U.S. Department of State 96/10/21 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Monday, October 21, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns DEPARTMENT Secretary Christopher's Address at West Point this Friday 1-2 Missing Page of Friday's State Dept. Announcement on Behalf of the Monitoring Group from Lebanon................... 2-3, 7 Update on Asst. Secretary Kornblum's Visit to Sarajevo... 4 CHINA U.S.-China Relations...................................... 4-6 Chinese Role in North Korean Agreed Framework............. 6 Under Secretary Davis' Trip to Beijing.................... 6 China Nuclear Sales....................................... 6-7 Purpose/Details of Secretary Christopher's Imminent Visit 14-15 IRAQ Relation of Renewed Fighting Amongst Kurdish Factions to U.S. Diplomatic Meetings................................ 7-8 Engagement of Iraq and Iran............................... 8-9,11-12 Evacuation of Kurdish Refugees............................ 9-10 Status of Iraqi Kurds in Guam............................. 10-11 Possibility of Evacuating Kurdish NGO Employees........... 12-13 AFGHANISTAN U.S. Diplomatic Presence in Kabul......................... 13-14 JAPAN U.S. Reaction to Election Results......................... 15-16, 26 U.S. Relations With PM Hashimoto.......................... 16 MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS Dennis Ross' Return from Middle East...................... 16-17 Progress of Talks......................................... 17-21 U.S. Reaction to French President Chirac's Visit to Region 21 European Role in Peace Process............................ 21-23 TURKEY Turkish Confiscation of Monies Destined for Kurds......... 12 Status of U.S. Policy on Imia Island/Aegean Problem....... 23-24 U.S. Recognition of Greek/Turkish Borders................. 24-25 Turkish Govt. Measures Against Human Rights Abuses......... 25 NICARAGUA Election Results/Details.................................. 26
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
MONDAY, OCTOBER 21, 1996, 12:54 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome. I do have an announcement, and that is that at the invitation of his good friend, Superintendent Dan Christman, General Dan Christman, Secretary Christopher is going to travel to the United States Military Academy at West Point this Friday, October 25. He's going to be giving a major address on U.S. foreign policy at that time.
The focus of the Secretary's remarks will be on the marriage of force and diplomacy to promote United States interests in the aftermath of the Cold War. The Secretary will talk about the record of the Clinton Administration in foreign policy, and he'll also address when it's appropriate for the United States to try to combine force and diplomacy -- diplomacy and force -- to achieve our ends. The best possible example of that, of course, is Bosnia in the summer and fall of 1995.
The Secretary is also going to talk about the importance of having substantial financial resources, adequate financial resources, available to the United States so that American diplomats can do their job; so that our Embassies and Consulates around the world can continue to function; and so that as we think about America as a national power, we only have adequate funding for the intelligence community and the defense community.
But for the third leg of our foundation of our national power, which is our diplomacy, our ability to be ready diplomatically to work effectively around the world. So this promises to be, I think, an interesting speech, an important speech. It will be at 12:30. He will deliver it at 12:30 p.m. at West Point.
In addition to the speech, the Secretary will be visiting some classes. He'll be taking a tour of West Point and visiting with General Dan Christman. I think a lot of you remember -- I know a lot of you know General Christman very well from our travels. He accompanied the Secretary on most of his trips over the last two years before he took his present job as Superintendent of West Point.
Second, I'm in --
MR. BURNS: Yes, he does. He'll be leaving in the morning, and then probably coming back late in the afternoon to Washington.
Q Are there going to be Q&As?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I'll check. I mean, I think if there were to be Q&As, they'd be on the part of the cadets, but I'll see.
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q I think you were about to say what I was going to ask.
MR. BURNS: Yes. We will make the text available to you here in the briefing room. I don't know if we're going to be able to have an audio feed, but we'll certainly be able to make the text of the speech available at the time that he gives it; if not, a few minutes before.
Q It is a public speech. People other than the cadets --
MR. BURNS: Oh, it's a public speech. I don't know what arrangements the Academy has made for reporters. I will find out. In fact, Dave Leavy is coordinating this end of it for us, and so Dave and I will get back to you on that.
I need to go over something, and I must say, this is a slightly embarrassing situation to be in. It's a greatly embarrassing situation to be in. It concerns the Monitoring Group.
Last Friday, we issued a public statement that was given to us by the Monitoring Group. In fact, it was a public statement that had been agreed to by all five members of the Monitoring Group. What is embarrassing about the situation is, we did not give you the second page of the statement, and the second page is important, and I want to go over the second page with you.
The reason we didn't give you the second page is we didn't have the second page. We were sent a statement by fax which was one page, and it had, at least in reading it, a logical conclusion at the end of the first page.
This morning, we were told from the Monitoring Group in the field that there was a second page; that because of an administrative error, the second page was not sent to us. But the second page was fully agreed to Friday morning in the region by all of the five members of the Monitoring Group.
So I want to read it to you, because I think it's very important. It will give you a much fuller understanding of the discussion in the Monitoring Group. For those of you who may have missed this, there was an incident a couple of weeks back in southern Lebanon where 13 Lebanese civilians were injured, four of them seriously. There was damage to four houses in the village of Safad-el-Battikh in southern Lebanon.
Because of this incident, the Lebanese asked the Monitoring Group to look into the charge of whether or not the Israeli Government had acted appropriately in using military force in the region. I read to you on Friday the complete statement of the first page, it turns out, of the results of the deliberations of the Monitoring Group that met to look at this question. Let me just read to you now the concluding page, which I just received about an hour ago.
"The Monitoring Group affirmed by unanimity that all combatants are responsible for the conduct of their military operations, and that special prudence is required for such activity in the vicinity of civilian populated areas. The Israeli forces are responsible for the manner in which they carried out, against a Lebanese armed group, counterfire which resulted in the damage and injuries at Safad-el- Battikh. The Monitoring Group urges that appropriate measures be taken by responsible authorities to ensure that such tragedies will not be repeated.
"As regards the pending Lebanese complaint concerning the expulsion of civilians, the Monitoring Group agreed to take up the matter no later than November 10."
So this is the second page that was missing on Friday. We are re- releasing this statement today. Copies are available to all of you, and it obviously supersedes -- it takes the place of the statement that we issued erroneously on Friday. I'll be glad to go into this if you have questions.
Last, I wanted just to update you a little bit on the travels of John Kornblum. You heard the Secretary a couple of hours ago talk about our view of this issue of whether or not the municipal elections scheduled for late November should go forward, and you have the Secretary's ON- THE-RECORD comments on that issue.
John Kornblum is right now in a Contact Group dinner in Sarajevo where they're discussing this issue and a host of other issues. He met today -- "he," John Kornblum -- separately with each of the members of the joint presidency: Mr. Zubak, Mr. Izetbegovic and Mr. Krajisnik. He also met with Carl Bildt, with some of our key allied partners, and he met with Bob Frowick who, as you know, is the chief OSCE diplomat in charge of supervising the elections.
Tomorrow, John Kornblum will travel to Banja Luka for meetings with the Bosnian Serb leadership, including Mrs. Plavsic; and he will also host, I believe in Sarajevo, a meeting of the Federation to try to strengthen the Federation that has been in place.
This is an important trip because we find ourselves -- they find themselves, we all find ourselves in a very difficult position in Bosnia. The Bosnian Serbs have failed to meet their responsibilities in agreeing to schedule these municipal elections.
As the Secretary said this morning, the United States, of course, would like to see these elections go forward, if they can go forward. However, the problems here are quite substantial that the organizers are facing, and they certainly require a greater amount of cooperation from the Bosnian Serbs.
That's one of the reasons why John Kornblum will be going up to Banja Luka tomorrow to see the Bosnian Serb leadership. So I wanted to update you on his trip.
Q Nick, are the Chinese say anything new to the United States on such issues as proliferation, human rights and even terrorism? There are again some showcase trials -- at least one looming -- some sentencing going on. Also, there's a going concern over technology. Mr. Deutsch was there. Mr. Lord was there. Mr. Christopher is going to see the Chinese -- going to China next month. Have you detected any ripple of change in any of these areas, or could you in any way tell us -- you know, appraise the state of the relationship? Has it changed at all in the last few weeks?
MR. BURNS: I think, first of all, Barry, just give you a general sense, as we look forward to Secretary Christopher's trip in just about a month's time, that U.S.-China relations certainly have more balance to them, and I think we're both certainly in a better position than we were in 1995 and 1994.
It is true that we have a number of outstanding differences and very strong differences on important issues. Human rights is among those issues. It's also true that I think the United States and China have decided that the importance of our relationship is so great that we need to agree -- and we have agreed -- that we're going to keep talking to each other, despite the fact that we have problems.
That was not the case in 1995. As you remember, the Chinese were unhappy over the issuance of a visa to a Mr. Lee and because of that, there was a five-month hiatus in our relationship where essentially there was no high-level talk. As you know, there hasn't been a high- level American visitor of the rank of the Secretary of State in nearly -- well, in two-and-a-half years.
So the Secretary believes very strongly that we've got to keep working with the Chinese. There are a number of issues where we can work very positively and fruitfully together. We think that North Korea is one of those issues where the Chinese have been very helpful to all of us in the past. There are a number of issues where we have some problems, and I mentioned human rights in that regard.
The key thing, given the importance of the relationship, is to keep meeting. The Secretary will be in Beijing for a couple of days. He might have some other onward travel in China. He hasn't decided yet. As you know, the Secretary in July spoke about the need for continued high-level meetings into 1997. So that's essentially how we view the relationship.
As for any changes in Chinese Government policy, I think that's best directed to the Chinese Government. We were very disappointed to see over the last ten days a flurry of arrests and threats made against noted champions of human rights in China. As you know, one of those people made his way to San Francisco and is currently in San Francisco, and others have been arrested and detained. That is a great disappointment to the United States, and we've been severely critical of it.
As for the proliferation issue, I spoke about that two weeks ago. China, we believe, based on the information available to us, is meeting its commitments made to us in this May 11 statement. This is an issue of great concern to us. We're going to continue to work on it.
We're interested in having expert-level discussions with the Chinese on this issue, in addition to the highest level discussions that are going to take place in November. We hope very much that those expert- level discussions can go forward expeditiously.
Q Let me ask you just one more question about North Korea. Is China as interested, as dedicated to maintaining that freeze on North Korean nuclear development as the U.S. is, and can you be specific in any way about any assistance, any leverage they might apply in that area or in the strains with South Korea, or wherever?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there's any reason to believe that China is acting against the Agreed Framework. In fact, China has supported the Agreed Framework in the past, and we believe continues to support it. As you also know, the United States hopes that the Four-Party talks proposed by President Kim and President Clinton in April on Cheju Island can be begun, and China would be one of the Four Parties in those talks.
So China is a very important country for us as we think about North Korea, and I think we've had very positive discussions with the Chinese. As you also note, China joined the consensus opinion in the UN Security Council last week to effectively criticize quite severely North Korea for its intrusion into South Korea's sovereignty -- the other submarine incident a couple of weeks back. So we believe that we have good cooperation with China on the issue of North Korea.
Carol and Sid?
Q Has a date been set for Under Secretary Davis to go to Beijing?
MR. BURNS: I can check on whether there's a specific date, but we do anticipate that she'll be having talks with the Chinese before the Secretary's visit there, yes; and we hope expert-level talks as well, in addition to Lynn Davis' more high-level talks.
Q Have you made a determination on whether China's arms sales, rocket sales, nuclear sales to Iran is sanctionable? That's not something that's covered by the statement of two years ago.
MR. BURNS: As you know -- you're right, Sid -- we're dealing with a variety of different allegations here -- some regarding Iran, some regarding Pakistan -- and in each case we take these allegations seriously. We look into them. We pursue the evidence where the evidence leads.
In this case, as in the case with Pakistan, we have not determined that China's actions violate, in the case of Iran, MTCR commitments or U.S. sanctions law.
Q Nick, can I ask you about this famous second page of the Monitoring Group report. Do I read your reading of it correctly to say that the Israeli representative at the Monitoring Group did accept responsibility for injuring the 13 civilians in this village?
MR. BURNS: It's very carefully done, and again let me just remind you what this is. This is language agreed to by all five members of the Monitoring Group, including the Israeli delegation and the American delegation. I think the key line here is that "The Israeli forces are responsible for the manner in which they carried out, against a Lebanese armed group, counterfire which resulted in the damage and injuries at Safad-el-Battikh."
I think that is the key sentence. You'll judge it on your own terms. This sentence was agreed to by Israel, as well as the United States, as well as Syria, France and Lebanon.
Q I don't want to read something into it that you don't mean to say, but does that mean that the Israelis targeted that village?
MR. BURNS: I think I would direct you back to the language. The word "targeted" is not used here, and this language was worked out after laborious negotiations over four days. I would rather stick with the language responsible for the manner in which they carried out the operation but also against a Lebanese armed group. I think that's an important point as well.
Q New subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q The Kurds seem to be fighting with renewed gusto.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q I wonder how you interpreted that in light of the United States recent attempts to mediate between the two parties? Do you read that as a rejection of your efforts? Or was it just that there was some tactical advantage to be seized and neither could resist? How do you see that?
MR. BURNS: I certainly do not read the continued fighting in northern Iraq as a rejection of America's diplomatic efforts to get them to stop the fighting.
The fact is that Ambassador Pelletreau, who the Secretary of State has sent to the region to have these cease-fire talks, has only completed one of his two important meetings. As you know, he met with Mr. Barzani in Silopi, at a Turkish military base this morning. They met for three hours, as Mr. Pelletreau indicated publicly.
Mr. Pelletreau made the major points, and that is, that the United States believes that there should be a cease-fire; that the Kurdish groups should agree to political reconciliation talks, and that no attempt should be made by any of these groups to bring either Iran or Iraq into the fighting as active participants or as supporters of the fighting.
Mr. Pelletreau said in his press conference that he believed that he possibly made some headway on the issue of a cease-fire with Mr. Barzani. He used the words, that he felt there was a stronger inclination to support that idea. But he also clearly said he needs to meet with Mr. Talabani. That will probably take place tomorrow. He needs to have a talk with him, and then we'll have a much better -- he will have a much better idea -- of where we are.
But our mission here is to stop the fighting so that the Kurds themselves can work out their own political problems and keep these other two states away from exerting political influence in the area, or other military influence in the area as well.
Q What's your current analysis of Iraq -- engagement of Iraq and Iran there? Do you see any intensified effort by those two countries to be involved in that conflict?
MR. BURNS: You remember last week we did not have any conclusive evidence, any direct evidence of direct Iranian or Iraqi involvement in the fighting. There certainly have been some indications on both sides that they have an interest; that they may have, in the case of Iraq -- certainly people in the area above the 36th parallel -- there's no question about that. But I can't say that we've changed our opinion this week. I think our conclusions are still pretty much the same.
But we have everyday warned both Iran and Iraq to stay out of the fighting, and Mr. Pelletreau did that again today after his meeting with Mr. Barzani.
Q Does the United States have a diplomat -- I'm changing subjects, if that's all right.
Q Can we stay on northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Yes, sir.
Q Is there anything new on the Kurdish refugees?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that over the weekend the United States helped to evacuate 600 Iraqis, members of the Iraqi political opposition, and members of their families from northern Iraq; that all those people are currently in Silopi, in southeastern Turkey; that they will be evacuated to Guam -- to the Andersen Air Force Base -- with the other Iraqi Kurdish Turkoman refugees are.
The first flight will be leaving at 7:00 p.m. this evening Washington- time; so just in a matter of several hours from now. These will be chartered civilian flights, organized by the International Organization for Migration. All of these people will be taken to Guam. They will be processed for asylum into the United States at Guam should they wish -- desire to be considered for that process. I think that every one of them will be.
We very much appreciate the invaluable support of the Government of Turkey in this process. We could not have undertaken this operation to bring these people out of northern Iraq without the support of the Turkish Government.
These people, they come from a variety of groups but they are united in one respect. They all oppose the regime of Saddam Hussein. So much so, and their activities were such that they all feared persecution or the risk of serious harm to themselves or their family members should they have stayed in Iraq. That's why they asked us for protection and that's why the United States undertook the operation that we did from late Friday evening until late Saturday evening when the operation was concluded.
Q A follow-up, quickly. You said the Iraqi opposition -- this latest group -- specifically, do they belong to those who work for INC, and their families?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to go into all the various groups or name all the individual groups. But suffice it to say, they came from some of the major Iraqi opposition groups, and I think you know, that will lead into the direction where you probably want to go.
Q There are, right now, as I understand, thousands of Iraqi Kurds in Guam; right?
MR. BURNS: A little over 2,100.
Q They are all going to be processed for asylum, as you said?
MR. BURNS: That's right.
Q What about those that will not be given the right to asylum? What will happen to them?
MR. BURNS: You mean, those who are currently in Guam?
MR. BURNS: The asylum process is run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, as you know -- the Department of Justice, the branch of the Department of Justice -- and the asylum process proceeds accordingly to United States law and regulations. Should people qualify for asylum to the United States, they will be granted. They will be brought to the United States and they'll reside in the United States and they'll be protected here.
I can't anticipate how many of the 2,100 will be granted asylum. I would think that the overwhelming majority of them will be unless there is some superseding legal problem of which we were unaware when we talked to each of these people before they came in.
Q What about those who are not given asylum? Is there a plan already in place?
MR. BURNS: We'll just have to take things as they come and see if, in fact, any of the 2,100 are not granted asylum in the United States. Should they not be, then the Immigration and Naturalization Service would have to decide what to do with them. I simply can't anticipate what that action would be at this point.
Q Is there a time schedule for their arrival in --
MR. BURNS: In the United States?
MR. BURNS: I know, when we undertook the first operation to bring the more than 2,100 people from Turkey to Guam, we said it might be several months before these people were able to actually arrive in the United States. That's because this is a big decision. It's a comprehensive process -- put it that way. It's a long process to gain asylum into the United States. People have to be interviewed. They have to fill out the requisite forms, as you would imagine, to become an asylee in the United States. We have to follow the procedures under our law. But we will try to do that as efficiently as possible.
Once that process is completed for each of the people, then they would be on their way to the United States, should they be granted asylum by the INS.
Q Could I follow up on Carol's question? Specifically, these issues.
Nick, have the Iraqis moved any closer? Are many more troops into the Irbil area? Do you have any evidence that they're moving north?
Second: Are both of the Kurdish groups still (inaudible)? Are they holding their positions?
MR. BURNS: Static, you mean.
Q Well, around Iran-Irbil. Has there been anymore --
MR. BURNS: A word that didn't fit in the present climate --
Q Standing down. As we asked them last week, are they standing now? I take it they're not. What can you report about that, and anything to report about the activity of the Iranian military?
MR. BURNS: I don't have anything to share publicly on the disposition of Iraqi military forces or Iran's military forces. Of course, we are watching both situations quite carefully.
Q The Kurds fighting one another?
MR. BURNS: I think I've spoken to that. We think this is a great mistake for the Kurds to engage in this fighting. There's a back-and- forth quality here. Last week, the PUK made territorial advances. Just in the last couple of days, the KDP has made significant territorial advances. This kind of fighting, I think, tells us something; that neither side has the military capability to achieve a definitive victory over the other. Therefore, their only possible conclusion at the end of the day has to be, stop the fighting. It's not to their advantage. It can't be to their advantage to continue the fighting.
They're going to have to decide that they can get what they want politically at the negotiation table with each other.
Q Just, finally, once again, no Iraqi military participation in the KDP advances, as far as you know; is that correct?
MR. BURNS: I spoke to that earlier, Bill. I said we don't have any direct evidence to that effect.
Q Today, one of the Turkish newspapers reported that at Incirlik U.S. Air Force Base, some Turkish officials captured and confiscated $10 million in August. The Turkish commander of the base -- they're investigating this subject. The newspaper claimed that those monies go to northern Iraq, to some Kurdish officials. Are you aware of this news --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of this news item, and I have nothing to say on it. I'm just not aware of any of the facts involved here.
Q On the same subject. Is this 600 evacuees the last evacuees that you expect to airlift out of --
MR. BURNS: That's hard to say. As you know, we have, in the past, talked about a different group -- a second group of non-governmental organization employees -- of a greater number than either the first group or this particular group -- a number of several thousand people.
We've not yet made a decision as to whether or not it's necessary to undertake an evacuation exercise for this group of people. They were not as closely aligned to the United States or didn't work directly for the American Government -- most of them. They don't share with the group that was taken out over the weekend -- the 600 political oppositionists -- a direct personal threat from the security forces of Saddam Hussein.
But, nevertheless, since we've been asked to look into their situation, we have done that. We've got it under review. We are trying to compile as much information on who these people are and what their numbers are, as we can, and at some point we'll make a decision. But we have not yet a decision to bring them out.
Q How do you explain the fact that people at this podium previously had indicated that that evacuation of the NGO people was imminent and then you rolled back on it?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if anyone at this podium -- myself or Glyn or anyone else -- I guess it's just Glyn and I; those are two options, right? -- I don't know if Glyn or me -- I was going to look at Glyn for solace but he's not there. Glyn is watching. So Glyn . . . I don't think Glyn and I ever indicated that this decision had been made and was imminent. I'll be glad to go back and check the record. I don't believe that was the case.
In any case, I can tell you, this has been given very high-level attention. No decision has been made, including high-level attention, just recently in the last couple of days. No decision has been made. We'll continue to look at it.
Should we feel, obviously, that the lives of these people are in imminent danger, that would be a compelling factor in any decision that we made. That is not currently the case.
I can also tell you that Ambassador Pelletreau has talked to Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani about this issue, about this group of people who remain in northern Iraq. Both the KDP and the PUK have said that they will, in essence, act to help these people, to make sure that there's no political retribution taken against these people which is an important factor in any decision.
Just to complete our discussion of northern Iraq, I just want to let you know that Ambassador Pelletreau will be seeing Mr. Talabani. That meeting will take place probably tomorrow. I don't have a location for that meeting. You'll probably hear about it first from Ambassador Pelletreau when he sees the press out there.
MR. BURNS: No, I can't confirm a country for that meeting.
Q New subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Does the United States have a diplomat in Kabul? And what is he or she doing there? Is he or she planning to meet, in addition to the Taliban, also with other groups that are battling them for the control of Kabul?
MR. BURNS: I can check, David. I'm not aware that we have a diplomat in Kabul. I can check for you. Obviously, you've seen the reports of continued fighting just outside of Kabul by the forces of Ahmed Shah Masood and the Taliban.
We understand that Masood's forces have captured the Bagram Air Base, which is roughly 30 miles north of Kabul. We have also seen some media reports that there's talk of a cease-fire by these various factions. We would hope that would be the case.
Our own believe is that the various factions should agree to a cease- fire. As we've said last week, agree to a cease-fire and begin talks, perhaps, on the formation of some kind of a reconciliation government. We don't believe that the conflict in Afghanistan can be resolved on the battlefield.
As you know, we do not side with any particular faction. We're neutral. We're calling upon all of them, in our contacts with them, to stop the fighting.
Q There is a report that you have a man in Kabul today.
MR. BURNS: Fine. If there is, I have not seen it. I'll be glad to check into it. I'm just not aware of that fact.
Q Can we go back to China just for a moment? You spoke of experts going to China. Can you give us an idea why there is a need for that?
If, on the one hand -- I have a two-part question; on the one hand, they're accredited -- China is -- with fulfilling their pledge when Davis is going. The Secretary is going. He's not going alone. He's going to be surrounded by experts.
If there's no exigent need, why? In all these talks -- I'm talking about Lord; you can't speak for Deutsch -- do the American officials meet with Chinese officials only because there was a little wiggle room on previous technology transfers, that somehow freelance Chinese munition makers are off on their own; just got up one day and decided to provide dangerous material to rogue regimes.
Do you cover that part of the -- I mean, there's so much here to watch because there are so many ways the Chinese have worked around this problem, played at the edges of this problem for years. Can you address those points?
MR. BURNS: This is one of the major issues in our relationship. There's the issue of proliferation. As you know, there have been a number of allegations made about Chinese sales to a variety of countries. Given the fact that U.S. law is very clear about the obligations of the U.S. Government, we take them seriously.
So that argues for continued, sustained diplomatic conversations and contacts with the Chinese Government. That's been carried out in the past by Bob Einhorn, our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs; by his boss, Lynn Davis; by Ted McNamara, our Assistant Secretary of State.
We need to have a variety of levels of contact. Secretary Christopher and Minister Qian -- Foreign Minister Qian -- almost always talk about this issue. Sometimes, as in the case of their meeting in The Hague last April or their meeting in New York in September, they have long, involved conversations on these issues.
Sometimes you want to go into a greater level of detail that only experts can engage in. That's the reason for a kind of permanent, sustained, diplomatic dialogue. That's why we have expert-level talks.
Q How about non-governmental Chinese who apparently -- well, allegedly, of their own volition, ship out suspicious technology? It's hardly a credible construction, but that's what we've been told.
MR. BURNS: When that happens, that was the case -- actually, Barry, that was, as you remember, the case of the ring magnets. There was that kind of element involved in the equation. When that happens, we do what we can only do this situation, we go to the Chinese Government and indicate there may be a problem with a corporation in China. That's what a responsible government like ours should do in a case like that.
Still on China. Anything else on China?
Q What is the State Department reaction to the election results in Japan?
MR. BURNS: Yes, certainly. Obviously, we've watched the elections in Japan with great interest given the importance of U.S.-Japan relations. We certainly congratulate the Japanese people for these elections.
We note the results of the elections, which I think are very clear, for all to see. Now, we will have to watch as a government is formed.
The United States expects to continue the very strong cooperative relationship that we have enjoyed with Japan over the years. We look forward to working with the next government, and we certainly look forward to working with all the ministers that are appointed in that government.
The U.S.-Japan relationship is the fundamental key to stability in Asia. It's an exceedingly critical relationship. These were important elections, and we hope to continue to have a productive and sustained, excellent relationship with Japan in the future.
Still on Japan?
Q Prime Minister Hashimoto is likely to keep his job. Do you have any particular conversation with the Japanese Government in the near future?
MR. BURNS: Will we have conversations with the Japanese Government?
MR. BURNS: Contacts?
Q After this election?
MR. BURNS: We'll have to respect the electoral process in Japan and watch as the Japanese Government is formed and watch as the Prime Minister takes up new duties in the government -- his duties in the government. We'll have to watch that process.
Once it is completed, and once there is a government in place, then, of course, we'll be willing to work as actively as we always have with the Japanese Government. Our Embassy in Japan, I'm sure, is in touch with everyone they should be in touch with during this time.
Q I have a question about Dennis Ross, coming back. Is this seen as a failure on his part to mediate some final decision?
MR. BURNS: Barry has just answered that. No. Absolutely not. Barry, thank you for giving us the lead in the story. "Veteran Associated Press Correspondent says: Talks . . ." Long-time Dennis Ross watcher, exactly.
To be serious, for a moment. I would like to say the following. If you go back four weeks and remember the violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which was unprecedented in 30 years of history out there, and then you fast-forward to today, I think you should conclude the following -- we conclude the following here in Washington -- that we've come a very long way.
These talks are back on the right track, as Secretary Christopher said this morning. They have clearly made progress. If you talk to either side -- Chairman Arafat or the Netanyahu Government -- they have acknowledged that.
Dennis Ross has said a couple of times that one of the ways in which progress has been met is that each of them now has a much better appreciation of the negotiating needs of the other. We are confident of success. These talks will succeed in the end.
We said all along, from the very beginning -- and we're going to do some transcript-checking today on the issue of northern Iraq; let's do some transcript-checking today on this issue -- the day after the Washington summit, that Dennis Ross would go out and he would be present at the talks. He would not be present throughout the course of the talks, we predicted. He would come back to the United States from time to time. Actually, he stayed out for 16 days. Much longer than we thought.
He's now coming back at the instruction of Secretary Christopher for consultations with Secretary Christopher. As Secretary Christopher just said a couple of hours ago, Dennis will be heading back to Taba and Eilat and Jerusalem and Gaza to continue his own involvement in these talks in a very short period of time.
While he's here in the United States, Ambassador Martin Indyk, our Ambassador to Israel, and Ed Abington, our Consul General in Jerusalem, will be physically present in Taba and Eilat as these talks proceed this week.
So the United States will remain at the table. We're confident of success, but these are very tough issues. While they've made progress, they haven't made all the progress they need to make to get to the finish line.
Q Have they reopened the provision now? Can it candidly be said after 16 days they're talking about modifications and they're not renegotiating the agreement?
MR. BURNS: They're not renegotiating the agreement.
Q What could they be doing for 16 days that is playing only at the edges -- they're not "playing" -- working only the edges of the agreement?
MR. BURNS: I know you're really not surprised why they're still there after 16 days. Barry, it's the Middle East. On issues like this that concern the security of Israel and the security of the Palestinians, we have found over the last 30 years or so it takes time to negotiate complex, difficult issues. Sometimes, it takes a considerable amount of time.
We didn't set a time limit when Secretary Christopher went to Jerusalem two weeks ago -- 16 days ago. We said we thought it would take sometime. It's only been 16 days. It could be another 16 days. It could be more than that. We don't know. We'll just have to see how long it takes.
Q What do the Palestinians appreciate more now than they did before about the Israeli position and vice versa? Do the Palestinians have a greater appreciation now of Israel's security needs? Do the Israelis have a greater appreciation of the Palestinians drive to establish a state? What is this appreciation which is the kind of -- it's Dennis Ross sort of language that we're familiar with in the past. It's general and not specific.
Could you fill in the blanks there? What are they appreciating more about each other now that they didn't, after all these years, of sort of talking to each other?
MR. BURNS: He's been right in the past.
Q About what?
MR. BURNS: He's been right about almost everything he's been involved with. Barry, you opened up a line of questioning; I have a right to respond under the parliamentary rules here.
Q What do they appreciate?
MR. BURNS: Under the rules of the Press Room, let me respond. You've raised Dennis and the type of language that he used. Dennis has been involved in every aspect of all these negotiations since October 1991 -- right? Five years ago at the Madrid Conference. Because of the efforts of Dennis Ross, Secretary Baker in the last Administration, Secretary Christopher in this Administration, we have helped the Israelis and Palestinians accomplish quite a lot.
Dennis believes, as the only person outside both delegations, who has been involved in every second of these talks over 16 days, that contrary to the period during the violence before the Washington summit, both negotiating teams do have a better appreciation of exactly what it is that's going to be required to get to the end of the talks; exactly what the other sides needs because compromise is the essence of these negotiations, as you know. So that's exactly what we mean.
I think what Dennis has said is about the most important thing he could say at this point, as an intermediary.
Q But, there was and is an agreement for Israel to regroup, to fall back and regroup its troops in Hebron. Now you have taken credit, if that's the right word, for the United States having played a role all along.
Logically enough, then, it would seem that there was a time when the U.S. thought this provision could be implemented, right? Or else you would have said, "Hey, guys, talk about it a little more. I don't know that you can get it done that easily."
MR. BURNS: More importantly ...
Q They reached an agreement, and the U.S. thought that was just fine, and now it seems the Peres Government and the Netanyahu Government have been unable to implement the agreement. So what is it that the U.S. has discovered that's new and different, and how are you getting closer to enforcing the ...
MR. BURNS: I think you're rushing to judgment.
Q Rushing to judgment!
MR. BURNS: It does not appear -- rushing to judgment. Barry, I mean, you just made a statement, it now appears that they can't get it done. We don't agree with that statement.
Q No. They're having trouble getting it done.
MR. BURNS: That's different. That is very different. They're clearly having trouble. They clearly have some problems to hurdle, but we believe in the end they're going to be successful because they've made a commitment to stay at the table until they're successful.
Q But, of course, you believed it was doable, or else by your definition the U.S. wouldn't have been party to this thing in the first place. You were party to the agreement.
MR. BURNS: That's right. The agreement was signed on September 28, 1995.
Q And here we are ...
MR. BURNS: That agreement.
Q Right. Now here we are ...
MR. BURNS: The Oslo II Agreement.
Q -- in October 1996 and the agreement isn't being carried out.
MR. BURNS: The agreement ...
Q So far.
MR. BURNS: Many aspects of the agreement have been implemented.
Q This part...
MR. BURNS: The part dealing with the redeployment of Israeli forces from Hebron has not.
Q Does that mean it has to be renegotiated?
MR. BURNS: And that's the crux of the ...
Q Does that mean there's a new awareness of security problems? New awareness that turning Hebron over to the Palestinians is an inevitable step towards statehood? What is the new awareness on either side?
MR. BURNS: To answer one of the questions that you threw out there, it does not mean that this agreement will be renegotiated . In fact, Prime Minister Netanyahu has said publicly, as has Chairman Arafat, it will not be renegotiated. They're discussing negotiating, arguing about, how will it be implemented. That's what's at the heart of these negotiations, and I would not rush to the judgment that somehow they've failed, because I think that's fundamentally and completely inaccurate.
What is happening is the negotiations are going on. They met today; they'll meet tomorrow; they'll meet the day after that, and they'll meet the day after that, and they'll take a recess for the Moslem holy day and the Jewish Sabbath; then they'll go back to the table again.
The United States will be at the table every single day, and these talks in the end are going to succeed. I just can't tell you what the final date is going to be. We're in it for the long haul. We're going to stay in it until they succeed. We're absolutely committed to that.
I think to say just because one of the guys, who's present at the table, comes back to the United States for consultations -- to say that somehow the talks have failed -- is completely without foundation.
Q So far you don't have an agreement. I didn't mean to suggest you'd never have an agreement on Hebron. There's never-never on anything. But -- well, we've gone over it again and again. I'm taking everybody's time.
Q Do you think it's fortuitous Chirac is in the region just as Dennis leaves; that maybe Chirac will step in and --
MR. BURNS: As I said on Friday, the United States values the role that France can play and that France is playing in the Monitoring Group with us. On the Israel-Lebanon border, for instance, France is our co- chair of that Monitoring Group. President Chirac has taken a great interest in the Middle East. We fully support the fact that he's there. We hope that he can lend his own expertise and the influence that France brings to contributing to a resolution of this problem and the other problems in the Middle East.
The Middle East is not a place where the United States seeks exclusive domain; where the United States seeks exclusive operating rights as a country. We think that the Europeans have a very important role to play here. They've already played an important role.
Now in the case of the Middle East talks, as you know, the Palestinians and Israelis decided the United States would be at the table with them, and that continues. We think that's an effective way to proceed in that very limited basis.
Q Chirac today restated support for a Palestinian state. In this context, do you think that's helpful?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen his statement, so I want to beg your forgiveness and not give you a comment on that, because I just haven't seen everything he said.
Q You said the Middle East isn't the U.S. exclusive sphere -- domain --
MR. BURNS: I was literally comparing that to another part of the world that we've talked about.
Q I know. I know, but --
MR. BURNS: Using the word "domain" and --
Q Yes, but nobody's ever questioned the U.S.'s even-handedness in Africa. Are the French an evenhanded mediator in the Middle East, do you suppose?
MR. BURNS: The French have a positive role to play in the Middle East.
Q Nick, do the Europeans have an equal role to the U.S.?
MR. BURNS: What was the word now? Now we're getting into really --
Q You said the Europeans have a role to play in the Middle East.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Do the Europeans have a role equal to the U.S.'s role?
MR. BURNS: I mean, it's not for me -- I can't possibly stand up here and compare the efforts of the United States to other countries. We have a lot of confidence in our role. We're the indispensable country in the Middle East. We are the indispensable country. There's no question about that.
But the Europeans -- the European Union, France, Britain, other countries -- have a very, very important role to play, and we're partners. I think you're all trying to drive wedges between the United States and France here, and I resent it, because, you know, I'm a Francophile. We like and respect the French Government, and France is our oldest ally.
Way back in the 1780s, France came to the assistance of the United States, and we remember that. We have excellent relations with France.
Mr. Lambros, do you want to comment on 1770s as well the 1780s?
Q France all the time, yes.
MR. BURNS: Lafayette.
Q President Clinton --
MR. BURNS: Also the 1780s. Remember Yorktown. Remember the French fleet off Yorktown. That was seventeen -- (laughter) -- I remember. It was the fall of 1781, if I'm not mistaken.
Q That's exactly. President Clinton stated last Saturday in a two- page statement regarding Imia: "My Administration has suggested that the Imia question could be best decided by the International Court of Justice or some other body."
Since this suggested proposal, plan, or whatever it is, according to analysts is going to partition Greece in the Aegean, I'm wondering why the State Department advised the President to this effect against the Greek territorial integrity? Could anyone from this building explain to us why bother with this suggestion?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, that question is remarkably similar to the question you asked on Friday, I think, and let me just say that the United States remains absolutely prepared to help Greece and Turkey, the Cypriot Government, the two communities on Cyprus, the Greek and Turkish communities, to work amicably towards a resolution of the Cyprus problem. But I don't really have much to say in specific --
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q You don't have anything to say about the specific suggestion by the President?
MR. BURNS: The President?
MR. BURNS: All I can say is -- are you talking about -- I'm confused, because there have been so many questions.
Q The President stated, inter alia, "my Administration has suggested that the Imia should go to the International Court of Justice." So --
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry. I was thinking Cyprus and you're talking Aegean.
Q That is the Aegean -- Imia.
MR. BURNS: We have a well known position on the Aegean.
Q What about the suggestion specifically? It was said by the President.
MR. BURNS: If there are suggestions and I can confirm them, we'll be glad to talk to the Greeks and Turks about those suggestions, but I'm not in a position to confirm anything at this point.
Q According to -- last week, Turkey's recommended -- the Turkish Foreign Ministry -- which has been submitted officially to the State Department: "At Kardak (Imia) Greece has attempted to extend its sovereignty to islands beyond those ceded to it by the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 and the Paris Treaty of 1947. The possession of small islands, islets and rocks in the Aegean, the status of which has been not defined by an international document, has yet to be determined."
I would like to know, Mr. Burns, the position of the State Department since the Turkish request against the provision of those international agreements is on the same parallel, almost basis, with your statement of February 1996 which reflects, of course, U.S. foreign policy.
MR. BURNS: Howard, I don't want you to miss this. I'm glad you came in. (Laughter) Howard just arrived. He was outside waiting for the answer. Actually, I stand by all of our previous statements on this issue. We've made ourselves perfectly clear, and I go all the way back to February 1995 on this issue.
Q What about the Turkish demands, however. I'm wondering why the U.S. persists in this.
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, we've been a good friend to Greece and Turkey. We've advised them to try to resolve this in a consensual manner, and we've even suggested where they might do that; we give a location for that. But it's up to Greece and Turkey to really answer your question. It's up to them. Should they wish to involve the United States, I'm sure they'll let us know.
Q (Inaudible) do you recognize the present Greek-Turkish border in the Aegean as defined by the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 and the Paris Treaty of 1947?
MR. BURNS: I think you know we have diplomatic relations with Greece and diplomatic relations with Turkey. We respect the borders of both. In those places where they are contesting each other's sovereignty, we are advising them to work that out in this respect.
Q Do you consider the present Greek-Turkish border as EU-Turkish border, since Greece is a member of the European Union?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, all I can tell you is that it's very clear what borders are recognized by the international community, and that the United Nations, including those recognized by the United States. You will not be surprised by my answer, so that's clear. We recognize Greece. We recognize Turkey.
There's another problem. There are some disputed islands. That problem should be worked out by Greece and Turkey themselves.
Q The disputed islands and otherwise.
MR. BURNS: I've been very clear on that.
Yes, I think Savas has --
Q The Turkish Government two days ago, they announced the new measures on the human rights -- improved the human rights record. How do you relate to this announcement?
MR. BURNS: The United States welcomes the new human rights package that's been put forward by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ciller. We believe this is a constructive step toward the improvement of the human rights situation in Turkey.
We are trying to learn more details about this package through our Embassy in Ankara. We're particularly encouraged by the proposed reduction in the amount of time a suspect may be detained before being charged with a crime, and we would hope that this could help reduce the number of incidents of physical abuse and torture that have long been the subject of concern by the international community.
The United States is a close friend and ally of Turkey, and we hope that these steps -- this package of measures -- can be implemented, so that we can see some appreciable advancements in the human rights situation in Turkey.
Q Japanese election. Does the result effect to the negotiation of U.S.-Japan security treaty (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: I had a statement earlier. I don't know if you were here. I had a statement about the Japanese elections. We're working well with the current Japanese Government. When the next Japanese Government is formed as a result of these elections, we look forward to excellent productive relations on all issues.
Q Nicaragua. Was the election free and fair? What do we get from our observers, and has it been called yet?
MR. BURNS: As I came out here, there were only preliminary results available. I believe ten percent of the votes were in; therefore, it is impossible, at this point, to try to speculate on who will win the Nicaraguan election. I can say this: We are, of course, taking our advice from Brian Atwood, who is the head of the U.S. observer mission --the official U.S. Government observer mission.
As you know, former President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of State James Baker are both there. I think as we look at all the reports that have come in from these various observer missions, including our own, all reports suggest that the electoral process was free and fair, although it was beset by some logistical difficulties.
I know that Mr. Atwood, Brian Atwood, is going to be providing some further public comments once we have a sense of the results. We'd like to congratulate the Supreme Electoral Council and the Nicaraguan people who voted in great numbers yesterday for the successful and peaceful election day. That was another defining feature of yesterday. It was peaceful in Nicaragua.
I understand there is no evidence of fraud, no evidence whatsoever. There were some complaints about the delay in distribution of voter identification documents, but we believe that this was purely administrative. It was not caused for any political reasons.
So we're looking very much forward to the results of these elections, and once there is a winner declared by the Nicaraguan people, then the United States will have a fuller comment to make.
Q Thank you.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:46 p.m.) (###)
To the top of this page