24 Sept. 1998
Statement to the Press
by NATO Secretary General, Javier Solana
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
We have just completed the first day of our informal meeting of Allied Defence Ministers. The Defence Ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland also took part - another important step in integrating them fully into NATO's activities.
Today we discussed three broad topics:
- First, the situations in Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania;
- Second, our defence relations with Russia;
- Third, the Alliance's military and defence agenda as we prepare for our 50th anniversary Summit meeting next April in Washington.
Let me say a word about each of these topics.
- First Kosovo. As I announced earlier this morning, the North Atlantic Council has today authorized the ACTWARN for both limited air options and a phased air campaign. The ACTWARN is an important political signal of NATO's readiness to use force if it becomes necessary to do so. I hope that President Milosevic will heed this message.
- Second, Bosnia
The election results have not yet been announced. But whatever the final outcome we must continue to press for a pluralist democracy in Bosnia. This is not a time for the international community to hesitate. Bosnia has no future if it returns to the extremism and suspicions of the past. Those who expect to be elected in Bosnia all say that they support Dayton and will cooperate with the international institutions. We will hold them to their word.
SFOR will continue to play a pro-active role in upholding security and supporting the civilian agencies. We will not abandon Bosnia.
Against this background, we exchanged views on the first of our six month reviews of SFOR operations. The first review should be completed by December. It will determine the future size and shape of SFOR.
Let me also mention Albania; We welcome the fact that the democratically elected government of Albania has been successful in regaining control of the situation. However, that situation remains volatile. I call on all political leaders in Albania to exercise restraint and to join a meaningful dialogue.
NATO is providing significant assistance to Albania. We already have an active PfP assistance programme, a fully operational cell in Tirana, and have held exercises in that country. NATO is currently looking at ways to accelerate and reinforce its cooperation with Albania.
Our second main agenda item was our defence cooperation with Russia. At this time of uncertainty in Russia, our Permanent Joint Council and NATO/Russia cooperation are important poles of stability. It is all the more important to build on them now. Over the past few months we have made good progress in developing our military to military relations. Russia is participating in PfP exercises. It is sending officers to NATO courses and to NATO commands. We are on track to establish a NATO Military Liaison Mission in Moscow by the end of the year.
Our third main agenda item was the preparation of the Washington Summit next April. We discussed the various aspects of NATO's internal adaptation, for instance ESDI, CJTF, and the new command structure. We also discussed the future challenges to successful Alliance multinational operations, in particular the need to enhance the interoperability of our forces.
Tomorrow, we will complete our review of Summit preparations by considering what needs to be achieved in time for that meeting, and indeed to prepare the Alliance for the challenges of the first decades of the new century. Ministers will exchange ideas on the ongoing work to update the Strategic Concept.
So, as you can see, we have a very full and intensive agenda and have already had some very important discussions.