In Less Than Forty Eight Hours, NATO Foreign Ministers Vote on Montenegro Joining the Alliance

Montenegro's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Luksic and Defense Minister Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic, with Secretary General Jens Stoltenber, Nov. 25, 2015Excerpts from Pre-ministerial press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, November 30, 2015.

Q: Jim Neugar from Bloomberg. You said in your opening statement that NATO is working on further assurance measures for Turkey, what will these measures be? And secondarily on Ukraine, you mentioned the recent increase in fighting along the ceasefire line, what concern do you have that Russia may be using the world’s focus on Syria to, as a distraction from increased rebel activity in Ukraine?

JENS STOLTENBERG: NATO has to stay focused both on what’s going on on its southern borders, Iraq, Syria, but at the same time of course continue to stay focused on the challenges we see to the east and especially in Ukraine. So we don’t have the luxury of either being focused or addressing the challenges to the east or the challenges to the south, we have to do both at the same time. And that’s exactly what we are going to do at this meeting. We are going to focus on Ukraine with the NATO Ukraine Commission meeting. We’re going to focus on how we respond to a more assertive Russia, but at the same time we will address the efforts to fight ISIL and the efforts by all NATO allies which are part of the coalition fighting ISIL and of course also what Turkey is doing bordering Syria and Iraq and being so close to the violence and the turmoil we see caused by ISIL in that region. NATO has had for several years, for three years, assurance measures in Turkey. We have had the patriot batteries deployed there, this is part of our standing defence plan for Turkey and it’s part of NATO being an alliance protecting each other and since Turkey is so close on the frontline of the fighting in Syria and Iraq we found it the right thing to do to augment their air defences some years ago. We will continue to provide support for Turkey, exactly with what kind of capabilities is what our military authorities are now looking into, assessing, and they will provide us some recommendations and we will make decisions on the specific kinds of assurance measures, capabilities, in the near future. But what is certain is that we will continue to support Turkey, we will continue to augment their air defences and, and that’s part of being an alliance which supports an ally which is so close to all the turmoil, the violence we see to the south of our borders….

Q: Jelena Otasevic, TV of Montenegro. You have already said that Ministers will decide on Wednesday morning. When will we have the official publication of the, their decision, what time? And you already said that Montenegro will continue negotiations and talks with NATO, when can we expect the official accession of our country to NATO?

JENS STOLTENBERG: The decision will be taken early Wednesday morning. So, and I, and we are planned then to announce it very soon after that. So that will be public very soon after we make a decision. Regardless of whether we decide or not decide to invite Montenegro then of course it will be announced Wednesday morning. The exact hour I’m not able to give you but it will be early. Second, second, then we will have the formal process of accession talks. That will take some, at least some months, and then there will be, if then we succeed, given that Montenegro is invited and given that we are successful in the accession talks then there is a process with a ratification in all 28 national parliaments or assemblies in all the 28 allies. That will take some time, I will not give you an exact date but that’s a quite, a process which takes some time. So it will take some time before NATO [sic] can join the alliance even if we decide to invite them on Wednesday….

Q: Agency Euro Atlantica Ukraine. As you know yesterday Russian air forces targeted market on the north of Syria, for, forty people killed, destroyed water infrastructure, bakery, other things and I haven’t heard any reaction of the side of EU or NATO. Have you appreciate this, how can you react on this? And the second, as you know Russia deployed rocket systems S400 on the territory of Syria. It’s also question, what’s your reaction of this? And do you believe that a large or wide coalition with Ukraine would be constructive or destructive? Thank you.

JENS STOLTENBERG: The loss of civilian and the loss of innocent lives in the civil war in Syria is a tragedy and too many lives have been lost and we see that violence, fighting is going on and, and that’s the reason why I and NATO so strongly support all efforts to try to find a peaceful negotiated solution. That will not be easy, it will take time but at least we have seen a renewed will and a renewed strength in the efforts to try to find a political agreement and to stop the fighting and the killings in Syria. I’m, I think it is important that we all fight our common enemy ISIL and that’s the reason why I would like to see Russia targeting ISIL, our common enemy, instead of targeting so many other groups and areas in ISIL, in Syria, because very much of their bombing is taking place in territories or areas where ISIL is not present at all. And that will strengthen our fight against ISIL if also Russia concentrate their targets or their efforts fighting ISIL instead of bombing many other targets and groups in Syria….

Q: Hello Secretary General. Jamey Keaten from Associated Press. You mentioned that you want to see Turkey and Russia have greater talks, better coordination but as you know President Putin is not taking calls from President Erdogan at the moment. So I wanted to know what is NATO doing specifically, what has NATO done to communicate with Russia directly since the incident last week? And what changes do you see between NATO’s relationship with Russia in the wake of the biggest kinetic incident between Russia and a NATO member state for some time?

JENS STOLTENBERG: We have had direct contacts with the Russian delegation here in Brussels, the NATO, also the Russian delegation to NATO here in Brussels. The Deputy Secretary General met with the Russian Ambassador, Ambassador Grushko, some days ago or last week and in the wake of the incident last week and he expressed of course our strong message about that we of course support the right of Turkey to defend its air space and also the need to de-escalate, to calm the situation and he also expressed the need for direct contacts Ankara Moscow and that was a very clear message from, from NATO, from the Deputy Secretary General to Russia and the Russian Ambassador Grushko. We believe that the best way of de-escalating the situation and to calm tensions is by direct contact Ankara Moscow because then they can sit down, discuss exactly how they assess the situation and also look into how they can do whatever possible to avoid something similar happening in the future. So I will welcome any kind of contact and dialogue between Russia and Turkey on these issues.

Image: Montenegro's Deputy Prime Minister Igor Luksic and Defense Minister Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic, with Secretary General Jens Stoltenber, Nov. 25, 2015 (photo: NATO)