U.S. Department of State 96/07/08 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, July 8, 1996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Introduction of Public Affairs Bureau Intern Anh-Viet Ly .. 1 INDONESIA/AUSTRALIA Secretary Christopher's Travel to ASEAN and AUSMIN Meetings 1-2 BALTIC STATES Peacekeeping Exercise "Baltic Challenge 96" ................ 2-3 POLAND U.S. Visit of Polish President/Mtgs with US Officials ...... 3 CUBA Hijacking of Cuban Aircraft to Guantanamo Bay .............. 4-6 --Status of 1973 Hijacking Agreement ....................... 5 Cuban Rafters Picked Up Over Weekend/U.S. Migration Policy . 27-28 G-7 Status of G-7 Meeting on Terrorism ......................... 6 BOSNIA Foreign Fighters in Bosnia ................................. 6-14 --Ambassador Menzies Meeting with President Izetbegovic .... 7 --Joint Commission Monitoring Compliance on Foreign Forces . 7 --Status of Equip and Train ................................ 7 --Status of Ratification of the Defense Law ................ 7 Travel by CIA Director to Sarajevo ......................... 11-13 War Crimes Tribunal/Possible International Arrest Warrants For Karadzic and Mladic .................................. 14,15-16 Status of Karadzic/Amb. Frowick's Statement re Elections ... 15,16-18 ISRAEL Visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu to U.S./Mtgs/Agenda....... 18-21,22- 23 Appointment of Ariel Sharon to Israeli Cabinet ............. 19 Prospects for Mtg between PM Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat . 19 Netanyahu's Interview on 60 Minutes/Golan Heights Issue .... 20 Syrian Role in Peace Process ............................... 20 U.S. Role in the Middle East Peace Process ................. 20-21 SAUDI ARABIA Khobar Towers Bombing/Status of Investigation/Reports of Other Countries' Involvement ............................. 21 --Prince Bandar's Interviews/Comments over the Weekend ..... 21 TURKEY Vote of Confidence/U.S. Relations with New Government ...... 23-24 Security Precautions at U.S. Bases ......................... 24-25 PAKISTAN Tightening of Security at U.S. Facilities in Pakistan ...... 25 GREECE Reported Ltr by President Clinton re: Aegean Island Dispute 26 Visit to Athens by Under Secretary Tarnoff ................. 26-27 Reported Hot Line Between Athens and Ankara ................ 27
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, JULY 8, 1996, 1:06 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Welcome back to some familiar faces.
I want to make one introduction. We have another intern with us here in the Bureau of Public Affairs, Anh-Viet Ly, who is a fourth year student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He's going to be working with our Regional Media Outreach unit. He is the son of Vietnamese immigrants. He was raised in northern Virginia -- a good place to be raised -- and he's had a very distinguished academic career at UVA. We're very glad to have you here with us. Thank you.
A couple of announcements to make. The first is, as most of you know, the Secretary of State, Secretary Christopher, will be travelling to Jarkarta for the ASEAN meetings and then will travel onto Sydney for the AUSMIN talks. That trip will be from roughly the 20th of July, when we leave Washington, and we'll finish up around the 27th or 28th of July.
The Secretary will lead the interagency delegation to Jakarta for the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Post Ministerial Conference. That's from the 23rd to the 25th of July, and then he'll go onto Sydney on the 26th and 27th of July.
Most of you know that the ASEAN Regional Forum is now in its third year. Foreign Ministers from 21 countries, including China, Russia, and Japan, as well as the current president of the European Union, Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring, will all meet on July 23 about the political insecurity situation in the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary Christopher will take advantage of the presence of many of these ministers to have bilaterals with them. I fully expect him to have a bilateral meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Qian Quichen, and with others there.
The Post Ministerial Conference will take place the following two days -- on the 24th and 25th of July. This involves the members of ASEAN and their nine dialogue partners. Of course, one of them is the United States.
U.S. Secretaries of State have attended this conference on a regular annual basis since 1979. It's a very important set of meetings for the United States on our diplomatic calendar.
The Annual Australia-United States Ministerial Talks, known as AUSMIN, form the centerpiece of our 44-year alliance with Australia. Both Secretary Christopher and Secretary of Defense Bill Perry plan to attend. This set of talks represents a reaffirmation of our strategic partnership with Australia and they offer both the Australians and the Americans a chance to exchange views on our strategic partnership on Asia-Pacific issues, on global issues, and on our own bilateral trade and political relationship.
This will be the first chance that we have had to have comprehensive talks with the new government of Prime Minister John Howard. I know that Secretary Christopher looks forward to meeting the Prime Minister and also continuing the discussions that he has already begun with the Australian Foreign Minister -- the new Foreign Minister - - Mr. Downer, and with Defense Minister McLachlan.
So this trip is an important trip. There is a sign-up sheet available for those of you who wish to accompany the Secretary. Sign-up starts after this briefing, and I plan to take the sheet down on Thursday. The reason for that is there are visas that are needed, and we need to get working on those by the end of this week.
Finally, I want to note that the United States Government is undertaking a peacekeeping exercise, "Baltic Challenge 1996." It's being organized by the United States in the spirit of the Partnership for Peace initiative. It's taking place from July 8-18 in Riga, Latvia.
This is the first land exercise conducted in the Baltic region under the Partnership for Peace. Three hundred American Seabees and a reinforced company of U.S. Marines will train in a peacekeeping scenario with the Baltic battalion.
For those of you with longer memories, the Baltic battalion is the battalion formed by Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia. It has been a battalion that has taken part in the Partnership for Peace activities in the past. It has also been a battalion that has been involved in Bosnia, in the American sector, working with us to keep peace in Bosnia.
This is a very important training opportunity and a very important, I think, symbolic opportunity to demonstrate on a continual basis the great concern that the United States has for the security and the future of the Baltic countries. It comes in the wake a successful meeting that President Clinton had here just before the Lyon summit with the three presidents of the Baltic countries. I wanted to draw some attention to this because we have talked about it before and it's a very important initiative of our government.
Q I'm sorry, when is that?
MR. BURNS: July 8-18.
Q Isn't this the one you announced a few weeks ago?
MR. BURNS: It may have been formally announced.
Q It's the same exercise.
MR. BURNS: In my continuing interest to keep you all up to date and draw attention --
Q No, no, I just wondered if we should be taking notes or remember --
MR. BURNS: You should definitely take notes.
Q The story that several of us wrote months ago about this Baltic exercise.
MR. BURNS: When you interviewed the ambassadors.
Q That's right.
MR. BURNS: This was the one that they were looking forward to, that's exactly right -- BALTBAT. In fact, we even talked about it here in the briefing. But because of its importance, I think both symbolic and practical, I wanted to just remind those of you who had an interest in this.
Let me just very briefly say, as a final point, the Polish President is here. Secretary Christopher will see him for breakfast on Wednesday morning. Following that, we will have a new Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty and a new Extradition Treaty signed here in the Department between Poland and the United States.
Q What can you tell us about the hijacking that took place in Cuba?
MR. BURNS: What I can tell you is that yesterday, July 7, a Cuban citizen who identified himself as a Lieutenant Colonel -- his name is Jose Fernandez Pupo -- hijacked a Cuban aircraft enroute from Santiago to Guantanamo City. He forced the plane to land at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay.
After determining that the plane was airworthy, that all aboard were unharmed and that all aboard wished to resume their journey to Guantanamo City, the U.S. military authorities cleared the three crew members and the 14 passengers, all of whom were Cuban nationals, to depart Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
The hijacker, however, was kept behind. He is currently in custody at Guantanamo Bay. He is in the brig there. He is being questioned by our military authorities and by Justice officials, including officials from the Immigration and Naturalization Service about why he undertook this action and about what his plans and desires might be pertaining to the United States.
We understand that period of questioning of him is on-going today. I can't take you any further in terms of his own status other than that.
Obviously, the United States strongly condemns this act of air piracy. We condemn acts of air piracy wherever they occur in the world, and we condemn this one. That's about all I can tell you, George, at least of the factual basis right now.
Q You can't say anything about the possibility of him being returned to Cuba?
MR. BURNS: All I can say is that when the period of questioning has been completed, when we satisfy ourselves that we know who he is, why he undertook this hijacking, and various other matters, until that period is completed, I can't foresee for you publicly what action we might take. There are, of course, a number of actions and options available to us as to what we might do with him. But I'm going to take the Justice Department take the lead on that as soon as they finish questioning him.
Q Does the United States consider the 1973 hijacking agreement to have lapsed and is therefore null and void?
MR. BURNS: The 1973 hijacking agreement?
Q With Cuba?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check that for you, George. I don't know what the presence status of that treaty is. I do want to point to the fact that we are condemning this hijacking.
Q What do you mean when you say you want to question about his plans and desires regarding the U.S.? That sounds like there's an open invitation to him.
MR. BURNS: It's not an open invitation, no. I simply meant to note the fact that, obviously, he hijacked an airplane. He hijacked it to an American facility. He must have had some reason for doing so. We're trying to find out what that reason is. We have an obligation, ourselves, to answer that question before we can decide on the best course of action available to the United States.
This is a very serious matter, to hijack an airplane and to put other lives at risk -- innocent lives; lives of innocent Cuban civilians at risk.
Q One of the options available is being tried in the United States for air piracy?
MR. BURNS: There are a number of options. I don't represent the Justice Department, so I don't want to comment on what the legal options may be. I think you all know, based on the past and just based on knowledge of our own laws, what those options might be.
But, again, the Justice Department is taking the lead right now in questioning this person. I think the Justice Department will be the agency that speaks on this matter.
Q Did he ask for asylum?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I don't know whether he has. He's being questioned now. One of the reasons for talking to him is to ascertain what his desires might be. But in addition to his own desires, there is the matter of U.S. law and there's the matter of our commitment to try to prevent air piracy around the world.
Q Did he express --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q Which takes precedent?
MR. BURNS: The course of action of our government will be enunciated by the Justice Department.
Q When will that be? Today?
MR. BURNS: When will that be? When they satisfy themselves that they have a complete understanding of what happened, of why this occurred, and whether any U.S. laws were violated.
Q Nick, you remember the G-7 terrorism action to be followed by a meeting in Paris? Has that been announced yet?
MR. BURNS: That has not been announced. The French are in the Chair in the G-7 until the turn of the year. The French Government will take the lead in trying to decide when to hold this meeting and at what level and who will appropriately attend -- from which agencies.
Q Is it necessarily a ministerial level?
MR. BURNS: It is probably going to be ministerial level, we think, but we're not quite sure which agencies, what kind of ministers will be invited. So the French are taking the lead. We are talking to them, but there has been no decision yet on when and who.
Q I ask because of Christopher's own travels and how he might fit it in if he is the U.S. representative.
MR. BURNS: Right. Again, no decision has been made, but we're looking at question very actively.
Q Is the United States still satisfied that all of the foreign fighters have been removed from Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: The United States certified back, I believe, on June 25, just before the President went to Lyon, that we are confident that there are no organized foreign-fighting units in Bosnia.
We're very confident of that. Nevertheless, we are concerned about the allegations that individual Islamic militants from countries beyond Bosnia are currently engaged in criminal activities within Bosnia itself.
While we cannot independently confirm the details contained in The Washington Post story by John Pomfret, our Ambassador to Bosnia, John Menzies, went in to see President Izetbegovic this morning.
In his discussion with President Izetbegovic, Ambassador Menzies noted that this is a very serious set of allegations that have been made. Ambassador Menzies urged President Izetbegovic to take prompt and immediate and appropriate action against any individuals who may be committing criminal acts in Bosnia, including foreign fighters.
President Izetbegovic told Ambassador Menzies that he is sending officials to the town of Zenica to investigate these reports, and that he will take appropriate action.
The United States, as you know, is establishing with the Bosnian Government a joint commission, which will closely monitor the compliance of the Bosnian Government with the assertion by the Bosnian Government and the certification that all foreign forces have departed -- the organized foreign forces -- and we'll continue to work through that joint commission to assure Bosnian compliance.
Q And, if there is no satisfaction received by the United States as a result of this investigation, can the equip-and-training program go forward?
MR. BURNS: The equip-and-train program will go forward, we have said for many months now, if two conditions are met. First, that all foreign forces have departed Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Second, that the Bosnians and Croatians commit themselves and sign into law and have their parliaments ratify a Defense Law.
On the second, as a result of discussions that Jim Pardew, Secretary Perry and many others have had over the last week, we believe that the Defense Law is very close to ratification by the various parliaments there. We believe that action could be taken, the ratification, as early as tomorrow.
On the first question, the presence of foreign fighters, we think that there were many hundreds, if not thousands of them, at the time when the Dayton Accords were signed in November. Since then, the Bosnian Government undertook a concerted action to rid the country of foreign fighters.
We have said all along that a number of them remained through marriage with Bosnian women, but we believe that these are isolated individuals. We don't believe there are any organized fighting units left in Bosnia which would pose a threat to our troops.
That was not the case a couple of months ago. We were worried a couple of months ago that the continued presence of organized units in Zenica and other towns did represent a threat to our troops. That threat, we believe, is gone.
Q Nick, isn't there something between marrying a local lady and being part of an organized unit, because the total had dwindled down to the point where there were a couple of handfuls of fighters, and you were insisting very vigorously that they must go.
Now I don't know if there's some shift here, because you're speaking in terms of organized units. This was not a very organized program in the first place. I mean, the Bosnian Government in trouble reached out for soldiers of fortune and others who would come and help them, because their back was against the wall, and Iranians came in, among others.
What if there are -- it's really not hypothetical. What if there were a dozen or two disorganized, unmarried Iranian fighters in Bosnia. Does the training-and-equipment -- you know, without marriages of convenience, can they still continue --
MR. BURNS: Unmarried and disorganized.
MR. BURNS: You mean to say if they were married, they're organized.
Q Organized only in one respect.
MR. BURNS: Right.
Q They're ready to shoot and kill.
MR. BURNS: Well, actually, Barry --
Q Where do things stand?
MR. BURNS: What we were concerned about at the time of the signing of the Dayton Accords, and the reason we held out this public challenge to the Bosnian Government, was that there were organized fighting units left over from the period of the war, and we are satisfied, based on our conversations with the Bosnian Government, that all of those units have been disbanded, and that the bad guys have left.
We were down over the last month or two to a handful of individuals who were truly people that we felt posed -- would have posed a threat to our forces, whether they were organized or disorganized or married or unmarried, and those individuals have left.
A number of individuals have stayed. I can't tell you how many. Because they have married Bosnian women and have become Bosnian citizens, there was no legal basis for us to insist upon their departure. We said that all along as we talked about this over the last eight to nine months, that there were people in that category who would remain behind.
I think John Pomfret wrote a very interesting story and a good story, and I can't corroborate everything in the story. But it certainly bears noting, and that's one of the reasons why Ambassador Menzies went in to talk to President Izetbegovic this morning, because of some of the direct evidence that Pomfret asserts in the article.
I think what's important here is that there are no longer any armed units that would pose a threat to American forces. If there are isolated individuals, Islamic fighters from different countries engaged in criminal activity against Bosnian civilians, that is a problem for the Bosnian Government that the Bosnian Government ought to deal with to protect its own citizens.
If any of these individuals intend to pose a threat to IFOR, then obviously that's a problem for us as well as the Bosnian Government. That's why we have created this joint commission, and we announced that at the time of the certification two weeks ago. That joint commission, which will, of course, be worked on by Ambassador Menzies and others, is going to have a regular series of meetings to assure us that there is no threat to American forces.
Q So, Nick, the surveillance that IFOR and the U.S. military was performing on these bases has ended because there's no longer a threat; there's no longer any personnel there, is that correct?
MR. BURNS: We did have under surveillance, as you know, a number of armed and organized units, and those units have been broken up, yes. I can't speak for IFOR as to what else IFOR is doing to insure the safety of its troops. I'm sure it's doing quite a lot. The number one priority of our military in Bosnia has been to protect our soldiers, as you know, and they've done it quite effectively, and they'll continue to do that. They'll continue to take whatever measures they have to take to protect the American and other soldiers who are part of IFOR.
Q Is the Administration familiar with this Islamic Welfare Society based in Zenica that is supposed to have become the reservoir for all the fighters that are still left and their efforts to do various things around the country?
MR. BURNS: I have nothing that I can give you today on this particular organization. If this is a significant organization, I'm sure there are a lot of people in the U.S. Government who are familiar with it, but I have no particular comment to make about that.
Q It's not something that concerns you? It's obvious that a reporter went and talked to them and found out what they're doing, so --
MR. BURNS: As I said in the first remarks that I made, we can't corroborate every bit of the Pomfret article. It was a very fine article. There's a lot of information in the U.S. Government -- in Sarajevo at the Embassy, here in Washington -- about all different aspects of the Bosnian question. I just have nothing to say to you on the particular organization that you cite.
Q Nick, correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the impression that the United States was surprised by this story today; this information struck you as new?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't mean to say that we were surprised. It's the first, but it certainly -- it led the paper, it led one of the most important papers in the United States. It was a long article. It was filled with factual detail, including personal testimony by the reporter himself in a way, and so I think we have to sit up, obviously, and take notice of that publicly. But we certainly have been aware of the phenomenon that some Islamic fighters stayed behind.
We've been aware of it. We are doing everything we must to protect our civilian and military personnel there. So we were not surprised privately, but we hadn't talked about this in a while, and we thought it was appropriate that we give you as much information as we can.
Q Nick, don't you even have anything to say about the threat that was phone in against Mr. Pomfret by this group -- a threat on his life?
MR. BURNS: Again, Sid, I can't corroborate every part of the article. That doesn't mean I'm taking issue with it at all. I just can't corroborate it for you as a representative of the U.S. Government. If there are forces in Bosnia threatening the life of an American reporter, then it is an issue for us, and we do take that seriously. We're obviously willing to talk to Mr. Pomfret, should he wish to talk to us about that.
If there are forces in Bosnia which threaten to interfere with freedom of the press, that's an issue for us as well and are very concerned about it. We are concerned about the fact that there is evidence that there are criminal elements active in Bosnian, threatening innocent people, including people who have already suffered enough from the war, and we've made our views clear on that to President Izetbegovic. It was no coincidence in this respect that Ambassador Menzies chose this morning to go see President Izetbegovic about these various allegations.
Q Can you say why the Director of Central Intelligence traveled there, what his mission was?
MR. BURNS: Yes, the Director of Central Intelligence was on a trip to Europe. He visited many countries. He visited Sarajevo to have talks with the Bosnian Government about a variety of issues, including this issue.
Q Can we go to another area?
Q That issue -- that story didn't come out until this morning. How would he have known about this issue?
MR. BURNS: As I said, we have been concerned about this issue all along. We certified two weeks ago that all foreign forces had departed. That didn't mean that we ended our concern with this issue on June 25. We have a joint commission underway that works with the Bosnian Government to insure Bosnian Government compliance with the certification provisions; and so in all conversations between senior American officials and the Bosnian Government, this issue will be raised. It was no coincidence then that Mr. Deutch raised the issue.
As I said, Sid, we weren't surprised by the article, by the revelations in the article, to this extent. We have ongoing private discussions with the Bosnians about it. We just have not talked about everything we're doing in the past, but now that you've all raised it -- and I knew you would today -- we thought we should be as forthcoming as we can.
Q There's just something I don't understand. You certified that they're all gone, but you still remain concerned about it. I don't understand how that --
MR. BURNS: We certified that all foreign fighters, organized foreign fighters who formed a threat to IFOR -- and we assumed they did -- had departed Bosnia-Herzegovina. But we said at the time, and we said every other time that we all talked about it, which was probably 100 times between November and June, that there were foreign fighters who, by virtue of their marriage to Bosnian women, had stayed behind and had taken up citizenship and residence in Bosnia.
We still have our eyes on those people. We don't believe that they constitute an imminent threat to American forces, but it's prudent for us to continue to monitor the activities of these people, which we are doing through the Joint Commission. So, therefore, I think, Sid, that means that this is going to remain a current issue in U.S.-Bosnian relations for some time.
Q Do you know how many there are?
MR. BURNS: I don't.
Q With the conversations with the Bosnian Government, there's no general estimate how many people used marriage as a convenience for staying?
MR. BURNS: We think it's a small number of individuals, but I can't give you a number, Barry. I don't know. Mr. Pomfret says it's hundreds. I don't know if it's hundreds. I think our belief was it was certainly not in the hundreds; it was fewer than that.
We're talking about a few isolated people with a sordid past who have taken up Bosnian citizenship, who do not in our opinion represent a threat to our troops, but who still bear watching because of their activities in the past, which we will do in convert with the Bosnian Government.
Still on this subject?
Q You are saying that there's no new threat assessment after the Dhahran bombing, because the story suggests that Mr. Deutch also discussed specifically the fears of a possible attack on Americans.
MR. BURNS: I can't get into the specifics of what Mr. Deutch discussed in his conversations with the Bosnian Government. They will remain private. We will take whatever precautions we must to insure the safety of our troops and of our civilian diplomatic personnel and all other Americans in Bosnia. The Bosnian Government knows that, and we expect full cooperation from the Bosnian Government in this effort.
Q Is there any new threat assessment after the Dhahran bombing?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any new threat assessment in Bosnian itself. I'm not aware of any new threat assessment that we have issued, no.
Yes, still on Bosnia?
Q Yes, the same issue. Do you consider these foreign fighters organized units and a threat to Americans?
MR. BURNS: No, I like Barry's description: disorganized but married. I think they've got to be disorganized, because they were clearly organized foreign Islamic fighting units brought into the country by the Bosnian Government during the war.
They were organized at the time of the signing of the Dayton Accords. They have been disbanded, so the people there are disorganized, but they're probably married, because most of them, we believe, have taken up Bosnian citizenship by virtue of their marriage to Bosnian women.
Q Are they a threat -- any kind of threat, or you don't see that --
MR. BURNS: I think I've answered that question. We do not believe that these remaining individuals represent an imminent threat or any kind of undue threat to our forces. But because of their activities in the past, we will expect that the Bosnian Government will keep tabs on these people, and that the Bosnian Government will work with us in our joint commission to insure that these people are not engaged in activities that would be injurious to Americans.
The Bosnian Government has also got to be concerned about these very interesting reports of criminal activity against Bosnian citizens by these ex-foreign fighters, and that's an issue that the Bosnian Government will have to take on on its own.
MR. BURNS: Some of the activities threatening innocent people in town; activities that would concern any reasonable person.
Q Taking their apartments and beating up people who are drunk in the streets, and stuff like that?
MR. BURNS: There are a lot of reports in the Pomfret article and beyond the Pomfret article, I think, that we know about that are disturbing. But this is for the Bosnian Government to sort out that. What concerns us is what impact these people may have on Americans, and, as I said, we don't believe that there's any appreciable impact at the present time.
Q Have any of these people been put into the police force in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: I have no idea.
Q Nick, were they there in conjunction with the arms deliveries from Iran that they possibly --
MR. BURNS: I just don't know if that was one of their specific duties during the war.
Q On a related subject, on Bosnia but related to the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. One of the prosecutors today has asked generally, if not specifically, for formal international arrest warrants for Mr. Karadzic and Mr. Mladic. Do you have any general reaction to that and specifically do you see such a move as placing more political pressure on NATO and on IFOR to arrest?
MR. BURNS: We support the War Crimes Tribunal, and, if the Tribunal in its entirety decides that international arrest warrants are in order as a way to increase the pressure on Karadzic and Mladic, then I'm sure we'd support that. We have never turned down any major and reasonable request made to us by the War Crimes Tribunal. The United States remains its largest and most important supporter, financially and through the provision of lawyers, and we'll continue that support.
Again, Charlie, this is a pertinent issue after the activities of last week, and we believe that these two individuals along with the other indicted war criminals ought to end up in The Hague.
I think that Ambassador Frowick made a very important statement today, which is indirectly related, Charlie, to your question. Ambassador Frowick said from Stockholm just about two hours ago that he would move in his work with the Electoral Commission to prohibit Karadzic's political party, the SDS, from taking part in the September 14 election.
We think this is a positive development. The United States fully supports Ambassador Frowick in his decision to move in this direction. As long as Karadzic retains political influence on his party and exercises that influence through members of his party, we don't believe that there is a proper basis for his involvement in the September 14 elections. Indeed, we think this is directly contrary to the meaning and the intent of the Dayton Accords, which we know quite a lot about since we negotiated them, and we're the author of the Dayton Accords.
So I think now Ambassador Frowick has said he will move on to raise this as a formal measure of the Electoral Commission. He will receive the full support of the United States in this effort.
Q A follow on the part about the arrest warrants. If the Tribunal were to ask for them -- and you said, if I understood you correctly, that the United States would support that move -- if that meant IFOR in effect going in to arrest them, you would support that mission for IFOR?
MR. BURNS: Charlie, I can't extend your thought that far, your suggestion that far. If the War Crimes Tribunal believes it's useful to issue a warrant, the United States would have to be in a position to support that. How that occurs, how that is turned into reality is another question altogether. I think, as you know, IFOR has not changed its rules of engagement on indicted war criminals.
I do believe, however, getting back to Ambassador Frowick's statement, that a practical way to deal with indicted war criminal number one, Radovan Karadzic, is to take him out of the political game. If he's refusing to leave power, which he is currently refusing to do, one way we can fight him is to make sure that he and his political party, his entire political party, will be de-legitimized and will not be able to take part in the election.
That is a major price for the Bosnian Serbs to pay. It's the price that we warned them about last week when Karadzic stepped back from an arrangement to take himself out of the political picture. As long as he insists on being a political actor, then he and his associates and his entire political party will not be involved in the election, and that's a big, big price for them to pay. They ought to reflect on that and reflect on whether or not Karadzic is the best person to lead them.
Q Nick, though, isn't there a conflict in those two thoughts about supporting international arrest warrants and yet not being willing to say that you'd actually carry them out?
MR. BURNS: Not at all. Let's remember who's responsible here. The primary parties responsible for the Dayton Accords and for fulfilling the Dayton Accords, including war crimes, are the countries themselves -- Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and entities like the Bosnian Serbs who will make up, of course, part of Bosnia-Herzegovina -- they are responsible. The onus will therefore be on them, not on us. We're the ones who brought peace to Bosnia, but we can't fix all the problems.
Q Well, while the primary responsibility may be on them, though, an international legal device, such as an arrest warrant, would seem to place the responsibility on all the international actors, including the United States, including IFOR.
MR. BURNS: Carol, it places primary responsibility on the signatories to the Dayton Accords, and it's their responsibility to make sure that these people end up in the dock in The Hague. We have said many times last week and before that that there will be a price paid by those who do not honor their commitments, and one of the prices will be a reimposition of the economic sanctions, which we are fully prepared to undertake if there is not a greater level of cooperation with the war crimes provisions of the Dayton Accords.
Q Can we go to another area?
MR. BURNS: Sid has another.
Q Yes, I'm just a little unclear. Are you saying then that the U.S. is going to move to prevent the Serbian party from participating in the elections.
MR. BURNS: No, Ambassador Frowick is. Ambassador Frowick is the chief official in the OSCE responsible for organizing the elections. He will now undertake an effort to work with the Electoral Commission to take this political party, to wipe them off the ballot and to prohibit them from organizing for these elections, for running candidates in the electionws and for putting those candidates up to a vote on September 14.
This is entirely appropriate and reasonable given the lack of support by the Bosnian Serbs for the war crimes provisions and by the continued insistence by Karadzic that he should be a political actor. Is inconsistent with the Dayton Accords. So we're taking Karadzic, by this move, out of the picture for the elections. It's a very positive and very strong move by Ambassador Frowick, which is supported by the United States.
Q So can the Electoral Commission just do that?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely.
Q I mean, nobody has to vote or order --
MR. BURNS: The Electoral Commission runs the elections. They establish the rules and regulations and the framework for the elections. They will decide on who meets the requirements that have been set forth, and clearly the SDS does not.
Q So they have to meet and endorse his --
MR. BURNS: That's right. He explained this in his press conference in Stockholm, yes.
Q What happens if they resist?
MR. BURNS: If they, who?
Q If Karadzic and his party resist?
MR. BURNS: They can try to resist, but their resistance will not be effective, because the OSCE will print the ballots. The OSCE will determine which names go on the ballots, and even if they are elected by a write-in vote, they can't serve, because the OSCE will make sure that they can't serve.
The international community has received a position of trust to organize, supervise and run these elections for the parties, and with the assistance of the parties. Ambassador Frowick is the chief person responsible. He's made this decision which we support.
Q But Karadzic and his party would still be able to intimidate the rest of the Bosnian Serbs into not participating.
MR. BURNS: Then they will be left with a parliamentary assembly which will be weighted on the other side. If they boycott the elections, they're going to lose, because there will be a government, a parliamentary assembly, a court, a structure for the future set up by these elections; and, if one part of the population refuses to take part, they will be the losers in the end.
It may make them feel good, but it won't do them any good politically. In fact, it will weaken them.
Q But I'm just curious how you can be so confident that the rest of the Bosnian Serbs will participate if Karadzic continues to maintain such an influence over the population -- basically tells them to boycott it or intimidates them through force somehow.
MR. BURNS: He will do, I guess, what he feels he has to do. But, if he urges the Bosnian Serbs not to participate, they will all lose in the end. So I think the message to the Bosnian Serb population and the political establishment is, "You've got an ineffective leader at the helm. You ought to find a way to remove him from his position of influence in your political party."
Q Maybe if Karadzic turns up at The Hague, then the Serbs will be allowed to participate in the election?
MR. BURNS: That's up to Ambassador Frowick, but I believe that would be a very large step towards repositioning this party for inclusion in the election, yes. It's the fact that he's at the head of the party, that he's indicted, that he refuses to relinquish political authority that is the issue here.
Still on Bosnia?
Q Can we go to the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: Okay, we have a motion to go to the Middle East. We'll do that.
Q What about Mr. Netanyahu's trip to the United States? What are you expecting from him regarding the resumption of peace talks with the Palestinians?
MR. BURNS: We're looking forward to the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu. He arrives, I believe, later tonight. He'll meet the President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, a joint session of Congress. He'll be very active here, and the President and the Secretary look forward to their meetings with him to discuss all aspects of our relationship with Israel bilaterally but, of course, also all aspects of the peace negotiations with the Palestinians, with the Syrians, with others.
Q There are indications or signals that things are not going to be that easy with the appointment of Ariel Sharon as a minister in his cabinet, and some of the reports yesterday -- Jim Hoagland's article in The Washington Post -- spoke and called on the United States Administration to stand tall and assert itself in continuing what they have cultivated in the last three or four years between the Arabs and the Israelis. What do you have to comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't have a particular comment, except to say that in our initial discussions we've made very clear to the Israelis and to the Arab countries that we think that the peace negotiations should continue; and that the United States will support those peace negotiations in whatever way these countries deem appropriate and useful; and that we'll retain the very important role that we have had.
We understand that role, and no one understands it greater than Secretary of State Christopher who's a veteran in Middle East diplomacy.
Q Some people in Washington in one institute said they wouldn't be surprised to see a summit between Arafat, Netanyahu, King Hussein and Hosni Mubarak under the tutelage and (inaudible) of President Clinton before November 5. Do you subscribe to these ideas?
MR. BURNS: I know of no plans for such a meeting. We hope that the new Israeli Government will obviously have contacts with the Arab Governments. It already has. We hope the Arab Governments will remain open to a productive dialogue with the Israeli Government. Whatever way we can be helpful, we will, but I don't know anything about the suggestion you've just made.
Q Do you think it would useful for Mr. Netanyahu to meet with Mr. Arafat now?
MR. BURNS: That's an issue that, of course, we have discussed at length with both parties, and it's up to them to decide when a meeting would be most useful for them. As you know, when Secretary Christopher left the region two weeks ago, Mr. Netanyahu's chief foreign policy adviser, Mr. Gold, did have a meeting with Chairman Arafat, and that followed several meetings he had had with Abu Mazin. So there are contacts right now, and I'm sure those contacts will continue.
Q Do you think the Palestinians are doing everything they can to insure Israeli security?
MR. BURNS: I think that, obviously, given what's happened over the last many months in Israel, we would hope very much that the Palestinians would do whatever they can and whatever they must to insure that there are no security threats to the State of Israel. That's part of the bargain here, and I think the Palestinians have worked very, very hard along those lines and effectively in many respects.
Q Prime Minister Netanyahu stated clearly to "60 Minutes" that any withdrawal in the Golan Heights is linked to a change in the regime in Damascus. Cabinet Minister Tzachi Hanegbi writes today in The Washington Times that Israel will act in the autonomy areas every time it will find it's safe. Specifically on these two points, do you share these views?
MR. BURNS: I didn't see the interview. I didn't watch "60 Minutes" last night. I had other things to do, so I can't comment. I don't want to comment on interviews that I haven't seen. You've just given me a snippet of it.
Still on the Middle East? Let's stay on the Middle East and then we'll go to the new government. Turkey is many things. Turkey is European; it's Middle Eastern; it's Western. It's everything.
That's right, Lambros. Thank you. That was a very positive comment. In fact, one of the first I've heard from this part of the room in a long time. We'll get to that in a minute.
Q How do you see the role of Syria in the peace process?
MR. BURNS: Syria is an integral part of the peace negotiations. There's a Syrian-Israeli track that exists and we hope there's progress made on it. Syria is a very important country.
Q How would you describe the role of the U.S. in these days? Is it a facilitator, arms broker, sponsor, or what?
MR. BURNS: We continue to play the role we've played for a generation, and that is that we have commitments in the Middle East. We have a very close relationship with Israel and with many of the Arab countries. We are active, diplomatically, on behalf of peace. I don't know if there's one word that describes that; but, certainly, we are an indispensable country in pushing for the peace negotiations. We're very mindful of that, and we're acting on that basis.
Q Still, the story about the bombings in Saudi Arabia. Is ther any briefing in this country and outside about the involvement of other countries. Also, the editorial in the Washington Post this morning about terrorism; and about President Hafez Assad. Do you have any comment on these stories that are appearing now?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't.
Q How about comments by Bandar that the Syrians definitely did not participate in the bombing?
MR. BURNS: There is an on-going criminal investigation into the bombing at the Khobar barracks. Until that investigation is completed, I can't assert to you that one country was involved or one country was not involved. We don't know. We don't know who killed the Americans and injured the hundreds of others -- Saudis, Bangladeshis, and Americans.
We are trying to find out, and we will find out. When we find out, I'm sure there will be trail of evidence leading squarely back to the people and to the supporters of the group that bombed the barracks. Until that happens, I cannot certify that one country was or was not involved.
Q Bandar is in a position to certify that one country was or was not involved?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know. I just don't know. All I can do is speak for the United States Government.
Q Were you able to watch this week with the Prince yesterday? He had quite a bit --
MR. BURNS: I didn't watch a lot of television over the weekend. I was outdoors. It was a beautiful weekend; doing a variety of things. I'm aware of the interview. Yes, I'm aware of it, Bill.
Q What was your take on his many comments?
MR. BURNS: He is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps here. He's a very, very astute, intelligent person. He is close to the United States. He's been a responsible and very successful ambassador. We have the greatest respect for him.
Q Nick, I'd like to ask you, as much as we have concern and a lot of concern in the United States Government of the security of Israel, are you at this present time, with Mr. Netanyahu being here -- and he'll be staying two or three days -- concerned about the security of the Palestinians, the livelihood of the Palestinians? A hundred twenty thousand Palestinians are unemployed; they can't go to work and everything. Is this issue going to be about opening the gates and the borders and everything?
MR. BURNS: We'll have a comprehensive set of discussions, Mr. Abdul Salam. We are concerned about the welfare of the Palestinian people. We are the leading donor of financial assistance to the Palestinian people in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
We have a great interest and great sympathy for the Palestinians as we do for the Israelis. I think we've made that clear, our concern and support for both -- Israel and the Palestinians -- over many, many years.
Q On the Middle East. On Hebron. Do you expect that will come up in the talks with Netanyahu? What is your position on that now? Should they go ahead? Should they --
MR. BURNS: Nice try. This is good, and I expected this. Basically, we're not going to put ourselves in a position of giving public advice to the Israeli Prime Minister or to Chairman Arafat on the eve of these talks. We have positions. We've made them clear to both the Palestinians and to the Israelis, but we're going to let them make the decisions.
We are not the principal actor in the drama. The Palestinians and Israelis are. Let them take the lead publicly. We will be very comfortable behind the scenes pushing both towards peace.
Q The President (inaudible) four agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis as well as the Jordanians and Israelis. Will you be asking the new Prime Minister of Israel to abide or respect the - -
MR. BURNS: The Prime Minister said, I think from the very first day after his election, that Israel would abide by the commitments already made by the State of Israel, under the previous government -- the Labor Government -- with the Arabs. That includes with the Palestinians.
He has said that many, many times since, including in his interviews over the weekend.
Q Netanyahu said the timeframe. He didn't set a schedule. He didn't set a date.
MR. BURNS: Some of those questions have to be worked out with the Palestinians and with other Arab countries. The fact that he has said that quite consistently, I think, is significant.
Q He said to Larry King. Maybe you saw that one.
MR. BURNS: I didn't watch any TV. Sorry. (Inaudible) television, with all due respect to my colleagues who work for television outlets.
Q Mr. Netanyahu is creating another linkage. This time, between terrorism and negotiations. His credo here in Washington will be that you cannot negotiate with Syria as long as Syria is backing terrorism.
Do you have the same frame of mind about negotiations with Syria that is urgent and necessary, as you had before?
MR. BURNS: Syria has been on the terrorism list, published by the State Department, for many years. We have on-going, current concerns about Syrian Government activities in support of terrorist groups. This is very clear.
We have also been closely involved with the Syrian Government in peace negotiations. We have negotiated with the Syrian Government and have been a party to negotiations as well as having concerns about Syria's record on terrorism at the same time. Obviously, you need to deal with the principal actors to the peace process to make advances in the peace process.
Onto Turkey. Turkey first; Greece second. Not in terms of political importance, just in terms of the order of questions.
Tomorrow, we'll do Greece first.
Q As you know, there is a new coalition government in Turkey led by the pro-Islamic Prime Minister. The government won a vote of confidence today in the Turkish parliament. Could you comment on how important this event is for you, as the State Department?
MR. BURNS: I would say the fact that there is an effective government now in place in Ankara is extremely important for Turkey, the United States, and the region. The democratic process has worked in Turkey.
We congratulate Prime Minister Erbakan and Deputy Prime Minister Ciller. We wish them well in dealing with the many important issues that Turkey confronts, internationally and at home.
Relations between the United States and Turkey are important. They do not depend on individual governments: They depend on our national interests -- the national interests that both Turkey and the United States have.
The national interests of the United States in Turkey dictate that we will continue to be concerned by Turkey's full participation and active participation in NATO, with the fulfillment of the vision that both Turkey and the United States have had -- that Turkey should be associated with Western institutions like NATO, like the European Union, the Customs Union Agreement that took place; that democracy and human rights are important; and that Turkey, of course, is a country that will continue to play a role in the Caucasus, in the Middle East, in the Aegean, in Europe, and play a very important role vis-a-vis the United States in promoting stability and security in that part of the world.
So we have interests at stake here. We'll follow our interests as we begin to work with this new government.
Q Just to follow up. You said at the beginning that there is an effective government in Ankara now. How do you know that this government is effective?
MR. BURNS: Let's not confuse the term "effective." A government now is in place in Turkey. It's a duly constituted government which has earned the support of the Turkish National Assembly by the vote this morning. So therefore it's an operational government. We hope it becomes an effective government in the way that it transacts business with the United States. That remains to be seen, obviously, based on the performance of that government on the interests that I've just listed. The interests are very important.
Turkey has regional responsibilities and also global responsibilities, and Turkey must continue to meet them.
Q Is there any increased concerns in security about the Incerlik Base in Turkey?
MR. BURNS: Because of what happened in Khobar, I think our military facilities around the world -- not just in Turkey or Saudi Arabia -- have taken precautions to upgrade security. We know that terrorism is a global phenomenon. We know that the United States can be attacked anyplace around the world, not just in places that you might assume to be the likely targets.
So our military authorities have now taken steps around the world to heighten security at our military installations, and that is true of some of our diplomatic installations as well.
Q Such as the one in Pakistan?
MR. BURNS: Such as the one in Pakistan.
Q Can you comment on that?
MR. BURNS: All I can say is that Ambassador Tom Simons has taken certain steps to safeguard our personnel in Pakistan. As you know, we lost Americans in Karachi in March 1995 -- two Americans killed; and our Embassy in Islamabad, on June 28, notified American citizens in Pakistan of a possible threat to American interests based on an anonymous call to our Embassy in Cairo.
There has been no subsequent confirmation of the threat that was made to our Embassy in Cairo about our facilities in Pakistan.
Ambassador Simons is one of our most experienced officers, and he's taking the appropriate steps to safeguard the Americans in Pakistan.
Q The call to the Embassy in Cairo was warning of a threat in Pakistan?
MR. BURNS: That's right. That's right.
Q That's kind of strange.
MR. BURNS: It's hard to account for terrorists.
Q Was there a group associated with the --
MR. BURNS: I just don't have any information beyond what I've given you.
Q Was it a local group?
MR. BURNS: I just don't have any information beyond what I've given you, Sid.
Q In his last week's letter to Greek Minister Kostis Simitis, President Clinton emphasized, inter alia, "In the case of the Aegean islets, I reiterate my suggestion that it should be referred to the International Court of Justice or some other consensual body."
Since that reflects, clearly, the U.S. position vis-a-vis to the Aegean issue, I would like to know, should it be referred to the International Court of Justice prior or after the delimitation of the continental (inaudible) of the Aegean between Greece and Turkey?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to comment on this purported language in a Presidential letter, because, normally, diplomatic correspondence is private.
I can say that, in general, now there is an operational government in place in Turkey, we hope that Turkey and Greece can resolve the problem of Imia/Kardak to their mutual satisfaction. The United States has made some suggestions as to how that could happen. We'll remain available to both countries, if that should be useful to them.
Q In the same letter -- to the Greek Prime Minister -- President Clinton is talking about confidence and security-building measures in the Aegean, emphasizing: "My government is ready to help. The July 3 visit by State Department Under Secretary Peter Tarnoff to Athens should provide a timely opportunity to discuss this issue." May we then have a (inaudible) of Mr. Tarnoff's talks in Athens to this effect?
MR. BURNS: Again, Mr. Lambros, I'm not going to corroborate what was in a purported Presidential letter. That's undiplomatic, and I won't do that.
I can tell you that Under Secretary Tarnoff had a very successful visit to Athens. He came away very impressed by the leadership of Prime Minister Simitis. He had a chance to talk with him at length and to talk with Foreign Minister Pangalos. We have a very close, good relationship with Greece. We're happy to report to you on that.
Q Can you elaborate more?
MR. BURNS: I really can't. On Secretary Tarnoff's visit? If you would like, I can refer you to the European Affairs Bureau, and they can give you more information on it. I did talk briefly with Peter this morning, and he was very impressed by Prime Minister Simitis, by the strength and the importance of our relationship, and the fact that, since we now have a government in place in Turkey, there is perhaps a basis to proceed in resolving some of these issues.
Q The Greek Spokesman, Mr. Repas, discussing with the Greek reporters this Memorandum on Confidence and Security Measures in the Aegean/ Ankara/ America/ Nato initiative, was so optimistic about your involvement and stated: "Not only are we signing with one hand, but we're signing it with two hands." Could you then release the text of this memorandum, since the Simitis government is so happy and optimistic?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to legitimize memos and letters that have been leaked to the public. They remain private, diplomatic correspondence.
Your final question.
Q The last one.
MR. BURNS: Are you sure? Very quick. We have to move on.
Q It's very important. According to reliable sources from this building, this memorandum, besides the installation of a Hot Line between the capitals -- the two capitals, Athens and Ankara -- mentioned by President Clinton in his letter, includes the following: "Greece should sign the protocol relinquishing the right to extend its territorial waters from six to 12 miles. The Aegean Sea cannot be transformed into a Greek lake. Greece and Turkey should agree on --
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, unfortunately, I cannot comment on the contents of diplomatic correspondence. Your question asks me to do so for the fourth time. I can't do it. I won't do it.
Q I have one last question, if I may, regarding another Cuban issue. Some Cuban rafters were once again picked up this weekend. Do you fear a new wave of exodus from Cuba this season?
MR. BURNS: We hope not. We think that it's dangerous to take to rafts to try to reach the United States or other countries from Cuba. We think that migration from Cuba should be safe, legal, and orderly. There is a way to do that.
We do give out 10,000 immigrant visas a year through the program that we've established with the Cuban people. So I think that's the way we prefer to see this happen.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:01 p.m.)
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