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Burns Interview With Utrinski Vesnik, Macedonia

Interview With Slobodanka Jovanovska of Utrinski Vesnik (Macedonia)

Nicholas Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Pristina, Kosovo
October 13, 2005

QUESTION: First I wanted to ask you about the next visit of our Prime Minister to Washington. What do you think will be the main message from Mr. Bush and from everybody there?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Yes. We're looking forward to the visit of the Prime Minister. He is a very good friend of the United States. We respect him. I think the relations between Macedonia and the United States are excellent. We have always been a strong supporter of your country, always, from the very beginning. We've sent some of our best diplomats to be Ambassador there, as you know, including my friend here, Chris Hill -- your friend, too.

We very much want Macedonia to strengthen itself -- economically, politically, militarily -- and we want Macedonia to be eligible to apply for European Union membership as well as NATO. Now, Macedonia has made tremendous progress as a candidate for NATO membership. I've worked very closely with your government, with your military, with your foreign minister, trying to help achieve the qualifications for NATO membership, and I think your country has made a lot of progress. So, I think the Prime Minister will -- the red carpet will be rolled out for him, and that he'll be very welcome there; we'll have good talks. We'll talk about NATO and the European Union; we'll talk about the importance of stability in the Balkans, with Macedonia's neighbors. We'll certainly talk about Kosovo and our hope that there can be peace and successful negotiations to determine the final status of Kosovo. And I expect of course, we'll be hoping that there will be a resolution of this issue of the name in the negotiations led by the United Nations and Ambassador Nimetz on that. Now, the United States has taken its own decision in November of 2004 and we stand by that decision. But, of course, we also hope for progress in the UN-sponsored negotiations.

QUESTIONS: You want to answer all my questions at once?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I answered all your questions?

QUESTION: [There are] here in Macedonia feelings that NATO and the U.S. somehow provoked false expectations, like we are going to be member very soon. What's your comment?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Oh, I think that Macedonia is a serious candidate for membership. It's been in the Membership Action Plan, the MAP program, for a number of years; it's done very well on that program. It's working well with some of the other neighbors, also candidate members, like Albania and Croatia. The problem that Croatia has is that Croatia has not arrested General Gotovina. And so, until Croatia does that, the United States will not support Croatia for membership. But Macedonia does not have this problem. Albania does not have this problem, which is a very good thing. We'll be inviting the three foreign ministers -- of Macedonia, Albania and Croatia -- to Washington in the first week of December. I intend to meet with them. Secretary Rice hopes to meet with them, and that's all about the NATO question. And then we'll have to see what the future holds.

You know, to get into NATO, all 26 countries have to agree. So it's not just a decision of the United States; it's a decision for all the members to make.

QUESTION: But you, the U.S., were the first to say that we are not prepared for membership.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, the United States has said that all candidate members have to meet all the qualifications for membership, and that has not yet happened. We're just being honest and a good friend. And we don't want to disappoint people in Macedonia by saying that. You know, it takes a while. It takes a while for countries to come into NATO. Germany didn't come into NATO until six years after NATO was created. Spain didn't come in until 21 years -- 23 years, excuse me-- after NATO was created. It took some of the Baltic countries, it took them 11 years after their independence to come into NATO. So, it's not unusual.

QUESTION: You think two summits (inaudible) for the enlargement (inaudible)?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: There will be two NATO Summits, one in 2006 and one in 2008.

QUESTION: Yes, I know that.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: I think the 2008 Summit will look at the question of enlargement. Whether it makes a decision -- well, it depends on the progress of the countries involved.

QUESTION: Yes, I understand. There are no promises.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: It would be dangerous for me to make a promise. I only represent one country, and there are 25 other countries in NATO, and all of us have to agree. So we just have to wait to see what all the 26 countries decide to do.

But, we're very encouraged that Macedonia is in the program, encouraged by the progress, and Macedonia has been a very good friend to NATO and to the U.S.

QUESTION: About the Nimetz proposal: there has been a kind of a hysteria in Greece and in Macedonia after this proposal. What is the American position on this? Greek reactions are that somehow Washington dictated the proposal.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: That's preposterous. That's preposterous. I read this in To Vima, the Greek newspaper, and they (inaudible) mentioned the name. I lived in Greece for three and a half, four years, and there's no better friend to Greece than me and my successor Charlie Ries, who's our outstanding Ambassador there. We didn't write this proposal in Washington.

In fact, I'll tell you very clearly what the American position is: We support the United Nations process. So you couldn't even tell me what I was going to say. We support Ambassador Nimetz. He makes the proposals. It's not our job to agree or disagree with these proposals. We simply tell Macedonia and Greece: "Sit down together, and see if you can work out an agreement on your own." But no one can impose a solution on you. And no one can impose a solution on Greece. It has to be a mutual "it takes two to tango," as we say in English. But the United States did not write this proposal. And everyone knows that.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. going to be somehow neutral if Greece uses their veto power in NATO and in the European Union?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Oh, I cannot see that happening. It would be a shame if that happened. It wouldn't be right. Macedonia has a right and a self-interest to seek membership in NATO and membership in the EU. And it would be a shame to see a problem like this impede Macedonia's application. I can only speak for NATO; we're not members of the European Union, so we're really concerned about NATO. We wouldn't like an issue like this to interfere. And that's why we want the issue to be resolved. We hope Greece and Macedonia can find a good solution.

QUESTION: Something about Kosovo: Will there be any guarantees about the borders in the region for the neighbors, and how eventually the independence of Kosovo will influence Macedonia?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, let me take your second question first it's a very important question. You've had in Kosovo, over six and a half years, an abnormal situation. The situation has been under a shield of ice. There's been no change. There is no possibility for the people of Kosovo to determine their own future, and so now there is. And that's why there are final status talks. And so, once the final status talks are completed, and once a new arrangement is considered, is established, that ought to be in the direct interest of Macedonia because you want to have a friendly neighbor, a stable neighbor, a peaceful neighbor. And the chances of that happening are much greater because of these negotiations, than if we had not had the negotiations. So we assume that Macedonia will profit from the fact that there's going to be a more stable, permanent, peaceful neighbor in Kosovo.

And your first question was about borders.


UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We don't see the borders of Kosovo changing. There's no one supporting, in the United Nations system, a change in the borders of Kosovo.

QUESTION: And other borders?


QUESTION: Other borders in the region, like Macedonia?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We don't see any borders changing.

QUESTION: You know the allegations about Greater Albania?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: We don't see any borders changing. It's dangerous to change borders, especially in a region like the Balkan region. And there are established countries in this region Macedonia, and Greece, and Albania and we assume their borders are going to remain the same. And Kosovo's borders will not change either.

QUESTION: When do you plan to open the demarcation issue?

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: This is not up to us. This is up to the people the authorities in Kosovo, and the authorities in Macedonia. It's not up to the United States.

QUESTION: We tried, but we did not succeed.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Well, there is a time and place for everything. And, of course, I think the Kosovars are now focused on the final status talks and perhaps once it's on its way or completed, then you're going to have the ability to focus on other issues. I don't think this should surprise anyone in Macedonia.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much.

UNDER SECRETARY BURNS: Thank you very much.

Released on October 17, 2005


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