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NATO allies voice concern on Iran

TAILORED TRAINING, PRACTICAL SUPPORT TO GULF HAILED

Part of the NATO meeting with the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative countries

KUWAIT CITY, Dec 16: Speaking to the press on the margins of the NATOICI 15th anniversary event, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, addressed a few pertinent issues.

With regards to Iran, he shared that All NATO allies are extremely concerned about Iran’s support for terrorist groups in the region and its destabilizing behavior in the region, as well as its ballistic missile programme which is in clear violation of UN Security Council regulations.

While all NATO allies strongly oppose the idea of a nuclear Iran, there are different views concerning JCPOA. He shared that NATO’s role was to provide a platform for allies to come together when they agree and even when they disagree, to come together, discuss develop a better understanding and agreement on issues.

He noted that the recent attacks on Saudi oil facilities point to the increased tensions in the region were discussed in the closed door meeting and deemed totally unacceptable behavior for attacking critical infrastructure.

He affirmed that while Saudi Arabia and Oman are not yet full members of the ICI, their participation in the anniversary event and other NATO activities was a positive step forward in NATO-GCC relations, although there was no new and concrete development in this regard. Responding to the role of NATO in the migrant crisis, Stoltenberg shared that no other NATO ally hosts more refugees than Turkey where 3.6 million Syrian refugees have led high burden and costs for the host country. NATO is addressing the refugee crisis but not settling refugees, but stabilizing the regions they come from.

“We strongly support all efforts of trying to find a political solution in Syria, and the UN-led efforts. NATO also plays a role in the Aegean Sea with its maritime presence of roughly six ships, helping to implement the agreement between Turkey and the European Union on the illegal migration over the Aegean Sea”. When asked to comment on Turkey’s acquisition of the S-400 air defense system from Russia, he expressed concerns about the consequences of the Turkish decision to do so.

“There is a dialogue going on between the US and Turkey on this issue. S-400, being a Russian system, will never be part of NATO’s integrated air and missile defence.” He shared that NATO provides support to Turkey in many different ways which include augmenting their air defenses, “Spain has just announced that it will extend their deployment of the Patriot air defense missiles to Adama to show that we are helping Turkey with their air defenses.”

When asked about the rifts among NATO members that often grab headlines, he shared, “What we saw in London at the leaders’ meeting is that there are differences between allies but we demonstrated unity on NATO’s core talks – that we defend and protect each other, one for all and all for one. Despite difference on issues like trade, Northern Syria or Climate Change, we see that NATO allies are doing more together now than they have done for many years.”

He pointed to strong statements from all the leaders recommitting themselves to the collective defense force, the increasing number of US troops in Europe and European allies investing more, all as a strong demonstration of their commitment to the Alliance.

Speaking on the longevity of the Alliance, he noted that NATO has been able to thrive because of its ability to change along with the world. “NATO is the most successful Alliance in history because we changed when the world changed. We did so at the end of the Cold War by first time managing a crisis beyond our borders, we helped end the bloodshed in the Balkans, Kosovo and after 9/11, we stepped up in the fight against international terrorism. Today, we addressing new challenges – cyber, space and the rise of China, which presents both opportunities and challenges. As long as we change we will continue to be the most successful Alliance in history.”

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg along with the North Atlantic Council visited Kuwait to mark the 15th anniversary of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative at the NATOICI regional centre on Monday morning, under the patronage of HH the Prime Minister, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Sabah. The ambassadors of the North Atlantic Council met with Istanbul Cooperation Initiative partners of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates along with representatives from Oman, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council.

In his opening remarks, Stoltenberg stated, “We are here together to celebrate 15 years of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. And to discuss how we all can work even more closely together for the benefit of our mutual security. The launch of the Initiative at the NATO Summit in 2004, sent a powerful signal. We share common interests and common challenges not least fighting international terrorism, and maintaining stability for trade and commerce.”

He shared that while ICI member countries had recognised the importance of dialogue and practical cooperation with NATO, non-members such as Saudi Arabia and Oman had also increased their engagement with NATO allies, “This is vital, because the closer our cooperation, the safer we all will be.” He informed that in the past 15 years, NATO has engaged in regular consultation and practical cooperation with all Gulf partners at all levels through Individual Partnership Cooperation Programmes that cover a wide range of bilateral activities from energy and maritime security, to cyber defence, civil emergency planning, and non-proliferation and arms control.

“Our partnership is more important today than it has ever been before. We were just in London, marking the 70th anniversary of our NATO Alliance. In all its years, NATO has never experienced a more complex security environment than it does today. To maintain our security, we need to be agile and prepared to respond to threats coming from all directions. From land, sea, air, space and cyber-space. From all directions. Also from State and non-state actors.”

He shared that NATO plays a key role in the fight against terrorism by working with our partners around the world to train local forces. “A strong national defence is one of the best tools we have as prevention is always better than intervention.” He highlighted that NATO works to build defence and security institutions with all of its MENA partners.

In Iraq, NATO personnel are helping Iraqis build, train and educate the military, so that Iraqis themselves can prevent the return of DAESH and in Afghanistan, NATO continues to train and advise Afghan security forces, so they can fight international terrorism and create the conditions for peace. In Tunisia, NATO is playing an active role in helping the Tunisians to develop their cyber defences and their ability to counter improvised explosive devices and is also working with Jordan to improve their defence capabilities. “All NATO allies, as well as NATO itself, are part of the US-led Global Coalition Against DAESH.

Despite significant progress made by the Coalition, DAESH remains a threat. Conducting terrorist attacks here in the region and around the world. The membership of Gulf States in the Global Coalition has been crucial. Because of the capabilities you bring to bear. But also to show the world that this is a battle between peace-loving peoples and those dedicated to violence”, he added. In light of the world becoming an increasingly unpredictable place, Stoltenberg reiterated the need to further deepen political consultation and adopt a multilateral approach.

He informed that this year, NATO has celebrated several important milestones which include the 70th anniversary of NATO, 25 years of the Mediterranean Dialogue. “The partnership between NATO and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative has grown stronger over the years. We have come to understand each other better. And work together more effectively. But there is more we can do. So as we look to the future together, we must work even closer together to deliver the stability we need in the neighbourhood we share.”

HH Sheikh Thamer Al-Ali Al-Sabah, President of Kuwait National Security Bureau, in his address, stated, “We gather to celebrate 15 years of an exemplary partnership that has merged the requirements of a region confronted with complex security challenges and the capabilities of a historic Alliance. Though gone are the days of the Cold War, the pressing issue behind NATO’s formation, other more complex security issues have risen to take its place. The Alliance has since adjusted to confront this: post-Cold War security environment, with us as partners.” He shared that in 2004, with the launching of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, the State of Kuwait found itself mirrored by the ideas presented by the initiative, “Striving towards global and regional peace and stability, the State of Kuwait, and other Gulf countries, found in the ICI a means to engender those ends.”

“Since then, we have worked diligently with our partners in Brussels to achieve those goals. In 2006 we proudly hosted the first NATO-Gulf Conference, with the North Atlantic Council in attendance. During the NAC-ICI Meeting in 2012, we committed to building a NATO-1C1 Regional Center in the State of Kuwait – a commitment we gather in today,” he continued. Inaugurated by HH the Prime Minister of Kuwait and the NATO Secretary General in 2017, the NATO-ICI Regional Center in Kuwait serves to provide personnel from the Kingdom of Bahrain, the State of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, in addition to the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with training courses and events that reflect NATO’s expertise and in a multiplicity of different fields, both civil and military.

With a vision of enhancing the partnership between the State of Kuwait and NATO through the ICI framework, and a mission of providing ICI-State personnel with NATO expertise, the NATO-ICI Regional Center has to this day successfully completed 24 courses and 10 various events, he informed. With 889 trainees successfully completing programs since late 2017, and more than 200 NATO experts and trainers passing through the building, the NATO-ICI Regional Center has become, and will remain, a hallmark of the success story bringing together the State of Kuwait, ICI members, and NATO. “Though the custodianship of Kuwait’s relationship with NATO lies with the Kuwait National Security Bureau, we could not have done it so well without all the Kuwaiti government entities that are part of our Inter- Ministerial Committee. To them and to their leaders, we extend a debt of gratitude. Without them, the partnership would have lacked it’s full-spectrum approach”, he concluded.

By Cinatra Alvares Arab Times Staff

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