US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #152, Wednesday, 10/9/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:00 PM, Washington, DC Date: Oct 9, 199110/9/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Caribbean, Southeast Asia Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Haiti, Cuba, Czechoslovakia (former) Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Arms Control, Military Affairs, Terrorism (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: One little housekeeping matter that a number of you had called me about yesterday afternoon and last night, that we simply just didn't have the information for you, is our overnights. The overnights will read as follows: Sunday, Cairo; Monday, Amman; Tuesday, Damascus; Wednesday, Jerusalem. That's all I have. Q Et cetera, et cetera. Q Do you have anything on a Palestinian meeting with the Secretary? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. He is expecting to meet with them tomorrow. I do not have a time scheduled for you yet. As soon as we do, I'll put it up in the Press Office. Q Both of them right? MS. TUTWILER: It's my understanding, yes. Q Do you know a.m. / p.m.? MS. TUTWILER: We really don't. I don't know. Q There are reports in the Israeli press that three were coming? MS. TUTWILER: We've seen those. As I just mentioned, I don't have an answer for you on if it's two or three. Q So, in other words -- Q Another housekeeping matter. Is Baker planning to go to the signing of the Cambodian accords, which is tentatively scheduled, I think, for the 23rd in Paris? MS. TUTWILER: There's no decision on that. Q Margaret, back on the Palestinians. Did the United States make any contact with the Israelis to get them the exit visas necessary to come to the United States? MS. TUTWILER: I really don't have anything new on that, Jim, of what I said -- I believe it was yesterday and last week -- concerning this question. I don't have anything new for you. I don't know what else you would like me to say than what I've already said concerning their coming here. Q And also on contacts with the Israelis, can you tell us about the protest, or whatever you're going to call it, about the Israeli overflights of western Iraq? MS. TUTWILER: Let me do one thing for you on overflights. We understand that Israel has concerns about threats from Iraq. We provide Israel and other friendly countries in the region with information about the Iraqi threat from our own sources about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and about the process of destruction according to the United Nations resolutions. The United Nations, in accordance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions, is continuing the process of inspection and destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. This process remains the best way to take care of the problem. To preserve the integrity and effectiveness of the U.N. mission, it is important that unilateral actions outside that process be avoided. That is why we made our concern over Israeli overflights clear to the highest levels of the Israeli Government as soon as we learned of the Iraqi overflight. Q You're not calling it a "protest" then? MS. TUTWILER: I have not. I think you've read unnamed officials in the newspaper saying that we were disturbed by this. I will say to you ON THE RECORD, that is our characterization of it. Q And it was done in Jerusalem? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q Margaret, was there some specific incident that caused the Israelis to launch these overflights? MS. TUTWILER: You would have to ask the Israeli Government that question. Q Margaret, do you believe that this was a political gesture as well as a military one on the part of the Israeli Government? MS. TUTWILER: Again, that would best be asked of the Israeli Government. It's not for me to sit here and second-guess or try to analyze "what ifs" for them. Q Margaret, therefore, you're saying that your concern is that this could be detrimental to the United Nations team rather than expressing a concern about a violation of another country's air space. MS. TUTWILER: I'll state for you again the points that I will be continuing to make today: That we understand Israel's concerns about threats from Iraq; that we provide Israel and other friendly countries, from our own sources and from United Nations sources, information; that we believe that the best process remains the United Nations process that is set up; and that unilateral steps should be avoided. Q Margaret, Israeli overflights of Arab territory are anything but rare. Why protest this one and not the one last week or the week before or the week before that? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't used the word "protest." I have seen reporters used that word. Q Why raise this one with the Israeli Government rather than previous ones? MS. TUTWILER: For the very reasons that I just laid out -- that we believe that it is best to avoid unilateral actions; that the United Nations system, that you're very familiar with, under many United Nations resolutions, is dealing with this situation. At the same time, I am saying that we understand that Israel has concerns about threats from Iraq. Q Do we believe this is the first Israeli overflight of Iraqi territory since the end of the war? MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you -- you may not believe this -- I hadn't asked that question. I'll be happy to ask for you. Q I'm just trying to determine why the question is raised over this flight if there had been others? MS. TUTWILER: It wasn't raised publicly by me or by us, and so I am telling you what the Administration did when the Administration learned of it. The Administration has not used the word "protest." I have not today. I have used the adjective that we were disturbed by it and that it was raised at the highest levels of the Israeli Government. Q Is it your assessment that the overflight makes the peace process any more difficult, or has that not entered your head? MS. TUTWILER: That's another little piece of analytical work that I'd rather refrain from doing for you. You could do that on your own without any help from me. Q Did you get any satisfactory response from the Israelis? MS. TUTWILER: I don't want to get into what responses the Israeli Government has given to the United States. It's something I have specifically been asked just not to get into. It's part of our diplomatic conversations. Q Margaret, you say you understand the Israelis being worried about a threat from Iraq. Are you saying that there is any specific threat to Israel right now from Iraq that would cause these overflights? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to answer. I think it's best answered by the Israeli Government, "Why an overflight?" They are in the best position to answer that. I don't think that it is any secret at all, if you go back to over a year ago, statements made by Saddam Hussein. Look at what is being unearthed almost every day on their nuclear capability. I don't think it's a grand secret that they are not exactly close, personal friends there on the border with the Israelis. So we totally understand an Israeli concern about threats from Iraq. Q Is it your assessment that an overflight of this type could get more information about a SCUD threat than helicopter teams that have been operating in the area for 4 days on the ground? MS. TUTWILER: I think I answered that by saying we believe that the process that has been set up by the United Nations, which includes the helicopter flights, is the process that is the best to take care of this problem. And, as you know, there are teams that are going in and out of there constantly looking for ballistic, looking for chemical, looking for nuclear, and that we just think that that is the best process that has been created. Q The overflight ended up violating the air space of five Arab countries. There is no mention of the fact that in addition to Iraq, a number of other countries in the region have had their air space violated. Is that intentional? Does that condone it as far as the U.S. is concerned? MS. TUTWILER: You're stating something as fact that I'm not in a position to state as fact. Q Have you heard from any Arab countries about overflights of -- apart from Iraq -- about overflights over their territory? MS. TUTWILER: Not to my personal knowledge. Q Margaret, unless the planes were trucked to the border, there's really no way that they could overfly Iraq without overflying at least one -- probably more Arab countries. Are you -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm not refuting that. He said to me five countries. I am saying I am not in a position to confirm that. Q Are you protesting -- excuse me. Are you concerned about overflights of any -- MS. TUTWILER: Disturbed. Q -- disturbed about overflights of any other Arab countries? MS. TUTWILER: I think by saying that we have raised this at the highest levels of the Israeli Government and that when we learned of this we were disturbed, you could conclude that it's an all-encompassed package. An overflight, as you so clearly point out, does involve overflights, by the very definition of the word. Q You wouldn't regard this as a violation of any specific agreement, would you? MS. TUTWILER: Of a specific agreement? Q The United Nations or an understanding between the United States and Israel? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of a specific agreement. Maybe you are, and I should be. But I'm not aware of a specific agreement. Q And a follow-up: Are you also saying, then, that Israel does not really have a right to conduct such missions over Iraq or other countries in the region? MS. TUTWILER: I'm going to continue to say it the way I have since we began this. We believe there is a process that exists. It is a good process. I have said that we share information with the Israelis and with other friendly governments from our own sources and from the United Nations sources, and that we believe that it is important that unilateral actions outside that process be avoided. Q Margaret, does this make the Secretary's visit to the Middle East, particularly to Israel, in the coming week more difficult? MS. TUTWILER: They're always enjoyable and they're always difficult. [Laughter] So I can't determine for you and put on a scale of 1-to-10 if this is more difficult or just normal difficult -- as much as he enjoys every visit. I want to make sure that that's out there. Q Let me try it another way. MS. TUTWILER: Okay. Q Does this make the trip more enjoyable? [Laughter] MS. TUTWILER: The trip is a serious trip, and the trip is going to deal with a serious matter. Whether this does or does not impact on that, I do not want to characterize for you or take a guess at. Q Margaret, without disclosing the diplomatic by-play between Israel and the United States over this, do you have any reason to believe they will not repeat this? MS. TUTWILER: Again, that would be best asked to the Israeli Government. Q Do you have anything new and interesting today to say about Haiti? MS. TUTWILER: Not much that I don't think you already know, but I'll be happy to give you an overview, as we've done for you overnight. The situation remains tense. There was gunfire last night, and soldiers continue to patrol the streets. The airport was open yesterday. Some commercial and charter airlines flew to Haiti. Some Americans have been leaving on those flights. I do not have the numbers for you, but we do not believe it has been many. There has been no decision on authorizing departure or evacuating U.S. Embassy staff or other U.S. citizens in Haiti. That is, as it always is, under review; and we continue, obviously, to monitor the situation closely. I don't know if you need or not a snapshot of what went on at the OAS meeting last night. I think most of it has been all reported this morning, and I don't know what other questions you might or might not have for me. Q Can we return to Israel for just one second and -- MS. TUTWILER: Sure, John. Q -- ask you about the settlements, or, actually, a group of right-wing folks that have occupied specific buildings in east Jerusalem? Do you have a comment on that activity? MS. TUTWILER: Not really. It's something that we are in the process of trying to determine what the facts are, so I don't have a comment as of this briefing. Q Margaret, while you're still back on Israel, one more thing on the overflights. Has the United States and the United Nations shared fully all of the information available to the United States with countries such as Israel? In other words, nothing is being held back? MS. TUTWILER: Is the United Nations holding something back or is the United States? Q Or the United States -- either? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware, but I'm also not going to get into a classified area, Jim, and say what it is that we do and do not share. That's something, as you know, I cannot discuss. Q The point of the question -- maybe you can get around it some other way -- does Israel have access to such information as required for its own security? MS. TUTWILER: That, again, would be a judgment call that would be best answered by the Israeli Government. I have stated for you, in the best way that I can, without getting very deeply into classified material, which I cannot do, that we provide Israel and other friendly countries in the region with information about the Iraqi threat from our own sources as well as the U.N. system. Q I'm still trying to narrow it down. MS. TUTWILER: I understand your question. Q Right. Nothing is being held back in the deliveries to Israel because of the particular situation of Israel in the Middle East? MS. TUTWILER: In all candor, Jim, that could be a matter of interpretation. That's why I think it's best that you ask that question to the Israelis. If Government "A" thinks they are giving everything they have, if Government "B" doesn't or feels they don't, then you would have to ask that to Government "B." I've stated the way that I can today for you -- without getting into what is it we're sharing, what type of intelligence, etc. -- that we are sharing from our own U.S. sources plus the United Nations information. Q Margaret, on this issue, Israel has reserved the right to itself to respond to the Iraqi threat in due time, although it kept silent during the Gulf war. Does the State Department -- the United States Government -- have any apprehension or feeling that Israel might have -- this is a prelude for a possible attack on Iraq in the near future? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard that mentioned. Q Margaret, Czechoslovakia has announced that it plans to halt its sales of heavy weaponry to the Middle East, right up to the peace conference, especially to Syria. Do you know if any other countries have announced similar things? Do you have a comment on the fact that somebody else -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware that other countries have announced similar things. I was aware of the situation in Czechoslovakia, but I don't know that anybody else has announced things, to be honest with you. I don't know what other countries might have been looking at or are looking at sales to the region. I'll be happy to look into it for you. Q Can you respond to Czechoslovakia's action? Do you have any comment? MS. TUTWILER: One, I'm not aware. I have no reason to doubt Jan that this is, indeed, what the country has done, but I'd rather get it upstairs first and see exactly what they have done. Q There appears to be a flow of Kurdish refugees back toward the border of Turkey today, and the situation appears to be deteriorating. Do you have a comment on that? Are the Kurds unnecessarily rushing for safety, or is the situation bad news? MS. TUTWILER: The reports of continuing fighting -- there were reports, as you all know, of continuing fighting yesterday in northern Iraq. We understand that Kurdish representatives and Iraqi authorities reached agreement on a cease-fire in northern Iraq late Tuesday night, although we have conflicting reports on how well it is holding. The State Department called in the chief of the Iraqi Interests Section in Washington yesterday to urge Iraq to cease using artillery against population centers. We also stressed that Iraq should grant U.N. relief authorities access to all areas of northern Iraq, including the city of Kirkuk, as required by United Nations Security Council Resolution 688. State Department officials also met yesterday with representatives of the Kurdish leadership -- as I had mentioned they were planning to do so -- to discuss the situation. We urged both sides to make every effort to implement the cease-fire and help refugees to return to their homes. U.N. officials report that thousands of civilians have fled the fighting toward the mountains on the Iraqi side of the border with Iran. U.N. authorities are attempting to set up an emergency refugee camp for civilians in that area. The size of the problem is not clear to us as of this briefing. We hope that an effective cease-fire will make it possible for those people to return home immediately. One thing I did try to get for you this morning are -- these are approximate numbers -- total humanitarian workers in Iraq. An approximate number is 1,339. Of that, approximately 73% of those people are in the north. That includes U.N. guards, humanitarian-type of workers, non-governmental organizational-type of people, and Red Cross people. Q Margaret, some of those refugees who have gone to the Iranian border are saying that Iraqi troops threw civilians in the paths of tanks; that there have been incredible outrages and violations of human rights -- a tragic situation. The only note of it I see in your basically even-handed statement is that they shouldn't use artillery against civilians. Does the State Department after -- this all began Saturday. This is now Tuesday -- Wednesday, actually. Does the State Department have anything to confirm the reports that the Iraqis are killing civilians in cruel ways? And do you have anything to say in condemnation of it? You speak as if this is basically a refugee problem. People are away from their homes and maybe they ought to go back to their homes. MS. TUTWILER: I don't think that I avoided, Barry, stating that the United Nations, who are the officials -- Q Not United Nations. I'm asking about the U.S. State Department. MS. TUTWILER: Can I finish? -- that the United Nations officials have informed us that thousands of people are fleeing. But I am not privy to -- you say people have been run over by tanks? Q They say. I didn't say it. MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard that. Q I said they -- MS. TUTWILER: You have information I haven't heard. Q That's only one -- MS. TUTWILER: Obviously, that would be repugnant to us if it were true. But I think I have a responsibility to report on things that the State Department knows to be facts or very well-founded -- enough evidence that it's happening. I think that we did have a strong statement yesterday, and I would disagree with your characterization that we don't have a strong statement today. But I've never heard of people being run over by tanks. That's the first I've heard of that. Q All right, but that's a specific atrocity. Does the State Department have its own knowledge, or does it credit reports of atrocities against Kurdish civilians? MS. TUTWILER: If we did, I would be out here saying they were repugnant and condemning them. I do not. We stated yesterday that we did not. We knew there was a report concerning the 60 Iraqi soldiers -- that were reported by an eyewitness media person that they were killed. We said we were calling in the Kurdish representative here to discuss that. It's not that the United States is sitting here with a blind eye, not paying attention to what is going on. We are. And, of course, we're concerned, but we cannot draw conclusions on things that we don't yet know for absolute facts. Q Margaret, tomorrow, the Cubans, they're holding their Fourth Party Conference. They barred the press. Do you have any comment, any indication that there's apt to be any kind of change in Cuba? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q Do you have any comment -- MS. TUTWILER: Do you? Q Do you have any comment on the meeting? MS. TUTWILER: No. If they're meeting tomorrow -- to be honest with you, I didn't know they were meeting tomorrow. I'll be happy, tomorrow, to see if we have something to say about their meeting. I didn't even know they were meeting. Q Margaret, does the United States have any comment or concern about the continuing political disarray within the Russian republics, particularly the Russian Republic, which apparently is preventing them from trying to do much to move the republic forward? MS. TUTWILER: What political disarray are you speaking or addressing yourself to? Q Two of the Russian cabinet ministers -- MS. TUTWILER: Resigned -- right. Q -- announced this morning that they were resigning. There have been orders given and orders countermanded by the Russian Parliament. The signing of the successor to the All Union Treaty was held up last weekend when the Parliament said the man who signed it didn't have authority to sign it. President Yeltsin had to personally intervene and say that he did have the authority to sign the agreement. MS. TUTWILER: My understanding is he's returning, I believe it's today, from a vacation that he's been on. Q Is the the United States concerned about this? MS. TUTWILER: My best information would be Reggie Bartholomew's debrief of the Secretary this morning on his visit, and I will be honest with you and say in the many meetings that he had -- and he met with the new Russian Foreign Minister, with any number of individuals there -- this is not something that he raised as a concern of his. I have not heard it raised here in a specific, as you're raising it. We, obviously, are watching closely. We have any number of delegations, as you know, that have been in and out of the Soviet Union -- the Russian Republic specifically -- since the failed coup. So it's not something that we're not watching, but I cannot tell you that it's something on a level of a gigantic concern right now. Q A slightly related subject. Q What's Reggie's debriefer? Q The debrief tank? MS. TUTWILER: He said that he had a very constructive meeting, that they were very helpful. He had a wide-ranging meeting, and in the majority of his meetings many of the republics had representatives there -- which is something new and different. It shows how we're handling things differently. Barry, I asked him your question on when is he planning to meet with Obukhov, and he said that has been indefinitely delayed. There is no answer on that question. Q All right, but then it may be superseded. So the question is: Will the Secretary meet with Foreign Minister Pankin in the Middle East? MS. TUTWILER: He well may -- Q He well may? MS. TUTWILER: -- if it would be constructive, if it would be helpful -- which it well might be. There has been no suggestion from the Soviet Foreign Ministry that they meet in the Middle East, and we have not sent a cable suggesting that we do so. I saw yesterday on the wires -- I believe it was Deputy Foreign Minister Obukhov -- announcing that Foreign Minister Pankin would be in the Middle East. We don't know the dates yet. So if the dates coincide, it could well be that they would meet while there. Q What would they talk about if they happen to run into each other? MS. TUTWILER: They'd probably talk about -- if they're in the Middle East, they'd probably talk about, since they're co-sponsors of the peace conference, where they are in the process on the peace conference. The President's, some would say, bold initiative in the arms control area might come up, as might President Gorbachev's response to that. Q It's kind of bold too. MS. TUTWILER: Kind of bold, right. Q A little bolder, in fact, probably. Q Margaret, concerning the Soviets, is it the State Department's view that in order for the Soviet Union to co-host a peace conference -- co-sponsor a peace conference -- it would have to extend formal diplomatic recognition to Israel? MS. TUTWILER: I believe that the Soviets themselves -- and I'd refer you to their own record -- have stated what their position is on that, and I will just refer you to them to ask if their views have changed concerning recognition of Israel. Q But, Margaret, they have not? MS. TUTWILER: Not to my knowledge. Q On the Soviet Union still, for a second more, was there any understanding in terms of what happens next -- in terms of the process of reconciling the two arms control proposals? MS. TUTWILER: Next steps -- I don't have anything for you today. Q And going on to develop those areas that need negotiations. MS. TUTWILER: I don't have anything for you today on next steps. Q How about the timing and speed of Soviet actions in terms of their unilateral moves? Did Reggie get any feel for how rapidly they're going to move on the low-end nuclear? MS. TUTWILER: If he did, at his debrief this morning, that is not something that was raised while I was in the room. Q So there were very little specifics, it sounds like. MS. TUTWILER: It wasn't raised, so I don't -- I can't tell you that it wasn't discussed. He had in one meeting over ten hours of meetings. He had a big interagency group there. They broke down into different groups, as we do when we go. So I personally myself have not had a total and thorough and complete debrief from Reggie. Q Would you ask the question -- MS. TUTWILER: Sure. Q -- for the record -- Terry's questions and my question as well? MS. TUTWILER: I know what next steps will be -- Q O.K. MS. TUTWILER: -- that we have no answers for you. Q You have no answers -- all right. MS. TUTWILER: I know that one. Q And on specific timing, on specific weapon systems, did they get any feel for how rapidly the Soviets are going to be taking systems down -- the Soviets? MS. TUTWILER: That one I'll take. Q Is there any chance that Reggie might brief -- on whatever basis? MS. TUTWILER: I can ask him. Q It would be very helpful. MS. TUTWILER: I will. I'll ask him. Q Can I ask you about the Soviets being of help in the Middle East? What would the Secretary like the Foreign Minister of the co-sponsoring country to do specifically to try to, you know, hasten this peace conference? MS. TUTWILER: Right. Well, since I, No. l, don't know that they're going to be meeting -- and, No. 2 -- Q No. I meant planning on his own travels in the Middle East. MS. TUTWILER: On his own travels? I don't think it would be appropriate, Barry, for me to sit here and suggest what the Soviet Foreign Minister should or should not be doing on his own trip. As you know, he has -- and the Soviet Union has -- influence with parties that are involved in this hopeful peace conference that we are trying, and have been working for about 6 or 7 months on, to have this month in October. So I would assume, without -- you know -- prejudging his trip, that he might well indeed continue, as his government has, to help move the parties to a peace conference, to help on what we're all trying to do. They have been very helpful throughout this process with those that they have influence over. Q Well, who would that be? Would that be Syria entirely, or can they be of help with the Palestinians? MS. TUTWILER: I think you probably know. Q No. I'm asking you, see, to say it for the record. MS. TUTWILER: I know why you're asking. Q Would you like the Soviets to help try to get a Palestinian delegation together? Would you like them to move faster on relations with Israel? MS. TUTWILER: I think that -- I know that they have been helpful throughout, and I have no reasons to believe that they will not continue to be helpful to bring the parties to a potential peace table here in the month of October. Q Has the State Department sent a draft copy of the invitation to the parties concerned in the Middle East? MS. TUTWILER: Sent? No. Q A draft copy -- because the Israeli press says this morning that they have a draft copy and they put all the elements outside. MS. TUTWILER: No. Q No? Q Margaret, you don't want to leave it like that. MS. TUTWILER: No. I'd rather leave it like I have it. (Laughter) Q Margaret, would you call it by any other name? (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: I answered the question accurately. Q Well, has the United States shown an invitation to the parties? Q Have you passed it along to the Israelis in any fashion -- a draft copy? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q Have you shown them a copy? Q Have you shown them the draft? Q Have you shown them a copy? MS. TUTWILER: I don't want to discuss what the Secretary may or may not have done concerning invitations -- not only with the Israelis, to be honest with you, but with everyone that is involved. Q Have you been getting a lot of formal offers from various countries wanting to host the peace conference? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q We know that Argentina has, for instance. MS. TUTWILER: There are lots -- (laughter). Q Margaret, on the Middle East -- MS. TUTWILER: But that's been going on for months. Q For months? MS. TUTWILER: For months. Q And would you characterize -- I mean are you talking dozens? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of dozens -- that would be high for me -- of my knowledge. But I don't read every cable that comes in this building. Q How many come in? MS. TUTWILER: I've never thought of it that way. Q Would you anticipate that the opening session of the conference would be held in one venue and the ongoing work of the conference would take place somewhere else? MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, that's not resolved. Q Is it true that the Israelis will have to give the final approval to the copy of the draft or the final invitation -- that the invitations will not be sent without Mr. Shamir putting his signature of approval to the invitations? MS. TUTWILER: Let me answer this in the way that is the most accurate. This is a United States/Soviet invitation. Q Is the United States any further ahead in dealing -- in foreshadowing with the Israelis; I'm trying to find the right word -- in informing the Israelis about the nature of a conference -- an invitation, than it is, with the other parties? MS. TUTWILER: No, that would not be a fair characterization. What do you mean? Q Well, what I mean is whatever it is you won't discuss that the United States is doing vis-a-vis Israeli's participation, are you doing it with the other parties as well -- or are they, sort of, got to be settled first? MS. TUTWILER: No. There are a number of issues in a number of courts that still are outstanding. Q There's always the -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm not sure I'm following you -- I'm sorry. Q All right. Well then, why don't -- MS. TUTWILER: His question was: "Have we given the Israeli government" -- that's in the Israeli press this morning -- "a copy of the" -- Q Oh, no, no. This was his -- MS. TUTWILER: -- "invitation?" Q If I asked a question with the word "draft" -- MS. TUTWILER: I said no. Q -- then you won't answer it. So I'm trying to find a way to ask you a question that can maybe get an answer, and the question would be: Is there discussion with the Israelis about the nature of invitations that is at a deeper stage than it is with the other parties? Are you trying to resolve Israel's participation first as a precursor for getting the others aboard? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q O.K. MS. TUTWILER: We are trying to resolve a number of outstanding issues in a number of places -- which I know you're already familiar with -- and one, to be honest with you, is not more outstanding or more difficult or more troublesome than the next. And there's no specific order to this either. I mean if all the pieces don't fall into the proper order, then you've going to have a different equation. So, no, I couldn't characterize that at all. Q But issuing invitations and just seeing who'll show up -- as it's roughly put -- is still an option, isn't it? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. And all invitations will be issued simultaneously -- Q Right. MS. TUTWILER: -- even steven, fair. Q Well, Margaret, will it be faxed or mailed, or delivered by some -- (laughter) -- MS. TUTWILER: We're looking at a number of options. Q Margaret, on the middle east peace conference, a group of families of victims of terrorism called a press conference today to express their concerns, as the Middle East peace conference heads to fruition, that their concerns will be overlooked by the parties involved. Do you have any reaction to this? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know anything, to be honest about it. I haven't been exposed to it. I'll be happy to look into it. Q Can you make public or reiterate your understanding of the way this peace conference will work? Am I correct in understanding that the first session -- whenever it is and wherever it is -- is not supposed to last more than 48 hours? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware that anyone has ever said that. Q Is there no time frame on the first session? It could last five months? MS. TUTWILER: There may well be a time frame, but it has not been made public. Q But it is a ceremonial opening, isn't it? Because Shamir, you know, is being quoted as saying the peace conference would be ceremonial. And who knows what he's exactly trying to say. But isn't it so that it begins with a ceremony, doesn't it, and then you get down to direct negotiations? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know -- Q Shamir's not rejecting your formula, is he, by saying -- MS. TUTWILER: Not that I know of. Q -- it's a ceremonial peace conference? MS. TUTWILER: One, I'm not aware that the Prime Minister has said that. No. 2, just like you, I'm not sure, exactly, taken out of context, what you're saying -- what he must mean. He knows, as his government does -- as all of them do, after hours and hours of conversations -- exactly what we are talking about for this peace conference -- and, as you know, because the Secretary has told you a hundred times, at least, what the purpose of the conference is. It is to launch direct bilateral negotiations with the parties. Q You -- I'm sorry. I'm confused by your answer on the time. MS. TUTWILER: Yes. Q Are you indicating that a particular time period is being considered in private but has not been discussed in public? Is that what you're saying? MS. TUTWILER: It's never been discussed -- no different than dates, than venue, than format, than speech order, than protocol -- than any number of things, to my knowledge -- not only not talked about publicly; I'm not aware that they've been talked about on any basis. So I don't know where you got 48 hours. I'm not telling you 48 hours is right or wrong; I'm just saying I'm not aware that -- Q It's been discussed at all? MS. TUTWILER: I didn't say that. Q No? MS. TUTWILER: Discussed publicly. I'm fairly confident it has not. Q How about ON BACKGROUND? The figure 48 hours -- MS. TUTWILER: I don't even know if 48 has been discussed ON BACKGROUND. Q -- has been around for a while. Q Is it your belief that the opening session or the opening -- whatever it is -- of the peace conference could go on for many days? Is that what you anticipate? Or do you anticipate what you -- MS. TUTWILER: That's a kind of a different little way of asking me do we have a time frame on that. [Laughter] Q That's not kind of. It is -- absolutely. I'm trying to -- MS. TUTWILER: And I, unfortunately, cannot answer that. The Secretary -- it's well known to all the parties what we are envisioning and what we are planning. It will all be made known to you, to be honest with you, when and if invitations are issued. Q Margaret, I don't know at which BACKGROUND session I picked up this notion. Well, maybe it was an ON THE RECORD statement -- there have been so many statements about the Middle East, from the President -- MS. TUTWILER: It gets confusing, I know. Q -- and the Secretary and everybody. But I thought the idea was a brief -- have a brief ceremonial -- MS. TUTWILER: I didn't say it wasn't. Q No, I didn't say -- and then get down to negotiations and two tracks -- you know, working groups and all that. I guess this came up when the question was: "Would the Europeans participate? Who would participate?" It was a brief ceremonial opening. It sounds -- maybe it's -- Q I'm puzzled. Q Yes, is it not -- I'm puzzled too why you can't say: "We expect to have a ceremonial opening, lasting maybe no more than a couple of days, and then we'd like to have direct face-to-face talks." I thought that was the arrangement. MS. TUTWILER: Well, let's just pretend on a total hypothetical that various people have various different ideas. And suppose that that's not worked out. It would be really irresponsible of me to get out here and say, "Hey, guess what. Here's what we want." And then we can get everybody in a gigantic brouhaha publicly about "Oh, no, no. I want this and I want that." I mean what's the point? It doesn't serve a purpose. Q I thought it was the one non-controversial aspect that occurs. Q That's a lot clearer. MS. TUTWILER: Thank you! Q A hypothetical is not very helpful. Q What will country will actually determine the format? MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me? Q What countries will actually determine the format? (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: The Secretary has been involved -- I believe it's close to now 7 months -- in very lengthy and intensive discussions with all the parties in the regions, and they've all been discussing this. Q Yes, I know, but I mean who will actually make the final determination -- supposing there is a -- MS. TUTWILER: I guess the issuers of the invitation, the co-sponsors. Q You guess or is that the fact? MS. TUTWILER: That's about how I'd look at it. Q O.K. (Laughter) Q Margaret, a columnist this morning said that the Administration had received and was studying a letter from Yasser Arafat. Is that true? MS. TUTWILER: I normally do not respond to columnists, but this one can't go without a comment. It's categorically untrue. Q You mean there was no letter? (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: There's no such thing. It does not exist. There's no private letter that Secretary Baker is sitting upstairs reading from Mr. Arafat. It does not exist. Q Well, don't the Palestinians who he meets with turn over statements to the U.S. side -- MS. TUTWILER: It's quite different than -- Q -- regularly? Well, I know -- it's a different question. MS. TUTWILER: Right. Q Isn't -- I mean -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes, they tell you. They go out and do press conferences -- Q Maybe that's -- MS. TUTWILER: -- and give you copies of it. Q Yes, O.K. And they say they were cleared by the PLO when they do that. Q Has there been a meeting this week between the U.S. and Israeli teams by Mr. Ross and by Ambassador Shoval? MS. TUTWILER: This week? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: Not that I'm aware of. Q Well, what are you aware of? MS. TUTWILER: They meet all the time, so I'm not aware of in the last two days that Dennis has had a meeting. Q Well, I mean working meeting -- not -- MS. TUTWILER: What? Q A working session -- because -- MS. TUTWILER: They literally meet, honestly, a lot. They talk on the phone a lot, as he does with any number of Ambassadors serving here in this city. But I'm not aware of a meeting. I just hadn't asked Dennis or heard Dennis mention it in the last 48 hours. Q Who will be handling the accreditation for this conference, wherever it's going to be held? MS. TUTWILER: Handling the what? Q The accreditation -- the press accreditation. MS. TUTWILER: The 2 co-sponsors. Q What? MS. TUTWILER: You'll be dealing with me. (Laughter) Q There were reports this morning about a private protest by the United States to Israel about the -- MS. TUTWILER: Unfortunately, we did all that; yes -- at quite some length. Q Well, were you able to say who delivered the message, what kind of a message it was -- whether it was oral, written; when, to whom -- and so on? MS. TUTWILER: No, sir. Q "No, sir" what? MS. TUTWILER: I was not asked and I'm unable to do that for you at that level of detail, but we did really have a very thorough discussion of it earlier at the briefing. Q Well, I mean -- my point is is that was the question asked that Israel has no right to survey the -- MS. TUTWILER: We did all this. Q -- area of an enemy country as to see what's happening? MS. TUTWILER: I was asked that. We did all that. Q You did all that. MS. TUTWILER: So I'll give you the record just as soon as we get it out. Q All right. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thanks. (The briefing concluded at l2:38 p.m.)