U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING FEBRUARY 22, 1995 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, February 22, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly FRANCE French Statement on Expulsion of Americans/ U.S. Release of Statement in Response ............1-3 --U.S./French Relations/Official Contacts ..........2-3 --Previous French/American Expulsions for Spying ...3 DEPARTMENT Press Briefing on America's Desk Concept ...........4 Release of Country-by-Country Foreign Aid Figures ..9 RUSSIA U.S. Talks with Deputy Foreign Minister ............4-5 --Partnership for Peace ............................5 --Nuclear Cooperation with Iran ....................5-8 --North Korean Nuclear Issue .......................5 --Former Yugoslavia--Kozyrev/Milosevic Exchanges ...6-7 U.S. Aid to Russia/Conditioning to Actions Issue....7-8 Report of Russian Spy Facility in Cuba .............8 Report of Visit of Yeltsin Presidential Council . Members to U.S. ..................................9 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Contact Group Proposal/Consideration by Milosevic ..9-12 PAKISTAN Sentencing of Christians on Blasphemy Charges ......11 EUROPE Travel of Assistant Secretary Holbrooke ............11- 12,14-15 HAITI Reports of Purging of Security Forces ..............12-13 Study/Commission on Retention of Haitian Military ..13-14 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Reported Palestinian Proposal for U.S./European Direct Participation in Negotiations w/Israel ....14 LEBANON Report of Military Reinvolvement in Border Fighting w/Israel ................................15
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 1995, 1:18 P. M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. From conversations that I had with many of you earlier today on a subject of intense interest, I know you are all interested in an ON THE RECORD reaction to issues which have been raised in an article which appeared in Le Monde in Paris this morning.
As I'm sure you've also seen from the last few minutes from wire service reporting, the Government of France has just issued a statement on issues which have been raised in the article. We're studying that statement right now. This afternoon we plan to issue a statement ourselves. That will be our formal reaction to the events and the issues which are raised in the article.
For that reason, I'm not going to be in a position to engage on this issue at today's briefing.
Q Will you issue the statement or the White House?
MS. SHELLY: As far as I know, we'll be issuing the statement here.
Q And you'll do it as a piece of paper rather than as a government spokesman standing there --
MS. SHELLY: It is our intention to issue a formal written statement this afternoon which responds to the French statement.
Q -- any message to the French Government, or will this be simultaneous? You'll make a public statement; it will stand as your response.
MS. SHELLY: That will be our response.
Q So they will not have an advance statement from you. What you say is what they will be hearing for the first time, correct?
MS. SHELLY: Mike (McCurry), as you know, this morning over at the White House indicated that we had discussed the issues in our private government channels. I think I'll leave it at that and -- other than signaling that we will put out a statement on this this afternoon.
Q Can you say that the basis of the story is correct?
MS. SHELLY: I can't engage at all.
Q Has the Secretary called Juppe or any other French officials?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have any other details on that to offer at this point.
Q Just to broaden the question a little bit, just the subject of industrial investigations by U.S. Embassies. Is that something that, you know, with the end of the Cold War, that U.S. diplomats are now doing -- investigating business opportunities, for example, in other countries?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, it's the same subject approached by a different way, and at the moment I have to take all of the related issues off the screen.
Q Christine, could we just get some understanding of the thinking that goes with issuing a statement instead of speaking the statement, which, of course, would for one thing provide a picture -- also provide an opportunity to ask questions? Why is the State Department being so furtive about this?
MS. SHELLY: It's not an intention on our part to be furtive, but given that just a very few moments ago the French put out their own public statement on this -- we have had a very quick look at the statement. It was faxed to us. We got it in French. But we would obviously also like to have another few moments to look at it and then to respond in a thoughtful kind of way.
Q I'm not asking about the timetable. Understandably, you'd want to absorb or digest what they have -- I'm wondering why you want to slip a statement under the door instead of standing up or having the Secretary of State or somebody stand up and make this statement?
MS. SHELLY: Well, Barry, this is a --
Q Isn't it of importance?
MS. SHELLY: Yes, the issue is important, and I think the importance which we attach to it will be signaled in our statement.
Q Christine, what would you have said if this hadn't happened at the last moment?
MS. SHELLY: That's engagement. (Laughter)
Q There's been a number of disagreements with the French over the last year or so -- Iraq, now this, a few other things -- Bosnia. How would you characterize the state of U.S.-French relations?
MS. SHELLY: I'm going to decline for the moment to characterize the current state of French relations, because it simply is another way in getting at the same issue. It's simply very, very difficult for me, and at this point I simply can't get into the other issues that touch on our relationship with France.
Q What time are we looking at? Are we looking at, say, three o'clock? Or are we looking at seven o'clock tonight?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a time yet. It certainly will be my hope and my strong desire to put out a statement as early as we can this afternoon.
Q Christine, can you take under advisement the consideration or reconsideration of the possibility of coming back here to the briefing room to do this?
MS. SHELLY: I will certainly take that under advisement and see if there is any interest in my doing that in the building, among those who will probably help me make that decision.
Q I want to move on to a subject -- much more important --
Q Barry, one more quick one. From an historical point of view, can you say whether this type of thing has happened before to U.S. diplomats in France? Has it happened to French diplomats in the United States?
MS. SHELLY: I'll look into that and see what we can say later this afternoon after the statement has come out.
Q I haven't seen the Le Monde report, but just a separate thing. I know the Secretary has called himself the head of the "America Desk" here at the State Department and has talked many times about introducing more economic activity into the State Department's diplomacy here. Can you just tell us broadly how that has changed the nature of diplomacy around the world?
MS. SHELLY: Actually, we're going to have a briefing on that subject in the not-too-distant future. The Secretary is certainly still very firmly committed to the "America's Desk" concept. We will also be, probably within, I'd say, two weeks having a briefing on camera here from this podium. The planning is already in the works, and I don't want to steal my later thunder on this, but in fact we will be prepared to address that subject fairly shortly from this podium at senior levels from this building.
Q Can we talk about the U.S. relationship with Russia, which is on a lot of people's minds today? The Deputy Foreign Minister was here. Could you -- talks apparently are still going on, although Mr. Talbott has left the building.
Can you give us the issues that were covered or being covered in these talks?
MS. SHELLY: I can't give you a lot of detail on that. As you've rightfully pointed out, the talks are continuing. They're expected to run today and also to run into tomorrow. The official host is, of course, Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott. The Russian Deputy Foreign Minister is also having some meetings out of this building as well, but he will be also back in the building tomorrow, I'm told, for some wrap- up meetings.
As those are underway, I can't characterize how they're going so far. I can just tell you that this is another meeting in a series of meetings that we have at a number of different levels in the State Department with Russian counterparts.
These particular talks will cover the full range of issues of concern to the United States and Russia. Some of the issues that they will touch on will include such things as the European security architecture questions, Chechnya, arms control issues, Iran, and certainly a number of other issues in addition to that.
I'll certainly endeavor to get you as full a readout on those talks as I can once they've actually been completed.
Q Would Yugoslavia belong on that list?
MS. SHELLY: I would certainly expect that that would be on the list, yes.
Q Well, okay, we're three-and-a-half hours into the meetings, so -- well, it's nice to have list --
MS. SHELLY: But they're into a set of meetings which were also previously scheduled to run for two full days.
Q But notice, you said you couldn't characterize the talks; that's not what I asked you to do because I figured you'd say that. I just asked you to give us the subjects and you've given us five subjects. I guess I'll be grateful for that.
Q There's been some reporting on this which suggests that the United States is actually going to press Mamedov at this meeting to finally have Russia agree to sign on to the Partnership for Peace document. I'm asking if you can talk a little more specifically than just European architecture. Are you also going to ask him, or have you asked him to give up the nuclear reactor deal with Iran and to back off competing with us on the issue of reactors for North Korea?
MS. SHELLY: On your last point regarding the issues of reactors for North Korea, that is certainly also something I would expect would come up. But our position on that is categorically unchanged. We consider there's only one viable option out there and, as you know, that's one based on the South Korean reactor model. So I certainly wouldn't be at all surprised if the North Korean nuclear issue comes up in some way, but I think not in -- not with respect to the possibility of Russia's being involved in the provision of a reactor model that would by some chance substitute for the South Korean reactor model.
Q My question was quite the opposite. Is the United States going to ask Russia to desist from promoting itself as a potential supplier --
MS. SHELLY: That gets into the substance of the exchanges, and I think we'll have to do that one after the fact. On the issue of Russia's sale of nuclear technology, this is, as I mentioned, on the script. We have made quite clear to Russia, and certainly will continue to at every opportunity, that we are very strongly opposed to all nuclear cooperation with Iran.
The U.S. raised this issue certainly as early as the June 1992 summit. It's been discussed, I think, in virtually every other senior-level exchange that we've had since that time. The Secretary, as you know, also raised that with Foreign Minister Kozyrev in January in Geneva.
So that's still an issue that's out there. I think we've been very public about what our position is on that, and I'm not going to be able to go beyond that by getting into the specific -- or our intentions regarding specific exchanges, except to say that that's still a point that we expect we'll be continuing to make.
Q Now the question of Bosnia. What's the U.S. understanding of what Kozyrev told Milosevic over the last few days when he was in Belgrade?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know how much we would be in a position to say publicly on this. We certainly expect that Bosnia will be coming up, and we will probably hear more about the specific exchange between Milosevic and Kozyrev. You've seen the public statements that were made by the Foreign Minister at that time. We certainly would have liked to have seen a different result out of that meeting, which is, of course, to have Milosevic indicate his willingness to give serious consideration to the Contact Group initiative.
Q Do you think that Kozyrev undercut the Contact Group approach by encouraging Milosevic to hold out for a total lifting of sanctions?
MS. SHELLY: I think that based on what I've seen from the reports and of his statements, and I don't know if I have the full picture on that, he did express some sympathy for Milosevic's position regarding the sanctions relief. I think that I cannot really give a more complete answer to your question until we have a readout on that.
As I think I did mention before, though, the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Kozyrev prior to his making the trip and certainly underscored the importance of there being Contact Group unity and the necessity, even though Foreign Minister Kozyrev was not actually empowered to carry a message on behalf of the Contact Group -- but we hope that everything that he would do would be consistent with what the elements were of the Contact Group initiative.
Q Christine, it's very strange, at least to me. Last week when you told us from here, from the podium about the proposal and that Kozyrev would be going to meet with Milosevic to present it, there was no question about him not representing the Contact Group. Now he comes back out and you all don't like what he told Milosevic, and now you're distancing yourself from Kozyrev and saying he was not an official representative of the Contact Group.
Why is there such a difference between last week and now?
MS. SHELLY: I would like to go back and check the transcripts of exactly what I said at that time because what I recall having said was that we hoped that what he would do would be -- that what he would say and what he would do would reinforce specifically the efforts of the Contact Group. I think that was the terminology that I used. So I don't see the difference as you do between last week and this week.
Q Christine, on the Iran nuclear issue, have you seen the interview in the Washington Times with Speaker Gingrich in which he says that he would favor cutting off all aid to Russia if Russia goes ahead with the Iranian nuclear sale?
MS. SHELLY: I've seen the report of that. As to a specific reaction on that -- on his point about conditioning assistance -- the main purpose of our aid to Russia is to support Russia's transition to a democratic government and to a market economy, which are the key foreign policy objectives of this Administration.
We also have assistance targeted at projects at the highest national security concern to the U.S., which are the issues like nuclear weapons dismantlement, combatting elicit trafficking in nuclear material and power reactor safety.
Conditioning U.S. aid to Russian actions would be counterproductive to accomplishing these objectives.
Q Even on something that you feel so strongly about as the Iranian nuclear deal?
MS. SHELLY: I just addressed the Iranian nuclear deal and how we feel about that, and the opportunities that we are using to make those points very clear to the Russians.
We believe that aid to Russia -- and directed to the specific areas which I've just mentioned -- gives a very compelling case that aid to Russia is in the interest of the United States Government, and that continues to be our position.
I know this is an issue of interest, and particularly in the aftermath of Speaker Gingrich's statements and proposals on this, but we also have testimony taking place on Russian assistance today. Jim Collins is testifying up on the Hill. I think there are one or two other U.S. Government officials.
Other than to give you a kind of quick response on that point, since we are testifying in open session today on that, I'd just as soon let that be the statement of our position, and I can come back to follow-ups on that one tomorrow.
Q Another issue in U.S.-Russia relations is the continued existence of a spy facility maintained by the Russians in Cuba. This has generated some concern on the Hill. Could you say now, or at least take the question, as to whether that issue is being discussed with Strobe Talbott?
MS. SHELLY: I'll check on that. I don't have anything with me on that.
Q By your own chronology, this has been going on since '92 -- registering concern. I guess Gingrich feels that -- I'm not speaking for him -- but it's three years now.
When the Secretary testified last week, he did speak of, as you do, the need of being in the U.S. interest, in fact, to provide economic assistance. But he also spoke of looking at the aid issue again. He said he was deeply concerned.
Are you saying that all the aid to Russia falls in the category of -- of course, there's Nunn-Lugar -- but falls in the category of promoting economic and political reform and therefore is sacrosanct? There's no room to, in any way, retaliate for Russia's ignoring your appeals for three years now? You just register concern and not do anything about it?
MS. SHELLY: Barry, I'm going to have to give a short answer. Because, again, when we have open public testimony, we try not to have dueling acts.
What I can just say on this is that the issue of Russia's involvement in Iran's nuclear program is an issue of great concern to us. We don't consider the subject closed, and I'm certain that we will continue to press on that issue.
As to the specific part of your question that relates to the aid, again on that one, I just think I'm going to have to duck for today because I can't know what questions are posed and gotten into up on the Hill on this exact same subject.
Q Messers Lifshitz and Karaganov of Yeltsin's Presidential Council, apparently, are visiting this capital soon. They were to have arrived Saturday, I'm told, but now won't. Do you know why they're delayed?
MS. SHELLY: I do not, but why don't you ask the Russian Embassy. Is that fair?
Q Who will they meet with here?
MS. SHELLY: I don't know. I have not seen any kind of a program.
Q Speaking of aid, when can one expect the Department and USAID to release the country-by-country aid figures?
MS. SHELLY: I'll check on that also. I know they were a bit behind the schedule that we had first indicated when we did the briefing on the budget, but let me check on that. I'm told that's supposed to be within a few days. That was also what I heard a few days ago, so let me check and remind them we're a little overdue here.
Q You referred to reports -- you've seen reports of Gingrich's statement. Do I take that to mean that no Administration official -- senior or otherwise -- has been in touch with the Speaker to say the kind of things, or say whatever you want to say to him?
MS. SHELLY: No, I certainly would not presume that, Barry. We do have ways of communicating our positions with him. The Secretary, of course, met with him before. I don't know specifically whether this issue was touched upon. It's not our usual practice with members of the Congress to simply communicate with them our positions from the podium.
Issues obviously arise often in connection with proposals for legislation. So we feel, and in many cases it's appropriate to have a public comment to make on it, but we also certainly use our private channels of communication.
Q Your absolute, latest up-to-date hunch on your proposal to Milosevic. The group is due there tomorrow in Belgrade. Are you still faintly optimistic or not without hope? What does the U.S. think now for chances of him buying in?
MS. SHELLY: Of signing onto the proposal?
MS. SHELLY: As we mentioned yesterday -- I think it was at yesterday's briefing -- we acknowledge the public statements that were certainly not of a positive character. There have been some soundings, I think, with him about his views on this initiative. It still is, certainly, our hope that several members of the Contact Group can meet with him later this week. I have not heard specifically that that meeting is confirmed at this point. We still think that it's a proposal that deserves serious consideration by him.
We hope that he has had some time now to reflect in the aftermath of his last statements and certainly his also knowing that those in the Contact Group who have prepared this proposal would like him to give it open consideration.
So I don't know if that meeting will take place. It certainly is our hope that it will and that he will give it a fair hearing.
Q Is the United States going to be represented at that meeting?
MS. SHELLY: At this point, as far as I know, it's more likely to be some of the European members who are likely to have this meeting. I'm not sure that we will be present.
Q What about Russia?
Q Why is that?
MS. SHELLY: I think it's because we have not always in this last month or so gone in there with all five countries represented. It has proved very, very difficult given the commitments on all of the different countries, and people represented, for them to always be in the region at the same time waiting for everything to happen. So there had been some cases where we've had meetings, the Russians have had meetings, where various combinations of the Europeans -- sometimes British and French; sometimes the Germans alone.
The Contact Group has continued to function, meeting periodically; most recently in Paris where all the members do get together. But in terms of the trips to the region and the specific meetings, they haven't always had all their recent meetings at five.
Q Will Russia be in the group?
MS. SHELLY: Not that I'm aware of.
Q You've created -- you've completed -- we understand now.
MS. SHELLY: Foreign Minister Kozyrev was, of course, just there. So, again --
Q It's supposed to be a 5-nation visit. Then Kozyrev did his own number, and the U.S. now and Russia will absent themselves. And what? It was originally a French idea. Will the Germans and British be there? Is that the idea?
MS. SHELLY: Again, it's up to those countries to formally signal their participation. I have to work with the information that I have. Obviously, I don't speak on behalf of the French authorities.
As you know, the French have the proposal to host this conference where they hope, and certainly the Contact Group hope and we hope, that the recognition issue could be overcome.
Q So you're pushing it because this was elevated to a big deal last week, and it's losing some of its steam; if someone shows up, they'll be there; maybe they will, maybe they won't. It's just somehow that some of the props have been knocked out under what at that point seemed to be the latest best hope for trying to end this war.
Q Does the U.S. have a position on the sentencing in Pakistan of two Christians on charges of blasphemy?
MS. SHELLY: We got asked this at yesterday's briefing and I posted an answer to that in the Press Office late yesterday. So if I can ask you to take a look at that.
It was also drawn to my attention that we raised that issue generally in our 1994 Human Rights Report -- that that was also a problem in Pakistan.
But the specific answer to that, we posted an answer yesterday. It's in the Press Office.
Q Before we leave Bosnia, in this latest effort altogether, is it not correct that Secretary Holbrooke is still travelling in Europe and is obviously in the region? Is there any possibility that he might represent the United States?
MS. SHELLY: Holbrooke's travel plans also came up yesterday. It's difficult for me to try to do a sort of day- by-day account of where all of our Assistant Secretaries are. However, in this case, I can tell you that today he leaves Turkey for Romania.
As far as I know, he does not intend to visit the former Yugoslavia during this trip. That is not suggest that he will not be kept abreast of issues, and certainly travel plans can change. But that's what I'm told, he doesn't intend to visit the former Yugoslavia.
Q Who will represent the U.S. in any Contact Group meeting further this week, in terms of this offer with Mr. Milosevic?
MS. SHELLY: If the Contact Group in the context of all five countries getting together, if they decide to do that - - and I'm not aware that there is a plan to do that at this point -- but if they decide to do that in some location, I wouldn't rule that out. But I don't have any information which would suggest that's in the works.
Q Is the delay in the Contact Group meeting with Milosevic just as a result of scheduling and travel difficulties? Or has Milosevic not agreed to have the meeting?
MS. SHELLY: Milosevic did not meet with the Contact Group during the visit by some of the members last week. That part has occurred before. I don't know whether he is making distinctions between parts of the group or all of the group. I don't know. I simply do not have that information. But it is our hope that he will meet with at least some members of the group later this week.
Q There have been reports of a rift between the U.S. Government and the Haitian Government about the supposed politicization by Haiti and the interim police force.
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I've got something on that. There are a couple of aspects to this. One is, as you know, the reports of the purging of the security forces and that going on; and then the other is, there were some reports today about the U.S. pressuring Haiti regarding its army and those issues. Let me do the purging of the security forces first.
Prior to the -- let me just start by saying that the the reports that there is a rift or that there somehow has been U.S. pressure on this, those reports are incorrect.
Prior to the deployment of the MNF, the Government of Haiti and the U.S. Government agreed on a process to vet or to screen all former members of the Haitian armed forces that would then serve in an interim public security force providing security until a new civilian police force is selected and trained.
This process is intended to assure the removal of those who have been involved in serious human rights violations, drug trafficking, criminal activity, corruption, and also to be sure that all would receive a training program which is being administered by the U.S. Justice Department's ICITAP. That's the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program.
Earlier this month, our Embassy and the Government of Haiti discovered that there was some discrepancy between the respective lists of the IPSF -- that's, again, the Interim Public Security Force Personnel.
President Aristide took immediate steps to resolve the problem and directing the removal of the individuals who had not gone through both the vetting and the training process, and the reinstatement of those who had actually gone through those, other than a limited number who had been dismissed for some just cause. There isn't any disagreement between us on this issue.
On the issue of whether or not the U.S. may have been involved in pressuring Haiti on retaining its army, that's just not right. We have told the Government of Haiti that it's entirely up to the Haitian people and their elected representatives to decide whether the country should retain a military and, if so, what functions it should have.
The Haitian Government is currently studying the future of the military. A commission was set up, as you may be aware, several weeks ago to address Haiti's needs in this area. The Defense Minister has announced the retirement of the Commander-in-Chief and 42 other officers above the rank of major.
President Aristide consulted with us on this step, and we posed no objections. Military personnel who remain on active duty have been assigned to the interim Public Security Force and put under the Ministry of Justice.
We're continuing to work very closely with President Aristide on this issue. We're providing assistance in the counseling and retraining of individuals being released by the Haitian military. I'm told that nearly 2,000 former soldiers have signed up for this program. It's funded by USAID and it's run by the International Office of Migration.
This is as best I can lay it out, the facts related to the issue, and again I'd like to reconfirm that we do not have differences with President Aristide on this issue.
Q Christine, just one follow-up on that. There was a report that the United States was concerned that Aristide was in fact adding some of these additional people to the force, in an effort to sort of put a more political coloration on it. Do you not feel that that's been a problem?
MS. SHELLY: The only information I have is simply the information I just offered about the discrepancy on the list, which basically had to do with the vetting and the training.
I'll be happy to look into that and see if we have anything further on that, but I don't have any other information on that.
Q Christine, the Palestinians said yesterday that they had put out a call for participation by European nations and the United States directly in the peace negotiations with Israel. Is that something we think is a good idea?
MS. SHELLY: I think that it reflects the fact that Arafat was traveling to Europe, and he certainly was also trying to elicit an increased support for the process and certainly for economic development and projects in the areas under the Palestinian Authority.
Do we read that as some kind of a message to us? Certainly not. I don't think it reflects anything of a political nature except his desire to have as much support for the Palestinian Authority as possible.
Q He called on the United States as well as the European nations to take a direct role in the peace talks and I assume sit at the table rather than just being some sort of partial broker.
MS. SHELLY: I'd have to go back and study the remarks more thoroughly, but we think it's certainly appropriate for him to elicit as much support as possible. We do not have indications that there is unhappiness with the way that the political talks have unfolded, most recently, of course, being what happened the weekend before last here.
Q What do you have on Richard Holbrooke's visit to Turkey? Which subjects did he discuss with Turkish officials?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a readout on that and would not expect to have one until after he comes back.
Q Nothing on it?
MS. SHELLY: I can't do every Assistant Secretary, every country, and a day-by-day itinerary. Otherwise, I'd be doing nothing but that from the podium. So I'm afraid we have to wrap up the trip, including questions on Turkey, after he's back.
Q Also on the Middle East but on Lebanon -- a couple of Lebanese officials, senior officials, named officials, said today that they would take a more direct role in the border fighting with Israel; the Lebanese army would perhaps become involved again in that? Have you all seen those statements?
MS. SHELLY: I haven't. I'll check.
Q And if you can check if you've seen them, and then if you can comment on them.
MS. SHELLY: If we would have a reaction to them.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Certainly, we'll check.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:49 p.m.)
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