U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DECEMBER 16, 1994 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, December 16, 1994 Briefer: Michael McCurry ANNOUNCEMENT Holiday Press Briefing Schedule .....................1 SINGAPORE Suits Filed Against Christopher Lingle/ International Herald Tribune ......................2-3 BOSNIA Former President Carter's Efforts to End Conflict ...3-6 -- USG Briefings/Assistance ........................3,5-6 Karadzic Proposal ...................................3-4 Contact Group Activities ............................5 Fighting ............................................7-8 US Concern re: Dual Key Command/Control ............11-12 Peacekeeping Force/US Policy ........................12-13 CHINA Membership in World Trade Organization ..............8-9 US Human Rights Concerns ........................... 8-9 RUSSIA Negotiations with Chechnya Leaders ..................10-11
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16, 1994, 12:37 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHER NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: This is the State Department Briefing. We are now under way.
I'm going to remind you, just given the subject of briefing schedule next week, what we're going to do next week and the following week, since it's going to be different from what I said earlier. Since I've lost enthusiasm for doing three briefings next week, I'm only going to do two.
Q It's a policy change?
MR. McCURRY: It's policy changes. It's an abrupt shift, a dramatic shift of policy.
We will brief on Monday, December l9th, and Wednesday, December 2lst. We will then brief again on Wednesday, December 28th. That's assuming that there's no intervening news events that require a briefing here at the State Department. Obviously, we will adjust that if there's some reason that we would need to do something on camera. O.K.? So that's the holiday schedule.
Q Is that until the end of the year?
MR. McCURRY: Is that until the end of the year? Yes, absolutely.
MR. McCURRY: No. We're going to do that on Tuesday. That's why I'm dropping Tuesday. We're going to do that thing on Tuesday.
MR. McCURRY: Yes. You got it right! (Laughter)
Q (Multiple questions) (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: You got it right.
Q (Multiple questions)
MR. McCURRY: Yes. No. I'll let you know later.
Q Is this all on camera?
MR. McCURRY: I'll talk to you guys about that. I'd like to pool that; one pool camera.
Some of you have followed the case of Dr. Christopher Lingle, who wrote an article for the International Herald Tribune that apparently exorcised the Government of Singapore. The Government of Singapore has filed a contempt of court charge against Dr. Lingle and the International Herald Tribune and others because of the article.
Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew has also filed a libel suit against the Herald Tribune.
We regret that the Government of Singapore and Senior Minister Lee are taking these steps, and we believe it is better in democratic societies to discuss issues openly and freely; and, indeed, people have a right to freedom of expression.
We have repeatedly expressed our concerns about this matter to the Singaporean Government, both through our Embassy and most recently in the meeting that Assistant Secretary Lord had with Ambassador Nathan of Singapore.
Some of you have inquired about that in the past, so I just wanted to bring you up to date on some of our expressions of diplomatic displeasure.
Q (Inaudible) with Lord?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have the date of that. It apparently was within the last l0 days. The AP guys can check that out. In fact, they're probably listening. "Hello, hello. If you guys got the date, bring it down," and I'll pass it out.
O.K. Other subjects?
Q: On that (inaudible) combined with the flogging of Michael Fay? Is Singapore back-sliding in human rights? Would you even consider it a democracy from what he says?
MR. McCURRY: It has a democratic government, and the rest of the world has expectations of that government as a democracy. It's one of the reasons why we're expressing ourselves today.
For a more thorough review of human rights issues, I'd have to get more information and provide a full catalog of what we think of current conditions.
Q Is there anything you can say about the talks Department officials are having with former President Carter?
MR. McCURRY: They've been good ones. As I told you yesterday, we've got our group down in Atlanta today. Actually, the two that I mentioned yesterday -- Ambassador Robert Frasure and Sandy Vershbow from the NSC Staff. They went down to Atlanta and linked up with Ambassador Harry Barnes who, as you know, is a Carter Center employee. He's been working for the former President on this issue. They are providing the former President information about the current situation in Bosnia, if the former President makes the determination that he does intend to travel to Sarajevo.
We understand, by the way, that Mr. Carter has not decided whether or not he's going to undertake that trip, but we have been conducting these briefings in anticipation that he would go.
What we're telling him, essentially, as we said yesterday, we're providing him with our understanding of what's happening on the ground. We are not aware of any indications that those measures that were outlined by Radovan Karadzic are being fulfilled.
Convoys are still being obstructed in Bosnia. U.N. personnel are still being either detained or harassed. They certainly don't have free movement. No Bosnian soldiers have been released that we are aware of, and we've seen no movement on the question of human rights. Indeed, the human rights of the people of Bosnia are severely strained because of the ongoing conflict.
We'll continue to monitor the situation in Bosnia, provide updates to the former President and his staff, but it will certainly be up to the former President to decide whether or not he wishes to make the trip that he's indicated he might make.
Q The opinion has been offered -- if you could comment on it, please -- that one risk President Carter runs in his mission is creating a perception that the conflict becomes a Serbian-American negotiation. Is that something you can comment on?
MR. McCURRY: Let me address that very specifically from the viewpoint of the United States Government. I can't speak for former President Carter, but in fact I think he would be sympathetic to this view.
The Contact Group proposal, that is before the parties and remains before the Bosnian Serbs, is the basis for a future settlement in Bosnia. It remains that basis.
I believe that the former President feels that there needs to be a climate in Bosnia now for the negotiation between the parties that can bring the conflict to an end. But the premise for that type of dialogue would certainly be the Contact Group proposal, the Contact Group Map. That is, as we've said, the basis for a future settlement.
I would specifically dispute the idea that anything that Karadzic has put forward represents a new diplomatic overture that could advance that dialogue, because these are specific things that he is required by the international community to do in any event. He ought to be doing these things that he's promised to do regardless of whether or not there is a new avenue open in diplomacy.
Again, as we've said, those steps would certainly help alleviate suffering. They might, indeed, help end some of the killing there. They, no doubt, would at least ease some of the tensions that exist between the Bosnian Government and the Bosnian Serbs, and that could create a better climate for the type of dialogue, premised on the Contact Group proposal, that could lead to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.
So that remains our view, and I suspect that that is the former President's view. But, as I say, I cannot speak for him.
Q What is the U.S. planning (inaudible)
MR. McCURRY: The group that went down to Plains? I think they flew down -- I'm sorry. They did not go to Plains. They originally were going to go to Plains, but the former President was in Atlanta today. So I think they flew down to Atlanta this morning, if I'm not mistaken.
Q If the former President decided to go even if these six conditions or these six proposals aren't implemented, would the U.S. Government specifically oppose his visit?
MR. McCURRY: We have not opposed or endorsed the discussions that the former President has had with the Bosnian Serb representatives. Neither would we oppose or endorse his going. That is a judgment that the former President must make for himself.
We are interested in providing him the information that he needs to make that assessment.
Q Is there any discussion going on at this point between the Contact Group and the Bosnian Serbs? Has there been any recent conversation?
MR. McCURRY: There traditionally has not -- the last point there was a discussion was when they were refining the proposal. These are discussions that Ambassador Redman undertook.
Since that time there has not been contact between the Contact Group representatives and the Bosnian Serbs. The most recent meeting of the Contact Group, I believe, was yesterday, when they met with Prime Minister Silajdzic.
The Group experts are, I think, returning to capitals, although we anticipate that Ambassador Thomas, at least, may be back in the region, in the event that President Carter has these discussions, so that he will be in a position to be debriefed and then to work any ideas that are presented through the Contact Group.
Q What then, in a practical way, has come of the Contact Group Foreign Ministers declaration that they were going to intensify diplomacy?
MR. McCURRY: That's obviously what we've been talking about here - - intensified diplomacy. Ambassador Redman went to Sarajevo and met with the Bosnian Government representatives and then went to Pale, and there have been additional meetings as well.
Q That effort seems to have been out of steam.
MR. McCURRY: David just handed me a note saying that the Contact Group met with Silajdzic in Zagreb today. It was not yesterday; it was today. So I stand corrected there. That is all by way of the intensified and invigorated dialogue projected by the Ministers on December 2.
Q Just to clarify. Ambassador Thomas will remain in the area in case President Carter needs further briefings, or vice versa?
MR. McCURRY: He will, I think, probably return to the area, because he may be coming back here very briefly and then planning to go back over in the event that former President Carter makes that trip. I believe that's the plan. I'll have to give you an update as things develop; whether they develop over the weekend or early next week.
But our goal was to at least have someone -- if there is any information that is shared that is useful to the Contact Group as they proceed with their deliberations, I think President Carter has shown a willingness to share that information with those who are working to try to invigorate the discussions within the parties based on the work of the Contact Group.
Q Mike, does that mean the State Department would prefer Carter going just so far into the subject and then dropping out and letting the experienced negotiators take over? In other words, have him focus maybe on the cease-fire and have Charlie (Redman) and all take care of the long-range goals?
MR. McCURRY: My understanding -- and I would suggest that you contact the Carter Center for more on this -- but I think the former President sees his role as being helpful, if he can be, in creating a climate for future negotiations. Those negotiations, we believe -- the United States Government believes -- should be undertaken premised on the Contact Group process, and certainly the Contact Group proposal. I don't know that the former President disputes that notion. I can't speak for him, obviously. I think he's well apprised of the status of the Contact Group proposal. In fact, that's exactly why we've undertaken to make sure he understands where those deliberations are and what the Ministers agreed to recently, what we think the framework is for the dialogue that the parties need to have if they are going to move forward on the Contact Group plan.
Q Will he talk about the elements of such a climate or such a framework? You mean, a cease-fire, access to U.N. convoys, not interfering with peacekeepers? Basically, the conditions he himself --
MR. McCURRY: Specifically, the things that were suggested by the Ministers on December 2: An immediate cease-fire around Bihac, continuation of a cease-fire and no hostilities around safe areas -- Sarjevo, in particular -- and then a cessation of hostilities countrywide throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina for a lasting period so there can be a negotiation, if the parties wish that negotiation, that could lead to a settlement.
Q Sorry to prolong it, but you mentioned Bihac. Bihac is conspicuous by its absence from what the Serbs have been saying they're willing to do initially.
MR. McCURRY: Right, and for reasons --
Q Are you saying Bihac for special reasons, that you want that put into the framework?
MR. McCURRY: That has been the point of pressure most recently where the Serbs have conducted offensive activities against the Bosnian Government, but there is also fighting in and around other places in Bosnia. I single that out because it remains a place in which there has been activity, although the fighting update today is that most of the fighting in the Bihac pocket has been sort of west of the city. There has been very heavy fighting, though, near Velika Kladusa where Muslim forces loyal to Abdic -- these are the separatist Muslims -- have been trying to encircle the town.
That is perhaps why the Bosnian Serbs would claim they hadn't addressed Bihac because there are, clearly, third parties participating in that fighting -- third, fourth, fifth parties, in fact.
Q Should these conditions also be met by the Bosnian Government forces?
MR. McCURRY: The Bosnian Government forces have indicated a willingness to do all these things -- to engage in a cease-fire, cessation of hostilities. They've accepted the plan, so they're not the point. The point is the Bosnian Serbs.
Q The Serbs have also indicated a willingness to accept it but the Bosnian Government is still fighting.
MR. McCURRY: No, no. The Bosnian Serbs have not indicated a willingness to accept the Contact Group proposal. The Bosnian Government has.
Q What about Carter's six points? You want both sides to respect Carter's six points?
MR. McCURRY: The Bosnian Government has not been a problem when it comes to free movement of humanitarian convoys, release of U.N. personnel holding Muslim prisoners, a cease-fire around Sarajevo, the opening of the Sarajevo airport. The Bosnian Government ain't the problem. It's the Bosnian Serbs.
Q The Bosnian Government is still fighting, Mike.
MR. McCURRY: They're fighting --
Q Do you want the Bosnian Government to stop fighting or not?
MR. McCURRY: We want the Bosnian Government to -- the Bosnian Government has accepted a peace settlement. They are trying to put pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to do likewise. One of the ways they're doing that is some positional fighting in and around Bosnia. We think all the fighting in Bosnia should end. We've said that numerous times.
Q Two questions regarding China. The Chinese officials have recently accused the United States of using a "big stick" policy in its consultations with China on China's GATT admission. They have also said that, again, they are not going to make anymore concessions. For them, this is either now or never.
The last time, I remember you stressed "now." They seem to suggest that they're not going to volunteer to hold anymore consultations with the U.S. Do you have anything on that?
MR. McCURRY: I would restate what has been our view on this for some time. We certainly believe that China should be a founding member of the WTO, but it ought to be a founding member subject to the negotiations that would allow it to enter into the world trading system in a way that is commensurate with the economic activity of China and in a way in which the international trading order sees fit. That has to be subject to negotiation.
There is negotiating going on. Yes, the Chinese have said very many things publicly, but sometimes government say things publicly. We're in the process of a negotiation.
We believe that these negotiations can successfully resolve the issues that would allow China to come into the WTO when the WTO opens its doors. Indeed, we would welcome that and we favor that. There's absolutely no question about that, and the Chinese know that, based on the representations we've made to them in a variety of diplomatic meetings.
Q Another question. The second question. China has sentenced nine dissidents to prison terms. This is by far the largest since the crackdown in '89. Do you have anything on that?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have anything specifically on those nine cases. I can say that we continue to be very, very concerned about the human rights situation in China. We have monitored many of the cases of dissidents that we specifically raised with the PRC.
Through our Assistant Secretary John Shattuck, we have had some bilateral dialogue with the Government of China on these issues. We will continue to press our human rights concerns, including these nine cases and others that we are aware of that we've raised specifically with the government.
Q Mike, back on the WTO. Didn't you see very deep in those statements by the Chinese their willingness to accept in principle your plan to enter the WTO and to work out the problems a couple of months down the road? Aren't they actually accepting what you want them to?
MR. McCURRY: As I suggested earlier, there are negotiations taking place in which I think some of the public statements may reflect some of the dynamic of the negotiation.
I would prefer, on this one, not getting any deeper into that because it would really be best for Mickey Kantor over at USTR -- some of the USTR folks -- to get more deeply into that. He's been conducting those negotiations very, very effectively. But they are at a point where we believe the issues can be resolved. Sid is correct, that there may be some indications that the feeling on the Chinese side is similar.
Q On China -- on a different tack -- to the matter raised by Sid on Wednesday and then addressed in the briefing yesterday at the Pentagon.
The report from the Los Angeles Times regarding the naval incident has been, in almost every detail, confirmed by the Department of Defense, Mike. After two -- now three -- days since the incident, the Chinese spokesman here at the Embassy has absolutely nothing from Beijing on this particular matter. He told me this morning he was very surprised that Beijing had not responded. Have they responded to the State Department? Do you have anything for us on this?
MR. McCURRY: Nothing new on that, Bill. Same place we were in the last several days. We have not heard, to my knowledge, through diplomatic channels, any discussion about this alleged incident.
Let me go back for a second. Thank you, to the EAP Bureau. They did get me the date of Ambassador Lord's meeting with the Singapore Ambassador. That was November 29. That was the most recent -- 28th. (Laughter) So much for the notes. We're not going to pass anymore --
Q May I follow?
MR. McCURRY: Yes, you may.
Q Okay. Thank you very much. It was confirmed both by the journalists and the Defense Department that there had been a notice served on a U.S. official that the Chinese orders would be "shoot to kill," if that situation should arise again.
It says also in the article, there seems to be a deterioration between the U.S. navy and the Chinese military in this area, because the Chinese feel like we're targeting on them.
MR. McCURRY: You're replaying, I think, all the questions you asked at the Pentagon yesterday, and I think they got into all that yesterday. You're describing an informal contact at a dinner, or something. They got deeply into that yesterday. I don't have anything new on that subject.
Q Mike, there have been reports about a Russian General commanding one of the columns in Chechnya, refusing to advance further into the country. I wonder if you guys have anything from Moscow or Chechnya either confirming that or developing it.
MR. McCURRY: No. The only reports we have are based mostly on our understanding of what President Yeltsin said when he extended the deadline. The fighting has eased around Grozny this morning, we think, following President Yeltsin's statement that they are going to extend the deadline for the Chechen leadership to disarm.
So what has happened now is that the Russians have essentially said, we want to allow more time for the disarmament to occur. The Russian delegation, which had left, has gone back to Vladikavkaz where they've been negotiating. They're awaiting word now on when the Chechen leadership will return to the negotiations.
Everyone's commentary -- the party's commentary on this yesterday certainly left open the possibility that there would be a resumption of negotiations which we would welcome. We have continued to urge them to exercise restraint to try to solve this internal conflict within Russia by peaceful means that minimizes bloodshed. There are at least these indications that negotiations now are underway, or may soon be underway.
I don't have anything specific on what the military lay- of-the-land is on the ground. At one point, I know I saw some commentary coming out of Secretary Perry's party. There were some indications that if Secretary Perry had an opportunity to see Defense Minister Grachev in Moscow, that they might review what the situation is on the ground.
I'm not sure whether that contact ever occurred. You might want to check in at the Pentagon and see whether Dr. Perry got any further information. That's about all I had on Chechnya.
Did you want to follow up?
Q No. A separate question. So if you want to go first.
Q Two days ago I asked a question about Cyprus -- the arms buildup. Yesterday, some of U.N. officials raised concern about the arms buildup in the Cyprus government. Do you have anything on that?
MR. McCURRY: I don't have anything newer than the statement we posted yesterday.
Q A separate thing, Mike. Dick Holbrooke this morning was really slamming U.N. and NATO command-and- controls in a very strong way down in the Dean Acheson Auditorium.
Obviously, the Assistant Secretary of State doesn't shoot from the hip on something like that. Do you have anything to add or any context to put it in?
MR. McCURRY: Which Assistant Secretary are you talking about?
MR. McCURRY: Mr. Holbrooke.
MR. McCURRY: I agree, that Assistant Secretaries don't shoot from the hip.
He did reflect some of the concern that we have expressed publicly in the past on command-and-control procedures; specifically, the dual- key procedure. I don't think there is anyone in the United States Government who would suggest to you that we are entirely satisfied with the dual-key command-and-control process that has existed in the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, there have been discussions about how that's not the optimal way to structure peacekeeping operations as we look ahead to the future.
But I think our concerns on those points are fairly well known, and we have addressed them numerous times. Indeed, that's one of the reasons why, among other things, the NATO Defense Ministers agreed that they were going to get the chiefs of defense together on Monday to talk about ways in which they could improve the military effectiveness of UNPROFOR's role on the ground in Bosnia.
Q Is one of the ways beefing-up, as Secretary Holbrooke suggested this morning, U.N. presence in Bosnia?
MR. McCURRY: I'm sorry, say again?
Q Secretary Holbrooke suggested that one of the ways out might be using existing U.N. structures and regulations to beef up the U.N. presence there as opposed to going in and extricating.
MR. McCURRY: I've got a copy of Dick's speech. I haven't looked at the whole thing yet. I'll have to check with him on what he meant by that. They've got some specific ideas, as Dr. Perry indicated -- building on some things that French Defense Minister Leotard suggested publicly, that would enhance the effectiveness of UNPROFOR on the ground in Bosnia. But I'd suggest to you that we have to really wait and see whether any of that amounts to anything on Monday when the Chiefs of Defense meet in The Hague.
We suspect it may be difficult to get agreement among the UNPROFOR troop-contributing countries about exactly how you would take those steps to increase the effectiveness of UNPROFOR. But, again, that's a discussion that we'll have to check in on next week.
Q The way Secretary Holbrooke said it, it sounded a lot like a policy statement of where we would like to see the peacekeeping mission go. Earlier in the week, they were talking withdrawal. He was very clearly talking about beefing it up, heavying it up.
It's hard to see the rationale behind switching so dramatically in one week.
MR. McCURRY: You're unfairly saying that we switched around. We have consistently and firmly said publicly, and suggested directly to our allies, that UNPROFOR should stay in Bosnia and its role should be made more effective.
Dr. Perry led discussions on that subject all the way back to the meeting of the NATO Defense Ministers in Seville. It's not our Government that was in a position of sort of suggesting one day that they were going to withdraw and the next day they were going to stay. I'd suggest that you contact others.
Q Yes, right, but you're not only saying they can stay here now; you're saying they should send more in.
MR. McCURRY: I don't know that we said that.
MR. McCURRY: "Sending more in" is a decision -- that is, raising more peacekeepers for the United Nations mission in Bosnia is something that the Secretary General would address, and indeed the U.N. has requested additional peacekeepers for Bosnia on numerous occasions.
The problem is there haven't been many countries willing to provide those; and, yes, I acknowledge that we include the United States in that list.
Q So in spite of what Mr. Holbrooke said, the U.S. is not considering --
MR. McCURRY: We are not considering dispatching ground troops to participate in the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. That is correct.
Q Dee Dee Myers --
MR. McCURRY: If I said otherwise, I wouldn't have to deal with the question that's about to come. (Laughter)
Do you have a question?
Q Dee Dee Myers has handed in her resignation.
MR. McCURRY: I know. I'm sorry to see her go. She is a marvelous person and a good friend and has been a great colleague, and has served this President very effectively and loyally.
MR. McCURRY: I do, too, but I do it over here at the State Department.
Q Will you be with us here in the new year, Mr. McCurry?
MR. McCURRY: Let me see. (Laughter). There's no guidance here on that today. No guidance.
Q Are you prepared to entertain a question on a middle-class tax cut?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know much about that kind of stuff. (Laughter). That's all White House stuff. Go ask them at the White House about that.
Q Would you rule out the possibility of you going over to the White House?
MR. McCURRY: Would I rule out? Nobody's ever asked me to do that, but I --
MR. McCURRY: Say again?
Q Did you ask (inaudible) --
MR. McCURRY: I think if they -- that's up to the White House to talk about that kind of stuff. This is deja vu all over again. Some of you remember you were asking me this question several months ago (laughter), and I was very forthcoming at that time. I think I learned my lesson. So if anyone wants to -- (laughter). If anyone is interested in White House personnel stuff, go talk to the White House. This is the U.S. State Department, where we hold forth on issues like Bosnia and Chechnya and every other thing, and it's a lot of fun doing so. (Laughter)
O.K. Can we end now? No. We have one question in the back.
Q One more question.
MR. McCURRY: One last one under the wire.
Q Do you have anything on the situation in Bahrain, and the wave of arrests and the violent clashes this week?
MR. McCURRY: No. I've seen some reporting information in from post on that, but I haven't seen anything developed as a formal statement. We'll look into it and try to do something on that.
Q Okay. Thanks.
(The briefing concluded at l:07 p.m.)
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