Last update: 05-Dec-2003 11:29 NATO Update

4-5 Dec. 2003

NATO “busy, useful and necessary”

21/11/2003 - NATO
Defence Ministers Meeting - 1-2 December 2003
Foreign Ministers Meetings - 4-5 December 2003
Speeches, audio and photos from the event

Foreign Ministers from NATO, invitee and partner countries discussed Afghanistan, Iraq, NATO-EU cooperation, and the preparations for next year’s NATO Summit in Istanbul at NATO, 4-5 December.

This was the last meeting of NATO ministers in a landmark year that saw the Alliance take on its first mission outside the Euro-Atlantic area, in Afghanistan. Ministers from the seven countries expected to join next year also participated in the discussions.
“The Alliance enters 2004 busy, useful and very, very necessary,” said NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson at a press conference, “In one year, the truly transformed NATO has gone from promises at Prague to action on the ground, delivering real security from Kosovo to Kabul.”

A full agenda

Discussions focused on NATO’s transformation and the mission in Afghanistan, which remains a top priority for the Alliance. Lord Robertson announced that member countries had secured all the critical capabilities needed for the mission, including helicopters, intelligence units and operators for Kabul International Airport. Preparations are now being made for an expansion of the mission beyond Kabul.

The issue of possible wider NATO role in Iraq was also discussed. At present the Alliance is currently supporting Poland in its leadership of sector in the multinational stabilization force. The option of expanding NATO’s role next year was not ruled out and could be discussed at the Istanbul Summit Lord Robertson said.

In a meeting with their EU counterparts, the Ministers discussed the recent proposals for strengthening EU defence cooperation, their possible impact on NATO-EU cooperation as well the option of a handover of NATO’s mission in Bosnia to the European Union at the end of 2004.

Looking to Istanbul

Strengthening NATO’s partnerships is set to be one of the key themes of NATO’s Istanbul Summit next year and was the focus of Ministers’ meetings with their counterparts from Russian, Ukraine and partner countries.

NATO will be looking in particular to increase cooperation with the Caucasus and Central Asia and to reinforcing NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue, and specific proposals were discussed.