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NATO, ICI to foster closer cooperation
09 : 47 AM - 10/07/2018
Brussels, July 10 (BNA): When the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) holds its summit in the Belgian capital Brussels this week, 14 years will have passed since the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI).
The initiative launched by NATO in the Turkish city in June 2004 offers the Arabian Gulf countries practical bilateral security cooperation with the alliance to contribute to long-term global and regional security.
Kuwait joined the initiative in December 2004, Bahrain and Qatar in February 2005 and the UAE in June 2005.
Bahrain has clearly stated that it focuses on political and diplomatic cooperation, the exchange of views and expertise in the areas of defence and security and cooperation in civilian and emerging security challenges.
The Kingdom welcomed NATO’s commitment, expressed at the 2016 Warsaw Summit, to contribute more to the efforts of the international community in projecting security beyond NATO’s borders through increased dialogue and practical cooperation with partner nations.
In January last year, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg opened the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) Regional Centre in Kuwait City, saying that it would be “a vital hub for cooperation between the alliance and its Gulf partners.”
“We face common security threats like terrorism, weapons proliferation, and cyber-attacks, and we share the same aspirations for peace and for stability,” he said.
“So it is essential that we work more closely together than ever before. We have now developed individual cooperation programmes with all our Gulf partners.”
The centre is often praised by NATO officials as a great asset in the cooperation drive with the ICI countries.
Both NATO and the ICI feel that they have come a long way over the years and have succeeded in building a diverse and rich culture of cooperation and partnership.
Officials in the ICI and in NATO have often said they were pleased with the outcome of the initiative so far, achieved through regular consultations and practical individualised cooperation.
The ICI countries have clearly highlighted the security challenges they were facing in an exceptionally volatile region and how NATO could have a role in helping them confront them.
NATO has been particular about explaining and showing that it was not seeking to militarise the ICI countries, but rather helping them gain enough expertise to boost their capabilities to confront challenges in a rapidly changing security environment.
The image problem that NATO had in the beginning of its partnership with the ICI countries seems to have been overcome through a better understanding of the situation and a greater appreciation of the mutual benefits.
The more mature realisation is being built on the stronger links forged over numerous years of cooperation.
NATO officials have repeatedly made it clear that they attached high importance to their partnership with the ICI countries which they see as contributors.
As the 29-member alliance holds its summit, there are expectations that new measures will be announced for the ICI and the Mediterranean Dialogue (the 1994 initiative that involves seven countries of the Mediterranean region), or the South, the new buzz word within the alliance.
The measures are related to enlarging the tools of political and practical cooperation and to sharing information.

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