Reuters: NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called on Thursday for more security cooperation between Gulf Arab states and the 26-nation alliance to address Iran’s nuclear program and Islamist militancy.
ABU DHABI (Reuters) – NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called on Thursday for more security cooperation between Gulf Arab states and the 26-nation alliance to address Iran’s nuclear program and Islamist militancy.
He told a think tank in the United Arab Emirates his talks on his first visit to Gulf Arab allies would address military cooperation and could yield an information-sharing agreement.
“Extremism, transnational crime and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are a threat to us all,” he said in Abu Dhabi, across a short stretch of sea from Iran.
“Iran’s uranium enrichment activities and missile programs are indeed a continuing concern,” he said.
“The big picture does not inspire a great deal of optimism. So how do we respond? Well, there is really only one answer. And that is to pursue new approaches to security cooperation.”
Iran’s six Arab neighbors in the world’s top oil-exporting region have voiced concern over Tehran’s nuclear program, but are loath to see another war on their doorstep.
“I am very certain … that the leaders of this country do not only have a very sound understanding of the common security challenges before us, but also a genuine interest in military-to-military cooperation,” de Hoop Scheffer said.
“We also have a common interest in energy security, and the safety of supply lines and energy infrastructure, whether we are suppliers, transit countries or consumers.”
The NATO chief did not elaborate on the envisaged military cooperation or the role NATO wanted to play in the Gulf region, a key waterway for global oil and gas supplies.
“We do not want to be a global policeman, that is not and should not be NATO’s ambition, or to compete with the United Nations,” he said.
This month the UAE and NATO member France signed a deal granting French troops their first permanent base in the Gulf.
The UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait are members of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, a vehicle for cooperation between the alliance and Gulf Arab states.
De Hoop Scheffer said he hoped regional power Saudi Arabia and Oman would join “in the not too distant future”.
(Reporting by Inal Ersan; editing by Andrew Roche)