|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks with His Excellency Goran Svilanovic,
Minister of Foreign Affairs Of The Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia after their Meeting
January 4, 2001, Washington, D.C.
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. I am very pleased to welcome Foreign Minister Svilanovic to the Department of State.
We have had a very important discussion this afternoon, as we begin to rebuild the traditionally strong ties between our two countries. Only six months ago, a meeting such as this would clearly have been unthinkable, and we have just spent 45 minutes or so together in a completely normal and comfortable and important discussion.
I am especially pleased to meet with the Foreign Minister because he has been a truly important voice for democracy and human rights, both outside government and now within it. And he has had a remarkable first few months in office, as Yugoslavia has been welcomed back into the United Nations and the OSCE, and has renewed relations with many countries, including the United States.
There can be no question that Yugoslavia has turned a corner and is moving in a positive direction toward Europe and democracy. The recent free and fair elections in the Serb Republic provide ample evidence of the Serbian people's warm embrace of democratic principles and a reform agenda.
The new government has shown remarkable diplomacy and restraint in handling recent crimes in southern Serbia, and we are pleased with the cooperation and dialogue taking place between Belgrade and KFOR. The Yugoslav Government has also shown a willingness to address political and economic concerns of ethnic Albanians in the region, which is necessary and a positive step toward reducing tensions.
The recent changes in Belgrade are evident both in terms of government appointments and inquiries into corruption within the former regime, and such changes are proof that the Kostunica Government is delivering on its promises to implement a state governed by the rule of law.
In our discussions, I have reiterated the international community's position that Milosevic and others indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal must be held accountable by The Hague for their actions. And my Government looks forward to a continuing partnership with Belgrade and to steady progress towards security, prosperity and democracy for all the people of Yugoslavia.
Mr. Foreign Minister.
FOREIGN MINISTER SVILANOVIC: Ladies and gentlemen, it has been a long eight years since the Foreign Minister of Yugoslavia was received by a colleague, and I appreciate that I had the opportunity to really start, I sincerely hope, a new phase in the relations between the FRY and the United States of America.
We hope that we shall continue the very good relations we had at least the last several months with the Administration that is leaving the office, with the new one that is coming into the office. We do have an interest to continue the fertile dialogue that we have started concerning the peace and stability in the region, because we all share our considerations concerning the peace and stability not only in Yugoslavia, but in the Balkans. Because we believe that the wars have finally ended in the region, and we should do our best to prove that there is a will and readiness, not only in the Government of Yugoslavia, but there is a will and readiness in the people of Yugoslavia to continue all the efforts that have started towards the peace, towards the democracy, towards the improvement of the human rights situation in the country.
We have been discussing several issues; of course, the issues that have been mentioned as the issues of the integrity of our country, the issues as cooperation with The Hague Tribunal. We have been also discussing the economic cooperation between the countries, because what our people want to see in our country is they want to see investments coming from the States, a further cooperation in the economy; we want to see the sanctions lifted; and we are going to be very happy to see that all of the sanctions are finally lifted. We are going to do our best to achieve all of these goals, and we rely on the full cooperation between the Government of Yugoslavia and the Government of the United States of America.
So thank you, because this is, in a way, a beginning and a new era of a fruitful cooperation of Yugoslavia and the rest of the world, our neighbors, Europeans, and all others, including of course, the States.
QUESTION: Mr. Minister, Secretary Albright just said that Mr. Milosevic must be held accountable for his crimes. Could you comment, please?
FOREIGN MINISTER SVILANOVIC: I have no comment, because we are in full agreement that all of those who have organized or have committed the crimes have to be accountable for what they did, and for the consequences in the region. And we will fulfill our duties and responsibilities coming out from the Dayton Agreement concerning our cooperation with The Hague Tribunal.
We did the first step, and it is that the investigators are already on the ground doing their job. And we hope that they will soon reopen the office. We have been also discussing the other ideas, as is the Truth Commission, and finally the step that you are referring to, which is a proceeding for the crimes.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, you were quoted from an editorial roundtable that you did as saying, regarding Saddam Hussein, and the new Republican Administration, "They gave him to us and now we're giving him back," or something along those lines.
Can you comment on how the difficulty in dealing with Saddam Hussein, and why he has been able to stay in power, despite the Clinton Administration's efforts?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that we have managed, I think, to keep a sanctions regime in place for a longer period than anybody ever thought, and have managed to keep Saddam Hussein in his box. We have worked hard within the Security Council to continue to maintain that sanctions regime, have worked out a way to deal with what I do consider a problem, which is the suffering of the Iraqi people caused by Saddam Hussein, not by the United States, by having the Oil for Food Program.
And I think that the issue here is one where the international community needs to keep focused on the fact that Saddam Hussein is a danger to the region, and I hope very much that the second Bush Administration will in fact deal with the issue as we have, by making sure that he stays contained.
QUESTION: Do you have any regrets regarding the steps taken by the United States? Do you look back and think that anything could have been done differently that might have led to further weakening?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Not by the Clinton Administration.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, do you have any concerns -- or could you articulate your concerns -- about a possible rapid withdrawal of US troops from the Balkans under the new Administration? Did you talks today cover the issue of the US military presence in the region?
And I would also pose the question to the Foreign Minister, whether you have an opinion on a continued US troop presence in the Balkans, and whether it would be a stabilizing force or not?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that I have said many times that the story in the Balkans is a complicated one, and a longer-term kind of issue, that one of the things that has been a continuum in foreign policy is that President Bush -- the first President Bush -- had talked about having a Europe that was whole and free. They took tremendously important steps in terms of the unification of Germany, and the issue -- the missing piece of a united and integrated and free Europe was the Balkans, an issue that we dealt with at great length, and with some difficulty.
But the joy of today -- I honestly never thought that I would have the opportunity to stand here with the Yugoslav Foreign Minister. This story has had a very important "high" now with the democratic elections in Serbia.
But it is a continuing story. And the story of the Balkans and Yugoslavia does not come in four-year segments. And so I hope very much, and I've already had discussions with General Powell about the importance of continuing support for what we have done, the United States, with our European allies, in the Balkans. And in my discussions today with the Foreign Minister, it is even more evident to me that the success that they have had with the help of the international community needs to be supported. And that in order to make sure that the peace stays one, there needs to be continued support for the Balkans, both economically and, I also believe, with troop presence in a way that is able to support the process.
Obviously, all along, we had never thought that we would stay there forever. It has to be understood that the Europeans continue to have the lion's share of the forces there. General Powell has said that they were going to review the issue. I think that we all have to remember that this is a long-term story that, at this stage, is successful and, thanks to the Foreign Minister and President Kostunica and the "new Serbs," as I would call them, and it has to be supported. We didn't specifically talk about the troops, but we did speak about long-term support.
FOREIGN MINISTER SVILANOVIC: If could say this, I believe that this meeting today is an introduction to a very fresh start. We meet with the new administration as soon as they are in the office.
As far as the idea that you mentioned on reducing troops in the region, we believe that it is something that could be achieved with a full cooperation with the regional countries in the Balkans, and all of them - I believe I can say on behalf of all of them - are very much interested in the real peace and stability of the region. That could make it possible for the US Government to reduce the troops. There are many political steps that could be done and we believe that we can achieve it in cooperation with your government.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have time for two more.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. And apologies to the Foreign Minister for changing the topic again.
There are conflicting reports about whether Russia has moved short-range nuclear weapons to Kaliningrad. Have you yet been able to determine if that's true? Have we raised it with the Russians yet? And if it is true, do you feel that this is an attempt by Russia to perhaps intimidate NATO in its possible expansion into the Baltic States? How dangerous is this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, we obviously are following such issues closely. But I can't comment on intelligence information and I am not going to confirm or deny the validity of the - some of the press reports on this.
But let me just make the following point. I think one of the great positive aspects of the post-Cold War era has been our cooperation and discussion with the Russians over the withdrawal of tactical nuclear weapons from central and eastern Europe and from various parts of the former Soviet Union. We have had on-going discussions with them about this and, most recently, when we met with the Permanent Joint Council in Brussels.
So these are ongoing discussions and I think this has been one of the great kinds of progress that has taken place in the post-Cold War era and it has to continue. But I am not going to confirm or deny this.
QUESTION: If there is a violation, all the more reason to be concerned about it.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, there is no law or violation of any kind. I mean, hypothetically, because I am not going to confirm or deny - there is no treaty or anything like that. There were some understandings. They have been going - these discussions have been going on.
But I think that the stories have been based purportedly on intelligence information and I'm not going to comment on intelligence information.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister, you mentioned that this is a new beginning for the new administration coming in in Washington. I know you are not having meetings with General Powell, but will you be seeing any members of the new administration?
And also if I may return again, with your tolerance, to the extradition question? Is it Belgrade's intention to try Milosevic domestically and then to send him to The Hague?
FOREIGN MINISTER SVILANOVIC: Well, to answer your first question, we are going to meet tomorrow with some of those who will work with the officials of the new administration, not Mr. Powell, from a practical reason that you are aware of.
But anyway, we believe that everything that was mentioned today in our discussion with the State Secretary and in all other meetings that we have today and tomorrow, will be handed over to the administration. We are very sure about that. And therefore, I can be assured that they are going to be very well informed for our first meeting.
As far as The Hague Tribunal cooperation is concerned, we have been discussing several ideas and I have explained to the State Secretary something that I was explaining all over and that is something that I've just mentioned, that there are possibilities to fully cooperate with the tribunal and to persecute all indicted personalities in cooperation with the Tribunal on the territory of FRY. This is the idea we have now. But I look forward to meeting with Ms. del Ponte in Belgrade where we can go into more detailed discussion on this issue.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Can I just add - let me say this. I think we had a very good and full discussion on the subject and the fact that there are discussions going on with Ms. del Ponte and the various points that the Foreign Minister raised.
We talked, I think also, and I would like to make this clear, generally about the future of Yugoslavia and the Balkans and the importance of integration into Europe and the importance of following out Resolution 1244 as far as Kosovo is concerned, and a Montenegro-- a democratic Montenegro-- within a democratic Yugoslavia.
We had a very full discussion about what the future can look like. And, obviously, dealing with the issue of war crimes is a part of it, in order to be able to, as I have said so many times, to assign individual guilt in order to be able to expunge collective guilt. And international crimes, or crimes against the international community, require international justice.
Obviously we can't do this without --
QUESTION: This is Middle East - (laughter).
Madame Secretary, there are many who believe that the chance for success in negotiating a final peace deal is slim. Does the Clinton Administration still think and is it still aiming toward getting a final peace deal? Gilad Sher is going to be at the Department this afternoon. Does the Administration think this is something that is achievable realistically?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say this. We obviously, in the last few days, what we have managed to get is acceptance of the parameters with reservations, different ones from each side. Each has a different interpretation. And we are trying to clarify those, which is why Gilad Sher is coming here.
At the same time, as we have made clear, one of the major topics of discussion that the President had with Chairman Arafat was the issue of violence. And it's absolutely essential for him to live up to the various commitments that he made, to try to lessen violence and get it under control.
I believe that it is important for us to pursue these various steps without giving you an answer in terms of what is - you know, we obviously are going to be working until the last moment to see what we can achieve. I think that a great deal has been invested in this by everybody. The pressure in order to get it resolved and have President Clinton involved in it is coming from the region. And he is viewed -- President Clinton is viewed-- as a unique personality in this. And we have come very close on a whole set of issues and I think we are just going to keep working. But the real problem at the moment is the violence. And it is very hard, I think, as we clarify all this, to not pay attention to the problems of violence and that is the message that we are sending out.
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