US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #139, Friday, 9/20/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:44 PM, Washington, DC Date: Sep 20, 19919/20/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, South America, North America, Central America, Southeast Asia Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Vietnam, Cambodia, Philippines, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Military Affairs, CSCE, State Department, Trade/Economics, Human Rights, Arms Control, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I would like to start off with a statement about the situation in Yugoslavia. The United States is gravely concerned by indications that the Yugoslav military is preparing a major escalation of its intervention against the Republic of Croatia. Reports today indicate that there are extensive movements of military armored units toward and into Croatia, apparently directed against the eastern Slavonia region. The U.S. believes that the cease-fire agreement signed earlier this week by the Presidents of Serbia and Croatia and by the Yugoslav Defense Secretary represents a critical and perhaps final opportunity for Yugoslavia to turn back from its tragic course toward civil war. The present mobilization and deployment of additional military forces against Croatia represents a flagrant violation of the letter and the spirit of that agreement. All parties to the conflict should cease and desist from all actions that are in contradiction with the cease-fire agreement that they themselves have signed. The U.S. assesses actions by the Serbian leadership and the Yugoslav military aimed at redrawing by force the internal borders of Yugoslavia as a grave challenge to the basic values and principles which underlie the CSCE. The U.S., like the European Community, is firmly opposed to any attempt to change Yugoslavia's external or internal borders by force. Now, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Is there anything that the Department is doing? MR. BOUCHER: We are continuing to support the efforts of the European Community. You know they had a meeting yesterday. We fully support the communique that they issued. We share their dismay at the turn the situation has taken, and we continue to support their efforts to offer an opportunity for the Yugoslavs to solve this crisis peacefully. Q Assuming that the European Community effort is not successful, would the United States support moving it to the United Nations Security Council? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, Jim, we're in touch other countries -- I think, the EC and Canada, and perhaps others -- who are considering the U.N. Security Council in this regard. I think the Acting Secretary just said out at C Street that, of course, if there is a discussion, we'll participate in it. At this point, we would like to know more about what they are suggesting that the U.N. Security Council do. I can't have any further comment until we've talked to them further. Q Richard, what's the U.S. position now towards the secession of Croatia and Slovenia? MR. BOUCHER: Our position hasn't changed, and that's that the arrangements for Yugoslavia's future and the future of the people inside Yugoslavia should be decided peacefully by the people themselves on the basis of CSCE principles, and that we would respect whatever arrangements they work out. But, as I said again today, any attempt to change Yugoslavia's external or internal borders by force, we are firmly opposed to and the European Community is as well. Q Is Croatia presently trying to change Yugoslavia's external borders by force? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, I think the major responsibility for the fighting that I'm pointing to, and the possibility of escalation, lies with the Serbian leadership and the Yugoslav military today. Q Can we ask about the Middle East, the other side there? I would like, if you can tell us anything, or if you have any comment about the Israeli reports of two new settlements in the Jerusalem area and in the West Bank? Do you have any new comments? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new to say on that. Q Are you aware of these reports? MR. BOUCHER: I think I had seen the reports. I don't have anything new to say on it. The Secretary has been addressing these issues during the course of his trip. Q Can you tell us anything about the meeting between the Secretary and the Palestinian from the West Bank, Hanan Ashrawi? MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't, at this point. I'll have to try to get for you, when we get them from the party, whatever readouts they provided of those meetings. Q One other thing: Can you tell us where it stands today -- there were reports that a senior official -- which later on was obviously the Secretary himself -- linked settlements with the loan guarantees. Yesterday, some reports negated that. Where do we stand today on this? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I talked about it the other day, and the Secretary, yesterday or the day before, I think, addressed it very specifically. I'll get you the quotes of what he said. Without my trying to put the exact words of his mouth into my mouth, he said that he had not, in public or private, linked the loan guarantees to a freeze on settlements. Q There was a report in the Washington Post that the U.S. Administration is intensely divided over what course of action to take against Iraq. What kind of weight do you give to that report, if any? MR. BOUCHER: Zero. Q Are you saying that the Administration is unified on this issue? Can you educate me further? MR. BOUCHER: I really can't. I saw the report. I didn't ask anybody if they were divided on it. I think if you look at the statements that we made here, the statements we've made at the Pentagon, the statements the Secretary made on the road, and the statements the President has been making, that we are fully aligned in our determination to see that Iraq complies with the U.N. resolutions. Q Richard, where does the peace process stand? What are you waiting for now? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to do that from here. I'm not going to get into the Secretary's business. He's been traveling. He's addressing those issues with the people that he's with. I just couldn't pretend to be up to date on it. Q OK. But what I mean is, is he going to report to the President, and then to decide? MR. BOUCHER: I'll leave that for him to address, not me. Q Is the U.S. urging other countries not to provide loans to Israel in sort of alliance with the U.S. position? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I think, for today, I have to leave questions about loan guarantees to be left with the Secretary's own words. Q Richard, on Yugoslavia again for just a minute. You say that it's up to the people of Yugoslavia to decide whether there will be changes in the borders, whether one or more of the republics would be allowed to secede. Is the decision on secession up to a majority of the people in the individual republic that's trying to secede, or to a majority of the people in the whole of Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: Norm, I can't stand here from thousands of miles away and specify the process that they have to use to reach that. The European Community, through its efforts, through the efforts of Lord Carrington to talk to the various parties and to organize peace discussions about the future of Yugoslavia, has offered them an opportunity to find the peaceful route to resolving these questions. Our emphasis has been on urging the parties to use that opportunity to find peace. Q Richard, the four parties to the Cambodian conflict seemed to have reached some kind of understanding on elections. What is the U.S. response to this apparent agreement? MR. BOUCHER: Our response is that I don't have too much to say because the members of the Supreme National Council met yesterday. We understand that they will probably meet today with the Perm Five members of the Perm Five countries and we would like to defer comments until the Perm Five have had a chance to talk to them. Q You can't characterize it as being acceptable? MR. BOUCHER: I can't. I think the point here is that we'll get a more formal and detailed readout from them of where they are and where the whole process stands by the discussions that will take place today with the Perm Five. So, at this point I am not going to try to characterize it. Q One last question: If a settlement is signed, does that then clear the way for the U.S. relations with Vietnam to begin to return to normal? MR. BOUCHER: The process of normalization with Vietnam is one that has been laid out, I think, in considerable detail in what we call the road-map process. A key element of that is the comprehensive settlement, but we have always said that the pace and scope of normalization would also be affected by POW and MIA affairs. Q Like what? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything brand new on that. There is a certain level of cooperation that's continued. Q The Philippines President has said that she's going to not have a referendum unless the people demand one to ratify the bases agreement. Have you any comment on it? MR. BOUCHER: At the current time, we are operating at Subic Naval Base under the 1947 military base agreement, which is in full force and effect. We are also awaiting actions of the Government of the Philippines to bring the recently signed Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Security into force. But, as we have said before, the internal legal or constitutional processes of the Philippines related to this issue are for the Filipinos themselves to decide. Q Then you don't consider the vote by the Senate to be a final decision? MR. BOUCHER: Basically here, we are waiting to see what the Philippine Government considers a final determination on this. They sent us a diplomatic note, I think earlier this week, saying that the previous notice to terminate the agreement was revoked. So at this point, we are continuing under the treaty that therefore remains in effect. There is no termination notice, and they will then inform us whether or not their ratification process has concluded. Q Richard, you know the President of Venezuela is going to be here on Monday seeing Congressmen and he is going to see the President on Tuesday up in New York. Now, it seems like Cuba is going to be on the agenda, because the Venezuelan Foreign Minister was in Cuba this week and signed a lot of commercial agreements and announced that Venezuela would continue to supply oil to Cuba, along with their exchange agreement with Russia, which is a little strange in view of the fact that Russia has announced they are cutting down on it, and also he said that Cuba was fully accepted by Latin America, as demonstrated by -- that Castro was fully accepted -- as demonstrated by the Guadalajara conference. Now, does the U.S. Government agree with that assessment? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I appreciate all the information, but I think I'm going to leave questions on this for the discussions that he'll be having next week. Q Richard, has the State Department been able to assess the Amnesty International report on treatment of prisoners in Mexican jails? MR. BOUCHER: Didn't I say something about it the other day? Q You said that you had not received it and had not assessed it. MR. BOUCHER: Oh, that's right. I'll see if we have. Q Richard, on Iraq, where do the discussions stand on resuming the inspections, and under what form those inspectors will be transported? MR. BOUCHER: Well, in terms of Iraq's acceptance of the resolution that requires them to permit the inspectors to use helicopters, we haven't heard from the Iraqi Government yet. The Iraqi Government has not yet responded to the United Nations. In terms of the actual inspections themselves, here is what I know. There were two chemical inspection teams that recently departed Iraq. The teams inspected the huge storage site at Muthanna. They supervised the destruction of some 8,000 chemical weapons munitions. The press release that they issued on the 17th about one 26-member team that left on September 9th says they visited three declared sites, five not declared sites; inspected chemical warheads; identified various items for destruction; said at one installation about 6,000 undeclared containers for chemical warfare agents were found; at another installation considerable quantities of tear gas munitions and devices were discovered. That was their report. So those are the chemical teams that have recently been there. There is a nuclear inspection team which left Iraq today. A biological weapons inspection team is going into Iraq today, and over the weekend, another nuclear team will go into Iraq. Q And how will that biological team get around? MR. BOUCHER: It depends on how they feel they have to do their work. If they want land transportation, that would be the way they would go. Q If they want helicopters? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, that is to be determined by the inspectors. Q And in the consultations in New York, has a means been found of bringing together the U.S. willingness to use force with the international framework under which this whole system of inspections is operating? In other words, will they -- would any U.S. helicopters or aircraft fly under U.N.'s insignia, or under some U.N. aegis, or what? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can answer that question for you, Jim. I think that's an aspect of contingency planning that I just can't answer for you at this point. Q Has it been settled? MR. BOUCHER: I frankly don't know, and I don't think I'm in a position to get you an answer. Q Have you anything you can tell us about the discussions in New York between the Salvadoran parties? MR. BOUCHER: Well, the talks are still continuing in New York. We are encouraged by the U.N. Secretary General's direct involvement and by indications that the two sides are narrowing their differences on key issues. We hope both sides will stay at the bargaining table and negotiate seriously to put an end to the conflict in El Salvador. Q I'm sorry, back on Iraq again. What did the nuclear team find? Anything? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have a release or a report from them. Q Richard, do you have anything on the Secretary's schedule in New York next week? MR. BOUCHER: No, not really. He -- certainly during the President's activities, we expect he'll be with the President, but I don't have much more to say to you. Q Anything likely Sunday night? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I have nothing to say to you in this forum. Q Just out of curiosity, when we usually ask about the settlements, you say one of two things: either our policy is known, or that they are obstacles to peace. This time you said you have nothing to say, although you are aware of the reports. Are we to -- MR. BOUCHER: Our policy is well-known and it has not changed. Q By the way, the Secretary is heading back, is that correct? Because there were rumors in Israel this morning that he was -- MR. BOUCHER: That's correct. He left Damascus about 10:30 our time this morning and he was flying in this direction. Q That means he'll wind up in Uzbekistan. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:59 p.m.)