No direct NATO involvement in Gaza conflict: Stoltenberg

Stoltenberg addressing the conference

Stoltenberg addressing the conference

By Habib Toumi

BRUSSELS: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has no direct role in the Gaza conflict, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has stressed.

“It is important to recognize that NATO as an Alliance does not play an active role in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Some Allies are active in different ways. But NATO as an organization is not directly involved,” Stoltenberg told the media at a press conference.

“We are present in the wider Middle East region. We have a training mission in Iraq to help to fight ISIS (Daesh). We have a close partnership with many Arabic states in the Gulf, in North Africa, and in the Middle East, including a very close partnership with Jordan, where we do some defence capacity building activities. The King of Jordan just visited NATO. And I also actually in the near future, will also visit the Gulf region to meet with NATO partners there.”

Stoltenberg who was speaking as NATO hosted the meeting of foreign ministers of the member countries reiterated his call to ensure that the conflict does not turn into an ominous regional conflict.

“One of the messages from NATO is that it is important that this conflict does not escalate to a bigger regional conflict.”

Stoltenberg said that NATO is also seeking to ensure stability through the group of independent experts established in early October “to support a review of NATO’s approach to its southern neighborhood.”

The group, composed of eleven experts and headed by Professor Ana Santos Pinto from Portugal, “will take stock of evolving developments and identify concrete recommendations to shape the Alliance’s future approach, including by outlining opportunities for further engagement and cooperation with partner nations, international organizations and other relevant actors.”

It will report back to the Secretary General ahead of the meeting of Foreign Ministers in April 2024.

“When it comes to the group of experts, well, it’s a bit too early to say exactly what they will conclude,” Stoltenberg said at the conference.

“But, of course, part of the instability we see in our southern neighborhood is also linked to the instability and the conflicts we have seen for decades in the Middle East. So, I expect them also to address the challenges and how NATO can play a role also to help to stabilize this region. For instance, by working more closely with our partners.”

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