Thursday, April 03, 2008

US President: NATO Expansion 'Historic'

A historic decision on extending NATO membership to Croatia, Albania and Macedonia will be taken at the Bucharest Summit, U.S. President George Bush says.

Bush pointed out that the three countries have succeeded in building free societies and their citizens deserve to have the security assured by NATO.

The three countries are hoping to secure invitations to join the alliance at the Summit.

However, Greece is threatening to veto the invitation if Skopje does not change its country’s name.

Athens opposes to Skopje’s constitutional name “Republic of Macedonia” arguing that it might lead Skopje to make territorial claims over its own northern province which is also called Macedonia.

Media both in Athens and in Skopje say the Greek delegation is travelling to Bucharest with its veto for Macedonia already set, after the flurry of diplomatic efforts prior to the summit failed to reconcile both countries’ stances.

Greece has already rejected the last United Nations proposal for a compromise name while Macedonia has kept silent.

Top NATO and United States officials however say they hope the issue can be resolved in Bucharest at the last moment.

“The problem can and will be solved,” Greek media cited Bush as saying in an interview for Tuesday’s edition of German daily, Berliner Morgenpost.

He added that additional efforts were needed in order for that to happen.

Greek media speculate the U.S. is planning to let Macedonia be invited into NATO with the provisional name Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, under which it was admitted into the UN due to Greek pressure back in 1993.

Greece allegedly opposes this move and asked for Skopje’s invitation to be postponed.

Meanwhile Bush also told leaders at the summit that winning the fight in Afghanistan is the most important goal for NATO.

There has been concern that some states have not been contributing enough support to root out Taliban forces rooted in the country's lawless south.

He also pointed out that Georgia and Ukraine be allowed to join the Membership Action Plan, despite Russian protests and that NATO's doors are open for other countries too.

The NATO Summit will also address Russian concerns about a new United States missile defence shield, part of which will be located in Central Europe, and Russia's outgoing President Vladimir Putin has been invited to the meeting. Bush will hold talks with Putin later at Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Although not a NATO member, Russia has embarked on joint projects with the military alliance but relations remain fraught.

NATO was established in the 1949 at the height of the Cold War as a military alliance to counter "the Soviet threat." Moscow still often accuses NATO of being anti-Russian.

No comments: