Speech by NATO Secretary General in Jordan

(NATO) Ladies and Gentlemen, It is both a great honour and a genuine pleasure for me to be in Jordan today. His Majesty King Abdallah has shown a very strong personal interest in NATO, and has visited NATO Headquarters in Brussels twice. My visit today is the first ever official visit by a NATO Secretary General to Jordan – and I am quite sure it will not be the last.

I have come to Jordan at a time of change. A time of change, both here in the Middle East and within NATO. A time when new ideas and policies are being generated – in order to remove misunderstandings and foster cooperation. And a time of great hope and expectation – not only about the future of this pivotal region, but also about the relationship between NATO and its southern neighbours.

Let me say a few words about NATO’s transformation first. As you know, while keeping its core functions of collective defence, the Alliance, after the fall of the Berlin wall, has got progressively more involved in peacekeeping and outreach activities.

During the 1990s, NATO helped to bring peace and stability to the Balkans. We took action first in Bosnia and Herzegovina, successfully since we recently handed over our military operation to the EU. Then in Kosovo, where our Balkan efforts are currently focussed with a 17,000 strong force contributing to international efforts for reconciliation in that province. More recently, we deployed a maritime operation – called “Active Endeavour” helping to deter terrorist activities in the Mediterranean Sea. And, responding to the dramatically changing international security environment, we took the landmark decision to move beyond the traditional european boundaries, we took command of the now about 10,000 strong International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, thereby strongly supporting the emergence of the sovereign and peaceful country the Afghan people deserve. And finally, we are currently stepping up our efforts to assist with the training and equipment of Iraq’s security forces allowing also the people in that country to take their fate into their own hands as fast as possible.

In parallel to these operational commitments NATO has also developed a comprehensive network of vital partnerships. With the main institutional actors of course, the UN, the European Union and the OSCE. But also with countries of strategic importance such as Russia, Ukraine and partners of Central Asia and the Caucasus. And last but not least with the countries of North Africa and the Broader Middle East. A pivotal region for stability and security in the world.

Let me also say a few words about this region, the Middle East. I believe there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about its future. There is clear, positive movement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We can all feel heartened by the recent elections for the Palestinian leadership. And there has been renewed political engagement in several major capitals these last few months as well, both here in this region, in Europe, and – importantly — across the Atlantic.

For many years already, Jordan has played a constructive, stabilising role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It has consistently sought to involve all the parties concerned. It has kept alive their faith in the Middle East peace process, and their hopes for a better tomorrow. And it looks as though that engagement may now finally pay off.

I believe there are reasons for optimism about the future of Iraq, as well, notwithstanding the current difficulties in that country. The planned national elections will be a major contribution to the development of a sovereign, stable Iraq. And the NATO Allies are resolved to contribute to that process. As I said, we are assisting with the training and equipment of Iraq’s security forces, and we will be keeping a close eye on other ways and means to help the Iraqi people.

We appreciate Jordan’s readiness to help to make the Alliance’s mission in Iraq a success. It is clear that Iraq will require a constructive, long term approach by the international community, and especially by the countries from the region. In this latter respect, I also commend Jordan for its efforts, including through the regional meeting here in Amman last week.

Jordan has been a pillar of strength in a very volatile region, and I have great confidence that it will continue to play that role in the future. NATO’s involvement in this region is much more recent, and of a different nature. But I am persuaded that the Alliance, as well, can make an important, lasting contribution to security and stability in this region. And that is what we are trying to achieve with our Mediterranean Dialogue.

The Mediterranean Dialogue was launched back in 1994. It was NATO’s first attempt at building new relationships across the Mediterranean Sea. After the end of East-West confrontation in Europe, we all felt that the time had come to reach out a hand of friendship — not only to Europe’s East, but also to our neighbours in North Africa and the Middle East.

Initially, our Mediterranean Dialogue had modest aims. We wanted to create a forum for confidence building and transparency. We wanted to learn more about our Dialogue partners’ specific security problems. And we wanted to explain NATO’s transformation and its evolving operational commitments in support of the international community.

Over the past ten years, as the Mediterranean Dialogue progressed, we also became more ambitious in enhancing its scope. We gave the Dialogue more structure, and gradually opened up more opportunities for concrete cooperation, including military-to-military, civil emergency and scientific cooperation. And we were very pleased with the response by our Mediterranean partners to these fresh opportunities.

Ever since Jordan joined the Mediterranean Dialogue back in 1995, it has been a most active participant. This was, quite frankly, no surprise. It reflected Jordan’s determination to contribute to security not just in its own region, but also beyond. And it was in keeping with this country’s most welcome contribution to NATO’s efforts to bring peace to the Balkans.

In recent years, Jordan has been especially active in the Mediterranean Dialogue’s military programme. This includes training at NATO educational establishments, port visits by NATO vessels, as well as other meetings involving the Jordanian military and their NATO counterparts. Moreover, Jordan has also expressed great interest in border security, civil emergency planning and counter-terrorism. And I see considerable further potential for mutually beneficial cooperation in those areas, given the new phase which the Mediterranean Dialogue has now entered.

Last June, at NATO’s Istanbul Summit, the Allies agreed, in close consultation with Jordan and the other Mediterranean Dialogue countries, to move from dialogue to partnership — from the still fairly limited contacts we have to more focused cooperation. It was agreed, in particular, to take a close look at NATO’s other major cooperation framework – the Partnership for Peace – and then apply suitable elements of this framework to the Mediterranean Dialogue.

Partnership for Peace was developed in a specific, largely European, context. But several elements of PfP appear very valuable to our southern neighbours, as they have proven to be to our neighbours to the east. This applies, for example, to cooperation on defence reform and joint training; to cooperation in intelligence sharing in the fight against terrorism; but also to actual operational cooperation to defend against terrorism – such as possible participation in NATO’s maritime operation in the Mediterranean. Basically an anti-terrorist operation.

Understandably, it will take some time to work out the specifics of our enhanced cooperation. But there has been a generally very favorable response to the new opportunities on offer, and a strong determination to explore them.

Just last month, we held a first-ever meeting at Ministerial level between NATO and its Mediterranean partners, which Minister Khader attended on behalf of Jordan. The meeting was a major step forward. It demonstrated that the political will is there in all our countries to move our cooperation forward. It concluded that there is still work to be done in particular to bring our publics along. And it showed broad agreement on three basic principles on which to build our cooperation. Let me highlight these principles briefly for you.

The first principle: joint ownership. This has always been a guiding principle for the Mediterranean Dialogue. It simply means that the Dialogue is not about imposing ideas on other countries; that it respects and takes account of the specific regional, cultural and political context of the respective partners; and that the countries in the Dialogue should see themselves as shareholders in a cooperative effort. In short, our Mediterranean Dialogue must be a two-way street – since only a genuine security partnership across the Mediterranean will work.

Jordan has shown repeatedly that it is a responsible international actor – a country that is able to define its security interests clearly and consistently, and to act accordingly. Jordan has worked together successfully with NATO in the past, and has made clear its strong determination to continue to build upon that cooperation. I am sure that we will be able to do so.

The second principle: complementarity. Jordan works with, and through, many other important organisations, in particular the European Union and the OSCE. That underlines the need for complementarity – for organisations to play to their strengths, rather than to duplicate each other’s efforts.

Practical cooperation is where NATO’s comparative advantage lies. The Alliance is an organisation where 26 member states and dozens of other countries are engaged in political and military cooperation and coordination on a daily basis. It is the combination of political dialogue and practical cooperation that makes all the difference. That is the approach we have always taken within NATO, and with considerable success. It is this approach which we now wish to widen to the Mediterranean Dialogue.

The third principle: respect for national and regional specifics. It is obvious that, while we face a number of common security challenges, these challenges may be perceived differently from country to country, and from region to region. Moreover, in addition to this difference in perception, there are and will remain differences in the ways and means that each of us has available to take action. In NATO, we understand very well that there are differences for instance between the Maghreb and the Middle East, and also that the needs of, say Marocco and Jordan, may not necessarily be the same.

Therefore, while the Alliance will maintain a degree of coherence in its relations with its Mediterranean Dialogue partners, we are keen to work with our partners on an individual basis. To sustain a dialogue with individual partners on their specific security concerns and requirements. And to define together how best to meet those needs. Which, of course, has also been a major objective of my visit here today.

These are the three key principles that I believe will guide the development of the Mediterranean Dialogue, as well as the Alliance’s future relationship with Jordan. They are the same principles that will also guide the development of another, distinct yet complementary NATO initiative, which is our Istanbul Cooperation Initiative – or ICI. Through the ICI, we seek to build new ties with interested countries from the region that is sometimes called the “Broader Middle East”. Several Gulf States have already expressed an interest in cooperating with NATO, and we are currently working out the modalities of our future relationship. But, always on the basis of the three guiding principles as mentioned before.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the past, the Mediterranean Sea has been both a barrier and a bridge. It has been a region where different cultures and religions met – sometimes violently, but far more often peacefully. And at all times there were intense trade relations between the shores of the “mare nostrum”.

Today, the role of the Mediterranean as a bridge is more evident than ever. Because demographics, economics, and energy needs create an ever closer interdependence between us. And because new threats — such as terrorism, the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and transnational organised crime — affect us all and require a common response.

Enhancing the Mediterranean Dialogue, and developing it into a genuine partnership, is one major step in this process. It opens a new chapter of our cooperation. And it provides us with new ways and means to address the serious security challenges before us.

NATO is keen to explore those new opportunities. Given its strong reputation as a responsible international actor, a country that is keen to contribute to security in its own region and beyond, I am confident that Jordan, as well, will not fail to grasp the new opportunities.

Thank you.