U.S. Department of State
95/12/18 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
"Due to the Government furlough, this is an unedited transcript of the daily press briefing."
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, DECEMBER 18, 1995, 1:13 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. The Office of Management and Budget has instructed the State Department to shut down our operations here except for essential activities and services, and the Department is now carrying out this instruction. In fact, I think most of our employees are on their way home or already home.
We will continue press briefings throughout this week as long as this very unusual period continues, but we have a very reduced press staff. So I hope that you'll bear with us as we proceed through this latest shutdown of the U.S. Government.
As you know, the Department of State was operating under a short- term continuing resolution through December 15, 1995. About three- quarters of our 8,900 domestic employees -- that's around 6,700 people - - have been furloughed.
The situation is slightly different overseas where on average only about ten percent of our employees will be furloughed. The fact is that our consulates and embassies around the world do perform what we would regard to be essential functions. Most of them do not have large American staff, and the majority of all of our foreign national staffs overseas are protected by national labor laws and therefore cannot be furloughed. That accounts for the difference of the percentage of employees furloughed domestically versus overseas.
I think you know that the Department will stop processing of passports for American citizens except in those cases of a compelling emergency, and U.S. Passport Agencies all around the United States will only be staffed with skeletal crews.
In addition, our posts overseas, our embassies and consulates, will continue to provide emergency services to Americans in life or death or emergency situations, obviously. But our embassies and consulates will now stop issuing visas to people wishing to come to the United States. I believe that on an average basis we issue twenty to thirty thousand visas per day all around the world for people wishing to come to the United States, and that will now stop except for compelling cases of life or death emergencies or family or medical emergencies.
If you have any other questions about this state of affairs, I'll be glad to answer them, and, George, I'll be glad to go to whatever questions you have.
Q Do you interpret the parliamentary elections yesterday in Russia as a defeat for President Yeltsin, and, if not, why not?
MR. BURNS: I don't, and let me just give you, George, our interpretation. I think it's fair to say that some Russian voters chose reform, some chose the old order, and some chose comedy; and by that I mean Mr. Zhirinovsky. I'd put him in that category.
But the important thing is that they chose, and the important thing is that they came to the polls in record numbers. Sixty-five percent of the electorate voted. That far exceeds the percentage of people who voted in the December 1993 Duma elections -- the last parliamentary elections.
It was a hard fought election. It was an open election, in which all Russians can take pride. The head of the observer delegation of the OSCE, the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute -- both American organizations -- all of these groups stated yesterday that the voting in their eyes met international standards, and that's very good news for the consolidation of democracy in Russia.
It is fair to say -- and I think it's a very important point to remember -- that just a few years ago it would have been unthinkable that Russia would have had a series of democratic elections in 1993, in 1994 and now in 1995, and elections are becoming a fact of life in Russia. The fact that the Russian people will go to the polls again in just six months' time to elect a Russian President is also quite historic and quite important.
As for the returns, George, which I think gets to the core of your question, the returns are incomplete. I think you know that roughly a third of the vote is now in. As the vote comes in from European Russia -- the early vote came from the Far East -- the percentage of the reform parties seems to be increasing, and so some of the initial returns that you saw, which seemed to indicate that the Communists, Agrarians and other anti-reform parties were doing very well -- that margin is now shrinking slightly as the votes come in from Moscow and St. Petersburg and the other European cities of Russia.
I think it's fair to note that Mr. Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party, which I believe took 24.7 percent of the vote in 1993, will probably finish at this time at around 11 percent, half of what it was in 1993. It's not as good a showing as in 1993.
The Duma will have 450 seats -- 225 from party lists and 225 are single candidates. What you're seeing today in the returns are the party list seats, so only for half the Duma. We won't know for a couple of days who will fill the single candidate seats, so we really can't foresee the exact composition of the new Duma.
But, George, I think it's worth noting that in 1993 the core anti- reform parties -- the Communists, the Agrarians and the so-called Liberal Democrats -- Zhirinvosky's party -- accounted for 43 percent of the vote. If the current percentages that have now come in hold, those three parties will have captured somewhat less than 43 percent of the vote.
At this point, I think it seems likely that the new Duma that was elected yesterday will not be strikingly different than the Duma that has been in session for the last two years, because in essence you'll have roughly one-third of the new Duma, which is anti-reform -- the Communists, the Agrarians and Liberal Democrats -- you'll have roughly a third that is centrist or reformists -- Chernomyrdin's party, the Obloko faction and the Gaidar faction -- and then you have roughly a third of the Duma which is comprised of other parties.
So we do not anticipate at this juncture that the new Duma will be substantially different ideologically in their substantive platforms than the old Duma. I think it's fair to say that we believe that reform will continue in Russia. The Russian Government has said it is committed to reform for four years now. Since December 25, 1991, it has had a reform orientation and a reform platform, and nothing that happened yesterday would indicate to us that reform is in question. We believe that reform in fact will be carried on.
So it's too early to predict winners and losers, but I think the fact that people voted is positive. Democracy won yesterday, and the fact that reform will continue in the Yeltsin Government is a very good thing. After the results are in, the focus will shift to the June Presidential election, as it should, but in the meantime the Russian political system will be a reform system. It will be a democratic system, and that is a very good fact for the United States.
I would just say, George -- I know you're interested in Latin America -- that I would draw a link between the Russian elections and the Haitian elections, and the link is this: That four years ago today none of us would have predicted that the Russians and Haitian people would have gone to the polls for a second or third or fourth time -- in the case of Russia; in the case of the Haitian people for a second time.
There were free elections in both countries. The democratic systems in both countries are evolving, and that's a good thing for a democracy. It's a good thing for the United States, and I think it reaffirms the fact that the United States has paid a lot of attention to countries, has supported democratic institutions in both countries, and it speaks well, I think, of the relevance of our policy in both countries and around the world -- the importance we place on democracy.
Q Nick, the Communists say they want a referendum on reconstituting the Soviet Union. Does that bother you?
MR. BURNS: It certainly does. It's a very bad idea. The Soviet Union was a totalitarian state that was champion of repression of human rights of its people. It was an evil system that accounted for the deaths of millions of people. I think that most Russians today do not take great pride in the Soviet Union, but they do take great pride in a democratic Russia.
Any talk of going back to the Soviet Union has got to be opposed by all Americans and by Russians who believe in democracy, and the fact is that the people who run the Communist Party in Russia today have talked about reconstituting the Soviet Union. They have an old order, old line agenda, and it's not a positive agenda.
Q Nick, I wonder if you could tell us why in this case the State Department is so free and so willing and so eager, in fact, to take sides in an election in another country, and actually enough you're taking the side of democracy as against communism, for instance.
But generally when we ask about other countries and elections, we're told that basically you're constrained to whether they were held fairly and, you know, whether there are any signs of repression. But here -- I mean, just this last thought, for instance, that Americans should oppose any return to the Soviet system -- I don't know how you would do that exactly.
MR. BURNS: It's such an obvious point, given Soviet history.
Q No, I'm not -- please -- I mean, believe me, I'm not taking issue with what you're saying. I just would like you to free associate a little bit on why this selection is so important that the State Department has broken its traditional mode of not caring to discuss events -- internal events in other countries.
What is it that brings out this -- besides your immense background in Soviet affairs, what brings forth this declamation of good guys and bad guys?
MR. BURNS: I love your question. That was a good question. (Laughter) I don't want to free associate, so please do not construe my answer to be free association. I want to try to do this in an orderly and methodical way, Barry.
We weren't cheerleading for one party or another in advance of these elections. You didn't see us doing that. We didn't come out and support a particular party or a group of parties, but we've made no secret of the fact, since December 25, 1991 -- this was the Bush Administration and the Clinton Administration, Republicans and Democrats -- that we can't be neutral about the great question that is at the heart of Russian politics today, and that is will Russia have a reformist, democratic future, or will some Russians want to take the country back to the old order.
We've always said that we do have a dog in this fight, and that dog is reform. We've never said that we're going to back a specific political party. We're not going to do that now. But we certainly support reform. The fact is that we have contributed several billions of dollars in support of Russian economic reform, liberal market-reform over the past couple of years.
We have had programs, Barry, that helped the Russian people organize elections; that support democratization; that support democratic institutions. So we've always had a particular interest in supporting reform in very concrete terms. The fact that our analysis of these elections is consistent with our policies of the past four years I think makes sense.
I think it tells you something, and that is that it does matter to the United States what orientation the Russian Government has. It does matter if it's a democracy or a dictatorship, and we choose democracy, and we choose to support those people who are reformers. We believe that the reformers will continue to run the Russian Government, and we believe that's the future that the Russian people ought to have.
In other cases, Barry, sometimes we do comment on elections in a deeper way than others. It depends on what's appropriate. But given the fact that we have been the leading country in the world supporting Russian reform, it certainly makes sense for us, I think, today to comment favorably on the fact that reform will continue and to speak honestly about the question I just had -- what do you think about a return to the Soviet Union. It's a very bad idea.
And anybody who -- and I know all of you have -- have looked at the history of the Soviet Union know that it was an evil system -- it was a brutal system -- and that no American could possibly want to go back to that type of totalitarian dictatorship.
Q Nick, are the Communists that are getting elected, showing well in the voting, are the same bad old guys in these bad suits?
MR. BURNS: They're going to have to prove by their actions exactly who they are. If you look at their campaign rhetoric, what they said to the Russian people about reconstituting the Soviet Union -- look at their campaign programs -- it certainly doesn't hearten those of us who believe in democracy and reform.
Q You said that it was premature for you to say that (inaudible) was a winner, but (inaudible) has long been standing behind everything that we are developing; and if the ruling parties fail to become a majority, then does it mean a setback for the Clinton Administration as well?
MR. BURNS: The returns are not yet in. In fact, only one-third of the vote has been counted, and, of course, this is for only one-half of the Duma. The other half of the Duma will be filled in the single candidate seats, and those returns are not yet in.
This is one how of a legislative body. There's also a Federation Council which continues to sit. There is a government that will likely not change, according to statements from Moscow, and so I think we have a situation where the government continues with its reform orientation. The upper house, the Federation Council, has a particular composition. The lower house will now be newly reconstituted, and we don't believe, based on the incomplete returns in today, that that lower house will be fundamentally different -- the Duma --than it was in the past two years; and, therefore, we would expect and hope that Russian reform would continue.
Q Nick, would you agree that the Duma, as presently constituted, is not a very powerful organ, so while this might be a hopeful bellwether, it would appear to have minimum impact on the actual conduct of democracy in Russia. Is that not --
MR. BURNS: The Duma is an important institution, because it reflects -- I mean, it is directly elected by the Russian people, and it has an important role to play in the Russian system. The good thing is that over the past couple of years, the Yeltsin Administration and the Duma have worked together. The Duma has expressed itself on the budget, on foreign policy issues. That's certainly appropriate. So I would say it's an important institution.
The government under the Russian constitution, however, does have very strong powers, and the government is, of course, free to continue with its program of reform, which we would certainly expect.
Q Different issue.
MR. BURNS: Different issue. Okay.
Q Are you aware of the fact that Bob Gelbard granted an interview with CNN on Saturday about Colombia and the result of the investigation there of the President?
MR. BURNS: I've spoken to Assistant Secretary Gelbard. I'm aware of the fact that he spoke to the media on Friday, and, yes, I'm aware of that. There's nothing unusual in that. Assistant Secretary Gelbard has important responsibilities for narcotics in the U.S. Government. In fact, he's the leading official in the State Department on that issue, and narcotics is the central issue in our relationship with the Colombian Government -- has been, is now, and will be in the future. The Colombian Government knows that.
Q (Inaudible) he qualified that investigation as lacking in seriousness. President Samper said that this type of thing could obstruct the relations between the two countries. What do you think about that?
MR. BURNS: About the fact that he made a comment or the fact that --
Q He qualified the investigation as lacking in seriousness, and he seems to have placed his hopes on the second investigation by the Prosecutor General.
MR. BURNS: I think that Assistant Secretary Gelbard's comments were in no way inconsistent with our basic policy, which is that we've got to find a way to work with the Colombian Government more effectively on the issue of narcotics interdiction.
The fact is that while this is certainly an internal affair -- this particular investigation -- to be resolved by the people and government of Colombia, the United States has consistently urged the Government of Colombia to undertake a full and public investigation of serious charges.
I would note that Colombia's Prosecutor General's office continues its criminal investigation of the charges, and should that process uncover additional evidence, then we would think that the Colombian Congress has the authority to readdress its decision. But I certainly want to stand by what Assistant Secretary Gelbard said, because he is a leading official of this government, and he has, I think, a very good view of the situation there, and he certainly speaks for this administration.
Q The declaration from Mr. Gelbard is from the U.S. Government or is personal opinion?
MR. BURNS: When he speaks on the record, he speaks for the United States Government, and I'm telling you today that nothing that he's said -- and I've read what he said -- is in any way contradictory to the policies of this government.
The fact is that we do need to have a better level of cooperation on narcotics. We do believe that the rule of law is important. We know that an investigation continues from the Prosecutor General's office, and we believe that investigation should continue. And I want to repeat this -- if it uncovers additional evidence, then we would think that the Colombian Congress has the authority to readdress its decision.
Q Nick, so is it fair to say that the U.S. has got its hopes set on this second investigation and was already expecting the outcome that came from that Accusation Commission?
MR. BURNS: We have our hopes set that we might be able to work more effectively with Colombia to limit the illicit introduction of narcotics into the United States where there is, unfortunately, a very high demand for narcotics.
We have to deal with the demand problem here in the United States, but certainly we can expect that the Colombian Government would help us deal with the narcotics flow problem -- the illicit flow of narcotics into the United States. That's a problem that the Colombian Government knows is at the very center of U.S.-Colombia relations.
Q One final one: So you're saying that you're standing by what he said. You're also saying that the investigation itself lacked in seriousness, correct?
MR. BURNS: I'm saying I'm certainly standing by Assistant Secretary Gelbard. What he said was not contradictory to our policy, and I'm saying that there is a process underway, and that process ought to continue, and that part of the process is certainly an internal affair of the Colombian people and its government.
Q Nick, has it been decided where the Syrian-Israeli talks will take place?
MR. BURNS: No, that decision has not been made. Let me just review, Jim, for those of you who did not accompany us to the Middle East over the weekend what is going to happen now.
The Secretary, through his discussions with President Assad and Prime Minister Peres, was able to convince both Syria and Israel should now renew and revitalize their discussions. That will take place on December 27, 28 and 29 at the sub-ministerial level here in the Washington area.
We are now trying to identify today and probably into tomorrow and appropriate facility, a U.S. Government facility, for these countries to negotiate at, and they'll be hosted by the U.S. Government. I would not anticipate any press coverage of this set of negotiations.
We will not be giving briefings here on the 27th, 28th and 29th about the course of these discussions. The whole point is to create a flexible format and open environment for our negotiators -- the Syrian and Israeli negotiators -- to sit down together in privacy and to try to go through the options and the issues that are at the core of the Syrian-Israeli track.
After the 29th, they will break for several days. They will come back to Washington on the 3rd of January. They'll hold three more days of discussions, again at a sub-ministerial level. This is not going to be at the minister level. And then Secretary Christopher said that he'll on January 8 be leaving Washington. He'll go out to Paris for the Middle East Donors Conference, which is, of course, related to this issue, and then he'll undertake another mission to the Middle East -- to Syria and Israel and elsewhere on the 9th of January -- to discuss directly with President Assad and Prime Minister Peres how the first two sessions here in Washington went; what issues remain to be resolved; what is the appropriate negotiating format afterwards.
As we said over the weekend -- the Secretary said -- that there will be all types of options available, because this is a flexible format for how to proceed at that point. We're very hopeful. We think this is an important procedural breakthrough that has occurred over the weekend in Damascus and in Jerusalem.
We're hopeful now that the Syrians and the Israelis can make progress, and our goal is a comprehensive peace agreement between Syria and Israel, and, of course, ultimately a comprehensive peace agreement in the Middle East in General, so that Israel can be formally at peace with all of its neighbors.
Q Has it been determined at what point the Lebanese will be plugged into this process?
MR. BURNS: As you know, there is an Israeli-Lebanon track. There were meetings in 1994 on that track -- I don't believe there have been any significant meetings since 1994 -- and we hope very much that it will be possible in the future for Lebanese and Israeli officials to sit down together to sort out their issues, and we hope very much that there will be a peace agreement in the future between Lebanon and Israel.
Right now we are placing our emphasis, Jim, on the Syrian-Israeli track. That is the one that is showing promise, and there was a very important breakthrough in the Secretary's trip, and he's returned today, I think, feeling confident that we did what we could to open up this new possibility. It was a very significant development, but there are difficult negotiations ahead. By no means are all problems now resolved between Syria and Israel.
Lots of difficult, tough negotiations are ahead of us, and I know that the Secretary has that in mind, as does Dennis Ross and others in this building.
Q Nick, another election. This Sunday Turkey has a general election, and according to latest survey, Moslem Fundamentalist Party, the welfare party, is getting all powerful in this election.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me, the Muslim Fundamentalist Party?
Q Religious party -- not religious party -- it's the welfare party -- is getting more powerful from this election, and which this party claimed that they're planning to withdraw from NATO. They're planning to withdraw from the European Customs Union, and they are planning to lift embargo against Iraq, and they are planning to withdraw from "Provide Comfort."
Does that situation make a little bit concern about Turkish- American relationship?
MR. BURNS: Just as we did before the Russian elections, I don't want to make specific comments about one party or another before the Turkish elections. It's good that Turkey is holding these elections. As you know, we have a very strong and supportive relationship with the present government of Prime Minister Ciller, and Turkey is a valued NATO ally.
We'll wait for these elections to occur, and then I think -- certainly not on the 25th, probably, but perhaps on the 26th or 27th, we'll have something to say about it.
Q (Inaudible) principles involved. (Inaudible) speak in favor of a principle of NATO --
MR. BURNS: Democracy, brotherhood.
Q How about NATO?
MR. BURNS: The rule of law. NATO solidarity. All that's important in our relationship.
Q You wouldn't want NATO to get weaker, would you?
MR. BURNS: Certainly not, no.
Q Would you like to see Muslim fundamentalism increase in that part of the world?
MR. BURNS: What we want to see is that Turkey and the United States will remain close partners in NATO. We believe that Turkey's future lies as an important country in its own region, but also that Turkey should be tied in many institutional ways to Europe, and therefore the vote of the European Parliament in Strasbourg last week to cement a Customs Union relationship with Turkey was very positive.
We have a lot of national interest in Turkey, and, Barry, I'll be glad to talk for a long time about those. But what I don't want to do is talk about the particular views of a party that's contesting the elections before the elections are held.
Q I'm just thinking, because you reminded us how times change so quickly -- how only three, four, five years ago it would have been inconceivable that Russia would be having a series of elections. I think you probably also said it would be inconceivable that Turkey would be experiencing this resurgence -- it's not even a resurgence -- this new-found fervent Muslim fundamentalism, and I wondered if the State Department was comfortable with that.
There was a time a couple of years ago when you all went out of your way to say you have no argument with fundamentalism. I wondered if that's something that is just as surprising three, four years now, as democracy in Russia surprises everybody.
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't put it in the same category, Barry. I wouldn't compare the two. I think they're quite dissimilar. It is very true that we have absolutely no argument with Islam, and in fact we have good relations with a great number of Moslem countries around the world, including Turkey, and that's important.
But I think, Barry, when we talk about Turkey, we talk about Turkish democracy, our NATO alliance with Turkey, the fact that Turkey has been a very, very strong partner of the United States in Central Asia, as well as in southeast Europe -- on Bosnia, for instance.
The United States and Turkey have a lot to talk about -- about the future of our support for the Bosnian Government -- and, Barry, I think I'm just going to wait until the elections on this one, and then when the elections are held and we're asked to comment, we'll make the appropriate comment.
In each case, of course, the appropriateness of the comments differs, depending on the countries, so I think what we have to say about the Turkish elections might be quite different than what I said today about the Russian elections.
Q Nick, on another set of elections. Do you have a learned explanation as to why the turnout was so low in Haiti?
MR. BURNS: I would really leave that question to Brian Atwood, who's head of our Presidential delegation in Haiti, and I'd leave that to people who perhaps are in the country and who are closer observers of the Haitian scene.
I think yesterday's vote was a very important milestone in Haiti's progress toward democracy. Certainly, the direct election of a President is an important achievement of a new democracy. President Aristide has said many, many times, the second election -- this one, yesterday's -- is more important perhaps than the first.
There's going to be a transition of power on February 7, from one Haitian President to a new Haitian President, and that is a fundamental milestone in Haitian history. I think it will be the first time in Haitian history where that's happened.
Brian Atwood led our Presidential delegation. He made a very good statement this morning to the press there. He believes that the Haitian people were free to vote without threat of intimidation. The voter turnout should not be attributed to any attempt by any group to prevent people from voting. We saw no instances of that.
Therefore, we congratulate President Aristide and the Haitian people on their commitment to the rule of law and to democracy and to the Haitian constitution. We stand ready to assist the Haitian people as they try to build their democracy.
I think another notable fact of yesterday's election in Haiti was that it was much more stable, peaceful, orderly and fair than the last set of elections that they had in the summer. There were far fewer incidents, and that's a fact, I think, that could be noted positively by all of us, and that includes all of you.
Q Nick, during the Dayton negotiations, you and others in the Administration said that it was inconceivable for either Mr. Karadzic or General Mladic to be holding positions of power once a peace agreement had been signed. Has your opinion changed since the peace agreement and both men seem to remain in power?
MR. BURNS: No, our opinion hasn't changed. The fact is that it's still inconceivable for us, when we think about it -- and we think about it every day -- that these two individuals should remain in command positions. They're indicted war criminals. They have to answer to the international community for the crimes that they have committed, according to the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal.
Under the Dayton Accords, people who have been indicted by the Tribunal cannot run for office and should not hold high positions, and we remain confident that these two people will pass from the scene; that they will depart. It's not up for us to decide how that happens. It's up for the Serbian community to decide that it ought to have a new leadership -- a new political leadership and a new military leadership - - as it now begins this very difficult process of building the new state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We're going to be very sensitive to the concerns of the Serb people -- the civilians in Sarajevo and elsewhere. I think you've seen just from the first days since the Paris signing last Thursday that Carl Bildt and Michael Steiner -- the Swede and the German who run the civil administration there -- have tried to reach out to the Serb community. That's a very positive thing.
But let there be no mistake. The United States will not support the continuation of power of Karadzic and Mladic.
Q There have been no efforts, and there will be no efforts to apprehend them or urge them --
MR. BURNS: If the NATO forces, including the American military forces, come across either Karadzic or Mladic in the course of their duties, they will be detained and arrested and turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal, which I'm sure will be very interested in bringing them to trial. That's the next step in the process.
These people are not free to roam -- Karadzic and Mladic -- the countryside. If they walk into downtown Tuzla and encounter an American soldier, then they're going to be apprehended. So they have to be thinking now about their own futures. Their future is to leave power. Their day is done, and they ought to turn over power -- both military and political -- to other people, people who have not been indicted; people who have a greater sense of commitment to building a new state; a greater sense that they've got to work with the Moslem and Croatian populations to build a more stable state.
Q (Inaudible) order Domino's pizza. Do the Americans know their address? Are they hiding out like the fellow in Somalia used to do?
MR. BURNS: I think Mladic's address is in Belgrade and Karadzic's is in Pale, at least for the time being. I think we probably do know where they live, Barry.
Q Well, you have, you know, I guess -- in Belgrade you have some problems, but --
MR. BURNS: I think we do know where they live, and the point is we have said that it won't be the mission of the NATO forces to form search parties and to wander the countryside in search of war criminals; but that if they encounter them, they will detain them.
Ultimately, Barry, it's the responsibility of all authorities -- the Serbian Government, the Croatian Government and the Bosnian Government -- to detain and arrest war criminals on their soil. It's local authority. That would be true if indicted war criminals came to the United States. If they came into JFK airport, then it would be the responsibility of our government to detain them.
Our message to the Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian Governments is, "You have got to take this responsibility seriously. You have to fulfill the commitments that you made at Dayton." And we have not backed down one iota on our sense that those commitments are very serious commitments that have to be adhered to.
Q I see some very good news in General Joulwan and General Nash's interviews yesterday, in that there is compliance by the three parties to the Dayton Accords, performance here without enforcement by NATO. In other words, they turned off their radars, they're pulling out of the zone of separation. I understand they're even uprooting some mines in places.
I would just ask you, is this what the State Department can confirm? Are these things actually happening, and to what extent across Bosnia is there performance?
MR. BURNS: We welcome these steps, and they are expected. The parties in fact have an obligation, a legal obligation, to undertake them. We're creating a four-mile-wide security zone. The warring factions have to pull back from confrontation lines.
It's clearly spelled out in the military annex -- Military Annex 1- A -- of the Dayton Accords what must happen. I'd refer you to the Pentagon, to my colleague Ken Bacon, for confirmation of these steps from a military perspective, because that's something over which he has purview and not me.
Let me just add on the question of Bosnia, there are two meetings this week that are very important that continue the Dayton peace process. The first is a meeting held today in Bonn, which is a meeting on the arms aspects -- the arms control aspects of the Dayton Accords -- hosted by the German Government.
We are being represented by Bob Gallucci and by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum, and this conference focuses on Annex 1-B of the Dayton Accords; and, of course, on the confidence-building measures that must be undertaken within a week of the signing -- and the week of the signing expires this Thursday -- and on the arms control provisions of the Dayton Accords that have to be negotiated now to insure what we hope will be a stable military environment as IFOR deploys and as IFOR attempts to insure the peace that Dayton has provided.
Secondly, on December 20 and 21, the European Union and the World Bank are hosting a session on the short-term economic assistance needs of the parties that signed the Dayton Accord. We will be represented at that conference by Bob Gallucci. You all know that Bob Gallucci is coordinating the civilian side of the Dayton peace effort for the United States Government here.
The countries will be asked to think about how we can all contribute to the short-term civilian needs of the population for refugee assistance, for economic reconstruction, for police training -- very, very important issues that will in one way or another answer the question of whether or not the Dayton Accords can be the answer to the region's problems.
As you know, last week when the President was in Paris, he announced an $86 million emergency aid program from the United States; and, in addition to that, the United States hopes to contribute roughly $200 million a year over the next three years for civilian reconstruction.
I was surprised that the $86 million package that the President announced did not get more press coverage, because it's actually quite important. I know there's an inclination by the press to focus on the military aspects. It's very dramatic to see C-130s land at Tuzla airport in the snow, which has been the press coverage of the last couple of days.
MR. BURNS: But if you look at the challenge -- or not to land, in that case -- if you look at the challenges of how to preserve the Dayton Accords, the military component is only going to be about a year long. But the civilian side encompasses an operation that will be three years or more in the field. If you think about relocating two million refugees, providing for the economic reconstruction of a country that has been ravaged by the war, this is what's really critical -- and providing for human rights and providing for daily needs of the population.
The President announced an $86.65 million program that encompasses immediate assistance for the winterization of homes and shelter for refugees, humanitarian assistance, for rehabilitation and reconstruction of homes, for community and federation-building projects, and for self- sustaining activities -- activities that would help the population return to a semblance of normalcy.
I think this effort by the United States deserves more exposure in the media, frankly, and I think this whole effort on the civilian side deserves more attention to balance things for the military equation.
Q We covered it. You're looking at me. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Well, George, I'm glad to see it. I'm sure the Associated Press did. The Associated Press is very thorough. I'm just looking at your colleagues around the room who have had endless pictures of people trudging around in the snow in Tuzla, when in fact that's a very important mission. What's happening in Sarajevo, what's happening on the civilian side is also important. I've said my piece. I rest my case.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:50 p.m.)
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