From the event


28 Jan. 2009

Weekly press briefing

by NATO Spokesman, James Appathurai

JAMES APPATHURAI (Spokesman, NATO): Friends, thank you for coming. I'll try to, as usual, keep it as brief as possible.

First let me very quickly debrief you on the Secretary General's trip to Pakistan. He left, as you know, last Wednesday the 21st. He came back on the 23rd. He met with the President, with the Prime Minister, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Qureshi, the Minister of Defence Mukhtar, the Minister of Interior Malik and General Kayani, the Chief of the Army Staff.

The essence of the discussion revolved around the following points:

First, that the Pakistani authorities and the Secretary General shared the view that the challenges being faced by Afghanistan are very similar to the problems being faced by Pakistan, and in many cases are mutually reinforcing. Insurgency is supporting... insurgents are supporting each other across the border. They are often crossing the border. The narcotics problem is also a transnational one, and by the way, the effects of which are not just limited even to those two countries, but spread far beyond. And that an effective solution will require enhanced political and military co-operation between the three parties - that is, Pakistan, Afghanistan and NATO, NATO-ISAF.

The Secretary General and his interlocutors spoke at length about a number of issues. One, to provide greater training for Pakistani officers in NATO facilities. That will happen. Second, how we can step up—and that is NATO, Afghanistan and Pakistan together—border control, i.e. right along the border, these border control co-ordination centres, the first one of which has been opened in Khyber, Torkham, has been a success and we want to see and will see more of them.

The Pakistani authorities and NATO also agreed... the NATO Secretary General also agreed on enhancing the bilateral political relationship between Pakistan and NATO. In other words, not to see this relationship only through the prism of Afghanistan, but also in its own right. And I think you will certainly see enhanced political exchanges and contacts, maybe not in any of the structures, formal structures that we have for partnership, but there will be a well developed, I think, political relationship relatively soon.

Finally the Secretary General thanked the Pakistani authorities for the very significant efforts they're making to keep our supply lines open. They are open. We have just been briefed on that today. We have a very high volume of goods and fuel going into Afghanistan and they are certainly sufficient to our needs, but that is in no small part due to the significant efforts and sacrifices being made by the Pakistani Armed Forces and Frontier Corps.

The Pakistani authorities reiterated their firm commitment to keeping these lines open for many reasons, but of course for the very clear reason that it is in their interest as well that the insurgency inside of Afghanistan is dealt with.

All in all a very positive trip and I think we got the same impression from Pakistan as we did... or the Secretary General did, from his visit to Afghanistan and that is one of the essential elements to success in addressing this transnational problem is regional co-operation and the very significantly-improved relationship between the Pakistani government and the Afghan government is an essential part of that. The Pakistani government was very clear that they too see this relationship is much stronger than it was and that is welcomed I think by all parties.

I'm happy to discuss that in the Q&A if you wish.

Quick update from today's NAC, most of which focused on Afghanistan. Two points I wanted to mention. One on voter registration; one on civilian casualties. For us, for NATO and for the international community, it is very important that elections should be held this year in Afghanistan and of course there are extensive discussions within Afghanistan going on to determine a precise date. This is an important symbol that Afghanistan's democracy is strong and continuing.

Of course it is up to the Afghan authorities to decide the date itself, but we have had until now I think good reason to be cautiously optimistic about this process. We were briefed today that the first three rounds of voter registration of four have been completed; 3.6 million new names have been added to the voting rolls, rosters. In other words, there was a voting registration process for the last elections. Now, five years later, four years later... five years later...? There has been a voter registration process not to re-register those who had been registered, but to add new voters. 3.6 million new voters have already been added to the voting lists, 30 percent of which are women which we consider to be a positive development.

Now the fourth round has begun and so far there has been no militant, no substantial militant obstruction to voter registration. So it is going in a positive way.

The second issue which was discussed as it is regularly discussed was our efforts to minimize to the greatest extent possible civilian casualties within Afghanistan. This has been once again in the media in Afghanistan due to differing views on recent incidents. To put this into context and you know this: President Karzai and his government has repeatedly drawn attention to this issue, called on NATO-ISAF and other international forces to do their utmost and we do. And we have a new tactical directive which is on the website, is in place, but it is important for us to know also what exactly the numbers are and we have gone back and forth on this.

Today we received from the military their assessment based on a new assessment and tracking system put in place this year to provide greater fidelity, greater accuracy on civilian casualties, what their figures are, and I will give them to you because I think they provide important context.

According to our military assessment with the new system that has been put in place in 2008, NATO-ISAF—I'm not speaking for OEF—NATO-ISAF was responsible for 97—let's say around 100—civilian casualties. What they call opposing militant forces—that is the Taleban and other extremist groups—were responsible for 973. In other words, 10 times as many.

Now I want to caveat this. It is very difficult to do this kind of assessment. There are no birth certificates in Afghanistan. There are no death certificates. People are buried very quickly in their own communities, often in outlying regions. So it is not an easy thing at all to do, to assess this. But these are ballpark figures that the militant forces are responsible for about 80 percent of the civilian casualties in 2008 in Afghanistan, and I would hope from a personal point of view that that could receive a proportionate amount of interest and focus from the international community as we look at this issue without, let me add, diminishing our responsibility in any way to reduce civilian casualties to the absolute minimum.

Final point. The Secretary General is leaving for Reykjavik right now for a seminar on security prospects in the High North and I think I briefed on this a little bit to you last week. In essence, to put it in a very short form, the melting of the polar ice cap is raising some very fundamental issues that are in some sense quite new as new sea is opened up. Environmental issues, energy issues - I have seen estimates that 22 percent of the undiscovered oil and gas reserves in the world are under the polar ice cap. Military issues, as a number of polar countries, Arctic Rim countries, are stepping up their military activities. You have seen for example Russian bomber flights there raise legal issues relating to jurisdiction and control therefore of the rights.

And fisheries issues as the salination... as the salt levels in the sea change there's a possibility of a shift in the number of fish, different kinds of fish, where they go and probably increasing numbers of fish and as a result there are significant fisheries issues.

For us this also raises search and rescue issues as a number of ships that would otherwise have taken a long route around will now use the opening up of the Northwest Passage. I understand that the trip for example from Yokohama to L.A. would be cut to 40 percent of what it has been until now with huge potential for savings for the companies, but also a commensurate, one can assume, increase in shipping through the Northwest Passage just for that reason. With all of the moving ice that goes with it, co-operation between the Arctic Rim countries is a very important issue.

So a number of senior officials with the Secretary General, Icelandic Ministers—whoever that might be when they get there—Baroness Taylor, the U.K. Minister for International Defence and Security, Søren Gade, the Danish Minister of Defence and a number of senior academics have gone up to discuss this, along with some NATO Ambassadors. I know that some colleagues of yours are in the room as well.

That's what I wanted to brief you on and I'm happy to take questions. Shall we go back as we usually do?


Q: National News Agency of Ukraine. James, could you update us, please, on NRS... NRC meeting of this Monday, just because, you know, Mr. Rogozin was quoted like saying that Russia can come back to the relations as usual only after NATO will revise somehow the cause of the Georgian conflict. And he also mentioned that there could be some kind of high political level meeting in Munich, so that questions appeared is what kind of meeting will be in Munich? Will there be discussing the question of the supplies for Afghanistan and is NATO ready to exchange this meeting and maybe these supplies to the revision of the relations with Georgia? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. The NRC meeting was an informal meeting of the ambassadors of the NATO-Russia Council was a very comprehensive one. Everybody spoke, all 27 ambassadors around the table.

The issue of Georgia was raised, and I would say that the NATO allies have not changed their view and the positions that they took in August. Ambassador Rogozin, as he has said himself in public did raise the issue, but there was no discussion of it.

I would not say that that meant that the allies had changed their views, only that there was no discussion of it. There may well be in future meetings because Ambassador Rogozin has not hidden his interest to have a more substantive discussion about the August events and he has every right to bring that to the table if he wishes to do that.

The Secretary General will meet with Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov at the Munich Security Conference, where they can certainly discuss many issues and will.

Russia's position on the supplies to... or providing land transit for non-lethal military supplies to the ISAF operation has been consistent and that is that it thinks it's a good idea. It made an offer to NATO, which NATO has accepted. Again, let me put this in context. Over 80 percent, eight-zero percent of NATO's supplies, including the lethal military goods, go through Pakistan. That will remain our principal supply route. A northern route, which would include, of course, Russia, but also Central Asian states and somebody on the other side, possibly Ukraine, for example, would be, certainly, a valuable further option for providing supplies. In this case non-lethal military supplies to our forces.

Russia has maintained that offer because, and this is again I'm becoming ambassador Rogozin's spokesman here, but because as Ambassador Rogozin has said, Russia is concerned, as we are all concerned, that extremism can spread very quickly out of this region and affect all of us, and of course Russia is not too far away from this.

So they have an interest in our success, and they have not hidden that. And this is why they want to help facilitate it. I would hope... I think we would hope that that shared interest remains as it has done until now, unaffected by other issues.

Q: I think the visit to Pakistan and within the context of the political dialogue, was the relations with India raised in the meeting?

And my second question is, you said about a 100 civilians have been killed by ISAF strikes last year. Is there any thought of paying compensation to them? Thank you.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. Yes, I will not hide our Pakistani... the Secretary General's Pakistani interlocutors raised the issue of their... Pakistan's relations with India and set out their views on the current situation.

Of course, it's not for the Secretary General in any way to intervene in these bilateral relations. All he has done is called on all parties to take all steps necessary to de-escalate tensions. That is the most commentary that he offered on this issue.

In terms of compensation, NATO as a body does not provide compensation. Individual NATO countries I know do do that, but NATO as a body does not do that. That being said, we have a post-operations humanitarian relief fund which has several million euros in it, at the disposal of Commander ISAF, where he or his subordinates, after operations, can go into a community, with funding, to see how they can attempt to redress, to a certain extent, the effects of an operation that has taken place in the community. But it is not stricto senso compensation.

Q: James, I think you have touched upon this at the beginning, which I was late, but it's concerning the missiles...


Q: Kaliningrad. Where are we at? Has Russia made a formal compromise with NATO that this won't be the case?

APPATHURAI: I didn't raise it, but let me answer the question. We have seen the press reports, which for the moment quote an unnamed defence ministry official saying that Russia no longer intends to suspend... to deploy Iskander missiles to Kaliningrad. When this was first proposed we were quite clear that the idea of deploying missiles into Kaliningrad and at NATO allies was unwelcome and unhelpful.

If the decision has been taken, and we have not seen confirmation of that, not to proceed along this route, that would be a positive step.

Q: James, a couple of questions. Just to clarify, you talked about civilian casualties. Does that mean the number of people killed, rather than wounded and killed? And you say that individual nations... it's the responsibility of individual nations to compensate. In that case, can you say who were the majority... which nation caused the majority of civilian casualties?

And also on the Russian issue, you've got this meeting at political level with Ivanov next Friday. When will you consider relations to be normalized? Would that represent normalizing of relations, that meeting? Or does it come at a future date?

APPATHURAI: First answer, yes, that means killed, not wounded. Second, I didn't say it was the responsibility of individual nations, just that some individual nations do it. And I'm not in a position to say who does it. But if you look at the wires today you might get a hint. At least one.

The meeting between the Secretary General and Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov is part of the measured and gradual reengagement. That is the tasking that was given to us by our Ministers. I don't know that there's any definition of normalization, but at a certain stage, after the meeting, and depending on, I think, to a certain extent, the discussions they have, there will be an ambassadorial, formal ambassadorial NATO-Russia Council. And at a certain stage after that, there will be a ministerial NATO-Russia Council.

The dates for neither of those has been chosen yet. I think everybody's now looking forward to the Munich discussions to see how we go forward.


Q: Newsweek, Russia. James, back to Rogozin. He said that there is a general understanding that the Council was created as a major forum between Russia and NATO, so what is the obstacle now to come back to the full functioning of the Council? What is the NATO vision of the obstacle?

APPATHURAI: Well, as I say, it's not a question of obstacles, but it's a question of steps and taking the appropriate steps. The tasking from our Ministers was, first, to have an informal meeting. That has taken place. And next was to have engagement by the Secretary General at the political level. That will soon take place.

And then we will see where we go. It will be next Friday, in Munich. The Secretary General and Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov. So things are moving in the way that they have been prescribed to us by our Ministers. I think that's the best I can say.

Q: James, we've seen reports from a couple of days ago that the Russia navy plans to build a naval base in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region this year. And possibly an army base in South Ossetia. Can you comment on that?

APPATHURAI: Thank you. The NATO allies have taken note of these press reports. They have stated clearly and unanimously their support for the territorial integrity of Georgia. More than once. This is an issue which I believe will be raised by the Secretary General with Deputy Prime Minister Ivanov in Munich.

I think we have... Sorry, no. Devant. Devant.

Q: Yes, James. The SecGen mentioned, before the Belgian Parliament, the possible use of the NRF to reinforce ISAF during the election period. But he also said that there was no agreement, no consensus between allies. Has the Military Committee already been tasked to study this option?

APPATHURAI: Many options have been studied by the Military Committee. I don't want to go into the inner workings of the Military Committee now. What I can say is this: There will be forces provided by NATO and sufficient forces provided by NATO for the elections. No date has been set, yet, by the Afghan authorities. But NATO has made it very clear, and we are unanimous within the Alliance, that supporting these elections are a priority for NATO, for this year, for all the reasons that I mentioned.

Now as to what form or structure or units will be deployed for the elections that has yet to be determined, but as I say, so has... there is still no date for an election. So we have the time, but not that much time, because I imagine the Afghan authorities will choose a date one of these days. So bottom line is, there will be the forces. As to where they come from, we'll see.

I think we have to go back first.

Q: James, I would like to know if you have a New Year's message to the Macedonian authorities for 2009. We have elections coming, and if they go wrong, if there are any incidents, what impact could this have on the possible... on the pending invitation?

APPATHURAI: I have no New Year's message for the Macedonian authorities, I say with... with no particular message on the elections.

Q: Well, I would ask you the similar questions, because European Union raise the name... the election in Macedonia as a high importance for them. And does elections will be evaluated by NATO and does the name issue still only condition for joining NATO or there are new assessment maybe?

APPATHURAI: To answer the second question first, there are no new conditions imposed by NATO. NATO takes its decisions, as you know, unanimously and it is quite clear in the case of your country, once the name issue is resolved, I expect that an invitation would come very quickly thereafter to begin the accession process. I have heard of no new conditions.

That being said, elections are always an important benchmark for NATO. NATO has made it clear in the past that the ... a process that is fair, democratic, peaceful, that is an essential benchmark of a NATO ally, and we would hope and expect that all aspirants, of course, meet that benchmark as they prepare, and of course, once they are in NATO.

Q: Thank you. Could I have a modest proposal for my colleagues in this room. When we raise questions can we all speak up so that everybody in the room can hear, at least the questions.

APPATHURAI: I support this.

Q: Okay. Thank you. Then, you said that all 97 people were killed, do you have the figure for the wounded?

APPATHURAI: I don't. I'm sorry, I don't. Let's say around a 100. Ninety-seven was the figure I gave. We'll say around a hundred because I think it's probably...

Q: You said all 97 were killed.

APPATHURAI: Yes, it's all... those are...

Q: And the second question about the supply route in the north. Mr. Rogozin said that his country is ready for arrangements for talks... arrangements, but the NATO international secretariat has to finalize talks with other countries. My question is, how many countries are actually involved in the north road, and what are... what is going on with the talks with these countries?

APPATHURAI: I seem to be sort of Mr. Rogozin's dance partner today. The Russian government and NATO have already reached an understanding based on the Russian offer. So there are no complications with land transit between us and the Russian Federation. But Russia is only one, a big, but one link in the chain between NATO territory and Afghanistan. So yes, we are in discussion with Central Asian states, and of course with Ukraine on the other side, to complete the chain.

Those discussions are quite well advanced, including in the case of Ukraine. Are they complete? No, but it takes, of course, two to tango, or in this case a few more than two to tango. And we've just received a briefing on this today. These discussions are going well.

We have to keep in mind that they are very complicated. They relate to a number of highly technical issues, but also a number of important political issues, and financial issues. I won't go into great detail, because many of you have heard this before, but you have to have arrangements for paying for transit, for paying for damage done by your forces during transit, about the legal status of the personnel transiting, what about their firearms for personal protection, etc. etc. etc. etc.

So it is complicated, and each country has their own procedures. That being said, well advanced were the words that were given to us today in the cases of all of these countries. So I think that we are not concerned that they will not happen. They will happen. On top of that, as I said, we are currently sufficiently supplying our forces, through the existing transit routes that we have. Both through Pakistan and also the bilateral relationships that a number of the allies have to ship in their own supplies.

So this will be a useful extra addition, but we shouldn't, I think, overstress the immediacy or the urgency of this. We're doing fine, but this will be an extra and very welcome addition.

Q: James, Richard Werly from the Swiss Daily Le Temps.  I've got two questions. First of all, are you in position to give us any update on coming ISAF reinforcement in the coming weeks? That's the first question. And second question, can you confirm that the PfP, Partnership for Peace, member countries, will not be invited to the 60 anniversary summit in Strasbourg.

APPATHURAI: Will I be in a position to give you details on reinforcements? I think certainly not before the Krakow ministerial, that’s probably a useful point at which this will be updated. The information that I have at present is that there will be no EAPC or PfP-type meeting in Strasbourg. Whether there would be an ISAF meeting I don't know. Certainly it has not been discussed... well, no, it has not been... has it been informally discussed? Yes. But there certainly has been no decision on that. I would tell you very frankly I don't think it will happen. I think if there's going to be an ISAF format meeting it might be elsewhere, but for logistical and time reasons I have difficultly imagining an ISAF meeting in Strasbourg and Kehl.

That being said, it's not impossible. But certainly it has not been decided yet.

Q: (Inaudible...) this morning (inaudible) about the programme of the NATO Summit in Strasbourg and what's the timeframe? Will it just be a dinner or it's just a ceremonial session? What will happen on Saturday? Because the press centre closes at three o'clock in the afternoon so...

APPATHURAI: Short version is this: all of this is open to... still very open, okay? So this is the initial thinking. That in essence, you would have a working dinner on Friday evening, on the Friday evening, after the G20, which will take place in London on the Thursday. Then you have a working dinner on the Friday, then a ceremonial event on the Saturday morning. Still working on the ceremony, but there will be a ceremonial event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of NATO to reflect the fact that this meeting is taking place in the heart of Europe, which we think is a very important symbol.

And then working meetings, followed by a lunch of whatever kind, social or working. That is not yet clear.

If there is to be any other type of meeting, for example, an ISAF, well, that's something that needs to be decided, but in essence what we're talking about is Friday evening, Saturday morning up till two o'clock or so.


Q: James, I'll try and be brief. On the helicopter fund, the U.K.-French helicopter fund for Afghanistan, it was five million British pounds. How much money is in it and is that actually in the fund or just committed?

Also, on the... yes, the Secretary General mentioned last night his desire to see allies move away from the costs lie where they fall principle. What is he suggesting to put in its place? Those may be linked.

Bubonic plague in Algeria, if you've seen the press reports on that.

APPATHURAI: (Inaudible).

Q: Okay. And the last thing was, this conference in the High North...

APPATHURAI: I'm curious to know why we mentioned bubonic plague?

Q: Oh, because... it's a link with al-Qaeda, an experiment that may have gone wrong.

APPATHURAI: Oh this one, yes.

Q: The potential of being deployed in...


APPATHURAI: Okay, no no (inaudible...)...

Q: ...military, that’s why it’s relevant. And what's NATO doing there. And the last one, is this conference in the High North, that is a very impressive line-up, I find it hard to believe that all these National Defence Ministers are there to discuss search and rescue for maritime commercial traffic. Can you tell me anything more concrete about why the Defence Ministers are there? I understand the areas of concern that relate to security, but what can NATO do? What's NATO's mandate? Which parts of NATO can be involved in the defence aspect, apart from the search and rescue for maritime traffic?

APPATHURAI: Thank you. The helo fund, well, I tried to find out, but I don't know the answer, so you might want to check with our French and German colleagues, but I'll look again when I get back.

Costs lie where they fall. The Secretary General believes that we need to have a more flexible interpretation of what common funding might mean. We have, already, during his tenure, expanded the number or the range of expenditures that fall under common funding. Particularly in operations. Things like hospitals that are established by one country, which are used by all of them, or by many. Runways, airport maintenance - there are a number of areas where we have already moved the yardsticks.

But he does believe that the principle of the costs lie where they fall can have at times the effect of inhibiting force generation because it falls unfairly or twice on a country first, for example, to buy an Apache helicopter and then to deploy it and then to run it and then to run it in a part of the world where it gets chewed up by the environment, like Afghanistan, and then be forced much earlier than they had planned to replace it. Where of course, other countries that never made the purchase in the first place escape relatively free of the cost.

So he would like to look at more imaginative ways of doing this. Now whether or not that happens is a discussion that will take place within NATO.

Plague in Algeria. I can tell you today we had a discussion of weapons of mass destruction proliferation by experts on that subject. I cannot, of course, go into any detail on that briefing, but one of the issues that was raised was precisely this, the menace of terrorist groups getting hold of weapons of mass destruction, weaponizing ingredients that can be found on the open market. And it did not escape the attention of the people in NATO that what happened there was a potential indicator of the threat that we all can face from these kinds of groups.

There are only, to my knowledge, two Defence Ministers going to this meeting. That is Søren Gade, the Norwegian Foreign Minister will be there and of course, the Icelandic Defence Minister. Unless I'm missing something, and you know more than I do.

That being said, your question is a legitimate one. What are the defence issues related to the North.

The principle here is an important one, and it is not a coincidence that I didn't go into extensive detail here. Cooperation between the Arctic Rim countries, until now, and using the legal and political structures that exist, including the Arctic Council, has been good. People are playing... countries are playing by the rules, resolving issues through the agreed structures and frameworks and through diplomacy, that includes the Russian Federation, and as a result NATO wishes to see the cooperation on these issues and the resolution of defence-related issues, dealt with in that same spirit, the same spirit that we have seen until now.

This is not an area of confrontation. It has not been until now. We don't see any reason why it needs to be, but we do need to have a discussion and this conference is part of that process. To explore all the issues, de-conflict, establish clarity where there has been no reason to have a discussion until now, and keep that positive spirit going on this issue as well.

So can NATO have a greater focus on the High North? Yes. I think this you will certainly see. What exactly that will comprise, I think we are only at the beginnings of that discussion, but NATO's intent, going in, is not at all to contribute to a spirit of confrontation, but to reinforce the spirit of cooperation that Arctic Rim countries have established between themselves on Arctic issues until now.

Q: I would like to go back to this missile defence system, if I may. You've already given your comments on the possible Russia decision, but I would like to go back to the second part of the Interfax reports today, which is Russia is about to abandon its plan to locate Iskander in Kaliningrad because the United States are about to abandon its plans to locate the elements of the missile defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

So the question is, has NATO recently received any information from Washington the United States are about to abandon the plans to locate the elements in Poland and in Czech Republic?

APPATHURAI: First, let me remind us all that this was, again, quoting an unnamed defence ministry official. But that being said, I have not seen any information on any changes to Russia's... to the United States' position on missile defence, nor any changes to NATO's position on missile defence. So let us wait and see if any changes really are in the offing first and foremost from the Russian Federation on the Iskander missiles.

Q: (Inaudible...) discussion on this next week as well at Munich and is the SecGen going to meet perhaps somebody from the new administration to discuss this? Are we going to get a bit more clarity on this quite soon?

APPATHURAI: Yes, the Secretary General will, of course, meet with the delegation that comes to Munich. I don't know, or certainly can't confirm, I do know, but can't confirm, who will be in the U.S. delegation, but I can assure you it will be very high level and I will not be surprised at all if this comes up.

Please. You've been very patient.

Q: James, I have a question about Iran. A few days the Secretary General spoke about the possible or the option of involving Iran in the regional issue mainly in Afghanistan. Now he's suggesting a political dialogue... I mean, you have suggestions of political dialogue with Pakistan. This could be in line, let's say even indirectly with the new administration approach towards the problem of the region, including Iran.

My question is: What do you expect from Iran? And will that... and could we imagine that one day you can move to have a kind of political dialogue also with Iran?

APPATHURAI: Well, thank you for the question. Yes, the Secretary General did say, in his speech, which you can find in the web. Apparently, not very easily, that in addressing the problems of Afghanistan we as an international community need to stop looking at Afghanistan as an island, but recognize that the neighbouring states are all affected by, influenced by and can have an influence on the regional security challenges. And he explicitly listed Iran as being one of those countries that should be engaged in a regional context.

Now he was not advocating a NATO political relationship to be established with Iran tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow. Nor did he set out any specific structures. But what is clear is, that Iran has a long border with Afghanistan. It is profoundly affected by the narcotics challenge inside Afghanistan, which is causing an addiction problem in Iran of quite some proportions. There are reliable reports of IEDs of Iranian origin, but I don't know exactly what origin, turning up inside of Afghanistan as well.

So a solution to the problems of Afghanistan can usefully engage in a regional dialogue Iran as well. As to how exactly that will be done remains to be seen. There are, of course, a number of discussions which you have seen in the media as well as to what might go forward, but he did not, and it is not for me to go into the details of possible structures. Certainly no NATO-Iran political dialogue, as I said, in the immediate future.

Q: Can I have a question?

APPATHURAI: Please. (Laughs).

Q: (Laughs). I've been even more patient (inaudible...).

APPATHURAI: Yes, you have.

Q: Now, I wanted to push you a little bit on the Pakistan issue. What's changed now that makes this political relationship could happen soon? Why is it now the right time to do it compared to say two years ago when you started talking to Pakistan on the political track? Could it be the opening of a NATO civilian office in Islamabad, say?

And now that you've mentioned the financial compensation that countries receive for supply line facilities, can you give me a figure of how much Pakistan actually gets in terms of compensation for supplying... for opening these lines? Thanks.

APPATHURAI: Thank you. To answer the last question first, I'm not aware that Pakistan as a country or as a government gets any particular payment for transit. There are commercial benefits, of course, for Pakistani truckers. The commercial arrangements I was addressing were principally damage done by NATO forces who are transiting through... NATO supplies transiting through a country, but I'm not aware that the Pakistani government itself makes any particular profit from this arrangement, except for the commercial benefits in the port and the truckers, which I think are not insubstantial.

What's new? I wouldn't say there's anything substantially new except to say that now the Secretary General has been there. The government in Pakistan is very willing and open to this political relationship. In fact, the Prime Minister was the one who raised it in public after the meeting, as you may recall, wanting a more institutionalized political relationship, or at least a more regular political relationship between NATO and Pakistan.

The Secretary General believes that this is an essential complement to the military-to-military relationship that we have.

In terms of a NATO civilian office there was no discussion of that, that I'm aware of. That being said there is discussion of having liaison elements for NATO within Pakistan. That is very much in the context of ISAF. Right now that's being done, but in essence through embassies. Whether or not that will be more formalized as a NATO office remains to be seen, but we are in discussions with Islamabad on that subject.

Q: Any talk of a cooperation agreement of the kind you have with Afghanistan at the moment?

APPATHURAI: No. Nothing that formal. I think in essence what we're talking about is enhanced and more regular high-level political contacts, enhanced military-to-military contacts, including A, on the border, B, in terms of training, and I think there might well be a discussion within NATO of what other support could be provided to the Pakistani Armed Forces Frontier Corps. And third, stepping up the tripartite political and military relationship. Finally, as I mentioned, the liaison elements, to see whether or not to formalize those as NATO. Those seem to me to be the four elements.

Q: Just a technical.

APPATHURAI: Yes, technical.

Q: Can you just clarify the date, exact date, the Secretary General is going to go to Munich?

APPATHURAI: He will go on Friday the 6th.

Q: The 6th.

APPATHURAI: And then come back on the 7th. But I can just check my calendar to make sure that I haven't got that wrong. Oh whoops. Yes, he'll go on the 6th, come back on the 7th.

Colleagues, thank you.