Nato-Russia Council

Meeting of the NATO-Russia Council at the level of Ministers of Defence

News Conference by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer


JAMES APPATHURAI (NATO Spokesperson): The Secretary General will make a brief opening statement and we'll have time for some questions.

Secretary General.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO Secretary General): Good afternoon, once again. Let me tell you that the agenda of today's NRC Defence Ministerial covered three topics: defence reform, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and current international security issues.

We have taken stock of our practical cooperation first and we are deepening that cooperation on land, sea and in the air. On land, as you know, we continue laying the groundwork for possible joint peacekeeping operations--the Russian Federation and NATO--including by developing a special program of cooperation with Russia's 15th Motorized Rifle Brigade and other military units.

Minister Sergei Ivanov briefed his colleagues in detail on the Brigade and how it can work with NATO nations; the Brigade is being made ready for interoperability.

What... where Ministers are also aiming fairly high is on our so-called Cooperative Airspace Initiative. We are now closer to the ultimate objective which is the sharing of air traffic data.

And last, but not least, we assessed the cooperation, the very good cooperation, of our naval experts which will soon include, as you know, active Russian support for Operation Active Endeavour in the Mediterranean Sea.

Of course, we have turned to the issue of terrorism which tops our list of agreed threats and we reviewed the implementation of the NATO-Russia Action Plan on Terrorism, which, as you might remember, was adopted by NATO Foreign Ministers last December.

There are also some areas of NATO-Russia cooperation which do not get the headlines regularly. Let me mention to you the first meeting of the NATO-Russia Council Science Committee to be held in St. Petersburg in a few weeks; where scientists from NATO countries and Russia will debate cooperation in such areas as explosive detection and the psychological and sociological consequences of terrorism and cyber security.

Finally, of course, we used the NRC to discuss current political issues. Allies have already welcomed the agreement concerning the Russian bases or the vacating of the Russian bases in Georgia.

Of course NATO nations believe and keep to believe that the implementation of all Istanbul Commitments--and that, in other words, includes the remaining obligations on Moldova, the ammunition sitting in Transnistria--should pave the way for ratification of the Adapted Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. A goal we all share but for that to happen the Istanbul Commitments should be fulfilled to the full.

A good discussion took place on Central Asia including the recent tragic events in Uzbekistan.

It was a pragmatic meeting. We also briefly touched upon, as I did with Minister Ivanov in my bilateral meeting with him, on a common political objective with regard to the Balkans. Afghanistan, of course, I mentioned a number of elements to you in an earlier press conference.

So it was, as usual, positive and pragmatic. I think the spirit of the Rome Summit guarding and guiding the NRC lives on and I'm looking forward to my visit to Moscow on the 23rd and 24th of June, where I will continue this dialogue with President Putin and the rest of the Russian leadership.

I'm open to your comments or questions.

Q: Dmitri (inaudible), 9 TV Channel Russia. As far as we know Russian Defence Minister made a statement about foreign involvement in last events, in Uzbekistan, which came from his point of view from Afghanistan. Does it worry you and does it, to a certain extent, put in doubts the abilities of NATO contingent in Afghanistan?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: Well, we discussed, as I said, Uzbekistan. I cannot say we agree on all elements because we do not agree, which is, I mean in a grown-up... between mature people in a grown-up NRC that's possible, that you do not agree and on Uzbekistan there's a difference in approach between, let's say, the Russian Federation on the one hand and the NATO Allies on the other hand.

You know what I've said on behalf of NATO. You know what the European Union and other international organizations have said. We still hope that this international inquiry will take place and that President Karimov will accept this and the Russian position is slightly different.

I mean I can't make it better than it is.

Q: No, what I mean is, does it worry that it came from Afghanistan--the foreign involvement? I mean the...he said that there were some forces who came Afghanistan. It was inspired from there and there is a NATO contingent in Afghanistan. Does it worry you?

DE HOOP SCHEFFER: But I mean... there you have an element I do not know and I would like an inquiry, an international inquiry, to establish what went on, first of all, and to use your words 'where it came from', if it came from anywhere outside Uzbekistan. I simply do not know but that's an argument I might use to stress the importance of an inquiry.