THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (New York, New York) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release September 7, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF STATE MADELEINE ALBRIGHT Sheraton Towers New York, New York
5:45 P.M. EDT
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon. I'm very pleased to be here with you all to report that the Millennium Summit is nearly over and transportation in Manhattan will soon be possible again. (Laughter.)
As you know, today's highlight was the Security Council meeting at head-of-state level. This is only the second time such a meeting has actually happened, and President Clinton and his counterparts there focused on the importance of strengthening United Nations peacekeeping and expressed particular urgency about the ongoing conflicts in Africa.
In line with the President's remarks yesterday regarding our collective responsibility to prevent strife, Council members pledged to support an upgrading of the U.N.'s capacity for planning, deploying and conducting peace operations, and cited the need for a more up-to-date system of financing. The President is still -- I left there -- meeting separately with the heads of state of the other four permanent members of the Security Council.
This group is issuing, is in the process of working on a statement that recognizes the responsibility to lead in maintaining international security and peace, and pledged -- they're pledging to each other support for measures to develop a quicker, more targeted, and better coordinated response to crises. This kind of a meeting has not taken place ever before, as far as I know -- or at least this is what they were saying to each other.
Like the full Council, the Permanent Five called for modernizing the U.N. peacekeeping scale of assessments in order to provide a more stable and fair foundation for United Nations operations. This is significant because adjustments in the scale would go far to ease the U.N.'s financial problems and to put U.S.-U.N relations on a sounder footing.
In all these meetings and in various pull-asides, the heads of state that are meeting with President Clinton are expressing strong appreciation for his leadership. And he is working very hard on any number of issues as he moves through the halls and has set bilateral meetings
This morning the President and I met with Kim Dae-Jung, the President of the Republic of Korea, and congratulated him on the progress made under his policy of engagement with the Democratic Republic of North Korea. And we also reviewed U.S. discussions with the North and touched on several bilateral issues.
Later, the President had his first meeting with Turkish President Sezer, with whom we discussed a full range of bilateral and regional issues. I had separate meetings during the day, including a working breakfast, with Montenegran President Djukanovic, and I expressed support for his government and discussed the upcoming elections in which the Serbian democratic opposition merits strong backing.
I also met with President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, who is an experienced leader in an increasingly strategic part of the globe, and with President Aliyev of Azerbaijan.
As usual, these visits to New York I think really do provide a wonderful opportunity to conduct a lot of diplomacy in a very condensed period of time. Some of my colleagues are saying they are saving thousands of air miles. Some of you will be glad to hear that. We are especially pleased by the commitments made today by the members of the Security Council. And obviously, these pledges are far from self-executing, but they do provide a mutually agreed-upon plan of action to achieve goals that are vital to our own interests and to peace around the world.
Thank you very much, and I'll be very glad to answer your questions.
Q Madam Secretary, does Arafat's rejection of the U.S. suggestion that dealing with the holy sites doom or dim peace prospects? And what is the game plan now? Will there be further meetings? Are you trying to persuade him not to go off to Gaza? How do you go on from here? Dennis Ross is having talks, of course -- but, I mean, on your level or on the President's level, what is the U.S. going to do about all of this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, as I sometimes say to you, Barry, I don't quite accept your characterization of what has happened here. Basically, obviously, there are a lot of ideas that have been surfacing. We have been talking to Prime Minister Barak and Chairman Arafat about them. They have made some suggestions of their own, and our sense here is that obviously, while there has been no breakthrough, as one of my colleagues said, there also is no breakdown. And the discussions continue. We are all in various ways meeting with both parties. Dennis is doing the Dennis thing and moving around and talking to people.
I have been meeting, I will continue to meet, and I'll continue to meet in the period I am up here. So I think we're going to continue discussions, and our sense is that both parties have a desire to go on, that they want to reach a conclusion. They know that time is limited, and there is an intensification of effort, and I think that we will just keep working it step by step.
But the same answer, Barry, always, is, we're working very hard. We'll continue to do so, but they have to be prepared to make the hard decision.
Q That sounds just on a presidential level and, with all due respect to Dennis Ross, it's not on that level today at least. You met with Barak last night, unannounced. But the question is whether you're going to move it into higher gear. And if the premise of my question is wrong, are you saying that the U.S. has not floated a proposition for dealing with the holy sites?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think there are a lot of ideas out there and I think that claiming paternity for them doesn't -- is not really important. I think that what is important is that there are a lot of ideas and they are -- and part of what also happens is that they get modified as they are discussed with people. Other countries have ideas. As you know, I met with Foreign Minister Moussa yesterday, and Foreign Minister Saud of Saudi Arabia. So there are a lot of ideas out there and this is going on.
The President is obviously prepared to be engaged at any time. We are keeping him briefed. He's asking a lot about what is going on, and he's still here and will be here tomorrow. So I think that it's a floating operation and we're working hard and meeting with whomever we can in order to try to pursue the subject.
Q Thank you.
Q Madam Secretary, I'm curious about the breakfast that you had with President Djukanovic this morning. There appears to be a report floating out there in the ether that he told you that he fears for his life, that he thinks that Milosevic is going to try and assassinate him during the election season here, when the U.S. is distracted, and asked the U.S. for security guarantees, to which the United States is going to respond with a joint Naval exercise with the Croatians, off the coast of Montenegro. Is this at all correct?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, pieces. First of all, that conversation never took place. I think clearly, President Djukanovic is always in a very difficult position. He is somebody who has -- is taking a lot of risks for democracy in Montenegro and I think that there is obviously concern generally for his security. But this was not a subject of discussion.
The second point is that there are exercises that are part of the Partnership For Peace that have been planned for sometime, with Croatia as a member of the Partnership For Peace.
There is -- there has been a discussion in a variety of places about the fact that Milosevic and other people should not get it into their heads that the United States is out of business during the election period. We are very much at work, harder than ever, paying attention everywhere. And nobody should miscalculate to think, for some reason, because some people are involved in the election process -- most of us are not.
Q To use your words, you described the peace talks as a floating operation. It's floating, but is it moving in any particular direction? Specifically, was there progress noted by the U.S. during these conversations on the key issue of Jerusalem?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that there has been progress in terms of the fact that there are more and more detailed discussions. I know that that sounds like a strange answer, but the truth is that -- those of you have followed this -- is that people didn't talk about any part of this aspect about Jerusalem, any part of how Jerusalem physically is set up or what the holy places are or where they are or how they're designated, how they are -- who works there, how the functions take place. So in this regard, I think the more and more that we are talking about these things, I personally would deem that progress.
I think that we are going to keep pressing here. But as I've said so many times, ultimately we can have ideas, or other people can have ideas, or ideas can be floated, but it's the leaders themselves who then have to make the hard decisions. And we are in the process of having those discussions.
Q Are you just floating or are you moving?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: When I float, I move. (Laughter.)
Q Well said.
Q Madam Secretary, back on Djukanovic. Did you offer him in any sense a security guarantee or a perspective one? I'm thinking really of the period after the Serbian elections where there might be -- some civil unrest might spill over. There's a lot of potential there. Did he ask or did you offer anything?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have to tell you that this morning we did not have this discussion. But as a general point, I would like to say we are concerned about the security of Montenegro and of President Djukanovic, and nothing is off the table.
Q Madam Secretary, can you tell us anything about the conversation President Clinton had with President Castro yesterday, and were there any matters on the agenda between the two countries discussed during that conversation?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I understand it, it was a chance encounter that Mr. Castro initiated, and they talked for a couple of minutes and there was no substance.
Q So they discussed -- what would they have discussed?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It was just a cordial conversation, but no substance, as I understand it. I was not there.
Q They did shake hands now, contrary to previous reports?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don't know the answer to that.
Q Madam Secretary, on the Security Council meeting today, the general drift seemed to be do more in Africa and do it better regarding security efforts. The United States, at present, does not have, unless I'm mistaken, a great deal of involvement on the ground with peacekeeping operations in Africa. Is that going to change? Do you see that changing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all, there was a focus on African peacekeeping at the Security Council, and I think general concern about the fact that the United Nations, per se, was not as well prepared for these operations as they might have been, and a lot of discussion of the Brahimi report, not in detail, but the fact that the Brahimi report is out and that there are ideas on the table about how to strengthen peacekeeping.
If I might dip back into my previous job up here, the whole issue of how peacekeeping has evolved is something that has been on the plate for some time. And when I came up in 1993, there were 70,000 peacekeepers out, and it seemed very ad-hoc. And we tried very hard to set up a system that made more sense, where the Security Council would review more carefully the mandates and try to figure out the cost of an operation before it was launched.
And, also, there were improvements made in the set-up within the Secretariat about how peacekeeping was done. And I remember giving speeches that said a global 911 number has to work more than from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on weekdays. So I think that progress was made.
Then, for whatever reason, there kind of was a slacking off and a lower number of peacekeepers. And I think that what has happened again with a larger number of peacekeeping operations and the need -- and I think a genuine sense in the international community that things can't be this ad-hoc, that the Secretary General, who actually came out of a peacekeeping background within the U.N., asked for this report from Mr. Brahimi, who has had a lot of on-ground experience, and that has come out.
Now, the U.S., we believe that our role is to be very supportive of peacekeeping. It is a way that we have a choice between doing everything ourselves and doing nothing. I am a great advocate of having peacekeeping as a force multiplier. It's a very good way for us to be able to do more in different places than if we were just to do it ourselves.
But that does not mean that we have to be on the ground at all times. We should be providing the things that we are best at -- lift, communications, logistical support of a variety of kind, and training. And what we are doing now is providing training to some five Nigerian battalions. And they are the ones, I think, that will be taking the major role as we try to deal with Sierra Leone. And we are going to be looking at ways in the rationalizing of peacekeeping where we can be helpful in the way that we can do best.
Q Madam Secretary, one more attempt on the Middle East. How does the U.S. read the calendar? Are we talking about days? You said the President will be here tomorrow. When they leave, is it days, is it weeks?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think we are trying not to focus on deadlines, but to focus on substance. And I think that if we can't move forward on the substance that it doesn't matter what kind of deadlines are out there. And so I think what we are doing in these days is working with both parties and getting them to focus on various pieces of substance.
But the truth is, just look at the calendar, and there is not a lot of time. And I think we're talking about the fact that there are a relative number of weeks here in which some very intensive work must be done. And it is my sense from talking to both parties that they understand that this is a time to have intense discussions, and that is the way we're proceeding. And the President is available, and I think everybody is quite flexible about what -- the level of involvement and how, and there may be a number of levels of involvement simultaneously.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 6:00 P.M. EDT