NATO chief: Security of our ICI partners is of strategic importance

Brussels, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has reiterated the alliance’s commitment to its partnership with the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) launched in 2004 to promote long-term security cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

The security of our ICI partners is of strategic importance to NATO. Through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, we have a unique platform where we discuss security issues of common concern, Stoltenberg said.

Over the years, we have increased the quantity and the quality of our cooperation; and our NATO-ICI Regional Centre in Kuwait has helped NATO’s outreach to the Gulf Cooperation Council, Saudi Arabia and Oman. It is the sovereign prerogative of these countries, ultimately, to decide how they want to move this process forward, he added in an interview with Kuwait News agency (KUNA).

Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have joined the ICI.

We can be proud of the past 15 years of partnership under the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. We have conducted a wide range of practical activities, from military training and education, to crisis management, and dealing with natural and man-made disasters, he said.

All the four Gulf partners in the ICI have Individual Partnership Cooperation Program with NATO, he noted.

Under these agreements, a wide range of activities has taken place, including on energy and maritime security, cyber defense, and civil emergency planning, he stated.

He said that ICI countries have taken part in many of NATO operations and missions, including in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.

Our upcoming visit will be an opportunity to take stock of the achievements made and to discuss our common way forward with our partners to make our partnership even more efficient, indicated Stoltenberg.

The NATO-ICI Centre in Kuwait has welcomed more than 1,000 officers and experts from NATO and the Gulf there, for joint training, cooperation and capacity building, he noted.

We are also working together to develop national expertise and resilience on crisis management, cyber security, energy security, maritime security, and defense against Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear threats, he said.

Our NATO-ICI Regional Centre in Kuwait offers us the possibility to step up our cooperation in a number of areas, including interoperability, which enhances our ability to work together to manage future crises through joint training, said Stoltenberg, a former Prime Minister of Norway.

We also continue – through our NATO Mission in Iraq – to strengthen the Iraqi military in their fight against international terrorism, to ensure that Daesh (so-called Islamic State) can never return, he stated.

Furthermore, we believe that as a regional organization, the Gulf Cooperation Council is playing a key role in dealing with the crises affecting the security of its members. A leading principle of our cooperation is non-discrimination of any of our partners. We all have an interest in a unified Gulf Cooperation Council, added the NATO Secretary General.

He said NATO is follow developments in the region very closely.

With instability in the Middle East and North Africa, NATO’s partnerships are more valuable than ever.

At our leaders’ meeting in London on December 3-4, we reaffirmed that NATO is a defensive Alliance and poses no threat to any country. We work to increase security for all, he stressed.

As a multilateral organization, we have strengthened partnerships in our neighborhood and beyond, and we have deepened political dialogue, support, and engagement with partner countries and international organizations. Over the years, we have increased our consultations on security issues of common concern; and on the practical side, our partners have engaged in more focused cooperation activities, he said.

Ahead of his visit to Kuwait to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the ICI on Sunday and Monday, Stoltenberg lauded Kuwait’s efforts to promote regional peace and security.

He noted that Kuwait was chosen as the venue for the major event because it hosts the NATO-ICI Regional Centre.

He said this center has played a very important role in furthering our cooperation with the Gulf Countries — Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. I was proud to open the NATO-ICI Regional Centre in 2017; and I welcome the opportunity to go back to Kuwait very soon, together with all NATO Ambassadors represented at the North Atlantic Council, at such a historical juncture in the evolution of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, he said.

I welcome Kuwait’s long-standing efforts to contribute to regional stability, including through the NATO Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, he said.

Source: Bahrain News Agency