Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at the EastWest Institute Awards Dinner Presentation to Foreign Minister George Papandreou of Greece and Foreign Minister Ismail Cem of Turkey
New York, New York, May 2, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, May 3, 2000
U.S. Department of State
(In progress) Three years ago, the EastWest Institute helped me celebrate a very special birthday in a very special way. Based on that experience, I can report two things. First, the Institute really, really knows how to throw a party; and, second, it has an uncanny sense of knowing who to honor.
The people that we are honoring tonight are truly special, and it's very evident why we are honoring them. For, in less than a year, my friends, George Papandreou and Ismail Cem, have done more to bring about reconciliation between Greece and Turkey than any comparable duo in living memory. I am not going to repeat the wonderful words out of this film, but just to say that they were able to get together in times when others couldn't imagine it and when their role in helping us deal with the situation in the Balkans was immeasurably important.
We've talked about "seismic diplomacy" and we have talked about the number of agreements that they have signed, but I would like to spend my few moments up here talking about them as people. I have spent a great deal of time on the phone with each of them, calling them and asking for their help, whether it was in support of the Kosovo campaign or whether it was in support of assisting the Albanian refugees, or whether it was in support of our general diplomacy. They were always there. They always answered the phone, no matter what hour of the day and night, and wanted to help and have shown what incredible allies they are to the United States as we pursue what I consider one of the most important campaigns in terms of making sure that ethnic cleansing did not have a place in today's world.
They also, I think, have done something unbelievable in the way they treat each other. I think that you saw that in this film -- their respect for each other and thereby showing respect for each other's population and their countries and each other's history.
I have had the honor of presenting awards here before. In fact, I think I am a regular. (Laughter). What is so interesting to me about this award is others have been given to heads of state who have been natural friends and allies or were part of one country that split up or were neighbors that had a variety of relationships in the past. But this is the first time that an award has been given to Foreign Ministers for work that they do on a daily basis, the value of diplomacy and personal relationships. And for Foreign Ministers who, in fact, have taken two countries that have, as we've seen, disliked each other for a long time, had battleships that faced each other at various times and are dealing with a very complicated issue in Cyprus, and yet who were able to overcome all of that because they understood the importance of working together.
I met today with both of them bilaterally and then, as we say, trilaterally. We had a very important meeting, I think. They know that the United States will do everything in our power to help our dear friends and allies to sustain their extraordinary momentum and to encourage essential new steps towards a comprehensive settlement in Cyprus.
The world is very familiar with the historic possibilities for peace in Northern Ireland and the media report on every twist and turn in the long search for peace in the Middle East. But in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean and the work done by these two extraordinary diplomats, there has been as yet no global recognition.
Tonight, we take a step in rectifying this oversight. We give meaning to the insight that if Europe is ever to be truly undivided and at peace, that a key part of that culmination must be a truly normal relationship between Greece and Turkey. We honor two men who richly deserve to be recognized as statesmen of the year.
George, Ismail, congratulations. The world is proud of you. You give diplomacy a good name and America is cheering you on.
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