U.S. Department of State 95/11/27 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, November 27, 1995 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT--Announcement Secretary Christopher's Schedule: Mtgs. on Bosnia; Possible Congressional Testimony; Trip to Europe ......1 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA London and Paris Conferences/Signing of Peace Agreement .1-2,5-6,10 Length/Conditions of Deployment of NATO Troops ..........2-3,5,7-9 Radovan Karadzic Statements on Peace Agreement ..........3-4 Suspension/Lift of Sanctions ............................7 Assistance for Refugees .................................9-10 Russian Military Participation ..........................11 RUSSIA Violence in Chechnya ....................................10-11 HAITI Haitian Migrants ........................................12-13 U.S. Discussions w/President Aristide ...................12 Presidential Election ...................................12-14 Civil Service, Privatization Reforms ....................14-15 U.S. Financial Assistance ...............................14-15 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Statements re: Progress on Syrian/Israeli Track .........15-16 BANGLADESH Current Political Situation .............................16 CUBA Migration Talks in New York .............................16-17 --Migration Fees ........................................17 --Implementation of Agreements on Migration .............17 Restrictions on Travel to Cuba ..........................17 EUROPEAN AFFAIRS Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona ...................18
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 1995, 1:30 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have one very short announcement, and that is that Secretary Christopher will be remaining in Washington this week. He will not be accompanying the President on the President's trip to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
The Secretary is planning a busy week of meetings on Bosnia, and I think there is a very good chance of some congressional testimony on Bosnia later in the week.
He plans to leave Washington Friday evening for Madrid. He will get into Madrid a little bit ahead of the President. He will be having some meetings to prepare for the United States' meetings with the European Union on Saturday, and he'll be with the President when the President has meetings in Madrid on Saturday evening and on Sunday.
Following that, the Secretary will proceed to Brussels, where he'll take part in the North Atlantic Council meetings on Bosnia and on NATO enlargement.
Beyond that, the Secretary has not made any ironclad decisions on his schedule. We're trying to work out with the Europeans the sequencing of the London and Paris conferences on Bosnia, and so his specific schedule beyond Brussels is a little bit up in the air right now. But as soon as we get some firm decisions, I'll pass them on to you.
For those of you who would like to accompany us to Madrid and to Brussels and perhaps to points onward after that, you would be most welcome. We'll have a sign-up sheet in the Press Room following the briefing today.
Barry, I'll be glad to go to questions.
Q Some clarifications. Both London and Paris are meetings that are flexible. There isn't a locked-in date for the meetings -- because Paris, after all, involves a signing.
MR. BURNS: That's right. The London Conference, we believe, will precede the Paris Conference, and that will deal with implementation issues -- a variety of issues concerning the effort by the international community to help ensure peace in Bosnia.
The Paris Conference is a formal signing of the Dayton peace agreements -- the Dayton agreements that were initialed last Tuesday. So we are now working with the French and British to try to identify some mutually convenient dates for everybody concerned for both of those conferences.
Q The signing will be at a ministerial level, do you know?
MR. BURNS: That hasn't been determined yet.
Q Let me ask you a substantive question, if I may. In listening to the Secretary -- and, of course, (Secretary) Perry and General Shalikashvili tried to make the case for troops in Bosnia -- they emphasized that they have an exit strategy, and that it's a year's duration. They would like to get the troops out, intend to get the troops out within a year.
Senator Warner, for one, yesterday I believe was saying that, you know, troops should be prepared to stay if they have to stay beyond a year. Is that one year an immutable deadline? Is it possible American troops could be engaged in Bosnia longer than a year?
MR. BURNS: The President said in his letter to Speaker Gingrich a couple of weeks ago that it would be roughly a year. He didn't commit himself to 365 days. It could be a little bit less; it could be a little bit longer.
But I think, Barry, we believe they will be roughly a year, because our military commanders, who have looked at this question of how to ensure a peace agreement on the ground through the deployment of NATO troops, believe that the limited and clear mission that we have identified for the NATO forces can be achieved in roughly about a year.
You know what the mission is. It is to separate the forces. It is to patrol the separation of forces in a demilitarized area, and it is to provide general security for the borders of the new state as that new state gets off the ground.
No more questions on Bosnia? Good. We'll go on to another issue. (Laughter) There's got to be another question on Bosnia. Maybe not.
Q I have one on Bosnia. Have you seen the latest statements by Karadzic about the unacceptability of some parts of the agreement? Does that disturb at all your calculations on whether it would be possible to serve as -- for U.S. troops to serve as peacekeepers without excessive risk?
MR. BURNS: Those statements are perhaps not surprising, given the track record of Mr. Karadzic and some of his associates. But the statements will not deter us from our mission to have this peace agreement signed in Paris and to have a NATO force deployed to help ensure the success of this peace agreement.
The facts are the following: President Milosevic was the leader of the Serbian-Bosnian Serb delegation at Dayton, and that agreement that he would lead those talks was adhered to, I believe, on the 30th of August several months ago. That's the first fact.
Secondly, President Milosevic has assured all of us who were at Dayton -- the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States -- that the Serbs and the Bosnian Serbs -- and the Bosnian Serbs -- would comply fully with the terms of the Dayton Agreement.
Third, the Bosnian Serbs -- specifically, Mr. Karadzic -- initialed the Dayton Agreements the day after they were initialed here in Dayton.
Fourth, President Milosevic sent a letter to President Clinton, as did the other heads of state at Dayton, assuring President Clinton that the conditions that we believe are important for the deployment of the NATO military force will be put into place by local officials on the ground.
We expect the NATO forces to deploy. We do not expect any organized resistance to this. It is not surprising, however, that individuals -- particularly civilians who will be affected by this in and around Sarajevo and elsewhere -- took to the streets the other day to protest. It's not surprising that they're unhappy.
But the facts are that the Dayton Accords represent a fundamental compromise. The Bosnian Government had to compromise. The Bosnian people, the Moslems, the civilians, have had to compromise. The Croats had to compromise. The Bosnian Serbs must also compromise.
They had said formally they will comply with the Dayton Accords. We fully expect that will be the case.
Q Have you been led to anticipate that the so-called Bosnian Serb parliament will be voting on this, and what sort of status would such a vote have in terms of whether this agreement is binding or not?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if the so-called Republic of Srpska parliament will vote on this or speak in any formal way. What matters to us is that President Milosevic has initialed the agreement, will sign the agreement in Paris; that he has given us ironclad assurances that the conditions that we need to deploy will be there; and that Mr. Karadzic, who at least currently is the leader of the so-called Republic of Srpska, has initialed the agreement. That means more to us than some public statements.
I would also note that his public statements in Belgrade are very different than his public statements in Pale, which is also not surprising. But actions are a lot more important than words, and the actions so far, I think, are leading us towards the signing of a peace agreement in Paris and its fulfillment through the deployment of a NATO force.
Q Does Mr. Karadzic have to resign some position under the accord? I know you don't really recognize his position, but is there some need for him to resign, to step down?
MR. BURNS: We have said many times as a result of the Dayton peace talks, we do not believe that Karadzic or Mladic, both indicted war criminals, will be positions of power, command positions, for very long.
How he steps down from power is really up to him to decide. But we don't think it's appropriate that two indicted war criminals would lead at least the Bosnian Serb part of the entity -- the country that's being created -- and we think there are certainly a lot of people who could take their place who are not indicted war criminals and who are more responsible people.
Q Is there some kind of deadline as far as you're concerned?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe anyone has set up a deadline, but it's our very firm expectation that these two individuals have seen their best day, and their best days are behind them.
Q Nick, will there be any difference between the agreement that was initialed in Dayton and the agreement that will be signed in Paris?
MR. BURNS: There should be no substantive difference between them. We are not in any mood, in any way inclined to negotiate or renegotiate any aspect of this agreement. This agreement was reached after four months of negotiations, the last 21 days of which were in Dayton.
We didn't hear any complaints about it the day the agreement was initialed. We now have the so-called leader of the Bosnian Serbs, who has also initialed the agreements, and, therefore, there's no reason to renegotiate any aspect of it.
Q If I could follow up, what is the purpose of this two-week gap and two separate ceremonies if not just to soothe European egos?
MR. BURNS: First, Mark, it was important for everybody who was at Dayton to go back home and have a chance to explain what happened at Dayton and to fully inform their populations -- whether it's Bosnians, Moslem, Croatian or Bosnian Serbs -- as to what these peace agreements entail for them; for the countries as a whole but also for people individually.
We've seen a little bit of the reaction to that over the weekend in the demonstrations in the Sarajevo suburbs. It's not surprising that we saw that reaction, but we are not inclined to renegotiate any aspect in reaction to those protests.
Q Nick, if --
MR. BURNS: I just want to finish the answer. So the first reason was to give all the parties, including the United States, the ability to come back and fully explain, in our case to our Congress -- certainly in the case of the Bosnian Government to its parliament -- the facts of the Dayton Agreement, and to make sure that there was adequate public consultation on them.
Secondly, as you know, when the peace agreement is signed, there will be a very quick military deployment by NATO to follow, and NATO needs to work out the final stages of its military plan -- its operational military plan. The President has not yet been fully briefed on that. That will happen at some point in the next week to ten days. That has to occur.
So actually the fact that we have this breathing space, if you will, or period of rest between the peace conferences, is a very good idea, and it has been practically important. The reason for the conferences is that not only must we work out the military deployment, which is being done in Brussels, we have to work out arrangements for a civilian implementation of the civilian side of the agreement -- assistance for reconstruction, the establishment of an adequate police force for Bosnia-Herzegovina -- both things that will be helped in large part by financial assistance and planning by the United States, by the European Union and by member governments.
So all those things are occurring during this two-week period, and we're looking forward now to moving forward to a successful completion of all these stages.
Q I just wondered, Nick, if initialing doesn't foreclose any revision. I mean, initialing locks it in place, doesn't it? Isn't that what an initialing process does?
MR. BURNS: We explained at Dayton exactly --
Q I mean, legally.
MR. BURNS: Yes, that's exactly right. We explained to the parties at Dayton before they initialed, our interpretation of what initialing is. We said, "When you initial, you are committing yourself to fulfill all of the terms of this agreement." So legally speaking, it's tantamount to signing.
The signing is formal. There will be more ribbons on the treaty. It will look different. It will look more like a peace negotiation from the history books. It will be in an ornate hall, and so forth, and everyone who should be there will be there. But the fact that they initialed commits them to fulfill the terms of the Dayton Agreement. That's how we are looking at it, Barry.
Q You say you are relying on cast-iron assurances from Mr. Milosevic for the Bosnian Serbs to cooperate fully. Does that mean he's going to be held fully responsible if they do not come on board?
MR. BURNS: He has committed to us that they will be on board. He has committed to us that all aspects of the agreement will be fulfilled; that the conditions necessary to deploy 60,000 NATO forces will be put into place. We certainly hold him responsible for that.
But I don't mean to direct that at him in any negative way. He has taken it upon his own shoulders. When he received the letter from the Patriarch in late August, when he issued his public statement from Belgrade on August 30 saying that he would lead the joint delegation, he took full responsibility for these matters on his own shoulders. That was the basis for negotiating the subsequent agreements on September 8, September 14, October 5, and now the Dayton Peace Talks on October 21.
Everything that followed diplomatically followed the creation of the joint Serb-Bosnian Serb delegation.
Q Putting it further down the road, the Bosnian Serbs start placing serious obstacles in the path of this agreement becoming implemented. Is it possible that any sanctions could be reimposed? They haven't even been formally lifted; only suspended. Is that pressure going to be kept on Mr. Milosevic in the future?
MR. BURNS: I would say, first of all, we would certainly appeal to President Milosevic to get the Bosnian -- any recalcitrant Bosnian Serb elements in line. I think that would be our first recourse before we looked automatically to sanctions.
But as you know, there remains the so-called "Outer Wall" of sanctions that are important to Serbia, that will remain in place and will not be suspended for some time until we see compliance with this accord.
I should also note that when the United Nations acted last week, it acted to suspend but not fully lift. Full lift comes when full implementation of the agreement occurs. I believe that is linked in part, at least, to the successful holding of elections and to the monitoring of those elections and the judgment of the international community that those elections were, in fact, free and fair.
Q The Secretary mentioned that the troops wouldn't go in unless they were safe. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke mentioned yesterday there would need to be compliance before the troops go in.
I'm just wondering if there are steps that need to be taken on the ground between now and Paris that would indicate to you that, apart from pockets of unorganized resistance, that the Bosnian Serb forces, in proper, are moving in the right direction.
MR. BURNS: What distinguishes this particular deployment of American forces from, say, Korea or Vietnam or Lebanon in the early 80s' is that these forces are not going to be injected into the middle of a civil war.
What distinguishes this agreement from others is that there is a peace accord to which all parties have committed themselves. They have specifically committed in letters to President Clinton that they will undertake to ensure that certain conditions are put into place and certain preparations made so that this force can be successful in what it has to do. That's very different than the deployment of U.S. Marines to Lebanon in the early 80s' or the deployment of American military forces to Vietnam in the late 50s' and early 1960s.
We will be continuously in touch with the Serbian Government, the Bosnian Government, the Croatian Government as we prepare to deploy to ensure that those conditions are met.
Q If I could follow on that particular point. According to Annex 1(a), Nick, there are 30-day time limits for withdrawal of foreign forces and for the redeployment of forces to barracks within Bosnia.
Nick, when does the clock start? When the Paris treaty is signed?
Second question would be, is NATO going to watch to see if there is compliance with Annex 1(a) before deployment? Are we going to jump on in whether anything happens or not?
The third question is, is there any happening on the ground right now that shows us that the parties are conforming to Annex 1(a) in the treaty?
MR. BURNS: I don't have my treaty with me. So let me just -- we can all go back and check that. But I believe it is 30 days after signing, but let me check that.
Q Most of --
MR. BURNS: Our strong expectation is, and every signal that we've received privately from all these parties is that the conditions will be appropriate to deployment of a force.
We are anticipating the deployment of NATO military forces.
Q Is one of those conditions prior to the deployment that Karadzic and Mladic be off the scene before NATO troops go in?
MR. BURNS: We have simply said in the past, and I'll say again today, that we find it inconceivable that when this peace agreement takes affect, when forces are deployed, when the new government is formed, that those two individuals will be in command positions. That continues to be our very strong expectation.
It is up to them, and perhaps up to the Serbian President, to decide how that happens, when that happens, who takes their place. We have a very great interest in this because we believe as indicted war criminals they should be held responsible for their actions. They should be at some point handed over for prosecution. But we don't have our own timetable for when that should happen, but we certainly have a clear point of view.
Q If one of the three will not sign the agreement -- the formal agreement that you said earlier -- how is that going to affect your plans for the deployment of forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina?
MR. BURNS: It's a hypothetical question. Right now, the three have said that -- they have requested the deployment of the NATO force; that they have sent letters to the President saying they'll put the conditions in place to make the force successfully. They've given us no indication that they will change their views on that very important matter.
So I prefer not to answer a hypothetical question at this point. Let's just proceed the way we are. If we encounter problems, we can discuss them.
Q Nick, can you please share with us the position on the refugees on the ground? Is there any update, from now until Paris, will the refugee issue be discussed and how it should be negotiated in the later part of the -- when it's implemented?
MR. BURNS: It's one of the great problems of this entire war, the fact that hundreds of thousands of people have become refugees. The peace agreement calls for the right of refugees to return to their homes or to receive just compensation.
If they are unable, for whatever reason, to return to their homes, this is one of the issues that the civilian implementation will focus on -- the United Nations, the European Union, member governments like the United States, who will be working on the civilian side, will be focusing on this issue.
This will not be one of the primary concerns -- it cannot be -- of the NATO military force. We do not want to see, as Mr. Lake said yesterday on television, "mission creep" here. We want to see a limited military mission.
The other aspects of the situation that need to be ameliorated -- reconstruction for the infrastructure, which has been badly damaged from war; a rebuilding of the communications network there; assistance for refugees. All of these things have to be tended to by the Bosnian Government and the international community, but on the civilian side. Not by the deployment of military forces.
Q Nick, are any Bosnian Serbs supposed to sign the Paris agreement? And, if so, which ones?
MR. BURNS: I believe there is provision for that. I don't know if any decisions have been made by the Bosnian Serb joint delegation. We'll just have to see what transpires.
Q A new subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q There are increasing reports in the last few days of fighting in Chechnya. How concerned are you that this could escalate in the coming weeks with the elections there, the first anniversary of the major Russian intervention? What's your reaction to the upsurge in fighting?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we're very close. I think the anniversary will be on December 11. We're very close to that.
The United States continues to be concerned by the level of violence in Chechnya, concerned by the fact that the representatives of the Chechen people and the Russian Government have not been able to resolve all of their problems. We continue to make those concerns known to both sides.
Q Is there any more that Moscow could be doing?
MR. BURNS: At this point, I think that we've got to hope that the Chechen leadership and the Russian Government can achieve some progress in their negotiations which are fruitful -- which are on and off again - - so that the innocent people who continue to be killed by the warfare can be saved in the future. It's a very regrettable situation. I think both sides would agree with that sentiment.
Q On a related topic. Does the Administration have any concerns about the fact that the Russian commander who led the Chechen operation will be leading their participation in the Bosnian operation as well?
MR. BURNS: I just didn't know that would be the case. Who are you referring to?
MR. BURNS: Colonel General Shevtsov has been the individual that has been negotiating with us and others in Brussels about how Russia would participate in the military operation. I'm just not aware right now of what his personal role was in the Chechnya operation.
The fact is that a great number of Russian troops and a great number of the elements of the Russian military -- diverse elements -- were involved in one way or another in the Chechnya conflict. That does not mean that everybody involved in that conflict should somehow be spurned by the international community. But that's really all I have to say on that.
Q The biography the Pentagon gave out says he's commander of that operation. Do you have any comment on that, and take the question?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any further comment. Yes, Mark.
Q Nick, can you explain why a year after democracy was restored in Haiti there is an upsurge in the flow of refugees?
MR. BURNS: The flow of refugees --
Q From Haiti.
MR. BURNS: From Haiti to --
Q To the United States.
MR. BURNS: To the United States. I can tell you, we have some very rough figures on this. Just in the past month we have seen a number of attempts by some Haitians -- several hundred, I believe -- to leave Haiti and to come to the United States, mostly by boat. There were 516 undocumented Haitian migrants who were rescued on November 21 by the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Northland.
These 516 people had been crammed aboard a 75-foot coastal freighter. This incident took place -- I guess they were intercepted approximately 150 miles southeast of Miami.
These migrants -- these 516 -- will be repatriated to Haiti. If this was, in effect, alien smuggling, we deplore it and we condemn it because alien smuggling is certainly unsafe to the people who, for a variety of reasons, decide they want to leave. People sometimes are taken advantage of by other people who are solely interested in financial profit.
The fact is that we don't have reliable figures beyond this particular incident for the numbers of people who may be trying to leave Haiti. I have seen estimates of somewhere between 300 and 600 for the past several months. So that's certainly a considerable number of people but does not represent the kind of crisis that we have seen in the past regarding Cuban and Haitian migrants. We certainly hope that the situation will not come to that.
I would also say -- concerning Haiti -- that we are, of course, very well aware of the turbulence in Haitian society. As you can imagine, we have had a number of very important discussions with President Aristide and his advisors of late.
National Security Advisor Tony Lake was in Haiti for Thanksgiving. He had a meeting with President Aristide. He also met with some of the American military forces there.
As far as we're concerned, elections to select the next President of Haiti are scheduled for December 17. The inauguration of the next President is scheduled for February 7, 1996. This will be the first transition from one democratic administration, one democratically elected President to another.
As President Aristide has said many times in the past, in a new democracy like Haiti's, the second election and the second transfer of power is perhaps more important than the first.
I understand that 14 candidates have put themselves forward to be the next Haitian President. Among them are Monsieur Rene Preval, who is the leader of Lavalas.
We're encouraged by the fact that the electoral machinery seems to be working, that people have put themselves forward to become President of Haiti. We are quite confident that there will be a transfer of power on February 7.
Q What are your expectations on dialogue with Cuban officials in New York on immigration?
MR. BURNS: There's a sentiment to stay on Haiti, and then I'll be glad to take your question on Cuba after we finish with Haiti.
Q Nick, are you not concerned by the remarks -- the somewhat ambiguous remarks -- that Aristide made last week that hinted, at least, that he might not step down at the end of his term, February 7?
MR. BURNS: There was certainly a great degree of ambiguity to the remarks made by President Aristide last week.
The facts are that the constitution calls for a five-year term. His five-year term is up. He has said quite consistently, since his return to Haiti in September 1994, that he will step down, that he will not put himself forward for re-election, or whatever. We take him at his word.
I think you know that we believe it's a very important principle that the constitution be adhered to and that others have a chance to run for political office.
Q Was the United States (inaudible) clarification since he made those remarks? And, if so, has he cleared up the ambiguity?
MR. BURNS: We have a close relationship with President Aristide and with his government. Ambassador Bill Swing, of course, is active everyday in following up issues like these, and I'm sure that's happening. But I have nothing to report to you in terms of clarifying the ambiguity that was apparent last week.
Q With the President planning a new deployment -- major deployment -- of American forces overseas? Does the turbulence, as you put it, in Haiti come at a potentially inconvenient time?
MR. BURNS: I don't think that the two situations are at all comparable. I would also just take a step back and say that I think if you look at United States policy towards Haiti over the last couple of years, it has been a great success. The fact is, we'd much rather deal with a government like this that is now thinking about what kind of elections to have and who should run than with a bunch of thugs -- the thugs who were running the government beforehand and who ran the government for decades.
The fact is that the constitution is in place. There have been democratic elections. Those elections were not perfect in the way they were carried out -- in terms of the parliamentary elections. There will be elections for President. The Haitian people have been given an opportunity now to exercise democracy and to build their own democracy. They did not have that opportunity before the deployment of American forces and international forces. Now, they have that opportunity. That's a very important difference from the situation that existed prior to September 1994.
We're confident that with continued international assistance -- and they'll get international assistance from the United States and from a number of other countries around the world -- the Haitian people can build their democracy. They can try to perfect their democracy.
The fact that they're in this position arguing who should be the next President is a lot better than arguing who should be the next dictator.
Q A quick follow-up on that. The United States has curtailed aid to Haiti because it has not followed through on its commitment to privatize state-owned industries. Doesn't it appear as though international assistance to Haiti is shrinking?
MR. BURNS: I'd like to take you through the facts, and I think it will explain it, Mark. So far, $40.4 million has been provided to Haiti by the United States as part of the agreement that we made with the Haitian Government after the return of President Aristide.
The United States Government has not suspended aid to Haiti. We are simply withholding the balance of the $45 million that was promised, which is $4.6 million pending reforms that the Aristide Government promised to make in terms of civil service reform and privatization.
Once those reforms have been put into place, the remaining $4.6 million in assistance will be delivered. But the fact is we've delivered a substantial amount of assistance to date, namely roughly $40 million.
I would also say that in the meantime there is ongoing United States support to Haiti, including the assistance to train and deploy a new police force; assistance to totally revamp the Haitian judicial system; to complete the Presidential elections process, which is very important, considering the fact that the elections will be held in just three weeks time, and to strengthen democratic institutions as well as the health care system, feeding programs, the education program and the environmental program.
This assistance is what the United States is doing as part of a broader international effort, and those efforts will continue. But the particular assistance pertaining to civil service reform and privatization is being withheld at the moment pending further work and further progress, frankly, by the Haitian Government, and we very much hope they'll take the steps to put those reforms forward.
Q What's the difference between suspending and withholding?
MR. BURNS: The difference here is that I think we have every expectation, George, that pending some discussions in the Haitian Government, the reforms will be forthcoming. Suspension would have a connotation of permanency to it, and this is simply the fact that we're withholding aid pending reforms that we expect to be made in the future.
Q Nick, one more on that, to see if I can grasp Haiti and Aristide. Does the United States Government fully expect that these elections will go forward in three weeks, and that Aristide will step down from power?
MR. BURNS: We expect that the constitution will be adhered to and elections will be held on December 17. A new president will be elected; a new president will take office on February 7.
Q Does the United States insist that Aristide keep his promise and step down?
MR. BURNS: President Aristide in the past has said that he will adhere to the constitution; that he believes that this transfer of power is important, despite the ambiguity in some of his statements last week, and we expect that this will take place.
Q If you've finished beating this dead horse, I have another perennial one for you. The new Israeli Foreign Minister poignantly asked his Syrian counterpart today to reach out for peace, particularly in light of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin.
Do you think that it's still entirely possible to get a peace agreement between Syria and Israel in time before the U.S. and Israeli elections, and could the tragedy that happened earlier this month spur renewed peace agreements -- renewed move toward a peace agreement?
MR. BURNS: Lee, the answer to your question will be up to the Syrian and Israeli Governments, and it's good to see that both governments in the past couple of weeks have made positive, public statements about the need for progress on the Syrian-Israeli track. You know that the United States supports that, and you know that we've said many times that we'll do whatever we have to do to help both parties make peace.
That's where things stand now, and our own inclination to be active in support of peace has not changed one iota.
Q Did you see Barak's comments on that?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen the specific comments, no.
Q Nick, on Bangladesh. The situation in Bangladesh is volatile. The Parliament has been dissolved, and the law and order situation has been almost trampled. The situation over there on the ground is very, very serious. The United States Government has assured time and again on the ongoing democratic process.
There is a risk that extra-constitutional means may be one of the options at a point when the law and order situation deteriorates further. What would be the Administration's view to that point, and how does the Administration view that the situation can be restored in a situation when the democracy is at risk in Bangladesh? Will it suffice -- an option of an extra-constitutional means? I mean, the army to step in.
MR. BURNS: We certainly want to see the continuation of civilian government in Bangladesh, and we want to see the resolution of some of the problems that exist there. Beyond that, I don't have any particular comment, but I'll be glad to take your question and look into it to see if I can give you a broader and better answer.
Q May I go back to Cuba.
MR. BURNS: Yes, absolutely.
Q What are the expectations on the dialogue on immigration with Cuban officials in New York City?
MR. BURNS: Our expectations are that these talks will deal with migration issues. They'll deal with the September 9, 1994, and May 2, 1995, agreements on migration. The talks will take place over two days. They're being led by our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Anne Patterson. On the question of migration fees, which was in the newspaper this morning, we believe that the fees being charged by the Cuban Government are out of line with the norms in this particular part of the world.
In keeping with the spirit of both the September '94 and May '95 accords, we believe these fees should be reduced. Hundreds of Cubans who have been approved for migration to the United States are unable to travel because they can't afford these migration fees. We'd like to see them come down. That's one point that we'll be making.
The talks, in essence, will focus on making sure that the accords - - the last two accords that have been reached -- are being implemented in good faith, and, when these talks conclude, we'll be glad to report to you on whether or not we believe that's the case.
Q An official in the Cuban Mission here in Washington criticized Washington for putting restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling to Havana. However, the Cuban Government has also mentioned these restrictions -- put on restrictions on anybody that's against the revolution. What is your position on that?
MR. BURNS: That we're putting restrictions on people who are against the Cuban revolution?
Q No, no. They're saying that the Washington Government is putting restrictions on Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba.
MR. BURNS: There's been an embargo in place for going on 36 years -- almost 36 years -- because of the fact that the Cuban Government is led by someone who is not a democrat; who has imposed communist orthodoxy in the Cuban people; and the embargo, which has many ramifications, including ramifications on the ability of Americans to travel there, we think is the best policy for the United States, and we're looking for change in Cuba. We hope it comes about quickly.
Q You think you're going to change those restrictions with this dialogue?
MR. BURNS: On May 2, we did announce our inclination to work on the migration problem, and we've also subsequently talked about perhaps making it easier to promote people-to-people contacts between the Cuban and American peoples. That's part of the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992. But I think the Cuban Government knows very well why people can or cannot travel to Cuba, depending on their situation.
Q What do you expect from the European and Mediterranean Conference in Barcelona?
MR. BURNS: I'm afraid I don't have any particular comment on that, but I can take the question and look into it for you.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 2:07 p.m.)
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