Nato-Russia Council

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

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


Let me tell you that we had a very good meeting on the NATO-Russia Council, in what, as you know, like the meeting we had in the NATO framework, an informal session, so no concrete decisions to be announced or to be expected.

The purpose was to have, as usual, the free exchange of views, and we had an open and fruitful discussion, focusing on, of course, having a closed look at the state of NATO-Russia defence relations and how we can put more meat on the bones of our practical cooperation during the coming year.

I had a bilateral meeting with Minister Sergey Ivanov before the meeting, where we discussed, as Minister Ivanov said in the meeting, that... and I particularly welcome that statement, about the Russian intentions to develop a fully professional interoperable peacekeeping brigade. As you might know, we already have a program of military to military contacts, and training in place to support this very valuable effort.

I think this is a very important development. It will take some time, of course, but it's very valuable and fruitful to be able, at a certain stage, to say, we have, or the Russians have, a peacekeeping brigade which is interoperable with NATO forces. I think it's a very good example of the many very concrete forms of cooperation existing between the Russian Federation and NATO.

Of course we reviewed our common agenda on fighting terrorism, an area where NATO and Russia have already made good progress.

We discussed the very welcome support, Russian support, for the naval Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean. As you know, Russian ships have already been in the Mediterranean familiarization themselves with Operation Active Endeavour, and we discussed the next steps with Minister Ivanov today.

We had an open political discussion on why the security issues. Of course, I briefed Minister Ivanov on what NATO defence ministers had discussed informally. We discussed Afghanistan, where Russia has been supportive of NATO efforts. We looked to the future. The political roadmap for Afghanistan beyond the National Assembly elections. I discussed that with some of you one and a half hours ago at our press conference after the meeting of the Defence Ministers of NATO. And of course, the critical issue of narcotics.

We discussed Iraq as another important theatre. We share the same goal, the Russian Federation and NATO, to help the new government find its feet and provide for its own security as soon as possible.

NATO nations updated Minister Ivanov on NATO's ongoing and planned activities to train and equip Iraqi security forces. And Minister Ivanov briefed us, in turn, on Russia's perspective and plans to support the new Iraqi as well.

We also addressed the security situation in the Balkans. Russia as a part of the contact group, of course, is playing a key part in the ongoing review of process in Kosovo. And NATO is obviously a critical player as well. Including through the presence of KFOR.

We had an exchange of views on the prospects for the coming year, and all 27 countries reiterated that Kosovo must work first and foremost to meet the standards set out by the international community.

Finally, Minister Ivanov briefed his NRC colleagues on the state of defence reform in Russia and his plans for further restructuring.

I can tell you they are ambitious plans and he has his work cut out for him. NATO nations, in the framework for cooperation, are ready to help, of course.

To conclude, we have covered a lot of ground in a frank and open way, assessed the state of play in the NATO-Russia Council and gave an orientation for our future work.

I can tell you, which not always reaches your microphones or newspapers or cameras, but there are a lot of activities going on, for instance, as far as interoperability is concerned in the different groups which are operating in the framework of the NATO-Russia Council.

I leave it here, and if you have comments or questions I'm ready to take them.

Thank you.

Questions and answers

Q: M. le Secrétaire général, bonjour. (inaudible)..., Agence France-Presse. Lors de votre dernière réunion avec le ministre Ivanov en Roumanie, apparemment la réunion ne s'est pas très pas passé. Vos discussions avec Ivanov étaient assez tendu et, je me rappelle d'ailleurs, très courte- la réunion avait été assez courte. Depuis les russes font souvent des déclarations s'inquiétant de l'élargissement de l'OTAN, bien sûr, mais aussi à satisfaire d'influence en Asie centrale et des choses comme ça. Ma question est de savoir si le ministre fait part de ces préoccupations de la Russie lors de ces réunions que vous avez aujourd'hui donc?

de Hoop Scheffer: Premièrement je me souviens une très bonne réunion à Poiana Brasov, je me souviens pas qu'on avait eu des discussions tendues- ou de tension ou quoi. J'avais comme maintenant, bilatérale- réunion bilatérale avec Sergei Ivanov qui est fortement intéressant.

Vous savez que sur les points, les régions que vous avez évoqué le Conseil OTAN-Russie sur le niveau ambassadeur à Bruxelles a discuté par exemple la Georgie puis cette après-midi le ministre russe n'a pas évoqué l'élargissement de l'OTAN. C'est un fait- on n'a pas, cette après-midi discuté la Georgie et la Caucase ou l'Asie centrale mais comme j'ai dis toujours, je pourrais le répéter ici aujourd'hui, si l'OTAN a des partenaires avec ces pays de l'Asie centrale, de la Caucase, l'OTAN ne vient pas là comme- avec une certaine volonté d'être compétitif avec d'autres pays ou d'autres organisations.

L'OTAN et son Secrétaire général vient là dans le cadre du partenariat pour la paix et je crois que les relations OTAN-Russie ont développé, ont maturisé à un point ou qu'on peut discuter assez facilement la Georgie, la Caucause, l'Asie centrale.

Bien sûr on a encore, je peux le répéter ici, on a encore des problèmes à discuter concernant les obligations d'Istanbul. En relation bien sûr avec la ratification du Traité FCE(?) adapté, bien sûr il y a des choses à résoudre mais comme à Poiana Brasov sur le plan pratique et sur le plan politique les relations sont biens et sont bons et le Conseil OTAN-Russie fonctionne bien.

Q: Secretary General, Paul Ames from Associated Press. Did you discuss at all the situation in Ukraine and in particular the desire expressed by... during Mr. Yushchenko's election campaign for Ukraine to draw closer, and maybe even become a member of NATO?

de Hoop Scheffer: We have not discussed Ukraine today. It has not been part of our discussions. Nor in my bilateral neither, in the NRC meeting. You know, there will be a summit with President Yushchenko on the 22nd of February. Let me stress and repeat that as far as NATO-Ukraine relations are concerned they are based on the distinctive partnership, on the action plan we have with Ukraine. And I assume that President Yushchenko will set out the main lines of his foreign policy when he's coming to Brussels.

But I mean, the distinctive partnership has the elements I place to build on in the NATO-Ukraine relationship, but re-answering your question, it has not been discussed today.

Q: Bonjour, Jacques Massé, DTU La lettre d'information. Vous avez déjà en partie répondu à ce qui sera ma question concernant le Caucase, demande est faite éventuellement d'envoie d'observateurs en relais ou- pour succéder aux observateurs de l'OSCE concernant le monitoring de la frontière entre la Georgie et la Russie. Quel est l'état de la réflexion à ce sujet là à l'OTAN et par ailleurs quel est votre agenda en matière de coopération dans la Mer Noir?

de Hoop Scheffer: L'état des discussions est zéro; dans le sens que je ne voie pas un rôle spécifique pour l'OTAN de prendre la responsabilité pour cette opération du moniteur des frontières.

Bien sûr je sais ce qui s'est passé avec la mission de l'OSCE mais ce sujet ne figure pas au calendrier de l'OTAN.

Q: (inaudible)...

de Hoop Scheffer: Pardon?

Q: (inaudible)...

de Hoop Scheffer: Alors, quand à la Mer Noire, je pourrait répéter ce que j'ai dis sur le partenariat de la paix sur la relation de l'OTAN avec des pays dans la région du Mer Noire, mais je ne sais pas exactement qu'elle est plus concrètement votre question. On a des programmes de coopération avec ces nations; j'ai été là bas comme vous le savez il n'y a pas longtemps.

Q: (inaudible)... Reformatorisch Dagblad from The Netherlands. Yesterday you said in an interview in La Figaro that a NATO mission in Israel and Palestine would be possible in support of the latest developments there. Has that issue been raised in any multilateral or bilateral discussion today?

de Hoop Scheffer: No, it has not. And if you... no, you didn't quote me, but if you give your analysis of what I said yesterday, let me add, let me add... I said "pourquoi pas, en effet", indeed. I did do that. But do not forget what are my well-known lines when I discussed that. Indeed, I said "pourquoi pas, mais", to say it in English, I have a few ifs, as you know. The Well-known ifs. "Les si, pour le dire en français" and you know what they are. I elaborated on them yesterday during my press conference in Brussels. And that means there should be a peace agreement, a party should ask, and of course there should be a UN mandate.

And that was also in Le Figaro, I think, because it's a reliable newspaper. "Pourquoi pas?"

Q: Secretary General, I was wondering, do you worry of overstretch, since there was a huge problem both political and financial in raising, or even getting support for sending helicopters, even a medical hospital to Afghanistan? And now you're involved in Iraq. And now you yourself raised the question of Israel and at one stage, the question of Darfur. And there's still NATO commitment to the Balkans. Do you actually worry about the whole idea of overstretch?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well let's... I mean, thanks for this question, but let's in the frame of what I just answered, let's forget about Darfur and Israel because I mean you can't possibly says that Darfur, when NATO doesn't play a role in Israel, when NATO doesn't play a role...that would result in overstretch.

I do not think there's an overstretch. Where I think, as you know, we can do better, is in the predictability of the forces in the whole usability discussion. You know, excuse me again for the jargon, I can explain it here, but if I leave the building nobody will know what I mean with usability, but you do. You do.

There we can improve and there we must improved, as we must improve in the way we finance our operations. You refer to the helicopters and the hospital. With all due respect, that was last year. We have done a lot better because I have just announced an hour ago that we are set and ready for expansion of ISAF into Phase 2 in Afghanistan.

So no, I do not see overstretch. And if you see the NATO inventory, quite honestly, it might be... you might consider, or I certainly do, let me speak for myself, it's a bit too much, if you see the NATO inventory and talk about overstretch, when you see ISAF in Afghanistan, the KFOR mission in Kosovo, Active Endeavour and the NATO training mission in Iraq. I mean, if this would overstretch the Alliance, I mean, I would almost say I would not be its Secretary General.

But, but having said this, we must do better in a number of areas, which we have discussed with ministers. And we will do better.

Q: Oui, Monsieur le Secrétaire Général…

de Hoop Scheffer: Où êtes vous…où êtes vous…?

Q : Ici. Oui je suis là, le Magazine Optimiste, juste une question; pourquoi avoir attendu 40 ans pour qu'une manifestation à l'OTAN se passe en France et deuxième question puisque la France et le deuxième contributeur en hommes et le cinquième financier, est-ce que la France, ça été discuté, est-ce que la France aura un siège au Conseil de l'OTAN prochainement.

de Hoop Scheffer: Mon opinion, la France a un siège au Conseil de l'OTAN, la France seulement ne participe pas comme vous le savez dans les structures intégrées, c'est une position qu'on connaît tous n'est-ce pas? On est très heureux d'être ami, c'est d'être en France pour cette réunion, l'hospitalité a été formidable. Formidable! (Inaudible)...Nice matin... le matin, demain n'est-ce pas. Non c'est vraiment cela ma réjouit d'une grande hospitalité de la ville de Nice, de son maire et préfets des (inaudible) maritimes et premièrement bien sure Mme Alliot-Marie, votre ministre de la défense. On a beaucoup d'allier alors on va de temps en temps dans certains pays et je doit avouer qu'il y a longtemps qu'on ne s'était pas réunit en France mais je ne croit pas; je n'ai pas l'impression qu'il y a des raisons politiques derrière. Les pays ont une "healthy competition", une compétition normale pour être hôtes, pour ces réunions et je me réjouit beaucoup qu'on est à Nice y aller aujourd'hui.

Q: Brett Baier from Fox News Channel. Earlier today you said that it was your goal by the NATO Summit to have all 26 countries contributing in some way or another to the Iraqi security training.

One, do you believe that that goal is realistic? And two, how many of those countries would directly be training forces with troops?

de Hoop Scheffer: Well I addressed this question an hour ago in my other press conference. Let me briefly repeat it. I said, and I can repeat here, that it's my hope that by the Summit on the 22nd of February, when President Bush will come to Brussels, to NATO, that all allies are participating in one way or another in the NATO training mission. Either training inside Iraq, which I think is the most important part of the training mission, and I'm not only saying this, but the Iraqi government is saying this. That's a reliable source and a trustworthy source.

Or in the training outside Iraq, because you know that for reasons we all know there are allies who do not participate in the training mission inside Iraq, would do it outside Iraq, or third option, participate in the trust funds we are setting up to finance the training mission in Iraq. Or, as I said an hour ago, even better, a combination of elements.

So I think that by the 22nd of February we should have a serious go in setting up the training mission, as you know, which already exists. I mean, quite some time ago, and I've seen that with my own eyes, we have started leadership training, Iraqi leadership training in the international, in the Green Zone in Baghdad. So there are already a lot of NATO people on the ground actually giving...