US DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, March 8, 1994 Briefer: Christine Shelly ANNOUNCEMENT Assistant Secretary Moose to Open Briefing on Thursday ..................................... 1 LIBERIA US Welcomes Seating of Transitional Government .. 1 Aid by US/Others ................................ 1-2 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Report Spanish Aircraft Fired On Over Croatia ... 2 Status of Bosnian-Croat Federation .............. 2 -- Prospects for Serbs Joining ................. 3 Activities of Ambassador Redman ................. 2-4 Update on Fighting .............................. 2-4 Status of Borders ............................... 4 Efforts to Open Tuzla Airport ................... 5-6 FYR OF MACEDONIA Embargo by Greece ............................... 4 RUSSIA Nixon's Meetings During Visit ................... 6-7 US Contacts with Political Leaders .............. 7 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Implementation of Declaration of Principles ..... 7-9 US Efforts to Resume Talks ...................... 7-9 Security Council Discussions re: Palestinian Security ...................................... 9 BURMA Status of Aung San Suu Kyi/Human Rights ......... 9-10 IRAQ Report of Civil Unrest in Samarra ............... 11 TERRORISM Sponsorship of World Trade Center ............... 11 ISRAEL/OCCUPIED TERRITORIES Consular Information Sheet re: Jerusalem ....... 11 CHINA Status of Detainees ............................. 12-13
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MARCH 8, 1994, 12:58 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'll begin with a short announcement. George Moose, our Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, will open the Daily Briefing on Thursday, March 10. Mr. Moose will begin with some general comments, including some comments on the recent events in South Africa as that country heads toward elections, and then he'll be happy to respond to your questions that you have on that or other African subjects.
So that will be at the beginning of Thursday's press briefing: remarks followed by questions and answers, after which I'll proceed to take your questions on other subjects.
Speaking of Africa, I also would like to draw to your attention. We will be posting a statement right after the briefing on Liberia, seating of the transitional government. I'll just give you a couple of sentences on that, but I wanted to draw it to your specific attention.
The U.S. Government welcomes the March 7 installation of the Council of State of the Liberian National Transition Government. This is an important step toward implementing the July 19, 1993, peace accord signed in Cotonou, Benin.
The new Transitional Government is composed of representatives of the three Liberian signatories to the Contonou Accord, and as such it represents the first unified national administrative authority in Liberia in nearly four years.
As I mentioned, the statement is a bit longer than that, and we'll be posting it right after the press briefing.
Q Christine, on that, does this mean that the United States is releasing those funds that the Liberians had asked for -- logistics, food, transport, communications?
MS. SHELLY: We've committed some funds to support the expansion of the Liberia peacekeeping operation, and we're also willing to consider the assistance in other types of areas; and we're also calling upon international donors to provide more financial assistance for the economic areas, also working through the U.N. trust fund.
I will check and see what else we have on other assistance to them, if you want, and we'll post that, too.
Q Do you have a dollar figure on the amount that you have released?
MS. SHELLY: I'll have to check on that.
Q A Spanish plane was fired on in the skies over Croatia. I wonder if you have -- it's rather sketchy what the U.S. knows about it, specifically including who fired upon them. Was it a violation of the "no-fly" zone.
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I saw the report right before coming out here. We're looking into it and hope to be able to provide you with a few more details later.
Q Christine, apparently one of the people on board was an American. Do you have any indication what an American would have been doing on the aircraft?
MS. SHELLY: No. Looking into it.
Q Have you had any reports from Mr. Redman in Belgrade on what he's doing, how he's doing?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I can give you a little bit on that. The parties remain in Geneva where they're continuing their process of drafting the constitution for the Bosnian Government, Bosnian-Croat Federation, and the agreement documents for the confederation between the new federation and Croatia proper.
The drafting is going well, and we expect that the parties will be able to actually sign the confederation agreement some time in mid-March.
Ambassador Redman has left Vienna. He is traveling to Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb and Split for bilateral consultations. In Belgrade, he let the Serbs know that the Bosnian Serbs are welcome to join the federation between the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Government.
In Sarajevo and Zagreb, he will be meeting with various officials, including representatives of the Ministries of Defense in preparation for the first session of the military transition group which convenes in Split late this Friday.
I also have reports on the fighting and some of the other things as well. Did you want to follow up on --
Q You confused me between Vienna and Geneva. The drafting is going on in Geneva, you say?
MS. SHELLY: The parties are in Geneva.
Q But you said Redman left Vienna.
MS. SHELLY: You're right. There's a mistake in my guidance. Sorry about that. It's Vienna.
Q Did the Bosnian Serbs show any interest, do you know, in joining that new mix?
MS. SHELLY: I have seen some of the public statements that they've made prior to the meeting with Ambassador Redman, and I think that from those statements it was certainly clear that they were studying the agreement very carefully, and they were keeping the door open to this possibility.
I think that they indicated they wanted to hear directly from Ambassador Redman and have a chance to get into that. Because of the fact that those meetings are only occurring today, I don't have a readout for you right now on what their reaction was or in the discussions during the meeting with Ambassador Redman. But I'll be happy to check on that and see if before the end of the day we might be able to shed a little bit of additional light on their reactions.
Q You must remember the Muslim-Croatian, whatever you want to call it, agreement built on a truce between the two sides. I wondered if the Serbs are eligible to join the group and at the same time keep hammering at civilians in Bosnia. Is there any precondition that they stop their aggression in order to be part of this arrangement, or is it something where you're happy to have them come along as a way of maybe settling the war even while they're at war?
MS. SHELLY: I think that there are numerous cease-fires which have been agreed and which have not been implemented. The situation on the fighting, I think you know well, the Bosnian Serbs are continuing to attack Maglaj in north-central Bosnia, according to both the Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Croat Defense Council.
The Bosnian Croats say that the Bosnian Serbs are also attacking the HVO-held town of Zepce in northern Bosnia. We understand that, at least in terms of the last 24 hours or so, there have been no incidents in Sarajevo. We don't have any reports of fighting in Croatia today.
UNPROFOR is reporting that the cease-fire between the Bosnian Government and the HVO, the Bosnian Croat Defense Council -- that that cease-fire is holding in central Bosnia. So I think the picture is again over the time frame not too long ago is certainly much improved.
Obviously, we would certainly like the fighting to stop, and we would like to get as much progress moving forward on the political track as possible. But I think we feel that the continuation of some fighting is not a reason to stop or to pause on the political track.
What Redman is trying to do now is to get precisely at the political side of the process and try to engage the Bosnian Serbs, letting them know that they would be welcome to join in this federation, and obviously to try to improve the situation there politically so that hopefully some of these continued episodes of violence will stop.
Q You said that Bosnian Serbs are welcome to join the federation. Does it mean that the United States will support Bosnian border or the Serbs can join Yugoslavia?
MS. SHELLY: The general territorial questions, I think, on this are something that is in the process of being worked. This is one of the things on which the engagement with the Bosnian Serbs is very necessary. The exact territorial questions on this were something that were not addressed in concrete terms in the agreement last week.
So the whole question of the exact size of this and the delineation is still something which is very much under discussion, and I don't have any more information for you than you've gotten in the backgrounders you've had here on that last week.
Q Speaking of territory internally, I think her question goes to the configuration of Bosnia as a country.
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry. I thought you were talking about the internal --
Q Well, maybe I misunderstood, but Bosnia's borders are just to remain as they are.
MS. SHELLY: I don't think -- there's nothing --
Q There's no question on that.
MS. SHELLY: I don't think there's any change on that.
Q Do you have any news about Greek embargo against Macedonia?
MS. SHELLY: I've looked into this and tried to get a little more guidance on this, given your interest in this yesterday. It's very difficult, I think, to get into an assessment of the impact of the Greek embargo on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
Generally speaking, we believe that the embargo imposed by the Greek Government aggravates an already serious situation, as we've said. It threatens additional instability in the region and complicates resolution of differences between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We continue to urge the Greek Government to lift the embargo.
As to the specific aspect of your question, the impact of the embargo on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's economy, I think you would really have to contact the government of that country. We don't really have a U.S. Government assessment of that to give.
Q How about Russian initiative to take -- to have more impact in Macedonia and Greek dialogue? Do you have anything?
MS. SHELLY: I looked into that and basically didn't find anything in particular on that to report.
Q Could we ask about the Middle East.
MS. SHELLY: A second Bosnia?
Q Stay on Bosnia for just a second. UNPROFOR is deploying people to Tuzla for the first time. I know the Secretary has spoken often of opening the airport in Tuzla as a possible next step. I've never been clear whether he's talking about opening it with the acquiescence of the Serbs around it or doing something more muscular.
MS. SHELLY: As you know, opening the Tuzla airport was one of the objectives that was also identified and underscored at the NATO summit. The airport is not yet open. We understand, however, that over 100 troops and ten tanks from the U.N.'s Nordic battalion have actually secured the airport, and that the U.N. is working on the logistical requirements needed to allow the airport to begin accepting humanitarian assistance flights.
We also understand that the U.N. representatives continue to discuss the matter with the Bosnian Serbs and with the Bosnian Government.
There isn't a firm date yet on the opening, beginning the air operations at the airport, but hopefully there will be some additional news on this before too long.
But certainly it's very much the hope that the Bosnian Serbs will cooperate in getting this airport open.
Q They say that it's a way to bring arms in from the U.S. Government. Is that just a flat-out lie, or is there some uncertain screening arrangement where you really can't be sure exactly what's coming in.
MS. SHELLY: They certainly have expressed that concern, and I think that was something that they wanted addressed in the context of the U.N. presence at the airport, and that is something which is under discussion.
I think that the key point in getting the airport open is clearly for the role that it could play in the distribution of the humanitarian assistance, and I think that with the UNPROFOR personnel and also other personnel which the Bosnian Serbs have indicated that they would like to be present on this, I think that their -- I'm not going to say that their concerns have been completely addressed on this score, but I think that that's certainly the general direction.
Q On the --
MS. SHELLY: Nothing else on Bosnia?
Q On Russia, do you think it's a good idea for President Nixon to meet with Vladimir Zhirinovsky?
MS. SHELLY: I think that it's certainly very much up to President Nixon himself to decide in the context of a visit to Russia with whom he would like to meet. He is meeting a broad range of officials. He has met already with the former Russian Vice President, Alexander Rutskoi, and other prominent figures. He also plans to meet with President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.
It's not, as you know, an official trip. It's a private trip, and his planned meeting with Zhirinovsky is at former President Nixon's own initiative. It's something that he did discuss with representatives of the State Department and I think with the National Security Council. I think the State Department felt that it was certainly his decision to make as to whom exactly he would see.
But given that he is meeting with a broad spectrum of Russians all across the entire political spectrum, we certainly will also be very interested in hearing from him when he returns and hearing what his impressions are, including his impressions from his meeting with Zhirinovsky.
Q Did the State Department encourage him in any way to meet with Zhirinovsky?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware that the State Department took a particular position in favor or against. I think he discussed that with the State Department, so it doesn't come as any surprise. But I think that we felt that it was his decision to make, so therefore we did not take a position on it one way or the other.
Q And your own position at the Embassy is not to have meetings with Zhirinovsky, is that right?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not sure that it's quite that categoric. He certainly does represent an important party within the Parliament, and I understand that as part of our efforts to have political contacts with all of the major groups within the Parliament, I believe that our Embassy officials are in contact with his party.
I'm not aware that there's a particular injunction against any direct contacts with Zhirinovsky. I'll be happy to check into that point just to make sure that I'm correct, but I now understand that the Embassy has maintained contacts with the political group that he represents.
Q Christopher said on the Hill last week that lower-level Embassy people are meeting Zhirinovsky.
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I know that had been the case some weeks before -- after the election, and I hadn't learned anything to indicate that that policy had changed.
Q Well, on the Middle East, it's been a while since you've asked -- the President asked the PLO to come here. The subject seems to have dropped out of sight. Can you give us an update on whether you still expect these talks to resume or have you pretty much gone into the hopeful, expectant, waiting status?
MS. SHELLY: I think you know, Barry, our policy on trying to get the talks to resume at the soonest possible moment, that that is still very much our policy. There have been some activities in the last day or two. As you know, there were talks in Cairo between Arafat and Rabin adviser Jacques Neriah.
We understand from the parties that they discussed some specific proposals related to the efforts underway to get their talks on implementation of the Declaration of Principles back on course. It's obviously up to them, as you know, to provide any further characterization or details on those talks.
I don't know of any other specific meetings between them that's been scheduled, but we certainly expect their consultations to continue. As to their plans on future meetings, again that has to come from the party.
We are continuing to consult on a virtually constant basis with the parties and all of the others in the region about how best to try to get those negotiations back on track and those contacts are continuing, and certainly again it's our hope to get the talks resumed as soon as we can.
Q I think it was almost an understanding -- I guess understanding would be fair enough -- when the other Arab delegations walked off in solidarity with the PLO, but at this stage, with the PLO still standing, waiting for something that hasn't happened yet, does the Administration think that the other delegations should come back and resume their discussions at least while you wait on the PLO, or are you still in this state where, "Hey, listen, if they all want to stay out, that's their decision."
MS. SHELLY: At the point in time when the talks broke off, we were certainly very satisfied with the progress that they had made so far and felt that this particular mechanism for meeting here on the bilateral track had been yielding some results.
There was scheduled to be, as you know, a break in the talks anyway, because the nature of these are -- they're very informal, and they come here, they meet, they stay for a period of time. When they reach a point where they feel they need to refer some of the issues back to their governments, they go back, they consult.
So that was due to happen anyway, with the expectation that there would be a pause. I'm not aware that any decision has been made among any of the other three delegations -- the Syrians, Lebanese or Jordanians -- about when to come back. I assume that that's a subject which is still under discussion, and certainly we hope that at an appropriately early time, that we would be able to resume the discussions on all of the tracks.
Q When you were talking about the talks in Cairo, those are the implementation talks, right, on the Declaration of Principles. This is not the four-way consultations that you're talking about.
MS. SHELLY: That's correct.
Q And do you think that those implementation talks may begin or could begin soon?
MS. SHELLY: Again, I'd have to refer you to the parties. I don't have any crystal ball on this one.
Q And is the United States playing any direct role in that Cairo dialogue?
MS. SHELLY: The meetings that occurred -- I think they were yesterday on this -- those were just bilateral meetings. I don't believe that we had anyone there for those. We're certainly continuing our own talks with each of them with a view to a resumption at a future point. Again, our position on this has always been that if we want to do what each of the parties do, we certainly very much want to facilitate and encourage the direct contacts between them. But if both of the parties feel that we can involved ourselves in some useful way and play a more active role in some of these bilateral talks, we've always been prepared to do that. Q Is there some kind of -- for lack of a better term -- horse-trading going on here involving the language of the U.N. Security Council resolution, which had been talked about last week -- and I guess is still being talked about -- and the conditions for the Palestinians to come back? Is there some sort of interplay there?
MS. SHELLY: I certainly wouldn't characterize them as unrelated because many of the issues that are under discussion, the precise language for the U.N. Security Council resolution and some of the concerns in the aftermath of the Hebron incident that the Palestinians have raised, some of these things certainly touch very much on the same issues.
The contents of the U.N. Security Council resolution are still under discussion in New York, and I don't think there's much more to say today over yesterday about the particular elements of that resolution. But that is certainly something that the Palestinians very much want to see action; they want to see a U.N. Security Council resolution. They also have concerns which they have both voiced to us and they've also voiced to the Israelis in the meetings yesterday.
So they're not exactly unrelated, but I wouldn't go so far as to make a specific linkage between the two.
Q Do you have anything on Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: As you know, Ambassador Pezzullo is testifying on this this afternoon. So I'm actually going to steer clear of Haiti for today since we have Administration testimony on this this afternoon.
Q All right, then Burma. I don't think anybody is testifying on Burma. I mean the government.
MS. SHELLY: (TO STAFF) Any testimony on Burma?
Q I think David is the guy to ask about Burma.
MS. SHELLY: Okay. What do you want to know on Burma.
Q I guess what --
MS. SHELLY: Is this a serious question, Barry, or are we just looking for topics when there's no testimony --
Q No, no, we're not just looking for topics. Then I have to reveal the fact -- the U.S. position on Burma is in today's New York Times. Evidently, you had a Burma guidance. We're getting into how things operate here, which you don't want too much, do you, in a televised briefing. But do you want to read the same guidance to us, or has it be updated? Are they still saying "no" to talking to the opposition leader?
MS. SHELLY: I think that still is where we are. As you know, at the time when Congressman Richardson had his meetings in mid-February with Aung San Suu Kyi, we had hoped that this was going to provide some breakthrough here, I guess, in terms of the decision to have talks with the leadership.
She, of course, is still continuing in her house arrest. We hope that the permission by the regime to let Congressman Richardson meet, that this would signal a new willingness to address the human rights problems more seriously.
We very much, in terms of our role on this, we continue to call, as we have on previous occasions, for the immediate release from the house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and other prisoners of conscience.
We note that, of course, the regime has not ruled out the possibility of dialogue in the future. We certainly hope they'll begin talks at the earliest possible time.
Q You don't sound as disappointed as this account is. You don't think they've backtracked since the Congressman was there?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not sure that they've taken the step forward that we would like to have seen them take. I'm not aware that there's been a backtracking either.
Q Oh, all right, because this even raises the possibility of more sanctions. I don't know what sanctions are left. You've thrown everything at them that I can imagine.
MS. SHELLY: Again, I think the regime has not ruled out the possibility of dialogue in the future. I think that's still where they ar, and I think that we and others are still encouraging them to enter into that dialogue and try to break the political impasse in the country. It's still pretty much where it was in the mid-February period.
Q Christine, anything on the unrest in Iraq over the weekend?
MS. SHELLY: I looked into that because I had seen a report or two on that. Basically, it didn't really come up very much.
I understand that the report is coming out of London. It's an Iraqi opposition group that claims that there is civil unrest in the city of Samarra in Iraq. We're checking into it. At this time, we don't have any concrete information which confirms the report, but we're continuing to look into it. If we get anything else, I'll certainly try to put up a more precise answer to that.
Q Christine, while we're in that part of the world, there's a report in a Tehran newspaper today that there are expressions of warmth from the United States to sort of look for some rapproachment with Iran, and that they don't reject that. Do we have any confirmation that this is so?
MS. SHELLY: I'll have to look into the reports, because I must confess, it hasn't come to my attention so far. I'm not aware that we're on the precipice of changing our Iran policy, but I'll look into that and see if there's anything new.
Q With the World Trade Center trial recently over, has the United States Government come to a conclusion as to whether this was sponsored by a foreign government? It seems to be larger than it initially thought. There's a story today in the New York Times talking about many other ramifications, possible threats to kidnap former Secretary of State Kissinger, etc., etc. I wonder if this was just a band of a few people or whether it was the work of a foreign government?
MS. SHELLY: When we addressed this on Friday and we issued the State Department statement at that time, and particularly about the concern over the possibility of acts against American citizens and we issued a kind of advisory on that, certainly it was very much our concern that there might be some acts of retribution in response to the verdicts.
But as to the first part of your question about the linkage to foreign involvement, I'm not aware of anything new coming out on that. Again, I'll look into it to see if there's anything more we can say. I'm not sure, in terms of the last few days, we've come up with anything new.
Q The travel advisory today on Israel or at least on the West Bank refers to East Jerusalem as "occupied territory." That happens every five or six years. Is there any significance to that? Or did somebody just put words together and not realize it's a political buzz word there in calling East Jerusalem "occupied territory?"
MS. SHELLY: The text in the Consular Information Sheet is not a new formulation. It has been used before in all earlier versions of that sheet and elsewhere. It doesn't signify any change in U.S. policy regarding the status of Jerusalem.
I would just note that the Consular Information Sheet itself says that the status of all of the aforementioned territories should be determined through direct negotiation. So that's simply the way we've been handling it. It doesn't reflect any change in the U.S. policy regarding the status of Jerusalem.
Q Is there any advancement on the China story?
MS. SHELLY: No, there really isn't. The Secretary, I think you probably know, had a press conference some hours ago. I think he expressed his full range of views on this, including this need to take up the continuing human rights issues and concerns at the highest levels.
Beyond what he said on that, I don't really have anything to add.
Q I'd just be happy to know where the herald points at this point. I don't know where you're coming down. I guess he'd be the person to ask.
One day you're listing people who were arrested. Their only crime was to speak out in public. The next day I pick up the paper and you're lifting sanctions on rocket -- on satellites. I just don't know. Maybe it's called "carrot and stick" or maybe the Department is confused. I can't quite figure out where you stand on China's behavior -- if you think it's kind of a mixed picture or if you think they are improving or if you think they're retrogressing. I can't follow it. I'm having a lot of trouble.
You slap sanctions on; you take sanctions off. You say they arrest people, and then you go to talk to them. Then you send senior people and then you don't. I'm baffled. Maybe they are, too.
MS. SHELLY: Barry, I would absolutely love to take a crack at that question. However, given that it really touches on virtually every aspect of policy toward China and the Secretary is going there imminently, I'm going to have to duck that one and either refer you to the party or else we can take up after they come back.
Q Anyhow, you have four people. Do you know, the fourth person who was picked up Sunday is kind of prominent. Do you happen to know what happened to him?
MS. SHELLY: Which one is that?
Q I'm sorry, I don't have the name down. Number three was going to be held possibly for charges; the fourth was a last minute -- you know, it was only Sunday. But he was a guy that served three and a half years. He was a leader in the Tiananmen movement. I haven't seen anything from China saying what's to be with him, and I thought perhaps you might have an update since yesterday. Do you?
MS. SHELLY: Yesterday, if you got the names and the status of them from the Press Office -- no, this is really off my screen today, so I can't tell you anything further on that.
Q On China: Is it really you're lifting sanctions or is it actually that he was resubmitted a new export application without the offending technology in the satellite?
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to have to look into that. Because I hate to --
Q Because it's been reported both ways in the paper.
MS. SHELLY: Okay. We'll look into that and see if we can post an answer on that.
Q I don't know whether you've commented on this, but there is a Chinese statement that this is internal affairs. What happens there is not really the business of the United States. I wonder whether you've commented on that?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry, whose statement?
Q The Chinese.
MS. SHELLY: Chinese statement. Again, I'm afraid I'm just going to have to pass on that one with the Secretary working the China issue.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:27 p.m.)
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