The United Nations and NATO signed an agreement formalising the existing political cooperation between two bodies, NATO spokesman James Appathurai said in Brussels last Wednesday.
Addressing journalists during a press briefing, Appathurai said that the paper was signed recently on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York by the secretary generals of both organisations, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer for NATO and Ban Ki Moon for the UN.
The agreement did not bring about any "dramatic changes" for the cooperation in crisis regions like Afghanistan or Kosovo, where NATO acted on behalf of the UN, he added. It was a "pragmatic agreement" recognising existing cooperation which was much appreciated, he said.
NATO and Afghanistan agreed they needed to coordinate more closely to avoid civilian casualties in operations against militants, Appathurai told journalists.
Pointing to a "a general shared view" between NATO ambassadors and Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak that there needed to be closer coordination between Afghan and NATO forces, Appathurai said that there was consensus on the need to give "a much more important role to Afghan forces in the conduct of searches, which are sensitive in Afghanistan, but also with regard to planning of offensive operations.”
The two sides also agreed on the need for closer coordination, including with the United Nations, when it came to investigating civilian casualties so discrepancies in numbers did not occur, Appathurai said.
The ambassadors and Wardak also discussed Afghan proposals to almost double the size of the Afghan army to 122,000 and NATO would probably back the plan if it were approved, Appathurai said.
NATO and Serbia last Wednesday signed a security agreement that allows for exchange of classified information with the two, said the alliance. The agreement, a standard document between NATO and Partnership for Peace (PfP) countries, was signed at the NATO headquarters by Serbian Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac and NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
The agreement will facilitate military-to military cooperation between Serbia and the alliance, Appathurai told journalists. He said the signing of the agreement was a "substantial step" in the relationship between Serbia and NATO.
Serbia joined NATO's PfP program in November 2006, together with Montenegro and Bosnia. Unlike the other two Balkan states, Serbia had been reluctant to move forward in its relationship with the alliance. The step of the new Serbian government was strongly welcomed by NATO allies, said Appathurai.
Sutanovac, who was visiting the NATO headquarters, also addressed the North Atlantic Council, composed of ambassadors from NATO countries. He was told by the ambassadors that a democratic Serbia in Euroatlantic structures is good for regional security and stability, said Appathurai. Serbia was also asked to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), he said.
Serbia arrested former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and handed him over to the ICTY in July. Serbia is yet to arrest to transfer former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic.
NATO's recently established Georgia committee will have its next session - to be its second - in Budapest, on the sidelines of an informal meeting of defence ministers of the organisation this week (October 10), Appathurai told journalists. The committee was set up following the Russia-Georgia conflict this summer, to demonstrate NATO's support to Georgia.
TRANSPORT PLANES INITIATIVE
Twelve countries including two non-NATO nations signed a deal last Wednesday to jointly buy and operate three giant transport planes to fill a shortfall that has dogged international missions from Afghanistan to Sudan.
Under the agreement, reached after two years of negotiations, they will jointly acquire three Boeing C-17s and place them at Papa, a new operating base in Hungary early next year under the command of a US officer with multinational crews, said Appathurai. The planes will be available for NATO, European Union and United Nations missions, he added.
NATO has long suffered a shortage of large transport aircraft, and the deal reached by 10 of its members and two non-NATO members - Sweden and Finland - is aimed at addressing that problem.
Appathurai said the arrival of the planes will provide an "important new capability" for the alliance and is a model for how smaller countries can pool resources to acquire equipment beyond the reach of their individual defence budgets.
The 10 NATO members that took part in Wednesday's deal are Bulgaria, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia and the United States. Britain and Canada have separately acquired a total of 10 of the planes.
Two non-NATO countries — Sweden and Finland — also signed on.
(Published in www.neurope.eu)
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