From the event


1 Dec. 2007

Weekly press briefing

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): Colleagues and friends, thank you for coming. Sorry to start a little bit late, but we were doing other things. I have to say I have seen... I've been accused of serving up information on a spoon to you, but I have never actually seen a microphone on a spoon until now. I hope I’m not accused of any bias.


Let me do two things. One is to give you a quick update on the Secretary General's recent trip last week to Afghanistan. I accompanied him so I have a few details to give, and then I'll run through the main elements of the upcoming ministerial, and I will be very happy to take any of your questions, as soon as I find the piece of paper that I actually wanted... which is right here.

Okay, first on the trip to Afghanistan. The Secretary General met first with President Karzai. They had a long bilateral meeting.

Let me first begin by welcoming our friends, so we have a large delegation from the Mediterranean Dialogue countries, so please be welcome here.

The Secretary General met first with a long bilateral meeting with President Karzai. The discussions they had centred around two principal issues. One was, of course, the current security environment and political developments within the country. I would say the Secretary General left with some cautious optimism. There are a number of reasons why.

What we heard from President Karzai, but also from all of the military commanders was that the development of, in particular, the Afghan National Army is a sign of true progress. As you will have seen from the Asia Foundation report from last week the Afghan Armed Forces are an extremely well-trusted institution. They're also increasingly effective. They participate in over 70 percent of the operations taking place in Afghanistan. They lead over 50 percent, almost 60 percent of those operations. The program for training and equipping them is ahead of schedule and delivering real results. This is one area, one reason for real encouragement.

The ANP, the Afghan National Police are also developing more quickly; something which our military commanders welcomed.

Third reason for encouragement, and that was the voter registration process. The first two cycles of the voter registration process have been completed. In both cases largely without security incidents, successfully on time, voter registration up from the last round five years ago. The participation of women in the voter registration process, certainly in round one, was higher than it was five years ago, and progress continues for the subsequent rounds into different areas of the country.

Fourth area, fourth reason for encouragement, and this is of some political significance, and I'll come back to Pakistan in a moment, but the good relationship between the two governments, and the two presidents, in particular, is a sign of encouragement.

Presidents Zardari and Karzai talk regularly. The level of cooperation and trust between the two governments is I think higher than we have seen since NATO has been there. And this was manifested in a visit by the Secretary General to the border coordination centre in the Khyber Pass, which is jointly manned by Afghan, Pakistani and NATO forces.

We saw them working together. We saw the information they share including live feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles on a real-time basis. There was a very strong assessment by the NATO staff there, as well as by the Pakistani and Afghan personnel that this was extremely valuable cooperation, had been stepped up substantially. Even in the past months the officers there said what we are doing now would have never been possible four months ago.

So it is a qualitatively new level of practical cooperation along the border, and two more BCCs, these Border Controlled Coordination centres are in the process of  being opened.

Finally the Secretary General visited General Schloesser in RC-East, got a briefing in Jalalabad of the overall approach taken by RC-East. Very encouraging, very well-coordinated, comprehensive approach. In other words, not just military but coordinated with the civilian elements.

Final reason for encouragement is the Afghan Social Outreach Program. This is the Afghan-led process to engage in a more substantive and coordinated way at the regional and sub-regional level. This of course reflects the strength of Afghan governance at the regional and sub-regional level from a traditional point of view, and the requirement to engage with them. That is now being addressed by the Afghan government and NATO is supporting it very actively, but also with UNAMA, the UN mission. So all in all we left, the Secretary General left cautiously optimistic if a little tired.

Let me turn now to the ministerial. You have, I believe, most of you the media program, but let me run through it very quickly then I'll address the issues in more detail.

The working lunch of the Allies and invitees, and so I don't have to keep saying that let me just stress that each time I say Allies, in brackets that includes and invitees. Croatia and Albania will participate throughout the meeting, with our Mediterranean Dialogue partners. That will be from 12:30 to 14:30. At 15:00 there will be the NAC meeting, the first NAC meeting, so just the 26 plus two invitees. That will go till 18:00.

The official portrait, for those of you who want to take official portraits, will be at 18:05, and at 18:10 the Secretary General will be giving his press conference in the Luns Press Theatre. Available on EBU World Feed.

The next morning, 8:00 a.m. the second part of the NAC meeting, and I'll come back in more detail to this, but just so you're aware. Then at 10:10 the NGC, the NATO Georgia Commission will meet in Room 1. The Secretary General will give a press conference with the Georgian Foreign Minister at 11:15, again, available on EBU World Feed. 11:30 the NATO Ukraine Commission begins till 12:30. 12:35, press conference by the Secretary General and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister.

Let me now go into a little bit more detail on the various meetings, and then I'll be happy to take your questions.

First up, as I mentioned, at 12:30 will be the Mediterranean Dialogue working lunch. This will be an unscripted meeting, so there is no pre-scripted agenda for the issues that need to be discussed. This is one year after the December 2007 meeting. It will look at two things: achievements in stepping up the political dimension and as a second track stepping up the practical cooperation.

The political meetings are now taking a more regular pace. There have been three meetings of foreign ministers: 2004, 2007, 2008. Two meetings of defence ministers: February 2006, February 2007. Eight meetings of chiefs of defence until now.

On the practical side, cooperation has been very substantially stepped up. In 2004 there were about 100 areas of possible practical cooperation between NATO and our Mediterranean Dialogue partners. In 2008 that number is 800, with a substantial number, of course, of new tools as well, individual cooperation programs with the majority, or with two and soon more MD countries.

We have opened up Operation Active Endeavour to all of the Mediterranean Dialogue countries. Two have participated directly. Six of the seven have agreements on security of information which allows for more practical cooperation. We have a partnership cooperation cell, Mediterranean Dialogue partner, military officers in our military headquarters at SHAPE. All this to say a lot to discuss the regional security situation is usually discussed at these meetings of NATO Mediterranean Dialogue ministers. So we will see how the meeting goes, but as I say it is unscripted.

Following this working lunch there will be the first NAC meeting. I think you can expect two principal issues to be discussed here. One will be the first assessment of progress made in the framework of NATO's intensive engagement with Ukraine and Georgia. This is flowing from the Bucharest tasking, and Allies will agree a way forward in NATO's relations with Ukraine and Georgia. I expect that NATO's overall relations with Russia will also be an area of some substantial discussion.

The next working session, and I'll be happy to take your questions on all these issues, the next working session on Wednesday morning will focus on operations. Of course Afghanistan will be a major theme.

The Allies will wish to do two things I think. One is to assess the evolving situation, review progress in implementing the Comprehensive Strategic Political Military Plan. That was what agreed in Bucharest. This is an opportunity to assess how we are doing on the various areas of work.

I think the Allies will also wish to discuss the upcoming elections. In Afghanistan there will presidential elections in 2009 with the precise date still to be decided by the Afghan authorities, and then parliamentary elections in 2010. I expect, I think we expect, that ISAF will be asked to provide third tier security for the elections as we are doing for the voter registration process. In other words, Afghan National Police as the first tier, Afghan National Army as the second tier, and NATO support as a third tier. I think allies will wish to discuss the future of the electoral process in Afghanistan, as well in what NATO can do to support it.

Kosovo. The developments in Kosovo do warrant ministerial discussion. There is, of course, a reconfiguration of the UN mission. NATO Allies will wish to see as quickly as possible the deployment of the EU mission throughout the territory of Kosovo, and I believe we’ll welcome the reconfiguration of the UN mission as well.

They will have the opportunity to discuss the growing challenge of piracy. My understanding from what I have seen is that the number of attacks in the region of the Gulf of Aden are triple from what they were last year.

To give you an update on where we are on piracy there are four NATO ships participating in the operation that we have off the Gulf of Aden, being supported by a German oiler, as they call the supply ship. From the 24th of October, NATO ships have successfully conducted seven escorts in support of the World Food Program, World Food Program-chartered ships, delivery of  29,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid has been facilitated by these escorts. More escorts are planned in the immediate future.

To quote, as I have done before, the World Food Program, and I am simply quoting them: Chartered World Food Program ships have been a frequent target for ransom-seeking privateers, but since the naval escort system began in November 2007, no pirate attacks have been launched against ships loaded with World Food Program food, despite 2008 being the worst year ever for piracy off Somalia.

So I think our initial assessment is this has been a success. Of course, the European Union will soon be launching its mission, something which NATO has welcomed from the beginning. I think there will likely be discussion within the Alliance of what the potential longer term role for NATO might be. There is obviously plenty of work to go around. This is a very substantial challenge. I cannot prejudge whether or not NATO will launch a subsequent mission. The current mission is due to come to an end around the middle of December.

Turning to the subsequent meeting, the NATO Georgia Commission with invitees will meet, as I mentioned, at 10:10 on the second day, on the third. This will provide an opportunity to speak with the Georgian Foreign Minister about the evolving situation on the ground in Georgia, the ongoing measures of NATO support, these were decided in August, and relate to a number of areas including assessment of Georgia's military capability. This is a long-standing partnership area. Air situation awareness, cooperation, and other areas of practical support.

The prospects for further development of the NATO-Georgia relationship. I think we can assume that allies will wish to discuss practical measures in which we can further support and enhance our support for Georgia's reforms to help it meet NATO standards which it has identified as its priority as well. Undoubtedly they will, of course, discuss with the Georgian Foreign Minister NATO's first assessment relating to the Bucharest decisions.

There will then be a meeting of the NATO Ukraine Commission. Again this meeting will provide an opportunity for allies to exchange views with Foreign Minister Ogryzko on the progress made since Bucharest in the context of our intensive engagement on the implementation of the annual target plan 2008, as well as how to promote further reforms in key areas, how to enhance our practical cooperation, and of course I think the first assessment will also be discussed with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister as well.

I think that's all I wanted to raise, and I'm happy to take your questions. If you're not seated at the table, I'm afraid either if you can't make it to a microphone I'll just repeat the questions so that the interpreters can do it. Chris, please go ahead.

CHRIS DIXON (European Diplomacy Defence): Chris Dixon, European Diplomacy Defence. A couple of slight technical questions on Afghanistan. Firstly, looking at some interesting figures on the funding of the ANA, even aside from the set-up costs, the running costs look like they're going to exceed the total tax revenue for the Afghan state for the next foreseeable future. Will this be discussed, are there any specific initiatives that are foreseen to tackle that problem?

And secondly on Pakistan-Afghanistan, I'm thinking particular of a presentation given by Ahmed Rashid and Valencia, explaining that Pakistan-India relationships need to be addressed for Pakistan to be fully supportive of NATO in Afghanistan, for various reasons. What steps are being taken to assist a Pakistan-India dialogue by NATO with a view to improving the situation in Afghanistan?

APPATHURAI: Thank you. To address the first question of the support for the Afghan National Army, you're absolutely right that the bill for increasing the size of the Afghan National Army and then sustaining it will be substantial, in the billions. And it is not affordable for the Afghan state at present to do that. That is why there is an ANA trust fund that has been established which allows for countries to provide funding to, at an initial stage, fund the increase in the size of the Afghan National Army. And there is a live discussion between Allies over the longer term about how to sustain the larger Afghan National Army financially.

Allies are very well-aware that the long-term solution for Afghanistan requires that it has security forces able to provide for the security of the country on their own, and that we need to move to a situation in which they can do that in two ways. One is by providing trainers, and we need to do better at that. I believe that we now have 41 OMLTs, embedded training teams. We need to provide more and that requirement will grow, but second to provide funding. So there is some money now in the ANA trust fund. Well, it's just been passed to me... very appropriately. About just over $7 million euros has been provided already. More will certainly be required, so this is a discussion that needs to happen.

Afghanistan-Pakistan. Of course everybody is watching with great concern what is happening in the region. The Secretary General has already, as you have seen, expressed his very profound condolences to the Indian people and of course to all of those who suffered in these attacks, and his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives. His sympathies to those who have been injured. This was obviously an outrage by any standards.

It is not for NATO to engage directly in relations between Pakistan and India, and I don't think you will see NATO engage directly in relations between Pakistan and India. I do know that Secretary Rice will be leaving this meeting immediately, flying to the region. So the United States is certainly engaging, I'm sure they will not be alone as countries. Pakistan has been very successful, particularly in recent months, in stepping up its operations in the northwest of its own country against extremists who are posing a threat to Pakistan, or posing a threat to Afghanistan as well. We will continue to support those efforts from our side of the border. We certainly hope that Pakistani efforts against extremism in its northwest will not be diminished as a result of the events that took place last week.

I think you were next.

Q: (Inaudible...) Polish Radio. On Ukraine and Georgia you mentioned that there will be first assessment. I just wonder whether it will be in the form of a report with certain guidelines or it will be just a political declaration of the ministers?

And also as some countries would like to abandon the idea of MAP, do you think it is possible to state it in the conclusions that MAP is no longer compulsory for the countries that would like to get the membership of NATO? And for example that would mean that, for example Russia and Georgia would like to develop its relations with NATO during the NATO Georgia Committee... Commission and NATO-Ukraine Commission.

APPATHURAI:Sorry, could you repeat the last question?

Q: The second question?


Q: Whether do you think it is possible to state it in the conclusions that MAP is no longer compulsory for the countries to get the membership?

APPATHURAI:First, I think you will see two things, and I think this is the most that I can say at this stage on where the discussions are.

One is, you will see an intention to deepen the practical cooperation between NATO and Georgia, as well as between NATO and Ukraine, to further support and enhance our support for their efforts to meet NATO standards and to come closer to the Alliance.

Second, I think you will see a reaffirmation that the principles set out and agreed in Bucharest by the heads of state and government remain valid in their entirety.

Please go ahead, and then we'll go over there.

Q: (Inaudible...) Russia relationship, you had decided to restart negotiations with Moscow. There was a Russian-American meeting between the chiefs of staff. There are signs showing that there's at least a necessity of thinking about NATO's position, business is not as usual which does not mean that no business at all, but...

APPATHURAI:Like you wrote a communiqué.

Q: ...other connections seem to be more usual connections than NATO-Russia connections.

APPATHURAI:And the question is? That was an excellent assessment.


Q: Is it going to be discussed in this foreign ministers meeting?

APPATHURAI:I would be surprised if it were not discussed. I think the issue of NATO-Russia relations will certainly be on the agenda tomorrow. You are quite right that while Allies continue to believe in the importance for Euro-Atlantic security of constructive dialogue and cooperation between NATO and Russia, there has been, of course, a diminishment of confidence over the past few months as a result of, in particular, the events in August, but also I would say as a result of some unnecessarily bellicose comments related to deployment of missiles.

The recognition by Russia of South Ossetia and of Abkhazia, these regions of Georgia as independent, has also contravened the OSCE principles on which the security of Europe is based as well as I think 23 UN Security Council resolutions to which Russia itself has signed up which respect the territorial integrity of Georgia.

Allies will wish to discuss how to take forward NATO's relationship with Russia. As you say we are in a situation of no business as usual. That does mean no business at all. Let me mention the Russian naval vessel which cooperated well with a British vessel that had deployed to the Gulf of Aden under the NATO anti-piracy mission. This was an example that at sea or on the ground, cooperation can go forward. Let me also note that the Russian Federation has carefully, and we welcome that, ensured that our cooperation with regard to Afghanistan, which is of mutual interest to Russia and NATO, has been preserved. As I say that's a good thing.

So, it doesn't mean no business at all, but Allies will wish to discuss how to take forward that relationship. I cannot obviously prejudge how it will conclude.

I think we had someone back there. Please.

Q: (inaudible...) from Tunisia. You just mentioned all the progress achieved  in Afghanistan. My question is how would NATO consider President Karzai threats to negotiate with Taliban. Isn't that a message of the failure of the military status you've made so far? Thank you.

APPATHURAI:Thank you. For there to be a lasting solution in Afghanistan, the military alone is not sufficient. There will also have to be, clearly, improvements in governance, substantial reconstruction in development, and there will be a political element to a solution. It is not for NATO to lead talks with any militant groups, including of course with the Taliban. But if the elected government of the country chooses to engage in what is called reconciliation talks, NATO will be supportive of the moves made by the Afghan government.

Do we consider it a failure? No, not at all. This, as I say, will have to be part of a comprehensive solution in the country. Please.

Q: James, on Kosovo the Serbian president, Tadic, announced that Serbia is going to ask revision or changes of the Technical Military Agreement between at that time Milosevic army and NATO back in 1999. Does NATO consider that this is necessary to do now and how do you assess the general situation now in Kosovo with EULEX deployment and all political tensions that have been in the past two weeks because of the UN engagement which doesn't foresee the withdrawal of UN from Kosovo?

APPATHURAI:Thank you. We are aware that President Tadic but also General Ponos have raised, and General Ponos has raised this in the military sense, the issue of the possible renegotiation of adjustment to the Military Technical Agreement. There has been no discussion of that within NATO, no assessment of that, and certainly no decision, and I can tell you nothing has changed until now.

As to political tensions, the Secretary General visited Kosovo... what,  about a month ago? Three weeks ago? I think what was remarkable about that trip was, in a sense, the minimum amount of coverage, and the reason was that the security situation is stable. And he came away with a very clear sense that despite the very fluid political environment that all parties in Kosovo, with only the very, very minor exceptions are conducting themselves in a way that has ensured until now and we hope will continue to ensure that no violence breaks out. It has been a stable period despite the political instability. It has been stable with regard to the security on the ground. We welcome that and we fully believe that that can continue.

You know NATO's position on EULEX. We hope that it is deployed as quickly as possible throughout the territory of Kosovo, including in the north, and I think the Allies have certainly noted, and I think welcomed, UN decisions on UNMIK.

I think you were next.

Q: Ben Nimmo, DPA. James, a couple of follow-up questions on Russia. Specifically, on the no business as usual point. We had the decision I think back in August that there will be no NRCs till further notice. Specifically would you expect debate on that actual point? Is it time to restart? And more generally on relations with Russia, at the EU-Russia summit we had Sarkozy and Medvedev calling for an OSCE summit in June or July to re-launch this new security architecture that he keeps on banging on about. Would you expect any discussion on that point?

APPATHURAI:Thank you. As Allies look to taking forward the relationship with Russia, clearly NRC at ambassadorial level is one area in which relations could be, let's say restored, at a certain stage to more normal business, but I do not know and cannot prejudge what they will decide coming out of this meeting. It is possible that the issue of the ideas that President Medvedev has hinted at in a number of speeches, and Minister Lavrov as well, could come up. I have to say I am not aware of any detailed or substantive proposals from the Russian Federation, but the overall issue may well come up in anticipation, as you say, they're looking forward to that meeting.

I think you were next, and then we'll come over there.

Q: (Inaudible...). James, there has been renewed a talk of putting NATO troops in the Middle East. Some of it is linked to the rumoured appointment of General Jones as a national security advisor for President-elect Barack Obama. Has the Secretary General or NATO in general changed the three conditions that you put a few years ago for the deployment of NATO troops to the Israeli-Palestinian arena?

APPATHURAI:The short answer to that is no. The three conditions still remain in place. For those who haven't followed NATO for so long, a comprehensive agreement, a UN security council resolution, and agreement by the parties would be necessary on the ground, that is would be necessary for the Allies to have a serious discussion of whether or not NATO could play a role.

I think you were next, and then you were definitely next.

Q: Pascal Mallet, Agence France-Presse. Deux questions... Une sur le pacte de sécurité euro-atlantique donc tu as parlé tout a l'heure.


Q: En disant que le président Medvedev avait fait des allusions ainsi que monsieur Lavrov a ceci. Il me semblait que les pays de l'OTAN s'était convenue entre eux de ne pas en parlé a cette réunion mais plutôt a Helsinki ou la plupart des ministres y seront dans quelques jours à la reunion de l’OSCE.

Deuxièmement, en ce qui concerne la piraterie. Selon la presse Allemande, Der Spiegel en particulier, il y aurait déjà un quasi-accord entre l'UE et l'OTAN pour qu'il sortent de la leurs divague, enfin une ligne de démarcation entre leurs patrouilles. Ce qui voudrait dire en fait l'OTAN a déjà décidé de poursuivre les siennes et que.... de coopérer avec l'UE pour le partage géographique des taches. Est-ce que tu peux confirmer?

APPATHURAI:Sorry, to translate for those of you who don't have interpretation. First the question was is it not the case that NATO ministers will discuss at Helsinki the Medvedev proposals and not here? And secondly, piracy. Apparently there is a Spiegel piece which I have not seen, saying that there's already agreement between a sort of line of division between where NATO will operate and where the EU will operate. And does that not mean that NATO is basically already decided to extend.

To answer the first question... ça ne te gene pas si je parle en anglais pour que tous le monde comprenne?

As I said I cannot exclude that they will discuss the Medvedev ideas here in anticipation of other meetings. It is certainly not formally on the agenda, but it could come up.

Piracy, as far as I'm aware, the NATO mission will end in the middle of December, and there is no decision, nor frankly any discussion of which I'm aware, to extend this particular mission. If there would be a potential longer-term role, my understanding is it would be a separate and new mission.

There may well be some temporary overlap, and we're talking about a matter of a few days, between the deployment of an EU mission and the end of the current NATO mission. That may well be something to which Spiegel is referring about. But my understanding is the NATO mission as currently deployed will come to an end in the middle of December. The EU mission will start on the 8th of December, and any potential longer-term role for the Alliance still needs to be discussed.

Did I miss something? Okay. Please.

Q: (Inaudible...). There are rumours that there will be a discussion on the future Secretary General (Inaudible…) Is it possible that ministers will discuss potential candidates and could you just remind us of the procedure?

APPATHURAI:Sure. Of course, I have a slight personal professional interest in this issue as well. But to be more blunt, certainly there would be no formal discussion of this at the table. That does not happen in NATO; that is not the procedure. I have heard no rumours about any substantive discussion on this issue now. But I cannot, of course, preclude what ministers may discuss in the hallways.

Secondly, the procedure is relatively informal. There are no formal group discussions at 26 or 28 where a rubber stamp is then given by consensus decision. There are informal consultations that have taken place for all previous Secretaries General. High level bilateral consultations, candidates are, interviewed is a strong word, but certainly they meet with Heads of State and Government, and that at a certain stage and a timely manner there is a consensus decision.

Our expectation is that this discussion will be more substantive starting in early spring. Not least once the newly U.S. administration is in place because they of course will want to have their say in who will be the NATO Secretary General.

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI:I can't exclude informal discussions on anything. I think there were two questions back there that I have been ignoring for a while.

Q: James, on the OSCE summit in the (inaudible...) can you just say what does the Secretary General think of this idea that was launched by President Sarkozy to have this summit in the summer. I mean does he favour (inaudible...) OSCE is the right fora... forum to discuss the idea or should it be limited to NATO?

APPATHURAI:My short answer to this is, and I'm sorry but he hasn't discussed with me what he thinks of President Sarkozy's proposal, so I don't know what he thinks of this. Sorry, I'm not trying to dodge the question, but I really don't know.

Q: (Inaudible...). On NATO Ukraine and Gerogia, what practical difference does it make to NATO if further support to their reforms is done not within MAP, but within the NATO-Ukraine and NATO-Georgia Commissions? And can they actually become members of NATO without going through MAP at a later date?

APPATHURAI:To answer the first question, nobody has been suggesting that either country will be ready for full NATO membership tomorrow. They would both need to pursue significant reforms, different in the case of each country, to reach NATO standards. And that, I think by any assessment, would take quite some time.

So from a practical point of view, steps to enhance our support for their reforms, NATO support for their reforms to help them meet NATO standards is A) uncontroversial and B) the inevitable next step in helping them to come closer to the Alliance. Regardless of what other formats or structures are under discussion. Let me make that point.

Sorry, your second question was... oh, do they have to join? The process has been, without prejudging what could happen in the future, until 1999 there was no Membership Action Plan, and the countries that joined, including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, did it without MAP. But based on the experience, in particular, of those three countries, the Membership Action Plan was created and since then the countries that have joined NATO have gone through the Membership Action Plan.

As I say, I do not expect anything different at tomorrow's meeting than amongst whatever other discussions, whatever other conclusions are reached, a reaffirmation of all the decisions taken in Bucharest.

Q: A follow-on, if I may. Formally can they become members of NATO without joining MAP in views of the precedents set by Albania, Croatia, Romania and the others?

APPATHURAI:I think the most I can say is what I have said. There has been until 1999 no MAP. Since then MAP has been the process, but I cannot prejudge what will happen in the future.

I think you were next.

Q: (Inaudible...) from Jordan. How does the NATO explain Hamid Karzai asking for a time schedule for withdrawal foreign trips before this? Thank you.

APPATHURAI:Thank you. Yes, the Secretary General of course asked President Karzai what exactly he had meant. President Karzai responded, I think, in public exactly as he has said in private which was he was not asking for a timeline for the withdrawal of foreign forces. He was asking for a timeline, as he put it, for success. How long will it take for us, the Afghan government, first and foremost, but with the support of the international community to meet the targets that we have set? To create a condition in which the Afghan government can provide increasingly for its own security.

It should be clear NATO does not wish to stay in Afghanistan one day longer than necessary, not one day less than necessary and not one day longer than necessary. We have been given a mandate by the United Nations Security Council, and we are there on invitation of the Afghan people. But a premature withdrawal, and nobody is talking about a premature withdrawal, but a premature withdrawal of international security forces before Afghanistan is ready to provide for its own security is something no one wants, and that includes President Karzai. He was very clear on this subject.

But we do want to move as quickly as possible to a situation where Afghanistan can stand on its own two feet. Again, of course the Afghans support this as well. This comes back very much to the issue we discussed already. NATO needs to provide more trainers than we have provided, and that number will only increase. NATO needs to provide more equipment for the Afghan forces, and we need to provide as NATO allies, not as NATO, sufficient funding for the growth and sustainment of Afghan National Security Forces. That is something the Afghans want, it's something we want, to move as quickly as possible along the timescale to success that President Karzai himself had asked for.

I think we're going to go over here.

Q: (Inaudible...). James, just one question. There was a big attack last night, yesterday, in Peshawar on a NATO supply convoy. You mentioned that the Khyber Pass (inaudible...) but do you think an attack like this has the potential to have quite serious repercussions on the use of that supply route?

APPATHURAI: Let me say two things on this NATO supplies. First, we very much welcome the enhanced support that the Pakistani government has provided for the NATO supplies through this particular route. They have provided convoys and escort for the supplies, and we welcome that. This is an important supply line, but it's not the only one, is a first point to make. It is not the only existing supply line. The attacks that have taken place on NATO supplies, while of concern, have not been of strategic significance; they have not affected the operation in any substantial way. There are alternatives that can be explored and are being explored, and that can be enhanced, if necessary. So it is of concern, but it is manageable.

Go ahead.

Q: (Inaudible...)...The first question is about the Kosovo security force, the council (inaudible…) make some decision about the reconfiguration of the NATO presence because there is still about 17,000 soldiers are there and it is a very small area for such a number of soldiers.

APPATHURAI:I can give you two short answers. I don't know if... I don't expect any decisions on the Kosovo security force. I think the decisions have been taken, and I don't anticipate even any discussion at present on the reconfiguration of the mission.

Where was I going? This gentleman back there and then...

Q:  (Inaudible...) for Kuwait. I have question about the relations with the Gulf countries. We hear that some Gulf countries including Kuwait asked it for political consultation from NATO. Can you give more details about this point?

APPATHURAI:I can't really. Let me check on that and get back to you. Sorry to be so blunt, but I want to make sure I say the right thing.

Q: (Inaudible...)... Can we expect news of the next Russian Council or is (inaudible...). What have you decided finally (inaudible...)?

APPATHURAI:I really cannot... I'm sorry, I'm not trying to dodge the question, I just really cannot anticipate what they will decide on how to take forward.

Q: (Inaudible...)... have a decision (inaudible...)?

APPATHURAI:I think you would certainly need a consensus amongst the allies at whatever level. The North Atlantic Council here can take its own decisions; it doesn't require a ministerial visit, but it was ministers in August who decided to move to no business as usual. There will be a discussion, but I can't anticipate what decisions they might take tomorrow or how they might lay out a route for further discussions. Sorry to be oblique; that's the way it is.

I think we'll go here, and here and then here. Please.

Q: The question is how come negotiation with Taliban has not a failure to the NATO?

APPATHURAI:Well, as I said, we believe at NATO that the military alone cannot provide all the solutions to the security situation in Afghanistan. Nobody has ever talked within NATO of the mission being the total eradication of the Taliban from Afghanistan, nor has President Karzai talked about this. Of course, Taliban inside Afghanistan are apart of the social fabric of Afghanistan.

Yes. Please. You want to use the microphone?

Q: Okay, Taliban is Al-Qaeda, in a way. So dealing with negotiating or supporting negotiating with Taliban is similar to...


Q: ...with Al-Qaeda also.

APPATHURAI:That is I think a popular conception, but in fact they're not the same. President Karzai, who is the one responsible for leading this process, and not NATO, has been very clear that he would not negotiate with Al-Qaeda. He believes, and now I'm paraphrasing him, that, of course, a significant amount of the Taliban in Afghanistan are indeed Afghans who... and those who are willing to abide by the constitution of the country. He is willing to talk to and to help bring them into the fold as it were. It is not for NATO to comment on that. We will support it, but President Karzai has been very clear that for him Taliban does not equal Al-Qaeda at all, and that he is not willing to negotiate with Al-Qaeda, and I think this is a principle which many NATO Allies would also agree with quite substantially.


Q: Le président élue...Américain bien entendue Mr. Obama a un langage plus apaisant que celui que vous venez de développer, concernant les relations avec la Russie. Ils parlent des relations amicales avec le gouvernement Russe et ajoute-il, le peuple Russe. Donc parler de situation plus comme avant, comme vous l'avez dit. Est ce que ça ne.... vient pas en contradictions avec de t'elle déclaration? Qui quand même, s'on c'elle d'un allié et le plus puissant au sein de l'organisation de l'OTAN.

Pour la question sur le golf d'Aden, est-ce que ce n'est pas utiliser un marteau pilon pour tuer une mouche? Un tel déploiement de force pour des actes de pirateries, ça rappelle un outrages, n'est-ce pas? On est vraiment étonné que de t'elle moyens soit développés pour une opération... qui semble...qui pourrait être une opération de sécurité intérieure, n'est-ce pas?

L'OTAN n'aurait jamais eu a être dans le golf d'Aden, si se continent là, le continent Africain bien entendue n'as pas... n'est pas en état de déstabilisation permanente et ce qui se passé dans la république démocratiques du Congo, le confirme clairement. Ses des situations préoccupantes pour le... l'opinion publiques africaines pour le gouvernement africain.

APPATHURAI:La question?

Q: Est-ce que ce n'est pas utiliser un marteau pilon pour tuer une mouche?

APPATHURAI:To answer the second question first, in fact the deployment of international forces off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden is very small. There's a total of 15 ships covering what, depending on who you ask, are one to two million square kilometres of ocean, sea, water being affected by piracy. Where attacks have tripled, 12 percent of total shipping in the world, container shipping, goes through that area.

If those ships are forced to divert around the Cape of Good Hope, if you're an oil tanker it adds 12 to 15 days at $30,000 a day to the trip. All those costs will be passed on to all of us. So it is getting to be a strategic threat.

But let us be clear we call it piracy. In many cases this is simply hostage-taking. This is hostage-taking for ransom. There are, if I understand correctly, 300 people now, 300 sailors being held hostage. I think it was 300 people being held hostage, and of course the... yeah. Three hundred sailors from 15 countries being held hostage now for ransom.

Are 15 ships from the international community enough? I don't know, but I think we're going to see a serious discussion including amongst the Arab countries and the African countries about what more they can do, and that's already started.

Final point, I think you're absolutely right. What's happening at sea is a symptom of instability inside Somalia, instability and poverty, and so I think the international community, and that's not NATO, is going to have to look very substantially at what is potentially a deteriorating situation on the ground in Somalia.

Again, let us wait to see what comes out of the discussions tomorrow on Russia. The new administration will have its voice and its view, but NATO will move forward as it always does in lock-step, all the Allies together.


Q: The Russian cooperation on the Afghan transit. I think the Russian side has announced the 20th of November opening of the transit to the German and Spanish troops. The transit has been already started or... what's the current situation on the ground?

APPATHURAI:We have an agreement between Russia and NATO on land transit, of non-lethal military goods. NATO is in negotiation now with the other countries because Russia does not border on Afghanistan, with the Central Asian states, in particular, for transit. And I believe with Belarus as well? And Ukraine.  To start allowing that to happen. I think Russia does have bilateral arrangements for air transit with a number of countries, but that does not, of course, preclude the discussions that we have to have now with three, I think, of the central Asian states, to allow for that transit to be completed.

Do you want to jump in?

Q: I want to know if there's a minister (inaudible...) tomorrow. Anything about the American military in Iraq, especially after the Iraqi (inaudible) government accept the security...

APPATHURAI:The security agreement. Thank you for the question.

NATO has a training mission in Iraq, you're aware of this, which has been quite substantially expanded at the request of the Iraqi government to take on a number of issues beyond what it was originally which was simply officer training; now it looks at providing training, for example, on border control, on intelligence cooperation and other areas.

The extension of that mission will, of course, as with or similar to the arrangement with the U.S. forces, require some kind of an agreement between the Iraqi government and NATO. And we are in discussion with the Iraqi government as to how to provide for the legal basis of the extension of that presence at their request. The U.S.-Iraqi discussions are separate, but, of course, are relevant to the extension of a NATO training mission. I fully expect that this will go forward in a totally uncontroversial way, and we will continue to provide the service that the Iraqi government has asked of us.

Q: Will it be discussed tomorrow?

APPATHURAI:Will it be discussed tomorrow? I don't know, but I think in general it's been okay.

Please. Take two more, there and there, and that will be it.

Q: Okay, back to Russia again. You obviously can't say anything about what the ministers are going to decide tomorrow, but could you possibly give us some clues about what is the alternative to not re-opening the NRC?

APPATHURAI:(Laughs). No. Sorry.

Q: Merci. On parle d'un nouveau programme de coopération pratique avec les pays du Dialogues Méditerranéens qui va être examiner prochainement par l'OTAN. Est-ce qu'on pourrait en connaitre le continue ou les nouveautés par rapport au récentes activités existantes?

Deuxième question est que le président Américain Obama... Est-ce que l'OTAN pense que le président... le nouveau président va apporter quelque chose de nouveau dans la politique de George Bush concernant la politiques internationales? Est-ce qu'il y aura au niveau de l'OTAN une nouvelle vision, de nouvelle approches par rapport a ce qui été fait au sein de l'OTAN par les États-Unis? Merci.

APPATHURAI:Cette dernière question...

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI:Je pense qu'il y aurait un briefing...

Q: (Inaudible...).

APPATHURAI:Je ne sait même pas franchement si Madame Rice pourra rencontrer la presse pendant qu'elle est la. Je crois qu'elle par assez vite pour l'Inde, ou la region, je ne sait pas exactement ou elle va alors.

Alors, j'aurais dit il faut adresser cette question a Madame Rice mais, peut-être que c'est Ambassadeur Volker qu'il faut demander cette question mais, ces pas a moi de faire commentaire. Juste pour dire que évidement les États-Unis a toujours été un allié très énergétiques au sein de l'OTAN et nous anticipant aucuns changements dans cette égard. La première question était...ah oui, les détails... Je pense qu'il faut franchement discuter ça avec Nicola qui va vous donner les précisions exactes.

Last question is there.

Q: Can you say something about what has been the consequences of the no business as usual with Russia?

APPATHURAI:Well indeed. The obvious example which has been discussed already is that there have been no ambassadorial level meetings of the NATO-Russian Council. There have also been no meetings at the level of chiefs of defence.

All of the elements of NRC cooperation are now under regular review within NATO. So all of the program of activities that had been going on on a routine basis, each and every time there is an event or an activity obviously at a lower level, these are reviewed within the Alliance to see if they should go forward.

As I said much of that activity has gone forward with regard to terrorism, I believe with regard to ballistic missile defence, with regard to Afghanistan. So a lot of it has gone forward at the lower level. I think the sort of the big ticket items are the ambassadorial level NRC, let alone ministerial, and the chiefs of defence level meetings as well.

Q: No practical … (Inaudible).

APPATHURAI:I am not aware that any military training activities were either planned, but I don't know that any have gone ahead since August. I believe not. Anyway, I think that's about where we are.

Colleagues, I'm tired.


Thank you very much.