U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING Wednesday, April 20, 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry ANNOUNCEMENT Secretary to Testify Tomorrow before Senate Appropriations Subcommittee re: FY95 Budget ...........1 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Secretary's Visit to Region/London/Other .........................1-3 Status of Bilateral Talks in Washington .............................2-3 Implementation of Declaration of Principles ...................3-4 JORDAN Discussions with US re: Iraq Sanctions ..............................4 GREECE Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister/Agenda ......4 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Peace Efforts by US/UN/EU/NATO/Russia ..........................5-7 Update on Gorazde .........................................................................6 Status of Detained UN Personnel ............................................6 Secretary's Contacts with Allies/UN/NATO/Russia ......7,9 US Consultations at UN ...............................................................8 Russian Proposal for International Conference ...............8 Update on Sarajevo/Serb Recovery of Weapons ...............9-10 Tightening Sanctions ...................................................................12 FYRO MACEDONIA/GREECE US Efforts to Resolve Issues/US Relations .......................11-12 (###)
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 1994, 12:59 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon, everybody. I've got two announcements to start with.
First, Secretary Christopher will testify tomorrow before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, State and Judiciary of the Senate Appropriations Committee. That's an FY-95 budget request hearing, but I'm certain that they'll get into a number of topics. Room 253 of the Senate Russell Building, 10:00 a.m. tomorrow. And obviously because of that appearance, as we usually do, we'll not have a Daily Briefing here.
Second, to announce, I think what you already know, the Secretary will indeed travel to the Middle East next week, departing on Sunday night. He is intent on making several stops in the region, all aimed at reinvigorating the peace process.
I'll tell you that not all the stops have been finalized yet. The first will be London. He'll be going to London so he can see King Hussein who was previously scheduled to be in London at that time. And then from there the schedule will be somewhat up in the air. He will be making some of the stops he customarily makes and perhaps others. But we'll let you know more as the trip unfolds.
We've put a sign-up sheet in the Press Office for anyone who would like to come along. We are going to probably be on a tight time deadline, so we will take the sign-up sheet down at 5:00 p.m. today, if you want to go.
Q What Bosnia business might you do on this trip. Is he going to meet with other European foreign ministers?
MR. McCURRY: It's unclear at this point. He will certainly meet with Foreign Secretary Hurd, as you would expect, while he's in London, but unclear at this point whether there will be a Bosnia element to the trip.
Q Any suggestion that Kozyrev might be in London?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I've heard, no.
Q Mike, I remember in the 1970s there was a kind of ugly comment about too many Arabs in London buying up stuff (inaudible) but you didn't mean to suggest that London was part of the Middle East, did you?
MR. McCURRY: No, no. I said he's transacting Middle East business, but he is going -- I guess what is important to say, he's continuing from London to the region where he will be conducting the bulk of his travel.
Q Is it possible to get perhaps a briefing from him or a senior official before he goes?
MR. McCURRY: We'll see before we leave if we can't one way or another have someone set out some of the things that we will do on this trip. I think some of you are aware that the Secretary indicated today this would be a working trip, one in which, as you frequently do in the Middle East peace process, try to grind out a few more inches along the way. But he's not anticipating major breakthroughs.
Q Do you think we could up the request and get the most senior official?
MR. McCURRY: You can request anything.
Q Well, let's put it this way. He was on the record today with a U.S.-sponsored telecast to the area.
MR. McCURRY: We will try.
Q And, you know, the --
MR. McCURRY: We will try.
Q The expectations are so limited when they go down through other hands. They get even more qualified, so that virtually nothing is said. So let's try the Secretary this time.
MR. McCURRY: I will take your request, think about it and do what I feel is proper.
Q The Secretary also said that the bilateral talks that were supposed to resume in April will not. Is that something he's going to try to do that would not be a major breakthrough?
MR. McCURRY: I think the reason the will not reconvene in April is clearly because the Secretary himself will be in the region. Since he'll be out there working, the opportunity to move things along, we feel, is advanced by a trip now, so that when they do reconvene here in Washington, they can make a little more progress. But I think I indicated that yesterday.
Q So Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and the Palestinians were ready to come, and we said, "No, let's wait until Christopher gets into the region."
MR. McCURRY: I think they are ready and willing to resume dialogue, but I think our view and their view is that a trip by the Secretary to the region might advance the process even further.
Q But he did say in the telecast that they'd be here -- he didn't say (inaudible) to the question. That is the question I'm asking. He said the talks would resume in early May.
MR. McCURRY: I believe here is the intent.
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q Mike, you've thrown out this process that there's been somewhat of a division between the four tracks, on the one hand, and direct Israeli-PLO talks on the other. And you've always made the point that it's very important that those parties stay face-to-face. So the Secretary seemed to indicate some -- I don't know if impatience is too strong a word for it -- he certainly urged them to hurry up and finish the deal and not to get hung up on side issues.
Is there a feeling here that those talks are really dragging out too long and leaving the ground for extremists?
MR. McCURRY: Our view on it is that -- I think we've said frequently here -- they need to get it right. It's important that they do it as quickly as possible and that they conclude the agreement on implementing the Declaration, but they also need to make absolutely certain that they finalize the terms of the implementation agreement, so that there's a common view between the two parties on how they're going to implement it.
Q Well, just to follow that up, when the April 13 deadline was missed, Peres set a kind of informal deadline for the end of the month, and now that looks as if that one's likely to be missed as well. I mean, at some point don't they have to -- you can go delving into secondary, tertiary and even smaller details almost endlessly, but at some point don't they have to wrap this thing up and get it done? There is a kind of an urgency to that.
MR. McCURRY: Absolutely. They need to wrap it up, get an agreement, implement the Declaration of Principles, and begin to change the lives of those who live in Israel and the occupied territories, and that needs to happen as quickly as possible, but it also needs to happen in a way that both parties can be confident that the commitments agreed to will be carried out and fulfilled. And part of this negotiation is about developing that type of confidence in the ability of each party to carry out the obligations that they have.
That is taking time, but, from what we've heard in close contact with the parties, they are making progress. And I think we're satisfied if they're making progress and they understand the urgency of implementing the Declaration, they are in the right frame to carry forward in the process.
Q Mike, do you expect the U.S. and its allies to take some step to ease Jordan's concern over the blockade of Aqaba before the peace talks resume?
MR. McCURRY: I think that will be an item in discussion when the Secretary meets with the King. I wouldn't want to foreshadow it more than that.
Q Are you concerned at all that it might sidetrack a resumption of the negotiations?
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q This morning there was a meeting between the Secretary of State and the Greek Foreign Minister. Do you have something on that?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have. I think, as you know, the Secretary talked a lot at the beginning of that meeting about some of the things that they would discuss. Certainly the status of the discussions that our Special Envoy, Matt Nimetz, has been having with both Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia were high on the list. The status of the Greek embargo, some of the issues that have been in contention between both the FYROM and Greece were under discussion.
I know the Secretary intended to also discuss matters related to the European Union and Greek's current role as President of the EU, and I believe they also intended to discuss Bosnia. I have not -- and partly because the Foreign Minister has had some engagements involving some of the U.S. personnel who participated, I haven't had a full readout of that meeting. But if there's anything beyond those topics and the discussion that the Secretary indicated he did intend to have, we'll be delighted to pass it on.
Q (Inaudible) clarification really. The New York Times quoted yesterday senior State Department officials having a problem with the White House because there's not an Ambassador in FYROM yet. To what extent there's a problem between you and the White House?
MR. McCURRY: There is not, as I indicated yesterday.
Q This morning on his Worldnet program, the Secretary listed three aims of the United States policy in Bosnia, the third one being invigorating the peace process -- or reinvigorating it. How precisely does he intend to do that?
MR. McCURRY: I think, as he indicated, Jim, in the interview, they are looking for ways that they can coordinate the views of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union working together and then working in concert with any role played by NATO to make sure that all of those steps work together towards advancing the peace process.
There have been various points in this process, you know, the European Union having a lead at one point, the U.S. having a lead, the U.S. and Russia having a lead. I think there is a strong desire that we sense among many in the international community to work in concert to see if we can't bring this very ugly war to an end.
Q You mentioned that the goal was to make sure that there was no repetition of Gorazde in the other so- called safe areas. Would it be wrong to infer that that's another way of saying that he realizes that the United States and everybody else is helpless to save Gorazde now?
MR. McCURRY: I don't believe he said that, no.
Q No, I know he didn't, but he focused everything on preventing a repetition rather than on trying to rescue Gorazde.
MR. McCURRY: I think he was indicating a very strong desire on the part of the United States to make it impossible for what's happened in Gorazde to happen in one of the other safe areas. He didn't say anything that would indicate that he feels that we are helpless in addressing the situation in Gorazde. In fact, the President, when he talks at 3:00 o'clock today, may very well address Gorazde.
Q On this question of Gorazde, in talking about what has happened, it is still happening today that a hospital was shelled and ten people were killed. There are still tens of thousands of people there. Why is the United States not telling the Serbs to stop this? Why is the United States not telling them that if they carry on with this, they are going to pay a price?
MR. McCURRY: Alan, they have been told many, many things and, as the President indicated yesterday, anything we say further about this, there's going to be absolutely no doubt what happens as a consequence, and I'll leave it to the President to address that.
Q What about those 65,000 people who are at the mercy of the Serbs and who are being shelled now? Is there any hope for them? Will the United States do something with its allies or alone or in any other fashion to protect those people who are defenseless?
MR. McCURRY: I believe the President intends to address exactly that subject.
Q Do you have a situation report on what the U.S. view is of Gorazde at this point? How close the forces are, how many U.N. people are left, etc.
MR. McCURRY: I have only got as a fighting update what I think Alan just referred to, that the U.N. reports to us that there's heavy shelling, artillery fire directed at the center of town and the hospital. There are reports elsewhere in both central Bosnia, Sarajevo and some other locations of different types of violence.
The most recent information I have on the status of U.N. personnel is that there are only a handful of U.N. military observers remaining in Gorazde, but UNPROFOR is really in a position to provide you the best information about their status.
Q Any other U.N. personnel being held hostage or under house arrest to the best of your knowledge?
MR. McCURRY: It's not entirely clear. We have heard reports that perhaps as many as half of the detained observers have been released, but our attempts to get more confirmation on this from UNPROFOR has not gotten any firm confirmation at this point.
Q Are NATO consultations -- just now I've heard from Brussels that the meeting hasn't been scheduled. The Ambassadors meeting went off, didn't deal with this issue, at least not in the way, you know, we expect it will be dealt with. Can you give us some idea of the timing and maybe what else has been going on on the telephone?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware that anyone expected that the NAC meeting was going to deal with --
Q No --
MR. McCURRY: -- today's regularly scheduled NAC meeting was going to deal with that.
Q Sure. But there's no schedule yet for this special meeting.
MR. McCURRY: No schedule yet, but I think it will probably happen this week, probably on Friday.
Q Probably on Friday. And what about -- you know, the usual question about who's been on the phone with whom.
MR. McCURRY: Lots and lots of contact related to this, involving most of the senior ranking officials in the Department, including the Secretary. He has either written, talked or corresponded with all of his NATO counterparts, United Nations, the Secretary General of NATO, and also Foreign Minister Kozyrev of Russia.
He plans additional telephone calls today, and there are a lot of calls going on. I don't want to detail them for fear of leaving out some that he may have either reached or attempted to reach. But he's following up many of the written messages and oral messages that were delivered overnight with personal phone calls as well.
Q More than the usual number in a straw poll. Can you give us some sense of whether the U.S. thinks its proposals will be accepted? Yesterday the briefer at the White House said he was confident it would be accepted.
MR. McCURRY: We remain of the view that we'll be able to work together with our allies in fashioning a response here, as we have in the situation involving Sarajevo and in other matters involving Bosnia.
Q Mike, two questions: One, you mentioned the need to work with all of these organizations, the EU, the Russians, NATO, U.N. The first question is, is the United States buying any stock in Yeltsin's call for this summit, which sounds like the same group you're talking about?
The second question is, what response is there to Yeltsin's insistence that he still be consulted and that the issue of expanding air strikes go before the Security Council.
MR. McCURRY: The first answer, I think the President himself addressed that yesterday. I don't have anything to add to what he said.
Second, we are consulting very vigorously at the United Nations on this problem and do agree that that is an important place in which there needs to be contact back and forth.
Q Mike, a senior U.S. official was quoted in The New York Times as saying that the President's response to Yeltsin's proposal was just a polite sort of play, brushing him off. Is that --
MR. McCURRY: I think that's not a fair characterization of the President's own answer to that question yesterday. I heard him give it, and it was certainly much more than that.
Q What do we think the purpose of such a conference should be, and when would the conditions be right for such a conference?
MR. McCURRY: Those are exactly the types of discussions that we have going on with many of the European allies we have and that we will have with others as well. Where you follow up and how --
Q Do we have a view?
MR. McCURRY: Where you follow and how -- we've got views that we're sharing with them. When they announce it --
Q Will Secretary Christopher participate in such a conference?
MR. McCURRY: They haven't decided at what level any such meeting, if it happens, would happen.
Q The Secretary made a reference to -- I think he used the words "higher level" in the Worldnet interview today. What was he talking about there?
MR. McCURRY: "Higher" -- I'm not sure.
Q Bringing negotiations to a higher level.
MR. McCURRY: I think that would be moving it beyond the level of special envoys that have been working the problem in Sarajevo most recently. It would be moving more to a Minister, or just sub- Minister level gathering.
That's one of the points that is being actively debated back and forth between capitals and one of the things that I think will be resolved in the next several days.
Q Mike, to clarify the context that the Secretary's had on this, you mentioned Mr. Kozyrev's name. Do you mean to say that in the last 24 hours, since the meetings at the White House in the last day or two, he's talked to Foreign Minister Kozyrev?
MR. McCURRY: I believe he has talked to him by phone. That was his intent. He has also sent him a message.
Q By the way -- well, you don't know if they've talked for sure. I was going to ask, if they had, whether the Russians have given any indication whether they're going to jump back in to the negotiations or continue to let things go?
MR. McCURRY: They have been addressing those questions publicly themselves. I think I'll leave it to them.
Q What's your reading on the situation in Sarajevo? I've heard reports that they're running out of food supplies and those supplies will be depleted if there isn't some resupply by Tuesday.
MR. McCURRY: I have not heard that. The only thing I have on that is just a report of sniper attacks that have occurred, but I don't have a humanitarian update. I'll see if I can get some more information on humanitarian conditions in Sarajevo. They've been obviously very improved from what they were last summer and more recently. But I'll check and see if there's been any change in that.
Q There's been no air flights into Sarajevo in almost two weeks, have there?
MR. McCURRY: There have been no -- not that I'm aware of.
Q There's no land convoys, no air?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q So they're pretty cut off.
Q Do you have any confirmation as to whether the anti- aircraft pieces that were taken yesterday have, in part or in total, been returned?
MR. McCURRY: We had confirmation from the United Nations that all anti-aircraft weapons removed by Bosnian Serbs from a U.N.-controlled area earlier this week were returned last night.
Q How about the tank?
MR. McCURRY: There is a single tank removed from a U.N.- controlled area without UNPROFOR's permission, Reportedly, Bosnian Serb soldiers entered the exclusion zone on the pretext of repairing the tank and drove the tank away.
Q But they repaired it first?
Q Hot-wired it.
MR. McCURRY: I don't believe they stopped to give it a tune-up before they took it away.
Q Why weren't air strikes called?
Q Mike, did they take liability insurance on that one?
Q Mike, as they were doing this -- it took some period of time -- why weren't air strikes called?
MR. McCURRY: I have no idea.
Q Would the U.S. have supported the use of air strikes against that tank yesterday?
MR. McCURRY: We support any commitments that we make consistent with the exclusion zone around Sarajevo.
Q Does the U.N. have to request an air strike against any weapons in any exclusion zone, or is NATO authorized to just take them as they see them?
MR. McCURRY: I can't remember the answer to that. There's a very elaborate answer to that question, and I just don't remember it. I'll have to take the question up and check it again.
Q Is that part of the problem? The procedure is so elaborate that nobody actually knows what it is?
MR. McCURRY: I have no idea.
Q I have another question, Mr. McCurry. In the State Department view, should further air strikes be authorized in safe areas outside of Sarajevo and Gorazde? Would the Secretary General still have icebreaker authority?
MR. McCURRY: That's not anything that I can begin to answer until there's further discussions with our allies and others.
Q Is there any chance we will get to hear from Redman, or is that --
MR. McCURRY: You asked about Redman yesterday. He did, indeed, meet with the Secretary immediately on return last night, looking a little bleary-eyed, to be honest.
I would like to do that. We can't do it ahead of anything that the President himself is doing, and I'll check and see with others at the White House what type of briefing schedule they plan. I'd certainly argue in favor of doing that, if I can work it out.
Q If I may ask, are you at all concerned about the attitude that Greece may have within NATO regarding the new ideas coming from the White House about Bosnia and air strikes?
MR. McCURRY: We are aware of many of their concerns, and we hope, in explaining in a very detailed way, our views of Serb behavior, especially in recent days, that they would understand the depth of our feelings and the views of other members of the alliance on that issue.
Q Do you see a problem from the Greek side?
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q Do you happen to know what the U.S. intention is regarding full or less than full relations with the new country next door to Greece?
MR. McCURRY: I'm sorry, say again?
Q Is the U.S. going to continue to have less than complete diplomatic relations with Macedonia?
MR. McCURRY: It's our hope. I think, as the Secretary indicated today, to fully normalize relations and to have an Ambassador- resident there. But we have been also awaiting a resolution of some of the issues that are in discussion between Greece and FRYOM and have a envoy very directly involved in those discussions.
Q But you said it's contingent on that. So the U.S. will not of its own volition decide that this country is entitled to be treated as a country?
MR. McCURRY: No change at this time in our view on relations.
Q Which country are you talking about?
MR. McCURRY: The former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
Q The U.S. is withholding appointment of an Ambassador and full normalization with this new country until they resolve the blockade issue?
MR. McCURRY: No. There are a number of issues that are under discussion between the FRYROM and Greece and those are being addressed by Ambassador Nimetz who is --
Q But until those issues are resolved, we're not going to do it; is that what you're saying?
MR. McCURRY: The Secretary addressed that question earlier.
Q In the Worldnet broadcast, the Secretary said that one thing under consideration is a strengthening of the sanctions regime against Yugoslavia. Is there anything you can tell us about what else could be tinkered with to make that tighter?
MR. McCURRY: There are, as there usually is with any sanctions regime, different ways in which people escape or evade the effect of the sanctions. We are aware of some of those. We think that working in cooperation with some of the other frontline states, we might be able to address that more aggressively. I don't think I can go beyond that at this moment. There are other steps financially that you can take, some other things that we believe would be effective in bringing -- even strengthening the pressure that is currently being brought on Serbia.
It's important to note, I think, that these sanctions and their total effect have devastated the economy of Serbia. They've had inflation rates. I think the inflation rate for 1993 was something like 114 trillion percent. They've lost two-thirds of their labor force over the course of the period in which sanctions have been imposed.
So that the economic consequences for Serbia have been catastrophic. It's one indication why Mr. Milosevic seems to have the removal of sanctions or the lessening of sanctions at the very top of his agenda.
Q But given the extraordinary impact of these sanctions, why does anyone think that if they were made even a little tighter would have the slightest impact?
MR. McCURRY: Because I think that they have had, because of the activities of the Serb leadership in Belgrade, a demonstrable impact. Because, as I just said, their top priority and objective seems to be a relaxation of those sanctions.
I would freely acknowledge, that doesn't seem to have much -- it doesn't have much bearing on the activities of General Mladic; I would acknowledge that.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: I'll vote for Barry.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
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