US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #189, Friday, 12/20/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 1:04 PM, Washington, DC Date: Dec 20, 199112/20/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, Caribbean, East Asia Country: USSR (former), Haiti, Lebanon, South Africa, Libya, China, Indonesia Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Terrorism, Democratization, Immigration, Refugees, Regional/Civil Unrest, OAS, Trade/Economics, State Department (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. BOUCHER: All right, ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon. I'd like to make one statement about the opening of constitutional talks in South Africa. We wish to congratulate the organizations taking part in the multi-party discussions which began today in South Africa, for their commitment to the negotiation of a democratic constitution for that country. The beginning of these talks signifies that a new stage has been reached in the peaceful transformation of South Africa to a non-racial democratic society. We encourage the parties involved to continue to work in the spirit of compromise and seriousness which has so far characterized their efforts. We urge those parties which have declined to participate in this process to reconsider their position and to join in the negotiating process. With that, I'd be glad to take your questions. Q Do you have anything on your plans for the Haitian refugees in light of the court decision last night? MR. BOUCHER: First of all, let me say we welcome the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision of yesterday to dissolve the second injunction. This allows us to resume repatriation of those Haitians who have not been found to have a plausible claim to asylum. We're now looking at ways to carry out an orderly return of Haitians who have been determined as not having plausible claims to asylum. The careful screening process is in place to make certain that Haitians with a plausible claim to asylum are allowed to enter the United States to present their case. About one-fifth of the new boat people have shown such a plausible claim. It should be noted as well that a small number of Haitians continues to return voluntarily under UNHCR auspices. We're working with both the international and private organizations to monitor carefully returned boat people, to make certain that they're not the objects of harassment or pressure. The Organization of American States has agreed to participate in this mission. There has ever been any evidence that returned boat people are punished in any way for having attempted to leave Haiti. We expect repatriation to resume as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made. We want to ensure that the repatriation proceeds in an orderly and manageable fashion which allows for the proper reception of the Haitians in Haiti. And, as in the past, we will make arrangements with the Haitian authorities for the return of the boat people. Embassy officials, as well as the Haitian Red Cross and the OAS, will monitor the arrival of the Haitians in Port-au-Prince. As for specifically when this is going to begin, I can't tell you at this point, because I don't know at this point. We'll have to work out the arrangements, and we'll try to keep you posted. Q Is that the end of it, or is there another appeal by the other side possible? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't know what their options are in court. Q But you're proceeding as if this is final? MR. BOUCHER: We're now -- as I said, the second injunction has been lifted. At this moment, we are in a position to resume repatriation. Whether there are other actions in the court or where exactly that stands, you might check with Justice or the court. Q I thought there was supposed to be a hearing in the court in Miami today. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't have the judicial details. There was to be a hearing. Exactly what last night's decision does to today's hearing, I don't know. You'll have to check with Justice on that. The only point I checked with my lawyers was whether at this current moment, given the situation in the courts, we're in a position to do this. We are in that situation. We're making plans and making arrangements to do it. I don't know if that will change if the courts have more decisions. Q Also, on Haiti, do you have anything on plans for 500 OAS peacekeepers of some kind to go to Haiti, or on the choice, or choosing a new Prime Minister in Haiti? MR. BOUCHER: The OAS is working on the overall question of the re-establishment of the constitutional government in Haiti. They're still doing that. I really don't have any details or updates at this point. I'm not sure if they're in a position to give that to you or not. Q You don't know about this 500 peacekeeping people? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard that number. The OAS has been working on the mission. I think one of the OAS resolutions awhile back talked about a group that would go down to build democracy. They've had people down there already looking at the human rights and humanitarian situations. The humanitarian group, I think, identified some of the humanitarian needs there, and we understand there might be a call for pledges, to work on the humanitarian situation. So the OAS does have that whole situation in hand and is working on these things. I'm not aware that any of these specifics have been decided at this point. Q Do you have updated numbers on boat people? MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. This morning, the Coast Guard again reported no pickups. That makes 3 days now without any pickups. The total number remains at 7,733. Their location as of early this morning is as follows: 6,609 are ashore at the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay. There were none aboard the Coast Guard cutters. The latest figures on interviews is that 6,617 Haitians have been interviewed thus far by the INS. Of these, 1,247 have been found to have a plausible claim to asylum. The numbers who have come to the United States, returned from Venezuela and Honduras haven't changed. I think you know that 22 Haitians returned voluntarily to Haiti yesterday from Guantanamo. Our Embassy officials and others were down at the port when they returned. That process went smoothly. Those are the only numbers that have changed. Q Have any of those found to have plausible stories about being refugees who have been brought to the United States, have any of those been found not to be refugees? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That is handled by INS once they get into the United States. I guess I was asked the question the other day, and I haven't checked on it further so you'll have to check with INS. Q Richard, do you have any information about a report that a body of an American will be returned to this country from Lebanon soon? MR. BOUCHER: Betsy, we remain hopeful. I think I saw some comments this morning by the UN Secretary General. I think I'll just leave it at that. As you know, this is one of the things that the United Nations -- the Secretary General and his representative -- have been working on. I'll just leave it to the comments the Secretary General made this morning. Q Will the U.S. make arrangements to get this body back, or would this be a United Nations operation? MR. BOUCHER: Certainly, we have emphasized how important it is to us. I think the President and others have spoken about the needs for the return of the remains of Colonel Higgins, Mr. Buckley, and others who may have died while in captivity. Certainly, if the UN can bring this about, we'll make all the appropriate arrangements to bring them back to their families. Q Have you all been dealing with the UN on this, I assume? MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure we've been in touch all along with the UN on this. We have repeatedly talked to them about the whole hostage situation, and we have repeatedly urged them, as they are doing, to work on this issue. Q Do you know which -- MR. BOUCHER: Excuse me? Q Which one it is -- MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. Q Also, on Lebanon, do you have any reaction to the Israeli raids and the capture of, I guess, six people? MR. BOUCHER: Here's the situation as I understand it. First of all, we've been in touch the Israeli Government about the incident in south Lebanon in which several Lebanese civilians were abducted. The Israelis have confirmed that their defense forces stopped a number of Lebanese civilians, released some immediately, and took three from within Lebanon back to the Israeli security zone for questioning the night of December 19-20. Israeli officials have said that they intend to release the three Lebanese shortly, after questioning. Q Can you call this hostage-taking or not? MR. BOUCHER: I called it an abduction. As I said, we've been in touch with the Israelis. We've expressed our concerns about the incident. As we have before, we've urged Israel and all the other parties to avoid provocative actions in south Lebanon which can exacerbate the situation. Q There's also a report of a bomb being left behind. Do you know anything about that? MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard that. I don't know. Q Do you have anything on meetings today here in Washington between the U.S., Britain, and France on sanctions against Libya? MR. BOUCHER: We have been coordinating very closely with the other governments that are involved in the situation with Libya. At this point -- let's see, there was a meeting today -- it may still be going on now; it started this morning -- with representatives of the French and the British Governments. The three governments directly affected by Libya's decision to bomb civil aircraft have been working together to formulate a common response to Libya's continued intransigence. At this point, no final decisions have been made. All options are open. Q Will these meetings continue past today, do you know? MR. BOUCHER: I think this particular meeting is just today. But we have been in frequent and constant touch with these other governments as the situation's developed. Q Do you know if this is a final decision-making meeting, or is it one in a series? MR. BOUCHER: I would describe it more as part of a process. Q Back to Lebanon. Do you consider Israel's action this morning to impede the efforts to release the rest of the hostages in Lebanon? MR. BOUCHER: I believe the Israeli Government has said that this is not related to the hostage situation. I'll just leave it at that. There's no reason to slow down the efforts to release the hostages. Q Do you have anything on the reports of a partial lifting of some of the sanctions against China? MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about the missile sanctions? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. First of all, let me remind you that the Secretary addressed this when he was in Beijing. To go back through some of that, the sanctions were adopted on June 16 and 25 in response to transfers of P.R.C. missile technology to Pakistan. The Administration's goal was to induce Beijing to cease such transfers and to join with other ballistic missile-producing countries in adopting the missile technology control regime (MTCR) guidelines. During the Secretary's visit to Beijing last month, the Chinese agreed to adopt the MTCR guidelines and specifically acknowledged that these would apply to transfers to Syria, Iran, and Pakistan. In return, the Chinese requested that we lift the June missile sanctions. We are now awaiting further information from Beijing regarding the agreement through diplomatic channels. Once we have that, the Administration plans to take the steps necessary to lift the sanctions. With China's commitments, the June missile sanctions will have served their purpose, offering an important contribution to international peace and stability. The Administration decision affects only the package of missile sanctions adopted in June. Other U.S. sanctions adopted after the suppression of the Chinese democracy movement in 1989 and intended to encourage human rights improvements remain in effect. Moreover, U.S. law would require reintroduction of missile sanctions if China undertakes new transfers that are not consistent with the MTCR. Q Do you have a list of the sanctions still in place? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have it handy. It's something we've talked about many times, though. I just don't have a new copy. Q Richard, where does the United States stand in relation to recognition of the various entities which are emerging in Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia? MR. BOUCHER: It stands where the Secretary has repeatedly said over the course of the last few days it stands. I don't think I'm in a position to embroider or expand on that at this point. I'm sure he'll want to talk about the question when he gets back, and we'll see how events evolve. Q But specifically, do you have any comment on a column today by Evans ∧ Novak which says that President Bush tried to contact the German Government -- the German Chancellor -- and was unsuccessful to get him to delay? MR. BOUCHER: Were you asking about -- Q Evans ∧ Novak. MR. BOUCHER: Yes. But you were asking first about recognition of entities in the Soviet Union, right? Q No. I said "and Yugoslavia." MR. BOUCHER: Oh, "and Yugoslavia." No. I didn't read Evans ∧ Novak. I don't know if President Bush has tried to call Chancellor Kohl. That's something you'd have to check with the White House on. Q Richard, I have a series of questions concerning the peace conference. I'm glad I made you smile. A few weeks ago, I asked Margaret what U.S. policy was vis-a-vis a Palestinian state, and she asked me to go back to the records here and elsewhere. And in my research basically I have the President saying earlier this year that the position of the U.S. has been, and I'll repeat it here: "That a Palestinian state is not the answer." Secretary Baker said in January of '89, "We continue to believe that an independent Palestinian state will not be a source of stability or contribute to a just and enduring peace..." etc. My first question: Has the United States contemplated changing its policy vis-a-vis a Palestinian state? MR. BOUCHER: That policy is longstanding. It's firm. I'm not aware of any review of it. Q My next question would be on the same subject, if I may. It's a series here. Was the United States -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm sure I have time. Q I'll get to my point. Was the United States concerned -- MR. BOUCHER: Christmas is still 5 days away. Q No, two minutes. Was the U.S. concerned that it might do something during the negotiations that would imply de facto recognition of a Palestinian state? MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know how to answer that. The negotiations and our role were conducted under the terms of reference that were very carefully worked out. The President again yesterday described our role in that, and we have continued to act under the terms of reference that were worked out for the process that began in Madrid and under what we've called "Madrid rules" -- Q O.K. And my bottom -- MR. BOUCHER: -- as far as many of the specifics go. Q My bottom line: I asked Dr. Shafi today, and he responded in public; I asked him whether he thought the United States may be contemplating any change in its policy regarding a Palestinian state, and he said in public in effect that the United States, number one, issued a letter of assurance to the Palestinians without a date. He said there was a letter of assurance, and he said within that letter, there was a statement that the United States would change its policy toward a Palestinian state if all the parties agreed. My questions to you: Was there ever such a letter of assurance, and, if so, why would the United States have to make this kind of statement? MR. BOUCHER: The fact of the letters of assurance and the fact that there were assurances, which the Secretary often said would not be given to one party without the others' knowing about them, that's something we've talked about frequently in the past, and that's a matter of public record. I think it's also a clear matter of record from this podium that we have not talked about what might be in those letters. Q Richard, going back to the breakup of entities in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, you may have seen yesterday Boris Yeltsin declared the Soviet Foreign Ministry no longer in operation as a Soviet ministry. How does that affect how you deal with the former Soviet Union? Are you still dealing with the Soviet Foreign Ministry? MR. BOUCHER: The answer to that, Jim, I think, has to be that we're dealing with a lot of people in the Soviet Union or the former Soviet Union. We deal with the Embassy here. Our Embassy in Moscow, Consulates General in St. Petersburg and Kiev have been dealing both with central government -- Soviet Government -- officials and with officials in all the republics. We think we have maintained effective channels of communications with all the necessary officials, both here and in Moscow, and we continue to deal with a wide variety of people, depending on the issues. As for any changes in who we deal with that would imply some change in the recognition policy, at this point, you know, once they work things out and we decide issues of recognition -- some of these changes on who we can deal with on what authority, on what basis, will work themselves out as well. Q But at this moment, despite the Yeltsin announcement yesterday, you are still dealing with the Soviet Foreign Ministry? MR. BOUCHER: We deal with people in that ministry, among many, many others. You've seen the people that the Secretary met with during his visit. Our Embassy has contacts with officials in ministries at the republic level. They keep in touch with republic representatives. We have people in Kiev and St. Petersburg who work directly with the people there. So it's just a matter of doing business with a variety of people. Q I'm specifically asking about since the announcement yesterday -- not when the Secretary was there. MR. BOUCHER: To the extent that your question asked me to imply something about a recognition question, I can't do that today. Those issues remain to be settled, both in the Soviet Union and in terms of what the Secretary wants to do or talk about with the President when he comes back from his trip. In practical terms of how we do business when we have business to do, we do it with a whole variety of people. Q What about the Embassy here, though? Is the Embassy here a Russian embassy, a Soviet embassy? Are they communicating? MR. BOUCHER: As of today, the Ambassador -- Ambassador Komplektov -- is still accredited to the United States as the Ambassador of the Soviet Union. We continue to deal with him on that basis. Obviously, the changes in the Soviet Union and decisions that they make about their structure and how they want to be represented may change that. Q Richard, yesterday or perhaps it was the day before, President Bush was asked about Indonesia and East Timor. He said something to the effect that there have been lots of conversations. Can you tell us what kinds of conversations? Has there been a lot of active U.S. diplomacy toward Indonesia on this matter, and is any change being contemplated in U.S. policy toward East Timor? MR. BOUCHER: There have been a number of things going on. Our Embassy early on had people go out to East Timor to talk to officials, look at the situation. I think there was a subsequent visit as well. Our Embassy in Jakarta has been reminding Indonesian officials, as we have done here -- I know of at least several occasions -- that the important thing is to have a credible and effective impartial investigation, and that those who may have used excessive force be disciplined. And that's the basic point that we've been making. Q U.S. policy is that the U.S. accepts the annexation without having -- without accepting that an act of self-determination has taken place. I mean, can you explain how you can do both? I mean, how can the United States, on the one hand, accept the annexation and, on the other hand, say no act of self-determination has occurred? MR. BOUCHER: It's been a carefully formulated policy that I don't have with me right now. I hesitate to try to expand on it myself, frankly. Sorry. Q Do you think a credible process is underway for getting to the bottom of this? MR. BOUCHER: There is a process underway. I'm not in a position at this point to make judgments. I think we were asked about some remarks the other day that I still haven't pinned down, but I think I told you that our people that went out to East Timor had reports from several sources that there were 75 to 100 deaths. So we have information as well ourselves, and we'll just have to see what the commission produces in a way of a report when it produces it. Q Has the Russian Republic sent its diplomat here and, if so, is he working in the Soviet Embassy? MR. BOUCHER: They have had a diplomat here, I think, for some months now, and we've been dealing with him as well -- the person who is specifically dealing -- who specifically represents Russia. Q Is he working in the Soviet Embassy? MR. BOUCHER: I believe so. You'll have to check with the Soviet Embassy as to the exact location at this point. It's my understanding. But check with them. Q I have one last question, sort of on the same subject. Have the Soviets or the Russians given any indication of a change in their status as co-sponsors of the bilateral talks? MR. BOUCHER: None that I'm aware of, and the Secretary in his press conference at NATO yesterday talked about the multilaterals. Q But what I mean to say -- MR. BOUCHER: I think I said we put up a piece of paper the other day that said that we've been working with them and dealing with them throughout this series of talks that took place in Washington. Q They have had someone present here every day -- MR. BOUCHER: That's correct. Q -- for the bilaterals. MR. BOUCHER: That's correct. Q That's going to continue, as far as you know? MR. BOUCHER: I have no reason to believe that it would not. They also had Mr. Belonogov -- and I can't remember his position -- who was here during the course of the talks, and I think we told you several times that Ed Djerejian was meeting with him. Q Is there any decision yet on the venue for January 7? MR. BOUCHER: Our understanding is that all of the parties have agreed to resume during the week of January 6. The location of that has not been decided. Q But will the U.S. decide the location? MR. BOUCHER: We haven't made any proposals. Q Any change regarding the multilateral talks in Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: No. The Secretary talked about it yesterday at NATO. Q Thank you. MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 1:20 p.m.)