US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #190, Monday, 12/23/91

Snyder Source: Press Office Director Joseph Snyder Description: 12:45 PM, Washington, DC Date: Dec 23, 199112/23/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, E/C Europe Country: USSR (former), Haiti, Lebanon, North Korea, Yugoslavia (former), Hungary, Libya, Cambodia, Cyprus, Taiwan, France, United Kingdom, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Georgia Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Terrorism, Democratization, Development/Relief Aid, Trade/Economics, Military Affairs, OAS (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. SNYDER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have no other announcements other than to wish you all a Merry Christmas on behalf of the Press Office. I'll be happy to take your questions. Q Haiti apparently has a new Prime Minister, according to reports from Port-au-Prince. Do you have anything on that? MR. SNYDER: Yes, George. This seems to be a step toward a negotiated solution in Haiti, a goal the United States strongly supports. We hope a developing consensus around President Aristide's candidate for Prime Minister will lead to a quick movement toward a negotiated solution. Q Are you making preparations for lifting the embargo? MR. SNYDER: At the moment, we still feel that the embargo is a necessary tool to encourage a negotiated solution in Haiti. As those in power in Haiti give more evidence that they're interested in a negotiated solution, OAS member states, including the United States, can re-evaluate the embargo. I would remind you that the embargo does not bar the import of staple food and medicine, and the OAS is organizing a program of humanitarian assistance. Q You don't have any particular observation about the individual who was selected to be Prime Minister? He's a long-time head of the Haitian Communist Party and an ally of Fidel Castro. MR. SNYDER: No other observation than what I've said. Q Joe, do you have any reaction to the events in Georgia over the weekend? MR. SNYDER: Yes, John. Our position, as originally expressed by Secretary Baker on September 4, is that political and other disputes should be resolved peacefully and in a manner consistent with internationally recognized human rights practices and principles. We've called on both the Georgian Government and the opposition to observe these principles in resolving their dispute. According to press reports, armed violence between government and opposition forces is taking place in the streets in Tibilisi, Georgia's capital. Several people have been reported killed. Q Does the State Department have any observation on the tendencies of the elected Government of Georgia? Does it feel that it is a democratic government, for example? MR. SNYDER: We find that President Gamsakhurdia's record on commitment to democratic principles and internationally recognized human rights is poor. We have formally expressed to him our concern about this. Q This morning North Korean Foreign Ministry said that if you declare clearly that you have no nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula, they are ready to sign the international nuclear safeguards agreement. Do you think that the statement is just another pretext to evade their international responsibility or some kind of concession that they are drawing near to sign that agreement? MR. SNYDER: I think we've made our position on this subject clear many times in the past, and we continue to view North Korea's refusal to sign and implement a safeguards agreement with concern. North Korea has no pretext to continue to do so. Q Follow-up, please? The North Korean Government wants direct talks with the U.S. Government to discuss the nuclear situation on the Korean Peninsula. What's your comment on that? MR. SNYDER: We do engage in direct talks with the North Korean Government through our political counselors in Beijing. Q So if you think -- with regard to this statement that suggests another pretext to evade the international responsibility, then when and are you going to initiate a second step of initial action -- substantial action, some kind of U.N. resolution, to impose economic sanctions, etc.? MR. SNYDER: I don't believe I said that North Korea's statement was just a pretext. I said that there is no pretext for them to continue to refuse to sign and implement a safeguard's agreement. We have already spoken very clearly on our position on the subject. Q There were some reports over the weekend that the United States is going to initiate the diplomatic recognition of at least some of the former Soviet republics by the end of the year. Are these reports accurate, and can you give some sort of timetable for the recognition? MR. SNYDER: I can say only -- basically to repeat what was said at the White House this morning. The President is in the process of consulting with the Secretary of State on his trip. The President's decisions on recognition will be announced in due course. Marlin [Fitzwater] said at the White House today that such decisions will come "relatively soon," and I can't add anything to that. Q May I ask you about the recognition of the Yugoslav republics? German has recognized Slovenia and Croatia today. Austria and some other countries are expected to follow them soon. The EC is expected to follow them by mid-January. Does that change the position of the United States in some way? MR. SNYDER: Our position has not changed. We will be consulting with the EC and its members about their approach, but our position remains unchanged. Q Would you restate that position on the record, please? MR. SNYDER: I'll be happy to. We are prepared to accept any outcome that is chosen peacefully, democratically, and through a process of negotiation. Q Excuse me. I'm very sorry to ask again. Could you elaborate your position? You said that you have maintained -- you have said many times and still -- until now still North Korea does not accept that statement as a clear declaration that you have no nuclear weapon in the peninsula. MR. SNYDER: Richard [Boucher] said last week that we welcome President Roh's statement of December 18, calling on North Korea to join the Republic of Korea in taking steps to eliminate the possibility of nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula. We have supported President Roh's earlier call for a non-nuclear peninsula, and we are prepared to cooperate with his plan for mutual inspections to verify the absence of nuclear weapons and of reprocessing and enrichment facilities. Q Joe, to go back to Georgia a moment: Is the United States prepared to do anything to try to bring about an end to the fighting there other than to simply call on all parties to resolve their dispute peacefully? I'm thinking not of direct military action or intervention, of course, but of any kind of sanctions. MR. SNYDER: I'm not aware of any sanctions. We are basically right now encouraging the parties to show restraint and to act in accordance with the principles that the Secretary outlined in September. Q Do you have anything on Higgins -- the return of the Higgins body, and where do we go from here? MR. SNYDER: Connie, a body was turned over to the American University Hospital in Beirut on Sunday morning, and an anonymous caller claimed it was that of Lieutenant Colonel Higgins. Local medical officials have preliminarily identified the body as that of Lieutenant Colonel Higgins. We are arranging for the body to be flown to Dover Air Force Base for formal official identification. We expect the remains to arrive tomorrow in Dover. We want to express our appreciation to the U.N., the ICRC, and the American University Hospital, all of whom have been exceedingly helpful. We continue to support the efforts of the U.N. Secretary General to gain the release of the two remaining German hostages and to secure the return of the remains of William Buckley, Alberto Molinari, and Alec Collett. We also support the release of all those held outside the legal system in the region and an accounting for all of the missing, including Ron Arad. Q Joe, were American officials in Beirut involved in the, I guess, tentative identification of this body? MR. SNYDER: My information is that the local medical officials were, and I don't know specifically whether there were Americans. I'm not sure we have medical officials in Beirut in the normal course of events, but I don't know specifically. Would you like me to see if we can find out? We were certainly involved in securing the remains and arranging for their transport, of course. But in terms of the identification, I don't know the answer to that question. Q Any indications as to how and when he died? There was a dispute, of course, as to whether he was killed much earlier than the time his kidnappers claimed to have executed him. MR. SNYDER: I'm not aware of any new information resulting from the preliminary work. Q Do you have anything on the GATT talks? Where we are on the GATT situation? MR. SNYDER: No, but USTR has been talking about it quite extensively, and I would refer you to them. Q Some British and French officials were in Washington over the weekend, I understand, to talk about the Lockerbie bombing and possible sanctions against Libya. What is the result of those talks? Are they still going on -- the status? MR. SNYDER: Those talks are part of continuing consultations. The consultations do continue, yes. Specific results, I don't have anything for you. Q An Armenian terrorist organization, ASALA, 6 years later, they started shooting again -- the Turkish diplomat in Budapest. Do you have anything about that? MR. SNYDER: Yes. On December 19, in Budapest, unknown assailants fired several rounds at a car carrying Bedrettin Tunabas, the Turkish Ambassador to Hungary. Fortunately, the Ambassador, his security guard, and his driver all escaped injury. The attack was reportedly claimed by ASALA -- that is, the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia. We condemn this brutal and cowardly attack and are pleased the Ambassador was not injured. Q Do you see any conflict with this Armenian republic? They asked for friendship with Turkey, and ASALA is trying to attack Turkish targets. Do you have anything about that subject? MR. SNYDER: I'm not aware that ASALA and the Armenian republic have any direct connections, so I would have no comment. Q Do you have any reaction to the attack on a busload of Soviet Jews, and any indication as to who may have been responsible? MR. SNYDER: No. We've just seen preliminary reports on that and don't have anything on responsibility. Of course, we deplore the attack. It's the sort of thing that shouldn't be happening in the world today. Q Has the United States now heard formally from Israel that they will return to peace talks in Washington the week of January 6? MR. SNYDER: We've seen a statement attributed to the Transportation Minister, but we don't have anything official from Israel yet. Q What about some of the Arab countries? MR. SNYDER: The other parties have said they would come to Washington, and everyone has agreed on resuming the talks on the week of January 6. Q Do you have anything on a date for the conference on aid to the former Soviet Union yet? MR. SNYDER: Not yet. No. The White House will announce that. Q Do you have any comment on the elections in Taiwan? MR. SNYDER: Yes. The National Assembly elections were an important milestone in Taiwan's political reform process. We are pleased that they were held in an open and democratic fashion which promotes continued peace and stability in the region. Q Does the State Department see any significance in the election results in terms of Taiwan's internal debate over the issue of independence versus unification with the Chinese mandate? MR. SNYDER: I would rather not do an analysis from the podium of that. I think there's been plenty of analysis and commentary in the public media. We don't have anything specific to say about that. Q Joe, what is the official U.S. State Department nomenclature for what was the Soviet Union? MR. SNYDER: I've seen used from this podium and elsewhere the "former Soviet Union." We have welcomed the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The process is sorting itself out. I don't think there's anything definitive at the moment. Q What about the status of Robert Strauss? What is he now? MR. SNYDER: He is our Ambassador to what was the territory of the Soviet Union, the people there. He and his staff are actively engaged in carrying on bilateral relations with the republics, as we have been for many, many months. The nature of those relations have changed over time and have become more intense as our relations with the center has become less intense over time. Q What about the former Soviet Embassy in Washington? Have you been notified about the status? Is it going to be a Russian embassy, or what? MR. SNYDER: I don't know if we've been notified. I didn't ask that question. We will deal with the Embassy as, of course, we will deal with the entire evolving situation in that area. Q Joe, has the State Department or any official of the State Department been in touch with President Gorbachev or an aide of his regarding the subject of his speech tonight? MR. SNYDER: Not that I'm aware of. Q Do you have something on a reported attempted coup in Libya last November? It's reported by the daily al-Hayat. It's London-based. MR. SNYDER: I'm sorry, I don't. Q The Secretary General, Perez de Cuellar, last Friday, he submitted his last report on the Cyprus issue to the Security Council. Do you share his last report [inaudible] and this problem? MR. SNYDER: I'm sorry, I am not personally aware of his report, and I do not have any comment on it. Q Do you have something to say about the Cambodian situation? MR. SNYDER: Yes. On the evening of December 21, there were demonstrations in Phnom Penh which turned violent. There were reports that as many as 10 persons were killed. Prince Sihanouk issued a public appeal for calm, and a nighttime curfew was imposed. We've heard that the demonstrations were sparked by growing public anger over corruption in Phnom Penh. There are also reports of anti-Khmer Rouge sentiment as well. The U.N. settlement process can proceed only under conditions of peace and security. We call on all the members of the Supreme National Council to implement scrupulously the settlement agreement, respect the human and political rights of all Cambodians, and ensure that their security forces and parties avoid any resort to violence. We've been encouraged by the durability of the current cease-fire being observed by the U.N. advance mission in Cambodia. We expect the U.N. will do all it can to accelerate deployment of the full U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia early in the new year. We are confident that the U.N. settlement process will create conditions for free and fair elections that will permit formation of a new government responding to the aspirations of the Cambodian people. Q It seems very difficult that the demonstrations -- the people are against both the Khmer Rouge and the Hun Sen government of the incumbent [inaudible] government. So what might be the solution to that kind of difficult situation? MR. SNYDER: The immediate solution is for all parties involved to ensure that their security forces avoid any resort to violence. We need to have a situation of peace and security before the very difficult process of reconciliation goes forward. Q Do you have a schedule to have a general election at the moment? MR. SNYDER: That is something you might check with the U.N. on. It's a U.N. program. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 1:04 p.m.)