THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT
The Briefing Room
12:22 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Today I want to have Bill Gray, our Special Advisor on Haiti, announce two new steps that are necessary to intensify the pressure on that country's military leaders: a ban on commercial air traffic and sanctions on financial transactions.
As Bill Gray will explain, these steps represent an important new stage in our efforts to restore democracy and return President Aristide to Haiti. The message is simple -- democracy must be restored; the coup must not endure.
In the past month, we have taken steps to advance the interests of the Haitian people and the United States. Our national interests -- to help democracy thrive in this hemisphere, and to protect the lives of thousands of Americans who live and work in Haiti -- require us to strengthen these efforts.
Under our leadership, comprehensive United Nations trade sanctions have gone into force. To enforce these sanctions, we are moving to assist the Dominican Republic to seal its shared border with Haiti. The Dominican Republic has agreed to welcome a multilateral sanctions monitoring team to help the Dominicans seal their border.
We've deployed U.S. naval patrol boats to the area to stop smugglers, and have begun detaining ships suspected of violating the sanctions. We've also made important strides in dealing with the difficult issue of Haitians who leave that country by sea. A facility to interview Haitians who have been interdicted will soon open in Jamaica. And one month from now, we will open a second interview facility on the Turk and Caicos Islands. I want to thank the governments of those countries and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees for their collaboration in this effort.
I want to be clear about this issue. I continue to urge all Haitians to avoid risking their lives in treacherous boat voyages. Anyone who fears persecution should apply for refugee status at our facilities within Haiti. Since our administration began, those offices have arranged resettlement for some 3,000 Haitian political refugees; far, far more than was the case prior to that time. They stand ready to review further cases and represent the safest and fastest way for Haitians to seek refuge.
Now I'd like to ask Bill Gray, who stepped into this very difficult role and has used great skill to make real progress, to explain these new steps which we're announcing today.
END 12:24 P.M. EDT