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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Canadian Foreign Minister Axworthy
Remarks in Press Briefing
Ottawa, Canada, March 10, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, March 13, 1998
U.S. Department of State

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FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining us. This morning I had the opportunity to welcome the Secretary of State, Dr. Madeleine Albright, to Canada for an official visit. This afternoon, I simply want to report on the discussions that took place.

The Secretary of State met with the Prime Minister, with Defense Minister Eggleton. We have had two sessions of meetings, and we will follow through with a dinner this evening. During that time, we have had an opportunity to do pretty wide-ranging discussions, as you might imagine, and we touched upon a number of both multilateral and bilateral issues.

(French translation.)

The visit was a very warm one, a cordial one. It is very hopeful for the future of our countries together. We will build our future together, and the links which we forge guarantee the economic security of our citizens and lay the basis for efficient international partnership.

(In English.)

(Inaudible) - enormous amount of exchange within two countries of largest trading relationship, large numbers of people that pass across our borders. I think the objective of the visit was really set last April during the meetings of the President and the Prime Minister, when we were asked to go over the retooling, reinventing, reinvigoration of the bilateral instruments and institutions in the areas of our cooperation across the border. In fact, if we could coin a phrase, it's that the border, in a sense, is no longer something that divides; it simply is something that we build upon.

The visit of Secretary Albright has given us a chance to both look at how we can move into a new century with some new thoughts and new ideas about how we can share this continent and how we can work together, and also how we can ensure that the opportunities, and many times the difficulties we face internationally, we can work in cooperation.

The specific items that we dealt with, of course, first was an issue of ongoing discussion, and that is the Pacific salmon issue. As you know, both countries have now nominated their negotiators, and we agree that they will begin their work by the end of this month, after they have done their domestic consultations, and we look forward very much to the active engagement of the two countries on this very crucial issue.

We also received a report from the International Joint Commission, which recommended a major reformation of that institution, in terms of being a proactive or preventative body, and we have asked them to go forward and begin looking at how they could establish a pilot project to deal with cross-border water problems, where they would incorporate local, state, provincial and federal officers to do a Watershed Board system that allows to do planning in the various water areas. A specific example of that is in the Red River Basin, where we have experienced a cross-border flood of great magnitude last year, and the IGC report indicated a number of very important elements that could be taken that we could help provide good stewardship for that entire water basin in the Midwest.

We have also agreed on a number of cross-border initiatives on education, clearly signifying that young people are an investment that must be made. We have substantially increased the full rights scholarships. There is established a cross-personnel exchange program for our civil services, and to develop a series of agreements in which we could help train business personnel in our colleges and universities.

There are also, coming out of the discussions, an important set of lessons that came out of both the Red River flood and the ice storm that took place. I once again want to reiterate the enormous sense of appreciation Canadians have had for the way in which the United States responded to the great crisis that we faced in both Ontario and Quebec during that period of time. Beyond that, meanwhile, I think the Secretary will deal with some of the multilateral issues.

We also though that the values that we share can be put to work in some cooperation on land mine areas. The United States has set a goal for 2010 on de-mining. W have, through the Treaty, established a time table that we want to engage in de-mining. We have agreed that we will now look at how we can work together on sort of joint projects around the world to assist in the de-mining and assistance to people.

We also will support and initiate a peacekeeping initiative that will really look at the whole gender problems, the way in which women are affected by peacekeeping, and to help train not only our own peacekeeping troops, but those from other countries, and the opportunities and the way in which this importance of gender sensitivities must be recognized, and beyond that, how can we help protect women in war-torn societies.

I would also just like to indicate that I had the opportunity to raise with the Secretary the issues that emerged out of the Commonwealth meetings last week on Nigeria. I think we had a good exchange on how we would have to really work together to ensure that the transition in that regime is a democratic one and a peaceful one. And I also indicated not only did we announce our own initiative about Kosovo, but that we are very supportive and will work actively on the measures that were taken by the Contact Group yesterday in terms of providing the right message to the Serbian officials, in particular, strongly endorse the application of the jurisdiction of the World Court, International Court, Criminal Court, as way of providing a real deterrent and a real strong signal that basic norms and standards have to be lived up to.

Those are, in a sense, a broad base of the discussions we have had. It doesn't begin to cover the entire range, but I will now ask Secretary of State Albright if she would like to provide her interpretation and version of events.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much.

(French translation.)

I am very pleased to be here for my first visit as Secretary of State, my first visit to Canada, and to have this opportunity to be here with my good friend, the Minister, Mr. Axworthy. As you know, the United States and Canada have a global partnership - truly global. We have always worked together as allies and as friends.

(In English.)

(Inaudible) - to advance the interests and values our nations share. We spoke today about our common effort to ensure Iraq meets its obligations to the international community, and I expressed my gratitude for Canada's political support and military contributions to that effort.

We talked also about the dire situation in Kosovo. I am gratified that Canada is joining us in taking concrete measures to increase the pressures on Slobodan Milosevic to stop the violence and to seek a genuine political solution. It is very clear that Canada is with us on a whole host of actions that we are taking.

We also agreed today to coordinate closely our efforts on humanitarian de-mining, to increase assistance for de-mining in Cambodia, to discourage further international trade in land mines. We stressed the importance of land mine surveys in afflicted countries. In this connection, we also reaffirmed the importance of the United Nations' coordinating role as the international community addresses this terrible problem.

I also paid a visit today to the memorial in honor of the Canadian peacekeepers who really have led the way in peacekeeping throughout the years and are prime peacekeepers and do a brilliant job on behalf of the international community. We are very grateful, and I am very glad that I had that opportunity to pay my respects not only to the Canadian peacekeepers, but generally to the peacekeepers throughout the world.

Of course, Canada and the United States are also neighbors, and when the Foreign Minister and I meet, we always talk about a unique set of issues that naturally arise between two nations with a common border. No foreign policy issues are less foreign to the American people than the matters that we discussed today.

The snow today reminded us of our great cooperation during the recent ice storm, and we are renewing the cooperative agreement between our emergency response agencies. They are going to conduct a lessons learned review so that we can improve our cooperation even further.

Similarly, we agreed to press ahead with the recommendations on how to handle the effects of flooding in the Red River, which were prepared in the wake of last year's disaster on both sides of the border.

Thirdly, we are asking the International Joint Commission, which manages our trans-border water issues, to recommend the creation of a new Watershed Board. This will begin an effort that we hope will allow us to work together for the sound management of all the watersheds that feed the lakes, rivers and streams along our common border.

Finally, as the Minister said, we are pleased that we both named our senior federal negotiators for Pacific salmon. I want to announce that the United States has chosen Roberts Owen, a former legal advisor for the State Department, who has played a critical role in the effort to resolve disputes in the former Yugoslavia, and who is a most valued counselor and advisor to us all. We have also agreed that the first round of negotiations will take place during the week of March 30.

(French translation.)

Thank you very much. We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

QUESTION: You referred this morning to the question of unity in Canada. No doubt you know that there may be another referendum in Quebec on the question of the independence of Quebec. If there is a majority vote in favor of sovereignty in Quebec, before recognizing independent Quebec, would the United States wait for Canada to recognize the independence of Quebec?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT:

(French translation.)

As I said this morning, the United States have worked and want to work with a Canada which is united, strong; we are good allies. I don't want to talk about a hypothetical situation.

QUESTION:

(In English.)

(Inaudible) - what Canada and the United States shares this morning is the rule of law, respect for the rule of law. As you may know, the federal government is at the Supreme Court of Canada right now, asking whether a unilateral declaration of independence would be legal. If the top court in this country ruled that it was not legal, would the United States recognize Quebec if it unilaterally seceded?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Again, I think that is a hypothetical question, and I am not going to get involved in that kind of domestic issue.

Let me just say that generally, as I travel throughout the world and I talk about countries with whom we share common bonds, and those with whom we would like to share more common bonds, we talk about the basis of civil society - the importance of elections, the importance of open systems, an independent judiciary, the existence of the rule of law. That is part of, I think, where we find the greatest cooperation with countries when we share those kinds of common values, and it was in that context that I made the remark.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, there is a view in Canada that the US federal government has always deferred responsibility in the Pacific Salmon Treaty to the US states. I am wondering to what extent will the US federal government exert more authority than in the past to ensure that the self-interests of a particular state, such as Alaska, doesn't block the honoring of this international treaty?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: There are various parts of our country and Canada that have interest in how this negotiation comes out. W believe that it is important for all the various parts of the system to be able to have an input in it, stakeholders as well as the states. But we do hope that with this naming of new negotiators, that it's possible to move the process forward more expeditiously, while keeping in mind the various equities.

QUESTION: Mr. Axworthy, the question Kosovo you said that Canada would go along with what the Contact Group had come up with. What does that mean in concrete terms? Does that mean that we are prepared to impose actual sanctions? How much of a bite are we prepared to put, in economic terms, on this?

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: Well, as the Secretary explained to us, the agreements that were reached yesterday really have phases to them. The first phase is to try to get the Serbian Government to live up to its commitments and to live up to its standards. That involves, first, effort at mediation, through the former Prime Minister of Spain. It involves working through the OSCE to get direct international involvement, through the human rights commissioner, and other matters. It also requires us to work in a cooperative way to ensure that there is coordinated international pressure. And I think there will be a follow-up by Foreign Minister Kinkel --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes, they are going there.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: So we agree that we will work with the Contact Group to follow through on each stage of the way, in order to try to redress what is a very tragic and very unstable, dangerous situation.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say - I want to call on an American.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: Okay, I'm sorry.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I understand that Minister Axworthy called for the reincorporation of Cuba in to the OAS, while you were off in Kiev. And I wonder whether you have any thoughts on that, and if Cuba was discussed today.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we haven't talked about Cuba, yet. We are saving that for dinner, I think.

(Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: Succulent dish.

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that our sense is that it is very important for us all to work together to press the Castro government to allow for there to be elections and a transition to democracy. As I have said many times, the Cubans have finally recognized what most of the rest of the world has recognized for over two thousand years: that Christmas is a holiday. And perhaps now election day can be the next day that we celebrate.

I, in the past, have talked to the Foreign Minister a great deal about or common efforts to press the Cuban Government towards various moves of democratization. I don't have with me now my favorite visual aid, which I will have to show you, Lloyd. I was given a map of how this hemisphere looked in the late '70s. And the red parts were to mark countries that were run by dictatorial authoritarian governments; those were red, and the rest of the map was in green. And there were large portions of Latin America that were in red, with just a small part at the north in green. Now it is all green, except for a small spot in the Caribbean. So we believe that it's important for us to work together in order to press the Castro Government to change its color.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: If I could just add a comment, because of the question. When I spoke a the OAS, I made it clear that as the transition goes on, one of the ways to help move that transition is to have Cuba begin to accept certain norms and standards of the international community. They want to be a part of it, and I said very clearly, that means a willingness to accept the norms and standards that have been applied through the OAS in the various covenants that it has put forward. And in fact, through the agreement that we signed with them last year, we are already engaging the Cubans on an agreement, for example, on anti-hijacking in the hemisphere, so they would become part of the international acceptance.

Similarly, we have been doing the same thing on anti-terrorism agreements, and have made a very strong case to them that they must start looking at their obligations under the UN covenants - both the economic and social covenants, and the political covenants. And those are things that any membership involves, both privileges and obligations; and that's what we said. But the OAS, because of its fairly important standards, and DI think has been successful in promoting the democratization in the hemisphere, that it could help in that transition in Cuba by making sure that the equation of responsibility and obligations are met.

QUESTION: If I could ask both of you, because it's something that has puzzled me since yesterday. In London, in the Contact Group meeting, it was said that you had said to your colleagues that what was going in Kosovo was ethnic cleansing all over again. And that has sort of puzzled me. I mean, obviously there is a lot of oppression going on, and we have more and more evidence of brutal activity. But in a province that is 90 percent ethnic Albanian and only 10 percent Serb, do you see evidence of ethnic cleansing? Are there movements of ethnic Albanians out of Kosovo? I mean, why do you consider it ethnic cleansing all over again?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we saw evidence yesterday of the fact that the violence against certain Albanians had spread beyond just dealing - there was a point that the special forces were dealing with those "who were breaking the law." But there was evidence that the killings had gone beyond that to really target whole families, and something that, to me, looked very much like the kind of thing that we saw, for instance, around Srebenica, where there would be specific destroying of houses, based on people's ethnic backgrounds.

QUESTION: (In French.) Madame Albright, concerning Iraq, how do the United States interpret the resolution of the Security Council? If Saddam Hussein doesn't obey, if he doesn't allow these sites to be inspected, would the Americans feel authorized to attack Iraq militarily with their allies? Any my second question, Mr. Axworthy, you have given assurance that Canada would support the United States; how would you answer that question?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (In French.) Well, as we said, at the beginning, we believe that we have the authority to take military action. This has already been stated. We have said this since the war, and this is authorized under Resolution 678. So we believe - we don't believe any other authority. We believe that the resolution which was recently adopted was a good resolution, because it places under the regulations of the United Nations the language of the agreement that Kofi Annan has brought back to New York with him. But if you really read it, you can se that it doesn't state actually that you have to go back to the Security Council. And we believe - in fact, we don't just believe, but we know - that we have the authority to do what we need to do. And when we talk with the Canadians, we realize that this is clear and they agree with us.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: (In French.) I would just like to mention, in the exchange of viewpoints concerning the threats of biological weapons, chemical biological weapons everywhere -- and this is a very important issue - we have to establish an international system to ensure protection for civilians, for the average citizen, against malevolent initiatives on the part of governments or systems who might use such weapons, weapons of mass destruction. And this is very important for the United States, for Canada and for other civilized countries - that we have to work together; we have to work harder, and increase our efforts to combat such weapons. And I hope that over the upcoming period, we will have the opportunity to discuss the next generation of initiatives which can be taken.

QUESTION: (In French.) Mrs. Albright, do we have to go back to the Security Council to attack? That's what I asked.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: (In French.) No. As I said this morning, this is very important to maintain the efforts at the United Nations. But if there is a serious problem, if the Iraqis prevent such inspection, then there has to be a response.

QUESTION: (In French.) Then what I am saying is accurate - you would support the Americans if they decide to attack?

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: (In French.) Well, we discussed the needs. There was a good discussion, a process discussion, between the various allies.

QUESTION: (In English.) (Inaudible) - lumber and wheat. Are those, like the Cuba issue, yet to come in what will no doubt be a pleasant dinnertime discussion? And if I might also ask the two of you, as well, there have been reports today out of Serbia that the Serbian Government is asking for a dialogue with the Albanians. Is this a sign that the measures of the Contact Group have been effective?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we will talk about those other subjects at dinner also.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: We are going to serve salmon, by the way, just for the --

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are?

(Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: Once again.

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We get salmon at every meal.

(Laughter.)

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: And you will, until we get a deal.

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say what I have heard out of Belgrade today. Ambassador Gelbard went directly from London to Belgrade. He had a four-hour meeting with President Milosevic, and I think it was a fairly tough meeting. And he was, in fact, saying - Ambassador Gelbard was saying to Milosevic that it was very important to have the dialogue and that the various other aspects of what the Contact Group had said need to be carried out - that the ICRC needs to go in, et cetera. And so I think that if what you are saying is true, then I thin it's a good sign. But I think we have a ways to go. President Milosevic needs to prove that he will carry forward on a political dialogue in good faith in order to resolve this issue.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you know - you said this morning you were going to ask Canada for more aid in terms of the sanctions with regard to Kosovo. And maybe Mr. Axworthy can answer as well. Is Canada then going to abide by all the sanctions that the Contact Group asked for, including freezing of assets? And secondly, can you tell us why Mr. Milosevic would have any reason to believe that the West's threats are credible, given what happened a few years ago with regard to Bosnia, as you said this morning - the failure to act?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I feel very good about the discussions that I have had with the Prime Minister, as well as the Foreign Minister, about our Kosovo actions, and have the sense that they are part of what we talked about. I think the Foreign Minister will have to answer for himself.

I do think that, given how we all ultimately have behaved in Bosnia, making true our word that the ethnic cleansing has to stop; that we had to move a multi-ethnic state; that Dayton had to be implemented; and we are following through with that with the SFOR and the work of the War Crimes Tribunal, that President Milosevic should have every reason to be clear about the fact that when the West speaks as a unified voice, the Contact Group, along with support from others, that he should believe it.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: On a specific question, we certainly are in full accord with the first phase of measures and, as the Secretary explained, there will be a further meeting March 23, I believe, in which it will be reviewed.

We have one difficulty with the freezing of assets, not in terms of principle, but on their own legislation. We need a form of international decision by the UN in order to go ahead. It has to do with our own export control legislation, but we certainly believe that we will take all those efforts necessary to bring about the objective the Secretary just talked about.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me go through some of the calendar on this.

Ambassador Gelbard was just there. Foreign Ministers Vedrine and Kinkel are going to be there on the 17th and 18th; Foreign Minister Primakov on the 19th. The sanctions that went in as of today - they have ten days to abide by - go forward with the political dialogue and do all the things that are in the first part of the document. There will be another meeting of the Contact Group on March 25th in Washington.

QUESTION: I would like to ask a question of Minister Axworthy and one of Secretary Albright. Mr. Axworthy, speaking of sanctions, as you just were, and as you have in this news conference, are you fully satisfied with the way the United States applies sanctions principles both the Cuba and Iran? And Secretary Albright, if I might ask you for a reaction to the re-election of President Soeharto in Indonesia, who was widely viewed as someone who has contributed to Indonesia's financial problems in recent years.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: I think on the question we have made it fairly clear in the past that we share the end objective, which is to see a transition in Cuba into a democratic society. We have chosen different methods. We don't think an embargo works. We have taken issue in the past, as you know, with the Helms-Burton legislation and with the D'Amato legislation on Iran.

In this case, our approach to Cuba has been through a form of engagement. We made some progress over the past year. We think it's worth continuing that kind of engagement. We have, for example, just recently, as a follow-up to the Pope's visit, agreed to accept a number of political prisoners, who will be coming directly to Canada. They were not included in the numbers that were released to the Pope because they were prisoners of conscience and had to leave the country. We have agreed to take them. We have had a number of initiatives on the human rights front that we think are making some progress, but we still have a long way to go.

It's just a different approach and we have, as, the Secretary said, exchanged views on a number of occasions about the various actions that we want to take, and have compared notes on what works. So it's just a different approach, it certainly is not a different set of objectives.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't think President Soeharto's re-election was a surprise, and I think that generally we want him to continue to cooperate with the IMF. We believe that that is the best route for resolving the financial crisis, and we will continue to pursue that avenue.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I want to just clear up some confusion from your remarks this morning. You used a couple of phrases - "rule of law" was one of them; "unique society" was another one - in reference to Canada. I don't know whether you're aware or not, but those two phrases in particular are loaded with symbolism in Canada right now with respect to the unity debate. I first of all wanted to ask you, were you aware that they are loaded terms; and second of all, why you chose to specifically use those terms?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, I would like to restate the following. We have a relationship with Canada that is unique, because we share this long common border, and can spend our time as foreign ministers engaging in discussion about good things that our countries can do together, rather than trying to resolve very difficult disputes that threaten our national interest.

Canada is a unique society in terms of its multi-ethnic composition and its multilingual approach.

I have stated in response to another question that I have many times - in fact, all the time, if you would like to go back and look at my speeches - talked about countries with whom we have the best relations. They are countries that shape our values in terms of freedom of speech; in terms of respect for various groups; an ability to deal with a multi-ethnic society; the rule of law; holding elections. It is part of, if you want to use the word, the "mantra" that I use in talking about countries that we like to work with and respect. When I am traveling in Africa, I like to raise that as a goal for countries to come to that.

I am not involving myself at all in the domestic discussion here. President Clinton and I have both said that we have had a great partnership, and a strong one, with a unified Canada.

QUESTION: You were unaware, then, that the remarks have a significance, a mantra, if you will, of its own in the specific unity debate here?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I read the newspapers, but I also speak on behalf of the United States generally in terms of our views.

FOREIGN MINISTER AXWORTHY: I won't make a comment or anything like that, but what I would ask you, if I can be so bold, is to take a look at what we did today. I have been listening to the questions, and they are all sort of picking at sort of little problems, or trying to catch nuances of words.

The fact of the matter, though, is that what we are doing is engaging in something that is quite different. You have two countries -- a very powerful superpower and a neighbor that has been around a long time - and we are trying to forge a new relationship. We recognize the world has changed, our continent is changing. We are facing new problems, dealing with new people, with environments, with water, with women; and we are saying, here is an opportunity for two countries who are part of it to do something that is different.

We were given some mandates last April by the Prime Minister and the President to do that, and we believe that if we do these things right, if we can forge this kind of relationship, we have a model that can be used for a lot of the other disputes taking place around the world where there are cross-border disputes over a lot more basic things. If we can continue to show that there are ways of resolving these - and not only resolving them, but building upon them and doing something that allows people to get some direct benefits - I think that is the strongest message coming out of the Secretary of State's visit today.

I hope that you will reserve a sentence or two for that aspect of what we are doing.

I think we've had our full allotment of time, because we have to go off and get ready for our dinner.

Thank you very much.

[End of Document]

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