Afghanistan, NATO's future to dominate NATO foreign ministers' gathering

09:13, April 22, 2010      

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NATO foreign ministers are to convene in the Estonian capital of Tallinn on Thursday and Friday, with the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan and the alliance's new strategic concept high on the agenda.

At the monthly press conference on Monday, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that the discussion on Afghanistan would involve 46 contributing nations to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAS), and representatives from European Union and United Nations Mission in Afghanistan.

"Our aim, this year, is to move forward on transition to Afghan lead. This meeting of Foreign Ministers will mark the next concrete step in that process. We will agree on the principles and decision-making framework for transition. We will ensure that transition takes place when clear political and military conditions are in place, and with the Afghans playing a key role," he said.

Fogh Rasmussen said that while some 850 trainers had been pledged in the last two month, the NATO's mission in Afghanistan was still facing a shortage of trainers.

"We are still short about 450 trainers. It's a relatively small number. But those trainers have a big effect. I will encourage Foreign Ministers to see what they can do to free up these mission- critical resources and I expect further offers to come soon," he said.

The so-called new Strategic Concept, which will outline the future of the alliance, is another focus of the meeting. Foreign ministers are expected to be updated on the work of the Group of Experts and discuss the way forward to the Lisbon Summit in November, where the new Strategic Concept will be endorsed.

NATO foreign ministers will also address NATO's nuclear policy, which is seen as an essential part of the new concept.

In February, five European NATO member nations, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Norway, sent a letter to Fogh Rasmussen, calling for the debate over the alliance's stance on nuclear weapons. The move is seen as an attempt to press for the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. The United States still has about 200 nuclear warheads in Europe, deployed in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey.

Fogh Rasmussen said that "no decisions will be taken in Tallinn on NATO's nuclear policy. But I do think the principles of the NATO discussion are already clear: first, that no Ally will take unilateral decisions; second, that as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will need a nuclear deterrent."

Besides NATO's nuclear policy, foreign ministers will discuss missile defense, which has been a source of tensions between the United States and Russia. The NATO chief said that NATO members should agree on a missile shield that includes Russia at the alliance's Lisbon Summit in November.

Finally, the ministers will discuss Bosnia-Herzegovina's request for the Membership Action Plan, the NATO program of support to individual nations wishing to join the Alliance.

"Our policy is clear. It is not a matter of if, but when. The ' when' is what Ministers will discuss in Tallinn. But regardless of what we conclude, we agree on one thing: the place and the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina is in Euro-Atlantic structures," Fogh Rasmussen said.

Source: Xinhua


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