US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #154, Friday, 10/11/91

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: 12:22 PM, Washington, DC Date: Oct 11, 199110/11/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Caribbean Country: Iraq, Israel, USSR (former), Haiti Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Arms Control, United Nations, Terrorism (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I'll be happy to take any questions that you may have. Q Well, what about the Palestinians? Are they coming back? Are they seeing anybody, and will the Secretary see them? MS. TUTWILER: We've had long and serious discussions with the Palestinians yesterday and those discussions are continuing today. They are -- as I'm sure you can appreciate but probably not like -- very delicate and sensitive discussions that are on-going. And so I am really not going to be able to go further than that brief, non-descript statement. Q They have come in already today? MS. TUTWILER: No. It has all been by phone today at expert level. They have not spoken with Secretary Baker today. As you know, from his public schedule, he's been at the White House all morning. I'm not ruling out that they may come back to the Department. I don't know if they are. There's no decision on that at all, and whether they would meet at the expert level or with the Secretary of State. Q What do you mean "expert level," Margaret? MS. TUTWILER: Dennis Ross, I consider an expert; and Ambassador Djerejian, Dan Kurtzer -- the experts who continuously work this subject with the Secretary. Q When will we know? MS. TUTWILER: When we know. Q Margaret, if I can move a little further on the subject. There's a Saudi newspaper report that the group -- the Palestinian group -- told the Secretary, or told maybe other State Department officials, yesterday that the PLO will not play a role in the early, or even in the first few stages of the talks, but they would be involved later on and that the Secretary agreed with that type of arrangement. Also, that when the conference is held, it would be held at the Foreign Ministers level. Could you address those things? MS. TUTWILER: No, as I wouldn't, Barry, in any delicate and sensitive negotiations that are on-going. Some of what you've just said to me is completely false. I'm not going to be able to, at this moment in time, go into -- one, reports I hadn't seen, or that it's rumored that, or believed that Secretary Baker said this or that or that the Palestinians said this or that. Q You said you had long and serious discussions. Q (Inaudible) MS. TUTWILER: I wouldn't -- excuse me -- I wouldn't put a lot of stock in that report. Q Can I ask you about a report that you have seen, that the Syrians have informed the Secretary that they will not take part in a certain phase of the talks if and when they take place? MS. TUTWILER: I'll be glad to. Let me first take a step and put this in perspective. As we draw closer to a possible conference and negotiations, a lot of questions are being raised by the parties about how the process will work and that should not come as a surprise to anyone. On the specific story on Syria, all I can tell you is that it contains factual and substantive errors. This is one of many issues related to the process on which we're continuing to work, but I'm not going to get into the specifics of each of those discussions. I would also like to remind you that the range of regional issues that might be addressed in multilateral talks is very wide, and there are some complicated organizational questions that have to be sorted out. The Secretary has been working on these issues and, as you know, we have refrained from -- we have and as have others for weeks -- discussing any of this in public. Many parties continue to express interest in the multilateral track, and we're continuing to work with all of them. Q It's a simple factual question. I don't know. Maybe I'm the only one who doesn't recollect. But at what point would this multilateral -- as it's -- is it simultaneous with the other or is it after the other phases? MS. TUTWILER: Without getting into specifics of what the Secretary of State is negotiating with all the parties, it has never, Barry, been suggested that it would be simultaneous. And concerning timing, that's something that everyone is discussing. Everybody has different views on it. Q Are the Syrians still on board for the multilateral track? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to state what the Syrians are or are not. That's best addressed and answered by them. Q Margaret, to say that the story contains factual and substantive errors could mean anything from grave errors of fact and substance to relatively minor errors of fact and substance -- MS. TUTWILER: That's right. Q -- which would not impugn the story itself, as it stands? MS. TUTWILER: I didn't come out here and state, for a reason, that it is categorically one hundred percent without foundation. When I feel that way about something, I will do that. What I also don't want to begin a habit of doing, and have refrained from doing for almost three years, is disecting pieces by people that I respect -- from news organizations that I respect. But to say that I can accept totally, one hundred percent, as every word and every fact in that is absolutely on the mark, a hundred percent correct, I cannot do that for you. Q Margaret, is the bilateral track still an integral part of the process which Secretary Baker -- MS. TUTWILER: Absolutely. Q According to the process that you've constructed, that has to happen at some point? That's part of the -- MS. TUTWILER: The bilateral? Q No, no. The multilateral track. MS. TUTWILER: I'm sorry, I thought you said "bilateral." Q No, no, I said -- Q You said "bilateral." Q I'm sorry. Excuse me. I meant -- MS. TUTWILER: No problem. Q -- multilateral. Is the multilateral track -- MS. TUTWILER: Well, there's a difference. Q Let me go back; reprise. Is the multilateral track an integral part of the package that you're constructing? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to put an adjective on it. I'll just continue to say that there are a number of parties who are interested in this, and discussions concerning this have been going on for the last six months. The parties will continue discussing this, I'm sure, on Secretary Baker's trip that begins tomorrow. Q So what you're saying is that the peace conference and the bilateral negotiations, which are to take place soon after that, are integral parts; that this third part is something which needs further discussion? MS. TUTWILER: But I would have to also say, Alan, that the possible peace conference needs further discussion, bilateral negotiations need further discussions. The whole package is still being discussed. But I cannot for you today state or put weight to and divide out, as you, I understand, would like me to do, what is much more critically important to us, or do they all have to be together, etc. These discussions are all interrelated, and these discussions are going on right now at an experts level. They have been, quietly, and they will continue at the Secretary of State's level. Q But you're leaving -- Q My question goes to this: Are you constructing a process which has three dimensions? One, a peace conference, (2) bilateral negotiations, (3) multilateral negotiations. Or are you constructing a process which has two dimensions and a third which may or may not happen? MS. TUTWILER: I can't answer that for you. I have acknowledged that we are discussing all three, which comes as no surprise to you because you have traveled with us on the vast majority of these trips and follow this subject and know it so well. So that's no secret. What I cannot do for you is get into the intricacies of the negotiations that are, as we stated yesterday and I've stated it again today -- whether with the Palestinians, with the Syrians, with the Israelis -- at a very delicate and a very sensitive time. It's just counterproductive. I understand why you would like for me to do so, but I'm going to refrain from doing so. All three of these issues -- subjects -- have been discussed, and will continue to be discussed. Q Margaret, you were present in the room when Foreign Minister Shara said over the summer, in answer to reporters' questions in Damascus, that the Syrian Government accepted Secretary Baker's proposal for the peace conference on the basis of the terms and conditions as outlined by the United States. Those terms and conditions had been outlined by Secretary Baker as including all three portions of the conference that Alan just described. Has the Syrian position changed? Is the U.S. understanding of the Syrian position different today from what it was when that statement was made publicly by the Syrian Foreign Minister? MS. TUTWILER: I'm going to continue to answer it, one, ask the Syrian Government. I'm not going to speak on something that is this sensitive. Q (Inaudible) best understanding of the Syrian position? MS. TUTWILER: You can ask the Syrian Government if their position has changed. I'm going to continue to answer, as I did -- I believe you missed the first part of this, unfortunately -- there are, as it comes as no surprise to anyone, questions that are out there on this and on other matters. Those questions are being addressed at an experts level, and will be addressed by the Secretary of State on his next visit. Q Margaret, in characterizing the meeting with the Palestinians, you called it "long and serious discussions." MS. TUTWILER: And serious. Q You did not mention progress. Have the Palestinians yet been able to tell you, yes, we will participate with the delegation and come to the peace conference? Where does that stand? MS. TUTWILER: It stands that these discussions are continuing right now. The most recent one was about three minutes before I came to this podium. In fairness to the individuals that are involved in this, it would be really inappropriate for me to step into the middle of those discussions by this public briefing. Q Can you say there's been progress? MS. TUTWILER: No, I don't want to do adjectives yet. If we have something, which we probably will later this afternoon -- Q An adjective, perhaps? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q An adverb? MS. TUTWILER: More to say about these long and serious discussions that are continuing. In one form or another, you will be the first to know. Q Will they continue in the Middle East? Will they continue in Israel or in the occupied territories? MS. TUTWILER: Will what continue? Q After today, the talks with the Palestinians? MS. TUTWILER: What are their travel plans? Q No, no. The talks with the Palestinians now. Even if they are over the phone, if they do not finish, will they continue overseas? Q When Baker goes to the region? MS. TUTWILER: We're going to continue these long and serious discussions today. I can't answer those types of questions for you. Q Do you think it could go into tomorrow, Margaret? MS. TUTWILER: I guess anything is possible. I don't have any reason to -- I can't say "no" because I don't know that they won't. No one has yet suggested that. Q Is there a possibility, as you mentioned, that the four gentlemen from Palestine are really coming back to State? MS. TUTWILER: I'm sorry. I really didn't catch that. Is it possible for what -- Q Is there a possibility today that they might be coming back to State to see Secretary Baker this afternoon, depending on the talks? MS. TUTWILER: Oh, I answered that earlier. You're talking about the four Palestinians? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: I had just said earlier that there's no answer on that. Q (Inaudible) MS. TUTWILER: It wasn't even discussed in the 4-1/2 hours we were in the meeting last night. So that's not -- I said it was possible. I said I did not know if it would be to see the Secretary of State or to see experts who are working this issue, or if it would even be necessary for them to come here. So we just don't know. Q Margaret, I notice we're getting down to minutia -- MS. TUTWILER: It's okay. Q -- but it would be helpful to know if -- MS. TUTWILER: We've been doing it for days. Q Husseini is, generally -- sometimes with Dr. Ashrawi -- is the spokesperson, so to speak. In these telephone conversations, is it basically Dennis and Husseini or do other folks get on the phone? MS. TUTWILER: A lot of people participate in these conversations on both sides. Q Margaret, is there anything more about the possibility of the Secretary meeting with the Soviet Foreign Minister in the region? They've been in communication -- MS. TUTWILER: That's something I don't have to announce, but it's something that we are seriously looking into. Q Or Paris? MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me? Q Or Paris? Q I was asking about the region. Q He's asked about the region. MS. TUTWILER: He's asking the region. Q Well, about -- MS. TUTWILER: He saw him in the region. I believe the Soviet Foreign Ministry announced the other day that the Foreign Minister is going to be at the Paris Cambodian peace conference on October 23. We have not yet announced what the Secretary of State will be doing concerning that conference. But should they both obviously be in Paris for that conference, I can't imagine they wouldn't have a meeting. Q Margaret, what is -- MS. TUTWILER: But you're Middle East question is the one that you asked me. That one is the one that I have nothing to announce at this briefing, but it is definitely being looked at. Q I take it, before, there had not been communication back and forth. But you take it there has been communication? MS. TUTWILER: Now there has. Q Margaret, were the Israelis informed -- I understand that President Assad relayed to Secretary Baker, at their meeting when he was last in the Middle East, their serious problems with this multilateral strand of the process. Was that, in turn, relayed to the Israelis? MS. TUTWILER: This gets me, Alan, into negotiations and communications between the parties that I simply just don't want to do. Sorry. Q When the Israelis saw this report in The New York Times and other reports sort of followed since, would that have come as a complete surprise to them? MS. TUTWILER: That's the same question asked in a little different way. I'm not going to answer that question. I think that you can understand why. If I start down this trail, there's going to be no end to it. We believe -- I know that there can be debate about this -- the Secretary has said that he is not going to conduct these negotiations through the public. That gets me right into, "What are you telling each side? What have you told them about this?" Then, the next question will be, "Why didn't tell so-and-so." I just cannot do that. Q But you know how things come up, like an Israeli loan request, and the answer is: "Well, it would undercut the peace process." Can you say if this public disclosure -- that Syria might have questions about the multilateral -- is that making the Secretary's job more difficult? Does that undercut the process? MS. TUTWILER: I think that any disclosures concerning trying to get these parties to a possible peace conference is not helpful, and I don't think you need me to say that for you. Whether it's a leak in the United States, it's a leak in one of the other governments, people ought to be able -- I understand your jobs and have a great deal of respect for them -- to negotiate, especially with something that is this problematic, that is this sensitive, that is this multi-faceted, in private. And to be honest with you, there's been a pretty good track record over the last seven months from all governments, including our own, on keeping whatever questions and problems arise -- private and diplomatic channels. Q Well, I guess I had in mind really not so much whether the disclosure -- what I really meant and probably put the question badly -- MS. TUTWILER: Is the substance of it a problem? Q Is it whether -- well, you know, you don't want to say it; you don't want to get into what Syria may or may not have told the Secretary. But I'm wondering if Syria's apparent reservations or questions about attending this is detrimental to what the Secretary is trying to accomplish, pretty much as -- to use a parallel -- Israel's request for action on a housing loan guarantee was considered, you know, detrimental or could undercut it. Whatever Syria has done, does this hurt the Secretary's mission? Can you answer that? MS. TUTWILER: No, because I haven't today said what it is that Syria has told the Secretary -- Q I know that. MS. TUTWILER: -- and I'm not going to be able to do that today. So it's hard for me to answer your question, without answering what exactly have they told the Secretary, to tell you whether it's a problem or not. Maybe another way to go at it is that you have seen -- as I saw -- there are many people who don't think that multilateral talks are the beginning and end of the world. Some people do. So I mean a lot of people are all over the lot on that in various governments and have spoken out public about it. So this is an issue. I've told you all that it is going to continue to be discussed. It will be discussed on Secretary Baker's trip. We leave tomorrow. And it is something that a number of parties -- to be honest with you, I cannot think of one that does not have an interest in continuing these discussions, if that's a way of answering your question. Q Margaret, how does that -- Q Margaret, there are some people in Washington but also in the Middle East who are drawing a comparison between the way the Bush Administration is handling the reports of the Syrian decision about the multilateral talks and the way the Bush Administration has handled Israeli statements and actions in recent days. For example, someone just today made the comment to me about "Well, Bush lambasted the Israelis for the overflights of Iraq as being a problem for the peace process, but no comment at all on the report about the Syrian situation." And these people who make this comment -- MS. TUTWILER: One, I'm not -- Q -- draw this comparison and make the suggestion that the Bush Administration is trying to hush up any criticism of the way the Syrians are dealing with this thing, but are being all too ready to jump out there and criticize the Israelis. MS. TUTWILER: Well, that was such a long statement I can't remember to comment on every part that you made. Q It's all one comment -- MS. TUTWILER: I, obviously -- Q -- all one question. MS. TUTWILER: I, obviously, don't agree with the vast majority of it. I don't recall -- and we can go both to check back the record -- Bush lambasting the Israelis over overflights. In fact, I believe that our statement -- and I don't know the White House made a dissimilar one -- said that it should be avoided: unilateral acts. Q Because of the effect on the peace process. MS. TUTWILER: I did not say that. Q I didn't say you did. I said the Bush Administration did. MS. TUTWILER: That's right. I know what Marlin said. And -- what is your -- Q Well, the question is: If the Bush Administration says the Israeli overflights impacted negatively on the peace process, why is the Bush Administration reluctant to comment at all -- MS. TUTWILER: I didn't. Q -- on the Syrian report? MS. TUTWILER: I have commented on it this morning. I made a long statement before you came here and -- Q Not without foundation. MS. TUTWILER: I said a lot. And I said that this is a subject -- which I have said since you've been here -- that is going to be continuously discussed; that there have been questions raised on a number of issues, including this one, which is of no surprise to anyone in this room, and you have an enormous amount of experience covering this -- that there are questions out there. Secretary Baker yesterday, standing in the Treaty Room, said there are still things to be worked out, that there are problems. There are. And what I am not going to do today, though, is state for the Syrian Government what their position is concerning multilateral talks. I'm simply not going to do that. Q You're not going to state what the U.S. Government view is of the Syrian position? MS. TUTWILER: By doing that, Ralph, I am stating what the Syrian position is. Q Margaret, are we getting second thoughts about telling other parties to the negotiations what the Syrian position was? MS. TUTWILER: That's assuming -- back to Alan's question -- that we haven't done that. Q No. I say I'm quite sure you did it. Are you beginning to think that might have been a mistake? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not going to say what we are or are not sharing with the various parties in the region. Q Can you comment on the incident in Israel today about a young Palestinian driving his car into a bunch of Israeli soldiers and killing several of them? What does that do to the peace process? MS. TUTWILER: Wait one second. As you so accurately state, a Palestinian drove a truck into a group of Israeli soldiers today, killing two and injuring l8. We deplore this brutal, murderous, tragic act. We extend deepest condolences to the families of those killed and injured in this incident. While we do not have all the facts before us, it is perfectly clear that the driver of this truck was either mentally deranged or a terrorist to drive into a crowd of innocent people. We call on all sides to exercise restraint and to make efforts to reduce tensions. Q Do you find it curious a little bit that this incident came just hours after your warning about potential extremist attacks? MS. TUTWILER: I've seen one wire copy that -- I do not know if it is correct or not -- is attributed to quotes, I believe, by this driver that this is something that he had planned and that he wanted to do on the anniversary of a specific other incident. So I can't tell you that the two are connected. I have no way of analyzing that or know what's in this individual's mind when he went and did this, as we say, brutal, murderous, insane act. Q Margaret, can I come back to these multilateral talks at the risk of boring everyone here? MS. TUTWILER: It's O.K. Q It seems to me -- maybe I'm wrong, and excuse me if I am -- that you are being a bit diffident about the whole idea, which after all -- MS. TUTWILER: I'm being a bit difficult? Q Diffident, diffident -- ambivalent. MS. TUTWILER: I'm trying not to answer questions -- you're right. (Laughter) Q Well, that's it. It's there! (Laughter) MS. TUTWILER: I'm honest. Q My question goes to -- I mean this is a U.S. idea. When Saudi Arabia and the GCC agreed to attend these talks, Secretary Baker hailed this as a major step forward -- praised the Saudis, said it was very positive. Why can't we hear from you today from the podium a statement saying, "We still hold that having these talks is a part of our process, is a positive idea"? MS. TUTWILER: Fine. I can say that. Q Please. MS. TUTWILER: We think it's a positive idea. Q Margaret, you said all the governments participating in discussions are abiding by the rule of not discussing them publicly somehow. Is this in response to the demand of the Secretary of State, or these governments themselves are so keen to keep the discussions as secret as possible? MS. TUTWILER: I think they're all mature professionals and they recognize that when you're dealing with something serious that it's best not to have it debated through the public airways. No, the Secretary hasn't made demands on individuals, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out some of the things that you're discussing if prematurely bandied and debated in the public could deep-six an entire process. So, no, I'm not aware of any demands he's been making. I just think these are responsible people who recognize, if at the inappropriate time you're forced into a position of debating certain things, it isn't going to help the process. And you've got to keep your eye on the ball and look at the big picture. Q You're not objecting to the word "demand." Maybe I -- MS. TUTWILER: Yes, I'm objecting to the word "demand." Q Maybe "please," or something like that. MS. TUTWILER: It just -- it doesn't need to be raised. They recognize each in their own governments -- and maybe they have their own reasons of why they do not want until the appropriate time, X, Y or Z known. But it has not been a scintilla of conversation of, you know, "We really do need to keep this very, very quiet." It's just -- it goes without saying. It's known. It's obvious. Q Margaret, are we -- Q Do you have the venue for the conference? MS. TUTWILER: What? Q Will the venue where the conference will be held be announced after this visit of Mr. Baker to the region? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have anything for you on venue, on dates, or when the invitations will be dropped or how it will be announced. Q And how important for the United States Government, the State Department, is this conference -- or, rather, this visit to the region? MS. TUTWILER: As we have always said, that we cannot want peace or a process more than the parties involved, and we don't. Q I'm asking this question because, when Yossi Ahron was the deputy to Mr. Shamir or director of his office, said that "There will be no catastrophe if a peace conference will not be held at this time" -- or next month or this month. MS. TUTWILER: I haven't seen that statement by Yossi, so I am going to refrain from commenting on it. But I will repeat what our attitude has been -- which is, you can characterize as our policy throughout this -- is we cannot want peace more than the parties in the region or the process. Q Margaret, would you still like to say that there has been no discussion among the parties of the issues of venue, dates and place, and method of issuing the invitations? MS. TUTWILER: I don't believe that anyone has ever said there's been no discussion of that. There's been discussion of it throughout. Q But no venue? MS. TUTWILER: No decisions -- correct. Q Yes. Well, the record's clear on that point. Q The Palestinians' conversations -- were they made with a local call this morning? MS. TUTWILER: To the State Department here? Q Yes. MS. TUTWILER: To my knowledge, Barry, I didn't ask if they were in Maryland or Virginia. Q I mean it includes the suburbs -- yes. (Laughter.) MS. TUTWILER: I think they're in the District (laughter), but I really didn't ask this morning. I'm guessing again -- in some local hotel in the metropolitan area -- Q Well, the question came up last night -- MS. TUTWILER: They called here. Q -- whether they're going to stay in town or, you know, go -- MS. TUTWILER: They did? I don't know where they're staying. My understanding it is a metropolitan area hotel. And, yes, it's a local call to call the State Department. Q Margaret, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister was here two weeks ago and now he's back and meeting with the Secretary this afternoon. Can you tell tell us anything about that? MS. TUTWILER: To be honest with you, I believe two weeks ago he met with the Deputy Secretary, and we did a readout after that meeting. I wasn't here. And he requested the meeting with the Secretary and the Secretary's meeting with him. But, no, I have not seen the briefing paper yet. I'm sorry. Q Do you have anything on Eagleburger's meeting with the Deputy Foreign Minister from Poland? MS. TUTWILER: No, unfortunately I don't; sorry. Q Do you have an update on American officials leaving Haiti? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. So far no Embassy employees have left Haiti, and we have no reports that United States citizens who are trying to leave Haiti are encountering any types of problems or difficulties. Q Do you have anything on Iraq and the new visit by the inspection team? MS. TUTWILER: No. I'll be happy to take that for you though. I just couldn't get into it this morning. Q Margaret, can you tell us anything about U.S. preferences when it comes to the venue on the conference? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Thanks. (The briefing concluded at l2:48 p.m.)