Return to: Index of 1996 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies ||
Electronic Research Collections Index ||
U.S. Department of State
96/10/15 Interview on PBS-TV "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer"
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release October 15, 1996
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
PBS-TV - "THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER"
October 15, 1996
MS. ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: First, tonight, a "Newsmaker" interview with
Secretary of State Warren Christopher, who is just back from his first
visit to sub-Saharan Africa.
The Secretary began his trip in Israel, helping revive Israeli-
Palestinian talks. From there, it was on to Mali, Ethiopia, Tanzania,
South Africa, and Angola before returning home last night.
In the midst of his travels, the Secretary broke the mileage record
racked up his predecessor, James Baker III.
Mr. Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, Elizabeth.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Just for the record, what was that? How many miles?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think it was about 703,000 miles when I broke
the record between Mali and Ethiopia.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Let's start with the Middle East. What is the status
of the negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians now over
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: They're very active. They've been going for
about a week. All the time I was in Africa I had nightly reports from
Ambassador Dennis Ross, who is assisting the parties in those
I think the parties' mood has been very good. They're down to hard
negotiating. Mr. Ross has been going back and forth between the
MS. FARNSWORTH: I understand he was, last night, with the King and
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes. He flew to Amman last night to meet with
Yasser Arafat and also met with the King.
There's lots of hard negotiating. These are very difficult issues. But
the fact that the parties are back working hard at it, the fact that the
tone is good and the mood is good, I think is a real step forward from
where it was, say, two or three weeks ago. We'll just to wait and see
how this comes along, but I think they're going to find some way to
resolve these problems.
As you know, they began negotiating in Erez, one of the areas right on
the edge of Gaza Strip. They intend to move to Taba and Eilat where
they can go around the clock, if necessary. But for the time being, I
think Ambassador Ross feels it's advantageous to focus on these informal
contacts that he's having between the two parties.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Press reports indicate that Israel is seeking expanded
authority to be able to pursue terrorists if they move out of the areas
Israel controls into the Palestinian-controlled areas, and other matters
like that. Is that the case?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I'll say this, generally. Although neither
party is trying to change the basic agreement, I think that Israel is
trying to find enhanced ways to deal with the security issues. The
recent events, I think, have spotlighted some of the security issues.
So in light of the new facts on the ground, the parties are trying to
find practical ways to deal with them.
I would emphasize this is not changing the agreement, just finding more
effective ways to implement it.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Although the Palestinians have indicated they think
they are trying to change the agreement?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think it has to be common ground between them
that they're not changing the agreement. When I was out there, I think
I made that point clear to Chairman Arafat.
The Israelis are not trying to modify or rescind the basic agreement,
simply to try to more effectively implement it.
MS. FARNSWORTH: On Africa, when you were in Ethiopia, you called for
the creation of an Africa Crisis Response Force which would, I gather,
have some funding from the U.S. and some training from the U.S. Why?
What would it be for?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: To enable the parties there in Africa to deal
more effectively with humanitarian situations and peacekeeping matters.
One of the shortcomings we've had out there, Elizabeth, is that some
event will come, such as the genocide in Rwanda, and there simply is not
time to put together a force, because it takes many months to put
together a force if you're doing it from scratch.
So what we're trying to do here is to have not a standing army but have
countries pledge to put forward forces. These would not be American
forces. They would be forces from African countries that had been
trained together and well-equipped so they could act swiftly. That's
the genius of this situation, if the suggestion has any importance at
all. They would have funding and support logistically from the United
States, the European allies, perhaps others, with troops to be provided
by the African countries.
I got quite a favorable response as I went around Africa. There seemed
to be a high degree of interest in it. But they want us to consult,
quite properly, with their African institutions -- the OAU, the new
organization in southern African called SADCC. We will do that.
I think also they want us to make sure that we've consulted carefully
with them. That was one of the purposes of my trip.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Who would deploy the force? Would the U.N. decide to
deploy or the Organization of African Unity?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It would have to be deployed on the basis of a
decision by the United Nations Security Council. But they would want to
act in conjunction with a regional organization.
As we go into this next difficult period, in many continents I think
we're going to have to depend more and more on regional organizations to
back up and to amplify what the U.N. can do.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Is there a special urgency right now for this because
of what's happening in Burundi? Is that really what's in your mind in
trying to get it through?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes, it's both a specific case and the broader
MS. FARNSWORTH: Tell us about what is happening. You have said
recently that you think the Burundi situation is quite serious.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It's a very dangerous situation in Burundi. Mr.
Buyoya has taken over in a coup there. The other leaders in the region,
the Presidents from the neighboring countries, have imposed an embargo
on Burundi to try to force Mr. Buyoya to take certain steps; and he's
taken some good steps. He's recalled the parliament back into action;
the political parties can act again.
But they're trying to insist that he begin negotiations with the
opposing parties there in Burundi. Those negotiations --
MS. FARNSWORTH: We should remind people that there is an ethnic
situation not unlike the one in Rwanda which led to the death of many
hundreds of thousands of people.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: There's that same intense hatred, long-standing,
between the Hutus and the Tutsis. I think there must come some
negotiation between the two. That's what the neighboring presidents are
trying to achieve.
It's a very complex and difficult and dangerous situation. I don't know
whether this Crisis Force can be put into being in time to deal with
something. What we hope to do is to have it ready if that situation
would eventuate in some months. But, particularly, I think we need to
try to find a longer-term solution so we're not helpless in each one of
MS. FARNSWORTH: President Mandela, when you were in South Africa, said
-- as you just told me -- that this African force needs to be something
which is really the child of Africans and not something that is just a
U.S.-inspired force. Is that possible?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think it's entirely possible and highly
desirable. The United States so often has to try to play a leadership
role in this situation. As President Mandela said to me, "Only the
United States can provide the logistical support to handle most of these
matters; only the United States can provide the leadership." On the
other hand, he wants to make sure that this is not something imposed
upon Africa but that Africa will not only endorse but support.
President Mandela told me that they would be meeting on it sometime this
week at a meeting in Maputo -- too much jet lag, I guess -- in Southern
Africa to discuss this. I think that's very healthy.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Let's talk about Nigeria for a minute, though. You
didn't visit Nigeria. It was certainly a subject according to comments
that you made during the trip.
You said that human rights violations, corruption and other matters made
it a very high priority for action. There's already some U.S. embargo -
- no visas to Nigerians, and a few other things. Could you tell us what
you talked about and what you think needs to happen, and why?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I've talked about it in most African countries.
The election there in Nigeria was overturned by General Abacha. He's
conducted a rather repressive dictatorship, and there are many human
We've been trying to put enough pressure on him so as to restore
democracy there. The United States has done some things. We're trying
to work with other countries.
MS. FARNSWORTH: What has the U.S. done, exactly?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The United States has done what you said. That
is we have --
MS. FARNSWORTH: No visas.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: -- no visas, no arms sales. We've been working
with other countries on possible other sanctions to be taken. One of
the problems with sanctions is that they really don't work very well
unless they're multilateral in nature.
But there is, I think, a growing conviction -- and this is one of the
things that President Mandela and I discussed -- of, really, a feeling
that we've run out of options as far as just talking and needing to do
something stronger with respect to Nigeria.
Elizabeth, before we get too far from this, though, I want to emphasize
the importance that Africa has to all of us. We've been talking about
the problems. But my trip out there reminded me how important our
partnership is with Africa.
There was a time when we thought that only the Cold War made us
interested in Africa. But my trip there reminded me, first, how
important it is in terms of avoiding nuclear proliferation; how
important it is in terms of the environment. We need to work together
on maintaining rain forests in Africa because it's going to be important
for all of our future.
There's tremendous economic potential in Africa. One of the success
stories is in southern Africa, how they've gone together to form an
economic unit that can be a tremendous advantage to them and to us in
I don't want Americans to think of Africa just as the problems or the
failures or the tragedies they see on television. There's a tremendous
MS. FARNSWORTH: You went at an interesting time. You said that you're
interested in these various multinational things, that are problems that
have to be solved by nations working together.
It has been sort of a founding principle of the Organization of African
Unity that African countries would not intervene in each other's
affairs. And yet from what you say and from we've seen recently, that
seems to be changing. Is that right?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think they're coming past that position. For
example, the Presidents of the countries adjacent to Burundi have come
to the point where they knew they had to do something. They couldn't
stand by and watch a coup take place in Burundi. That was a watershed
event there in Africa.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Angola: Going to another problem, still. Angola is a
place where there's a very large -- the largest U.N. peacekeeping force
ever, I think; even larger than the force in Cambodia -- and it's about
to leave. It will leave in a couple of months.
You were there with some fairly critical things to say about one of the
sides in this long war, Jonas Savimbi. Could you tell us about that
situation, and why he didn't meet with you after, apparently, he had
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Elizabeth, it is the largest current
peacekeeping force although it's not nearly as large as the one that was
in Bosnia at an earlier time.
About two years ago, the parties there -- that is, Dr. Savimbi and the
government of Mr. dos Santos -- reached an agreement that they would go
forward and form a unity government. They had a number of military
provisions. They made a lot of progress toward that. But now they seem
to be at a stalemate. In the last three months they've slowed down.
One of the reasons I went there was to try to emphasize the need to
continue progress. There are some things the government needs to do --
that is, President dos Santos. But by far the burden now is on Dr.
I invited him to meet me there in Luanda. He chose not to come. He
said there were security situations. I do not think those were bona
fide. But, in any event, I had an opportunity to meet with some of his
lieutenants who were there in Luanda. I met with the government and
emphasized the importance of completing this arrangement that they
worked out for a unity government.
That country really has great opportunities but it's been a score of
years just impaled on this war. It's very sad to see now. There are
more landmines in that country than there are people; more than 10
million landmines. A hundred and fifty people are killed by landmines
every day. So they need a period of peace.
It's one of those countries, though, with enormous resources. They have
oil resources, they have diamond resources, and they have, really, a
very rich soil. If we can get them a period of peace, it's going to be
a very successful country again.
I really appeal to Dr. Savimbi now, as I did there, to complete this
process, to join the Unity Government. When I couldn't stay over to
meet with him, I sent one of my colleagues down to meet with him to give
him the message, "Get on the program, get with it."
MS. FARNSWORTH: Jim Mann wrote in the L.A. Times -- I think it was
today or yesterday -- that "When Secretaries of State finally get to
Africa and Latin America" -- which you also visited this year -- "these
oft-neglected continents, it's a tip-off they're preparing to depart."
MS. FARNSWORTH: I don't know where Jim got that idea. I've been
wanting to go to Africa for some time. I've been to north Africa many,
many times. There's no tip-off there. I just was able to do something
I had wanted to do for some time.
As I've said before, Elizabeth, the question is very "iffy" now, very
hypothetical now. If the President wins, I'll sit down with him and
talk about my future. Until then, I'm going to keep on doing what I'm
doing and enjoying it very much.
MS. FARNSWORTH: Mr. Secretary, thanks for being with us.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, Elizabeth.
To the top of this page