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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
and German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel
Press Conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Bonn, Germany, March 8, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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FOREIGN MINISTER KINKEL: Ladies and gentlemen, it's my very great pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright. To welcome her to Bonn -- one stop on her tour of Europe. She's been in Ukraine, she's been in Italy, she'll be leaving here to go to Paris, and then to London, and we'll be seeing each other tomorrow at the Contact Group meeting.

This permanent dialogue is eloquent testimony to the importance of our transatlantic ties. America is an inordinately important partner of ours. America is a global power, particularly under present circumstances, when we're facing crucial issues of paramount significance. So a detailed exchange of views which is now a matter of course between our two countries. Today we focused primarily on the current trouble spots. Unfortunately, of great concern to us both is Kosovo, the situation in Iraq, the Middle East. These three trouble spots, these three crises took up practically the whole of our meeting.

On Kosovo, I had occasion to say, yesterday, unfortunately, that the fuse is smoldering on Kosovo's tinder box. The situation is explosive. I think we all agree on that. And everything must be done to ensure that another awful conflagration does not explode in Europe. We agree that we need to act in time. We agreed peace and stability in the whole region are at stake. At a time when it appeared that light was emerging at the end of the tunnel in Bosnia, things have started going wrong in Kosovo: issues that were not settled under the Dayton Agreement.

The Americans have displayed tremendous interest and understanding in our position, because we are interested in what is going on in Kosovo, and in the Republic of Srbska, because of the refugee issue. We have over 140,000 Kosovo asylum seekers in the Federal Republic -- over 400,000 Albanians. And, of course, there is reason to fear that, if things get worse, there will be a new stream of refugees coming here. Of course we're worried, particularly by the refugee issue. But that is not the sole cause for concern. We're interested primarily in the stability of the region as is indeed the whole international community. Madeleine Albright and I agree that it's vital to initiate a dialogue between Belgrade and the Kosovo Albanians on the future of the region. That is a matter of the utmost urgency. Utmost urgency. We need to put an end to this spiral of violence and counter-violence. And, of course, we appeal to the Kosovo Albanians to refrain from any form of militancy and, certainly, from any form of terrorism.

We discussed my proposals, consulting the United Nations Security Council, so that they can discuss this issue. It is my feeling that the Security Council will certainly address the matter. The United States is happy with that idea. We also feel that we need to extend the United Nations military presence in Macedonia. We feel that we should expand the WEU's military presence in Albania. We also considered the possibility of bringing the Albanian, Macedonian, Turkish, Greek, Bulgarian, Romanian foreign ministers together -- the ministers of the region together, and soon. This is something I'm sure we shall be discussing at the Contact Group to see whether the Contact Group should convene such a meeting. Whether it should be the Europeans, or whether and to what extent, the OSCE should be involved. It is our view that all the instruments we have and all the instruments the OSCE have in terms of preventive diplomacy, should be mustered. We agreed too that a new Gonzales mission should be dispatched, immensely expeditiously.

We also feel, both of us, with respect to the alleged war criminals and The Hague Tribunal, that their terms of reference, the terms of reference of the tribunal, also apply to Kosovo. These are things which will be on tomorrow's London agenda, but we felt that there were no differences of opinion on further punitive steps which should be, and could be taken. Madeleine Albright will, I'm sure, discuss that.

We must be trying to force Belgrade to display a spirit of compromise in the region. The parameters are all there. We agree that we should be condemning terrorism and police violence. A dialogue and a compromise are the only avenues open to us. Neither the present status quo nor an independent Kosovo could provide the basis for a long-term peaceful settlement. The objective must surely be a special status for Kosovo, with an objective of autonomy. A special status for Kosovo, leading to autonomy.

The '96 education agreement which Milosevic and Rugova negotiated must be put into practice, it must be implemented. At the same time, both our countries agree that we must make it plain to the Serbs and to Milosevic that if they play along, we have things to offer: You need the international assistance of the financial institutions, the IMF. You need the IMF, you need the World Bank, and first and foremost, you need Europe. We want to help you. We want the Serbs to find their place in Europe, and we want to cooperate with you, which presupposes that you play along in Kosovo. And we must make that crystal clear.

On Iraq, the Federal Government is absolutely convinced that the hard pressure brought to bear by the United States forced Saddam Hussein to give ground, to climb down. And this combination of military pressure and diplomatic skills generated this result. I'd like to thank the Americans for their considerable efforts, and we both agree now that the important thing is to make sure that the deal is honored in its entirety. The Americans will be staying in the region. We have always said that we would support a diplomatic solution, but our unqualified solidarity will be with the Americans, and would be with the Americans should any military action prove necessary. Everything hinges on Saddam Hussein now. And one hopes that things take a felicitous turn.

On the Middle East, Madeleine Albright briefed me on the American assessment of the present state of play. Prime Minister Netanyahu was in Bonn at the end of the week, talking to the Federal Chancellor about this very issue. We all have very real concerns. We hope that confidence can return. We hope, first of all, that Arafat does everything in his power to clamp down on any form of terrorism -- any form of terrorism, and, at the same time, Israel must make its contribution to confidence-building measures being initiated. And at the end of the day, the peace process being continued because there is no alternative to it.

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much. I'm very glad to have this opportunity to meet with my good friend, Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel. As he said, we have an ongoing dialogue and I'm very glad that we were able to continue it today. As always, we have pressing business to discuss on a wide-range of issues, and I want to thank him, especially, for making time to see me on a Sunday, to continue this excellent working relationship.

We spoke today about our shared interest in seeing America build a deeper partnership with a broader Europe. This involves building an even stronger trade and investment relationship between the United States and Europe, including Germany. And it requires extending our institutions to Europe's new democracies. It requires addressing the remaining threats to Europe's stability, especially in the Balkans. We spoke about our common effort to seek an immediate end to the indiscriminate violence that has been committed by Serbian security forces in Kosovo. We laid the groundwork for what I hope will be a successful meeting of the Contact Group tomorrow in London. I stressed that the violence has already had repercussions in Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The time to stop the killing is now, before it spreads. The way to do that, is to take immediate action against the regime in Belgrade, to ensure that it pays a price for the damage it has already done, and to encourage it to finally resolve the problems in Kosovo through dialogue and reconciliation.

I also want to say today that the United States was grateful for Chancellor Kohl's strong, early

message of support for the international effort on Iraq, as well as Foreign Minister Kinkel's speech on Iraq to the Bundestag. We also deeply appreciated Germany's offer to make airbases available for a potential military effort.

We discussed recent developments in Iraq, today. I stressed, as I have on every stop on this trip, that this is not over. We have an Iraqi commitment to permit full and unfettered access to all suspected sites. But that commitment is only now beginning to be tested. And the inspections themselves are only a means to ensure full Iraqi compliance with Security Council resolutions. Both the United States and Germany prefer a peaceful solution, but, based on past experience, we would be naive to assume that the recent agreement guarantees such a solution. We will keep our forces in the Gulf and count on Germany's continued support should military action prove necessary.

Thank you very much, and I'll now be very glad, along with the Foreign Minister, to answer questions.

QUESTION: Minister Kinkel mentioned expansion of WEU military forces in Albania. Secretary Albright, I'd like to know whether you favor, whether the United States favors the expansion of any European military forces in the region in or around Kosovo to control this crisis. And, to Minister Kinkel, if I may, you said that it was urgent, I think, because the fuses -- we need to act in time, I think is the phrase you used a few moments ago. Six years ago, seven years ago, Europe and the United States did not act in time on Bosnia. Do you think that Europe and the United States have learned lessons that can be actually applied at this time?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say first, that obviously what we have been discussing today, and will discuss in London tomorrow, are a variety of measures to try to get Yugoslavia to understand that dialogue is the best way to deal with this problem. We have also said that there are a variety of options open, and none have been ruled out.

I think that generally we talked about the problems of this Kosovo experience, incident, spreading to other parts of the region, and the necessity to think about how to protect the borders better. We talked about a variety of ways of doing that. I think that we will be talking more in London, tomorrow, about what the appropriate ways of dealing with the problems are. What we were doing today, was putting a whole set of possibilities on the table. And it is in that regard that the suggestion came out about the WEU.

FOREIGN MINISTER KINKEL: Let my answer begin with just one firm statement. We're here to talk about the future, and not the past. And that looking at the future, we do agree that we need to act in time. In time, and that is why a whole series of measures have been discussed which are going to be on tomorrow's agenda in London. We certainly spent some time considering them this morning. It is, of course, of paramount importance to respond with preventive diplomacy as speedily as possible. In trying to shape a better response for the future, we cannot afford another awful conflagration in Europe. I mean, I don't need, and I don't intend to pass judgment on the past. We might not see eye-to-eye on that, but we need to keep our eye on the future.

QUESTION: The Contact Group demands a dialogue for more autonomy for the Kosovo Albanians within the borders of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia is not prepared for a dialogue as long as Kosovo Albanians do not recognize Yugoslavia as their own state. On the other side, Kosovo Albanians do not want to talk about staying in Yugoslavia. They say they want independence through peaceful, nonviolent means. So my question to Secretary Albright is: Apart from exercising pressure, do you have a realistic plan for solving this very complicated problem without abandoning the Contact Group's clearly defined demands? Thank you very much.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have been saying for some time that it is important for the legitimate rights of the Kosovo people to be recognized and to allow them to have some form of self-administration. The Contact Group had previously spoken about the importance of having their education laws come into play so that the Kosovo Albanians should be able to study in a language that is suitable for them and generally a way of respecting their legitimate rights. We think that it would be essential that Belgrade understand the seriousness of the situation. The United States had begun to go down a path of some incentives towards Belgrade, given some signs of an understanding of the importance of what was happening in Republika Srbska, but we are going to put the brakes on that approach because Belgrade has so brutally misunderstood what is going on in Kosovo and we believe that the Contact Group is going to come to that conclusion, also.

FOREIGN MINISTER KINKEL: I don't know if you'd like an answer from me, would you? All I can say on that is that in our view, a dialogue is a matter of the utmost urgency. Of course, there are reservations on both sides but these reservations need to be ironed out, and I'm sure Pristina is quite prepared to embark on a dialogue of this nature.

I know that the education agreement was the start, it is our feeling that should be put into practice now. As long as this dialogue within a dialogue within Belgrade and Pristina has yet to start, headway is going to be very difficult, but it's very important for me to spell this out to you. We want the Serbs to have a place in Europe, we want to cooperate with them in the European Union. We want bilateral cooperation with them, it is of crucial importance to us, too, but there are some things which we are not going to be able to relax or to take a more laid-back attitude upon, unless things improve in Kosovo. That is the message we're getting across, that is the crucial message we are trying to convey to Mr. Milosevic, and people in Belgrade must understand that the Germans have, of course, a particularly great interest because of the numbers of refugees in this country.

So now, the question, I think, from the gentleman with the microphone, now.

QUESTION: You talked about the need for preventive diplomacy and I wonder if you also recognize a need for punitive diplomacy. I mean, is Germany prepared to increase sanctions on Belgrade, in view of its actions in Kosovo, and, if not, how do you define the kind of diplomacy required now? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER KINKEL: This is a matter which we discussed at some length. I don't intend to go chapter and verse now, quite advisably so, because these are the matters we shall be considering in London tomorrow in the Contact Group. But there are practically no differences of opinion at all between the U.S. and German positions. There is one just minor point which I don't think we need to discuss here now. There is, however, thinking, and we have done a good deal of thinking, as to how we can make progress from here on in, and what you were discussing in your question is part and parcel of the preventive diplomacy and preventive response to avoid a replay of what we have seen not to far away from Kosovo.

QUESTION: I have two questions. You mention the Gonzalez mission: what would you like him to do and what about the punitive measures which you intend to discuss tomorrow? Could you give some idea what those measures might involve?

FOREIGN MINISTER KINKEL: I don't intend to jump the gun on that, on the second question. We did discuss it today at a bilateral meeting. It needs to be discussed with counterparts in other capitals. It would be wrong as I say, to jump the gun, we need to see eye-to-eye in the Contact Group and that is exactly what I expect us to do.

On your first question, which slipped my mind -- the Gonzalez mission -- the OSCE has a very clear remit in terms of preventive diplomacy, and if I could put it this way, post-operative care, we're talking about preventive diplomacy here. Gonzalez, the former Spanish prime minister, has made a major contribution already, beneficial contribution, we would like him to be there as soon as possible in order to act as a mediator, as a preventive diplomat, so that headway can be made, so the flames do not get out of hand.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the United States and the credibility of the United States are on a knife's edge in the Arab world. The Iraq crisis, the Middle East peace process -- what do you intend to do about that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we are very much involved in trying to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process and we'll be doing so in the next weeks. I believe that our relationships in the Arab world are actually quite good. We have spent a lot of time, all of us, I have, the President has, Secretary Cohen has, in dealing with our Arab counterparts. I think they have understood the threat and danger of Saddam Hussein just as well as we have, and we were satisfied with their cooperation and expect it to continue as the testing period for the Kofi Annan agreement goes forward.

As far as the Middle East peace process is concerned, we believe it is in everybody's interest to get it going again. I repeat what I have said so many times, that is the United States can play a variety of roles in terms of the peace process and we do, but it is ultimately up to the leaders themselves to make the hard decisions. It is my estimate that the people of Israel as well as the Palestinians want peace and it is now up to the leaders to make the hard decisions. Thank you.

[End of Document]

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