THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
With President Clinton we had a very friendly, open and free discussion. During our talks we covered all issues, those which under the present situation have a certain importance from our country. Going from Greek American relations to developments in the Balkans, Greek-Turkish relations and the Cyprus issue. We agreed as regards Greek-American relations that there is still considerable margin for the improvement of the cooperation between the two countries.
Greece, thanks to its economic renewal these last few years, provides
new major opportunities for investments, trade, relations, relations in the
field of technology and other areas. For the Balkans, our conviction is that
the present situation entails certain risks. Stability is necessary in the
region, respect of existing borders, and the strengthening of initiatives for
the reconstruction of the region -- and, above all, the implementation, of the
We have agreed that Turkey's European perspective will help establish
closer links based on peaceful development and cooperation. However, its
candidature could not be accepted unless certain conditions are met for the
settlement of existing problems. As regards the Cyprus issue, we have agreed
that talks that have just started should be substantive in order to lead to the
settlement of this issue.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: First of all, Prime Minister, let me thank you and the members of your government for the very good meeting that we had today. I think the Prime Minister has summarized the results of our meeting quite well. I would like to add just a few words.
First, the Greek relationship is profoundly important to me and to the United States, because of the values and history we share; because of the large role Greek-Americans play in our national life, as the Prime Minister said. But also because of two historic transformations that have occurred in the last decade.
The first is the transformation of southeast Europe from a battleground between east and west to a proving ground for democracy and tolerance in the post-Cold War world. The second is the remarkable transformation of Greece itself into a regional leader with a booming economy, a vibrant democracy; with the ability to help to pull its neighbors together and push them forward into 21st century Europe.
We spoke a lot today about the role Greece is playing in the Balkans -- with its troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, with its support for economic development and reconstruction, with its private sector investment. Greece is carrying a heavier burden in this region than almost any other country; but the potential payoff is very large: an undivided, democratic Europe in which wars like those we've seen in the former Yugoslavia no longer happen. And I want to pay a tribute to the Prime Minister and the people of Greece for all they are doing in the Balkans, and pledge my support for the stability pact and the economic growth necessary for this to work.
Of course, we also spoke about the road to reconciliation and lasting peace between Greece and Turkey, and the issues in the Aegean and, of course, Cyprus. I told the Prime Minister how pleased I am that the parties in Cyprus have agreed to start these proximity talks on December 3rd in New York, and how determined I am that they be serious talks. The goal is to lay the foundation for meaningful negotiations toward a comprehensive settlement. We should have no illusions; there's a tough road ahead. But we will work closely with Secretary General Annan to ensure that the talks are productive.
We talked about our growing trade and investment, about how we can strengthen our economic relationship further.
Greece's economic renewal has made it one of the most attractive places in Europe in which to do business. I am very pleased at its progress at improving protection for intellectual property rights makes it possible to move rapidly toward settling our copyright case in the WTO.
Finally, let me just express the great sympathy and support of the American people to all those who lost their loved ones in the tragic earthquake last August. We will not forget the heroism of the Greek emergency teams who pulled survivors from the rubble, not only here in Athens, but also across the Aegean in Turkey. I am very glad that our own Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed with its Greek counterparts to work together to strengthen their preparedness for future disasters.
Let me say, in closing, I am satisfied with the work we advanced today. We look to -- as I said last night, we look to ancient Greece for inspiration, but to modern Greece for leadership and for partnership. After this visit, I believe we have strengthened that partnership.
Thank you very much.
Q From what we know, you did ask while you were in Turkey for some specific move by Ankara that would match the moves Greece has done in order, also, to make her candidacy for the European Union easier. Do you have anything concrete on that?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I didn't think that was my role. Let me tell
you what I did do. I spoke both at every opportunity, publicly and privately --
before the Turkish Assembly, before the business group, before the group of
earthquake survivors and in all my private meetings about the importance of
resolving outstanding issues between Greece and Turkey, including Cyprus.
Q Sir, the demonstrations last night included extensive arson and damage. I want to know if you're concerned by the protests, and what you say to the Greeks who oppose your visit here.
THE PRESIDENT: What was the last part of your question?
Q What's your message to the Greeks who are protesting, who oppose your visit here?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I think that we have to -- especially in Greece -- reaffirm the right of people to protest in a democracy. Secondly, I strongly believe the protests should be peaceful and, therefore, I deeply regret the Greeks who had their property injured and who suffered losses through these demonstrations.
But I think that the important thing is that we reaffirm the value of the relationship between our two countries. I think that -- I know most Americans deeply value the relationship with Greece, notwithstanding the fact that almost all of the people of Greece disagree with our policy in Kosovo, and before that in Bosnia. I believe I did the right thing, and I think most Americans believe that we did the right thing to stand against ethnic cleansing.
But that doesn't affect our affection for, and our support for the people of Greece and the government of Greece. And I would hope that most Greek citizens would, like the Greek government, believe that there is value in our relationship and our partnership; and that even if we have a disagreement, we can't allow that to undermine our relationship or our partnership.
I would just say, looking toward the future, I, personally, admire very much and support very strongly the leadership that Greece is exercising in operations in Bosnia and in Kosovo and generally in the Balkans and throughout southeastern Europe. And I believe that if we can, the rest of us, do our part to help the economy grow there and provide a magnet that enables these nations to pull together, that Greece will lead them into a very different future in the new century.
PRIME MINISTER SIMITIS: Greece is a country, a democratic country, where everyone can freely express his views and opinions. But as we had emphasized before President Clinton's arrival, our constitution provides that these expressions of opinions and views should be made in a peaceful way, and within the context of legality. And I'm sorry for the fact that certain people did not observe and respect this fundamental principle of law -- the fundamental principle that allows our states to operate and function.
The friendship, however, between the two people, and the partnership, our partnership with the United States, will not be determined by these protests, but by our common goals, our common objectives and pursuits, our efforts to handle and face problems together. And the meeting today has shown that we share common goals and common pursuits, and we're trying together. This is the foundation of a friendship.
Q Mr. President, I followed your trip in Ankara, and you seemed to be
mostly the strongest supporter of Turkey's candidacy in the European Union. So
do you think that the permanent conditionality of Turkey's candidacy should be
first, the solution of the Cyprus problem and, second, the acceptance of the
jurisdiction of Turkey, as far as the court of Hague is concerned?
But let me say, on the larger issue my feeling is that the more Turkey is integrated into Europe, and has the kind of dialogue that we've seen recently with Greece; the more the climate improves; the more you can resolve these issues, the brighter the future for both countries will be. And as I told the Turks -- I'm not saying anything to you I didn't say there -- I do not think that bright future is achievable until there is a resolution of the Cyprus issue. These two countries need to go hand-in-hand into the future. And the festering disputes have to be resolved in order for that to happen.
PRIME MINISTER SIMITIS: As I have indicated already, the Greek government, and I, personally, have had a series of contacts. I have met and talked with all the prime ministers of the European Union member states on that issue. I have talked with them in order to determine what would be the best way that would allow us to overcome problems in the future. It would be counterproductive, I believe, if today, once these talks are ongoing, we were to focus on one or the other point or issue. This would not facilitate the discussion.
I believe that in the future the time will come for us to determine all these aspects. But at present, restriction to one or two or three issues is not helpful. We must have a global approach and look at the final aim of this overall effort.
Q Mr. President, yesterday, George W. Bush laid out his foreign policy priorities. Specifically on China and Russia, he said they should be viewed as competitors of the United States rather than as strategic partners. I'm wondering what your view is on that and, also, do you feel reassured that he has a view of the world that would make him an effective president?
PRESIDENT CLINTON: You know, you guys keep trying to get me into this election. I am not a candidate. I'm not always happy about that, but I'm not.
Let me say this. I think we did the right thing to negotiate the WTO agreement with China, and apparently, Governor Bush agrees with that. I think that as with all great countries, we are both competitors and partners. I think there is a problem with characterizing a country as a competitor if that means we know for sure that for the next 20 years there will be an adversary relationship.
We will have certain interests in common with China, we will have
certain things we disagree with. We will support a lot of their domestic
developments. We still have great trouble when people -- free speech or
religious rights are restrained.
PRIME MINISTER SIMITIS: We should not be afraid of competitors. We should be afraid of ourselves when we are afraid of others.
END 1:44 P.M. (L)
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