NATO Secretary General, Press Conference at Defence Ministers Meeting

Source the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

“Press conference by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg following the meeting of NATO Ministers of Defence in Brussels, 12 October 2023.”



Media – Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III to NATO Headquarters on Thursday (12 October 2023) for a second day of meetings of Allied Defence Ministers.

Mr. Stoltenberg thanked Secretary Austin for the United States’ strong leadership on key issues, including support to Ukraine, the situation in the Middle East, NATO deterrence and defence, and NATO operations and missions.

Defence Ministers met today to discuss:

Strengthening our deterrence and defence; NATO missions and operations; The damage to critical undersea infrastructure in the Baltic Sea; And the situation in the Middle East.

First, Israeli Defence Minister Gallant briefed us on the horrific terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel. And on Israel’s ongoing response.

Allies strongly condemned Hamas’ indefensible attacks on civilians, and called for the immediate release of all hostages.

Our thoughts are with all those affected by these horrific attacks.

Israel has the right to defend itself. And as the conflict unfolds, the protection of civilians is essential.

No nation or organisation hostile to Israel should seek to take advantage of the situation, or to escalate the conflict.

Today, a number of NATO Allies made clear that they are providing practical support to Israel.

And doing everything possible to provide for their affected citizens.

Ministers also addressed NATO missions and operations, including in the Western Balkans and in Iraq.

The European Union joined us. In response to recent tensions in Kosovo, NATO has deployed hundreds of additional reserve forces to our KFOR operation in recent weeks.

And we are conducting more patrols in the north of Kosovo.

These are prudent steps to ensure KFOR has the forces it needs to fulfil its UN mandate impartially.

Belgrade and Pristina must behave responsibly, refrain from destabilising actions, and re-engage in the EU-facilitated dialogue.

This is the only way to lasting peace in Kosovo.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, NATO continues to support the EU-led operation Althea, which plays an important role in regional stability.

In Iraq, our mission is expanding its support to Iraqi security institutions, to help prevent the return of ISIS.

Terrorism remains the most direct asymmetric threat to the Alliance.

So today I can announce that Assistant Secretary General Tom Goffus will serve as my Special Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism.

He will ensure that NATO’s response to terrorism remains strong, effective, and coherent.

Defence Ministers also addressed our progress in strengthening NATO’s defences. At the Vilnius Summit, we agreed the most robust defence plans since the Cold War.

We are now taking the next steps. This means assigning the necessary forces, developing new capabilities, and adjusting our command and control structures.

Russia’s war on Ukraine is a reminder of the important role NATO’s nuclear weapons play in deterring aggression.

Next week, NATO will hold its annual nuclear exercise, Steadfast Noon. This is a routine training event that happens every October.

This year, the training will take place over Italy, Croatia, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Our exercise will help to ensure the credibility, effectiveness and security of our nuclear deterrent.

And it sends a clear message that NATO will protect and defend all Allies.

Today, ministers also addressed the damage to critical undersea infrastructure in the Baltic Sea.

Allies expressed strong solidarity with Estonia and Finland as they work to establish the facts.

NATO and Allies are sharing information to support that effort.

If this is proven to be a deliberate attack on critical infrastructure, it would be a serious incident.

And it would be met by a united and determined response.

I raised with ministers the need to move forward on ratification of Swedish membership.

And I’m glad that the Turkish defence minister confirmed that Türkiye stands by the agreement from Vilnius to finalize Swedish accession.

So I now expect that the Turkish government will submit the accession protocol to the Grand National Assembly and work with the Assembly to ensure speedy ratification.

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