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Jones Briefs on Upcoming Visit to Ukraine, Caucasus, Austria

Jones Briefs on Upcoming Visit to Ukraine, Caucasus, Austria

Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones, former State Department special advisor for Caspian energy diplomacy, briefed reporters August 21 on her upcoming visit to Ukraine, the Caucasus and Austria, scheduled to begin the next day. Source: Washington File (EUR307). U.S. Department of State. Washington D.C., August 22, 2001.

The visit begins in Kiev, where Jones will join in celebrating the 10th anniversary of Ukraine's independence. A U.S. delegation led by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) will also attend the celebration, and Jones and Lugar will "speak with the leadership of Ukraine and with some non-governmental organization leaders who are doing a lot of very excellent work in Ukraine getting ready for the upcoming elections."

Jones added that "it will be very important for the Ukrainian government to demonstrate to the world and to its own people its adherence to democratic principles by the way these elections are conducted and by the way the election campaign itself is conducted."

In the Caucasus, Jones said, she will "underscore the U.S. commitment to the sovereignty, independence and stability of the three states." She will later meet with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Minsk Group in Vienna to discuss what progress has been made in the Nagorno-Karabakh discussions. Caspian energy will also be a major topic in the Caucasus, she noted.

In Vienna, Jones said she will meet with ambassadors of the GUUAM countries -- Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova -- as well as the Minsk Group.

"I will be raising human rights issues, democratic reform issues, free media issues, independent media issues in each of my stops with the most senior government officials, and we'll be discussing these issues with non-governmental organizations, journalists, free media representatives in each of my stops," Jones said in answer to a question about human rights in the region.

She also answered questions about: potential threats to the region; Nagorno-Karabakh; Turkey; Iran; the Gongadze murder case in Ukraine and Sanaya murder case in Georgia; Russia's pledge to close its bases in Moldova and Georgia; the anniversary of closing of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in Kazakhstan; corruption; and the political environment in Ukraine.

Following is a transcript prepared by Federal News Service and used with permission: (begin transcript)

Foreign Press Center Briefing with Elizabeth Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

Topic: Her Upcoming trip to Ukraine and the Caucasus, The Washington Foreign Press Center, Washington D.C. -- 4:20 P.M. EDT -- Tuesday, August 21, 2001.

MS. JONES: Thank you very much for inviting me to come here today. I'm very pleased to be with you, and very pleased to be able to talk about the trip that I'll start tomorrow.

I leave tomorrow for Ukraine and will be in Kiev for a couple of days. It's the first time I've been to Ukraine in several years, having had the privilege of visiting there both with President Clinton and Secretary Christopher a couple of times in the earlier '90s.

I've traveled more recently in the Caucasus when I was special adviser for Caspian energy diplomacy, so I'm looking forward to seeing those countries again, although I haven't previously been to Armenia.

I will end my trip in Vienna for meetings with the Austrian government and -- but especially to meet with the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], who have a very unique role and a very, very interesting role in Europe and Eurasia.

The primary reason I'm making this trip is to really get started on getting to know the leaders of the region, the opinion-makers and non-governmental organizational leaders of the very many countries in this newly emerged region, and I need to get started on making the acquaintance of all of the people that we've worked so closely with throughout the U.S. government and with whom we have so many mutual interests and do so many joint projects.

This is a rather ambitious travel schedule. Unfortunately, I don't have very much time on this particular trip, so I won't have as much time in each country as I would like to have. So we'll be meeting not nearly with as many people as I would like to meet with, but nevertheless, I decided to try to carve out this little part at the end of August in order to start having these discussions.

In Ukraine, I'm especially delighted that I will be able to share the joy of the Ukrainian people in celebrating the 10th anniversary of independence. It's a very, very important occasion. I'll be there with Senator Lugar, who will be leading the U.S. delegation to the 10th anniversary celebrations. We will also use the occasion to speak with the leadership of Ukraine and with some non-governmental organization leaders who are doing a lot of very excellent work in Ukraine getting ready for the upcoming elections.

In the Caucasus, I'll be meeting with President Aliyev, with President Shevardnadze and with President Kocharian and with various of their colleagues and with other non-governmental organization leaders in each of those three countries.

In the Caucasus, it'll be very important for me to underscore the U.S. commitment to the sovereignty, independence and stability of the three states of the Caucasus, as well, of course, this is a very important issue for us in all of the states of the former Soviet Union.

The very strong political support that the U.S. lends to each of these countries is enhanced by the substantial assistance programs that we have in each of these countries that we fund under the FREEDOM Support Act, which is very generously provided to us by Congress. These are the programs that we use to support the work of both governmental and nongovernmental organizations to promote democratic ideals and undertake free market economic reforms in each of these countries.

The goal, of course, of our policy and the goal of these programs that we undertake is political freedoms to building an economic prosperity for the peoples and the countries of the region.

In connection with each of these objectives, I'll be, as I said, meeting with the OSCE Minsk Group, with some of them in Vienna in order to talk to them about progress that's been made in the Nagorno-Karabakh discussions. In one other area that's of great importance in the Caspian, of course, is the Caspian Basin Energy, which, as I said, was my last job. We'd done a lot of work in support of both the Caspian, CPC, the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which is opening very, very soon, we hope, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan gas and oil pipelines. The gas pipeline is still under negotiation. The oil pipeline has had basic engineering, and detailed engineering has already gotten underway.

In Vienna, as I mentioned, I'll be meeting with representatives of the OSCE, as well as with ambassadors of the GUUAM countries, Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova, in order to talk to them about some of the programs they may shortly be getting underway.

That's the basic outline of the work I'll be doing in Ukraine and the Caucasus and Austria, and I'd be happy to take your questions.

MODERATOR: Yeah, we'll start here in the middle. Here comes the microphone.

Q: Thank you. I'm Dave McIntyre with DPA. You mentioned your visit will help underscore the U.S. commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and stability of the three Caspian countries. Could you describe for us the threats you see or the potential dangers to those goals in the region?

MS. JONES: The basic difficulty that each of these countries is having is the transition from their days as part of the Soviet Union. Economic transition, economic reform has been -- is very, very difficult. Democratic transition is very difficult. A lot of the work that we do is focused on how to support the efforts of these countries, the goals of these countries to become free-market economies and to become democratic states with full respect for civic government.

The threats are the difficulties that these countries are having in accomplishing the goals that they have set for themselves.

Q: Any outside threats?

MS. JONES: I -- no, not really. Some of the -- well, let me back up. The outside threats really consist of terrorism, the potential for terrorism. There are problems with trafficking, narcotics trafficking. We have a lot of programs that are focused on those kinds of threats, yes.

MODERATOR: Kenan?

Q: Kenan Aliyev. I'm with the Azerbaijani news agency Turan. And you said that you will meet the OSCE Minsk Group representatives in Vienna, and you said you will discuss the progress which has been made.

But so far, many believe that there was no progress since the Key West talks, and many critics say that the U.S. efforts, and efforts of other co-chairs of Minsk Group failed to bring peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

And I have another question as well.

MS. JONES: There has been a tremendous amount of progress, obviously, in terms of the discussions between Armenia and Azerbaijan. There was a lot of progress made before Key West; there was a tremendous amount of progress made at Key West. There are continuing negotiations, discussions on the basis of the progress that was made at Key West. That there has not been a final agreement is regrettable, but it's not the end of the road. There's still a tremendous amount of work going on. The two leaders met in Sochi. The two leaders will meet again. This is by no means a failed or a stalled negotiation.

The United States, as part of the Minsk Group, is very eager to facilitate these negotiations as much as possible. We are extremely pleased with the cooperation, collegiality that we've gotten in the Minsk Group with our colleagues from France and Russia. President Chirac and President Putin have been very eager, very helpful, very forthcoming in the support that they've given to the negotiations, and we're very hopeful that eventually this negotiation will reach the kind of success that we all hope for.

Q: (Off mike) -- this year? Because U.S. officials were making statements that -- the probability of some kind of peace agreement in the end of this year. Are you still optimistic like that?

MS. JONES: I'm very optimistic. But as to timing, I wouldn't hazard a guess.

Q: Okay, last question. And you didn't mention that you're going to discuss the human rights issues in these countries, which of course is one of the main issues for these countries so far. And particularly my question on Azerbaijan; the government has been cracking down on media recently and pressing the political opposition. Are you going to raise these issues there?

And also, the last question, will you give us an update on the case of the American NGO worker who used to work for International Republican Institute journalists, he was killed in Baku. Do you have any news on this investigation, any update?

Thank you.

MS. JONES: Let me see if I can remember all the questions. Okay, first, I didn't mention human rights specifically. I tend to group that under democracy issues, democratic reform. Yes, I will be raising human rights issues, democratic reform issues, free media issues, independent media issues in each of my stops with the most senior government officials, and we'll be discussing these issues with non-governmental organizations, journalists, free media representatives in each of my stops.

It's a very important issue for us. We're very concerned about the independent media difficulties that you mentioned in Azerbaijan. We're very pleased that we've been able to support free media, independent media in each of these places, in particular in Azerbaijan, with some of the funding that we've gotten from Congress under the FREEDOM Support Act, as well as from elsewhere under our democracy small grants programs.

They're very effective programs. I've seen them used very, very effectively in each of these places.

In terms of John Alvis, regrettably, the case has not been solved. We have been as helpful as we can in terms of trying to support the efforts of the government to investigate the case, and we're very, very sorry that it has not been solved yet.

MODERATOR: Over here in the back.

Q: This is Emit Engleson (ph) with Turkey's NTV Television. Two questions: Turkey has undertaken the responsibility to pay for additional expenses regarding the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. And there is a major financial crisis ongoing in Turkey. Do you think Turkey's financial difficulties could at least delay or hamper the developments about this planned pipeline?

And secondly, do you have anything new to say about the Caspian dispute between Azerbaijan and Iran?

MS. JONES: On BTC and the Turkish pledge to handle any overages on the Turkish part of the pipeline, first of all, it is a question of Turkey agreeing to handle additional costs, should there be additional costs. Of course, the cost of the pipeline itself is being borne by the owners, by the private companies. I have asked that same question of my Turkish colleagues, and they assure me that by the time the possibility might arise for that kind of payment to be made, that Turkey fully expects to be through the worst parts of the financial crisis, number one.

And number two, the amounts are negligible compared to the value of the pipeline being finished. So the short answer is no, there should be no delay as a result of this in the construction of BTC.

Q: And Iran.

MS. JONES: Iran. We were very concerned, and said so several times from the podium at the State Department about the -- about the Iranian incursions. We were very concerned about what the implications of that were for stability in the region and for a demonstration of an inclination to try to solve things -- to solve a problem not through peaceful means. We are advocating very strongly that this kind of dispute should be solved through peaceful means, through negotiations. We are very supportive of the effort that's been made by the government of Russia, by Deputy Foreign Minister Koluzhny (ph) in particular, for the work that he's done to try to formulate agreements with each of the countries on what the Caspian demarcation should be.

The United States has not taken a position, though, on exactly what kind of demarcation there should be. We think that's up to the literal states, the five states, of course, of which Russia is one.

Q: Yes. This is Jonathan Wright of Reuters. I wondered if you could update us on American aspects of the investigation into the Gongadze affair. And does this continue to have any effect on relations with Ukraine, or have you pretty well put it in the past, put it behind you?

MS. JONES: No, it's very much an issue between us and Ukraine. We have said and many of Ukraine's other friends have said to our Ukrainian colleagues that it's very, very important for Ukraine to demonstrate the transparency and clarity in the investigation, that only through a proper investigation and proper, clear elucidation of the results of the investigation can this case be put behind Ukraine.

Q: Anana Gonga (sp) of the Georgian TV-Radio Corporation. I don't know it's right or not -- the FBI joined to Georgian investigators to find out about who was killer of Sanaya, a reporter from Rustavi-2. And this first question. And another about Russian base in Gaudauta, in Javaheti (sp). So --

MS. JONES: The U.S. FBI has cooperated very closely with the Georgian government officials in trying to determine the circumstances around the murder of Mr. Sanaya. It's a very, very regrettable murder, a very regrettable death, very regrettable loss in the community.

 

My understanding is that the forensic evidence has been brought back to the United States by Georgian investigators. They're under investigation, under review now by the FBI, and we

hope that there will be further clarification, further evidence, maybe further details to investigate later on sometime in September, so that the investigation can be completed, maybe by the end of the month.

Q: (Off mike.)

MS. JONES: The Gaudauta base. You have to keep reminding me. I'm sorry. (Chuckles.)

Russia, of course, made an agreement in Istanbul to evacuate the bases, to close the bases in Moldova and Georgia.

We know that Russia understands that this is a solemn international agreement and must continue the effort to live up to that agreement.

There is certainly a tremendous amount of discussion that's been under way between the Georgian government, led by the foreign minister, and the Russian government. There has been some progress made in terms of agreements on the base closures and -- in addition to that -- and how many people might stay behind in Gaudauta from the Russian side. That discussion is still under way. It's not completed.

The United States is not party to the discussion, but we're certainly a member of the international community very concerned that the Istanbul undertakings be honored fully.

Q: They ask for -- (off mike) -- but America promise help to -- (off mike).

MS. JONES: You're beyond what I know about in great detail. I know that the discussion revolves around a much earlier departure. Fourteen years is far too long.

Q: My name is Ivan Lebedev, and I'm with the Russian news agency Tass. And I'd like to use this opportunity to ask you a question about the former Soviet republic that you are well familiar with. I mean the Republic of Kazakhstan, where you served there, ambassador for the United States. Next week the government of Kazakhstan is going to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the closing of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the largest nuclear test site in the former Soviet Union.

And my question is, do you consider the decision taken by the government of Kazakhstan exactly 10 years ago to be an important one for nuclear proliferation in the former Soviet Union? And what was the impact of this decision for their nuclear nonproliferation, not only in the former Soviet territory but in all the world?

MS. JONES: Thank you very much for that question. You've made a very important point. This is the 10th anniversary of the closing of the Semipalatinsk nuclear facility. The decisions that Kazakhstan made at the time were world-renowned; they made a very strong leadership position, very strong leadership decision to close down the nuclear facilities and to end Kazakhstan's participation, Kazakhstan's status as a nuclear state. Kazakhstan's leadership should be extremely proud of the position that it took then -- of the decision that it took then. It was an example to all the world on exactly how important it is and how courageous a country needs to be in order to foreswear nuclear weapons. It's a decision that the United States supported very strongly at the time, and we tell our colleagues in Kazakhstan over and over again how proud they should be that they made this momentous, very difficult, but nevertheless, very forthright decision.

Q: (Name inaudible) -- of Azer (Tash ?) News. Ms. Jones, any particular discussions or consultations planned on the basis of reflecting the U.S. national energy report, and especially the terms related to the Caspian region?

MS. JONES: I don't expect a long discussion on that subject. My colleague, Ambassador Steve Mann (sp) was very recently in the region, so he was able to discuss these issues in detail with the governments. If the matter comes up, I'd be very happy to address it. We remain concerned, as I mentioned earlier, about Iranian intentions in the region. I'd be very pleased to understand from the governments of Azerbaijan and Georgia what the status is of the -- (inaudible) -- negotiations for the gas pipeline. I think that's very important.

As I mentioned earlier, the United States is very proud of the part that the United States has played in pursuing the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, after all, this is the largest Russian-American joint venture in the region. I think people tend to forget that this is not a pipeline that's in competition but BTC, but that it's sort of one of the first new pipelines out of the Caspian that will really enhance the ability of the countries of the region to benefit from that gift of oil wealth that they've been given, and use that money wisely, then, in economic reform and democratic reform.

MODERATOR: We have time for two or three more questions. Are there any more?

Q: Corruption is also a very big issue for all of these countries, and in your -- during your trip, are you planning to raise this issue with the governments? And are you concerned with the level of corruption which these countries have, particularly Azerbaijan, you know, Georgia, Ukraine, Armenia?

MS. JONES: Corruption is always a matter of concern. I think about it in terms both of the influence or the effect it has on a government's ability to pursue its economic reform agenda, but I also believe it has a very strong influence, bad influence on government's efforts to pursue a democratic reform agenda. One of the great benefits of an independent media, of a parliament and of the development of civic society is to bring to light corruption and the corrosive effect that corruption has on a society and on a government and on the ability of a people to prosper. So yes, that is an issue that I will be discussing in each of the countries.

MODERATOR: Is there a final question?

Q: I have a question about Ukraine, the political situation in the republic looks very much turbulent, I would put it this way. So the question is very simple: Are you concerned with the political environment and political developments in Ukraine?

MS. JONES: The United States is looking very much forward to the elections that are coming up in March in a year, next year. It will be very important for the Ukrainian government to demonstrate to the world and to its own people its adherence to democratic principles by the way these elections are conducted and by the way the election campaign itself is conducted. The role of independent media is very important in any election campaign. The role of NGOs, of non-governmental organizations, in terms of how issues are discussed and the ability of the leadership to understand the desires of a people in an election campaign are very important, and often come to light through non-governmental organization and other citizen-oriented pressure points.

I think it's a very lively political situation in Ukraine. There's no question about that. The government and the parliament are making some progress already, considerable progress on some of the economic reform matters, which are also very important and go hand in glove really with democratic reform.

MODERATOR: Thank you all very much.

MS. JONES: Thank you.

(end transcript)

 

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