Updated: 31-Aug-2001 NATO Speeches

22 August 2001
Audio file


by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
Following the North Atlantic Council Decision to Launch Operation Essential Harvest

Today is an important day for NATO and an even more important one for the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1). Today we are taking an historic step forward for wider stability and security in the Balkans. At 12 noon, the North Atlantic Council decided to authorize SACEUR to issue the Activation Order for Operation Essential Harvest.

On 14 June, a little more than two months ago, I received a letter from the President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, asking for NATO’s help in implementing a peace plan aimed at restoring peace and stability in his country.

This was a call for assistance from a country with which NATO has a close relationship. It is a country which aspires to be a member of the Alliance, a country which offered generous assistance in the Kosovo crisis and a country which was on the brink of bloody civil war.

NATO immediately responded to the President’s request and within a week produced a draft plan for the collection of weapons from the armed insurgents. The North Atlantic Council approved the plan on 20 June and I was able to submit an early proposal to President Trajkovski for weapon collection. At that time, however, we agreed a set of four pre-conditions would have to be met for the 30-day deployment to take place:

  1. a political agreement signed by the main Parliamentary leaders;
  2. a status of forces agreement (SOFA) with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and agreed conditions for the Task Force;
  3. an agreed plan for weapons collection, including an explicit agreement by the ethnic Albanian armed groups to disarm; and
  4. an enduring cease-fire.

This initiative was endorsed by the political leaders of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and NATO, at the request of the President and Parliament of FYROM, began to chart the way ahead, including the opening of communication channels with the parties. My personal representative Peter Feith played an outstanding role in this regard.

The result is that today the North Atlantic Council has given authority to SACEUR to deploy Task Force Harvest and to start collecting and destroying the weapons of the ethnic Albanian insurgents.

This decision is not the end of the road; it is one part of a process which will see the implementation of the historic agreement signed by the leaders of the political parties on 13 August. The conclusion of the process, the ratification of the proposed constitutional changes, is now in the hands of the people of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and their leaders. The political agreement is theirs to implement and I fully expect them to meet their commitments. The country and its future is in their hands.

The decision made today by the Alliance is the right one, but it has been a difficult one. There are risks involved we recognize that, but members of the Alliance have nevertheless agreed to send their troops because they know that the risks of not sending them are far greater. The advice of the Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Ralston, and of NATO’s Military Committee was that the situation on the ground is operationally permissive and that any delay in deployment would only increase the risks involved.

There will be trying times ahead, I have no doubt. Some extremists and hardliners will try to derail the operation.

I have a message today for those who have faith in the future and do not want war, those who are the builders not the destroyers. NATO is coming to former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to help you build a better future in a modern Europe.

To those who believe in a violent and military solution, I say this: there is no solution in violence only death, destruction, misery and poverty. A civil war would be a blood bath and solve nothing.

The decision made today by the NAC was a very positive one. The legitimate democratic representatives of the people of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia can count on NATO’s commitment to assist them on the road to peace and stability.

Additional information:
  1. Turkey recognises the Republic of Macedonia with its constitutional name.

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