U.S. Department of State 96/05/20 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, May 20, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Introduction of Jennifer Poole, Press Assistant ......... 1 Secretary Christopher To Address The Washington Institute For Near East Policy, Symposium on Terrorism, 5/21/96 . 1-2 Secretary's Testimony Before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, 5/23 ... 2 TURKEY Secretary's Meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister ... 2,7-9,10-12 Attempted Assassination of Turkish President Demirel .... 15 HUMAN RIGHTS Secretary's Meeting with Justice Richard Goldstone 5/20 . 2 --Discussion of Bosnia and Rwanda ....................... 5-6 IRAQ U.N. Resolution 986 Approved/Oil for Food ............... 2,9-10,13-15 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Status of Karadzic/Reported Delegation of Some Powers ... 3-5 --Conversations between Kornblum and Serb Leadership .... 3 Prospects for Reimposition of Sanctions on Serbia ....... 4,7 Prospects for Discussion of Bosnia During Secretary's Upcoming Trip to Europe ............................... 6 IFOR's Mission/Karadzic Arrest .......................... 6-7 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Status of Monitoring Group Meetings/Briefing Prospects .. 15-16,18-19 --Secretary's Conversation with Syrian Foreign Minister . 16,19-20 --Discussion of Monitoring Group/Incident This Weekend In Southern Lebanon between Hizbollah and Israel ...... 16-18,19 Prospects for the Secretary Meeting with the Lebanese PM 20 BANGLADESH Army Chief Dismissed .................................... 20-21 KASHMIR Welfare of Four Western Hostages ........................ 21-23 Human Rights Watch Report/Elections in Kashmir .......... 23 CHINA Administration's Position on Extension of MFN ........... 23-24 TAIWAN President Lee's Inaugural Address/Dialogue with China ... 25
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, MAY 20, 1996, 1:06 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. We have some comments on the Red Sox today. Glorious weekend for the Boston Red Sox.
I also want to welcome back Mr. Bill Eicher. It's been a long time, and we understand that you're back from south of the border. There were some "Eicher" sightings during the Secretary's visit to Mexico City. We're delighted that you're here.
We also want to welcome nine citizens of Kuwait who are here participating in the Foreign Service Training Program at the Foreign Affairs Training Center. I believe at least some of you are over here and some over here. Welcome. Welcome. Thank you very much for coming.
We also have with us a diplomat from The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs who I believe is here as well. Welcome to you.
I want to introduce our newest Press Assistant in the Bureau of Public Affairs, Jennifer Poole. Jennifer comes to us from the Executive Secretariat. Some of you who travel with us know her from our trips overseas where she worked in the Executive Secretariat. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary with a major in English, a minor in Government. We're very, very glad to have you here.
A couple of notes about the Secretary. Secretary Christopher is going to deliver an address on terrorism tomorrow at 10:15 a.m. at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This is at a symposium on terrorism, and the Secretary felt, considering the fact that this has been one of the major preoccupations of American foreign policy for a long time, but more specifically the last few months, that he would go over and give the symposium his own thoughts. If you would like to cover the event, I'll have some information in the Press Office after the briefing.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
MR. BURNS: 10:15.
Q: They're saying 11:15.
MR. BURNS: Right. It's been changing. It's now 10:15. We've had a couple of different times on this, Barry.
Third, I wanted you all to know that the Secretary, this Thursday, May 23, will be testifying again at 10:00 a.m. on Capitol Hill before the Senate Appropriations Committee. This is the Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. Of course, that is an open press event as well.
This morning, the Secretary has had two meetings with officials from outside the government. The first was with the Turkish Foreign Minister, Minister Gonensay. It was a very positive, very productive meeting. If you are interested in that, I'll be glad to respond to your questions on it.
Secondly, the Secretary just concluded a meeting with Richard Goldstone -- Justice Richard Goldstone -- who, as you know, runs the two War Crimes Tribunals; one concerning Bosnia and the other concerning Rwanda. If you're interested in that meeting, again, I'll be glad to take your questions.
Finally, I wanted to just note for all of you and refer you to the public statement of Ambassador Madeleine Albright just in the last hour about the successful conclusion of the negotiations on U.N. Resolution 986. Ambassador Albright spoke for the Administration in her comments.
Obviously, we are pleased that this resolution has now been approved. We're pleased for the Iraqi people who have suffered too long because of Saddam Hussein's policies. We're very pleased for the United Nations as well, and this is a victory for the United States.
We were the author of this resolution. We think this resolution had made a lot of sense for a long time. It was available to the Iraqi regime for many years; it's the basic offer. We hope now that the Iraqi people will profit from this in the months ahead.
Q: Nick, can you go through your understanding of the attempts to get Karadzic out, and why his scheme was unacceptable to the U.S.? I assume it is.
MR. BURNS: It's a situation that remains in flux, Barry, I think as we speak now. But, essentially, there were some indications over the weekend that Mr. Karadzic might step down completely from power and give way to those who are more interested in compliance with the Dayton Accords. Unfortunately, that has not happened.
As you know, from some of the press reports, Karadzic has delegated some of his powers to Mrs. Plavsic. But she is someone whose views we think are pretty much in concert with his.
What we have done over the weekend is to work very closely with President Milosevic and with his Foreign Minister, Milutinovic. There were conversations between John Kornblum and the Serb leadership in Belgrade on Saturday, Sunday, and again this morning. In those conversations, we made very clear to President Milosevic that he is responsible for ensuring that the Bosnian Serbs comply in all respects with the Dayton Accords, including the apprehension and prosecution of war criminals. We felt that way since the signing of the Dayton Accords in December, and we still feel that way now.
I would note the following. We are looking for a confirmation that a transfer of power will take place. That has not yet happened. We will not work with Mr. Karadzic or General Mladic. They are indicted war criminals. They should be apprehended and brought to The Hague for prosecution.
I would also note that we will continue to work with those Bosnian Serb leaders. There are many in Banja Luka who do want the Bosnian Serbs to be in compliance with the Dayton Accords. There's obviously a division right now in the Bosnian Serb community, and we'll continue to work with those who are interested in peace and not with those who are interested in obstructing all the positive events that have happened since last October.
Q: Isn't it an attempt to pass off, or hand off some of the powers to this close ally? First of all, doesn't that partly give you partial satisfaction? He is the one who is indicted, and you would have had him out of power, right? I know you're disappointed that he simply didn't cleanly step down and --
MR. BURNS: We're certainly disappointed that he has not yet stepped down and that he did not take advantage of
the opportunity that Mr. Bildt gave him this weekend to step down, first.
Second, I guess you would have to say, Barry, it is a modest step forward for him to give way now, at least, in delegating some of his powers to the so-called Vice President, Mrs. Plavsic. But we know that she is someone who has shared many of his views in the past and his outlook on the Dayton Accords. We hope very much that perhaps now she'll step forward in a position of greater responsibility and act in such a way that is more consistent with the commitments that the Bosnian Serbs undertook at Dayton.
I would also say there really is no going back in this process -- in the Dayton process. We're going to go forward. There are Bosnian Serbs who do want to be productive and who want to work with Carl Bildt, with the United States, with the European Union. We'll continue to look to those people to be our major interlocutors in this process.
Q: Nick, has President Milosevic been given a deadline after which sanctions will be imposed on Serbia if he is has not managed to arrange for this part of the Dayton Accords to be enforced?
MR. BURNS: We've not given any deadlines, David. I would just like to reaffirm today that we reserve, of course, the option of returning sanctions if we feel that Serbian compliance with the Dayton Accords, but specifically the War Crimes provisions, is not satisfactory. I think that message has been transmitted loud and clear.
It certainly was way back in February when Secretary Christopher was in Belgrade. And in the conversations this week, I think the most important thing I can tell you is that we reaffirmed to President Milosevic that it's ultimately his responsibility to ensure Bosnian Serb compliance.
Q: In conversations over the weekend, did President Milosevic give you any assurances that he was prepared now to act and not wait until elections to get rid of Karadzic?
MR. BURNS: President Milosevic continues to say that he wants the Bosnian Serb leadership to comply with Dayton. He has not given us any specific idea of what he will do towards that end.
Q: What would you say to those who would observe that the United States is backing an additional partition of Bosnia in the Srpska Republic?
MR. BURNS: I would say that they're wrong. That's not our intention. That has not been the basis of our diplomacy, and that was not the conceptual basis of the Dayton Accords as they were successfully negotiated by the United States.
Q: Have any facts on the ground forced you into a different position?
MR. BURNS: Sid, you're looking at a situation -- you're taking a snapshot of Bosnia, essentially, six months after the United States ended the fighting and brought forward a peace agreement. We have six months to go before American troops leave that area. In fact, a little bit more than six months to go.
We have elections to be held. The elections are very important because that will select -- that process will identify, we hope -- a new set of leaders. So I wouldn't give up on the idea that Dayton can be successful. In fact, we're going along as if it will be successful. We have confidence that it can.
I know there are a lot of critics out there who, a couple of months into it, claimed that this was going to lead inevitably to partition. I would just submit, we've got to see what happens with the rest of this year -- in the elections process, and we've got to see what happens in the struggle for power between those in Pale and those in Banja Luka.
I think the critics are a little bit jumping ahead of the facts here.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the Secretary's meeting with Goldstone, to the extent that they talked about Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: They talked about both subjects. They had talked so much about Bosnia in the past and so much of our conversations with Justice Goldstone center on Bosnia. They did want to take some time today, as they did, to talk about Rwanda and the need for the War Crimes Tribunal there to identify people for prosecution -- both for indictment and prosecution -- and then for those trials to be held rather quickly. Because, as you know, there haven't been any trials yet.
Secretary Christopher gave Justice Goldstone his very strong support and that of the United States for that process.
On Bosnia, they essentially reviewed the state of play on the indictments, the fact that there's a trial going on now. We reaffirmed -- Secretary Christopher reaffirmed -- our very strong support, both financial and organizationally, for the Bosnia War Crimes effort.
Justice Goldstone raised a few suggestions on how that could be strengthened. So it was a very positive meeting. He'll be meeting with others. In fact, I think he's having lunch right now with John Shattuck and Conrad Harper.
Q: Nick, does the Secretary have any plans to see Mr. Milosevic or other leaders from the Balkans in Europe in the upcoming trip?
MR. BURNS: I have nothing to announce today, Charlie. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the Secretary took advantage of his upcoming trip to Europe to have some discussions about Bosnia. As you know, the Secretary has done that on a fairly consistent basis since the Dayton Accords were negotiated.
You remember our trip to Geneva in February where he did take advantage of his presence in Europe to have such a meeting. So nothing to announce. I can't tell you exactly who the interlocutors would be, but I think the Secretary will want to discuss in Europe, essentially, measure compliance six months out and look forward to the next six months and to communicate to the people in charge in Croatia, in Serbia, in Bosnia, what it is we think that they should do to bring those countries into compliance with Dayton.
Q: Nick, could I ask you just to see today what you say when asked whether you would completely count out the possibility of military action by IFOR to arrest President Karadzic?
MR. BURNS: As you know, we have said from the beginning that that cannot be IFOR's major military mission, given all the enormous challenges in front of IFOR to stop the fighting and create the zone of separation and monitor that, and monitor the arms withdrawal and the arms provisions of the Dayton Accords, which IFOR has done splendidly.
We've also said, however, that if IFOR encounters indicted war criminals, then IFOR then will apprehend them and turn them over to the proper authorities of the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. What is implicit in that, of course, is that obviously it could be theoretically possible that a soldier or group of soldiers belonging to IFOR would have to use force to do so. So I can't count that out.
But I can't point you to any change in our policy. We haven't changed our policy. The rules of engagement for IFOR troops remain what they were when the troops arrived in December.
Still on Bosnia and before we go to Turkey? Any more on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: You have one more on Bosnia.
Q: Could you explain the mechanism for reimposing the sanctions, though? I mean, how does it have to be done? Who has to do it? Does it have to go through a process? Does there have to be agreement by other members of the international community? How do you go about reimposing sanctions if you reach a point where you believe that Serbia and the Republic of Srpska are not complying with Dayton?
MR. BURNS: We have under continual review their compliance with Dayton. One of the most important provisions of Dayton is the commitment that Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia made to the War Crimes Tribunal and to the issue of war criminals in general.
We have told the Serb leadership, specifically President Milosevic, that we will be watching how Serbia complies. We have told him that if compliance is unsatisfactory and if we believe that it will not at some point improve, we reserved the right to impose some of the sanctions that had previously been placed on Serbia.
I would also say, as you know, the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions -- Serbia's participation in certain international organizations, including assistance from the international financial institutions -- that outer wall of sanctions remains, and that will remain in place until several things happen, including, of course, as we said, I think about two weeks ago, until we see further the way that Serbia treats the Albanian minority in Kosovo.
Q: Turkish Foreign Minister, Mr. Gonensay, after meetings with Secretary Christopher, he said in front of the building -- he put the Turkish side position on the Aegean question, especially the Turkish side doesn't take only one subject to third-party arbitration. They want to put together all kinds of subjects -- disputable subjects and the Aegean question.
What is the Secretary's response to the Turkish Foreign Minister?
MR. BURNS: Rather than just answer a question piecemeal, let me very briefly tell you what happened in the meeting. They had a very good, productive, very positive 45-minute meeting. First of all, the Secretary congratulated Turkey on the very strong role that it is taking in Bosnia and the Middle East in general in support for the Middle East peace process in central Asia, and also in Turkey's leading role in "Operation Provide Comfort" in northern Iraq.
Secondly, they had a good discussion of "Operation Provide Comfort," and both the United States and Turkey continue to support the presence of "Provide Comfort" forces in northern Iraq. It is absolutely essential that they continue their operations there, and we are determined to extend "Operation Provide Comfort."
Third, there was a discussion of U.S.-Turkish military and security issues, and here I'd just like to assure you again -- we talked about this last week -- that the United States does support the leasing of frigates to Turkey and their support systems and support assistance that go along with it.
I know that Secretary Perry had a conversation with Minister Gonensay this morning about that, as did Secretary Christopher. And last, but not least, there was a discussion of Turkish-Greek issues, and in that context Minister Gonensay did put forward the idea that you mentioned.
I would just say on that, the United States wants to encourage Turkey and Greece to resolve their many problems in the Aegean. We have said before that if the two desire for the United States to be involved in seeking a resolution of these problems, we'll be glad to do so.
If they both want to refer their problems to a third party, to arbitration, to mediation internationally, we could support that. But fundamentally, this process will not go forward until Turkey and Greece agree on the same mechanism, whether it's mediation or arbitration, and the Minister put forward a proposal.
Obviously, what has to happen now is for the Greek Government to consider that, and the United States will support whatever mechanism the two simultaneously and concurrently agree to.
Q: But the problem is that Greek side is taking to question dispute only the one island, and the Turkish side said that not only the one island, all of the islands and the continental shelf and the militarization of these islands also. My question is, what is the U.S. position, all these subjects. Are you supporting the Turkish position, bringing all the disputable problems to a third party?
MR. BURNS: I didn't mean to be distracted. I'm looking for Mr. Lambros, but I guess he's not in today. (Laughter) But my good friend Dimitri is here, so I'll just refer to you. Asking us if we're going to support the Turks or Greeks -- you know what the answer is going to be. We support a process that will lead to a solution that's mutually satisfactory to both Greece and Turkey.
Please do not ask the United States to choose between two NATO allies. We won't do it. The message this morning was supportive in this sense: we want to help Greece and Turkey resolve these problems, but Greece and Turkey have to take the first steps together, and that remains our position.
Q: Nick, you said U.S. supports leasing of frigates. As far as I know, of the three frigates, two were grants and one was for lease. Did that situation change? Now all three frigates are leased?
MR. BURNS: You're absolutely right. It's a combination of grant and leasing. You're absolutely right, and I should have mentioned that. It's the combination of the two and the one. Your facts are correct.
Q: Secondly, about the 986, the fact that Iraq accepted the conditions -- does this mean that -- I asked the same question to you last week. The Iraqi-Turkish pipeline will be flushed and put in operation and 51 percent of the oil will be shipped through that pipeline?
MR. BURNS: Let me tell you what we don't know now, because it needs to be worked out in New York at the Security Council, is exactly all the details concerning the implementation of the agreement that was reached this morning.
This is one of the questions that is involved in that, so I think you'll have to be patient for a day or two longer until those arrangements are worked out and they are announced by the U.N. Security Council.
What we can say this morning, however, is that finally the Iraqi people, who have suffered from a lack of food and a lack of medicine, now will have the opportunity to receive humanitarian food and medicine. Finally -- because Saddam Hussein who has been busy building 15 palaces since Iraq was destroyed during the Gulf War and who has turned down this deal countless times -- finally, he's come to his senses and understood that we will enter into an arrangement that will benefit people.
But this arrangement will not benefit Saddam Hussein. He will not control the distribution of these materials nor the 36th parallel. Also, this agreement does not alter the fact that the sanctions in place against Iraq will continue to be in place against Iraq until all the conditions are met of the Security Council -- those conditions having been put in place in 1991.
Q: To what extent was the human rights discussed, and is there any change in the U.S. position about the sale of the Cobra helicopters?
MR. BURNS: No, I think Secretary Christopher spoke to Jim Anderson's question on that this morning. There hasn't been any change in the Cobra helicopter sale. In terms of human rights, there is, I think, a cursory mention of that this morning, but there are other meetings between the Turkish and American delegations where that will take place.
Q: Did the Secretary discuss with Mr. Gonensay the Cyprus issue?
MR. BURNS: The Cyprus issue did come up, yes, and I forgot to mention that to you. It came up at the end of the meeting. They talked about the fact that, obviously, we would all like to make progress in Cyprus. They talked about various aspects of how that could be done, but I have nothing really more detailed to give you on the record on that.
We're going to stick to Greece and Turkey for now, Mr. Arshad.
Q: Still on Turkey --
Q: (Inaudible) an issue in the region?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
MR. BURNS: Yes, certainly, Mr. Gonensay raised the major problem that Turkey is experiencing with PKK terrorism, and there was a discussion of that. Of course, as you know, the United States position on that is very clear. We oppose the PKK. We think it's a vicious terrorist organization.
Minister Gonensay and others, of course, talked about the details of the terrorist actions of the PKK, and I think you know that what we said last week from the podium here remains true. Those who support the PKK, including Syria, should think twice about that support.
Q: Nick, you said that they talked about the Cobra helicopter and the (inaudible) position. Could you repeat the (inaudible) position on the Cobra helicopters?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary answered the question on the record this morning. There is no Cobra helicopter sale that's going forward at this time. The Secretary said that on the record.
I don't know if some of you didn't know about the press opportunity this morning, but there was a press opportunity at 10:30.
Q: The Turkish Foreign Minister said that the Turkish Parliament has approved extension of "Provide Comfort" for another three months, I think, but with conditions attached, and Christopher and the Turkish Foreign Minister were going to discuss whether those conditions could be met -- can they?
MR. BURNS: There was a discussion by Minister Gonensay of some of the conditions that the Turkish Parliament might want to attach to an extension of "Provide Comfort."
Let me say this: We've got to work through, of course, with the Turkish Government, and the Turkish Government has to work through with its own Parliament all the details of this issue. At the end of the day, "Operation Provide Comfort" will be extended. It has to be extended. It's too important to Turkey and the United States.
It's too important for stability in northern Iraq, and we certainly cannot give Saddam Hussein any opening to increase his power and influence north of the 36th parallel.
Q: Nick, could "Provide Comfort" -- the mission -- be carried out without using Turkish territory?
MR. BURNS: I think it would be very difficult to do that, because, of course, it's been necessary since the time it was started for there to be staging operations, supply relationships, that emanate from Turkey into northern Iraq. So I think that would be difficult.
Q: But there are quite a bit of U.S. Air Force assets deployed elsewhere now in Jordan and elsewhere. Couldn't they pick up the slack?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't lead you in the direction that you're taking us. I mean, I don't think that's some place that we're going right now. We want to extend "Provide Comfort" along the administrative lines that have already been established.
There are, obviously, some issues that the Turkish Government brings to this conversation, and we'll listen very carefully to the Turkish Government. But I don't want to lead you in the direction that somehow we're going to fundamentally cut off the basis of a supply logistical arrangement that's been in place for many years.
Q: Your last statement here -- these two things. So there's no discussions about -- there's no consideration, discussion or planning in this government to shift "Operation Provide Comfort" or elements of it to other nations, perhaps leaving supply and logistics in Turkey and the deployment of the fighters elsewhere?
MR. BURNS: Sid, that's a very broad, leading question. Of course, these are detailed, complex negotiations, and, if other countries can provide support to "Operation Provide Comfort," so much the better. We wouldn't turn down an offer of support from a third country.
But I can't make the blanket statement that you want me to make. But I can tell you that the basis of the relationship remains the same. That is, Turkey is the key actor in "Operation Provide Comfort" along with the United States.
Q: On the monitoring (inaudible). Can we move to that?
MR. BURNS: Are we off Turkey?
Q: (Multiple comments)
MR. BURNS: Judd has one on Iraqi oil, and then we'll follow up here.
Q: Nick, is the agreement that was reached in New York this morning the same deal that's been on the table for three years or roughly?
MR. BURNS: The deal has fluctuated, depending on the year in which it was offered, but essentially the proposition has been this: that the international community -- and this was a U.S. idea -- we authored Resolution 986, by the way -- the international community would permit Iraq to export a limited amount of oil. The proceeds from those sales would allow Iraq to purchase humanitarian food and medical supplies for its starving and suffering population.
The proceeds from the sale would not allow Saddam Hussein to build a 16th palace or to import new military hardware for his army, and that was the basic proposition.
For whatever reason, Saddam Hussein balked at signing this deal for a very long time, through various permutations of this debate in the United Nations, ostensibly because he wanted to control more of the funds than we would allow him to control.
The problem with Saddam Hussein is, he doesn't realize that he lost the war, and that we're not going to allow him to go back to business as usual in Iraq. We're not going to allow him to extend his authority north of the 36th parallel, and we wouldn't give him petro-dollars and allow him to spend it for whatever reason he wanted to spend it, which is mainly personal for him -- you know, for comfort, for him and his family, or to help his military. That's the basis of the deal.
It wasn't until today that the Iraqi leadership decided that it would go along. The victims, because of Saddam Hussein's difficulties here, have been the Iraqi people. We wanted to help them all along, and we made this deal available to him many, many times.
So finally he's accepted -- good for the Iraqi people -- and we hope that now some of the suffering that he has caused will be alleviated because of this.
Q: He accepted a deal he wouldn't accept previously, is what you're saying.
MR. BURNS: Exactly. The basic deal has pretty much been the same. The numbers have changed a little bit. As you know, this deal talks about his ability to export a $1 billion worth of oil over a 90-day period; $2 billion over a 6-month period. Along the time line there will be review dates set up to ascertain whether or not he is, in fact, complying with the deal. If he is, there will be possibilities to extend it into the future. But the basic arrangement is the same.
Q: May I ask a follow-up to the deal, please? Will U.S. companies be allowed to buy Iraqi oil? The U.N. has compiled a list of foreign companies that want to buy the oil, and U.S. companies have not been told whether they will be allowed to put their names on this list.
MR. BURNS: That fits into the category of the previous question, and that is that some of the implementing details of this arrangement need to be worked out by the U.N. Security Council; once they are, they'll be fully published and made available publicly.
Q: (Inaudible) the Security Council.
MR. BURNS: The Security Council, of course --
Q: This is a U.S. decision, though. Other countries have already said their companies can buy this oil.
MR. BURNS: We are working -- yes, of course. We're working with the Security Council on the implementing details, and once they are set and established and agreed to, the United Nations will announce them. We will inform our companies of what their rights and obligations are, if in fact they are pertinent to this deal. But I'm not in a position now to say yes or no to your question.
Q: Do you know when you will announce to the U.S. companies?
MR. BURNS: As soon as we can get agreement at the United Nations, and I hope that will be very soon.
Q: Possibly later today?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't think it would be later today. I think it would have to go beyond today, into tomorrow or the next day.
Still on this?
Q: Yes. Why is this particular detail still unresolved?
MR. BURNS: Just that we have not come to the end of our discussions in the United Nations about all the aspects of the implementation. Instead of giving those out piecemeal, we wanted to give them out together as a set. Once we complete that operation, we'll be glad to let you know.
Still on Turkey, and then we're going to go to the Middle East.
Q: There was an attempt on the life of President Suleyman Demirel, Turkish President, Saturday. Do you have a statement on that?
MR. BURNS: I certainly do. All of us were very, very sorry to see what happened -- the attempt on the life of the President of Turkey. We're very, very glad -- relieved -- that he was not harmed in this attack; that he'll be able to continue his service and leadership of the Turkish people.
We extend our sympathy and wishes for a rapid recovery to the journalist and the member of President Demirel's security detail who were injured during this attack. I can't tell you -- I would direct you to the Government of Turkey on the motives for the attack, on the background of the group, of the individuals that may have tried to carry out the attack, but we're certainly very pleased that he's in good health. He's a valued friend and ally of the United States.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q: Did the Secretary and the Turkish Foreign Minister discuss specifically Syria's support for the PKK?
MR. BURNS: That came up in the conversation, yes.
Q: Did the Turkish side raise it or the Secretary?
MR. BURNS: The Turkish side raised it, yes.
Q: Speaking of the monitoring talks, the Secretary said he spoke with Shara on Sunday. Can you give us an idea what they talked about?
MR. BURNS: It was in the context of the monitoring group, Sid. Let me tell you first where we stand on that. We think substantial progress has been made in trying to work out the responsibilities of the monitoring group. We think we are close to an agreement. There is a draft agreement. It was sent to capitals on Friday for comment.
There's a meeting at 2:00 p.m. today, chaired by Ambassador Dennis Ross, here in the Department, where we expect to receive the comments from the various delegations. Once having received them, we'll consider them. We'll discuss them with our four partners in this process and as quickly as possible thereafter -- I wouldn't lead you to believe that will be today -- as quickly as possible thereafter we'll produce an agreement.
Secretary Christopher did call Minister Shara yesterday evening. They discussed the monitoring group. They discussed the diplomacy of last week. They traded some views on it. It was a very good, very productive phone call. They also discussed the incident over the weekend in southern Lebanon where Israel exchanged fire with Hizbollah.
On that incident, I would just direct you to the Secretary Christopher's comments this morning: "We're still trying to sort out all the details of how that incident came about -- who might have shot first, where the shots landed."
It's unclear exactly -- at this point unclear -- exactly what happened, but I can say this. This particular incident and the counter-charges by Israel and Hizbollah and the Lebanese Government and Syria on what happened point to the need for the rapid establishment of a monitoring group; because if the monitoring group had been in full operation this weekend, it would have been the mechanism that would have addressed -- the group of people that would have addressed this problem.
As it is, we are talking to each of the governments involved about the incident, and we hope very much that whatever confusion has been produced by various reports can be overcome. We are confident that the cease-fire against civilians will remain in place, and we believe that all sides are committed to that.
Q: Just to follow up. On the agreement itself, the new rules agreement, is it the U.S.'s interpretation that if Hizbollah fires from within the security zone, flees into a village outside the security zone, that Israel has the right to retaliate against them in the village?
MR. BURNS: What I don't want to do is -- I mean, you have posited an interesting and provocative hypothetical situation. I don't want to comment on that, but I do want to tell you what the agreement says.
No party to this agreement has the right to fire willfully and directly at civilians. That's what happened between April 9 and April 27 when 500,000 people had to flee their homes on both sides of the border and many, many Lebanese were killed.
We have tried through the agreement that Secretary Christopher concluded on the 27th of April to make sure that does not happen again. So neither side has the right to fire willfully or directly at civilians.
Of course, Israel in this case or any case has the right to self-defense. The agreement did not incorporate any kind of limitation, as you know, about activities within the security zone itself. Since the agreement was worked out, we have seen some fighting within the security zone. That is most regrettable. We would hope that Hizbollah could restrain itself from attacking the Israeli army within the security zone. It has not been able to do so.
What you've seen is, and on a number of occasions, Israel has fired back within the security zone at Hizbollah forces as Hizbollah has attacked Israeli forces and sometimes SLA forces on the ground. It's a most regrettable situation that Hizbollah seems to feel it's quite at liberty to fire at Israeli soldiers in that zone.
Q: The agreement does not speak or does not prohibit Hizbollah from firing at the Israelis in the zone, does it?
MR. BURNS: No, it doesn't, but it's still regrettable, because we had hoped that Hizbollah and some of its masters, including Iran, would have decided that now is the time for a complete and de facto cease-fire to go along with the cease-fire against civilians that Secretary Christopher negotiated so successfully.
It's just unfortunate that Hizbollah feels it has to make these attacks, which, of course, produce a counterreaction from Israeli soldiers who do have a right to self-defense.
Q: This incident yesterday, do you have an assessment of whether this is a violation or not, because the Secretary today did not answer that question. Is it a violation of the agreement or not?
MR. BURNS: No, what is sure here, I think -- what is clear here -- is that much is unclear; is that there are counter-claims. There are some contradictions between the various stories on exactly who fired where and what was hit and what was not hit.
So what the United States is now doing -- and we started this yesterday -- is we're trying to work out with the parties a rendition of exactly what happened, that all then can agree to. We are in effect acting as the monitoring group will act, once the monitoring group is fully operational.
Q: Just to clarify it, the U.S. position is that Hizbollah has fired first in every incident since the truce has been put into place?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I mean, there have been so many instances, I can't say in every one, but in the vast majority of them, I think there's no question that Hizbollah has initiated the action, and that's again regrettable.
Q: About the chairmanship of the committee, I understand that it's been resolved now that it's going to between you and the French. But has there been any arrangements on who's going to start first, and for how long? Do you know anything about that?
MR. BURNS: All issues are being discussed this afternoon at 2:00 p.m., just in 19 minutes from now, and I'm sure we'll work them all out at some point. When we do, we'll make it all public, and we'll have a very detailed briefing here in the Press Room about how it happened, how we arrived at the decision, who said what during the negotiations. You'll be very satisfied. But until then --
MR. BURNS: Come on, George. Absolutely. I didn't say it would be on the record. I just said here in the briefing room. It will probably be on background, Barry.
Q: (Inaudible) understanding that isn't between the parties, really, that are responsible for all this?
MR. BURNS: Are you referring to the April 27th meeting?
Q: Yes. Now, you're trying to obviate these kind of incidents in which people get hurt and killed. Could there be some way that we could have a formal On-the-Record understanding of what these five nations' understanding of the cease-fire is and how it will be monitored?
MR. BURNS: You'll absolutely get that. In fact, I'll present that to you On-the-Record: What is the agreement to establish the rights and responsibilities/obligations of the Monitoring Group and how it will be implemented. We'll give you that On-the-Record.
I'm going to offer you something in addition to that. It met with great disapproval, and that is, that ON BACKGROUND, the person who negotiated it will come down here and take you through the negotiations. I think that's a good offer. If you're not interested, hey, we won't do it. It's okay.
Q: Let me try that incident one more time. Would it have come out any differently had there been an agreement? What I'm trying to determine is whether a monitoring mechanism would have been more capable of assessing blame and/or would have been able to prevent or avert such an incident?
MR. BURNS: If you had people on the ground whose responsibility it was to look at an incident close by and determine who shot first and so forth, where the bombs fall, that would have helped, certainly, the situation. That's one of the things that we're trying to work out now in these monitoring group negotiations.
Q: If the terrorist group pops Israel and then disappears into a civilian enclave and then you're going to have Syria, France, and Lebanon sort of decide whether Israel should be restrained in its response, it strikes me you have kind of an odd situation.
MR. BURNS: You left out one key country.
Q: United States.
MR. BURNS: The United States.
Q: But the vote is three to two. Well, we'll see how this monitoring group --
MR. BURNS: I think it will be a fair process. It will be an effective process. When we complete this, we'll let you know. If you're not interested in this briefing, we won't do it. But if you are, we'll talk about it.
Q: When you are done, are you going to announce from here from Washington or is it going to be announced from the five capitals?
MR. BURNS: We haven't made that decision yet. We haven't made that decision.
Q: Is Shara the only Foreign Minister of the four other nations that the Secretary spoke to over the weekend?
MR. BURNS: I believe so, yes.
Q: Do we infer from that that there's some particular problem with Syria agreeing to --
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't lead you in that direction, no. In fact, I said it was a good, productive, and positive phone call.
Q: (Inaudible) meeting the Lebanese Prime Minister in Europe this week. Do you haven't anything on that?
MR. BURNS: I have nothing for you on that, no.
Q: I saw that in some reports.
MR. BURNS: Nothing at all. Mr. Arshad, and then we'll go to the back.
Is there a filing break, George?
Q: Yeah, why not.
MR. BURNS: Go for it. The AP is staying.
Q: Not all of it.
MR. BURNS: The wires are leaving. I have a couple more announcements. It's okay if you guys miss it. It's all right. Your competitors won't care.
Q: Thank you, Nick.
MR. BURNS: Nice to see you.
Q: Thank you very much. A bit of a warning news from Dhaka. The President has dismissed the army chief today. This has raised a bit of concern in Dhaka. The cantonments are being mobilized in a way -- nobody knows what is going inside because the incumbent army chief doesn't want to handle the power. That's what I -- we got the report.
Does the State Department have any information in this matter? Nick, I would like to have your comment. Because we are now heading for -- the countryman s in an election mood. The international observers are already in Dhaka giving their initial suggestion, meeting leaders. So this is a very appropriate time for elections but now we're having such an extraordinary situation today, a couple of hours back. So I would like to hear what is your information in this regard, and, definitely, what would be your comment when we have the elections right around the corner?
MR. BURNS: Thank you, Mr. Arshad. I have very few comments to make, actually. I would just limit myself to saying we are aware that the President has dismissed the army Chief of Staff. We are aware of reports of tank and troop movements in and around Dhaka. We are, obviously, monitoring the situation closely, as you would expect, from our Embassy in Dhaka -- an Embassy which is being led, by the way, under the very able leadership of Ambassador Merrill.
But beyond that, I really don't have a substantive comment to make about these events. We'll continue to look at it very closely.
Q: Can you update us on the Donald Hutchings case, including new reports?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I would be glad to. This is a very sad story. As you're all aware, Donald Hutchings, along with four others, was taken hostage by the al-Faran group last July 4th. One of the Americans was able to escape in the first days of their captivity and find freedom.
Of course, one of the hostages was executed late last year.
We are following this case very closely. We're working with the Indian Government very closely on this case. We know that the hostages have been held in a mountainous area, which is very hard to reach, where these militants operate with great freedom.
We are continuing to operate on the assumption that the hostages are alive. We are working closely with the Indian Government, as I said, with other governments, and with some international organizations to secure their release. At the same time, we're trying to keep the family of Donald Hutchings apprised of everything that we know about this case. Every time we have any new information, we let them know.
Obviously, our hearts go out to his family. It's a terrible, very hard ordeal for the Hutchings family. We're doing everything we can to secure his release. We shouldn't forget that there are German and British hostages held with him. We're working with those governments, and we shouldn't forget Hans Christian Ostro of Norway who was murdered by the al-Faran group, who was part of this group that was taken hostage last July 4th.
I'll allow you to ask a follow-up.
Q: The latest reports were, at the end of last week, that there is a project that did get underway for remains possibly in that region. Can you speak to that? What would you advise his family here? Is that to be disregarded at this point? Is that search --
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to that. I cannot speak to that. Again, I would just direct you to one thing that I said. We continue to operate under the assumption that Mr. Hutchings, the German and British hostages, are alive. We are continuing our very intense diplomatic efforts from our Embassy in New Delhi under the capable leadership of our senior diplomat, Frank Wisner, who has been working on this case very hard since last July 4th.
It's a difficult case because this al-Faran group has not been, by and large, communicative. It certainly hasn't respected the wishes of all of us in the international community that it not seek its own political objectives through the abduction of innocent people.
Q: As a follow-up, what is the Indian Government -- I mean, they're the people on the scene, relatively speaking, there. What, specifically, are they telling the Embassy in New Delhi -- that they have no information, that reports are just rumors? Is there anything of substance as to what allegedly happened this weekend? Can they give the guys any hard information at all?
MR. BURNS: The Indian Government has been in constant contact with our Embassy in New Delhi. Obviously, for a variety of reasons, which you will understand, having to do with the security of the hostages themselves, I can't tell you publicly everything that the Indian Government has relayed to us.
I can tell you, it's been a considerable amount of information. We believe the Indian Government has done everything it can to try to identify where the hostages are being held and to do something about it, to convince this al-Faran group to give them up.
Unfortunately, those efforts have been unsuccessful. We believe the Indian Government will continue its efforts. It has all the support from the United States, from Britain, and from Germany, all the support it needs to continue to monitor the situation and try to see it through to a positive ending. But there really hasn't been any good news on this particular case since July 4th.
Q: Has there been a military operation that you're aware of launched by the Indian Government?
MR. BURNS: I just have nothing for you on that.
Q: A related question. The State Department a few months back released a report on the human rights situation in 1995, which covers Pakistan and India as well.
The Human Rights Watch issued, on Friday, released a new report on the eve of elections in Kashmir. The report is entitled "India's Secret Army in Kashmir." It refers to irregular militia and the counter-insurgency forces which are state-sponsored. So the report casts serious doubts on the fairness of the election and the presence of -- do you have any comments on that?
MR. BURNS: I didn't quite get the end of your question. ". . . serious doubts about the . . . "
Q: About the fair -- elections being fair in the presence of the state-sponsored militia?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the State Department issues a human rights report annually. We are very explicit in characterizing our assessment of the human rights situation in India and other countries, and I would refer you to that report which is carefully documented.
On the last part of your question, I'm not aware of any belief, really, in India or in the international community that the recent elections were not free and fair. In fact, they were the largest democratic elections ever held in the history of the world -- 800,000 polling places. There was, of course, a lot of monitoring of that election. I'm just not in a position to tell you anything besides that.
We think the elections were free and fair. There's a new government that's been formed. We're looking forward to working with the government of Prime Minister Vajpayee.
Q: (Inaudible) relates to Kashmir. The free elections are yet to be held in Kashmir.
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, I just don't have anything further to say on that particular subject.
Q: Thank you, Mr. Burns. China trade. Was there any linkage at all with other issues besides trade in the making of this decision to offer China Most Favored Nation status for another year -- one.
Two, Nick, the sanctions or trade war that's been talked about -- the trade sanctions that this country has threatened -- is that now off? Is that off the table as far as the U.S. is concerned?
MR. BURNS: Okay. On the first question, the President announced this morning, reaffirmed this morning, our long-held belief that extension of Most Favored Nation status for China makes sense for the United States, for our relationship with China -- for Taiwan, for Hong Kong, and the rest of southeast Asia, and that it is indisputably in our national interest.
I didn't quite get the second question.
Q: There's been talk of trade sanctions, or a trade --
MR. BURNS: On intellectual property rights?
Q: Yes, specifically on that. I have another detail on that for you, but is that off the table as far as the U.S. is concerned? Does it mean, since we've given them Most Favored Nation status again, that we're not going to sanction China?
MR. BURNS: No, no. The Chinese know that issue is on the table. There has been piracy of several billion dollars worth of American software and other products. The Chinese, we hope, between now and mid-June will negotiate in good faith with us to produce an arrangement that will make the sanctions unnecessary.
If the Chinese and we are not successful in that negotiation, in that discussion, then the United States will make these sanctions stick because we have to defend our industries when they're being ripped off, and they clearly have been ripped off.
Q: Just to follow that, Nick, the Chinese say there's no evidence whatsoever of intellectual property rip-offs.
MR. BURNS: It's not correct.
Q: Have we shown them any evidence?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely. It's just not correct. There's substantial evidence.
Q: Nick, in the same area. In his inauguration speech, President Lee of Taiwan mentioned that he's willing to take a journey of peace to China and meet with Chinese leaders to talk about peace and stability in the region. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I would just say this: We, of course, noted the offer made by Lee Teng-Hui in his inaugural speech yesterday.
We, for a long time, have called on Chinese, on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, to try to resolve their problems peacefully and through a constructive dialogue. Certainly, we think that they should take whatever steps that they must together to resolve those problems peacefully. This is a step, in that sense, in the right direction.
We believe we have very little to add to this. We certainly don't have any prescriptions for how this dialogue should take place, but it should take place. That's how we see yesterday's statement by Lee Teng-Hui.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:57 p.m.) (###) s
To the top of this page