Strasbourg, 30 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - NATO Secretary General Javier Solana today declared the alliance has what he called "a moral obligation" to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe which want to join it.
Solana said the area's new democracies want "to join the Alliance for the same reasons why (the 16 current) members do not want to leave it." NATO must "help them fulfill their legitimate aspirations," he said.
In remarks to the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, Solana did not specify which or how many Eastern countries would be asked first to join the Alliance. He said that decision would be taken at NATO's summit meeting in July.
Solana emphasized that the coming opening of NATO to the East is in no way aimed at isolating or marginalizing Russia. He said that enhanced security in Europe cannot be achieved "without Russia, let alone against it." The Alliance hopes to reach agreement with Russia on the foundations of what he called "a strong, stable and enduring partnership."
Earlier this month, Solana visited to Moscow to begin negotiations with Russia on a formal agreement for future cooperation with NATO. Today he said the Alliance was hoping for an accord with Russia which would create what he called a "mechanism for regular consultation, cooperation and (common) decision-making."
Solana also underlined the importance of NATO's evolving relation with Ukraine, a country, he said, that "occupies a crucial place in Europe." He said an independent, stable and democratic Ukraine is of great strategic importance for all of Europe. He said Improved relations between Ukraine and Russia are as important as Ukraine's reliable partnership with NATO.
Solana said that NATO today has no enemies, but only wants to contribute -- along with other multilateral organizations -- to the creation of what he called Europe's "new security architecture."
He paid tribute to the Council of Europe for having played "a leading role in spreading democratic values and practices to Central and Eastern Europe (since) the political watershed of 1989."