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NATO Supreme Allied Commander Holds Press Briefing

Aired February 16, 2003 - 17:44   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And right now we want to take you live to NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium where we're expected to hear there from Lord George Robertson, the secretary general of NATO. Once again, NATO making the decision to protect Turkey in the event of war regardless of what France, who is opposed to that action -- regardless of what France thinks. Let's listen in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good evening and thank you for being so patient. We have with us tonight the Secretary General of NATO, Lord Robertson and the chairman of the Military Committee, General Kujat. The Secretary General will start with a few words and then, we'll take a few questions.

Secretary General, please.

LORD GEORGE ROBERTSON, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: Hi, good evening, ladies and gentlemen and thank you for your patience. It's been a long day for all of us, but we've come to a conclusion. The ambassadors of 18 NATO nations meeting in the Defense Planning Committee of NATO came to this building this morning confident that we had the elements necessary to provide the basis for our consensus decision.

The discussions that we've had today have been both arduous but constructive. One country, Belgium, proposed amendments to a draft decision sheet, which we'll discuss then consider at some length. I'm happy to announce that we have been able collectively to overcome the impasse that we've faced for the last few days. We agree in substance. We agree on timing, and we agree on how to integrate our collective solidarity with Turkey in the weight of context. A political decision backed by consensus has always been the preferred choice of this alliance. The search for consensus remains a cornerstone of how the North Atlantic Alliance operates.

It is with great personal satisfaction that I can now confirm that the 18 NATO allies, members of the Integrated Military Structure, agreed today to task military planners to begin their work and to advise allies with military advice on the following possible missions -- preventative deployment of AWACs airplane, NATO support for the deployment of theater missile defenses for Turkey, and NATO support for possible deployment of allied chemical and biological defense capabilities.

The military authorities will also review contingency plans related to the reinforcement of Turkey and the context of the current situation and update these plans as necessary. These measures are intended to provide Turkey solely with defensive assistance. Alliance solidarity has prevailed. NATO nations have assumed their collective responsibility towards Turkey, a nation, at the moment, under threat.

In closing, I wish to say that my choices were always taken having in mind the greater interests of the alliance as a whole. My job as secretary general of NATO is to lead the nations towards consensus, and that is what I've done today. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Questions, please.

QUESTION: You've got a decision here today on the -- based on the 18. Would you -- do you believe you'd have got this decision if all 19 had been around the table -- this is done in knack?

ROBERTSON: Well, we would have preferred to have a decision by the North Atlantic Council with all 19 members present. France is, by its own choice, not a member of the Integrated Military Structure and therefore, not a member of the Defense Planning Committee. We reached consensus today. I think that's a good thing. France has got its own position and can answer for itself. But today was a remarkable day with an important decision and a very firm and clear signal by the alliance that we will stand by an ally if that ally is under threat.

QUESTION: I have one question for Lord Robertson and another one for Mr. Kujat, please. Lord Robertson, you stated on Wednesday that France, Belgium and Germany are destroying NATO. Why are they doing that, and how far does this perception of yours go?

ROBERTSON: I did not say that. I don't know where you heard it from. I certainly did not say that. I represent all of the nations in NATO, those who are in the majority and those who are in the minority. My job -- and it's pretty painful at times and it takes a long time on occasion -- is to get consensus among the allies because we operate by consensus and by anonymity. And that is what we've done today.

One nation was not -- is not part of the Defense Planning Committee. That is their choice. But we have consensus among the 18 allies and therefore, the military defensive and contingency planning can now go ahead. But I make no accusations against the good faith or the loyalty or the reliability of any of the nations in NATO. I haven't done it. I wouldn't do it. And I certainly have not done it.

QUESTION: How much of these forces, AWACs, missiles and so on, can be used also to defend American bases in Turkey from which an attack on Iraq could be launched?

ROBERTSON: These defensive measures, the integrated air defense system of NATO, which involves the AWACs planes owned by NATO and the missile systems being provided by the Netherlands and the missiles by Germany, fit into an integrated air defense system. They are designed for defense.

It is the view of the chairman of the Military Committee here, General Kujat, and of the supreme allied commander, Europe General Jordans (ph), that there is in the current circumstances a threat to Turkey from one of its neighbors. Therefore, there is an obligation in the alliance to take that into account and to respond with appropriate measures. That's what we've done. These are defensive, prudent defensive and determined measures. And we will move forward with their implementation as the decision sheet says today with urgency.


GENERAL HARALD KUJAT, CHAIRMAN, MILITARY COMMITTEE: Well, we are preparing our advice to start with the work immediately, so I hope that this is a question of a few days. But I can't give you the exact timing because the Military Committee has to decide. But it's a question of a few days and we will take that up as a matter of urgency.

QUESTION: Secretary general, AFP. In your introduction, you did not, I think, make a reference to the linkage with the framework of the United Nations' discussion when allied, Belgium, which blocked the situation for one week here insisted was the most important point from their point-of-view and you did not really insist on this point. Why?

ROBERTSON: You will be able to see the full decision sheet in due course, and you'll see what all 18 allies have reaffirmed in terms of our commitment to the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, and that derives from the very forthright and tough statement by the NATO heads of state and government at the summit in Prague in November. And it says that the decision to approve the planning of these protection measures is fully consistent with the deliberations and efforts in the United Nations.

I think the -- I'm not going to go into the detail of even these three paragraphs, but you will see that we have stated the obvious, that is we support the United Nations' process, that these decisions are purely for the defense of Turkey, that these decisions do not prejudge any further decisions that are taken or could be taken.

Now, these are in the decision sheet. But they are facts and self-evident facts, as well. This is not a step towards going to war. It is a reaffirmation of our support for the United Nations, for Security Council Resolution 1441. And therefore, its implementation, which can be done if Saddam Hussein complies with the resolution, disarms, demonstrates it, and convinces the U.N. Security Council that he has not any longer got weapons of mass destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll take one last question, please.


ROBERTSON: Well, the document will speak for itself. And I don't distinguish between those aspects that will give satisfaction to any of the 18 countries. They reached consensus. They all agree on every aspect of that. And what is in the decision sheet and what we spent a lot of time discussing was a factual description of, first of all, our support for the U.N. process, secondly, for the essential defensive measures required by Turkey at this moment of danger, and our commitment to make sure that that ally continues to receive protection.

Can I just make one point about the other country that was not a party to these decisions today? France has all along made it clear that it stands in solidarity with Turkey. And by not being on the Defense Planning Committee is not to in any way suggest that France is not part of that ultimate loyalty and commitment to the defense of our ally. France believed that these measures were not yet opportune. That was its choice. It's not part of the Defense Planning Committee, but I hope that people will not anywhere get a signal that it doesn't imply any less commitment. And all of the points in this decision sheet have been subscribed to unanimously by all 18 members of the Defense Planning Committee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Merci.

LIN: All right. We have just heard from the secretary general of NATO, saying that 18 NATO allies have voted for the greater good. They have agreed, despite France's objections, to go ahead with plans to protect Turkey in case there is a war between the United States and Iraq. The secretary general saying that solidarity has prevailed.

Robin Oakley -- CNN's Robin Oakley, the senior European correspondent, is joining us by telephone from Brussels.

Robin, why is it that Germany and Belgium actually dropped their objections to this plan?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Carol, because there has been huge embarrassment for the whole of NATO with three countries holding out for three weeks. It's been against preplanning of measures to help Turkey in -- should it come to a war situation.

Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, said that the organization faced a crisis of credibility, and I think all the NATO nations recognized that. They've only been able to get a decision here tonight by tossing this decision out of the Northern Atlantic Council, of all 19 ambassadors including France, and giving the decision to the Defense Planning committee instead, of which France is not a member.

It will be a huge relief, of course, for the European Union leaders who meet here in Brussels tomorrow, and who are trying to find a common line on Iraq. But it was noticeable that Lord Robertson was very careful with his language there in which he announced the decision. He said that it was "subtly defensive assistance that was going to Turkey" because the complaint of France and initially, Germany and Belgium as well, was that it was suggesting that NATO was in a war mind-set and was backing military action against Saddam Hussein while some of those countries still felt that the question could be solved by political and diplomatic means. So this has ended temporarily an embarrassment for NATO but leaves big questions about the future of the organization --Carol.

LIN: All right. We want to explore some of those questions with you, Robin. We're going to let you go just for a couple of minutes because we're about to start our next show up where we're going to have a full hour of news from around the world focusing on this latest breaking news, as well. Robin Oakley joining us by telephone from Belgium. He'll be back in just a few minutes.


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