BRUSSELS (AP) — Two former heads of NATO on Wednesday urged the Western defense alliance to join the fight against Ebola in West Africa.
George Robertson of Britain and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer of the Netherlands, who both served as NATO secretary general, said the 28-nation military alliance "has access to unique capabilities that could make a difference."
They cited NATO's air and sea logistical capabilities, hospital ships and military medical teams, expertise in biological defenses and track record in coordinating international operations.
"The international response to the Ebola epidemic must become a demonstration of commitment to our common humanity," Robertson and de Hoop Scheffer said in open letters to NATO's current chief, Jens Stoltenberg, and the leaders of the U.N. and World Health Organization. "NATO could and should be a part of this effort."
The letters were also signed by the former prime ministers of three NATO member countries — Michel Rocard of France, Massimo D'Alema of Italy and Ruud Lubbers of the Netherlands — and more than 30 other senior European political, diplomatic and military figures. The letters were distributed by the European Leadership Network, a London-based think tank.
On Tuesday, Stoltenberg said he had been in contact with U.N. officials "to discuss whether there are any specific roles for NATO" in responding to the spread of the Ebola virus. He noted that some alliance member states, including the United States and Britain, were already involved.
"The question is not whether NATO allies are contributing in fighting Ebola, but the question is whether this is best organized through a NATO structure," Stoltenberg said. "And that's too early to say."