Jens Stoltenberg and Angela Merkel Hold Joint Press Conference

Joint press point by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, November 7, 2019.

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Oh, I have to start, yeah.

[Interpreter] Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon, I would like to give a very warm welcome to the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. He is in Berlin yet again, he wanted them to be here today, he was also here yesterday, and we are very pleased that he will stay here until the 9th of November, when we have the celebrations on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall, which I think is a very nice symbolic gesture, because this is something that is an event that is not only most important for us here in Germany, but it also very clearly illustrates that today we have a very different kind of alliance, a very different kind of NATO. At the time, former enemies became allies, and it also shows very clearly that things that look very difficult in the beginning may all of sudden become easier. It’s just not big problems in this world started only with us, obviously in previous times there were very grave and difficult problems. Now, what we’re preparing now is not only the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall, but what we are preparing is the meeting on the 70th anniversary of the establishment of NATO, which at the beginning of December will take place in London, and we have stated very clearly that NATO is and remains a cornerstone of our security. There is the European interests in a strong NATO, and this Trans-Atlantic partnership has to be nurtured by us, it has to be further developed, which is our security and a guarantor of our security in modern days. So, the is part and parcel of the NATO. We feel committed to the sessions we took in Wales. We said by 2024 we will increase our contributions on defense to 1.5% of our GDP. We know that we’re not to be, worded carefully, in the top group of contributors, but we have increased our contribution significantly. We’re currently debating the budget for next year, where we’ll go, and we’re going to increase this again as well. We need common responses up to the end of the INF treaty. We have to reflect other ways and means of adjustments that are necessary. I’m very grateful to the Secretary General here for the fact that he is coordinating a response of the Alliance, so that we come to a measured response, that we take time over this response, but obviously we have to find that response. Now, as we go into the upcoming NATO summit, we’ll also talk about the admission of Afghanistan, an ally of Germany for many, many years, is a consummate contributor, and we are also working on a political solution together, ’cause as we know, that in the end, our military means in and of themselves will not help to settle from them there. And I’d also like to thank the Secretary General that although obviously, we right now have difficulties with our member-state Turkey, very few days after the operation in northern Syria, he traveled to Turkey, he was expressing the views of a majority of members in the Alliance that were very much concerned about what’s happening there, or what happened there in northeast Syria that we have doubts, very great doubts as regards the qualifications for international law. But we also acknowledge that in certain areas, Turkey has a justified security interest. They are also hosting a very large number of refugees who come from Syria, so I think the attempt to always try and force the dialogue to remain on speaking terms is very important. I would like to thank you sir, and I’m grateful for your thoughts. Sir you have the floor.

Thank you so much, Chancellor Merkel. It’s a great pleasure to be back in Berlin and to meet with you, and it’s really an honor to be here in this great city on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germany is at the heart of Europe, and at the heart of NATO. You play a leading role in our Alliance. Germany leads NATO’s High Readiness Force and our multinational group presence in Lithuania. You host NATO’s new mobility command in Ulm, and you make key contributions to our missions in Kosovo, in Afghanistan and the Aegean Sea. We have just discussed preparations for the NATO Leaders’ meeting in London in December. We agree that a strong NATO is essential for peace and security in Europe. And we agree that to keep NATO strong, we must continue to invest in the readiness of our forces. Because in an unpredictable world, we must be ready to respond more quickly. We also discussed progress on burden sharing. Allies have already delivered five successive years of real growth in defense spending. This will mean that European Allies and Canada will spend 100 billion dollars more on defense by the end of next year. I welcome Germany’s plan to raise its defense budget, and welcome the fact that you already started to do so. I count on Germany to keep up the momentum and stand by its commitments. Because this is about investing in our security, preserving peace and preventing conflict. We also discussed the situation in northern Syria. This is a concern for us all. And it is an issue on which Allies consult regularly in NATO. It is clear that Allies have different views. But we agree that we must not jeopardize the gains we have made together in the fight against our common enemy, ISIS. We must remain committed to our training missions in the region, so that ISIS does not re-emerge in Afghanistan or in Iraq. And we must continue to do all that we can to support UN-led efforts to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria. We also discussed the importance of arms control after the demise of the INF Treaty due to Russia’s violations. NATO is responding in a coordinated, defensive and measured way. We will maintain credible deterrence and defense. But we will not mirror what Russia is doing. We have no intention of deploying new land-based nuclear missiles in Europe. And NATO remains a strong platform for Allies to work together on arms control and disarmament. So, Chancellor Merkel, Angela, thank you again for Germany’s strong contributions to our Alliance. And for your outstanding personal commitment to our transatlantic bond. Thank you so much.

[Alf] Thank you, I’m Alf Johnson from VG, Norwegian Daily Newspaper. I would like to draw both of your attention to the French President Macron’s statement today on NATO being brain dead. If you agree on that? And to what degree there is a lack of confidence over the Atlantic at this time? And if I may to the Chancellor, is Germany going further on the initiative for security zone in Syria and what is the status now? Thank you.

[Interpreter] Allow me, if I may on this to state on this interview, the French President has found rather drastic words to express his views. This is not how I see the state of cooperation within NATO. I don’t think such a sweeping judgment is appropriate, although obviously we grapple with the issues. But NATO is in our interest. It is our security Alliance. And I’ve said time and time again, obviously, we have to take our destiny in our own hands a little bit more in Europe, but the transatlantic partnership for us is absolutely indispensable and I think there are many areas where NATO is working very well. It has broadened its range over past few years, particularly we are working much more in the political sense than we used to work only 10 years ago. And that’s something that we need to nurture, that we need to develop, that we need to build on. And where we see certain lacks or flaws, we ought to work on this. So as I said, I don’t share this view. As regards the security zone, the Minister of Defense has proposed this. I think basically it is a good idea, but we have to look at the realities on the ground I think. We are discussing this right now within the government. We also have to see, as I said, the realities of the day. I think the E3 format, so the United Kingdom, France and Germany, need to talk together with Turkey about the overall situation. Also, to talk about this with the Russian President. And then draw the necessary conclusions for this, particularly as regards the mandate of United Nations always requires a decision of the Security Council. And that needs to be prepared politically speaking. And right now, conditions after the meeting in Sochi are different than they used to be. The Minister of Defense today talked about a strategic patience, that we need so much. We have to show this, I think on many issues.

I agree with Chancellor Merkel. NATO is strong and the United States, North America and Europe, we do more together than we have done for decades. We have implemented the strongest reinforcement of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. European Allies are stepping up, increasing the readiness of their forces, investing more in defense. And the United States is increasing their presence in Europe with more troops, more exercises and more investment in infrastructure. So the reality is that we do more together, we have strengthened our collective defense as a response to a more unpredictable and uncertain world. And I think also we have to remember that any attempt to distance Europe from North America risks not only to weaken the Alliance, the transatlantic bond, but also to divide Europe. So therefore, we have to stand together. I welcome European unity. I welcome efforts to strengthen European defense, but European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity. We need to stand together. We need to work together, and that’s exactly what we do in NATO every day.

[Interpreter] Madam Chancellor, Secretary General, the situation in Iran is coming to a head. Over the weekend, Tehran is going to sort of increase uranium enrichment. Unfortunately, I said Iran enrichment, but the translation was… No no, absolutely uranium enrichment. So matters come to a head. Where is your red line? Where do you draw the red line? When do you would you say JCPOA is finally dead? And Secretary General, how do you see the situation right now as regards the situation in the Gulf region? Do you think that the conflict there with Saudi Arabia and Iran has been diffused, as you see it?

[Interpreter] Well, we are in a situation we still are in a situation where we have talks with Iran. The Minister yesterday pointed out that these are obviously steps that go in the wrong direction, that Iran is taking here, but we have not, as yet, come to a definitive evaluation. But obviously, with every step they take, the situation gets more difficult

So, all NATO Allies are concerned about the situation, and all NATO Allies are also concerned about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. And of course, all NATO Allies agree that Iran should not be able to acquire, to develop nuclear weapons. But at the same time, it’s a well-known fact that there are different views between Allies on the question of the Iran Nuclear Deal.

[Interpreter] I’m a Kurdish journalist, I have a question. There was already a question asked on the security zone. A 13-year-old kid was killed by a phosphorus attack. And what do you say, Frau Merkel, to this: a NATO member is attacking children in north Syria with phosphorus, with chemical weapons.

[Interpreter] I must say that I am not familiar with this case and cannot confirm this. But time and time again, I myself personally, also in telephone calls with the Turkish President, said that everything has to be done in order to avoid civilian casualties. And also, that has happened. Many people had to take flight. Many people have suffered. But we are in dialogue with them and we deeply deplore this.

Again, just briefly on that, I have expressed my deep concern about the consequences of the incursion into northern Syria, and I also stated clearly that we must not jeopardize the gains, the progress we have made in the fight against ISIS. And all NATO Allies strongly support the efforts to try to find a political solution to the crisis in Syria.

[Interpreter] Madam Chancellor, Secretary General, one question addressed to both of you. The Minister of Defense today made a number of proposals. First that, as regards the 2% goal to reach this by 2031, a National Security Council, a German presence also in Asia, to support, as one has over there. I would like to know, Secretary General, whether that is something that you see as a message that Germany is actually ready to do much more than in the past? And Madam Chancellor, very concretely, are you for this goal 2031, to have reached this 2% goal at the very latest? And are you for an establishment of a National Security Council?

First of all, I welcome that Germany has started to invest more in defense. And I expect Germany to deliver on the commitments we all have made. The reality is that Germany contributes to the Alliance in many different ways, with the leadership of our High Readiness Force, with troops in our mission in Afghanistan, in Kosovo. You are the lead nation for our maritime presence in the Aegean Sea, and Germany is providing troops and forces to many different NATO missions and operations, and we are welcoming that very much. When it comes to defense spending, let me also add that European Allies should invest in defense, not to please NATO or the United States. They should invest in defense because it is in their own security interests. Because we need ready forces, we need well-trained forces, we need modern equipment. And therefore, I welcome the fact that after years of cutting defense spending, all NATO Allies, including Germany, have started to increase investments in defense, and have added a hundred billion by the end of the next year, a hundred billion U.S. dollars. So, we are making real progress and I recognize and welcome that progress.

[Interpreter] Let me say, first of all, that our Defense Minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has today actually stated very clearly what she intends to do. And that, actually, is in line with what we’ve said time and time again, what at the time Federal President Gauck said, what then-Foreign Minister Steinmeier said, what I said, that the tendency has to be that we shoulder more and more responsibility, which we have done. We’ve done it within NATO. We are now doing it in Africa. And also, what you mentioned in the Sahel, all of this is important, and we will probably have to continue that, and also build on this and enhance it. Let me just remind all of us of the G5 Sahel engagement that we pursue. As regards the 2% goal, I think that is a realistic view that was voiced here by the Secretary General. I think what we said in Wales, the sort of commitments we made, also as a grand coalition, is that we should move towards the 2% goal that we see as our commitment. And as I said very clearly, if I look at what we have been able to do since Wales and wish to do further, it is an ambitious but also realistic goal to say, we will want to reach this by 2031. Now, on this National Security Council, I think that’s a good idea. Actually, my party was contemplating that years ago. So far, we have not been able to anchor that in our coalition agreement. But it’s good that today there’s already much better cooperation among the different departments in this integrated and coordinated approach to defense. But I think that a National Security Council might also go a long way towards even enhancing those common efforts. If you were to ask me for my party to write this down, I would say yes, because we have here a structure that we see basically in a presidential system. So it’s not met with such great liking here as in the United States, but I think it’s a good idea. (camera shutters clicking)

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