U.S. Department of State 96/06/18 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Tuesday, June 18, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Introduction of Summer Interns.............................. 1 Turkish Parliament Vote on Operation Provide Comfort........ 1 Secretary Christopher's Breakfast w/Cyprus President Clerides/Bilat w/ForMin Michaelides....................... 1-2 Refugee Ship Zolotitsa's Return to Monrovia................. 2 A/S Oakley Opening Ellis Island Refugee Exhibit............. 2 LIBERIA Non-Liberians on Refugee Ship Zolotitsa..................... 2-3 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Israeli PM Netanyahu's Stmt on Talks/Upcoming Mtgs w/President Clinton & Secretary Christopher............... 3 US Hope on Arab Summit Issues............................... 4 Netanyahu's GOI Mtgs/Relations with Palestinians............ 4-5,7-8 US Position on Israeli Settlements/Role of MEPP............. 5-6 Israeli Govt Document on Golan Heights...................... 6-7 Alleged Report of Arafat Plan to Arab Summit................ 8-9 GOI PM Peres' Parting Remarks/US Role On MEPP............... 19 CYPRUS/TURKEY Status of Work of the Committee on Missing Persons.......... 9 Preparatory Work for US Initiative for Solution in Cyprus --Kornblum Talks in the Region/Amb Beattie Visit to the Region/New Turkish Govt to Be Formed...................... 9,19 Ongoing US Talks w/Turkish President Demirel & Military..... 9-10 COLOMBIA A/S Gelbard Stmt on US Foreign Service Officers' Security... 10 President Samper Stmt on US Sanctions....................... 10 Counter-Narcotics Interdiction/Narco-Trafficking............ 11 BURMA Spec Envoy Roth & Mr. Brown Travel/Talks in Southeast Asia.. 11 US Protests to GOB: --Attacks on Aung San Suu Kyi/Detentions.................... 11 Need for GOB Political Dialogue w/the Democrats............. 11 US/ASEAN on Human Rights.................................... 11-12 Discussions on Possibility of Regional Initiative........... 12 RUSSIA Elections: --Gen Lebed joins Yeltsin Govt: --On Crime & Corruption/Views on Economic Reform/ Position on CFE Treaty.................................. 13-15,18 --Expectations During Transitional Period................... 13 --Yavlinskiy and Reform Effort/Future Role.................. 13-15 CUBA Helms-Burton Law: --Amount of US Citizens' Claims for Expropriations.......... 15-16 ARMS CONTROL US Position on Pakistan/India/Israel CTBT Ratification...... 16 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Alleged Rpt of UN Arms Sanctions Lifted..................... 17 IRAQ Denial of Access to UNSCOM Monitoring Team -- Next Steps --Sanctions to Remain....................................... 17 TURKEY Parliament Decision on Extension of "Provide Comfort"....... 18-19
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JUNE 18, 1996, 1:06 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have the great pleasure today to introduce some of our interns from colleges and graduate schools across the United States who are working with us.
Brian Singer, who is an intern working in my office this summer, is from Stanford University. Brian will be here all summer.
Andree Trelogan is in the Regional Media Outreach Unit. She has received a Bachelor's from Northwestern and is currently getting a Master's from William and Mary. Welcome, Andree.
And last but not least, a lot of you will remember Steve Kaufman, who was with us last summer. Steve spent a year in Tel Aviv, is back, and you'll have the pleasure of dealing with all of them this summer.
Okay, a couple of things before we get to questions. First, we were very pleased to see that the Turkish Parliament voted on June 18, today, to extend Turkey's participation in "Operation Provide Comfort" by one month, until July 31. We're very gratified that the Turkish Parliament has taken this step, and we very much hope that this will lead to a longer extension of the mandate when the Turkish Parliament considers that question at the end of July.
We continue to believe that the "Operation Provide Comfort" plays a crucial role in deterring Saddam Hussein from the kind of aggression against the Iraqi people that provoked the mass exodus of Iraqis in northern Iraq in March of 1991. "Operation Provide Comfort" has been a success for Turkey as well as for the United States and for the people of northern Iraq.
I also wanted you to note that the Secretary of State had breakfast this morning with the President of Cyprus -- President Clerides. They had a very, very good conversation with President Clerides and Foreign Minister Michaelides. They reviewed a number of bilateral issues, including the resumption of an export control dialogue. I have a public statement available to you after the briefing that describes that aspect of the conversation on the export control issues, and they had a very good and very long review of the situation in Cyprus.
The Secretary reaffirmed that our goal working with the parties is to establish a bi-zonal, bi-communal federated Cyprus. In that regard, as the President said yesterday, Ambassador Beattie, the President's Special Emissary for Cyprus, will be traveling to the region in July for discussions with all the parties about Cyprus.
We also had a discussion, in addition to export controls, about the extradition treaty that was signed yesterday by Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff; and following the breakfast, Secretary Christopher had a bilateral with his counterpart, the Foreign Minister -- Foreign Minister Michaelides. If you have any questions on that, I'll be glad to take them.
Another issue: We've been talking about the tragic voyage of the Russian freighter, the Zolotitsa, that had not been allowed for over three weeks' time to dock in a number of African ports. We have just heard from our Embassy in Monrovia, in Liberia, that the Zolotitsa, carrying more than 400 people, has returned to Monrovia and has docked at Monrovia. We don't have any information at this hour on the condition of the refugees, but you can imagine what it's been like for 400 people, including, we think, at least 368 Liberian refugees who have only been provisioned once with food and water in the last three weeks; who have been forced to drift from country to country without refuge by any number of African governments.
So we're relieved that the voyage of the ship is over and now the attention must be turned to making sure that the people on board are adequately taken care of.
Finally, I'm also posting a statement today on the Ellis Island refugee exhibit that Assistant Secretary of State Phyllis Oakley is involved in. She'll be opening this exhibit on Thursday, June 20, and there's a statement for you in the Press Office on that issue.
Q I think the earlier reports said there were a lot more non-Liberians on that ship.
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to get -- when the ship left, we understood there were 368 refugees on board.
Q Refugees --
MR. BURNS: Refugees.
Q -- but there are lots of non-Liberians on board, I think.
MR. BURNS: Right, and I think the total population of the ship was over 400. So, obviously, we'll have to get an accurate count from the Liberian authorities once people can be accounted for.
Q On the Middle East, there are indications that the new Prime Minister is interested in unconditional negotiations with the Arabs, and I wonder if you have a comment.
MR. BURNS: We congratulate Prime Minister-elect Netanyahu on the formation of his government. It's a very important step forward, a very good indication of the health of Israel's democracy. He has made an important statement in the Knesset this morning, which was also reflected in a position paper put out two days ago by his government, by his coalition, and that is that there will be no preconditions for talks. That's a very important statement.
You know that we are looking forward to early meetings with him. He will be coming to Washington at some point in July. We don't have a date worked out with the Israeli Government yet. As you know, as the Secretary said here yesterday and continues to believe, it would be fruitful for him to have an early meeting with Mr. Netanyahu. But at this point we have not yet worked out the date for that meeting.
Q Does that mean the Secretary will not be going next week, according to what we read in the papers, to Israel or to the Middle East before Mr. Netanyahu comes over here?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary is looking for an early opportunity to meet Mr. Netanyahu, and we're actively discussing that possibility right now with Mr. Netanyahu's advisers. As soon as we've worked out an agreed date, we'll be in a position to announce it, but I'm not in a position to do that at this hour.
Q You cannot confirm that Mr. Netanyahu is coming to the States July the 8th?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm that date. He has been invited by the President and, as you know, he's accepted that invitation. He will be here in July, but we've not worked out that date with his government. As you can imagine, he's had a lot on his plate over the last couple of days, and, as you've seen from the press reporting, there's been a lot of back-and-forth about the formation of the government. So, obviously, I don't think it's any surprise that he had to pay attention to that first.
He has indicated a desire to have in-depth discussions with the United States. I think we'll be able to work this out fairly shortly, and as soon as we have an agreement on a date, I will report it to you.
Q Nick, what would the United States like to see out of the Arab summit later this week?
MR. BURNS: There hasn't been an Arab summit, a full Arab summit, for some time. I believe the last one that was held, a full Arab summit, was just following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in August 1990. I think they have a lot of issues on their agenda that are pertinent to the Arab countries themselves. I don't wish to comment on those, but I can certainly comment on the issues that will be discussed that do relate to the Middle East peace negotiations. I think what we'd like to see is a willingness by the Arab countries to work on a cooperative basis with the new government in Israel not to prejudge that government based on what was said and perhaps what was not said during the campaign.
Mr. Netanyahu has said he's interested in negotiations. That's positive. He said that those negotiations would not have preconditions attached to them. That's also positive. So I think on the Middle East peace process, we would like to see both Israel -- both the new Israeli Government and the Arab states, particularly those contiguous to Israel, that are in the middle of these negotiations recommit themselves to the idea of negotiations.
Beyond that, of course, I don't think we'll have anything specific to say, because we're entering a new era where there is a new Israeli Government, and we'll want to do everything we can to try to help move the negotiations forward, but ultimately that's going to depend on these countries themselves.
Q Well, how do you reconcile Netanyahu on the one hand saying that he wants to enter negotiations without preconditions, and yet he is so firmly opposed to ceding the Golan Heights? I mean, do you see that -- the "no preconditions" as a statement of his intent, but the Golan Heights statement just a position as he enters into bargaining?
MR. BURNS: I think we're going to have to judge the new Israeli Government by its actions. We also have not had an in-depth opportunity to sit down with Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers and to go through their platform in each of these peace negotiations and to discuss with them in a detailed way how they plan to proceed.
I think they're also looking forward to that opportunity to hear our perspective. Secretary Christopher has been involved in this for a long time. He's got quite a lot of experience, so I think there will be a good two-way discussion.
Before that happens, I'm going to be reluctant to make any definitive statements by way of analysis about how we view some of these preliminary words coming out of Jerusalem on this issue.
Q Do you have any concern that Netanyahu, although he has been busy, still hasn't met with his prime partner in negotiations on the question of the West Bank and Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, that being Mr. Arafat?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe Mr. Netanyahu has had any meetings with foreign leaders since he was elected. He's had a number of phone conversations with some of them, and I think his aides have also been in touch. I know in the case of the Palestinian Authority, aides to Mr. Netanyahu have been in touch with some of Mr. Arafat's aides.
That is something that he and Mr. Arafat will have to work out in the coming weeks and the coming months, and certainly we would hope that the process of peace between the Palestinians and Israel will go forward. That's the bedrock part of the Middle East peace process.
Q Nick, separate from the peace process is the issue of settlements. The new Prime Minister has said he will expand them and strengthen them. Does the U.S. have a position on the Israeli Government's new position regarding settlements?
MR. BURNS: Again, we have a position. We have a longstanding position, and we have not changed our point of view and our own position. And we will stand with it. This is one of the issues that will be part of the talks that Secretary Christopher and President Clinton have with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the coming weeks. Rather than debate the issue in public now, I think we'd prefer to have a private discussion with him first.
Q On what basis does the United States have a right to even comment on what Israel decides to do with its settlements?
MR. BURNS: Because we are a major part of the Middle East peace negotiations, because we're a strong supporter of Israel, we're a strong friend of the Palestinians as well as many Arab countries -- Jordan and Egypt and others -- and because we've been the intermediary and the facilitator in a lot of these talks. So it's not like we're volunteering these views, Sid. They're asking us, and it's important for them to know what our views are.
We are a big part of the success in the peace negotiations over the last couple of years. We have a right to speak out on all these issues. We have a right to participate in private discussions, and we'll continue to do that. I don't believe that you'll find anybody in the new Israeli Government -- certainly not the Prime Minister, I believe -- who would object to the United States having views on these issues.
Q I'm sorry. Is there another country in the world where the United States comments on its domestic construction policies?
MR. BURNS: We make comments on any issue when it's in the U.S. national interest to do so. The fact is that over the last quarter of a century, we have been the major international influence on the efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, and this is one of the important issues. There are many others.
Q The French might have a different view of that. But, anyway, since --
MR. BURNS: Well, I'm sorry. I think that any objective look at the record of the diplomacy over the last 25 to 30 years will convince anybody that that is the case, that the United States has played the lead role. I think there's every indication being given by Israel and the Arab countries they expect that to continue, and we're willing to play that role.
Q Just to pursue one more time. You've linked settlements in the peace process. Can you explain what the link is there?
MR. BURNS: You mean, the United States has in the past?
Q I thought I heard you linking the two.
MR. BURNS: I'm saying it's an issue, Sid. It is very definitely an issue. The United States has had a long, standing position on that issue which has not changed, as we've said many times over the past couple of weeks.
Q I know the position. I know how it plays out. But I've never really quite understood why there is a linkage between settlements and the peace process. Can you explain that from the U.S. point of view?
MR. BURNS: Because many of the parties to these negotiations have identified this as an issue. Therefore, it has become an issue which has been discussed by Israel with the Palestinians and with others. We've been included in those conversations.
There's really very little mystery here to me. This is a very straightforward issue.
Abdul Salam, do you want to follow up on this?
Q Nick, the first reaction of Arab circles and Palestinian circles on this two-page document, which came yesterday about the vital interests -- this is the program of the Likud, the program of Mr. Netanyahu -- was that this is a fatal blow to peace because, like Carol said, about not setting preconditions for the Golan Heights. Then, he said that the normal withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Looking back on this whole thing of the Palestinian achievement of all of this self-government and all of this autonomy and everything to the point of regressing, like the old Shamir government proposal to the Palestinians in Madrid and after Madrid.
So how could you say that this is -- could you consider this a maximalist position of Mr. Netanyahu, which is open for discussion when he comes here and he hears your side of the story and when he hears other people and he goes to Jordan and goes to Egypt? Is this sort of the rule of the law, of the land, or is this negotiable, these whole points that he put in that document?
MR. BURNS: I don't agree that anybody has delivered a fatal blow to the peace process over the last couple of days. The fact is that his government is just now being formed. There's going to be a vote in the Knesset in the next couple of hours on the formation of that government. At that time, he will be formally the Prime Minister of Israel.
I think we've got to understand where he's been. He was elected. He's gone through a transitional period. He's now just taking office -- he's just formed a government. In fact, a number of the Cabinet seats remain to be identified as to who will hold them.
It's really now up to Israel, to the Palestinian Authority, to Jordan, to Egypt, to Syria, and the others, to talk to each other about the positions that each of them will take on these various aspects of the negotiations. It's up to the United States to try to play a productive, helpful role -- behind-the-scenes, largely -- in trying to see if there's a way to push these negotiations forward.
So we're not going to jump to any conclusions. We're not going to overreact to any statements by anybody. We're going to take a calm perspective here.
Q This statement could be a amenable - it could be amended?
MR. BURNS: That's a question for Mr. Netanyahu. I'm not the spokesman for the Israeli Government.
Q You said you leave in the meeting, or leave in the communication between Netanyahu and Arafat up to the Palestinians to make -- that the aides are talking to Mr. Arafat?
MR. BURNS: No, I didn't say that. I said it's up to both parties.
Q Up to the Palestinians to --
MR. BURNS: And the Israelis.
Q And the Israelis to --
MR. BURNS: And the Israelis; both of them. Yes.
Q Can you suggest or propose, in the context of trying -- because he is shunning Arafat completely. He's talking to everybody except Arafat. His aides are talking to senior or even lower people in the Arafat leadership there, or Arafat Cabinet, or whatever.
So can you, like you did before, you brought the Palestinians and Israelis and the Jordanians and Egyptians -- everybody here in Washington -- and you made peace there in the area. Can you think about proposing that -- in the context of your contacts with the Israelis and the Palestinians -- and Mr. Christopher is going there soon; it looks like it -- can you make the arrangement that you will make that meeting between Arafat and Netanyahu to bring about some change in the environment and atmosphere, if you can take that proposal or suggestion?
MR. BURNS: You know, one of the positive developments over the last few years is that the United States is no longer required to be involved in every step, every tactical maneuver in these peace negotiations.
Frankly, relations between Israel and the Palestinians have developed to the extent that they can make some of these steps themselves. It's a very positive sign. I'm sure that will be the case here. But we're going to have in-depth discussions with everybody concerned over the period ahead. If there's a way that we can helpful in some specific sense, I'm sure we'll be glad to consider that request.
Q I'm a little confused. You seem to accept Sid's assumption that settlements is a domestic Israeli question. Is that correct?
MR. BURNS: Not at all. Let's roll back the film and review what I said. I said it is an issue in the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and that other states in the area have also taken an interest in that issue; that the United States has taken an interest in the issue; that we have a position -- long-held on that issue. It's an issue that is part of the Middle East peace negotiations as well as being an issue that's obviously a domestic political issue in Israel. It's many things.
It's a domestic political issue because various Israelis have various points of view. It's an international issue because it is one of the prime issues in the peace negotiations. It's exactly what I said and meant to say and thought I said.
Q There's a couple of reports out there that Arafat plans to ask at the summit -- ask the Arab nations to -- he plans to declare a Palestinian state and ask them all to recognize it. Would that be helpful or is it premature for that?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen those reports. I don't want to comment on them.
Q You can't comment on that without seeing the reports?
MR. BURNS: I'm always reluctant to comment on a major issue if I don't know the source, and I have not seen any reports like that.
We're moving on. I think we're moving --
Q To Cyprus.
MR. BURNS: To Cyprus. Excellent.
Q The President of Cyprus said early in the morning after the meeting with Secretary Christopher that both of them agreed that there is a need of -- a lot of preparatory work for the American initiative for a Cyprus solution, and that it is very important that part of the work (inaudible) Ankara. Could you comment on that?
Also, did the Secretary discuss with President Clerides the missing persons issue? And what is the status of the work of the committee on the missing persons?
MR. BURNS: On the final question, Dimitris, I don't believe that came up specifically, but I'll be glad to check. I don't believe it came up.
On the first part of the question, as you know, John Kornblum was in the region in April for a series of discussions on the Cyprus problem. Ambassador Beattie will now return. This indicates that we want to be actively involved, that we have some ideas to put forward, and that we want to use this period to see if progress can be made.
Obviously, we're limited to one extent, and that is that the Turkish Government -- the new Turkish Government -- needs to be formed. Once that has happened, it will be easier for us to have productive discussions in Ankara. I'm sure that will take place as soon as the politics can be straightened in Turkey.
Q (Inaudible) a proposal probably by President Clerides yesterday at the White House, or a discussion, for the United States to discuss with President Demirel and probably the military in Turkey about the Cyprus problem. Do you have a comment on that?
MR. BURNS: We have discussions on Cyprus often with the Turkish authorities. I can't point you to any particular discussion that we've had. Obviously, we do talk to President Demirel. We sometimes have discussions with the Turkish military on a variety of issues.
During this period of some uncertainty and transition in Turkey, we do have to wait to see which government is now successfully formed.
Q So discussion regarding the American initiative will be after the formulation of a stabilized government in Turkey?
MR. BURNS: We assume that that will be accomplished in the next couple of weeks, which will allow Ambassador Beattie to make his trip and allow his trip to be successful.
Q Nick, on Colombia. Over the weekend Ambassador Gelbard granted a interview to El Tiempo, which is the biggest newspaper in that country. Ambassador Gelbard said that some Foreign Service officials in Colombia, who are serving right now over there, are as much at risk as some Foreign Service officials were during the Second World War in Europe. I wonder if you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: You mean, American Foreign Service Officers?
MR. BURNS: Well, Colombia has been a dangerous place for more than a decade, not just for Americans but for other expatriates, including diplomats who serve there. We take our responsibility to protect our diplomats very seriously. We've taken a number of steps to protect the diplomats that we have -- Ambassador Frechette and his staff who represent our Embassy -- the United States -- in Bogota. I think that's self-evident.
Q But now that the relationship between the two countries is more strained, I think his comments alluded more to that specifically, not to, historically, ten years back.
MR. BURNS: We certainly are going to have to rely on the Colombian Government to provide adequate security -- to help us provide adequate security for our diplomats. We've had a number of discussions with them about that issue.
Q A question on the same issue. President Samper said over the weekend as well that if the U.S. were to apply sanctions against Colombia, many people in the U.S. would be affected in the sense that people who work for airlines, for instance -- U.S. carriers who work in Colombia as well as people in the flower industry who work here in the states -- would be affected because they would be out of employment; that Colombia is not looking for a handout; that they're doing their share on the fight against drugs. Do you care to comment on that?
MR. BURNS: The United States has not made any decisions about that particular issue. But there is a way for this issue to become to become moot, and that is for the performance of the Colombian Government to improve on counter-narcotics interdiction and on its cooperation with the United States and other countries on narcotics issues, in general; on trafficking, to be specific.
We've offered that challenge to the Colombian Government. We're going to be having a series of meetings with them, and we hope they can be more responsive than they have been to date.
Q Is there anything more you can say on the briefings given here by William Brown and Stanley Roth after their visit to Asia -- the trip to do with Burma?
MR. BURNS: On Burma. I can tell you that they've completed their diplomatic mission. They visited Japan and several southeast Asian countries -- members of ASEAN. They're back briefing our government.
We have not yet made any decision on next steps, whether or not we send an envoy to Burma or whether we just continue our discussions with our friends in Asia.
We were dismayed to see over the weekend continuing attacks on Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy. We are very disturbed that more than 100 of the people in her movement who were detained several weeks back are still detained.
Our Charge d'Affaires in Rangoon went into the government -- the SLORC -- yesterday in Rangoon and made a very strong protest about the continued detention of these individuals, who are jailed simply for expressing basic civil liberties that in most countries are taken for granted but, unfortunately, in Burma they are denied the people. So we still strongly support the right of Aung San Suu Kyi and her compatriots to express themselves about the political future of their country.
Our own objective here -- short-term, tactical objective -- would be to convince the Burmese Government -- the authorities there -- to enter into some kind of political dialogue with the democrats and to see if there is a way that they can begin to talk together. They have spurned every opportunity to do that, and that's a great pity.
Q You said that no decision has yet been taken on next steps. Can you give any more details about the impressions that Mr. Roth and Mr. Brown formed on that trip? I think the Malaysian Foreign Minister, again, said today that the West has no business telling ASEAN how it should deal with Burma. That seems to have been perhaps the tenor of a lot of the commentary encountered.
MR. BURNS: That's interesting. I didn't see that quote on the wires. I can tell you that's not what they heard in private. What they heard in private from the Japanese Government and from a number of the ASEAN countries -- perhaps not all of them -- was that they are concerned about this problem.
I think they all recognize that on fundamental issues of human rights, these issues are not the preserve of one group of countries; that the United States, European countries, as well as Asian countries have a responsibility to speak out when human rights are being denied to democrats in a country like Burma which is run by the military, which is run by dictators.
So they didn't really hear this sentiment expressed by the vast majority of the people with whom they spoke on the trip. They did hear that there is concern throughout southeast Asia about what is happening in Burma.
I think as we look now towards the ASEAN meetings in the third week of July to be held in Jakarta, this will be an issue that Secretary Christopher will want to take to his conversations with his ASEAN counterparts.
Q Does that suggest you think there is a possibility of a regional initiative involving Asian countries and the United States --
MR. BURNS: I don't know if there is going to be a possibility of an initiative, but there certainly will be further discussions on this. The United States will want to keep this issue in the forefront of our discussions with these countries.
Q How many people --
MR. BURNS: More than 100.
Q More than 100?
MR. BURNS: We can check. I believe our Embassy probably even knows the exact number, but it's a considerable number of people.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Lebed and Yeltsin hooked up and Grachev went away; his departure effective, I guess, immediately. How does the United States view that -- not hypothetically whether Yeltsin wins or loses but in the present? And does it give cause for concern because Grachev himself was actually quite favorable toward NATO expansion, or at least moderate on that issue?
MR. BURNS: I think, Steve, you saw a real election on Sunday and now you're seeing real politics. I don't mean to say that in any kind of negative way at all. It's a factual thing.
After the first round of the voting, the Russian candidates are engaged in a process of coalition-building. Clearly now a very important step has been taken with General Lebed joining the government of President Yeltsin as head of the National Security Council. That's a quite impressive and important position.
The Security Council in Russia, of course, comments not only on foreign policy and security issues but also internal security issues to Russia itself.
General Lebed ran a campaign which concentrated on the issue of corruption and crime that had great resonance in Russia, and therefore this appears to be a good match for both President Yeltsin and General Lebed.
We would expect to see, during this transitional period before the next round -- the final round of elections -- a continuation of the policies of the last four-and-a-half years: military and security cooperation with the West to lower the nuclear threshold; foreign policy cooperation, including on Bosnia, where Russian troops are serving in the American sector; and we would expect to see a continuation of the internal reforms at home.
It's quite an interesting period because you have now President Yeltsin trying to secure the political support of some of the candidates who were not victorious on Sunday, including General Lebed.
Another of those political candidates is Mr. Yavlinskiy. Grigory Yavlinskiy is well known to many of us in the United States. He's a very important leader of the reform effort. I believe that he will continue to be influential in that effort, in his public statements and in his private actions. I would think that he would play a very significant role in the period ahead before the next round of elections and afterwards because he has staked out for himself a leading role, not only on economic reform -- where he has expertise -- but also on the issue of political pluralism. He's a most respected figure. I believe his future, certainly, is ahead of him.
Q Nick, on that point, you don't mean to be sending out advice to President Yeltsin about who he includes in his Administration should he win?
MR. BURNS: Sid, we'd never do that because we feel it's very important that the United States stay out of the internal politics there and, certainly, out of predicting what's going to happen in a couple weeks' time.
I just wanted to note for you that this is a very dynamic period in the days following the vote. You've have General Lebed now join the government. You have others out there who have been reform standard bearers, and those people have played an important role. I wanted to single out Mr. Yavlinskiy because he's been the leader of at least part of the reform effort.
Q Is that message to President Yeltsin?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Do you mean that as a message to President Yeltsin? It seemed to be. I mean, the question was about Lebed --
MR. BURNS: No, it just reflects some of the discussion here about what we think is happening in the days following the Russian election. I thought it was a pertinent point to make. If it disturbs you --
Q It seemed gratuitous. You weren't asked about Yavlinskiy; you volunteered it.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q So you're saying he would be a good match, too?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q You're saying he also would be a good match?
MR. BURNS: We have felt for a long time, going back many, many months as we looked at these elections, that it was very important that the various reform elements unite around a single standard bearer. We have said that because it isn't difficult if you look at the electoral math in Russia to figure out that the country is divided among reformers and those who choose a different kind of backward-looking course, people like Mr. Zyuganov and Mr. Zhirinovsky.
Our strongly held belief, which we articulated publicly, was that it made sense for all those reformers to find a way to work together so that an effective coalition could be put together that would be successful in the elections. We've said that, and the Secretary said that on his trip to Moscow a couple of months back, and I remember we talked about it even before that, back in January and February. That now becomes a most pertinent question in the weeks between these two rounds of elections.
Q One follow: I interpret those remarks -- maybe incorrectly, maybe I'm over-analyzing it here -- as you're somewhat concerned about the role and direction that Lebed would take, and that Yavlinskiy would be a good counter-balance. Is that a fair analysis?
MR. BURNS: It's not meant to be. I wouldn't lead you in that direction at all. Let me tell you why, for two reasons. My remarks about Mr. Yavlinskiy were simply meant to state our great respect for him and for the role that he has played and we are sure will continue to play.
General Lebed is someone who has been a professional military officer since he was a young man. He has not been a political actor until just the last year, and his statements in the campaign, I should remind you, as a Presidential candidate were very positive, as I read them, over the last couple of months.
On the subject of economic reform, he said he strongly supported the economic reforms. He strongly supported not going back to communism and not going back to the Soviet Union. You heard him say that last night in the interview outside his home. He didn't think Russia should go backwards.
The prime issue that he focused on in the campaign was crime and corruption, which is an issue where we don't have as much of a role to play but it's very important for the Russian people. So my comments were not intended to take you in that direction in any way.
I think he's someone whose political views perhaps remain to be publicly defined in a more detailed way in the period ahead. But Mr. Yavlinskiy is a figure who ran in the elections as a Presidential candidate, who received a significant percentage of the vote, and who is a significant actor in the political spectrum.
Q Also on Realpolitiks, Helms-Burton. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: You really want to leave Russia this fast? I was having fun doing this. Yes, George.
Q You had some preliminary comments on what the Canadians did yesterday, and I thought that now that you've had a chance to see what they really did you might have more to say about it.
MR. BURNS: I do have some good figures for you. Since 1959, the Cuban Government has expropriated roughly $6 billion of American property and financial assets. They took that. They stole it from American citizens.
There are 5,911 certified American claims against the Cuban Government. This includes interest, the $6 billion figure. I think it's appropriate to include interest over a 36-year period.
The Cuban Government has systematically denied these people the right to be compensated for the property that was stolen from them, and the Cuban Government has turned around and given this property -- many of these properties to foreign companies. That's the issue on Helms-Burton. That's the issue that we'd ask the Canadian Government and others to keep in the forefront.
As to the actions announced by the Canadian Government, I really have very little comment except to say that we have an American law. Our Constitution says that the Executive Branch is bound to carry out American law, and this Administration will do so.
Q Roughly how much -- what percentage of that amount is interest?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know what it is, but certainly in any kind compensation case, Sid, going back this far -- and I told you I've had experience in some going back to the First World War -- this is always a factor. Interest is always a factor. Five thousand nine hundred eleven cases, George. That's a lot of cases.
Q It was $1.8 billion and now it's $6 billion.
MR. BURNS: Interest over a 36 -- you think we should operate in 1959 dollars? I don't think so.
Q No, no, I didn't say that. I'm saying the original 1960 figure was $1.8 billion and with interest it's now $6 billion.
MR. BURNS: I'm sure we can give you an answer to that question, if you're interested.
Q (Inaudible) State and palaces and other things that you were talking about for former diplomats? (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Different issue, Abdul Salam.
No. We continue to have a diplomatic mission in Havana. We've retained our properties. We have an Interests Section there. But I'm talking about private Americans, American citizens, who had their property stolen from them by a communist government which turned around and handed it over to foreign companies. Does that seem fair to you? It doesn't seem fair to me, either. It's not fair.
Q Another subject? Is it now U.S. policy that -- is it now the U.S. position that for this Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty to go into effect, Pakistan, India and Israel would have to ratify it?
MR. BURNS: That's a question that has been a big part of the discussions at Geneva. What we've decided to do on that question, Carol, is not to speak publicly about it. We want to continue negotiating privately on it.
Q There was a puzzling blurb on the wires just before the briefing about the entirety of U.N. arms sanctions against the former Yugoslavia being lifted today, and only that much before we came in here. Have you heard of that, or can you explain it?
MR. BURNS: I have not, so I'll have to look into that.
Q Is that something that was expected today?
MR. BURNS: I did not expect it. I haven't seen the report, so I'll have to look into that for you.
Q Yes, thanks, Nick. On the Iraq weapons inspection, where is that going? What have you heard? I understand there will be no lifting of the embargo until those sites are inspected, and the Iraqis are saying "no go."
MR. BURNS: Oh, no, we'll go way beyond that. Even if the sites are successfully inspected, we're not going to lift the embargo because they continue to hide things from us. So the next step is for Ambassador Ekeus to return to Baghdad -- which I believe he will do very shortly -- with the team, and he will try to convince the Iraqi authorities to comply with their obligations to the United Nations. They are in violation of many U.N. Security Council resolutions. That's the next step. We expect that Iraq will comply with these resolutions.
If Iraq does not, they just extend the period where the sanctions will not be lifted. But even if Iraq accepts this delegation, allows them into sites, the United States will not support a lifting of sanctions. They're not going to get off that easy.
Q If I could follow, they have asked for a schedule where these inspections could -- they could see the light at the end of the tunnel or the termination of these intrusions.
MR. BURNS: Once they start to tell the truth --
Q Is that a possibility?
MR. BURNS: -- and allow the United Nations unfettered access to these sites, they will begin to walk down that road. The road is a very long one, however.
Q Two different questions on two different subjects, if I may. The first one, to go back to the Russian question. I believe General Lebed was a strong opposer of some of the concessions made for the CFE. How binding are the terms reached in Vienna recently?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what position General Lebed took on the CFE Treaty. The CFE Treaty, signed in 1990, has now been worked -- all the questions have now been worked out to the satisfaction of all the countries involved. So it's binding, and the treaty is binding on all the signatories. We're very pleased that two weeks back we were able to resolve the last remaining hurdles on the flank issues.
Q Those terms that were reached two weeks ago are also binding. I mean, is there going to be a new --
MR. BURNS: Those are clear, final terms that were negotiated multilaterally. We have had subsequent discussions with a number of the flank countries and others in Central Europe, and I think we've been able to resolve many of the questions that those countries had.
Q And the second question is on "Provide Comfort." You said, I believe, you were gratified by the decision of the Turkish Parliament.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Of course, this is the shortest extension so far -- only for one month -- and it looks like the only condition or the main condition for a more meaningful extension is the closing of the Military Coordination Council in Northern Iraq. Can you tell us, why is this center seen as crucial to the operation by this Administration?
MR. BURNS: We are aware that the extension is for a limited period of time, until the end of July. We understand that. We're gratified that the Turkish Government took the action to extend it by that period of time, and we look forward to a final extension by the Turkish Parliament.
I don't want to get into the details of some of the issues that we are discussing with the Turkish Government until we are able to see the Turkish Parliament achieve this final longer-term extension.
Q The Parliament, it looks like, won't be able to reach such an extension, such an agreement on a longer extension before this Coordination Council is removed or closed.
MR. BURNS: We'll continue to discuss this issue privately with the Turkish Government and with our other partners in "Provide Comfort."
Q A follow-up on Cyprus. If the Turkish Government is not formed when it's time for Mr. Beattie to pay his visit, will his visit be postponed?
MR. BURNS: Right now we're preparing for his visit. I don't have a date for you. We expect it will go forward.
Q Is it conceivable that it will be postponed in the absence of a Turkish Government?
MR. BURNS: We hope that won't be necessary. We hope it won't be necessary at all. It ought to be possible for him to travel in the region, discuss the issue with Turkey, as well as Greece, as well as the two communities on Cyprus, as well as with the United Nations.
Q Postponement may be necessary under certain conditions.
MR. BURNS: No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm very carefully trying to veer 180 degrees away from that sentiment.
Q You hope it won't be necessary, so there might be conditions under which it may be necessary to postpone his visit?
MR. BURNS: I think if you wanted to examine the several billion possibilities available to us, perhaps theoretically. But in all seriousness, the President has asked him to go. The President told President Clerides that Ambassador Beattie would go -- President Clinton -- and so I expect he will go. Normally in our government if the Commander-in-Chief says, "Go," you go -- you go out and undertake your diplomatic mission.
Q The outgoing Israeli Prime Minister today, in addressing Mr. Netanyahu, called on him to continue the peace process and cautioned him against a new campaign to build Jewish settlements, and asked Netanyahu to honor agreements to withdraw from the West Bank city of Hebron. Do you share these thoughts or do you have any comment?
MR. BURNS: I think our thoughts are well known. We believe the peace process, the peace negotiation, should go forward based on land for peace. That's been the long-held American position. I don't want to get in the position of giving public advice at this point before Secretary Christopher has had a chance to see Mr. Netanyahu.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:48 p.m.)
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