Deputy Secretary of State Robert B. Zoellick and Slovenian Foreign Minister Dmitrij Rupel said they focused during their meeting in Ljubljana March 28 on Kyrgyzstan and Kosovo.
With Slovenia currently holding the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Rupel has played an active role in the events that have followed the disputed election in Kyrgyzstan. Zoellick said the OSCE has "a key role in terms of trying to bring the parties together within Kyrgyzstan as they sort of deal with the departure of the President and looking towards the new government and new elections."
The OSCE can also provide election assistance and monitoring and support for some police services, as well as help in the development of a free press, he added.
"The OSCE can also play a role among its 55 members in terms of making sure that key partners, particularly neighbors -- Kazakhstan, Russia, others -- have a comfort about the [democratic] process moving forward and support the process," said Zoellick.
Regarding Kosovo, Zoellick said 2005 is already scheduled to be a year in which there is a review of the achievement of democratic standards and also discussions of Kosovo's status.
"It's important to see how these [standards and status] fit together. So the future of Kosovo obviously depends on discussions with Serbia and also as Slovenia has discussed with its Croatian neighbors."
Zoellick added that he and Rupel agree the discussions will be most successful if they "take place within a broader European context, if there's a recognition of a vision and future for these countries within a European space."
Zoellick was United States Trade Representative from February 2001 until his Senate confirmation and swearing in as deputy secretary of state last month. He is visiting fourteen European capitals March 28-April 5 on his first trip in his new post.
Zoellick's itinerary includes stops in Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, and Spain.
Following is the State Department transcript:
U.S. Department of State
March 29, 2005
Remarks With Foreign Minister Dmitrij Rupel of Slovenia
Robert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State
March 29, 2005
MINISTER RUPEL: -- let us say southeastern of Europe. WE mostly spoke about Kosovo and Serbia-Montenegro. Slovenia is a member to the European Union, NATO is chairing the OSCE, and is thus in the center of very important events, international events, that have to do with security issues. Slovenia also participates in very important debates regarding the world or global stability peace, et cetera.
As I said, we talked about Kosovo, we talked about Kyrgyzstan. I informed Mr. Zoellick of our intentions regarding the traveling to Kyrgyzstan in the days to come. I also spoke about what has happened there, what the situation is there now and what was the role of Slovenia there during this time. We noted that the role of the OSCE is this case was of course beneficial and that it can also prove very important in the future. This is why our activities there will continue.
Concerning Kyrgyzstan, I already talked to some other colleagues, also to Mrs. Rice some days ago, and today we presented a situation currently existing there. We said that we intend to assist with the issues regarding the implementation or carrying out elections about legal and constitutional affairs with the so-called police assistance. We are speaking here about training of police forces, about settling the issues concerned with the operation and organization of police forces in Kyrgyzstan.
Regarding bilateral relations, I am certain that our guest will be able to say something more. We expressed, both me and Prime Minister our interest for comprehensive and increased cooperation between the United States and Slovenia in the economic area. We also expressed our interest to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries, and we spoke about how it would be possible to cooperate in the coming months not only in the economic area but also in the area of countries around us in our area, meaning countries of Southeastern Europe, also Afghanistan, Africa, Iraq, et cetera.
I would like to reiterate, we are very much in favor of strengthening economic cooperation between the U.S. and Slovenia in the area of trading goods and services as well as in the area of foreign direct investment. So much from my part. Mr. Zoellick, the floor is yours.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Thank you very much, Minister. I think the Minister gave you a good sense of the topics that we had a chance to discuss, but I want to thank the Minister, as well as the Prime Minister for their graciousness in meeting with me today. The prime purpose of this visit was for me to come and be able to listen and to learn some of Slovenia's primary topics of interest.
This is the first visit of 14 different capitals that I'll be meeting with our NATO partners in over the next week or so, and it reflects President Bush and Secretary Rice's view that early in this second term of President Bush they wanted to come to Europe, talk about some of the issues on our agenda, and I on this trip am trying to visit the various capitals that they did not have a chance to visit yet. So we wanted in the early months of this term to be able to have an opportunity to hear in capitals of people's primary interests.
So as the Minister said, we had a chance to cover in particular Slovenia's leadership role in the OSCE. We talked about how this is particularly important given the events in Kyrgyzstan and I know the Minister is playing an active day by day if not hour by hour role in terms of trying to work with the other members of the OSCE and support the democratic process in Kyrgyzstan. But we also spent considerable time on the Balkans. And here as well I wanted to make sure I got the Minister's perspective on the events ahead because we think that 2005 will be a very important year for the process in the Balkans.
In general, as I expressed to both the Prime Minster and the Foreign Minister, we are delighted that Slovenia is a new member of both NATO and the European Union. As a member of both we see it as part of a larger transatlantic community. So whether the issues that we deal with are part of the transatlantic space or ones farther afield in Afghanistan, Iraq, even Sudan which we talked about, we want to make sure that we understand and fully appreciate the views of Slovenia. That was the main reason why I wanted to come here and to listen to those perspectives.
SLOVENE MFA SPOKESWOMAN MIRIAM MOZGAN: Unfortunately we are short with time so we'll only have time to answer two questions. Maybe Spela?
QUESTION: Spela Novak from Radio Slovenia.
I would have one question. Is your tour around Europe also intended to solve some trade disputes between the United States and the EU? Recently you also tackled a lot of issues about Boeing. So is this also one of the issues on your agenda?
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Not really. Although I'm open to any topics that my colleagues may wish to raise with me. But I had the pleasure of serving as a Trade Minister for four years, now I'm back at our Foreign Ministry where I had served from '89 to '92. So the Minister and the Prime Minister did discuss some of the economic reforms and we had a chance to talk briefly about the fact that what I've been able to see take place in the global economy over the past four years gives me a particular perspective on the challenge that countries face, whether it be with their education system, their pension system, their tax system and others, to remain competitive. I got some opportunity to ask the Prime Minister about some of the plans for the new government in those dimensions for Slovenia. Obviously a big aspect is the steps that Slovenia is taking to meet the criteria for joining the euro in 2007. So I'm no longer the Trade Minister but I'm permitted to talk about the subject if people raise it with me.
QUESTION: Marija Novak from Reuters. I'll ask in Slovene.
What are your impressions with the events in Kyrgyzstan and do you expect that similar revolutions, if we call it that, could happen in some neighboring countries, former members of the Soviet Union? And what is your prediction regarding the future status of Kosovo? When and how do you think the decision will be reached on the status of Kosovo? Thank you.
DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: As to your first question, I think what we've seen over the course of past months is an expression by people in very diverse parts of the world, whether it be Ukraine, whether it be Georgia, whether it be Iraq, Afghanistan, the Palestinian elections, of a desire to be free and to participate in their own future with their government and take part in a process of self-determination. Lebanon as well, where you have people moving towards true independence.
There are certainly large changes afoot, but the process of change also requires careful attention by countries that want to try to support the process taking place peacefully. So in that context with your question on Kyrgyzstan, we think that there's a particular role for the OSCE to play. The Minister and I talked about aspects of that role.
First, we think there is a key role in terms of trying to bring the parties together within Kyrgyzstan as they sort of deal with the departure of the President and looking towards the new government and new elections. There is a role that can be played by the OSCE in election assistance and also election monitoring, work with the free press. The Minister also mentioned to support some of the police services. The OSCE can also play a role among its 55 members in terms of making sure that key partners, particularly neighbors -- Kazakhstan, Russia, others -- have a comfort about the process moving forward and support the process.
So I think all these need to be kept in the context of recognizing that the people of Kyrgyzstan want to determine their own future.
So we are absolutely delighted that Slovenia is in the chair of OSCE because this is a country that also wanted to determine its own future not many years ago and has done so very ably.
In the context of the Balkans, I think as both the Minister and I mentioned, 2005 is already scheduled to be a year where there are to be a review of various standards but also status discussions. It's important to see how these fit together. So the future of Kosovo obviously depends on discussions with Serbia and also as Slovenia has discussed with its Croatian neighbors.
I think we are in agreement, but I'll let the Minister speak for himself on this, that this will be most successful if these discussions take place within a broader European context, if there's a recognition of a vision and future for these countries within a European space.
This is not easy because the European Union has been moving through a rather extensive enlargement process. It's got a constitutional process. So there are some people in other capitals in Europe that probably want to take a pause, but history doesn't permit a pause, and that's one reason why I wanted to come here, because I wanted to get a sense from the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about their perspective on these issues so we could work together with them and with other European partners during the course of 2005.
MS. MOZGAN: Thank you.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)