NATO looks to Gulf States for help in Afghanistan
Says Muslim countries have cultural links over the west
NATO asked Gulf States to help with its war in Afghanistan and called for cooperation in shared interests and said Arab and Muslim countries have an advantage of added cultural value over the West to help ease the crisis in Afghanistan, at a security conference in the UAE last Thursday.
NATO considers the Gulf region a continuation of the euro Atlantic security area, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Al Arabiya's Brussels-based correspondent, as the alliance faces serious challenges in Afghanistan with more insurgents on the battle field and a corrupted system in Kabul.
"We have a shared interest in helping countries like Afghanistan and Iraq to stand on their feet again, fostering stability in the Middle East... and preventing countries like Somalia and Sudan from slipping deeper into chaos," Rasmussen explained at the "NATO-UAE Relations and Future Prospects of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative" conference in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi.
Rasmussen's comments came during a meeting between diplomats and military officials from Gulf States and NATO member states representatives, who flew in from Brussels, to discuss ideas to enhance cooperation in the frame work of the "Istanbul Cooperation Initiative," aimed at strengthening relations between the alliance and non-European countries and Muslim countries.
“Beside the financial resources and the reconstruction effort, Gulf Countries have the cultural approach, western countries do not have." NATO's Military Committee Chairman, Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola explained.
Amid the tension between Iran and Western countries, Rasmussen told the conference "we all are seriously concerned about nuclear ambitions and about the nuclear domino-effect they could cause in a region that is pivotal for global stability and security."
"We also have a common interest in energy security, whether we are suppliers, transit countries or consumers," he added.
Beside the financial resources and the reconstruction effort, Gulf Countries have the cultural approach, western countries do not have
NATO Military Committee Chairman
Gulf States were invited to participate in the ongoing debate about how to define the “new strategic concept” for the security of NATO allies and members in the decades to come.
The UAE Foreign Affairs Minister, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zaed Al Nahyan, told Al Arabiya in the press conference that the “added value” Gulf countries can bring to the debate is that “the Gulf is a vital region to the world and it is the international community's obligation to protect it."
"The partnership between NATO and UAE forces in Afghanistan is an implementation of the spirit behind the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative,” Nahyan added.
Di Paola said the added value the alliance can bring to the region is "we care about the region's security.”
Di Paola explained to Al Arabiya that some NATO allies are engaged with Gulf countries in building maritime regional capabilities to face new threats such as piracy, drug trafficking and organised crime.
Di Paola cited the example of the cooperation between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia in protecting Malacca Detroit as a model for the Gulf countries. NATO needs to delegate some security operations to partners.
During the debate, Gulf academics asked NATO officials "who is your enemy" in 2009, 20 years after the collapse of the Berlin Wall.
Analysts in the Arab world suggest after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, NATO is targeting the Muslim world, a suggestion NATO officials dismissed and insist the organization is extending hands for cooperation.
Giving merit to this thought, the Czech ambassador to NATO told Al Arabiya "in my country some still look to NATO as an old Cold War instrument, which is trying to survive."
Many observers suggest the war in Afghanistan is a lifeline for NATO.
At the conference Rasmussen oversaw the signing of a security agreement on the exchange of information and how to “protect classified information” between the UAE and NATO.
The UAE and three other Gulf countries-- Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar – have joined the "Istanbul Cooperation Initiative" and “Saudi Arabia and Oman have showed growing interest in working with NATO,” Rasmussen said.
The partnership between NATO and UAE forces in Afghanistan is an implementation of the spirit behind the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative
UAE Foreign Affairs Minister