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Agenda: I/V: Secretary General Of Nato

I/V: Secretary General Of Nato

Okay well let's look at the purpose of your visit here, what is it that you would like to see the New Zealand forces in Afghanistan do?

Well first of all NATO are very happy that New Zealand participates in what is a very important mission operation in Afghanistan with the socalled provincial reconstruction team in Bamian Province and one of the reasons I've come here of course is to discuss with my New Zealand interlocutor the Prime Minister and the Ministers the future of New Zealand participation and NATO's participation in Afghanistan.

Would you like to see the New Zealand troops become part of the NATO led force in Afghanistan?

At a certain stage yes although that needs more integration between the two operations at the moment in Afghanistan, the NATO ISAF Security Systems Force and the socalled coalition operation, the operation enduring freedom. As they integrate, as we develop more synergy between those two operations the moment will come, I do not know when exactly, that New Zealand will be part of the one and only operation in Afghanistan, but for the moment as you know we have two.

In a recent speech you said that NATO, you named New Zealand at least as one of a small number of countries which had informal contacts with NATO. What's the nature of those contacts and how do you see them developing?

Well they're more than informal I think, I mean my visits to New Zealand to here is proof of the fact that NATO is very much interested in the participation of New Zealand in what is basically defending values. NATO is a value driven organisation, the values New Zealand and NATO are defending are the same, they are human rights, the rule of law, democracy, freedom of speech and religion, all those basic elements of freedom are defended by NATO, have always been defended by NATO since it started in 1949 and the fact that New Zealand participates not only by the way in Afghanistan but also in the Balkans it has participated, makes New Zealand an interesting country and a very interesting interlocutor.

A number of critics of course say that New Zealand's armed forces are running down that they're not up to the kind of standard that you need to participate in these sort of operations, how far, how much can New Zealand actually bring to the table in an armed forces sense to these kind of operations?

Well I think New Zealand is proving and has proven in Afghanistan and in the Balkans that New Zealand's armed forces are very much capable of doing what they're supposed to be doing, and they are up till this very moment, as NATO say the ……….are not into any New Zealand debate on the standard's better or whatever that’s not up to me that’s up to the New Zealand's government and people to decide but what I know and what I have seen, what I do see of the New Zealand armed forces is very much up to standard.

Looking at NATO overall how do you see the relationship between NATO and this second term Bush administration being different if at all from what it was during the first term?

Well it's a bit difficult to speak about a NATO President Bush relationship because the unique character of NATO of course is just that the Americans are sitting at the table and I have never doubted for one moment the commitment of the United States to NATO. The fact that President Bush has come to NATO at the end of February so briefly after his inauguration is proof of the fact that that commitment is there, that the commitment is strong and I say again the uniqueness of NATO is that on a permanent basis we can discuss all relevant issues with the Americans, that will always be the difference from between NATO and the European Union, there is an interesting EU US relationship but the US is not sitting at the European Union's table and they're sitting at the NATO table. Now I do not see if I look at today's world many conflicts or conflict areas in the world which could come closer to a solution without the full and active US participation.

How confident are you that the United States now is committed to multi lateralism in solving disputes like Iran for example?

Well if you mention Iran I think we see a good example of the EU3 the French the British and the Germans working together with the Americans trying to prevent very serious developments in Iran, Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. If the Europeans only have the carrots and the US only the sticks it will not work. On the other hand the Europeans need the weight of the United States to make an impression to make themselves heard, so when I see now that the United States are supportive of the process as conducted by the EU3 I think that’s the best combination we can have, and I can only say that I sincerely hope that these thoughts will have results, if not we know the matter will be referred to the Security Council.

Well how confident are you that the Iranians will disarm if indeed they're armed, their nuclear weapons or their nuclear capability without force?

Well that’s very difficult to say, I can only say that I sincerely hope the talks stimulated and organised by the EU3 will have their results, that the combination of the EU3 and the Americans will work, because one of the biggest challenges facing all of us be it New Zealand be it NATO, is the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and I know for sure that not only the western world or New Zealand for that matter, this part of the world or the Arab world would like to see a nuclear armed Iran. I mean I have travelled a lot recently in the Arab world and I know one thing that the Arabs are as worried about an Iranian nuclear weapon as are countries in the west or New Zealand Australia or Japan for that matter, because we're all fighting for operation(?) aren’t we?

Looking back at two years of Iraq, two years of the United States and allies intervening in Iraq, what have we learned out of that, what have we gained, what have we lost?

What we have gained is that there are not new mass graves any more in Iraq, we're still finding mass graves but the dictator has gone, the horrible dictator has gone, and whatever position nations took vis-à-vis the war in Iraq everybody now agrees that the stable and secure Iraq is in the interests of all of us, and that is a common endeavour and should be in my opinion a common ambition. New Zealand shows that this is a common ambition by the way because of the fact that New Zealand has its engineers in Iraq helping to build up that country after the horrible decades they have suffered under Saddam Hussein. So what we have learned is that it is possible, what we have learned is that eight million Iraqis have gone to the polls at the end of January and that’s a different way of going to the polls as you do in New Zealand or I do in my home country the Netherlands, it was going to the polls with the risk of having your head chopped off or being shot. We see possible developments, I hope a government will be formed soon and I think a stable Iraq is a very big asset for a region which is pivotal, absolutely pivotal, not only for the security in that region but a much wider notion of security.

Okay well looking – coming back to the relationship between NATO and New Zealand, how do you see that unfolding over the medium term future?

Well I hope that my visit will participate in establishing let's say more structural and formal contacts between New Zealand and NATO and I can say that my interlocutor is the Prime Minister the other Ministers have taken a very positive attitude in the talks I've had with them. New Zealand I hope will go on making its valuable contributions in operations run by NATO, by the way in Afghanistan and possible in the Balkans as you know under a mandate of the United Nations, I know that’s important for a country like New Zealand and I think NATO is relevant for New Zealand and New Zealand is relevant for NATO and the fact that you’re pretty far away and that it takes some time to get here and it takes some time for you to get to Brussels will not block further developments of the bilateral – of the relationship between New Zealand and NATO and the other way round.

Thank you very much.

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