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 You are in: Under Secretary for Political Affairs > From the Under Secretary > Remarks > 2002 Under Secretary for Political Affairs Remarks

Interview by Greek TV

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
Washington, DC
November 14, 2002

(3:30 p.m. EST)

QUESTION: We'll start with the proposal by the Secretary General. Should the SYG have the power to impose a solution in which the two sides might not agree. Should that be allowed?

MR. GROSSMAN: That is up to the Secretary General. What I would say to you is that we very much support the efforts of the Secretary General on Cyprus, the UN Good Offices Mission. And as I had a chance to say in a speech in Greece last week, I think this is a great, great time to try to solve this problem.

QUESTION: Why do you insist that there should be an agreement before Copenhagen?

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, we'd like to see agreement anytime. We think that there's an opportunity to have it before Copenhagen because a number of things will come together there – a decision on Cyprus’s accession to the European Union and the possibility that Turkey would receive a date for starting accession talks.

So we don't insist, but we think that there's a huge opportunity here and we support the Secretary General and his efforts.

QUESTION: Do you believe that Cyprus accession could somehow be jeopardized if there's no solution?

MR. GROSSMAN: Our position has been absolutely clear. As I said in Athens -- I was standing next to your Foreign Minister -- we support Cyprus's accession into the European Union. We think that that accession process is a big incentive to solve the problem. We support the Secretary General and certainly support the very courageous decision that the European Union made in Helsinki.

QUESTION: If there's no agreement by December 12th, should the effort continue to 2003? And how would you advise Turkey to deal with such a situation?

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, let's do one thing at a time. I mean, our view is that there's a great opportunity to solve this problem before the 12th of December, and that's what everybody is working toward.

QUESTION: The plan of the Secretary General speaks of two states. Should we take this to mean two states, as in two countries, or two states, as in the US two states?

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, I'll leave the negotiating to the Secretary General. You know our position. It's absolutely clear. It's been the same for some time now. We support what the Secretary General is trying to do.

QUESTION: How important is it for the US that the European Union sets a specific date for the beginning of accession talks for Turkey in Copenhagen? Could it be maybe June 2003? Does it have to be Copenhagen? Because there is also talk for possibly setting a date for a date.

MR. GROSSMAN: Obviously, we're not members of the European Union so that is a decision that the European Union will have to make. But I would just associate myself with the comments of your Foreign Minister and others who said that Copenhagen ought to do something positive for Turkey. A clear signal that the continuation of progress toward the European Union for Turkey is something we strongly support.

QUESTION: So it's not a date per se, but it's a very positive message that we are heading towards that thing would also be a positive signal to Turkey?

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, let's step back. I mean, I think that if on the 12th of December European Union leaders have a chance to assess the great changes in Turkey that were promulgated on the 3rd of August by the Turkish parliament, and if they were also able to assess great progress in Cyprus, I think one of the conclusions that they might come to is that a date for the beginning of accession negotiations is a way to continue that momentum.

I don't see this as some kind of a reward. I see it as a way for the European Union to continue to encourage progress from Turkey on important issues. And as I've said in Athens, surely credit for democratic reforms belongs to the Turkish people, to the Turkish parliament. But people in the European Union countries should take credit too because I believe the Helsinki decision had a lot to do with the ability of the Turkish parliament to pass those reforms. So I don't say this to reward; we ought to give them more encouragement. That is our position.

QUESTION: In case Cyprus is accepted and there is no agreement, as a good friend of Turkey, its greatest ally, what would you be advising Ankara to do, because there is also the concern in Greece there might be some reaction which some think might be extreme. Should they avoid extreme reactions against Cyprus or Turkey?

MR. GROSSMAN: Everybody should avoid extreme reactions of all sorts. That's not the way to bring about a solution. My focus right now is on the 12th of December, not what happens after. I think everybody -- Greek people, Turkish people, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots -- should do all they can to support the Secretary General and see if they can't get this done by the 12th of December.

QUESTION: What is the US willing to do the next three or four weeks to accomplish this?

MR. GROSSMAN: We will do anything that the Secretary General of the United Nations asks us to do. When I say that we are giving this effort our support, that's what we mean. The President told Secretary Annan this. The Secretary said the same thing here in front of our building on worldwide television. We support what he's doing. If he was to call us up and ask us for something, I think we'd be very quick to try to say yes.

QUESTION: Could the Secretary or even the President take the initiative to call the prime ministers of the two motherlands, or even Mr. Clerides and Denktash, if that's what it takes?

MR. GROSSMAN: Our President certainly is in close contact with the Greek Prime Minister and with the President of Turkey. They'll see each other at the NATO meeting here in Prague. So I think there is no great mystery about our position.

QUESTION: You just mentioned Prague. Is that an area where, because it's in this critical period, could that come up in the meeting between the President and Mr. Sezer and Simitis there? Would he encourage them to go the extra mile?

MR. GROSSMAN: I'd like to keep my job, so I won't predict what our President will or won't do. But you can be assured that on our agenda with Greece and Turkey at all levels is encouragement to try to make progress between now and the 12th of December.

QUESTION: Let me move to Turkey itself. We have a new leader, a new party that won. Could you tell me if the US think Mr. Erdogan is a Muslim Democrat in the tradition of Christian Democrats in Europe or a representative from an Islamic party that one should be worried about? How does the US view these elections?

MR. GROSSMAN: The United States views this election as democratic action on the part of the Turkish people. It's for the Turkish people to decide who are their leaders and who they elect. That's their business. Again, I associate myself with the words of Foreign Minister Papandreou: the Turkish people exercised their rights, they elected this government, and we'll work with this government.

QUESTION: Mr. Erdogan, who was visiting in Athens, stated that you want a solution in Cyprus. He seems to be a little bit more moderate than Ecevit and others in the past. Would the US assess that as a positive development? Could one hope that there might be help towards a solution because of the election of Mr. Erdogan in Turkey?

MR. GROSSMAN: I think the Secretary General, the other day when he was here, said that he had been very pleased and very encouraged with the reactions from both Greece and Turkey to this plan, and I think everything that has been said, both on the Greek side and the Turkish side, has led to that encouragement.

QUESTION: Including Mr. Erdogan, himself?

MR. GROSSMAN: Absolutely.

QUESTION: And Mr. Ozkok, the leader of the Turkish armed forces, and we know what kind of role they play in Turkey, was here and he also met with the Secretary. What are the messages that you're getting from him, because he will play a role in the final decision in Cyprus? Is he more willing to find a solution in Cyprus? Are the armed forces cooperating towards that end, or are they, you know, having second thoughts?

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, they'll have to speak for themselves. When we met the Chief of the Turkish General Staff, as you might imagine and you would expect us to, we encouraged him as well to look positively on the efforts of the Secretary General.

QUESTION: And was he -- the response was positive or did he object to the efforts of the Secretary General?

MR. GROSSMAN: Of course, that was before the Secretary General had made his statements. And, again, he'd have to speak for himself. But I think, as the Secretary General said, let's be encouraged by what we've heard so far. This is a very difficult problem. It's been around for a long time. And we may not get to a solution by the 12th of December, but it's too soon to give up. I think we should be courageous and optimistic here and see what we can accomplish.

QUESTION: Moving to Iraq, how much of a danger does Iraq pose to the US given the recent somewhat different assessment of the CIA, where they said that we don't -- if the US doesn't attack, it's less of a danger that Saddam will attack; if he's attacked, then he might attack?

MR. GROSSMAN: I think our President has made clear that, to the United States, and also very much to its neighbors, a country like Iraq, which has done nothing in 10 or 11 years to meet its obligations to the Security Council, with chemical weapons, biological weapons, possibly working on getting nuclear weapons, is a threat to the area. And this is not just a threat to the area, but a threat to his own people. Here's a guy who has used chemical weapons on his own population, shot missiles into other countries. And so his past and his present argue strongly that he's a threat.

The other thing I would say in terms of a threat is that he is also somebody in the last four years where there have been no inspections. If you think about it and say if you don't want inspectors to be there over the last four years, what have you got to hide? And I believe what he has to hide are important programs in the areas of weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: If, by December 8th, Saddam Hussein does not -- he declares that he doesn't possess any weapons of mass destruction, would that, in the US view, constitute a material breach of the Security Council resolution and therefore, for the US, give the right to military action?

MR. GROSSMAN: It would be a very important sign of his intentions. As Secretary Powell has said over the last couple of days, the key thing now is what is Saddam Hussein going to do. And I also think you have to factor into this the question of inspectors themselves. And so we'll see. But if he doesn't turn in a paper and he’s not going to play ball with the inspectors, we'll know pretty quickly.

QUESTION: The US supports the aspiration of the Kurdish people in Northern Iraq, and Ankara, as you very well know, is very worried about a future independent Kurdistan. Are you telling the Kurds there will never be an independent country for them?

MR. GROSSMAN: We have told the Kurds, we have told the Turks, and I'm glad to tell you, that we oppose a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq. We have said that the kind of Iraq we would like to see is an Iraq that is with its territorial integrity, that's fully sovereign, that's multiethnic, that's democratic, is at peace with its neighbors and has no weapons of mass destruction. And I believe we can achieve these goals and that the Kurds would be lots better off inside a democratic Iraq.

QUESTION: Which could be of a federal structure?

MR. GROSSMAN: I'll leave that to the future. Our view is a sovereign, territorial integral Iraq that is multiethnic, democratic, at peace with its neighbors and has no weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: How strategically important is Turkey to the operation, like Incirlik and other areas? And at the same time, but probably less so, but how important is Greece to an operation given the Souda Bay in Crete, the base there, or other arrangements that might be helpful?

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, I'm going to have to step back a little from the question first and say that that all assumes that there is going to be an operation.

QUESTION: In case. In case there's an operation.

MR. GROSSMAN: No, but it's a very important distinction. Where we are right now is that the international community, through the Security Council, has spoken clearly and directly with this Security Council resolution, and so what we would like to do is solve this problem peacefully. And so now this question is up to Saddam so I don't think it's possible for me to say, you know, this base, that base, this country, that country. The focus should not be on the possibility or not possibility of Souda Bay or Incirlik; it should be that Saddam Hussein should meet his responsibilities and meet them now.

QUESTION: Going to terrorism and 2004, after the success on the November 17the front and the preparation of the Olympic Games in Athens, is there a danger for a terrorist attack or an al-Qaida, maybe, attack in the Games? And is the US providing police, military or intelligence sharing or training?

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, first let me say, as I did in Athens last week, we just are in such admiration for the work of the Greek people, the Greek Government, what the Greek police have done, on November 17. Here's a group that has murdered Greeks, Americans and others, and have finally have gotten a hold of this organization. It's tremendous and we certainly look forward to the prosecutions in the future.

I also said when I was in Athens that I am completely confident that Greece will have a safe, secure, successful Olympic Games, and we'll do all that we can, what the Greek Government wishes us to do, to try to help that be true. So I don't spend my time worrying about that because I know the Greek Government does.

With that said, Tom, if you say to me, you know, could there be a terrorist attack anywhere in the world -- against the United States, against our interests, against Greece, someplace in the world on any day -- sure, and that's why we're working so hard with countries like Greece to be in this coalition against terror together.

Again, I repeat, I think Greece will have a safe, secure and successful Olympics because the Government of Greece is paying such close attention to this issue.

QUESTION: And my final question. Let me get back once again on the Cyprus issue and the role of the US, because the leader of the party that won the Turkish elections is coming to Athens. Are you optimistic there will be an agreement by the 12th? Is the US doing all it can to achieve that solution? And if there is no solution, will there be costs for Cyprus or anybody else?

MR. GROSSMAN: We are doing all we can to support this effort. I believe the Secretary General has opened a path to a solution that everybody should be serious about. I think the fact that the Secretary General is encouraged makes me encouraged, and we want to continue on that path.

And as I say, when you look ahead, I think you ought to look toward the 12th of December with courage and optimism. We'll worry about the 13th and 14th and 15th of December after that. But let's concentrate everybody's attention on making progress for the Secretary General.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MR. GROSSMAN: Thank you.

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