NATO-ICI centre to strengthen partnership with GCC
(Brussels) – NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will travel to Kuwait to inaugurate the NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Centre which will be the Alliance’s first such presence in the region.
“I thank Kuwait for its generosity, and commend its active role in promoting regional security. The NATO-ICI Centre represents an important milestone in NATO’s deepening cooperation with Kuwait and the entire region,” he told the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) in an exclusive interview ahead of the two-day visit.
Stoltenberg said that the Centre will be a hub for cooperation between the Alliance and Gulf partners in a wide range of areas, including strategic analysis, civil emergency planning, military-to-military cooperation, and public diplomacy.
The Centre will also facilitate the sharing of expertise and improve understanding between NATO and Kuwait, as well as the three other Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) partners – Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Stoltenberg added.
The Kuwaiti authorities proposed the establishment of the Centre at NATO’s Chicago Summit in 2012, and the Alliance gratefully accepted, he said.
“Last year, I toured the construction site, and in a few days, I will be in Kuwait again to celebrate the Centre’s opening,” Stoltenberg, 58, a former Prime Minister of Norway, said.
He stressed that “the security of the Gulf is directly linked to the security of all NATO Allies. We share the same aspirations for peace and stability, and we share common security threats, such as terrorism, weapons proliferation and failing states.”
“The shared security challenges make it even more important that we work closer together. That is exactly why we are reinforcing our political dialogue and practical cooperation,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO has partnership programmes with all four members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative which was launched during the NATO summit in the Turkish metropolis in 2004.
“Taking Kuwait as an example, we work closely in areas including crisis management, defence policy, and defence against chemical, biological, and radiological and nuclear weapons,” he said.
He added the NATO-Kuwait Transit Agreement, signed during his last visit in 2016, is another example of the value this partnership provides: it facilitates the movement of NATO equipment and personnel through the region.
“NATO deeply values its partnerships in the Gulf, and my upcoming visit to Kuwait and the new Regional Centre underlines the priority we place on building our cooperation even further,” he said.
Stoltenberg said he would welcome the membership of Saudi Arabia and Oman in the ICI if they so wished.
“The Gulf Cooperation Council, to which they belong, plays a key role in regional stability. I met the Saudi Defense Minister last year at NATO Headquarters, and he expressed Saudi Arabia’s readiness for further cooperation. So I look forward to an ongoing dialogue on deepening our relations,” Stoltenberg told KUNA.
NATO is committed to fighting terrorism and projecting stability, including by working with a range of partners throughout North Africa and the Middle East.
NATO has already trained hundreds of Iraqi officers in Jordan to better fight Daesh, and from this month it is expanding its efforts into Iraq.
In Tunisia, the alliance is supporting the training of Tunisian Special Forces, and in Afghanistan, it is helping to ensure the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism.
“When our neighbours are more stable, we are more secure.”
NATO also continues to offer direct support to the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh with its AWACS surveillance aircraft providing surveillance data to support air operations. All Allies contribute to the Coalition in different ways, Stoltenberg added.
The Coalition is making steady progress, and Daesh is losing ground.
“So as we begin 2017, I am confident that NATO will remain the cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security, and continue to project stability beyond our borders. Again and again, our history has proven that NATO can adapt and deliver. Today, as we face the most serious security challenges in a generation, our adaptation continues,” he said.