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
lunch meeting. 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 issue. 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 modern world.
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
own population. Q Did
they discuss the dictatorship of Mugabe?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION 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
strengthened. 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
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
this structure? SENIOR ADMINISTRATION
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
those 10. 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? SENIOR
ADMINISTRATION 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 it. 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.