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Press Briefing by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

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For Immediate Release November 18, 1999


Conrad International Hotel
Istanbul, Turkey

7:47 P.M. (L)

MR. HAMMER: Mr. Berger briefed you on the President's bilateral meetings today and Secretary Albright is now here to brief on today's OSCE activities. We have about 15 minutes. I understand there's going to be a briefing on the budget piped in from Washington beginning about 8:00 p.m. our time, so we have about 15 minutes.

Secretary Albright.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We took an important next step in defining international norms today, in fact, of signing, being prepared to sign the charter of the OSCE. In 1975, with the Helsinki Final Act, what had happened was the international community decided that human rights were everybody's business. And what has happened as a result of today is that it, in effect, we have made -- the consensus of the OSCE is that conflicts within societies that could potentially also cause regional instability were also everybody's business, and that language is embodied within the charter. And I do think that this is an important step in terms of creating tools that might help countries deal with the kinds of internal conflicts that have become, unfortunately, more prevalent.

Obviously, as we were here, the question also was, how would Chechnya impact on this particular discussion and these decisions. And when we got here, we felt on the Chechnya issue that we needed, as an organization, to pay more attention to the humanitarian tragedy, to pay more attention to making clear that a political solution was necessary, not a military one, to pay more attention to abiding by international norms, and trying to determine what kind of a role the OSCE could play within that Chechnya problem.

As a result of very long negotiations, we were able to come to agreement on language that would go into the summit declaration. And what we managed to do was to, first of all, recognize the territorial integrity of Russia and to condemn terrorism, but also to make quite clear that there needed to be respect for OSCE norms, that there had to be and could be humanitarian assistance, including by international organizations, that we agreed on the need for a political solution, that the OSCE could contribute to that political solution, that the OSCE was willing to assist in developing a political dialogue, that the Russian Federation would agree to invite the Chairman in Office for a visit, and we reaffirmed the original mandate for the mandate of the OSCE mission from three years ago.

So we did, I believe, accomplish what we wanted in terms of the role of the OSCE in the Chechnya tragedies that are going on, and I believe have made it clear that international norms need to be respected. President Yeltsin came to this meeting with his goal to explain his view of what was happening in Chechnya. When he was here, he heard from other nations that they saw it differently. And he obviously instructed his foreign minister to work with the rest of us in trying to forge the kind of agreement that I've talked about so that we would be in a position to adopt the charter of the OSCE and take the next step of now making it clear that living up to international norms as far as conflicts in societies are concerned, is the business of the OSCE, and there was a consensus agreement on that.

Q Madam Secretary, are you satisfied with today's results, and do you think it will change anything on the ground?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: As I've said, I think we came here with trying to do something about paying attention to the humanitarian situation and all the -- I won't go through this all again, but I think we did manage to get agreement on a lot of very important parts of it. I think that the United Nations is going in to look at the humanitarian situation. I think we have made clear that more humanitarian assistance needs to be given, and that the OSCE Chairman in office has to have a role.

I think -- I'm not going to oversell this. I think that we accomplished a lot. But this is a longer-term problem, and I think that we need to keep pushing it along, and we have been given more tools to deal with it. And I'm sure that the Russians heard a general sense of disquiet about the way that the Chechnya issue was handled. But I think that this is a long process, we have begun on a new road in terms of how the OSCE works, and I have to tell you, I had a very interesting conversation today with President Havel, and we talked about the 1975 Helsinki Final Act, and the fact that human rights became everybody's business as a result of that act was not evident the next day. It was evident in subsequent years, and he, of course, is the epitome of it, having started Charter 77.

Q Did you go any distance at all to convincing Russia to dial back on its use of military force in Chechnya?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We certainly talked a great deal about the need for a political solution, and the fact that the military approach here, as President Clinton said, had the danger of creating a vicious cycle.

Q I want to be clear. Did Foreign Minister Ivanov specifically agree to this visit by the OSCE Chairman and to put that in the summit declaration? And if so, when would that visit be?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: He did agree to it, it is going to be in the summit declaration, and I can't tell you exactly when it's going to be -- soon.

Q Is it fair to say that you wanted the OSCE to negotiate, however, and all you really got an agreement, and the OSCE Chairman should go to Moscow to talk about talks?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The Europeans, earlier in the week, had called for a strong role by the OSCE, a mission, and I think that we got a good foot in the door on that.

Q Madam Secretary, can you say how hard it's going to be to identify people to negotiate with in Chechnya?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think this is one of the points that has been made, is that it is not easy to identify them, but I think there has to be an effort made to do so. And that, I think, is what has been missing is really looking for people that can legitimately negotiate.

Q Madam Secretary, if you've reached agreement on the charter, when will the charter be signed, if that's what you're trying to tell us? And, secondly, was any of the language modified and any reference in the new charter to interference in the internal affairs of a nation?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say the charter, as far as things look now, will be signed tomorrow, and I was not negotiating the language on the charter part, but I think from our perspective, we got what we needed in terms of creating this norm now, that it was everybody's -- it was the OSCE's business to be able to deal with civil conflicts and the creation of tools -- for instance, this REACT force -- REACT group, that is able to go in rapidly in order to try to do conflict prevention, so that there would be a way to try to avoid some of the particular conflicts from escalating even more.

So what it did in the charter was make clear that it was the business of OSCE to deal with these internal conflicts and created the tools for how to do it.

Q What will the OSCE chairman seek to do on the visit to Chechnya?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think those are the other things that we're going to be discussing with him. All of us will be, I think, setting out various things for him to do. But what is important is that what came out of the language that we negotiated is that the OSCE is willing to assist in the political dialogue and there is agreement on the fact that a political solution is essential; and that the assistance of the OSCE would contribute to achieving that goal.

Q Will the Chairman go to Moscow or Chechnya?


Q Can you update us on the status of the CFE? And if it is going to be signed by the U.S., whether you think that under current circumstances there are any chances it would be ratified?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say the negotiations are going on as we speak. One of the aspects of the amended CFE is that forces -- that countries can make decisions about the forces that they have on their own territory. And some of the issues obviously have to do with Georgia and Moldova, and discussions are still going on.
I don't want to speculate beyond that because the negotiations are going on right now.

Q Have you considered how popular President Yeltin's handling of the Chechnya crisis is within Russia and that President Clinton's statements this morning are being played up in the Russian media as being supportive of his policies, should the President's language have been tougher?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think the President's language has been applauded by every foreign minister that's come up to me today for having been so astute in the way that it pointed out to President Yeltsin why it was important for the international community to care about events within a country.

And when he compared -- when he said that we all cared when he got up on a tank, that there was a reason for the international community to care when something is going on in a country. He made very clear that he did not agree with the way that the situation was being handled. He associated himself with Chancellor Schroeder's remarks and made very clear in his own words why he felt that the Russian approach was wrong and that it would be leading to a cycle of violence and needed a political solution.
He also made quite clear that he did not accept President Yeltsin's statement about U.S.-led NATO aggression on Yugoslovia.

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