U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING FEBRUARY 10, 1995 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, February 10, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Briefing on Foreign Ministers Meeting ............1-2 East Jerusalem--Visit by EU officials ............8-9 Visit by Russian Middle East Expert to Region ....9 Report of U.S./Palestinian Free Trade ............9 Report of Yasir Arafat Letter to U.S. ............9 Shimon Peres Photo-op on 2/8 .....................10 ARGENTINA Presentation of Argentina's Accession to NPT .....2 MEXICO Discovery of Arms Cache/Arrest Warrants for Rebels .........................................2-4 Secretary Christopher/FM Gurria Telecon ..........2 Progress on Judicial/Electoral Reforms ...........2-3 Chiapas Conflict .................................3-5 Presentation of Credentials Ambassador to U.S. Jesus Silva Herzog ..........5 TERRORISM Extension of Airline Alert to Africa and Europe ..5-7 Report of Arrest of Abu-Nidal Member .............11 Reward for Information Leading to Yusuf Arrest ...12 BOSNIA/CROATIA Possibility of U.S. Assistance in UNPROFOR Withdrawal from Croatia ........................7 Report of President Tudjman's Proposal re: Replacement of UNPROFOR w/NATO Troops ..........7-8 IRAQ Visit by Iraqi FM to Turkey/ Turkish/Iraqi Relations ........................9 CUBA Review of Senator Helms' Proposed Legislation re: Tightening of Sanctions ........................10 TURKEY/GREECE U.S. Position on Turkey/EU Customs Union .........10-11 CHINA Report Building of Structures on Spratly Islands .11 Report of Delivery of Russian Diesel-Powered Sub .11 NORTH KOREA Military Liaison Offices at Panmumjom ............11-12
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 1995, 12:57 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Our briefing on this weekend's Middle East-related events will take place later this afternoon. I still don't have the time, but we will let you know as soon as a time has been fixed.
MS. SHELLY: I don't know yet.
Q (Inaudible) questions about it so we can get something on the record?
MS. SHELLY: You can ask me, Sid, but I'm not going to move the ball on it since we are going to have a briefing on it, so the transcript will show that you guys asked questions and that I didn't do answers.
I recognize how frustrating that is. I know several of you came over here hoping this would be done in connection with the Noon Briefing. We're simply not ready to go yet on that. I regret any inconvenience that may have caused any of you; but as soon as I know what time we're going to brief on it, I will certainly let you know right away. We'll give you at least 45 minutes to an hour advance notice -- at least 45 minutes before we will do it.
So for those of you who might wish to leave, you will have a chance to get back.
Q Can you say possibly close to 3-4-5-6:00 or something?
MS. SHELLY: I can't. I don't know. I honestly don't know. Let me begin --
Q Do you have anything on logistics, unrelated to the substance of --
MS. SHELLY: Absolutely zip. I have so little that I wouldn't even open my book to come up with anything.
Let me begin with an announcement, if I can, on another subject.
Earlier this morning, at a ceremony in the Treaty Room of the Department of State, Argentina's Deputy Foreign Minister, Ambassador Fernando Petrella, presented his country's instrument of accession to the NPT.
Today's accession is a tribute to the policies of the Government of Argentina and President Menem. By becoming the 171st party to the NPT, Argentina has brought the Treaty one important step closer to the goal of universality.
I'll be happy to take your questions on this or other subjects.
Q On Mexico, does President Zedillo's announcement last night change anything between the United States and Mexico?
MS. SHELLY: I trust you have seen the statement that we put out this morning on this?
Q It didn't say very much.
MS. SHELLY: George, it was almost an entire page of statement.
Q Mostly quoting from Zedillo. (Laughter)
Q What do you think?
MS. SHELLY: Our information on this, in terms of what happened, obviously, does come from Mexican authorities.
Foreign Minister Gurria called the Secretary to apprise him of the substance of President Zedillo's speech at approximately the same time that this speech was being delivered. He has said that he'll be providing the relevant information to the special session of Congress. We expect that the evidence will be presented in due course through the appropriate legal process.
In specific response to your question, I expect that our relationship with Mexico will go forward in the same way that it has been proceeding. We, of course, are very mindful of the commitment by President Zedillo to introduce very important reform aspects to their justice system, electoral process -- all of those things.
He's had a very strong record so far this year in areas that we think represent his determination and his courageous leadership on a wide range of political issues. He has laid out his agenda in his inaugural address, ranging from what, in the end, I think will be a near-total transformation of the Mexican judicial system, and obviously his commitment and his focus on the effort to correct inequities in the electoral process.
We think he's made good progress on this in the amendments and legislation which he has introduced, and we certainly look forward to seeing the process to reform their judicial system underway.
Q Can I just follow up?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q The State Department has said in the past that we believe there's only a peaceful solution to the Chiapas situation, and yet the Mexican Government seems to be using the discovery of a couple of arms caches as a reason to crack down on the entire leadership of the EZLN. With the evidence that we have, do we support that kind of expansion of this action?
And, secondly, could you comment on the concerns expressed by America's Watch about the possible violations of human rights in this current action?
MS. SHELLY: In the statement that we put out, I think we've addressed the second point on that because we have very specifically said that while the governments have the right and responsibility to protect their citizens against violence, at the same time they must also respect their human rights.
Q But you don't have any independent evidence about violations of human rights, or anything like that at this point?
MS. SHELLY: The general situation on human rights, of course, was articulated very recently in our human rights report.
The new development is obviously what President Zedillo announced yesterday in his speech. As I said, we have had the substance of what was in that speech conveyed to the Secretary yesterday. The information that we have, we understand, comes from the Mexican authorities; and they have a process in place which will then evaluate that information and then make any judgments about the actions in question that were taken last night.
We don't have, from where we sit now, any kind of independent information which would enable us to make a judgment that would be at odds with the Mexican Government at this point. It's obviously something that we're interested in and will watch, but we're not in a position at this point to make any kind of independent judgment.
Q How come when Russia bombs the crud out of Chechnya, you say it's an internal affair; but when Mexico takes sort of similar steps to quell unrest in their country, you issue statements and have pages of prepared guidance on it?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, I'm not going to develop this as a country comparison. I think that we have made very clear statements about how we felt about what was going on in Chechnya. The most recent example of that was obviously the open testimony by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott which took place yesterday. I think that was certainly a very, very clear and consistent statement with what we said on Chechnya before; but I don't want to do this as a country comparison.
Q Is what's going on Mexico an internal Mexican affair?
MS. SHELLY: Chiapas is certainly a part of Mexico. It is an area of the country where there have obviously been disturbances and some very severe social problems. I think that the government is certainly trying to deal with those problems, as I think you know. In the aftermath of the cease-fire, which went into effect in 1994, there had not been a resumption of violence or military-rebel confrontations. There had been some progress on the political side early this year. The Government and the rebel representatives met on January 15 of this year, as I think you know, for the first time in a number of months. And both sides in the aftermath of that meeting had characterized it as a positive exchange in the search for a solution to the problems.
The Mexican Government is aware of the fact that there are problems and they're working on it.
Q You can't say it's an internal Mexican affair?
MS. SHELLY: I don't think I need to make the determination of that. Chiapas is part of Mexico, and there are problems in the area. We had things that we wanted to say about it, and that's why we put out a statement this morning.
Q Christine, a new uprising in Chiapas, would that bring more political instability to the country?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry. "Would a new uprising" --
Q Uprising in Chiapas.
MS. SHELLY: -- "in Chiapas" bring what?
Q Will that bring new or more political instability in the country -- in the whole country?
MS. SHELLY: That's getting into the speculative domain. It hasn't happened so far. The new events on this are those which were announced by the Mexican President last night on which we were also informed. Since the other types of things have not occurred as of this point, that's really a hypothetical.
Q This morning -- just to follow up, Christine -- this morning, the new Ambassador of Mexico, Silva Herzog, he presented his credentials to Secretary Warren Christopher. He gave him the whole picture of what's going on. Was there any official response to that?
MS. SHELLY: I will check on that. I think he was actually received this morning by the Deputy Secretary, Strobe Talbott, to present his credentials. I don't know whether that was simply the formal act or whether there was any substantive exchange, but let me check on that and see if I can get any kind of readout on that.
Q A subject change?
MS. SHELLY: Sure.
Q The bomb threat against U.S. airlines in Africa, Europe, and Asia. Can you elaborate on that and, specifically on any link with the World Trade bombing suspect?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot that I can really add to what's happened so far. You know there was the public announcement on this indicating that we had tightened airline security measures to Europe and Africa.
The information uncovered in the on-going investigation into the terrorist threat in the Asia-Pacific region indicates that the threat may extend to Europe and Africa. The information is deemed to be credible, but it's non- specific.
The FAA therefore has directed that all U.S. air carriers in those regions should implement special security measures that the FAA believes are sufficient to counter the threat.
On the specific point about the connection to the World Trade Center bombing, as you know, the investigation into the threat is on-going. While that is still underway, I'm not going to be able to speculate further about connections or linkages or motives.
Q Is there any suggestion that this was aimed primarily at a cargo aircraft rather than passenger?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I don't have specific details on that. I simply know that in the notice we put out, the cargo categories were added to the list of things on which measures would be taken, but I don't have any more precise details.
Q Was the investigation in the Philippines?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry.
Q Was it in the Philippines, the investigation? You said the Asia-Pacific Region. Can we narrow it down to the Philippines?
MS. SHELLY: I would not be more specific on that without checking.
Q Does the advisory extend to the Middle East as well, Christine?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry.
Q Does the advisory extend to the Middle East as well?
MS. SHELLY: Not specifically that I'm aware of. My understanding is that it still is in effect for the Asia- Pacific Region and Europe and Africa were added.
Q Are these security steps ones that passengers would notice? I mean, will we be seeing the kind of enhanced security that existed during the Gulf War in European airports?
MS. SHELLY: I think there was some information that was put out, and I think in greater detail by the FAA, about the types of -- at least some of the types of measures. And I think what they were trying to do is balance the requirements, obviously, for some -- certainly some public need to know and be aware of the fact that there obviously would be some inconvenience caused by delays. But, also with the need, obviously, to be able to conduct some of their safety and security measures more quietly.
On specific things on that, it was apparent at the time that the measures were introduced for the Asia-Pacific Region to the passengers at that time, what some of those measures were -- not necessarily what all of those measures might have been.
I'm not aware of any distinction in terms of types of measures at this point that's being drawn between the different geographic regions. I'll check and see if there is anything, but my guess is that it will be generally the same types of procedures that are already in effect for the East Asia-Pacific Region.
Q On Yugoslavia, is the United States prepared to help peacekeepers withdraw from Croatia?
MS. SHELLY: Let me check on that. I don't have anything on that. I think we have talked about that publicly already, but I'd like to check on that point before answering.
Q It would be something along the lines of what you had said you would do in Bosnia.
MS. SHELLY: I would think that as a general response, that it would be likely that the same types of arrangements would apply, but let me check and see specifically what the state of planning regarding the Croatian UNPROFOR withdrawal is.
Q What about the suggestion from the Croatian President that NATO troops should replace UNPROFOR troops -- a smaller number?
MS. SHELLY: I haven't seen that. Did he say that was in the last day or so?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry, I missed that, and I don't have any guidance on that. I wasn't aware that he had put that forward as a proposal, so let me check on that.
Q Christine, as a matter of philosophy, though, beyond that, would it be possible under NATO rules or by- laws for NATO to actually put troops in an enforcement position along some second party's border?
MS. SHELLY: It strikes me -- and again I don't have a prepared answer on this, but it strikes me that it's almost a sort of theoretical exercise simply in that many of the NATO countries are, of course, already participating through UNPROFOR. And, I'm not sure what the utility of their simply changing hats would be in the context of having a troop presence.
I'm not sure that there's anything which would prevent NATO from doing something like that in the event that there were a decision in the NATO Council to do so. But frankly, the umbrella under which NATO forces individually or collectively might be there, it's hard for me to imagine that one umbrella is really going to be significantly different than another.
I mean, the UNPROFOR umbrella is what's there, and actually when they started up the UNPROFOR headquarters, they also took a skeletal structure from a headquarters in NATO which was my understanding in the process of being closed. So there was a nucleus from NATO which helped to get the UNPROFOR structure stood up.
But thinking it through, it's hard for me to imagine that the NATO umbrella would offer anything different than the UNPROFOR one does.
Q It doesn't really have a history of having done this, does it, in its existence?
MS. SHELLY: No. Certainly not that I'm aware of.
Q Protecting a specific border.
MS. SHELLY: Certainly not that I'm aware of.
Q Christine, do you have -- will you comment on the visit to Orient House in East Jerusalem of the three European Union officials -- ministers?
MS. SHELLY: I was already asked that earlier in the week.
Q What's the overview on this? What's the result?
MS. SHELLY: At that particular time, other than noting that the visit in fact had taken place, I chose not to make a specific comment on it. That's still where I am today.
MS. SHELLY: I said that I didn't wish to comment on it in specificity.
Q Didn't wish to comment on it. All right. What about the Russian experts -- Russian Middle East expert visiting the Middle East area under negotiation?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any comment on that.
Q No comment on that either.
MS. SHELLY: Right. I'm not moving the ball, in case it's not already apparent from my earlier remarks, on Middle Eastern subjects since we're having a briefing on that.
Q Is it fair to -- is it right to understand that the United States will have a free trade operation with the Palestinian authority?
MS. SHELLY: If you're referring to some of the issues --
Q The Brown visit.
MS. SHELLY: -- some of the issues that came up during Ron Brown's visit, again it's a jurisdictional question. You should direct that to the Commerce Department.
Q Do you have any comment on the visit of the Iraqi Foreign Minister to Turkey and the warm-up in the relations between Turkey and Iraq?
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't have any comment on that. I'll check and see if there's anything that anyone in this building would like to say.
Q Before we leave the Middle East, Yasser Arafat said he sent a letter to the United States, asking to pressure Israel to open up the closure. Can you confirm that that letter has arrived? I would suppose it went to the Secretary. Do you have any comment on it?
MS. SHELLY: I can't confirm that the letter has arrived or not. Therefore, I don't have any comment, but I'll be happy to check.
Q Before we depart the Middle East again, would you be open to a question regarding the photo op with Shimon Peres the day before yesterday at this time, or would you like to defer that?
MS. SHELLY: It's hard for me to imagine that I'm going to engage on that in any significant way.
Q At this time. Then can you tell us who will be briefing this afternoon?
MS. SHELLY: It's probably an official who is well known to you, and that would be my guess, who I don't need to name, since especially I don't know what the terms of the briefing will be. But I don't think the individual in question, in any case, would come as a surprise to you.
Q There's no question that the meeting will take place on Sunday, though, is there?
MS. SHELLY: Certainly not to my knowledge.
Q Now that you've had a chance to study the legislation proposed by Senator Helms on Cuba, you now have a fulsome response in terms of the U.S. reaction, right?
MS. SHELLY: Not yet. (Laughter) I'm told -- although I haven't personally seen it, but I've been asking about this every day since you've been asking about it -- not you necessarily personally -- but I have been asked about it every day, I think, so far this week -- that it's, I think, like 37 pages long. It's pretty long.
We do have it. We are in the process of studying it, but we haven't finished studying it. So, until we finish, I don't have an official reaction on it.
Q What page are you up to? (Laughter)
MS. SHELLY: I'm not even on Page 1, but I assume other people in this building have been all the way through. I assume they've read it, and that we will have more to say.
MS. SHELLY: Not necessarily.
Q Yesterday, Greek Government announced that Greece will veto Turkey's Customs Union membership. Does the Administration have any views on that?
MS. SHELLY: We've seen the report. Our general position is that we believe that a Customs Union between Turkey and the EU would be mutually beneficial. We hope Greece and the rest of the EU will be able to resolve their differences on this issue.
Q That's it?
MS. SHELLY: That's it. I had something.
Q Chinese authorities have built new structures on the Spratly Islands. Could you tell me what the position of the United States is on that?
MS. SHELLY: I have not seen the report, so I'm going to have to do that as a taken question.
Q And to follow, the Russians have delivered the first diesel-powered modern technology submarine to the Chinese. Does the U.S. Government have a reaction to that event?
MS. SHELLY: I'll check.
Q May I go back to Orient House, please. Do you feel that the visit to Orient House is helpful or unhelpful to the process of the negotiation process?
MS. SHELLY: I already told you I'm not going to do questions on the Middle East that touch on issues which are obviously also going to be discussed this coming weekend. We're having a briefing on this later today. If you want to just ask your questions, that's fine, but I'm not going to get engaged in any kind of meaningful way in the answers. I'll just continue to repeat that as the questions come up.
Q File this one then under terrorism and not Middle East. Believe it or not, Lebanese authorities reportedly have arrested the chief hit men for Abu Nidal's group. Do you have any knowledge of that comment on that, and would you know if he's on any U.S. wanted list?
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to have to check this. I had not seen that information this morning.
Q It was reported in Seoul that North Korea asked for the U.S. to establish the military liaison office at Panmunjom to discuss the peace treaty between U.S. and North Korea.
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware of that specific request. As far as I know, our presence there is still functioning through the Military Armistice Commission. I'll check and see if any kind of request along that line has come in. I'm not absolutely sure we would take the lead in answering it, and I know of no change in our position regarding our participation in the Military Armistice Commission for the purposes for which it was established.
Q About the arrest of Mr. Yusuf. I hope that's the correct pronunciation. Is there going to be a reward or do you have any more details about that and specifically about reward?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any more details on that. One of the features of the reward program is that in many cases, if not most or even all, an element of confidentiality is usually involved. My understanding is that we probably will not have more that we will say on that particular point.
Q Are the State Department and other agencies of this federal government finding his witness useful insofar as counter-terrorist information?
MS. SHELLY: What do you think the chances are that I'm going to answer that question? (Laughter)
Q Based on the responses today, I would say nil.
MS. SHELLY: I'd say next to nothing is about right. (Laughter)
Q Netanyahu and Arens have been here this past week in competition with Mr. Peres. They've been circulating on the Hill. They've been circulating on all of the talk shows. And their message is very, very clear that they don't believe in the peace process; they want to basically undermine it. Do you have any comment on the fact that the leading opposition in Israel is now circulating widely here and trying to undermine the peace process?
MS. SHELLY: Because of the fact that I have taken this off the plate, I'm simply going to keep it off the plate. And it's not because it might not be a good idea to make a comment, but because I'm simply for consistency's sake not going to engage.
Any other subjects?
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Thanks.
(The briefing concluded at 1:22 p.m.)
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