U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/01 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, May 1, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns NORTH KOREA Framework Agreement: North Korean Gov't. Agreement to Hold Higher-Level Talks ..1-3 --Possibility of China Affecting North Korean Decision ....3 --U.S. Communication w/Japan, South Korea .................3 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Expiration of Cease-fire Agreement ........................4,8 Recent Hostilities in Croatia .............................4,8 Recent/Upcoming Contact Group Meetings ....................4,6-9 --Work on Proposal for Continuation of Ceasefire/ Limited Sanctions Relief for Belgrade ...................4-5 --Discussions on UNPROFOR Troops ..........................5-7 Ambassador Frasure Mtg. in Belgrade .......................5-6 Possibility of Foreign Ministers Meeting ..................6 Concern about Possible Serbian Counteroffensive ...........9 Report of Bosnian-Serb Attempts to Reclaim Equipment ......9 RUSSIA Chechnya--Search for Mr. Cuny .............................7-8 (###)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, MAY 1, 1995, 1:19 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, and welcome to the regular State Department press briefing. Since the Secretary has spoken to you On the Record and given a rather lengthy statement, I'm not going to be prepared to elaborate on his remarks. But if you do have any other questions, we could put together a Background briefing later on this afternoon with some of our experts if there is interest. If there is, let's talk about it after the briefing.
With that, I'll be glad to go to any other questions.
Q On the nuclear problem, the Korean situation. Is there anything to tell us after this weekend?
MR. BURNS: There is. We received this morning, at 10:00 here in Washington, a message from the North Korean Mission in New York.
The North Korean Government has agreed, without preconditions, to hold higher-level talks with the United States. The only outstanding issues, as I understand it at this point, concerns the venue, the place for those talks and the timing. We'll be holding further discussions with the North Koreans to resolve those minor issues of where and when this meeting will take place.
We're obviously pleased at this development, and are prepared to go forward with the negotiations.
Q You are talking with them in New York?
MR. BURNS: We received a message from their --
Q I mean, to set the time and place. You're speaking -- you will be --
MR. BURNS: Generally, I think that's the place where the messages have been transmitted; yes, Barry.
Q Iran: Considering the fact that Turkey is a major U.S. ally with borders with Iran, did the State Department ask Turkey to review its trade policies with Iran, or did the U.S. ask the cooperation of the Turkish leadership in this regard?
MR. BURNS: I missed the adjective. Did the United States ask Turkey to review its --
Q Trade --
MR. BURNS: Trade policy.
Q -- policy with Iran?
MR. BURNS: As the Secretary made clear this morning, we hope that all countries will review their policies toward Iran -- towards the end that he described. But, again, the Secretary has made a lengthy statement, has gone into this, so I don't really want to go down the road of answering questions about Iran if I can help it.
Q On North Korea, is it the U.S. position the sooner the better? The U.S. is ready now to go forward. There is no preparation or planning that needs to be done from the U.S. end?
MR. BURNS: We are ready to go forward. When we made the proposal ten days ago, we were ready to go forward then. We anticipated that early May would be a good time for the continuation of the discussions at the higher level that we had envisaged. This, as you remember, was a proposal to engage in talks at the level of Ambassador Gallucci and his counterpart, the Vice Foreign Minister.
So we are very anxious to get going, and we are prepared at any time to begin these discussions.
Q Assuming the U.S. didn't change its position, what do you suppose turned them around?
MR. BURNS: Considering the fact that we don't have diplomatic relations, that we receive messages through channels in New York, it's really not possible for me to say, Barry. I think all that our experts know this morning is that we have received this answer. I don't believe there is anything in the message that would characterize in a detailed way why they made the decision they did, but it's a positive step forward.
Q Can you say any more about the answer, where it came from, who it was addressed to, and what it said?
MR. BURNS: I believe it was addressed to Ambassador Gallucci -- the North Korean message. As you know, he sent a message last Tuesday evening to his counterpart responding to an earlier message that had been received last Monday from the Vice Foreign Minister, and so I think it went to Ambassador Gallucci, but I can't say anything more about the details of the message.
Q Nick, can you tell us whether the Chinese were of any help in affecting this decision?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary had a lengthy discussion with Foreign Minister Qian in New York two weeks ago about this issue. The Secretary encouraged the Chinese Foreign Minister to make it clear to the North Koreans that it was in their best interest to see these negotiations proceed, and to see the Agreed Framework fully implemented. At that time -- it was a very good and detailed discussion -- at that time, we understood from the Chinese Government that they would be willing to talk to the North Koreans.
I can't tell you how they followed up or the nature of those discussions. But we were satisfied with the response that we had two weeks ago in New York when this issued was raised.
Q That was what was being said in New York even while disagreeing with them about their helping Iran, they were credited even then with helping on Korea. You know, just filling in a little of the spaces here. Japan, you got to Japan on this, did you? Did everybody get notified? South Korea?
MR. BURNS: We are always in touch with the Republic of Korea and with Japan whenever there is a communication with the North Koreans. This just came in at ten this morning, but I'm sure there has been a quick follow-up with those two governments.
Q Nick, can we consider then that the talks are no longer broken off or suspended and that, in fact, even though there is not a date and a time that these talks are going forward now?
MR. BURNS: We have an agreement, as I understand it, without any conditions, that the North Koreans are willing to proceed with the talks. I understand that we do have to resolve with the North Koreans where they are going to take place and when they are going to take place. And those seem to me to be minor issues, and we hope they can be worked out quickly.
Q Can we take a filing break?
MR. BURNS: Sure. I'm prepared to go to other questions, if there is interest. Yes.
Q Do you have an update on the situation on the ground in Bosnia and also I guess in Croatia there has been some significant fighting?
MR. BURNS: I do. As you know, the agreement that had been engineered several months ago to introduce a cease-fire expired this morning on the ground in Bosnia. There have been some serious hostilities that have broken out in Croatia. The U.N. official, Mr. Akashi, is in the region arguing, urging, the parties to agree to a new cease-fire. The Contact Group met on Friday in Paris, and I expect that the Contact Group will be in session again this week in London and Paris in two meetings, probably Wednesday and Friday, to work on our proposal for a cease-fire, a continuation of the cease- fire, and our proposal for a limited sanctions relief for Belgrade in return for Belgrade's recognition of Bosnia.
Ambassador Frasure was in Belgrade over the weekend. He had a meeting with Mr. Milosevic. He put forward again the outlines of this proposal. It's a proposal in which the Contact Group believes very strongly. We are united on this proposal, and we hope very much that in the coming weeks it will be possible to work out an agreement along these lines.
We are obviously worried about the fact that the cease-fire has not been extended, and the fact that there is renewed fighting. It's a dangerous situation and we would urge all parties to show restraint and to return to the negotiating table and turn away from the fighting.
Q Any word from France, Russia, or any of the other U.N. participants in UNPROFOR as to their next move now the truce has officially lapsed?
MR. BURNS: Well, as I said, the Contact Group is united on this issue. They are together, the five countries of the Contact Group. They will be meeting twice more this week, and so I don't want to speak for those governments, but we are pleased that we are getting good cooperation from them.
Q What I was asking was have they consulted us about the withdrawing of their troops? Has that issue been brought up, and especially to our government, as they did speak about getting out if the cease-fire was not re-established or extended? Have we heard anything from them yet?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have anything new, Bill. That issue has been brought up publicly by the French several weeks ago, after the death of the two French peacekeepers, and we have had lengthy discussions with the French Government and within the Contact Group about the need to strengthen UNPROFOR, to improve conditions, and improve safety conditions for the peacekeepers, and to work on diplomatic steps to renew and invigorate the diplomatic process, and that is what the Contact Group discussed in a very long session on Friday.
As I said, there are meetings planned for Wednesday and Friday of this week to continue those discussions.
So I don't want to anticipate any dramatic progress here because we're talking about Bosnia. We're talking about an extraordinarily complex situation, but we are working hard. Certainly, the fact that the cease-fire has now expired has animated all of the international community to try to engage together to see what we can do to resolve this conflict.
I would just remind you, though, that the burden of responsibility rests with the parties on the ground and especially with the Bosnian Serbs who are responsible for the recent acts in Sarajevo that have made it almost impossible for normal diplomatic business to be carried out in Sarajevo, and because the Bosnian Serbs have taken steps to really counteract and act in violation of so many of the U.N. resolutions in the area.
So I think the burden of responsibility that the international press and the international community places on parties ought to be centered on the Bosnian Serbs.
Q With regard -- let me follow a little further -- with regard to the Bosnian Serbs, have they said anything to the Contact Group or to our representatives about desiring to have UNPROFOR continue to stay on the ground doing its humanitarian work and its peacekeeping work?
Have they had a policy that goes beyond the cease-fire ending?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've had extensive contacts at all with the Bosnian Serbs in quite some time. There were some contacts when Ambassador Frasure and Mr. Steiner were at the airport arguing with Bosnian Serbs about whether or not they can go into Sarajevo.
But I think the focus of our diplomatic attention has been on the Bosnian Government. Certainly, we would encourage the Bosnian Government to agree to an extension of UNPROFOR. It's also been with the Government in Belgrade. I told that Ambassador Frasure was in Belgrade over the weekend and had a meeting with Mr. Milosevic.
Q Does it now seem likely that the Foreign Ministers will get together soon -- the Contact Group Foreign Ministers?
MR. BURNS: I think our view is -- the United States view -- the Contact Group needs to meet this week, and there are two meetings scheduled this week. They have to review the package that's on the table which, of course, is the Contact Group Map and Plan and the proposal for limited sanctions relief in return for recognition of Bosnia.
I think it's our strongly-held view that those proposals have to be narrowed in discussions with the parties; there has to be some reasonable expectation that any kind of ministerial meeting would be productive and that it would end up with concrete results.
There's always an opportunity to talk with allies about Bosnia. It's the Contact Group and it's through bilateral channels. We'll be active in that channel this week. So I wouldn't say it's likely, Steve. I think it just remains to be seen whether or not a ministerial can be useful to the process. I think that's where we would put our emphasis.
Q Are there revisions underway of the Map and the whole limited sanctions-lifting? You said it has to be looked at. That's been on the table for a good long time now.
MR. BURNS: No. I don't want to indicate that we are changing the Map and Plan in any way. What we are doing is trying to introduce again to Belgrade, as well as to the other parties, the Bosnian Government in Sarajevo, the idea that we ought to be working on a new cease-fire. Also we ought to be working on Belgrade to accept the proposition that a move by Belgrade to recognize the Bosnian Government would be met with limited sanctions relief. That is not a new proposal. It's been on the table for a number of months, but there has been a lot of new discussions about that proposal, and most recently over the weekend.
There are proposals in which the Contact Group has great faith, and we believe it's the right way to proceed. So we don't want to give up on these ideas. We want to continue to press them with the parties.
Q Following up on that, Nick. The meeting this weekend with Ambassador Frasure, in Belgrade, was he given any kind of positive response to this renewed overture? Do you have any reason to expect their answers will be different?
MR. BURNS: It's hard to say. I think it was a full exchange that Ambassador Frasure had with Mr. Milosevic.
I think the proof will be in the pudding in the days and weeks ahead to see what kind of cooperation we get. There have been so many twists and turns in this and so many meetings that I'm extremely reluctant to predict any kind of sense of optimism or any definite progress, but we're certainly not going to give up.
We think that UNPROFOR ought to remain on the ground because it's helping to feed over 1 million people, near 1.5 million people every day. And however imperfect it is, it has a role to play, and so we stand by UNPROFOR. We also think that the Contact Group has a responsibility to try to keep the diplomatic process going. So that's where our focus is now.
Q Any news on Mr. Cuny in Chechnya?
MR. BURNS: The situation there is pretty much where it was when we left it, Ron, on Friday. We have four American diplomats on the ground, at least two of whom I know are in Grozny. We continue to use all of the resources at our disposal to try to find out where Mr. Cuny may be. It's of great interest to us, because he's a highly respected person who was doing very valuable work on the ground. So we'll continue those efforts this week.
I think you know that the President and the Secretary have been personally involved with the Russian Government in trying to push for a very assertive investigation on their part.
Q As a follow, did this investigation and the Russian part of looking for Mr. Cuny -- in that process were the rebels -- the Chechen rebels contact the people that might have him or might be, we hope, safeguarding him?
MR. BURNS: We're trying to do that. As you know, a couple of our diplomats have been in both Dagestan and in Ingushetia. We've received very, very strong support from the authorities in Ingushetia. We obviously would like to make contact with the Chechen rebel leadership and with other various rebel factions, because one of the theories is, since he was in Chechnya, that he may have been detained by a group in Chechnya. So we're pursuing that, and we hope that turns out to be fruitful. But at this point, I don't have any concrete information that would lead us to say that is in fact what happened.
Unfortunately, we're still in a very frustrating position that we were at the end of last week. We don't have at this point any solid idea of what happened to him. But we're following up on a number of bits of information that have become available over the last couple of days, and as soon as we have anything to say on that, I'll be glad to go into it.
Q What I was asking, has any contact yet been made with Chechen rebels?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. Maybe I'm just good at this yet. I was trying to say that we've been in Ingushetia --
Q Not the results --
MR. BURNS: That we have encouraged people on the ground who do have access to the Chechen rebel leadership to question them about Mr. Cuny's disappearance. That has certainly been a focus of our efforts over the past 10 to 12 days, and that is going on. We're awaiting the results of those contacts.
Q Nick, I don't want to beat a dead horse here but going back to Bosnia, there are reports today that there are peacekeepers that have been blockaded in their barracks in Sarajevo. There are reports of peacekeepers being injured in a cross-fire in Croatia, reports of a possible violation of the "no-fly" zone in Croatia. It just seems now that the fragile cease-fire, as it was, has gone away; peacekeepers are even in more danger; that they are unable to do their job. Going back with the same, shopping the same plans the Contact Group has not been successful with in the past seems sort of fruitless.
MR. BURNS: The cease-fire did expire today, but the cease-fire had certainly broken down over the last couple of weeks. There has been a Bosnian Government military offensive. There have been some counterattacks and counteroffensives and a lot of violence. And you refer to the situation around Sarajevo, which didn't start to worsen today, it's been worsening for two to three weeks.
So it's not a surprise to see the activity that we've seen today, although no one is pleased by it. Laura, at this point the United States believes that we simply can't walk away from the situation in Bosnia, no matter how frustrating it has been to everybody concerned over the last four years. We do have interests there.
We certainly have humanitarian interests in trying to make sure that people have enough to eat and that people have some reasonable assurance that the international community might be able to work out means to protect them.
Obviously, that regime is ragged and has broken down, over the last couple of months and certainly over the last couple of weeks, our ability to protect people. But it's a serious responsibility which we have to pursue.
You're right that some of the diplomatic proposals that are now being offered have been on the table for quite some time. But we think there is reason to believe that we ought not to give up now; that we ought to persist in our efforts, and we ought to do the best job that we can diplomatically to try to help the situation and add something positive. Understanding that it is an extremely difficult situation; that conditions seem to be worsening and deteriorating, and we're concerned about it.
Q Two follow-ups to Laura. One, there was a report this morning, Nick, that the Bosnian Serbs were trying to reclaim some of their equipment that had been impounded by the U.N. around Sarajevo. Question one.
Question two: Any new information bearing on the Serb counteroffensive?
MR. BURNS: On question two, I don't have any new information. As we've discussed before, one of the great concerns that the Contact Group has and certainly the United States has is that the Serbs might decide to unleash a counteroffensive to the Bosnian Government offensive that's been underway for a couple of weeks.
That is one of the reasons, going back to Laura's question, that, despite the difficulties, we think it's important that the international community not give up and not walk away, but that we remain engaged, and we're going to do that.
Q And what about this attempt to get their equipment back which would presage some kind of offensive action?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen that particular report, Bill. Mr. Akashi, though, is in Sarajevo today, and I hope that -- I'm sure that he's having comprehensive discussions with all sides about the breakdown and conditions there. Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:39 p.m.)
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