US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #131, Monday, 9/9/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:15 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 9, 19919/9/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Caribbean, North America, Europe, Subsaharan Africa Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, Philippines, Turkey, Liberia, South Africa Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Trade/Economics, Development/Relief Aid, Travel, Terrorism (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I thought I'd start out by updating you on some changes in the schedule to the Secretary's forthcoming trip. We always give you these things with a proviso that things may change. This is evidence that they do change, and I will end this all as well by saying things always can change further based on the schedules. The Mexico and the Moscow sections of the schedule remain as they were. The overnights start changing as of Saturday. So Friday night and Saturday night, he will be in Leningrad. On Sunday, they will go to Alma Ata; arrive there in the evening. On Monday, he'll go from Alma Ata to Israel; stay overnight in Israel Monday night. Tuesday is Israel, Cairo, and then on to Amman for the night. Wednesday, travel from Amman to Damascus -- to Syria. And then Thursday, they can leave Syria and come home to Andrews. So they'll be getting back 1 day earlier than planned. That's the schedule as it now stands with some recent changes that were made to it for scheduling reasons. I'll give you that again with a proviso that things can always change as further details get worked out. With that update, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have anything to say about the latest Israeli comments on new settlements? MR. BOUCHER: Our policy regarding settlements, I think, is very clear. It has been clear for many years. It has not changed, and our policy remains where it was. One reason for asking for a delay is to give peace a chance. We want to avoid conflict. We want to avoid divisive debates. There is an opportunity for peace which we must not lose. The Government of Israel is, we believe, committed to peace and is interested in following through and picking up on the offer of Arab governments to engage in direct negotiations, something that Israel has wanted for over 40 years. We remain fully committed to helping Israel successfully absorb Soviet Jewish immigrants. Let me remind you as well that Secretary Baker said last Friday that he looks forward to discussing this issue in detail with Prime Minister Shamir on his upcoming visit to Israel. Q Since that Friday meeting, there have been reports coming out of Israel that Baker, in lieu of immediate action on the loan guarantee, offered financial help of a different kind; it's reported to be in tens of millions dollars in new financial support for Israel. Was there such an offer made? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen those reports, Jim, so I didn't get a chance to check, so I'll have to check for you and see. Q Without reference to those reports, did the Secretary make any new kind of financial commitment during the course of that meeting with Mr. Shoval? MR. BOUCHER: I think he and Ambassador Shoval gave you quite an extensive rundown of the meeting in their discussions on Friday. I'm not aware that they mentioned anything like that. But, again, I said I didn't have a chance to check on those subjects, so I'll have to check on it for you. Q They don't in the transcript you put out. Q A follow-up on Jim's question. I've heard that it wasn't necessarily between Shoval and Secretary Baker, but there's been a meeting between senior Israeli diplomats here and senior people in the State Department. One of the things that was discussed was the so-called compromise, where the United States would give some other kind of aid immediately. MR. BOUCHER: OK. I'm sorry, I'm at a loss here. I hadn't seen these reports, so I hadn't checked on any ideas like this. It's something I'll just have to check on for you. Q In this regard, Richard, could you please inform us if the United States at any time will be soon signing the memorandum of understanding between the Government of Israel and the Government of the United States over the whole process of talks and meetings between Mr. Baker and Mr. Shamir? Because there was an American team and Israeli team discussing the details of the MOU. I understand 2 weeks ago, 3 weeks ago that this has been put on hold. Can you elaborate on this? MR. BOUCHER: I can't elaborate beyond what the Secretary discussed last Wednesday when he described his trip. He said he'd be working further on the question of assurances, and that's something that he will be doing as he travels off to the Middle East next week. I don't have any further update for you at this point. Q King Hussein was on NBC this morning. I think the Jordanian monarch has asked the United States for explanations or restating the position of the United States about Security Council Resolutions 242 or possibly 338. Do you have any comment on the request by Jordan to get some assurances about your position regarding 242? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the Secretary will be dealing with these questions when he goes out to the region. He has spoken before about working on the question of assurances. He'll be working on that as he goes out there. I think he's also made quite clear our positions on 242 and 338. Q A last one on the assurances. The Palestinians who met with Mr. Baker for the purpose to get some assurances for the Palestinians here in Washington and in Jerusalem in the East Bank -- on the West Bank of Jerusalem -- did you work on this, or are you still working on assurances for the Palestinians if they will come to the negotiation table? MR. BOUCHER: Again, last Wednesday, the Secretary said that was a question that was still being worked. At this point, we still have to conclude the issue of Palestinian representation, and he will be working on this and other issues when he returns to the Middle East next week. Q Richard, Prime Minister Shamir said today that unless Israel is satisfied with the membership of the Palestinian delegation, it will not attend the peace conference. Does any of that come as a surprise to you? MR. BOUCHER: Again, there have been a variety of statements on this. I think the best course for me at this point is to say that as the Secretary has said before, he will be dealing with these issues of Palestinian representation and assurances and things like that to different parties as he goes out there. He has made clear that there wouldn't be assurances that were not shared with all the parties. He will be working on these issues as he goes back to the region next week. Q Richard, did anybody decide definitively when this 120-day moratorium was due to start? I asked Margaret on Friday, and she said she didn't know; and whether or not it was due to kick in once Shoval had presented the official request, i.e., so the 120 days began on Friday or is still out there? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I have a definitive reading for you on the exact date. I think she said on Friday that it would bring us to the end of the year, and that's about my understanding as well. Q Richard, the last time the loan guarantee topic came up, I think the amount was $400 million. It was delayed for some time until Israel provided certain assurances about how the money would be spent. I'm wondering whether those assurances carry over to any future loan guarantees, i.e., that that matter has been resolved to the United States' satisfaction or whether assurances of the same kind would need to be provided for future loan guarantees? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a definitive reading for you on that at this point, Chris. I think that's something among many issues that we would have to explore. Q A member of the Israeli Government accused the U.S. of creating linkage between the peace conference and the loan guarantees where there was none before. Is there any concern at the State Department that this may have raised new problems rather than avoiding them? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think I have to go back to the way the Secretary, the President, and Margaret all addressed this issue on Friday. Margaret, in particular, said that there would be an affect that we would have to waive, but that we were not creating any specific linkage. That's the way the Secretary addressed it last Wednesday. Clearly, the request raises issues that we have explore, and for that reason, we've asked for a delay to give peace a chance. Q Does the U.S. Government not detect a new tone coming from the Israeli Government on the peace conference since this all began last week? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any analysis for you on things like that. Sorry. Pat? Q Do you have any reaction to the Philippine Senate's action to reject the base agreement? MR. BOUCHER: As you know, the Philippine Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which the entire Senate sits, voted out a resolution recommending that the agreement not be ratified. The vote in this committee was 12 to 11. We think that the agreement is a good one. It's one which serves the interests of both our countries. Clearly, however, ratification of the accord is a decision which Filipinos will have to make. Today's vote is not the final vote. The Philippine Senate, sitting as a committee of the whole, will now debate the merits of the agreement. It is still possible that the Philippine Senate could ratify it. President Aquino is waging a vigorous campaign in favor of this agreement. She plans to lead a "People Power" march tomorrow to underscore to the Senate the solid popular base for continuing the security relationship with the United States. Q And what happens if, indeed, it is rejected? MR. BOUCHER: I think, as we've said, we would then have to withdraw. Q But would you consider renegotiating an agreement at that time? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I haven't heard that kind of discussion. Clearly, if they reject the agreement, then we would have to look at withdrawal. Q But where would we go if we had to pull out of Subic? Is the U.S. Government negotiating with anyone else? MR. BOUCHER: That's Defense Department type of planning. I believe Secretary Cheney addressed it to some extent this morning on television. But you'd have to get more answers from them than me. Q But in terms of negotiating with any other countries in that part of the world, is that something we're interested in? MR. BOUCHER: We have security relationships with other countries in that part of the world, but what exactly Defense is planning in terms of what they might have to do in pulling out of Subic, I think I have to leave to the Defense Department. At this point, I'd just like to emphasize that we think this is a good agreement; that President Aquino is rallying popular support for the agreement, and we think there is a solid base of support in the Philippines for it, and we would hope that there could be ratification. Q Just to dot the "i," you are ruling out renegotiation -- reopening the negotiations? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, what we've consistently said is we would have to withdraw. Q Richard, what is the analysis here of what has gone wrong on this? Did you expect this to happen? Did you expect it to be this close? Did you expect to actually lose on this vote, or has this come as a surprise here? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I don't think I can do an analysis of the Philippine Senate for you. There are probably much more able commentators in the Philippines to do that for you. Q Let me rephrase the question: What I was trying to say was, did this come as a surprise to the State Department, and do you believe now that you did anything wrong in these negotiations to have so incited the Senate against you? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, we think that this is a good agreement; that this is an agreement that meets the needs of both the Philippines and the United States; that helps ensure stability in the region; and that provides for a degree of cooperation between the United States and the Philippines. It's in both our interests. We've negotiated an agreement that we think does that. Obviously, we think it's a good agreement, and, no, we don't think we did anything wrong in pursuing that course. Q You said it would help ensure stability. What kind of instability do you envision if the Senate votes the wrong way? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to make predictions like that, George. Q Any comment on the declared independence of the so-called Macedonian republic of Yugoslavia yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding is that they have conducted a referendum but that the final results aren't in yet. So I'm withholding comment for the moment. Q One more question: Last Friday, in the National Press Club, the so-called Macedonian foreign minister, Mr. Malevski, stated that he visited the Department of State at the official invitation of Deputy Secretary Mr. Lawrence Eagleburger. Could you please verify that? MR. BOUCHER: It was on our public schedule for last Thursday, and I believe I had some comments about the meeting at last Thursday's briefing. Q And since "at the invitation" is totally different from the announcement, because I asked him, and he said -- MR. BOUCHER: You mean who invited whom? Q Mr. Lawrence Eagleburger invited officially Mr. Malevski. MR. BOUCHER: My understanding -- let me just check and see. I'm not sure who initiated the meeting. Q Richard, what information do you have on a Richard Rives from this country who disappeared or was apparently captured by guerrillas in a trip to eastern Turkey? Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: Is that one of the three people who were kidnapped in eastern Turkey? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the names with me today. It's something that we've spoken of before. At this point, there was a story out there that they might be released, but at this point, we don't have confirmation of that. Similarly, no group claims responsibility for the kidnapping, and no demands have been made. We would call upon the hostage-takers, as we do everywhere, to release their innocent captives immediately and unconditionally. In the meantime, Turkish authorities are continuing to search for the missing individuals. They are investigating all possible leads. Our Embassy in Ankara is in close contact with the Turkish Government. We have sent an Embassy officer down to the scene to coordinate with them on the search, and we're also in daily contact with the families of the three Americans who were kidnapped. Q No word on when they -- on the reliability of that report yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. We've seen the reports, but we just don't have any confirmation. Q Richard, going back to the settlements for a moment, you said that the U.S. policy remains the same. But in specific reference to Mr. Shamir's announcement that the settlements would be accelerated, at this point, do you find such a statement to be helpful, unhelpful, or what? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to start characterizing specific statements, Jim. I think our position on settlements has been very clear. It certainly continues to apply at this point, and it's not been changed. Q Are they considered illegal, or they are obstacle to peace? You still hold they're an obstacle peace, not illegal? MR. BOUCHER: Our position has not changed on that point. Q Is it illegal or obstacle to peace? MR. BOUCHER: I'll get you repeated briefings where you and others have raised this question, and I'll refer you back to those and tell you that nothing's changed. Q Richard, what's the situation in Liberia today? Do you have anything at all -- MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have anything new on Liberia. Q -- on the fighting or the cross-border clashes? MR. BOUCHER: There have been some. That's about the extent of my knowledge at this point. I'd have to check and see if we can tell you anything more than that. Q Back to the Philippines for a second, on security in the region: The Soviets have been trying to encroach in the area for some time. Do you see the Soviets' efforts in -- Q Not anymore. (Laughter) Q -- in the region diminishing somewhat, and does that make the U.S. Government a little more tranquil about leaving Subic Bay? MR. BOUCHER: Again, you're going to have to ask the Soviets about what their intentions and policies are toward the region in light of the events that have occurred recently. Our basic position has always been that the U.S. troop presence in the region, that the U.S. agreement with the Philippines was good for stability in the region, and I think that remains the case today. Q Any thought of sharing Cam Ranh Bay with the Soviets? [Laughter] MR. BOUCHER: Hadn't heard that raised, Norm. Q What is the U.S. Embassy in South Africa saying about the violence that took place over the weekend? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what they're saying, but I can tell you what I'm saying. The weekend events were tragic, and they illustrated once again the need for an agreement among the principal parties on a peace accord that will govern public political activity. Nothing should be allowed to upset plans to finalize the peace accord between the government, the ANC, and Inkatha that was planned for September 14. We call on the government to investigate fully the acts of violence over the past few days, and we would call on the leaders of the ANC and Inkatha to work together and work with the government to ensure that the violence can finally be brought to a halt. Q Do you have any suspicions about who might be responsible for that violence? MR. BOUCHER: At this point I don't, Jim. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:31 p.m.)