U.S. Department of State 96/06/21 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, June 21, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS: Introd of Editor Chuck Buxton of the Press Democratic....... 1 Secretary Christopher's Travel to Jerusalem/Cairo/Lyon...... 1 USG Leaks of Classified Documents............................... 2-6 UNITED NATIONS UNSYG Position: --Identification & Role of New Candidate/Need for Reform.. 6-7,9-12 --US Working Relationship w/Boutros-Ghali................... 7-8 UN Role/Foreign Policy Interests of US...................... 11-12 Congressional Funds Needed for US Share of Costs............ 14 NORTH KOREA/JAPAN KEDO: --Congressional Lack of Funding/Possible Veto of Foreign Aid Bill/Burden-Sharing................................... 13-14 --Security Vital to US National Interest.................... 14 DEPARTMENT Congressional Funding Cut for Spending, Operations, Foreign Assistance................................................ 14 MIDDLE EAST Israel: --Upcoming US Talks w/PM Netanyahu on MEPP, Southern Lebanon, Hebron & Other Issues..................................... 15 --PM Netanyahu's Stmt on GOI Commitment: --Peace & Security/Fulfillment of Intl Agreements/ Comparable Commitment from Partners in Middle East/ Agreement on Hebron w/PM Rabin & Chairman Arafat........ 15 --Oslo II Agreement w/the Palestinians...................... 16 Cairo Summit: --Syria on Alleged Stmt on Relationship Between Turkey and Israel/US Support for Relationship........................ 16 Syria: --Turkey's Alleged Right of Hot Pursuit Following PKK Extremists' Attacks................................... 17 CUBA Intl Civil Aviation Organization's Expected Report on Downing of Two Private US Aircraft/Appropriate Action To Be Taken............................................... 17-18
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, JUNE 21, 1996, 12:14 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
I want to introduce a special guest, Mr. Chuck Buxton, who's the editor of the Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California, and is the brother-in-law of Assistant Secretary of State Phil Wilcox. Welcome. Glad to have you with us.
I also wanted to let you know -- I think most of you know this -- the Secretary is going to be traveling Monday morning to the Middle East. He'll spend Tuesday and Tuesday evening in Jerusalem, meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli officials, Foreign Minister David Levy.
On Wednesday, he'll travel to Cairo for meetings with President Mubarak and Foreign Minister Moussa and others there. The Secretary hopes very much that he'll be able to see Chairman Yassir Arafat in Cairo. Chairman Arafat has been traveling in Southeast Asia. I believe he's still in Vietnam. We've been unable to reach him. We expect to reach him this weekend, and we expect to be able to set up an appointment for the Secretary to see him in Cairo. It's an important connection that we want to make, to have discussions with Chairman Arafat about events concerning the Palestinian Authority.
Following the meetings in Cairo, the Secretary will be traveling to Lyon. He'll arrive in Lyon to join the President there on Wednesday evening and will be spending Wednesday evening through Saturday in Lyon.
He'll be returning here to Washington on Saturday evening.
So that's the announcements that I had.
Q Okay. It appears that he --
MR. BURNS: Were you talking? Were you listening?
Q I was doing both. (Laughter) I'm sorry.
Q Get out the ruler.
MR. BURNS: I just made some very important announcements, but it's okay.
Q I know. I can repeat it all back.
MR. BURNS: Agence France-Presse was listening very intently. They'll beat you to the story. (Laughter)
Q Nick, does the United States have evidence that Egypt has accepted shipments of SCUD C missiles from North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Are you referring here to a story that was in The Washington Times this morning?
Q Yes. A very provocative story.
MR. BURNS: It's a very provocative story, and it's provocatively written.
The problem I have with that story is that this is, yet again, another leaked document that made its way to The Washington Times; and I would just like to point, out I think that the people who leaked the document are petty and they're gutless, because once again they have taken on a person in the State Department and they have tried to knife somebody in the State Department by leaking a document to The Washington Times, and if they had any ethics they would fight this fairly. They're not doing it.
And based on the fact that it's getting a little tiring to see this constant source of leaks to The Washington Times of classified intelligence documents, I'm not going to have any comment whatsoever on this issue.
Q But, Nick, you have had a comment on it, and you commented only on the --
MR. BURNS: You can rely on my --
Q -- personal attacks, and I think --
MR. BURNS: You can rely on my recent comments then.
Q But there's a substantive issue here which is of more than passing interest for people who care about U.S. foreign policy. Has Egypt -- which receives $2 billion in U.S. aid every year, and the United States considers a key actor in the Middle East -- has it accepted SCUD missiles from North Korea? Are you concerned about that?
MR. BURNS: Carol, when there are serious reports -- of alleged transfers of missiles in this case, or of other technology -- that should not, under international law, be transferred, we look into them, and we take all those reports seriously.
But I can tell you on this one: I don't have any information to give you on this substantively, beyond the fact that there's been another illegal leak by people in the U.S. Government -- now, I'm not directing my ire at the newspaper; by people in the U.S. Government. Beyond that fact of the leak, there is no new information that I can offer on this.
Q Has the United States recently made a protest to Egypt about arms transfers in generic --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of it. I'm not aware of it if we have -- just not aware of it.
Q Are you aware that such a subject would be on the agenda of the Secretary when he meets with Mubarak?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that it's on the agenda.
What I'm trying to do here is to make a point to people in our Government who are illegally and unethically leaking highly classified and sensitive intelligence documents. If they think they're going to get us into a public debate about this with journalists, we're not going to play.
I understand you have a serious interest, and you and I can talk about this privately. I'll be glad to do that. But I'm not going to reward people who are trying to knife people in the State Department and leak documents to the same reporter every week. It's getting very tiring.
And, again, I'm not directing this at the reporter. The reporter is just receiving these -- he's doing what he has -- he's doing his job. I am directing it to people in our own Government. So I just don't want to reward them by getting in a big debate about this today.
Q One small point on it. The story says that you are preparing a strong diplomatic protest that the Secretary will deliver when he meets with President Mubarak. Is that true?
MR. BURNS: If the source here are the same gutless wonders -- really -- who are attacking people in the State Department, they know very little about it. They can know very little about our diplomacy and our diplomatic agenda. I wouldn't rely too heavily on those sources.
Q Then you think it's someone within the State Department then?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't at all, no -- because they're attacking people, they're attacking the State Department. And they're attacking public servants in the State Department who can not defend themselves because they don't have the opportunity to stand up here every day. But I can defend them, and I'm doing that.
Q Where do you think these people work?
MR. BURNS: I have no idea. I have some suspicions, but I can't confirm them.
Q Like the Defense Intelligence Agency?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to comment. I can't comment on that.
Q What do you think the motivation is?
MR. BURNS: I have no idea what their motivation is, but you know all of us -- I know you've heard me say it before, but since you brought it up I'll say it again. All of us who work with classified documents basically sign a contract. We can not give classified documents to people who are not cleared for them -- namely, journalists. And if we do that we are subject to the penalties of the law. We can be fired. We can be imprisoned in some cases, and we can be fined.
It is a violation of the law. Somebody is leaking a torrent of documents to Bill Gertz at The Washington Times -- and, again, I'm not directing this at Bill. It is not only unlawful, I think, as a Government employee, it's unethical.
Not only are they leaking the documents, they're using the documents to fight interagency battles, and they're fingering people here in the State Department. It's wrong. And if they think that we're going to now have an extended substantive commentary because of their illegal leaking, I'm going to disappoint them. I'm not going to do that.
I'm going to spend all my time today criticizing the gutless wonders for their actions, and I'm not going to engage on the issue.
Q But if this is so important, at how high a level in this Government is this issue being dealt with? For instance, is the Secretary of State calling his counterparts in other agencies to complain about this kind of thing and request counteraction?
MR. BURNS: Again, we can talk perhaps in the BACKGROUND session. I'll be glad to go into this. I don't want to reward the people who are doing this.
MR. BURNS: With all due respect, Carol, it's a serious issue. You and I can talk when the cameras are turned off.
Q The focus of the last two leaks -- at least, the stories about the last two leaks have been Mr. Locke. Perhaps he would like to respond to some of this in a public fashion as you have.
MR. BURNS: No. I'll respond. I can't speak for him, but I'll certainly defend him by saying he's doing his job. And for people to attack him, and those people don't have the guts to put their name against a quote, is wrong.
Q Well, in both cases though, according to the story, it appears that Mr. Locke is consistently watering down, trying to --
MR. BURNS: Don't believe everything you read in the newspaper, Sid. Don't believe everything you read from people who are leaking information for very particular and specific reasons to The Washington Times. Don't believe everything you hear.
Q To put a finer point on Carol's question, since what is being done is illegal and you say damaging to the workings of the United States Government, has the State Department or any other organization or agency within the United States Government sought any kind of legal remedy -- in other words, an investigation of who is doing the leaking?
MR. BURNS: If such a thing occurs, I wouldn't go into it in public. But certainly I think this is not just particular with this Administration, but Administrations past and this Administration have been very concerned about leaks of classified documents -- intelligence documents -- and there are often investigations undertaken. I'm not going to comment on whether that's happening now.
Q Can you tell us what the United States is doing now to consult with its allies on the U.N. Secretary General issue, and have you come up with at least -- can you say have you come up with a list of candidates?
MR. BURNS: We are going to be working very intensively in the months ahead to identify with our allies in the Security Council and others in the Security Council and in the General Assembly a candidate who can lead the United Nations into the next century.
Now, the reason why, in addition to coming out and saying yesterday that we would not support an extension in office of Boutros-Ghali -- the reason why we didn't at that point identify a candidate is because, as you know, we had hoped to work out privately with Boutros-Ghali a one-year extension of his term and we thought we'd use that year to identify a candidate.
That is now not possible because I know that offer has been taken off the table.
So what we would hope to see in the following months is this: We would hope that Secretary General Boutros-Ghali would come to see that our decision is irrevocable and that we must turn our attention to identifying another candidate.
We will do so, I think, rather quickly, we hope. And the vote, as you know, will be taken in December of this year to elect a new Secretary General for a five-year term.
We are not wed to any particular candidate. Neither are we wed to candidates from a particular region. It is true that candidates from Africa deserve special attention, because there has been a tradition of focusing on certain regions of the world; and I think that many of the African countries have been making the point that their candidates should be given attention, and they will be.
There are a number of very fine candidates from African countries.
It's also true that this is probably the first time when we have searched for a Secretary General where women can be legitimate candidates. There are many important women leaders around the world who would be good candidates for this office. So we're not wed to a woman or a man, and we're not wed to any geographic region, although Africa will be given careful attention.
I think we'll be able to come up with someone who can represent the United Nations as we think it must be represented; someone who can be the world's top diplomat but also someone, very importantly, who can manage this huge institution called the United Nations, reform it aggressively and bring it into the next century.
I think that in Lyon, and I think in the Secretary's trip to meet with the ASEAN countries in July, this will be a big topic of conversation. It's a very important decision.
Q Some of the allies are complaining -- because they felt they were caught off guard by this, that the United States should have discussed it or let them know in advance that this decision was going to come down?.
Q Before leaking it to the New York Times.
MR. BURNS: Was that an editorial comment, Sid?
Q Just a parenthetical comment.
MR. BURNS: I hasten to add that that was not highly secret, confidential intelligence information. So it doesn't meet the bar that I just set up on the previous topic.
Carol, actually, as I told you yesterday, Secretary Christopher spent the better part of the last four or five days calling Foreign Minister Primakov, Foreign Minister de Charette, Foreign Minister Rifkind, the Egyptian Government leadership, many other countries around the world to describe for them our concerns with the current direction of the U.N. leadership and our decision not to support a second term in office to Boutros Ghali.
I think all of the members of the Security Council were apprised of our decisions before they were announced yesterday.
Q (inaudible) caught off guard and not feeling consulted are weak?
MR. BURNS: We didn't have the time to alert all 185 members of the General Assembly. But we certainly tried, as best we could, to alert those countries who will play a key role here in the Security Council.
We are now spending a lot of time, diplomatically, around the world talking to all 185 members about the reasons for our decision and about the criteria that we hope all of us can agree on should be the makeup of the next Secretary General.
Can I just say a final point? I'm glad to continue this discussion.
I want to make very clear that the Secretary of State believes very strongly that this decision was not arrived at due to personality or any personality conflicts. I've seen some of that in the press.
Actually, the Secretary has very deep respect for Boutros Ghali. He conveyed that sentiment to Boutros Ghali directly. The Secretary believes that he's had a distinguished career.
All of our actions between March 25 -- the day the President decided this in the Oval Office -- and yesterday were directed at trying to handle this very sensitive matter privately. It was unfortunate that it had to come into public display yesterday. We have to deal with that, but that was not our intention. I'm not blaming anyone here. I'm just saying it was unfortunate that it had to come to this.
But since it has come to this, we need to proceed. We'll be proceeding to identify the next leader.
Q But given this climate, how do you think, realistically, the United States can work harmoniously and cooperatively with Boutros Ghali through December?
MR. BURNS: He's a professional and we're professionals. I know that the Secretary, in the conversation he had on Tuesday on the telephone with Boutros Ghali, felt that it was a professional, straightforward conversation. It was not emotional. There was no anger on either side. He is a very important leader of a very important institution. He will be in office for five to six more months. We will work with him closely and cooperatively and productively -- the Secretary of State and Ambassador Albright will -- during the next five or six months.
We are determined to carry out our decision, however. I want to put an exclamation point on that.
Q What do you make of the fact that he has said publicly that he hopes that we reconsider?
MR. BURNS: We respect his decision to put himself forward for a second term. We disagree with it, and our minds will not be changed. We'll try to handle the next couple of months in as courteous and professional and diplomatic way as we can.
Q Do you care to name some of these women and/or Africans who you say are so eminently qualified to lead the U.N.?
MR. BURNS: I don't. Because if I did that, then there would be speculation that we had centered our attentions on one or two or three candidates which is not the case. I can tell you, George, there are no lists right now. We're not, in our diplomatic conversations pushing any particular candidate. We need to think internally in our government first and then we'll begin to talk more widely in diplomatic circles about this.
I don't think you'll hear us saying much publicly, if anything at all, about who our preferred candidate is. This will be like the election of a NATO Secretary General where you try to handle it privately. Some of it will leak out, as it did in the cast of the NATO Secretary General.
Q (inaudible) had these folks over for breakfast.
MR. BURNS: Yes, and we didn't publicize those contacts, and they were quite appropriate. You'll see us handling this in a professional, diplomatic way. We're not going to put everything on billboards and bumper stickers. Once we've arrived at a consensus in the Security Council, then we'll march forward.
The process is that the Security Council meets and discusses the matter and hopefully arrives at one candidate. The Security Council then recommends that candidate to the General Assembly, and we would expect that would be the process that would unfold sometime this autumn.
MR. BURNS: I don't think there is anything on paper, but we have a job description.
Q What qualities are you looking for that might be -- since you made the point that to lead the U.N. into the next century and accomplish certain things. What is the emphasis the U.S. going to put on --
MR. BURNS: As I said yesterday, the Secretary General has two hats. The first hat is to be the world's premier diplomat, to be able to help to resolve regional crisis, civil wars, famines, natural catastrophes -- all the types of things that you've seen the United Nations respond to; sometimes very effectively, sometimes not so effectively over the last four or five years. Situations like Rwanda and Bosnia. Civil wars as in southern Africa, southeast Asia, and Central America.
So the person -- a man or woman, or whoever the person is -- must be a premier, accomplished diplomat. Not necessarily a professional diplomat but someone who can excel in that capacity.
Secondly, but by no means less importantly, we believe very strongly that this person must be someone who can reform the United Nations, who can take that vast bureaucracy and tame it, slim it down, cut the number of people on the payroll, cut the cost of operations, decide which U.N. programs ought to have sunset provisions attached to them if they are indeed products of an earlier time, say, during the Cold War. A lot of reform must be accomplished.
The problem, frankly, that we've had is that we believe the reforms undertaken so far have been half-hearted. They have not gone far enough. We don't frankly have the confidence that in a second term those reforms would be fully carried out.
The reason why we are putting such a strong accent on the second hat, the second characteristic of reform, is the following.
You've all seen bumper stickers here in the United States -- "Get the U.S. out of the U.N." There's a sizable part of our public opinion -- on Capitol Hill and throughout the country -- that believes the United States should not be committed to the United Nations; that we should cut our financial contributions; that we should not serve in peacekeeping operations; that we should not support the very good humanitarian work that the United Nations does. That is not the position of the Clinton Administration.
We look around at the world and we see a world of challenges. We know that the United States alone, and our allies, cannot resolve all the conflicts of the world. Therefore, we need the United Nations, but we need it to be effective. We need it to be an organization that is not set in the timeframe of an earlier period in international politics, but is ready to take on the challenges of the late Nineties and the early 21st Century. It needs new leadership. It needs new blood. It needs a new injection of energy because we're committed to the United Nations.
We want to see the United States make good on its arrears. We want to pay off the arrears. We are $1.1 billion dollars in debt. We're the largest debtor.
And we hope to convince the Congress this year and next year and the year after that the United States must be - must pay its dues on time and in full. We believe that new leadership that would put an accent on reforming the institution would allow us to make that case more effectively both to the Congress and the American public. And that's why we've made the decision that we have. Yes, sir?
Q Is the main focus of the challenges that you are mentioning that the Administration or the Congress hope the problem with public opinion -- American public opinion -- do you think the U.N. can convince American voters that they are serving and they are going to send their American troops under the U.N. flag or not?
MR. BURNS: I think we do have a problem in the United States of public - of negative public perceptions about the U.N.
Now, part of the responsibility for changing those perceptions rests with those of us who work for the United States Government, because we do believe in the U.N. We do believe it's worth putting $700 million a year or so of American taxpayer money into the United Nations because we think that that protects American interests. We think it's in our self-interest.
We also think that the views of the Congress here are important. It's not the predominant factor in our decision but it is a factor.
The predominant factor is our hope that this institution can be revitalized.
Q Nick, there are those who have expressed another opinion, the predominant factor was domestic; political concerns for the President of the United States. And you're certainly hitting some of the big voting blocks in this country -- African Americans, women. It's starting to look more and more as if this is part of the President's re-election campaign?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry to disappoint you, Sid, but it's not. I laid out the chronology fairly specifically yesterday. Ambassador Albright, Secretary Christopher, and the President began discussing this in 1995.
The decision was made in March 1996, and really the forward movement on this that led to the decision came well before the Republican primaries when this - when the issue of Boutros-Ghali was talked about and when some people made fun of his name, and that kind of thing, which should not have been done -- which should not have been done.
And I can tell you that this decision was taken because of concern about our foreign policy interests. You can draw the conclusions that you want to draw, but the chronology really argues very strongly against your argument.
Q Even at that time, there was no question the President was going to run again. I don't see how you can use that chronology as evidence that this --
MR. BURNS: Well Sid, if you want to use that line of argumentation, you can say that anything that we do in our foreign policy has - is done for political reasons, and that is simply not so. It's simply not so.
The fact is that our relationship with the United Nations is one of the most important foreign policy issues before us. We're the founder of the United Nations. We're the leading member. We're the leading member of the Security Council. We are the leading financial contributor, and we're the leading debtor.
We have a big stake in the United Nations, and it's a legitimate foreign policy issue that we should be able to talk about without being accused of playing political games.
Q Nick, about the chronology. You mentioned that (inaudible) display like yesterday or day before yesterday about this issue was the main cause of that phone call between the Secretary of State Christopher and the U.N. Secretary General. I mean, that was the main cause, to come on display and say okay, this is the situation, and we are going to reject the renewal of his second term?
MR. BURNS: Between March 25 and Tuesday of this week, the Secretary of State had a number of personal face-to-face conversations with Boutros-Ghali as well as many phone calls. That discussion, encompassing those phone calls and meetings, reached a conclusion on Tuesday when Secretary General Boutros-Ghali informed the Secretary that he could not accept our offer of an additional year in office.
At that point, the Secretary told him that the offer would then be taken off the table. And they ended their conversation professionally and amicably, and Boutros-Ghali was told that we would be making our decision public within a matter of days.
So we were very clear. We tried to handle this in a - as professional a manner as we could. We have great respect for him, and we would like to continue a cooperative relationship with him.
Q Has the Secretary recommended that the President veto the foreign aid bill over North Korea, the North Korea program?
MR. BURNS: That decision hasn't been made, because the bill hasn't reached conference. I think we need to see how that bill proceeds through Congress. But the Secretary feels very strongly that the failure of the committees in Congress to appropriate $25 million to finance the United States' commitment to KEDO in 1997 is wrongheaded. And the Secretary made the argument in a session yesterday -- and I'll be glad to repeat it for you publicly today -- that if you look at what is at stake here, the ability of the United States to freeze the North Korean nuclear program and all that entails for security in East Asia and in Asia for us.
And you look at the small amount of money that we're talking about. Congress ought to see its way to appropriate an additional $12 million so that we can pay $25 million and the Republic of Korea and Japan can pay $4 billion in order to keep the North Korean nuclear program frozen.
This is a hardheaded approach to a vital national security interest. We do not want to see North Korea proceed in any way with this nuclear program, and we ought - we believe the Congress ought to see its way forward to appropriating this money.
The Secretary is very concerned about it. The President is concerned about it, and we'll have to, I think, hold our fire on the question of a veto until we see the final shape of a bill. But this certainly meets the threshold of the type of congressional action that would merit serious consideration of that type of veto.
Q Nick, why do you think the Administration has been unable to persuade Congress of its argument on this point? I mean, obviously Korea has become a political issue in the campaign, and do you think that it's the Republicans playing politics?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to get into the political reasons, because I'm not competent to do that. But I can tell you, I've heard one argument is - from Capitol Hill - is that, well, it's a question of burden-sharing. Shouldn't the countries that will benefit from the freezing of North Korea's program -- Japan and the Republic of Korea -- shouldn't they pay more?
Well, they're paying 4 billion and we're paying 25 million. I think burden-sharing has been achieved ten times over on this.
Secondly, I think it is simply wrong to assert that somehow the Republic of Korea and Japan have a greater stake in North Korea than we do. We've got many thousands of American GI's along the DMZ. We've been there for 43 years now, and we certainly believe that security of the Republic of Korea is a vital American national interest.
Every American Secretary of State since Dean Acheson after July 25, 1950, has said that. So I don't see the argument that somehow we have less of an interest here than our Asian partners have. We think we have a profound interest.
MR. BURNS: June 25, 1950. I'm sorry. I was off by a month, George. I knew you'd get that.
Q Nick, do you think you could find the money elsewhere in the budget if the Congress doesn't appropriate it -- the 12 million?
MR. BURNS: Well Charlie, you know, we're going to try to rely on a - on the Congress doing the right thing here first. Ultimately, we'll have to -- you know, if we are left with insufficient funds, we'll have to consider our options. But that's not a reasonable approach to take.
We've tried to work amicably with the Congress. The Congress insists on cutting State Department spending, money to fund State Department operations, so we've closed 30 consulates. They have cut our foreign assistance across the board. We can't be a foreign - a great power on the cheap. We can't exercise influence in the world through rhetoric. We've got to have resources, and there is a fundamental debate underway with the Congress right now about this question.
It's a larger debate in the country about whether we should retreat and become a smaller and weaker power, or whether we should maintain our ability to affect events around the world. It does cost money to do that. It also costs money to fund our share of costs of the United Nations. We think this is money well spent.
Q Another subject. Do you think Israel -- the new government in Israel will or should withdraw from southern Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: I saw the suggestion that was made about that this morning. We're going to go to Israel and have a series of discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu about southern Lebanon and about all the others issues -- Hebron and the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and Israel and Syria, and I don't want to try to set any markers down on that particular issue before we have those discussions.
I think you know we have a well known position on that, which has not changed -- which has not changed at all -- and it does take two to tango in southern Lebanon.
One of the problems in southern Lebanon is that Hizbollah has attacked Israeli civilians in northern Israeli, consistently, including in April. There is a security threat that Israel must be mindful of, and certainly the Lebanese Government has some problems with some of the events in southern Lebanon as well. So I don't want to set markers down on that.
Q Do you think the security arrangements which Prime Minister Peres was contemplating for Hebron should be implemented by the new government?
MR. BURNS: I think it is useful for us to take note of what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday in a very significant statement. He said that Israel is committed to peace and security in the Middle East, and he said that the Israeli position is that the Israeli Government must fulfill its international agreements, and that Israel expected a comparable commitment from its partners in the Middle East.
That's a very important statement, and based on that statement, which is an important and positive statement, we believe that Israel obviously should carry out on Hebron and on other issues the international commitments that it has made. Now the commitment on Hebron was made in the East Room of the White House on September 28, 1995, in the agreement signed by Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Arafat.
Based on the statement yesterday, we think that you can draw the conclusion that Israel intends to fulfill that particular commitment.
The other part of the statement was that the partners of Israel should also fulfill their commitment. We think that's important. We think that Israel's partners in the Arab world must also fulfill their own commitments in these accords. It's a useful way to proceed as we embark on the Secretary's trip to the Middle East.
Q What haven't they done?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q What haven't they done? There's an implication there that --
MR. BURNS: No, it's just a general statement that if Israel is being called upon to meet its international commitments, it makes common sense and it is fair to assert that Israel's partners should meet their commitments.
Now the Prime Minister said, I think for the first time yesterday, in a very important policy statement that Israel will meet its international commitments, and we assume that translates into a logical action on Hebron redeployment. But it is also fair for us to say that the same is true for Israel's partners.
Q Nick, are you speaking about the contractual, written agreements, not agreements they may have made behind closed doors.
MR. BURNS: I'm speaking here about international agreements that were made quite recently, yes, and the one in question here is the so-called "Oslo II" agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Q Nick, also at the Cairo Summit, the Government of Syria has - is lobbying very hard to get a statement of condemnation on the relationship between Turkey and Israel. The Turkish Foreign Minister has circulated a letter, saying that such a passage in the communique, if there is one, would destroy its relations with the Arab world. What do you think of this effort by Syria?
MR. BURNS: Well as far as I know, the Arab Foreign Ministers met in Cairo today behind closed doors, so I'm not an authority on what they're thinking of doing. I'm not an authority on what's in the various drafts, so I can't speak to that.
But I did speak yesterday to the question of whether or not it's appropriate from an American viewpoint for Turkey to have a relationship with Israel. We think this is exactly the type of relationship that should occur. Israel should expand its relations not only in the Arab world but with others in the region, and not only do we have no objection to the - Turkey's relationship with Israel, we support it.
Q Do you also support Turkey's right of hot pursuit into Syria after PKK extremists that regularly attack it?
MR. BURNS: I simply have no information on what you were -- are you asserting that that has happened recently?
Q No, no, I'm saying it's an international right -- the right of hot pursuit. You supported it when they did it in Iraq. Would you support it as they have indicated they may do in Syria.
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to - I can't answer a hypothetical question like that. You wouldn't expect me to answer a question like that.
Q You wouldn't deny Turkey's right of hot pursuit.
MR. BURNS: I think there is, in some international agreements that right is described. In the past, some states have used that as a way to explain their actions. In some of those cases -- specific cases that happened in the past -- the United States has said, "We think it's appropriate." In some cases, we've said it's not appropriate with various countries. So I can't give you a blanket answer to your question. It's hypothetical. It's forward-looking. But I can describe very generally what has happened in the past.
Q New subject. On Cuba. Yesterday, the Cubans have responded to this report quite angrily. And there have also been some reports that the U.S. is trying to get the U.N. to take additional action against Cuba as a result of the report. Is it - can you give us any idea of what the U.S. is looking for?
MR. BURNS: I can't explain the Cuban reaction. All I can tell you is that the International Civil Aviation organization is an objective, neutral organization. And it's the international body that governs international air trafficking and incidents such as the one that occurred on February 24.
We expect that the report, which I believe has not yet been issued, we expect that this report will demonstrate conclusively that the two private, unarmed American Cessna aircraft were shot down in international air space and that the Cubans did not follow the standard international procedures for warning or intercepting aircraft.
I would just bring you back to the debate, publicly, after February 24, when the United States asserted that these aircraft were in international air space. Cuba asserted they were over Cuban air space.
The objective, neutral international body now says the United States was right. And that is not surprising to us because we had the facts. We had our facts straight and we did our homework, and apparently the Cubans did not.
Q Does the United States support some kind of action, though, to be taken against the Cubans as a result of this report?
MR. BURNS: We think it's entirely appropriate for the ICAO to deliberate on what appropriate action should be taken. And we have a right to assert that. Four Americans were murdered on February 24 by the Cuban Government, and we have a fundamental obligation to protect Americans and make sure that Americans are not shot down when - while they're travelling in international air space.
(Briefing concluded at 1:51 p.m.)
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