Brussels – NATO and the European Union decided to further boost their cooperation during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday, agreeing to work together on improving military mobility, fighting terrorism and promoting the role of women.
Cooperation between NATO and the 28-member bloc was one of the main topics of the two-day meeting at NATO, which also included discussions about North Korea and Russia.
“We are taking cooperation between NATO and the EU to a new level,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
NATO and the EU agreed on 32 measures that would deepen cooperation, including in the areas of countering terrorism, making sure that military personnel and equipment can move quickly within Europe and promoting the role of women in peace and security.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed that the recent decision to strengthen defence and security on the EU-level was in no way turning the EU “into a military alliance,” but was meant to complement NATO and bolster EU capabilities for the benefit of NATO, as well.
Before the NATO meeting, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met his EU counterparts and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to its “long-standing” partnership with the bloc and to achieving shared objectives on global security.
Middle East peace process
Mogherini said that she and Tillerson discussed the Middle East peace process, the importance of keeping the Iran nuclear deal intact, the need for a resolution of the Syrian conflict and the EU aspirations of countries in the western Balkans.
She warned the US that “any action that would undermine” the Middle East peace process “must absolutely be avoided,” in response to speculation that US President Donald Trump may fulfil his campaign pledge to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state.
On Iran, Mogherini noted that the US was “in a better place” on its commitment to staying compliant with the nuclear deal, after US President Donald Trump had declared in October that he would seek to toughen up the agreement – threatening to walk away unless further restrictions were put on Iran.
The EU, along with other parties to the agreement – Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China – warned the US not to abandon the deal.
Tillerson said he and Mogherini discussed joint efforts to “fully enforce that agreement, but at the same time recognizing that Iran is carrying out a number of other destabilizing actions in the region.”
“These issues and activities of Iran cannot be ignored and cannot go unanswered, and we intend to continue to take action to ensure Iran understands this is not acceptable to us,” Tillerson said.
He said that the US was “pleased to see” that cooperation between NATO and the EU was evolving.
“Our security is strongest when allies and partners shoulder their fair share of the burden,” Tillerson said. “That’s why we continue to call on others to increase their defence spending: It is towards a shared objective and serves everyone well.”
Reckless disregard for international security
North Korea was also on the agenda of the NATO meeting after Pyongyang had tested a ballistic missile last week it said put all of the US mainland within its reach.
Stoltenberg said that the missile test showed North Korea’s “reckless disregard for international security.”
“We must apply maximum international pressure in order to achieve a peaceful solution,” he said.
On Russia, the allies were set to discuss their two-pronged strategy of deterrence and diplomacy as the frozen conflict in the eastern part of Ukraine remains unchanged.
On the second day of the meeting, discussion will focus on the possible enlargement of the alliance with Macedonia, Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The meetings come amid speculation Tillerson would soon be fired, following US media reports last week that Tillerson would be replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo in the coming weeks.
On Monday, Stoltenberg rejected the idea that Tillerson’s position in Trump’s cabinet would overshadow the meeting saying that NATO ministers had been able to “focus on the core tasks … despite any speculations and rumours” in the past.
“I’m absolutely certain that will also be the case now,” the NATO chief said.