US Department of State Daily Press Briefing #192, Monday, 12/30/91

Boucher Source: State Department Deputy Spokesman Richard Boucher Description: 12:19 PM, Washington, DC Date: Dec 30, 199112/30/91 Category: Briefings Region: MidEast/North Africa, Eurasia, Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Subsaharan Africa, Central America Country: USSR (former), Haiti, Lebanon, South Africa, Vietnam, El Salvador, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan Subject: Mideast Peace Process, Terrorism, Democratization, Human Rights, Immigration, Refugees, Development/Relief Aid, Travel, United Nations (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR BOUCHER: Well, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the last briefing of 1991. Just a reminder that the briefing schedule this week will be the same as last week: We will brief today, Monday; and we'll brief again on Friday. We'll leave you alone on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. We'll have the Press Office staffed up and open for business, obviously, on Tuesday and Thursday. Wednesday is a holiday. I don't have any other statements or announcements, so I'd be glad to take your questions. George? Q Three human rights groups have issued a report alleging that there are systematic abuses of human rights in Haiti. I just wonder what your own impression of the situation there is. MR. BOUCHER: George, I hadn't seen those reports, so I'm not exactly familiar with what you're referring to. The specific issue that we address in considering claims for asylum is whether the individual has a plausible claim to fear of persecution. Our information at this point is that we have no evidence that people are persecuted for being sent back to Haiti. Our people have monitored the returnees, have monitored the process of returns, and we have not seen any such evidence at this point. Q Refugees aside, do you have any analysis at all of the degree to which the military authorities in Haiti are repressing their people? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any new analysis for you on that, George. Q Richard, following up on that, one of the people with this group said this morning that that claim that you just made -- that no one has been persecuted for being returned -- is not true. They say groups that have returned have been interrogated and fingerprinted; and, furthermore, they say the person in the Embassy who was responsible for monitoring human rights violations has left Haiti as a non-essential personnel. MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not familiar, Ted, with the particular reports that you're dealing with. Let me see if I can get you some sort of reaction or rundown as we examine those and see what the claims are. Embassy officials have monitored the arrival of returnees. There were 132 Haitians that went from Guantanamo back to Haiti last Friday voluntarily. There were another 85 who returned at their request from Guantanamo to Haiti this morning. We don't have a report yet on this morning's arrivals. We do know that the return on Friday took place without incident. And as I said before, we've received no reports to date of persecution of any of the Haitians who have returned voluntarily or of those who were returned in November. That's the situation as we know it. We do have an Embassy there. Obviously they're short on staff, but one of their jobs is to keep in touch not only as people return but to keep in touch with the other humanitarian organizations that operate in Haiti, keep in touch with the Red Cross, keep in touch with -- I forget what the Catholic organization is. But they're in close touch with a lot of groups there to see what the situation is. Q If I could just ask a related question. Over the weekend, Human Rights Watch issued a lengthy report, world report, in which they claim that the Bush Administration has downgraded human rights. I wonder if you have a response to that? MR. BOUCHER: This is a report that comes to approximately 650 pages. Our people have been able to look through it but haven't read it in every single detail at this point. It appears to be similar to the approach taken in reports by Human Rights Watch in the past. We respect the work of non-governmental organizations on human rights. They've done an excellent job in alerting the general public to human rights abuses and in raising concerns with governments. For our part, the Administration has used various options, including public criticism when it's warranted, in order to achieve the curtailment and ultimately an end to human rights abuses. The President, the Secretary of State, and the entire Administration are deeply committed to the cause of human rights. Our objective is to get people unjustly imprisoned set free, for practices of extrajudicial killing and torture to end, and for fundamental freedoms to be respected. We work to attain these goals and will continue to do so using whatever means -- public or private -- which can best achieve these goals that we all seek. Q Do you have a list -- a number -- on Haitians who have returned voluntarily to Haiti? MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Let me do that in the context of the overall update on statistics. New information as of this morning is that there were 380 Haitians who have been picked up since Friday, 366 on Friday and 14 on Saturday. No pickups on Sunday, according to the information that we have available this morning. The total number of Haitian boat people picked up since the coup is 8,200. There were 22 who returned voluntarily from Guantanamo on December 19. There were 132 Haitians who returned voluntarily from Guantanamo to Haiti on Friday, December 27. As I said, a further 85 returned at their request this morning. This brings the total number of voluntary returnees from both third country safehavens and Guantanamo to 416. That's 177 from third countries and 239 from Guantanamo. As far as interviews, there are 7,511 Haitians who have been interviewed thus far. Of these, 1,658 -- that's about 20 percent still -- have been found to have a plausible claim to asylum. There are 101 more of these people who left Guantanamo for the United States on Friday to pursue their claims to asylum. That brings the total number of those already in the United States to 313. Q Do you have sort of a summary of what the plausible claim was found to be? Is it political persecution, or are there other bases that have been found plausible in many cases? MR. BOUCHER: You mean what the findings were? You're aware of the general definition of a well-founded fear of persecution for political/religious beliefs, membership in an ethnic minority -- things such as that? There's a standard thing that we've read before. Q -- on that category? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any way at this point of categorizing specific individuals or generalizing about -- you want to know how many are political, how many are religious, how many are ethnic minority? I think by and large it relates to political beliefs. Q I was just wondering if the State Department has a yardstick as to a percentage of plausible claims for political persecution when it concludes that, indeed, the situation is such that people returning have a plausible reason to fear they will be disadvantaged, they will be punished for political reasons, or that they're leaving for political reasons? In other words, you got up to 20 percent already, and the State Department's position still is that these people are basically leaving because of economic reasons or other reasons; that it's not a political situation. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think that's what we've said, Barry. I think -- Q Well, you've begun to move but not quite very fast. MR. BOUCHER: In terms of majorities and percentages, yes, that is the situation. These are individual interviews with individuals to determine whether, on an individual case-by-case basis the person has a reason, a well-founded reason, to fear persecution. We have seen no generalized persecution of people who have gone back. We recognize the hardships of life in Haiti right now. We continue to support the efforts of the OAS to reverse the effects of the coup and restore constitutional government. That, in the long run, is what's going to restore the kind of stability and prosperity to Haiti that those people so desperately need. There are people leaving Haiti. We interview them. We see if individuals have this well-founded claim; and if they have a plausible claim, we accept them to be brought to the United States to pursue that claim. Q Richard, you just said that you had no indication of generalized persecution among those who've returned to Haiti. Earlier you said, as I recall, there was no evidence that people were persecuted for being sent back to Haiti. Are you amending your -- MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to draw a distinction there. The point is that we don't have any reports that people that we've sent back, either voluntarily or those who went back in November, have been persecuted. Q You were talking about coming and going categories, weren't you? In other words, the people who have made plausible claims are people who left. The question is whether they left for political reasons. You were dealing earlier with those who go back and whether they face persecution. So there are two sort of similar categories, aren't there? You can't find a pattern yet? MR. BOUCHER: It's not a distinction that I've been drawing, Barry. We interview individuals to determine whether, if those individuals were sent back, they have a well-founded fear of persecution. That relates to the prospect that certain individuals might be sent back. Individuals whom we feel might face that persecution are not sent back to Haiti. They're brought to the United States where they can pursue their claims to asylum. Individuals who did not have that plausible claim, some were returned in November. Others have returned voluntarily, and I've given you the report on that. Those individuals have gone back to Haiti, and we have no reports that they've been persecuted once they've gone back. Q My problem is, it's hard for me to imagine a multiplicity of such individual claims where the U.S. Government itself has found plausible reason to fear political persecution, and still this government being unable to see a pattern of persecution. It's as if each individual has a particular -- there's a particular sergeant who doesn't like him rather than a political climate that you seem to find the root problem here. I can't put it together in my head. MR. BOUCHER: It brings us back to the question of -- Q You know, individual claims could mean 10, 20 people in an unfortunate circumstance -- a personal grudge. But if nearly 20 percent of the people who come here are judged by the U.S. Government as having a plausible fear of persecution, it looks like a pattern of persecution that isn't very individual, that's sort of systemic. That's my problem. MR. BOUCHER: I guess I see what you're saying there. The point is that some people apparently do have a well-founded fear of persecution were they to go back. By and large that has not been true in the interviews that we've found. Some 80 percent don't appear to have that fear. The facts of those who we have sent back or who have gone back voluntarily seem to bear out that decision that the screening process is working, since we have sent back people who don't appear to have a plausible claim and to the best of our knowledge those people have not in fact been persecuted once they've gone back. We haven't sent back those who appear to have a well-founded claim, so we haven't sent them out to test whether they're going to be persecuted. Q Is there any kind of general profile of the 20 percent who have been found to have a well-founded fear of persecution? For instance, are they people who were active in some kind of opposition movement or people who had taken part in demonstrations? Is there any kind of -- can you give us any kind of pattern about that 20 percent that you did decide? MR. BOUCHER: That's kind of what I was asked before. I don't have that for you. I'll see if that's possible. The screening is done by INS, so I'm not sure at what point we can generalize about it. Q Has the Embassy been asked, or will you ask the Embassy, to look into the claims of the human rights organizations that in fact you're not correct in what you're saying and some people who have been sent back have been interrogated, fingerprinted, harassed, whatever? Has there been any request to the Embassy to look into those claims? MR. BOUCHER: It's something that the Embassy has as part of their brief that they continue to follow. As I said, they've continued to be in touch with the Red Cross, with other organizations in Haiti, people who can extend their resources and keep track of things where the Embassy is not staffed up to be able to do it. So it's something that they do on a constant basis, and we're constantly back and forth with the Embassy on this issue. There was one incident of a set of people who went back and were held for several hours at a police station. I think we reported to you on that a couple weeks ago. But in terms of fingerprinting or detention, that's the only thing that I'm aware of. Q The allegation -- you were asked before, and you said there were people in the Embassy who look after human rights. But is that allegation correct that a specific individual specifically charged with human rights has been sent home as extraneous? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know who exactly is there now, Barry. We have drawn down our staff. I think we cut it approximately in half from what was there before. Certainly it's not an easy situation for us to maintain an Embassy in, and it's not a situation where we want to have too many people down there. At the same time, as I said, whatever specific individuals are at our Embassy, part of our Embassy's function right now is to monitor the developments there, to keep track of political developments and economic developments; and they regularly report back to us on the situation. They have been able to have people on the scene when groups of Haitians have been returned to Haiti. They have been able to observe the returns, to see what was happening. They've been able to intervene in this case where some people were shipped off to a police station. They've been able to intervene, and they and other groups made sure that these people were able to go home. So it's something that the Embassy has been doing, whatever the individuals involved. Q Can I ask you about something else? Q One more on Haiti. Richard, normally you refer us to the INS on this question. But of the 300-plus who have been now in the United States for some time, having been found to have plausible claims -- and I guess they're now a few hundred more on their way -- what has happened to any of those cases? Have any of them progressed further than that stage? MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd rather continue to refer you to the INS, Chris. Q I don't want to know names and so on, but you've been so painstaking in all the numbers of who went where and so on. It would just be interesting to know, have they just sort of reached a dead-end and they sit in Miami, or does something further happen? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I would suggest you check with the INS. Q May I ask you a question on Haiti? The reason the Haitians are stuck on the high seas is because if they set foot in the United States by law then they will have to be -- they have to go through a process, legal process, that's about four years long to determine whether they do qualify for political asylum or not. So the reason to keep them outside is so that they don't have that right. And my question is why is INS handling that instead of State Department? MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, the reason that people are picked up on the high seas is because it's very dangerous, and people who remain on the high seas die. Therefore the Coast Guard is engaged in an effort to rescue people who are in oftentimes rickety boats in danger of floundering, and to pick them up and to give them -- take them to safety. The reason that INS takes charge of the people who have been found to have a plausible claim to asylum when they're brought to the United States is because that's what INS does. Q Do you have anything on two Vietnamese U.S. citizens being detained, please? MR. BOUCHER: These are two people who were arrested in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Government has confirmed to us that Robert Lam was arrested on October 9 and that Jiang Pham was arrested on November 22 in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Government says they're being held for fraud and misappropriation of state property. As you know, we don't have diplomatic or consular relations with Vietnam. Consequently, we're not in a position to accord normal consular protective services to U.S. citizens who are in Vietnam. However, nonetheless we have repeatedly requested through U.N. officials and the Vietnamese Embassy in Bangkok that the Vietnamese Government provide information and access regarding these men. We've consistently stated our concerns about their welfare. To date, the Vietnamese Government has confirmed the arrest but has not informed us of where the men are being detained. Vietnamese officials have also provided no response to our frequent requests that officials from our orderly departure program be granted access to the men. We are in regular touch with the families of both men. Q When you say "confirmed," they didn't volunteer. It was in response to U.S. inquiries -- or do you know? MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q And do you have any idea where they're being kept? MR. BOUCHER: No. Q I think one is supposed to be at some counter-subversion camp. MR. BOUCHER: I don't. The information we have from the Vietnamese Government is confirmation that these men have been arrested, but they have not told us where the men are being detained. Q Can I ask about the nicety? I mean, is it an arrest? Have they been charged with anything? Are you saying "arrest" in the -- you know, "detained"? I mean, do you happen to know? MR. BOUCHER: Again, the word I'm using is "arrested," and they've told us that they're being held on charges of fraud and misappropriation of state property. Q On the subject of missing Americans, are there two missing Americans in Iraq now? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. There were two American businessmen in Kuwait who were arrested on December 6 by Iraqi authorities. They're currently being held in jail in Baghdad. The two men have been charged with illegal arrival and penetration of Iraqi territory and, according to Iraqi authorities, will be tried on those charges. The Department has been in frequent touch with Iraqi representatives in Washington about this case. The Iraqi Government did not notify the Polish protecting power, which represents our interests in Iraq, of the arrest until December 26. The Iraqi Interests Section in Washington informed the Department on December 25. Polish officials have protested the delay in notification to Iraqi Government officials. The Iraqis have promised normal access henceforth to the Poles who are our protecting power in Baghdad. Q Who are they? MR. BOUCHER: I'll get to that at the end. At our request, officials from the Polish protective power visited the two detainees on December 26 and 27. They expressed U.S. concern to prison officials that the men be afforded proper attention and, if necessary, medical treatment. We're in regular contact with the families and are keeping them abreast of all developments. To us the arrest underscores the danger of traveling in the unmarked Kuwaiti-Iraqi border. We have an outstanding travel advisory on this area, and we see the risk as serious. As for the names of who they are, I'm afraid Privacy Act considerations prevent us from giving those to you. Q Were they U.S. Government employees? MR. BOUCHER: They were businessmen. Q Were they U.S. Government employees, too? Businessmen often are U.S. Government employees. MR. BOUCHER: I can only -- Q Contract workers or -- MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I don't know what you're implying, but -- Q I'm not implying anything. I'm just wondering if this -- MR. BOUCHER: -- they were two American businessmen. That's all I know that they are, and that's the way I've described them. Q Richard, can you tell us what kind of business they were in? MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm afraid I can't. Q The Privacy Act did not cover the two men who were arrested in Vietnam? MR. BOUCHER: I believe that in those cases either we have a waiver from some pre-existing document, or I think their families have talked about them. Q The names have been announced by agencies. Q Why can't you tell us just the business? MR. BOUCHER: Number one, because I don't know; and, number two, it's my understanding of the Privacy Act that it prevents us from giving out personal information. Q This is a good time to ask you to bring us up to date on the Mideast-Arab-Israeli situation, whether -- Q One other question on this. What is their physical condition? MR. BOUCHER: I really don't have anything on their physical condition. I'm sorry. Q The Poles visited them on the 26th and the 27th. MR. BOUCHER: That's right. Q Did they not report back to you folks? MR. BOUCHER: Again, I don't have anything on that. I'll see if that's something we can say. Q Is the date set? Is the table set? Where do things stand? MR. BOUCHER: Where things stand is that when they left -- when the parties left Washington a couple of weeks ago, they announced their intention to resume talks during the second week of January -- that is, the week of January 6. At this point we're in touch with the parties regarding the details of the next round. I don't have any announcements for you. Q I've been away a little bit, but maybe you haven't been into this at all. Where do we stand so far -- where does the U.S. stand as far as invitations? What is the situation? In other words, does it require a U.S. invitation, or is it a matter of the parties bringing themselves back to resume what they recessed? MR. BOUCHER: If you're talking about invitations in terms of a U.S. proposal the way we made a proposal to go back on December 4 -- Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: -- there hasn't been such a proposal at this point. As I said, we're in touch with the parties. We'll see what their intentions are. I don't know whether we'll issue a proposal or not, frankly. Q Mohammed Wahby, Cairo-based Al-Mussawar. There has been a report today -- this morning actually -- in Al-Ahram, a front-page report, saying that Israel has asked the United States to postpone the talks with the Syrians and the Lebanese but not with the Palestinians and the Jordanians, and postponed by about two weeks. How true is that report? MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I hadn't seen that report. I think as far as what Israel thinks and what Israel wants, you'd have to check with the Israelis. Q Would you use the occasion, though, to say if it's still U.S. policy that the U.S. is happy to see progress on any front and doesn't necessarily tie one set of talks to the others? That was policy. Of course, you may not want to be seen to be responding to the article, but when we got into this -- when the U.S. got into this situation -- I don't know if it was on the record or on background, but the U.S., a very senior official, said we're happy to see progress on any front. We don't want to see progress on one front linked or related or made conditional to progress on another front. And everybody's best bet was that the Palestinian front is more promising than the Syrian front. MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I don't want to start commenting on a report I haven't seen or to take the occasion of a report I haven't seen to reiterate what's standard U.S. policy. We've expressed ourselves before on the need for talks, on the importance of talks, and our desire to see people get together and get down to business. That remains the case. Q Is there anything new on the location of the multilateral talks? Is it still Moscow? MR. BOUCHER: The Secretary talked about it when he was out there, when he was at NATO, and nothing's changed. Q Richard, anything on stepping up plans to deliver food to the former Soviet Union? Do you have any plans for any more flights or increasing flights? MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything new today. I didn't check this morning. I'll have to see if there's anything new. Q To follow up on something Barry asked, so you have still not heard from the Israelis officially that they will be here on the week of January 6? I know you have heard from the other parties, but you still have not heard from them? MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that we'd heard specifically from anybody in any particular way. I said we're in touch with all the parties on the details of the next round. At this point I don't have any announcement for you. Q Well, no. But hold on. It seems to have sort of slipped in certain ways, because earlier at the podium -- I don't know whether it was you personally or someone else -- definitely said that the other parties had informed you that they would be here on January 6, and at that time the spokesman said "But the Israelis have not yet officially told us that," although we've seen that Israeli spokesmen have said that. So now you seem to be sliding away from that. And you're also sliding away from the fact that those talks were to occur under the same proposal that the last round took, as I understand it. And now you don't seem to think that that's necessarily a given either. MR. BOUCHER: Chris, it's not my intention to slide away from anything today. It's my intention to tell you that there's nothing new. I think the formulation I used today was very similar to the one I used after the conclusion of the round that took place in Washington. The parties agreed to resume during the week of January 6, if I remember correctly, is what I said then and what I'm saying now. At that point the venue was not set. We did not provide a precise date. Those kinds of details are things that we're discussing with the parties, and I don't have any particular details to announce to you at this point. Q But in discussing those details, it suggests that there has been communication from the Israelis that at least they are going to be here the week of -- maybe not -- you're talking about the days and things like that, but it seems to all be slipping. MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't characterize it as "slipping." Q Richard, do you now expect talks to start here on the 6th? MR. BOUCHER: That's what the parties have announced their intentions are, and I don't have any reason to doubt that. Q And you've heard from all the parties? MR. BOUCHER: We've been in touch with all the parties. Q But you've heard from all the parties that they will be here. MR. BOUCHER: Steve, if you're trying to get me to sort of describe to you the intentions of each of the parties, that's not something I'm going to do, nor am I in a position to do that for you today. Q What is the intention of the United States, prodding the parties to come or -- MR. BOUCHER: The intention of the United States is to continue to work with the parties to see that talks take place. It's to talk to the parties about the details of what they have already announced, and that is their intention to resume these discussions during the week of January 6. Q I have a few other topics. Are you finished with this one? Q I just want to get back -- just one quick follow-up on the question of aid to the Soviet Union. Secretary Cheney over the weekend did a television talk show, and afterwards he spoke to reporters, and he talked about the problem of theft in the Soviet Union. It was unclear whether he meant specifically with the deliveries of American food and medicine that has taken place to date. I know that we took extraordinary steps -- you had American diplomats and volunteers meeting the planes. Do you have any reports or any reason to believe that any of the food or the medicine that was delivered to Moscow or St. Petersburg was stolen before it reached its destination? Has it proved to be a problem, specifically for those deliveries? MR. BOUCHER: I haven't heard anything. It's not something I really checked on, but nothing's been brought to my attention. I'll see if we have any reports of how the distribution went. Q Do you have anything specific or nearly specific on three groups of Americans that would be headed there pretty soon, if not already: the Arms Control as headed by Bartholomew, the transportation experts, and the nuclear dismantling, you know, technician types, all of which -- well, certainly the last two there's funding for, and Mr. Baker said we would dip into those funds. MR. BOUCHER: I think Joe [Snyder] reported to you last Friday that the arms control experts, the people talking about dismantling of nuclear weapons, that delegation would be headed by Reggie [Bartholomew] and that we were still in touch with the various parties to see about pinning down dates and things like that. That remains the situation today. There's nothing new. Q There are two groups, right? I'm sorry. I meant -- in my mind there are two distinct groups. Reg doesn't teach people how to take weapons apart, but he's trying to negotiate further cutbacks. But then there's supposed to be all these technicians coming out of that $400 million Congressional appropriation. That's what -- MR. BOUCHER: The next delegation will be headed by Bartholomew. We're making plans for them to visit the relevant states of the new Commonwealth early in the next year. This is the group that would discuss issues related to storage, destruction and other disposition of nuclear weapons. We're discussing the modalities relating to the visit -- dates, timing, agenda -- with the states involved, but decisions haven't yet been made. Q Will he also be discussing cutbacks in nuclear weapons? MR. BOUCHER: You mean go back to the discussions of the Bush and Gorbachev proposals? Q Yes. MR. BOUCHER: I don't see why that wouldn't come up, but the framework for this set of talks is more particularly the offer that was made by the Secretary to send experts out to discuss dismantlement. Q Richard, Cheney also said in this same interview that there has been no specific request for help from anybody in the Soviet Union in dismantling nuclear weapons or storing them. He said there has been no specific request, and he said that up until this point the United States has been reassured again and again that they can handle it themselves. Is that the case right now? MR. BOUCHER: Mary, I did not read the Cheney interview, so I can't pretend to elaborate on what Cheney said. I'm familiar with what the Secretary said during his trip. Q Have you received any answers regarding the letter of the President for diplomatic relations from any of the Soviet Republics? MR. BOUCHER: No, we don't have replies at this point. Q Did you -- I'm sorry. I hope I didn't miss these last week when I was traveling. Did you ever have any wrapup statement on the end of the South African talks and what you see as the future for their constitutional talks? MR. BOUCHER: I wasn't here last week either. Q I know. I was here most of it. MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we did. Q Do you have it, or could you try to put something together for us, please? You had something at the beginning but not at the end, as I recall. MR. BOUCHER: We emphasized the importance of the talks. I think we welcomed the progress that was made, and I'll stick to that for the moment. Q If you could care to get anything in more depth, I'd be -- GATT? Do you have anything on what's going on with GATT? I know that USTR is doing quite a bit, but can you also try to get something? MR. BOUCHER: I think that's something we're going to leave to USTR. Q O.K. And also Timor -- did you have anything on the firing of the generals in East Timor? MR. BOUCHER: Joe [Snyder] addressed the East Timor situation last Friday. Q Do you have any comment about the El Salvador peace negotiations in the United Nations? MR. BOUCHER: Under the U.N. Secretary General's leadership, much progress has been made in the Salvadoran peace talks. We hope the remaining ground will be covered soon. It is vital that the two sides reach final agreement on an internationally verified ceasefire and on a political settlement as soon as possible. However, I'm not in a position to predict when a final agreement might be reached. Q Is Secretary Aronson up there? MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs Bernard Aronson is in New York following the talks closely and personally. He and Ambassador Pickering have met with the Secretary General, with Salvadoran President Cristiani, and with the four friends: Colombia, Mexico, Spain and Venezuela. Q Richard, do you have any word on the possibility of an autopsy of the remains of Colonel Higgins -- whether one was performed? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have any word on that. You might check with the Pentagon on that. Q Thank you. Q No. The recent escalation of Kurdish terrorism on Turkish targets. Do you have anything? MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything new on that. Q Thank you. (The briefing concluded at 12:51 p.m.)