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U.S. Department of State
96/09/23 Spokesman's Briefing at UNGA
DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(New York, New York)
For Immediate Release September 23, 1996
BY NICHOLAS BURNS, SPOKESMAN
New York, New York
September 23, 1996
MR. BURNS: Let me just give you a brief summary of Secretary of State
Christopher's meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister
Ciller. I should warn you, I need to probably be out of here in 15
minutes or so.
First, let me say, I think you may have available already what Mrs.
Ciller said when the cameras said at the top of the meeting. I felt it
was an important statement. It was a reaffirmation of the statement
that was issued out of Ankara yesterday about the miscommunication that
Mrs. Ciller had with a journalist the other day in Ankara.
It's a very important statement because it does reflect the fact that
the United States and Turkey have an identity of views pertaining to the
situation in northern Iraq -- and that is, the United States strongly
believes -- and, of course, Turkey concurs -- that Saddam Hussein can
play no useful role in northern Iraq; that neither the United States nor
Turkey would support the extension of Saddam's influence in northern
In fact, both of us hope to work to create stability in northern Iraq
without Saddam Hussein's forces in play. So, that, I think, was one of
the most important things that was said.
Let me just tell you, the meeting lasted around 40 minutes. It covered
broadly the situation in Iraq, and Turkey's view and the United States
view of what now must be done. It also touched on some bilateral
military cooperation between the United States and Turkey. There was a
long discussion of "Provide Comfort." There was a discussion of Cyprus
and Greek-Turkish relations, comments on the recent electoral victory of
Prime Minister Simitis, and other issues.
Let me just go through those issues very briefly and then I'll respond
Mrs. Ciller noted that her coalition in Turkey is two months old and
just wanted to remind Secretary Christopher that despite some of what
one hears about the orientation of that coalition, just in the last two
months Turkey has initiated two defense agreements with Israel. As you
know, the United States has been a strong supporter of Turkey's new
relationship with Israel. She also noted that Turkey has reapplied for
full membership in the European Union, also a process that the United
States has supported.
She noted that Turkey had been perhaps the most solid Western partner
with Iraq. Certainly, if you look at the United Kingdom and Turkey,
they're two of the countries that have been, I think, closest to us.
She also noted that there is clearly now a vacuum of power in northern
Iraq because of the events of the last couple of weeks. She said that
Turkey had a number of concerns with this. First, Turkey wanted to make
sure that some kind of diplomatic initiative could be created to fill
that vacuum of power -- I'll get to that in a minute -- and, second,
that PKK terrorism was on the rise. She noted that there is an average
of three Turkish soldiers killed on a daily basis because of PKK
terrorism. She said, on that basis, Turkey had created a security zone.
She was grateful for the support of the United States. She said that
she felt that insufficient attention had been given to the situation of
the Turkomans, which is a quite large population; several million in
northern Iraq alone, and many hundreds of thousands just up against the
She said that the security zone was in place; that it would remain in
place along the lines that she had discussed earlier -- about a week or
two -- with Secretary Christopher.
Secretary Christopher said he agreed that it was very important for
Turkey and the United States to try to bring stability to northern Iraq.
He said that the United States would continue to support the Turkish
security zone; that our understand is that it would be temporary in
duration. Mrs. Ciller concurred in that.
Secretary Christopher said that he was gratified to hear the public
statement just a little while ago by Mrs. Ciller and also to read the
statement yesterday because the United States believes that there's no
basis to work with Saddam Hussein in northern Iraq; that he has shown in
the past he's completely unreliable and untrustworthy.
He said, of course, the United States wants to work with Turkey, with
Mr. Barzani, and with the Turkomans for stability.
Mrs. Ciller said that one of the prime goals of Turkish policy now would
be to bring Barzani and the Turkomans together so that, together, they
might fill the security void -- the security vacuum -- in northern Iraq.
There was quite a long discussion about the Turkomans, about the
leadership of the Turkomans, about how to engage the Turkomans. As you
know, she has just had a serious of meetings with Mr. Barzani and the
Turkoman leadership. Bob Pelletreau, who is in Ankara meeting Mr.
Barzani, also meet the Turkoman leadership when he was there.
Secretary Christopher said it was our very strong desire to work with
both the Turkomans and Mr. Barzani. He noted what we have said
repeatedly in the past, and that is, that the United States hopes that
Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani will understand sooner or later that their
temporary alliances with Iraq and Iran do not make sense for them; that
they are unwise and that they will not serve the interests of the
Kurdish people in the long term.
Mrs. Ciller then said there were a couple of issues that she wanted to
address with us. She said that Turkey had been hurt economically by the
crisis; that Turkey had to shoulder a very large burden over the last
five years; that Turkey hoped that U.N. Resolution 986 could be
reinitiated soon so that the humanitarian oil could flow very soon. She
noted that this had caused major problems in the Turkish economy.
There was also some discussion of some bilateral U.S.-Turkish economic
issues. She also reiterated her request that the United States continue
to support Turkey's membership in the European Union.
Let me just say on all of those, on Turkey and the European Union, I
believe no country outside the European Union has been a stronger
supporter of this process, of the Customs Union, and of Turkey's full
membership at some time in the future, than the United States.
Secretary Christopher has supported that.
On the economic concerns, the United States is quite sensitive to
Turkey's position that it has perhaps had to shoulder more of a burden
than others because of the Gulf War and because of the economic
sanctions against Saddam Hussein.
The Secretary reaffirmed to her that the United States does want U.N.
Resolution 986 to go forward. Obviously now, we have got to work to
resolve some of the practical problems that right now prevent it from
going forward and that have led Mr. Boutros Ghali to suspend it, at
least for the time being.
On Cyprus, Mrs. Ciller said that with the election of the Greek Minister
there was a hope that there could be at least some new discussions, some
new work between Turkey and Greece on Cyprus. She also noted that
Turkey is in need of further IMF support. I think she'll be having
meetings with the IMF leadership here in New York.
Let me just wrap it up by saying that Secretary Christopher, I think,
agreed with Mrs. Ciller on the point about northern Iraq; on 986, we
were very supportive.
Ambassador Pelletreau briefed on his meetings with Mr. Barzani and the
Turkomans. There was, again, some final discussion abut the European
Union-Turkey relationship as well as in Cyprus, where the Secretary of
State said that the United States wanted to congratulate Prime Minister
Simitis on his election. The United States does want to work with
Turkey and Greece and the communities on Cyprus to see if we can move
forward on that.
There was an agreement at the end of the meeting that we need a longer
discussion of "Provide Comfort." Both countries are very pleased that
"Provide Comfort" continues. We're flying in the north in order to
contain Saddam Hussein. But we agree that there would be some more
conversation about that -- the longer-term aspects of it.
Mrs. Ciller asked about the transfer of frigates by the United States to
Turkey. That is on hold now by the Congress. Secretary Christopher
said we very much want to break that hold and allow the frigate transfer
to go forward.
So, in general, let me just summarize by saying, it was an excellent
The most important issue, Iraq, I think we have a uniformity of views
between the United States and Turkey, a very solid relationship between
the United States and Turkey. This meeting demonstrated that.
QUESTION: Could you say what was said about the IMF leadership meeting?
MR. BURNS: Mrs. Ciller noted that Turkey has a relationship with the
IMF that is an important one; that Turkey has made some proposals to the
IMF and that she would be meeting with Mr. Camdessus. She'll also be
meeting with Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Larry Summers, this week
while she's in New York.
I really can't characterize her position beyond that because I'm not her
spokesman, but that did come up.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary expressed any support for Turkey's request
for the IMF?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary did not get into it specifically, except to
say that he was pleased that Secretary Summers would be meeting with
her. Of course, as you know, in general, we've been a great supporter
of Turkey's economic connection to the West with the European Union,
with the international financial institutions. We share Mrs. Ciller's
vision that Turkey needs to remain connected to the West in all respects
-- politically, economically, and certainly through NATO.
QUESTION: Nick, you said you described the New York Times article as
misinterpretation. Mrs. Ciller made the statement, which we heard. Did
you get into any details of what she said, though, because some of the
things were in direct quotes? She talked about some on-going dialogue
with Saddam Hussein.
MR. BURNS: Chris, ironically, she noted that she had given an interview
to the BBC about half hour before she met with the New York Times. She
said that the two interviews were quite dramatically different in the
way that they came out. The Secretary did not have a detailed
discussion on what she said to the New York Times. But she was very
clear that she felt that there had been a miscommunication. Those are
her words, not mine.
We are satisfied after discussions this weekend. When we saw the
article, obviously, it caused some anxiety in Washington. Our
Ambassador, Marc Grossman, and several people from Washington made
inquiries with the Turks. There was a very straightforward, very clear
public statement issued by the Foreign Ministry yesterday out of Ankara
and, again, this morning, in response to Patrick's question. I think
now Mrs. Ciller has really pretty much resolved any kind of
misunderstanding. You've seen her statement. It's very straightforward
support for the position of the United States.
QUESTION: What does the U.S. feel about Turkey having an on-going
dialogue with Saddam Hussein?
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that there is any kind of real dialogue
underway. Our position is clear.
On the question of northern Iraq, we don't believe it's wise for any
country to believe that somehow one can negotiate comfortably or
productively with Saddam Hussein. He has shown that his intentions in
northern Iraq are quite base and hostile to the local populations there.
So I think as a result of today's meeting, Turkey and the United States
firmly agree that Saddam's influence in northern Iraq should be
minimized. It should not be encouraged in any way. And, on the
contrary, we ought to try to support the efforts of the Kurds and the
Turkomans to provide for their own political stability. That's really
what the crux of this meeting was about -- the efforts of Turkey and the
United States to talk to Mr. Barzani, to talk to the Turkoman leadership
in order to see that happen.
QUESTION: Can you give us any more details about some form of
restoration and "Provide Comfort?" Do you expect to restore it to pre-
MR. BURNS: There was no detailed discussion about the longer term.
There are two aspects of this. In the short term, the United States,
Britain, France, and Turkey will continue to operate "Provide Comfort"
in order to contain Saddam Hussein in the north.
In the longer term, I think the position of the Turkish Government is
that there needs to be some detailed conversations about the structure
and format that "Provide Comfort" will take in the longer term. But
there's time for those discussions. Secretary Christopher said we would
be very open to them.
Later on today, Peter Tarnoff, our Under Secretary, and Bob Pelletreau,
and Assistant Secretary Phyllis Oakley, who is in charge of refugees for
the United States, will be meeting with Mr. Oymen who is the Under
Secretary in the Turkish Foreign Ministry, for further discussions on
these types of issues.
QUESTION: Nick, can you tell us more about what (inaudible) about the
new government in Greece?
MR. BURNS: Obviously, we know Prime Minister Simitis quite well. The
Secretary of State would like to congratulate Mr. Simitis on his
election. Greece is a very important ally of the United States.
If you look at a lot of the issues that we talked about today,
particularly Cyprus, of course Greece is one of the most important
countries to be involved. We look forward to working bilaterally with
him but also to engaging on Cyprus when he is ready, when he's had a
chance to enjoy his victory and, of course, think about appointments to
QUESTION: On the dialogue, especially the dialogue (inaudible) made by
Mrs. Ciller that nobody in their government, possibly by Mr. Erbakan,
would continue the dialogue -- did they discuss Iran?
MR. BURNS: Yes. In fact, thank you. They did discuss Iran, and I was
remiss in not pointing it out to you.
But, on your first question, there was really no discussion between
Secretary Christopher and Mrs. Ciller about a supposed Turkish dialogue
with Iraq. There don't seem to be any kind of close diplomatic
conversations underway. We know there are some contacts. There were
contacts, I know several weeks ago, about the implementation of U.N.
Resolution 986. But we received the very strong feeling from this
meeting that Turkey wants to work closely with the United States to
limit the activities of Saddam Hussein in the northern part of Iraq, and
that Turkey would be quite strong in working with the United States
towards this end. So I don't think any kind of dialogue is a problem.
If there is any dialogue, it's obviously very routine and non-
On the issue of Iran, there was a discussion of Iran; I think agreement
by the Secretary and Mrs. Ciller that Mr. Talabani had made a mistake in
aligning himself with Iran; that Iran also has designs on northern Iraq.
Iran would like to increase its influence there. It's our very strong
position that Iran will not extend its influence into northern Iraq.
As you know, the United States believes that Iran should be very careful
about its behavior in this situation.
QUESTION: On Colombia. The presence today of President Samper at the
United Nations reminds us of when Castro comes here. Do think his
presents could(inaudible) or if you plan to improve the relationship
using this opportunity.
MR. BURNS: As you know, President Samper is traveling here on his
diplomatic visa. It was never our intention, and certainly not our
policy, to deny him the right to travel to the United Nations for a
meeting. We understand he's here.
We still, of course, adhere to our decision that he is not welcomed
beyond New York, beyond a visit to the United Nations, as a visitor to
the United States because of the disagreements we have with him over the
problems in implementing an effective anti-narcotics policy in Colombia.
QUESTION: The U.S. doesn't plan to improve the relationship with this
visit, or any (inaudible) policies?
MR. BURNS: The United States would like to improve its relationship
with Colombia. That will be a function of the ability of the Colombian
Government to improve its anti-narcotics corruption and corruption
I'm not aware of any attempt this week to engage with him towards that
end. We've discussed it with his Foreign Minister, with his Justice
Minister, with his senior advisors. We'll continue to do that. We'll
continue to have contacts with him through our Ambassador in Bogota.
I'm not aware of any diplomatic encounters this week.
Secretary Christopher and President Clinton are not intending to see
President Samper this week.
QUESTION: Was there any discussion of Turkey's standing request that
the U.N. consider an exemption from the Iraq sanctions?
MR. BURNS: That was not mentioned. I know there's been a request in
the past. What Mrs. Ciller, I think, asked for is effective
implementation of U.N. Resolution 986, or compensation, if that is not
The Secretary of State just reaffirmed the U.S. position on 986 that I
described to you.
QUESTION: Was there any elaboration on the type of compensation?
MR. BURNS: There wasn't. It was a general discussion; not a detailed
QUESTION: Nick, on that same point, you said the United States favored
going ahead with it if practical problems are resolved. What are those
problems that have to be resolved?
MR. BURNS: The practical problems are that the implementation plan was
drawn up before the outbreak of the hostilities in northern Iraq.
Irbil, for instance, was to have been a major distribution point for the
oil and for the humanitarian goods. It was the bottom-line position of
the United States up here in New York, as all of you know who are based
up here, that we could agree to 986 -- in fact, we helped to draft the
resolution -- but only if we could be assured that Saddam Hussein did
not profit from the operation. Therefore, we wanted more monitors, and
we wanted an effective implementation scheme. We think that
implementation program now needs to be revised, to take account of the
changed situation in northern Iraq over the last couple of weeks.
I want to be clear. We're not going to hold this up forever. We would
like to see it go forward but only if it can be done on a practical
basis so that it makes sense, and Saddam Hussein doesn't profit from it.
QUESTION: Is it possible to do it as long as Saddam is in control of
MR. BURNS: We don't assume that Saddam Hussein is in control of the
north. In fact, a lot of evidence would support the fact that Mr.
Barzani probably is the most important political actor in northern Iraq
right now. But that certainly does bear watching and it's one of the
QUESTION: Nick, did the Secretary raise the human rights issues at all?
MR. BURNS: The human rights issues came up in passing. The Secretary
mentioned it briefly. The Secretary also raised -- and I'm getting back
to Iran now -- the concerns that the United States has with the proposed
gas agreement between Turkey and Iran.
The Secretary noted that the United States and Turkey have said
consistently that we want to diminish Iran's influence in the region,
not accentuate it; and that it was our very strong belief that any kind
of normalization of economic relations between Iran and any other
country in the region would be to the detriment of the policy that
Turkey and the United States agree on.
As you know, we are looking into this deal to see how it does affect our
own laws -- the D'Amato legislation that has just been passed by the
U.S. Congress and signed by the President. But before we come to the
end of that investigation, we still firmly believe that the whole idea
of economic normalization with Iran is not wise. The Secretary made
that very clear in the meeting.
QUESTION: What did Mrs. Ciller have to say to that point?
MR. BURNS: She actually did not respond. That may be one of the issues
that comes up in the working session later on this afternoon between Mr.
Tarnoff and Mr. Oymen and the other officials.
QUESTION: Getting back to the control in northern Iraq, you say that
Barzani is perhaps the most actor. A couple of days after Irbil was
taken, the State Department said that Saddam had left a massive security
presence there. Is that still your belief that there (inaudible).
MR. BURNS: Our general view is, Chris -- and you're right, that was a
statement made about two and a half weeks ago, if I'm not mistaken. Our
general view is, for the most part, the Iraqi military presence is
minimal; that Saddam has withdrawn most of his troops. On the
intelligence security side, there likely is a security and intelligence
presence of Saddam Hussein which is most regrettable considering the way
that they operate and the terrible human rights abuses that have been
caused by the Iraqi security services, and the executions that we
already know about from Irbil. But we think that's also somewhat
minimal. Mr. Barzani, of course, has been saying that it is minimal, if
not non-existent in some parts of northern Iraq.
So we're watching that very closely. Secretary Christopher's bottom
line, as he expressed it to Mrs. Ciller, is that it looks like this
crisis may be easing a bit. But with Saddam Hussein, it does pay to be
vigilant and to watch him very carefully. The United States is not
letting down its guard. We'll continue to watch the situation closely.
I have got to run. Let me just do two more things. Let me tell you
that I'll be coming here after the Secretary's meeting with Foreign
Minister Primakov later on this afternoon. That will probably be around
4:30 or 4:45.
I do want to mention one thing. This not meant to be gratuitous, but I
think it's important. There was an article in the Washington Post this
morning that carried a lot of quotes from unnamed people asserting that
somehow the United States and the United Kingdom are in substantial
disagreement on Bosnia.
Having talked with Secretary Christopher, with Ambassador Madeleine
Albright, with Deputy Secretary Talbott all just in the last hour or
two, I can assure you that the United States and the United Kingdom
remain in very close touch. We are working very well together. Some of
the allegations made, again, by people, who did not identify themselves
-- people who may not even be U.S. Government officials -- are
completely off base, particularly the references to the U.K. Ambassador
here at the United Nations who Ambassador Albright believes is one of
her best partners. I'm speaking of Ambassador John Weston.
So we were chagrined to see this article -- see some of the unnamed
comments that were made. I just wanted to say for the record that the
United States and the U.K., I think, see eye-to-eye in large measure on
Bosnia. We may have a few disagreements on some technical issues. But
in large part, we're together and we very much appreciate that
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