U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 1996, 1:07 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing, and a special welcome to some visitors. First, four reporters from Thailand, over on the side, who are in the United States to examine aspects of women in the media in America. So, welcome.
Second, to welcome some students from the National War College, which is my alma mater. Welcome to you. It's great that you're here to join us to see how we do it at the State Department.
I don't have any particular announcements for you today except perhaps just to give you a quick update on where the Secretary is at this moment and where he is headed.
He will remain in Israel tonight and tomorrow for meetings with Israeli officials. Then, Friday, in the second half of the day, he's off to Brussels for the weekend. He'll have some meetings at NATO Headquarters and at SHAPE with General Joulwan.
At the end of the weekend he'll go onto Geneva for meetings and then from there to Kiev, Prague, and Moscow. We'll follow reports from his travels.
With that, to your questions.
Q Do you have any details on the aid package for Israel?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have details beyond what you've seen in the press. The President did announce that the United States has pledged $100 million to Israel in anti-terrorism assistance. That assistance will include the likes of sensors, X-ray equipment, bomb-detection equipment, bomb-handling equipment training.
Of course, in addition to that pledge of assistance immediately, we will begin work to develop with them -- and we hope, perhaps more widely in the Middle East -- new anti-terrorism methods and technologies. We will work to enhance communications and coordination between the United States and Israel and, we hope, other nations.
So that work is underway. That's one of the reasons that the Secretary is staying behind, to work on some of those issues.
Q Does the $100 million include the $30-to-$40 million for the seven explosive detectors sent last week?
MR. DAVIES: I believe that was separate but we can check to find out the breakdown.
Q I have a question concerning Thailand. Yesterday, Amnesty International, both here and in Bangkok presented its report on China which closely paralleled the State Department's report dealing with the same abuses. The difference between the two news conferences was that in Bangkok two of the principal authors of this book, called, I think, "No One is Safe" or "No Safety for Anyone," were detained or arrested by the Bangkok police for 90 minutes, making it impossible for them to attend the press conference at which this report was going to be presented.
One, does the State Department know about it? Are you planning to do anything about it? What do you think the motives of the Thai police were?
MR. DAVIES: I can't speak to the motives of the Thai police, Jim. We do know about it. We are looking into it. We understand that some members of Amnesty International were questioned briefly by Thai authorities on the 13th and then released.
The Royal Thai Government's commitment to principles of democracy and human rights is one of the foundations of our relationship with that country. So we certainly hope that we can get an explanation of what occurred, because it did seem ill-timed.
Q Maybe not. Maybe it was very well-timed since the Prime Minister of Thailand is going to China on March 24, hoping to cement bilateral relations with Beijing. Do you think that had anything to do with it?
MR. DAVIES: I just don't know why they did it. It appeared to be more than coincidental, I would agree on that. We'll have to find out what happened. We're doing that in Thailand. Our Embassy is on the case. If we have concerns based on the report we get back, we'll take them up with the Thai Government.
Q It looks like several European Union countries are reluctant to participate in tomorrow's meeting in Ankara to raise funds for the training of the Federation forces in Bosnia. Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. DAVIES: We are getting together with our European partners and others under the sponsorship of Turkey and the United States. Representing the United States at that meeting will be a delegation headed by Deputy Secretary of State Talbott. Some of our people are already there in Ankara working on the issue.
Our position, as has been spelled out before -- we think it's very important that in addition to the arms control measures of the Dayton Accord there be some provision made such that at the time IFOR leaves Bosnia, the Bosnian forces have the means to defend themselves and there's an adequate balance of power. We think that balance of forces and balance of power will contribute greatly to preventing the conflict from restarting. We're obviously making that case to our European colleagues. They will be at Ankara, and we'll be talking it over with them.
We've taken note of some of the objections that have been expressed, and we'll have to work through this.
Q I understand that Turkey, yesterday, made another appeal to several countries repeating the invitation. Has the U.S. Government done anything like that?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have all the ins and outs of the diplomacy of the invitation process for Ankara. I know that we've been engaged actively, as has Turkey, in trying to attract people to come to the conference so that it can have the widest possible participation and we can move forward. But I don't know if we've, in the last couple of days, mounted any kind of an extra effort.
Q Excuse me, just to clarify something. Is the U.S. a co-host of this meeting?
MR. DAVIES: We may well be a formal co-host to the meeting. I can check that for you. There will be tomorrow an announcement made that will spell out precisely what's to occur in Ankara. It's not prepared yet.
Q About Turkey. Last week, the Turkish security forces captured one of the most wanted terrorists -- he killed a most prominent journalist, executive editor of the Turkish daily Hurriyea. He admitted he worked on behalf of Iran -- and he said that Iranian diplomats in Ankara -- they helped him in the assassination business. This is showing for the first time the Iranian involvement openly to some kind of terrorism in Iran.
Last week, I asked the same question. Nick took the question. Do you have any answer today? What's your reaction about this event -- latest event -- Iran's open involvement in terrorism in Turkey?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have an answer for you today on that beyond the condemnation that you've heard several times from this podium of Iran for its evident support of terrorism -- which is on a Bill of Particulars that this nation has against Iran. It includes things like pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and opposition to the peace process.
If it's proven that Iran was involved in such an act, it would add further weight to the evidence that already exists of Iranian support for terrorism; and we, of course, would condemn it.
A follow-up on that or still on Turkey?
Q As you probably know, there was a demonstration by Amnesty International on the sale of Cobra helicopters to Turkey. Does the State Department have a position on the sale? And what's your reaction to the demonstration?
MR. DAVIES: We know that there's a demonstration planned. Our position on the sale of Cobras to Turkey is, both as a matter of law and policy, we take a number of things into account as we look at sales of materiel -- weapons -- to other countries.
Among the things we look at, of course, are human rights concerns. But in this case, the U.S. military and NATO have determined that there is a legitimate need on the part of Turkey's military for increased mobility in anti-tank capabilities. That's the backdrop to the decision process which is still underway on those Cobras.
Q On the human rights problems, do you plan to say something --
MR. DAVIES: On the human rights problem, I have a wonderful standby, which is the human rights report that we just released. It goes into some detail, including our concerns about the Turkish Government's actions vis-a-vis the Kurds. It's all there. I can't improve on a year's worth of effort on the part of my colleagues in the field and in Washington.
Q (Inaudible) with the Bosnian meeting. It appears that there's widespread looting and thuggery going on by some of the returning Muslims in the Sarajevo suburbs. If this goes on, is this the sort of thing that would induce the United States to withhold reconstruction aid, or military aid?
MR. DAVIES: We haven't created any direct linkage between what's occurring in the Sarajevo suburbs and the ultimate provision of reconstruction aid.
I think you put it well, this is thuggery -- hooliganism, as the Soviets used to like to say. There have been incidents of intimidation and attacks against those residents choosing to stay in many of the suburbs. We strongly condemn what are clearly lawless actions.
In response to what's occurred, IFOR and the IPTF have increased their presence in these areas. They are working to provide an atmosphere of greater security to deter further attacks against the civilian population.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and others are cooperating to try to provide safehaven to people who feel threatened.
In addition to the looting and the thuggery and some of the violence, of course, a number of buildings are being set afire. Provisions have been made to beef up the fire-fighting capability out there and also to escort fire fighters so that they're not subjected to this.
This is not a great chapter, obviously, in the history of developments in that city, and we would hope that all of this is ended soon by the parties on the ground. But it's difficult, clearly, to get at this kind of activity that occurs at night -- bands of thugs wandering around. It's something we're concerned about and we're working on.
Q Glyn, following up on that, does the United States feel that the civilian side of the Dayton accords -- that the provisions of police forces and infrastructure are sufficient? It doesn't look as if the civilian side has gone very well. Does the United States plan to make any changes in the capabilities of the civilian -- those trying to put into place the civilian side of the Dayton accords? And I have a follow-up.
MR. DAVIES: Sure. Nobody has made a secret of the fact that on the civilian side of the accords it's been a tougher row to hoe than on the military side, which has worked so far quite well -- the separation of the forces and the other provisions of the military annex. There have been difficulties associated with implementing the civilian side of the accords.
There's no plan to re-tool the machinery, which is what I think you're going to -- to make major changes in personnel or create new institutions. What's important is that all parties to the accord and all members of the Contact Group -- the United States included, of course, -- keep working hard on these problems and, as they come up, keep coming up with solutions.
I don't think that there is necessarily an institutional fix to some of the challenges on the civilian side. I think what's needed is a rededication on the part of the parties to make good on the provisions they've signed up to.
Q Do you think that the parties -- the Presidents of Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia have done too little -- have put too little of their own energy into this side of the Dayton accords?
MR. DAVIES: I think that there's a lot more that can be done. And, as we've addressed each of the specific issues that have been put before us, we've made those calls very explicit on the signatories to Dayton to do more.
We're about four months into the Dayton accord process. I don't think it makes any sense now to ring down the curtain on it. I think there's a great deal that's been accomplished -- much more that can be accomplished, and many, many positive signs to point to, including, of course, really the brilliant success of IFOR in performing its military mission.
Now what's needed is a rededication on the part of the parties on the ground, since they are the ones on the front line, to following through on the civilian end of it, so that as we move into key aspects of this, like elections, that they occur properly and are legitimate and result in the types of institutions and leaders that country needs.
Q Do you think that all the requirements under the agreements for D-plus-90 will be met?
MR. DAVIES: We certainly hope they will.
Q They will?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to predict the future. It's up to the parties to meet them. It's in their interest to meet them, and this is the refrain that they're getting from us. We can provide assistance in various ways through the presence of our military forces in the implementation force, which is NATO-led. We can provide some measure of aid and expertise, and many civilians are out there in various capacities. But, when it all comes down to it, in order to take advantage of this year that they've got -- this year of assistance and help -- they've got to make it happen. We're already a third of the way into it, close to halfway through. It's really time, obviously, to make a lot of this now begin to click, and we're hoping that we'll start to see more progress.
Q Back to terror. Mr. Louis Farrakhan is in town this evening to receive an award -- a reward from the black--
MR. DAVIES: Is he claiming the $2 million for the -- (laughter) -- the Achille Lauro? No.
Q No, in fact the Black Newspaper Publishers Association is giving him an award for his Million Man March work this evening before -- I think at 5:00 p.m. he's having a press briefing. How does the Department view this man being rewarded in this fashion, and does the State Department intend to monitor Mr. Farrakhan's remarks and the like?
MR. DAVIES: No, we won't be monitoring his remarks. If he's being given an award for the Million Man March, congratulations to him. We wouldn't comment on that sort of a domestic development anyway. As far as his tour of various countries recently, we've said -- and I'll repeat -- that the Justice Department and the Treasury Department have a process underway -- they've spoken about it -- and I would point to them if you've got questions about where that stands.
Q Kurdish terror organization leader, Mr. Ocalan -- PKK leader, Mr. Ocalan -- when he gave an interview once in a Greek newspaper, he claimed that he was planning to attack all of the Turkish troop facilities and attack civilians -- the next phase of this event. Also, he advised Greek Government, don't find some kind of solution in the Aegean crisis; fight with the Turks for the Imia-Kardak problem. What do you think about that? Do you see --
MR. DAVIES: I'm sure that Greece will do the right thing, as will Turkey on Imia-Kardak. It strikes me as a bit silly that a Kurdish official would be advising Greece on Imia-Kardak. I mean, I don't necessarily see the connection.
Q About attack the civilians (inaudible) --
MR. DAVIES: We've condemned the PKK before, and, when you see our terrorism report, there may well be again strong language about the PKK as a terrorist organization. It has committed a number of crimes and attacks that have no basis -- no excuse for what they're doing. I can repeat that condemnation, but I don't have any particular comment on what this official is up to.
Q The Chairman of the U.S. Congress Committee on International Relations, Mr. Benjamin Gilman, wrote a letter to President Clinton on February 7, 1996, and asked: "I would appreciate your clarification as to what U.S. policy concerning the sovereignty of Greece over the Imia islets is today, and what it had been prior to the confrontation."
So far there is no response. Could you answer this question, as the Department of State, about the status of sovereignty?
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Lambros, there has been no response to the Congressman -- is that what you're saying, or --
Q It was a letter by Mr. Gilman to the President to clarify what was the status of sovereignty of Imia island today and prior to confrontation, and, since there is no response so far, I would like to know from the State Department what happened to the sovereignty letter? This is the basis --
MR. DAVIES: First, I don't know that there's been no response. I mean, that strikes me as private correspondence. Second, if there had been a response, I wouldn't be at liberty to reveal it. Correspondence to Congressman Gilman is for him to reveal, if he wishes to do so.
Third, our position on Imia-Kardak hasn't changed. It's where it has been, essentially that both countries --
Q Once again to the status, vis-a-vis the sovereignty, what is your position?
MR. DAVIES: Our position is that the dispute over Imia-Kardak should be resolved peacefully.
Q I was told yesterday by a highly reliable source that Mr. Holbrooke, who was in the State Department during the Imia crisis, was aware finally of the second Turkish invasion of the second islet three hours prior to the Turkish action. I would like to know what the State Department did to prevent this second Turkish invasion, and if and when the State Department informed the Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Simitis, and his Foreign Minister, Mr. Pangalos?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that it was up to the State Department to deploy diplomats to defend the island necessarily. Mr. Lambros, honestly, I don't know. I can't take you back then. I wasn't with the Ambassador, and I don't know precisely what actions he took. I don't have a direct answer to that, and I wouldn't expect one, if I were you.
Q I was told also yesterday by the same source that during the Imia crisis, Greek Prime Minister Simitis, and his Foreign Minister, Mr. Pangalos, with your mediation, agreed finally with Turkish Prime Minister Ciller and Foreign Minister Baykal, the new status for Imia islets to the effect: "No flags, no soldiers, no ships" depriving Greek sovereignty. May we have your comments? Mr. Simitis and Mr. Pangalos do not have the right for such an offer to Turkey, ignoring the Greek people, the Greek constitution and the Greek Parliament against actually the status over the islands.
MR. DAVIES: I choose not to comment on that. I don't have a comment.
Q It's (inaudible) mediation. I'm not saying to comment on what they did, but I would like to have your answer as far as for this agreement to confirm or to comment.
MR. DAVIES: I'm not in a position to confirm or to comment on it, and we can talk perhaps later about Imia-Kardak. I want to be able to go to other questions now.
Q Glyn, could you shed any light on the talks between Pentagon and Taiwanese officials scheduled for next Monday on arms sales to Taiwan?
MR. DAVIES: No, but you could address those questions to the Pentagon.
Q Could you clarify the nature of the talks? Are they official, unofficial or private or --
MR. DAVIES: I really have no detail on that or information on that. I think your best bet is probably to put those questions to the Pentagon.
Q Let me try another one. Do you have any update on the proposed talks between Secretary Christopher and the Chinese Foreign Minister next month?
MR. DAVIES: No specific update. We remain, for public consumption, where we were, which is that the Secretary wants very much to get together with the Chinese Foreign Minister, and our understanding is that the Chinese have a reciprocal interest in meeting, and that we hope we'll be able to arrange a time soon in the spring when they can get together and meet, because there's a lot to talk about.
Q Is there any decision on the visit by the Chinese Defense Minister to the U.S.?
MR. DAVIES: No. The Pentagon might have had something to say about that a little earlier. That was a visit that was to have taken place at the end of last year. It had to be postponed, and we look for that to happen in the spring. So this spring we'll have a couple of important contacts with ranking Chinese officials.
Q I have a question in line with the Secretary's new enthusiasm for environmental issues.
MR. DAVIES: It's not new. He's been enthusiastic about the environment from the beginning.
Q Yes -- the new urgency which is putting everything at the top of the agenda having to do with the environment. Driftnets. An international trade court in New York says, in effect, that the State Department and Commerce Department have been dragging their feet on issuing a certificate of non-compliance in the case of Italy, which has allowed hundreds of these huge driftnets to catch sea life.
One, has the State Department decided to go ahead and issue such a certificate? And, two, do you have any response to the charges that the State Department for purposes of bilateral improvement of relations has dragged its feet on this issue?
MR. DAVIES: I would reject the charge that the United States State Department has dragged its feet on this matter in order to preserve good relations with Italy. I think our relations with Italy are excellent, and they are so deep and broad that, were there to be a dispute over driftnets, it wouldn't greatly disturb our relationship.
The position we're in now on that issue is that the State Department and the Commerce Department are awaiting the court's order to determine how to proceed. The order is likely to require the Secretary of Commerce to identify Italy as a driftnetting nation, and that has ramifications. Clearly, the article went into some of those.
Up to the point at which this announcement was made, our experts had been, as you would expect, evaluating the information they had on the issue, and they had concluded that there was no reason to believe that Italy was violating the driftnet ban. But Judge Aquilino has ruled against us, and we will respect the court order when it's issued and take a look at it and perhaps have something more specific at that point.
Q I'm puzzled. The State Department had no reason to believe that these huge driftnets -- which have been spotted by other nations and other organizations, including the Humane Society -- you had no reason to believe that these driftnets were out there?
MR. DAVIES: A couple of points. The evidence wasn't necessarily clearcut on all cases -- ships without flags so you couldn't really identify them; ships sometimes within Italian territorial waters, which can put out 4,000-mile nets if they want. We're talking about international waters here.
The final point is that when you move to something this serious you want to be sure that you have your facts straight and that your evidence is correct. We set a fairly high standard, a fairly high bar, so that when we declare a nation a driftnetting nation, we can back it up.
Our experts up to now had, in looking at the evidence, decided that we didn't have sufficient evidence to make that determination. But the judge has ruled, and we'll take it from here.
Q As you understand it now, does the State Department and the Commerce Department -- do they have any discretion in the matter? Once the court has ruled, can you issue --
MR. DAVIES: That I don't know the answer. I mean, I think step one is to take a look at the order and then to comply as best we can. We will comply with the order. I don't know to what extent there's discretion there. If the judge tells you to do something, I think pretty much you do it. Is there an appeals process? I don't know. I just don't know.
Q Is there a waiver provision?
MR. DAVIES: That I don't know either. On driftnetting, I just don't know.
Q Could you find out, please?
MR. DAVIES: Sure, I'll look into that for you. Happy to.
Q Guatemala. The State Department came out with the report yesterday on human rights in Guatemala. I'm just trying to find out how ardent are we still trying to get the cooperation of the Guatemalan Government with Jennifer Harbury, and also on the death of Devine. Is that still an ongoing issue, or have we given up on that?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think anybody has given up on that. But you said that yesterday the State Department issued a report on human rights in Guatemala?
Q That's what I've got here, yes.
MR. DAVIES: I think what you're referring to -- it must be -- the Human Rights report that we issued some time ago, a week or so ago, on all nations. Is that --
Q I've got U.S. Department of State, Wednesday, March 13.
MR. DAVIES: I don't know of any report that we issued on human rights in Guatemala yesterday. I'll look into that for you, if you'd like.
Q You mean another separate one?
MR. DAVIES: Pardon me?
Q This is another separate report? Or this is part of your human rights report which came out last week; is that right?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I haven't seen the report you're referring to. I'm kind of at sea -- speaking of driftnets.
Q (Inaudible) that report says.
MR. DAVIES: I'll look into that for you. Happy to.
Q A Chinese (inaudible) official news agency has described in a commentary -- has described the dispatch of aircraft carriers to the waters of Taiwan as playing with fire. I was wondering if you have any response to that?
MR. DAVIES: No. Our dispatch, or actually our shifting, if you will, of one aircraft carrier closer to Taiwan and then the decision to move the Nimitz a little bit early from its posting in the Middle East to the western Pacific is not at all meant to be an intimidating act or an act meant to raise the temperature in that region. Quite to the contrary.
Our interest is in simply underscoring that we're a Pacific power and that we have an interest in a peaceful resolution of the dispute between Taiwan and China. Our intent, certainly, is not to play with fire. This isn't a game. This is serious.
We are taking some steps to monitor the situation and to underscore our interest in a peaceful resolution of the dispute. To this stage, we don't have any indications that China has any aggressive intentions toward Taiwan.
Q While answering the question about PKK, the terrorist -- the PKK's leader, Abdullah Ocalan -- so-called (inaudible) -- you used the word "official" -- Kurdish "official." Was it by mistake?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not supposed to use --
Q He's the terrorist leader.
MR. DAVIES: I didn't use the word "official" deliberately to indicate that we're talking about a state here. A Kurdish -- call it "terrorist" or a "person," if you wish. I have to be aware of these minefields everywhere.
Q The White House already announced that the 29th of this month, the President of Turkey, Mr. Demiral, is visiting Washington, D.C. He will meet with President Clinton.
Also, he'll bring the new Foreign Minister of Turkey. Are you planning, or are you scheduling any bilateral meeting with Mr. Christopher and the new Turkish Foreign Minister?
MR. DAVIES: I'm certain if the Secretary is in town and time permits, he will want very much to have a meeting. Normally, when heads of government come to the United States and bring their Foreign Ministers, the Secretary of State tries to see them and meet. A country as important as Turkey, I'm certain, every effort will be made to conduct a broad range of meetings. I don't have the schedule, and I can't say if it will happen. But if it can happen, I'm sure it will.
One last question for Mr. Lambros.
Q Two questions on Glyxburg. On February 13, Mrs. Dora Bakoyini, daughter of the well-known (inaudible) former Prime Minister of Greece, Mr. Constantine Mitsotakis, met with State Department officials here in this building.
According to my sources, they discussed the Aegean issue to the direction for a full political dialogue with Ankara, in connection, however, when Mr. Glyxburg returns to Greece. Could you please confirm and comment on this meeting?
MR. DAVIES: I can't confirm what anonymous people are telling you.
Q She is a parliamentarian. She came, I would say, on a visit here to the United States with full approval by the Greek Ambassador. She had a meeting here on February 13. I would like to confirm this meeting.
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Lambros, I don't know if that meeting took place. I can try to find out for you, but I have no information for you.
Q Mr. Glyxburg has received so far millions of dollars by the German (Inaudible) Hanover. The German (inaudible) has covered Mr. Glyxburg's expenses and his entire family when they visited Greece in the summer of 1993 at the invitation of the then pro-Royal Prime Minister, Mr. Mitsotakis, for a full month in the political fiasco against Andreas Papandreou's campaign.
This incident was confirmed even by a spokesman -- one in the German Embassy in Athens -- who also said this (inaudible) funds from the German Government. I'm wondering if the U.S. officials in this building had contacts with Mr. Glyxburg in the last days -- are aware that he is on the payroll of East Germany (inaudible) political games in order to return to Greece illegally by all means.
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Lambros, I don't have anything on that for you. I'm sorry. I wish I could help but I can't.
(Press briefing concluded 1:42 p.m.)
To the top of this page