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U.S. Department of State
96/01/22 Interview: PBS-TV "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer"
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release January 22, 1996
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
PBS-TV "THE NEWSHOUR WITH JIM LEHRER"
Monday, January 22, 1996
MR. LEHRER: Finally, tonight, a "Newsmaker" interview with the
Secretary of State, Warren Christopher.
Mr. Secretary, welcome.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, Jim.
MR. LEHRER: First, let's talk about Bosnia. The big deadline -- the
first big deadline -- came and went on Friday. What is your overall
assessment of how the mission is going?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Jim, I think the overall compliance rate is
relatively good. On the most important issue -- that is, whether or not
there would be a separation of forces, whether they would move back from
this line -- there was good compliance there.
MR. LEHRER: That was the deadline one Friday -- one of the deadlines?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's right. There was good compliance there;
a good spirit, I think, on behalf of both of the forces that are moving
back from that line. So the most important task was accomplished.
MR. LEHRER: Did you have the feeling that the only reason they moved
back was because there were armed Americans and other NATO forces there?
Or did they do it in a spirit of "hey, this is what we need to do and we
want to do"?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I think there's a lot of spirit there: "Let's
comply with the Dayton Agreement. Let's see if we can't get this war
behind us now."
Certainly, the man in the street, the common person there, wants to have
this war behind. I think a lot of the soldiers are very war-weary, too,
now. No doubt it was helpful to have the American troops there in great
strength. They knew there would be consequences if they didn't move
But overall, I think, our leaders -- that is, the leaders of forces
there -- find a good spirit of compliance by the troops so far.
The second aspect of it was whether or not there would be a removal of
the foreign forces. There has been some removal of the foreign forces -
MR. LEHRER: Now we're talking about the mujahidin for the Muslims and
some others from on the other side.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: There are Croatian forces moving out to Croatia,
and so forth. All the foreign forces were supposed to be back, out of
the country by the same deadline.
I think there has been some compliance there but there probably is not
full compliance. It's a tricky thing to deal with, Jim, because some of
the foreign forces have married Bosnian women. Some of them really
blended in, melted into the society. It would probably be quite hard to
find out whether or not they actually have left the country. So we have
some distance to go there as well.
MR. LEHRER: Who's making the decision on that as to what constitutes a
foreign troop or a foreign force?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: That's one of the things that our military
commanders -- Admiral Smith, the other military commanders there -- will
have to be judging that in the final analysis. But we will also have to
judge that as the United States, because we've made it very clear to the
Bosnians that our obligation to equip and train their forces is
completely conditional on the foreign forces being gone.
We've made the point to President Izetbegovic that if they expect us to
furnish equipment, to train their forces, then they must get rid of all
the foreign forces. I think that's a fairly high incentive.
Another thing that was to have happened by the 19th and a place where
we're somewhat disappointed, and that is in the exchange of prisoners,
the release of prisoners. Both sides were supposed to release all their
prisoners. Those were unconditional. There was some prisoner release
that took place, but it has not been satisfactory yet.
Ambassador Holbrooke is in the region. In the last few days he's been
trying to insist on that. One of the lessons of this period, Jim, is
that we're going to have to monitor it closely. We're going to have to
keep reminding the parties of their commitment until we really get the
kind of compliance that makes it set in -- welded into the picture
MR. LEHRER: To be specific, the Bosnian Muslims said, "We are not going
to release all the Serb prisoners until we get an accounting from the
Serbs of 24,000 of our people who are missing." Is that in your view a
legitimate demand on the part of the Bosnian Government?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It's not a legitimate demand in the sense that
they're entitled to keep back their prisoners until it happens. It was
an unconditional obligation that both sides give up their prisoners.
MR. LEHRER: So that's a new thing that they have put in. That was not
part of the Dayton Accords.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Exactly. Certainly, it's a legitimate request
on their part, and we'll work with them to try to achieve that request.
But there is no solid basis for their keeping back the prisoners that
they hold until they get this information.
MR. LEHRER: So what happens then, Mr. Secretary? I mean, if they
continue to hold out and they continue not to release their prisoners,
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Jim, there are a number of incentives we have.
There are a number of things that basically they'll only achieve if they
comply with the agreement. As I mentioned, we will not go forward with
the equip-and-train unless they are in compliance with the agreement.
They'll not have a right to reconstruction funds unless they're in
compliance with the agreement.
So there's a fairly strong incentive for them finally to get into
compliance. What I think is happening: it's the dead of winter; people
are just getting accustomed to this new status; they're trying to work
their way through it. So I'm not by any means discouraged, Jim. I
think the overall compliance is relatively good. In an overall sense,
people seem to be trying to comply. There are still some debating
points. We'll have those for a long time, but I don't think we ought to
be discouraged. I think we ought to redouble our efforts to help them
MR. LEHRER: But this is a serious matter, that they have not complied.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It is a serious matter, especially with respect
to the prisoners.
MR. LEHRER: When you said at the beginning that the NATO forces made
the consequences clear -- in other words, the failure to disengage --
that those consequences were clear to all sides, how was that done?
What were the consequences that faced the failure to disengage?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The way it was done was by giving warning to the
leaders of the troops there that needed to move back, and frankly NATO
was prepared to forcefully move them back. We are not going to be in a
situation like the U.N. forces were -- the so-called UNPROFOR forces --
who really did not exercise the authority. You can be sure that if
those forces didn't move back, they would be moved back.
MR. LEHRER: Is the same kind of consequence there on the prisoner
exchange matter as well?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: No, I would not say it's the same kind of
consequence, Jim. Moving the forces back was the highest priority. The
others are a commitment of the Dayton Agreement, but the NATO forces are
not going to enforce those in exactly the same way as they would have
the separation of forces.
MR. LEHRER: All right. On the war crimes investigation, there have
been all kinds of statements coming from State Department officials and
also from Defense Department officials and a lot of other people. What
exactly is the U.S. policy toward helping the investigations of these
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We have a very strong policy to help the
investigations. The United States has done more for the War Crimes
Tribunal than any other country in the world. We've given them more
money, more staff, and we're helping in every way we can.
We're turning over all the information we have, including intelligence
information. Right now, of course, Assistant Secretary John Shattuck is
in the region. He's been permitted to visit a number of the sites of
the terrible atrocities, and there were terrible atrocities there.
We're going to be turning that information over to the War Crimes
I'm very glad to tell you -- I think perhaps you already know -- that
there was today an agreement between Admiral Smith and Judge Justice
Goldstone, who's the Chief Prosecutor of the War Crimes Tribunal, which
calls on the IFOR to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal. Justice
Goldstone said he was satisfied with the agreement of cooperation
between the IFOR forces -- that is, between the NATO forces and the War
MR. LEHRER: Now, does that mean that U.S. forces or IFOR forces, NATO
forces, will in fact escort people into the sites? They will provide
security of the site to keep other people out of there who might want to
come in and destroy evidence and all that sort of thing?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: The agreement between Justice Goldstone and
Admiral Smith indicates that in the right circumstances, when the NATO
forces have the capacity to do so, they will provide security for those
who are coming to view, to investigate the war crimes.
I think we'll see that evolve. It's clear that the NATO forces will to
the extent they have capacity, will to the extent that their priority
task -- which is moving the parties apart -- is done, will assist the
War Crimes Tribunal.
I think it was a very important meeting today between Admiral Smith and
Justice Goldstone because they worked out a modus vivendi between them.
They worked out a way that they can work together, so that's an
MR. LEHRER: All right, sir, on Russia. President Yeltsin said today
he'll probably run for re-election. Does he remain America's candidate?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Jim, America doesn't have a candidate in that
election. We've worked with President Yeltsin. He is the President of
the country. He's been a reformer. We've been able to accomplish a
number of things together, particularly in the denuclearization field.
But America is for an election being held. We're very strongly
supportive of the reformers who want to continue the reform, but we
don't have a candidate in that election. It would be entirely improper
for us to do so.
MR. LEHRER: Sure. I meant that in a general sense we've always
supported President Yeltsin.
What do you make of the recent resignations and firings of some of the
reformers from his Cabinet and replacing them with people who are
considered hardliners? Is that going in the wrong direction?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Jim, let me step back from this just for a
moment and say this is a very important relationship we have with
Russia. The relationship over the nuclear arsenal that they have
obviously is important. They're a very powerful country. We work
together in a number of areas such as Bosnia, such as in getting the
nukes out of the various countries in the former Soviet Union. So there
are a number of areas where we need to work together.
On the other hand, we've seen in recent days and weeks reform under
considerable strain in Russia. That's obviously a matter of concern to
us. It's in the very strong self-interest of Russia to continue on the
Our partnership with them is dependent upon their continuing on this
Russia's access to funds, for example from the International Monetary
Fund -- they're looking toward a $9 billion supply of funds -- that
really is contingent on their continuing the path to reform.
I think it would be quite shortsighted of them, in the broadest sense,
not to continue on the path of reform. I would not try to make in terms
of individuals. In the past, sometimes we've seen individuals replaced
and we are quite apprehensive. Feodorov and Gaidar were replaced, but
the reform and the economy has continued to this point.
I hope the people who have been fired will be replaced by people who
have a strong reform bent. We're not going to prejudge that. But, as I
say, it would be quite shortsighted, I think, of the Russians not to
maintain that path of reform. I think it's right for them, but it's
also going to affect very importantly their access to Western
MR. LEHRER: Finally, on the Middle East, Mr. Secretary. What is your
reaction to Yasser Arafat's big victory in being elected President of
the Palestinian Authority by 88 percent?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Jim, first, I think I ought to apologize to your
viewers for this very scratchy voice today. I don't know where that
MR. LEHRER: No apologies are necessary.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It was a real milestone. The Palestinian
election is something -- it was really a turning point in that area.
It's a mandate for peace.
It's very interesting to me. Hamas, the opponents of Arafat, the
opponents of peace, urged a boycott of the election; and yet there was a
85 percent turnout in the Gaza area where Hamas is supposed to be
strong. Isn't that really quite incredible?
So this is a very important factor for the future. The monitors
indicated that it was a credible election. I think in an overall sense,
although they're still counting the votes, it apparently is a free and
fair election. So it's a real milestone.
One of the things we can take some real confidence in: we had another
important development today in which here in Washington the Tunisian
Government and the Israeli Government agreed that they would establish,
in effect, an official facility in each other's country, which is called
an Interests Section.
There's a transition going on, a transformation going on in the Middle
East. The election was one indication, but this development here in
Washington today was also important.
MR. LEHRER: Then, of course, there is the Syrian-Israeli talks as well.
They're proceeding, are they not?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Yes, they will open again at the center in
Eastern Maryland, at the shore of Eastern Maryland on Wednesday of this
week. The delegations will be coming from both countries. This time
they'll be bringing their security experts, their military experts.
That really gets down to the core problem, perhaps the most important
A long ways to go on that track, but we've got a new process that is
very promising, I think.
MR. LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Thank you, Jim.
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