US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #151, Tuesday, 10/8/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:05 PM, Washington, DC Date: Oct 8, 199110/8/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Caribbean, Europe, East Asia Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Haiti, Turkey, China, North Korea Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Arms Control, Environment, Military Affairs (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I have an announcement I'd like to make. Secretary Baker has decided to return to the Middle East. He will have meetings in Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Syria. That is not the order in which we're going. That order has not been determined and will probably not be -- hopefully, by the end of today, we would be able to let you know. I know some of you have special needs, i.e., the networks, camera crews, etc. In addition, he will be meeting with Palestinians from the occupied territories. The purpose of this trip is to try to overcome the remaining issues and finalize the details that must be resolved before issuance of invitations and convening of a peace conference that could lead to direct negotiations between the parties. As I said, I'll try to get you the order in which we're going. I just don't have it as of this briefing. I can tell that our current plans are to leave this Saturday night, very late from Andrews. That's the current planning. And current planning is to return on Thursday, which is October 17. But as in all cases, with all travel, things could change. Q Margaret, does that mean that he won't be meeting any Palestinians here in Washington? MS. TUTWILER: No, that does not mean that. Q Will he be meeting Palestinians? MS. TUTWILER: He well could be, but I have nothing to announce at this briefing. Q In the wording of -- MS. TUTWILER: Let me help you out. Let me be more clear on that and say -- as I said all last week -- that he expects to and he expects to soon, but I have nothing to announce. Q And in the wording of your statement there, you said "to clear up the remaining difficulties before...." If those difficulties are not overcome, will he issue invitations anyway? MS. TUTWILER: That would be a decision for him to make and something I couldn't prejudge -- today is what? October 7 -- prior to his getting to the region and seeing what the lay of the land is. Q But, Margaret, your statement does indicate that this would be final trip before such a peace conference, if there is one. Is that correct? MS. TUTWILER: That's your interpretation. I didn't say whether it was the last trip or that there would be 24 more trips. I didn't say that. Q You said "finalize." MS. TUTWILER: I said to try to overcome the remaining issues and finalize the details -- "to try." Q Margaret, on the Palestinians, the Israelis are saying yet again today that they plan to ask those two to come in for questioning about their travels. I've yet to hear any expressions of concern from this Department. Can we assume that the United States doesn't mind if that occurs? MS. TUTWILER: What the United States has said consistently, and what I'll say again today, is that is a matter for the Israeli Government. Q Margaret, Prime Minister Shamir said, or indicated yesterday, that the U.S. has agreed, basically, that Israel will have a veto over Palestinians attending the peace conference. Has the U.S. position on this changed? MS. TUTWILER: The United States position has not changed, and I am not going to, today, respond to specific remarks coming out by various Israeli officials, nor any other officials, and especially prior to Secretary Baker's announced intentions now to go back to the region. We're just not going to get into it. Q The formulation that the U.S. has used in the past, if I'm correct, is that Israel will not have to sit down at the peace conference with -- MS. TUTWILER: Anyone they don't want to. Q -- anyone they don't want to. MS. TUTWILER: Correct. Q But the U.S. does not interpret that as giving Israel a veto over possible attendees? MS. TUTWILER: The policy has not changed. The Secretary has addressed himself to this any number of times -- dozens of times -- and the policy is the same today. Q Margaret, is it still your expectation to have the conference before the end of this month? And is Europe the likely venue, based on widespread reports? MS. TUTWILER: We don't discuss venue, and we don't discuss timing. And, yes, it is still our hope and our desire and we are working toward having this -- as was called for by President Bush and President Gorbachev -- they would like to work toward convening in October. That's still what we're working toward. Q Margaret, this is his eighth trip since February. What are the main obstacles at this point? MS. TUTWILER: That, Barry, is something that unfortunately he's refrained from discussing in public, and I must do the same. As you know, he's working on a number of letters of assurances with various governments, and those still have not been finalized. He has not gone into the exquisite detail contained in those letters of assurances, and I just can't do that for you today. Q That's all right, I can keep asking, though. How close are you to getting the composition of a Palestinian-Jordanian delegation? MS. TUTWILER: It's also something that I simply just cannot get into. Obviously, we are very anxious to see a formation of a joint Palestinian delegation, and that is something that, obviously, the Secretary will continue to be working on. Q Have you seen any steps toward that end, Margaret? MS. TUTWILER: Public steps? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: No. Q Is that something that concerns you at this stage? MS. TUTWILER: It's something that the Secretary has worked on and will continue working on, and that, obviously, he would like to see public steps being taken. Q Would you characterize the remaining issues as difficult to overcome? MS. TUTWILER: I think everything in this region is difficult. I don't know any issue, to be honest with you, that's not. Q Does it help or hurt the Palestinian -- your desire for the Palestinians to take public steps when the Israelis call in Mrs. Ashrawi and Husseini for questioning? MS. TUTWILER: What I'm not going to do, Saul, is interject myself into this. We have said that it is up to the two Palestinians involved to -- they have spoken to where they were or were not; and we have said that it is a matter for the Israeli Government to decide what, if anything, to do or not to do. Q And you're not putting any pressure on the Israeli Government privately, are you, on that issue? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know what you mean by "pressure." I'm not going to tell you that -- not at the Secretary of State level but that at other levels of this government -- this subject has not been discussed as it has been, to be honest with you, in all of your reporting. I'm not going to stand here and say, and cannot account for, every single person in our government who may or may not have had a conversation. But that is quite different than saying that pressure is being applied. Q Margaret, have the Israelis indicated that a letter of assurances would be sufficient for them? Are they looking for something more formal? MS. TUTWILER: No. As you know where that stands is that the Israeli Government will decide, as each government will, whether they want a letter of assurance or a memorandum of understanding. The Secretary has said publicly, on his last visit, that whichever each government wants, it's up to them, and he will work on whichever it is they decide. I am unaware that the Israeli Government, which is what you asked me about, has made a firm decision which way they want to go. Q Margaret, you've said several times that anything he assures one party will be made available to other parties. It's never been clear to me if that means also that these assurances or whatever they are -- memoranda -- will be made public. MS. TUTWILER: I got asked that once before, Barry. As far as a formal release of all letters of assurances, I'm not sure that's how it's going to go. But I can assure you that it will probably take 6-1/2 seconds for all letters of assurance to be in your hands and your colleagues' hands. So one way or the other, I'm pretty sure you're going to be covered. Q Thank you for your faith in the First Amendment. Last week -- I wish I'd brought it along. I didn't expect this intriguing announcement would come at this moment. But the Jordanian, I believe, Foreign Minister gave an interview where -- I wish I had it. But just to make the point, he -- the interview quotes him as saying what's in the Jordanian assurances already; that it's wrapped up, and it includes X, Y, and Z. Of course, it all sounded very favorable to the Jordanian position. MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, even when we were last in the region -- I have seen so many reports of what is in so many different letters of assurances -- bits and pieces might be correct, but so far I have never seen anything that comes close to being totally correct. I'm unaware of the Jordanian article that you refer to. And when you were speaking to me about the First Amendment, I would have to remind you that these invitations, I think, also deserve to get to the governments first before we give them to the public. So that is why we would have a natural delay. Q I wasn't talking about the invitations. I just had -- MS. TUTWILER: You won't have one; we will. Q No, I was talking about the assurances. I figured anything you told Syria and Israel and Jordan, the American public might have equal access to at some point. MS. TUTWILER: They will. Q Margaret, would a memorandum of understanding between the United States and Israel also be made public to the other parties, or is it just the letters of assurance? MS. TUTWILER: As I said, there is no firm decision by our government that when we issue these two invitations, prior or at the same simultaneous moment they're going to governments, will we be giving the public copies and dumping them down in the press room. Q I'm not making -- MS. TUTWILER: I understand. And the same concerns the assurances letter. I don't know whether our government will be making public a memorandum of understanding. Q That's not what I meant. What I meant was, the letters of assurance are going to be made available to all the parties at the peace conference. Will the Israeli memorandum of understanding between the United States and Israel also be made available to all the parties to the peace conference? MS. TUTWILER: Number 1, just so that my record is correct, I'm unaware that the Israeli Government has made a decision on whether they want a memorandum of understanding or a letter of assuranced. I have not ever heard it discussed, to be honest with you, whether a memorandum of understanding would be handled differently than a letter of assurances. So I'm assuming they would be handled the same way. Q I assume the memorandum of understanding will be signed by two parties? MS. TUTWILER: Correct. Q It's the difference between that and the letter of assurances? MS. TUTWILER: That is a big difference. That's right. Q What's the -- MS. TUTWILER: Ours is -- excuse me -- a unilateral statement to these governments, to the Palestinians in the occupied yerritories, of a United States statement. If you have a memorandum of understanding, it's a two-way deal. Q What's the position of the United States Government about the memorandum of understanding or the letter of assurances? I understand that in the Israeli press that you are ready to give a letter of assurances but not a memorandum of understanding. MS. TUTWILER: That's incorrect. The Secretary has been very straightforward about this and has said that it is up to the governments to determine themselves which they want. We will go either way. Q The Israeli press this morning, Margaret, says that the peace conference will be held in The Hague, according to the Yediot Aharonot, instead of Switzerland, on November 5 instead of October 29. Do you have any comment on that? MS. TUTWILER: No. I have nothing for you on venue, and I have nothing for you on timing. Q Margaret, can I go back to Shamir's statement to Parliament yesterday? Have the Palestinians agreed that they would not announce any political affiliation at or before the talks? MS. TUTWILER: This gets me, John, into a level of substance that I simply cannot do here in this forum. This is something that has been discussed, but I can't discuss it today. Q I know you can't talk about remaining problems, but can you tell us that overall it is the U.S. position that the land-for-peace arrangement, that's the whole concept of this peace conference? Is that not right? MS. TUTWILER: The concept of this peace conference is the one that has been articulated -- how many months have we been at this now? Six? -- as a comprehensive settlement based on 242 and 338. Q Margaret, also on the subject of Israeli participation in the conference, yesterday, Richard was asked if the United States asked the organizer of this water summit, to be held in Turkey, to postpone it. The answer came back yesterday, very categorical from the State Department, "No, the United States did not request the Turkish Government to postpone the water summit." The question was: "Did the United States Government ask anybody" -- particularly Joyce Starr, who says, in fact, the State Department did -- "to postpone the water summit?" Could you get a more -- I hate to use the word but -- honest answer from your Department? MS. TUTWILER: That's unfair, Jim. I am not fully briefed on this issue at all. I'll be happy to once again look into it for you. But I do know that -- what you're probably going to have in response from us is that you will have to ask the conference organizers why it was postponed. Q Yes. And that question was asked and it was answered. She said among -- MS. TUTWILER: The conference organizers did? Q Yes. And among the contributing -- among the important contributing factors was a request from State Department officials to postpone it. MS. TUTWILER: I don't know that of my own knowledge. I'll be happy to look into it for you. Q Can we take a filing break? MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q Will the Secretary be meeting with Faisal Husseini and Hanan Ashrawi in Washington? MS. TUTWILER: I did that a little earlier, before you got here. No problem. Q Margaret, where do we stand on Haiti at this point? MS. TUTWILER: Haiti? Q Are you satisfied with the situation down there and a new designated President? MS. TUTWILER: Not particularly. Haiti remains tense and unsettled. Sporadic gunfire was reported throughout the night. Soldiers continue to patrol the streets. Air traffic controllers abandoned the airport late yesterday afternoon, halting flights to or from Haiti. We understand the controllers returned this morning and that the airport has reopened. Other than the one death last week -- that Richard, I believe, spoke to yesterday to you all -- we have no confirmed reports of injuries or deaths involving U.S. citizens. The Embassy is still using its warden system to stay in touch with U.S. citizens. No decision has been made to evacuate U.S. citizens or U.S. Embassy employees from Haiti. On the vote that was taken in the Parliament last night -- yes, it was last night -- our view is that there is no constitutional vacancy, and we will not recognize a provisional government. President Aristide was forced from office illegally by force of arms. The parliament acted yesterday at gun point. The legislators did not vote. They were forced to sign a petition. We do not accept the Parliament's forced action as a legitimate constitutional action. We will continue to work within the OAS to restore constitutional government to Haiti and the return of President Aristide. As you know, the OAS was scheduled to begin a meeting this morning at l0:00 a.m. I believe they are still meeting. The United States is represented in the chair by Assistant Secretary Aronson. Q Margaret, you say there are no reports of American casualties. Do you mean in the last 24 hours? Because yesterday there had been a report of an American being killed. MS. TUTWILER: Right. I said "other than the one American -- " Q Oh, I see. Q Do you have comment on the clashes between Kurdish and -- Q Wait, wait. Let's stay on Haiti. Q What is -- MS. TUTWILER: Haiti. Q Does the U.S. have some sort of position in this OAS meeting? What is it that we want to do now in the face of what has happened down there? MS. TUTWILER: What I am not going to do is preempt a meeting that is taking place right now. I don't know what resolutions are being tabled, what is being discussed there, and so I really am not going to speak in advance of the conclusion of that meeting. Q What about a peacekeeping force, for example? Apparently Venezuela -- MS. TUTWILER: I just can't do all that with you, Pat. That's just totally freelancing. You and I are sitting in this room, and they are across town meeting, and, I am not in the middle of their meeting right now. I don't know what they themselves are coming up with that they would like to have discussed. The President spoke last week to that idea, and that's the last I've heard an Administration person, in the form of the President, on-the-record, concerning either U.S. force or multinational force. Q Frequently in these situations, the U.S. takes a leadership role, it has a position, and it is clear about advocating that position. Why, in this particular case, are we not exercising that leadership role in a public way? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know how you draw the conclusion that we are not exercising a leadership role. Just like when the United Nations is in session -- Q In a public way. Frequently the U.S. has a clear position -- MS. TUTWILER: How do you know what we'll say this afternoon? How do you know what's coming out of the meeting? I mean, I just can't preempt something that is happening right now. Q Will we have anything, any way of knowing what comes out of the meeting from this podium, from you, from anybody else in the State Department? MS. TUTWILER: Let me first -- it's an OAS meeting. We are one of 34 nations that are over there meeting. Let's see first what the OAS decides how they want to handle what's coming out of their meeting, and then if they issue some type of statement. I just don't know what their plans are. Obviously, you'll have that. If not, then I will see, when Bernie comes back, what I can tell you about the meeting. Q On Yugoslavia, do you have anything on the situation, and the same question, are we going to take a leadership role or continue to follow the Europeans? MS. TUTWILER: In Yugoslavia, the level of fighting is down significantly today, although clashes continue in several areas of Croatia, and tensions remain extremely high. Zagreb is quiet, and there were no attacks on the city overnight. I would point out that the reason we believe they are significantly down is that last night, the federal military announced it will observe a unilateral 24-hour cease-fire and has called on Croatia to respond by unblocking access to federal military installations. It also called on the EC to monitor Croatian compliance with the terms of the cease-fire agreement reached last Friday, and we understand that EC representatives have been seeking to broker implementation of this latest cease-fire proposal. It is my understanding that the EC at, I believe at the experts' level, have been meeting in The Hague today and that the EC Foreign Ministers will meet tomorrow. Q Margaret, what about the convoy? Did the convoy leave from Zagreb? MS. TUTWILER: Uh-hum. You didn't ask me about that. A convoy of American citizens and the remaining American staff of our Consulate in Zagreb left the city at 8:00 a.m. local time -- 3:00 a.m. Washington time. The convoy traveled first to Slovenia where seven of the eight Consulate staffers remained to monitor developments in Croatia. Then the convoy continued on to Austria. The best of my knowledge, Johanna, is that there are approximately 25 people in this. It was a van and a bus. Q Margaret, if I can go back to Haiti for a minute, maybe I missed it -- did you say anything about the incident in which the OAS delegation was apparently chased out of the country? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. That's all garbled and incorrect. The mission was meeting at the airport, and they met for 1 full hour after the soldiers arrived at the airport. They left Haiti before sunset as planned, and the reason was lighting on the runway would not be operational maybe after dark. It is just simply incorrect that there was any incident with the OAS mission that was meeting at the airport and soldiers. It is correct that soldiers were sent out there but there was no interaction with them. Q They didn't bust into the room? MS. TUTWILER: No, according to Bernie, and he was there. The plane left on schedule, on time. Q Do you have any better idea of who is in charge of the Haitian military, and there are some reports -- MS. TUTWILER: No. Q -- that rank and file soldiers are doing some of these things? You don't know at this point? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q Margaret, on aid to the Soviet Union, yesterday the EC added to their package bringing it up to $2.5 billion. Today the Japanese have announced a $2.5 billion package. Is there some sort of symmetrical arrangement going on whereby the United States will also contribute this amount? MS. TUTWILER: No. In our opinion, the EC action complements a U.S. contribution of $2.5 billion in Commodity Credit Corporation guarantees that have been made available for the Soviet Union for the purchase of U.S. agricultural products. I can go through for you all of our medical assistance we have given. You know, we have sent a Crowder mission, you know we have sent a Secretary Madigan mission, you know that Secretary Brady has been over there, you know that Secretary Baker has been over there. So, no, we don't see any call, to be honest with you, if you read closely what the EC says, is my understanding, for us to do more at this moment. Q But there is a certain symmetry about it, everybody giving $2.5 billion. Q Even the press can pick these things up. Q Margaret, part of the discussion taken up by the Foreign Ministers of the G-7 countries in New York a few weeks ago when Baker was there -- MS. TUTWILER: Was this? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. Q Because we recall a Japanese briefer said in the breakfast of the G-7 Foreign Ministers meeting, there was a discussion that the Soviet Union formally requested emergency food and medical aid amounting to tens of billions of dollars, and that amount will be divided by the seven countries. And is it part of the deal? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of any such deal that you are referring to. I'm not aware of a Japanese briefer after a G-7 meeting in New York. I don't know who the Japanese briefer was or what he said. It is no secret that at the end of the London economic summit, the G-7 was charged with certain things by the heads of state and that they were going to meet and look at it. And Secretary Brady, as you know, has already been over there. I believe Prime Minister Major has and others. Q But an amount was actually presented by the Soviet Union there in New York, and it was discussed during the breakfast session of the G-7 Foreign Ministers' meeting. MS. TUTWILER: You might want to check at the Treasury Department. I do not know of an amount that was presented at that meeting. Q Can we have a comment on the clashes in northern Iraq between the Kurds and the Iraqi forces? MS. TUTWILER: The situation in northern Iraq remains tense. Our latest information indicates that disturbances, which began over the weekend in several northern Iraqi towns, have subsided in most areas. The United Nations authorities are actively working to assess the seriousness of this situation. Iraq must allow the return of refugees to their homes in Sulaymaniya, Kirkuk, and other parts of northern Iraq. This is an essential component of restoring stability. In the past, we have specifically cautioned Iraq about actions in northern Iraq, and those warnings still stand. We are concerned about reports of indiscriminate Iraqi artillery fire on civilian areas. I asked this morning how many U.N. guards are in this northern area, and it is approximately 44l. Q Margaret, do you have any comment on the reported massacre of 60 Iraqi soldiers by Kurdish rebels? MS. TUTWILER: We are deeply distressed by this account and will be talking to Kurdish opposition representatives. I should point out that right before I came to the briefing, I saw a wire copy that says that Mr. Barzani has demanded an immediate inquiry into this. So I would refer you to their own leadership that has already spoken out on it, if that wire report is correct. How do you say the man's name, Richard? Q Barzani. MS. TUTWILER: Barzani. Sorry, Barzani. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: One second. Yes? Q Have we got any report or analysis from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing concerning the site of the Korean summit meeting. MS. TUTWILER: If we have, sir, I just haven't checked in on that this morning. I'll be happy to see. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:30 p.m.)