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U.S. Department of State
96/12/19 Press Conference
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release December 19, 1996
YEAR-END PRESS CONFERENCE
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
Thursday, December 19, 1996
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Good afternoon and thank you all for attending
this year-end press conference. I want to begin by commenting on an
important breaking news story. As some of you may have seen this
morning, my hometown newspaper in a story entitled, "Vanilla Man," said
that on my many stops at the Shannon Airport, I made a habit of ordering
Irish coffee but with no caffeine and no whiskey. I can confirm to you
On-the-Record here that that great piece of investigative journalism is
exactly right. Even more than that, I want to tell you that Irish
coffee tastes better that way, and to prove that when we finish here,
I'm going to offer you all a "Christopher Special," so you can learn
with me how good it is that way.
I'm very pleased to meet with all of you and pleased by the good turnout
to have an opportunity to review what has gone on in this past year,
1996. Since this is my last year-end review, I'd like to take the
opportunity to put this year in a somewhat broader context.
From the beginning of my tenure here, I've said that the fundamental
test of American foreign policy has always been this: Does it make the
American people more secure? Does it make us more prosperous? Does it
advance our democratic ideals that we share with people around the
Looking back on the last four years, I feel confident that we have met
that test. As I've said many times, there are no final victories in
this business and success usually takes quite a lot of time. But step
by step, we've made significant progress in resolving the critical
problems that we faced when we took office and establishing and enduring
basis for leadership in a more secure and more prosperous 21st century.
A lasting legacy of the President's first term will be the results we
achieved in addressing global challenges - challenges like
proliferation, crime, narcotics, damage to the environment - those
global threats. I believe that overcoming these threats will become a
central aspect of American foreign policy in the next century.
We made dramatic progress in these global areas in 1996. We signed a
Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a goal of American foreign policy for the
last quarter century. The last nuclear weapons have been withdrawn from
Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan, and we also secured ratification of
START II here in the United States. The G-7 adopted a large number of
specific steps for shutting down money laundering, to prosecute
fugitives, and to protect our borders against trafficking in guns and
We forged an international consensus to develop a binding agreement to
reduce Greenhouse gas emissions. Following the initiative that I
launched at Stanford University, we're better integrating environmental
issues into the full range of American diplomacy, and there will be more
to come on this.
Another hallmark of the last four years is the central focus we placed
on economic diplomacy. By passing NAFTA, by concluding the Uruguay
Round, by gaining free trade commitments in our hemisphere and in the
Asia-Pacific region, we've positioned ourselves to become an even more
dynamic hub of the international economy.
This year, with our APEC partners meeting in the Philippines, we agreed
to take concrete steps to move ahead with trade liberalization in the
Asia-Pacific region. At the first ministerial meeting of the World
Trade Organization in Singapore a couple of weeks ago, we agreed with
our trading partners to eliminate tariffs on all information technology
by the year 2000. Our leadership has advanced our interests and ideals
in every region of the world. Across the Atlantic, we're closer today
than ever before in seeking our goal of an undivided and democratic
Europe. This month our allies agreed to President Clinton's proposal to
hold a summit meeting to consolidate the agenda that the President
launched at the NATO meeting in January of 1994.
This summit will begin enlargement negotiations. It will launch those
negotiations. It will strengthen NATO's relationship with all of
Europe's new democracies, including Russia. It will complete NATO's
adaptation to new rules and missions, and it will strengthen Europe's
role in acting under the Alliance.
In 1996, NATO also fulfilled its initial mission in Bosnia, bringing
peace to that war-torn country, separating the warring armies, providing
great support for the fall elections and creating a stable environment
so that reconstruction can move forward.
President Clinton has also placed an unprecedented emphasis on deepening
our engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. 1996 here was a year of
important achievement. We invigorated our core alliances, and the
President signed a new security declaration with Japan to make sure that
the next 50 years of our alliance is as productive as the last 50 years
have been. We completed an important semi-conductor agreement with
Japan, adding to the 22 market access agreements we reached over the
last four years.
We also stood by South Korea in the face of provocations from the North,
while moving ahead with the implementation of the Framework Agreement
between the United States and North Korea.
This year, we moved our relationship with China onto a more positive
footing. We made some progress on non-proliferation, although we
continue to have in that area serious concerns. We reached an agreement
on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. President Clinton
and President Jiang have agreed to exchange state visits, giving us
further opportunities to build on our cooperation, as well as to address
our serious differences in such areas as human rights.
In the Middle East, we moved immediately in 1993, when we first came
into office, to build on America's two decades of bipartisan leadership
on behalf of peace. I will not certainly minimize the severe tests that
have been placed in the road of peace in recent months through terrorist
attacks and other matters, but we have made lasting achievements, and we
are determined to move forward.
The role of the United States is not just to help the parties reach
agreement but to stand by them in tough times. That's why President
Clinton and President Mubarak brought together the region's leaders last
March to stand against terrorism, and that's why President Clinton
brought together here King Hussein, Prime Minister Netanyahu and
Chairman Arafat when violence threatened to disrupt the peace process.
Our goal remains indispensable in helping the countries in the region
overcome their long history of distrust, to build mutual trust, and to
overcome the obstacles that remain in the peace process, including, of
The President and I have been concerned about the recent drift in the
peace process. To re-energize this effort, we're sending Dennis Ross to
the region this weekend to report on the status of negotiations there,
to report on his discussions with the leaders, to return before
Christmas in order that we can have an up-to-date assessment from
In 1996, we also again demonstrated once again our determination to
prevent Saddam Hussein from threatening his neighbors.
We took office at a time of historic transformation here in the
Americas, with democracy and open markets on the march. This year, we
sustained that momentum. Our diplomacy was critical in bringing Ecuador
and Peru to the negotiating table, was critical in averting a coup in
Paraguay and in ending Guatemala's 35-year civil war. With our much
needed assistance, the Mexican economy is improving, and Mexico is
paying its debts ahead of schedule, and NAFTA is working.
We welcome also, in connection with this hemisphere, the tougher stand
that the European Union is now taking in the Cuba situation and the
tougher stand they're taking in the direction of bringing democracy to
In the last four years, we've also sought to deepen America's engagement
in Africa. We've made an unprecedented effort to encourage democratic
market reform there and to promote trade and investment. Now we're
deeply engaged in an effort to end the conflict and ease the suffering
in the Great Lakes region. The situation in the Great Lakes region and
my recent travels in Africa have underscored the need to create an
African crisis response force, which would enable African countries to
respond to emergencies in their region, with the backing of the United
States and our allies.
In all of these areas, we forged a considerable record of accomplishment
and set the stage for a memorable second term. I think the people will
look back on this period as a decisive period in diplomatic history. It
is in this period, with our leadership, that the world has began to
shape its plans for the 21st Century.
It's a world in which no great power views any other as an immediate
threat, a world in which institutions that we created after World War II
are beginning to be adapted to meet the new challenges of the next
century, a world in which open societies and open markets have a
competitive advantage; a world in which America remains the
indispensable nation, and our leadership remains indispensable to the
It is a world in which our interests and values can thrive but also in
which new threats like proliferation and terrorism make American
leadership even more vital than in the past. I know that the President
and Ambassador Albright will maintain that kind of American leadership.
I also know that their ability to be effective will depend upon finding
the resources we so urgently need to support our diplomacy.
I'll be glad to take your questions now.
QUESTION: On another current story, the Fargo Forum and the rest of us
have been following, could you tell us, please, if there is any
connection that you can discern between Cuba and the group that is
taking hostages in Lima? Any financial training or other connection?
Any connection, in fact, between any foreign government and this
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Barry, that's a very dynamic situation in Peru
now at the present time. It's a dangerous situation, and I don't want
to make any comment on the group that is involved there or any
connection they might have to other situations around the world.
In doing so, let me emphasize, I'm not confirming or denying that. It's
simply not the right time for me speculate or comment on that subject.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you reviewed your list of diplomatic
endeavors, you omitted any reference to the dual containment policy in
Iran and Iraq. What would you say are the accomplishments and the
results of that policy?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The dual containment of Iran and Iraq continues
to be a primary goal and object of American foreign policy. We continue
to regard Iran as a dangerous projector of terrorism, a country that's
dangerous because they're trying to assemble weapons of mass
destruction; and a dangerous country because of their efforts to
undermine the peace process.
With respect to Iraq, we continue to regard Saddam Hussein as someone
who is a threat to his neighbors as well as to the minorities within his
country, a leader who has not brought himself or his country into
compliance with the U.N. resolutions.
I would say the goals of our policy have remained firm during this four
years and, particularly, during the last year.
Tom, with respect to Iraq, I think we have once again made it clear that
the United States will not stand by and watch Saddam Hussein threaten
his neighbors through the buildup in the region. We have made it, I
think, emphatic to him that the United States and our allies will resist
any effort on the part of Saddam Hussein to move against his neighbors.
That's one of the things that we have to be constantly vigilant about,
and I think we have been.
With respect to Iran, we remain in the process of calling to the
attention of our allies the conduct of Iran and urging them not to give
financial material - military support - to Iran. I think that policy is
one in which we've been firm throughout the course of the year. We
still have some persuading to do. That's a continuing story.
We have also, though, made it clear to the countries in the regions who
are threatened by Iran that the United States is firmly on their side
against any efforts by Iran to threaten them or to exercise greater
dominance in the region. Those are both areas where our efforts at
containment continue, and I believe they have been effective in 1996.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Dennis Ross' trip to the Middle East sounds
like an attempt to rescue something which seems to be in bad shape. The
Palestinians have been saying that they now think that reopening any
part of an agreed document then reopens the whole document to
renegotiation. Can you or anybody reassure them that that is not the
The second part of that question, how badly do you think the settlement
announcements have been affecting this negotiation process?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The President and I have asked Ambassador Ross
to go back to the Middle East so that we could have a first-hand view
from him of the attitudes of other leaders there with respect to the
peace process to understand the status of the process. We've asked him
to come back by Christmastime so we can have his report on the situation
As I say, we've been concerned about the situation and think it is time
for the parties to come into agreement on Hebron. The Israelis have
made some moves in connection with Hebron. We think it's time for the
Palestinians - for Chairman Arafat - to respond to those moves, to
reciprocate those moves. We're also concerned, though, about the effect
of other issues on that negotiation.
As we've said many times, Jim, we feel that settlement activity does
have the effect of causing problems for complicating the peace process.
Indeed, the President spoke for the United States, of course, when he
said just a few days ago that any step that pre-empts the negotiations
or seeks to move ahead of where the parties are, in the way they have
consigned various issues, tends to be a problem. We think that's not
I can say that we feel that it is time for the Hebron agreement to be
reached and the parties to pursue the remaining issues under negotiation
there and without further delay.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, regarding Peru, since it's been announced by
our Embassy down there - it was announced last night - that there are
Americans involved, can you at least assure the American people that
this government is doing what it can, and tell us as much as you can
about what our government can do since this is essentially Japanese
territory but also, obviously, the primary function is up to the
And can you tell us where one should draw the line between the mediation
that is underway and our long-standing policy of not negotiating with
terrorists? What is the proper way of making that demarcation?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: You'll understand why I don't want to confirm
the presence of Americans there. It's been a long-standing policy that
we do not do that, and I will not violate that today.
We have sent some security experts in to assist the Ambassador because
of his concern about the security situation. They're going in there for
the purpose of advising the Ambassador about security conditions in our
Embassy. But we're following the situation as closely as we possibly
Just before coming up here, the Assistant Secretary, Jeff Davidow,
talked to our Ambassador there. There's nothing new in the situation.
A little earlier this morning I talked to Foreign Minister Ikeda of
Japan, in his stopover in Los Angeles, on his way to Peru, and we agreed
to counsel closely together. I told him that our Ambassador, Dennis
Jett, is following the situation closely. I think Ambassador Jett is
doing a fine job, and we'll work closely with the Japanese as well as we
will with the Peruvian Government, if we can be of some assistance.
Obviously, the Peruvian Government is taking the lead.
The United States policy against making concessions in this situation is
well-known. At the same time, because so many people are involved, it's
important the lines of communication remain open between those
terrorists who have taken the embassy and the Peruvian Government. We
would encourage the maintenance of communications. But the United
States, as I say, has a strong policy against making any concessions.
We'd advise all of those involved to follow that policy.
It is a dangerous and difficult situation, and I think you'll understand
there are limitations on what I feel prudent to say.
QUESTION: Can you at least tell us what the condition, as far as you
know, what the condition of the hostages is?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I only have radio reports on that. They're
available to you as well.
QUESTION: Hello, Mr. Secretary. Can I ask you about Russia and NATO?
When you were in Brussels, Mr. Primakov said he was willing to negotiate
with Mr. Solana on a charter in Brussels this week; the newly
civilianized Mr. Rodionov, the Defense Minister, was much harsher. He
said Russia would never accept NATO expansion and might take military
steps to counter it. Dmitri Ryurikov, Mr. Yeltsin's personal foreign
affairs advisor, was here last week and basically guaranteed there would
be no conclusion of a charter negotiation before the July summit.
Do you think the Russians are trying to keep the West off balance in
their reaction to this? Or are they off-balance themselves? Do you
think they yet really know how to handle NATO's expansion plans?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think it's reasonably clear that the Russians
are not enthusiastic about and will not applaud NATO enlargement. But
what was also made clear to me when I was in Brussels, the Russian
Government is prepared to pursue negotiations for some kind of an
arrangement. Call it a "charter;" you might call it by some other
name, but some kind of an arrangement between NATO and Russia. I have
every confidence those negotiations will begin shortly after the first
of the year.
I don't find anything inconsistent, really, with the statement of the
new Russian Defense Minister, General Rodionov, with the idea that
discussions will begin in January between Foreign Minister Primakov and
Secretary General Solana.
I would suggest that you'll not soon hear the Russians saying positive
things about enlargement. But the change that took place at this year's
NATO meeting in Brussels was an attitude on the part of Foreign Minister
Primakov that they're prepared to start serious negotiations for the
development of a kind of arrangement - call it a "charter, if you will -
between NATO and Russia. I don't see anything to contradict that, and
that is the course that I think will be followed.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you gave us a list of the achievements of the
last four years of American diplomacy. I wonder if I could ask you
about which you consider to have been your own personal keenest
disappointment? Whether it would have been the failure of your many
trips to Damascus to produce a peace or something in your relations with
France? What particular area do you regret the most?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Martin, I'm going to disappoint you on that.
I've had a tremendously enjoyable four years here. I think we've made
considerable progress. I think with President Clinton's leadership, the
American people are safer. I think the world is safer. We're better
off in the sense of being more prosperous, and I think we've had an
opportunity to advance our goals. So I take some satisfaction in the
results of the four-year period. I don't intend to view it in terms of
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you made reference to Iran earlier. Twenty
years ago or almost 20 years ago, you were thrust in your previous
incarnation here into a role of negotiating indirectly with the
Government of Iran in a different situation. But I'd like to ask you
how you feel at the end of this incarnation of your work at the State
Department about the direction of U.S. policy and U.S. relationships
with that important country in the Gulf. Should there be a change -
should there be a review of that policy, especially in light of what you
referred to as Iran's role in supporting terrorism in the world and in
light of recent reports about increases in Iran's role in southern
Lebanon and in its relationship with Syria? Thank you.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Ralph, the future really of the relationship is
in the hands of Iran, in the sense that if they're prepared to change
their policies with respect to terrorism and if they're prepared to
change their policies with respect to the acquisition of weapons of mass
destruction and hence to undermine the peace process, the United States
would stand ready. We've always said we stand ready to have a dialogue
with them - a discussion - as long as it's an official dialogue and all
the issues are open.
But until that happens on their part, I see no basis for the United
States to change its position. Wherever I look, I find the dangerous
hand of Iran - or at least so many places where I look around the world
- the projection of terrorism, of state-sponsored terrorism , so I
regard them as a dangerous force in the world scene, one that the United
States has to act to contain. If others want to have a different
relationship with them, I would say that's an area where the
United States should lead and try to persuade the other nations of the
difficulties of doing anything to encourage, either financially or
otherwise, Iran in the course that it's presently following.
So I don't see a basis until they change their policies for a change in
the United States' relationship with Iran.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if I could take you back to the Middle East
for a moment. For the last several years, this Administration has been
able to claim that the peace process, in spite of bumps in the road, is
irreversible; that the possibility of renewed conflict is one that no
longer needs to be seriously considered.
In recent weeks, I've heard non-governmental experts, both here and in
the region, say that that may no longer be true; that the danger of war
is growing. Would you care to say what you think the situation is going
to be in the coming year?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I still have confidence, Norm, in the peace
process. I believe that if an agreement can be reached on Hebron, which
I think it should be, that that will give a new sense of forward
momentum. The peace process is not just one small discussion between
parties. It's much broader than that. The economic situation has
changed in the Middle East. The peace treaty between Jordan and Israel
is in place. There are agreements between Israel and the Palestinians
which are being respected.
So although this is a tense time - there's no doubt about that - I still
have confidence in the peace process. What I would say about it is that
United States' leadership is indispensable there. It has been for 30 or
40 years now and maybe even more indispensable now. The United States
cannot fail to assist the parties and to stand by the parties who have
taken risks for peace. But I continue to have confidence that the
parties in the Middle East, having seen some of the benefits of peace
and having glimpsed a different kind of a future, will not abandon that
but will remain with all of its difficulties on the road to peace. I
hope that any of the countries there will back away from any threats or
any efforts to try to achieve their aims through the use of those kinds
What I'm more concerned about, Norm, is the emergence of terrorist acts.
There are still people who are obviously hostile to the peace process,
and that's one of the reasons why we need to try to regain and restore
momentum in the peace process because of the risk in a hiatus of some
kind of a terrorist incident. I hope and pray that that won't happen.
I strongly urge President Arafat and all those who are involved to take
every action that they can to ensure that there's no recurrence of
violence, because violence can only aid the enemies of the peace
QUESTION: Ugur Akinci, Turkish Daily News. Mr. Secretary, in the
beginning of the year, Turkey was described as a front-line state which
replaced Germany in importance by a State Department senior official.
At the end of the year, Turkey still could not get any of the arms
orders from the United States; and, as you know, there's a coalition
government now in Turkey, trying to strengthen Turkey's ties with
Mr. Secretary, is Turkey still a front-line state? How do you see the
future of Turkish-American relations?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Is Turkey still a what state?
QUESTION: Front-line state.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Turkey remains a country of great importance to
United States. It's a member of NATO, and it sits at a very strategic
place in the world. The United States' friendship for Turkey is a very
deep one, and we've worked together on a number of matters recently.
They've assisted the United States in the evacuation of a number of
Americans and others from northern Iraq. We continue to have an
important dialogue with them on many, many subjects, and we have many
matters to work on in the course of the next year, including an effort
to resolve the problems in Cyprus.
So I think the United States continues to place the highest priority on
maintaining good relationships with its Turkish allies, and I would say
that my successor, Ambassador Albright, will be giving high attention to
MR. BURNS: Final question.
QUESTION: Yes, Mr. Secretary. We have another American official that's
been arrested for spying for the Russians. Considering the amount of
assistance we've put into Russia and the new relationship we have with
them at the end of the Cold War, are you going to be lodging any
protests with Moscow or making any demands that they have some type of
new code of behavior in espionage?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That really is an area that is in current
discussion. We've had not just one episode but a series of episodes,
and it's really a matter that needs to be considered carefully between
the various security agencies in the United States. But I don't have
any comment for you on it at the present time. I would say it's a sad
and tragic event to see these Americans who are selling out their
country for financial gain. That seems to be the motivating factor in
this new era rather than ideology, and it's certainly selling out your
country for just a pittance. If we have to find some way to work with
that issue more effectively than we have within our security agencies,
but with respect to the direct question you asked, I don't have anything
to report to you on that today.
Thank you very much.
(The press conference concluded at 1:01 p.m.)
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