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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Availability following meetings with NATO Foreign Ministers and partners
Florence, Italy, May 25, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Before we begin I would like to express my shock and sadness at hearing of the deaths in Sierra Leone of the AP cameraman Miguel Gil Moreno and Reuters correspondent Kurk Schork. They were colleagues and friends for many of you, they went into dangerous areas to tell us all what was really going on and their contribution was invaluable and my admiration for their work and their courage is also unbounded.

We have just wrapped up two very good days of meetings among NATO Foreign Ministers and partners. This being Florence, I am tempted to suggest several days more. Instead, I will thank Foreign Minister Dini and the Italian Government for being such excellent hosts.

I also want to thank NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson and his staff for their efforts in organizing this Ministerial.

We have just concluded a very productive session of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council. This meeting of so many Allies and Partners joined in a common cause underscores the progress we are making in preparing for the future by erasing without replacing the divisions of Europe's past.

During today's meeting, I expressed my admiration for the contributions so many Partners are making to democracy and peace through their participation in SFOR and KFOR, and their support for the Southeast Europe Stability Pact.

We heard a presentation from the Pact's Special Coordinator, Bodo Hambach, and discussed the need for persistence and adequate resources as we build on the progress that has already been made. I expressed strong U.S. support for the development of a Southeast Europe emergency response capability, especially in light of the recent earthquakes and floods.

I also joined in welcoming Croatia as the newest member of the EAPC and of the Partnership for Peace. Croatia's new leaders deserve enormous credit for the steps they have taken to bring their country closer to Europe's democratic mainstream.

The new Croatia could serve as an important model for others, and the United States looks forward to welcoming both President Mesic and Prime Minister Racan to Washington in early August.

The EAPC also reviewed progress being made on a number of specific partnership initiatives such as small arms and demining, and the need to focus attention on areas in addition to Southeast Europe, including the Caucasus and Central Asia.

A number of my NATO colleagues joined me in underscoring the Alliance's ongoing commitment to keep its door open to new members.

The United States applauds the statement issued by aspiring NATO members in Vilnius last week. Their support for democratic values; their recognition of the importance of the transatlantic link; and their commitment to do what's needed to contribute to our common security deserve high praise.

Earlier today, I was also pleased to participate with Foreign Minister Tarasyuk in the fifth meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission. Ukraine has proven itself a strong partner through its participation in peacekeeping missions, and it will take another step forward with the deployment in July of a Ukrainian-Polish Peacekeeping Battalion.

The United States places a high value on our friendship with Ukraine, and I know that President Clinton is very much looking forward to his visit to Kyiv early next month.

All in all, I really do think we have had a very successful and comprehensive NATO Ministerial. And now I would be very pleased now to respond to your questions.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I would like to have your comments about the strong criticsm against the tribunal for war crimes in Yugoslavia expressed yesterday by your Russian counterpart Mr. Ivanov. And also to know if you are satisfied by his explanations about the visit of the Yugoslav Defense Minister to Moscow earlier this month?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all let me say, that we have been great supporters of the War Crimes Tribunal. I am very proud of the fact that I was our Permanent Representative at the United Nations when the War Crimes Tribunal was created. A lot of people had doubts about whether it would work at all. Then when it finally got its complement of judges and prosecutors, people thought that it wouldn't work and it has worked, it has managed to have a very large number of indictees as well as people that have been, that are now at The Hague. And I think it is doing what we asked it to do - we, the Security Council on which Russia sits as a permanent member and who voted for the War Crimes Tribunal - that it is doing what it has to do in a very difficult situation. The purpose of the War Crimes Tribunal, as many of you have heard me say many times, is to assign individual guilt so that collective guilt can be expunged and that is the way that ultimately we hope that the societies will live together. So, I disagree with Foreign Minister Ivanov's assessment and I very much support what the War Crimes Tribunal is doing.

On the explanation, the Foreign Minister of a country is asked in front of a meeting of NATO Ministers what his explanation is; he gave an explanation and said that there had been some technical errors and that steps had been taken to rectify it. So, I am satisfied with his explanation.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I met with Foreign Minister Cem and Foreign Minister Papandreou, as I have a lot recently. This time we met separately and we discussed the importance of building on the good relations that the two of them have developed as a result of their personal commitment to it and what some of them have called earthquake or seismic diplomacy. They both, I think, are dedicated to improving their relations and we obviously are in helping as much as we can. On the Cyprus issue there has been obviously delay in moving the process forward because President Clerides was not able to attend the meetings that were supposed to be in New York a couple of days ago. We are looking forward to those talks being resumed and we hope very much that there will be progress and that there will be discussions of substantive issues. It's very important that they begin to talk with each other about the various aspects of the Cyprus situation.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, to follow up on Christophe's question. You must have seen reports from Moscow which indicate very mixed signals on a couple of issues including the Ojdanic visit and the question of strikes against Afghanistan. How do you feel about the fact that the Russian government doesn't seem able to speak with one voice on these things?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, I am not in a position to comment about the various statements that have been made but, a little facetiously here, I don't think all governments are always capable of speaking with one voice.

QUESTION: I gather about the relation with the Russians, NATO is always saying that it has excellent coordination with the Russian troops in Bosnia and Kosovo. The Russians did boycott the meeting of the Peace Implementation Council again because the Milosevic regime was not invited. Did you get any explanation from Mr. Ivonov whether they support the Milosevic regime in Belgrade or opposition there?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what I have sense from talking with Foreign Minister Ivonov, and you need to ask to ask him how he feels about things, is that they understand the importance of the military cooperation that is taking place in Kosovo - and believe me at the levels where the military work with each other I think there is a sense that the cooperation works very well as it has in Bosnia. The Russians, generally, I think are more concerned about the sovereignty of the FRY and they make that a point. We believe that it's very important that the people of Serbia are able to join the other people in Southeast Europe in being able to select there own leaders and don't think that Milosevic is a person who represents the Serb people. I believe that the Russians also think that it's important for the Serbs to be able to live in a way that is appropriate for them but I'm not going to comment further on Foreign Minister Ivanov's views.

QUESTION: Mrs. Secretary of State, given the worries and doubts expressed by European leaders about NMD, are you still convinced that you will be able to convince them about the credibility and the pertinence of the NMD?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we have spent a lot of time, not so much at this meeting frankly, but at other times, in offering briefings of a detailed kind that one does with allies about what we consider the threat and also the systems that are under consideration for NMD. And it's an ongoing discussion. It is obviously important for our allies to feel that they have been consulted and that we take their views into consideration. Ultimately this is a decision that the President, whoever that President is, must make for the United States in our national interest.

QUESTION: Can you explain please what the political meaning of your Defense Trade Initiative is? It looks to be an agreement like this: we give you our okay on European Defense, but European countries better buy American weapon?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: What it is, I think, is exactly what it says on the surface. It is a way that there can be better cooperation among allies, technological bonding so to speak, so that the weapons programs and the weapons used are inter-operable and that that exchange works in a way that makes all the allies feel that they have access to American defense goods.

QUESTION: How do the Western governments plan to help the free media in Serbia which everyday are more and more under pressure of Milosevic's regime?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: One of the discussions that we had and I have had this discussion now in a number of ways in the last couple of days, is how generally the West can be supportive of the free media in terms of providing assistance in ways that is appropriately done. The Western European countries are interested in helping in countries that are nearby that can beam in information in a variety of ways that we can support, we, the large Western we, can support the media and make clear that such a crackdown is impossible and that it is actually contrary to what the Serb people want. There was a general sense that the independent media needed to be supported in any way that was possible to do. I found very interesting - by the way, one of the most interesting meetings that I had was my breakfast meeting with countries from Southeast Europe. This group came together during the war and they were bonded together by the purpose of helping to win the war. They are now bonded together by the desire to make the peace work and to really become a part of the European mainstream. And they talk about projects that they can do together; they talk about how to relate to the rest of Europe. Among the things that we discussed in that meeting was how to support the independent media, how to give support to the opposition in Serbia generally. Thank you very much.

[End of Document]
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