Joint Press Conference by Secretary General and Italian President of the Council of Ministers

Joint press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the President of the Council of Ministers of Italy, Giuseppe Conte, October 9, 2019.

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Dr. Nuniol… I’m glad to welcome back here again the Secretary General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg. We have discussed the preparation of the formal meeting of the heads of state and government of NATO, that will take place on the 3rd and 4th of December in London, to celebrate 70 years of the adoption of the Washington Treaty, to make NATO one of the most long-standing alliances in history. So NATO is still an essential pillar for European Security, and Italia in particular. The commitment of Italy in NATO the past 70 years was, if I may say so, without sounding modest, exceptional because our country was one of the founding members, an active and reliable participant, and we have provided and guaranteed security for invested resources, technological ability. Extraordinary human resources to protect collective interests. Of course, over the past 70 years the geopolitical framework has steeply changed. In the transition to a more peace-centric system it is still valid what Italy has always consistently supported let us just say the need to look at the multidimensional aspects of security challenges with a 360 degree approach with ability to respond to security concerns of all the citizens of the 29 and soon to be 30 member states including Northern Macedonia. The public image of the vitality of NATO depends on this for the past 70 years. The key role played by the the Mediterranean has been a constant that is still a cradle of opportunities, but as we know, it is also a place of challenge. And thanks to the leadership role of Italy and the effective lead of our friend, Jens, Secretary General of NATO, and a renewed awareness today about how collective security depends so much on the borders of the Mediterranean. This is not true only for countering terrorism, because it is not something that has become extinct, it is something that is still being developed, but also to respond the challenges caused by instability by uncontrolled migration, illicit trafficking and also climate change. Our hope is that in London, the progress made in the adaptation process to the challenges coming from the south is consolidated. We have given our availability. We are contributing to realize a regional hub which will become a center of analysis and anticipation of challenges, but also a place of opportunities we have provided Naples in terms of availability. It is important to guarantee renewed cooperation with all regional partners. In London we expect concrete progress in the implementation of the new, advanced planning devoted to the south flank of NATO. We must not forget the difficult geopolitical balance where traditional security challenges, linked to the dynamics between powers intertwined with asymmetric, hybrid challenges coming from other players and all those threats that are linked to the most recent technological innovations. We need to rethink the architecture of E.U. security after the end of the INF treaty, which requires today, more than ever, an open and constant dialogue with Russia. Also when it comes to strategic stability, including the management of the new cybermanagement competition in space, we’ve talked about this as well, so NATO has a lot to do. So, Dear Jens, I’m sure that you will be able to rely on the constructive role and on the open dialogue and availability shown by my country Italy. I have repeated it more than once such a complex framework cannot survive without closer cooperation between NATO and the European Union, and we have elaborated on this point because we are deeply convinced, both of us. And if you’ll allow me to anticipate what Jens is going to say that security, which is a process supported by Italy, security in the E.U. must go on with the unavoidable role of collective defense that is the role of NATO. With the synergy, the complimentality between the two organizations must be translated into utmost transparency vis-a-vis the allies that are not members of the European Union. So NATO has proven to be an incredible instrument as a deterrent and as a defense mechanism, but not always has it managed to deploy it’s extraordinary potential, even on a political platform, in a phase in which the two shores of the Mediterranean are at risk of misunderstandings. Commercial friction is in order. So, we rely very much on NATO to recall the deep values that unite us and to base a constant dialogue on them, an effective dialogue reinforcing cohesion and solidarity among all it’s members in every sector. Last but not least we have talked about some crises, and some specific scenarios, and Syria in particular. I’ve just been informed, by the Secretary-General of NATO that Turkey has taken a unilateral initiative, and I can’t but express concern in this regard. And my concern is to avoid taking initiatives that might lead to further destabilization of the region. Initiatives that might end up causing additional suffering to the local communities and to the local population.

Prime Minister Conte, my friend Giuseppe, it is really a pleasure and an honor to be back in Rome, and thank you for your warm welcome. And congratulations on your renewed mandate. It is always a pleasure to be here, and Italy plays a key role in NATO. You play a major role in NATO in Europe, and in preserving international security. In Afghanistan you are one of the top force-contributing nations. Every time I meet Italian troops in Herat I’m impressed by their professionalism and their strong commitment. Our mission trains Afghan forces so they can fight international terrorism and create the conditions for peace. In Iraq, Italy contributes to NATO’s training mission helping the Iraqi forces prevent the return of ISIS. In Kosovo you lead NATO’s peace-keeping efforts building greater stability in the western Balkans. Your troops deter confrontation and preserve peace as part of NATO’s deployment in Latvia and in Romania. And your jets help secure the skies over Iceland and over Montenegro. We just had an excellent discussion on preparations for the meeting of NATO leaders in London in December. The fight against terrorism will be one of the topics we will address at that meeting. And Italy is at the forefront of NATO’s efforts, not just in NATO missions and operations but also in supporting partners like Jordan and Tunisia. Italy also hosts NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples which helps us better monitor and better understand regional threats like terrorism and failing states. Soon you will also host NATO’s cutting-edge surveillance drones in Sicily. These will help us monitor and respond to emerging crises, and we expect the first drone to arrive later this year. We also discussed NATO’s response to the challenges posed by the refugee and migrant crisis. NATO’s deployment in the Aegean Sea and our Sea Guardian operation in the Mediterranean both help to alleviate the crisis in different ways. We also discussed the situation in Syria. Our ally Turkey is at the forefront of the crisis and has legitimate security concerns. It has suffered horrendous terrorist attacks, and it hosts millions of Syrian refugees. NATO has been informed by Turkish authorities about their ongoing operation in northern Syria. It is important to avoid actions that may further destabilize the region, escalate tensions, and cause more human suffering. I count on Turkey to act with restraint, and ensure that any action it may take in northern Syria is proportionate and measured. We must not jeopardize the gains we have made together against our common enemy, ISIS, because ISIS continues to pose a grave threat to the Middle East and North Africa, and to all our nations. I will discuss this issue with president Erdogan in Istanbul on Friday. Allies are also investing more in cutting-edge capabilities and stepping up their contributions to NATO missions. This is good news and I count on Italy, as on all allies, to keep up the momentum. So Prime Minister, I look forward to continuing working with you. Thank you once again.

Thank you very much.

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