US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #191, Friday, 12/27/91

Snyder Source: Press Office Director John Snyder Description: 1:09 PM, Washington, DC Date: Dec 27, 199112/27/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, Caribbean, East Asia Country: USSR (former), Haiti, Lebanon, Iran, South Korea, Indonesia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Sudan Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Terrorism, Democratization, Human Rights, State Department, Regional/Civil Unrest, Nuclear Nonproliferation, POW/MIA Issues, Refugees (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. SNYDER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sorry for the delay. I have no statements. I'll be happy to take your questions. Q The release of the remains of Mr. Higgins -- does this close the book on the hostage situation? MR. SNYDER: The release of the remains of Mr. Higgins and Mr. Buckley -- Q Buckley. MR. SNYDER: -- do represent an important step in this unfortunate saga. However, we will 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 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 Do you have any details on Buckley's case? MR. SNYDER: His remains were discovered in south Beirut this morning and were brought to the American University hospital in Beirut. Local medical officials have preliminarily identified the remains as those of William Buckley. We are now arranging for the remains to be flown to Dover Air Force Base for formal, official identification. I would like to add that we wish to express our appreciation to the U.N., the International Committee for the Red Cross and the American University hospital, all of whom have been exceedingly helpful in this case and in the case of Mr. Higgins' remains. Q Do you have an ETA on the -- at Dover? MR. SNYDER: It's sometime tomorrow. I don't have a time. Q Do you have any comment on a column that was in The New York Times -- I think it was the Times -- alleging that the Iranians and Hezbollah have planned a new round of terrorism against the United States around the world? MR. SNYDER: No, I don't. I don't have anything on that. We don't normally comment on columns, if they're editorial opinion. Patrick? Q About the same column: It says that you are preparing a deal with Iran to compensate for the victims of the Vincennes. Has your offer changed at all? You were offering to compensate the families via a third intermediary and not the government. MR. SNYDER: Our position, as far as I know, remains unchanged on that; the offer, as we have extended it in the past, does remain. Q (Inaudible) -- on the question of the hostages. There's concern for the Germans as well as others, but will this close the chapter for the U.S.? MR. SNYDER: No, it doesn't close the chapter. As I said, we are continuing to support the U.N. Secretary General in his efforts, we want to see the release of the two remaining German hostages, we want to see the return of remains, and we want to see the release of all those who are held outside the legal system in the region, including the Israeli, Ron Arad. So I would not call it closed as far as we are concerned. Q The South Korean Government demanded North Korea to sign the nuclear safeguard agreement not later than January 15. Concerning that deadline, did you have some prior discussions between the South Korean Government and yours? MR. SNYDER: Concerning the whole question of the talks between North and South Korea which are going on right now, a meeting was held yesterday in Panmunjom. The talks are not completed, and they will resume on December 28, tomorrow. We would really prefer to defer any comment on that subject until these discussions are completed and the results are made more clear. Q Do you have any comment on the release of the Indonesian report on the Dili massacre? MR. SNYDER: Yes, I do. We have seen a press release based on this preliminary report. We believe the Commission has taken a serious and responsible approach. We've just now gotten the full text of the Commission's preliminary report, and we want to study it before we offer a further assessment. This report is the beginning of a lengthy process to deal fully with what happened in East Timor. There are aspects of the report which will require follow-up by the Indonesian judicial system. We understand that a spokesman for the Indonesian military has accepted the report and has said that some members of the military would be tried because of their involvement in the November 12 incident. We are continuing to follow the Indonesian Government's reaction to the Commission's report, and we consider it crucial to see how the Indonesian legal system will deal with those members of the security forces who used or condoned excessive force. Q The figures quoted in this report -- which I understand it's a preliminary report -- do they match the results of the commission of investigation that the U.S. Government sent from the Embassy in Jakarta immediately after the incident? MR. SNYDER: The report, as I understand it, talks about 50 people killed, but it also mentioned there were other reports of up to 100. This is mentioned in the Indonesian report. Our information, based on our visit soon after the incident, suggested that the range was closer to 100, but the report does reflect that same sort of information that we received. Q Do you have any update on the Lockerbie talks or comment on Qadhafi's invitation for a Western judge to go over? MR. SNYDER: On the Lockerbie talks, I presume you mean the -- Q U.S.-British-French. MR. SNYDER: -- U.S.-British-French. The last round of those talks was held here last week. They will continue. They haven't resumed. As for Qadhafi, in the joint U.S.-U.K. declaration of November 27 on this subject we stated that Libya must surrender for trial all those charged with the crime related to Pan Am 103. The United States and the United Kingdom have jurisdiction in this case. We expect Libya to comply promptly and in full. Q What is our position on Georgia, and are there circumstances that would cause it to change? MR. SNYDER: We have, as I said here on Monday, serious concerns about the human rights record of the Gamsakhurdia Government and about the armed violence in Tbilisi between government and opposition forces. We have called on and continue to call on both the Georgian Government and the opposition to resolve their dispute peacefully and in a manner consistent with internationally recognized human rights principles. All of this has been factored into the President's decision not to establish diplomatic relations with Georgia at this time. But, as the President said, our view, our position, on the establishment of diplomatic relations with Georgia will depend upon its adherence to certain principles which were outlined by the Secretary of State on September 4 and subsequently. Q Did Gamsakhurdia give some new assurances or say that he was wanting to explain things further as late as yesterday or today? MR. SNYDER: I'm not personally aware of such new assurances, no. Q On the same subject, are you familiar with the complaint by Georgian authorities about the paragraph in the Secretary's speech at Princeton in which he criticized the authoritarian tendencies in Georgia? MR. SNYDER: I am familiar with that, and I really wouldn't want to dignify it with a response. Q Is there any concern also that some of the other Republics might now be leaning toward use of violence, particularly Azerbaijan? I think there is a concern by the U.S. Government of its arming itself. MR. SNYDER: We have said, certainly, in all of the Republics that we would expect that the evolution of their political situation -- in their evolution, they would respect various principles that were outlined by the Secretary of State; and avoiding violence is certainly one of those principles -- respect for human rights practices and so forth. Q Have you sent -- have you taken any steps toward establishing diplomatic relations with Byelorussia and Ukraine? MR. SNYDER: Yes. We have recognized now all 12 former Republics as independent sovereign states. The President's official statement of this fact on December 25 establishes this as the policy of the United States Government. As for diplomatic relations, President Bush has sent letters to the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Byelarus and Kyrgyzstan, expressing the desire of the United States Government to conduct diplomatic relations with these states. Diplomatic relations will be fully established when we receive an affirmative response. Q Are you expecting many of them to set up full embassies here in Washington? How are you expecting the relations to go? I mean, obviously it's going to be tenuous for a while. MR. SNYDER: We are obviously in a process of transition. We will be dealing with all of these countries in a practical way. In terms of what they expect to do in the future, I think your question is really best directed at them. Q Can I ask on Georgia again? Is Georgia the only one of the six to which we don't extend diplomatic relations, on which human rights is the concern, and then the other five are -- is it just a matter of security principles that we're holding back? MR. SNYDER: The President has said that our attitude toward the other six Republics -- those whom we have not offered to conduct diplomatic relations with -- will depend on their adherence to a range of different principles. I don't want to go into each one on a case-by-case basis, but I would not really limit any one of those principles to any one of the states. Q I'm trying to see if you can say that Georgia has the worst record on human rights -- the most concerns on human rights. MR. SNYDER: We have concerns about Georgia's human rights record. I don't want to really get into making comparisons. Q Yesterday a press research institute named "Accuracy in Media" had a press conference and strongly urged both the United States and the Korean Government not to recognize the Russian Republic until they disclose all the information concerning Korean Air 007 accident, which was destroyed in 1983; and they maintained that still there are a lot of possibilities that survivors are still alive and detained in a certain locale alongside the Soviet-Chinese border. So recently, also, some Soviet newspaper, like Izvestia, disclosed that they have obtained the black box; and that was approached just one week ago. And there are a lot of newer material which has been found that the airplane has not destroyed from the (inaudible) immediately and that they've tried. They proved these terrible meanings at the altimeter over l0,000 feet. That means there was a big possibility that the airplane landed smoothly -- some place on the seashore. So do you have any comment on that matter? MR. SNYDER: I'm not aware of this "Accuracy in Media" report. This is the first I've heard of it -- your mentioning it here. I can say that there are a whole range of issues with the Russian Federation that we need to work with, in light of the changes there and in the other Republics, and I think the best way to deal with these issues under the new circumstances is to recognize these governments and proceed to deal with them and not to withhold recognition of their independence for reasons like this. Q Also in the press conference, it was actually a joint conference between "Accuracy in Media" and the Korean War Veterans Association. The Korean War Veterans Association maintained that there are 400 U.S. GIs who were transported to the Soviet Union in l950 or '5l. The driver confessed to that matter. However, both the United States and any government did not track the 400 U.S. soldiers. So the U.S. Government should demand or order the new Republic to discuss all the material concerning that 400 U.S. GIs which was transported to the Soviet Union also. MR. SNYDER: The question of our POWs and MIAs who may be in the Soviet Union from World War II, from the Korean War, and from the Vietnam War is very high on our agenda. It was in our discussions with the former Government of the Soviet Union and in our discussions with various Republics. It will remain on our agenda. It's a serious question, and it's one we're going to continue to pursue actively with the new governments. Q Thank you. Q Last week, Secretary Baker indicated that he planned to send technical experts to the Soviet Union to help them dismantle their nuclear facilities. When are those people going, how many are going, where are they going, and what are they going to do? MR. SNYDER: Jack, I'm not sure I can be as specific as you'd like. We are making plans for a delegation, headed by Under Secretary Reginald Bartholomew, to visit the relevant states of the new Commonwealth early in the new year to discuss issues related to the storage, destruction and other disposition of nuclear weapons. We are, right now, discussing modalities related to the visit -- dates, timing, and agenda -- with these states, but decisions have not yet been made; and we will keep you informed. Q The states that are relevant are four Republics, is that correct? Are you going to any others? MR. SNYDER: I'm not aware that we're going to others. Those are the four states -- Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, and Byelarus. Q And this group supposedly comprises the technical experts that the U.S. was going to send to help with these issues? It sounds like a political delegation. MR. SNYDER: There will be technical experts in the delegation. Q In the delegation. Q On the other meeting that's to take place regarding the Soviet Union, the aid conference -- have you anything to announce on that? MR. SNYDER: No, nothing new. Q Joe, your statement on diplomatic relations. As you said, it will be fully established when you receive a response. Does that mean you haven't received a response from Russia, and technically Ambassador Strauss is still not Ambassador to Russia? MR. SNYDER: We have not received a response to the President's letter. I suppose you could say, yes, technically, there's something of a gap there; but, as I said, we're trying to deal with the new situation on a practical basis. The Russians, the members of the other Republics, are as well; and we're certainly able to operate before we have all of the "t's" crossed and the "i's" dotted. Q Nuclear weapons. The four Republics are constantly mentioned. Does that mean that the other Republics have no nuclear weapons in their soil right now that will have been brought back to the four Republics? MR. SNYDER: Our best understanding of the situation is that there are no nuclear weapons in those four Republics. Q You mean the other eight Republics? MR. SNYDER: I'm sorry. In the other Republics. Only those four Republics have the nuclear weapons, yes. Q What was the basic motivation for the United States to immediately and automatically recognize the independence of all of the Soviet Republics instead of a selective approach? MR. SNYDER: Because we see as a practical matter that they all are independent, and we acknowledge that. Q Will that reflect on recognizing emerging republics elsewhere? MR. SNYDER: It is our response to the situation in the former Soviet Union, and we will look at other situations on a case-by-case basis and look at what is involved in those situations. Q There are a number of ongoing disputes between the former Soviet Republics, particularly between the Ukraine and Russia, having to do with the breakup of the military and economic reforms. Is the U.S. Government concerned that the ongoing problems could lead to any deterioration in the situation there? MR. SNYDER: I think we'd just rather not get into disputes that might be going on between the various Republics. It is a time of transition. The President has expressed himself on the subject of what a time of transition is like, and I would leave it with what the President said. Q The economic reforms will be starting as early as next week in Russia, and that can have an impact in the other Republics. Is there any view on what that can do to the situation in the Commonwealth? MR. SNYDER: That could have an impact on the Commonwealth, as the President himself said yesterday. Q Do you have any more details today than the State Department had yesterday on what, if anything, is being done -- especially about the Kurdish situation with winter coming on -- the Kurdish refugees story? MR. SNYDER: No, I'm sorry; I don't have anything here. The U.N. is certainly well-seized with that problem. There is a rather massive winterization program that the U.N. is putting into effect, and my understanding is that the current numbers of people who are displaced by the situation in Iraq -- with those numbers, the U.N. feels capable of handling the situation right now. Q Yes, do you have any comment on the January conference as to whether Europe is going to attend, with regard to aid to the Soviet Union? MR. SNYDER: I've got nothing further to announce on that conference. Q Do you have any views on the recent visit of the Iranian President to Sudan? Have you asked Khartoum for clarifications on the kind of agreements they signed with Iran, and can you confirm reports that Revolutionary Guards are now training people in Sudan? MR. SNYDER: I don't have anything right now, but I'll see if I can get something for you. Q Thank you. MR. SNYDER: Thank you. (The briefing concluded at l:3l p.m.)