Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release April 24, 1999


Mellon Auditorium
Washington, D.C.

9:21 A.M. EDT

SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA: For 50 successful years, the North Atlantic Alliance has been dedicated to the creation of a secure, stable and undivided Europe. We meet today to decide how best the Alliance should fulfill that historical mission in the years ahead.

There can be no more eloquent proof of the Alliance commitment to the creation of a secure, stable and undivided Europe than the presence here today of the leaders of the new allies -- the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. The accession of the three countries to the Alliance bears witness to our achievement of the last 50 years and to the vision showed by the original signatories of the North Atlantic Treaty.

We have a duty to our public to show that the same vision today to look ahead and plan for the future, even as we confront in Kosovo a stern challenge to security, stability and well-being in Europe. Our action in Kosovo shows that the countries of NATO, together, possess the necessary resources and the necessary determination. We have pledged to uphold the basic principles of democracy, individual liberty, respect for human rights against Milosevic's onslaught. We reconfirmed this unity of purpose at our first session yesterday morning.

It is our task this morning to make the Alliance fit for the 21st century so we can continue to rely on it as a guarantor of our security and common values in the years and decades ahead.

With this I would like to offer the floor to our host, the President of the United States. President Clinton, the floor is yours.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary General. Yesterday, we recalled NATO's history, embraced our new members, deepened our unity and our determination to stand against ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; and to build a broader trans-Atlantic community that respects human rights of all ethnic and religious groups and offers all Europeans the chance to build better lives together.

I want to begin by thanking the Secretary General for his leadership. I thank all of you for your leadership and your unity, the foreign and defense ministers, General Naumann and General Clark and all the people in our governments who worked so hard to support our efforts. I know I speak for all of us when I say we are very proud of our men and women in uniform in the Balkans. And we remember today, especially, the three who are being held prisoner by Mr. Milosevic and who still have not received the Red Cross visits required by the Geneva Convention, even though he is on television in the United States saying they will receive them.

The crisis in Kosovo has underscored the importance of NATO and the imperative of modernizing our Alliance for 21st century challenges. Today, we will embrace a comprehensive plan to do just that, so that NATO can advance security and freedom for another 50 years by enhancing our capacity to address conflicts beyond our borders, by protecting our citizens from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, by deepening our partnerships with other nations and helping new members enter through NATO's open doors. In preparing NATO for the 21st century, we will make our Alliance even stronger.

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY GENERAL SOLANA: Thank you very much, Mr. President. This marks the end of the opening session.

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