U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, May 1, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies DEPARTMENT Welcome to Visitors...................................... 1 Announcement Re: Sea Turtle Conservation Certification... and Shrimp Imports..................................... 1 Release of Foreign Relations Volumes..................... 1 LIBERIA Update on Fighting/Status of Embassy..................... 2,4 Efforts of Assistant Secretary Moose..................... 2-4 Efforts of ECOMOG........................................ 5 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Secretary's Meeting with Chairman Arafat/Fund-raising.... Activities............................................. 5-6 RUSSIA Restrictions on the Jewish Agency........................ 6-9 NORTH KOREA Unofficial North Korean Delegation in U.S. .............. --Meeting with State Department Official Tom Hubbard .... 9 CUBA Update on Flotilla....................................... 9-10
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 1996, 1:10 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. First to welcome some visitors, then I have two quick announcements, then we can go to your questions.
I'd like to welcome today six Bosnian press secretaries for various Bosnian political parties. The group includes Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs in the U.S. to learn about the government's relationship with the media and how fine a relationship it is, and the efforts of candidates to win the support of the electorate. It's a good time to be coming to do that.
Then two quick announcements. First, to draw your attention to a rather lengthy announcement. I won't read it, but it's on the subject of sea turtle conservation certification and shrimp imports. (Laughter)
Q Where is the waiting list? (Laughter)
MR. DAVIES: This is important. On April 30, the Department of State certified 36 nations as meeting the requirements set by the law for continued export of shrimp to the United States. Of course, the chief component of the U.S. sea turtle conservation program is a requirement for use of these turtle excluder devices. This announcement has to do with those nations that have made sufficient progress in using such devices or otherwise are not harming sea turtles.
The second final announcement is that we are today releasing two volumes of our foreign relations of the United States series. These are Volumes II and III, covering a period in 1965. They're on Vietnam. These volumes are two of the 34 planned volumes that document the foreign policies of the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. So pick those up at the Government Printing Office. Those are probably worth reviewing.
That is it for announcements, and I go to your questions. George.
Q Do you have an update on Liberia?
MR. DAVIES: I do. I have a bit of an update on Liberia. There have been, first I should note -- give you the headline at the top -- no further incidents to report in the vicinity of the Embassy. So no further firing from the Embassy on attacking individuals, but sporadic fighting does continue in Monrovia around the Barclay Training Center and around key bridges. There's very little traffic movement in Monrovia. Civilians continue to take refuge.
To try to explain a bit what happened yesterday, our understanding is that undisciplined fighters, when they're chased, they run through the streets firing their weapons. The incidents involving the Marines yesterday included, we think, such undisciplined foot fighters as well as perhaps some fighters in vehicles in the vicinity of the Embassy.
The Marines remain on vigilant alert. There are no plans for them to be leaving the Embassy grounds, and there are no plans at this stage to reinforce the Marine force that is at the Embassy, though we have moved the offshore vessels -- the Navy vessels -- carrying Marines closer to Monrovia so that they're closer at hand and available should they be needed to defend the Embassy or American citizens.
We continue today to underscore that it's imperative that all the parties realize the need to stop this fighting. The Liberian people have suffered far too long. President Rawlings continues to urge all the faction leaders to attend an emergency ECOWAS meeting in Accra, Ghana, on May 7 and 8. We encourage all the parties to participate in this meeting.
We continue in the person of our Ambassador there, Bill Milam, to work closely with the special ECOWAS representative, Mr. Gbeho, and the international community to reinstate the cease-fire that was agreed to on April 19.
That, I think, covers the high points of it. I've got a little more, but did you have specific questions about Monrovia?
Q Do you have anything more on George Moose?
MR. DAVIES: Assistant Secretary Moose left Monrovia early this morning. He attempted to meet face to face with some of the faction leaders. He was unable to, given the upsurge in the fighting. What he's done is he left Monrovia early this morning. He has traveled to, I think, Dakar, and he's on his way back to the United States. He's due back
here in fact late tonight, so he'll be available to consult with the Secretary and others.
It's unfortunate that the faction leaders were not available to meet with him. We view this as a missed opportunity, really, one of a number of missed opportunities on their part to demonstrate their commitment to peace and to pursuing their political objectives through negotiation rather than by force.
When Assistant Secretary Moose gets back, of course, the Secretary and others will be very interested in hearing from him about how we might proceed from here. But again to underscore that he was unable to get through to the faction leaders in person, he was only able to talk on the phone with Roosevelt Johnson. He could not get through to Charles Taylor or Alehaja Kromah despite repeated attempts.
Q Did they stiff him, or was he unable to -- was he physically unable to connect with these people, or did they just say, "We don't want to deal with you."
MR. DAVIES: I think I'd put the accent on their not wanting to deal with him, for whatever reason. I mean, we made a number of attempts. We don't know why technically it wouldn't have been possible for them to talk to Assistant Secretary Moose, who spent a considerable amount of time at the Embassy trying to do this. He was only able to get through to Roosevelt Johnson and was unable to get through to the other two.
Q Did he go down there on the presumption that they -- I mean, had they given prior indication that they wanted to see him, or did he just go down there on the hopes that they would?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think he necessarily had any meetings scheduled or times scheduled to talk to these individuals. I think he went down there expecting that they would be open to talking to him, so this is a very great disappointment.
Q You don't see any relationship between the attack yesterday, which I'm told was by Johnson's forces -- excuse me, Taylor's forces -- and the stiffing of Moose?
MR. DAVIES: Of course, it's hard to know whose forces they were. They may well have been Taylor's forces, though. We don't draw a connection between the attacks on the Embassy compound and Assistant Secretary Moose's presence. It looks to us as if these attacks were really by undisciplined fighters who, for whatever reason, took their fighting to the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy and then
actually fired on the Embassy. There were these three, perhaps four -- depending on how you account for them -- incidents that occurred yesterday when the Marines did what they are there to do, which is they defended the Embassy and the people in it by firing back, resulting, unfortunately, in some deaths.
Q Just a follow-up. You say three warships have been drawn closer to the shore, if not to evacuate the Ambassador and the rest of the Americans, then what for?
MR. DAVIES: The closer they are to shore, the more immediately they'd be available to help out, should the need arise. It means that there's a quicker helicopter flight from ship to shore, for instance. That's really the only reason why this change has been made. Of course, the cease-fire was broken rather dramatically, so that it was thought prudent to bring the ships a bit closer, so that they'd be closer at hand. But this doesn't presage any kind of further action on the part of the warships themselves. We don't have plans at this stage to --
Q To withdraw the Ambassador -- the acting Ambassador?
MR. DAVIES: No plans to withdraw the Ambassador, no.
Q Glyn, did all the faction leaders refuse to meet Moose? I mean, did Johnson say no when he spoke to him on the phone?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know whether we sought to set up a meeting with Johnson and couldn't do so. He was able to talk to Johnson on the phone, but the other two --
Q He did call.
MR. DAVIES: -- the other two we could not even get in touch with.
Q Do you know who was responsible for breaking the cease-fire?
MR. DAVIES: I do not know. It's very difficult to know. That's perhaps a question that the ECOWAS and ECOMOG authorities -- who are kind of the front line, if you will, to restore order -- might be able to shed some light on, but it's just not clear what necessarily happened.
We have reports that there are now fighters of perhaps various factions on the outskirts of Monrovia. Does this mean that fighters are being brought in to Monrovia by various factions to reinforce? We don't know. Does it mean that some of the fighters have moved out of Monrovia into
some of the areas that up to now hadn't been affected? It's just difficult to say, but we do have some reports that there are fighters now in areas where they hadn't been prevalent before on Monrovia's outskirts.
Q Different topic?
Q (Inaudible) one more.
MR. DAVIES: One more?
Q What do you think about the job that ECOMOG is doing now?
MR. DAVIES: ECOMOG has more of a job to do -- there's no question about it. During the period of the cease-fire, we saw signs that ECOMOG was being more vigorous and aggressive and getting out on street corners and patrolling, but then there were some disturbing reports as well that at ECOMOG checkpoints, some of these fighters were being simply waved through -- allowed to continue about their way.
ECOMOG has not yet achieved what we believe it must, which is to restore calm to the capital, which is step one, before you can move on to consolidating the cease-fire; then ultimately getting the parties back to the peace process, which is what we'd like to see happen.
Of course, we've spoken about the aid that we're prepared to give to ECOMOG if they're able to demonstrate on the ground that they've got control of the situation.
Q But don't they need the aid first?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think so. They need to step up to what is a very challenging assignment, but nonetheless a necessary one, which is to get out there and get the faction fighting under control. We're not saying it's easy to do. Certainly, it's a very chaotic situation, and we are working with ECOWAS and the authorities who are running ECOMOG to try to get that done, to buck them up to do a better job of patrolling and pacifying the situation.
Q Under U.S. law, is Yasser Arafat permitted to engage in fund-raising activities, currently permitted to engage in fund-raising activities in the United States?
MR. DAVIES: I know of no current prohibition against his doing so.
Q Do you have a readout on the meeting?
MR. DAVIES: On the Secretary's meeting with Chairman Arafat? I do have a little bit of a readout. The Secretary met with Chairman Arafat for about 30 minutes late this morning. The Secretary followed up on Chairman Arafat's discussion at the White House with President Clinton. They discussed the relationship between the United States and the Palestinian Authority in the aftermath of the revision of the covenant, which was very good news and which the President spoke to after his meeting with Arafat.
The Secretary conveyed to Chairman Arafat that Americans are generally pleased with those revisions to the Palestinian Covenant.
The Secretary also discussed with Chairman Arafat the hardships being experienced by the Palestinians -- hardships brought on by the closure of the West Bank and Gaza. He indicated, of course, we would do what we could to help ease those hardships. Then they spoke a bit about the importance of the continuing cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians to combat terrorism.
Q What about the discussion on the upcoming talks on the "final status?"
MR. DAVIES: When I spoke with the Secretary, he didn't indicate that they got into that at all. But, of course, that falls under the rubric of next steps. The final status talks are talks between the Palestinians and Israel. Obviously, we hope that those are successful, but are just an observer in that process.
Q How does the Secretary know Americans are generally pleased that Arafat -- that the PLO voted to change the Covenant? They haven't actually changed it yet.
MR. DAVIES: The Secretary talks to American people and reads the press, what you and others write. I think he's got a pretty good sense for the reaction on the part of those who follow these events and care. I think it's fair to say that the reaction has been generally positive.
This was a step toward, we hope ultimately, completion of that track, of the peace process between the Palestinians and Israel; perhaps even a big step, I think it's fair to say.
It's a positive development, and I think the Secretary is fair in his assessment that most Americans are pleased at what's happened.
Q A report that Russia is apparently booting out the Jewish agency which has played a vital role in financing
facilitating Jewish emigration. Does the U.S. have an opinion or reaction to that?
MR. DAVIES: Howard, we've seen the reports that the Jewish agency's activities have been restricted. We've raised our concerns about this at senior levels. The Russian Government, our Embassy in Moscow continues as well, to pursue it.
One of the most important aspects of political reform in Russia, from the standpoint of the United States, has, of course, has been freedom for Russian citizens to emigrate. We expect that Russian citizens will continue to be able to exercise that right.
Up to now, we've seen no indication that the Russian Government is restricting the right to emigrate.
To sum it up, we are concerned at this and we've raised this with the Russian Government.
Q What do you think it means? What does it indicate?
MR. DAVIES: It's hard to say what it means. It's only just happened, of course. I think it's fair to say, we don't view this as a positive development, and that we've raised this with the Russians. I don't know whether this is motivated by domestic politics or other concerns at this stage. It's very difficult to say.
Q Have any Russians offered the excuse that it's a bureaucratic slip-up, which apparently they've told the Israelis?
MR. DAVIES: Judd, I don't have anything to report by way of a reaction from the Russians to the concerns that we've expressed to Russian authorities.
Q Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't sort of the baseline for American assistance to Russia is a finding that there's freedom of emigration there?
MR. DAVIES: Those strictures may still be in place and may still be active. What is important, I think, to underscore right now is that we've seen no indications that the Russian Government is, in fact, restricting the right to emigrate. That's, if you will, from our standpoint, a bottom line consideration.
Q But there's a bigger issue here. The Jewish agency helps people financially who might still retain the legal right to emigrate. But if they don't have financial
assistance, they won't be able to emigrate. Does that pose a concern?
MR. DAVIES: I think -- yes.
Q In other words, the law can still remain the same but the net result would be --
MR. DAVIES: What I don't know yet, Judd, is exactly what this means. Does this mean that those who wish to emigrate won't, in fact, have access to financial assistance? Certainly, this would indicate that it's being made more difficult to obtain which isn't good, but I don't know that it represents a total cut-off.
Q If it did, would that trigger U.S. response, following up on Sid's question?
MR. DAVIES: That's, in a way, a speculative question. I don't know. We'd have to look at exactly what had happened and what it meant and whether it constituted, if you will, a trigger.
Q But you're interested more than just legalistic formulations here?
MR. DAVIES: We're very concerned at this step. As I say, these reports have only just reached us. We've had a chance to express concern -- first blush concern, I guess you could call it -- to Russian authorities. But what we have to see is exactly what this means, and is this permanent. Does it mean that no other body can do what the Jewish agency has been doing so successfully and well? All these questions remain open questions until we can look into it further and see how it develops.
Q You say their activities are restricted. Not that they haven't been kicked out of Russia?
MR. DAVIES: That's what I have, just that they've been restricted. I can't tell you what precisely that means. I don't know that the Jewish agency has actually been shuttered necessarily or has been completely closed down for all time. Again, it falls under the category of questions we've got that we want answered.
Q Is there a licensing problem?
MR. DAVIES: Not sure. We simply know that there have been some restrictions placed on the Jewish agency. We want to find out what they are. Depending on what news we get back from the Russians, we'll take it from there.
Q On North Korea. Would you explain what the U.S. official discussed with the North Korean delegation this morning? And why do you keep the venue of the meeting a secret or confidential? Are there any secret talks or secret negotiations between the U.S. and the North Korean delegation?
MR. DAVIES: Are you referring to the meeting today between Deputy Assistant Secretary Hubbard and I believe the North Korean official, Mr. Ri Jong Hyok?
MR. DAVIES: That meeting occurred at the U.S. Institute of Peace here in Washington, D.C. We're not keeping that venue under raps at all. That's where they met.
They met today, of course. Mr. Ri Jong Hyok leads an unofficial North Korean delegation. They first went to Atlanta for a conference hosted by the Korean-American Christian Coalition. Mr. Ri is Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Peace Committee.
Hubbard and Ri had a good exchange of views on a number of subjects of interest to both countries at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C. Of course, Mr. Hubbard took the occasion to urge that the DPRK respond positively to our four-party peace proposal.
Q Was there a reply?
MR. DAVIES: No reply.
Q Still no official reply?
MR. DAVIES: No official reply.
Q Can you give the spelling of that --
MR. DAVIES: Sure. The first name is R-I; the second name is J-O-N-G; and the third, H-Y-O-K.
Q Do you have any news from the Caribbean concerning the flotilla that set sail this morning?
MR. DAVIES: I've been asking about that throughout the morning. I know that the flotilla left. It was a flotilla of, I guess it's safest to say, between three and five ships. They left a couple of hours late. The weather is not the best down there.
We certainly hope that they're well aware of the announcements that we made yesterday -- the warnings, if you will -- that were, in the first instance, directed at the Cuban authorities but also at the U.S. participants, all designed to try to minimize any danger to those participating in this legitimate exercise of their right to express themselves.
I can't speak for the group -- but my understanding is that they're not going to reach the vicinity of the 12-mile territorial sea's limit for some hours, so I can't tell you the rest of the story. That's what I know.
Q Thank you.
MR. DAVIES: Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:32 p.m.)
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