Monday, November 29, 1999
Volume 35, Issue 47; ISSN: 0511-4187
The President's news conference with Prime Minister Konstandinos Simitis of
Greece in Athens
William J Clinton; Konstandinos Simitis
� November 20,1999
� Prime Minister Simitis. Ladies and gentlemen, with very special
pleasure, the Greek Government and the Greek people and I,
personally, are welcoming President Clinton and the American
delegation. This visit is confirming the historic friendship
relations between the two countries and between our two people, a
relationship that has been kept alive by the Greeks who have lived
and are still living creatively in the United States, by the common
struggles in other times, by our close relationship and partnership
within the North Atlantic Alliance, political solidarity, and
cooperation, our cooperation for our common goals.
� With President Clinton, we had a very friendly, open, and free
discussion. During our talks we covered all issues, those which
under the present situation have a certain importance from our
country, for going from Greek-American relations to developments in
the Balkans, Greek-Turkish relations, and the Cyprus issue. We
agreed, as regards Greek-American relations, that there is still
considerable margin for the improvement of the cooperation between
the two countries.
� Greece, thanks to its economic renewal these last few years,
provides new major opportunities for investments, trade relations,
relations in the field of technology, and other areas. For the
Balkans, our conviction is that the present situation entails
certain risks. Stability is necessary in the region, respect of
existing borders, and the strengthening of initiatives for the
reconstruction of the region, and above all, the implementation of
the Stability Pact.
� As regards relations with neighboring Turkey, we have emphasized
the need of deserving international law and international treaties
and conventions. Rapprochement, steps towards rapprochement have
been made recently. We believe that the most substantial answer is
required on the part of Turkey to the initiatives of the Greek side.
� We have agreed that Turkey's European perspective will help
establish closer links based on peaceful development and
cooperation. However, its candidature could not be accepted unless
certain conditions are met for the settlement of existing problems.
As regards the Cyprus issue, we have agreed that talks that have
just started should be substantive in order to lead to the
settlement of this issue.
� The talks with the United States political leadership are, of
course, self understood. We have had a very interesting exchange of
views, as I said, on all important issues for us. And we have also
ascertained the friendly relations between the American and the
Greek people, the close ties, not only at a political and economic
levels but also at the levels of styles and culture where we believe
our relations and cooperation should be extended. The friendship
between our two peoples is confirmed by the substantial presence and
role of a Greek community in the United States; successfully, it is
making full use of all its rights as an American citizen.
� Greece is a pole of democracy, political stability, social and
political cohesion in the wider region. Its potential is much
greater compared to the size of the country and its population. We
have established that it is in the interest of both countries for
our cooperation to safeguard and promote peace development and a
network of relations in the region that would minimize tension, and
this is why we will pursue and strengthen our cooperation with the
� This visit does not just confirm the past but also constitutes a
guarantee for the future where, together, we can respond to the new
challenges, the new challenges of a new era, of a new reality that
is taking shape at the end of this century based on mutual
understanding, equal cooperation, common resolve, and determination
to face problems together, provide new answers, build on the values
of democracy, freedom shared by our people, which are defended by
our people, the values that we want to promote.
� President Clinton. First of all, Prime Minister, let me thank you
and the members of your government for the very good meeting that we
had today. I think the Prime Minister has summarized the results of
our meeting quite well. I would like to add just a few words.
� First, the Greek relationship is profoundly important to me and to
the United States because of the values and history we share;
because of the large role Greek-Americans play in our national life,
as the Prime Minister said. But also because of two historic
transformations that have occurred in the last decade.
� The first is the transformation of southeast Europe from a
battleground between East and West to a prodding ground for
democracy and tolerance in the post-cold-war world. The second is
the remarkable transformation of Greece itself into a regional
leader with a booming economy, a vibrant democracy, with the ability
to help to pull its neighbors together and push them forward into
� We spoke a lot today about the role Greece is playing in the
Balkans, with its troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, with its support for
economic development and reconstruction, with its private sector
investment. Greece is carrying a heavier burden in this region than
almost any other country, but the potential payoff is very large: an
undivided, democratic Europe, in which wars like those we've seen in
the former Yugoslavia no longer happen. And I want to pay a tribute
to the Prime Minister and the people of Greece for all they are
doing in the Balkans and pledge my support for the Stability Pact
and the economic growth necessary for this to work.
� Of course, we also spoke about the road to reconciliation and
lasting peace between Greece and Turkey and the issues in the Aegean
and, of course, Cyprus. I told the Prime Minister how pleased I am
that the parties in Cyprus have agreed to start these proximity
talks on December 3d in New York, and how determined I am that they
be serious talks. The goal is to lay the foundation for meaningful
negotiations toward a comprehensive settlement. We should have no
illusions; there's a tough road ahead. But we will work closely with
Secretary-General Annan to ensure that the talks are productive.
� We talked about our growing trade and investment, about how we can
strengthen our economic relationship further. Greece's economic
renewal has made it one of the most attractive places in Europe in
which to do business. I am very pleased that its progress in
improving protection for intellectual property rights makes it
possible to move rapidly toward settling our copyright case in the
� Finally, let me just express the great sympathy and support of the
American people to all those who lost their loved ones in the tragic
earthquake last August. We will not forget the heroism of the Greek
emergency teams who pulled survivors from the rubble, not only here
in Athens but also across the Aegean in Turkey. I am very glad that
our own Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed with its
Greek counterparts to work together to strengthen their preparedness
for future disasters.
� Let me say in closing, I am satisfied with the work we advanced
today. We look to, as I said last night, we look to ancient Greece
for inspiration but to modern Greece for leadership and for
partnership. After this visit, I believe we have strengthened that
� Thank you very much.
� Turkey's Candidacy for European Union Membership
� Q. From what we know, you did ask while you were in Turkey for some
specific move by Ankara that would match the moves Greece has done
in order, also, to make her candidacy for the European Union easier.
Do you have anything concrete on that?
� President Clinton. Well, I didn't think that was my role. Let me
tell you what I did do. I spoke both at every opportunity, publicly
and privately, before the Turkish Assembly, before the business
group, before the group of earthquake survivors, and in all my
private meetings about the importance of resolving outstanding
issues between Greece and Turkey, including Cyprus.
� I specifically asked that the Halki seminary be reopened. I have
pushed a lot of issues. And I came away believing that in the next
few months, as all these issues are bubbling up-the start of the
proximity talks, the debate over whether Turkey should be given
candidacy status in the EU at Helsinki, and the continuing bilateral
talks between Greece and Turkey-which I applaud the Prime Minister's
government for his leadership in-that there will be an opportunity
to resolve a large number of these issues.
� I hope that my trip there was constructive in that regard. I
believe it was. But I would not expect the Turkish leaders to let me
be the conduit of their ultimate resolution of this. I think that I
helped to improve the climate, and I dealt with a lot of the
specific issues, and I feel good about that.
� Prime Minister Simitis. Let me add two words for my part. During
the meeting ahead with Mr. Ecevit and during Mr. Papandreou's
meeting with Mr. Cem, we emphasized the need of certain movements
and initiatives on the part of Turkey. And I believe that President
Clinton's visit was important because he referred to that question,
and it has helped, as well as the talks we had with the Turkish side
on increasing awareness on the part of Turkey that things are not
that easy. We cannot just expect for something to happen without
doing or contributing anything for our part. You help yourself, and
God will help you, as we say. We have to do something for our part,
� Greek Protests of President's Visit
� Q. Sir, the demonstrations last night ineluded extensive arson and
damage. I want to know if you're concerned by the protests, and what
you say to the Greeks who oppose your visit here?
� President Clinton. What was the last part of your question?
� Q. What's your message to the Greeks who are protesting, who oppose
your visit here? President Clinton. Well, first of all, I think that
we have to-especially in Greece-reaffirm the right of people to
protest in a democracy. Secondly, I strongly believe the protests
should be peaceful, and therefore, I deeply regret the Greeks who
had their property injured and who suffered losses through these
� But I think that the important thing is that we reaffirm the value
of the relationship between our two countries. I think that-I know
most Americans deeply value the relationship with Greece,
notwithstanding the fact that almost all of the people of Greece
disagree with our policy in Kosovo and, beore that, in Bosnia. I
believe I did the right thing, and I think most Americans believe
that we did the right thing to stand against ethnic cleansing.
� But that doesn't affect our affection for and our support for the
people of Greece and the Government of Greece. And I would hope that
most Greek citizens would, like the Greek Government, believe that
there is value in our relationship and our partnership; and that
even if we have a disagreement, we can't allow that to undermine our
relationship or our partnership.
� I would just say, looking toward the future, I, personally, admire
very much and support very strongly the leadership that Greece is
exercising in the U.N. operations in Bosnia and in Kosovo and
generally in the Balkans and throughout southeastern Europe. And I
believe that if we can, the rest of us, do our part to help the
economy grow there and provide a magnet that enables these nations
to pull together, that Greece will lead them into a very different
future in the new century.
� Prime Minister Simitis. May I also point-Greece is a country, a
democratic country where everyone can freely express his views and
opinions. But as we had emphasized before President Clinton's
arrival, our Constitution provides that these expressions of
opinions and views should be made in a peaceful way and within the
context of legality. And I'm sorry for the fact that certain people
did not observe and respect this fundamental principle of law, the
fundamental principle that allows our states to operate and
� The friendship, however, between the two people and the
partnership, our partnership with the United States, will not be
determined by these protests, but by our common goals, our common
objectives and pursuits, our efforts to handle and face problems
together. And the meeting today has shown that we share common goals
and common pursuits, and we're trying together. This is the
foundationof a friendship.
� Turkey's Candidacy for European Union Membership
� Q. Mr. President, I followed your trip in Ankara, and you seemed to
be mostly the strongest supporter of Turkey's candidacy in the
European Union. So do you think that the permanent conditionality of
Turkey's candidacy should be, first, the solution of the Cyprus
problem and, second, the acceptance of the jurisdiction of Turkey,
as far as the Court of Hague is concerned?
� President Clinton. I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understood the
question. Could you repeat both questions again?
� Q. Yes, one question actually. You seem to be the strongest
supporter of Turkey's accession in the European Union. So the
question is, do you believe or think that the permanent
conditionality for Turkey's candidacy in the European Union should
be, first, the solution of the Cyprus problem and, second, the
acceptance of the jurisdiction of a Hague Court from Turkey?
� President Clinton. Well, first of all, I believe-I have said this
already-I believe that the disputes in the Aegean between Greece and
Turkey should be referred to the International Court of Justice in
The Hague or to some other mutually agreed on and generally
recognized international dispute resolution mechanism. It seems to
me that that is the only way that either side can have a resolution
of this without appearing to cave in rather than just to let a
neutral party, respected, decide it.
� Secondly, I strongly support a resolution of the Cyprus issue.
You're right. I am probably the strongest supporter in the West of
Turkey's membership in the EU. I think I've also been the most vocal
consistent supporter for 7 years of a resolution of Cyprus. I have
worked as hard as I could on it and will continue to do so.
� Now, when the parties meet in Helsinki, the members of the European
Union-the United States is not a member-they will decide the
conditions of Turkish candidacy if, in fact, they decide to grant
� But let me say, on the larger issue, my feeling is that the more
Turkey is integrated into Europe and has the kind of dialog that
we've seen recently with Greece, the more the climate improves, the
more you can resolve these issues, the brighter the future for both
countries will be. And as I told the Turks-I'm not saying anything
to you I didn't say there-I do not think that bright future is
achievable until there is a resolution of the Cyprus issue. These
two countries need to go hand-in-hand into the future. And the
festering disputes have to be resolved in order for that to happen.
� Prime Minister Simitis. As I have indicated already, the Greek
Government and I, personally, had a series of contacts. I have met
and talked with all the Prime Ministers of the European Union member
states on that issue. I have talked with them in order to determine
what would be the best way that would allow us to overcome problems
in the future. It would be counterproductive, I believe, if today,
whilst these talks are ongoing, we were to focus on one or the other
point or issue. This would not facilitate the discussion.
� I believe that in the future the time will come for us to determine
all these aspects. But at present, restriction to one or two or
three issues is not helpful. We must have a global approach and look
at the final aim of this overall effort.
� Thank you.
� U.S. Trade Policy and Gov. George W. Bush of Texas
� Q. Mr. President, yesterday George 'V. Bush laid out his foreign
policy priorities. Specifically on China and Russia, he said they
should be viewed as competitors of the United States rather than as
strategic partners. I'm wondering what yourview is on that, and
also, do you feel reassured that he has a view of the world that
would make him an effective President?
� President Clinton. You know, you guys keep trying to get me into
this election. I am not a candidate. I'm not always happy about
that, but I'm not.
� Let me say this. I think we did the right thing to negotiate the
WTO agreement with China, and apparently, Governor Bush agrees with
that. I think that, as with all great countries, we are both
competitors and partners. I think there is a problem with
characterizing a country as a competitor if that means we know for
sure that for the next 20 years there will be an adversary
� We will have certain interests in common with China; we will have
certain things we disagree with. We will support a lot of their
domestic developments. We still have great trouble when people-free
speech or religious rights are restrained.
� With regard to Russia, we have a dif ference, as you know, and the
OSCE conference made clear over the present policy in Chechnya, but
we have a common interest in working together where we can. We have
served side by side with Russian soldiers in the Balkans; we have
seen the Russians withdraw their troops from the Baltics; we have
seen a dramatic reduction in the nuclear capacity, the nuclear
threat there. The Congress just gave us the funds to continue to
reduce the nuclear threat with Russia. And we have worked with them
on economic reform.
� So I would say that in both cases there will be instances of
competition, instances of partnership. But what we should be looking
for is a world in which nations, including very large nations,
define their greatness by the achievements of their people and by
their ability to profit in their relations with other nations by
bringing out the best in them, instead of by the traditional 19th
and 20th century great power politics terms of defining their
greatness in terms of their ability to dominate their neighbors or
coerce certain people into certain kinds of behavior.
� So I think we have to imagine-I have a whole different view of
this-we should imagine what would we like the world to look like 50
year from now; what major countries will have an impact on that; how
will we compete with them; how will we cooperate with them; what can
we do that will most likely create the world we want for our
grandchildren? That's the way I look at this.' So I don't have an
either/or view of Russia or China. I have a both view, I suppose.
� Prime Minister Simitis. May I make a philosophical comment on this?
We should not be afraid of competitors. We should be afraid of
ourselves when we are afraid of others.
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