U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Thursday, September 12, l996 Briefer: Glyn Davies ANNOUNCEMENT Statement on Iraq ........................................... 1 Secy's Meeting with Ambs of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)... 1, 7-8 --Inter'l Community Must Demonstrate Resolve ................ 1 --Commitment to Security of Friends in the Gulf ............. 1 --GCC Discussions of KEDO and other Issues .................. 3 IRAQ Assistance for Kurds Associated w/Provide Comfort ........... 1-2, 6 --Embassy Personnel in Turkey at Border w/Iraq .............. 2 --PKK Personnel at Turkish Border ........................... 2 --Resettling Kurds/Staying in Turkey ........................ 2-3 Commencement of U.S. "Operation" in Iraq .................... 3 Gulf Cooperation Council Cooperation w/U.S. ................. 3-4 U.S. Discussion w/Israel re: Iraq ........................... 4 Review/Change of U.S. Policy Towards Iraq; Oil .............. 4, 5 Intentions Toward Kuwait; Threat to Neighbors ............... 4-5, 10-12 Former Secy Baker's Criticism to Congress on Coalition ...... 5, 8-10 Use of Bases in Turkey; Saudi Arabia ........................ 5-6 American Citizens in the North .............................. 6-7 Legal Status of Operation Provide Comfort ................... 7 Support of Coalition Allies for U.S. ........................ 7-8 Cooperation from Jordan ..................................... 8-9 Talbott Meetings in France .................................. 9 Meeting at Dept w/Ambassador from Bahrain ................... 9 PEACE PROCESS Visit to Middle East by Dennis Ross ......................... 12 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Ability of Karadzic and Mladic to Vote vis a vis Dayton ..... 12 --Apprehension by IFOR at Voting Stations ................... 12-13 Secretary's Lunch w/Richard Holbrooke ....................... 13 Members of Presidential Delegation; Shattuck, Montgomery .... 13-14
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 1996, 1:20 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. Just one statement for you today, which is keyed to the Secretary's meeting this morning with Ambassadors and Charges from Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
The Secretary today met with the Ambassadors of our Gulf Cooperation Council friends to discuss a number of current issues. The discussion focused on the situation in Iraq and the continuing threat the Saddam Hussein regime poses to regional peace and security.
The statements emanating from Baghdad this morning, with direct threats against Kuwait, illustrate what is at stake for the coalition of countries that confronts Saddam Hussein. His is a regime that has miscalculated in the past and risks repeating this error.
Our actions of the past week should make clear our purpose. Iraq will pay a price for its threats to regional peace and security. The international community must continue to demonstrate, as it has since August 1990, its firm resolve and determination to see all UN Security Council resolutions enforced.
The United States expresses its commitment to the security of our friends in the Gulf and in view of Iraqi statements, repeats that commitment specifically with reference to Kuwait.
QUESTION: Do you have any late word on the Iraqis who -- in whom the U.S. has a particular interest, who supposedly were to go to Turkey?
MR. DAVIES: I spoke with Ambassador Grossman, our Ambassador in Ankara, about an hour and a half ago and got from Marc Grossman a bit of an update. Boiled down, what the United States is doing is working with the Turkish Government to assist those Kurds who were directly associated with the U.S. Government's humanitarian relief efforts in northern Iraq.
There are approximately 2,000 to 2,500 Kurds, including family members, in this group. Over the past five years, these Kurds have been the cornerstone of our humanitarian relief effort. We're committed to providing for their safety.
Because this is a matter that's underway now -- an operation that's underway now -- what I don't want to do is discuss the operational plans under consideration. The last thing we'd want to do is jeopardize the success of what we're doing, but I can assure you that the Government of Turkey is cooperating with us.
I can also report that our Embassy in Ankara, which is working on this, has dispatched some personnel to the region of the border to work with Turkish officials on this. We're confident that we'll be able to do this as quickly as we can and in as effective a manner as possible. Steve.
QUESTION: Are those personnel who have gone from Ankara to the border region there to check documents to overcome the Turkish concerns that PKK personnel might be among those who --
MR. DAVIES: Steve, all I can report to you now is that the personnel who have gone to the border are there for a couple of reasons. (1) Obviously, to be a presence -- eyes and ears of the United States on the scene, which helps us a great deal to have people reporting from the area. But also again to work with Turkish Government officials as we follow through on this. But I don't want to characterize beyond that what it is they're going to be doing.
QUESTION: Have you begun contacting third countries where you will resettle these people once their time is up in Turkey?
MR. DAVIES: Sid, talking about the diplomatic activity that's underway would get me out ahead of what for us is now the most important task, which is to fulfill the commitment that the President of the United States made just a few days ago that the United States will do all possible to assist those in northern Iraq who over the last five years have worked with us.
Part of this effort, of course, is working with others in the region to insure that this operation is a success. But I don't want to telegraph to you what precisely is going to happen with these individuals.
QUESTION: Is there agreement about 90 days inside Turkey before they have to be resettled?
MR. DAVIES: Steve, that would get me into matters of current discussion, I think is the way to respond to that. We haven't yet wrapped all of this up in a blue ribbon, but we're quite positive that this will go ahead in a very timely fashion, and with the safety of those in Iraq uppermost.
QUESTION: You said at the outset the operation is underway, and you just said 15 seconds ago that something will happen in the future, suggesting that it hasn't already begun. Which is it?
MR. DAVIES: When I say "operation," what I mean is the effort with the Turks to put in place what we need to put in place to insure that the people come out. What I can't report to you at this stage is that anybody has yet come out. I can't confirm that for you.
QUESTION: The statement you read at the beginning, was that on behalf of the GCC as well or was that just --
MR. DAVIES: No, that was a unilateral statement, just on our behalf. Again, it's key to these reports that we have out of the region of statements by Tariq Aziz that effectively show the true colors of the Baghdad regime and their true interests in the region right now, which is their gaze remains southward in a strategic sense. What he had to say was a very direct and very real threat to Kuwait.
QUESTION: To what degree is the Cooperation Council cooperating with the U.S. in its desire to protect the member states?
MR. DAVIES: I should explain to you that this was a meeting -- this is interesting. It was set up actually to talk about another part of the world entirely. It was set up to talk about funding for the Korean Energy Development Organization, KEDO, and they did in fact talk about that a little bit.
But, of course, the events of the day moved the subject matter of the meeting much more to the Iraqi situation, and they got into that to a great extent. I think what I would have to do, though, is steer you to them, to those nations and to their representatives and their Embassies, if you would like a characterization of how they viewed it.
QUESTION: Did any of them say to us, "You can protect us, but don't use our airspace"?
MR. DAVIES: It was not an operational meeting. The Secretary of State was not in the business of negotiating landing rights.
QUESTION: The mutual "no surprise" policy between Washington and Jerusalem, does it include the situation in Iraq? Is there anything at all that Israel is required to do in order to help the American effort or just the customary stay out of the picture policy?
MR. DAVIES: I can't report to you what specifically we've been saying to the Israelis in our normal diplomatic exchange about this. Obviously, as an ally, a good ally, in the region, we've kept the Israeli Government up to date on our efforts and what's underway. But that's a version of the question I had earlier, which is meant to get at details of all of this, and that's what I for the time being will stay out of.
QUESTION: In light of the seeming escalation of this conflict, is the United States reviewing its policy toward Iraq and Saddam, perhaps coming up with a different strategy, since these incidents seem to be popping up all the time -- either a more aggressive one or one that accepts his role?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not sure what there is to review. I mean, we have some home truths that haven't changed about Iraq at all. We, as a result of the 1990-91 period, the Gulf War, learned two important lessons about that nation as it's currently governed and constituted, and that is, number one, Saddam Hussein is a threat. He's a regional threat of the first order. And, number two, the way you deal with that is if he acts aggressively, you exact a price from him so that he cannot act with aggression with impunity.
QUESTION: I don't recall the Iraqis, Tariq Aziz or anyone else, talking about Kuwait in this current crisis until the United States announced that it was going to be sending F-117 Stealth fighters to Kuwait. Is my memory incorrect? When you say that Tariq Aziz's words today show what their true intention was. In other words, might not they have been provoked by your sending planes?
MR. DAVIES: I think your statement is basically right in terms of when they made the statement. But the important thing that we draw from this, of course, is that this is a dangerous regime, the Iraqi regime. It has attacked its neighbors in the past, and Aziz's threat to Kuwait shows its potential to do so again. That's why it's clear to us, and we believe to many others, that he has to pay a price when he takes aggressive action.
QUESTION: Glyn, how would you describe U.S. policy toward Iraq and toward Saddam? Is it based on insuring the flow of oil?
MR. DAVIES: We've spoken in the past about our strategic interests in the region, and oil and the continued free flow of oil to the United States and to its allies is certainly a very important part of it. Another important part of our policy in the region is protecting and standing by our allies.
We have important allied friends in the region, including Turkey and Israel. Both of those, I guess, you could call the "twin pillars" of our policy, which is directed at maintaining, to the extent possible, stability. Right now stability equates to keeping Saddam Hussein bottled up within the borders of Iraq. Howard.
QUESTION: Former Secretary Baker had some reasonably strong criticism on Capitol Hill, talking about the demise of the Gulf war coalition, the failure of leadership, the failure of policy, too weak a response militarily to Saddam Hussein last week. Do you have any reaction?
MR. DAVIES: No, because that makes me break the pledge. I mean, Secretary Baker is clearly in a partisan mode, I think, when he's making those attacks, making those charges or those observations from his standpoint, and I'm just not going to engage in responding to every remark or accusation or charge that's made by members of the Republican party or the Democratic party for that matter.
QUESTION: What does the Administration think about the fact that Baghdad was able to announce this morning that it was given guarantees by Turkey that the bases will not be open?
MR. DAVIES: I did not see that report. Was that in the form of a press report? I did not see that report, so I'm really not in a position absent knowing exactly what it was that was said to react to that.
QUESTION: Can you say whether or not the United States asked Turkey for permission to fly planes from Incirlik if there is a strike, as there appears to be preparation for?
MR. DAVIES: No. I can't say at this stage with whom we've consulted or what has been the substance of those consultations. For some of the operational details of what is underway, you can speak to the Pentagon. I think what I'll do is guard the confidentiality of our diplomatic dialogue with the Turks and with others at this stage.
QUESTION: Can you tell us why Saudi Arabia and Turkey have rejected flights by U.S. planes that would be of an offensive nature rather than patrolling the "no-fly" zones?
MR. DAVIES: I would question the premise, in a sense. I don't know that the Saudi Government and the Turkish Government or the U.S. Government have ever discussed publicly the substance of our diplomatic dialogue on what's happening in the Middle East, so I'm not going to get in the business of confirming that, in fact, they've taken a particular position.
In general, what's important to note about the coalition that was created to deal with the Iraqi threat at the beginning of the decade is that it remains very much in place and remains very much active and engaged. The two "no-fly" zones denied flight -- or the southern and northern "no-fly" zones remain very much in effect. They're being patrolled right now.
QUESTION: Glyn, I apologize. I came in just a touch late. You may have touched on this in the statement. Can you state what the current position, from the U.S. standpoint, is of "Operation Provide Comfort;" what its legal status or where it sits as people leave and as you're removing people?
And, also, any remaining U.S. citizens who, I would guess, would be NGO employees, how many remain and what is their status?
MR. DAVIES: You were a bit late. I did talk, certainly, to the second half of your question at the outset. I spoke of the 2,000 to 2,500 persons who fall under the category of those who have worked with the United States in the past.
Actually, you asked about NGOs. That's not something that I have any precise information for you on. I can speak to those who work with us on "Provide Comfort," but I can't really help you with those who may have been with American NGOs.
QUESTION: What about American citizens still remaining in northern Iraq, if any?
MR. DAVIES: I think there may be a handful. Not many at all. We've seen no reports, thankfully, of any American citizens adversely affected by what's occurred. Obviously, the United States Government is doing all that it can to remain in touch with the very few Americans who remain in northern Iraq to ensure that their safety is looked after.
I think when this all began there were on the order, if I recall, 40-or-so Americans. I believe the number's much diminished now, but I don't have a precise figure for you.
QUESTION: Again, apologies if you've covered it at the top. The legal status of "Operation Provide Comfort?"
MR. DAVIES: "Provide Comfort" remains very much an ongoing concern. Right now, the "no-fly" zone portion of "Provide Comfort" is very robustly being prosecuted. It's underway.
Obviously, what's occurred -- Saddam Hussein's aggression in the north -- the fighting necessitated halting a good part of the on-the-ground portion of it, the humanitarian relief effort. That's simply too bad, and we've spoken of that in the past.
There's every intention, to the extent possible, of getting back to that at this stage.
QUESTION: Glyn, is Secretary Christopher, in his meeting today with the members of the GCC and in any consultations he has with other coalition allies that I invite you to share with us, is he taking a firmer or stronger approach in demanding that these allies support the United States as compared to the weak response or criticism that the United States has received in the previous operation from Arab countries and some European allies? Is he calling the chips in, so to speak?
Part of the criticism from former Secretary Baker and others -- General Scowcroft -- is that the United States has been too weak in trying to pressure the other members of the coalition. Is Secretary Christopher actively trying to rectify this?
MR. DAVIES: We're not in the business, Lee, of pounding the table and making demands of our coalition partners. They act, of course, in their interest, when it's in their interest. Their interest coincides with ours on a key point here, which is that they understand full well, and have said as much in their condemnation of what has happened, that Saddam Hussein is a threat, and is very much a threat regionally. They've made that known. So there's no need for us to shore up the coalition on that standpoint.
In terms of the action that we may or may not take, the action we took before was effectively unilateral with the cooperation of the British. Any further action that the United States takes, if we need to to protect our interests, we'll take it unilaterally. But we are satisfied with the level of consultations that we have with all members of the coalition, with all regional powers.
The fact that the Secretary of State met this morning and had a good discussion with the GCC is one indication of that. We have discussions ongoing in a number of different fora, at a number of different levels, with all countries in the region with whom we've worked in the past. That continues, and we're quite satisfied with it.
QUESTION: Have you called Minister de Charette or anyone else like that to consult over this situation?
MR. DAVIES: He has been in touch with Minister de Charette repeatedly, including of course when they met just recently in Paris. I haven't seen his phone log. I don't know if he's phoned him in the last 12 or 24 hours.
QUESTION: Why will we act unilaterally?
MR. DAVIES: Pardon me?
QUESTION: You said any forthcoming action, we'll act unilaterally.
MR. DAVIES: I don't think I said that. I hope I didn't say that; didn't mean to. What I said was, the United States acts unilaterally if it's in its interest to do so. The United States takes whatever action it needs to take to protect its interests. In some situations, it's better to do so in cooperation with our allies and partners; in others, it makes a lot of sense simply to do it on our own.
We will take whatever action we need to take in this situation.
QUESTION: The level of cooperation from Jordan is satisfactory to your mind?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to get into sort of putting up a sheet with grades from A through D and all of our partners here. We're very satisfied with the level of consultations that we've had with the Government of Jordan and with all the other countries in the region.
QUESTION: Consultation or cooperation? You've used those interchangeably. There's a big difference.
MR. DAVIES: Consultation, at this stage. We're discussing with our partners in the region the situation, sharing views with them.
As I have reported already, what's clear is that they share our concern about Saddam Hussein's aggressive actions and intentions.
QUESTION: Strobe Talbott is in Paris right now to talk with the French and Russians about NATO. Is he also talking about Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: I'm sure Iraq will come up. I'm absolutely confident it will.
The primary purpose of his going, of course, was to meet with Minister Primakov. This is a follow-up to his meeting a couple of weeks in Ottawa with the Minister -- I'm sorry, it's not with Primakov. It's with Primakov's deputy -- Mamedov. The primary purpose of the discussion is to talk about European security issues, NATO expansion, NATO-Russian relations; those kinds of issues.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you one more about Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
QUESTION: The Ambassador from Bahrain was here late yesterday afternoon with three of his, of what looked to be, key military advisors from the Embassy. What were they talking about, and with whom did they meet?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I can check into that for you. I do not know. Can't confirm that he was even here.
QUESTION: Former Secretary Baker today presented a totally different assessment of the relationship between Washington and the former coalition. "What happened," he asked; "why?;" how our relation deteriorated so badly over the last -- how come? Is this a partisan assessment, or is there a problem when you compare the coalition today and how it was cooperating with Washington a few years ago?
MR. DAVIES: I think it's always a mistake to compare situations, especially five years apart. The one comparison I made earlier was to talk about Saddam Hussein's aggressive actions and intentions five years ago and that continuing pattern today. I keep coming back to this because it's the most important point to underscore, that there's a commonality of analysis on Saddam Hussein and what he represents and the kind of threat that he is. That remains very much the same.
But situations are different. The situation that occurred when Saddam Hussein invaded a sovereign member of the United Nations was one quite different from the situation in which he sends three divisions of men north of the 36th parallel to beat up on some Kurds and unseat one faction in favor of another. They're different situations.
Obviously, the analysis of different nations is going to be different.
As to what former Secretary Baker had to say, it's a free country.
QUESTION: Glyn, aren't you now raising the threat of another invasion of Kuwait as more evidence that you all need to act? Isn't that what your opening statement was all about?
MR. DAVIES: What we're responding to is the rhetoric coming out of Baghdad and simply making a point, which is that it had better remain rhetoric. I do not mean to suggest to you that our analysis is that Iraqi legions are on the march. We've just got no evidence like that to give you. So it would be wrong for you to draw from this that we have, all of a sudden, decided to increase our DEFCON, or that we've decided that something is afoot.
What seems to be afoot here, though, is Iraqi rhetoric which is very revelatory. Tariq Aziz has, once again, put the lie to this notion that Saddam Hussein is a benign, benevolent regional actor. He's not. His own Deputy Prime Minister just made the point for us.
QUESTION: Then we shouldn't draw from this that you're also worried about him invading Kuwait again? It's just words you'd like him to stop saying? You're not now trying to make your case by throwing that in? You're now trying to make your case for stronger military action by saying he's upped the ante with this threat of invading Kuwait?
MR. DAVIES: Sid, I'm not here to report to you that the United States is engaged in preparation for any particular military action. First of all, that's not what we do from this podium. Normally, it's done across the river at the Pentagon.
But more to the point. There is, obviously, a message in what we've had to say here today, which is that they had better not match this rhetoric with any reality or any action because it is an absolutely irreducible commitment of the United States that Saddam Hussein will not again do what he did five years ago and invade Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or any other sovereign nation.
QUESTION: I'm still having trouble understanding what precisely the United States views as the proximate threat right now. Historically, in this situation it looks as if he's moved troops to the north and, by doing so, has more or less stuck his thumb in the eye of the coalition, especially the United States, evoking a response which is on the record now and threats of further responses.
But what precisely does the United States see him doing right now that threatens anyone outside his borders?
MR. DAVIES: He continues to thwart the will of the international community in terms of his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. All you need to do is talk to the United Nations and the monitors who have been trying for years now to get at the extent to which he is seeking to retain a chemical weapons and a missile capability. He's lied repeatedly about that. He's hidden what he has been up to on that front.
The UN has time and time again ferreted that out and shown to the world what Iraq has done.
He retains clearly at least three divisions, certainly many more, of forces; continues to pour what treasure the international community has allowed him to accumulate into his armed forces, at the expense of his own people; and he continues to speak threateningly, directly, which he did not too many days ago, and now through Tariq Aziz.
All of this adds up to a guy who has yet to get the message from the international community, which is: cease to be a threat regionally. He remains one in our view.
QUESTION: But in the things you've enumerated here, there is nothing that really suggests a threat emanating out of the events of the last couple of weeks. I mean, the weapons of mass destruction, the armed forces and his rhetoric -- there's nothing particularly new in any of that, is there?
MR. DAVIES: Perhaps the timing of what Tariq Aziz had to say is troubling to us. Thus, the statement that we made. We obviously felt the need to make a point here based on what Aziz has done, and we've done so. I can go back into what I've said repeatedly in the last couple of minutes. The bottom line is that the international community, led by the United States, is not going to stand for aggression by Saddam Hussein against his neighbors, in particular allies and friends of the United States.
Anything else? Other subjects. Just Iraq?
QUESTION: There are reports that Dennis Ross is going to the Middle East next week. Can you --
MR. DAVIES: It will have to remain reports for the time being. What I can tell you is that Dennis is considering going to the region at some point in the near future. I would hope we'll have something to give you on that relatively soon, but nothing has yet been nailed down. There's been no decisions made.
QUESTION: Has there been a moment in Dennis Ross' life in the last five years --
MR. DAVIES: When he wasn't considering --
QUESTION: -- when he wasn't considering going to the Middle East?
MR. DAVIES: He goes to the region when it's useful to go to the region, and it may be useful in coming days to go to the region. But I spoke with Dennis just recently, and I don't yet have a green light to talk about anything. So we'll wait and see. Maybe I'll have something tomorrow or the next day.
QUESTION: Bosnia? Both Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic have expressed through spokespeople their intention to vote in the elections this weekend. Is there anything in the Dayton accord or with the OSCE that would preclude them from casting a ballot?
MR. DAVIES: That's a very interesting question, and I'm racking my brain, my memory of the Dayton agreement, to decide whether or not there is anything that is on point, as the lawyers say, and I can't think of anything. So that's one that is such a good question, I'll take that question.
QUESTION: And if you could add, too, while you're taking that question, if they were to show up at a voting location and --
MR. DAVIES: Ay, there's the rub. (Laughter)
QUESTION: -- would IFOR be in a position to apprehend them?
MR. DAVIES: If, in the course of performing their duties, those gentlemen or any other indicted war criminals heave into view, IFOR is going to do the right thing, which is to apprehend them -- in the case of Mladic, heave into view -- I use that advisedly. He's a big guy.
QUESTION: South Africa. President Rafsanjani is in South Africa on a state visit this week. How does the Administration see the deepening ties between South Africa and Iran? Will the Iran visit have any effect on U.S.-South Africa relations in terms of policy, politics or investment?
MR. DAVIES: Towards South Africa?
MR. DAVIES: The United States has a very important, strong relationship with South Africa on a broad range of fronts. We've made clear to the South Africans our concerns about their dialogue with Iran, with Libya, so they're in no doubt of our view of maintaining relationships with those countries.
Those are not countries that we believe we can deal with -- any civilized nation can deal with constructively. South Africa is not the only country that has seen fit to host visits. So essentially that's our view of it, and we've made that plain to the South Africans.
You're looking bored. Anything else?
QUESTION: Mr. Holbrooke -- is he in the building having lunch?
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Holbrooke's in the building having lunch on the 8th floor with the Secretary of State.
QUESTION: Is he going to be available to us sometime or --
MR. DAVIES: I don't think so. I had a chance to shake his hand recently -- always a pleasure and an honor -- and he's in his go-go-go mode, and I think -- I know -- that in the region he'll be mighty available to the press and very visible.
QUESTION: Is John Shattuck going to Bosnia for the elections, too?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not sure. We're going to have a bevy of officials out there -- quite a few officials out there -- including John Kornblum and, of course, the President's Special Representative, Ambassador Holbrooke. But I can check that to see whether John will be out there. He's usually where the action is, and that's where the action will be this weekend.
QUESTION: Shattuck and Montgomery.
MR. DAVIES: Shattuck and Montgomery, yes. I think quite a few of the people who have worked the Bosnia issue are going to be out there helping with this effort to monitor the election.
QUESTION: Three, two, one. Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:52 p.m.)
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