U.S. Department of State 96/02/27 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, February 27, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome Serb & Israeli Visitors to the Briefing ............1 HLWG (High Level Working Group) Plan for UN Activities .....1-2 IRAN/SYRIA US Reaction to Bilateral Meeting Between Iran and Syria ....2,3-5 MIDDLE EAST PEACE TALKS Dennis Ross Talks with Turkey on Water Rights ..............2-3 Dennis Ross Bilateral Meetings with Syrians, Israelis ......3 Indyk Remarks, US View of PLO Ability to Control Security ..12-14 MISCELLANEOUS Farrakhan Travels, Possible Passport Violation: -- INS Procedure re Passport Inspection ....................6-12 -- Privacy Act Provision re US Citizens' Passport Use ......6-12 CUBA Implementing President's Provisions Against Cuba ...........14-15 -- USInt Head Joe Sullivan's Return to US ..................14 -- Suspension of Air Charters To/From Cuba .................15 -- Administration Compromise on Helms-Burton Legislation ...15-16 Additional Information on Shootdown of US Civil Aircraft ...15,17 Potential Brothers to the Rescue Flight to Shootdown Area ..17-19 US Warnings re Dangers of Territorial Violations ...........18-20 Meeting with Cuban-American Community Reps .................18-19 UNSC Statement on Shootdown, ICAO Investigation ............20-21 SERBIA-MONTENEGRO Campaign to Restrict Press Freedom; Soros Foundation Ban ...21-24 US Role in International Financial Institution Contacts ....22-23 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA Equip and Train Linkage with Foreign Forces Departure ......25-26 GREECE/TURKEY Imia/Kardak: International Court (ICJ) Consideration ......26-28 SYRIA Government Involvement in Counterfeiting US Currency .......28-29 NORTH KOREA EU Funding for KEDO ........................................29
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1996, 1:06 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of quick announcements to make and then I can go to your questions.
First off, we've got a couple of different sets of visitors. We have Mr. Ishmail Dupljak -- if I've pronounced it correctly -- a Serbian journalist, who is here examining the American media and how the Yugoslav crisis has been covered in the print and broadcast media, sponsored by USIA Welcome. Glad you're here.
Also, l2 Israeli officials, who are participating in a communication workshop, sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the American Jewish Community. The goal of the program is to introduce Israeli diplomats and spokespeople to the American media with whom they will be dealing in the coming years. It's comprised of various kinds of officials; but I guess, in the main, diplomats who will be posted to Washington in the future. They're here with Gadi Baldinsky, who is the press guru of the Israeli Embassy, I think known to many of you. He helps us a great deal and helps you when we travel to Israel in making arrangements for those trips.
I want to also let you know that we're releasing an announcement today about U.S. proposals for U.N. reform. Just to note quickly that on February 22 the U.S. Government submitted a comprehensive set of proposals for United Nations reform for consideration by the U.N.'s open-ended High Level Working Group on strengthening the U.N. system.
The HLWG -- the High Level Working Group -- is expected to submit a U.N. reform plan at the end of the 50th General Assembly, at the beginning of the 51st General Assembly, next fall.
The U.S. proposals cover the full range of U.N. activities in the economic, social and related administrative areas. Copies of their report are also going to be given to all of the member nations of the United Nations.
Just to fill you in, the High Level Working Group on strengthening the U.N. system was formed last September in response to a recommendation made by President Clinton in his l994 speech to the 49th Session of the General Assembly. That announcement is available to you, if you wish it.
That is it for my announcements.
Q Not the biggest item of the day, but while we have a chance, can you or the State Department have any reflection on the strengthening of ties between Iran and Syria, particularly whether this will have any bearing on the terrorist groups you would like to see shut down in Lebanon?
MR. DAVIES: By the "strengthening of ties," were you referring to a meeting that --
Q By the senior Iranian officials and Damascus, and describing their relationship as the "cornerstone of the Middle East."
MR. DAVIES: Obviously, he's entitled to characterize that relationship any way he wishes. No. We've taken note of the fact that this meeting is occurring.
To our understanding, this meeting is part of a regular series of exchanges between the two governments at a fairly senior level. The meeting has just begun. I think it's going to go for about three days.
I don't have any particular comment on it. It's a meeting occurring in the context of their bilateral ties. I might take exception to the fact that their relations are the best they've ever been, but we'll see at the end of this what they have to say about their accomplishments and we'll decide whether we've got any particular comment to make at that time.
Q On a related question --
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
Q This is Syrian-related, while it may seem obtuse, do you know of any plans of Dennis Ross to go to Turkey to discuss water rights after this round of talks?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know of any such plans, no. He'll be tied up, as you know, starting tomorrow, and then on into March -- the first week of March. So I don't know if he's planning on going to Turkey, no.
Q On the Middle East --
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
Q -- can you say anything about the consultations that Dennis is having with the two sides?
MR. DAVIES: I can't yet give you any kind of detail on that. Of course, you've learned not to expect lashings of detail on these meetings at this stage because they're so preliminary to some extent and they're discussing the shape of the negotiations as they proceed.
I hope by tomorrow I'll be able to give you some detail on who is going to be going to the Wye River conference site and I might be able to say a little bit about the substance of the meetings, but right now I don't have anything for you.
Q Who has met with whom, or has anybody? Has Dennis had his usual preliminary meetings?
MR. DAVIES: My understanding was that he was going to have those usual preliminary and informal meetings with the delegations, that's right.
Q Do you know if that's happened yet?
MR. DAVIES: No, I can't confirm what meetings he's had and when he's had them. He's always had them in advance of these Wye meetings. I believe he will again and is doing so now, but I don't have any detail for you.
Q Well, you know, we need a little firmer information in order to write a story on this. The fact that Dennis sometimes wears blue shirts doesn't mean he's wearing a blue shirt today, is he?
MR. DAVIES: I'm happy to see if I can't find out a little more information for you. I'm surprised that you haven't dug into this yourselves, using your own sources; but, anyway, sure, great -- happy to look into it.
Q The timing of the meeting between the Syrians and the Iranians you don't find at all odd, coming as it does the day before and extending into the time after the talks will start?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have any particular comment on it. I don't know how long in advance this was set up, whether they decided to hold this meeting after we announced this round of the Wye River talks. So I just can't help on that.
Even if it is planned as something -- or timed for that purpose -- to sort of coincide with the Wye talks -- I'm not sure that there would be much significance in that.
Q (Inaudible) good to know if someone like Dennis, who we don't see that much, could split his mind and tell us if he thinks the Syrians could split their minds and, you know, work the Iranian side of the street, and at the same time be what the U.S. expects them to be -- and is operating on the assumption they are -- a willing partner in making the Middle East a more peaceful place?
I mean here you have the people you depend upon, and you put them on an equal footing with the Israelis and expect these two sides to come to terms, but Syria is doing other things on the foreign affairs front, and --
MR. DAVIES: Syria is --
Q I mean, is the thinking of Dennis Ross and Christopher, and people who make these decisions, that there are kind of two Syrias -- one that makes peace with Israel; and the other that has a nice, healthy relationship with Iran?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, Syria is capable --
Q You, yourself, consider Iran probably the primary problem in that part of the world.
MR. DAVIES: Yes. We --
Q You tried to organize a whole boycott.
MR. DAVIES: That's right. We have serious issues with Iran that we've been over publicly many, many times -- everything from their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, to their support for terrorism and their opposition to the peace process. There's no question about that.
We are not on friendly terms with the Government of Iran, quite the contrary, but we simply don't have any particular comment on what appear to be ministerial -- perhaps even sub-ministerial -- I'm not sure of the exact level of talks between the two governments at this time.
Syria has expressed to us a commitment to pursue the peace process in the Israel-Syria track, and we think they're serious about doing that. We hope very much the parties are able to achieve a peace agreement before the end of this year; but we're not going to start jumping through hoops every time the Syrians have bilateral meetings with other countries, even with countries such as Iran -- with which we've got serious difficulties.
Q Glyn, doesn't it suggest, at a minimum, though, that while it pursues peace talks with Israel, Syria is definitely keeping its options open?
MR. DAVIES: I'm just not going to comment on the motivations behind Syria's meeting with Iran at this time. You really have to put to them -- to the Government of Syria -- the question of what its intentions are in holding this meeting.
I don't know. I can't speak for the Government of Syria. I certainly can't speak for the Government of Iran, nor would I ever want to. So go to them for your comment, I think.
Q (Inaudible) talking about the peace process?
MR. DAVIES: I haven't seen a copy of the agenda. I don't know what they'll be talking about. I honestly don't.
I assume they'll talk about current events, and what is one of the big issues on the table these days but the peace talks, but I can't speculate either on what they'll talk about or what conclusions they'll reach.
We'll see if they issue some kind of a statement or make themselves available afterwards. Perhaps there will be something to react to. But I can't say that at this stage.
Q Then you won't be seeking or asking the Syrian Government what went on in the meeting, what they were talking to the Iranians about?
MR. DAVIES: Sid, we exchange views with them on all kinds of things, and it may be that we'll ask them about this. I just don't know at this stage.
Q Speaking of Iran, Farrakhan, it seems, was not actually checked out when he came in last week; and the INS said it did not have a specific request from the State Department to even examine his passport. So I'm wondering whether you can confirm that?
And, secondly, is the State Department doing anything to follow up? Have you sent him a letter asking him for details of what he did?
MR. DAVIES: A couple of points, Roy.
First, the INS doesn't need instructions from the State Department to do its job of manning ports of entry, examining U.S. passports. So you shouldn't come away with the notion that somehow there's this mechanical procedure by which the State Department requests or notifies the INS to take a look at a particular person's passport.
Second of all, because of the Privacy Act, I cannot get into a discussion of actions taken with regard to any individual's use of a United States passport, so I can't discuss whether or not letters have gone to Minister Farrakhan or not from this building or the Treasury Department or the Justice Department.
Q But at least you're saying, I think you're saying -- you're telling us what the procedure is. And are you telling us that it applied in this case? The State Department did not ask the passport people to examine Farrakhan's passports for stickers from Libya and Iraq, correct?
MR. DAVIES: I'm saying two things: One is that that's not something that is necessarily required.
Secondly, if we did or didn't, I could not discuss it because of the provisions of the Privacy Act which enjoin us from discussing individual cases of American citizens and their use of a U.S. passport in travel overseas.
Q The Privacy Act didn't stop the Spokesman last week, I think it was, from saying at great length, after delivering a diatribe against Mr. Farrakhan, that his passport would be examined -- in fact, confirmation that he gave an itinerary, saying that he didn't tell the U.S. Government -- I think he was obliged to -- where he was going, and saying that his passport would be examined when he came in for the stamps, and if they didn't bear those stamps this would be referred to authorities for this -- whatever the vague, ambiguous phrase was used; for whatever action might be indicated, or something of that sort.
And that's where the State Department left us.
MR. DAVIES: Barry, what Nick said was based on our understanding of procedure -- INS procedure -- at U.S. ports of entry. If the INS did or didn't examine his passport, it's up to them to say that.
I'm just not going to get into details about our ongoing consultations with the Department of Justice and the Department of Treasury on other aspects of this on this matter or, indeed, any other, since we can't because of Privacy Act restrictions.
Q The one problem is that we all came away with, in a strong impression last week, that the passport would be searched because -- this may be a matter of the Privacy Act, but the man acted completely in public with a party of 30 people and demonstrably in public and your response was a public response.
Now, when it didn't happen -- and the INS said that the reason it didn't happen is that the State Department didn't request this specific search because they say their job is to make sure if a citizen returns that he's a genuine citizen not to investigate a passport for foreign stamps unless requested.
So I mean we're stuck here having expected something based on what you said, anticipating something, and then it didn't happen.
MR. DAVIES: Yeah.
Q Now, I mean you've given no explanation except ducking behind the Privacy Act.
MR. DAVIES: And the podium. (Laughter) Early and often.
The point is that the INS and the Custom Service and others whose job is to staff ports of entry have procedures for inspection of documents at those ports of entry. It's up to them to explain the procedures that they follow.
They've had something to say about Minister Farrakhan; we take note of that. Our understanding was that at ports of entry the Immigration Service routinely examines U.S. passports. We juxtapose that with U.S. law, which in this case is l8 U.S. Code l544, which states that without the necessary passport validation U.S. citizens who are found to use a U.S. passport to one of the three proscribed countries -- Libya, Lebanon, or Iraq -- are subject to possible prosecution by the Department of Justice.
That's where we stand on the matter. What I can't get into is whatever follow-up is occurring now by the United States Government on this matter or, indeed, on any other matter pertaining to the use of a U.S. citizen of his or her passport.
Q Without the Privacy Act as a problem, can you say that the State Department did not ask for his passport being checked?
MR. DAVIES: I really can't take you any further than I already have. We stay in touch with the Custom Service, with the Immigration Service, on matters concerning U.S. passports and U.S. visas. It's not the Department of State's responsibility to inspect passports at ports of entry. It's the Immigration Service's responsibility.
I recognize that what I'm painting a picture of here is a little bit of a Catch 22, but that's sort of the way things are structured. That then leads me to reiterate that I can't get into what is being done or not being done with regard to Mr. Farrakhan's use of a U.S. passport.
Q On the same issue.
MR. DAVIES: Same issue?
Q You bet. So, basically, you're not even able to say if there was an inspection of Mr. Farrakhan's passport or --
MR. DAVIES: I'm not with the Immigration Service. That's a question --
Q You can't even say if the State Department requested the Immigration Service to look at the passport?
MR. DAVIES: What I can't do is give you details about coordination between government agencies on investigations involving the use of U.S. passports by U.S. citizens overseas. The Privacy Act says, "Can't go there," so I can't go there.
Q (Inaudible) the State Department now, is it within the authority of the State Department as issuer of that passport to ask Mr. Farrakhan to surrender it for inspection to the State Department? And will you all carry on with what you said last week you were going to do when you came in --
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if it's something that (a) we've got the power to do, or (b) we're in the business of doing, which may be, in fact, related matters here. I can perhaps look into whether it's possible to say anything about that. I doubt it because we can't say anything about what work may be underway within the United States Government, either in this building or elsewhere, following up on a matter pertaining the use of a U.S. passport by a U. S. citizen.
Q We are trying to split it and you know what we're trying to do and you keep putting it together, so it's kind of a dead-end. We hear what you're saying about you can't tell us what might have happened had his passport been looked at.
We're asking you, which seems far more reasonable, for having -- you folks made such a big to-do about his travels, whether you alerted the proper authorities to see, indeed, if the passport was used in a way it shouldn't have been used? You're saying you can't do that -- it's not normally done and you can't say whether you did it in this case.
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to say -- I can't say whether we coordinated with the INS in advance of his return on this matter. I can't get into that.
Q Well, the INS has told us. Apparently, the State Department did go to the Customs Agency and asked them to do a search; they did not go to the INS, which is kind of peculiar.
In other words, the State Department seemed to have done this almost deliberately. It sounded like trying to avoid the very thing that you said you wanted to do. This is what is so confusing about it.
There's a case here of a possible violation of law, by your own definition, but the State Department did not do the obvious thing in ensuring that was prosecuted or even detected if it was true.
Q Roy, I'm not going to say whether the State Department did or didn't do the obvious thing. We did the correct thing in handling this matter. I can't outline for you what steps were or weren't taken in this case. I haven't seen anything to indicate that Customs -- that we approached Customs and we didn't approach INS. I've only seen press reports to that.
Q We, in the press, call up their spokesmen and ask them to tell us what's going on. In the case of Customs, they came back and they said, "Yes, we had a request from the State Department and we will carry it out." In the case of the INS, they said, "We have not had a formal request from the State Department." Afterwards, they indicated very strongly they had not searched his passport. They said it was not their job.
So, in other words, we're left here with the State Department saying one thing but apparently doing something else.
MR. DAVIES: I wouldn't judge or prejudge what the State Department is or isn't doing right now on this matter. If there's been a violation of law and that can be established, there are procedures that are followed. I can't discuss this individual case.
Judd, go ahead.
Q How would you know if there had been a violation of the law if you haven't asked the other agencies to check?
MR. DAVIES: We consult with the INS and the Customs Service very closely.
Q At what point does the Privacy Act stop working? If someone has his passport lifted and then is subject to criminal penalties, that's a matter of public record, isn't it?
MR. DAVIES: That, I don't know. I really don't know. That would be logical. I'm not an expert on the Privacy Act. I could look into that, perhaps, for you.
Q Not all the questions surrounding Farrakhan's trip revolve around his use of a passport. From what you're saying, you can't discuss, because of the Privacy Act-- which Nick Burns did discuss in considerable detail last week -- the fact that he didn't request permission.
MR. DAVIES: Nick's comments last week were essentially centered on reacting to remarks that Minister Farrakhan made on his travels. Nick did have something to say about what we understood would be procedure at the port of entry. He didn't get into whether or not we had made specific requests of various services at ports of entry because he couldn't.
Q What I want to ask is, in your view, did Mr. Farrakhan violate any laws? Because not all the ones that Mr. King is talking about that he violated, not all have to do with the use of a passport. Some have to do with taking perhaps a billion dollars from Qadhafi. Does any of this violate U.S. laws from what you know? This is public discussion. Not all of this revolves --
MR. DAVIES: I'm not in a position to say right now because there's been no decision made in this case. While this matter is under review, I'm not able to make any comment on it. So I'm not going to sit up here and say that he violated this law or he violated that law.
Q Is it under review, then?
MR. DAVIES: He violated people's sensibilities by saying what he said in Tripoli. That's really what Nick was going to when he made his remarks.
Q Is this under review, then? Is this now being -- you said, "I can't say -- not in a position to say while it's under review."
MR. DAVIES: What I know about the Treasury end of it, I think they had something to say last week about having sent a communication to Minister Farrakhan. I think there are steps being taken.
What I can't do for you is detail what steps are being taken with any precision; in any detail, what various government agencies are saying to each other about this.
Sure, there were some things that Minister Farrakhan did that sort of on the face of them raised questions. The U.S. Government is obviously doing what you would expect in this case and looking into some of these things. Treasury has already had something to say about its end of it, but I'm not in a position now to say, "He broke this law, he broke that law." We're just not there yet, if we're ever going to be there.
Q This 18 U.S. Code, what's against the law -- the use of the passport or physically being in those countries?
MR. DAVIES: The use of the passport, it's my understanding.
Q In those countries.
MR. DAVIES: That's right.
Q To get into those countries.
MR. DAVIES: That's correct.
Q But his physical presence there is not against any law?
MR. DAVIES: Not strictly speaking. I don't have 18 U.S. Code 1544 in front of me. But what it says, as boiled down from my use with you, is that U.S. citizens who are found to use a U.S. passport in traveling to one of these three countries are subject to possible prosecution by the Department of Justice.
MR. DAVIES: Right. They would need the validation; that's correct.
Q If he spends any money in those three countries, is that against the law?
MR. DAVIES: There are regulations that pertain to what are termed "financial transactions" in those countries; that's correct. That's Treasury. And is accepting a figure with a lot of zeros after it against the law, I don't know. You've got to ask the Treasury Department that question.
Q Have the folks upstairs or anybody else had a chance to -- because you hadn't yesterday; it was too close to the briefing -- to look at Ambassador Indyk's remarks about the capability of the PLO in this sniffing out terrorist plots and telling us, if you wish elaborate, on what you said yesterday about what I think you called the PLO's "growing capability" which implies it's not adult size yet?
MR. DAVIES: We're all growing. We're all improving day to day. The PLO is --
Q Some start at a higher level than others --
MR. DAVIES: That's true. The Palestinian Authority -- sort of give them a break on one level. They're very new at this, at running a government.
Ambassador Indyk, it's my understanding, was speaking at forum where it wasn't made plain to him ahead of time that there were journalists were present or that his remarks were going to be --
Q He was speaking on Israel radio?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry.
Q I think.
MR. DAVIES: Was he?
Q I think. I wasn't there. I believe --
MR. DAVIES: You can tell --
Q He had spoken to the Foreign Minister and then -- as far as I understand, the Israeli Foreign Minister and then was quoted by Israel Radio. Obviously, we were not there.
MR. DAVIES: I think it was with some kind of a private group. In any event, I stand by what I said yesterday. I would note that the Palestinian Authority has, I think, moved out in a fairly muscular way in the last 24 hours or so to pick up some people in an effort to get at this problem.
I don't have any particular comment on what Martin Indyk said or reaction to it. I can only say what the position of the U.S. Government is on the efforts being made by the Palestinian Authority today.
Q Well, spring has come and you can sense it in the air. Pitchers and catchers have arrived already, and we're getting to the point where Israel and the PLO are to begin what is called the "final phase" of their negotiations.
Would the United States, as things stand now, encourage the Israeli Government to depend on the Palestinian Authority to look after the security of the Israelis who live on the West Bank and in Gaza and, in fact, to look after deterring plots against people who live within what you evidently consider a legitimate Israel?
MR. DAVIES: Barry, I'm not going to give any advice to Israel.
Q (Inaudible). You take the bows when they reach agreements. You have celebrations on the White House lawn.
MR. DAVIES: We provide venues.
Q More than that.
MR. DAVIES: We provide advice. We obviously try to lead people in directions that we think are helpful. But at the end of the day it's up to them to decide whether or not they shake that hand on the South Lawn or sign that piece of paper.
Q Is it up to them to decide whether they should put their faith in the PLO so far as security is concerned?
MR. DAVIES: It's up to Israel to make arrangements that it deems appropriate to guarantee its own security. We believe strongly that Israel has many legitimate security concerns. Israel's security is very important to us, and we share in the effort to do everything possible to guarantee Israel's security. But we are not Israel. Israel is Israel and they have to make decisions about whether or not they will agree with certain provisions of the Palestinian Authority's actions. That's up to Israel. That's not something we're in the business of doing.
Q Different subject?
MR. DAVIES: Yes.
Q What is the State Department doing to implement decisions that the President made yesterday on further restrictions against Cuba?
MR. DAVIES: What we're doing is, obviously, working in consultation with other government Departments to flesh out some of those announcements that were made.
For instance, on the issue of talking with the Hill about the Helms-Burton legislation, several senior members of the State Department are right now up on the Hill talking with members of Congress and their staffs about that. Wendy Sherman is up there. Peter Tarnoff is very much engaged, the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, in working this issue as well, with the Congress.
But these provisions were announced just yesterday. It's a little early to be able to provide a lot of detail about them.
Q When is Joe Sullivan coming out of Havana?
MR. DAVIES: Having been recalled?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know, but we can check that. We can find out.
Q Do you know if the "no charter" rule applies to press charters as well, and when these restrictions will actually go into effect?
MR. DAVIES: That's another detail that I just don't have. All I know is that the President yesterday announced that air charters would be suspended. I don't know if there are exceptions to that.
My understanding is that it's a fairly broad kind of directive. So my guess is that it probably means all charters, but we can try to find that out for you.
Q If the United States is so convinced of its analysis of the flight of these planes, why don't you just release the radar reports?
MR. DAVIES: I would stay tuned today. There may be more that's released. I wanted, for instance, yesterday -- we had this map that hadn't quite reached me and I was going to a little dog-and-pony but couldn't do it because the map hadn't arrived.
Not here in this building but others, perhaps up in New York, will be releasing some more concrete evidence/information about that incident. Give us a little bit of time.
Q Helms-Burton, what is State talking to the Hill about precisely? What do you want to see what would be an acceptable compromise on Helms-Burton?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to say what would be an acceptable compromise because we first have to discuss -- to engage with the Hill on this and try to see where there may be room to work something out.
Q What are you trying to --
MR. DAVIES: That is probably a variable kind of thing. I'm not going to signal ahead of time what it is we would want to have changed about that legislation. We've had a lot to say in the past about provisions of Helms-Burton in its prior forms that we have problems with.
I'm not prepared today to kind of review for you the whole history of the legislation and the objections we've raised. But we have in the past had objections to the legislation. I assume that will be in the mix here.
Q Are they legal -- are the objections -- do you have some questions about the legalities of some of the things that Burton and Helms and other people are trying to do -- seizure?
MR. DAVIES: Certainly, in its earlier forms there were some questions about the impact of the legislation on international law and our understanding of it, but I don't have chapter and verse for you.
Q The House-passed version; is that what we're talking about?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not sufficiently sighted on this to help you.
The point is, we're now engaged right now with Hill leaders and the people who sponsored this legislation. We're discussing what we would like to see, what they would like to see -- to see where there might be common ground in hopes that we can come up with some legislation at the end of the day that tightens the embargo on Cuba but that preserves those elements of U.S. policy toward Cuba that are in the people-to- people realm and help American citizens who are of Cuban descent to want to, for instance, travel to Cuba to visit relatives in emergency situations. That sort of thing.
Q (Inaudible) embargo which is pretty tight without adopting those things in Helms-Burton that the Department objects to.
MR. DAVIES: We'll just have to see. We'll have to see what we're able to accomplish.
Q (Multiple questions)
Q There isn't much --
MR. DAVIES: We'll just have to see. We will try to --
Q It's the third country aspect of it that's objectionable?
MR. DAVIES: That's right. In the legislation, there have been concerns about the third country aspects of it, the so-called extraterritorial provisions. That will be in the mix. I'm just not going to get into detail on it.
Q Can we back up, though, a little bit on your helpful notice to us that there may be more material released today? Does that change in a substantive way the picture that the President had when he decided on the measures he decided on?
MR. DAVIES: No.
Q It's basically the same, because he made a measured judgment --
MR. DAVIES: That's my understanding.
Q -- that he would do this and not that?
MR. DAVIES: That's my understanding.
Q On that point, the Cubans say that they have material evidence that the planes were downed in their waters or over their waters. I guess they mean debris that they're going to display.
Has the U.S. search effort turned up material evidence to the contrary? In other words, to back up the President's claim that the aircraft were downed over international waters?
MR. DAVIES: A couple of probably obvious points. One is that just on the narrow issue of debris and whether we found it or not, I don't have anything on that. The people engaged in the search-and-rescue in uniform can perhaps speak to that. Even if the Cubans were produce debris, so what. You an get debris 18 nautical miles beyond their Cuban territorial waters and bring it -- that doesn't matter.
What matters here to us and what we've been underscoring, as we've described publicly our actions, is that Cuba acted as an outlaw nation in shooting down those two unarmed aircraft. Regardless of where the aircraft were, regardless of whatever the Cubans might say or whatever evidence that they might have, the point is they shot down a couple of single-engine aircraft that did not have any aggressive intentions and they knew that. Stay tuned today for more evidence of precisely what happened.
Q One explanation might be that they were shot over international waters but they crashed in territorial waters. Do you know whether that's the case?
MR. DAVIES: The tape I saw on CNN is what I have to go on. It looked to me like an air-to-air missile fired by a MiG 29 pretty much did those planes in. I don't think there was a whole lot of drift, or they could have possibly gone even three or four nautical miles.
Q The "Brothers to the Rescue" organization is saying in Miami today that they are going to fly this Saturday to the area where these planes were shot down in order to drop flowers. Does the State Department think this is a good idea? How would we feel about this?
MR. DAVIES: I've only just seen that report. I don't really have any lengthy or considered reaction to it.
Yesterday, I talked about the warnings that the State Department had put out both publicly and privately to the members of that group.
What we've said a number of times over the last eight months is that flying into Cuban territorial waters or over Cuban territorial waters is a dangerous proposition.
Q You just said that these planes weren't over Cuban territorial waters.
MR. DAVIES: They weren't; that's correct.
Q Presumably, these planes would be flying to the area outside of Cuban territorial waters --
MR. DAVIES: We're dealing here, clearly, with a regime that doesn't really give much of a damn about whether planes are within their territorial air space; it doesn't give a damn about the Chicago Convention which it is a party to that regulates how one intercepts civilian aircraft.
What they did was beyond the understanding of civilized people and civilized nations. That should obviously give pause to people who would be flying down in that area. I don't have a particular message to give to that group.
Q Is the State Department going to meet with "Brothers to the Rescue" and repeat the warnings over this past summer and fall?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if we intend on having specific meetings over the next couple of days. I know that Mr. Basulto and other Cuban- Americans were in the State Department building last night. They had a very long meeting to go over this matter and what happened, and to talk about the President's initiatives that have been announced.
But as for future meetings, I just don't know that anything is planned, especially since this announcement was just made. I just got it on the way out here.
Q Given the history here, given the warnings that State and other agencies have given to "Brothers to the Rescue" and given what the Cubans themselves have said, are "Brothers to the Rescue" being provocative here?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to get into whether "Brothers to the Rescue" are being provocative. That's a judgment that people can make based on the facts that are known.
"Brothers to the Rescue's" stated intention in engaging in this activity was to go out and search for Cuban rafters -- Cubans leaving their nation by boat -- in order to help direct search-and-rescue efforts to those people..
The planes that were shot down were not anywhere near Cuba. They weren't in Cuban air space. The act of shooting them down was an act of international outlawry. I don't think there's any question about that.
Q Did the State Department last night repeat its warnings to the "Brothers" when Mr. Basulto came in?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have a readout of that meeting. I think that meeting was more to talk about the President's measures. It was a large meeting. I understand there was some 25 or so Cuban-Americans who attended it. I think it was a meeting at which any number of people kind of had their say. I don't know to what extent they got into specific issues of the safety of continuing their activities.
Q Regarding the Bradley-Graham article today in the Post and what Betsy has brought up, what we've been discussing, would it be wise either to ground or ask the "Brothers" to restrain themselves from going close to the Cuban coast, close to their air space? And could not U.S. military aircraft become involved in protecting or preventing an incident with the Cuban MiGs?
MR. DAVIES: We've been very specific, repetitively specific in the past, about the dangers of engaging in this kind of activity. I don't think there's any secret about that.
For instance, I've got here a release from this building dated August 29 of last year -- one of many over the last eight months -- that says that even though we recognize the right of peaceful protest against the Castro regime, we've advised the organizers of a protest that was then planned that was similar to this, that if persons enter Cuban territorial seas or air space without authorization from the Cuban Government, they may be subject to arrest or other enforcement action by Cuban authorities for violation of Cuban law.
What the Cuban Government did the other day was, they responded to the "Brothers" activities in a manner that's completely inconsistent with the international community's standards for behavior in intercepting civil aircraft. That's what makes this incident so heinous, so really contemptible on the part of the Cuban Government.
Q Let me follow just a second, briefly. Wouldn't it be wise to have a cooling-off period where aircraft in the U.S. would not fly into that dangerous area around the --
MR. DAVIES: U.S. aircraft aren't supposed to be going in Cuban territorial air space without the permission of the Cuban Government.
In the case of Mr. Basulto, I think the FAA has had something to say about proceedings now underway against him that relate to some of these earlier flights that have been made by "Brothers to the Rescue."
The U.S. Government has known that this is dangerous activity; has warned both this group and others who might be contemplating engaging in this. But none of this excuses the Cubans' behavior of the weekend. That was, I think, where the focus ought to be. People ought to condemn and condemn it unequivocally.
Q The United Nations Security Council did deplore it, or strongly deplored it.
MR. DAVIES: Right.
Q In line with what you've been saying about international outlaws and heinous activities, is the United States Government disappointed that the Security Council didn't take further action in just denouncing it?
MR. DAVIES: My understanding is there may be further meetings of the Security Council. We're very pleased with the statement that was made by the U.N. Security Council.
Q Are you going to continue pushing the possibility of international sanctions?
MR. DAVIES: It's our general plan to continue to make the case to other nations that what Cuba did was beyond the pale and that other nations should join us in condemning the action. But we're pleased with the action that was taken by the U.N. Security Council, under Madeleine Albright's leadership, that resulted early this morning in a Security Council resolution condemning Cuba.
The International Civil Aviation Organization, which is a U.N. agency, will be engaged in investigating the incident, and we hope condemning it themselves.
The Cubans ought to apologize for what they've done. They ought to provide compensation to the victims. They ought to issue very clear statements that they won't engage in this type of activity in the future.
Cuba has got a lot to answer for. We look to them to provide some answers.
Q New subject, Glyn?
MR. DAVIES: I'm going to go here, first. Mark.
Q Does the United States plan to protest, or has it already protested the Serbian Government's crackdown against media and civic groups that are sponsored by the Soros Foundation?
MR. DAVIES: We've made clear to the Bosnian Government that --
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, the Serbian Government. Thank you very much. -- that we're not at all happy with the closure that was just announced the other day of the Soros Foundation offices. We would note that this follows by just a matter of a few days their closure of Studio B in Belgrade. So there appears to be, if you will, kind of a campaign underway to restrict freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Our hope is that the Soros Foundation will be able to continue its work in some form in the future. What we know, of course, is that it was the Serbian Supreme Court which on the 23rd upheld a decision from last year by the Serbian Ministry of Culture that revoked the registration of the Soros Foundation and banned Soros from engaging in any activities in the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
The Soros Foundation has been doing good work in trying to promote the development of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Their office has been open since 1991. They've been heavily criticized by the regime in Belgrade.
Last year, the Ministry of Culture moved against the Foundation. As a result of their actions, we have this announcement of the 23rd that they are to close down.
We condemn what we view as unjustified action on the part of Serb authorities against the Soros Foundation. We would simply note that this action, combined with the takeover of independent broadcaster Studio B just recently, appears to be part of an orchestrated campaign by Milosevic and his ruling party to hamper opposition parties in advance of the elections that are coming up this year.
We've told the government in Belgrade all of this, and they know that we're not pleased with the actions they've taken.
Q Are you going to do anything to fulfill the breach that will be left by the removal of the Soros Foundation, assuming this is carried out?
MR. DAVIES: We would hope, first, Roy, that Soros would be able to remain and continue its work and that this is not the end of the story with the Soros Foundation.
We've approached the Government of the former Yugoslavia and urged them to allow the Foundation to continue its work unhindered. So we'll have to see if the government in Belgrade comes around and allows Soros to reopen, which they should.
Q Do you have any reason to think they will? This is an action that started with the government. It's been carried out by their Supreme Court. What would lead you to believe that they're now about to reverse course?
MR. DAVIES: We hope simply that the government in Belgrade listens to us and listens to others who believe strongly that the work of the Soros Foundation ought to continue -- and that they either reverse themselves on this -- or perhaps there's another way that can be found for Soros to continue its work. But I don't know technically how that might be worked out.
Q Would this have any effect on American willingness to allow Serbia to re-establish contact with international financial institutions?
MR. DAVIES: It's certainly the case.
Q The outer wall --
MR. DAVIES: Sure, the outer wall -- the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the government in Belgrade, will have to -- the outer wall is fairly tall here and they'll have to get over it on this matter as well many others. They've signed up. Dayton, I think, has language that commits the parties to certain standards of human rights and maybe even something that goes specifically to this issue of freedom of the press. I'm not certain about that.
But we will absolutely look at this action in terms of that outer wall of sanctions that remains.
Q But you don't have to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to this in order to purchase Milosevic's compliance with Dayton?
MR. DAVIES: That's a loaded question, Mark; a really loaded question. No, there is going to be no purchasing of Milosevic's ear or his eyes or his mouth or anything else.
Milosevic signed the Dayton Accords. There are quite a few requirements in there, among which are requirements that pertain to observance of certain standards of human rights, and we're going to hold them to it. We're not going to turn a blind eye to these types of activities.
Q But is there any kind of fallback being discussed in the building should Soros be forced to pull out? The entire independent media, in a sense, collapses with it. It certainly would not be in the framework of goals of U.S. policy, would it?
MR. DAVIES: Roy, I can add another category of things that we would never discuss and that is "fallbacks." Seriously, though, I'm not going to get into speculating about the range of options or positions that we see on this.
Our position on Bosnia and on the signatories to the Dayton Agreement is very clear. We've spoken about it many, many times in public.
Q But this is not technically even part of the Dayton Agreement. I don't see where the two fit together, frankly. This is internal Serbian affairs.
MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I'd have to haul out my copy of the Dayton Agreement to see whether there isn't some connection here. I think there might be.
The point is that we're concerned about what appears to be a campaign on the part of the government in Belgrade to gain political advantage by silencing certain independent groups, and opposition groups. This is obviously an important development, a negative development that we're concerned about.
Q How concerned are you that a lot of this has happened subsequent to the visit by Secretary Christopher in which he sought, and supposedly received, assurances from Milosevic that this is exactly would not happen?
MR. DAVIES: I think President Milosevic has to understand he's not operating in a vacuum when he makes these kinds of decision, and that the world is watching; certainly, the United States is watching.
When we see actions taken that we believe are not on, we're going to say so. We're going to point them out and condemn them. We've condemned this action on the part of the Belgrade Government.
Q Is there any consultation with European allies and others who are concerned about the state and fate of democracy in Serbia to make sure that these independent media do not collapse in the near term?
MR. DAVIES: Are there any discussions underway?
Q Yeah. It sounds like you're just taking this as a routine event without any sense of urgency?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think that we're taking this as a routine event at all. We've condemned it. We've gone to the government and said to them that this was wrong and that we believe the Soros Foundation ought to be allowed to continue its work there. So I don't agree. We're not taking this in stride or looking past it or sweeping it under the rug.
We're very, very concerned. We've told the Belgrade Government of our concern and we expect them to allow Soros to continue to operate there.
Q Wouldn't it have been helpful, Glyn, on the Secretary's visit had he gone out of his way to meet with independent groups that are affiliated with Soros? I understand that he didn't.
MR. DAVIES: The Secretary had a packed schedule in his visit to the Balkans. He accomplished a great deal. It's always nice to, in hindsight, say, "Gee, he should have talked to this group or that group." In point of fact, the man was going 18 hours a day, as he always does, and had to set priorities. We're not going to make any apologies for his not having seen that foundation or any other group.
MR. DAVIES: Bosnia.
Q Following up on yesterday's discussion of training the Bosnian military, Bosnian generals who are touring U.S. military bases now will apparently be meeting with some of the prospective contractors at the end of the week who will be undertaking the training of the Bosnian army --
MR. DAVIES: Right.
Q -- and may even be letting a contract at the end of the week, we were told last night.
In view of that, what's to prevent them -- these contractors -- from beginning the training ahead of your requirements that all foreign fighters be out of Bosnia?
MR. DAVIES: They won't be.
Q What if a contract is let this weekend? What if they designate the contract?
MR. DAVIES: U.S. policy is that train and equip is not to begin until foreign fighters are out of Bosnia.
Q Can you reasonably have that assurance? Can you physically prevent one of these firms --
MR. DAVIES: It simply hasn't --
Q -- from going in there?
MR. DAVIES: Judd, it hasn't come to that yet, and --
Q You know, this could potentially happen this weekend when the foreign fighters are not out.
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that actual training can necessarily begin this weekend. I'm just not sure about that. But our position is clear on that.
Q Yes, but the contract might be let this weekend.
MR. DAVIES: Regardless of whether the contract is let, train and equip is not going to begin until foreign fighters are out. That's a clear position. The government in Bosnia knows that; and every day that goes by here and the fighters aren't out, they compound the problem. And it's their problem.
Q Well, my question is that you're making this government -- the State Department has made a big point that this is going to be a private firm. Can you physically prevent a private firm from doing this?
MR. DAVIES: I don't even see that as being an issue at this stage -- whether we're going to have to physically prevent a private firm from --
MR. DAVIES: I'll be happy to -- since I won't be briefing. (Laughter)
Q The Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Constantine Simitis, stated on February 23, in Paris, regarding the Imia issue: "Our position is that the case should be submitted to the International Court at The Hague," and a Greek spokesman clarified, "If Turkey goes to the International Court, Greece will not observe it because Greece considers that this is a legal problem which has to be settled under international law."
Since it's obvious that these statements are in response to your proposal -- ideas or suggestions, whatever it is -- could you please comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think that those suggestions have been conveyed to us directly. Our position on Imia-Kardak is one that we've gone over repeatedly, and it's a matter to be worked out between Greece and Turkey -- to be worked out peacefully -- and we've made our suggestions to both of the governments concerned.
I don't think we need to get into reacting to every statement that's made or reported.
Q Your proposal, expressed also by President Clinton on February 11, reads as follows: "The issue of ownership of Imia should be addressed to the International Court of Justice." Taking also -- Mr. Davies -- into consideration that since February 1st, the U.S. Government does not recognize Greek sovereignty over Imia Island.
I'm wondering if the statements are still right.
MR. DAVIES: We stand by all U.S. Government statements made on this issue.
Q Did the Greek Government so far file a protest with the U.S. Government regarding the Greek sovereignty over Imia, which is not recognized by the U.S. today since February 1st?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know of any Greek protest that's been filed. I don't know why the Greek Government would file a protest with the United States Government, since we're not the authority that will decide this.
Q Because it's February 1st -- it does not recognize Greek sovereignty over this island. So I'm wondering if the Greek Government protested.
MR. DAVIES: What I'm not going to do is comment on the substance of our diplomatic exchanges with either Greece or Turkey on this matter.
Q According to a State Department memo attributed to an expert, as I was told, questions like delineation of the continental shelf and interpretation of international treaties -- referring to the rocky islands in the area in question in the southeast Aegean Sea -- could be addressed to the International Court of Justice. Such a procedure could assist the peaceful solution of the thorny issue of the extension of the Greek territorial waters."
Could you please confirm that, and may we have your comment?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to comment on it; and perhaps you have another ten questions, I'm not sure. But given the fact that we've been going at it here for about 65 minutes and your questions sound like serious detailed questions that I'm simply not set up to get into today, why don't we do what we did last time and get you together with some experts on international law and U.S. policy and see if we can't get you better answers to your questions than I can provide?
Q But so far I did not get any answers to my questions from the past.
MR. DAVIES: I haven't provided any answers? What I've given you is the U.S. position on Imia-Kardak. We've given it to you and to everybody ad infinitum, and I'm just seriously --
Q And the last one, Mr. Davies, it's very important.
According to international law and international practice, your proposal promotes actually the delimitation of the Greek-Turkish borders in the southeast Aegean prior to the delimitation of the continental shelf. I'm wondering why you're promoting these, since that favors the Turkish positioning on the issue?
MR. DAVIES: I don't even think I can accept the premise of that question -- that we're favoring the Government of Turkey over the Government of Greece. No, we're not; we're not. What I'm not prepared to do today, for a variety of reasons, is get into discussions of the continental shelf or of treaties that date back to World War II or shortly thereafter.
But those are good questions for an expert, and let me try to get you together with an expert. Okay?
Q Glyn, there's a hearing on the Hill today on counterfeit money and the foreign governments involved. Can you tell me, has the State Department talked to the Syrian Government or any other governments about possible complicity in --
MR. DAVIES: Counterfeit currency?
Q -- counterfeit currency?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if we've raised that matter specifically with the Government of Syria. It would stand to reason that we have, since Syria is in the region from which we believe that many of these super-notes or super-dollars are coming. We've taken note of the increase in recent years in the number of these high-quality bills.
The Secret Service and the Treasury Department have the lead in this Government on combatting that problem.
We've been working with Syria and other governments. What I can't give you, because I don't have it, is the specifics of at what level and when and so forth. But the Syrians know of our concern. We talk to them about it, as we do with other governments in the region.
Q The New York Times said that President Clinton raised this with Assad. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I don't know if that's true or not.
Q How much is the U.N. involved?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry?
MR. DAVIES: We've seen those reports, and we're very concerned about them, and you can be assured that the right people in the U.S. Government are working on the issue; but I don't have any detail for you on what's being done. Obviously, we're concerned about that.
Any other questions?
Q Yes. It is a quick question.
Yesterday, EU announced a financial contribution to KEDO. So do you have any comment on EU's participation in KEDO?
MR. DAVIES: On U.S. participation, or are you --
MR. DAVIES: We welcome it, obviously. The question of solving the problems posed by North Korea's energy needs and resolving peacefully the developments that have occurred in North Korea in recent years -- their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction -- are obviously very important, and this plays into that.
So we're very pleased that the Europeans have stepped up to helping on this matter.
Q Thank you.
MR. DAVIES: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:02 p.m.)
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