NATO looks to Gulf nations

NATO invites Gulf nations to join Operation Ocean Shield. Is this a sign of further draw down by NATO countries?

Keynote address by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the North Atlantic Council – ICI seminar celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, Doha, Qatar

Minister Al-Attiyah, Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me first of all thank you for hosting us. And we feel really welcome, and we really appreciate that you are hosting this conference, and your great hospitality.

Our visit is a timely opportunity to:

  • celebrate the 10th anniversary of our Istanbul Cooperation Initiative; and to
  • discuss the challenges we face in the broader Middle East context and in addition;
  • see how we can work more closely together to meet those challenges.

Looking back at the past 10 years, we have much to celebrate.

The launch of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative sent a very strong signal.  That the security and the stability of the Gulf region is important to NATO.  Just as the security and stability of the Euro-Atlantic area is important to the Gulf.

Qatar was among the first countries to establish a close practical relationship with NATO.  But others soon followed — Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.

As well as regular consultations, we conduct a wide range of practical cooperation.  From military training and education to crisis management.

Earlier this year, Kuwait became the first of our Gulf partners to conclude an Individual Partnership Cooperation Programme with NATO.  I hope that Qatar and other Gulf partners will soon follow suit.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman have not joined the ICI.  But both have also drawn closer to NATO.

For 10 years, NATO’s relations with the Gulf partners have grown deeper and stronger.  And this is good, because the more we cooperate, the safer we will be.

We need to protect our sea lanes, energy supply, and critical infrastructure, and cyber-networks.  To stop the trafficking of people and drugs.  And to prevent the spread of the world’s most dangerous weapons.

This year, we have also seen the rise of the terrorist group ISIL.  It poses a grave threat to the Iraqi and the Syrian people, the wider region, and all of our nations.

Dealing with this threat demands a long-term, multinational effort.  It must integrate political and economic measures, as well as military action.  And we welcome that the United States has rallied nations behind such a broad coalition.

It is particularly important that several countries from the region, including Qatar, are playing their part.

It is vital for military reasons, because of the capabilities that Gulf countries can bring to bear.  But also for political reasons.  To show that this is not about the West imposing its will on others.  But about peace-loving nations working together to reject violence and extremism.

Together with United States, other NATO members are doing their share.  We all stand with our Ally Turkey, which is literally on the front line.  And while the air campaign is not a NATO operation, Allies provide the bulk of assets.

At our NATO Summit in Wales in September, we underlined our readiness to help Iraq and other interested NATO partner countries to build their defence capacity.  And to strengthen their ability to project stability in their region.

Iraq has now requested NATO support in defence capacity building.

We agreed a defence capacity building package for Jordan last week, and we held very constructive talks in Amman earlier this week on how we can be of further assistance.

I believe there is also considerable scope for NATO to deepen our cooperation in the Gulf region.  Particularly in three areas:

First, through greater cooperation between our military forces.

During the NATO-led Libya operation three years ago, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates contributed impressive assets fast and effectively.  In the recent months, Gulf countries have shown that same ability to plug into a complex military operation, fighting ISIL.

This was not luck.  But the result of years of military-to-military cooperation.  Information sharing.  Joint training and exercising.  And then putting our shared experience into practice when the time came for action.

We must continue to strengthen those vital connections.  And our ability to work together.

Second, we can do more together at sea.

Many NATO Allies depend on imports of oil and gas.  Gulf countries depend on the secure transport of those exports.  So we have a clear, common interest in ensuring the safety at sea.

Gulf countries have taken an increasingly active role in strengthening maritime security.  Including by working with NATO and other navies.

Thanks in large part to NATO’s operation “Ocean Shield”, piracy off the Somali coast has declined dramatically.

But to keep the pirates at bay, we need to sustain this effort.  So I invite Gulf partners to join NATO and the “Ocean Shield” operation.  To combat a common threat to the security and well-being of our nations. To further strengthening the ties between our forces.  And to demonstrate your growing contribution to stability in the region and beyond.

Finally, we must deepen our political cooperation.

Bilateral contacts remain important.  They give us a better understanding of your concerns.  And how we can address them.

But we also want to strengthen our multilateral consultations.  Between NATO Allies and all our Gulf partners.  And between NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council.  To develop a shared outlook of the security challenges of this region.  And a solid basis for our practical cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The 10th anniversary of our partnership is a good time to take stock of how far we have come.  But also to consider how far we still need to go.  To deliver the stability we need in the neighbourhood we share.

I’m confident that this conference today will help us move in the right direction. Thank you.


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