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U.S. Department of State
96/02/02 Briefing en route to the Balkans
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(En Route Andrews Air Force Base to Zagreb, Croatia)
For Immediate Release February 2, 1996
ON THE RECORD BRIEFING BY
SECRETARY OF STATE WARREN CHRISTOPHER
EN ROUTE TO THE BALKANS
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: First, let me say I'm sorry about all the stop-
start business last night. I think we made the right decision due to the
condition of the airplane, but I really apologize to any of you who were
inconvenienced by the stop-start business last night. I think we were
all somewhat inconvenienced by it.
This is going to be a meaningful and important trip for me. I don't have
to tell you that Bosnia is something I've been seized with ever since
coming into office. The most recent events, of course, began to unfold
at the time of the London Conference, when the United States developed
this aggressive initiative that is finally unfolding here. It's
meaningful to me because of the amount of time that I've spent since the
London Conference—the four trips to Dayton, and the long negotiating
there, the initialing of the Agreement, the follow-on efforts we've all
been so deeply involved in. So I regard it as both an important and
meaningful trip for myself. It's particularly important, I think, to go
to this country that has been ravaged by war for so long and is finally
beginning to see some of the first harbingers of peace.
The purpose of this trip is to try to advance implementation of the
Dayton Agreement, to advance compliance with the Dayton Agreement. It
seemed to me to be the effective time for me to come to the region to do
that at D plus 45. One of the clear lessons is that United States
leadership and involvement is critical at every stage. We wouldn't have
reached the peace at Dayton without the United States' involvement. IFOR
wouldn't have gone together without the United States, and
implementation wouldn't effectively be taking place without the United
States. So we have, once again, a key role for the United States.
I think Nick has gone over my schedule for the next two and a half days
with you, and I won't repeat that. Probably the best thing for me to do
is to just stop here and to ask for any questions that you might have.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Saturday night, probably the end of your stop
in Bosnia, I think is the deadline, isn't it, for the Serb Army to pull
out of those four, or five, depending on how you count them, suburbs.
Have you any indications of a problem there, and when do you think,
because there is some theory that there's a loop-hole in the Accords,
that the government army, or as it is sometimes called the Muslim Army,
is authorized—can legally move in? Do they have to wait till March 20?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Barry, I didn't understand the second half of the
QUESTION: All right. Sorry. Maybe it's too much. Let me just do the
first. I'll be happy with the first.
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: It is an important milestone and I look forward
to talking with Army General Nash tomorrow in Tuzla and then being in
Sarajevo and seeing what the situation is on the ground. I think it's
better for me not to comment until there is an opportunity to assess it
with the people there on the ground, the leaders, rather than just doing
it from a distance on the basis of reports. I've seen the reports that
you've all seen, but I would rather withhold my own expression of
judgment until I'm actually there myself.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, some of the reporting has suggested that there
is some doubt about the Bosnian Muslim commitment to a multiethnic
democracy. Do you have any concerns about this? Do you feel that they
are committed to go forward with the elections and a pluralistic
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: I feel that they are committed to going forward
with the elections. That will be a key part of the compliance with the
Dayton Accords. I expect to meet with a multiethnic group when I'm in
Sarajevo. The key to peace here is to insure that the parties learn to
live together as that country was designed to do. I don't have any
question but that the Bosnian government has committed itself to go
forward with the elections, and we regard that as a crucial part of the
I'm glad that Ambassador Frowick seems to be off to a strong start in
making plans for the elections. As I say, I think that will be a
critical milestone in the implementation of these agreements, which I
believe is due to take place no later than September.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, has the United States forgotten about the
extradition of Mladic and Karadzic, and will the U.S. establish full
diplomatic relations with Serbia until those two have answered their
indictments before the War Crimes Tribunal?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: We've certainly not forgotten about the
importance of Mladic and Karadzic being brought before the War Crimes
Tribunal. One of the things I'm going to be emphasizing to the parties
here is their commitment under the Dayton accords to cooperate with the
War Crimes Tribunal. With respect to the recognition of Serbia, the
United States will be emphasizing the importance of further steps to be
taken by the Serbian Government before we're prepared for such
recognition. I don't want to get into specific aspects of it, but we
think that progress has been made by the Belgrade government. But we're
looking for additional steps and additional progress.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a question on the Iranian fighters. Apparently
many of them have left. I wonder first if you had an idea, a figure, of
how many remain who are not accredited to any embassy. And, secondly,
your officials say they have been very much marginalized. Is that good
enough for you or must every last hair of every last fighter be out
before you're satisfied?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Steve, I was just checking with Nick. The number
that Admiral Smith used was that he thought there were two to four
hundred that remained. From my standpoint, they all should be out. I'm
going to be pressing President Izetbegovic about that. The commitment is
to remove all foreign forces. We regard them as being a potential
problem. And so we'll not be satisfied until there is an indication that
all the foreign forces, whatever kind, have left Bosnia.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the first day of the Dayton conference, in a
television interview, you said it would be inconceivable in your words
that U.S. troops could be deployed in Bosnia if Mladic and Karadzic were
still in command positions. Three months later they're still there. Is
this an embarrassment to you—that you're going to Bosnia at a time when
those two politicians haven't been removed from power?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Well, as I said, I continue to think it's
important that they be turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal, but they
have been marginalized. They do not have the position of strength and
influence that they had at the first day of the Dayton Agreement. There
seems to be some transition in their power and authority, but that does
not change my opinion that it will be a good day when they are turned
over to the War Crimes Tribunal. The strength of IFOR and the relative
marginalization of their position has made it possible for IFOR to go
forward, and they do not seem to be an impediment at this point to
IFOR's effective conduct of their responsibilities.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you know when you're going to see President
Tudjman? Will it be tonight or will be it Saturday night, and what are
the issues that you want to raise with him? Are there territorial things
like Prevlaka and Eastern Slavonia or is it the human rights things like
the Bosnian Croat indicted people?
SECRETARY CHRISTOPHER: Ron, unless the relatively short delay that we've
had in getting in means that it's too late for him, I'll look forward to
seeing him tonight, but of course I'll understand if our arrival is too
late from his standpoint. Tomorrow is going to be a very full day. I
hope to get the meeting there with him tonight.
I have a long agenda with him, including the issues that you raised, and
I think I prefer to comment on that after I have met him.
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