U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING JANUARY 17, 1995 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, January 17, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly ANNOUNCEMENTS Cuba Migration Talks--Next Round ..................1 Compliance with September Agreement .............9 State Department Working Group--Japan Earthquake ..1 JAPAN Kobe Earthquake Offer/Possibility of U.S. Assistance ............2-3 Number of U.S. Companies in Region ..............3 MIDDLE EAST PEACE Congressman Newt Gingrich Remarks re: Relocation of U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv ........4 U.S. Congressional Support for Peace Process ......4-5 Israeli Settlements ...............................5 Report on Resumption of Syria/Israeli Talks .......9 IRAQ Reports of U.S. Trade Delegation in Baghdad .......6 GREECE/TURKEY Reports of Alleged Training of PKK in Greece ......6 U.S. Definition of Kurdish People .................7 DEPARTMENT Request for Itinerary/Briefing re: DS Talbott Trip to EAP Region ...................7 TERRORISM Threat to U.S. Airline Flights in East Asia Region ..........................................8-9 CUBA Expansion of Legal Migration Lottery ..............9 Numbers of Cubans from Guantanamo/Panama Parolled/Medically Evacuated to U.S. ............10,12 Number of Cubans Voluntarily Returned to Cuba .....10 Number of Unauthorized Returns to Cuba ............10 RUSSIA Chechnya Conflict--Update on Fighting .............10-11 MEXICO Secretary Christopher/Mexican Foreign Secretary Mtg .............................................11-12 NORTH KOREA Kedo Talks ........................................12-13
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JANUARY 17, 1995, 1:01 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin with two brief announcements.
The first is on Cuba and migration talks. I'd like to report that the next round of migration talks with Cuba will take place January l8 and l9 in New York. The purpose of the talks is to review progress toward implementation of the September 9 Migration Accord.
This is the second review session, the first having been held in Havana in October. The U.S. delegation will be led by Dennis Hays, Coordinator for Cuban Affairs, Department of State.
I thought you might also like to know -- get a brief update on the State Department's role related to the developments in the earthquake in Japan. I just wanted to draw to your attention that we have actually activated a Working Group. We did this yesterday evening. It became operational in the very late hours of last night.
The Group reconvened again this morning at approximately 6:00 a.m., and they're fielding calls from private American citizens wishing to obtain information on American-citizen family members who are in the Kobe district.
At this time the U.S. Consulate in Osaka-Kobe has not formally activated the warden system as telephone service in the region is not reliable. The U.S. Consulate and the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo are continuing to monitor the situation and will provide the Department with updated information on the welfare of American citizens in the Osaka- Kobe district.
To initiate a request for information on the welfare of a private American citizen in the Kobe district, callers may direct their calls to 202-647-0900. Those calling about members of the U.S. military should call the Department of Defense at 703-697-5737.
At this time there are no reports of American-citizen casualties. We do estimate that there are several thousand private U.S. citizens in the Osaka-Kobe district.
I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q Do you have anything to say about offers of assistance to the Japanese Government?
MS. SHELLY: I think there will probably be some more on this later today. Ambassador Mondale told the Japanese Government on the President's behalf that the U.S. stands ready to help in any way that Japan wishes. The Japanese appreciated the President's offer and his expression of concern. They have not yet made any specific request for assistance that I'm aware of, but I would refer you to the White House for information about what FEMA might do.
I think the President, during a speech that he has scheduled -- it may even be under way at this point -- he may also be making reference to the situation in Japan, and the possibility of U.S. assistance should it be requested; but we'll certainly keep you up-to-date on any new developments.
Q Why FEMA and not OFDA?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I don't have an answer to that, but I'll see if we can get one.
Q Has he released the $25,000 discretionary fund?
MS. SHELLY: I'm of the impression that that was a distinct possibility, but I don't have a formal announcement on that yet. I think that is a good possibility.
Q What's the motivation for providing aid to Japan? It's obviously not a poor country. Is it a gesture of support for an ally or --
MS. SHELLY: I don't think the issue is, as you point out, a financial issue. This is obviously a catastrophe and has a very real disaster component to it. The Japanese certainly have a lot of expertise within their own country for dealing with this type of problem, but obviously the magnitude in question and the number of casualties apparent certainly would suggest that Japanese authorities might well have their hands full and might wish to seek some additional outside expert help in getting on top of the full range of their problems.
So it's not a financial issue. I think it's more an issue of whether or not they, through the abilities that they have and the manpower that they have, can adequately respond to all of the challenges that they clearly are facing.
Q I assume the Embassy is offering help to American companies who may be in that region. Do you have any idea of approximately how many companies there are and who might have offices situated in that area?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I'll try to see if we can provide some more information on that. Certainly that would be an important component of what the Embassy would be doing in the aftermath of this kind of disaster.
We know from, of course, some of the media reporting that the communication network is very difficult right now and so I don't have a lot of details on that issue to report, but I'll see if we can provide some more information later.
Q And what's the state of the U.S. Consulate there? Are the buildings okay; the people are all right?
MS. SHELLY: I have not seen any indication that either any of the official American community or any of the structures have had specific injuries of consequence. That's obviously something that we will keep an eye on, but I'm not aware of any reports regarding any problems in those areas.
Q Also, the TV people would like to get pictures upstairs of these phone calls being fielded.
MS. SHELLY: Okay. Let me see what I can do.
Q Has anybody been dispatched down there, either from our Embassy in Tokyo or from any of the military bases to further assess the situation?
MS. SHELLY: It's a little bit too early, I think, for me to know that. Certainly our Embassy personnel and Consulate personnel will be doing whatever they feel is appropriate at this juncture. I think anything regarding any of the U.S. forces there, or any way in which they might possibly assist, I think would be up to the Pentagon to say.
Q Christine, if we can go to another area?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q Do you have any comment or reaction to the statement or the call by Representative Newt Gingrich, who's the Speaker of the House, for moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, we've certainly seen the remarks; we're aware of them. It's a very sensitive issue, as you know, and the President has made it very clear that we will not undertake any action that could complicate the peace negotiations between the parties.
Q And Mr. Gingrich also has expressed his opposition to any deployment of U.S. peace-keeping forces on the Golan Heights if an agreement was reached between Syria and Israel. Do you have also a comment on that issue?
MS. SHELLY: We are aware of his views on the issue, but insofar as the issue has not yet arisen, it certainly is, I think, premature to get involved in any further statement on our part.
Q Do you have any assessment of such statements coming from the Republican leadership that looks like they -- there is an attempt to scuttle or postpone or delay or even sabotage the peace process by such statements at a sensitive time when there are talks between the parties which are culminating in some agreements and possibly further discussion? Are you aware of this?
Are you -- if not sensitive, as much as are you concerned about such a barrage of statements when after all they're coming from the Republican leadership now?
MS. SHELLY: Let me just make a general point, or maybe a specific point first.
We certainly watch with great interest any of the statements which are made by members of Congress that touch upon any of the foreign policy issues that we are actively working here. So it is something, of course, that we pay attention to. But we have also been, I think, very selective about deciding whether or not we wish to comment on unspecific statements or on their implications.
On this one, I think that we don't feel the need to make a specific comment on particular remarks that he may have made.
I would say, though, generally, the Middle East is an area where I think we firmly believe that we have enjoyed a strong bipartisan support for the Administration's policy. Tremendous progress has been made.
We have, throughout the course of the last couple of years, been, I think, extremely meticulous in providing up- to-date briefings to members of Congress, certainly on the Republican and Democratic side. We expect those consultations to continue. Certainly, every bit as much with the Republicans since they do obviously occupy positions of key leadership now. But we certainly very strongly believe that there is a good foundation for bipartisan support as we pursue the Middle East peace process.
Q You spoke about expanding the settlements in the West Bank before. There is continuous process, and it is generating a lot of tension and fights and in-fights and wounding and killing between Palestinians and Israelis. Would you have to address -- and if you are calling on the Rabin government to do something about that, to stop the settlements expansion in contravention with the agreements which were signed by the Israelis and the Palestinians?
MS. SHELLY: I think you've taken a little bit of latitude regarding what I've said about settlements. I did address this last week. I indicated that they were a problem, but we also normally decline to get into any degree of specificity about the exchanges that we do have on this and on most of the other peace process issues.
Our position is, I think, well known; it's unchanged. We say that they are a problem. I said so last week, and I think that's about as far as I want to take it.
Q You really didn't answer the first question about the proposal to move the Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
MS. SHELLY: I think I did.
Q No. You just said you won't take any action that would complicate the peace process.
MS. SHELLY: Right. The President has made it very clear that we will not undertake any action that would complicate the negotiations between the parties.
Q Well, that's a given, but what does that have to say about the Embassy?
MS. SHELLY: I think it's implicit what that has to say about the Embassy.
Q You didn't answer, you implied.
Q I have a question on Iraq. Are you aware of reports that there's an American trade delegation in Baghdad now?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not.
Q Can we get something on that?
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I will certainly look into that.
Q Another subject, in the area. Turkish security forces, last weekend they captured several PKK terrorist leaders. They openly admit -- they said that they were trained inside of Greece. As a NATO alliance, did you urge Greece not to do this kind of hostile training or something like that against another NATO alliance?
MS. SHELLY: I haven't seen the specific reports, so I'll want to check on it and see if there's anything -- after looking at that, to see if there's anything we'd want to say.
Again, we did take up this issue, generally, about what we had to say at that point last week on PKK.
As to the information that we have, along the lines of the types of allegations that you describe, it's also certainly my impression -- knowing what I know about this issue -- the information we might have would probably come from intelligence sources. So therefore we probably would not be able to say very much. In any case, even if we had information to that effect and if we were pursuing any exchanges on it through diplomatic channels, it's highly unlikely it would be the type of thing that we would say anything about publicly.
Q Another point is the Syrian Government -- this last weekend, they offered a PKK leader for one water agreement with Turkey. Did you see this kind of report, or do you not have it yet?
MS. SHELLY: I haven't seen the report.
Q Can you take it?
MS. SHELLY: I'll check.
Q I have a question on Bangladesh. The on-going democratic process in Bangladesh has been threatened by the resignation of the opposition. What is the present status? How the Administration views that? And will there be any sort of mediation from the U.S. Government side?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything with me on that today. I think a few days ago we did have something. So if I could refer you to the Press Office to see what we had some days back, and then if you want to take a look at that and if that doesn't satisfy your question, we'll see if we can work up something additional to that after the briefing.
Q I was wondering if you have any further remarks on the question which was forwarded to you at least twice last week. It's about the U.S. recognition of Kurds? Do you recognize them as just one of the different ethnic groups in the region or do you recognize them as an identifiable people with common-national aims?
MS. SHELLY: I will look into that again. I have taken the question -- not formally at the briefing. It's not something that we give a kind of off-the-cuff answer to. It's something that we -- to formulate an answer like that, we would carefully vet that within this Department.
I'm simply not an expert on this subject, and I'm not going to take just a stab at it right now, but I'm also not going to hold out an enormous prospect for you that we're going to have a lot specifically to say on that. I think we've said as much as we can on this issue within the last week.
There simply are times when we decide that we don't want to give an exact answer to that question for reasons which touch on other policy issues. So I will give it a kind of final check today, but I don't have anything I wish to say on it at this point.
Q Two Asia specific ones. Thank you.
Q Thank you, my dear. What a gentleman. Did you yet release Strobe Talbott's itinerary to the Asia-Pacific region, supposedly, in the next two weeks from now?
MS. SHELLY: Not that I'm aware of. I'll check and see if we can make a trip announcement for you within the next day or so.
Q Could you repeat my request to try to get him here for a briefing here, please; a single briefing, whatever.
MS. SHELLY: I'll pass that on.
Q Anything new on inspections of possible bomb threats on U.S.- flagged airlines?
MS. SHELLY: I've got a little bit of an update on that. I think you saw the statement that we put out over the weekend on that.
For those of you who may not be aware, on the 14th of January, we put out a new press release, following up on one that we had put out on January 10. The latest one on January 14 provided an update relating to the information which we had received from the Government of the Philippines. It also announced some additional security measures which were put in place to counter the threats.
The additional security measures that we announced in that press release remain in effect.
In response to more detailed information regarding the possible bomb threats against civilian aviation, U.S. airlines and foreign airlines serving the U.S. from East Asia have been directed to operate under additional security measures. This directive stands until further notice.
It is difficult to tell exactly how long they will be necessary, but certainly they will be in place as long as we feel that it is prudent, but certainly not any longer than we feel that they are no longer necessary.
To my knowledge, no flights have actually been cancelled. We feel that the increased security measures are adequate to counter these threats. So it is my understanding that the FAA has not directed any U.S. airline to cancel any flights, although there are reports that several flights have been held on the ground until the new measures could be put into effect.
Q Are these just U.S. airlines? Because I thought the report now was extended to other airlines that fly Americans routinely.
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I believe that these have now also been advised - - the FAA had advised some foreign airlines that do carry passengers to and from the United States of the threats. It's my understanding that the additional security measures are being put in place by those airlines as well.
Q The Pacific region as well or just East Asia?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry?
Q Is this the Pacific region also, or just East Asia?
MS. SHELLY: To my knowledge -- and I'll have to check on that point because I certainly want to make sure it's not wrong -- I think it's still related to the East Asian region.
Q Is it your understanding that Damascus will send their number two man, Mr. Shihabi -- chief of staff, actually -- back to Washington to resume the talks with Israel?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any specific information on that. I think you know as a rule we generally don't offer much in the way of detailed information about the participants in these talks and exactly when they might occur.
Q Can I go back to the issue of Jerusalem? Can you reiterate the earlier position announced by the U.S. Administration? I believe it was that the State Department -- that the future of Jerusalem will be decided in the talks between the Palestinians and Israelis.
MS. SHELLY: I have absolutely nothing to announce in the way of any change from our formerly-articulated Jerusalem policy.
Q On the migration talks, or immigration talks with Cuba. Do you have anything there -- an evaluation of Cuban compliance with the September agreement?
MS. SHELLY: Compliance with the September agreement is obviously something that is part of the discussion up in New York. I think it's our impression that the implementation of the agreement is proceeding well.
We also -- at the time that we had the last set of talks with Cuba -- we also were reviewing the whole situation of the implementation. I think the only thing that's really new is simply that we have gone forward on our side. We've gone forward, as you know, on expanding the lottery to broaden the avenues of legal migration.
As of January 9 -- I should say here, the lottery, by the early January timeframe, we had received 160,000 applications through the lottery which will proceed, as you know, to meet the 20,000-person limit.
As of January 9, l995, there also had been 6,000 migrants who had been approved for the legal migration. The whole question of the implementation on both sides is coming up for review. I think, at this point, I probably cannot go much further until those talks actually take place.
Q Same subject. There have been some reports that the U.S. is about to announce steps to open up some of the restrictions on Cuba. At the same time, there are reports from Cuban-American members of Congress that they would like to tighten up -- are there any non-migration straws in the wind on that?
MS. SHELLY: No, not that I'm aware of. There is a category of Cubans who have been medically evacuated or parolled into the U.S. The latest numbers on those are: 2,283 Cuban migrants have been brought in under the humanitarian parole program or have been medically evacuated to the U.S. This includes those from both Guantanamo and Panama.
If you want me to break those down: It's 812 from Panama, and 1,471 from Guantanamo.
As you know, the program for voluntary return continues. The numbers there are 422 migrants have returned voluntarily from Guantanamo to Cuba through the official channels. Further voluntary returns are expected shortly. It will be one of the issues that is discussed in the U.S.-Cuban migration talks.
There is the issue also of the unauthorized returns. The latest numbers I have on that are 405 Cubans have left either by jumping the fence or swimming from the base into Cuba. I think that's about all I have right now in terms of the numbers update.
Q How many want to go back to Cuba?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know.
Q Is there a waiting list?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I'd have to check on that and see if we have a precise number.
Q Chechnya: The Russian forces, they're starting to bomb villages after Grozny. Do you have any reaction? Do you have any update?
MS. SHELLY: I have very little that I can say on this today. Because, as you know, Secretary Christopher is in Geneva and he's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev. I cannot get into areas that they might be touching upon in their talks.
As to an update on the situation, because that's really about all I'm limited to today, we're aware of the fact that the Russian forces continue to use heavy artillery and aircraft against targets in Grozny. Heavy fighting continues around the Presidential Palace and the train station one might to the south.
We've also seen the reports of fighting in the mountain villages outside of the capital.
We've regularly expressed our concerns, as you know, about the fighting and its impact on the non-combatants. Needless to say, we view the reports of widening violence with concern.
Q Regarding Mexico, could you give us a readout of Secretary Christopher's meeting with the Foreign Minister of Mexico, Gurria, yesterday?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, I just have a little bit I can share on that with you.
Secretary Christopher and Mexican Foreign Secretary Gurria met in the Department on January l6 to discuss the Mexican financial situation, U.S. efforts to assist Mexico, and other bilateral issues.
Secretary Gurria updated Secretary Christopher on the previous day's direct negotiations between the Government of Mexico and representatives of the rebel movement in Chiapas, the first such meeting since May of last year.
Secretary Christopher welcomed the Government of Mexico's commitment to seek a peaceful resolution to the problems in Chiapas.
Q I'd like to follow up, specifically, regarding the devaluation. Do you know if Mexico will be required to offer revenue from its state-owned oil company Pemex?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any details on that.
Q I have one more follow-up. Do you know anything about the move to impose stricter environmental and labor restrictions on the government as a payback for our loan guarantee package?
MS. SHELLY: The exact details of what is in the loan guarantee package and any other details which might be related to the talks under way, there will be announcements which will come on this once those details are finalized; but I'm not going to get into them when they're in the middle of being discussed. So I'm afraid I just can't help you on this one very much today.
Q Who will make the announcement?
MS. SHELLY: I will check. It's possible it's going to come out of the White House, or it's also possible that it might be some other part of the U.S. Government. But I'll check and see. I haven't been tipped off yet that we're getting close to announcements.
Q You said that 6,000 people had been approved to come to this country from Cuba -- to immigrate here.
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q Have any of those people come to this country yet?
MS. SHELLY: Let me check on that as well. I don't have that with me.
Q Christine, David Johnson said last Friday that there would be no State Department readout on the KEDO talks until the South Korean and Japanese delegations had a chance to get home and give their own briefings. Is there any readout at this time on the substance or nature of the talks last week?
MS. SHELLY: Not yet. I don't have anything new on that topic.
Q Will there be at any time?
MS. SHELLY: I'll have to check. The way that the talks ended, they simply didn't end in a way that lent themselves to a big and formal readout at the end.
Generally speaking, the implementation of the agreed framework continues on schedule in all of the different elements. As we also said, the KEDO process is a technical one. It's also going to take some time. It may simply be that we will not have a more formal and more extensive readout than we gave a couple of days ago, but I know there's strong interest and I passed that on to those in the State Department who are involved in this so they're certainly aware of your interest in having more information.
Q The North Koreans have said that they would not accept or that they find unacceptable the fact that South Korean nuclear light- water reactors would be used to be placed in North Korea. Have we discussed this with them at all?
MS. SHELLY: With the North Koreans?
Q With the North Koreans?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a specific answer to that. I think you know from the talks last week that the three delegations confirmed that the light-water reactor project will consist of two light-water reactors based on the Korean standard design, because that design is considered the most viable from all of the different perspectives.
So that's still, I think, where things stand at this point, and I don't have anything beyond that regarding our exchanges with the North Koreans.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Thanks.
(The briefing concluded at l:29 p.m.)
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