|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Conference at NATO Headquarters
December 15, 2000, Brussels, Belgium
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good evening. We are nearing the end of two very full days of meetings of the North Atlantic Council and its partners, including Russia and Ukraine.
During our talks, I congratulated my colleagues on the progress that we have made during the past four years, during which we saw remarkable progress toward democracy and stability in Southeast Europe, and took major strides to prepare our Alliance for the 21st Century.
Yesterday and today, we reviewed plans for enhancing Alliance capabilities, further strengthening its partnerships, and keeping the door open to new members.
I particularly enjoyed meeting today with ministers from the nine candidate countries for NATO membership, together with our three newest members. This was an opportunity to reaffirm my belief that NATO enlargement has made for a stronger and more dynamic Alliance, and a more stable and secure Europe; and that the enlargement process should continue.
In this regard, I was especially pleased that Allies agreed that the next NATO Summit, when this issue will be addressed, will be held in Prague.
We also focused on next steps in the Balkans.
The Alliance is encouraged by the breakthroughs made by moderate and democratic forces in Croatia and Yugoslavia, and by the slow, but steady, progress in Bosnia.
We join Belgrade's new leaders in condemning violence by extremists in the Presevo Valley region of Serbia. We call upon all sides to refrain from provocative acts, and support efforts by KFOR to prevent further incidents.
On Kosovo, we discussed the importance of moving forward rapidly with consultations on how to shape institutions for autonomous self-government, in preparation for general elections, which the United States believes should be held as soon as possible next year.
During our meetings, I also reiterated strong U.S. support for the EU's plan to create a fully equipped Rapid Reaction Force that could carry out crisis management operations where NATO chooses not to be engaged.
America welcomes European efforts to improve their military capabilities, and to do so in a manner that makes effective use of both NATO and EU resources. The leaders of both institutions recognize the indivisible nature of Euro-Atlantic security interests. Our goal this week has been to move further toward agreement on arrangements that reflect that shared recognition.
We agreed to develop the role of NATO's deputy European commander so that he or she can serve as coordinator to ensure that NATO and EU taskings are not at cross-purposes.
We also resolved all major difference on how NATO and the EU will consult and coordinate between the two organizations on a range of security issues. These consultations will include two joint ministerial meetings each year and regular contacts at all levels.
While we did not resolve all issues in full, we did make progress toward resolving the concerns of non-EU allies on how they may be involved in EU-led operations when NATO is not engaged.
This should help us to move ahead with completing modalities for providing the EU assured access to NATO operational planning.
These two days will mark my last official meetings with my NATO colleagues. It has been an incredible honor for me to represent the United States and President Clinton during this time of testing and transition.
I have been proud of the firmness shown by our Alliance in meeting present day threats to the stability and peace of Europe, and of the vision exhibited by our leaders in enlarging and adapting NATO to meet future dangers.
Although the end of my time in office draws near, I am confident that NATO's mission and America's commitment to it will long endure.
Thank you and I would now be pleased to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Since the guarantee of assured access to NATO planning is so much the keystone of the EU relationship, the failure to get the Turkish government to agree to this at the moment what sort of signal do you think this sends back to Washington and as a new, perhaps a more conservative administration prepares to take office?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me take that question and put it into a little bit of context, because I think that as we look at what we have been trying to do with our NATO allies and with Europeans at the beginning of the new century, it is to develop structures that are relevant to the threats of the day and to look at how two major institutions, NATO and EU, coordinate and cooperate.
This is no easy task. These are two institutions and, as you know, there are some overlapping members and not all are overlapping. And there are many aspects of it that I think need to be dealt with. It is an ongoing process, and it will go on for sometime as these discussions continue and the very difficult problems that such coordination involves with be the subject of discussion for a long time.
So, I will not phrase my question the way you had, obviously, but would see basically what happened here as part of an ongoing process. Now, we understand the fact that Turkey has particular concerns given its unique location. And it is not surprising that its concerns are greater than other non-EU allies. And, at the same time, we understand the EU's position and believe it really has made a good faith effort and a reasonable effort to address some of Turkey's concerns. But, in the end, it is not we, but Turkey, that needs to be satisfied and so far they aren't. But I do think that in the course of these days we are a lot closer to the long-term goal because of the effort made by both sides.
I think that as we turn this portfolio to the next administration, I think you will see the same kind of dedication to trying to do what is clearly a challenging, interesting, difficult, process of bringing these two organizations, both of which frankly are enlarging, thinking of their own missions, and making themselves relevant. So, it is a lot of things going on at the same time. And I must say that we are satisfied with the progress that is being made. Because it is hard and we're putting one foot in front of the other and we are moving forward.
QUESTION: If I may follow-up that question. Your own officials were saying that this guaranteed access question is the real keystone issue that has to be resolved before moving on to the rest of what you've said are going to be some rather difficult discussions. If that is not resolved here, what does that do for the future discussions in the coming months?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we're just going to continue because we have managed, I think, to get quite far in it. And we have managed to arrange for various meetings and we will continue this discussion. I think that various modalities, as I have said, have to be put into place. We have to keep moving on it and I don't see this and never did as a kind of a make or break situation. It's an organic process that goes on, and I think that issues have been clarified here. And a lot of efforts have been made to make this work. And they will continue, and I think that it's important to clarify concerns and I think we have done pretty well.
QUESTION: Concerning the call you made yesterday for the general elections in Kosovo. Did you discuss that issue today with Danish Defense Minister Haekkerup. The second thing, do you expect a change with the new US administration vis-à-vis the Balkans, Kostunica and especially Kosovo?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all let me say that I have been talking about the importance of proceeding with various elections, whether it be in Bosnia, or in Kosovo, or in various other parts of the former Yugoslavia, because I think it is a very important way of having the people begin to feel much more of an ownership over their lives and a sense of involvement.
I am very gratified by the election in Kosovo earlier in the Fall. And I do believe there should be, as I said, Kosovo-wide elections as soon as possible this next year, so that the process of developing autonomous institutions continues.
Yes, I did discuss it with Mr. Haekkerup and I think he is looking forward to his new assignment and we had a general discussion. And I am going to meet with him again in Washington where we will talk more.
I believe that what we have been doing in the Balkans as an Alliance, and as the United States, has been a very important part of U.S. foreign policy and in our national interest. And, I think that it is very important that we continue to tell that story to the Congress to the American people and obviously, as I begin to have my transition meeting with my successor, whoever he or she is, I will have discussions about the Balkans and the interests that the United States has.
President Clinton and I and others in our team have worked very hard for the goal of having a Europe that is whole and free and united, a project that actually began under the first President Bush. And I think what was missing was the Balkans, and I believe that our concerted actions there over the last eight years have put the last piece of the puzzle into place and I believe it has served U.S. national interest very well.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the United States has put a considerable amount of its prestige on the line in public with a close ally in Turkey. Not only on your personal efforts with Foreign Minister Cem, but in President Clinton's calls and letters over the past week to President Ecevit. And they have said no. If their fears and suspicions are so deep how can they be allayed in the near future.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well I think that, obviously, this discussion has to go on. As I have said, we have heard a lot about their concerns. They are in a unique geographical location. I think that there have to be further discussions in order for them to understand that they have an important role in all this and that their concerns are taken into account. I can't speak for Turkey on this. I can only tell you we feel that the EU and the Turkish government have taken a lot of these issues into consideration and it is a discussion that will go on. But, I think I need to put this back again into what I said before which is that these are very complicated questions that effect the national interest of a variety of countries. And NATO is an Alliance that operates by consensus and things take a while. And so I think it is part of a process. The Turks have to feel comfortable, the EU has to feel comfortable, the other members of NATO have to feel comfortable. So I think this is a process that will go on, that we will pursue while still in office, and I am sure will continue to be pursued by our successors.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, this goes back to the Balkans and it's the issue of war criminals. I mean you mention over the last five years you have some successes in the Balkans, but still the language at the high-level is you pursue war criminals, the language at the SFOR the level, is that you don't. We don't pursue war criminals, we only arrest them if we come across them on our duties. It is going to be some sort of disappointment in not having landed or arrested a high-level war criminal, at least in your tenure. I know that from time to time that Milosevic, I mean Karadic, Mladic, these people have been coming. And also not so high-level war criminals. So I am kind of wondering, will there be any pursuit of these war criminals - vigorous pursuit after this election in the Serb parliament that is coming up before you leave office.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that the various things that I have been involved in, in my eight years, whether at the UN or as Secretary of State, I think one of the landmark developments has been the creating of the War Crimes Tribunal. And I think that it is working well and systematically. I don't have the numbers with me, the number of indictees and those who have been convicted, but they have had a lot of work and they have been working very well and a lot of people have in fact come into its grasp.
What I have learned is that while it may seem fairly simple to those watching it, to be able to deal with these very high level war criminals, it is not when you actually look at the circumstances. The most important thing that I believe is true is that there is no statute of limitations on these crimes or these people.
Countries have an obligation to fulfill the elements of the Dayton agreement, and my sense about this is that there are things that I am very glad that happened during my tenure. The passing of President Milosevic is right up there, but I think that this is a longer-term process. As I said, there is no statue of limitations and their time will come. I think the main thing that I would like to say as I kind of depart the scene -- the public scene anyway -- what is important, and it is very important in response to some of the questions that have been asked here, and certainly has been part of the discussion that we've had throughout the last couple of days, the Balkans story, as you all have written about it, is a complicated one.
We have done very well, as an Alliance, in trying to help alleviate some of the horrors of ethnic cleansing and of Milosevic's misrule. And now with dealing with the economic problems that have come about as a result of war in the Balkans. But it is a long story. It won't be over instantaneously. What countries that are part of the various groups that I have met with in the last couple of days have been talking about is that this requires a long-term commitment. It did not happen over night and it is not going to be solved overnight. And I think that people need to understand that we all -- the United States and the Allies -- need to continue to work on it. And that applies to the economic situation, it applies to the political situation, and it applies to the war criminals.
Thank you very much.
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