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Press conference at US-EU-Russian Trilateral

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman (Lisbon, Portugal)

For immediate release March 3, 2000

Press Conference by Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama, EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten And Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov

Following U.S.-EU-Russian Trilateral EU Presidency Headquarters Lisbon, Portugal March 3, 2000

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Good morning. We have just concluded the trilateral of Lisbon. This is the first time that the European Union, the United States and Russia have this Ministerial trilateral, and we considered it so fruitful that we decided to establish a follow up. From now on, from this meeting on, we will have trilaterals at the ministerial level, joining Russia, the United States and the European Union. And also, we decided that we'll go on upgrading the items to be discussed in these meetings. We have a shared responsibility in the international scene, and thus, we are entitled at this trilateral level to tackle global issues, that will be the way out.

We have been concentrating in several points of our agenda. The Caucuses and Chechnya and in this trilateral we saw an acceptance on the Russian side regarding objective points. First, the visit of ambassador of OSCE to Chechnya. Second, two experts on human rights of the Council of Europe will be located in the Office of President Putin's representative to Chechnya. Third, the President of the International Red Cross will visit Chechnya. A visit coordinated with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Fourth, there will be a better involvement of humanitarian organizations and NGO's in Chechnya. The European Union gave Minister Ivanov concrete proposals regarding humanitarian relief, better involvement of ECHO. Access of NGO's and a visit to Chechnya that will be organized with relevant European Union diplomats located in Moscow.

We have been also concentrating in Southeast Europe, Croatia, thus endorsing political change there and its significance. Also, regarding Bosnia-Herzegovina, the role of the Peace Implementation Council and its future meeting during the Portuguese Presidency of the Union and for Kosovo, we have been emphasizing the importance of having local elections during carefully prepared, at the latest this year, in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1244. And we decided to endorse strong international monitoring of the situation there and also the financial support by the international community that will be expressed in the future conference for donors on Kosovo. We have been highlighting other issues; security and stability in Europe; OSCE; ABM Treaty; new threats like extremism; information society; proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and also trilateral cooperation in the northern area among the United States, the European Union and Russia. This is the overall summary and I now have the pleasure to give the floor to Madeleine Albright.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much and I am very pleased to be back in Portugal, and I thank Foreign Minister Gama for hosting this first ever trilateral meeting among the U.S., the EU and Russia. It is certainly appropriate that we meet in this forum because we have so many shared interests and much business to discuss. This morning the conflict in Chechnya is foremost in our minds and we don't mince words on this subject and our differences are deep. Both Europe and the United States have strongly condemned the conduct of the military campaign and have called for a full investigation of credible reports of atrocities and human rights abuses. Our focus today was on the concrete steps that need to be taken to prevent further abuses, address urgent humanitarian needs and show that Russia abides by international norms. Foreign Minister Ivanov told us, this morning, that Russia will receive the President of the International Red Cross next week, to work out an agreement for the ICRC's work in Chechnya and it is essential that this agreement provide access to detainees and filtration camps in Chechnya. Foreign Minister Ivanov also told us of next week's trip to Chechnya by the head of the OSCE assistance group, and we're all in agreement that the work of the assistance group has to be reactivated and the only way to do this is to reestablish a permanent presence for the group in the region.

Finally, Foreign Minister Ivanov told us about the acting President Putin's appointment of an Ombudsman for investigating human rights violations in Chechnya. The Ombudsman's Office is ready to work, and we were told, with experts from the Council of Europe and other international organizations. There's a real chance here for the Russian investigators to draw on the information and expertise of NGOs in the field. This is the only way for Russia to show it takes reports of abuses seriously and is prepared to hold people accountable for their actions.

As Foreign Minister Gama has indicated, we also discussed a broad range of other issues. These included the need to continue moving forward in Kosovo and throughout Southeast Europe to foster stability, tolerance and democracy. And as he mentioned, we agreed on the importance of moving to organized carefully prepared municipal elections in Kosovo later this year. We also discussed our efforts to strengthen ties among Baltic States, Northern Europe and Northwest Russia and these are areas where we have much in common and much to benefit from enhanced cooperation in areas such as law enforcement, energy and environment. We also discussed our cooperation on nuclear waste management and the framework agreement for the multilateral nuclear environmental program. As I told Foreign Minister Ivanov, we need to resolve outstanding issues as soon as possible so that assistance can proceed without interruption. Donor countries need the agreement in order to move ahead with Moscow on joint projects in nuclear waste management and clean up in Northwest Russia. We also discussed our ongoing concerns about proliferation. My Government welcomes adoption of the EU's joint action program for non-proliferation and disarmament assistance to Russia. This program complements our own expanded threat reduction initiative.

We briefly discussed broader issues of extremism, narcotrafficking and terrorism, as well as the need to adopt to the challenges of the information revolution. All in all, I think it was a very productive trilateral meeting and I do hope we have established a useful precedent for the future. Thank you very much.

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Thank you. Now, Igor Ivanov, the floor is yours.

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: (in Russian) ...

QUESTION: (in Portuguese)...

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: (in Portuguese)...

QUESTION: Madame Secretary. It looks as if you're moving ahead, the Europeans, America and Russia. This is a landmark meeting. Would it be fair to conclude that Russian activity in Chechnya hasn't really had any serious impact on the drive to strengthen ties between Russia and the rest of Europe? The Foreign Minister spoke as if Russia has always been open to inquiries in Chechnya. Do you have a different impression? You have for a long time been asking for openness. Is there still a lingering difference in perception to what actually happened there?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that a large portion of the bilateral meeting that I had with Foreign Minister Ivanov was devoted to Chechnya and, as I understand it, that was true of the EU meeting with him and was certainly true in the trilateral, because this continues to be of concern. As Foreign Minister Gama and I both said in our statements, there was we believe, some agreement forward in terms of the Russians hosting a variety of visits in which I believe they need to answer the kinds of questions that I put forward. Access to detainees in camps and openness. I think that we have stressed that in terms of our relations, generally, it is essential to deal with the Chechnya issue. That doesn't mean that we do not have discussions on a broad range of other issues. But I think the Russians would be well served if they, in fact, allow the kind of access we're talking about, that would remove the doubts and problems that Foreign Minister Ivanov mentioned. Transparency and accountability is what is necessary.

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: (in Russian)...

QUESTION: Hello?

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Yes, you may proceed.

QUESTION: Excuse me, Mr. Minister. Respectfully all we have to go on is what the Secretary asked of Mr. Putin while we were in Moscow. I assume she had a basis for saying she was asking for access for humanitarian investigators and she had a reason for saying we think the area should be open to wider press coverage. I know some reporters got down there. I assume that her double request here was based on some inadequacy in both areas. We're not in Chechnya, so we have no first impression, but we do know what was being asked of the Russian leadership and I assume it wasn't just a trivial request.

QUESTION: Good morning. I would like to ask Mr. Ivanov if Russia has reaffirmed the intention to request a Council Security meeting to analyze if resolution 1244 has been entirely assumed?

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: (in Russian)...

QUESTION: (in Portuguese)...

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: (in Russian)...

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (inaudible)...what is important is to make sure that the funds are available for the registration and preparation of the election so that the largest number of Kosovars, both Albanians and Serbs, can participate and that those elections be well prepared and that arrangements be made for all to vote. The importance of those elections, the municipal elections, is that we are, with the help of UNMIK, clearly beginning to create civil institutions that are necessary in Kosovo. Therefore they are very important. As far as Mitrovica is concerned it clearly is a central point and one of great importance. The way that the sectors have been set up in Kosovo, each...there are five of them and different countries have responsibilities for their sector. In the case of emergency it is possible for the overall commander to have forces from the other sectors, and the United States did participate. We believe as a first option other countries, those that are responsible for the sector itself, should take care of it but in emergency situations our forces are available.

QUESTION: (inaudible)... from Denmark. I would like to ask Mr. Patten if they feel that today's talk has shown any progress whatsoever in the Chechnya question compared to the talks you had yesterday with Mr. Ivanov on that question.

COMMISSIONER PATTEN: At this press conference yesterday, we talked about our concerns about the delivery of humanitarian assistance in Chechnya. Mr. Ivanov said yesterday that he'd be prepared to look at proposals from the European Union about how we could deliver humanitarian assistance more effectively. We've given Mr. Ivanov and his colleagues today some concrete proposals, as the Foreign Minister said a few moments ago, which in our view would make it possible for international NGOs including, of course, European NGOs to work effectively on the ground in Chechnya and the northern Caucuses in general. The first thing we would like is to be able to make a technical assessment of the situation on the ground next week, by a group of our experts from the ECHO organization and we've put a number of other proposals to Mr. Ivanov which are related to that and he's, I hope, going to be open minded in addressing those issues. We do have available a good deal of humanitarian assistance that we would like to make available, or that we would like to deliver in the region as rapidly as possible, but we need to be assured that the circumstances exist for the delivery of that assistance, and I hope that Mr. Ivanov and his colleagues in the next few days will be able to give us those assurances.

QUESTION: (in French)...

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: (in Russian)...I speak in Russian if you want.

(Laughter)

...(continues in Russian.)

QUESTION: (in French)...

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: (in French)...

FOREIGN MINISTER IVANOV: (in Russian)...

QUESTION: (inaudible)... from Arab television, MBC. I have a question for Ms Albright and Mr. Gama. Do you expect that the negotiations between the Syrians and Israelis will be resumed soon? Madame Albright, as you know well Mr. Arafat is facing an increasing pressure from the street these days. Do you still believe that the deadline of peace of September can be achieved between the Israelis and Palestinians also?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, let me say that obviously the Middle East peace talks, both the Syrian and Palestinian track, go through ups and downs. We continue to work on it, Ambassador Dennis Ross has just returned from the region and we are doing our best to make sure that both tracks resume as soon as possible. I believe that, because I am an eternal optimist, that in fact it will be possible but it's very difficult, in both tracks very serious and fateful decisions need to be made and we're hopeful that we can get them both back going again.

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Well, I've nothing to add. In general, in this meeting, all the parts agree with the necessity to resume those tracks and to speed up and go on with the peace process. There is no divergence among us on that point.

QUESTION: It seems that some major problems in the world are heading to a kind of solution. East Timor, the Middle East, just to mention two. Are you hopeful that the Cyprus problem is on a path to a final solution? Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Well, we can recognize that progress is going on. Relations between Turkey and Greece are improving and international initiatives are also working out some steps, namely through the UN and countries that are dedicated to that issue, and also the European Union. It's a problem that we are probably not expected to resolve tomorrow, but you must recognize that the situation regarding that point is making some sort of evolution and is accompanying well the great steps that Greece and Turkey are giving together.

QUESTION: (in Russian)...

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I'm sorry, I don't have information on that. I'll get you an answer, but I don't have an answer.

FOREIGN MINISTER GAMA: Thank you

(###)


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