Return to: Index of 1995 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

Note: This Electronic Research Collection is an archive site. For the most current information, please visit the State Department homepage.
U.S. Department of State
95/10/05 Interview: MacNEIL/LEHRER Newshour
Office of the Spokesman 
 
 
 
                       U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 
                        Office of the Spokesman 

For Immediate Release                        October 5, 1995 
 
 
                          INTERVIEW OF 
             SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER 
                              ON 
              PBS - TV "MacNEIL/LEHRER NEWSHOUR" 
 
                    Thursday, October 5, 1995 
 
 
MR. LEHRER:  We go first tonight to the Bosnia cease-fire agreement and 
to a "Newsmaker" interview with Secretary of State Warren Christopher. 
 
Mr. Secretary, welcome. 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Thank you, Jim. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Let's begin with some basics here.  The cease-fire 
agreement is between and among what parties? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, it's between and among the Serbians who 
represent the Bosnian Serbs as well and the Bosnian Government.  But the 
Croatian -- 
 
MR. LEHRER:  But just the Muslims? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The Muslim Government. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Right. 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The Croatians also will abide by it.  They're 
not direct parties to it.  Dick Holbrooke has talked to President 
Tudjman, and they recognize the need for them to comply as well. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Dick Holbrooke being Assistant Secretary of State who has 
been mediating in this. 
 
What have these folks resolved to do? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  There've been two things that they've done 
today.  Taken together that's a very important development.  First, is a 
cease-fire that will last for 60 days or until the peace conference 
that's also contemplated is concluded. 
 
The second development, Jim, is, the parties have agreed to commence 
proximity peace talks here in the United States sometime around the 
25th.  We say around the 25th of October because the Croatian elections 
are involved. 
 
This means that the Presidents of those three countries -- that is, 
Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia -- will be coming here for proximity peace 
talks.  As I say, that's a major development. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  "Proximity," meaning in this context, what? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, it means that they will be together on the 
same site, and our negotiators will be going back and forth between them 
leading up to the time when they will be brought together. 
 
"Proximity" means that they'll be in different locations... 
 
MR. LEHRER:  But in Washington, in the same town? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Probably not in Washington.  Probably outside of 
Washington someplace, in a location where they might have a little bit 
more peace and quite, a little bit more privacy. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Why won't they sit down together in the same room and get 
this thing over with? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  You reach a point in a negotiation where that 
might happen.  But I think we'd like to prepare the ground.  Diplomacy 
is hard work, Jim, and it's particularly hard work where people have 
been at war with each other for three years or so.  There's a need to 
make sure that when they get together they'll reach agreement rather 
than having the thing blow up in smoke. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  But they will all be in the United States.  They will all 
be in the same area. 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Right. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  They just won't be in the same room, at least at the 
beginning. 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Not at the beginning, but we hope to bring them 
together, and then the next stage that's contemplated is that after 
that's moved an appropriate distance -- after we see something in sight 
-- it will be moved to a peace conference in France. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  I see.  All right.  Let's go back to the cease-fire.  Are 
you confident, Mr. Secretary, that the people who actually made this 
agreement today can in fact deliver -- They can actually turn to their 
folks and say, "Okay, knock it off.  This is it"? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We have a lot of confidence in that, and let me 
tell you why.  President Milosevic of Serbia was empowered to negotiate 
for the Bosnian Serbs.  We've got a signed document, signed by Karadzic 
and Mladic, that empowers President Milosevic to negotiate for them, and 
he's got a lot of sway with them. 
 
On the Bosnian side, we've been very careful to contact the various 
elements of their government -- not only President Izetbegovic but the 
rest of his negotiating team; his Foreign Minister, Mr. Sacirbey, and 
his Prime Minister, Mr. Silajdzic. 
 
So I think we've touched the bases there.  We think that there will be 
compliance with this cease-fire.  There was a cease-fire last December, 
reached about the 20th of December.  It held fairly well for three 
months.  So we've got a track record here, but we'll also be asking the 
United Nations forces to take some action to make sure the cease-fire 
works. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Our folks on the foreign affairs beat today tried to count 
up how many cease-fires there have been in Bosnia since this thing 
began, the figure they came up with is somewhere between 30 and 36.  Why 
is this one different, sir? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  One of the reasons this is different is because 
we've got the proximity peace talks scheduled in connection with it.  We 
wouldn't feel very confident all we had was a cease-fire, but because 
we've got the talks closely related and integrated to it, it gives us 
more confidence. 
 
I also think that we've done a good job of letting the parties recognize 
the time has come to move from war to peace.  There's a fatigue with the 
war.  There's a relative correlation of the forces that gives them some 
incentive toward the peace talks. 
 
We're not taking anything for granted.  As the President said in that 
excerpt that you saw, it will be deeds that count, and we're going to be 
watching very closely.  But this is a very important extension of the 
initiative the President began in the middle of the summer when he came 
to his foreign policy team and said, "We've got to do something about 
this.  The United States should take the lead." 
 
And we've moved from there.  There's been a confluence of events that 
enabled us to get to this point, and a lot of cooperation from our 
allies in Europe and Russia.  So this is one of those situations where 
there is no single factor, but this congery of forces finally brought us 
to this very hopeful point. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  You said the U.N. is going to monitor this cease-fire.  How 
are they going to do that? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  As they've done before, Jim, they will be there 
on the ground, able to call attention to the violations.  They will also 
be opening the road from Sarajevo to Gorazde, which is an important 
element. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Why is that important? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  That's the only part of the Bosnian territory 
that's not contiguous with the remainder of the Bosnian territory.  
Opening of that road means that all the territory of the federation 
between Bosnia and Croatia will then be contiguous.  It also means that 
Gorazde can be resupplied without having to use airdrops. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Moving to the next phase, assuming that the cease-fire 
holds -- which is a big assumption, I would think you would agree, would 
you not, Mr. Secretary? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We're certainly not taking anything for granted 
here.  It's a delicate moment. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Let's go to the second stage and to the peace talks.  Is it 
your own view and your associates' view at the State Department, the 
folks who've been working on this on the ground, that these people 
really do want peace, or is it they have been forced to it by the United 
States and all the parties you just mentioned? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, this is not a compelled or coerced.  This 
is a decision on the part of the three leaders that the time has come to 
see if they can't work things out.  We'd feel a lot less confident if we 
didn't feel that they genuinely want to try to work things out. 
 
It's difficult because there are long antagonisms.  But, as I say, I 
think fatigue, the fact that there is a relative equilibrium between the 
Federation and the Serbian forces give it good chance.  There are a lot 
of difficult issues that will come into that peace conference. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Do you feel that there is a kind of, if not agreement, at 
least an understanding of where the territory rests now -- in other 
words, the control of various elements.  We have a map that shows how 
it's all divided up now.  (Map displayed on TV screen.) 
 
Muslim control there with the light color and the Croats the green, if 
it's a color TV, and then the stripes are the Serb controlled thing.  
That that's roughly -- that the parties have agreed that that's what 
Bosnia will look like? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Roughly so, Jim.  But when we get down to 
considering the map, which will be one of the most difficult aspects of 
the proximity talks, I'm sure there might be some territorial swaps so 
as to make the map work better. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Okay, the map has not been agreed to by any stretch of the 
imagination. 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  No, the map has not been agreed to, but the map 
is roughly the 50/50 allocation that the Contact Group recommended a 
year ago. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  50/50 means 50 between the Serbs -- the Serbs get one 50 
and the other 50 goes to a combination between Bosnia and the Croat 
Federation, is that right? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Exactly.  Those are entities, but they will be 
joined at the top by a common presidency; foreign affairs functions 
concentrated not in the two elements but rather in the federal 
government at the top; a cabinet; a constitutional court; a parliament, 
and so forth. 
 
Although there will be two entities and they are relatively equivalent 
in size, nevertheless, they will have the connective tissue of a common 
presidency, a cabinet and so forth. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  So they will not be independent nations. 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  They will not be independent nations. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  And they've agreed to that. 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  They've agreed to that.  That's what we 
accomplished on the 8th of September in Geneva, that first agreement 
that said there will be a single Bosnia-Herzegovina, consisting of these 
two entities, and they will be joined together in a way that will 
preserve the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina with these two entities.  
Then the agreement we reached ten days ago in New York, and when I said 
we then would be seeking a cease-fire, that agreement provided for these 
governmental aspects -- that is, the presidency, the constitutional 
court and the parliament, and so forth. 
 
I confess to your viewers this is complicated stuff, but that's the 
essence of diplomacy sometimes. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Was there a magic moment in these negotiations, Mr. 
Secretary, or a magic idea, something that everybody said, "Okay, that's 
it.  We can have a cease-fire.  We can move this thing down the road." 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, I'd have to honestly say I think it's just 
a confluence of a number of events -- some welcome ones and some tragic 
ones.  To make this happen, you probably had to have Srebrenica and Zepa 
which caused the international community to say, "Stop!  We can't have 
this anymore." 
 
MR. LEHRER:  This is when the Serbs went in there -- 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Yes, that's right. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  -- and ran the Muslims out and a lot of atrocities -- 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  That's a terrible epic.  But at the same time 
the Croatians' move into Sector North and Sector South has had the 
effect of making peace somewhat easier; what happened at the London 
Conference -- all against a background, I think, of President Clinton's 
very strong initiative.  So there were a number of factors, and we have 
been working hard, going step by step.  But today was an important day. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  What about the NATO bombing? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The NATO bombing was a major factor.  Of course, 
it was in response to a tragedy -- that is, the loss of 30-plus lives in 
Sarajevo.  But that galvanized the international community, and we 
conducted some bombing then.  It wasn't simply a single bombing event.  
It was several days, and it had some real effect on the Serbs. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Mr. Secretary, you've been dealing with this now -- this 
issue of Bosnia -- since you've been Secretary of State. 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Correct. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  From the very beginning.  Do you have a feeling that this 
may finally be resolved now, or can you allow yourself to think that 
way? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, this is the best chance we've had.  I'm a 
little bit superstitious.  All I can say is, we're going to keep on 
working. 
 
I called my four fellow Foreign Ministers today.  The common theme we 
had:  Let's keep up the momentum; let's keep the pressure on; let's grab 
this moment. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  The next moment, of course, will be the proposal to send 
U.S. troops in there to maintain the peace.  If that happens, when would 
that happen? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, we have these proximity peace talks 
starting here in late October.  That will take some time, and, 
hopefully, we can move to a peace conference in Europe.  After that, 
would come time for implementation.  I can't tell you when that would 
be, but NATO is doing the planning. 
 
Secretary Perry is going to Europe this weekend to meet with the Russian 
Defense Minister to try to find the right way to incorporate the 
Russians into this process; a dignified proper role for them, but 
without interfering with NATO command and control.  That would happen 
after the peace conference, when there is a an agreement. 
 
As I've said, we would not begin to try to implement until there was a 
real peace to implement. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  The President is still committed to sending 20,000 to 
25,000 U.S. troops in there? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  The President is committed to playing our proper 
role in NATO.  The numbers haven't been decided on yet.  We're going to 
have to see the shape of peace.  But we're going to do our part in NATO, 
Jim, and it would be a tragedy if we didn't.  I think it might undermine 
the fundamental purpose of NATO if NATO went in and we wouldn't go 
along. 
 
Also, I just have to tell you that the parties will not agree in my 
judgment to make peace here unless they know the United States is going 
help to implement it. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Why?  Why not? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  They've got a lot of confidence in the United 
States.  They look to the United State for the leadership.  They think 
if we're involved in the implementation of this, that if we're there on 
the ground, people are not likely to violate it. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Senator Dole and other members of Congress, including some 
Democrats, at least publicly at this point, are opposed or skeptical 
about the idea of the introduction of U.S. ground forces in this.  How 
big a problem is that going to be?  Are you going to ask permission of 
Congress for this? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We'd certainly welcome their support.  As a 
practical matter, we need their support because they have the purse 
strings. 
 
We have an obligation to explain to them exactly what is going on and 
explain to the American people.  The President began that process last 
Friday, and I think he got a good reception.  Congress listened to a 
very careful briefing very intently.  We're going to be moving down that 
road. 
 
We know we've got a job of convincing to do.  So many people in Congress 
have been telling us, "Do something about this problem."  Now, we've got 
an opportunity.  I don't think they'll want to thwart us at that point. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  So you think you can win the support of Congress? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  It will be a tough job, but I think we ought to 
be able to win the support of Congress. 
 
This is a time when we've got a great opportunity.  I just can't imagine 
the United States at that critical moment would turn its back on it and 
not grasp this opportunity. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  What about the public?  One of the things that members of 
Congress say is, "Hey, the President has not made the case to the 
American people for putting U.S. young men and women on the ground in 
Bosnia." 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  We're beginning to make that case.  I think 
we're beginning to get a good deal of support from the American people. 
 
One of the things that caused us to say, "The United States has got to 
take the leadership" is that the American people began to sense that 
here was a problem that was getting out of control in Europe -- and 
Europe has always been very important to us.  I think we'll be able to 
convince the American people of the importance of this as long as we do 
it carefully, as long as we do it with our traditional NATO allies, as 
long as we go in in a strong way that we'll do everything we can to 
minimize any dangers or casualties. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Mr. Secretary, finally, before you go, I want to change 
subjects on you dramatically.  Late today there was a White House source 
story which said tomorrow there was going to be an announcement about 
some overtures toward Cuba.  What is that all about? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, I don't want to scoop the President.  The 
President is going to make a very important speech tomorrow.  Basically, 
the speech is going to be about the importance of American engagement 
and, indeed, for resources to back up that engagement. 
 
Let me just say with respect to Cuba, we have essentially a two-track 
policy on Cuba.  The first track is to maintain and stiffen the embargo 
to try to produce political and economic reform.  But the other track of 
that is to try to increase communication between the United States and 
the people of Cuba. 
 
I think there will be something in the President's speech about 
increasing communication between the people of the United States and the 
people of Cuba. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Student exchanges -- things like that; business?  No trade? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, there will be no trade.  As I say, I think 
you'll understand if I don't want to scoop the President here on your 
program tonight, nice as that might be. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  But it's a big deal? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  It's an important part.  The main theme of the 
speech, I think, is what I hope people will register.  And that is, we 
need to have resources to back up our leadership.  Many in Congress have 
wanted us to lead but they've not been willing to put up the resources.  
I think that's the main theme of the President's speech. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  I said that was going to be the last one, but there's one 
other.  You met today -- and here, again, your folks did here at the 
State Department -- with representatives of Syria, trying to move their 
talks with Israel along.  The Syrian representative said nothing 
happened; there was no progress?  You agree with that? 
 
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER:  Jim, I conducted those meetings myself.  I had 
to shift gears a little bit in the middle of the day today, after a long 
night and day on Bosnia. 
 
I had a good talk with Foreign Minister Shara, who was here in town for 
meetings at the U.N.  We explored various ways to resume the peace talks 
between Israel and Syria.  We talked about my possible visit to the 
region.  There wasn't any dramatic outcome of the meeting.  That doesn't 
mean we didn't make some progress. 
 
As I say, diplomacy is hard work and you go one step at a time.  You try 
to hit singles.  Today, I think, on Bosnia we got a double.  It's hard 
work.  You just have to keep pressing. 
 
MR. LEHRER:  Mr. Secretary, that really was my last question.  Thank you 
very much.  Good to see you again. 
 
To the top of this page