U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Wednesday, September 18, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns JAPAN Secretary's Bilateral Meeting Foreign Minister Ikeda ........ 1 U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee Meeting Tomorrow . 1 -2 --Joint Press Conference Following Meeting .................. 2,3,6-7 DEPARTMENT Applications for U.S. Passports Available on the Internet ... 2 Tomorrow's Daily Briefing Schedule .......................... 2-3 IRAQ A/S Pelletreau's Meeting with Kurdish Faction Leader Barzani/ Turkish Officials ........................................ 3,4,11-12 Prospects for Pelletreau Meeting with Talabani .............. 3 Kurdish Refugee Situation/UNHCR Coordination ................ 4-5 Status of Iraqi Reply to U.S Diplomatic Note/Content of Note 5,7-9 French Government Comments re: Number of Iraqi Forces During Incursion into Northern Iraq ........................ 5-6 Status of Iraqi Troop Withdrawal from the North/Status of Iraqi Forces/Military Movements/Military Supplies to the KDP 7-10 Iran's Influence in Northern Iraq/Stationing of Troops ...... 10 Turkey's Establishment of a "Buffer Zone" in Northern Iraq .. 10-11 Status of Implementation of Resolution 986 .................. 11 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Reported Israeli Announcement re: Expansion of Settlements .. 12-14 Secretary's Meeting with Israeli Ambassador to U.S. ......... 13 Ambassador Ross' Travel in the Region/Mtg with Arafat ....... 13,15 Israeli Prime Minister's Comments re: Israeli Security ...... 14-15 Secretary's Meeting in New York with Syrian FM Shara ........ 15 NORTH KOREA Reported Incident re N. Korea Submarine Found on S. Korea Coast ...................................................... 15-16 SOMALIA Kidnapped USAID Employee Released ........................... 16 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Prospects for Follow-on Mission in Bosnia ................... 16-17 Process for Lifting Sanctions on Serbia ..................... 17-18 LATIN AMERICA U.S. Diplomatic Efforts in Latin America/U.S. Commitment to Good Relations with Latin America .......................... 18-20 Secretary's Meeting at UNGA with Latin American Officials ... 19 GREECE/TURKEY/CYPRUS Secretary Perry's Recent Travel to Ankara ................... 20-21
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1996, 1:33 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the State Department press briefing. I just wanted to let you know that Secretary Christopher will be seeing the Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Ikeda, at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon, just an hour-and-a-half from now. There is a camera spray at the top of that meeting. I'll be available after the meeting to respond to any questions you might have about that discussion.
QUESTION: Is this primarily about Nomo.
MR. BURNS: I'm sure that the issue of Mr. Nomo will come up and his fantastic no-hitter last night.
QUESTION: Will this be for cameras only, or will --
MR. BURNS: It's cameras only at 3:00 o'clock in the Treaty Room upstairs. But the reason for this is that we're going to have a press event tomorrow built around the 2-Plus-2 discussions. That was my second announcement.
Tomorrow, Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry will welcome Japanese Foreign Minister Ikeda and Japanese Minister of State for Defense Usui to the State Department for a meeting of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee.
This meeting, commonly referred to as the 2-Plus-2, continues the bilateral cooperation on security issues that were so evident during President Clinton's visit to Tokyo in April. The meeting will begin at 9:00 a.m. It will conclude with a working lunch hosted by the Secretary, and following that -- and I would guess this would be around 1:30 p.m. -- there will be a joint press conference of the four ministers upstairs in the Ben Franklin Room. I will make sure that we get you the exact time of that press conference by the end of today.
Secretaries Christopher and Perry and their Japanese counterparts are expected to discuss the work being done by the Special Action Committee on Okinawa, the ongoing review of the 1978 defense guidelines, the two countries respective relationships with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and the efforts of our two governments to expand the stabilizing influence of multilateral security dialogues in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum.
As you know, the United States and Japan signed a mutual cooperation security agreement in January of 1960. The treaty commits both governments to defend Japan, contributes to the maintenance of regional peace and security, and remains the cornerstone of our bilateral defense relationship with Japan. This is a very important meeting, and we thought since there is going to be this press conference tomorrow, that we would forego one this afternoon. But I am available to give you any information you want out of this afternoon's meeting.
My only other announcement is just to say -- and this is really one for public purposes -- that I have in the Press Office a public statement about how American citizens can get passports. As you know, all around the country American citizens have had to line up, and sometimes many hours in line, at our passport agencies to get passports. We issue millions per year.
Now any American can apply for a passport on the Internet. As you know, the Department of State has a Website, a growing Website, and for the first time, as of today, on the Consular Affairs Home Page, on our Website -- the State Department's Website -- American citizens can apply for passports. The public statement that I'm issuing describes how that can be done.
We started our Website just around the turn of the year and the beginning of 1995, and I think the first month we had about 8,000 hits and last month we had 600,000. So we're growing. Nothing to compare with CNN. When I was there last week, they told me they had 18 million hits on one day alone at the beginning of this recent crisis with Iraq. I was astounded by that. So we'll try to catch up to CNN one of these days. But we're still growing and expanding, and we're trying to use the Internet as a way to make it easier for the American public to work with the State Department and to get information from the State Department. All of our major treaties and our speeches and our press briefings are on the Internet, usually available on the same-day basis.
QUESTION: A procedural question concerning tomorrow. You say the joint press conference probably will start around 1:30. How will that affect this briefing, if there is one tomorrow?
MR. BURNS: I think we'll have the press conference upstairs. As you remember -- for those of you with us in New York last year when we had the 2-Plus-2 in New York -- I would expect that this press conference would focus largely on U.S.-Japan issues, and, if it does, then I'll be available probably a half hour after its conclusion to cover other issues in this room.
QUESTION: On the Kurdish situation. Yesterday, you said that Mr. Barzani was going to meet with Mr. Pelletreau tomorrow. Do you have more details on that?
MR. BURNS: I have more details. The meeting that I thought would take place on Thursday is taking place tonight, Ankara time. As you know, Mr. Barzani has met with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mrs. Ciller. That meeting has been concluded, and, when I talked to Bob Pelletreau several hours ago, his expectation was that he would meet with Mr. Barzani following that meeting.
This is a private meeting. Assistant Secretary Pelletreau has decided that he's not going to make this into a press event, so I don't believe there will be any press coverage of it. It will be at a private location. I will have a statement that I will issue after this meeting is concluded, probably in a couple of hours.
Yesterday, I went through for you the reasons why the United States has sought this meeting and some of the objectives that we have going into it. I do know from my discussion with Assistant Secretary Pelletreau this morning that he also plans to have a separate meeting today with the Turkomen leadership that has come from northern Iraq to Turkey. At some point in the future, the United States would desire a direct meeting with Mr. Talabani.
All of this, if I might add, is consistent with the fact that we have been a major partner of the Kurds diplomatically for going on five years now. We've had lots of meetings with them, but we haven't had face-to-face meetings with these two individuals, Barzani and Talabani, for some time.
I do know that in addition to the meeting with
Mr. Barzani today, we remain in touch with Mr. Talabani and his party, but we have not had face-to-face meetings with them.
QUESTION: Where is Bob Deutsch? Is he in Ankara, too?
MR. BURNS: Are you referring to Deutsch, the younger, you mean?
MR. BURNS: Yes, he is in Washington here at the State Department. Not to be confused with Deutch, the senior.
QUESTION: No. The younger.
MR. BURNS: The younger, yes. He is in Washington.
QUESTION: Anybody else is Ankara with Ambassador Pelletreau?
MR. BURNS: Assistant Secretary Pelletreau is there. As you know, when he was with Secretary Perry, he stayed in Ankara, after Secretary Perry left Ankara, at Secretary Christopher's instruction in order to have detailed conversations with the Turkish Government on Iraq, because Assistant Secretary Pelletreau is our senior official in the building dealing with Iraq on a day-to-day basis. He was able to work out a meeting with Mr. Barzani during his time in Ankara. We were very pleased about that.
QUESTION: He's the only senior level --
MR. BURNS: He's the only senior level. I believe that Marc Grossman, our Ambassador to Turkey, will be accompanying Ambassador Pelletreau to this meeting.
QUESTION: Also on the Kurds, in dealing with the refugees and various aspects of the refugees -- those in Iran, those in northern Iraq and those in Turkey -- is it any disadvantage to this government not to be able to talk directly to the Iranians?
MR. BURNS: To the?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe it is a disadvantage for us in this sense. The refugee situation is being coordinated by the United Nations, by the U.N. High Commission on Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross. They have been working directly. They've got their own people in Iran and on the other side of the border as well in Iraq, and they've been working with the central government in Tehran.
The United States is supporting that effort, certainly giving our political support to it, but it's not been necessary for us to have any direct contacts with Iran on the refugee situation. We do have communication with the Iranian Government from time to time. We have protecting power, the Swiss, in Tehran, and from time to time we make use of that, but I'm not aware of any recent contacts of any high-level nature on Iraq with Iran.
QUESTION: Nick, on communications, has there been a reply -- I don't know that one was requested -- on the fax that was sent to the Iraqi Mission?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of a reply. I don't believe there was a reply to the first fax of a week ago Friday, and I'm not sure we expect a reply. What we expect, as the President said yesterday and Secretary Perry said yesterday, is that Saddam Hussein will now comply with some of the facts that we have laid on the table, and we hope that will allow us to proceed in a peaceful fashion.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to report on that front in the last 24 hours?
MR. BURNS: I really don't, and I looked carefully through all the relevant information this morning. I don't believe there's been a change in the situation. I talked to the Pentagon -- not certainly from a military point of view, no change; and diplomatically I think about the same.
QUESTION: But from the U.S. point of view, no change would be to their credit, wouldn't it? It would mean they're not doing the things that you've urged them or warned them not to do, no? I'm talking about Iraq, of course.
MR. BURNS: Yes, yes. Right. And, as you know, we've been primarily concerned with our ability to enforce the "no-fly" zone and to protect the coalition pilots that fly those aircraft. In that respect, some of the statements made out of Baghdad on Friday appear to be holding until today.
We are realistic enough and experienced enough to know that you need to take this on a day-to-day basis and continue to watch the Iraqi behavior. We have deployed military assets to the region that will enable us to take action to defend our interests, should that be necessary. But, as the President said, we're not seeking a confrontation, and we hope that Iraq will continue to draw back from conflict with the United States.
QUESTION: Nick, is it still the U.S. position that up to 40,000 Iraqi forces helped the KDP take Irbil?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any change in our general estimate, and there was never a specific figure, I think, that we mentioned. I saw estimates of between 30 and 50,000, and various figures were used at various points now to more than two weeks ago. But I see no reason to change that calculation.
QUESTION: Have you seen the report out of Paris that the French, based on pictures taken by their Helios spy satellite say that the numbers were dramatically lower than that, and there are French officials quoted as saying that that was one of the reasons that the French did not fully back the U.S. move in the southern "no-fly" zone and one of the reasons they are not patrolling up to the 33rd parallel.
MR. BURNS: I have not seen a report, first of all, from France. For a second, I think that the general figures, the rough figures, given to you by our government several weeks ago during this crisis are accurate, because we, too, have an ability to make a rough estimate in this type of situation, and we're very confident of our ability to do so.
I can assure you that one of the assumptions that our people made was that this was a significant incursion of Iraqi forces, and namely Republican Guard forces, which, as you know, are the vanguard of the Iraqi military. So I see no reason to question our own analysts here, and I would really take issue with whoever it is, saying, of course not on the record but on background, this was the reason for France's decision. I'll let the French explain their own decision, but certainly I believe it was probably made for different reasons than the ones that were cited by some official on background.
MR. BURNS: Just a follow-up here by Mr. Hurst.
QUESTION: A follow-up.
QUESTION: Yes. Before I do, these three events tomorrow, or two events in front of the your press conference, will there be an opportunity to take pictures of those from the television networks -- the 9:00 a.m. meeting and the lunch?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Cameras only for (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Right, cameras. Yes. At 9:00 a.m.
QUESTION: And the lunch?
MR. BURNS: And the lunch -- we normally don't do that. If you'd like to request it, we could talk about it. We normally don't do that.
QUESTION: A follow-up on David's question: What is the status of the Iraqi troops that went into the north? Have they withdrawn to any sizable degree? Are they still there? And, secondly, do you know what -- or can you tell us what the operational status of the Iraqi military at this point is? Are they on some sort of full alert, or have they gone back to a status of pre-crisis?
MR. BURNS: In answer to your first question, it's our understanding, it's our belief, that a substantial number of the forces that went into northern Iraq withdrew. We can't say that every last soldier withdrew, and I think it certainly stands to reason and logic that some of Saddam's security forces remain in northern Iraq, exerting a nefarious influence there.
In answer to the second question, Steve, you'll have to ask the Iraqis what kind of status their military forces are on. We are watching, as you know, primarily what is happening in the south from a military point of view, and in the north as it pertains to the "no-fly" zones.
We're looking at those Iraqi military assets that could possibly have an effect on our ability to police those "no-fly" zones; and, as you know, the thrust of our diplomatic note the other night was to put the Iraqis on notice that there are certain activities that could not be tolerated, and that there are certain activities that followed that would help the situation improve.
QUESTION: Are they still moving their SAM batteries -- the mobile SAM batteries around --
MR. BURNS: I do not know the answer to that question.
QUESTION: Nick, can you just elaborate on that a little bit? You realize if you don't, the note is understood to have dealt with the commonly held -- commonly understood demands of the United States -- don't threaten your neighbors, don't interfere with troops, observe U.N. resolutions, don't rebuild your air defenses.
Yesterday, you intriguingly referred to things you wouldn't be able to get into, and now you're sort of saying the same things along that line. Could you spell it out a little bit? What activities is it, I mean, apart from the ones we all know about, that Iraq now is being warned not to engage in? It sounds like you're piling up demands and maybe a public notice of the demands would even not hurt the U.S. cause, but you might even welcome publicity about what you're now asking of Saddam Hussein. It's a growing list.
MR. BURNS: The focus of our two diplomatic notes, both of them over the last couple of weeks has been to make clear to the Iraqis that our ability to fly in the north and south in the "no-flight" zones is a primary interest of the coalition partners. Any attempt to interfere with that, in a variety of ways, of course, would be most troubling to us and would constitute a most worrisome development.
I want to make that general, Barry, because I think you wouldn't expect me to spell out in detail exactly what these notes say because they're private, but that is the focus of them. I don't want to leave any misimpression about that. That is the focus. All the questions that are subsidiary to that major focus, I think you can probably --
QUESTION: Yesterday -- there are slight variations -- but the focus -- there seemed to be one or two focuses: Not threatening neighbors and not interfering with troops. It sort of moved back and forth a little bit, but that's clearly your two major demands.
Your response to Steve's question dealt with assets; you bore on assets, people they've left behind. That's very intriguing.
MR. BURNS: Assets are both human and physical, though. You were talking about military hardware as well as people.
QUESTION: Yeah. There must be something on the ground there that is distressing the U.S., and that the U.S. has mentioned to Iraq. I wonder if you would share any of that with us?
MR. BURNS: I can't really improve upon what I told you yesterday. It's the "no-flight" zones in north and south. And, as you said, Barry, obviously, it goes without saying that one of the major concerns has been -- as the President put it yesterday -- to maintain this containment of Saddam Hussein so he can't strike at his neighbors to his south. That's a primary U.S. concern.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any objection to the Iraqis sending any further military equipment to the KDP in the north?
MR. BURNS: Our very strong belief is that Iraq does not have and will not have a positive influence in the situation in northern Iraq.
Our strong advice to the KDP is to forego an alliance with Saddam Hussein. We would rather not see a continuation of the fighting. If this question were to be pursued, do we want to see more military hardware sent to the Kurdish factions? No. We'd like to see the Kurdish factions sit down and negotiate their differences.
QUESTION: Is that something that you covered in one of the diplomatic notes?
MR. BURNS: Diplomatic notes were more specific and they referred to the provocations that started the strikes and referred, as I said, to the "no-flight" zones. But we have broader concerns in the north, as you know.
We have a concern about the level of fighting, about the fact that Iraq and Iran are stimulating fighting between the two parties -- the two Kurdish factions. We hope that the factions will forego the military option and return to the negotiating table where they were on August 30.
We also have concerns about the humanitarian situation in northern Iraq, particularly the refugees there. So we have broad concerns throughout Iraq.
These two diplomatic notes were meant to be very specific and clear about some of the military questions. They did not incorporate all of the different issues at play between the United States in the region.
QUESTION: But did they cover that issue -- the issue of military supplies to the KDP in the north?
MR. BURNS: If I begin to answer questions like that, then Barry and others will want to lead me back to other elements that may have been involved. I just want to leave the diplomatic notes, as I described them yesterday and today. I can tell you that we would be very concerned if this type of activity that you referred to, David, continued. We certainly don't want to see it continued. I think that's very clear to the Iraqis.
QUESTION: How about reversed?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
QUESTION: How about withdrawing equipment? When assets are left behind, does it include equipment that the U.S. finds menacing or objectionable?
MR. BURNS: Barry, I think again -- I think our broad objective is very clear here, in meeting Mr. Barzani today and in looking towards a meeting with Mr. Talabani at some point in the future.
We don't believe that pursuing a military option by either side makes sense for them, and we think they ought to return to the negotiating table. That's our broad advice to them.
QUESTION: On the same subject. Would you allow Iran to establish a buffer zone in northern Iraq similar to the Turkish one which is in process with full approval -- U.S. approval?
MR. BURNS: We have said publicly many times and we've said privately to the Iranians, in a message, that we don't believe that Iranian influence in Iraq would be helpful. When the Iranians sent some soldiers across the border two months or so ago, we warned them to withdraw those troops. We are encouraging Iran not to get involved in the fighting in northern Iraq in any way, not to introduce Iranian forces into Iraq. I think the Iranians are quite clear about our own view of that situation.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BURNS: You weren't making any particularly negative references to other countries in the region, were you, in asking your question, Mr. Lambros? Because, as you know, the United States has felt that Turkey has a right to protect its border because Turkey faces very different problems on its border than other countries on Iraq's border.
Turkey faces the problem of terrorism. So the United States has fully understood Turkey's reasons for being concerned about stability on its border.
QUESTION: Are the Turkish troops helpful, in the U.S. view?
MR. BURNS: We understand --
QUESTION: The Iranian troops wouldn't be helpful?
MR. BURNS: That's right.
QUESTION: You had understanding of a Turkish buffer, and you spoke of it in domestic Turkish terms. But now you've opened the door to whether, even to temporary positioning of troops in Iraq is helpful or not.
MR. BURNS: There's a very great difference between Turkey and Iran in the eyes of the United States Government. Turkey is a NATO ally. We understand what Turkey's intentions are. We've had good discussions with them. We understand their security concerns. They face a different security threat than do any of Iraq's other neighbors.
We do not have the type of relationship with Iran -- far from it -- that we do with Turkey. We don't believe that Iran would play any kind of positive role in northern Iraq should they inject themselves into the situation. We strongly encourage Iran to keep out of Iraq.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on this, Nick? Do you expect Turkey to withdraw its, or to eliminate its buffer zone, in the making, in the near future if they will be able to overcome terrorists groups of the PKK?
MR. BURNS: The Turkish leadership has assured Secretary Christopher and other American officials that any type of Turkish troop involvement would not be permanent. It would be short-term. Any entrance of Turkish troops into Iraq would be solely to protect the Turkish border from the threat of terrorism.
We understand that those are important qualifications, and we accept them. On that basis, we have said positive things about Turkey's decision.
QUESTION: Since we raised the issue of 986, the food-for-oil yesterday, do you have anything from any circles around the United Nations to bring this thing forward and possibly make it go and activate it?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any change in the situation concerning U.N. Resolution 986. I imagine it will arise in conversations that the Secretary has next week up at the United Nations.
We would like to see it go forward, but there are certainly practical problems that have to be overcome before it can go forward.
Savas had a question, and then we'll go back to you.
QUESTION: The PKK activity in northern Iraq which is now under Barzani's forces control, do you expect Mr. Pelletreau to convey any message on this subject to Barzani in this meeting -- tonight's meeting?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to have to set up heights for Ambassador Pelletreau that he may or may not be able to reach. The fact is that we often talk about the PKK not only with the Turks but with neighbors of Turkey.
One of the messages, certainly, to Mr. Barzani is that we want the situation in northern Iraq to return to stability. There are ways that can be done. We are concerned about the terrorism that does emanate from northern Iraq.
I think I'll leave up to Ambassador Pelletreau exactly what it is that he discusses with Mr. Barzani. There's a full agenda, as you might imagine.
QUESTION: What time do you think you will be able to issue a statement on the Barzani meeting?
MR. BURNS: We'll have to see what time the meeting ends. In our last contact with Ambassador Pelletreau, we weren't quite sure of the exact starting time. We don't know how long the meeting is going to be, but I think it would be sometime this afternoon that we would have something to say on this meeting.
QUESTION: Is it going to be published in Ankara also?
MR. BURNS: We're going to publish it here first, in Washington, and then I think subsequently by the United States Embassy in Ankara.
Bill. We're off this subject, right? We're finished with Iraq?
QUESTION: New subject.
MR. BURNS: I think Jim had first dibs, and then we'll go over here.
QUESTION: Have you seen the announcement by the Israeli Government that they're going ahead with 1,000 new settlements?
MR. BURNS: I have seen press reports to that effect. I've seen press reports to that effect, of a decision to expand the number of houses constructed in the existing settlements; yes.
QUESTION: What do you think of it?
MR. BURNS: The United States has a long-held position on the issue of settlements. We believe that settlements are a problem and a complicating factor in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Settlements are an issue that are on the agenda for the Palestinian-Israeli talks. That issue is a very emotional one. It needs to be addressed by the two negotiating, but we do have a position and I've expressed it. That position is well-known to Israel and to the Palestinian Authority.
QUESTION: Nick, can I (inaudible) the Secretary, he made yesterday, with the Israeli Ambassador here. These thoughts were related to the Israeli Ambassador --
MR. BURNS: The meeting yesterday was an introductory meeting. It was the first official meeting that Ambassador Ben-Elissar had had with the Secretary. It was an introductory meeting.
I can tell you that our position on this issue is well-known to the Israeli Government; often discussed.
Ambassador Dennis Ross was in Gaza today. He met with Chairman Arafat. He'll be meeting with Israeli officials, and I'm sure that he will be repeating some of what has been said here publicly today.
QUESTION: Will there be a special talk on the redeployment from Hebron due to the fact of this explosion that happened three days ago?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what Ambassador Ross discussed in that respect. I have not spoken to him since his meeting with Chairman Arafat. It just occurred a couple of hours ago.
As I said yesterday, we understand this is an emotional issue and an important issue. We certainly hope it can be resolved fully between the Israelis and Palestinians who meet in the Steering Group. I'm sure it will come up in Ambassador Ross' discussions.
QUESTION: The last thing. Due to the fact that it looks like the Israeli Government is not listening to what you are talking about -- the settlements -- and your objection, and the whole thing which is involved in this settlement activity, are you going to look, or will be looking into the violation of the $10 billion loan guarantees that the United States committed itself during the Bush Administration for helping Israel?
MR. BURNS: We will just first have to see exactly what this announcement is, what the timetable for construction is, if there is a timetable that exists. We want to, of course, talk to the Israelis first and get a better factual understanding of the announcement today.
What has changed for the better in the Israeli-Palestinian relationship is that 10 years ago there wasn't a forum to discuss this issue and others. There is now a forum, a negotiating forum that they've established together. That has to be the focus of these diplomatic conversations. You can be assured that we'll be talking to both sides about this and other issues.
QUESTION: If you find that they are in violation of the terms for the $10 billion, what will be -- this is not a hypothetical situation. It is really --
MR. BURNS: I just will have to reserve judgment. We'll have to see what the facts are first before we jump to any conclusions.
QUESTION: Did you see Prime Minister Netanyahu's statement yesterday about the alliance with the United States and his willingness to give that up to defend Israeli security?
MR. BURNS: I saw references to it. I understand the statement was made in an interview with Israel Radio over the weekend, on Sunday. I have not seen the full text, so I think it would be a little bit unfair for me to try to comment on that.
QUESTION: Secondly, if you could take -- if you would -- another whack at the troop deployments in the comments today between Israel and Syria. Both of them seems to be heating up a little bit. The Prime Minister also commented about that they're now within shooting distance of Mount Hermon.
Apparently, the Prime Minister has been given a new intelligence assessment that says it's a little more alarming than it was before.
MR. BURNS: Right. And you've seen the press reports that were in our morning newspapers here in the United States.
We, obviously, are listening carefully to what both sides are saying. Frankly, as we've seen some of the public statements by the Defense Ministry, and I think those statements speak for themselves.
I have not seen statements by the Prime Minister this morning -- Prime Minister Netanyahu -- on this. Again, I'd rather see those statements before I gave you an analysis of them.
QUESTION: What do you make of it? It seems like there should be more fulsome statement out of Washington now since you are sort of the guarantor of relations between those two?
MR. BURNS: It's obviously an issue that bears watching. I think, also, we'll want to know what the Israelis think and what the Syrians think. It's better to talk privately rather than publicly about an issue like this.
QUESTION: Is Dennis going to go to Damascus -- Ambassador Ross may be going to Damascus to give that view first-hand?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any plans to do that. Obviously, schedules can sometimes change but I'm not aware of any plans to do that. Cairo, Gaza, and Jerusalem were the three stops that he planned.
Secretary Christopher is going to be seeing Foreign Minister Shara next week in New York. That will provide an opportunity to discuss all of these issues that we've been talking about today and yesterday.
As you know, we have Ambassador Chris Ross in Damascus who is one of our finest diplomats in the Middle East. So there's no lack of avenues for communication with the Syrian Government on this and other issues.
QUESTION: A new subject. On Korea. This is Chung-soo Lee of Korean Broadcasting System. What's your comment on the North Korean (inaudible) into South Korea?
There's no change in pursuing the four-party meeting?
MR. BURNS: We have seen the extraordinary photos on television about this incident, this alleged infiltration by the midget sub and people on board it.
Frankly, we do not know what the mission of this particular submarine was. We are in contact with the South Korean Government. Of course, the South Korean Government is investigating. I will just have to direct you back to Seoul and to the South Korean Government because we have no independent knowledge of this incident. We are watching with great fascination from afar but have no independent news that we can give you on it.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you think this is something that portrays a heightening of the tension in the Korean Peninsula?
MR. BURNS: I think it would be unfair to jump to that conclusion based on what we know right now. We don't know what the motivation was for these people to come ashore. We don't know why many of them ended up dead. The South Korean authorities are looking into, and the South Korean authorities are on top of the situation.
I think it's too early to jump to conclusions. As you know, our long-range objective here is to work with the South Korean Government to try to convince the North Koreans to engage in a diplomatic discussion for peace on the Korean Peninsula and for a peace treaty that would finally end the Korean war of more than 40 years ago.
George, and then Bill.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the American who was kidnapped in Somalia and who apparently has since been released?
MR. BURNS: I'm very pleased to report to you -- we discussed this very briefly yesterday -- that the American citizen who was an AID contract employee, Daniel Suther, he was taken hostage yesterday and was released the same day. He is now on his way, or probably has arrived in Nairobi. That's very good news for him and for his family.
We're very appreciative of the efforts of those who helped to secure his release, and those, I'm talking about, are some of the faction leaders in Mogadishu.
QUESTION: If I could go back and follow up on the briefing with the Secretary. On Bosnia. Just in the last hour --
MR. BURNS: I thought the Secretary answered all your questions on Bosnia?
QUESTION: No. There were some more raised here just recently.
MR. BURNS: We covered a lot of ground. Is it a new question that you'll be asking?
QUESTION: I think so. On some wires from today,
Mr. Portillo, who is touring in Bosnia with Mr. Ruehe, has stated that if there is going to be any follow-on mission in Bosnia, the United States will have to take part in this.
Mr. Portillo was here a couple of weeks ago so he knows something about how we're thinking. Then Mr. Ruehe says that the German parliament is ready to go, they're ready to participate fully in a follow-on force and are very enthusiastic for that. What is your comment?
MR. BURNS: I cannot improve on the comments of my superior, the Secretary of State, on that very question. You just asked it in a slightly different way.
QUESTION: Latin America for a minute?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: Recently in the past few months --
MR. BURNS: Sid wants to stay on this issue. Then we'll be glad to go to you. Very glad to get off Bosnia.
QUESTION: The Secretary covered this after we left to file. I'll just refer to the transcript.
As far as lifting the sanctions, what leverage will remain will you have over Belgrade once these sanctions are lifted?
MR. BURNS: As you know, I think the process is that we need to see a certification of the election, results by the OSCE -- by Mr. Frowick. That will happen probably around 72 hours from now. After that, the 10-day clock will start ticking and there will be a United Nations resolution to lift sanctions.
The United States, of course, will continue to apply the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions because we are concerned about the activities and behavior of the Serbian Government in a number of areas, including Kosovo. So there is still, I think on those particular issues, there is still some influence that the outer wall of sanctions will bring.
For the most part, Sid, all of the parties to the Dayton Accords have the same self-interest. They all need to rebuild their countries economically. They need to integrate their economies with their neighbors not only in central Europe but in western Europe and in north America.
Their ability to do so will be, of course, a function of how well they commit themselves to the promises they made in the Dayton accords. So I don't think the influence here or the interest stop, even if the sanctions are lifted, as is likely, if Mr. Frowick certifies, in two weeks or so.
QUESTION: The U.S. will do this alone.
MR. BURNS: The United States has longstanding, very strong concerns about the situation in Kosovo and also on some other issues, and those concerns will not pass, even with these very successful elections that have been held.
QUESTION: Is that something a member of the Security Council can do unilaterally without violating agreements --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any inconsistency between our policy on the outer wall of sanctions and the broader issues having to do with the U.N. sanctions, which are separate, different, and the Dayton accords themselves. The United States has met every commitment that we made in the Dayton accords, and we'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: And it's not in the Dayton accords that all the sanctions will be removed. It says, "The U.S. reserves the right --
MR. BURNS: There are specific sanctions will be removed. There's Resolution 1022, as you know.
QUESTION: And it says, the U.S. -- at some point that the U.S. reserves the right to maintain sanctions as it sees --
MR. BURNS: I don't have a copy of the Dayton accords with me, so I can't cite chapter and verse. But what we have done is consistent with the Dayton accords, and there's nothing in the Dayton accords which would prevent the United States from continuing that policy on the so-called outer wall of sanctions.
MR. BURNS: Cyprus? I think actually we have to always defer to our Latin America questions first. Ladies before gentlemen.
QUESTION: I want to go into the fact that in the past several months, many different heads of state are traveling to Latin America, from Germany, Czechoslovakia -- Hashimoto, Kim, Kohl -- do you think -- does the U.S. risk losing influence in the region, because these (inaudible) are going there and making deals worth hundreds of billions of dollars? What is the U.S. reaction to these ties between Asia and --
MR. BURNS: I'll bet for every European and Asian leader that's gone to Japan, you have ten senior American officials who have been there. The fact is, you know, Secretary Christopher made a very important visit at the end of February and the beginning of March to five countries in Latin America; that we have had a number of other cabinet-level officials and also sub-cabinet-level officials throughout the hemisphere subsequently.
Secretary Christopher and the largest cabinet delegation I think we've ever sent abroad went to Mexico just a couple of months back, and Mexico, of course, is a Latin country in our hemisphere. So our commitment to good relations within our hemisphere, I think, is unmatched. It's a very important priority. That's why President Clinton called the Miami summit a couple of years ago. That's why we're looking forward to the next summit a couple of years, just under two years, hence.
If you look at the initiatives that we've brought to bear -- the free-trade area of the Americas by 2005; there have been all sorts of ministerial meetings, the Cartegena meeting, the Denver meetings, to lay the groundwork for this; there have been initiatives on anti-corruption, on capital markets; there have been narcotics initiatives.
We have a variety of issues here. Secretary Perry took a trip, as you know, to Latin America. There has been no problem with the amount of consultations, the level of consultations that we've had, and next week at the UNGA, Secretary Christopher will continue his contacts with Latin leaders. I'll be publishing his schedule on Friday, and you'll see that those contacts continue.
So I think that the United States and this Administration has shown that our relations with Latin America are second to none. It's a major priority of the United States.
QUESTION: Specifically, many are saying that the fact that President Clinton, himself, has not traveled to the region has sent some sort of negative signal to Latin America that the Clinton Administration is only interested in the region when it comes to drug trafficking and Cuba. Do you feel that the fact that President Clinton has not traveled himself has any bearing on the relationship?
MR. BURNS: I don't, because President Clinton took the initiative to hold the first ever hemispheric summit in Miami just a couple of years ago, and that we are fully supporting the scheduling of the next hemispheric summit. I think he's shown his commitment to the region. He's met with nearly all the leaders of the region in Miami, in Washington, in New York at the UNGA, and that will continue as well.
So I really don't believe there's a problem here with meetings, and I think that certainly Brazil and Argentina and Chile and Venezuela, Colombia, Mexico -- all the other countries of the region -- understand how important our relations are.
QUESTION: Specifically also, in the Summit of the Americas, one of the important things that came out was Chile's interest in NAFTA, and even that has taken a back burner lately. What else besides rhetoric is there?
MR. BURNS: It's not on the back burner. When Secretary Christopher was there, in fact, with President Frei and with others, he had very good discussions about this, and it's something we want to proceed with, as you know.
Thank you very much. Any --
QUESTION: Yes, Cyprus.
MR. BURNS: Is there a new event, a new development?
QUESTION: As the Department of State, do you know if during his recent trip to Ankara, Secretary of Defense
Dr. William Perry delivered actually a message to the Turkish Government on behalf of President Clinton, asking the Turkish military not to attack Cyprus, actually three (inaudible) last week. I'm asking this, Nick, since it was reported extensively by the Greek state in private media and more particularly by the Athens news agency, the official news agency of the Greek Government.
MR. BURNS: Thank you. Actually, I think I took this question yesterday. I would refer you to Ken Bacon at the Pentagon, who is Dr. Perry's spokesman, and I'm sure he could help you out with that. I just don't know what the full agenda was.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Greek Ambassador, Loukas Tsilas, met with a State Department official, asking any kind of U.S. intervention or mediation against this specific Turkish faction, and since the whole story so far has a dimension of an unusual disinformation campaign involving even President Clinton and Secretary Dr. Perry, I'm wondering do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: No, the United States is never a party to disinformation campaigns.
QUESTION: No, I'm not saying --
MR. BURNS: Never. And I firmly reject any such charge.
QUESTION: As a matter of fact --
MR. BURNS: I believe in information campaigns. That's why we're out here every day answering your questions.
QUESTION: No, no, I'm focusing for the fact that if you have anything on the facts what happened last weekend over Cyprus. This is true, yes or no, and --
MR. BURNS: I don't. No, I think the Cyprus situation remains a concern of ours, and we have a very well-known position on it.
QUESTION: I know this, but the facts of the last weekend, do you have anything?
MR. BURNS: Nothing new, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you very much.
(The briefing concluded at 2:14 p.m.)
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