U.S. Department of State 96/04/24 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, April 24, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies ANNOUNCEMENT Joint Communique on Nagorno-Karabakh ................... 1 CHINA UNHRC Vote in Geneva on Human Rights Situation .......... 1-2 --Individual Vote Count ................................. 2 Rapprochement with Russia; J-8 Fighter .................. 2 EAST ASIA PACIFIC Asian Security Agreement to Be Signed by Yeltsin ........ 2-3 PEACE PROCESS Israel/Lebanon --Secretary's Meeting w/Syrian President al-Assad ....... 3 --Secretary's Meeting w/Lebanese PM Hariri .............. 3 --Destruction of Water Reservoir in Southern Lebanon ..... 3-4 --Difficulty in Achieving a Cease-fire ................... 4 --Humanitarian Aid Package for Lebanon .................. 4-5 --PM Peres' Visit to U.S. ............................... 12-13 --French Peace Plan ..................................... 13 PNC Vote on Charter re: Destruction of Israel ........... 12 KOREA North Korean Delegation Attends GWU Conference .......... 5 North Korean Delegation Attends Conference on Security and Confidence Building ............................... 5 North Korean Delegations to Meet w/DOS Official ......... 5-6, 7 --Discussion of Humanitarian Aid ........................ 7 Official Chinese Reaction to Pres Clinton's Proposal .... 6 North Korean Reaction to Pres Clinton's Proposal ........ 6 RUSSIA Status of Chechen Leader Dudayev ........................ 7-8 Change in U.S. Position re: Chechnya .................... 8 IRAQ Resumption of Oil-for-Food Talks ........................ 8-9 U.S. Position on Resolution 986 ......................... 9-10 PARAGUAY Resolution of Crisis .................................... 10-11 --Oviedo Relinquished Command of Army --Delmas Installed as New Army Commander Status of Military Aid .................................. 10-11 Statement by Acting Secretary Talbott at OAS (4/23) ..... 10-11 Threat to Americans ..................................... 12 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Gingrich's Plans to Create a Special Investigative Panel re: Iranian Arms Shipments to Bosnia .................. 12
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24, 1996, 1:12 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have one visitor to welcome and one announcement to make before your questions; to welcome Nersa Sundstroem, who is here -- I hope somewhere -- a Finnish journalist in the United States to study the foreign policy aspects of the American Presidential elections. So welcome to that person.
Then, also, one announcement to make -- an announcement about the Joint Communique that's been issued on Nagorno-Karabakh. The United States welcomes the Joint Communique on Nagorno-Karabakh that President Per-Petrossian of Armenia and President Aliyev of Azerbaijan issued in Luxembourg several days ago, on April 21, recognizing the importance of peace to the future stability, security, and prosperity of the Caucasus region.
The Joint Communique highlights a fundamental commitment by the two presidents to maintain the cease-fire and to resolve the conflict consistent with internationally recognized principles.
The United States applauds the commitment of the two presidents to resolve humanitarian issues through concrete steps that include the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and prisoners of war.
Now, your questions. George.
Q: Is there going to be any follow-up to the vote in Geneva yesterday concerning China and the human rights situation there; any demarches?
MR. DAVIES: The action at the U.N. Human Rights Commission is essentially over, I think, on China. Those who followed it know what happened. The U.N. Human Rights Commission took up a resolution on the human rights situation in China. That resolution was co-sponsored by a number of countries and entities, including the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Of course, we're disappointed that the majority of the Commission's members voted to foreclose debate on the subject of human rights in China by voting for a no-action motion which prevented the resolution from coming to the floor for further debate.
Our support of the resolution in this forum represents the United States' commitment to the universality of human rights principles. We believe the Chinese Government's human rights practices are a legitimate topic for debate and discussion in that forum. The vote mattered to us. We lost, along with our co-sponsors.
Again, we believe the Commission should be allowed to debate these matters. We hope in the future we'll have a chance to do so.
We don't, to my knowledge, plan any further follow-up on this matter; but we'll continue to raise our concerns about human rights practices in China. Those concerns are well known; they're spelled out in our human rights report.
Q: You don't want to talk about individual votes?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have a tally here of individual votes. We can get that for you. I think that's available. It's quite openly available there in Geneva; but I'm not going to talk about who voted for, who voted against. A couple of countries that had in previous instances on this matter voted against the resolution moved to abstain, and that was positive. But we lost, and that inning is over and we'll go on from here.
Q: Also on China. Does the U.S. Government have any problems with the rapprochement between Russia and China? In particular, their joint development deal on the so-called J-8 fighter which apparently involves some American technology?
MR. DAVIES: We don't have any concerns. In fact, we've said before that to the extent that those two nations get along better and have such contacts, I think, the region and the world is better off. They're both very important, powerful countries with which we have strong relationships. We wish President Yeltsin well on his trip to China.
I don't have any particular reaction to reports of any specific deals that might be in the offing.
Q: (Inaudible) Asian Security Agreement Yeltsin is supposed to sign in Shanghai on Friday?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that we've had a chance to study that. Of course, he hasn't signed it yet. So we'll have to take a look at that. If we have a reaction to put out, we'll do so.
Q: (Inaudible) this morning?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, what happened this morning?
Q: The Secretary -- what's happened?
MR. DAVIES: What happened, of course, is that the Secretary -- and this has been reported -- went to Damascus. He had a long meeting with President Hafez al-Assad of Syria. They met for something on the order of about four-and-a-half hours. Then, the Secretary went to Lebanon and held meetings there with the Lebanese Prime Minister.
As I understand it, there was a press conference just afterwards. I think there's been some reporting on that.
The Secretary is headed back to Damascus to get on an airplane and go back to Israel. As to his follow-on plans, I don't have anything further to announce. They'll be doing it, I think, from the region.
The reports that I've received of his meeting, which lasted about 90 minutes at Shtoura, in Lebanon, were very positive. It went very well from our standpoint.
Just to underscore for you something that the Secretary said. He expressed his belief that it was vital that he go to Lebanon to demonstrate America's deep concern for the Lebanese people and for Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
There are, of course, in these negotiations difficult problems that the parties have to confront and that we're trying to help them get over. It's the Secretary's view, and he said as much publicly, that there is a sense of some drawing closer together and we hope that some of the gaps have been narrowed. The Secretary will continue to negotiate.
Q: I didn't see his remarks in Lebanon. Does the State Department have any problem with the Israelis blowing up a water reservoir in southern Lebanon?
MR. DAVIES: I've been asked questions before about various targets that have been hit by the Israelis. It certainly wouldn't help the Secretary's process for me to make specific comments about targets that the Israelis may
have hit. We're not keeping book on where the particular missiles are falling on either side. The whole matter, of course, is a tragedy.
The Secretary spoke to one of the tragic elements of that in his visit to Lebanon, which is the fact, of course, that the Lebanese people have been very greatly affected by this.
It's also true that Israeli residents in northern Israel remain under siege from Katyusha rockets fired from Lebanese territory by Hizbollah.
So we're going to keep our efforts focused on the Secretary's negotiations to try to bring about a cease-fire and a lasting peace in the region.
Q: Don't episodes like this make his efforts more difficult to achieve?
MR. DAVIES: I think the longer the fighting continues, the more -- certainly we hope -- the parties who are directly engaged understand the importance of achieving a cease-fire. We've already heard from the Prime Minister of Israel who had said that he is willing to go to a cease-fire if the others do as well.
Does each particular target that's hit have a bearing one way or the other on how this is going to come out? That's, in a way, immaterial to talk about the targets that are being hit and whether they are having a negative impact on what's going on. The whole exchange of shelling is the problem. What we have to do is get at that problem, and that's what the Secretary is up to.
Q: The President this morning said that he would be looking at a humanitarian aid package to Lebanon once the fighting ends. Has USAID made an assessment of the needs, and are you going to be giving aid to the refugees or rebuilding some of these bridges and power plants that have been hit by the Israelis?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything formally to announce to you right now by way of an aid package. But, of course, the U.S. Government has been engaged in assessing the impact of the fighting on the civilian population in Lebanon. We hope to be able to make an announcement about some more significant aid, in addition to what our Ambassador in Lebanon has already made available which was on the order of about $25,000, the limit of what he can do unilaterally.
We hope soon to be able to say something about a much greater package of aid that we would provide.
Q: Another area?
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
Q: Let's go to North Korea, if we can. Apparently there was an economic meeting sponsored by George Washington University today. The North Korean folks who attended this were supposed to hold a news conference but they cancelled it this morning. Any idea of what's going on?
There are reports that they were upset by a South Korean media report talking about the North Korean economy. Apparently there were State Department people at this meeting. Do you have any light that you can shed on this?
MR. DAVIES: I can't shed any light on that immediate story, that there may have been a press conference scheduled that was cancelled. But it is true there are today in Washington, in fact, two private North Korean delegations that are here. One of them is made up principally of officials from the North Korean Committee on External Economic Relations. They were attending a conference at George Washington, entitled "Korea: Prospects for Economic Development."
The second delegation, from the North Korean Institute of Disarmament and Peace, is attending a Conference on Security and Confidence Building, hosted by the Committee for Security and Cooperation in Asia and the Pacific. Delegates from about 15 countries are at that conference.
Further, some working-level contacts will occur between State Department officials and members of these delegations. I don't think those contacts will go above the Office Director level. But we will seek out opportunities to exchange views with them.
But as to your specific question about the press conference and its cancellation, I don't have anything for you. Sorry.
Q: Exchange views on what? Can you be more specific?
MR. DAVIES: I can't at this stage. Obviously, given the nature of the two North Korean delegations that are here -- one of them here to discuss economic development, the other to talk about security and confidence-building
measures -- those are the types of issues that we'll be addressing with the Koreans.
But I wouldn't lead you to the conclusion that these meetings are in any way going to result in major announcements one way or the other. I don't believe that the North Korean visitors are bringing a message on an official reaction to, for instance, the President's proposal for a four-power meeting on peace in North Korea.
If we have something to say as a result of these contacts, we will, but I don't think that they'll amount to the types of activity that we'll be announcing anything about.
Q: Talking about the four-way talks, have you come up with any kind of response to Shen Guofang's statement yesterday that the Chinese side didn't believe that the talks were necessary or --
MR. DAVIES: Well, what we haven't yet gotten from the Chinese Government is an official reaction to the proposal that was made during the President's visit to South Korea. We await that reaction, and we hope very much that the Government of China takes us up on this. We hope as well that the North Korean Government in Pyongyang looks at this favorably, and that they view this as a departure point, if you will, for talks to get past the armistice situation that we've been in for two generations on the Korean peninsula.
It's important to formally end the state of war and move on to peace. That's where the President's efforts are directed. That was what motivated him to make that announcement along with his South Korean counterpart. So we await their official reaction. If Shen Guofang had something to say about it, we'll take note of it; but we don't consider that to be the final word from the Chinese.
Q: What about Mr. Christenson's meeting on Friday in New York with the North Korean Ambassador to the U.N. in regard to the four-party talks? I mean, he was summoned up there. Are there any results of that meeting? Any reaction from that?
MR. DAVIES: No. I spoke to that briefly yesterday in a walk-through. The Government of North Korea had some questions to ask about the proposal, and we tried as best we could to answer them, and we viewed that contact as a positive contact. We hope it leads to more, and we hope it leads to a favorable reaction from Pyongyang to our proposal.
Q: You said right now you had kind of a working-level of contact with the North Korean delegation. What kind of level was that?
MR. DAVIES: It's hard to specify precisely at what level; but what I indicated was that it won't be at anything above the Office Director level, at least to my knowledge. So that's the level just above a Desk Officer in this building.
Q: Did you discuss about the additional humanitarian aid to North Korea with this delegation?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything on that. First of all, I don't know that these contacts have yet taken place. It's my understanding that all of the contacts haven't taken place. I do not know if the question of the humanitarian situation in North Korea will come up. Of course, our views are known on that situation, there have been difficulties in North Korea, particularly in certain areas in northern North Korea, in getting adequate foodstuff around. That was what motivated us some time ago to donate $2 million to the World Food Program, which is now in the pipeline to get food aid to North Korea.
Q: How long they have been in town, the North Koreans?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I don't know exactly when they landed or how long they're staying.
Q: But the conference?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry?
Q: How long the conference have been -- do you know when the conference started?
MR. DAVIES: I just detailed, I think, the conferences. Perhaps we can help you with some more information about exactly where these took place and get you contact numbers. But I don't have that here, so I can't help you with that.
Q: On Chechnya, do you have any information on whether Dudayev is dead or alive?
MR. DAVIES: We've seen in the press reports that Dudayev has been killed, and it appears just on the basis of those press reports that he was killed on the evening of April 21, perhaps by Russian artillery fire. What we can't do yet is confirm or disprove those reports.
This wouldn't change our basic position, which, of course, is that what's needed in Chechnya is political reconciliation. If indeed this proves to the case and he has died, we would continue to urge all of the parties involved to recommit themselves to a serious political dialogue.
We don't think at the end of the day there can be any kind of a military solution to the conflict; and, of course, we continue to support all the initiatives aimed at solving the problem peacefully.
Q: Do you think his death, if it is confirmed, would make it more difficult to find someone to deal with?
MR. DAVIES: I think it's awfully early to divine whether his death would have an effect one way or the other on events there. Regardless of whether he's still among the living or whether he's been killed, it's important that those who have responsibility over the Chechen rebels work hard to find a peaceful solution to this conflict, try to take the Russians up on the offer that President Yeltsin has made.
Of course, our call on the Russians remains the same, that military means are not the solution to this conflict; that what has to happen is some kind of political contact, if you will; and what's needed is a peaceful, ultimately a political, solution.
Q: Do you think the Chechens have lost the leader of their emancipation movement, or are they better off without him?
MR. DAVIES: Again, I don't know whether Dudayev is dead. We don't know that yet. We can't confirm that yet. What I can't do, because we don't have that information, is write any kind of epitaph for him from a U.S. perspective or indicate what this may mean or what it may mean least of all for the Chechen people, because I don't speak for Chechens or others.
Q: U.S. perspective?
MR. DAVIES: Again, what we have to do first is get the facts and find out what's happened; and then if there's something that we think can usefully be said, if it proves the case that he has died, we'll say it.
Q: Moving on to Iraq, the United Nations announced they're going to resume oil-for-food talks next month. Does that mean that the U.S. is now happy with the restrictions placed on Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: Those talks are still, of course -- I mean, there's been no final resolution to the question of United Nations Resolution 986, which is what I think you're talking about. But I can make, I think, four points.
One is that as it stands the memorandum of understanding between Iraqi authorities and the United Nations in our view contains too many loopholes -- loopholes that Saddam Hussein can exploit to divert the resolution from its intended purpose.
Two, its intended purpose, of course, is to get food and medicine to those Iraqis who are suffering, given what the Iraqi regime has done since the end of the Gulf War. So it's important, we think, to make sure that Saddam Hussein is unable to either divert the proceeds from the oil sales to line his own pockets or to divert the humanitarian relief supplies purchased with those proceeds to his cronies or to his military.
Three, our suggestions that we've made up at the United Nations are designed to insure that the U.N. can accomplish the task for which the resolution was drafted, which is to relieve the humanitarian crisis brought on by the actions of the Iraqi Government.
And, finally, if it is Saddam Hussein's goal -- the goal of his regime -- to relieve the suffering of his people, it should have no problem accepting the changes that we've suggested.
Q: But the U.N. announced this morning -- actually about an hour ago -- that they are going to resume the talks next month. Does that mean, though, that they've accepted it? I mean, that you are happy with the loopholes?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything to report by way of a resolution to this; and as far as we're concerned, the matter is not resolved until we see and some of our allies see sufficiently strong guarantees in the memorandum that go to the purposes I've just outlined.
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
Q: Can I just follow up on that? Do you -- is 986 itself acceptable to -- or do you want changes to 986 or --
MR. DAVIES: We're not asking for changes to 986. We're asking for changes to the memorandum that would implement 986 and allow oil sales to proceed at the rate of
about $2 billion worth every six months for humanitarian purposes. But, no, we're fully behind 986, obviously.
Q: So you think this memorandum has gone -- is looser than 986 or --
MR. DAVIES: We are playing our role as a member in good standing of the United Nations to express our views about how the memorandum ought to look. Of course, we're a member of the Security Council, so we have quite a bit to say about this, and we're joined in this by others. So the negotiations are not over, they're not closed. What has to happen is we've got to see in the memorandum guarantees that prevent Saddam Hussein from diverting any of the proceeds of the sale of oil.
Q: Paraguay. Are you satisfied with the way that mini-crisis there yesterday has been resolved, and what is the status of the military aid suspension announced yesterday?
MR. DAVIES: We've seen, of course, a number of reports and developments that look -- they appear to be very, very positive. This morning, of course, as part of the arrangement between Paraguay and President Wasmosy and Army Commander Oviedo to resolve the constitutional crisis, General Oviedo relinquished command of the Paraguayan army at a ceremony that I understand was televised at an army facility outside of Asuncion. President Wasmosy was there, as was the Secretary General of the OAS, Secretary General Gaviria.
At that point, Army General Oscar Diaz Delmas was installed at the new army commander, and Oviedo submitted his retirement papers.
But as of, I think, noon today, no formal announcement has been made on the second part of that deal or that understanding, which is what President Wasmosy announced last night, indicating that Oviedo might be named Minister of Defense. We're waiting to see what happens there.
Our view of this is that we're pleased with what appears to be an end to the threat to Paraguay's constitutional order. We want to commend the Paraguayan people for standing up courageously in support of their President and for democratic institutions in Paraguay.
Of course, yesterday we were very active. Acting Secretary of State Talbott went over to the OAS and made a strong statement. We were backing the efforts of the
MERCOSUR countries -- Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and, of course, Paraguay -- that grouping of Paraguay's closest neighbors and trading partners -- which was in the lead to try to prevent this break from democratic governance from occurring.
This, by the way, was the fourth time that the OAS has stepped up to such a challenge to democratic rule.
On the question of military assistance, Strobe Talbott -- Acting Secretary Talbott -- did say in his address to this special session of the standing committee of the OAS -- he announced that we were suspending military assistance with Paraguay in response to events in that country. But events have moved very rapidly. We hadn't, of course, had any time to implement that suspension.
So what we're doing now is reviewing the situation, following up on the reports that we've seen and on developments there, and we'll watch how it evolves over several days to ultimately determine the disposition of our small military assistance program.
Q: How much is it?
MR. DAVIES: It's on the order of about $150,000 a year in IMET, so not anything that would break the bank, I don't think.
Q: Is this outcome as positive as you might have wanted? He's a guy who wanted to interrupt the institutional order there and he winds up as Defense Minister?
MR. DAVIES: What's important, I think, about what we understand to be happening there is that the democratic order has been preserved.
I would refer you to Paraguayan authorities if you have any questions about precisely what it is that's been worked out. The challenge to democracy in Paraguay was Oviedo's defying an order from his Commander-in-Chief, the democratically-elected President of the country, to step down.
What's happened this morning that is very positive, of course, is that he has now resigned from his position in the army -- at the head of the army. That is a very, very positive development which we welcome. We'll have to see how it plays out from here. Reports are still coming in about events on the ground in Paraguay.
The capital is quiet. Americans weren't threatened at any point. It appears to have been largely resolved.
On the question of whether we have a particular reaction to what may happen to Oviedo in the future, we'll just have to wait and see.
Q: Mr. Gingrich has announced today about creating a special investigative panel to examine what he called "the reckless U.S. role in Iranian arms shipments to Bosnia." Can you comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: Only to the extent that whatever panels end up duly constituted on the Hill to ask questions of the Administration about this, we will try very hard to cooperate with; whatever requests are made, we'll try to be forthcoming and provide documents or people, if that's what is called for. But I've just seen that report. I don't know that we have details about it.
We also have an interest, of course, I guess from the standpoint of efficiency, in having as few committees as can be worked out with the Hill looking at this. Because if you have a panoply of committees, then you end up, of course, going up and down to the Hill quite frequently and it starts to interfere with other business.
We will take a look at what's been announced. I'm sure we'll do everything we can to cooperate.
Q: Going back to the Middle East. Members of the Palestinian National Council are taking up a resolution to delete sanctions of the PLO's charter and to call for Israel's destruction. I was wondering if you have any comments on that?
MR. DAVIES: We look forward to this development. Of course, believe that the charter should be amended, and, of course, it must be amended from Israel's standpoint if that track of the peace process between Israel and the PLO is to be completed.
Thus far, it would appear that developments are occurring very positively. We look forward to a change in the charter, as has been indicated.
Q: The same, the Middle East. I may have missed the first part. Did you say anything about Peres' visit to the U.S. or any schedule?
MR. DAVIES: I've said nothing about that, no; and I don't have anything to say at this stage. He was scheduled
to come. I don't know where that stands. Perhaps we can get something for you.
But, of course, given the fact that he is the head of government, any announcements about it will come, in the first instance, out of the White House.
Q: One final question, going back to Lebanon and this probably should come out of there. A couple of days ago you said that you didn't have a problem with the other peace plans being promoted there. It doesn't seem to be the case right now. Are you and the French falling over each others feet?
MR. DAVIES: No, I wouldn't be as dramatic as that, to say that we're tripping over each other. The French have a diplomatic effort underway. The Secretary remains in contact with his counterpart, French Foreign Minister de Charette. Anybody who is seeking an end to the conflict and ultimately a peace is welcome to it.
We're engaged in our effort. The Secretary has been very active and made what I think, it's fair to say, is a rather dramatic trip to Lebanon today. We'll pursue our effort, and we'll stay in touch with the French and others so that we know what everybody is doing.
Q: Thank you.
MR. DAVIES: Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:44 p.m.) (###)
To the top of this page