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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2003 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

Press Availability at NATO Headquarters

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Brussels, Belgium
November 4, 2003

(Begin approximately 11:50)

Under Secretary Grossman: Iím Marc Grossman. Iím the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. I thank you all very much for coming. I understand that there is a big press conference at the European Union so we have this all to ourselves today, which is great.

I came this morning to consult with the alliance, to show Americaís continuing strong support for NATO, to say how much we were looking forward to meetings of foreign ministers and of defense ministers in early December. I also had a chance to come and consult with the Permanent Council about a trip that Iím about to take to the Balkans. Iím leaving here and going to Belgrade, then to Pristina, then on to Skopje, to Tirana, and Sarajevo.

My purpose in coming to NATO first was to highlight for us and for all of you the important role NATO still plays in the Balkans, the amount of consultation that NATO does on the Balkans, and the amount of success that NATO has had in the Balkans.
When you look back on the last ten years to our military engagement, our economic engagement, and political engagement: weíve stopped a war, weíve stopped ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, and weíve also defelected a conflict in Macedonia.

One of the things that we discussed today in the Council is the great importance to finishing the job of Europe whole, free, and at peace with getting Kosovo right. And so, I will be traveling to Belgrade and to Pristina to talk about a plan that the Contact Group has achieved, to have Kosovars meet standards more quickly and to focus hard on the standards that the United Nations has set: standards of democracy, rule of law, return of minorities, economic reform, and the start of the dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina.

I am going to discuss this with people in the area and to show our strong support for the UN Secretary Generalís Special Representative, former Prime Minister Holkeeri. Everything that we are doing is in support of his effort to succeed in Kosovo. The proposition is that if Kosovars can meet these standards, that there will be a review of where they stand in mid-2005. If they can meet these standards, we would all then be prepared to begin the process of discussing final status for Kosovo. If however they canít meet these standards, or donít meet the standards, then the contact group, former Prime Minister Holkeeri, others in consultation would set a new date. Our object is to have this conversation around the region and get the reaction of people to this idea.

One more point and then Iíll stop. I also took the opportunity of being here today to talk a little bit about the Istanbul Summit which will come up in the middle of next year -- that we would welcome new members, that we would focus again on new capabilities, and we would also have a conversation about what next in this great transformed Alliance.

I appreciated the welcome that Secretary General Robertson had given to me and I had a chance, also, to say in his last weeks here how much we admired what he has done and I very much appreciated the time that permanent representatives gave to me today, both listening to me and then their comments. So I thank you very much for listening and Iím very glad to take any questions anybody might have.

Question: You told us at the [NATO] Foreign Ministersí meeting in Madrid that you thought it would be premature for the EU to consider taking over the mission in Bosnia. Is that still the impression that you have and when do you think that it might be a good time for NATO to hand over that mission?

Under Secretary Grossman: I think the first thing to remember here is that NATOís mission in Bosnia, SFOR, has, I believe, been one of the great successes of this Alliance. So whatever else we do, however else we talk about it, letís stop and recognize the truth of that statement.

Second, I think as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said in Colorado last week or ten days or so ago, now that weíve had this success, we can see an end coming to the SFOR mission, perhaps at the end of next year. What I told the Permanent Council and ambassadors that now is the time for NATO to consult about what to do next, and for NATO and the EU to consult together about what to do next. I did not come here today with a plan, I did not come here with any other views than those expressed by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, but I did say on a number of occasions, that now is the time to get started and to think about what follows SFOR.

Question: Lord Robertson has expressed the hope that Serbia and Montenegro and Bosnia can become Partnership for Peace members by the end of his term, within the next 6-8 weeks I suppose. How realistic is that?

Under Secretary Grossman: I guess it depends on the efforts that Serbia and Montenegro make. Again, like in the answer to the question about SFOR, letís start from the proposition that the success of Serbia and Montenegro is very important to the United States and certainly, as I could tell, to countries around the Alliance. Serbia and Montenegro have taken many of the reforms necessary. As you remember, Secretary Powell visited there after the terrible assassination of former Prime Minister Djindjinc. But Serbia and Montenegro have work to do. One of the things I would like to do tonight and tomorrow, while I am there, is talk to them about that work in defense reform Ė in full cooperation with the tribunal in The Hague. So weíll see. But our object is to get all of the countries in the Balkans connected to Euro-Atlantic institutions. Thatís the way to complete this great vision we have of a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Question: I just wanted to ask you a question about the NATO summit in Istanbul. There have been reports that there is a scheduling problem for President Bush for the dates given, May 20-21. Did you talk about that today? Have you given any assurances that President Bush will in fact attend the summit?

Under Secretary Grossman: Well, first, there is going to be a summit, and itís going to be in Istanbul. I have no doubt that the US will be represented properly, but there is a question of when to schedule it, and thatís what people are working on. Theyíre trying to find the right date, and I donít have any doubt they are going to find the right date. This is going to be a very important meeting. I did not come with a date.

Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

(End approximately 12:00)


Released on November 17, 2003

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