|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
NATO Secretary General George Robertson
Joint Press Availability, Ben Franklin Room
Washington, D.C., April 4, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good morning. I am very pleased to welcome Lord Robertson to the Department of State. He has certainly made a great start on a tough job, and I appreciate very much the opportunity to work closely with him.
This morning, we had far more than breakfast on our plates. We talked about the fact that the NATO Ministerial will be held in Florence next month, and how we're preparing for that. Among the issues we discussed was further development of a European Security and Defense Identity, both within NATO and as a part of the European Union. The formula our leaders agreed upon in Berlin and Washington has to continue to guide our efforts, and the sound security links between NATO and the EU are essential.
The interests of allies who are not EU members have to be protected, and our twin goals are an EU that is more effective on security issues and an Alliance that remains united and strong. The Secretary General and I agreed that NATO must be as effective in meeting the 21st Century threats as it was in defending our liberties during the past 50 years. The importance of this is illustrated by our ongoing effort to assist the people of Bosnia and Kosovo in building stable, democratic societies. NATO can be proud of the progress its forces have helped to achieve in both places.
I was in Bosnia last month, and trends continued to go in the right direction, towards a greater inter-ethnic cooperation, the return of refugees, reduced tensions and increased stability. We welcome especially SFOR's arrest on Sunday of Mr. Krajisnik, the most senior figure apprehended on behalf of the International War Crimes Tribunal. And as this arrest shows, we will not let up in our effort to bring suspected war criminals before the bar of justice.
In Kosovo, ongoing problems shouldn't obscure the overall gains. And the Secretary General was just there and has commented on the fact of the progress: large-scale violence has ended; the Kosovo Liberation Army has effectively disbanded, and a civilian Kosovo Protection Corps has been established; and preparations for municipal elections are underway.
The Secretary General and I discussed the need to respond firmly to violent extremists on all sides, and we very much welcome the decision by respected ethnic Serbs, Serb leaders, to attend meetings of the UN's interim administrative council.
Finally, the Secretary General and I reviewed a range of other Alliance issues, including the importance of NATO's open door policy and resuming with Russia the full range of relations based on the Founding Act.
It has now been almost a year since the 50th Anniversary Summit of NATO, which was held here in Washington, and the past 12 months have been eventful and provided, I think, very strong evidence of NATO's paramount role as a force for democracy and stability. Clearly, our future security depends on NATO's strength, which depends in turn on NATO's unity -- and, fortunately, Secretary General Robertson is a firm believer and a robust contributor to the strength and cohesion of the Alliance.
And I am very glad to have him here and I really look forward to working with you even more closely, Mr. Secretary General.
SECRETARY GENERAL ROBERTSON: Thank you. Madame Secretary, it's a great day to be in Washington. Fifty-one years ago today, the Washington Treaty was signed and NATO was born in this very city. The generation that you and I represent, and many others, have got a good deal for which to be grateful for the ceremony that took place 51 years ago.
But it's also a good day to come to the United States and to thank the United States Government and the United States people and you personally, Madame Secretary, for the work that you have done in NATO in strengthening that unity, reinforcing that unity, and for what you've been able to do in Kosovo and before that in Bosnia.
The Alliance is not just some paper structure; it isn't just a treaty; it is a live organization there to make the peace, to keep the peace and to shape the peace for future generations. And the United States of America is a stalwart supporter of that process and we are all grateful for the help, continuing help and robust support that it gives there, too.
It's a good time also to be in Washington because, as we develop the European Security and Defense Identity, it is clear that Europe is now beginning to take its share of the burdens that for so many years the Americans have wanted. A realization in Kosovo, especially last year, that the imbalance inside the Alliance needed to be redressed and that perhaps too much of a burden was being carried by the United States has led to this brave new initiative which we're working on and which is of such importance to all of us.
And I'm confident that the Europeans will deliver the capabilities and will deliver the political will to make sure that the European Security and Defense Identity does not mean less United States but means more Europe and, as a consequence, a stronger Alliance.
It's also a good day to be in Washington because today Mr. Krajisnik, one of the most powerful and significant figures during the Bosnian War in the 1990s, is today in the Hague in the Netherlands facing justice at the International Criminal Tribunal. French troops, acting within the Stabilization Force in Bosnia the other morning, arrested this individual who is indicted for crimes against humanity and of genocide.
And this is not just a signal of our continued resolution on this issue; it is a very powerful message to those who still have not given themselves up. And the lesson is: the net is closing. For Karadzic and for Mladic and for Slobodan Milosevic himself, they have to realize that the net is not going to stop closing until all of them have faced justice at the Hague.
And I hope that it is also a signal, not just to the international community of NATO's continuing resolve in this area, but a signal to the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina to use their votes this Saturday in the elections that will be taking place throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina that they can vote for the future. They can vote to turn their back on the past and the failed policies of ethnic hatred and rejoin the modern Europe that offers so much to their people.
As the Secretary has said, we've discussed today NATO's Capabilities Initiative launched at the Washington Summit, and I will continue to remind the allies of their obligations here and to make sure that we build and reinforce the capabilities that will be required for tomorrow's threats and not yesterday's enemies. And their capabilities was one of the key elements of my own agenda when I was appointed to NATO last year, and it will remain one of my key agenda items for the future.
As, Madame Secretary, you have said, NATO-Russia relations are of enormous importance. I went to Moscow recently and met Acting President Putin and, as a consequence of that visit, we have resumed the relationship that existed until the 24th of March last year, a relationship that is built on the NATO-Russia Founding Act, which you had so much to do with bringing about and which has to do with strategic partners, NATO and Russia joining together to deal with and to discuss the problems that face us together, and not trying to deal with them on a separate and isolated basis. A forum for frank talking it certainly is, but also a forum for dealing with common security threats, which future generations will expect us to address on a common basis.
All in all, it's a good time and a good day to be in Washington, and I'm grateful to you, Madame Secretary, for all that you are doing for this great organization that has done so much for all of us.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, forgive me for straying a bit geographically, but for the Elian Gonzalez case, can you tell us, first of all, have you heard from the Cuban Government in any official way that they will actually let him go along with the other five people you've signaled you would give visas to?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No. I mean, we have said that we would give these six visas to the immediate family, the teacher, the pediatrician and a cousin, but there has not been either acceptance or rejection from the Cuban Government.
QUESTION: And from your Interests Section, do you have any news this morning about whether you expect them to travel perhaps today?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We do not have enough information on this yet.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'd like to stay on the same subject, if I could. You spend a great deal of time traveling around the world to young democracies, stressing -- I don't want to use the word "lecturing" -- but trying to convince them of the importance of maintaining the rule of law. And we have now in this country a case where the rule of law is being manipulated by political means, and I'm just wondering if you think this is going to make your job more difficult when you travel to these young democracies in trying to convince them of the need to maintain rule of law. And, also, is it ever acceptable for domestic rule of law issues to become intertwined in a foreign policy affair?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I think that generally as we talk about the importance of democracy and the rule of law, it has very large implications, I think generally, about how rule of law is applied. I will continue to say that.
As we have talked about the rule of law, the importance of it in Kosovo was one of the subjects we talked about today and the important of apprehending the war criminals. So I think it's very central to the aspect of what we're doing. I believe that countries will continue -- do continue -- to see us as a good preserver of the rule of law, and I don't see any change in that.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary General, last week British forces investigated a report that Serb tanks or armored vehicles had made an incursion into the 5-kilometer exclusion zone around Kosovo. I was wondering if you could say whether or not any conclusions have been drawn since that investigation and what NATO might do if Serb forces are found to have been in that zone.
SECRETARY GENERAL ROBERTSON: No, I can't give you any conclusions on investigations that have taken place. All I can say is that the military-technical agreement that was signed last year with the Yugoslav authorities prohibited the incursion by military vehicles into the ground security zone, and we would consider it to be a very serious violation of the military-technical agreement if Serb forces were to be found in that situation.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary General, you talked about the apprehension of Mr. Krajisnik and, actually, a question for both of you. It's been the understanding, at least around here, that Mr. Karadzic is still in the area that is under French control and that Mr. Mladic is in Belgrade. Would either of you care to say that that's still your understanding? Would you expect now, since the French have taken this move, that they might be more aggressive, shall we say, in going after Mr. Karadzic?
SECRETARY GENERAL ROBERTSON: Well, we don't talk about intelligence matters for very good and obvious reasons, and I would make and emphasize the point that this is not the first major indictee for war crimes that have been picked up by French troops acting in Bosnia. And I would personally congratulate the French troops and their commander for the action that they took in the circumstances. It always involves risks. It is always a difficult exercise to do, but they made a measurement of that and Mr. Krajisnik is now going to face justice in the Hague.
And I would say this to all of those who remain indicted and, for the moment, out with our reach: that we will eventually get them. And frankly for their own purposes, it will be better to face international justice at the Hague than face some of the rough justice of the Balkans. And, Mr. Karadzic, Mr. Mladic and the others may hide; they may run and they spend a lot of time doing both. I say to them the net is closing in and they should give themselves up, and the Balkans would be better if they did.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me also say that we're very pleased with the fact that Mr. Krajisnik has been picked up and he's on his way or is in the Hague. And I think that the French are to be congratulated. I tried at length yesterday to be in touch with Foreign Minister Vedrine but he is traveling, but we have been in touch with the French to congratulate them.
I have to say that from the very beginning when the War Crimes Tribunal started when I was Ambassador at the United Nations, there have been people who have doubted whether it would do this kind of thing and there have been skeptics all along. And I have always said that it was a process that was good and worked -- and was essential ultimately -- for there to be peace and rectification in the Balkans.
And as the Secretary General has said, I believe the statute of limitations does not run out on these kinds of war crimes, and the Krajisnik arrest is a huge step forward. And without discussing any intelligence issues, which is absolutely appropriate, I think that this is a very good signal and I hope that it is viewed that way. And it's a sign. This is a good process. It's an important process and it's the way ultimately that collective guilt is expunged when individual guilt is assigned -- and their time will come.
QUESTION: For both of you, Madame Secretary, last month in Venice you had some rather blunt comments about US concerns about ESDI and what the European were going to do in terms of collective security and defense because of the, shall we say, shortcomings in contributions to the Kosovo effort. I'm wondering if you discussed this at all, those specific concerns with the Secretary General.
And to the Secretary General, what was your response to those concerns if they were, in fact raised?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we generally spoke about ESDI and the fact that the United States is most supportive of it and the importance of having the defense capabilities of it filled out, and the fact that we are supportive and that we think that within the NATO Alliance this is a very appropriate way to deal with the issues at hand. And we talked generally about the contribution of forces. I congratulated the Secretary General on his excellent op-ed in The Washington Post today in which he really describes the situation and who contributes what and what is needed.
SECRETARY GENERAL ROBERTSON: I think the Europeans are very conscious of their role and their responsibilities, especially in Kosovo. The European Union nations are now contributing 63 percent of the troops in Kosovo. I don't know whether you know what the largest troop-contributing country is or whether you'd like to hazard a guess, but it's Italy, which has got more troops than any other single nation there. If you take the European countries as a whole, the EU and the non-EU countries, 81 percent of all of the troops in Kosovo come from European countries.
So the Europeans are playing their part, conscious of the need to do so because the European continent needs to be stable, and Kosovo is at the very heart of making sure that there is stability and security in that part of the world. But the development of the European Security and Defense Identity is designed to strengthen NATO and to, inside the Alliance, share more of the burdens. It's still continuing work. It's still work in progress. I remain vigilant to make sure that what we are creating is something that will add value to the NATO Alliance because that, by the end of the day, is the only criterion that will satisfy me. And as the continuing work goes ahead, I will remain vigilant and robust, and I'll make sure that the Alliance's interests are the major interests and the ones that will be paramount.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, could I just get one more back on the Gonzalez case, if I could? Can you give us a little idea about the thinking and your role in the decision-making, why six were issued when the Cuban Government's list, at least, was 31 or 28, depending on the numbers?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that, first of all, I think it's very important for this situation to be resolved, and we think that this is the appropriate time for Justice and INS and the lawyers to have the space in order to be able to deal with this issue. In terms of making our assessment, I think the point here was to try to make it a group that is really useful to the child. I think again -- I keep stressing this, I think we all do -- is that we have to keep the interests of the child central here. And this is his immediate family and a teacher and a pediatrician and a cousin, and we're reviewing the others.
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