by US Secretary of State Albright
Good evening. I am pleased to be in Brussels for meetings with NATO and Alliance partners to prepare for the Washington Summit in April.
As I have discussed with my colleagues, it is an energizing experience. For although we would not compare ourselves to our predecessors of half a century ago, we know that the task in which we are engaged, although different in character, is similar in importance. And we agree that, though the threats to our security and interests have changed, the need for vigilance, vision and unity has not.
In my interventions, I laid out the views of the United States concerning the steps required to meet this challenge. We must update our strategic concept; recognize and prepare for the full range of missions the Alliance may face; further develop our partnerships with other European democracies; and coordinate our activities with vital institutions such as the EU and the OSCE.
If we succeed, we will have a new NATO, strengthened by new members; capable of collective defense; committed to meeting a wide range of threats to our shared interests and values; and acting in partnership with others to ensure stability, freedom and peace in and for the entire trans-Atlantic area.
We hope to lay out a blue print for just such a NATO at the Summit in April.
This is truly an historic opportunity. And, based on my meetings today, I think we can succeed.
It is clear from our discussions that we all understand that the world has changed. Collective defense remains NATO's core purpose. But we need, and are achieving, a balance between new missions and old. Missile technologies have made our borders vulnerable to threats originating well beyond those borders. And instability that is dangerous and contagious is best stopped before it reaches NATO's borders.
That's why one of the initiatives we have proposed is to strengthen Alliance political and defense capabilities to defend against the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. That is also why NATO and its partners have taken the lead in building peace in Bosnia and preventing a renewal of violence in Kosovo.
In this connection, I emphasized during my intervention today the importance we place on finding a peaceful resolution in Kosovo. We have told both parties to the conflict, time and again, that there is no military solution. Without a political settlement, we run a serious risk of renewed conflict come Spring. And renewed conflict will only bring more suffering to innocent people. We must do all we can to prevent that.
The international community has worked closely with both ethnic Albanians and Serbs to craft an agreement based on democratic principles and respect for human rights. Both sides have engaged in the negotiating process and we have made substantial progress. At the same time, both Serb and Albanian leaders have made public statements that do not help the cause of peace.
Serb threats to launch a renewed offensive in Kosovo are dangerous, and we view them with extreme seriousness. I want to remind the Serb leadership that NATO remains ready to act if necessary.
On the other hand, Kosovo Albanian insistence on rhetoric of independence, and rejection of the Contact Group's draft agreement, do not help us to move forward.
It is vital that we find a political solution quickly. We have a window of opportunity open to us that cannot be allowed to close. The time has come and the elements are in place for the two sides to reach a solution that would guarantee to all the people of Kosovo greater control of their lives and the promise of a brighter future.
Ambassador Hill will return to the region tomorrow on behalf of the Contact Group for further discussions with the parties, and I am confident that his efforts, provided they are supported by focused, good faith negotiations on both sides, will bear fruit soon.
We also discussed during the NATO meeting today the vital role played by the Alliance in adapting the CFE Treaty to reflect Europe's changed security environment. The Alliance is determined to complete the CFE negotiations by next year's OSCE Summit and to ensure that the outcome enhances stability everywhere on the continent.
Finally, as I said at the outset, this is an exciting and testing time for NATO and its partners. Between now and the April summit, we will be striving to nail down a framework for security and freedom that we hope will prove effective for many years to come.
In so doing, we must overcome any lingering sense of complacency caused by the Cold War's end. For we know that if we don't prepare to counter 21st century threats, no one else will. But, if we are vigorous and principled in our actions, we cannot be divided. If we are not divided, we cannot be defeated.
I am pleased by the progress we made today in affirming the unity of our Alliance and in preparing for the Washington Summit. And I am especially pleased that we will be welcoming Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic as new members. And I look forward to meetings tomorrow of the Permanent Joint Council and the NATO-Ukraine Commission.
Thank you, and I will now be pleased to answer your questions.
Q: Jonathon Markus, BBC World Service. Secretary of State, you've stressed the need for NATO to be able to defend Alliance interests in the future, just as it did Alliance territory in the past. How far have you had to go to reassure some of your European Allies that they aren't being dragged willy-nilly into just a more generalized support for U.S. global security interests?
A: Well, first of all, that which I made very clear and will continue to do so, is that we are not trying to get NATO to go global. That is not our interest. What we want is for NATO to be able to act in the area that it now acts in and also to be able to have missions out of area that affect the interests of NATO members. But, it is very clear that we do not see it as going global. We have no intention of pushing it in that direction and I believe that the Allies today understood that. There were no particular questions about it, and I made my statements fairly clearly on it.
Q: Bill Drozdiak, Washington Post. Madame Secretary you mentioned this initiative about sharing intelligence on combatting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. What new is going to come out of this that hasn't been done already. I mean I assume they've been sharing intelligence about such threats in the past? Secondly, in the past you've discussed the threat of terrorism possibly being a future threat to the Alliance, has that come up? And one last point, does the United States favor embarking on negotiations with any new countries for NATO membership after the Summit?
A: Well first of all let me say that what we've talked about, and as you know the United States has proposed already for the last year, that we focus NATO more on how to deal with the issues of Weapons of Mass Destruction, that being what we see as the major threat of the twenty-first century. What we are suggesting now is basically that we work more to coordinate many of the resources that NATO already has. We want to consolidate and coordinate these resources here in order to undertake a better assessment of Weapons of Mass Destruction and to prepare ourselves for a response, should there be such an attack of any kind. Basically, we need to organize ourselves better for this kind of a threat. I felt very pleased with the reaction to our proposal. I think there is increasing realization that Weapons of Mass Destruction do pose a general threat. We've also spoken generally about terrorism, though we didn't focus on it that much at this particular meeting. But clearly, the combination of the Weapons of Mass Destruction and the potential for terrorism by those countries that feel outside the system was something that was a subtext to a lot of the conversations that we had.
As far as new members, that decision has not been made. There was just general discussion about what the right procedures are for considering how we deal with that subject as we move into the April Summit. But let me just say what is very important, and we all talked about this, is as the new members come in the importance of being totally prepared, the importance of having an open door and the importance of developing a package that would allow potential aspirants to really have a road map about how to acquire the various capabilities necessary for being a full fledged NATO member.
Q: Madame Secretary, Carol Giacomo with Reuters. This is a two part question. On Kosovo, you reiterated that NATO remains prepared to act and by that I assume that you mean prepared to use force if necessary, but how can that be a credible force if you're going to put 2,000 OSCE verifiers on the ground there? And the second question has to do with the Middle East. Netanyahu has indicated that he will not go forward with the next re-deployment next week and I wondered your reaction to that and how it's affecting the peace process?
A: First of all, I think that we have often been in a situation where there are people on the ground and at the same time we are capable of threatening the use of force. We would obviously prefer, as in any situation such as this, to have a peaceful solution. We have all said, in one form or another that the only way to solve this issue is through a political solution, not a military solution. Which is why we were all so disturbed by the statements made by the Serbs indicating that they would push through all the way, and also by unhelpful statements from the side of the Kosovars. So, the threat of force remains. The verifiers perform a very important job, because we are still, and want to be, in the mode of pursuing a settlement. I think it is always the same kind of question that we get which is, the desire here is not to bomb for the sake of bombing, the desire here is to get a solution.
On the Middle East, let me say that we expect obligations by both sides, obligations that were written into Wye, to be carried out by both sides. I have been in touch with both sides in the last few days, making clear that it's important for the Palestinians to live up to their obligations in terms of taking care of the security situation and following through on what they're obligated to do, and also with the Israelis not to add conditions. Dennis Ross has gone back out there, he is in the region now and we hope to get progress on the issue. As I have said so many times, all of us are very realistic about the Middle East peace process. It is very difficult, there are bumps in the road, and we are just going to keep working the process and the President is going on his trip because his going is part of the Wye implementation plan.
Q: Secretary General, there is a debate within the Isreali Government whether the President should come or not and who invited the President. Could you comment please? Who initiated the visit, and what are the specific expectations of the President from the Israeli side, from the Palestinian side? Why is the PNC going to convene during this visit?
A: Well let me say that it was part of the Wye agreement that developed as we were sorting out the various aspects of how the agreement would be implemented. I think it was very clear that the President was welcome in Israel as well as in Gaza, and yesterday when I met with Foreign Minister Sharon, he made it very clear that the President was welcome to come and he is looking forward to this important trip.
Q: What about the expectations from the Palestinians while the PNC are convening during the visit?
A: Well the expectation, and this is written into the Wye agreement, is that once and for all there will be, by a set of procedures, a reaffirmation of the renunciation of paragraphs in the charter that are anti-Israeli and that is what is going to happen.
Q: Madame Secretary, in your statement this morning you underscored NATO's commitment to a Madrid Plus package deal for Washington, that is providing a road map showing the aspirants the way ahead. But at the same time, you said the package would be offered without designating anybody in advance. Isn't this also a package minus package?
A: Well I think that the point that I made earlier is that we are reaffirming the open door policy. We are going to, as I said, develop a package that will allow aspirants to follow the road, and we are looking towards always making sure that those countries that are invited to join NATO are fully capable of being full NATO members. But let me also reiterate that NATO itself has not yet decided on how the issue will be determined in April. We will put down the goals that we see and the way we would like to see them pursued. But I think the important part here is we are very pleased that the three new members are coming in. The ratification process is complete. Their parliaments now are going to be working on how to make sure that they are fulfilling all of the commitments. We're looking forward to having the three new members join us and be a part of NATO in April. Now we will see how it develops with the others on the basis of an open door.
Q: (Berliner Zeitung.) I would like to ask you about the nuclear issue debate that German Foreign Minister Fischer raised at lunch today. Do you see any wording in the new Strategic Concept which could change as opposed to the old Strategic Concept? Is there any compromise on the books here or would you rather just keep things on the nuclear strategy as they are?
A: Well, the subject did come up and Foreign Minister Fischer did raise the issue and talked about it. I think that what I got out of the discussion was a reaffirmation of our current NATO nuclear strategy. Obviously at the end of the Cold War there had been a re-examination, and the strategy was changed in '91 and was reaffirmed as recently as last year. So we do not believe that a review is necessary. We do believe that we have the right nuclear strategy, and at the same time we all discussed the fact that we are involved in a fairly radical disarmament program through the START negotiations. So I think we all felt pretty comfortable with where we are.
Q: (Jordan Times) Talking about a stable and secure Middle East also affects the borders of NATO. Do you expect any intentions from the United States to encourage the Syrians to also go back to the negotiation table? And how do you expect the role of the United States in the final status of negotiations, are you going to be inside the rooms like Wye River? Thank you.
A: First of all let me say that we obviously would like to have a comprehensive peace. We always talk about the importance of re-energizing various tracks and at the appropriate time we really want to make sure that both the Syrian and the Lebanese tracks are activated, because a comprehensive peace is our long term desire. The United States will try to be as helpful as the parties want us to be as we have been in the past. I think one of the reasons that the United States has played the role it has in the various parts of the Middle East Peace Negotiations is because both sides have wanted us to play a part. That has been true of successful negotiations, whether it's in Ireland or others. The permanent status talks have in fact begun at lower levels. We are counting on the parties negotiating in good faith and we will play a role that is appropriate to the one that we have played in the past and the kind of a role that is desired by both parties.
Q: Peter Muller, NATO's Sixteen Nations. Secretary of State, a reduction on nuclear forces needs a compensation in conventional forces especially and high tech forces. How could you engage the European countries in burden sharing?
A: Well, it was very clear to me from the discussion here that there is a desire of all partners of the Allies of NATO to be active members of NATO and to be concerned about the missions that are currently in place and those that might come into place. We had quite a specific discussion, which I think could come under the rubric of burden sharing, which is the European Security Defense Identity, ESDI, as to a European pillar that is a part of NATO that we consider very important. We believe that it is a very useful way to think about burden sharing. Also, it allows there to be a partnership that does not in any way undercut NATO. We have felt that it is important to do that under what we would say the three "D"s which is no diminution of NATO, no discrimination and no duplication because I think that we don't need any of those three "D"s to happen. On the other hand, I think it's very important for the Europeans to carry a fair share and have a sense of their own defense identity.
Q: A question in French if I may? (In French) The same question you addressed today about the British-French initiative of European defense. What is the position of the U.S. regarding European defense?
A. Well, should I respond in French? I will translate the question into English. The question is about the French-English defense agreement that was made at St. Malo.
(In French) I think that what happened there was very important. There is a reason for the Europeans to find an identity in their own defense, but this is a thing that cannot be a duplication or discrimination. It is a manner by which the Europeans can share in the work of NATO. It is something that cannot hurt NATO because this is the most important alliance. But we think it is very important that the Europeans work in this manner because it is something that helps us in burden sharing.