U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING NOVEMBER 29, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, November 29, 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry FORMER YUGOSLAVIA US Position on the Proposition of a Federation between Bosnian Serbs, Territorial Integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina .......................1-3,5-6,8-9 US-Contact Group Discussions re Reinvigorating Diplomatic Efforts ..........................3, 4-5 Continuing Economic/Political Pressure on Serbs .......................................3-4 Contact Group Discussions with Milosevic ......4-5 FRY Enforcement of Embargo against Bosnian Serbs .......................................5 NATO Request for Airstrikes ...................6 Policy re Use of US Troops to Guarantee a Peace Agreement .............................6 Bosnian Desire for Weapons/Backing ............6-7 NORTH KOREA IAEA Inspection Team's Confirmation of Freeze of Nuclear Facilities .......................7 Status of KEDO Consortium/Liaison Office Talks .......................................7-8 SYRIA EU Vote to Lift Arms Sales Ban ................9-10 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS PLO-Hamas Talks ...............................10 KAZAKHSTAN Operation Sapphire -- US Acquisition of Nuclear Materials ...................................10-11
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 29, 1994, 12:57 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: This is the State Department. I'm Mike McCurry. You are the members of the press, and you get to ask the questions. I get to dodge and pretend to answer. And we'll start with you, Mr. Gedda.
Q That's one of the more honest things you've said up there for a long time. (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: I have a penchant for candor today. Ask me anything, and I'll tell you lies. (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: Nothing new on Bosnia. We did an hour of questions on Bosnia yesterday. I'm not aware of anything new on that. What do you want to know?
Q The Pentagon finally caught up to it today.
MR. McCURRY: They didn't brief yesterday.
Question? Would someone like to pose a question?
Q Yes. On Bosnia, in his interview with CNN today, Secretary Perry said that the United States -- I'm paraphrasing him -- that the United States would be prepared to accept a federation between Bosnian Serbs and Serbia. I wonder if he misspoke, because a federation sounds like a very cohesive, federal, greater Serbia, as opposed to a confederation which would be much looser.
MR. McCURRY: I think we're really at the same point we were here yesterday. I think I told you yesterday that at the moment the pathway towards a peaceful settlement in Bosnia remains the Contact Group proposal, which is the only proposal before the parties that I am aware of and certainly the only one that has been discussed within the grouping called the Contact Group.
That have some very specific premises associated with it. First and foremost is the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina. And all the work that we've done on the Bosnia problem has started with the premise that the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina must be honored by the parties.
Back earlier in the year, when we worked with the Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Croats in Croatia on the concept of a confederation/federation to structure their own constitutional arrangements, that was done within the framework of the territorial integrity of Bosnia, and it was done with the specific agreement of the parties.
So I think it is incorrect to say that there have been -- first of all, there have been no formal proposals put forward. There is a Contact Group ministerial meeting on Friday. There have been some discussions within the Contact Group and some discussions within our own government, but I don't think any of those decisions are set or final. This is an emerging discussion that will be held with the parties as we move into the end of the week.
I'm not aware of any formal proposal for a federation. Indeed, that is not the position of the United States Government.
Q I'm sorry. What is not the position of the US Government?
MR. McCURRY: We have not put forward, nor is the position of the United States Government that we are putting forward at this time, any federation proposal involving Bosnian Serbs and Serbia.
Q That's not what I was saying, and I don't think that's what Secretary Perry was saying. What he said was not that the United States is putting it forward, but that the United States would be prepared to accept -- and he used the word "federation." I'm asking you, is it now U.S. policy that the United States would be willing to accept a somewhat strong, central entity such as a federation?
MR. McCURRY: It is U.S. policy that the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina must be honored by the parties; and there's no discussion -- as I said yesterday -- no discussion that can be entertained until that happens.
Q But if that were to happen, if there were recognition of the borders and recognition of the territorial contingency?
MR. McCURRY: What type of relationship might exist between the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia if there was an end to the fighting, if there's cessation of hostilities throughout Bosnia and if there's an agreement to proceed with a peace settlement along the lines of the Contact Group, as it has been in the case of the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnians, it would be up to the parties themselves to negotiate.
First and foremost, the Bosnian Government would have to agree to any type of relationship that would exist, and we're not anywhere near that point at this point, so it's a moot point.
Q I walked in late. Have you defined the term "territorial integrity" at all, or could you?
MR. McCURRY: It's the border that has been recognized internationally of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Q Can I ask a little broader question. Is the United States discussing with its allies a package of proposals that could be offered to the Bosnian Serbs to bring them to the peace table and revive a diplomatic effort that has been still in the water for several months.
MR. McCURRY: The U.S. is discussing within the Contact Group, and has discussed that from time to time with the parties, ways to reinvigorate the diplomatic effort to bring this war to an end.
Q Could you be more specific?
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q Why not?
MR. McCURRY: Because, as I said earlier, an emerging conversation that will be developed as the Contact Group ministers meet towards the end of this week. There have been discussions of those; but they've got to be, first of all, approved and ratified within our own government and then discussed within the Contact Group itself before we can present anything to the parties or be specific in discussing them.
But there is a determined effort on the part of all the members of the Contact Group, as far as I know, to reinvigorate the diplomacy necessary to bring this conflict to an end.
Q But there are at least -- Mike, it seems that the United States or at least the policy that the Bosnian Serbs must take it or else, that's gone, right? I mean, that they must accept what the Contact Group has proposed back there in the summer is gone.
MR. McCURRY: As I have said several times now, Saul, the Contact Group proposal is the point of discussion. That is the only point of discussion that's available for the parties.
Q Well, what has happened, it seems to me, is that the Contact Group told the Bosnian Serbs, "take it or else there would be consequences." The Serbs said no, and now the Contact Group is saying, "All right, we'll try something else."
MR. McCURRY: You're truncating an awful lot of history there. There were a lot of other things that happened. There was some pressure brought to bear. There were some economic consequences that were brought to bear on the parties, specifically the Bosnian Serbs. And remember, the Bosnian Serbs are the holdout at this point. What did develop in the time since that ministerial meeting in July is the significant rupture between Serbia -- that is, the Serbs in Belgrade -- and the Pale Serbs, the Bosnian Serbs. And that, in the view of the Contact Group and particularly the European members of the Contact Group, was a significant development that had to be accounted for in the diplomacy that was working towards a solution to the Bosnian problem.
Q In any event, with the Bosnian Serbs having rejected the Contact Group proposal, the Contact Group is now reshaping its proposal?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware that there is any effort to reshape that proposal. I think there's a very determined effort to get the Bosnian Serbs to concentrate on the Contact Group proposal. As I said yesterday, the constitutional arrangements associated with the Contact Group proposal or any adjustments that the parties themselves wanted to make, always -- from the time that the Contact Group proposal was put forward -- always said that any adjustments made (or) agreed to by the parties would be acceptable to the sponsors of the Contact Group plan. That was said at the very beginning of the process itself.
Q Mike, why on earth, after all these months of effort and tough talk and what-not, can you stand up there and think for a moment or purport to expect the world to think that the Bosnian Serbs would accept --
MR. McCURRY: Because I am paid to engage in the absurd. (Laughter)
Anyone else got a question?
Q That's a good quote, but let me finish the question. Why would the Bosnian Serbs ever accept any of this?
MR. McCURRY: Look, I went through this at some length yesterday, and I don't want to go through it at the same length today. Our judgment is that the Bosnian Serbs have some very compelling reasons to want this war to come to an end. They have people who want to get on with their lives as well, and they know they can't. They know they face a fairly relentless regime of economic sanctions, and they face the isolation they would face as outcasts of the international community if they didn't bring the war to an end. I did all this yesterday.
Q Okay, one other question. Is the United States considering direct negotiations with Milosevic on conditions for lifting the sanctions in return for actions that he would take?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I am aware of. The discussions have gone in fact to the contrary direction that the presence of the economic sanctions remain and are likely to be, if anything, reinforced, absent willingness to proceed with the settlement.
Q You said yesterday that there was no concrete evidence of Milosevic's helping the Krajina Serbs. Is there evidence, indications, SAM emplacements that would indicate some support? Anything other than concrete evidence?
MR. McCURRY: Not the type of information we can talk about here, because most of what we sift through when it comes to that type of question is intelligence-related things that we just can't talk about publicly.
Q How would you assess Milosevic's behavior?
MR. McCURRY: He continues publicly -- and there's some evidence that he does so in fact -- to indicate that he is pressuring the Pale Serbs to agree to the Contact Group proposal and that his form of pressure includes withholding certain types of material supplies that would otherwise cross the border. That does seem to still be the assessment of the international monitoring group that is along the border.
The degree to which the closure of that border is completely effective has been the question in dispute, and we've acknowledged that it's likely that there is leakage along that border. The degree to which Milosevic is responsible for that, we just don't know.
Q Let me try once more on the constitutional arrangements. Would a federation between the Bosnian Serbs and the former Yugoslavia be consistent with the preservation of the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina in the U.S. view?
MR. McCURRY: It would entirely depend on how they structure that relationship. The Bosnian Government negotiated with the Bosnian Croats and then, in confederation with Croatia, an arrangement that was satisfactory to them on a constitutional basis and from the perspective of the territorial integrity of Bosnian as seen by the Bosnian Government.
I can't speculate on how they might develop that type of arrangement or that type of relationship with Serbia in the future. I would stress again, it depends on something that hasn't happened. It depends on a willingness of both the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia to recognize and honor the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina and by definition end the fighting that is ongoing -- a cease-fire, a cessation of hostilities.
None of that has happened, so in a sense it's speculative. Until that happens, I'd also suggest to you what the purpose of our diplomacy is at this point, which is to bring pressure to bear on them to do exactly those things.
Q On the same subject but on a different angle. This morning the U.N. refused permission for an air strike. Do you consider that to be in keeping with the United Nations mandate?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware enough of the details under which there was a request for an air strike, the key not then turned by the U.N., to be able to comment on that. I'd have to look into that, but I'm sure there are others that will be discussing that.
In fact, I've heard some discussion today of requests for flights and overflights but not anything specific on that.
Q It's still the Administration's policy that it would provide ground troops to back any kind of -- to guarantee, in effect, any kind of a peace agreement that were reached between the two parties? In other words, if you saw a federation agreement, if you saw a recognition of territorial integrity, would it still be the Administration's view to provide ground troops?
MR. McCURRY: There's no change to what we've said in the past on that. But as is manifestly obvious, we are a long, long ways away from that point.
Q Thank you, Mike. Yesterday, in a telephone conversation with a spokesman for the Bosnian Government in Washington, the man reiterated that the Bosnian Government was still seeking weapons, a lifting of the arms embargo that would provide them weapons; they were still talking about fighting on equal terms with the Serbs. According to something I read in the Washington Post this morning, it seems like they are out of touch with reality, especially in view of the comments of the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Perry.
How does the State Department view now the Bosnian Government's posture in this peace equation?
MR. McCURRY: They are the aggrieved party that has been willing to accept the peace settlement put forward by the Contact Group. For that reason, among others, they deserve a fair amount of sympathy from the international community and they deserve the backing of the international community as we bring pressure to bear on the aggressor party -- the Bosnian Serbs -- which thus far has been unwilling to accept that peace settlement.
Q If I might follow. Another development: At noon today the Defense Minister of Croatia, I believe, made a statement to the effect, in answer to a question, that Croatia was regretting that they had not intervened in Bihac and had said something to the effect that they had been asked not to intervene militarily. Do you have any knowledge of who may have asked them?
MR. McCURRY: I have not had an opportunity to review the statement by the Croatian Defense Minister. I'm sure we will in coming days.
Q On a different subject?
MR. McCURRY: A different subject.
Q Can you bring us up to date on what's going on with North Korea?
MR. McCURRY: I can. As you know, you probably saw some encouraging news to date that was based on a report of a technical team from the International Atomic Energy Agency. They've been in North Korea to talk about verification measures that the IAEA will perform at various nuclear facilities in North Korea in connection with the U.S.- DPRK agreed framework arrived at in Geneva over the summer.
They have visited facilities at both Yongbyon and Taechon. I believe that's where the 5-megawatt and 200- megawatt reactors were under construction. They have confirmed that these facilities were not in operation and that construction had ceased. That's been reported now by the IAEA.
We are gratified at the IAEA's confirmation that the DPRK has taken steps to implement the provisions of the October 21 agreed framework, and we hope that the level of cooperation demonstrated during this visit of the IAEA team will be a precedent for all inspections in the future.
I think that this technical team is going to have to report on some of their logistical findings to the IAEA itself, and they'll probably do some type of formal report at the time of the IAEA's Board of Governors meeting next week.
But this is for us very encouraging news and one more piece of evidence that the agreement between North Korea and the United States is beginning to be implemented. The process of implementing and carrying out the terms of the agreement is proceeding.
Q What about the consortium? What's the status of that?
MR. McCURRY: They continue. They had technical talks on that. I meant to check yesterday on this and didn't get a chance to. I believe that they had some technical talks pointing towards a resumption of a formal dialogue between the U.S. and the DPRK on structuring the arrangements for the consortium, but that was going to be preceded by technical- level talks between the United States, Japan, and South Korea which would be the countries playing the central role in the consortium itself.
Q Are there liaison office talks there?
MR. McCURRY: There have been technical talks on a liaison office going on as well. I believe they were to be held in Pyongyang, if I'm not mistaken. Those will be proceeding over the course of the next several weeks, leading towards more formal dialogue as we go ahead in future months.
Q Have you gone over -- just two quick ones. Back on Bosnia. Have you gone over Under Secretary Tarnoff's comments already?
MR. McCURRY: I haven't been asked about that.
Q Apparently he mentioned on "Nightline" last night that the United States was not going to go along with a "Greater Serbia."
MR. McCURRY: That's exactly the same answer we had in connection with Jim earlier. A "Greater Serbia" would represent the drawing of a new international boundary that presumably would involve Bosnia which doesn't honor the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina itself.
Q So the difference is, a federation would not be, in essence, a borderless --
MR. McCURRY: A "federation" or a "confederation" or some relationship is undefined at this point. You can't describe a relationship that doesn't exist at this point. What you can describe is the territorial boundary of Bosnia- Herzegovina that has to be honored by the parties themselves.
Q As you know, analysts are saying that a federation means, in essence, the goal of "Greater Serbia" has been attained. I'm just trying to get clear what the distinction you're drawing is.
MR. McCURRY: There's probably a legal definition for federation or confederation; but it's a moot point until the point that there is recognition of the boundaries, a cessation of the fighting, and some willingness on the part of the parties concerned to proceed with the peace settlement that's been put before the parties.
Q If such a confederation came to be, how would you prevent, after years go by, some new pitch by Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs to say, "Look, we're, in effect, a real country; you have to change the international boundaries." How do you prevent that?
MR. McCURRY: International boundaries are changed under international law from time to time. That happens, but it's done in a fashion that is mutually agreed to. It's important to say that did not pose a problem to the Bosnian Government as they dealt in the conversations with their Croatian counterparts. That is part of the issue here.
There is nothing that can proceed here without a willingness and agreement on the part of the Bosnian Government to entertain that type of conversation. I haven't heard anything that indicates that's in offing at this point.
Q But recognizing that it's somewhat of a moot point until the legal distinctions and definitions are hammered down, what --
MR. McCURRY: Until the fighting stops. That, for us, is the most urgent priority, to achieve some type of cease- fire and cessation of hostilities. That hasn't happened either.
Q So is that priority now above the priority of not giving -- in other words, not giving legitimacy to territory conquered through ethnic cleansing? That's been a premise of policy for two years.
MR. McCURRY: Our highest priority at all times is to get people to stop killing each other in Bosnia, yes.
Q On another subject? Do you have any comment on the European Union lifting the arms embargo against Syria?
MR. McCURRY: Not much of one. We know they took that position. That doesn't represent our thinking or our policy, which has not changed. But we were aware that they were going to take that step. That does not affect our own view that there are reasons for not lifting the embargo that we have imposed.
Q Do you think it could have any impact on Syria's willingness to engage in its negotiations with Israel?
MR. McCURRY: I believe that Syria has said it would not, but that would be up to the Government of Syria to answer.
Q Are you comfortable with that decision?
MR. McCURRY: Our views are well known, and we have made them well known to the Europeans.
Q What are those views?
MR. McCURRY: They are well known. We have an embargo in place; we restrict certain types of sales deriving from Syria's listing on the terrorism list. I think it's fairly transparent to both the Syrians and to the Europeans.
Q So would it be fair to say that the United States would prefer that this didn't happen?
MR. McCURRY: I didn't say that.
Q I'm trying to rephrase this question.
MR. McCURRY: Are you trying to put words in here, and go out there. (Laughter)
Q No. I'm just trying to really find out what you're thinking, whether it --
MR. McCURRY: I said our views are well known --
Q So it's okay?
MR. McCURRY: -- and they remain unchanged.
Q It doesn't matter to you? You're sort of neutral on the fact?
MR. McCURRY: We have a different point of view. We have an embargo that's in place. We are aware of their position; they're aware of our position.
Q Do you think Israel should -- not Israel, but the PLO should talk to Hamas to try to negotiate through all this tension and violence?
MR. McCURRY: I would not begin to enter into the very complex and very difficult internal political deliberations of the Palestinian movement. You know our views on negotiations with those who are terrorists and sponsor terrorism. But we also understand that there is a very delicate political environment in which Chairman Arafat operates within Gaza and Jericho and the Territories.
Bill, last one.
Q Speaking to the terrorism issue, regarding I believe it's Operation Saphire -- the acquisition of the Kazakhstan bomb-grade nuclear materials, the project that was announced last week -- I believe that material was denied Iranians in part by this project -- is the United States Government now open for business or -- obviously, you just demonstrated a capability that we can go and handle nuclear material, take it to Oakridge and make reactor fuel out of it. But are we actively in the market of buying up this kind of bomb-grade material?
MR. McCURRY: We are actively pursuing through the Nunn- Lugar program various efforts to denuclearize, especially the former nuclear states of the former Soviet Union. We do have through the Uranium Enrichment Corporation -- this was involving the transaction with HEU in Ukraine -- we have a similar type of participation in which we are participating in helping to purchase and then to refabricate fissile materials.
So we are in a sense doing that work. It comes from our commitment to non-proliferation. It doesn't represent any type of new line of business. It represents our commitment to a non-proliferation regime that exists internationally and to the agreements that we reach with individual countries in which we are asked to participate and carry out a specific type of role.
Q But I guess what I'm asking is --
MR. McCURRY: But in a sense this is a way in which we are using our expertise, our resources and some of our unique capabilities to help achieve our overall non-proliferation goals by bringing former bomb- grade fissile material under international safeguards and reprocessing it for future civilian use.
Q So we are in fact in the market, so to speak?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know that there's a market out there. I mean, if people want to come forward and offer the material up for sale, I'm sure we will entertain the conversation. But the quantities are unknown and the agreements by which we conduct this activity are fairly carefully structured and carefully calibrated.
Q I asked this question last week, just to finish the press conference: Are there any other known sources that have come to the United States and asked to bargain about fissile material?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I am aware of.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: Okay.
(The briefing concluded at 1:24 p.m.)
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