US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #167, Wednesday, 11/13/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:42 PM, Washington, DC Date: Nov 13, 199111/13/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Southeast Asia, Caribbean, North America, E/C Europe, Eurasia Country: Yugoslavia (former), Haiti, Indonesia, USSR (former), Kazakhstan, Canada, Egypt Subject: POW/MIA Issues, Trade/Economics, State Department, Regional/Civil Unrest, Military Affairs, Immigration (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your patience. I don't have any statements or announcements today, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q I don't suppose you have anything on these reports that the Middle East peace talks will be reconvened here some time after Thanksgiving? MR. BOUCHER: George, I don't. I have the same thing I had yesterday. I'm not going to get into confirming all these different press reports. The situation is, as we said it was yesterday, that we're consulting with other governments regarding the time and location of the next session of bilateral talks. As Secretary Baker said, if the parties cannot agree, we will feel free to make a proposal. We haven't done that at this point. Q Where does it stand on the multilateral talks? MR. BOUCHER: The same as yesterday. Preparations are proceeding. No further details for you at this point. Q Do those preparations include inviting -- these are regional talks, after all, and they're supposed to encompass a lot of -- most of the Arab world and Europeans. Does that include inviting Libya, Iraq, Iran to take part in these regional talks? MR. BOUCHER: In order not to break the rule of not going further into detail, I think I'm going to have to avoid commenting on specific invitations. Q Well, if they aren't included, then what's the basis of this to call it "regional talks" if some of the major players in the region aren't -- don't take part in the conference? MR. BOUCHER: As I think the Secretary has described it before, those parties, who are interested in the peace process and having talks on the multilateral issues, will meet to organize the preparations for those talks. Q So the first thing that's going to happen is meeting to organize the talks. Is that -- MR. BOUCHER: I'd refer you back to the phraseology the Secretary has used before, but that's essentially what it is. Q I thought these were supposed to be regional talks. Early on we were told -- for example, when Saudi Arabia was still hesitating about going -- we were told that you don't have Saudi Arabia there, because then we'd have to have Libya, and these are regional talks. And now apparently these are -- this has become an international conference. What are the guidelines or -- MR. BOUCHER: Saul, the guidelines are as we've specified before. They have not changed, and I'm not about to change them here. First of all, they are regional. They are multilateral. Second of all, the Secretary has always described them as being talks among those who wish to participate in this process. Q Is Japan in the region, or have I missed something? MR. BOUCHER: As you know, the Secretary in his speech in Tokyo said that he noted -- I think, with pleasure -- he noted in particular that Japan had expressed an interest in these talks. These are multilateral talks which focus on issues that involve the region. Q Multilateral talks which focus on the region and not regional talks which focus on the region? MR. BOUCHER: I find it hard to find the distinction in there, Saul, but these things have been described before. Q No. I'm wondering whether the wider the participation, the less focus there is on the goal of this, which was to get Arabs and Israelis talking about issues that transcend other political problems. That's what I thought -- since I was sort of in on this from the beginning -- I thought that was the object. To also include Europe and Japan and every other country in on this thing seems to be an international conference. Now, are you saying that it's supposed to be an international conference with a focus on the regional issues? Is that what it is? MR. BOUCHER: Saul, I'm not trying to describe it in any new terms. I'm saying it's exactly what we've always described all along in this process. There are multilateral talks that deal with the issues in the region. We've always said that there would be a number of countries that would be interested in participating, and we'll see when they get down to organizing it exactly who's going to be there and what the agendas will be. Q One other thing just on the side: Could you tell me what strictures there are against Palestinians or members of the PLO coming to this country? MR. BOUCHER: Not off the top of my head. I'd have to look for that. Q Could you take that and find out? MR. BOUCHER: I'll try to get it for you. Yes. Q Could you give us an update on the massacre in East Timor? MR. BOUCHER: Let's do this in a couple different ways. First on the Americans: The two Americans that were involved that we know of traveled together on November 12 from Dili in East Timor to Denpasar, Bali. The United States consular agent there assisted them to depart Indonesia by a commercial flight to Guam. The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, which had been in contact with them, has also advised immigration officials in Guam of their arrival with a request to facilitate their entry. Our latest information is that both of them are still in Guam. I can't go into details -- names or personal particulars -- because of our Privacy Act restrictions. Reports on the incident itself continue to be sketchy and sometimes contradictory. We don't yet have a completely accurate picture of what took place. Our Embassy in Jakarta has reported that there may have been two simultaneous demonstrations, one at the funeral of a Timorese killed in a separate incident October 28 and the other at the Indonesian Governor's palace in Dili. This is where it gets confusing. The initial clashes were apparently between the second, more politically oriented group and Indonesian military forces. According to Indonesian sources, an Indonesian military officer was stabbed during the initial clash. The second group of protesters then proceeded to the cemetery where the two crowds became one and the final clash and the killings occurred. All of the information we are receiving indicates that the Indonesian military did fire on the demonstrators. It is not clear what caused this shooting to occur. We also understand that American citizens and others present at the cemetery report that there was no provocation of the military by the crowd there. Given the apparent significant loss of life, we take this incident very seriously, and we are continuing our contacts with the Indonesian Government to express our concerns over these tragic events. Q Would the U.S. back a call that Portugal could make to convene the U.N. Security Council on this matter? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen such a proposal at this point. I think our standard policy on East Timor, which I have here, expresses support for the General Assembly's mandate, which continues in force, and the Secretary General's efforts under that mandate. Q In this stage would the U.S. back a call? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I haven't seen such a call. I'm not in a position to address it at this point. Q Does the United States recognize Indonesia's annexation of East Timor? MR. BOUCHER: Well, that's the standard policy that I have here. Let me read it to you. The United States accepts Indonesia's incorporation of East Timor without maintaining that a valid act of self-determination has taken place. The United Nations General Assembly in 1983 instructed the Secretary General to resolve the East Timor issue, and the Secretary General has since then sponsored discussions in New York between the Governments of Indonesia and Portugal. Our policy is to support the General Assembly's mandate, which continues in force, and the Secretary General's efforts. Q Richard, two things: Do you know of any efforts being made, though -- any immediate efforts being made to protect the people of East Timor who have had a pretty bloody history in the last few years? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything new in the situation. I think we reported yesterday that the situation appeared to have calmed down. Q And do you have any report on the condition of the foreigners? Were any foreigners, other than Americans, killed in this demonstration? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any information on other foreigners. And as for the exact condition of the Americans involved, I'm not in a position to report that because of the Privacy Act restrictions. Q Last Friday -- I think it was Friday; it may have been on Thursday -- the Embassy in Moscow cabled to the State Department a synopsis of an article in a Soviet publication that reported that a U.S. pilot shot down over Vietnam in '67 had been brought to the Soviet Union and today is alive in a town called Saryshagansk. I'm interested in whether or not the State Department is following up on that, and also I'm interested in knowing whether or not any progress has been made toward gaining U.S. access to Soviet POW/MIA files? MR. BOUCHER: The article was actually in the November 3rd edition of the Soviet newspaper Kommersant. It reported that an American pilot who was shot down on May 19, 1967, was brought to Alma Ata in the Soviet Union in September of 1967, and then moved on to Saryshagansk in Kazakhstan where, according to the report, he still lives. When we got this information, we instructed our Embassy in Moscow last week to dispatch an officer to the area to attempt to confirm the report. The Embassy was also asked to attempt to contact the Soviet citizen who was quoted in the article as having been involved in the transportation of American POWs out of South Vietnam in 1962. At this point, we don't have any report back from those efforts. In general, the U.S. has raised the issue of American POWs at the highest levels with Soviet and Russian Government officials over the past few months. We have requested any information about American POWs, and we've asked for access to the appropriate files. This was raised during the Summit in August. Secretary Baker reiterated our information request during his September visit to Moscow and in his October 23 meeting with the Soviet Foreign Minister in Paris. Given the new political realities in the Soviet Union, we've also urged officials from the Russian Federation to provide any information that may be available to them. As for those efforts, Soviet and Russian officials have promised to look into this situation, but at this point we don't have a complete report back from them. Q Richard, on that subject, my recollection is that Shevardnadze assured Baker that there had been no Americans imprisoned in the Soviet Union. Is that not correct? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not sure I remember something particularly from Shevardnadze, but I think that has been the general tenor of statements from the Soviets in years past. Obviously, when there's new information, specific information that can be checked out, we try to check it out and that's what we're doing. Q In other words, if this report is borne out, then Shevardnadze, at least, was not telling the truth, or at least was not aware of this? MR. BOUCHER: Jim, without knowing exactly what Shevardnadze has said and without knowing if this is true, I'd call that a major hypothetical at this point. Let's not get into accusing people of lying. Q Mr. Jacques Parizeau is meeting with State Department people today -- right now. This is the man who advocates the sovereignty of the province of Quebec. I wonder if you could tell us why the State Department would be interested in meeting Mr. Parizeau, a leader of an opposition party, and what interest they would have in hearing what he has to say today? MR. BOUCHER: I'm afraid I didn't know about this meeting, so I don't have anything specific to say. I'd only say that we meet with politicians and political figures from countries all over the world all the time. Q Is it of interest to know what someone who advocates the sovereignty of the province of Quebec has to say in the State Department? MR. BOUCHER: Again, without knowing about this specific meeting, we talk to opposition figures and people in and out of governments all over the world all the time. Q Do you think the Canadian Government might be upset by the State Department meeting with this official? MR. BOUCHER: You would have to ask them about that. Q Is there any decision yet on grain credits for the Soviets related to humanitarian aid -- amount of monies? MR. BOUCHER: Nothing new from us here. Q That's still pending as far as you know, or has a decision been made? MR. BOUCHER: As far as I know, there was a team in the Soviet Union. I think they're not quite back yet, and I would expect any decisions or announcements to come from the White House when it's appropriate. Q Do you expect the President to announce it today at the meeting of the Future Farmers of America? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to predict anything. You can ask the White House what they expect the President to do today. Q Is there any concern here about the situation in Poland where Walesa seems unable to form a government? His designated Prime Minister today gave up the job. MR. BOUCHER: Sonia, I hadn't specifically looked into the situation in Poland. But I'd remind you that generally we don't comment on internal developments with foreign governments. Q Let me ask an international question, then. The Armenian President is visiting here today. He's coming, among other things, with a request for U.S. support for Armenia's desire to join the United Nations. What will the U.S. response be? MR. BOUCHER: I think that's something we'll have to let happen. He's meeting with Acting Secretary Eagleburger today at 3:45. As you know, I think we've always said that the republics in the Soviet Union are in the process of working out new arrangements among themselves, and we'll let that process take place before making any further decisions on issues that involve recognition or representation. Q Do you have anything more today about the itinerant Haitians? MR. BOUCHER: They're not so itinerant. There are about 520 Haitians on board Coast Guard vessels in the Caribbean. Two of the vessels are at anchor in Guantanamo Bay with the Haitians aboard. About half have been interviewed by INS personnel aboard the ship. I understand there have been no new arrivals in this group in the last 24 hours or so. Q That's it? MR. BOUCHER: I'd tell you that we continue to see this as a regional problem; that we and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees are continuing to consult with a number of countries about the possibility of their taking some of these Haitians in. Q So you're confessing today what you wouldn't confess yesterday? MR. BOUCHER: You might say that, George. Q Anything on the growing North Korean nuclear development programs? Specifically, are you planning any more efforts to collect information about it or monitor it in any way, either the U.S. directly or in conjunction with others? Have the North Koreans been given any response about what information they're willing to reveal about their program, both in the past and on-going? And if the U.S., as Baker has said, plans to use a multilateral effort to be used as political and diplomatic muscle, is there not then the implication that if those efforts fail, military muscle will have to follow? MR. BOUCHER: Those are all very interesting questions, but I think you can understand why I might say that the Secretary is in the process of discussing these issues with people in the region right now, and he has also discussed them with your colleagues in the press corps who are out there. I'll leave further comment to him. Q To Haiti for just a second. In the consultations with the other countries in the region about the possibility of their taking some of these Haitians in, is the U.S. consulting with them about the possibility of the U.S. taking some of these Haitians in? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Ralph, I said this is a regional problem that we're addressing on a regional basis, but I don't think I'm in a position to go into any more detail today. Q Isn't it true that U.S. policy is to provide asylum in case of political, religious, or ethnic oppression -- not for economic reasons? MR. BOUCHER: I think just yesterday I read for you the standard definition -- or was it Friday? -- of asylum and refugee requests. That certainly applies in this case. I said that about half of the people involved have been interviewed by INS. I don't have a breakdown at this point of how many could eventually qualify for asylum. Q But you have not determined that any of these people are political refugees? MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't have a breakdown on how many may eventually qualify. Q But some may? MR. BOUCHER: That's why we interview them, to see if they do. Q Do you have an update on the visa lottery -- the selection, the percentage of the national breakdown? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have a national breakdown. I forget when we last looked into it. I think it was last week. Right? There were 19 million applications of which 7 million came before the deadline and were discarded. We have begun the process of notifying people. I think when I checked last week, there were 30-some thousand who had been notified already and we basically told them to get their documents ready and schedule themselves for interviews. Q Do you know how many different applicants there were? You said 19 million applications. Well, a lot of those multiple -- MR. BOUCHER: George, I'm not sure we'll ever know. But I'll check and see if we do. Q You're going to interview every single one of them. MR. BOUCHER: And can I give you all their names; right? Q (Inaudible) visit today? MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me? Q Can we get a readout on the Armenian visit today with Eagleburger? MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if we can get you something later. Q Do you have any kind of readout on the Egyptian Ambassador's meeting here at the Department today? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a readout, Ralph. It was a courtesy call. It was scheduled for him to meet the new Under Secretary. Q Richard, does the United States now take any position on the use of any military force belonging to the United Nations in Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about the question of peacekeeping, generally? Is that about right? Q Yeah, pretty close. MR. BOUCHER: I think the basic thing is to remind you that we strongly support the EC's efforts under the CSCE mandate to mediate a peaceful resolution of the crisis. Yesterday's EC Foreign Minister's statement noted that for the first time both the Serbian-dominated rump presidency and the Government of Croatia have called for a peacekeeping effort. Lord Carrington has stated that he will discuss this question with all the parties in Yugoslavia this week, but he emphasized that an effective cease-fire is an essential precondition for consideration of any peacekeeping effort. So other than to express our general support for his efforts and to say that they haven't reached any conclusion at this point, I think that's about all there is to the U.S. position. Q When you use the generic "peacekeeping force," are you thinking of an EC force or a U.N. force or something else? MR. BOUCHER: Again, we'll have to see what they're thinking of and what they work out. I think the discussion I've seen was by the parties in Yugoslavia who talked about a U.N. peacekeeping effort. But at this point, I think it's premature to take a firm position on it, given that Lord Carrington is trying to work out arrangements for a cease-fire first, which he said is an essential precondition for any peacekeeping. Q Do I understand you correctly that if the Serbs and the Croats agree to it, then the United States would support such an idea? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Jim, I think it's premature to fix on some particular idea because we have Lord Carrington out there. He's trying to address these issues with the parties, and he, himself, has said that the way he's addressing it is in terms of achieving an effective cease-fire as an essential precondition for any peacekeeping. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:02 p.m.)