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NATO seeks closer ties with Gulf, opens new center

Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are members of ICI

Published: Updated:

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday called for boosting security cooperation with the Gulf states as the Western military alliance opened its first office in the region.

"It will be a vital hub for cooperation between the alliance and our Gulf partners," Stoltenberg said at the inauguration of the center in Kuwait in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah.

The center is based on the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which was launched by the NATO leaders in 2004 and aims to boost security links with the Middle East, in particular Gulf Arab states.

Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are members of ICI while the remaining two Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states -- Saudi Arabia and Oman -- plan to join.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah said the region is facing serious challenges that require cooperation with international organizations.

"We face common security threats like terrorism, weapons proliferation, and cyber-attacks. And we share the same aspirations for peace and for stability," Stoltenberg said.

"So it is essential that we work more closely together than ever before. We have now developed individual cooperation programs with all our Gulf partners," he said.

Stoltenberg said that over the past year, NATO has trained hundreds of Iraqi officers in Jordan to better fight ISIS.

"We are now extending our training and capacity-building efforts into Iraq itself," he said.

NATO continues to fight terrorism in other ways, including with direct support to the anti-ISIS coalition, he said.

The center will strengthen the military-to-military cooperation and the fight against terrorism and extremism, Stoltenberg said.

The center will help the Gulf states by providing advanced training courses on cyber security, energy security, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.