U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING JANUARY 5, 1995 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, January 5, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly ANNOUNCEMENT Secretary Christopher/Russian FM Kozyrev Meetings ...1 RUSSIA Chechnya Conflict Secretary Christopher/Russian FM Kozyrev Telecon ..1-3 U.S. Position on EU/OSCE Proposals ................2-3 Secretary Christopher/French FM Juppe Telecon .....2-3 Christopher/Talbott/Shattuck Discussion w/ Yelena Bonner ................................3-4 US View, Human Rights Violations ...4-5 NORTH KOREA Report of U.S./North Korea Telephone Links/ Business Contacts .................................5-6 Possible White House Invitation to Kim Jong-Il.......10 MIDDLE EAST Peace Process .......................................6- 7,10 Israeli Settlements .................................6 HAITI Repatriation of Haitians from Guantanamo ............7-9 CYPRUS Appointment of Special Presidential Emissary ........9-10 Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's Trip to Region ......10
DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JANUARY 5, 1995, l2:56 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm sure it's with considerable regret that you will learn that you don't have Mike McCurry for today's press briefing. The only thing I can tell you is that for today he got a better offer, so I'll be standing up and doing the honors.
Let me begin with a short announcement. Secretary Christopher and Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev will meet January l7 and l8 in Geneva. They will discuss a broad range of international and bilateral questions as agreed by the two Presidents. They will focus particular attention on the two countries' approaches to the formation of new architecture for European security.
The Secretary is expected to depart on Monday, January l6, and return to Washington on either the l8th or the l9th. Following our usual practice, a sign-up sheet will be posted in the Press Office for members of the press interested in applying for a seat on the plane. Please note that applications will close at noon on Monday, January 9.
I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q Christine, regarding a report in The Washington Post this morning by Jeffrey Smith, reporting some intense discussions yesterday here at the State Department concerning the leadership crisis in Moscow and the Chechnya matter, can you tell us who was involved in these discussions; anything more about the conversation reported between Kozyrev and Secretary of State Christopher -- this all alluding to a CIA report of the 22nd of December on this that I asked Mike about yesterday? Can you tell us any more about this?
MS. SHELLY: I can share a couple of things with you. First of all, we have lots of meetings here in the State Department and it's not our normal practice to put out who the attendees were and specifically what was discussed. Chechnya is obviously a very important policy issue. We are concerned about the situation, and I think it's only natural that we would have meetings on that. I'm not going to give any more details on that.
I can give you a few details on the Secretary's telephone conversation yesterday with Russian Secretary Kozyrev. They did speak at length on the phone yesterday, nearly 30 minutes. The Secretary expressed our serious concerns about the situation, the humanitarian situation in particular, in Chechnya. He expressed our profound desire to see the conflict settled through negotiations and in a way which minimizes bloodshed and maximizes respect for human rights.
Also, in response to that, Foreign Minister Kozyrev certainly showed his understanding of the gravity of the situation. He himself used the word "awful" to characterize the situation. He indicated that it was a very, very difficult issue for President Yeltsin; and I think that he also expressed an openness to consider some of the various proposals that are out there for developing a framework in which some of these issues can be addressed.
So that's what I can tell you at this point about the phone call.
Q Well, exactly what proposals has he said he is willing to consider?
MS. SHELLY: I think you are aware there are a couple of different things that are going on. There were some meetings in Moscow this morning that the Russian Foreign Ministry had with representatives from the OSCE -- the former CSCE grouping -- and also some of the EU representatives. These were separate meetings, and then they kind of blended one into the other.
There are some proposals. Again, I don't think it's up to us to put out the details of those proposals, but the EU specifically has been putting forward some ideas about OSCE involvement. We believe that activities of this type could help resolve some of the issues at hand within a framework that would preserve the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation but would also address the clear humanitarian aspects of the situation.
We've not yet seen a formal Russian response to some of these ideas, and specifically to the EU proposal; but I can tell you that right before today's briefing the Secretary did have a conversation with French Foreign Minister Juppe. He got a quick readout on how those meetings had gone in Moscow earlier today. I'm not going to get into a detailed characterization of that exchange except to tell you that the Secretary was encouraged by the Russian reaction to the OSCE and EU efforts at this point.
Q So he got no indication, when he spoke to Kozyrev though, of which of these proposals the Russians feel might be a good basis for settling this?
MS. SHELLY: Of course, he talked to Kozyrev yesterday. I think in that conversation Kozyrev indicated their openness to hear some of these ideas and to consider them; and then the Russian Foreign Ministry, I believe, invited the representatives of those two groups that I mentioned to come in and discuss their ideas with them. That's what took place earlier today.
I think a more detailed characterization of the Russian position on them should really come out of Russia.
Q Would it be correct to say then, based on the Secretary's conversation with Kozyrev last night and his conversation with Juppe today and his general understanding of events, that the Russians have expressed, in general, a willingness to consider OSCE mediation to the Chechen conflict?
MS. SHELLY: I don't want to characterize it as mediation at this point. There are some ideas that they have put forward that involve some of the types of things that formerly the CSCE, now the OSCE, are involved in, typically in conflicts in the region. I think those were the types of things they were talking about. But, again, I would just leave it at saying that Kozyrev indicated openness on the Russian side to considering some of those ideas.
Q But our understanding -- I mean, leaving out what proposal they're open -- Christopher thinks that Russia is open to some other solution than what he is doing now?
MS. SHELLY: They're open to the potential involvement by OSCE and other ideas that the EU might put forward.
Q Yelena Bonner said on the Hill this morning that she had met with the Secretary and with Strobe Talbott and others yesterday here at the State Department and that she had recommended President Clinton call Yeltsin on this matter. Do you know if this is in the works? Would this help?
MS. SHELLY: I can just give you a brief readout on this meeting from yesterday. Yesterday, Yelena Bonner, the celebrated human rights activist and, of course, the widow of the late Andrei Sakharov, met with Secretary Christopher, Deputy Secretary Talbott, Assistant Secretary Shattuck, and the NIS senior coordinator, Jim Collins. They had an extensive discussion of recent developments in Russia, and particularly the situation in Chechnya.
Ms. Bonner set forth her concerns at length, specifically with regard to the severe impact on Chechnya's civilian population of Russian military operations there.
We set forth our concern for the preservation of Russia's borders along with our deep concern for the human rights situation in Chechnya. I don't have any specific information about the telephone call. I'll check and see if there is anything else we would want to say in the way of details on the meeting.
Q She also said that she had suggested that if there were an international mediation team formed to handle the situation, former President Carter might wish to head it. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. SHELLY: No. I don't have any specific comment on that. She has put out her views and her ideas on that. She also, I understand, distributed a letter that she had sent to President Yeltsin on this subject. She's certainly welcome to offer views of hers, but it would certainly be very premature at this point to consider something like that.
Q It would sound from what you've been saying their reaction to Bonner and the statements generally that have been coming out of here that the Administration kind of views the human rights and the preservation of Russia's borders as kind of a wash.
MS. SHELLY: That may be your assessment or characterization of it, but I certainly wouldn't put it that way. I think we have said from the very beginning that maintaining the territorial integrity of Russia is a point of departure on this issue.
But I think as you're also aware from other statements by senior- level officials that we have had concerns about how force has been used in this conflict and certainly very grave concerns about the loss of life, and those are issues which are of concern to us. We have expressed those concerns in our contacts with the Russians on this.
I again would like to stress that we would like to see negotiation. We'd like to see the conflict settled in that kind of way and to have everything possible done so that the bloodshed and the risks to innocent civilians can be minimized.
Q Is it the Administration's view that the Russian military has violated the human rights of the people of Chechnya?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, I think that's a complex question. We have mentioned that we have concerns about the human rights situation. You also know, because we have mentioned in briefings within the last few days, our desire to have the Geneva Conventions on the protection of victims of armed conflict and the various protocols which have been acted related to that -- we would want to see those respected.
But I think in terms of making the determination about the degree to which international norms and conventions have been violated, I think that's not something that I'm in a position to make a judgment on today.
Q Is it something that we're looking at?
MS. SHELLY: I think we are watching the conflict from every aspect.
Q There is a wire story today -- a report out of Seoul -- that by the middle of this month the U.S. plans to allow American businessmen to begin sort of tentative deals with North Koreans and that there would be the establishment of phone links between North Korea and this country.
MS. SHELLY: I've seen the wire report also. I don't have anything worked up on this yet formally, but let me take that as a question and see if we can say more on it later this afternoon. Or, if not, I'll try to come back to that tomorrow.
Q Does the timetable sound right?
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to have to check. I just don't have any information on that. At this point, I've seen the wire report as well but I don't have anything on that.
Q Could you also see if there are other things besides business contacts and opening of phone lines that are in the works?
MS. SHELLY: Sure, I'd be happy to see what else we can get.
Q There have been virtually daily shoot-outs now in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The ones in Gaza have almost all been between Israeli forces and Palestinian security forces. Any comment on that, an assessment of the situation?
MS. SHELLY: I think that you know we don't say a lot about the specific incidents of violence. We certainly condemn violence in all of the different ways that it's manifested there. We certainly are aware of the fact that it represents some frustrations on the ground, but I think that we also go back to the point that we feel there is a very strong commitment to the success of the peace process.
We continue to have contacts with the parties in this regard. I think everyone recognized -- we recognize and certainly the parties do - - that this process was never going to be an easy one. Even in the face of the incidents which do continue and obviously can have an adverse effect on the environment, we still feel that the parties involved are committed to implementing the agreements they have reached. That's what the process is about.
It's also very important, against the backdrop of the incidents of this type, that things can be done -- whatever can be done to try to improve the atmosphere and to show the positive benefits associated with the changing situation, we need to emphasize as much as possible. We know it's going to be a long process, a difficult process; but again, we see the same degree of commitment to peace in the region and to implementing the commitments that have been made.
Q A related matter, Christine. The Israeli Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, said today that while they would not start any new settlements, their policy was that they could "thicken" existing settlements. What is our view of that policy?
MS. SHELLY: I haven't seen that specific remark. I think that I will look at that before saying anything further. Our overall policy on settlements, of course, is unchanged. Certainly as to the Israeli position, it's up to them to characterize it.
Q "The policy is an impediment to peace." Is that -- you all keep saying -- I forget what your policy on settlements is.
MS. SHELLY: Sid, you've been covering the State Department for a long time. Is this a convenient lapse in memory or what? Is this a tactical approach here? It's not a trap?
Q Just whisper it in his ear. (Laughter)
MS. SHELLY: Good suggestion. I'm going to try not to fall into that trap.
Q Haiti: Last night was the deadline for repatriation. Can you say how many Haitians at Guantanamo declined the opportunity and what will be done with them now?
MS. SHELLY: I've got a little bit on this for you today. As of the end of yesterday, some 665 Haitians had signed up for voluntary return in response to the statement and offer of December 29. Five hundred fifty-eight of these have already left Guantanamo and have returned to Haiti. The remaining group of 107 will leave Guantanamo today and arrive in Haiti tomorrow.
Haitians had until midnight last night, as you mentioned, to sign up for the voluntary return and to benefit from the additional repatriation grant and access to the jobs program. Those who have not volunteered will be required to return to Haiti. This process will begin this afternoon.
Anyone who comes forward to say that he or she cannot return to Haiti in safety will have their concerns heard by Immigration and Naturalization Service officers. An evaluation will be made whether that specific person needs to remain in safehaven longer. Those who are found not to need further safehaven status will be returned to Haiti.
We continue to believe that with the removal of the coup leaders, with the restoration of democracy and the improved security situation throughout the country, there would be few people, if any, who could not return to Haiti in safety.
Q How many is that?
MS. SHELLY: There are at this point 3,908 Haitian migrants remaining at Guantanamo.
Q Why do you suppose so many of them didn't take this offer then, given that they must have known that they'd be sent back anyway?
MS. SHELLY: I think it's really very hard to know, and I think the motives are not necessarily uniform ones. I think it's certainly possible that some held out the hope, albeit a slim one, of getting to the United States; and as I've said already, that's not a possibility.
Perhaps some also hope that there might be additional amounts of money offered to help them with their return. I'm not aware of any plan in that regard, and there may be others who have a variety of different reasons. I think it's hard to tell. But we certainly are trying to proceed in this in a way which shows as much sensitivity to the concerns of those who are still there as possible. That's why we did establish a process whereby people who felt that they still had concerns for their own safety would have the opportunity to express those and to have those concerns heard by INS officers, and that would then permit evaluations regarding whether or not they could stay longer in safehavens.
Q Would these people, perhaps now realizing that they're between a rock and a hard place -- has the situation been calm at Guantanamo? Has there been any trouble?
MS. SHELLY: To my knowledge, the situation has remained calm.
Q When you say they'll be required to go back, can you anticipate that it might be necessary that force be used? How are you going to return someone who does not want to be returned? Actually pick them up physically and put them on a boat, or how will it be done?
MS. SHELLY: They have been told for a long time that they were going to be returned. It was explained in the statement that was made to them in late December exactly what the situation was and giving them the opportunity to avail themselves of some additional assistance -- financial assistance involving their repatriation.
I would note that those who are returned involuntarily do receive a standard repatriation assistance grant of 40 Haitian dollars. That's something that those who are returned will continue to get.
But as we have not been faced with the situation yet of refusals, I think for me to go farther than that into the modalities of how that's going to be done crosses the line into the hypothetical, because that's not where we are.
But it's certainly my impression, based on contacts with colleagues who are more familiar with the situation down there, that there is a pretty wide understanding that they will be returning, even though there's some hope of having some other option probably still present in the minds of some.
Q When will the forcible repatriation start?
MS. SHELLY: We're not referring to them as "forcible repatriations." We hope that it's not going to be necessary to use force with those who have not opted for this last offer. We hope that it won't be necessary to do that. But I'm told that there could be movement of some of the first groups of people out sometime this afternoon.
Q A different topic?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Follow-up on that topic. Did I understand you to say that those who are returned involuntarily will get the same offer?
MS. SHELLY: No.
Q Oh, I'm sorry. Okay.
MS. SHELLY: Those who have returned from Guantanamo have been eligible to get what is called the standard repatriation assistance grant, which is simply to help them with some of their start-up expenses on returning.
Q I just misheard you. The others will -- that deal is over. They will not get that.
MS. SHELLY: For those who had signed up after the December 29 announcement, they were benefiting from a repatriation grant of $200 Haitian dollars, as well as the access to the job programs in Haiti.
Q Holbrooke was in Cyprus. He met with Clerides on the Greek side and Denktash on the Turkish side. What did they talk about exactly, and there's this, you know, talk about a new effort on the part of the U.S. to resolve the Cyprus question. Can you comment on this new effort?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot of details for you today. I think you're probably aware that the White House put out an announcement earlier today on the appointment of Richard Beattie as Special Presidential Emissary for Cyprus. There is a White House announcement on that, and we have that in the Press Office here and we can certainly make that available to you.
I can just mention very quickly -- he is also involved in travel to the region on January 22, and he is going to be involved in promoting efforts to facilitate an agreement which would lead to a bi-zonal, bi- communal Federation formed by the two communities. He will convey to all the parties involved in the Cyprus dispute the President's determination to work toward a solution to the division of Cyprus.
State Department Assistant Secretary Holbrooke has also, as you mentioned, traveled to the region. That had been his first trip to that part of the region falling in his responsibility since he became Assistant Secretary. He went out there for an orientation trip, to meet with the key leaders and to also evaluate where we should go from here. I think he wanted to get some first-hand views on this, and he obviously also will be working very closely with the Presidential Emissary.
I don't have a lot of other details on this at this point. It certainly is our hope that the dispute can come to an end. The appointment of someone who is a very distinguished New York lawyer we think can also bring a very positive energy to our efforts to try to bring the conflict to an end, and we certainly will keep you posted as this effort unfolds.
Q May I follow up on that, because the State Department already has a Special Coordinator for Cyprus -- Williams, right?
MS. SHELLY: We also have had support here in the State Department for the efforts to find a solution to the Cyprus dispute. I don't think Mr. Williams' continuation here is affected, but let me check on that in particular.
Q I'd like to come to the Korean peninsula. The South Korean President Kim Young Sam got an invitation from President Clinton, and he expects to arrive here in June of this year. At this time you don't have any schedule project to invite North Korean Kim Jong-II to make them shake hands together? The major reason why I ask this question is that you know in 1993, September, Arafat and Rabin shook hands at the time, so you don't have any schedule? I should have asked this question to White House Spokesman, but, as you know, he's absent. (Laughter)
MS. SHELLY: Yes. But there's going to be a White House Spokesman in short order, and it really is up to the White House to comment on invitations of that type. So I'm afraid that I really can't help you on that.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Thanks.
(The briefing concluded at 1:23 p.m.)
(###)To the top of this page