US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #93, Wednesday, 6/5/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:17 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jun 5, 19916/5/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Southeast Asia, Caribbean, Eurasia Country: Iraq, Kuwait, Israel, USSR (former), Lebanon, Vietnam, Cuba, Algeria Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, NATO, Refugees, Arms Control, Military Affairs, Trade/Economics (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, everyone. I don't have any statements today, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Where were you? MR. BOUCHER: Where were I? (Laughter) Where have you been, George? I've been having a nice time getting ready for the briefing. Q We were summoned here 10 minutes ago. MR. BOUCHER: I am sorry, George, but I had someone I had to talk to. Q Well, I asked my question. Q Do you have anything on the weekend plans for the Secretary? There are reports that he might go to Syria or to Stockholm -- somewhere with an "S."

[NATO: Secretary's Itinerary]

MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary's plans are to go to Copenhagen to attend the NATO Foreign Ministers meeting. There have been no changes in those plans that have been announced. Any changes, I'm sure, to the schedule that might occur would be announced by the people in the party.

[Vietnam: Refugee Repatriation]

Q Richard, the statement that was put out about Vietnamese refugees -- a meeting that took place here -- could you explain it a little bit more? Was this a proposal -- you talk about bilateral talks with Hong Kong and the British. But was this proposal a U.S. proposal for some sort of international refugee -- MR. BOUCHER: As far as I'm aware, it's an idea that the British have had. The United States position, I think, is clear. The U.S. hasn't changed its policy. We continue to support voluntary repatriation. We oppose involuntary return to Vietnam under current conditions there. The British have informed us that they intend to engage in bilateral discussions with Vietnam. They know our position on involuntary repatriation. We understand from them that they could be discussing the -- the discussions could consider the establishment of an internationally managed center on territory provided by Vietnam for asylum seekers who are determined not to be refugees and have not taken advantage of the voluntary return program. We would examine closely the specific proposals that emerge from any discussions like that in the context of our support for the comprehensive plan of action and our concern for the protection of asylum seekers. Q So you're not opposing it at this point, but you're not endorsing it either? MR. BOUCHER: That's right. We're saying that the British have informed us that they're going to do this. We've reminded them of our concerns about involuntary repatriation; and anything that emerges, we would examine in that context and in the context of the comprehensive plan of action, which remains the document -- the plan -- that we've all agreed to. Q Is there anything that could emerge other than some program that would, in effect, be involuntary repatriation? What other possible solutions could there be? MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to ask the British how they intend to approach this. Q Do you have any comment on Gorbachev's Nobel speech in his call for help from the West? MR. BOUCHER: Not much since it really just occurred. We saw that he identified three main tasks for the Soviet Union: Stabilizing the democratic process, intensifying economic reform, and taking vigorous steps to open up the country to the world economy. For our part, we believe that the Soviet Union must continue the process of democratization, and that's what he said they would do, as well as make fundamental market economic reforms that will allow it to use its vast natural resources and skilled population effectively.

[Lebanon: Israeli Air Raids on PLO]

Q Richard, on another area. The Israelis have bombed southern Lebanon for the third straight day. Do you have any reaction, first? MR. BOUCHER: We have urged all parties to avoid actions that inflame the situation or which contradict efforts by the Government of Lebanon to extend its authority and control, restore security and stability to all of Lebanon, and disarm militias as called for in the Taif accords. The Lebanese Government continues to work toward its goal of disarming all militias. We don't think that Israel nor groups on the ground should disrupt that process. The cycle of violence in the area is real. People in southern Lebanon and northern Israel are suffering from years of cross-border raids and retaliatory attacks. We're sensitive to Israel's security concerns, but we urge restraint by Israel so as to permit the Government of Lebanon to implement its plans for disarming all militias. Q The aircraft used in at least today's raid were all American made -- A-4s, F-15s, and F-16s, I guess. Does the United States have any problem with the use of American-supplied equipment in a situation like this? MR. BOUCHER: If there's some sort of specific legal restriction, I'm not aware of any. I think I just expressed our -- Q These weapons are not supposed to be used in attacks; only in self-defense. MR. BOUCHER: Let me go research that. I'm not familiar with the issue. Q But the general understanding of arms exports was that arms should be used for purposes of regional or national self-defense only? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to see if there's any legal determination on that, Jim. I don't know. Q Can I follow up on that, please, Richard? You said that you don't think Israel or groups on the ground should disrupt that process. In connection with the raids that have occurred over several days now, is the U.S. aware of any disruption being conducted by groups on the ground? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, Ralph, this has been going on for years. This is a security situation that affects people on both sides of the border. It's a security situation that has affected Lebanese and Israelis alike. It's something that needs to be resolved, and we think that the process that's underway of the Lebanese Government disarming militias is a good process and that it should be supported and not disrupted. Q In the U.S. view, the raids by the Israelis in recent days which we are asking questions about today -- not raids that have occurred in recent years -- are part of a process that the U.S. feels has gone on for years? The U.S. is not suggesting that there's any other party to the disruption of recent days? MR. BOUCHER: I think you'd have to ask the Israelis if there was some particular circumstances that led to this round of raids. Q The Israelis didn't make this statement. You did. MR. BOUCHER: I am suggesting that this is part of something that has gone on for years that has affected people on both sides of the border. It needs to be stopped. Q If I could just follow up again for just a second. In the Middle East, a lot of things have gone on for years. For example -- just to choose one example but not particularly this one, settlements have gone on for years. But recently the United States has said that these settlements -- the Secretary of State has said that these settlements are the biggest obstacle he's faced in recent times to working on the peace process. It's one thing to say something has gone on for years, but these raids have not gone on for years. They've gone on for 3 or 4 days straight. You don't seem to have any evidence that they were provoked, or you don't seem to be willing to say that the Israelis have told the United States that they were provoked. Have the Israelis told the United States these raid were provoked? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm in a position to describe to you what the Israelis have spoken about on this. I'm also not quite sure what the relevance of the settlements is. But if you're asking, am I citing any proximate cause for this specific series of raids, no, I'm not citing any proximate cause. If you want to know what the Israelis think about why they have to do this at this point, you're going to have to ask the Israelis. Q Richard, in the past, you condemned any type of cross-border infiltration from Lebanon to Israel. How come you're not condemning this? After all, there were scores of people who were killed and wounded. There's no pattern of cross-border infiltration in recent days. The U.N. Ambassador in Beirut could tell you that, and you have an Ambassador in Tel Aviv that could tell you that. MR. BOUCHER: I think I did say that part of the suffering, part of the cycle here has been the cross-border raids as well as the retaliatory attacks. Q There is a pattern. Always, you condemn attacks from Lebanon against Israel. This is "on-the-record" all the time, even when there were no casualties. But you are avoiding any kind of strong language against these Israeli attacks, which have been going on for 3 straight days and in which civilians were killed, including children. MR. BOUCHER: I've expressed our concerns about this. I've said that the cycle of violence, the elements in it that are taking place, that we deplore the cycle of violence. We've said that all along. I'm trying to give you an idea of what the U.S. policy is on this, an idea of what is going on and how we think people should react to it. We've urged restraint. Q The cycle of violence concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict has been going on for almost a century, as Ralph said; if you want to be specific, since 1948. But this did not prevent the United States Government from condemning specific acts of violence. MR. BOUCHER: We condemn specific acts of violence when we want to. Q You mentioned that these raids are not helpful to the process of trying to set up a peace process. Q That's not what he said. Q Well, Margaret said it yesterday. Q Well, I'm not sure she did either, actually. MR. BOUCHER: She said that violence in the region doesn't help the peace process, is what she said. Q And this clearly is violence; right? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q OK. Thank you, Ralph. Q But that's the point that we needed to pursue. MR. BOUCHER: That was a different phrasing that the one you used. Q Well, if I could get to my question. Do you think that there's any possible political cause, for the timing at least, of these raids, and have you ever suspected or do you suspect that one of the motives for the raids is to do precisely that -- to put a stick through the spokes of the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I'm not going to try to ascribe additional motive to these attacks. The events that are occurring are events that are tragic, events that we have said we deplored. It's a pattern that's going on. We have offered some indication, I think, on how we think the parties should act. We've urged restraint. We have said that the Lebanese Government should be supported in its efforts to re-establish its authority and to work toward the goal of disarming the militias. I don't think it's just a matter of standing up here and making statements. It's a matter of pointing to some way, we would hope, of dealing with the situation, of lessening the violence, and of resolving the situation. Q On that point, as an alternative to standing up there and making statements, have you brought these views directly to the attention of the Israeli Government? MR. BOUCHER: We have talked to the Israelis. Yes. Q When? MR. BOUCHER: In recent days. I don't know exactly when. Q About this specific subject? MR. BOUCHER: About this series of raids. Yes. Q Richard, can I move slightly sideways -- Q Still on that subject one second? Your statements related these raids and your comments about them exclusively to the problem of Lebanon re-establishing its government authority. Do you see these raids as being, in any way, related to the Middle East peace process? MR. BOUCHER: Are you asking as far as the motive for these raids? Is that the same kind of question that Jim was asking? Q No. It isn't. I didn't say anything about motives. I'm referring to your original statement which makes no mention of the Middle East peace process. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think I'd stick with what Margaret said yesterday -- that violence in the region just can't help the peace process. Q Are these raids an obstacle to the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with the way Margaret said it yesterday. Q Well, then I guess I've got to go through this piece by piece again. You answered Jim by saying, "These raids are violence." You just said that, "Violence is a problem for the peace process." Are these raids a problem for the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: I said that violence such as these raids -- Margaret said it in the context of being asked about these raids yesterday -- cannot help the peace process. It's not helpful to the peace process. I'll stick with that. Q Speaking of the peace process, have you seen comments reported by the Israeli Prime Minister, who normally is wont to swear that Israel won't give up an inch of territory, in this speech is reported as having said that the future of the territories is -- or the future sovereignty of the territories is negotiable? MR. BOUCHER: I've seen various statements on the wires about the peace process this morning. In fact, there was a whole flurry of them right before I came out. I really don't have any response for it at this point. Q You don't have any response to Levy talking about the role of the Europeans in such a peace conference? MR. BOUCHER: Well, that was a little bit earlier. You know, the Secretary has spoken about this before. The remarks I saw were actually by Jacques Poos. The Secretary will be seeing Luxembourg's Foreign Minister in Copenhagen, so I'm sure he'll have an opportunity to get a personal debrief from the European Community on exactly what the nature of those discussions were. Q Well, I guess the broader question is, does the State Department think this flurry of statements is sound and fury, signifying nothing or something? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't analyzed them all, Johanna. I just can't tell you. Q Has the U.S. had responses to the letters that Secretary Baker and President Bush conveyed to leaders in the Middle East? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of, but you'd have to check with the White House. They were Presidential letters. Q Do you have anything on summits, either in Moscow or Gorbachev coming to the economic summit? MR. BOUCHER: No. I think Marlin addressed both of those and basically left them where they were. Q Can you confirm whether Moscow has reserved 400 hotel rooms for the United States on June 25? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't check on hotel rooms. I'll stick with what Marlin's been saying about late June/early July as possibilities. Q Richard, on the subject of Cuba, there are reports out of Havana today that the Castro government is preparing for a violent civil uprising, maybe of a "Romanian type." Human rights activists say that the Cuban police force is growing. It's obvious that something is going on there. What do you know? MR. BOUCHER: I personally don't know anything. I'll have to check and see if we've noted any change in the situation there. Q The Vice President, in some remarks abroad, was discouraging any U.S. financial aid to the Soviet Union. Do you have anything further on that subject of U.S. aid to the Soviets? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything further at this point. Again, I think Marlin dealt with some of the precise issues of the decisions that need to be made. The issue of our support for Soviet economic reform, I think, was dealt with very well by Bob Zoellick the other night on television, and he talked about a step-by-step process. He talked about things that we can do to support reform -- technical assistance. He talked about the energy sector, defense conversion, other things. He talked about assistance from Western countries in the context of a step-by-step program and our support for genuine market economic reform. Q Would you go so far as to say, as he did, that direct aid to the Soviet Union is a "non-starter"? MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to look at the full context of his remarks and see exactly what you mean by "direct aid." So I don't really have anything more on it. Q What he meant. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I didn't read his whole speech. I don't feel prepared to comment. Q Can you tell us whether the U.S. delegates or representatives to the Geneva START talks have resumed those discussions at this point in Geneva? MR. BOUCHER: They're still meeting. I think they resumed in -- April 19th? (To Staff) Is that the date I remember? It's the date I remember. Is it the right date, I guess, is the question. It was about mid-April. They've been having meetings since then. Q Have there been any high-level additions to the delegation since Secretary Baker and Bessmertnykh reached their agreement on Saturday on CFE? MR. BOUCHER: No. The Secretary, you'll remember, after the meeting with Bessmertnykh, said it was a possibility that our top-level negotiators would go to Geneva -- Q Very early this week he said -- MR. BOUCHER: Yes. At this point there have been no decisions or changes. Q So at this point then, the START talks are continuing on the same basis they were after Vilnius, which is that -- I think the phrase was, "It would not be business as usual at START," and that has not changed at this point, has it? MR. BOUCHER: At this point I don't have any new decisions or changes in how we proceed with START. Q Does that include no new negotiating instructions? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything. Q Can you tell us anything about the Secretary's meeting with Mr. Scowcroft this morning? MR. BOUCHER: It's a routine, regular meeting. Cheney was there. They discussed Cheney's recent visit. Cheney just came back. I think some of you were concerned that they didn't take off precisely on time. The meeting ran over a little bit. The Secretary came back here to debrief his staff, as he normally does. He does it personally rather than over an unsecure car phone, or something like that. When he finished that, he took off for the airport. Q Do you know whether, for example, START instructions were discussed at that meeting? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I think Marlin, who was closer to the site of the meeting -- I think he mentioned NATO and the Middle East, Cheney's trip. I don't know of any other subject.

[Algeria: State of Siege/Elections Delayed]

Q Richard, do you have anything on what's been going on in Algeria? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. In the wake of serious rioting in Algiers over the past 3 days, early this morning President Benjedid declared a state of siege under Article 86 of the Algerian Constitution. At the same time, he announced that Prime Minister Hamrouche and his cabinet had resigned, and that a new government would be named. Finally, he announced that the legislative elections scheduled for June and July were being postponed and that measures would be taken to prepare the right atmosphere for elections at a later date. We regret that the promising democratic process that has been underway in Algeria for the past 2 years has been interrupted and that a loss of life has occurred. We hope that all parties will show restraint in the coming days, and we share President Benjedid's hope that the conditions for holding elections will be rapidly restored. There has been no injury to U.S. citizens and no damage to U.S. property. U.S. citizens have been contacted by the Embassy, and all are reportedly safe. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:36 p.m.)