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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > What the Secretary Has Been Saying > 2006 Secretary Rice's Remarks > April 2006: Secretary Rice's Remarks

Remarks After NATO Ministerial Meeting

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Sofia, Bulgaria
April 27, 2006

SECRETARY RICE: Good evening. I would like to begin my remarks by commenting on something that I know the Secretary General just commented on, which is the reprehensible action of the Government of Belarus in the arrest of opposition leader Mr. Milinkevich. The United States roundly condemns the fact and sincerely hopes that the Belarusian Government will accept the will of the international community to act in accordance with accepted international principles when it comes to the treatment of political opposition.

Secretary Rice held a Press Conference with traveling, local, and international reporters today after her NATO meetings in Sofia. State Department photo by Joellen Duckett.We have just completed a very good informal session of the foreign ministers of NATO. It's always a pleasure to come to NATO and to have a chance to talk with my colleagues. We are always reminded of what a tremendously successful alliance NATO has been, an alliance that was, of course, born of the Cold War, born at a time when Europe faced a threat of Soviet Union and Soviet Communism, but an alliance that has made the transition at the end of the Cold War to an institution that has played a very large part in conjunction with, for instance, the European Union in providing an umbrella for the democratic transitions that have taken place throughout Eastern and Central Europe and has contributed, therefore, mightily to the development of a Europe that is whole and free and at peace.

We have, of course, discussed a number of issues, including the preparations for the Riga summit, which will be a summit at which NATO will continue its transformation. We've talked about the importance of NATO reaffirming its open door policy to those who meet NATO's criteria, democracies that meet NATO's criteria. We have talked about NATO's work together with other global partners as we look to fight the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, as we deal with humanitarian crises around the world. And I look forward to further discussions tonight of various issues.

NATO is a central and critically important forum for political discussion among the alliance members and we will, of course, continue those discussions tonight with members of the European Union. This is a very critical and challenging time. NATO is involved in places that I'm quite certain its founders would never have imagined: in support of the African Union mission in Darfur; in training Iraqi security forces; of course, in the extensive operations that we have undertaken in Afghanistan. We are looking at further training initiatives to extend the partnership that we have around the world, including to extend the Mediterranean dialogue that we have with countries of the Middle East. In other words, this is a vibrant and great institution that has easily made a transition and that continues that transformation, and I look forward to continued discussion with my colleagues tonight and then tomorrow morning.

And now I'm happy to take your questions.

MR. MCCORMACK: We have time for a few questions. The first one, Anne Gearan from the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the Russians and the Chinese have said they are not eager for any coercive action anytime soon on Iran. Have you seen any sign, at least from the Russians, that they're willing to change their mind after tomorrow's report? Or is it time to sort of activate this coalition of the willing of other countries who might do their own sanctions or impose some other action in lieu of a unified Security Council response?

Secretary Rice held a Press Conference with traveling, local, and international reporters today after her NATO meetings in Sofia. State Department photo by Joellen Duckett.SECRETARY RICE: Well, what is clear is that it is highly unlikely that Iran is going to accede to the demands of the international community. And I just want to underscore that this is, of course, in a presidential statement that has a very clear sense -- a very clear set of requirements for Iran deriving from the IAEA Board of Governors resolution of a couple months ago. And it's pretty clear that Iran is not going to meet those requirements.

When that happens, the international community, represented by the Security Council, is going to have a choice and that choice is that Iran, having made its choice not to respond to the requirements put before it, is the Security Council going to be credible in making clear to Iran that it cannot be cost-free to simply flaunt the will of the international community. And that's the choice that we're going to face when the Security Council begins to discuss the next steps that it must take after the presidential statement and Iran's decision to ignore those requirements.

Now, I think it goes without saying that the United States believes, and I think that there are others that believe, that in order to be credible the Security Council, of course, has to act. The Security Council is the primary and most important institution for the maintenance of peace and stability and security and it cannot have its word and its will simply ignored by a member state. And so I look forward to discussing this with my colleagues. I look forward to I and to others making that case. And I would certainly hope that the Security Council is prepared to take some action.

Obviously, the Security Council is the principal focal point of action and I believe that there's still much work to do there at this point.

MR. MCCORMACK: The next question, Nicholas Kralev.

QUESTION: Thank you. Madame Secretary, it's been a year now since Darfur and Sudan were discussed at the NATO meeting back in Vilnius last year. I understand that there will be no formal decisions at this meeting today and tomorrow, but isn't it time that NATO did something more than the very limited mission it has now in support of the AU? And do you -- does the United States have a specific proposal to NATO that'll be backed? And if you can comment on the tape the other day from Usama bin Laden, who urged his followers to actually wage another (inaudible) jihad in Sudan. Thank you.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, the people of Sudan -- of Darfur need the help of the international community. They're getting it in humanitarian means. The United States knows this; it's the largest donor of food assistance to Darfur. They are getting it through UN Security Council resolutions that give the international community certain tools to use to persuade the Khartoum government to act more responsibly, including the use of sanctions against certain individuals. And they are getting that help in the support that is being given to the African Union mission, which is on the ground in Darfur and trying, through its monitoring and peacekeeping, to minimize the violence. But I think everybody recognizes that that AU mission, while it has been successful thus far, is not robust enough to deal with the continued violence in Darfur and, particularly, problems that are emerging in western Darfur given the situation and problems on the border with Chad.

And so NATO has made clear that it stands ready to be helpful, first of all, as it has been to the AU mission, and I think that's the first order of business. But also, there needs to be a UN blue-hatted mission which is more sustainable and can be more robust. And the NATO is ready to work with the UN, ready to work with the AU, to try to bring about that more robust mission. NATO is going to discuss what it can do. Obviously, NATO can provide logistical support, perhaps mobility support. Look, obviously, this is a part of the world where the forces, the core of them, are going to be the African Union mission and everybody understands that and wants it to be that way. But there are certain kinds of support that are needed by that mission and that will be needed by the UN mission, and I would hope that everyone would put aside whatever constraints there are so that we can respond to what is a really quite difficult humanitarian and security situation in Darfur.

And as to comments by Usama bin Laden, he clearly continues in his way to threaten and to obviously threaten people who want to do good things to try and remove humanitarian and indeed a moral threat in Darfur.

MR. MCCORMACK: We have time for one last question. Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Madame Secretary, President Yushchenko of Ukraine has said that he hopes Ukraine will get a membership action plan for NATO at or before the Riga summit. Is that something that the United States would support? How important is it for the United States that Ukraine -- how important is Ukrainian membership at NATO and how urgent and how concerned are you by Russian opposition to that?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, let me first say that there was considerable congratulations of Ukraine for having had this test of having gone through a democratic election in March, one that was free and fair. And, obviously, the Ukrainian people who spoke out for the Orange Revolution are continuing their democratic evolution.

It has been the policy of NATO and it remains the policy of NATO to have an open door to European democracies that wish to join NATO, but also that qualify to join NATO. NATO is a membership organization that has a lot of requirements and a lot of obligations that have to do with security. And so membership in NATO is something that has to, when NATO takes in members, it is taking in members that can meet those obligations that have the capabilities to do it.

And so when we talk about that open door, we also talk about the states that need to be prepared, we talk about meeting the criteria that are clearly laid out. But I think NATO has a record of having kept that door open, and indeed, when states have met those criteria, they have indeed been admitted. That's why NATO has continued to enlarge over this last decade or so.

The Ukrainian Government and the Ukrainian people will have to decide whether or not this is something that they wish to pursue and they will also have to work very hard, I think, to meet the criteria. We already have with Ukraine a NATO-Ukraine Council. That council will meet tomorrow. I think people are looking forward to hearing from Foreign Minister Tarasyuk as to Ukraine's intentions. But I think the principle that NATO remains an open organization for those who can meet its requirements and therefore are capable of meeting the obligations that come with NATO membership, that that remains strong within NATO.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: One more question?


QUESTION: (Inaudible) magazine of Bulgaria. In the last few days, there have been conflicting reports about whether the U.S. troops to be stationed in the Bulgarian facilities -- you asked for permission (inaudible) from the Bulgarian commander of these bases or not? Would you please clarify this situation?

SECRETARY RICE: Do you mean ask for permission now for U.S. forces to --

QUESTION: In the future.


QUESTION: One day they will be stationed here.

SECRETARY RICE: No. We are about to have an historic agreement with Bulgaria about military activities that can be supported from Bulgaria, but let me go right to the heart of the question because I know this is on people's minds. I have been talking with my colleagues around the world about a diplomatic agenda concerning Iran. The President of the United States doesn't take any of his options off the table, but we are committed to a diplomatic course that should, with enough unity and with enough strength and with enough common purpose, make it possible to convince the Iranian Government that they are not on a course that will lead to anything but isolation and that it is best for them to continue in this way.

So I wanted to have a chance to say that. The agreement that we will sign with Bulgaria I'll talk about tomorrow when we sign the agreement, but we look forward to continued work with Bulgaria and with all of our colleagues to meet the tremendous challenges that we all face around the world, from terrorism, from proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These are common threats.

And the United States is not in the practice these days of doing major base structure. As a matter of fact, what we're doing is we're diminishing our base structure in most of the world. And what we are doing is we are, with key friends and allies around the world, agreeing on ways that we can use territory for activities that are of a common purpose. That's the reason for that agreement, as was the reason for an agreement that we recently signed with Romania.

If I could just say one other thing that I should have mentioned at the beginning, I also just want to note that Bulgaria has done a wonderful job with the organization of this NATO ministerial and that despite the fact that it has been experiencing, of course, a great natural disaster and a great deal of damage from the floods. And so to the Bulgarian people who are suffering from that natural disaster, the United States wants to give our sympathies and our solidarity. I know that some help is being received from -- even from NATO for that and we very much appreciate that. I know it's been hard-hit in Bulgaria and in a number of other neighboring countries and to those people, our sympathies.

Thank you very much.

Released on April 27, 2006

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