BRUSSELS, Jan 22, (KUNA): NATO is currently holding discussions within the Alliance and also with regional partners whether NATO should play more of a role in the Middle East region, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday. Addressing the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Sub-Committee on Security and Defence this evening, he referred to US President Donald Trump’s recent call for more NATO presence in the Middle East.
“We are discussing now what that means. So there is a process inside NATO but also with our partners, not least with partners in the region, Iraq, Jordan and other partners in the region about if NATO is to do more in the region what work we can do,” said the NATO chief. “So I cannot give you conclusions, but I can describe the process which is going on. I believe there is a potential for NATO to do more. But not mainly in combat,” he said. “The issue is that we can do something to prevent that we are forced into a new combat. Prevention is better than intervention,” stressed Stoltenberg.
“If you look at Iraq I strongly believe that if we do not act now we will be forced back in combat. We must prevent that from happening again,” he warned. “Hence we need to build local capacity by training more Iraqi soldiers, defence ministry and defence institutions to prevent the return of ISIS. If we don’t do that we will have a big problem,” he said. Stoltenberg welcomed closer NATO-EU cooperation, including on maritime security, military mobility, and countering cyber and hybrid attacks.
He described Europe and North America as “two sides of the same coin” and emphasized the importance of a strong transatlantic bond in order to maintain peace and security in the world. In his speech, he said NATO will bring together the EU and the US to address three issues of concern: terrorism, relations with Russia, and new and emerging challenges such as artificial intelligence, autonomous weapons platforms.