George W. Bush photo

Remarks Following Discussions With Secretary General Jakob Gijsbert "Jaap" de Hoop Scheffer of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization

March 20, 2006

President Bush. Fine-looking crowd we've attracted here, fine-looking crowd.

Mr. Secretary General, thanks for coming. We've just had a wide-ranging discussion on a variety of issues, which is what you'd expect when allies and friends come together. We discussed Iraq, and I want to thank NATO for its involvement in helping train Iraqi security forces so they can end up protecting the Iraqi people from the—from those who want to kill innocent life in order to affect the outcome of that democracy.

I want to thank you very much for your strong involvement in Afghanistan. ANATO presence in Afghanistan is really important. I learned that firsthand when I went to Afghanistan and talked to the—President Karzai and his Government. They were very supportive of the mission and thankful for the mission. NATO is effective, and that's one of the things that's really important for our citizens to understand, that our relationship with NATO is an important part of helping us to win the war on terror.

We also talked about Darfur in the Sudan. I'd called the Secretary General earlier this year. I talked to him about a strategy that would enable NATO to take the lead in Darfur. However, some things have to happen prior to that happening. And the first thing is that the African Union must request from the United Nations a U.N. mission to convert the AU mission to a U.N. mission, at which point if that's done, the—NATO can move in with United States help—inside of NATO—to make it clear to the Sudanese Government that we're intent upon providing security for the people there and intent upon helping work toward a lasting peace agreement.

And so I appreciate your understanding of that. The first time I made the phone call to the Secretary General, he fully understood the challenge, fully understood the need, and it was great to work with a friend in peace to devise a strategy on how to move forward.

So thanks for coming. Looking forward to the meeting later on this year, big NATO summit. And I'm convinced that, like the last summit we had, you'll lead that meeting with the efficiency and professionalism that you're known for.

Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer. Thank you very much, Mr. President. Let me echo what the President has been saying about NATO delivering, about NATO making the difference. In Afghanistan, the fight against terror is an extremely important element there. NATO indeed assists in the African Union in Darfur, and I'm quite sure, as I've told the President, that when the U.N. comes, the NATO allies will be ready to do more in enabling the United Nations force in Darfur.

NATO assisted after Hurricane Katrina. NATO had a major humanitarian operation in Pakistan. NATO is in the Balkans. All 26 NATO allies participate in one way or the other in the training mission in Iraq. Now I want to see NATO-trained Iraqi officers taking their responsibility in fighting the terrorists in their own country.

In other words, NATO is delivering. And in the runup to the NATO summit in Riga at the end of the year, as the President mentioned, we'll make sure—and NATO will make sure that this will be an important event.

In NATO's outreach, let me mention the Middle East, North Africa, Israel, Jordan, the nations of the gulf—NATO's contacts with other nations who share our values— we have Australia, Japan, South Korea— in other words, we'll see to it that the military agenda of NATO and the political agenda of NATO will be very seriously addressed in Riga. And I'm very glad for the support, the permanent support, and the friendship of our most important ally, the United States, and its leader, President Bush.

Thank you very much.

President Bush. Thank you. Yes, good. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 10:16 a.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

George W. Bush, Remarks Following Discussions With Secretary General Jakob Gijsbert "Jaap" de Hoop Scheffer of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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