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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview by Margaret Warner on PBS-TV "The Lehrer Hour"
Washington, D.C., August 7, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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6:09 P.M.

MARGARET WARNER: Welcome, Madame Secretary.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Glad to be here, Margaret.
MS. WARNER: Thanks. Today in an Israeli newspaper it was reported that Yasser Arafat had accused the Israeli Government of essentially waging war on the Palestinians. He said there's going to be a giant explosion; no one will be able to stop it. How did you read those words?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Margaret, yesterday, when I gave my speech, I focused very much on the fact that we were all appalled by the terrorist act that had taken place in Jerusalem in the market; that it was very important for there to be a way to deal with the violence; that we had to eliminate the violence; that people couldn't operate. The Palestinian people and the Israeli people were suffering from violence; that it was essential that Yasser Arafat deal with the violence and that he give it 100 percent of his effort.
I spoke a lot, also, about the crisis of confidence that is going on in the Middle East, and the importance of each of the leaders in the parties to think about what it is that they say or do and how it affects the other party. So I would hope very much that rhetoric be - that the level of rhetoric be lessened and lowered so that this crisis of confidence can end and so that there can be a rebuilding. These are partners. Chairman Arafat had committed himself to a peace process, and that kind of language is not appropriate.
MS. WARNER: Now, Prime Minister Netanyahu has also had some hot words for the Palestinians. The other day he likened the measures he's taking against the Palestinians to, say, sanctions that the U.S. imposes on states like Libya that export terrorism. Would you put that in the same category?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that, again, that is an analogy that simply does not work. The whole situation is totally different. While we respect the need for Prime Minister Netanyahu to do what he can to protect the security of his people, using analogies that don't fit doesn't prove any point.
I would make the same point about using rhetoric and language that inflames the situation, rather than tries to lower the tension. What I spoke about, again, yesterday was the necessity for understanding that there is a partnership here.
What happened in Madrid and at Oslo was that these two parties committed themselves to work together - mutual recognition. They crossed a threshold about that. And forgetting that they're partners is not the way to move forward.
MS. WARNER: Do you think this situation could actually spin out of control?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that it's a dangerous situation. But we have seen how the peace process has survived through all kinds of very bad times. The reason it's survived is - and I'm convinced that this is the reason - it is because the people, the Israelis and the Palestinians, want peace. It is now time for the leaders to make the hard choices. So we have to do everything we can as a friend and as also a partner. We are not parties to the conflict, but we clearly are an important partner in this to make sure that it does not.
MS. WARNER: All right, so how does the United States - and you talked about this some yesterday - but give us the gist of how you propose to try to solve this.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well -
MS. WARNER: At least get past this dangerous point.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, Ambassador Dennis Ross is going to the region within the next 24, 48 hours in order to do what he can about the security situation. As I said earlier, you can't expect people to negotiate in a situation that has this many questions about what is happening in terms of the security and makes people feel as if they're operating under pressure. So he is going to deal with that.
I suggested in my speech yesterday that what is very important now is, there is the interim agreement that set out a set of steps not only on the further re-deployments, but also on steps to do with opening the harbor and the roads, that we need to proceed with that. But what I suggested was that we marry that interim agreement to an acceleration of the final status talks. Those are the ones that obviously have the most difficult issues. But that's what I'm going to try to do.
MS. WARNER: I want to get to that, but let me just also make sure I understand. You have said now, and the President has said, you will go to the region. But is it a precondition that your going to the region that Yasser Arafat must take certain steps first?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, what we have said is that it's very important to do what has to be done to restore a situation where there is security.
MS. WARNER: What, specifically?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, specifically we want him to take some very - make 100 percent effort in terms of arresting people and keeping them arrested, not having a revolving door; trying to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist groups of Hamas; making sure that intelligence information is developed in a way to share with the Israelis because there are bilateral talks that go on on security talks, so that they can work off the same script and try to figure out who the people are that need to be arrested and what needs to be done.
But I am not - let me just make this clear - I want Ambassador Ross to be able to do everything he can to get as much as he can on the security situation. I will then determine an appropriate time to go.
MS. WARNER: Now, then jumping ahead to what you hope for in the political talks, which is to try to kind of compress, as I understand it, the whole process and deal with kind of everything at once. Arafat rejected that idea when Netanyahu suggested it in April, because he thought it was an excuse on the part of the Israeli Government to skip all the interim steps which have to do with further withdrawal from the territories. How are you going to persuade Arafat that it's in the Palestinians' interest to take this new approach?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, this is exactly what makes the proposal that I made on behalf of the President - was that we are marrying the interim agreement. So we're not skipping over the interim agreement.
MS. WARNER: So you will expect the Israeli Government to make commitments to fulfill those interim steps.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely, yes, and at the same time, try to accelerate the permanent status talks. The reason that we think that's important is that - if I could just spend a moment explaining. The interim agreement was set up originally in order to try to develop bonds of confidence between the two parties so they could learn to work together on some very important issues to both sides. Then they would go to permanent status talks.
What happened was that the interim agreement began to be so difficult to implement that rather than building confidence, it in fact drew away some of the spirit of confidence, drew it down. The final status issues seem so ephemeral, so illusory, that people thought they would never get to the ones that dealt with Jerusalem and the settlements and refugees and borders. So we think that it's very important now to make the concept of the final, permanent status issues much more real to the people. So I think we will marry, as I've said, the interim agreement to the permanent status talks.
MS. WARNER: Now, you have not been to the Middle East, unlike your predecessor, who went many, many, many times. You haven't been there yet. In retrospect, do you wish you'd gone sooner?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No.
MS. WARNER: Do you think you could have prevented some of this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: No, I don't. No, because I felt, as did the President, that it was very important - we cannot make the decisions for the leaders there. I have said that, so has the President. They have to make the hard decisions.
The Secretary of State goes into a region - any region - at a time when the situation is ripe -- when either something can be done to move a process to a finality, or when the situation is really bad. For the last six months, it has been kind of in the middle. We felt that it was much better to do our diplomacy first via Dennis Ross and simultaneously with the leaders coming here. Every Middle Eastern leader, everybody concerned with the Middle East peace process has been to Washington and met with the President and with me a number of times in the last months.
MS. WARNER: All right, let's shift to Bosnia now. There you have sent former senior State Department official Dick Holbrooke to Bosnia once again. What do you expect him to be able to do?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that what we are looking for, Margaret, is continuing and continuous implementation of the Dayton agreement. We had a review of our Bosnia policy and made very clear that there were certain deadlines, certain actions that had to be taken by all of the parties there. We have conditioned our assistance on them taking certain steps and meeting those deadlines.
We believe that they need to be reminded all the time of that. What I have asked Ambassador Holbrooke to do, along with Ambassador Gelbard, who is our permanent envoy on this, is to press all the parties - to make sure that they do, in fact, live up to their commitments in the Federation, which is why they met with President Tudjman and President Izetbegovic on having the central institutions, making sure that the refugees can go back and forth. They are also going to meet with President Milosevic and repeat to him, yet again, what we all have - that he has to live up to Dayton and that whatever he can do in order to make this situation in Republika Srpska -
MS. WARNER: That's the Bosnian-Serb entity.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That's the Bosnian-Serb part - to make sure that they live up to their commitments -- there's a struggle there between two parties -- that he makes them cooperate and that also he do everything he can to make sure that Karadzic goes to The Hague to the War Crimes Tribunal.
MS. WARNER: Rodovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb leader. But now, last time Dick Holbrooke was there, he did negotiate a deal under which Karadzic had to step down from the presidency, at least, of the Bosnian-Serb entity. And he was also - didn't he sign an agreement he'd stay out of politics? But he hasn't at all, has he?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, this is why we felt it was a very good idea that Ambassador Holbrooke go back and repeat that. Everybody knows him to be a very tough negotiator. I think it's important that he is there with Ambassador Gelbard, making that statement loud and clear to Milosevic again. We believe that is the way to get the message clearly to Karadzic.
MS. WARNER: But with all due respect, Madame Secretary, I mean, you all have been jaw-boning those people for two years. The problems remain the same; they remain intractable. Can you ever make this agreement work, as long as Karadzic and Mladic, who was the army commander, remain at large?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say a lot has happened in two years. I think there is a tendency to think that nothing has happened in Bosnia. That is not true. First of all, the most important thing is that people are not killing each other wantonly anymore. I've been to Sarajevo a number of times, and the difference there is just stunning in terms of returning to some semblance of a normal life.
So you cannot in any way underestimate what has happened. While it is a slow process and a difficult process, we knew that. But I think that it's very important to recognize that a great deal has been done since the Dayton Accords were signed.
Now, we do believe that Karadzic is a difficulty, an impediment. We have made that clear. We have made clear that he needs to - that everybody needs to turn over the war criminals. That is part of what they need to do under Dayton.
MS. WARNER: But do you really expect - I mean, is that where NATO is putting it's faith? In getting Karadzic to The Hague to stand trial? That the Yugoslav and Milosevic is going to turn him over?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, it is what we - they are supposed to do that. But the truth is that we have to make sure that Karadzic understands that he is not supposed to - that he signed an agreement not to take part in political affairs. We have made that point loud and clear. Karadzic - his day will come, Margaret. There is no statute of limitations on war criminals.
MS. WARNER: But are you essentially saying that NATO forces will not arrest him?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think we have always had the same -- NATO forces have the authority but not the obligation to arrest him. That is something that the military commanders on the ground decide.
MS. WARNER: But there are reports that you would like to see a more assertive policy in that regard.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I have believed that the NATO forces are very important and they are doing what I think they should be doing.
MS. WARNER: Well, thank you, Madame Secretary. Before you go, we were all fascinated to read that you gave quite a performance at the recent Southeast Asian conference. I think an Evita imitation --
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Right.
MS. WARNER: Would you like to give us a sample? There was no videotape.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that is never to be repeated. I had a great time, but fortunately I don't make my living that way.
MS. WARNER: You had to be there, I guess. All right, thank you, Madame Secretary, very much.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thanks a lot.

(The interview concluded at 6:24 P.M.)

[End of Document]

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