U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #168, 96-10-18
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
Friday, October 18, 1996
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
Statement On Behalf of the Chairman of the Monitoring....
Statement on Belarus: Proposed Referendum................ 1-2
Secretary Christopher's Meeting with Lebanese-Americans.. 2
Upcoming Visit of Ukrainian Foreign Minister............. 2
A/S Pelletreau's Meetings with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani 3,19
--Meeting with Turkoman Leadership........................ 20
Reported Movement of Iraqi Forces/Involvement in Fighting. 3-4,5,6
Security of Humanitarian Relief Workers................... 5
Possibility of a Cease-fire............................... 6-7
Iraqi National Congress................................... 7
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Progress of Talks......................................... 7-8,11-12
Consultations by Mr. Djerejian............................ 8
Travel to Region by French President Chirac............... 8-9
--Case of Alex Brunner.................................... 9-10
Statement on Behalf of the Chairman of the Monitoring Group 1,12-15,19-20
Church of Scientology Ads................................. 10-11
N. Korean Missile Program/Missile Tests/U.S. Contacts..... 15-16
Status of Carl Hunziker................................... 23
U.S. Contacts with Mr. Savimbi............................ 16
Meeting Between PM Simitis and U.S. Ambassador Niles...... 16-17
Disputed Islets in the Aegean............................. 17-19
Travel of Ambassador Kornblum to the Region............... 21
Dismissal of Lebed....................................... 21-22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18, 1996, 12:58 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing.
I have a couple of announcements.
First, I want to welcome students from the National Affairs School of
George Washington University, the Elliott School. You're most welcome.
Thanks for coming.
Second, I want to tell you about a statement that you will find in the
Press Office after the briefing. It's a statement I'm making today on
behalf of the Chairman of the Monitoring Group.
You remember the Monitoring Group established by Secretary Christopher in
late April to deal with problems on the Lebanon-Israel border; and the
Monitoring Group has made a statement about an incident that took place
about a week ago on the border, a dispute involving Lebanon and Israel.
It's a rather long statement. I can go through it with you at some
point today in the briefing or you can just look at it and we can talk
later. I want to refer you to that.
Second, I wanted to --
QUESTION: Can you give us the gist of it?
MR. BURNS: Yes. It's quite complicated. I think to give you the
gist I'm going to have to go through the whole thing because it's a very
specific statement, made after several days of discussions among the French,
Syrians, Lebanese, Israelis, and Americans; so I can do that at some point
in the briefing.
I'll be glad to go back to it.
Let me just say two other things.
First, I wanted to read a statement that I issued last night, but I
want to read it for a particular reason. It's a very important time in
The United States has consistently sought to have a productive,
friendly relationship with the Government of Belarus throughout its five
years of independence since Belarus became independent on December 25,
The United States wants to see a democratic Belarus develop as a
market economy and as a democracy, and there are essential steps needed to
help Belarus integrate into the political and economic life of modern
Europe and reap the benefits of international trade and investment and of
association with Western countries.
After independence in l992, in l993 when President Shushkevich came to
visit President Clinton, Belarus began to take steps that could have led to
democracy, but that is now in jeopardy. The Belarusian people are being
asked to choose sides in a dispute between the President -- President
Lukashenko -- and the Parliament over a proposed referendum that would
build in far-reaching constitutional changes into the Belarusian political
The proposed constitution under consideration would fail to provide
any semblance of a separation of powers, of protection of individual
freedom and rights and of the rule of law. Unfortunately, by declaring his
unwillingness to work with Parliament, President Lukashenko appears to be
on a course that would further split Belarus.
We call on President Lukashenko to enter immediately into consultations
with the leadership in the Parliament to find a way to try to compromise
that protects basic human rights, the democratic process, and fundamental
freedoms, and that avoids violence.
This is an important moment in the five-year history of Belarus as an
independent country, and the United States is expressing its very deep
Finally, I just wanted to note for you Secretary Christopher met this
morning with a group of Lebanese-American leaders following his --
Secretary's meeting with Prime Minister Hariri last evening -- yesterday
Secretary Christopher will be attending the President's meeting over
at the Oval Office later on this afternoon with Prime Minister Hariri,
who's on an official visit to the United States.
Next week, we'll be welcoming here the Ukrainian Foreign Minister --
Foreign Minister Udovenko -- and after the briefing we can get into other
events that will take place next week.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on Secretary Pelletreau's
itinerary this weekend?
MR. BURNS: I can tell you that Pelletreau, who is not in the office
today, will be leaving over the weekend -- tomorrow -- for the Middle East.
He had a regularly scheduled trip there to meet with some Gulf countries.
He will go through with that trip, but he will also have meetings
individually with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani.
We have not yet nailed down the site of either meeting or the date of
either meeting, although I know there's been a lot of speculation --
particularly, in the Turkish press -- about this; but we've not nailed them
down, so I'm not in a position to confirm the date and time.
When that happens, when we have the date and time worked out with Mr.
Barzani and Mr. Talabani, I will, either over the weekend or on Monday, be
very glad to give it to you; but we don't have it yet.
But let's get back to the substance. The purpose of his trip and the
purpose of these meetings is to launch an intensified diplomatic process
that would have the KDP and PUK agree to a cease-fire, agree to a
resumption of their reconciliation talks, and agree that Iran and Iraq
should stay out of the fighting.
Those are the goals that the United States has.
We began this diplomatic effort yesterday here in the State Department
when we hosted the Kurdish KDP delegation. We had excellent talks with
them. We made the points -- the three points that I've just made. We
heard, of course, a variety of things from them; but we're going to stay on
this course. While we stay on a diplomatic course, we don't want to see
Iran or Iraq undertake any action that would limit our ability to be
successful, to have a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish disputes.
QUESTION: On Iraq, there are new reports of quite sizable Iraqi
forces moving north. Do you have any confirmation of that?
MR. BURNS: I have no confirmation, no. There have been a variety of
press reports -- and contradictory press reports -- about troop movements.
I am not in a position to confirm those.
I think our position here is very clear, as we've enunciated over the
last couple of days and weeks. Iraq should stay out of the fighting in
QUESTION: On that topic, I asked you yesterday. Let me ask it again.
If there is some kind of surrogate activity by the PUK, as has been
reported, if there is perhaps even some personnel from Iran but at least
some equipment coming toward Irbil, does not Iraq have the right -- or even
the responsibility -- of self-defense, their own security in this matter?
How does the U.S. see it?
MR. BURNS: Bill, I'm afraid -- as we've said many times here in the
past, Iraq gave up its right to unlimited military action and exercises and
presence in the north back in March of l99l when it tried to exterminate
the Iraqi Kurds. When the United States, Turkey, France, and Britain
established "Operation Provide Comfort," it was to provide a zone where the
Kurds could find some relative peace and relative stability from the
designs of the Iraqi Government.
This is an unusual situation. We don't question Iraq's sovereignty.
We don't question Iraq's sovereignty throughout the whole of Iraq; but
above the 36th Parallel, of course, there is an operation to protect the
Kurds. It will remain that way. The United States does not believe that
Saddam Hussein has any kind of role to play militarily in the northern part
of Iraq, and we have consistently warned Iraq to stay out of northern
QUESTION: Then who does have the security responsibility in
MR. BURNS: The ultimate responsibility to protect the Kurdish people
and to provide peace and stability in the area rests with the major Kurdish
groups, with Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani. They have responsibility. We --
the Turks, the British, the French, and the Americans, others -- are trying
to help them achieve that.
QUESTION: And, finally, are we prevailing on the PUK to stand down?
Are they standing down as we are?
MR. BURNS: We are asking both groups to stand down.
If you take a look at the reporting out of northern Iraq this morning,
you'll see that there is fighting -- that both of them continue to fight in
and around Irbil and Sulaymaniyah, that there have been reports that the
KDP has taken this town or that. Both of them continue to fight. It's up
to both of them to stop the fighting.
QUESTION: Your statement -- yesterday's statement -- emphasized that
the U.S.A. called on the KDP to take all steps necessary to ensure the
safety of humanitarian relief-workers throughout the KDP-controlled
territory. Did you get to this kind of promises? Did you get any security
for these humanitarian relief-workers?
MR. BURNS: That was one of the major points that Bob Pelletreau and
Mr. Deutsch -- Mr. Deutsch, the younger -- made yesterday with the KDP
delegation -- that one of the concerns that we have, in addition to the
fighting, in addition to the Iranian and Iraqi threats, is what will happen
to the Kurdish people as winter approaches.
When there's fighting, it means that international relief efforts will
be impeded, and the Kurdish people are in need of shelter -- some of them
who are still refugees. They're certainly in need of continued food
assistance, and the Kurdish groups need to take responsibility for
We will help them, and the international relief organizations will
help, but the Kurds have to provide the basis for those efforts to be
We'll make that same point, by the way, to
Mr. Talabani. We're not directing these points at one group versus
another. We're making these points about relief efforts, cease-fire,
political talks, to both groups.
QUESTION: Mr. Barzani had a press conference this morning. He
suggested that they were considering seriously to enlarge Iraqi forces --
to help them out. He's doing this after the meetings here yesterday and
right before Ambassador Pelletreau is on his way to the region. Don't you
think it's kind of the urge --
MR. BURNS: What was the word?
QUESTION: Don't you think it's kind of strange that he chooses to
make this announcement today?
MR. BURNS: Oftentimes, in situations like this, we see that people
negotiate privately and they negotiate publicly.
So it's perhaps not surprising to see him say this, but it's not welcome
because Mr. Barzani knows the very strong, clear views of the United States
Government. And that is that Saddam Hussein has no role to play that can be
positive or useful or constructive in northern Iraq.
Mr. Barzani will hear that from Ambassador Pelletreau when they meet
in just a couple of days. He's heard it consistently from Ambassador
Pelletreau on the telephone almost every day this week.
QUESTION: What about the evacuation over the weekend -- Kurds and
Iraqi dissidents from northern Iraq?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to comment on any aspect of that
QUESTION: Why is that?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to comment because I choose not to
comment on that particular issue.
QUESTION: Do you deny it?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in a position to say anything because if I said
anything it would not be helpful to that particular situation.
QUESTION: Getting back to the earlier question on troop movements,
I'm just curious whether you're saying that the U.S. doesn't know whether
there are troop movements or whether this relates to intelligence material
and, therefore, you can't.
MR. BURNS: Oh, you can rest assured or be assured that the United
States is looking very carefully at the entire situation in northern Iraq
in all of its dimensions, including the issue of troop movements. We're
looking; we're watching.
We've a lot of information available to us.
I'm not in a position, however, to confirm any of these press reports.
QUESTION: One of the points the KDP people were making yesterday is
that if they declare a cease-fire and (inaudible) they captured a tank of
(inaudible) the PUK, but if they declare a cease-fire, they want some kind
of assurances that it is going to be respected by all parties.
What sort of assurances are you able to offer them?
MR. BURNS: Well, ultimately, this is similar to
any negotiation. The intermediary, in this case the
United States, can suggest a way to resolve a dispute or a problem but,
ultimately, it's the parties to a negotiation that have to make the
commitments to each other that will convince each other to move forward
towards an agreement.
So what I am saying here, in shorthand, what I am saying is it takes
two to tango. The KDP and the PUK have got to sit down together and make
some commitments to each other about the state of play militarily in
northern Iraq and about what they will need to do together to maintain a
relative peace so that they can talk, which is far preferable to fighting.
So both of them need to step forward and make these commitments, not
just one party.
QUESTION: In your list of objectives, I note that you don't talk
about the Iraqi National Congress any more. Is this now history?
MR. BURNS: Well, we continue to have a relationship with a variety
of people in northern Iraq and people who now are outside of northern Iraq,
in some cases.
We continue to talk to a lot of people who -- Iraqi citizens -- who do
not wish to see Saddam Hussein continue his policies or continue his
Those conversations take place in a variety of places. You should
read nothing into the fact that we haven't mentioned them.
No one has asked. You have now asked, and I have talked about it.
QUESTION: Okay. Also in the Middle East, there were some excitable
stories out of the Middle East this morning saying that there might be or
might have been agreement in the Palestinian/Israeli talks as early as
I gather that was mostly hyperbole?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Dennis Ross just called Secretary Christopher about
an hour and a half ago, called him from Israel.
As you know, the talks were held this week between Sunday and Thursday.
The talks have adjourned until Monday in Taba. The talks were adjourning
as they usually do over the weekend because of the Jewish and Muslim holy
days, and our view based on this week's discussions is that the Israelis
and Palestinians have clearly made progress and have been able to close
They also clearly have a ways to go. They have some tough issues and
challenges ahead of them, and the
United States will stay at the table with them until the talks succeed and
conclude. That's our commitment to them and their commitment to each other
is that they won't stop these talks until they are finished.
I think in the Middle East, and I know a lot of you are experts
because you have been there a lot and you have studied it, you will agree
that it is not over until it is over.
We have seen, interestingly enough, press reports from both Israeli
and Palestinian newspapers this week that the talks have succeeded and it's
not the case. So I think we need to understand that until they complete
the agreement and shake hands, it's not over. The talks are clearly not
over and they clearly have some ways to go. Sid.
QUESTION: On the other track, the Syrian track, of course Ed
Djerejian is (inaudible), is he acting as an envoy for the Secretary, or an
official American envoy in his journeys between Damascus and Israel and
MR. BURNS: I'm just not aware that he is. I'll have to ask our
experts in the Bureau of Near East Affairs. He is a distinguished American
and well remembered and fondly remembered by a lot of his colleagues here
in the State Department, but I'm just not aware that he is carrying any
messages for us.
QUESTION: You are aware of his activities, though.
MR. BURNS: I understand that he was in the Middle East recently or
may still be in the Middle East. That's all I know. So I just can't speak
to the question of whether or not he is representing the United States
Government's interests there.
I just haven't heard anything like that.
QUESTION: The Secretary is not in contact with him.
MR. BURNS: I don't believe the Secretary has been, no.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary had any contact with Chirac about his
coming trip to Damascus this weekend?
MR. BURNS: The Secretary, I don't believe, has had any telephone
conversations with President Chirac. We understand, of course, through our
Ambassador Harriman and others that President Chirac will be travelling to
the Middle East and we welcome this.
You know, France has had an historic role in the Middle East going
back, well many, many -- going back to the last century.
France is a country that is playing a positive role in the Middle East
today, and President Chirac's interest in trying to help the Israelis and
Palestinians, the Lebanese and the Syrians move towards peace is positive,
and we welcome his trip.
QUESTION: But there is no coordination between the
United States and France in this regard?
MR. BURNS: Well, when Secretary Christopher met Minister de Charette
in early September in Paris, they agreed that on the question of the Middle
East -- as in Bosnia, as in Africa -- that they would stay in touch, and
that as far as we can, we would try to coordinate our measures, because
France and the United States want the same result. In the Middle East, we
want peace between Israel and the Arabs.
We are not negotiating together. As you know, the United States is
the only country sitting at the table in Taba and Eilat with the Palestinians
and Israelis, and I suspect it's going to remain that way because that's
the desire of the parties. That's the way it has been set up.
Here you don't want to have a mini-United Nations around the table,
but we are very respectful of the French role, and we hope that President
Chirac's trip will be positive and productive and that he can help to
convince the Arabs and the Israelis in general. And he is going beyond
Israel and Gaza and the West Bank. He is going to other countries. We
hope that as a result of his trip, progress can be made.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) President Chirac will be raising the case of
Alex Brunner with the Syrian leadership -- the Nazi?
What do you think the Syrian responsibility is at this point?
MR. BURNS: I'm not familiar with the particulars of that case. I am
vaguely familiar with it. I can check into our own understanding of that
issue. Obviously, any attempt by the French Government or other governments
to try to bring to justice former Nazis is positive. And the United States
has consistently supported for many, many decades, going back to the 1950s,
efforts to locate people who may be guilty of crimes, war crimes,
against humanity in the Second World War. But in this particular case,
I'd like to ask our experts about our understanding of this particular
QUESTION: (Inaudible) have a responsibility under international law
to produce and extradite, isn't that correct?
MR. BURNS: If it is in fact Mr. Brunner, obviously any country a
member of the United Nations, any country that wants to try to bring
justice to the remaining questions that exist from the Second World War,
any country has a responsibility to do that.
You remember other cases in the past with Eichmann and with others
where the United States has applauded efforts to bring Nazi criminals to
justice. We have had a very consistent supportive record in this
QUESTION: Nick, speaking of Nazis, --
QUESTION: Can we go on with this one?
MR. BURNS: Yes. Jim has a follow-up.
QUESTION: Has the State Department seen the ads, one ran yesterday
in The New York Times by the Church of Scientology, comparing the current
German Government to the Nazi regime?
MR. BURNS: Yes, we have, and I do have something to say about this.
For those of you who didn't notice this, the Church, or at least some
Scientologists, I should say, in the United States placed an advertisement
in The New York Times about their grievances against the German Government,
and let me make two points about this issue.
The United States has said consistently for a number of years in our
Human Rights Reports in 1993, '94 and '95 from this podium just in the last
couple of months, that we do believe that Scientologists in Germany have
suffered from discrimination, and we have spoken to the German Government
about our concerns about Chick Correa, a noted Scientologist, about other
Scientologists, many of whom are Americans who have not had their rights
respected in Germany.
Now, having said that, and having had a very consistent opinion on
that issue, we are outraged by the language used by the Scientologists in
this advertisement in The New York Times. The New York Times bears no
responsibility for this, but the Scientologists do.
The language used in the advertisement yesterday compares the actions
of the current German Government to Nazi actions against Jews and other
groups during the Second World War. That is an outrageous comparison. It
is needlessly provocative. It is unfair to the German Government. The
German Government has dealt responsibly, as has German society, with the
issues that are with us still and with them still from the Second World War
about the Nazis and about the responsibilities of the Nazis for the mass
atrocities of the Second World War.
Chancellor Kohl, Foreign Minister Kinkel, have led the effort in
modern Germany to deal with these questions, and to accuse the German
Government of Nazi-like tactics is simply outrageous.
It is indefensible, and the Scientologists have made a very, very grave
error in using this language in a major American newspaper.
QUESTION: Nick, on the Middle East. Hanan Ashrawi gave a speech
yesterday in Washington, and painted a rather grim picture of the state of
negotiations. There is a lot of different things coming out. The Israelis
have been saying they're close to an agreement, but both Arafat and Ashrawi
have said there seems to be no movement whatsoever. In particular, she was
concerned about the way that the measures that were being taken, with
the expansion of settlements and the like, was creating a form of
apartheid. This was also the term that Arafat himself used, I believe,
creating a de facto situation at the same time that negotiations are
ongoing and thereby creating for themselves a situation in which, for them,
it is a real win.
Is the United States not concerned about these measures that have been
taken in creating these patches of Bantustan-likes areas in the West Bank.
Does it not require, as Ashrawi also indicated, some pressure from the U.S.
to get off of Square One towards some kind of a solution to the situation?
MR. BURNS: As in the case of the Scientologists, I think it's very
dangerous for people to use apartheid-like terms and words from the
apartheid era to describe Israel and the Palestinians.
It doesn't fit. It doesn't fit at all.
Let's remember that in the last five years, Israel and the Palestinians
have made a tremendous leap forward. The Palestinians now have authority
for their own affairs throughout almost all of Gaza and almost all of the
West Bank. With the completion of the current negotiations, that will be
true in Hebron, when there's redeployment.
Let's be fair about the process. They're in this together.
They've made a commitment to each other, the Israelis and the Palestinians,
that they're going to negotiate peace between them.
I think it is not helpful to use incendiary terms -- at least, not
from the United States. We're not going to do that. We're going to keep
working with them. We're not going to level charges against one or the
other. We have a well-known position on settlements.
It hasn't changed, and we express it regularly to the Israeli Government.
But we're going to be constructive -- the United States is going to be
We know that in the end these negotiations are going to succeed.
The Palestinians will have control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip along
the lines of the Oslo Agreement. Israel will have its rights respected
along the lines of the Oslo Agreement. They have done something quite
substantial there. They have moved a long way. This is not 1986 or 1976.
The situation is far better today than it was at any time since 1967.
QUESTION: Who is monitoring the (inaudible). If you could expand on
the part where the United States joins the others in deploying the Israeli -
MR. BURNS: I think to be fair to all five countries concerned, I
need to read this statement because this is not a statement that I have
drafted. It's a statement on behalf of David Greenlee who is the Chairman
of the Monitoring Group. He's an American diplomat. So let me read it to
you, and then if you have questions, we can talk.
"The Monitoring Group met in continuous session October 14-18 at the
UNIFIL headquarters compound near Naqoura, Lebanon, to consider a complaint
by Lebanon of a violation of the April 26, 1996, understanding."
That was the understanding that Secretary Christopher negotiated
between Syria and Lebanon, and the Israelis and the Palestinians.
"According to the complaint, Israeli forces and Israeli-controlled
militia shelled the village of Safad-el-Battikh, resulting in the injury of
13 Lebanese civilians, four of them seriously, and damage to houses, the
village's electrical grid, telephone lines, and the water distribution
network. The complaint stressed that the Lebanese resistance did not use
the village to launch its attack on the occupation forces," which is what
"The Israeli representative expressed sorrow for the injuries and
damage caused, but maintained that they were an unintended result of
defensive counterfire following a Hezbollah mortar attack.
He said that Israel had responded in a proportionate and restrained manner
consistent with the recommendations adopted by the Monitoring Group on
September 25, 1996.
"The Lebanese and Syrian representatives expressed the view that the
shelling was deliberate and voiced the concern that the Israeli artillery
action was aimed at raising tension to prepare the ground for a wider
Israeli military action. The Israeli representative assured that this was
not the case and that Israel's policy was exactly opposite.
"The military representative of the Monitoring Group undertook verification
missions in the area of Safad-el-Battikh, the artillery firing position
within Israel, and in the vicinity of Bara'Shit.
"Concluding its discussions, the Monitoring Group deplored the injuries
caused to the Lebanese civilians in the village of Safad-el-Battikh.
"In light of the findings of the verification missions, the Monitoring
Group confirmed that the injuries and destruction were caused by Israeli
artillery fire. The Israeli representative stated that Israel considers
that this counterfire was defensive, while the Lebanese and Syrian
representatives rejected such an interpretation."
I've just read -- these are not my words -- I've read this statement
of the Chairman of the Monitoring Group, David Greenlee.
We can talk about this specifically, but I want to make one larger
point. Before April 26, 1996, there was no mechanism for the Israelis,
Syrians, and Lebanese to get together and talk about who is responsible for
what. Because of that, we saw the horrific events of April 1996, where
there were tens of thousands of Lebanese civilians and thousands of Israeli
civilians under threat of artillery attacks.
We have, I think, taken a great leap forward that instead of
responding militarily, in disputed situations like this, the parties are
now sitting down and discussing it and they're putting their grievances on
paper. That is a step forward.
QUESTION: Just to clarify. Are you saying this is the statement of
MR. BURNS: It's a statement on behalf of the Chairman of the
Monitoring Group, who is David Greenlee, an American. As you know, we have
a rotation between the United States and France as chair. The United
States is currently in the chair.
QUESTION: This is a statement from the U.S. Government, not David --
MR. BURNS: No. It's a statement by David Greenlee.
This is an important distinction because he has colleagues; he has French,
Syrian, Israeli, and Lebanese colleagues who work with him.
QUESTION: So he's somehow not acting on behalf of the U.S.
Government in preparing this statement?
MR. BURNS: He is the United States Government representative.
But this statement results from the discussions that five countries had --
the five countries and the Monitoring Group. I was remiss in including the
Palestinians, by the way, in that number. It's the five that I just
mentioned. It's their statement.
QUESTION: Does the United States Government agree with it?
MR. BURNS: Absolutely. He's our representative, and we congratulate
him for the work. We think this is a major step forward, to have the
monitoring group meet and discuss things in a civil way and a peaceful way
without resort to some of the artillery barrages on either side that have
victimized civilians in the past. This is a step forward.
QUESTION: Do the U.S. and France take any position on whether it was,
indeed, justifiably defensive artillery fire?
MR. BURNS: The United States and France have both agreed that we
will limit our remarks on disputed issues like this to the Monitoring Group
discussions. I'm not going to sit up here or M. Rummelhardt in Paris is
not going to make unilateral statements.
We have here a statement by representatives of our governments, and it
speaks for itself.
QUESTION: But did the United States and France participate in the
debate with the Israelis in this?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I'm sorry if there's any confusion about this. The
Monitoring Group, when it meets, includes the United States as Chair;
France, co-Chair; Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. This was a very serious
incident, because 13 people were injured and a village received very
So the five countries involved sat down and discussed this over four
days, until today -- until this morning. The Chair has issued the
following statement that reflects the discussion.
You saw from the reading of the note that the Israelis had an
opportunity to put forward publicly their point of view. The Lebanese and
Syrians did as well. The United States and France, of course, are the
Chair and co-Chair. So we try to facilitate the discussion.
QUESTION: Korea. There are confusing reports from Tokyo and Seoul
whether North Korea eventually conducted missile tests. The one, that
North Korea -- missile test -- is very imminent.
The other one, North Korea has already cancelled the missile test, or may
cancel the test. Which do you think is nearer to the fact on the
MR. BURNS: I am not in a position to confirm that North Korea has
launched a missile test, or launched a missile, as a test.
I can say, however, as I said yesterday, that should North Korea
undertake such a missile test, it would be destabilizing.
It will be harmful to our efforts to provide stability in the Korean
Peninsula. The United States would very much be opposed to this. We've
made this clear to the North Koreans, and we've had very recent contacts
with the North Koreans.
QUESTION: You said yesterday that North Korea understood the U.S.
concern on the missile test. If so, can you believe, or are certain that
North Korea can accept and cancel the test?
MR. BURNS: That is a diplomatic way of saying that we have conveyed
a very strong message to the North Koreans that they ought not to undertake
such a test. Whether the North Koreans agree with that message, it is up
to them to say. You'll have to ask any North Koreans you can find, who are
willing to speak out publicly, on this issue. I suspect there aren't many
in this part of the world.
We have made our views known privately and publicly as a result of my
statements over the last several days on this issue.
QUESTION: Can you give us a few more details on how and when you
conveyed the message?
MR. BURNS: We normally talk to the North Koreans in New York. We
talk to North Korean diplomats at the United Nations. We also have other
ways of passing messages. We sometimes use those channels. You can be
assured that the message has been passed. This is a very serious issue.
We think it would be destabilizing in north Asia to have these types of
tests undertaken. North Korea needs to think very carefully about this
kind of action.
QUESTION: A different subject?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: I apologize if this question has been asked and answered
earlier in the week. Did you ever give a readout of Assistant Secretary
Moose's talks with Savimbi?
MR. BURNS: I did not, but let me just tell you the background. When
Secretary Christopher left Luanda on Monday -- and, Carol, I know you were
there -- he asked George Moose to travel to a provincial city to see Mr.
Savimbi. Assistant Secretary Moose got on the plane. Actually, I think
the plane was circling to land and could not land because of very
severe weather. The pilot would not land the plane. The plane returned
The next opportunity would have been, I think, today, four days later.
So George Moose came back to the United States. Ambassador Don Steinberg,
on Tuesday, did travel to meet with Mr. Savimbi. He did convey the
Secretary's messages on the important issue of whether Mr. Savimbi would
attend the requisite meetings and do the right thing to promote national
reconciliation in Angola.
We have since seen, on Wednesday, some very positive statements by Mr.
Savimbi that he would, in fact, meet his commitments to the United Nations,
to the United States and others, that he would act in such a way to promote
a continued reconciliation with the Angolan Government. We now need to see
those fine statements turned into concrete action on the ground.
So Ambassador Don Steinberg had the opportunity, I think, to have a
very important meeting. It seems to, at least in the short term, to have
QUESTION: Any readout on the meeting between Prime Minister
Konstandinos Simitis and the American Ambassador to Athens, Thomas Niles
the other day, at the latter's request, for the Greek-Turkish differences?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I believe that Ambassador Tom Niles met with Prime
Minister Simitis on October 16. This was the first meeting that they had
had since the Prime Minister's election.
It was an opportunity for Ambassador Niles to engage the Prime Minister in
a discussion of the U.S.-Greek relationship. It was a rather comprehensive
discussion. The conversations were positive and they were constructive --
an excellent relationship with the Government of Greece.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) for years, the Greek relationship.
I was told that 45 minutes at least were spent on Greek-Turkish differences.
So I would like you to comment to this specific question?
MR. BURNS: It hasn't been my practice to say how many minutes were
spent on what issue. I actually don't know how many minutes were spent on
those issues, but I said it was a comprehensive set of discussions. Of
course, that would include Aegean and Cyprus issues. Of course, it
QUESTION: Could you please confirm information that a similar
meeting has taken place in Ankara the other day at the initiative of
MR. BURNS: With whom?
QUESTION: With Mrs. Ciller or the Prime Minister -- a similar
MR. BURNS: I actually don't know what meetings Ambassador Grossman
has had this week in Ankara, so I'm not in a position to do that, Mr.
QUESTION: I was told by a State Department official, ON BACKGROUND,
of course, that the least of the Greek small islets in which the U.S.
Government does not recognize Greek sovereignty, as you stated in this room
on February 1, does not exist finally.
My question is, number one, that means, for the time being, may I
assume that the statement you made on February 1, 1996, has been made by
MR. BURNS: Two points. I'm on the record. I don't respond to
BACKGROUND comments made by my colleagues here in the State Department.
Secondly, my statements on these disputed islets were on the record.
They're U.S. Government policy, and they remain U.S. Government policy.
There has been no change in U.S. Government policy concerning the disputed
islets in the Aegean. No change whatsoever.
Everything I said on February 1, March, April, May, June -- all
throughout the summer -- remains U.S. Government policy.
QUESTION: Do you recognize finally the Greek sovereignty over Imia
and those small islets, since you are saying that you remain firm in your
statement of February 1, 1996?
MR. BURNS: I would bet that I have enunciated our policy on that
issue roughly 25 times. Nothing has changed since the 25th time that I
did. I can't remember when that was, but nothing has changed. Nothing.
QUESTION: In order to facilitate the process, otherwise, you still
do not recognize Greek sovereignty over Imia and those small islets?
MR. BURNS: Our position has not changed.
QUESTION: It has been fully clarified by the Prime Minister
Kostandinos Simits the other day during his official visit to Cyprus, that
his government will address, first, to the International Court of Justice
on the Imia issue and then the delimitation of the continental shelf.
This process, as you know, Mr. Burns, is against international
practice. It means partition of the Aegean via the Greek small islands by
the method of Imia with the full blessing, of course, of the International
Court of Justice. It was reported, however, extensively, in the Greek
press, that this specific process is a U.S. proposal. I would like you to
comment if it's true -- yes or not?
MR. BURNS: Mr. Lambros, there's very little I can say on this except
to say, very quickly, very briefly, because we need to get onto other
issues, that we have told the Greeks and Turks repeatedly that should they
desire it, we will be glad to help them try to resolve these problems.
We have suggested in the past that they might want to refer their
disputes to a consensual body, a consensual organization.
That's up to them to make that decision.
When they make a decision as to how they wish to discuss this issue,
should they wish to include us, we are ready. Should they wish to follow
some other avenue, that's fine, as long as these issues are settled
peacefully and constructively without the threat of force, or the use of
force, the United States will be content.
QUESTION: Just to clarify. As far as first to go, Imia and then the
delimitation of the continental shelf, it's a U.S. proposal or a Greek
MR. BURNS: I don't want to get into who is suggesting what, which
proposal, or this or that proposal. Our position is very clear. We're
playing a constructive role. We're NATO allies of Greece and Turkey. We
admire both governments. We work with them both. That will be our policy
in the future, I can assure you. Thank you.
QUESTION: A Pelletreau question. Do you know what his game plan is?
Are these proximity talks, or is he just going to meet with them separately
without any exchange of ideas between them?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe they're proximity talks; along the lines
of, say, Dayton? No. These are separate meetings that he will hold next
week with both individuals.
In between the meetings, he maintains telephone contact with both of
QUESTION: You said "next week?"
MR. BURNS: Yes, because he is not leaving the United States, I
believe, until tomorrow. Therefore, he won't be in the Middle East until
Sunday. So Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the Monitoring Group again?
When the negotiations were going on, setting them up, I had the distinct
impression from what you and other spokesmen were saying that the
Monitoring Group would involve some sort of closure or some sort of
conclusion on incidents that were reported to you.
From what you've just read here, it appears that is not the case, that
there is an airing of charge and countercharge, but no conclusion, no
decision about whether -- which side was right.
Is that statement -- does that statement represent the way you thought
it would work when the Monitoring Group was initially set up?
MR. BURNS: The objective was to make sure they had a forum to talk
rather than to fight out their differences. Each case is different. I
think that the Monitoring Group representatives have found that each of
these complaints brought to it by any number of the principals here is
In some cases I imagine it will be possible to resolve a misunderstanding.
In other cases, perhaps the best that one can hope for is that they will
discuss their differences and perhaps agree to disagree.
In both cases those outcomes are far preferable to fighting and to
shelling and to putting Israeli civilians in northern Israel or Arab
civilians in southern Lebanon in danger. And that's the situation that
Secretary Christopher was dealing with in April of this year.
The understanding that he negotiated, the April 26th understanding, is
a major step forward because we see here that an incident like this, which
in the past could have turned the situation to war, has now enabled them to
talk peacefully without recourse to fighting.
That's a major step forward.
QUESTION: KDP talks yesterday: a Turkish observer, which he
attended yesterday's meeting, and he said, "Give any account to the Turkish
objectives about these meetings, nine-eighths ex-PKK and the Iraq
territorial integrity and everything."
And also he said that they are looking for the Turkomans, which are the
second largest group in northern Iraq, included these political talks.
Do you share this kind of view?
MR. BURNS: We certainly share the Turkish view that we ought to
maintain close contact with the Turkoman population.
You are right, it's a major minority group in northern Iraq.
Ambassador Pelletreau met with the Turkoman leadership in Ankara in
September, the day that he met Mr. Barzani. They had separate meetings and
we'll maintain close contact with the Turkoman from our Embassy in Ankara
and from here as much as that is possible.
QUESTION: And also yesterday the KDP, one of the spokesman, Mr.
Zebari, Hoshyar Zebari, he said that PKK gave in less fighting with the
Talibanese and Iranian forces together.
They are supporting with the Talibani and Iranian forces.
Do you have any of this kind of information?
MR. BURNS: I cannot confirm that, no.
Yes, sir. Yes.
QUESTION: Coming to the Bosnian question, could you be more specific
about the mission of Mr. Kornblum, especially in connection with the
pending coming election, on those two tricky issues, the Mostar case and
the case of the voting rights of the displaced persons and refugees
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Kornblum is returning to Washington today from
Moscow. He accompanied Secretary Perry to Moscow this week. On Sunday, he
will be departing Washington for the Balkans where he is going to be in
Sarajevo and elsewhere.
What we are working on this week, and what we will be working on next
week, is the question of the municipal elections. Preparations for those
elections are going forward. As you know, the OSCE has been scheduling
those elections for late November. Mr. Frowick has been meeting non-stop
with Mrs. Plavsic, with the Provisional Electoral Commission and others, to
try to decide on a specific date, on the modalities for these elections.
That's the current question. Now, the Bosnian Serbs have a responsibility
to work with the OSCE on the administration of these elections. They have
got to do that. That's part of their Dayton commitments. They don't have
the option, as Mrs. Plavsic was speculating publicly, of organizing these
elections on their own.
They're not in a position to do so. It wouldn't be fair to the
population to have the Bosnian Serbs organize and run these elections.
They've got to be run by the OSCE. That's what we agreed upon at
So Ambassador Kornblum, who appears in the Balkans on an average of
once a week, will be back on Sunday and for a couple of days next week to
press this issue; to work with Ambassador Frowick, with Carl Bildt; and to
see that the United States pushes forward -- as we've been doing now for
more than a year -- to complete the peace agreements.
QUESTION: On Lebed, Mr. Lebed's story, now he's going to prepare for
the possible elections that would follow the resignation of Mr. Yeltsin on
health grounds. Apparently the democratic process has worked well in
Russia, but I would ask you to comment on this defamation, this smear --
what appears to be a smear of Mr. Lebed, at least in my eyes. Is there
something familiar about this, perhaps relating to Mr. Chubais and his
firing earlier? Could there be some future for Mr. Lebed in that
MR. BURNS: Bill, I never knew you were of such a conspiratorial
mind. (Laughter) This is very revealing!
Frankly, I take issue with several things that you said, with all due
First of all, President Yeltsin appointed Mr. Lebed and made a
decision to dismiss him. Surely, you would agree that that's within
President Yeltsin's constitutional powers as head of state in Russia.
Secondly, the United States chooses not to characterize that decision,
not to evaluate it, not to comment on that particular decision. That's an
internal matter for the Russian Government and the Russian people.
Third, there is no Russian election being planned. Russian elections
were held in June and July. It resulted, for the first time in Russian
history in a millenium, of a democratically elected president. He is in
power. We hope that President Yeltsin recovers from his current illness,
makes a full recovery, and serves out his full term.
I don't think we ought to go beyond that in anticipating or speculating
on what else may happen. The most important thing for the United States
here is that we maintain a stable relationship with the Russian Federation,
which we are doing.
Secretary Perry had an excellent set of discussions with the Russian
Government. We hope that the Russian Government can convince the Russian
Duma to ratify the START II Treaty. We have vital national interests at
stake. We have a good working relationship with President Yeltsin, Prime
Minister Chernomyrdin, Mr. Chubais, Mr. Primakov, and others. Our
relationship is sound.
QUESTION: So our principal issue though is: Do you see that the
Russian democratic system is alive and well and that Mr. Lebed could be
fired and go immediately into the political arena to seek a redress?
MR. BURNS: I think, Bill, you know Mr. Lebed held a press conference
after his dismissal. He is saying things freely and in public. That's a
dramatic difference from l0 years ago, or 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 or 60 years
ago, and that means that Russian democracy is healthy -- free press,
democratic elections, separation of powers, a very solid, healthy
opposition in the Russian Duma.
QUESTION: On Hunziker?
MR. BURNS: No, nothing new to report, except to say that we continue
to seek consular access to Mr. Carl Hunziker.
We continue to call upon the North Korean Government to release him. He
is being held on unjust charges. He's not guilty of espionage; he's not a
spy. He should be released immediately.
This is a very serious issue, and we are very grateful for the support
of the Swedish Government as our protecting power in Pyongyang. We hope
the Swedish diplomat, Mr. Ake Lofquist, can gain consular access to Mr.
Hunziker as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The press briefing concluded at l:45 p.m.)