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Toast of the President at a State Dinner in Belgrade, Yugoslavia

June 24, 1980

Mr. President, American colleagues, and Yugoslav friends:

Although this is my first visit to your great country, Yugoslavia, the special relationship between our two countries has involved seven American Presidents, beginning with President Harry Truman. I'm here to confirm the continuity of that relationship. I'm here to reiterate our firm support of Yugoslavia's independence, territorial integrity, and unity and our respect for Yugoslavia's nonaligned position.

These are the principles which President Tito and I emphasized during his visit to the United States a little more than 2 years ago. I want you to know that they are just as central to American policy now as they were then, when our country was honored by the presence of this great leader.

It is with great sadness that I pay here tonight a personal tribute to President Tito. I regarded him as a friend, as well as a statesman of uncommon vision. I valued his counsel, his wisdom, and his perspective. I gained many insights from our personal correspondence, which continued even during the final months of his illness.

Great men of history sometimes leave the nations they have led ill equipped to face the world without them. What has impressed me in my brief visit here is how smoothly you have met the challenge of transition. That is a great tribute not only to the foresight of President Tito but also to the dedication and the patriotism of his political heirs.

A man like President Tito cannot be replaced. It is the nature of such men to be irreplaceable, but the courage and the creativity of the Yugoslav people guarantee that President Tito's life's work of building a strong, independent Yugoslavia will go forward in the years ahead.

Yugoslavia's unswerving defense of the principles of true nonalignment and nonintervention in the internal affairs of foreign states is particularly important in today's unstable and troubled world. The United States respects such a policy.

It has always been my hope as President that we could move on in many areas of the world from conflict to peace. I did look forward to significant contributions in arms control when the SALT II treaty was signed. Ratification of this treaty has been temporarily frustrated, but not abandoned.

We are deeply concerned that an unjustifiable act of armed aggression continues in Afghanistan, a founding member with you of the nonaligned movement, a small country, which, as you well know, constituted no threat to anyone. The vast majority of the countries of the world, in an extraordinary vote by the General Assembly of the United Nations, have called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan. We want to see the restoration of an independent and nonaligned Afghanistan, which can live in peace with all its neighbors and contribute to the stability of the region.

With the withdrawal of all Soviet forces from Afghanistan, we would be prepared to join in assurances and arrangements to establish a truly independent, a truly nonaligned Afghanistan with a government acceptable to the Afghan people. We would be prepared to explore a transitional arrangement, to be implemented along with the prompt withdrawal of all Soviet troops from Afghanistan, for the purpose of restoring peace and tranquillity in that suffering country.

Mr. President, our talks today have also touched on the grave consequences of politically motivated terrorism. I speak for every American citizen when I say how much we appreciate Yugoslavia's forthright support for the release of the American diplomatic personnel who at this moment are held hostage in Iran, in violation of every tenet not only of international law but of simple decency.

For my part, I want to reiterate that my Government will not tolerate terrorist acts against Yugoslav officials and establishments in the United States and that we strongly oppose political efforts aimed at undermining Yugoslavia's unity and territorial integrity.

Mr. President, our talks today have confirmed my view that Yugoslavia's concept of nonalignment is not a passive or quiescent thing, but a bold, creative, imaginative approach to the problems of the world, particularly the problems of the developing nations. And our talks have confirmed something else, that both Yugoslavia and the United States want to strengthen the bilateral relationships that exist between us and that we want to do so on the basis of independence, equality, and mutual respect.

I would like to thank you, on behalf of my family and my colleagues, for your generous hospitality and friendship. I look forward to a continuing exchange with you on international issues, on which we share so many compatible views, and also on bilateral issues, on which we've made such great progress in recent years.

I would like to ask everyone to join me as I raise my glass in a toast: To the Presidency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and to its President, his Excellency President Mijatovic; to a strong and prosperous Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; to the peoples of Yugoslavia, whose love of independence we admire and support; and to the furthering, strengthening of American-Yugoslav friendship in the cause of peace and stability throughout the world.

Note: The President spoke at 9:31 p.m. in the Federal Hall of the Palace of the Federation in response to a toast by President Mijatovic.

Jimmy Carter, Toast of the President at a State Dinner in Belgrade, Yugoslavia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/251330

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