U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/06/28 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, June 28, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Statements/Announcements/Remarks July 3/4 Briefing Schedule ................................1 Introduction of Intern ....................................1 Turkey--Renewal of Operation Provide Comfort ..............1-2 US-Japan Trade Agreement ..................................2 Israeli-Syrian Talks ......................................2 TURKEY Operation Provide Comfort/Funding .........................3-4 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Israeli-Syrian Security Talks .............................4-11 --U.S. Participation/Israeli-Syrian Participants ..........4-5,7,8 --Length of Discussions ...................................8-9 --Additional Bilateral Talks ..............................10 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA European Union Action Plan ................................11 Role of Carl Bildt/Contact Group ..........................11,12,13 Access to Sarajevo/Humanitarian Relief Plans ..............11 U.S. Role in Peacemaking Efforts ..........................11 Serbian Military Support to Bosnian Serbs/Units in Krajina .................................................12-13,14 UNPROFOR/Funding of Rapid Reaction Force ..................14-21 Protection of U.S./NATO Pilots ............................21-22 EGYPT Relations with Sudanese Government ........................22 --Reported Fighting on Border .............................22 QATAR Statement of Deposed Emir .................................22 PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY Use of Assistance funds/Discussions with Arafat ...........23 Role of PLO in Economic Development Projects ..............24 Palestinian/Israeli Talks .................................31 CHINA Status of U.S. Citizen Harry Wu/Diplomatic Contacts/. Consular Access/U.S. Response ...........................24-31 Arrest of Dissident Chen Ziming ...........................27 CUBA Detention of Donald Nixon/Robert Vesco ....................31-33
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 28, 1995, 1:02 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of announcements. The first is a housekeeping announcement. Barring unforeseen events, I am not planning a regular briefing on Monday, July 3. However, the Press Office will be open if you have any questions. I will also be in the building. Tuesday, the 4th, is, of course, a Federal holiday. The building is closed. We will have a Duty Officer on schedule. So the first full briefing next week will be on Wednesday, July 5.
I'm also pleased to introduce to you another summer intern who is with us this year, Michelle Towles. Michelle, would you like to stand? Michelle is a resident of Prince Georges County, Maryland. She arrived on Monday, and will be with us until August 11. She's a senior at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania with a dual major in early and elementary education. After graduation, she will attend the University of Maryland at College Park where she intends to study Business Administration.
Last summer, Michelle completed her internship at the State Department's Offices of Allowances in Arlington, and we're very pleased that she's with us this summer. Thanks, Michelle.
I have a statement on Turkey. The United States welcomes the June 27 decision by the Turkish Parliament to extend the mandate for Operation Provide Comfort for another regular six-month interval.
Provide Comfort helps deter renewed Iraqi aggression against its own citizens in northern Iraq. As host to Provide Comfort and an integral part of the Four-Power Coalition, Turkey plays a central role in the provision of humanitarian assistance and in enhancing security for the peoples of northern Iraq.
Turkey's continued willingness, at considerable cost to itself, to host Operation Provide Comfort demonstrates its enduring reliability as a partner and ally of the United States.
Finally, let me just comment on two issues. I think you've all just seen the President's remarks and the remarks of Ambassador Mickey Kantor from Geneva. The United States and Japan have made a major breakthrough today on our trade and economic relations. I'd certainly refer you to USTR and the White House for further detailed information on the breakthrough that was made today.
We're very pleased about it because it points to the critical need for the United States and Japan to have a stable, productive, and supportive relationship. Secretary Christopher has worked hard in recent weeks with his counterpart, Minister Kono, to build good political and military ties -- security ties -- with Japan; and with the breakthrough today, we think that the stage is set for a resumption of very, very good relations between the United States and Japan.
I'd be glad to discuss those aspects -- the political and security aspects -- if you would like.
Finally, just to give you a sense of the Syria-Israel talks. As you know, yesterday, after the Secretary hosted a lunch for General Shahak, he then went over to Fort McNair and he kicked off the Syrian- Israeli discussions at Fort McNair. He was there briefly to discuss with both the Syrian and Israeli delegations the parameters of the discussions and our hopes for these discussions.
There was then an ensuring five hours of discussion between General Shahak and General Shihabi, discussions in which, of course, Ambassador Dennis Ross and other American officials were present and actively engaged.
They have been at Fort McNair all this morning. They will continue meetings all this afternoon. I don't know when those meetings will conclude. They'll go as long as they have to go.
The Secretary is not involved in the discussions today. I think it's quite likely he will involved tomorrow in some form in these discussions with both men. There has been an announcement by the White House that there will be some meeting at the White House tomorrow. That is really as much as I'm going to be able to say about these particular talks.
As you know, we're not talking about the substantive developments, but I did want to give you a general sense of at least the structure of the meetings.
With that, I'll be glad to go to your questions.
Q A couple of these statements call for questions. Go back to the Turkey statement, please, if you will. What do you mean "cost to Turkey?" Trade with Iraq? What do you mean specifically? And is the United States doing anything to compensate Turkey for that "cost"?
MR. BURNS: Let me go to the second part of your question first, and I'll deal with the first part.
Barry, there is a Four-Power Coalition, as you know, in northern Iraq comprised of Turkey, the United States, Britain, and France. This coalition in northern Iraq has two major functions. One is to engineer an ongoing "no-fly" zone above the 36th Parallel; the second is to facilitate the provision of humanitarian relief, mainly through non- governmental organizations to the population in northern Iraq.
Turkey, of course, as, in effect, host of this operation plays a major role because of the responsibility that it has for providing security on the border, for participating in this mission at some cost to itself, and also because of some of the problems that have occurred along the border due to Kurdish terrorism.
This operation is now in its fourth year of existence -- we're beyond four years of existence. It's an unusual operations because there is an unusual situation. The situation has been produced by the fact that Saddam Husayn has shown himself to be irresponsible in his actions toward his own people.
Turkey has borne a major share of the responsibility for trying to provide for security and stability in that region.
The U.S. contribution, since April 1991, is well over $860 million. I can get you a specific figure. I checked this morning, and that is at least a ballpark figure. We have 50 American civilian and military personnel on the ground in northern Iraq. We have an additional 800 in Turkey who are supporting Operation Provide Comfort.
Q But does the U.S. reimburse Turkey? And, if so, to what extent?
MR. BURNS: I don't know the details of how the operation is funded -- for which expenses Turkey may be reimbursed and for which it is not. If you are interested, we can certainly get this information.
Q Turkey is at least nominally a Moslem country, and it's in an awkward position. I'm trying to get a sense -- you've reasonably enough cast them as being in a sacrificial position. But I'm wondering to what extent is there a financial loss to Turkey? Do you mean some psychological burden? I really don't know what you mean when you talk about -- when the statement there talks about a cost -- and if the U.S. is picking up the bill for a financial expenditure by Turkey, I just wonder what it's costing the American taxpayer to compensate Turkey? That's what I'm asking.
MR. BURNS: The provision of American funds is in our interest, as well as Turkey's. We think it's money well spent because we believe that we have an obligation, as well as the Turks, the British, and the French, to the people of northern Iraq after the events of March and April 1991.
Q But if we're reimbursing Turkey, then it isn't costing Turkey anything. And if we're not reimbursing Turkey, what is it costing Turkey? I know you don't have it at your fingertips.
MR. BURNS: Barry, I gave you a rough figure --
Q Well, you gave me the contours of the thing --
MR. BURNS: I gave you a rough figure for U.S. expenses. It doesn't mean that Turkey doesn't bear its own share of expenses. It certainly does.
Q Dealing with terrorists certainly costs their money. Syria/Israel, and then I'll let somebody else have a chance.
Again, it's State Department words, and it's not always very specific. When you say that the Americans are "active," are they speaking at the table? Did Dennis Ross participate in the negotiations by words coming out of his mouth? Did General Christman participate in the negotiations, or were they available in a side room in case questions come up? Can you be a little more specific about what clearly is an enhanced American role?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to. Let me start with Secretary Christopher and then go to Ambassador Dennis Ross. Let me just try to give you a comprehensive answer to your question, Barry; and that is, that we are an active partner in the negotiations. We are not a bystander. We're not in separate rooms.
That's the reason why Secretary Christopher had these two lunches. These were not symbolic, ceremonial lunches. They were substantive where substantive issues were discussed which befits our role.
In the meetings itself at Fort McNair, Dennis Ross and other Americans are in the room. They are active participants. They are speaking; they are suggesting ideas; they're adding their own perspectives. This has been really the nature of the U.S. role for some time now. This is nothing new. Certainly, in the Secretary's recent trip to the region and in Dennis Ross' separate travel, we have been in the position of being an active participant in recent weeks, and we are sustaining that now.
Q Is General Christman suggesting ideas in the room?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what transpired on his part yesterday because I didn't talk to General Christman, but I did have a conversation with Dennis. I got a fairly good idea of how it went and how it was structured, and I can say that Dennis was an active participant. General Christman may have. I just haven't talked to him.
Q Could we try to get an answer to that because he's the General and they're talking about military stuff?
MR. BURNS: We'll see what we can do.
MR. BURNS: We have taken the decision, Roy, that we don't want to get into the game of trying to articulate what happened or to try to give you a sense of how we think it's going because I just had a report from Dennis on the first day's talks. I haven't seen him this morning since he left for Fort McNair, and therefore I really hate to do that at this time since he's now been in roughly four hours of discussions since I last saw him.
Q But how are the atmospherics?
MR. BURNS: I think the atmospherics have been very good. The atmospherics at the lunches were good, certainly when the Secretary was there. Dennis' report is that both sides are very serious and they're engaged in good, substantive conversations. But I don't really want to characterize in any summary way. It would be unfair for me because I'm now four hours behind the start of this meeting today.
Q Based on what Dennis told you, would it be fair to say that the two Generals basically yesterday presented their opening positions and they will enter into negotiations on those positions today?
MR. BURNS: I think, Sid, since I wasn't there, I'm must going to refrain from trying to get into how the meeting went in the substantive sense yesterday. I have agreed to try to give you as much as I can give you, but that's as far as I can go.
Q What is the shape of the room -- how are they sitting around?
MR. BURNS: Rectangular. It's a rectangle.
Q Is it a long table, elongated table, oval table?
MR. BURNS: That's the kind of information we can probably get for you.
Q Excuse me?
MR. BURNS: I think that's the kind of information we can probably get for you. I haven't been out to Fort McNair to see it.
Q You're not permitting photographers in -- the State Department isn't --
MR. BURNS: We're not.
Q Not "you."
MR. BURNS: We're not.
Q I mean, it would be easier if we had a hookup with Dennis, I mean -- you know. You're laying and trying your darnest to give us some sense of what's going on, but I really haven't any.
I have never known Israeli and Arab negotiators described as not being serious. They're always serious. Of course they're serious. It's serious business.
MR. BURNS: Barry --
Q They're not into irony and satire.
MR. BURNS: You know we've got -- Barry --
Q I mean, you know, to say they're serious is to say nothing. I mean Dennis -- for Dennis to tell you that they're serious. Well, I certainly hope so.
MR. BURNS: Let me just respond, Barry.
Q Is it serious?
MR. BURNS: We are not willing to say that we are saying nothing. We're not willing to say anything about the talks, because we have decided with the parties that's the best way to proceed. It's their choice, and we've agreed with their choice that they want negotiate in private. They don't want to have public negotiations.
They don't want, for instance, me standing up here characterizing hour by hour how it's going and putting words on it. They're locked in serious negotiations, and that's as much as we're going to say.
So you're right. We're going to say absolutely nothing about the substance until we are prepared and they are prepared to talk about the substance. So that's that.
Q Are the Syrians angry that the location has surfaced? Did they file a complaint against reporters or against a government or two?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask the Syrians. I have not heard that.
Q Who are the two parties -- the Israeli side and the Syrian side? Who are the members of the delegations?
MR. BURNS: I think you know who's heading both sides -- General Shihabi and General Shahak.
Q Besides that.
MR. BURNS: I don't have lists of the individuals involved.
Q Can you get it?
MR. BURNS: I'll look into it.
Q How many people are in? Do you have any idea?
MR. BURNS: I think there's no set number. People are in and out of the discussions, and there are smaller groups and larger groups, but I don't know exactly how many people are in.
Q Does the General have an aide with him at all?
MR. BURNS: Which General?
Q Our General.
MR. BURNS: I'm sure he does.
Q Speaking of the question, will they be dining together, something like that?
MR. BURNS: I don't know.
Q Are you providing some food, some refreshments or something?
MR. BURNS: We are gracious hosts. We are providing the accommodations for the meeting and food, and that's that.
Q Do you have any indication of how long they'll be in session?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Did Dennis give you an idea of how long they'll be in session?
MR. BURNS: He said they'd be in session all day today. He didn't know how long it would go. That would depend on the discussions themselves.
Q You said at the outset they'll go as long as they have to, etc., etc.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Are you suggesting that Thursday is not the wind-up day or may not be the wind-up day?
MR. BURNS: We anticipate three days of discussions, so it will wind up on Thursday -- tomorrow.
Q So what does that really mean? It just meant they're earnest, right? You're basically saying they're determined -- when you say they'll go as long as they have to go. But you have a schedule --
MR. BURNS: We have a schedule.
Q -- that they end on Thursday.
MR. BURNS: For three days.
Q Dennis goes visiting again and the major Generals --
MR. BURNS: But they didn't decide they'd meet for five hours today or six hours. They decided they would just discuss things as long as they thought they would today.
Q Does that imply this is (inaudible) reach at the end of today?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
Q Does that imply a specific goal to reach by the end of today or tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't think it does. I think this is the first time these two individuals have sat down for discussions. Yesterday was the first time they had done that, and so they're exchanging views, and I don't think there's any agreement on what needs to be accomplished by the end of these talks tomorrow.
Q I just meant that when you say they'll go as long as they need to, it implies you want to get here and, if it takes three hours or it takes ten hours --
Q Did they take a break and go to the phone? Do they take a break and go to the phone?
MR. BURNS: You know, I'll tell you something. We can proceed with this line of questioning, if you like, and I'm prepared to stand here for hours to answer all these questions -- (laughter) -- but I'm not there and you're not there and you have as much idea as I do about if they went to a phone. So I don't really see the sense of the question, but I'm glad to answer the questions if you want to continue asking questions like that.
Q Is there a hope that tomorrow at the White House that they could perhaps announce some sort of small confidence-building measure that both parties agreed to? Are you aiming toward that? Is there a hope that something could come out without revealing --
MR. BURNS: There's a hope that they're going to make progress, but our assumption is it's going to be -- these are tough negotiations, so we have no idea when we'll be in a position to announce progress. I think it's very difficult to say right now whether or not by tomorrow morning they'll be in a position to say, "We have accomplished the following, and we'd like to announce it to you." Simply don't know if that's going to be the case.
Q Since you've now said that they are meeting at Fort McNair, can you tell us where Rabinovich and Mualem are meeting as well?
MR. BURNS: I can't.
Q Are they (inaudible) in parallel in a different location meeting?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe they are in a different location, no.
Q But, I mean, are they having separate meetings? No, I mean, we're picking up from yesterday, because there were bilateral issues --
MR. BURNS: As we said yesterday, the Ambassadorial-level talks are ongoing.
Q No, but there was a point to this.
MR. BURNS: They're ongoing before, during and after the process. I don't believe they're holding separate meetings today and tomorrow.
Q This isn't being picky. You remember yesterday --
MR. BURNS: None of the questions have been picky.
Q No, there are things at a bilateral that are excluded from the negotiations in Fort McNair, or the Generals negotiations.
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q So the question of things like terrorism, attacks by Hizbollah on northern Israel, for instance, the question is, are there bilateral negotiations going on parallel or in tandem with these military negotiations?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe so. Not yesterday, today and tomorrow, but those talks are ongoing talks, so they can be re-established at any time.
Q Are you done with that?
MR. BURNS: There must be another question about these talks that we haven't covered. (Laughter) Do you want to know what color suits they are wearing? (Laughter)
Q They are in civilian clothing, aren't they? They came --
MR. BURNS: I believe General Shihabi is, yes, and General Shahaki as well. Anything else?
Q Have you gotten briefed on the European Union action's plan on the Balkans, and is there one, or is this just a prepackaging of old ideas?
MR. BURNS: We've been briefed on the Cannes summit of EU presence that took place yesterday and some of the instructions that were given to Carl Bildt as a result of those meetings. The instructions have to do with the interest of the European Union's leadership in pursuing negotiations with Milosevic on the Contact Group's offer of limited sanctions relief in return for recognition, the Contact Group's offer to Pale for beginning general peace talks on the basis of the Map and Plan.
There was also an instruction for Mr. Bildt to see if he could make it possible to open up a land route into Sarajevo which we found particularly interesting, and we are trying now to get in touch with Mr. Bildt to have further conversations with him to see what he thinks this is all about. We think this is positive. It's one of the original U.N. responsibilities to try to keep Sarajevo supplied with humanitarian provisions.
It's not been the case over the last couple of weeks. I think only a couple of convoys have gotten in, and we think it's a very important mandate. We think it's also something that the Rapid Reaction Force should have as one of its mandates.
Q Could we get -- maybe it's a little early, but perhaps it isn't -- an idea of how the U.S. role might be now that Bildt, the Europeans and the U.N. are apparently going into some activity? You'll recall that before Bildt moved in, the Americans, basically Frasure, was the lead man, made the proposals with the others, supporting him.
Is the U.S. now, as it has many times before, in dealing with Bosnia -- is the U.S. now deferring to the Europeans to try their hand and be the lead in mediation and peacemaking efforts?
MR. BURNS: We're not deferring to the Europeans. We're working with them. Bildt's arrival in our view is very positive, both because we worked well with him when he was Swedish Prime Minister and because we think he's very able. He clearly has the confidence of the European Union leadership, and he's got the confidence of Secretary Christopher.
So we're pleased that he's active. What we would expect now is that he would be fully integrated into the Contact Group. He met with the Contact Group representatives over the weekend in Paris. There will be another meeting of the Contact Group in a couple of days.
He reported to them just a couple of days ago on his initial round of contacts in the region, and we would now like him to report on the results of the EU Summit. He is going to be now taking a second trip to the region beginning this weekend.
Q Where is Bob Frasure?
MR. BURNS: Bob Frasure is in Washington. He was in the Contact Group meeting last weekend. He's now in Washington.
Q Does he go with Bildt or --
MR. BURNS: No, he won't go with Bildt, but I was leading up to this.
Q I'm sorry.
MR. BURNS: Right now we think it makes sense for Carl Bildt to approach the Bosnian Serb leadership on the basis of the Contact Group Map and Plan, which is still the offer on the table. We also think it makes sense for him to take a shot at discussions with Mr. Milosevic on the offer of limited sanctions relief -- the offer that Frasure had been discussing with him -- and we're quite content to have Mr. Bildt in that position. We're working closely with him.
So I think it's more a case of making sure that the European Union's representative is closely integrated with the Contact Group. That was really not the case to any great extent before Mr. Bildt's arrival.
Q While we're on Milosevic, did you folks have a chance to look at the Financial Times' story, suggesting that Milosevic is arranging for conscripts to fight or at least be alongside -- I think fight -- alongside the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: I didn't see that particular story, but the general issue is an important one for us. We have continued to look closely at possible support that the Serbian Government might be giving to the Bosnian Serbs in contravention of the sanctions.
Q Well, you know, we're all familiar with the border and the weapons, but this would be another violation, I suppose, of the promise he's taken to keep his distance. Is there any substance to the report that Milosevic is organizing volunteer forces in Serbia again, volunteer conscripts?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything on that, but we're pursuing it.
Q You don't have anything on it?
MR. BURNS: No.
Q Can I follow on Carl Bildt?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q What does Carl Bildt bring to the table that his predecessor didn't, other than fresh blood? Is there something -- you seem to be very hopeful of his abilities in this current round.
MR. BURNS: He takes up his position at a time when everybody involved seems to think that we ought to give diplomacy another shot in the Bosnian crisis; that it's worth doing that, that we have to do that. He brings some fresh ideas and a fresh perspective. He's got the respect of the United States as well as the other members of the Contact Group, and I think he's got a clear mandate now from the European Union.
We work well with him, and we've had a good set of initial discussions. So we are glad -- to get back to Barry's question -- to see him tightly integrated with the Contact Group.
Q But the basic ideas are the same. I mean --
MR. BURNS: The basic ideas are the same.
Q It's the Map and Plan of the Contact Group, and it's the partial sanction relief for the Serbs. I mean, that hasn't changed.
MR. BURNS: That hasn't changed. Having said this, let me make a point, though, just to be clear. We have not given up our own ability and right to be an independent actor and to have bilateral consultations with the Serbs or others in the region outside the rubric of the Contact Group.
Other members of the Contact Group, most notably the Russians, in recent weeks have done that. We'll continue to do that, but right now we'd like to see Mr. Bildt give it a go.
Q You were talking about infiltration earlier. What do you know about the sending of new units into Krajina from Serbia, including tanks, APCs and manpower?
MR. BURNS: It's another question we've been looking at for a couple of days. We've seen press reports. We've heard other reports to that effect, and we're looking into it.
Q But you have no confirmation?
MR. BURNS: I have no independent confirmation of that right now.
Still on Bosnia?
Q Yes. What is the idea in the United States now for overcoming this impasse in Brussels, where NAC has been unable to agree on dual-key or non-dual-key? It seems that the United States and the French are at particular loggerheads. How are you going to get around that? As I understand it, this plan for extraction of UNPROFOR is now being sold as a lifeline that would keep them there, but with the lifeline not in place -- I mean, it seems like a confusing situation. How are you getting around that?
MR. BURNS: There's a lot going on in Brussels and elsewhere. On your second point, it's our very clear understanding that what NATO is looking at -- the plan -- is an extraction plan. It's contingency and it's hypothetical, but it's not a lifeline to keep troops there. It's a plan to bring troops out should that be necessary. That's what that plan is.
On the first question, the United States strongly believes that the United Nations and NATO have to arrive at an understanding of how we can work together to implement U.N. resolutions. The "no-fly" zone is a part of that, and we certainly want to get straight with our allies and with everyone concerned what the rules of the road are. There have been a number discussions to that effect.
In a wider sense, let me just say that in past weeks we've talked about this being a transitional period, and it certainly is. We have answered for ourselves a lot of questions. We see three basic options available to the United States. One is being proposed by Senator Lugar, and that is to basically have 100,000 or more American troops enter the situation and try to win a military victory on the ground and force the parties, in this case the Bosnian Serbs, to negotiations.
We think that particular option is not wise, because it simply wouldn't have the support of the American people, and it is not consistent with the level -- it's certainly not consistent with our view as to what kind of American interests are at stake in the region.
The second basic option, since many people believe that UNPROFOR has failed, is to simply seek the withdrawal of UNPROFOR and a lift of the arms embargo. That is an initiative that is being pursued by Senator Dole. We think that initiative runs the risk of Americanizing the war. It would give the United States the enormous responsibility of not only having to arm the Bosnian Government, if we chose a certain path, but also having to train the Bosnian Government's military. We don't think that makes sense. We think it would also probably kill any chance that Mr. Bildt or other people have to make progress on the political front.
That leaves us with another option, which is not the best of all possible options. It's not a perfect option, but the option is this, that UNPROFOR, having not done very well over the last couple of months, should be beefed up and strengthened to the extent that we may be able to put more pressure on the Bosnian Serbs to negotiate, and at the same time that Mr. Bildt and the United States and the Contact Group renew again the diplomatic efforts with Belgrade and Pale to try to seek a political solution.
Again, it's not the best of all possible alternatives, but measured against the other viable alternatives that have been suggested in our own country, we think it makes the most sense for American interests.
So having gone through this period, that's where we end up. We now have a lot of specific questions having to deal with the "no-fly" zone, the rules of the road for the Rapid Reaction Force, what its mandate will be, what its funding will be, and we are now trying with our allies and with the Congress to answer those questions.
Q Has there been any progress on either front to defining the mandate and the funding?
MR. BURNS: On funding, we have just yesterday presented some ideas to the Congress about funding. As you know, we are pushing the idea of a voluntary fund that would rely principally on in-kind contributions; that would be a transfer of U.S. military equipment and services to the major troop-contributing countries of the Rapid Reaction Force. We're in the middle of discussions with the Congress and the congressional leadership right now on that.
On the mandate for the Rapid Reaction Force, I'll be frank, that we continue to hear in private varying descriptions from the troop- contributing countries of what the mandate will be. I think the way this is going to end up is that the force is beginning to arrive, in a couple of weeks it will probably be fully in place and perhaps somewhat operational, and it may be that only in going through the first rounds of activity will the Rapid Reaction Force in essence define itself.
Q I have a follow-up question. When the Rapid Reaction Force was announced earlier this month or the end of last month -- I forget exactly when it was -- there was quite a sense of urgency about it. The situation was deteriorating and so forth, and here we've gone almost four weeks and the funding hasn't been fixed and the mandate hasn't been set. Isn't time of the essence here? I mean, isn't the urgency still there?
MR. BURNS: There's certainly a sense of urgency when five, six, seven, eight civilians are killed every day in Sarajevo. A little boy was killed yesterday. There's a sense of urgency that comes from that, from the fact that convoys are not getting through to the enclaves; that the Bosnian Serbs continue to violate U.N. resolutions in their use of weaponry. There's a sense of urgency, yes.
The fact is that this is a process that involves the United Nations and a great number of countries. It has not been an easy process, because we have not had agreement over either mandate or funding, and we've had to negotiate our way through those disagreements, and that's just the reality of what this process has been.
Q You're looking for volunteers -- excuse me.
Q There is a third option, and that is that we aid our allies in getting their troops and materiel to the region. Are we involved in that?
MR. BURNS: That's part and parcel of the third option that I mentioned that we are now following. The option that I described, the course that the Administration has chosen to take, is to support the continuation of UNPROFOR and the strengthening of UNPROFOR, and we have given our pledge to our allies that we will help them lift their forces as necessary to the region. We'll help equip those forces. We'll help with intelligence, and we'll help with communications.
There were four specific functions that Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili committed to a couple of weeks ago in Paris at the Defense Ministers' meeting, and we're now doing that.
The remaining question for us is on the voluntary fund, what level of resources can we bring to this, and can we work out with the Congress an agreement on how the United States will actually fund this participation -- the provision of equipment and lift, and so forth. That's what needs to be funded right now. But that is part and parcel of the option that we are following.
Q Can you be more specific on exactly what we're doing in these areas?
MR. BURNS: I think it's for the Pentagon to be specific. I can tell you generally what we're doing, and that is that the British, the Dutch and the French have come to us with specific requests for equipment, for logistical support, for lift in some cases, and we are right now responding to those requests, and we are working with them on the requests. That's happening.
But before we can fully meet their requests, we have to have an agreement with Congress on the funding, and that has not yet been worked out.
Q When you talk -- I'm sorry, but it's right on funding. You made reference to voluntary. You know, "voluntary" means a lot of things. "Voluntary" in the sense that -- you refer to the countries that are participating -- are you asking for voluntary contributions only from countries that have peacekeepers in Bosnia, or is it a broader scheme than that --
MR. BURNS: It means that the United States --
Q -- which is my understanding.
MR. BURNS: It means that the United States would make a voluntary contribution of its own to help support the Rapid Reaction Force. That's what it means.
Q What about other countries? Would you look to other countries to make voluntary contributions?
MR. BURNS: We certainly would hope that would be the case, yes. But right now what we're concentrating on is figuring out what we can do, and we've got to have congressional consultations before we can fulfill that.
Q How can you ask Congress for money when you don't know what this force is going to do?
MR. BURNS: We know the force is going to buttress existing U.N. forces. We know that it will give the UNPROFOR forces additional capability than they now have to perform certain missions. What we don't know is what type of response the Rapid Reaction Force will make in regard to predictable situations.
If you look at the past couple of weeks and months when the Bosnian Serbs have routinely violated U.N. mandates and U.N. requests, what we don't know is how the Rapid Reaction Force would react when those things happen in the future, as they assuredly will happen in the future. So that's an unknown.
But the argument we're making to Congress, Roy, is the following. We've got to support our allies. They're NATO allies. They have troops on the ground, and the welfare of those troops is important, number one.
Number two, we think it makes sense to put more soldiers onto the scene so they have additional enhanced capability to react to certain situations, and we are being direct with the Congress in saying we're not exactly sure what the detailed, defined mandate of the Rapid Reaction Force will be in all situations. But we know we'll give the U.N. added capability which the U.N. needs.
So the argument is being made, if you will, rather generally that we need UNPROFOR to stay and be strengthened. The Rapid Reaction Force is the best possible way to do that at this point.
Q This sounds like incremental or -- it just sounds like escalation, and it has all the earmarks of, you know, the wrong thing. If you don't know precisely why you're going there or what you're going to do -- in fact, going back to your earlier remarks about opening the road to Sarajevo, it leaves me kind of baffled. Do they plan to open a land route or do they not, and do they plan to use force or do they not? Because if they're not going to use force, they won't have a land route.
MR. BURNS: What we understand from the EU meeting yesterday in Cannes is that they would like to open up a land route to Sarajevo. I'm not aware that they have told us how they think that can be accomplished. That is a key question that's got to be answered -- I agree with you.
In response to your larger question, we are not operating in a perfect world, and the option that we are following is certainly not the best possible option, but it's the only one that we think makes sense. I think it is convincing enough for the Congress and for anyone else to understand that a withdrawal of UNPROFOR now and a failure to support the Rapid Reaction Force is not in the interests of the United States.
Why? Because it would certainly lead, embolden the Bosnian Serbs to act in an even more unfettered manner than they have up to date. It would certainly lead to more civilian casualties, more fighting, and a breakdown of the political process as it currently exists. Those are all objectives that we think in the short term are worth meeting in this very imperfect situation.
Q Your arguments are all negative or double negative, you know --
MR. BURNS: They are.
Q -- you're trying to avoid something rather than accomplish something. If you have to send in a military force, don't you want them to accomplish something specific and positive and in a specific period of time and then to get out? I mean, that's the rule that the Pentagon keeps on citing. But in this case, everybody's suspended disbelief. It's hard to understand it.
MR. BURNS: Bosnia -- and you know this better than I do -- is a uniquely frustrating situation for our government and our allied governments -- uniquely frustrating, highly problematic. We do have goals that you might describe as being negative goals, but they're important in their application.
One of our goals is to limit the war, and there were 130,000 deaths in 1992 and 1993, and 2,000 deaths in 1994. That is a major difference, major positive difference for the people of the region. They are still being shelled. They are still dying. They are still being denied daily provisions. But at least UNPROFOR has been able to limit the war up til now, from 130,000 deaths in that '92-'93 period to 2,000 in '94. That's a rather compelling figure. That's important.
I'm just trying to answer your question. What is also important is that it feeds between 1.5 million and 2 million people a day. That's UNPROFOR. Those are major accomplishments. Should UNPROFOR withdraw, there would be no one to feed those people and no one to prevent the wider application of the war.
Now, has UNPROFOR succeeded in all respects? Certainly not. And we have a lot of problems that we have to deal with, but that is the nature of this problem and we've decided to stay in and support our allies who are also staying in.
Q But, you know, coming back to your claims which the President himself has been making also about 130,000 deaths in one year and down to 2,000. How can you claim that UNPROFOR has accomplished that? I mean, you know, there are so many factors in this. To lay it all at the credit of UNPROFOR begs credulity, and also to say that UNPROFOR is feeding 1.5 million to 2 million a day is probably inaccurate. You know, it's the relief agencies which are doing it, often without the help of UNPROFOR, and UNPROFOR has not been able to supply practically any of the enclaves now for weeks -- Bihac really for months.
You know, the whole argument you're making for UNPROFOR is really not backed up by facts, unless you have a fact sheet and can actually demonstrate that this is the case.
MR. BURNS: Roy, I disagree on both counts. I'd like to know an explanation for why the death toll has been reduced from 130,000 to 2,000 if not for the presence of UNPROFOR and the diplomatic activity of the troop-contributing nations and the United States.
Secondly, those NGOs -- those non-governmental organizations -- are in a large part funded by the United States and other countries. This has been the largest airlift in history, and it's been funded and organized by the United States and other countries.
There are some things that we can be proud of in this very terrible situation, and everything is not black. Some things are even gray. But I think you have to give UNPROFOR, the United States, a number of the other countries credit for having tried, for having accomplished certain things in the humanitarian area.
We're very well aware that there are other problems associated with this entire effort, but I think you do have to stand up and understand that certain things have been done.
Q Just back to the funding issue for a second. Correct me if I'm wrong. You said that the United States is now talking about an exchange of services and no cash. I seem to recall earlier in the week you were talking about $100 million and an exchange of services.
MR. BURNS: I did not speak from the podium about $100 million.
Q You did say $100 million.
MR. BURNS: No, I did not, and I'll be glad to check the record. I did not do that. What we have here is a voluntary fund that will be based on cash contributions and the provision of equipment, and that's what we've been briefing on the Hill. But I'm not putting a dollar figure next to it.
Q Okay, well, forget the dollar figure and use whatever dollar figure you'd like. Earlier in the week I seem to recall that the proposal was for cash and services. What I'm asking is, has there now been a change and it's all services and no cash.
MR. BURNS: No, I believe there's both components in the plan.
Q There will also be cash.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Could I ask you --
MR. BURNS: More Bosnia?
Q -- another subject?
Q No, I have a Bosnia question. Several weeks ago Secretary Perry in Paris said that if he could not guarantee the safety of American pilots or NATO pilots or American NATO pilots after Mr. O'Grady was shot down, then they wouldn't be asked to fly the mission.
What has the United States done in order to protect American pilots or NATO pilots further? Is the United States pushing the concept of a pre-emptive air strike against Bosnian Serb radar and missile positions in a pre-emptive form, not the current situation where they can only respond if they're threatened?
MR. BURNS: Lee, that's a question for the Pentagon -- what steps we're taking to protect American pilots, military tactics. That's not the State Department's business. It's the Pentagon's business.
Q Is the Ambassador to NATO pursuing that?
MR. BURNS: The Pentagon is pursuing it, and it may be that the U.S. Ambassador to NATO is involved in some discussions, but the Pentagon has lead responsibility for our military forces.
Q Do you have a take on the skirmishing between Sudan and Egypt, how serious it might be?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a lot to offer on that. We've certainly noted the statements made by both the Egyptian Government and the Sudanese Government. I think you know how we feel about the incident and our strong support for Egypt, but we have not determined on our own -- we've not come to any conclusions as to who might have been responsible for the attempted assassination.
Q No, I'm talking about the late report this morning that there might actually be some conflict on the ground -- some fighting.
MR. BURNS: I have nothing for you.
Q You have nothing on that?
MR. BURNS: No.
Q Sudanese -- on the border --
Q On the border, obviously.
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything on that.
Q The deposed Emir of Qatar announced from Switzerland that he is going to return to his country by all means, and that two divisions, I think, of the Qatari forces are put on high alert. Have you received any information, or what do you have -- a situation report after the coup?
MR. BURNS: We have seen the statements from the deposed Emir. I don't have any independent information of military maneuvers or anything else. I have no additional information on that. Yesterday, after a discussion with the new government, we have recognized the new government and the new ruler.
Q I guess that brings us to Donald Nixon.
Q No, I have a Mideast question.
Q The daily Donald Nixon question? Too early?
I have another Mideast question. Can we stay on the region?
Q How the peace talks are going?
Q No, but not on the peace talks. I promise, not on the peace talks.
MR. BURNS: We can go back to that, Barry. I'm here to answer all questions. The questions were so interesting before --
Q There's an ad in today's New York Times --
MR. BURNS: -- so relevant.
Q -- and while I'm not asking you to comment on the ad, it's accusing the Palestinians Authority and Arafat of misappropriation of quite a bit of funds. What's the State Department's position on how aid that's been spent by the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and Jericho?
MR. BURNS: It has been one of the major preoccupations of the United States throughout the last year, and that is, to try to devise conceptually a set of assistance programs that makes sense for Gaza and Jericho and then to try to implement them effectively and efficiently in every aid enterprise around the world. The major headache is not figuring out what to do; the major headache is getting it done and getting it done quickly and at a minimum of cost.
We have had some concerns with some programs pertaining to Gaza and Jericho. It's my impression that there's been a lot of good work done by Dennis Ross and Toni Verstandig on this and things are actually operating quite well now. We have stepped up our own allocation of funds and the disbursement of our funds because we think there's a political need for the West to come through on it; to make good on its commitments, and to show the people on the ground that we are actually helping them.
That pertains to the Holst Fund and the efforts we've made to bolster the Holst Fund, which, as you know, pays for salaries of civil servants and policemen and others, and also of some of the capital projects that are underway, particularly in Gaza. Some of them are quite major.
During the Secretary's last trip, he was involved in discussions with Chairman Arafat on this issue -- economic assistance. Toni Verstandig, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, was on the ground and looking at projects personally. She follows up on a daily basis on these.
I don't have a general statement to make on the New York Times report, but I think I can say that we are giving this all the serious attention it deserves; that no program is perfect. But we think it's going, certainly, far better than it was a couple of months ago.
Q Nick, on a similar related matter; maybe a level of detail you're not prepared to get down to. Apparently, Chairman Arafat is requesting a large chunk of "sweat equity" for any project that comes into his autonomous areas in exchange for giving the land on which that project would be. Some have it as high as 50 percent. I know there's one project -- Marriott is trying to get going in Gaza. It's been put on hold because of that.
Does the Administration have a position on how much equity the Palestinian National Authority should get in these projects in exchange for providing the land?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I really have nothing to offer you on that today. I'm just not familiar in that level of detail with how the projects are being implemented.
Q Anything new on Harry Wu's detention?
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, there's nothing new, and that's the problem with the detention of Harry Wu as an American citizen.
I understand that this morning, in Beijing, the United States Consul General -- that is, the Chief of our Consular section in the Embassy in Beijing -- Mr. Arturo Macias met with the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The meeting was unsatisfactory in all respects. Mr. Macias, the U.S. Consul General, was advised that the American request for consular access to Mr. Wu is still under consideration. During this same meeting the Chinese officials present failed to specify any charges against Mr. Wu after repeated questions from the American side.
We urge, in the strongest terms, the Chinese authorities to comply with our request and to grant us access immediately to Mr. Wu.
The U.S. Consul General, Mr. Macias, reiterated the provisions of Article 35 of the U.S.-China Consular Convention which requires access to a detained or arrested American citizen no later than 48 hours after such a request is made.
Chinese obligations under the Consular Convention are absolutely clear and absolutely unambiguous. This issue was addressed yesterday afternoon in a meeting here at the State Department with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kent Wiedemann met the Charge d'Affaires of the Chinese Embassy.
This issue will be addressed again today when the Chinese Charge is called back to the State Department to discuss this subject.
The situation is as follows: An American citizen has been detained. He has not been informed, as far as we know, of what the charges are against him. He has not been given access to any American Government official in China. We are not being told exactly where he is held, and we're not being given any assurances that the obligations of the Government of China, under this Convention, will be met. We're concerned about it, and we think that China has an obligation to act responsibly in this very serious case.
Q A few hours ago a couple of Congressmen and Harry Wu's wife held a press conference on the Hill. They threatened to take further retaliation steps toward China if they refuse to release Harry Wu right away. What's your response?
MR. BURNS: My response is that we're going to continue to work with the Government of China on this case to achieve what needs to be achieved -- American Government access to Mr. Wu; some kind of explanation from the Chinese Government as to why he's being held, and we hope his immediate release. That's what we want in this case. We're not going to engage in threats. We're not going to discuss possible retaliatory actions. We're going to treat this seriously. We're going to limit ourselves, for the most part, to private discussion, but we felt we had no alternative in this setting today to make very clear to the American people what's happening to a fellow citizen.
Q Nick, yesterday, you said he's being held in a hotel in a specific city in northwest China. Today, you say you don't know the location.
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q Has he moved, or was that information wrong?
MR. BURNS: Joe, we don't know. We know that the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman yesterday said that he was being held at a particular hotel. The town was not mentioned.
We were not able to achieve any kind of understanding this morning, in a subsequent conversation between one of our officials and a Chinese Government official, as to where he's being held. They simply refuse to tell us. That is in contravention of our existing agreement, and it contravenes reason.
Q Have they given a reason why they have not granted consular access yet?
MR. BURNS: They have not given us a reason why they have not granted consular access. They have not told us anything about this case, but they have told us they're holding him.
Q Did the Chinese gentleman that was called in yesterday, did he offer any explanation at all? Did he simply stand there and listen to what Mr. Wiedemann had to say?
MR. BURNS: The gentleman in question is the Charge d'Affaires of the Chinese Embassy, Mr. Zhou Wenzhong, who has just arrived here in Washington. I'm not aware that there was any adequate explanation given to the State Department yesterday. We certainly hope there will be this afternoon when we have our additional conversation with him.
Q (Inaudible) the United States to bring it up, but it begs the question. I'd like to get your response. It's become pretty clear that you can push the Americans around without getting any real response. It's become clear in Iraq where we have no consular access to those two guys for going on three months now. They held an American pilot in North Korea for several weeks, until they got what they wanted.
How would you respond to that -- American is perceived as weak and unwilling to respond to a situation where its own citizens are essentially being held hostage?
MR. BURNS: I think that's rubbish, Sid. Your attempt to go back and say that somehow we have been weak in those other situations is absolute rubbish.
Look at Iraq today and tell me the United States has not acted with resolve against Iraq. We were discussing just earlier today the "no- fly" zone in northern Iraq. That's something the United States helped bring about and the United States maintains.
The fact is that we have obligation, when American citizens are detained, to have access to them. Your attention should be focused on the parties to these problems that are causing the problems.
The Iraqi Government is responsible for its uncivilized treatment of Mr. Daliberti and Mr. Barloon.
The situation in North Korea was resolved to our satisfaction.
This situation will also be resolved to our satisfaction because we have on our side a clear agreement between the American and Chinese Governments, and the Chinese Government has always been a faithful partner in upholding agreements and we expect that now.
Q During your meeting with the Chinese Charge d'Affaires yesterday, did the case of Chen Ziming come up?
MR. BURNS: Yes, it did. The case of Chen Ziming, who is the individual who was a leader in the Tiananmen demonstrations in 1989, who was then imprisoned, released from prison in 1994 on humanitarian medical grounds, was raised yesterday here in the Department. It was raised in Beijing yesterday, and it will be raised again in the Department this afternoon.
This is a very serious case of an individual who has enormously complicated medical problems. I think I detailed them yesterday. He can cancer surgery last year; he has had heart and liver problems. This is clearly a case of an individual who deserves to have adequate medical attention, and China ought to honor international obligations by releasing this particular political prisoner and all political prisoners.
Q Is this something firm that the Chinese Government believes that they have a right to arrest Harry Wu based on his visits in the past and his exposure of things that have been going on in that country?
MR. BURNS: It would be a very odd application of Chinese law should that be the case. Mr. Wu has applied for visas countless times and has been granted visas. Why was he granted a visa if he had violated Chinese law?
The onus here is on the Chinese Government to allow us access to him and to release him.
Q But that's what they're claiming.
MR. BURNS: They're not telling us anything. What we're hearing is public statements, but in private we're not getting an adequate explanation of why he's being held.
Q But out in public they're saying they're holding him to question him about this visit to an off-limits area in '94?
MR. BURNS: When we inquired today about the specific reasons for which he is being held, we received no answer whatsoever.
Q Is there any procedure under the Consular Agreement for settling a dispute like this? Are they in outright violation of the dispute?
MR. BURNS: In our view, there can be no -- there's no murkiness here. There is no gray area that has to be adjudicated by some arbiter or third party.
Article 35 of the Convention is clear: When a country, either China or the United States, makes a request to the other for access to a detained citizen of that country, access must be granted within 48 hours. It's 48 hours today. This was Monday when the request was made by our Embassy in Beijing. The time is up. So therefore we need to have some kind of forthcoming response from the Chinese Government.
Q Have they then contravened the agreement?
Q Are you willing to let this go before you take further measures? It may sound silly, but is there any need for a travel warning on China for Americans, if one American is being held with no charges?
On Capitol Hill, in this news conference the gentleman referred to, a number of Congressmen were saying that if he isn't freed within the next week or two, they're going to propose legislation to limit travel to China by all Americans. Would you favor such legislation?
MR. BURNS: I can check and see what kind of travel advisory may already be in effect for China. I'm just not aware, David, of which may or may not be.
In this particular case, it's very clear what has to happen now. We have an existing agreement with the Government of China that would adjudicate this for us. We just expect right now that the Chinese Government will take that action.
Q Is China now in contravention of the Consular Agreement?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q When a country is in contravention, does that have some legal implications? Are there are some other steps you take? Have you formally notified them that they're in contravention?
MR. BURNS: They know that they're in contravention based on our conversation today and based on the conversation that will take place in a couple of hours.
I think at this point, we're going to maintain our private discussion with the Chinese. We'll continue to assert our right under this Convention to have access to an American citizen. It's very clear. We're not going to engage in public threats or discussion of any possible retaliatory steps. We don't think that will be useful or prudent.
The fact is that the United States and China have to work together to resolve their disagreements. The way to work together is to meet and discuss our differences. We have had a problem in securing the agreement of the Government of China to meet to discuss our other differences on a variety of political and security issues. That has to happen, too.
This is now a good opportunity for both governments to come together in conformance with an existing Convention between both governments to iron out a problem. We're very confident that will take place.
Q Did you also mention the further high-level talks between the two countries, and the new Ambassador confirmation?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if those particular issues were raised in the discussions yesterday. I just don't know. I was not party to those discussions. It's very clear to the Government of China that we want to have high-level contacts. We've proposed them, and we think it's the best way to go forward in this relationship.
Q Just a couple of details. The 48 hours expired this morning -- at midnight last night. It's expiring as we're talking.
MR. BURNS: This is not like the U.S.-Japan auto talks, when people are trying to discuss what time zone you're referring to. The fact is - -
Q But we're --
MR. BURNS: I think the rule of reason applies here, Sid. The rule of reason applies.
On Monday morning, we marched into the Chinese Foreign Ministry and say, okay, you've notified that you're holding an American citizen; we'd like to have access to that citizen. On Wednesday morning, Beijing- time, we marched back in and said, okay, we've asked for access. We've been denied access. What's the explanation? We weren't given an explanation.
The rule of reason would tell me that we're now past the 48 hours. We are obviously willing to sit and discuss all of these issues, any aspect of this issue, with the Chinese Government. We'll do it this afternoon; we'll do it again tomorrow morning. The 48 hours is past. It just means China has to do the right thing and adhere to an existing agreement.
Q Is the Charge being summoned or is he going --
MR. BURNS: The Charge has been summoned to the State Department this afternoon.
Q I just want to get this exactly right. This Consular Agreement is considered an international legal agreement; it's part of international law?
MR. BURNS: It's an agreement between two countries. Therefore, it's an international agreement.
Q And the United States is saying that China is violating international law? Is that what you're saying?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm just saying that we have an agreement. I want to be very clear about this.
Q Say what you mean, Nick.
MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm going to say what I mean. I'm just not going to repeat the words that you ask me to repeat. Here's the words that I mean: There's an existing Consular Convention. We want to see that Consular Convention followed to the letter.
We have reminded the Chinese Government this morning that they have an obligation to do that. It's a very clear Convention. All we're asking is that the Convention be met and be adhered to. Once that provision, Article 35, is adhered to, once we're able to have access to Mr. Wu, then we'd certainly urge, as an American citizen, that he be released, and that's what we're asking.
Q Is that typically the kind of agreement the U.S. has with other countries?
MR. BURNS: It's a normal agreement that we would have with most countries, because we have consular problems all over the world; yes.
Q In the on-going talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, are there any U.S. officials from the peace team -- participants -- observing or monitoring these talks. I've been told that the talks -- Mr. Peres and Mr. Korei have been meeting in the last three days for these talks. Do you expect by Saturday an announcement to come as a result of these talks, because it will be July 1, Saturday?
MR. BURNS: I am not aware that any American officials are participating in the talks in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
We are certainly monitoring them because we're in touch with both sides. We've been in touch with both sides on a daily basis, both from our embassies and our Consulate General in Jerusalem, in the area, and from Washington. So, in that sense, we have always been participants in these talks but not directly in the room as we are in the Syria-Israel talks on security issues.
Q You've cited probably, I'm sure, the privacy agreement, but Donald Nixon talks to CNN. Donald Nixon says he hasn't seen Robert Vesco in more than 17 years; that he has a cure for almost all diseases, and he went to Cuba because that's the only place he can have it tested. He also says he wants to be home for his son's Bar Mitzvah on July 1.
As you can tell, this story has a little bit of fogginess about it. Can you provide anymore information now on your attempts, I suppose, to assist Mr. Nixon?
MR. BURNS: He has talked to CNN. He's talked to ABC. He's talked to a lot of people, but he's also not given us a Privacy Act waiver which --
Q He can get on a soap box and --
MR. BURNS: I can't legally talk to you --
Q He can go coast-to-coast but you still can't talk about it?
MR. BURNS: If he asks the United States Government not to talk about the particulars of his case, by law, we cannot, unless he allows us to.
Q Right. That's what you mean. He hasn't said, "Don't talk about it." He hasn't said, "I waive the privacy?"
MR. BURNS: It's a pro-active thing. You have to actively do something to allow a U.S. Government official to discuss your case, and he hasn't done it. But there are certain things that we can say. Here's what we can say.
As of 1:00 this afternoon, which is a minute before I walked in here --
Q It seems like hours ago.
MR. BURNS: It does. Believe me, Barry, it does seem like hours ago. He was still being detained in Cuba. He was still not aware, I believe, of when his situation will be resolved.
The American Interests Section in Havana has been in touch with him by phone everyday. They've also met with him on a couple of occasions. I don't believe they met with him today but they've been in touch by phone. He's at a hotel. He is being detained. He's not able to leave Cuba without his passport, and his passport is in the hands of the Cuban authorities.
The responsibility of the American Government in this instance is, as follows: He's an American citizen. Therefore, we would like to have access to him. We've had a particular level of access. We would like his passport to be returned to him because we're not aware any charges have been brought against him so that he may return to the United States to his family. That's number one.
Mr. Vesco is also an American citizen who is wanted in the United States on a number of charges, stemming from his activities -- illegal, we think, activities -- here in the 1970s. We'd also like consular access to him. I don't believe we've had consular access to Mr. Vesco.
Q Even by phone?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've had it, no. I'm not aware we've had it. I could possibly stand corrected, but I don't believe that's the case.
Q And when you say, we would like his passport returned, presumably -- has the United States told this to the Cuban authorities?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q And their answer is?
MR. BURNS: I don't know exactly how they're framing their response, but we don't have satisfaction on this particular issue.
Q Has there been any other request or back-and-forth for information on Vesco on his status?
MR. BURNS: We have made very clear to the Cuban authorities our wish that he be brought back to the United States to face trial here. The Cuban Government informed us about a week ago -- perhaps a little bit more than that -- that that would not be possible, that they would not agree to return him to the United States. We understand he's in Cuban custody; therefore, they're holding the keys in this particular situation.
Q Did he speak of any Vesco-Nixon connection?
MR. BURNS: I'm not permitted really to talk about that because of the absence of the Privacy Act Waiver.
Q Do we also have a consular agreement with Cuba as well?
MR. BURNS: I believe we have a very old consular agreement that stems from 1904/1905.
Q Are they in violation of that?
MR. BURNS: I will check on that, Roy.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:05 p.m.)
(###)To the top of this page