U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Monday, September 9, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Congratulations to Journalists Who Reported For Duty Today! .... 1 Welcome FSN Information Specialists ............................ 1 Minority Business Conference, Sept 11 .......................... 4-5 Seminar on Environmental Issues at NFATC, Sept 10 .............. 5 EVENTS/ISSUES FOR TODAY Secretary's Schedule/Summary of European Trip .................. 1-2 Secretary's Meeting with Israeli PM Netanyahu .................. 2 Talks Reconvene Today on Northern Ireland ...................... 2 CTBT Debate in UN .............................................. 2 BOSNIA/CROATIA/SERBIA Elections: Importance/Transitional Process/Building a ......... 3-4, 5-8, Democracy/Call for Postponement/Polling Results/Talk of 11 Secession/IFOR Protection for Voters/Post-Election Process/ Imperfect Conditions/Prohibiting Indicted War Criminals from Participating/Use of Force Instead of Elections US Troops: Replace IFOR Forces After Election/NATO Defense .... 8-11 Ministerial to Discuss Issue/Decision on Maintaining US Troops/Status of Other Nations' Troops/US Policy on IFOR/ Time-frame for US Decision/Election Result on US Troops IRAQ Turkey Involvement: Asylum for Kurds/Buffer Zone/Possible ..... 12, 14, Exodus of Kurds/Operation Provide Comfort 15-17 Fighting: Intra-Kurdish Fighting/Long-Term Problems/ .......... 12, 14-18 US Protection Efforts/US Messages to Iraq/Course of Fighting/Future US Actions AmCit Presence: AmCits in North/State Dept Personnel Running .. 12, 14 Assistance Programs in North MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Economic Conference in Cairo ................................... 18 Security Situation in Hebron/Israeli-Palestinian Agreement on .. 18-21, 22 Hebron/Steering Group Established/Israeli-Syrian Talks/ PM Netanyahu-PLO Chairman Arafat Mtg/Ad Hoc Liaison Group Mtg/Issues for Future Talks/Conditions for Diminishing Terrorism Threats Israeli Exit Permits for Palestinians .......................... 21 CYPRUS: Investigation of Killing of Soldiers/US Contacts ....... 23-24 EU: Defers Retaliation Against Helms-Burton & D'Amato Laws ..... 24-25 TURKEY/IRAN: Violations of Natural Gas Deals ................... 25 JAPAN: Okinawa Referendum/Obligations Under Mutual Defense ..... 25-26 Treaty
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 1996, 1:19 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Good afternoon, welcome to the briefing. I would like to congratulate Barry Schweid and David Ensor. I think they're the only two individuals of the 14 who traveled with us who made it in today. Oh,Charlie, I'm sorry. I'm sorry, Charlie -- and Charles Wolfson of the Colombia Broadcasting System. Good to see you all.
I have a couple of announcements of events here this week, and I have a word to say on Bosnia. Then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
I would like to welcome to the briefing today 12 of our Foreign Service Nationals who are all Information Specialists at USIA posts around the world. They are in the United States for three weeks of information and media training. They're from India, Tunisia, Algeria, Zambia, the Philippines, Estonia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Japan, the Dominican Republic, and Mongolia. I just want to welcome you because there are Foreign Service Nationals around the world who are the backbone of all our Embassy and Consulate operations and we could not have diplomatic missions around the world without you. All of you are working in an area that's of interest to all of these people here as well. So I want to welcome you and hope that this is an interesting session for you. I'm sure the journalists will make it an interesting session.
I also want to let you know about the Secretary's schedule today. The Secretary, as three of your colleagues who are here know, returned yesterday afternoon from a five-day trip to Europe. He feels it was a very successful trip. He feels that it demonstrated the fundamental importance that our alliance relationships have for the United States -- with Britain, France and Germany. That was true as we discussed NATO adaptation and the NATO enlargement issue.
Also true when we discussed Iraq and to see the unstinting support of the United Kingdom and of Germany for the efforts of the United States.
The Secretary came back this morning and immediately went into discussions about the Middle East. He had a meeting here in the Department early this morning and then went off to the Mayflower Hotel where he met with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
During that meeting, they reviewed all of the various issues that fit into the peace process framework -- the Israel-Palestinian issues, the Israel-Syria track, and all of the different strategic and tactical questions that are involved with those issues.
I understand that Mr. Netanyahu expressed appreciation for the Secretary and Dennis Ross' involvement in the Israel-Palestinian negotiations that led to the meeting last week between Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat.
The Secretary had a good discussion with the Prime Minister about the U.S. desire that Israel and Syria might decide at some point in the future to resume negotiations. I'm not trying to offer anything specific here. There is nothing that has changed I think over the last couple of days in that respect, but it is an issue that we are discussing today here at the State Department, and also I think the President and Mr. Netanyahu will be discussing a couple hours from now.
The Secretary reaffirmed that the United States will remain involved, trying to help Israel and Syria restart their political dialogue, and at some point in the future, we hope -- and one cannot say when this will be -- resume direct negotiations.
This is a very busy week for the United States. In addition to the very important discussions we've just had on NATO issues -- because we'll have a summit next spring to deal with the NATO expansion issue -- and on Iraq, we have Bosnia; we have the Bosnian elections. I'll have a word in a moment about that.
The talks on Northern Ireland began again this morning under the Chairmanship of former Senator George Mitchell. The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty is being debated this week at the United Nations. The Australian Government, with the very, very strong support of the United States and 119 other countries is introducing a resolution to go forward with the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. So a very busy week for all of us, indeed.
Now, just a word on Bosnia. We are five days away from very important elections in Bosnia. Despite some conventional wisdom on the op-ed pages and even in some of the press coverage that somehow these elections are going to be the standard by which to judge the success or failure of the Dayton Accords, I would just like to say the following.
These elections are important because they will lead the way to the creation of the new institutions that will be the foundation of the new state that emerges from this Dayton process. But these elections were never designed to be the final examination for the Dayton Accords. They were never designed to be the end of the process. In fact, in a very real sense, they're the beginning of the process.
Everything that we've done up to now, over the last 12 months -- stopping the war, negotiating the peace agreement, introducing the more than 50,000 NATO troops, separating the military forces, trying to effect the return of refugees, trying to rebuild the country -- everything that we've done is to lead to the point where new institutions are created -- a new presidency, a new legislature, a new bank, a new court -- so that the Bosnian people, together, can run the country again after five years of division and warfare.
The elections are the first step in the transition to that new process. They are not the final step. But to raise some of the criticism of the elections over the weekend and last week, you would think that they were the final step. I'd just like to, with all due respect to those putting that line forward -- former Secretaries of State and others -- I'd like to respectfully disagree.
I think it's a fundamental truism that there needs to be a first election before there can be a second election.
The peace negotiations -- the process of peace -- cannot go forward without these first elections. It is also true, and we have said this -- the Secretary said it on his trip to Sarajevo and he said it again last week -- that these elections will not look like elections in northern Europe or in the United States. They occur after a terrible war and with terrible social and economic dislocations. They will be imperfect, but we believe they can be effective as a first step in this transitional process towards a new state. We believe that they can be democratic.
They will also be the first time in five years that the various ethnic groups -- the Muslims, the Croats, and the Serbs -- together participate in a national event; the very first time that has happened in five years.
As Foreign Minister Prlic said the other day, "No elections, no Bosnia." So our question to those who are calling for the postponement of the elections is the following. What is your alternative? When would you propose to have these elections? Would you propose that they be held next month, 1997, three years from now? There's no better place to begin than now.
The final point I would make is, I think, the most fundamental. In a democracy -- and no one is saying that Bosnia is a perfect democracy, but the Bosnians have aspirations to build a democracy -- the people ultimately have to decide questions. People have to decide. Let's let the people of Bosnia, among the various ethnic groups, decide what kind of a state they're going to have and what kind of people will represent them in the national institutions of that state.
Let's not let former public officials, bureaucrats and outsiders decide this question. Let's let the Bosnian people decide. That is fundamentally why we should go forward with this election.
There's been some recent polling done by USIA. In fact, they did a poll of 3,085 people among the various ethnic groups. This poll conducted between the 10th of July and the 2nd of August. One question was, "How likely is it that you'll vote in the upcoming election?" Ninety-five percent of the Bosnian Serbs said they would vote; 92 percent of the Bosnian Croats; 95 percent of the Bosnian Muslims.
"How important is it, do you think, that you vote in the upcoming election?" All of the various groups responded. Ninety percent for the Bosnian Serbs; 97 percent for the Bosnian Muslims. All political parties favor these elections. All members of the Contact Group favor these elections. So we think we ought to go forward with these elections.
I would just respectfully submit that despite all the criticism on the op-ed pages, this is the right decision for the Bosnian people and the right decision for the United States.
Two more notes and then we'll go to questions, Barry. Just two more things, and then we'll go to Bosnia.
The State Department is hosting a Minority Business Conference on September 11th. Secretary Christopher, Secretary of Commerce, Mickey Kantor, and Charlene Barshefsky, the Acting U.S. Trade Representative, will all participate in this conference. There are public aspects to this that you might be interested in. I'm posting a press statement on this.
Last, tomorrow, our professional school -- our School of Professional and Area Studies over at the National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Virginia -- is sponsoring a seminar on environmental issues which is open to the press. This seminar will feature a keynote speech by Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott on the importance of environmental issues in our foreign policy.
Tim Wirth will lead a panel discussion on global climate change. Assistant Secretary Eileen Claussen will moderate a panel discussion on international trade and the environment.
As you know, since Secretary Christopher's Stanford speech of a couple months back, we've tried to accentuate the discussion of the environment in our foreign policy issues. All of these panel discussions and Deputy Secretary Talbott's speech are open to the press tomorrow. If you're interested in going over there, just see somebody in the press office. I will post a statement on this.
QUESTION: I was wondering about Bosnia. I was listening very closely but I don't know that you said that the elections will be free and fair. What is the current outlook?
MR. BURNS: No, I did not use those words.
QUESTION: You've been describing them as not a Jeffersonian model, but will they be relatively free and fair elections, do you suppose?
MR. BURNS: I think rational expectations for this election would be that they would be effective and democratic. Given the fact that they do not occur in Charlottesville, Virginia, or Manchester, England -- they occur in Bosnia which has seen war and division and economic and social dislocation.
Something I meant to say and forgot to, it's very important. There's been a lot of talk during the recent campaign there, mainly from Bosnian Serbs, about secession as an option for the Bosnian Serbs should they not like the results of the coming elections. I would just like to remind those people, among the Bosnian Serb leadership who are putting this forward, that under the Dayton agreement the elections were explicitly designed to protect the continuity of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Dayton Accords do not allow secession by entities or any party or any constituent peoples in this country. On the contrary, the Dayton Accords talk about committing the parties to the sovereignty, the territorial integrity, and the independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
So no matter what they're saying during the campaign, any candidate who has chosen to run for office in this campaign is explicitly committing himself or herself to living in the state and working within the state in the future and not to secession.
I think that if any party came forward and tried to promote secession after the elections, it would be met by a very stiff rebuff not only from inside the country but from outside, and led by the United States.
QUESTION: The ICRC and others are estimating that there may be as many as two million Bosnians who have yet to be able to return to their homes. How are these people going to vote in absentia in anything that would represent a free and fair election?
MR. BURNS: As you know, thousands of them have already voted as refugees by absentee ballot, including many thousands who live currently in the United States. In addition to that, those refugees who are on the territory of the country now can elect to vote either where they are -- to the point to which they've been dislocated -- or they can go back to their hometown or where they were during the census of 1991.
IFOR has committed that it will provide protection for those who hope to return. There will be over 4,500 polling places next Saturday for the voting. It's not going to be possible, obviously, to have a soldier protect each person, each refugee, who wishes to return. But I think in terms of general security, IFOR is going to select its concentration of forces at those places where we think it is most likely that there will be problems, much as IFOR did during the elections in Mostar during the summer.
This has been worked out on a very careful basis by IFOR and the OSCE. We are confident that these conditions will be present for secure elections and for people to feel that they can return to their place of origin should they wish to do so.
QUESTION: Can you tell us more about the post-election period, that transition period? You said that Bosnia is a sovereign country, united and everything. I assume that it is not a new country; it is Bosnia from 1992, recognized by the United Nations, even after elections.
MR. BURNS: The process for the post-election -- it's a very important process. The people who are elected to the presidency and the legislature, the court and the bank are going to have to get together and agree on the formation of these institutions so that the new state can effectively take the place of much of the governing authority that currently exists. That is a process in which the United States, Carl Bildt, other countries, will be centrally involved in the latter part of September and October and November of this year.
QUESTION: It's a new country or just following something after elections? Is it new Bosnia, completely new?
MR. BURNS: The institutions are those which were agreed upon during the Dayton process, and the country here, obviously, is the country that existed in 1992, yes.
Still on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Yes, David.
QUESTION: You addressed all the editorials in a broad sense, but I'd like to come back to you with some of the points -- well, one of the points that some of them made in a more specific sense. You say let the people decide, but can the people really decide in a situation where many have argued there is not freedom of movement, there is not freedom of the press in the true sense, there is not freedom of speech, where there is intimidation of voters, and where there are parties which stand for partition which have not been questioned and have been allowed to run candidates by the OSCE, even though the Dayton accords specify that the OSCE can eliminate these parties, if they wish to, if they publicly stand for things like partition.
Can there be a choice by the people under these circumstances?
MR. BURNS: We believe there can be. We've been the first to point out that the conditions here are highly imperfect for elections. As outsiders, we can't determine that we ought to postpone the elections now and pick some date in the future when conditions will be demonstrably better for these elections. We might have to wait for four or five years if you want to have a Jeffersonian standard for these elections. We may have to wait for 25 years before those standards exist.
But in the meantime, we've got business to do here, and the business is that the representatives of these people -- the Serbs, the Croats and the Moslems, got together in Dayton, Ohio, last autumn, and they agreed there should be elections and a new set of institutions.
We have got to get to that point and then move beyond that point in this process, because elections are not the final step, as some of the Op-Ed writers would have us believe, to judge the success or failure of this peace effort.
The OSCE has been active in making sure that indicted war criminals do not participate in the elections, do not run for office -- and none of them are currently running for office -- and, as you know, Secretary Christopher asked Dick Holbrooke to broker an accord back on July 19th which prohibits the Bosnian Serbs from having Mr. Karadzic play a central role in this campaign. Despite the fact that some people bring posters of him to election rallies, he hasn't been involved in the campaign. He hasn't been on the radio. He hasn't been on the television, and he hasn't been out barnstorming. I think that's a positive thing.
David, you talk about people running for office who stand for partition -- this has to be a free vote. People running for office have a variety of different viewpoints, and we cannot simply say those of you who believe in this are not eligible to participate.
We have to respect not only the views of the people running for the elections, but we've got to respect the results of the election, once the election is held, and we're prepared to do that.
QUESTION: Follow up on Bosnia. Are you yet -- have you yet been authorized to state publicly that the Administration favors the formation of a follow-on force to replace IFOR once it withdraws and that American troops are going to have to be in Bosnia well after the turn of the year?
MR. BURNS: The United States believes it is not possible to even address that question in any kind of rational way right now until we see what happens this weekend during the elections and we see what happens in the aftermath -- the immediate aftermath of the elections. We've said that at some point this autumn, probably in October or November, we will get together with our NATO allies and the others participating in IFOR and discuss what is logical; what makes sense in terms of ensuring the continuation of the movement -- the general movement forward during the last 11 or 12 months in Bosnian itself.
But we can't possibly make any decisions now until we see what the landscape looks like following the elections. The key event following the elections will be the establishment of the Presidency and the legislature and the court and the bank, and that's where we're going to place most of our, I think, political efforts following the elections for the rest of September and into October.
QUESTION: Isn't the Defense Ministerial at the end of September the moment when this decision has to be made and announced?
MR. BURNS: I don't know that that issue is formally on the agenda yet, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if they discussed that issue. There are variety of other places where we can talk to the Europeans and to the others -- by phone, in meetings, by letter -- and I'm sure we'll do that.
You got the very specific question: What is our policy? We can't decide what the policy is going to be until we see what the landscape looks like following these elections, and at that point we will, of course, engage in discussions with our allies about this question.
QUESTION: Just a variation on the same question, since you raised the issue of former Secretary of State's Op-Ed activities. In that article, critical of the decision for American troops to leave in December, the allies, or many of them, are suggesting that there is a whispering campaign going on that suggests that if the Administration is re- elected, the Americans may stay on.
First of all, is the decision final that American troops will leave, just for the record? And, secondly, is that up for negotiation with the allies?
MR. BURNS: The President's decision to keep American forces in Bosnia for roughly a year has not changed. There's been no change in the U.S. position. And I also just told David what Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry have been saying for four to six weeks, and that is that at some point after these elections, and probably sooner rather than later, we will be open to discussing the particular issue of what should happen with our allies.
QUESTION: Does that hold out the hope that the Americans may extend their stay in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: You probably think that I'm dodging the question, but I'm really not. What I'm trying to say here, maybe unsuccessfully -- let me try one more time -- is that we don't believe it is intellectually possible or conceptually possible to make this decision of whether or not IFOR should stay, whether or not there should be a follow-on to IFOR. It's not possible to have a discussion about that until these elections are held this weekend, we see what the results are, and we see how the parties react as they begin to build and actually start the new institutions that will run the country.
At that point we'll have a much better idea. That point is not too far away. But that's been our position all along. As for policy decisions, our policy decisions, therefore, on IFOR have not changed. The President said roughly a year, and that is still the position of the United States.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on that. Does the State Department understand, believe or accept that the other nations will leave if the Americans will leave?
MR. BURNS: We've had a variety of discussions, and I think different countries have different positions on that issue.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the same point, really. Other people closely involved in the process, such as Carl Bildt, think it's not only possible but necessary to begin talking very directly about this issue. He was quoted in an interview this weekend, saying he thought troops, including American ground troops, should be in Bosnia at least until the beginning of 1998. Why is it the United States is unable to even start thinking, as you put it, about this until after the elections?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Bildt is free to have his own views. I'm simply expressing the clearly held views of our leadership, and again I think you know what those views are. It's not a question of being unwilling to talk to you about this. We are unable to talk about it until we see the results of the elections, and that's a very important substantive difference, whether some people are out there saying the troops ought to stay for one year or two years or ten years.
QUESTION: Well, the decision has got to be made before, say, the first week of November?
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to see how the situation proceeds. I can't foresee when a decision is made.
QUESTION: Well, forgive me, but can you tell us --
MR. BURNS: And I have no idea why you chose that date.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what it is -- can you put on record just what is so important about these elections that affect that decision?
MR. BURNS: Because the elections -- if you will, everything that has happened since November 21 has led to this coming Saturday. There's been a logical sequence of events, and I named those at the beginning of the briefing -- I won't go through them again -- that have led to this point.
After the elections are held, the key event will be the establishment of the institutions produced by the elections and the people who will occupy the national offices. That is in effect a fundamental turning point for the Bosnian people, and it is the first step -- these elections are the first step in a new stage of this drama that has unfolded over the last five years, from war to peace.
Until we see what transpires with the elections -- the conditions in which they are held, how the voting is carried out, who wins the election, what those people say and what they do in establishing the institutions -- we cannot answer the question, "Is there a need for a follow-on force."
QUESTION: What if there is an invitation to stay from a subsequent government?
MR. BURNS: That would be one factor to look at but by no means the only factor. We will do what's in our national interest.
Final question on Bosnia to Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on Henry Kissinger's opinion, who is suggesting the use of massive force instead of elections?
MR. BURNS: We think it's better to let people decide on a democratic basis their future, and I think that's a pretty clear way of responding to that assertion.
Okay, next issue.
QUESTION: I'm trying to get in on the (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Barry, you want to pursue the Middle East.
QUESTION: Do you want to go to the Middle East, Barry?
QUESTION: No, go ahead on (inaudible).
QUESTION: Thanks. Nick, there are reports today and this weekend, especially the article in the Post today by
Mr. Randall, claimed that Saddam is using his Kurdish allies to execute those who were -- I believe specifically those people who were in the Iraqi National Congress -- round them up, execute them. I understand a couple hundred of these people are holed up near Salahuddin and are in danger of being slaughtered.
But, first, I would ask, are we working with Turkey to get these people out? They say they have nowhere to go. Are we going to give them exile -- I mean, going to give them asylum, and I think even more importantly, have we got all of our U.S. personnel out that were working there with those groups against Saddam?
MR. BURNS: We'll start at the end of your questioning, Bill. All Americans who were present in northern Iraq -- and there are a variety of people doing a variety of things -- have left. As you know, we advised American citizens last Monday and Tuesday that they should leave all parts of Iraq because of the fighting, and I can't say that all Americans, private Americans, have left. We think a substantial number of them have left.
Second, the President really answered your -- I guess your second question that stems from some of the press articles. As the President said this morning, we are going to do our best to protect the people who are working with us, but, obviously, we can't get into many details there because we don't want to compromise the efforts to get people out, which are currently being undertaken.
Third, I'd tell you that we don't have, of course, exact knowledge of all the details of the fighting that has resumed over the last couple of days, but our very clear message to the Kurdish factions, both of them, is this: You're not going to succeed and be secure in the future with Saddam Hussein as an ally. You're not going to succeed with the Iranian leadership as your ally.
You've had long-held differences. You ought to try to overcome some of those differences and at least work together to stop the fighting, to provide a better measure of stability in northern Iraq, and the United States remains very interested in trying to work with the Kurdish factions to see if they can overcome their political differences. That's our advice to them this morning.
As for the fighting, we wish it would stop. It's not in the long-term interest of even Mr. Barzani to continue the fighting. His short-term gains will lead to long-term problems for him. His only real future alternative is to re-engage with Mr. Talabani, and that's our advice to him today.
QUESTION: What are the long-term problems you're talking about?
MR. BURNS: The long-term problems are that, I think, Saddam Hussein has demonstrated time and again over the last five years, including last week, that he wishes to annihilate the Iraqi Kurds, and certainly to dominate them if he can't annihilate them. We don't believe that
Mr. Barzani has made a smart move in even aligning himself on a short- term basis with the Iraqi leadership.
Our message, of course, to Mr. Talabani is that the Iranians can't be of much help, and so the only possible recourse -- and it's a very bitter one for both of them -- is that they've got to talk to each other and they've got to stop fighting each other.
QUESTION: Nick, can you confirm that the INC is working to get the INC people that were allies against Saddam out of Kurdistan, is that correct?
MR. BURNS: The President answered that question this morning. We're making efforts to try to protect those people who have been helpful to the United States.
QUESTION: Can you say anymore?
MR. BURNS: I really can't, and he didn't either.
QUESTION: Nick, but if there isn't a cease-fire soon, it looks like the only chance for these people will be get over the border, either towards Iran or Turkey. Does the Administration plan to ask Turkey to open the border?
MR. BURNS: There have been a number of discussions with a number of countries, but for very good reasons I can't get into the details of that today.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout of today's meeting in Ankara between Foreign Minister Ciller? Well, it was scheduled. There should have been a meeting today regarding the buffer zone.
MR. BURNS: No, I don't have a readout, but I can tell you that Secretary Christopher called Foreign Minister Ciller yesterday, and the Secretary had a very good detailed discussion about the reasons for the Turkish action. The Secretary, I think, received satisfaction on the major points of concern to the United States that he enunciated over the weekend.
We've been told by the Turkish Government that this action will be limited in duration; that there will be no stationing of Turkish troops inside northern Iraq. We understand, because we're Turkey's ally, that Turkey has legitimate security concerns about its border because of the past activities of the PKK.
So the United States understands the reasons that Turkey has put forward for the Turkish actions, and we accept the fact that Mrs. Ciller has been straightforward about the limitations on Turkey's military action in northern Iraq. On that basis, of course, we have supported this.
Charlie is first, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Going back to the part of the discussion about Iraq when you said all Americans -- the official Americans who were -- I think you said a variety of people doing a variety of things. Can you address the reports of State Department personnel in Iraq and what they were doing in northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that there were a handful of USAID officers who were in effect running the humanitarian assistance program -- economic assistance program to the Kurds over the last five years. Those people were withdrawn. It was a decision made by Secretary Christopher and Tony Lake and others early last week, and I think for good reason were withdrawn because of the fighting. We didn't want their lives to be endangered.
QUESTION: Could I, in the Middle East -- still Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Chris still has a -- we have a couple more on Iraq, Barry.
QUESTION: A question on Sulaymaniyah. Is the United States prepared to see Sulaymaniyah fall if the fighting continues?
MR. BURNS: That's not up to the United States. It's up to the Kurdish factions. They're responsible for the fighting, and our advice to them is stop fighting; stop trying to seek short-term tactical advantage, because in the long term even a loose union, where they agree to disagree but don't fight, is far better than the current fighting.
QUESTION: Before the Iraqis helped the KDP take Irbil, the U.S. sent diplomatic messages to the Iraqi Government through the United Nations. Have any messages of that sort been sent since the missile strikes, specifically to do with Sulaymaniyah or other --
MR. BURNS: I think you know that we sent a message to the Iraqis last week, and General Shalikashvili talked about that yesterday. The message was very specific about what they should and should not do in the south of the country, particularly concerning their air defenses, a majority of which were destroyed last week by the United States.
QUESTION: But that same message regarding what's happening in the north --
MR. BURNS: There have been a variety of messages sent, but those are private messages.
QUESTION: Will the U.S. react about Sulaymaniyah if it falls?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Will the U.S. do anything if Sulaymaniyah falls? Has any message been sent to --
MR. BURNS: It hasn't fallen. We're following the course of the fighting. We are in touch with both Kurdish factions, as you would expect us to be in touch with them, and that very strong advice we've given them privately is what I've said to you publicly: "Stop the fighting. This is not going to be to your advantage in the long term. Saddam Hussein is not a trusted ally." That's been our message to Mr. Barzani.
QUESTION: The prospect has been raised, I guess, whether it falls or not, of a possible sizable exodus of Kurds. Is the U.S. prepared to see that happen again?
MR. BURNS: We certainly would not like that to happen. We want to see stability in northern Iraq so that the Kurdish people stay where they've been for centuries. As you know, we did act in 1991 to save the Kurdish people from Saddam Hussein, and "Operation Provide Comfort," which continues -- and Mrs. Ciller, of course, confirmed the continuation of "Provide Comfort," and the Secretary expressed his appreciation to her for that; it continues -- that operation is designed to stabilize northern Iraq so that the Kurds stay and don't leave. That's another reason why the Kurdish faction should stop the fighting, for the sake of their own population.
Still on this issue? Yes.
QUESTION: I just wondered if you could -- if there were any details regarding the -- well, the United States' acceptance of the creation of this buffer zone in northern Iraq on the border. Are there any -- I mean, how is it going to take place? Is it going to be ten kilometers or five to ten kilometers that were mentioned? Do you have any details?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask the Turkish Government that question. We have been assured of the points where we had -- the points that were important to us -- limited in scope and duration and no permanent stationing of Turkish troops.
QUESTION: What does "limited in scope and duration" mean? I mean, is it going to be --
MR. BURNS: I think it's quite similar to past Turkish incursions. But you're asking questions about the kilometer basis, that's a question for the Turkish General Staff, not for the State Department.
QUESTION: Were you quite satisfied that a vague statement of duration is all right?
MR. BURNS: It's not vague.
QUESTION: You didn't ask for a specific ten kilometer or five --
MR. BURNS: It's not vague. These are commitments made to us by the Turkish Government. Turkey has found, I think, once again that the United States is a reliable ally. There has been a variety of reactions to this in Europe and around the world. I think Turkey has found that the United States is a trusted ally. We do understand practical security concerns that Turkey clearly has, and we wish that other countries would understand those concerns and understand the reasons why Turkey has undertaken this action.
QUESTION: You're not concerned that this could pose a threat to Iraqi territorial integrity?
MR. BURNS: Turkey, along with the United States, for five years has supported the territorial integrity of Iraq and argued against those who say dismember Iraq. The United States supports the territorial integrity of Iraq. Saddam Hussein, however, because of his vile actions five years ago, gave up the right to object when American, British and French airplanes fly over his country or when we establish humanitarian operations or when we respond to his aggression -- the aggression of last week. He gave up his right to object to that, very clearly, and under international law we are right in what we've done.
Mr. Lambros, yes.
QUESTION: I'm thinking about the buffer zone with almost 20,000 Turkey troops. What is the purpose for such a massive force inside Iraqi territory?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I think you'll agree that all of us who are in NATO -- all countries in NATO ought to understand Turkey's legitimate securityconcerns on its borders. Anyone who's studied the situation there understands that those are legitimate security concerns.
QUESTION: Do you approve for 20,000 troops to be in the Iraqi territory for this --
MR. BURNS: It's up to the Turkish Government to decide how many troops it wants to deploy in a military operation, but we do have proof that Turkey has been victimized by terrorism across that border. Any country that suffers from terrorism has got to decide what it's going to do to stop it and protect its own population.
QUESTION: It was reported in The Washington Post yesterday that Secretary of State Christopher was the first who sent a letter to Tansu Ciller in asking Turkey to intervene to calm the crisis. Could you please clarify and what --
MR. BURNS: We've had good discussions with Turkey all along throughout this, and I think Turkey has found the United States is the best ally it has.
QUESTION: Did the United States ask Turkey to set up the buffer zone?
MR. BURNS: The United States did not ask Turkey. Turkey made its decision on its own. We received the assurances that we sought, and on that basis, as you know, Secretary Christopher said over the weekend that the United States understood the reasons for the Turkish action.
QUESTION: So far the U.S. response in Iraq has been described as a measured response, but over the weekend people like Senator Lugar and Brookings Institution suggested a disproportionate bombing should be initiated. Is this something in the works now? What's your reaction to such a suggestion?
MR. BURNS: As the President said last week, we are satisfied with the way in which the United States responded militarily to Saddam Hussein's aggression. As Secretary Christopher said repeatedly last week in Paris, in Bonn and in London, the United States reserves the right to undertake any future military action, depending upon the behavior of Saddam Hussein, and that has got to be the yardstick that we use in the future, in the coming weeks and months, to decide what our own actions should be.
QUESTION: Back to the Middle East.
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: I have a couple of things. The U.S. position, please, on whether the conference plans for Cairo in mid-November, the follow-on to Casablanca --
MR. BURNS: The United States believes that the --
QUESTION: Should it go on?
MR. BURNS: -- the Middle East economic conference should go forward. Casablanca and Amman, the last two conferences, were quite a success, and, Barry, as you know very well, building peace is not just signing treaties, it's not just having political discussions, it's creating trade and economic relationships on the ground. That's what this conference will lead to -- the normalization of economic relationships.
So we support it. We intend to be there. We hope the conference is held.
QUESTION: It should not be conditional, I take it, on any particular thing -- Israel (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: We do not support that. We support the conference going ahead.
QUESTION: All right. Now on another subject that's apropos very much -- Netanyahu's visit. What's the U.S. view now of the security situation in Hebron? Is it just -- is it adequate for Israel to pull its troops back from all but the 400 or so Jews who live there?
MR. BURNS: This is a commitment made during the Oslo process, but it's a very important issue that the Palestinians and Israelis have not yet agreed upon. We prefer to keep our advice private and not public on that issue to both parties.
QUESTION: Is it significant to the State Department that the Peres Government did not meet the March deadline either?
MR. BURNS: It is a fact that the government of Shimon Peres went across the first deadline and established a new deadline. That's a fact.
QUESTION: Yes. I mean, does that tell the U.S. something about the attitude in Israel of various political -- from various political groups as to the wisdom of redeploying now in Hebron, which has been the scene of several massacres over the last 70 or so years?
MR. BURNS: Barry, you know that after Prime Minister Netanyahu's election, we said two things on Hebron. One, that he had to be given some time to form a government and to discuss this very difficult and emotional issue inside that government before we could rationally expect any course of action from the Israeli Government. He was elected back at the end of May.
As you know, we also said -- the second thing we said, and Secretary Christopher repeated this over the weekend -- it's very important to meet your commitments. It's important to take action. We'll have to see what happens. We'll have to see when the Israeli Government chooses to conclude an agreement on this with the Palestinian authorities.
I think what comes out of last week's meeting between Netanyahu and Arafat is an agreement that there will be a group of people who get together, as you know, to discuss all these issues, including Hebron.
QUESTION: Then it's all right with the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: We've always said that the best way to move forward is to have the countries and parties that are directly involved discuss these issues themselves. Of course, we'll be on the sidelines and behind the scenes, on the phone, working with them but not giving public advice.
QUESTION: Well, but -- not to belabor it, but there's a distinction between agreements already reached and your advice -- your position on agreements that you might like to see reached. On the latter, your position is: We have views, but it's up to the two sides to work them out.
The Hebron thing has been dealt with in an agreement, so I want to be straight. Even though there was an agreement to pull out of Hebron, essentially, and to do it by March, the U.S. goes along with the view that the Israelis and the Palestinians have lots of things to talk about before executing that agreement.
MR. BURNS: We have said consistently, since the formation of the new Israeli Government, that all agreements should be met, and that includes, of course, the agreement on Hebron.
We've also said that when problems arise, and clearly there's a problem between the Israelis and Palestinians on Hebron redeployment, that we are most effective diplomatically in maintaining silence in public on the advice that we're offering in order to break logjams and deal with misunderstandings and disagreements. That's essentially the policy that we're following.
We have all sorts of views on these issues and we make them clear to Mr. Arafat and Mr. Netanyahu, but we choose not to discuss them in this forum.
QUESTION: All right, but procedurally they are establishing some sort of a working group to deal with that, and that is all right with the U.S. Government?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Christopher said yesterday in London, it was positive that the Steering Group -- the Israeli-Palestinian Steering Group -- has been established now. There is now a forum to work out these problems -- not just the newspapers and not just public declarations, but face-to-face meetings. That's positive. That's a step forward.
As Secretary Christopher put it yesterday, it's a psychological step forward, which he believes, as a very experienced negotiator in the Middle East, is sometimes a key point in negotiations when you overcome psychological barriers.
QUESTION: As you know --
MR. BURNS: Still in the Middle East, and then we'll go back to Cyprus.
QUESTION: I hope Cyprus is --
MR. BURNS: Cyprus is in Europe, I thought.
QUESTION: Cyprus is in Europe? Okay.
MR. BURNS: Cyprus is a European country. We'll get back to Europe.
QUESTION: You said that nothing has changed, but what makes you hope that the Israeli-Syrian negotiations will resume in the future when Mr. Netanyahu still does not feel bound by his predecessors' assurances regarding a withdrawal from the Golan Heights?
MR. BURNS: We understand that this is a particularly difficult time in the history of the Middle East peace process, going back 25-30 years. It's certainly a less optimistic time than a year ago or late last autumn when there was some hope for a comprehensive peace agreement.
But Secretary Christopher said yesterday that a number of good things had happened. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat shook hands and met. They created a steering group to meet and resolve their problems directly between them, which is the best way to approach problem-solving.
The Ad Hoc Liaison Group met here in Washington, DC about the important issue of assistance to the Palestinians. Secretary Christopher and Mr. Levy met yesterday and now Prime Minister Netanyahu is here. A variety of positive things have happened that we should not disregard.
We are mindful of the fact that this is a very difficult process. We cannot predict when success will occur, if it does, but we are committed to working with them, to moving forward. It's the only possible way forward -- to keep working diplomatically towards a solution.
QUESTION: Anything new -- apparently the Clinton Administration has asked Israel to increase, yet again, the number of exit permits for Palestinians. Is there anything new on that? We know it was increased to 50,000; that was Friday, I believe. Since then, has there been anything new?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any steps beyond the 50,000 number. We're pleased that the Israeli Government has sought to ease the conditions -- the harsh conditions -- for the Palestinians.
We would hope that those conditions could be eased further in the future.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate a little bit on what these new concrete steps the Secretary of State spoke about yesterday are? What they might involve? What are you looking for?
MR. BURNS: Steve, there are a variety of issues that the Israelis and Palestinians have to discuss together. It's not just Hebron.
One of the primary issues is, what are the conditions under which Palestinians live in areas still administered by the Israeli Government. And also, what are the rights of Palestinians in terms of working in Israel itself?
We were pleased that progress was made last week on that point. That's an example. But we think that further steps should be taken. Secretary Christopher was very clear about that in his press conference yesterday.
QUESTION: As --
MR. BURNS: On easing conditions for workers; on Hebron. There are a lot of issues that have to be discussed.
QUESTION: Generally speaking, have you received any positive response to all these calls by Secretary Christopher to take more concrete steps? We know what the U.S. Administration is telling Israel, but what is Israel saying? What is Netanyahu saying these past few hours or days?
MR. BURNS: If you wait two and a half hours, you'll probably hear him saying something in the Oval Office. There's a limit to how much I can do today, obviously. I'm just simply restating U.S. positions here. Nothing new in what I'm saying. Wait and interview him. He's here in Washington and listen to what he says from the Oval Office today. I can't speak for Prime Minister Netanyahu.
QUESTION: Nick, you say you hope the closure can be eased further, and the Prime Minister is saying it takes two to dance. Does Arafat have to do anything to make the conditions appropriate for further easing of the closure, or is he doing everything he can?
MR. BURNS: He has to meet his commitments under the Oslo Accords, and we believe that by and large he is. He also has to meet, I think, the very understandable Israeli concern that everything that can be done will be done to avoid future acts of terrorism, understanding that's not totally within the control of Yasser Arafat, but that there are things the Palestinian Authority can do to diminish the threat of terrorism.
QUESTION: As you know, in Cyprus over the weekend, a Turkish soldier was killed and another one was wounded. Turkish Cypriots accused Greek Cypriots and the Greek Cypriots said they have no idea who did the shooting. Does this represent in your view an escalation of conflict on the island? And did the State Department or the Administration get in touch with the parties on the island since then?
MR. BURNS: We hope it does not lead to an escalation of the emotion and differences on the island itself between the Turkish population and Greek population.
We understand that one Turkish soldier was killed and a second seriously wounded yesterday, September 8.
The facts of the killing are not yet clear. We understand the sovereign- base area police are conducting an investigation of the incident. The British Government is also conducting an investigation because, as you know, the British have bases. One base has close proximity to the place of this incident.
The United States urges both communities on Cyprus to cooperate fully with the British investigation and also to investigate the incident themselves thoroughly. If they uncover evidence leading to the perpetrators of the killing, that those people should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Until the investigations are completed, we call upon all concern to withhold comment -- public comment -- to avoid provocative behavior in Cyprus.
The United States deplores this killing. It deplores this killing which we believe can only obstruct efforts to find the kind of solution to the Cyprus problem that must be found. We urge both sides to take all necessary measures to avoid further incidence and to restore calm to the situation.
QUESTION: But the Administration itself did not get in touch with any parties; am I right?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Ken Brill is a very effective and very able and very energetic Ambassador. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if he had conversations with both communities and with the Government of Cyprus on this, and, of course, because others are involved, including the United Kingdom. We, of course, are having conversations but we're not the principal actors here. We're not going to conduct the investigation ourselves; that's up to the British. It's up to the sovereign-base area authorities. It's up to the communities themselves to ascertain who was involved.
But the killer should be found and prosecuted. There's no question about that.
QUESTION: You mentioned too much the British. What about the UN?
MR. BURNS: I understand that the sovereign-area base commander is involved, and I understand the British are involved and we understand the communities are involved. There are a lot of people involved in this.
QUESTION: New subject. As I'm sure you know, the European Foreign Ministers yesterday, meeting in Ireland, decided to postpone any retaliation for the D'Amato and Helms-Burton laws until after the American election. This seems to suggest that your European allies think that both of those laws are entirely politically motivated and that there will be some change after election. Have you got any comment or words of wisdom for the Europeans on that?
MR. BURNS: We certainly think it's appropriate that they would suspend any notion that the European Union would retaliate against the United States, first.
Second, we believe and recommend to the European Union that they never retaliate because there is no basis for retaliation.
Third, I think that Under Secretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat had important discussions. I can't say that we changed minds. But when he met with Dick Spring and when he met with Leon Brittan and the other EU officials -- he'll soon have bilateral talks with the French and others -- I think he was able to give them a sense of the complexity of these issues.
Now, Helms-Burton, in particular -- one of the things we'd like to see the Europeans spend their time on, in addition to criticizing the United States, is to think about ways that we can work together to promote democracy in Cuba. Because, certainly, the European countries support democracy, and they ought to support democracy in Cuba and support efforts to promote democracy against the authoritarian government of Fidel Castro. So we'd like to work on that as a positive way to bridge this issue.
On the legal basis, we're very pleased. We think it's appropriate that they've decided not to act.
As for your question on politics, I think you know that on Helms-Burton this was passed because both Houses of Congress and both political parties were legitimately outraged at what Fidel Castro did in murdering four Americans back on February 24.
QUESTION: Do you think European Foreign Ministers are wrong to expect that there will be any change in American policy after the elections? That's what they seem to be suggesting.
MR. BURNS: I don't know what's going to happen in our own elections. Therefore, I cannot foresee -- I cannot predict for you what the actions of a Clinton or Dole government would be in 1997 on this issue. We'll just have to wait.
The Europeans, I think, appropriately, recognize they have to wait and be patient on that particular score. But I would reject the charge that somehow this is politics. I think it's much more complex on both issues than politics.
QUESTION: Last Friday, 31 U.S. Congressmen sent a letter to President Clinton to ask to punish Turkey because of the violation of the Iran sanctions law. Have you heard of this letter?
MR. BURNS: A letter from --
QUESTION: From the 31 U.S. Congressmen to President Clinton. They are asking to punish Turkey for a violation of the natural gas deal and the Cyprus issue.
MR. BURNS: We continue to look into the various allegations that have been made by some of the contracts that have been signed between Turkey and Iran. I don't believe we're at the end of that process of investigating whether or not these were violations of the recent law that was signed by the President.
QUESTION: On Japan. Do you have any comment on the conclusion of the referendum which took place yesterday in Okinawa, in Japan?
MR. BURNS: That was a very important event. We watched it quite closely. Of course, it's an internal Japanese matter. But I can tell you that the results were not unexpected.
I think the most important thing the United States can say is the following: That President Clinton and Prime Minister Hashimoto have reaffirmed -- reaffirmed in their summit meeting last April -- the importance of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty, its role in maintaining stability in Asia, peace in Asia, and promoting prosperity in Asia.
The United States will continue to cooperate with the Government of Japan through the Special Action Committee on Okinawa that was established by our two governments. This is a process that we hope will help to calm some of the concerns of people on Okinawa.
We seek to reduce the impact of the American military presence in Okinawa consistent with our responsibilities under the Mutual Security Treaty that we have in place with the Japanese.
Under the treaty, the Government of Japan is obligated to provide areas and facilities for use by American forces. We have complete confidence in the Government of Japan's commitment to fulfilling its own obligations under this treaty.
The only other thing I can say on this is that the Okinawan people desire, obviously, as a result of this referendum, an adjustment to the bases and facilities and the procedures. That's why we've been working so hard on this Special Bilateral Committee to see what can be done. But I can tell you that we're committed to keep American forces in Japan; that they're there at the request of the Japanese Government.
I think if we all work very hard on this issue, we believe that there can be satisfaction for all concerned.
Thank you very much.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:14 p.m.)
To the top of this page