U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DECEMBER 13, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, December 13, 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry RUSSIA Negotiations with Chechnya Leaders ..............1-2 BOSNIA Arms Embargo/Impact of Lifting/U.S. Policy ......2,4-5 Contact Group's Diplomatic Negotiations .........2-3 UN Peacekeeping Forces/Withdrawal Planning ......5-6 DEPARTMENT Secretary's Contacts with Senator Helms/The Hill ..........................................8-10 Foreign Assistance ..............................8-10 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Israeli Settlement Activity in Jerusalem ........10-11 Syrian-Israeli Talks/US Role ....................11-12 TURKEY PKK/US View .....................................12
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13, 1994, 12:43 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Mr. Schweid, perhaps you have a question you would like to --
Q No. I really wondered if you had anything new to say about the ferment and the near-abroad, and the way the Russians are handling it in their own good way.
MR. McCURRY: Look --
Q So they don't have to invoke NATO and they don't have to have CSCE meetings.
MR. McCURRY: Let's start with this. This is a little --
Q Are they a good object example of how you ought to handle a problem like Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: There's a little map here. See, the blue line is the territorial border of Russia. Usually when the word "near-abroad" is used, you're talking about areas outside the territorial boundary of Russia. I think we start the discussion of Chechnya, which is in the news today, with the understanding that it is an integral part of Russia, has been, and therefore is an internal matter that the Russian Government is --
Q Filing break. (laughter) Anything they do is all right with the U.S. Government because it's like Columbus, Ohio, to us?
MR. McCURRY: No. We, in fact, have had diplomatic conversations with the Russians about Chechnya and encouraged them to avoid bloodshed to bring about a peaceful resolution of this crisis; and discussions, indeed, are under way today in Vladikavkaz, I believe, towards that end.
Q There are some reports that the negotiations are not faring too well. Do you have any insight or knowledge?
MR. McCURRY: We only have what has been suggested publicly, I believe, by the Russian negotiator yesterday. The head of the Russian delegation said on both sides: "There is a desire to resolve the extremely complex problem of disarmament and the cessation of bloodshed in Chechnya."
We do know that there continues to be Russian troops that surround Grozny, which is the major city. They have not launched a major offensive against the city and have, indeed, indicated publicly that is not their objective; and we continue to urge the parties to the conflict, as I say, to reach a solution that minimizes violence, respects the human rights of all involved, and brings about a peaceful solution.
Q I'd like to ask you about an Islamic conference that's going to --
MR. McCURRY: The OIC conference?
Q Yes. They're kind of disturbed about what's going on in Bosnia.
MR. McCURRY: And who wouldn't be?
Q Right. But they may be more disturbed than the U.S. Government is at this point because they're not deferring to the French. They apparently are considering unilaterally defying the international arms embargo. Is that still a bad idea as far as the U.S. is concerned?
MR. McCURRY: The United States Government continues to believe that a unilateral lifting of the arms embargo on the former Yugoslavia would be a dreadful mistake -- for the reasons that have been set forth in great detail by the Secretary of State, among others.
Q So can you bring us up to date how well the alternative approach, or one of the alternative approaches -- "diplomatic initiatives" would do?
MR. McCURRY: The approach that we are pursuing, in concert with the other members of the Contact Group, is the one that was really pulled together by the Contact Group Ministers when they met in Brussels on December 2nd. They are pursuing very diligently a diplomatic effort that would be built upon the Contact Group proposal presented after the Geneva Ministerial Meeting in July.
It's designed in the immediate instance to affect a cease- fire around Bihac, a cessation of hostilities throughout all of Bosnia, and an effort built on the Contact Group proposal to get the parties to agree to a peace settlement, with the understanding -- as has always been the understanding -- that the parties themselves can make adjustments to the Map by their mutual consent, and also that they can structure the constitutional arrangements for the future in a way they see fit based on their own agreements.
Q Mike, it seems to me that's an open-ended cease- fire. It's not an open-ended cease-fire now. You've just spoken in shorthand, I guess. It's a span.
MR. McCURRY: We're talking of a cease-fire around Bihac - -
Q No. I know that.
MR. McCURRY: -- and the cessation of hostilities throughout Bosnia.
Q For three to six months, it seems to me.
MR. McCURRY: The Contact Group did not specify a duration, but, clearly, the parties have expressed themselves publicly as to the duration of some type of cessation of hostilities.
By the way, on this, the Contact Group has looked for ways to re-engage with the parties. Only weather prevented them from returning to the region last week; and I do believe they plan to go later this week, if not as early as tomorrow.
Q Mike, have you got any idea how long this refurbished Contact Group plan can be pushed before something else needs to be done?
MR. McCURRY: It can be pushed so long as the parties show some interest in engaging around the parameters of that proposal, and there has been interest expressed -- not sufficient interest to indicate any optimism about the likelihood of a peace settlement in Bosnia but at least enough to encourage the Contact Group experts to return to Sarajevo to re-engage with the parties and to see if they can make progress.
Q Mike, I read today -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that the President has stated that he does not expect that he will be able to keep the arms embargo in place, prevent a unilateral lifting. Could you comment on that?
And the second part of the question would be, how has the statement by our Government last week regarding the rescue of UNPROFOR troops, if required, and the other efforts to unify the UNPROFOR effort -- is that succeeding in quelling the jitters of those who have troops in Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: Let me address the second question first, and it has also been addressed today by Secretary Perry enroute to Brussels. He indicated, based on his own meeting with the French Defense Minister yesterday and other discussions that he's had, that that commitment to carry out our responsibilities as a member of NATO has had an effect on other European allies who are troop contributors in Bosnia. So that has had that positive effect.
Now, on the first part of your question, I'll be honest with you. I don't recall President Clinton addressing himself to the question of whether or not a unilateral lift of the arms embargo is likely. I believe Senator Dole has addressed himself to that question and indicated that he does have the votes to proceed on that path as we go into the next session of Congress early next year.
Again, we would suggest -- as Secretary Christopher has suggested -- that it would be a dreadful mistake to unilaterally lift the arms embargo, because unilaterally lifting the arms embargo requires the United States unilaterally to accept the responsibilities and consequences of that action -- among them, (l), having to engage militarily with the Bosnian Serbs, who would likely take advantage of that situation; and then, once having commenced U.S. military action, to hold back the Serbs and thus committing our prestige. The likelihood that we would then be involved, sooner or later -- inevitably -- in the dispatch of ground forces to Bosnia.
It is the determination of this President and this Administration to honor our commitment to the American people and to continue to avoid sending U.S. ground troops to Bosnia.
That is the consequence of a unilateral lift. That's why we have always proceeded on the basis that multilateral lift is the best way, if the arms embargo is to be lifted -- in fact, the only way that it should be lifted -- so that multilaterally the world community accepts the consequences for what would likely happen next. And what would likely happen next, of course, is a major escalation in the conflict.
Q Just to follow on my second question -- just this much more -- to ask if there are currently any indications coming to this Department of a withdrawal of UNPROFOR? Or, conversely, are there indications that UNPROFOR will stay on indefinitely now?
MR. McCURRY: No. The best indications are to the contrary, and they were addressed yesterday by Secretary Perry and the French Defense Minister.
Q In case of the U.N. peacekeeping force withdrawing from Bosnia, in most of these (inaudible) countries they pledge to send troops as playing a peace force role in Bosnia. But, yesterday, the French Defense Minister, he described that as the Islamic countries force will be replacing with other NATO forces; it must be a disaster. Do you share in his view.
MR. McCURRY: We believe that troops contributions to the U.N. Mission in Bosnia should be consistent with the guidelines and the requirements developed by the U.N. Security Council. I believe that's the only way in which we would foresee other troops replacing or rotating-in for UNPROFOR. That's a matter that, really, the United Nations should properly address.
Q You mean, they would be approved by the U.N.?
MR. McCURRY: Troop contributions and requests for additional troops contributions are generated by the Secretary General pursuant to decision by the Security Council.
Q Does the U.S. have a position, though, of whether there's a reason to keep peacekeeping troops there?
MR. McCURRY: In Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: Absolutely. Absolutely. The presence of UNPROFOR in Bosnia has succeeded in limiting the violence and in helping humanitarian aid be delivered to those who are suffering from the consequences of the conflict in Bosnia.
In short, it is keeping people alive; probably has kept tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people alive in Bosnia, and can continue to help play that role as long as they are present on the ground in Bosnia. That's why we share the views expressed yesterday by the French, and that have come from others, that it would be a serious mistake to withdraw UNPROFOR from Bosnia.
Q And you're ethnic blind, aren't you, on the composition of the troops? There are Bangladeshis there now.
MR. McCURRY: We're not contributing troops ourselves. We have not commented at great length about the wisdom of those who contribute troops. We have applauded the courage of those who are serving in UNPROFOR under an extremely difficult situation, and continue to admire the courage of those who are serving in a variety of capacities as part of the UNPROFOR mission in Bosnia.
Q Mike, just to follow or clarify a little bit of your answer to Bill's question. Notwithstanding the Administration's preference for a multilateral lift as opposed to a unilateral lift, there's still a very real possibility that American troops might have to go in if UNPROFOR troops come out. That means something to those troops but --
MR. McCURRY: Charlie, if you can assess those probabilities, there's a job for you in Brussels as a military planner for NATO. NATO looks at that question. They've got various scenarios and various contingencies they plan for. They frankly don't know what type of situation would be presented if there was a withdrawal of UNPROFOR from Bosnia. But both parties at various points publicly have said they would not impede the withdrawal of UNPROFOR, suggesting that it might be the so-called benign scenario, in which case it's not clear at all that there would be a dispatch of additional troops to assist in the withdrawal.
It really is a question of military planning and developed based on what various contingencies suggest. There's been a lot of public discussion built around the worse case scenario in which there is a war going on between the United Nations and, presumably, the Bosnian Serbs. That worse case scenario leads to dramatic discussions of the types and numbers of ground troops required.
We, frankly, as we sit here today on the 13th of December, have no idea what the contingencies or situations would be if, in future times, there might be the withdrawal of UNPROFOR. But there is serious planning underway, as there should be, on those contingencies.
Q Again, just to clarify: Am I not correct that the President has indicated that U.S. troops would be available under certain circumstances?
MR. McCURRY: We have assisted in NATO contingency planning and made clear that we would make certain commitments based on that contingency planning. And under some worse case scenarios there could indeed be a dispatch of ground forces, as was indicated last week.
Q You're saying, then, there are several scenarios where U.S. troops would not be needed?
MR. McCURRY: My understanding is there are several. I don't do military plans for NATO and Brussels. But they look at this question; they developed plans at an earlier time based on a more benign environment for a withdrawal of UNPROFOR. They're looking now at harder case environments, including a so-called "worse-case" scenario. The worse-case scenario is the one that there's been some public discussion about, but it's by no means the only scenario by which there would be a withdrawal if there were to be a withdrawal.
Stepping back from all that, let's remember yesterday we had a very firm commitment from the French that it is the policy of the French Government that UNPROFOR should not withdraw and should remain in Bosnia. That's where things stand now, and we certainly think that's where they should stand.
Q If NATO asks, we're available regardless of the situation on the ground? Excuse me --
MR. McCURRY: If NATO asks, it would be consistent with the very detailed contingency plans that had been developed.
Mark? You just walked in and we probably did it, but go ahead anyhow. (Laughter)
Q I'd like to ask two questions. First -- forgive me if you've already covered it -- do you have any response to the draft text that's now before the Islamic Conference that says, "The Conference expressed its readiness to cooperate with all U.N. Member States who exhibit a willingness on their own initiative to provide the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina with a means of self-defense."
MR. McCURRY: I gave a stunningly wonderful answer to that earlier.
Q Okay. Second question.
MR. McCURRY: Very quotable. Mr. Schweid, you're disputing that characterization? (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: Okay, I gave an average answer; typical State Department dribble. (Laughter)
But it was asked and answered. Do you have anything else?
Q Another question in that same general area. If there is a withdrawal of UNPROFOR under a scenario that's triggered by a Congressional action to lift the arms embargo, do you expect that U.S. troops would encounter any kind of hostile action by the Serbs?
MR. McCURRY: It's impossible to know. But as I indicated just a little while ago, the public indications from the Serbs have been to the contrary -- that there would be a benign environment; they would not impede the withdrawal.
Obviously, based on the planning we're doing, we do not take those at face value.
Charlie, you had another?
Q A different subject. Has the Secretary yet spoken to Senator Helms, or has he seen him, or does he have any plans to see him?
MR. McCURRY: I believe he has, but I'd have to check. He has spoken to him a couple of times. I'm not sure that Senator Helms has been in Washington, so I'm not certain that they have been together at any point. I will find out and post an answer.
Q He's been up to the Hill to see a number of the other Republican leaders.
MR. McCURRY: Yes. He's been consulting very religiously and rigorously, given the complexion of the new incoming Congress.
Q Do you have any reaction to Senator McConnell's plans for revamping foreign aid?
MR. McCURRY: Not much of one beyond what the Administrator of the Agency for International Development issued last night.
Secretary Christopher -- all of us at the State Department -- look forward to working with Senator McConnell and others. Senator McConnell -- his views were described at his press conference yesterday. There may be other views within the Republican caucus in the Senate. We intend to work very closely with all of those who are interested in doing the same thing we're interested in doing, which is to achieve fundamental reform in the way we conduct our foreign assistance programs.
For those of you who follow the heroic work that Brian Atwood has done at AID, you know that there is a substantial volume of reforms underway already. Indeed, this Administration had put forward some ideas in the context of a legislative proposal last year that would revamp the way we do foreign assistance, to kind of re-target and re-prioritize foreign assistance as we enter this new era of the post-Cold War world.
We will stick to that and continue to work with Congress as we achieve what we think is fundamentally necessary, which is a certainty of U.S. taxpayers that U.S. foreign assistance programs are effective and are getting the job done and advancing the interests of the United States of America as we do our work around the world. We will continue that work and continue to work closely with the upcoming Congress as we address their ideas next year.
Q Mike, does the Administration agree with Senator McConnell that almost all development aid and almost all aid to Africa should be ended?
MR. McCURRY: I'm sorry. Say again?
Q Do you agree with Senator McConnell that almost all development aid and almost all aid to Africa in general should be ended?
MR. McCURRY: That raises some issues that we have some difficulty with, but that is more properly a discussion to emerge as we begin the work in the next Congress structuring the U.S. budget and U.S. foreign assistance programs.
Let me back up for a second. I got a good note from David (Johnson) on the Secretary and Senator Helms. They have spoken on the phone, I think at least once or twice. Their Washington schedules haven't overlapped, Charlie, mostly because the Secretary has been traveling and Senator Helms has been in and out of Washington since the election.
We have had at the staff level some good meetings with him. Averrel Nance and Wendy Sherman, our Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations, have met; and we look forward to a very good working dialogue with the Chairman and with the Chairman's staff.
Q Can I follow up on your response on the Africa question? That sounds astonishingly wishy-washy, coming from an Administration that came in with a policy of sustainable development and that talked about raising the profile of U.S. policy towards Africa.
MR. McCURRY: I will make it less stunningly wishy- washy, if you like. The important point is that we're in an environment now where this Administration will have to work closely with the Congress and have to take into account the views that prevail in Congress.
We'll have to see whether Senator McConnell's ideas and proposals reflect the predominant sentiments in the Senate -- in his Committee -- in Congress. But we will work with them to ensure that we get the job done at reforming U.S. foreign assistance programs.
We think that there has been much valuable work done in Africa through the presence of our AID missions there and through the work that we have done to promote sustainable development. We think we can make a very strong case for that. But I'm just trying to be realistic when I suggest to you that we know and understand that we're going to have to work in an environment in which the Congressional views are going to be very important as we structure U.S. policy.
Q Mike, also Senator McConnell, I believe, if I'm correct, he suggested that Russian aid has to be put to some condition if Moscow interferes in the Newly Independent States internally or, you know, as a foreign policy subject, this aid will stop. Do you agree with them?
MR. McCURRY: He advanced numerous ideas at his press conference yesterday. We are going to study them very carefully. We will be in dialogue with him, with other members of the Committee, with other members of the Senate, and the Congress. From those discussions, we will be able to come, we think, to a reasonable approach that will reflect U.S. interests as we structure these programs.
I'm not going to pronounce myself on everything Senator McConnell said yesterday because it's going to emerge in the context of our deliberations with Congress next year.
Q The question of Israeli settlements has come up again over the weekend with some media reports, particularly the Washington Post article today alleging that settlement building is continuing at a rapid pace, particularly in Jerusalem. Does this concern you as to how it will affect the final-status talks on Jerusalem?
As this settlement process continues, do you feel that this violates if not the letter of the Bush Administration's loan-guarantee agreement perhaps the spirit of the law, since there is a distinction because it's private-sector financed now rather than government-financed?
MR. McCURRY: In this room, I think our policy on those issues is very well known. It remains unchanged. The Declaration of Principles, as you suggested in your question, makes clear that the settlements are an issue that will be discussed by the parties in the course of their negotiations.
Q So there's no concern about this new construction around Jerusalem?
MR. McCURRY: That would not be accurate. We've addressed that in the past, and you know how we've addressed that in the past.
Q To Panama. What's the current status with the beef- up down there? And what about the Cubans in detention? What are they saying about where they want to go and what they want to do?
MR. McCURRY: Bill, I'm going to save that. I had a conversation with my Pentagon colleagues earlier. They have made some enhancements over there. They're going to address that question at some length at their briefing over at the Pentagon today. I agreed that I would let them handle it. They know a lot more about that situation.
Q Could I go then to your trip; your first-person witness regarding the relations between the Syrian Government and the Israeli Government? What are the prospects -- what are the hopes, at least, in that situation?
MR. McCURRY: I don't do "first-person" running commentary on the deliberations. The Secretary addressed himself to those. I believe Christine (Shelly) may have talked about that a little bit on Friday. But we will continue with the agreement of the parties to manage contacts between the parties, consistent with our role as a co-sponsor of this process. That's exactly what you would expect us to do.
We've said several times now that that's the role we will be playing.
Q Do you feel any time constraints now? The theme had been, there's a limited time and you wanted to seize it and they should seize it.
MR. McCURRY: We continue to believe that the work to narrow the gaps between the parties must be conducted and must be conducted with some amount of urgency because we have to build on the momentum that exists in the process as we search for a comprehensive peace for the region.
Q (Inaudible) talks in Washington?
MR. McCURRY: We are declining to be specific about how we will manage those contacts, as Christine indicated on Friday.
Q "Operation Provide Comfort" will be expiring at the end of this month.
MR. McCURRY: I'm sorry, say again?
Q "Operation Provide Comfort" -- I heard about the main opposition party in the Turkish Parliament. They already made their position clear. They said that we are opposed to this extension of "Operation Provide Comfort."
Do you have any connection with the Turkish Government, or do you have anything new about this subject?
MR. McCURRY: I really don't have anything new on that. My own memory is that we most recently addressed it in Secretary Christopher's meeting with Prime Minister Ciller. We reasserted the importance of "Operation Provide Comfort," and continue to believe that it is playing a valuable role in northern Iraq. If there's anything new on that, maybe I can report it later in the week.
Q Senator DiConcini, last week he made a statement. He said Western countries and the U.S., they have to stop or cut some financial sources from here and Europe to PKK terrorist organizations. Do you agree with him? He made the statement to the Congress.
MR. McCURRY: I'm not familiar with that statement. Our views and the views of the U.S. Government have been and continue to be that efforts to thwart the PKK and terrorism are valuable and have to be done consistent with concerns about human rights; that we have expressed directly in some of our discussions with governments in the region.
Q Thanks you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:10 p.m.)
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