THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
|For Immediate Release|| ||April 25, 1999|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AND SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA
AT OPENING OF NORTH ATLANTIC COUNCIL MEETING
9:14 A.M. EDT
SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA: Good morning and welcome tothis special meeting of NATO allies with the seven countriesneighboring the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. We meet at a time ofcrisis in Kosovo, and no one knows better the full impact of thecrisis than those living in the immediate neighborhood.The NATO allies are conscious of the hardship and difficulties thecrisis has brought to your region.
For some countries, such as Albania and the formerYugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the flow of refugees across yourborders and the problem of providing humanitarian aid on a massivescale has required efforts nothing short of heroic. NATO, along withother international organizations and individual countries, has triedto help, and we will continue to do so. We want to work with you andother countries for security and stability in the region.
The NATO allies are grateful for the support whichcountries in the region have provided, from hosting NATO forces togranting air space access and providing logistical support. Suchreliance and support of the international community's objectives inKosovo is a sure sign of our eventual success.
As you know, Kosovo was the subject of a special meetingon Friday at which the allies reaffirmed their determination to carryforward the action in Kosovo to a successful conclusion. We will notwaiver. We must, and we shall, succeed.
I will open the floor for discussion, offering theopportunity first to the neighboring countries for their views bothon the immediate situation and for any reflection they wish to makeon a broad regional strategy for the future. Before doing that, letme offer the floor to President Clinton.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. SecretaryGeneral. We want to welcome the leaders of all the frontline stateshere, and say that we are very grateful for what you have done. Thepeople of Albania and Macedonia have welcomed almost a half a millionrefugees to their countries -- often, literally, into their homes.You have shared what you have, though thestrains are immense. NATO is working to relieve your burden withthe United Nations -- by building camps, providing supplies,helping to bring more refugees to other countries until they canreturn to Kosovo. We must do more -- intensifying our reliefoperations, taking our share of refugees.
The nations of the region have risked, and even faced,armed confrontation with Serbia, by facilitating and supportingour campaign to end the bloodshed in Kosovo. Yesterday -- orFriday, NATO made its position very clear. We said,unambiguously, if Belgrade challenges its neighbors as a resultof the presence of NATO, we will respond.
The nations of the region have faced enormous economicdislocation and losses. We are committed to working with you,and with multilateral institutions, to ease your emergency needsand help you with your debts. You want a better future for yournations and your region, and there, as well, we are committed tohelp.
Many of us have tried to lay out a vision for theregion, a positive alternative to the violence and ethnic hatred,a vision of people and nations working together -- bridging olddivides, forging a common future of peace, freedom andprosperity. How do we get there?
First of all, we must prevail in Kosovo. A just end tothe conflict is essential to putting the entire region on thepath to stability. Second, we must strengthen our efforts tosupport economic development and deeper democracy, ethnic andreligious tolerance, and regional integration in SoutheasternEurope. We must build on the many positive ways in which thenations of the region often with our support already are bringingchange at home, in cooperation across borders.
In that regard, I want to especially commend Slovenia'sstrong efforts in recent years to reach out to its neighbors. Wewill work toward the day when all the people of the region,including the Serbs, now suffering under reckless tyranny, enjoyfreedom and live together.
This will require a commitment by nations of the regionto continue political and economic reforms. And I particularlyrespect the efforts of Bulgaria and Romania in this regard, tostick with their programs under very difficult circumstances. Itwill require that we sustain our engagement. I welcome thesuggestion of the German-EU presidency to hold a conference inBonn next month to advance these common efforts. I hope ourfinance ministers, when they meet here next week withinternational financial institutions, will explore imaginativeand aggressive ways for us to help.
Finally, we must continue to strengthen the securitybonds between your countries and NATO. Five of the nations hereare NATO partners. Yesterday NATO and its partners agreed todeepen our security engagement. We will continue to work withBosnia and Croatia on implementation of the Dayton Accords,looking toward eventual partnership. And yesterday NATO adopteda robust membership action plan to help aspiring nationsstrengthen their candidacy so they can enter NATO. New memberswill bolster our Alliance and Europe's security.
In all the countries present here today, leaders andcitizens are working to realize a vision just the opposite of Mr.Milosevic's -- reaching across the divides to pursue shareddreams of a better life. All of them are on the right road, andwe must travel it with them to ensure that they succeed.
Thank you very much.