September, 1991

US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #128, Tuesday, 9/3/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:52 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 3, 19919/3/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, Central America, East Asia, Europe Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Estonia, Latvia, Colombia, Lithuania, Turkey, China, France, Pakistan, Nicaragua, Saudi Arabia Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Human Rights, Travel, Narcotics, CSCE (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements so I'd be glad to take your questions. George? Q Do you have anything about the substance of the new relationship that the U.S. Government has with the Baltics? MR. BOUCHER: It depends what you call the "substance." Why don't I update you on Curt Kamman and his travels. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary, Curt Kamman, arrived in Tallinn today. He's accompanied by two other State Department officials. Following his stay in Tallinn, he will travel to Vilnius and then to Riga. We expect he will be in the Baltic states until the end of this week. He will meet with officials of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian Governments. Obviously, it's up to them to determine which officials will participate on their side. As for the announcement, you've seen, I think, public comments from the Baltic leaders welcoming the President's announcement. At this point, we don't have any other communications through official channels, but we anticipate that Mr. Kamman will receive these during his visit. That's pretty much where we stand. Q What's he doing? What's he discussing with them? MR. BOUCHER: He's going to talk to them about, principally, the modalities of establishing the diplomatic relationship. Q How? MR. BOUCHER: He's going to talk to them about how we go about establishing the diplomatic relationship now that the President has announced it. Obviously, there are a great number of issues that have to be worked out. Diplomatic relations are generally considered established once both sides have announced their intention to do so. So that would be something that would be in effect now, if not soon. Then he will talk to them about how we go about establishing the relationships in more practical terms. Q Richard, when are you going to add the flags of these three republics to the array in the front entrance of the State Department of the countries with which the United States has diplomatic relations? MR. BOUCHER: Alan, you haven't been paying attention. The flags have been there. They've been there actually, I'm told, since the lobby was opened. Although I don't have the precise date of when the lobby was opened, I think it's going on 30 years. Barry. Q (Inaudible) the United States will simply appoint ambassadors? MR. BOUCHER: The President said yesterday we would. We would be treating each country as an independent nation. We intend to have embassies in each place and ambassadors for those, I think, as the President said yesterday. Q Do know how quickly that might be accomplished? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Those announcements, of course, are for the White House to do. For our part, we anticipate that, after talking to Curt Kamman, we'll be sending out advance teams to the places to work on establishing embassies. That would be a small group of people. They'll have to look at property questions and other questions of how we can deal with these countries. We would probably send out some various communications and facilities experts to help them work on that, and we'll be starting the process soon, I'm sure. Q Just for the historical record, did we have embassies in those countries when they were independent countries? MR. BOUCHER: I believe we did. I do have a little bit. I assume so. We conducted diplomatic relations with the independent Baltic governments from 1922 until their forcible incorporation by the U.S.S.R. in 1940. I assume that meant that we had representation there. We didn't own property, if that's your question. Q We don't have any property? We're actually going to have to scout out property and build embassies? If that's the case, we wouldn't wait that long -- we wouldn't wait until an embassy was built before we actually sent diplomats there, would we? MR. BOUCHER: No. We don't own property there now. We would expect our advance team, as they do in many places, will set up in temporary facilities to establish our diplomatic presence. In many cases, I think you know that takes place in hotel rooms. But in any case, we'll be working on those arrangements in the days to come. Q What about the Baltic states themselves? Are they going to upgrade their local offices to embassy status soon? MR. BOUCHER: It's a question you have to ask them. Q Richard, have asked for it? Q On that question, the present representatives are regarded as representing the governments of the 1920s. Will they be required to give new letters of accreditation, or what's the procedure here? MR. BOUCHER: The situation, as I understand it, is we maintain diplomatic ties with the Baltic legations established in Washington by the last independent Baltic governments prior to 1940. Those legations have had no legal relationship to the current governments although you're well aware that they've been regarded by those governments as informally representing their interests in the United States. There's no need to recognize Baltic statehood as we've never ceased to recognize it, but we do need to establish relationships with the Baltic governments because we have not had such relationships in the past with these governments. Now that they are achieving their full independence, we consider them to be the legitimate successors to the pre-1940 free governments in the three countries. How exactly they go about their representation, I think, are really questions for them. Q Richard, what role will the United States play in membership in the U.N. by the three Baltic republics? MR. BOUCHER: I think you know the position that we've always taken; that they were independent countries and that they deserve the right to be represented in international organizations once they could achieve their independence. So I have no doubt that we will support their membership in the U.N. and other organizations. At this point, I'll have to try to get you more details on exactly what we're doing in that regard. Q Richard, related to that is the possibility that the new republics, given their freedom in the Soviet Union, would also ask for U.N. status as they once did a long time ago when we opposed it. Is there any change in our position? If they become republics, in the sense that they're apparently going to become republics, does that mean we would accept their U.N. membership and support that, too? MR. BOUCHER: I take it you're talking about republics other than the Baltics -- Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: -- the Baltics, of course, being a different situation. I really can't add to what the President said yesterday about that, and that's that these things will have to be looked at on a case-by-case basis after the Soviets and their republics work out whatever their future relationships might be. It's just too early for us to try to predict any specific scenario for any given republic. Q Has any thinking been done with respect to humanitarian aid for the Baltics? MR. BOUCHER: The thinking has. The President said that we would continue to support them in their efforts. I don't have any precise announcements at this point; but, obviously, we have a number of programs that are on-going, and we'll want to be able to work out what's the most appropriate way of working directly with the Baltic states to support their independence and support them along the path that they've chosen. Q You say a number of programs on-going? MR. BOUCHER: A number of programs that we've had for the broader area of the Soviet Union. You know that in the past, for example, the Project Hope program delivered medical supplies to Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. So we'll have to be looking at how we carry out the appropriate programs with the Baltic countries to support their move toward independence. Q Has there been any specific request from any of the Baltic states for economic aid in connection with independence? And, if so, have they been acted upon? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I'm aware of. As I said, I don't think we've received any direct communications from them at this point although, again, with Curt Kamman out there, he's having discussions this week with those governments and these topics may come up. Barry. Q If I can ask you an upside question. With this development, does the U.N. Embassy in Moscow cease being a channel for such issues as the one just mentioned in the previous question? In other words -- is that clear what I'm asking? In other words, do you say to the Soviets now, "That's a separate state; we'll deal with them separately," or is there some lingering need to maintain -- use the U.S. Embassy in Moscow as the sounding board or as the place to discuss the Baltic developments? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we have somebody in those countries right now who's going to be traveling there and discussing things directly with the governments there. He's traveling there from Helsinki and going in without passing through the Soviet Union. We would expect to support our advance teams in our embassies out of our embassies in Western Europe. Clearly, whatever developments there are in Moscow that affect this relationship, we assume our Embassy in Moscow will stay in touch and be reporting to us. But the President, I think, said clearly yesterday that we intend to deal with these countries as independent countries, and that means separate ambassadors and separate embassies. Q Did Gorbachev, or the Soviet Ambassador to Washington send a note expressing displeasure, or whatever comments, about the United States willingness to extend formal diplomatic relations? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard of anything like that. Q Richard, if I could come back to the question of international membership. The Baltic states requested some time ago to be admitted to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is having a meeting or conference on human rights in Moscow beginning next week. Is this on the agenda there, and will the United States give it more support now or introduce this topic itself? Can you take the question? MR. BOUCHER: My only answer is, I don't know at this point. I'm not sure we know the answers to that yet. I'll check. Q On the question of the CSCE meeting in Moscow next week, will that be held and will the Secretary attend? MR. BOUCHER: As for the Secretary's travel, I don't have anything to announce for you today. As for the meeting itself, the Acting Soviet Foreign Minister, Boris Pankin, announced September 2nd to a gathering of Ambassadors and Charges of the CSCE states that the Moscow Human Rights Conference will be held as planned. The CSCE representatives welcome the Soviet decision. We also understand that President Gorbachev will probably open the meeting. Q What are the dates for that, please? MR. BOUCHER: It was September 10 to August 4th -- October 4th. Excuse me. Q Richard, do you anticipate the agenda will change, or will the agenda of this meeting be altered by -- MR. BOUCHER: That's something we'll have to see in conjunction with the other countries and the Soviet host. Q Richard, it is true that an official delegation from the so-called republic of Macedonia of Yugoslavia is in Washington for consultations with the Department of State? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I hadn't heard of that. I'll have to check on it. Q The Soviet Union and the United States are scheduled to co-sponsor the convening of the Middle East peace conference, as you well know, this coming October. Do you have any guidance on the fate of this conference, or when can we expect a post-mortem report? (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: The President said yesterday that we had no indications that the turmoil in the Soviet Union had adversely affected the Middle East peace prospects. We continue to work with the various parties on the remaining details. We are in touch with the various parties involved, and our efforts continue toward launching negotiations of a peace conference in October. Q Follow-up on that: The Israelis are saying they do expect the Secretary to come over shortly. MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying I have nothing to announce for you regarding the Secretary's future travel plans. Q Richard, are you also saying the Secretary has not decided to attend the CSCE conference in Moscow, or is there a decision? Does he want to attend that conference? Does he plan to attend that conference? MR. BOUCHER: I have nothing to add to what he said on television about a week and a half ago, that as things now stand, he would probably go from Mexico to Moscow for the conference. But I just don't have any new announcements for you on his travel. Q Richard, there's been an announcement out of Moscow that some ambassadors are being recalled to discuss their reactions during the coup. Has the State Department been informed that the Soviet Ambassador here is going back to visit to Moscow for a while? MR. BOUCHER: You'll have to ask him or his government about his travel plans. Q A congressional delegation in China, warning the Chinese that unless political prisoners are released, they're going to try to strip China of its trading privileges. Do you have either a new appraisal of how China's been performing or any comments on that implicit warning? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new appraisals, Barry. I think you'll remember from what the President said about MFN for China that we felt it was important to continue that kind of relationship. He also said at the same time that we would speak out on human rights issues. He discussed these, I believe -- Prime Minister Major -- last week. And you're, I think, aware that we put out on Friday a statement about our concerns about political prisoners in China and two of them specifically. Q Richard, are you concerned about the confrontation that's developed in Nicaragaua between the Congress, which is controlled by Alfredo Cesar and the UNO, and the government of President Chamorro which apparently is siding with the Sandinistas regarding the revocation of the laws that they've passed, confiscating a lot of private property? The Sandinistas are currently calling for non-compliance with that law, and it looks kind of bad down there. Haven't heard anything in a long time about that. MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard anything in a long time about that either. I'll have to check on it and see if I can give you something on it. Q Do you have anything current on the report of the U.N. inspection teams in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything brand new today, Bill. I think we've emphasized that there were many areas that they still had to inspect. I believe that there are still some teams now in Iraq. There have been teams -- Q That's the next question. Are there still teams in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: I believe so. I think that's based on press reports, though. I had a schedule somewhere. Maybe I can get it for you. Q Do you have anything on apparent Iraqi activity in the southern part of the country? There have been some clashes there in the last couple of days, and some are calling it genocide. MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about the situation in the marshes? Q Indeed. MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that too. Q Richard, do you have anything on the Jerusalem Post report concerning the Israeli request for a $10 billion in loan guarantee and some dispute within the Administration about how it would be scored? What percentage of the loans would have to be guaranteed in cold cash on the budget? MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have anything new on that. Q Could you get something? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we have anything new at this point. I'm not sure there is anything new to say. Q Anything on the Palestinian representation? Anything new on that at all? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new at this point. Q Richard, anything on Yugoslavia and the prospects for a peace conference? MR. BOUCHER: We welcome the progress achieved by the European Community over the weekend in getting all the parties in Yugoslavia to agree to proposals aimed at halting the violence and establishing a negotiating process. At the same time, we are concerned that the violence has continued. We call on all parties and specifically the Serbian and military leaderships to implement their commitments in good faith. Q Can you shed any light on these three missing Americans in Turkey near the -- in the area controlled by the Kurds? Has there been any contact with the Kurdish units, whatever, that are apparently are responsible for this? MR. BOUCHER: On August 30, five Westerners, including three Americans, were kidnapped in southeastern Turkey. To date, no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. At this point, we don't have any information about why they were kidnapped or where they are now. We know that Turkish authorities are actively searching for the kidnap victims, and we are in very close touch with the Turkish authorities. We are also in daily contact with the families of the three. Q You apparently told one of the families that you've -- you or the Turkish Government anyway have basically pinpointed where they are, though, based on where the driver was released? MR. BOUCHER: I think we know where they were kidnapped from, which is a town in southeastern Turkey, but I'm told that we don't know precisely where they are now. Q Would this area -- is it under some sort of travel advisory currently, do you know? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We've had a travel advisory on southeastern Turkey for some time. I believe March 25 was the last iteration of this. We continue to advise Americans to defer all non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey. Q Would you consider looking for Noah's Ark essential or non-essential? MR. BOUCHER: That's for the individuals involved to decide. Q Coming back to Yugoslavia, there were reports in Austria over the weekend that the U.S. would not oppose a military intervention in case the EC would decide on one. MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't believe the EC has decided on that. They were talking about sending some more observers, and we've been in close contact with the EC all along in supporting their efforts to arrange peace negotiations and try to arrange an acceptable peaceful settlement to the disputes. Q Richard, do you think the situation is continuing to deteriorate in Yugoslavia despite the EC's efforts? MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, if you look at it over a period of weeks, there have been efforts by the European Community and others to establish a path toward a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in the disputes there. As always, the taking of that road depends on the parties themselves, and I think we're dismayed that that road has not been taken. Q But specifically, Richard, I mean, on the ground, what are your people telling you? There are still violent acts occurring there, are there not? MR. BOUCHER: And if you look back at the statements we've made over the last 10 days or 2 weeks, including a fairly lengthy statement we issued last week, you'll see that we are increasingly concerned at the violence. We're increasingly concerned particularly at the fact that the Yugoslav military appeared to be acting along with Serbian leadership to undercut the peaceful process, to undercut the negotiating process, and not to support constitutional rule. Q But, Richard, what is the United States doing to bring about an end to the violence and fighting there? Are we just leaving it up to the EC? MR. BOUCHER: No. We're not leaving it up to the EC, John. The EC certainly has been in the lead with various proposals, but we have worked very, very closely with the EC. Our Ambassador in Belgrade has had very frequent contacts with various people there involved on the ground. We've been supporting any prospects for peaceful resolution of the disputes, and we've been making very clear in public and in private what our views are. Q What about leverage? Do we have any? MR. BOUCHER: Well -- Q Never mind closeness. How about, you know, clout? MR. BOUCHER: I would hope that the voice of the United States would have a certain influence on the situation, but, as I said, I can't point to any specific progress being made now except for the fact that there is agreement that we have supported for the EC, and we hope that those agreements are implemented in good faith by all the parties. Q Can we return just to a technicality on the Baltics? Were you indicating that as Curt Kamman touches down in these countries that officially diplomatic relations have been re-established? Is that what it takes to officially have the spark? MR. BOUCHER: It takes mutual consent. Q And that happens when your diplomat faces their diplomat face to face? I'm just trying to figure out when -- MR. BOUCHER: And they say, "Yeah. Let's do it." That's pretty much what it is. Q Even though the two governments have expressed a will until you officially put a man on the ground? MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you the formal language, but it's basically by mutual consent when both sides indicate their intentions. Q The President said yesterday -- used the word "immediate" yesterday. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's any question, John, as to the fact of their willingness to establish a relationship. Q Curious if we can say, as he touches down in each country, then officially relations have been re-established? MR. BOUCHER: Under international law, diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania will be in effect as soon as both sides have stated their intentions to have such relations. As you know, the President has asked Curt Kamman to travel as his personal envoy to deliver messages from the President to the leaders of the Baltic states and to discuss the modalities of the formal establishment of relations. Q So both sides have stated their intention already, right? MR. BOUCHER: I believe that they've at least welcomed the President's announcement, if not publicly stated their intention to establish the relationship. Q So do we have diplomatic relations with them or don't we? We're in process, right? MR. BOUCHER: We're in the process of establishing it, and as soon as it's clear that they have indicated their intention, then we would consider relations to be in effect. Q Roland Dumas was quoted the other day as warning the United States not to get too cocky about being the only superpower. I wondered if you had any response. (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't. Q Do you have anything on the apparent decision by the Cuban Government to cooperate with Colombian authorities in their investigations into cocaine smuggling? MR. BOUCHER: First of all, to say that we strongly support President Gaviria's efforts to prosecute narcotics traffickers. We are cooperating fully with these efforts, and we would hope that all other governments with useful information would do so as well. Q Richard, there are reports in the Pakistani press that Bartholomew is going there in coming days to look at bilateral relations. MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that. I didn't know. Q Richard, there have been persistent reports of recurring violence in the Iraqi refugee camps in Saudi Arabia. Several refugees have been reported to have been killed as a result of clashes between the refugees and the camp guards. What is the U.S. position on that, and is the U.S. looking into this, or what are your thoughts on that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I'll have to check on it. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:18 p.m.)