U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/05/17 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, May 17, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns MIDDLE EAST Timing of Status of Jerusalem Discussions .........1-2 Israel Land Confiscations, UNSC Debate ............2 Israel-Syria Security Talks, Secretary's Remarks ..3-5 Syria Support for Terrorism .......................5 Secretary/Ross Travel to Region ...................6 RUSSIA Search for Fred Cuny, Examination of Remains ......2-3,6-7 Other Leads on Cuny Whereabouts ...................6-7 Cooperation from Russian Government ...............7 Cuny Family Members' Access to Chechnya ...........7-8 CHINA Rejection of Tibetan Choice of Religious Leader ...8-9 Spratly Islands: Dust-up with PHILIPPINES ........9-10 US Position on Spratlys Dispute ...................9-10 Proposed Amendment to TAIWAN Relations Act ........10-11 Policy on U.S. Visit by Taiwan President Li .......15 IRAN-POLAND Poland Sale of Tanks to Iran, COCOM Successor Membership ......................................11-14 Other International Conventional Arms Sales to Iran ............................................12 Poland's Search for Other Arms Markets ............13 U.S. Oil Companies' Reactions to USG's Iran Sanctions .......................................14 ARMS CONTROL COCOM Successor Regime: Timing of Activation .....14-15 Russia Participation ..............................15 IRAQ Detained Americans: Krystosik Denied Access ......15-16 Spouse Travel Plans ...............................16 Utility of Clinton Letter Requesting Release ......16-17 MEXICO Migration Issues ..................................17 FRANCE U.S. Bilateral Contacts w/ Chirac's Team ..........17-18 Chirac Government's Policy on UNPROFOR ............18 SERBIA-MONTENEGRO Amb Frasure Talks in Belgrade, Sanctions Relief for Recognition of Bosnia ...........................18-19 Situation in Sarajevo, Renewed Fighting ...........19 Milosevic Counter-Proposal ........................19 JAPAN Possible Side Effects from U.S. Trade Sanctions ...19-20
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 1995, 1:27 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to all of you. I'm ready for any questions you've got on any issue.
Q Nick, I wonder if you could clarify the U.S. policy on whether Jerusalem should be on the agenda now. I ask because of those talks in Switzerland where, according to reports, the Arabs insisted it go on the agenda now. Mr. Pelletreau went in their direction over Israel's vehement objections. Is there something lost in translation here?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I didn't catch the last part of your question about Pelletreau.
Q I said, over Israel's vehement objections, is there something lost in translation here?
MR. BURNS: I don't think so. We've talked in the past about our position being well known. What that means is that Jerusalem is a very sensitive issue, and the President and the Secretary of State have made it clear on a number of occasions that we will not undertake any actions that could complicate the negotiations between the parties on Jerusalem. There is a provision in the Declaration of Principles for this issue to be taken up, but not at this time.
The United States certainly does not want to get ahead of the parties. The parties are the ones that have to resolve all the issues to be covered under the Declaration of Principles, and we prefer to leave it to them.
Q So you're not in favor of addressing it right now, the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: That's correct. Our position is that the Declaration of Principles provides, in fact, I think, even a timetable --
Q It does.
MR. BURNS: -- for when this issue should be taken up. There are a lot of other issues on the agenda right now on the Israeli-Palestinian track, as well as the other tracks, that are quite complicated. We prefer to see those issues addressed and leave it up to the parties to decide when they want to address this particular issue.
Q Could I ask it another way? Do you think the expropriation of 130 acres of land around Jerusalem by the Israeli Government has complicated the negotiations?
MR. BURNS: We have said in the past, and I have said in the past from the podium, that we don't believe this was especially helpful. It imposed a certain number of difficulties in the process.
We saw the statements over the weekend from the Israeli Government, in fact from the Prime Minister, that these kinds of actions would not be taken in the future. We found that to be a helpful statement and a positive statement, but I think we have expressed before our opinion on this particular issue of land confiscation.
Q A vote is coming at the United Nations Security Council in the next few hours, I think, in New York regarding the expropriation and the draft resolution by the non-aligned countries. I understand that it was watered down as a result of the pressure or the negotiations with the U.S. Delegation. What do you think the position of the United States is going to be in the vote which is going to take place any time?
MR. BURNS: I'll leave it certainly to Ambassador Albright to articulate the U.S. position in the Security Council.
I would just note that we have said since this issue came up in New York that we don't believe that New York is the proper venue for a discussion of this issue.
As I said in response to the first question, the Declaration of Principles clearly sets out where this and other issues related to it should be located and that is in direct discussions between the parties, not in multilateral discussions.
Q Any update on Fred Cuny?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, I do not have a lot of information to give you on the status of Fred Cuny. Since we didn't have a formal briefing yesterday, let me try to just summarize what has happened over the last 48 hours.
An OSCE delegation traveled to the town of Shatoy yesterday. Included in that delegation was an American diplomat, Philip Remler, who was on detail to the OSCE in Chechnya. That delegation and an accompanying Chechen physician was able to investigate the remains of a person who was apparently killed some time ago.
We have asked for a Russian physician to conduct a thorough forensic examination of the remains of this particular individual. I understand that the physician arrived in Shatoy today. He has not yet completed his forensic examination.
Therefore, as I said yesterday to some of you, we are not able to confirm the story that this corpse may be that of Fred Cuny, positively or negatively. We certainly hope it's not; we hope that he's alive, and that we may be able to find him and secure his release.
Since the investigation has not yet been completed, I'm not in a position to pronounce our view as to whether or not this corpse is indeed that of Fred Cuny.
Q If I could go back to Israel and Syria for a second. The Secretary's statement, just to clarify: Is he drawing that conclusion after Ambassador Ross' meeting yesterday with the Syrian Foreign Minister, or is this sort of his general impression over the last couple of weeks?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary's remarks just a couple of minutes ago up in the Ben Franklin Room referred to his meetings over the last couple of weeks with both Prime Minister Rabin and Foreign Minister Shara.
The Secretary had good conversations with Foreign Minister Shara here in the Department. Ambassador Ross continued those conversations yesterday, and I believe that Foreign Minister Shara has now left Washington.
We thought they were good talks. We want to continue the discussions. We are always hopeful that we will be able to make progress on these particularly difficult set of issues. I don't have any progress to indicate to you, but I just want you to know that we thought they were good talks; that we will continue them; that we remain committed to trying to help in any way we can the Syrian and Israeli Governments to work out the differences between them on all the issues that are preventing a final settlement.
Q Do you want to talk to them again about the same security proposals you just talked to them about? Is that what you're saying?
MR. BURNS: What I'm saying is, we're not going to stop any of the discussions certainly between the United States and Syria, or the United States and Israel. We'll continue them.
There are many ways we can do that. Certainly, in capitals. Ambassador Ross is an active diplomat, and he will remain actively involved, as well as the Secretary when necessary.
Q You're talking about the subject -- a large question -- of all the issues involved. You're not talking about proposals that you've just spent two days going through with the Syrians -- that they need more discussion, you're saying? Or you're not saying?
MR. BURNS: I'm just saying that we had good discussions over the last couple of days, and we'll continue those discussions.
Q On the security issues?
MR. BURNS: On the security issues and all other issues that are involved in the Syrian-Israeli track.
Q So you don't need an answer from the Syrians to continue the discussions. You're prepared to keep going.
MR. BURNS: We will certainly keep going, yes.
Why don't we just go to Sid first.
Q I just want to be very clear. So you're accepting Barry's characterization that you did not get an answer from the Syrians on the bridging proposals?
MR. BURNS: As you know, it's been our practice -- and the Secretary just referred to this a couple of minutes ago -- not to get into the details of the discussions that we have with parties, because we would not be a very effective interlocutor with those parties if we revealed all the details of the discussions in public. So, I'm not going to do that today.
Q No, but the Secretary of States said in the garden of Blair House that no issue has been resolved (inaudible) withdrawal and all. So it isn't really that mysterious. You don't have a resolution of the security issues, do you?
MR. BURNS: It's not a mystery to me, either. We are going to continue our discussions. I have nothing to give you today. I have nothing to announce about any dramatic new developments on this track.
But I do want to state quite clearly that we remain interested and committed to continuing these discussions. They are complicated, and they're the kind of discussions that need to be conducted over the long term, and that's what we're prepared to do.
Q But not necessarily at the Secretary of State-level, right?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary had his discussions this week, and so Ambassador Ross and our other diplomats below the Secretary's level will continue these discussions. I don't have anything to announce by way of specific times or places where the Secretary is going to be continuing these talks, including the issue, as he just said, of any possible travel to the Middle East.
Just to summarize that for you who were not there, the Secretary's belief is that when it is fruitful and productive and when the parties desire it, he is available for further discussions. But there are no plans right now to conduct those discussions at his level.
Q As a result of the talks with Shara, are the military-level talks any closer than they were?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q As a result of the talks with Foreign Minister Shara here in Washington, are the military contacts between Syria and Israel any closer than they were previous to those talks this week?
MR. BURNS: I think I'd just go back to what I said. We had good talks this week. They need to be continued. I think it wouldn't be useful for me to say how much closer or farther away we are from the goal of security talks. It's obviously an objective of ours to get there, and we'll continue to seek those talks.
Q Did you bring up terrorism -- Syrian-supported terrorism in this meeting?
MR. BURNS: Was the issue raised during the last couple of days with the Syrians?
MR. BURNS: I will check and see if that was raised.
Q If the Secretary is not going -- the Israelis are expecting or anticipating that the Secretary will be there before the end of this month for another round of talks. Will it be Mr. Dennis Ross going soon to the area if the Secretary is not going?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary just said that he has no plans to travel to the Middle East at this time. I'm not aware that Ambassador Ross has any plans as well.
Q On Fred Cuny?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Are you aware of the statement made by the Russian intelligence agency spokesman denying that the remains are those of Fred Cuny?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen that particular statement. We want to be very, very careful here not to make any statements or judgments about whether or not this corpse is that of Fred Cuny until we have had the opportunity to conduct -- have a Russian doctor conduct -- a complete forensic examination. When that is completed, I will be the first to tell you, because we obviously want to know ourselves. Our very strong hope, obviously, is that he is alive and that he will soon find his way back to his family.
Q On a different subject?
Q No, I have one more question.
MR. BURNS: Betsy.
Q Have we continued to get hints, rumors, information of the whereabouts of Cuny since this body was found, or have those rumors and indications that you've been getting died down?
MR. BURNS: They haven't, no. We continue to receive a lot of leads, a lot of information. We hear a lot of rumors about his whereabouts, and they have continued, Betsy, even after the announcement that there was a corpse that had been uncovered in the town of Shatoy in Chechnya.
We are following up all of those leads. We have, as I said, an American diplomat, a very good American diplomat, Philip Remler, who is part of this OSCE delegation, and he's on the ground. One of the problems that this particular mission has had is that they were fired upon Saturday in trying to reach the village of Shatoy, and they had to turn back. I understand that yesterday, when they were conducting their first review of the situation and first review of the corpse, they also came under fire.
We don't believe that the fire was directed at them specifically, but they are in a town which is in the middle of hostilities. So it is very difficult to get people in there to conduct these investigations, and difficult to keep them in there and keep them safe, and we're very conscious of that.
But we're following up all of the leads that we think are plausible leads. Mr. Cuny's brother and son are on the ground. They've been working with the American Embassy. The President and Secretary Christopher met with both of them last Thursday morning in Moscow. So we're going to continue all of our efforts to find him.
We are receiving practical cooperation from the Russian Government, is the way I would describe it, with the exception of the very serious incident last Saturday when our delegation was fired upon. It's our opinion that the Russians have by and large been cooperative with us and have helped us in this search.
Q What town was that, yesterday, where they came under fire?
MR. BURNS: The town is Shatoy.
Q What do you mean by practical in this context?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q What do you mean by practical in this context?
MR. BURNS: Practical in the sense that we've been working through the Interior Ministry, the Defense Ministry -- which in Chechnya are probably the two most important ministries to work through -- and the Foreign Ministry. I'm not aware, beyond the normal bureaucratic problems that one encounters in that part of the world, that there have been any obstacles put in the way of our investigation or the OSCE's investigation over the last couple of weeks.
Q Chris Cuny has not been denied access to Chechnya. He can't get into the region.
MR. BURNS: I understood, actually, that both Cunys had actually been in Chechnya.
Q The family yesterday said that they are not in Chechnya.
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to check on that report. I also saw a wire service report last night, but I can check on that. But my understanding was that they were part of the search party.
Q Nick, Chinese authorities with control of Tibetan religious affairs today rejected the Tibetan's choice for their second-most powerful religious leader. That comes despite your calls, whenever that piece of paper went out last night or early this morning, for handling it with tolerance and respect for Tibetan religious rights. Have you seen that report, and do you have anything to say about it?
MR. BURNS: We've heard about the report. We haven't seen the specific statement. I believe it was a report by the Chinese Government's Religious Affairs Bureau rejecting the selection of a reincarnated Panchen Lama, which was announced by the Dalai Lama on May 14.
If the reports are true, we would be disappointed that the Chinese Government and the Tibetan Buddhist religious hierarchy have not come to an agreement on this very complicated but important religious question. The Dalai Lama's statement of May 14 suggested that there had been continuing consultations with Chinese authorities concerning the search for the reincarnation. We're disappointed that these contacts seem not to have been fruitful.
We're concerned that disagreements or controversies about the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama might raise additional doubts about the Chinese Government's commitment to respecting the religious beliefs and practices of Tibetan Buddhists.
We note that freedom of religious practice is guaranteed by China's constitution.
Q How can you be disappointed with the Tibetans in this case? I mean, they're just trying to practice, to do something that you all used to call upon the Chinese to let them do. What is disappointing about the Tibetans' behavior?
MR. BURNS: I did not say that we're disappointed in the Tibetans, in the Buddhists. We are disappointed, since freedom of religion is called for in China's constitution, that this couldn't have been worked out in a more favorable way.
We would obviously not like to inject ourselves into the middle of an important, serious, and complicated religious dispute. We are not competent ourselves to comment on the merits of the religious issue involved. We certainly agree with the principle of religious freedom. We have always agreed with that and stood for that principle. We've always supported the right of Tibetan Buddhists to practice freely.
Our disappointment would lie, I think, on the side of the Chinese Government in not having taken steps to resolve this. But we would call upon both the Chinese Government and the Tibetan Buddhist figures in authority in Tibet to try to work out an amicable compromise or resolution of this issue.
Q Also on China, do you have anything on the latest dust-up in the Spratlys between China and the Philippines?
MR. BURNS: I would simply note that last week the United States issued a formal public statement on our position on the Spratly Islands, and that is that while we recognize no claim in sovereignty in the Spratlys, the United States certainly has an important national interest in seeing the continuation of the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
We understand that a number of journalists were witness to a dispute over the weekend between the Philippine Government and the Chinese Government at the aptly named Mischief Reef. We certainly would call upon all governments in the area to refrain from the threat of force or the use of force to resolve the international dispute in the Spratlys.
I would note that there was a quite strong Chinese Government public statement pertaining to this incident over the weekend, and it is that kind of statement that we think perhaps is the type of thing that should be refrained from, in the sense that this is a very complicated territorial and legal issue. We hope these governments can work it out among themselves and work it out peacefully without resort to the threat of the use of force.
MR. BURNS: Still on the Spratlys?
Q No, it's a different subject.
MR. BURNS: Are you in the Spratlys, Bill?
Q Yes, I'm in the Spratlys. On the same -- there's a wire this afternoon from Reuters, and the specific on this was Mr. Qian Qichen said -- warned the Philippines faced serious consequences if it repeated a trip like last week by 39 Filipino and foreign journalists to Mischief Reef, just what you were talking about, Nick.
Now, what are the specific -- are we in a SEATO Treaty or some bilateral treaty with the Philippines that has some naval implications for us in this matter, let me ask you again.
MR. BURNS: Bill, I certainly don't want to blow this out of proportion. We're dealing here with an ongoing dispute among six claimants, and the United States is not part of that dispute. We are not among the six claimants. We don't have any territorial or sovereign claims to the Spratlys ourselves.
We do have a continuing interest in freedom of navigation, and in the principle that international disputes should be resolved by peaceful, diplomatic means, and that is certainly the case in this instance.
So I don't want to get ahead of myself to say that -- to look down the road and try to foresee some kind of expansion of this conflict. We hope that will not be the case.
Q Can I follow up? Nick, you have said that you have called on the Chinese Government to refrain from issuing statements like the one that we have just heard. Are you also calling on the Philippines to avoid incidents like the one that, you know, brought about the Chinese statement and the standoff in the South China Sea?
MR. BURNS: We're calling on all the parties to refrain from the threat of force or the use of force or from any escalation of tensions in the area, and we're calling on all parties to try to resolve this in a productive, amicable way.
Q I know you have something there for me on the Taiwan Relations Act.
MR. BURNS: You do? How do you know that? (Laughter) Would you like to ask about the Taiwan Relations Act?
Q Right. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Okay. I can ask the question and answer. "What do we think about the Taiwan Relations Act?"
We've previously expressed our opposition to amending the Taiwan Relations Act, and the State Department is opposed to the proposed amendment that has surfaced in recent days, because we believe that the United States is fully meeting and will continue to meet the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act to provide for Taiwan's self-defense needs.
Q What can you tell us about Poland selling tanks to Iran?
MR. BURNS: We have had an ongoing discussion, dialogue, set of conversations with the Polish Government on the issue of tank sales to Iran, and we're very satisfied with the outcome of those discussions.
We were pleased that Foreign Minister Bartoszewski made a public announcement that Poland would cease future arms sales to Iran and phase out its existing obligations. We understand that the shipment referred to in the New York Times this morning is partial fulfillment of a last remaining contract for conventional arms sales between Poland and Iran.
We have long encouraged all countries not to engage in arms-related trade with Iran. We've been very vocal about that in recent weeks. It's essential to international peace and security to keep arms and advanced technology out of Iran; and because we've had such a fruitful degree of cooperation with Poland and we're satisfied with Poland's decision to terminate sales and to not engage in such sales in the future, we're prepared to support Poland for founding membership in the COCOM successor regime.
Q This sale that is referred to this morning in the Times is the last bit of any kind of armaments that Poland is going to transfer to Iran?
MR. BURNS: We understand that this is the last -- this is partial fulfillment of the last remaining contract.
Q What else is left?
MR. BURNS: We might expect to see fulfillment of the remaining shipments of tanks under this contract, but we have a very clear agreement with the Government of Poland that after this contract is fulfilled, there will be no further conventional arms sales -- not to speak of any other kind of arms sales -- beyond that to Iran.
If you will, it approximates the arrangement, the agreement that President Clinton and President Yeltsin reached at the Moscow summit last week on Russian arms sales to Iran, but it is much more limited, because I think Poland's exposure in this case or its contractual obligations were more limited than those of Russia.
Q What time frame are we talking about -- a year, two years, 1999, what?
MR. BURNS: I haven't looked into the specific details of the delivery schedule on this contract, but it's a contract that provides for the sale of a certain number of tanks to Iran on the part of Poland. I think they are delivering now the first phase of those tanks -- these are mainly outmoded tanks -- to Iran, and the rest of the sales will be completed at some time in the future, but I don't have any details on the delivery schedule.
Q Are you having any other conversations at this moment, or have you recently, with any other country that is selling conventional arms to Iran besides Russia?
MR. BURNS: After the President made his decision to end, of course, all U.S. economic activity with Iran, we sent to all of our Embassies an instruction for them to begin discussions with all concerned governments in Europe and Asia and the Middle East to try to appeal to those governments to end concessionary credits, to refrain from any kind of sale of military equipment or military-related equipment to Iran, and to the governments of Russia and China to agree to end the sales of nuclear technology -- nuclear energy technologies to Iran.
This has been a worldwide diplomatic offensive on the part of the United States, and that is continuing.
Q Are there any other countries, though, that are in a similar situation to Poland, which is to say that they're fulfilling contracts at this moment with Iran?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware specifically of any other countries in that category, but I can't exclude the possibility.
Q I believe the Times' story referred to "strenuous objections" by the United States to this deal with Iran, but you're putting a positive spin on it.
MR. BURNS: I'm talking about the outcome of our discussions with the Polish Government. We're pleased by the outcome -- the decision by the Polish Government to close out this particular contract that was referred to in the article this morning and then to refrain from all future sales.
Poland had been, when it was a member of the Warsaw Pact, a major arms exporter. That is still a significant part of Poland's economic landscape, and the Polish Government has made a decision, we're very pleased to say, not to continue this kind of sale in the future.
I can't characterize all the discussions we have with the Polish Government. We've had these discussions over a long period of time. They were very involved, and I just think we're pleased by the outcome of them.
Q Could I clarify something on this deal? Either I've misheard you or you've told us two different things. At first I thought I heard you to say this is the last part of an existing contract, and more recently I thought I heard you say this is the first phase of the deal.
MR. BURNS: It's partial fulfillment. I'm sorry if I confused you. It is partial fulfillment. As I understand the contract, it provides for a set number of tanks to be sold -- delivered to Iran, and the shipment that was referred to in the article this morning is the first phase of that.
So we would expect that the remaining phase or phases of this contract would be -- it would be executed or delivered some time in the future, and I don't have any detail on what that timetable is or on the number.
Q You don't know from your discussions with the Poles how many more tanks are in the deal?
MR. BURNS: I think that probably somebody in the U.S. Government has the answer to that question. I don't have it. But I can certainly try to get that, yes.
Q Has the U.S. offered Poland any help? I gather that they were asking for help gaining access to markets that have traditionally been American for their arms industry? Has the U.S. offered to help them? Is Poland going to be making sales to other countries?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we have. I think that the basis of our discussion with them was centered on the principle that Iran is a long-term threat, not only to the United States but to Poland and all other countries in Europe, and I think that was the foundation of our discussion with them.
Q Nick, what has been the reaction or the input with the United States Government to see it from the six, seven oil companies -- U.S. companies -- which are doing -- were doing business with Iran, I think to the tune of -- total of about $4 billion a year? Have they been cooperative after the executive directive that came -- Executive Order from the President? What's the status with them?
MR. BURNS: I'm not familiar with the specific discussions we've had with them. I know that after the President's decision was announced, there were several conversations between representatives of the State Department and other U.S. Government agencies with the oil companies that are affected.
I don't want to characterize their views. You might want to ask them. Obviously, this is a hardship for the American companies involved, and we knew when this decision was made that it might even have an impact on jobs in certain of these companies. That was to be predicted.
But we think that the short-term benefit of the oil contracts and some of the investment that had been planned is far outweighed by the benefit in the long term of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability or of giving assistance -- any type of economic assistance to the Government of Iran.
On the tanks?
Q Yes. This is largely a symbolic thing, isn't it? I mean, you don't seriously think that those tanks upset the military balance of power in the Mideast?
MR. BURNS: We don't believe it does, no.
Q So as I understand it, the quid pro quo for Poland, finishing up this deal and not doing any others, was their admittance into the new COCOM -- or U.S. support for their admittance?
MR. BURNS: I would just describe it in a different way. I think the result of these discussions is that since Poland has decided to forego any future arms sales to Iran, Poland is now eligible to become a founding member of the COCOM successor regime. It would not have been eligible or possible for Poland to participate had they continued these sales or had they declared their intention to continue them.
Q And when is this new COCOM going to get going?
MR. BURNS: There have been conversations for more than a year, a year or two now, between the U.S. and our European partners to create this. Under Secretary Lynn Davis has taken the lead for the U.S. The basic parameters of this organization are in place.
Obviously, one of the last remaining puzzles was the participation of the Russian Government, and after two years of discussion that went all the way back to the Vancouver summit, President Clinton was able to gain President Yeltsin's agreement last week that Russia would now commit to end all future arms sales to Iran, and that we had worked out our differences on the timetable for Russian sales to Iran and on the depth of that pipeline, and that's a very important agreement.
So we would hope very much that as we put the final touches on this agreement with Russia, Russia would also become a member of the COCOM successor regime, which is something that has not been possible to do in the past, as you know.
Q Another subject? There has been speculation in the Chinese language newspapers that the White House or President Clinton might change his policy on the visit by Taiwan President Li Teng-hui to this country. Has this Department been contacted by the White House on this possibility?
MR. BURNS: By the White House? We talk to the White House many times a day. I'm not able to give you any detail on any discussions related to the visit of President Li. I think you know our position. We have enormous respect for President Li for what he has done to build an economically powerful and politically stable Taiwan. Our position on the issue of a transit visa is well-known.
Q Different subject? Do you have an update on the situation of the Americans that are detained in Baghdad and efforts by the Administration to secure their release?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a lot of information to give you, Laura, except to say that the very able Polish diplomat in Baghdad who represents American interests, Mr. Krystosik, is still unable to gain access to Mr. Daliberti and Mr. Barloon. This is quite disconcerting for us.
The Iraqis have an obligation under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on consular relations to allow diplomatic access to citizens of a country that are detained. We fully expect the Iraqi Government to meet that obligation. They have not met that obligation now for upwards of four weeks.
We have a right to have access to these individuals. Mr. Krystosik will continue to assert that right on behalf of the United States. He has not been able to visit them. Therefore, the last contact -- the last direct knowledge we had of their welfare comes from their wives who were able to see them, I think, for four or five hours on the last day they were in Baghdad.
Q Do you know if their wives are attempting to get visas for another trip?
MR. BURNS: I know that both of them have thought about another trip. I don't believe they have any specific plans or dates for another trip. Their hope was that the two might released before they had to go back to Baghdad. I think both of them are in Kuwait City, and are certainly willing to go back if necessary and they will have our support when they do.
Q Do you have any update on the report yesterday of a possible offer from the Iraqis that if President Clinton were to write a letter to the Iraqis requesting their release that something might happen? Either to knock that down or to amplify on it; are there any discussions underway over that?
MR. BURNS: The Government of Iraq is well aware of the position of the United States. That is, that these men either made an innocent mistake or that mistake was made for them by the United Nations and it may very well be the latter. They are innocent. They should be returned immediately to their families on humanitarian grounds. This is our position. Iraq is well aware of it.
There have been several statements from the White House and the State Department to that effect. Iraq should not be encouraged to believe that it can use this case to be rewarded for its failure to do the right thing; for its failure to confirm to international law, and its failure to meet a basic test of humanitarian principles.
Q Nick, that doesn't answer the question as to whether there was an Iraqi offer?
Q Whether or not the Administration is considering anything --
MR. BURNS: I want to let my statement stand where I left it.
Q Nick, if I could move on to --
Q One more on this. From a practical point of view, what differences does it make if President Clinton -- what kind of reward would it be if President Clinton wrote a letter?
MR. BURNS: I'm just going to leave my statement stand where it is. Iraq should not be encouraged to believe that it should be rewarded for its failure to do the right thing internationally and to act as a reasonable state. And, in this case, its failure to react to a serious humanitarian concern of ours -- that is, that these two individuals have health problems that are clear for all to see; that they are innocent and they should be released.
Q But you're not ruling out a letter, is what you're trying to say?
MR. BURNS: I am just trying to put the onus for this entire incident where it should be placed, and that's squarely with the Government of Iraq. They have acted inhumanely in this case. I think the focus of the Western press ought to be on the Government of Iraq.
Q True, but --
MR. BURNS: I said what I said with great care, and I'm just going to leave it there.
Q A little closer to home: Mexico. Bill Ortiz, the Treasurer of Mexico, last night was quoted as saying that he believes that the unemployment in Mexico, the financial economic situation, will continue to worsen and the unemployment would go up for the foreseeable months. He said also that this would produce migration pressures on the U.S. borders. He said at the root, basically, is the narco-subversion which is a national security risk to the state of Mexico.
Nick, can you comment from yesterday's conference with regard, specifically, to the immigration potential from this economic crisis?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary had a very good, very productive, very amicable set of discussions yesterday with Foreign Minister Gurria on all of the issues on the U.S.-Mexican agenda, among them, migration, the problems related to migration, illegal, and immigration.
It's very clearly our position that migration should be done in an orderly, safe, and legal manner all along the 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico. That's a well-known position of ours.
Q Could I just ask you about the Chirac government? What high- level contacts have there been in the last few days between France and the United States? Whether there is any sign that there are going to be changes in any French policies; specifically, on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: We certainly congratulate President Chirac on his assumption of office today. There have been a number of contacts between the French and U.S. Governments over the last couple of days and even this morning. There's an obvious interest that we have in the formation of the new government to see who we'll be working with.
Our very active and able Ambassador -- Ambassador Harriman -- has been engaged in these discussions, as well as officials back here in Washington.
Foreign Secretary Hurd is here today. He's having lunch now with the Secretary. One of the things that the Secretary will be interested in hearing from Secretary Hurd is a report on his discussions with Foreign Minister Juppe about the French position and the French outlook on Bosnia. France is the largest contributor, and is a valued contributor.
We'll have that bilateral contact with the French as well in Paris, and certainly at the United Nations, as the U.N. review of UNPROFOR's mandate continues.
Our view here is fairly clear. We believe that UNPROFOR should continue to exist and should remain in the Balkans. We think that the value of UNPROFOR far outweighs any problems associated with it, and there have been problems.
We think that the mandate should be strengthened to ensure that the peacekeepers involved -- the French, British, and other peacekeepers -- have a way to protect themselves and have a reasonable assurance that they can do their job and be protected. We have always thought that UNPROFOR and NATO need to work out an arrangement where they, together, can enforce the U.N. resolutions. That is our position in the talks in New York. That's the position that the Secretary will be communicating to Foreign Secretary Hurd today, and that we are communicating the French Government.
Q Do you have any comment on the talks in Belgrade yesterday?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Frasure has been in Belgrade for a couple of days. He's had quite detailed, quite important discussions with Mr. Milosevic. Those talks are continuing, I think as I speak. I think they had some evening discussions planned.
The talks center around the Contact Group's offer of limited sanctions relief for Belgrade if it chooses -- and we hope it will -- to recognize Bosnia. We hope very much that the Government in Belgrade will agree, along with that, to enforce a closure of the border; and therefore to enforce the sanctions and to prevent the Bosnian Serbs from gaining the kind of military arms and other goods that it needs to continue its activities.
The situation in Sarajevo today is quit grim. For a second straight day, there is renewed fighting, as intense fighting as our diplomats in our Embassy in Sarajevo can remember. Certainly, the most intense fighting during the past year -- very grim -- also fighting in Bihac and other cities.
It is imperative that the international community come to grips with this; that the United Nations complete its review, and that the Contact Group and others remain fully engaged in the effort to try to achieve a cease-fire between the parties. That is our short-term objective, and some mechanism that would allow the international community to be effective in helping the parties to bring this conflict, at some point in the future, to an end.
Q There was a report in Belgrade this morning or last night that Milosevic made kind of a contrary proposal to recognize Bosnia but not to the Government of Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to get into the details of the negotiations that are underway right now. When those discussions are finished, and when Ambassador Frasure has departed Belgrade, then I'll be in a position -- and he will -- to discuss those in more detail.
Q Do you when is that?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Do you know when that is?
MR. BURNS: I don't know when Ambassador Frasure will be returning.
I think we have one last question back here.
Q Is the Department concerned that unilateral trade sanctions levied against Japan will complicate cooperation with Japan on issues like the North Korea light-water reactor project or executing the Bogor Declaration last year at APEC?
MR. BURNS: I think Ambassador Kantor made very clear yesterday our concerns about our trade with Japan and what we think needs to be done to bring it into better focus and better balance.
Apart from that, and really concomitant with that is a very deep and strong commitment on the part of our government to good relations with Japan. Japan is one of the most important countries in the world to the United States. We have a very deep relationship, which spans not only economic issues but security and political issues. We're quite confident that as we deal with the very serious trade problems that exists between our two countries, we will retain the support of the Japanese Government on the North Korea problem and other important international issues.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:10 p.m.)
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