The Briefing Room
Let me chronologically go through the agenda, describe each country briefly, and then ask Secretary Grossman and Ambassador Hill then to take the Turkey, Greece and Kosovo parts of it in particular.
We'll begin in Turkey on Monday morning. The President will met with President Demirel and Prime Minister Ecevit, and address the Turkish National Assembly. There will be an opportunity in this speech to encourage Turkey's democratic, modernizing and secular course, which has accelerated under Prime Minister Ecevit; to highlight the critical role Turkey plays from the Balkans to the Middle East to the Caucasus; and to work for progress towards a settlement in Cyprus and further reduction of tensions with Greece.
Tuesday, the President will go to Izmit, the epicenter of the August earthquake, to visit with survivors and talk about what we have done and can do to help.
On Wednesday, we will be in Istanbul. The President will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Church. During the trip, the President also will meet with the leaders of Turkey's Armenia and Jewish communities. Wednesday afternoon, he will visit Ephesus, once the third city in the Roman Empire and one of the most important classical sites in the region.
On Thursday begins the OSCE summit, gathering of 54 countries in the context of the organization that emerged from the Helsinki Final Act, which, in and of itself, was perhaps the seminal document in terms of the transformation of the European landscape that has taken place in the last 25 years. This is the first OSCE summit since 1996.
Of course, one backdrop to the summit will be the conflict in Chechnya. We've made it clear that while Russia has the right to protect its territorial integrity and fight terrorism, the indiscriminate use of force against insurgents intermingled with civilians is both wrong and counterproductive, and makes finding a solution more difficult -- something the President conveyed to Prime Minister Putin when we were in Oslo. It also creates what we've seen as substantial humanitarian problems. And I'm sure that the gathering of leaders there will reflect again the cost of Russia's present course to its international standing and credibility.
We also expect to take advantage of the summit to meet with other leaders -- the President will meet with President Chirac, for example -- and to address the important issue of modernizing the CFE Treaty.
The summit continues through Friday, and late on Friday afternoon we will leave for Greece. I believe there's a state dinner on Friday evening, and then on Saturday the President will meet with the Greek President, Stephanopoulos -- no. (Laughter.)
Q That's what happened to him. (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: -- and Prime Minister Simitis. He will deliver a speech to the Greek people.
As you know, we moved the date of the Greek leg of the trip at the recommendation of the Greek government, who believed that a later date would be more conducive to a productive visit. There, undoubtedly, still will be demonstrations in Athens when we are there. There is a residue of feeling about the conflict in Kosovo among the Greek people -- I think 96 percent of which were opposed to NATO's engagement, although the government of Greece stood firmly with NATO in that effort. But if any country is a model for young democracies in the Balkans and expression of dissent, it is the birthplace of democracy, in Greece, and I suspect we will see some of that while we're there.
The President will have a chance to highlight that our relationship with Greece is far better than it was just a decade ago. Then, Greece was seen as the poorest country in the EEU; now, it is the wealthiest country in its region, it's a leader in stabilizing the Balkans, it's a dynamic economic partner. The President will urge the Greeks to look forward, not backward, and address key issues on our collective agenda, including relations with Turkey and Cyprus.
On Saturday night and Sunday, the President will be in Florence, Italy, for a conference on progressive governance in the 21st century, joined by five other prominent international leaders, Italian Prime Minister D'Alema, Prime Minister Blair, French Prime Minister Jospin, Chancellor Schroeder and President Cardozo of Brazil.
If it's Monday, we will be in Bulgaria. The President will meet in Sofia with President Stoyanov and Prime Minister Kostov, and address the people of Bulgaria.
Q What happened to Sunday?
MR. BERGER: Sunday, we're going to be in Florence. Saturday and Sunday.
The President will reaffirm there -- and I also believe there will be discussion of this in the OSCE meeting in Istanbul -- the commitments we made in Sarajevo at the summit on Southeastern Europe, to help Bulgaria and the Southeast Europe states build security and prosperity on the road to European institutions.
In some cases, that will amount to nearly 40 percent of their total exports to the United States. It's not a big part of our imports, but it's a very big part of their exports. The countries covered will include Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia -- that's Slovenia -- Kosovo, and Montenegro. It's a critical part of our strategy to integrate this region into the mainstream of Europe.
I'm also pleased that today, the President signed a proclamation that will significantly expand the visa sanctions we impose on those who support the Milosevic regime in Serbia -- the main impediment to a better future for Southeast Europe. The sanctions target those who are responsible for propping up the Milosevic dictatorship, and for the misery it has caused. As long as the people of Serbia are suffering, we want to make sure that Milosevic's cronies do not have privileges of traveling to the United States. As long as Milosevic remains the head of Serbia, Serbia will remain in its destructive, downward spiral. We will continue to support a democratic Serbia so that it can take its rightful place in a unified Europe, and I'm sure that will be the subject of substantial discussion in Istanbul.
Finally, on Tuesday we are going to Kosovo via Skopje, Macedonia. The President will meet with the Macedonian leadership briefly and then arrive in the U.S. sector in Kosovo where he will meet with local leaders in Kosovo, with the Commander of KFOR and the head of the U.N. Mission, Mr. Kushner. He will also speak to Kosovars -- during the day there he'll deliver a speech to Kosovars, and have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with U.S. troops at Camp Bonsteel.
There has been a great deal of progress -- Ambassador Hill can talk more about this -- in Kosovo. Eight hundred thousand refugees are back, normal life is returning. Economic life is reviving; violence, still a problem, is down. Slowly but surely, new institutions are being built. And Albanians are increasingly looking to pragmatic leaders to take them into the future. But it is still a time of insecurity and fear for Kosovo Serbs, and as winter approaches, the task of rebuilding remains our priority.
Why don't I let --
MR. BERGER: I'll come back.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY GROSSMAN: I'm the price you have to pay to get him. Thank you very much. Sandy just asked me if I would take two or three minutes just to put a little frame around what we're trying to do in Greece and Turkey. He very rightly referred to the President's speech at Georgetown the other day, where the focus was on how much the relationship between the United States and Greece and how much the relationship between the United States and Turkey matters to us.
What I think the President's trip is going to highlight is that all of these things remain absolutely vital -- our security relationship with these countries, how they react with one another, how the relationship in terms with the Aegean and Cyprus, but that also, this President has created with these countries very important bilateral relationships.
And with Greece, what we're seeking -- and I hope the President will be able to highlight -- is a 21st century agenda with the 21st century issues on it and toward the 21st century country. And what we want to do with Greece is focus in on the economic relationship.
Secondly, we want to work with Greece, as Sandy said, in the region -- what they're doing in the Balkans, what they're doing with us in Kosovo and Bosnia, and all of that is extremely important. And, third, we want to make sure that those issues on the bilateral relationship with Greece also include our concerns about terrorism and the work we are going to do with the Greek government at the request of the Greek government as Greece gets ready to host the Olympics in 2004.
In terms of Turkey, I think as the President said, this is a relationship that also matters hugely. With Turkey, we have produced an agenda that has to do very much with security cooperation, what we're doing together in Kosovo and in Iraq, human rights and democracy, and Sandy dealt with those issues. A great deal of regional cooperation with Turkey -- energy cooperation, trade, economic reform, and also again, the relationship with Greece and the relationship with Cyprus.
So, with both of these countries, we want to highlight the bilateral relationship, what we are doing with them, because the bilateral relationship with these countries is very much a part of the vision of trying to see this Europe whole, free, and at peace.
Bulgaria was often considered one of the most Stalinist of the East Bloc countries, and so the 10 years that have interceded have been quite a busy time for Bulgaria. It's been quite a difficult time for them; the economic restructuring that was required there, and is still required there, has been extremely problematic. Bulgaria has seen, in the last few years, a collapse of their currency, huge unemployment, and various other structural problems.
And yet, in the last couple of years, Bulgaria has begun to turn a very important corner in its transition. It has very strong leadership, a leadership that we have engaged in constant dialogue, not only discussing our bilateral relations, but also discussing the problems in the region. So it's an opportunity for the President to renew his meetings with the Bulgarian leadership, including President Stoyanov. It's also an opportunity to address the Bulgarian people, and that is the first time that has been done. And finally, it will be an opportunity to show what we are doing in the economic area. And so I would say in Bulgaria, one of our key efforts will be to show that we have turned a corner, and have begun the normal process of establishing and strengthening economic investment and trade relations.
In Kosovo, this will be the President's first trip to Kosovo. It's first of all an opportunity to meet with our troops there, only two days before Thanksgiving, and to talk with them, and also have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner with them. It's also a great opportunity to meet with the U.N. administration there, as well as the leadership of KFOR, to review the ongoing problems in Kosovo. And it will also be, I think, a very important occasion to meet directly with both Serb and Albanian leaders in Kosovo, to talk about their responsibilities for this very difficult transformation underway.
So this will be an occasion to review how we're doing in Kosovo, and the very difficult problems that lie ahead and the progress that we can make on those.
So it is -- the security of the Serb population is very important. I think what we have to think about in terms of Kosovo is, in addition to all of the items that Ambassador Hill talked about, is also protection of minority rights, physical and otherwise. And I'm sure the President will address it, privately and publicly, as he has, of course, since he's been back.
Q Sandy, what do you know about the earthquake in Turkey, and might it affect the trip?
MR. BERGER: I don't know much more than you know. I mean, I'm reading a wire copy here as I was sitting here. We know there was an earthquake, or an aftershock, somewhere between Ankara and Istanbul. The early reports indicated that the damage in Ankara and Istanbul were not substantial, but I would be very cautious to go beyond that.
Obviously, first of all, our hearts go out to the people of Turkey, who have seen this devastation of the earlier earthquake and a number of aftershocks, and now this action. But I have very little information. I have no reason to believe, at this point, that it will affect the trip. But obviously, that's something that we'll look at in light of further information.
MR. BERGER: Yes. I think, arguably, Turkey's relationship to the United States is more important now than it was in the Cold War -- certainly as important. Turkey, by reason of geography, by reason of demographics, by reason of religious diversity, will either be in the 21st century a bridge, a democratic bridge of stability between East and West, between the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world, or it will be a source of instability, of conflict, both with respect to its neighbors and the region.
The President has, from the very beginning, from the first term, felt that this relationship was extremely important. This is why, for example, he has supported so strongly the EU's providing candidacy to Turkey for membership, something which hopefully will happen, because he believes that we have an interest in anchoring Turkey firmly in the West and reinforcing the democratic, now 50-, 60-year course of Turkey, and of having Turkey a model of progressive, moderate, Islamic-Muslim leadership. So I think Turkey's importance to us is very fundamental.
Q Sandy, on Chechnya, you spoke to Putin about two weeks ago; the President did last week. Is there any sign in the interim that they've been getting the message that there is any reduction of the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, or is that, in fact, increased?
MR. BERGER: I don't think there's clear evidence that there's been any substantial reduction. I think that it is our view that while we -- Russia certainly has a right and obligation to protect its territorial integrity and to fight terrorists, and there clearly is a terrorist dimension to this -- that if its means of doing so involve high levels of civilian casualties, high levels of refugees, that it is unlikely to succeed. And it is likely to diminish its standing in the international community. And that is a message we'll continue to deliver to Russia. And I suspect others will as well in Istanbul.
Q What exactly is the terrorist dimension? I mean, they haven't provided any evidence to show that the Chechen terrorists, at least, were behind the apartment bombings in Moscow.
MR. BERGER: That issue is one I don't have enough information on, but there clearly are terrorist elements in Chechnya. There's no question about that.
But the question here is, what is an effective way of dealing with them? In our view -- sooner rather than later, we hope -- there needs to be a political dialogue that leads to some kind of a political resolution of this, that a purely military solution will come at great cost and not be durable.
Q Sandy, you've been pressing that case to the Russians. Just two weeks ago, the President pressed that case with Prime Minister Putin. What makes you think that the message is going to be different, or that it's going to have a different response, in Istanbul?
MR. BERGER: I don't know whether it will. But I think it is something that we will -- Russia will come to Istanbul with 53 other countries present there. This is not just of concern to the United States; it's a concern of the Europeans, of the EU and others. And I think to the extent to which we can manifest our views to Russia, not only is the United States, but the other countries -- the extent to which they see that they are isolated on this in the international community, we hope that will have an influence on their decisions.
Q You say the President will discuss the Russian election with Yeltsin at his meeting. What message will he have for President Yeltsin?
MR. BERGER: I think the message simply is that we believe these elections are extremely important, both the Duma election in December and the presidential election, then, in June; that we think it will be an extraordinary milestone for Russia to move from one democratically elected President to another -- the first time that will have ever happened in all of Russian history; and therefore we support that democratic process, and we support a process of free and fair elections in Russia.
Q Sandy, can you talk about the bombings in Pakistan, whether you think it was a coordinated attack on American interests, and who do you think is behind it, bin Laden or-and his supporters?
MR. BERGER: We have very little information at this point, other than the fact that several bombs were exploded, or several explosive devices were detonated in Islamabad today. But at this point, we don't know who was responsible. It's something obviously that we're looking at very hard.
Q -- against the U.S. embassy?
Q Can I ask you about some developments with regard to Vieques? The President met with Secretary Cohen yesterday, and with the Navy officials and the Marine commandant. Does he now have enough information to make a decision about which way to go on that issue? Or does he need to talk first to the governor of Puerto Rico or other officials?
MR. BERGER: Well, this is obviously a very difficult problem. There is -- we have a strong interest in being able to deploy our forces abroad in a way that they are ready for whatever they might face, a way in which training is adequate. At the same time, the feelings and emotions of the people in Vieques and Puerto Rico are very strong on this. And finding a way to reconcile those two elements is not easy, but it's something that we're seeking to do.
Q Can I just follow that, Sandy? Do you think it's something he can reach a decision on before he leaves for this trip, given the timetable of the Eisenhower training?
MR. BERGER: I don't know that there will be a solution before we leave for the trip, no.
Q Back on Pakistan, is there any indication that U.S. interests were the target? And the Pakistani government seems to have pretty strong indications that bin Laden was behind it. Do we have similar indications, and how are we investigating it? Has the FBI been sent in?
MR. BERGER: I don't have an awful lot of information on Islamabad at this point, and I'm hesitant to speculate. Obviously, U.S. investigators will be part of the effort to determine what the source of cause of this is, but I think I'd rather not speculate, based on this point, very kind of desultory information.
Q In Kosovo, will the President have words of encouragement for the Belgrade opposition leaders, any message?
MR. BERGER: I certainly hope so. Obviously, it is extraordinarily important for there to be a change in government in Belgrade. It is important not only to the people of Serbia, who are living very difficult circumstances, isolated from the world, but it's important for the region.
The integration of the region that we seek, the development of the region, both within itself and into Europe, is made much more difficult if you have to build around Serbia rather than doing it with a democratic Serbia.
I think in recent weeks, there's been encouraging movement by the democratic opposition leaders in coming together around a common agenda, which is to hold free and fair elections under international supervision, something we support, and we will continue to provide them our support, because we believe in what they're seeking to do.
Q Mr. Berger, November 14th, the U.N. deadline for Taliban is around the corner, and they are saying that they will not ask bin Laden to leave the country, number one. Number two, as the Security Advisor, how do you advise the President to visit India alone or not, because since the President has been waiting for the last two years to visit India. But now there is a military next door in Pakistan, and now some officials are saying that, including Mr. Yaqub Khan who was here, that the President should not visit India alone, it would be a very dangerous game for the U.S. to play. Now he cannot visit military-ruled, military regime in Pakistan, so what do you advise him now?
MR. BERGER: Well, I wouldn't advise him from this podium, first of all. Obviously, the President has wanted to visit the region for some time, and he continues to want to do so. The coup in Islamabad complicates that situation, but I -- at this point, no decisions have been made.
Q I'm sorry, just to follow up. I'm sorry. Can you advise him, or can he visit alone India only? Like President Jimmy Carter did --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Can I advise him? Yes, that's what I'm paid to do. And what will I advise him? That's not what I'm paid to talk about.
Q And about the U.N. resolution? I mean, the --
MR. BERGER: The U.N. resolution will go into effect on the 14th. The Taliban, for a whole range of reasons, is outside even the most reasonable, or the most elastic, definition of acceptable international behavior. And we're glad that the international community is now about to embrace the sanctions that we imposed upon the Taliban unilaterally some weeks ago.
Q What do you expect on Cyprus? And second, can the CFE, the revision of the CFE treaty, be ready for signature at the summit meeting?
MR. BERGER: On Cyprus, it is obviously a very important issue for us. We would -- ultimately, our objective here is to see talks between the parties under U.S. -- substantive talks between the parties -- under U.S. auspices -- under U.N. auspices, excuse me, not U.S. auspices.
Q On that point, precisely, the State Department's been very critical of a fairly egregious litany of human rights abuses in Turkey that seem to continue -- torture, murder, rounding up journalists, throwing them in jail. I'm wondering if you view Turkey as just another European country or is this the Turkey of the Midnight Express? (Laughter.)
MR. BERGER: No, I'm not going to say yes. We have always been concerned about human rights issues in our discussions with Turkey -- many of the issues that you have described. And we certainly will discuss them with Prime Minister Ecevit, President Demirel, as we did when prime Minister Ecevit was here.
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