Meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of Foreign Ministers
Statement at the Press Conference by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson following the NATO-Russia Council meeting
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,
In my capacity as Chairman of the NRC, it is my pleasure to share with you the results of this session of the NATO-Russia Council of Foreign Ministers.
This is a forum for genuine cooperation among true strategic partners with real shared interests.
Its importance is reflected in the issues on our agenda: the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans, the fight against terrorism, and of course the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The views expressed by the 20 ministers were very close. They confirmed the shared vision of the need to jointly address these key international security challenges. There was a clear willingness to work collectively, and to seek consensus and opportunities for joint action.
The Ministers reviewed the first year of NRC cooperation. We have already produced important results on issues of real political and practical value to all of the 20 countries, including crisis management, on theatre missile defence and on airspace management. This level of cooperation in the past would have been inconceivable.
We intend to build on the success achieved so far and you can expect more initiatives, more projects benefiting the twenty Council members and the international community as a whole.
The NATO-Russia Council is not a debating society. It exists because in today's world the NATO Allies and Russia need each other more than ever before. Standing together they have the potential to face any threat and I am delighted to say that we are realising that potential.
One of the interesting little points in today's meeting I thought you might be interested in, was that Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov of Russia briefed the NATO Russia Council on the discussions, which took place last weekend between Putin of Russia and President George W. Bush of the United States of America.
So Ministers in the Council got briefed from the Russian side and the American side on a vitally important meeting of two world leaders that took place in St. Petersburg and it was interesting that the readout from the meeting was exactly coincidental with both countries, placing a very high premium on the outcome of that particular meeting and of course those two leaders were two of the main driving forces behind the creation of this remarkable body at 20, of the NATO Russia Council.
Questions and answers
Q: Nick Fiorenza, Defense News/Armed Forces Journal. You spoke about areas of co-operation, the most practical example of co-operation between Russia and NATO, in fact, is about to end. Russia is going to withdraw from its operations in the Balkans, in SFOR and KFOR. Are you concerned about that? What future examples of such close co-operation could there possibly be in fact?
Lord Robertson: There's no concern about Russia ending its commitment in the Balkans. The Russian authorities have made it clear that it is because of the maturity of the operation, the success of the joint operation, that Russia feels now that it can safely withdraw its troops, they having made a very substantial contribution to bringing peace and stability to that area.
Practically all of the armed forces, both of the NATO countries and of Russia, are greatly overstretched at the moment, given what they have to do and the considerable agenda they have to face. So, Russia has made it clear that for reasons of utility, in other words, Russian troops are not so necessary now, as well as the other commitments that they have, that they are taking their troops out of these operations.
NATO of course, as you already know, is looking itself at what it does in the Balkans and has already turned over its operation in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the European Union because we believed it had reached a point of maturity when another organization could do that job more appropriately than NATO at this stage.
Q: Lord Robertson, did Minister Ivanov express the Russian willingness to cooperate with NATO in Afghanistan?
Lord Robertson: Yes. Foreign Minister Ivanov in Moscow, when the NATO-Russia Council met there some four weeks ago, made it clear that Russia welcomes NATO's willingness to take over the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. And the Russians have said that if they can help with that operation then they're more than willing to consider ways in which that can happen.
We're looking at the moment to see whether there are appropriate ways in which this could be done. But the goodwill from Russia is much appreciated and I think it, again, very vividly highlights the complete difference in the NATO-Russia relationship from that of a few years ago when it would have been inconceivable that a NATO presence in Afghanistan would have been welcomed by the Russian authorities. We have moved on from those days. We are now dealing with shared assessments, shared threat assessments, as well as with common interests that have to be faced together.
Q: Pravda, Russia. Mr. Robertson did you discuss with Mr. Ivanov possible withdrawal of Russian forces from Moldova and Georgia?
Lord Robertson: The conditions attached to the ratification of the adapted CFE Treaty include Russian withdrawal from Moldova and from bases in Georgia. Both of these are issues that have been discussed on many occasions inside the NATO-Russia Council. And as you will see from the statement today, we address these points yet again.
I reiterate the point that the NATO-Russia Council is not some sort of friendly debating society where we exchange platitudes. There is also an opportunity here, a venue here for disagreement as well, and for discussing the problems and maybe even the misperceptions that exist. And we will continue to talk these through, but progress is being made, and the conditions attached to the Istanbul agreements and we hope that that progress will go onto the point where we will get an adapted treaty that is ratified by all of the states' parties.
Q: Japanese News Media. Secretary, did Mr. Ivanov brief also EU-Russia Summit in St. Petersburg in terms of enhancement of security co-operation, namely Galileo and their Russian counterpart, co-operation in air transport, strategy in air transport. If not, what kind of mechanism would be necessary for feedback of all these dialogues?
Lord Robertson: Well the NATO-Russia agenda is big enough without us actually trespassing upon the agenda of other relationships that Russia has with other international organizations. But the issue of strategic transport is not one confined to the Russia-EU relationship.
NATO at the present moment is looking at the issue of outsized airlift and how we can produce an alternative in Europe before the A400M, the European solution comes along. And among the interim solutions that is being considered by the NATO consortium led by Germany would be access to some of the heavy-lift that is available from Russia and from Ukraine at this time.
So these issues are also part, very much part of our agenda which is a very practical agenda. So airspace management and how we develop our co-operation in terms of the capabilities that Russia has to offer in the international marketplace will remain in our agenda and so they should.
Q: Dutch Press Association. Mr. Robertson, did you discuss Russia's unease with the possibility of future NATO troops in the Baltic countries?
Lord Robertson: Russia's made it clear for some time now that the decision on membership of NATO is a decision that is taken by NATO itself. There are seven nations who have been invited to join NATO and they will become full members of the Alliance, I expect, subject to ratification in a number of parliaments next May. They will then be accepted as full members of the Alliance in every form.
In the interim period, Russia, as you know, has expressed its own views about commitments by the four invited countries who are not members of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty as to their future intentions regarding the adapted treaty. All four of those countries -- Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Slovenia -- have all made it clear very publicly that when the adapted treaty is available to be acceded to that they will become party to that. And therefore, the issue of those countries who have been invited and the whole issue of enlargement is not a controversial matter between Russia and NATO.
Transcript of Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Igor Ivanov Remarks at Press Conference Following Russia-NATO Council Meeting, Madrid, June 4, 2003
Question: How can you comment on the transfer of power to the interim government in Iraq that took place today?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: The very transfer of power is an important step forward in the matter of implementing the unanimously adopted resolution 1546 of the United Nations Security Council envisaging the restoration of Iraq's sovereignty, which Russia had been advocating from the very start of the crisis, insisting on the necessity of speedily returning to the Iraqi people the right to freely determine their own destiny and dispose of their natural resources.
As to the specific date for the transfer of power, it had been fixed as "by June 30." The transfer took place earlier. The Prime Minister of Iraq explained this by a wish to transfer power from the occupation forces to the interim government more quickly.
We know that the security situation in Iraq is degrading. The calculation of the Iraqi government, as was announced, is that the acceleration of this ceremony will help to show that the process of the restoration of sovereignty is already under way and there is the hope to calm down those who continue urging the speediest termination of occupation.
Russia had advocated that from the outset. When United Nations Security Council resolution 1546 was adopted, we stressed that all that is written down in it is right and important. But the first consideration will be the extent to which the specific phases of political settlement, provided for in this resolution, are going to be carried out in practice. Of key significance, as has become banal to say, is the security situation. We do hope that it will be successfully normalized. Key to this, in our conviction, is the ensuring of national reconciliation within Iraqi society and the drawing into the process of the restoration of Iraq's statehood of all the political forces, including opposition forces. This is the exact aim of our initiative for convening an international conference on Iraq, the relevance of which, in the present conditions, I think is only increasing. This conference will help gather together all the, including opposition, political forces, Iraq's neighbors and the international community as a whole, and mobilize all efforts to ensure both national reconciliation within Iraq and support for the interim government from regional and international forces. That support, unquestionably, is necessary, because a very extensive and complex task of the transitional period is facing the interim government.
Question: What is the agenda of the Russia-NATO Council session?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: To be submitted to the Russia-NATO Council session is a list of problems which have been examined in this body during the two years of its existence. We want to sum up this period of interaction, with which we are generally pleased. The past years have demonstrated that the mechanism that was created truly reflects the requirements of Russia and NATO alike in a uniting of efforts for cooperation in the field of safeguarding regional and international security.
The problems being submitted to today's session may be divided into two blocks. The first block is the fight against new challenges and threats, including terrorism and drug trafficking and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The second block consists of regional problems, we will discuss the situation in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Kosovo and around it, as well as the issues on which Russia and NATO can cooperate to resolve them in accordance with international law.
Question: How can you comment on the ratification by Russia of the CFE Treaty? What can you say about the claims being made against our country in relation to the withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia and of weapons from Transnistria?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: The Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe is one of the bases of Russia-NATO cooperation, since it ensures the balance of forces in Europe and is an important factor of mutual trust between the Russian Federation and the North Atlantic Alliance, which is particularly relevant in the conditions when NATO's enlargement is being accompanied by what we believe to be unjustified measures for intensifying the bloc's military activity on the new frontiers of the countries that have joined it and of Russia.
The CFE itself is not being rejected by anyone. The principal meaning of the Istanbul Agreements from the legal point of view is the necessity of ratifying the CFE Treaty, which Russia did. Several days ago the State Duma of the Russian Federation adopted this decision. Simultaneously with this decision on ratification a statement was adopted setting forth the Russian concerns and emphasizing that Russia will be strictly guided by its military restraint commitments - and by the obligations arising from the Treaty itself - to the extent the other countries parties to the CFE Treaty are guided by these obligations.
As to the claims being made against Russia, those claims, from the legal point of view, are incorrect. The agreements on resolving the situation with the Russian military bases in Georgia and with the withdrawal of Russian weapons from Transnistria bore a political, not juridical, character. In addition, Russia has been implementing these agreements, they did not presuppose any rigid timeframe for withdrawal. With respect to Georgia, agreement was reached that Moscow and Tbilisi would enter into negotiations to determine the modalities and duration of the stay of the Russian military bases on the territory of Georgia. The negotiations began, then they broke down. There has been a change of government since then and President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power, his meetings with the President of the Russian Federation took place, agreement was reached to resume the talks and the military delegations of the two sides have already begun to meet. I think that given the good will the matter can be settled promptly enough. But there is no juridical linkage between this question, just as the withdrawal of weapons from Transnistria, which is continuing (and the reasons for the inability to speed up this process are well known to the western partners), and the ratification of the CFE Treaty.
Question: Does a NATO which will be dealing with the problems of Afghanistan and Iraq and with territories that lie outside the boundaries of Europe suit Russia? Are we going to continue to cooperate with the Alliance in the future as well?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: NATO is a reality. You mentioned Iraq. I know that a decision was taken today at the summit of NATO to the effect that the Alliance will participate in the training of the Iraqi army and other security structures. All that is going to contribute to normalizing the situation in Iraq merits support. It is necessary to be very well aware of the real situation on the ground. And the situation is such that without national reconciliation, without the drawing into the political process of all the forces, including those currently in opposition and which are a kind of political mainstay for armed resistance to the occupation, without such a uniting of all the national forces it is very difficult to count on success in Iraqi settlement. Therefore, when we are talking about military assistance to Iraq, it would be incorrect not to take this factor into consideration. There were already attempts during the last nearly 18 months one way or another to solve the Iraq problem by military means, by the method of force. Those attempts did not end well. The road can only be political, and to stake on military methods is very risky, particularly in the situation where any questions of military assistance to Iraq should be considered from the viewpoint of the consequences that might occur in the conditions of a split of society.
We listened to the reaction of the Iraqis to the restoration of sovereignty, they all want but one thing - security. Security in this case is directly linked to a normalization of internal political life, to the start of a genuinely pan-Iraqi dialogue. The interim government has declared its intention to embark on that dialogue - the sooner this is done, the better. But all the Iraqi political forces should be enlisted in it.