Thursday, July 19, 2007

US supports Macedonia's NATO bid

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed support for Macedonia's NATO bid during a meeting last week in Washington with Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki. They also discussed the Kosovo situation, and Macedonia's military contributions to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

"We have US support concerning the Adriatic Charter, and we expressed our confidence that together with the other partner countries, Macedonia has the capacity to meet the criteria and be a serious and well-prepared candidate for NATO membership, ready to accept an invitation at the Bucharest summit next year," Milososki said after the July 11th meeting.

In Washington, he met with Deputy Secretary of Defence Gordon R. England, National Security Council Director for Southeast Europe Burt Brown and US lawmakers and NGO representatives.

Although they vowed support for Macedonia's NATO bid, many officials underlined that key reforms must take place. To become a member of NATO, Macedonia must strengthen judicial reforms, fight corruption and maintain its image of a multiethnic society and functional democracy.

Milososki said the government is prepared to give it's all and demonstrate results needed to convince all Alliance members.

Concerning Kosovo's status, Milososki said he was pleased that Macedonia's position corresponded to that of the United States. "As a neighbouring country, we prefer a final status for Kosovo without intending to interfere, instead of maintaining the status quo, which is not a solution whatsoever," Milososki said. The process for Kosovo's status should not circumvent Belgrade, however. The EU should be encouraged to offer a clearer European perspective for the whole region, he said.

The visit also promoted the newly established Friendship Group in the US Congress. The group will help strengthen ties and inform the US public and lawmakers regarding Macedonia-related issues.

"The United States needed 15 years after the independence of Macedonia to recognise Macedonia's constitutional name. Today, it has been accepted by 170 UN member countries. I hope the rest will do the same," Democrat Bill Pascrell said at the group promotion event during a Capitol Hill reception organised by the Macedonian embassy in Washington.

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