|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press remarks on trip to Europe and International Family Planning
Washington, D.C., November 24, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. It's good to see you all again and very good to be home for Thanksgiving.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to come down here today and review very briefly some recent developments for which we may all give thanks and to make an announcement regarding an issue about which I feel very strongly -- international family planning.
Last night I returned from Europe with President Clinton and I had attended the OSCE Summit in Istanbul. During our trip, the President made clear our warm friendship and deep commitment to our NATO allies, Turkey and Greece. He laid down strong markers on the conflict in Chechyna where Russia agreed for the first time to accept a political role for the OSCE. He signed a pact adapting the Conventional Forces in Europe Agreement to the realities of the post Cold War and a Charter for European Security which strengthens the OSCE's ability to respond to security threats, including those arising within countries. In addition, we joined with our partners in reaffirming a determination to build a democratic Kosovo within a peaceful southeast Europe.
These gains supplement other recent progress such as our side agreement with China on its succession to the WTO, the decision by the Greek and Turkish Cypriots to resume talks, the signing of the Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline Plan and the remarkable gains spurred by former Senator George Mitchell towards the implementation of the Good Friday Peace Accords in Northern Ireland. These initiatives and events underline both the importance of American leadership in building a more stable and prosperous world and the need for us to back our leadership with resources.
That's why throughout our trip I had one eye focused on events overseas and the other on developments related to our international affairs budget here at home. I am pleased that the President will be able to sign an omnibus appropriations bill that restores many of the cuts that Congress had made earlier. The bill also allows us at long last to begin paying down our UN arrears. The timing here is critical because further delay would have cost us our vote in the UN General Assembly and dealt a body blow to American influence at a time that we are asking the United Nations to carry out vital missions in Kosovo, East Timor and Africa.
Unfortunately, a controlling minority of legislators insisted that these UN arrears payments and the President's international debt relief initiative be linked to restrictions on our support for international family planning. This was by far the most painful and difficult part of the negotiating process. For three years we fought as hard as we could to break this linkage and we made our case repeatedly to Congress and to the public that it is unwise, illogical and wrong to hold our obligations to the United Nations hostage to an extremist agenda on international family planning. There is absolutely no substantive rationale for such linkage. In the end, the Administration faced a no-win choice between protecting our national security interests at the UN and maintaining full support for programs that helped save women's lives. Under the circumstances, we achieved the best settlement possible. We did all we could to minimize the negative impacts of the language that was approved.
But make no mistake, the Administration remains deeply dissatisfied with the need to accept any linkage, even for a single year. And our commitment to free speech and international family planning is as strong as ever. The United States remains the world's largest official donor to these programs which provide alternatives to abortion, promote safe pregnancy and delivery practices, and help integrate reproductive health with other needs such as child nutrition and the prevention of HIV/AIDS.
These programs prevent abortions and save lives. The United States is proud to lead in supporting them and I am pleased to announce today that in next year's budget, President Clinton will request an appropriation of $541.6 million, a return to the 1995 levels in our contributions to them. I give notice now that I will fight hard for that request and to see that the restrictions in this year's appropriations bill expire as scheduled next September.
Thank you very much and I would now be very glad to answer questions.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I was going to ask about trade and I will. But I sort of wonder how you can have international family planning without women knowing all the options that might be open to them under all circumstances. But let me ask you about trade.
The President evidently is unable to get a half dozen world leaders to join him in Seattle. I assume he is still going, and I wondered if that hurts the chances for trade liberalization, for bridging differences as they are, you know, over such issues as child labor and labor practices, et cetera. I assume he is still for free trade.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Yes. Well, let me just say that I think, back on the first question, that we plan -- the President plans to exercise his authority to waive the restrictions in this law and, in doing so, $12.5 million will be taken away from critically important family planning programs. And although that money will be spent for child survival, the cut will have, we believe, a negative impact on our family planning activities worldwide. But the Administration, as I said, is planning to recommit ourselves to the 1995 budget levels and we will continue to press our case wherever we can and to try to make sure that this language is not there in the following year. So we are not giving up at all on that.
On WTO, let me say we are looking forward to a very important and useful conference in Seattle. We have -- the President is fully committed to an agenda which allows us to move forward with very important WTO initiatives in the next round, and negotiations have been going on but obviously negotiations will continue. We have found in WTO negotiations generally that there are lots of valleys and peaks. The President is committed to having a very robust and good session in Seattle.
QUESTION: Do you lose something by those leaders who are not attending and finding scheduling problems?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The answer is no because the President will be there and will be explaining our position. It would have been nice if some of them had been able to come. I have found now in my many, many international meetings that there are genuine scheduling difficulties that come up. While it is always important to have certain -- it's nice to have certain people there, the international system is capable of working with deputies. Some of us principals sometimes find that hard; but, nevertheless, we aren't always required to be everywhere at all times.
The main point here is that President is very deeply committed to the WTO agenda, which he showed, I think, in terms of the work that took place with China and, generally, his dedication to this - a liberalization agenda, a subject, by the way, that came up to some extent -- at least the part I heard in Florence where people were talking about the future.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on Kosovo, how long do you think a U.S. presence is going to be required there to foster a democratic Kosovo?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that's very hard to tell. I think there is a great deal of work that has been done there. I was very -- inspired I think is the right word by our visit yesterday. Our troops are in very fine form. They are very dedicated. One of the great opportunities about going on this kind of trip is you actually get to eat Thanksgiving or pre-Thanksgiving dinner with them and have a lot of good discussions. I found that the soldiers that I was sitting with were very dedicated to what they were doing and very interested in the people-to-people aspects of what they were doing in terms of working with specific schools and helping various families. I think that they understand the reason for their service.
What is true is that a great deal has been accomplished in the five months that we have been on the ground. A million refugees have been returned home. They are somewhere between 50 to 80 percent complete on terms of their winterization program. They are working also in terms of trying to make sure that people do get to their right homes. Mr. Kuchner told us that they were going to be opening one of their huge power generators sometime this week. So there has been a lot of progress. That is not to say that a lot more needs to be done. A great deal does need to be done; but life has returned to Pristina and Kosovo.
The reception that the President and I received was quite phenomenal. Their understanding that without US leadership of NATO they would still be either -- they would either be dead in the hills of Kosovo or in camps in Macedonia. So I am very proud of what we have done in Kosovo. But it's not over and I think we need to understand that the problems are such that will require consistent approach.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you just mentioned in answering that question something about people-to-people contacts. Yesterday, another kind of people-to-people contact was brought up in this room, specifically relating to Iran. And I am wondering if you can tell us how committed you and the Administration are to achieving the kind of diplomatic trips to Iran that have been thus far rebuffed by the Iranians?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say we have now for some time been waiting for an improvement in our relations based on, if you remember a speech that I gave a couple of years ago now, in which I outlined what a possible road map was towards a better relationship that included a people-to-people part of this. And we have asked -- we have been in favor of having a dialogue with them in which both sides could raise whatever issues we needed to raise.
For us, in our case, we have been obviously very concerned about their desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction, their lack of support for the Middle East Peace Process and their support for various terrorist groups. So those are the kinds of subjects we would want to discuss. We are trying to figure out a way to build on the possibilities of a people to people program. There have been some Iranians that have come to the United States, wrestlers and various kinds of people. And we wanted to be able to improve the ability of Americans to go to Iran, which is one reason why we had been talking about some American consular officers visit there in order to improve the process.
But what we are really looking for is we are going to have elections in February in Iran which we think will be very important and will, I think, give a signal as to the direction in which Iran wants to move. But we are prepared, we had been prepared, for talks on the basis of mutual respect. But I think that the people-to-people contacts might be very useful and that's what we were trying to achieve.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, yesterday and today The Washington Times reported that China is expanding a facility that could have missiles targeting Taiwan. I wonder what your interpretation of that buildup is, given also the American efforts to bring China into WTO?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we continue to monitor the situation closely but I am not going to comment on alleged leaks of intelligence information. I think that we have made clear to the Chinese Government our concerns regarding Chinese missile developments and their influence on the situation in the Taiwan Strait. And, as you know, we have over and over again made clear our strong interest in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and, for this reason, we have approved defensive arms sales to Taiwan in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act and consistent with the 1992 US-PRC joint communiqué. So we are watching things very closely. I think that's the shortest answer.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, how concerned are you by sale of -- in a related question -- by the sale of military goods and technology by Israel to China?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, there are laws that govern the transfer of American technology and Israelis are aware of that. There is no prohibition against arms sales to China. We are having dialogue, an active dialogue with Israel about these issues. I have expressed our concern.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the Egypt Air situation, can you bring us up to date on your context? Also, given some reports quoting Egypt Air officials talking about possible explosion, can you tell us whether you think both governments are on the same page or not?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, obviously we would all like to get to the bottom of what happened. That is very important for the families involved and for general air safety. We have been in touch with the Egyptian authorities. I spoke with Foreign Minister Moussa on the phone and then I saw him in Istanbul. We spoke about the importance of active cooperation. They have sent some people here. Officials from the US have been going back and forth. I think that there has been a very careful cooperation on this, I think very good cooperation.
As I understand it, there are efforts going on now to transcribe and translate various aspects of the voice recorder and the NTSB Chairman, Jim Hall, is looking at all these activities and where there is any obvious criminal sign, obviously, the FBI is involved. From my perspective -- a diplomatic one -- I think that we are working very closely with the Egyptians and will obviously continue to do so. I think in response to one part of your question, I want to abide by what Jim Hall has suggested, is that speculation does not help in this case at all.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the defeat of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the battle over the foreign aid budget have led many European analysts to conclude that isolationism is on the ascendant in the United States and that the Administration is facing increasing pressures from isolationists in Congress and outside. Were those concerns that were raised in your discussions over the past couple of weeks? Is that a perception which is of concern to the United States?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Many parts of what you asked in terms of what we've all been doing -- first of all, we are and continue to be very concerned about the fact that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty was not ratified and the President made very clear that our moratorium would continue and a subject that I have discussed with every one of my counterparts to assure them of that.
I was very heartened that our budget passed -- I was very heartened, period, that our budget passed and that we actually did pretty well in terms of what our overall priorities have been and that I considered very important. That had to do with the fact that we got our Wye money and that we were fully funded on that and on the security aspects of constructing our embassies.
We also received funding for Kosovo, the expanded threat reduction initiative, UN peacekeeping activities, antiterrorism and other security programs, and obviously being able to carry out our normal diplomatic work plus UN arrears. The fact that that all happened while I was overseas with 53 other foreign ministers really gave me an opportunity in a number of circles to talk about what was going on here.
I pointed out that this Administration is fully dedicated to an active and engaged American foreign policy. For those of you that were actually following what the President and I were doing in Istanbul, I think you might describe us as being hyperactive. I worked very hard through many nights in terms of trying to get the CFE Treaty properly worked out and the Charter for the OSCE. So, I would say that our American team in Istanbul made very clear that we were highly engaged in foreign policy. The President's reception in Turkey was a sign of our active engagement and even in Greece that was evident. And it was clear in Kosovo that without the United States, the good things that have happened would not have been happening.
So I feel pretty good about the fact that we're headed in the right direction. That does not mean that we don't have to deal with the problems posed by those who somehow prefer to be ostriches than eagles.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the last US troops are coming out of Haiti in the next few weeks, five years after 20,000 of them went in. The Government of Haiti seems just as corrupt as ever and they now have a growing problem as a drug transshipment point. What are the lessons learned from the Haiti experience?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think you have to go back to the original problem here. When the Clinton Administration came into office, there were tens of thousands of refugees floating or swimming to our shores or dying along the way. And it was a terrible problem that we had to deal with. The dictatorial government there that had ousted Aristide was corrupting and undermining the whole system. And we worked very hard through the United Nations and other ways to work to bring some form of democracy to Haiti. And we're working on it.
While I regret that it has not happened faster, I think that we are moving towards a period where there will be elections. But in all these cases, I think there is a tendency to kind of forget what the problem was like before, whether we're talking about Kosovo or Haiti or whether we look at problems -- other problems in Africa. We are dealing with very difficult problems that cannot be solved overnight, that require international cooperation and require patience and an understanding of the full evolution of the problem that we're dealing with.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, despite the declaration, the OSCE declaration in Istanbul that there should be a political dialogue to the conflict in Chechnya, Russian forces continue to have their military movements there and in fact are now threatening the capital. What would you say to Russia about this and are you concerned that they will actually take over Grozny and what can you do to prevent it?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, the major parts of our time in Istanbul were spent dealing with this issue and I believe that there was no mistake in the message that President Yeltsin received, not only from President Clinton but all the other heads of state there, in terms of their making clear that this was not a way to deal with the Chechnya conflict and that it was necessary to have a political solution.
I think that it is important that Knut Vollebaek, the chairman in office, Norwegian Foreign Minister, go to Chechnya in order to try to assist in terms of finding some kind of a political solution. What was evident was that the Russians themselves understand that ultimately a political settlement is necessary. We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation there and the report of Mrs. Ogata and are looking at ways to be of further assistance on this and basically telling the Russians that they are going down the wrong road, that their solution to this by military means is not going to bring them a solution to this problem and that a political settlement is what is necessary.
We are obviously very concerned about it, made that very clear. I will continue to do so in what are now practically daily conversations with Foreign Minister Ivanov.
QUESTION: Would you particularly warn the Russians against seizing the capital?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have made clear to them that the action of having military actions that harm civilians prolongs -- well, is unacceptable and really prolongs the events here, that they need to deal with the situation in a humanitarian way. And we had talked about the problems of seizing Grozny.
QUESTION: On the Russian theme, are there steps that can be taken to slow down the disbursement of IMF loans to Moscow?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that the issue here is that we have to sort out whether they are ready for the IMF assistance. These are obviously discussions that are going on now. But I think it is very important to keep things separated here. We have -- the reasons that we believe that it is very important for there to be economic stability in Russia, that is in our national interest. As we look at what kind of loans or assistance, we have to look at from the overall perspective of what is good from our perspective.
As I said, some of the money, for instance, that we've just gotten in the foreign assistance budget is on expanded -- is to lower threat reduction in Russia and the NIS. So we need to look at what parts are necessary in order to move the process forward to keep Russia moving in a stable way economically and politically and then we also have to make absolutely clear that the way that they are going about Chechnya is not getting them to where we believe they ought to be and are very concerned about expanded fighting in Chechnya and the toll it is taking upon innocent civilians when military actions are taken without any discrimination at all between the fighters and the civilian population.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, the latest round of US-North Korean talks have just wrapped up. Do you foresee sometime during the last year of this Administration the United States opening up some kind of diplomatic representation in Pyongyang and Pyongyang doing likewise here? That's my first question.
And, secondly, on Iraq, as you know, there are heated discussions going on within the Security Council right now about getting a new resolution to get weapons inspectors in. Do you feel that this -- that getting such a resolution is something that is very important or do you think if we don't get a resolution through that, you know, things will be -- we'll still be able to keep, as you've said, Saddam Hussein in his box?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, on the first one, let me say I think that we have had some generally useful talks with the North Koreans on a whole host of subjects either in the Chuck Kartman channel or the process that Mr. Perry and Ambassador Sherman have been involved. I think that those have been moving forward in a deliberate manner. I expect that there will be further discussions.
I'm not going to predict as to when or where, whether there would be increased diplomatic relations of the type that you are discussing. All I'm telling you is that we have tried very hard to defuse what is a very dangerous situation and I think have done a tremendous amount of good work through the trilateral approach with the Japanese and the Republic of Korea. I look forward to this process moving forward and I hope very much that it will bring us good results. I'm not going to get into the prediction game on that.
On Iraq, let me say that we have believed in the importance of an omnibus resolution as a way of specifically dealing with the issues that are of concern to us on Iraq which have to do with the ability of inspectors to get back in, to have some definable standards whereby there could be a suspension of sanctions if they comply with the tasks that have been set out for them -- an Oil for Food Program -- those are all things that would be desirable to get as a way of stating where the majority of the Council is on the issue. I believe that there is increasing support for such a resolution.
I think that it is also important to understand that even without it, we are still able to tell what Saddam Hussein is up to through our national technical means. It would obviously be better to have monitors on the ground. I believe that through our action and our continued patrolling of the northern and southern no-fly zones that we are able to keep Saddam Hussein in his box.
It is essential that we make clear that Saddam Hussein, again, turning down the Oil for Food Program extension now, is basically yet again playing his cynical game using his people as pawns when the international community is more than ready to have an expanded Oil for Food Program that would allow his people to be in a better place. I think that we will continue to work for an omnibus resolution that will serve the purposes that I mentioned of getting a UN monitoring force on the ground. In the meantime, he continues to be in his box.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- with Tass, the Russian news agency. I wanted to come back to Russia in a more general way. The relationship at this point seems to be at one of the lower points since the end of the Cold War. You have about a year left in office. Do you want to improve that relationship and how do you want to do that. If you could probably compare your approach to the one that was outlined recently by Governor Bush in his first speech?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say I would love to engage in the last question, but I am not a political figure. I am Secretary of State and as I have said many, many times, I have had all my political instincts surgically removed.
Let me say, I believe very strongly that it is essential to have a functioning relationship with Russia. We have a great deal of business with Russia and they continue to be an important power. We cooperate with them where we can as we are in Kosovo and Bosnia, as we do on a whole host of issues across the range of diplomatic activities. There is no question that the campaign in Chechnya has complicated things because we do not believe that they are on the right track. I think President Clinton stated this very well in Istanbul. People understand the difficulty of the situation that Moscow is facing. The idea of using indiscriminate force against civilians is not an appropriate way and, especially, since they are -- the Russians are members of the OSCE and there is a way to have a mechanism whereby the OSCE could assist in finding a political settlement.
I expect that in the time that I'm Secretary of State that I will continue to have many very important discussions with Igor Ivanov as well as with Prime Minister Putin, and, occasionally, with President Yeltsin, and that we will work in the way that we have been, which is to be very frank with each other, lay out the problems and try to understand each other's position and continue to cooperate where we can and state our differences very clearly. I think that is an appropriate mature relationship.
The last thing I think that we should be doing is trying to turn Russia back into an enemy. We spent 50 years in that mode. On the 10th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall and my visits with the President in that region -- I went to Slovakia by myself -- it made it apparent to me one more time how much time was lost during the Cold War. And being enemies with Russia is not the right approach. We should do everything we can to develop a relationship that is rational, that serves both our countries' national interests and where we do not recreate an enemy where there isn't one.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- more specific. You talked about the lack of linkage between the political and the economic approach. People say that it does show up in the IMF, but in terms of the EX-IM Bank and their loans, there seems to be a delay of some loans that have previously been approved by the EX-IM Bank.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have to look into that. I don't know the answer to that. I was not dealing with EX-IM loans recently. I think that we are trying very hard to keep our eye on the ball about what is important in terms of how we deal with Russia that is in our national interest and that keeps the issues in a way, in their own tracks, so we can get the right answers.
MR. RUBIN: Thank you.
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