BY SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
White House - Feb. 25, 1996
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Before leaving for Latin America, I'd like to comment briefly on two lawless and tragic events that have occurred in the last 24 hours.
The brutal terrorist actions in Israel have claimed the lives of 25 Israelis and -- at least 25 Israelis and two Americans. These are the desperate acts of desperate people who would try to prevent the march of peace in the Middle East. I have a message for them today: You are cowards and you will not succeed.
Earlier today I talked with Prime Minister Peres, very early this morning, and then with Chairman Arafat. And the President has just talked with Prime Minister Peres. Both the Prime Minister and the Chairman made it unmistakably clear that these acts will not do anything to interfere with their commitment to stay on the path to peace, and they will do so.
I want to extend my deepest sympathies to the families of all of those who are involved and to tell you that the President and I are determined to do all we can to help Israel and its neighbors in the Middle East stay on the path to peace, and to take steps to ensure the security of Israel.
The Latin American trip that I'll be departing on in just a few minutes takes me to a region that has made a remarkable transformation to peace in the last decade. All but one of the hemisphere's 35 nations are now democracies. The one exception is Cuba, and we've seen in the last 24 hours a kind of conduct that Cuba is capable of.
Yesterday in broad daylight, on the instruction from Cuba's highest military authorities, Cuban military aircraft shot down two unarmed, small civilian aircraft who were in the Straits of Florida. It is clear that the Cuban actions yesterday were a blatant violation of international law and a violation of the norms of civilized behavior. Cuban explanations of why they took the actions they did are neither plausible, nor acceptable.
Today, as Mike said, the President's foreign policy advisors met for several hours to develop the facts, and then to consider -- develop a range of options that the United States might take in response to Cuba's totally unjustified downing of these two small, unarmed civilian aircraft. We discussed a range of options that the President might want to consider, and I'll tell you in advance I'm not going to comment on these options until the President has an opportunity to consider them.
The President has already instructed United Nations Ambassador Madeleine Albright to convene an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the incident and to discuss an appropriate international response. We will proceed promptly with our international partners to make clear to the Cubans that this violation of international law will not go unanswered.