From the event


9 Dec 2008

Joint press point

with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the President of Latvia, Mr. Valdis Zatlers

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (Secretary General of NATO): Thank you very much. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is, as always, a pleasure to meet President Zatlers. Fairly recently we spoke in the Council in Riga when I was visiting the President and visiting a mine-hunting exercise in the Baltic Sea.

So welcome, Mr. President. It goes without saying that we went through the NATO agenda, the NATO calendar, based on the important decisions taken by the NATO Foreign Ministers last week on our relationship with Ukraine, our relationship with Georgia, the intensifying relationship with eastern nations, the NATO-Russia relationship, as it was discussed last week between the Foreign Ministers.

Let me also publicly commend Latvia for its support to NATO in Afghanistan and in Kosovo. That is highly appreciated. And a good example where a relatively small nation, I can say this as a Dutchman, of course, can make an important contribution to the operations and missions of the Alliance.

Of course, we briefly looked forward to the summit in Strasbourg and Kehl next year. Also given the fact that the President has just made a very interesting trip on which he briefed me to Central Asia an the Caucasus, both very important, of course, regions for NATO.

Let me finally say that it goes without saying, there's almost no need to say it, but that the NATO aircraft will continue to do the air policing responsibilities in the Baltic area as a signal of NATO being present, as a signal of the NATO membership of the Baltic states.

We'll keep in touch, Mr. President, in the preparation for the summit in Strasbourg and Kehl. I say, again, that is around the corner. Feel yourself very welcome at NATO, Mr. President.

VALDIS ZATLERS (President of Latvia): Thank you very much. It was a really nice and constructive exchange of views and also information on all the topics the Secretary General mentioned just before. And I was very grateful for you for inviting me here and having this nice meeting.

Of course we focused on the agenda of missions in Afghanistan. Latvia has increased the number of soldiers twice during the last year, and maybe that's the maximum Latvia can afford according to the scale of the national armed forces. But we are looking forward also to evaluation of the processes and also to the goals of the future because we need to reach our goals and our targets in Afghanistan in the nearest and the longest future. Therefore, it's very important to evaluate our coordination and also our efforts, both civilian and military every year, I would  say. Maybe twice a year, but always discussing in the big summits and always the bilateral relations.

Thank you very much, and I'm open to your questions.

JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesman): The first question is there. No, no, wait, wait. Back. Back there, thank you.

Q: (Inaudible...) Radio Latvia. I have a question both for Mr. President and Secretary General. My question first on Georgia and Ukraine Latvia has been very supportive to giving MAP to Georgia and Ukraine. How do you see this contribution from Latvia's side in this process?

And second question, on... did you touch question about Baltic security plan which was pretty much on agenda after Georgia crisis and did you discuss it and is there any progress? Thank you.

ZATLERS: Of course, we touched both topics and I say Latvian support for MAP in Bucharest meeting was very strong and tough and we have to accept and acknowledge that the situation right now is a little different after the war in Georgia, and so if you follow the road map accepted in Bucharest, and go step, step by forward and don't stop the processes, just not announcing the MAP.

But increase of NATO presence and visibility in both Ukraine and in Georgia. The same is about Latvia you know, we're going to increase the NATO visibility in Latvia including air policing and training, military training, and also military exercises.

So that's on the road map for the future. And the future is that someday Georgia and Ukraine will become member states of NATO as it was announced in Bucharest.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: It was interesting to see last week that the... let me immediately echo the President's last words, that the all the elements of the Bucharest decision were re-confirmed last week and that you'll see an intensification of the cooperation between NATO and Ukraine on the one hand, and NATO-Georgia on the other hand.

Let me assure you that Latvia, as usual, has played and plays a very active role in preparing for these decisions. I think they were the right decisions, good decisions. We're not going to beef up, as you know, the NATO-Ukraine Commission, the NATO-Georgia Commission and if I look at the reactions in Kiev and Tbilisi, I think the reactions to the decision taken by the NATO Foreign Ministers last week have been very positive.

APPATHURAI: Two questions here, and there.

Q: Secretary General, just a question on Pakistan, the latest attack on the NATO convoy in Peshawar. Has NATO boosted its efforts to find an alternate... to secure an alternate route to the one by Karachi and Peshawar after the latest attack?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: We have alternatives. Of course it is sad to see this attack on the convoy, but let me also assure you that there is not in the slightest way any disruption in the lines of communication, as we call them, and in the supplies for the ISAF forces or other forces in Afghanistan.

So it is sad to see a loss of life, first of all. It's sad to see the destruction, but that is the way these people operate. But they should be under no illusion that they can seriously disrupt the lines of communication from NATO because we have alternatives.

APPATHURAI: The last question is here.

Q: (Inaudible) Latvian Television. Question to Secretary General. Taking into account this latest developments in Afghanistan, could NATO ask for additional contribution of each member state, in this case of Latvia, pretty soon maybe in the summit?

And question to the President, is Latvia ready to contribute more than decided up to now?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Let me give credit to the President first.

ZATLERS: At the present moment we have increased, as I said, the number of soldiers in Afghanistan, and perhaps there's two times more than a year ago, but that's the maximum Latvia can afford. So there'll be no increase in the future.

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: I think that if I look at Latvia, the size of Latvia, that Latvia should be commended for its contribution. For the Alliance as a whole it is relevant to say, again, for my part, that we need more forces in Afghanistan. And I think all allies should realize that we need more forces.

But what we also need, as important, because Afghanistan is not just only a matter of pouring in more forces, I side entirely with Secretary Gates, United States Secretary of Defense, it is as important that we see a civilian search, and we need extra forces. Yes, although I think that Latvia is making a commendable contribution, and we do need a civilian search because if you discuss our famous comprehensive approach the civilian part of that is as important as the military part.

So yes, we need more.

ZATLERS: I would say civilian is even more important.

APPATHURAI:  That's all we have time for.


ZATLERS: Thank you.