HomeDOCUMENTSArchived Speeches and Presentations200518 March 2005, Rome - LELLOUCHE CALLS FOR STRATEGIC VISION IN NATO RELATIONS WITH THE GULF STATES
18 March 2005, Rome - LELLOUCHE CALLS FOR STRATEGIC VISION IN NATO RELATIONS WITH THE GULF STATES
Addressing a brainstorming seminar on the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, organized jointly by NATO's Division of Public Diplomacy and the NATO Defence College held in Rome on 18 March 2005, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, French Deputé, Pierre Lellouche, urged NATO to "think big" in developing a strategy towards the Gulf. Recognizing the utility of small steps of practical cooperation in providing security assistance, he argued nevertheless that only a grand strategic vision could respond to the political, economic and social needs of the region.
In his presentation to Ambassadors and experts from NATO and Gulf countries, Pierre Lellouche acknowledged the wide array of challenges facing the region as outlined by previous speakers. However, there had been two positive developments – first, the re-election of President Bush with a more positive approach to allies followed by the recent elections in Iraq, and second, the Palestinian succession following the death of Yasser Arafat and the Israeli decision to leave Gaza. These and other developments gave cause for optimism that something serious was stirring in the region.
This was the context of opportunity and optimism in which Alliance leaders had to decide the shape and scale of NATO's involvement with the Gulf states. The security link was clear; but what could be given and what was expected, less so. The policy would also affect NATO's own standing and indicate whether the Alliance would continue to be the forum where key strategic decisions were taken, or whether the focus of the strategic debate would shift to the European Union – United States' relationship. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had reflected this uncertainty over NATO's role when, in Munich, he had asked where NATO was going. Pierre Lellouche said that he wanted NATO parliamentarians, through the Assembly, to look at and address this question squarely.
Looking to the Gulf, he said it was important to ask what the Gulf States wanted and what NATO had to offer. He suggested two approaches were possible. A modest, but realistic, approach or a "think big" strategic vision.
In the modest approach, NATO would act as a "tool box", focusing on areas of practical cooperation where it enjoyed comparative advantage such as intelligence sharing, defence reform and training for those countries interested. These measures were important as far as they went. However, they would not fix the problem, because the real challenges lay much deeper. A political-security contract between the Transatlantic Community and the Gulf States was needed that was based not only on shared interests and concerns, but on shared values. As had been noted earlier, multilateral cooperation could only exist on the basis of common values. Despite religious differences, it was important to know that all members were travelling in the same direction and shared the same political goal of stability through prosperity and democratic reform. Turkey, he noted, had already provided a model. A NATO - GCC Charter would provide security-related assistance and assurance, but also include a CSCE type "Basket III" that referred to human rights and better governance. This would go to the heart of terrorism which was based on ignorance and poverty, and derived from the inevitable equation that no education equals no future.
NATO should also be prepared to be involved in the Middle East peace process as long as all the necessary preconditions had been fulfilled. This was also an area where he would also be seeking NATO Assembly involvement.
With regard to the Assembly, be believed that as an organization bringing together 26 full member and 16 associate delegations (400 legislators in all), the NATO PA was well placed to make a positive contribution to NATO's strategy for the region and beyond.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly had developed its own Mediterranean Dialogue involving all seven countries in NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue but going beyond by including the Palestine Legislative Council, Cyprus and Malta. Unlike NATO, the Assembly's dialogue is multilateral, and has a comprehensive agenda that allows it to discuss the key issues such as the Israeli-Palestine conflict, Islam and democracy, the role of media and civil society. A special status of “Mediterranean Associate” had recently been created which would allow countries to participate in most NATO PA activities, including training courses for young legislators and parliamentary staff. Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania were already participants. The Assembly offered an important vehicle for reaching out to elected representatives and members of civil society and for countering misperceptions about NATO. Parliamentarians had the flexibility to speak freely, and were not bound by diplomatic inhibitions. As "Ambassadors of democracy", he said Assembly parliamentarians could complement and reinforce NATO's own work in the critical areas that were under discussion.