US Department of State Daily Briefing #100: Tuesday, 6/30/92

Tutwiler Source: State Department Spokesman Margaret Tutwiler Description: Washington, DC Date: Jun, 30 19926/30/92 Category: Briefings Region: E/C Europe, MidEast/North Africa, Subsaharan Africa, Caribbean Country: Yugoslavia (former), Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia-Montenegro, Haiti, Somalia Subject: Regional/Civil Unrest, Military Affairs, United Nations, Development/Relief Aid, Refugees, State Department 12:26 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) MR. SNYDER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I do not have any statements to make, and I'd be very happy to take your questions.

[Former Yugoslavia: Update]

Q Do you have an update on Yugoslavia? MR. SNYDER: Well, let me preface what I'm saying. First of all, the Secretary spoke extensively on Yugoslavia this morning and Secretary Cheney did as well, and I understand the Pentagon is dealing with a lot of operational aspects of the situation even as we speak. So I'll give you what I have. I should also preface this by saying it's a very fluid situation, as Margaret mentioned yesterday. We're doing our best to keep on top of it. You may have seen things on the wires that are more recent than what I have, but let me do the best I can. Some Serbian shelling and sniper fire continues in non-Serb neighborhoods of Sarajevo. Some shells are falling in the older sections of the city. As you know, yesterday the U.N. officially assumed control of the airport from Serbian forces. We understand that about 34 U.N. officials are holding the airport, and we also understand about 50 more will join them today to help open the airport. Shortly after the U.N. took over the airport, one French plane landed, carrying about six tons of food, medicine and other supplies. Three additional French planes landed earlier today. Earlier today, also, the U.N. Security Council-authorized Canadian battalion of about 1,000 persons departed Darolvar in Croatia en route to Sarajevo. The first elements of the battalion, we understand, are expected to arrive at the airport tonight or tomorrow, and the rest will be at the airport on Thursday. The shortage of food in Sarajevo remains critical, even though some supplies have gotten in. Elsewhere in Bosnia, we understand that sometimes severe Serbian shelling and fighting continues in other areas throughout Bosnia. We remain concerned about continuing reports of the use of armed force by Croatian military units from Croatia in Bosnia-Hercegovina. With regard to outside military intervention, the U.S. view -- it's been stated before -- is that all forces in Bosnia-Hercegovina must come under the authority of that state's legitimate government or have its permission to remain. President Izetbegovic has made clear that his government does not regard Croatia as an aggressor in Bosnia. He has agreed to coordinate Bosnian and Croatian defense forces in Bosnia under the direction of his government. The U.S. continues to oppose all outside intervention aimed at destabilizing the democratically-elected and legitimate government of Bosnia-Hercegovina. We continue to emphasize the principle of no changes in borders through force of arms. On the effect of sanctions in Serbia, I would note that the Belgrade regime announced a devaluation of the dinar today which takes one zero off the currency. The government will begin currency exchanges of old for new dinars tomorrow, to be completed by the end of the week. The Serbian economy has been weak for some time. The U.N. sanctions are contributing to this weakness, particularly in heavy industry, textiles, the meat industry and paper and graphics. As we've said, the U.N. sanctions are directed against the policies of the Belgrade regime and not against the Serbian and Montenegrin peoples. Further on assistance efforts, as I said before, we understand that four French flights have landed at the airport, which has been secured by UNPROFOR, and latest news reports show supplies being off-loaded. UNHCR has been working out the details with donor countries for a sustained airlift which will begin as soon as security conditions permit. It has also been working on plans for road convoys. In the meantime, UNHCR is deploying a team to Sarajevo, which should be in place this evening, to support the airlift. A question was asked yesterday, we've put out an answer and I've got a little bit more detail on what we have done to pre-position supplies. The U.S. has pre-positioned relief supplies, including 80 sea van containers of food, in Rotterdam that are available for airlift into Sarajevo when security conditions are adequate. This is in addition to approximately 3.2 million meals we have previously supplied to relief efforts. Our Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance has contracted commercial trucks to bring this previously supplied food into Zagreb. From there, UNHCR and private relief agencies have taken it by convoy for distribution in Bosnia as well as in Croatia. Q Joe, has there been any Bosnian shelling of the Serbs -- any attempt by the Bosnians to disrupt the cease-fire? MR. SNYDER: The information I have -- well, certainly in the Sarajevo airport -- Sarajevo area and at the airport, I understand that the shelling has been Serbian shelling. I'm not aware of Bosnian shelling in the immediate vicinity, although I've also heard reports of cross-fire of small arms fire. But I'm not aware that there's Bosnian shelling. The Bosnians, as I understand it, don't have a lot of artillery either. Q The United States has often talked about the Europeans leading in Yugoslavia, trying to find a solution, and so on. You just mentioned yourself a moment ago that the French have managed to land a few planes there; some of the aid has been off-loaded. There are reports that some of the aid has actually reached downtown Sarajevo. The Secretary says the U.S. aid won't begin until the U.N. offers some formal notification. What's the rationale for once the Europeans lead, not immediately following and beginning coordinating, with the British and perhaps others, an immediate airlift to get stuff in there before the situation gets worse? MR. SNYDER: I wasn't with you, but I understood the Secretary answered that question. I mean, we're working with the U.N. We're going to continue to work with them. The U.N. hasn't yet told us that the conditions are ready for us to go in. Q Joe, what he said was we're waiting to get the word from the U.N. Is it the Administration's position that the United States will not participate in a humanitarian effort without a use of force authorization from the United Nations? MR. SNYDER: I really don't want to go any further on this than the Secretary did. I don't want to try to explain. I appreciate the opportunity you're offering me to explain the Secretary, but I don't think I'll do that. Q What we're asking is to explain the U.S. policy -- Q What we're asking, Joe, is, how come the French can land planes there and we can't? MR. SNYDER: We are working with the U.N. The French have chosen to do it their own way, and I'm not going to get into describing the differences. We're working with the U.N.; and in working with the U.N., the U.N. has not yet told us it's time for us to go in. Q Joe, I believe even before the airport was closed there were problems in distributing the supplies. Things were being backed up at the airport and there was no way to get them to the people. What provisions are there now, as this thing develops, to get supplies to the people from the airport? MR. SNYDER: There are people going in to work on that. I think I mentioned the UNHCR is sending a team in to work on distribution within the Sarajevo area. We've got a calmer situation in Sarajevo, and that's why distribution -- one hopes the distribution can begin and more people can go in to work on it. Q Joe, I know you don't often do, or you seldom do, comparisons. But we've heard a lot for the past few weeks about 300,000 people facing starvation in Sarajevo. There are about four and half million people who are facing starvation in Somalia, also victims of civil strife. Do you have an update on the situation, the number of people dying daily, the state of humanitarian aid, relief flights into Somalia? MR. SNYDER: I'm sorry, I don't have that here. Q Could it be provided? MR. SNYDER: I'll see what we can do for you. Q Do you have a reaction on the EC decision on the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia? MR. SNYDER: Yes. As you know, the EC stated yesterday, June 28 -- sorry, the day before yesterday -- that it was prepared to recognize Macedonia under a different name. Macedonian President Gligorov has criticized the EC statement and called for national unity. The U.S. endorses his efforts to maintain calm and stability and to lead his people to full independence through this negotiating process. The U.S. continues to support the EC in its effort to resolve this impasse. We are prepared to support any solution which is acceptable to both the EC and Macedonia. Q What's the U.S. position on Macedonia's name? MR. SNYDER: We are prepared to support any solution which is acceptable to both of them. Q Well, you refer to Macedonia by name. Can we take it that the United States assumes that Macedonia's name is "Macedonia?" MR. SNYDER: We refer to the country as Macedonia; yes. That's a different question from resolving this impasse that we're in. Q So the U.S. view really is that Macedonia's name ought to be decided by someone other than Macedonia, like in a negotiation with the EC and perhaps others; right? MR. SNYDER: We think that there should be a solution which is acceptable to both the EC and to Macedonia. Q Why shouldn't Macedonia be able to choose its own name? MR. SNYDER: Because it's a dispute, and without going any further into it, we think that all those who are involved in this dispute ought to come to an agreement on it. Q Is the U.S. ready to follow the EC decision on this? Because, clearly, the EC decision does not (inaudible). MR. SNYDER: We are prepared to support any solution which is acceptable to the EC and to Macedonia. Q Joe, just to go back to Yugoslavia for a second. Is there anything at all that you can tell us about Serbian and Bosnian resistance to United States involvement in the humanitarian relief operation? MR. SNYDER: Resistance? Q Yes. MR. SNYDER: By those -- nothing that I'm aware of, no. Q John McWethy asked yesterday -- the day before yesterday -- and Margaret said it was classified -- getting into classified areas there. Have you hashed it out so that there's unclassified aspects of it you can tell us about? MR. SNYDER: What do you mean exactly by "resistance?" Q Exactly that; that they don't want the United States to be involved. MR. SNYDER: I'm not aware of that. I have nothing to add to it. Q Anything new today on the situation in South Africa -- strikes, violence, whatever? MR. SNYDER: No. Q What about the $10 billion loan to Israel -- housing guarantees? Nothing new? MR. SNYDER: Nothing new. Q I don't suppose you would update us as to when the Middle East peace talks will resume, would you? MR. SNYDER: Not yet, no. Q Americas Watch and a Haitian refugee advocate group has come out saying the United States policy of repatriation is "skewed" and the follow-up is faulty, the follow-up of Haitians who have been repatriated. Does the State Department have any comment or reaction to that report? MR. SNYDER: Just in general; we haven't seen the report. I understand reports of the report came out today. So we're not really prepared to comment on it in detail, but let me make some general comments. We have never claimed, as the groups' press release says, that "all Haitian boat people are economic migrants." In fact, we have done more than any other country to help Haitians who seek asylum. We've always recognized there are Haitians with a well-founded fear of persecution. That's the reason why we established a refugee processing facility in Haiti where over 3,100 Haitians have applied for refugee status. I should also point out that 9,600 people have been brought to the U.S. from Guantanamo to pursue their claims. Specifically, on things we've seen in the press release, we stand by our reporting on repatriated Haitians. Our Embassy officers have logged over 12,000 miles of travel throughout Haiti to interview over 2,300 returnees. In some cases, we find returned boat people at their home addresses. In others, we find them by going to places where the Red Cross distributes food, or to towns where we know many of the returnees live. Our officers, who are made up of permanent Embassy personnel, local Embassy employees and visiting staff from the Immigration ∧ Naturalization Service conduct interviews averaging 20 minutes in length, with as much privacy as possible. We seek neutral sites such as churches, religious schools or the premises of humanitarian organizations. We have found no credible case of reprisal or mistreatment connected to the repatriation of these individuals. We will continue to monitor the welfare of the repatriated Haitians. Q Thank you. (Press briefing concluded at 12:40 p.m.)