U.S. Department of State 96/10/07 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, October 7, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Best Wishes to Pope John Paul II............................. 1 Secretary's Trip to Africa................................... 1 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Overview of Secretary's Trip................................. 1-2 --Implementation of the Oslo Accords/Negotiations............ 3,4 --Redeployment in Hebron..................................... 3 FORMER YUGOSLAVIA Failure of Mr. Krajisnik To Participate in the Opening of the National Assembly.......................................... 4-5 --Discussion Between A/S Kornblum and President Milosevic.... 5 --Discussions with Serbian FM Milutinovic and Krajisnik...... 5-6 --Monitoring by UN Security Council.......................... 6-7 --Consultations with Carl Bildt, European Allies............. 8 Presence of Foreign Fighters................................. 8-10 AFGHANISTAN US Envoy/US Contacts with Taliban/Human Rights Issues........ 10-12 TURKEY U.S. Reaction to Comments by Turkish PM Erbakan Re: Libya and Terrorism.................................................. 12-17 IRAQ Reaction to Kissinger Article on an Independent Kurdish State 18 HELMS-BURTON Possible Exemption for Spanish Companies..................... 18-19 NORTH KOREA Reported Arrest of a U.S. Citizen............................ 19-22 --Situation in Country/Food Shortages........................ 20-21 Dialogue/Diplomatic Contacts Between the U.S. and North Korea 22 BURMA Possibility of Sanctions..................................... 23 Arrival of U.S. Charge d'Affaires............................ 23-24
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, OCTOBER 7, 1996, 1:17 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing. I have a couple of things to tell you about and then we'll go to questions.
First, I think it's appropriate for those of us in this building to take a moment to express, on behalf of a lot of us here in the State Department but certainly our Mission to the Vatican and millions of people around the United States, our very best wishes to his Holiness,Pope John Paul II for a successful operation and a full recovery from that operation. A lot of people in the United States are thinking of him as he awaits his operation in the hospital in Rome.
Second, I wanted to let you know that the Secretary of State has just arrived in Bamako, Mali, on the first leg of his trip -- five- nation trip -- to Africa. He expects tomorrow to meet President Konare, to have lunch with him, to go over to the National Assembly and meet legislators there and parliamentarians and political leaders.
Mali is an emerging democracy. Mali is setting a standard in West Africa that other countries, in our view, should aspire to.
The Secretary will also, tomorrow, go out to the Peace Corps Training Center. We have one of the largest Peace Corps missions in Mali anywhere in the world. He's going to look at some sanitation and tree-planting projects there. He has a pretty active day tomorrow in Mali.
After Mali, as you know, on Wednesday, he goes onto Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for meetings both with the Organization of African Unity and with the Ethiopian Government.
The Secretary was very satisfied with his trip over the weekend to Israel and to Gaza; satisfied with the meetings he had with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Levy and President Weizman on the Israeli side, and with Chairman Arafat on the Palestinian side.
The Secretary made a variety of public comments but, in essence, believes that the Washington summit may have served, we hope, to break the cycle of violence and of grievances there. Clearly, the talks are getting back underway now.
We believe that both sides must emerge as winners in these talks. We also think it's very important for them to work for very quick progress and tangible progress. It's important that the Israeli Government has committed itself to no renegotiation of the Oslo Accords. But as the Secretary said, as they discussed the implementation of the Oslo Accords, it is appropriate to take into account recent events there.
I talked to Dennis Ross about two hours ago. He was going into a meeting at Erez, at the crossing point between Israel and Gaza. He explained that they've decided to break the talks into five separate sub-groups.
First, on Hebron redeployment; second, on security issues; the third on civil affairs issues; fourth, on economics; and the fifth, on what they're calling cooperation and coordination, which is essentially is people-to-people exchanges.
The Hebron group is meeting right now. Dennis Ross is in that group. We will have an American at the table in every single one of the meetings that takes place on a daily basis. Dennis is certainly out there for awhile -- I'm sure through the end of the week -- to monitor these talks and to participate in them.
These various sub-groups are going to meet on alternate days because there is an overlap in the representation in the groups. That will occur this week. But next week, they'll have enough people, I think, on both sides to have each of the groups meet everyday.
So this is a very ambitious schedule -- a diplomatic negotiating schedule that they've agreed to. As I said, the United States will be looking at this quite closely. They have not yet decided on a permanent site for these talks. It's going to be Erez for awhile. There are various proposals to go beyond Erez. We'll just have to see what the Palestinians and Israelis decide.
Q Nick, maybe I don't have a lawyer's mind. Maybe there's a distinction that a lawyer would appreciate.
I don't understand, when the Secretary speaks of understanding, that there might be a need for modifications in the agreement. Yet, he also says the agreement won't be renegotiated. Those are not inconsistent, are they? Or maybe the best way you could address this is, tell us what recent events the U.S. Government believes could be taken into account?
MR. BURNS: I think everybody agrees, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, who had said so publicly yesterday in Israel, that the Oslo Accords will not be renegotiated, meaning that the basic commitments that were agreed to by Israel and the Palestinians will be adhered to by both sides.
On the question of Hebron redeployment, of course there will be a redeployment from Hebron. The question is, how will that be implemented and under what conditions will that be implemented? Here, I think the Secretary used the term, Barry, that these recent events must be taken into consideration. They will affect the implementation of this redeployment.
Obviously, the recent security situation and the environment there will have an effect. But this is very different than renegotiation. I think there's a very clear distinction in our minds, and I think there's agreement among the Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans on what this means.
QUESTION: And if the U.S. believes there was something unusual about the recent security situation in Hebron, that (inaudible) 1929, for instance?
MR. BURNS: Not just in Hebron.
QUESTION: There have been worse times in Hebron than recently.
MR. BURNS: We are aware of what happened in Hebron in the 1920s and also 1930s during the Arab revolt between 1936 and '39. We're aware of that history.
QUESTION: Nothing special happened recently that's inconsistent with Hebron's history.
MR. BURNS: I think the events of two weeks ago were extraordinary events. Everyone agrees on that. The Palestinians agree with that as do the Israelis. They were extraordinary events.
The level of fighting, the intensity, and the fact that security forces were fighting each other was certainly extraordinary. But I don't want to try to analyze this in too minute fashion from afar. The Secretary of State has been out there. He has said what he said. I wanted to draw it to your attention because I think it's an important point for the Palestinians as well as the Israelis.
I think we do have agreement, Barry -- there's no disagreement -- we have agreement among Arafat, Netanyahu, and Christopher on the proper basis to go forward with these talks.
We've heard a lot of criticism of the Washington summit, including from not only some people in this room but many of your colleagues beyond this room. I think the feeling, at least in the United States Government this morning is, it was a good decision to hold that summit for no other reason; and the fact that they now have five groups that are meeting, negotiating with each other, to resolve these outstanding problems between the Palestinians and Israelis. We're glad we held that summit. We had no alternative but to do so.
Short briefing today.
MR. BURNS: Let's go to Bosnia next, and then we'll go to Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Probably Barry is -- first, I'm interested in Krajisnik and the Saturday events.
According to Voice of America, a White House spokeswoman said that the Clinton Administration used the Bosnian Serb decision as a minor setback to the Dayton peace accords. What would you consider as a major setback?
MR. BURNS: Good question, Envera. Actually, I didn't see that comment, and I haven't seen anybody on the record make that particular comment.
Actually, the United States Government was furious with the decision by Mr. Krajisnik not to participate in the opening of the National Assembly, the parliamentary assembly, on Saturday afternoon in Sarajevo.
It was an important symbolic event which was meant to kick off a new era in Bosnia, an era where national institutions will be built now that the elections have been held and have been certified by the OSCE. We are extremely displeased by the attitude of the Bosnian Serbs. All of their members stayed away, including Mr. Krajisnik.
There was to have been a joint meeting of the Presidency to coincide with the opening of the National Assembly. It's most unfortunate.
The Serbs have missed, yet again -- yet again -- another important opportunity to build on the momentum that was flowing out of the elections and to contribute to the building of these new institutions.
We met with Mr. Krajisnik yesterday - our United States Embassy officials in Sarajevo met with Mr. Krajisnik yesterday -- and they delivered a very stiff letter from our Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum. There can be no doubt that the Bosnian Serbs are fully aware of the displeasure of the United States.
This letter puts Krajisnik and his colleagues on notice that we expect them to take steps rapidly, in the next couple of days, to demonstrate their commitment, the commitment of the Republic of Srpska to the peace process, to the Dayton Accords, to the letter of what they committed to do when they signed the Dayton Accords. And, in particular, we expect active cooperation by the Bosnian Serbs in working with the others -- with the Bosnian Muslims and others -- to form these new joint institutions: The presidency, the legislature, the bank, the court, and everything else that's got to be done and accomplished to make this state a unified state.
Assistant Secretary Kornblum received a telephone call last night from President Milosevic who wanted to talk about this affair. President Milosevic called Kornblum last evening and Milosevic was told in no uncertain terms that the Serbian Government ought to use its influence with the Bosnian Serbs to put things right.
This morning, the Serbian Foreign Minister, Mr. Milutinovic, called back. He was told the same thing by John Kornblum.
We have stressed to the Bosnian Serbs that we are expecting their full cooperation in implementing the Dayton Accords and that this is a precondition for United States economic assistance to the Bosnian Serbs.
We've also highlighted a very important fact to the Bosnian Serbs that the United Nations Security Council, in lifting the sanctions last week against the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia, pledged to monitor compliance with the Dayton peace process as it took the decision to lift those sanctions. The UN Security Council reserved the right to consider further action if compliance is not satisfactory.
I can tell you that the United States will not hesitate to bring this issue up in the UN Security Council should we come to believe over the next weeks that the Bosnian Serbs are fundamentally unwilling to meet their commitments.
We expect -- based on these phone calls that we've had and a recent contact just a couple of hours ago with Mr. Krajisnik -- we're expecting better behavior. But we are putting them on notice that they have got to do what they pledged to do.
QUESTION: Nick, have you got anything on the -- I mean, does the State Department got a view -- the Embassy found no issue of controversy there. If you want to call it the expulsion of those 28 Iraqis via Jordan from Bosnia -- it's Bosnia.
MR. BURNS: I think they want to stay on this aspect of the story, Barry. They're two different stories here. So let's stick on this and then I'll go back to you.
QUESTION: What kind of contact did the U.S. have with Krajisnik recently?
MR. BURNS: With Krajisnik? Two of our Embassy officers met with him yesterday, where Krajisnik offered an explanation of why he didn't show up in Sarajevo on Saturday. Frankly, that explanation was not satisfactory.
QUESTION: What was the explanation?
MR. BURNS: It was a long, involved explanation about this and that. You can ask Mr. Krajisnik. Frankly, we're not interested in explanations. We're interested in performance. It's in the self- interest of the Bosnian Serbs to meet their commitments. If they don't meet their commitments, then there's not going to be a positive international environment for them to live in. There's not going to be U.S. economic assistance.
I've already referred quite strongly to the fact that the United States won't hesitate to watch them closely and bring this back to the Security Council. They have been put on notice. There's no other way to put it. I can't put it in diplomatic terms. They know what they have to do. We're not interested in excuses or long, involved explanations for why they didn't show up in Sarajevo.
QUESTION: Can I go over this matter of the sticks for a minute. Is it not -- do you have any reason to believe that the Russians would do other than veto the reimposition of sanctions against the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: I simply wanted to note the fact that the UN Security Council has pledged to monitor and that we won't hesitate to bring it up. We're going to give them some time to right the wrongs.
We've received some encouraging words. But as always in Bosnia, and particularly with the Bosnian Serbs, it's always better to see actions. We're expecting to see some positive actions, David. So I don't want to predict exactly where this debate is going to go, but we're putting them on notice. I deliberately wanted to let you know about our right to go back to the Security Council.
QUESTION: Nick, how much (inaudible) is at stake there -- the Bosnian Serbs?
MR. BURNS: I don't have an exact figure except to say that what's at stake ultimately, Steve, here is a tremendous amount of assistance down the road. The United States has pledged to stay in Bosnia economically.
When the American troops go home, as they will go home at some point this year, and regardless of whether or not there's a follow-on security force that a lot of people are talking about -- regardless of that; put that aside -- we're going to be in Bosnia for several years with civilian officials, with reconstruction efforts to rebuild a country that's been shattered.
If the Bosnian Serbs keep this up, all that aid is going to go in the other direction. It's not going to go to them.
QUESTION: If anyone is going to marry Bosnian and stay for such a long period of time, like Iranians or something? Just kidding. Did you have any confrontations --
MR. BURNS: You're really trying to throw me off track today, Envera.
QUESTION: Did you have any consultations --
MR. BURNS: You and Barry are working some kind of deal here? You're trying to -- is this a pincer movement?
QUESTION: We'll do Iraq in a minute.
QUESTION: Did you have any consultations --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iraqis in a minute.
QUESTION: Did you have any consultations --
MR. BURNS: They're very bad dates, Barry. They really are.
QUESTION: -- with allies over the weekend?
MR. BURNS: We had a lot of consultation with Carl Bildt over the weekend, who tried very hard to get the Bosnian Serbs to do the right thing, and we've been in touch with our other allies on this, and we'll keep them informed.
John Kornblum, our much traveled Assistant Secretary of State, is going back to Europe for a meeting on Thursday of the Contact Group in London. I think one of the major issues in the agenda will be this sorry performance by the Bosnian Serbs. By Thursday we hope that they'll have taken some specific steps to reverse themselves on this.
QUESTION: Did you talk with Paris or London over the weekend?
MR. BURNS: We talk to our allies everyday. I can't point you to any high-level meetings, but they know our feelings on this.
QUESTION: Where is the Contact Group meeting?
MR. BURNS: London, on Thursday. Contact Group meeting in London -- Thursday.
QUESTION: You've got a Middle East (inaudible) evidently Jordan -- that operation -- and they're withdrawing 28 Iraqis who will probably head back, correct? The Embassy didn't find anything there to get excited about. Does State have a view -- are these foreign fighters, or is this something --
MR. BURNS: This is a very curious episode. These people show up. Iraqis show up in Bosnia -- it doesn't sound like a good combination to us -- and working with nefarious elements there, and we did bring this to the attention of the Bosnian Government, and I think the Bosnian Government has taken expeditious action.
QUESTION: The U.S. approves of this, and in fact, they were nudged a little bit by the UN
MR. BURNS: We take a very dim view of renegades and ex- revolutionaries and ex-militants traveling to Bosnia to try to help the situation. The fact is we have 60,000 NATO troops. That's all the help that the people of that region need to achieve stability. We don't need any more fighters coming in from the Middle East and South Asia to help the situation, and we've made that very clear.
QUESTION: What is the latest number for unmarried foreign fighters in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Actually unmarried, Barry?
QUESTION: Well, not married to the local ladies, which gives them apparently the right to stay indefinitely.
MR. BURNS: Barry, I think you know that our position is that there are no organized outside fighting forces on Bosnian territory, except for the IFOR forces; that the organized fighting forces that were clearly there, until just a couple of months ago, have been disbanded; that some of those people -- and I can't give you an answer; you'd have to ask the Sarajevo Government -- some of those people have married Bosnian women, and therefore, have a right to stay, and we've chosen to understand that.
It's important that you understand what the Bosnian Government has told us just in the last couple of weeks, including on the day that Secretary Christopher met the Bosnian leaders in New York, just two weeks ago, and what they said publicly.
They said they're watching these villages where some of these ex- foreign fighters, now married happily to Bosnian women, reside, and that they are checking up on these people everyday. If there's any untoward business, any wrong moves, any threatening actions, even the threat of action, that these people are going to be taken care of.
It's not just action. It's the threat of action that counts, because some of these people did make threatening gestures and threatening remarks to some Polish soldiers a couple of weeks ago, and the Bosnian Government is telling us -- and we believe it -- that it has control of this situation.
QUESTION: What do you mean "they'll be taken care of"?
MR. BURNS: It means that they'll be taken care of. It means that they'll be -- you know, if there's any unusual business, I'm sure they'll be run out of the country, and that's what they would deserve, should they continue with these actions.
MR. BURNS: I think we're still on Bosnia, Mr. Lambros. I know you can't wait to get to a certain issue here.
Still on Bosnia?
QUESTION: Yes. The Mujahidin --
MR. BURNS: I think that's who Barry was talking about -- these people who have --
QUESTION: Right. They're not moving. They're not leaving. They're still out reconnoitering the bases of IFOR, Nick.
MR. BURNS: Bill, listen, I'm just reporting to you that we've looked at this very carefully; that we even have a commission, as you know, that we've formed with the Bosnian Government. It's reviewed regularly, and we have an absolutely iron-clad commitment from the Bosnian Government that they have warned these people who are now married and have put down their guns and living in villages outside of Sarajevo -- you know the names of the villages -- they've warned them. If there are any threats or any actions, it will be taken care of expeditiously.
Anymore on Bosnia?
QUESTION: That's coming from the Muslim government?
MR. BURNS: President Izetbegovic.
QUESTION: I want to ask a question about Afghanistan. Has the U.S. representative met with the Taliban?
MR. BURNS: No, our U.S. diplomatic official has not yet journeyed to Kabul for his meeting with the Taliban and other factions. Let me say this, because I think there's been a lot of attention in the press and some excellent reporting in The New York Times and other places about Afghanistan, and we've seen some very disturbing signs there over the last couple of days.
Human rights in Afghanistan and particularly the status of women is a major concern of the United States. The Taliban directives keeping women out of the workplace and keeping young girls out of school threatened to generate international isolation, which would deny Afghanistan the international assistance it so badly needs after so many years of war.
Restrictions on women, on young girls and other Taliban directives are also likely to severely limit their ability to mobilize the population to dig out from over a decade of war; to rebuild the country, to establish a sense of national unity in the country. Women are important in any economy, and, if you look at some of the excellent pieces that were printed in the newspapers over the weekend, Afghanistan is no exception to that. You can't run an economy and take women out of it and be successful.
So we'll continue to press the Taliban leadership to respect basic human rights, and that includes women's rights, and it includes the rule of law. We've made this clear to the Taliban, and we'll continue to make it clear to the Taliban when we have meetings with them, and those meetings at some point are going to take place.
We've also seen reports of some fighting in the northern part of the country between the forces of the Taliban and forces of Ahmed Shah Masood in the Panjsher Valley. We are urging all factions -- the Taliban and others -- to stop the fighting and to try to find some way to rebuild Afghanistan and to unify the country.
QUESTION: Nick, who does the United States Government regard as the sovereign authority in Afghanistan?
MR. BURNS: We have not, I think, at this point made the decision to recognize the Taliban as a sovereign authority. That decision is at some time in the future. It's a very complex, complicated situation, with many different factions fighting and vying for power. As you know, we do not have a United States Embassy there. We haven't had for many, many years, in part because of the chaos and because of the complicated situation on the ground. I think we're going to have to delay any kind of decision on that, Jim.
QUESTION: How are you making your message to the Taliban about human rights -- how are you presenting that message to them?
MR. BURNS: We've had contacts with the Taliban regularly in years past but also this year. In fact, we've had some face-to-face meetings with them, as you know, inside Afghanistan and outside of Afghanistan.
There are representatives of the Taliban in Pakistan, and there are public statements. There are a variety of ways to get our message out, and the message is out.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Taliban in Kabul?
MR. BURNS: We certainly have, including in some of the public statements that have been made from this podium, and we've accentuated here the rights of women, which ought not to be disregarded -- regardless of differences in culture and national and history and geography. Women's rights are fundamental anywhere in the world.
I mean, you take young girls out of schools and forbid them from learning, and you take women out of the workplace and forbid them from going out in the street; well, that's of concern to the United States, because we support women's rights.
QUESTION: Nick, have you in any way thought better of this plan to send a diplomat to Kabul or at least put it on the back burner or delayed it perhaps because of this negative reporting about women's rights?
MR. BURNS: Our intention is to serve our own national interests here, and we do have national interests in Afghanistan. So therefore, Patrick, this argues for a continuous contact with the Taliban and others. We may not like everything that they're doing, and we don't like some of what they're doing, but that doesn't mean we should just cut them off from all contacts with the United States.
We will seek contacts with them. We'll maintain contacts wherever we can have them, inside or outside of Afghanistan. That just is prudent, it's good sense, and it's the best way forward for the United States. As we talk to the Taliban, we're going to talk to other factions as well -- all the other major factions -- because, as I said, the situation in Afghanistan is not at all clear.
Mr. Lambros, you've been waiting very patiently, and I can't wait to hear what's on your mind.
QUESTION: According to reports, the Turkish Prime Minister, Mr. Necmettin Erbakan, during his visit in Libya dismissed U.S. allegations that Libya sponsored terrorism. Instead, proposed triple trade after $2 billion a year with Muammar Qadhafi, Erbakan stated, inter alia: "This is propaganda. We know that Libya is against terrorist activities. Libya is the country suffering most from terror," meaning by the U.S. bombing in 1986 by the Reagan Administration; and to this effect, Erbakan (inaudible) visited symbolically a house that was hit during the American airstrike and said, "We saw an example like a monument showing the suffering which Libya has experienced by the great states of America." Could you please comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I just hope these comments aren't accurate. I hope they're not accurate. I hope that the Prime Minister didn't say those words. It would be very surprising if he did. Libya has been one of the leading terrorist states in the world. I'm not aware that Libya has suffered from terrorism. It's been an active exporter of terrorism.
It would be highly surprising, indeed, if the Prime Minister of an allied country, a NATO country, were to defend a terrorist like Muammar Qadhafi, when Qadhafi is responsible for the shootdown of Pan Am 103 and the deaths of hundreds of Americans, including three of my colleagues whose names are in the C Street Lobby on a memorial plaque for people who have died in the course of duty; highly unusual when the French government now believes that there was direct Libyan Government complicity in the downing of the UTA flight in Chad several years ago, where an American woman, spouse of one of our diplomats, was also killed, and many French citizens were killed; highly unusual when the United States has given more support to Turkey than any other country in Turkey's fight against the PKK.
It's up to allies to be good allies and to understand you can't pick and choose places where you're going to support us or not support us. The fight against terrorism is not just a U.S. fight. The Turks are victims of terrorism, as are the Americans, as are the French, and we've got to stand together. You can't just go to another country and meet a dictator and absolve him of all responsibility for a terrorist act.
So I'd just be very surprised if these reports turn out to be true; very, very surprised about these comments. We've stood by Turkey's side.
Let me just also say while we're on this subject, we remain in general -- the United States remains troubled by any trip that could be seen as benefiting the Qadhafi regime. The Qadhafi regime, as you know, is guilty of violating a variety of international agreements. There are UN sanctions in place on Qadhafi, and for good reason, and those sanctions are going to persist for good reason.
So if there's any thought by the Turkish Government that they want to normalize trade or export or import or engage in any big business deals, they ought to look at the UN sanctions that a lot of countries are adhering to, including the United States; and they ought to understand that sometimes commerce has to take a back seat to the fight against terrorism, because it's more important to send a clear, direct message to the terrorists than it is to trade with them.
So that's our thoughts this morning as we look at these very surprising developments.
QUESTION: Next one -- PKK. On the same side, Muammar Qadhafi in the presence actually of the Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan stated: "The state of Kurdistan should take its place in the spectrum of nations under the Middle Eastern sun. Turkey should not fight against people seeking their own independence."
Erbakan, to my surprise, said nothing. Could you please comment, Mr. Burns, on the prospect that independent Kurdistan should be created --
MR. BURNS: You know, talk about surprising remarks. We're not surprised by whatever Qadhafi says. He's most unreliable, and maybe his new interlocutors are finding out just how unreliable Mr. Qadhafi is. You can't trust him, and you can't work with him, and the sooner that people learn that lesson, the better off they'll be.
QUESTION: Are you seeking clarification from Ankara whether the statements are correct?
MR. BURNS: The statements would be very surprising, were they to be correct, and we're just going to have to look to see if these were accurate statements, because there may be some question about whether they're accurate or not. I'm speaking generally here. If they are accurate, then they're most surprising indeed, given the strong feelings in the United States about terrorist states and the UN sanctions.
We have an agreement in the international community. We're not going to trade with these people. We're not going to give them the time of day. We're not going to treat them as normal international leaders. We're going to try to isolate them. A country that's been victimized by terrorism ought to be the first country to understand that.
QUESTION: It was reported also extensively that the Turkish President -- the Turkish Government of Necmettin Erbakan is planning now to convert the Byzantine cathedral of St. Sofia, the symbol of Christianity, in downtown Constantinople into a mosque.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I'm not going to touch this one. (Laughter) I know enough about the history of the Byzantine Empire and the empires that followed it not to get involved in religious questions. Jerusalem and Istanbul are off limits when it comes to religious questions.
MR. BURNS: Except -- please.
QUESTION: Because they have a plan to do that, so I was wondering if --
MR. BURNS: The United States Government will not get involved in any religious disputes on St. Sofia.
QUESTION: You mean if there's a tourist tunnel, you'll comment.
MR. BURNS: Actually, Barry, I think our comments on the archeological tunnel that abuts Jewish and Moslem sites, I think they were quite prudent, and we tried to be balanced, because we didn't want to excite religious passions.
Mr. Lambros, I think, probably -- you know, we're friends, but he's trying to get me to comment on a religious issue. I'm not going to do it.
MR. BURNS: Yes. I think ladies first, and then we'll go to Savas.
QUESTION: Thank you. Nick, you are being very diplomatic about this, and I can understand, but there were 50 journalists present, Turkish journalists present, when the Prime Minister was making these comments. And he also called the U.S. and Israel terrorist states in Tripoli. So I would like to know if the Administration is planning to take this up with the Turkish Government, with maybe Turkish President, because it looks like it is also causing some internal problems in Turkey. I mean, reaction from other circles, other political circles in Turkey, is stronger than the reaction which you just gave to us.
MR. BURNS: Frankly, perceptions are always interesting on both sides of this aisle here, but I think that the statement that we've made this morning is a tough statement, and it's meant to be tough. We don't normally talk about allies the way we have this morning, but we've done it for good reason.
I know what you're saying, Yasmine, about all these reporters being present, but the United States Government needs to see and has not seen the full transcript of the remarks. We've just seen aspects of it. But the aspects that we've seen are highly troubling, and the comments that we've made are intended to send a very strong message that we've all got to stand against terrorism, and that allies need to support each other.
If there are problems in the relationship or if there are disagreements, well, you do that privately. You don't go out and bash people on the head for no reason, especially when you're sitting in a capital whose leader is a terrorist and a well-known terrorist, an internationally agreed-upon terrorist.
QUESTION: After this visit with Iran and Tripoli, now he's going to go to Nigeria right now -- another rogue state.
MR. BURNS: This is like the grand tour of --
QUESTION: It's a grand tour.
QUESTION: Same as Farrakhan.
QUESTION: (Multiple comments)
MR. BURNS: We've been through this tour before. We didn't like it the first time around when an American citizen took the tour. You know, when a prominent American citizen -- we thought this tour was over.
QUESTION: Is he going to meet with Christopher some place in Africa?
MR. BURNS: I don't think the Secretary has any plans to. The Secretary is not going to be in Nigeria or Libya on this trip. But this tour failed in the past when Mr. Farrakhan took it, because he stood beside dictators, and frankly the American people couldn't understand why.
QUESTION: Erbakan's trip -- those kind of trips -- what kind of signal is it giving to you? Is he trying to subvert Turkey's traditional Western ties? How can you evaluate this trip and targets?
MR. BURNS: I think the trip to Libya is most disturbing. In Nigeria, we hope that all of us can agree that the military government there that has been a consistent and gross violator of human rights, including summary executions of human rights activists for no reason; a country that refuses to turn back to democracy when most Nigerians want to be democratic and have a representative government; that there ought to be a message there, if in fact they're going to go forward with this trip to Lagos.
But in general, allies need to stick together on these big issues of terrorism and democracy. We need to support democracy. We need to criticize those who are dictators, and we certainly need to oppose terrorists. So we certainly have a lot of advice that we're going to give privately, and I think I've been sufficiently clear publicly.
QUESTION: If I could follow on this issue; just a moment. Here's a wire from this morning, Nick, quoting Qadhafi: "We are not happy in general with Turkey's foreign policy. Turkey has lost its will. Turkey's future lies not in NATO, U.S. bases and repressing the Kurds, but in its nobility and its past."
What do you say in response to this driving a wedge between us and Turkey?
MR. BURNS: Well, there he goes again. It's not surprising that Qadhafi would say things like this; and, if Qadhafi's criticizing Turkey, that says something good about the Turks. That means the Turks are really -- the Turks have been a major ally of the United States and will continue to be. The United States prizes its relationship with Turkey.
If Qadhafi is criticizing the Turkish Government, then that's a good thing. You know what I mean? That means that the Turks -- that Qadhafi is worried that the Turks are going to maintain the fact that they're a European country -- Turkey's a European country; that it ought to be grounded in Europe and with North America, in the EU, we hope, in the future, and with NATO for as long as NATO exists. Turkey will always be a very valued ally of the United States. But we are disturbed when we see the statements made by Mr. Erbakan.
QUESTION: According to reliable sources, the Turkish military leadership under General Ismail Karadayi is very upset by Erbakan's grand tour, as you pointed correctly earlier. Not only this, but there are rumors for a coup d'etat in Turkey, but Erbakan claims that the Turkish generals are not in a position to do anything due to the fact that the majority of the young Turkish officers are very loyal to the Refah Party and to the fundamental Islam. Do you have anything on these rumors?
MR. BURNS: What I don't want to do is involve myself in internal debates and disputes among the Turkish leadership. All I can say is that a secular, democratic Turkey remains in the interests of all of us in the West, and that we'll continue to work with Turkey on that basis.
QUESTION: And the last question: Dr. Henry Kissinger with an impressive article in yesterday's Washington Post, calling the Kurdish people heroic and not terrorists, proposed a creation as soon as possible of an autonomous Kurdistan in northern Iraq. Could you please comment, since this is a kind of advisal proposal to your government by Dr. Kissinger?
MR. BURNS: I didn't read that very long article. I just didn't have time to get through it. But all I can say is that you know our position on the Kurds. The United States has not favored, at least in 50/60/70 years, an independent Kurdistan; certainly not since the end of the second World War. It's been a consistent policy with Republican and Democratic administrations.
I know of no American political leaders in the Republican or Democratic party who are now asserting that we ought to favor an independent Kurdistan. We have with the Turks and the British and French created a zone in northern Iraq above the 36th parallel that seeks to give the Kurds stability and protect them from Saddam Hussein.
You know that that has been tested severely over the last two months, but that zone remains. We're going to continue "Operation Provide Comfort" and the air flights there. We'll continue working with the various Kurdish groups to try to maintain stability in northern Iraq. But the United States is not proposing, has not proposed for decades, an independent Kurdish state.
QUESTION: The largest Spanish newspaper in Madrid, El Pais, said today that the U.S. envoy Stuart Eizenstat, when he was in Madrid September 10, promised the Spanish Government that the United States is not going to penalize any Spanish companies that are doing business in Cuba. He said that you will promise that the Chapter 4 is not going to be applied to Spanish companies. Could you confirm if this is true or not?
MR. BURNS: I can't confirm a private conversation. I can just tell you that the Administration has said consistently, including President Clinton last night in the debates, that we will carry out the terms of the Helms-Burton legislation. Ambassador Eizenstat has carried out his instructions as the President and Secretary of State's emissary to talk to the Spaniards and the EU and the British and French, the Canadians, the Mexicans, about how Helms-Burton is going to be implemented. But I can just tell you it will be implemented. We are bound by the law to implement it.
QUESTION: You're saying that you cannot confirm private conversations --
MR. BURNS: Right.
QUESTION: -- means maybe when your President was in Madrid -- mean that this story is true or not? It's true that you promised the Spanish Government --
MR. BURNS: No, it just means I can't respond to a press report citing a snippet from a conversation and say whether it's true or not. I don't choose to do that. Diplomatic conversations ought to remain confidential and private. But I can talk about the issue in larger terms, as I have.
QUESTION: Yes, but in this boilerplate reference to Helms- Burton, you wouldn't want to put the word "punitive" -- the two words "punitive provisions" in your answer, would you?
MR. BURNS: I'm satisfied with the way I talked about them.
QUESTION: There are waivers in Helms-Burton. Saying that firmly, as the Administration has been saying for weeks now, doesn't necessarily mean that punishment is going to be meted out, does it?
MR. BURNS: The law is going to have to be implemented. We are bound by the law to implement it. The President does have discretion to look at some of the articles and, as you know, to think in the future how they're implemented.
But there is a consensus in the United States Congress and with the Administration that the law should have gone into effect. It did, and therefore we're bound to implement it.
QUESTION: I was just going to ask about North Korea, the spy case. What can you tell us, Nick, about that? Can you confirm that an American has been arrested; that his name is as reported?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you this. We are aware that a U.S. citizen was arrested on August 24 for reportedly entering North Korea illegally. We have pursued access to this American citizen through the Swedish protecting authority. Sweden is the protecting power of the United States in North Korea.
The Swedes were granted consular access on September 16-17 to this individual. We've also pursued the case directly in contacts between the Department of State and the North Korean Mission to the United Nations on several occasions. We'll continue to do that.
Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to confirm the identity of the person because he has not given the Swedes a Privacy Act Waiver to do so. The Privacy Act says that we cannot say his name on the record because he does not wish us to do so.
We are pressing for additional details about his case from the North Koreans. We're working to ensure an acceptable level of access to him by the Swedes who are our protecting power. Certainly, we want him to have all the normal consular protections that one would normally have in this type of situation, and we hope that he's released and allowed to return to freedom.
QUESTION: Is he accused of espionage? And is it an accusation that says he is working for South Korea? If either of those are true, could you respond for the United States?
MR. BURNS: All we've seen are some of these quite shrill comments from certain North Korean officials and the press, actually. I'm not sure we've been told -- I'm not sure what we've been told exactly in private, and I can check that for you. I wouldn't lead you in the direction of those reports.
QUESTION: Is there something the State Department thinks North Korea might be up to here? Some sort of a trade-off in the works?
MR. BURNS: I'm going to use --
QUESTION: Has any been proffered? Let me ask you that.
MR. BURNS: I'm going to use Secretary Christopher's -- the word he commonly uses when he describes the North Koreans, as "opaque." It's an opaque government and society. It's difficult for us to understand.
We've had a lot of things happen. We've had an illegal incursion of a midget submarine in the South Korean territorial waters. We've had this very unusual incident of an arrest made in late August and just announced a couple of days ago. It's hard to fathom the timing of this announcement.
We have had reports of food shortages in North Korea recently. It's clearly a country under a lot of stress. There's been a lot happening inside of it.
All we know is, we're going to stand by our ally, South Korea; that North Korea was clearly at fault for the submarine incident; that North Koreans ought not to hold on to an American citizen who is being detained in North Korea. He should be released immediately. We're going to have to continue all these discussions on these various matters with the North Koreans.
Fortunately, if you look at one of the vital interest that the United States has, the Agreed Framework is in place. There has been no violation of the Agreed Framework. KEDO monitors it regularly. The United States will continue to look at that very closely because that's one of our vital interests in North Korea as well as protecting our ally, South Korea, from these threats that appear to emanate from North Korea.
QUESTION: Do you see this staggering malnutrition -- I don't know if he actually said that people have died, the President of South Korea. It's a staggering figure. Is the problem that pervasive?
MR. BURNS: We have seen the reports of -- the comments by President Kim Young-sam. It's clear to the United States that North Korea has serious food shortages. Because of the situation, as you know, we have provided $8.4 million in humanitarian assistance, most of it in food, over the last year.
South Korea and Japan have provided even larger amounts than the United States. Our last shipment was a $6.2 million shipment of food aid that arrived in late August. We'll continue to monitor the situation in North Korea. We have no plans to provide additional food assistance at this time, but we do remain open to any appeals from the international community should the relevant international institutions -- the World Food Program, other bodies of the United Nations -- believe that it is important to do so.
North Korea seems to be a society under great stress. So we're looking at North Korea from a variety of angles: The food situation, the Agreed Framework, the political situation, the case of an American who is being held there unjustly. And, also, frankly, these very, very serious attempts to infringe upon the sovereignty of the Republic of Korea. All of these are of concern to us.
QUESTION: Do know what the American was doing on the Korean Peninsula?
MR. BURNS: As I said, Jim, I am bound by the Privacy Act. I'm not allowed to mention his name or mention, really, anything that we've learned from him in the conversations that the Swedish protecting powers have had.
But based on those conversations, we believe he ought to be released.
QUESTION: Is he a missionary in China?
MR. BURNS: Frankly, I just can't give you biographic information on him, Steve. I'm not permitted by law to do that, and I have to respect that.
QUESTION: The North Korean Mission up in New York seems to suggest that we have suspended various threads of dialogue with North Korea, such as the repatriation of remains, the missile talks, certain aspects regarding the joint framework. Is there a sort of suspension of diplomatic contact?
MR. BURNS: No, I wouldn't say so. As I told you, we've had diplomatic contact with the North Koreans up at the UN quite recently, and I expect we'll have it in the coming days. There are a lot of issues where we need to talk to the North Koreans, however displeased we are by North Korean behavior.
Let me give you another example. The offer of President Clinton and President Kim Young-sam to have talks with the North Koreans to explain in detail the proposal for a four-party conference -- four-party talks -- that offer is still on the table. Should North Korea wish to pick up that offer, we'd be glad to have those talks.
While we are beset now by a number of problems with the North Koreans, we can't forget the larger interests that animate U.S. policy concerning the nuclear freeze -- the freeze on all nuclear activity -- and concerning the fact that for 43 years there has not been a peace treaty to end the Korean War, and there ought to be one.
While we work through these issues that are very troublesome, and while we'll disagree with the North Koreans on a lot of these issues, we've got to keep in sight some of the larger strategic interests that are clearly in the interests of the United States and the Republic of Korea and Japan.
QUESTION: I'd like to move to Burma. Are we done with North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: I was wondering if any U.S. sanctions against Burma are imminent? There has been talk in the media about a ban of future U.S. investment there. I was just wondering what the status of that was, and if we're going to see anything new?
MR. BURNS: Let me just give you what we know about the situation and then go directly to your question.
What we know is that the dictators in Rangoon, over the last day or two, have said that they've been releasing members of the National League for Democracy -- of the many hundred who were arrested.
Our best account, however, indicates to us that we think that roughly 200 people, including 34 members of the parliament, democratically elected, still remain in the custody of the dictators in Rangoon, in Burma. This is most worrisome for any country that's concerned with human rights. We continue to make this message clear to the Burmese authorities from our diplomatic mission in Rangoon.
As you know, the President, last Thursday, signed a proclamation which suspends the entry into the United States of Burmese Government officials who formulate or implement or benefit from their objectionable policies.
The United States, under the bipartisan legislation that was passed this past summer by the Congress, the United States Government has the flexibility to entertain additional measures, including tough sanctions, should that be necessary.
Needless to say, this seems to be a critical moment in Burma. Of course, we wish Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy well. We'll keep the situation under review. We do reserve the right to undertake additional measures should that be necessary.
QUESTION: But there's nothing imminent?
MR. BURNS: The way we normally work is, we try not presage or preview events until a decision has been made and we're ready to act. The Burmese authorities are going to have to live with some suspense on this issue. But that's okay because I don't see why we ought to give them any advance warning considering the actions they've taken against their own people.
QUESTION: The Charge d'Affaires will arrive in Rangoon as scheduled?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Kent Wiedemann, a senior Foreign Service officer, is going to be arriving, I think within a matter of a couple of days, in Rangoon to take up his duties as the U.S. Charge d'Affaires. We don't have ambassadorial-level relations because of the unpleasant and objectionable policies of the Burmese Government.
Judd, did you have something. You've been persuaded not to ask a question. I can see the hand signals. I know what's going on here, you know. I can see what's going on in the front rows. I know what that means. That means, get them out of here. But Mr. Lambros has got one final question.
QUESTION: Any comment of the Greek and Turkish military exercise over the Republic of Cyprus in the last two days?
MR. BURNS: No, I have no particular comment to offer on that, Mr. Lambros.
Thank you very much. Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:06 p.m.)
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