BRUSSELS: The leaders of 29 NATO member states and many partner nations will meet in Brussels today and tomorrow for a summit at the alliance’s new headquarters. Speaking at a press conference yesterday, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “Together, they will take decisions to strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense, and also take decisions to step up NATO’s role in the fight against terrorism.” “They will agree to launch a new training mission in Iraq, with hundreds of NATO trainers. Military schools will also be set up to increase the professionalism of Iraqi forces. In addition, allies will agree more support for key partners in the Middle East and North Africa, including Tunisia and Jordan,” he said.
Stoltenberg noted that in tomorrow’s summit meeting, defense spending and burden-sharing will be high on the agenda. “We expect eight allies to spend at least two percent of GDP on defense this year, compared to just three allies in 2014,” said Stoltenberg. To strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense, leaders are expected to adopt a Readiness Initiative. “This is a commitment to have by 2020: 30 mechanized battalions; 30 air squadrons; and 30 combat vessels, ready to use within 30 days or less,” said the secretary general.
Allies will also agree a new NATO Command Structure, including a new command for the Atlantic in the US’ Norfolk, Virginia, a command for military mobility in Europe in Ulm, Germany, and a Cyber Operations Centre. The NATO summit will end tomorrow with a meeting on Afghanistan, joined by Resolute Support partners. “At the summit, I expect we will also agree to extend funding for the Afghan forces beyond 2020. And we’ll express our full support for President Ghani’s bold peace initiative. And his government’s reforms,” he said.
Finally, the NATO chief said he expects that following last month’s historic agreement on the ‘name’ issue between Greece and Macedonia, they will agree to invite Skopje to start accession talks. Once the agreement is finalized and implemented, “we will be able to invite the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to become NATO’s 30th member under its new name – the Republic of North Macedonia,” he added.
NATO and the EU earlier yesterday signed a new joint declaration setting out a shared vision of how NATO-EU cooperation can make all stronger and safer. Meanwhile, NATO has invited two journalists from Kuwait; Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan, Editor-in-Chief of Kuwait Times, and Rabaa Al-Juma from the Kuwait Journalists Association, to cover the summit and participate in special programs in its sidelines. – KUNA