Co­op­er­a­tion deepen be­tween NATO, Gulf States in 2016

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

The year 2016 will go down as land­mark pe­riod in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the GCC coun­tries, in par­tic­u­lar Kuwait, and the North At­lantic Treaty Or­ga­ni­za­tion (NATO) fol­low­ing a num­ber of high-level vis­its and meet­ings. The year be­gan with an his­toric visit by NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg to Kuwait on Fe­bru­ary 29 where he wel­comed closer co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the 28-mem­ber Al­liance and Kuwait. Speak­ing at the site of the fu­ture NATO-Kuwait Is­tan­bul Co­op­er­a­tion Ini­tia­tive (ICI) Re­gional Cen­tre, Stoltenberg praised Kuwait’s com­mit­ment and vi­sion in bring­ing NATO closer to the Gulf re­gion.

As the Al­liance’s first pres­ence in the Gulf, the NATOICI Re­gional Cen­tre, ex­pected to be in­au­gu­rated by the NATO chief in Jan­uary 2017, will be a hub for NATO’s prac­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion with Kuwait and other ICI part­ners, as well as Saudi Ara­bia and Oman. Dur­ing his visit, Stoltenberg un­der­lined that the se­cu­rity of the Gulf re­gion is di­rectly linked to the se­cu­rity of the Al­liance. He praised Kuwait’s ac­tive role in pro­mot­ing re­gional sta­bil­ity and sup­port­ing the in­ter­na­tional coali­tion’s fight against the so-called Is­lamic State (IS). He also com­mended Kuwait’s lead­er­ship in re­spond­ing to hu­man­i­tar­ian emer­gen­cies, such as the Syrian refugee cri­sis.

As part of NATO’s deep­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion with Kuwait, the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral signed a NATO-Kuwait Tran­sit Agree­ment with First Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs, Sheikh Sabah Khaled AlSabah. While in Kuwait, the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral also met with the Amir of the State of Kuwait, His High­ness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ah­mad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, His High­ness the Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Ha­mad AlSabah, and the Pres­i­dent of the Kuwait Na­tional Se­cu­rity Bureau Sheikh Thamer Ali Al-Sabah. He also paid a visit to the head­quar­ters of the Kuwait News Agency (KUNA), seen as an ac­knowl­edg­ment by NATO of the agency’s vi­tal me­dia role in pro­mot­ing NATO-Gulf ties to en­hance se­cu­rity and peace in the re­gion.

‘Ex­cep­tional’

Af­ter Kuwait, Stoltenberg vis­ited Abu Dhabi in early March where NATO and the UAE ex­pressed their de­ter­mi­na­tion to en­hance co­op­er­a­tion in ad­dress­ing com­mon se­cu­rity chal­lenges. Dur­ing talks with his coun­ter­parts, Stoltenberg strongly wel­comed the United Arab Emi­rate’s sup­port to NATO-led oper­a­tions around the world. NATO and the United Arab Emi­rates re­in­forced their part­ner­ship and set out their pri­or­i­ties for fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion by sign­ing an In­di­vid­ual Part­ner­ship and Co­op­er­a­tion Pro­grae in Oc­to­ber at the NATO head­quar­ters in Brus­sels. At the end of March, Stoltenberg wel­comed the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Gulf Co­op­er­a­tion Coun­cil, Ab­dul­latif Bin Rashid Al-Zayani, to NATO head­quar­ters in Brus­sels for talks on deep­en­ing co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two or­ga­ni­za­tions.

In a spe­cial ses­sion of the North At­lantic Coun­cil on the level of am­bas­sadors, Stoltenberg wel­comed the GCC’s im­por­tant role in con­tribut­ing to re­gional sta­bil­ity, and thanked Al-Zayani for his per­sonal en­gage­ment with the Al­liance. The meet­ing dis­cussed re­in­forc­ing ties be­tween NATO and the GCC with more reg­u­lar staff con­tacts and po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue as a first step. They noted that NATO places high im­por­tance on build­ing co­op­er­a­tion with Gulf States. The Al­liance has al­ready de­vel­oped po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue and prac­ti­cal co­op­er­a­tion with four out of six GCC states, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emi­rates through the Al­liance’s Is­tan­bul Co­op­er­a­tion Ini­tia­tive, which was launched in 2004.

In Oc­to­ber, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Mo­ham­mad AlKhoder be­came the first Kuwait chief of staff to visit NATO head­quar­ters in Brus­sels and also the Supreme Head­quar­ters of the Al­lied Pow­ers Europe (SHAPE) in the Bel­gian city of Mons. His meet­ings ad­dressed plans to boost Kuwait’s mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with NATO through joint drills and ex­er­cises. On Kuwait’s ties with NATO, the Kuwaiti army chief de­scribed them as “ex­cep­tional”. Also in Oc­to­ber, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg led the North At­lantic Coun­cil and the NATO Mil­i­tary Com­mit­tee in cel­e­brat­ing the 65th an­niver­sary of the es­tab­lish­ment of the NATO De­fense Col­lege (NDC) in Rome.

‘Fruit­ful co­op­er­a­tion’

The cer­e­mony was at­tended by Kuwaiti Am­bas­sador to Italy Sheikh Ali Al-Khaled Al-Sabah and Mil­i­tary At­tache Cap­tain Dr. Bashar Ab­dulredha, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Mediter­ranean Di­a­logue and the Is­tan­bul Co­op­er­a­tion Ini­tia­tive. Sheikh Ali Al-Khaled, in a state­ment on the oc­ca­sion, ap­pre­ci­ated “fruit­ful co­op­er­a­tion” be­tween the NDC and the State of Kuwait, which was man­i­fested through the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Sheikh Thamer Ali Sabah Al- Salem Al-Sabah, chief of na­tional se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus, as one of the key speak­ers in dis­play­ing Kuwait’s strat­egy on re­gional se­cu­rity. In Novem­ber the third meet­ing of NATO’s con­sul­ta­tive group of the ICC, was held in the Qatari cap­i­tal Doha.

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