The President of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, accompanied by the members of the Government delegation together with Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia and Minister of Defense Radmila Shekerinska, then held a plenary session with the United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis who was accompanied by US Ambassador James Bailey, as well as members of the US Defense Department and representatives of the Pentagon.
The President of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia Zoran Zaev, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia and Minister of Defense Radmila Shekerinska and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis held a joint press conference to present the most important topics discussed at the meeting.
In his address at the press conference, Prime Minister Zaev underlined that the visit of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, comes in an exceptionally important period, when the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia are preparing to give their vote in the most democratic way, in a referendum, for accepting Prespa Agreement with Greece and thereafter our EU and NATO membership.
“Your visit is yet another affirmation and encouragement of our strategic partnership, and it is a strong signal for the correctness of the policies of the Republic of Macedonia that we undertake in terms of promoting dialogue, tolerance and regional cooperation. In this regard, the support of the United States is always here and it is a strong encouragement” Prime Minister Zaev stated.
The Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia underlined that the invitation for NATO membership we received in Brussels on 12 July this year encouraged us to continue even more intensively with the reforms and the preparations that will make us the 30th Alliance member.
“For the Republic of Macedonia, NATO and EU integration has no alternative. This is confirmed by the vast majority of our citizens. For the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia, the consensus on the issue of our NATO membership is a result of the accepted values shared by the Alliance. We prove this by our active participation in NATO missions. The Army of the Republic of Macedonia is a committed partner of the US and the soldiers of other NATO member states in peacekeeping missions” Prime Minister Zaev said.
Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia and Minister of Defense Radmila Shekerinska reiterated that for the first time in our history as an independent state we are having in one year, in less than 6 months, two meetings of the US Defense Secretary and Macedonian Defense Minister in Washington and in Skopje, and that also speaks about the personal commitment of the United States Secretary of Defense James Mattis to Macedonia and its NATO membership.
“You are in a Macedonia that is different from the state we used to see just over a year ago … Today, Macedonia is a country with an invitation to join NATO, without open issues with its neighbors, it is an example of cooperation in the region, and a country ready from a proven partner to become an ally and a member of the most successful security and political alliance. We have no dilemma that our future lies in NATO, at the same table with the United States and with other allies” Minister Shekerinska said.
Shekerinska expressed her confidence that the Macedonian citizens will recognize the chance at the forthcoming referendum on 30 September and will vote for Macedonia, safe and prosperous, a member of NATO and the European Union.
“I remember your words in the Pentagon that you do not want to see Macedonia stopped at the doors of NATO. In the meantime, you helped Macedonia get the NATO invitation, and you are here today in Macedonia. I am convinced that on 30 September the citizens will vote FOR Macedonia that will be safe, secure, prosperous, economically developed, FOR Macedonia, which, alongside the United States and other allies, is helping build common peace and prosperity” the Minister concluded.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, in his address to the media and the Macedonian public, expressed his gratitude for the cordial welcome and productive talks at the meetings. He noted that this visit and friendly talks confirm the strong mutual support of both countries as strategic partners that share common values.
He expressed his hope and gave his support to all those who advocate for a successful outcome of the referendum on 30 September, which will be a major historic step forward for the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia because by endorsing Prespa agreement, they will secure the country’s place in NATO, as a partner equal to all other member states.