U.S. Department of State 96/10/23 Daily Press Briefing Office of the Spokesman U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING I N D E X Wednesday, October 23, l996 Briefer: Nicholas Burns ANNOUNCEMENTS Yankees Win Game 3 Against Atlanta Braves .................... 1 Resignation of Norway Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland ... 1 UNITED NATIONS Prime Minister Harlem Brundtland as Possible Secretary General 2 CUBA Treasury Dept Approves Humanitarian Relief Flight From U.S. .. 2-3 - Timing of OFAC Announcement ............................... 3 Amb. Stuart Eizenstat Travel, Contacts ....................... 3-4,6,8 U.S. Concern for Human Rights Violations ..................... 4,6-8 Possible Canadian Legislators' Response to Helms-Burton Act .. 4-5 ZAIRE/RWANDA Humanitarian Refugee Relief; U.S. Diplomatic Efforts ......... 8-10 Situation Update; Government Authority; Political Stability .. 9 Allegations of Burundi Assistance to Tutsi Insurgents in Zaire 12 AFRICA Effect of Zaire/Rwanda Crisis on Establishing ACRF (African Crisis Response Force) ............................ 10-11 - International Response .................................... 11-12 IRAQ Pelletreau Meetings with Kurdish (KDP, PUK) Leaders .......... 12-13 - Cease-fire Accepted; Commitments re External Intervention, Terrorism, International Reconciliation Talks ............. 13-16 - Fighting Continues ........................................ 13 DEPARTMENT NEA A/S Pelletreau Onward Travel to Persian Gulf, Turkey ..... 14 GREECE/TURKEY Imia/Kardak Aegean Dispute; U.S. Position on Sovereignty ..... 16-17 Greek Muslim Sentenced by Court .............................. 17-18 - Division Within Muslim Minority Community in Greece ........ 17-18,25 MIDDLE EAST PEACE TALKS Dennis Ross Readout from Israeli-Palestinian Talks ........... 18-19 Role of France; Chirac, de Charette Travel to Region, Iran ... 19-21 NATO Timetable for Expansion of Membership ........................ 21-22 BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA Postponement of Municipal Elections .......................... 22 - Possible Effect on Timing of IFOR Withdrawal .............. 23-24 - Russia's Primakov Remarks on NATO ......................... 25 Frustrations of War Crime Tribunal Judges; Resignation Threat 26-27 - Potential Call for Dissolution by Judges .................. 26-27 - IFOR Rules of Engagement re War Criminals ................. 27 NORTH KOREA Possible Missile Test ........................................ 25 U.S. Dialogue with DPRK in New York .......................... 25-26 NICARAGUA Interim Election Results; Assessment of Election Process ..... 28
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 1996, 1:10 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I just have two brief statements to make. First, I absolutely do not feel compelled to make any kind of statement whatsoever on the atrocity that occurred last night in Atlanta, except to say that I know that the Yankees are throwing out a pitcher this evening whose name is Kenny Rogers. I think that the singer Kenny Rogers probably has a better curve ball than the pitcher Kenny Rogers the Yankees are putting out. (Laughter) That was said in jest.
MR. BURNS: I didn't, but I think that's a good line. (Laughter) I do have a statement about the resignation of Norway's Prime Minister
Q Rogers is on the phone. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Which Mr. Rogers? (Laughter)
I have a statement concerning the resignation of Norway's Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. As you know, Prime Minister Brundtland announced today that she will step down as Prime Minister of Norway effective October 25.
I know that Secretary Christopher regards Prime Minister Brundtland as a close and valued friend of the United States for many, many years and a leader of international stature. She has served as Norway's Prime Minister for almost ten of the last 15 years. The United States respects her leadership skills and important foreign policy contributions that she has made, and we look forward to a continuing close, cooperative relationship with her successor, Mr. Jagland.
With that, George, I'd be glad to go to your questions.
Q Do you people see her as a potential candidate for UN Secretary General?
MR. BURNS: We've said many times that there are a variety of very good candidates around the world -- women as well as men -- who could fill that position quite well. But, as you know, the United States has not endorsed any particular candidate. The Secretary has had a lot of conversations, particularly during his trip to Africa with African leaders about this.
As you know, we've said in the past that we think that special consideration should be given to a candidate from Africa but not exclusive consideration. So we'll just have to see how this debate in the United Nations develops, but certainly she is a leader of great stature.
Q Do you have anything on the humanitarian flights to Cuba?
MR. BURNS: The issue that was discussed, I think last evening -- is that what you're --
MR. BURNS: Yes, what would you like to know?
Q Has the Administration given approval for a humanitarian relief flight from Florida?
MR. BURNS: Yes. In fact, I think it was the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control which approved an application from Catholic Relief Services to charter an emergency humanitarian flight to deliver supplies to Cuba in the wake of hurricane Lilli.
The Cuban Catholic Church Relief Organization Caritas will receive these humanitarian goods, and it has undertaken to make every effort to see that they reach those people who are in need. As you know, there was quite a lot of destruction, particularly in agricultural areas -- very, very bad destruction of some of the crops, the sugar cane crops, and also destruction to homes of people.
It's important, we thought, to allow a non-governmental organization to be able to reach out and provide this type of assistance directly to the Cuban people.
As you know, the United States has long had a policy, but I think it's best expressed in the Cuban Democracy Act trying to promote people- to-people contacts, and here is a very good example in the wake of a tragedy where a lot of Cubans are suffering, where an American organization can make a difference through the provision of humanitarian assistance.
So that's why the Treasury Department gave this approval, and it was a good decision in our view.
Q Why wasn't that announced? I mean, sort of going over the transom at 10:00 o'clock last night?
MR. BURNS: As I understand it, this all just broke in the afternoon yesterday and the early evening.
Q Well, they announced, I mean --
MR. BURNS: I don't know when the Treasury Department made its announcement. I'm just not aware what the timing was, but I think this all broke certainly well after my briefing yesterday.
Q There was no political implications in the fact that there was no (inaudible)
MR. BURNS: I can't talk about politics here, Judd. I never consider political issues.
Q I was just cynical to think that, right?
MR. BURNS: No, I wouldn't use that word. No. I can't get into questions like that. But I think this was done with good reason, frankly. I think the idea that despite the fact that we have a very difficult political relationship with Castro's government, that we're an opponent of his government, there are times when the American people need to connect with the Cuban people. The Cuban Democracy Act, which has bipartisan support, clearly stipulates that, and we think this Treasury Department approval is consistent with the spirit of the Cuban Democracy Act.
Q While you're commenting on Cuba, it sounds like Mr. Eizenstat's effort to try to get the allies to accept the Act and to cooperate with the United States in a democracy initiative doesn't seem to be getting anywhere.
MR. BURNS: I think it's too early to judge. I did read the article in The New York Times this morning. I frankly think it's too early to judge what the result of our conversations with Canada and Mexico and the European countries will be.
Ambassador Eizenstat has talked with all of the countries who have expressed opposition to the Helms-Burton Act, at least those who are directly affected and have expressed firm opposition. There have been a lot of countries that have expressed themselves in one way or another on this.
We've tried to say two things to those countries. First, as we implement Helms-Burton, we're going to try to minimize the effect on our partners and maximize the effect on Castro. As you know, the President will need to make a decision, or whoever is President in February of 1997 will have to make a his decision on how to implement that portion of Helms-Burton that talks about the ability of American citizens to pursue lawsuits against certain corporations in the United States. That's the first message that was given.
The second, basically, is this: We can agree to disagree on the issue of Helms-Burton and the sanctions that are put in place by the Congress and Helms-Burton, but we should not disagree on the issue of human rights in Cuba. It will be good to see at least some attention given to that issue by some of our European friends, and by Canada and Mexico, because Cuba's the last remaining autocracy in this hemisphere.
Cuban democrats are being jailed, and they're being persecuted because of their political views peacefully expressed, and this has got to be an issue of concern, not only to the United States, which has spoken out forthrightly on human rights, but to the European countries as well -- to Canada and Mexico as well.
Q You have made that point many times before, and obviously Eizenstat has now made the point again privately to all these governments. Can you point to any agreement by any of them to move even on this democracy and human rights aspect?
MR. BURNS: I think Ambassador Eizenstat has been able to convince some of these countries that they ought to look at the human rights situation, and all of us, responsible members of the United Nations and the international community have an obligation to do that. I cannot point to any specific initiative that these countries have agreed to undertake with us, no. But I can certainly point to, I think, some progress in raising the consciousness of some of these countries on this issue.
Q Perhaps I might suggest that one example of what has happened is yesterday a private member's bill was introduced on parliament, which would, if passed by the body, allow some three million descendants of the United Empire Loyalists living now in Canada who were residents of the United States to make claims against the United States, not the least of which would be the property in Washington, DC, which includes the land on which the White House is sitting, a large part of the State of Virginia, and various other holdings. I think the claim, if taken to its extreme, would be $6.3 trillion in property and compound interest.
Now, I've raised that -- one must say that the bill is unlikely to become law, but doesn't it indicate in Canada just exactly what the citizens there think about the Helms-Burton bill?
MR. BURNS: Henry, I guess there's a couple ways I can respond to that. We did see "Sixty Minutes" the other night, and we saw these two gentlemen. This appears to be a somewhat whimsical offering by these two parliamentarians, so let me just respond whimsically to them.
The first point is that should this proposal, this bill become law, I'm sure we'll give it the same warm welcome that Canada gave Helms-Burton, and you'll find that's the reaction of the United States Government.
Secondly, I'll make a promise today. I'll make a promise that in reaction to this the United States will not insist that Canada pay up for its participation as part of the British Empire for the burning of the White House in 1812. You know the British burned the White House. You talked about this bill getting into land underneath the White House. We certainly won't talk about the wrongful use of force by the British Empire in March of 1770 in Boston, Massachusetts, during the Boston Massacre; and we won't talk at all about the regrettable role that some Canadians played in turning around Benedict Arnold and making Benedict Arnold guilty of treasonous behavior against the American colonists.
I think we'll just probably derive most of our satisfaction from the fact that the United States defeated Canada in the last World Cup. (Laughter) In that score, Henry, let me just say we're still drinking the Moosehead beer that you had to pay us because of the bet that we had on that.
So that's my whimsical response, Henry, to this legislation. I actually have a serious point to make here, in contrast to the point I just made. It's a serious point, and it gets to this issue, because this isn't the first time that Canadian legislators have made fun of the preoccupation that some of us have with Helms-Burton.
I think what the framers of the Canadian legislation should do is the following. They should look at the contrast between the birth of the United States in the 1770s and 1780s and the birth of the regime in Cuba -- the revolutionary regime -- in the last 1950s.
The revolution led by George Washington and the United States freed the American colonists from British rule and British tyranny at the time, and it led the way for democracy to take place, to take root in the United States.
Contrast that with the Cuban revolution of 1959, albeit there were very limited freedoms available to the Cuban people throughout the old regime that was overthrown by Castro, but nonetheless Castro produced a totalitarian, autocratic, authoritarian regime that has systematically violated the human rights of the Cuban people.
I think this is a distinction that's actually very important to get beyond the whimsy of this particular Canadian proposal, and that is that Castro is the last holdout -- he's the last autocratic totalitarian holdout in this hemisphere. Canadians have got to look a little bit beyond Helms-Burton and this disagreement we're having on Helms-Burton and focus on the human rights violations occurring in Cuba itself.
That's an important point that we think the Government of Canada and the Canadian people ought to take the measure of.
Q But the Canadian Government has said and I believe told Mr. Eizenstat, but even before his appointment have said as well, that they have continually and consistently had a record of raising human rights violations with the Cuban Government. The difference, they argue, is in application here; that they just don't believe sanctions are necessarily the right way to go.
That view is shared by virtually the entire world, with the exception of the United States. How do you climb that mountain?
MR. BURNS: And I'm saying that the United States would perhaps have a slightly more understanding for these objections made by Europeans, by some Canadians, by some Mexicans if we actually heard human rights in Cuba as a priority in those countries' foreign policies.
You hear that from the United States. We write down every year our evaluation of the human rights situation in Cuba. Our President and our Secretary of State talk about it publicly. We talk about it in this meeting. We don't really hear it from a lot of these other countries. It would be good to have a balance, and we're trying to achieve that balance in our own policy.
Q I don't wish to beggar this session, but last week you mentioned that it was the thought of the State Department -- certainly you expressed it from the podium -- that commercial interests were driving many of these nations that were dealing with Cuba at the expense of human rights.
That touched a nerve in some of those countries, particularly Canada, where editorialist writers argue, of course, that trade between Canada and Cuba has been going on well in advance of the founding of this country as a nation. Do you think your remarks were intemperate when you were talking about Canadians putting commercial interests ahead of human rights interests?
MR. BURNS: I certainly stand by what we said. We think the human rights concerns are so important that they must overwhelm any commercial concerns that any country can have. Sometimes you have to make that calculation.
The United States has made it in the case of Iran, where theoretically there would be tremendous commercial opportunities for American firms in Iran. But President Clinton signed an Executive Order in March 1995 which prohibits commercial opportunities in Iran for American corporations because of the gross behavior of the Government of Iran.
Sometimes you've got to look beyond commercial opportunities because of higher priorities, and we would suggest that the cause of human rights in Cuba is one of those.
Q So we should be looking at the American-Chinese relationship as a guide on how Canada might concern its --
MR. BURNS: No, I would just suggest that Cuba is in our hemisphere -- Canada's hemisphere and America's. We can do something about this. We can exert some leverage, Canada and the United States together, if we could come together on this issue.
I would suggest that as we leave this century and enter the next with one remaining autocracy in our hemisphere, we ought to combine our efforts to promote human rights in Cuba and support the champions of human rights who some day, we hope, are going to lead the way back towards democracy in Cuba.
Q Has the human rights situation improved in Cuba since Helms- Burton was enacted?
MR. BURNS: We're going to evaluate formally the situation in Cuba, in February of this year, when we release our human rights reports. You might want to wait for that as a formal analysis by the United States Government.
We had hoped that the steps taken by the United States would be joined by some steps from other countries. I think it's fair to say that as long as other countries are doing business as normal with Cuba, then Cuba is going to have a way to subvert Helms-Burton.
Q When is Ambassador Eizenstat going to have a new trip to Europe -- which countries he's going to see and when?
MR. BURNS: He's going to continue his mission, which is to keep up and maintain a diplomatic dialogue with the Europeans, the Canadians, and Mexicans on this. I don't have a specific announcement to make but he will be undertaking a visit shortly to Europe, yes. I can get the dates for you, perhaps, by tomorrow on that.
Q Next month?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me?
Q This month?
MR. BURNS: Let me check and see if we can give you the dates at tomorrow's briefing.
Q Back on the subject of humanitarian relief. The situation in eastern Zaire and Rwanda appears to have turned catastrophic. Is there anything that the United States is doing or can do to try to head off what appears to be a major tragedy?
MR. BURNS: Let me tell you, first, I share your assessment. We share your assessment of the situation. The United States supports the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Ogata, in her call for a halt to the ethnic fighting in eastern Zaire.
We agree that the present, unpredictable situation could lead to a massive population displacements, civilian deaths, which have already occurred -- more civilian deaths -- and a humanitarian disaster.
We've asked our Ambassadors in Kinshasa and in Kigali, the American Ambassadors in both Zaire and Rwanda to talk directly to the governments of Zaire and Rwanda to appeal to them to do everything possible to diffuse the current political tension that has arisen because of the fighting in eastern Zaire.
I understand from our experts that the situation in the camps and the situation of refugees from the fighting just over the last four or five days remains quite confused.
Some of the numbers that have been reported, I think just in some of the press reports, are just not verifiable by either the United Nations or the United States. We think that we're dealing here with a major humanitarian disaster. There's no question about that, but I cannot give you a specific number as to how many people have had to leave the camps and flee into the hills because of this fighting.
I do know that the UNHCR and the International Committee of the Red Cross have evacuated their staffs from the area around Uvira and that movements in that area are restricted by the various militias, and the roads are not safe.
We obviously know from press reports, from accounts by the governments involved and by the international relief agencies, that there are a considerable number of people fleeing on the roads, and, as I said, into the hills. We don't know where all those people are.
We will cooperate in any way that the UNHCR and the ICRC requests to help them to cope with the humanitarian consequences of the current fighting and of the refugee flow.
Q You mentioned the Embassy in Kinshasa is trying to have an impact. That assumes that you think that Kinshasa now has something to do in terms of control over eastern Zaire. A lot of people would say that eastern Zaire is now either independent or anarchic. Do you still believe that there is any sort of central control in Zaire?
MR. BURNS: I think you're right to recognize a general problem about political instability in Zaire, and particularly in that part of Zaire.
We have to deal with the competent national authorities and with the regional authorities as they present themselves. We can only deal with one government at a time, as you know, in any situation around the world. So we are directing our appeals, in part, to the Government of Zaire -- in Kinshasa -- in the hopes that the Government in Kinshasa can exert some control over the various military forces that are fighting and causing this tremendous humanitarian problem.
I also want to mention again the fact that this appeal is also directed to the Government of Rwanda, in Kigali.
The numbers that I can give you is that the refugee population -- the Rwandan refugee population in Zaire -- is huge. We think there are approximately 1.1 million Rwandan refugees in Zaire, and some l45,000 Burundian refugees in Zaire. So we're dealing with a very large group of people here who could be potentially affected, at least in part, by some of this fighting.
Q Nick, it sounds as if the crisis that you fear for Burundians breaking out first in Zaire. I wonder whether you found that this is having any impact at all on your efforts to try to get this Africa crisis responsible --
MR. BURNS: Before I get to your question, one more note, because I forgot to mention that we do have American embassy personnel from Kinshasa who have traveled to the area who are in Bukavu. That's the capital of south Kivu, and they are attempting not only to gain a better appreciation of the situation for the United States but to link up with the international organizations that are in the area to see what the United States can do.
Carol, onto your question. I think that as a result of Secretary Christopher's trip, we are receiving a lot of support in Africa and from other parts of the world for this concept of a response force -- a crisis response force.
As you know, we've seen different responses from different African leaders. I think they all want to make sure that the African countries have a major input into the structure and into the ideas and concepts and structure of this organization. But I think, in general, most of the countries with whom we have spoken support it.
Now, it's not yet set up. It's not something that can be rolled out today or tomorrow to deal with the humanitarian crisis. But because we're aware, particularly, in Central Africa that there is the possibility of future crisis, we want to get this going fairly soon.
The Secretary has received a steady stream of updates from Assistant Secretary George Moose about this issue. I know that George Moose and Susan Rice have both made themselves available to reporters to talk about this as well.
So it's something that we are planning, and we are hopeful about. I think we do have widespread support in Africa.
We're not able to say at this juncture that the situation in eastern Zaire is a situation that would approximate in any way the crisis of 1994. We've unfortunately seen over the weekend, and just in the last two days, political violence that has resulted in the deaths of many people in eastern Zaire. We don't have a specific number.
What is probably more urgent right now is the humanitarian situation of the refugees. There, as I said, the United States will have to work in support of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Q You say that the United States is receiving more support for this idea. But can you be more specific in terms of how many countries have now committed troops and how many other countries have committed money?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't want to be specific in that regard. We're still talking to all these countries about how they would be involved. I simply, off the top of my head, can't give you a tally right now of how many countries have responded positively and what they have specifically pledged. But I can say that the Secretary has received updates -- I know he got one just about a day ago -- which was quite positive in the sense that this idea is taking root.
I think most of the African leaders with whom he met and others, whom are ambassadors in Africa, have talked to see the need for it. They see the value of an all-African force because Africans need to be part of the solution to these problems. We are receiving some quite specific feedback, and that's hopeful.
Q Is there any thought being given, since this Africa corps or force wouldn't seem to be likely to be ready in time, in any way, to assist this crisis -- any thought being given to U.S. support for some other sort of international force?
MR. BURNS: In eastern Zaire?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of that, no. I don't think Western reaction to the situation has developed to that extent. Right now, as I said, I think it's more a case of the international relief agencies taking the lead on a humanitarian basis.
I can tell you diplomatically, the United States, as I said before, is actively involved. The State Department here in Washington has instructed our Ambassadors to be active, trying to push Zaire and Rwanda and others towards a cease-fire, and we are talking to other governments who are influential about this.
Still on this issue?
Q The allegation from the area that -- the Uvira area has a border with Burundi, not Rwanda. The allegations that the Tutsi, who are fighting against the Zairean army are getting guns from Burundi -- the government in Burundi, which is also Tutsi. There are people giving guns. What is the U.S. position on that, because it seems like the Government of Burundi -- the Tutsi of Burundi and Rwanda, I think the people are fighting against the Zairean army?
MR. BURNS: We are directing our appeal in many ways to the Government of Zaire and Rwanda because the great majority of the people who are suffering from the fighting are Rwandans, as you know. They are people who are Rwandan refugees who have lived in camps in eastern Zaire.
We are directing our appeal to all governments in the area -- certainly, including the Government of Burundi -- to make sure that all governments are doing what they must to use their influence to stop the fighting.
I cannot confirm the charge that you've made here, the charge you're relaying here -- the press reports that you're relaying here. But I can certainly tell you that we are active diplomatically and that all governments have a responsibility -- the governments that have influence -- to exercise that influence positively.
Q Shall I go to Iraq now? To go back to my question from yesterday, Nick. The press reports say that Mr. Talabani is in favor of immediate, unconditional cease-fire, and he says he hopes it close. How does the U.S. look at brokering that -- how Mr. Pelletreau is doing?
MR. BURNS: Let me say, first, I think Assistant Secretary Bob Pelletreau had a very important news conference at the Ankara Airport this morning. I'm a little bit puzzled why this hasn't been a bigger issue this morning in the press. Because after the fighting of the last several days -- the very intensive fighting between the KDP and KUP -- Mr. Pelletreau has made a significant step forward, along with the Turkish and UK Governments, in trying to deal with this problem.
At the press conference this morning, Ambassador Pelletreau said that both Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani -- in their meetings with him and with the Turks and the British -- had accepted a cease-fire in principle over the last two days. They expressed their commitment in principle to resist external intervention in northern Iraq -- you know what external intervention means -- to work to eliminate terrorism in northern Iraq.
They also agreed that the KDP and PUK will organize delegations to travel to Ankara next week for political reconciliation talks, that will be Chaired by the United States -- by Ambassador Pelletreau, to begin with -- but we'll also have, as active participants, the Government of Turkey and the Government of the United Kingdom.
This is a very important development. After Ambassador Pelletreau's talks last week with the KDP delegation here in Washington at the State Department, following his meetings over the last two days with Barzani and Talabani, we now are at the point where we believe that both of them have committed themselves in principle to a cease-fire.
Now, that cease-fire did not take place this morning. There was continued fighting in northern Iraq between these two groups. So we're calling upon both groups to commit to actually implement the cease-fire to which they have agreed in principle.
We're very grateful for the support of the Turkish Government and the Government of the United Kingdom on this issue.
The statement that Ambassador Pelletreau made this morning was a statement on behalf of three governments -- the United States, the United Kingdom, and Turkey. So here we have three major governments, with influence in the region, working effectively to try to bring this situation under control. We want to try to help them restore stability to northern Iraq and we want, of course, the participation of all parties in these discussions, including the Turkomans, the Kurds, and the Assyrians.
The other point that Ambassador Pelletreau made is that we do look forward to the implementation of UN Resolution 986, when that is possible. Of course, you know it's a very important concern to the Turkish Government.
Q Will next-week meetings be five-party talks, including the two Kurdish parties and the three countries?
MR. BURNS: The talks will include, at the same table at the same time, both Kurdish factions. They have agreed that the KDP will send a delegation, the PUK will send a delegation. The three Western governments -- Turkey, the U.K., and the United States -- will all send delegations. Ambassador Pelletreau will be there to start these talks.
Q When is he going back to Turkey from the Gulf?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Pelletreau left Ankara this morning for Dubai. He had a regularly scheduled trip to the Gulf. He'll be conducting some discussions there with our Gulf friends, and then he'll be going back to Turkey at some point. I don't know if it's over the weekend or early next week. I don't have a specific schedule for you. We'll have further information as the week goes on.
He and the Turks -- Turkish officials and British officials have not yet decided the exact day next week that these talks will start, but we'll have that information to you as soon as it's developed.
Q Nick, do you know why the French isn't part of this?
MR. BURNS: As you know, I just think a pattern has developed here, frankly, going back to the meetings in September. Mrs. Ciller met with Barzani, and Ambassador Pelletreau did. At that point, we felt it was important to include in the talks the countries that were most active diplomatically -- Turkey and the U.K. We thought that our ability to work effectively would be strengthened by a common effort of the three governments. That's what we've been able to produce. It's a very good thing.
Q The PUK and KDP do not seem to have any preconditions for a cease-fire. However, certain sources indicate -- reported -- that they have preconditions for a negotiated settlement. What's your view on that?
MR. BURNS: I don't think I want to answer that question because that gets into a lot of depth in the discussions that Ambassador Pelletreau has had, and he's not here to answer the question. He's the negotiator.
But I will say that you're right. They have told us they're willing to begin a cease-fire, and they've told us they're willing to sit down at the talks. Now, what happens at the talks and what position they take is, of course, their own decision. But we would urge them to move quicklytowards not only getting to the negotiating table but arranging some kind of political dialogue that will help to promote stability and make sure the fighting does not recur.
Q Let me put it this way. Can you confirm if both parties forwarded any preconditions for the talks?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm that and I can't speak to that because we've had a couple of phone conversations with Bob Pelletreau. We have his statement from the Ankara Airport this morning, but none of us here in Washington has the detail necessary to answer that question.
Q You explained that Pelletreau -- the three main targets he reached. The third one is the terrorism. Can you explain -- can you give us what is the terrorism? What kind of target he reached on the terrorism subject?
MR. BURNS: You know, Turkey has been a victim of terrorism that emanates from northern Iraq in the person of the PKK. If these Kurdish groups have any influence on the PKK or any other terrorist groups, they ought to exercise that influence. Because the United States, as you know, has strongly supported Turkey's wish to try to end terrorism against southeast Turkey from northern Iraq.
Q If they've agreed in principle on a cease-fire, then why haven't they ceased the fighting? Is that because their cease-fire was predicated on the beginning of these broader talks next week?
Another question. Talabani called today for an even more intensive U.S. engagement in the area to try to keep the peace. What do you understand him to mean by that? And is there any inclination on the U.S. part to do that?
MR. BURNS: There is an intensive U.S. engagement. Our Assistant Secretary of State has been in the region for a number of days and is going back. He'll be leading these talks. That's intensive.
As you know, that reflects the very high-level concern here in Washington about the instability in northern Iraq.
As for the cease-fire, that's a question for these two Kurdish factions. They have agreed in principle to a cease-fire. It's now their responsibility to implement that on the ground so that no guns will be fired and that the political talks will have a chance to succeed. That's where we need to go next.
Q Nick, as you know, after the crisis regarding Imia -- in the Aegean between Greece and Turkey -- there is an open difference between the two countries.
In order to clear a misunderstanding from yesterday, could you state once more the U.S. position on this crisis and this difference between the two countries?
MR. BURNS: I'm looking for Mr. Lambros, but I don't see him. (Laughter) Wherever you are, Mr. Lambros, this one is for you too.
I thought I was perfectly clear. I think I've been perfectly consistent in all my responses to Mr. Lambros' questions, but let me just give you -- if it's caused any confusion, let me just tell you what it is.
The United States takes no position on the dispute between Greece and Turkey over the disputed islet, referred to as Kardak and Imia. The United States believes that Turkey and Greece should resolve this dispute together.
We have suggested several ways by which that could happen. In the past, we've talked about the possibility that Turkey and Greece might want to resort to the International Court of Justice. There are other consensual bodies that could represent an avenue forward for Greece and Turkey to resolve the problem.
But in the final analysis, it's not appropriate for the United States to intervene in this on the side of either country because both countries are NATO allies of the United States -- friends of the United States.
We think that if the Turks and Greeks would sit down and discuss this together, there would be a way forward. That's our position, and that's the position I've tried to express to Mr. Lambros and others as we've talked about this.
Q Last week, on this issue, President Clinton stated that this procedure, this proposal about the International Court of Justice or another body should be with respect to the territorial integrity of the countries, international law, and international treaties. This is the State Department position also?
MR. BURNS: Yes. You refer to a statement by President Clinton?
MR. BURNS: Obviously, if President Clinton makes a statement on an issue like that, the State Department is in full agreement with our President. We stand by our President on this issue.
I think both the State Department and the White House for many, many months have been very clear about our view of this situation. I'm terribly sorry to learn there's been some confusion over it because there ought not to be any confusion. I can assure you that the Greek and Turkish Governments are not confused about the role and position of the United States on this issue.
Q Nick, do you have anything about Dennis Ross -- on the Middle East?
MR. BURNS: Let's finish up, and then we'll go to Ambassador Ross.
Q As you remember yesterday, I asked a specific question concerning a six-month jail sentence passed by a Greek court for the religious leader of a Turkish minority in Greece. Do they have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: We're not aware that a Turkish cleric is in jail in Greece. We do know that Ibrahim Sherif, a Greek Muslim who claimed to represent the Greek Muslim minority, was recently sentenced to six months in jail. I believe the charge was usurpation of official titles and authority. That's the way the charge was given. That's not our interpretation of it.
We understand that Mr. Sherif paid a fine in lieu of serving a jail sentence.
The Muslim minority in Greece, as you know, remains divided over the issue of which religious leader, which mufti would represent them. Some accept the authority of the Greek Government-appointed leaders and others have elected muftis. This is not an issue in which the United States takes a position. It's not appropriate for us to take a position on this. This is a matter that the religious authorities, religious communities, and the Greek Government need to resolve on their own.
Q In your human rights report -- the last report -- there is a mention about Greece's pressure on the Muslim community in Greece.
For the first time I'm hearing in the State Department briefing that you are saying that the Muslim community is divided. Can you explain? Is that the new policy direction of this subject?
MR. BURNS: No, we're not breaking new ground here. We're not trying to lead you off into new avenues for discussion. We're simply saying, it's a matter that's appropriately discussed by the governing authorities and by the religious communities. It is simply a fact that the Greek minority population -- excuse me, that the Muslim minority population in Greece is divided into several camps. We do not support any of them. We don't take sides. It's not an issue that I can say a lot about, frankly. It's a Greek issue with the religious minorities in Greece.
Charlie, you had a question?
Q Dennis Ross -- any update? Anything new?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Ross has talked to the Secretary several times this morning. He's kept the Secretary closely informed about his discussions in Israel between Israel and the Palestinians.
As you know, we said yesterday that significant progress had been made on civil issues. They had long discussions overnight, in fact, I think almost all through the night, between the Israelis and Palestinians in which Dennis Ross was present. They've been meeting all day.
Ambassador Ross thinks they'll be meeting again all through the night in an attempt to gain an agreement. We're taking this on a day- to-day basis. I can't predict when success will be assured. But we are confident that sooner or later the Israelis and Palestinians are going to agree to complete these discussions successfully.
MR. BURNS: He's taking it on a day-to-day basis. He makes no decisions. He's made no long-term or short-term plans on when he's going to get on the plane and fly back to Washington. He's been away I think for 18 days now. He'll take it a day at a time and see if it's worth his staying.
Q Nick, the series of around-the-clock negotiations suggest a timetable caused by somebody. Would that be an erroneous --
MR. BURNS: I believe so. I'm not aware that any fixed date has been set by which these negotiations need to be completed. I think that the intensity reflects the fact that there are high-level people involved here on the Palestinian and Israeli side, which is a little bit new to the negotiations. They've made some progress. But when you get down to the really tough issues, in any negotiation, sometimes you find that it does take time. That very well may be the case here.
Q High-level but not the highest level yet?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't believe so. I don't believe that either Chairman Arafat or Prime Minister Netanyahu are actually sitting down all night. I know they haven't met to discuss this. But some very high-level people on the Palestinian and Israeli sides have participated over the last two days.
Q Do you have (inaudible) about the influence that the French President and Foreign Minister are having on this whole complex?
MR. BURNS: As you know, Jim -- and I've been very consistent over the last two days on this issue -- the United States appreciates and values the positive role that France is exerting in the Middle East. We think it was a good idea for President Chirac and Foreign Minister de Charette to travel to the Middle East.
I understand that President Chirac is now in Amman. He'll be in Cairo after Amman. He's had, of course, a very interesting trip in many respects, as you've seen. But we believe that the Europeans have a role to play in the Middle East, and we want to work with the Europeans on that in general. That's been our position for a long, long time.
The Europeans were with us at Madrid five years ago -- five years ago this month at Madrid. I'm sure they're going to be there for a long, long time to come as part of the answer to the problems of the Middle East.
Q President Chirac, in his address, made some very pointed remarks about the U.S. bias in the peace process and about France inserting itself and perhaps removing the United States. Can you address that thought?
MR. BURNS: I haven't done a textual analysis of every statement that President Chirac has made, but I've seen nothing in his statements that are pointed remarks about U.S. bias. I haven't seen them. Perhaps they're there and you can show them to me.
I think some people have been reading that into his remarks and that's most unfortunate. Because the United States is an even-handed, objective country in the Middle East which is attempting to work with the Palestinians and Israelis for peace.
I think the proof of that is -- and, here, I'm directing this against, really, the press interpretation; not President Chirac -- the proof of that is that the Palestinians and Israelis have invited us to be the sole intermediary in their current discussions. They're finding Ambassador Ross absolutely essential to their discussions.
As you know, the other night he said he would leave and he was on his way to the airport and they called him back. So I think that, more than anything else, reflects the importance that the United States has in these particular negotiations.
Q So you're not interpreting -- the direct quotes from Chirac, there's no question of what he said. You've seen them and I've seen them. They are of a nature that the French should be part of this to balance the United States. I don't understand your --
MR. BURNS: We have a friendship and an alliance with France and with President Chirac -- a very strong friendship with President Chirac. We think he plays a positive role in the Middle East.
There's no argument here. This argument is being created by the press corps, with all due respect. I checked again because there was a lot of interest yesterday in what kind of communication we had -- Secretary Christopher had in writing with Foreign Minister de Charette.
I went today and I re-read the letter that Secretary Christopher sent over the weekend. It is a positive, supportive, friendly letter that gave Minister de Charette our appreciation of the various negotiating tracks as they currently stand, because we're actively involved, and our full support for the fact that President Chirac was making the trip.
Q Nick, the Iranians are bubbling over with enthusiasm for Chirac's trip, even a little bit more than you are. (Laughter) Does that give you pause?
MR. BURNS: That's not possible -- (laughter) -- because we're Francophiles here at the State Department, and we're allies of France. The French have been with us since 1781, even before that. I'm thinking of the fleet at Yorktown, but Lafayette before that.
Iran is not going to drive a wedge between the United States and France here, and I think the French know that the United States is a far more important and more valuable partner in the Middle East than Iran. Iran is a rejectionist country that has no role to play in resolving the problems between the Arabs and the Israelis, because it's taken a completely unreasonable position.
France is a strong, active country that does have a role to play, so I see France and the United States on one side. I see Iran on the other. I did note -- I think you're very accurate -- they were bubbling over, weren't they? -- in their public statements about this. But it's odd, because they have nothing to do with the modern Middle East peace process -- nothing at all -- and they have no role to play.
In fact, one of the concerns we have about Iran is that they're actively promoting the terrorist groups in the Middle East that are attempting to subvert the peace process. So this is a tragically ironical statement. If it weren't so tragic and if the implications weren't so serious, it would be comical -- the kind of statement that Iran made this morning.
Q You wouldn't happen to have any comment on the suggestion in some quarters that Mr. Clinton's timetable for NATO enlargement is way too slow?
MR. BURNS: I don't know what quarters you could possibly be referring to. So putting that aside, let me talk about the President's timetable. The President's timetable is absolutely the right timetable to have, and I know all of you agree with that. (Laughter)
To answer your question just for a moment --
MR. BURNS: No, I think it's an important point. You've asked the question. A lot of people read this on www.state.gov, and I want to be sure that those people who are not here seeing the body language on both sides understand the answer.
The President's speech yesterday was consistent with everything we've said since January 1994. The United States believes that we need to enlarge NATO, create a new relationship with Russia, so that Europe can be united and peaceful and stable in the next century. The timetable has been worked out with our NATO allies. It's a realistic timetable. It's a timetable that all of us in NATO can support. It's a timetable that makes sense for NATO, so that, as the President says, 50 years after the creation of NATO, NATO can have the same positive role in Central Europe in 1999 that it had in 1949 and 1950 in Western Europe.
That was a very important speech that the President gave. I think you'll find in reactions from European countries, NATO countries, absolute agreement with the core of that speech.
Q Some important news about NATO was supposed to be announced by NATO and not by Clinton in Detroit in the middle of elections?
MR. BURNS: I think we've seen the same kind of statements from Prime Minister Major and Chancellor Kohl. All of them supported the January 1994 decision. They were all in Brussels. They made the decision together, and almost all the major NATO countries, including our Secretary General -- our NATO Secretary General, who's a Spaniard -- have spoken out and said the same thing. We're all on the same sheet of music. We're all on the same course here.
There are no divisions in NATO, and President Clinton was simply reflecting a consensus in NATO. I would remind you at the end also that the United States is the leading and most powerful country in NATO, and our security commitment to NATO is genuine and long-standing. So it's perfectly appropriate for the American President to stand up and talk about the future of NATO.
Q NATO/Bosnia segue here. Yesterday when we were talking about Frowick's decision to postpone the elections from next month to probably next spring, he addressed the question of a follow-on force, but we never really, I think, if memory serves me right, talked about what impact that decision might have on the current IFOR force and the cover force that will follow to help them withdraw.
MR. BURNS: We actually did. I said yesterday, and we believe today as well, that yesterday's decision by the OSCE to postpone the municipal elections is not going to affect the established timetable for the withdrawal of American forces as part of IFOR in December of this year.
It will be a factor in the current NATO review of whether or not there should be a follow-on security force, post-IFOR withdrawal.
Q Ken Bacon yesterday said it could speed up the withdrawal of troops. Are you at odds with the Pentagon on that?
MR. BURNS: Not at all. Ken Bacon and I are completely together on this and everything else in life.
Q Then how come his words were different?
MR. BURNS: I'll bet he's rooting against the Yankees, too.
Q His quote was, I think, "probably" --
MR. BURNS: One of his assistants is a big Red Sox fan --
MR. BURNS: Mr. Crowley -- P. K. Crowley -- huge Red Sox fan.
Q -- this has to do with something else, not quite so frivolous. I said this has to do with something --
MR. BURNS: It's important, Carol.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Well, not in this context.
MR. BURNS: Anyway, let's go on with this.
Q Why is there a difference of opinion between you, at least in words?
MR. BURNS: Between whom?
Q Between yourself and Mr. Bacon.
MR. BURNS: There isn't. I would remind you that Mr. Bacon is the Spokesman for the Pentagon. The Pentagon has direct operational control of American forces. He spoke in a greater level of detail than I did yesterday. There's no difference of opinion here.
Q But he said that probably forces could be withdrawn sooner. I mean, we may be only talking about a matter of weeks here, but he did indicate that they could be withdrawn sooner because these elections were postponed.
MR. BURNS: He said "possibly."
Q Probably --
MR. BURNS: Anyway, the State Department stands by everything that Mr. Bacon said yesterday, and nothing that I said today or yesterday was inconsistent with what he said. I see no reason why you would arrive at that conclusion. Because I failed to say something, I disagree with it? That's the logic here? I don't get the logic.
Q Because the words are different.
Q The words are different.
Q The words are completely different.
MR. BURNS: The words are not completely different.
Q You said there would be no change. He's saying it could speed up.
MR. BURNS: It is appropriate that the Pentagon spokesman answer in another level of detail -- in fuller detail than the State Department spokesman. The State Department does not move troops around the globe. The Pentagon does.
Q So you're saying his answer is a subset of your answer.
MR. BURNS: I'm saying you should rely on Ken Bacon's answer as accurate and fully representative of the possibilities that may be involved here. But we haven't made any specific decisions. We'll have to see what happens.
Q Nick, has NATO given you a timetable by which they expect to be able to offer their opinion on whether there should be a follow-on force and what size it should take?
MR. BURNS: I think it's sometime in November.
Q After November 5?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. Sometime in November is what I understand the position to be.
Q Have you seen the statement by Russian Foreign Minister Primakov in regard to NATO enlargement?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q Do you have any reaction to that?
MR. BURNS: No, it's not surprising. It reflects pretty much what the Russian view has been for two-and-a-half years, and the United States hopes that as part of our Russia-NATO dialogue on creating a new Russia-NATO relationship, the Russians will come to agree at some point in the future that NATO enlargement makes sense for Europe as a whole.
Q Could I have a follow-up?
MR. BURNS: Yes, absolutely.
Q This Turkish-Greek question, you very carefully referred to the Greek Muslim minority, so just for the record as far as State Department is concerned, there is no Turkish minority in Greece but a Muslim minority?
MR. BURNS: I used the words "Muslim minority." I'm quite comfortable with that.
Q Did you see the statement of the Iranian Foreign Minister in which he made public the plans for a new grouping of Muslim nations, the so-called --
MR. BURNS: Yes, we've seen the statement. I don't have any comment on it.
Q Could I have a North Korea question. North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesmen made a statement on their radio that -- in the statement they basically said that they are free to do their missile tests whenever they're ready. I don't have the exact wording, but I think that's the message they tried to convey in the statement. Do you have any reaction on this?
MR. BURNS: Just to repeat what we've said consistently for over a week now, and that is it's very unwise for the North Koreans to undertake this type of operation, if they do undertake it.
Q So, Nick, at this point do you care to detail what steps the United States might take if North Korea decides to test this missile?
MR. BURNS: No.
Q Can you tell us the schedules of a meeting with visiting North Korean officers in New York?
MR. BURNS: No, we don't do that. Our practice is to have these meetings and acknowledge them afterwards but not to release publicly in advance when these meetings will occur. We have a regular dialogue with North Korea in that channel. I think that's the only channel that we have where we talk to the North Koreans. It's the sole channel that we have when we talk to the North Koreans.
Q So you cannot tell who -- identify -- you cannot identify who is the counterpart from State Department?
MR. BURNS: No, that's up to the North Koreans to say who is representing the North Koreans at these discussions.
Q Return to Bosnia. On the weekend in the United States, Antonio Cassese, one of the judges of the Tribunal, spoke at the Connecticut Law School seminar there, and he said that within ten months if there wasn't further activity on the apprehension of war criminals that the judges had decided to resign the Tribunal, and that at that same time period they would recommend to the Security Council that the Tribunal be dissolved in and of itself.
This morning, (Assistant) Secretary Shattuck said in an interview that the timetable was unfortunate, but it did give some understanding of the frustration -- agreeing that 75 indictments and only seven apprehensions, and those being seven low-level apprehensions -- understanding what the judges were doing, but also talked about a timetable in which the indication was that perhaps the apprehension of war criminals was falling behind many other efforts that were being made in that region.
Given the warning from the Tribunal -- and State Department people are aware of that -- is there any sense of a change on the part of the United States in terms of apprehension of war criminals in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: There's no change in our general position that we support the Tribunal in every possible way. We have done so. We're the leading country supporting it. We share the frustration of the Tribunal about the fact that the Bosnian Serbs and the Serbian Government, the Croatian Government in some respects, have not met their commitments that they made at Dayton. They ought to meet those commitments.
One of the reasons why we are maintaining the outer wall of sanctions against Serbia is because of Serbia's failure to arrest indicted war criminals who are living on Serbian soil and to help transport them to The Hague for prosecution. It's a very serious charge, and we share the frustrations with the Tribunal.
We also believe, as Assistant Secretary Shattuck was inferring, that we don't have an option of picking up and quitting and going home -- none of us do -- whether it's economic reconstruction or whether it's war criminals or whether it's trying to organize elections in 1997 -- municipal elections. We have to stay involved, and the United States will stay very vigorously involved on these issues.
John Kornblum just completed a day of discussions in Banja Luka in Sarajevo today. He met with Mrs. Plavsic. Unfortunately, I have to report to you that Mrs. Plavsic remains an impediment to the electoral process. She refuses to agree that the OSCE should be the competent responsible body to organize the municipal elections in 1997.
The United States in response to that is going to maintain a very heavy, active diplomatic involvement and presence to make sure that in the end the OSCE supervises and monitors those elections. That will be the result here, and the Bosnian Serbs ought to understand that right now.
Q Just as a follow-on to the threat from the jurists, how does this State Department feel about the fact that within ten months they intend to call for the Tribunal to be dissolved?
MR. BURNS: The State Department --
Q That must be an escalation here of their frustration, and one would presume creates an escalation of reaction to --
MR. BURNS: The State Department is going to do everything -- the U.S. Government is going to do everything we can to make sure that over the next ten months we use our influence to have these countries improve their performance and to meet their commitments. We fully support the War Crimes Tribunal.
Q Any change in the status of IFOR in terms of their command, in terms of what they would do in the apprehension --
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any change in the rules of engagement for IFOR forces.
Q Nick, on Nicaragua, does the U.S. now recognize the new President in Nicaragua, and can you give us some analysis of the election?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that I think only 74 percent of the vote is in, but the ten percentage margin between Mr. Aleman and Ortega is holding, and it appears that Mr. Arnoldo Aleman will most likely have garnered more than 45 percent of the vote when the final votes are counted.
There's been a lot of talk by the Sandinistas, by Minister Ortega, about complications, irregularities, problems with the elections. It's certainly his right to request under the electoral law to at least bring this to public attention. But I would note that the official U.S. observer delegation, former President Carter's delegation, and all the other international organizations have said they think this is a free and fair process. They don't detect any fraud.
So we'll have to wait until the final results are in, but it looks like Mr. Aleman -- his healthy lead is holding at this point.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:07 p.m.)
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