U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB #41 TUESDAY, MARCH 12, 1996, l2:56 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED) .
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing and a special welcome to five Albanian citizens, each of whom is a spokesman for a different, I think, political party, if I have it right -- here under the auspices of the Soros Foundation and other groups. Welcome to the State Department. A couple of other things very quickly. One, just to alert you that we are once again facing, as of close of business this Friday, the possibility that we won't have funding. Our latest continuing resolution expires on March l5. We hope that by close of business Friday legislation will be enacted to extend funding for the State Department, but passage, of course, is by no means a sure thing. As a consequence, once again we have to spend a lot of effort, a lot of valuable time and resources this week, to prepare for another shutdown. This comes at a bad time for us. It's never a good time but it is a particularly bad time, since we've got a lot of things going on -- important things regarding Middle East peace, Bosnia, what's occurring in the Far East, Cuba, and elsewhere. We've talked a lot about the adverse impact that previous shutdowns have had on our employees. We hope that we get funding beginning this Friday and that legislation is enacted quickly. Finally, on the Caucasus, just to alert you to a trip by Deputy Secretary Talbott and Mr. Berger, the number two at the National Security Council. They are traveling to Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan this week to discuss regional efforts toward peace and Caspian energy issues. Deputy Secretary Talbott, of course, also traveled to Moscow where the Caucasus was one of a number of issues on the agenda. And with that, to your questions. Q What do you hear from the Straits of Taiwan these days? MR. DAVIES: There are recent developments I can pass on to you. We learned that live-fire exercises were going to take place when they were announced by Beijing back on March 9 and not before. We were aware for some time that the People's Liberation Army was preparing for those exercises in the Strait, but China didn't notify us in advance of that. I wanted to let you know that, since that was a question asked yesterday. Just in the last few hours though, we've learned that live-fire exercises began today around noon, Beijing time. They're scheduled to last until March 2l. The United States and other maritime authorities in the Pacific have issued a notice to mariners to avoid the exercise area for the duration of the exercises. Thus far, nothing has happened to cause undue alarm. We're monitoring that situation near Taiwan. And, of course, yesterday Nick discussed what we're doing as a precautionary measure: dispatching extra assets to that region, moving them from the Middle East. The USS Independence, the Aegis cruiser Bunker Hill, two destroyers, and a frigate have been dispatched to augment what we already have in that area. We made the point before -- we'll make it again -- that the United States objects to the use of military force to intimidate Taiwan. The chief purpose, it would appear, of this current round of Chinese military exercises in the Taiwan Strait is to intimidate Taiwan, the people there. We've made clear our objections to leaders of the People's Republic of China, including their senior official -- Mr. Liu Huaqiu -- who has been here and is leaving the United States today after about a week's visit. Q What are they firing now? What sort of weapons are launched now? MR. DAVIES: I don't know what they're firing precisely. What we know is what they told us, which is that they're firing live ammunition. Whether these are rockets or missiles, I just don't precisely know. The longer-range missiles, of course -- they fired three of them at the end of last week. My assumption is live-fire exercises mean that the troops use the ordnance they've got, firing perhaps on targets. I'm just not sure. The point is that exercise has begun with live fire, and we've taken note of that fact and want to repeat our concerns that we expressed yesterday. It may be that a little later on we can give you a little more detail about what we've picked up, but that's neither here nor there -- the precise ordnance they're using. The fact of the exercise itself in proximity to Taiwan is what's important to us. Q Glyn, what more do you hear about a possible meeting between the Secretary and the Chinese Foreign Minister, which Nick referred to yesterday, and -- MR. DAVIES: They, when they last got together, pledged that they would try to get together again soon; and we're working on that. We'd like very much to hold a meeting with the Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China, Mr. Qian Qichen, in the near future, and we're working on possible dates. But I don't have anything to announce today. Q Now that you've got a little bit of feel for the live exercises beginning, can you be any more specific in terms of the types of accidents you might be most concerned about and the level of responsibility you'll attach to the Chinese for those accidents? MR. DAVIES: I don't know that it's useful to speculate on the various scenarios that trouble us the most. I think one can use one's common sense to imagine the difficulties that could arise from various types of accidents that occur. We're concerned on one level -- call it the macro-level -- about the fact that these exercises are meant for political purposes to intimidate Taiwan. Ordnance can go astray -- there is shipping in that area, very important commercial shipping. There are 2l million people on the island of Taiwan. We're very concerned, obviously, that there be no accidents. It's not really useful for me to talk about the various ways in which accidents could occur. Q To change the subject a bit, on this Achille Lauro hijacker who escaped from Italian authorities, could you bring us up-to-date on what the feeling is on how the Italian authorities have handled this, including letting the man escape; what the U.S. is going to do to try and get him back? MR. DAVIES: We've been in touch with the Italians in a number of different ways to express to them our concern that this has occurred, that this terrorist went walk about from prison on a pass. Italian officials, in response to the concern we've expressed, have themselves expressed understanding of our strong reaction -- it's been very strong -- and it would appear that many Italians share that concern, that strong reaction that we've had. I don't think there's any secret that this disappearance doesn't help Italy's credibility, and we know that Italian authorities are vigorously working on this, trying to hunt this fugitive down. We're working with them as closely as we can in that effort. And then just domestically, our understanding is that the Minister of Justice has launched an investigation of how this came about. So we're also interested in the outcome of that investigation -- how somebody of this stripe could go off drinking cappuccino and then just disappear. That's very disturbing, obviously, to us. But we're assured that the Italians are working on this. They're very serious about this. They're concerned, they're looking into it, and we would expect that their results will bear fruit soon. We hope they will. Q There are reports that this terrorist may have fled to Algeria; and since the representatives from Algeria and Italy will be at this Summit tomorrow, is it expected that Secretary Christopher will have a conversation with them about terrorism and efforts to not have something like this happen again or perhaps to pursue this person in Algeria? MR. DAVIES: I don't know if the Secretary will necessarily raise this when he's out there. Obviously, job one on this trip for the Secretary, initially, is to work with his colleagues to try to strengthen anti-terrorism measures. This is something that may come up, but I don't imagine that the Secretary will go much beyond what we've said publicly about this. We've made clear that the Italians have to move effectively on the case. We've heard what the Prime Minister -- Prime Minister Dini -- has done, that he's convened a high-level meeting. He did that a couple of days ago -- perhaps even just yesterday -- to discuss actions that the Italians are undertaking. We will continue to work closely with the Italians to resolve this, and we hope to re-apprehend this individual. Q In connection with the anti-terrorist conference, there's been some concern among Latin American diplomats why Latin America was sidelined at this conference when President Clinton in December l994 at the Miami Summit made a point of stressing the global nature of anti-terrorist measures, that this was the most serious security concern, along with narco-traffic, facing the hemisphere -- and particularly countries such as Argentina and Brazil, Panama, who've been advised by the CIA apparently that there are attempts by fundamentalists to infiltrate the Arab communities in these countries -- why they haven't been invited. MR. DAVIES: The fight against terrorism -- narco-terrorism, terrorism in the Middle East, terrorism elsewhere -- is a global fight. There's no question about it and it is on our agenda with all nations of the world. This meeting at Sharm al-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula is a meeting, really, about the Middle East, and it's about the terrorist acts that have occurred in Israel over the last several weeks and to discuss the peace process and how the world community that's most directly implicated or concerned with that area of the world is to deal with these challenges. Certainly, no slight was intended in not inviting others from around the world, but I think putting this thing together on short notice, the notion was to extend invitations to those who are more directly concerned with the Middle East and with the particular challenge that the world community faces there. It wasn't at all a question of drawing a circle meant to exclude other nations. It was drawing a circle that would include those interested in this problem and able to work on this challenge in the first instance. Of course, Latin America, which has problems in the narco-terrorism field, I think has been, with some notably tragic exceptions, free of really tragic events associated with the Middle East. Q Syria announced yesterday to not attend the meeting of Sharm al-Sheikh. What was the reaction here? MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, Syria? Q Has announced to not attend the meeting of Sharm al-Sheikh. MR. DAVIES: I haven't seen a specific announcement that they've decided ultimately that they won't send anybody at all. We knew that President Assad did not intend on attending, and we were hopeful that Syria might send some representation. What's important now -- the summit is upon us in about 24 hours -- is to put the focus on the threat of terrorism and on the battle against terrorism. It's important that all those who support the peace process come together at Sharm al-Sheikh and confront this problem. Syria has made a counter-proposal, which is that there be some kind of a gathering to follow up the Madrid conference that launched the Middle East peace process. But the point that we want to make, and the point that we're making to Syria and others, is that Job One right now is terrorism and getting at terrorism -- fighting that scourge -- so that the peace process can go forward. Q Have you also heard from Lebanon that it will not be coming? MR. DAVIES: I don't believe Lebanon will attend. I have nothing specific on that. I did see an announcement yesterday that they did not intend on sending any representation, so we don't expect them to attend. Q What does it mean in the U.S. view that Syria is not attending? What does it mean in terms of its commitment to fight terrorism, if any? MR. DAVIES: We wanted Syria to attend. We invited Syria. We had hoped they would attend. They've chosen not to attend, and we take note of that. It's not something that really pleases us, clearly. We'd like very much for Syria to be there. They've decided not to be there. Q Does it tell you anything about Syria and the fight against terrorism? MR. DAVIES: I don't know that we're drawing any new conclusions about Syria from their decision not to attend the summit. I mean, you'd have to ask them why they chose not to attend. We wish they were there, but they've decided they won't be there. Q In the view of the United States Government, does this damage, hurt the peace process with Israel? It certainly is going to be taken in a negative way by the electorate in Israel. Would you care to comment on that aspect? MR. DAVIES: We've talked about what this means for the peace process before. What this means is that now the focus really has to be -- everybody's focus has to be on fighting terrorism, and we've got to get that solved. We need a collective effort. We need an international multilateral effort to try to solve that problem. The Wye talks, which were underway, of course, were suspended because of what occurred in Israel -- the tragedies that occurred there. That, of course, is a challenge to the peace process. There's no question about it. We prefer to look forward and to look toward a day when we can solve the problem of terrorism together and the parties can get back on track with the peace process and once and for all create a regional peace that gives Israel, for the first in its history, security with its neighbors. So for now we're going to get at the problem of terrorism, and then as soon as it's possible to turn to the peace process, we would hope the parties will turn to the peace process. Q Is there any explanation from Syria to this government that you can share with us? MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to share the substance of our diplomatic conversations with Syria, no. Q Glyn, given that the Syrians are not attending this conference or at least not at any senior level, what prospects are there of the Wye talks resuming any time soon? MR. DAVIES: All I can do, really, is just repeat what I've said: That we would hope that sooner rather than later we can get the peace process back on track, going again. We expect that that will happen, but first we have to concentrate on the problem of terrorism. I'm not going to predict when we'll be able to get back to the table, but we hope it's soon. Q Are you predicting that same format -- Syria and Israel talking -- MR. DAVIES: Just don't know. I don't know, Jim. We'll have to wait and see. Q Is there a U.S. response to Syria's counter-proposal for a Madrid-like conference? MR. DAVIES: I don't know that we've responded formally at this stage. I also don't know that it would be a good idea to put out in public what it is we think about it or want to do, beyond again -- to repeat what I've said -- that right now we've got to get together on terrorism and attempt to solve that problem and get back to the peace end of the equation just as soon as we can. But I think I'll forego commenting specifically on what we'll be saying to the Syrians in reaction to their proposal. Q Bosnia. There are two individuals that the War Crimes Tribunal is seeking to interview, and they're being held -- I'm not sure if it's in Serbia or if it's in Bosnian Serb held territory. Can you give us any update on how The Hague is doing and whether there has been more compliance by the parties in terms of war crimes investigation? MR. DAVIES: Are you talking about the two who were picked up -- Q They were picked up last week, I think. MR. DAVIES: Right. My understanding is that Assistant Secretary John Shattuck, who's in the region, had something to say about that. I saw some reports on the wires just in the last hour or so that would indicate that the War Crimes Tribunal will be granted access to those two individuals, which is what we've been calling for. So that's a positive development. We'll have to see what the War Crimes Tribunal, which is the proper authority in this instance, develops in their conversations with those two gentlemen. Q So would you say, then, that compliance was improved with these countries or with the Serbs and Bosnian Serbs? Overall, I mean, have you seen a general improvement in compliance? MR. DAVIES: I wouldn't say that we've seen an overall improvement in compliance. I think it's a positive development just on the narrow issue of those two and the access that's been granted to them, if these press reports are correct. That's good. It's important that people who have information about atrocities that have occurred in Bosnia be connected with the War Crimes Tribunal. The War Crimes Tribunal needs to talk to them in order to do their work in developing information about what occurred over the four-and-a-half years of bloodshed in that country. But I don't think it makes sense to extrapolate from that to make some larger comment that all of a sudden there's sweetness and light coming out of those countries on the whole issue of the War Crimes Tribunal. There's a lot that remains to be done. There are now, I think, 53 individuals indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal who haven't -- the vast majority of them have not been brought to justice --- brought to the War Crimes Tribunal. We want to see those people brought to The Hague and want to see those cases prosecuted. Q Move back to the escape of Mr. al-Molqi from the Italian authorities for one second. I mean, this type of escape -- this type of person from the Italian authorities is not exactly a new thing. Is there a level of concern or investigation on behalf of the U.S. into the motives or actions of the Italian authorities who seem to have let this happen? MR. DAVIES: The Italian authorities are looking into this, and we think seriously, and we take them at their word. I mean, they have, themselves, expressed concern about what's occurred. They've expressed an understanding of our concern, and they've launched some probes into this. So I think what we will do is work with them as they investigate what's happened, and we look forward to the results of their inquiries. But we're not, ourselves, launching any kind of a separate or parallel investigation of what's occurred. That's not warranted. Q Are there preliminary explanations or excuses similar to the explanations that you've gotten from them on previous escapes? MR. DAVIES: I don't have much information about previous escapes, but everything that I know about this has appeared in press reports in terms of what the Italians initially said when word came out that he was missing. Obviously, we read that with some interest and got back to the Italians and expressed our concern, and now we're at, I think, a stage that's a bit further along, where they, themselves, have expressed concern. They've launched an investigation at very senior levels. They've given us assurances that they'll look into this with all means available, and we in turn have pledged to help them, because we have a real interest in this. Leon Klinghoffer, the American citizen who was brutally murdered, should not have died, and the individual who is now gone and no longer in custody was responsible for that, and he ought to be re-apprehended, and we've made that point. The Italians know how seriously we view this. Q Also on terrorism, do you have any readout of yesterday's luncheon with the European Union representatives? Did Secretary Christopher make any converts? MR. DAVIES: The readout I have closely parallels -- it won't surprise you -- the preview that Nick gave you yesterday on what occurred at the lunch. He gave a lunch for European Union Chiefs of Mission, Ambassadors and others yesterday, and they talked about a number of things -- not just terrorism, but they talked about our interest in moving forward on the transatlantic agenda. They talked about peace implementation in the former Yugoslavia, preparations for the summit at Sharm al-Sheikh in Egypt, and they also had a brief discussion of what's occurring now in the Taiwan Strait between China and Taiwan. But I don't have any news flashes in terms of individual conversations the Secretary might have had or the reactions of the Chiefs of Mission. I think I'll leave it at that kind of a general readout of what occurred. Q Nigeria. There's a story in The New York Times today that the United States would like to move towards an international embargo, but is getting a cool response from the Europeans. MR. DAVIES: The story -- while otherwise, I guess, a good story -- was perhaps a bit overdrawn on that point. What's true is that the United States has been engaged very closely with the international community and, of course, the Europeans are key here on the full range of issues and options that relate to Nigeria. That process of review continues. We, of course, in the wake of the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa, went ahead with a number of unilateral measures to respond to the Nigerian action. We continue to consult with our allies, with other African nations, on ways to go forward. On the question of sanctions, some sanctions work unilaterally; most sanctions don't. Most sanctions need a multilateral united front to succeed, and I think the oil sanctions, which are the principal sanctions at issue here, fall into that category. It really doesn't work to unilaterally impose sanctions on an oil producer that size unless you have a united front of oil consuming nations to do that. That said, all of the economic and non-economic options that we were considering before remain on the table. We continue to believe that multilateral measures are the best way to go, and we're working with our partners to try to come up with some further measures. One final thing I could go into briefly on Nigeria is just to tick off for you quickly the things we did: the visa restrictions we placed on Nigerians, the fact that we banned arms sales to Nigeria; that we terminated all aid except humanitarian and democratization aid; we suspended consideration of Nigeria's application for OPIC and Ex-Im financing. Those of you who attended our drug certification briefing know that Nigeria was decertified. So we've taken a number of steps, and we'll continue to look into further steps that might be taken. Q Can I turn to the Inter-American agenda again and its relevance to this Middle East focus on terrorism? I recall that several months ago two of your own officials testified before the House Foreign Relations Committee on the ongoing investigation in Argentina -- the two explosions that left about 200 dead -- and the explosion on a Panamanian airliner. In both cases your officials mentioned that there were connections to Middle East -- to groups in the Middle East, to terrorist groups in the Middle East. MR. DAVIES: That's correct. Q And you have just pointed out that there are meetings with the Europeans. The Europeans will be present in Egypt. The question that constantly arises is if the omission f certain Latin American countries or the omission of the region's representation is not a kind of a relic of Cold War mindset; that it's just -- it eludes people -- they don't focus. MR. DAVIES: That's a big question. I don't think that the decision to invite the 30-some countries and actors that were invited -- the list that was drawn, which was a list drawn up not unilaterally by the United States, but in conjunction, obviously, with the Egyptians who co-host this -- there was no slight intended in excluding other nations, certainly not Latin American nations. They do have a stake in the fight against terrorism, and they have suffered on a couple of tragic occasions from terrorism that may well have been linked to that region of the world. Nobody did any redlining on the map as this meeting was hastily brought together. It was simply a case of deciding which countries would most directly benefit from being there and could bring the most to the table in the first instance, and I'm certain that as we go forward we will brief all of our diplomatic partners, and perhaps now with special emphasis on Latin America, about what occurred and what steps are to be taken. And we would hope they would associate themselves with any steps that they might usefully associated themselves with. Q Thank you Glyn . I'd like to go back to China for a moment. Something interesting -- I think it's interesting. Qian Qichen in his news conference, referring to some in the U.S. Congress, is quoted as saying, "They must not forget that Taiwan is a part of China's territory and is not a protectorate of the United States." Another quote here in the wires this morning: "Our position remains constant that Taiwan is an integral part of China, and that the current issue is an internal matter for the Chinese people." This was not a Chinese diplomat. This was the spokesman for Russia, Mr. Karasin. I understand that the Russians and the Chinese are growing closer in their relations, as the relations cool with the United States. Could you comment on that? I believe Mr. Yeltsin is going to be in China soon. MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything particularly for you on the relationship between those two nations, beyond saying that the world is better off if they get along. Q Glyn, on Latin America and Cuba, the President signed the Helms-Burton bill this morning. I asked the other day, and I haven't seen an answer, doesn't this result in a secondary and tertiary boycott, and are those not at least -- if not illegal, at least in contradiction to U.S. policy elsewhere in the world? MR. DAVIES: The President did sign Helms-Burton this morning. Helms-Burton is a complicated piece of legislation with a number of provisions in it. We have to now move to implement Helms-Burton and decide precisely how that legislation will be applied. I think it would be a bit premature for me to comment on how that's going to happen in each instance. We've spoken many times in the last week or so about that legislation, about the Title III provision of the legislation which creates a right of action allowing U.S. citizens whose property was confiscated to sue in U.S. courts. We've noted as well, and I'll do it again, that that provision contains a waiver of authority for the President, so that when the legislation comes into force at six monthly intervals, the President can make a determination, if he sees fit, to waive implementation of that Title III provision. We'll simply, I think, have to see how this pans out. A number of nations have made plain to us that they have objections to the legislation, and we want to work with nations that will be affected to explain our action and to discuss with them as we work through the implementation end of it exactly how it will affect their citizens, corporations and governments. Q Didn't you just say for sanctions to succeed you need a multilateral front? MR. DAVIES: I think what I said was for sanctions to succeed against a major oil producing nation, you need a united front. Q Wouldn't work with a sugar producer? MR. DAVIES: With a sugar producer? Q Yes. MR. DAVIES: We've voted with our taste buds on sugar in Helms-Burton. Q Do you have any conversation with Asian allies about Taiwan Straits problem? MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry? Q Do you have any conversation with Asian allies -- Japan or South Korea -- MR. DAVIES: Sure, of course. We're in constant communication with them. Q Would you tell us about the content of the conversations? MR. DAVIES: I can only note for you that we're in daily communication with those governments, especially the Government of Japan, which is a key partner of the United States in that part of the world. They know why we're taking the action we're taking in moving the military assets. They know a bit about our exchanges with the Government of China, and for the rest of it, I think it's best not to go into the substance of our diplomatic exchanges. But we are in close consultation with all of our partners in the region about what's occurring in the Taiwan Straits. Q Secretary Christopher going to meet Japanese Foreign Minister in Egypt? MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I do not know if that meeting will be arranged. It's just a day that they're going to be together, and there will be some 30 representatives of nation-states and regional actors. So I don't know if we'll be able to do that. I'm sure the Secretary will have a full schedule and will conduct as many meetings as possible, but I don't have his schedule in front of me. Q Glyn, can you get more on this trip to the Caucasus that you announced earlier? What's the U.S. agenda -- the Caspian Sea pipeline? MR. DAVIES: Let me see if I've got a little bit on that -- the trip by Deputy Secretary Talbott. I do have a little bit more, not a lot. It may not meet your needs, but let me see. No -- only that they'll be going to those three countries -- Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan -- to talk about regional efforts toward peace, and then Caspian energy issues -- which means, in that part of the world, oil and the flow of oil certainly. And that Deputy Secretary Talbott will be going to that region from Moscow, so he'll have fresh in his mind his exchanges with Russian officials that are occurring in a broader context: our strategic stability talks with the Russian Government that occur periodically. What's perhaps best on the Caucasus is to sort of wait and see what comes out of it. So you might imagine they'll be having meetings with leaders in that part of the world and talking about the issues there. But let's, in a couple of days, see if we can give you a readout of what they accomplish. Q Did you see the story this morning about the visa denial concerning the former Stasi official from East Germany? MR. DAVIES: Markus Wolf? Q Yes. MR. DAVIES: Yes -- right. Was that a subject that came up yesterday? I don't know that it was. Yes. We made a determination that Mr. Wolf was ineligible for a visa under a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that states that aliens who have engaged in terrorist activity are not available for visas. Markus Wolf was the Deputy Minister of State Security for East Germany and also Head of the Ministry's Foreign Espionage Branch. The East German Ministry of State Security -- or Stasi -- actively abetted and fostered terrorism, state-supported terrorism and international terrorism. So he is the number two person in the Stasi, in our view, who was in a decision-making position and participated in determining that Ministry's goals and policies, and therefore was responsible for the actions resulting from policies and goals. And that's the basis for the decision that we took to deny him a visa. Q Can you elaborate on the kind of terrorism that he was promoting -- where it took place, that sort of thing? MR. DAVIES: I can't. Not at this stage. We can perhaps get you some detail on that. I don't think there's any secret that the Government of East Germany was involved with supporting a number of terrorist organizations, and Mr. Wolf is the number two official in the Stasi who would have been intimately involved in designing that nation's policy to support various terrorist organizations. I think much of that has been made public since the fall of the Berlin Wall; but that's perhaps something we could get a little more on for you if you'd like, George. Q Before you break up, I want to refer to your gracious introduction of your guests from Albania and to make sure that they know before they leave that an eminent son of Albania is running the prestigious Neiman Program at Harvard -- Bill (inaudible) I don't know if they've been to Cambridge, but I'm sure he would very much enjoy meeting them. MR. DAVIES: Thank you for that. Perhaps you can give them some particulars. Great. Any other questions? No? Thank you very much. (The briefing concluded at l:35 p.m.) (###)To the top of this page