US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #166, Tuesday, 11/12/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:37 PM, Washington, DC Date: Nov 12, 199111/12/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, E/C Europe, Southeast Asia, Caribbean Country: Cambodia, Cuba, Haiti, Israel, Indonesia, Iran, USSR (former) Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Regional/Civil Unrest, Trade/Economics, Refugees, State Department, Military Affairs, Democratization, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements today, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have any comment on the reports that the Middle East Peace Conference may start sometime over the next week or l0 days, either in Washington or Williamsburg? MR. BOUCHER: Just to tell you, George, that we continue to consult with the parties regarding the time and location of the next round of bilateral talks. As Secretary Baker has said, if the parties cannot agree, we will feel free to make a proposal ourselves. Q How are you doing on the consultations? Who's engaged in the consultations? MR. BOUCHER: I know that we've been in touch through our Embassies in the region. I expect we've also been in touch with their representatives here in Washington. Q Do you have anything to say about the Shamir visit next week and whether he might be invited to speak with U.S. Government officials during the course of his visit to the United States? MR. BOUCHER: He's on a private visit to address a number of groups throughout the country. We have been talking to the Israeli Embassy about possible meetings, but at this point we don't have anything scheduled or anything to announce for you. Q Richard, do you know how the Middle Eastern parties are conducting their discussions about venue? They don't normally talk to each other. Are they conferring through the United States? Are they conferring in other ways? Do you know? MR. BOUCHER: As I told you, Norm, we've been consulting with the different parties. Whether they have had any direct contacts themselves, I guess that's a question you'd have to ask them. Q Richard, do you have any comment on the resolution taken by the Israeli parliament with regard to the Golan Heights as non-negotiable? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Do you have anything on an alleged massacre in East Timor this morning in which the numbers vary from 20 to 50 people killed, 2 American newsmen badly beaten -- Mr. Allen Nairn and Miss Amy Goodman from WBA Radio in New York? He's a writer for the New Yorker magazine. This is supposed to have taken place this morning close to Dili. MR. BOUCHER: I can tell you what we know about it. I can't confirm for you some of the details of the incidents nor can I talk in specific terms about the American -- at least, one American that we know that was injured -- but let me run through it. According to reports reaching our Embassy in Jakarta and from the wire services, a violent incident occurred on Tuesday morning in Dili, the capital of East Timor. While we can't confirm any details, it appears that a demonstration turned into a violent confrontation in which a number of persons were reportedly killed. We understand the demonstration grew out of a memorial service for a Timorese killed in an incident two weeks earlier. At least one American journalist was injured and has left Indonesia and is now in Guam. We don't have a Privacy Act waiver, so there's no more detail I can provide you on that individual. We do understand that the situation in Dili is now calm. Estimates of the number of persons reportedly killed vary widely. We understand the injured also included several citizens of other countries, as well as numerous demonstrators and members of the Indonesian security forces. We certainly regret the violence, and we look forward to a more complete report of what took place. We have discussed the situation with the Indonesian authorities, and we have urged them to conduct a prompt and full investigation. Q In your policy position of November l, l988, you say that you would follow the situation in East Timor closely. Will an incident like that make you follow the situation any closer? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we're following this particular situation closely. We've been in touch with the Indonesian Government. We're looking forward to hearing more from our Embassy about the situation. Q Richard, there are some reports about U.S. pressure on some Latin American countries on the vote about Cuba -- on the Cuban sanction issue that's to come before the United Nations tomorrow. Do you have anything on that? MR. BOUCHER: Gil, I think we addressed it somewhat last week. I don't think we've made any secret about our views on the matter. Certainly, we're opposed to this being taken up at the United Nations; and we've made our objections very clear. Q There are news reports quoting so-called confidential memos from the United States. I don't suppose you have anything to say about that. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would. If you're talking about -- there were some reports that we threatened people with breaking relations or lowering our aid levels; no, we haven't done that. We have reminded people that we look very carefully at U.N. voting records, and we've made very clear our objections to this resolution. Q Still on that subject, can you restate why the United States feels it's useful at this point to continue the embargo against Cuba? MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, the embargo -- it's a response to the Cuban Government's repression of its own people, to its violations of human rights, and to its support for subversion in the region. As long as the Cuban Government continues these policies, we feel we need to keep the embargo in place to deny the Cuban Government hard currency. I remind you once again, though, that President Bush said on May 20: "If Cuba holds fully fair and free elections under international supervision, respects human rights and stops subverting its neighbors, we can expect relations between our two countries to improve significantly." Q Castro has repeatedly made references to the U.S. trade embargo as being at the root of Cuba's economic problems. Doesn't continuation of the embargo give Castro a convenient excuse to use domestically for the economic problems of Cuba? MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think, Ralph, if you look at it, he's used all kinds of excuses for his continuing problems except his own government's policies. The point is, the situation in the world is changing and Castro has refused to respond to those changes, to offer any sort of political and economic reform within his own country. Q A moment ago you said that the U.S. reason for doing this was to deny Cuba hard currency. Has that denial of hard currency to Castro weakened Castro's position as the head of the government in the eyes of the United States? Can you point to any evidence that his position has been weakened by the denial of hard currency? MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, denying them hard currency is especially important when it comes down to the fact that Cuba has still supported subversion in the region. Certainly, we don't want to offer the means to do that nor the means to prop up a regime that we feel is not responding to the needs of its own population. So I'd put it more in those terms. Q Where is Cuba supporting subversion in the region? MR. BOUCHER: We have indications that they've continued their support for the FMLN in El Salvador. Q This is a follow-up on what you said about consultations with the Middle Eastern parties -- MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Q -- with regard to the site of bilateral talks. Do they cover the problem of regional issues among them? MR. BOUCHER: We are also discussing the preparations for the multilateral talks, but I don't have any further details on that for you today. Q Anything about sites, because there is talk about Moscow as a site for the regional issues talks? MR. BOUCHER: I have nothing new to define the site for you. As I said, we're continuing to consult with other countries on these issues. Q Is there any time that you are looking toward -- for example, December -- for the regional talks? MR. BOUCHER: Again, we're discussing time and location of the bilateral talks. We're also discussing preparations for the multilateral talks. I don't have any details for you at this point. Q You said on the bilateral talks that the United States -- you pointed to Baker's comment about the United States being prepared to offer suggestions if the parties were unable to reach some agreement themselves. Is there a similar problem on the regional -- on the multilateral talks -- and is the U.S. prepared to make a proposal on that, too, or is that not a problem in those talks? MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, I don't have any details or announcements to make for you. I think, certainly, the Secretary's remarks about being willing to step in and offer solutions where the parties can't find them themselves would apply in that case as well as the other. Q What's the distinction you're drawing between discussing time and location on the bilateral talks and making preparations for the regional talks? There's obviously a distinction that you've been programmed to make. I'm curious to know what the difference is. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there's any extraordinary difference there, Ralph. I'm sure we're discussing time and location of the multilateral talks as well. Q Richard, an Israeli press report over the weekend indicated that when Mr. Shamir meets with the President, if there is no agreement on the bilateral talks venue that the President will offer a place -- most likely here, or maybe in Williamsburg. Do you have any comment on a proposed meeting or planned meeting between the President and Mr. Shamir? MR. BOUCHER: You would have to ask the White House about that. Q And the second question also: Today's reports in the Israeli press say that the United States would like to invite Canada and Japan to join, you know, in the negotiations at the stage of the multilateral talks. Do you have any comment on that? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any comment on specific countries. As you know, in the past we've said that those parties who wish to participate should meet together to organize the multilateral talks. That still applies. I'm not in a position at this point to discuss the preparations in any more detail than we have in the past. Q They did not participate -- Japan and Canada -- in the initial peace conference and the bilateral talks, and what is the purpose of -- if there is such -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that others have been invited to the bilateral talks, if that's what you're talking about. Q No. I'm talking about the multilateral talks -- Japan and Canada being invited. MR. BOUCHER: On the multilateral talks, the formulation we've always used has been that those parties who wish to participate should meet to organize the talks. Q So it will be open -- wide open for other countries to join? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't want to start specifying individuals. We're discussing the preparations with other governments, and we'll see where we get to. Q Is there a defined list of subjects to be covered by the multilateral talks? MR. BOUCHER: We have given -- I believe if you look back at things the Secretary has said, he's given an indication of the kinds of topics that we would expect to be discussed there. I don't have a firm list or agenda for talks that haven't started yet. Q Do you have something to say about the APEC conference where the "three Chinas" will be participating simultaneously for the first time in their divided history? MR. BOUCHER: On the issue of the participation of Taiwan, Hong Kong and China in that conference, we've expressed our views in the past. But anything newer to say on that, I'll leave to the Secretary who's out there now. Q So do you -- in the conference, do you expect that Secretary Baker is initiating a certain multinational movement to stop a North Korean nuclear program? MR. BOUCHER: Again, the Secretary has addressed that subject; and since he's out there right now, I'm going to leave it to him to address it further if he wants to. Q Richard, can you bring us up to date on the situation with the Haitian refugees aboard the Coast Guard ship? I think it's up to about 500 now. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. We're up to about 500. In terms of the way we're addressing the problem, not much specifically has changed today. We see it as a regional problem. We're treating it accordingly. We remain in touch with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and other countries in the region. It is a problem that we're addressing urgently. We expect to have it resolved shortly, but we've not yet made any changes in our policy. According to the Coast Guard, there are two cutters with a total of about 400 refugees that are at anchor in Guantanamo Bay. Over 100 more refugees were picked up at sea over the weekend. Q What would the United States like to see happen to these people? MR. BOUCHER: Again, we're in touch with other countries. We'd like to see these people taken care of. We see it as a regional problem. We're discussing it with other governments, and I'm not in a position now to give you the details of what we're talking to them about. Q Are you asking other countries to take them in on a temporary basis? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to go into the details of what we're asking other countries. Q You said you expected to resolve this shortly. Does that mean we'll have something this afternoon? MR. BOUCHER: Not quite that shortly, George. If we have something, I'm sure we'll get it to you, but I can't predict it for any particular moment. Q You did say you'd like to see these people taken care of -- you're in touch with other countries, and you'd like these people taken care of. So you're asking other countries to take care of them or -- MR. BOUCHER: We're addressing the issue with other countries in terms of a regional problem. We recognize the urgency of the problem. We recognize the fact that these people have needs that need to be attended to, but the solutions are to be found after we've completed our discussions with other governments, and I don't want to try to go into details at this point on what that might be. Q Is the United States part of that region? MR. BOUCHER: We're certainly addressing it in regional terms with other countries in the region, yes, Ralph. Q Is the United States willing to accept any of the Haitians on board that ship? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Mark, as far as any change to our standard policies, we haven't made any changes at this point. I don't have any new policies to announce. Q You mentioned the U.N. Is the OAS, as a regional body, being brought into this in any way? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Chris. The High Commissioner for Refugees, obviously, is the U.N. body that's concerned with refugees generally. Q A number of these people -- I believe it's some of the same people who are aboard the ships -- have been granted hearings for asylum, correct? When will those occur? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't get an update on interviews. As you know, our standard practice with Haitians who are picked up at sea is to interview them to determine whether they have any claim to asylum. I think on Friday I gave you the grounds for determining what was a legitimate claim to asylum. So I'm sure these people are being interviewed or will be interviewed. Q Richard, a couple of questions on the United Nations. One, would the United States favor a U.N. military force role in a situation in Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about some sort of peacekeeping force? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen anything new on a peacekeeping force for awhile. I guess I'd better check on that. I'm not sure where that stands. My understanding of what the EC was looking for and what the President said we would support was a Security Council resolution on Yugoslavia that would look to a possible oil embargo. Q And also on the United Nations, does the United States have any preferred candidate for the post of Secretary General? MR. BOUCHER: The United States has yet to decide to support any one candidate. As you know, there have been straw polls. The Security Council has held its fourth straw poll on November 11. According to the rules agreed to by the members of the Security Council, the proceedings are confidential. Q Is the U.S. exercising consultations with different countries -- the other four Permanent Members and other non-Permanent Members of the Security Council? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we are. We're also discussing this inside the Council. As I said, there have been four straw polls conducted already on it. Q Is the non-decision by the United States a reason for this delay of the final voting? MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. Q Well, are you saying that the United States has not voted in these straw polls? MR. BOUCHER: No, we have voted. I went into that too, Jim. Apparently it's a series of straw polls on individuals to see what sort of support or opposition their individual candidacy might have. That's different from having countries pick a candidate, and we have not decided to support any given candidate. Q How many candidates have been screened? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. And, as I said, the proceedings are confidential. Q Well, they can still be confidential, and you could tell us that. MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid that's something I'm not prepared to say. Q Does that mean that in the straw votes the United States has expressed support for more than one candidate, since you said that it wasn't failing to participate in the votes? MR. BOUCHER: My understanding, Ralph -- and it's not very detailed -- is that these are -- how can I say? You don't have to vote for only one. The countries go through as names are brought up, and the focus of the straw poll is to determine what kind of support individuals might have, and what kind of opposition they might have. So you're not limited to choosing one particular candidate. And, as I said, we have not settled on any one candidate. Q Maybe you can tell us something about the idea seen by the majority, I think, of the United Nations' members, that the time has come for an African Secretary General. What's the U.S. position vis-a-vis -- MR. BOUCHER: Without commenting on specific individuals or where we might be in terms of the voting right now, I think we've made clear in the past that we felt the important thing was to look for the best man for the job, irrespective of region. Q Richard, does the United States have any conditions for any of these candidates in order to give its support and offer the blessings of the U.S. Government? MR. BOUCHER: We're looking for the best man or woman for the job. I should have made that clear when I started. Q You haven't found anyone that has the competency to come to the -- MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that all the candidates were incompetent. Please, no. I said we have not settled on, we have not decided to support, any particular candidate -- any one candidate at this point. Q Maybe because they are all good men. (Laughter) MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure there are a lot of good people. We're looking for the best person for the job. Q What about Cambodia? Do you have any consideration of preparation in case of the possible weapons hideout of the Khmer Rouge? MR. BOUCHER: Possible what? Q Weapons caches. MR. BOUCHER: Weapons caches by the Khmer Rouge? Q It is widely reported that they are hiding some weapons for the preparation of the general election, and after the election they are taking out the hidden weapons to use for the people. MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any specific information on that. That would, obviously, be something of concern to the United Nations as they begin and continue their deployments in Cambodia. We're pleased to see that they've started their deployments there. And certainly there are extensive rules set out in the agreements about military forces and what weapons and what organization they should have. Q How many diplomatic people are going to Phnom Penh? MR. BOUCHER: We have established an office -- the U.S. Mission in Phnom Penh. We opened it officially on November 11. They're in temporary hotel headquarters. The office is headed by Charles Twining. He arrived in Phnom Penh November 11. He's accompanied by a temporary support staff of six people. They'll stay there until such time as permanent staff members are assigned. They will be accredited to the Cambodian Supreme National Council headed by Prince Sihanouk; and their mission is to keep in touch with the Supreme National Council, with the U.N. forces and mission that's deploying there, and of course to support the process of transition under U.N. auspices. Q Do you have anything on the condition of the Embassy which was vacated 16 years ago? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I don't, George. Q Richard, I understand that the President of Armenia is going to be here. Is he going to meet with the Acting Secretary tomorrow? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't know that, Frank. I'll have to check on that. Q Richard, the White House announced today that it was going to continue what it calls a "state of emergency" with Iran. Do you have anything to flesh that out as to what it is about the situation in Iran that continues to constitute a state of emergency requiring certain restrictions in diplomatic relations, and so on? MR. BOUCHER: I don't, Ralph. My understanding is that when those renewals are done, that there's a fairly complete piece of paper that they put out that explains what they're doing and why they're doing it. Q Richard, back to Asia, if I may. There is renewed talk about a Vietnamese offer for the United States to return to Cam Ranh Bay. Do you have anything about that? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard that. I'm sorry. I don't have any new positions on that. Q Will you take the question? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's something worth looking into. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:59 p.m.)