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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama

Joint Press Availability, Department of State Treaty Room
Washington, DC, May 19, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. I have been very glad to welcome my very good friend, Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, back to the State Department today for a working lunch that was both pleasant and productive.

Our menu included bilateral matters as well as the full range of issues affecting U.S.-EU relations. And as I told the Foreign Minister, Portugal's presidency of the EU has helped to strengthen trans-Atlantic relationships. I think they have had a particularly successful presidency.

A key test of our relationship will be our success in working with regional partners to bring a lasting peace and greater prosperity to the Balkans. And I know that the Foreign Minister understands the need for Europe not only to shoulder the lion's share of the burden in this effort, but also to be seen quantifiably as doing so.

In our meeting today, the Foreign Minister and I both expressed dismay at the Communist-style crackdown currently underway in Belgrade, and we discussed ways that the United States and the EU can make clear our solidarity and increase our support for the courageous men and women who are demanding their rights in the cities and towns across Serbia.

We agreed that officials in Serbia face a choice: they can stand for freedom and the rights of all Serbs, or they can prolong Milosevic's rule by participating in the oppression. Those in the latter group, especially judges, prosecutors, police and the leaders of the security forces, will face the consequences. The United States has already added some of their names to our travel ban here, and our European colleagues will be considering this step. And I have no doubt that the people of Serbia will remember who stood with Milosevic and who stood by them.

On a related matter, I am gratified that the Senate yesterday voted not to join the House of Representatives in threatening to force the premature withdrawal of U.S. troops from Kosovo because, in the Balkans, signs of impatience can be seen as symptoms of weakness. And our goal is not to leave, but to prevail, so that when we leave we don't have to return.

Of course, the United States and the European Union cooperate not just in Europe but all over the world, and the subject of burden-sharing comes up in many different areas. One we discussed today is the need to develop broad international support for Plan Colombia. The narcotics trade is a global threat and our response to it must be global as well. Toward the end, we look forward to a successful pledging conference in July.

The Foreign Minister and I continued our consultations today on East Timor, Sierra Leone, National Missile Defense and Russia, ESDI, Korea and the Middle East peace process. And, finally, we spoke at length about the upcoming U.S.-EU Summit in Lisbon, one feature of which will be a freewheeling discussion of the new economy. And the idea that this be a freewheeling discussion came from the time that the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Guterres, and I met in Lisbon, and we thought that it would be good to have this kind of a discussion at the next summit.

There is much more to be said, but let me just say we're all really looking forward to being back in Lisbon. Mr. Foreign Minister.

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Thank you very much. The Secretary of State made that entire brief on our talks, and I not only recognize the briefing as being quite objective, but also I recognize the comments she was producing as quite appropriate regarding what happened recently in Yugoslavia. And we are also very much committed on the EU side to go on strongly pressing for evolution and democratic change in The Former Yugoslavia.

It's crucial. We have been better coordinating our efforts for sustained contribution for the Western Balkans regime, be it Kosovo, Bosnia. We will have next week the peace implementation council again. We have been engaging also support on Montenegro, and through the Stability Pact we have a wider perspective for contributions for economic reconstruction in all the area.

Obviously, this is possible also through a strong cooperation and friendship with the United States, with whom we are now preparing the next EU-U.S. Summit where we'll have the occasion to highlight all these aspects and, above all, creating the conditions and paving the way for fostering trans-Atlantic links in the areas of new economy and e-society, communications, information and development. This is very important, and together are important in contributions for settling regional conflicts in many parts of the world will thus be announced, like in Africa or Latin America.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, will you indulge us? I'd like to ask a question about Elian Gonzalez. Madame Secretary, do you have a problem with the schooling that Elian Gonzalez has receiving in his Maryland retreat, and has this issue been raised with Cuban diplomats?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that everyone is obviously concerned about Elian's welfare, and the case of Elian is in the courts -- where it belongs. You asked about Cuban -- we have called in the head of the Cuban Interests Section yesterday. A range of issues was discussed, but I'm not going to discuss in detail the topics that were raised.

But while I have your attention on Cuba, I want to say how welcome it is that the Cuban Government has released two of the four dissidents whose names I have had on my desk from the beginning of my tenure as Secretary of State. They have released Felix Bonne and Marta Beatriz Roque, and we urge the Cuban authorities to free the remaining two, Vladimiro Roca and Rene Gomez Manzano. And I think that that will be -- those two need to be released, as well as other prisoners that are being held for political reasons.

QUESTION: To both of you, in light of the Secretary's remarks, do you think, Foreign Minister, that we're going to have a coordinated U.S.-European Union push to ouster Milosevic? And if we don't, are we going to? And the question would be for both of you. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Well, we have been cooperating, strongly cooperating, with the U.S. regarding their needs and expectations for deep political change in Yugoslavia. And we are, on the EU level, re-targeting our cooperation with that country in order to focus on the civil society, independent media, opposition municipalities, thus creating conditions for a strong opposition coming into the streets and expressing the will of the people. And that's happening these last recent months, and that's a very effective symbol of a concrete hope for that country.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I can only add the following, is that we have been working together closely. We obviously spent a lot of time talking about it again today. We will continue to do so. And I think that the work that we all have been doing, which the Foreign Minister described, has played an important role because we have been very supportive of the development of civil society, helping the various municipalities where there have been some local officials that have taken stands. And so this -- we have spoken on the phone so many times about our cooperation on this, practically every weekend actually, and I think that we will obviously continue to do so because we have the same goals.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, at the risk of going overboard here, I want to ask three -- your answers can be very short, but it's three separate things. Democracy over the last 24 hours has not fared particularly well, and particularly in three places: Peru, with the election problems; Paraguay, with the attempted coup; and, in Fiji. And I'm just wondering if you could say maybe a little bit about each of those three places and how the U.S. feels about what's going on.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it's clear that about all three of them we were troubled by the events that have happened.

I think that, on Fiji, I have been following that closely. Assistant Secretary Roth and I have spoken about it, and obviously we are concerned about the events there.

In Paraguay I think that that has turned out in a way that obviously was of concern at the time, but was able to be dealt with.

And on Peru, I must say I am depressed about the way that that has been going on. I think that we will continue to watch those elections very carefully.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, did you assess the mounting concerns in Europe about the American new -- the missile defense system? And what do you expect to come out of the European-United States Summit in Lisbon about that question? Thank you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, again, this is an ongoing discussion in terms of not just my but a number of American officials talking, explaining, discussing, the necessities that we feel for looking at this decision, moving forward with an arms control agenda, explaining what the National Missile Defense is about, talking about the threats, discussing the importance of the ABM Treaty. This has been an ongoing discussion that I've had with my various European visitors.

And I believe that these are very important talks and that they need to be carried out in full frankness and openness with our close allies. And I think that we're all learning a lot about how this is going to work. What we have said, I said to Foreign Minister Gama, is that we don't want to see any de-coupling from Europe, whether it's because of ESDI or because of this. And so we feel a very close alliance, and allies discuss these kinds of issues that are of central importance.

Perhaps you'd like to comment on that.

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Well, as allies, we must go on discussing, getting wider information, having wider perspective regarding this problem, and also having the U.S. vision about how to articulate it with ABM negotiations and START negotiations. It's very important, that overall view.

It's also very important, and I very much hope the best for the U.S. Administration, that during the next summit not only with European Union but of all, in this case with Russia, such an important basket of questions can be handled in a constructive manner looking into the future.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up briefly on Peru? Would the United States recommend to Peru -- or would it like to see, rather -- a postponement of the election there, which has been asked by the opposition?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have been discussing this morning about what we think would be a useful approach. We want to see fair and democratic elections in Peru. The people of Peru deserve that, but I can't give you yet a definitive answer.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I'd like to know if the U.S. considers the events in Fiji a coup, and if the U.S. is considering any sanctions against Fiji.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Again, this is something that is kind of going on as we speak, and I'm not going to characterize anything at this moment.

Thank you.

[End of Document]
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