U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN DAILY PRESS BRIEFING FEBRUARY 27, 1995 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, February 27, 1995 Briefer: Christine Shelly ANNOUNCEMENTS/STATEMENTS Secretary Christopher's Trip to the Middle East ..1,10-11 --Possible Discussions on Egypt/Israel Dispute/NPT ..................................11-12 Introduction of Press Officer Sharon Bowman ......1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Expiration of UNPROFOR Mandate in Croatia ........2 --Possibility of U.S. Participation in Withdrawal ...................................2 Contact Group Proposal ...........................3 Fighting Update ..................................3 Delivery of Humanitarian Supplies ................3 Upcoming Meetings of Contact Group ...............3 --Robert Frasure to Attend Meeting in Paris ......3 Issue of Recognition .............................3-4 HAITI Possibility of Deputy Secretary Talbott Trip .....5 CHINA Assistant Secretary Winston Lord's Trip to Region .........................................6-7,13 Reported Criticism of U.S. Human Rights Report ...8,13 Intellectual Property Rights Agreement ...........7 IRAQ UN Sanctions .....................................6 Ambassador Albright's Trip to UNSC Capitals ......6 Report of Car Bomb Explosion in Northern Iraq ....7 EUROPE Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's Talks in Region ..7 NORTH KOREA Framework Agreement ..............................8-9 South Korean Light Water Reactor ...............10 U.S. Provision of Heavy Fuel Oil/Next Shipment .9-10 SAUDI ARABIA Visit of Foreign Minister to U.S. ................11 ECUADOR Report of Letter from President Duran Ballen re: Peruvian Aggression ........................12 Peace Declaration: --Work on Process for Observer Mission ...........12 --U.S. Contribution to Presence ..................12 Border Dispute: --Military Activities/Renewal of Hostilities .....13 --Meeting of Foreign Ministers/Guarantors/ .......13 U.S. Participation .............................13 COLOMBIA Counter-Narcotics Certification ..................14-15
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1995, 1:16 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MS. SHELLY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me begin with two short announcements.
As I mentioned on Friday, President Clinton has asked Secretary Christopher to return to the Middle East next week. The Secretary will be consulting with key regional parties about the current status of Arab-Israeli negotiations.
The Secretary is expected to depart Washington on or about March 7. We have posted in the Press Office a sign-up sheet for those of you interested in applying for a seat to travel with the Secretary. Please note that the sign-up sheet will close at l2 noon on Wednesday, March l.
I don't have an itinerary for you yet of the exact stops and countries, but I hope to provide more information on that later in the week.
On the second announcement, it's of a personnel nature. I'd like to introduce Sharon Bowman. Would you like to stand up, Sharon? Sharon has joined the Press Office as one of our new Press Officers. This is her second assignment with the State Department. She has just returned from serving in our Embassy in Costa Rica.
Sharon has worked several years as an attorney with the Federal Reserve Board before joining the Foreign Service in l992. She attended Harvard University and Columbia Law School. Welcome.
This is the point in the briefing where you're supposed to say that she's overqualified for her job. (Laughter)
Nobody said it today! Anyway, welcome on board; and I'm sure that all of you will appreciate the efforts that she puts in to chase down information for you and help you with your stories.
I'll be happy to take your questions.
Q Now that the evacuation is about to begin from Somalia with U.S. help of U.N. peacekeepers, is there anything you can say about the withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers from Croatia?
MS. SHELLY: Wait a minute. I just opened up today. I just opened my book to Somalia. Now you want to do Croatia. Two words. That's really a trick question -- a shift in mid- sentence.
Okay. I don't have a lot new to report.
We're certainly still concerned by Croatia's decision to end the mission of the U.N. forces in Croatia after their mandate expires on March 3l.
We're continuing to urge President Tudjman to reconsider his decision, which we believe seems likely to spark renewed war between Croatia and the Serbs. We strongly favor the retention of UNPROFOR in Croatia and Bosnia. UNPROFOR has clearly played a positive role in reducing the level of violence and in easing the delivery of humanitarian aid.
UNPROFOR withdrawal would increase the likelihood of renewed fighting not only Croatia but certainly also in Bosnia. It's not clear what the outcome of that renewed fighting would be.
While no decisions have been made to withdraw yet, the U.N. and NATO are preparing contingency plans to support UNPROFOR withdrawal from both Croatia and Bosnia, should it become necessary.
The extent of NATO and U.S. support for those operations depends partly on exactly what the U.N. authorities request.
Q So the U.S. may not play a role? Is that what you're saying?
MS. SHELLY: No, that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm simply indicating that a final decision on the U.S. side, as also the Secretary indicated last week, has not yet been taken.
Q But the President has not taken any decision in principle to help with the withdrawal?
MS. SHELLY: Questions on the President's decisions, of course, are to be asked at the White House.
Q I mean, has the United States decided in principle to help with the withdrawal?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have anything to report beyond that which was said last week.
Q How about Bosnia in general? There are reports that Milosevic has once again rejected the overture by the Contact Group. Is that your understanding?
MS. SHELLY: We certainly have not heard the kind of favorable endorsement that we would like to hear. I think the situation on the ground has certainly become more worrisome. The U.N. has been reporting a significant increase in shooting incidents in and around Sarajevo over the last 24 hours.
The picture, I think, generally is mixed. There is some improvement in the humanitarian supply situation, the blue routes across Sarajevo Airport remain open, and seven humanitarian flights landed at Sarajevo Airport yesterday; and humanitarian supplies were delivered yesterday in the western Bihac enclave.
The Contact Group will meet in Paris this week to review the discussions in Belgrade and specifically where we are with Milosevic on this. The Group will then, obviously, decide what would be the best next steps at this point.
Bob Frasure will be the representative at that meeting when it takes place.
I may have more to signal later in the week on the Contact Group and, particularly, its feeling on what it can do at this stage. But, certainly, the overall objective -- which is to try to get Milosevic to recognize Croatia and Bosnia -- that's still, certainly, very much something we'd like to see happen; but I think at this point we're probably not going to have a lot to say about the next steps in diplomacy until later in the week.
Q There's a report out here also that the Group -- or the British, the French, and Germans -- are going back this week. I think it's Wednesday or Thursday. Has that not been agreed yet?
MS. SHELLY: Let me check on that. That's not the information that I have, but I certainly can't categorically rule it out. But let me check on that point and see what I can tell you.
Q Why don't you just take "No" for an answer? I mean he keeps saying "No" and you guys keep sort of holding out some sort of faint hope that this can be reversed. Why do you think for a moment that he can be turned around?
MS. SHELLY: Because I think the worst thing we could do at this point would be to give up. It's a difficult crisis. Certainly, it's very, very difficult to make progress. We've tried many different ways to try to bring about the progress that we think would be achieved if recognition could be secured. That's why we think that recognition is very important.
I think the French, in making their announcement about a conference, also clearly were signaling that that's an obstacle at this point -- and one which those most deeply engaged should try to see if there's some way that steps could be taken to try to get over that hurdle. But I think the worst of the alternatives would be if the international community were to give up. And the fact is that the Contact Group members continue to try to explore any of the avenues that are out there and then periodically get together to regroup and see if there isn't some new effort that they could make together that might be able to produce results.
It's a frustrating situation, but recognition is certainly a step that, if it could be made, if it could be taken by Milosevic, which would certainly reduce tensions which certainly or otherwise are building in the region.
Q So the plan has now been formally presented to Milosevic and he has formally said "No"?
MS. SHELLY: No. We're exactly where we were on this last Friday, which is when I said that there had not been any formal presentation.
Q So it looks -- ?
MS. SHELLY: There had been soundings that had been taken with Milosevic by members of the Contact Group, but it is not the initiative -- although there certainly was, I doubt, very little in it that would be a surprise to him, given the amount of public discussion on the initiative. But it has not ever been formally presented.
Q We went around and around on this on Friday, which led me to believe that it would be presented to him by this Group in a more formal way.
MS. SHELLY: Yes. I said that it might happen this week, that there could be a meeting of the Contact Group in which there might be a more formal presentation.
I simply don't have anything to announce on that today, Sid.
Q But you said that they did go and visit again with Milosevic since Friday.
MS. SHELLY: No, I didn't say that.
Q You didn't say that.
MS. SHELLY: I don't recall hearing myself say that.
Q Just to try it from a slightly different angle, can you at least acknowledge that the latest plan has been informally rejected by Milosevic?
MS. SHELLY: I think what I can acknowledge is that he has not made any positive public statements about it, but we have taken some soundings. Since there's not been a formal presentation, I wouldn't characterize what he has done so far -- other than making some public statements that were certainly negative in tone -- I wouldn't characterize what he's done at this point as a flat-out rejection.
Q You still hope that it's not accepted?
MS. SHELLY: It certainly still is our hope
Q Is that crazy -- there's a formal presentation, so you don't have to take "No" for an answer?
MS. SHELLY: No, I wouldn't characterize it as that.
Q Can you say why?
MS. SHELLY: Sid, we don't have to put out every single detail related to either what we're thinking or what we're doing on this. Recognition is a very important element in terms of trying to move the political process along. That is what we're engaged in at this point. That's also what we're sharing views on within the context of the Contact Group. And when we have more that we can say about this, we will.
Q Is Strobe Talbott going to Haiti with a bunch of CEOs?
MS. SHELLY: Let me check on that. I don't have any announcements on that for today.
Q The State Department's (inaudible) is apparently putting out that word.
MS. SHELLY: Okay. If that's --
Q Strobe said it last week.
MS. SHELLY: Let me see if I can't work up a more formal trip announcement, assuming all that's true.
Q Do you have anything on Win Lord going to Beijing?
MS. SHELLY: He's expected to arrive today. I would assume because of the time difference in fact he's already there.
Q Iraq sanctions. How concerned is the Administration that France and Russia might be leading the charge in the Security Council to overturn the sanctions regime? Ambassador Albright reportedly threatened the use of a veto on this while in the Mideast.
MS. SHELLY: The importance that we attach to the issue is certainly signaled by the travel of Ambassador Albright to visit many of the capitals of Security Council countries, and there was some press work that was done up in New York which laid out her objectives for the visit.
I think that there are some differences on the issue between us and the Russians and the French, but there is not an immediate decision which is coming up on this. But it's simply an issue that before it comes up and before it reaches its next formal review, that we felt it would be very useful to engage in some bilateral consultations in some of the U.N. Security Council capitals.
So that's what's underway at this point, and maintaining the Security Council sanctions until Iraq is in full compliance with Security Council resolutions is still the key element in our policy.
Q Is anyone talking to the French and the Russians about this? I mean, Albright is visiting other Security Council members.
MS. SHELLY: I think up in New York they put out the first several countries that she would be visiting. I think that the French and Russian positions are fairly well known at this point. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that she may visit those capitals farther down in her consultations. But I don't think she has any immediate plans to visit either of the two right now.
Q Have you something on Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's trip to Europe? Specifically, I mean, his talks in Slovakia and Bratislava, because there was some rumor Slovakia had some intentions toward neutrality or --
MS. SHELLY: Let me see. I don't have a readout on that, but I know he's back, so let me check and see what we can work up.
Q Can you take another question?
MS. SHELLY: Yes.
Q A car bomb today exploded in Northern Iraq. Do you have anything about that?
MS. SHELLY: I'm sorry. I didn't hear the first part.
Q One hundred people --
Q A car bomb.
MS. SHELLY: No, I don't have anything on that. Let me check.
Q On China, the Chinese yesterday strongly criticized the State Department's Human Rights Report, accusing China of human rights violations. They say that it's not true. It's a distortion of facts, and it even rigged up materials to tarnish China's prestige. Do you have anything on that?
And, secondly, do you have anything on Secretary Lord's visit to China?
MS. SHELLY: On the latter point, I don't have anything specifically on that. It may be that as the visit unfolds, we'll have more to say. I can say on one point I think the atmosphere for Assistant Secretary Lord's visit there is certainly very much improved by the reaching of agreement on the IPR issue.
Even though I think you've all seen the text of statements that have been put out by Kantor and others -- Charlene Barshefsky also -- from Beijing, you have certainly, I think, the reflection of the fact that we feel we can work with China to settle very complex trade issues and certainly the elements in it that also call for increased market access will be very welcome.
So certainly this has lifted what otherwise would have been, I think, a dark cloud over the visit by our inability to reach agreement on that. But fortunately we have reached agreement, and we will now move forward and certainly watch very, very carefully to make sure that the implementation of all of the commitments in that agreement goes forward.
On the human rights question that you raise, your first point, we, of course, watch with great interest what the reaction is publicly and privately to the issue of our annual human rights report. As a general rule, we have refrained from comments on other countries' comments, because otherwise we simply get involved in our comments on their comments, on their comments on our comments, and we go over and over.
Our annual Human Rights Report in China, like elsewhere, includes the comprehensive assessment of the human rights situation in China. China, I think, like other countries, doesn't always react well to reading and receiving that information. So from what I've seen so far about their reaction, I think it's probably in the normal range, in terms of what we might have expected.
But it's still an activity that we do, and we have a lot of integrity in the process of preparing those reports, and we stand by the information, which is included in them. I think that as a continuance to that, even though we certainly listen with interest about what governments have to say in response to those, as a general rule we don't get involved in a kind of point-by-point rebuttal of their points.
Q On North Korea. At the end of last week, you and others said that North Korea is free to not accept the reactors as long as they maintain the freeze and all the other elements of the deal. That's their decision.
MS. SHELLY: That's not exactly what I said. What I said was that from our side -- first of all, I'll go back to what I said, and then I've got -- let me let you finish your question. But I take issue at your characterization of what I said. I'm going to go back and say exactly what I said first. Please continue.
Q The record reflects exactly what you said last week. Will North Korea continue to receive the fuel shipments if they do not elect to take the reactors?
MS. SHELLY: Okay. Any other sub-parts?
Q That's it.
MS. SHELLY: First of all, what I said on Friday was that the agreed Framework called for the U.S. and North Korea to make best efforts to conclude an LWR agreement by April 21, and that we are doing so. I also said that although North Korea has not yet agreed to accept the South Korean reactors, there was no viable alternative to the LWR project. We're absolutely firm on that point.
I said that for our part, we saw no reason to walk away from the agreed Framework as long as North Korea maintains the verified freeze on its nuclear program, which is one of the main benefits that we and allies derive from the accord.
There has been some press plan over the weekend suggesting that somehow our position on the South Korean reactor model has somehow changed. That is absolutely not the case. If I can simply restate that perhaps with a little more clarity: In our view, there is no reactor other than the South Korean reactor for this project, and very simply no other vendors' reactor will work in the context of the agreed Framework, because no other countries' reactor can be financed.
As far as we are concerned, it's a closed issue. We told the North Koreans this very clearly in Geneva. They understood it at the time, and we have continued to make this point.
Whether or not this question is a deal-breaker, I would just say that we expect North Korea to continue to comply with the agreed Framework and to freeze their nuclear program. As long as they continue to abide by the agreed Framework, including maintaining that freeze, we will live up to our obligations under the Framework.
As to the second part of your question, that hasn't happened yet, so it's hypothetical.
Q So you just said you'll continue to live up to your obligations under the Framework.
MS. SHELLY: Right.
Q One of your obligations is providing them with heavy fuel oil. So you've answered the question that yes, as long as they maintain the freeze, you'll continue to provide them with heavy fuel oil, if they'd take the reactors or not.
MS. SHELLY: Sid, the reactor is one aspect of the agreement. The provision of the fuel oil is another aspect of the agreement. We are in compliance with our obligations which at this point have consisted of providing the first, I believe it was 50,000 metric tons of that fuel oil. We have provided that, and we are in compliance with the agreement.
Q But let's take it a step further. If this agreement goes no further, which is to say if they continue to insist that they will not take the South Korean reactor and, as you say, the agreement remains in place, their program remains frozen, then you will continue to supply them with heavy oil in perpetuity?
MS. SHELLY: Carol, that's simply taking us so far down the road, and it's premised on the "if" question at the beginning of your question. As we have said, talks with the North Koreans continue. We had talks in February. We gave you a readout on that. We have another round of talks coming up in March. That is precisely the issue that we're working on, and it's still our position that it needs to be South Korean reactors for all of the political, technical and financial reasons that we've described.
But to go beyond the next discussion of this, which is the March meeting, I think I simply can't do that at this point, because it becomes too hypothetical.
Q Have you set a date for the March meeting?
MS. SHELLY: I'm not aware that a date's been set, but let me check.
Q And when is the next oil shipment due?
MS. SHELLY: Let me check on that also. I don't know.
Q Does it matter from the U.S. point of view whose name appears on the label of the light-water reactors? Is it possible, for example, for General Electric or Westinghouse or another non-South Korean firm to be the formal contractor from KEDO to provide the light-water reactors; then have a sub-contract arrangement with the relevant South Korean enterprise which will actually be providing the reactors themselves?
MS. SHELLY: That's exactly the kind of detail that it would be up to KEDO to decide. So I don't think it's very useful or productive for me to get into speculation about what form that might take.
Q If we're done with North Korea, I'd like to move to the Middle East. What does Secretary Christopher hope to accomplish on his latest planned Mideast peace trip? Is this a make-or-break time for the dormant peace talks between Israel and the PLO and Israel and Syria?
MS. SHELLY: The Secretary makes decisions on when to go to the Middle East based on when he deems its useful. We've put out some of his general objectives for the trip. As we get closer to the trip, I'm sure we'll provide you with the usual background briefing, which lays that out in greater detail.
I certainly would not characterize this particular trip as a make-or-break one. Again, it's linked to the perception by the Secretary that his going out there can help move the process forward. That's certainly still very much his view. Certainly, as he's also signaled, it's not a process where we expect to see real watershed kind of results linked to any particular visit.
It's a process that's going to take a lot of work, and progress may well be slow, but the commitment to use our good offices role and to try to help bridge differences between the parties is still there. I'm sure we will give you more details as we can closer to the trip.
Q Another topic.
Q On the Middle East. Is the Saudi Foreign Minister coming here to talk about the Mideast and Iraq?
MS. SHELLY: I understand that he's coming here later this week. Certainly, we would expect that he will talk about the Middle East peace process and certainly also Iraq. I expect that it will be a somewhat broader exchange than that. I don't have details on his trip with respect to who he's meeting and what other topics will be discussed, but I'll certainly try to get that for you a little later in the week.
Q And on the Secretary's trip, to what extent will the issue of the dispute between Egypt and Israel on the NPT come up?
MS. SHELLY: The issue is certainly out there, and it's one, I think, that the Secretary has had several discussions on and certainly will continue to discuss. I don't have a specific thing or objective on that issue to signal at this point, but we continue to pursue our objectives on the NPT. That's something which is very strong in the Secretary's mind.
But again as we get closer to the trip, we may be able to give you a little better indication about how much we think that might come up.
Q How damaging do you think this dispute is, and do you have any ideas about how to fix it?
MS. SHELLY: The issue is certainly out there, and I think that there have been fairly intensive efforts between the Israelis and the Egyptians to work on the issue. It's certainly not my impression, based on their statements so far, that they've reached a final conclusion about how they can bridge the differences. I think that's probably about as far as I can go.
I don't think it's very helpful to them in their efforts to work it out for us to get involved in a kind of public description of how serious it is. It's certainly out there. It's an important issue, and I think I'd probably have to leave it at that.
Q Ecuador. The President of Ecuador has apparently written to President Clinton, asking the United States to intervene diplomatically to stop what he calls Peruvian aggression. Do you have a response?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a specific response to that. I'm not familiar with the details of the letter. What I can tell you is that we are trying to continue working on the process for the observer mission which was signaled by the peace declaration on February 17.
As you know, that called for an observer mission to help implement the accord. Then on February 25, the four guarantors announced their intention to establish a small presence, which would contribute to compliance with the terms of the peace declaration.
The U.S. will contribute to that presence with two civilians from our Embassies in Quito and Lima. They will proceed initially to staging areas, which will be safely distant from the conflict zone.
The four guarantors continue to work out arrangements for the deployment of the observer mission, which is specified in the February 17 declaration. The mission's mandate will be to verify the cease-fire and separation of forces and to make recommendations on delineating the demilitarized zone.
There had been some continued fighting, as I think you know, after the peace agreement had been brokered. On February 24 in Brasilia, the guarantors publicly protested the renewal of the hostilities and reiterated the need for the commitments assumed in the Declaration of Peace to be strictly observed, and particularly that there be a suspension of all military activities.
I can confirm, on behalf of the guarantors, that there will be a meeting with the Foreign Ministers of both Ecuador and Peru with the guarantors in Montevideo. That meeting will be taking place tomorrow. In order to stimulate direct high-level discussions and move forward on implementing the February 17 peace declaration.
We view this meeting as a critical opportunity to try to advance the peace process.
Q Do you think both sides have been violating the cease-fire?
MS. SHELLY: We have indicated, I think last week, that there were reports of violations by both sides. I'm not in a position to provide any more details, but certainly the information we have suggests that's been the case.
Q Will the U.S. be playing any role in that meeting in Montevideo?
MS. SHELLY: We'll be participating in it through our role as one of the four guarantors.
Q What level? Ambassador?
MS. SHELLY: Let me check. I don't have that with me.
Q I'd like to try the China question again. What does Secretary Lord attempt to achieve in China? Will he take up the human rights issue with the Chinese?
MS. SHELLY: I expect that what he would probably have a fairly full review of the bilateral issues with China. I certainly would expect that he would take up the human rights issue in some way. It's hard for me to think of any time when we have not had a high-level U.S. visitor or the issue has not come up in some way.
So, yes, I would expect that to come up, but I expect also it will be a fairly broad agenda sort of visit. I'll certainly check and see if I can give you any more on that in another day or so.
Q This is also on China. What's the U.S. reaction to the dissidents' statements over the last two days?
MS. SHELLY: I don't have a lot on that. We've been checking. We're trying to get the full text to see exactly what has been said. Certainly, our support for democracy and human rights is well known, and we've already touched on the human rights report, where we talked about the types of issues I think that they raised.
Certainly as a very quick reaction to the statement, we continue to call on China to release prisoners whose only offense has been the peaceful expression of their views.
Q Christine, on Colombia. Do you have anything to sat about the Secretary's conclusion that Colombia has not done everything it could to fight narcotics, but his recommendation to President Clinton to certify them to receive aid on national security grounds?
MS. SHELLY: As you know, the report from the White House, going up to the Hill, is due on March 1, and we will be having an event here to address the findings. It is our very firm policy not to comment on recommendations, which the Secretary might make to the President.
Q Is the White House going to make a statement independent of what happens here on Wednesday?
MS. SHELLY: There's the report that has to go up to the Congress, and I'm told that is what will happen Wednesday. But on Wednesday, we will also be doing a briefing on this from here. I certainly wouldn't rule out the possibility that the White House may make a statement as well. I think that's what happened last year, if I remember correctly.
Q Also on Wednesday?
MS. SHELLY: As far as I know, everything rolls on Wednesday.
Q Thank you.
MS. SHELLY: Wait. Let me just also mention that, as you know, it's our normal practice not to have press briefing on a day when the Secretary does congressional testimony, but given the statutory date associated with the sending of this report, our press event on Wednesday will be uniquely on this subject.
Q Still on Wednesday.
MS. SHELLY: On Wednesday. On the de-certification issue.
(The briefing concluded at 1:47 p.m.)
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