ABU DHABI ø NATO has launched an effort to cooperate with Gulf Arab
states on regional security.
NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council officials said the alliance has
relayed a cooperation proposal to
the GCC that would include intelligence exchange, training in military and
defense organization as well as help in identifying weapons of mass
destruction. They said NATO has also proposed a strategic dialogue with the
"If there is a positive reaction, we would like to unveil at our
Istanbul summit in June, a cooperation initiative that will open an entirely
new chapter in the relationship between NATO and the Middle Eastern region,"
NATO assistant secretary-general Gunther Altenburg said.
Addressing the two-day Doha Conference on NATO Transformation and Gulf
Security, Altenburg said the alliance's cooperation with the GCC could be
part of expanded ties with Mediterranean states. Since 1994, NATO has been
engaged in a dialogue with seven Mediterranean countries ø Algeria,
Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
"There are many possibilities for cooperation between NATO and countries
in this region," Altenburg said. "We can, for example offer training at the
NATO school and defense college. We can also send military advisers and
force planners to countries in the region if they request it. But of course
there are restrictions in the availability of our resources that might limit
the length of such visits."
The NATO conference, which ended on Tuesday, explored avenues of
cooperation between the GCC and NATO in such areas as peacekeeping missions
and crisis response in the Gulf or other regions. NATO officials also
discussed the transformation of the alliance from defense of its members to
global security responsibility. The Doha conference, first proposed in 2002
by Qatar, did not focus on Iraq. The Qatari Foreign Ministry was a
co-sponsor of the parley.
In 1986, the GCC formed the Peninsula Shield regional military force.
The force was first deployed to protect Kuwait during the U.S.-led war in
Iraq in 2003.
"NATO does not want to impose solutions on the region, simply to aid
each country in its identification of what it needs and how it can achieve
that," Altenburg said. "We are well aware that a one-size-fits-all approach
GCC officials said at this point the NATO alliance would not provide a
defense umbrella over the Gulf region. They pointed to the bilateral
treaties between GCC states and Western powers, particularly Britain, France
and the United States.
"When we talk about NATO we are not talking about a military power, a
military imbalance or about hegemony in as much as we are trying to explore
channels of understanding with the NATO alliance, which has undergone
radical changes in terms of its objectives and was joined by several new
members over the past few years," Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jassim
Bin Jaber Al Thani told a news conference.
Hamad said NATO and the GCC agreed to establish five committees to
explore cooperation. He termed the proposals being examined as preliminary
and would not yet constitute policy for either organization.
"This does not mean we are looking at a deployment of NATO forces to the
region," Hamad said. "Even if we look at some kind of partnership, we would
only envisage NATO troops coming to the region in the event of some
Saleh Al Mana, a Saudi professor who represented GCC secretary-general
Abdul Rahman Bin Hamad Al Attiyah at the conference, said Gulf Arab security
has been comprised of national interests, regional interests and defense
alliances between individual GCC members and such global powers as Britain,
Russia and the United States. Al Attiyah said GCC members have long viewed
NATO as being an arm of U.S. influence.
"NATO has a bad image," Al Mana said. "These talks are something new for
NATO and for us in this part of the world."
The U.S.-based Rand Corp. helped organize the conference, which included
representatives from the GCC as well as other Arab countries in the Middle
East. Organizers said this will allow Arab representatives to discuss
regional security that could include Iraq and Iran.
"When we're talking about NATO, we're not talking about international
power or domination," Rand Corp. president James Thomson said, "but how
there can be cooperation to stabilize peace."