Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The NATO Summit

The NATO Summit

Dan Fried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
Foreign Press Center Briefing
Washington, DC
April 7, 2008

QUESTION: Lambros Papantoniou, Greek correspondent, Eleftheros Typos, Greek daily. Mr. Secretary, on the name issue between Athens and Skopje, what happened in Bucharest? What is going to happen from now on, since you are (inaudible)? And why are you supporting the last proposal of Matthew Nimetz, which (inaudible) the proposal of February 19th? And what was the purpose of the today's telephone call with the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Of course, the position of the United States is well known. We wanted an invitation to Macedonia, either based on the Nimetz proposal or as FYROM, or as FYROM. Greece didn't accept that; however, Greece has made clear that it wants a solution to the name issue, and the Macedonian Government has made clear that it wants a solution to the name issue. Both sides want to move ahead.

And this became clear during the course of the discussions we had and President had with the Macedonian leaders, and it became clear in the course of conversations that Secretary Rice and I had with the Greek Foreign Minister. It's clear that both governments don't want to get into a cycle of mutual recrimination, and I think that the press in Skopje reflects this. If you see, it is -- the Macedonians do want to move forward. They're obviously disappointed, but I applaud their constructive approach.

And, frankly, I'm quite heartened that the Greek Government seems ready to engage intensely, and it's our intention to try. We're not going to give up. We support the Nimetz process. Nimetz -- well, I can't speak for him, but I believe he is ready to engage, certainly not throw in the towel. We want to move ahead.

QUESTION: And your telephone call to Mrs. Bakoyannis today?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I didn't speak to her today.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MODERATOR: (Inaudible) the microphone.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I will simply say that I confirmed the -- I can speak only for myself -- confirmed America's interest in moving ahead. And I was quite satisfied with that phone call. I think it's important that we prepare to move ahead. There is plenty -- there are ample opportunities for recrimination and paralysis. Let's not take them.

QUESTION: Hi. Apostolos Zoupaniotis, Alpha Television in Greece. Mr. Secretary, I see many similarities in your negotiating tactics on the name issue and 2004, before the referendum, in Cyprus. And I wonder why you kept pushing in Bucharest for a decision and actually, by doing that, you were taking sides with Skopje, when you knew that Greece would veto it and when you knew that the latest proposal of Nimetz was much worse than the previous one in February 19?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Well, I'm not going to discuss the merits or demerits of the proposal by Ambassador Nimetz. We support the UN process. So does Greece. So does Macedonia. Of course, we thought -- we hoped that there would be an invitation to Macedonia. We said so. That remains our view. I see no reason to apologize for very active American role. We have, as you know, encouraged Skopje to negotiate in good faith. We have encouraged Greece to do the same. We don't take sides. We do -- our side is the side of a resolution on the most favorable terms possible for both sides, mutually acceptable terms. And I'm glad that we have -- that the United States is supporting Nimetz, and we intend to do so in the future.

QUESTION: Thanasis Isitsas, Greek newspaper Elefthe Rotypia. Mr. Secretary, a year ago, regarding Kosovo crisis, you said for the Serbians that nationalism is like a cheap alcohol; first it makes you drunk, then it makes you blind and it makes you kill. A year later, February 27th, you gave an interview in Radio Kanal 77, before the summit in Bucharest, and you practically justified nationalism coming from the government of the former Yugoslavia of Macedonia. You said that Macedonian patriots have struggled for this moment more than a hundred years to get in Europe Atlantic institutions. Can you tell us, Mr. Secretary, is it a double standard? How come did you call in the first statement the Serbians nationalists and the secondly the Macedonian patriots? Isn't this a kind of double standard? Don't you think you encouraging by certain statements the nationals in FYROM?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: Not at all. You completely misunderstood my remarks, and I should explain them to you so you can understand them properly.

Nationalism -- and Greece knows this very, very well -- in the Balkans has generated wars and bloodshed and killing and instability. And I think nationalism is a grave danger. When I spoke of Macedonian patriots, I spoke of a country which is a successful multiethnic state with ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in the government and in opposition. Thanks to the Ohrid framework, the government in Skopje averted a major domestic problem, perhaps even a civil war. Of all the post-Yugoslav states, Macedonia has been among the most successful in avoiding precisely this kind of extreme nationalism. The government in Skopje, the Macedonian Government, is looking at a future in Europe and a future with NATO, and in doing so it is rejecting exactly the kind of nationalism which has brought so much pain to the Balkans.

In the future, a Macedonia in Europe, a Greece already in Europe, are destined to be good friends and partners. This is the best outcome, and that's the outcome we want. We want to see an outcome where nationalism of the kind that has brought wars is rejected. We want to see a future with irredentism belonging to history, not current-day reality. And I think that Greece has sometimes shown a great vision, a positive vision of this kind of cooperation, and I hope that Macedonia and Greece, FYROM and Greece, as you say, will be able to find this vision. We want to help.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I need your attention. A few moments ago, you said specifically, "Ethnic Macedonians" for the first time in history. That means the U.S. Government is recognizing the so-called "Macedonian ethnicity and language."

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I don't think it is so-called. Macedonian language exists. Macedonian people exist. It's not - you know, we teach Macedonian at the Foreign Service Institute. We teach Serbian, we teach Croatian, now we teach Bosnian. There's a debate in Montenegro as to Crnogorski Jezik, the Montenegrin language. All languages - and I speak now as - not as a bureaucrat, but as - you know, a former --a lapsed historian. All languages are - you know, are human creations and, you know, they develop over time and become codified. And it's not up to - you know, there is a Macedonian language.

There is also the historic Macedonian province, which is different from the country. And it's important. It's quite clear that the government in Skopje, what we Americans call the Government of Macedonia, has no claims. We recognize the difference between the historic territory of Macedonia, which is, of course, much larger than the current country. And we're involved in the - we are supportive of the Nimetz process on the name to make - to settle this issue.

QUESTION: What about the ethnicity? You mentioned ethnicity.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY FRIED: I'm not - I did - I did mention that. But, you know, this is an issue - you know, it is for people to define themselves, ultimately, I suppose. The ethnicity is - you know, it's just a fact as far as I can tell. The issue of the name is something that is on the table. And this is something to be discussed. I'm not the negotiator and I'm not, certainly, an anthropologist or an ethno-historian.

All right, thank you.

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