THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(New York, New York)
PRESS BRIEFING BY DAVID JOHNSON, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS, NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL The Warwick Hotel New York, New York
2:25 P.M. EDT
MR. JOHNSON: I will be quite short here.
Q (inaudible) -- (laughter.)
MR. JOHNSON: I would like to tell you just a bit about the President's bilateral meeting with Azerbaijani President Aliyev that took place around noon today. The meeting lasted about a half an hour. In diplomatic parlance, that supposedly was a one-on-one meeting, meaning that the Presidents were accompanied only by notetakers and interpreters. There was not further staff present.
There were three topics of discussion between the two Presidents. The first concerned the flow of oil form the immense deposits in Azerbaijan to potential customers, particularly customers in the West, and the appreciation that the President expressed for the Azerbaijani decision to pursue multiple pipeline routes to export its oil and the good sense that this may on commercial grounds due to the ability to diversify the economic risks inherent in shipping oil out of one area and exporting it to another.
The Presidents also discussed the prospects for peace in Nagorno-Karabakh. The President emphasized to President Aliyev that now was the time to act, now is the time to move, that the parties to the conflict needed to take concrete steps in order to break the logjam and get peace restored to the area or a peace process moving forward.
The United States will do what it can to help, but it's up to the parties to show that they are ready to make concrete steps toward peace.
There were some specific ideas -- okay, there were some specific ideas discussed which had been worked on earlier during this U.N. 50 meetings by Ambassador Albright, which were further developed at this meeting.
Finally, the third set of topics which were discussed is the President's commendation to President Aliyev for the progress that's already been made on economic reform and encouraged him to continue that process, and the expectation that Aliyev would do more to prepare for and then have a free and open democratic process and the elections that go with that.
Any questions I might try to answer for you.
Q Out of all the conflicts and so forth and so on, why did the President choose to meet with the President of Azerbaijan?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, I think there's -- there's two reasons. One is that it was an opportunity for the President to follow up on a discussion that he had had on the telephone last month with President Aliyev before the decision was taken by the international oil consortium on the multiple pipeline routings. And the second was that even though the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is not as evident in newscasts as others are, it has been a region of incredible bloodshed over the last several years, and it's a conflict that the OSCE has taken some steps to try to address. And we believe that we have some real possibility for helping the parties, if they wish to take some concrete steps to move forward in that process.
Q David, could you explain a little bit, in greater detail, how the United States sees recent risk reduction in having multiple pipeline routes? Obviously, if you just go through Russia, it's self-evident that there might be political instability -- the Caucasus. If you have the second route go through Georgia on the way to Turkey, Georgia doesn't appear to be a very stable place either.
MR. JOHNSON: I'd say that it has more to do with the principle of diversification than anything else, something that you probably follow on your own little investment portfolio, or huge one, if you have one. And that's the idea behind this, to try to have multiple outlets where oil could flow for -- and we believe that it's the type of decision that doesn't just make political sense, it makes good economic sense as well.
Q Russia and Iran are considering an initiative to block any exports of Caspian oil and impose rather strict limits on what any of the five countries working on the -- (inaudible) -- can do with the deposit. Was this discussed today in any fashion?
MR. JOHNSON: I'm not aware of what you describe as a Russian-Iranian initiative. So I'm unfamiliar with a discussion that might have taken place there. This is an initiative in the U.N. you're referring to?
Q No, no, a joint proposal between Iran and Russia.
MR. JOHNSON: I'd like to see something a little concrete on that before I comment on it. I'm not familiar enough with what you describe in order to give you a reaction.
Q Both countries have expressed formal positions today. That's on the record already. And now that they're linking up -- (inaudible) -- Azerbaijan's -- (inaudible) -- deposits there.
MR. JOHNSON: Well, I think our support for diversified oil pipeline routes and our statements, many sundry and rather plain about our position on Iran answer that question pretty well.
Q David, did they discuss the subject of the Armenian nuclear power plant, which is about to apparently be restarted and has grave environmental problems?
MR. JOHNSON: I believe that their discussion focused exclusively around the three topics that I mentioned. So that may have come up, but I can't confirm it.
Q Can you say something more about the specific ideas?
MR. JOHNSON: At this point I can't. We're working with the parties involved to try to develop those. I think we've found that when we're trying to act as shepherds in any peace process, that working directly with the parties, rather than trying to influence them through your fine writings is most likely to achieve results.
END 2:38 P.M. EDT