U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/06/27 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, June 27, 1995 Briefer: Brian Atwood Nicholas Burns HAITI Conduct of National Elections, Aftermath, Future ........1-5 DEPARTMENT--Statements/Announcements/Remarks QATAR--Transfer of Authority .............................5-6,18-21 Secretary Christopher's Mtgs. w/Chief of Israeli Gen. Staff .............................................6 Start of Israeli-Syrian Security Talks ...................6 Secretary Christopher's Discussions re: Situation in Haiti ..................................................6 President Clinton's, Secretary Christopher's Remarks & Mtgs. re: United Nations .............................6-7 U.S. Operation in Space--Atlantis-Mir Rendezvous .........7 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Israeli-Syrian Security Talks: U.S. Participation ........7-8,10-18 --Issue of U.S. Troops on Golan Heights ..................10 Secretary Christopher's Telecon w/Syrian Foreign Minister re: Southern Lebanon/Northern Israel Violence, Terrorism ..............................................8-9 President Clinton's Involvement in Peace Process .........15 Second Round of Security Talks ...........................15-16 Ambassadorial-level Talks ................................16 EGYPT President Clinton's Call to President Mubarak re: Assassination Attempt in Ethiopia ..................21 CUBA Detention of U.S. Citizen Donald Nixon ...................22 President Clinton's Statement re: U.S. Policy Toward Cuba ...................................................23 CHINA/TAIWAN Taiwan--UN Membership ....................................22-24 U.S.-China Relations .....................................24 Status of U.S. Citizen Harry Wu: Diplomatic Contacts .....24-27 RUSSIA Denial of Visa to Iosif Kobzon ...........................28 JAPAN U.S.-Japan Relations .....................................28-29 Auto Talks in Geneva .....................................28-29 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA War in Bosnia --Akashi Letter re: Rapid Reaction Force .................29
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JUNE 27, 1995, 12:49 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I'm very pleased that we have with us today Brian Atwood, the Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, who, as you know, led the Presidential delegation to the elections in Haiti over the weekend. He is back, and he is here to talk to you about our perspectives on the conduct of those elections, the aftermath and what it means for the future of the people of Haiti. Brian.
MR. ATWOOD: Thank you very much. I see some people in the audience here who were with us in Haiti, so I can't tell Andrea Mitchell much about what happened down there, but I think for some of the others who were not there.
Let me offer today some perspective. I have indicated that I thought that some of the negative comments -- and there were certainly many -- that were made about this election were somewhat taken out of context with respect to the Haitian reality, and I want to make sure that you can report this story in context.
We believe that there was a very significant breakthrough for democracy in this election; that people were voting for the very first time without fear of intimidation by the military, without fear that their government was going to unduly influence them in the way they voted.
For the most part, there was very little violence. No one killed that we know of. Three incidents, I believe, and only one that might -- and one of those incidents might not have been in any way connected to the election.
So security, while you may see some pictures of people arguing and some turmoil, the security situation was excellent.
We didn't see any systematic effort to commit fraud in this election. That is also very different from what has occurred in the past in Haiti. Despite earlier allegations about the Electoral Council, we do not believe that the Electoral Council tried in any way to influence the results of this election in a way that would favor a single party. All of this is very, very positive.
With respect to the disenfranchisement of voters, which has been discussed in some detail, a lot of the disenfranchisement was the result of an effort to try to register as many voters as possible.
There was a date set for the end of the registration period. I believe it was May 20 -- maybe it was May 15 -- it was in May. In any case, we can get that date if you need it.
Many voters were not registered as of that time, and so after a bit of a hiatus, they then opened the registration roles again. The problems then became, "Do we have enough ballots to accommodate the many thousands that registered after that," and in many cases they were not able to open BIVs or polling places because materials didn't arrive. Many of the technical advisers were urging the CEP not to extend the registration roles that late, because they knew there would be problems getting voting materials.
But I want to make a point here. They were registering people because those people wanted to register to vote in three elections -- not just in one -- in this election, in the run-off election and in the Presidential election. So they took a chance and some 90 percent of the people of Haiti were registered. That's a very positive sign as well.
For those that were disenfranchised, could not vote in this election, they really should have registered to vote prior to the date that was set by the law, and they were only fortunate that they could register because they extended that date. So you have to look at this disenfranchisement issue in that context as well.
Obviously, the issue of candidates not being on the ballot was significant. We don't yet know the number. The most that we could count before we left I think was about 23. But don't forget, we're talking about over 11,000 candidates.
So the question is, how serious was that, and I think in some areas it was the only source of real turmoil because, obviously, people are very upset when their name's not on the ballot, as were their supporters.
That issue, we believe, will be discussed with the parties. The solution is not an easy one, whichever way you go. Mr. Remy yesterday, the President of the Electoral Council, made a very positive statement, indicating that he would meet with the political parties to discuss this issue, and I think again that's a very positive move.
He has indicated that the elections for those now six communal areas that could not be held as a result of various problems -- mostly logistical, but there was one area where the ballots were burned a few days before the election -- will be held on July 23. That's in the case of five of those (areas). I think in one case, Jean Rabel, the election will be held today.
He had indicated in that case and in all of the cases of elections that will be held for the first time, that the candidates whose names were missing would be added to the ballot. So that even reduces the number of people that were affected by that problem.
With respect to the counting process, it's been also widely reported -- and some of you may have seen the pictures in the paper of all of the ballot boxes that were mistakenly taken to the BEDs -- the departmental electoral area in the Port-au-Prince area called the "west."
We have now managed through the help of the civilian police of the United Nations and the CEP -- the Electoral Council -- to identify all of those ballot boxes to provide security. All parties have been invited to participate in observing the counting of those ballot boxes. The poll workers have come back for the most part. They've added about 200 CEP workers to do the job. The civilian police are providing security, and those votes will be counted.
There were a few cases where the ballot boxes were compromised, and those votes will not be counted. But, again, the effect on the election is minimal. A lot of extra workers have been put on and transportation laid on to make sure that ballot boxes and tally sheets could be moved from the most remote areas of the country into the BEDs for the process to continue.
I don't want to minimize the problems. I think I don't need to. They've been widely reported. But I did want to make sure that people saw this in context.
The most important point I would make is that there was no systematic effort to try to commit fraud. There was very little violence, and there was a will on the part of the Haitian people who expressed themselves through the ballot box that really was unique in Haitian history, even as compared to 1990 when, of course, the military was still there and the government -- there were serious questions as to whether or not the government would honor the results of the election.
So I'll be happy to take questions.
Q Mr. Administrator, a lot of private investors are watching these elections carefully for signs of stability and stability in Haiti -- just sort of a litmus paper test. What lesson would you expect a potential investor to Haiti to draw from these elections?
MR. ATWOOD: I would watch this situation as it evolves over the next few days. The political parties, while some are very upset about what they perceived to have happened, they're staying in the process. One has to see what the results will be. One has to move through the entire counting process.
But I am confident that this election is going to bring political stability to Haiti that has not existed heretofore. It is clear that President Aristide could not continue to govern by decree. He didn't want to. We didn't encourage him to. We felt that it was important for him not only to have a parliament but to have local officials who could increasingly assume responsibility at the local level.
We will obviously be supporting the effort to continue to develop the political system and democracy in Haiti, but decentralization in our view, along with strong institutions, represent stability and predictability, and that's what investors look for.
Q Do you think, given all the problems, that the results will be accepted by the people of Haiti, as well as the political parties, or at this point will they not accept these results?
MR. ATWOOD: I think that in the vast majority of electoral districts the results will be accepted. There may be still a few problem areas where the result will be in dispute. There are adjudicatory processes for resolving those disputes. In some cases the election may have to be re-run. But we're talking about 2,195 separate elections. So if ten percent of those are marred and are subject to the dispute mechanisms that are in place, then I think that you will have had an election in the country that will have inspired the confidence of the Haitian people overall.
With respect to those particular areas, then you're going to have to make sure the dispute mechanisms work to be sure that the parties are satisfied with the results. That's the way I would put it.
Q Do you have any information on the area that was burned down on Sunday night/Monday morning?
MR. ATWOOD: This was one relatively remote area where the ballots were apparently burned. I don't have any more information than you have on that.
Q You said that these people, the voters, have now registered for three elections when they signed up, right?
MR. ATWOOD: Right.
Q Are the voting rolls closed for the Presidential election now?
MR. ATWOOD: Yes, they are. Approximately 3.5 million voters out of -- again, the census is not clear, but we estimate maybe 3.7 - 3.8 million people were eligible. That's in the 90 percent range. It's a little better than we achieve here in this country -- for registration, let alone turnout.
Q But they don't have to repeat the process?
MR. ATWOOD: They do not have to repeat the process. The turnout, by the way, we think has been also healthy. Again, many BIVs could not open. These are the polling places. But, again, 10 percent were not able to open because they were in that late registration period. But we're thinking somewhere between 50 and 60 percent turnout. This was not a presidential election. We fully expect more will turn out for that.
Q Thank you.
MR. ATWOOD: Thank you.
(Following Mr. Atwood, Spokesman Nicholas Burns resumed the Daily Briefing at 1:02 p.m.)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. I have a brief announcement to make, and I have a few other notes of interest, and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
The announcement is, as follows: The United States Governments notes the announcement today that Qatar's Al Thani ruling family recognizes Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani as Emir of Qatar. We understand that the major families and tribes in Qatar have publicly pledged their acceptance of this change, and that it has taken place peacefully.
The United States has discussed the transfer of authority with Qatar and we have received the following assurances:
That the new government of Qatar will ensure domestic peace and security of its people, participate as an active and constructive member in the Gulf Cooperation Council, foster regional security, including towards Iran and Iraq, and contribute towards a comprehensive Middle East peace;
That the Government of Qatar will reassure the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council that Qatar remains a steadfast security partner and a dependable member of the international community. As such, that Qatar will conform to international standards of behavior, will fulfill the country's international obligations and will enforce binding U.N. resolutions;
And that the government will assure the safety of American citizens and American enterprises in Qatar.
That concludes my brief statement on Qatar.
As you know, Secretary Christopher returned late last night from San Francisco, and he will be dealing this week with a variety of very important issues.
He's having lunch, as we speak, with the Chief of the Israeli General Staff, General Shahak. This, of course, follows the lunch that he had on Friday afternoon with General Shihabi. And the Israeli-Syrian talks will start at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon under U.S. auspices. There will be very close U.S. involvement in these talks as they proceed.
We're obviously very hopeful for progress in these talks. We're hopeful because we believe both countries have made a strategic choice for peace in 1995.
The Secretary has also been following very closely the situation in Haiti that Brian Atwood just described to you. He talked to Brian and Ambassador Swing on Sunday, and received a first-hand account and will be following this question closely in the days and weeks ahead.
Yesterday, at the United Nations, both President Clinton and the Secretary spoke about the past and about the future. They spoke about the contribution that the United Nations has made to security in the world over the last 50 years, and they spoke about the continued relevance of the United Nations to the United States and to American foreign policy and to peace and security in the world -- everything from the IAEA to the World Health Organization to UNICEF.
They also spoke about the importance of American engagement in the world. The President had this as a central feature of his speech as did the Secretary in his remarks. They contrasted that with those in this country who believe that the United States does not need to have an active involvement in the United Nations or in the world at large, and there are such voices in our country.
Secondly, both the President and the Secretary spent a lot of time in their private meetings as well as in their public remarks talking about the need to reinvent the United Nations. It is relevant and it is important; but the United Nations has a bloated bureaucracy that is oftentimes wasteful.
The United States is now putting its shoulder behind the efforts of other countries, particularly the efforts of the current President of the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Essy, from Cote D'Ivoire to reform the U.N., to reinvent it, and to make sure that it is operating on a cost- effective basis.
Finally, let me note another event that takes place a couple of hours from now. In just a few hours, the space shuttle Atlantis will be launched from Cape Kennedy.
The Atlantis-Mir rendezvous -- the U.S.-Russian operation in space -- is indeed a historic mission. It will link the world's two greatest spacefaring nations in orbit for the first time since Apollo-Soyuz in 1975, 20 years ago this year. This U.S. space shuttle mission, along with subsequent missions to the Russian Mir Space Station, will provide us the opportunity to practice techniques for building an international space station in which the United States, Russia, and other countries will participate.
Russian participation in the international space station will save $2 billion from the overall space station program. The work done during the mission that takes off this afternoon will contribute to that effort and will help to accelerate the space station program.
So I thought I'd just give you a sense of some of the issues that we are dealing with this week -- what the Secretary is dealing with -- and I'll be glad to go to whatever questions you have.
Q Nick, you said there will be very close U.S. involvement in the Israel-Syria negotiations. Who are the Americans? Which Americans will be participating?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary, of course, will be participate from time to time. He decided he wanted to have these preliminary lunches with both of the key gentlemen involved because he felt it was important to review the basis of the talks, our own hopes for the talks, and some specific ideas that we had.
With the lunch that he is conducting now, he will have fulfilled that purpose.
Ambassador Dennis Ross and several of his associates, both from the State Department and the National Security Council staff, will be involved in all of the discussions. That is the arrangement that we've agreed on with both Israel and Syria.
Q How about the Pentagon?
MR. BURNS: There will be involvement by General Christman who is, as you know, is the Executive Assistant to General Shalikashvili. General Cristman has been involved in several of the Secretary's trips to the region. He's made a couple of visits to the Golan Heights. He has had contact with military officials from both the Israeli and Syrian Government. So he's involved as well.
Q Just a couple, by the way; do you know? I was going to ask you how many trips he made up to the Golan --
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure of the specific number, Barry, but I know he's made a couple of trips there.
Q The Israelis, holding their own briefing yesterday, spoke of several things. But one was that they were going to take note of Hizbollah attacks and suggest that the Syrians weren't doing all they could to restrain Hezbollah and to complain about Damascus remaining headquarters, or a base, at least -- not in a military sense necessarily -- but a base for various terrorist organizations.
What is the State Department's view of that? Is Syria doing all it can to hold back Hizbollah in Lebanon? And how do you feel about these characters operating out of Damascus?
MR. BURNS: Let me just take them one at a time. The Secretary phoned the Syrian Foreign Minister, Mr. Shara, last Friday morning to note the concern that we had about the events in southern Lebanon and northern Israel on Friday morning -- the Katyusha rocket attacks and unfortunately the death of a French citizen and the wounding of other Israeli citizens.
We, of course, believe that the Syrian Government has the responsibility to do everything in its power, both to exercise its influence with parties in Lebanon but also, in a broader sense -- to get to your second question -- to make sure that it's doing everything in its power to stem the scourge of terrorism in the Middle East. That has been a consistent preoccupation that the United States has given to U.S.-Syrian relations. That issue is raised at every available opportunity and at every level, including at the level of President Assad when Secretary Christopher meets with him and with President Assad when President Clinton met with him last year.
So it's an ongoing concern, Barry. We made those concerns known directly to the Syrian Foreign Minister last Friday morning.
Q Nick, I thought that the Syrian President asked the Secretary not to raise the terrorism issue; that it would be handled in what they call the bilateral mechanism in the talks that Foreign Minister Shara would have with Christopher from time to time when he was in Damascus, and that the so-called bilateral mechanism has actually not been activated for more than a year.
MR. BURNS: Sid, I can tell you that the issue of terrorism does come up at every opportunity we have with the Syrian Government, and the issue, in general terms, and when warranted, as was the case last Friday, in specific terms, is raised with the Syrian Government.
In answering Barry's question, I was referring to U.S.-Syrian contacts on the issue of terrorism. I was not referring to the discussions that are going to be taking place today which are on another subject. Those discussions are on the security concerns that both countries bring to the issue of a possible peace treaty between the two countries.
Q So you don't actually raise it every time you meet with the Syrians?
MR. BURNS: We raise it every time we have a bilateral meeting with the Syrians, Sid; yes, we do.
Q Has this constant raising of the issue done any good?
MR. BURNS: You know that we issue a report on terrorism annually, and our comments on the Syrian Government's performance on these concerns is clear for everyone, including all of you, to see. I think it's fair to say that we have ongoing concerns and we express those concerns.
Q Nick, do you expect the issue of U.S. troops on the Golan Heights to come up in the talks in the next couple of days, whether as monitors, peacekeepers, whatever term you choose to call them? Will that issue come up?
MR. BURNS: All I would say to that, Charlie, is that when Secretary Christopher was in the Middle East a couple of weeks ago, that issue did not figure prominently in the talks, as he indicated to you. I don't believe, at least at that point, we're at the stage where that was an issue that had to be decided by either the United States or by the parties.
Since it's not possible to predict what type of progress is going to be made in the next three days, it's hard to answer your question -- whether or not that issue will ever come up. It could come up. But I think it's fair to say that the parties have a ways to go before they get to that particular aspect of their negotiations.
Q Nick, as long as you raise it -- to follow it -- in an interview that he did, he did say that that issue could come up at these talks here in Washington. I'm wondering since you've had meetings -- you or Ambassador Ross have had meetings with the Syrians and Israelis leading up to the meetings that start this afternoon, whether you can say that you expect that issue to come up in the next couple of days?
MR. BURNS: I tried to give you the best answer I could and that is I don't think it's the focus -- it's not the focus of the discussions over the next couple of days. The focus of the discussion over the next couple of days will be the respective positions that both governments bring to the central issue of the security talks, which is their respective views on the major issues.
It is theoretically possible that if the discussion turns one way or another they could get to the question of final arrangements for security which might involve the participation of other countries. I don't think it's possible for me to say, yes, they will come up. I think it's possible they will.
Q Is the three days schedule firm, or is there a possibility they might run over? And I guess the second thing is, is this just a meeting to set the stage to be followed by the major generals, or whoever it is, that will be coming next month? Or could they actually resolve something if, amazingly, they found they both agreed?
MR. BURNS: We're looking at these talks as an opportunity to get two of the most senior officials in both governments to the table together and have good talks. We hope that there will be progress. We certainly don't have any limited view of the progress that can or should be made.
If it's possible to make a great deal of progress, we will obviously support that. We anticipate, however, that after these three days of discussions, it will be necessary for Dennis Ross to return to the Middle East for discussions with Prime Minister Rabin and President Assad and others about this particular set of issues, and then that there will be a second round of military-to-military talks at one rung below on the hierarchy, to continue the discussions.
So that's the course that we set out for ourselves. However, we are not entering these talks with the brake on. We're entering these talks with anticipation that we might be able to make progress. We hope that will be the case.
But I should tell you, having said all that, we are impressed by the complexity of these issues. We don't underestimate the challenges of having Syria and Israel reach a peace agreement in 1995. We think there is a window of opportunity available to both parties this year.
Secretary Christopher came back from his latest trip with the very strong impression that President Assad, in particular, had made a strategic choice for peace in 1995. We, of course, had been aware that was Prime Minister Rabin's choice as well.
But we understand that this could be a long and laborious process. We're not trying to build expectations that there will be some kind of dramatic announcement this week.
But, on the other hand, we're going to do as much as we can in participating in these talks, because they take place under our auspices, to try to build that progress rapidly. We'll just have to see how it goes.
Q If, as we have often told for the past year and a half, President Assad is believed to have made a strategic choice for peace, how has that manifested itself?
MR. BURNS: I think, Tom, it has manifested itself in President Assad's decision to send General Shihabi to these talks. He, by all accounts, is one of the senior figures -- perhaps the second most senior figure -- in the Syrian leadership. He's a man who clearly has the trust of President Assad, who clearly speaks for President Assad.
For the Syrian Government -- for President Assad -- to commit itself to a round of security-level talks -- in fact, to several rounds of security-level talks -- with Israeli military officials, is a big step. It's a big step because the prior round of talks in December did not end positively for either country; at least, it did not end in any substantial agreement on security issues.
I think because of the diplomacy of the United States -- and if I can say it, because of the efforts of Secretary Christopher, specifically, in his many trips to the region, his personal involvement -- the Syrian leadership has now agreed that it's worth a second chance.
I think that's the best indicator or manifestation of the seriousness that the Syrian Government is bringing to this process.
Q Let me just follow up for one minute. Do you anticipate a moment at which these two generals will be photographed together?
MR. BURNS: It is entirely possible. As you know, we have not indicated what the press schedule is for this week. These talks are going to take place in private. We're not going to have press coverage of the talks. But if conditions merit it, and if the two individuals desire it, that will take place. If a decision is made that's not in their best interest, I'm sure we'll let you know that, too.
Q I think your willingness to go into some detail is appreciated. Let me see if we can go a little further into what some people might consider minutiae.
Since these are military talks, wouldn't you think that General Christman rather than Dennis Ross would play the leading role?
MR. BURNS: They're military talks but they deal with issues, Barry, as you know better than I, that have enormous political consequence to both countries, and for the security of both countries.
I think that both countries have been very open and vocal about the basic underlying factor in these talks, and that is that, ultimately to reach a peace agreement, it will be a question of political will on both sides. This kind of agreement can only be reached by the political leaders; in fact, the most senior leaders in both governments.
So although the talks today and tomorrow and the next day deal with security issues, there is an overlay -- there is a backdrop to this which is heavily political.
Q But given the general's vast background -- going way back; he went to START talks, and he's quite an expert on weapons -- wouldn't this be an appropriate time for him to make some suggestions, having been there? He might know a trifle more than Dennis Ross about military issues up on the Golan Heights.
MR. BURNS: That's an interesting --
Q Don't you anticipate him sort of saying a few things about the militarized zones and thinning out and warning systems? Would he speak, or will he be a silent presence?
MR. BURNS: As you know, Dennis Ross has been the leader of our daily on-going effort on the peace process in the Administration at the level below the Secretary. He's been the leader, in fact, in our government. He works very closely both with the Pentagon and the White House in this effort, and there will be representatives from both the Pentagon and the White House in these discussions.
As to who speaks is entirely up to them. The discussions take place in private. I'll see if I can get some blow-by-blow, maybe after the fact, about who said what and whether General Christman spoke. But he's been a very active participant. He's been very helpful to the State Department in forming some of our own ideas about this process, and his presence here is most welcome.
I would note that General Shalikashvili was able to attend the lunch on Friday for General Shihabi. That, we thought, was an important contact to be made because I don't believe the two gentlemen ever had an opportunity to meet before.
As we progress in this process, and as we progress in our relationship, obviously, we want to see the United States Government have close relations on a military-to-military basis as well as through civilian leaders.
Q The last time -- 22 years ago -- when pullbacks on the Golan Heights was the issue -- a good question; the answer was very significant -- was, our maps are on the table. Do you know if they're working on maps?
MR. BURNS: At this point, Barry, I'm not in a position to go into the substance of the talks and any props that are going to be available for those people in the talks.
We really think that it's to our advantage and to the advantage of the negotiations that if we don't try to describe in public ahead of time or even during the discussions of what's happening, because it tends to complicate things for the countries involved; and it's actually at their request as well that we're operating on this basis.
Q You certainly welcome public diplomacy when the Syrians engage in it. The U.S. Government is not against (inaudible). So it's an opportunity for you to -- but you have been rather forthcoming. I appreciate it.
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Barry.
Q Just to go at Barry's question a little different way. Since they're going to be discussing security issues, how can they discuss security issues without a line of disengagement?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the final place where the border rests is, of course, something that has been under discussion for a long time. There are a number of issues that are at play here, Sid, and they've been discussed in a lot of the prior meetings to this, both the ones that the Secretary has been involved in and ones that Dennis Ross has conducted on his own when he's been in the region on his own. But I don't want to go into a blow-by-blow of what those issues are and how we handicap those issues going into these talks.
Q I'm not asking that. Could you just say that there will be a couple -- it's obvious, there's got a couple of scenarios they look at to define the conversation. Is that a fair statement?
MR. BURNS: Yes, but I would say there's nothing new about that, Sid. In the discussions, during the Secretary's trip in the middle June and also his trip in March, all of these issues were visited by the Secretary with President Assad, by the Secretary with Prime Minister Rabin. That process has continued on a regular basis; indeed, almost on a daily basis.
They don't arrive at these talks today and have to pick them up from any kind of new level. They've been engaged -- both governments -- in a very specific discussion about the central issues that are at play on the security side. They picked them up from where they left them off the last time. We hope they'll make progress.
Q Just one quick follow-up. Is the Secretary still of the opinion that the President should visit Damascus at some point to help seal a deal?
MR. BURNS: What the Secretary said in a television interview in Damascus a couple of weeks ago if, in a hypothetical sense, the two parties were on the verge of an agreement, and if the two parties told us that the involvement of the President would make the difference and perhaps might even conclude the talks, then I think, of course, any American President, but specifically this American President, because he's been so much involved in this, we would consider that very seriously. That's what the Secretary said. He was very careful to note that we are not yet at that stage, and we'll simply have to take things as they come..
Q The second round of talks, has this been already agreed with the Syrians that there will be a second round at this lower level?
MR. BURNS: Yes. When the Secretary was in Damascus and in Jerusalem during our last trip a couple of weeks ago, he announced at the end of the trip that in addition to the talks that are beginning today Dennis Ross would go back to the region following these talks, and that would be followed by a second round of military talks at a slightly lower level -- but just slightly lower level; in essence, the people who work for the two individuals who are meeting today -- to follow up in detail on the security issues, problems, and opportunities that were identified during this week's meeting.
So all of that has been set and has been agreed to by Syria, Israel, and the United States. We expect that will take us up until about the end of July, on a diplomatic calendar.
Q So you didn't know where the talks were taking place?
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't.
Q Would you care to?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that's been decided yet.
Q Has there been agreement for a third round --
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. I thought you were referring to the second round of military talks.
Q No. The current talks?
MR. BURNS: We're following our pattern that has not made anybody in this room pleased. We're not going to divulge where the talks are being held, and we're not going to have press opportunities -- unfortunately for you -- before, during, or after these talks. But we will try very hard -- and I will try very hard -- as we meet together each day to be as forthcoming as I can. But there are some ground rules here that the parties feel are important and we do, too; and that is, the less publicity at this stage, the better chance for progress and for productive conversations. So I think we'll keep to that.
Q Are the Ambassadors going to meet in this timeframe as well?
MR. BURNS: Yes. The Ambassadorial-level talks that have been taking place for some time now are on-going talks. They take place when necessary.
Q They could be discussing other subjects besides security; is that right?
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q The Administration's understanding is the second round of security talks is a done deal, set in stone; there's no question but that it's going to happen, barring any unforeseen --
MR. BURNS: That was a public announcement that the Secretary made two weeks ago.
Q There's been a couple of public announcements in Damascus.
MR. BURNS: That was a public announcement that was exceedingly clear and concrete. I have no reason to believe that somehow that decision is going to be walked back.
Q You're not ruling out an announcement by Dennis Ross --
MR. BURNS: No reason whatsoever.
Q -- at the end of his trip that he succeeded and has been resuming military talks --
MR. BURNS: I'm sure he'll forgive me. (Laughter)
Q You've claimed the same success three trips in a row.
MR. BURNS: But, Barry, we think it's a considerable success.
Q And you'll succeed again.
MR. BURNS: It's been a long, long time since the Golan Heights has been an issue, and it's quite significant that the two most senior military figures in both countries are meeting together. It's highly significant. We think it's positive progress, and we hope to build on it.
Q Is there an agreement on who will participate in the follow- on talks, or just the level --
MR. BURNS: I believe there is an agreement. Unfortunately, I don't have the names of the individuals right now.
Q Somebody knows it?
MR. BURNS: I believe that was already agreed to a couple of weeks ago. This was so well organized and so well thought out.
Another subject. Anymore Middle East?
Q Would you be disappointed if at the conclusion of this there were not some joint appearance?
MR. BURNS: I would not be disappointed. I know some people in the room would be disappointed. I wouldn't for the following reason.
Q Would the United States be disappointed?
MR. BURNS: No. Because I can tell you, Secretary Christopher goes into these discussions feeling that we have to be careful not to build undue expectations about imminent progress.
I've tried very hard not to do that.
Q You haven't done that.
MR. BURNS: I hope that message has been communicated.
Q At the White House, on Thursday, there will be photographs, won't there?
MR. BURNS: I don't know anything about it at the White House.
Q The White House said today that they're expected to be there on Thursday.
MR. BURNS: Interesting. Okay. We'll just have to see how things go.
Q Will those photographs be official photographers or representatives from newspapers?
MR. BURNS: We just haven't made that decision yet. When we make a decision, though, I'll be very quick to come out here and take credit for a new announcement on the Middle East peace process.
Q Have Dennis.
MR. BURNS: And I'll give it lots of context, and it'll be a great announcement.
Q (Inaudible) helpful to have the two generals shaking hands with the President?
MR. BURNS: At some point, Sid, I'm sure that would be very helpful. But getting to that point, of course, is up to the parties.
Just to get back to Andrea's question just for a minute. Despite the fact that the Secretary came away from his last trip encouraged by what we think is a new atmosphere surrounding these discussions, it's going to be very hard.
These are the critical issues that face the security of both countries. It's well known to all of you, and it's not going to be lightly negotiated. These are going to be tough negotiations.
Q Of shaking hands?
MR. BURNS: No. I was referring to the discussions. I was referring to Andrea's question and I was referring to the discussions.
Q Nick, your Qatar announcement, were those assurances specifically requested by the United States?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, Carol, these were assurances that we received having had an initial discussion today with the new government in Qatar.
Q Right. But, I mean, did the United States say, you know, can you assure us (a), can you assure us (b)? Did you go down a specific list?
MR. BURNS: I was not a party to these discussions. They took place in Qatar. But I assume -- because of the way we have written things here, I assume that these are all the issues that form the basis of our first discussion with this new government.
Q This statement that you have made, is it a statement of support for the new regime or what?
MR. BURNS: The statement says what it does. It says that we certainly -- we note the fact that there has been a change in leadership in Qatar. We note the fact that the new government has committed itself to certain principles and certain standards of behavior, and we welcome that. We assume now that our relationship with Qatar will continue to be a very fine relationship, as it has been in the past.
Q Have you received any reaction from the Arab world to the events in Qatar?
MR. BURNS: We have just noted reaction. You might have noted it yourself, the reaction of the Arab League this morning, the reaction of King Hussein. There have been many reactions from the Arab world to this this morning. This is our own reaction.
Q Is it your understanding that the government will take on whatever international promises or obligations the previous government did? That's usually in a statement like that.
MR. BURNS: Yes, that is our understanding, Barry.
Q You recognize this government -- the United States recognizes this government.
MR. BURNS: Yes, we do. We recognize the new government, and we've had an initial discussion with the new government, and we are looking forward to a close, friendly, supportive relationship with the new government.
Q Nick, would you characterize the change of regime? Is this a coup or what?
MR. BURNS: I think words are funny. I think this is a change in leadership. (Laughter) I think it's a change in leadership, Roy. If you look at the announcement that came out of Qatar and you look at the way we have described our initial discussions with that government, it's a change of leadership. That government operates, obviously, in a different basis than our own government. This was a decision made by a family, and by several of the tribes -- the leading tribes of Qatar.
So, therefore, it was a decision made very much in private. We have taken note of it. We've had an initial set of discussions, and we're now prepared to go on with Qatar to conduct what we hope will be a good bilateral relationship.
Q Is there a constitutional basis for this change or --
MR. BURNS: A constitutional basis?
MR. BURNS: I'm not sure I can answer that question. I'm not familiar myself, personally, with a constitution in Qatar. I can look into that question for you. But it is a fact that we've taken note of. We've assured ourselves of several fundamental points that are of interest to us, and we're ready to go on.
Q Is one of the points in that statement that the new government might be pro-Iranian?
MR. BURNS: No. I don't believe we have that impression. In fact, we're pleased to note that the new government has pledged to us that it intends to foster a sense of regional security, including regarding the issues of Iran and Iraq. In all of our conversations with the Gulf Cooperation Council and in our individual consultations with these particular governments, we have been very keen to bring to their attention our own views about the threat that we think Iran poses for the security of these particular states as well as other states in the region, and the ongoing threat that Iraq poses; and that was made very clear by Mr. Ekeus' latest report about Iraq's failure to comply with U.N. provisions on biological weapons, and the absolute inability of the Iraqi Government to speak about the disappearance of 17 tons of biological growth materials.
So we have a deep concern about both Iraq and Iran. When the Secretary was in Jeddah in March, he met with the Gulf Cooperation Council Foreign Ministers, and this was a central issue -- the future of their relations with Iran and Iraq. So I was very pleased to be able to tell you that we have had an initial discussion about the role of Iran and Iraq in the region, and I think we have a basis upon which to proceed with the Qatari Government.
Q What did they tell you about their relations with Iran, exactly?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to go into the details of our conversation this morning. I'm not even familiar with all the details of the conversation that took place several thousand miles from here. But I do know that we were able to bring this issue to their attention, and it will be one of the major issues in our relationship.
Q Do you have any more information about the assassination attempt on Mubarak?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any more information that would take us beyond where Christine Shelly was yesterday. We have noted that several groups have claimed responsibility, and the President, as you know, called President Mubarak yesterday and offered to President Mubarak any assistance that the United States can give Egypt, or the Government of Ethiopia for that matter, in pursuing leads on who it was that attacked President Mubarak.
President Clinton also took advantage of his speech at the U.N. yesterday to mention this and to link it to the global problem of terrorism and the fact that we think that, as we look to the United Nations for leadership, the United Nations must take up the mantle of the fight against terrorism, as should the United States and other member countries of the U.N.
Yesterday's incident in Addis Ababa just points to the fact that it is one of the great scourges of our time, that all governments have to combine forces in the U.N. and outside the U.N. to fight it. We are a very close friend of Egypt. We admire President Mubarak. We have a very strong relationship with him, and we support him.
Q What about Donald Nixon in Cuba?
Q Has either Ethiopia or Egypt accepted any help?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that they have asked us for any specific assistance in the investigation of this attempted assassination. But, if that does happen, I'll be glad to be able to talk about it.
Q Do you have anything fresh or new about Donald Nixon's sojourn in Cuba?
MR. BURNS: I do not have anything new on Donald Nixon. The reason I don't have anything new is that he has not signed a Privacy Act waiver. Therefore, under the law, I'm not able to elaborate on his situation beyond the following -- I think what you already know.
The Cuban authorities, as of this morning, have still not allowed Mr. Nixon to depart Cuba. The Cuban authorities continue to hold his U.S. passport. We are not aware that any official charges have been brought against Mr. Nixon. As you know, representatives from the American Interests Section in Havana have met with Mr. Nixon and have made inquiries with the Cuban authorities on his behalf because he's an American citizen.
Obviously, we've had long and involved conversations with him, but because of the absence of a Privacy Act waiver, I just can't under our law divulge any of that information.
Q Even so, are you able to say whether the Cubans have brought any charges against him? He hasn't been arrested, has he? He's sort of under house detention.
MR. BURNS: In my answer, Barry, we understand no official charges --
Q No official charges.
MR. BURNS: -- have been brought against him. I understand he has been detained, I think, is the proper way to say it. His passport's being held. Therefore, he can't leave the country without his passport. We're not aware that official charges have been brought, and we are seeking -- we are in contact with the Cuban authorities on Mr. Nixon's behalf to try to see if we can resolve this situation.
Q Have you tried to help him with a lawyer, by chance?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know.
Q Nick, what do you think about Taiwan's offer of a billion dollars to the U.N. --
Q Could we stay on Cuba for a second?
MR. BURNS: Let's stay on Cuba, and then we'll go back to Taiwan.
Q Could you just tell us to whom the President was addressing himself in the statement he made about Cuba today? What audience was that for?
MR. BURNS: The statement that the President made about Cuba was a statement made to American citizens and to the Cuban-American community in Florida and elsewhere. The President and his advisers wished to have an opportunity to explain in some detail our policy towards Cuba, which is based on the Cuban Democracy Act, and the continuity of our policy, and in particular his determination to pursue a peaceful transition toward democracy in Cuba under the framework of the Cuban Democracy Act. So that was the basis for the President's statement today.
Q Any particular reason in the timing? Is there some concern that Cuban-Americans don't like the policy and that he's taking a beating politically in Florida?
MR. BURNS: My own assessment of the reaction has been that it's mixed; that there are some sizable segments of the population that support the policy that was announced on May 2, and there are sizable portions of the community that do not. Since it's an important community, the President and others wanted to take the opportunity to make our views very clear and to have a continuing dialogue with that community.
Q Do you know when the statement was taped?
MR. BURNS: I believe it was recorded a few days ago.
MR. BURNS: Yes, Carol, what's your --
Q What do you think about Taiwan's offer of a billion dollars to the U.N. in exchange for membership? Is this a good way to get rid of the U.N.'s debt? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Excuse me? What was that? A good way to --
Q Get rid of the U.N.'s debt.
Q On the Rapid Reaction Force.
MR. BURNS: That's an interesting tie-in. I hadn't really thought of it that way, but --
Q Will get the U.S. off the hook?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States does not recognize Taiwan to be a state. We have a one-China policy. There is one China in the United Nations, and therefore there is no basis at this point and I think at any point in the future for us to consider this as an active proposition.
Q What do you think about the idea, though, in general? I mean, it's sort of a bold, creative stroke, no?
MR. BURNS: I would agree, it's bold and it's creative. (Laughter) Let me just amplify my former remark. I finally found a piece of paper that was given to me this morning -- (laughter) -- after a mad search for it underwent.
More detail, Carol. Under Article IV of the U.N. Charter, U.N. membership is open only to states. The United States and most other U.N. members do not recognize Taiwan as a state. The United States recognizes the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government of China, a policy decision made in 1979 and reaffirmed by each successive American Administration.
We acknowledge the Chinese position that there is but one China and that Taiwan is part of China, and we have a one-China policy. We've always had a one-China policy since 1979. We've had a one-China policy throughout 1995. We will continue to have a one-China policy. So I think that's the basis for looking at this particular question.
Q Have there been any new developments in the U.S. efforts to try to get its ties with China back on some sort of stable footing?
MR. BURNS: I would say that it's the responsibility of both countries to restore stability and predictability to this relationship. It is not just the responsibility of the United States. Both countries have a very great interest in a strong relationship, in discussions about problems -- political, economic, military, security problems -- and we have made a number of representations to the Chinese Government that we're interested in having those talks.
They have not responded to date with any indication that they want to continue the talks that we suggested, but it's the responsibility of both countries to do this, not just the responsibility of the United States.
Q Do you have anything on Harry Wu -- the situation with --
MR. BURNS: Yes, I do have something on Harry Wu. As you know -- and I'll try to pick up the thread from yesterday -- we also understand from a Foreign Ministry statement in Beijing this morning that Mr. Wu is being held in northwest China in Xinjiang Province; that according to the Chinese Government in Beijing, he has not been arrested. He has been detained.
We intend to have a Consular Officer from one of our posts in China travel to the hotel where he is being detained to meet with him, to gain Consular access to him, and try to help him as soon as possible.
We understand that the individual who was traveling with him has returned or been returned to Kazakhstan. They crossed over at the Kazakh-Chinese border. The Chinese Government says now that it is investigating some possible actions by Mr. Wu in the past. They said this morning that -- they alleged this morning that he had visited restricted areas on a trip in 1994.
We're very concerned about his detention, and we urge his immediate release. We have noted our concern to the Chinese Government in Beijing this morning. We will further note that in another meeting this afternoon here at the Department. We're concerned by it because we have great respect for Mr. Wu. He has been a long-time champion and advocate of human rights in China. We respect much of the work that he's done, and he's an American citizen. He's traveling on an American passport, and he ought to be released.
Q Will the Ambassador come in? Have you called the Ambassador?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there is a Chinese Ambassador right now. I believe he's been recalled to Beijing.
Q What level is --
MR. BURNS: There is a Charge d'Affaires -- newly-arrived Chinese Charge d'Affaires here in town -- and there have been discussions in Beijing, and there will be discussions this afternoon.
Q Well, at what level?
MR. BURNS: At that level -- the Charge-level.
Q Nick, would it be fair to say that you're calling the Ambassador in to give him a demarche on this issue?
MR. BURNS: Normally, it's not diplomatic practice to publicize one's diplomatic demarches, and I want to respect that in this occasion, but I think it's obvious from what I'm saying that we have a very great concern in our government this morning about this issue; that we're taking actions today both in Beijing and Washington to express our strong displeasure with the Chinese Government, and that we hope to have fruitful, productive conversations with them.
Q But you wouldn't take exception if some news reports popped up that there was a demarche in this meeting, would you?
MR. BURNS: We believe in freedom of the press. You have to report on what you hear at the briefings, and I've just told you that we're going to have diplomatic -- we have had and will have today further diplomatic contacts with the Chinese Government, and those are serious diplomatic contacts because this is an American citizen -- a respected American citizen -- and he deserves access not only to United States officials, but he deserves the right to be freed.
Let me just clear up something from yesterday's briefing. We don't want to confuse the situation ourselves. Yesterday I believe we indicated that under a Consular access agreement between China and the United States, each country is obligated to inform the other within 48 hours of the detention or arrest of a citizen of the other country.
Actually, the agreement stipulates that within four days each country has an obligation to inform the other of the arrest or detention of a citizen; and that within 48 hours the respective government, in this case our government, should have the right of Consular access to the individual -- 48 hours after the notification.
I'm sorry if there was any confusion about this yesterday. I think we did post a question on this last evening, but I just thought I'd take the opportunity to clear that up. We've checked into our Consular Agreement, and that is how it is written.
Q You're satisfied the Chinese Government has lived up to the letter of the agreement?
MR. BURNS: I'm trying to be fair to the Chinese Government in this respect. I believe that he was detained on the 19th, and I believe we were informed on the 23rd. So in that sense, the Chinese Government was true to the agreement in notifying us within a four-day period, and I do want to give them their due on that.
Now we are asking for Consular access. We expect to get Consular access. Because of the distances involved, I believe our westernmost post is Chengdu. I'm just not sure which individual from which of our Consular posts or Embassy in Beijing will be visiting him, but a decision was made this morning that we ought to get someone out there as fast as possible, and that will happen.
MR. BURNS: We will be notifying the Chinese Government, as is diplomatic practice, of our intention to send a Consular Officer to visit Mr. Wu. That is normal diplomatic practice. We will be doing that today.
Q They don't have the right to tell you you can't do it?
MR. BURNS: Under our Consular Access Agreement, it is our right to have Consular access to an American citizen, and it would be highly unusual and abnormal were we to be denied Consular access. We do not expect that to happen.
Q Does the U.S. have a position on whether if, it turns out that Mr. Wu did visit restricted areas, the Chinese would have any legal basis upon which to hold him?
MR. BURNS: That's a very good question. I think it would be a little bit irresponsible of me to speculate on the basis of press reports. There were press reports. In fact, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said this is one of the possible areas of investigation and of possible wrongdoing -- alleged wrongdoing on the part of Mr. Wu.
Since it's hypothetical at this point, I don't really want to speculate what our reaction would be. But at this point, given who he is, given the respect we have for him, given the work he's done on behalf of human rights in China, given the fact he's a U.S. citizen, we're concerned about him, and we want him to be released.
Q Nick, has the United States revoked a multiple entry visa that was in possession of a Russian singer, Kobzon? Are you familiar with that case? He's apparently the Frank Sinatra of Russia.
MR. BURNS: He's the Frank Sinatra of Russia. In that case, let me turn to Tab 2, which is Frank Sinatra's tab.
Q Is this under "S"?
MR. BURNS: Under "S"? Under Tab S, let's see if we have anything on Frank Sinatras in Russia. I believe we do, that's why I'm searching. Yes. Okay, you asked for it.
On May 12, 1995, Iosif Kobzon was determined by the Department of State to be ineligible for a visa for the United States under Section 212(a) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act.
Mr. Kobzon has been informed of this ineligibility, and that the non-immigrant visa previously issued to him is no longer valid.
Since Section 222(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides for the confidentiality of visa records, we are unable to discuss further the specifics of his particular visa case.
But basically what happens is this: When someone applies for a visa, he has to be judged to be qualified for the visa. If that individual has been guilty or suspected of certain acts which make him ineligible for a visa, he is found to be ineligible; the visa's denied. Apparently, this individual had a visa. Apparently, on his reapplication for a visa it was found that he was in violation of Section 212(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act -- which, I believe, is public law, and therefore, you could probably look it up and read the description of Section 212(a) -- and therefore was denied a visa.
That action -- taken, I imagine, by one of our Consular Officers in Russia -- stands.
Q Is this because you're concerned that he may have some connection with or dealings with the so-called Russian mafia?
MR. BURNS: Again, because the visa records and his visa application is confidential, I could not go into the specifics of this case.
Q Can I ask one quick one? Tomorrow's a big day for U.S.-Japan relations. In addition to the Enola Gay opening, there's a rather unfortunate timing on the sanctions for the luxury cars that's about to be imposed and Japan has threatened retaliation against U.S. foreign products. I guess without using the words "three-legged stool," could you explain to us what, if anything, the State Department's doing -- any steps that might be taken to try and ensure there's not the appearance of a rupture in relations at this point?
MR. BURNS: I won't use your description. I'll use my own description and that is that U.S.-Japan relations are among the most important that we have anywhere in the world; that we are dedicated to continuing good relations with Japan. That was the message that President Clinton gave the Prime Minister in Halifax, and the message that Secretary Christopher has given Foreign Minister Kono on a number of recent occasions.
Obviously, the focus of our relationship today is elsewhere -- it's in Geneva -- and since those talks are ongoing, I simply can't comment on them. Needless to say, given everything that's happened during the past five decades, all of the very fine cooperation we've had with Japan, we look forward to a future of good solid relations.
U.S.-Japan relations are the cornerstone of the American position in East Asia. They're the cornerstone of our Pacific policy. We have to have a good relationship with Japan, and we will have a good relationship with Japan. But the issues being negotiated today in Europe are exceedingly important for the United States and we are serious about them, and I simply have no further comment, because I don't want to complicate Ambassador's Kantor's life in any way.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me.
Q Akashi's letter -- U.N. -- United Nations --
MR. BURNS: Mr. Akashi's letter. I had a long comment on this letter on Friday, but I just would like to reiterate it in a couple of brief sentences. We think this letter should not have been sent. It was a most unfortunate letter. It did not comport with our understanding for the basis of the Rapid Reaction Force, and equally important on a matter of procedure which is very important at the U.N. Security Council, we were not notified, and it took us a long while to get our hands on this letter. So we're displeased that the letter was sent. We don't agree with parts of the substance of the letter. We have made that explicitly clear to the United Nations.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:51 p.m.)
(###)To the top of this page