Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Middle East: NATO Defence Ministers will discuss situation in Libya and longer term prospects in Middle East

Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)

The NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the press on Monday, 7 March that NATO Defence Ministers will soon discuss the situation in Libya, and the longer term prospects for the region. At a press conference in the NATO Headquarters, the Secretary General said that at their upcoming meeting on 10 and 11 March ministers will consider how NATO can do more to help partner countries in North Africa and the wider Middle East.

"We can see a strong wind of change blowing across the region – and it is blowing in the direction of freedom and democracy", the Secretary General said in a press conference in Brussels .

The Secretary General stated that NATO has no intention to intervene in Libya. However, he said, "as a defence Alliance and a security organisation, it is our job to conduct prudent planning for any eventuality." The Secretary General stressed that NATO is in close coordination and consultation with other international and regional organisations, including with the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League and the African Union.

"This is a humanitarian crisis on our door-step that concerns us all. The civilian population in Libya is the target of systematic attacks by the regime. So we must remain vigilant ", he stressed. "The whole world is watching events in Libya and the wider Middle East. Many of our Allies have been evacuating their nationals and helping other people in need. We strongly condemn the use of force against the Libyan people. The violation of human rights and international humanitarian law is outrageous."

Looking further at the upcoming meeting of NATO Defence Ministers, the Secretary General said that discussions will take forward the decisions taken by NATO leaders in Lisbon on building capabilities to deal with emerging security challenges. Ministers will discuss a new NATO Cyber Defence Concept and arrangements for an Alliance-based missile defence capability.

Finally, the Secretary General said that the meeting of Defence Ministers this week will pave the way for Afghanistan's future as a more stable country, taking charge of its own security.

"Indeed, this is the start of a new era, a very important process through which we hope to see Afghan authorities leading and conducting security operations in all provinces by the end of 2014. Of course, it has to be conditions-based. But I am quite optimistic. And I base my optimism on the growing strength of Afghan security forces", the Secretary General concluded.

On Friday, 11 March, Defence Minister Wardak of Afghanistan and all ISAF partners will be joining NATO Ministers for a discussion on the first tranche of provinces and districts to be transferred to Afghan security lead. The discussion will be based on the recommendation of the Joint NATO Afghan Transition Board. President Karzai is expected to make the announcement on the first tranche on March 21, marking the Afghan New Year.