U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #167, 96-10-17
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Thursday, October 17, l996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
Introduction of Officials from the Polish Embassy, Korean
and Polish Journalists................................. 1
Dismissal of Lebed....................................... 1-10
--Effect on U.S.-Russian Relations....................... 1-2,5-7
--Reported Coup Plot..................................... 2-4,9-10
--Effect on Situation in Chechnya........................ 4
--Effect on Stability of Russian Government.............. 10-11
Secretary Perry's Consultations.......................... 2,4-5
President Yeltsin's Health/U.S. Contacts................. 8-9
Visit of Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri/Travel Ban....... 11
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Negotiations on Hebron/Dennis Ross Meetings.............. 11-13
Update on Kurdish Factions Fighting/Meetings in Washington 13-17
Relations with U.S./Remarks of Minister Dion.............. 17-19
Confidence Vote in Parliament/Possible Visit of..........._
_ Prime Minister to U.S................................... 19-20
Resolution of Conflict.................................... 20-21
N. Korean Missile Program/Missile Tests/U.S. Contacts..... 21-22
Visit of Director Deutch.................................. 22
European Union/World Trade Organization................... 22-25
Conviction of Juan Garcia Abrego.......................... 25-26
International Efforts to Address the Fighting.............. 26-27
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 1996, 1:03 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the State Department
briefing. I want to acknowledge the presence of Mr. Andrzej Jaroszynski,
the Polish Foreign Ministry Spokesman, is with us today and with us, in
fact, for a month; the DCM from the Polish Embassy, other officials from
the Polish Embassy.
I also want to welcome some Polish and Korean journalists who are with us
I have no announcements, George, so I'll be glad to go to your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any observations on the firing of Mr. Lebed?
MR. BURNS: I think, George, it's not appropriate for the United States to
comment on an internal decision made by President Yeltsin. This is the
business of the Russian people and of the Russian Government. Obviously,
President Yeltsin, who is fully in charge in Russia, has made the decision
that he thinks is best for himself, for the Russian Government, and for the
I can tell you that U.S.-Russian relations are stable -- stable, and, in
fact, quite good. Secretary Perry, as you know, has been in Moscow today.
He met with his new colleague, Defense Minister Rodionov. They've developed
a very good relationship according to Secretary Perry.
He also spent time with the Russian Duma, talking about the priority
security issue that we have, which is START II, and the hope that the
Russian Duma will replicate the action of the United States Senate, and
that is, to ratify the START II Treaty, to bring down the level of nuclear
weapons to historically low levels by the year 2003.
Our government is going to continue to have a priority relationship. We'll
make this relationship a priority. We have a very solid relationship with
President Yeltsin, with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, with Chief of Staff
Anatoly Chubais, with Foreign Minister Primakov.
We have an outstanding American Ambassador, Tom Pickering. We're confident
that U.S.-Russian relations will remain stable, admittedly, in a time of
some political turmoil in Russia, considering the events this morning.
No more questions? Great! We can call it a day? Bill, still on Russia?
QUESTION: Let's go to the progress, or lack of progress, that Perry is
making. What can you tell us?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't say it's lack of progress. The fact is, as you know,
President Bush and President Yeltsin signed the START II agreement January
3, 1993. This is the premier arms reduction effort for both the United
States and Russia heading into the next century. It means that we can go
from a level of 20,000 nuclear warheads in the arsenals of the United
States and Russia down to a level of 6,500 nuclear warheads by the year
2003. It's good for the American people.
It means along with the efforts by President Clinton to detarget. We don't
have to face the prospect of Russian missiles pointed at the United States.
Ours are not pointed at them. We can make sure that the nuclear balance is
stable and that the 21st Century will be peaceful. So it's a priority
Secretary Perry made a very impressive presentation to the Russian Duma
today -- with charts in Russian -- and we're going to continue our efforts
supported by the Russian Government to convince the Russian Duma to ratify
QUESTION: Nick, you cannot -- and understandably -- won't comment upon
this domestic issue inside Russia. However, it came only one day after the
Internal Affairs Minister accused Mr. Lebed of plotting a coup, among many
Could you tell us what the United States was able to determine about that
kind of allegation which would be, of course, a far more serious kind of
event than simply the firing of one or another personality inside the
MR. BURNS: Steve, we follow events in Russia very closely because of the
vital national security interests that we have at stake in our relationship
We're aware of a lot of the rumors that have been spreading around Moscow.
We saw the press reports. We saw the charges made back and forth yesterday
between members of the Russian Government.
You'll have to ask the Russian Government about these charges that were
made. We're just not in a position to comment on them publicly. But I can
tell you, again, Russia has been, for five years now, in a period of
In our view, even considering obviously the events of the last couple of
days, the trends are positive in Russia, the trend towards democratization.
They had a hotly contested election this past summer. Democratization is
spreading throughout the country and there has been a decentralization of
power from Moscow to the regions.
Economically, they seemed to have hit bottom a couple of years ago. The
economy is rising. There are good prospects that the Russian economy can
rebound from the slump of 1992-93.
Our view is, this is a relatively positive set of developments in economics
and politics over the last couple of years. We just want to help keep those
trends going so that the U.S.-Russian relationship can be successful, so
that Russia can be a part of the West economically and politically, and
have a peaceful and stable relationship with the United States.
QUESTION: A follow-up. Specifically, did the United States have any
inklings, any clues, any intelligence, suggestions that these allegations
of planning a coup were true? Not whether or not the allegation itself had
merit, but did you see anything that would show that the United States
should be worried about that particular scenario?
MR. BURNS: Steve, as you know, you're a student of Russian politics. It's
common to see in the Russian press charges back and forth between
government ministers, between political adversaries in the Russian system.
We saw a lot of that yesterday.
I simply cannot speak to the question of whether or not the United States
puts credence behind the reports that there was some kind of operation or
coup underway. I can't speak to that. I can't give you a judgment. That's
really a question that's appropriately going to have to be directed to the
I can tell you that we were told a couple of minutes ahead of time today by
the Russian Government about the announcement that President Yeltsin would
make. That was in the course of the meetings that Secretary Perry had while
he was in Moscow.
QUESTION: Nick, given the special role that Lebed had in establishing a
truce and then some kind of peace agreement in Chechnya, do you think that
process is going to be set back?
MR. BURNS: We hope it isn't. Frankly, one of the more positive developments
of the last couple of months was the peace treaty between the Chechen
leadership and the Russian Government leadership in Moscow. We hope very
much, for the sake of the Russian republic and the Chechen people, that
there will be no return to the blood-letting, the horrific violence, that
characterized that situation from December 1994 until just last month.
This is a priority, obviously, for the Russian Government. Mr. Lebed was in
charge of this operation, to move to peace with the Chechens. Obviously,
we're going to assume that President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin
and Foreign Minister Primakov and others will take this very seriously and
try to continue the very positive movement forward towards peace between
the Chechens and the Russians.
QUESTION: Do you think Chernomyrdin will take over the leadership of the
MR. BURNS: I don't know who is going to take over the actual negotiations
in Grozny and in Moscow. That's a decision for President Yeltsin and Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin. All I'm saying is, as governmental leaders, they
have an enormous stake -- the Russian leadership -- in making sure that the
peace agreement holds with the Chechens. The Chechens have an enormous
The United States, since December 1994, has called for an end to the
fighting, for political negotiations, a cease-fire. All of that has
happened because of the efforts of the Russians and the Chechens, and we
very much want to see that continue.
QUESTION: Who informed Secretary Perry of the --
MR. BURNS: I don't know exactly who informed him, but I know that
Secretary Perry had a meeting scheduled with Mr. Lebed at 6:00 p.m., which
turned out to be the exact time that President Yeltsin made his announcement
on Russian television.
I don't want to put words in his mouth. He's already spoken to the press in
Moscow. Secretary Perry decided it was not advisable to go forward with a
QUESTION: Is that the only contact that the U.S. Government has had with
the Russian Government today?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Perry has been all over Moscow. He's been in the
Kremlin, he's been in the Defense Ministry, he's been in the Duma. So we've
had a lot of contact with the Russian leadership today. He saw Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin. He saw Defense Minister Rodionov. Ambassador
Pickering has been active talking to people. This is a big event today.
Obviously, we have an interest in what happened -- the firing of Aleksandr
Lebed. We want to try to understand it, but we're going to be very careful
not to comment on it publicly because this is an internal matter. It's up
to the Russian Government and Russian people to debate this.
QUESTION: Nick, there's one aspect of it that I can try and persuade you
to talk about -- and that is that Lebed was a key player in the coalition
that had been formed to back Yeltsin's government which included the
communist nationalists, those sort of other lesser players. Are you
concerned that with him gone that this coalition will not back such things
as the SALT II Treaty and that there may be other instability caused by
MR. BURNS: Actually, following the Russian presidential elections this
past July, there was no coalition between the Communist and the Agrarian
Parties -- the two major anti-reform parties -- and the Russian Government.
The Russian Government stands on its own.
Mr. Lebed was invited in by President Yeltsin between the two rounds of the
presidential elections in June and July. But I think the Communist and the
Agrarians have stood apart and have provided, if you will, the loyal
opposition in the Russian Duma and Federation Council to the Russian
The Russian Government is stable. It's led by President Yeltsin, who has
led the Russian revolution for five years. It is backed up, of course, by
Prime Minister Chernomyrdin who has authority for economic programs and who
is providing stable and competent leadership. They have a very able Foreign
Minister. They have an extraordinarily able Chief of Staff.
We have a lot of confidence in our ability to work with all of these
people. We are working with them today. We'll continue that. That's the
priority for this government. I think we're going to continue to see,
obviously, a lot of political discussion in Moscow about this event, about
what it means.
You're going to see continued argument over whether or not Russia should
ratify START II. The Russian Government supports the ratification of START
II. The United States Government supports that. This is a priority. We need
to convince the elected members of the Russian Duma. It's in the long-term
interest of the Russian people to do this, because this will help complete
the historic process of moving away from the Cold War, moving away from
nuclear Armageddon and moving towards a democratic peace with Russia, which
is where the United States and Russia both want to go. We've been on this
track for five years. We're not going to stop now because of a little
political turmoil in Moscow.
QUESTION: What are the American people -- those who are interested enough
to care -- what are they supposed to think about this now? You say that we
have a stable relationship. You say that the Russian Government is stable.
How seriously are American people, who read and listen about this, supposed
to take this coup thing? Was it a coup? How big a coup was it? You're not
going to tell -- you're going to say, "Get the answer from Moscow;"
MR. BURNS: We're not in a position to say what was happening and what was
not happening behind the scenes over the last couple of days. We're simply
not in a position to know.
One can have theories, and one can speculate. But that's not appropriate
for a government like the
United States to speculate publicly.
The fact is that the elected Russian President -- the first Russian
President elected in 1000 years of Russian history -- made a decision this
morning which was, in strictly legal and constitutional terms, his decision
to make. He appointed Mr. Lebed. He certainly had a right to decide if Mr.
Lebed should stay in this government or not.
This is what we're seeing in here, some political in-fighting in Moscow.
That's what we're seeing. But that, I think, does not speak to the broader
question for the American people. Your question: What does this mean for
I think we can assure the American people that the Clinton Administration
has a solid, stable, active, positive relationship with the Russian
Government which will go on. It was active today, the very day of this
firing. It will be active tomorrow, because we have a lot invested in this
relationship. It has been a priority of President Clinton and Secretary of
State Christopher from Day One, from January 1993, and will continue to
I don't think that the American public needs to worry that somehow this is
some fundamental turning point. This is dramatic. It's important. We're not
sure exactly where it's going to lead in the future. But the relationship
is stable, and that's what ultimately matters to the American people.
QUESTION: Nick, why, if you can explain, did Secretary Perry choose this
particular time? I'm not suggesting in any way that these two -- that you
had knowledge this was going to happen.
MR. BURNS: Please don't, because there's no relationship.
QUESTION: But why at a period of time, when Yeltsin was obviously trying
to recover enough to have surgery and had been out of sight for such a long
time, did the Secretary of Defense decide to push on this START II
MR. BURNS: This is a long scheduled trip that Secretary Perry has had. He
felt in the wake of the resignation of Defense Minister Grachev that he
needed to have an active and good relationship with Defense Minister
Rodionov; because, as you know, Secretary Perry has pioneered over the last
couple of years very important advances in U.S.-Russian military cooperation.
In terms of training, Russians and Americans are patrolling together in
Obviously, it's in our interest to have Secretary Perry working face to
face and directly with his counterpart. That was the purpose of the
The main issue on the trip, beyond getting to know the new Russian Defense
Minister, Mr. Rodionov, has been, will the Russian Duma follow the United
States Senate and ratify the START II treaty. Secretary Perry went into the
Duma today, as I said, with a presentation of Russian language imagery and
documents to convince the Duma members that this is in their interests.
So there were very good substantive reasons for undertaking the trip, long
scheduled. The trip has no relationship whatsoever with the timing of
President Yeltsin's announcement, which we in our government did not know
about until shortly before it was made at 6:00 p.m. Moscow time today.
QUESTION: If I could follow on Steve's question. Nick, did Secretary
Perry go to talk to the Russian Duma with some kind of an attempt or
intention to negotiate, to talk to them about the NATO matters that bother
them and some of the other things? Is there a negotiation going on
currently to get the Duma to support the START II?
MR. BURNS: It's not a negotiating session. It's an attempt by the United
States to tell Russian parliamentarians -- elected politicians in Russia --
that it's in Russia's interests as well as America's to see the START II
treaty ratified; enormously important for the future of both countries well
into the next century.
It will bring down the level of nuclear warheads and it will help to insure
nuclear stability. This is the fundamental issue between the United States
and Russia. It always has been and always will be as long as we're nuclear
powers, which will be well into the future.
We have an absolute obligation to the American people to press this issue
with the Russian Duma, and we'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Do you characterize this, then, as a lobbying effort on the
party of Secretary Perry?
MR. BURNS: It's simply part of our ongoing efforts to reach a new
relationship with the Russian people and the Russian Government. I think it
speaks for itself, yes.
QUESTION: When has been the last time you have personal contacts with Mr.
Yeltsin, and do you have any update about his health?
MR. BURNS: I know President Clinton spoke to him sometime ago. You'll
have to ask the White House the exact date of that telephone conversation.
As for President Yeltsin's health, we have no independent means to confirm
or deny any of the reports that you see. He's obviously ill. He has elected
to have surgery. We think that's an important and positive decision for
him. We wish him success in that surgery. We hope very much that he'll have
a full recovery and will be able to return full time to his duties as the
Having said that, we have had a number of conversations recently with Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin, who's the second ranking official in the Russian
Federation, including today when Secretary Perry, Ambassador Pickering and
Senator Lugar and Senator Nunn and Senator Lieberman all met him.
Vice President Gore has an ongoing, very close relationship with him. We
have tremendous confidence in his ability to lead the Russian Government at
a time when President Yeltsin is ill -- at least when he goes in the
hospital. President Yeltsin and Mr. Chubais and Mr. Chernomyrdin have
already talked about how decision-making will occur when President Yeltsin
is in the hospital. We have absolutely confidence that everything is being
done to pave the way for a stable relationship with Russia and other
countries, including the United States.
QUESTION: The main point of contact is now Chernomyrdin. It's not
MR. BURNS: Obviously, President Clinton's counterpart is President
Yeltsin, and, when we have work to do with President Yeltsin, we do it,
because President Yeltsin, as you saw today, is working. He's working from
the place where he's currently resting. He's not working full time, but
When we have business to do, letters are sent to him as well as Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin. But the majority of the work is being done -- given
the circumstances, you understand why -- with Prime Minister Chernomyrdin,
with whom we have an excellent relationship.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) this poor dead horse just one more time from a
slightly different angle. You said that we're not in a position to know
about the coup. Are you stating or are you prepared to state that -- do you
mean that literally? Does that mean that U.S. officials are not in
possession of any evidence that he was planning a coup?
MR. BURNS: It's not appropriate for us to comment on this issue, number
one. It's just not appropriate.
Number two, we watch the situation in Russia, all aspects of it, before
closely; have had for years and will continue to do so, for obvious
reasons. But we're not in a position to give you the best answer to your
questions. That's a question for the Russian Government. It's a question
for the people who have been talking in public in Moscow on the Russian
side. It's not appropriate and not possible for us to reconstruct all the
events over the last couple of days.
QUESTION: That's what I don't get. The people, I think, are supposed to
count on you for the information. I mean, that's why you're the Department
of State. Aren't you supposed to know if somebody's raising an army or
there are rumors of a guy raising the army, and aren't the people supposed
to count on you for the answer and not have to go to Moscow?
MR. BURNS: The American people can count on their government to be open
and direct with them, but the American people, I don't think -- at least
the people I know in the United States -- want their government to
speculate or engage in hypothetical thinking when all the facts aren't at
The fact is that whatever has been happening over the last couple of days
has been dealt with by the Russian President who was elected. He's made a
decision today, and that's it, and the Russian Government is going to go
As to the wider question of whether or not a coup was being planned, we
simply are not in a position to comment on that. It's not appropriate to do
so. We can't engage in thinking out loud in public, because that's
We have a responsibility up here at these podiums that we speak from to
speak accurately when the facts are at our disposal. If the facts are not
completely at our disposal, it's irresponsible to speculate, and I'm not
going to do that today.
QUESTION: Nick, can I try you on a couple of Middle East questions?
MR. BURNS: Sure. Any more Russia before we quit?
QUESTION: Do you see any risk that Lebed outside the Russian Government
may be more of a threat to the stability of that government than he was
inside the government?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I just don't want to speculate. Russia is an active
democracy. You've got politicians that support the government; you have
politicians who don't support the government. There's a more active press --
I'm sorry to tell this to all these people in this room -- there's probably
a more active press in Russia than there is in the United States; and the
criticism of the Russian Government in the press spectrum is wider, and
it's sometimes more aggressive and more vigorous than it is here in the
United States. This is an active democracy.
What you're going to see over the next couple of weeks is a democracy in
action. You're going to see political people trading barbs. You're going to
see people criticizing the government, supporting the government, as you
would expect in a situation like this. I wouldn't be surprised by this.
This is not the Russia of the Soviet Union. This Russia has changed, and
everything is going to be played out in the open in the press, so stay
tuned. We're just confident of the relationship and the stability or our
Yes, I'm sorry, Jim.
QUESTION: A couple of questions, please. This morning the Lebanese Prime
Minister Hariri said that when he sees President Clinton tomorrow, he's
going to ask directly for a lifting of the U.S. travel ban. Am I correct in
assuming that your position is as it was stated earlier this week or last
MR. BURNS: Yes, I believe it is.
QUESTION: And that is, precisely?
MR. BURNS: That is that we are sensitive to the position of the Lebanese
Government and of many in the Lebanese-American community in the United
States that this travel ban ought to be lifted. We understand that. We talk
to them a lot about this.
We think we have very good reasons for maintaining the ban at the present
time. We hope the day comes, as soon as it can come, to lift that travel
ban. But we have a responsibility to the traveling public in the United
States to give them our best estimate of what is safe and what is not
QUESTION: And at another news conference, Hanan Ashrawi, who is now a
Minister in the Palestinian National Authority, said that the Israelis have
now put forward a proposal in the Taba talks for "modifications" on Hebron,
involving the splitting up of sharply defined areas which are different
from what was agreed in the Oslo accords. Do these "modifications" in the
eyes of the U.S. Government amount to renegotiation?
MR. BURNS: No, we don't believe that anyone is trying to renegotiate the
Oslo accords. Prime Minister Netanyahu affirmed publicly in Washington and
upon his return to Jerusalem that Israel would not seek to renegotiate the
Oslo accords. Chairman Arafat, of course, wants this to be perfectly clear,
and it is.
Last evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu called Secretary Christopher. They
had a good and long conversation about the status of these peace talks.
This morning Dennis Ross left Taba, traveled to Gaza and met with Chairman
Arafat for a discussion.
Our assessment, based on these telephone conversations with the Secretary
and Mr. Netanyahu and Dennis Ross' meeting this morning is the following:
We think progress has been made over the last several days in these Israeli-
We also know for a fact that considerable hurdles remain in front of these
negotiators. This is not easy. These are very tough, complicated discussions.
I cannot predict when these peace talks are going to be completed and
concluded successfully, but I can tell you this. The United States is going
to remain at the table with them until the day comes when there is an
agreement. We're dedicated to that.
I just don't want to engage in any rosy scenario thinking. We've seen some
of that continue in the Israeli press. We think that progress has been made,
but more work needs to be done.
QUESTION: What progress has been made?
MR. BURNS: I'm going to have to disappoint you, because, as you know,
since we are the effective intermediary here, our credibility depends on
not talking about the issues specifically in public.
QUESTION: According to Hanan Ashrawi, there's been -- little or no
progress has been made, and in fact on the Hebron issue there's been more
solidifying of the split in the positions, and that the Israelis want to
essentially create two Hebrons, much as they created two of the Tomb of the
MR. BURNS: The United States believes that progress has been made but
more needs to be made. These are tough talks. We're going to take them a
day at a time.
QUESTION: If you can't talk about what's happening in Moscow or in Israel,
can you talk about what's happening in this building vis-a-vis the KDP?
MR. BURNS: George, I thought I was as forthcoming as I could be about
Moscow and about Israel. Anyway, yes, I can. I can tell you a couple of
things. First, Ambassador Pelletreau is arranging meetings with Mr. Barzani
and Mr. Talabani for next week. He leaves this weekend. He has yet to
schedule a time and place for the meetings, but he has a firm agreement
from both that there will be meetings.
As you know, as I told you yesterday, Ambassador Pelletreau will be
traveling to the Gulf on a previously scheduled trip, and he will
incorporate these two meetings into that schedule.
This morning, the State Department began talks with the delegation of the
KDP at 10:00 a.m. here in the State Department. Ambassador Pelletreau, of
course, has been involved in those discussions. The Turkish Government and
the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
is represented in those talks.
Robert Deutsch, who is the head of the State Department's Office of
Northern Gulf Affairs, and Steve Grummon, who is our Director of the Office
of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council,
led the U.S. side in these talks. Ambassador Pelletreau is in and out, and
he is meeting with them, but the two main negotiators are Mr. Deutsch, not
to be confused with Deutch the senior. This is Deutsch, junior -- Mr.
Deutsch and Mr. Grummon.
In these talks, the United States has made a clear point, and that is that
we believe that the KDP and the PUK need to move very quickly towards a
cease-fire, an immediate cease-fire. They need to commit themselves to a
restoration of the political dialogue that had been underway until August
30 of this year. They need to pay attention to the humanitarian concerns of
the Kurdish people in northern Iraq, which are being adversely affected by
the continued fighting.
Those are the points that we have made and will continue to make, and those
are the main points that Assistant Secretary Pelletreau will make when he
meets Talabani and Barzani.
We understand that the situation today remains quite contentious in
northern Iraq. We understand that skirmishes continue. We are concerned
about reports that we have seen that Iraqi troops may be moving in Iraq.
Such movement, such a decision to put Iraqi troops northward, would be a
grave mistake by Saddam Hussein.
Northern Iraq urgently needs a cease-fire. The people of northern Iraq need
humanitarian aid. They need peace. They need stability. They need their
Kurdish leaders to agree to end this fighting, which is not in the long-
term interests of the Kurdish people, and to begin to talk.
We are watching the situation there with great care. We are calling upon
Iraq and Iran to stay out of the fighting in northern Iraq; not to inflame
it, not to engage in any provocative behavior that will just lead to
further instability and further violence.
QUESTION: The movement of the Iraqi troops, is it the sort of information
your own sources are confirming, or are you referring to what the U.K. has
MR. BURNS: No, I'm just saying that there have been some press reports
about this. Any time we see press reports of that nature, we're concerned
about it. I am not confirming through other means available to the United
States Government that this movement is underway. We are sending a warning
here to all outside parties, Iraq as well as Iran, to stay out of these
affairs, because we have the beginnings of a diplomatic process underway
We have the KDP in Washington. We have Ambassador Pelletreau heading out to
the region to meet with the two major Kurdish leaders. We have the Turkish
Government fully involved in this effort. We have the Government of the
United Kingdom involved. We need time to have these negotiations succeed.
We do not need to see outside powers -- Baghdad and Tehran -- involve
themselves in a way that would complicate these political discussions.
QUESTION: And do you think Talabani and Barzani are going to meet face to
MR. BURNS: No, I am not. Ambassador Pelletreau intends to meet with them
separately during his trip. I know of no plans for a trilateral meeting.
QUESTION: For this meeting today, could you discuss the role of the
Turkish and British participants? Are they actively participating, or are
they just observing?
MR. BURNS: They are active participants in the meeting.
QUESTION: Are we asking --
QUESTION: (Multiple comments)
MR. BURNS: Let me go to Ugur here.
QUESTION: Why is Ireland represented in these talks? What is expected?
What will their contribution be to a situation in northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I'll have to check on whether the Irish are involved. You know,
the Irish --
QUESTION: You just mentioned that --
MR. BURNS: No, I'm sorry. It's the Government of the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The reason why I wanted to say the full
title is because we had some references to the English Government yesterday,
and not wishing to offend America's greatest ally in the world, I wanted to
use the full title of the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain
and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, as
opposed to the Republic of Ireland.
QUESTION: Mr. Barzani has accused --
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry if there's any confusion about this, but precision
QUESTION: I thought you said Ireland.
MR. BURNS: No, Northern Ireland. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and
Northern Ireland -- the U.K. London. Whitehall.
QUESTION: Mr. Barzani has accused the Talabani faction of getting some
help from Iran. Did the United States Government confirm this, and what
will the United States Government do if there was any deployment of Iraqi
MR. BURNS: We are not in a position to confirm the direct involvement of
either Iran or Iraq in the continued fighting in northern Iraq. However,
there have been many, many press reports that are of concern to us. We
continue to watch this carefully, and that's why we have reaffirmed today
this warning to Iraq and Iran to stay out.
QUESTION: Could this be put in different terms, asking Baghdad and
Teheran to stand down or to withdraw from this dangerous situation while
these negotiations are going on? Would you term it that way -- a request or
MR. BURNS: We've certainly just made clear from the beginning of this
crisis that Iraq and Iran have no place in it; that they should not inflame
the situation. That speaks for itself.
QUESTION: On this meeting, the State Department meeting, do you discuss
the distribution of the 986 oil export?
MR. BURNS: I don't know if that issue has come up this morning, but it's
an issue that we, of course, have under advisement with the Turkish
Government and in the United Nations itself.
MR. BURNS: I can see if it was discussed, yes. I'd be glad to.
QUESTION: Judging from whatever progress has been made today in these
meetings, do you think that after five years of trying from the United
States Government and failing to reconcile the differences between these
two factions that there are some hopes this time?
MR. BURNS: Let me just try to put the question -- let me try to turn the
question around, because I really -- with all due respect, I would put it
The Kurdish factions here have the direct responsibility to get along with
each other; to put aside their fighting and go towards political negotiations.
That's their responsibility. They're responsible for maintaining peace and
stability in northern Iraq.
The Turkish Government, the Government of the United Kingdom, the United
States and France have tried to help them. We stopped Saddam Hussein from
annihilating the Kurdish people in March 1991. We remained there and will
remain in northern Iraq through "Operation Provide Comfort," because it's
in our own strategic interests and because it helps the Kurdish people.
But the ultimate responsibility rests with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani to
put aside their differences, because surely they do not wish to see Saddam
Hussein or the Iranian Government secure a permanent foothold in northern
Iraq. That would be detrimental to the long-term interests of the Kurdish
people, and history proves that, because five years ago there was an
attempted genocide against the Kurdish people by Saddam Hussein. We haven't
forgotten that history. That's why "Operation Provide Comfort" continues.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
MR. BURNS: Sure.
QUESTION: I must say that when I heard you earlier use the expression
"strong, friendly, important, strategic and stable" relations --
MR. BURNS: You thought of Canada.
QUESTION: I thought Canada had left the top of this --
MR. BURNS: I was just about to say that. I was thinking of Canada,
QUESTION: -- briefing. In that regard, Minister Stephane Dion of Canada
met with Mr. Tarnoff yesterday. Prior to his visit down here, he said that
it was to reassure Canadians about the stability of their country, and
subsequent to the meeting with Mr. Tarnoff he said meeting State Department
officials he was made aware of the fact that there are concerns in the
American Administration about the future of Canada and a growing feeling --
and we saw the backdrop of the hearings on Capitol Hill -- that America
should somehow be prepared for any eventuality.
What can you tell us about what is going on in the United States and
particularly in the State Department towards that planning and that
MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any kind of contingency planning underway.
The fact is that we place a premium on the closest possible relationship
between the United States and a strong and united Canada. Canada is the
country closest to us, the longest undefended border in the world, the
greatest trading relationship in volume in the world; the most peaceful
relationship in the world.
I want to just repeat some of the things that I said earlier about the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, because they're --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: No, the difference is -- and let me speak of the difference --
the difference is that Canada and the United Kingdom are NATO allies.
That's not the case with Russia. The relationship is different--of a
different order. A strong and united Canada, of course, is in the interests
of the United States, and we value our relationship with a strong and
united Canada, and I'm not aware of any contingency planning underway
because of some of the political debate in Canada.
QUESTION: You wouldn't be suggesting, nonetheless, that the Minister was
wrong or misleading in his comments when he said that he detected, you know,
for the first time -- and he said this without tension or malice or anger --
that there was a concern upon the part of many Americans, and that there is
a growing feeling down in the United States and within the State Department
that some preparation, some concern about investments, some concern about
NAFTA, things of this kind, are on the minds of Americans.
And it's important in Canada, because it does indicate a very strong sea
change in the relations between the two countries. Since he said that,
there must have been something that led him to that conclusion that came
out of those meetings with Mr. Tarnoff, is there not?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen Mr. Dion's remarks. I can just tell you what
our policy is. We don't have any contingency plans that would have us plan
for some hypothetical situation in Canada. We do understand and are very
sensitive to the different political currents in Canada and the referendum
that was held last year in Quebec. We understand the history of that
But in the final analysis, our relationship with the Canadian Prime
Minister, the Canadian Government, the Canadian people, is based upon the
fact that it's strong, it's united; that we have a stable ally in Canada;
best ally anyone could have. We have a border that's unprotected and
doesn't need to be protected, because we're at peace, and that's what's
important to us.
I'm not aware of any kind of anxiety in the United States Government that
is different from the ongoing concern that one always has about a neighbor
and political difficulty. I'm just not aware of it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) so allow me to try this one more time. The Minister
said -- and I'm paraphrasing, but I'm fairly close to the quote -- "it is
not surprising that I learned of these things on this visit, because, after
all, if the United States was going through some sort of separation or
unity crisis, wouldn't we in Canada be making plans, being prepared, being
concerned about the event," and then went on to say that the hearings were
not a surprise to him or a disappointment, and the rising editorial
interest in Quebec and Canada in the United States, which is noted in
If he's saying all those things, where is he getting this sense that there
is a greater concern and some desire on the part of the United States to be
prepared against the possible eventuality of disunity in Canada?
MR. BURNS: I think, Henry, just to be absolutely as helpful and direct as
I can to you -- which we always try to be -- you're going to have to ask
him. I can't speak for him. I haven't seen his remarks. I can just tell you,
I know at the highest levels of this government we have absolute confidence
in the Canadian Government. There is no high-level anxiety that goes beyond
the ongoing concerns that a friend has.
We've seen the ongoing historical debate about Quebec over the last several
decades. I'm not aware that there's any higher degree or different degree
of concern about that. We will continue to work with the Prime Minister,
with Foreign Minister Axworthy, and with others to have the best possible
relationship. I'm not aware of any contingency plans whatsoever in this
government that have anything to do with Quebec.
QUESTION: Perhaps the Russians and the Canadians might invite you tonight
for a solidarity dinner. (Laughter) Thank you.
MR. BURNS: You're welcome. Yasmine, yes.
QUESTION: The Turkish Government survived a confidence vote yesterday,
which was mainly about the Prime Minister's visit to Libya. Would you care
to comment on that? And also the Prime Minister, answering the criticism --
responding to the criticism, said he is now ready to go to Europe and to
the United States for talks, after having completed his meetings in the
region. Would the U.S. Government be looking forward to meeting with the
Turkish Prime Minister?
MR. BURNS: First, to continue my steady stream of "no comments," it's
just simply not appropriate for the United States to comment on a vote in
the Turkish parliament, and we have nothing to say about that.
On the second part of your question, Peter Tarnoff, our Under Secretary of
State, has met Mr. Erbakan and Madeleine Albright, our Ambassador to the UN,
has met Mr. Erbakan. He's the Turkish Prime Minister. We look forward to
working with him closely. We look forward to continuing our NATO, close,
allied relationship with Turkey.
Turkey is a partner in Bosnia. Turkey is a partner in Iraq. Turkey is a
partner of ours as we look at the challenges in Central Asia -- dealing
with the Central Asian countries. Turkey is a partner in the Middle East,
where the Turkish Government has continued under Mr. Erbakan's leadership
and Mrs. Ciller's leadership the prior government's new relationship with
Israel, which we find very, very positive.
Certainly, Mr. Erbakan is going to find willing partners in the United
States Government. We look forward to continuing contacts with him, with
Mrs. Ciller, with Mr. Oymen of the Turkish Foreign Ministry and with others
in the Turkish political system. It's very important that we have this
active political dialogue with them.
QUESTION: Many, many political analysts in this town have suggested that
Mr. Erbakan should not be guaranteed a meeting with the President if he
asks for it. Does the U.S. Government have a position on this?
MR. BURNS: As you know, the President is a little busy these days, as you
could tell from the television last night. I'm not aware of any request for
a meeting between Prime Minister Erbakan and President Clinton. I'm sure if
there is a request for a meeting, we'll treat it with the utmost seriousness,
as you would expect with a NATO ally. But in the meantime, not knowing what
President Clinton's schedule is going to be in the next couple of months,
because we have to have a national election here first on November 5, we're
going to continue our work with the Turkish Government.
I know our Ambassador, Marc Grossman, is in seeing Mrs. Ciller and Mr.
Oymen and others every single day. Secretary Perry made a recent trip. He
has excellent relationships with the Turkish General Staff and the Turkish
Defense Ministry. This is a mature, sophisticated, close relationship. It's
going to continue, and Mr. Erbakan is part of that, and we do want to have
contacts with him.
QUESTION: The Turkish Cypriot leader, Mr. Denktash, the second time,
offered the Greek side bilateral and inter-communal talks. He explained
that his purpose of his call, easing the tension between the communities
and establishing some kind of dialogue between them. Would you care to
comment on that?
MR. BURNS: I have not seen Mr. Denktash's comments. I'll have to look at
them and decide what we'll say in response. But, in general, as you know,
the United States is ready, prepared, to do whatever we can to help the two
communities on Cyprus -- the Cypriot Government, the Greek Government, and
the Turkish Government -- to try to end the impasse in Cyprus that has gone
on now for 22 years, gone on much too long. We've seen the political
violence there on both sides. No one wants that to continue. So we'll do
whatever we can to help on Cyprus.
QUESTION: A question on North Korea.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. had any contact with the North Koreans regarding
what appeared to be preparation for missile testing there yesterday?
MR. BURNS: We had an interesting discussion of this yesterday. All I can
say is that we are in regular contact with the North Koreans. I don't know
if we had a meeting with them yesterday in New York or someplace else in
But I can say this: If these reports prove to be accurate, the United
States will be very concerned. We urge North Korea to refrain from action
such as this, any deployment of ballistic missiles because they would only
increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula. We have an ongoing, long-
standing concern about the development of North Korea's missile program.
As you know, we've had talks with the North Koreans on this. We believe
that their missile program is a threat to the surrounding country. We
believe the exports of missiles from North Korea to other countries -- to
third countries -- contribute to instability in other parts of the world as
well. We've spoken out about that publicly.
So the North Koreans understand we're concerned about this. This will be a
regular feature of our diplomatic dialogue with them.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that there were preparations, or what appeared to
MR. BURNS: I cannot. No, I cannot. One of the problems I have is the
sourcing of this. A lot of the press reports are based on alleged
intelligence documents in our government. I never comment about intelligence
QUESTION: Yesterday, it's reported that a special aircraft the U.S. sent
to Korea in the (inaudible) to monitor North Korea's missile test. Is there
any information about something happening at the site?
The second question will be, does the U.S. have any plan or schedule for
missile talks with North Korea?
MR. BURNS: The answer to the first question is, I just can't comment on
that. The answer to the second question is, we have had talks in the past
but not for some time; I think for many months. We do want to return to
those talks because of the importance of the issue.
QUESTION: CIA Director Deutch is in Seoul. Is he there on a planned trip?
Is he there to also impress upon the South Koreans that the U.S. is
committed to their security? I thought that was what Winston Lord just
MR. BURNS: Director Deutch is in Seoul for talks with the Korean
Government. I can't really give you any further information about his
schedule. I can direct you to the CIA for that -- my colleague, Dennis Boxx
-- who can talk on behalf of Mr. Deutch. But he is there today, yes.
QUESTION: Did the European Union respond today to your yesterday comments
about the Helms-Burton Act? They say it's not true; that this is a
diplomatic issue and not a trade issue. Do you want to respond again to
MR. BURNS: All I can say is to repeat our well-known position. The
European Union ought to talk to us privately, peacefully, without rancor
about this issue. It's a very complex issue. It should not be taken to the
World Trade Organization.
The World Trade Organization is not equipped to deal with this particular
issue. It doesn't fit in that institution.
We want to continue our talks through Ambassador Eizenstat, with the
European Union. We think, as well, that the European Union ought to be
interested in promoting democracy in Cuba. There's all this talk about
Helms-Burton. But where is the talk from Europe about democracy in Cuba;
about the fact that Fidel Castro continues -- continues -- to deny his
political opponents the right to speak out, to have basic civil liberties?
He jails them. He broke up the Concilio Cubano in February 1996, as you
know. Where is the concern in Europe about that?
We're willing to talk about Helms-Burton. We have a big disagreement with
the Europeans on Helms-Burton, but we're willing to talk about it. Let's
also have a discussion about human rights in Cuba.
QUESTION: You want to be able to be more flexible on Helms-Burton if they
do something about democracy? Is there a tradeoff in this case?
MR. BURNS: Helms-Burton is the law of the land. The President and other
officials of this government have a constitutional responsibility to
implement the law. Although, as you know, in the case of Helms-Burton, the
President has given a six-month pause to the implementation of one of the
titles, one of the acts.
We're not talking about renegotiating Helms-Burton. We're talking about how
we can best implement Helms-Burton in a way that maximizes pressure on
Castro and minimizes the difficulties with the Europeans, with Canada, with
But part of that agenda has got to be human rights as well. The Europeans
can't sit back and expect that they can complain to us every day about
Helms-Burton and not give some serious thought to how to promote democracy
MR. BURNS: It's part of the same problem. Helms-Burton was passed because
Castro is the last dictator in our hemisphere. He is out of touch. He's the
product of an earlier age. He's a product of the Cold War. He's not a man
of the future. He's a man of the past.
He repudiates the rights of his people. He's a major human rights violator.
That's why Helms-Burton was passed. Also because he shot down two unarmed
civilian Cessnas, and he killed four Americans on February 24 of this year.
We don't forget that, when that happens.
We're a government that is accountable to our population. There is outrage
not only in the Cuban-American community but throughout this country about
it. We're not going to stand by and see American citizens killed and not
President Clinton has said many times since February 24, that was the final
reason why he decided to sign Helms-Burton. I think the Europeans ought to
QUESTION: A follow-up on that Helms-Burton question. Sir, regardless of
how you view the validity and the strength of your arguments, isn't it
becoming apparent to the United States that there is now not a single ally
in the world that supports the United States position beyond Israel and
MR. BURNS: I didn't know that Israel and Uzbekistan supported us.
QUESTION: In the last UN vote, they supported it.
MR. BURNS: Bravo! Our relations with Tashkent are going to improve.
QUESTION: Isn't it becoming apparent that the dog has been flogged to
death and that you really --
MR. BURNS: By the Europeans, you mean?
QUESTION: Absolutely. Everyone in the world --
MR. BURNS: Absolutely. They ought to start talking about human rights.
Henry, it's absolutely true that the United States has few supporters.
MR. BURNS: No, you mentioned some of the supporters.
QUESTION: But "few" is too large a word.
MR. BURNS: Come on. You mentioned it. We do have some supporters.
QUESTION: Two is not a few.
MR. BURNS: And we value those supporters, by the way, but we have few
supporters. Sometimes, as in the case with Iran as well, we have a similar
situation: Helms-Burton, which attempts to pressure the Castro Government,
the D'Amato legislation which attempts to pressure the Iranian Government.
Sometimes countries -- especially big countries, great powers like the
United States -- need to do what is right despite the fact that other
countries don't agree or unwilling to go along or are unwilling to
sacrifice commercial opportunities to larger political interests like human
rights, like in the case of Iran, stopping a country from achieving a
nuclear weapons capability. Sometimes countries have to stand up and
We are confident, in the final analysis, concerning Iran and Cuba,
ultimately, we're going to be proven right on this. It's right to stand up
to dictators, as we are doing.
QUESTION: I and others, I'm sure, will allow you to slip through the
business about commercial interest being the only thing that motivates
great countries like Canada, Europe, and whatever. But the point is,
"right" surely must have some strength in the fact that people recognize
what's going on. Indeed, in the world, there is no support for the United
States' position. Surely, at some point, that must register in Washington?
MR. BURNS: We understand that to be the case. It doesn't mean that our
opponents on this issue are right. We think we're right.
In an election year, where there is very little agreement between
Republicans and Democrats, the Congress has agreed, on a bipartisan basis,
on these two issues. The President has signed both laws. We're going to
implement these laws.
We think we're right; and when you think you're right, you go ahead despite
the fact that others may not be following. We have enough self-confidence,
as a people and as a government, to go ahead despite the fact that others
don't wish to tackle sometimes the hard issues.
QUESTION: Mexico. When will the Arellano-Felix family be brought to
justice in the way that Mr. Abrego was?
MR. BURNS: First of all, as General McCaffrey said yesterday, the fact
that Juan Garcia Abrego has been convicted is a very positive development.
It means that we've now prosecuted successfully a notorious drug dealer.
The United States and Mexico are cooperating on this important issue, which
is a border issue between the United States and Mexico.
As for other cases, we're going to continue our efforts with the Zedillo
Government to do everything we can to stop the flow of drugs that come
across our southern border, here in the United States, to help the Mexican
Government to try to choke off the production and supply points in Mexico
and through Mexico to the United States and Canada. It's a very big issue,
and we're very grateful for the support of the Mexican Government on
QUESTION: Is the U.S. satisfied that after three weeks nobody has been
arrested in this manhunt for the Felix people?
MR. BURNS: Bill, look, these are difficult issues. It's not easy to track
down these people. They're sophisticated. They've got a lot of money. But
we're working at it and the Mexicans are working at it, and we're going to
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Japan has offered to host peace talks among the warring
factions of Afghanistan. Would the U.S. support such a move?
MR. BURNS: There's been a lot of action on Afghanistan. There's a
Security Council resolution that's being debated. There's been military
fighting in the field, and there have been some calls now by the former
government for a break in the action for a cease-fire.
The United States has long called for an immediate end to the fighting in
Afghanistan and the establishment of a broadly representative government
comprising all the major factions.
The United Nations is the senior-level institution that has the ability to
work this out. We're putting our faith and support in Mr. Holl, the German
diplomat, who is in charge of the UN Mission in Afghanistan.
Some of the ideas that have been put forward are intriguing. For instance,
the idea put forward yesterday to demilitarize Kabul is an important idea
which we think could be useful and positive in the future.
There has been discussion of an international peacekeeping force. We think,
given the continued fighting among so many different factions, that idea is
probably premature at the present time.
We are working in the UN Security Council this afternoon to seek a balanced,
unbiased resolution which would call for an end to the fighting, which
would call for reconciliation among the factions, and which condemns human
rights abuses, including the gross human abuses against women and girls by
the Taliban in Afghanistan.
We are also willing to support an arms embargo in Afghanistan, meaning,
that no country should traffic in arms to Afghanistan; no country or groups
of country should supply the various factions with arms. That's very
important because it's happening now. Countries are supplying these
factions with arms, and they should stop.
The countries surrounding Afghanistan ought to end their active involvement
in inflaming this fighting. We ought to let these Afghan factions try to
sit down, as was suggested yesterday by the former government, sit down and
try to work out their problems and end the fighting which has victimized
the entire population of the country.
QUESTION: The idea of the Japanese hosting such a talk, is that a
MR. BURNS: I think it's just indicative of the very, very positive role
that Japan has played not only in Afghanistan but around the world. If it
comes to that, certainly, it's an idea that we'd look at seriously.
MR. BURNS: Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:57 p.m.)