US DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING MONDAY, JANUARY 3, 1994 BRIEFING: Michael McCurry Subject Page MEXICO Insurgents in the South ...................................1-2 -- US Checking on Safety of Americans ......................1 CHINA US Ambassador's Remarks re: Economic Progress .... 2-4 -- US Criteria for MFN .....................................3 SLOVAKIA Meeting of Board of International Broadcasting ..............4 PEACE PROCESS Efforts to Implement Declaration of Principles ............4-5 -- US Role .................................................5 Heads of Delegation Meeting this Week ...................5-6,8 Upcoming Bilateral/Multilateral Talks .......................6 Israeli-PLO Academic Talks in Norway ......................6-7 Prospects for PLO Liaison Office in D.C......................7 Secretary's Contacts with Parties ...........................9 ISRAEL/OCCUPIED TERRITORIES Violence .................................... ..............10 SYRIA Congressional Fact-Finding Mission ........................7-8 Status of Travel Documents for Jewish Residents .............8 LEBANON Violence in the South .......................................8 ALGERIA Human Rights Watch Report .........................................................10-11 NORTH KOREA Progress in US Dialogue .................................11-12 DEPARTMENT Reported Resignation of Sam Lewis ..........................12 Secretary's Priorities .........................................................15-16 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Humanitarian Aid/Discussions within NATO ................12-14 Reported Possibility of UK/French Withdrawal ...............14 NATO US Efforts re: Partnership for Peace ....................16-19 UKRAINE Talks with Russia/US .........................................................19-20 LAOS Declassified Documents re: US POWs/MIAs ...................20 VIETNAM Progress re: POW/MIA Issue .............................20-21 CUBA US Welcomes Arrival of Castro's Granddaughter ..............21 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, JANUARY 3, 1994, 1:04 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody, and Happy New Year. That's the only announcement I have.
Q Do you have anything you can say about the unrest in southern Mexico?
MR. McCURRY: We do have some. It's mostly informational. I'll tell you what we know at this point.
This is information that's gathered from our Embassy in Mexico and also from press reports that we've got. A group of armed insurgents claiming to belong to a previously unknown Zapatista Army of National Liberation launched attacks over the weekend in several municipalities in the state of Chiapas.
Mexican security forces are re-establishing order as the insurgents withdraw from municipalities. There have been a variety of suggestions at this point about who might be accountable, who might be leading the insurgents. We are not in a position at this point to reach any conclusions. We're not familiar with the group, but the Embassy -- Ambassador Jones, specifically -- has dispatched a five-person team yesterday to go to the state capital, Tuxtla Gutierrez, and the town of San Cristobal de las Casas; and they will be assessing the situation; also checking on the status of American citizens who are in the vicinity.
We understand that all Americans who have wanted to leave that area have been able to do so recently, and we have had some direct contact with American citizens who indicate that they are safe despite the fighting in the vicinity.
Q Is there a link in all this to NAFTA?
MR. McCURRY: No. I don't think so. I think the government itself issued a communique that certainly acknowledges that serious underdevelopment in the Chiapas region is an ongoing cause of violence within southern Mexico, saying in that context, urging the insurgents to lay down arms and to join in a peaceful dialogue.
But these conditions and the economic conditions in that part of southern Mexico predate the NAFTA agreement. If anything, the NAFTA agreement is designed to promote the kind of economic activity that might address the concerns of those who suffer economic deprivation.
Q Michael, is the State Department issuing any kind of travel advisory?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, but, as we always do, we'll continue to monitor the situation. That's one of the reasons why the Ambassador has dispatched this team to the region to keep an eye on what the fighting is like.
Q But at this point do you think it's safe for American tourists to still go there?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have any new information. As I say, we will continue to look at it. If there's any need for us to issue a new travel information sheet, we would obviously do so, as we often do.
Q Mike, is there any indication that these rebels are allied with the Guatemalan rebel movement which operates just south of there?
MR. McCURRY: We know that there are reports to that effect, Bud. But, as I say, we're not in a position to reach any conclusions since we're not familiar with the group -- the Zapatista Liberation Army -- obviously because of the vicinity and because of things we know in the past that had been suggested, we just are not in a position at this point to establish that.
Q Another subject: Does the State Department agree with its Ambassador that there's been dramatic progress in China?
MR. McCURRY: With Ambassador Roy's interview in The New York Times?
MR. McCURRY: I read part of that. I haven't seen the full transcript of the interview that he's given, but I think his point -- which I think is one that is well-taken -- is that economic liberalization generally can lead to rising standards of living and an improvement in human rights conditions.
There are very specific criteria that the President has established to measure human rights progress, consistent with his May 1993 Executive Order, and that's the criteria that matters as we look at the important question of Most-Favored-Nation status for China.
So I think Ambassador Roy may have been talking about the general economic progress, the general trend towards economic liberalization and political liberalization, but I would remind all of you that the President has very specific criteria that he set forth and which is the criteria that he and the Administration will be using as it looks at the question of Most-Favored-Nation status.
Q So you interpret the Ambassador's comments as very narrow and drawn, and when the Secretary was talking in LA recently and he referred to just some flickers of progress in China, that was -- his context was different.
MR. McCURRY: I've only read an article. I haven't read the full transcript of the interview that the Ambassador gave, but I think I understand his point from reading the article that economic progress can and often does lead to political liberalization. That's something we've seen around the world, but again, as I said earlier, the criteria that we are looking for when we measure significant overall progress are the criteria set forth by the President in the Executive Order.
And from reading the article, I don't think the Ambassador addressed himself to all of those criteria.
Q Well, the article here in paragraph two suggests that the Ambassador said that, "The setbacks in human rights represented by Tiananmen Square and the wave of repression that followed were being steadily reversed, and that the Communist Party had loosened control on many aspects of Chinese life."
I mean, that seems to go to the question of human rights that you're talking about.
MR. McCURRY: It goes to one aspect of the overall criteria that will be addressed by the Administration as it looks at the MFN question. It's by no means the only criteria, as you know from being familiar with the May Executive Order itself.
There are other criteria that are set forth, but again, I think elsewhere in the same article I believe the Ambassador suggests that there are important criteria that will have to be addressed as well as they look at the important question, which is extending China's Most- Favored-Nation trade status, or its normal trade relation with the United States.
Q Just one more on this: Have you asked him to explain his remarks fully?
MR. McCURRY: I think that we're trying to get a full transcript of what he said -- or at least I was trying to get a full transcript of what he said, because you're not always sure when you see an interview how something has been characterized.
Q Has China begun to meet some of those specific criteria that were laid out?
MR. McCURRY: I think as you know from hearing Assistant Secretary Shattuck, who has met regularly with Chinese officials and been there to address concerns directly with them, they are addressing some of those.
The question of whether or not there has been significant overall progress, which is the standard that has been set by the Administration, is something that we are going to be looking at closely in the coming weeks and months. But I don't think we're in a position to say that at this point.
Q I would like to change the subject. The Government of Slovakia announced its intention to terminate broadcasting of Radio Free Europe on the medium wave through the transmitter on its territory, and it's raised a considerable uproar. Could you tell us the position of the State Department?
MR. McCURRY: I am not in a position to comment on that today for this reason: The Board of International Broadcasting is meeting today to look at several issues involving Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, including the question of where those facilities might be located in the future. And because they are meeting on that question, I think today -- or the meeting may have ended a short while ago -- but because of that meeting, I'm really not in a position to comment on that today.
Certainly, any decision about the status of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and its location is something that the Administration would have to look at; also look at together with the Board of International Broadcasting and then consult with members of Congress who, as you know, have been very outspoken on this issue.
So we would not move forward in any decision -- now, on the specific question of that one frequency band, I will see if there's something specific that we have to say on that as a result of the meeting today. I am not aware at this point that we have anything that we can say specifically on it.
Q Michael, on another subject: Israel and the PLO seem to be at an impasse in their talks on implementing their accord, and King Hussein of Jordan gave an unusually harsh speech, basically saying he's had it with Mr. Arafat's waffling.
He seems to be saying the same thing the Israelis are saying. People come and negotiate on behalf of Mr. Arafat, they initial agreement, and Mr. Arafat refuses to sign them.
What is the State Department's thinking about should the U.S. get involved? Is there any role for the U.S. to play here? Are you concerned that this is getting off track?
MR. McCURRY: Look, we've had on recent days, weeks, extensive contacts with the parties. We know that their contacts are continuing. We think it's essential that both the Israelis and the Palestinians remain focused on the main goal, which is, after all, the implementation of the Declaration of Principles. That is surely the best way to change the realities on the ground that both parties want to see addressed.
But I would say that as these negotiations address tough issues, we should all remember that they are, in fact, negotiating, and what you are watching is a negotiation that is in progress that we are not a party to. We are monitoring it very closely and will continue to monitor it very closely, but you are watching two sides in an ongoing negotiation stake out positions and discuss things in the context of their own dialogue.
I think if we are mindful of that and remember that ultimately these talks are aimed at implementing the Declaration, we'll be able to measure their progress as we watch the negotiations in the days ahead.
Q But, Michael, just to follow up on that, I'm saying what's different here is the Israelis have said they're not going back to the talks because they're fed up with Mr. Arafat. I mean, the whole point you're making is they're negotiating, and the whole point is that they're not negotiating right now.
MR. McCURRY: As I said earlier, we have been in close contact with the parties, and we understand that their contacts are continuing.
Q What kind of progress (inaudible) you produced at the year-end negotiation with North Korea last week?
Q Can we just finish up on the Middle East?
MR. McCURRY: More on the Middle East. Okay.
Q Would you still expect the bilateral talks to resume here in Washington in mid-January, and are they going to be in any way a substitute for the Cairo or the Taba talks?
MR. McCURRY: They won't be a substitute for the discussions directly between the PLO and the Israelis. We are moving ahead with our plans to have meetings here with the heads of the Syrian and the Lebanese delegations. That will be later this week. We'll be exploring ways to move forward on those two tracks, and then we'll be in touch with all the parties about resuming the overall discussions in Washington later this month.
By the way, on the multilateral talks, we're working on dates for meetings of various working groups, many of which are going to be held -- interestingly and importantly will be held in the Middle East in various Arab countries over the next two months. So I think on the full schedule, both the bilateral and multilateral talks, we are moving ahead with plans on that, and we will know more about attendance and invitations and things like that as we get later into the month.
I remind you all, obviously, you surely have not forgotten that President Clinton and President Assad will be meeting in Geneva on January 16, and then there's a -- the hope would be to resume these discussions after that as we get later into January.
Q Do you have a comment on Syrian-Israeli academic talks that were underway in Norway and some of their findings and conclusions?
MR. McCURRY: No, I don't have a contact on that. I don't have any information here on that. I saw the report. I just don't have anything here that I can share on that.
Q Do you regard that as a good sign that perhaps at some level they are beginning to look at --
MR. McCURRY: I think we take as a positive development anything that indicates a disposition of the parties to move ahead and address the tough issues that exist. Whether or not that's what this reflects, I just don't know.
Q Michael, which Arab countries are they going to have multilateral talks in? Can you tell us?
MR. McCURRY: A number of them. In fact, I believe Morocco was hosting a steering group. I'll get the full list for you, because I think it is impressive that some of these multilateral sessions are now moving to the region itself. We certainly take that as a very encouraging sign, and I'll post the full list. I think I had it shortly before the holidays. I just don't have it with me right now, but we can get that for you.
Q Mike, was the State Department involved at all in helping to arrange these Israeli-Syrian academic talks? Did we even know they were going on or --
MR. McCURRY: I don't know. I'll see if I can find out.
Q If we knew they were going on.
MR. McCURRY: If we knew or were aware of the contact. I'll see if we can find out.
Q What's the situation of the PLO representation here in Washington? Do they have an office? Have they applied to open one?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know exactly the status. My recollection is that this was one of several issues being addressed in the context of reviewing a lot of the Congressionally-imposed restrictions on contact with the PLO, and the issue of whether or not there would be some type of liaison office established here in Washington was still an outstanding question the last time I looked at it. I'll see if there's anything new on it.
There was certainly an expectation, I think, on the part of the parties that there would be some type of liaison office, and I think all of you know there was speculation on who might be actually appointed by the PLO to head that office or to be the representative. But I'll have to check and see more on what the status of the Congressional restrictions were on establishing that kind of office.
Q Just on a related point, what's the status of individual members of the PLO entering the United States? Can they do so now freely, or is there an individual test on their individual involvement in acts which might be considered --
MR. McCURRY: I'll have to check and see. As you know, it was customary for us in the past to issue waivers when it involved people who were here to monitor the talks that were underway in Washington. I'm not aware of any restrictions that we have placed on travel by those PLO representatives who are contributing to the peace discussions and the peace process itself. But as to what the formal policy is regarding the PLO, I will check again.
As I say, there has been underway, working with Congress, a general review of a lot of the restrictions that date back to the 70s and 80s on contacts between the United States and the PLO, with some eye towards adjusting to the new realities of where we are. I'll get an update on that for you and share that over the next couple of days.
Q Michael, what happened to the fact-finding mission which was supposed to go -- by Congress -- which was supposed to go to Syria and Lebanon to find more about the Israeli MIAs?
MR. McCURRY: I'd have to refer that probably to Chairman Hamilton's staff, because I think he would be in a better position to comment on it. I think the plans are moving ahead for that delegation to depart very shortly, if they have not already departed. But I would leave it to Chairman Hamilton to give you more details on what the plans are for that Congressional delegation.
I would point out, too, I think there was an agreement to include diplomatic representatives. So if there's anything I can offer on behalf of the Department, I'll do that as well.
Q Any reaction to the renewed violence in south Lebanon, across the border, shelling and exchanges between Hizbollah and the Israelis?
MR. McCURRY: We continue to find that type of violence regrettable. It works counter to the peace process itself, and we continue to believe that it is the peace process itself which is the
antidote to that type of violence.
Q Mike, did the Syrian Government keep its promise to give exit visas to all Syrian Jews that wanted them by the end of the year?
MR. McCURRY: We have seen very good progress on that, and the progress is continuing. We expect that all those who wish to obtain travel documents will obtain them in the days ahead. There has been, I think as you know from comments that have been made by the Syrian Foreign Ministry, a sizable number that have been granted exit visas, and we would just reiterate that we would expect all of those who wish to obtain travel documents to obtain them in the days ahead.
Q How do you track that?
MR. McCURRY: We've been tracking it through the Embassy in Damascus, working with the Syrian Foreign Ministry itself. And then we're also in contact, I believe, with the chief Rabbi in Damascus, who has also been a source of information for members of the media as well.
Q You said that you'd be having some consultations later this week with the Syrians and the Lebanese delegations. Are these the only ones coming to Washington? How about the Jordanians and the Israelis?
MR. McCURRY: I think they are the only ones coming, as we had suggested earlier, that would come for these sort of pre-consultations. We expect the other heads of the delegations to arrive in Washington later in the month.
Q Does this have anything to do with the coming meeting between President Assad and President Clinton?
MR. McCURRY: I'm sure that will be a factor in the discussions, but it really has more to do with our sense that both the Lebanese and the Syrian tracks, with that special focus, can help move forward; and the idea of streamlined discussions at this point, as outlined by the Secretary during his recent travels in the region, were aimed at reinvigorating the Syrian and Lebanese track.
Q Who is coming? The heads of the delegations?
MR. McCURRY: Eventually the heads are coming. I'm not sure whether they are coming for these pre-consultations. There may be others coming as well, but once we know the identities or the lineup for that, we'll make that available as we can.
Q Mike, is the Secretary going to meet with those people later in the week?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know, Warren. I don't know the answer to that. I know that he worked a lot on the peace process over the holidays and was in close contact with Ambassador Ross who was in very direct contact with the parties and various representatives. I'm not aware of any plans for him to enter into those -- my understanding was they would come and meet with various members of the U.S. peace team.
Q What did he do over the holidays? You say he "worked intensively on it." What --
MR. McCURRY: He, I think, kept track of a lot of things going on in conversations with Ambassador Ross.
Q So it was not contacts with Rabin or contacts with Assad or Shara?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know. He may have had contacts as well with some of the parties. I just am not positive of the full extent of his contacts.
Q Mike, are there any plans for the Secretary to return to the Middle East, perhaps after the Assad meeting?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I checked on that as late as yesterday, and I know there was speculation to that effect, but I'm told -- not to my knowledge -- no plans at this point to do anything other than to return back here from Geneva.
Q As these negotiations drag on -- I'm sorry.
Q Is Ambassador Ross going after the summit?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know. I have not asked the Ambassador about his travel plans, but I will.
Q As these negotiations drag on, the violence continues. I think today a Palestinian was shot dead in the occupied territories. A couple days ago two Israelis had their throats slit. Is there concern that this could overshadow -- particularly with these negotiations dragging -- this could overshadow the negotiations and eventually consume them? Is there a concern that if these guys don't get off the dime, so to speak?
MR. McCURRY: I mean, very clearly there is concern because of the violence, and that's precisely why the United States has been engaged in the effort to make a comprehensive and lasting peace in the region. But again, we would stress, as we often do, that those who are enemies of this peace process and using these acts of violence to thwart peace can be answered effectively and directly by the parties as they move ahead in implementing the agreements that they have reached and the agreements that they can and should reach.
It is the peace process itself which will help curb this type of violence in the region.
Q Mike, just sliding along the band of the Middle East to Algeria, have you noted today's report by the Human Rights Watch which paints a pretty alarming picture?
MR. McCURRY: No, I am not familiar with that. They have issued something today apparently?
Q Could you give us an update on the state of personnel -- U.S. personnel in Algeria?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have it here. We had ordered a draw- down there, I believe, and we addressed some of that just prior to the holidays. I think we reported a little bit on some of the efforts by the Embassy to make sure that American citizens, American personnel there were safe and secure. But if there's anything new to add to what we said just prior to the Christmas break, I'll see if I can get that and post it.
Q Human Rights Watch makes some proposals or suggestions in terms of international loans for Algeria. They specifically suggest that these should be curtailed until the human rights situation improves. Perhaps you could, when you've studied the report, address that question.
MR. McCURRY: We will look at it. We don't always comment on each report that that organization or other organizations issue. But, if there's anything that we find that we would like to say in response to taking a look at the report, we certainly will.
Q Michael, without commenting directly on the report of the Middle East Watch, what is your assessment of the way that the army in Algeria, the police or the security forces, are handling the issue of coping with instability and security there?
MR. McCURRY: At the time of the recent violence and fighting, I don't know if we had anything direct to say on it. I'll go back and check. We may have addressed that already in some of the briefings we did just late last month. If there's anything new to add to that or any newer assessment than the one that we would customarily provide as we review human rights situations broadly around the world, I'll see if we have anything additional to add.
But that's one thing that we would -- certainly activity of the military is one thing that we have addressed in the past and prior annual Human Rights Reports and it's something that we would certainly address again.
Q Mike, moving on to North Korea, is the Administration satisfied with the apparent North Korean offer to allow inspectors to visit seven sites?
MR. McCURRY: I think that the situation in our discussions with North Korea have not changed much from when we reported to you last week. Certainly our dialogue has made some progress, and we expect to continue our discussions with North Korea. No additional meetings have been scheduled at this point, but we expect to have further contacts soon with North Korea. I think beyond that, there's not a lot else I can say to characterize the response.
There's clearly discussions that we will need to have with North Korea in the coming days as we work out the fine points of how to proceed.
Q They said the talks last Wednesday led to a breakthrough. Do you agree with that term?
MR. McCURRY: I think we said that they had made some progress, and that we had expected to continue discussions. I'm not sure we said anything as staggering as "breakthrough." I think you also are aware that President Kim Il-Sung in his New Year's address addressed this issue as well. I think we believe his basic message stated in one way or another that there could be progress on this issue through negotiation. I think that we believe that's an accurate assessment.
Q A different subject: Do you know if the --
Q Could I ask one, please.
Q Go ahead.
Q So, Mike, actually the negotiation with North Korea has been dragged months and months -- from March last -- year, so actually as you told just now, there is no conspicuous development in the solving of the North Korean nuclear matter. Do you have any new strategy or approach in solving that problem in this year or --
MR. McCURRY: Do you mean as we've reached 1994 and we report to you that there is now progress in the talks, is there anything new that we're going to do stimulate that progress? I think we will continue working in the fashion that has led to the progress that we've reported in recent days.
Q With the same frame of your (inaudible) for example, IAEA?
MR. McCURRY: That was a real nothing-burger answer, wasn't it? (Laughter)
Q How can you tell the difference between that one and the previous one? (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: I think you've gathered that when we say we do expect to have contacts in coming days, that there may be more to say somewhat shortly on the subject; but at this point there's nothing to report other than the progress that we've already reported.
Q Michael, do you have anything to say about Sam Lewis resigning as head of Policy Planning, and what about his replacement?
MR. McCURRY: I don't, other than I saw that over the holidays there was reference to that. I didn't know whether Ambassador Lewis had made that public or not, and I forgot to ask him this morning. He's still, certainly, contributing vibrantly to the various debates around. Since I was gone, he may have confirmed to some of you that those are his plans. But I'm not aware that any -- in fact, I'm fairly confident that there have been no decisions made on a replacement.
Q Michael, what is your understanding of why he's resigning, because he apparently told his staff that they deserve to have someone as head of Policy Planning who had a better rapport with the Secretary of State.
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware of those comments. I don't know for a fact that's what he told his staff, but I'll ask him and see if he has anything he'd like to say publicly on it.
Q Mike, can you tell me if Bosnia is going to be on the agenda formally or informally at the NATO Summit?
MR. McCURRY: My understanding is that it will be on the agenda of both the NATO Summit and the Summit with President Yeltsin.
Q For what purpose? (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: I think to review the ongoing efforts of the international community to save lives in Bosnia, which continues each and every day with airdrops, with humanitarian relief that's keeping people alive, that's why.
Q The success of that has been questionable. Is the Secretary going there --
MR. McCURRY: You might question how effective it's been. I think it's indisputable that people have been kept alive in Bosnia this winter by the efforts of the world community, and especially the efforts of the United States.
Q Is the Secretary or the President, as far as you know, going to be discussing any new initiative on the issue when they meet with the NATO allies?
MR. McCURRY: I think that they will certainly be reviewing the status of the discussions that are underway that will resume sometime in mid-January under the auspices of the European Union and the United Nations, led by Lord Owen and Mr. Stoltenberg.
Q The last time NATO --
MR. McCURRY: And their new initiative, as you know, is an effort to reconvene a dialogue with the parties, attempting to reach a political settlement; and I think you followed their discussions and you know the status of where they are. They're reconvening on January l5th with the hope that they might be able to make progress on an overall settlement.
Q The last time NATO discussed this was to relieve the siege of Sarajevo. Is the United States satisfied that this siege has been lifted?
MR. McCURRY: Well, I don't think that's accurate. I mean there was --
Q Well, the strangulation of Sarajevo.
MR. McCURRY: When the Ministers met during the Secretary's recent trip there, they reviewed the status of decisions. You're referring back to --
MR. McCURRY: -- meetings in August. So that's been addressed since then, and I think they will it address it again when they meet later in the month.
Q Are there any new initiatives to relieve the ongoing strangulation of Sarajevo?
MR. McCURRY: Well, there's ongoing political dialogue with the parties, attempting to get them to live up to commitments that they've made; yes. There are those discussions underway.
Q There was a news report today that the French and the British were speaking of withdrawing their troops if there's not an agreement soon in Bosnia.
MR. McCURRY: I haven't seen it.
Q What's your knowledge of that, and is it alarming?
MR. McCURRY: Had not seen those accounts. I'll find out more about it. I mean the --
Q Could you take the question, because it's a pretty important development if they decide to pull out.
MR. McCURRY: I will. This is something that just moved within the last hour or so today?
Q No, this was this morning. They were reporting it on NPR, I think.
MR. McCURRY: O.K.
Q Has the State Department determined that the siege of Sarajevo is not strangulation, that in fact --
MR. McCURRY: That's a question, Jack, we've done over and over here.
Q I know.
MR. McCURRY: Again, that's something we assess with our NATO colleagues. We assess it regularly. We share information and data. We did so, I think, as late as last week. We continue to monitor what's happening on the ground in Sarajevo and look at that question. That is a specific phrase that the United States, and me in particular, will not address unilaterally here.
Q I know, but it triggers potential military action, and I guess everyone is trying to figure out what the threshold is; and there is no answer to that question.
MR. McCURRY: I don't have anything new that I can share on it.
Q When the Secretary, in his press conference in Los Angeles last week, made a comment -- which I'd like you to elaborate on, if you can -- he said -- and this is paraphrasing -- to the effect that he wouldn't be diverted by regional problems as he went forward in his tenure. Does he mean the United States is no longer going to be sort of looking at regional problems like Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia? Does that mean he, personally, is not going to be spending time and attention on them? What exactly did he mean?
MR. McCURRY: No. I remember a little bit of that direct exchange, but it reflects something that he's told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as well -- that he is working, himself, and considers it important to spell out publicly his priorities as Secretary of State in the matters that he feels need the urgent attention, day to day, of the Secretary. It's not to say that he will not address these other regional issues. He does. He often does. He was today, earlier today.
It's not to say that there are not times in which the Department at large will be entering into a variety of regional conflicts, issues, with our own views and with an attempt to work with our partners in the world community to see if we can achieve resolutions of those types of conflicts.
But I think the point that he was making, that he's been making often now, is that as Secretary of State he's going to remain focused on those priorities that he outlined for all of you and for the Foreign Relations Committee. And those, I think, the American people would consider to be pretty sensible priorities because they're the ones that go to the direct and vital strategic interests of the United States.
Q But does he think that he wasted his time in l993 to the
extent that he focused on the other problems?
MR. McCURRY: No. I think given the enormous efforts, the work that went in -- especially in those areas that he recounted for all of you -- I think he feels like there was a significant amount of progress made in l993 and that will continue to be made as we move into the new year on those issues and on other issues as well.
It's a big Department; there are a lot of people who work here. I think the Secretary outlined for you what his personal priorities are as he comes to work every single day; and he, you know, gave you a fair assessment of why he thinks those are the things that the American people should rightfully expect him to be concentrated on every day.
Q Michael, there's been news reports that you've launched - - the State Department has launched -- a diplomatic offensive to try to persuade the East Europeans that Partnership for Peace isn't as bad a deal as they think it is. Are those reports accurate, and can you give us some details about exactly what you're doing to try to persuade them of the worthiness of the "Partnership for Peace"?
MR. McCURRY: I read one of those stories over the week and said, "Oh, I see -- this is the August news that has made it into the December newspaper somehow or other." (Laughter).
Yes, if you hadn't noticed, we've been working on Partnership for Peace for a number of months now; and I think some reporters may have taken advantage of the lull in the holiday period to kind of go back and revisit some of that important diplomatic work that we had been doing earlier in the year.
We will continue to press the argument that we're making generally with our East European and NACC partners that this is the avenue that exists that's available for the expansion of NATO. It is exactly the vision of Partnership for Peace that we would move to an evolutionary process that could lead to a historic transformation of NATO as we look ahead to the next century, and even in the years between now and the next century.
I think, obviously, as people think ahead now to the NATO
Summit and what's likely going to be on the agenda, people are revisiting the effort -- the considerable effort -- that's been underway by the United States to press this idea in our initiative with our NATO and our NACC partners.
Q Michael, are you able to sell this?
MR. McCURRY: Yes. You know, I don't want to write the lead for the Summit at this point, but it's "a success." (Laughter). It might very well be defined, as we look ahead, as getting this important and historic initiative of the United States adopted by our NATO partners and seeing it then move fairly rapidly into implementation -- invitations extended for partnerships to Eastern European and Central European countries, and in a non-discriminatory way to all the NACC partners.
Q But, Michael, it's not an issue of selling it to the NATO partners, who already said that they like the idea because basically it's the same way they think. We're talking about selling it to the East Europeans, who say they don't like the idea; and they particularly don't like the idea since the Russian elections.
MR. McCURRY: Look, I got a dollar in my pocket, and I will bet you a dollar that if invitations are extended as a result of this NATO Summit -- invitations are extended to NACC members to enter into partnership contracts with the l6 NATO members to begin the habits of cooperation that might eventually evolve into NATO membership -- there is not a single country of those who are interested in that proposition who would fail to accept that invitation.
Q Mike, but --
MR. McCURRY: Would you want to take that bet? (Laughter)
Q But, substantively, has there been any new discussion as you head into the Summit about whether the parameters of membership -- the timing, the conditions, whatever -- will be spelled out with any -- I was going to say any more detail that they have been because there's been no detail -- with any detail about timing or conditions for ultimate membership, or will that be left entirely open and vague as it has been so far?
MR. McCURRY: I think as we've described it and as we will put it forward at NATO, the invitation to join in this partnership would be available almost immediately upon adoption of this program by the NATO Summit and that then each individual NACC member would then begin working with NATO to define the nature of the cooperation, the nature of the partnership, and actually form a contractual arrangement as it would lead to a partnership.
And that process we would expect to begin soon after the idea is favorably received by the NATO leaders later this month.
Q The decision back in August, though, kept open the question of timing and conditionality for membership. In the aftermath of the Russian elections, has there been any serious policy-level discussion at all revisiting that question, or have you entirely ruled - - put it off the table and chose not to reopen that question at all?
MR. McCURRY: I think it would be more accurate to say, Terry, that that issue had been dealt with, addressed, and looked at very carefully prior to the Russian election results. I think there have been discussions, obviously, going into the Summit there have been many, many discussions and consultations in preparation for the Summit.
I think the fact of the Russian election has been a part of many of those discussions; but I think that the formula, as it was designed by the United States, continues to hold up very well as being the right formula -- which is, we extend the partnership invitation. We begin to work with individual countries on structuring a partnership contract; and we move ahead in the evolution that would conceivably lead eventually to NATO membership.
Q Stories over the weekend kept talking about the Hungarians and the Czech Republic and the Poles having the inside track, while several other East European countries which are being left out -- or, at least, according to these stories. What is your understanding?
MR. McCURRY: Well, my understanding is the one that we have stated often. It's a non-discriminatory invitation that is available to all NACC members, including Russia. But then the cooperation and the arrangements that are then developed between each individual partner and the l6 NATO members is something that will be done on a case-by-case basis.
Now, whether some will be more eager to take on that responsibility and enter into that type of partnership remains to be seen at this point. But, obviously, someone will be first, someone will be second, someone will be third. Various countries have expressed themselves as to what their disposition would be, having received such an invitation from NATO.
Q But it would be up to the l6 to decide the terms of this contract and whether a contract is going to signed or whether there's going to be extended negotiations.
For example, is it correct that the attitude toward Belarus and Warsaw might be different than the attitude towards Afghanistan and Ukraine -- for example?
MR. McCURRY: Well -- Afghanistan? (Laughter)
Q Well, you might -- I'm sorry, Azerbaijan.
MR. McCURRY: I thought you meant it as a trick question. (Laughter)
Q -- with regard to Azerbaijan or other troubled places and Ukraine.
MR. McCURRY: I think it would be accurate to say that each of those countries will approach the concept of the partnership in a different fashion. They will have their own views. I'm sure that there will be l6 different views among NATO about how each of those partnership applications should be reviewed. But then it will have to be discussed and there will have to be a resolution as each individual case is examined.
Q True, but based on what's happening in those countries, that some of those applications would be more equal than others.
MR. McCURRY: I think that it is probably obviously the case that there are some countries, as opposed to other countries, that are able, more quickly, to enter into that spirit and habit of cooperation that could evolve into an effective partnership. I think it goes without saying it certainly is one of the features of the plan that it's flexible enough to accommodate itself to the different situations that each individual country would face.
Q Mike, will the U.S. be putting forward proposals on how the countries can fund their participation in military exercises?
MR. McCURRY: That is a good question. I know there has been discussion of that issue. I don't know whether that is something that is going to be on the agenda as the NATO Summit meets.
Q Mike, can you --
MR. McCURRY: I'll see if I can find out some more.
Actually, I will hold back on taking on a lot of questions on Partnership for Peace, because, clearly, as we go though this week -- both at the White House and here -- we will be having a number of people who will give you a lot more detail on that as we prepare for the Summit itself. Our plan is to have a much more extensive briefing on Partnership later in the week.
Q Mike, do you have anything on weapons talks between the United States, Russia, and Ukraine?
MR. McCURRY: I don't, other than that there have been bilateral discussions -- I think, as you know -- between Russia and Ukraine. There has been also participation by the United States almost, in a sense, in a trilateral fashion. But I don't have anything new for you on that.
Q Mike, I had understood there were talks beginning here today. Is that true?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know for a fact whether that's true. I can see if I can find out.
Q Mike, do you have anything on Haiti?
MR. McCURRY: On Haiti, I don't, beyond the two papers that we released that were delivered to the Haitian military, and then also to President Aristide. I think they covered that on the 22nd, I believe, and I'm not aware that there's been anything new since then.
Q Mike, this is a couple days old, but do you have anything on Laos and these reports of new evidence that American servicemen were left alive and that this government knew about them?
MR. McCURRY: I think that these are reports that are triggered as a result of the Clinton Administration's effort to declassify a lot of the documents that have been reviewed in the past by various Congressional committees and others. I think as some of you probably are aware, there was an extensive review of that issue by both the Legislative and the Executive Branches -- specifically, by the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs. They noted in their final report that American officials did not have certain knowledge that any specific prisoner or prisoners were being left behind. I think that we, obviously, will continue to investigate any report of Americans in captivity.
But one thing that we have stressed in our relations with Laos is the need to see cooperation on this issue. And, in fact, one thing we've looked at in the whole issue of our relationship with Vietnam is an effort to stimulate trilateral work between Vietnam, Laos, and the United States on accounting for our missing -- not only those attributed to Laos, but those attributed to the Vietnam conflict as well.
Q What's the status of the Vietnam -- relationship and the embargo? Win Lord was there recently.
MR. McCURRY: I don't have anything to contribute beyond some of the news accounts you've seen. There has not been a decision on anything involving next steps. I think you're all aware that Ambassador Lord -- Assistant Secretary Lord -- was there. He has come back; he has reported. There's been consideration of his report of progress in dealing with the full accounting that we require of the POW and the MIAs.
We will, you know, certainly be in contact with members of Congress and continue discussions within the Administration on how to proceed. But as of today I don't have anything new to report on how that might affect any efforts to acknowledge the progress that has been made on the POW-MIA issue.
Q Castro has apparently decided to allow his grand-daughter to leave the country to join her mother in this country. Any reaction from the State Department?
MR. McCURRY: Well, we would welcome that. I think that's something that we said that we would certainly like to see happen at the time that his daughter did make her way to the United States. I don't have anything more --
Q She's here.
MR. McCURRY: No -- the granddaughter, here. The granddaughter is -- they've indicated that she would be here and that she is here.
Q She's here now.
MR. McCURRY: We welcome her arrival. (Laughter)
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: O.K.
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