U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/10/11 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, October 11, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Announcement re: Policy Addresses by Vice President Gore ..................................................1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Status of Ceasefire/Proximity Peace Talks ...............1-2,8,9 --Possible Location of Peace Talks ......................9-10 Secretary Christopher's Upcoming Congressional Testimony .............................................2 Detentions in Northern Bosnia/Reported Ethnic Cleansing around Banja Luka .....................................3-7 --Responsibility of Bosnian Serb Leadership .............4,5-6 --Role of International War Crimes Tribunal .............4,5,6-7 IRAQ Upcoming Elections/Referendum ...........................11 CUBA Castro's U.S. Visa Application ..........................11-13 --Security Arrangements .................................12 SYRIA Comments by Syrian President ............................13-14
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1995, 1:04 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: I have a quick announcement to make, and then I'll be glad, George, to go to your first question.
Vice President Al Gore will give a series of major policy addresses concerning the future of the Administration's policy towards the Russian Federation. He intends to speak first at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco this Friday, October 13. He'll also speak at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point next Tuesday, October 17.
As you know, the Vice President met with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin in Bangor, Maine, last Saturday. They met at the request of President Clinton and President Yeltsin to review a series of important economic issues that will be raised at Hyde Park on October 23 when the two Presidents meet.
The Vice President has been instrumental in developing our Russia policy over the last two-and-a-half years. He intends in the two speeches that he will give in the next two weeks to lay out a broader vision for what we might be able to accomplish in the future with the Russian Federation. That's the only announcement I had today.
George, in your splendid isolation over here, I will be very glad to go to your first question.
Q It looks like there's going to be a cease-fire after all in Bosnia. Do you think this one will be more successful than previous ones?
MR. BURNS: We certainly hope so. There have been a lot of cease- fires over the last three-and-a-half years in Bosnia, all of which have failed. This one, we think, will be different for a couple of reasons -- namely, that the United States has brokered this cease-fire -- we have put our credibility, our influence, our diplomatic emphasis into this particular cease-fire -- and it is tied to the convening of the Proximity Peace Talks on October 31 here in the United States, somewhere on the East Coast of the United States.
I think that's what makes this cease-fire different, because there is a political process that will ensue as soon as this cease-fire goes into effect.
We do understand from the United Nations just a couple of minutes ago, and from our Embassy in Sarajevo, that it appears now that all sides are committed to implementing a cease-fire at one minute past midnight on October 12 -- that's tomorrow morning -- just about six hours from now.
The United States calls on all parties to move quickly, decisively, directly, without any hedging, without any more twists and turns, to a cease-fire implementation within the next six hours.
There is no longer any reason to delay. The gas and electricity pipelines and grids have been turned on and are now pretty much available throughout the city of Sarajevo, probably not to all consumers but to the vast majority in both sides of Sarajevo. The Kiseljak road is open.
We believe that all parties to this conflict -- the Bosnian Government, the Bosnian Serbs, the Croatians -- need to conclude that they can gain more at the negotiating table than they can on the battlefield. The United States has made unmistakably clear to all parties this morning that we believe it is high time for a cease-fire to be implemented after the delays of the last 48 hours.
Let me just also say, George, since we're on the subject of Bosnia, that Secretary Christopher intends to testify four times next week on the situation in Bosnia, on our future intentions there, on our stewardship of the peace process that will begin again when Dick Holbrooke resumes his shuttle mission next week. He will testify along with Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Shalikashvili before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, the House International Relations Committee, and the House Committee on National Security Affairs.
These four appearances will take place on Tuesday, October 17 and Wednesday, October 18. We have not yet agreed with the Congressional leadership on specific times, but we will do that shortly.
Since we are still on Bosnia, let me say one more thing and then I'll be glad to go to your questions on Bosnia.
The United States is exceedingly concerned by the many reports that we have of massive detentions and concentration-camp like conditions in northern Bosnia, as well as reports of so-called ethnic cleansing in and around the city of Banja Luka which is being held by the Bosnian Serbs.
Rudy Perina, who is the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Belgrade, has talked at the senior levels of the Serbian Government -- in fact, with the Serbian Foreign Minister -- about our very grave concerns over reports of a renewed campaign of ethnic cleansing which, in many respects, strikes some of us as similar to the reports that we heard in the days following the sack of Srebrenica in mid-July.
Charge Perina urged the Government in Belgrade -- the government of President Milosevic -- to do everything possible to ensure that these activities are halted immediately.
Specifically, as I said, we are most concerned by allegations -- consistent and persistent allegations made of a campaign by the Bosnian Serb military authorities to move many thousands of people out of Banja Luka, and now persistent allegations that there have been summary executions of people inside Banja Luka.
The United Nations has estimated that 10,000 Muslims and Croats have been expelled from Bosanski Novi, from Sanski Most and from Prijedor.
I should add parenthetically Sanski Most appears to have shifted hands overnight. It now appears to be in the hands of the Bosnian Government and Croatian forces.
We are extremely disturbed by these reports. We call on all the relevant authorities -- the Government in Belgrade, the Bosnian Serb military leadership -- to cease and desist, to allow the international community access to this area.
We also will actively support the international organizations such as the U.N. High Commission on Refugees and the Red Cross in their attempts today and tomorrow and in the coming days to document the fate and the whereabouts of the many thousands of people who appear to be missing.
We will work to see that those who are responsible for these atrocities, if they can be confirmed by the international community, will be held accountable and they will be punished. I would just add that the United States continues to support fully the activities of the international tribunal -- the War Crimes Tribunal -- for the former Yugoslavia.
Q Do you all buy the Serb excuse that this is being done by a paramilitary leader by the name of Arkan? Did they say that to Mr. Perina, that we have no control over him? And do you think that Mr. Arkan should be indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal?
MR. BURNS: We don't buy the excuse. The fact is that the Bosnian Serbs hold Banja Luka. There may be various elements of their army that comprise the forces in and around Banja Luka. General Mladic and Mr. Karadzic are ultimately responsible for all the military activities of the Bosnian Serbs.
We believe the government in Belgrade should have influence to bring to bear on the Bosnian Serb military. There can be no excuses by the leadership of the Bosnian Serbs for these persistent reports of atrocities.
We have made it plain and clear to the Bosnian Serb leadership that they have to exert some responsibility.
We have to learn from history, including recent history. We saw the same types of reports of thousands of people missing -- and these are reports coming from family members who have seen their loved ones taken off by the Bosnian Serb military -- we saw those reports during the fall of Srebrenica. It has since been confirmed that during the fall of Srebrenica and the attack on that city, many thousands of people disappeared and they've never been heard from again.
So we have to look with a great deal of skepticism and distrust on reports from the Bosnian Serb leadership that all is well, that nothing untoward is happening. We do not trust those reports. We are quite skeptical of them, and we are quite willing to believe at this point the persistent reports of atrocities in and around Banja Luka.
Q Nick, on the wires, Mr. Perina is quoted as going a little further than you did just now. As you probably know, he is quoted as having warned the Serbs of "severe consequences" if the Serbs stage a reprise of the Srebrenica actions. Is that, in fact, what he did? And what severe consequences was he speaking of?
MR. BURNS: He went in and talked to the Serbian Foreign Minister -- Minister Milutinovic -- and told him that the international community could not stand by and let this happen again.
Our access right now is extremely limited. I don't believe that either the Red Cross or the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees people, officials, have achieved access to Banja Luka. That is what's got to happen first.
But we also think that, given these reports, the International War Crimes Tribunal will be interested in what has happened here.
We believe the Serbian Government should have influence. The Serbian Government, I think, expressed to Charge Perina that it is opposed to these activities, it has heard these same reports, and it wants them to stop.
It may be that the Serbian Government does not have absolute minute- by-minute control over what happens, but it certainly should be able to exert some influence on the Bosnian Serb military leadership. We would call upon the Bosnian Serb military leadership to cease and desist from these activities and to allow the international community access.
Q (Inaudible) severe consequences if he referred to them. Was he referring to the possibility of War Tribunal action?
MR. BURNS: That is certainly something that is a reality, that we fully support. If these reports of atrocities can be substantiated, they will very definitely be part of the work of the International War Crimes Tribunal.
Q But I'm wondering whether there was any other stick that he was carrying?
MR. BURNS: I have really nothing further to add to what I've already said, David.
Q Nick, in this regard, then-Secretary Eagleburger pointed to Milosevic a few years ago and said that essentially he would bear ultimate responsibility for war crimes committed by his underlings. Would you repeat that at this point given the connection to the thugs in the Banja Luka area?
MR. BURNS: All I would say is what I've said today, and that's the Bosnian Serb leadership has direct responsibility for the activities of the Bosnian Serb army in the field. The two leading individuals who have responsibility are indicted war criminals -- Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic.
We believe that the Government in Belgrade does have influence. Whether it has direct hour-by-hour influence, minute-by-minute influence, whether it knew about these activities, these plans before they took place, whether it has also received credible reports from its own people and from the Bosnian Serbs about these is a question you'll have to direct to the Serbian Government.
I really can't speak with any degree of knowledge to that part of the question, but we can certainly speak to the Bosnian Serb side of this question.
Q Let me just go back to the heart of that question. Does this make the Administration feel that perhaps Mr. Milosevic should explain to the War Crimes Tribunal what he did to try and stop these types of activities that have been going on for several days now, so it's not like -- if he didn't have minute-by-minute control, certainly he had day-to- day control over it?
MR. BURNS: We are calling upon the Serbian Government to use its influence. That's very clear. And if the War Crimes Tribunal asks the Serbian Government for its assistance in figuring out exactly what happened, we would, of course, expect that the Serbian Government would comply with that request.
As for President Milosevic's knowledge of these events, either in Srebrenica in July or the events that are apparently occurring now, I just can't say. The Serbian Government has said to us privately that it did not have foreknowledge, and it does not support these activities.
Whether that's the case or not, we think it's very important the Serbian Government do what it can to use its influence now, today -- October 11 -- to convince the Bosnian Serbs to change course.
Q Nick, you said the U.S. Charge said that the United States would not stand by and let this happen again. That implies that he also carried a warning that was specific if it did happen again. Could you tell us what the warning was or what the United States is planning to do if it does happen again?
MR. BURNS: Steve, I think I've given a pretty good description of what we have said to the Serbian Government and what we expect from the Serbian Government. There were lots of things said in that meeting, but I can't go into all of it in public.
Q Would you rule out any sort of military action -- U.S. or NATO military action to --
MR. BURNS: It's not something that is imminent simply because there are no United Nations forces in Banja Luka right now. The first thing that has to happen is for the two relevant international organizations -- the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees -- to be given access to Banja Luka. We just can't simply strike out blindly when we see something occurring. It's got to be looked into by the two relevant organizations, and that's what we'd like to see happen first.
Q Then what happens second?
MR. BURNS: We don't know what will happen second until we find out what happens first.
Q Nick, under the settlement that you're contemplating in Bosnia, is the central Bosnian Government going to have any ability to bring to justice those who may be responsible for these atrocities, or are they essentially going to be safe inside their entity?
MR. BURNS: It's up to the International War Crimes Tribunal to indict war criminals, and then to prosecute those war criminals. It is true that if some of the people who have already been indicted stay where they are, it will be very difficult for the International War Crimes Tribunal to arrest them for prosecution and for trial.
However, should they travel anywhere outside their region, then it would be up to member states of the United Nations to notify the War Crimes Tribunal and to assist, if necessary and if possible, in their arrest and prosecution.
But that's the relevant body. I don't think the action here belongs with the Bosnian Government. It belongs with the War Crimes Tribunal. That's the reason for which it was set up.
Q So under the sort of constitutional arrangements that you all are looking at -- I know they're not worked out yet -- it's not anticipated that the Bosnian Government will be able to go into the Serb areas -- the central government in Bosnia-Herzegovina would not be able to go into any area of their country that they wish and conduct law enforcement activities, or arrest war criminals and have them extradited?
MR. BURNS: The authority as we recognize it rests with the United Nations in this particular case of war crimes.
Q Right. That was not -- the question was --
MR. BURNS: That was the answer to the question.
Q Right, but that wasn't the question. The question --
MR. BURNS: I thought it was the question. If you'd like to try it again, we can do that, but you'll probably get the same answer.
Q Okay. Under the constitutional arrangements that are being worked out, being considered for this entity you're attempting to erect in what was Bosnia, will the central government have law enforcement powers within Serb mini-states, whatever you -- cantons?
MR. BURNS: That remains to be worked out, I believe, by both the Bosnian Government and by the Bosnian Serb authorities.
Q And you don't have an opinion on it?
MR. BURNS: If we had an opinion, we would probably keep it private at this point, because that's likely to be one of the issues discussed at Proximity Peace Talks.
Q But isn't that sort of one of the main elements of a country is to be able to enforce its laws throughout the country?
MR. BURNS: In a normal situation, yes. This is an abnormal situation. This is a situation where one state will be created out of warfare, where you've had several competitors for land. This is not a normal situation. I think if anyone looks at the September 8 and September 14 agreements, you'll understand that we're dealing with an abnormal situation here.
We and the parties are doing the best we can to fashion something that makes sense, that will be durable constitutionally, out of the present chaos -- that is, the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Q Nick, you said at the beginning about the amount of American influence and persuasion, and so forth, that's going into the cease-fire. Do you think that American credibility is on the line here?
MR. BURNS: I think the credibility of the parties is on the line. They committed to a cease-fire. There were very specific conditions that would prevent a cease-fire from taking place last evening and the evening before. Those conditions were gas, electricity and a road being opened. All three have been met.
Frankly, I think that some people would have gone to a cease-fire last night if they had looked at the same terms that some of the parties have been looking at. But that's history. Now we're dealing with events today, October 11, and while the United Nations has announced that it believes a cease-fire will go into effect, we're going to reserve ultimate judgment for one minute past midnight.
We hope very much that will happen. We think all the conditions are in place for it to happen. So I think we're talking about the credibility of the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosnian Government. They're the parties that have committed to a cease-fire; they have to implement the cease-fire. The fighting has to stop where it is occurring right now in northern Bosnia, northwest Bosnia and parts of central Bosnia.
Certainly, the United States has been instrumental in bringing the situation to the point where it is, which is much more hopeful than it's ever been in the last three and a half years. I think it's fair to say that the United States will be instrumental in the success of the Proximity Peace Talks.
There's a reason why these talks are being held in the United States. It's because the parties want the United States to play an aggressive and active role in these talks, and we're willing to do it. We're willing to do it based upon the good faith of the parties, which has been put into question a little bit over the last 48 hours, but we're glad to see an emerging consensus now to move towards a cease-fire in just about five hours and 35 minutes from now.
Q Any more news on the mystery, secluded location?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary has asked Assistant Secretary Pat Kennedy, who is our Assistant Secretary for Administration, to survey several sites that have been identified on the east coast of the United States between, I would say, the northern border of the United States and the southern border of the United States.
I'll be a little bit more expansive than some others were yesterday --
Q (Multiple comments)
MR. BURNS: -- and he is doing that. The Secretary had a meeting about this yesterday. He and Dick Holbrooke went through all of the criteria that we think are important in selecting a site -- splendid isolation, certainly seclusion, the ability to move around, facilities that would accommodate up to 200 people in nine delegations. Assistant Secretary Kennedy will report back to the Secretary, probably by the end of this week.
I'm not saying that we'll have an announcement by the end of this week, but I think he'll report back by the end of this week, and we'd hope to have an announcement at some point after that.
Q On a related --
MR. BURNS: Once the Secretary determines where this site will be, then we'll be in a position to announce it.
Q And you will announce it.
MR. BURNS: Yes, we will. Absolutely. We won't keep you guessing. We'll try to announce it as far in advance as possible, because we do have nine delegations, including our own to accommodate, and there are lots and lots of plans that have to be made before the parties can assemble at the end of October.
Q Nick, on that subject, it still is October 31? And, a related question, has the decision been made as to whether the Secretary will be there to open it, or will he be in Amman, or will he be in both places? If he doesn't go to Amman, who might?
MR. BURNS: The Proximity Peace Talks will still open on October 31. The Secretary will be actively engaged in this conference. He has not yet decided whether he will open it or whether he will be elsewhere, as previously scheduled, in the Middle East. Both are high priorities for him, probably his two highest priorities at the present time.
He will be involved in both the Middle East peace process and the Bosnian peace process throughout November. But you've asked a good question. He simply hasn't made a decision. There are a lot of factors that go into this.
Should he not travel to the Middle East, of course, we would have a very strong delegation in Amman. But he hasn't made that decision yet. I don't want to lead you in either direction yet. When he does, I'll be hopefully quick to report it to you.
Okay, moving on to -- yes.
Q Different topic?
MR. BURNS: Fine.
Q This Sunday Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is going to be running in an election where he's the only candidate. What is the U.S. position on that?
MR. BURNS: It's not exactly a Webster's definition of democracy, and the Iraqis have had no democracy for the last -- well, for more than the last 15 years, as long as Saddam Hussein has been in power.
The idea of an election in which you get to vote for one person and no one else is really a mockery of democratic principles. The same goes for this so-called referendum that is being held. It may even be synonymous with what you're asking about.
The Iraqi regime is not interested in the views of the Iraqi people. It's a sham election, sham referendum.
Q Is there anything about that referendum that should be alarming to the U.S. or Kuwait?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if it's alarming. As I said, it's really almost laughable that you would hold an election and have one person run and not have anyone else to vote for. So it's not alarming to us. It's sad. It's sad that the Iraqi people have to continue to live under these conditions.
Q Nick, have you got any decision on Castro's visa yet?
MR. BURNS: We are still reviewing --
Q Still reviewing.
MR. BURNS: -- the applications made by the Cuban Government for a visa for Fidel Castro and for other members of the Cuban delegation. It's important to review this kind of thing when the applications come in.
I would just like to point out once again that the United States alone will decide who receives American visas, and, when we have reached a decision, we will report it to you.
Q Is the problem not Castro but the others in the delegation?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't think so at this point. I understand he's applied for a visa to come to the General Assembly session to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.N. We just need to consider the application in light of relevant laws and some of the special circumstances of this visit -- the security circumstances, that kind of thing.
Q What kind of security arrangements are expected to be made by the Cubans? How many people in that contingency are security people and --
MR. BURNS: That's the kind of thing we don't really talk about, because to have successful security protection, you usually try to keep that private. But the United States does take seriously our obligation to protect those people who do come here -- those leaders who come to the United States, and there are many, many leaders coming for this particular U.N. General Assembly, and the State Department will play a direct role in helping to provide security for those world leaders.
Q Yesterday you said you didn't think that Castro's application applied to anything beyond New York City. Did you confirm that, or can you confirm that it's just New York City?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I can confirm it's just New York City for the purposes of the U.N. General Assembly. He has not told us that he plans to travel outside of New York, and, of course, that would change the situation if he intended to do so. But we have no reason to believe that he does intend to leave New York City.
Q (Inaudible) there might be some arguments against granting him a visa. What might they be?
MR. BURNS: We control our own borders. We always have the right to deny a visa to anybody, including heads of state. In this particular case we need to look at a number of factors. We're not leaning in either direction at this point. We're simply considering the application. At some point, the decision will be made and we'll announce it to you.
Q Has there been any response from the Cuban Government to the changes in U.S. attitudes towards journalists being in Cuba?
MR. BURNS: We've seen some fairly negative statements from the Cuban leadership on this. I don't have anything concrete by way of their private discussions with us. We certainly would hope that they would agree that all the steps that the President announced are logical ones, and they should be put into effect. But some of them do require reciprocity -- reciprocal steps on the part of the Cuban Government.
For instance, the ability to let U.S. news organizations establish themselves in Havana would require the permission of the Cuban Government. Of course, we would expect that should permission be given, that these American news organizations would be free to say and write what they see.
Q Is there anyone at the Interests Section in Havana pursuing this with the Cubans, trying to get any kind of response?
MR. BURNS: Yes, the Interests Section is fully engaged in this; yes, absolutely -- led by Joe Sullivan who is the head of our Interests Section.
Q On a different subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q The Syrian President gave an interview to an Egyptian newspaper yesterday. I'm wondering if you all have seen that article and have anything to say about it?
MR. BURNS: I just saw the press report before coming in here. I've just seen a brief press report from Egypt -- from this particular news agency -- and I don't have any particular comment on it, no.
Q You (inaudible) subtle changes in his position?
MR. BURNS: No. I haven't talked to our Middle East experts about this particular report. I'm sure they're looking at it carefully. I'm not sure, based on what I saw, that there's a lot that's different here, or anything that's new here in terms of the Syrian position.
We have a pretty good idea of Syria's position on these issues because the Secretary had a good session last week with Minister Farouk al-Shara.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:32 p.m.)
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