Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland Press Availability

A/S Nuland: Good afternoon everybody! Sorry to keep you waiting, at least it is a beautiful day here in Skopje. I am back for the third time at least in this job obviously. I have been here more than a dozen times over my career. We had a very productive day of meetings today at this very important moment for your country.

The U.S. , as you know, has been very proud to work alongside with the European Union, with all of the political forces here, to try to overcome the political crisis of the last year resulting in the Przino Agreement. There has obviously been some progress to implement those agreements, but now it is time to complete the work and set Macedonia on a course for free and fair elections.

The major parties have been talking about how to get to elections for some time even before I arrived. Today I saw all four major party leaders, and I have to say that I leave Skopje encouraged by what I have heard; that in coming days, we hope, the negotiating teams can join around the ideas that are on the table now and chart a course towards elections. This is obviously going to take political will on all sides. I felt that that will is there in the meetings that I had today, and of course, Ambassador Baily and our team will continue their strong work alongside the EU to try to help the forces to come to an agreement as quickly as possible.

Obviously, my second goal here today was to help lend support to the process of strengthening justice and rule of law here in Macedonia. I had a chance to talk to some civil society activists and journalists today and to encourage in the courageous work that they are doing.

I also had a chance this morning to see Ms. Janeva and her team. Her work is vitally important to bringing true rule of law, accountability, and a clean justice system to this country – something that is absolutely essential if Macedonia is to achieve its Euro-Atlantic objectives to reach its goal of being an EU and NATO member, something that the United States has long supported. I am delighted to take a couple of questions.

Zana Bozinovska – portal: Ms. Nuland, did you get any guarantee from political parties that they will be committed to progress in the political dialogue?

A/S Nuland: This is, as I said, an ongoing process, the parties are talking. But as I said at the outset – I am encouraged! I felt that all four of the major leaders want a deal, they want it the coming days and there are good ideas at the table how to get there. So, I am leaving encouraged.

Tamara Grncarovska – Alfa TV: I have two questions. During your talks today, was one of the discussed issues the establishing of a Special Court. And the second one – Mr. Yee was here, Mr. Haindl travelled here few times, but the political dialogue is still at dead end. Why are you so hopeful that the your visit will move things from that point?

A/S Nuland: On the question of justice, as I said, we support the work that the Special Prosecutor and her office are doing. In terms of additional support structures, there are a lot of ideas out there. I think what is important is that the system be clean, be accountable and be effective. Again, this has been a process. Obviously, for all of us, we would have liked to see it go faster. But, as I said, even before I arrived, hard work was ongoing with the U.S. and EU support on a package of ideas to get Macedonia on course for an election, to fulfill the work of the Przino Agreement. What I was hoping to do today was give that work support, give it a nudge, and I do feel that the leaders want it and will stay with you as we work to close it in the coming days, we hope.

Sanja Vasic – Telma TV: Were there discussions today with the leaders and the Special Prosecutor about creating a Special Court, or a division in any of the courts, to process all the cases related to the wiretapping scandal. Also, is the United States considering any sanctions or other consequences for the country if there is no deal? A year ago you were here and encouraged, but there has been no progress since.

A/S Nuland:  On your first question I think I just answered it – there are number of ideas about how to get from making cases to closing cases and we are open to ideas that can be agreed and that strengthen the system. On your second question, obviously our hope is to solve this so we don’t have to go in that direction.

Thank you all very much!