U.S. Department of State 96/04/25 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Thursday, April 25, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies MIDDLE EAST Peace Process --Decision by Israel's Labor Party to Cease Opposition to Establishment of Palestinian State................... 1 --Vote by the Palestine Liberation Organization to Annul Provisions of Charter Denying Right of Israel to Exist 1 --Op-Ed by William Safire "The Cradle Of Terror"......... 8 RUSSIA Reports of Death of Chechen Leader Dudayev/Effect on President Yeltsin's Peace Inititative in Chechnya................ 2-3 Summit Statement by President Yeltsin and Chinese President Zemin/Effect of Asian Security Agreement on U.S. - Russian Relations.............................................. 4-5 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Possible Activity of Iranian-trained Militia in Bosnia... 5-7 Resettlement of Refugees................................. 7-8 GREECE/TURKEY Travel by Assistant Secretary John Kornblum.............. 8 PARAGUAY Announcement by President Wasmosy Not to Name General Oviedo as Defense Minister.................................... 9-10 Activities of Acting Secretary Talbott................... 9-10 CUBA Letter to the Secretary From Cuban National Foundation Alleging Violation of U.S. Travel Restrictions by Members of Cuban Interests Section............................. 10 KOREA Lack of Formal Reply by China or North Korea to U.S. Proposal for Four Party Talks.......................... 11
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, APRIL 25, 1996, 1:10 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Today is "Take our Sons and Daughters to Work Day." I don't see any sons and daughters here now, but this room just a few minutes ago was full of them. So if you see any candy wrappers around I think that's the cause of it.
I want to welcome a couple of visitors to the press briefing today. First of all, Dario Laruffa, who is a correspondent and anchor for the Italian network RAI. He's in the U.S. to examine the role of the U.S. media and other aspects of U.S. society, sponsored by the USIA Visitors Program.
Also sponsored by the Visitors Program is Takami Shinya and Goro Kanagawa, who are Japanese journalists who cover economic issues, in the U.S. to become more familiar with U.S. economic and trade policies with Japan.
And with that, I'll go to your questions. George.
Q Do you have anything to say about the decision of the Israeli Labor Party to drop its opposition to the establishment of a Palestinian state?
MR. DAVIES: Certainly we welcome the recent developments that have occurred in Israel. Not just that, but the action taken by the Palestinian National Council, which removed some objectionable portions of the Palestinian covenant.
On the whole, the developments of the last 24 hours in Israel and in the Occupied Territories are very positive. I think just to sum it up for you, we welcome that. Absolutely.
Q But specifically, George's question about dropping opposition to the Palestinian state. Do you think that will help negotiations? Do you think that is something that's a worthy goal?
MR. DAVIES: I think ultimately it's up to, obviously, the Palestinians and Israelis to work out between them -- how the Palestinian-Israeli track develops -- because, of course, they're not fully there yet in their negotiations. There's still a fair amount of work to be done, though there's been terrific progress in recent years.
I think it's best if we essentially leave it to them to work out how they proceed, so I don't think I'll be saying anything more about it.
Q Do you have anything on Dudayev?
MR. DAVIES: By way of confirmation that he's actually passed away or -- we don't --
Q Or the impact on --
MR. DAVIES: I spoke to this yesterday. What's important, I think, to take away about recent developments there is that if, in fact, he has died, it doesn't change the requirement that there be a peaceful settlement to the dispute that's gone on, that's been very damaging, that's cost a number of lives, that's certainly been the greatest challenge to Russia in the post-Soviet era.
Regardless of how the Chechen rebel leadership structure ends up, if Mr. Dudayev is dead and has been buried, as has been reported, it's very important that the Chechen rebels, the Chechen people, seek ways to peacefully resolve this. It's very important that the Russian authorities do more than simply resort to force, and make good on the promise of the Yeltsin peace initiative that was announced some weeks ago.
Q By implication, are you suggesting that the Russians have not made good on the Yeltsin promise?
MR. DAVIES: The conflict continues. It's quite clear. Other than the fact that President Yeltsin made his announcement, we haven't yet seen the kind of progress that that announcement promised. We're very hopeful that the Russians can follow through on President Yeltsin's announcement, and that the Chechen rebels, as I say, regardless of who ends up in positions of authority in that structure, that they find a way to get together, they do it peacefully, because force of arms on either side of that conflict is not the way to solve that difficulty. It won't ultimately solve the grievances of the Chechens or of the Russians. There's some distance to go there, and we look to both sides to try to go that distance.
Q Dudayev's passing might actually encourage them -- the Russians -- to launch more offensives then, don't you think? I mean, he was killed in a military operation, apparently, and --
MR. DAVIES: We don't know that. I can't confirm even that he's dead, because we've been unable to confirm that. It's hard to say, if he did die, how he died. I think it's probably a mistake to speculate on how the Chechen rebels might react to that development if he's been killed.
But there is, if you will, a cycle of violence that's occurring in that part of the world that's very destructive and that has to stop. That's the message that we've given to both sides, and we hope that something more concrete can be made of President Yeltsin's initiative, which has been out there now for some time and has yet to result in anything concrete.
Q I wanted to change the subject.
Q One more. Why do you think it has not yielded any results?
MR. DAVIES: It's hard to say why that hasn't yielded any results. We've learned, since we've been in the business of trying to mediate in various peace efforts, that stopping people from fighting is a very difficult proposition -- can be a very difficult proposition -- especially when there's a great deal of emotion behind the arguments on either side.
This kind of a peace, I'm sure, can't be built in a day. This conflict has been going on for some time. Our interest, of course, is in seeing it end, because it's not proving beneficial to either side. There is no solution that can be had through force of arms. We can at this stage but renew our call on both sides to try to find a peaceful solution to it, and our call especially on the Russians, given recent events, to try to seek that peaceful solution and to allow those outside bodies that would mediate -- such as the OSCE -- an opportunity to get in there, perform a humanitarian mission, and perhaps play a role in bringing about peace.
Q Can you confirm that the United States has closed the books on the deal with Iran and the Airbus by paying the money that was negotiated?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have anything for you on that.
Q Can you get something on it?
MR. DAVIES: Sure, I'm happy to.
Q There's a story out of Iran saying that the $100 million, or whatever the settlement was, was actually turned over, and I would just like to --
MR. DAVIES: Okay. I can look into that. Sure, happy to.
Q Can I go back to Russia again? Yeltsin and the Chinese President in Beijing today unveiled what they called a new partnership for the 21st Century, with the comments that the West should not try and dominate a post-Cold War world. How does that play in with our relationship with Yeltsin?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know what "the West" means -- whether that's a reference to the United States, whether that's a reference to the United States and all other Western countries -- but, of course, there is no Western effort to dominate the world. That's, I think, Point One.
Point Two: In terms of our relationship with President Yeltsin, it doesn't sound to me as if such a rhetorical statement would really have any effect on our very good relationship with President Yeltsin and with Russia and the Russian people. That relationship is I think a bit too important to be buffeted about by statements that might be made at summit meetings.
Q Follow-up on that question on some of these agreements that are coming out of Beijing. Is there any expectation or concern that the reduction of military along the Chinese-Russian border might allow the Chinese to move more forces down to their southwest border -- southeast border, I guess, particularly the Taiwan Strait and give them more of a free hand in dealing in the China Sea area?
MR. DAVIES: That may be getting a bit ahead of the curve. I'm not sure that anybody has yet concluded that there will be shifts necessarily of Chinese forces. What we know is that there is to be what's called a Central Asian Border Accord signed tomorrow. We've seen reports that Presidents Yeltsin, Jiang, Nazarbayev, Akayev and Rahmonov will sign in Shanghai a five-party agreement on confidence-building measures along China's border with Russia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
We've been able to figure out that there are at least three elements to this that are worth noting. One is that the agreement may include advance notice of and limitations on military maneuvers along those borders.
Second, that it may provide for observers to attend military maneuvers conducted by the other parties.
And then, third, some limitations perhaps on troops and equipment along the border. I think that may have prompted your question.
Details of this remain scarce. We're getting most of our details through press reports. But it appears to be an agreement that will be not only in the interests of those parties, but also of all of those who support regional stability in Central and East Asia, and that includes the United States.
If these reports prove correct, we think this is a very positive development.
Q I actually wanted to change the subject.
MR. DAVIES: Okay. Is there another here? Please.
Q Yeltsin also in Beijing did not achieve much in terms of the ban on nuclear testing. He held talks with the Chinese. Did you want to comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that he hasn't achieved much. There may not have been much, certainly, publicly in that vein. That issue had been raised, of course, during the nuclear summit in Moscow, and he had undertaken and it was made public that he would make a pitch to the Chinese leadership.
We're just going to have to wait and see what the outcome of that meeting is, and we would hope for some movement and hope that the Chinese might come further along. But the fact that nothing has yet appeared publicly or been underscored publicly doesn't necessarily mean that no progress was made. We hope for progress.
Q Moving to Bosnia, I'm sure you've seen the reports that there are these armed commando units -- Bosnian commando units -- that are Iranian-trained that are going after specifically targeted individuals that the Bosnian Government has named as war criminals. Fikret Abdic is the one who's been noted most prominently in the papers.
Do you have anything on that? Do you have any information that those units exist? Are you concerned?
MR. DAVIES: What I can't say is that they don't exist. It's possible they may. If they do, the existence of such groups, is, of course, incompatible with both the letter and the spirit of Dayton.
If there is, in fact, an Iranian connection to these groups, that underscores once again the need for foreign forces to leave Bosnia, and the need as well to resolve the status of the Bosnian internal security services which, of course, should be brought under the Federation, according to the Dayton Agreement -- the so-called BAID, which is the acronym for that organization.
We've been working with the Bosnian Government to bring about that shift. The War Crimes Tribunal is the locus of activity and should be the place where all matters that relate to possible war criminals or war suspects are resolved.
We think it is quite clear that only peaceful means should be used in investigating cases of suspected war criminals. So we view these reports with some concern; and, of course, we'll be checking into it to find out to what extent there may be truth to them.
Q You haven't raised the question yet, though, with the Bosnian Government?
MR. DAVIES: I can't confirm that we've raised the issue yet with the Bosnian Government. If we haven't, we will be.
Q So the story in the New York Times say it was the first time you ever heard about it?
MR. DAVIES: I can't say it's the first time that the U.S. Government has ever heard about it, no. In fact, I can tell you it's not the first time the U.S. Government has ever heard about it.
Q So you've heard about it before but you didn't check it out before?
MR. DAVIES: I didn't check it out. I'm sure others who work full time on the Bosnia issue have been checking this out.
What I don't have for you now is anything beyond the kind of tentative reaction that I got, that, if true -- and it may well be true -- this is a matter of some concern. We will raise this with the Bosnians. If we've already raised it, we'll continue to raise it with the Bosnians.
Q I'm still a little confused. On the one hand, you're obviously expressing concern. You said you knew about it before. Are your superiors just not giving you the full story on this?
MR. DAVIES: No, that's not the case at all. These "hit squads" so-called, they may well exist. What I can't do is give you any confirmation right now that they do. I'm happy to go back to the well and see if we can get you some more. Our concern is, to the extent there may be such activity, it's got to stop. Dayton spells out how you deal with questions of alleged war criminals. You don't send hit squads after them. You don't train people in secret and send groups to track them down to do whatever to them. You work through the War Crimes Tribunal.
So that's where we are today on this. It may be that I can get some more information about the extent to which we're aware of this activity and the extent to which we've raised it with the Bosnians.
A development like this is, of course, on the table with the Bosnians. We'll be talking with them about it.
Q NATO has expressed some concerns over the resettlement of refugees in all three former warring countries. Do you have anything on that? Are you concerned about that?
MR. DAVIES: On the refugee issue?
Q Yeah. Barriers to the return and resettlement of refugees?
MR. DAVIES: This issue is not unlike the previous issue, which is that there is a system that exists for resettling refugees. It's important that all engaged in this effort work through the system that exists which, of course, is spelled out in the Dayton Agreement.
The issue of freedom of movement is a very important one. Freedom of movement is a central tenet of the Dayton Accords. It's critical to the establishment of a lasting peace in Bosnia. We, of course, fully support it and expect that the parties will as well.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is the authority with primary responsibility for repatriating refugees. IFOR's role in this is essentially a supporting role. They provide, of course, for freedom of movement, provide for general security. Both of those are important corollary tasks to IFOR's main task.
So IFOR works with the UNHCR. IFOR has done a good job of removing internal checkpoints. They, of course, will respond to deliberate acts of violence that occur in Bosnia and will patrol areas over the next few days in which refugee movements may be planned.
Ultimately, the responsibility for providing security is up to the local authorities, the police authorities, if you will. What gets dangerous here is when groups of refugees get together and try to forcibly go back to their homes or areas that they view as their original homes and try to gain entry in kind of a mob sense.
What we think is important is that people operate through UNHCR in trying to get back to their places of origin. That's where, of course, IFOR comes in, because their job is providing security. The extent to which some of these mob actions may occur, IFOR will be part of the effort to make sure that the mobs don't, if you will, get out of control.
Q Acting Assistant Secretary Kornblum is in the eastern Mediterranean areas. He's visiting Greece, Turkey, and Cyprus.
According to some reports from the area, he is carrying some message from Washington: If the sides doesn't agree on some subjects, especially the Aegean subject, the United States will decide to do some action, to take some action. Do you believe that? Is he carrying any message to both capitals -- Athens and Ankara?
MR. DAVIES: I certainly have nothing to tell you from the podium about what Ambassador Kornblum is up to. Beyond the very general fact that he is trying to make available, if you will, to nations out there the good offices of the United States to the extent they wish to avail themselves of our diplomacy to try to resolve their differences.
When he gets back, we might be able to say a little more about what he's up to, but he's engaged in talks out there. What I don't have is any kind of a running report of the messages that he's delivering or the talks that he's having out there.
Q Glyn, William Safire has a very interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times entitled "The Cradle of Terror." It's basically a very positive piece about Israel and Turkey against Assad, it's what it says here.
I'll only read the last paragraph, as advice for the U.S. Government. He says, "Scrap comprehensive" -- that is, "Carter-era hopes of a comprehensive agreement. Openly subsidize the good Kurds with a few million; embrace the Turks; isolate Assad; let Israelis choose their course next month without White House advice."
MR. DAVIES: I've read that. I don't have any particular reaction to give you.
Q No reaction at all?
MR. DAVIES: He's a nationally renowned columnist entitled to his opinions, but I don't have a reaction for you here.
Q Wasmosy just said today he's not going to appoint Oviedo as Defense Minister?
MR. DAVIES: Things are moving quickly in Paraguay. We're trying to stay up with what's going on.
Just a couple of points. First of all, the capital of Asuncion appears to be quiet. There hasn't been any public disturbances, if you will. We know that President Wasmosy, who was at his private home outside the capital, returned to Asuncion this morning.
After consulting with his advisors, he told General Oviedo that he -- that General Ovideo would not be named Defense Minister. Later on, President Wasmosy publicly announced that decision to the Paraguayan people.
Our position on this is that we fully and emphatically support President Wasmosy's decision not to offer the position of Minister of Defense to General Oviedo. It's up to the President of Paraguay to make decisions about who will be in his Cabinet.
We join all democratic peoples of the hemisphere and all governments in praising President Wasmosy for the courage that he has displayed in protecting and defending Paraguayan democracy and constitutional order.
I don't have any kind of reaction to report to you from Oviedo. I don't know if he has spoken publicly.
We continue to work with the MERCOSUR countries, those bordering Paraguay and Paraguay itself to follow this situation and to develop a diplomacy that will stand up to this threat to democratic order.
Acting Secretary Talbott has been very active. In fact, this morning, he had a long conversation with Ambassador Melvin Levitsky, who is our Ambassador to Brazil, who happens to be in town. They discussed the situation at some length.
Q Let me ask you this, then. At Wasmosy's house last night, were any U.S. advisors there? Were there any U.S. advisors?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if any U.S. advisors were at Wasmosy's house last night. We've had some frequent contacts with Wasmosy. There's no question about that. But how that contact has occurred, whether it's been on the phone or in person, beyond the visit that President Wasmosy paid to the U.S. Embassy yesterday morning, I don't have any details.
Q Did we have an input into this decision of his, is what I'm trying to say?
MR. DAVIES: I think this was President Wasmosy's decision to make. I certainly don't have anything to report to you by way of American input into it. We've been in contact with him. But he's the President of the country and makes his own decision about who is to be or not to be in his Cabinet.
Q A Cuban question. You may not have guidance on this. But the Cuban National Foundation, which is an anti-Castro lobbying group has written a letter to the Secretary complaining that members of the Cuban Interests Section here in Washington are travelling the country making speeches on behalf of the Cuban Government, and so forth. This appears to them to be a violation of a decision made following the shootdown in February that movements of Cuban diplomats will be restricted.
If you don't have any guidance on that now --
MR. DAVIES: You're right, I don't. I don't have any guidance on that. I know that there are strictures that apply to the movement of Cuban diplomats. I can find out if there's any truth to the fact they've been travelling the country and making speeches.
Q And how does that fit with what the Foundation claims is the decision after the shootdown to restrict the movements of Cuban diplomats around the U.S.?
MR. DAVIES: Sure. Let me find out about that. I don't have anything on that yet.
Q Another Paraguay question. Did the President of Paraguay talk with Strobe Talbott by telephone?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know if the Acting Secretary had a conversation with the President of Paraguay. I don't think that was the case this morning. Whether he did yesterday, I'm not certain. I know that much of the Acting Secretary's day yesterday was devoted to this problem, including, of course, going to the OAS and making a strong statement. But I can check into that and find out if he had a conversation with him.
Q Have there been any new developments on North Korea? Any other requests by Pyongyang for a meeting to raise new questions?
MR. DAVIES: Carol, I don't have any more contacts to report to you beyond the questions that they posed to us just recently. Of course, the private groups seem to be all over town. They're here, but their role is not to be conveying messages from Pyongyang, as near as we can determine. So the basic answer is no, that beyond the questions they've put to us, no, we haven't heard anything.
Q You haven't gotten a formal response.
MR. DAVIES: No formal response from either North Korea or China.
Q Has there been any new date set for missile talks -- follow- up missile talks?
MR. DAVIES: No, not since the Berlin talks. No, not at all.
Q Follow-up on that. Was there any effort made when President Clinton was in Moscow to get the Russians to get involved in the four- way talks and to use their influence in North Korea?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not sure that North Korea was on the agenda of talks in Moscow. Of course, the bilateral portion of the Moscow meeting after the nuclear summit was just a day, and there were quite a few other issues to discuss, so I'm not certain of that. But the proposal that was made in South Korea on the President's first stop was simply a four-way proposal that did not directly engage Russia. It remains our view that that's the way this should proceed.
What I don't have for you is any kind of report of what may have happened in Moscow by way of an exchange on this subject.
Q Thank you.
MR. DAVIES: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:36 p.m.)
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