US DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING TUESDAY, JANUARY 11, 1994 BRIEFER: Christine Shelly Counselor Wirth Subject Page GLOBAL ISSUES ........................................1-12 Reorganization of State Department ......................1 Population/US Budget...........................2,6-7,11-12 Environment/Trade/US Budget ...........................3,6 -- US/Japan...........................................4,6 Narcotics/Latin America/Budget Allocation ..........3,7-11 Human Rights/US Budget .............................3,9-12 -- War Crimes Tribunal/US Aid re: Bosnia ............9-12 Terrorism .............................................4-6 -- Sanctions on Libya re: Pan Am 103 Bombing .............................................4-6 -- Syria ...............................................5 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Prospects for Air Strikes............................12-13 Violations of No-Fly Zone............................13-14 MEXICO Status of Insurrection ..............................14-16 -- Peace Commission/GoM's Human Rights Concerns...........................................14-15 US Diplomatic Contacts...............................14-16 ALGERIA Acting Secretary's Meeting with Ambassador to US .............................................16-17 Human Rights............................................17 HAITI Prospects for Conference of Parties in Miami ........17-19 Fuel Tanker/Time of Arrival .........................18-19 Prospects for New Sanctions/Timing...................19-21 Humanitarian Aid ....................................19-21 SRI LANKA Discovery of Mass Grave .............................21-22 -- US Asks for Investigation ..........................22 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JANUARY 11, 1994, 12:49 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm pleased today that at the opening of our press briefing, we have with us Timothy Wirth, Counselor of the Department of State. He was sworn in as Counselor on April 23, 1993. He's here with us today to discuss the Administration's policy toward global issues. He will make some opening remarks. He'll also be happy to take your questions. After he finishes, then I'll continue with your questions on other subjects.
COUNSELOR WIRTH: Thank you very much, Christine, and thank you all very much for coming. I don't have to remind all of you that during the campaign of 1992, President Clinton and Vice President Gore put an enormous emphasis on the new realities of the world and the fact that our approach to international security was changing very dramatically, some of that being pushed by this new Administration and some of it, obviously, by events around the world.
To back up that commitment, the Administration started very rapidly with a series of reorganizations to reflect the new global realities. One of those was in the White House, one in the National Security Council. I think all of you are familiar with the reorganization at AID; and another one was the reorganization of the State Department to develop the Global Affairs group.
I've handed out to all of you a copy of the organization chart to remind you all of what the new organization at the State Department looks like de facto now and will look like in reality after the Senate deals with the State Department authorization bill which will be the first item of business up at the end of January. When the Senate comes back on the 25th, the first item will be the State Department authorization bill and in that will be all of the specifics of the reorganization.
That reorganization will create formally these four new bureaus over which I have had responsibility since April.
The realities of the new foreign policy approaches were also reflected by President Clinton in the United Nations General Assembly speech in September, where the first time a United States President had talked about such issues as sustainable development and population, a major set of changes of priorities of the United States of America and a reflection of our commitments and willingness and desire to lead on these issues.
Vice President Gore reflected the same priorities at the Commission on Sustainable Development sessions in New York, and we continue to push on our new understandings and definitions of what we mean by our own national security, population, environment, counter- narcotics, terrorism, and so on.
In addition, the Administration has put increased and broader support to our commitments around the world for U.S. values, reflected particularly in the human rights and democracy packages.
This year we have a very ambitious agenda in the global affairs area. A top priority for everybody are our commitments on population. As all of you know, I believe, the world population is currently at 5.5 billion. If we do nothing, the world's population will double again sometime in the next 35 to 40 years, and will move on to 13 to 15 billion people before it is estimated that it will level off.
To imagine a world in which the population doubles in this fashion is unfathomable and clearly does not allow us any way that we're going to be able to maintain the quality of life or respect for the individuals that are fundamental to what we believe in the United States, nor would it allow us to maintain an environment with any integrity whatsoever or to conserve what many would call God's creation.
As a consequence, the United States has moved very dramatically into the population area. We redefined U.S. population policy early in the Administration and again in New York much to the delight of most countries in the world, who are very eager for U.S. leadership and very pleased that we are undertaking again a commitment that we had had during the 1970s.
The centerpiece of this year's activity will be the Cairo Population Conference in early September. That will be for population what Rio was for the environment. You will remember the UNCED Conference in the summer of 1972, which was so enormously important in bringing world leadership together around environmental issues. They will come together in September 1994 around population issues. We will have a dramatically increased presence and commitment to that, and hope that we will have some major commitments as well working with other countries and presenting a united front with countries from the developed world as well as the developing world.
In the environment, we have a series of very, very important tasks ahead of us. One of those relates to global climate change and assuring that other countries meet their commitments as the United States has. President Clinton laid out our set of goals on Earth Day in 1993, and we have a lot of work to press other countries to reach the commitments that they also signed up to in Rio.
Bio-diversity is an increasingly important and a very, very important issue globally. We have sent up the Bio-Diversity Treaty to the Congress. We look forward to its ratification early this year and we look forward also to a very aggressive approach with the developing world and with private enterprise, what Al Gore has called a major, new partnership to pursue the goals of bio-diversity.
A third area that is probably right at the top is environment and trade. Post-NAFTA and post-GATT, we now have a number of major problems that are popping up in the area of trade and the overlap of trade and the environment, ranging all the way to the tuna/dolphin case that you are all familiar with. You remember when the United States said that we would not allow or have the sale of tuna in the United States that was not caught with dolphin-free nets, that is symptomatic of a whole series or problems when environment and endangered species issues overlap with economic issues. We have others in timber, and others in the European challenge to our CAFE standards. We are going to see the trade issues increasingly defined by many of the environmental issues.
Finally -- and I'll stop with this -- we have a major challenge on Capitol Hill to redefine and develop a new partnership within the United States in counter-narcotics. The Congress and the country are very skeptical -- we think with good reason -- of the previous Administration's efforts which had placed so much effort on interdiction.
Lee Brown, head of the drug control policy, and Bob Gelbard here and I are developing, and the President signed off on a broad, new strategy which will place greater emphasis on demand at home and greater emphasis on institution-building overseas. This means that the flow of funds and the efforts made by our embassies not only in the Andean area but in southeast Asia with the growing and very troubling problems of heroin are going to get greater attention and we hope increasing support from the Congress.
A final note on human rights. We have been very successful in getting the United Nations to agree to a Human Rights Commissioner. That will be named, and we'll have a set of efforts to try to strengthen the human rights capabilities at the United Nations and around the world.
Let me stop at that. Our next most immediate target is the President's meeting with Hosokawa on the 11th and 12th of February in which the Japanese and the United States are having meetings that were agreed to in the common framework. That will have two trade packages and one very large, global package in which we have worked out a very exciting and broad, new cooperative agenda with the Japanese, the results of which -- many results and very promising results, we hope, will be announced on the 11th and 12th [of February] by President Clinton and Prime Minister Hosokawa.
Let me stop at that and get to any questions that any of you might have.
Q You're also involved in the terrorism problem; is that correct?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: Yes.
Q You didn't mention that.
COUNSELOR WIRTH: There were a whole lot of things, but in the limited period of time it was not an omission of any purpose.
Q All right, if I could ask a question about that. Is this not the time of year when you review the terrorism list?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: Yes.
Q With a view toward adding or subtracting from that list?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: Yes.
Q I believe next week is the deadline?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: It is.
Q Could you fill us in on the thinking as it stands now?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: That will be announced next week. The President makes his determinations next week and that will be announced at that time.
We have looked, as you can imagine, at a number of countries that will remain on the terrorism list. There are some troubling areas around the world, and I don't want to prejudge the announcement of that list today.
Our policy on terrorism remains consistent. The United States, in particular -- we believe that the kind of consistency of approach, as we have done in Pan Am 103, of compromising not at all and just continuing to push, push, push to try to get a resolution, is the only way in which we can begin to resolve the problem of attacks against American citizens, in particular.
Q (Inaudible) the President's meeting with President Assad, do you have anything to say about the latest or recent trends concerning Syria and the terrorism issue?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: We've investigated those and are looking at those very closely. There have been a number of allegations made in the press in Europe, in particular, about the complicity of the Libyans. We've looked at that and have not found any new evidence, or any evidence that would lead us to suggest to the President that he not meet with President Assad.
Q Can you bring us up to date with the situation as regards Libya and the prospects for taking further action at the U.N.?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: The United States, Britain, and France have worked very closely together. The so-called P-3 have agreed that we want to stick absolutely together on the issues. The French had, as you know, their own aircraft that was blown up over Africa. We believe that was done by the Libyans just as Pan Am 103. So the three of us are linked together.
The United States has been more outspoken in what we would like to see. We would like to see a number of steps more aggressively [taken] than the British and/or the French, but we have maintained a good package of sanctions. A new package was agreed to in early December. It focused on oil equipment and financial holdings. That has just gone into effect, and we're not in the process of trying to enforce that. We hope that that will help to increase the pressure on the Libyan Government.
Q Is there a deadline associated with that until the next steps are actually (inaudible).
COUNSELOR WIRTH: We just keep that pressure up, and then there will be a review of that that comes around in about a year, and we'll see where we've gotten on that front and what the nations at the United Nations may want to do at that point.
Q Do you seriously believe that these measures are going to achieve the goal of persuading President Qadhafi to give up these two individuals? Do you seriously believe they're going to do that?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: I think we've certainly pointed out to Qadhafi that there is an enormous cost to him and to the people of Libya and to his country if they do not do so. We think that there are encouraging signs from Libya that we have not seen Libya engaged in a lot of other activities for quite some time, and we hope that he will see his way clear to comply with the resolutions of the United Nations.
Q Could I ask you about the Japanese packages that you mentioned. I assume then that you think that Prime Minister Hosokawa is strong enough politically to take the political risks involved in two major trade packages and this global package. I'm not quite sure what that is. Could you begin by telling us what is the global package?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: When the former Prime Minister Miyazawa and President Clinton got together last year, they agreed that they wanted to work together on the trade package to see if we could resolve between us the two major -- one set of structural problems and one set of sectoral problems.
At that time the Japanese asked if we would also include a global package to have a third basket of activities. So you have a sectoral trade, structural trade and a global package. I was asked if I would undertake those negotiations with the Japanese.
We had a number of things that we wanted to put in that package. They had a number of things they wanted to do. They were especially concerned about some activities in Central and Eastern Europe. They were especially concerned about some pre-competitive technologies. Miyazawa had special concerns about some labor issues they wanted to discuss with us. There were five or six items that they had on their side.
We had five or six items that we wanted to add to the package. One of those was population. We wanted the Japanese, who have not been a player world wide on population issues, to join on that. We asked the Japanese to join on AIDS. The scourge of AIDS is spreading very rapidly, as you know, in Asia. We asked if they would join us on some timber issues, join us on some oceans issues.
Altogether, we ended up with an agenda of about 15 or 16 items in the global basket. We have been working with them over the last six months, and all of the results of this will be reviewed just before the Clinton-Hosokawa meeting on the 11th and 12th of February.
We are very hopeful that in the global package, we're going to end up with some major commitments by the Japanese on issues of deep concern to us, and we know that we're willing to make commitments on items of deep concern to them.
I'll give you an example on the ocean dumping situation. We had asked that we ought to do a lot more work together on oceans overall. There was the dumping of radioactive waste by the Russians just north of Japan that increased everybody's interest in this, and we hope that we can develop a good cooperative relationship, a tripartite relationship, between the Russians, the Japanese and the United States.
This would be a major victory for us. We're not sure we're going to be able to announce that as early as in February, but that's the kind of program.
On population and AIDS, the Japanese have been very forthcoming, and we are looking forward to what we believe will be some very significant commitments from them.
Q My original question was, do you think Hosokawa politically is strong enough, secure enough, and has a future to make the sort of commitments that you would like to see?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: Certainly, the area that I am involved with, the global issues, the Japanese Government has been incredibly forthcoming, and as they have reviewed their AID program -- their ODA, Overseas Development Assistance program -- they have been very eager to join forces with us on a whole series of concerns and to increase their financial and human resource commitment to these programs.
The trade discussions, as you know, are troubling, and you never know what's going to happen on those until you get to the last moment. Just like any negotiation, you get right up to the final edge, and most of that will probably be worked out in the final hours.
I was just recently over there and have spent a lot of time with the Japanese over the last six months, and I got a sense that it is very important to Mr. Hosokawa to be able to demonstrate that he has been able to deal with and manage this probably the most important bilateral relationship in the world. And we're very eager to make sure that those forces of reform in Japan are reinforced as much as we possibly can.
What results will come out of this on the trade front, we won't know, I think, until the last minute and until the Clinton- Hosokawa meetings on the 11th. Maybe late on the 10th that it will finally get put together.
Q What is the status of U.S. counter-narcotics operations in Latin America? Are there still American troops in those countries on the ground operating radar installations and so forth -- the kinds of things we've seen them do in the last few years?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: We don't have American troops on the ground in Latin America. There are a number of AID personnel. There are a number of DEA personnel. There are a few State Department personnel who are there working in an active fashion with the Governments of Bolivia and Colombia in particular.
We have done a good deal of training of military units in both of those countries, and we've done a good deal of police training as well. The emphasis that we are increasingly going to place on our activities in counter-narcotics in Latin America and in particular on our so-called institution building -- administration of justice programs, police training programs, the accountability of the police, the judicial training programs -- there are a series of activities that we believe long term are going to have the greatest impact.
It is also terribly important to recognize that the involvement and support of the United States for these governments -- particularly in the Andean region -- is very, very important. Our commitment and our involvement with those countries strengthens those countries, and I think there are no better examples, again, than Bolivia and Colombia. Colombia not long ago being very close to being taken over by narcotics individuals; Bolivia being very corrupt not long ago, and now we've seen major reforms in both of those countries which are, I think, very much in the interests of the United States to see that quest and move toward democracy continue and be strengthened.
Q Could you flesh out the change in priorities in terms of budget, for instance? How is it going to be reflected as you move away from interdiction and to these other areas that you're --
COUNSELOR WIRTH: Interdiction is enormously expensive. And against interdiction, the budget reflected a lot of the steaming costs of U.S. fleets, a lot of the DoD costs in SOUTHCOM. We have an awful lot of money wound up in the interdiction effort. We're going to maintain part of that interdiction effort. There is no question about it. We have learned over a period of time, however, what sorts of things work better than others and, as we shift away from an emphasis that is predominantly interdiction, we're going to be shifting toward an emphasis which is, one, institution building; second, we're going to be doing some work in alternative crop production, particularly in the Chapare -- in the southern part of Bolivia; and, third, we're going to be carrying out with those countries very aggressive eradication programs which in terms of cost effectiveness, they may be the most cost effective approaches.
We do not have a magic formula, by any means, for solving all the narcotics problems. We just have to continue to do it on a number of levels, and fundamental to this all is the institution building in terms of our overseas effort and, of course, demand reduction here at home.
Q Has this Administration come to the realization that in the short term there's nothing they can do to keep heroin, cocaine off the streets of the United States and Western Europe?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: I think that heroin and cocaine are coming in in very large quantities from Latin America and from Southeast Asia. We're, as I said before, very worried about the increase in access to heroin and the drop of price in the access to heroin, and we will continue our efforts. But we have to be realistic about the fact that we're going to have cocaine and heroin on the streets of the United States. What we want to do is to make it as difficult as possible for the traffickers to have it there and to focus as much as possible on a demand program in the United States.
Q On the War Crimes Tribunal which you've listed as one of your aims, there is a section which no doubt is completely unfounded, that this was set up basically as a (inaudible) to show that the international community was doing something on Bosnia, when it didn't want to do the really tough things, like stop the war.
What could you offer up to correct this false and misleading impression?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: I think people are going to have perceptions as to, one, as to what kinds of activities ought to be carried out in a military fashion in Bosnia. The United States Government has two major thrusts now: one, an enormous commitment in humanitarian aid, in which a great deal of scarce American taxpayer dollars have gone to the people of Bosnia and to refugee programs there. We are far and away the largest contributor in the world and plan to continue that commitment.
On the War Crimes Tribunal, we think that no matter what happens in terms of military activity, it's important for the United States to maintain the very clear message that there are activities beyond civilized behavior to which people will be held accountable for a long time to come. That's not something that's going to appear overnight as a sanction against individuals, but we hope that in the long term that becomes part of a package of warnings that people would have who might want to continue to engage in this sort of activity.
Is this a substitute for other activities on the ground or opening up the Tuzla airport? No. But is this part of an overall program? The answer is yes.
Q When is this Tribunal actually going to --
COUNSELOR WIRTH: We had hoped that it would be starting. We're collecting information now. There's a very aggressive program of collecting data in Bosnia from various survivor groups and refugees, and so on, to create all of the information for the ten judges -- I think there are ten judges that have been appointed as part of the Tribunal.
We had hoped that that would start in February. Unhappily, the chief judge, who was selected from Venezuela, has been very slow in going and committing himself to arriving there. There were reports in the press this morning, which you might have seen, that he may be joining the Venezuelan Government, at which point we have to go back to the drawing boards to find that individual. We hope that that's not the case, but, if it is, that's a setback which is disappointing.
Q Senator, is it still the American position that people cannot be tried in absentia, and do we realistically expect the Government of Belgrade to cough up people like Arkan, and so on, to be tried? So is there any realistic expectation that anyone is ever going to be tried for these war crimes?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: We're certainly going to give it everything that we can to try to do this, and to try to hold that example up as aggressively as we possibly can. I will tell you that I and others worry, obviously not only about the spread of what's gone on in the former Yugoslavia and that immediate area, but what goes on elsewhere and what kind of an invitation people might perceive; and any defenses that we can set up for that, the better off we're going to be.
I cannot guarantee you that we're going to be able to shackle people up, bring them to trial, have them sitting there in a trial and send them immediately to jail. But we're going to do everything that we can in what you recognized in your question as an extremely difficult situation.
Q The issue of trials in absentia, do we still in principle oppose that?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: I'm not a lawyer.
Q So there couldn't be trials of any individuals unless those individuals were in custody. You could collect information, you can have the judges there, you can have lots of people working, you can set up a vast international bureaucracy, but there won't actually be trials unless people are somehow brought into custody.
COUNSELOR WIRTH: It's not our hope to set up a vast international bureaucracy. It is our hope to set up and collect the information on these individuals and do everything we can to set up the situation, so if we do have those individuals, we can then try them; and they would know that, in fact, any travel that those individuals may be doing, any arrival that they might have outside of the safe haven they may find themselves, that they would, in fact, be picked up and taken to trial.
Q Are you saying that if people like Milosevic, for instance, happens to be somewhere outside of his country, he would be eligible to be arrested by an international law enforcement --
COUNSELOR WIRTH: No. It would depend on what the Tribunal had decided and how they wanted to proceed with that.
Q Would you support that measure? Do you support that measure?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: I would certainly support that measure. I think we ought to be as aggressive as we possibly can be, and that's one of the purposes of trying to get this process going as rapidly as we can to collect this kind of information and have the warning go out to these individuals that they are going to be held accountable.
Q But it's out of your hands, right? I mean, this is an international tribunal over which the U.S. Government has minimal influence.
COUNSELOR WIRTH: The United States Government has a great deal of influence in the fact that we are the people who continue to push on the War Crimes Tribunal and have been its strongest advocate.
Q You don't even have a prosecutor, apparently, a year after he was authorized.
COUNSELOR WIRTH: That's true. We are disappointed with the fact that the person who was selected has been so slow in going and now may not go.
Q What sort of resources, money, people you will have at your disposal this year to pursue this very ambitious agenda?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: There are so many pieces to it, but just to start in the population area, the United States is this year providing close to $500 million a year in world population programs. Our goal by the year 2000, John, in population is to provide family planning services, comprehensive family planning package, to every woman in the world who wants them by the year 2000.
That would mean that our share of the pie and share of that increase would about double between now and the year 2000. We hope to be able to move -- the President will announce his budget in late January, as you know, and we hope that there will be a significant increase in population on that.
Q Your Bureau, specifically?
COUNSELOR WIRTH: The population program is run out of AID, and we run the interference for that. The programs run out of our Bureaus are the refugee program, and that this year will be around $700 million a year. The narcotics control program and that this year will be a little shy of $300 million. The major population program -- and that runs out of AID, some of the counter-narcotics program does as well, these are administered by AID. It's really a combination of the two.
In the environment, the biggest single commitment of the United States is to the global environment facility, which we're in the process of replenishing -- the funding of that being replenished. The U.S. commitment to that is $100 million a year over a three-year period of time.
We have a major drawdown commitment for the War Crimes Tribunal, a $25 million commitment, to make that a reality. We are supporting a whole variety of United Nations' activities.
COUNSELOR WIRTH: That's very hard to say. There is not a defined budget that is just a G budget. Much of this is in the United Nations. Much of it goes through AID. The two biggest parts of it -- counter-narcotics and refugees, outside of population -- we manage ourselves.
Thank you all very much for coming. I appreciate your being here and your interest, and I suppose the next set of major announcements will be around the time of the Hosokawa visit in early February. Thank you very much.
MS. SHELLY: Thank you, Counselor Wirth.
As I have no housekeeping announcements, I'm happy to proceed directly to any questions on other subjects that you may have.
Q Are you going to talk about Bosnia today?
MS. SHELLY: I can talk a little bit about Bosnia.
Q Where, bureaucratically, does the possibility of air strikes stand?
MS. SHELLY: On this one, I think I would just have to refer you to what the President had said on this yesterday, and that is that if the conditions -- it's something that the Alliance is still committed to, and the President made very clear that if that commitment was to remain and to be reiterated in the summit communique, that the member nations should be prepared to follow through on that. If it was determined that the conditions were met, then there would have to be consultations within the North Atlantic Council and also with Boutros- Ghali.
So I think the President has said what there is to say on that, and that is where the issue is.
Q But Boutros-Ghali's finger is on the trigger. It's nobody else's. In other words, he has to give the "go," "no-go," before anything can happen.
MS. SHELLY: That's the way that the August 9 decision read in the first place.
MS. SHELLY: Basically, it's my understanding that the commander in the field has to request that, and that NATO is certainly involved since it involves the use of NATO assets. So there would have to be agreement within the North Atlantic Council. But Boutros-Ghali himself also addressed the mechanisms of this issue, and he also said that his personal representative would also need to be involved in that process as well. So it was his feeling that he would actually hear from the commander in the field via his representative in the region.
Q And Boutros-Ghali's approval would be a one-time thing that would set a precedent for any further action?
MS. SHELLY: It's my understanding that what has been said on this is that the initial authorization would have to come from him.
Q But then afterwards, no further authorization would be needed for subsequent bombings.
MS. SHELLY: That part -- I don't think it would be very wise for me to get into further. I mean, what was said about this yesterday indicated that his authorization was still necessary for the initial action to take place, and beyond that I presume that the action shifts to the theater, and it is up to the commander at that point; and presumably also he remains in contact all the way along the way with Boutros-Ghali's representative, with also the North Atlantic Council, and also Boutros-Ghali himself also indicated that he would, of course, wish to keep the Security Council informed. I don't think there's one single person who is just simply responsible for that. It involves a mechanism of consultations all the way up and down the chain.
Q We haven't asked about "no-fly" violations in a while. Anything new on that?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything new in the way of numbers or hard facts. It's my understanding that basically the violations which occurred still basically are helicopter violations which are very difficult to track at times. But again it's the assessment of those who are watching this most closely that the violations have not been used to engage in any kind of militarily significant actions. They basically have been largely movements of one person or another around, occasionally medical evacuations and things like that; and in some cases perhaps flights that might have even been approved if the discussions had taken place with the UNPROFOR commanders.
But in general, the view is that the violations which have occurred have not been militarily significant.
Q Over the weekend, Secretary Christopher dodged the question of our position on Mexico and possible violations of human rights on the grounds that we hadn't formed any independent view of what happened.
Eleven days after the Chiapas revolution, does the United States have any view at all as to what really happened there, and what's going on now?
MS. SHELLY: I think that we still do not have a complete picture. The situation created by the armed insurrection in the Chiapas state, I think, remains somewhat murky. We're still collecting our information. As you know, we went an Embassy team down there.
The political state of play, of course, is that the government of Mexico and the Zapatistas have called for an end to the fighting and for negotiations, but these discussions have not yet begun. We, of course, welcome President Salinas' appointment of the former Foreign Secretary Camacho-Solis to head a peace commission to try and resolve the Chiapas problem.
Q In the investigation of this team that went to Chiapas, they have not yet determined what set it off; whether or not there was foreign involvement, which has been alleged; whether the church was involved or not?
MS. SHELLY: I think all of these questions are being looked at, but I'm not of the understanding that we have come to any definitive view on either of those points.
Q The same subject. Several human rights organizations claimed that they have been prevented to approach the zone of the fighting. Do you have anything on that, any reaction to those claims?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any specific response to that. On that point, your questions is perhaps more appropriately directed to the Mexican Government. I would note, however, in terms of the Cabinet changes that were signaled yesterday by the Mexican Government, that I think that it reflects a very strong concern for the human rights element in looking at the crisis.
I think it's important that the former Attorney General, who was once a Supreme Court justice and the first President of the National Human Rights Commission -- that he has been brought in. He brings a keen respect for the rule of law and for the promotion of human rights to his new post. He is the new Interior Minister, as you know.
I think beyond that, probably President Salinas' own remarks of yesterday in the press conference that he made -- his own remarks addressed that. He made it very clear that in addressing this, that there had to be a full adherence to the constitution and the law. I think there was a certain acknowledgement that some of the ways in handling this had not really worked properly, and so therefore in the Cabinet -- both in the formation of the Commission and also in the Cabinet changes that he announced, I think he made it very clear that he's indicating a sensitivity to the human rights concerns and to try to get the process of investigation to determine exactly what the underlying problems are which led to the insurrection, to make sure that those are properly addressed.
Q Do you expect as a principle for the Mexican Government to allow human rights organizations if they wish to go there, to enter the zone?
MS. SHELLY: Again, I think that exactly what the arrangements are regarding the groups that want to have access, I just don't think that's an appropriate question for me to get involved in -- addressing the specific groups or the specific ground rules for that.
The important point is I think that the most recent developments indicate that they're on the right track. They're aware of the fact that there are human rights issues out there. They have announced some changes and some priorities for themselves that indicate that they are aware of that, they're sensitive to that, and they want to try to move on from here to respond to that. I think the important thing is to emphasize where they're headed now.
Q Are you implying that there have been abuses over the first ten days of this insurrection?
MS. SHELLY: I think that some of what the Mexican Government has said is it has admitted that there perhaps were some situations that were not responded to in the best way.
Certainly, I think they felt that the Mexican army in its response -- President Salinas said himself that they were attempting to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities, but at the same time I think he's indicated that they need to make sure that the safety of the citizens is guaranteed, and that they will be working with all of the proper authorities to try to restore tranquility to the families and to the region.
He certainly, himself, has indicated that there have been some problems in this, and that's why he made the announcements that he did yesterday.
Q Christine, excuse me, but you're not a spokesman for the Mexican Government.
MS. SHELLY: That's right.
Q What does the U.S. Government think?
MS. SHELLY: I think that we believe that the changes that were announced, and the statements made by the President himself indicate that their approach to dealing with the problems is on the right track.
Q We, therefore, have not expressed any concerns to the Mexican Government?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not going to say that we haven't expressed concerns. I think we have been in virtually daily contact with the Mexican Government at the highest levels on this issue. We have certainly discussed the situation with them in terms of the factual state of play and certainly their handling of it.
But I think that those are exchanges which are confidential. They have taken place, as I indicated, at a high level in the Mexican Government, and that is the appropriate place, I think, to have both received the information, to exchange views on it, and for us to have offered our views. I don't think the right place for me to do that is here.
Q What label have you put on the Zapatistas? Terrorists, for instance, freedom fighters? What does this government consider them to be?
MS. SHELLY: Again, I think we are still operating under insufficient information to really try and attach any kind of a label to the group. It's not a simple yes or no question. We're not in a position to either characterize it as a terrorist organization or not. We simply don't have information which would have to be based on substantially greater facts in order to make that kind of determination.
I think the key point here is not the label that we attach to it; the key point is that the group itself has also expressed a very strong interest in seeking an end to the fighting and to begin negotiations with the government, and that is certainly what we would feel is the best way ahead.
Q Could you say what was the purpose of the meeting that appears on the daily schedule between Mr. Tarnoff and the Algerian Ambassador is?
MS. SHELLY: I understand that the meeting which is taking place today with the Algerian Ambassador and Acting Secretary Tarnoff -- this is occurring this afternoon. It's a meeting which was requested some time ago by the Algerian Ambassador. I understand that it is for the purpose of discussing the current situation in Algeria.
Q (Inaudible) raising the human rights situation in Algeria which was recently the subject of a report by Middle East Watch?
MS. SHELLY: Since the meeting is at the Algerian request, they may have some specific topics that they want to raise. I think that Acting Secretary Tarnoff will also have a range of issues that he will wish to discuss with the Algerian Ambassador.
As you know, the human rights situation in Algeria is, in fact, an issue of great concern to us. We do follow the situation very carefully. We have, of course, seen the report to which you've referred. We have also mentioned several of the same things that that report has mentioned in our own human rights report.
We do have a regular dialogue with Algeria on this subject. In that dialogue, we have urged the government to undertake the political and structural reforms and the economic reforms which we believe are necessary to satisfy the needs of the Algerian people. The events that have been going on there certainly indicated that there are disaffected elements of the population. They need to be incorporated in the political dialogue and as a part of the process which, hopefully, will result in charting a new course for Algeria.
Q Can I ask for a brief readout, if possible, on the meeting?
MS. SHELLY: I'll see if we can post something this afternoon.
Q On Haiti: Is the U.S. Government still hopeful that there could be a meeting of all parties, including the military, particularly after today's fist-fight in the Haitian parliament?
MS. SHELLY: Certainly, the plans for the conference for this weekend -- the 14th through the 16th -- are still underway. I understand that President Aristide has now issued a detailed agenda for that conference. I would refer you to the Haitian Embassy for details on that.
Certainly, we still hope that representatives from a broad range of groups from Haiti and from the international community will participate. We haven't actually seen their guest list. But, again, you could check with the Haitian Embassy for details.
I did mention yesterday that we understood that the Haitian military was to be invited, but I don't have anything to add to that today. I don't know whether or not they have taken a decision on that.
As to the events, there were reports that there was a kind of scuffle in the parliament yesterday and that several diplomats were hustled out for their own protection. What I understand is that there was something of this kind that occurred at the opening of the parliament that related to Haitian legislators there over the issue of whether some of the Senators that were elected in the 1992 legislative elections should be seated.
Previously, those legislators, I understand, that were elected had agreed not to participate in the parliament until the new government, which was to be formed under the Governor's Island Accord, could actually address their status. I understand that the international community had not actually recognized the status of that group of legislators.
But when it became clear that there was not going to be any productive session of parliament and that violence was possible, our Ambassador and other diplomats left.
Q Do you have any news about the tanker which is supposed to arrive, I guess, tomorrow in Haiti? Is it on its way?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not sure about the exact date on this. A fuel tanker is scheduled to arrive in Port-au-Prince sometime within the next few days. As you know, this is the first shipment of fuel which belongs to the Pan American Health Organization fuel facility, which is the body that actually sells the fuel to the private voluntary organizations which are involved in the delivery of food and medicine to Haiti's most needy people.
This fuel is the physical property of the Pan American Health Organization, and, as such, it is protected under international law. It's use, of course, is supposed to be only toward humanitarian purposes.
I would note that yesterday the United Nations Security Council issued a statement that there should be no interference in this delivery. And as I think you're aware also, on January 7, the Ambassadors and the Charge d'Affaires of the Four Friends in Haiti delivered a letter to the commander of the Haitian armed forces stating that it's very important for the Haitian military to create an environment which will permit this arrangement to function.
Q When it was first announced, the date of the 12th was mentioned. Now you're talking about the next few days. Do we have to see any meaning in this?
MS. SHELLY: I wouldn't read any particular meaning into it. I think that the delivery is imminent, but I'm no longer absolutely certain that it is an arrival date of tomorrow. I was checking on this before we came down. I think I'm in a position to be a little less categoric about the precise date, but I think it's sometime within the next couple of days.
Q Has the ship left Venezuela -- the tanker?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have that information.
Q Just a point of clarification. You said you didn't know about the invitation to the military. You didn't know if the invitation had been offered or you didn't know if the military had accepted?
MS. SHELLY: Yesterday, I indicated, quoting the Minister of -- I believe it was Information in Haiti -- that he had indicated that an invitation had been extended to the military. What I don't have information on is what the military's view is in response to that invitation.
Q You are confident that the military, indeed, has been invited?
MS. SHELLY: That's my understanding.
Q Is January 15 still a deadline for seeking additional sanctions, or has that slipped?
MS. SHELLY: In the December 22 communique, which came out and which was released by the Four Friends, that was the date which was indicated by that. We still have some hope that this conference may be able to get the movement back on track toward the implementation of the Governor's Island Accord. I think that is the key point, whether or not there can be movement in that direction. If this particular conference might facilitate that, the date is certainly very much out there. I think it's still not clear whether this conference and events leading up to it, if this is going to result in success in breaking the current impasse.
Certainly, the communique, the aide-memoire, the paper which was issued by the Friends and the message that it sent, I think the elements in there still stand. Whether the January 15 date -- because that's precisely -- it falls in the middle of this three-day conference -- whether there's going to be a trigger prior to seeing what the result of the conference is. I'm not in a position to say.
Q Christine, one of the New York newspapers reported today that despite the humanitarian effort that malnutrition rates are rising in Haiti and that a lot of the aid wasn't getting through. Independently, some humanitarian aid organizations are reporting that they are seeing signs of quantifiable malnutrition, especially amongst children under the age of five.
Do you have any such information about the state of malnutrition? And in that connection, I note that this ship carries fuel but not food.
MS. SHELLY: As recently as about ten days ago, something like 870,000 Haitians were receiving food on a daily basis through the U.S. and other humanitarian assistance programs. As we've mentioned before, about two million people are receiving basic medical care.
I understand that in the last few days that these numbers have been dropping, precisely because of the fuel supply situation. The supplies available to the private voluntary organizations administering the relief programs are being rapidly diminished.
I understand the Haitian military has some reserves of fuel which it is keeping for its own operations. The military itself has not been making any of its own fuel supplies available to try to relieve the suffering of the Haitian people. So that's why I think there's a lot of focus on trying to get this fuel delivery in. It would be the first shipment by the international community and its subsequent distribution to the PVOs there that are involved in the food and medicine is very crucial.
We don't have any new assessments or independent assessments that get into precisely the malnutrition question or the numbers question. That's something that we're looking at, and we are trying to pull together the information that we can.
Basically, I've shared with you what we have at this point which is that the numbers which had been the benchmarks are dropping because of the shortage of fuel supplies, since the fuel supplies impact very heavily on the ability to get food out to the people who need them. So it is something that we are going to be tracking very closely.
Q One more question. Might this be a chink in the armor of this embargo? Might the embargo begin to fall apart if this situation continues? How effective has it been in really reaching and affecting the people that we are trying to affect with these sanctions?
MS. SHELLY: I think that kind of brings us back to the litany related to the instrument. We had always said that sanctions were a tough tool, a blunt instrument. It does have an impact on the population. We have worked very hard through the provision of food and medicines, through the voluntary organizations, to try to mitigate those to the extent possible.
It's not my understanding that there's any consideration being given to changing the posture on the sanctions. I think we're staying the course on that, and then at the same time we're working in tandem to try to make sure that those who are the neediest will still continue to have their basic needs met.
Q On Sri Lanka, any comments on the mass grave discovered this week; specifically on Sri Lanken human rights abuses, sort of generally beyond what may have been in the human rights report this year?
MS. SHELLY: We've looked into this. I can tell you a little bit about what we know.
We understand that a mass grave containing the bodies of some 15 to 20 people was uncovered in a remote area of southern Sri Lanka on January 3. We understand that the local authorities are carrying out full-scale excavations.
The bodies are believed to be those of people who disappeared during the government's 1988-90 campaign against the JVP. That's the Sinhalese Ultra-Nationalist Marxist Group. This organization, which attempted to overthrow the Sri Lankan Government was crushed in 1990.
During the period of the insurgency -- the '88 to '90 period -- human rights violations were committed by both the government and the JVP forces.
We're not at this point in a position to determine who is actually responsible for the deaths of the bodies that were found. Our Ambassador has met with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister and he has asked for a complete investigation into these murders.
We think that such an investigation would help reaffirm the Sri Lankan Government's strong commitment to human rights reform.
A little bit more on the human rights front. The Government of Sri Lanka has been fighting a rather serious battle with insurgencies off and on now for something like ten years. The most brutal period was during the JVP uprising when deaths reached a high of something like 300 per week, and thousands of people actually disappeared.
As I mentioned, serious human rights violations were committed by both sides in this. The government has been trying very hard to improve its human rights image and record since that time.
In 1991, the Sri Lankan Government invited Amnesty International and the U.N. Human Rights Commission to Sri Lanka to make recommendations for reform. The government implemented the majority of these reforms. And since that period, it's our view that their human rights record has shown a very steady improvement.
The civil war -- the war between the government forces and some of the challenging groups -- it's still at a political and military stalemate. It has continued to cause the death of innocent people. We, of course, have repeatedly called for all of the parties concerned to try to work toward political solutions which would try and restore and peace and prosperity in Sri Lanka.
Q You say the Ambassador there met with the Sri Lankan Prime Minister?
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Specifically to ask him to investigate this grave, or was this in context of a broader meeting, or it was a demarche of some kind?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have the details on that. It's obviously some time within the last week because this particular discovery was only made on the 3rd of January. In the context -- he had a meeting with the Prime Minister; the subject was raised and he expressed the U.S. position on this. I don't have any details about other topics of the meeting.
Q Can you just take the question, whether he delivered a demarche to the Sri Lankan Prime Minister on that topic?
MS. SHELLY: Sure. I'll be happy to see if we have anything on that.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:47 p.m.)
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