My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I attended an informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 7 and 8 February. It provided an important opportunity for discussions on operations and on the transformation of NATO capabilities in the run-up to the summit meeting to be held in Bucharest in April.
The main focus was on current operations. Ministers underlined the importance of the NATO operation in Afghanistan and agreed the need to work for a better co-ordinated and comprehensive effort by the international community. Ministers were also keen to ensure that NATO's KFOR mission was prepared to continue to provide a safe and secure environment in any eventuality in Kosovo. NATO Ministers were joined by their counterparts from non-NATO nations making valuable contributions both to KFOR and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and by the Afghan Defence Minister as well as by representatives from the UN, the EU and the World Bank.
At the meeting, Ministers reaffirmed the high value they placed on the NATO Response Force and approved its transition to a graduated force structure.
In addition, there were meetings of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, where Minister Yekhanurov set out the new Ukrainian Government's priorities in security and defence policy, and the NATO-Russia Council which agreed a joint programme of work for 2008.