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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #10, 97-01-17

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing


January 17, 1997

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

      Tribute to Secretary Christopher
    2 Farewell Ceremony for Secretary Christopher
    2 On the Record Briefing by Dennis Ross Today
   10 Secretary Christopher's Address at Harvard/Foreign Assistance Budget

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA 2-3 U.S. Contribution for Humanitarian Assistance in the Former Yugoslavia 6 Status of Serbian Government Recognition of Opposition Victories 6 Reports Croatian President Returning to U.S. for Medical Treatment

LATIN AMERICA 3 U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy Toward Latin America

SUDAN/ETHIOPIA 4-5 Reported Invasion by SPLA into Eastern Sudan/Reported Collaboration of Troops

LIBYA 5-6 Reported Denial For American Ballonist to Enter Libyan Airspace

CUBA 6 Status of CNN Bureau in Havana

GEORGIA 7 Status of Case of Geuorgui Makhardze

RUSSIA/BELARUS 7 Status of UN Diplomats Case in New York 7 Reported Retaliation Against U.S. Diplomats in Moscow

NORTH KOREA 7-8 Status of the Four-Party Talks

CYPRUS 8-9 Update on Carey Cavanaugh Meetings/Activities

IRAN 9-10 Iran and Terrorism


DPB #10

FRIDAY, JANUARY 17, 1997, 1:14 P. M.


MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. As you know, this is Secretary Christopher's last day in the State Department. He'll be resigning formally on Monday and flying to California. So we've been saying goodbye to him over the last couple of days. As one Foreign Service Officer who's had the pleasure and honor of having served him, I wanted to say a few words about him.

I think Warren Christopher's record of achievement as Secretary of State is rock solid, and I think that's going to be apparent, especially over time, as people look at that record. We live in a modern world where public officials are often judged by how many headlines they make. He is a throwback to an earlier time - a time where the people he most admires - Dean Acheson, George Marshall, Cyrus Vance - their time - people who served quietly and purposefully and who weren't consumed by their public image.

He was a man who was formed during the Great Depression and the second World War, and he lived by principles - he is living by principles that were ascendant in that time: hard work, self-effacement, duty, honor and patriotism. I think that's what he has represented, and his record of accomplishment has served the President well and has served all of us well as American citizens.

He may be America's most skillful modern diplomat - our most skillful and experienced modern negotiator. I don't believe many other diplomats could have accomplished what he did in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians to peace and helping Jordan and Israel forge a new relationship; in shuttling between Damascus and Jerusalem for seven days last April and stopping the terrible killing of civilians in southern Lebanon; and I don't believe many negotiators could have pulled off what he did in one 22-1/2 hour stretch at Dayton in November 1995 when he brought the negotiators across the finish line.

As he has throughout his entire life as a private citizen and in his previous stints in government, Warren Christopher has stood up for American values. He created the modern human rights focus here in the Department of State when he was Deputy Secretary. He created his pattern of annual reports on human rights, and in the last four years he helped to return democracy and human rights to Haiti, and he shown a spotlight on the issue of human rights in Cuba and in Serbia just over the last couple of months.

He also weathered storms about as well as anybody could have back in 1993 and 1994 when all of you were beating him up on Bosnia and China. He kept himself directed to the long-term horizon, and he stabilized in the last year our relations with China; and he, more than any other American, was able to bring about an end to the Bosnian war and a peace treaty that ended that war.

I know he feels very proud - and you heard him say this in his farewell address at Harvard - that under his stewardship the United States has stable relations with Russia, with the European Union, with Japan, with China and the other great powers. Our relations are solid with them. These are achievements, I think, that are going to be understood by historians.

Finally, I'd like to say that no younger diplomat could have a better role model than Warren Christopher, and a lot of us who are diplomats feel that way. He is a man of the highest integrity. As one person put it in _The New York Times_ today, unchallengeable integrity and ethics. He's a man of great decency. He's a man who can be described in one word that we don't use much very more in the United States in the 1990s: he's a gentleman in the best sense of that word.

He has a predecessor, William Jennings Bryan, who was Secretary Wilson's Secretary of State. He was a very distinguished American. He was also Secretary of State. He used to negotiate treaties among countries - non- aggression treaties. When these treaties were successfully consummated, he would present medals to the negotiators, and on the back of the medals it was written, "Diplomacy is the Art of Keeping Things Cool." I think Secretary Christopher kept things cool for the United States over the last four years, and he's certainly kept things cool here in the Department of State in the way that he led us over the last four years.

I, for one, just want to thank him for the pleasure and honor of having worked for him. So that's Warren Christopher.

Now the good thing is you get to hear Warren Christopher in his own words at about 2:00 o'clock. So I would submit that we would - suggest that we would break up here in about 20 or 25 minutes; and, if you would like - and I encourage you to - go over to C Street. He's got some words that he'd like to give to all of our employees at C Street.

I also want to let you know that Dennis Ross is going to be briefing here at 3:30 On-the- Record to run you through the Hebron accords and to give you his impressions of the four or five month negotiations there. I also want to let you know that we are issuing a public statement today on the situation in the Former Yugoslavia. We are providing new funding today in the amount of $27 million to promote the return of refugees in the Former Yugoslavia. There are still over two million Bosnian refugees and 550,000 Croatian refugees internally displaced. In 1997, the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees has decided to give priority to this question.

Therefore, the United States is making a $27 million contribution in new money to the U.N. Human Rights -- excuse me -- U.N. High Commissioner on Refugees to help their programs, and we do remain dedicated as the leading donor country to assistance to the Former Yugoslavia to this effort.


QUESTION: Could you be more forthcoming than you were yesterday on the question of the Administration's position on arms sales?

MR. BURNS: To Latin America?

QUESTION: To Latin America, yes.

MR. BURNS: Yes, I'd be glad to take you through a full answer on this. I did say yesterday that the Administration is actively reviewing U.S. conventional arms transfer policy towards Latin America in the context - and this is important - of the significant political, military and economic changes that have occurred over the past decade or so in Latin America.

Among our goals for our relations with Latin countries are enhancing democracy, civilian control of the military, encouraging that countries concentrate their resources on economic objectives and not on military ones, and that any modernization decisions about their defense needs be kept within their existing economic resources.

We have a worldwide arms sale policy, and that is to pursue arms sales on a case-by-case basis. Our longstanding policy on Latin America is to provide for potential transfers in the context of restraint. As Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry have both said many times, we have a policy of restraint.

We have seen a strengthening of democracy. We've seen an evolution of democracy in Latin America. In light of that, Secretary Christopher told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last August that, "I think we should show great restraint in introducing new or higher levels of weapons in the areas where they don't presently have them. We should try to encourage countries to put their money into things that are of greater benefit to their citizens.

We have this policy under review, but the basic import of Secretary Christopher's statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee remains U.S. policy on arms sales to Latin America.

QUESTION: Could you talk about a Christopher letter or a Christopher/Perry letter?

MR. BURNS: We have a review underway, and Secretary Christopher and Secretary Perry have made some recommendations to the President. But, as he's not acted on those recommendations, I'm not going to get into describing them for you.

QUESTION: Nick, a similar subject regarding arms sales; that there has been an invasion launched into the eastern Sudan by the SPLA, with the support and the collaboration of Ethiopian troops. Is the U.S. concerned about this situation, and, if so, what would you want to do about it?

MR. BURNS: We have been concerned about the situation there, and we have made our concerns known to all concerned. We have watched it closely, and we'll continue to watch it closely, and we'll continue to have a dialogue with the governments and others involved.

QUESTION: But there have recently - a follow-up, Nick - there have recently been an increase of foreign aid to Ethiopia, I believe, including military equipment or the means of purchasing military equipment. Would this decision be reviewed if the military action in Sudan continues?

MR. BURNS: We'll just have to see how the situation develops. I cannot anticipate what steps the United States will take or will not take in response to this situation, but we do have, as you know, diplomatic representation in that part of the world. We don't have on-site diplomatic representation in Khartoum, but we do have an American Ambassador -- Tim Carney, who's resident in Nairobi -- who watches the situation, does travel to Sudan, and we have representation in Ethiopia and Eritrea and other places.

So we're going to keep it under review, but I am not in a position to indicate any change in U.S. policy or any concrete reaction to it in our assistance programs or in our trade relationships.

QUESTION: Do you have (inaudible) of the Sudanese request for having the issue taken up in the Security Council?

MR. BURNS: I don't know if we've responded to that request, so let me take that question.

QUESTION: Nick, do you have evidence that Ethiopia is helping the rebels in southern Sudan?

MR. BURNS: I said we have some concerns about the situation in general, but I'm not in a position to indicate - to give my approbation to some of the statements made by the Sudanese government.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to Iraq's call for Arab states to support Sudan with troops and -

MR. BURNS: Well, that's laughable. The Iraqis are in no position to undertake any kind of effort like that. They can't move their troops out of Iraq, and it just doesn't stand to - it's just not serious proposal for Iraq to think it can spearhead some pan-Arab effort in Sudan. I don't believe any Arab countries would respond to that call, but this is Saddam's propaganda machine working here.

QUESTION: Do you think this is a serious threat to the government anymore?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do you think that this troop movement -- the action, the claims that the rebels are making of taking towns -- does the U.S. consider this a serious threat to the government in the north?

MR. BURNS: Betsy, we're watching the situation. I don't know if we've arrived at any kind of general assessment of where these events are going to lead, so I'd rather just limit my remarks today on it.

QUESTION: I'm sure you're aware of the efforts of the American balloonist, Steve Fossett; to fly around the globe, and it became apparent earlier today or late last night that he was going to have to fly through Libyan airspace. Throughout the morning, I believe there were efforts to get permission from the Libyans, and they have denied it, and he's now gone a different route. Was there any role that the State Department played? Did the organizers of Mr. Fossett's endeavor contact you to try to get in touch with the Libyans?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we were contacted formally, no. We are limited here. We don't have diplomatic relations with Libya. We don't have an American Embassy in Tripoli. Therefore, it would have been very difficult for us to have been a conduit for the balloonist with the Libyan Government.

It's really a shame that the Libyan Government couldn't see its way to give balloonists the right to travel across their airspace. Mr. Fossett was on a record-breaking mission. It's very exciting, obviously, for him and for everyone who supports him - exciting for people around the world to watch it. And for the Libyans to say they can't do it reflects the paranoia of the Libyan leadership. We are not in a position to speak formally to the Libyan Government for well- known reasons, because they're harboring the two terrorists who caused the explosion that brought down Pan Am 103 in December 1988.

But, obviously, given the nature of the Libyan regime, if we were to be asked for advice, the balloonist ought to heed, unfortunately, the decisions of the Libyan Government. We simply cannot afford - no one can afford to see a repetition of the terrible, terrible mistakes made by the Belarusian authorities last year when they shot down balloonists and killed people.

So, unfortunately, I suppose the balloonist must accede to the wishes of the dictators in Tripoli, but it really is unfortunate that they didn't have greater vision to see that this would have been an exciting thing for Libya to have been a part of.

QUESTION: Don't the Belgians handle U.S. interests in Tripoli, and have they been active at all in this -

MR. BURNS: I don't know if we've been in contact with the Belgians on this, George, but it's a very good question. We can take it for you. John (Dinger) and I have not received any word that the United States has been asked to have a formal position in this. But I think it just stands to reason that it's really a shame that the Libyans wouldn't have a lighter touch on this one.

QUESTION: Serbia. It looks like that Mr. Milosevic is still playing his old game. Do you have anything about that?

MR. BURNS: He is playing his old games. The situation, as we understand it, is that Mr. Milosevic has still not acceded to the wishes of the Gonzalez group, the OSCE, that he recognize the opposition victories in the election that took place two months ago today. The 48-hours appeal period in Belgrade runs out tomorrow, Saturday. If there are any appeals -- this is the appeals on the Election Commission's decision to seat the Belgrade City Council -- if there are appeals, the courts then have another 48 hours, as we understand it, to render a verdict.

But there are no indications that Mr. Milosevic understands or is willing to accept the fact that Zajedno ought to be seated in 14 or 15 constituencies, and we have international unanimity between Europe and North America on the pressure that we ought to continue to bring to bear on Mr. Milsoevic, and we'll continue to do that.


QUESTION: There were reports that Mr. Tudjman was coming here for further medical treatment. Do you know if that has happened?

MR. BURNS: We heard some reports last week. They turned out not to be accurate. We checked with the Pentagon. We know that he was not admitted to any military hospital - American military hospital. I don't believe that the State Department has been informed that he will be coming. I'm not aware of it.

Yes, Patrick.

QUESTION: Has there been any progress on the question of the CNN Bureau in Havana, Cuba?

MR. BURNS: That issue is under review here among several government agencies. I don't believe there's been any decision made.

QUESTION: Another subject?


QUESTION: Do you have anything more on Mr. Makharadze? Have you heard anything more from the U.S. Attorney? Has it gone to the Grand Jury?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware that we've heard anything more from the U.S. Attorney on the case of Geuorgui Makhardze. The U.S. Attorney is working away. We still, of course, are grateful to President Shevardnadze for his decision, and we look forward to the continued cooperation of the Georgian Government on this issue. But no new news that I'm aware of, John. John is not here. John, no more news; right?

QUESTION: Have you all gotten the police report from New York City Police on the cases out of New York City?

MR. BURNS: We have not yet received the police report either on the Makharadze case in Washington or on the Belarusian/Russian case in New York City.

QUESTION: Have you noticed any response by the Russians against American diplomats in Moscow?

MR. BURNS: I'm not aware of any problems that American diplomats are encountering; but there should be no problem, there should be no reaction because every government has an obligation to make sure that diplomats are treated appropriately.

QUESTION: Nick, usually you and other U.S. officials, when you are speaking about the Turkish political situation, you mention about the secular and democratic Turkey.

Yesterday, in answer about the evolution of Minister Adak and U.S. officials, I realize that you never touch the Secretary's concern; that you always put them in this podium. Did you ever talk about this kind of concern with Minister Adak?

MR. BURNS: There's no conspiracy here. Every time I talk about France, I don't use words like "democratic" even though France is a democracy, or Britain is a democracy. I don't always say "Britain is a democracy." Turkey is a democracy. It's a secular democracy. That's a very important aspect of Turkey, going back to the early 1920s. It's the foundation of Turkey's stability, social stability and political stability. We Americans appreciate the fact that secular democracy in Turkey is a foundation of the Turkish state.

Because I don't mention it every time I talk about Turkey does not mean that we don't believe that to be the case. I think we should maybe have some new rules of the road here in this briefing that I don't have to mention that every time. But you know that that's U.S. Government policy and that we would not change it. Is that a deal? Good.

Yes, Laura.

QUESTION: I just want to know if there's been any progress on the venue for the briefing on the Four-Party Talks?

MR. BURNS: No agreement yet. No decision yet on the place where the Four- Party briefing will be held, but it will be on January 29. As soon as we get the city selected, I will report it to you. No decision yet.

Yes, Ugur.

QUESTION: In Cyprus, Mr. Cavanaugh said during the 16 months ahead, he may ask the Greek Cypriots to cancel the deal. Since you have voiced your opposition so many times from this podium, what's the logic behind Mr. Cavanaugh not asking for cancellation already?

MR. BURNS: I think that Mr. Cavanaugh in his conversations with President Clerides and other Cypriot officials made clear that we believe this is a mistake and that we believe the system should not be deployed, but that's a decision for the Government of Cyprus. They're going to have to take that decision, but that's our position.

He has finished his discussions in Ankara. They were useful discussions with the Turkish leadership. He is overnighting in Istanbul on his way to meet with the European Union in Brussels on Monday.

He's confident - Mr. Cavanaugh is confident - that an agreement on a ban on overflights of Greek and Turkish military aircraft over Cyprus is being taken very seriously. Likewise, I can say from media reports, just to even some scores from earlier in this week - we had a lot of people criticizing us for some of our public statements - that Mr. Gustave Feissel, who is the Chief of U.N. Operations in Cyprus, has been quoted by reputable media sources as saying that he is optimistic about the course of the discussions on reducing tensions along the cease-fire lines after his meetings with Mr. Cavanaugh and with President Clerides. Now, that's important. That means now that both the United Nations and the United States believe that the parties are serious about new steps to minimize and diminish the sources of conflict along the cease-fire lines.

QUESTION: Let me follow that up. I don't think Mr. Cavanaugh said to -- he will never ask for a cancellation of these missiles because it's the internal affairs of the Greek Cypriot Government. But he said within the 16 months, there may come a point at which he may raise the issue and directly ask for the cancellation. So what is he waiting - for what conditions have to be realized before he can ask up front for a cancellation?

MR. BURNS: I think there's probably a misunderstanding here. The United States position is, the system should not be purchased and deployed. It's a mistake. That's what Mr. Cavanaugh has relayed to the Cypriot Government officials. We've not changed our position.

I only meant to say - I didn't mean to say this is an internal affair of Cyprus. I didn't say that. I meant to say that the Government of Cyprus is the only government that can react to these statements by the United States or Turkey. It's got to make the decision. If it makes the decision to go ahead, we will still be opposed to it, and we'll let the Cypriot Government know that.

QUESTION: Just to be very clear about the record, he did not ask for a cancellation of these missiles; right?

MR. BURNS: I think I'm going to leave that - I wasn't in the room with Mr. Cavanaugh. I don't want to put words in his mouth. I'll leave it to him to decide exactly what he said to the Cypriot Government leadership. But there isn't a problem here. I think maybe there's a slight misunderstanding. He very clearly conveyed U.S. opposition to the sale and deployment of this system.

Yes, Bill.

QUESTION: Thank you, Nick. The recent report - I mean in the last few hours - from the Ayatollah Khamenei giving a speech in Tehran, saying "If -

MR. BURNS: Ayatollah Khomenei?

QUESTION: Ayatollah Khamenei. Ayatollah Khamenei.

MR. BURNS: Okay. I thought maybe something had happened that I wasn't aware of.

QUESTION: Not Khomenei. I don't think he's speaking from the grave. But he said, "If America and all world powers intend to pressure us, this nation will not back down from its positions." He had quite a bit more to say. But, Nick, my first question is, is there indeed pressure - diplomatic pressure - being brought against Iran based on evidence of complicity and terrorism, especially in Saudi Arabia?


QUESTION: There is?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me. There is pressure being put on Iran by the United States and many others about their complicity in supporting acts of terrorism. We have not yet determined the source of the bombing of the al- Khobar barracks in Dhahran or the Riyadh bombing.

QUESTION: My second point would be to shift just a little bit to possible punitive action. Are all military targets, all military assets in Iran, and specifically those that might be involved in nuclear weapons development - let's say - on the table? Are they open as in the case of the Israelis taking out the Iraqi facilities in Baghdad?

MR. BURNS: Bill, no one is talking about military action against Iran.


MR. BURNS: I haven't talked about it. I've never talked about military action against Iran. I don't think you've seen the President or the Secretary of State or Secretary-whatever do that. You're dancing in hypothetical questions that may or may not be in the future. No one is talking about that. No one is talking about that at all. We have a policy towards Iran that is based on isolation and containment because of its sponsorship of terrorism and it's opposition to the Middle East peace process. But that policy is economic and political.

QUESTION: As far as any possible implied punitive action, there is none being spoken of by the U.S.?

MR. BURNS: I'm not going to get into that question because it's just not part of reality today.

QUESTION: Can I ask you to elaborate a little bit about an answer of the Secretary in Boston when he was answering a student about the pressure, the growing pressure on the foreign aid package to the point that it will be almost impossible to defend the 40 percent package to the Middle East if the pie, at large, will not be growing in the near future. Where is the pressure on the package to the Middle East? Is it coming from other areas like eastern Europe? Is it coming from the Hill? Or is it coming from a sense that the priorities should be changed in order to have a reassessment of where to put the money in the next four years?

MR. BURNS: I know what the Secretary meant by that because I talked to him about it. He believes and the Administration policy is that we should maintain our aid assistance to Israel and to Egypt and to Jordan. No one is interested in reducing that aid. We want to maintain that aid.

But the pie has shrunk by 51 percent of international spending over the last 12 years. The foreign assistance levels have been diminished significantly. There is an imbalance in U.S. assistance around the world because so much of it is concentrated in the Middle East. We have ripped the heart out of our humanitarian assistance funds for Africa. We have reduced assistance to Russia so greatly that we now spend more on widening a commuter highway into Washington, D.C. - Route 66 - than we do on aid to Russia. Americans spend more on cruise ship vacations in the Caribbean than we do on aid to Russia and the New Independent States. Our priorities are out of line.

Secretary Christopher's speech at Harvard, a speech at West Point, Ambassador Albright's testimony - everything you've heard all of us say - is meant to convey the following message. We need diplomatic readiness. We need an effective diplomacy on the front lines for the United States around the world just as much as we need military readiness. The Congress needs to agree with us that we have to have an active, engaged internationalist foreign policy supported by money, resources, so that we can be an effective country around the world. That's what Secretary Christopher meant at Harvard.

Thank you, and hope to see you downstairs.

(Press briefing concluded at 1:40 p.m.)


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