U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing I N D E X Monday, September 23, 1996 Briefer: Glyn Davies DEPARTMENT--Announcements Secretary Christopher at 51st Session of UN General Assembly.. 1 GREECE U.S. Reaction to the Election of Prime Minister Simitis....... 1 U.S. Expectations/Assessments of Simitis Administration....... 6,13 Possible Meeting of Secretary Christopher with Foreign Minister Pangalos.......................................... 6 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Conditions for Lifting UN Sanctions/OSCE Certification of Election Results/The Contact Group/The War Crimes Tribunal. 2-4 COLOMBIA U.S. Reaction to the Seizure of Heroin on President Samper's Plane...................................................... 4-5 TURKEY Foreign Minister Ciller's Comments on Turkish Policies Toward the Kurds in Northern Iraq................................. 5-6 NORTH KOREA/SOUTH KOREA U.S. Reaction/Assessment of the Submarine Incident............ 6-7 JAPAN/CHINA U.S. Reaction to Rising Tensions over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai Islands.................................................... 7-8 BELARUS President Lukashenko's Accusations of Destabilizing Western Government Policies........................................ 8 RUSSIA President Yeltsin's Ailing Health............................. 8-9 IRAQ A/S Pelletreau-Barzani Mtg/U.S. Contacts w/Mr. Talabani....... 9-10 U.S. Strategy for Northern Iraq............................... 10 Role of Turkomans in Future Northern Iraq/Turkoman Contact with U.S. Government....................................... 11-13 Risk of Renewed Conflict in Iraq/Withdrawal of U.S. Carrier from the Persian Gulf/Return of UN Monitors................ 12 LATIN AMERICA U.S. Army Documents on U.S.-Trained L.Am. Military Officials.. 10
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 1996, 1:01 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. DAVIES: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I don't have any formal announcements, but a couple of things. (1) For those who weren't following events at the end of last week and didn't hear Nick's lengthy announcement, the Secretary is in New York all week. He's at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly, which for the Secretary and for other Foreign Ministers is a great opportunity to hold all kinds of meetings with counterparts.
The Secretary has already met today with Turkish Foreign Minister Ciller. He is to meet later on today with Foreign Minister Primakov and will have several dozen other meetings throughout the week. Of course, tomorrow is the big day, because the President will be up in New York signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the President will be holding some meetings with his counterparts -- meetings the Secretary will be part of.
Just one other thing I wanted to mention, which is to take note of the election of Mr. Simitis in Greece. Constantine Simitis was re-elected in Greece as Prime Minister, and we wanted to react to that briefly.
The Prime Minister has proven himself to be a serious leader, dedicated to improving relations with his neighbors and to strengthening Greece's ties to the rest of Europe and the United States. Under his stewardship, Greece has taken steps to reduce inflation while increasing growth.
He's indicated that he intends to continue to pursue those policies. The United States, of course, has had a cooperative, positive relationship with the Simitis Government. We expect that to continue, and the United States would also like to congratulate the other parties which won seats in the Greek Parliament in yesterday's elections.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about sanctions against Yugoslavia now that the election is roughly ten days behind us?
MR. DAVIES: On the sanctions question, that remains an issue under consideration, and what it's tied to is the results of the elections -- the actual returns from the elections. The OSCE has yet to certify the results of the Bosnian elections, and until that process is completed, under the terms of Resolution 1022, which imposed the sanctions, the international community can't make a decision on the lifting of sanctions. So we have to await the certification of the results of the elections, and we expect by the end of the week, according to the announcements that have been made by the OSCE, to have a better fix on the results of the elections.
There are some questions about some of the vote and the vote counting, and all of that is to be worked out by the end of the week. The OSCE announced that there will be what is called a "vote reconciliation" process of all of the races. That will take place to identify possible errors in the vote count and, as I say, they've said that process should be completed by September 28.
We view that re-examination of the results, by the way, in essence standard practice, given the complexity of the election, both the preparation and the execution of the election. So we look forward to the results of that vote reconciliation process, and then after that, we can get to the question of lifting sanctions.
QUESTION: Glyn, though, once that reconciliation and certification, whatever it is, takes place, is the United States prepared to go along and lift the sanctions on Yugoslavia?
MR. DAVIES: What we're going to do right now are two things. We're going to wait until this vote reconciliation process is complete, but also the Secretary will be having meetings in New York this week. I think Thursday is the day where many of his meetings are going to be devoted to the former Yugoslavia, to Bosnia; and what I'm going to do today, Monday, is really reserved on getting into those issues.
QUESTION: Does the United States believe that these sanctions should be kept in place awhile longer, so that you have some kind of leverage on the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. DAVIES: First of all, we retain leverage on the Bosnian Serbs. There is the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions that pertains to Serbia's membership in international financial institutions. The "outer wall" is linked to, among other things, performance on War Crimes Tribunal issues.
So that leverage will remain -- the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions -- and we'll simply have to wait and see formally what the vote process results in. We should know by the end of the week, and the Secretary, as I said, will be having meetings this week with various actors on the Dayton process and on the vote. I'm sure this week we'll have something to say on that issue.
QUESTION: So you don't think that you need to keep the UN sanctions on necessarily in order to have leverage?
MR. DAVIES: It just depends on what we see coming out of the vote finally, what kind of a picture we see in Bosnia, and we'll make that decision, I think, probably in the course of the week. But we haven't yet decided for our part what position we're going to take on this.
In point of fact, we retain a fair amount of leverage with Serbia. The "outer wall" of sanctions, for instance, is still very much there, and if in our judgment the elections have resulted in a situation that's sufficiently robust, then I'm sure we won't raise any objections to dropping the sanctions, as is called for under the UN resolution.
QUESTION: The reports that there are disagreements between the United States and its allies on this subject are overstated?
MR. DAVIES: They are overstated. The Contact Group, which has been meeting about this, on this issue, remains very much an active body. There's no rift within the Contact Group. All members of the Contact Group are in fact firmly in agreement on the basic principles and the approach to securing compliance with the peace agreement.
This doesn't mean that we don't occasionally have different views on some of the short-term tactical issues that confront us. One such, of course, being this question of when and how the three members of the Presidency would first get together. So we are going to continue to hold discussions in the Contact Group.
Our position on that issue, which is one of the central issues under discussion now, is very well-known: that we would like the meeting to occur in Sarajevo and not in New York. But that is something that we're discussing now with the Contact Group, and it remains a very active forum for a discussion.
QUESTION: How do the Serbs' performance on war crimes fit into this, supposing they don't perform?
MR. DAVIES: The Serbs' performance on war crimes is one of the elements that is part of this "outer wall" of sanctions that we will retain that will remain in place on Serbia regardless of the outcome of this process under Resolution 1022 and whether the immediate economic sanctions are lifted or not.
The resolution calls for the lifting of sanctions within a certain period of time after the vote has been certified. The process of certifying the vote and reconciling the vote hasn't been completed. It should be complete by the end of the week, and then there will be a period of time -- I think 10 days or so -- by which there has to be some movement on the issue of lifting economic sanctions.
So we're going to have to wait and see what happens at the end of this week, and we will retain the "outer wall" of sanctions against Serbia. It will not become a full-fledged member of the international community until it meets certain criteria, which have been set out and which include compliance with the war crimes aspects of the Dayton process.
QUESTION: You say "we'll maintain the outer wall." "We" being the U.S. Government will veto any attempt to remove the "outer wall"?
MR. DAVIES: The "outer wall" -- because of the nature of those sanctions against Serbia, you would need the United States' support, were that "outer wall" to be lifted. In other words, Serbia can't join certain international financial institutions without United States concurrence. So in effect we do maintain a veto on the "outer wall," absolutely.
QUESTION: On Latin America.
MR. DAVIES: Yes.
QUESTION: What is your reaction to the latest narco-jet scandal that has erupted in Colombia, that there was heroin found on Samper's plane on its way to New York?
MR. DAVIES: The first reaction is we're glad the drugs were found before they hit the streets in the United States and added to the drug problem here in this country. Secondly, I would have to refer you to the Colombian Government for details on the seizure of drugs from that aircraft, which was to have brought President Samper to the United States.
Our understanding is that Colombian law enforcement officials are taking the right kinds of steps to deal with this criminal act; that they have in fact already taken some people into custody. All of this, of course, puts the lie to the notion that somehow forces outside of Colombia were responsible for planting these drugs. It clearly is not the case, because some people have already been picked up in Colombia, and their investigation is proceeding.
QUESTION: How significant do you think this event is in the U.S. point of view in terms of indicating the level of dissatisfaction that many Colombians have with the Samper administration. He hasn't stepped down yet, and the scandal.
MR. DAVIES: I think the investigation would have to run its course. First off, they've picked up some people, and that's a good sign. But what does this all mean? Why were these drugs put there? Was it just for profit or was it to make a political point? We don't know the answer to that yet. We can speculate, but that wouldn't be prudent.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. planning on taking any action on this?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think that there's any action that we need to take, since the Colombians seem to be pursuing this vigorously and well; and they've, as I say, made some arrests, so that's a good sign.
QUESTION: On Iraq --
MR. DAVIES: Yes.
QUESTION: How do you react on a (inaudible) report that the Turkish Government advised the Iraqi Government of Saddam Hussein against the Kurdish people in northern Iraq, ignoring totally the U.S. policy and interests, vis-a-vis to this strategic area?
MR. DAVIES: You're referring to Foreign Minister Ciller's comments?
QUESTION: I'm referring to The╩New╩York╩Times' report, extensively Saturday and also Washington╩Post (inaudible) that the Turkish Government totally ignored the U.S. Government vis-a-vis to the policy to northern Iraq.
MR. DAVIES: Since Secretary Christopher just met with Foreign Minister Ciller in New York, I think I'll kick this one to Nick who is up there briefing on the results of that meeting. Preliminarily, there are indications that the Foreign Minister has clarified some of what was reported in The╩New╩York╩Times. I think she might have even used the word "misunderstanding" to explain how it was that that report came out the way it did. But rather than try to second guess what Nick has just minutes ago done in
New York, I think I'll refer you to New York.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the 20,000 Turkish troops military operation yesterday against Kurdish people in the eastern province of Turkey, and I'm wondering if the U.S. Government is taking measures to prevent the killing of innocent Kurds?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not familiar with those --
QUESTION: It was today dispatched by Reuters from Ankara.
MR. DAVIES: Okay, I haven't seen the report, so I'm unaware.
QUESTION: On the Greek elections, do you have any expectations for the Simitis Government?
MR. DAVIES: Do we have any -- ?
QUESTION: Expectations. Whatever you told us today.
MR. DAVIES: The expectations we have I think I've outlined, that in fact the government will continue some of the very excellent policies that we've seen in recent months. Prime Minister Simitis has done, we think, a very good job of trying to improve relations between Greece and its neighbors.
On the economic front, he has kept inflation down and kept growth up in Greece. And then finally, and importantly from the U.S. standpoint, we've had a very good bilateral relationship with him. We can work with him. So we look forward to a continuation of that process of working with the Greek Government on the many, many issues that are mutually of interest to us.
QUESTION: One more question on Greece. Do you know if finally Secretary of State Warren Christopher is going to meet the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Pangalos, in New York City?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have any information on that. We can check after the briefing, if you'd like, to see if that's the case.
QUESTION: On Korea. As you know, North Korea demanded today the immediate return of submarine, which infiltrated into the south last week, with its crews and the bodies. But South Korea said that there's no value of any consideration, and South Korea (inaudible) at the armed provocation. What's your assessment on the basis of your independent information, and what are you considering the next step against this incident?
MR. DAVIES: We don't have a lot of independent information. Most of the information we have about that infiltration incident comes from the South Koreans. The sub is in their possession, so it's up to South Korea to decide on the disposition of the submarine.
But, as we've said last week, we view the incursion of the submarine into South Korea -- its territorial waters -- as a provocation on the part of North Korea. We reject this assertion made by Pyongyang that somehow this submarine had mechanical difficulties and drifted south, or they've made some explanations to that effect. That simply doesn't appear to be the case.
As Secretary Perry, I think, just said this morning, this was an armed provocation, and we reiterate our call of last week on the North Koreans to cease and desist from these types of provocations. They simply aren't going to help matters as North and South Korea look for ways to resolve their differences.
QUESTION: If I might -- thank you, Glyn. News today of increased tensions over a small chain of islands, the ownership contested by China, Japan and, I believe, also Taiwan. I understand rising nationalism is a problem here, especially in China. The government is trying to suppress this. Have you any words?
MR. DAVIES: On the issue of these islands, Senkaku-Diaoyutai, I think it is -- depending on which -- I mean, this is sort of like Imia/Kardak. It depends on which side you listen to. But it's either Senkaku or Diaoyutai Island. We expect that the claimants to the islands will resolve their differences and do so peacefully. We urge all the claimants to exercise restraint as they move forward on this process.
Beyond that, I don't think you'll find that the United States will be saying a whole lot about it. We don't take a territorial position on these islands. We don't draw them into one country's jurisdiction or another.
QUESTION: I understand that, Glyn. Do you see they're a danger for a military conflict over these islands, and does the U.S. have a mediating type of role here?
MR. DAVIES: We're not going to predict what's likely to happen. We're simply going to confine ourselves to calling on both sides to resist the temptation to provoke each other or raise tensions over those two islands. From the U.S. standpoint, though we understand it has a great emotional content, it's not the kind of issue that's worth elevating beyond a war of words, where we are now. So that is our position on it.
QUESTION: The President of Belarus is accusing U.S. and other Western diplomats of various efforts to destabilize his government apparently. Any reaction to that?
MR. DAVIES: The reaction that we have to it was reaction put out by our Ambassador in Kiev, Mr. Yalowitz --
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, Minsk. The report I have is out of Kiev. You're right. Minsk is the capital of Belarus. Thank you very much.
-- that the United States is seeking an explanation of these charges made by Belarusian President Lukashenko. We reject the charge made by the Belarusians that somehow the United States and Western Embassies are trying to destabilize his country. That is not at all the case.
We consider that statements like that are provocative and in fact outrageous, so we reject them.
QUESTION: What sort of communications have you made with Lukashenko about this?
MR. DAVIES: Our Embassy, and again Ambassador Yalowitz, in Minsk, is conveying this to the Belarusians. He's done so publicly. I believe he's done so privately. I'm happy to check that, but that would stand to reason as well.
QUESTION: What are the Russians telling you about Yeltsin's health?
MR. DAVIES: The Russians have come clean from the President on down about the President's health. I don't think there's much secret here that he has serious health problems that need to be resolved. To the extent we have any privileged communications with the Russian Government, I'm not going to go into them publicly. I think I would just confine myself to saying what we've said all along, that we hope very much that President Yeltsin makes a full and speedy recovery.
Of course, we've made no secret of our interest in helping in any way we can. So that offer is out there to the Russians, but they will ultimately decide what's to be done -- President Yeltsin will -- and we simply hope that it all comes out well, because he's a very important leader.
QUESTION: Who are you dealing with there? What's your understanding --
MR. DAVIES: We're dealing, as you would expect, with members of his staff. We're dealing with government officials. I mean, our Embassy, which is a rather large Embassy in Moscow is, of course, following this very, very closely. But it's not an issue for the United States to deal with actively. It's really up to the Russians to deal with it, and to the extent they would like us to be helpful, we stand ready to help.
QUESTION: Could we help in perhaps making a connection between Dr. Michael DeBakey and the Russian medical staff?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think that was needed, since DeBakey has helped train some of the surgeons who are involved in making decisions about President Yeltsin's treatment. I mean, everybody knows who DeBakey is and how to get ahold of him, so I don't think we played any role in that at all.
QUESTION: Any update on Barzani and whether there will be another meeting and whether there will be a meeting with Talabani?
MR. DAVIES: I don't have an update on that. I can't take you past what was reported last week on Pelletreau's meeting with Barzani. It remains very much our hope that a way can be found to restart the reconciliation process in northern Iraq.
The meeting with Barzani was certainly a step in that direction, but beyond that I don't have anything new for you.
QUESTION: And the United States has not had a meeting with Talabani in any --
MR. DAVIES: I don't have one to report to you. I know that we've remained --
QUESTION: That doesn't answer my question.
MR. DAVIES: I simply don't have anything on that for you.
QUESTION: Is that because you don't know or because you don't want to talk about it?
MR. DAVIES: I'll be honest. I don't believe there's been one, and I don't have anything to report about a prospective meeting. So, I simply can't help you with that. But it is the case that we have remained in contact with his group, the PUK, as we had with the KDP all throughout these last three weeks. So we continue to look for ways where we can play a useful role, and that was why Ambassador Pelletreau went the extra mile and met with Barzani in Ankara.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the U.S. documents -- or U.S. Army documents released on Friday by the Pentagon, indicating that the U.S. trained Latin American military officials?
MR. DAVIES: I don't. That issue is one that I'm happy to leave in the Pentagon's capable hands. I just don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Back on northern Iraq, could you tell us what your strategy is for that area? You say you want them to reconcile. Beyond that, what do you want these rival factions to do? Do you want them to agree on institutions of self-government or just to form a common front against Saddam Hussein or what?
MR. DAVIES: First and foremost, they've got to see the light, even before we can get to that stage of designing a way forward. Both sides -- the KDP and the PUK, indeed all Kurds -- have to recognize that their salvation will not come through engaging outside forces in their dispute. They've got to lay aside their differences sufficiently in order to get back to the table and begin to discuss what should be of mutual concern to all of them, which is the fate of northern Iraq and of the Kurdish people there.
I think we have to see signs that that's happened before we can go on to the next stage of talking about what kind of a negotiating agenda we could contemplate. That said, obviously, the ideas that we're exchanging with the KDP and the PUK are ideas that for now are probably best left confidential, because were we to lay out, I think, publicly all of our thinking on how they might get back together, given the differences between them, we would end up not serving the process.
QUESTION: As you know, there are also millions of Turkomans living in northern Iraq.
MR. DAVIES: Sure.
QUESTION: First, when Secretary Perry was in Ankara, I think the issue was brought up, and it was mentioned how important it is to make Turkomans a part of this process. Is the United States Administration in touch with Turkomans independently, just like you said you are in touch with
Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani?
And, secondly, does the State Department have a view as to the future of Turkomans? Are they being envisaged to have a status under whatever Kurdish structure, you know, will become the reality there?
MR. DAVIES: That's a version of the question that was just asked of me. I think getting into discussing all the various groups in northern Iraq and what role they would play eventually, just gets us way beyond where we are now, which is seeking to convince the major factions, which are the Kurdish factions, of the necessity of putting aside their differences and putting aside their calls on outside powers for help and getting back to some sort of a process of reconciliation to actually talk about the future of northern Iraq rather than talk about how to seek advantage from each other.
So talking about the Shi'a or the Turkomans or the other groups at this stage simply gets us beyond where we are right now, which is making that first step.
QUESTION: But the question is, so you are not in touch with Turkomans, right?
MR. DAVIES: I wouldn't say that. We're in touch with the INC. I think what's fair to say, is that we're in touch with all of the actors in northern Iraq through one way or another. I can't right now lay out for you how all of this is being done, but we have a very large, very active Embassy in Ankara. We have diplomats here in Washington such as Ambassador Pelletreau, the Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, who work on this issue every day.
You should be assured that the United States is in touch with all of those who have a piece of the problem in northern Iraq.
QUESTION: Didn't you announce that Thursday, that a Turkoman representative was in the meeting with Pelletreau?
MR. DAVIES: That could well be. I was in Miami and Colorado Springs last week.
MR. DAVIES: Thank you. I was working.
One more over here. Bill.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks. Based on Secretary Perry's statements, does this government now -- is it now telling us that there is not a risk or so much a risk of armed conflict with Saddam Hussein, such as would warrant the withdrawal of an aircraft carrier from the Gulf at this point?
MR. DAVIES: Secretary Perry chops the orders to aircraft carriers to turn around, if that's to be the case. He's made two points, which everybody agrees on. One is that the Iraqis appear to be making the right kinds of steps to calm tensions a bit, and the second point he's made is that we watch this situation very, very closely -- minute to minute, hour to hour. So if this situation changes appreciably, we'll know about it, and we'll be able to react instantaneously.
But I think what Secretary Perry had to say can pretty much stand on its own. He's the man who makes these decisions about deployment of U.S. forces.
QUESTION: And just to follow up, though. In the north, Madeleine Albright reported today that UN monitors are going back into northern Iraq, and I take it that's a sign that there is safety for them to operate.
MR. DAVIES: I hadn't seen that report. I was unaware that they were going back.
QUESTION: Since you mentioned that, how large is this minority of Turkomans in Iraq? Do you have any idea on a percentage basis?
MR. DAVIES: I don't. Sorry, I can't give you a geography lesson today.
QUESTION: I am asking if you know anything -- how large --
MR. DAVIES: I just don't. I'm sorry, I don't.
QUESTION: -- because they are considered about a few thousand. In the meantime, they ignore millions in Turkey -- I'm talking about -- I would like to know how large is this minority in Iraq?
MR. DAVIES: Mr. Lambros, I don't know; but I'll tell you, you could direct your questions to perhaps one of the regional states or call Baghdad.
QUESTION: One more. Back to Greece again. One more question. You said earlier that Mr. Simitis wants to improve Greece's relations with her neighbors. Could you please be more specific, since in the meantime Washington Post reported today about compromise (inaudible) with Turkey.
MR. DAVIES: I think what we'll do is allow
Mr. Simitis to enjoy his victory. He's just been elected. We congratulate him on that election and congratulate all of those who have been elected along with him.
QUESTION: But this doesn't answer my question.
MR. DAVIES: We believe that he is a man with a strong degree of commitment to act peacefully in the region, and that is one of the reasons why we look forward to working with him in the future.
QUESTION: But that doesn't answer. My question is, you said earlier that he is somehow ready to improve Greece's relations with her neighbors. In the meantime, The Washington╩Post is reporting today about compromise with Turkey. So I'm wondering if you could be more specific to this effect.
MR. DAVIES: I think I'd choose not to be more specific to this effect right now, other than to say that in some of the recent conflicts that we've seen, he has played a responsible role, and it's that commitment, we believe, to getting along well with some of Greece's neighbors that we wish to take note of today and look forward to in the future.
QUESTION: You said a responsible role. Could you be more specific when?
MR. DAVIES: I'm just not going to get into this any further right now. I mean, we could go back to Imia/Kardak. We could talk about all that's happened in recent months, but I don't think that's useful. You know the history of Greece's relations with its neighbors better than I do, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: The answer to a responsible role vis-a-vis to which crisis -- Cyprus, Skopje, what exactly?
MR. DAVIES: In general, it's our view in general that he's played a responsible role.
(The briefing concluded at 1:32 p.m.)
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