Hoppa yfir valmynd
Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Meeting of the North Atlantic Council

Meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels, December 8, 1998

Statements made by Foreign Minister, Halldór Ásgrímsson

I. The Situation in the Balkans

The Former Yugoslavia

- It is clear that NATO's involvement has made a tremendous difference in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a result, the people in the region can for the first time in three years, entertain realistic hopes of a decent future.

- But hopes, as we all know, are no substitute for real progress.

- Looking ahead, we should have no illusions that President Milosevic is a part of the problem rather than the solution. Making him a partner in an effort to seek an enduring political settlement remains a highly ambiguous proposition. This, I think, was born out by the very useful briefing we just heard from General Clark.

- Also, the massive reconstruction effort undertaken by the international community is far from complete. Ultimate responsibility must lie with the leaders of the various ethnic groups and their elected officials. Neither SFOR nor international aid will deliver, unless the people themselves are determined to resolve their differences peacefully.

- The same applies to the situation in Kosovo. Hopefully, a political solution to the conflict can be found before the spring. While NATO supports the present cease-fire agreement by conducting the air verification mission over Kosovo, this can be seen as a short term stabilization measure only and not a long term solution.

- In the meantime, Iceland supports the SFOR mission with medical and police expertise and will contribute to the OSCE mission by providing either verifiers or medical support as long as it is required.


European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI)

- Iceland welcomes increasing consultations and cooperation between the Alliance and the WEU, on the basis of the decisions taken in Berlin and Brussels, and will support efforts towards their implementation before the Washington Summit. The conclusion of a Framework for an Agreement on the WEU use of NATO Assets and Capabilities will be a significant milestone in this regard.

- In view of recent high-level reflections in Europe on the future position of the WEU vis-à-vis the European Union and the Alliance, Iceland will be following closely possible implications they may have on the implementation of the ESDI and the status of Association Members within the WEU.

- In our view, future defence and security arrangements in Europe should reinforce the security and stability of Europe as a whole. They need to be consistent with maintaining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as the essential forum for consultation among its members and must not call into question the fundamental importance of the transatlantic link.

- In this connection, I welcome the recent British - French Summit Declaration on European Defence which points, among other things, to the need to respect the different situations of countries in relation to NATO.

The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC)
- The EAPC has established itself as an important forum for an exchange of views and as a platform for defining and overseeing the implementation of cooperation with Partners in NATO's military and political structures.

- This is true not only for the peace support operations which SFOR is conducting in Bosnia-Herzegovina with the participation of so many Partner nations, but also for increased participation of many Partners in operational planning with NATO's military staff.

- Looking ahead, I wish to reaffirm Iceland's support for intensified cooperation in PfP-training and exercises, particularly the establishment of PfP-training centres in partner countries. I would like to recall, in this connection, that Iceland in cooperation with the United States will be hosting a PfP-disaster relief exercise in Iceland year 2000 called Cooperative Safeguard.

- Also in this context, I applaud the creation of the new Euro-Atlantic Disaster Relief Coordination Centre last June. This Center has made a valuable contribution to refugees in Kosovo and Albania in close cooperation with UN disaster relief agencies. Iceland stands ready to support the work of this new organization in its important assignment.

- With continued NATO involvement in peace support operations in Europe and potentially beyond Europe, the EAPC and the Partnership for peace cooperation are destined to become more important in the daily operations of NATO in the future. For this reason it will - in my opinion - become necessary to devote greater resources to this part of the Alliance's activity, also on a national basis.


The Alliance's Strategic Concept

- A revised Strategic Concept will contribute substantially towards setting the course for the Alliance in the 21st century. Conditions have changed since 1991, the Alliance is adapting and new challenges and risks are on the horizon. All of this needs to be encapsulated in the Strategic Concept.

- The Alliance should remain an organization primarily devoted to trans-Atlantic collective defence against a variety of challenges and risks. This should be the foundation for various non-Article 5 missions.

- At the same time, we cannot afford to ignore the changes that are taking place in our global environment. Since the end of the Cold War, our Alliance has increasingly been called upon to exercise its stabilizing influence outside the area defined in article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. Undoubtedly, such a demand bears witness to the Alliance's enduring success. Certainly, we cannot be blamed if we move to fill in the vacuum in cases where legitimate security interests are at stake.

- However, we may now have reached a point where practice has in a certain sense outrun our planing. What is called for is above all to provide conceptual guidance for future operations outside the framework of article 5. This is necessary both in order to maintain cohesion among ourselves and to give direction to various support activities, including military preparations.

- In particular, we need to do a better job of defining the circumstances under which the Alliance would foresee getting involved in operations out-of area, including the relevant legal aspects and the extent of our co-operation with partners. This is too important an issue to be left for us to improvise on a case by case basis.

The Open Door Policy

- At Washington we need to give visible evidence of our commitment to the enlargement process. Above all, we need to offer candidates for membership a credible roadmap enabling them to move closer, in a purposeful way, to their desired goal.

- At Washington, no invitations should be extended to applicant countries. At the same time, careful consideration should be given to the question of naming countries in the perspective of membership in the Summit Declaration. Should we decide to name countries, we need to avoid the pitfalls of Madrid and not establish anything like an order of precedence among the likely candidates.

- Nevertheless, I would like reiterate that Iceland is committed to inclusion of the three Baltic states in the next wave of enlargement, which needs to be balanced and conducive to security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area as a whole.

A Washington Summit Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) initiative

- As regards the WMD initiative, proposed by our American friends, let me say that this represents an important contribution to ongoing Alliance adaptation to a changing strategic environment.

- An increasing number of states, including rogue states, have acquired or are in the process of acquiring technology which enables them to threaten the security of Alliance members states through the use of nuclear devices or chemical and bacteriological agents.

- We need to remain alert to this danger and take appropriate civil emergency and military precautions to protect our populations from WMD.

- WMD risks should be subject to thorough examination in the context of our review of the Alliance's strategic concept. Decisions as to other aspects of the initiative should be based on this review.

- In our view, it is important that the Alliance make an assessment of the seriousness of the WMD threat and of the means at our disposal to deal with it effectively.


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