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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Nato’s partnership with the UAE and other Gulf states on security is “more important today than it has ever been before” and will only get stronger, the alliance’s secretary general told a ceremony in Kuwait on Monday.
Abu Dhabi is a member of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, alongside Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, a framework launched in 2004 to bolster ties between the trans-Atlantic alliance and Gulf countries on a range of threats.
Speaking at the alliance’s plush regional centre on the outskirts of Kuwait City, Jens Stoltenberg emphasised the importance of security in the Gulf, as well as cooperation on cybersecurity, maritime security and non-proliferation at a time when the region is threatened by Iranian activity.
“Our partnership is more important today than it has ever been before,” he said, adding that the initiative’s launch and continuing existence “sent a powerful signal” to others.
“To maintain our security, we need to be agile and prepared to respond to threats coming from all directions. From land, sea, air, space and cyber-space.”
The Nato delegation appeared to have brought the weather with them from Brussels, but a rare downpour in Kuwait City did little to dampen optimism about the growing relationship between the alliance and the Gulf.
“Real strength comes from a multilateral approach, this is why we value these meetings so highly,” the Nato chief continued. “We look to the future together and we must work even closer together, to deliver the stability in the neighbourhood we share.”
The opening ceremony, which started with the Nato anthem, the Kuwaiti national anthem and a reading from the Quran, was also marked by a positive outlook from the head of Kuwait’s National Security Bureau, Sheikh Thamer Al Ali Al Sabah, who spoke on behalf of Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah.
He paid tribute to the initiative that helped its members strive “towards global and regional peace and stability.”
The security chief said the gathering of all of the initiative’s members was to “celebrate 15 years of an exemplary partnership” that has allowed the alliance and Gulf countries to confront “more complex security issues” that have arisen since the Cold War, the basis of the alliance’s founding.
“A wise man once said one cannot achieve greatness by working alone,” he said. “Cooperation is the essence of success, with the common good as its driving force.”
“Our successful relationship with the organisation is a case in how inter-agency teamwork on one-hand and collaboration with GCC government entities on another can generate maximum outcomes.”
In that vein, all 29 Nato member states were present in Kuwait City, plus the Republic of North Macedonia, which is set to become the alliance’s 30th member. On top of that, were the initiative members and individuals from Saudi Arabia and Oman.
This year, Nato has celebrated 70 years of existence, 25 years of its Mediterranean Dialogue, which focuses on Europe’s southern border, and 15 years of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
Officials say that its relations with Gulf countries are only going to improve further.
“The partnership between Nato and the ICI has grown stronger over the years,” Mr Stoltenberg said. “But there is more we can do.”
One way in which the partnership is growing stronger is the increasing participation of Saudi Arabia and Oman.
Riyadh and Muscat “have also increased their engagement with Nato allies,” he said. “This is vital because the closer our cooperation, the safer we will be.”
Both countries were in attendance but remain outside of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
Mr Stoltenberg praised the Kuwaiti regional centre as serving a key link between the alliance and Gulf partners, highlighting tailored training and practical support that Nato provides to the initiative’s members, but also thanking Gulf states for their contributions to missions in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya.
The speeches were followed by a closed-door meeting of the North Atlantic Council.
“I am proud of the culture of cooperation that has developed between our nations surrounding vary activities at this centre,” he said in remarks to open the meeting.
He also welcomed collaboration in the fight against ISIS, pointing to Iraq, which neighbours Kuwait, as an example of areas of shared interest.
Sheikh Tamer also took the opportunity to congratulate Sheikh Abdullah Al Khalifa on the occasion of Bahraini National Day, which coincided with the event.
Updated: December 16, 2019 04:38 PM
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