US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #159, Monday, 10/21/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:15 PM, Washington, DC Date: Oct 21, 199110/21/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, Central America, East Asia, Europe Country: Iraq, Israel, USSR (former), Haiti, Cambodia, Lebanon, Greece, Turkey Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Arms Control, United Nations, Narcotics, Development/Relief Aid, Terrorism, Human Rights (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm sorry I'm late today. We have a few major subjects to deal with today, I guess. First let me read the first paragraph of an announcement on the Secretary's trip to Paris. I think you've already been given the opportunity to sign up if you wanted to. But the basics of the trip are as follows, and we'll put up something a little longer that explains more about who's there, and what they're doing. The Secretary will travel to Paris on October 22 to attend a signing ceremony on the 23rd of the 18-nation Conference on Cambodia. This meeting culminates a three-year effort to create a comprehensive political solution to the conflict in Cambodia. The parties will sign a comprehensive political settlement agreement for Cambodia which calls for the creation of a U.N. transitional authority in Cambodia. The U.S. believes that the agreement offers the best means of ensuring the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Cambodia, as well as disarming and demobilizing the armies of the warring factions. I'll stop with that, and, as I said, we'll put up something more extensive. That's all I had for statements and announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. George? Q What will he be doing on the edges of that conference? Will he be seeing the Chinese, the Soviets and talking to them about what? MR. BOUCHER: Barry, we expect he will have bilateral meetings at the conference, talking about the -- obviously, the issues of the conference and the other things that we have going on now. The only one that I can confirm for you is that he is expected to see Foreign Minister Pankin of the Soviet Union, and we'll get further information as the trip proceeds. Q The conference is pretty much, well, in form, -- and is there some major issue to resolve in talking to Pankin, or some major detail to be resolved? MR. BOUCHER: I think things are pretty much on track. There are representatives of the Permanent Five in Paris now. They're working on putting the finishing touches on the agreement. Q Excuse me. I meant the Mideast peace conference. MR. BOUCHER: Oh, the Mideast peace conference. I can sort of give you the rundown of where that stands. Q Can we finish with Cambodia first? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Q Has the problem with the Khmer Rouge and the repatriation of their refugees from Site 8 affected in any way the confidence that this is going to be a peace treaty that's going to stick? MR. BOUCHER: The United States is deeply concerned about the reports that the Khmer Rouge plan to force people to return to Cambodia, in violation of the letter and the spirit of the draft comprehensive settlement for Cambodia. We have urged the leadership of the Paris Conference, the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, the Royal Thai Government, the Supreme National Council and U.N. officials to intervene to deter any repatriation outside the U.N. framework. The Cambodian Supreme National Council has indicated its intention to sign a U.N. memorandum of understanding which prohibits forced repatriation. Under the MOU, displaced Khmer would have the opportunity to return under U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees' auspices and would guarantee that they can freely choose where they return to. We strongly endorse the Secretary General's appeal to the Cambodian parties to honor their commitment to the draft agreement and to take no action that violates or is inconsistent with it. In addition, representatives of international organizations and Thai military forces are present in and around the camp to monitor the situation and prevent clandestine movements by the Khmer Rouge. But basically that's the answer to your question, to say that this is a problem that we think is being dealt with. It's a problem of deep concern to us and something that is being monitored, but it's a problem that should be dealt with by the U.N. memorandum of understanding which prohibits forced repatriation. Q In other words, Richard, the Cambodians at Site 8 or anywhere else could return to any portion of Cambodia they wanted to? They would not have to go back to Khmer Rouge-dominated territory? MR. BOUCHER: Guarantees that they can freely choose where they return to. Yes. Q Is it also true that if -- on Wednesday when this peace treaty is to be signed, that if this is a continuing repatriation problem, that the United States would still sign this document? MR. BOUCHER: That's what we call a hypothetical, Steve. It's a problem that is of deep concern to us, something that we are following, something that other U.N. members -- the Secretary General and others -- have expressed themselves on, and we think that the agreements and the guarantees that are to be worked out, to be agreed to, should take care of the problem. But it's something we'll continue to follow. Q Do you have anything on the release of Jesse Turner? Please? Just say yes or no, if you have something on it. MR. BOUCHER: Let's see. We were going to go -- Q We were on the peace conference. MR. BOUCHER: We had an option on the peace conference first. This is where we stand on preparations. A core group from the United States and the Soviet co-sponsors are working in Madrid with the Spanish hosts on arrangements for the conference. Any announcement on the details of the conference will come from this group. We expect many of the details will not be finalized until we're much closer to the conference in ten days. The conference begins October 30 and is expected to run two or three days. As the invitation itself makes clear, the conference will have no power to impose solutions on the parties or veto agreements reached by them. Bilateral negotiations will start four days after the opening of the conference. Q In other words, four days from October 30. MR. BOUCHER: Four days after the opening. Yes. Q And will Secretary of State Baker attend the bilaterals as well as attending the opening session? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, John, I don't have full details on his schedule. Q Do you know where the bilaterals will be at this point? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, Barry, we're taking this one step at a time, as the Secretary said last week, and we're not in the invitation stage. Q (Inaudible) MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't know. Q Richard, do the bilaterals begin on the 2nd or the 3rd? MR. BOUCHER: I -- Q Depending on how you count four days, it could be either. MR. BOUCHER: Some of these details and the counting of four days, I think, will have to be done by the core group that is working these things out. It will start four days after the opening of the conference. That's the official line. Q You said you're at the invitation stage. Can you say what the story is with responses? MR. BOUCHER: The invitations were delivered October 18. Invitees were asked to respond by Wednesday, October 23, at 6:00 p.m., Washington time. In the letter of invitations, the following have been invited to attend the conference. The host is Spain. The co-sponsors are the United States and the Soviet Union. The parties are Israel, the joint Jordanian/Palestinian delegation, Syria and Lebanon. Participants: European Economic Community participating through its Presidency, and Egypt. As observers: The Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary General Bishara. A representative of the United Nations, Secretary General Perez de Cuellar. And the Maghreb states have also been invited to send observers to the conference. We're encouraged by the responses and the public statements from invitees, but I don't want to go into the status of each response, because this is a quickly evolving situation. Q Richard, I'm sorry -- what is the status of the EC and Egypt? You called them what -- participants? MR. BOUCHER: Participants. Q What does that mean as compared with the other Arab states and as compared with the observers? MR. BOUCHER: John, I'm not in a position, I think, to define each of these in terms of operational matters. That is something that will have to be worked out as the conference is prepared. Q Do we know? MR. BOUCHER: I expect we have some ideas. I personally don't know how to define them further for you, frankly. Q Richard, the question was about invitations, and I don't suppose you want to leave the impression that the Palestinians weren't invited separately? MR. BOUCHER: Well, these are the delegations that are invited to attend the conference, according to the list of invitations. So I'm not changing the status of delegations -- the joint Jordanian/Palestinian delegation. Q Has the United States now seen -- because they hadn't when Baker left the Middle East -- does the United States now have the names of all the Palestinians who would be there? MR. BOUCHER: I forgot to check, Barry. I don't know. I'll try to check on that. Q Then I shouldn't ask you whether Palestinians more visibly linked to the PLO could be in the steering committee, and was it all right with the United States if they were there? MR. BOUCHER: That's the sort of detail that I don't think I'm in a position to go into. Q All right. But it's a detail with more than insignificant -- MR. BOUCHER: A lot of details are more than insignificant. Q The devil sometimes is in the details. MR. BOUCHER: Somebody said that. Yes. Q Could you just tell us if you have any confirmation on Jesse Turner, please, and then we can go back -- MR. BOUCHER: O.K. Let's move to Jesse Turner. No. I don't have confirmation on Jesse Turner. We have seen various statements, have various reports on this. You know, there was a U.N. statement and others that predicted an imminent hostage release. We've been in touch with the Syrians. We stand ready to assist any American hostage who may be freed, and we are sending a hostage reception team to Wiesbaden. Once again, we call for the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all the hostages, and a full accounting of all those who may have died while in captivity, including the return of remains. We checked right before I came down, and we don't have confirmation that Jesse Turner might have been freed. Q Are we staying on hostages for a bit? MR. BOUCHER: We can go anywhere you want to, Barry. Q All right. Do you have any observations as to what the Israelis have been doing to this point in releasing their prisoners? Is that something that -- I suppose you can say they're on their own, but you might have a comment. MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't have any comment, Barry. As you know, our position has always been that those held outside the judicial process in the region should be released. We've supported the efforts of the Secretary General and his representative to achieve that, and we're always hopeful that he can succeed in his efforts. What matters to us is the full release of hostages. Q Not all those being released are in that outside zone. As I understand it, they're releasing some who are held internally. MR. BOUCHER: Well, I really don't have any further comment. I haven't seen the list of people, nor do I know individual backgrounds. Q Richard, back on the Middle East peace conference, apart from the fact that it's happening on its territory, how did Spain become a party to the negotiations? MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary answered that question in Spain on Saturday -- why Spain was chosen to host the conference -- Q No, he didn't. MR. BOUCHER: And I'll stick with what he said. Q He evaded the question. Q Richard, is there some plan to -- I remember from this podium we heard that the wording of these invitations would be made public. Do you have any such plans to publish -- to give us the public invitation or the wording of these invitations? MR. BOUCHER: Saul, I think what we said is we expect that it would become public. I've in fact already seen some texts in the wires, but, of course, I'm not going to confirm any specific text. As far as we're concerned, the invitations and the letters of assurance are diplomatic correspondence, and we don't want to release the text at this time. Q Richard, what is the United States position about other groups coming to be observers? What is the position, for instance, on this steering committee that Arafat is talking about putting together? Do we welcome like we did Libya? Do we welcome their appearance there in Madrid? MR. BOUCHER: Johanna, I don't have any further positions for you on that. I'll just stop. Chris. Q On the mechanics of the invitations, I understood that the U.S. and the Soviet Ambassador in each of the places to be invited would jointly call at the Foreign Ministries involved. Has that happened in each case? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that it did happen in each case, Chris. It's dependent in many ways on the situation on the ground who is available. I know that our people were asked to contact the Soviets and try to do it together if they could. I don't have a full rundown of how many places that was done together or where it might have gotten done separately by each of us. Q Have all the invitations been delivered? MR. BOUCHER: The invitations were delivered October 18, Friday. Q And on the last entry of your list of observers, you mentioned the Maghreb countries. I understood there were individual invitations to individual countries. What? -- Morocco, Tunisia, and who? MR. BOUCHER: That's something I can't clarify for you at this point how the Maghreb countries will attend. Q They were invited separately, and you don't know how they will -- MR. BOUCHER: I don't know exactly how their representation will turn out. Q For a while back, there was great optimism about a broader release of all hostages. The U.N. Secretary General went to the -- well, had some talks about the Middle East. Where does that broader effort stand? Any sense of progress beyond just maybe one hostage? MR. BOUCHER: Pat, as you know, we have refrained from trying to express optimism or pessimism at any given stage in this process. This is a complex process and a sensitive one that the Secretary General and his representatives are engaged in. We have supported those efforts. We continue to fully support those efforts, and we welcome releases of any hostage, even as we continue to point out that our goal is to see all these people back home with us and a full accounting of those who may have died while in captivity . Q Any indication why they haven't made more progress towards a broader release? Any particular stumbling block? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to characterize "progress," Pat, and I don't have any analysis for you at this time. Q Richard, when did the team leave for Wiesbaden? MR. BOUCHER: I think they're leaving today. Q Can you check on the time for us? MR. BOUCHER: The people I know of are leaving today. I'll check. Q Richard, do we believe that all of the hostages, with the exception of Colonel Higgins and the other man whose name escapes me -- Buckley -- are, in fact, alive? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information to the contrary, John. I think that's what we've always assumed. I've never seen anything that was otherwise. Q How does the United States feel about sending this mission to Haiti now, the civil mission? The OAS named a coordinator for it. MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know, the civil mission was to be organized and then sent by the OAS, and the OAS Secretary General was invited to maintain channels of communication in order to do that. So that was in the OAS resolution. That's obviously something that we continue to support. My understanding is the OAS has said that their Haitian legislative representatives in Washington were having meetings with the OAS Secretary General this morning. Of course, you would have to get more details on those discussions from the OAS. Q Does the U.S. feel that that mission should be dispatched forthwith? MR. BOUCHER: I think that's what it said in the OAS resolution; and, yes, we do. Q Is there anything you can tell us about President Bush's meeting with Gorbachev? What subjects you hope will be discussed, and is that one of the reasons Baker is meeting with Pankin? Do they hope to set the agenda for that? MR. BOUCHER: I assume that they will discuss a variety of topics, including the Middle East, that the Secretary and Pankin would discuss. But as far as a rundown on the agenda for the President's meetings, I think that really has to come from Marlin (Fitzwater). Q It was reported today that your government sent an invitation to the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Mitsotakis, to pay an official visit to the United States some time in December. Can you confirm this information, including the exact day of his arrival? MR. BOUCHER: Invitations to visit at that level, I think, are issued by the White House, so you would have to check over there. Q Another for the State Department. It was reported in Athens that a State Department official, who asked not to be identified, stated officially that the State Department recommended the Greek Government to call the Muslim minority in Greece of Turkish origin -- less than 60,000 -- as a Turkish minority (inaudible) instead of Muslim minority against the Treaty of Lausanne. I would like to know the motivation of this new State Department approachment? MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea of the facts of which you are talking, and I'm not going to comment on everything that you claim was said by some unnamed U.S. official. I'm sorry. I'm not in a position to discuss that. Q It was a report. MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's even worse. I'm sorry, I don't have any way of dealing with what unnamed officials say. Q Richard, on South Korea, do you have any confirmation of the Washington Post story on the United States plans to withdraw nuclear weapons from South Korea? MR. BOUCHER: I expect you expect to hear this from me, but, as you know, it remains our policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of U.S. nuclear weapons in any specific location. Q Isn't it a little strange to see the New York Times and the Washington Post report consecutively quoting government officials saying that you have notified the South Korean Government to pull out all the nuclear weapons -- something like that? MR. BOUCHER: Is that a question? Q So why don't you give some comment concerning the consecutive quotes? MR. BOUCHER: Because it remains our policy to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of U.S. nuclear weapons in any specific location. Q Richard, is there any reason to question that President Bush's proposal for removal of all but the stockpile for use by dual capable aircraft of short-range nuclear weapons wouldn't apply in Asia? MR. BOUCHER: No. The President's proposals were public and were global. But as far as any further elaboration of that, I'll read it to you once again: It remains our policy neither to confirm or deny. Q You've answered the question now. Q What about Israel nuclear -- would care to comment on reports that -- MR. BOUCHER: The stuff in the book? No, I don't have any comment on that. Q Richard, can you comment on the safety of the EC team that's in Yugoslavia whose hotel was apparently hit by some federal army troops? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I heard that, Steve. Q Hotel Argentina. MR. BOUCHER: No. I don't know that, Steve. What I had on Yugoslavia is the level of violence is down since Saturday's heavy fighting in central and eastern Croatia. Fighting continues in western Slavonia -- that's a part of Croatia -- as well as in Vukovar and Dubrovnik. The historic center of Dubrovnik has not been attacked. The EC-monitored relief convoy reached Vukovar on Saturday after coming under mortar fire en route. But anything that might have happened subsequently to that, I don't know. Q Can you take that? MR. BOUCHER: I'll look into it; yes. Q Richard, to go back to Cambodia, once this peace treaty is signed, does the United States see any need for continued assistance to the non-communist resistance groups? MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to take that question, Carol. Q Could you get an answer today? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure I can. Q Richard, also on -- MR. BOUCHER: There was extensive testimony last week on this by Dick Solomon. I expect that he addressed it, but I'll double-check and make sure we have an answer for you. Q Also on Cambodia. There supposedly have been 16 Cambodians who were elected by the people at Site 8 who have disappeared. I think they supposedly were taken inside Cambodia from Site 8. Have you heard about that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that, George. That's a detail that I'd have to check on. I'll see if we have anything on that. Q According to a lengthy discussion of the Greek Parliament, Prime Minister Mitsotakis and President Bush, on September 14-15, they exchanged very important classified messages regarding Greek national issues concerning its neighbors. Since those exchanges, pertaining to U.S. foreign policy items, vis-a-vis Greece, I'm wondering if it's possible to know the contents? MR. BOUCHER: You would have to ask the White House that. Q Since Koskotas, as you know, testified before the Special Supreme Court in Athens, it has been completed a long time ago. I'm wondering what is his present legal diplomatic and political status is, from the State Department point of view? Otherwise, when do you expect Koskotas to be returned to this country to face trial for his multiple pending criminal charges? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't know the answer to that. I think that's a matter that's before the Judiciary in Greece. I don't see how we would have any way of knowing some of those. Q Richard, back on the Middle East conference. Who is in this core group that's in Madrid? MR. BOUCHER: I said it was the U.S. and Soviets, as the co-sponsors, and Spain is the host. Q Who is in the U.S. core? MR. BOUCHER: Individuals? Q Yeah. MR. BOUCHER: Some of them are still going out there. I don't have a name list for you. Q Well, basically, what are they doing? MR. BOUCHER: Working on everything. Q Doing the layout -- MR. BOUCHER: The arrangements. Q -- of the tables or working on communications? MR. BOUCHER: Soup-to-nuts. They're setting up the conference. They're working on the arrangements for the conference. Q Is it public knowledge as to where the conference is going to be held, Richard? MR. BOUCHER: Again, that's the kind of information that they'll have to work on and provide out of the people in Madrid. Q Do you have anything on the Turkish election? MR. BOUCHER: The Turkish election. It's just really a rundown. Early results from the elections indicate that no one party will achieve enough seats necessary to have a majority in the parliament. This means that a coalition government is likely to be formed. We don't anticipate any change in our relations with Turkey, whatever the party that eventually heads the new government. Turkey remains a steadfast friend and ally with whom we continue to work closely on a variety of bilateral issues affecting our interests in that region of the world. Q Can I just follow up on that? Are you not concerned at all that there may be -- the United States and Turkey over the past year have had an unusually close relationship. Are you now concerned of the fact that Ozal's party didn't score a resounding victory isn't going to mean some sort of change, at least, on the Turkish side? MR. BOUCHER: Carol, I said we don't anticipate any change in our relations. We have a steadfast and strong relationship with our friend and ally in Turkey. Q That's the former government. This is going to be a new government. MR. BOUCHER: Governments change parties in democracies all the time. Whatever government is formed, I think, we can expect to have good relations, strong relations with them. Q Also on Turkey. Do you have any confirmation of a report that the Iraqis have been arming the Kurds? MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't have any information that would confirm those reports. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:39 p.m.)