US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #87: Tuesday, 5/28/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:48 PM, Washington, DC Date: May 28, 19915/28/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, South Asia, East Asia Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, USSR (former), Ethiopia, North Korea, South Korea, Thailand Subject: Trade/Economics, Regional/Civil Unrest, Terrorism, Arms Control, Development/Relief Aid, United Nations, Democratization (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I don't have anything. I'll be happy to try to answer your questions.

[Iran: Improving Relations with the West]

Q Do you have anything on the comments by the Iranian leadership about their desire for improved relations with the West? MS. TUTWILER: It's our view that if Iran wishes to re-emerge as a full member of the community of nations, it knows well what it is expected to do. First and foremost, Iran must take action to end its support for international terrorism and hostage-taking. That has long been our policy of this Administration and previous administrations, and the President has enunciated this any number of times. You might want to ask me, George, if there were any Americans at this conference; we believe that some representatives of United States oil companies attended, but I don't have the names, and I cannot absolutely confirm that fact for you. Q Well, how do you read this, Margaret? The newspapers seem to read it this morning as an indication of Iran's interest in kind of rejoining the community of people. Is that the State Department's read as well? MS. TUTWILER: I think there's a general view in the West, John, that Iran would like to improve relations, not only with our country but with other Western countries. But concerning our country, there are two things that must be done before that can take place. As all of you, I know, well remember, President Bush's inaugural address to the nation mentioned that -- I'm basically paraphrasing; check the record -- that he would like improved relations with this nation, but this is what it will take. Q Margaret, are you saying that you consider Iran as the -- Q (Inaudible) MS. TUTWILER: In the sponsorship of state-sponsored terrorism and hostages. Q Do you consider Iran as primarily responsible for the hostages? MS. TUTWILER: We have answered this question any number of times, and we have said that all those who have influence should bring influence to bear. And, obviously, it goes without question, Iran has influence. I'm sorry, John. Did I not answer you correctly on the two things? Q In other words, ending support for terrorism and hostage-taking -- that's two things rather than one. MS. TUTWILER: That's right. Those are the two things: ending support for international terrorism and hostage-taking. Q Margaret, do you know if those are also the standards being used by our coalition partners like the Saudis as criteria for when they might allow Iran to re-emerge? MS. TUTWILER: I believe, Johanna -- correct me if the record is wrong -- that Saudi Arabia just restored, several weeks ago or months ago, normal relations with Iran. I believe that took place in Geneva with their Foreign Minister meeting with -- the two Foreign Ministers meeting in Geneva. I could be wrong, but check the record. I'm pretty sure that they are now back to normal relations, but I reserve to check the record. But I think that's the case. Q Are we trying to -- are we lobbying the Saudis, for instance, to use what influence they have on Iran to get them to agree on these two points? MS. TUTWILER: I think that any time that the Secretary meets with any number of individuals and the occasion presents itself, he expresses what our policy is. There's no secret about this. It is well known in the region. It is well known to Iran. It's been publicly articulated what it would take to "have normal relations with Iran." Q Margaret, you have pretty good relations with Syria. Can you bring us up to date on the latest reading of Syria and terrorism? Has Syria's record on terrorism improved? MS. TUTWILER: As you know, they are still on our terrorism list. I think you were there last week when, in public testimony, the Secretary said once again that we have evidence that Syria had not only been helpful during the Gulf war, but that there were some signs of improvement concerning terrorism. Q By the way, is there anything new on that family or maybe two families that -- at least there's six people and two -- MS. TUTWILER: That he was asked about? I don't know, Barry. Let me check into it. I haven't heard. I'll ask. Q Not that that classifies as terrorism, because that's internal. I don't think you'd consider that terrorism. MS. TUTWILER: But I know that he was asked in both testimonies about that situation. I just did not hear on Friday what we know about it. Let me find out for you. Q And they're making every effort, I suppose, to get the American hostages released, aren't they? MS. TUTWILER: As you know, the Secretary of State -- I believe it's on every visit -- I believe he's made what now, five? Q I know he asks. MS. TUTWILER: He not only asks, he raises it, and how strongly our government feels about this situation, and asks for them to please use whatever influence they can use concerning the situation. Q Margaret, just to close a loophole, or maybe a loophole, isn't it conceivable that Iran doesn't have it within its power to get the hostages released, or is it the State Department's view that if they wanted them released, they have enough influence over his Hizbollah to get the hostages released? MS. TUTWILER: I believe our public view and the private view, Barry, is that they should use whatever influence they have to obtain or help obtain the immediate, unconditional, and safe release of all hostages. Q Well, that's the criterion. You're not -- I'm sorry. I thought the U.S. criterion -- I thought you were telling John Goshko before that the criterion was -- that the hostages have to be released before the U.S. can have a normal relationship with Iran.
Iran and Hostage Taking: US Views
MS. TUTWILER: We have said that the criteria for normal relations is that they must do two things. I will restate so that we're literal here. Iran must take action to end its support for international terrorism and hostage-taking. We have expressed it also that we believe that any improvement in the relationship between our two countries will require that Iran end its support for terrorism and take action to free the United States hostages in Lebanon. We believe a more normal relationship between the United States and Iran would be in the interests of both countries. We do not wish to interfere in Iran's internal affairs. Iran's form of government is for the Iranian people themselves to choose. We remain ready for a direct dialogue with authorized representatives of the Government of Iran without pre-conditions, and that's been stated as standard policy from this podium any number of times. Q Can I ask on that? What they do privately in Iran, of course, is hard to find out, but would we welcome a public statement from the Iranian Government that they favor the release? MS. TUTWILER: Of course. Q Have you ever asked them to make a public statement? MS. TUTWILER: I don't think that it takes a lot of tea-leaf reading. Since this Administration has spoken out over so many years about Iran using their influence, it seems to me it would be fairly obvious if they were serious about doing something about this, they could speak out publicly about it. Q Margaret, on the question of the Secretary's visit to Lisbon this weekend, the President spoke optimistically this morning of the CFE talks. MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q Does the Secretary hope to be able to conclude the CFE talks, perhaps initialing or agreeing on some strategy for getting out of this impasse? MS. TUTWILER: I can't set his meeting up in that fashion, John. As the President said, and Marlin said in a briefing this morning to your colleagues at 10:30, the next step in CFE is the follow-up discussions that will be held in Lisbon between the two foreign ministers on Saturday. Q And do you have any expectation that this will conclude the process? MS. TUTWILER: No. Nor do I want to make any expectations here at this briefing, other than to say CFE is one of the subjects that the two foreign ministers will be discussing in -- what? -- three days. Q And will one of the other subjects be Western aid for the Soviet Union? MS. TUTWILER: That could well come up, John. The two subjects I'm very confident they will be discussing are the Middle East and CFE. The other subject well could come up. As you know, our agricultural team, I believe, has just returned. The President said he would be getting a report on that on Thursday or Friday of this week. As you know, Secretary Baker is meeting tomorrow -- I've forgotten what time, I think 2:00 or 3:00, or something -- with Primakov and the Soviet delegation that are here to discuss economics. So, I mean, it's not out of the realm of possibility that that is something that the two gentlemen will discuss on Saturday. Q Will the Primakov delegation be meeting with other people in the building, such as Mr. Zoellick and -- MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. Q Is the Secretary still planning to come back on Saturday? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. I'll ask for you, Chris. I don't know who else. Connie? Q A few follow-ups. Are there trips planned to the Middle East at this point? Is there anything new on that? MS. TUTWILER: No.

[Ethiopia: Situation Update; Operation Soloman]

Q Did you have any other statements today on either that Operation Solomon or on the situation in Ethiopia? MS. TUTWILER: Overall the situation in Ethiopia? Q Well, first of all, the airlift. Anything further to add on the airlift of the Ethiopian Jews? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know what -- no. What would there be to add. As we said on Friday, we believed that there could be in certain regions some Jews that were there. That is also the view of the Israeli Government and continues to be our view. As you know, I think the Israeli Government has said approximately 14,000 are all safely in Israel, so I don't know what else to say. As I said on Friday, we were not asked to pay for any of this. We did not. As you know, when I was briefing on Friday, the President, through Marlin, was in the middle of announcing what his involvement had been, so that has been added to the story from the White House end. But, no, I don't have anything. Q Does the U.S. Government have any position on the Jews converted to Christianity that now want to go to Israel? MS. TUTWILER: That is something that we feel is best to ask the Israeli Government. After all, they were processing these people, but the United States Government obviously believes in free emigration for all. Q Also, the money, the $35 million or so that Israel paid to Ethiopia, does anybody know what happens to that? Does that go to the old government that's no longer there or -- MS. TUTWILER: You'd have to ask the two governments involved, Connie. I don't know. Q How about the overall situation, please? MS. TUTWILER: The overall situation: We just had a cable in from our Embassy that reports that small-arms fire is still heard throughout the capital, but it is diminishing. All Embassy personnel are safe and on the Embassy compound. EPRDF is providing perimeter security. We continue to advise all American citizens to observe the 24-hour curfew announced by the EPRDF, and the total number of Americans right now in Ethiopia, as we have it, is 267. That is not counting our Embassy personnel or the 154 dual-nationals. Q Margaret, where do the peace talks go from here? Are they, in fact, concluding? And does the United States have any further role in setting up a transition? MS. TUTWILER: They have concluded. I don't know if you've seen yet -- they have put out a statement in London. Basically, I'll paraphrase it for you, and then we have a copy, I believe -- don't we, Mark (Dillen)? -- of the full statement that was put out. Assistant Secretary Cohen, as you know, has been discussing with the Eithopian Government and representatives of the EPRDF, the EPLF, and the OLF arrangements for a transition. We have made clear that our goal is a peaceful transition to a democratic form of government that meets the needs and aspirations of the Eithopian people. This afternoon, in London, Mr. Cohen read a joint statement on transition. The statement announces that the three factions -- the three groups -- have agreed to hold a broader meeting with a wider range of parties and interests included. The meeting will be held no later than July 1, and will discuss the details of the transition period, in general, and the formation of a broad-based provisional government, in particular. The groups also have indicated that they will welcome the presence of the United States and other international observers at this meeting; and all three of these parties concluded by appealing for peace and tranquility. Q Margaret, you indicated already that the United States is asking U.S. citizens to observe requirements imposed on the capital by the rebel group. In the interim, does the U.S. effectively see the power or control or official authority, shall we say, in Ethiopia to that specific group? MS. TUTWILER: No. I think you're asking me the question of recognition. It is our standard policy, Ralph -- in this case and in others -- that our response to the events in Ethiopia is similar to our reaction to other abrupt governmental changes in periods of instability in recent years. The issue of recognition is de-emphasized. The Embassy is instructed to continue appropriate contacts and monitor the situation closely. The signing of new agreements and other significant bilateral actions are normally avoided during this period. Ultimately, after thorough review of the situation, full-scale diplomatic contacts and relations may be resumed with a successor government without any specific event constituting the act of recognition. Q Is the authority of that particular group, which has military control of the city now, has the U.S. discussed with that group its responsibility for not using its temporary military dominance to effectively gain control of a future -- of a successor government, as you put it? MS. TUTWILER: I spent a fair amount of time on this this morning. One of the difficulties is that you have talks that are going on in London; you have a very fluid changing situation on the ground there in Eithopia, and so I am trying to freeze time and step into the middle of two very fast-moving systems that are on-going. My understanding, Ralph, is that the government, clearly, in conversations yesterday with our Charge, has said that they were not in control of basic law and order and chaos in the streets. It is also my understanding that some of the fighting that is taking place is between government forces with government forces, so I couldn't characterize for you the question that you're asking. I think that it is a very confused state right now on the ground. Everyone's overriding concern, that I'm aware of, has been stopping the chaos, the looting, the potential harm to innocent civilians that are out on the street, and trying to restore order in this city -- the capital, predominantly, right now. Q One question, please. My name is Chung, Korean Times. Yesterday, North Korea has declared that they are going to apply for U.N. membership with South Korea simultaneously. It seems a very big change of attitude toward South Korea and international society. Could you give me some comment for that matter, please? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of them applying simultaneously. I'm aware that both are applying, but I'm not aware of an announcement that was a simultaneous announcement. I am aware of a North Korean announcement. As you know, President Bush made clear in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last year our long-standing policy of not opposing U.N. membership for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. U.N. membership for both Koreas will contribute to inter-Korean dialogue and eventual unification. Accordingly, we welcome this announcement, and, in furtherance of the principle of universality, will support U.N. admission of both Koreas. It's my understanding that the South Korean Government had decided, prior to this, to submit their application, if that's the correct word, to the United Nations Security Council in September. I am unaware that the North Koreans have decided when to submit theirs. Q If North Korea is entered into the U.N. family, it means that your diplomatic relations with North Korea will come soon, very soon, you mean? MS. TUTWILER: I can't take you from one step to the next step. I would be happy to get for you -- I did not bring with me -- what is our standard United States policy concerning relations with North Korea, but I'll be happy to get that for you. Q Margaret, back to Iran for a moment. MS. TUTWILER: Where? Q Iran. Does the U.S. Government believe that Iran's role in the security arrangements for the Gulf area are also conditioned to the two factors you mentioned? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard that mentioned, sir. I have heard the President and the Secretary of State say that they, just by their geography and their demography, obviously have an important role to play, concerning security in the region. Q Margaret, on the airline tragedy over the weekend. Do know of any threats against American airlines -- U.S. airlines, rather? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q Do you have anything to add? Do you know anything about that situation? MS. TUTWILER: We don't know a lot, Connie. It's an investigation that's going on. It's my understanding that the FAA -- let me get the other name -- an American group have sent -- Q (Inaudible). MS. TUTWILER: Right, thanks. The National Transportation Safety Board is in Thailand assisting in the investigation and officials from the Boeing Company. The aircraft manufacturer is also participating, and the United States stands ready to provide additional assistance if requested by the Government of Thailand. We don't have anything for you. Q Do you think any of the anti-terrorism measures should be increased again, the measures that were in effect during the Iraqi war? MS. TUTWILER: Based on this one incident that's currently being investigated and none of us know what happened? I can't say that I've heard anybody espouse that view yet. Q Margaret, back, generally, to the question of the Middle East peace process. Has the Secretary had any contact, either personal or by telephone, with any of his dialogue partners? MS. TUTWILER: Yes, he has. He spoke this weekend to the new Foreign Minister of Egypt who called him at his residence. My understanding is it was basically in response to Secretary Baker's congratulatory letter to him earlier last week; and Secretary Baker called Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh yesterday from Secretary Baker's residence. Predominantly the conversation dealt with the Middle East and with CFE, which they will continue discussing Saturday in Lisbon. Q The Secretary mentioned last week in his testimony, I think, in both forums last week this upcoming U.S. announcement on arms control policy toward the Middle East. Is there some consideration being given to having kind of a joint announcement, or whatever? Have this be a Soviet and American joint initiative on arms control? MS. TUTWILER: I don't think so. In Marlin's briefing this morning, that I have a synopsis of, he says that the President's speech to the Air Force Academy in Colorado will be, it's my understanding, new world order and defense technology, weapons proliferation, and will propose new initiatives beginning in the Middle East. You'll have to check his record this morning. Q (Inaudible) MS. TUTWILER: The President's trip is set for tomorrow. Just check with your colleagues at the White House. I don't have all this, but Marlin did a lot on the speech and said they will have a backgrounder on it and they will be giving out an advance text and a fact sheet on the plane. Q Is it fair for us to assume that Secretary Baker briefed Foreign Minister Bessmertnykh on the contents of that speech during their conversation? MS. TUTWILER: That would be a safe assumption but it's something I did not ask him, so let me ask him, Ralph. Q Margaret, still in the Middle East. Do you have any views on a meeting between a senior PLO official and the Syrians? It seems they agreed on full U.N. participation and an independent Palestinian delegation. MS. TUTWILER: I'm just not aware of the meeting. I don't have a comment on the meeting. Q Margaret, back to Primakov for just a second, Margaret. Is there any expectation in the U.S. Government now that Primakov would come with some kind of specific request? The President and the Secretary have repeatedly made comments such as, "Well, we don't have any request from the Soviets for anything specific." Is this the forum this week in which the U.S. expects to find out what the Soviets would like to see the U.S. do, or see the West do? MS. TUTWILER: If we're expecting a specific proposal, Ralph, I haven't heard anyone who has been working this issue, preview that for the Secretary as of this morning. Marlin, also in his briefing, said that he did expect that the President would be meeting with this delegation, but he did not have a time or date yet for them. Q Margaret, Libya. The Libyan Foreign Minister is quoted as saying they want to restore full ties with the U.S. Do you have anything on that? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't seen that. Again, what I would do is just refer you to the record concerning our policy and what it would take to restore normal relations with them. Q Margaret, on China. I'm wondering if you have a readout on Secretary Baker's meeting this morning with Ambassador Lilley and how it might be related to MFN? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have a readout. His meeting this morning was something that was scheduled some time ago. As you know, when Ambassadors are departing, they have a final debriefing type of meeting with the Secretary of State to review the entire situation in the country from which they are departing. It is my understanding that Ambassador Lilley left China -- I can't remember the date. Do you remember what it is, Mark (Dillen)? It's May 10th, I believe. That's what this meeting was about. It was not predominantly MFN at all. Q Is there anything about the status of picking a new -- can you tell us what the status is of picking a new Ambassador? MS. TUTWILER: Check with the White House. Q Margaret, as a result of the Secretary's conversations with Bessmertnykh and any other conversations he may have had, are you able to give us any progress report on setting up the peace conference or on CFE? MS. TUTWILER: Neither. Q Is that because there wasn't any or is that because you're not in a position to say anything publicly? MS. TUTWILER: It means I have no characterization for either and I'm not in a position to say anything on either. Marlin answered CFE this morning from the White House on behalf of the President and basically said the Secretary will be discussing this in Lisbon and that's about where I am also. On the Middle East, there's nothing to report. He continues to work the subject. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you all. (Press briefing concluded at 1:14 p.m.)