U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING JANUARY 3, 1995 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, January 3, 1995 Briefer: Michael McCurry RUSSIA Fighting in Chechnya/Contact with US ............1-3,7-8 Prospects for Foreign Minister's Meeting with Secretary .....................................3-4 Cooperation with US .............................4-5,6-7 US Support for Democracy ........................4-5 NATO Partners for Peace/US/Russian Views .............5-6 MIDDLE EAST PEACE Cooperation between US and Russia ...............7 Syria/Israel Track ..............................8-12,13 Settlements .....................................12-13,20 Trilateral Summit in Alexandria .................6-7,13-14 Violence in Gaza ................................13-14 BOSNIA Ceasefire/Fighting ..............................15-16 US Role in Peace Agreement Implementation .......16-18 AUSTRALIA Visit by the Deputy Secretary ...................18 Foreign Minister McKinnon Mtg with Secretary ....19 CYPRUS Possible trip by Asst Secretary Holbrooke .......20
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JANUARY 3, 1995, 12:36 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. McCURRY: Good afternoon.
Q Let's see if we can vault past the usual appeal for restraint on both sides and dig a little deeper for the State Department's analysis of Mr. Yeltsin's problems in Chechnya. Do you fear -- do you have any -- well, fear -- do you fear for his future, for democracy's future? Do you have anything semi-profound to say about that?
MR. McCURRY: I have nothing profound or analytical to say. I can give you facts which tends to be what is most helpful. On that, you know the Chechen forces are currently controlling the southern part of the city. Most of the heavy fighting around Grozny has been in the northern part of the city. There are Russian reinforcements approaching the city, and we are continuing to watch it carefully, but it has not fundamentally altered what we've been telling you repeatedly and what you've heard from everyone -- from the President to the Vice President to the National Security Adviser over the weekend -- describe as our outlook on the crisis itself.
There's one somewhat new element here. We have had some reports that the International Committee of the Red Cross has been having trouble getting humanitarian convoys into Grozny. We think that's very important because the delivery of medicine and other supplies is critical to those who are inside Grozny, especially innocent non- combatants, and we urge both sides to take steps to ensure that that type of humanitarian aid can be delivered as needed inside that embattled capital city.
Q What's the problem? I mean, is it because of the fighting or are the authorities not letting them in or what?
MR. McCURRY: It is not clear how these are being blocked. It's apparently severe fighting that is preventing these from reaching their destination, which is more towards the center of the city.
Barry, to back up, I mean, your overall question -- this is clearly a difficult domestic matter for the Russian Government. It has certainly put President Yeltsin in the midst of a controversy, but they are dealing with it as democracies should, by having a full, open debate based on factual reporting from Grozny about what is occurring in Chechnya; and within the Russian political community, this, as you know, has provoked an enormous amount of controversy. But that happens in democracies, and they deal with it in democracies.
Q Mike, the United States and its allies have often expressed support for broad international principles that democracies or recognized democracies should uphold.
This Administration has called for Russia to refrain from attacks on civilians. Do you feel that Russia is upholding international principles for democracies in its behavior in Chechnya, and has the Russian Government refrained from hitting civilians?
MR. McCURRY: I reiterate -- you're right -- I reiterate what we have said often that we do. We strictly adhere to the principles and international norms that are specifically associated in cases in Europe with the CSCE. That is their mechanism available for the change of boundaries, and since Chechnya is part of the Russian Federation, a change in its status must be accomplished in a manner that is consistent with those international norms and those practices.
We have expressed specific concern, dating back to last week and over the weekend as well, about the kinds of tactics that the Russians have been using which have led to many more deaths than we think should have occurred. We've expressed our concern about that, and we've expressed our concern privately to the Russian Federation about that, and we have done so publicly as well.
Q Is that reflected -- remember, you began with an on-the- ground report. Is your concern registered? Is that reflected in the pattern of attack now? Are they holding back? Are they more restrained? Are they ignoring you?
MR. McCURRY: We have got, frankly, about what is happening today very conflicting reports. I can't make an assessment. As I suggested to some of you last week, that there have been individual instances in which we think there has been indiscriminate use of force, and that was our assessment at that point. What fighting has occurred within the last 24 to 48 hours I don't know that we've fully assessed at this point.
But our concern remains, because our concern has been premised on the belief that there ought to be a peaceful resolution to this conflict that avoids bloodshed and loss of life.
Q Mike, did you have any comment on the report that Dudayev has threatened to execute Russian prisoners of war?
MR. McCURRY: That is among the troubling reports coming from the region. We're not in a position where we can fully assess that type of report. There have been threats of violence on both sides. There was some on-the-record comments from Dzhokhar Dudayev that indicated they were going to fight to the last drop of blood. That type of comment would indicate a trend towards belligerency when we believe the trend ought to be toward peaceful resolution of the conflict.
Q Is the Secretary -- are the Secretary and Kozyrev going to go ahead with their Geneva meeting?
MR. McCURRY: My understanding is that they will. There is a broad range of issues that we address in our discussions with the Russian Federation. They span the gamut and by no means are they confined to the issue of Chechnya, which has come up in our diplomatic discussions with the Russian Federation.
We have a relationship that is built on a wide range of interests that are strategic for U.S. security interests and that we need to continue to work on, as we work through issues in which sometimes with the Russians we work cooperatively and other times we work in circumstances where we see world events differently.
It is a very important relationship between two great powers that needs to be managed effectively, and the Secretary's intent in finding a quiet period early in this New Year where he can meet with the Russian Foreign Minister is to assess the full range of items that are on the very important bilateral agenda we have with the Russians, following on the type of work that has occurred most recently with Vice President Gore and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin and other contacts that have occurred.
Q Do you have a date for that?
Q Date or place?
MR. McCURRY: They're still looking around the middle of the month and somewhere in Europe. They're working on firming up the venue, and I think it's getting firmer but not announceable at this point.
Q As a side bar to this whole affair, have you found any falling off in the attitude of cooperation on the part of the Russians within the United Nations Security Council, for example?
MR. McCURRY: No, to the contrary. On some issues where we've been working with them, they've been very helpful. Each issue has its own dynamic, but there are some issues that we have worked with them where they've been very helpful and cooperative. They continue to work closely with us on Bosnia through the Contact Group. They continue to work on a broad range of non-proliferation issues, and we look forward in the coming year to making that a very key part of the work that we do with the Russian Federation.
This is a very large, very important strategic relationship for the United States of America, and it has to be managed very effectively, and it is not defined by one episode, such as the current crisis in Chechnya.
Q Doesn't this crisis threaten to undercut that relationship, particularly when you have Republican leaders on Capitol Hill saying that they are rethinking Russian aid? Won't that undercut our ability to manage this relationship?
MR. McCURRY: If they're thinking of that, Andrea, they need to think about that with a very strong view to what is in the long-term interests of the United States.
It is in the long-term interests of the United States to nurture the process of political and economic change in Russia; to support those who support democracy; to ensure that democracy which has fragile roots in democracy are allowed to dig deeper and to grow firmer. I think, in a broader sense, it is incumbent upon those who look at issues that involve the territorial integrity of Russia to think about the consequences of long-term ethnic strife that provokes further types of ethnic and regional conflict in and around the periphery of Russia.
It's an enormously complex issue, and it's one that we are very aware of as we built our policy to try to protect the interests that we have as Americans as we think about the long-term relationship that we have with Russia.
Q When you speak about the fragile roots of democracy, how much can this country -- with our commitments to democracy -- overlook, given that we've called for restraint and instead what we've seen is exactly the opposite.
MR. McCURRY: Andrea, we have a long history as a democracy that includes an episode in our history of our country where we dealt with a secessionist movement through armed conflict, called the Civil War. So we need to be conscious of those types of issues when we look at a new democracy in the former Soviet Union, in Russia, dealing with what is already provoking enormous political debate within Russia.
We have to look at the full scope of issues that define our own interests as we examine that relationship and not see them defined or preoccupied by a crisis as serious, as tragic as the one currently ongoing in Chechnya.
Q I'm no history buff, Mike, but what similarities to you see between the war in Chechnya and the Civil War in the United States?
MR. McCURRY: I didn't say there were similarities. I said that we have our own history, and we are conscious of our own history as we look at another democracy dealing with questions that they are trying to resolve within the framework of democracy.
I'm not drawing any parallel there. I'm just saying as a question of history, what lessons do you learn. That was Andrea's question.
Q You weren't calling Yeltsin Abraham Lincoln by any chance?
MR. McCURRY: By no means am I.
Q Look, can I ask you about one of those other issues -- by no means, huh -- can I ask you about one of those other issues? You remember at his year-ender, the Secretary spoke of when he saw Kozyrev, you could then follow through on the Partnership for Peace and those other leftover items. Is that still on track as you --
MR. McCURRY: I suspect that as we look at those broad issues that are most important, as we look ahead in 1995 -- the question of NATO expansion, the work plan that's been identified by the North Atlantic Council as they address the question of how we proceed on the question of NATO expansion -- those are certainly central issues on that agenda, and I'm sure that they will be spending a significant amount of time on that issue.
Q Yes, but I think he went beyond that. He thought whatever that blip was in -- where were we? -- in Brussels -- had been overcome. If I remember correctly, he thought you could now smoothly go ahead and formalize --
MR. McCURRY: I think we look forward to Russia's participation as a Partner for Peace in the course of the coming year, and a final ratification of those documents that are necessary for their participation -- their individual partnership program that needs to be signed and put into effect.
I'm not suggesting that we've resolved all of those questions or that --
Q -- (Inaudible) January 15 --
MR. McCURRY: -- I'm not suggesting it will happen there. Typically, it hasn't. That work tends to be done in Brussels at NATO Headquarters.
Q Their military conduct in Chechnya would not in any way affect our willingness to have them participate in the Partnership for Peace?
MR. McCURRY: The Partnership for Peace -- the benefits to NATO and presumably the benefits to the Russian Federation of the Partnership for Peace program are extensive, and they relate to the future of the security relationship on the European Continent and Russia's role, and I think that those benefits extend beyond any consideration of the current conflict in Chechnya.
Q But you said that there's certain types of conduct countries that want to participate in Partnership for Peace -- and then eventually maybe go on to join NATO -- had to exhibit, certain types of -- had to be a certain distance along the road to democratization --
MR. McCURRY: I think you're asking me if whether or not the Geneva Convention and the application of protections in the Geneva Convention and its protocols extend to that type of work, and the answer is yes.
Q You mentioned about the effective relationship between the United States and Russia, and you mentioned Bosnia and one other subject, but you didn't mention the Middle East. And in this connection my mind went back to the communique issued in Alexandria, Thursday, by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Assad -- which is virtually a quasi-ultimatum to Israel -- in which it said that the co-sponsors of the peace process, meaning Russia and the United States, are to pressure Israel to do certain things.
I was just wondering, (a) has the United States and Russia been in consultation about this communique; and, in any event, where does Russia and the United States stand on the Middle East situation?
MR. McCURRY: Joe, that was a very clever way of turning the corner and getting into another subject area there, and you did that with the forebearance of your colleagues. And, if we are ready to move on to that --
Q Oh, well, all right, I'll wait.
MR. McCURRY: I'll answer that quickly in saying that, yes, we would point to the work that we do with the Russian Federation, which is a co-sponsor of the Madrid process, as being one in which there has been enormous symmetry in the way we have approached questions related to the peace process in the Middle East and the participation of the Russian Federation, as confirmed in their public participation and the extraordinary events that occurred in 1994, is one metaphor for the type of cooperation that we do enjoy with the Russian Federation that produces enormous, bountiful results.
As to the specifics of the Alexandria summit, I just frankly don't know the answer as to whether we have had a consultation with them about that trilateral summit.
Q Do you have any communication, perhaps during the arrangements for the Kozyrev meeting -- further communication about Chechnya? When was our last communication or message to them about Chechnya?
MR. McCURRY: (To staff) David (Johnson) you can nod yes or no on this.
I think the most recent diplomatic contact was through our Embassy in Moscow. It related to some of our human rights concerns and it occurred just prior to Christmas. But, as many of you know who have been in contact with your colleagues in Moscow, this is a source of such enormous debate within Moscow that a lot of the contacts that we've had have been --
Q There's been one nod --
MR. McCURRY: Friday -- I said the Friday before Christmas. I'm sorry. I meant the Friday before New Year's.
Q The Friday before New Year's from Moscow, not from here?
MR. McCURRY: From Embassy Moscow, correct.
Q The Secretary's not had any --
MR. McCURRY: Very directly involving the work of senior officials here in this building as we work through the issue, and there will be in advance of the meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, additional high-level contact between the Russian side and the U.S. side, and Chechnya will be an element of that discussion.
But, Andrea, I again stress it by no means defines this very important bilateral relationship. It is a broad, expansive relationship that has many elements on the agenda, of which this is no doubt one, but is by no means the most significant.
Q When you referred to the ethnic difficulties that this new democracy faces, were you suggesting that if the Yeltsin government is not successful in Chechnya, that they might then face turmoil elsewhere within the Federation?
MR. McCURRY: I wouldn't want to suggest that, because I have no way of knowing that. That would be entirely speculative.
Q Could I go back to Joe's area of interest -- the Middle East.
MR. McCURRY: Yes.
Q You addressed the Russian part of it, but on Friday, the day after the Arab countries jointly blamed Israel for the obvious lack of progress on the Syrian front, the State Department at a briefing said that it was a little early to get into an analysis. But I don't know if you've heard about that or if you have anything for us, but the idea being we would hear from State as to whether State agrees with their assessment.
It's curious -- you're using Egypt as the neutral middle man, and Thursday Egypt sounded more like Assad than like Mubarak. Could you address that a little bit?
MR. McCURRY: What's the specific question, Barry?
Q It's a very simple question. In the U.S. view is Israel the cause of the lack of progress on the Israeli- Syrian front, as those three countries concluded last Thursday?
MR. McCURRY: Of course not. Our view is that the parties remain very directly engaged in substantive discussions that could close the serious gaps that do remain between their positions, but we believe that the trend in the region is towards a just and comprehensive peace, not away from it. Therefore, we sort of reject the proposition that one side or any side is responsible for any obstacle for peace.
We think the momentum has been throughout 1994, and we believe will continue in 1995, towards a comprehensive peace for all parties in the region.
Q Did the talks with the military chiefs last week produce anything?
MR. McCURRY: We have said that we are managing contacts between the parties, and that it should come as no surprise that there have been contacts between the parties, and it should come as no surprise that we're not commenting in any detail about the substantive exchanges that have occurred during those contacts.
Q Even meetings say something. Now, there was one day where the military chiefs were brought in, and then conveniently or not everybody had the holidays to point to as a reason for no more meetings or immediately. All right, the holidays are gone now. The chiefs went home. You guys get the credit or the blame as being the -- what? -- the overseer of these talks --
MR. McCURRY: I think we get the credit --
Q Ambassador talks.
MR. McCURRY: We get the credit as a co-sponsor of the process and with the agreements of the parties for managing the contacts that they are assuredly having and will assuredly have in the future.
Q I mean, you are much more involved than the Russians are. The meetings are held here, etc. Christopher is the trusted go-between. When is the --
MR. McCURRY: There's a lot of information that I'm not necessarily confirming by entertaining your question, Barry. But go ahead.
Q Christopher is not the honorable go-between? (Laughter) No, the question would be: When is the next Ambassadors meeting? Like this month, this year? Remember, last year was the year the State Department grandly predicted peace in your time --
MR. McCURRY: In 1994, Barry --
Q On your watch.
MR. McCURRY: Would you deny in 1994 that Israel and Jordan achieved an historic agreement --
Q Would you like --
MR. McCURRY: -- and in the course of 1994 would you deny that there have been --
Q Would you like to entertain a suggestion that it has almost nothing to do with the United States nor --
MR. McCURRY: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Q The one thing you had --
MR. McCURRY: Had there not been a determined effort on the part of the United States to sharpen and define those differences, we don't think the parties would have been in as good a position to make that kind of progress.
Q Mike, Jordan and Israel have had a de facto peace for 20 years.
MR. McCURRY: Barry, I was trying to like bait you into getting into another area.
Q (Inaudible) The one area -- you picked -- the U.S. picked the tough one. They picked Israel and Syria.
MR. McCURRY: That's right.
Q That's the one you're into hip-deep, and --
MR. McCURRY: You're right that that is a tough discussion.
Q And all we are trying to find out -- Carol can't get an assessment from you on how you did. I'm only asking you when are you going to do something next?
MR. McCURRY: Okay. Let me --
Q Unless Perry is taking it over.
MR. McCURRY: Let me satisfy both of you. And, Barry, that's the kind of stuff that will get me --
Q No, just kidding. No, but he's going on the next trip.
MR. McCURRY: -- to refuse to entertain your questions.
Q No, that's a joke.
MR. McCURRY: All right. That was a joke and it was not called for.
Now, in answer to your question -- What kind of progress did they make -- they continue to have discussions that are going to narrow gaps between the parties, that they haven't been narrowed.
Q Why did they see the President?
MR. McCURRY: Why did they see -- did they see the President? I thought I saw one account that suggested in an authoritative way that they'd seen the President. I don't know of any reason to dispute that. If they saw the President, my guess is it is because he told them -- to then continue with your question, Barry -- that it is important for them to continue to make progress that will narrow the gaps that assuredly exist between their respective positions. That's the work that we're doing.
Q Would you say that what Barry said about Perry's trip -- next Friday I guess he leaves -- what -- how does his trip fit into this whole process?
MR. McCURRY: I think he will be in a position to have a wide range of discussions with the people he sees about matters that are on our bilateral agenda that sometimes don't get as complete treatment when we are dealing in the thick of the peace process itself. But he'll also be in a position to reaffirm our own strong support for the process and for him to sort of underscore the importance we attach for them to continue the very hard, very arduous work of closing some of these gaps that exist between us.
Q He comes from the military side of things and --
MR. McCURRY: Right.
Q --coincidentally are not -- that's where last we left the subject. The military people don't --
MR. McCURRY: I mean, General Shalikashvili was just in the region, too, and these are part of an ongoing program of very high-level contacts that we have. We have an enormous strategic interest in the support of our ally Israel. There are very complex issues that relate to security that are part of that relationship. I think the Pentagon can better tell you about the full range of things that are on Secretary Perry's agenda, but he will certainly be in a position to follow up on a lot of those issues that are part of our ongoing bilateral dialogue.
Q Also on the Middle East, do you have any further thoughts on the timing of the expansion of the Israeli settlements near Jerusalem, and does that have any impact at all on either the substance or the atmosphere of the negotiations?
MR. McCURRY: It is an enormously complicated question, because the settlements, themselves, are an enormous complication as you look at the process. We have always said there has been no change in our view on that. The Israeli Cabinet has now addressed that question in one specific instance. I think you're all aware of that. Beyond that, I don't think there's a lot more I can add to that.
That is part of a process of what the parties need to deal with in the context of the Declaration of Principles, and there's every indication that they are continuing to do so, as the result of the discussions that are continuing even today.
Q Have you detected any impact at all on either the substance or the atmosphere of the negotiations?
MR. McCURRY: We see it as an element of the discussion. We know that it is one that can affect the dynamic, but it's the parties themselves who are now in direct bilateral discussion that have to judge for you whether or not that presents any kind of problem to their own dialogue. The important thing is they continue to meet. They continue to talk about these issues. They continue to seem determined to resolve those issues that are framed and outlined within the Declaration.
Q (Inaudible) settlements and territorial disputes -- I don't know whether it means anything or not, but is there any significance to be drawn from the fact that Secretary Perry is spending two nights in Tel Aviv and not in Jerusalem?
MR. McCURRY: Not that I'm aware of, no. I mean, it probably most likely has more to do with his schedule and with meetings that he's probably having at the Defense Ministry which is in Tel Aviv.
Q Sticking with this defense, the quickening of -- what appears to be the quickening of interaction on the military side suggests that there's some real detailed operational work perhaps going on here, and one could sort of lead to the conclusion that you really are closer to an agreement than some otherwise might believe.
Would you encourage that kind of analysis, or would you say it's being a little bit too presumptuous?
MR. McCURRY: Don't leap to that conclusion.
Q I don't think you've answered the question that has arisen as a result of the trilateral summit in Alexandria. The question is whether or not the United States looks upon this quasi-ultimatum to Israel as meaning by its silence -- unless you will respond to it -- it didn't respond on it last Friday or whenever it was -- that this ultimatum -- virtual ultimatum to Israel means that the Arab countries, the three leading Arab countries in the Middle East, have decided to tell Israel, "Go back to this barbed wire fencing of 1967 or there will be no peace."
MR. McCURRY: We by no means are being silent on it. I should not suggest that. I don't believe I --
Q I should have said that, because I thought you would immediately jump on that.
MR. McCURRY: I believe that what we will do is to assess the results of that summit. We will have discussions separately with each of the three governments that participated to better understand their views, and we will reaffirm our own view that we need to make progress towards a comprehensive and lasting peace for the region. I think our views on how that process should unfold are fairly well known.
I didn't mean by suggesting that we were not -- having the other discussion earlier -- that we didn't have strong views on that process.
Q What have you learned about this clash between Israeli troops and Palestinian police in Gaza?
MR. McCURRY: We have not heard. I know that they are following up on that through the Embassy and having some more discussions about them, but I don't know that we have anything that is more definitive than some of the news accounts that we've seen.
Q On Bosnia, please.
MR. McCURRY: Joe, go ahead.
Q Mike, the question that arises all the time is: Is the State Department deliberately postponing a statement on this trilateral communique in order to let it die out and be forgotten or is it --
MR. McCURRY: No.
Q Well, is it going to take action say within the next week or ten weeks?
MR. McCURRY: Joe, sometimes -- you might find this hard to imagine -- sometimes we choose not to conduct diplomacy publicly. Sometimes we do it in our private exchanges that we have with governments. I'm not suggesting how we are following up on this in this case, but, as I said, we are going to continue to have discussions with the participants in that summit. We'll obviously continue to have very close collaboration on Israel.
Frankly, what we are most concerned about is continuing to do the very hard work that builds on the momentum that has existed in the peace process throughout this last year and that we hope will extend into the coming year.
Q Mike, that's incredibly unhelpful, though, that your two main horses, so to speak, on the Arab side -- Mubarak and King Fahd -- have turned against you and turned against the process.
MR. McCURRY: Sid, that is not a fair representation of what's happened, nor is it a representation of the type of assistance in the course of the peace process in 1994 we enjoyed from the Government of Egypt. That is just not an accurate presentation of where they've been on it.
Bill. Q Addressing the -- and I hope maybe I can go back to Andrea's question regarding the ramifications of the Chechnya conflict -- the underlying -- one of the underlying factors here seems to be religious conflict. We see what is called by the fundamental or radical militant Moslems "Jihad." We see that as being exacerbated by the conflict in Chechnya, do we not? And we see, especially in Algeria, but also the countries that are enemies of Israel, this intolerance, this religious intolerance.
Is it not being exacerbated? Is there not basically a warning sign here of greater religious conflict worldwide?
MR. McCURRY: Bill, that's a question that begs a much longer answer and a more complete briefing at some other time but not here. I would suggest that the history of Chechnya and its relationship to Russia would posit many elements beyond religious strife as among the reasons for the type of conflict now ongoing.
Q Isn't it being used as an excuse by radical nations -- they're anti-Christian, anti-Jew?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware of that. That's too complicated for me to get my hands around. I don't think that that's necessarily the case.
Q Yes, please. Two questions. First, can you tell me about American involvement, diplomatic involvement, in these -- from now on in the next four months in the negotiations towards trying to achieve some sort of permanent peace in Bosnia -- who is doing what and where have we been since Jimmy Carter came back?
And, second, is there any point during the next four months when the United States will make known what it intends to commit in the way of ground forces to a peace settlement -- where and when and under what circumstances? Will this be any part of the mix of the negotiations and the efforts to get these sides to finally make peace?
MR. McCURRY: Okay. Let me start with the first half of the question. The cessation of hostilities agreement that has now been put together -- that frankly needs to deepen a little bit before we rejoice too much in its accomplishment, because there continues to be some heavy fighting, as you know, today in and around Bosnia, especially around Velika Kladusha up in the Bihac pocket.
Anyhow, the notion of a cessation of hostilities agreement for a defined period of time is something very clearly set forth in the communique of the Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group when they met December 2 and really outlined their map for a reinvigorated diplomatic effort to bring the conflict in Bosnia to a peaceful end.
So all these pieces now, including the work that former President Carter did, are fitting with the program of activity that was outlined by the Contact Group, and that they are now proceeding. The Contact Group will meet later in the week in Bonn. They will continue their work with the parties now entering into a cessation of hostilities framework in which there's likely going to be UNPROFOR involvement in designing and configuring ways in which they can keep the parties in a period where they're not engaged in armed conflict. There will be a lot of work that will revolve around that.
But the principal work of the Contact Group will be using the proposal from last July as the basis for negotiations to proceed to get the parties to negotiate the final settlement that can bring about a peaceful settlement to the conflict. That is going to be tough going. It's going to be not at all clear that they will be successful in that four-month period, but that is the work that is going to be done in that four-month period.
I'm not today going to outline U.S. participation. We have said our view on that has not changed. At some point in the future if they get this peace settlement, if they agree to bring the war to an end, we're willing to consider how we would best participate in the implementation of a peace. We've suggested in the past that that could very clearly include the possible use of ground forces.
I don't know, Saul, if there is some point in the course of this four months where that would be spelled with any greater clarity. I tend to doubt it, because I think it depends -- as it has always depended -- on what is the nature of the peace that the international community is being asked to enforce. And you really can't, until you know what the structure of that peace agreement is going to be, it's very hard to know.
We, of course, assume and now have more or less insisted that it be the basis for the 51/49 proposal of last July. So we have some rough idea there, but within that basis what type of land swaps they might agree to is something that the parties themselves are going to have to address.
Q I guess what I'm trying to ask is what contribution is the United States making to this process in which -- I assume that the parties are going to be asked to do certain things and perhaps the Bosnians -- I'm hypothesizing -- that the Bosnians will be asked to do certain things in return for which they might get some greater protection for what remains of their country.
And I wonder what contributions, if any, is the United States making to this process?
MR. McCURRY: I guess if I understand your question correctly, the work that lies ahead is to get the parties to agree to that type of settlement, and we will be very involved in that work through the Contact Group configuration that has been working on this. That will continue to be.
Q Has the United States made promises as a member of the Contact Group? The French and the British and the Germans are already there, and the Russians, too. Are we making any kinds of promises, pledges, commitments in return for a peace settlement in the Bosnian conflict?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know that there have been any new commitments made by anybody. I mean, what they're committed to is the process by which the U.N. in a mandated mission in Bosnia has been working to keep the peace and to deliver humanitarian goods. There are some countries that are doing so through the contribution of troops. There are others like the United States that have been enormously involved in the provision of humanitarian aid and have been full participants in various aspects of the U.N.-ordered operations in and around Bosnia.
So we will continue our participation in those efforts. We'll continue certainly our very persistent diplomatic efforts through the Contact Group. But at this point I'm not aware that there are any new commitments that have been asked for or required as they attempt to nurture and advance that process, other than our own very strong beliefs that the territorial integrity of Bosnia-Herzegovina is a given in these discussions as they unfold.
Q Can you tell us whether or not President Carter -- former President Carter has had any further contact either with the parties he met with while he was there last month or through the State Department following up on his trip?
MR. McCURRY: He, I believe based on his trip there, remains intensely interested in the situation. We will do everything necessary to keep him apprised of developments and to share with him information that we have. He may choose himself to be involved. I would frankly direct you to the Carter Center. They'd be in a better position to tell you more about his plans or anything that he's done subsequent to his trip.
Q If you could tell us if he's had any contact with the State Department, with the Secretary? Has he spoken with him?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not aware that he's talked to the Secretary directly. I believe our plan was to stay in close contact with a member of his staff who accompanied him to Bosnia to make sure that they have some of the latest information available about some of the efforts underway under the auspices of the United Nations to negotiate the cessation of hostilities agreement.
Given his active interest in the situation and his important role there, in fairness for a lot of people, especially in this room, that were somewhat critical or dubious about former President Carter's involvement, there has been at least some positive, hopeful things develop partly out of the work that he did on his recent trip there. I think that ought to be acknowledged.
Q Another topic, please.
MR. McCURRY: Connie.
Q My semi-annual New Zealand question. What's the purpose of the meeting later today, and have you announced or are you ready to announce Strobe Talbott's visit to New Zealand?
MR. McCURRY: I'm not ready. I didn't know he was going. Is he going there, too?
Q Two weeks from now. Where else is he going?
MR. McCURRY: He probably doesn't know.
Q Papua-New Guinea?
MR. McCURRY: It sounds to me like by popular demand we need to work up a travel announcement for the Deputy Secretary who is going around.
Q And could we get him here? Could we talk to him?
MR. McCURRY: Before he leaves?
Q Or could I talk to him?
MR. McCURRY: I'll ask him.
Q Thank you.
MR. McCURRY: You are correct, the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Mr. McKinnon, will be here later today for a meeting. I think the most recent meeting the Secretary has had with Foreign Minister McKinnon was in Jakarta. I think they had a good meeting there. They've got a wide range of things: economic issues, peacekeeping issues, a variety of things that we look at in the overall structure of our bilateral relationship. They will pursue that.
They will obviously talk about the policy affecting ship visits there, and I don't think there's anything that is terribly newsworthy about that. It's all been pretty well covered.
Q Will this meeting be the prelude for the invitation for Prime Minister Bolger to come here?
MR. McCURRY: I don't know the answer to that.
Q Mike, let me ask these two questions, and then I promise you I won't say any more the beginning of this New Year. First of all, about settlements, is it still the United States' position that the settlements are not illegal but obstacles to peace? Point one. Point two --
MR. McCURRY: Our view specifically on that has not changed.
Q Has not changed.
MR. McCURRY: That's correct.
Q The other question is, you said that how the peace process will unfold is well-known. Please tell me. I've been trying for 25 years to learn how it will unfold, especially on Jerusalem.
MR. McCURRY: There will be many, many meetings, Joe, at which there will be very incremental and barely discernible progress, and then some day if everything goes well, there will be something that would amount to history being made. That's the way it usually has happened.
Q Mike, I don't think you --
MR. McCURRY: But at the time that it's happening, it will be, as I say, barely discernible.
Q I don't think you said what the U.S. thinks of the way the Israelis handled this particular incident. Do you have an opinion?
MR. McCURRY: I am not expressing an opinion at the moment until we have more facts upon which to base an opinion. We're at a point where these incidents occur very quickly. We like to know more about them before we pronounce ourselves on them.
MR. McCURRY: This is the shooting of the Palestinian --
Q No, no, the way they handled the settlement --
MR. McCURRY: Oh, what the Israeli Cabinet did on the -- concerning that?
Q You seem to think --
MR. McCURRY: Since our views on the settlements are unchanged, I think that we're not going to, in elaborate detail, comment about any decision.
Q I meant what their views on the settlements are, let alone your views.
MR. McCURRY: That's a question, thankfully, that you can address to them and not me.
Carol, then Bill.
Q On Beattie's appointment on Cyprus and Holbrooke's trip?
MR. McCURRY: Did the White House announce that?
Q I don't know. I've been gone.
MR. McCURRY: It's been widely rumored, speculated. It might as well be announced, but I don't have anything on it right now. I can get more on it.
Q What about Holbrooke going? Is he going to Cyprus, or did he go to Cyprus?
MR. McCURRY: There's been some discussion of a trip that he might take early in the year over to his region, but I don't know if they've firmed up any itinerary for him yet. We're still talking about it.
Q McCurry's future and successor.
MR. McCURRY: That's a good point to end the briefing.
Q Oh, no, no. Wait.
Q Thank you. (Laughter)
MR. McCURRY: Thank you. That's it for today.
Q That's the trap door. (Laughter)
(The briefing concluded at 1:18 p.m.)
(###)To the top of this page