US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #160, Tuesday, 10/22/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:29 PM, Washington, DC Date: Oct 22, 199110/22/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, Central America, East Asia, Europe Country: Iraq, Yugoslavia (former), Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia-Montenegro, Haiti, Lebanon, Greece, Bulgaria, Vietnam Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Democratization, Trade/Economics, POW/MIA Issues, Human Rights, Development/Relief Aid (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements for you, so I would be glad to take your questions. Q Have you seen the list of Palestinians? MR. BOUCHER: George, I'm afraid our answer on that is that I don't want to get into the details of our discussions during this period when the parties are making decisions. Q You maintain that the list will not be shown to the Israelis? The Israelis seem to think that they have a promise to vet it based on various remarks that have been made. MR. BOUCHER: As you know, from the Secretary's own statements when he was in the region, he has not passed a list of names to the Israelis. We haven't done that. Q And does not plan to? MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't plan to. Q Richard, Israel has said also that the U.S. would understand if Israel walked out of the peace conference if the Palestinians who are on the list declared themselves as members of the PLO. There seems to be some of this going around. Is that true, and how far can this go? MR. BOUCHER: Betsy, I hadn't seen that statement, and I don't think we're going to be in a position of commenting on every statement one way or the other about the peace talks and how we're going to act. Let me remind you of the definition the Secretary has used for the people that we expect in the Palestinian part of the joint delegation, and that is: We're talking about Palestinians from the territories who subscribe to the 2-track approach, agree to the phasing, and agree to live in peace with Israel. Q Is the United States considering appointing an envoy to the peace talks? MR. BOUCHER: We have always envisaged that at some point, as the process begins, we'd need someone to help work with the negotiations, both the bilateral and multilateral negotiations. There is no list of names at this point. The staff people have suggested some names to the Secretary about who might do this for us. The Secretary hasn't talked to any of the people that have been suggested about this job. Frankly, we wouldn't expect any announcements prior to the time of the bilateral negotiations. There's no title for the job now. But the basic function would be to follow the negotiations for the United States since, obviously, the Secretary can't stay full time on this process. The Secretary does have a personal commitment to this process and will, of course, be involved as the need requires. Q In effect, he would act as the -- would stand in for the Secretary when he's not in attendance? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Someone to follow the talks for us and for him. Q Richard, do you have any idea how long the Secretary plans to remain in Madrid? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, no, I don't have a schedule for you. Q On the mechanics of how it would work, in the third phase, would the United States be represented in every one of the various discussion groups or committees, or whatever they're called? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know at this point, Jim. I don't really have any further details for you on the arrangements. As we've said over the past few days, there's a core group from the United States, the Soviet Union, Spain, working on the arrangements and logistics for the conference; other issues like this that need to be discussed, but we don't expect to have answers until probably closer to conference time. Q Richard, on that, is the United States going to be making the decisions on things like the shape of the table and nameplates, and stuff? Or is that open for negotiation -- not to say bickering -- among the parties? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can give you a definitive judgment on that at this point, Norm. As I said, we're trying to work out the arrangements. What exactly that will entail and where we'll get to and how that process will work, I don't think I can predict for you at this point. There is a process underway of people in Madrid who are working on the arrangements, and I'm going to leave it to them. Q Didn't a senior American official say that there would be no nameplates and no flags? MR. BOUCHER: It may be, Bill, but I don't deal with those sorts of things. Q Look at the transcript. Q Richard, on Friday, a U.S. official said that the partial list of Palestinian names provided to the United States appeared to meet the criteria that it had spelled out. In any names that have been provided since then, is there any change in that? MR. BOUCHER: Mark, I'm not in a position to comment on namelists, and things like that, except to say generally that we've made clear that the joint Jordan-Palestinian delegation to the conference will have to meet the parameters of the process that we've been creating for the past several months. That is a well known position. The parameters of that process are well known. But I'm not going to get into commenting on the details at this point. Q Can you say generally whether at this point that delegation appears to meet the parameters? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I can't. Q I wanted to know if there was any reaction to Turner's release, and whether there's been any indication that more hostage releases are forthcoming? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, on your second part of the question, no, I don't have any indications of anything specific at this point. Of course, the efforts of the Secretary General, his representative, continue, and we continue to support those efforts. We certainly hope that they result in continued success. As far as the reaction to his release, I think the basic reaction was given during the middle of the night by the White House. As far as where we stand on that, let me sort of run through some of the details of it. Jesse Turner was released from captivity last night in Beirut. During the night he was taken to Damascus by Syrian officials. He was turned over to Ambassador Ross at the Syrian Foreign Ministry at approximately 3:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time this morning. After a short press conference, he returned to the Ambassador's residence. While at the residence, he spoke to his wife in Boise, Idaho. The medical evacuation aircraft provided for Mr. Turner arrived in Damascus at 4:39 our time; the plane departed Damascus 26 minutes later at 5:05. The plane arrived in Frankfurt at 10:45 this morning. We have been in repeated contact with Mrs. Turner. She will travel to Germany this evening to be reunited with her husband. Howard. Q Is there any explanation, now that another day has passed, for the seeming confusion as to Turner's whereabouts all day yesterday and last night? He was here again, there again, and then he disappeared again. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any further information for you. As you know, during the course of the day, I think we had different indications about his status -- when he was released or about to be released or other information like that. In the final analysis, this is what happened. He was released late last night in Beirut and taken to Damascus during the course of the night. Q Is there any indication that the Israeli air strike put things back a while? MR. BOUCHER: It would be really just speculative analysis for me to try to do that. I don't have anything to try to say on that. Q What time, again, was it Eastern Standard that he was finally confirmed -- MR. BOUCHER: It was actually Eastern Daylight. -- that he was what? Q Confirmed as released? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have the exact time. It was late last night in Beirut. That would be, I guess -- I guess the best way to put it is a little while before the U.N. released their statement, which is what? -- 7:00 p.m. Q Richard, France's Foreign Minister has sharply criticized the United States for failing to lift the trade embargo with Vietnam. This comes obviously one day before the Paris accords on Cambodia. Can you comment on his statement? MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen his statement, Steve, so I don't want to comment on his statement. I think we had testimony on Vietnam and the Cambodian peace accords last week where this subject, I'm sure, was dealt with rather extensively. I don't have anything prepared for you, but I think our basic position on the embargo and Vietnam has been made clear; that we have, what we call, the "Roadmap" -- part of a process of improving relations and eventually normalizing relations with Vietnam. The trade embargo is part of that process, and the other -- a key starting point for much of that process -- is the comprehensive settlement of the Cambodia issue. We said that was a prerequisite for normalization and that the pace and scope of developments in this area would be affected by the cooperation on the humanitarian issue of POWs and MIAs. Q So do you think that the Cambodia accord will expedite the lifting of this embargo, perhaps? MR. BOUCHER: Inasmuch as it's part of the process that we have envisaged that involves such things as the trade embargo and eventual normalization, I think I would have to answer "yes," but I don't want to lead you to conclude that there's something imminent. Q Back on Turner. What is the view of the process by which these releases are taking place? In other words, they seem to be tied to the resolution of issues of Arab prisoners being held by Israel and the Israeli servicemen lost in Lebanon. The fact that all of this -- MR. BOUCHER: I guess the only thing I could say is that the process is one that is undertaken by the United Nations Secretary General and his representative. It's a complicated process. We have always held that all those held outside the law, outside the judicial system in the region, deserve to be released. We pay particular attention to our American hostages. We supported the process that the Secretary General is engaged in, and we've always expressed our hope that he succeed. Q Richard, this has come up before, this Harvard medical report on the state of Iraqi children that is now, I guess, about to be finally released. In the past, I think the State Department has expressed some reservations about the conclusions in that. Do you still? MR. BOUCHER: We haven't seen this particular study. We have seen reports that the infant mortality and malnutrition in Iraq have increased. Indications are that despite large quantities of food and medicine entering Iraq, access is difficult for vulnerable populations. I think we put out late last week for you the list of notifications since March to the U.N. Sanctions Committee of the food and medical shipments that were going into Iraq. As far as I remember, there had been notifications of plans to send something like 3.3 million tons of food during that time. Shipments are probably less than that, but it's an indicator that there is food available. Food and health conditions in Iraq are a matter of deep concern to the United States Government. That is why we co-sponsored U.N. Security Council Resolution 706. As you remember, U.N. Security Council Resolutions 706 and 712 provide for a U.N. supervised system to monitor both Iraqi oil exports and distribution of humanitarian aid to innocent Iraqi civilians. This program can go forward as soon as Saddam Hussein accepts U.N. Security Council Resolutions 706 and 712. Q Have the Iraqis ever formally gotten back to the U.N. on those resolutions? MR. BOUCHER: No, they haven't. Q So what does make you think -- MR. BOUCHER: The thing that's preventing this from occurring is the lack of Iraqi acceptance. You remember what we said before, that if the Iraqi Government was sincerely concerned about the welfare of its citizens, this is a mechanism to provide the money and the food and the medicine that they need. We've supported that. Q What are 706 and 712, specifically? MR. BOUCHER: As I remember it, 706 was the resolution that established the basic mechanism, that there could be oil exports that would be used to pay for specific humanitarian needs as well as for things like the Compensation Boundary Commission, and things like that. And 712 was an implementing resolution. I'm sure we can get you copies of that. Q Richard, aren't we using children, women, people who are helpless and have no way of overturning, forcing Saddam, as pawns in this? MR. BOUCHER: I would say exactly the opposite, Saul. In a whole variety of ways we have tried to make available for distribution inside Iraq to vulnerable groups the food, the medicine, that these needy people need. We've done it in March by the authorization in the Sanctions Committee to allow imports into Iraq of humanitarian supplies. We did it further, I think, when the Sanctions Committee authorized governments to let Iraq use frozen assets, which has, I think, been done in some countries. We never froze private Iraqi assets which have been used. We provided for a humanitarian mission by the United Nations. The United Nations signed a memorandum of understanding with the Iraqis to undertake humanitarian missions throughout Iraq. We have supported supplies to the United Nations and other international relief organizations that are operating in Iraq. And then when it looked like the money might run short or that other money could be made available for that, we supported a resolution, 706 and then 712, which provided a mechanism to provide even more funds through the sales of Iraqi oil for this. Q Apparently -- MR. BOUCHER: The problem has been that there are vulnerable groups inside Iraq that are not getting the food, and that's not something that we have done. That's something that the Government of Iraq has done. Q Well, are you saying that the food is there, but it simply hasn't been distributed because of the government? MR. BOUCHER: There is food going in, first of all. The food -- I think the rate is something like a third to a half of previous imports, but we think it would be adequate to meet the needs of the populations if they were in fact allowed to get it. In addition to the food that is going in and to the humanitarian supplies that are going in under international auspices, there is a mechanism available to do more. And we supported that mechanism in the U.N. resolution. Q But the mechanism, as I understand, that you're referring to is it would free up a lot more food if Saddam would allow the sale of -- the supervised sale of oil. MR. BOUCHER: If he would accept it. That's right. Q And since the people of Iraq have no choice about that particular mechanism, that they're being held hostage to his, one way or the other -- MR. BOUCHER: Yes. But you're accusing the United States -- Q By us and as well as him -- MR. BOUCHER: -- of holding them hostage. Q They're being held hostage -- MR. BOUCHER: What's happening is that they're not getting from the Government of Iraq, by the decision of the Government of Iraq -- Q The food that is already there. MR. BOUCHER: -- the food and medicine that they need, the food and medicine that is available, and the food and medicine that could be available if Iraq agreed to this resolution. Q But you're saying that the food and medicine is already in Iraq, and it's there and available if the government would give it, or are you saying the food and medicine is available on the outside if Saddam Hussein would only comply with the resolution you're referring to? MR. BOUCHER: I'm saying both. Q Richard, as you've described it, Iraq is not feeding certain groups. For whatever reason, they are not doing that. The U.N. has an infrastructure in place in Iraq which is designed in some cases to specifically go after some of these vulnerable groups such as children who Iraq is not feeding. Is the problem with the U.N. setup that they do not have enough food to distribute, that they are not able to distribute it, or what? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know how to describe that, Chris, and it may be that the U.N. can provide better information than I can. I think if you look at our list of notifications of shipments to the Sanctions Committee, you'll see a number of shipments provided for U.N. organizations -- humanitarian organizations -- that are operating inside Iraq. So they are getting supplies in there. There have also been difficulties, I think -- particularly you'll remember the difficulties that Iraq has not allowed the U.N. to set up near the marshlands where they wanted to have a station, a humanitarian center. And as best I know Iraq has still not permitted them to set up down there. Q So it is both that Iraq is not feeding people itself, and Iraq is also inhibiting the ability of the U.N. to try to make up the shortfall. MR. BOUCHER: In at least that one case I know of in the marshlands, that's true. Barry? Q To go back to the Palestinians for a minute -- Q No. Let's finish up on the Iraqis, please. MR. BOUCHER: O.K. Q The drafters of the report point out that Saddam and the decision-makers in Iraq are well insulated from any shortages of any food. So regardless of whose fault the standoff is, the fact seems to be that the hostages and the victims of the standoff continue to be what you call the vulnerable groups -- the children and some ethnic groups in parts of Iraq. That being the case -- although it's no fault of this government or the coalition governments -- would it not be a humane thing to end this standoff just for the sake of these vulnerable hostages? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, I don't quite see what you would have us do. We're sending humanitarian shipments in. We're using our own money to pay for the shipments. We've got people in there, U.N. people in there, to try to get the supplies to the people who need it. We've provided a means for Iraq to sell oil and feed these people. I mean, there are mechanisms available, there are things being done, there's food going in. I don't quite know what you're proposing. Q Well, the Iraqis have made clear what they want. They want the level of oil exports to be raised, and they want fewer controls on the way that the money will eventually be spent and distributed. MR. BOUCHER: I don't see any connection, frankly, between that and the idea that these vulnerable groups would actually get the food that they need. I think the past history has shown that that's not necessarily the case. Q Richard, you were saying that one-third to one-half of the food imports reaching Iraq, compared to the previous pre-war level -- is this all humanitarian aid, or is some of that in contravention of existing embargoes? MR. BOUCHER: No. Well, medicine has never been part of the embargo, and food has been permitted since March. So there's been no restriction. Q But other material, perhaps. MR. BOUCHER: Other humanitarian supplies -- Q Not humanitarian supplies necessarily, but -- MR. BOUCHER: I think there have been notifications to the Sanctions Committee. I'm not really aware of -- Q I'm thinking of clothing and other stuff that may be in a grey area. What I'm trying to find out, do you see any violation of existing embargoes? MR. BOUCHER: Frank, I'm not aware of anything specific in that realm. I suppose there probably is some here and there. What I'm trying to deal with are the extensive notifications that have been provided in accordance with the U.N. resolutions -- the notifications that have been provided to the Sanctions Committee. Q Richard, I don't understand. If Iraq takes -- if Iraq is keeping the food from the people who need it, and if Iraq agrees to this U.N. mechanism -- to the mechanism -- that is, supervised sale of oil -- what difference would that make? I mean, if Iraq is at fault for this problem of the vulnerable people, then I assume it would continue to be -- continue not to distribute such stuff. MR. BOUCHER: But the mechanism provided in 706 -- Q What does one thing have to do with the other? MR. BOUCHER: -- provides not only for supervised -- U.N. supervision of the sale of oil, but for U.N. monitoring of the distribution of humanitarian aid -- Q Isn't that what we have now? MR. BOUCHER: -- to innocent people. Q Isn't that what we have now? Some U.N. monitoring? I thought that's what you said. MR. BOUCHER: We have some U.N. monitoring. We have some U.N. programs directly to distribute to vulnerable groups. But what the resolution provides -- Q That's not enough. MR. BOUCHER: -- is for a much more expansive supervised distribution system. Q Isn't the United States' view that with the humanitarian supplies that are already available and the additional supplies that could be made available from the sale of oil that there would be adequate food and medicine to prevent unnecessary suffering in Iraq? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. That is our view, provided it gets to the people who need it. And with the proviso that there was, I think, something in one of the resolutions of the implementing reports that said we keep this under review. I think there was a 6-month period initially for that resolution. Q Richard, Dick Cheney said yesterday that Saddam Hussein would be in power for only a few more days. Does the State Department share that view? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen that, and I'd suspect if you want to ask more about it, you might ask Dick Cheney, if he in fact said such a thing. Q Richard, on the Palestinians, to whom did the invitation go -- an individual or what? The thing that Molly Williamson delivered Friday night. Who was it addressed to? I mean, this is not a country, and, you know, there are new names on the list, and I'm just trying to figure out who you invited to the peace conference. MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I'm not sure I'm prepared to deal with that question. Q All right. Well, you know, the list is now padded out, and there are all sorts of questions that come up like is it acceptable to the U.S. Government, for instance, that a steering committee with people even more closely linked to the PLO than the people on the list is acceptable to the U.S.? And I don't care about Israel. I'm asking about the U.S. Government. MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I think I repeated before the parameters, and I said that the joint delegation will have to meet the parameters of the process that we've been creating for the past several months. The delegations in our view are free to consult with anyone they choose. Any advisers are not part of the delegation. They won't be credentialed as delegates, and they won't attend the conference. Q That answers the question. Thank you. Q Is there any reason to doubt a senior administration official who said that this was delivered to Faisal Husseini -- that the invitation was delivered to Faisal Husseini? MR. BOUCHER: Saul, I'm not at this point prepared in this forum from this podium to go into any more detail on what I've said about these deliveries than I already have. Q One small question maybe you have the answer to. There will be no Palestinian flag -- no flags, period, we were told. Has it been decided yet what the placard in front of the joint delegation will read, as yours reads "U.S. Department of State"? Has that been resolved? Because it hadn't been as of a few days ago. MR. BOUCHER: Barry, again, I'm not in a position to go into any more details on the arrangements for the conference. Q Your government accepted the idea of the Slovenians to have a permanent representative in Washington. Would you approve the same status for the other republics of Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: I think you know that the status of the Slovenian who is in Washington is someone who we've talked to about issues of interest and what's going on, but it's not a diplomatic status. I know that U.S. states have offices abroad; that a variety of representatives are in Washington. I don't want to particularly invite anybody, but I don't think it matters one way or the other. Q According to FBIS bulletin, a letter from the Department of State, stated to the Bulgarian Government that if the Bulgarian Turks did not participate in the elections, the U.S. Government will revive its attitude towards Bulgaria. If such a letter exists, may we have a copy? MR. BOUCHER: Probably not. Q Why? MR. BOUCHER: We don't normally give you copies of communications with other governments. Q But (inaudible) can you state -- make a comment about the context of this letter? MR. BOUCHER: Let me say no, and, if anybody wants to revise that, we'll get back in touch with you. Q One more: According to another FBIS bulletin, the Turkish Government decided to guarantee the territorial integrity of the so-called "Republic of Macedonia" in Yugoslavia. How do you assess this Turkish action since your government is very much concerned to keep unchanged the unity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: I'm just not aware of that. I'm afraid I guess I ought to read FBIS more in the morning, but I spent my time on other things. I'm sorry I didn't read the FBIS bulletin this morning. I just don't know about that. I'm sorry. I can't help you. Q Can you take my question? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if there's anything to say on it. Q Thank you. Q No, no. Wait! Wait! ABC News has one. (Laughter) Q On the hostages, yesterday you were asked what you knew of the well-being of the American hostages, and I think you said you had no reason to think that they weren't all alive. I'm wondering, with the brief time you've had to talk to Mr. Turner, whether you have any change in that? MR. BOUCHER: Chris, as you know, I don't think it's been our practice to provide the -- necessarily to brief on the information that we might hear from released hostages. I didn't check on the question again today, but I'll doublecheck to make sure my answer of yesterday was correct. Obviously, we're interested in talking to released hostages about their period of captivity and interested in being able to share with hostage families whatever information they may have on others. Q What about an update on the well-being of Mr. Turner? Has an early assessment been made? MR. BOUCHER: That will have to come out of Wiesbaden. He'll get a comprehensive medical assessment there. Q Any idea when he'll come back to the U.S.? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q Thanks. (The briefing concluded at 1:56 p.m.)