NATO is interested in expanding its cooperation not only with individual Arab Gulf states but also with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a whole, a senior NATO official said here Saturday at the sidelines of the NATO summit.
NATO seeks the "widest possible cooperation" with the GCC states in the fight against terrorism and to establish security and stability in the region, said the official speaking on condition of anonymity.
He noted that NATO will be opening a NATO-Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) center in Kuwait soon to foster cooperation with the Gulf states.
"Kuwait has a very active leadership role in helping us to understand the situation in the region," added the official. The ICI includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE.
NATO leaders agree to extend mission in Afghanistan
Also, leaders of the 28 member NATO agreed to sustain the NATO’s Resolute Support Mission Afganistan beyond 2016.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that the decision was taken at the meeting of NATO leaders and the Resolute Support Operational Partners in the presence of the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah.
He said NATO leaders also reaffirmed support for a long-term political partnership and practical cooperation with Afghanistan. "So our message is clear: Afghanistan does not stand alone. And we are committed for the long haul," he said.
Stoltenberg said NATO allies and partners also pledged to contribute USD 5 billion per year to support the Afghan national army till the year 2020.
He said NATO will keep its current troop level at 12,000 till 2017 and added that "additional planning will be conducted in the coming months to define our overall presence in 2017."
Stoltenberg clarified that the Resolute Support Mission is to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces and not a non-combat mission, noting that NATO ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014.
"Afghanistan is making progress. And that progress must continue. Working towards reconciliation should also be a priority. But Afghanistan still faces serious instability and violence. So our continued political, military and financial engagement is of great importance," he stressed.
Meanwhile, the NATO leaders in a statement on Afghanistan said "Good neighbourly relations, and regional cooperation and support to a secure and stable Afghanistan, remain essential."