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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Dutch Foreign Minister Van Aartsen
Press remarks prior to their meeting
November 24, 1998, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. I am very pleased to have with me Jozias van Aartsen, Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, on his first visit to Washington in that capacity. I am also glad that, unlike that other Dutch attraction on view down Constitution Avenue, it's possible to see the Foreign Minister without standing in line.

(Laughter.)

The United States and the Netherlands are the closest partners and the firmest of friends. We fought together in war and stood together in peace. As allies in NATO, we have defended freedom for 50 years, and are preparing to do the same for another 50 or more.

Around the world, we work together to build peace, support development and promote democracy. Beginning in January, we will serve together on the United Nations Security Council where the Netherlands has just been elected to a two-year term.

Today we will be discussing a number of the many places around the world where our nations share common concerns and common goals. These include the Persian Gulf, where we're determined that Iraq meet its commitments to the Security Council. In the Middle East, the Netherlands and its partners in the European Union are also our essential partners in helping smooth the path to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

In the fight against terrorism, the Netherlands has made an important contribution by agreeing to host the trial of the suspects in the bombing of PanAm #103. I'm sure I speak for Foreign Minister Van Aartsen as well when I express the hope that Libya will soon follow through on its expressed willingness to accept trial there before Scottish judges under Scottish law.

In Kosovo, we and our NATO allies have halted large scale Serb repression. Now we are pressing both sides to end the provocative actions that violate the cease-fire and harm prospects for peace. We're building up a substantial international presence to verify compliance. This is essential to improving the climate for a peace settlement.

We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the mission operates effectively and safely, and I hope that the Netherlands, which has played such an important role in Kosovo thus far, will be able to make a robust contribution here as well.

In Kosovo or in New York, at NATO or the OSCE, our two nations have proven a record of partnership that serves our interests and promotes our ideals. I look forward to working with the Foreign Minister today and in the months ahead to extend that record and build our friendship into the century ahead.

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER VAN AARTSEN: Thank you, Madame Secretary. Let me start by thanking you for receiving me here today at the State Department.

The friendship between the United States and the Netherlands goes back as far as the very first years of the existence of your country. For centuries our two nations have maintained a deeply rooted, loyal and true friendship which I hope will continue for centuries to come.

Today we find ourselves in a world searching for stability. Both the Netherlands and the United States believe the numerous regional crises call for firm and joint action. As what you have so aptly called, Madame Secretary, the indispensable country, the United States, has a leading role to play in today's world. But be assured that the Netherlands is ready to play its role in joint action, as a NATO partner, as a member of the European Union and as a future member of the Security Council of the United Nations.

In the Middle East peace process, your government and yourself, Madame Secretary, showed the world that in the end, commitment and perseverance do pay off. The Netherlands and the European Union support your efforts, and we will work closely together with you both in the political as well as in the economic fields finally to bring peace to the region.

Iraq, or actually, Saddam Hussein, should comply unconditionally with the Security Council resolutions and give unrestricted access to UNSCOM's inspectors and disclose all appropriate documents upon request. As Prime Minister Wim Kok reiterated to President Clinton, the Netherlands Government fully supports the US policy on Iraq.

On the European continent, the western Balkan region is a major area of concern. NATO's efforts brought peace to Bosnia, but sustainable and lasting stability in the region is yet far from assured.

In Kosovo, the situation is critical. We hope the efforts of Ambassadors Hill and Petrisch will result in an interim settlement before Christmas on the political future of Kosovo as an autonomous part of the Yugoslav Federation.

The Netherlands Government has the intention to take part in the OSCE-led Kosovo verification mission and within the framework of NATO, both the air surveillance and the extraction force. We have submitted this proposal to Parliament for approval.

For NATO itself, the Washington Summit in April '99 will bring three new members into the alliance, and the Netherlands strongly believes that the benefits these new democracies will bring to NATO -- we support further expansion at the right place and at the right time. European members of NATO are seeking ways to strengthen the alliance by meeting their responsibilities both politically and militarily.

The Netherlands is aiming at creating a European identity within NATO, not at bringing NATO's assets into the European Union. European security and defense identity could stimulate the trans-Atlantic relations and give partners on both sides of the Atlantic the confidence that NATO's future is their common cause.

Thank you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, any problems with the Netherlands, or is this the most perfect relationship that America has with anyone?

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's pretty perfect. (Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER VAN AARTSEN: I agree. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

[End of Document]

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