Updated: 26-Sep-2001 NATO Speeches

Meeting of
26 Sept. 2001
Audio file

Opening Statement

by NATO Secretary General, Lord Robertson
at the Press Conference following the meeting
of the North Atlantic Council

This informal meeting of NATO defense ministers takes place against the backdrop of the monstrous attacks which, over 2 weeks ago, killed thousands of innocent people from 80 countries. Blind and brutal death struck without making any difference between nations, or cultures or faith.

Today, the 19 ministers gathered to pay tribute to the victims, show unflinching support to the United States of America and examine how this Alliance can best contribute to the campaign against international terrorism.

Ministers also discussed today the situation in the Balkans and more specifically in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) and NATO-Russia relations in preparation for the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council which will take place immediately after this press conference.

I wish to say a few words at the beginning of this press conference to thank the Italian authorities, who had offered to host this informal meeting, as well as the Belgian authorities who, on very short notice, kindly agreed for it take place in Brussels instead. Let me state that the reason for this change of venue is strictly linked to practical considerations; it simply did not make sense for NATO to move a large part of its staff to Naples in this time of intense activity.

On terrorism, ministers reiterated unanimously complete Alliance solidarity in the face of vicious attacks directed against the United States. It was totally clear that the US can rely on its 18 Allies for assistance and support.

This was not a meeting where formal decisions are taken. The Ministers clearly shared common views on the way forward in the fight against terrorism: we need to do a much better job at collecting and sharing vital intelligence; we need to adopt a much more flexible approach taking into account the changing nature of terrorist threats; we need to coordinate better our collective actions.

It was also recognized that the campaign against terrorism will be long, arduous and will require radical new thinking. Adaptability, non-conventional thinking, patience and determination are key elements for this campaign. The military option is one of several aspects of a coordinated response to terrorism. Political, diplomatic and economic measures are all essential components of a credible anti-terrorism campaign.

With regard to possible NATO collective action, the Alliance continues to keep its options open. There has been no request from the United States for such action so far. This is consistent with the measured approach being taken by the US Administration.

Finally, for the long term this organization will have to look at the range of terrorist threats to Alliance security interests and how we adapt our policies, strategies, capabilities and the way of working.

On the Balkans, I can now confirm that the North Atlantic Council has adopted , this morning, an Operational Plan in response to President Trajkovski’s letter requesting NATO to contribute to the security of an international monitoring mission in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. NATO stands ready and willing to assist. The Operational Plan for this new mission called Operation Amber Fox - would allow for the deployment of a mission with a very specific mandate: contribute to the protection of the international monitors who will oversee the implementation of the peace plan in the Republic. This would require a much smaller force than that deployed as Task Force Harvest.

It is my hope that this mission can be deployed quickly under Germany’s leadership.

Finally, let me say that we welcome the expression of support and the commitment of Russia to reinforce its cooperation with the Allies and with NATO. I believe that we are entering a new, productive, chapter in the history of our relations with Russia. I will have an opportunity to brief the press after the meeting with Minister Ivanov later this evening.

Thank you.

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

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