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Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Arpad Goncz of Hungary and an Exchange With Reporters at Taszar Air Base

January 13, 1996

President Clinton. I would like to say on behalf of the American people how very much we appreciate the wonderful reception that our soldiers have received here in Hungary. I thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, to all the leaders of your country, especially to the Defense Minister and the Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff. We are very, very grateful for the cooperation that we've had.

I think it's a remarkable thing that Hungary and the United States are involved as partners for peace now, and they have received us here in this mission of peace in our staging area for Bosnia. Just think, it's been barely more than 6 years ago when Hungary was a member of the Warsaw Pact. What would have been unthinkable then now seems perfectly normal because we've been working together so closely for the last couple of years.

And I know I speak for all the American people and especially for the military, Mr. President, when I say thank you. We are very grateful. And I have just met with our commanders and our troops; they're doing very well here, thanks to you. And we're enjoying it, and we appreciate it.

President Goncz. I can even say that it is symbolic. Four or five years ago, I think it would have been unthinkable to meet here with the President of the United States of America either in Washington or in Budapest, the least unthinkable to be able to meet in a small Hungarian village. In addition to the fact that on such an important occasion, your presence here as well as your personal presence, Mr. President, shows the commitment of the United States to ensure the people in the region.

It is a moral obligation to ask because this— we defend the same values, and we have common interests. It is a great pleasure for me that we have this meeting and that we are part of this great operation. This is a Partnership For Peace in the genuine sense of the word. And—it's a lot more than what we have done— and this is also an opportunity for us to get accustomed to each other the way—[inaudible].

Thank you, Mr. President.

NATO Expansion

Q. Mr. President, do you think this kind of cooperation with Hungary will accelerate Hungary's admittance into NATO as a full-scale member?

President Clinton. Well, as you know, we believe that NATO should be expanded and inevitably will be. And this is the sort of cooperation that I think shows you what can happen in a very positive way with this sort of partnership. I'm very pleased with it, and I think all of our American—and especially our military commanders have been very impressed by what's happened so far.

Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:40 a.m. in the Headquarters of the Air Base. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Prior to Discussions With President Arpad Goncz of Hungary and an Exchange With Reporters at Taszar Air Base Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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