NATO Expands Outreach to Mediterranean, Middle East
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2004 NATO leaders agreed this week to form closer ties with seven Mediterranean nations to promote regional stability with a focus on counterterrorism, border security and counterproliferation.
At their NATO Istanbul Summit this week, NATO's 26 heads of state and government agreed to elevate the so-called Mediterranean Dialogue to establish a full-fledged partnership with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia.
The Mediterranean Dialogue, begun in 1994, aims to build solid relationships and dispel misconceptions about NATO in the Mediterranean. It reflects NATO's recognition that security in Europe is closely tied to security and stability in the Mediterranean, a NATO official explained.
In a June 28 communiqu, the NATO leaders praised the dialogue's success over the past decade and agreed to enter into a partnership that broadens its scope. The expansion will increase cooperation in the fight against terrorism, including border security, the official said. It also will promote defense reform and encourage interoperability among the partners.
In a related move, the leaders decided to reach out to the broader region of the Middle East through the new Istanbul Cooperative Initiative. A senior defense official told reporters in Istanbul the initiative will open the door for NATO to form individual relationships with interested Persian Gulf countries to promote regional security and fight terrorism.
The initiative creates the framework for NATO to offer tailored advice on defense reform, defense budgeting, defense planning and civil-military relations. A NATO official said it also will promote military-to-military cooperation to increase interoperability among partner nations' militaries.
The initiative also will help NATO work closely with the partners to increase information sharing and maritime cooperation. This way they can work together to counter the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, and to fight illegal trafficking, the official said.
The NATO leaders, in their communiqu, called the two initiatives "complementary, progressive and individualized processes" that they said "will be developed in a spirit of joint ownership with the countries involved."
Their success, the leaders agreed, demands "continued consultation and active engagement."