U.S. Department of State 96/09/30 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, September 30, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Newly Elected Bosnian Presidency Holds First Meeting..........1 Secretary Christopher to Have Photo-op with PM Klaus of Czech Republic..............................................2 Department Background Briefing on Middle East Peace Process Today at 3:30 p.m................................. 2 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Chairman Arafat, PM Netanyahu, King Hussein to Attend Washington DC Summit.................... ................... 2 Egyptian Foregn Minister Moussa to Attend Summit/Absence of President Mubarak. .........................................2,4,9 White House to Release Schedule of Summit Meetings............2 Secretary Christopher Role in Summit Arrangements.............3 U.S. Role as Intermediary in Negotiations/Objectives..........3, 5-7,10-12 European Allies Briefed on Scheduling of Summit...............7-8 King Hussein Suggestion to Establish Commission on Religious Sites in the Old City....................... 11 Relationship of US Aid to Continuing Violence.................8 Ability of Palestinian Authority and of Israel to Control Security Situation..........................................14 AFGHANISTAN Situation in Kabul............................................14-16 US Condemns Execution of Najibullah.......... 15 US Contacts with the Taliban..................... 15-17 TURKEY PM Erbakan Visit to Libya, Contact with Sudan. 17-18 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Certification of Sept. 14 Elections/Possiblity of Lifting of Sanctions/UNSC Vote on Res. 1022.........................18,21 FM Milutinovic Mtgs at the Department.........................20,21 US Encouraging Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina to Establish Diplomatic Relations........................................22 AFRICA Secretary's Travel Schedule Remains Firm/Itinerary to Include Tanzania, Ethiopia, Angola, Mali, South Africa. 22-23 GREECE FM Pangalos Comments on US Involvement in Efforts to Resolve Aegean Issue/Mtgs between Secretary Christopher and PM Pangalos at UNGA............................................24-25 LIBYA Involvement in Bombing of Pan Am 103..........................27
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 1996, 1:20 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have one announcement, and then I'll be glad to go into your questions. We are dealing with two very big issues today. Obviously, the situation concerning preparations for the summit that the President has called for in Washington.
I want to begin, however, with an announcement on Bosnia. As you know, the newly-elected Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina held its first meeting today. That session took place in Sarajevo, at the Hotel Saraj inside the city of Sarajevo. It was attended by the three Presidency members who were chosen in the September 14th election, the results of which were certified yesterday by the OSCE Mission, by Ambassador Frowick.
The participants were President Izetbegovic, Mr. Krajisnik, and Mr. Zubak.
The United States officials worked very closely with Carl Bildt, the High Representative, to bring this meeting about. It represents the beginning of what we hope will be regular meetings among the three who share this office. The United States welcomes this important action in building the joint institutions which came into being as a result of the election.
Today's meeting is the critical first step in a process which will involve the convening of the parliament and the creation of the Council of Ministers and the creation of a central bank and of a court.
We congratulate the members of the Presidency. We congratulate the people of Bosnia on this historic first step following the elections, and the United States will continue to work very closely with all of them and, of course, our Contact Group partners, so that the Dayton Accords, and the promise of the Dayton Accords, can be fulfilled.
Now, turning to the Middle East Summit that the President and the Secretary State are arranging. I can tell you a couple of things. First, operational in terms of guidance for how we can do our business today.
The Secretary of State will have a photo opportunity with the Czech Prime Minister -- Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus -- at 3:00 p.m. today. He'll be glad to take your questions on a variety of issues at that photo session, which is up in the Treaty Room.
Following that, there will be a BACKGROUND briefing by a senior Administration official, well-known to all of you, at 3:30 p.m. in this Briefing Room. That will be ON BACKGROUND.
I can also tell you -- and I know that Mike McCurry has gone over some of this in his briefing -- that we have just received word that Chairman Arafat will attend the summit meeting. In fact, he's stopping in Luxembourg to talk with the EU Foreign Ministers -- with the Troika, the past, present, and future EU Presidents. Following that, he will depart Luxembourg for Washington, and we expect him to arrive in Washington in the early morning hours of tomorrow morning.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is due in around midnight. King Hussein is due in earlier -- I think late afternoon today. We also understand that following a conversation that the President had with President Mubarak late this morning, that President Mubarak will not be attending the summit. He has asked that his Foreign Minister, Foreign Minister Amre Moussa, attend the summit. Foreign Minister Moussa is most welcome to attend.
I can tell you in terms of the schedule -- I know Mike has gone over this. This is still a work-in-progress. We expect that there will be, of course, some preliminary meetings when the delegations arrive that Ambassador Dennis Ross and his other colleagues will be having with the Israeli and Palestinian and Jordanian delegations.
Tomorrow, I think the White House will be putting out a schedule. We expect there to be a series of bilateral meetings, and then probably a group meeting. At some point after that, the President and the Secretary and others will decide how to proceed with the meetings, what best combination of meetings need to take place on the remainder of Tuesday and into Wednesday, to make this summit a success.
Let me just remind you what our objectives are here for this summit. After the violence last week, which was among the worst that anyone had seen in 30 years in the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem, it became very clear watching that, hearing reports on it, that there was no substitute for a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat.
As you know, Secretary of State Christopher, who was in New York late last week, worked literally around the clock on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to produce this meeting. He had conversations with all the relevant leaders; many, many conversations with the President over the weekend. That's our first objective, to get the two leaders together so that they may begin discussing the problems between them and break the cycle of grievances and cycle of violence and hostilities that have dominated relations between the two for the last week.
Second, we obviously would like them to agree that they will stop the fighting on the streets.
And, third, that they will begin a substantive discussion -- begin, again, a substantive discussion -- of the issues that are needed to be discussed to fulfill the Oslo Accords, and there are many such issues.
There is a need to restore calm and stability on the streets of the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem. There is a need to put the fighting behind them. There is a need to get together and to talk and begin a discussion. We don't underestimate the challenges in accomplishing these objectives. You've seen even the difficulties that we have experienced today about a number of questions about who will participate.
As Ambassador Ross said earlier today, these are deeply-held grievances. There are raw emotions and there is much bitterness that separate Israel and the Palestinians. Our task, as the principal intermediary, is to help bring them together to begin the process of turning their relationship back into one where they work together to fulfill the Oslo Accords and to negotiate their differences. That's what we hope to accomplish over the next couple of days.
Q Nick, when you speak of bilateral meetings, is it known now that Arafat and Netanyahu will meet face-to-face without, as well as with, but without American mediation?
MR. BURNS: I think they'll certainly meet face-to-face. At this point, Barry, since we're still pulling the schedule together -- and we do need to consult with both of them when they arrive and their staffs -- I'm
just not in a position and, I think, neither is Mike McCurry to say, "Here is the way all the meetings will be conducted for the day and a half or two-day period." But, certainly, there will be bilateral meetings that the President and Secretary of State will have.
The Secretary, of course, will be very active, probably operating out of Blair House tomorrow. The President will be hosting this at the White House. That will happen. We expect there to be a group meeting. After that, we'll just have to see how the summit transpires.
As you remember, this is the way that many of the previous Middle East summits transpired. It's also the way that the Dayton Accords transpired.
Q So you don't know for sure that Arafat and Netanyahu will meet face-to-face without American participation?
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to see what decisions they make. But, certainly, in asking them to come to Washington, we expect that they will meet in the same room together and discuss these issues face to face. We'll just have to leave that up to them as to how they decide to do that.
Q And from Mubarak, "no thank you." Is that something that hurts your effort? Is that a slight? It almost reflects that you look to Egypt to be a moderating force.
Did Mubarak give a reason? I suppose he has a busy schedule, but is his absence a slight? Does it hurt in any way your efforts to resolve these two problems?
MR. BURNS: Obviously, in extending the invitation, we had hoped that President Mubarak would come to Washington. He has been, since he became President of Egypt many years ago, a very able and productive leader in the region who has consistently called for peaceful dialogue. We have worked extremely well with him in the past and we'll continue to, I'm sure, in the future.
So, certainly, it would have been preferable to have had President Mubarak here. The fact that he's sending his Foreign Minister is a good thing. Egypt will be represented. Egypt will be present at these talks. Egypt is one of the major Arab countries. As I said, Egypt has been a voice of stability and reason in the Middle East and is a good partner of the United States.
Q Nick, are you looking for some just general statement of, yes, we'll get back together and start peace talks again? Or are you looking for a date specific?
MR. BURNS: Carol, I don't know if there will be any statements at the end of this. I don't know what the result of the summit will be. None of us do. This is something that's going to be produced and be decided in the course of the discussions.
I do want to accentuate, as Secretary Christopher did yesterday in his television appearance, how difficult this is. I think that our expectations, frankly, should be set at a realistic place and a realistic bar for these meetings. It is normally done by spokespeople before significant international meetings, as you know. But I think in this case, if you look at the substantive disagreements between them, if you look at the bitterness that was produced by last week's events, I think you will agree that bringing them together, getting them to talk again, and hopefully having an agreement that they will stop fighting is a realistic way to look at this meeting. But I would not encourage you to think that this meeting can achieve something well beyond that.
This is a process that we're trying to jump-start here. They've had a lot of success over the last three years in negotiating with each other. Frankly, they had some good meetings, we thought, since Prime Minister Netanyahu had come into power.
But after the horrible events of last week, with over 50 people killed, with hundreds if not thousands wounded, with the divisions and grievances and hostility that those events produced, I think we have to be realistic that the Washington Summit, we hope, will jump-start the peace negotiations, bring them back together talking. But we would expect that this process would have to continue well beyond their departure from Washington. They will not be able to resolve all the issues between them at this summit.
Q Two questions. One, are you expecting all the meetings to take place in Blair House and in the White House?
MR. BURNS: I think you're going to see a variety of things. When the delegations arrive, I think Ambassador Ross will probably be going to their hotels or meeting them elsewhere. I don't believe that's been decided yet. I would think that the majority of meetings would be held at the White House and Blair House, yes. This is a Presidential Summit, and the President has called this. Therefore, it will have the Presidential imprimatur.
Q What role are King Hussein and Foreign Minister Moussa to play in these meetings?
MR. BURNS: The President and Secretary thought, when they decided to convene this summit over the weekend, they thought it was very important that Egypt and Jordan be represented because Egypt and Jordan have been the pillars, the foundations of the peace negotiations with Israel. Both of them have peace treaties with Israel. Both of them have fully, normal relations with Israel. In particular, His Majesty King Hussein and President Mubarak have been among the most constructive, most effective Arab leaders, in a general sense, on all of the peace negotiation issues. They're also good friends of the United States.
Q Nick, I understand what you're saying about the United States acting as host, and that being a difficult thing in itself. But if asked, is the United States prepared to put forward any substantive ideas that might help the parties come together?
MR. BURNS: The United States is an active intermediary in these negotiations. We have been for years. If you wish, we have been for decades, going all the way back to the late 1960s and 1970s. We've always been an active intermediary.
During the last three and a half years of the life of this Administration, at junctures such as this, following the Hebron massacre of February 25, 1994, in the negotiations that led to the signature of the Oslo II Treaty on September 28, '95 -- at each of these critical junctures, where a lot of people thought the Israelis and Palestinians would not have an agreement, the United States has been very active substantively behind the scenes. We have our own ideas. We do suggest those ideas in the course of meetings.
I would think this summit coming up Tuesday and Wednesday would be no different at all. But I think there's another important point that we have to bear in mind. That is, this peace process -- the peace negotiations -- they belong to Israel and the Palestinians. In the final analysis, the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are responsible, but they also are the only ones who can make the decisions to move it forward.
It's their negotiations. They have been in control of these negotiations; and for the most part, they have met willingly and they've met together and often met alone.
But given the events of last week, and given the problems that those events produced, it did take the efforts of the United States from Thursday to Sunday to convince them to meet and to convince them to meet in Washington.
So, therefore, I think this role of intermediary will be an important one for us to play.
Q On that point, the reluctance, does the delay in Chairman Arafat's acceptance suggest any reluctance on his part to come?
MR. BURNS: You saw some hesitation this morning. I think this was perhaps not unexpected and certainly not unprecedented. We've seen, in prior situations like this, events like this. We've been in situations like this where we weren't sure that a meeting would actually be pulled together. Fortunately, he has decided to come ahead and participate in these negotiations as he committed to do, and that is a very productive and positive thing.
Q Was there reluctance on his part?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask Chairman Arafat. I mean, he went to Cairo. He had discussions with President Mubarak. We always assumed, certainly from the early morning hours of today, that he would be coming, and we said so publicly.
Q I gather the Europeans are sort of angry at being left out of this gala. What did -- was there any consideration on the U.S. side to invite them, and why not?
MR. BURNS: First let me say that the United States was in very, very close contact with the major European countries last week in New York. Throughout this, Secretary Christopher spent time with Foreign Minister Primakov and Foreign Minister de Charette and Foreign Minister Kinkel and Foreign Secretary Rifkind on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday; saw them many times during each day.
They had several group discussions Thursday evening, Thursday afternoon, Thursday morning, at a Contact Group meeting about this. So we've fully informed the Europeans at every step of the process what our thinking was and what our intentions were.
I think, Carol, it was very important that this meeting be limited, because that is the way that they have produced progress in the past. The Israelis and the Palestinians have negotiated generally in a very restricted format. Sometimes the United States is in the room and sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's done through the telephone, and sometimes it's done in person.
This is a very sensitive time, with a lot at stake for both Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu, and we certainly believe this is the appropriate way to bring them together in a setting that is most likely to produce some positive results. I think that there's understanding in Europe about this.
Europe has a role. The Europeans have often been catalysts in the peace negotiations. I mean, just take the example of Norway, which has played a terribly effective role over the last three or four years, and certainly financially. The contributions that the European Union and member states make to supporting the peace negotiations is really essential.
I think that we can have this meeting and have continuing contacts with our European partners and proceed together on this issue with no degree of rancor.
Q Nick, do you think that Prime Minister Netanyahu is justified in a very strict closure, almost barricade, he's put around the Palestinian autonomous areas, and in his administration statement that if the fighting doesn't stop, they will forcefully disarm the Palestinian security forces?
MR. BURNS: On the first question, Sid, I think we'll establish some ground rules here. They are Dayton-like ground rules. They worked in Dayton, and I hope they're going to work here.
The United States Government has made a very deliberate decision, and we did so at the beginning of this crisis last week, and we're going to maintain it this week. To be an effective intermediary, we need to have the credibility with both sides. We need to be discreet. We need to resist the temptation that others have succumbed to, to say in public everything that we may be thinking in private.
We do have views on all these issues, but we're going to keep them private. We'll give them to Israel and the Palestinians. But I think radio silence, TV silence, network silence is going to be -- on specific issues, it's going to be the order of the day for us.
On the second question, Secretary Christopher was very clear yesterday when asked about this. The Palestinian police are armed to protect the Palestinian population. They have responsibilities there, and I don't think it's in the cards or on the table to initiate a discussion to disarm them.
Q Nick, a follow-up on a previous answer. You said a lot is at stake here. Is the peace process itself at stake here?
MR. BURNS: I think you heard Secretary Christopher say yesterday that the peace process is in a very difficult state. There's no question about it. The events of last week were significant and horrible and damaging to both sides, and that is why the United States felt it necessary and prudent and wise to convene the summit here this week. It's an extraordinary thing to do, but we felt an extraordinary step was required.
Q Nick --
MR. BURNS: Mark has been waiting.
Q Nick, what reason did President Mubarak give for not coming to this summit, and as a major aid donor to Egypt, does the United States Government consider his reason to be adequate?
MR. BURNS: Certainly, I'm going to have to let the Egyptian Government give its explanation for President Mubarak's decision. I should tell you, however, that President Mubarak spoke to President Clinton just about an hour ago, and I think we've got a channel open and very good communications.
We have an excellent relationship with Egypt. We will continue to have an excellent relationship with Egypt, and I can assure you the United States Government is not considering any kind of move of the type you suggest. And the second part of your question: We're going to have normal, good, productive relations with Egypt.
Egypt will remain one of the most important countries to us in the entire Middle East, and one of the most important countries for the historic process of reconciliation that must continue between Israel and the Arab countries, and Foreign Minister Moussa's presence here will be positive.
Q On the issue of Arafat, he was nervous to some extent about coming here; that he might end up going away empty. What reassurances were you able to give him that the trip would be worth his while?
MR. BURNS: First, Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed that there would be no conditions attached to attending the summit. There is no preordained outcome
for this summit. We have not given them a checklist of issues that will definitely be settled at the end of the two days, because that's up to them. That's up to the decisions that they make and the quality of their own dialogue while they're here. I think that's the proper way for us to approach this.
They have been -- in Secretary Christopher's conversations with them -- Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman Arafat -- very productive in discussing why this meeting should be held. They want to have this meeting. It's clear to us that both of them have determined that they've got to get back to discussions and get away from the violence of last week.
It's in their interests to have this meeting. It was their decision to have this meeting, and we are satisfied to serve as the intermediary to bring them together and to provide the location for the meeting.
Q Thanks, Nick. Does the U.S. have a position on the controversial tunnel -- this flashpoint -- and I understand the Israelis will not discuss it. Can you explain what the U.S. view is on this controversy? Why is it an issue?
MR. BURNS: First, Bill, I think that I would expect that each of these leaders is going to bring issues to the table of concern to them, and the United States is not going to be in a position of censoring one or the other and saying, "You can't raise this issue; you can't raise that issue."
Each of them ought to be free to raise at the negotiating table whatever issues they choose to raise -- first.
Second, this is obviously one of the major issues that needs to be discussed. It is a very emotional issue for, I think, both of them, and it's a very sensitive issue. The United States has been very careful since the beginning of this crisis not to give a detailed explanation of our own views in public, for the reasons that I cited, I think, when I spoke to Sid just a minute ago; and that is we have views, but they'll remain private, because that's the way to be an effective intermediary.
Diplomacy is often a function of being discreet, maintaining confidentiality, maintaining radio silence during negotiations and not succumbing to the desire to just throw everything out in public, and I think that's the way you'll see us proceed over the next several days.
Q A suggestion has been made, I think by King Hussein, to establish some sort of commission to look into the problems of the Old City religious sites. Is that something that the U.S. would contemplate going along with?
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to see. There have been a number of suggestions made on that issue and on other issues, and I think we'll just have to wait until all the summit leaders get here, and I'm sure there will be a full discussion of a lot of these issues.
Q Nick, you said earlier on that you see the summit as jump-starting the peace process. Are you referring to the two sides implementing past agreements in Oslo II, such as the Israeli part of Hebron, or are you looking forward to final status negotiations or both?
MR. BURNS: I think we have to be somewhat general about this. They need to move from a state of belligerency and fighting in the streets to a situation where they get back to discussions. In that sense, one of the objectives here is to jump-start the peace negotiations.
The peace negotiations are in several forms. There are the talks pertaining to the completion of the Oslo accords. There are well-known issues under that subject heading, and there are the final status talks. We'll just have to see how much progress can be made in each of them, but I would not encourage you to think that somehow at the end of two days here, they'll have resolved most of these major issues. In fact, I would predict that they probably will not be able to resolve all of these issues. They'll have to agree that this process will continue, and we hope that happens.
Q To follow up, is this a Bosnia kind of situation, where you get the leaders together to agree to do what they've already agreed to do?
MR. BURNS: No. As I said, I think it's very clear to everybody that there is no preordained outcome for this meeting. The negotiations to produce the meeting were very difficult, and they extended over four days. But at the end of the day, Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Netanyahu are coming here, understanding that they've got to talk, but there is no predetermined outcome available to them. They'll have to determine what the outcome is.
Betsy and then David.
Q Nick, right before coming out here, there was a wire story that said that Netanyahu in a refueling stop had said that Israel would offer to the Palestinians non-stop talks on the issue of Hebron after these meetings in Washington. Is that the sort of thing that this government is looking for to move this whole --
MR. BURNS: I understand that Prime Minister Netanyahu did say something to that effect, Betsy. You're right. I probably saw the same wire report, when he stopped in Amsterdam. Frankly, we'll just have to see when he gets here what he has in mind, what the specific proposal is, before I can really speak to it or any of us can speak to it publicly. But I think when they get here, there will be obviously suggestions that both of them will be making and we'll be making to move the process forward.
Q Nick, you said that you're offering the parties a venue and to act as intermediary. Is that all the U.S. is going to do? You've said that the U.S. has ideas that you obviously don't want to make public right now. Can we assume that the United States has some fairly strong views about what should happen in the Middle East now, and that you're going to make those clear and use your clout with the parties to make sure that they are heard clearly?
MR. BURNS: We're going to continue to work with both of them at this summit the way we have for many, many years. The Palestinian Authority is a friend of the United States and a partner of the United States. We have a very good relationship with Chairman Arafat. We don't make threats in that relationship. We work with him cooperatively.
Israel is a major ally of the United States, a friend of the United States. The bonds there are obvious to everyone, and we have a very good working relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his government. This will not be an occasion of confrontation between the United States and these parties. This will be a time when the United States can work with two friends to help resolve some very significant problems between them.
Q To the extent that you just said -- although you just said it in relation to Arafat and not Israel -- "We don't make threats in that relationship."
MR. BURNS: We don't make threats.
Q Right, right. But you didn't say that in regard to Israel.
MR. BURNS: No, I meant it in regard to both. Let me just step back, because I think I know why this question is being asked. We're not in a position here of threatening anyone. They're friends of the United States -- both of them, Israel and the Palestinians -- and we're going to work with them cooperatively.
Q A follow-up to that. The United States has been a very generous donor to both the Palestinians and to the State of Israel. In any of these conversations about this meeting and what happens heretofore, has there been any talk about the nature of that aid and how it could be affected?
MR. BURNS: Not that I'm aware of. In fact, I spent nearly all day Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday with the Secretary. I know what he said in his phone conversations. He was our principal negotiator for leading up to this meeting, and I'm not aware of any such discussions in conversations with either the Palestinians or the Israelis.
Q In light of recent Israeli actions and inactions, are you convinced that Netanyahu is willing to do more than give lip service to peace? Do you believe he's willing to act?
MR. BURNS: We believe it's in the self-interest of both Israel and the Palestinians to move forward. I know that Secretary Christopher feels that as a result of his conversations, both of them -- both of the leaders -- understand the need to work with the other; the need to get back into the discussions and draw away from the conflict. So we presume they're coming here to make progress, and that's our strong expectation.
MR. BURNS: Any more on the Middle East? Mark?
Q You said that one of the aims would be to end the violence, and I just wonder if you believe that Chairman Arafat is in a position to control his population and to be sure of putting an end to the violence?
MR. BURNS: Obviously, in a situation of the type that we witnessed last week from afar, it is obviously true that in some cases neither government or authority can
control the actions of all their citizens on the streets, because emotion fueled and sometimes hatred and sometimes extremism. But there were a variety of things that fueled the violence.
But for the most part, the Palestinian Authority is responsible for security in Gaza and in most towns of the West Bank, and the Israeli Government is responsible for security in Israel. The lines of authority are fairly clear, and certainly they expect, I think, that they will exercise that responsibility responsibly, and so do we.
Q Just one more. To follow up Charlie's question, Mr. Ross said today that there had been such a decline in trust that the environment was clearly very sour, and many journalists have written that this summit is a salvage effort. Is it really that bad?
MR. BURNS: I would not minimize, and I think you've seen this in Secretary Christopher's public statements. I would not minimize the bitterness and the problems that were produced by last week's fighting. It has produced an environment that is extremely difficult for both of them and for all of us who want to work with them towards peace.
That is part of what we saw today, and that is part of what, I'm sure, we'll have to deal with in the next couple of days, and that's a reality that we are mindful of. That's another reason why the United States felt it had an obligation and a self-interest of our own to host this meeting. It was not tenable to sit by and allow the fighting to continue without the participation in peace discussions of the United States, using its good offices, using the fact that in many ways the United States is the indispensable country, working with Israel and the Palestinians for peace. We have been historically, and that is a role that we must play.
On to another issue.
MR. BURNS: Afghanistan, yes.
Q Last week, the official response of this government to the Taliban marching into Kabul seemed to be a wait-and-see attitude, to see what they would do. They seem to be ruthlessly executing former political opponents. Is the U.S. rethinking its position?
MR. BURNS: I don't know -- we've not changed our position. You know, the situation on the ground is quite murky. As we understand it, the Taliban has had a string of military successes, is pretty much in control of Kabul. But I think it's also true that the former government forces, including some significant military forces, are operating in the northern part of Afghanistan. There have been a lot of discussions with some of the leaders up there, and it's not at all clear that the Taliban have control over all of Afghanistan. In fact, it's fairly clear that they do not.
It's not at all clear to us that they have established a functioning government in Kabul or in the areas that they control. Let me just say a few things about our relationship to these events. We have maintained a relationship with Afghanistan. We have not broken diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, but we've not had an Embassy there since 1989 because of the civil war and the fighting.
We will have to decide at some point in the future when to re-establish an Embassy, but I don't believe there's any serious thought about doing that this week. We've not had an American Ambassador there, I think, since 1979, when, tragically, Ambassador Spike Dubs was assassinated, and we haven't forgotten that.
We have maintained contact over the years with all the major factions -- people who used to be in charge in Kabul; some of the military faction leaders throughout the country -- and Assistant Secretary Robin Raphel has met with Taliban representatives in both Washington and Afghanistan this year.
It remains to be seen what kind of government is going to be formed there, and we'll have to watch the situation very closely. We have consistently raised with all authorities in Afghanistan -- and this includes the Taliban -- issues of great concern to the United States: terrorism, narcotics, human rights including due process, and the treatment of women, which is a major issue for the United States, and we'll continue to raise those issues.
I can also tell you that the United States, of course, joins in the condemnation by the United Nations of the summary execution of Mr. Najibullah and his associates. We condemn those summary executions, and we've been very clear about that.
Q Your statements are certainly a lot harder than they were last week when on the specific case of Najibullah it was said to be regrettable, and now you're condemning it. And you seem to be a lot more suspicious about the Taliban than the public statements from this podium last week.
What contacts have there been with the Taliban since they entered Kabul, and are you still looking at them as a source for national reconciliation?
MR. BURNS: We have had contact, as I said, with the Taliban infrequently. We've had them at the level of Assistant Secretary Robin Raphel, which is significant. We obviously want to maintain those contacts. It's in our interests to continue talking to the Taliban, and we will do so.
I don't believe that we have any American diplomats in Kabul right now. I think we'd like to have some diplomats travel there to make contact with the Taliban. We'll have to assess when and how to do that, because obviously we're going to be concerned for the safety of those individuals.
We're going to have to assess, I think, over the short term exactly what the state of affairs is in Afghanistan, of the nature of the government that is formed, and the policies of that government, obviously, will be very important factors. We'll also have to continue to review events in the north where there's a great deal of instability and some continued fighting.
Q But what has made you toughen up your statements since last week?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't know if we've toughened it up. I mean, I haven't looked line by line what was said last week, but I think our thinking has been fairly consistent all along. I know that the Secretary has followed these events closely. He's had a lot on his plate, but he has followed these events closely.
There's a great interest in what happens in Afghanistan, because it is a pivotal country in terms of where it is situated in that part of the world, and I've just listed some of the issues that are of concern to us. So, we're going to maintain a close view of the events. We'll have contact with the Taliban and others, and we'll just have to proceed on a step-by-step basis to see if we can establish better and closer contacts.
Q Nick, you just mentioned the status of women.
MR. BURNS: The treatment of women, yes.
Q Or the treatment of women, and the Taliban says that women will be expected not to work in offices and so forth. Does the U.S. have a position on such rules regarding women?
MR. BURNS: I think we should separate two things. First, in general, as you know, the United States has consistently taken at all international gatherings and certainly in the United Nations a position that women should be accorded equal rights around the world. That's an important issue in the United States, and it's certainly an important expression of our own foreign policy, and we're not bashful about that.
I want to be very careful, when it comes to the Taliban, to say that we've seen some public statements by some people speaking for the Taliban. We will need to assess exactly what happens in Kabul, and that's one of the reasons why we'd like to send diplomats to Kabul to look at all of these issues and to begin contacts with the Taliban.
Q On terrorism -- you mentioned terrorism as one of the issues. Are you -- do you think that if Taliban were to exert full control over Afghanistan, that it might be a supporter of international terrorism? Is that a concern?
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to wait and see, Judd. Obviously, terrorism is a concern globally for us. It's a particular concern in that region. It has been for many years. We'll judge the Taliban and others in the region based on their actions, and I think we need to assess those actions first before we speak publicly about them.
Q Different subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Actually, terrorism or Afghanistan.
Q You are talking about the terrorism and the concern about the terrorism, right? As the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Erbakan -- they are planning to (inaudible) another terrorism supporting country, Libya, which he was it before Iran, and he planning to (inaudible) Sudan -- President of Sudan, Mr.(inaudible), which is in your list also. Do you have any concern on this subject?
MR. BURNS: We certainly have concern about any country normalizing relations. I don't know if that's the case, but we certainly would have concern about any country normalizing relations with Sudan and Libya. Sudan is a state sponsor of terrorism. Libya is responsible for the murder of hundreds of Americans on Pan Am Flight 103, December 1989, and we haven't forgotten that. We know that the Libyans are harboring two individuals who are responsible for that bombing.
We have a ransom out for them -- a $4 million reward out for the information leading to their arrest and prosecution in the United States. So when other countries, especially friends of the United States like Turkey consider normalizing or treating on an equal basis countries like Libya, of course we have some concerns, because those two countries -- I mean, Libya is a pariah state and ought to be treated like a pariah state. There are international sanctions in place on Libya.
Q How about Sudan?
MR. BURNS: We've had a lot of concerns about Sudan. We do have a relationship with the Sudanese. We have an Ambassador, Ambassador Carney, who is resident in Nairobi. He does visit Khartoum regularly. We have relations. It doesn't mean our relations are good. The relations are difficult, and they center around the issue of terrorism. We have a lot of concerns about the Sudanese Government's responsibility for participation and support of terrorist acts.
So our advice would be to be quite careful for any respected international leader to travel to those two countries to meet with their leadership -- be quite careful of these regimes and understand who they are and what they have done to violate basic international norms.
Q Have you communicated this official concern to Turkish Government officially?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if there's been an official communication, but I simply am taking the opportunity now, I think, to suggest what is commonsensical from an American Government point of view.
I think Betsy was next.
Q You have said, and the OSCE has said, that the elections have been certified in Bosnia.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Sort of free and fair. What happens now for the lifting of the sanctions?
MR. BURNS: Let's just take this one at a time. Ambassador Frowick did certify yesterday -- formally certify that the Bosnian elections of September 14 met the criteria established by the Dayton accords. Because he has done that after a laborious and painstaking process since the 14th of September, the United Nations Security Council is now meeting today and will consider, I think, very quickly the question of U.N. Resolution 1022, and that is the lifting of the sanctions that were suspended -- you remember -- in the months following the completion of the Dayton accords.
So the international sanctions in place on Serbia and on the Bosnian Serbs will be formally lifted, I think, just in a matter of days. The United States will support this, because this meets the criteria that we helped to negotiate at Dayton. I think if you put the OSCE certification together with the positive event this morning, which was the meeting at the Hotel Saraj in Sarajevo, of President Izetbegovic, Mr. Zubak and Mr. Krajisnik -- I think we can see that they are moving forward. They have a very difficult route ahead of them, but they're at least moving in a positive direction.
Q Nick, on that (inaudible), are you supporting Mr. Frowick's certification of the election results that have apparently had more voters than on the rolls?
MR. BURNS: First of all, it's not at all clear -- it's not at all clear -- that the second point you've made is true. It's not at all clear. There was a re-tabulation -- a very careful re-tabulation of all the votes from all the precincts, and Ambassador Frowick went through this for two weeks -- and his staff -- went through a re-tabulation.
They also instituted two 72-hour periods where complaints could be heard, and they considered all complaints. This was an honest, open, aboveboard process led by a very well respected diplomat, Bob Frowick, and led by an independent international organization, the OSCE.
We respect the decision and support the decision of the OSCE. The process now moves forward as the Dayton accords stipulate, and it's a very positive development. They've met this morning.
I'd just like to suggest we've had a lot of naysayers say that they'd never get this far. They've gotten this far, and they are moving forward. They may move forward with great difficulty in the future, but they are moving forward, and that is positive, and we ought to applaud them.
Q Nick, you said that these guys would have to meet regularly. What do you mean by "regularly"? I mean, once a year or once a month?
MR. BURNS: No, I think it's definitely not once a year. (Laughter) There's a collective presidency of three people. President Izetbegovic, of course, is the single person, who will lead the country, but he has two partners -- a Serb and a Croat -- and "regular" means regular, Carol, it means regular. It means that they get together on an agreed upon basis to discuss all of the daily issues that confront any government. Their issues are going to be harder, and their challenges are going to be higher because they fought each other for five years.
They now have to create a new state, new institutions, new common institutions, and that's going to be challenging. "Regular" will be defined by them. I would think it would be absolutely more than once a year and probably more than once a month, but let's let them decide what "regular" means, but I think you and I can agree on what "regular" means, right?
Q Probably more easily than they can.
MR. BURNS: I think it will be regularly. Because they'll have to deal with very practical problems -- transport, public services, basic governmental policies, personnel appointments. They're not going to be able to do that alone. They're not going to do that separately. They'll have to meet and their advisors will have to meet regularly to decide all those things.
This is going to be a fully functioning government. This government is going to make policy and it's going to be in charge of finance. It's going to be creating a judicial system, of working with a functioning parliament. It's going to be a functioning government. Now, how well it functions is going to be a function of how well they work together when they meet. We encourage them to meet as often as they can, but let them decide exactly how often that is.
Mr. Lambros, do you want to talk about Bosnia or Greece?
MR. BURNS: About Greece.
MR. BURNS: Can we just hold off, because we have a couple of people over here who want to talk about Bosnia, and then we'll talk about Greece.
Q Do you know if the Foreign Minister from Belgrade, Milan Milutinovic, is in Washington? They say that he had a meeting with Mr. Talbott. Do you know anything about that.
MR. BURNS: Foreign Minister Milutinovic met with Secretary Christopher last Thursday in New York. He's now in Washington. He is having meetings with American Government officials. I know he was meeting with Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum.
I'll check with you on the type of meeting that he had with Deputy Secretary Talbott.
Q I'm asking because of the precondition for relations between Belgrade and Washington. As far as I understood, it was a big disagreement among the Contact Group in New York about a resolution, about lifting these sanctions. Could you tell us more detail about your position now?
MR. BURNS: That's a question in the past now that we've gotten to the OSCE certification, but, basically, the United States position was, as one of the drafters of the Dayton Accords, that we had to wait until Ambassador Frowick certified, before the United Nations could take up the questions of a lifting of the sanctions. That has now happened. Therefore, the United States will certainly work towards a lifting of the sanctions this week, with the other members of the Security Council.
Q Does that mean that you are not ready to put something in your resolution like how to reimpose sanctions for someone who is not going to comply?
MR. BURNS: It's hard for me to anticipate exactly what all the language will be in the lifting resolution. Be assured that we're going to work towards a lifting of the sanctions because we are bound to do that by the Dayton Accords.
Q You don't think that Milutinovic in Washington -- does it mean that you are closer to Belgrade than before?
MR. BURNS: We have a constructive relationship with the Serbian Government. We have a lot of issues that we need to work on with the Serbs. We also have a lot of issues upon which we disagree with the Serbian Government.
We have concerns about the situation in Kosovo. You know we have concerns about the issue of war crimes and the failure of the Serbian Government, as well as the Bosnian Serbs, to comply with the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal.
That is why, despite the fact that the sanctions will be lifted this week, the United States will maintain the so-called "outer wall" of sanctions, which limits Belgrade from participating in the United Nations as the successor state to Yugoslavia, which limits Belgrade's ability to work with the international financial institutions or to take part in certain international events.
Those are important sanctions that the United States will maintain because of the problems in Kosovo and because of the problem of war crimes and other issues.
Q A quick one. According to Dayton, Sarajevo and Belgrade, they have to have real diplomatic relations, but Belgrade's Minister on Thursday, I was asking him, they're not ready to make diplomatic relations with Sarajevo and they're not ready to comply with obligations regarding The Hague Tribunal. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: The United States strongly encourages Serbia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina to establish full and normal relations. We think it's important --
Q This Thursday is going to be really important to Izetbegovic and Milosevic. But they're not ready to --
MR. BURNS: There will be a meeting on Thursday in Paris with President Izetbegovic and President Milosevic. We want to support the process of their meeting as frequently as they can, regularly, in a full normalization of relations with the new state, and Serbia; terribly important that proceed as well.
Q Nick, may I ask you a question about the Secretary's trip to Africa?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q First of all, I assume it won't be delayed by the Middle East summit?
MR. BURNS: There's been no change in the Secretary's planning for his trip to Africa.
Q Why has he waited until this point in the Administration to go to Africa? And what do you expect him to accomplish there?
MR. BURNS: I think the Secretary of State is going to set the all-time distance record for any American Secretary of State on this trip. He has been busy over the last three years, circumnavigating the globe on a variety of issues.
I don't want to leave in anyone's mind an impression of a Secretary of State, who has sat at home. In fact, he is the most travelled Secretary of State in history.
Secondly, he has had a strong interest in African affairs. This Administration has actually, I think, brought more focus to U.S. relations with Africa than previous Administrations.
The Vice President has visited Africa. National Security Advisor Tony Lake has visited on several occasions. Deputy Secretary Talbott has visited on several occasions. Assistant Secretary George Moose and Susan Rice of the NSC are currently on a trip to Africa visiting a variety of African countries.
I think there's been no lack of American involvement there. The Secretary feel it is very important for him to go there so that he can work with these leaders directly on their turf and visit some important countries.
Tanzania is playing the central role on the problems in Burundi and Rwanda. He'll be meeting with the Tanzanian Government as well as the former President, Julius Nyerere.
Ethiopia has played a major role as has the OAU. He'll meeting with the OAU head and other officials of the OAU on mediation of disputes in central Africa.
This issue that you refer to -- yes -- that issue is definitely going to come up. I just want to mention, Angola, where we have a major interest in playing a role and trying to resolve some of the problems between President dos Santos and Mr. Savimbi.
Mali, where we want to support the process of democracy and representative government, and it is happening in Mali which has been historically, in the Sahel, a very poor country in West Africa but has made great strides. We wanted to recognize that.
And, finally, South Africa, where some of the greatest advances of the last decade have taken place.
So there are a lot of reasons to go. The Secretary is looking forward to the trip.
Q How would you respond to some critics, who have told me in interviews that this comes so close to the Presidential election that what it amounts to is an effort to show the African voter, yes, we care?
MR. BURNS: I can assure you that in the planning for this trip, the Secretary of State made it for good, substantive policy reasons. A lot of people have questioned everything we've done or everything we've said. Somehow this is an implication that if you speak or you meet with anybody, it's for the elections.
You know I'm not a political person. I'm a career diplomat -- right? Carol knows that. We talk about it all the time. She always tries to get me to be political and I refuse.
If you look at our relations with Africa versus prior Administrations, that I worked in, I think we've given more attention to Africa. His trip is consistent with the Vice President's, Tony Lake's and Strobe Talbott's trips. It's not like we ignored the continent for four years and decided to go there in October 1996. That's not the record of the Clinton Administration.
Frankly, you ought to give us a little bit of leeway to allow us to implement American foreign policy without questioning that everything we do is related to the elections because I can tell you that almost everything we do is not related to the elections. There are very clear barriers set up by U.S. law which talk about what you can do and what you can't do pertaining to American national elections.
The Secretary, of all people, is quite conscious of that and has made a lot of decisions. He made a decision not to send anybody from the Department of State at a senior level to the Democratic National Convention. That was a very good decision. He didn't have to make that decision, but he made it because he wants to separate American foreign policy from our electoral process here. He's been a stickler about that. I would encourage you to think of this in different ways.
Q I'm merely relaying the sentiments of your critics.
MR. BURNS: You're convinced now.
Q Don't kill the messenger. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: I'm just taking advantage of the messenger, to send my own message.
Greece first, Bill, and then we're going to finish the briefing.
Q Less than a week, the Greek Foreign Minister, Theodhoros Pangalos, in New York City denied your statement for U.S. help for a new effort to restore some of the Aegean problems on a three-way basis between Greece and Turkey, and United States involvement.
Mr. Pangalos denied also statements by Anthony Lake and George Stephanopoulos for a package-deal process to find a solution in the Greek-Turkish differences over the Aegean.
Mr. Pangalos actually, with unusual bravado, rejected the U.S. involvement. Could you please comment again on the issue in order to clarify the confusion which has been created by Mr. Pangalos, in the Athens News Agency, of the Simitis government which dispatched totally different stories created a real mess all over Greece?
MR. BURNS: I've got it. I know what my task is.
Q You discussed it --
MR. BURNS: We've talked about this privately, and I'm glad you asked the question. Minister Pangalos and Secretary Christopher had an excellent meeting last week in New York, at the Waldorf-Astoria. I was there at the meeting. I can tell you, there was agreement between them on two issues.
First of all, now that Prime Minister Simitis has won a very clear electoral victory and is forming his new government in Athens, we ought to get back to an emphasis on trying to work out the Cyprus problem. That involves the Greek Government and Turkish Government and the two communities -- the Greek and Turkish communities -- on Cyprus as well as the Cypriot Government. We are going to do that.
Secretary Christopher had lunch on Friday in New York with Ambassador Beattie, who is the President's Special Emissary for the Cyprus negotiations. They talked about efforts that the United States can undertake to try to play a positive role.
On the question of the Aegean, differences between the Greek and Turkish Governments over Aegean issues, we are a friend and partner -- an ally -- of both Greece and Turkey. We are going to try to initiate some positive discussions and positive work between both of those governments. It was agreed to in the meeting. I'm sure this is some kind of misunderstanding. Because Secretary Christopher and Minister Pangalos had an excellent meeting. They have a good relationship, and they agreed on everything that they discussed last week.
Q I was told today that 16 Greek and Turkish "intellectual dust agents" in a closed-door session at the (inaudible) international discussing today and tomorrow -- for the partition of the Aegean on a conflict resolution basis under the auspices of the former U.S. Ambassador, Abramowitz. From the Greek participants, one is a member of the well known Turkish-penetrated Greek Institute in Athens which advised also the Greek Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense. And another is a Greek reporter from Athens, and the last one was Greek Minister George Papandreou who decided in the last moment not to attend.
However, I was told today that 80 U.S. officials from the State Department and other respected agencies are participants, too. I'm wondering why the U.S. -- the State Department, actually -- is taking place in such a session against the territorial integrity of Aegean? That's correct. I would like to know if you release the names of those officials?
MR. BURNS: Okay, I get the drift of your question. I'm not aware of any such meetings.
Maybe there are meetings taking place and I don't know about them. I'll check into it for you.
Ambassador Abramowitz is a very good friend of a lot of people in this Administration. I'm just not aware of any official role he has undertaken on these issues. Perhaps he has and I'm not aware of it. We'll check into it for you. I understand what you're asking, and we'll look into it. Thank you very much.
Q A follow-up on Cyprus. Just a quick question. I'm very curious. Today, you haven't mentioned this gentleman in your New York City press conference, too. I'm talking about Ambassador Jim Williams. Is he still the State Department Special Coordinator for Cyprus?
MR. BURNS: We have a variety of officials. We have Ambassador Beattie, Ambassador Williams, Ambassador Ken Brill, our every effective U.S. Ambassador in Nicosia -- all of them working very hard on the question of Cyprus.
Q My impression is as though the White House is taking the lead on this issue since Mr. Williams is not mentioned?
MR. BURNS: The White House and State Department work together on this. Ambassador Beattie, the President's emissary, met with Secretary Christopher last week for lunch. We always work together with the White House -- always.
Bill. Last question.
Q Finally. Following up your answer on terrorism. Has the Libyan terrorist effort to put Pan Am out of business now failed? Pan Am is back in business.
MR. BURNS: The Libyans are not going to succeed long-term, because we're going to apprehend the two Libyans, who killed the Americans and the others in that flight. We're going to bring them to justice. They will pay for that crime. Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:18 p.m.)
To the top of this page