Meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of Foreign Ministers
Press Conference by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson following the meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of Foreign Ministers
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,
NATO-Russia's relations have been transformed. Today I chaired my last meeting of NATO-Russia Council Ministers. Once more the new spirit of NATO-Russia cooperation was crystal clear. This is one of the biggest changes NATO has brought about over the past 4 years of my term. As I prepare to step down, it is one of my biggest sources of satisfaction.
Words about cooperation are fine. But concrete examples of practical cooperation are even better. Today there was plenty of such cooperation on display.
We have deepened our political dialogue, especially in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Together we have taken initiatives to reinforce border security and boost reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Russia has offered practical support to NATO's ISAF operation in Afghanistan.
We have intensified our cooperation against terrorism - exchanging information and developing joint analyses of terrorist threats. We have practical projects underway in civil emergency planning, Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferation, and airspace management cooperation.
We are making real progress in enhancing interoperability among our military forces. We have launched an ambitious military training and exercise programme. And we are cooperating on theatre missile defence systems and how we can improve our responses to terrorism attacks.
Finally, we have built on Russia's participation in our NATO-led missions in the Balkans to develop NATO's and Russia's ability to undertake joint peacekeeping missions.
All of these activities are included in an ambitious work programme for 2004 that we approve today.
As I leave NATO, this is an impressive record. I am confident that Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will have even more achievements to report to you in the near future.
The NATO-Russia Council is only 18 months old. Already it has proved its value as a symbol of NATO's transformation in action.
But today the NATO-Russia Council is also becoming a central platform for practical cooperation - and I predict it will also play a key role in bringing NATO and Russia together to handle the common security challenges of the 21 st century. It has the brightest of futures.
Questions and answers
Q: A question from Latvian television, my name is (inaudible)... Nothing is mentioned in this final document about the Georgia, so it was mentioned that you are going to discuss this matter if there is a total disagreement in between NATO as it was put in the final communiqué from the NAC meeting this morning, your stand, and so no agreement from the Russian side.
Lord Robertson: No, the matter of the Istanbul commitments was certainly discussed at the meeting. We talked about it on the Russian side and on the ally side. Sorry, we don't have sides in the NATO-Russia Council, but the Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov mentioned the Maastricht discussions of earlier this week and about the outstanding commitments from Istanbul in 1999 and it was a point of discussion. It may not exist in the communiqué, but this is a forum for the vast discussion. We don't hold back. We're very friendly, we get on with each other, but there are points of differences. We air these differences and we make sure that they don't cause a fallout.
Q: And just to follow up this question. Robert (Inaudible) for (inaudible). What about Moldova and the unwillingness of Russia to withdraw its troops from Moldova?
Lord Robertson: The Russia foreign minister, who is having a press conference immediately after this, will no doubt explain the Russian position on Moldova. But inasmuch as I am the chairman of 20 equal countries around the table I can say that Minister Igor Ivanov expressed a strong view about the situation regarding Russian troops and equipment in Moldova and made it clear that Russia wanted and intended to discharge its responsibilities arising out of the OSCE Istanbul summit, but that circumstances made that difficult, if not impossible at this precise time, and that was the situation in Moldova as he described it.
Q: Luana (inaudible), BBC World Service. Just to follow-up to that follow-up, if I may Secretary General, on Moldova did Minister Ivanov actually say how long it will take Russia to fulfil its Istanbul commitments? Are we talking about six months or longer, and do the Russians intend to take the equipment but leave troops as he indicated in Maastricht?
Lord Robertson: Oh, I think that's a question you should ask the Minister himself rather than to me. What Minister Igor Ivanov made clear was that he had a personal responsibility... felt a personal responsibility for the conclusions of the Istanbul OSCE summit and was therefore endeavouring, with real energy, to get the situation regularized. But that circumstances had prevented that from happening and circumstances that he said Russia could not control.
But if you want details of that, then by all means ask the Minister himself.
Q: Yes, first of all, I want to wish Sir Robertson new success at his new work. And I know he does you(?) need very much further co-operation between Russia and NATO. And my question is, when the twentieth flag is here?
Lord Robertson: Well, you know, I think if I was capable of delivering reliable predictions on this matter I would probably be trying for a variety of national lottery prizes. That's not something that we can do anything but speculate about.
What I've been concerned about was building a level of co-operation between the NATO countries and Russia and everybody today reflected on what a success it has been. That not many meetings of heads of state and government can raise expectations in the way that they did last year in Rome when this council was established and see it fulfilled. That in fact, the ambitions that were laid down that day by 20 presidents and prime ministers have been more than fulfilled because there is a... you know, there is a real genuine wind of change. The stereotypes of the Cold War are dead and gone and in its place has come a living co-operation.
So whether that leads to Russian membership of NATO is a matter for my successor and for successors in NATO. But what matters at the moment is that we are co-operating well on an equal basis, and the pessimists have been confounded yet again.