Mattis assures European counterparts over Nato

WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary James Mattis has assured European counterparts about Washington’s commitment to Nato, officials said on Friday, as President Donald Trump plans to speak to the leaders of France, Germany and Russia.
Mattis spoke by phone to the defence ministers of France, Germany and Israel on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said.
Speaking to German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, he “assured the minister of the United States’ enduring commitment to the Nato alliance,” Davis said in a statement.
“He thanked Minister von der Leyen for her country’s leadership in Nato activities on the Eastern Flank and in Afghanistan, and acknowledged the role that Germany plays in fighting terrorism, specifically in the counter-ISIL coalition,” he added, using an acronym for the IS militant group.
“He also cited the strategic importance of Germany as the host to 35,000 US personnel, the largest US force presence in Europe,” Davis said.
Mattis also stressed Nato’s importance to his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, with whom he discussed “the long-time allies’ security cooperation, which is stronger than ever as both countries engage side-by-side in the fight against terrorism,” he added.
As the European Union’s leading members, both countries have been rattled by Trump’s denigration of Nato, which he has called “obsolete,” and his praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom they accuse of seeking to undermine Western unity.
Trump, who has often praised Putin, is expected to speak to him, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on Saturday, the White House said.
Mattis also spoke by phone with Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Thursday “to underscore his unwavering commitment to Israel’s security,” Davis said.
Mattis still favours the current rules banning the use of torture in prisoner interrogations.
In a written response to questions during his confirmation hearing, Mattis said he supported using the US Army Field Manual, which forbids torture, as the single standard for military interrogations.
“That thinking has not changed,” Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said. “His commitment to upholding the Geneva convention, the law of armed conflicts, international law and US — that remains the same.” — AFP