of the North
Council in

11 Dec 1996


Press Conference

of Secretary General and Minister Primakov

Secretary General: Good morning. Thank you very much for your presence here today. We have just finished an important meeting with Minister Primakov and the 16 Ministers of the Alliance. I want to start by saying it has been a very constructive meeting from our point of view. I think this meeting without a doubt will help to construct trust and confidence between the NATO Allies and the Russian Federation and between the NATO Allies at Ministerial level and Minister Primakov. I want to thank him wholeheartedly for the way he has spoken today in this meeting.

Let me say that we have reaffirmed our wish to build a solid partnership with our Russian friends. I had the opportunity to say this on behalf of the 16 members once again this morning. We will start formal talks with Mr. Primakov and tell him clearly again that NATO is prepared to get involved in this discussion and this dialogue to push this process further down the road. Time goes by quickly and we would like to have an agreement ready by the time of the Summit in July 1997.

Security in Europe, according to NATO, cannot be constructed without Russia. Russia is an important and fundamental player in security in Europe and that is why regardless of any decision we took yesterday, we want to construct that solid bilateral relationship with this great country. We also talked about Bosnia and I want to thank again the contribution of the Russian forces, the most important contribution of any non-NATO country to Bosnia.

I want to thank him again for his willingness and that of his government to continue providing troops for the stabilization of Bosnia for 1997. Mr. Primakov, thank you very, very much for your presence here. It is the first time that you have formally visited NATO. I hope that you will leave this morning reassured that you will find friends here who want to construct together with you a more secure, safer and therefore a prosperous Europe. Thank you very much.

Minister Primakov: I believe that todays meeting was a very interesting one indeed. We heard an offer from NATO to hold consultations in order to settle any issues that might be of concern to us. I think this basically paves the way for very constructive negotiations, but at the same time, I would like to underline that while agreeing to continue these consultations, we continue to be against NATO enlargement and this position is not simply the view of the Russian government, it is not simply a subjective position, this is based on the firm belief that NATO enlargement will inevitably lead to a new division of Europe.

This is unacceptable from a strategic, military, from any point of view. At the same time, I would like to also emphasize another factor. We think that security should be indivisible, security should not be security for some, like for NATO, for the Western European Union or for the CIS. Security should extend to all of Europe. This is why we think that in the European security architecture, the OSCE should be the key player. This was reiterated at Lisbon, and Mr. Secretary General, I would just like to express my satisfaction that in your statements and in many of the other statements, the Lisbon agreements and decisions were firmly endorsed.

By the way, you called our meeting not "16+1" but "1+16". This was maybe a mistake, but I would like to express my hope that perhaps in the future it will not be "16+1", but maybe will be called something else, maybe a different label. I thank you for todays meeting. I think it will help us make headway and Russia, while being against enlargement, does realize that NATO is an important organization, plays an important role in Europe and being pragmatists, we are certainly going to base ourselves on that position. Thank you.

Dimitri Khavine, Russian Line: First question to Secretary General: when NATO talks about a NATO/Russian Charter, do you think it will be just a document with political declarations or a legally binding document? Second question is to Minister Primakov. NATO is going through an internal adaptation process and there is an ongoing discussion between France and NATO. Do you think that the results of these discussions may put Russia in a more favourable position or not?

Secretary General: Of course what we want to acheve is not just a set of principles, we want to go further than that: we want to get some tangible content into that document, the legal procedure of which will be approved, this is something which at this point is secondary. The important thing is to get a document that has not only principles but content and commitment from one party to the other.

Minister Primakov: I want to add that I agree with that point of view. I think this is a document that does not contain simply general principles such as lets say an agreement not to attack each other. We would like something more. This kind of general document, general statement, is something that could have been adopted during the Cold War. I think now we need a document which really contains very specific, very concrete provisions which deal with our concerns. We are going to strive towards that.

Now as to your question about the transformation of NATO: we are very carefully monitoring this process. We dont consider that NATO is a static organization that is not moving. I think if that were the case, it would be very difficult for us to think in terms of a dialogue. NATO is undergoing a transformation; that process probably started at the Berlin Summit. At least the declaration was made to that effect, the seeds that were planted have not yet borne fruit, have not yet grown, we are carefully monitoring that. As for the discussions we are having and the various discussions that are going on, I dont want you to think we are using these discussions for our own interests.

Rüdiger Lentz, Deutsche Welle TV: Minister Primakov, one could see from your face from time to time that you are getting on quite well with Secretary General, politically and personally, but what is your new opinion and perception of the new NATO which yesterday put an offer on the table? Ministers stated that NATO would not place nuclear weapons further eastward than at present. What is your personal perception of the new NATO, is it an organization you like to deal with?

Minister Primakov: I am on very good terms with the Secretary General and I am certainly happy about that. The Secretary General is a very nice man, but I wouldnt necessarily use those terms to describe the organization which he heads today. As for the deployment of NATO military infrastructures, closer to our territories, closer to Russia, we are not happy about that and we are certainly looking for ways to prevent that and to resolve any concerns that we may have.

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