US DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING JUNE 16, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, June 16, 1994 Briefer: Christine Shelly ANNOUNCEMENTS White House Briefing on North Korea Today ....... 1 Senator Bob Graham and William Gray will Hold a Press Availability Today ...................... 1 HAITI Boat People/Refugee Processing Off Jamaica ...... 1- 6 -- Role of UNHCR/NGOs .......................... 2- 4 GREECE Air Rights re: Law of the Sea ................... 6- 7 RWANDA Situation Update ................................ 7- 11 US Assistance to UN Forces ...................... 7- 9
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JUNE 16, 1994, 1:29 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I heartily apologize for the delay in getting the briefing started. I'm sure it will be with great regret for some of you that I am not going to be taking questions on the Korea issue.
As you know, there had been a briefing on this scheduled for a little bit earlier over at the White House on this, and there has been a delay in that. But it's our expectation that a briefing in some form on the Korea issue will take place over at the White House slightly later today. They'll have the details on that, on what basis or what time that will be done. But unfortunately I'm not going to be in a position to do the Korea issues at this briefing.
I'd be happy to take your questions on other subjects.
Q Do you have anything on Haiti today in terms of sanctions impact or refugee processing?
MS. SHELLY: I'll also make one short additional announcement since we're on Haiti. Senator Bob Graham and Bill Gray, the Special Adviser to the President and the Secretary of State, will be available to answer questions from the media at 4:00 p.m. today at the Hart Building, in the hallway between Rooms 520 and 517. So those of you who wish to go over there and hang out and work the Haiti issue, you may have the opportunity to do that over there as well.
I have a little bit for you on the processing. I can tell you that we have begun processing Haitian boat people in Jamaican waters. This started yesterday. Thirty-five Haitian boat people were interdicted yesterday in international waters off the coast of Haiti and were taken to Jamaica where they were transferred to the USNS Comfort.
This is the first group of Haitian boat people to be processed at the newly established processing facility on the Comfort which, as you know, is located in Kingston harbor.
On the land-based center in Turks and Caicos, we're close to a final agreement with the Governments of the U.K. and Turks and Caicos Islands. A land-based center would certainly be greatly preferable to shipboard processing which, as you know, is a stop-gap measure which requires some rather extraordinary procedures.
If you'd like, I've got a few details on how the processing is going to work. Did you want me to get into that, too?
MS. SHELLY: After an interdiction, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter will transport the Haitians to the processing center. U.S. Government personnel will receive the Haitians. They'll establish identity, create and maintain manifests, issue identifying documentation, and conduct initial medial screening.
A Public Health Service doctor will be on board the vessel, and community relations service personnel will assist with such social service issues as unaccompanied minors and conflict resolution.
Officials from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees -- UNHCR -- will counsel the boat people about refugee status determination. They will explain the purpose of the refugee program and the processing steps involved. UNHCR will be assisted in this counseling by staff provided by non-governmental organizations.
Bilingual staff, provided by the International Organization for Migration -- the IOM -- will prepare case documentation for INS adjudication. Trained INS officers will conduct full refugee interviews of all persons using the interpreters provided by the IOM. An INS quality assurance officer will review each decision before it becomes final.
UNHCR will monitor all stages in the processing and will be able to discuss individual cases with the quality assurance officers.
Those persons found ineligible for refugee status will be repatriated to Haiti by Coast Guard cutter. Those persons approved by refugee status will then be transferred to Guantanamo Naval Base for further processing. Those bound for the United States will go through expedited processing. UNHCR will also assist in referring some cases to other resettlement countries.
As to the time limits for processing, the processing of the Haitian boat people will take as long as it takes to provide all applicants a fair opportunity to state their case. No time limits have been set.
Q How many people from this facility in Kingston harbor are there?
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to have to check on that. I think I had seen something. I'll have to check on the number. I'm not sure. I thought I had that in my guidance, but I don't. I'll check on that and post that, unless we can come up with that. If it's possible to come up with that toward the end of the briefing, I'll indicate.
Q There are those who think that this facility will quickly be overwhelmed. Have you thought about that?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sure that it has been thought about. We also continue to urge people to pursue the in-country processing possibility, as you know, which is considerably safer than taking to the high seas. We indicated at the time that we made the announcement about the reduced personnel in the Embassy that we would be keeping all three of the centers in Haiti open. We still continue to believe that in- country application and processing provides the safest means for those who might wish to depart and would have a basis under which they might be able to qualify for refugee status. But that still represents the best alternative.
But certainly we'll have to keep the situation under review in light of the events as they transpire.
Q Can it be said that these terms are, as has been reported, the terms that have been more or less dictated by the U.N. as a price for their participation -- the UNHCR?
MS. SHELLY: There had been some reports earlier that there had been some difficulties reaching agreement on this, and I'm not sure that those reports were accurate. It obviously was a process which we felt -- we signaled very early that we wanted to have the UNHCR participate and our goal in having them participate was to ensure that the process as it unfolded would be humane, fair and credible for all of those who would be -- all the Haitian refugee applicants.
We reached full agreement with the UNHCR on their participation. It's an agreement that I believe both sides are satisfied with -- that it will meet the goals that we have set out for it.
We're also particularly pleased that as this process of consultation on procedures unfolded, that the UNHCR entered into its own agreement with the prominent American NGOs on this which have, as you know, a very long experience in the refugee processing.
So the NGOs will provide some personnel, as I mentioned, to work directly with the UNHCR on this to provide the counseling that I mentioned, once the Haitians are actually brought to the Comfort.
So I think it was a process where we agreed on the goals and have had to work out the precise details of how they would participate, but I believe that everyone is satisfied now that those procedures are in place.
Q It would certainly appear that the whole procedure will be much more liberal there than it will be in Haiti. I mean, I'm assuming that the UNHCR and the NGOs are not in Haiti helping people with their applications. So isn't it likely that word's going to get around that your chances are going to be a lot better if you head for one of these centers than if you try to do it in Haiti?
MS. SHELLY: Barrie, we've tried to make, I think, very clear that the criteria for establishing viable or legitimate refugee status, that that is unchanged. The purpose of being able to do this, of course, was to be sure that there would not be cases where those who had the legitimate claim to refugee status, that they would not be inadvertently returned.
However, on the first part of your statement, my understanding is that in-country the NGOs have been active in identifying particular cases to those who have been involved in the processing, and that they have worked with us inside Haiti to try to make sure that those who might have a basis for qualifying for this could be examined and processed on an expedited basis.
So I do believe that they have been working with us in-country at all three of the centers that we have opened. But as to other factors or impressions or understandings that may prevail there, we have used the Embassy. The Embassy has made a rather considerable public affairs effort to try to clarify any misunderstandings that may have taken place regarding the criteria to be used to eventually be able to make that refugee determination.
So I think that the Embassy itself has tried to put out as clear a picture of this as possible. What ultimately the factors are which come to bear on individual decisions as to whether or not to leave or how to apply for refugee status, that's obviously something we're not in a position really to predict.
Q Christine, as part of the initial medical screening, will they be given -- will the Haitians be given AIDS tests, and will that impact on their asylum application?
MS. SHELLY: That's a fair question. I don't have an answer, and I'll check.
Q Have you noticed any upturn in the number of people, boat people being intercepted?
MS. SHELLY: I would have to get the exact trends on that. I don't have that with me. We do get updates on that from time to time. My general impression was that there was a period of time where the numbers had gone up rather considerably -- this was a few weeks ago -- after a period of less departures by boat.
Then once we made the announcements about the additional ways in which we would be handling the reprocessing, I think the general tendency had been downward from that, obviously in an effort to try to determine exactly what the situation was going to be and how the process was going to be handled.
So in the last couple of days, I don't think there were very many departures, but particularly the one case that I mentioned. And by the time that interdiction took place, the procedures were operative, and hence they were brought to the Jamaican coastal waters.
Q One other thing. Do you have --
MS. SHELLY: I'm pretty sure I can get you the exact numbers to post later this afternoon.
Q Do you have a figure on the cost of this facility and similar facilities in this program?
MS. SHELLY: I'll check on that as well.
Q Christine --
MS. SHELLY: Sorry, he was next.
Q Just to clarify for me, you said back at the beginning, yesterday 35 boat people were interdicted. Did they reach the Comfort yesterday or today?
MS. SHELLY: They were interdicted yesterday in the international waters and then transferred to the Comfort. So I think they were brought there late yesterday.
Q So processing started yesterday.
MS. SHELLY: I think that's right. I'll check on that just to be sure, and, if that's not right, I'll correct that. But it's my understanding that they arrived there some time very late yesterday.
Q When Guantanamo was organized, we had intelligence reports, I think from this podium, that there were between 700 and 1,000 boats that were being built, ready for some sort of an exodus, and I'm wondering whether you have any information now on the numbers of boats that are being built or that are ready to be used for any sort of a departure.
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any information on that. Again, if that were something that we were gleaning from intelligence sources, we would not be likely to comment from the podium anyway.
Q Could you please confirm reports that the Greek Ambassador has filed today a protest with your government for the statement of June 13 regarding the U.S. position vis-a-vis to the airspace and the territorial waters of the Aegean?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any information on that. I'll look into that.
Q And also I was told earlier that there would be no answer to my yesterday's question pertaining to limits of the territorial waters. Once again, do you accept the six or the 12 limits, and how did you establish this?
MS. SHELLY: You asked this question yesterday. We posted an answer to that yesterday afternoon. You saw the answer we posted to your question yesterday.
Q Can you repeat the answer?
MS. SHELLY: Can I repeat the answer?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have it with me. We put it up as a taken question yesterday afternoon.
Q Do you mean the answer of June 13?
MS. SHELLY: Wasn't it yesterday afternoon?
Q Because there wasn't anything on the board.
MS. SHELLY: Okay. I don't have anything with me on that. I'll check into it.
Q Since your navy and air force are using a lot of the air and the waters of the Aegean, which limits do you respect as airspace and territorial waters there from the political point of view, not military?
MS. SHELLY: I'll take the question.
Q Do you have something about Rwanda?
MS. SHELLY: Rwanda?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I've got some guidance on that. To give you a little bit of an update on the situation there -- the U.N. sources have been reporting that heavy fighting between the RPF and government forces has resumed today in Kigali following a brief lull yesterday afternoon.
The RPF appears to be making some gains in the center of the city, but this remains unconfirmed. The cease-fire talks scheduled for today have been suspended, and my understanding is that no date for the next round has been set.
Q In Tunis, the OAU Secretary General Salim Salim complained that the United States was being slow in providing equipment and logistic support for moving African troops into Rwanda. Would you respond to this?
MS. SHELLY: Is this specifically on the point about the APCs -- about moving the APCs, or is this --
Q All logistic support, all logistic support. They say that they have the troops, that they have thousands of troops from six countries that are ready to go, and they would like to know why the United States has been slow in providing any assistance for them to get their troops in there.
MS. SHELLY: First of all, this has largely been a Pentagon lead on this, even though we have dealt with it to some extent from the podium. We have in fact spent the last few days trying to figure how we could expedite the delivery of the APCs. I can report that 50 APCs will be made available to the U.N. to speed up the arrival of the first contingent of the enlarged force.
My understanding is now that they are going to be going by air, and that they're likely to be delivered, actually, as early as the very beginning of next week. There were some technical issues that had to be addressed, and I think that those basically have now been addressed, and we are speeding up the transportation in order to get those moved by air. So, as I said at the beginning, they're supposed to be delivered and available for use at the beginning of next week.
Q (inaudible) that they'll be available from the beginning of next week? I think the initial agreement to send them was made more than a month ago.
Yesterday, the New York Times editorial described this as shameful dawdling. What does the Administration feel about comments such as that?
MS. SHELLY: I think the Administration, and particularly the Pentagon, have made it very clear that this is not just a question of throwing the equipment into the situation. There were decisions that had to be made about some aspects of the equipment. There also had to be decisions relating to spare parts and things like that, and then also decisions regarding who is going to be running them -- whether or not the teams which were identified to run them, whether they had all of the proper training and to basically sort out all of those kinds of questions.
This is not the kind of equipment that moves in a turn-around time of one or two or three days. It does take some time.
We are certainly aware of the criticisms that have been out there. We have tried to address them. I think the issue will be solved within relatively short order.
Q Christine, why did the Administration elect to lease these vehicles rather than donate them?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, I don't have an answer to that. I don't know.
Q Does the United States want to be paid for all of its help before delivering the help, the logistics help?
MS. SHELLY: I don't think if we are going to be delivering these the beginning of next week, I don't believe that is a consideration in the timing.
Q I mean, couldn't we write off the debt? Don't we owe a lot of money to the U.N.? Couldn't we write off some our debt in terms of logistic supplies?
MS. SHELLY: Again, I don't have an answer to that.
Q Have there been anymore -- what you refer to as "acts of genocide" committed since we last discussed this issue?
MS. SHELLY: Alan, I'm not prepared to get into a blow-by-blow account of this today. We have seen some additional press reports, again, about some abductions of children which occurred yesterday. We don't have any information which actually confirms what might have happened to them.
The whole point of our concern -- we have certainly repeatedly and publicly acknowledged the extent of the atrocities that have been going on. That's why we have been working with the international community, to try to make the concerted effort to put a stop to the killings and achieve a cease-fire in Rwanda.
It's important, obviously, that the UNAMIR get expanded and that the troops be gotten in. One other thing we have done is, we have dispatched an interagency team led by Ambassador Rawson to the region to try to enlist the support of regional leaders in our efforts to try to pressure the warring parties to stop the fighting and to facilitate the rapid deployment of the UNAMIR force.
So that's what we're working on. We're trying to get the situation on the ground to a point that the killings can stop and then we can try to move on with addressing the broader political issues.
Q So are you saying that this issue of whether it's a genocide is basically a red herring, it's irrelevant, it just distracts attention from your laudable efforts to stop the killing?
MS. SHELLY: No, I'm not saying that, Alan. Secretary Christopher addressed himself to this issue, as you know, in Istanbul. He said that, certainly, there were acts of genocide. He said that if there were any particular magic in calling it "genocide," that he would have no hesitation in doing so. I think that's as accurate a description as you're going to get as to what the views of the Secretary of State are on this issue.
Our emphasis is not to get dragged into a semantics debate on the term. The issue is to try to move forward, get the fighting stopped, get a cease-fire so that the killings stop.
We also mentioned before that one of the things that we strongly supported was the convening of the special session of the U.N. Human Rights Commission which resulted in the appointment of the Special Rapporteur who would be investigating the situation and reporting.
As you know, he is supported by a team of human rights field officers. The Special Rapporteur's mandate is to investigate the violations of human rights which clearly have occurred in Rwanda and are continuing to occur, including acts of genocide and to report his findings to the UNHCR by the end of June. Once the Special Rapporteur completes his report, we will then work with the international community to determine the appropriate course of action.
Q So it's semantics?
MS. SHELLY: No, I'm not saying it's semantics.
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry?
Q When did this Special Rapporteur go?
MS. SHELLY: When did he go? I think we reported that he had gone last week. I'll check on that to be sure.
Q And also, the French are reported to have called -- said they are not going to let it go on much longer before they turn to military intervention with a group of African countries. Is that a mission the U.S. is prepared to participate in?
MS. SHELLY: I think that we are -- as to the French comments about intervening, I don't have a lot to say on that. We certainly share their anguish, which is reflected in the statements that they made. We certainly share in the outrage of the international community over the continued carnage which is going on, and we certainly understand the desire to intervene as quickly as possible.
We still believe that the best course for a successful intervention in Rwanda is that which is outlined in the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions which specifically calls for the expanded UNAMIR force of up to 5,500 troops.
We're discussing with France, as you know, and with other Security Council members, the best way that we, our European allies, and African countries can, in the context of the OAU, move quickly to try to bring an end to the killings in Rwanda.
Q So we oppose them? If the French actually said that, we oppose that plan and would not participate in it?
MS. SHELLY: I think the French statement was a reflection of its frustration, but they are continuing to work with us and Security Council members about the best way to do this. I believe that they're still working actively within the OAU context. It's obviously something that we will continue to consult with them about in terms of their latest views, but I don't think we believe it reflects a major shift in their approach to the diplomacy on the issue.
Q Christine, are you aware of a letter which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is supposed to be sending to the President today on Rwanda urging tougher U.S. action?
MS. SHELLY: I haven't seen it. I'm not aware of it in specificity, but I'll look into that.
Q Just a quickie -- and not on substance in North Korea, but was what President Carter said recently, was that communicated back here? Not what he said, but was there a communication between a representative of President Carter to either the State Department or the White House before he made this public statement?
MS. SHELLY: My general impression is that President Carter had been in contact with senior Administration officials prior to making his public statements.
Q Within a few hours or moments before --
MS. SHELLY: I don't have the details on that.
Q In this building or at the White House?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have the details on that either.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:50 p.m.)
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