Updated: 20-Nov-2002 NATO Speeches


20 Nov. 2002

Press Conference

by NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson
and Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic

Moderator: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome you for a second time to a press conference at Prague Castle today. This time with the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance Lord Robertson.

I should like to invite President Václav Havel of the Czech Republic to deliver his opening remarks.

Václav Havel (President, Czech Republic): It is a great pleasure for me to welcome the Secretary General of NATO to Prague right after his arrival. He and I have known each other for quite some time and have shared a friendly relationship which have documented, among other things that one occasion that I was ill and he came to visit me in hospital.

We have spoken about some of the organizational or technical aspects of the summit meeting, some of the issues that are still unresolved, and there are not very many of these. Everything is progressing well. And we trust that the outcome of this summit will be what we had expected it to be; that is, that it will represent an event of major significance in the history of NATO.

Lord Robertson (Secretary General, NATO): Mr. President, I'm delighted to be here, and especially on this important occasion to be standing beside you. I've known the president of the Czech Republic for far longer than he even knew that I existed. Since I was somebody who admired his courage and his tenacity for many years before the Czech Republic regained its democratic institutions once more. And I would like to thank him and through the president all of the people of the Czech Republic for offering to host this summit and for putting up with the summit while we're here at Prague.

This will be a transformation summit for NATO. And a celebration of what NATO has done and achieved in the past. And there is no better place than Prague to celebrate that success that the Alliance has had in its first 53 years. But it is also much more importantly a summit for NATO to look forward and to ensure that our role in ensuring safety is as important and as vital to people as it has been for the last five decades.

So the heads of state and government of the 19 democracies that make up the North Atlantic Alliance will be endorsing a package of fundamental changes to NATO that will ensure that the Prague Summit is remembered throughout the decades to come. We will have a good story to tell in Prague and that will be good news for more than just the countries of the Alliance.

Havel: The Secretary General has just arrived and his schedule is very heavy so there will be room for only two questions; the first for Slovak Television.

Q: I am Igor Barat from Slovak Television. General Secretary, my question is whether NATO, within the possible military campaign against Iraq is counting on some military assistance or military contribution from the new invited countries? Originally what military contribution expects NATO from the newly invited countries in the very next future?

Lord Robertson: It has been a great delight for the last three years to be pursued by Slovak journalists in practically every capital that I have visited. And I would just like to pay a tribute to the ingenuity of the questions that have been asked by Slovak journalists during that time. They have all tried to get me to say something that I have no intention of saying. But you never know, tomorrow I might actually say something that you welcome.

But the answer to your specific question today is that the heads of state and government of NATO will consider the issue of Iraq at their informal lunch tomorrow. But I will make one prediction, and that is that there will be total unity among all of the heads of state and government on supporting UN Security Council Resolution 1441.But what that means for the 19 allies, or for any other country, is a matter for discussion around the lunch table tomorrow.

Moderator: And the last question please, the gentleman with the striped tie there.

Q: (inaudible)... Are you not concerned that unless NATO is prepared to support U.S. military action in Iraq, should it come to that, that there is a risk, a real risk, to the credibility of the Alliance, particularly in the United States?

Robertson: Even in this beautiful city I don't think it is wise to cross bridges before you actually come to them. And the... I predict that there will be unity around the Security Council resolution, which after all had the unanimous support of 15 countries at the UN. And of course, if the Iraqi regime complies with the will of the United Nations then there will be no need for military action. But the second bridge that I'm not willing to cross yet is what the discussions will produce tomorrow at lunch. You'll have to wait as well.

Havel: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much, goodbye.

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