THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS The Briefing Room
3:45 P.M. EDT
MR. FALLIN: I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for coming this afternoon and introduce two senior administration officials who are going to give a readout on today's meeting with Prime Minister Ecevit. With that as an introduction, this is ON BACKGROUND as senior administration officials.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon. I thought what I'd do is just run quickly through what the President and Prime Minister and their respective teams discussed this afternoon and then invite my colleagues to help address your questions.
Let me first say that the President and the Prime Minister had a remarkably wide-ranging discussion that covered a large chunk of the issues that confront both of our countries. They began with a brief session for a pool spray that some of you may have been at in the Oval Office. Both delegations then met in the Cabinet Room for about an hour. Then, the President escorted Prime Minister Echevit to lunch in the Old Family Dining Room. The lunch lasted somewhat over an hour.
There's a list, I think, of -- a thorough list of both delegations that would take me all the time we have to actually read to you, but if you need that we can make sure that you get it.
Let me just run through the issues that were discussed both in the Cabinet Room and also during the lunch. First, the President asked the Prime Minister to discuss Turkey's progress in dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake. Let me say very briefly that the Prime Minister first expressed his profound appreciation to the President and to the American people for the role that the President and the United States have been able to play both in the immediate relief effort and in the longer term reconstruction effort.
In particular, the Prime Minister singled out the role that the United States was able to play within the international financial institutions, to encourage them to be helpful and generous in responding to Turkey's needs.
They then discussed -- and the Prime Minister raised a number of possible areas to look at for the international community and for the United States for further assistance going forward -- a number of very interesting ideas. And I think, in the days and weeks ahead, we'll continue to look very carefully at them.
The discussion then broadened out to the larger area of our economic relations, trade relations. The Prime Minister described some of the very significant steps that Turkey has been able to take recently on its economy, including Social Security law, arbitration, banking reform, and also putting forward a strong budget for FY2000.
They looked at a number of things, and steps that we might take next. The President said to the Prime Minister, with regard to the IMF standby agreement, that given the strong reforms that Turkey had undertaken, and on the assumption and provided that a sound budget is put into effect, then we'd certainly look forward to being very supportive of a strong standby agreement in the weeks and months ahead.
They discussed briefly the trade agreement, the trade and investment framework agreement that will be signed tomorrow by Ambassador Barshefsky on the American side. This is an important vehicle, we think, for establishing at a very high level a forum to work through problems in the area of trade, to seize opportunities in the future, to cut through red tape, to discuss our common agenda for the WTO round and to look at moving forward wherever there may be obstacles to increase the trade between our countries and investment between our countries.
The Prime Minister also raised with the President the question of textiles, an area that he thought could be particularly important in helping Turkey move forward from the earthquake. He asked the President whether there were steps that we could take in this area. The President, I think, was very receptive to the Prime Minister's views.
In particular, we're looking at ways that within existing quotas -- let me emphasize within the existing quotas for Turkey -- some flexibility can be found to work in this area and that in particular, the President asked his trade team to get back together with the Turkish side to look at how we could carry this forward based on the Prime Minister's comments.
Finally, in the trade area, but also very importantly, the Prime Minister suggested to the President that one area he's very interested in moving forward and developing is Southeast Turkey and asked how we might be helpful. The President suggested that one of the ways we might be helpful will start very soon, because Ambassador Mark Parris, our Ambassador to Turkey, will in the middle of the next month be leading a delegation of American businesses already present in Turkey to the Southeast region to look at investment opportunities.
Then, let me talk about some of the issues they discussed next. They covered in some detail the progress that Turkey has made recently in strengthening and enhancing its democracy and human rights. The Prime Minister described some of the steps that have been taken. I think many of you know some of the recent developments, including the release of Mr. Birdal this past weekend. They discussed where this might go in the future.
The Secretary of State invited the Human Rights Minister from Turkey to visit the United States this fall, an invitation that was accepted in principle, but we don't have a specific date yet.
The President and the Prime Minister also discussed energy. This is a subject, as I think you know, that the Prime Minister and Vice President also discussed in some detail earlier this morning. Simply put, the President expressed strong support for the Baku-Ceyshan pipeline project. Similarly, Prime Minister Ecevit expressed his strong support for the trans-Caspian pipeline project.
They then discussed a variety of regional issues -- Kosovo, in southeast Europe, the President expressed his thanks, his profound thanks, for the role that Turkey played in Kosovo, for the troops that it's contributed to KFOR, also to SFOR in Bosnia -- during the crisis itself, the refugees that Turkey took in. And they discussed ways of moving forward in the southeast to create greater stability there.
They also discussed Iraq. On Iraq, Prime Minister Ecevit described the substantial losses Turkey has incurred as a result of abiding by the embargo, the U.N. embargo, on Iraq. The President expressed his deep appreciation for the central role Turkey has been playing in that regard, and also for Operation Northern Watch, and flights from Insurlik. And they agreed that we should continue to look at ways to alleviate the losses that Turkey has suffered as a result of abiding by the embargo.
They also discussed Armenia, and in particular had a lengthy discussion about how to move forward toward a settlement on Nagorno-Karabakh. And there was a discussion of the Middle East peace process, and the prospects there -- both the Prime Minister and the President expressing, I think, some optimism on the prospects for moving forward.
The Prime Minister raised the subject of European Defense and Security -- ESDI, the European Security and Defense Initiative. On that subject, the Prime Minister and the President reached what the President described, a vigorous agreement. Both strongly support the development of this European security and defense identity, but both want to make sure that it is as inclusive as possible and in particular that the non-EU members of NATO, like Turkey, not only have an opportunity as ESDI develops to take part in any missions that the EU may choose to undertake some time in the future, but also has a space at the table and a voice at the table when those missions are discussed and decided upon.
Finally, the President and Prime Minister had a lengthy discussion of Turkey's relations with Greece. In particular, the President asked the Prime Minister about the many positive developments we've seen in recent weeks and recent months, not simply as a result of the aftermath of the earthquake but, indeed, even predating the earthquake and asked for the Prime Minister's views on how this process of rapprochement would keep moving forward and encouraged the Prime Minister to continue to add to the momentum that the President had seen in this area.
On Cyprus, the Prime Minister and the President discussed the issue. They agreed that there cannot be a solution to the problem of Cyprus that would return the situation to what it was before 1974. All Cypriots, they agreed, must live in security. The Prime Minister then supported the President's idea to send his Special Envoy for Cyprus, Al Moses, to the region probably as early as next week to explore ways for moving forward toward a negotiated settlement.
And that covers the very thorough broad and lengthy discussion that they had, and now we would invite your questions, and I would invite my colleagues to join me in answering them.
Q Specifically on Cyprus, in the spray the President brought up U.N.-sponsored talks and no preconditions. Did the Prime Minister indicate a willingness to move in that direction? Is that why the envoy is being sent?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What we're very clear about is that our position remains exactly as the President expressed it. We believe that we should move forward to talks under U.N. auspices with no preconditions. And that is the point that the President made to the Prime Minister in the discussions.
I think what we've seen today is clearly an openness on the part of the Prime Minister to discuss in details ways that we could move forward toward that, and that would be the goal of the trip by the Special Envoy to the region.
Q Did they discuss the format of these talks?
Q -- talk about it?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, no details on that. Simply a discussion that the President thought it would be useful to move the process forward, to send a special envoy, and the Prime Minister agreed with that.
Q On Greek-Turkish relations, what did they discuss specifically, besides the Cyprus issue? Was it just on the earthquake -- did they cover the Aegean issue?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They, I think, covered the waterfront. I don't want to get into any specifics, but the President suggested a number of ideas for how the momentum that we've seen as a result of the dialogue that the two Foreign Ministers began, as a result of the exchange of NATO subcommand leaders, as a result of the relief each country provided to the other after their mutual earthquakes -- some thoughts on how this process could continue to move forward. But let me leave it at that; I don't want to get into specifics.
Q Did they mention anything with the Aegean Sea? That was non-political. I'm talking about the Aegean. Did they mention anything on the Aegean?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Certainly, I think both expressed the desire that this area continue to be discussed, and that we find a way to move forward in the Aegean.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If I could just say, I think -- one of the interesting things -- you might take the opportunity, really, is to ask this of the Prime Minister. Because I thought he was actually very interesting and eloquent on the lessons of the earthquake, and how Greece and Turkey needed to work together more effectively. And I think, as my colleague here said, that the President's message was, it's very important that this momentum keep going and that you find ways, he said to Mr. Ecevit, to keep the momentum going.
But I thought Prime Minister Ecevit very good on that subject. And I would urge you, if you can, to talk to him about it.
Q Ambassador Moses is going to the area to promote ways to break the deadlock, or promote the momentum. The Secretary -- which I assume is much higher than Mr. Moses -- met with Foreign Minister Cem, Foreign Minister Papandreou, President Clerides; Mr. Holbrooke was there; Mr. Moses was there; Mr. Westin was there; you were there. I'm wondering what else -- how can a trip to the area now, after so many meetings last week, promote the momentum more?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me say -- and then let me ask you to address this, too -- no, I think that first of all, Al Moses is the President's Special Envoy, emphasize the President's Special Envoy, Mr. Moses, was at the Cabinet Room session with the Prime Minister. And I think there is a general sense, certainly on our part, the United States, that this is a very opportune moment, heading into the fall, a very busy fall with the Istanbul Summit coming up, with the EU's Summit in Helsinki, and of course with the G-8 statement that is there, urging the parties to come to direct negotiations on this. This is a good moment to move forward.
And the person to move that process forward now and to see what opportunities there may be to do that is the President's Special Envoy.
Q In a way, you're encouraged from what you heard from Mr. Echevit on this subject?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: We're realistic people.
Q What did the Prime Minister say that Turkey's position is on Cyprus? When the President said what the American position was?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't really want to characterize what the Prime Minister said. I know you'll have opportunities to speak to him. I think he's expressed his views that are well known and that are on the record about the need for recognition of Mr. Denktash, and the President suggested that the best way to move forward is for both parties to come to the table without preconditions where they could then put anything on the table to discuss, and that was the best way to move forward.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: If I could just emphasize the last point in both of the answers, Tom, to your question, which is that in all of the meetings that we had in New York last week, the Secretary and Mr. Clerides, the Secretary and Mr. Cem, the Secretary and Mr. Papandreou -- very important to keep focused here on the G-8 call. Under U.N. auspices, no preconditions; negotiations as soon as possible. That's our position. I mean, Turks will have to speak for themselves.
But I think it's important that you remember that that's what we're after.
Q You said that you are realistic people. This means that -- and the other administration official said that Prime Minister Ecevit expressed his well-known positions about recognition of Mr. Denktash's so-called state. So do you think that after the discussions there is any way for Mr. Ecevit to go back from these positions and help the process for direct negotiations without preconditions?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Let me answer your question two ways. First is the answer I would obviously give to the first part, which is that's something you're going to have to ask Mr. Ecevit. But with my colleague's permission, I think the important second thing is that the Prime Minister, as my colleague said, accepted the President's suggestion and recommendation that Al Moses go to the area next week not just to sort of go from place to place to place, but to see if we couldn't move forward on the objective of trying to meet the recommendations of the G-8, which is negotiations under U.N. auspices, no preconditions.
Q Are you moving toward approximated talks?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There was really no discussion of what kind. The G-8 talks about negotiations, no preconditions, under U.N. auspices; that's what we want.
Q The Prime Minister outside said that President Clinton had indicated a willingness to invest in the Turkish economy. Was he talking just about this trip of the businessmen to the Southeast region? Is there something else that the President has said is coming --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A number of ideas that were discussed that need further and careful review. Among them is the possibility that OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation could make available some new facilities that would help American investors in Turkey with credit guarantees, political risk insurance and other forms of backing that could facilitate a larger level of trade and investment. This is something we're looking at very carefully and I expect that in the days and weeks ahead, and certainly by the time we get to Turkey in November, we will have had a chance to see what can be done on that level.
Q He suggested there's something within the next two days.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There is the signing of this trade and investment framework agreement. And the other thing, just so we're clear, is the President did also talk about some of the commercial -- American companies with interests in Turkey on the energy side and in other places.
Q On the European issue, there was a discussion on the European progress on Turkey's target to be a member of the European Union, and what the President expects on that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. I think as you may also have heard in the pool spray, because this came up, they had -- this discussion continued in the Cabinet Room. And simply put, the President expressed his very strong support for Turkey's candidacy, for EU membership, and longer-term, for its full integration into the European Union. This is a position that he has held very strongly throughout this administration and something he simply reiterated to the Prime Minister today. And he also relayed to the Prime Minister some of the discussions he'd had with his European counterparts about the prospects for giving Turkey candidacy status at the Helsinki Summit in December, and the hope that if the climate that we've seen that's gotten so much more positive on Turkish-EU relations, Turkish-Greek relations, continues in the momentum that my colleague mentioned a moment ago, continues that we could see a candidacy for Turkey in December.
Q -- spoken about at all, and the situation in northern Iraq?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: They discussed Iraq in general. Again, as I said, the Prime Minister described the losses that Turkey's incurred from the economic embargo. The President deeply appreciated that, and they discussed ways that these losses might be alleviated in the future. Beyond that, I don't think there was a detailed discussion.
Q I meant the Kurdish formation, the Iraqi Kurds.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, what they did discuss -- on that, the President asked the Prime Minister about some of the statements that Mr. Ocalan had made from prison, calling on the PKK to withdraw from Turkey. And the President simply asked the question about what seemed to be happening with that. And the Prime Minister described a very inconclusive picture about whether, in fact, any of these withdrawals were taking place.
Q Until the end of last week, there was talk of some kind of quick relief package and there was bunch of numbers were floating. Now, all of a sudden, the subject is no longer in the air. What happened? Or will there be something coming out that we should know now?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I think what's very important is this. This terrible tragedy, which caused so many lives to be lost, so many people to be injured, so many people to be displaced, is very clear. But what has become increasingly clear in recent weeks as assessments have been made about the damage, and as the international communities become engaged, two things: One, the damage, terrible as it is and with all the repercussions it will have, was not as significant as initially feared. Two, the international community, with the United States in the lead in the international financial institutions, has really stepped up to the plate to work with Turkey both on immediate relief and on longer-term reconstruction; the World Bank and the IMF in particular, but a number of other organizations as well.
As a result of those facts, some of the ideas that have been discussed informally in recent weeks were simply taken off the table; in particular, the issue of housing guarantees. The Turkish government decided last week that this was something that was not needed at this time. That said, as I think we mentioned, there were a number of very specific ideas that have either been agreed to or are being looked at that would help in the reconstruction effort. The Trade and Investment Framework Agreement will have an impact on reconstruction.
Certainly, if an IMF standby agreement is reached and the President strongly would support that, given a sound budget, that will have an impact. We looked at a number of other things -- textiles -- which will have an impact, we looked at this OPIC program which we've described and a variety of other things. All of these will have an impact on the earthquake. But the big message that that we have done everything that we could and we want to continue to be helpful; tell us how we can continue to be helpful, how the international community can be helpful, and we'll continue to discuss that.
Q So the last count was $11 million. That's where we stopped counting. Is that how we're going to numerate that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm not sure we --
Q Based on Ankara figures, Ankara Embassy figures when they were keeping tab two weeks ago --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, no. I think you have to distinguish between two things. You have to distinguish between the roughly $14.5 to $15 million that represents the value of what we did in terms of emergency relief. This was providing tents, hygiene kits, water, so forth, getting the Kearsarge in with more than 1,000 Marines, et cetera.
But then, if you look at the very substantial sums that have been committed by the international community and in particular by the international financial institutions where the U.S. leadership and, indeed, U.S. money through those institutions has been put into play, we are talking about multi-billion dollars.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I would just add, I think the Prime Minister again was very interesting on the subject. He did give the President an assessment of the situation and what Turkey needed, and his focus was really on tents, actually, and shelter, and he described how Turkey was going about to try to meet these needs.
And then, as my colleague said, was very clear in his thanks to the President for the efforts that the United States had made to encourage the international financial institutions, and the Prime Minister was very clear, also, in thanking the President for the efforts the President had made in encouraging private Americans to support this effort. So I think that's an important message -- not that this is a $14 million deal, you've stopped counting. I think that's an unfair way to look at it. What we did was $14 million to $15 million in that emergency relief, but our effort in this and our influence in this, has been immense. And I think that's what the Prime Minister was complimenting the President about.
We'll take a couple more here.
Q Just to clarify something -- the Prime Minister went on the record saying that the President would make a statement about how the United States can help Turkish economy, in a few days. Was there any agreement, any understanding about that, during the meeting? That the President would make a statement concerning the ways the U.S. may help Turkish economy?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I didn't hear the Prime Minister's statement, but I imagine that what he was referring to is that -- the fact that they discussed, as we've talked about in some detail, a number of other steps that we're looking at very carefully, in the days ahead and further on to that. And as a result of looking at all of those things, I'm sure we'll have more to say -- whether it's the trade and investment framework agreement that will be announced formally and signed tomorrow; whether it's a practical result on textiles, after the President encouraged our negotiators to get back together; whether it's some of these OPIC facilities that we're looking into very carefully, and so forth.
So I imagine, without wanting to characterize what the Prime Minister said, that he was referring to a number of additional steps that hopefully we'll be able to talk about in the days ahead.
Q Was there any reference to the FMF credits?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry --
Q FMFs, escaping or canceling these.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, the Prime Minister did raise the issue, and said that FMF over the years had been a big part of what was going on in Turkey, and that the burden of this debt had become substantial. And he asked the President if there might be some way for us to look into some kind of relief for FMF debt.
Q What was the response of the President?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The President didn't really respond. As I had a chance to say to some of you yesterday when Ambassador Parris and I spoke to you, I think both -- ON BACKGROUND here I tell you and as I told you yesterday, that this is a matter of substantial difficulty for us.
Q Do you expect the President to contact leaders in Greece or Cyprus to brief them on his meeting in the next day or two?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I don't know if the President will. I wouldn't sort of say what the President will or won't do, but one of my jobs is to do that.
Q Turkey has specific objections to the U.S. backed Anglo-British proposal at the United Nations right now; namely, that it's being mentioned and that it's bound to -- trade in southeastern Turkey. You did mention that -- and I understand the President did talk of ways of alleviating the losses Turkey experienced from the Gulf War.
Turkey has also made its position public about its desire to have a status similar to Jordan. Has this come up and has the U.N. proposal come up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Both aspects of the issue did come up. Two things. In terms of the second part of your question, so-called Article 50 relief, the Prime Minister did raise this question. The question and the issue here is that this is something that, as a practical matter with the Security Council, seems to us very unlikely. It was done exceptionally in the case of Jordan, and as a practical matter, our estimation is that it's not likely to be an area in which we can move forward on relief.
What the President did discuss with the Prime Minister was our view that the provisions in the draft resolution proposed by the United Kingdom and the Dutch at the U.N. could help substantially in a practical way to alleviate the burden on Turkey and suggested that we would continue to look very carefully at this to see how this could be developed even more practically. But our view and the view the President expressed is that this would be a vehicle to help, not to resolve all the problems, but certainly to move in the right direction.
Q Did the Prime Minister talk about reforms in Turkey, democratic, and what he would do on human rights in the months to come? Did he give any hint?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, absolutely. I think one of the things that he wanted very much to tell the President about were the kinds of legislative changes and other enhancements of Turkish democracy that have come since he became Prime Minister and since the Parliament has been working very well. He used a quotation that I know that you know that since the Parliament began, over 60, he said -- I know the number 68 -- bills had passed. And he, I think, was very proud of this and wanted to make sure that the President knew about it.
The President said that this was something that we certainly welcomed and want very much that kind of momentum to continue. One of the themes through all of this, whether you're talking about the enhancement of Turkish democracy or some of the other positive developments, is keep the momentum going, keep moving forward.
Q On the Aegean, any mention on the international court of justice? And on Cyprus, any mention on the demilitarization in connection with NATO involvement?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it doesn't help me to be so specific, but what I can tell you is, as my colleague said, that what the President said to Mr. Echevit in this whole area is that you need to find ways --
Q For the Aegean --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He's talking about Greece and Turkey and Cyprus which all are part of the area, right -- and he was saying please find ways that you can choose that you know to see if we can keep this momentum going.
Q -- came from Ankara to listen to the message that the -- intend to find ways -- specific agenda being discussed on the court --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: You'll have to ask Mr. Echevit to characterize his position. I'm only going to characterize ours.
Q -- your position on --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I just told you. Our position is -- I mean, you know our position because I gave it to you yesterday on the record.
Q That was on a personal level. Right now it was talks --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: What I'm telling you is what the President said.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:10 P.M. EDT