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UAE is most active player in Istanbul Cooperation Initiative: NATO chief

posted on 27/01/2008: 2625 views

As the most active player in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), the UAE leadership has an understanding of the challenges ahead and displays an interest in furthering cooperation with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), chief of the 26-member North American and European military alliance, acknowledged on Thursday.

'Even before the launch of the ICI, the UAE displayed strong cooperation with NATO in the Balkans during the 1990s. The UAE is the most active participant in the ICI, and the leaders of this country have an understanding of the challenges ahead and display an interest in furthering cooperation with NATO, said NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a public diplomacy lecture at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research in Abu Dhabi.

In his lecture titled 'Istanbul Cooperation Initiative: Dimensions and Concepts', Scheffer said. Much of our interaction today is focused on military-to-military cooperation. There have been several important activities in this regard.

'We are keen to engage in training and education, and have already created several opportunities in this area. We see this as a two-way process,' he affirmed.

The UAE, he added, will learn from NATO and 'we will naturally benefit from cooperating with you. 'Continued interest and engagement in the areas of training and education are likely and practical cooperation continues to grow. Given the increasing scope of our cooperation, we should make sure that both NATO and the UAE derive the greatest possible benefits from this process.

'We have also initiated a program for cooperation between individual countries and NATO. We would welcome the UAE to be the first partner from the ICI in this regard.

'My visit makes great sense today. All our nations face similar and interrelated threats and challenges. Therefore we should promote cooperation and take it further. The current security environment does not offer much optimism, but I am confident that we are ready and determined to foster a comprehensive approach to the challenges before us.

According to Scheffer, greater dialogue and cooperation with NATO would be beneficial to both you and us. Many opportunities for mutual and fruitful cooperation already exist between us and we should grasp those opportunities and work together.

He noted that his first ever official visit to this region showcases the strengthening pace of cooperation between NATO and the countries of this region. 'The visit is primarily focused on seeking ways to broaden and further this cooperation and to ensure its greater effectiveness in the future.

In today's world, he said, the big picture is all about globalization, including both its positive and negative sides. Increasingly, our nations have come to realize that globalization can act as a vehicle for importing terrorism into our societies. The free flow of goods necessary for economic cooperation also facilitates the transfer of dangerous goods as well.

'The issue of nuclear proliferation has again taken centre stage owing to the ambitions of Iran and North Korea. All NATO allies both welcome and support the United Nations (UN) process that seeks to resolve the Iranian nuclear issue. NATO seeks to reinforce the work of the UN, and has urged Iran to comply with UN resolutions,' he remarked.

The big picture, he affirmed, does not inspire a great deal of optimism. 'However, we need new, bold and innovative approaches that go beyond established boundaries to promote a new level of cooperation between nations and organizations. This is the hallmark of NATO today.

Many people, he recalled, still remember the old NATO which successfully defended the West during the Cold War. However, we have moved on. In the past few years, we have turned into a very flexible security instrument. Notwithstanding this, collective defence still remains the core purpose of NATO.

Today, he explained, over 60,000 NATO troops are deployed on three different continents. NATO is engaged in Afghanistan, which represents its biggest and most challenging operation to date. Its role is to promote peace and democracy and ensure that Afghanistan does not revert back to instability. We are also engaged in Kosovo, and operate in the Mediterranean Sea.

'Furthermore, we are training Iraqi and Afghan security forces and have taken part in disaster response and humanitarian relief operations. In all these different operations and missions, NATO is a team player. We do not seek to be a global policeman.

We are working both in the interest of, and closely with, the rest of the international community, and realize that civilian and military actors must work together to reinforce each other's efforts.

NATO, he maintained, is keen to engage with the UN and other international institutions to develop a comprehensive approach to dealing with the challenges before us. We also seek to improve our cooperation with individual nations. NATO continues to work hard to enhance its Mediterranean Dialogue with several countries in the Middle East.

This dialogue, Scheffer continued, has increased in recent years. In 2004, we also launched a special initiative, the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), in order to reach out to, and engage with, the countries of the Gulf region. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain have all joined the ICI. NATO matters to the security in this part of the world. No one single nation can shield itself from the current global security threats.

'We share a common interest in a variety of areas. In order to meet those challenges, we simply have to cooperate. Multilateral cooperation offers added value for all of us, 'he said. - Emirates News Agency, WAM


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