Kuwait plays key role in tackling regional threats – NATO’s official

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In this photo made available by NATO, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg (center), arrives at the Amir’s Palace in Kuwait to meet with officials, Feb 29. (AP)
In this photo made available by NATO, Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg (center), arrives at the Amir’s Palace in Kuwait to meet with officials, Feb 29. (AP)

KUWAIT CITY, March 1, (KUNA): Kuwait is playing a leading role in tackling instability and threats in the region, signing a Transit Agreement with NATO and building a regional center, to be a permanent presence for NATO in the area, the military alliance chief has said. Kuwait is the first country to join the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which was established in 2004 with the aim of helping regional countries develop military capabilities, including the fight against terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (MWD). ICI works on developing interpretability, ability of the two sides working together, to have same standards and be connected in different operations NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in an interview with Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), described his visit to Kuwait yesterday as “very important because it has shown how important Kuwait is for NATO.”

Stoltenberg met with His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al- Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, and First Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. The Brussels-based North Atlantic Treaty Organization was keen on meeting with the leadership of Kuwait, he said, and to discuss how “we can move this cooperation even more forward.” Kuwait and NATO signed a Transit Agreement that would facilitate transit of personnel, supplies or equipment via Kuwait to NATO-led operations or activities in the whole region, including in Afghanistan.

The agreement “confirmed the leading role, the key role Kuwait has in the region when it comes to facilitating cooperation with NATO,” said Stoltenberg. “This is important for our cooperation with Kuwait, but also for increasing the role of Kuwait being a hub for our activities in the whole region … It will make it easy for NATO to have equipment, personnel passing through Kuwait on its way to Afghanistan, which is a big and important operation,” he added. He noted that cooperation between NATO and Kuwait has increased over the past years because “we have seen more instability, more threats, more violence in the region.” He added the two sides could work together to fighting terrorism, extremism and addressing challenges of proliferation of WMD

“This is important for security of Kuwait, for the region but of course for NATO,” he said. Part of cooperation between the two sides is the establishment of what is called NATO-Kuwait ICI Regional Center. The Kuwait-based center, the first permanent presence of NATO in the region stretching over more than 5,000 square meters, will host different kinds of NATO activities like training, workshops, education and seminars offered by NATO trainers.

The Regional Center, due to open towards end of this year, would be the focal point for NATO activities in the region and would serve Kuwait and regional countries. “The center will be a concrete expression of our cooperation, and framework of our activities,” said Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg, meanwhile, said NATO was now focusing on how to prevent crises by building local capacity of countries in need. The alliance, for example, has been building capabilities of the Afghan forces to enable them fight terrorism and extremism. The same applies to the region, he added, as NATO was supporting Jordan and Tunisia with capacity building and training. “We will soon start training of Iraqi officers” to help them crack down on terrorist groups, like so-called Islamic State (IS), he added. “In the long run, it is better to train local forces instead of sending large numbers of foreign troops,” he said. The US is leading an international coalition against IS in Syria and Iraq. The two countries are experiencing conflicts that killed hundreds of thousands of people combined while forcing a massive forced deportation.

The conflict in Syria has been further complicated with the Russians launching airstrikes against what they said were terrorist groups including IS. “We are concerned about the significant increase of Russian military presence in Syria,” said Stoltenberg. “We have seen substantial air forces, ground forces and naval forces in eastern Mediterranean. Most of the airstrikes conducted by Russian planes are not directed against (IS) ISIL (but) against other opposition groups, and thereby the main aim has been to support (President Bashar) Assad” not to fight IS, he said. He pointed out that most of IS victims were Muslims. The Russian military operation caused an increase in the number of people forced to leave their homes, he said, with “more people becoming refugees because of the Russian bombardment of Aleppo and its surrounding,” in addition to creating a dangerous situation close to borders with NATO-member Turkey including airspace violence of Turkish and NATO airspace. UN Security Council (UNSC) last Friday adopted unanimously resolution 2268 endorsing a US-Russian statement on cessation of hostilities in Syria, which would pave way for delivery of humanitarian supplies for those in need. “Our main focus is the importance of respecting the agreement on cessation of hostilities, and largely it is respected,” said Stoltenberg.

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