US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #80: Tuesday, 5/14/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:15 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 14, 19915/14/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Subsaharan Africa, Eurasia Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, South Africa, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, USSR (former) Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, Immigration, Security Assistance and Sales, Democratization (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I thought I'd start off by doing a refugee crisis update again for you. We are putting out the Situation Report that will have a lot of the details of the aid effort for the Iraqi refugees. What I'd like to do here is to give you some idea of the overall situation and, using relevant facts of course, give you some idea of the process involved. Q You're putting out what? MR. BOUCHER: The now twice weekly Situation Report that the OFDA does on the Iraqi refugee situation we put out. Q That will be a physical document? MR. BOUCHER: That is a physical document. Q That will be over there? MR. BOUCHER: That will be over there, as it is every Tuesday and Thursday when it's put out, and on Bangladesh, Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Okay? Q In this fiscal year? (Laughter)

[Iraq: Refugee Update]

MR. BOUCHER: The events in Turkey continue to move at an extraordinary pace. Seven weeks from the start of the massive influx from Iraq, repatriation has become the major feature of the emergency. Coalition and relief officials report that the total refugee population inside Turkey or along the border is now about 204,000 and that over 26,700 refugees are in the two temporary tent villages at Zakhu. The latest estimate is that about 25,000 refugees left the mountain camps yesterday. There are about 18,500 displaced Iraqis now residing at the camp known as Zakhu I and about 8,280 have moved into 1,075 tents at Zakhu II. Combined Task Force personnel report that 48 contracted buses and 40 trucks are now moving refugees who indicate they wish to return home and who require assistance from the border camps to Batufa, Zakhu and al-Amadiyah. Most of the refugees returning to northern Iraq from the Turkish border camps are returning to their homes located within the coalition-established security zone. Those whose homes are outside of the security zone are moving to temporary tent villages at Zakhu or stopping at coalition-manned way stations. The U.N. Coordinator and agency representatives who recently toured the provincial capitals from Basra in the south to Dohuk and Zakhu in the north noted that refugees and displaced persons from the mountains bordering on Iran were arriving in Irbil and Sulaymanyiah, towns outside the coalition-patroled security zone, at a rate of about 10,000 people a day. Yesterday in Zakhu, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the executive delegate of the U.N. Secretary General, participated in a turnover ceremony, accepting responsibility for the Zakhu I camp and raising the United Nations flag over the camp. The actual transition process to U.N. management will take about two weeks. In a related action, U.N. special envoy Steffan De Mistura led a convoy of food supplies into Dohuk. The U.N. is establishing a presence at Dohuk. The U.N. Humanitarian Action Plan for Iraq is dedicated to alleviating the plight of refugees and displaced persons by establishing a U.N. presence in the proximity of refugee concentrations and in so doing to encourage people to go to their homes. To date, there are some 60 international U.N. staff in Iraq that have direct responsibility with the humanitarian program and about 50 professional and support personnel. In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is running assistance programs complementary to U.N. programs, now has more than 100 staff working inside Iraq. Five U.N. sub-offices are being established in the provincial capitals of Basra, Mosul, Dohuk, Irbil and Sulaymanyiah, and each of these sub-offices in turn is to serve as five or six humanitarian centers and relief stations. Organizational responsibility for setting up the various sub-offices and reception centers is being divided between the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and UNICEF. Other participating agencies will use these centers as a base for operations. And that's the overview. And with that, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you know what percentage of the Iraqis remain in the border area compared to the time when the numbers were at the peak? MR. BOUCHER: The numbers at the peak were about 450,000. Q You said the current figure comparable -- MR. BOUCHER: About 204,000. Q So more than half have left by that calculation. MR. BOUCHER: That's what the numbers would indicate. Q On that number, I thought there were 450,000 in Turkey and 400,000 near the border; and the figures that you've been using are in or near the border, right? So it was down from 850,000. MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I'd have to double-check. The way I remember it is the way I just said, but let me double-check on the numbers. Q Richard, your reports -- you start off saying that repatriation is now the major feature and the leitmotif, so to speak, of your sitrep seems to be that the U.N. is taking over civilian agencies, the transition is going smoothly, and people are moving through. This seems to jar somewhat in terms of the reports coming out of the scene of people saying they're refusing to go back as long there's nothing there but a U.N. civilian presence and Iraqi military forces or some security forces remain in or near the thing. How do you square the two? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't think there's any contradiction. I think I described where people are moving. There are some 200,000 people -- 204,000 people -- that are near the border. They're at camps there that are taking care of people. People who wish to return are being helped with trucks and buses that have been contracted to return into areas. Most of them are going back -- those with homes inside the coalition areas are going back to their homes. There are other people whose homes are outside of the coalition areas who for the moment are stopping at way stations or who are staying at the Zakhu camp. There are also people heading in from Iran that are going back to their homes, and there are also United Nations establishments now throughout Iraq, in particular in some of the cities of major concern, that are there to take care of people who do decide to go onward to their homes.
Reports of Preliminary Agreement on Guards
Q Well, does the United States still feel that a U.N. police force presence is necessary in the area, or is simply a sizable U.N. civilian presence sufficient as a reassurance to people? MR. BOUCHER: We feel that the refugees should be provided with assistance where they need it and in safety. My understanding is that there may be some preliminary agreement on some type of guard arrangements, to be associated with the U.N. humanitarian effort. We don't have the details, but we understand that discussions will continue this week between the U.N. and Iraqi authorities. We expect the Iraqi Government to cooperate fully with the United Nations so that the United Nations can fulfill its mandate to address urgently the critical needs of the refugees and displaced Iraqi population, as stated in Security Council Resolution 688. As Security Council resolutions have made clear, the international community will be watching Iraq's practices and policies, and we will judge Iraq accordingly. Q What do you mean by "guard arrangement"? MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's the kind of detail I don't have. They have apparently worked out some sort of arrangements that would provide for the safety of the relief effort. How extensive and exactly how those relationships will be defined await further detail from the United Nations. Q When you say "they have worked it out," who is this? MR. BOUCHER: The U.N. representatives and the Iraqi authorities in Baghdad. Q On the scene? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. In Baghdad. Q Does this represent a reversal of the Iraqi position on the U.N. peacekeeping force? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have enough details to describe some reversals. I would say this is a step in the right direction. Q Is this a reversal or a retreat from the position that we took, I think on Friday, when we called upon Iraq to reverse its rejection of the U.N. police force? MR. BOUCHER: It's not a change in our position. Our position has been that Iraq should cooperate fully and should reconsider its rejection of a police force. But exactly what these arrangements are, at this point I don't know. Q But do you consider that it has? MR. BOUCHER: I can't tell you that, Bill. I don't have enough detail on what they have agreed to, and in any case it's up to them to say whether they've reversed their position or not. Q Are you now planning to withdraw the American security troops? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I don't have any specific plans for withdrawal other than the fact that we've frequently stated that our presence is temporary; that we're looking for the United Nations to take over these operations; that we believe, as the U.N. resolution states, that the Iraqi authorities should cooperate fully with the United Nations and work out arrangements with them, as appropriate, to deliver the supplies to needy people and in safety. Q What's your understanding now about the necessity of some sort of Security Council resolution? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any change from the way the Secretary addressed it last Friday. Q So you don't know whether a guard arrangement would require further action? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, but I just don't have any details of what this arrangement is. We'll expect to get those from the United Nations. Q Some U.N. people in Geneva were saying yesterday that -- they called it a "reversal" of Iraq's policy, at least in some accounts. MR. BOUCHER: Good for them. I don't have enough details to say that, Jim. Q Have you been in touch with the U.N. delegation meeting with Iraq recently? MR. BOUCHER: We are in close touch with the United Nations, but at this point we just don't have enough detail. Q Richard, you said that the transition process at the Zakhu camp, I think, would take two weeks. At the end of that time, then, there would be -- what? -- no more American personnel administering the camp or in the area, or what? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding, Chris, is that would mean that the camp would be under U.N. administration, that U.N. personnel or people working with them would be operating the camp basically. Q But the security zone would still exist? MR. BOUCHER: It wouldn't necessarily change the security arrangements in the area, if that's what you're asking. Q Even in the immediate area of the camp? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can define that in that detail for you. Q When do you think this will come to fruition? Any idea? You said "the preliminary agreement." MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see what the U.N. has to tell us. As I said, I understand there are still discussions going on between the United Nations and the Iraqi authorities, so it may be a few days. Q But, basically, this transition will not be any transition as to who is providing security for these people? That will remain the same? The U.N. will not be providing security? The U.S. will or the multinational force? MR. BOUCHER: Chris, this U.N. takeover of the Zakhu camp is part of a process that we have described repeatedly. The total process is one where we have gone in to set up operations because we had the wherewithal, the ability, and the willingness to do so, along with some of our coalition partners. We have set up these relief operations. The operations, once set up, will be turned over to the United Nations. And as the United Nations takes over the operation, the United States will be in a position to withdraw. Q Since there are a lot of discussions in recent days for a creation of an autonomous Kurdish state in northern Iraq, with even the support of the Turkish Government, for the protection of four million Iraqi Kurds, is it true that there are similar discussions for the creation of a Kurdish autonomous state in the southeast of Turkey where there are 12 to 15 million Kurds, consisting of 82 percent of the residents of the area and 25 percent of the entire Turkish population? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite understand your question. What do we think about a Turkish autonomous state? Is that the idea? The United States has always said that we support the territorial integrity of Iraq. We don't support its dismemberment. I think you'll find that has been the position of the Turkish Government as well. Q Can you amplify at all about this idea for a Middle East arms control regime that President Bush mentioned this morning at the White House? MR. BOUCHER: Not beyond what the President said this morning. Of course, you know that the issue of arms supplies and arms control has been discussed by the Secretary in the various hearings that he's had and discussions that he's had on post-war security and the situation in the Middle East. But as far as what the President might have in mind, he said this morning that we're looking at a lot of possibilities and that he wasn't going to go into any details. I'm not either. Q Is it at any point where the United States is discussing it with anybody else, including the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: As the President said this morning, we are consulting with allies; and I'll stop at what the President said. Q Does that include the Soviet Union? MR. BOUCHER: I said we are consulting with allies. That's what the President said. Q Which allies? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything to amplify in any way on this, Jim. I'm sorry. Q Is this idea being developed here in the Department? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid, Bill, I just don't have anything to amplify in any way on what the President said this morning. He appears to have said as much as he wanted to on the subject. Q Do you have any details on General Moiseyev's visit? MR. BOUCHER: I believe the Soviets have announced as well that he will be here on the 20th and the 21st. He will be meeting with Under Secretary Bartholomew and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Powell, among others. We're still working on the details of the schedule. Q In advance of these negotiations, have the Soviets put forward any new proposals on naval infantry? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything particular, Carol. I'm not sure if it came up -- I think the Secretary said it came up in his talks with Bessmertnykh, so I really don't think I can give you a precise answer at this stage. I'd rather leave it for the talks themselves next week. Q Has there been any change in U.S. diplomatic representation in Iraq, or is there going to be any change in our Baghdad representation? MR. BOUCHER: The question of a protecting power for the United States in Baghdad is one that is under discussion. I don't have anything to announce for you now. Q On Greece. Recently the Turkish President, Turgut Ozal, in the recent days systematically threatened the territorial integrity of Greece in such a manner that it even provoked a reaction from the Turkish political leadership. Since Turkey is a strong ally to the U.S. -- a NATO member -- and they are the recipient of American military and economic aid, which has been used illegally by Turkey for the invasion of Cyprus, still under occupation, I'm wondering if you have any comment on the new Turkish aggression against Greece at this time? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Why? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not familiar with the statements that you're citing; and I think if you want any amplification of them, you should have them from the Turkish Government and not from us. Q Excuse me? MR. BOUCHER: If you want any amplification of statements made by the Turkish Government, you should get them from the Turkish Government and not from us. Q (Inaudible) military and economic aid which was provided by the U.S. to Turkey in (inaudible) recent invasion of Cyprus. MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have any comment for you at this time. I'm sorry. Q Can you take it, at least? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's anybody that wants to make a particular comment. Q Richard, any comment on a report in the Washington Times today quoting Administration officials that the Israelis are planning an offensive in south Lebanon? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. I'm afraid that kind of article, purportedly based on intelligence information, is the kind of thing that we just don't comment on.

[Lebanon: Reports of Impending Israeli Offensive]

Q Are you in touch with the Lebanese Government or the Israeli Government, because there are reports from the region also about tension? MR. BOUCHER: We have maintained close contact with governments in the area. We've spoken before about the cycle of violence that continues and that we think should come to an end. We've also spoken before, as the Secretary did again yesterday after he met with the Lebanese Foreign Minister, about our support for the Taif Accords and the extension of the legitimate authority of the Lebanese Government. Q I was told by reliable sources that the Department of State has invited the Greek Muslim Congressman, Dr. Sadik, to visit Washington for a kind of consultation with the American Government about the less-than-50,000 Turkish-speaking Greek citizens, a part of the Muslim minority of Greece. I would like to know who initiated the process, when he's going to arrive, how long he's going to stay, and what type of consultation is going to take place? MR. BOUCHER: Some of those details on travel by a member of the Greek Parliament you should get from the Greek Government. As far as if he's having any meetings with us, I'll try to check. Q Can you address land seizures in Israel, or is that something you've got to defer to the region? MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd rather not, with the Secretary arriving in Israel now. I'll leave that question for him to address. Q In that case, let me skip to another part of the world in which the Secretary is not visiting, and that is South Africa. Are there any concerns that the Winnie Mandela situation -- let's put it that way -- could impinge on the reform process in South Africa, and what's the U.S. got to say about it? MR. BOUCHER: We believe South Africa's leaders recognize the imperative to remain engaged in the negotiating process to bring about non-racial democracy in South Africa. That's our comment. Q You have no comment on the Winnie Mandela process? MR. BOUCHER: No. I know the sentence was handed down this morning. We understand she's out on bail. She has leave to appeal. The judicial process is not complete, and it's not appropriate for me to comment.

[USSR: Emigration Bill]

Q One other thing. Apparently the emigration bill is running into trouble yet again in the Soviet Union. I was wondering, since this was such an important agenda item at one point for the United States, how you view the protracted history? MR. BOUCHER: It is still important to us. Our understanding is the draft law was referred to a conciliation committee after it failed to receive a majority of those eligible to vote in the Council of Nationalities. We don't know when the committee will finish its deliberations or when the measure might again be voted on in the Supreme Soviet. We continue to urge the Soviets to enact this law and its accompanying implementing resolution. We hope that the Supreme Soviet will do so in the very near future. Q And in the meantime no MFN until there is codification? MR. BOUCHER: The President has addressed that in the past. I don't think anything has changed. Q On the same subject, do you buy this argument that the cost of putting these new emigration things into effect would be something like $20 billion, or would be really large? MR. BOUCHER: I have absolutely no way of evaluating that, Chris. I think we have always believed and always stated that emigration is a right that needs to be respected in law. Q Richard, I know you don't comment on intelligence reports, but are you in a position to deny this report, the veracity of what's in that report? MR. BOUCHER: I'm neither in a position to confirm nor deny the report. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:25 p.m.)