KUWAIT: (Left) HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah meets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg yesterday KUWAIT: (Left) HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah meets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg yesterday

KUWAIT: Kuwait and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) signed yesterday a "transit agreement" to promote partnership and cooperation between the two parties. The agreement was signed by First Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

In a joint press conference, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled stressed that the agreement is considered "another cornerstone that builds on an existing partnership between the two sides". He added that the agreement will strengthen Kuwait's capabilities on facing security challenges in the region. On his part, Stoltenberg pointed out that the agreement will make NATO work more active and effective in the region. The agreement, NATO's first in the Gulf region, will facilitate the transit of personnel, supplies and equipment to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. It will also make any future NATO activity in the region much more effective.

Stoltenberg said it is essential to work together to find common solutions to joint challenges the NATO's Istanbul Cooperation Initiative members are facing, adding the security of Kuwait and other members is of strategic significance to NATO. He added that Middle East countries are facing a set of issues like terrorism, extremism and proliferation of technologies of ballistic weapons and weapons of mass destruction.

Stoltenberg appreciated Kuwait's leading role in the promotion of security and stability in the region through its cooperation with the NATO in the fight against terrorism, as well as its humanitarian role in the alleviation of refugees' sufferings. The NATO chief hailed Kuwait as a "strong partner of NATO", pointing to its leading and basic role in the promotion of regional security and stability, and in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS).

He added that Kuwait has a long history of distinguished partnerships with NATO, hailing its strategic position in the Gulf region. Stoltenberg said Kuwait is an "ideal partner" of NATO in fighting common security challenges, including IS. He said he was so happy to visit Kuwait for the first time as NATO Secretary-General, noting that he will also visit the first regional center of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. He pointed out that once completed, the center would be a central point for cooperation between Kuwait and NATO and other members.

On Syria's truce, he said NATO was aware of some encouraging developments towards commitment to the ceasefire in spite of violation reports. The NATO chief voiced concern over the impacts of Russian airstrikes in Syria, which he said do not only target IS but opposition forces as well.

Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled voiced pleasure for Kuwait to host the regional center of NATO's Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. He said the center would play a key role in the fulfillment of the initiative's goals through the promotion of cooperation between the members of NATO and the initiative in the fields of strategic analysis, military cooperation, civil emergency, public diplomacy and people's awareness.

He pointed to the center's role in following up the individual cooperation program and the transit agreement between Kuwait and the NATO, hoping that it would be opened in the last quarter of this year. Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled added that he and the NATO chief had met HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and listened to his views about the significance of fruitful cooperation between Kuwait and NATO. He quoted the Amir as appreciating efforts being exerted to strengthen existing cooperation between Kuwait and NATO.

On talks between HH the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah and Stoltenberg, he said they discussed the steady growth of close cooperation between Kuwait and NATO and stressed the necessity of doubling efforts to address regional and global challenges. Kuwait joined the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative in 2004, which aims to promote and deepen partnership between the NATO and Middle East countries, mainly GCC ones, Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled noted.

Over the last 12 years, Kuwait and the NATO have worked together within the framework of fruitful cooperation in all aspects, including the exchange of expertise and personnel training, as well as security, military, civil and academic cooperation, he added. Since the initiative was launched, Kuwait has participated in over 90 training courses, workshops and conferences organized by NATO, he said, noting that Kuwait hosted the region's first NATO conference in Dec 2006. - Agencies