|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview by CNN Correspondent Andrea Koppel
Auckland, New Zealand, September 8, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MS. KOPPEL: The New Zealand Government is paying a great deal of attention to what is happening in East Timor and has said that it has already put 350 of its troops on a two-week alert in the event there has to be an armed intervention. If that decision is made, is the U.S. prepared to contribute troops?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, what we are doing is really looking at the situation very carefully, considering our options. We obviously want to be supportive. We are as concerned about this as much as anybody. But the main point here is that the Indonesian Government is the primary party that is responsible for restoring order there and allowing that really remarkable vote for independence to be counted and to have its effect. So the main point that I hope comes out of our meetings here and as our message itself is that the Indonesian Government has a window here in order to be able to deal with this before the international community steps in, in some form or another.
MS. KOPPEL: Just a short time ago CNN spoke with the Foreign Ministry, and President Habibie has announced that he is not going to come to APEC this weekend and that the Foreign Ministry has announced that early intervention by an international peacekeeping force is not an option.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, what is happening, as you know, is that the United Nations, the Security Council, sent a group of its members to assess the situation. They will be having a meeting tomorrow in East Timor to really figure out what they see. Part of our problem, as you know, is that there are not a lot of people on the ground who will report to us about what is going on. And they are there because the Secretary General has wanted to have an assessment on behalf of the international community. I think that, as I said, the prime responsibility here is for the Indonesian Government to respond positively to this overwhelming vote, and we will then pursue it through United Nations channels.
MS. KOPPEL: There is something known as the Clinton doctrine. During the war in Yugoslavia, Kosovo, that was one of the justifications for intervening in Kosovo in the event of a humanitarian crisis. President Clinton himself has said that he regrets not having done that in Rwanda. Why are we not using the same justification in East Timor?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we may come to that. But the bottom line here is that it's now -- this has escalated rapidly. We have said over and over again that the Indonesian Government is the one that is responsible. Plus we are operating through the United Nations in a way that was not possible for Kosovo, where we had tried a number of diplomatic solutions for a long period of time. You all have named it a Clinton doctrine. We, really, we look at each situation individually and try to use the most appropriate means. And at this stage, just to repeat again, because I think it's so important that people understand -- and especially the Indonesian Government -- that we're counting on them to deal with this. They have said they want to deal with it, that they can, and they have the prime responsibility. And the UN is already -- One, it's been on the ground. As you know, they were the ones that were the observers for the election, and now they have sent this mission to assess the situation. And the international community is prepared to act.
MS. KOPPEL: But that mission is in Jakarta, and many of those UN observers have fled the country, have fled East Timor. And many journalists, in fact most of them are gone. Are you worried that, by all of this talk, you're going to run the risk of another humanitarian disaster?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that obviously we are very concerned. And, really, the reports that have come out about people being moved to West Timor and a variety of actions that seem highly unacceptable to all of us that are following this would be a great tragedy if that were to take place. But we are calling on the Indonesian Government, if it wants to maintain the respect of the international community and be a member of good standing, to really take action themselves. And, as you said originally, a lot of the discussion at APEC obviously will be about this. Then the international community is there to look at ways to do this. We are following this very closely. We all know the risks of letting this get totally out of hand.
MS. KOPPEL: How are you following it closely when you know that most people aren't there?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, this is a problem obviously. We are doing the best we can to follow it closely, that is probably the accurate way to say this. But that the UN mission is going in. That is one way to really figure out what is really going on.
MS. KOPPEL: You have never been one to mince your words. You are known to speak very strongly when you feel it is appropriate. Why have you not spoken out more strongly, perhaps threatening Indonesia with economic sanctions or the removal of IMF aid or other international aid if it doesn't address this situation immediately.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I actually think that I did. I spoke about this when I was in Vietnam two days ago, and I made it very clear that we are calling on the Indonesian Government to take action. And, obviously, there will be very serious effects within the international community -- a number of ways that it will be clear that they have not carried out their responsibility, if they do not do that. And we have a number of ways that the international community can deal with that and make it clear to them that they will suffer in a variety of ways if they do not take this action.
MS. KOPPEL: Let's move on to China. Tomorrow you are going to be meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister. Is WTO going to be wrapped up during APEC?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that at this stage the negotiations are on-going, and it's very hard to say. It's clearly one of the agenda items that we have. As well, as you know, President Clinton's going to be meeting with President Jiang. And they will be talking about the various aspects of our multi-faceted relationship with China.
MS. KOPPEL: Among them Taiwan and, as you know, it's very important to the Chinese to resolve this situation. Lee Teng-hui back in July referring to a relationship between China, Taiwan on a state-to-state basis, Chinese officials have made it clear that they feel that they're caught between a rock and a hard place. They need to take some kind of action to discourage Lee Teng-hui from doing so in the future, from saying anything else. How does the U.S. mediate this, and how do you help China out of a very difficult situation?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have said, and we will repeat at the highest levels -- the President and I have both said that we have a one-China policy. We think that the situation can only be resolved through dialogue between the two, and we expect a peaceful resolution. I think that what the Chinese really keep wanting to hear is our policy, so it isn't difficult to say that we do have a one-China policy.
MS. KOPPEL: Is it time to update that policy?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it's a very good policy. I think that it suits the situation. I think it allows us -- you know, we have the Taiwan Relations Act that sets up a special relationship that we have with Taiwan. But the truth is that the one-China policy I think is the one that is most reflective of what is appropriate for the international system.
MS. KOPPEL: But when that policy was made and when the Taiwan Relations Act was made up, it was before Taiwan was a democracy, and now it is.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we think that the best way to resolve this is for us to state our policy, which really has three pillars to it -- that we have a one-China policy, that we want to see a dialogue between the two, and that it should be resolved peacefully. I think those are the best approaches that we can take to this.
MS. KOPPEL: We can move on now to the Middle East. You've just returned from the Middle East, and it was your first trip to Syria and Lebanon in two years. Why do you think President Assad of Syria is so eager to make peace now?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that the situation has changed in the Middle East, because there really has been movement in terms of the peace process with Prime Minister Barak coming into office and really seeing that peace -- a comprehensive peace -- is in the best interests, not only of Israel, but of the region. He has a strategic view and he is really working the issue very hard. I think that President Assad sees, I hope he sees, that there is a real opportunity here with the movement that we were able to take at Sharm-El-Sheikh on the Palestinian track. But this is also a good time to be looking at how to deal with the Syrian track. And as I said when we left there, I think what we are going to do now is work with each of the parties in the next days and weeks in order to see if we can really add the Syrian track actively to the comprehensive peace process.
MS. KOPPEL: Do you foresee American troops on the Golan Heights?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that that's premature. I think that what we are going to be looking at is how to create a situation that provides the security that Israel needs and also allows for there to be a peace with justice for all those people in the region.
MS. KOPPEL: Let me try another country. In Lebanon, do you feel that the United States believes that all the Syrian forces -- 30,000 plus forces that are in Lebanon now -- have to exit Lebanon once there is peace?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have said that we think that all foreign forces should leave Lebanon and that we believe in the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon.
MS. KOPPEL: Mrs. Albright, what do you say to those cynics who look at the signing that you attended at Sharm-El-Sheikh and say, "Been there, done that." Why should we believe that it's going to be implemented this time around?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Because I really do think, and we've already seen that there's a willingness on the part of the Barak government to work with the Palestinians. That's what's so different about Wye II, if you want to call it that, that basically the parties worked on it themselves. We were there, as I said, in the role of handmaidens to kind of help push it along. But I think that they were able to reconstruct some of the bonds of confidence that had existed with Prime Minister Rabin that got so eroded in the last years. And therefore I think that we are in a new situation where the parties will work together and do now what is obviously the most difficult part of this, is to really launch the permanent status talks where the most difficult issues are yet to come -- which is the status of Jerusalem, the Palestinian entity, refugees, settlements, borders. Those are the really tough issues. I think that those bonds are very important in how we deal with those tough issues.
MS. KOPPEL: We'll leave it there, Mrs. Albright. Thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
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