NATO in the Middle East

Anders Fogh Rasmussen

March 7, 2010
Amman, Jordan

It is a great pleasure to be in Amman. I would like to thank the President of the Jordanian Institute for Diplomacy Dr. Omar Rifai for organising my speech here today.

This is indeed my first speech as NATO Secretary General in one of the Alliance's Mediterranean partner countries. And it is most appropriate that I should give it here in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. For many years, your country has set a very powerful example: if one desires peace, then one must work for it, all the time.

Jordan's tireless efforts to promote peace and stability, not only here in this region but also far beyond, have earned it tremendous international respect and admiration. And I also want to strongly commend His Majesty King Abdullah, the Jordanian Government and the Jordanian Armed Forces for that continuing, very robust commitment.

The need for peace to be worked for, and to be earned, also lies at the very heart of NATO. In the Alliance, 28 nations from North America and Europe are working together - because we, too, realise that peace does not simply come about by itself. Like Jordan, we also believe that peace is more than the absence of war - peace is also about human dignity, human rights, and tolerance. And, like Jordan, we believe that we must work constantly to defend those values against the forces of hatred and intolerance.

I am particularly pleased that my speech, today, is here in Amman. Because it is in this very city that King Abdullah, through his "Amman message" of November 2004, called for tolerance, dialogue and inter-cultural and inter-religious understanding. The King called for a wide platform upon which peoples of different faiths can meet together, with respect for other's ideas and faiths, and act in common in the service of human society.

The "Amman Message" declares: "Islam honours every human being, without distinction of colour, race or religion". It is a powerful statement that Islam, one of the world's great religions, will not have its core values compromised by radical fundamentalism. In a world in which some are trying to pit different religions against each other, the "Amman Message" takes a clear stand: for tolerance, and against radicalism.

The Amman Message is a remarkable and strong message. And a solid foundation for cooperation and partnerships across political, cultural and religious borders for the benefit of peace and humanity.

I'm here today to reaffirm my commitment to a strengthened partnership between NATO and Jordan and the other countries in the Mediterranean Dialogue.

The Mediterranean Dialogue was established 15 years ago. And during that period of time it has served as a framework for practical cooperation and political dialogue between the 28 NATO countries and 7 countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

NATO is a defence Alliance. NATO is not directed against anyone. First and foremost, NATO is an Alliance of 28 nations that share common values: Political liberty, economic freedom, rule of law and respect for human rights.

NATO is the most successful defence Alliance the world has ever seen. During more than 60 years, this alliance has preserved peace and stability in Europe and North America.

In the 1990'ies, NATO took action in Europe, in the Balkans - first in Bosnia, later in Kosovo. At that time, Muslims living in the Balkans were threatened by the most brutal dictatorship, Europe had seen since the World War II.

NATO took action to protect Muslims against oppression and massacre. We were joined by many partners, including Jordan, and thanks to a determined international effort - and a continued international military presence - the different religious communities can now live peacefully together.

At a time when our nations face many common security challenges, we need a new level of international engagement to deal with them - a level of engagement that stretches across frontiers, across cultures and across religions. And I believe that NATO and our Mediterranean partners can set a real example in strengthening that common purpose and translating it into concrete, common action.

The terrorist attacks of "9/11" signalled the dawn of a new era - for all our nations. We face threats that are far more complex than anything we have faced in the past. Terrorism has mutated into a global franchise. Extremists can be inspired, funded and activated from halfway around the world. And there is a real danger that the world's most dangerous individuals get their hands on the world's most dangerous weapons.

NATO has responded to the new security environment by taking action in new ways, and in new places - such as in Afghanistan, in the Mediterranean Sea, and in the waters off the Horn of Africa. We operate on the basis of mandates from the United Nations. We promote close cooperation between international organisations, so we can combine military and civilian instruments in the most effective way. And we reach out to other nations, from Europe all the way to South East Asia and the Pacific, to work together with us.

NATO has made a particular effort to reach out to Jordan and the other six nations who are taking part in our Mediterranean Dialogue process - to make our partnership even stronger and more focussed on the new threats. And we have been very pleased to see the positive response by all our Mediterranean partners, and especially that of Jordan.

First, there has been a steady increase in our political dialogue. We have had more regular consultations, on a wider range of issues, involving different levels of expertise - and all that has really brought us closer together. I see considerable potential for an enhanced dialogue.

Second, there has also been great progress in our practical cooperation, especially military-to-military cooperation. We have been very impressed by Jordan's enormous knowledge and expertise, especially in many aspects related to the fight against terrorism. But we have also welcomed Jordan's preparedness to share that vast knowledge and expertise with the NATO Allies and with our other Mediterranean Dialogue partners. Because that is what cooperative security is all about.

Third, we have been able to demonstrate how our cooperation benefits the Jordanian people. We have launched two Trust Fund projects, where a number of NATO nations work with several of the Alliance's European partners to help Jordan with the safe disposal of obsolete arms, munitions and unexploded ordnance. In both these projects, civilian and military experts work closely together. Both have very obvious, immediate benefits for the safety and well-being of the Jordanian people. And I believe that this kind of practical cooperation also holds considerable promise for the future.

By concluding an Individual Cooperation Programme with NATO last year, Jordan demonstrated a clear ambition to take our cooperation even further. Given Jordan's strong record, I am very confident that it will be able to fulfil that ambition. And when it does, Jordan will set an example that will also encourage NATO's other Mediterranean partners to give further structure and focus to their own cooperation with the Alliance.

***

Terrorism is one of the worst scourges of our time. Terrorism strikes at random, spreads horror and kills innocent children, women and men. Terrorism is a negation of humanity.

Jordan herself has been the victim of terrorism. Many times. We still remember the 2005 hotel bombings in Amman. Jordan's own "9/11". It remains a stark reminder that terrorism and extremism are a constant threat to us all.

The fight against terrorism demands a strong cooperation among all nations that want to protect their people against these criminal and despicable acts. All those who want to preserve peace and promote progress must join efforts in our struggle for peaceful co-existence and against hateful atrocities.

This is the reason why 44 nations are participating in a joint military operation in Afghanistan today. We cannot allow Afghanistan, once again, to become a safe haven for the world's most dangerous terrorists.

Our nations will be much more secure if we bring lasting peace and stability to Afghanistan. That is why the Afghan government has requested military help from the international community. That is why the United Nations have adopted a mandate for an international military operation in Afghanistan. That is why NATO took the lead of the International Security Assistance Force back in 2003. And it is why Afghanistan remains the Alliance's key priority today, when all 28 NATO Allies are joined in ISAF by as many as 16 non-NATO countries from all over the world, including Jordan.

Together, we have taken on a daunting task - and many of our soldiers have paid the ultimate price. But, together, we are making progress. We are turning the tide in our favour. With the ongoing increase in our military presence; our focus on the security of the Afghan people; and the success of our joint operations together with the Afghan National Army, we are clearly creating a new momentum.

We will develop the capabilities of the Afghan security forces. We will train and educate Afghan soldiers and Afghan police. And we will gradually transfer lead responsibility for the security to the Afghans themselves when conditions permit - district by district, and province by province.

To that end we will need a strong training mission. We have already established this training mission, and we invite all Allies and partners to provide resources for that important operation.

Jordan has a particularly strong reputation in military training and education. We are well aware that, these last few years alone, your country has trained more than 10,000 Iraqi military personnel and 60,000 police staff. We are very grateful that Jordan has offered similar assistance with the training of Afghan National Security Forces, and I hope that we can soon formalise our cooperation in this area.

I have been to Afghanistan several times, and visited the troops there. I am convinced that, with our help, Afghanistan will soon be able to stand on its own feet again. And this will not only benefit Afghanistan, but also our own security.

Let me take this opportunity to encourage Muslim countries to engage in Afghanistan. Not only because also Muslim countries suffer from the scourge of terrorism. But also because, Muslim countries have valuable cultural and religious awareness and expertise to bring to bear. And the participation of soldiers with a Muslim background is in itself a strong demonstration of the fact that the fight in Afghanistan is not about religion. It is a fight against terrorism.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

15 years ago, Jordan joined the Mediterranean Dialogue Partnership with NATO. During that period of time, the bonds between Jordan and NATO have grown ever stronger.

We share the desire for peace, tolerance and respect for human life. This common demand is so forcefully expressed in the King's Amman Message: "Islam upholds human life. (......) To assault the life of a human being is equivalent to assaulting the right to life of all - and this is one of the gravest sins, for life is the basis for the continuation of humanity".

It is my strong belief that faith should bring us together, and not divide us. Billions of people find strength, comfort and hope in their faith. Religion should be a strong force for peace, mercy, forgiveness and tolerance. The few who misuse religion - whatever religion that may be - to spread intolerance, hatred and violence should never be allowed to let us forget that fact.

Let us join efforts to fight terrorism and extremism. And let us, in a true partnership, promote freedom, peace and mutual respect.

 

Anders Fogh Rasmussen is Secretary General of NATO.

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