U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/03 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, May 3, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns IRAQ Detained Americans --Telephone Call/Reports from Polish Diplomat ..........1 --Chronology of Events from May 1 ......................1-4 --Diplomatic Access to Detainees .......................4 CUBA U.S. Migration Policy ..................................5-11 --U.S.-Cuba Talks ......................................6-7,14-15 Cuban Democracy Act ....................................6 Cuban Migrants at Guantanamo ...........................8-9 --Paroled into U.S. ....................................8-10 --Returned to Cuba .....................................10 Dennis Hays--Request for Reassignment ..................12-13 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Croatia--Fighting --Attacks on Zagreb/Reports of Ceasefire ...............15-16 --U.S. Contact with Hungarian FM, Chair of OSCE ........16 --Ambassador Frasure/Milosevic Telecon .................17 --Re-establishment/Respect for UN Authority in Sector West ................................................18 --Russian Government Responses..........................19 --Contact Group Meetings ...............................19-20 --Possibility of Ministerial .........................20 --Security of UNPROFOR Troops ........................22-23 RUSSIA Search for Fred Cuny ...................................21 Journalist Steve Levine--Visa ..........................21 TURKEY Turkey/Iraq Border .....................................23 GUATEMALA Report of Release of Colonel Alpirez ...................23-24 NORTH KOREA U.S. Proposal for Political-Level Talks --Ambassador Gallucci Response to Vice Minister ........25-26 --Ambassador Gallucci Visit to Seoul and Tokyo .........25-26
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, MAY 3, 1995, 1:19 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. I'm very sorry to be late. There were good reasons for it, I assure you. I'm prepared to go directly to any questions you might have.
Q Can you bring us up-to-date on who was in the hospital in Baghdad, what's the situation, et cetera?
MR. BURNS: I'd be very glad to do that, Barry.
It is a rather confusing situation, but let me just walk through what we think now happened on May lst in Baghdad, and yesterday on May 2nd in Baghdad.
We have received a telephone call from Mr. Krystosik, the Polish diplomat in charge of U.S. affairs in Baghdad, who operates on our behalf. We have also received some written reports from him through our Embassy in Warsaw.
Let me just say at the top, that all of these latest events that I am going to detail are a continuing warning sign that the detention of Mr. Barloon and Mr. Daliberti cannot be sustained on legal or humanitarian grounds.
We have reason to believe that they both have health concerns, and we call upon the government of Iraq to release them immediately on that basis.
Let me detail for you what we think has transpired. On the evening of May lst, that's Monday evening in Baghdad, Mr. Barloon, William Barloon, was taken to the Abu Gharaib prison clinic after complaining of sharp chest pains. He was subsequently transferred to a Baghdad hospital where he was given glycerine tablets, oxygen and valium, which decreased the severity of his pain. Several EKG's were performed and the medical examination, the Iraqi medical examination, we understand, revealed possible scarring.
Mr. Barloon stayed overnight in the hospital on May lst, Monday night, and was returned to the prison yesterday morning, May 2nd. Neither Mr. Krystosik nor Mrs. Barloon, who was in Baghdad at the time, was notified by the Iraqi authorities of Mr. Barloon's hospitalization overnight, of the medical operations that were performed -- procedures, I should say, that were performed on him.
On May 2nd, yesterday, in the afternoon, during Mrs. Barloon's visit with her husband at the prison, he again began to experience some of the same symptoms, and Mrs. Barloon insisted that he be taken back to the hospital.
The doctor at the hospital checked Mr. Barloon, and we understand the Iraqi doctor -- I'm not sure if it is the same doctor from the first day -- claims that this second attack was from emotional stress.
Mr. Daliberti was also taken to the hospital yesterday, although he did not complain of any medical problems. Because of the limited contact we have had with the Polish diplomat, we are unsure why Mr. Daliberti was taken to the hospital yesterday.
The Iraqis told Mr. Krystosik, the Polish diplomat, that Mr. Barloon was kept overnight last evening for observation. We are attempting to learn whether Mr. Daliberti also stayed at the hospital last evening.
One of the problems that we have in giving you this detailed account is that Mr. Krystosik has not been given adequate access to the Iraqi authorities on the conditions of these two men. He has been continually denied access to them at the hospital and at the prison.
Mr. Krystosik went to the hospital on May 2nd but was not permitted by the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to visit the two men. He went to their door and was not permitted to go into the room. He protested to Iraqi officials about this latest and most recent example of lack of access. He requested that he be given immediate access to them and that his weekly visits, which had been promised a month ago, be restored. And he demanded that the U. S. Interests Section in Baghdad, which he heads, be given copies of the medical documentation about their visits to the hospital -- both this week and any prior visits -- and that he be given copies of their test results.
He also expressed our concern that the United States Interests Section that Mrs. Barloon had not been notified of Mr. Barloon's May lst attack.
So, once again, given the irresponsible nature of Iraqi officials in both situations, during both days, we call upon the Government of Iraq to release them on humanitarian medical grounds.
Q Nick, I'm just a little confused. Didn't you tell us yesterday that the wives saw the husbands two days in a row -- including five hours one day?
MR. BURNS: Well, Carol, I don't blame you for being a little bit confused. I think everyone is confused, because we have not been given on a daily basis an accurate accounting in some cases of what has happened to these two men.
The most that I can say, in answer to your question, is, yes, Mrs. Barloon saw her husband on Sunday and on Monday and on Tuesday, and I would just deduce from the information that we have been given by the Polish authorities that his attack on Monday must have occurred after she had seen him and after she had gone back to the Interests Section where she is staying.
Q I think you said yesterday that the wives had hoped to be able to meet with Iraqi officials --
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q -- to put their case up. Do you know if they have been able to do that?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if they have been able to do that. That was one of their objectives in going to Baghdad, that they be allowed to make their case directly to Iraqi authorities. We certainly hope that that will be the case.
Mr. Krystosik has been trying to make his case to the Iraqi authorities, but he has been even denied adequate communication with them.
Q Is there any way to know if the scarring tissue the Iraqis say Barloon has on his heart is recent?
MR. BURNS: There isn't any way for me to know what that means when they refer to scarring. I'm reluctant, since we are thousands of miles away and we don't have an independent medical investigation here -- we don't have an American medical examination having been done in the last month -- I'm reluctant to characterize what these attacks might have been. For obvious reasons, it would be irresponsible for me to do so. But given the fact that now both gentlemen have been hospitalized -- because you remember Mr. Daliberti at the very beginning of their incarceration also saw Iraqi cardiologists -- there is every reason to believe that there are medical problems here, and that therefore, on health grounds alone, the Iraqis ought to do the right thing.
Q To follow on that, is there any attempt -- has the State Department requested that an American doctor be allowed to see them?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there are any American doctors in Baghdad. What we are requesting is their immediate release. That means, you know, if we had our way, today, so they could be taken to the West and to their homes in the United States. They could see their own physicians and be given proper medical care. That is our position, and we will continue to assert that position as best we can.
Q Nick, you said the Polish diplomat was not allowed into the room. How is -- he went to the door of the room in the hospital, and how was he prevented from going in?
MR. BURNS: I understand -- I read an account of the telephone conversation that he had with our Operations Center here in the Department, and apparently he went to the hospital and he was barred by an Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs official at the door from seeing Mr. Barloon, and that is a quite outrageous thing to do.
Q Nick, do you know if there were any visits today by either the wives or the Polish diplomat?
MR. BURNS: Both wives were promised visits and had expected to make visits, but by the time I came out here to talk with all of you, we had not heard back from Mr. Krystosik about what happened in the afternoon today in Baghdad. We are expecting another phone call from him, and I think it is obviously better to have telephone access to him, because it does speed up the time when we receive the information from him.
If I could just say one more thing, Sid, and I'll be glad to go to your question. I did see on CNN this morning the official Iraqi statement on this affair, and I noticed that the Iraqis have said that both women will have access to their husbands on a daily basis as long as they remain in Baghdad, and we certainly hope at a minimum that that would remain the case.
Q That was my question.
MR. BURNS: That was your question. Okay.
Q Can we go to Cuba? There has been --
MR. BURNS: Sure.
Q -- very negative reaction to the second part of the announcement yesterday, the one involving the forced repatriation of Cuban migrants back to Cuba. Congressman Burton this morning called it bloodcurdling and there have been similar terms used by others. Do you have anything to say in response to all this criticism?
MR. BURNS: I would just say, as the Attorney General stated yesterday, that we believe that the return of undocumented Cuban migrants to Cuba represents another step towards regularizing our migration policy towards Cuba.
We believe that the steps that were announced yesterday will discourage further dangerous uncontrolled outflows of migrants from Cuba and thus save many lives that otherwise might be lost at sea. And we think it is important, as the Attorney General stated yesterday, that Cubans understand that the only way, the only safe, orderly and legal way to migrate is through established legal channels.
The Cuban Government has committed itself to take no action against those migrants returned to Cuba in the future.
Our diplomatic personnel at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana will closely monitor the treatment of any returned migrants beginning from the moment of their return.
I think, as you know, the procedures that we have in place will mean that the vessels with migrants will be met at the dock by American consular officials, that the migrants will be counseled on options for legal migration, and they will be afforded every opportunity to apply through the proper legal channels which exist. We have in-country processing. It's only, I think, one of the three places in the world where we do in Cuba -- in Havana.
Q The Secretary stood up on this podium the other day and reiterated a long-standing policy that the United States does not negotiate with terrorists. And yet from everything I've heard, there was an extended negotiation with the Cuban Government on this issue -- that we accuse of supporting international terrorism. I'm wondering how the two issues jibe?
MR. BURNS: It's true that we issued a joint statement yesterday, so we obviously negotiated this with the Cuban Government. Those negotiations were conducted during the last several weeks. I don't want to get into the details of those negotiations, however.
Q The question is you say you don't negotiate with terrorists but you call Cuba a terrorist state. How does that fit with the Administration's policy of not negotiating with terrorists?
MR. BURNS: Well, Sid, I don't want to compare. I think, at the beginning of your question, you tried to compare Cuba with Iran. The Secretary's statement the other day was on Iran. That's not a leap that I had made recently and that I'm not prepared to make today -- to compare the two situations.
Q They're both named on the State Department's terrorism list.
MR. BURNS: Yes. There are states that are on the State Department's terrorism list -- the one that was recently published last week.
We have diplomatic contacts with the Government of Cuba despite our very strong opposition to the nature of that government and to its policies. We have a U.S. Interests Section in Havana that carries out important work. So we will continue to have diplomatic contacts with the Government of Cuba, not the least reason of which is the status of migrants and our continued interest in processing those migrants in Cuba.
Q Do you see any evidence of economic liberalization in Cuba?
MR. BURNS: I've seen press reports about steps that the Cuban Government might be taking to liberalize. I can't give you an official position right now on what we think of that. But I certainly have seen the reports.
I think we've said time and again that our policy towards Cuba is going to continue to be based on the Cuban Democracy Act. That means a continued enforcement of the economic embargo that has been in place for several decades and even a strengthening of that embargo. The reason for that is to maintain the pressure on Castro's regime to make changes within Cuba, which gets to the nature of your question.
Second, we want to reach around the regime -- the Castro regime -- to facilitate contacts between the Cuban people and the American people. Those are the two defining features of the Cuban Democracy Act.
We have said before that we are prepared to respond with carefully calibrated steps to meaningful and irreversible political and economic change in Cuba. I don't have anything to give you today that would go beyond that statement.
Q Nick, there's been some speculation that the talks with Tarnoff and his Cuban counterpart are a prelude to this; and that, in fact, the Administration is preparing some kind of gestures -- maybe some gestures to Cuba?
MR. BURNS: The agreement -- the joint statement that was issued yesterday -- pertains only to the issue of migrants, and our interest in seeing a safe, orderly, and legal process by which migrants can be treated by the United States. That's a compelling interest that we have.
The joint statement issued yesterday did not go into any other aspect of U.S.-Cuban relations, including the ones that you've mentioned.
Q Even so, isn't the U.S. on a track toward normal relations with Cuba? Wouldn't it be a lot easier to have relations with Cuba whose record is no worse than dozens of countries you deal with daily in a formal way? Is it all politics?
Wouldn't it make diplomats lives easier if you had normal relations with Cuba?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I think --
Q He owns Florida.
MR. BURNS: I think the great majority of people in this government would tell you that the lives of our diplomats are not going to be easier if we suddenly change course. We have a concerted, coherent, and strong policy towards Cuba. As I said, it's based on the Cuban Democracy Act and it's based on the continuation of the economic embargo.
We need to see changes in the nature of how the totalitarian regime in Cuba goes about its business in the treatment of its own people, because human rights concerns are very strong here on the economy and on politics. Until we see those changes, as I said, we're not going to be prepared to take any steps that would normalize or soften this relationship. I have nothing to give you today that would indicate that we are prepared to do that.
Q A follow-up on the earlier answer, in terms of the policy announced yesterday. Given the fact that you've changed policy from just a year ago, why should the people in Cuba think that you will stick to the policy announced yesterday, vis-a-vis migration on Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I would take issue with the premise of your question. We have had a policy in Cuba since the early 1960s -- an American policy which has been very consistently applied -- and the Clinton Administration believes that that policy ought to continue to be applied quite forcefully.
What we did yesterday was announce new procedures that will affect migrants. The reason we took those steps were two-fold: First, we felt that the situation at Guantanamo was simply not sustainable -- not sustainable because of concerns that we had and our military had. General Sheehan went into this yesterday about the safety of U.S. personnel at Guantanamo and the expense, which was running up to a million dollars per day.
And, secondly, we knew that our decision to parole Cubans from Guantanamo on a humanitarian basis into the United States could not be sustained without a new mechanism to prevent future outflows or, if you will, future situations such as the one that we currently have at Guantanamo. That was the reason for announcing the second initiative on Cuban migrants.
That was what was announced yesterday. We did not announce yesterday a fundamental change in our policy towards Cuba. Our policy towards Cuba remains in place.
Q If I may follow up, Nick, on this. It seems that we have now decided to switch off and reward those who have escaped and then impounded in Guantanamo. There seems a paradox there, if we're going to reward them by paroling them into the United States rather than their having to go through the Interests Section in Havana -- being repatriated as I believe was the plan. We're just going to encourage more of this kind of exodus.
The people in Cuba aren't going to take this seriously. They're just going to come out in greater numbers to test it, at least. Whatever happened to the plan, the policy, to go through the Interests Section? Was that too slow to be safe? And was it too expensive to keep them there at Guantanamo?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I'll be glad to just reaffirm what I said earlier in the briefing; and that is, the situation at Guantanamo had become untenable. It was not sustainable and it would have created far worse problems than we are currently experiencing there. The Administration felt it was very important to deal with that problem before it got out of hand. That is what we have done.
Over the next couple of weeks, the remaining women and children and medically-ill people that number about 6,000 at Guantanamo will be paroled or at least eligible for parole into the United States, and I would expect that the great majority of them would be brought into the United States on the basis of humanitarian parole.
After that, we'll be left with about 15,000 people -- mainly young men -- at Guantanamo and they will be eligible for humanitarian parole. We expect that the great majority of them would probably qualify for that parole and would be brought into the United States consistent with our agreement to bring in a minimum of 20,000 people per year. So those 15,000 will be counted against our 20,000 per year on a yearly basis over about three years.
At the same time, we will continue our procedures to allow Cubans who reside in Cuba to apply at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana for migration to the United States. That is a legal way to do it. It's a safe way to do it. We certainly are not encouraging and do not expect to see a return to the situation that occurred last summer when so many thousands of people took to the seas in a very unsafe manner. Because we don't want to see that situation repeated, we have developed procedures that we think will make that unlikely.
Q If I could finish this -- have the Cubans then been informed? Have they advised our people in Guantanamo that their behavior will be such that they expect this -- in other words, they will behave in order that they might receive this carrot of a parole directly into the United States. In other words, this is going to solve the problem with the crowd control in Guantanamo?
MR. BURNS: Are you referring to the Cubans at Guantanamo?
Q Yes, I am.
MR. BURNS: Yes, certainly our military personnel will make clear to the people at Guantanamo what the nature of these policy decisions is and what the procedures are. I don't think that's going to be a problem.
Betsy, you had your hand up.
Q Could you give me -- could you reiterate for me or spell out for me what the numbers will be? Will the women and children plus the 15,000 men come in here over the course of a year? Does this mean that the number coming from Cuba proper will be down this year because other people are coming from Guantanamo?
MR. BURNS: I do have some detailed information on this. Let me just try to go through it if that's helpful.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service, the INS -- their officials at Guantanamo will continue processing for parole into the U.S. at the present rate of approximately 500 Cuban migrants per week. Those who meet the criteria announced by the President last fall -- unaccompanied minors, the chronically ill, the elderly, and children, for whom long-term presence in the safehaven at Guantanamo would constitute an extraordinary hardship, and their families -- will continue to be paroled first.
Once the processing of this population is completed -- and we expect to have it completed by some time in July -- then the processing of the remaining Cubans in Guantanamo will begin. I believe the rough number for this first group is 6,000 -- roughly 6,000. Then we'll begin the processing of the remaining 15,000.
As has been true for all Cubans and Haitians previously paroled into the United States, sponsorship and resettlement assistance will be obtained prior to their entry into the United States. We would expect that this second group of 15,000 or so will have been paroled into the United States -- at least those that are found to be eligible -- by early next year. That is, early in 1996.
Those found ineligible for admission into the U.S. -- such as those with a criminal record, those who were previously deported from the United States, those responsible for acts of violence at Guantanamo, and those with certain medical conditions -- will be returned to Cuba.
I believe the figures that we're talking about, as of today, are 20,783 Cubans at Guantanamo. That is down from yesterday's number, because I believe 172 people were paroled into the United States yesterday to Miami.
To date, over 10,500 Cuban migrants have been paroled into the U.S. on humanitarian grounds or have been medically evacuated to the United States. A certain limited number of people have returned voluntarily to Cuba through official channels, and I believe 530 people have gone back to Cuba through that route.
As you know, a very limited number of people have moved on to third countries. I believe ten Cubans from Panama have been resettled in Venezuela; 110 Cubans from Panama have been moved to Spain to join family members there.
I know these are a lot of numbers that I've thrown out here, but that is as complete accounting as I can give you of what the situation is at Guantanamo. You may have a follow up.
Q Will the number of Cubans coming into this country from Cuba proper be curtailed because of these people coming in from Guantanamo?
MR. BURNS: We're going to maintain our commitment under the agreement negotiated with Cuba last September to at a minimum have 20,000 Cubans enter the U.S. every year as migrants. So 20,000 per year. Of the 15,000 that will begin to be processed this summer, 5,000 will be counted against the 20,000 number on an annual basis for three years.
So it does count. There will be no net increase into the United States as a result of yesterday's decision. So the people brought in, again, from Guantanamo will count against the 20,000 minimum number.
Q I think I have two questions. First, just following up on some of your numbers. Will the 500 who took the U.S. at its word and voluntarily returned from Guantanamo back to Cuba have any kind of priority in terms of their request through the U.S. Interests Section?
MR. BURNS: Those people who have voluntarily returned to Cuba have every right to present themselves at our processing center in Havana if they choose to apply for migration to the United States.
Q They'll be treated like any other Cuban, despite the fact that they were responding to what the U.S. had asked them to do at the time? They get no special --
MR. BURNS: I don't know the answer to that question. I can't answer that question.
Q I think a broader question on Director Tarnoff's secret talks. Were they narrowly restricted to the immigration issue or did they get into any broader substantive discussions? Were there any kind of side agreements, understandings, and are there plans for future high- level negotiations at that level, for instance?
MR. BURNS: As I said before, I don't want to get into the details of the talks. I can just tell you we did have high-level talks between the United States and Cuba, and those talks resulted in the joint statement that was issued yesterday. They were concerned solely with the issue that was presented yesterday -- the issue of how to deal in a safe, orderly and legal manner with the migrant problem from Cuba.
Q And is the intent that there will be further discussions at that level? Was there any agreement or understanding to meet again at that level?
MR. BURNS: I have no information on that. I just have no way of knowing at this point whether there will be further contacts at high level. We do have continuing diplomatic contacts with the Cuban Government, because they have diplomats in the United States and we have diplomats in Cuba.
Q Did you have evidence that there were going to be riots at Guantanamo -- that there was going to be a long, hot summer there?
MR. BURNS: As I think a number of people mentioned yesterday, we were concerned about the situation in Guantanamo. I can't say that we were predicting that there would be riots. I never saw reports to that effect. Perhaps some people in our government thought that was the case. But we certainly thought the proposition that you keep 15,000 or so single men at a camp like that in those conditions was a difficult proposition to sustain, and that that problem had to be dealt with. So we took steps to deal with that problem.
Q I have a non-Cuba question.
MR. BURNS: Do you want to stay on Cuba? We'll stay on Cuba, and we'll go back.
Q Okay, I'm waiting.
MR. BURNS: Carol.
Q Why did the Administration decide that you needed to elevate these talks to that senior a level to reach this agreement? That's question number one. And, two, has Hays been reassigned?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, again I'm not going to get into either the level or the nature of the talks in a detailed fashion. We simply took the steps that we thought were necessary to deal with the problem and to negotiate an agreement concerning the problem with the Cuban Government.
On the second question, as you know, Dennis Hays and his deputy, Nancy Mason, have asked for reassignment within the Foreign Service. When Secretary Christopher was apprised of this early yesterday morning, he took the initiative to call Dennis, whom he respects very much. They had a good conversation about the reasons why Dennis felt it was necessary to request this action, and the Secretary believes that every effort should be made to make sure that Dennis Hays is given a good and responsible position in the Foreign Service. The Secretary retains great confidence in him and has great respect for him.
Q But he hasn't gotten a new job yet.
MR. BURNS: I believe that Dennis just made this decision yesterday, and I don't want to speak for him. It's not my right to speak for him. He has to speak for himself. But's just been 24 hours, and usually the State Department personnel system has not been known, at least in my experience, to operate that quickly. (Laughter)
Q Nick, the American officials -- I'm not going to particularize it -- were the American officials working the problems daily -- were they aware of the talks going on at a level above them?
MR. BURNS: Barry, to be direct, I think that these negotiations were carried out at a certain level in the Department. I don't believe that people who work on this problem on a day-to-day basis were involved in those negotiations.
Q But aware of them.
MR. BURNS: I can't speak for them.
Q Made aware of them.
MR. BURNS: I can't speak for them. I know they were made aware of the full extent of the decisions just recently. But I'm very reluctant to speak for them -- the individuals -- because I have not spoken to them personally, and it wouldn't be right for me to do that.
Q No, no. But, please, maybe I'm putting the question poorly. It wouldn't be their decision to be told about something going on above their level that might actually contradict what they were doing day to day and their understanding of the situation.
So were these Tarnoff-level talks so tightly, closely held that people in the building working on Cuba on a day-to-day basis were not informed of the talks?
MR. BURNS: I thought I answered that in the very first sentence that I said, but let me try again. These were high-level talks. They were carried on at a high level with a limited number of individuals from both sides participating, and I do not believe that the people who worked on this problem on a daily basis were involved in those discussions.
Q Why were they frozen out from these discussions -- this policy development?
MR. BURNS: As I said, I do not want to get into a detailed rendition of how the talks were carried out. Of course, diplomacy sometimes has to be carried out in a certain fashion to be successful, and that was the decision that was made, and we believe it's a decision that can be supported.
MR. BURNS: Still on Cuba?
MR. BURNS: Betsy.
Q Will all of these people from Guantanamo be brought into Florida -- into the Miami area, and was there any quid pro quo for this? Do the Cubans expect anything in return for this agreement?
MR. BURNS: There's no quid pro quo that I am aware of. This is a fairly simple, basic agreement. The answer to the first part of the question is that I believe the way the humanitarian parole process works is that these people need to have sponsors in the United States and that they don't necessarily have to be in Florida. These people, when they find sponsors or are given sponsors, will go, I would assume, at the beginning to where the sponsors are. That does not have to mean that all of them will go to Florida.
But given the fact that there's a large Cuban-American community in Florida, I suppose a great number of them are destined for Florida.
Q Did last summer's talks specify that at some point in this year high-level talks would be held? Were the talks that just concluded spelled out at some point last summer?
MR. BURNS: The talks last summer --
Q That the talks would be held.
MR. BURNS: The talks last summer that resulted in the September 9 agreement on migration specified that there would be review sessions, and the most recent review session was held during the third week of April -- the week of April 17 -- in New York City.
Q And the talks that just concluded, were those specified in last September's agreement?
MR. BURNS: You mean the talks that resulted in the agreement.
Q The Tarnoff talks.
MR. BURNS: No, I do not believe they were. Anymore on Cuba? We've exhausted Cuba.
Q A question about Croatia. Do you know, is there in fact a viable cease-fire in Croatia, and do you understand that the conditions would require the Croatians to move back to their position status quo ante? In other words, 36 hours ago -- outside of that -- to leave that western pocket?
MR. BURNS: Let me just say a few things about Croatia. We've received a lot of information this morning from our Embassy in Zagreb from Ambassador Galbraith, and there have been quite a few meetings in the Department this morning on this issue.
First, we deplore the attacks on Zagreb on innocent civilians, and we don't have, I think, at this point an accurate count of how many people have died and how many have been wounded in Zagreb today as well as yesterday. But there have been a considerable number of deaths and injuries reported.
This is a deplorable action on the part of the Croatian Serbs who are responsible for it, and our indications are that the rockets that were fired upon Zagreb this morning came from Krajina Serb positions, as they did yesterday.
We would call upon the parties to this conflict, both Croatian Serbs and the Croatian Government, to cease the fighting that has taken place over the last three days, and that we call upon them to cooperate with Mr. Akashi who is trying to work out a cease-fire in Croatia.
We further believe that the authority of the United Nations should be respected in Croatia as well as re-established in Croatia. We have just recently, within the last hour or two, been in touch with the Hungarian Foreign Minister. As you know, Hungary is the Chair of the OSCE, and we will support the efforts of the Hungarian Government in their capacity as Chair of the OSCE to help defuse this situation and help the parties achieve a cease-fire.
Q There may be some confusion in the reports, but one of the reports that I saw from Akashi is that there has been a cease- fire agreed by both sides.
MR. BURNS: I've seen the same reports that you have: The reports that late today in Zagreb a cease-fire was worked out. We have not been able to confirm that independently. We are seeking to do so. We very much hope that these reports are true, and that both parties will agree with cease-fires so that they can handle their problems and deal with them on a political level and not through warfare.
Q And the terms of this reported cease-fire, as you understand it, does it require the Croatians to return to their previous positions? In other words, to leave that western pocket?
MR. BURNS: I don't have enough information based on the press reports and based on some of my conversations here to say what the cease-fire compels the Croatian authorities to do in that respect.
Q Nick, does any of the blame attach to Mr. Milosevic in the U.S. view?
MR. BURNS: I think that the blame for the rocket attacks against Zagreb have to be directly tied to the Croatian Serb authorities who are responsible for them over the last two days. There was a question about this yesterday. I am not in a position, based on the evidence and the information in front of me, to draw a line to Belgrade.
There has been a concern in the past, certainly, about military supplies from Belgrade to not only the Bosnian Serbs but the Croatian Serbs. I am not in a position, though, to draw that link this week. I'm not saying the link doesn't exist. I just don't have any information to substantiate it.
Q That takes care of commission. How about omission? The U.S., trying to grab ahold of this awful situation, has put a lot of its chips on Milosevic as being the key Serb in that area and asked him repeatedly to use -- I don't want to say "good offices" -- to use his office to try to restrain the Serbs in Bosnia and in Croatia. Is he fulfilling any -- is he responsive to those appeals?
MR. BURNS: Barry, what I can say on that question -- and it's a very good question -- is that Ambassador Frasure called Mr. Milosevic yesterday, and he urged him to use his influence on the Croatian Serbs to convince them that a continuation of the fighting is not in their interests and also to convince them that their rocket attacks in Zagreb are contrary to everything that is decent.
I would note that one of the locations that was attacked this morning was a children's hospital which is very close to the U.S. Embassy. Ambassador Galbraith visited the hospital and has reported to us that several of the children were injured but fortunately none were killed.
In addition, I believe a policeman was killed this morning, attempting to defuse one of these cluster bombs that are being fired upon Zagreb.
Q You know, yesterday you spoke of cluster bombs. Again, another volley of cluster bombs.
MR. BURNS: Of cluster bombs. So I think the answer to your question is we made the call yesterday. Ambassador Frasure made the call to Mr. Milosevic to convince him to use the influence that he obviously has on the Croatian Serbs, to ask them to stop these actions. If in fact the press reports are true that Mr. Akashi has been able to work out a cease-fire, then that would be very good news indeed.
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q What did Mr. --
MR. BURNS: I don't want to characterize his half of the conversation. I'm very glad to characterize our half, though. I can't give you a detailed accounting of that conversation.
Q Is there a rationale in U.N. resolutions or in agreements between NATO and the U.N. for NATO to stage airstrikes against Croatian Serbs -- heavy weapons around Zagreb and possibly reminiscent of the beginning stages of the siege of Sarajevo. There must be some sort of thoughts about not repeating the mistakes of that city.
MR. BURNS: As you know, those procedures and that rationale are in place in Bosnia. At this point we are concentrating our efforts on our support for Mr. Akashi, for the U.N., to achieve a cease-fire, and, as I said, we're very hopeful that the Hungarian Government, working through the OSCE might also be helpful, but I don't believe any of the action you've indicated is currently being contemplated.
Q Are you asking the Croatians to withdraw from Sector West and to turn it over to the United Nations, and is the U.S. Government planning to downgrade its relations with Croatia in any way because of this offensive of theirs?
MR. BURNS: The answer to your second question: We're not at this point contemplating any downgrading of our relationship with Zagreb. Ambassador Galbraith is in place. He's doing a fine job, and the Embassy and Ambassador Galbraith will remain there.
In answer to the first question, remind me again exactly the point in your --
Q The Croatians have seized that was a supposed U.N.- protected zone, and they control it, I guess, now.
MR. BURNS: Let me repeat what I said yesterday. It's our very strong position that the authority of the U.N. in Sector West and other areas ought to be respected and re-established. I think it's obvious what that means.
Q But if it isn't, is there any kind of stick that you will bring to bear on the Croats? The European Union today said that they were going to suspend negotiations, for example, on an economic agreement.
MR. BURNS: We've made very clear to the Croatian authorities over the last 24 hours that our position is that the U.N. authority ought to be re-established as well as respected, and I don't care to, I think, take it down the road too far in a hypothetical sense to try to predict what we might do if that does not occur.
Q Nick, why should the Croats be asked to withdraw from their own territory, and the Croatian Serbs be allowed to stay?
MR. BURNS: Let me be very clear about something, Sid, and I think this is also a good -- I'm glad you raised it, and we talked a little bit about it yesterday. We respect and recognize Croatia's sovereignty throughout Croatia -- throughout the internationally recognized borders of Croatia. That is not at issue here. And we also are appalled at the tactics of the Croatian Serbs to attack innocent people in a large city of a million people.
We simply believe that the way for the Croatian Government and the Croatian people to achieve justice -- and we hope they'll have justice in the final analysis -- and to achieve control over all the territory within their internationally-recognized borders is not through military steps but through peaceful negotiations. We simply can't be in a position throughout the Balkans of applauding every time somebody takes up a gun to fire it in the name of whatever cause.
So we have strong support for Croatian sovereignty and strong support for the Croatian Government in many ways. But we do not support a recourse to violent means for them to reclaim their territory. We think that it can be done and should be done through other means.
Q Nick, yesterday, 10 minutes after Christopher talked to Kozyrev, you came out and spoke how the two had decided to take a more energetic approach to the problem, I'm sure involving the other -- in fact, you spoke of the Contact Group. Twenty-four hours later now, can you give us any idea of what this quintet has done about the situation?
MR. BURNS: Since the Secretary spoke to Foreign Minister Kozyrev about 24 hours ago, I would note that Mr. Kozyrev has issued a statement -- a public statement -- on the situation in Croatia which is, I think, compatible with the statements that we have been making on the situation in Croatia.
In addition to that, President Yeltsin was quoted in Moscow this morning as calling upon all the parties to achieve a cease-fire and to adopt a political solution to these problems, not a military solution.
The Contact Group is in session today in London working on the problems of both Croatia and Bosnia. Chris Hill, our Office Director for the region, is representing the United States. The Contact Group will meet again two days from now, on Friday in London --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, you're right -- in Paris. Thank you. Ambassador Bob Frasure will be representing the U.S. at that session. Since the phone call, we've been pleased to see that the Russian Government has taken the same steps that we have -- support for the Contact Group effort -- and has taken the same rhetoric steps, and we would expect that to continue. We have a Contact Group meeting underway. I don't have a report on that meeting for you. One will be underway again in two days.
Q (Inaudible) brief us? Is there a possibility of that?
MR. BURNS: I think this has a fairly exhaustive briefing. Ambassador Frasure is a very busy guy, as you can imagine, today. He'll be leaving for the region, I believe, tomorrow. So I'm not sure it's going to be possible to bring him down here. He's a very persuasive advocate of our position. I'll try my best to represent his and other peoples' views.
Q In light of the events of the last 48 hours, is the Administration anymore eager or -- maybe better put -- less reluctant to have a Foreign Ministers-level meeting among the Contact Group? Has your position moved at all? Are you any closer to wanting to convene such a meeting?
MR. BURNS: Our position hasn't changed. We are open to the possibility of a Contact Group ministerial, but only if there is reason to believe that as a result of the meeting the situation will be improved; that we'll have some concrete achievements of a meeting to point to.
The issue is not whether the Contact Group should talk everyday. We talk everyday. There are two meetings this week in addition to the meeting last week. There's no problem of communication in the Contact Group.
The problem we have is obviously dealing with a very frustrating, demanding, and complex situation in both Bosnia and Croatia. But I can say we remain actively involved in the effort in Bosnia to try to seek a recognition of Bosnia by Belgrade in return for limited sanctions relief. The Contact Group is now fixed also on the problem of Croatia.
The Contact Group is resolved that it wants to support the efforts of the United Nations in both situations.
Q Do you have an update on Fred (Cuny)?
MR. BURNS: The question is about Fred Cuny. I do not have a significant update for you. Four of our diplomats from Moscow -- American diplomats -- remain in Chechnya -- Ingushetia -- looking for him. We are following up on a number of leads. We have been given a number of leads over the last week; specific leads from people on the ground. We are following them up, but I don't have any detailed information to give you about the success or failure of those efforts.
I don't want to lead you either way, positively or negatively, to think that the situation has improved or deteriorated. As soon as we get any information that we think is firm either way, then I'll be prepared to give that to you.
Q (Inaudible) on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: You want to stay on Fred Cuny?
Q Another update.
MR. BURNS: Back to Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. We're on Russia.
Q While we're on the subject of updates, can you give us any further information on the efforts of the Moscow Embassy to get the Russian Government to reinstate the visa of the journalist Steve LeVine? His visa was seized when he tried to enter Moscow.
MR. BURNS: We are working on this problem, Karen. The problem of Steve LeVine's visa, our position is that he should be allowed into Moscow to cover the summit next week. Ambassador Pickering and his staff are working with the Russian Government on a solution to that problem. We hope to work one out shortly.
But the situation is essentially, I think, not -- I don't have anything to add to the situation as it stood last week when the Secretary raised this issue directly with Foreign Minister Kozyrev.
Q Can I ask a question on Turkey?
MR. BURNS: Can we go back to Bosnia and then go to Turkey? We will get to Turkey.
Q Will you?
MR. BURNS: Turkey is a very important country. We talk about Turkey everyday.
Q Let me follow up here quickly. Nick, in the wires, in the last couple of days, France and Great Britain have threatened to withdraw from UNPROFOR activities in Bosnia if the levels of fighting increase, if the levels of instability increase. There are certainly signs of that in and around Sarajevo and elsewhere in Bosnia, which also the Russians said, in essence, last week they would look at the situation after there was no longer a cease-fire and see if it was tenable for them to stay.
Galbraith, our Ambassador to Croatia, said that the events that were going on in Croatia here the last couple/three days could trigger Europe's biggest war in 50 years. Does the Department essentially believe that that is accurate? Do you condone and own that statement by the Ambassador? And what about Britain and France?
MR. BURNS: Suffice it to say, on the second part of your question, everybody in Washington as well as our representatives in the field are extremely concerned about the deterioration of the situation in both Bosnia and Croatia. I will let that statement stand where it is.
Q And another portion about withdrawal of major UNPROFOR allies?
MR. BURNS: We have been talking to the French and the British within the Contact Group about this issue. We agree with both countries that the conditions of the peacekeepers ought to be strengthen; the U.N.'s ability to protect them ought to be enhanced; and that we ought to point towards a political solution -- in this case, a cease-fire in Bosnia -- to try to limit and contain the fighting.
Again, we are concerned that we have to make every effort to avoid the outbreak of a larger war in both Bosnia and Croatia this summer. That's where the focus of Ambassador Holbrooke's efforts, the Secretary's efforts, and the President's efforts lie.
Q (Inaudible) figure the size of withdrawal from Croatia? Are we going to help them?
MR. BURNS: That is a hypothetical question at this point. We hope very much that they will remain in Bosnia. France has the largest contingent of troops. It's a very effective peacekeeping contingent. We hope that they'll remain there.
Yes, Turkey. You've been very patient.
Q Thank you. I appreciate it. Turkish President Suleyman Demirel yesterday made an interesting statement. It's been carried today in the Los Angeles Times. He said the Turkish-Iraqi border should be modified -- namely, pulled south -- to make it easier to defend.
The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Karayalcin, he said that this was a matter of just Turkey and Iraq coming together and agreeing on a border change. If the two countries agreed on it, nobody should have any problem with it. Could you comment on this?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen the particular article that you refer to. I see you've got there. I can't really read it from this distance. I won't attempt to.
MR. BURNS: We have always supported, since March 1991, the end of the Gulf war. We will always recognize the international borders of Iraq. We do not support any attempt to change those borders by force.
However, in agreeing to set up "Operation Provide Comfort" back in March 1991, we also made the decision that Iraq was not capable, and is still not capable, of exercising authority in the northern part of its country, and certainly not capable in exercising authority in a responsible way regarding the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. So we have not supported and will not support any efforts to change borders by force.
Q But nobody mentions force here. The Deputy Prime Minister says the implication is by talking to Iraq, negotiating. What do you have to say about that non-force in Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any specific proposals that have been presented to the United States, or even general proposals,, over the last couple of weeks or months to change Iraq's borders. I'm not aware of any. I therefore can't speak to any on behalf of the U.S. Government.
Q Can we do Guatemala? The colonel -- Julio Roberto Alpirez -- apparently has been exonerated. Do you have any comment?
MR. BURNS: Yes. We saw the same press reports, George, that you did on Guatemala. Our Embassy in Guatemala is looking into those press reports. I think the reports were that a military tribunal had ended its preliminary investigation Julio Roberto Alpirez in connection with the death of Efrain Bamaca Velasguez, and according to the reports, the evidence of possible guilt was insufficient to proceed with an indictment, and the military judge found no reason to hold him or require a bond.
Our Embassy and our Ambassador are making inquiries about these legal developments. We continue to press upon the Guatemalan Government for a very thorough, comprehensive, forceful, and credible investigations that would result in the prosecution of everyone who is responsible for the death of Mr. Bamaca, and also for the death of an American citizen, Michael Devine, who was murdered viciously a couple of years before Mr. Bamaca was killed.
Q Perhaps you will take the question as to whether the State Department considers what has transpired to be a credible investigation?
MR. BURNS: Well, I think what I am going to do is just reserve judgment for the time being. What I mean to say here quite plainly is that we have seen the reports. Our Embassy is looking into those reports, and if we find that the reports are not credible, or the investigation is not credible, we won't hesitate to speak out.
I think you have heard the Secretary, the President and the Secretary, speak about our very, very strong interests to see the Guatemalan Government pursue these investigations in a serious and credible way. And we fully expect that that will happen.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Mr. Orazov you know, our Minister was in Ankara on Monday and Tuesday discussing a whole range of economic issues, including a project which provides for the transfer of Turkmenistan natural gas via Iran and Turkey to the West. I would like to know if the U. S. Administration's position on this project, which certainly involves some U. S. interest, which certainly involves the former Secretary Alexander Haig?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of the specific actions over the past couple of days pertaining to this project. I am aware in general of some American company activity in Turkmenistan, but I can't speak to the specifics of what you are talking during the last couple of days.
I can say in a general way that the President and the Secretary on Sunday and Monday made abundantly clear what our policy is towards Iran. We have encouraged Turkey, as well as other countries in Europe and in Asia to follow our lead in a long-term to isolate Iran and to end the West oil relationship with Iran. That is where we think the West should be heading, as long as Iran appears to be bent on a path to achieving a nuclear capability in the future, and we have every reason to think and a lot of information behind those judgments to think that Iran is doing just that.
Q Nick, anything on North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do have something to say. Okay, one on Turkey and then I do have something to say on North Korea.
Yes. Q As a part of the normalized relations between Greece and Turkey, one of the statesmen from Turkey is visiting right now in Western Thrace.
MR. BURNS: In Western -- excuse me?
Q Thrace, in the northern part of Greece, and what the Greek Government doesn't want to issue visas to some part of the delegates which escort the statesmen. Mostly the journalists and the entertainers. Do you have any reaction on that?
MR. BURNS: My only reaction to that question would be, we have excellent relations with Turkey, excellent relations with Greece, and we are quite confident that alone they can work out this problem of a visa.
Now to North Korea. Yesterday, on May 2nd, Ambassador Gallucci responded to Vice Minister Kang, the North Korean Vice Minister, welcoming North Korea's decision to accept our proposal for political level talks.
We have proposed that the talks begin in mid May in Geneva or another mutually acceptable location, and we are awaiting a response from the North Koreans to Ambassador Gallucci's letter. Ambassador Gallucci plans to visit Seoul and Tokyo next week to consult with our allies before these talks take place.
But again, he has sent his letter. We do not yet have a response from the North Koreans to that letter.
Q That is all he said? He welcomed it and reiterates a proposal?
MR. BURNS: He offered our specific proposal of mid May in Geneva as our best judgment as to where and when these talks should take place. Those are the only two remaining issues to be resolved. We don't have any substantive issues to resolve before these talks can take place.
Q Isn't it unusual, since the U.S. consults with the allies all the time. That's a long way for Mr. Gallucci to go, and he's a high level official. Will there be any reformulation of the U.S. positions, particularly on the model of reactors in those negotiations when they resume? Is that why he is going to Seoul and Tokyo to try to reshape the positions that will be accepted?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it is unusual, Barry, that he is going to go all that way. They are both there, and I think the practice has been in the trilateral talks to shift them from capital to capital. And he has certainly been very active throughout the last year or so in consulting and has made a number of trips to the area, and I would not lead you to conclude that the fact that he is going that far somehow indicates that we are proposing new features to these discussions. I have nothing whatsoever for you on that particular angle.
Q I suppose he could just stop back in Geneva in mid May on his way back from there.
MR. BURNS: All I said is, his plans are to go to Seoul and Tokyo, and then we hope, if our offer is accepted, that the talks will begin in mid May in Geneva.
Q In your statement against the territorial integrity of Iraq, was his reply to Secretary of State Mr. Christopher's letter regarding the court decision. Could you please release those letters, since Mr. Dinar stated, -- quote -- When I read Christopher's letter, it felt as I feel a bowl of water was being put over my head. Unquote.
MR. BURNS: I'm glad to comment on that.
MR. BURNS: And my comment is two-fold. We have not seen the letter in question. This is a letter -- I think the L.A. Times reported that there was a letter from Mr. Demirel. I have not seen the letter. That is my first comment.
My second comment is the United States has been a very good friend of Turkey. Turkey is a major strategic ally of the United States. The United States has been a great supporter of Turkey during the last couple of months, particularly on the issue of PKK terrorism. And I will just leave my comments right there.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:l7 p.m.)
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