US Department of State Daily Briefing #8: Monday, 1/14/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 1:06 pm; Washington, DC Date: Jan 14, 19911/14/91 Category: Briefings Region: Eurasia, E/C Europe, MidEast/North Africa, East Asia Country: USSR (former), Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Japan, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria Subject: Travel, Democratization, Military Affairs, CSCE, Trade/Economics (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements today, so I'll be glad to take your questions. Q Apparently Assistant Secretary Seitz met with representatives of the Baltics. Can you tell us anything about that?

[The Baltics: Update]

A Yes. Let me give you a rundown on some of our meetings concerning the Baltic situation. Jack Matlock, first of all, our Ambassador at Moscow, met with the Soviet Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Kovalev, yesterday. In addition, our Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, Mr. Ray Seitz, this morning met with the Charges of three Baltic legations in Washington. This afternoon, Mr. Seitz will meet with Mr. Lippma, the senior Baltic official who is in the United States at this time. He is a Minister without Portfolio in the Estonian government. Over the past few days we have had numerous other contacts with Baltic officials. Tomorrow the CSCE, Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, will meet in Valletta, Malta, to discuss the peaceful settlement of disputes. This meeting will be attended by all 34 participating states of the CSCE to develop means that CSCE states can use to resolve problems peacefully. Given this mandate, we also expect the situation in the Baltics should be discussed at that meeting. Q Is the United States taking a lead in this, by any chance, or presenting some sort of special proposal? A We do have proposals for the meeting; proposals, of course, that were developed on the general framework of how the CSCE can deal with peaceful settlements of disputes. At this point, we expect that the Baltic situation would be a subject of discussion by the delegations there since others as well as ourselves are concerned with the situation of the Baltics. Q Given the U.S. position on diplomatic recognition for the Baltic republics, have you given any new thought to establishing separate diplomatic relations with them? A Our policy of non-recognition is well known and has been expressed many times both publicly and to the Soviets and the others involved. We do have contacts -- frequent contacts with the Baltic leaders -- meetings such as the ones with the Baltic representatives in Washington. We have an officer from our consulate in Leningrad who is travellng to Lithuania today. And we have for the past two days had officers from the consulate in Leningrad in both Latvia and Estonia, and we're obviously in communication with them about the developing situation. Q We understand from the White House that the summit next month is up in the air. Could you tell us what other options are under consideration? A No. Q I have two questions on the meetings. Mr. Lozoraitis said after the Seitz meeting that the question of American sanctions were discussed in fairly concrete terms. Can you give us your readout of that? A No, I don't have a readout of that. On the question of options, sanctions, and things like that, I don't have any specifics that I'm prepared to go into at this time. No decision has been made yet on how the events in the Baltics will affect our relations with the Soviets. We are reviewing the situation and obviously following the development of events very closely. But I would repeat again what the President said yesterday: "Events like those taking place in the Baltic states threaten to set back or perhaps even reverse the process of reform which is so important in the world in the development of a new international order, and we condemn these acts which could not but affect our relationship." Q Are sanctions under consideration? Q My second question, if I may, still. Ambassador Matlock is said to have met with Gorbachev along with some other Western Ambassadors in Moscow today. Can you tell us anything about that? A I don't think it was a meeting with Gorbachev. I think it was a meeting at the Foreign Ministry with Mr. Kovalev that I reported on. Q Yesterday, you said. But this morning, I believe there was one with Gorbachev. You don't have anything? A I hadn't heard about that. I'll check to make sure. Q On that score, was the Ambassador given some explanation by the Soviets? A I think Marlin explained it to some extent. I really have to leave it to the Soviets to express their position. They explained the events, to some extent, and said that they were still committed to peaceful change which, of course, is what we have long supported. Matlock took the occasion to condemn the action and to pass on the sentiments in the Secretary's and the President's statements that you saw over the weekend. Q Do you have anything on violence now having been reported in Latvia? A The latest I have on the situation in Latvia and Estonia is that the level of violence, or the situation has not exactly gotten to the point that exists in Lithuania although there have been disturbing developments in both Latvia and Estonia. We obviously hope that Moscow and the authorities subordinate to Moscow will refrain from taking any course of action in either place. Q Richard, does the United States hold Gorbachev responsible for this violence? A As the President said yesterday, "There's no justification for the use of force against peaceful and democratically-elected governments." The President asked Soviet leaders to refrain from further acts that might lead to more violence and loss of life. There have been various reports and quotations from different Soviet leaders indicating that the Kremlin did not order the use of force in Lithuania. But I think it's fair to say that the world is waiting to get a full explanation from the Soviet government as to the events, the tragic events, that occurred over the weekend. Q If Gorbachev is not responsible, who is? Is the military in control? A Well, as I said, the President asked the Soviet leaders. And I just said the Soviet leaders and the authorities subordinate to them should refrain from further violence, and I think that's our position. Q Richard, on CSCE, at what level is it going to be held tomorrow in Malta? A We haven't put up the announcement yet of our head of delegation, but this is one of the so-called CSCE experts meetings that occur between the higher level meetings of Foreign Ministers or full conferences. Q Who will be representing the United States? A We'll have a -- as with the past experts meetings that have been held in London and Bulgaria and Paris, and things like that -- we'll have a head of delegation named to head the U.S. delegation, particularly for this conference. Q Richard, two questions. One, are sanctions against the Soviet Union under consideration at this point? And, secondly, what is the assessment in this building on whether the crackdown was ordered from the Kremlin or decided upon on the ground? A Well, Mark, on the second question, I think we have to leave it to the Soviets to explain that. I don't have any analysis to provide for you. We've seen the statements that they've made. As I've said, we've called upon the Soviet leadership and any authorities subordinate to them to refrain from taking any further actions. And on the question of sanctions or options, I really will leave it with what I just said. Q Richard, have you heard any expression of regret about the deaths in Lithuania from President Gorbachev or from the Soviet Foreign Ministry? A I didn't see the full extent of the comments that he made this morning, but I'm not aware of anything. Q Is it your understanding that President Gorbachev has ample powers under the Presidency to remove any officials that he finds acted improperly? Q That's the usual definition of the President of country. I think you'll have to ask the Soviets if that requires further explanation about their system. Q Richard, there have been some questions raised as to whether Gorbachev is fully in control, this being an example of how he may not have full power in office. What is the assessment of the State Department? Is he still fully in control? A Again, I was just asked that question. I think I'd just have to leave it to the Soviets to explain how their government is operating. They've made some statements about who ordered this and who didn't order this. Gorbachev is President of the country. We have called upon Soviet authorities -- Soviet leadership, and Soviet authorities to refrain from further violence and to seek a peaceful path. Everyone who leads the country would be responsible, in our mind, to try to do that. Q Where does this leave -- the sanctions question aside -- where does this leave the commodity credit extension, the aid extension? Where does that stand now? A Again, I think I said that no decisions have been taken regarding options or decisions on how the events in the Baltics might affect the U.S.-Soviet relationship in regard to those specific items. But the President made clear yesterday that the events in the Baltics, obviously, would have an important impact on U.S.-Soviet relations. Q Is that under review, though? Is the question of stopping the commodity credit aid under review? A I just don't want to focus on any specifics at this point. Q Richard, why hasn't the U.S. decided whether or not to take punitive action against the Soviets? A I really can't answer a question like that. The answer is that we have no decisions to announce at this point. I'm not trying to hint at anything that's imminent. We are following the situation very closely. We have made our views very clearly known both in public statements such as those by the President and by the Secretary over the weekend. Some of these tragic events occurred just yesterday. We're following the situation closely. We have in mind the U.S.-Soviet relationship as well, but I don't have any specific decisions to relay to you now. Q Is the Gulf crisis tying the U.S. hands? A The President was asked that yesterday and he said "no." Q Richard, when you say that you wait for the Soviets to explain the events, if they were ordered by the Central Government or ordered by the local authorities. You don't say that you are taking it as 100 percent credible? A I, at this point, have no way of knowing exactly how the orders were issued and what happened. I think that's clearly a matter that the Soviets can explain much better than I can. Q You mean the United States doesn't have information enough to judge the situation? A Again, I've been asked for our analysis of the exact situation. I've declined to provide one at this point. Q Richard, the Soviet President has said publicly that he did not order the crackdown in Lithuania, or at least the firing in Lithuania. Have you received similar assurances through the diplomatic channels via Matlock? Did Matlock receive that same story, and have you directly asked if this was a Gorbachev order? A I'm not aware that we've received similar assurances. I would have to check on that and see if they told us that privately as well, but you have the man himself saying it in public. You can analyze it. Q Richard, Boris Yeltsin has been reported to have said that he's requesting, or would suggest that the U.N. delay the deadline in the Gulf in order to take the pressure off in the Baltics. Would you accept any such proposal, or do you agree with the logic of that kind of a proposal? A I hadn't seen that kind of proposal. But I think if nothing else the Secretary has made abundantly clear over the past several days in things that he's been saying, that the deadline is real. Q Do you see any linkage between the Baltic situation and the Gulf crisis? A I'll leave it to how the President answered the question yesterday. No. Q Can we go to the Gulf here and give us -- Q No. One more question, please, sir. Eduard Shevardnadze in an interview with Christian Science Monitor recently said any kind of an order -- any kind of measures by the Soviet authorities would be to regain order in the Baltics. Would you accept -- does the State Department accept that explanation? A I'm sorry. I didn't understand what your -- Q Shevardnadze in a recent interview with the Christian Science Monitor said any kind of measures that will be taken by the Soviet authorities on the Baltics will be for the purpose of regaining order. Would the State Department accept that explanation? A I hadn't seen that explanation given in recent days. I think our views of those events over recent days are very clearly stated by the President and the Secretary. Pat? Q Yes. What's your latest assessment of the prospects for a peaceful resolution over there? A The same one the Secretary gave this morning in Ottawa, and I don't have the words here to quote, but I can assure you that I have nothing different. Q What about Yemen? Do you know anything more now about this report of a Yemen peace initiative? A Again, I'll just leave it where the Secretary left it this morning. Q He didn't know anything about it. A Well, I have nothing to add. Q They have said that they have the backing of the United States. Has anybody even seen the initiative? Do they know what it contains? A Again, I don't want to go farther than what the Secretary said. Q Anybody from the Yemeni Embassy been here to explain? Do you know the details of the initiative? A Not that I'm aware of. Q Are you not aware that you know the details or -- A I'm not aware that anybody from the Yemeni Embassy has been here. I'll check, if you want me to be more precise on that. Q I know. I mean, do you at least know the details of what they're proposing? A Some of them have been reported in the press, and I think we have some idea of what they had in mind. But as far as our specific view of this, I'd have to leave it to what the Secretary said and just remind you that he's repeatedly said that diplomatic initiatives that seek full and complete implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions have our support. Q Could you find out whether or not people in this building are aware of the Yemeni initiative -- if they are, when it came through to them. Just something to back up whether or not -- the Yemenis say that you guys know about it. If you don't know about it in the building, then say so. But they're saying that you do. A I'll check and see if we have anything further to say, Jan. Q Richard, have you heard that this initiative -- the Yemeni one contains linkage in it for an international conference? A Again, she's asking me if I know the details, and I can't say at this point. Q Richard, is there any diplomatic activity, either underway or contemplated in the next 36 hours on the part of the United States to try to resolve this crisis? A The diplomatic activity that we've been engaging in is continuing, and that's diplomatic activity with our coalition partners. The Secretary has had a whole series of meetings with coalition partners over the last week or so. He'll be meeting and the President will be meeting with the Japanese Foreign Minister this afternoon, and, obviously, we'll be in very close touch with our coalition partners. Q Will there be any effort to contact anyone outside of the coalition -- those who support the U.S. position now? A I don't know precisely what you're asking. If you're asking, do we have new proposals for meetings with the Iraqis, the answer is no. Q Richard, can you tell us anything at all about Mr. Eagleburger's trip to Israel, and specifically can you tell us whether he -- if the reports are true that he asked the Israelis not to take action on their own in response to an Iraqi attack? A On Mr. Eagleburger's trip, I don't have anything to add to the comments that General Scowcroft made over the weekend on television. Mr. Eagleburger is not back yet, and, of course, the first thing he'll want to do is report to the Secretary. Q Is the U.S. asking non-essential personnel in Embassies in the Mideast region to leave for fear of any terrorist attacks? A We ran down, I think on Friday, the status of various travel advisories and travel warnings that we have issued, most of which are based on what we've done with our own personnel. In some cases it's authorizing departure of dependents. In some cases it's authorizing departure of dependents and non-essential personnel. In other cases it's ordering departure. Over the weekend, we did one on Syria. We revised the one on North Africa to note that we were moving to order departure from Morocco for the reasons stated. We did one on Mauritania, northern Nigeria and Somalia, and those are all available in the Press Office. That's what's new since Friday. Q On Morocco -- the reason given on Morocco was due to the size and complexity of the mission but not because of fears of anti-American protests. What do you mean by "due to the size and complexity of the mission"? A We issued a North African advisory related to the unsettled conditions and Iraq's failure to comply with U.N. resolutions. That applied to Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. We have many, many more people and several posts in Morocco. And reviewing the situation at the end of last week, even after we issued our first advisory, we decided that in order to move people out in a timely manner, we should move to order departure. That was the difference. Q Morocco's a very popular place for Americans. What sort of numbers do you have of Americans in Morocco? A I'll have to try to get those for you. Q Do you have any -- Q There's a report in The Washington Post about a planned assassination in Bulgaria of your U.S. Ambassador there, Kenneth Hill. Do you have any comment on that? Is that essentially correct? Is there any security cooperation going on between American and Bulgarian forces? A I'm afraid that on Bulgaria there's not much that I have to say. We felt that it was not a good idea to get in the habit of providing a detailed readout in relation to reports that may or may not be true of threats specifically against U.S. officials. So I'm afraid I don't have anything on that. Q Richard, about the advisory on North Africa -- A Did you want to ask something else, Sonya? Q Well, is the report essentially correct? A I'm not going to -- Q Was your Ambassador recalled, and is he now back in Bulgaria? A The Ambassador traveled to Paris for a while over the Christmas holidays, and about ten days ago he returned to Sofia. Q Have any other Ambassadors in East European countries gone away? A I think that's exactly the reason we don't feel it's appropriate for us to be specifying some of the threats that we have against individual American personnel where they don't affect the general public. So I'm going to have to decline on that one. Q Richard, Libya, which is a North African country, is not mentioned in the advisory. Is that only because it is already covered by previous advisories? A Yes. We have an existing and longstanding travel advisory as well as various Treasury Department and other regulations about travel to Libya. Q Richard, do you have any update today on your terrorism alert, so to speak, from Friday? A No. I don't have any further update. The information is still valid -- remains in effect. Q I just wondered if you had anything to add to it. A No, I don't. Q Have you had any reaction to the Iraqi Parliament action endorsing Saddam Hussein's decisions and basically offering to go to war? A No, I don't. Q Could we go back up north for a second? You mentioned an official from the Consulate in Leningrad was going to Lithuania today? A That's right. Q To? A To talk to people, to meet with people, and to keep us abreast of developments there. Q I mean, did he have specific meetings with the leadership? In other words, was he carrying a message to Landsbergis? Was there anything -- A I'm not aware of anything specific like that this time. I think we did have somebody there last week, if I can check my information. Yes. We had some officers from Leningrad and Lithuania on the 10th and the 11th, and they met with President Landsbergis on the 11th. Q But nothing today? A Nothing specific about today's trip, other than that they want to keep in touch with people and keep us abreast of developments. Q Now for something completely different. Angola. You are concerned about the food deliveries that have been stopped. A That's right. Q Can you be a little bit more explicit than -- it was a full statement -- A That's correct. Q But could you put something on the record? A Our statements are on the record, Jan. Q I mean -- A I'm sorry. I don't have anything more. Q You don't have anything more? A No. Q Richard, it was reported that Saddam Hussein said that any initiative now should come from the U.S. Do you have any comment on that? A I am not going to respond to every single statement that's made by Saddam Hussein. Our view is very, very clear that the decision for peace lies in Saddam Hussein's hands. The United Nations has made clear what the route is that has to be taken in order to achieve peace, and our hope is that he will choose that route. Q Away from the Gulf again -- on Assistant Secretary Cohen's meetings with the Chadian officials -- it's going on now, so you can't give me a readout on it, but would you describe it as ongoing meetings to get familiar with the new Administration, and are there other items on the agenda? A I don't specifically have anything on that meeting. We have had meetings with the Government in Chad. We have an official here now who we're meeting with. I'll see if there's any kind of readout we can provide. Q Richard, you said before that you had seen reports in the press concerning this purported Yemeni peace initiative. Do you have any information on it that didn't come from the press? A I was asked to look into it further. I'll see if there's more I can say. Q Foreign Minister Raoul Manglapus of the Philippines this morning said there was a tentative agreement that the United States would give up Clark Air Base in September. Do you have anything on that? A I don't. That was something that we felt that our negotiators could address adequately. I'll see if there's anything we can give to you. Q Richard, do you have any considerations or reconsiderations of the Syrian position within the coalition now? A I don't have anything new to say about Syria at this point. Q Do you have anything on the visit by the Japanese Foreign Minister today? A I'm not exactly sure. What is it you want? Obviously, Japan is a close ally, one with whom we have many interests. There will be a meeting with the President and a meeting with the Secretary, and then a signing ceremony for the "host-nation support" agreement that I think we can provide you some more information on. But that's been discussed previously by the Defense Department as well. Q Richard, what is the status of financial commitments by our alliance partners for ongoing operations in the Gulf? I guess it ran out January 1 -- the previous commitments. A I think you're familiar with the previous commitments, and familiar with the fact that we have said and the Secretary has said that he has been discussing and will be discussing with our allies the continuing support as the situation in the Gulf goes on. Beyond that, in a general statement, the people have been very responsive, and we've had a lot of support from our allies and expect that to continue. I don't really have any specifics for you at this moment. Q Did he do any of that on his -- the trip that he's just completing? A I'll leave it to the way he talked about it during the trip. I can get you that. Q Richard, does the Administration believe that the Japanese and the Germans have shouldered their fair share of the burden? A The short answer is yes. Q Has there been any change detected in Iraq's military readiness in Kuwait? A That's a Defense Department question. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:31 p.m.)