Brussels: The security of the United Arab Emirates is of strategic interest for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the secretary general of the powerful alliance said on Friday.

“The UAE is a very important Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) and has contributed troops to Nato efforts in the Balkans and in Afghanistan. Nato and the UAE face the same challenges that cannot be tackled by any country alone. They require bilateral or multilateral cooperation. The security of the UAE and the ICI member countries is of strategic interest for Nato,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters at a press conference in Brussels.

On Thursday, James Appathurai, Nato’s spokesman, paid rich tribute to the UAE's role.

“The participation of the UAE is highly welcome and we greatly appreciate it. It proves that the efforts in Afghanistan are not about religion, but rather about security. This argument undercuts Taliban propaganda. The UAE’s efforts are also important in helping with the international efforts,” Appathurai said.

He spoke at a press conference at the alliance headquarters on the sidelines of the meeting of the foreign ministers of the 28 member countries to discuss the situation in Afghanistan, Nato’s Open Door policy, relations with Russia, Ukraine and Georgia, missile defence, and the new Strategic Concept.

The UAE is part of a group of 44 countries that form the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) that contribute troops “in support of the government of Afghanistan and conduct operations to reduce the capability of the insurgency and facilitate improvements in governance and socio-economic development.”