NATO seeks closer ties with Gulf, opens new centre

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday (January 24th) called for boosting security co-operation with the Gulf states as the military alliance opened its first office in the region, AFP reported.

"It will be a vital hub for co-operation between the alliance and our Gulf partners," Stoltenberg said at the inauguration of the centre in Kuwait in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al Sabah.

The centre is based on the Istanbul Co-operation Initiative (ICI), launched by the NATO leaders in 2004, and aims to boost security links with the Middle East, in particular Gulf states.

Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE are members of ICI, while the remaining two Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states -- Saudi Arabia and Oman -- plan to join.

Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al Sabah said the region is facing serious challenges that require co-operation with international organisations.

"We face common security threats like terrorism, weapons proliferation, and cyber-attacks. And we share the same aspirations for peace and for stability," Stoltenberg said. "So it is essential that we work more closely together than ever before. We have now developed individual co-operation programmes with all our Gulf partners."

Over the past year, NATO has trained hundreds of Iraqi officers in Jordan to better fight the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) , he said, and is now extending its training and capacity-building efforts into Iraq itself.

NATO continues to fight terrorism in other ways, including with direct support to the anti-ISIL coalition, he said.

The centre will strengthen military-to-military co-operation and the fight against terrorism and extremism, he said, and will help the Gulf states by providing advanced training courses.

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