Nato-Russia Council

Informal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of Foreign Ministers

Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer following the Informal meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of NATO Foreign Ministers

de Hoop Scheffer: Ladies and gentlemen, I am issuing a statement in my capacity as chairman of the NATO-Russia Council which describes both the elements of the NRC discussion and the conclusions that the 27 ministers reached today. Allow me, therefore, to make a few additional remarks to this statement.

I think the meeting was frank, concrete and productive. Minister Lavrov, with whom I had a brief bilateral meeting preceding the NRC, was warmly welcomed by his NATO partners who are looking forward to further exchanges, of course, with him. We covered a lot of ground in the meeting, addressing issues that clearly unite us which includes a shared deep concern about the threat terrorism poses to us all, and a shared determination to continue our joint struggle against this scourge. We are matching our words of concern with an active program of co-operation in the framework of the NRC. Next week, in Norfolk, Virginia, I'll have an opportunity to take our discussion further with Russian Minister of Defence Sergey Ivanov when we will address jointly the NRC conference on the military role in combating terrorism.

We also had a productive discussion on the current situation in the Balkans. All NRC members, of course, want to see this region stable, peaceful and heading towards prosperity, and all 27 countries are equally clear in their message that the recent violence in Kosovo, spurred by extremism and ethnic hatred, will not be allowed to derail the progress being made towards a better, more peaceful and more tolerant future for the people living there.

Ministers also addressed issues associated with the adapted CFE Treaty in the context of the enlargement process. All ministers reaffirmed their determination to ensure that the so-called Istanbul commitments are fulfilled. They agreed to work co-operatively toward the entry into force of the adapted treaty. As you all know, the four NRC members who are not yet parties to the CFE Treaty have all affirmed that they intend to seek accession when this becomes possible.

I may say that I was heartened by this discussion today which made clear that we can all benefit from the co-operative opportunities residing in the NRC framework to resolve those issues. It was a very good meeting. I'm very much looking forward to my visit to Moscow next week where I will meet President Putin and where we can take these discussions and our co-operation forward.

Thank you. I'm open for your questions.

Questions and answers

Q: ...television. I wonder if we've got you as the only one who welcomed the enlargement today, or the Minister Lavrov also expressed that? And would you also characterize if the tension we heard in last days in the Russian media by not welcoming the accession actually was still there in the room, or actually it appeared that work can still go on in the normal smooth way and, well, even now the Baltic or other nations are there, Russians are still doing their business as they did two years from now... I mean before?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, let me say again the atmosphere was good. The fact that Minister Lavrov has come to Brussels is, of course, a good sign that he and the Russians take the NRC seriously. We knew that, but it was, I think, a good thing that the first meeting of the NRC 27 has taken place today. And, again, as I said, see this meeting in, let's say, intensive contacts with the Russians by NATO, first of all the seminar in Norfolk, Virginia, then later next week my visit to Moscow.

Q: ...Lopes from (inaudible). Secretary General, is there political disagreement between Russia and NATO member states when it comes to the political issue of Kosovo? Because it seems that there is disagreement within contact group for some of the activities regarding the final status of Kosovo. And you are saying that the violence will not derail the focus of international community there, but is NATO by the end of the year going to continue the process of so-called rationalization of the mission in Kosovo?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well, let me first of all say that I think, on the whole... and that is of course the core of the discussion on standards before status... I think Russia and NATO do agree. I read some Russian criticism in the press on certain proposals or certain statements made in Kosovo by the UN, but I think here today it was proven that we are not the UN.

Here today at NATO we had a constructive discussion on Kosovo, reiterating again what I have said here before and also said during my visit to Prishtina not so long ago, last week in fact, that the fact that we saw this erupting violence, this ethnic hatred in Kosovo should not give the perpetrators of that violence the impression (and I think there NATO and Russia are on exactly the same line) that they can bring their ambitions, their political ambitions closer.

As far as KFOR is concerned, I think that the recent events have proven that KFOR should and will remain its strength. I mean, it goes without saying that there can be no talk or ambition of decreasing or diminishing KFOR strength.

Q: Secretary General, Robert Vander Orf(?)... (inaudible)... from the Netherlands. Did Minister Lavrov express any concern today about the accession of the seven new members?

de Hoop Scheffer: No, I wouldn't say he expressed concern. I think the fact that he came leads me to the conclusion that the enlargement which formally took place last Monday in Washington, which was again solemnly repeated today by the flag-raising ceremony... the fact that Minister Lavrov came here today leads me to the conclusion that the Russians do want to continue this constructive relationship with NATO.

In my meeting... brief meeting with Minister Lavrov we had preceding the NATO-Russia Council, I told him, as I've said many times publicly before, that I think... it's my strong conviction that this partnership, and fostering and furthering this partnership, also discussing the hard nuts we have to crack... I mean, adapted CFE is a hard nut to crack... should be done and should be discussed in the framework of the NRC. But I think Minister Lavrov and I very much agreed in our bilateral... in our brief bilateral conversation that this partnership is strong and can even be strengthened.

So, I did not hear... To answer your question more directly, I did not hear... although I saw comments on enlargement, it was not in so many words repeated today.

Q: Romanian television. Mr. Secretary General, have you discussed with Foreign Minister Lavrov about the Transnistria situation?

de Hoop Scheffer: About the?

Q: Transnistria.

de Hoop Scheffer: Not directly. But, of course, if we discuss adapted CFE Treaty/Istanbul commitments... I should not even say "slash" because they have also a textual relationship, as you know... then of course, I mean, the discussion is focused (of course, not focusing too much today in the meeting) on, let's say, the remaining equipments, ammunition in Transnistria and the bases in Georgia. I mean, those are... of course, that's the core of the debate around the Istanbul commitments. It was mentioned, but it was of course not discussed in detail.

de Hoop Scheffer: Thank you very much.