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Remarks at NATO Headquarters

Secretary Condoleezza Rice
Brussels, Belgium
December 7, 2007

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SECRETARY RICE: Good afternoon. We just finished a meeting of the NATO Council at the level of ministers, as well as a meeting of the NATO-Russia Council and then a Mediterranean dialogue lunch. All were opportunities to talk about the challenges that we face and the opportunities that we face as well. I think that on -- for NATO's purposes today, we had a discussion of Kosovo and affirmed our unity on the continued relevance of Resolution 1244, of our intention to keep KFOR in place with no reduction of troop levels, no additional caveats and to allow our military commanders to do the necessary contingency planning for the alliance. We are committed to a stable and peaceful Balkans. That was an early commitment of NATO and it remains a commitment of NATO. We talked also about Afghanistan and the importance of fulfilling our security commitments in Afghanistan. Obviously, Afghanistan is the largest mission that the alliance has taken on in its history. It's a very difficult mission, but the allies are performing and performing well. There's an understanding that we need to share the burdens equally in the alliance and that we need to give equal attention to the military operations in which we are engaged and also to civilian reconstruction and development, and the importance of the coordination of our civilian efforts was underlined.

We also had a very good discussion of the issues that the NATO-Russia Council is facing. We all expressed concern about the Russian position on CFE. CFE is, after all, one of the essential pieces of the architecture of a post-Cold War Europe; and we would regret, should Russia carry through on its stated intention, to suspend that treaty. But we will continue to work for a resolution of any differences so that we might be able to move to the adapted CFE Treaty in time.

We also talked about the missile defense issue and the -- I, on behalf of the United States, again affirmed our desire, our willingness, our intention to try and have a cooperative solution to missile defense with Russia. We have put forward a number of proposals, most recently one just a few days ago, and we look forward to Russia's comment on those proposals and to the opportunity to discuss those proposals in a constructive way that might allow us to overcome differences because I think we all agree that it would be good to have a cooperative solution on missile defense.

MODERATOR: First question, Matt Lee, AP.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'm wondering if you can tell us that in your conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov if you got any sense that the tactical differences with which you have talked about before and that separate you on dealing with Iran and the nuclear issue, if you got any sense that those could be or can be bridged, particularly after the release of the NIE this week?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I found my conversation with the Foreign Minister on this issue to be just an extension of other conversations we've had. We talked again about the UN Security Council track, about the need to use that track to try to stimulate the Iranian regime to take the negotiating track that is available to them.

We are going to continue our work on the Security Council resolution. Indeed, our political level officials are going to meet sometime this week. And we're going to continue on the UN Security Council track. We very much hope that Iran will choose to suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities. After all, the ability to make fissile material from enrichment and reprocessing, perfection of enrichment and reprocessing technology, is what has driven the concern that has led to two Security Council resolutions in which Iran is currently -- Iran is currently in violation of those Security Council resolutions. So it was a continuation of that discussion and a recommitment to our two-track approach.

MODERATOR: Next, Lachlan Carmichael of AFP.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on Kosovo, Foreign Minister Lavrov said that the U.S. and Western approach will not lead to stability, and he insists on continuing with the troika talks, something you think will exhaust itself. And he also says that the U.S. approach outside of the UN system and other international laws is taking us down a downward, slippery slope towards instability. Your reaction on this?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, we hope that there can -- there can be a constructive approach that would unite all of us with responsibilities for stability in the Balkans, and that includes Russia. Russia also has responsibilities for stability in the Balkans. But look, there's a certain reality, and that reality is that the troika -- which worked very hard, I think actually made some progress, got the two sides to talk for the first time really in a long time, I think laid down some important principles -- but I think that process is at an end.

And if you look at what we are hearing from the troika that is really very clear. And that means now that we have to move on to the next step. It is not going to produce stability in the Balkans to ignore the reality of the situation between Kosovo and -- between Belgrade and Pristina. It's not going to help stability to put off decisions that, difficult though they may be, are decisions that are going to have to be taken.

Now, there is still work to do, to my mind, before any decisions are taken to make sure that we have full commitment to principles that are embodied in the Ahtisaari plan. This is going to be difficult enough, and everybody will have to live up to their responsibilities.

But what I found heartening today in the conversations with my NATO allies was, first of all, the recommitment to KFOR, the recommitment to making certain that we are ready for all contingencies; but also, an understanding that there needed to be unity between the allies as we move forward into what is undoubtedly going to be a difficult, difficult period. We have had a UN track. I suspect that the reaffirmation of 1244 is the most important thing that we can do right now. But we're not going to get anywhere by ignoring the reality and pretending that we don't have to make decisions.

MODERATOR: We have one final question. Sue Pleming, Reuters.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in your discussions with Tzipi Livni, did you bring up the issue of Israel deciding to build 300 new homes just outside Jerusalem? And do you think that actions such as this by Israel will scupper peace talks, and what is your role going to be in trying to sort of act as an honest broker in this issue?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, I did, in fact, bring up Har Homa, both earlier in a phone call and then today in our meeting. I've made very clear about seeking clarification on precisely what this means. I've made clear that we're in a time when the goal is to build maximum confidence between the parties and this doesn't help to build confidence. And so recognizing that there just shouldn't be anything that might try and judge final status, the outcomes of final status negotiations. It's even more important now that we are really on the eve of the beginning of those negotiations. So I've made that position clear to the Israeli Government.

MODERATOR: Thanks.

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much.

2007/T19-4



Released on December 7, 2007

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