My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (John Hutton) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
I attended an informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers in Budapest, Hungary on 9-10 October 2008. It provided an important opportunity for discussions on operations and on the transformation of NATO capabilities, following the informal Defence Ministers’ meeting in London on 18-19 September 2008, which was attended by my predecessor as Secretary of State for Defence, the right honourable Des Browne.
The main focus of the meeting in London was the continuing transformation of the Alliance. Ministers expressed their strong support for NATO transformation and for proposals made during the meeting to increase the targets for Allies’ deployable capabilities. Over dinner, Ministers reflected on the implications for NATO of the events in Georgia in the preceding months. There was consensus that collective defence and discretionary, out-of-area operations required the same expeditionary capabilities.
The focus of the meeting in Budapest was on current operations. This was the first ministerial meeting in which Albania and Croatia participated fully. Ministers underlined the importance of the NATO operation in Afghanistan, and in response to a request from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, directed ISAF to take action, with the Afghan authorities, against narcotics facilities and facilitators supporting the insurgency within priority regions. Ministers stated their continued support for NATO’s KFOR mission and its work in providing a safe and secure environment in Kosovo. On Afghanistan, NATO Ministers also had a meeting with their counterparts from non-NATO nations making valuable contributions to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, together with the Defence Minister of Afghanistan, the United Nations Secretary-General’s special representative for Afghanistan and a European Union senior representative.
At the request of the United Nations, Ministers agreed that NATO will contribute to deter piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia, by providing a number of ships from the Alliance’s Standing Naval Maritime Group to patrol the waters off the coast of Somalia and escort ships carrying food supplies for the World Food Programme.
At the meeting, Ministers re-affirmed the importance that they attach to developing deployable capabilities and agreed to increase targets for the deployability of allies’ land forces. In addition, the first ministerial-level meeting of the NATO-Georgia Commission took place, where the Defence Minister for Georgia set out the Georgian Government’s priorities in security and defence policy.