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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press conference at Residence of the Chief of Mission
Belgrade, Serbia-Montenegro, May 31, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, June 3, 1997
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am going to make few comments here and then I'll be happy to take a few questions. I began this afternoon by meeting with President Milosevic, a signatory of the Dayton Accord. I had the opportunity to pay a courtesy call on Patriarch Pavle at the Orthodox Patriarchate. I also had a chance to go back to the Czech Embassy where I spent a part of my childhood. It was a bittersweet visit; sweet because it brought back many happy memories; bitter because it is just sad to see Belgrade losing ground so fast to the rest of Europe.
My message to President Milosevic was simple and direct. The nations of this region will rejoin the international community with you, or without you. The United States wants to see Serbia enjoy the economic benefits of international cooperation. President Milosevic knows exactly what he has to do to bring this goal about.
In our meeting he recommitted himself to the Dayton Agreement and pledged that he will use his influence with Republika Srpska to achieve more rapid progress. I welcomed this commitment, but I told him that words are cheap, deeds are the coin of the realm. President Milosevic has to live up to all the obligations he assumed when he signed the Dayton Agreement. That includes full cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal, full diplomatic relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina and an end to support for the Bosnian Serb military. The situation in Kosovo must also improve if there is to be any relief from outer wall sanctions.
I also want to make it clear on this visit that America's relationship with Serbia is fundamentally a relationship with the Serbian people. In a few minutes I will meet with the representatives of the political opposition, as well as with representatives of the independent media and human rights organizations. I will tell them that the United States is nearly doubling our assistance for democratization and free media in Serbia to five million dollars this year. I will pledge America's unequivocal support for the struggle to achieve true democracy and an open society in Serbia. I can assure you, as I will assure them, that I am not an accidental passerby. Our concerns are not going away. We will not be deterred by the politics of denial and delay in Belgrade. We will press as hard as it takes and as long as it takes to protect the gains of peace in this region and to make them last.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, again war criminals and getting them apprehended is a live subject. It's been a while since we were suggested that maybe some new mechanism would be developed. Bildt has got a successor now, and I wondered if you and the successor, the Spanish diplomat are on the same wavelength on that? And indeed what is coming of all this.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think Barry what we're pressing for is more aggressive support of the War Crimes Tribunal. That is a discussion that I had with Louise Arbor when we were in The Hague, and generally a greater concerted effort to get the parties to comply with the Dayton Agreement, and generally just a more robust approach in supporting the War Crimes Tribunal.
QUESTION: But that does not suggest any more action on the ground. In other words, you're going to the very same people, who've been dragging their feet all along, right?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, we are examining a number of options and we are going to be doing everything we can to support the War Crimes Tribunal more actively.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I understand that you made a statement with President Milosevic at the end of the meeting, and I wonder why you did not talk tough to him in public, with him, with his media there, as you did with President Tudjman in Croatia?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it would be described as probably the toughest meeting I have had with any president, with President Milosevic. I made very clear to him that Serbia was at a crossroads. I had clearly spent a great deal of time on this subject in my previous incarnation as Ambassador in the United Nations, but that now as Secretary of State I felt it was very important to come here early in my tenure to make clear that there was a fork in the road and that Serbia could either comply with the Dayton Accords, be cooperative on the war crimes, deal with the issue of Kosovo in a fair and equitable way, support democratization, and deal with succession problems. And thereby choose a road where we could begin to look at ways to normalize our relations.
Or, they could keep stonewalling the way they are now, and I assured him that in that case the United States would make sure that they were not a part of the dynamic trend that was taking place in Europe, and that they would be left far behind. I am sure that President Milosevic has absolutely no doubts about what my message was. It was loud and clear, and I believed that the best way to deliver it was to him in person.
QUESTION: Do you see your visit, Ms. Albright, as any step forward toward normalization of our relations, or better relations between our two countries?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that I am very pleased about my personal relations with the people of Serbia. I was warmly greeted on the street, a number of people came up and embraced me, or waved to me, and so, I have been able to rekindle the love of the Serbian people that I grew up with as a little girl. I have always felt very deeply about the Serbian people.
I made very clear to President Milosevic that it now was up to him whether there would be steps towards normalization. He has to fulfill the requirements that we have laid down in order for them to begin the process of developing normalization. The people of Serbia are suffering because their leader is not fulfilling his obligations.
QUESTION: What role do you now believe Radovan Karadzic plays in Pale and is there any discussion of how to arrange for his arrest and his moving to the Hague?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We obviously are concerned about Radovan Karadzic's role and have believed for some time that he is somebody that ought to be turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal.
QUESTION: Is he in power in Pale now?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that he has an influence that is not helpful.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, indeed he's been described still as the chief executive there. Is it acceptable to the United States that once the NATO forces leave, he could reemerge as the chief executive on Republika Srpska. And if not, what you are going to do about it and how long are you going to give Mr. Milosevic to make good on yet another set of words and promises.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We are going to be looking very closely at how President Milosevic does in fact fulfill what has been asked of him, and again we have made quite clear that Karadzic is somebody that needs be turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal, and as I said, we will be looking at a variety of ways, options to be supportive of the War Crimes Tribunal.
QUESTION: Did you set up any kind of deadline to President Milosevic to fulfill those conditions for normalization of official relations?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: He knows what I meant.
QUESTION: Is Mr. Milosevic using the politics of denial and delay with regard to the war criminals, Madam Secretary?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have to say that I believe that he is. There are a number of issues in which I was very unhappy in the way that he described the situation. It does not at all jive with the way that we see things. So denial and delay is an appropriate way to describe it.
QUESTION: Would you say what he told you about that issue? What did he tell you? What was his response to your demand on that issue?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, he, as you undoubtedly know, from his perspective the so-called war criminals should in fact be tried within Serbia itself, and that they don't believe in extradition. I told him that that is not his obligation as far as the Dayton Accords are concerned, and that international law requires that there be support for organizations created by the Security Council, that means support for the War Crimes Tribunal. He had said that he did not have enough information about some of the people, the Vukovar three, that have been indicted. He had made that point to Ambassador Gelbard last week. I wanted to make sure he had no excuse, therefore, when I was in The Hague, I asked the prosecutor about it. She handed over some documents to me, and I handed them over to President Milosevic. He has no excuses.
QUESTION: (Inaudible)
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: There are many issues as I described them there.
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