The Macedonian Tendency: US State - Press Briefing for November 30

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

US State - Press Briefing for November 30

More on US State Department response to Greek journalist on the Macedonian recognition issue. It is lucky that there are no Macedonian journalists at this press conference to make a fool of themselves. That God for small favours.

Daily Press Briefing for November 30 -- Transcript

QUESTION: On FYROM. Mr. Boucher, 70 members of the House of Representatives characterize as counterproductive your policy recognition of FYROM as "Republic of Macedonia" in a letter to the Secretary of State Colin Powell, November 19th. They write in inter alia, "This is more than an issue of a name for the Greek people. As you recall, Mr. Secretary, over 50,000 Greek-Americans attended in May 31st, 1992, memorial service in Washington, for the 40,000 Greek citizens who lost their lives at the hands of people living in what is today FYROM. When the lives were lost, our Secretary of State Edward Stettinius called, ‘talk of Macedonian nations as justified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality,’ ‘and a cloak for aggressive intention against Greece.’"

Similar letter was sent to Secretary of State by 11 senators. How do you respond to that?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if we've responded to that specific letter. I think the overall situation, with regards to Macedonia, was explained here many times. As I noted at the time of our announcement, we had consulted with various members of Congress about it and we knew there were differing views on the Hill, and we're always happy to hear from people.

I would note that the decision to call the Republic of Macedonia by that name is not, in any way, a political or historical gesture, or a gesture related to history, nor are we turning our backs on the people who -- nor are we turning our backs on the many people who died in the second World War in this area. It was merely a question of what we thought we should call the nation at this point.

QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, I noted yesterday that you have an advocate or defender in the Voice of America, namely, George Bistis, the director of the Greek program, who attacked me personally in his dispatch all over the world, based on the way you and I conducted yesterday's dialogue on FYROM.

MR. BOUCHER: They attacked you?


MR. BOUCHER: Really?


QUESTION: George Bistis, correct. It's a free dispatch. In a way, however, that only using the VOA facilities as a propaganda machine, but also as a tool to intimidate me, to disgrace me and to threaten me with the usual motives against the freedom of the press and the right to speak free, keeping in mind, Mr. Boucher, that your greatest president, Thomas Jefferson, said once upon a time, "I prefer a free press than a government." I would like you to comment on that.


MR. BOUCHER: Number one, we agree with Thomas Jefferson. Number two --

QUESTION: Excuse me? Number one, what?

MR. BOUCHER: We agree with Thomas Jefferson.

QUESTION: Definitely.

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary of State -- we got the gist.

QUESTION: That's why I quote him.

MR. BOUCHER: We got the gist.

QUESTION: Number two (inaudible).

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Number two is, as you know, I've never criticized the questions that are asked here in the briefing room. I think you all come and you have the right to ask whatever you want. I've always said there are no bad questions, there are just bad answers. So I'll stop at that one. I think that's good enough.

QUESTION: Any answer to my pending questions why your November Background Note on FYROM -- I asked you yesterday -- the authors wrote, "Alexander III ("the Great")? Is there any explanation for that because --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have offered to get you an answer on that one, I'm afraid. That was sort of a level of grammar that I wasn't going to research any further.

QUESTION: Last night you released the following: "The U.S. supports Macedonia's current borders," which means -- and it will speak today. What about in the future borders after a month or a year or three years?

MR. BOUCHER: No, we support Macedonia as it is now within its current borders and we don't -- we're not pressing or encouraging or asking for any change in those borders.

QUESTION: As of today?

MR. BOUCHER: No, for now that is our policy, that our policy for now and in the future is to support Macedonia with its current borders, not to seek any change or forecast any change in those borders.

QUESTION: But taking the example of what happened to Kosovo, you were saying exactly the same when the Albanians moving day by day after the point that they’re ready in May 2005 to create an independent Kosovo. So that's why I'm asking you, this policy will be forever or just as we are speaking as of today?

MR. BOUCHER: This is our policy.


MR. BOUCHER: This is our policy, period. Policies aren't dated. That's our policy and that's the way we see the situation with Macedonia, for now and for the future.

QUESTION: In the state --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's --

QUESTION: In the same statement you are saying yesterday, "The person of the Country Background Note referred to today's briefings is the history section which describes the situation in Macedonia thousands of years ago," but you have not clarified the Greek or Hellenic character of that area. And I'm wondering why. Could you please, for the record, in order to correct the history, clarify that Alexander the Great was Greek from Macedonian territory and that Macedonians would speak in Greek because they were Greek nationals and they speak the Greek language? And the authors did not mention anything to this effect, the Greekness of the ancient Macedonia, since the entire history, Mr. Boucher, including Macedonia, were written in stones in Greek language and the stones are remained in (inaudible). I would like you to comment.


QUESTION: And why not?

MR. BOUCHER: I -- really, I don't want to make light of this, but I don't think we're here to talk about the situation as it existed thousands of years ago. If you want to know current policy, I think we explained current policy.

QUESTION: Why then you released this document, two pages, did you write those stuff?

MR. BOUCHER: In two pages, you can't explain the entire history of a region or an ethnic group or a nationality or a language. I'm going to stand with what we've written, stand with what I said, but I don't think it requires further explanation from me.

QUESTION: But you don't have any --


QUESTION: -- prior policy --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it requires further explanation from here.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. BOUCHER: Our current policy on those questions, you and I have discussed many times here. I think it's been adequately explained.

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