WORLD NEWS : It is a great pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Bill English to the NATO Headquarters. It’s great to meet you here, and I know that this is your very first trip as Prime Minister and therefore I really appreciate that you decided to come and visit NATO.
And New Zealand may be far away on the map, but New Zealand is one of NATO’s closest Global Partners. And we really appreciate the close partnership and cooperation with New Zealand.
We share the same values. We share the same commitment to peace and security. And New Zealand and NATO work together in many different operations and missions to secure peace and stability.
And I am very grateful for the contribution of New Zealand for many, many years, to the NATO presence in Afghanistan.
The aim of our presence in Afghanistan is to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.
New Zealand participated in NATO’s combat operation but in the last two years, we have not been in engaged in a combat operation in Afghanistan, we have been engaged in a train, assist and advice operation, where we train the Afghan forces to stabilise their own country and to take responsibility for the security of Afghanistan themselves.
And I’m very glad that New Zealand continues to contribute with personnel and mentors to the Afghan National Army Defence Academy. And I think it just shows that NATO and New Zealand, we work together to fight terrorism and to stabilise Afghanistan.
We also work together to fight ISIL, to fight terrorism in other parts of the world. New Zealand is part of the counter-ISIL coalition. NATO supports and participates in the counter-ISIL coalition – we provide AWACS surveillance planes. We have started to train Iraqi officers, first in Jordan and know we also train them in Iraq. And this is another example of how we work together to fight terrorism by contributing to the counter-ISIL coalition.
Then I also very much welcome that New Zealand in so many years has participated and contributed to different NATO maritime operations. And you have unique maritime capabilities. New Zealand has contributed with ships to our counter-piracy operation off the Horn of Africa. That has been a very successful operation and we have seen zero piracy attacks over the last couple of years. And it has been so successful that we were able to end the operation, because we have been successful in fighting piracy together with New Zealand.
We welcome contributions from New Zealand also to other NATO maritime operations. We have just established a security operation in the Mediterranean and we are discussing with New Zealand how we can continue to work together also in the maritime domain.
We very much believe that close partnerships, as NATO has with New Zealand, is an important advantage, and an important strength of NATO. NATO is an Alliance of 28 members but it is also an Alliance which has been able to develop unique partnerships and I welcome, and I’m very grateful for the close partnership we have with New Zealand.
So once again, welcome to NATO headquarters, it’s great to have you here and the floor is yours.
OANA LUNGESCU [NATO Spokesperson]: Okay, we’ll start with Newshub.
Q: Thank you. Hi Secretary General I’m Tova O’Brien from Newshub, New Zealand. Two questions if I may, following the recent spate of Islamic State attacks in Europe how concerned should New Zealand be about the threat of domestic terror and returning foreign fighters? And just another question how potentially damaging are Donald Trump’s threats to withdraw U.S. commitment to NATO and what risk does that pose for NATO partners like New Zealand?
JENS STOLTENBERG (NATO Secretary General): What we see now is that ISIL Islamic State is losing ground in Iraq and Syria and we see that the Iraqi security forces and the coalition fighting ISIL is gaining ground in Iraq and also in Syria where we see that ISIL is on the defensive. At the same time we see that ISIL is responsible for terrorist attacks all around the world and we have to be vigilant, we have to be aware of the threats and they are present and they are they’re all over the world including of course far away from Europe and from Syria and Iraq. For me that just underlines the importance of continuing to fight ISIL, continue to support the coalition fighting ISIL as New Zealand and NATO do and also to continue to work on addressing the root causes to stabilize the countries where we see that much of the terrorism is stemming from and that’s the reason why NATO has developed this project – what we call Projecting Stability -which is to try to help states enabling them to stabilize their own country and to fight terrorism themselves and that’s exactly what we do, for instance, in Afghanistan where we have ended the combat operation but where we – together with New Zealand – train, assist, and advise the Afghan security forces to fight terrorism themselves including ISIL that we see have tried to gain some ground in Afghanistan. Then on the incoming U.S. Administration, I’m absolutely certain that the new President and the new U.S. Administration will stay committed to NATO, to the security guarantees and that was also the clear message that President-elect Donald Trump conveyed to me when I spoke to him or with him. I talked to him some days after the the election in the United States. He stated very clearly that he and the United States will remain committed to NATO and and we have to remember that a strong NATO is of course important for Europe but a strong NATO is also important for the United States because stability and peace in Europe is also important for the stability and the security of the United States. This is of course also important for a partner country as New Zealand because the strength of NATO and the Trans-Atlantic partnership is that we have been able to develop very strong cooperation with partners, including with New Zealand, contributing to peace and stability not only in Europe but also all around the world, for instance, as we have done together in Afghanistan.
OANA LUNGESCU: New Zealand TV.
Q: Secretary General, Emma Keeling from Television New Zealand. Just currently how great is the threat of Russia on Europe’s borders or is NATO more concerned at the accusations around Russia’s possible cyber-attacks on the U.S. election?
JENS STOLTENBERG: We don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally. What we see is a more assertive Russia. We see a Russia which has invested significantly in their armed forces, in new military capabilities, and a Russia which has been willing to use military force against neighbours as we have seen in Georgia and in Ukraine with the illegal annexation of Crimea and supporting the separatists in Eastern Ukraine. That’s the reason why NATO has responded and we have implemented the biggest reinforcement of collective defence since the end of the Cold War with more military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance; with high readiness of our forces, and; now also we see increased defence spending across Europe and among NATO allies. And we strongly believe that by being strong, by providing deterrence, collective defence we do not provoke a conflict but we prevent a conflict because as long as any adversary know that an attack on one ally will trigger a response from the whole Alliance then we will maintain peace and stability and the security of all allies. We are concerned of course about cyber-security and we have seen reports about cyber-attacks against many NATO allies and any attempt to intervene or to influence national elections from outside is unacceptable and that’s also one of the reasons why NATO has been very focused on how can we strengthen our cyber defences, partly to defend our own cyber networks but also partly to work with allies to help them improve their cyber defences and we’ve also developed a team of people, experts that can be deployed to a NATO ally if it’s under cyber-attack to help and assist and help them defend their cyber networks. So cyber-security is top of our agenda and has been one of the most important things we have addressed, for instance, at our Summit in Warsaw last year.
OANA LUNGESCU: Time for one last question, New Zealand Herald.
Q: I’m Claire Trevett from the New Zealand Herald. How stable is Afghanistan and is it likely that the coalition countries will have to increase their involvement there again?
JENS STOLTENBERG: Afghanistan is a country that is faced with many different and many difficult challenges and it’s not an easy situation in Afghanistan. We have seen several terrorist attacks over the last weeks and months and even the recent days illustrating the challenges and the dangers in Afghanistan. At the same time I think it is important to underline that until 2015 NATO had a very large number of forces doing combat operations in Afghanistan. Since 2015 we have been able to hand over the responsibility for the security in Afghanistan to the Afghans themselves and they have been able to do that with our help. We are present there, not in combat operations, but by training, assisting, advising the Afghan forces and we have been able together with Afghans to build an Afghan National Security Force of 350,000 personnel which is able to fight the Taliban and to take responsibility for the security in Afghanistan themselves. I believe we have to stay for a long time, exactly how well that we have to access and develop as times evolves, but we are ready to be committed to Afghanistan, we are committed to Afghanistan and then once again I would like to thank New Zealand for contributing so much over so many years and still being present in Afghanistan, helping to strengthen the Afghan forces, educate, train, advise them so they can protect their own country and stabilize their own country.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much this concludes this press point. Thank you.