For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 26, 2001
By Senior Administration Officials
on the President's Meeting With
President Mbeki of South Africa
the James S. Brady Briefing Room
1:23 P.M. EDT
OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm here to
give you a little bit of a readout on President Mbeki and President
Bush's meeting this morning, first in the Oval and then the hour-long
The Presidents emphasized the importance of
our partnership with South Africa and they affirmed the need for a
strong relationship and a continuation of our bilateral relationship
through 10 working groups. They also discussed the
Millennium Africa Recovery Plan that, as many of you know, President
Mbeki is developing with other heads of state in Africa.
President Bush told President Mbeki that he
supports the goals of the Millennium Africa Recovery Plan, as well as
the initiative that African leaders are taking to address poverty
alleviation and assured President Mbeki of the U.S. support for those
general principles and goals.
The two Presidents also addressed HIV-AIDS,
and President Bush, there, talked about U.S. leadership on this issue,
called for global leadership, and reiterated the fact that the United
States is the largest contributor, will continue to do more, and sent
Secretary Powell to the UNGA's special session on HIV-AIDS to
communicate that to the world of U.S. leadership and commitment to this
And finally, they also spoke about the World
Conference Against Racism, and both Presidents agreed that we need a
forward-looking approach to address the problems -- continued problems
of racism, as well as the problems of slave-like practices in the
They discussed regional issues -- Zimbabwe,
Angola briefly, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- and again
affirmed a commitment to work together on conflict
resolution. And so, in terms of our Africa policy, they
discussed the primary priorities of HIV/AIDS, of expanded trade and of
conflict resolution, conflict mitigation.
Q Yes, you say
slave-like practices. Are they unaware of Mugabe and
Mauritania and Sudan? That's slavery itself, isn't it?
OFFICIAL: Yes, thank you. In fact, I was trying
to be broader than that. But both Presidents did, at lunch
time, discuss the horrific situation taking place in
Sudan. And so that issue did come up directly about the
human rights abuses that the government of Sudan is carrying out on its
Q Did they discuss the
dictatorship of Mugabe?
OFFICIAL: They did discuss the need for democratization, for
the rule of law -- respect for the rule of law in
Zimbabwe. President Mbeki briefed President Bush on the work
that the seven, I think it is, foreign ministers from the Commonwealth
have taken on an initiative. And so President Mbeki gave
President Bush a briefing on that.
Q Could you say
something about these 10 working groups? And is this
commission which had been set up during the Clinton administration,
with the Vice Presidents of both countries, still in operation, or is
that defunct, and what has replaced that?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As
you know, when President Bush came into office, he abolished all of the
binational commissions that were previously run through the Vice
President's office. What the two Presidents said about that
-- our bilateral relationship is that we have a very strong
partnership, a more matured relationship with South Africa since the
BNC had been created over those -- I guess it's the last four or six
years, eight years, that that relationship has really been
President Bush said to President Mbeki,
obviously, you can always pick up the phone to talk to me
directly. Our foreign ministers -- Foreign Minister Zuma and
Secretary Powell, are in touch -- but also that we do want to continue
the working groups. And we've talked about establishing a
U.S.-South Africa coordinating forum to build on that bilateral
Q But is that something
that goes over and above your relationship with other African
states? Or do you have similar coordinating groups with
other states in the sub-Sahara?
OFFICIAL: Currently, we have two special
relationships. We talk about a strategic approach toward
Africa, and that's with South Africa and with Nigeria. And
when President Obasanjo was here, we also discussed establishing
working groups with the Nigerians.
Q How does a bilateral
forum differ from a binational commission?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The
way that this forum is going to be set up, it's going to have a
secretariat on each side. That is, the U.S. secretariat will
be run by State Department and NSC, and they will coordinate all the 10
different working groups. Likewise, on the South African
side, there will be a secretariat made up of the Department of Foreign
Affairs and the Office of the President, and they will coordinate their
side of the 10 working committees.
Q When the country had
a binational commission, the Gore-Mbeki Commission -- how different was
OFFICIAL: Actually, there are some very strong
similarities. The 10 working groups, which is really the
heart and the guts of the commission, are still there. It's
the same 10 -- actually, we're going to change a couple of them
because, for instance, health care needs to be one of its
own. But those 10 working groups were really -- that was the
working level where most of the work was done. And those 10
are still there. And these two secretariats will coordinate
And there will be reports regularly up to the
ministerial level. And again, as my colleague said, there
will be continual reports going up to the heads of state.
Q Health care is new,
that's a new group?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No,
it actually was part of another group. And we're probably
going to -- we've got to discuss this with the South Africans, but
we're probably going to break that out and let it be its own group.
Q Is that, in part,
based on AIDS or --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: On
all infectious diseases, HIV-AIDS included, tuberculosis,
malaria. The health working group has been one of the more
successful working groups in the Commission. So we're
pleased to see kind of getting it out on its own.
Q The joint resolution
talks about affirming desire for democratic, prosperous Zimbabwe, and
things like that, and the Congo. Was anything concrete done,
or just wanting to have things work well? Did they make any
promises or goals or anything?
OFFICIAL: Well, actually, it Washington interesting --
President Mbeki discussed how this Group of 7 Commonwealth foreign
ministers -- which it seems like the Commonwealth has just gotten
agreement by all 7 -- will work specifically on the Zimbabwe
issues. And it will be a number of issues they've got on the
agenda -- election reform, economic, land redistribution
questions. So three or four really key Zimbabwe problems
that are facing that country right now, those will all be on this
Commonwealth 7 agenda.
Q To follow up, was
President Mbeki at all critical of Robert Mugabe?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It
didn't -- the conversation didn't unfold in that fashion. It
was much more -- and as President Bush said, both of -- in answering
this question, but also as President Bush said in terms of the
binational structure, he was primarily interested in what can be
achieved, what structure can be achieved for results.
And so, in the case of Zimbabwe, the
Presidents didn't spend much time on sort of -- there was a recognition
that the problem in Zimbabwe is problematic. So they didn't
spend much time talking and criticizing. They spent much
more time on how do we solve this problem, how do we deal with the
issue of promotion of rule of law, democracy, getting beyond this land
issue in Zimbabwe.
Q -- criticized him?
OFFICIAL: Both Presidents were worried.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I
would put it this way, that the criticism was implicit in the need to
talk about the rule of law in democracy.
Q Was there any
encouragement for President Mbeki to talk a stronger public stance
against the crisis in Zimbabwe? Because President Mbeki has
been notably silent for a long time on this issue, which some in the
U.S. have seen as kind of counterproductive, not helpful.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It
really seemed as if this Commonwealth 7 was going to be his
vehicle. South Africa is one of the
seven. Britain is one of the seven. I think it's
Kenya, Jamaica, Australia, Zimbabwe. I'm missing one or
two. But President Mbeki clearly saw this as an opportunity
-- this is his vehicle, this is how he was going to remain engaged in
Q Can you elaborate a
bit on what they discussed about the WCAR?
OFFICIAL: Yes. They talked -- President Mbeki
raised the need for the regional leaders to be -- to pressure all sides
to implement the Lusaka Accord. He spoke about former
President Masire's engagement as the facilitator of the national
dialogue. He also discussed the fact that he and President
Obasanjo had met with many of the parties there and were looking for a
way in which the region could help in the implementation, working with
the MONUC mission, the U.N. mission there.