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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Foreign Minister of Iceland Halldor Asgrimsson

Joint Press Conference
Reykjavik, Iceland, September 30, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

FOREIGN MINISTER ASGRIMSSON: (Greeting in Icelandic). First of all I would like to welcome the Secretary of State of the United States, Madeleine Albright. We are very honored and pleased to have you here in this beautiful weather. You have tried to reach this country before. For the first time it was some political problems in other parts of the world and you could not land here. The second time it was the Icelandic weather. But now you have brought the good weather with you and we are very thankful for that because we did have a bad forecast.

We have had a very good meeting this morning and we are very pleased with that meeting. We have discussed a whole range of issues, international issues and bilateral issues. I could say that we agree on most things. We share the common vision of peace and democracy. It is very important for us in Iceland to have these bilateral discussions with Madeleine Albright and we are looking forward to spend the day here with you. The floor is yours and after that we would take a few questions and I think most of those questions would be to Madeleine Albright.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: You wish.

(laughter)

FOREIGN MINISTER ASGRIMSSON: Well, I know my people.

(laughter)

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Godan daginn, Iceland. It is wonderful to be in Reykjavik finally. And it is always a pleasure to meet with my very good friend the Foreign Minister and I am also looking forward very much to meeting with the Prime Minister. As the Foreign Minister said we had a very productive meeting. The United States greatly values Iceland as a friend and an ally and a partner.

Today we talked about ways to enhance our already strong defense and security relationship and to support Icelandís growing role within the NATO alliance. And we talked about the situation in the Balkans and the need for the world to acknowledge and support the oppositionís clear victory in the Yugoslav elections. I congratulated the Foreign Minister on Icelandís many contributions to refugee resettlement, security and democracy in Bosnia and Kosovo. Our two countries will soon begin talks regarding the upcoming 50th anniversary of our bilateral defense relationship. I have kidded a lot about the fact that it is the 50th anniversary of everything but I do think that as we look at fifty years of a strong defense relationship it is not a joking matter. It is a truly important issue and celebrating the anniversary is an important opportunity to reaffirm our mutual commitment to the defense of freedom and the unshatterable character of our transatlantic link.

On the economic side we discussed Icelandís progress in expanding commercial ties during its tenure as chair of the European Free Trade Area. And we look forward to further talks on how the private sector in both our countries may benefit from Icelandís access to the European Economic Area. And we welcome Icelandís efforts to diversify its own economy and to become more accessible to transatlantic investment.

Finally, we talked about environmental protection and our cooperation on scientific and engineering issues, especially in the geo- and bio- sciences. And the purpose of the memorandum of understanding we just signed with Minister Bjarnason is to formalize this cooperation through a joint council so that the research communities in both our countries have access to the best facilities and expertise each has to offer.

Before closing I also want to offer my public congratulations to the Foreign Minister and all of Iceland for Vala Flosadottirís magnificent performance in the very first womenís Olympic pole vault. I admire that characteristic. I wish I could do anything like that. I am a strong advocate of women going higher and she has done it both literally and brilliantly. And I look forward now to my meeting with the Prime Minister and to visiting some of your incredibly beautiful cultural and natural treasures. I am so very pleased that the weather and politics finally allowed me to get here.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, does the U.S. government think that it is either desirable or necessary to review the agreement on defense signed in 1996?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it is something that needs to be done because it is part of a procedure. I think that it is a way for us to make sure that we are mutually dealing with questions and working with each other and we talked this morning about how to make the procedure a smooth one.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate changes in the defense structure of Iceland?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I believe that it is very important that we work out an agreement that is mutually acceptable and is reflective of the very strong relationships that we have and we discussed that.

QUESTION: You mentioned that you discussed the need for the world to recognize the oppositionís victory in the Yugoslav elections. Iím wondering how you interpret then reportedly President Putinís decision to send Foreign Minister Ivanov to Belgrade?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that it is very important for everybody to understand that Milosevic lost in this round. Just the way the signs in Belgrade say that the opposition is holding up, he is finished. It is time for him to go. When I spoke with Foreign Minister Ivanov, and I am going to speak with him a little later today again, is I have said if they have questions about what these protocols are, that the opposition -- the opposition has protocols from virtually all the polling stations -- and they should take a look at them and assure themselves that these are elections in which the opposition won overwhelmingly. And I am not sure that Foreign Minister Ivanov is going. I am trying to determine that in a phone call. I think that it is a good idea. I think the Russians need to make clear also that they understand that this has been a procedure in which the opposition has won.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about the memorandum of understanding, if there are any differences and if so what the differences are.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: On the defense?

QUESTION:: Yes, on the memorandum of understanding. It is regarding the future ofÖ

SECRETARY ALBRGHT: First of all I think it is very important to underline the fact that this has been a remarkable relationship always and certainly in the defense aspects also. I think there are some questions out there about the costs associated but from my perspective I think these are all issues that can and must be worked out. The Foreign Minister and I spoke about them when he was in Washington and I think that these kinds of issues are important. They need to be worked out but I hope that in no way will they undermine the importance of this very important relationship.

FOREIGN MINISTER ASGRIMSSON: I just wanted to add to this that we have formed a high level group and this group will be meeting on Monday and Tuesday here in Iceland and we have been preparing these meetings and we hope that we will be able to conclude the issues we have been discussing and we have discussed that in our meetings and we think that we will get a solution in this high level group.

QUESTION: Are you going to reduce the costs or reduce the helicopter team or something like that?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that these are the kinds of aspects of these discussions that take place in this high level group that the Foreign Minister discussed.

QUESTION: Did you discuss the future of NATOÖ (inaudible) Öthe Baltic states be a part of thatÖ (inaudible question about running for the Czech Presidency).

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We did discuss NATO enlargement. I think this is a subject that the Foreign Minister and I have discussed on any number of occasions. We agree, the U.S. agrees, that there needs to be an open door policy, that no one can have a veto over membership, that it is important for those countries including the Baltics to understand that NATO membership is a responsibility and not a gift and that following the membership action plan it is essential to work out a way to be a really good and responsible NATO member. So our views have been very similar. I remember one of our original meetings, when we were still talking about this expansion of NATO that just took place, the Foreign Minister and I were in complete agreement and I found him a very strong and important ally. So I think we have the same approach.

I am the Secretary of State of the United States, a born Czech but an American so I have not been considering that.

QUESTION: I have a two part question, the first one about Yugoslavia. Do you believe that the Contact Group could or should move in the coming days? Second question is about the Middle East. There are clashes still going on today in Jerusalem and parts of the occupied territories. Donít you believe this violence could harm or even compromise the whole peace process in the region?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me do the Middle East first. We are very concerned about the violence that is taking place. It clearly is counterproductive as far as moving on the peace process. I spoke yesterday with Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami as well as with Chairman Arafat and we spoke about the importance of restraint and the danger of a cycle of violence developing. We are in a very delicate stage in the talks and I think that it is very important that this violence stop. I think that it is very counterproductive. On Yugoslavia, I think that we are all in touch with each other and as I said I am about to speak to Foreign Minister Ivanov and I have been speaking to the other members and you know, we are going to be in Paris, so I canít answer the question specifically. We certainly are all in contact with each other but whether as a Contact Group we will meet or not I am not sure. It is possible but I am not sure.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, following the announcement yesterday about high level North Korean visit to Washington what significance does the Clinton administration at this time attach to this and could this possibly lead to you going to North Korea before your term is over?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, we were very pleased to be able to announce the meeting. I will be the host of it. This will be the highest level meeting that has taken place. We have been discussing a broad range of issues with the North Koreans in other venues. The President will meet with the representative of Kim Jong Il and we will be discussing a broad range of issues. When I was in Bangkok the Foreign Minister had said that he hoped that I would be coming to Pyongyang if circumstances allow then I would look forward to that but at this stage we have to see how these talks evolve. The situation as far as the Korean peninsula is concerned is evolving rapidly and in a generally positive way. We have a lot of issues that have to be discussed, those to do with the agreed framework, the missile talks, the issue of their wanting to get off the terrorist list. So there are a lot of issues out there.

QUESTION: Madame Secretary, during the Kosovo crisis I understand that you consulted by telephone with your Icelandic colleague. Were you satisfied with the support that you got from the Icelandic government?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely and I think that the understanding that the Icelandic government has had all along for the importance of the Balkans I think it has been very encouraging. We were talking about the size of Iceland and location and population and the size of it does not measure up with size of the support that Iceland has given. It has given the support of a major ally. And we are very grateful for that.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about the cost of shipping of the transatlantic shipping line Atlantskip for the defense base. Do you recognize the interference of Torricelli (inaudible)?

FOREIGN MINISTER ASGRIMSSON: I think she is not familiar with it. We did not discuss this in this meeting. This is something that will be discussed in the high level group on Monday and Tuesday. This is something we will be able to solve. We did not go into any details of individual contracts on the base. I donít think we can go into that here.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say, we have talked about these subjects before and I must say that I think that where we have made great progress is in fact by developing a mechanism for dealing with this kind of issue. And those are the issues that are going to be discussed when this group is here next week.

FOREIGN MINISTER ASGRIMSSON: Well, then I would like to thank all of you for attending this meeting. I would like to thank you, Madeleine, for all your answers, and thank you very much.

[End of Document]
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