The migrant crisis, the changing security environment and NATO’s role in addressing the challenges of the present day topped the agenda of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s talks with Czech top officials in Prague on Wednesday. The NATO Secretary General made it clear that while the migrant crisis called for an immediate reaction from the EU, NATO should primarily address the cause of the crisis in the Middle East and North Africa.
“What NATO as an organization is doing is to address the root causes of the migrant crisis. Because we need immediate action in Europe but, in addition, we need to address the root causes in the countries of origin of the refugees. And when NATO is engaged in Afghanistan, when we are working with a partner country like Jordan or when we recently agreed with the government of Iraq to do defense capacity building or when we work with countries in North Africa then we are working with countries in the region to try to help them to increase their capacity, their capability to stabilize their own countries and in the long run that’s the only possible solution.”
The NATO Secretary General said NATOs goal was to try and boost stability in the Middle East and North Africa without always deploying a large number of combat troops but by training, advising and helping with reforms. He expressed concern over reports of heightened Russian military activity in Syria, saying that NATO supported all efforts leading to a political rather than military solution in the country.
While in Prague the NATO Secretary General also commented on the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.
“So far, it looks like the ceasefire is now more respected than it has been for a long time and I welcome that. At the same time the situation in Ukraine is still very fragile and it is important that all parties respect the ceasefire and withdraw heavy weapons from the contact line. But, perhaps most important is that international monitors are allowed full access to the area so that they can make sure that the ceasefire and the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.”
In speaking about the need for NATO to adapt to the changes taking place in the global security environment, NATO’s Secretary General thanked the Czech Republic for being what he called a “staunch and committed” NATO ally, mentioning its role in NATO’s ISAF mission in Afghanistan, its participation in the KFOR mission in Kosovo and its air-policing missions over the Baltic states and Iceland. He also welcomed the Czech government’s decision to increase public spending in the defense sector saying increased defense spending was vital for the alliance at a time of heightened tensions and new challenges. On his two day visit to Prague Mr. Stoltenberg also used the opportunity to speak with members of the “Dragoon “ US military convoy currently crossing the Czech Republic on its way to a military exercise in Hungary, saying that their presence in Europe was another sign of the changing security environment.
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