TOPICS > World

Secretary Madeleine Albright

February 18, 1999 at 12:00 AM EDT


MARGARET WARNER: Secretary of State Albright joins us now from the State Department. Welcome, Madam Secretary.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Margaret.

MARGARET WARNER: Nice to have you. You spoke with the Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic today. Tell us about the conversation. What did you say to him?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I made very clear to him that time was running out, that there is a deadline, Saturday noon, for an agreement to be reached. And if there is no agreement, and it is because of Serb intransigence, that he can expect NATO air strikes. I made that very clear to him. He said to me that he was sending President Milutinovic to Paris to meet with Ambassador Chris Hill.

They have been meeting, but unfortunately there has not been a great deal of progress out of that meeting. I am generally concerned about the fact that while there has been some progress on the military side – excuse me — on the political side of these talks, that is to do with the various structures that would go into an autonomous and highly — possibility of a lot of self-government for Kosovo, that part is going forward fairly well, but that the military side of the talks is not really progressing. And, so as I said, time is running out. That is the message that we are making very clear.

MARGARET WARNER: Why is President Milosevic so opposed to a NATO peacekeeping force in Kosovo?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think, at least what he says, is that he does not want to have foreign troops on his territory. I am making very clear to him, as are others, that the presence of such forces would be to implement an agreement, and that they are forces that would be there in order to make sure that the various parts of the agreement are carried out. It is not an invasion force.

It would be a force that would be there to implement a peace agreement, and, therefore, he should understand that. And that the force would actually be, I think, very important to the carrying out of the elements of the peace agreement, which also would include the disarming of the KLA, the Albanian forces. It would also, obviously make sure the variety of the other political agreement were carried out.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, there is a late report, just before we started this conversation, that you are going to France tomorrow to rejoin the talks. Is that right?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: That is correct.

MARGARET WARNER: And what do you hope to accomplish? I notice you’re not arriving until Saturday morning, the deadline is supposedly noon Saturday. Does this suggest — do you have something pre-cooked or is this really a last ditch effort?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think, you know, as you reported, President Chirac is going to be in Washington tomorrow. And I think it’s very important for that meeting. I think that’s a very important meeting of the two presidents together — and that would I leave right after that, along with the French tomorrow foreign minister who would be returning. And I think it is going to be good to make clear the message yet again that there is a noon deadline and that it’s important to be there. I want to deliver that message again personally to the Yugoslav side, the Serbian side and the Albanians.

MARGARET WARNER: Do you think you can accomplish what you want though without Milosevic himself being at the talks? There have been various analyses written comparing this process to the Dayton Peace Accords. And, of course, at Dayton you had the presidents of all the countries actually involved, including President Milosevic. Can you really get what you’re looking for when he is in Belgrade and giving these instructions?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, that is something that, frankly, concerns me which is why I’m on the phone with President Milosevic. We understand that he is the power. And even though he has dispatched President Milatunavich (ph), he apparently did not give him all the instructions that are necessary so we are going to be constantly pressing and pushing on President Milosevic so that he understands the fact that this is his opportunity to really chart a new direction for Yugoslavia or to be the person responsible for increased chaos in his country and for air strikes.

MARGARET WARNER: The deputy — I think deputy premier of Yugoslavia — was quoted in the wires today as saying that, you know, if the U.S. and Britain would lift the remaining sanctions on Yugoslavia, it would be a lot easier to get a deal on Kosovo. One, did Milosevic suggest that to you and two, is that in the cards?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: He did not suggest that to me. You know, as far as sanctions are concerned, it is important for people to understand that there are really two types of sanctions. There were some sanctions that were put on by the contact group in January when we met in London that were specifically related to the solution of Kosovo. If Kosovo is solved, then there is every reason to believe that that set of sanctions would obviously, that are directly related to this, that they might in fact, be removed. Then there is what we call the outer wall of sanctions that have to do with a number of other requirements, among which is really compliance with Dayton, turning over war criminals. Kosovo is also a part of that democratization — a number of other things that are necessary and those are not under consideration.

MARGARET WARNER: And just so I understand about your conversation, you’re saying that you didn’t get an indication from President Milosevic that he was sending the kind of instructions you’re looking for; that is, instructions to agree to this NATO force. You don’t think he has given those instructions yet?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, he told me that he has sent President Milutinovic to negotiate. I would say from what I’ve just heard from Ambassador Hill, that he did not come with the right instruction.

MARGARET WARNER: Okay. Now, you mentioned the French and that President Chirac is meeting with President Clinton and yourself tomorrow. The French defense minister is quoted today, I think the report’s actually going to appear in a French newspaper tomorrow morning, as saying that as far as he was concerned, even if the talks fail, he doesn’t think military action is automatic; that there would have to be further consultation among the allies. The allies would have to ask themselves, I think he said “what is our political aim?” How do you interpret those remarks?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say this, is that there is no doubt about the fact that Secretary-General Solana has the authority from the NATO military committee to go forward with air strikes. And that was reiterated again yesterday. And the secretary-general himself has made that quite clear. At the same time we have all said obviously we’re an alliance; that there will be some informal consultations. But Secretary-General Solana has that authority. The NATO alliance has given that to him. And I think that that — there should be no mistake. President Milosevic should hear loud and clear that the deadline is Saturday noon and that air strikes will follow if he does not — if he is the one that is responsible for the cratering of the talks.

MARGARET WARNER: But if the French say were to object, would the strikes go anyway?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that — you heard what President Chirac said – that he felt he made a point about the deadline. And I’m sure that when he and President Clinton meet, that it will be very clear that we believe that these talks have to have a positive end and that they have to meet the deadline of Saturday noon, and that a military operation will proceed if that deadline is not met.

MARGARET WARNER: There have also been objections raised by another member of the contact group, of course — Russia. First, can you clear up the confusion about President Yeltsin saying today that he spoke to President Clinton and told him not to touch Kosovo and U.S. Officials are saying they didn’t have any such conversation – can you -

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, they did not have a conversation yesterday. As you know President Yeltsin and President Clinton speak at a variety — have spoken frequently in the past. And President Yeltsin has warned and has — as we well know, he is opposed to a NATO force, but they did not speak yesterday.

MARGARET WARNER: And on the substance of his complaints, I mean again, could the Russians throw a monkey wrench in this?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, we have — I’ve been talking to Foreign Minister Ivanov regularly. I spoke to him twice today. The Russians also do believe that it is time to have a political settlement on Kosovo. And they have been very much a part of the contact group deliberations. And I think that we will keep working with them. And it is my sense that ultimately we will have agreement. Again, what happened at Dayton, as you mentioned Dayton before, the Russians did object to the military annex of Dayton — did not sign on to it. And sometime later they in fact joined the forces in Bosnia. So we’re taking this one step at a time. Foreign Minister Ivanov has made quite clear his support for the agreement in terms of the political aspects of what — the negotiations that are being carried on — and the fact that it’s time to deal with this, and the Saturday deadline. They have been very much a part of those discussions.

MARGARET WARNER: I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to cut you off. How firm is the Saturday deadline?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: The Saturday deadline is firm.


MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Yes. We have said that. We all made — the contact group made that statement a number of times. And it’s very important that President Milosevic know that we are less than two days away from that deadline. And that it is time to really be very clear about the importance of these negotiations, both the political part and the military part.

MARGARET WARNER: Let’s turn for a minute, if we could, to the Kurd situation. Were you surprised at the violent reaction that erupted over the arrest of Mr. Ocalan, across Europe as well as in Turkey?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that clearly this is an issue that took fire very quickly with the demonstrations. I think that it’s fair to say that people did not expect this kind of coordinated reaction to it. I think it is very important now for Ocalan to have a trial in Turkey. We have been working for sometime to make sure that he was brought to justice. I think that this is an important time for Turkey to have a fair and open trial and a real chance for Turkey to show that it understands the importance of due process.

MARGARET WARNER: There have been persistent reports that the U.S. did more than help diplomatically in Ocalan’s arrests. But, even though I know U.S. officials have said U.S. personnel didn’t participate in his apprehension – but that in some manner the U.S. helped identify the fact or notify the Turks that he was in Kenya. Is that true?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: We did not take any part in the apprehension or transfer of Ocalan. We have, as I said, for many months now, been having a lot of diplomatic contacts trying to make sure that he is moved — that there is a trial — and that this situation be dealt with in a legal way. That has been the extent of our role.

MARGARET WARNER: There was a report in the Washington Post that it was F.B.I. agents and other U.S. personnel who are still in Kenya working on the embassy bombing there, who did intercept or overhear a cell phone conversation that Mr. Ocalan made, and that that is what tipped everyone off that he was in Kenya.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: I can’t corroborate that.

MARGARET WARNER: You said that it’s very important for Turkey to give Mr. Ocalan a fair trial. What is a fair trial?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think a fair trial is an open trial with transparency and one that basically makes sure that due process is followed. I think that it’s very clear that we know how trials are carried out in a system that allows for due process. That is what we think ought to happen in Turkey, and that it has to be open and transparent. I think, you know, Margaret, there has been a lot of question about how Turkey views the issue of justice. And this gives them a real opportunity. I hope that they take it up.

MARGARET WARNER: Now the Turkish foreign ministry did issue a statement today appearing to reject or rebuff all of the suggestions from its allies and saying no one should interfere – I think they said — with the independence of the judiciary here. How do you read that?

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that so long as the judiciary there is independent and they have an open trial, I think that it’s very — that’s the key to it. And I hope that they don’t see statements such as mine or others as interference. It’s a matter of really understanding that this is a real opportunity for Turkey. And I hope that they take it up.

MARGARET WARNER: Finally, Madam Secretary, before we go, you’re the first cabinet secretary we’ve spoken to since the president was acquitted by the senate on the impeachment charges last Friday. I’m just wondering whether it’s made a difference in your life, in your professional life to have this over.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Well, let me just say this. I said many times before when I was asked whether it was interfering with our foreign policy, and I made very clear that it was not interfering with our foreign policy. And so in that regard it has made obviously no difference. But I must say, as I said when I was in Mexico and was asked this question, it is going to be very nice to go back to dealing with my colleagues and not having them ask me about the sanity of America. So I think it’s going to be terrific to — they think, and they’ve already said this to me, that it’s very good that America has regained its sanity.

MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you very much, Madam Secretary and good luck to your trip.

MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thanks a lot, Margaret.