIED: Yes, I got two question for James and one for Colonel Panizzi. Firstly on Russia, James, can you just give us an update on where we are in terms of the discussions in the Alliance about a possible restart of the NRC meetings and the criteria and how close Russia might be to restarting that. And why... I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think part of the NATO position on missile shield was not only to know that it's feasible, but also that it could play a useful contribution to security, and you admitted that from your restatement of the policy. I wonder if there's any reason for that?

Secondly, on Somalia, this second discussion that we might expect now... can you say on whose initiative that was and whether the Alliance has had dealings with say players such as the AU, the UN or contacts on playing a role in Somalia?

And for Lieutenant Colonel Panizzi, can you tell us what is on the agenda as far Pakistan is concerned at the CHODs meeting?

APPATHURAI: You go first.

PANIZZI: Concerning Pakistan, this is an invitation by the Military Committee directly to General Kayani who is the Chief of the Army Staff. And it is... this invitation is in the same light of the invitation that the Military Committee sent to the Chief of the Defence of the Afghanis, defence during the meeting in Bulgaria. So this is a demonstration of this will from the Military Committee to implement this comprehensive approach because Pakistan is considered more and more a very important key actor in regional security and also for the ISAF mission.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. On Russia, there are discussions amongst ambassadors, you will not be surprised, at NATO on when and how to move back towards a more normal relationship with the Russian Federation, including at the ambassadorial level. They have not reached any decision on that. There is, I would suggest, the real possibility that this could be discussed amongst foreign ministers when they meet in two weeks; as it was foreign ministers who had taken the decision to move to a no-business as usual position. So I think that would be the next point for a high level discussion on this issue. Sorry, it was simply shorthand; the NATO position has not changed in any way from Bucharest on these issues. Yes, they continue to believe that it could make a useful contribution.

On a possible long-term mission, this was one of the options that was considered right from the beginning from within the NATO system. The Secretary General had extensive discussions with Secretary-General Ban, with the head of the World Food Programme and with the head of UNOCHA as well when he was in New York for the General Assembly meeting. And the issue of piracy was, I think, first on the agenda for all those meetings as you won’t be surprised to know. Their immediate concern was World Food Programme escort, but there was also, I think, a larger discussion about what the international community can do to deal with this problem on a more longer term basis. So it's always been in everybody's thinking.

We also had a very interesting discussion at a conference hosted by Lloyds and the Economist which dealt with maritime security, and piracy was very much on the agenda of private industry. I am given to understand that insurance companies have paid something like $100 million in ransom money. So you have seen that shipping is increasingly looking at the possibility of diverting shipping routes away from the canal and down around the Cape of Good Hope. Depending on who you ask, that will add 12 to 15 days at $20,000 to $30,000 a day to the cost of shipping oil. And, final point, attacks have gone up 80 percent this year, and considering that I saw recently that a 1 million Euro or dollar, I can't remember, $1 million ransom was paid just in the last couple of weeks, this business is going to keep going whether we like it or not. All this to say a long-term... the possibility of a long-term NATO presence starting next year at some stage is, I think, something that won't go away. The European Union has, I think, quite usefully looked at a long-range mission. So the question is would anything complementary to that be necessary? If so, then there would be a discussion within NATO in complementarity of course with the European Union.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Inaudible) … piracy issue rather than any wider look at instability emanating from Somalia because--

APPATHURAI: No, it’s on piracy.

UNIDENTIFIED: it’s on piracy.

APPATHURAI: it’s on piracy. I have heard no discussion, there are no discussions within NATO about dealing with what is frankly the root cause, and the root cause is political instability in Somalia. But there is no discussion within NATO on that.

Sorry, final point on piracy. Just to be clear, the relevant African bodies and the government of Somalia have welcomed this, and I'm quite sure the Secretary-General will be discussing precisely this with President Kufuor next year... next week in Ghana.

UNIDENTIFIED: James, (inaudible) German Television. When there are talks at the moment on the ambassador level between Russia and members of NATO, what are they talking about? Can you give us an idea what the topics are? And do you expect that the NATO-Russia Council will be taken up again when the new government in the United States is in charge? Second question, and the third one: in two weeks we will have a decision whether Georgia will be able to be member of the membership action plan, do you have any signals from European countries such as France and Germany that this will take place in two weeks?

APPATHURAI: Thank you. There are no formal ambassadorial level talks taking place. If NATO ambassadors are speaking to Ambassador Rogozin on a bilateral basis, I don't know about it, and they don't tell us about it. We don't have an NRC at ambassadorial level.

There is no formal or to my mind political requirement to wait until... no, let me rephrase that. The US government is working now. It is not paralyzed. It can take decisions, so I don't know what the US position will be on this issue. They will decide it when they decide it, but I don't think we should presume that nothing's going to happen in Washington between now and January 20th. That is not the case.

On Georgia and Ukraine. I cannot of course foresee what decision will be taken. One thing is clear is that the word or the process of membership action plan itself has become highly politicized, and regardless of what the decision is we should not over-politicize it. A yes on membership action plan would not mean membership the next day, a no on membership action plan doesn't mean no membership at all. So we will have to see now what decision is taken; I can't lean obviously in either direction.

(Inaudible). Don't worry.

UNIDENTIFIED: James, the Macedonian government decided to take Greece to the International Court of Justice. I would like to know because of the veto in NATO, so I would like to know if you have a reaction.

APPATHURAI: There's no reaction from NATO. This is A, a bilateral issue and now a legal issue, so we are in no position to comment.

There and then there, and then we'll come up here.

UNIDENTIFIED: Yeah, hi. I'd like to ask the Lieutenant Colonel to further characterize the meeting with the Pakistani officials, in particular are we going to see NATO listen to a list of complaints or will NATO actually make specific requests to Pakistan? Given also that the incoming administration in the US has signalled that it would like to see greater involvement of Pakistan. Thank you.

PANIZZI: Again, a very good question, interesting. This idea was also... the invitation of the Pakistan chief of the army was also an idea that came out during the recent MC visit to Afghanistan when and where the Military Committee wanted to really have a grasp, firsthand sensation and perception of what's going on in Afghanistan. And so it was very well understood that there were some, in any case some tangible progress overall as far as the Afghan National Army's concerned. But also the need to implement, as I said before, the comprehensive approach, and Pakistan is a key leader. We know that General McKiernan, the COMISAF has very good relationship with General Kayani.

And so in the agenda there will be discussion on all the aspects that can concern the cooperation between NATO and Pakistan, will be border control, fight against terrorism, logistics support and every kind of support and cooperation that can exist between... among Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO operation there.

UNIDENTIFIED: (Inaudible) President Karzai has given a blank cheque for security to the Taleban, including Mullah Omar. Does this have the blessings of NATO? Is it not a sign of desperation? And coming to the Pakistan issue, I was late because I was watching the Pakistan finance minister talking on a major TV channel that about the financial condition, and it's really bad, and he couldn't answer the question that there are 55 ministers in the federal government and what they are doing and why there are no ministers to cut down. So if NATO talks, and if it talks with money, where will that money go? It won't go into the defence or in the fight against terror because of countries in real financial crisis. Thank you.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. On reconciliation... well, first point President Karzai doesn't require the blessing of NATO to take his own national positions. He's the head of a sovereign government. NATO's basic position has always been that there can be no exclusively military solution to this problem. A solution must have an economic element, a reconstruction and development element, but also of course a political element. And if and when the Afghan government chooses to engage in talks with, and he has always stressed, Afghan Taleban, and if that will lead to what our UN mandate calls us to support, and that is stability and the protection of fundamental rights inside Afghanistan, then NATO is supportive. It is not for us to engage in any kind of talks, but if President Karzai, the government of Afghanistan chooses to do that, we will be supportive.

I think you can safely assume that any NATO support or cooperation, support to or cooperation with Pakistan will not involve buckets of money. We don't do that. NATO doesn't have buckets of money and doesn't provide financial assistance. What has been discussed, and you're very well-aware of this, until now has been joint training, offering high-level training, for example, to Pakistani officers to come to the NATO schools that are in Europe, and allies are in discussion on a bilateral basis on technical assistance that might be provided, including, for example, on border control. But I don't think you should worry that any large sums of NATO money will be diverted somehow to deal with the financial crisis because we don't have those.


UNIDENTIFIED: (Inaudible)?


UNIDENTIFIED: I spoke to somebody in the region yesterday, and was told that the situation is really bad, so.

APPATHURAI: Well, the situation is not what we would like it to be, but let me say two things on transit. One is the Pakistani authorities have been extremely robust in providing security for the convoys of supplies feeding not just the NATO operation, but also the OEF, and the convoys have begun again with Pakistani military well-armed with rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, et cetera to provide escort. And so that particular route is now open again with great support from the Pakistani authorities. Second, it is not the only route for supplies into Afghanistan. So while it is of importance that this continues to be a route that can be used, we have alternatives as well.


UNIDENTIFIED: Thank you. On Somalia off-coast operation, what has been the arrangement of the command and control, is it something to do with (inaudible) or EU or headquarters? And second is Estonia, there has been a defence ministers meeting, I read the newspapers, what was the content of the networkings? And thirdly, Ghana, what has been the understanding of the invitation by President... by Secretary General, what was the agenda? And lastly, Georgia was absent or present today, tomorrow and the day before, the day after, tomorrow's meeting, CHOD?

APPATHURAI: Is Georgia present?


APPATHURAI: Very quickly. Command and control, very simple, it runs through our joint force command Naples, and then up to SHAPE, and then of course politically the NATO Headquarters. So it follows the traditional NATO structure that you would expect. There was indeed a meeting including at the defence ministers' level. We call these high-level defence consultations on Ukraine which took place in Tallinn last week. Relatively well-covered already. Secretary Gates was there. In essence these talks focused on practical cooperation. This was not foreign ministers, it was not the first assessment on MAP, it was about what we can do together to help support defence reform, economic reform, to help build public support... wait, let me rephrase that. To help support an information campaign inside Ukraine to explain NATO to a population that I think doesn't really understand NATO very well. I could also say my own country's population doesn't understand NATO very well, but anyway.

Ghana, as I said, an invitation from President Kufuor. We have developed, I think through practical cooperation, outside of a structural framework, a very good relationship with the African Union because we have flown African soldiers in and out of Darfur, we have provided escort for supplies into the mission in Somalia through AMISOM. We have agreed to the request from the African Union for airlift for soldiers for AMISOM, and of course the anti-piracy mission off the coast.

There's also a NATO, a small group of NATO personnel have been providing capacity (TAPE BREAK) to the African Union, in very fundamental and important military skills, from very basic things like how to use intelligence, map-reading, things at on very, very large scale operations which these forces had not often had experience in handling. So all of this has been going on, and so I think it's only appropriate that they have high-level discussions on that issue. And Georgia, I don't know the answer. We'll check.

Look at this, it starts again at the front row. Here and here.

UNIDENTIFIED: A small question. About the piracies, do you have any indication that ransom money may go to the (inaudible) terrorists organisations? And secondly about Afghanistan, what is the current picture of the attacks against drug trafficking facilities or routes that had been discussed in the October?

APPATHURAI: I see. There are a number of Islamist groups in Somalia. This is no secret, but I do not know if A, they are linked to terrorists. They may not be. And B, I don't know if any ransom money is going to them. I don't have any information on that.

The Supreme Allied Commander and Commander ISAF are in discussion on what precisely the modalities will be on foreign NATO troops taking on this new tasking relating to interdiction, drug labs, precursors. So no action has been taken; they want to make sure they get it exactly right, and one of the elements you mention of course is the element of ensuring that action is taken against those traffickers that are supporting the insurgency. So it is not the easiest thing to do, but they are, I can tell you, you know we just had this discussion yesterday, in touch exactly on this issue.

UNIDENTIFIED: There's a part on the Russia future security architecture proposal that has been made public. They believe that NATO's not enough to cover all the security challenges at the present, and do you have any comment on that?

APPATHURAI: Well, I don't think NATO thinks it's enough to cover every security challenge in the world. We're perfectly happy with that. But as I say occasional comments and speeches or remarks at this or that press conference does not yet constitute a proposal of any substance. So let the allies see the substance. They will have a discussion in NATO if and when they see the substance, and then we'll see how we go forward.

My friends, you're deserting me already, so... Oh, sorry, sorry.

PANIZZI: Just to remind you that up here some brochure on the Military Committee and the media advisory for tomorrow. Tomorrow 10 past one, the press conference of Admiral Di Paola, the Chairman of the Military Committee. Thank you.