US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #157, Thursday, 10/17/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:43 PM, Washington, DC Date: Oct 17, 199110/17/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Europe, Eurasia, East Asia Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, USSR (former), Haiti, Lebanon, Germany, France, Turkey, Greece, Portugal, Philippines, Ukraine Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Arms Control, Immigration, Military Affairs, NATO, Terrorism (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any announcements or statements so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q There's been a lot of diplomatic activity concerning the hostages lately. Do you have anything? MR. BOUCHER: George, I think we just continue to say that the Secretary General has his efforts underway. We fully support these efforts. He and his representative are working on this issue. And, again, we're seeking and looking for the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all hostages and a full accounting for those who may have died in captivity, including the return of their remains. Q Richard, the kidnappers of the hostages have apparently expressed some concern about retaliation if they release all of their charges. How does the United States -- does the United States see this as a legitimate concern? And are you prepared in any way to give any assurances to them? MR. BOUCHER: Carol, the United States doesn't see any justification for the continued holding of the hostages, and we think that they should be released immediately and safely. The Secretary General is working toward that end. We're prepared to express our support for those efforts, but I'm not going to get involved in the details. Q You really don't speak to the question, and that is, these people are concerned about what happens to their future. And if that's a condition for them releasing hostages, is the United States unwilling to give them any assurances? MR. BOUCHER: Let me look at that specific question and see if I have anything to say. I think, at this point, our chief concern is to see these people released immediately, and we support the efforts of the Secretary General to work that out. I'm not sure we are willing to go beyond that, really. Q And just because I want to put it on the record -- if the United States is unwilling to say something publicly about this, have you given any private assurances through the U.N.? Just want to put it on the record. MR. BOUCHER: That's an interesting question, Carol, but it seems to boil down to the same thing. Q Richard, a related story. In the last several days, there have been reports that the -- you remember the dozen or so terrorists in a Kuwaiti prison who disappeared after the Iraqis invaded Kuwait. The reports are now that these folks are now back in Lebanon and, in fact, have assumed a leadership role in the holding of the hostages and in negotiations on their release. Do you have any confirmation that these people are, in fact, back in Lebanon? MR. BOUCHER: Chris, I don't think at this moment I'm prepared to give you any kind of specific confirmation of those reports. Again, our basic attitude toward the thing is that there is no justification for the continued holding of the hostages and that they have to be released. Q I guess you were asked at the time of the Iraqi invasion -- "Whatever happened to these people?" -- since they have been held out for so long as the justification for taking the hostages in the first place. It seems to me that you never really answered that question. So I wonder where the United States thinks the -- there was a great little name for them, too. I can't remember it, though. MR. BOUCHER: The Dawa 17. Q Exactly. That's it. MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I can give you a full accounting of their locations, Chris. I'll just have to leave it at that for the moment. Q Richard, the Ukraine apparently has decided not to sign the economic agreement in the Soviet Union. I just wondered if the U.S. had any response or reaction to that? Do you see this as an ominous development? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can characterize those particular views one way or the other. Obviously, the details of this agreement are for the various parties in the Soviet Union to work out. We have, I think, consistently expressed our attitude, which is that the economic treaty has an importance in a number of areas, both in terms of the legitimacy of the organs of those who control the economy, in terms of helping the process of economic reform, especially. I think you'll see that in Secretary Baker's statements and in Bob Zoellick's testimony on the Hill and in what Secretary Brady has been saying in his discussions in Bangkok. Q Well, precisely because of what senior U.S. officials have said in the past, it would seem that the United States would not be particularly encouraged by this development? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Carol, how this process works out, and the timing and exactly how they do it, is something that the Soviets themselves -- the people out there -- have to work out. We would continue to emphasize, in our view, the importance of having an economic treaty which offers guidelines for investment, that offers a spur to economic reform, and that bestows more legitimacy on the organization of the economy in some ways. Q I'm a little confused about what signal, if any, you're offering here. Maybe you're trying not to offer any signal. This is contrary to the kind of development that the United States would like to see, is it not? MR. BOUCHER: Steve, the signal that I'm offering is that I'm not prepared to go into every twist and turn of the process as the process works itself out with the Soviet Union, but to remind you that the United States still considers an economic treaty an important thing to have. Q Can you elaborate at all on the U.S. reaction to the German and French pact to increase the army, as it were, on the continent? MR. BOUCHER: I can elaborate to some extent. The French-German paper is one of a number of useful contributions that have been offered recently as we prepare for the NATO summit in Rome on November 7-8, and as our European allies prepare for the EC summit in Maastricht on December 8-9. These important meetings will address key European security issues, including the question of a European security identity. We see these meetings as complementary in that both will contribute to a deepening of the Euro-Atlantic community. We want both summits to be successful. Q Do you see the army as being complementary? MR. BOUCHER: Let me finish. Other recent contributions to the preparatory process for the two summits include Secretary Baker and Foreign Minister Genscher's joint statements of May 10 and October 2, and the recent Anglo-Italian paper. I'm reminding you once again that the NATO Ministerial at Copenhagen in June also helped set the stage. At Copenhagen, we reiterated our support for a European security identity. And at Copenhagen, as well, the allies stated that the alliance is the essential forum for consultation and the venue for agreement on policies bearing on the security and defense commitments of its members under the Washington treaty. In their October 2 statement, Secretary Baker and Foreign Minister Genscher affirmed that the development of a European security identity and the strengthening of the Atlantic alliance are "mutually reinforcing." As for your follow-up question on where this specific force fits in, the answer has got to be what I said at the beginning -- that this is one of a number of useful ideas that we'll be working with our allies as we prepare for the NATO summit, as the Europeans prepare for their EC summit in December, and that we will be discussing these ideas with them, both through NATO and bilaterally. Q Richard, do you have anything on a report on ABC News last night about the hiring of an American mercenary to assassinate military opposition leaders by Foreign Minister Manglapus? MR. BOUCHER: We saw the report, Chris. We do watch your show. Q Duly noted. MR. BOUCHER: We don't have the tape. We haven't had it for our own purposes to review or anything like that. But, frankly, we find the whole thing rather implausible. Q Would you like to see the tape? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Q Can you elaborate on that? Why? Q What's implausible about it? MR. BOUCHER: The whole situation, as described, I think, we just don't find very plausible. Q What reason was there behind the decision of the U.S. to exclude Portugal from a pilot program of non-entry visa requirement for foreign visitors here, which has been extended to most other EC countries? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to look at that. I don't remember precisely what the criteria were for deciding what countries were eligible. I'll try to look at that for you. Q A further question: Why, again, has Portugal been excluded from the 40,000 green card lottery that has been going on? MR. BOUCHER: Again, both of these programs had specific, established, quantitative criteria for what nationalities were eligible. I'm sure that it's just a result of that. I don't accept the characterization of excluding any particular country. I think it's more a question of what were the criteria and, therefore, who was included. I'll look at that and try to get you the criteria for both. Q Do you acknowledge the receipt of protest letters from Senators Kennedy and Kerry and from a number of Congressmen about this decision to preclude at least Portuguese nationals? MR. BOUCHER: I have not heard of that. I'll check on that. Q Richard, on Yugoslavia: The Republic of Slovenia, as you know, has declared its independence toward the beginning of October. They now have a representative resident here in Washington. Has the State Department had any contact with him? And if not, will it see him in his official capacity? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on specific contacts, Jim. I wouldn't find it unusual that we did. We've had contacts with leaders -- people -- from all the various regions and republics in Yugoslavia. Our policy, I think, on recognition questions has been stated before and it hasn't changed. Q Well, specifically, on Slovenia, can you remind us what the U.S. policy is toward recognition? MR. BOUCHER: The policy is the one we stated about the time of October 2, when the question became live again with the expiration of the Brioni accords. I'll get you the transcript of that. Q Do you have anything on the violations and infringement of the Greek air space over the Aegean by U.S. and Turkish war planes during the an exercise [inaudible] the other day for which the Greek Government protested? MR. BOUCHER: Again, you've got something that I hadn't heard of. I'll have to look at that. Q Since, as I said, the Greek Government filed a protest with your government through your embassy. May we have your response, if it's possible? MR. BOUCHER: Let me check on the facts first. Q On Haiti: Do you have any indications that the economic sanctions are beginning to bite? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can characterize it that way, Jim. As you know, I think we've run down the list before of aid and defense exports, and things like that -- financial transactions with the government that we've already cut off. Further trade restrictions consistent with the OAS resolution are under consideration now. As far as the U.S. is concerned, we're carefully considering the ways to place an embargo which takes into account the humanitarian exception of the resolution. Q But do the current sanctions include a prohibition against any humanitarian aid as well? MR. BOUCHER: No. The OAS resolution provides that exception should be made for humanitarian assistance. We have suspended all aid at this point. The question of resumption of humanitarian aid through non-governmental organizations or otherwise is something that I haven't heard any new decisions on. Q Is there any thought being given to reconvening to the OAS Foreign Ministers? MR. BOUCHER: As far as the OAS goes, you remember the October 8th OAS resolution called for the OAS Secretary General to maintain contact with all sectors in Haiti, to search for a solution that restores President Aristide to office. That's what the OAS has been doing, and we continue to support that objective. We welcome any discussions that can lead to the restoration of the constitutional government of Haiti. We understand that there's a group of legislators that intends to come to the United States to talk further with the OAS. We hope this group of legislators would come prepared for serious discussions consistent with the OAS resolutions, which do not accept Haiti's current regime as legitimate. The arrangements for that visit would be worked out by the OAS, and I don't have any details for you at this point. Q What is the U.S. assessment on the Turkish invasion of northern Iraq against the Kurdish people, since the Iraqi Government protested and the Turkish Government responded that it was a peace cross-border operation? And not only this, but is determined to do so in the future despite the fact that this is violating international law and international practice against the territorial integrity of another country? MR. BOUCHER: I think we expressed our views on that operation yesterday, if I remember correctly, or the day before. As far as protests back and forth between the Iraqis and the Turks, I think we'll have to leave that to them. Q Can you clarify the U.S. position? What is it exactly? How do you accept this explanation by the Turkish Government of this peace cross-border operation? MR. BOUCHER: Again, this back and forth between the Iraqis and the Turks, I want to leave to them. We've expressed our view on this before -- several times -- and I'll stick with that. Q Richard, you said that you expected by tomorrow, I believe, the first notices to go out to the lucky immigration lottery winners. Are you going to hold to that schedule -- I mean, is that what you're expecting? How is the process going? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to check on that, Steve. Since we did say by the end of this week, let me try to get something for tomorrow, if I can. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:57 p.m.)