US Department of State Daily Briefing #98: Friday, 6/26/92

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: Washington, DC Date: Jun, 26 19926/26/92 Category: Briefings Region: E/C Europe, MidEast/North Africa, Southeast Asia, Caribbean, Central America Country: Yugoslavia (former), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Israel, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Thailand, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Military Affairs, United Nations, Development/Relief Aid, Human Rights, State Department 12:00 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MS. TUTWILER: I don't really have anything. I'll be happy to take your questions, and I can start, if you want, with just what our update is of the situation in Yugoslavia.

[Former Yugoslavia: Situation Update]

Although yesterday there was reduced Serbian shelling and fighting in Sarajevo, today Serbian forces resumed fierce shelling attacks. Street fighting continues in several areas. There has been no real let-up in the fighting. A cease-fire is still not in place. We see no indication that Serbian forces are willing to cease their attacks, remove their artillery, or place it under U.N. observation, despite their Wednesday announcement. The shortage of food remains critical. The airport remains closed and under Serbian control. As the Secretary said to many of you all this morning, these reports, in his view, are very pessimistic. We understand that Serbian shelling and fighting continues in other areas throughout Bosnia. Fighting is particularly heavy in northern Bosnia. Concerning convoys, I don't have any new information for you today on convoys. We understand that the UNHCR has no new convoys planned, but will decide soon on when to send more. We also understand that the ICRC resumed its operations on June 23. It will concentrate, at first, on five cities in Bosnia, but will not send convoys to Sarajevo because of the security problem. Many of you asked me or a number of you asked me this morning what was going on up at the United Nations. We are continuing informal discussions regarding the provision of humanitarian assistance to Bosnia, and we continue to participate actively in the United Nations Sanctions Committee work, monitoring sanctions implementation and compliance. I don't have any new effects of the sanctions on Belgrade today. Q Margaret, is it still the position of the United States that there has to be a secure cease-fire and the reopening -- and an agreement to reopen the airport at Sarajevo for humanitarian aid to go in? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of any changes in United States policy as of this briefing. Q Margaret, are the -- the military -- you say discussions, informal discussions, are ongoing. Military planners are still up there, giving whatever input it is they give? MS. TUTWILER: I don't -- I'm not sure that I said "military discussions are ongoing." I said, "United Nations informal discussions." Q Right. MS. TUTWILER: That's at the diplomatic level, not military. Military planners, yes, are still involved from the United States. Q O.K. And would it be fair to assume that they would be discussing, you know, contingencies in case some form of international drive is put in place to open up the airport? MS. TUTWILER: That would be an unfair assumption in my mind, because they have no such instructions. What would be a fair assumption is that they are doing exactly what we've stated they are doing. They are there to assist, if we are asked by the United Nations humanitarian relief effort, to assist in a variety of ways. They may ask us to lend United States support and effort to the U.N. humanitarian provisioning of relief assistance. That is all they are doing. Q Margaret, you know there's been a lot of excitement in the last few hours about these reports that the U.S. is gearing up for an airlift. Can you tell us, is there anything the U.S. is doing in terms of putting anybody on standby or making any preparations that are any different than what it's done before? MS. TUTWILER: No. Q I mean, are these reports totally erroneous, or are they based on something? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware of reports that you characterize as in the last several hours. I'm aware of one report last night. I have had two calls this morning about new reports, none of which are true. So, there is no change that I know of, or have any knowledge of, in what it is the United States is willing to do, has committed publicly that we will do, and any changes in our policy. Q Margaret, are you saying the report last night was not true? Or the reports this morning are not true? MS. TUTWILER: I'm saying that, based on a specific report that I have knowledge of, that I happened to see this morning when I talked to Pete Williams at the Pentagon, it is my understanding -- and please check with the Pentagon -- that the report of the Sixth Fleet being off the coast of Sicily is something that was determined months ago. It is part of, it's my understanding, a long ago planned exercise. As you know, the Sixth Fleet conducts exercises all the time. There was a second part to that report, if my recollection serves me, concerning some type of phraseology of European orders being sent to American troops. That is nothing more, again from talking to Pete (Williams) this morning, than we have said that we are prepared to, if asked by the United Nations, in a variety of ways, using -- if they choose to -- an enormous amount of our capabilities to plan for logistical types of support for U.N. efforts. Q Margaret, both Senator Lugar and Senator Dole -- MS. TUTWILER: Excuse me. To be perfectly clear -- I believe that you have seen this morning on the wires, military officials of our government saying those instructions, or whatever the correct terminology is, went out at least ten days ago. Q Both Senator Lugar and Senator Dole have pleaded with the Administration to take action themselves to request of the United Nations, of the Security Council, that they begin to work out a policy. Have these appeals led to any action within the Administration itself? That is, rather than waiting for the U.N., is the U.S. Administration itself taking some action to force some kind of U.N. decision as was recommended by these people? MS. TUTWILER: That's a very similar question to an earlier question I got from Alan, and I'll continue answering: As of this briefing, there is no change in United States policy that I have any knowledge of. Q Margaret, it seems to me that the United States and the world, I guess, are facing a very painful dilemma in that you want to send humanitarian aid in, but you can't unless there's a cease-fire. And the Secretary today has said he's very pessimistic about the situation on the ground. MS. TUTWILER: Uh-huh. Q Eventually people are going to start starving, if they haven't already. How do you resolve this situation? How do you get a cease-fire when the Serbs are plainly not willing to stop firing? MS. TUTWILER: I'm not sure, Alan, that I have a magic answer to that question. It's the question, obviously, that every government is struggling with; that every group of people that has any type of concern for this situation is struggling with. I don't have a magic answer for you. The United Nations has General MacKenzie there on the ground. He is working, I don't know how many hours a day, meeting with the various parties. Yesterday he thought, based on what they told him, that they had a very good agreement with them. I've just reported to you that there is fierce shelling; that that did not, in our view, standing here -- maybe it's changed while I was on my way down to the briefing -- that that's certainly -- the reports that we are getting this morning through the United Nations and through your colleagues that are there are certainly pessimistic. So, I don't have a magic answer for you. Q Margaret, let me just ask you: If this cease-fire materializes that MacKenzie has been trying so hard to get, can the American people expect to see, if it holds for 48 hours, a huge American airlift going into Sarajevo? MS. TUTWILER: Again, Mary, this is -- we have what our policy is, what all of us -- whether it's American, French, British, Italian, Canadian -- we have all pledged to help the United Nations relief effort. There is no request right this minute from the United Nations for the United States to do X, Y, Z; for Canada to do X, Y, Z, or whatever other nation they want to call upon. So we have said -- we have been in a very forward leaning position -- that when and if the United Nations asks us for additional support or for particular, specific types of support, yes, the United States wants to help -- as the Secretary said this week in testimony -- get humanitarian relief into this area. That's not what we're dealing with today. And, as you know, Mr. MacKenzie has said there on the ground recently, I believe last week, that he now has -- his own -- put on a rule where a cease-fire has to last for at least 48 hours. That's not what we have today. Q Is there another complication to all of this, Margaret, that the Serbs have apparently said no, the U.S. cannot come in as one of the Blue Hat contingents. Are you aware of that? MS. TUTWILER: That would fall into classified, diplomatic conversations, and so I don't have an answer for you. Q But when you say that it's MacKenzie who says there has to be 48 hours, is that good enough for the U.S.? I mean, if we see that there's a 48-hour cease-fire, do we consider it a good enough, a long enough cease-fire to -- if the U.N. then says to us, "O.K., move," we move? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard anyone in the United States Government quarrel with a 48-hour, legitimate cease-fire. Q Margaret, is the 82nd Airborne in any kind of heightened state of alert, confined to barracks, or anything like that? MS. TUTWILER: No, that's one of these rumors this morning that was floating out there. In my conversations with Pete Williams at the Pentagon, there's no truth to that particular report. Q How about U.S. military transport planes in Europe -- MS. TUTWILER: I did all this a little bit before you came in. I answered all these questions before you came in. Q Just to go back, though, you said -- you didn't finish the statement. You said "instructions went out about ten days ago." You said Pete told you that, but you didn't say what kind of instructions. MS. TUTWILER: Yes, I did. I said we have offered, should we be asked, to assist in the humanitarian relief effort, to get humanitarian goods into Sarajevo. That obviously takes some type of logistical planning. For instance, just as an example -- but again go to the Pentagon for specifics -- but as a, you know, civilian, someone would have to at least -- and Alan has pointed out how urgent this situation is -- have thought about if we're asked for airplanes, where are the airplanes, where is the medicine, who is going to be on first, on what planes go first, etc. So that type of planning, obviously, is prudent and has been going on. Q Is the U.S. planning limited to providing the aid itself and flying the transport planes? MS. TUTWILER: To my knowledge, yes. Q So, in other words, anybody talking about -- getting excited over the idea that the United States is prepared to lead a multinational force to fight its way into Sarajevo airport is just completely out in left field? MS. TUTWILER: I'm going to continue to say that, as of this briefing, I know of no such decisions. Q There is a meeting that's happening, apparently, in the next hour and a half where some of those decisions could be taken, isn't there? MS. TUTWILER: I don't ever discuss or prejudge meetings -- if you're referring to one the Secretary of State is having -- from this podium. Q Should we stay tuned? MS. TUTWILER: That's your call. Q Is there a set criteria by which to decide that no cease-fire can be obtained anymore and something else must be done? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't heard, nor seen, or been in a meeting where there's been any discussions of certain types of checklists or criteria, etc. Obviously, everyone, including the United States Government, is very concerned about the situation in Sarajevo. We have been for weeks. In all fairness to Mr. MacKenzie, who is there on the ground as are some other peacekeeping United Nations individuals, they are, in my personal opinion, extremely brave individuals to be in this situation. They're there trying to get a cease-fire so that this humanitarian aid can move. I have pointed out before -- I'm sure other countries do, also -- we have pre-positioned aid backed up, obviously, outside of Bosnia ready to move. I believe others do, also. We have not been able to move it. Q How long can these attempts be going on? MS. TUTWILER: I don't have a time frame for you. Q What are your plans at the U.N. for next resolutions, or are there such plans, discussions? MS. TUTWILER: There are no specific plans right now. There are two things that are going on today. One is just informal discussions about the situation; and, two, we continue to participate in the Sanctions Committee which, obviously, looks at and monitors compliance with the sanctions. But there's no specific Security Council meeting that's been called. Q So there is no intention or no lobbying by the United States at this point to consider yet another resolution on Yugoslavia? MS. TUTWILER: Correct, as of this briefing, I know of no knowledge. Q Margaret, there are stories out that two Senators have put holds on nominees for two ambassadorial posts in Central America. Do you have any comment? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. The allegations were thoroughly investigated by the State Department Inspector General at the request of Senator Dodd. The GAO could not investigate this question because it involved intelligence matters which, by agreement between Congress and the Executive Branch, cannot be handled by GAO. The Inspector General wrote Senators Dodd and Helms on June 1, 1992, that the program in question was, "lawful and continuation of the program after Executive and Legislative restrictions were imposed in late 1989 was not a violation, nor did it evidence an intent to violate either restriction." The Inspector General also, "found no evidence of any action or intent by Messrs. Kozak or Sullivan to evade Congressional restrictions." The continued refusal to confirm these nominees is doing serious damage to the peace process in both El Salvador and Nicaragua. It deprives the United States of high-level representation at a crucial time when both countries are striving to consolidate peace and democracy. We continue to urge and consult with the Senators to urge that they confirm these two gentlemen. Q While we are on Congressional matters, do you have a reaction to the aid bill that was passed by the House, which took a lop off the Administration's request? MS. TUTWILER: Yes. As was communicated to the Hill in the statement of Administration policy, the Administration opposes H.R. 5368, the Foreign Operations Appropriation Bill, in its current form because of the UNFPA -- which is the United Nations Fund for Population Activities -- provision and other serious objections. However, the Administration recognizes the need to move the bill forward, and the Administration will seek changes to make it acceptable. Q Margaret, a two-parter for you. Two Israelis were stabbed to death in Gaza, I think, yesterday. The Islamic fundamentalist group, Hamas, claimed responsibility. Part two: The Saudis have apparently reportedly shifted their financial backing from the PLO to Hamas. Any comment? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know anything about the second question that you've asked me. On the first, we condemn the senseless acts of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip yesterday and offer our sympathies and condolences to the victims of these attacks and murders. We call upon all parties to reject violence and rededicate themselves to the peace process and reconciliation. All those who resort to acts of extremism and violence, especially at this time of historic opportunity to move the peace process forward, can be considered only as enemies of peace. Q Specifically, which acts are you condemning here? MS. TUTWILER: There were, it's my understanding, several people who were killed yesterday. I don't have all the specifics of it. We're condemning all of those who were either attacked or murdered yesterday. Q There were some people killed, as these two people in Gaza were killed and I believe the Israeli forces also killed some people yesterday in some kind of clashes. MS. TUTWILER: I'm condemning all the deaths that took place yesterday through violent acts. Q Margaret, on the subject -- Q Wait a minute, Margaret. One of the ones that Alan is talking about was actually a gun battle between armed Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. Are you calling the Israeli soldiers enemies of peace? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know the specifics of it. You and Alan apparently know a lot more in-depth detail about it than I do. What I do know is that what I was told is that a number of people were killed yesterday. We find that tragic. We say it every time it happens. I don't know the particulars of this, and we obviously condemn this type of violence. Q Margaret, on the subject of Nagorno-Karabakh: There was a conference that ended today, bringing together officials from Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as Turkey, and they had a press conference this morning. They said two things that struck me. One, that chemical weapons had been used in this conflict. Do you have anything on that? And, two, they called for Iran to have a more active role in peace negotiations. A question relating to that is, how would the United States feel about Iran getting involved in peace negotiations? MS. TUTWILER: Both of which we've answered previously. The report covering -- Q Both called for it specifically today. MS. TUTWILER: I'm not aware, number one, the meeting has concluded. Just on past policy, number one, I know that the use of chemical weapons has been rumored in the press a number of times. Each time it comes up, we have checked it out and said that we have no independent confirmation of such use. Concerning Iran, we have said, in the past when this has come up, that, obviously, anyone -- any entity that can bring about a negotiated, peaceful resolution to this problem, the United States would obviously have no objection to that. Q Margaret, do you have any comment on what's been going on between the Turks and the Kurds in the last few days? MS. TUTWILER: Nothing new. Q Margaret, the Turkish Prime Minister, Demirel, mentioned in an interview that it was ready to reopen diplomatic and economic ties with Iraq. Do you have any comment on that? MS. TUTWILER: I haven't seen that. Q It's on the front page of the Christian Science Monitor this morning. MS. TUTWILER: I'm really sorry, I hadn't seen it. I can't comment on something I haven't seen. Q Margaret, on Thailand, the former Communications Minister, Mr. Saram, during the course of the week, had expressed concern to the Thai papers over possible foreign involvement in the recent uproar that they had in Thailand, a great portion of which was caused by NGOs, which had been set up in the area over the last four or five years. Now, considering that a considerable amount of AID money goes to the NGOs in Thailand -- in particular, to the Pact group, which I think is the largest one -- it seems to me that he is indicating that perhaps U.S. involvement or U.S. pressure was involved in the uproar in Thailand. Do you have any comment on that? Or if this were true that the NGOs are receiving AID money and were responsible for the revolt against the government that this money would be cut off by the United States? MS. TUTWILER: I have nothing about the circumstances which you're giving me a spiel on. I haven't heard any such thing. I haven't seen the report. Obviously, if the inference of your question is, "Was the United States Government involved in this?" The answer is, no, the United States Government was not. But I don't know anything about alleged NGO participation in the current or recent turmoil that existed in Thailand. I just don't know. I hadn't heard anything about that. Q Have we determined that it's time to release aid for Thailand yet? MS. TUTWILER: Not that I'm aware of, but I haven't asked in -- what? -- maybe two weeks, so I'll be happy to ask for you; but I haven't heard anybody say that. Q Is there a meeting today in this building between Cuban exiles and high-ranking officials? MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. I'll have to -- who do you mean? Q We heard -- Cuban exiles mentioned a meeting with maybe Secretary Aronson on -- MS. TUTWILER: I'll look and see. I haven't heard that. Q I just wanted to confirm or check -- MS. TUTWILER: I don't know. I hadn't heard. I'll be happy to ask them. Q Margaret, did Secretary Baker send letters this week to various European Foreign Ministers on Yugoslavia with certain suggestions or recommendations? MS. TUTWILER: He may well have. He has been -- I just don't know specifically. I saw a report on a wire service that said that he had. He has sent any number of messages. I'll just check for you if the most recent one was this week. He also has been receiving any number of messages. We have told you -- and he has said most recently, in testimony, that we are staying in contact, obviously, working through the United Nations, with others concerning this situation. So I would characterize it as a back-and-forth among countries and with the U.N. on the situation. Is that it? Q Thank you. MS. TUTWILER: Have a nice weekend. (Press briefing concluded at 12:20 p.m.)