U.S. Department of State 96/03/05 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, March 5, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Background Briefing This Afternoon on Middle East 1 PLO's Ability to Provide Security/Deter Terrorism 6 Israel's Measures to Counter Terrorism 6-8,9-10,12-13 --President's and Secretary's Statements re Support for Israel 6-8,13 Reaction to the Bombings by Palestinians and Arab Leaders 8-9 Secretary's Conversation with Syrian Foreign Minister 10-11 Countries in the Region that Support Terrorism 11 U.S. Assessment of Executive Order re: Hamas Organization 11-12 Israeli Official's Comments re: Striking Back 12 U.S. Measures to Assist Israel and the Palestinians 13-14 --Specific Department of State Efforts/Assistance 14-15 U.S. Assessment of Hamas Political and Military Wings 15-16 Suspension of the Wye Talks 15,18 Public Announcement on Travel to Israel 6-18 U.S. Contacts with Jordan re: Hamas Offices 18 DEPARTMENT U.S. Foreign Policy Town Meeting in St. Louis 3/6/96 2 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices/Release 3/6/96 2-3 LATIN AMERICA Readout on the Secretary's Recent Trip to the Region 4-5 ITALY Escape of Achille Lauro Convict 19 CHINA/TAIWAN Announced Military Exercise/Missile Testing near Taiwan 19-26 --U.S. Concerns Expressed to Government of China 20,22,24 Access to the Taiwan Straits/Ports 20-21,25-26 Visit to US by PRC State Council Foreign Affairs Dir. Liu 3-4,21 Congressional Call for More U.S. Commitment to Taiwan 22-23 IRAQ Oil Pipeline Route 26 TURKEY Status of "Provide Comfort" 26-27 Status of Government Formation 27-28 SOUTH AFRICA Reported South African Dissatisfaction re: Armscor Case 27 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Secretary's Letter to President Milosevic re: Soros Foundation 28-29
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, MARCH 5, 1996, 1:09 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Nice to see all of you here.
Q You're back.
MR. BURNS: Glad to be back. We had a terrific trip to Latin America. Sorry that more of you didn't join us. It was a great story.
Q Did it get in the papers?
MR. BURNS: It got in almost all of the national papers with one notable exception. I'll say more on the trip in just a minute.
I've got a couple of announcements to make before we go to questions today. The first is that a Senior State Department Official is going to be giving a BACKGROUND briefing on the Middle East. The time of that briefing has changed. It's not going to be at 1:45. It's going to be at 2:30 p.m. So after this briefing, we'll have a chance to take a break. We'll come back with that Senior Administration Official who is well known to all of you.
The second announcement is that the State Department is going to be co-sponsoring with the World Affairs Council of St. Louis our second Town Meeting of 1996. It takes place tomorrow, Wednesday, March 6, from 10:00 until 4:00 in St. Louis. It is open to the press. The keynote speaker is going to be Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott. Other speakers will be Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intelligence and Research Dan Kurtzer, and our Deputy Coordinator for the New Independent States John Herbst. Mr. Herbst will be talking about Russia. This event is open.
As you know, we have a series of 22 Town Meetings this year that the Department is sponsoring across the United States. This is the second in that.
I also want to let you know that our Annual Human Rights Report -- our report on human rights practices around the world -- will be unveiled tomorrow by Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck. We were to have done that today but he is travelling. He's attending a meeting on human rights on Bosnia. He'll be getting back this evening.
I don't have right now an exact time for the rollout of the Human Rights Report tomorrow. I hope to have that in just a couple of hours, and we'll be making that known to you through the Press Office.
I also want to let you know --
Q Just one question on the Human Rights Report, is it going to be available on either disk or CD-ROM, or anything?
Q It wasn't going to be last week unless you've changed it.
MR. BURNS: We're a high-tech bureau. We ought to be able to make it available on the Internet.
Q It will be --
MR. BURNS: Oh, absolutely. We put everything on the Internet these days on our Web Page. That will happen in the afternoon. So what you'll have is, you'll have John Shattuck at the podium. There is also a document -- isn't there? -- to be handed out at that time. We'll put the subsequent briefing on the Internet as we do all of our announcements from here.
Is there a comment you want to make?
Q Last year the practice varied sometimes. Sometimes they put several copies of the report in the press room. Sometimes we're given certain countries if we ask for them in advance, but there's been none of that this year. I was wondering how you plan to make it available to us -- the hard copies?
MR. BURNS: The hard copy. As soon as we possibly can, tomorrow. At this point I don't have a starting time for John Shattuck.
Q Each agency will get its own report -- full report?
MR. BURNS: Agency?
Q Each --
MR. BURNS: Each news agency.
MR. BURNS: I'll turn to John Dinger for inspiration on this.
MR. DINGER: We did poll, and I think it is 25 selected reports that you were most interested in. It will available at a time to be determined.
Q And the full report? Will there be a couple of copies of the full report?
MR. BURNS: For those who could not hear on the mike, John Dinger said that 25 of the most important country reports will be made available. Of course, the full report will also be available to you. Is that satisfactory?
Q Copies have been sent?
MR. BURNS: I'm sure it will be going to the Hill tonight.
MR. BURNS: It usually goes the night before.
Q Will the Duty Officer bring a copy home with them - - take a copy home with him so he can respond to the telephone calls caused by leaks?
MR. BURNS: We're not responsible for leaks, especially leaks from another branch of the U.S. Government. I doubt it. I think we'll have to deal with --
Q To deal with the leaks, it would be good to have a copy home.
MR. BURNS: I don't think we'll have anything official to say until tomorrow, with all due respect.
I have two more announcements, and then we can go on to questions.
The State Council Foreign Affairs Director of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Liu Huaqui, will be visiting the United States for consultations from March 7 to March 12. He'll be meeting senior officials of our government -- Secretary Christopher, the National Security Advisor Tony Lake, Secretary of Defense Bill Perry, and other officials from our government.
We expect to have a discussion on a very broad range of bilateral and multilateral issues that are on the U.S.-China agenda. We're looking forward to his visit.
Q Will you spell his name, please?
MR. BURNS: Yes, transliterated? I'll be glad to. Liu Huaqui: L-I-U, H-U-A-Q-I-U. He's a senior official in the Foreign Affairs field in China.
I just wanted to take 40 seconds -- I know that you'll all bear with me and Barry is starting to time -- I want to tell you a little bit about our trip to Latin America, especially for those of you who either missed the trip or missed the story. I know that some of you unexplicably missed the story.
There were a lot of journalists on the trip who didn't miss the story and did some very fine reports.
The Secretary went to the region because he felt it was very important that we be present in Latin America at a senior level. An American Secretary of State had not gone there in eight years, and he returned with several very broad impressions.
First is the great importance of Latin America to the United States. The fact that more than 40 percent of all our exports, worth $205 billion in the first 11 months of 1995 alone, go to nations in Latin America.
The second is that we have a qualitatively different relationship with the region now than we did, say, a decade ago or two or three decades ago, when now we are partners with Brazil and Argentina and Chile and the Central American countries in a way that we clearly were not 10 or 20 or 30 years ago -- when the relationships are mature, when there is respect -- equal, mutual respect -- in these relationships and where we have begun to work on them, not only on regional issues but, for instance, in the case of Argentina, on peacekeeping issues in the Middle East; with Brazil on peacekeeping in Angola; with Brazil on Middle East issues, because Brazil has a very active interest in the Middle East.
There is also a new agenda with the region which is quite similar to the new agenda of issues that Secretary Christopher has talked about, especially in his JFK speech. The predominant issues on this trip were the environment, counternarcotics, terrorism, and non-proliferation.
These issues infused the public discussion and the private discussion in all the meetings that we had. This is the new agenda that the Secretary believes defines American foreign policy in the future. That is certainly distinctive to the older agenda of U.S. foreign policy, say, from the 1950s and '60s and '70s. I think you all saw, those of you who wrote about the trip and those of you who paid attention to it, you all saw in our stops in each of these places, in the assistance we delivered in each of these places and in the discussions, that these were prominent issues.
The other two points of this. The quality of the leadership in Latin America, the quality of the people that the Secretary dealt with, was very, very impressive from all of the Central American Presidents and other leaders that he met in San Salvador, including President Calderon Sol of El Salvador.
He was very impressed with the President of Chile, President Frei, and President Menem in Argentina, and President Cardoso in Brazil, and Prime Minister Panday in Trinidad. These are very impressive, highly articulate, serious people, all of whom are democrats, all of whom have led their countries just in the last couple of years towards economic reform; have produced very impressive growth numbers in all of these countries.
The leadership, we believe, in Latin America is providing the type of direction to these countries that is necessary to bring them into the 21st Century as free and prosperous countries, which leads me to my last point. Barry, I'm sorry, I went over my 40- second time limit.
But here's the last point. We now have 34 democracies in this region. We have one authoritarian country. These countries have transformed themselves. They've also transformed the basis of United States relations with them. We have done that with them.
What was very clear is that we have a new possibility now with Latin America for stability, for peace, and economic prosperity. There's one lone holdout and that's my final point. It was very interesting, publicly and privately in all these stops, the severe criticism of Cuba -- in the private meetings and in the public articulation -- by the Latin leaders. Not only for the incident of 10 days ago where they shot down two unarmed Cessnas, but just for the fact Cuba is isolated economically as well as politically in the region.
It was a very impressive trip, a very important trip. I know the Secretary personally is going to stay engaged on all these issues. He's very, very glad that he went on this trip.
Q Now to the Middle East, is there a security gap on the West Bank and in Gaza? Is the PLO up to the job of deterring terrorism?
MR. BURNS: I'll answer this question. I'm very glad to discuss any of these Latin issues because they're important issues, if you would like to do this at this or further briefings. We ought to talk more about Latin America. It's a very important region.
On Barry's question -- Barry, directly on your question -- there is clearly a very profound security problem that is open for all to see based on the four bombings over the last couple of days. We have great sympathy for the Israeli people and the Israeli Government. As the President said today in his public comments, and as Mike McCurry announced, we are now taking steps to help the Israeli Government deal with those problems.
The security problem is the first order of priority of any government anywhere in the world. Your obligation to protect your citizens -- there's no higher obligation that any government has. The Israeli Government is doing what it must now to protect its citizens.
Q The second part would be, is the PLO, or the Palestinian Authority, up to the job of deterring terrorism?
MR. BURNS: Chairman Arafat has taken a number of important steps over the last couple of days in response to the most recent wave of bombings. We would like to encourage him, and have encouraged him, and Secretary Christopher has spoken with him and encouraged him to be unrelenting in the fight against terror; to make sure that arrests are made, that people are convicted and imprisoned for the crimes that they have carried out over the last couple of days and before that.
I think the emphasis we put, Barry, is on any steps -- is on this -- any steps by the Palestinian Authority must be continuous, they must be determined, and they must be unrelenting.
We are in a new situation here, a very serious situation. Chairman Arafat has assured us privately and he said publicly that this is his view as well.
Q So there won't be the usual suspects -- like from the old Casablanca movie -- rounded up and then released in a timely fashion?
MR. BURNS: I think Chairman Arafat has a pretty good idea based on conversations with the Israelis and others who the major offenders are here, who the leaders of Hamas are. A war has been declared on Hamas. He must participate in it. We need to see clear, decisive, and unrelenting action.
The Palestinian authorities did take into custody last night in Ramallah people who they say are leading suspects in at least some of these bombings. We hope very much that others will be taken into custody. We hope that the leaders of Hamas will be hunted down and arrested and convicted and imprisoned.
Q In past human rights reports the United States has criticized Israel for such practices as seizing houses of Palestinians and destroying them, administrative detention, and heavy-handed interrogation techniques. Would those steps now be warranted by the Israelis? And would we have any problems with them?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to answer your question. Let me just also state, you're going to have a BACKGROUND briefing by a senior Administration official at 2:30. You might want to save some of these questions for him. I'll be glad to take this question, to answer this question, Sid.
Israel is in a fight against terror, and Israel must win that fight and is supported by the United States in that fight, and there cannot be any compromises here. There is clear and unequivocal United States support for the war on terror because it has inflicted, this war, unacceptable damage and an unacceptable price on the Israeli people.
Q So those steps I mentioned, the United States would have no problems with?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to associate -- I didn't give you a detailed answer. I'm not going to associate myself with the specific question. You understand why.
I can't predict what all the steps that the Israeli Government will take. We have seen some of the steps over the last couple of days. All I can tell you is there is clear, unequivocal support in this government for the fight against terror.
Q (Inaudible) house in East Jerusalem today. Is that okay with the United States -- a house of a Palestinian?
MR. BURNS: I did not see it. I'm unfamiliar with the specific incident, so I don't --
Q You didn't --
MR. BURNS: I did not see the incident on TV. I did not read a press report on it, and I'm just unaware of that specific incident. But I don't want to get into the specifics. But the President has spoken on this. Secretary Christopher, in his statement from Sao Paulo on Sunday, spoke to this. We have an obligation to help Israel.
The Palestinian Authority has an obligation to help Israel fight and win the war against terror, and we support the efforts to protect the Israeli population; and to protect, by the way, innocent Palestinians who have been victims of these bombs.
Q And just one quick follow-up. This support for Israel's fight against terrorism is longstanding. There's no question over any period of time that the United States supported Israel 100 percent in its efforts to fight terrorism. I mean, with equipment and so forth.
MR. BURNS: The United States has supported the State of Israel since 1948, and the United States has always believed that Israel has a right to defend itself. Israel has a right to the basic security of its citizens. No government on earth would tolerate four bombs in several days and the murder of so many people.
I would just remind you again -- I think it is a highly relevant point -- there have been Romanians, some of Romanian workers in Jerusalem were victims of one of the bomb attacks. There have been Palestinians who have been buried in the last couple of days because of the brutal policies of Hamas, and those policies have got to be condemned by the entire international community. No stronger statements have come from anyone than from President Clinton and Secretary Christopher on this.
Q I have a few questions. Does the United States Administration realize or aware that this has -- this heinous act of terror by Hamas and others have been condemned totally and wholeheartedly by the majority -- I will not say all of the Palestinians -- but the majority of the Palestinians, all over the territories, all over the Palestinian Authority areas and including Palestinians throughout the United States and throughout Europe and the Arab world. Are you aware of this?
MR. BURNS: We're certainly aware of that, and I would just say two quick points. First of all, Chairman Arafat has spoken about this. Chairman Arafat has presented an unequivocal denunciation of this bombing campaign by Hamas, as have other Palestinian leaders in the territories, both those associated with the Palestinian Authority and those who are not formally associated with the Palestinian Authority.
Abdul Salam, we have heard through the press and on the air waves and on television all sorts of Palestinians speak out against this, and it's our view that Hamas has isolated itself. These are a very small, limited band of people; that the great majority of Palestinians want peace with Israel; have even bet their own futures on peace with Israel. We understand that.
The problem here is that this limited number of people are inflicting unacceptable damage on the Israeli people and on the peace process and on the Palestinian people, and the fight against them must be joined not only by the Israeli Government but by the Palestinian Authority; by all of Israel's Arab neighbors. And that's a preoccupation that we here in the State Department have to see what we can do to encourage Israel's neighbors to be very clear in public about denunciations of terror. It's everyone's fight.
Q I heard this morning very disturbing things coming from the West Bank and the territories that the communities of the Palestinians in the territories, in the West Bank and the Gaza area -- they have been separating all the cities and all the villages, all towns from each other, and no movement of Palestinians throughout. Where is this collective punishment measures needed by the Israelis? We all know that these are very crucial times for the Israelis and everybody is sympathizing with the Israelis -- and I'm sympathizing with the Israelis from this podium, too.
But what are these measures taken, and how long do you think these measures will be taken, and do you have any thoughts about these collective punishments and separating the cities and the towns from each other and not to let anybody move inside the area?
MR. BURNS: Those are really questions for the Israeli Government and for the Palestinian Authority. This fight against terror cannot be waged just by the Israelis. It's got to be waged by the Palestinians and by the Palestinian Authority.
We are aware, of course, of specific measures that the Israelis are taking and that the Palestinian Authority is taking to try to crack down on the terrorists. But I don't want to speak more specifically than I can about that. I just want to say that we absolutely, firmly support the right of the Israelis to defend themselves here.
Q Has the Secretary been able to get the Syrian Foreign Minister on the phone yet?
MR. BURNS: Yes, he had a conversation with him this morning.
Q Can you tell us what his message was?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to go into the details of his message, because it was a private, diplomatic conversation. But I can assure you that at least part of the message was what you have heard us say in public, and that is all countries have an obligation to speak out against such brutal terror, and that includes Syria.
Q Did Shara respond to that and condemn these attacks?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a full readout of the conversation. I don't want to give you a partial readout. We normally keep most of these conversations private and confidential, because they are in the diplomatic channel. I think the Syrian Government is going to have to speak for itself, and we certainly await the condemnation from Syria that should be forthcoming.
Q Nick, why is the United States so reluctant to speak out about Syria by name? I mean, Syria is, in your own words, the key to a comprehensive peace in the Middle East. During the run-up to the period before negotiations really got started, the United States wouldn't even talk to Yasser Arafat unless he explicitly denounced terrorism in words that the United States and Israel approved; and repeatedly, publicly, this message was sent to the PLO.
And nothing of the same is being done with Syria, and I wonder why not?
MR. BURNS: The two situations, I would just say with all due respect, are not comparable in my mind -- the situation of how we deal with Syria today, how we dealt in years past with the Palestinians and Arafat -- just not comparable. So I would separate them.
We haven't been reluctant to talk about this. Glyn told you clearly yesterday that we believe that the Syrian Government ought to be among those countries that denounce terrorism. The Turkish Government made a statement today -- a very clear statement -- denouncing the terrorism of Hamas, denouncing the bombings. The Jordanian Government -- Prime Minister Kabariti -- has been in the lead in making very clear public statements. We think that all governments in the region, including Syria, ought to make those statements and ought to join in action to isolate Hamas and to help Israel win this war against terrorists.
Q Go back to the Secretary's telephone conversation with Forouk al-Shara. Mike McCurry at the White House said this morning that the President had sent a letter to the Syrians, among others, saying they should cut their civilian -- their peaceful links -- peaceful support of Hamas, civilian contacts, something -- some such -- was that sort of the gist of the Secretary's message to --
MR. BURNS: Since I haven't had a chance to talk to the Secretary directly about this conversation, I don't want to represent his part of the conversation or Shara's part of the conversation. The call was made. I think you all know why the call was made and what the major points were.
But, Sid, I think you're on to something here, and that is that those countries that support terrorism have got to now, we think, rethink -- rethink -- this proposition. That includes Iran. Iran is a major supporter of terrorism. It is a funder and organizer of terror around the world, and we believe that there are probably even links with the terror groups, including Hamas, who are now practicing terror against the Israeli population.
It's another reason why we are determined to continue to isolate Iran, because Iran is not a constructive country on this or many other issues.
Q To follow up on Hamas, what's your assessment as to how successful or not successful the President's Executive Order has been?
MR. BURNS: You mean the steps that were issued this morning?
Q I'm talking about starting in January of 1995 when the financial restrictions were put on Hamas. Treasury says that some $800,000 worth of financial assets were frozen, but, you know, I'd like somebody to analyze that. I mean, what part of a universe is that? Is that 85 percent success or --
MR. BURNS: Let me do this. I think that's a good question, a valid question. Let me take that question and see if we can get you a better answer than I can certainly give you right now. It's also a question you may want to put to our background briefer at 2:30.
Q The Foreign Minister of Israel said on television last night that Israel would reserve the right to strike back anywhere, and he repeated that word several times. He was asked whether that meant other Arab countries, whether striking back in other Arab countries was justified, and he said, "Anywhere," repeatedly.
Does the Clinton Administration believe that Israel would be justified in striking perhaps at training camps in, for example, Iran or some other country not contiguous to --
MR. BURNS: I can't answer that question. It's an interesting question. I can't answer it specifically, because it is a hypothetical question, but I can say this. Every government in the world has as its first responsibility the protection of its own citizens. Israel is in an extraordinarily difficult situation today, and, if we were in the same position and if you look at our population versus Israel, and if we had thousands of people being killed, then I think we would adopt extraordinary measures.
The Israelis have adopted extraordinary measures over the past couple of days, and we support the effort to protect the State of Israel and to protect the Israeli people and to protect the Palestinians who are there and who are innocent victims of this.
So I can't answer the specific question, but I can give you a sense of the very clear public support that we're giving to the State of Israel today.
Q At the time of the Bush Administration, Israel was talked into not responding to Scud attacks, but that's a digression, I guess.
MR. BURNS: It's also a very different situation. I can't deal with hypothetical questions.
Q The Administration -- that Administration didn't know whether poison gas was being dropped on Israel, but you sent two friends of Israel -- the Administration did -- to Israel to talk them out of responding, on the theory that it would mess up the Arab coalition.
Nick, you ducked a question before. Maybe if it's rephrased, you can answer it. I mean, there is a view, and I wonder what the State Department's view is -- sealing the border. One view is sealing the border permanently or for a long period of time would abet terrorism. It would enhance deprivation. It would make life harder for the Palestinians living there and might make people who are marginally and in that way make them possibly amenable to terrorist attacks.
Does the State Department have a view whether it is wise for Israel to deprive all these people on the West Bank their opportunities to make a living? Does it serve the anti-terrorism cause, or does the State Department take the other view that over too long a period of time it may contribute to terrorism?
MR. BURNS: I think I'm going to duck this one. This is a variation of the question as I ducked the other one, for the following reasons:
Q It's more specific than separating towns. They're talking about sealing the borders.
MR. BURNS: I think you've heard President Clinton and Secretary Christopher say clearly and unequivocably over the last couple of days that we must support Israel, and that is the message that we've given to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority says it will support Israel in this struggle against terror.
I don't want to get into the position of answering specific questions like that, which I think are just not going to be -- it's not productive for me to deal with.
Q Maybe it would be easier, Nick, to ask a different way. What are the measures that are undertaken by the United States Administration to help the Palestinian Authority? We heard this morning or last night that you want to help Israel, help the Palestinians. What are the measures that you are undertaking? I understand four points that the President has announced this morning. What are the measures that you are taking now?
MR. BURNS: We haven't announced anything very specific about our assistance for the Palestinians, but I would just refer you to the third point in Mike McCurry's statement this morning which talks about a comprehensive package of training and of technical assistance and equipment to help improve coordination among Israel, the Palestinians -- and that means the Palestinian Authority -- and other governments in the region to win the war against terror.
So the Palestinians are involved in this. We will be working with them, and we clearly note that this morning in Mike McCurry's statement, and that's an important part of the fight -- that the Palestinians engage in this fight as well.
Q If I might, because what I understand this morning that Yasser Arafat completely has been isolated in the last 48 hours from this whole thing. This is what I have been assured from Gaza this morning, and that there are no contacts with Yasser Arafat about these things.
Will you please call on Israel to immediately initiate consultation or coordination between the security forces of Israel and the security forces of the Palestinian Authority, including the experts that you are sending to the region there to work it out in some way?
MR. BURNS: I don't need to do that, Abdul Salam, with all due respect. The Israelis and Palestinians will find a way to work together on this. It's in their common interest to do so.
Q Nick, what is the State Department doing specifically? Is the State Department sending a team to the region on its own, or is the team that left earlier an FBI team? Can you amplify who's going?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher, as you know, when we came back from Latin America yesterday, participated in the White House meeting. This morning the Secretary convened a broad meeting of everybody in our building at a senior level who's involved in all aspects of this problem. He had a very good conversation with them. He gave the group many instructions.
We've got two priorities here -- as Dennis Ross has explained publicly this morning, and as our background briefer will explain to you at 2:30 ON BACKGROUND -- and they are the following:
First is to help Israel win the war against terror.
Second is to not allow Hamas to kill the peace process; is to work with Israel, the Palestinians, Arab neighbors of Israel, others in the region, the Europeans; to give support to the peace process, to encourage a continuation of the peace process.
The State Department, obviously, has direct responsibility for that latter objective, and I can assure you that Secretary Christopher is thinking very hard and has been for several days now on how the United States can provide this kind of leadership to keep the peace process going.
It would be tragic if, as a result of all the deaths and all the people wounded, Hamas succeeded in ending the peace process. We cannot allow that to happen.
Q Do you think now is really the time to be pushing the peace process?
MR. BURNS: Sid, the peace process should be pushed very day. The idea that Arabs and Israelis would work together for peace should be pushed every day. Of course, it should. But, as you know, it's not possible to do business as usual when so many people are being buried in Israel, and that's why the Israeli negotiating team went home.
They have left. The Wye talks have been suspended. I can't tell you when the Wye talks will be reconvened. It's a question you should ask our background briefer at 2:30.
Q If I could follow --
MR. BURNS: Steve had a question here, Bill.
Q How seriously do you take this distinction being made by Hamas that part of Hamas thinks this is a terrible thing and part of Hamas doesn't, or is this Hamas developing a Sinn Fein wing in your view?
MR. BURNS: I don't see a distinction very much between political and military wings. People who bomb, kill and maim innocent people are responsible for the actions. If you're sitting in a room, if you're providing financial support, if you're doing anything else that contributes to an organization that is responsible for terror, then you're responsible.
So, frankly, I don't think these are credible distinctions that these people are trying to make, and I think there has to be collective responsibility in an organization for the actions of that organization.
Q You recognize the distinction with Gerry Adams and the IRA, that's Steve's point. I mean, that is the very distinction you --
MR. BURNS: I'm answering a specific question about Hamas. I've not compared Hamas to any other organization in the world. I'm answering a question about Hamas. I don't see a distinction, and it's certainly the responsibility of anybody connected with Hamas, not only to say they want an end to the bombing but to do something about it. Actions are going to be much more important than any call for an end to the bombing that we heard this morning.
Q You're saying it's a different situation with the IRA and Sinn Fein.
MR. BURNS: I chose tactically and tactfully and all other things not to deal --
MR. BURNS: And tactfully not to deal with the last part of Mr. Erlanger's question. I chose to answer the focal point of the question, which is on Hamas, and I don't want to compare Hamas to anybody else.
I do want to remind all of you, we've got a big world out there. There's China, there's Russia, there's Turkey, and we have a person who knows much more than I do about this subject coming in just 47 minutes from now, and I can't wait until he gets here.
Q Is the State Department looking at issuing any new travel advisories for Israel in the region? Secondly, more broadly, what is the sense of the Administration's priority of helping Israel win the war against terrorism -- whether that increases risks for Americans in Israel, the Middle East and elsewhere?
MR. BURNS: To answer your first question, I'm not aware that we have issued anything new today.
Q (Inaudible) the last one's August.
MR. BURNS: And the second part of that, obviously, is that we have issued advisories and language to American citizens to travel to Israel to understand the basic risks about travel, but we haven't issued anything new.
We have a public announcement today that I had not seen before, and let me read it to you.
"The February 25 and March 3 bus bombings in Jerusalem, as well as the March 4 bombing at the shopping district in Tel Aviv were the most recent incidents of terrorist bombing attacks since October 1994, seven of which were directed against passengers traveling on public buses in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
"Fatalities have totalled over 100, including four American citizens. The Department of State wishes to reiterate information provided in the Consular Information Sheet on Israel, dated May 22, 1995, that:
'The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the Consulate General in Jerusalem have warned their employees and American citizens to avoid use of public buses and bus stops. This restriction does not apply tour buses.'
"In addition, the Department wishes to reiterate the following information also contained in the Consular Information Sheet:
'Although U.S. citizens are not targeted for attack, terrorist incidents in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as within Israel, sometimes have involved U.S. citizens,' and quite tragically U.S. citizens just over the last ten days.
"This announcement replaces the previous public announcement, dated August 25, 1995. It includes information on the February 25, March 3 and March 4, 1996, bombings."
(TO STAFF, MR. DINGER): So, John, I can be assured that this is being posted in the Press Office?
MR. DINGER: Yes.
MR. BURNS: This is being posted in the Press Office. I believe that probably answers your question.
Q It answers the first part of the question, not the second part. It refers to Americans not being singled out for attack. The question is: Now that the U.S. so strongly supporting Israel's efforts to crack down on Hamas, is there a concern that this could put Americans in jeopardy -- that raises the threat to Americans in Israel or elsewhere?
MR. BURNS: Israelis are clearly being targeted, Israeli citizens. Americans have died in bombing attacks, because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, unfortunately and tragically. People who travel to Israel, all Americans, must be aware of the conditions in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and throughout Israel now, and they must draw their own conclusions.
Q That doesn't answer my question. Has there been discussion about whether Americans may be more vulnerable now to specific attacks because of what the U.S. is now doing?
MR. BURNS: I've not been involved in any such discussions. I'm not aware that that's a concern that we believe is evident right now.
Q Two clarifications: The Israelis have suspended the Wye talks, I think they said indefinitely. Have you any explanation from the Israelis as to why they did not leave it open --
MR. BURNS: I think it's quite understandable, as Glyn Davies said yesterday, that the job of the Israeli diplomats is in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv now. It's not at Wye. They have to go back to help bury the people who have been killed, and we announced yesterday a suspension of the talks. I can't really improve on what Glyn said yesterday. You have a detailed background briefing coming up by one of our experts in the Middle East -- someone who knows far more than I do. I would just request now that we move on to a different issue.
Q One more question on this. There's another country which also has a Hamas office, and that is Jordan. Have we in the last few days had any conversations with Jordanian officials about the closing of this office?
MR. BURNS: We've had conversations with many Jordanian officials. There have been communications back and forth, and there have been very strong statements of the intention of the Government of Jordan, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to join in the struggle against terror over the last couple of days.
Q Have we asked them specifically to close these offices, and have they responded?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware if that's been among the specific requests that we've made. I think, though, that you can draw your own conclusions that when we say that Israel must win the fight against Hamas and terror, that means it must win the fight; and those who support Hamas must no longer support Hamas. We've seen very strong, very encouraging, very positive statements from the Government of Jordan on this problem.
Q Why was (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Charlie, the problem is I have not been involved in the conversations with the Jordanians on this, and, while I've seen some of the written communications, I can't be assured that I've seen all. I'm trying not to mislead here. I'm trying to give you what I know on this.
MR. BURNS: And I would suggest that you direct this question to our background briefer at 2:30.
Q Could I ask a related question, which is that Italy seems to have lost one of the Palestinians that was involved in the Achille Lauro? Did you see that he walked away? Have we talked to the Italian Government about this, and do we have any idea where this man might be?
MR. BURNS: The name of the man is Magid Al-Molqi, and we believe, of course, that he's responsible for the death of Leon Klinghofer in 1985. This man should be brought to justice. He apparently has escaped from prison. We are in conversations with the Italian Government about it. We are relying on the Italian Government to try to use every resource, every means at their disposal, to try to bring him back to justice.
Q Have we gotten any explanation of why he was allowed out of prison on a 12-day pass?
MR. BURNS: We're directing our interest in this and very specific questions to the Italian Government.
Q Have we had any response?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware if we have or not, but we've certainly gone to the Italian Government and asked for an explanation of how it was possible for a convicted terrorist -- a man responsible for the death of an American citizen -- to be out of prison. He ought to be in prison, and that's our objective with the Italians.
Q Could I ask about the Chinese missile tests, which are now scheduled? Have you brought this up since this whole process has advanced? Are you urging them not to go ahead with it? Are you saying anything to the Taiwanese about what they should do in response?
MR. BURNS: Let me tell you what we know about these missile tests as they have been announced from Beijing. We understand that the People's Republic has announced a military exercise that will include the firing of a surface-to-surface missile near Taiwan.
Apparently from the announcement made in Beijing, one area is approximately 33 kilometers from the northeast coast of Taiwan, and the other is about 50 kilometers from the southwest coast of the island.
According to Beijing, the government in Beijing, the missile exercise will run from March 8 to March 15.
I think, as we've said before, these missile exercises are designed to intimidate the people of Taiwan before the Taiwanese elections. We're concerned by this announcement and by this prospective action.
Our Embassy in Beijing today has expressed these concerns to the Government of the People's Republic of China, and that expression of concern will be reiterated to the Chinese Embassy here this afternoon by a senior official of the State Department.
Those concerns are well known. Those concerns have not changed. There have been missile tests in the past which we found to be unproductive and destabilizing.
Q Have you asked the Taiwan Government to do anything in response or not to do anything?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we have an unofficial relationship with Taiwan. I'm not aware we've requested Taiwan authorities to do anything here, but we certainly would hope that the relationship between the two can be peaceful and constructive, and we've stated that many times in the past.
Q How important is unfettered access to the Taiwan straits shipping lanes to the United States and its allies?
MR. BURNS: Those are international waters, and the United States, as all other seafaring nations, has a right certainly to navigation in international waters. As you know, our military has exercised that right at several points during the last year.
Q Is that right in any way challenged by Beijing's admonition that ships avoid those two areas during the missile test period?
MR. BURNS: If the missile tests are to go forward, I would think it would behoove any vessel to avoid those areas. It would just be common sense. I don't think you should draw any political conclusions from that. That's just commonsensical. You wouldn't want to see any harm done to anybody by these tests. Tests are tests. Tests are designed to take place at an area where they will not do harm to anyone.
Q But given that those --
Q We'd like to take a filing break on the Middle East, please. We have to come back for the 2:30.
MR. BURNS: Barry has called for a filing break. It is duly noted, and the rest of us will continue as the wires depart.
Q Given that those areas are proscribed two main ports of Taiwan, how does that admonition differ from a blockade?
MR. BURNS: I don't think it is credible to read into the announcement from Beijing that this is a blockade. We believe that these tests are being undertaken for the reasons that the previous tests were undertaken, and that is that they're probably meant to send a signal. We disagree with that signal. We disagree with the tests. We've made that clear to the Chinese authorities in the past when these tests have been conducted. And, as I said, we've expressed our concern today in Beijing, and we will in just a couple of hours here in Washington.
Q If I could follow, Nick, Mr. James Woolsey was in Taiwan yesterday -- may still be -- and he advised the Taiwanese that the number one priority should be ABM systems -- ballistic missile defense. First, does the State Department share the view of former Director of CIA Woolsey on this particular matter, and will Mr. Liu, when he come, will he be consulted about these missile tests specifically?
MR. BURNS: In answer to your second question, I can assure you that this issue of the missile test will be raised with Mr. Liu when he arrives in the United States. I believe he's arriving tomorrow, and there will be meetings on Thursday and Friday with senior people in this government, including Secretary Christopher.
The missile tests will be part of those discussions. They will not be the only issue raised by any stretch, and they will not be the focal point, because the intention here, when he comes, is to raise all the issues and the broad range of issues on our agenda -- the economic and political as well as the security issues -- with him.
Q Does the Administration concur with Mr. Woolsey's view about the missile threat being the greatest?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen Mr. Woolsey's statement, so I certainly can't comment on it.
Q Little before that, China fired missile test so close to Taiwan island, so do you still see there's no imminent threat to Taiwan? And, if there's still no imminent threat, how do you define "imminent threat"?
MR. BURNS: Our judgment is that there is no imminent threat of a Chinese invasion or attack or military action against Taiwan. We do not believe there is an imminent threat. We've said that consistently over the last two months, and we stand by that judgment.
We believe that these exercises, the military exercises that are underway and these prospective missile tests, if they are undertaken -- as the Chinese Government has said they will be undertaken -- are unfortunate. We're concerned about them. We believe that they are really motivated by political concerns, and we don't believe they presage any broader military effort or action.
Q Taiwan called for international condemnation of China's plan. What's the U.S.'s response to that?
MR. BURNS: I've not seen any such call by the Taiwanese authorities. I can just tell you what we believe, and that is, we're concerned by this and we're addressing those concerns to Beijing.
Q The Congressional Republican leadership today called for more clarity in the United States' commitment to defend Taiwan against any attack from China.
In the past, you've suggested that clarity is counterproductive. Would that be your response today to this call?
MR. BURNS: My response to that question, Steve, would be to bring you back to the bipartisan consensus and the position adopted and followed by all American Administrations since 1979 -- Republican Administrations and Democratic Administrations -- and that is the Taiwan Relations Act and the language of the Taiwan Relations Act, which you know very well.
We believe that any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means would be a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific, and it would be of grave concern to the United States. This policy has worked well for the United States, for both Republican Presidents and Democratic Presidents. We see no reason to change it.
The Chinese Government is well aware of this policy, of what it means. I don't think there's any confusion in Beijing about what a future, possible hypothetical military action -- what that would represent for U.S.-China relations. So therefore we don't believe there's any need to improve upon the language or to change it.
Q Why do you think the Republicans are doing this? Obviously, you can't read into their minds. Do you think this is part of a political campaign, or do you think they're beginning to be confused about the American commitment and, hence, worry that Beijing might be confused also?
MR. BURNS: Steve, I'm just not qualified to answer a question like that. It's not in my interest to answer a question like that, however interesting the question may be.
I think that we still have a broad bipartisan consensus in the United States. We must maintain that consensus.
The Taiwan Relations Act, the Three Communiques are the foundations of our relations with Beijing, our unofficial relations with Taiwan. They've worked well. I don't know why we'd want to change that policy when they've worked so well and so successfully for the United States for many years.
Q Nick, do we know what the ranges of these missiles that are about to be tested? Judging from a previous testing --
MR. BURNS: I don't know what the range of the missiles is. I don't know what type of surface-to-surface missiles they are. Perhaps the government in Beijing announced that today; perhaps they didn't. We'll have to go back and see if we can get you any further information on that.
Q The obvious reason is whether Taiwan is directly within range of these missiles?
MR. BURNS: I've just said, in answer to a previous question, we don't believe that there is any imminent threat of military action or any kind of military attack. These are test- firings, as described by the Government in Beijing. They are part of the exercises that are underway. We don't believe that these test-firings will represent any kind of military action against Taiwan proper. That's an important distinction to make.
Q If you don't know the range, then how can you say that for sure?
MR. BURNS: It's the judgment that we've come to. It's a judgment that our government has come to based on the information that's available to us.
I don't know. I don't specifically know the range but there are other people in this government who have obviously looked at this quite closely. Of course, I'm relying on the judgment by all of our experts and analysts here.
I think, Roy, your question goes to something else. When we say there's no imminent threat of a Chinese attack or military action on Taiwan, that really gets to a political question, a question of political motivation. We don't believe it's there -- the motivation to attack. We believe the motivation is to intimidate.
Q Basically, the United States doesn't know what the Chinese motives are. You can't quite (inaudible) the motives --
MR. BURNS: I'm sure he said much more than that. I'm sure he's being taken, with all due respect, out of context here. I think when we tell you, as we have -- from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department -- for two months running that it's our continuous judgment that there is no imminent threat against Taiwan, we mean that. We base it on the facts, as we see them; on solid analysis by every part of this government.
Q Whose being called in this afternoon? And is he being called in, and by whom?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to take that question and get back to you. I'm sure it will be, if not the Ambassador, the DCM. He'll be talking to a senior official of our government.
Q Is he being summoned?
MR. BURNS: He's been asked to come in. The Chinese Embassy has been asked to come in to hear our concern about the announcement of a missile test. This complements the demarche that was made this morning by our Embassy in Beijing directly to the Foreign Ministry in Beijing.
Q A missile test is not the most intimidating thing that the Chinese could do. Do these military exercises include any amphibian exercises?
MR. BURNS: Do the military exercises include amphibian exercises? I don't know if they do. I can check on that.
Q Does the closing down of the ports of an island nation fit the definition of "peaceful activities" as it applies to the Taiwan Relations Act?
MR. BURNS: Bob, I just can't accept the basis of the question, that in fact these ports are going to be shut down. I just don't know that. I don't believe that will happen ultimately.
In answer to the previous question, I was dealing with the question that should a ship sail into the location where a missile is going to be fired for testing purposes? The obvious answer to that is "no." I don't believe that you can then extend that answer and imply that it has any effect on ports. I think there are two separate issues here.
Q But if you can't sail into the port, what good is it?
MR. BURNS: Bob, I don't think the question of a blockade or closing of ports can be extended or connected with the question of missile tests. I don't think it's going to have that effect.
We believe this is an attempt to intimidate.
Q Nick, you said it's common sense not to sail into harms way if there are missile tests in that area. If the missile tests are within the area of the port and presumably within range, wouldn't it be common sense for all shipping to avoid the ports?
MR. BURNS: We're just relying here, Roy, on the announcement that was made in Beijing about the location of these tests from the coastline of Taiwan. I just simply can't deal with the question, unfortunately, because I don't have the facts of whether or not these tests represent something much more important than what you and I probably think they represent.
Q Will you ask the Chinese?
MR. BURNS: I would invite all of you to ask the Chinese Government that question. My colleague in Beijing, Shen Guofang, gives press briefings. Ask him that question. I can't answer all these questions about how far Chinese missiles are fired. Sometimes we can guess. Sometimes our analysis can't support those facts.
Q Have you asked the Chinese to do it in such a way as they don't interfere with shipping -- anybody's shipping, especially Taiwan?
MR. BURNS: Bill, let me just say, we've addressed our concerns to the Chinese Government. They're well known.
Q Nick, the Iraqi Oil Minister, Muhammad Rashid, Sunday, he was in Turkey. When he returned from Turkey to Iraq, he stopped over in northern Iraq and he talked with the Kurdish factions. For example, if I'm correct, Mr. Barzani and Mr. Rashid had a meeting on the subject.
If I'm correct, the wire report suggested that the Iraqi Government is trying to secure all of the oil pipeline route in all of the Kurdish area. Are you talking with the Iraqi fractions to secure the pipeline from coming to the Iraqi-Kurdish area?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to take that question for you. We're in constant touch with the Kurdish factions in northern Iraq, as you know. We'd like to see them get along better together and to cooperate for peace and stability in the area. I can't tell you what kind of specific conversations we've had just in the last week.
Q Also, at the end of this month, I believe the "Provide Comfort" time is expiring. The Turkish Under Secretary, Ambassador Oymen, is here tomorrow, I believe. Are you planning to ask the Turkish Government for an extension of the "Provide Comfort?"
MR. BURNS: We believe the "Provide Comfort" is a necessary effort to ensure stability in Iraq above the 36th Parallel. We believe we have a continuing responsibility to do that; that dates from April 1991. So I'm sure that we'll be making a request of all the governments involved in "Provide Comfort" to continue our operations.
While we're on the subject of Turkey, let me just tell you that we congratulate Prime Minister Ciller and Mr. Mesut Yilmaz on the agreement to form a coalition government. This achievement demonstrates, clearly, the strength and vitality of Turkey's constitutional processes and democratic traditions.
We look forward to working closely with the new government to advance our alliance relationship with Turkey, our common interests and to strengthen the already excellent relations that we have.
Let me also let you know -- Glyn has just passed me a note -- that the Human Rights Report will be on the Internet at the conclusion of tomorrow's briefing.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. Do you have one more question?
Q A completely different topic. It's about South Africa. There's fresh word out of Johannesburg --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me. Let's just deal with this question and then we'll go back to any others.
Q There's fresh word out of Johannesburg this morning that the South African Government is threatening to break off the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission and downgrade relations over the whole Armscor incident. I'm wondering, first of all, if you've heard anything about that? Second of all, if the U.S. Government will continue to press this case at the risk of rupturing South African relations?
MR. BURNS: We are continuing our discussions with the South African Government to seek a resolution of this issue in this case. We've had no indication from the South African Government of any dissatisfaction with the Binational Commission. It's been a very effective institution. There are six committees to it to help advance our relations with South Africa; a very important, in fact, a critical relationship for us in Africa.
Q Is this government determined to press this case at all costs?
MR. BURNS: We're going to continue our discussions with the South African Government. We want to have a mutually satisfactory resolution of this case.
Turkey. One more.
Q My understanding is that the religious party won the plurality in the elections is being excluded from the government. Ordinarily, in a parliamentary system the party that has the plurality is asked to form the government.
Do you really see this as a stabilizing move in Turkey and that this supports the Turkish democracy to keep this party out of the government?
MR. BURNS: The facts are that while the religious party did get a plurality of votes in the election, and President Demirel asked Mr. Erbakan to try to form a government over many weeks, the facts are that Mr. Erbakan was not able to do that. So President Demirel turned to the other two parties -- Mrs. Ciller's party and Mr. Yilmaz's party -- and they were able to form a government. That is how parliamentary democracies work. Sometimes the largest party -- it's not just Turkey, but other democracies -- sometimes the largest party is unable to form a coalition government. This was the case here. The party had every opportunity to do so. It was just not able to do so. That's where the chips fell in this case.
Q One other point, on another subject, is the Soros Foundations again. I think that Secretary Christopher did write a letter -- it's been publicized here -- to Mr. Milosevic. Has there been a response yet from the Government of Serbia or of Yugoslavia?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher did write President Milosevic on this issue. Assistant Secretary John Kornblum has followed up just this morning with the Foreign Minister of Serbia, Mr. Milutinovic. We expect that the Serbian Government will take the right course here and allow freedom to the Soros Foundation to operate in Serbia. It's a very important point of principle for us, and the Serbian Government is well aware of our views.
I thought, Roy, we'd actually do the first briefing today, maybe in six months/seven months, without Bosnia, but you saved the day at the final moment. Congratulations. But I think we've done Bosnia, and we can repair to our lunch.
Q If this process drags out, or it may not come to fruition that they restore the ability of the Foundation to operate, is the U.S. Government prepared to jump in and in some way support the independent media there so that they aren't strangled?
MR. BURNS: We support freedom of the press. It's in our Constitution. We support everywhere in the world. Milosevic knows we support it. We expect him now to do the right thing here and allow the press to be free and to allow people to say what they want -- those people coming from outside Serbia. In this case, we've supported very specifically the Soros Foundation.
Q My question is, do you have some reserve position? Because the Soros Foundation has done there what the U.S. Government itself used to do and does throughout much of the rest of Eastern Europe, which is to find a way to support independent media? It's unusual for a Foundation to do this. It's ordinarily a governmental function or a function done through some NGOs with governmental support.
Is the U.S. Government prepared to step into the breach?
MR. BURNS: We have stepped in to support the Soros Foundation. If we are successful, the Soros Foundation will be able to operate in Serbia and we expect that to be the outcome of this particular drama.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:08 p.m.)
-1- Tuesday, 3/5/96
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