U.S. Department of State 96/10/11 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Friday, October 11, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Welcome to International Journalists, SAIS Students .........1 Acting Secretary Talbott: Mtgs w/ Kyrgizstan FonMin, Sierra Leone President Kabbah; Speech re U.S.-Ukraine Relations ..1-2 Under Secretary Tarnoff Travel to Mexico ....................2 Asst Secretary Kornblum Contact Group Meeting, Balkans Tvl ..2 Asst Secretary Lord in Seoul, Republic of Korea .............2 AID Administrator Atwood Heads U.S. Observer Delegation to Nicaragua Election ........................................2-3 Amb. John Negroponte Appointed Special Coordinator for Post-1999 U.S. Presence in Panama .........................3 Secretary Christopher Mtgs in Tanzania, Onward Travel .......3 INDONESIA Award of Nobel Peace Prize to Two East Timorese .............4,6 U.S. Sale of F-16s/IMET Funding/Human Rights Abuses .........4-6,8-9, 16-17 U.S. Relations with Indonesia ...............................5-9 TURKEY Potential Sale of F-16s ..............................7 MIDDLE EAST Chairman Arafat's Concerns About Erez Talks .................9-10 Israel-Palestinian Talks Resume in Taba and Eilat ...........9-11 Commitment to Ending Violence in West Bank, Gaza ............10 Status of Implementing Israeli Troop Redeployment in Hebron .10-11 Status of Israel-Palestinian Relationship ................... SOUTH KOREA Asst Secretary Lord's Onward Travel Plans ...................11-13 Readout of Meetings in South Korea/Planned Press Conference .12-13 DPRK Responsibility for Submarine Incident ..................13 NORTH KOREA Swedish Diplomat Visit to Detained American Citizen .........11-12 HAITI Report of Manuel Constant Involvement in Guy Malary Killing .13-14 NICARAGUA U.S. Policy on Upcoming Elections/Brian Atwood Heads U.S. Observer Delegation .......................................14-17 Daniel Ortega's Democratic Credentials ......................14-16 TURKEY/GREECE Kardak/Imia Aegean Dispute/U.S. Role ........................17-18 PANAMA Amb. Negroponte's Meetings/Status of U.S Troops .............18-19 FRANCE Minister of Cooperation Godfrain Criticism of Secretary Christopher's Africa Travel ...............................19-21 NATO/RUSSIA General Lebed's Brussels Talks, NATO Enlargement ............21-22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1996, 1:09 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department. We have a number of visitors and guests with us today, including l4 journalists visiting the United States through the United Nations Training Program for Broadcasters and Journalists; and I believe they're sitting on both sides of the room today. Welcome to you from a variety of countries around the world. We're glad to have you with us.
We also have some students from the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, and that's of course the finest graduate school of international affairs in the United States; and they are all interns here at the State Department, and they are welcome as well. It's an excellent school.
I want to go through the schedule of what Acting Secretary Strobe Talbott has done today. He met this morning with Aroza Otunbayeva, who is the Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan, former Kyrgyz Ambassador to the United States. They had a very long conversation about the situation in Kyrgystan -- the very good relationship that the United States has had for five years now with the Government of Kyrgystan about the situation in Afghanistan, which is of course of great concern to the central Asian countries.
Acting Secretary Talbott then had a meeting with the President of Sierra Leone, President Kabbah, where they talked about a variety of bilateral, but also international, problems -- and, particularly, African problems.
This evening, Acting Secretary Talbott is going to address The Washington Group. The Washington Group is a Ukrainian-American professional organization, and Acting Secretary Talbott is going to go over to the Ukrainian Embassy here in Washington at Georgetown to give a speech on the U.S.-Ukraine Relations at Five -- it being five years since the breakup of the Soviet Union. This is a progress report on U.S. policy. This event is open to the press, and I commend this to you as a major articulation of United States policy on Ukraine by Strobe Talbott.
I also wanted you to know that our Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Peter Tarnoff, is leaving today for Mexico. He'll be in Mexico this weekend and on Monday for a series of meetings with senior government officials in Mexico and party officials. He'll also meet -- his senior appointment will be with the Foreign Secretary, Foreign Secretary Gurria. This is an important opportunity to review U.S.-Mexican relations.
Assistant Secretary John Kornblum is in the Balkans. Yesterday, he completed a very important Contact Group meeting with our allies in London. That meeting reconfirmed the position that the United States and the United Kingdom and others have been talking about this week, and that is that should the Bosnian Serbs not meet their Dayton commitments then the Bosnian Serbs may very well subject themselves to continued isolation by the international community; and we have not foreclosed the option of going back to sanctions in the United Nations Security Council.That was an important meeting of the Contact Group. Assistant Secretary John Kornblum will be meeting with Bosnian Serb leaders over the weekend, as well as with the government officials present -- Izetbegovic and Mr. Zubak -- in an effort to try to spur the progress in creating these new national institutions.
I also want to let you know that Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, Winston Lord, is in Seoul. He's going to be giving a press conference -- I think seven or eight hours from now. He's had a series of very important meetings, including with the Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs -- Foreign Minister Gong -- with the National Security Advisor, and with many others; and this visit is an attempt by the United States not only to have a good round of discussions with the South Koreans but to present a united front with South Korea, certainly in the face of many of the provocations of the last month.
There's an announcement, press statement, waiting for you in the Press Room after the briefing concerning Nicaragua. The United States will be sending a delegation to observe the Nicaraguan elections on October 20th. That delegation will be led by Brian Atwood, who is the Administrator for the Agency for International Development. He will be accompanied by the Assistant AID Administrator, Mr. Mark Schneider, and by our State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs, John R. Hamilton.
This delegation is going to observe the elections on behalf of the United States Government. We have provided $9 million to support the electoral process in Nicaragua, and this assistance continues our long-standing support for democracy in Nicaragua; and I would just refer you to the public statement that we have on the elections.
I also posted a statement last evening concerning the appointment of Ambassador John Negroponte as the Special Coordinator for post-l999 U.S. presence in Panama. Ambassador Negroponte will chair an Interagency Working Group here in Washington on this very important issue relating to whether or not the United States and the Panamanian Government will choose to have a continued U.S. presence in Panama after the treaty expires in l999. You remember that in l995, when President Clinton met President Perez Balladares, they agreed to have exploratory talks to determine what the U.S. presence should be.
Ambassador Negroponte is one of our most senior and most experienced American diplomats. He's been the United States Ambassador to Honduras, to Mexico, and to the Philippines most recently. He's also been the Deputy National Security Advisor under Colin Powell when General Powell was the National Security Advisor in the latter part of the Reagan Administration. Very experienced. He'll be working full time on this issue.
Finally, just to let you know that Secretary Christopher has had a good series of meetings today in Arusha in northern Tanzania with President Mkapa, with former President Nyerere, with President Moi, and President Museveni -- excellent series of meetings on the problems of East Africa. They discussed the problems in Burundi and Rwanda, and also some bilateral issues between the United States and Tanzania.
Secretary Christopher is flying to Cape Town, South Africa, where he'll be this weekend. He'll be meeting President Mandela tomorrow in Cape Town. He will give a major speech in Johannesburg, and he'll have a variety of other events in South Africa.
As you know, he'll be going to Angola on Monday morning, and then he'll fly back to the United States. He's scheduled to arrive back sometime around midnight on Monday evening.
That finishes the very long series of announcements.
Jim -- or Patrick?
QYour reaction to the award of the Nobel Peace Prize?
MR. BURNS: My reaction certainly is to congratulate the two who've been given this award. The United States has long encouraged efforts to achieve peace in East Timor. In this regard we've strongly supported direct discussions between Indonesia and Portugal in this problem; these discussions have been facilitated by the United Nations Secretary General. We have supported the continuation of the Secretary General's initiative, the all-inclusive Intra-Timorese dialogue; and we believe that continued discussion -- peaceful discussion -- among the East Timorese of varying, differing viewpoints is an important part of achieving a resolution here. We certainly hope that the action by the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee would contribute to ongoing efforts to resolve the conflict in East Timor.
QYou have spoken to Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo, both the winners of the Peace Prize. Jose Ramos Horta says that the selling of F-l6s to Indonesia is like selling weapons to Saddam Hussein. Winston Lord has said that he's going to push for that in January when Congress reconvenes, as well as pushing again for the reinstatement of IMET for military training aid.
How do you justify this? And this certainly goes against the desires of both of these Peace Prize winners.
MR. BURNS: Certainly, I would reject any characterization of the Indonesian Government as being similar to the Iraqi Government. Saddam Hussein stands alone; he's unique. He stands alone and ought to be isolated by all the world, and he is isolated by the United States. To compare Saddam Hussein to the current Indonesian leadership is an outrage.
On the question of the F-l6s --
QDo you consider Soeharto one of the great human rights violators in the world today, like every human rights group does?
MR. BURNS: I've just given you a statement. I'm trying to answer your two-point question. I answered the first part of it. I made a very clear statement in response to your first charge.
I can also say that the United States will go forward with the sale of F-l6s to Indonesia. We have said that in the past. I believe Mike McCurry affirmed that this morning, and I'm glad to reaffirm it again.
QWhy, and what is the justification when you've got the Timorese -- one of the worst genocides in the 20th Century? And you've got the Indonesian people themselves, with Soeharto cracking down and killing his own people, because an opposition party -- he raided the offices of an opposition party and they protested. How do you justify this?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the United States has spoken out -- in fact, during the visit of Secretary Christopher this past summer to Jakarta about our concern for some of the continuing human rights problems in Indonesia. We have not been bashful about that.
We also have an important relationship with Indonesia -- one of the most important and largest countries in that part of the world. That relationship is multi-faceted. It is political, it's economic, and it's military. And we believe that the sale of the F-l6s is appropriate, considering Indonesia's security and defense needs.
The United States will continue to have a very active -- and, we hope, positive -- relationship with the Indonesian Government.
On some of these questions that you've referred to, we have been quite vocal on human rights issues; and we'll continue to be. I'm sure you're familiar with our Human Rights Report which we issue on an annual basis here in the State Department, which is quite frank about the situation in Indonesia.
On the situation regarding East Timor, the United States has long supported efforts to resolve this peacefully. We have spoken out in the past about problems associated with East Timor, and we'll continue to do so in the future should that be necessary.
QDid Congress cut off military training aid after the November l99l massacre where the Indonesian military used U.S. M-l6s to gun down more than 250 Timorese? I witnessed it. I survived the massacre, despite the fact that I was beaten by those weapons.
After that, Congress cut off weapons -- cut off military training aid. Now, the State Department is pushing to reinstate it. Bishop Belo said the human rights situation is worse than it's ever been. What's the justification?
MR. BURNS: The justification is that we have many issues to consider in our relationship with the largest Moslem country on earth, and one of the largest and most important countries in East Asia. As I said, that relationship is multi-faceted.
The United States actually probably stands second to none in our belief that human rights is important, and we have spoken out publicly about human rights abuses in Indonesia and will continue to do so.
Sometimes we stand alone when we speak out against human rights abuses. There are other aspects of this relationship that are important to the American people and to the United States over the long term.
We do balance our interests; but we feel quite comfortable in going ahead with this sale of F-16s.
QWill President Clinton meet with Jose Ramos Horta and Bishop Belo? Will he invite them to the White House?
MR. BURNS: I don't know that the President has announced any plans to do so. But, as I said, we can congratulate these two men for winning this award. It's an honor to win the Nobel Peace Prize. We hope that the action of conferring the award upon them will lead to a resolution of the problems of East Timor in which the United States does have an interest.
QWill President Clinton spearhead an effort at the United Nations to call for self-determination for the people of East Timor -- what Bishop Belo is calling for -- a U.N.-sponsored referendum?
MR. BURNS: Well, as you know, since 1976 the position of the United States has been that we accept Indonesia's incorporation of East Timor, without maintaining that a valid act of self-determination had taken place.
You know that has been a consistent policy of this country for 20 years. Republican Administrations and Democratic Administrations have stood united on this policy.
You obviously have a lot of expertise and experience in this, and so you know far better than I, that this is a very complicated, emotional, sensitive problem. We do understand that. We do speak out against human rights abuses when they take place. We did so yesterday in the case of China, and we have not failed to do so in the past in the case of Indonesia.
We also have other interests that the United States has to be concerned about, and we always have to act in the interests of the United States and of the American people, and I believe we do that very effectively in Indonesia.
QOn the same issue, --
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QThe Turkish Government --
MR. BURNS: On the same issue?
MR. BURNS: No. Erbakan did not visit East Timor this week. I know he didn't.
QThe Turkish Government (inaudible) Necmettin Erbarkan is in the process to sell F-16s to Indonesia, too. I would like you to comment.
MR. BURNS: Well, that's a matter between the Government of Turkey and the Government of Indonesia. I'm not the spokesman for either government.
QWell, under human rights, (inaudible) why is the Turkish Government doing that all the way from one part of the world to another?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I have given, I think, a very clear statement on why the United States feels it is appropriate to go ahead with the sale of F-16s to Indonesia. But please don't ask me to speak for the Turkish Government or the Indonesian Government. They have very capable spokespeople who can do that for them.
QI don't ask you to comment on the Turkish Government. I would like to have the U.S. comments as far as for this specific action (inaudible) on the part of the Turkish Government.
MR. BURNS: I just don't have anything I can say on that. I think I have commented fully on that.
Still on -- ?
QOn Timor, can you comment a little on what are some of the other interests that the United States has vis-a-vis Indonesia that have to be balanced with human rights? Why are F-16s --
MR. BURNS: Well, it is not surprising, I think, to any of you in this room that when the United States looks at its relations with any country in the world, in most cases there are a variety of interests that animate that relationship, and Indonesia is no exception to that.
In the case of Indonesia, here you have the largest Muslim country in the world, one of the largest countries in East Asia with a very important economic relationship with the United States in the present and in the future; a country that has security concerns of its own, as most countries do all over the world --
QLike what, which country would invade --?
MR. BURNS: Well, again, you know, it's not my practice here at this podium to go into hypothetical scheming about what wars will break out in the future. But all countries have security interests. All countries have to prepare themselves to meet future security concerns, and Indonesia is no exception to that. One should not be surprised by that.
So we have economic interests. We certainly have a security relationship and we have a political relationship, a political relationship where Indonesia's voice in East Asia, in ASEAN, in APEC, and in the United Nations is a very important voice.
We regularly meet with the Indonesian leadership. President Clinton meets with the Indonesian leadership at APEC meetings. Secretary Christopher meets with Foreign Minister Alatas as frequently as he can, because we find that despite the fact that you are never going to agree with any one particular country on all issues, having diplomatic contact is essential.
So we are going to go on in this relationship with Indonesia. At the same time, I don't think there are many countries in the world that have been as open about our ongoing concern about human rights in East Timor. It has been a major part of our relationship with the Indonesian Government, and we have not always had happy and productive dialogues on this issue. We have often had a strong difference of view.
Now we have catalogued our assessment of the human rights situation in Indonesia. We print it, and you can go down the hall and I can give you a copy of this. There aren't many governments in the world that do that.
At press conferences we talk about our differences on this issue, as Secretary Christopher did when he was in Jakarta this summer on a different issue, but an issue that certainly involved human rights.
So I'm not going to be put in the position, frankly, at this briefly of having to be defensive about this. We have a positive policy that serves the interests of the United States, and I'm going to put it forward very clearly for you.
QLet me ask you a quick question. The Indonesian military has killed a third of the population of Timor -- 200,000 people -- on November lst, gunned down more than 250 Timorese, one of the smaller massacres in East Timor, using U.S. weapons. What would it take for the U.S. Government to cut off military aid to Indonesia?
MR. BURNS: That question would obviously be a function of a variety of factors, and I guess if you want to engage in this kind of hypothetical thinking, certainly
MR. BURNS: Certainly, certainly -- you asked me a question in the future tense -- certainly the human rights situation will be part of that. But the fact is we have not made that decision. If we ever make that decision, we'll announce it. But we have not made that decision and we are going to go forward with these sales.
QNew subject? Mid-East?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QYasser Arafat sounded somewhat pessimistic in his analysis of the talks going on between Palestinians and the Israelis. Do you have a comment?
MR. BURNS: If you are referring to his comments made yesterday in Ramallah before the Palestinian Council, I can only say that it's not surprising to hear from either the Palestinians or Israelis a sense of frustration about these ongoing negotiations, because they are difficult. They are very tough, and they have not yet succeeded. They are not yet complete.
Now I think the good news from the advantage point of the United States is this. We were right to hold that summit here in Washington last week. It did move the situation forward despite much of the criticism from the press on this and from other outside experts, because they have moved away from violence in the streets, very dramatically moved away from that, and they are now talking.
On Monday, the talks moved to Taba and to Eilat. They will be meeting Monday and Tuesday in Taba; Wednesday and Thursday in Eilat. And we believe that those talks can and must be successful. The situation is better today than it was two weeks ago.
Not surprising, however, and you ought not to be surprised in the future of these negotiations to see some public diplomacy exercised by both sides, to see some of the negotiations spill over into comments made in public. We think that is part of the nature of the negotiations. We understand it.
Certainly there can be no return to violence, and we know that Chairman Arafat, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have pledged to each other as well as to President Clinton that they will do everything necessary to stem any further violence in the West Bank and Gaza strip. That's a very serious undertaking to which both are committed, and we are committed to that as well.
QOn that subject, the Israeli spokesman has said that, in keeping with what you have been saying, that there would be no renegotiation of the Hebron schedule. Did they say that they are seeking adjustments in that schedule. Do you accept the difference between adjustments and renegotiation?
MR. BURNS: I don't think we have a problem here. In fact, in announcing the relocation of the talks to the Red Sea yesterday, Dennis Ross confirmed, speaking on behalf of both delegations -- the Israelis and the Palestinians -- that both of them agreed once again, and announced publicly once again, there will be no renegotiation of the Oslo Accords.
Obviously the implementation of the Oslo Accords is what they are negotiating, what they are debating and discussing, and some of which they disagree on.
Some of the implementation has to consider recent events. That's the core of the matter, but everybody agrees no renegotiation, which was particularly important for the Palestinian delegation. And we understand why.
QWell, as I understand, it, the Oslo Accords laid out a schedule which has not been kept to for Israeli redeployment from military positions in Hebron.
Since it hasn't been fulfilled, is that not in de facto renegotiation?
MR. BURNS: No. In fact, let's remember that the decision not to meet the schedule for having redeployment was made by Prime Minister Shimon Peres back in March of 1996 before the Israeli elections.
That has been now one of the outstanding problems. It is the major problem in the negotiations. We believe that a deal to agree on a redeployment schedule from Hebron can and will be arranged. We think these talks are going to be successful.
QBut is the Israeli Defense Minister not calling for changes in the Oslo Agreement, in particular relating to the type of weapons to be carried by the Palestinian police, for example?
MR. BURNS: We have been assured by Prime Minister Netanyahu that there will be no re-negotiation. The discussion concerns the implementation. But I should also say to defend my colleague, Dennis Ross, that essentially I think they've all agreed to a press blackout starting Monday and Tuesday. Press will be on site at Taba or at Eilat where they'll be meeting.
As you know, we're not going into the substance of questions like that, Patrick, because we want to preserve some confidentiality here so we can be successful in the negotiations. So I couldn't possibly answer it. But I can tell you about this very important distinction about no re- negotiation.
QBut Oslo specifies whose troops are to be where and who's to patrol there -- whose police and security forces. What kind adjustments are we talking about? Is this the timetable?
MR. BURNS: They're going to have to define the results of these negotiations. They are the ones negotiating. They're the ones making the decisions. We are a facilitator at these talks, and we're present at the table. We'll remain at the table.
QCan I go back to Asia but a different subject. Has there been any change in Assistant Secretary Lord's travel schedule? Specifically, is he going to China?
MR. BURNS: I do know that Win Lord intends to travel beyond Seoul in Asia. Yesterday, I think I told you I wasn't aware of any travel plans, which was the case. Subsequent to my briefing, I have been informed by my friends in the East Asia Bureau that he does intend to stay in Asia. But I'm not at liberty, actually, to announce where he'll be going next.
QHave you got any word back from the Swedish diplomat on the American being held?
MR. BURNS: But, listen, in order to take the sting off that a little bit, he will not be heading directly north of Seoul. No, no. I'm not trying to insinuate anything like that. He will be going to another country with which we have -- or countries with which we have diplomatic relations, so it won't be North Korea. But I'm just not at liberty at to disclose that now, because his final plans aren't set.
MR. BURNS: It's not Kissingerian, even though he worked for -- no, it's not at all.
QHave you heard back from the Swedish diplomat?
MR. BURNS: We have not, and I think not surprisingly, because Mr. Lofquist, the Swedish Charge d'Affaires, had to take a four-hour train ride from Pyongyang to visit the jailed American. Given the time difference and given the problems with communications, we simply haven't heard back from the Swedish Government.
We hope to, as soon as we can over the weekend. We repeat our calls today for the release of the American being held unjustly by the North Koreans, and we hope that Mr. Lofquist will have found that the American is in good health; that he is not being mistreated; that he has full access to understand what the charges are that are being brought against him.
He's been charged with espionage, which is one of the most severe charges that anyone can face anywhere in the world, much less in an autocratic society like North Korea.
QNick, about Mr. Lord's trip, could you give us more on the content of discussions he had with the South Korean counterpart?
MR. BURNS: Certainly, be glad to. Winston Lord met yesterday and today with Foreign Minister Gong, with the National Security Adviser of South Korea, with other ministers and other officials of the South Korean Government.
The purpose of his trip is to step back and review the major issues in our relationship with the Republic of Korea in light of the very dramatic and mostly negative events that have occurred on the peninsula in the last month.
I think it's fair to say that the United States wants to send a strong signal to North Korea that we support our ally, the Republic of Korea; that we stand by it. Of course, we have a security commitment to it, and that we believe that North Korea is solely responsible for the submarine that violated the sovereignty of South Korea a month ago. We hold North Korea responsible for that. It was a violation of the United Nations armistice agreements, which are very clear.
We are also very concerned by other activities undertaken by North Korea against South Korea. I think sometimes in relationship, you need to demonstrate publicly solidarity, and that's a big part of Assistant Secretary Lord's trip.
As I said, he is going to be giving a major press conference about seven or eight hours from now, and for those of you who have deadlines that meet that, I would encourage you to try to follow that.
QDo you know whether they discussed joint military operations?
MR. BURNS: I don't know specifically all of the issues that they talked about, but I know that Winston is going to give a good press conference where I'm sure he'll tell you everything that he did.
QWill he give his travel time from Pyongyang?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe he's going to be any more illuminating on his plans than I have been when he gives his press conference. There's nothing mysterious here. We're just trying to give you something to think about over the weekend -- (laughter) -- so you don't have a completely peaceful, long weekend. We have to keep you on your toes. It's very important.
QGo to a different area?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QThis would be Haiti. There's a lawsuit in New York that the CIA gave documents to -- that were subpoenaed. It's under the Alien Tort Claims Act, and one of the documents that was just provided to the plaintiff -- it provides copies of -- excerpts of a report of late October 1993, in which it says that a Manuel Constant met with various people on the morning of the killing of the Justice Minister, Guy Malary, who was killed that afternoon. So the implication is in the text -- or it's more than an implication -- that Constant had a direct role in the killing of Malary. I don't suppose you have guidance on this at this point because it just came out, but could you take the question as to whether the Department of State was aware of this report at the time and decided not to deport Mr. Constant to Haiti and instead to release him on parole?
MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to look into that for you. You're right, I have not heard of this latest development. Of course, I know a lot about the case of Mr. Constant, but I'll have to look into this for you.
QThe CIA had the document clearly for three years, since two weeks after the killing of Malary. Is there any move right now to extradite Constant, and where is he right now?
MR. BURNS: First of all, I never talk about the CIA. I have a lot of friends there; we work with them very closely. But I never talk in public about anything that the CIA is doing because we don't do that. We never have done that and never will.
On the case of Mr. Constant, I can agree to look into this for you. We haven't talked about this in a while here in this briefing room, and we'll just get back to you on it.
QI have one other question regarding Nicaragua, and I have to apologize for not being here at the beginning. But did you mention in your statement what the U.S. policy is with respect to preferring one candidate for another in the elections on October 20th?
MR. BURNS: What I did at the beginning was just to announce that the United States is sending a delegation to observe the elections, led by Brian Atwood, our Administrator for the Agency for International Development.
It is certainly true that in this case, as in all other cases, the United States does not take a position in support of one candidate or another. We are neutral. We're not going to involve ourselves in the political campaign in Nicaragua. That's for the Nicaraguan people to decide on October 20th. That's a very important election.
QIf I could just follow, how do you square that strict neutrality with remarks that you've made over the past week with respect to one of the candidates? Well, I'll ask that question and then ask if you have remarks regarding the other candidate, just to insure that there's neutrality, I guess. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Thank you for asking the question. I square my remarks of the other day -- actually, I've done it twice, I think: Monday and Friday -- very easily with the fact that we take no position on these elections. I was asked by one of your colleagues, who's in the room, a direct question: do we think that Ortega is a good democratic? One of the things that I like to do here is be as open as possible, always as direct and honest as I can be, and I'm always straightforward. And he is not, in my mind. I would not use those two words to describe him.
I don't believe if you took a survey of the American people that 99.8 percent of our population would describe him as a good democrat -- not with friends like Muammar Qadhafi and Saddam Hussein, whom he has recently seen.
So I certainly stand by my comments, certainly stand by them. I was responding to a question from a reporter here. It's also true that the United States has not taken a position in favor of either candidate and will not.
QJust one more try. You mentioned it again. It is true you were asked that direct question...
MR. BURNS: Yes, twice.
Q...and I know everybody in this press corps appreciates your honesty and candor.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
QBut, for example, you volunteered, according to the transcript, that Mr. Ortega had a "cozy" relationship with Qadhafi and Hussein, which you didn't use those words this time, but you cited the same leaders. But without being asked a specific question regarding his foreign relationships, however cozy, my question is how is a remark like that, which was volunteered, consistent with a policy of strict neutrality in an election of a country with whom the --
MR. BURNS: Let me give you a good point of comparison.
MR. BURNS: The Russian elections were held in June and July of this past summer, and that was a very sensitive time for Russia. And it was important that the United States not publicly endorse one of the candidates or the other.
In the course of many, many days of questioning here, Mike McCurry had questions over at the White House. We said a lot of things about Boris Yeltsin. We said a lot of things about Mr. Zyuganov. In fact, I made several comments very critical of Mr. Zyuganov in the middle of a political campaign, as did other officials of the United States Government.
The fact is that we have views on some of these leaders all around the world -- not just Nicaragua, but others -- and we don't hesitate to make those views known when those view are -- making them known is helpful to the United States of America.
So we took a strictly neutral position in the Russian elections. We take a strictly neutral position in the Nicaraguan elections. We do not wish to interfere. But, when asked, the tradition in our democracy is for government spokespeople to be open with the press corps. I have tried in my two years to be as open as possible. And we have views; we might as well express them. So this does not just pertain to Nicaragua. It pertains to a lot of other countries around the world.
QGiven that, do you think Soeharto is a good democrat?
MR. BURNS: You know what? I'm not going to answer the question. (Laughter)
QYou just talked about being open. Why not?
MR. BURNS: I'm as open as I can be and as I wish to be. But what I don't want to do is have -- you know, perhaps one day we can do this, because I think I know where you're coming from. If you'd like to have a briefing where we debate the human rights situation in every country of the world or any country of the world, I'll do it or we'll bring John Shattuck up here, our Assistant Secretary. And we'll have a debate, because this is clearly a debate about human rights issues.
But I don't want to get dragged in this briefing into commenting and describing every world leader. I answered questions about Mr. Ortega, and I stand by the comments that I made. Actually, I think those comments reflect the views of the overwhelming population of this country, because we remember the 1970s and 80s. We remember. We remember anti-American acts; we remember outrages against the American people. And we do believe in redemption, as I said the other day. Redemption can occur in some cases, and let's see if it ever does in this one.
Q(Inaudible) why not answer the question?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
QSince Indonesia is in the news, it's a key issue today, with the Nobel peace prize winners, do you consider Soeharto to be a democrat?
MR. BURNS: And after that, you'll ask me a question about someone else, and all of the sudden this briefing this briefing will have turned into a debate about a particular aspect of our foreign relations, which is human rights.
QI won't respond. Could you just say whether Soeharto is a democrat?
MR. BURNS: I'm not going to reward you, and I don't want my remarks to be twisted, because I think I know where you're coming from.
Yes, Mr. Lambros.
QA very important --
QCan I ask the last one?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QSo if he wins the elections, are you prepared to have a normal relation with Ortega, President of Nicaragua?
MR. BURNS: The United States will respect the outcome of a democratic election. Had Mr. Zyuganov won the election in Russia, I'm sure we would have worked with Mr. Zyuganov. We'll respect the outcome of a democratic election in Nicaragua.
QA very important letter of President Clinton on Imia reads as follows: "The U.S. has not accepted Turkish claim to sovereignty over the island," saying further that, "only the issue of ownership of Imia should be addressed in the International Court of Justice." Since that reflects U.S. foreign policy, I'm wondering if you're in a position to explain to us the difference between sovereignty and ownership on Imia?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, I don't have in front of me any letters that President Clinton has written on this issue to any of the leaders of southeast Europe.
QDo you have a copy?
MR. BURNS: Well, I don't have a copy, which is probably a more important fact in establishing this conversation. So, I just can't confirm that letter. Our position on Imia/Kardak is very well known.
QOnce upon a time, you promised here to release for us a list of those Greek small islands, islets, rocky islands of the Aegean which the U.S. does not recognize Greek sovereignty. Is this list ready today?
MR. BURNS: No, it's not.
QIs your statement still valid today?
MR. BURNS: I don't remember making that commitment, but I'll check the record. If I have, we'll see what we can do for you.
QWith the sovereignty, I want to remind you of your statement of February 1, 1996, that the U.S. Government does not recognize Greek sovereignty over Imia island, besides with the number of Greek small islands, islets, rocky islands along the Aegean sea coast, some of them smaller than the building of the State Department. I'm wondering, is this statement still valid today?
MR. BURNS: I mean, I've said a lot of things about Imia/Kardak, and whatever I have said in the past, I stand by, because they represent United States Government policy. But I can't possibly recall everything I've said.
This conflict, as you know, this is months back, and we have dealt with a hundred other issues since. So if you're interested in this issue, let's talk afterwards with one of the press officers and see if we can satisfy your question. But I simply can't recall letters that President Clinton may or may not have written months ago.
QCould you confirm information that Greece, U.S. and Turkey via confidential conducts these days are trying to find out which Greek small islands, islets and rocky islands are on the same status role with Imia in order to prepare the proper list for the International Court of Justice?
MR. BURNS: In general, I can just tell you this. The United States, when asked, tries to be helpful to Greece and Turkey in resolving some of these Aegean problems, and when we're asked to do so. But we're going to do this privately and confidentially and not expose it in public.
QOn Panama, do you have a day of the start of the conversation between Panama and the United States about the --
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that Ambassador Negroponte has set a date for his first meeting, but clearly it will be his responsibility to be the chief U.S. negotiator on this issue with the Panamanian Government as well as the chief policy person here in Washington.
QAnd what is the decision? Do you want to keep some troops in Panama beyond 2000?
MR. BURNS: Actually, we haven't decided and neither have the Panamanians, which is a very important half of this equation. But President Balladares and President Clinton have agreed that it's worth looking into; that neither government is willing to say now what we think should happen, because we think we ought to discuss it with each other, and we certainly have enough time approaching 1999; certainly enough time to think about this and have a good discussion.
This is a positive event now in appointing Ambassador Negroponte, because it allows us to have a single point of contact with the Panamanians on this issue, and it gives us enough time to make the right decision. This is a very important decision for both countries.
I have something I want to offer regarding France and the comments of a French Government Minister, which I think will be interesting to you, because it was surprising to us.
We understand that the Minister of Cooperation of France, Minister Godfrain, made some very pointed criticisms of Secretary Christopher's current trip to Africa -- something along the lines of this is purely being done for political reasons to help in the election here. Since I have personal knowledge of the beginnings of this trip, the beginnings of thinking about the trip, and since I know why the Secretary undertook this trip, I thought I should tell you on behalf of our government that these are outrageous, unfounded and unjustified remarks by a Minister of the French Government, and frankly they're very surprising.
I can't imagine that either President Chirac or Foreign Minister de Charette knew about these remarks or sanctioned them before they were made. It is highly unusual for a Minister of an allied government to be directly critical of another allied government.
Now, we ran into this case earlier in the week, and we've run into it again. These are disappointing remarks, and the French Minister who made them ought to rethink them, because just in their last meeting, Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister de Charette agreed to make Africa an area of intensified bilateral cooperation between the United States and France.
Minister Godfrain seems to believe that the United States just discovered Africa. Well, that's just not the case. And I think some of our visiting journalists here, who are from African countries, will testify to this, if they care to testify to this.
The fact is that our Vice President has visited Africa; that he has an ongoing binational commission with Deputy President Mbeki in South Africa. National Security Adviser Tony Lake is an Africanist. He's an Africa expert and has been for 30 years. And he has brought to this relationship more commitment and more action than anything I can remember in any previous administration in my career in government.
Deputy Secretary Strobe Talbott has been to Africa several times. We have made Africa a priority. We've argued with the Congress for more money for Africa. So a Minister of the French Government -- I don't know if he's been living under a rock or what. He hasn't been paying attention to what the United States Government has been doing. He ought to rethink his statement. He ought to recommit himself to cooperation with the United States on Africa.
QDid you ask the French Government --
MR. BURNS: We're asking the French Government for an explanation of his outrageous remarks, yes.
QHave you called the Ambassador?
MR. BURNS: We're talking with the French Government.
QBut this is not the first time the French criticized you, because in the Middle East a few weeks ago -- (laughter) --
MR. BURNS: Au contraire. Au contraire. (Laughter) When we were shuttling in late April, seven days and nights between Damascus and Jerusalem, Minister de Charette was also shuttling. You did not hear any ON-THE-RECORD comments critical of each other. The French Government was very careful.
The French Government was very careful, as was the American Government. And we actually are a partner of Frances, as you know, on a variety of these issues. But what's terribly ironic about this is that the two leading foreign policy professionals -- Secretary Christopher and Minister de Charette -- have just agreed to work together on Africa. So I think that Minister of Cooperation Godfrain is slightly out of step here.
QThe problem is because they link to the elections.
MR. BURNS: Oh, the problem is that he's made unfounded and unjustified remarks that aren't true and that aren't accurate and that ought to be re-thought.
QBack to the Middle East and the question I asked you yesterday, Nick, about the wire reports of Mr. Netanyahu going to the Arabs -- going out to the Palestinians over the TV. Were you able to look into that to see if he was indeed winning some trust, succeeding in his confidence- building? And specifically did other Arab leaders get involved in this as a discussion?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I think that the Prime Minister made his public statement more than a week ago, and I don't know if its' been successful or not, but certainly a lot more work needs to be done to repair some of the strains in relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries. The United States is trying to be helpful in that.
QA number of Palestinian leaders that I know -- not leaders that I know, but Palestinians that I know here in this town were very -- well, let's say distrustful of Mr. Netanyahu. Now, in the opinion of the United States Government, does Mr. Netanyahu need to reach out more than he has?
MR. BURNS: You know, I think 30 years of experience in the Middle East -- diplomatic experience -- has taught us, we Americans, that both sides need to commit themselves to peace. It's not a question of the Arabs having to be responsible for peace or the Israelis solely responsible. They both have to be committed. That's how we approach things. That's why the United States does not usually tee off on one side or the other publicly. We work with them privately together, and both sides have to work together to compromise for peace.
QDo you have a readout about Mr. Lebed's talks in NATO headquarters in Brussels? Is his stance changing your timetable of NATO enlargement?
MR. BURNS: I think that this was a very successful trip that Mr. Lebed made to Brussels. He met with Secretary General Solana and with the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General George Joulwan. It was the first time that Mr. Lebed had been in Western Europe, in the West, and I think it was a very successful visit.
Now, his remarks, his public remarks at the press conference and otherwise, were fairly consistent with what we've heard in the past from the Russian Government. The discussions that he had with NATO were very important, because they emphasized the need for Russia to continue to participate in the Partnership for Peace; for Russia and NATO to develop a charter to codify some rules of the road for Russia's military and security relationship with NATO in the future.
NATO will not change its plans. NATO leaders have already decided two- and-a-half years ago to enlarge NATO. Secretary Christopher said in Stuttgart on September 6 that there would be a NATO summit in the spring, or late spring of this year, that would in essence make the big decisions about NATO expansion: when and who.
That remains NATO policy, and nothing that anyone outside of NATO says will change that policy. But I do want to accentuate the positive here. It was a positive visit.
(The briefing concluded at 1:53 p.m.)
-20- Friday, 10/11/96
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