U.S. Department of State 96/01/17 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, January 17, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Introduction of PA/PRS Intern .............................1 Secretary Christopher's Lunch for Japanese ForMin Ikeda ...1 Sec Christopher Attends Amb Lawrence's Burial Service .....1 Bosnian Contact Group Meeting .............................1 Amb Holbrooke's Meetings and Balkan Schedule ..............1-2 Change in Power in Sierra Leone ...........................2 Amb Albright's Africa Trip Schedule .......................2-3 Amb Holbrooke's Resignation ...............................17 CHINA Recall of Asst Air Force Attache Lt. Col. Gerdes ..........3,5 Possible U.S. Retaliation for Treatment/Demanding Recall ..4 Gerdes/Taiwanese VP Transit Permission Connection .........4 Amb Sasser's Departure for Beijing ........................4-5 Intentional Trespassing by Gerdes .........................4-5 EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC REGION Honolulu Meeting re: North Korea ..........................5-6,11 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Concentration Camps in Serbia .............................6-7 Camp Detainees (Refugees) Included in Bosnian Govt's Request for Info from the Serbs and Bosnian Serbs .........7-8,10-11 Treatment and Release of Refugees in Camps ................9-10 U.S. Arrival of Refugees ..................................10 Organizations Coordinating Placement ......................10 Status of Compliance with Dayton Accord Guidelines ........8-9 INDIA Deployment of Prithvi Missiles ............................11-12 Nuclear Testing ...........................................11-12,14 Glenn Amendment Sanctions: India and Non-Nuclear Powers ...12-13 Adherence to NPT ..........................................14 MIDDLE EAST Christopher's Views on Wye Talks ..........................14-16 CYPRUS Holbrooke Mtgs with Greek-Americans & Turkish Americans ...16-17 Holbrooke Travel to Cyprus ................................17 TURKEY Hostage Taking by Chechen Rebels in Trabzon. ..............17,19 RUSSIA Hostage Taking by Chechen Rebels ..........................17-18 Parties Advised by U.S. to Negotiate ......................18-19 Cooperating with OSCE .....................................18 U.S. Obligation to Quell Situation ........................19 SecDef Perry's Comments re: Russian Use of Force ..........19-20 Resignation of Chubais ....................................20-21 Domestic Situation Effects on World/Economic Reform .......20-22 President Yeltsin Running for Re-election .................22-23 CUBA Trips by Congressmen Motley & Richardson ..................23 JAPAN Sec Christopher Talks with ForMin Ikeda ...................23-24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 17, 1996, 1:08 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I would like to introduce to you a new student intern from the University of California at Santa Barbara, Doron Ohel, who is specializing in Mideast studies and Japanese studies. He'll be with us here in the Press Office for the next nine weeks. Welcome.
I have a couple of announcements to make before we go to questions. The first is that Secretary Christopher will host a lunch on Friday here in the Department for the new Japanese Foreign Minister, Minister Ikeda, and with the Secretary, of course, will be some of the senior officials in the Department responsible for Japanese affairs. The Secretary is looking forward very much to welcoming Minister Ikeda to Washington and to the State Department.
He called him last week from Jerusalem. They had a good conversation. They agreed to an early meeting, and it has now been set up.
Secondly, Secretary Christopher, accompanied by Assistant Secretary Dick Holbrooke, attended this morning the burial service at Arlington National Cemetery for our Ambassador to Switzerland, Ambassador M. Larry Lawrence, who, as all of you know, passed away last week.
Third, there will be a Contact Group meeting tomorrow in Sarajevo with Carl Bildt. The United States will be represented by Ambassador Dick Holbrooke who will be leaving Washington for Sarajevo this evening. This meeting has been organized by the United States and our Contact Group partners to assess the degree of compliance by the Serbs, Bosnian Serbs, by the Bosnian Government and the Croatians to the Dayton Accords.
During his stay in Sarajevo, Ambassador Holbrooke will have this meeting with Carl Bildt. He'll have a separate meeting with Admiral Leighton Smith, the Commander of NATO forces in Sarajevo. He will also be meeting -- Ambassador Holbrooke -- with the Bosnian Government.
Ambassador Holbrooke will be accompanied by Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck, who will be working on the prisoner exchange issue, which we hope to have settled by this Friday, and other human rights concerns that are obvious, I think, to all of you and important to the United States.
Following these meetings in Sarajevo, Ambassador Holbrooke will be traveling to Belgrade at the instruction of Secretary Christopher for conversations with President Milosevic. From there, he will go on to Germany for discussions with German Government officials.
I'd also like to read a very short statement on the situation in Sierra Leone. On January 16, the Chairman of Sierra Leone's National Provisional Ruling Council, Captain Valentine Strasser, was replaced by his Deputy, Brigadier General Julius Maada Bio.
There has been no violence, but there is a midnight to 6:00 a.m. curfew in place in the capital of Freetown. We understand that Captain Strasser was arrested during a Supreme Council meeting and flown immediately to neighboring Guinea, where he has taken refuge in Sierra Leone's Embassy there.
Following his assumption of power, Brigadier Bio confirmed the change in the leadership of the country in a telephone call that he made to our Ambassador, John L. Hirsch. Brigadier Bio assured Ambassador Hirsch, and subsequently told the entire diplomatic corps in Freetown, that presidential and legislative elections scheduled for February 26 of this year will go forward as planned.
The United States looks to Brigadier Bio and his associates to carry through on this commitment to return Sierra Leone to civilian rule through free and fair elections. The United States calls on all Sierra Leoneans to work together to implement a successful electoral process and a successful transition to a democratically elected civilian government.
Finally, I just wanted to let all of you know that Ambassador Madeleine Albright, our Ambassador to the United Nations, is traveling in Africa. She met today in Liberia with officials from the various local factions there. She met with representatives of the peacekeepers and heads of the U.N. agencies in Monrovia.
She is there to discuss the effort by Liberians to emerge from civil war. She is there to offer support for keeping the peace process on track. She intends to travel to Angola, where she will express strong U.S. backing for the United Nations peacekeeping mission there. She will also travel to Burundi and Rwanda where she will seek information concerning the political and humanitarian situation; and, in Rwanda, to review the status and the efforts of the International War Crimes Tribunal which, as you know, was established after the massacres in the spring of 1994.
Finally, she'll be traveling at the end of her trip to Cairo. She'll be meeting with Egyptian officials concerning U.N. Security Council matters, and she'll be returning to the United States on January 23.
Q What's the latest on Colonel Gerdes?
MR. BURNS: The latest on the situation involving Colonel Gerdes is that the United States has decided to have Lieutenant Colonel Gerdes return to Washington permanently. As you know, the Chinese Government made this request, and we have decided that we will return him to Washington on January 19. That is Friday.
I would also like to note that the Japanese Government, I believe, has indicated publicly that there was a Japanese military attache who accompanied Lieutenant Colonel Gerdes on his trip to Guangdong Province. This is standard procedure for nations to combine trips in that part of the world and for military attaches to work together. There's nothing unusual about that, and I believe that the Chinese Government has made the same request of the Government of Japan about the status of that individual as it has made for Lieutenant Colonel Gerdes.
I would also like to note that we have reminded the Chinese Government once again that Article 29 of the Vienna Convention -- and the Vienna Convention is the oldest established and most fundamental rule of diplomatic law -- that Article 29 states the following:
"The person of a diplomatic agent shall be inviolable. He shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention. The receiving state shall treat him with due respect and shall take all appropriate steps to prevent any attack on his person, his freedom or his dignity."
We've made abundantly clear to the Chinese Government that we do not believe that the Chinese Government acted in a nature consistent with Article 29 of the Vienna Convention in this particular matter.
Q What about the possibility of retaliation against a Chinese official in Washington?
MR. BURNS: I think, George, what we're doing now is conducting a thorough review of this entire situation. I don't want to anticipate what action the United States might take or might not take in response to the situation. It has got to be reviewed at a fairly senior level here in Washington, and that will happen, but I have nothing further for you on that particular question.
Q So it's fair to assume, Nick, that you're considering retaliatory action but have made no decision?
MR. BURNS: I did not say that. I'll try to be more explicit. We are undertaking a comprehensive review of the entire situation, including our discussions with the Chinese Government, and this whole matter has to be reviewed at a senior level in this government.
I'm not trying to anticipate any possible action. I'm not trying to say we're not going to take any action. I'm just saying we need to further study this situation.
Q Nick, I'm curious. Would you say it was just sheer coincidence that Lieutenant Colonel Gerdes was detained on the same day that the Taiwanese Vice President transited through the United States?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I can't draw any link between those two events. That's really a question for the Chinese Government. But I have no knowledge of what's going on in their minds, what prompted them to treat Lieutenant Colonel Gerdes in the unsatisfactory way that they did. I also don't know if they, themselves, are linking this issue. I just have no evidence to that effect.
Q Can you take two questions. There are reports that Ambassador Sasser is going to delay his scheduled departure for Beijing. Is there any validity to that report? And, secondly, it's reported in the Reuters wires that these two military attaches indeed did trespass, if but intentionally, on this base. Is there any validity to that?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, Ambassador Sasser is in the building. He had meetings this morning with a number of people, and I'm not aware of any change in his plans to leave Washington shortly and to take up his responsibilities in Beijing. It's been a long time since we've had an American Ambassador in Beijing. There's a lot of business that the United States has to do with China -- important business -- and we need an Ambassador there.
I should also say, having mentioned that, that our Charge d'Affaires, Scott Hallford, has done an outstanding job filling in during this interregnum.
On the second question, Bill, I'm just not going to discuss the particulars of this very sorry event, and I would hope very much that the Chinese Government wouldn't elect to do so. The fact is that we've had a very intense private conversation with the Chinese on this. I see no useful purpose in making public all of the details of this incident.
Q You cannot confirm or deny the wires that say they were in a taxi that took them in a restricted area?
MR. BURNS: I just have nothing for you on that.
Q Nick, is it fair to say that your decision to bring him home is not a tacit admission of any Chinese accusations as to his actions?
MR. BURNS: No, certainly not. The decision was taken in the best interests of Lieutenant Colonel Gerdes, in the best interests of our operation there, and you should not infer from that decision any admission of guilt or culpability on the part of Lieutenant Colonel Gerdes.
Q What do you mean? Why was it in the best interests?
MR. BURNS: We have a request from the Chinese Government that he be removed from Beijing and sent back to Washington. Let's say we decided not to meet that request -- we assume that the request could come in a more definitive form.
Governments have options. Declaring people persona non grata is one of them. That did not happen in this case, but when a government makes a request like this, one is left with very few options. Put it that way.
Q Nick, also on Asia, I may have missed this, but is there a meeting on January 24 in Honolulu about North Korea involving Japan, South Korea and the United States?
Q It's in March.
MR. BURNS: George, would you like to answer Jim's question? George is saying that there is a meeting involving Winston Lord --
Q U.S., South Korea and Japan will meet in Honolulu.
MR. BURNS: That's pretty good. Okay. Do you have guidance from EAP on this that you can share with me? (Laughter)
Jim, I will take the question. I will try to follow George's path here and provide some better information than I have currently available to me on that issue.
Q Sources close to the State Department.
MR. BURNS: Sources. Yes. I like that. Sources close to the State Department said today. I'll be glad to get you more information. In fact, we can probably get it right after the briefing. If not, if you just want to go out and call our friends up in EAP, they'd be glad to get that to you.
Q There's an article in the British newspaper, The Guardian, this morning that talks about several concentration-like camps that are located in Serbia. Are you all aware of these camps? Are these people going to be included in the prisoner exchanges that are supposed to be completed by Friday?
MR. BURNS: Yes. We've seen the article, Betsy, and we have looked into this matter. I understand the following.
After the fall of Srebrenica and Zepa, when 60,000 people were driven out of Srebrenica and roughly 20,000 - 25,000 people out of Zepa, approximately 790-odd people -- it could be closer to 800 -- fled to Serbia. These are Bosnian Muslims, most of whom I believe were soldiers, who fled to Serbia. They were incarcerated there, interned there. They have been interned there in several camps since August in appalling conditions.
The people who have left, who are now refugees in European countries from these camps, report widespread beatings, report that they were malnourished and underfed and that they were victims of abuse.
We have supported since August, when we discovered the whereabouts of these camps, the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is the lead international organization for these types of matters. We've supported the ICRC in their quest to identify these people, to press the Serbian Government to allow these people to leave. I understand that most of them elected not to return to Bosnia for whatever reason. But they wanted to seek refuge as refugees overseas in countries beyond Bosnia and Serbia.
The United States has agreed to take 214 of the 790 people as refugees into the United States. In fact, 50 of that group are arriving in the United States today. One hundred and three of these people have been taken in by the Australian Government as refugees; 70 by the French Government. The Irish Government has agreed to take a number of these refugees as well. Other countries are being asked.
The effort here is to empty these camps, relieve these people of the appalling conditions under which they're being held and to allow them to travel safely to third countries as refugees.
It's a tragedy that these people were caught up not only in the attack and the slaughter around Srebrenica and Zepa but in the conditions in which they've had to live for the last five months.
Q So these are not people that are included in the Bosnian Muslim request for identification of people that the Bosnian Serbs or the Serbs may be holding?
MR. BURNS: I can't answer that question. I think that's really a question for the Bosnian Government.
On that issue, though, let me say, we certainly support the Bosnian Government in its quest for detailed information from the Bosnian Serbs and, if it's appropriate and applicable and relevant, from the Serbian Government about missing people.
Betsy, the reason I can't answer more about it, I just don't know what the universe of names is that the Bosnian Government is seeking from the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbs; whether or not these people are included is a question for them.
We support the Bosnian Government. We think that the Serbs owe them an answer about the missing people from Srebrenica and Zepa and from other atrocities that occurred at the hands of the Bosnian Serbs.
At the same time, we think it is absolutely critical that the deadlines be met, the deadlines established under the Dayton Accords. Because if we in the international community allow deadlines to lapse for whatever reason, then this Dayton Accord is not going to hold together. So we have made that abundantly clear to the Bosnian Government as well as to the Bosnian Serb Government.
One of the reasons that Assistant Secretary Shattuck is going out to Sarajevo tonight is to work on this problem with both the Bosnian Government and Bosnian Serb Government.
When we're on the subject of deadlines, I think it's useful to talk about what has to happen by the end of this week. As you remember, the Dayton Accord established very specific guidelines, and specifically those that pertain to IFOR responsibility and refer to commitments by the negotiating parties.
On Friday, January 19, of course, that is the date that is 30 days from the transfer of authority from the United Nations to IFOR. It is the deadline for compliance for the following elements of the Dayton Accords: that all armed civilian groups, except authorized police, should be disarmed and disbanded; that there be complete withdrawal of forces to behind the zone of separation, including in Sarajevo; that the parties remove all hazards from the zones of separations in areas of withdrawal and that they mark all hazards that remain such as mines throughout Bosnia, and that they attempt to remove these hazards subsequently as directed by the IFOR commander.
On January 19, IFOR assumes the right to provide military security within the areas that are to be transferred. Additionally, on January 19, the parties provide the Joint Military Commission with a report on the status of their military forces.
Also, as you know -- and this has been in the news lately -- the parties agree to complete the release and transfer of prisoners. We want that to happen by Friday. We're going to work very closely with the parties to make that happen. We think the Bosnian Serbs ought to give some information to the Bosnian Government about just exactly who is missing.
The IFOR commander is currently assessing compliance with the Dayton agreement's provision on withdrawal of foreign forces. When that assessment is complete, I assume that the IFOR commander will speak publicly and issue a report on that. So Friday is an important day. A lot of things have to happen by Friday.
One of the reasons that the United States proposed a Contact Group meeting with Carl Bildt and one of the reasons why Holbrooke and Shattuck will be talking with the Bosnian Government is to try to assess compliance in the day leading up to Friday.
Q What is the exact deadline? Is it Friday midnight, Washington-time, Paris-time? What's the --
MR. BURNS: Good question. I assume it's one second past midnight, or one minute past midnight, but I don't know for sure. I can check that for you.
Q Nick, what can you report with regard to the IFOR -- especially in the American sector -- going into the zones of separation, staking out the boundaries, seeing what kind of compliance there has been and what may yet need to be? What does it look like?
MR. BURNS: I think, Bill, I should leave that up to General Nash and others in his command. They're the people who have authority on the ground. They have reported, as you know, that things are going well; that we have more than 12,000 American troops in our sector; that the other countries have their troops in place, and that IFOR is well set up, well established to assume responsibility and now to take the actions that it must as of January 19.
Q Do you have any problem with President Milosevic's treatment of these refugees? How long have you known about it?
MR. BURNS: We've been aware of the fact that these people -- refugees -- have been held in this camp for many months. We've pressed the Serbian Government to release them as refugees, and we've worked with the ICRC -- the International Committee of the Red Cross -- to try to improve their conditions and to find places for them to relocate.
We certainly had very serious conversations with the Serbian Government about their welfare and their status.
Q Was this included in discussions around the settlement of the Dayton Accords?
MR. BURNS: This issue has been discussed internationally, including by the United States all the way back to August. So it was part of Dick Holbrooke's shuttle missions. It certainly did come up at Dayton, yes -- all these issues did.
Q Milosevic has just now agreed to release them?
MR. BURNS: I think that the process of releasing these people and getting them to third countries has been underway for a little bit of time. I don't know when the first person got out. But it's been underway at least for several weeks. It's a good thing that these people are being released. Because, again, they were held under brutal and appalling conditions.
Q I'm just curious. Where are they arriving in the United States, and what organization is coordinating their placement?
MR. BURNS: I don't have the information about what port they're arriving at, but I can check that, Laura, and see if we can help you with it.
Q The information that the you would like the Bosnian Serbs to turn over to the Bosnian Government, what sort of information do you expect that they have? Do you think they have lists of names?
MR. BURNS: The Bosnian Government has asked for something which is quite reasonable. That is, they've asked the Bosnian Serbs to provide them with the names of people who are missing.
We know what happened in several of these instances where cities were overrun by the Bosnian Serb military. We strongly suspect that there were horrible massacres of men and boys near the Potocari football stadium just in the day or two after the fall of Srebrenica.
If the Bosnian Serbs have information pertaining to who those people were, what might have happened to them, if there are people still being held and the identity of these people is not known to the Bosnian Government, the Bosnian Serbs ought to take the opportunity soon to tell the Bosnian Government who these people are and where they're being held.
Q Do you have any reason to think that they do have lists, that they took the time to compile lists of people?
MR. BURNS: I have no independent knowledge of that. But I think this is a reasonable request and it ought to be answered.
I also think -- and I want to be clear about saying this -- that while we support the wish of the Bosnian Government to get this information, we want to see these prisoner swaps take place by Friday, January 19. We cannot be in a position of granting extensions to deadlines as we seek to implement the Dayton Accords.
The Bosnian Serbs have asked for an extension on matters pertaining to Bosnian Government control of Sarajevo. I think you've heard American officials say that we don't anticipate that there will be extensions in that regard.
I think that the Bosnian Government has to expect that we can't extend deadlines either on this side. But the Bosnian Serbs ought to be reasonable and they ought to try to slowly establish the patterns of cooperation that they have to, to live next door to the Bosnian Government in the foreseeable future.
In the interest of being thorough here, I want to reply to Jim's question with the help of George. George, feel free to chime in if you have any additional information here. I understand that Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord and the Japanese Vice Foreign Minister, Mr. Yanai, and the Korean Assistant Foreign Minister, Mr. Ban, will meet for one day. George is right -- January 24, in Honolulu.
In Osaka, on November 17, when the Secretary paid his visit there, the Secretary agreed with the Japanese leadership and the Republic of Korea Foreign Minister that they should hold a senior-level trilateral meeting to coordinate the policies towards North Korea. This is the first of these meetings. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss and coordinate policies to encourage increased North Korean opening and dialogue with the outside world and to improve inter-Korean relations.
So I want to thank you, George, for prompting that very good response from the Department of State to Jim's question.
Q Can you tell us whether the United States has made clear to India that the Glenn Amendment could follow them if they blow up another bomb?
MR. BURNS: Ron, you referring to the question I had yesterday about the Prithvi missile or are you referring to --
Q I'm referring to nuclear testing.
MR. BURNS: Let me try to deal with two subjects here. I was asked yesterday -- and I'll answer your question, Ron -- I was asked yesterday about a report that the Indian Government has decided to deploy the Prithvi missile. I did not have much to say on that yesterday, but let me tell you today that we have made our concerns about missile proliferation in South Asia well known, in both India and Pakistan.
The United States believes that the deployment or the acquisition of ballistic missile delivery systems by India or Pakistan would be destabilizing. We think it would undermine the security of both countries and of the region as a whole.
For some time now we have strongly encouraged both governments not to deploy ballistic missiles.
Ron, on your specific question. As you know, we have had an on- going senior-level discussion and dialogue with the Indian Government about arms control, about non-proliferation, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. We have done this with the Government of India as we have with other governments in the region and around the world.
I believe it's fair to say that as a result of these discussions, the Indian Government is well aware of our concerns.
United States law contains sanctions, including the termination of almost all assistance, the cut-off of defense sales and services, the cut-off of credit guarantees of export-import bank support, a ban on commercial bank loans to the government of any country that detonates a nuclear device. In this case only, and only possibly, humanitarian food aid would be excepted.
These sanctions also include a requirement for the United States Government to oppose World Bank and other international financial institution loans to that country.
This part of United States law pertaining to governments that unwisely and illegally try to detonate nuclear devices is well known to all non-nuclear powers. We, as a matter of course, remind our interlocutors in South Asia and elsewhere of United States law.
Q Nick, does this law apply only to those not including the big five nuclear powers?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q You said "non-nuclear powers." Does it apply to countries that are not the "Big Five?"
MR. BURNS: It applies to all countries that are currently known as or have declared themselves to be in the NPT -- non-nuclear powers.
Q What about France?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q What about France?
MR. BURNS: France is not in that group. France is a declared nuclear power.
Q That was my question.
MR. BURNS: It does not pertain, for instance, to the Government of China or to the Government of the Russian Federation or the Government of the United Kingdom or to the Government of France. But it does apply to all declared non-nuclear powers. They know who they are and we know who they are.
Q (Inaudible) consent -- the L.A. Times, I think, it was reported that Ambassador Wisner had gone in to the Indian Government and very specifically laid out the terms of the Glenn Amendment. Can you confirm that that meeting or meetings of that sort took place?
MR. BURNS: We never like to go into the details of our diplomatic discussions with foreign governments, so I'll resist that temptation now. But I will repeat that I said, that that we have an on-going senior-level dialogue with the Indian Government as well as the Pakistani Government on this particular issue. You can be assured that those conversations have taken place. The effect of those conversations has been to leave in the minds of our interlocutors a very clear idea of the sentiments of the United States and of the consequences under U.S. law should any country elect to detonate a nuclear device.
Mark had a question. Sid, we'll go back.
Q A new subject: The Middle East?
MR. BURNS: Anybody want to stay on this? Let's stay on this, Mark, and then we'll go to the Middle East.
Q Are you concerned that India is preparing to conduct another test?
MR. BURNS: We've made our views and our concerns on this issue abundantly clear to all governments in the region, including the Indian Government.
Q You have concerns that India is preparing to conduct a nuclear test?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to answer that question, frankly. I'm just not in a position to answer it.
Q (Inaudible) illegally conducting the test --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q (Inaudible) illegally -- as far as Indian is concerned, (inaudible) Indian law, not American law. So what do you mean by "illegally?"
MR. BURNS: I'm talking about international law, specifically pertaining to the Non-Proliferation Treaty where countries have made commitments to abide by the concerns of the NPT. Notwithstanding the inclination of some countries in the world not to participate in the NPT, we believe it is illegal and inadvisable and contrary to world peace and regional stability for countries that are not nuclear powers to attempt to become nuclear powers.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q How can you hold India responsible for a treaty which it has not signed?
MR. BURNS: Our view all along has been that all countries should adhere to the NPT; that those who have decided not to do so, for whatever reason, should do so; that they should be bound by the will of the international community which is clearly not to increase the number of nuclear powers but to limit the number of nuclear powers -- non- proliferation: concerning ballistic missiles, concerning nuclear technology, concerning fissile material is one of the great challenges to world peace and world security all around the world.
It's been identified by President Clinton as one of the foremost foreign policy concerns of the United States. I'd refer you to his speech in October to the United Nations. We've made this concern abundantly clear. That message obviously needed to be said today and we're glad we've communicated it.
Q Nick, in yesterday's Ha'artz, Zev Shiff reports that during a meeting between the Secretary and Israeli officials last week, the Secretary said, in reference to the Wye River talks, "I was basically disappointed by the talks." Were you there when he said it? And can you explain what he meant?
MR. BURNS: Mark, I understand why you're asking the question. I think it's an appropriate question to ask concerning the report that came out of Israel.
However, I take a very dim view of Background sources reporting on private diplomatic conversations. I have talked to the Secretary and to others on the American side who were in the room. It was a restricted lunch that the Secretary had with Foreign Minister Barak last Thursday in Tel Aviv.
The Secretary -- it was abundantly clear to me that he believes that the Wye talks held in late December and early January were productive, that they were constructive, and that they were useful. On that basis, because he believed them to be so, he recommended last week to President Assad and Prime Minister Peres that we hold a second round of Wye talks with the same negotiators -- Ambassador Dennis Ross, Ambassador Mualem, and Ambassador Uri Savir.
The Secretary went out to the region last week thinking that these were the right people to continue the negotiations; that the Wye format was the right format. It was the right time. That's the recommendation that he made to both leaders. They accepted his advice, and on January 24th, we'll start the second round of Wye talks.
I want to be very clear about my reaction to this particular press report. I don't believe this press report will stand up. I don't believe it is an accurate reflection of the intention of the Secretary to shepherd these next talks, to participate in these talks, and then make another trip to the Middle East in the first part of February to follow up in our hope to help Israel and Syria achieve a comprehensive peace agreement this year.
Q Did he say it or didn't he say it?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q These words? Did he say, "He's basically disappointed by the talks"?
MR. BURNS: Mark, why would I reward somebody who has leaked something to a correspondent in Israel by answering a question about what the Secretary said in a very important, high-level and private meeting. We never reveal -- I never give quotes out from private meetings in situations like this.
On the Middle East peace process, we've been very, very careful not to talk about the details of substantive issues. I can tell you what my conversation with Secretary Christopher was like this morning.
He very much urged me to say that he believes that the Wye process is constructive, useful, productive, and we ought to go forward with it.
MR. BURNS: I'm trying to help here, Mark, but I don't want to reward people who are leaking and who are distorting the position of the United States Government. That's not in my interest.
Q You don't deny the words but you say his quote is a retort --
MR. BURNS: My retort to whoever is leaking this -- my retort would be, if the Secretary of State felt that the Wye talks were not useful, then why would he go out to the Middle East last week and recommend a continuation of the Wye talks. He did so because he's convinced that it's the appropriate next step in the negotiations and that they were useful and will be useful.
Q Did the first round meet the Secretary's expectations?
MR. BURNS: Yes. We felt that the first round was an opportunity for this particular group of negotiators to meet to achieve a degree of informality with each other, in terms of the daily life of the negotiations, to define an agenda for the negotiations, to look at all the substantive issues that they need to look at to make progress and to think about what procedural steps should also be taken. All of that was done at Wye in late December and early January. That was the basis upon which the Secretary returned to the Middle East last week. So he's very satisfied with what was accomplished.
We have hopes that we might be able to push the ball forward in the next round of talks here in the United States next week.
Anything else on the Middle East before we go onto Cyprus? Good to have you back. We missed you yesterday when we had a discussion of these issues.
Q I raise the question to Mr. Andreas Papandreou's step-down, not his resignation. So that's why I missed your statement.
Do you have any comment on yesterday's separate meeting on Cyprus between Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and members of the Greek and Turkish leadership of America?
MR. BURNS: I spoke a little briefly just before coming out here with Ambassador Holbrooke. He told me that he had a very fine meeting yesterday with a large group of leaders in the United States, some who are Greek-Americans, some who are Turkish-Americans and others.
With respect to the topics covered in the meeting, I can tell you that they talked about the general situation in Southeast Europe -- United States relationship with Greece and Turkey. Our hope that at some point in the near future -- we hope that will be February -- the United States might help the parties in the Cyprus conflict to renew negotiations and to push those negotiations forward.
Q Do you know if Mr. Holbrooke will go to Cyprus in the first days of February as he promised he --
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't anticipate it would be the first days of February. That's just 10 days away or so. I wouldn't anticipate it because we still need to -- obviously, the Greek Government needs to select a new Prime Minister. The Turkish Government needs to have a new government formed, and we need to await the decisions on both governments and the formation of governments before Ambassador Holbrooke can undertake his voyage.
Q He's leaving the Department of State on February 20, as I understand.
MR. BURNS: He's actually submitted a letter of resignation that would have him leave around February 21. He'll be going on to private life. He hasn't made a decision about exactly what he'll be doing in private life. He, of course, will be available to the Secretary for guidance and counsel even after he leaves.
Q Do you have any comment on the new turn of events in Dagestan, in Turkey?
MR. BURNS: What I would say, we've been watching, as you have, the tragic events in Pervomayskoye -- the tragic events which have left so many people dead.
The only thing I can usefully do today is really to leave you with the two major thoughts that we had yesterday, and that is that the world has an obligation -- countries and individuals around the world -- to condemn the taking of hostages by the Chechen rebels.
For whatever reason they're doing this, it's not going to help their cause. It's going to diminish their support internationally. It is the wrong thing to do. It's uncivilized. It's reprehensible.
The fact that they would use women as human shields, innocent civilian bystanders in the village of Pervomayskoye, truck drivers dragged out of their cabs, taken hostage, and many of them apparently killed. That's the responsibility of the Chechen rebels.
The second thought we have is that as we look at the pattern of this conflict since December 11, 1994, we are convinced of one thing. The Russian Government will not be able to achieve a military solution to this conflict. Neither will the Chechen rebels, and as the smoke clears -- and we hope the fighting will stop in Pervomayskoye -- we hope that the Russian Government and the Chechen rebels will conclude that it is now time to move on to meaningful, long-term negotiations that will deal, will hopefully resolve this issue of Chechenya's status once and for all.
We can see no other alternative, and frankly that is the advice that we've been giving the Russian Government for the better part of the year. Too many people have died -- innocent people have died in this conflict, and we can see no fruitful outcome if both parties continue to rely on force and sometimes the use of force which puts civilians in harm's way and which kills them.
So we would advise all parties to turn towards negotiations. There is a vehicle for those negotiations -- the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe. They held negotiations earlier in late 1995. We would support an effort by the OSCE to go into Chechnya and to bring Russian and Chechen commanders together again. We think that's what has to be at the outcome to the Chechen crisis.
Q Have we asked them to do that?
MR. BURNS: We have continually asked both sides to cooperate with the OSCE. It doesn't have to be the OSCE. If the Russians and Chechens decide they want to have their own negotiations -- if they want to bring in another intermediary -- we'd be very flexible.
We think this is a good role for the OSCE. We think that the Hungarians did a very fine job shepherding this through a couple of months back when there were negotiations in Grozny and in towns around Grozny. We contributed diplomats to that effort. We'd be willing to do it again.
But as we look at this tragic conflict, we don't see a military way out. This business of destroying a village to save it -- we have our own experience in Vietnam. The Russians have their experience in Afghanistan.
While it is absolutely understandable why the Russian Government has to respond to hostage-taking to protect its own civilians -- it's absolutely understandable, as Secretary Perry said this morning -- we, unfortunately, believe that the end result of the massive use of force will not benefit the Russian Federation, and we think that a return to negotiations is the best course for all concerned.
Q We see an escalation in this hostage-taking now. There are three hostage incidents going on around Chechnya. I understand on the ground in Dagastan the Russians now have decided just to go and mop up. I think they've written off their hostages, and they're ready to do that.
Does the United States have -- besides the OSCE -- but does the United States have an obligation here, an opportunity to go in and try to quell this situation, especially with the Chechens?
MR. BURNS: Bill, this is not a situation where the United States could fruitfully intervene. It is a situation that must be resolved by Russians and Chechens. We do have an obligation to speak out against terrorism. The abduction of 150-odd people on the Turkish ferry boat last night ought to be condemned by all countries, and we are condemning it. We are condemning the Chechens and the Abkhaz and the others who took part in that operation.
We condemn the Chechen taking of civilians. We call on the Chechens to release them. That's our obligation here. We are offering private advice to the Russians and the Chechens that they ought to resort now to negotiations. We've made that public for some time, and we do so again today.
Q Specifically with regard to the Dagastan situation, are we recommending to the Russians to use non-lethal means to capture these --
MR. BURNS: As Secretary Perry said this morning, it's difficult for people outside a tragic warlike situation like this to give advice. We've not tried to give specific advice. We have simply noted the fact that innocent civilians have been killed; that all warring parties have an obligation to try to limit the use of power in such a way that innocent civilian lives can be preserved. We've made that point again and again since late December 1994, and we'll continue to do that.
Q I'm sure Secretary Perry's bit of military advice (inaudible) search-and-rescue commando unit rather than using so much force, which was also part of his --
MR. BURNS: Secretary Perry is the Secretary of Defense. I am not. I'm a civilian in the Department of State, and I would leave him to speak to military matters like that. I've spoken today about diplomatic and political issues.
Q Do you think it's appropriate for the Secretary of Defense to be giving military advice to the Russians?
MR. BURNS: I saw the Secretary's comments, and I think he was speaking in a spirit of friendship toward the Russian Government, which we certainly have, and I think he was saying what he thought from his vantage point, as Secretary of Defense, and it's not my position to try to amplify those remarks. I would leave those remarks where they are.
Q Nick, given what's happening surrounding Chechnya and the continuing falling like leaves in the autumn of reformers from the Yeltsin Government, especially most recently yesterday Chubais, I was wondering if you had any larger thoughts about the internal Russian situation as it affects not only the Russians but the outside world?
MR. BURNS: It is certainly, I think, significant, as we look at Russian politics, that Mr. Filatov, a leading reformer; that Mr. Kozyrev, a leading reformer; and that perhaps even most significantly First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais have all resigned.
For those who support Russian reform, of course we would like to see a government that continues to commit itself to reform. Anatoly Chubais was perhaps the most important Russian official on economic reform issues. He was the leader and the champion of privatization. He did a brilliant job in organizing a massive privatization effort over the last couple of years. He helped to build a market economy, and he helped, along with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin under his leadership, to develop a monetary policy that has led to a decline in the monthly rate of inflation from 18 percent 12 months ago to 3 percent per month this year. That is a considerable achievement of a government that has been through a wholesale economic transformation over the last four years.
On the day that Anatoly Chubais resigned, an IMF delegation yesterday arrived in Moscow, intent to negotiate a $9 billion credit with the Russian Government, which the Russian Government badly needs.
Therefore, Steve, as we try to think about the ramification of these resignations and specifically that of Mr. Chubais, we think it is absolutely essential that President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin reaffirm the reform basis of the Russian Government concerning economic reform. We think it is very important that the Russian Government continue to work productively with the International Monetary Fund, with the World Bank, and with the American, the German and other governments who wish it well and who are supporting it with billions of dollars in international assistance.
The fact is that they've made tremendous strides in building a market economy. It's been very painful for the Russian people. I think we saw some of that reflected in the Duma elections in December, but they're going in the right direction. The message for Prime Minister Chernomyrdin when he comes to the United States later this month will be maintain the reforms, and you will maintain with it Western support for those reforms. It's very important.
I would just add a final thought. I think for those of us who support reform in Russia, we must resist the temptation to believe that even with the departure of three champions of reform whom we respect greatly, we still think it's still possible for reform to continue. We are mindful of the lesson of January 1994 when all of our newspapers and talk even in our government corridors here was filled of despair because Gaidar and Feodorov has resigned.
The fact is that Chernomyrdin picked up the reform banner. He's carried it forward. He's been a great leader of economic reform. He remains the Prime Minister of Russia. President Yeltsin remains the President of Russia, and we are going to look at the actions of this government and hope very much that reform will continue.
Q How do they reaffirm the reform course? What signals would you look for?
MR. BURNS: I think in the economic policies that are carried out, the Duma has passed a very conservative budget for 1996. If that budget can be adhered to, if the Russian Federation can continue to meet its obligations to the International Monetary Fund and to the World Bank and to the United States and others, that certain economic reforms will continue; that the privatization program will continue.
I think, Steve, those will be very concrete indications of whether or not reform is indeed economic reform continuing, and we'll be looking and we'll be cheering them on if they can continue those reforms. They'll see that the West is a good partner; that the West will respond with our end of the bargain, which is significant financial assistance as these reforms continue.
Anyone else on Russia before we move to a new subject?
Q Has there been any indication in recent talks that we've had with the Russians that Yeltsin is going to run again, and would you welcome his running for President again?
MR. BURNS: That's a decision that only President Yeltsin can make. I think his advisers have said -- I've heard them say publicly that he expects to make a decision some time in February and to announce that publicly. As far as I know, President Yeltsin has not indicated to anybody in our government what his decision will be. We'll have to await that decision.
I think as you know, we believe as these elections come closer, we hope very much they will be free and fair; that they will be fairly fought. We also hope that the reformers would unite and coalesce, because at least the lesson to those of us here in Washington to look at the electoral map from December, the lesson appears to be the Communists are well organized.
The Agrarian Party is well organized. The anti-reformers as a whole are well organized. It now behooves the Russian reformers to unite and to coalesce and to run effectively in June.
Q But that doesn't answer the question, would you welcome a Yeltsin candidacy?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it is appropriate for the United States to say we welcome this candidate; we don't welcome that candidate. That's for the Russian people and leadership to decide. We do welcome our cooperation with President Yeltsin. We do have a very close relationship, a supportive, cooperative relationship. We do want that to continue, and we do stand for something else, Steve, and we've made this clear since January 20, 1993.
We support reform. We do not support those who would take Russia back to its totalitarian past. We don't believe that those people who ran on the anti-reform platform -- the Communists, the Agrarians and Zhirinovsky -- provide a hopeful future for Russia. We believe the reformers do.
But it's not our job to anoint reformers. It's not our job to select candidates. That's up to the Russian people. But we are very clearly in support of reform.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: One more?
Q Nick, I was coming with a new subject. On Cuba, do you have anything about the trip of some American businessmen that went with Congressmen Motley and that other one that's going tomorrow with Congressman Richardson?
MR. BURNS: I don't have any information. If you're interested, we can look into it for you. I don't have the information on that.
Q Yesterday -- they started yesterday -- Motley with some business people. Even two Cuban Congressmen have said that they are going to ask Secretary Christopher about some information of those people who went.
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of this but I'll be glad to look into it for you. Thank you.
Q Mr. Burns, if I may just --
MR. BURNS: One more.
Q New topic, Japan. Can you tell us what Mr. Christopher brings to the table and expects in those talks with Mr. Ikeda?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher has long believed that the U.S.- Japan relationship is the cornerstone of American policy in Asia; that our relationship with Japan should be close and supportive. It's an alliance relationship. He had an excellent working relationship with Minister Kono, respected him greatly, and very much wants to have the same type of relationship with Minister Ikeda.
So I think first and foremost Friday's meeting and lunch is an opportunity for them to get to know each other, to review the agenda of our relationship, to look ahead to 1996, and to see how together we can build that relationship to a position where it's even stronger than it is today; to overcome the problems that we've had in the tragic episodes in Okinawa; to build close political ties, cooperation on foreign policy issues.
We need Japan's support in Bosnia. We need Japan's support in Africa. We need Japan's support on non-proliferation, and we certainly need to have a good economic relationship. All these issues are on the table, and he's looking forward to this encounter.
Q Outstanding trade issues?
MR. BURNS: There are many outstanding trade issues.
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Kantor has specific responsibility for many of them, as does Secretary Brown, but Secretary Christopher often, of course, plays a very strong role in these discussions, and I think there will be a good discussion of economic issues on Friday. Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:59 p.m.)
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