US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #86: Friday, 5/24/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:18 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 24, 19915/24/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, South Asia, South America, Subsaharan Africa Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Angola, Cuba, Israel, South Africa, India, Burma, Ethiopia Subject: Development/Relief Aid, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Arms Control, Science/Technology (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I have one statement I'd like to make concerning Angola. The United States Government welcomes the joint Angolan-Cuban announcement that the last of the Cuban troops will depart Angola on May 25.

[Angola-Cuban Troop Accord]

In light of the recently negotiated Angolan peace accords, which are to be signed, as you know, next week, and Secretary Baker's presence in Portugal, we are pleased that the Cubans have decided to complete this final withdrawal from Angola five weeks ahead of schedule and prior to the entry into force of these accords. The departure of Cuban forces from Angola will complete implementation of the December 1988 New York Accords providing for Namibian independence and will mark the end of three decades of Cuban military intervention in Africa. This positive development will contribute to the end of international ideological tensions in Africa and help promote further conflict resolution in the region. The United States Government would hope to see similar Cuban actions designed to reduce tensions and improve prospects for the peaceful resolution to the conflict in El Salvador. Yes, Barry. Q If there are no questions on that, does the State Department have a view, speaking of -- Q There are. MS. TUTWILER: I'll come back to you, Barry. Q What are they doing in El Salvador? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have that with me. I should have thought of it. I've done 300,000 other things this morning. I'm sorry. I'll be happy to get Bernie to give it to me. I should have caught it, George. Sorry.

[Lebanon: Treaty with Syria]

Q Can we jump a few thousand miles, then, to the new Syrian-Lebanese arrangement? Does the State Department have any view of that, particularly any view of what it does to Lebanese sovereignty? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, we do have a view on this. Our view of it, Barry, as you know, United States policy towards Lebanon has long been based on supporting Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. That remains our goal today. We have also been strong and consistent supporters of the Taif Agreements. As you know, this was called for in the Taif Agreements. Our measure of this treaty will be based on whether its implementation is consistent with these principles and the Taif Accords. We will be closely following that process. Q From the agreement that you've read so far, does it look like Lebanon is now going to become part of Greater Syria? MS. TUTWILER: No. We do not characterize it that way. And, as I just said, this was called for in the Taif Accords. It's my understanding, Jim, that Lebanon and Syria have been working on such a type of agreement, I believe, for 6 or 7 years. It is my understanding that out of a Cabinet that I believe consists of 30 individuals in Lebanon, 28 supported this. As you know, over the last 6 or 7 months, many of the militias in Lebanon have been disbanding and disarming. We support the Taif Accords and we have said, however, that we will be watching this closely and meeting the implementation of this. Q Do you think this agreement is a way to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon? You've been calling for the -- MS. TUTWILER: We've been calling for all foreign forces, as you know, to leave Lebanon. That is still our policy. I don't know, Barry, if this is a way to facilitate that or not, but I know that our policy remains the same. Q Margaret, the Syrians have, for the first time in this treaty, recognized the independence of Lebanon. MS. TUTWILER: Have they? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: I don't know, sir. I'll be happy to ask one of the experts who has, I am sure, thoroughly read this treaty. I have not.

[Ethiopia: US Involvment with Falasha Jews]

Q Did the United States assist in the transport of Ethiopian Jews to Israel? MS. TUTWILER: No, we did not. The White House is right now announcing the following, which is already on the wires: That the Falashan Jews are in the process of leaving Ethiopia; it is a combination of Israeli and Ethiopian passenger aircraft being used to transport this; all of the Ethiopian Jews now in Addis are going to Israel. For further details concerning the coordination of what happens once they get to Israel, I have to refer you to the Israeli government. The current figure we have is approximately 16,000. The United States has not been asked to pay for any of this. As you know, this is something that the United States has strongly supported. We strongly support this operation. It is the culmination of long efforts on our part to win free immigration of Ethiopian Jews, but we are not directly involved in the logistics of this. Q Do you believe that they should not be settled on the Arab Occupied Territories? MS. TUTWILER: We have told the Israelis that, clearly, the Ethiopian Jews should not be settled beyond the Green Line. Q Are you involved in any way? You said logistics. But are you involved in any way in this operation? MS. TUTWILER: We have been involved for a long time -- our nation -- on urging this. As you know, President Bush has spoken out about this. I recall Secretary of State Baker meeting with the Ethiopian Foreign Minister at the United Nations meeting last September and he raised this very strongly on behalf of our country. So this is something our country has been concerned about for a very long time.

[Ethiopia: Situation Update]

Q Margaret, could you tell us a little bit more broadly about the situation in Ethiopia right now? I know that the U.S. has said that it has asked the rebel forces not to enter Addis Ababa pending the start of peace talks. As far as you know, is that holding? Is the situation changing at all? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know the actual situation. Where did you say? Q The capital -- Addis Ababa. MS. TUTWILER: I don't know the specific situation there. I know we have reports that indicate that rebel troops of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front have advanced on Addis Ababa from the west. But we do not believe that they plan to force their way into the capital at this time. Some government forces have reached the point where they cannot offer any serious resistance to insurgent advances. The government does not seem to wish to offer resistance. It has said it welcomes early and unconditional talks. The talks are still scheduled for London for May 27, and it is still our understanding that all entities who said they were going to be in London are still planning on being in London. Q Margaret, just to follow up on that very quickly. You mentioned the U.S. involvement in the situation of the Ethiopian Jews. Can you tell us, has there been a commitment by the Ethiopian Government to the United States that all the Ethiopian Jews will be allowed to evacuate? In other words, do you expect all 16,000 Ethiopian Jews to be able to go? MS. TUTWILER: It's my understanding. Q Margaret, do you know anything on the fate of Asmara? The African Service just called me to say that they understood Asmara had fallen to the rebels. MS. TUTWILER: I have not heard about that. Sorry. Q Can you tell us anything about how this came about, how this agreement was worked out? MS. TUTWILER: Between the Israelis and the Ethiopians? Q This has been a pending question for a long time. Why did it suddenly come to fruition now, and whether or not there was perhaps an agreement for the gentleman who took over after Mengistu left to go out on the last plane? MS. TUTWILER: I know nothing about your second question. I haven't heard that at all. As far as many of the details concerning this, no, I don't have them. You would have to refer the vast bulk of these questions to the Israeli Government. We have said that we welcome this. We have not been involved in the logistics, but we strongly support this operation. I have told you that these airplanes -- I believe they started flying this morning at 7:00 a.m. our time. I don't know yet how many airplanes there are. My understanding is that there are a number of different types of aircraft. I don't have a lot of the types of details that you would like, but it's something that we have strongly supported and do support. Q Do you know long this operation is supposed to take? MS. TUTWILER: No, I don't have that. On Mary's question, you ask me if it's 16,000. Yes, 16,000 is our number, but we cannot tell you that there may not be other Jews in other villages around the country. These are the 16,000 that are in the capital. Q Margaret, has the Israeli Government requested any kind of transport planes? And if they did, would the United States -- MS. TUTWILER: From us? Q Yes. Would the U.S. Government want that? MS. TUTWILER: Not as of my briefing. Q Not as of? MS. TUTWILER: That I know of. Q The premise of Mary's original question, though, because there is such a strong report. Did the United States have any role -- forget logistics -- but did the United States have any role to play in delaying, if that's the word, the rebels' advance on the capital? Because that's important to this and that's an important factor also in any peaceful resolution of this entire situation. MS. TUTWILER: Not, Barry, that I have heard mentioned in my presence this morning. I have spent as much time as I could on this, and that is not something that was ever raised to my attention. I'll be happy to go back and ask. As I said, I was not even sure, to be honest with you, we were going to be able to talk about it here until the White House announced it and they are right now announcing it. Q Do you see any connection between the delaying of attack by the rebels on Addis Ababa and this Falasha immigration? MS. TUTWILER: It's the same question Barry just asked me. Q I just wanted to say, the other day you did call for a cease-fire and we continued to hear of the rebels advancing. We wonder how you feel about that? MS. TUTWILER: I've just given Mary, in response to her question, what information I have about the situation on the ground there. My understanding is, our embassy reports that the capital remains calm. I have told you what I know about the situation. Q Can you shed any light on the role of former Senator Boschwitz in the release of these people? MS. TUTWILER: I can, which I neglected to do, mention that, as you know, he went there as a special emissary of the President. He, I believe it was two weeks ago, came back and debriefed the President, a lot of those details have not been put out. This is definitely a subject that he discussed -- the situation concerning the Ethiopian Jews. Q But was he crucial to making this happen? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know, John, why -- Number 1, I don't think when the Senator was there, we knew that the current leader would be fleeing the country; (2) you have a new ruler who is there who was the former Vice President. When Senator Boschwitz was there, as a representative of the President, he raised this issue, as we have continuously raised this issue. But events that happened since his visit, I don't believe that he had prior knowledge of. Q Margaret, do you expect that the departure of the Jews from Ethiopia will affect the talks in London in any way, perhaps, by removing an irritant between the parties? And can you comment on what the United States role will be at those talks in London? MS. TUTWILER: My understanding of our role at these talks is that we are there as a facilitator. The last time I asked Hank (Cohen), my understanding is we were the only other government that is going to be present at these talks. My understanding is, it is the 3 Ethiopian factions, the Ethiopian Government, and the United States. Q Who will the American representative be, Margaret? MS. TUTWILER: Hank Cohen, the Assistant Secretary here at the State Department. Q Margaret, not to beat this to death, as far as you know, is the decision by the Ethiopian Government to allow the 16,000 Falashas to go the result of an explicit agreement between the United States Government and the Ethiopian Government, or the result of an agreement between the Ethiopians and Israel? MS. TUTWILER: My understanding is, it is the result of an agreement between the Ethiopian Government and the Israeli Government. The United States' views on this subject are no secret; have been well known publicly. They're stated, at least in this Administration -- I'm sure in previous Administrations -- what our views are concerning this. Why the Israeli Government and the Ethiopian Government decided to send in all these airplanes, take out 16,000 people today, I can't answer for you. Q It's not a result of an agreement secured by Boschwitz or anybody else representing the United States Government that these people are leaving? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I have any knowledge of or that I personally know about. Q Margaret, here's something we won't have a chance to ask until next Tuesday, so let me ask you today. The Secretary said many times that if there was an opportunity and if he was needed in the Middle East, of course, he'd go back. What's the situation today? Is there a reason for him to go back to the Middle East? MS. TUTWILER: He and the President, Barry, have both answered this recently -- not ruling out a future trip to the Middle East but saying they have no plans and nothing to announce at this time. Q Is it possible to ask you to -- plans are something that we always stumble over, because plans means a precise takeoff time, an exact itinerary, etc. I'm trying to get a more general view. MS. TUTWILER: General view? Q Is there -- you know, he's ready to go, he said, if there's a reason -- if he could be useful, he'd go. Now that requires something from the folks out there. Have you heard anything from the folks out there that suggests the Secretary's presence would be useful? MS. TUTWILER: Since his last return from the region, I do not believe -- I could stand corrected on this -- that he has spoken by phone to any of his counterparts in the region. I have said that he has had any number of diplomatic exchanges and debriefed by our own Ambassadors and people in the region. And the reason I'm not hedging myself, I cannot -- I don't want to rule out that this Secretary of State will never go to the region. I read a wire copy this morning out of Israel, saying that Secretary Baker was coming back in June. It's the first I'd ever heard of it. Avi Pazner, my colleague, said that he had no information on it. So it's kind of hard for me to be literal with you. There are honestly and truly no current plans as I stand here today, but I can't rule out any future, you know, travel.

[Israel: UN Security Council on Deportations]

Q The United Nations Security Council is apparently considering and preparing to vote on a resolution later today, condemning the deportation of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza. First of all, does the U.S. have a view on that? Apparently the U.S. has put some of its own language on the table up there. Do you have anything on it? MS. TUTWILER: The United States definitely has a view on this, and, as in all upcoming U.N. votes, as you know, I'm not going to pre-empt or discuss publicly the instructions that our Ambassador has. This morning the Security Council was supposed to meet -- I just got a phone call that said they have delayed and are expected to meet later this afternoon. As many of you know, some members of the Security Council are calling for a formal vote, and this draft resolution is still actively under discussion. Q Would the U.S. favor bringing it to a vote in the Security Council, or would the U.S. favor hedging that by having it be a Presidential statement, or something? MS. TUTWILER: That gets into an area of what are Ambassador Pickering's instructions from our own government, and I just can't do that at this time. We have a view. Q Does the U.S. feel it is time for a broader expression of opinion on the issue of deportations than just the United States expressing its views at this point? MS. TUTWILER: This idea did not originate with the United States. We, as you know, are a member of the Security Council. This was put before us, and I believe it started several days ago. And, as a member of the Security Council, the United States has been working diplomatically on this draft resolution that was put forward by others. Q Just for the record, Margaret -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes, John. Q -- what is our view on it? MS. TUTWILER: What is our public policy on deportations? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: Our policy is the same as it has been. We continue to strongly oppose deportations as a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention as it pertains to the treatment of inhabitants of the Occupied Territories. The United States believes that charges of wrongdoing should be brought in a court of law, based on evidence to be argued in a public trial. That's longstanding policy. Q That's the U.S. position on deportations any place, right? MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q It's not only the West Bank -- even in this country. MS. TUTWILER: Right. I mean, he asked, "What is our view on -- Q Occupied Territories. MS. TUTWILER: Well, Barry's point is, is that the United States -- Q No, I mean the second part -- the administrative -- MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q Margaret, there's a Soviet economic delegation that's due here next week. Number one, is Secretary Baker going to meet with them? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, he is. On Wednesday. Q Hs is. And in his meeting, and I assume others here -- maybe Under Secretary Zoellick and others may meet with him -- are we going to offer them sort of our specific view on what is the best way for them to do economic reforms in their country? We've been on record many times in a very general way, but I think, if I'm not mistaken, this delegation is looking for kind of working advice and presenting their ideas and asking for our comment on some specifics. Are we going to get down to that level with them? MS. TUTWILER: I'll be honest with you, Walt. I haven't had a chance to talk to Bob Zoellick about this. I haven't seen any papers that have moved forward for the Secretary. I would envision, as the President said yesterday, I believe he said he will be seeing these gentlemen, didn't he, in his press conference yesterday? Q I don't remember if he said "he" would be seeing them, but -- MS. TUTWILER: Or "we'll" be seeing them. I thought he said "he" would. I'm sure that the Secretary will be very interested in hearing what they have to say and in turn will then respond. But whether we, ourselves, are going with something specific that we want to present, I just don't know. I'd have to ask for you. Q And will this meeting have some impact on the eventual conclusion of the Administration on the question of whether President Gorbachev would be invited to London in some capacity? MS. TUTWILER: I think, as the President said yesterday in two different press conferences, there are a number of -- I'm paraphrasing him -- factors that are going into the consultations he's having at his level with his colleagues concerning that question. And he once again yesterday did not have a yes or no answer. Q No. But he made it clear he's thinking about it and -- MS. TUTWILER: Absolutely. He made it clear. Q So I'm asking you, is this series of discussions next week part of it? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. He mentioned this as one of the things, and he said, just as our agricultural delegation is in their country right now, and they are talking and exchanging views, I -- I thought he said "I" -- maybe he said, "We look forward to speaking to the gentleman that President Gorbachev has sent over here and see what they have in mind." Because the President said he, personally, didn't have any specific proposal that had been presented to him. Q Margaret, on the Soviet Union, there are reports of more violence in the Baltics. MS. TUTWILER: Today? Q Yesterday. Apparently some border posts have been sacked. MS. TUTWILER: I don't know anything about it Patrick. I'll have to check for you. Q Can I ask a couple questions about the Middle East. There's a report that we're blocking the flow of financial aid to Lebanon until Western hostages held by the pro-Iranian militants are free. Have you anything -- MS. TUTWILER: Never heard that. Q O.K. It was out today. And then another thing was Israel's Defense Ministry says that it's encouraged by Shi'ite Muslims in Lebanon, saying that they've offered to trade Israeli prisoners for the Lebanese held by Israel? Anything that it bodes well for our hostages perhaps? MS. TUTWILER: As you know, we do not discuss hostages from this podium nor does really the President or the Secretary of State, other than to consistently restate our policy that they must be released immediately and unconditionally. And so I don't, number one, know about the two specifics you've just mentioned to me, but I know that we really -- our policy is that anything you may say could somehow do harm, which is not intended, and so we just simply don't discuss them, other than to say what our standard policy is. Q Margaret, do you have any comment on the report by ABC last night -- the Nightline and the Financial Times report that -- MS. TUTWILER: I wasn't up that late. (Laughter) Q That the United States has somehow been exporting technology to South Africa which wound up in Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: I have no idea, number one. I was sound asleep when Nightline was on last night. I have not heard about the report, and I haven't seen it. Q Jack will get you a tape. (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: Could you? I'll watch it this afternoon on the way to the beach. (Laughter) Q The leader of Surinam has invited an invasion of his country by the United States, apparently in reply to something that Mr. Aronson said. Do you have any comment on this? MS. TUTWILER: You're right. Why not? We've all got a lot of training. (Laughter) Q Apparently to rescue democracy -- Surinam for democracy. MS. TUTWILER: I haven't seen that report, and I think Bernie's here -- he was here yesterday. I'll ask him what either he said, or what's going on.

[India: Political Situation after Ghandi Assassination]

Q Margaret, what's the latest assessment about the situation in India in terms of elections and political stability there? MS. TUTWILER: Political stability. Our Embassy reports that the prevailing mood in India at this time is generally calm. Steps taken by the Indian government to prevent outbreaks of extreme violence in the wake of the former Prime Minister's assassination seem to be having a positive effect. There have been some sporadic incidents of violence around the country, particularly in the south. At least ten people have lost their lives as a result of fighting between political groups and police action in the four south Indian states. On the whole, however, we believe law and order is prevailing. There have been no threats or no instances concerning Americans or American property as of this briefing. Q Does the leadership vacuum problem -- does that seem to be working itself out within the Congress party? MS. TUTWILER: Well, Pat, I don't think I'm in a position to assess that for you. There's a funeral that's today. I think that that's something that, obviously, those members of that party will be addressing themselves, but certainly not, I wouldn't think, today. Q Well, is the U.S. concerned about the upcoming elections and the stability of India's democracy in the wake of this event? MS. TUTWILER: Are we concerned about it? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: Not necessarily. We are watching with great interest as the time-tested process of Indian democracy rights itself from this senseless blow and continues on the path to free and open elections to determine who will lead India. We anticipate U.S.-Indian relations, based on shared democratic values, trade ties nearly 300 years old, and growing scientific and technological cooperation will continue to improve and expand. Q Margaret -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes, Mary. Q Back to the Soviet Union for a minute, on the issue of CFE and arms control: General Moiseyev was interviewed upon his return to the Soviet Union and described the talks here as having been "tough but useful," and talked about a bit disparagingly about the U.S. negotiating tactics. Did we put forward any new conditions to the Soviets when they were here? Is there anything new that we've thrown out on the table that was unexpected or in some way changes the requirements of the treaty? MS. TUTWILER: Have we changed the requirements of the treaty? Q Yes. Have we come up with any kind of -- MS. TUTWILER: No. Q -- changed formulation that they're objecting to, and do you think that the talks are at any kind of impasse now? MS. TUTWILER: No. Where we left it, and I believe he did -- I haven't seen the interview you're referring to. When he left the State Department on the interview he did here, he did characterize these as being useful. The President said yesterday that he basically remained optimistic that some progress had been made. Secretary of State Baker said in public testimony this week some progress had been made, but there's more work to be done. And there are no future scheduled meetings right now between Under Secretary Bartholomew and any of his counterparts, but they will continue to work this through diplomatic channels. Q So it's still not resolved. MS. TUTWILER: It's definitely not resolved. Q You still have some -- within that small subset -- you have some large problems in that small subset that you still must resolve. MS. TUTWILER: That's correct. Q Well, he characterized them as "very, very small and very doable." MS. TUTWILER: But they still got to be fixed, you know. They're not fixed. Q Do you regard them as small or big? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to play that. We've made some progress, and there is -- we're not there, and there is more work to be done, and you all know how important the CFE Treaty is, and it's going to be worked right now through normal diplomatic channels. I don't have to remind you that Secretary of State Baker will see the Soviet Foreign Minister, I believe it is -- what? -- one week from tomorrow. Q Today. MS. TUTWILER: Tomorrow's Saturday. Well, Friday, but their meeting is Saturday. So it could well be that they further discuss this at their level in a week. Q Margaret, has the Department received a copy of or been made aware of the findings of the Harvard Study Group that just returned from the tour of the medical facilities in Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: I have no idea. Q This study was released on Wednesday. They said they sent it to the Administration, and in particular in there what I'd be interested in, they cite the effect of sanctions on the continuing breakdown of the medical system, independent of medicine as such. They talk about the power system and other infrastructure issues, and I wonder if the Department would have an answer to any of the issues that they raise in that? MS. TUTWILER: Number one, I don't know if the Department has received this Harvard report. Mr. McWethy asked me some questions several days ago concerning the medical situation inside Iraq -- I don't have that with me -- the amount of tonnage of medical supplies that had been delivered into Iraq. I know you're saying that there's no supply problem. I just don't have it with me today. Q Margaret, if I could go back to the question of Lebanon and the treaty that they signed with Syria, just for a minute. Does the United States consider that treaty to in any way endanger Israel's security, and have the Israelis actually told the United States that they do see it as a security threat? MS. TUTWILER: The Israelis have answered that question, Mary, publicly. I don't know if they've privately told that to us. I've seen my own press reports of various Israeli officials stating that, but I can't answer if it's come in privately. And, as I have said, I think I answered this earlier for Barry, I have stated to you that what our policy is concerning this and how we view this at this time. Q Do we agree with the Israeli position that this is a threat to their security? MS. TUTWILER: My answer for is this a threat or do we view this as a threat to Israeli security is that, as I have said earlier, the true measure of the treaty will be in its implementation. It should further Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. These objectives are clearly in the interests of all states in the region, including Israel. Q Margaret, I have a question about Burma. It's been a year since the military there blocked the results of those elections, and I'm wondering if the State Department has any observations on this? MS. TUTWILER: No, we don't. But we will have some for you later this afternoon when we post a very lengthy statement for you. Q Margaret, going back to Cuba for a second, your praise -- or the Department's praise -- MS. TUTWILER: Pleased. Pleased is what I said. Q Well, it's praiseworthy comments from the Department. MS. TUTWILER: We are pleased. Q You are pleased, and will the Secretary or any of his deputies meet in Lisbon with any -- separately from the accords will they meet with any of the members of the Cuban delegation? MS. TUTWILER: On the Secretary's current request for his schedule, there's been no such request. I can't speak to every U.S. official that's there. I'll be happy to check it out for you. Q Do you regard the Cuban early withdrawal as being a positive sign for U.S.-Cuban relations? MS. TUTWILER: Our policy with U.S.-Cuban relations has been made perfectly clear by the President. I can quote for you what he has stated, but it's all part of the record. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thanks, Barry. Have a nice Memorial Day! (The briefing concluded at 12:47 p.m.)