BRUSSELS: Kuwait’s Ambassador to NATO Jasem Al-Budaiwi (center) with NATO officials Giovanni Romani (right) and Javier Colomina. – KUNA

BRUSSELS: A top NATO official has praised the growing partnership between the 30-member Alliance and Kuwait and expressed his appreciation to Kuwait for hosting the NATO-ICI Regional Centre. “I want to highlight the great cooperation between Kuwait and NATO and how happy we are that this partnership is growing every day, “Giovanni Romani, head of the Middle East and North Africa section within the Political Affairs and Security Policy Division of NATO, said in an interview. He described his recent visit to Kuwait earlier in September as “very nice” and said he held meetings at the foreign ministry, defense ministry and the bureau of national security apparatus. He also visited the NATO-ICI regional center which, he said, “is a fruit of the cooperation between NATO and Kuwait.”

NATO’s Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) was launched at the Alliance’s Summit in the Turkish city in June 2004. “Cooperation between Kuwait and NATO is going on very well. We always had excellent relationship,” stressed Romani who previously served in the Italian Navy. Kuwait’s Ambassador to NATO, the EU and Belgium Jasem Al-Budaiwi hosted a lunch at this residence Friday for Romani together with Javier Colomina, NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy and NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia.

“We very much appreciate the kind offer of Kuwait for this Centre which allows us to better engage in the Gulf within the framework of the ICI with the four countries, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE but also with the two other countries of the GCC,” Saudi Arabia and Oman, he said. The NATO official said that the work at the Centre had paused due to the Coronavirus crisis but they had been working virtually and now little-by-little they started to work and look forward to the operational use of the center in physical presence. “We hope to leverage the Centre to its full capacity and to strengthen the cooperation with the other Gulf countries in the ICI,” he said.

The center is the only presence NATO has in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, he noted. He also expressed his appreciation to Kuwait for the support that was provided during the evacuation from Afghanistan. “We had an urgent need to get the people out from Afghanistan and it was important for us to have the support of the Gulf countries including Kuwait for facilitating this operation which was complex and very dangerous,” he said.

It aims to contribute to long-term global and regional security by offering countries of the Gulf practical and bilateral cooperation with NATO. Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE are members of the ICI. In January 2017, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg inaugurated NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Regional Centre in Kuwait. Stoltenberg has described this Centre as “a new home for the Alliance in the Gulf” whose “potential is enormous”. – KUNA