Brussels, 8 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Flags were flying at half-mast at NATO headquarters this morning. NATO ambassadors observed a minute’s silence in memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in London before they began their emergency meeting.
The meeting was largely symbolic, for Britain has not asked NATO for assistance. Nor has there been any discussion of invoking the collective defense clauses of the alliance’s charter. The clause was invoked after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States.
Emerging from the meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer indicated its main purpose had been to reassert the alliance's resolve to fight terrorism across the world.
“It is clear that yesterday’s horrific events in London only reinforce the determination of the NATO allies to continue with our operations and our missions," de Hoop Scheffer said. "We’ll also have this drive, as far as NATO is concerned, to fight the fight against terrorism together, be it [in] Afghanistan, be it our NATO [naval] patrols in the Mediterranean, be it the training mission in Iraq. We must continue to deny operating bases to terrorists.”
De Hoop Scheffer also appeared mindful of concerns, widely shared in Europe, that military force alone will not defeat terrorism. “At the same time however we must continue to tackle terrorism at its roots by supporting reform in those regions where it can threaten to grow," he said. "Here, too, NATO is playing its part and NATO will continue playing its part by offering partnerships and assistance, as you know, to an increasing number of countries.”
"I’m firmly convinced that time is not on their side because the terrorists who commit these acts like the one we saw yesterday have no political vision to advance, nor any just cause to pursue because violence is an end in itself. This is simple nihilism and that is why ultimately they will not succeed." - de Hoop Scheffer
In recent years NATO has been particularly active in cultivate ties with the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf region and on the shores of the Mediterranean.
The NATO secretary-general said he remains convinced that Islamic terrorism will be defeated because it offers no positive political vision. “Terrorists can cause -- we saw it in London yesterday -- massive damage and massive and incredible human suffering," de Hoop Scheffer said. "And yet I’m firmly convinced that time is not on their side because the terrorists who commit these acts like the one we saw yesterday have no political vision to advance, nor any just cause to pursue because violence is an end in itself. This is simple nihilism and that is why ultimately they will not succeed.”
However, de Hoop Scheffer warned there can be no guarantees that similar attacks will be thwarted in the future.
“I think we should not have the illusion that we can protect our free, open, and democratic societies for the full 100 percent against these horrendous acts of terrorism, because these people are only there to kill, to kill as many people as possible, to kill indiscriminately, to kill the average Londoner, or the average citizen of Istanbul, or New York or Washington," he said. "That’s their objective”
De Hoop Scheffer said that NATO can afford optimum protection to its members if all cooperate as closely as possible in fighting terrorism.