|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Argentine Foreign Minister Rodriguez Giavarini
Press Availability, Palacio San Martin
Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 16, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
FOREIGN MINISTER GIAVARINI: (in Spanish) I thank you for your presence here and I would like once again, and now before the Argentine and international press, I would like to bid the most cordial welcome to our country in the name of the President of Argentina, Dr. De La Rua, and the Foreign Ministry of Argentina. I welcome Madame Madeleine Albright, the Secretary of State of the United States of America.
It is an honor for this country to have you here. We have worked hard all this morning and, once again, we have been able to see the strength of the excellent relationships we have with the United States in Argentina. The complete agreement on state policy, on human rights, on the institutional quality of democracy, the fight for peace and equal development of people. All these topics have been the basis of the policies that Madeleine Albright has implemented at the State Department and we have always supported these policies since they agree with our state policies, with the agreement of all the political parties and also supported by the different congressmen in the different commissions. Madeleine, once again, welcome before the whole of the press.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Buenas tardes, Argentina. It is always a great pleasure to be in this beautiful, dynamic, capital city of Buenos Aires, and a great pleasure to meet with my very good friend the Foreign Minister. I am also looking forward to my meeting with President De La Rua later today.
This is a very exciting and productive time in U.S.-Argentine relations. We have recently had the opportunity to exchange visits at the Presidential level. And we are determined partners in defending and supporting democracy throughout our hemisphere.
In recent years, we have taken our defense ties to a new level. We are colleagues again at the UN Security Council. And Argentina's strong support for peacekeeping efforts around the world -- in areas as diverse as East Timor, Cyprus, and Kosovo -- represent a critical contribution to world peace, and we hope this will remain a high priority in coming years.
In today's meeting, the Foreign Minister and I had the opportunity to focus especially on our mutual support for democracy in the Americas, including our backing for President Pastrana's effort to rescue Colombia from drug traffickers. We discussed Haiti, where the democratic process is very precarious, and where Argentina continues to play a very important role in pressing for the rule of law and institutional reform. And we emphasized the importance of a true dialogue leading to democratic reform in Peru.
In addition, we reviewed a series of issues being discussed at the United Nations, with emphasis on peacekeeping and financial issues. And we talked about how a vigorous Mercosur can lead to progress in building a hemispheric free trade area of the Americas.
Tomorrow morning, I will join the Foreign Minister in meeting with the leaders of the Jewish community and in paying respects to the victims of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the AMIA cultural center. The United States and Argentina are united in our opposition to terror and our support for democratic values of tolerance and law.
In closing, let me just say again how much I value the very special relationship that the U.S. and Argentina have. And the very special relationship that the Foreign Minister and I have. And I'd be glad to answer questions.
QUESTION: (in Spanish) Secretary of State, in an hour you will have a meeting with President Fernando De La Rua. Do you have any requests for the President? Do you have any message from President Bill Clinton to President De La Rua? And what are the most difficult points in the U.S.-Argentine relations, if there are any special requirements?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I kind of prefer to keep my requests to the President to the President, but let me say this, as far as the relationship between the U.S. and Argentina, they are in very, very good shape. The Presidents, I think, understand each other very well. They have a very good personal relationship, but even perhaps more importantly, because the value systems are so similar, the relationships between our two countries are very important.
President Clinton did send his very best wishes to President De La Rua, and I'm very glad to convey them. And the subjects that we are going to be talking about are the kind that have to do with our overall relationship, questions, some questions on trade. I think our general cooperation in hemispheric affairs, and I'm hoping very much that we can also share an overall larger strategic view of a variety of international issues.
QUESTION: A question for Madame Secretary: Can you tell us how you responded this morning to the request that the U.S. declassify more documents referring to the repression in Argentina in former decades. And could I also ask the Foreign Minister, what he thinks about the Plan Colombia and the massive U.S investment in that plan?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I had an excellent meeting this morning with the NGO community, which not only was composed of some of the Mothers and Grandmothers from the disappeared, but also representatives of women's groups, legal organizations, environmental, support for civil society, and I have particularly enjoyed meetings whenever I travel, with representatives of civil society. And if I could make this judgment, I found this one one of the most vibrant, and interesting of these kinds of groupings, and really a sign of the very important role that civil society is playing in Argentina and the importance of that relationship with the government.
As far as your specific question is concerned, I said that I would do my best to try to see what papers there were, and when I got back that I would do that, and see. As you know the State Department is not responsible, or is not the keeper of all papers. But I will do what I can to be of assistance because this is an issue of humanitarian as well as conscience that I think we need to deal with.
QUESTION: (in Spanish) Madame Secretary, good afternoon. I would like to know how the U.S. sees the image of Argentina of President Fernando De La Rua, when compared to Argentina under the former President Carlos Menem.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm a diplomat (laughter from the audience). And let me just say that we have excellent relations with this government. We did with the previous, but I think that what is very important is that Argentina truly is not just a leader in the hemisphere, but internationally in terms of its support for democracy, its efforts to deepen it here as well as wherever it has influence, its participation in the peacekeeping operations as I mentioned, the important role that it has played in our Community of Democracies Initiative, and I think we consider Argentina an excellent partner which is evident in every conceivable way. And I find that having the Foreign Minister on the other line of the phone, my good friend Adalberto, is always very helpful. I'm very grateful.
QUESTION: Given the fact that the CIA has refused to release documents regarding the Pinochet case, there have been some criticisms here and also in Chile, but that perhaps the U.S. is sending mixed signals about its willingness to cooperate in ongoing investigations in the dirty war and other military dictatorships here. How do you respond to that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that we have released thousands of pages of documents as far as Chile is concerned. There will be more documents released in September. And the President has asked us, all various agencies, to be as forthcoming as we can be in releasing documents. And I believe we are living up to that.
The U.S. wants to be as cooperative and helpful as possible in trying to understand better what happened in a series of tragic situations. And I can tell you that as far as the State Department is concerned, I'm going to. I've already done a great deal to make sure that the documents on Chile are released, and as I responded to a previous question, I will do what I can in terms of getting documents declassified that have to do with Argentina.
QUESTION: (in Spanish) Yesterday the Brazilian Foreign Minister said he discussed with you, Madame, the possibility of having international actions in Colombia, and that Brazil was not in agreement. I want to know if this topic was discussed during the working meeting this morning, and if so, what is the position of Argentina?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me clarify something. I had a general discussion with the Brazilian Foreign Minister about Colombia and the idea of moral support for the kinds of things that President Pastrana is trying to bring about and support for peace and social and economic change. I did not ask for financial support. So I think it is important to clarify that.
I would like -- before I answer about the reaction here -- to offer our condolences to the people of Colombia and President Pastrana for the terrible killings in the last thirty-six, forty-eight hours. There are so many tragedies and this was a huge one, and I offer our condolences, that of the American people to the Colombians.
In my discussion, I will let the Foreign Minister answer for himself, but I felt that we are very much on the same track in terms of understanding that the problems of Colombia are not just of Colombia but for the region and that it is very important to give President Pastrana moral and, where possible, technical support in dealing with what is a very serious situation in Colombia and for the region. Mr. Minister.
FOREIGN MINISTER GIAVARINI: (in Spanish) Thank you. President Andres Pastrana is a friend of the President of Argentina and we have a very fluent relationship with that country, we are friends of the people of Colombia, and in October next, President Pastrana will come to Argentina.
The position we have discussed with the Secretary of State is that Argentina, when the group of friends was called upon, we sent the Undersecretary of Latin America Affairs to Madrid. We will maintain a completely active stance and help through our actions in FOAR, the Fund for Horizontal Assistance, and all those technical agencies that will make it possible to find a solution to this conflict, or at least to solve some of the aspects of this conflict.
We have discussed refugees and, very especially in the case of crop substitution, we can give our own assistance in technology through the Argentine technological institutes, any help that will be required by the Government of Colombia. This is the assistance Argentina is ready to provide since this conflict is a conflict affecting the whole region.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, Dennis Ross is going to the Middle East. He is arriving there tomorrow. And I'm wondering if you and the President hope that his trip and his meetings that he will have here before the vacation part of his travels gets underway will result in a next Camp David or a Camp David II. And also, there seems to be a lot of speculation in some quarters, including these, that you may be going to the region in the near future. Thus affecting not only yours, but our travel plans. Can you say anything about that?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Traveling press wants to know where we are going next? You know, like Rome, on the way back from Tokyo.
Let me say, Dennis Ross, with whom I have spoken several times in the last forty-eight hours, is going to be going. I think that one of the things that has been going on since Camp David is an assessment of where things stand. Assistant Secretary Walker is returning from a tour of the Middle Eastern capitals and he should be back tomorrow the 17th. He has been sending in reports. I will be speaking with him. I had the opportunity yesterday to also speak with Acting Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and we are generally looking to make an assessment about where the situation is. Obviously, the United States is prepared to continue to be as helpful as possible. When, in first instance, with Dennis Ross. I am also available, when it's important.
I have to tell you that there is not a current plan on this trip to go to the Middle East. And the President, with whom I spoke in Los Angeles, is very interested in making sure that we make the best use of our time and do what we can to be helpful.
QUESTION: My question is the following: the Republican presidential candidate, George Bush Jr., has expressed fears about the possibility that Colombia might turn into a new Vietnam for the United States because he said there is a fine line between training and combat. I would like to know if you express or you share these same feelings? Thank you very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am not going to comment on any candidate's position because, as I've made it very clear, I had all my partisan instincts surgically removed when I became Secretary of State. However, I will say that we have been very careful about Colombia.
A couple of years ago I felt that it was important for us to focus on certain countries in order to do everything we could to help them pursue a democratic path, deal with their economic and social problems, deal, if necessary, with whatever peace processes they have in place, and deal with their internal problems. The countries that I chose, not only for their inherent importance, but also for their importance to the region, are Indonesia, Nigeria, Ukraine and Colombia. All of them very complicated and all of them very important to the national interests of the United States as well as to their regions.
In Colombia, President Pastrana constructed Plan Colombia which is a comprehensive way of not only dealing with the very serious narcotrafficking problems but with social economic issues, with the human rights questions, and with the peace process. And the United States is supportive of that. Whatever military component there is to it, is one which has to do with providing a security envelope by the Colombian military for the national police in dealing with narcotrafficking. And we are very much aware of fine lines having been deeded, some fine lines by the previous administration. So I think that we are very careful about this and are very concerned to make sure that the military involved in this have clean human right records.
Each of the individuals has been vetted for their human rights records. But what is, I think, very important that should not be missed as a part of Plan Colombia is its comprehensiveness and its social and economic aspects and its human rights aspects, and those countries that are supporting it financially, for instance the Europeans are helping in terms of the social and economic parts of this. So I think it is very important to see it as a complete plan constructed by the Colombians, for Colombians.
QUESTION: For the Argentine Foreign Minister, and linked to the previous question. I would like to know if Argentina will have an active participation during the opening of the U.S. files as to the dictatorship, so as to bring a greater clarification to the disappearance of people.
FOREIGN MINISTER GIAVARINI: (in Spanish) The Argentine government believes that anything used to bring truth, to bring light to truth will help positively to understand the history and also to understand the present time. So yes, the answer is definitely yes.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: In reference to the previous question, and that is that of the various plans that we have put before Congress, Plan Colombia had the greatest bipartisan support, which is why we were able to give 1.3 billion dollars for over a two year period. It was a totally bipartisan supported plan in the United States.
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