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Remarks by Lennart Meri, President of the Republic of Estonia

Mr. President,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, today is an historic day in the history of our four nations. With the signing of the Charter of Partnership among the United States of America and the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia, and the Republic of Lithuania, we enter a new phase of even closer United States- Baltic relations

Seventy-five years ago last summer, the United States and Estonia entered diplomatic relations, thus launching a special relationship based in mutual respect and trust. There is an old saying that one recognizes a true friend in times of need. With its bipartisan support for non-recognition policy, America was a true friend of the Baltics in a time of need, acting as a beacon of hope throughout the long, dark and cold years of the Soviet occupation.

You, Mr. President, were a true friend when, four years ago, you personally contributed to making sure that occupation would end and the foreign troops would withdraw. This principled behavior is one quality of United States' foreign policy that we greatly admire. The fact that morals play a major role in America's foreign policy is what defines the United States as the world's remaining superpower.

Estonia sees the United States-Baltic Charter as the latest expression of that principled approach. The Charter recognizes the Baltic States' role in the American strategy to guarantee security and stability on the European Continent, and spells out that the

United States has a real, profound, and enduring interest in the security and sovereignty of the Baltic States.

An important element in our security strategy is eventual full membership in NATO. We believe that NATO continues to be the sole guarantor of security and stability in Europe. Estonia applauds President Clinton for his leadership in starting the process of NATO enlargement, which has already redefined the terms of security policy in Europe.

Estonia also understands that NATO enlargement through the Baltics will be the next big project of the Alliance. We believe that the question of Baltic membership in NATO will become the real test of post-Madrid security thinking -- that is, that countries shall be able to choose their security arrangement regardless of geography.

We are confident that with American leadership, this test will be met with success. Thank you.



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