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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Meeting of the North Atlantic Council

NATO Unclassified: Meeting of the North Atlantic Council, April 12, 1999
Statement by Foreign Minister, Halldór Ásgrímsson


- Mr. Chairman, there is no need for me to use many words on this occasion. I think our draft statement covers all the bases.

- At the same time, I can not let this opportunity pass without expressing my profound admiration and respect for the NATO servicemen, who bear the brunt of our military and humanitarian effort in and around Kosovo. If all goes well, there can be no doubt that we, the diplomats, as Madeleine Albright reminded us we all are, stand to benefit from that. But we should give credit where credit is due. If we get through the current crisis and retain this Alliance's credibility unblemished, it will be thanks largely to the people in uniform.

- Mr. Chairman, I don't think I exaggerate when I say that our meeting here today is a highly important one. The display of unity we have witnessed this morning is certainly a key aspect of this meeting.

- The question of Kosovo goes in many ways to the heart of what our Alliance is all about. What we do or fail to do to remedy this crisis will have consequences not only for our Alliance as a whole. It will affect in a fundamental way how our electorates in the nineteen countries perceive the role our countries play in this organization. So much has been invested in this whole affair, that we simply cannot afford to fail.

- Of course, I am aware that saying this does not make our job any easier.

- It is always easy to be wise after the event. No doubt, we should not have let President Milosevic off the hook so easily in October, especially since we know now that he was hatching his devilish schemes even then.

- At least, we have learned not to give Mr. Milosevic the benefit of the doubt. What we must now look for are unambiguous actions, not verbal commitments.

- The key political question remains, of course: what will it take to make Milosevic finally yield? Are airstrikes enough to force his hand? No one will deny that the air campaign has been successful in degrading and limiting Milosevic's capability for making mischief. But sooner or later we may reach a point of diminishing returns. And when we reach that point, we may need to take difficult political decisions. However, let us cross that bridge when we reach it.

- The consequences of the horrific events we have seen unfold in Kosovo lately, will no doubt preoccupy this Alliance for a long time to come. As we set about stabilising the situation and help the surviving victims restore their lives to some sort of normalcy, we must also pay attention to the wider Balkan region as a whole. Above all, an effort should be made to co-operate with the countries of the region in eradicating, through appropriate economic and political means, the possible sources of conflict between them. To this end, recent initiatives proposed by the United States and the European Union could prove particularly useful, as well as the Turkish contribution circulated earlier this morning.

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