NAC Ministerial

8 Dec. 1998

Statement to the Press

by the Secretary General

Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are now just a few days away from 1999, which will mark NATO's 50th anniversary year. We are also just a few months away from a historic NATO Summit in Washington.

This Summit will look ahead. It will define the Alliance's task and missions for the 21st century.

The purpose of our meeting today - the last meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers before the NATO Summit - is to prepare for this important event.

In a few moments, I will join the Foreign Ministers for lunch when we will discuss our Summit preparations in detail.

In particular, we will exchange views on the New Strategic Concept which NATO is now actively preparing for Washington. The Allies are already examining two initiatives for this new Concept: one on Weapons of Mass Destruction; the other on enhancing NATO's defence capabilities.

We will also discuss initiatives to make our Open Door policy fully responsive to those countries that aspire to future NATO membership.

At our meeting this morning we discussed four topics:

  1. The situation in Kosovo
  2. our progress in peace implementation in Bosnia
  3. the internal and external adaptation of NATO
  4. finally, the adaptation of the CFE Treaty

I will make some brief comments on each:

First, Kosovo. NATO will play its part to help ensure that we maintain the recent progress in Kosovo. Our verification flights over Kosovo are proceeding intensively. Some of our Partner countries, and hopefully Russia, will join Operation Eagle Eye shortly.

Following the ACTORD that the North Atlantic Council issued last Friday, we have begun to deploy the standing element of a NATO-led Extraction Force to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

This force will be fully operational in the next few days. It will help to provide an emergence extraction capability for the OSCE Kosovo Verification Mission which is now beginning its work.

Let me stress: NATO expects President Milosevic to uphold his agreement to protect the OSCE personnel and to cooperate fully with the NATO Extraction force if it has to be used.

I urge once again both sides in Kosovo to take this opportunity to begin meaningful negotiations. We must use the weeks ahead constructively to avoid any temptation by either Belgrade or the Kosovo Albanians to renew fighting in the Spring.

Our second topic was Bosnia. We have made progress in the civil implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement but unfortunately not enough to be close to our goal of a self-sustaining peace.

Next week the Peace Implementation Council will meet in Madrid to chart the way ahead for peace implementation. NATO Defence Ministers will be able to take its recommendations into account when they meet here on 17 and 18 December. They will take decisions on the exact size and tasks of SFOR.

But one thing is clear: we will be maintaining SFOR at more or less its present levels for the time being.

However, in the New Year, we will begin a major review of SFOR with a view to developing options for restructuring the force which Ministers will review in the Spring.

The elections in Bosnia are now over and it is essential that the new authorities take more responsibility for their country. The international community cannot remain at its present level in Bosnia indefinitely.

Our third subject was the ongoing process of NATO's Internal and External Adaptation.

We have made good progress in both areas over the last six months. For instance, I expect NATO Defence Ministers next week to approve the implementation plan for the new NATO Command Structure. We will thus move from planning to actual implementation of the New Command Structure in the New Year.

The CJTF concept has been validated in two trials. As a result we are now refining this concept.

Work on the ESDI within the Alliance has progressed. The Extraction Force that we are currently deploying in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Madeconia is a good example of Europe assuming greater responsibilities within the Alliance.

At the same time, NATO welcomes the current discussions among EU countries to see how Europe can take more responsibility for its security, and increase its defence capabilities. Our Alliance's decisions on ESDI in Berlin in 1996 have made this discussion possible.

I hope that all these aspects of NATO's internal adaptation will be finalized at the Washington Summit.

The integration of the three invited countries - Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary - into the Alliance is proceeding smoothly. These three countries have worked hard to modify their legislation, and establish new military and civil procedures to be ready for full participation in NATO by the time of the Washington Summit.

All NATO Parliaments have now ratified. In every instance the vote has been clear and decisive.

In the new year I will write to the Heads of State of the three countries to invite them formally to join the Alliance. We hope to complete the remaining preparations so that the three invited countries can join NATO as full members shortly before the Washington Summit.

Finally, we discussed the adaptation of the CFE Treaty. As we have made clear in our statement on CFE, released a few moments ago, a revised CFE treaty is essential for long-term military stability in Europe in the 21st century. We want this treaty to be finalized in 1999, in time for the OSCE Summit. NATO has been willing to do its part to make this happen: we are committed to accept considerably greater restrictions and lower equipment ceilings compared to the current CFE Treaty - at least 10-15% lower.

Provided that we have flexibility in emergency situations, we are willing to renounce additional permanent stationing of treaty-limited equipment; and we are ready to provide even more transparency and predictability in our military activities. So I hope all the CFE countries will respond positively to our constructive offer and that we can settle the outstanding issues quickly.

This afternoon, we will meet briefly 'at 16' to prepare for the PJC Ministerial meeting tomorrow, our first with Minister Ivanov. Tomorrow morning we will also meet with Minister Tarasyuk in the NATO-Ukraine Commission.

This afternoon we are also meeting with all our Partner Countries in the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council.

Finally, I will hold an informal meeting with the President of the EU Council of Ministers, Mr. Schssel, at the end of the day to discuss Kosovo and Bosnia.

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