US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #104, Monday, 6/24/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:25 PM, Washington, DC Date: Jun 24, 19916/24/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Polar Regions, East Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, Central America, South America Country: Iraq, Kuwait, South Africa, Israel, Iran, Jordan, Cambodia, Philippines, Germany, El Salvador, Venezuela, Antarctica, Libya Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Development/Relief Aid, Mideast Peace Process, Human Rights, Military Affairs, Democratization, State Department, Science/Technology, Trade/Economics, Security Assistance and Sales, Terrorism (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements for you today, so I'm glad to take your questions. Q I have a question. MR. BOUCHER: Alan has a question. Q There are reports that 400 people have been deported from Kuwait. Does this violate the Geneva convention which states, I believe, that people should not be [deported] from an area after a war? MR. BOUCHER: Alan, we've seen those recent reports. You remember we spoke before about the process of deportation. Countries have rights to deport people that they don't think belong within their borders. We engaged with the Kuwaitis on this and basically encouraged them to work with the ICRC. We understand that they are working out arrangements with the ICRC. As to your specific question on the Geneva convention, I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding is that the Geneva conventions apply during time of war or in occupied territories and that they don't really apply to this present situation. Q Have the Syrians responded, or do you have any reason to -- MR. BOUCHER: Can I add one more thing to that, Alan. I think we phrased it before, the kinds of concerns we had were basically humanitarian concerns, not legal ones, under the Geneva convention. Sorry. Q Have the Syrians responded, or do you have any reason to expect that they are about to respond imminently? MR. BOUCHER: The Syrians have not responded. I do not have any further reason to expect at some specific point that there would be a response. I mean, I don't have any reason to predict a response at a particular time at this point. Q As you may be aware, there are some stories in the region which connect a possible response to the usual rumors of hostage release. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any way of predicting it one way or another. Q If you hear anything at all -- Q Have you asked them why they haven't responded? Q Yes. For instance, you know we were told almost 2 weeks ago now that they were sort of revving up, and you know the reasons they were asking questions about wording and terminology, which suggested to a lot of people that they were about to respond. What's happened? Have you asked -- or State Department? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't asked myself exactly what's happened. I mean, one can ask the Syrians were they stand on this, and I'm sure we probably have. But I think, you know, we're looking forward to a Syrian response, but I don't have any way of predicting when it's going to come. Q Haven't you said to some of them, "Hey, we sent you a letter. Did you get it? Are we going to hear from you?" MR. BOUCHER: They got the letter, John. They got the letter. We know that. Q Don't we say things -- I know it's a diplomatic exchange, but as a matter of courtesy, "We would like a response." Q Second notice. (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: John, I don't think I'm in a position to go into the details of what we're discussing with the Syrians. As I said, they've got the letter. They've told us that they're working on a response. I don't have any way of predicting precisely when it will come. Q Exactly. They've told you they're working on a response, but have they told you that lately? MR. BOUCHER: It depends what you say is "lately." Q Like take all of last week and add this weekend, if you will. Because it was the week before -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly what contacts we've had with the Syrians over the last week or so, Barry, but I really, you know, just have to leave it where we've left it before. And that's we've sent them a letter; we expect a response. Q Does their position -- do we draw any conclusions from that about their cooperativeness or lack thereof with the peace process? MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't, John. Q How long are you going to let this hang? At some point, don't you have to conclude that perhaps they're not interested in responding? MR. BOUCHER: I guess at some point one does. I haven't drawn any conclusions at this point. Q Do you know how this impacts on your dealings with the other parties -- the Palestinians, the Jordanians, and the Israelis? I mean, can you move it -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not drawing any conclusions of that sort either at this point. Q What I mean is whether State can -- or, you know, the government can progress at any point when a major player hasn't responded at all. How can you fine tune the understandings with other countries, or can you? MR. BOUCHER: We can certainly continue our contacts with others. The whole subject of the peace process is something that's discussed with a whole variety of people. Q Richard, another one on the Geneva convention. The Israelis have acknowledged what many people thought for a long time, that they were sending undercover teams into the occupied territories dressed as Arabs for purposes, they say, of law and order. Is this in accord with accepted international behavior in occupied territories? MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea. Q Can you take the question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into it. I don't really have much comment on the practice. Q Also on Israel: Can you shed any further light or response beyond the kind of opaque answer that was given here the other day about whether we have been in consultation in any way or coordination with the West -- with the German Government -- excuse me -- about the conditions under which they might provide guarantees to Israel for resettlement of Soviet Jews? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that story nor on a number of other vague stories that are out there. Q I mean, it was vague. The Secretary -- I was not there. I understand that the Secretary of State or a senior official on his plane was asked about this on the way back, and that he -- it is my understanding secondhand -- said he wouldn't answer it at the time. Is that our opposition? (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: John, I think what I said on Friday still holds, that there have been all kinds of stories that float out there from vague sources with vague suggestions of what the United States is or is not doing. We have been up front in terms of our views on many of these issues, and we don't have any further explanation in response to the stories that keep cropping up. Q Does the United States have any position on the reported agreement or maybe non-agreement between Barzani and the Iraqis on Kurdish autonomy? MR. BOUCHER: We're following it. We've seen statements by Kurdish leaders that indicate the Kurds are currently conducting a broad consultative process to discuss the proposed agreement with the Government of Iraq. Their consultations involve Kurdish political parties as well as Kurdish tribal and regional leaders, with the additional participation of Kurds outside the region. The press reports, that I'm sure you all have seen, indicate that an agreement is expected by the end of this week. Our general view of this remains where it's been before: that we would welcome any agreement which establishes democratic practices in Iraq, which protects the human rights of the population, and which provides reassurances which would allow the refugees to return home promptly in safety and dignity. Q Anything about any special identity for some of these people? Are those the conditions? MR. BOUCHER: These are the kinds of things that we would look forward to seeing in an agreement. I don't think any of us have seen enough of the proposed agreement to know whether it moves in that direction or how far it does. Q There is a report that Iran has agreed to sell the United States 400,000 barrels of oil. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have anything specifically on that. You remember what I don't remember, that at some point in the not-too-distant past, there was an arrangement worked out whereby Treasury would license certain sales of oil to U.S. firms provided the money was used for the accounts in The Hague. I assume it falls under that. Q Richard, a follow-up on the Iraq question: Did the State Department have anybody at the President's meeting with the UNHCR this morning, and will anybody from the Department be meeting with her? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't check on that. I assume we did have people over there for the meeting, and I understand that Marlin will be giving a readout. I was just going to leave it to him. Q On Iran, I mean, is there any movement toward re-establishing diplomatic ties? Have there been any discussions lately through third-party contacts? MR. BOUCHER: We don't always report on our third-party contacts, but on your general question, I'm not aware of anything new. Q This possible oil sale or arrangement is beneficial toward Iran-U.S. relations? MR. BOUCHER: This is something that was forecast by the decision some time ago to go ahead with it. I think what's being reported today is the possibility of specific contracts being made. Q Richard, there is a report in the London Observer newspaper yesterday that Iraq and Jordan have a substantial amount of trade going back and forth. It seemed to be a contradiction to the U.N. -- MR. BOUCHER: We looked at that story. I guess we would comment as follows: The announced policy of the Government of Jordan has been to adhere to the U.N. sanctions against Iraq. We've not seen the document that's cited by the Observer, so it's difficult to provide any sort of detailed comment. We would note that the figures that they cite for trade between April 1990 and April 1991 include a period which is April to July 1990 in which sanctions did not apply, and it's also not clear what types of trade are included in the figures, nor whether the implementation is dependent on a relaxation of sanctions. You'll also recall that trade in foodstuffs and medicines is permitted under the current sanctions regime. In addition, Jordan has continued to import oil from Iraq under an arrangement that does not provide Iraq with foreign exchange. In light of Jordan's unique situation, the U.N. Sanctions Committee has "taken note" of these imports which have an annual value of about $300 million. One of the things specifically mentioned is potash. We were aware of an agreement concerning the Iraqi import of Jordanian potash, but we were told that its implementation is contingent on a relaxation of sanctions. That has not occurred, and we have no reason to disbelieve the assurances. Q Richard, President Perez of Venezuela has written President Bush complaining about new U.S. trade barriers for non-oil products saying it's very difficult to make any progress toward freer trade under these circumstances. Are you aware of the letter? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of the letter. I suggest you might check with the White House on it. Q A second thing, is there anything new on the Perez oil conference? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. Q Is there going to be? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Connie?

[Antarctica: US Position on Mining]

Q To the Southern Hemisphere, I might have to ask you to take it -- on the Antarctic collapse of talks this weekend, do you have any reaction to the collapse? And some countries are charging that the U.S., in effect, sold out the other treaty partners by trying to reopen it. What statements do you have, or can you look into it and give us more detail? MR. BOUCHER: Let me give you the detail of where we stand after the end of the meetings in Madrid. The U.S. is pleased with the broad agreement on the environmental provisions of the protocol, which will provide a comprehensive protection for Antarctica, including a 50-year ban on mineral activities. However, we remain concerned about the procedures to amend the mining ban. Last Thursday, the chairman of the conference presented a compromise proposal on the amendment procedure. The chairman's proposal differs in several ways from the U.S. proposal that we had earlier submitted, and we have asked for more time to consider it. We are concerned that a single country or a small group could block an amendment supported by a majority of countries. We wish to ensure that a party can decide to return to the existing status quo after the 50-year ban expires. Q I'm baffled. Isn't the United States the single party that is preventing implementation of an environmental package that would prohibit mining in certain areas? MR. BOUCHER: All parties, including the United States, have agreed to the 50-year ban. What we are discussing are the procedures that would allow any change in that ban to occur after the end of the 50-year period. At this point, as I said, we presented a proposal last week. The chairman presented another proposal that we have to look at. Q You said "some time." Do you know how long this might take? MR. BOUCHER: No specific date, but I'm told that we will examine the chairman's proposal and expect to inform other parties of our position shortly. Q In the meantime, is the ban in effect against mining, the 50-year ban? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that the protocol has not taken effect yet because it hasn't been agreed to by the parties. What the exact situation is at this moment, I don't know, but certainly the direction that everything is headed is pretty much agreed. Q Could we request that Tucker Scully or somebody come down and give us an on-the-record briefing on this? MR. BOUCHER: Is that unanimous? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we can get you more information on this. I'll check. Q Also can I ask about South Africa? In light of Chief Buthelezi's visit, does the U.S. make any value judgment of who is more representative or more agreeable to the U.S. thinking, either Buthelezi or the ANC? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q No valued -- (laughter) MR. BOUCHER: Chris? Q In light of the continuing volcanic activity in the Philippines, what is the status of the base talks? MR. BOUCHER: The base talks? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: There are personnel at both Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base that are working to clean up and working to restore normal service. We have teams there at the same time that are assessing the extent of the damage, the feasibility of repairs, and the operational potential of the bases. The status of the negotiations remains essentially what it has been since the Mt. Pinatubo crisis began. Communications between the two chief negotiators have continued, and it is possible that another formal round of talks will be held in Manila next month. At this point, nothing is scheduled. Q I thought you suspended negotiations completely a week ago between the two top negotiators. Have those now been renewed or what? MR. BOUCHER: We said that we continued our contacts, but that the precise approach to the negotiations was on hold or that we wanted to make sure we could do this assessment before we got back into the negotiations again. And as I said, this assessment is going forward. There have been some contacts back and forth, and it is possible that we'll be ready to hold another session next month. Q When you say it is possible, what are the determining factors? MR. BOUCHER: What are the odds? I can't give you odds. I mean the factors are the operational assessment of the bases, an examination of where the positions stand. Q Richard, with Clark shut down and Subic pretty much messed up, has the U.S. started to utilize Singapore or other areas now to take the place of the Philippine bases? MR. BOUCHER: You would have to ask the military what they are doing in this case. Q In the Baker-Bessmertnykh meeting, they talked about El Salvador and said there was a clear agreement that the fighting should be ended, but Mr. Bessmertnykh differed from Mr. Baker on the sources of supply to El Salvador of weapons, -- of S-l9s, I take it. That's what that refers to. MR. BOUCHER: SA-l6s, I think was the issue, but anyway. Q l6s, yes. That doesn't sound like a very clear agreement. MR. BOUCHER: We have put up our views before about the origin of the SA-l6s, and I'll stick with that as we have expressed it before. We have also attempted to work with the Soviets all along in this process to see that whatever influence they could bring to bear on the situation to help in reaching a peaceful solution would be brought to bear, and we tried to work with them in that regard. Q It's not quite a clear agreement on ending the war, is it? MR. BOUCHER: I think if you look back at the various U.S.-Soviet statements that have been issued on this subject, not just the comments made the other day, but I think we had a joint statement not too long ago where there was clear agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union that we would both work to end the fighting and to move this into a political track that could result in a cease-fire and successful negotiations. Q Richard, there has been a cease-fire in Cambodia. Any reaction? MR. BOUCHER: We supported the call by U.N. Secretary General Perez de Cuellar and the co-chairmen of the Paris Cambodia Conference -- France and Indonesia -- for a cease-fire as of May l to improve the environment for achieving a settlement of this conflict. We are pleased that Prince Sihanouk and the other members of the Cambodian Supreme National Council are extending this truce as an "unlimited cease-fire" to create a positive climate in which fruitful negotiations can be held. Monitoring, we understand, is still to be discussed. As we have said before, any agreements would be most useful to the extent that they lead to a comprehensive settlement. We hope the current Supreme National Council meeting in Thailand will make progress toward achieving such a settlement. Q The French are saying it might be time to have another "home five" meeting. MR. BOUCHER: Since Prince Sihanouk has become a member, he has been able to energize the Cambodian leadership group, the SNC. We hope that the SNC members will be able to resolve differences relating to the draft settlement documents for a U.N.-based settlement. We understand that they are meeting today through Wednesday in Pattaya, Thailand. SNC consensus on these documents would allow the Paris conference to reconvene. And that could lead to a conclusion of the settlement agreement and that then could be referred to the United Nations for implementation. That is the process as we see it. Q Richard, Sihanouk just said a few moments ago that the whole thing had collapsed. (Laughter) Do you have -- MR. BOUCHER: I saw it. I don't think he quite said the whole thing had collapsed. He said that there were points on which he didn't have the agreement of the Phom Penh government. I don't have any verification of this at this point. As I have said, we are pleased with the announcement of a cease-fire. We hope that they will continue working toward a comprehensive settlement, and they have another 2 days of meetings, and we hope something more positive comes out of that. Q Richard, there is an L.A. Times report today saying there is more evidence linking Libya to the PanAm bombing over Lockerbee. Do you have anything to say about that issue? MR. BOUCHER: I will read you what we have said before in response to similar reports which have appeared not too long ago on the same subject. We cannot jeopardize the success of the ongoing investigation, and our hope of eventually bringing the responsible parties to justice, by publicly commenting on speculation. Q For an ongoing investigation, it has been an awfully long time. MR. BOUCHER: Some investigations are more complicated than others. I can't predict. You can ask the FBI and others. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:44 p.m.)