U.S. Department of State 96/01/26 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING INDEX Friday, January 26, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Secretary Christopher's Trip to the Balkans, Middle East, and Helsinki ..........................................1 U.S. Statement re: Hanish Islands Conflict/Resolution ...3 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Wye Conference Center Discussions .......................1-2,5-6 --Security Issues .......................................6 Secretary Christopher's Call to Israeli PM Peres ........1-2,4-5 Syrian Spokesman al-Baath and Yossie Beilin Comments ....5 CANADA Appointment of Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy ..........2 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Ambassador Gallucci's Trip to Europe ....................3 NORTH KOREA Trilateral Talks in Honolulu ............................6-8 --Contributions/U.S. Obligations to KEDO.................7 --Food Assistance to North Korea/Reports of Diversion ...8-9 IRAQ Report of European Medical Treatment for Saddam Hussein..9 BRAZIL Martin Pang Extradition Case ............................9-10 LIBYA Report of Muammar Qadhafi Mtg. w/Louis Farrakhan .......10-12 Issue of Pan Am 103 ....................................11-12 CHINA/TAIWAN Report of U.S. Aircraft Carrier Cruise thru Straits ....12 U.S. Visa Request by Vice President of Taiwan ..........17 BANGLADESH Political Crisis .......................................13-14 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Justice Goldstone--Availability to Media ...............15 DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, AND LABOR Request for Assistant Secretary Shattuck Press Briefing 15 CYPRUS Assistant Secretary Holbrooke Visit to Region ..........15-16 COLOMBIA U.S. Visas .............................................16
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, JANUARY 26, 1996, 1:11 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have actually several announcements to make before we begin our discussion today. The first pertains to the Secretary's travel.
I announced earlier today that the Secretary would be meeting with the new Russian Foreign Minister, Yevgeny Primakov, in Helsinki on February 10 and 11. The Secretary, of course, will be making a trip to the Balkans which begins on February 2. He'll be in the Balkans between February 2 and 4, in Sarajevo and Tuzla; in Belgrade and Zagreb.
From there he'll go on to the Middle East from February 5-9, where he'll be, of course, working on the Syrian-Israeli negotiations. From the Middle East, we'll travel on the 10th and 11th to Helsinki, where he will have his first meeting with the new Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Primakov.
There will be a sign-up sheet available in the Press Office to all of those of you who would like to travel with us, and we'd like to hear from you all by close of business Monday evening as to your wishes of traveling with us.
Second, the Secretary went out to the Wye Conference Center yesterday afternoon and evening. He had a very good plenary meeting with all the delegations in the afternoon. He received reports from the heads of the Syrian, Israeli and American delegations -- the American negotiator being Ambassador Dennis Ross.
They then had an early dinner to accommodate the Syrian delegation, which, of course, was observing the fast of Ramadan, and the Secretary then had a meeting after the working dinner with the United States delegation. He returned at about 8:00 p.m. last evening.
This morning the Secretary called Prime Minister Peres. He reported to Prime Minister Peres about the discussions last evening. The Secretary said that he was encouraged by the negotiations and by the fact that the negotiators were working very hard on all the issues, and Prime Minister Peres called for a redoubling of the efforts towards Syria and Israel peace. That was in the phone call with Secretary Christopher.
I have just talked with Ambassador Ross. The talks at Wye are now concluding for today, and I can tell you that they had very good talks for the last two days -- January 24 and 26 -- and, as previously agreed, the talks addressed security arrangements of a Syrian-Israeli peace agreement with general officers from both sides participating.
The discussions were extensive, wide-ranging and detailed, and they provided each side a better understanding of the other's views.
As was previously agreed, there was follow-up on the discussions from the first round of Wye talks in late December and early January, and the results of Secretary Christopher's last trip to the Middle East. These follow-up discussions have progressed well. All of the participants agreed that the talks over the last three days establish a good basis for further discussions scheduled to begin on Monday, January 29. We'll have more about the Wye talks, of course, next week.
I also wanted to take the opportunity to say on behalf of Secretary Christopher that he has very much appreciated and enjoyed the opportunity to work closely during the last several years with the Canadian Foreign Minister, Andre Ouellet.
They built together, both in U.S.-Canadian relations and also on issues affecting the United States and Canada worldwide, a very, very productive relationship covering a wide, wide range of issues; and together, they believe -- Secretary Christopher believes that they established a closer bond between the United States and Canada.
Secretary Christopher welcomes the appointment of Lloyd Axworthy as the new Canadian Foreign Minister. We expect that he will be an articulate and knowledgeable representative of Canadian interests worldwide, and Secretary Christopher is looking forward to early contacts with him and, of course, an early meeting with him as soon as their schedules will permit that, and the closest possible working relationship with Foreign Minister Axworthy.
In addition, I'd like to let you know that Ambassador Robert Gallucci, Bob Gallucci, the Special Adviser to the President and Secretary Christopher for Implementation of the Bosnia Peace Settlement, will be traveling to Europe next week as part of our ongoing priority effort to implement the Dayton peace accords.
Ambassador Gallucci will travel to Brussels to represent the United States at the second meeting of the peace implementation conference steering board which has oversight over the international civilian effort to implement the Dayton Accords.
Ambassador Gallucci will then go on to Geneva for meetings with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Ogata, and his next stop after that will be to Vienna for discussions with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This will focus on implementing those aspects of the civilian accords pertaining to elections, to arms control and to human rights.
Ambassador Gallucci will be joining Secretary Christopher a week from today for the meetings that we will have in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia with leaders there. After the Secretary leaves the Balkans, Ambassador Gallucci will remain behind for a few days of additional work on these very important issues.
We also have available for you in the Press Office an official statement on the fact that we are welcoming the contribution of France to the peaceful resolution of the Eritrean and Yemeni conflict over the Hanish Islands, and that statement will be available to you all after this briefing.
Q Nick, we'd like to check on a report that this is a milestone birthday for you. Can you confirm that ON BACKGROUND?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I'm stunned, because this is not my birthday, so the report is false.
Q You've got better information again. But, if it were, we'd wish you a Happy Birthday! (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much. I'm approaching --
MR. BURNS: I am approaching a significant birthday. But I think the really important --
Q We can come back on Saturday to do this all over again. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: No, please don't do that. (Laughter) Saturday is not my birthday either. I would just like to say, Barry, that the really important birthday was yesterday for Robert Burns -- it was "Burns Day" yesterday, Scottish national poet -- and he is --
Q Wally (inaudible) birthday, too.
MR. BURNS: Wally (inaudible), too. Okay. Thank you for your (inaudible).
Q Then it's on hoped-for at least basis, we wish you a Happy Birthday. (Laughter) Oh, real questions? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Did you want a further comment?
Q Well, sure, the Wye thing really is -- the Wye thing is a bit perplexing, honestly, because --
MR. BURNS: Perplexing?
Q Yes, because we get very terse, mixed signals here, and I know it's our business to decipher them, but a little progress, incremental progress, then we're hearing they're good talks. I mean, for instance, if Peres wants this redoubled, who's he calling upon to redouble their efforts? I mean, Israel is half of the negotiations. Is this a way of saying -- do you interpret this to mean that the Syrians are not moving fast enough, or does he mean the Americans should redouble their efforts, or is he talking to himself? It's all very unclear.
MR. BURNS: I'm very sorry that you're all perplexed.
Q That's all right. We know who's involved in this stuff.
MR. BURNS: I'm very, very sorry that you're perplexed, because for us it's quite clear. These countries are dealing with issues that are vital to the national security -- the issues of security pertaining to the Golan Heights. It is no surprise to us that these negotiations, of course, will be time-consuming, and that they will be difficult; that gaps remain between the parties. No surprise at all.
And I take Prime Minister Peres' comments to Secretary this morning to mean that he believes that all of us involved in these negotiations should redouble our efforts to achieve a peace agreement this year. We believe that the parties want a peace agreement. We think it's certainly possible. So I wouldn't read anything else into those remarks.
Q What about the comments -- two sets of comments from the Syrian spokesman, al-Baath, which was very negative?
MR. BURNS: Is that the Syrian Foreign Ministry Spokesman is Mr. al-Baath? I didn't realize that. Is that right? I never met him on my trips to Damascus.
Q You read him all the time. And then from Yossie Beilin, who's also quite negative. How do you read this?
MR. BURNS: I think what's most important is what happens inside the negotiating rooms. I wouldn't pay too much attention to all of the conversation that you see, with all due respect, in the newspapers. What's most important is what happens inside the meeting rooms. What's most important is what happens when Secretary Christopher has his conversations with President Assad and Prime Minister Peres.
I can tell you, based on those conversations, the United States believes that it is extremely worthwhile to conduct these negotiations and to pursue them. But, look, none of us should be under the misapprehension that somehow peace is just around the corner; that Monday afternoon we're going to come out and announce a peace agreement. This is a very hard-fought and lengthy process, because they have been in a state of war, and they've had major, major differences since 1948.
These differences will not disappear overnight. We hope they may disappear and be resolved towards a comprehensive peace agreement, which we hope will be reached in 1996. But we're just going to have to keep our nose to the grindstone. We're going to have to work very hard and not build our expectations up too high that somehow these talks at Wye -- and Secretary Christopher mentioned this to you yesterday -- are going to produce immediately a peace agreement.
Q Nick, since you won't get into substance, can you give us a readout --
MR. BURNS: That was substantive. I thought that was substantive.
Q I won't argue with your definition of "substance," but can you give us a read on how the give-and-take factor is, whether the Syrian security officials were more forthcoming in their discussions than they were the last time they met with the Israelis?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to do that, Charlie, because I'm not there at the talks. Ambassador Ross is, and what we've agreed with all the parties is that we will not get into the details of these discussions or even try to characterize that level -- that tone of the discussions in that respect.
Q But isn't that important, though, as to whether any progress was made?
MR. BURNS: It's very important, but sometimes diplomacy, to be effective, needs to be conducted privately, and this is a very good example of that. But it's exceedingly important, certainly.
Q Nick, could I ask you a --
Q Can you -- without telling us the substance of any of the proposals, can you tell us if both sides came to the security talks with new proposals?
MR. BURNS: I'd rather not go into that. I'd rather just say that we felt that they were good discussions -- a good exchange of views. I mean, you have to understand -- and I know you do -- that the four individuals -- the four generals, Syrian and Israeli, who are meeting have not worked together before. They have to take some time to work -- to begin an agenda, to work through that agenda, but I don't want to really get into the details of what they discussed.
Q No, before the Secretary goes back, did each side present new proposals on security? I mean, the reason I'm asking is an obvious one. Those security talks broke down last summer over the problems that the Syrians had with the Israeli security proposals. Where do we stand now?
MR. BURNS: All the issues are being discussed, including the security issues, by both the security officials and the civilians present -- the heads of the delegation present. And that was at the express design of President Assad and Prime Minister Peres, so I expect the security issues will be discussed each day of these talks, including, of course, in the Secretary's upcoming visit to Damascus and Jerusalem.
Q Can I ask on another subject? I think it was Wednesday you said that the United States was looking -- this is in reference to KEDO -- you said that the United States was looking into Presidential authorization for the needed $22 million given the difficulties with Congress.
Yesterday, in Honolulu, Winston Lord said that the United States is doing something else, that it is soliciting funds from the Europeans, the Asians, and the Middle Easterners who get enough for the February shipment of fuel oil. Does that mean that the Presidential authorization was not possible and that you are now going to seek other contributions?
MR. BURNS: We're always seeking contributions from Europeans and others to support the activities of KEDO. I'm very glad to reaffirm to you what Assistant Secretary Lord mentioned in Honolulu.
However, the United States has an obligation to meet here and we intend to meet that obligation to transfer $22 million to KEDO to finance, in a large part, the heavy fuel oil shipments that we are obligated to do under the terms of the Agreed Framework.
If it's necessary, if Congress cannot act, if Congress cannot give us the authority to spend that money, then one possible option is for the President to use his 614 authority. We just haven't approached that yet, but it's still a remaining option. We have not taken that off the table.
Excuse me, Jim.
Q Financial considerations aside, are arrangements being made now to send the oil on credit, or whatever? Will the oil arrive in North Korea in February?
MR. BURNS: We will find a way to make sure that the oil is transferred. It's very important that the United States meet its obligations and that KEDO meet its obligations so that we can do what we said we would do, in terms of maintaining the North Korean nuclear freeze and maintaining all the terms of the Agreed Framework.
While we're on that subject, let me just summarize for you. I know that Assistant Secretary Lord has held a press conference for those of you have not seen the text of that. He did hold trilateral talks in Honolulu on North Korea. They concluded yesterday afternoon in Hawaii.
They were designed to be a comprehensive discussion of all the issues that the Republic of Korea, Japan, and the United States must deal with concerning North Korea.
In this context, the three delegation analyzed the current situation in North Korea. They confirmed once again the commitment of the three countries to make joint efforts to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula, to strengthen the groundwork for peaceful reunification of the two Koreas through improvement in the inter-Korean relationship.
They also agreed -- the three of them -- the two Vice Foreign Ministers and Winston Lord, to maintain close consultations to strengthen the trilateral process, and they would meet again within a few months to discuss all these issues.
They did discuss food assistance to North Korea because that is a question that the United Nations believes is a priority question these days. They agreed that it's important to have a clear understanding of the North Korean food situation. They exchanged views on our respective assessments of that situation.
There was a consensus among the three delegations that there is a food shortage in North Korea caused by some structural problems in the Korean economy -- the North Korean economy -- which have been exacerbated by the recent severe flooding in North Korea. While no decisions were made, the delegations agreed to discuss the implications of this issue further with our respective governments.
I think Assistant Secretary Lord was very clear the other day in Manila about the fact that the United States believes that if the United Nations views this to be a severe problem that requires the additional resources of the international community, then certainly the United States would do what it could to contribute to that effort.
Q Nick, you mentioned structural problems in the way North Korean -- are you referring to the fact that most of the food these days is being diverted to the military? Some of that might be better served --
MR. BURNS: Referring to the fact that communism is a failed ideology and has never provided a coherent framework for economic life anywhere in Asia or in Europe. It's failed, and the North Koreans ought to abandon it as the Russians have abandoned it.
Q Can you address the reports that most of the food that's available is being diverted to the military rather than --
MR. BURNS: We've seen those reports. We've seen those reports. I cannot confirm those reports for you independently, but we've seen them. Whatever combination of factors is causing this problem, there does appear to be a food shortage in North Korea.
The United Nations said on Wednesday that the international community had to do more. We have contributed $225,000 to U.N. funds and we are now open to U.N. calls for additional U.S. and other contributions.
Q There is a report out of London today that Saddem Hussein has Hodgkins Disease and that he is being treated by European specialists. Do you all have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: I've seen the report. I don't have a particular comment to make because we have no independent way to corroborate that report.
Q Have you heard from any other European or other countries that they are, in fact, treating him?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any reports to us by European countries that some of their nationals may be treating him. I'm simply not aware of any. I've never seen any reference of those reports.
Q Do you have any information about the results of the joint State Department-Justice Department group that returned from Brasilia regarding the Martin Pang extradition matter?
MR. BURNS: Of course, we're familiar here at the Department of State with the case of Martin Pang, the American citizen who has fled to Brazil. Of course, we want to do everything we can to help the citizens of the State of Washington deal with this case. We are quite well aware of the sensitivities and the strong feelings on this issue in the northwest.
I am not aware of any specific developments today, at least, that I can comment on. What I would like to do is maybe go back and see if we can develop some specific information for you.
Q Is there any indication as to whether there was anything concrete that came back in any form by way of a reaction from the Brazilian Government?
MR. BURNS: We knew, of course, since he was in Brazil, that the Brazilian judicial process had to make some decisions about his status. What I'd like to do is look into that and get a report from our people -- our embassies and consulates in Brazil -- so that we can give you a more detailed answer.
Q Nothing from the legal office here -- the representative of the legal office?
MR. BURNS: I have not heard anything from our Legal Advisor's Office here within the Department of State; no. We're certainly aware of the case and of the notoriety it's achieved, and we certainly want to do everything we can that is proper and appropriate in this case. Therefore, what I'd like to do is get some more specific information that we can make available to you as soon as we can.
Q Another topic. There is a wire report, Nick. My basic question -- one would be, can you confirm that Mr. Qadhafi, Libya's leader, has met with Louis Farrakhan? And, second, what's the reaction of this Department to the allegation that Qadhafi wants to spend a great deal of money lobbying minorities in the U.S. election?
MR. BURNS: I have a couple of thoughts on that. I know that Mike McCurry spoke to the second question this morning. It's a nutty idea. It's a naive idea to think that Muammar Qadhafi -- Muammar Qadhafi -- could have an impact on the U.S. elections, or that he should try to have an impact on the U.S. elections. It's a surreal idea.
The more important question is this: When people travel to Libya, if they're American citizens, like Mr. Farrakhan is an American citizen, they have an ethical obligation to raise the case of PanAm 103. Two hundred and seventy people died in December 1988 on that flight.
The families of those people who died are still waiting for the Libyan Government to turn over the two people who planted the bomb on board that plane. The United States Government has put out a $4 million offer to individuals who can tell us where these people are and who can help us bring these people to justice here in the United States.
So if Mr. Farrakhan believes it's important to travel to Libya for his own purposes, it's certainly important for him, as an American citizen, to represent the American families and the other families of the people who died there.
I was kind of surprised we didn't see more talk about PanAm 103 out of the conversations he had with Mr. Qadhafi.
Q You are confirming that he did meet with Mr. Qadhafi?
MR. BURNS: We understand that to be the case.
Q But, Nick, does that follow with Americans traveling abroad in other countries raising issues that are usually reserved for government-to-government negotiations? Do you encourage that on the part of other Americans in other countries?
MR. BURNS: It's certainly unusual for Americans to travel to Libya, first of all. The Treasury Department and the Justice Department, of course, have an obligation to ascertain the nature of that travel. That's one point.
If a prominent American travels to Libya to meet with a leader who we believe should be isolated by the international community, by civilized countries like the United States and others, then we think that there certainly is an obligation to represent American families who have lost fathers and brothers and sons and wives and daughters.
I happen to meet a woman from Coral Gables, Florida, the other night who lost her husband on that flight. She had three little kids at the time. So don't we owe her something to represent her cause and other people's cause?
Qadhafi is harboring two people -- two Libyan citizens -- who planted that bomb. Those people have to be brought to justice and we are not going to rest until they are brought to justice.
Q I understand what you're saying about the particular tragedy of PanAm 103. I guess what I'm asking is, if Minister Farrakhan travels to Burma -- or to Myanmar -- would you want him to talk about Khun Sa and drugs on behalf of the government and raise that?
MR. BURNS: I'm not saying that anyone has to speak on behalf of the government. If they're prominent they ought to speak on behalf of their fellow citizens. That's all I'm saying, Charlie. Private Americans don't need to carry the mantle on their shoulders of American foreign policy.
But here we have one of the most vicious terrorist attacks of the last 10 to 15 years. We have 270 families who are waiting for justice, and among them many American families. All of us have an obligation to bring those two Libyan criminals to justice.
None of us here in the U.S. Government believe that Qadhafi ought to be a person we have any conversations with because of the nature of his regime and the blood that's on his hands. That's all I'm suggesting today, that we not forget PanAm 103.
Q Frequently, when prominent Americans travel overseas to a place like Libya they'll talk to the State Department. Minister Farrakhan gave a speech here in the State Department just a couple of years ago, so his standing in the Department's eyes is obvious. Did you confer with him?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any conversations the State Department had with him before his travel.
Q How about a debriefing? Has he been invited to come over?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if any invitations have been made to debrief him. We'll just have to see what he would like to do when he comes back.
Q (Inaudible) the Treasury Department approve of him to travel?
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't say that. I just said that this question of what is permissible in terms of American citizen travel to Libya is certainly one of the issues the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Department of Justice are responsible for. They're responsible for determining whether people can and should travel to Libya.
Q You don't know whether he ran the traps on this?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what he did before his travel. I just think, as a citizen, that when prominent Americans talk to Muammar Qadhafi, who is a criminal, they ought to talk about PanAm 103, and I didn't see any talk about PanAm 103 in the public description of those events.
Anymore on this. You've been waiting. I'm sorry, sir.
Q According to the news reports from Taiwan today, China lodged a protest through diplomatic channels to the United States for the U.S. aircraft carrier, the Nimitz, cruising through the Taiwan Straits last December.
I wonder if you can verify if this report is true? Or would you enlighten us on the purpose of the cruise? Are we going to see more such cruises in the near future, and what is the purpose of the cruise?
MR. BURNS: I understand that the USS Nimitz did transit the Straits on December 19, 1995. This was a normal passage through international waters. I don't believe the Chinese Government has protested this passage to the United States.
Q Have you concluded that prior to Nimitz passing through, the U.S. Government had informed both Taipei and Beijing in this regard.
MR. BURNS: I think that's a question for the Defense Department. I'll be glad to look into it here in the State Department. But I think the details of the voyage of the USS Nimitz are really properly the preserve of the Defense Department. I'm just not aware that there are any diplomatic contacts. There may have been contacts through our military people in the area. I just don't know.
Q There was no protest from Beijing afterwards?
MR. BURNS: I understand this morning from our China experts here in the Department that they have not received a protest from the Chinese Government on this matter.
Q According to some experts in this regard, they say they would be surprised if this is the first time that a U.S. aircraft carrier passing their waters since 1979. Would that surprise you?
MR. BURNS: Actually, these were international waters. America is a Pacific power. We are a great naval power. We have warships that pass through international waters all the time in all parts of the world; nothing unusual about that.
Q So you don't think this is the first time?
MR. BURNS: The first time that --
Q That an aircraft carrier passing through the --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe so. I don't believe it's the first time, no.
Any further on China? Mr. Ershad.
Q Nick, on the Bangladesh political crisis, how do you think the U.S. Government now views that already 45 candidates of the ruling party -- BMP -- were declared unopposed before election, provoking further opposition to challenge the credibility of the election. Does the U.S. Government think that this election will be credible enough?
Number two: It is alleged by all the media, political parties, opposition parties, that the ruling party is using the army in protecting illegal powers and holding one-party elections. Therefore, they have called upon the government to send the army personnel back to the barracks. How does the U.S. Government view this? Should the army stay on the street, it will lead to violence and clashes between the people and the army. What is your view? Should the Bangladesh army intervene in case of continued violence and civil unrest? What will be the stand of the U.S. Government in this regard?
Q The United States regrets that the major political parties in Bangladesh apparently have not been able to arrive at a mutually agreed upon formula under which fully participatory elections can be held. The United States hopes that both sides in this dispute will continue to work for a long-term solution on the issues that clearly divide them.
A solution in our view would be a solution which preserves and strengthens the democratic institutions of Bangladesh, and I can assure you that Ambassador Merrill, our very fine Ambassador in Dhaka, is working very hard on this with all concerned.
We'll certainly try to encourage the efforts towards elections, and in the near term, before this question is fully resolved, we would encourage all parties to avoid violence, coercion, interference in the rights of the voters to cast their ballots peacefully for their chosen candidates. We believe that there should be the fullest possible observation and transparency of the election process.
Any other questions today?
Q One more, on Goldstone.
Q I'm just sitting over here.
Q Oh, come on.
Q I want to get other places.
Q I don't blame you.
MR. BURNS: He wants a different perspective.
Q On Goldstone, I think you said yesterday, Nick, that Judge Goldstone would be around town, and that he would be available. I know that he was expected down at C Street yesterday afternoon and was not available, and from what I understand, he remains unavailable. Have you been able to perhaps make him more available to us?
MR. BURNS: Justice Goldstone does want to be available to the American press corps. He was on "Night Line" last evening. He has had a request from several networks and newspapers for interviews, and I think he's conducting them.
The reason you didn't see him yesterday afternoon at C Street is because his meeting with John Shattuck went longer than we expected, and we felt it was more important to continue the meeting than to interrupt by coming down to C Street just to have a few words at the exit, with all due respect.
So he must have left the building at some point in the afternoon -- I was not with him -- and I guess you just missed him. But he is open to talking to the media.
Q Is he willing to do a brief with us?
MR. BURNS: I don't think he's planning coming here to the briefing room, but he told me he's fully available to the American press. I believe he leaves tomorrow.
Q Speaking of availability, could you steer Mr. Shattuck down here some day soon?
MR. BURNS: John Shattuck is also available to all of you who want to talk to him. If you'd like to have him come down here, we can certainly arrange that.
Q Nick, I thought of something. What can Dick Holbrooke do in two days in Cyprus that hasn't been done since whenever -- '74?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't underestimate Dick Holbrooke.
Q I wouldn't either.
MR. BURNS: I think he's one of our --
Q (Inaudible) to take on as a last assignment. It's one of the toughest problems as far as foreign policy that the U.S. has faced. What do you think might be accomplished by his --
MR. BURNS: I think Dick Holbrooke is one of our best diplomats. I think he's one of the best diplomats this country has produced. The fact is he thinks before he departs, that he can, in a visit to the region, in talking to the Greek and Turkish Cypriots, to the Greek Government and the Turkish Government, that he can try to help frame an agenda for peace negotiations that then Ambassador Beattie and Ambassador Williams and Ambassador Boucher and others can carry on after Dick's departure.
So we think it's useful, frankly, to use his negotiating skills and his presence to get this started, and he intends to do that before he leaves.
Q Is this a good time, to meet the Turkish and Greek Governments considering their problems -- different problems, of course -- but they have problems. Isn't this kind of a difficult time to start negotiations over Cyprus, or can he do enough with the communities on the island?
MR. BURNS: He certainly will need the cooperation of the Greek and Turkish Governments as well as the communities on the island - - both communities. The conflict has gone on for a long time now -- 22- odd years -- and we think it's important to get this started, Barry.
There have been many, many attempts, as you know, over the years to try to make a breakthrough for peace on Cyprus, and they've all been frustrated, and we think it's important to use his presence as Assistant Secretary to do this before he leaves.
There is a new Greek Prime Minister. We're looking forward very much to working with him, and we hope very much that the Turkish political situation will sort itself out very soon, so that the Turkish Government can also participate fully in these efforts.
Q Just one quick one. There was some confusion yesterday about Colombian visas. I want to make sure there's no change today. What's the current state of play with that?
MR. BURNS: The current state of play is that the United States has not revoked visas from any Colombian Government or military officials, and that I understand we have no plans to do so at the present time.
Q Nick, on visas, have you made a decision -- (laughter) --
MR. BURNS: I knew we weren't going to get away with any --
Q Have you made a decision on the visa request by Taiwan Vice President?
MR. BURNS: Vice President Li has told us that he does want to transit the United States on an American carrier en route to Port-au- Prince for Mr. Preval's inauguration, and we're looking at that very closely. We have just received the detailed information on this, so we need a little bit of time to study that information, and then I'm sure we'll make a very quick decision on this request.
Q An American aircraft carrier?
MR. BURNS: No, no. The Nimitz will not be transiting Miami. The Nimitz is in the -- an American carrier -- I'm sorry -- that would have been a great story. I'm sorry to disappoint you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:45 p.m.)
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