Sunday, 28 June 2009

State Department Briefing on NRC Meeting

The State Department gave a background briefing before the NRC meeting, with its main concern being Afghanistan. Here are the sections of the briefing on the NRC.


Also in Corfu will be a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council, as I mentioned, which will mark the resumption of high-level dialogue between NATO allies and Russia. As you know, the NRC hasn’t met at this level since Russia’s military action in Georgia in August 2008. After the Secretary’s March 5th ministerial in Brussels, it was decided to resume the NRC at ambassadorial level, the perm reps in Brussels. This’ll be the first ministerial, it’ll be an informal ministerial held in Corfu. And it will also be a useful opportunity to discuss areas of potential cooperation between NATO and Russia, a genuine debate and dialogue, but also areas where we disagree. And that includes the question of Georgia and there are some others. But we hope that it’ll be a constructive meeting where we can talk about areas in which NATO and Russia can cooperate, including on terrorism, piracy, and Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Arshad Mohammed with Reuters. One just practical scheduling matter and then a more substantive question: On the scheduling, do you expect Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov to, in fact, be there at the NATO-Russia ministerial? And do you expect Deputy Secretary Steinberg to have a bilat with him?
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The answer to both questions is yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Got it, thanks. What – can you shed any more light on what – you know, the United States, after (inaudible) its allies at NATO for a number of years for additional troops and fewer caveats, you know, seems to have acknowledged that it is unlikely to get much more on that side of the equation. And I wonder if you can shed some light on what exactly you are looking for in concrete terms from your partners and allies on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I think there’s a lot they can do. Already, at the NATO summit, of course, we did work together on military and nonmilitary aspects of cooperation. They did pledge some 3,000 troops for election support and established a NATO monitoring mission – training mission in Afghanistan, which was a very useful contribution that goes beyond the military deployments that they’ve already made, which at present constitute more than 30,000 troops. So it’s far from nothing what they’re already doing militarily.
In terms of further contributions, we will continue to hope that allies are willing to lessen the caveats and the restrictions that they placed on their forces in Afghanistan, and we’ll put a particular focus at this meeting on what they can do to help Pakistan, in particular, to bolster Pakistan’s civilian government and its efforts to combat Taliban and extremists both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. Our assumption, and that’s why we now talk about Af-Pak and Afghanistan-Pakistan together, is that you can’t really deal with Afghanistan unless you deal successfully with Pakistan.

And we’re working on this as a region now, and that’s why Special Representative Holbrooke is responsible for both countries. It really is a global theater. It’s a region of operations. The EU had a conference on Pakistan – I believe it’ll be its first one in history – last week and came up with a significant amount of money, I think $100 million, getting us towards the goal of $500 million for Pakistan. That’s an important contribution of a nonmilitary sort, the likes of which we’ll be looking to build on at the G-8 meeting.


QUESTION: Could you shed any more light on the new agreement with the Krygyz (inaudible) base? Any – there are reports that the rent has gone up three times. And I also wonder whether there has been any talk with the Russians about this, because the foreign ministry in Moscow commented on this today.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, I can briefly -- I don’t know if Ian wants to add anything on that. This is a matter between Kyrgyzstan and the United States. So I don’t believe there’s been discussions with Russia about it. It’s in our common interest to use the base for transit in Afghanistan, and we’re pleased that we’ve reached an agreement with them on it. And it’s really not a Russian issue. Kyrgyzstan is a sovereign country.

QUESTION: Did you raise the amount of money that you’re paying now to the Kyrgyz Government for use of the base?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I don’t have anything on that. Ian, do you --

MR. KELLY: No, I –

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