|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, High Representative Solana, and Commissioner Chris Patten
U.S.–EU Ministerial Press Conference, Quai d'Orsay
Paris, France, October 2, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) We have just held the Ministerial Meeting between the European Union and the United States. Mrs. Albright represented the United States, and I represented the French Presidency. Alongside me are Javier Solana as Secretary-General and Chris Patten representing the European Commission. We addressed a number of different topics: the situation in the Western Balkans; Russia; the situation in the Middle East; European Defense Policy; questions concerning the price of oil; the preparation for the summit between the United States and the EU, which will take place in Washington next December 10. On each point, we verified each other's analysis, and in fact we worked both quickly and, I think well, in a very precise fashion, because we know perfectly well each other's positions. We are in contact every day, reacting in ways which converge, and ways which are practically identical on most subjects. These include the Middle East, the Balkans, and the situation in Russia. Other subjects were discussed during lunch, including European Defense Initiative, the dialogue between the producers and consumers of oil.
The preparations for the EU Summit were a different subject, and these required more discussion. On the subject of European Defense Policy the United States had questions, to which we responded. This dialogue has been more active in recent months, and is following a structured plan. I believe that it is progressing well, and has allowed us to answer the questions which we were asked.
On the question of oil, we had an exchange of views and analysis, because the European Union has called for certain initiatives concerning the dialogue between consumers and producers, not only with OPEC but with oil producers in general. We were very interested by the American decision concerning strategic reserves. It was a decision which we studied, which presents great interest from the European point of view, which made us think about our own options of this kind.
As to the U.S.-EU Summit, it was a matter at this stage of establishing a preliminary agenda. It will consist of a dialogue on the important subjects of foreign policy which we cannot set in advance, because it depends upon events. Also there will be an exchange on the contentious trade issues, which it will be useful to discuss, while not becoming bogged down in these issues, and speaking only of these issues, because the data and our positions are well- known. It's useful to recall that all the trade disputes between the EU and the U.S. represent just one percent of overall EU-U.S. trade, and they are completely marginal from an economic point of view. If we can make headway there, we will certainly take advantage of this opportunity.
During the Summit there will be other common initiatives that we will want to take. There are a number of different possibilities, but others might be added. One topic might be AIDS, and the cost of medication against AIDS, and other aspects of scientific cooperation. Climate and environmental issues were also brought up as a possibility, and we also thought it would be a good idea to have part of the Summit reserved for a free-wheeling discussion on a topic which will be determined later on, depending upon current events as they transpire.
So that's a very swift rundown of what happened during our Ministerial Meeting. And I think it's totally obvious that all this transpired in an excellent climate, and I think the discussion was very concrete, and very satisfying for all of us. The fact that we see each other all the time and are constantly in touch enables us to move forward very quickly. Of course there are always new developments over time and we can compare and contrast our reactions. But this Ministerial Meeting between the EU and the U.S. has occurred at a very timely moment in our relations and our cooperation, and I was pleased from every point of view.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. Foreign Minister Vedrine, High Representative Solana, Commissioner Patten, distinguished ministers, and members of the press, I'm delighted to be with you in Paris. As usual, there is an awful lot going on and we consulted, as the Foreign Minister said, on a variety of topics. Truly, underlying these discussions was a deep sense of partnership.
Our relations for the past five years have been guided by the New Transatlantic Agenda. This framework has provided the underpinning for our cooperation on common foreign policy challenges. The EU's growing ability to speak with a single voice on foreign policy matters has helped us to work together worldwide. One area where our common stance should be understood very clearly is southeast Europe.
We began our meeting today by discussing the evolving situation in Yugoslavia. We agreed that all credible evidence shows that Kostunica won the election on September 24. The U.S. and the EU have already indicated a willingness to lift sanctions once a democratically-elected government takes office in Belgrade. Today we discussed how we would engage with a democratic Yugoslavia on reconstruction and economic development. We agreed on the need to do so quickly and substantially.
I also reviewed with my counterparts the status of the ongoing Middle East peace process. We are very concerned about the violence that has taken place. It is counterproductive to the peace process. I have spoken with Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, as well as with Chairman Arafat. We discussed the importance of restraint and the danger of a cycle of violence developing. We are at a very delicate stage in the talks, and I think it is absolutely essential that the violence stop. As we have said, issues have to be resolved at the negotiating table and not in the streets. On this the EU is in full agreement.
I am also very pleased that the North Atlantic Council and the EU's Interim Political Security Committee held their first-ever meeting in September. Close consultations between these two organizations is necessary to make sure that the transatlantic link is strengthened as European capabilities are developed. I am sure that this was only the first of many such fruitful discussions. We also discussed the importance of providing a clear role for the non-EU European allies in EU security planning and operations. Such links will help ensure that the development of a European security policy, which the United States strongly supports, will enhance the security of all NATO allies and of Europe as a whole.
We talked about Russia and the conflict in Chechnya. The U.S. and the EU agree that Russia must understand that it cannot resolve the situation by force. Together we continue to urge Russia to overcome technical obstacles to the return of the OSCE assistance group to Chechnya.
Finally, we reviewed plans for the U.S.-EU summit to be held in Washington in December. We expect that the summit will indeed provide an opportunity to build on areas of cooperation and to promote the resolution of trade issues that have challenged us for such a long time. The summit will also provide an opportunity to review progress towards stability in southeast Europe and to see how far we have come in developing NATO-EU relations. As the Foreign Minister said, with constant developments in the foreign policy scene, there is always a lot to talk about with our very, very close EU partners. Thank you very much.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SOLANA: (in French) Thank you. I have nothing really to add. Everything has been presented to you very clearly and very precisely. I want to underscore the very fine climate which prevailed during this summit. I think it was very important in terms of the problems that are developing before us and that we can help solve.
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) Let's move on to the questions, but, if you would be so kind, there are some burning subjects and I expect you will want to raise them. But I would prefer that you pose first questions concerning the contents of the European Union-United States Ministerial Meeting. After that, we will move on to the Middle East, Yugoslavia, and so on. So do you have any questions concerning relations between the European Union and the United States?
QUESTION: (in French) My question is addressed to the two ministers: Secretary Albright said that issues relating to non-European Union members had been addressed during this summit, this ministerial meeting. Is there full agreement on this topic or whether there is still some measure of disagreement as to the role to be played by non-EU member countries in operations?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we had a good discussion on this subject. We, the U.S., consider it very important that the non-EU NATO allies have a possibility of the fullest kind of participation. I think we had a good discussion on this. I think that the movement is definitely in the right direction. We just want to make sure that the links that are developed are the kind that become firmer and firmer. From my perspective, there is a general agreement on the direction and it's just important to keep working on it. I don't think it's a huge a point of disagreement. I think that we have pretty much similar views on it. I think it's a matter of how quickly these relationships and links are developed.
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) It's similar. I think that the mechanisms for mutual information, consultation, and training are entirely satisfactory. But the European Defense Initiative puts in place the project of European defense, and consultations cannot take place until the mechanisms exist or have been decided by the Fifteen. The Fifteen are completely open to information and consultation but there is no way for a country which is not a member of the European Union to become involved in decision-making by the Fifteen. So we have to strike a balance and the procedure that we are currently developing is, I think, an excellent one because we reconcile these various requirements.
QUESTION: (in French) You said that the American initiative to release part of the strategic oil reserve was interesting for the European Union. Are the Europeans going to put their strategic reserves on the market? And Madame Albright, concerning the dialogue between oil producers and consumers, how will this happen concretely, because the United States has always refused to talk with OPEC as a cartel? Do you envisage a real dialogue with OPEC?
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) I will answer first with a few words. The European Union has taken the initiative in recent days to try to launch a dialogue between the producing countries, not simply with OPEC, and the consuming countries. That's one thing. As to the strategic reserves, I said that the European Union is analyzing what was done by the United States. The situation is not comparable. The European countries don't have the same options. We can't decide to do the same thing, because the matters aren't comparable. But the European Union thinks that it's interesting to have a better understanding of what the Americans have done.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that we believe in dialogue between consumers and producers. It's essential to have that. But we are only concerned about having an overly-structured system that doesn't allow for some suppleness in how it works. But we do think that consumers and producers need to speak to each other.
QUESTION: (in French) Today, Russian President Putin invited Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Kostunica to Moscow to discuss how to resolve the present situation in Yugoslavia. What is your reaction to this initiative?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It is my understanding that Mr. Milosevic has already turned this down. We think that it is very important for there to be full recognition of the fact that Mr. Kostunica has won, and that it is important for there to be support for that conclusion. Mr. Kostunica is working very hard, I think, to make sure that this victory is vindicated, and I think that it's important to make sure that we all recognize that the people of Serbia have spoken for democracy and Mr. Kostunica.
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) I would like to add that the initiative of Mr. Putin is a good one if it is designed to indicate to Mr. Milosevic that he should quit. He has been rejected by the Serbs, who showed the impressive courage to vote in mass against Milosevic in order to escape from the trap into which Milosevic had led them. It is also a good initiative if it is taken in order for Russia to indicate to Mr. Kostunica that Russia has also recognized that he won the elections, and that he is already the legitimate representative of a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
QUESTION: (in French) Does the initiative of Mr. Putin complicate the efforts of the European Union and the United States to resolve the crisis in Yugoslavia, because he speaks of a second round?
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) I will repeat what I said last Thursday in Moscow, after my discussion with Mr. Putin and Mr. Ivanov. There is a complete convergence between the views of the United States, Russia and the European Union, insofar as Russia has also supported a democratic change in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The Russians have not shown any form of indulgence toward President Milosevic and his regime. Therefore in that respect there is convergence. As to the ways in which one or another may react to given events at a given time, there is of course a convergence between the U.S. and the E.U. and Russia, but obviously the Russians express themselves with a different tone, given their historical relations with Yugoslavia and Serbia. But there is not a difference in terms of overall goals. There may be timing differences, or diverging opinions on specific items, but we are working within this framework of general convergence, and we are working more closely, as we are between the United States and the European Union. I think everyone will come forward when it's a matter of assisting the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to become more democratic. On that we're all going to work together. But for the time being there are some shades of meaning and some slight differences which you can perfectly well understand.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that I agree with the way that Foreign Minister Vedrine has stated this. We have all been in very close touch with our Russian counterparts. I think it is evident from their perspective that Kostunica won the first round. They have said that. We believe that Kostunica is the victor, that the people of Serbia have made that very clear. The fact is now that Mr. Milosevic has even rejected an idea by the Russians. I think it's very important for there to be recognition of the fact that there was a heavy electoral turnout for Kostunica, as Foreign Minister Vedrine said. The people of Yugoslavia have been brave in going out and making that very clear. That victory now has to be supported and vindicated.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, in your close contacts with the Russians, are you talking about Mr. Milosevic's future, and are you still absolutely determined that he should be brought to trial, or would you prefer, or would both of you prefer, perhaps, to see him go to Russia or China or somewhere else?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have the same position that we have always had: that Mr. Milosevic belongs in The Hague.
QUESTION: (in French) If Milosevic decides to stay, what happens then?
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) For the time being, we're not there yet. We are not assuming that there will be no way to convince him to withdraw. We are engaged in a struggle, a democratic struggle. You will note that Mr. Milosevic did not dare to claim that he had won the first round which was his initial goal, nor did he even claim that he was in the lead in the first round. He came up with figures which in all probability were false. But he had to acknowledge that he was way behind Mr. Kostunica, which puts him in a defensive position, because of this upwelling of democratic action in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. So I think we have to focus for the time being on that objective during the initial phase. There is no sense in speculating on what may transpire in the future. I think what is most important is to acknowledge the legitimacy of Mr. Kostunica in the wake of the first round and that we support him and he has our confidence for the forward movement of democracy in Serbia. I think we can stop right there for the time being.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: If I might add to that, Milosevic tried to steal the election. He didn't succeed. He can't steal it now. We do know what would happen if it's very clear that Kostunica is able to assume the office that he was elected to by the Serb people. We discussed the fact that we are all ready to welcome a democratic Serbia into the community of nations. Once Mr. Kostunica is able to take his office, sanctions would be lifted, and we would all figure out a way to really help the new Yugoslavia. The people of Yugoslavia have been suffering for many years now with an economy that is bankrupt. Where they used to be a jewel of the Balkans, they now are the dark hole. I think they have an opportunity and they have voiced their views very clearly by going to the polls for Kostunica and everybody needs to support that now.
QUESTION: Obviously you are already thinking about Yugoslavia after Milosevic. How clear are the signs that the U.S. and the EU see that Mr. Kostunica will be cooperative with the West?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that the issue here is that Mr. Kostunica is very clearly a Serb nationalist. One can recognize that one can be a nationalist and not be an ethnic cleanser. I think that he is obviously entitled to believe in a strong Yugoslavia. He has never been a communist. He's someone who has made very clear that he believes in the rule of law. Those are values that are important to the U.S. and to the European community.
HIGH REPRESENTATIVE SOLANA: (in French) Let me just add one point. I fully concur with what Secretary Albright has just said, and I would add that it is important to refrain from doing anything now that would provide arguments that Mr. Milosevic could use to strengthen his rear guard maneuverings which he may be indulging in.
QUESTION: (in French) A while ago you said that Mr. Milosevic belonged in The Hague, that that would be his fate and his future. But if Mr. Kostunica does become president he has already said that he does not recognize the legal validity of the tribunal in The Hague.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that he has said that it is not his first priority. But we continue to believe that Mr. Milosevic belongs in The Hague. He is an indicted war criminal. He has to end up there.
QUESTION: (in French) Today you cannot rule out the possibility that Mr. Milosevic will try to overcome the population by firing on the crowds or whatever. Now, do the United States or NATO envisage any possibilities as to how they would react to that kind of move by Milosevic?
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) Well, they are two different things and you have to sort this out. The analyst can look at possible scenarios and then you have to see what the political leaders may say at a given point. I believe that our task at the present time, in particular, this week, and I am repeating this, is to refrain from doing anything which would complicate the task of the democratic movement in Yugoslavia which has been courageous in turning out and voting. We now have the evidence that Mr. Kostunica is in the lead. But, of course, everything can still be kept up in the air by Mr. Milosevic, and Mr. Kostunica knows this far better than we do. So it is our task to support the democratic movement, finding the best way to do so, and perhaps we should be more constructive rather than threatening in our approach. For example, the hand extended to the Serbian people by the Europeans and by the United States during the month of September when the electoral process was getting under way was tremendously important. It was very important that we not strike a tone of threats but rather encouragement, saying that if democracy wins the elections, then the Yugoslav democrats will be able to move closer to Europe and so on. I think that's what they are expecting that we will be doing for the time being.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I completely agree. (Continuing in French) You see that our relations are very good.
QUESTION: Madame Albright has made it very clear that Milosevic belongs in The Hague. We just heard that it might be wise to extend a hand. Would it be possible, or is there any united front of any kind possibly to give him a break should he walk out in peace?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have said and will continue to say that he belongs in The Hague and any other speculation is not called for. I think that he is an indicted war criminal. We have said he belongs in The Hague, and there is no statue of limitation.
QUESTION: Madame, you have talked about the violence in Jerusalem and Palestine. Who do you think is responsible for this violence and who can stop it and who should stop it? And a personal question, what are you doing next year, after finishing your work as Secretary of State?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, let me say that the violence is very counterproductive to all the efforts that we have all been making to bring the peace process to a conclusion. I think that it is very important now for both sides to do everything to dampen the violence. The President has called on both sides to exert maximum efforts. He has also suggested, and Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat agreed, that as soon as conditions permit, the United States will chair a meeting of Israeli and Palestinian security officials for the purpose of fact finding and to prevent a reoccurrence of the events of the past few days. But prior to that meeting both sides should conduct themselves in an appropriate way and conduct reviews of what is happening and continue to meet with each other. We have been in touch with both sides and are telling them that a cycle of violence will never lead to what they both want, which is peace, and we will continue to work on it.
Believe it or not, I haven't really thought about what I'm going to do next, because I have so much to do at this moment and just the subjects that you are talking about make that evident. I spend full time on these issues with a tremendous amount of effort and will continue to do so until the last moment, noon , January 20.
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) As far as I'm concerned, I have stated quite clearly that while France has already stated who is responsible for this, for the violence, even if there have been other groups who have taken violence as a pretext for further violence to sabotage the peace process. Now what can be done to reduce tensions? Well, I think it's up to the leaders on both sides to do something about this. They're not accountable or should be held liable for these acts, but at the same time, I think they have to be extremely creative in order to make sure there is no spiral of violence that gets out of hand, and they should get back to the bargaining table. We certainly are doing everything we can to make sure that dialogue will prevail. The talks that are under way at present, certainly, we will do everything we can to make sure that they reach their logical conclusion and I certainly would like to hail once again the strong personal commitment of President Clinton and Secretary Albright. They are doing admirable work, but obviously their efforts cannot stand in place of the commitment of both parties which have an historical responsibility at the end of the day. As far as the European Union is concerned, France and the other member states will do everything we can to facilitate and support this search for a solution and to make a contribution after a solution is found.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, I was wondering who the United States is intending to send to the region to chair this review you were mentioning and when you expect that to happen? I would also like to ask you and Foreign Minister Vedrine if you think a regional summit would be helpful at this stage in the Middle East.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that it has not been decided who would chair such a review. But I think that clearly the United States is prepared to be as helpful as possible. As for a regional summit, the bottom line here continues to be that the parties themselves have to make the hard decisions. So we have said this, the United States is prepared to help, the French are also, but ultimately, whether there are summits of the Arab leaders or as you mentioned, I think the most important point here is that the leaders themselves are the only ones that can make the hard decisions and that's where we should concentrate now. They need to concentrate on lowering the temperature and dealing with this violence and they need to concentrate on the hard decisions that have to be made.
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) I agree. I think that summits can be useful in so far as they help the main parties concerned to take those tough decisions and live up to their historical responsibilities.
QUESTION: (in French) What about the meeting of donor countries for Lebanon? Does this depend upon the composition of the government and its nature, the degree of stability in the area, or does it also hinge on the implementation of Resolution 520, calling for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Lebanon?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we should all be quite pleased with the way that the situation in Lebanon has evolved from the time when the Israelis withdrew and UNIFIL has been able to take up its responsibilities. We do think that it is important for Lebanon to exercise authority over its entire territory, and we hope that that will come to pass. There continue to be some problems along the line. The United Nations operation, I think is handling that according to all the appropriate mechanisms.
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) Let me just add that this whole meeting hinges on everything that you've mentioned in your question. This Conference, of course, shall take place, but it has to be convened under the best possible circumstances, and in order for that to happen, it has to be properly prepared as well.
QUESTION: (in French) French public opinion was very shocked by the pictures that we saw on TV of a Palestinian child being shot right next to his father. I was just wondering if you mentioned those pictures during your meeting and what was the reaction within the Quai d'Orsay and in the White House?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (in French) First, I must say that such pictures are always shocking. We did discuss this problem, and we said on many occasions that it's very important for the violence to stop, and that both parties must do everything in their power to get the peace process back on track. I have spoken with my colleagues in Washington. Everyone was shocked. But I think the most important thing now is for Prime Minister Barak and Mr. Arafat to do everything in their power to lower the temperature.
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) I would like to say that the images were horrifying, but there are many horrifying situations that happen in the Middle East that are never captured on film, and we know that this goes both ways. Because of this, we are so obstinately engaged in our search for peace. We are fully aware of the huge difficulties that lie in the path of peace, but we know that the only alternative to a peace agreement is violence. Brutal violence in all of its horrible cruelty.
QUESTION: (in French) The Palestinians, with the support of the Arab League, have asked for the Palestinian Territory to be placed under the protection of the Security Council. They have also asked for an international fact-finding mission to be sent. Do you think that such a request has any chance of seeing the light of day? What are your feelings on this subject?
FOREIGN MINISTER VEDRINE: (in French) I do understand why the Palestinians would make such a request, but I would like to say to them that the absolute priority at this stage is to come up with a solution for the substantive issues. There are a lot of fact-finding missions that could be sent to the Middle East for a variety of different issues, but would that bring us any closer to a solution? I'm not so certain. So I understand that as a result of the grief and the anger such a request should be made, that people should try to accumulate all sorts of evidence. We've already seen the footage – it's terrible. But really, I do believe that what we have to focus on today are all those things that will get the peace process back on track so we can have a substantive solution. It requires enormous political courage, both for the Palestinians and for Mr. Barak. And as we have both said already, there are some outside partners that could act as facilitators, but in the end it's down to the two parties.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that there's no question that what has been happening in the last few days is a tragedy, and perhaps even a greater tragedy than usual, because we are close to coming to some solution. While gaps are there, and I have spoken many times about the gaps which exist, I think, with the Camp David meetings that we had, and with the kind of discussions that have been going on, there is a real possibility of peace, and therefore we need to focus on that. As I have now said a number of times, the important point here is for both parties to do everything they can to regain control of the situation on the street. This will never be solved on the street. It can only be solved around a peace table, and that is what we want to continue to do.
QUESTION: Did you discuss divergences between the United States and France on the Iraqi question, on the flights to Iraq taking place at the moment?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We have not yet had our bilateral meeting. We had a U.S.-EU meeting, and we are going to be discussing that later this afternoon.
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