US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #187, Tuesday, 12/17/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:26 PM, Washington, DC Date: Dec 17, 199112/17/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, Caribbean, E/C Europe Country: USSR (former), Haiti, Lebanon, Libya, South Korea, Indonesia, Yugoslavia (former), Slovenia, Croatia, Germany Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Terrorism, Democratization, Regional/Civil Unrest, Immigration, OAS, United Nations, Nuclear Nonproliferation, Arms Control, Security Assistance and Sales (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Have the parties informed you when they would like to finish the present round of talks as yet? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if they've informed us or not in any specific terms, George. I think, in any case, that would be something for them to say to you, not me. Q Can you say anything about your consultations with them? MR. BOUCHER: Of course, we've been in touch at various levels with the delegations that are in town. Assistant Secretary Djerejian met yesterday with the head of the Lebanese delegation. He's meeting this afternoon with the Jordanian members of the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. And, as you know, Foreign Minister Levy of Israel is also meeting or has met with the President this morning. Q What is the message -- is there a message the U.S. is conveying to the parties in this series of discussions? MR. BOUCHER: Without going into details of exactly what we're saying, I think the general message is the one that we've been saying to you here, and that's that we think the talks are important. We think it's important to move from process to substance. Q Richard, do you have any reaction to the vote of the Arab countries in the resolution to rescind Zionism-as-racism? MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd just say overall, Alan, that the overwhelming vote for repeal was a clear repudiation of the 1975 vote. We're heartened by the support our resolution received from the 111 states around the world who voted for the resolution, including the 85 countries who joined us in co-sponsoring the repeal. We were disappointed that all the U.N. members did not vote to erase this blot on the U.N.'s record. Our overall opinion, though, is one that the President restated this morning. We think that the repeal makes the United Nations much more effective and that it's long overdue. Q Richard, do you find it odd or especially disappointing that the three Arab states negotiating here with Israel voted against repealling? MR. BOUCHER: Howard, I'm not going to try to comment on individual states and countries. I think we appreciate the overall vote. We would have liked to have everybody with us, but we think it's a strong message that lends credibility to the United Nations and makes it more effective. Q If you don't want to talk about individual nations, how about talking about the coalition that the United States put together earlier this year and which the U.S. intends to use again shortly to deal with the Soviet Union? On this particular issue, the coalition didn't seem to hold. Do you have any comment on that? Key members of the coalition either voted against the resolution or chose not to vote even though some of them have peace treaties with Israel. MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, I don't think we ever linked the coalition to this specific vote or said that we thought the coalition would apply in all cases and all circumstances. Different countries voted or did different things. We appreciate the support we got. We think it was overwhelming. We think it speaks for itself. Q Richard, don't you think there's still a problem for Israel here given that of the countries that voted against, almost all were Islamic with the exception, I think, of North Korea and Cuba and maybe a couple of others? Doesn't that say that Israel, as a Jewish state, is still not recognized by the Islamic world taken as a whole? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, Alan, we were disappointed that not everybody joined us in this repeal. We thought it was an important vote. We felt it was justified and long overdue. The people should have joined us. But, at the same time, there is a peace process underway, and that's an important process as well. Q Can you name an Islamic state that did join? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't memorize the list of countries. I think they're in all the newspapers. You can do that for yourself. Q Richard, will there be any improvement in the relationship between the United States and the United Nations now in light of this resolution which is being expunged from the books? I'm talking about in the area of paying the arrears that the United States still owe the United Nations, and how much the United Nations -- or the United States owes the United Nations at the present time. MR. BOUCHER: I haven't checked on the numbers recently. As you know, the President has made that one of our priorities in budgeting, and we have been making payments on the arrears. I'll try to get you some updated numbers. Q Due to the fact that there is a new management or new administration at the United Nations, possibly you want to make some payments to begin a new year and a new slate, or something. MR. BOUCHER: As I said, we've made it a priority to pay the arrears. The President has stated that clearly. We've been putting the money in our budget. We've been getting the money, and we've been making payments. Q Richard, some of the Arabs were saying last night that unless there was progress by last night they would appeal to the United States for help. Have you received any request for some sort of input as of last night or this morning? Is that what this meeting with the Jordanians is about today? MR. BOUCHER: We've been having meetings all along with various delegations. I think Margaret described our role and our attitude last week, and that remains our role and our attitude. Q That doesn't answer the question. MR. BOUCHER: We have not put forward a proposal. We have worked with the various parties. We have discussed with them various ideas and suggestions that are in play. We haven't put forth any proposal of our own. We've encouraged them to resolve these issues and to move from process to substance. Q Have they come to you and asked you -- MR. BOUCHER: You can ask them what they want from us. I'm going to describe our actions and what we're doing. Q Have you made any suggestions, informal or otherwise, to them in the last 24 hours? MR. BOUCHER: We haven't put together any U.S. proposal on this. We've discussed various suggestions and views that are in play. Q These discussions of various views, has that happened in the last 24 hours? MR. BOUCHER: I assume that in all these meetings, we're discussing the current state of play, the suggestions and views that are in play. Margaret said we were doing it last week, and we're still doing it now. Q Do you have any scenario to offer as to how the talks will continue over the long haul; I don't mean just today or tomorrow, but over the long haul? MR. BOUCHER: I don't at this point. Q Richard, for you to issue a proposal, which you say you haven't done, would all parties to the talks have to ask you for that, or would it be enough for some parties to ask you? MR. BOUCHER: I think Margaret made clear last week that we would expect both parties, in any given set of talks, to ask us if they wanted us to make a new proposal. Q Are you drawing a distinction between ideas and proposals? You say -- MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I am, really. There's a lot of ideas in the air and suggestions, and I'm not saying that we won't discuss with people what's going on, what ideas they may have to bridge the gap. Q Ideas you may have? MR. BOUCHER: Occasionally, that may involve informal discussion of some kind of ideas that we have. But at the same time, if you're asking, "Have we said this is what you ought to do," in terms of putting forth a formal U.S. proposal, or U.S. proposal to bridge the gaps, no. We are working with the parties to try to encourage them to reach agreement. Q So the meeting between Mr. Djerejian and some of these delegations over the weekend, and continuing, have been just consultations or exchanges, a point of view, or proposals or ideas? What was the purpose of these meetings, if you are not coming with anything significant now to get out of that bottleneck? MR. BOUCHER: The purpose of the meetings is to keep in touch with the parties and to continue to urge them to resolve these issues and to be able to move from process to substance. Q Richard, when the Arabs and the Israelis sat down face-to-face for the first time in Madrid, did the United States regard that as a tacit recognition on the part of the Arab states of Israel's right to exist? MR. BOUCHER: I'm trying to remember how the Secretary described it at the time. I think he gave three different press conferences during the course of the Madrid meeting, and I would refer you back to the way he described it. Q The vote yesterday -- my second follow-up question -- did that undermine the premise of Madrid in any way? Do you think that the premise of these peace talks has been undermined by the fact that the Arab parties involved in these peace talks have voted against the ideological underpinnings of the Jewish state? MR. BOUCHER: Alan, if you look at the White House statement yesterday, the White House said -- and we certainly agree -- that the repeal of this resolution serves the interests of peace. The important thing, that I think I was trying to remind you of yesterday -- the fact is that for 43 years, there's been hostility between these countries. They have sat down. They have talked to each other. They are talking to each other, and that is a process that continues even as we speak right now. We think that's very important. We shouldn't lose sight of that. Q If the repeal served the interests of peace, then you could argue logically that those who voted for the repeal served the interests of the peace. What does it say about those that voted against? MR. BOUCHER: Alan, I've expressed our opinions of the way people voted, in general. We think this was an overwhelming vote, and we think it's important to the United Nations. We see the outcome with great pleasure. Q Why are you unwilling to say anything negative about people who voted against this resolution? MR. BOUCHER: I said we were disappointed that not everybody voted for the resolution. We thought it was the right thing to do -- was to vote for repeal. Q Richard, isn't there a little contradiction here between what the White House is saying and what you're saying? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q At least two senior -- I don't want you to lose your job. I'm ready to fill it. In recent days, two senior State Department officials have gone out of their way to say that the vote at the U.N. was not linked to the peace process. Now, you're saying that the White House has made a statement saying it advances the cause of peace. Why has the State Department been going out of its way to say it's not linked? MR. BOUCHER: There is no contradiction in that. We said there was no direct linkage to the peace process or the talks. We stressed the point that we felt that the resolution in 1975 was wrong. The President said again this morning that its repeal was long overdue. I think if you look at the statement that Deputy Secretary Eagleburger gave yesterday [in the UN General Assembly], he made the same point -- that there's no direct link but re-establishing the credibility and the effectiveness of the United Nations and removing this blot from the U.N.'s record and this cloud that hung over the State of Israel, we thought, could be an important contribution to advancing the cause of peace. Q Would it be fair for us to assume that the nations with whom the U.S. is disappointed, as you described it, would feel some effect of that U.S. disappointment in the future as bilateral issues come up with those nations? To add to that, would the Administration also expect that members of Congress, who vote on aid proposals and military sales and so on, might apply this one vote as a kind of measure of the behavior of the nations who voted against the resolution? MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, I'll leave to members of Congress the factors that influence their votes. As far as how we view this, I think we made clear that repeal of this resolution was important to us. We sought support from every country in the world. Clearly, it was something that was important to us. It will be looked at in the context of our overall bilateral relationship. Or it will be a factor in how we look at the overall bilateral relationships. Q Richard, in Madrid, the Palestinians presented you, as one of the hosts, and the Soviet Union 25 points to be delegated to Israel about confidence-building measures. You spoke yesterday about the settlements and about this one-sided almost approach in Jerusalem, of Silwan and other places. Have you heard anything, or did you accomplish anything with the Israelis about confidence-building measures to try to ease the situation of the Palestinians under occupation? MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware of anything new on that. I'll have to check and see if there's anything new to say. Q Twenty-five points on November 8 represented -- MR. BOUCHER: It's sort of vague. I don't even remember what we've said in the past, frankly, about it. Q Can you check on that, please? MR. BOUCHER: I'll check on it. Q Did Minister Levy respond to the U.S. call yesterday in any way, calling on Israel to control what you called provocative factions, or something, in and around Jerusalem? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know, Ralph. That meeting was at the White House. Even my people who were at the meeting haven't gotten back, so you'll have to get the readout from the White House. Q Richard, following up from yesterday -- from what you said yesterday -- you were asked by my colleague there from Reuters about the United States position on the legal authority that Israel has on the occupied territories. You said you'd take the question and that there would be an answer. To my knowledge, there's not been an answer. You said you would find the things that you've said on it in the past. Do you think that could be expedited, please? MR. BOUCHER: I think we were going to refer people to something. Joe [Snyder], did you ever find out exactly what we thought was the -- it's in the latest human rights report. Q No, it wasn't. Q Back to Zionism-racism for a moment. When you talk about the blot being removed and the cloud being lifted, do you believe now that it has been repealed that the United Nations should play a more active and central role in the peace process and that everything does not necessarily all the time have to be referred back to the United States; that the U.N. can play the kind of central role it played during the Persian Gulf crisis? MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I quite went that far. I think the role of the United States remains what it was last week and the week before. Q Can I switch to Yugoslavia, please? My name is Peter Sereny, and I am from Hungary and Nepszabadsag newspaper. Q One more on the resolution? MR. BOUCHER: We'll come back. Q Have you any reaction to the EC's decision on the question of recognizing different Yugoslav republics, so far as the U.S. position toward Yugoslavia's recognition? MR. BOUCHER: O.K. Let me run through a fairly long explanation of where I think we stand. The United States and the European Community have the same objectives in Yugoslavia; that is to stop the fighting and bring about a peaceful political settlement based on CSCE principles. Our approach to achieving this shared objective is best reflected in the NATO summit statement of November 8 and the European Community declaration of the same day. We're pleased that the EC declaration urges the Yugoslav republics to support the efforts of the U.N. Secretary General and The Hague conference process. This declaration of December 16 underscores the importance of the U.N. Secretary General's continued efforts to establish an effective cease-fire and to promote a peaceful negotiated outcome. We welcome the EC's decision to postpone definitive decisions on recognition, which will allow more time for the efforts of the U.N. Secretary General and Lord Carrington regarding Yugoslavia. We continue to place a high value on the European Community's leading role in seeking a political settlement of the Yugoslav crisis as mandated by the CSCE and on U.S.-EC political cooperation on this issue. We are carefully examining the steps the EC has taken, and we will be consulting with the EC on further actions we can take to promote our common objectives with regard to Yugoslavia. Q What about Germany, as opposed to the EC as a whole? Germany says, still, that it's going to make a declaration tomorrow or on Thursday, I believe, recognizing Croatia and Slovenia with implementation of that recognition coming on January the 15th? MR. BOUCHER: Again, Alan, I think I have to say that what we have now is an EC statement. I've given you our view on that. If there's something subsequently that we want to comment on, we'll comment when it comes out. Q You welcome the delay, but the delay is not a very long delay. It's only about a month. Do you think that's a sufficient delay? Do you think it ought to be more open-ended? Do you think it was a good idea to set a target date for recognition in the middle of next month? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, Alan, we're going to carefully examine the steps the EC has taken. We're going to discuss these steps with the European Community, but we think it's important that they allowed more time for the process of the U.N. Secretary General and Lord Carrington to work. Q Just to follow up on that, you're praising their decision to postpone, and you're choosing not to comment on the date that they've set in the very same statement. Does the U.S. have a view on that portion of -- the same declaration that you've chosen to praise one aspect of it, do you not have a comment on the January 15th part of that very same document? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really have a comment specifically on the January 15th part or on the specific criteria that they laid down or the other things. We think that in general, the statement is important because it supports the efforts of Lord Carrington and the U.N. Secretary General, and it allows them some time to do their jobs. Q Would we be drawing the right conclusion if, on the basis of your carefully crafted words about the EC statement, we concluded that the U.S. is glad at the postponement but is not happy with the setting of a date? MR. BOUCHER: As for the specifics, the more specific things in the declaration, I would say that we're still analyzing those, and we expect to discuss those further with the EC. Q Back on the resolution, those who voted for the resolution yesterday for the repeal included those who had voted originally for the passage of the resolution. Now the question is, can those who voted with you expect some additional U.S. goodwill because of that? MR. BOUCHER: As I said, the repeal was important to us, and people asked me about whether it would affect the bilateral relationships with people who voted no, and I guess you could say that the vote, since it was important to us, will be taken into account as we look at the bilateral relationships with countries that voted on any side of the issue. But I'm not promising or taking away anything specific at this point. Q Richard, Qadhafi said in an interview with an Italian television station that it was not a bomb that caused the Lockerbie disaster. I wonder if you have anything on that, and whether there's a deadline by which the two people indicted have to be turned over, or whatever? MR. BOUCHER: As for the first thing, I saw the press report this morning, and it stretches the bounds of credulity that anyone could believe that. The evidence is clear, it has been made public by the United States and U.K. authorities, and I think it speaks for itself. As for the second, I think when we announced the demands for Libya to turn over the people involved, to pay compensation, and stop its support for terrorism, we didn't set a specific deadline, but we said we expected to see prompt compliance. Q What is "prompt" in this kind of action? MR. BOUCHER: As we've explained from here before, "promptly" means "promptly." Q Richard, do you have anything on the Hamadis or on U.S. communications with Germany over the release of the German hostages? MR. BOUCHER: We've expressed our views before on the Hamadis. I'll stick with that. We're in touch with other governments. We continue to support the efforts of the U.N. Secretary General and his representative to see the release of the two Germans, to seek the return of the remains of those who may have died while in captivity, and to work on other issues such as the accounting of Israeli MIAs. We continue to support those efforts and remain hopeful. We had some over here. Q I have a question concerning Secretary Baker's trip to Moscow. I think it was August during his meetings there that now President Yeltsin is in full control over there. So does that imply any shift in the U.S. policy toward U.S.S.R.? I mean, that -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm going to have to defer any questions on the Secretary's visit to Moscow to the Secretary. I think he addressed questions like that while he was there, and I can get you the transcripts of what he said. Q I mean, are you going to deal directly with Russia now, or you prefer to maintain your old relationship with the center? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to be answering questions on the Secretary's trip. He was answering questions like that, and I can get you the transcript of what he, himself, said. Q On a related question, though, how do you deal with the Embassy of the former USSR here in Washington? There was this envoy here for a few weeks from Russia -- from the Russian Republic. Does the United States Government consider the Embassy to represent each of the individual republics in the Soviet Union now or -- MR. BOUCHER: Ralph, to the extent that that's a question that reflects our policy of recognition, that's something that I'm going to leave to the Secretary. As far as I know, we continue to deal with the Soviet Embassy -- the people at the Embassy here in Washington. I don't know exactly what the status of representation from the republics is there. You might ask them. Q Richard, an official Indonesian commission probing the army's shooting of civilians in East Timor says it supports the government contention that only 19 people died. Do you have any comment? MR. BOUCHER: We saw a press report, I believe, that quoted the head of the inquiry as saying that, at this point, we can't confirm that that was what was actually said. We're seeking more information. We'd really defer more specific comment until that time. As you know, and I think we've reported to you before, we had an Embassy team that visited East Timor. They heard from several sources, reports that there were 75 to 100 deaths. We have always emphasized that this investigation should be thorough, should be fair; that it should result in the disciplining and punishment of those found to have used excessive force. We've emphasized to the Indonesian authorities the importance of an accurate, credible report by the investigatory commission. Q To go back to Yugoslavia, the Foreign Minister of Croatia said that Washington was not impartial regarding Yugoslavia. What is your answer? MR. BOUCHER: Our answer is that we've expressed our policy on Yugoslavia and what is happening there many, many times, including today, and I'll stick with what we've said. Q Richard, one more try on this Zionism-is-racism repeal. Is it possible for a country to vote against that repeal and to recognize Israel's right to exist? Is that a consistent position? MR. BOUCHER: That would call for speculation, analysis, and hypotheticals on my part. I'm not going to get into that. That's not something I think I can -- Q Covert stuff, right? MR. BOUCHER: Probably. Q Intelligence matters. MR. BOUCHER: Chris, that's just not the kind of question I can address in a theoretical framework. Is it possible for somebody to do something like that in the broad universe? I don't know. Q You place great importance on the repeal of this resolution, so it must mean something. So, I mean, can a country hold both those views? MR. BOUCHER: Chris, the United States placed great importance on this vote. We thought that the resolution itself in 1975 was wrong. We felt it should be repealed; that that is the right thing to do. That is about as simply as I can express our policy on this, and I'd note that the Deputy Secretary gave a lengthy explanation of the United States' position yesterday, and he explained what it meant to us. Q Is that statement available inside? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure it is. Yes. Q Do you have anything on -- MR. BOUCHER: Let's go back to Warren. He's had his hand up for a while. Q A quick question on Korea: There have been repeated reports that the U.S. nuclear weapons, if any were ever there, are now removed and, in fact, that that played a role in the signing of -- helping along the non-aggression pact that was signed last week. If we had any there, are they gone? MR. BOUCHER: Warren, I'm afraid I'm going to tell you that it remains the policy of the United States to neither confirm nor deny the presence or absence of nuclear weapons at any specific location. As for the signing of the agreement last week, I think we've expressed ourselves. I made some comments on it yesterday. We think that it's an important step toward reducing tension. We note that it's North Korea's willingness to conclude a reconciliation and non-aggression agreement. However, it doesn't absolve it of its responsibility under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to sign and implement a safeguards agreement, nor does its willingness to enter into this agreement satisfy our concerns about nuclear proliferation on the peninsula. Q Can I ask if we took any military moves that might have helped the agreement along? MR. BOUCHER: I don't really know the answer to what we've been doing in the military area in Korea recently, so I think you can check with Defense on that. Q I'm not sure I understood something you said there at the end of that statement: That willingness to negotiate a non-aggression agreement does not absolve North Korea of responsibility to sign the NPT, I think you said. MR. BOUCHER: No. Its responsibility under the NPT to sign a safeguards agreement and implement it. Q O.K. And what was the next sentence. That's what I -- MR. BOUCHER: Nor does it resolve our concerns about their nuclear program. Q Oh, O.K. I thought -- MR. BOUCHER: Nor does it resolve our concerns about proliferation. Q Never mind. I misunderstood what you said. Sorry. Q Do you have anything on Haiti with respect to numbers or progress in the efforts to restore democracy? MR. BOUCHER: As for progress on the efforts to restore democracy, that is something that the OAS is still working on. I don't have any particular report for you today. The numbers haven't changed very much. Let's see. We had no reports at this point, based on what we heard from the Coast Guard this morning -- no reports of Haitians having been picked up yesterday, but the numbers for Sunday have been revised upward from 38 originally reported up to 139. This brings the total number to 7,577. If you want it, I can give you the breakdown on where they are. There have been 5,913 Haitians interviewed thus far by the INS. Of these, 1,081 have been found to have a plausible claim to asylum. As far as people coming to the United States, among those the number remains the same. I think we've reported that 111 of the people in Honduras have asked to be repatriated to Haiti. We understand that that's going to happen today under the auspices of the UNHCR. Arrangements have been made by UNHCR and Haiti to receive them. That's about all the new stuff in there on numbers. Q Do you have anything on a disturbance at Guantanamo Sunday night? MR. BOUCHER: There was a disturbance. There were a group of Haitians involved in a disturbance on Sunday. They destroyed tents and threw tent poles and pieces of asphalt in protest at being held at Guantanamo rather than being granted asylum in the United States. For more details, you'd have to check with Defense. Q Is there a limit to the base that you're working toward? I mean, how many people can it take, do you know? I mean, before sending them somewhere else. MR. BOUCHER: The Defense Department has talked about that before. I don't remember what the number was -- 10,000, 12,000, something like that, that they were looking at being able to accommodate. You'll have to check with Defense. Q What are you going to do after you reach that number? MR. BOUCHER: We'll see where we are. Q Richard, are these figures still approximate? I mean, for approximates they're extremely specific. But for approximates, even I can add 101 to the figure we had yesterday and come out with a different number than the one you just gave us. MR. BOUCHER: That's why they're approximate, Jan. "Approximate" in this case means "subject to change," and they don't necessarily add up. There's a lot of detailed accounting here. We get specific numbers, but they're not necessarily specifically reliable at any given moment. Q Have you seen reports in Haiti of new unrest, violence against opposition politicians? MR. BOUCHER: We have reports, such as the ones that I talked about yesterday, of tension, of some shooting occurring. We've had no reports of any mass killings, mass arrests, or new waves of persecution. Q Thank you. Q Just one second, George. It was only last week I think you announced the multilateral talks to be held in Moscow on the 28th and 29th. Is that still current? Is that information still accurate? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any change, Ralph. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:07 p.m.)