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Remarks Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Konstandinos Simitis of Greece and an Exchange With Reporters

April 09, 1996

President Clinton. Let me say it's a great honor for me to welcome Prime Minister Simitis here, along with his party. Greece has been a long and strong ally of the United States, and I'm looking forward to discussing a number of issues, including how we can be helpful in resolving some of the difficulties in the Aegean.

Let me say, first of all, that I think all these issues should be resolved without the use of force or the threat of force, with both parties agreeing to abide by international agreements and with a mutual respect for territorial integrity. With regard to the Imia question, the United States has already said we believe it should be submitted to the International Court of Justice or some other international arbitration forum.

I also want to thank Greece for its leadership in trying to resolve the problems in the future of the Balkans in a positive way. Greece is participating in IFOR and is working with the challenges presented in Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in a number of other ways.

And finally, I hope we have a chance to talk about Cyprus a little bit. This has been an area of intense interest for me since I became President, and I hope that we can do more in that area to help that situation to be resolved.

Iranian Arms Shipments to Bosnia

Q. Mr. President, are you concerned about the investigation of Iranian arms shipments to Bosnia during the war?

President Clinton. No.

Q. Did you allow it to happen?

President Clinton. Our record on that is clear. Mr. Lake has talked about it. There was absolutely nothing improper done.

Q. You know, Bob Dole supported lifting the arms embargo, and now he is talking about possible investigation of the flow of arms. What do you think is going on there, Mr. President?

President Clinton. He also took the position that we had the right to unilaterally lift it.

Q. What do you think his motives are though?

President Clinton. You all can comment on what is going on. I'm just going to try to do my job.

[At this point, one group of reporters left the room, and another group entered.]

Discussions With Prime Minister Simitis

President Clinton. Hello. Is everyone in? Let me say, first of all, it's a great honor for me, on behalf of the United States, to welcome Prime Minister Simitis here. I have already had the opportunity to thank him for the wonderful welcome that my wife and daughter received from the government and from the people of Greece recently. We have a number of things to discuss. I hope the United States can be helpful in resolving some of the problems in the Aegean.

At the outset, let me say, we believe that all these issues should be solved without the use of force, without the threat of force, with everyone agreeing to abide by international agreements and to respect the territorial integrity of other countries. With regard to the Imia situation, the United States has long said that we favor the resolution by referring the matter to the International Court of Justice or some other international arbitration panel, and we feel very strongly that these things have to be resolved.

I want to have an opportunity to thank the Prime Minister for the leadership that Greece has shown in resolving problems in the Balkans, involving Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and participating in IFOR in Bosnia. And I think that the future of the Balkans as a secure and peaceful and hopefully more democratic place requires the leadership of Greece. And so I'm looking forward to that.

And finally, I hope we have a chance to talk a little bit about Cyprus. Cyprus has been an area of special interest to me since I became President. I spent an awful lot of personal time on it, and we intend to explore this year whether there is something else we can do to help resolve that matter, because I believe that if that could be resolved, then that would open the way for a whole new future for the region and great new possibilities for all of its people.

Greece-Turkey Relations

Q. Mr. President, can you tell us what role the U.S. would play in Greek-Turkish relations, and what is the U.S. position on the sovereignty issue of the Imia islet?

President Clinton. Well, I just said I think it ought to be decided by the International Court of Justice. I think the United States— since we have been—this is a delicate thing. We hardly have had a longer and stronger ally than Greece in the United States, and we have had—we obviously have worked with the Turks and have had good relationships with them. And the differences between Greece and Turkey are a source of great concern to us.

But we believe they can be worked out if there is adherence to international agreements, nobody uses force or threatens to use force, and there is a genuine respect for territorial integrity and an understanding that if you look— if you try to imagine what the future will look like 10, 15, 20 years from now, and what the probable challenges to the freedom and the prosperity of the people of Greece are, and the people of the United States, from around the world, obviously, that future would be much more secure if the differences between Greece and Turkey could be resolved.

Q. [Inaudible]—and what did he say?

President Clinton. I said the same thing to him I'm saying to you. I find in this world, you know, since we have a global press, you have to say the same thing to everyone. [Laughter] So I said exactly the same thing to him I said to you.

Q. Do you see a specific role of Greece in the Balkans?

Prime Minister Simitis. Can I say a few words?

President Clinton. Sure, it's your press.

Prime Minister Simitis. It's very important for us to be here and to discuss matters of common interest with President Clinton. Greece aims on the one hand to improve the bilateral relations with the United States; on the other hand, we want to promote stability, peace, and prosperity in our part of the world, the European Union, the Balkans, and the Eastern Mediterranean. In order to achieve these targets, we want to discuss matters as European integration, cooperation with Balkan countries, our relations with our neighbors in Turkey, and the Cyprus issue.

As far as the relations with our neighbors are concerned, we think that certain principles must be applied. The first principle is that no one can use force or use the threat of force. The international treaties and international law must be applied. And finally, the resolution of disputes must be realized with the help of the International Court of Justice.

I hope that with these discussions, and I'm sure—there will be progress in these matters, and we will have in this part of the world a new development that is positive for stability and peace.

Q. Sir, is there a specific initiative that you will undertake to de-escalate tension?

President Clinton. I have already told you what my position is. I want to have a chance to meet with the Prime Minister, and we will be talking more later.

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:12 p.m. in the Oval Office at the White House. A tape was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

William J. Clinton, Remarks Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Konstandinos Simitis of Greece and an Exchange With Reporters Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/223137

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