Note To The Press Concerning Turkey´s Proposal To Establish a Balkan Multinational Peace Force March 19,1998 (Unofficial Translation)

Turkey, as a NATO member, has actively participated in the deliberations towards enhancing the Partnership for Peace (PfP) and launching the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), and supported wholeheartedly the concept of the promotion of practical regional cooperation within PfP. This concept is in line also with the parameters laid down by the Heads of State and Government of the EAPC countries in Madrid. Taking into account new roles and missions undertaken by NATO on the eve of the 21. century as well as good precedents in this field closely related to the said concept, Turkey is decided to contribute to this process with two concrete projects.

To this end, we have declared as early as May 1997, our intention to establish a PfP Training Center in Turkey and to create a Multinational Peace Force in the Balkans. Our aims in initiating these projects are; first, contributing to peace and stability in Europe and also promoting good-neighbourly relations among the Southeastern European countries, in general, and enhancing interoperability between Allies and Partners, in particular.

As it will be recalled, Turkey had first declared its intention to undertake the said initiatives at the inauguration meeting of the EAPC held in Sintra/Portugal in May 1997. Since then we have been actively involved in the preparatory follow-up work regarding these intentions and in order to adhere to the principle of transparency, have provided the necessary additional information to the participants in the South Eastern Defence Ministerial meeting held in Sofia in October 1997 and the EAPC Defence and Foreign Ministers meetings held in Brussels in December last year. Furthermore, upon our request, these projects were also included in 1997 PARP (Planning and Review Process) Progress Report which was submitted to the Spring Ministerial meeting.

On the other hand, as a follow-up to Turkey's proposal to establish a Balkan Multinational Peace Force, and in accordance with the Sofia Defence Ministerial follow-up measures and activities, the NATO/PfP countries, Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania and Turkey participated in the Experts Meeting held in Ankara on 16-18 March 1998. United States and Slovenia were also present as observers in the said Meeting.

The participating nations have agreed in principle with the establishment of a Multinational Peace Force and had a first round of discussions on certain elements that could govern the process in the pursuance of this objective.

In this respect, the participating nations have expressed their views as to the location and formation of the proposed Force. In addition to Turkey's offer for Edirne to host the HQ of the Force, Bulgaria has also declared its readiness to host the HQ in Plovdiv.

They have agreed with the basic principles that in accordance with the South Eastern Defence Ministerial process, the force should be open to the participation of all able and willing countries in the region that would like to join this initiative at a later stage and that transparency should be adhered to at any stage of the follow on work.

It has also been a widely shared principle by the participants that the Force should not be evaluated only within the Balkan context and that the Force, in principle, and contingent upon a case-by-case decision by the participating nations, will be available for NATO or WEU-led conflict prevention and other peace support operations which could be conducted through a mandate by either the UN or the OSCE.

In line with the above mentioned facts, it is clear that Turkey's proposals which date back about a year and our efforts, aiming at the creation of a Multinational Peace Force in the Balkans have neither been inspired by the recent developments in Kosovo nor are connected to these events. This constructive Turkish initiative which has now taken a concrete step forward will not be frustrated by misleading assertions about its origins and purpose.