US DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Monday, January 31, 1994 BRIEFER: Michael McCurry Subject Page HUMAN RIGHTS Release of Annual Human Rights Report ....... 1-3 -- Briefing by Counselor Wirth/Asst. Secretary Shattuck . ............................... 1 -- No Daily Press Briefing Tomorrow ........... 1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Fighting/Reports of Serbian/Croatian Regulars... 3-5 Prospects for Close Air Support/Strikes/ Authorization ................................ 5-7,9-14 Sanctions Against Croatia ...................... 5,7 Humanitarian Aid/Relief of Tuzla/Srebrenica .... 6-7,11-13 US Discussions with Russia ..................... 8 Macedonia/US Troops ............................ 14 IRELAND US Issues Visa to Gerry Adams .................. 14-18 CHINA MFN/Human Rights ............................... 18-19 Asst. Secretary Shattuck's Discussions re: Political Prisoners .......................... 19 LATVIA Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister/Agenda 19 Discussions with Russia/US Role ................ 19-20 SOMALIA US Diplomatic Convoy Fired On .................. 20-21 Donor's Conference in Kenya/US Representatives . 21 ISRAEL Private Visit to Department by Foreign Minister 22 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Bilateral Talks ................................ 22-23
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, JANUARY 31, 1994, 12:58 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I want to start first with just a quick logistical update for tomorrow, since many of you are interested in the release of the Human Rights Report. Tomorrow, 12:45: Counselor Tim Wirth and Assistant Secretary for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs John Shattuck -- they will be here to do an ON-THE-RECORD briefing on our Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1993.
Because of that briefing and because I think there will be some interest in going into some specificity on things, there won't be a Daily Press Briefing tomorrow. I'll be on hand to sort of preside, so if any of you have questions afterwards, we can maybe go through some things.
We're going to post at the conclusion of this briefing -- it will be available in the Press Office -- a little rundown on how we're going to try to make things available tomorrow. You're going to have to bear with us because it's a very long document. We're going to do our best to make copies available as fast as we can make them available. It's not done now. They're still making some revisions and working on it now, so we will do our best to try to make it available to you.
We are going to have some ability to make it available electronically, which I think will help the computer literate among you.
We've worked in consultation with the State Department Correspondents Association to figure out what we believe to be the most newsworthy parts of the reports, and we'll try to make them available piecemeal as early as possible in the day tomorrow as we can -- I think probably beginning around 9:00 in the morning. But we ask that you strictly embargo all that material until the conclusion of the briefing tomorrow when you have a chance to hear from the two officials who can walk you through some of the report. We're just anxious to give you as much time with the documents as we can. But again there will be some more detail on handling this and some of the arrangements that will be available in the Press Office after today's briefing.
Q Mike, on Bosnia, may we try on Bosnia. Now, last. --
Q Can I ask a question?
Q Oh, sure.
MR. McCURRY: Mr. Gedda, you're sitting in the honor chair. We'll go with you.
Q Since the "end of the briefing tomorrow" is somewhat ambiguous, can we just make the embargo 1:15 since that will be the approximate time of the end of the briefing?
MR. McCURRY: You're looking for a time certain that you can move it? Can we say 1:30?
Q Wait a minute. Move it or at least put it on the wire saying "embargoed."
MR. McCURRY: "For use at 1:30."
Q For release at 1:30.
MR. McCURRY: Yes. Wire transmission prior to that is acceptable to the Department providing you indicate a 1:30 use. Is that clear to everybody?
MR. McCURRY: Okay.
Q On Bosnia -- can I try on Bosnia --
Q Is it possible to embargo it for 48 hours?
Q So that we can reach our countries.
MR. McCURRY: Mr. Gedda will answer that on my behalf.
Q I'll take the question.
MR. McCURRY: "No" is the answer.
Q Mike, on the distribution of the individual reports, you said in the morning you're going to sort of trickle them out beginning at 9:00 o'clock?
MR. McCURRY: I wouldn't say "trickle." We're going to try to provide what the Association has identified to us as being the subjects that you're most interested in. We're trying to make those available first --
Q All at once then.
MR. McCURRY: -- prior to some of the others. As best as we can make them available, given all-night Xeroxing and things like that.
Q Okay. Is there some procedure for determining which ones would be available first, or is it dependent upon --
MR. McCURRY: We have consulted with your Association to try to determine what you believe to be the most newsworthy ones.
Q No, no, I understand that. But, I mean, within that list is what I'm getting at.
MR. McCURRY: Within. Oh, you mean --
Q I mean, if you decide, for example, well, we'll leave the China report to be Xeroxed last at 1:29 p.m. --
MR. McCURRY: We'll do our best to make ones that obviously have the most urgent press interest, broadly defined among everybody. Everyone's got their own most urgent case here, obviously, but we'll try to take the ones of general and most substantive interests and make those available the fastest and the soonest.
Q Mike, last week when you were not here, I think, there were reports that Yugoslav regulars were in Bosnia, and now you're here and there are reports Croat regulars are in Bosnia. We got kind of an ambiguous assessment, appraisal, at that point -- I guess the State Department didn't have a lot of information. Can you bring us up to date on both situations?
MR. McCURRY: I'll say on both situations we have a considerable amount of information on what we know about the operation of either HVO -- that is, Croatian regular units -- or JNA -- that would be Serbian regular units -- within Bosnia. I'm handicapped here and we have been handicapped in describing for you publicly what we can make available, because much of the information that we do have comes to us in a means and a fashion that we can't share publicly.
What we can say publicly is that we certainly are aware of these reports. This is something that we monitor as well as other UNPROFOR participants monitor on a regular basis. We treat each and every report we see seriously. We look at it. But, as we indicated last week in the case of Serbian regular army units operating, we hadn't seen a dramatic escalation from the type of penetration that we had observed on a time-to-time basis. In the case of the Croatian units, we obviously are aware of these reports. We take them very seriously; and that's as much as we can say on it publicly at this point.
Q Well, maybe you can say a little more, because we're aware of the reports, too. We read the newspapers, and we're trying to see if the State Department can move us beyond The New York Times and other reports which are quoting Yugoslav journalists. So this is becoming rather circular. We can quote each other eventually.
But you should be able, I would think, to give us some general conclusions. You're not revealing your modus operandi if you tell us if these two outside republics, or whatever they are, have sent in regulars to try to beat back what apparently are some new successes by the Muslim-led government.
Q We have even said publicly in the past year we are aware in the case of the Serbs that they do -- there has been evidence of activity within the border, and the same is true in the case of Croatia. We know, for example, that individual Croatian advisers, soldiers formerly belonging to the Croatian army, have been operating in Bosnia for some time. That's different from suggesting, as some of these news reports do, that there is evidence of large-scale formations moving inside Bosnia; and I say those are very serious reports.
We are assessing those reports, and we obviously would be assessing them with the idea of corroborating what our own information would suggest.
Q Since we're playing "Twenty Questions" on this subject here, are we supposed to infer from the fact that you say we have not seen a dramatic escalation in Serbia and the fact that you don't say that about Croatia -- are we to infer from that that, in fact, there has been an escalation in Croatia?
MR. McCURRY: I leave you to infer. I did say that, however, about Serbian regular army units operating inside of Bosnia, and you're correct, I did not say that about Croatian regular army units.
Q Was that because it's a more recent report, or is Dancy correct by his inference?
MR. McCURRY: No. It's just because of my prudence, my caution and my candor. (Laughter)
Q Michael, you mentioned news reports, but there is more than just news reports when it comes to the presence of Croatian troops in Bosnia. There's a U.N. report, stressing that Croatian troops have been operating in Bosnia. That brings up the question of sanctions against Croatia. What's your response to -- do you dispute that U.N. report?
MR. McCURRY: On the question of sanctions, I think you know that last month Ambassador Albright delivered a fairly stern warning to President Tudjman about possible economic sanctions in response to Croatia's threat of direct involvement. And obviously if there is substantial evidence, as suggested in the United Nations report of direct involvement by Croatian regular army units, that certainly would be grounds for very serious concern on our part.
Q In terms of Serbia -- and this is not a hypothetical question, this is just asking what your policy is -- in terms of Serbia, if these reports of organized units turn out to be credible from the U.S. point of view, what difference does it make?
MR. McCURRY: It's a good question. It's exactly the reason, among other reasons, why we have economic sanctions that are requiring a very stiff price to be paid by Serbia-Montenegro at this very moment.
Q Mike, can you say anything more about -- say anything about the CIA unit going into Albania with this Drone aircraft?
MR. McCURRY: No. I understand that the Defense Department is a more accurate source of information on that. I don't know a lot about it myself.
Q Mike, on the question of Bosnia, the letter from Boutros-Ghali last week draws a distinction between close air support of UNPROFOR units and actual airstrikes for punitive or pre-emptive purposes. It says that airstrikes for pre-emptive or punitive purposes would have to have another decision by the North Atlantic Council. Is that your understanding as well?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware that we have a different interpretation on airstrikes. You're saying -- say again. I'm familiar with the letter.
Q Airstrikes -- as against close air support of units under attack -- airstrikes would require a further decision by the North Atlantic Council according to Boutros-Ghali's letter.
MR. McCURRY: That is consistent with our understanding of the NATO communiques and also the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Q Can we take it one step forward --
MR. McCURRY: It's drawing a distinction on close air support in the case of Tuzla, obviously.
Q He drew the distinction and, as John explained it, one is the U.N. and one is NATO. But he says a further decision by the NATO Council, so we're back to that old question. Does NATO have to meet again or can it just revalidate in some informal way its decision -- a further decision for the meeting.
MR. McCURRY: We've described it in the past. I will verify this, but we have described in the past a decision to activate the NATO communiques of both August and now January, as requiring an additional affirmative step by the North Atlantic Council. In the past it has been described -- and I believe this is still the process as we see it --- an individual would come to the Council and request that those provisions of the NATO communique be activated.
The Secretary General has drawn a distinction between that and close air support for UNPROFOR units that are engaged in U.N.-sanctioned activity who are then under attack and request assistance -- that's my understanding.
Q Where does that go from here? At least the close air support...
MR. McCURRY: We support the Secretary General's decision, and that's consistent with the NATO summit. We've made it very clear we're willing to follow through with our obligations as stated at the time by the President in connection with the NATO summit declaration itself.
Q Does that mean that today close air support can start, since the Secretary General says it's a good idea?
MR. McCURRY: I think that he talks about -- if I'm not mistaken, he described close air support -- first of all, he's deferring the decision to Mr. Akashi and said he's the one who will be designated to make decisions relating to the ground. But, second, a U.N. plan to open Tuzla airport and to begin humanitarian airlifts there, similar to the way it operates in Sarajevo, is something that they would now begin to look at implementing.
I think, however, they've indicated that the rotation of the UNPROFOR troops at Srebrenica is the first order of business, and I think they're concentrating on that situation. That's our understanding.
Q But you don't need a NAC meeting between now and the beginning of close air support?
MR. McCURRY: That's not my understanding -- that there is anything required to go ahead and implement the provisions of the UNPROFOR plan relating to Tuzla. It will take some time to do that, however, because they're talking about moving units in, establishing the procedures for running the humanitarian flights there, and again, obviously, hopefully doing it with the cooperation of both the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbs themselves.
Q Just to close the circle here, so if it takes time to do something about Tuzla, what about Srebrenica? Is that --
MR. McCURRY: My understanding is a higher priority has been the rotation of the UNPROFOR units at Srebrenica.
Q He said by the end of March he wants to do that.
Q Well, it's still several weeks before any action would be taken.
Q Given the fact that --
MR. McCURRY: That may or may not be accurate, yes.
Tim had a question.
Q Mike, you mentioned the stern warnings that Ambassador Albright issued when she was in Croatia. Are we doing anything so far to follow through on those warnings, and usually when sanctions in Croatia come up, the Germans are often the one side that's the most reluctant to step forward on that. Are we discussing that with the visiting German delegation?
MR. McCURRY: That may or may not be a subject of discussion; but because I think the President is probably in the middle of his pasta lunch with the Chancellor, I don't think I should comment on that right now. Let's check on that later on.
Q But are we doing anything in the Security Council right now to start moving on Tuzla?
MR. McCURRY: I think that they've looked at the question of how sanctions will work and how they would be applied, yes. I don't know how far that planning or those discussions have gone.
Q A follow-up on the German contact, though. Are you asking the Germans in today's meetings to talk to the Croatians with whom they have good contacts about regular forces operating in Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know the answer to that. I don't know whether that is on the agenda. I think the subject of Bosnia generally is on the agenda, but certainly, as the Secretary indicated earlier today, not the focus. I don't know what type of detail they're getting into, Ralph.
Q Can I follow up on that from the Russian side? Are there any talks going on now with the Russians about getting their consensus in the United Nations, and do you have a contact on Zhirinovsky's statement in Belgrade yesterday that a NATO airstrike would be the same as declaring war against Russia?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have a comment on those comments. He just makes too many wild comments for me to comment upon myself day in and day out, so I'll leave that one sit.
On the first, are we in discussion with the Russians, yes. We have had discussions on the situation of former Yugoslavia with them, attempting to understand their perspectives. I don't know how recently we've been in discussion with them, but we do as a regular practice maintain dialogue with them on that problem.
Q How do the Russians feel about the possibility of airstrikes in Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: I think they have stated their views on that publicly. I don't have anything to add.
Q And do those views matter for close-in air support if the decision is up to Mr. Boutros-Ghali's men on the ground?
MR. McCURRY: You ask me, does it require further specific action by the Security Council, and I answered that question the other day, I think.
Q The Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Papoulias, is here today. He'll meet this afternoon with Mr. Christopher. Will there arise the question about Greek-Macedonian talks?
MR. McCURRY: I wouldn't rule out the possibility that that issue might arise, but I would point out that the purpose of that meeting is much broader. This is the first month of the EU Presidency by the Greeks, and the United States has a very strong interest in exploring a very wide range of issues. That one might be on the agenda; but frankly there are other issues that I believe that they will cover before they get to that, if they do in fact get to that. We'll try to find out afterwards whether that is a subject that was brought up.
Q Mike, I'm sorry, but I'm still fairly confused by your series of answers on use of air power. The Secretary has used the phrase "air power" recently, as distinct from "airstrikes." Is the United States any closer to using U.S. air power over Bosnia than it was a month ago, or two months ago, or several months ago when it -- I guess in August -- when it made the original promise to use, to contribute air power to airstrikes.
Is the distinction that's being made now between close air support and airstrikes something which is designed to enable the United States to become involved more promptly?
MR. McCURRY: No. That's not a distinction. That's a response that we're giving to something that's been said by the U.N. Secretary General. Our commitment and our determination to follow through on things that we said publicly we will do has not changed one iota in that time, in answer to your question.
Q So it hasn't changed one iota, which means that the threats to get involved as strangulation of Sarajevo continues and so on stay exactly where they have been over these past, roughly, five, six months, right?
MR. McCURRY: I say they have not changed. The only thing that has changed in that time is that the NATO leaders requested that UNPROFOR urgently draw up plans in connection with Srebrenica and Tuzla.
Q So they're no more urgent now than they were then either.
MR. McCURRY: They are more urgent now, because it was addressed by the summit leaders in Brussels.
Q I wonder if I could go back to the threat that was made in August to use airstrikes, if necessary, to prevent the strangulation of Sarajevo. At that time that received headlines around the world. It was reiterated at the NATO summit.
Now we find out as a result of Mr. Boutros-Ghali's letter that there's going to have to be another meeting of the North Atlantic Council in order to authorize -- really and truly -- airstrikes.
I guess I wonder if we and the world haven't been gulled for the last six months about what the intention of NATO was.
MR. McCURRY: I don't know. You and the world will have to figure that out. The provision involving specific action by the North Atlantic Council is now exactly as we described it in August.
Q Correct me if I'm wrong, since the beginning of the conflict almost the United States has said it's willing to come to the aid of peacekeepers if they're attacked with air power.
MR. McCURRY: Correct.
Q No other U.N. resolutions, nothing. If they think they need it, is that --
MR. McCURRY: If an UNPROFOR unit is under attack and requested by the Commander for assistance, we have said we stand ready to provide close air support.
Q So they need no other --
MR. McCURRY: It's not my place to comment on the Secretary General's thinking. But the point, I believe, that they're driving at is he wants to draw a distinction between close air support for UNPROFOR units operating on the ground who might face hostilities either as a result of opening Tuzla, rotating at Srebrenica, providing humanitarian relief or whatever their activity, and the distinction between that and a strategic airstrike campaign that has strategic purposes. I believe, if I understand correctly, that's the distinction he was trying to draw. We see that that is a valid distinction. It does not change the nature of the commitments that we've made or that we've extended in the past.
Q What sort of actions are contemplated by the term "close air support"?
MR. McCURRY: That's a fairly well known and widely used phrase in military parlance. I'm not the best person to describe each and every circumstance, but close air support is close air support.
Q What do you understand that to mean, please?
MR. McCURRY: Providing aerial support for troops on the ground in conduct with military missions.
Q Does that mean that if those troops are attacked, air power will be used against whoever attacks?
MR. McCURRY: That's generally what the term "close air support" refers to, among other things.
Q I don't know if you used the word advisedly, but you used the word "strategic," which usually brings to mind something like B-52s. Is that what you had in mind?
MR. McCURRY: No. I was using "strategic" in the term of strategy -- what is the purpose beyond the tactical use of air power in a given situation? What is the strategic purpose behind initiating some type of strike? My understanding is that's the point that the Secretary General has raised.
Q Mike, can I try again on close air. I'm just trying to get a notion how much breathing room the Serbs have. This is a decision that can be taken by the Secretary General's man on the ground. Okay? Now, these towns have been encircled.
MR. McCURRY: In connection with Tuzla and Srebrenica.
Q That's what I mean. Exactly.
MR. McCURRY: The plans involving the UNPROFOR rotation and the plans involving an effort by the United Nations to open and operate the airport at Tuzla.
Q You're drawing a distinction then between Tuzla and Srebrenica and, say, some other part of Bosnia -- Vitez or Sarajevo.
MR. McCURRY: In reference to the Secretary General's letter and addressing those points. Obviously, there are commitments that involve the operation of safe areas that we have addressed in the past, and I'm indicating nothing has changed in those respects. What we're talking about is this new question of using the rotation at Srebrenica and the effort to open the airport at Tuzla.
Q Which goes back to the NATO summit.
MR. McCURRY: Right.
Q This is where it originated.
MR. McCURRY: These are two new elements.
Q Right. These were singled out. They're encircled. Now my question is whether air support will be used if the peacekeepers are attacked, or can it be used, as you understand it, if the encirclement continues and the operations are interfered with? Do the Serbs have to open fire or can they just maintain a blockade around the airport?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not going to address --
Q I'm just trying to figure how much time they have to play with.
MR. McCURRY: I'm not going to address that. As the Secretary General's letter makes clear, they've agreed to allow the rotation at Srebrenica and I believe also at Zepa, one of the other safe areas, to occur.
So we'll start from that. They have agreed that they will allow that rotation to proceed unencumbered. So the next thing, what would happen if that turns out not to be the case, if there's some problems in rotating those troops, and then what steps are then recommended by Mr. Akashi -- the Secretary General's special envoy on the ground. That's obviously what we will wait and see how that develops.
Q But use of air power is one option that he has in his quiver.
MR. McCURRY: [It's] at his disposal, should that become necessary by way of opening up a route for the rotation of that guard at Srebrenica. But I'd stress -- correct me if I'm wrong -- the Secretary General's letter made that point clear: that he has received some level of assurances from the parties, from the warring parties, that they would allow that rotation to occur.
Q And also as is characteristic of him, he put diplomacy as the first option. But the point we're trying to get at is the possibility that an action urged by the United States most particularly and by the NATO summit leaders to use air power if these -- under what circumstances?
MR. McCURRY: Right.
Q And encirclement is reason enough, not just attacking U.N. peacekeepers?
MR. McCURRY: If it becomes necessary to carry forward those urgent plans that have been drawn up by the Secretary General, I think pretty clearly.
Q New subject?
MR. McCURRY: Barrie.
Q But I think there's another distinction that the Secretary General seems to make, too, and that is on the question of opening up the Tuzla airport -- whether or not it would be opened with the full cooperation of the parties on the ground or whether they would attempt to open it with opposition from the parties on the ground.
Now, who is going to make that decision and how does that play into whether we would supply close air support or strategic bombing?
MR. McCURRY: Well, I'll answer the second question first. We've made clear from the time the Secretary attended the CSCE meetings in Rome that we were prepared to participate in operating the airport should the airport be opened. We didn't indicate that we would participate in opening the airport. That's number one.
Number two, clearly, the model they would like to use in operating the airport at Tuzla is the airport at Sarajevo. That's been done with cooperation -- and I use that term guardedly, obviously -- but cooperation from the parties themselves. That's certainly a preferred position because given the terrain and the surrounding geography, it's necessary at Tuzla to have either cooperation or some other plan available if you're going to operate and run the airport.
Q There were reports over the weekend that local Serb commanders were saying that they weren't going to allow the U.N. to open up this airport and that any plane that tried to fly out of there would run into military opposition.
As I understand your position, and the position of the Secretary General, if that's the case, Tuzla will not open and we will not take any military steps to open it?
MR. McCURRY: No. The Secretary didn't say that, the Secretary General didn't say, and I didn't say that. Number one, as you know from watching this conflict, there's a big distinction between what local commanders say and what their headquarters operation or their supporters say; and, two, it's not at all clear that that represents the disposition or the thinking of the people surrounding the airport now. We don't know the answer to that, but that's one of the things that's addressed in the plans that were requested by the NATO leaders.
Q Mike, you just said that we are prepared to help run the airport but not open it. If I recall correctly, when the Secretary made this announcement of an aid package, he talked about reopening the airport. He didn't say we wouldn't be prepared to help open it. That was not part of his recitation. Are you saying now -- is this --
MR. McCURRY: What we said in Rome at the time of the CSCE Ministerial meetings -- when we suggested that we would participate in operating assistance missions in and out of Tuzla -- we indicated that that would be [true] provided that the airport could be open. The Secretary was very clear about that at that time.
Q Mike, as a general matter, the United States has been prepared to use air power in support of getting the relief to its targets and preventing any disruption of that relief effort, right?
MR. McCURRY: Oh, yes. They have been prepared and plan accordingly on a regular basis. They've been prepared if any of those requests -- remember, the trigger was if an UNPROFOR commander on the ground requested such assistance, we would extend that commitment.
So planning accordingly and being prepared to carry through on that commitment is something that they had done.
Q Mike, just to follow up on something -- to relate to something earlier, if it is related. Is there any connection in the U.S. Government's mind between possible use of Serbian and Croat regular forces in Bosnia and the willingness of the United States to use air power over Bosnia? Is there any connection with that?
In other words, if regular troops come in -- if Croatia continues to use regular troops in Bosnia, does that heighten the U.S. determination to use its air power in any way? Is there any relationship between those two things?
MR. McCURRY: No, no.
Q In case of air strikes in Bosnia...
MR. McCURRY: Yes. Go ahead.
Q In case of air strikes in Bosnia, is there any possibility for augmentation of American troops in Macedonia?
MR. McCURRY: Mobilization or --
MR. McCURRY: Augmenting the 300-plus troops we have in Macedonia? I'm not aware that there would be any plans of that nature. But any change in the nature of the conflict in the theater and U.S. involvement, we would certainly assess on a regular basis.
Q Another subject -- Gerry Adams, the visa to him. Does the U.S. consider this a breakthrough?
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q Why not? You don't feel that granting him a visa -- something you've never done before -- moves the whole process forward a little bit?
MR. McCURRY: I think the visa and its granting, as described in the statement I'm sure you saw from the White House yesterday, was very clear. It was a very narrowly drawn formulation that was, after some thinking, reflection, and, frankly, a difficult decision by the President in consultation with the Secretary and others. I think it was their belief that this could help move the peace process forward and was consistent with the very strong support that the United States has given to the Joint Declaration between the Irish and British Governments.
Q But a breakthrough, you said, would help move the peace process forward?
MR. McCURRY: It's not a breakthrough, it's a visa -- and it's a fairly limited visa.
Q You had some very specific criteria for granting the visa application. Do you think that that criteria was met?
MR. McCURRY: It was sufficient to allow the visa to be issued.
Q On that subject, where was the public renunciation of violence by Mr. Adams?
MR. McCURRY: He met at some length with the Consul General in Belfast, and he said some things publicly and he obviously will come here and say some things publicly.
Q What's your response to the reports that Secretary Christopher was actually opposed to granting the visa but was talked into it by the President, and the President seemed to be motivated by domestic political considerations, i.e, Senators Moynihan and Kennedy?
MR. McCURRY: What are my reactions to that?
Q Well, would you care to deny it, denounce it, or confirm it?
MR. McCURRY: As with many reports of that nature, they don't reflect the full discussion, they don't reflect the argumentation, and they don't reflect the careful weighing of arguments both pro and con that were made both within this Department and within the government broadly.
All decisions were carefully reviewed by both the President and the Secretary.
Q To what extent were there domestic/political concerns?
Q What made it difficult?
MR. McCURRY: Barry has got a good question. What made it difficult? Because there were strong arguments both pro and con. But we acted in a way, as I think the statement made very clear yesterday, in a way that we believe at this time might help move this process forward.
Q The statement didn't really explain. The man is going to a conference Tuesday; a private group is handling the conference. He can only be here 48 hours. He can't really do a whole lot for peace in 48 hours nor can he raise funds. He hasn't renounced the IRA's objective.
MR. McCURRY: Barry, don't be a pessimist.
Q Wait a minute. I would like to know what -- I would like you to be as specific as you can -- which people can't be on Sunday but today is Monday -- how and in what way will Mr. Adams' attendance at a private meeting in the Waldorf-Astoria on Tuesday possibly enhance peace prospects in Northern Ireland?
MR. McCURRY: We hope that in his public comments as a provisional leader of the Sinn Fein, his public comments on both the peace process and on violence itself will be constructive and will help move the process forward.
Q Mike, do you have any real expectation that in his public comments, once he's on American soil, he'll be more expansive on the subject of violence and the peace process than he was in his own country?
MR. McCURRY: I wouldn't want to suggest... I wouldn't want to speculate. But I would point out that we did have an opportunity to review many of those issues with him in the person of the Consul General who met with him to review his visa application.
Q Mike, just to follow up on Barry's question. To what extent were domestic U.S. political concerns taken into account in the issuing of this visa?
MR. McCURRY: That's not a question that I can properly address. That's not something --
Q Why not? Is the Secretary not involved in those discussions?
MR. McCURRY: It didn't involve the decision-making here within the Department. If it was a part of the conversation between the Secretary and the President, that's something, as the Secretary would routinely do, [he'd] keep private.
Q Mike, have you heard from the British Government on this since the visa was issued?
MR. McCURRY: We've been in very close contact with both the British Government and the Irish Government.
Q What do they say?
MR. McCURRY: They've reacted publicly, and that's certainly consistent with our understanding of their views.
Q (Inaudible) the British Government did not protest this decision?
MR. McCURRY: We had many conversations with the British Government about him. I don't think it would characterize our warm relations to say there was a protest; there was discussion, there were points of views exchanged, and I'd leave it at that.
Q On the Joint Declaration, his position heretofore has been that he's seeking clarification from Prime Minister Major. Did you get any indication in the private meeting with him that he's going to shift that position in public?
MR. McCURRY: I have to think back. To be honest, I can't recall whether he said that in that session. I can't recall based on the account I saw of the meeting whether he indicated one way or another on that. I can go back and check that.
Q The criteria laid down were for public renunciation of violence and public support of the declaration. I know this is hypothetical, but if he were to come here and leave without fulfilling those two pledges, would you feel betrayed, let down, disappointed?
MR. McCURRY: I think that we would feel that an opportunity to help nurture this fragile peace process had been lost, and, of course, that would be disappointing.
Q You said earlier that U.S. officials, in the course of discussing this visa, had talked with him about his views and so on. Are there any plans for any U.S. officials to meet with him while he's in New York?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Why not, if this is an effort to further the peace process? Why wouldn't the United States Government --
MR. McCURRY: No, I'd be very clear on that. The Consul General in Belfast who met with him met in the context of considering his visa application and whether or not to extend a waiver provision as it relates to the ineligibility statute. That is a review that is done on a case-by-case basis and had very specific questions attached to it. That was a visa application that was under consideration.
Q Your broader policy goal, which you've stated a couple of times here today, is that granting this visa was, in the United States Government's view, something that could help move the peace process forward. Is there nothing the United States feels it could do in meeting with him while he's here, talking with him, that would move the process forward?
MR. McCURRY: Like I said I'm not aware of any plans for anyone to meet with him, consistent with the policy of not negotiating with Sinn Fein in that context. We're not a party to those discussions.
Q Does the U.S. have any plans to send an official observer to Northern Ireland to look at the situation?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, no. That subject came up some while ago, and I'm not aware of any change from when we last addressed that subject.
Q Over the weekend -- on another subject -- China and the human rights link to trade to China -- a couple of expressions recently, Senator Nunn, and I think Robert Rubin, [said] don't mix the two, keep trade and human rights separate.
The Administration mixes the two. Is it still a good idea to do that -- make one conditional on the other?
MR. McCURRY: There's been no change in our thinking on that subject. Our criteria for addressing the continuation of normal trade relations with China are exactly those set forward by the President in his Executive Order. I think Senator Nunn knows that. I think others who have commented on this are aware of that, too. That's the review. It's a very specific set of criteria. It's exactly what the Secretary and the President have been looking at and will continue to look at.
Q Does that produce an improvement in human rights which may or may not be reflected on the 1:30 p.m. embargoed human rights report on China?
MR. McCURRY: It reflects --
Q Has it worked?
MR. McCURRY: There has been some progress. I don't have anything --
Q It's hard to prove cause and effect.
MR. McCURRY: -- newer to say than what the Secretary suggested at the time of his meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister just a week ago.
Q I guess what I mean is -- I don't know if it can be scientifically proven -- does the Administration think that linking them is having a salutary effect?
MR. McCURRY: It's hard to prove the negative compared to "Had there been no pressure; had there been no sustained effort to use this review to encourage them to make changes." I think, yes, on balance, there probably has been progress. But I wouldn't want to over-inflate the nature of the progress or to denigrate the importance of the Most Favored Nation review status and being an important lever to use on the Chinese.
Q Mike, on the meeting of the Secretary today with the Foreign Minister of Latvia, can you give us --
Q Can we stick with China for just a second?
MR. McCURRY: China? Yes.
Q You may have already answered this Friday. Have you commented at all on how John Shattuck's talks went on the list of 300-something -- I think 325 -- specific prisoners? They were supposed to be held late last week.
MR. McCURRY: You know, I don't. I forgot to ask Assistant Secretary Shattuck on that -- what progress [was] made in the discussion of the 235 people --
Q Whatever it was, yes.
MR. McCURRY: -- listed. I'll find out whether there was more at the time of the Vice Foreign Minister's meetings here last week.
Q Mike, can you give us readout of the Secretary's meeting this morning with the Latvian Foreign Minister?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have really a lot, Elaine, to add. I haven't gone back through any of the notes of the meeting itself. There was not much publicly different from those points addressed by the Secretary in the photo-op earlier today. It's the same range of issues, and he expressed the concerns, as he did publicly earlier today, both with respect to Russian troop presence and also the treatment of Russian minorities within Latvia.
Q What is the U.S. role in terms of trying to broker or mediate a deal between the Latvians and the Russians that would allow for some Russian presence at Skrunda?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know how I would describe that role. I can check, but that's a facility that is important in our overall context of a discussion about withdrawal.
Q Mr. Andrejevs mentioned before going into the talks something about security guarantees that would have to involve the United States. What did he mean by that?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not certain what the reference was in the context that he made that reference. He could have been talking about security guarantees. We've discussed that a lot recently in context.
Q It was in the context of the troop withdrawals, and he said that no guarantee would be good for Latvia without a U.S. role. Can you elaborate on that?
MR. McCURRY: I can't. I'll see if I can find out some more. Maybe there's some more we can provide in more context on a readout of those meetings consistent with Elaine's question earlier. If I can get anything more on that, I will.
Q Mike, has the U.S. proposed any sort of a deadline under which it wants the Russians to withdraw from Latvia? The deadline of August is often talked about.
MR. McCURRY: That would be something that would be in discussion with the parties. I'm not going to comment on it without doing some more checking out. I think they also will have more to say publicly at the time they talk about how they want to resolve the issue.
Q (inaudible) you've gotten assurances that they would be out by August 31, by the way. Is that good enough -- does that satisfy the Latvians?
MR. McCURRY: I think this is a subject that there has been considerable discussion on with both the Latvian Government and the Russian Government. I'm just going to hold back saying things here and check on it first.
Q But do you happen to know if the visitor was -- does he have any uneasiness about that? Is that okay with him?
MR. McCURRY: Not on that specific subject, I don't think.
Q Mike, would U.S. concerns on the radar installation be adequately addressed if Russian military were taken out of the installation and Russian civilians were put in to run it?
MR. McCURRY: This is obviously a subject that's in direct discussion between the two governments right now with a role that we're playing which I haven't characterized, so I'm not going to get into the substance of that dialogue.
Q Do you have any observations to make about the election in Crimea?
MR. McCURRY: I don't. They had an election. It doesn't change the nature of the Republic of Crimea which remains a semi-autonomous region within Ukraine.
Q Do you have an account of the incidents in Mogadishu today?
MR. McCURRY: I do have some information that I think has been also used earlier today in Mogadishu with journalists who are covering the activities down there. I can run through that, if any of you have not gotten that yet.
It involves an incident with the U.S. Liaison Office convoy. There were two Chevrolet Suburbans. They were being escorted by 22 Marines in three Humvees. They were attacked on the AFGOI Circle, which I believe might be same thing as the K-4 Circle -- sometimes called K-4 Circle -- which is just opposite a hotel where I believe many journalists have been staying. This happened at approximately 11:00 a.m. local time today.
The convoy was fired on from the left side of the road as it approached the circle. The Marines returned fire. There were no U.S. casualties. The Marines believe that they hit at least two of the gunmen firing at them, and our vehicles were hit at least three times. We do not know who is responsible for the attack on the convoy.
It's sort of ironic. The convoy was actually taking these USLO officers -- taking two USLO officers -- to meet with Somalia National Alliance representatives at the residence of the Ethiopian mediators not far from this traffic circle in Mogadishu because they were going to register some specific complaints about the security situation on that very same road -- sort of proving the point, I think. Those are the details we have there. Anything more on that, of course, will probably be coming out of Mogadishu as the day goes on.
Q Can you say how many Somalis were killed?
MR. McCURRY: Did not say. They say they know they hit at least two of the gunmen firing at them but they don't have a casualty report. There have been news accounts indicating both five and eight that I have seen as the day has gone on.
Q Is Ambassador Oakley resuming Somalia duties?
MR. McCURRY: I think he is planning some time soon -- I believe there's a donor's conference going on in Kenya, and I think he was planning to go to Nairobi some time soon.
It's beginning tomorrow or the following day. They're talking about, obviously, targeting aid and both the security issues, which are very much on our minds today but also some of the donor and humanitarian issues that the international community has been involved with. I believe he's been there as is Ambassador Bogosian.
Q Mike, on the Middle East, just briefly. Is the Israeli Foreign Minister coming to see the United States Government tomorrow?
MR. McCURRY: I believe he is. He's here for, I think, on a private visit. I think he will stop by and see the Secretary at some point tomorrow afternoon.
Q And are the Middle East peace talks continuing?
MR. McCURRY: They are. They are continuing this week.
Q Are they today?
Q How would we know that? How do you know that they're continuing?
MR. McCURRY: Because I've got a piece of paper -- it says right here. It's a piece of paper they type up for me...
Q Have any meetings been --
MR. McCURRY: The talks continue this week. Meetings will continue on all four tracks. That's how I know.
Q Did they meet today?
MR. McCURRY: Did they meet today?
Q This being part of the week.
MR. McCURRY: I think there were some meetings planned today.
MR. McCURRY: But the Israeli/Syria track was not planning to meet today, partly because the Foreign Ministers --
Q That's why we do stories at midnight. It would be interesting to know if the Palestinians and the Israelis are waiting on Peres and Arafat, for instance, if somebody could tell us whether they met today.
MR. McCURRY: Okay.
Q Or we could just go over (inaudible) and wait for them.
MR. McCURRY: What? Q No, secret location. I almost gave out the name of the place.
MR. McCURRY: Oh, of the secret location where they meet? Don't do that whatever you do.
Q Michael, does your piece of paper deal with the future full session of negotiations? Are there any dates set for that session?
MR. McCURRY: Why don't we shake it and see if it comes out. I don't think so. No, it doesn't address that point. They're continuing in the streamlined, informal mode that they've established for the talks.
Q The Secretary mentioned the end of January or early February for the resumption of the full session of the negotiations. Is there any change in that respect?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware of any change or anything new on that. I would sort of tell you that they've meeting in formal streamline mode. If that proves useful, they may continue in that mode for some time. I wouldn't want to suggest that they will reconvene in some different format anytime soon. We hope that the parties are interested in making progress and that they will continue to meet in a fashion that encourages progress.
Q Mike, just because we're talking format here and it's a less visible format, obviously, you just suggested that there's no intention for a change of format any time soon. Are any U.S. officials meeting with the parties together -- that is, are there any, for example -- just to choose an example -- Syrian/Israeli/American meetings going on in this new format?
MR. McCURRY: I wouldn't exclude the possibility of trilateral meetings. They continue to meet bilaterally. We continue to be very closely involved in the discussions, and we'll see how things develop.
Q Do you know if there have been any trilateral --
MR. McCURRY: If there have been any such meetings?
Q You won't exclude them, but have there been any since this round resumed last week?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of. I'll double-check. But I believe during the course of last week, I'm not aware of any such meetings.
Q Just to be clear about the streamlined format, which has been a little unclear, it now includes the possibility not only of the parties engaging in direct negotiations but also of the United States participating in those meetings; is that correct?
MR. McCURRY: I did not exclude the possibility. I'm not sure that I raised the possibility. I just didn't exclude the possibility.
Q I raised it. Okay, thank you.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: You're very welcome.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:47 p.m.)
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