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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Indonesia Foreign Minister Alwi Abdurrahman Shihab

Joint Press Availability, Treaty Room
May 15, 2000, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. Let me start by welcoming Foreign Minister Shihab back to Washington for his third visit since becoming Foreign Minister. We were just talking about that, and I'm very glad to have him here.

Indonesia is in the midst of a historic transition to democracy, the success of which is of great political, strategic and economic importance to the United States, to the region and to the world. As always, I look forward to discussing recent developments in Indonesia and to reviewing the full range of very many important bilateral issues.

I am particularly eager to be briefed on the historic "Joint Understanding for Humanitarian Pause for Aceh" signed by the government of Indonesia and the leadership of the Free Aceh Movement in Geneva on May 12. The United States strongly supports this agreement and commends the government of President Wahid for rejecting violence and pursuing a political path to peace. This is a genuine act of political courage on both sides and represents the best chance in over 24 years to end a conflict which has caused profound suffering and cost thousands of lives.

To demonstrate our support for this bold effort to achieve peace, the United States will help provide the humanitarian assistance called for in the agreement. We call on Indonesia's friends in the international community to join us in this endeavor so that we can help create an environment in which this humanitarian pause can become a permanent peace.

The Foreign Minister and I will discuss how else the United States and the international community can be helpful as the implementation of this agreement moves forward. As we have said many times before, the United States supports dialogue aimed at achieving justice and peace in Aceh, within the context of a united democratic Indonesia. The May 12 agreement is an important first step, but sustainable resolution of the conflict will require a comprehensive political settlement that addresses the core grievances which have animated conflict in the province.

I look forward to hearing from the Foreign Minister on Jakarta's thoughts on the next steps and am hopeful that Jakarta, the leadership of the Free Aceh Movement and the people of Aceh will do whatever is necessary to push the process of reconciliation forward.

Mr. Foreign Minister, glad to have you hear with us.

FOREIGN MINISTER SHIHAB: I would like to take this opportunity, first of all, to express the government of Indonesia and myself our deep appreciation and gratitude to the United States Government and its support to Indonesia and its recognition as the third largest democracy in the world. We are in the process of democratization and we would like to see democracy bring prosperity to our nation, and the United States is indispensable to bring about prosperity for Indonesia, especially that we are in need. We have just gone through an economic crisis and the United States demonstrated its commitment to support President Wahid's government, and for that I would put emphasis on our gratitude and thanks.

I would like to see our next meeting in Jakarta. This is my third meeting with the Foreign Minister, and I would like to invite her to Jakarta to see the progress of the democratization process.

With regard to Aceh Joint Understanding, I think this is also a historic event for the Indonesian people, as well as for the Acehnese people, that at last we have succeeded in laying the foundation for the peaceful settlement in Aceh, as well as in the region. We have emphasized the territorial integrity of Indonesia as it has been supported by the United States as well as the international community.

I also would like to take this opportunity to refer to the shared responsibility between the United States and Indonesia that the democratization process in Indonesia is shared by both the international community and Indonesia in order to bring this process into a success. And I think, again, I would like to emphasize the strong support Indonesia enjoys from the United States and the democratic community of the world.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

QUESTION: Before the unpleasantness begins, I'd like to wish you a happy birthday, Madame Secretary.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

QUESTION: The Post had an interesting story on Saturday about the possibility of US mediation of the dispute between China and Taiwan. Are you not at all tempted to become more actively involved in bringing those two together?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, the story was kind of taking one plus one and getting three, so it isn't exactly accurate. But what we think is very important, and we have been saying to both parties, that it's important for the peaceful dialogue to resume and for there to be every effort made for a peaceful resolution of this issue. And I think that the best role for the United States is to make clear that the only way to resolve this is in order for there to be cross-Strait dialogue with a peaceful resolution.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you mentioned the possibility or likelihood of US assistance for the process, to support the Aceh Agreement. Can you tell us what form of assistance you're thinking of, and could you put a tentative value on that assistance?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, not yet. And what I'm looking forward to is hearing from the Foreign Minister various details of what has happened. I think that, from our perspective, that there is some necessity for humanitarian assistance. And that that necessarily is not a huge sum, and we would like to figure out how to be helpful. But that's a subject that I specifically am planning to talk to the Foreign Minister about.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'm wondering how you, after your years working at the UN, how you respond to Kofi Annan's comments about the US commitment to peacekeeping that he made to The New York Times over the weekend.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, you won't be surprised to hear that when I called him on Saturday, he said he had been misquoted. The Secretary General and I spend a lot of time talking about how the UN can be more effective in peacekeeping and how the United States can be supportive and very much a part of it.

And I think that there clearly is a level of frustration -- I think on both our sides -- about the problems in Sierra Leone and how the international community can deal with that. We have made quite clear to the Secretary General that we want to be helpful in terms of logistical support and lift.

We've worked very hard, Matt, in terms of developing, or helping the Africans develop, this African Crisis Response Force, and trying to get the Africans themselves and other countries to be helpful in these very serious conflicts.

I think that the United States is very supportive of the peacekeeping operations. And some we're involved with with people on the ground; some we are involved with by providing the logistical support that we are the best at or have an advantage in; and, in other ways, we are trying desperately in the process of getting the second tranche of our money to the United States; and, finally, we are trying very hard to get our funds in this budget so that we can pay our peacekeeping dues and bills and be able to stay on a course.

So I think that we're doing quite a lot, and I expressed that point to the Secretary General. But I think that the UN peacekeeping operations -- there seems to be a great deal that can be done and needs to be done. And we want to be helpful, but others also have to do their share.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, on the recent confrontations in the West Bank, are you afraid that this is going to hamper the current peace negotiations there?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, obviously it's of concern and we don't believe that violence is going to solve anything. We think it's very important that the leaders themselves try to do everything they can to control any violence. It's very important that there be the right climate so that the peace efforts will be able to go on. Ambassador Ross is arriving in the area today and he will be meeting with both parties.

And we've learned over and over again that violence is not the way to resolve this, nor does it help in moving the peace process forward.

Thank you.

[End of Document]
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