U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Friday, September 20, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT-Announcements Secretary Christopher at 51st Session of UN General Assembly 1-3 29-30 --Christopher/Russian FM Primakov Discussions ............... 12-13 Christopher Mtg. w/Brazilian FM Lampreia .................... 3-4,6-7 Statement on Reelection of Estonian President Meri .......... 4 White House Statement: U.S.-Ukraine Bi-National Commission .. 4-5 U.S. Talks w/European Union Officials ....................... 5 Statement re: Implementation of Title IV of Helms Burton .... 5,17-18 Statement re: Release of Foreign Relas. of U.S. 1961-1963 ... 5 FSO James S. Schneider Reported Missing ..................... 16-17 MISCELLANEOUS United Nations --Diplomatic Discussions re: Selection of UN Sec. Gen. ...... 5-8 --U.S. Arrears .............................................. 12 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Consultations between Members of Presidency ................. 8-12 NORTH KOREA/SOUTH KOREA Submarine Incident .......................................... 13-16 Nuclear Freeze Agreement .................................... 14-15 Four-Party Proposal ......................................... 14-15 IRAQ A/S Pelletreau/Barzani Mtg./U.S. Contacts.w/Mr. Talabani .... 18-19, 25-26 Fighting Along Iraqi-Iranian Border ......................... 19 Implementation of Northern and Southern "No-Fly" Zones ...... 22-24 Iraqi National Congress ..................................... 27 TURKEY Turkish Position on Border with Iraq ........................ 20-21 Turkish/Iraqi Discussions re: Opening of Pipeline ........... 20-21 U.S./Erbakan Mtgs. .......................................... 21-22 Turkey-European Union Relationship .......................... 30 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Ambassador Dennis Ross' Trip to Region ...................... 27 Settlements Issue ........................................... 27 LEBANON Incident in Southern Lebanon ................................ 28 --Mtg. of Monitoring Group .................................. 28-29
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 1996, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the State Department briefing. I hope that you had a good session with Princeton Lyman.
I have a couple of announcements to make and then I'll be glad to go to your questions.
First, as you know, the Secretary will be leaving Monday morning for New York to spend time at the 51st Session of the United Nations General Assembly. He plans to be in New York from Monday morning until Friday evening. He has an extremely busy schedule there, as you can imagine. I want to go over a couple of things.
His schedule and also the press arrangements for those of you who will be in New York, we'll be in the Waldorf Astoria in room 24M of the Waldorf Tower. We'll have a press briefing room, and I will be briefing a couple of times a day; usually in the morning, in the afternoon, and then probably in the evening if that is warranted; and either later today or first thing Monday morning, we'll have a time for the first briefing session on Monday, which will take place probably early afternoon. That will be a briefing on the meeting with Mrs. Ciller.
There will be no telephone lines there. There is no filing center that we are providing, just so you all know that. We normally do not. But we are looking forward to seeing all of you in New York next week.
Now, as for the Secretary's schedule, I can't give you at this date his complete schedule, but I can go over with you some of the major meetings that he'll be having, and we'll be able to confirm at a later date the meetings that are now just proposals and not yet confirmed.
On Monday, September 23rd, the Secretary will be seeing Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mrs. Tansu Ciller at l0:30 a.m. That's at the Waldorf Astoria. And there will be a camera spray at the beginning.
At 3:00 p.m., he will be meeting with the Russian Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Primakov. At 7:00 p.m., he will be hosting a reception for heads of delegations. There is no press coverage of that. That's closed press.
On Tuesday, September 24th, the President will be spending most of the morning with President Clinton. As you know, there is a signing ceremony for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. President Clinton, I believe, will be the first world leader to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
QUESTIONS: What time will that be?
MR. BURNS: I believe it's going to be around 9:30, but you'll have to check with the White House because the President's schedule obviously is going to determine the Secretary's schedule in the morning; and President Clinton will be addressing the General Assembly at l0:30 on Tuesday morning.
At 4:00 p.m., the Secretary will be meeting with the South Korean Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Gong, and I will probably give a press briefing thereafter.
On Wednesday, September 25th, the Secretary will be hosting a breakfast for Latin American Foreign Ministers. At 9:45 a.m., he'll have a meeting with Mexican Secretary of Foreign Relations, Jose Gurria. At l:00 p.m. the Secretary will attend a luncheon for European Union Ministers, and for the United States hosted by the Irish Foreign Minister, Dick Spring. At 5:30 p.m., the Secretary will meet with Chinese Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen.
Thursday, September 26th --
QUESTIONS: Will there be a photo opportunity?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I'm sure there will. I'll go into the press arrangements for all this when we get up to New York. We haven't made all final decisions. But you can be assured for all these important bilateral meetings, there will be some type of press coverage, whether it's a camera spray or whether it's a press conference, Q&A. We normally do that.
The only events that will be closed will be maybe, perhaps some of these larger receptions for heads of delegations, and so forth.
On Thursday, September 26th, the Secretary will be attending U.N. Secretary General Boutros-Ghali's luncheon for the Perm 5 Ministers. At 4:00 p.m. that day, he will be meeting with the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister, Minister Al Sabah. He will also meet with the U.K. Foreign Secretary, Malcolm Rifkind. And that evening, he attends a G-7 + l dinner which is hosted by Herve de Charette, the French Foreign Minister.
Now also on Thursday the Secretary is going to have a series of meetings in the morning on Bosnia, on the Dayton Peace Process, with President Izetbegovic and with others. We don't have a final confirmation of all those meetings, but needless to say, it will look a lot like some of the meetings we have had in Geneva and in other places in Europe in order to push this Dayton Peace Process forward.
On Friday, September 27th, the Secretary is going to host an Asia-Pacific breakfast for leaders from the Asia-Pacific region. At l0:00 a.m., he meets with the Syrian Foreign Minister, Minister Shara; at ll:00 with the Saudi Foreign Minister, Minister Saud; at l2:00, he'll be meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister, Minister Levy; at 3:00, he'll be meeting with the Gulf Cooperation Council Foreign Ministers; and at 4:30, with Egyptian Foreign Minster Amre Moussa.
And that concludes the events, at least those that I can talk about now. The schedule will be fuller than this, and as we go throughout, I think proceed throughout the weekend, we'll get confirmation on some others and we can update you on that on Monday morning.
If you have any questions on this, we can talk about it after the briefing, as well.
QUESTIONS: Just to be quick about India, considering the Test Ban Treaty is a big issue and there will be a signing and all, is the Secretary going to be meeting with the Indian Foreign Minister at some point?
MR. BURNS: Again, Barry, we do have requests and even some other meetings pencilled in the schedule but they haven't been confirmed. So, I'm not in a position to announce them to you until they are confirmed.
Let me just also tell you a couple of things. The Secretary began the day today with a breakfast meeting with the Brazilian Foreign Minister, Minister Lampreia. This was a -- they have met many times this year. They met in Brazil during the Secretary's trip. It's the second breakfast they have had here in the Department in the last couple of months.He is in town for a quick visit to Washington before he goes to the UNGA.
This was a very important breakfast because he has become, and Brazil has become, one of our major partners in this hemisphere. They had a very good discussion. They talked about the situation in Iraq, and the Secretary expressed our appreciation for the strong support given to us on that issue by the Brazilian Government.
They talked about the Peru-Ecuador border dispute and the roles that both Brazil and the United States are playing in resolving that.
They talked about energy issues, Miami Summit and related issues. Mac McLarty, the President's Counsellor was there, and he briefed on that process and a number of other U.S. and Brazilian issues. It was a very good session and the Secretary thanks Minister Lampreia for having been with him this morning.
I also wanted to make a statement about Estonia. Today, President Lennart Meri was re-elected as President of Estonia. It was a hard-fought election, and the United States would like to congratulate President Meri. It's a free and fair election which once again demonstrates for us and I think for all the world the commitment that Estonia has given to the principles of democracy.
President Meri has been one of our major interlocutors in Europe. He has been a consistent and good supporter of the United States on a number of important issues having to do with European security, and he is a democrat and he is actually, I think, for many people an inspiring leader, given his own life story. So we congratulate President Meri on his re-election.
I also wanted to point those of you who are interested in Ukraine and United States relations with Ukraine, to a White House press statement that was issued yesterday.
Vice President Gore and the Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, have decided to create a U.S.-Ukraine Binational Commission. You are familiar with the Binational Commissions that the Vice President has established with the Deputy President of South Africa, Mr. Mbeki, with President Mubarak, and with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.
This joins those as an attempt by the United States to elevate United States relations with Ukraine, to make those relations more productive, to draw our two countries closer.
As you know, Ukraine is the third leading recipient of American assistance anywhere in the world, and I think President -- I know President Clinton has made this a major priority of his foreign policy over the last four years. And all of us who are interested in this issue are very excited about the prospect of a Binational Commission with Ukraine.
Further to that, staying in Europe, I wanted to draw your attention to an important meeting here in the Department of State this morning. Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff and Under Secretary of State Joan Spero are leading a U. S. delegation in talks with senior officials of the European Union. The agenda is our trans-Atlantic agenda with Europe and the EU, and this meeting is to prepare for the semi-annual U.S.-EU summit meeting, and all sorts of issues -- Bosnia, crime, narcotics trafficking, trade issues, proliferation -- are being discussed here in the Department on that issue.
Two more notices before we get to the end of this; there are two press statements you will find in the Press Room after the briefing.
One is a statement that refers to Title IV of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1986, Helms-Burton. And this is the creation of a new unit in the Department of State to manage this issue, and also a new effort by the United States Government to locate within the United States American citizens and others who have had their property expropriated by the Castro Government.
We do know that we have 5,911 certified cases of expropriation of American property by Fidel Castro and his authoritarian regime. We believe there may be others out there where American citizens have not come forward and we are creating a new unit to do so. That's a very important initiative.
Finally, we have a press statement today which notifies you of the release of another volume in the Foreign Relations of the United States series. This volume documents United States relations during the Kennedy Administration with China, Korea, and Japan.
QUESTIONS: Korea is really where I wanted us to go. Before you leave the U.N., it seems Boutros-Ghali is not making a dignified retreat as the U.S. proscribed for him. I wonder if in the week Secretary Christopher will be at the U.N. and in many meetings, will he try to persuade others to look elsewhere for a new Secretary General? Will he take the initiative on that? What will his general strategy be? If the subject comes up, will he address it or will he really make an effort to try to persuade others to the U.S. view?
MR. BURNS: I'd be surprised if this question didn't come up in the briefing with Ambassador Princeton Lyman. I'm at a disadvantage because I didn't hear his answer.
QUESTIONS: I don't want to put you at a disadvantage, but I don't think you'd have any problem, any conflict here. We asked about the President.
QUESTIONS: Let me just say, in general, Barry, that the Secretary often discusses this issue with his interlocutors from other countries. As you would imagine, it's an important issue. Given the fact that the Secretary will be at the U.N. General Assembly next week, we expect this issue to come up often in our bilateral discussions.
The discussions that we are holding, as Ambassador Lyman undoubtedly told you, are private discussions. They're going to remain private for some time until the time comes to take a vote to select the next U.N. Secretary General. It came up at breakfast this morning with Minister Lampreia. I'm sure it will be a major topic next week.
QUESTIONS: (Inaudible) Boutros-Ghali, if it came up this morning at breakfast?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTIONS: Can we assume the Secretary didn't change his mind about the need for a new Secretary General?
MR. BURNS: You can absolutely assume and be assured actually that the United States continues to believe very strongly that with all due respect to the Secretary General, who has accomplished a lot over the last several years, we think the time has come for the election of a new Secretary General. We have not changed our view in any way and will not change our view on that issue.
QUESTIONS: Just quickly, because you're reminding me about the Brazilian meeting. Did they discuss a seat for Brazil on the Security Council, either a permanent seat or a rotating seat? You didn't go to the Lyman briefing. The U.S. position, as he put it, seems to be Japan and Germany ought to have a permanent seat. There shouldn't be more than 20 seats, but we don't really have a position on -- we haven't really decided who else might be on the Council, if anyone.
Brazil has often been talked about because of its large population and other reasons that it ought to get more attention at the U.N. Did that come up today?
MR. BURNS: That did not come up. It was not raised, no.
QUESTIONS: Does the U.S. support Brazil as a permanent member of the Security Council?
MR. BURNS: I stand by everything Ambassador Lyman said. We have supported Japan and Germany for permanent seats in the U.N. Security Council.
QUESTIONS: On the meetings that the Secretary has had in which the issue of the Secretary Generalship has come up, has he found any outpouring of support for the U.S. position?
MR. BURNS: I think we have a variety -- we find a variety of reactions from around the world. I can tell you this. There's a lot of discussion underway in private diplomatic circles and channels about this issue. A lot of names have come up on the screen already, a lot of different options being talked about. I think both at the U.N, and certainly when the Secretary goes to Africa -- to the five countries he'll visit in Africa -- this will be an issue. It will be issue for the rest of the autumn until the vote, which will occur sometime in December.
I do want to make one thing very clear, and that is, despite a lot of the speculation, the United States is not inclined to step back from its position. We're not inclined to consider any kind of option that would allow for the continuation in office of the Secretary General, with all due respect to him.
We firmly believe that the best solution here is to select a new individual to occupy this office.
QUESTIONS: Can I just refine that question?
MR. BURNS: Options, in terms of names, Barry; not in terms of solutions.
QUESTIONS: Can I just refine that question --
QUESTIONS: Alright, not solutions?
MR. BURNS: That's right.
QUESTIONS: Could I just refine that question, and split it into two parts. One, is the Secretary finding any objection to the methods the United States used in pre-empting the issue? And, two, has he found that there is, in fact, a lot of support, personally, for Boutros-Ghali.
MR. BURNS: It's hard for me to catalogue and generalize about the hundreds of conversations that the United States -- the Secretary and others -- have had about this issue. I'm reluctant really to generalize except to say that I think most countries understand that we are serious about our position and will not change it. We are now actively talking about successors with lots of different countries.
QUESTIONS: Do you have a candidate for this position -- the United States?
MR. BURNS: We have not put a candidate forward.
QUESTIONS: You're going to open it in the General Assembly for election like --
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to the mechanics of it. We've not put a candidate forward.
QUESTIONS: What will happen if it will happen like when Trygve Lie was voted by Russia not to be approved, and then Trygve Lie was voted by the General Assembly.
MR. BURNS: One of the wonderful things about my job is, I never answer a hypothetical question unless it's in my self-interest to do so. It's not in my self-interest to answer that one.
QUESTIONS: The Bosnian Serbs and Croats seem to be, or at least some people think they are beginning to form an alliance that would eventually overcome the Muslims or at least partition Bosnia so that the Muslims are just in their own part and lose power.
What do you think about the meeting that's between Krajisnik and --
MR. BURNS: I tell you, we'll defy the conventional wisdom in the press for today and tell you that we're not concerned at all about it. In fact, we are encouraged that Mr. Zubak and Mr. Krajisnik met for the following the reason.
Mr. Zubak and Mr. Krajisnik and Mr. Izetbegovic need to work together for the sake of a united Bosnia. It is a good thing that Croats and Serbs are meeting together.
Mr. Zubak has been having a series of consultations with a variety of people. Not just with Mr. Krajisnik. He's recently met with Carl Bildt and our Ambassador, John Menzies.
More importantly, he's scheduled to meet alone with Mr. Izetbegovic in the next couple of days. We'll also have an opportunity -- we, the United States -- on Thursday at the U.N. to bring together Croats and Muslims and Serbs, if we indeed have a quorum fora, in a session to talk together. We're looking forward to the first meeting of the joint presidency in Sarajevo when the three of them get together.
I think this is the normal course of business. I think, frankly, this has probably been misunderstood and maybe even overwritten by some people from the region; not by people in this room. Our own view is that all of these leaders need to work very quickly and decisively together to create the new institutions of the Bosnian state -- the unified Bosnian state.
The capital of that state is Sarajevo. It's very important that meetings be held in Sarajevo and that all members of these institutions go to Sarajevo for the meetings.
The Dayton Accords clearly stipulate that Sarajevo will be the capital of the united Bosnia.
QUESTIONS: Have you come to this opinion because you're just looking at the mechanics of meeting? Or have you actually talked with Zubak and Krajisnik about their intentions?
MR. BURNS: We know Mr. Zubak quite well. We know Mr. Krajisnik quite well. Both of them were at Dayton. We spent 21 days with them. We've seen them innumerable times since. There is a Federation in place. Of course,
Mr. Zubak is part of that effort.
We have every confidence, actually, that the three of them are going to get together. The hard issues may actually be, how quickly will all these leaders move toward creation of the institutions. Will some of the leaders -- specifically, the Bosnian Serbs -- accept to go to Sarajevo for meetings? We expect them to do so.
We have heard some positive statements out of the Bosnian Serbs. On the day of the voting -- actually, the day before the voting, Mrs. Plavsic made a statement that, of course, the Bosnian Serbs would live up to their commitments under the Dayton Accords.
There was a relatively positive statement by Mr. Krajisnik yesterday that talked about the Serbs having to understand they can't achieve their Utopia. They've got to work with other ethnic groups for the sake of peace in Bosnia.
It's good to hear those statements, and we now want to see them turned into practice.
QUESTIONS: What's going to happen at this Paris meeting on October 3rd?
MR. BURNS: I understand the French Government has announced a meeting between President Izetbegovic and President Milosevic.
What has to happen is that Bosnia -- the united Bosnia -- and Serbia normalize their relationship; agree to recognize each other, agree to have normal interstate relations, agree to rebuild and resurrect the normal physical infrastructure that will make trade possible and the movement of people possible. There are a variety of questions that have to be worked on.
It's very positive that they're meeting, in fact. You remember that Dick Holbrooke, the President's Special Emissary, was instrumental in convincing Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Izetbegovic that an early meeting would be important. But before that meeting, Secretary Christopher will be getting together with a variety of these individuals and representatives from a number of these both ethnic groups and countries up in New York.
So we'll have an opportunity to try to shape these issues as they go forward.
QUESTIONS: Are you expecting those goals that you outlined to be -- do you expect any of them to come to closure at the Paris meeting? And is the United States going to be represented?
MR. BURNS: I think I'll leave it to the two leaders to set up their own expectations -- set out their own expectations for the meeting. I can't do that for them.
But needless to say, it's important that they're getting together. It's a very different time now. Until now, President Izetbegovic would meet with President Milosevic at meetings largely inspired by the United States as a leader of a faction. He's now the President of a united Bosnia. He's in a different position, a stronger position. It's now time for Serbia and Bosnia to normalize their relationship and to put the war behind them. That's what is important about the meeting. I'll let them set up the specific aims for the meeting.
QUESTIONS: And is the U.S. going to be there?
MR. BURNS: I expect the United States will be at the meeting, yes.
MR. BURNS: I don't know specifically who it will be from our side. It will not be Secretary of State Christopher. Someone who reports to him, but I'll let you know when that decision has been made. We need to make that decision here.
QUESTIONS: Does the United States think Bosnia should have one national railroad?
MR. BURNS: Sid, what we hope is that -- we know what Bosnia is going to look like in its bare essentials. It's going to have a Presidency and a legislature and a bank and a court, and they're going to have to get together and figure out how else they knit the country together and rebuild the shattered infrastructure of the country and of the region, now that the war is ended.
So I don't want to commit them to things that they haven't already begun to speak about. They've got a lot on their plate.
QUESTIONS: Well, most countries that aren't partitioned in some fashion have a national railroad that travels freely to all points of the country that is controlled by a central government. Isn't that the goal you'd like to see for Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: We'll just put it on record that you think that's a very good thing for them to shoot for. In general, I would agree that they ought to try to establish common institutions and common infrastructure. I simply don't want to interfere with a process that has hardly begun and set out objectives for them.
They need to meet together and agree on these. We will be operating from the sidelines, but we're reluctant to give that kind of public advice.
QUESTIONS: What about Krajisnik's proposal that the Chair of the Joint Presidency be a rotating position? Is he not trying to undermine the Dayton accords?
MR. BURNS: I think the Dayton accords are very clear and very specific about how this Presidency will work, and we think it's important for all the people who signed the Dayton accords and all the groups that signed the Dayton accords to live up to every part of them -- not just the spirit of the Dayton accords but the letter.
QUESTIONS: Nick, going back --
MR. BURNS: Still on Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Any more on Bosnia? Okay, yes.
QUESTIONS: Going back to the United Nations, how much money the United States still owes the United Nations, and have you made any payments lately?
MR. BURNS: I think Ambassador Lyman probably did that.
QUESTIONS: I'm sorry, I wasn't here.
MR. BURNS: He's the true expert -- I'm not -- on this issue.
QUESTIONS: Will the President be carrying a check with him to the United Nations Monday?
MR. BURNS: I doubt it. That's not the way things work. Presidents don't carry checks in their pocket. But Ambassador Lyman I know undoubtedly told you that the United States would like to make up the arrears. It's a very complicated question.
QUESTIONS: In Vienna this morning, Mr. Primakov gave a speech in front of the OSCE, and he said about a NATO extension. He said, having NATO troops closer to Russia's border is absolutely unacceptable. Do you have something on that, and could you please characterize what kind of meeting do you expect Monday between Mr. Primakov and Christopher in light of this problem and the position on Iraq and other differences involved with him?
MR. BURNS: We expect there to be a very good, productive meeting on Monday afternoon between Secretary Christopher and Minister Primakov. They meet often. They meet whenever they can around the world, and we have a lot to talk about. Not only do we have bilateral issues, we've got, of course, the NATO-Russia dialogue and consultations that must continue towards what we hope will be a NATO-Russia charter that Secretary Christopher has proposed.
There's a lot more that unites the United States and Russia than it divides us. Russia's been a good partner for the United States. The example of Bosnia is probably the best one to cite for you, where our troops continue to serve together up in the northern part of Bosnia.
On the first part of your question, we have a very clear position, and that is that NATO and NATO alone will decide when NATO expands and to where it expands. We've also, of course, been very clear that we'd like to have a NATO-Russia charter that would be complementary to the enlargement/expansion effort, and the Russians are working with us on this. So I don't see any particular problem that needs to be sorted out today on that.
QUESTIONS: You mean in the meeting Monday, the Iraqi situation won't be discussed, and some of the things that you said on this podium about how disappointed you were by the Russian position. It won't be repeated to the Foreign Minister?
MR. BURNS: I didn't give you an exhaustive sense of our agenda or a complete sense of it. Iraq will undoubtedly be part of the agenda. We have a well-known position, and we'll be glad to share that position privately with the Russian Government.
QUESTIONS: That bizarre incident on the Korean peninsula. You know, just a minor part -- not a minor, but not the central question would be does the U.S. agree that this should be taken up by the U.N. or put before the U.N.? But apart from dealing with that, do you have any general updating? It's a very confusing situation.
MR. BURNS: We continue to try to assess the facts of this incursion with the South Korean government; and Secretary Christopher, as I said, will be meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Minister Gong, at the U.N. I'm sure this issue will be high on the agenda.
It's clear to the United States that this incursion represents a serious provocation by North Korea and is a violation of the Armistice Agreement. We condemn this incident. We strongly urge North Korea to refrain from all such acts in the future.
QUESTIONS: Just the U.N. point, because apparently -- I haven't followed this this closely, but South Korea evidently decided to bring it to the U.N., and somehow that's being described as an unusual action. Does the U.S. support that?
MR. BURNS: I understand that yesterday -- I mean, apart from the first question, the U.N. observers did try to bring to the North Korean -- did try to deliver a letter of protest, which was not accepted by the North Koreans across the DMZ, and that was most disappointing, because they have an obligation to be straightforward about the facts in this case.
Let me just remind you the United States is an ally of South Korea. We're very clear about where our priorities are on that peninsula, and we think this is a provocative act. We think that South Korea has every right to investigate it, every right to talk internationally about it, and the United States will be quite supportive of the South Koreans throughout this.
QUESTIONS: And have you had any contacts with the North Koreans in the last 24 hours?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any.
QUESTIONS: And has there been any other assessment by this government of what you're going to do about the nuclear agreement? I mean, is this still on track? Do you see any reason to halt your cooperation at this point, or is that unaffected?
MR. BURNS: First, the South Korean Government is in charge of the investigation into this incident, because it took place on South Korean soil and waters. The United States will rely on South Korea, of course, to communicate with us their findings, which they are doing, and we will continue that.
Second, Carol, I think you asked a good question. We hope very much and do not expect that this incident will affect -- certainly not affect the nuclear freeze that is in place in North Korea. That agreement is in place. That agreement is being adhered to by the North Koreans, and KEDO is working very hard to make sure that that agreement is fully implemented.
On the Four-Party proposal, the United States and South Korea want to go ahead with the Four-Party talks, because this represents the largest ambition and objective that we have, and that is to achieve a full peace agreement to end the Korean war and to create a state of peace on the Korean peninsula.
As you know, we have offered to the North Koreans some discussions that would help illuminate for them what this Four-Party proposal that was made so long ago, in April of this year -- why that was made and what its contents are. We still are waiting for those discussions to be held, and we still hope that the North Koreans will take us up on our joint offer to have these Four-Party talks, to begin them.
QUESTIONS: Do you have any trouble figuring out who's in charge in North Korea? Is there more -- I mean, you remember during the succession, there was considerable disarray and uncertainty. Does this incident point to such a disarray, or is the U.S. convinced there is a hierarchy in place?
MR. BURNS: I don't think there's anything about this particular incident, which I will grant you is quite mysterious and complex and Byzantine, that would lead us back to the question of who's in charge. I don't think we have many doubts about that. It is an opaque society, as Secretary Christopher has said many times.
It's not an easy society to understand politically, but we do our best, and we certainly follow as best we can with our partners what's going on inside North Korea. We have an interest in doing so, because of the nuclear question and because of the Four-Party proposal and other issues. South Korea remains our valued ally, and we'll stand by South Korea.
QUESTIONS: Nick, we have in the past used China as a go-between in talking to North Korea. Have we attempted in this incident to use them to try and have contacts with North Korea?
MR. BURNS: I just don't know if we have, Betsy.
Still on North Korea?
QUESTIONS: There's a report -- I think it's Business Week -- that the United States will ease the embargo this month on North Korea?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any steps along those lines that we're considering.
QUESTIONS: Are you aware of any other previous mini-sub incidents of this nature?
MR. BURNS: I can't speak to that, David, because I don't follow North Korean affairs on a daily basis. There may be others in our government who can answer that question better than me. I'm just not aware of any. But, as you know, there have been incidents, both along the DMZ but also there have been previous infiltrations of South Korea -- we do know that -- but I don't have a list of them at my disposal.
QUESTIONS: It was scheduled that South Korea brief on the incident today at the U.N. Security Council. Did South Korea raise the issue as a formal agenda of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the incident? Do you support this proposal?
MR. BURNS: Barry asked this question before. I can't speak specifically to the initiative, because I'm not just aware of what South Korea -- of the details of the South Korean initiative. But I can tell you quite generally -- and I think this should suffice -- that the United States will remain very supportive of South Korea through the resolution of this particular incident.
QUESTIONS: Different subject. Can you bring us up to date on this case of a missing 27-year-old, Jim Schneider, I believe, by name, who I believe is a Foreign Service Officer? Can you tell us what you can, and where he was going, and what he was scheduled to do as a Foreign Service Officer?
MR. BURNS: Charlie, I don't have many details for you, but I can tell you the following. I know that James S. Schneider, a Foreign Service Officer, was reported missing on September 3 in Virginia. I understand that on September 5 the State Department was informed by authorities that Mr. Schneider's rental car was found abandoned along Skyline Drive up in the Shenandoah National Forest.
We understand that the National Park Service is searching the Skyline Drive area for Mr. Schneider. We obviously hope very, very much that Mr. Schneider is found alive and well, and any specific questions about the search for him, obviously ought to be addressed to the National Park Police.
I can tell you about Mr. Schneider; that he has been in the Foreign Service since November 1995 -- November of last year -- almost a year. He was a student at the Foreign Service Institute, which is our language and area studies school in Virginia, until the time of his disappearance.
He was scheduled to depart this month for his first tour in the Foreign Service in Athens, where he would have been an Administrative and Consular Officer. He would have been a first-tour officer, and normally they do two jobs, and one is Consular; and they go to another job, and in his case it would have been administrative.
That's really all the information that I have about this very sorry case.
QUESTIONS: You earlier spoke about this new Bureau of Helms-Burton Affairs. Is that something that was mandated by the act?
MR. BURNS: I will have to look very closely at the statement that we're issuing to get the answer for that, and maybe you'll bear with me, and I can try to do that in a session after we turn the cameras off.
If you'd like, I can just go through it very briefly. The Department of State is announcing that it has established the Helms-Burton implementation unit within the Office of Cuban Affairs here in the Department, and this unit will collect and analyze information from all available sources on whether property in Cuba claimed by a U.S. national has been confiscated by the Cuban Government, or whether trafficking in such property has occurred; and that's defined by Title IV of Helms-Burton.
We're doing this because we want to move expeditiously to implement the Helms-Burton Act, and we want, obviously, to protect the rights of American citizens who had their property illegally stolen by the Castro Government. We know that there are nearly 6,000 cases. We suspect there are many, many more, and this statement actually is meant to be publicized within the United States, so that people know that they can write to us or call us. They can fax us, they can E-mail us, to the Office of Cuban Affairs, and the statement gives out our fax numbers and our telephone numbers. I'll try to put the E-mail address down there, too, before we issue it.
QUESTIONS: On that, this is sort of, then, a voluntary move by the State Department?
MR. BURNS: It appears to me to be a voluntary move, but I'd rather check with Lee McClenny and others in the Latin America Bureau before I give you a definitive answer on that.
QUESTIONS: Do you have any idea how many people would be involved in this as employees, and how much it might cost?
MR. BURNS: This statement doesn't indicate the number of employees in this unit. I would imagine there would be several -- not a great number -- certainly enough to do the job. But we can get you that answer, Howard, no problem.
QUESTIONS: Nick, have you seen that the parliament of Mexico has passed legislation which in effect would make it illegal to pass on such information?
MR. BURNS: I know that there's been legislation taken by the Canadians and the Europeans, or at least considered, and some by the Mexicans. I didn't know that -- that would make it illegal for Mexican citizens to pass on? That's unfortunate, because we hope very much that Mexico, Canada, the European governments would come around to our point of view that we ought to unite on one principle, and that is that we ought to all oppose together Castro's authoritarian policies and his denial of human rights to his own citizens.
I know Europeans are interested in human rights. They often talk about human rights, and we respect that, and we'd like to get them interested in human rights in Cuba.
QUESTIONS: What about Talabani and Barzani, and did Pelletreau meet Christopher?
MR. BURNS: Bob Pelletreau has completed his meeting with Mr. Barzani. He is, I believe, back. I don't believe he's met the Secretary yet today.
QUESTIONS: Is he planning to?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check.
QUESTIONS: The KDP is saying that Barzani -- that there's another meeting planned for October with Barzani.
MR. BURNS: To the best of my knowledge, we have not set a specific date for the next meeting, but we certainly would like there to be a next meeting, and we'll remain in close contact with Mr. Barzani and his associates until there is a next meeting. We're also in contact with Mr. Talabani.
QUESTIONS: Is there a meeting set with Mr. Talabani?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've set a meeting with Mr. Talabani, no.
QUESTIONS: Nick --
MR. BURNS: Still on this issue? Yes.
QUESTIONS: Local sources claim that there are again clashes between Talabani's forces and Barzani's forces. Two quick questions. Can you confirm that? And, second, since the U.S. is constantly trying to bring these two people to the negotiating table, what reasons do you have to expect that that would be the case? It seems like a new round of fighting is about to break.
MR. BURNS: We do understand that there has been some fighting up along the Iraqi-Iranian border. We know that through the U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees, and I believe that the UNHCR has advised the Iranian Government to move some of the refugee camps further back from the Iraqi border, so that the refugees are not exposed to attacks from inside -- over the border from Iraq into Iran.
I can't tell you who participated in that fighting, but we do know that the fighting has taken place. We certainly call upon all the factions in northern Iraq to stop these attacks on refugees and to stop fighting each other.
We think that it's shortsighted. We think it's not in the interests of the Kurdish people, and we certainly, as you know, believe that the Kurdish people will find that Saddam Hussein is not a friend to them. They've got to deal with their own problems and recognize that they've got to sit down and discuss their own problems, and they've got to cut short this alliance with Saddam Hussein.
QUESTIONS: You speak -- you have always spoken very favorably about Turkey's role in the coalition against Iraq, but the Director of Central Intelligence yesterday countered Turkey's position as one of the four reasons of Saddam's empowerment; and he said Turkey should revise its Iraqi policy in light of what happened in the north. Is this the kind of message the Secretary would convey to Mrs. Ciller on Monday, or are you going to say you are still satisfied with the position?
MR. BURNS: The United States has had very close contacts with Turkey. Just in the last couple of days, Bob Pelletreau met with Under Secretary Oymen at the Turkish Foreign Ministry and a number of others. The Secretary will undoubtedly have a very lengthy discussion of Iraq with Mrs. Ciller on Monday morning in New York.
We're satisfied with the positions taken by the Turkish Government on the whole. We understand the reasons why Turkey has had to protect its own border during this conflict. In fact, we've been one of the few countries in the world that's come forward publicly to support the Turkish Government.
I think we both have a common interest in trying to see the Kurdish groups in northern Iraq turn away from Iran and Iraq. We agree on that. We have a common interest in seeing that there is stability among the refugees and humanitarian assistance given to the refugees. We are flying together in "Provide Comfort" out of Incirlik, out of southeast Turkey. We're most satisfied with the position of the Turkish Government.
QUESTIONS: But Mr. Deutch is very clearly saying that Turkey's position has harmed the coalition. You don't share this assessment at all?
MR. BURNS: I'm at a little bit of a disadvantage. I've read a lot of things over the past 24 hours. I've just not been able to read the transcript of that, so I don't want to speak to that. I want to put that aside and just tell you and reaffirm to you what the position of the United States Government that has been expressed, I think, quite consistently, and that is that Turkey's a very close ally, an important country for our policy in Iraq; that we rely upon Turkey to work with us, and in the examples that I've cited, Turkey has worked with us.
QUESTIONS: Let me try just once more. So you don't think Turkey's interest in direct dialogue with Baghdad is harming the U.S. and the allied position in the region?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States does not believe that direct dialogue with Baghdad or any kind of improvement in relations between Turkey and Iraq is going to be possible, because Iraq has not been a very dependable neighbor of Turkey over the last 10 to 15 years under Saddam Hussein's rule, and we would strongly advise the Turkish Government not to associate itself in any close way, any cooperative way, with the Iraqi leadership.
Frankly, to be fair to the Turkish Government, I don't see many important signs that that is actually happening. There have been a few conversations, mainly conversations having to do with the opening of the pipelines that were expected under U.N. Resolution 986.
It's not surprising that the Turkish Government would send economic officials to talk to the Iraqis about that, even though right now it doesn't look like that resolution is going to go forward any time soon. I don't think the Turkish Government has stepped over any major lines here pertaining to Iraq.
So I think on balance, as I told you, we're very satisfied with our relationship with Turkey right now, and we continue to count Turkey among our strongest friends in the world and strongest supporters in our Iraq policy.
QUESTIONS: Mr. Erbakan today said that he does not share your concern over Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and he said it's your problem; it's United States problem. So doesn't he represent the Turkish Government, and is this part of the --
MR. BURNS: We're dealing with a variety of individuals in Turkey. We're dealing with President Demirel, Prime Minister Erbakan, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tansu Ciller, Under Secretary Oymen -- a variety of officials -- Ambassador Kandemir here -- and I can tell you that we understand there's strong sentiment within the Turkish Government among many of the individuals that I just named that Iraq is a menace; that Saddam Hussein is unreliable; that he is an aggressor, and we certainly believe that that is as much of a problem for Turkey as it is for the United States.
There's every reason for Turkey to be concerned about Saddam Hussein and the aggression and the threat that he poses to Turkey. That's one of the reasons why we have acted so carefully and so quickly over the last five years to try to help Turkey stabilize northern Iraq; that's why we have "Operation Provide Comfort" in place; why we've agreed with the Turks that that will continue. Because it's certainly Turkey's fight to contain Saddam Hussein as much as it's America's.
QUESTIONS: Can I follow-up, please, on that? It seems that your meeting with Mrs. Ciller and Mr. Perry, when he did, he did not meet with Mr. Erbakan. He said he didn't have -- he had scheduling problems. He didn't meet him. Is the United States avoiding meeting Mr. Erbakan --
MR. BURNS: Not at all. In fact, even before Mr. Erbakan was formally in office, Under Secretary of State Peter Tarnoff met him. I think that was a very wise decision, to have met him. There was some criticism at the time. Not really from the United States but from other parties. That was a good meeting to have. He is the Prime Minister. We certainly would very much like to meet him.
I understand from Secretary Perry's staff that Mr. Erbakan and Secretary Perry did want to meet during Secretary Perry's visit. It just wasn't able to happen because Secretary Perry had to leave to come back for a meeting with President Clinton. Prime Minister Erbakan arrived in Ankara shortly after Secretary Perry left. So they tried to have a meeting.
I think you should give us "A" for effort. We'll have a meeting the next time that we can arrange one.
QUESTIONS: What about more generally the things that Deutch was saying yesterday about U.S. policy which seemed to be diametrically opposed to what the White House and the State Department has been saying concerning the relative strength of Saddam in the aftermath of this incident? Deutch says he's politically stronger?
MR. BURNS: I think it's quite clear to those of us here that there are a variety of elements in play. If you look at the situation in northern Iraq, there's very little question that Saddam Hussein has extended his political influence.
We believe, however, that that political influence is going to be hard to sustain. These supposed gains will be hard to sustain because he's going to have to deal with these Kurdish factions.
I think there's very strong sentiment across these factions -- no matter what their ideological orientations are -- that he cannot be trusted and that he's an enemy of the Kurdish people.
So I don't think he's going to have an easy time of it in northern Iraq. Let's turn to the southern part of Iraq. There, we have extended the "no-fly" zone by 60/70 miles by one degree northward.
As President Clinton has said, we've effectively put him in a box, a strategic containment box. He, today, is therefore less -- he has fewer options available to him today than he did three weeks ago because of the extension of the "no-fly" zone and because, frankly, of the reinforced vigor with which we are implementing the "no-fly" zones in the south and north.
So in the most important respect -- the strategic respect -- he is worse off today -- Saddam Hussein -- than he was three weeks ago, if you look at our primary objective in Iraq which is to contain him and deter him from attacking his foes -- his neighbors, excuse me.
QUESTIONS: You're a diplomat and so you, obviously, give a fuller more, say, nuanced, answer to this kind of question. But the bottom line is --
MR. BURNS: Is that compliment or is it a criticism?
QUESTIONS: It's a statement of fact.
MR. BURNS: I'll take it as a compliment.
QUESTIONS: Whatever. But Deutch gets out there publicly yesterday and makes some comments which appear to be sending once again mixed signals from this Administration on Iraq. Are you suggesting then that he should have been a little more careful in the words he chose? Are you saying that basically you all singing from the same book and nobody realizes it? What's the message here?
MR. BURNS: I'm not making any suggestions at all of the type that you would suggest I make. I am simply saying that if you look at what President Clinton has said, and if you think about the strategic calculations that we've just reviewed very briefly, I'll be glad to go into them in more depth. We can do it.
If you think about the strategic calculations -- I know it's the conventional wisdom in the press that everyone is intrigued by the fact that he has broken out in the north. I'm suggesting that those gains may be pyrrhic for him. They may be hard to sustain.
In the south, there's just no question -- talk to any kind of military analyst -- he is more circumscribed in the south than he was three weeks ago. That, in essence, is what's most important to the United States.
QUESTIONS: So do you think that Deutch in his remarks hurt the perception of U.S. policy by not suggesting this was only a pyrrhic strengthened hand?
MR. BURNS: I am suggesting that it's clear to those of us in this government that Saddam will turn out to be the big loser in this drama; that he has not advanced Iraq's national interests where it really matters, in the south; where his interests are and where our interests are. We will continue to contain him. He will not get what he wants, which is greater power and influence over the states to his south. He will not achieve that.
We will, in the north, continue the "no-fly" zone, continue our efforts to help the Kurds stabilize the region, help the refugees, and to keep Saddam's influence at a minimum. I think that's what America's national interests are, and I think we'll achieve those objectives.
QUESTIONS: Did Deutch effectively articulate that perception, that policy?
MR. BURNS: I suggest you read the entirety of his statement and look at not just what was splashed across the newspapers, not just what was carried in 20-second sound bites on news channels, but look at the entirety of his statement and you'll see there's a lot that is consistent in everything that he said with what we've said.
QUESTIONS: Can I follow Carol in this way? Excuse me.
QUESTIONS: Sorry. You have to talk about Deutch, too?
QUESTIONS: This is a direct follow-up to Carol's question. How can you perceive it, Nick, as pyrrhic the gains that Saddam has in the north when Mr. Barzani, in Ankara yesterday, told the world that -- and Mr. Deutch, I believe, confirmed this -- told the world that he is seeking the Western allies' help for protection in an effort to hold Saddam Hussein at arms' length?
What is the reaction of the U.S. Government to this request of Mr. Barzani? He needs help from Saddam.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Barzani has to make his own choices. He has to decide how he can best continue to be effective in stabilizing northern Iraq, which we hope and believe should be one of his objectives. He'll make his own choices. We'll continue to meet with him and talk to him and the others -- the Turkomens, the Assyrians -- so that we can be a positive agent -- a positive country -- in northern Iraq unlike Saddam Hussein who is a negative influence.
QUESTIONS: Are we then going to get into this Kurdish matter now where we had refused to do it before Saddam went north?
MR. BURNS: We've been a partner of the Kurds for more than five years, and we'll continue to be. We'll continue to be actively involved in this effort.
QUESTIONS: You can't be specific about what protection you might be affording him?
MR. BURNS: We're keeping Saddam's aircraft out of the north of the 36th parallel, out of northern Iraq. That's a very effective military step by the United States.
QUESTIONS: I want to go to Dennis Ross on the settlements.
MR. BURNS: David Ensor had a follow-up.
QUESTIONS: In his remarks yesterday, Director Deutch -- and we discussed this yesterday in the briefing -- said that in the latest contacts with Mr. Barzani and his party, Barzani had made an appeal to the United States and to its allies to aid him as a counter-balance to his new alliance with Saddam, to help him keep from being dominated by Saddam.
Yesterday, you were not able to comment on that, and you said you were not able to comment on Mr. Pelletreau's meeting with Mr. Barzani at all. Have we reached the stage where the CIA tells us more about meetings that happened between senior State Department officials and others than the State Department --
MR. BURNS: I hope not. No, I don't think we've reached that stage.
QUESTIONS: Then tell us about the meeting --
MR. BURNS: Let me just remind you what I did say yesterday. I tried to be as helpful as I could to all of you interested in the story yesterday. I told you that Mr. Pelletreau met Mr. Barzani. I told you who was in the room. I told you that, in general, they discussed the situation in northern Iraq -- the humanitarian situation, our hope that refugee rights would be protected by Mr. Barzani's group.
I told you that, obviously, one of the strong messages that we bring to any conversation with the Kurds is our belief that Iraq and Iran will not be reliable partners. They ought to ditch those relationships. They ought to forgo those relationships.
But I said very clearly to all of you yesterday -- and I want to maintain this today -- that sometimes to be effective in diplomacy, one has to resist the urge to recite in public everything that you're doing and saying and resist the urge or the temptation to go through all the conversation of a meeting. Because the bottom line is, we have to be effective. Sometimes being effective means that you are a reliable partner. You keep things confidential, and you try to work through an agenda -- in this case, with Mr. Barzani -- in such a way that he can be assured that our conversations are private.
So I am very deliberately not giving you the contents of the diplomatic conversation that took place, and I will not be doing that in the future, but for very good reasons. The State Department will do its best to keep the American press informed. But as we have discussed in the past, we choose the information that we're going to give out.
QUESTIONS: Mr. Deutch has given out some information which you may either agree with or disagree with. It's in the public domain now.
MR. BURNS: Yes, and I would not expect that you would be seeing detailed briefings on Mr. Pelletreau's meetings by the CIA. Mr. Deutch did not do that yesterday, and I don't believe that he and his associates will be doing it in the future.
QUESTIONS: Have you been told not to talk about it?
MR. BURNS: It's just a statement of fact, I mean I just think -- you know, the State Department will report on State Department meetings and the CIA will report on its own activities as best as it can and as it should in the public domain. I don't see any inconsistency here.
MR. BURNS: Well, to be fair to Mr. Deutch, he was testifying. He was called up to Capitol Hill. He was asked to speak about the issue of the day, the issue of the last three weeks, of tremendous public and press interest. He was forthcoming, I think, with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in his comments. He said what he felt he could say in the public domain. And, as you know, that's a very difficult balance that one has to strike in Congressional testimony.
But we are certainly in a position where we will continue to be very helpful to you, but you have to respect our right to conduct diplomacy in private.
This is a millenium-old tradition in diplomacy. It's not going to be changed this year.
QUESTIONS: Nick, can I go to Dennis Ross, if you can give me --
MR. BURNS: We're still on Iraq. We can't leave it. We are stuck here.
QUESTIONS: Mr. Chalabi yesterday --
MR. BURNS: The brilliance of our policy has not yet been accepted by all of you. I can just feel that.
QUESTIONS: The head of the Iraqi National Congress said yesterday at the Washington Institute, that Saddam took the INC more seriously than the United States and the coalition.
I was wondering if you can give us your assessment of the INC. Is this a factor in the north and the south, and what's your view towards them now?
MR. BURNS: I can't say a lot about the Iraqi National Congress. I think that our visitor to Washington can tell you, since he's part of it. He can tell you a lot more than I can.
I can just tell you that the United States has been very active with a variety of Kurdish groups in the hopes that we might stabilize northern Iraq, provide a measure of self-rule for the Kurds in Northern Iraq, and help them on a humanitarian basis.
We kept our commitments to the Kurds in all respects. We kept our commitments to the Kurds, and I think that speaks a lot about United States policy.
QUESTIONS: Can you give us another situation report about the visit of Mr. Dennis Ross to the region, and his meetings with Mr. Netanyahu yesterday and after that?
MR. BURNS: As you know, Ambassador Ross has been in Egypt. He has been in Gaza and he has been in Jerusalem, and he has had very good and productive meetings in all three places. I don't have a lot of detail to give out. Perhaps Glyn Davies will at the beginning of next week when Ambassador Ross returns.
QUESTIONS: Do you have any comment on the story in the New York Times this morning about the Israelis building 4,000 homes and expanding settlements in two Palestinian villages, Naalin and Deir Qadis, which have been, according to the Palestinians, confiscated, expropriated from the Palestinians?
MR. BURNS: I spoke to that issue yesterday and I said that the United States believes that settlements are, in general, complicating in the peace negotiations and problem in those negotiations.
Ambassador Ross used the same words to describe our position yesterday while he was in Jerusalem.
QUESTIONS: Besides the statement that he made and besides your statements that it was probably complicating the negotiations --
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTIONS: -- what else is the United States Government going to do to stop the settlements?
MR. BURNS: Well, the United States has spoken out, and we have described our position consistently this week, as we always do. We, obviously, will rely upon the Israelis and Palestinians to discuss this in a joint steering group, that has been established in the proper channels. We'll continue to be active on the margins of those discussions, and will reserve most of our detailed comments on this issue as on others like Hebron deployment for those private discussions.
QUESTIONS: South Lebanon?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTIONS: Do you have anything on the situation in South Lebanon, and do you think what happened yesterday was a violation of the April agreement?
MR. BURNS: We understand that Hezbollah forces ambushed Israeli security forces in Southern Lebanon killing two people, wounding two other people. Hezbollah reportedly also suffered some casualties, and we understand the Israeli military, the IDF, Israeli Defense Forces, retaliated with artillery fire and three strikes in Lebanon.
I understand the Monitoring Group that Secretary Christopher established several months ago, plans to meet over the weekend, and consider whether there have been violations of the understanding that Secretary Christopher reached on the 26th of April of this year.
I really have nothing more to add on this.
QUESTIONS: Do you think that the attack that Hezbollah did in dispute is a violation, although it's --
MR. BURNS: The Monitoring Group works on a confidential basis. We are the chair of the Monitoring Group, therefore; we will reserve public comment on that until after the Monitoring Group meets this weekend.
QUESTIONS: Did you call for the meeting?
MR. BURNS: The work of the group is confidential. We don't normally say publicly who calls for the meetings. That's by the agreement of the parties Lebanon, Israel, Syria, France and the United States.
QUESTIONS: But technically one group does call for it?
MR. BURNS: It can happen -- one group, two groups, three groups. There are five possibilities. In this case I'm just not able to indicate that because of the confidentiality of the proceedings that all of us had agreed too.
QUESTIONS: Do you have anything about this fear in Lebanon that the Israeli attack might be a prelude to bigger Israeli operations off Lebanon? Is there any fear that this could expand to a bigger -- ?
MR. BURNS: No. I don't have anything for you on that. I really have no comment on an issue like that.
MR. BURNS: Yes, Dimitri, yes.
QUESTIONS: On the Secretary's schedule next week, do you know if we will have meetings with Greek and Cypriot officials, and the agenda of their discussions?
MR. BURNS: I know that we haven't set all the meetings on the Secretary's schedule. There will be more meetings on the ones that I indicated. I know that Under Secretary Peter Tarnoff will be seeing Foreign Minister Michaelides of Cyprus, but I don't have any confirmation of other meetings beyond the ones that I mentioned at the beginning of the briefing.
QUESTIONS: I have another question on the European Union. The European Parliament yesterday voted on a very tough resolution about Turkey. The resolution asked the European Commission to freeze all financial aid to Turkey, according to the Customs Union, because of violations of human rights and the Kurdish situation, various matters in Cyprus and some other issues.
What's the U. S. reaction on it?
MR. BURNS: The United States hopes that this resolution of the European Parliament does not interfere and signal a change in the relationship between Turkey and the European Union.
As you know, the United States was one of the biggest supporters of the EU-Turkey Customs Union. We think that Turkey needs to have institutional links in Europe. Turkey is a very important country for all of us and we are strongly encouraging the European Union to have positive relations with Turkey, and to make those relations stable. We hope that this resolution by the European Union Parliament, the European Parliament, will not signal any kind of abrupt change in the EU's outlook towards Turkey.
QUESTIONS: The resolution claims that Turkey does not complete its area obligations according to the Customs Union on all these issues. And also I asked from the European Commission to proceed with the financial aid regarding the improvement of democratic institutions in Turkey. What's your position on that?
MR. BURNS: Well, I can't comment on EU business with Turkey on a detailed basis. That would be really improper for me to do that. I can only speak in general to our own relationship with Turkey, which is quite supportive.
We understand that Turkey has security concerns on its borders, for instance, and I think some of these problems may emanate from those activities. We also believe that the European Union should remain open to improving its relationship with Turkey.
QUESTIONS: But, Nick, the European Union claims that Turkey does not improve the situation in human rights. Do you agree or disagree with that?
MR. BURNS: Our views on the human rights situation in Turkey are well known and are documented in our annual human rights report.
QUESTIONS: Is this coming up in the Tarnoff/Spero meetings with their EU counterparts? Is this one of the issues on the agenda?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I can check for you on that.
QUESTIONS: Nick, during the Secretary's meetings in New York next week, will he be meeting with any of the Palestinian delegations to the United Nations? Is it scheduled?
MR. BURNS: I announced the meetings that we have currently on the schedule. There will be other meetings, so stay with us in New York next week.
(The briefing concluded at 2:17 p.m.)
To the top of this page