Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 9 News List

NATO gains new momentum in transatlantic security cooperation

By Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

The heads of state and government of NATO's 26 member nations gathered in Istanbul for a major summit. The symbolism of a city that bridges two continents was especially appropriate. In Istanbul, we not only reinforced the alliance's vital transatlantic link, but also built bridges of cooperation to other regions. After the discord over Iraq, the summit demonstrated a new momentum in transatlantic security cooperation and reinforced NATO's role as the major instrument for that cooperation. The key decisions that we took at the summit make this very clear.

First, Afghanistan: NATO decided in Istanbul to expand its stabilizing presence. We will increase the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams to support the expansion of the central government's authority and facilitate development and reconstruction. We will also provide enhanced support for the forthcoming elections, which are crucial to ensuring long-term peace and stability and making sure that the country will never again become a safe haven for terrorists.

Second, Iraq: at the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, NATO decided to offer to help train Iraqi security forces. In addition to our continued support for Poland in its leadership of the multinational division in Iraq, NATO will now play a distinct role in helping Iraq. That this decision was taken in conjunction with the transfer of authority to a new Iraqi government only adds to its significance. The allies affirmed unambiguously that a stable Iraq is in their common interest and that NATO is part of achieving this. Training is an area that is critical to Iraq's stability, and one in which NATO has valuable experience and expertise to share.

Third, the Balkans: while our presence in Kosovo remains unchanged, the much improved security situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina allows us to conclude our successful mission there by the end of this year. The EU will then follow with a mission of its own, and we will support the EU in this endeavor. But NATO will retain a presence in Sarajevo, in particular to help Bosnia and Herzegovina with defense reform. We want to welcome this country, as well as Serbia and Montenegro, into our Partnership for Peace program as soon as they meet the relevant criteria, which include full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Fourth, military transformation: the allies decided to accelerate their efforts to equip NATO with the forces and technologies it needs to perform 21st century missions from the Balkans to Afghanistan. The NATO Response Force will soon achieve its initial operational capability, and our new Multinational Defense Battalion dealing with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats is fully operational -- all ideas proposed by the US, and implemented rapidly by the alliance. We also endorsed mea-sures to strengthen the link between political agreement to commence operations and the provision of necessary forces, including through usability targets and changes to NATO's planning processes.

Fifth, NATO enlargement and partnership: although the Istanbul summit was the first to include NATO's seven new member countries -- Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia -- we gave a strong signal that the door remains open, and encouraged those who want to join to continue pursuing the reforms needed to make themselves ready for membership. We also launched a new phase in our relations with partner countries: opportunities for more individualized cooperation, a greater emphasis on defense reform and a stronger focus on the Caucasus and Central Asia.

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