Heads of NATO and its partners pose for a family photo at the NATO Summit 2014 in Newport, Wales, the United Kingdom, on Sept. 4, 2014. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit 2014 will be held in Wales from Sept. 4 to 5, 2014. (Xinhua/Han Yan)
NEWPORT, Britain, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Thursday kicked off its 26th summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, southeast Wales of Britain, with nearly 60 world leaders invited to attend the two-day gathering.
The summit, the first in Britain since former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher welcomed NATO leaders to London in 1990, also witnessed the arrival of the heads of state and government of its 28 member countries.
On his arrival at the summit, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said NATO is facing a "dramatically changed security environment" and the gathering will take important steps to counter threats and strengthen the defense of its allies.
"Ultimately by working together we are stronger, whether in standing up to Russia or confronting ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). So in Newport today we must summon up the shared resolve that inspired NATO's founding fathers," British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama wrote in a joint article published Thursday in British newspaper The Times.
"The truth is that today NATO is as vital to our future as it has ever been in our past," they said.
The summit took place in the context of worsening global security environment and growing instability in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.
The Ukraine crisis, NATO's tasks in Afghanistan, and the rise of extremism and sectarian strife in the Middle East and North Africa are expected to top the agenda of the summit.
The alliance will also discuss newer threats such as cyber security, missile defense and hybrid warfare.
Formal sessions of the summit will start with a meeting on Afghanistan, as NATO is completing its combat mission at the end of 2014 and readjusting its partnership with Kabul.
High-level representatives from the United Nations and the European Union (EU) will also attend the meeting, together with leaders from International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) nations, Afghanistan and Japan.
A meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission, which aims to bolster NATO-Ukraine cooperation, will also be held on Thursday with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko being invited to attend.
On Friday, NATO leaders will discuss NATO's ability to respond to current security risks in regions to the east and south of the alliance and future challenges.
They will also examine issues of defense investment, capacity building, training and modern equipment.
Besides, the bloc's defense and foreign ministers will hold parallel sessions to talk with four countries that aspire to join NATO, and meet with other international organizations to discuss security challenges.
Senior representatives from more than 30 partner countries and international organizations like the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the EU will also be present at the meetings.
PRAGUE, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Ample Strike 2014, a large aviation exercise of forward air controllers, pilots and other soldiers from 12 NATO member countries, started in Czech Republic on Wednesday, said the exercise's spokeswoman Magdalena Dvorakova.
The Ample Strike, the biggest international exercise held in the Czech Republic this year, will last until September 15. 1340 troops, 28 planes, including Czech Gripen fighters and F-16 combat aircraft, and 50 military vehicles will take part in the exercise. Full story
TALLINN, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- US President Barack Obama reaffirmed on Wednesday NATO'S steady alliance with Baltic states saying that the US would unconditionally come to the defense of its small Baltic allies in case of need.
He said in a written speach that the US would never condone or recognize "the Russian invasion and annexation of any part of Ukraine". Full story
KABUL, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- The NATO member states and allied nations are going to discuss among other issues the situation in Afghanistan as per its summit agenda opening in Wales on Thursday, albeit in the absence of an Afghan president owing to an electoral impasse, to chalk out modalities of possible support to the conflict-ridden country beyond 2014.
In his pre-summit press conference, NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, according to media reports, stated that the military alliance "will be writing a new chapter in its relationship with Afghanistan as its combat mission draws to a close," adding that the new mission in Afghanistan will be focused on advising, training and assisting Afghan national security forces from next year. Full story