Nato to open regional centre in Kuwait

Gulf security directly linked to Nato allies’ security

 North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the permanent representatives at the North Atlantic Council will visit Kuwait on Monday, the military alliance has said.

Stoltenberg and the Nato ambassadors will attend the ceremony to inaugurate the Nato Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Centre in Kuwait City, the first such presence in the region.

The Nato chief is scheduled to have meetings with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Shaikh Jaber Mubarak Al Hamad Al Sabah, the First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaikh Sabah Khalid Al Sabah and the President of the Kuwait National Security Bureau Shaikh Thamer Ali Al Sabah, Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported on Saturday.

A meeting of the North Atlantic Council with senior representatives of the four ICI partner countries will follow the opening ceremony, with the participation of the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and representatives of Oman and Saudi Arabia.

The ICI which comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE was launched in Istanbul in 2004 to develop security and defense cooperation between the Arab Gulf states and Nato.

“I thank Kuwait for its generosity and commend its active role in promoting regional security,” Stoltenberg told the Kuwaiti news agency.

“The Nato-ICI Centre represents an important milestone in Nato’s deepening cooperation with Kuwait and the entire region.”

The center will be a hub for cooperation between the alliance and Gulf partners in a wide range of areas, including strategic analysis, civil emergency planning, military-to-military cooperation and public diplomacy, he added.

The center will also facilitate the sharing of expertise and improve understanding between Nato and Kuwait, as well as with Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE.

Kuwaiti authorities proposed the establishment of the center at Nato’s Chicago Summit in 2012 and the alliance accepted it, Stoltenberg added.

“Last year, I toured the construction site, and in a few days, I will be in Kuwait again to celebrate the center’s opening,” Stoltenberg, who is the former prime minister of Norway, said.

“The security of the Gulf is directly linked to the security of all Nato allies. We share the same aspirations for peace and stability, and we share common security threats, such as terrorism, weapons proliferation, and failing states. The shared security challenges make it even more important that we work more closely together. That is exactly why we are reinforcing our political dialogue and practical cooperation.

“Taking Kuwait as an example, we work closely in areas including crisis management, defense policy, and defense against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear weapons.”

He said the Nato-Kuwait Transit Agreement, signed during his visit in 2016, is another example of the value the partnership provides: it facilitates the movement of Nato equipment and personnel through the region.

“Nato deeply values its partnerships in the Gulf, and my upcoming visit to Kuwait and the new regional centre underlines the priority we place on building our cooperation even further.”

Stoltenberg said he would welcome the membership of Saudi Arabia and Oman in the ICI if they so wished.

“The Gulf Cooperation Council, to which they belong, plays a key role in regional stability. I met the Saudi defence minister last year at Nato headquarters, and he expressed Saudi Arabia’s readiness for further cooperation. So I look forward to an ongoing dialogue on deepening our relations,” he said.

“Nato is committed to fighting terrorism by working with a range of partners throughout North Africa and the Middle East. We have already trained hundreds of Iraqi officers in Jordan fight against Daesh, and from this month we are expanding our efforts into Iraq itself. In Tunisia, we are supporting the training of Tunisian Special Forces, and in Afghanistan, we are helping to ensure that the country never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorism. When our neighbors are more stable, we are more secure,” he was quoted as saying by Kuna.

Nato also continues to offer direct support to the Global Coalition to counter Daesh with its AWACS surveillance aircraft providing surveillance data to support air operations. Nato allies contribute to the Coalition in different ways, he said.

“The Coalition is making steady progress, and Daesh is losing ground. So in 2017, I am confident that Nato will remain the cornerstone of Euro-Atlantic security, and continue to project stability beyond our borders. Again and again, our history has proven that Nato can adapt and deliver. Today, as we face the most serious security challenges in a generation, our adaptation continues.”