MODERATOR:Good morning. The Secretary General and the Prime Minister will make short statements and then answer a few questions. Please identify yourself. Secretary General.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): Good morning and welcome. Prime Minister Gruevski and I have had a very positive and constructive meeting this morning. I'm pleased to welcome you, Prime Minister to the NATO Headquarters. I attach very strong importance to a good relationship between your country and NATO, and first of all, I used this opportunity today to thank the Prime Minister for the growing contribution to the ISAF mission in Afghanistan. Your contribution is much appreciated and it is a clear demonstration that your country is now a security provider. And I'm also grateful for your continued host nation support for our KFOR operation.
Next, in our discussion today I reiterated that we remain committed to seeing your country seated at our table as a member of the Alliance. An invitation to start accession start accession talks will be extended as soon as a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been bridged, and we hope to see a proactive stance from Skopje to find a compromise.
We welcome that public support for NATO membership in your country continues to be high. I can assure you that the Alliance will continue assisting you with the reform process, the reform process you have committed yourself to, until you ultimately join the Alliance.
In (inaudible) all I believe that Euro-Atlantic integration remains the most effective way to bring lasting stability and prosperity to the strategically important Western Balkans and we would like to see you join the Alliance as soon as the name issue is resolved.
So my message to all who want to see your country as a member of NATO is simple. I encourage you to maintain your reform efforts and I want you to succeed. NATO will be there to help. Mr. Prime Minister.
NIKOLA GRUEVSKI (Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia¹): Thank you. Today we have very pleasant meeting with General Secretary of NATO. We discuss different issues; some of them were mentioned. We, once again, explained that in the top of priorities of Republic of Macedonia is membership to NATO and to European Union too.
We are continuing with our participation in Afghanistan mission, in other missions if come. We are actually... we undertook all obligations of being a member, but of course, because of one particular issue we are still waiting for full membership.
We can see the doors of NATO are open for Macedonia, but, of course, we have a problem that we have to solve with Greece, which is a problem that is existing a very long time. It's existing from taking of independence of Macedonia, and we are very focused to this issue, trying to find some solution which would be satisfactory from the both sides, and which will be finalization actually, ending of this process of (inaudible).
I said during this meeting that Macedonia is continuing with all necessary reforms and modernization. Reforms, modernization we are doing first of all because of us, because of necessary to the country to go ahead. The necessary of better quality of the citizens of the country, but also it's very important for our membership to NATO and European Union. So the reforms are like journey, they never end and until democracy is existing the reforms must be all the time on the table and to have all the time some kind of modernization, going ahead, improving of the quality of the life.
Our country at the moment is participating in the missions with four percent of the soldiers that we have. And we are going to do this. We are going to work together with NATO. We are going to contribute in the region for regional stability and for all regional projects of NATO.
And we are going to continue to try and to try to find solutions for solving of the issue actually, which is not giving us a chance to complete our membership to NATO.
MODERATOR:Time for questions. Sitel TV, please.
Q: (Inaudible...) Sitel Television. Secretary General, how do you feel personally about Macedonia, especially regarding the fact that we are military involved more than many, many NATO members, and we are still not a member, and is there a chance for you to be more involved to do personally something more to resolve this issue? You are saying that you want us in, why don't you show us that you really want us? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, let me reiterate my strong appreciation of the significant military contributions provided by Skopje. It is really an important demonstration of commitment and willingness to contribute in a positive way to security.
Next, NATO as an Alliance does not, and will not, interfere with the bilateral discussion between Athens and Skopje concerning the name issue. We follow the negotiations closely and we support the UN mediator in his endeavours to facilitate the process deadline to a solution. And hopefully soon. And I would encourage all parties involved to demonstrate pragmatism, and maybe also come up with innovative ideas as to how this challenge can be solved, because as I said, I want to see all countries in the Western Balkans integrated in our Euro-Atlantic structures.
Q: Secretary General, David Brunnstrom from Reuters. On Afghanistan, I wondered if I could ask you to give us an idea of your expectations of the London conference? And also, how confident are you that you may get some more commitments of troops for Afghanistan, particularly for the French and the Germans?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, first of all, let me stress that the London conference is not a force generation conference. So I don't expect announcements concerning troop contributions at the London conference.
I would expect two concrete outcomes of the London conference. Firstly, we will discuss security and the transition of lead responsibility to the Afghan Security Forces. We are currently preparing the overall framework to make sure that we get the conditions right, so that the transfer of responsibility to the Afghans will take place in a coordinated manner and condition-based so that we will hand over responsibility to the Afghans as they develop their own capacity to make sure that they are capable to take on the responsibility.
So we need the overall framework and I think the London conference will endorse that.
Second outcome should be strengthened coordination and organization of the civilian assistance to Afghanistan, including presentation of plans provided by the Afghan government as to how the Afghan government will improve governance in the coming years.
MODERATOR:Channel 5 TV.
Q: Livia Bratino(ph), Channel 5 TV. Mr. Rasmussen, do you have any plan about Macedonia if for any reasons the main dispute wouldn't be solved in few months, because Macedonia fulfilled all the criteria for membership, as you know, as you well know? Also, whose responsibility will be if something happened to our soldiers? We have 240... we will have 240 soldiers in Afghanistan on the hotspot of there, and do you think it would be responsibility of Macedonia, it would be responsibility of NATO because we are not member state, or it would be responsibility of probably NATO dispute. And the same question for Mr. Gruevski, about plan and responsibility. Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, if I understand your question correctly, it is about what will happen if a solution is not found in the near future. Yeah, but I have to say that...
Q: (Inaudible...) plans, NATO plans if fulfilled and all steps are past, are behind us, yes.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, Skopje is now in the eleventh cycle, as we call it, within the Membership Action Plan, and as I've already said, we appreciate very much that significant progress has been made within the Membership Action Plan. Similarly, we appreciate very much the strong military contributions provided to our mission in Afghanistan.
Having said all that, I also have to stress, that it is a prerequisite for further progress in our relationship, that a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue will be found. It is quite clear. And there is no shortcut. We made a clear decision at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008 and we will start accession talks with Skopje immediately when a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue has been found.
But here and now this problem is the obstacle and as I want to see progress I encourage both parties to demonstrate practicalities to find a solution, as soon as possible. The sooner the better.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Responsibility for what?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah, well, but...
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Yeah, I suppose in that case the terrorists are responsible for attacks.
NIKOLA GRUEVSKI: Obviously the main role for this (inaudible) Athens, and a willingness of the government in Athens to solve this issue and to stop with blocking us.
As I can see in NATO the doors for Macedonia are open and it's no any doubt about this. But according to the rules in NATO it's necessary consensus and it's necessary all country members to vote for membership. One country... if one country is against the membership cannot be realized, and it's something actually that happened to us. I am seeing responsibility in such case in the country which is blocking the membership, actually.
Q: (Inaudible...) A1 TV. I would like to ask the Prime Minister if he doesn't feel uncomfortable sending so many lives at risk in dangerous places, having all the obligations of NATO membership, but none of the positive side of NATO membership. So when will we be real member of NATO? And do you think that building a statue of Alexander the Great in the centre of Skopje will help convince Greece that we must be members?
NIKOLA GRUEVSKI: We will be member when obviously, as it was explained, we will find some solution for the issue that Greece opened which opened 18 years ago, and that Greece is saying that this is the issue because they are blocking us. So when we reach some solution we will have membership to NATO. That's officially that actually... well, that we received... something that we received in Bucharest and which is repeated many times after that.
Q: Well, then how do you explain sending troops to dangerous places, but not being the member of NATO?
NIKOLA GRUEVSKI: We started to send the troops in the period when the country still was not prepared for full membership. So when we started the partnership with NATO to develop, we started to send in troops in peaceful missions. In the period when we were not blocked from Greece we started to send troops as a signal that we want to become NATO, that we are sharing the same values with the countries, which are members of NATO and it's a signal that we want to contribute to realization of the peace in other places in the world. We are, as the General Secretary said, not part of the countries which are provider of the peace in the world.
Q: Ina Strazdina, Radio Latvia. Secretary General, referring... it's on different issue. Referring on the publication made yesterday in The Economist that due to the active role of Poland Nordic states could get contingency plans. I would like to know if these plans are on the process, and if military training expected in the summer in Nordic states is part of that.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Well, our position is very clear. We do not comment publicly on specific plans to defend allied nations. The same goes in this case. But I can assure you that NATO has all necessary plans in place to secure and protect all members of the Alliance.
MODERATOR:Thank you very much.