US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #79: Friday, 5/10/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:57 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 10, 19915/10/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, East Asia Country: Iraq, Kuwait, USSR (former), Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Mexico Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, Democratization, State Department, Military Affairs (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry I'm late. I'll try to make it worth your while for waiting. I have a couple brief announcements and one statement on the U.N. and police forces in Iraq. First the two brief announcements:

[Announcement: No Press Briefing on May 13]

The first one is, because the Secretary has two press availabilities in Cairo on Monday, we will not have a Daily Press Briefing here. He is going to speak to the press after he meets with Bessmertnykh and then again after he meets with Abdel Meguid. So we'll leave the news to the Secretary on Monday.

[Announcement: Commencement Address]

Second: The Secretary of State will deliver the commencement address at South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas, on Saturday, May 18, at 3:00 p.m. An honorary Doctor of Laws Degree will be conferred on the Secretary during the same ceremony. For information about this event, you can call Kay Bruce; the phone number is (7l3) 622-5025.

[Iraq: UN Civilian Police]

On the question of the U.N. civilian police: We are seriously concerned by Iraqi intransigence on security for displaced persons camps in northern Iraq, which the Secretary General described yesterday. We strongly support the Secretary General's efforts and those of his executive delegate, Sadruddin Aga Khan, to make the arrangements necessary to address the critical needs of the refugees and displaced persons so that these people can return safely to their homes. As we've previously said, the Secretary General has ample authority for his negotiations with Iraq pursuant to Resolution 688. We expect the Iraqi Government to cooperate. As the Security Council resolutions have made clear, the international community will be watching Iraq's policies and practices and will judge Iraq accordingly. This morning, Ambassador Pickering, in New York, explained to the Iraqi Permanent Representative, Mr. al-Ambari, the importance of Iraqi cooperation with the United Nations in this effort. With that statement, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Does that mean you don't accept the Iraqi rejection? MR. BOUCHER: That means we think that the Iraqis should reconsider their apparent rejection of the U.N. police force idea and that they should cooperate, as we have asked them, as the United Nations resolutions have asked them, and as the United Nations representatives themselves have asked them. They should cooperate with the United Nations in establishing the conditions that will allow these needy people to return to their homes. Q And if they don't? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, let's deal with that when it comes. I think John Bolton explained yesterday at the White House that the next steps in our view depend in part on fuller understanding of Goulding's conversations with the Iraqis. He pointed out that Sadruddin Aga Khan will be arriving in Baghdad over the weekend. He'll have further discussions with the Iraqis on Monday and Tuesday, so part of the outcome of that will determine next steps and also the outcome of the Kurds meetings with the Iraqis as well. Q Richard, did the Ambassador tell al-Ambari specifically that if Iraq didn't go along with a police force that would affect any decisions on sanctions? MR. BOUCHER: The Ambassador explained the importance of Iraq's cooperation with the United Nations and told them to reconsider. The language that I used about Iraq's policies and practices, of course, is the phrase that's used in the United Nations resolution about the review by the U.N. of the sanctions. Q Was there any response by the Iraqi Ambassador? MR. BOUCHER: I understand it was a brief meeting. I don't have any particular response from the Iraqis. Q Well, Richard, in practical terms the alternative to a United Nations police force, in one way or another, is an extended presence of the Americans in that area, is it not? MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't necessarily agree with that, Jim. I think the next steps and what happens next depend on a lot of these discussions that are going on and also on the needs of the refugees. Q Richard, just to follow this up a little bit more. Does Iraq's rejection of this police force perhaps make more important the positive outcome of talks between Saddam and the Kurds on autonomy? MR. BOUCHER: That's certainly one of the factors. A positive outcome would certainly be welcome, particularly if it provides the kind of reassurance that people need to go home. But I don't think I can weigh these three or four different factors that I've cited for you. Q Has the United States been talking with the Kurdish refugees who are involved in these negotiations and encouraging them in any way or advising them? MR. BOUCHER: We've had a series of meetings with various Iraqi opposition representatives, including representatives of Kurdish groups, as the meetings have gone on in Baghdad. And I think in our readouts of some of these meetings, we told you that we heard from them their understanding of what was going on in Baghdad. There also are meetings, obviously, of our military people and our relief people up in the various camps with leaders of the Kurdish groups that are in the camp populations there. Q What's your reading, then, of how these talks are going on? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have a good reading. I just know that they're reported to be continuing. We don't have that kind of on-the-ground information. We don't have anybody in Baghdad that's up to the minute on this stuff.

[Iraq: Withdrawal of Iraqi Troops]

Q Richard, about Dohuk, what do you know of signs of Iraqi elite troops being there? MR. BOUCHER: The situation around Dohuk remains about the same as before. Our military commander, of course, met with the Iraqi General Staff Officer yesterday in northern Iraq. They discussed the situation of the refugees and the return of the refugees to their homes. General Shalikashvili characterized the meeting as positive and open. He stated that further meetings would take place. We have not decided to extend our security area. Our forces are in the vicinity of the town of Dohuk, but they remain within the security area -- that is, approximately six kilometers from Dohuk. Iraqi forces have continued to withdraw from the area. At this point, there are probably few Iraqi soldiers in the city, and Iraqi troop strength in the area is estimated at approximately 300 to 400 soldiers. As for the stories that Iraqi special forces troops have been moved into the area, I am told that the Combined Task Force has no information at this time that would substantiate that report. Q Is that decision then final, not to extend the security zone, or is that something that's still going to be updated as things change? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say we have decided not to extend. I said we have not decided to extend. So it remains an issue. Q Is Dohuk now safe for Kurds to go back to, given this low-level of Iraqi presence? MR. BOUCHER: Pat, I can't declare something safe or unsafe. As you know, our efforts are devoted to creating the conditions which can encourage people to return to their homes. The refugees will return depending on when they feel comfortable returning. We are, of course, keeping the leaders of the camp populations informed of the situation so that they can understand what the situation is; and they'll decide when to return. Q Are there any signs that they are already feeling more comfortable and are starting to return? MR. BOUCHER: I think you're aware of the reports of a lot of people moving from the mountain areas and the camps down into the northern part of Iraq where the security area is. At this point, I really don't have much information about the numbers or conditions of people outside the Turkish border and the allied security zone. I'm told that some of the tens of thousands of people who are moving into the security zone may be bypassing our way stations and moving on, but I don't really have any confirmation or numbers for you. Q Another area? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Q Do you have any comment on the statements made by Mr. Bessmertnykh about the settlements in the Arab territories? MR. BOUCHER: For our part, we have often stated our firmly held view on Israeli settlements. This has been and will continue to be a subject of discussion with the Israeli Government; but with Secretary Baker so close to returning to the region and with the meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh on the schedule, I think I'm going to have to leave it at that. Q Let me just follow up on something. As you know, today Minister Bessmertnykh rejected Israeli efforts to tie a resumption of diplomatic relations with Moscow to Soviet participation in a Mideast peace conference. Is it still U.S. policy to insist that the Soviet Union first must recognize fully Israel before it can participate, co-sponsor, a peace conference? MR. BOUCHER: The issue of what they do I really have to leave to those governments. As you know, we have always encouraged full recognition of Israel by the Soviet Union. That has been our view, but I think I'm going to end with the same sentence as before: With Secretary Baker so close to returning to the region and with the meeting with Soviet Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh on the schedule, I think I'll leave it at that. Q So the policy is still the same. MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave it at that. Q Do you think the Soviet position is somehow influenced by the attitude of the United States now toward Israel being blamed for the obstruction of peace? MR. BOUCHER: If you want to know what influences the Soviet position, you'll have to ask the Soviets, not me. Q Do you have anything to say about the fact that this Soviet Foreign Minister has in fact visited Israel? Any thoughts about the significance of the visit? MR. BOUCHER: No, I really don't have anything particular to say. We've always encouraged contacts; we've encouraged full recognition; and I'll leave it at that. Q How about the Soviet attitude -- the Soviet position expressed by Mr. Bessmertnykh towards the PLO? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to comment on everything that Bessmertnykh has said. Q Do you have any optimism about improved relations between the Soviet Union and Israel? MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to characterize it at this point, Pat. The visit just concluded. I don't think I can characterize the visit very accurately for you from here.

[Kuwait: Trials of Alleged Collaborators]

Q Richard, do you have anything to say about the Kuwaitis beginning trials of collaborators tomorrow? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. The Kuwaitis have been saying for some time that they plan to put on trial individuals accused of a variety of crimes during the Iraqi occupation. We think this would be an appropriate way to deal with the large numbers of accusations of collaboration which have surfaced since Kuwait was liberated. We hope that there will be a just and expeditious handling of these cases. Q Richard, to follow up on that, there have been some concerns voiced about the way these are being prepared. Has the United States seen anything that would raise concerns here? And do you have anybody sort of assigned to monitor the trials, or have you had talks with the Kuwaitis about this specifically? MR. BOUCHER: We have consistently stressed to the Government of Kuwait the importance of respect for human rights and principles of due process in addressing the allegations of collaboration and abuses during the Iraqi occupation. Our Embassy in Kuwait will be monitoring the trials. We do understand that the trials will be open to the public and to international observers, but for more details on that, you'll have to contact the Kuwaiti Government. Q Richard, you say that you think this is the proper way to deal with it. Does that mean that the U.S. Government has abandoned the larger idea of an international war crimes tribunal? MR. BOUCHER: The characterization of these trials at this point is that they cover a variety of crimes. I can't really give you any more specific information on how these particular charges will be framed. I can't tell you whether specifically these charges will be framed as war crimes. But I think the bottom line is that, if war crimes occurred, there are various ways of trying people, and this is one. But I wouldn't exclude other possibilities. Q In other words, the idea of an international tribunal is still open? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I want to refer to specific ideas or ways of doing it because I really haven't gotten an update on that for a while. I just know that this doesn't close out other possibilities.

[USSR: Armenia-Azerbaijan Update]

Q Richard, do you have an update on those two reporters supposedly caught up in the fighting in Azerbaijan and unable to get out? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q And the Embassy was going to send somebody there to take a look at the situation. Has the person arrived? MR. BOUCHER: We expect to have an officer from our Embassy in Yerevan on Monday to meet with the Armenian President Ter-Petrosian and to report on developments there. Contrary to what I said yesterday, it's not two people traveling separately to different places; it's one person who will go to Yerevan, and then the officer is planning to travel to Baku to meet with Azerbaijani Republic officials as well. Q Do you have an update on the situation? MR. BOUCHER: No, I really don't. Q The same region: Do you have a response to China's response to Kimmitt? MR. BOUCHER: Wasn't that what we were dealing with yesterday? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have anything further. I think that was the situation we were in yesterday when I repeated to you what Mr. Kimmitt had so eloquently said. Q Do we have a response to our request to Mr. Kimmitt for us to talk to him and ask him ourselves? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, Mr. Kimmitt just got back in the building, and he is buried in papers, so I don't anticipate his being available shortly. Q Well, let's reiterate the request. MR. BOUCHER: Your request stands, Jan. Q It looks like the Fast Track is going to be approved now. What are you going to do about the enterprise issues which are languishing up on the Hill? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I don't really know the details of your question. Q Richard, if I may try again about the Soviet Foreign Minister. Do you consider his talk with the Israelis and his statements as enhancing to the efforts of Secretary Baker? MR. BOUCHER: I'm just not in a position at this point to try to characterize that. You're aware of the statements that the Secretary and Bessmertnykh both made in Kislovodsk about co-sponsorship of the conference, about their desire to work together to bring together a new kind of conference. We see Bessmertnykh's trip in the region in that context, but I'm not going to try to make a comment that deals specifically with his visit to Israel since it's just finished. Q I assume you don't have anything new on the Secretary's schedule while he's away or on the proposals that he's carrying. Is that correct? MR. BOUCHER: On the Secretary's schedule, no. At this point I don't have any change, and I believe what I'm going to say to you about his purposes will be somewhat familiar. He has made a number of comments about what is still needed in the region. He has said that there are still some questions that have to be resolved. And I'll leave further characterizations to the Secretary. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:15 p.m.)