Return to: Index of 1996 Secretary of State's Speeches/Testimonies || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

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. 
 
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 
society? 
 
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 
Dayton Agreement. 
 
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.  
To the top of this page