U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #15, 97-01-29
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
January 29, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
1 Welcome to Guests to the Daily Briefing
1-2 Release of the Department's 1996 Country Reports on
Human Rights Practices, January 30/Briefing Schedule
2-3,17-18 Secretary Albright's Activities/Phone Calls and Meetings/Visits
to USIA and to Capitol Hill
3 Town Meeting in Richmond, Viginia, January 30
4 Retirement of Ambassador Robert Pelletreau
8-10 Secretary's Meeting with EU Officials, January 28
3 Authorization of Assistance to Conflict Victims in the Great Lakes Region
4-5 U.S. Delegation Meetings in Beijing
5-8 Situation in Iraq/ No New Military Maneuvers
9 Continued Political and Economic Unrest/U.S. Technical Assistance
9 U.S. Commitment to "Train and Equip" Program
10-11 Support for NATO Expansion/Prospect of Membership in the European Union
12 Issue of Membership in European Union
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
12-13 Israeli-Syrian Track/Discussions on the Golan
13-15 Extradition of Abu Marzook
15 Bundestag Proposal for Peacekeeping Mission
16 No Agreement Yet on Establishment of Liaison Offices
16 Joint Briefing Talks in New York, Feb. 6
16-17 Chechen Elections
18 Counter-Narcotics Efforts
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 30, 1997, 1:02 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Welcome to the State Department briefing.
Good afternoon. I want to welcome Mr. Antoni Styrczula, Spokesman for the
President of Poland. We're honored to have you with us here today. I also
want to welcome five students from American University, sitting right over
here, who are involved in a co-op program. You're working the Bureau of
Consular Affairs, I understand, so welcome to the briefing.
I want to go over with you all what's going to be happening - hi, John -
what's going to be happening tomorrow in releasing the human rights
reports. First, as you know, we're going to make this report available to
you at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning on an embargoed basis. Our Office of
Press Relations will have two pre-publication reference copies available;
one in the Press Office and one in the bullpen. You may wish to make
photocopies of individual country reports. You can do so one per
Based on input from members of your State Department Correspondents
Association, we have identified with you 21 countries of special interest
where you may have special interest. We'll have copies of those 21-country
reports available. Again, one per customer.
They must be picked up in the Press Office. We don't have an ability to
fax. Please don't send a courier because we're not going to have the
people power to meet a thousand couriers at the joggers entrance of the
I also want to let you know that the entire report, which is voluminous,
is going to be ready on view in the Press Office.
I want to emphasize the fact that all documents are embargoed until 12:30
p.m. At 12:30 p.m., Secretary Albright will stand up at the podium and
make a statement about the issuance of the human rights reports and she'll
make some specific comments, as you would imagine. Following her - and
she's not going to be taking any questions - following her, Under Secretary
of State Tim Wirth and Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck
will arrive at the podium and they'll be glad to answer your questions.
So we'll have a full discussion here of any of the issues that you would
like to address.
Following that, we'll have a break and then we'll proceed with the normal
briefing on other issues, if there are other issues tomorrow, and I suppose
there will be some issues.
In addition to coming down here to the Department and looking through this
report at 9:00 a.m. on an embargoed basis, if you want to get an advance
shot at it, you can look for the full text of the human rights report on
our Internet Web Site, which is www.state.gov. We hope to have that up on
the Internet by 2:00 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.
Finally, if you're interested in the book form before this reachs the _New
York Times_ best seller list, you can simply apply to the Government
Printing Office. For foreign journalists who don't normally come down to
the State Department, there will be copies of this available at the Foreign
Press Center over at the National Press Club. So you don't have to come
here to get an early look at it. I want to stress the fact this is
We assume that, as in past years, there will be no violation of that rule.
If there is a violation of that rule, of course, we'll have to review how
we do business around here.
The 21 countries that have been identified by all of you as priorities
range from Algeria to Turkey. That's just alphabetically. We have a lot
of other countries in between. That's the list, and I'll be glad to go over
that list with you should you care to do so.
QUESTION: Will it be available on disk as well?
MR. BURNS: On disk? Eventually. (TO STAFF) When will that be? Do you
know? Not tomorrow. We're technologically pretty good here. We're not at
Microsoft-level yet. We're trying, through.
QUESTION: Putting it up on the Net is probably on disk, too?
MR. BURNS: Right. But to be available to you on disk.
Actually, that's a different story.
Okay. Let me just take you through what Secretary Albright has been
doing. She's had some very active days. I've told a few of you last night
that she began on Friday a series of phone conversations with her Foreign
Ministerial counterparts around the world, really in no particular order.
But she wants to be in touch with people she has met; with people she
hasn't. She is going to be making a large number of these calls over the
coming week or two.
Just to review and to be comprehensive about it. On the 24<SUP>th
of January - last Friday - her first full day in office, she spoke, first,
to Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind and then to Foreign Secretary Amre
Moussa of Egypt. On Monday, she spoke to the Canadian Foreign Minister
Lloyd Axworthy. They had a good discussion of the Cuba issue and of other
Yesterday, January 28, she spoke to Foreign Minister Mate Granic of
Croatia; to Mr. Salim Salim, the Chairman of the Organization of African
Unity; to Foreign Minister Hennadiy Udovenko of Ukraine; to Chairman Yasser
Arafat of the Palestinian Authority; to Minister Insulza, the Foreign
Minister of Chile; to Minister Lampreia, the Foreign Minister of Brazil; to
David Levy, the Israeli Foreign Minister. Their conversation was
abbreviated because the connection wasn't good, so she called David Levy
back again today and had a long conversation about issues affecting our
relationship with Israel and also the Middle East peace process.
Today, in addition to those phone calls, Secretary Albright visited USIA -
the U.S. Information Agency - and she had a good meeting with Director Joe
Duffy and his senior staff - about 30 people - about issues affecting the
State Department and USIA and our common work together.
She's having lunch right now with Secretary of the Treasury, Bob Rubin,
over at the Treasury Department. She'll be paying some courtesy calls on
Senators this afternoon on Capitol Hill - Senator Specter, Brownback, and
Lieberman. So that's the extent of, at least, the activities that I can
talk about, or public activities today. She's been quite busy.
I want to remind you that we kick off our foreign policy Town Meetings
around the country tomorrow in Richmond, Virginia. Here is the order of
battle. Dan Hamilton of our Policy Planning Staff; David Satterfield, who
is our excellent Director of Office of Israel and Arab-Israeli Affairs, a
long-time member of our peace team. Ambassador Phil Wilcox, who is our
coordinator for counter-terrorism; Ambassador Tom Pickering, retired
Foreign Service officer now President of the Eurasia Foundation, will give
the keynote speech.
All of these people are planning local media - TV and radio - beyond the
Town Meeting. We've never done a Town Meeting in Richmond.
There's an active foreign policy association led by one of our retired
Foreign Service officers, Ed DeJarnett, our former Ambassador to Senegal.
I know we're going to have at least 320 people from the community - from
Richmond - tomorrow and perhaps more than that. We're excited. This is
the first of what I would expect to be about 25 foreign policy Town
Meetings around the country.
I have two more things to give to you before questions. The first is to
say that the President has authorized the use of up to $38 million from the
U.S. Emergency, Refugee, and Migration Assistance Fund to meet the urgent
needs of refugees, of returnees, and other conflict victims in the Great
Lakes region in Africa.
These funds are being provided to respond to the large-scale repatriation
of Rwandan refugees which occurred, as you remember, in November-December
as well as to the on-going emergency situation that exists in Rwanda and in
You will remember that in mid-November, Brian Atwood, the Administrator of
AID, announced a $140 million humanitarian assistance program.
This $38 million is from that $140 million fund. It's being spent in the
following way. A lot of it will go -- $20 million - to the U.N. High
Commissioner for Refugees; other portions to the International Committee of
the Red Cross, to the International Organization of Migration, and many
millions of dollars to a variety of non-governmental organizations that
have refugee assistance programs in the Great Lakes region.
We believe that over a million Rwandan refugees have returned home from
Zaire and Tanzania during the last two months. But we also believe that
approximately 200-to-300,000 Rwandan refugees remain in eastern Zaire.
They have been trapped by the fighting in eastern Zaire. The access to
them by the relief agencies is quite difficult. Food is in short supply.
Disease has begun to break out among many of these people, and the
situation, we believe, is urgent and therefore requires the immediate
disbursal of funds by the United States and by other countries. I
will be posting a sheet on this allocation of funds.
Finally, I want to say a word about our Assistant Secretary of State, Bob
Pelletreau, who has his retirement party yesterday.
He is a Foreign Service officer who spent the last 35 years in service to
the United States as part of the Foreign Service.
Let me just give you a glimpse of his career. Since 1962, he has served
in Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria.
He served as the United States Ambassador to Bahrain, as Director for
Arabian Peninsula Affairs, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near
East and South Asian Affairs, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Near East and South Asian Affairs. He also served, in addition as
Ambassador to Bahrain, as Ambassador to Tunisia. You'll remember he was in
the forefront of the efforts to begin U.S. communications with the PLO in
the early 90s, and then as Ambassador to Egypt, and in the last several
years as Assistant Secretary of State.
All of us here at the State Department wish him well in his new career in
the private sector. We congratulate him on an extraordinarily distinguished
career in the United States Foreign Service. He epitomizes everything the
Foreign Service stands for: Duty; patriotism, which is an unfashionable
word but which aptly describes him; service to his country. He's going to
be missed very, very much.
He represents - he epitomizes what the Foreign Service can offer to the
United States. Here is an individual who is the most senior and accomplished
Arabist in government service. He has done an extraordinary job, and we
need to continue, in his tradition, to train people here in the Department
of State who can carry on his work. He's going to be missed by a lot of
people in the Near East Bureau and many people beyond that.
QUESTION: I don't have any questions.
QUESTION: What can you tell us about the delegation in Beijing? Have
you gotten a readout as to how the talks are going?
MR. BURNS: We have a delegation, as I know all of you are aware, led by
Sandy Kristoff from the National Security Council Staff; Jeff Bader, our
point person on China Affairs here in the Department of State, and others
who are in Beijing for a week-long series of talks on a variety - a great
variety - of issues. They've been having meetings at the Chinese Foreign
I'm not going to be giving a daily report on their deliberations because
we're not in the business of doing that for most of our delegations,
especially ones like this. But I can tell you that they're there for a very
good reason. We have periodic discussions with the Chinese, periodic
delegations to review where we are in the relationship. This is an
important time in the relationship.
This is an important mission. When they return, perhaps we'll have
something more to say, but I don't have anything in the way of daily
reports on their activities.
Will they be discussing the agenda for the Secretary's upcoming trip?
MR. BURNS: Sid, as you know, the Secretary of State is going to be
taking a trip to Europe and Asia. She has not yet indicated where she's
going. I don't expect to be in a position to do that until early next
week. That's my answer to that question.
QUESTION: What going in Iraq, Mr. Burns?
MR. BURNS: Excuse me? What's going on in -
QUESTION: What's going on in Iraq?
MR. BURNS: Iraq. I'm sorry. I just missed the country.
I couldn't quite get that. It's always hard to know what's going on in
Iraq. We've seen, as Mike McCurry said this morning, some instability
there and some internal political machinations. If you have a specific
question, Bill, I'd be glad to answer it.
QUESTION: I would say more specifically, does the U.S. Government see
these activities and reports as a power struggle for leadership in which
Mr. Saddam Hussein is in some jeopardy?
MR. BURNS: I'm not in the business of analyzing what's happening, the
palace intrigues in Baghdad, what's happening in the 15 palaces that Saddam
Hussein has built for himself to enrich himself since the end of the Gulf
War, at a time when the Iraqi people are suffering because he's building
palaces. I'm not in a position to analyze those palace intrigues. But it's
an unstable place. It has been for a long time because he rules, with a
very narrow circle of advisors, concentrated on the people from Tikrit
- his family members. We continue to watch the situation within Iraq very,
QUESTION: Just to follow briefly by asking, are there any troop
movements to the north, to the south toward Kuwait?
Anything indicated insofar as rebellions, or fighting amongst the
MR. BURNS: We believe that Saddam Hussein does maintain the military
potential to threaten his neighbors, including Kuwait, but we have no
evidence that Iraq is staging new moves to threaten its neighbors. I can
assure you that we maintain a very close watch over Iraqi military
movements, and we have adjusted in the past and we'll continue to. We've
adjusted our own military presence in the Gulf to counter potential
You remember the events in October of 1994 when Saddam Hussein threatened
to invade Kuwait again. It was the dispatch - the very quick dispatch of a
very sizable contingent of American forces by President Clinton that
I think it's fair to say that Saddam Hussein has intimate familiarity with
what we can and have done in response to his threatening military moves in
the area, and he would do well to keep that in the fore front of his
thoughts. He should not mistake our resolve, as he clearly did in the
summer of 1990. We have substantial military forces in the region. We
have the capacity to inflict substantial damage on Saddam Hussein, should
he get out of line again.
QUESTION: Nick, if there is no evidence that Iraq is moving troops or
that there's any imminent threat from Iraq, what is all this about? Why
are Pentagon officials, you know, sort of stirring the waters on Saddam,
and why is the White House and the State Department feeding this right now?
I don't understand.
MR. BURNS: Carol, I don't know who's stirring the waters.
I'm not aware of any stirring of waters anywhere in Washington.
I would just say that we've learned with Saddam Hussein that when he does
peek his head up above the foxhole that he has dug for himself in the
desert, it's always good to remind him from time to time about the reality
of our relationship with him.
He learned a lesson in 1990 about the resolve of the United States, and he
would be gravely mistaken to repeat even verbally any of the threats that
he from time to time makes against his neighbors to the south. We just
think it's prudent politics internationally to remind him of the reality of
who's got the power in that part of the world.
QUESTION: But how has he poked his head up out of the foxhole?
MR. BURNS: Pardon?
QUESTION: I mean, what -
MR. BURNS: Oh, Carol, he does it all the time. I mean, just look at the
events of the last six months. All sorts of threats by him or his
government ministers against neighbors, and then we saw in September and we
took action against these movements outside of the strategic box in which
he has been placed by the people who defeated him in the Gulf war - namely,
the United States and the international coalition.
It's not just the United States that takes this position. Embodied in
U.N. resolutions is the concept of a strategic containment of Saddam
Hussein, embodied in the UNSCOM mission, led by Ambassador Ekeus is the
international will that we need to contain his ambition to build nuclear
and chemical weapons. There is an international consensus on the
containment of Saddam Hussein, and it is not a bad idea to remind him of
that from time to time.
So we've just taken the opportunity of Bill's question to do that today.
Thank you, Bill, for giving us that opportunity.
QUESTION: But that question was prompted by a background briefing
yesterday at another institution in this town, which it seemed like the
Pentagon wanted to raise this issue anew now which leads one to wonder
whether there's any new information in the last month, in the last couple
of weeks that makes you - you know, raises concerns, new concerns about
MR. BURNS: There's no evidence available to us, and I think I can speak
here for the State Department, but I've been in contact with the White
House and the Pentagon as well. There's no evidence that Iraq is staging
new military maneuvers or placement of its troops militarily to threaten
But we're not going to be romantic about Saddam Hussein. We're going to
be realistic about him. Here's a man who has violated his agreements with
his Arab neighbors in the past, who has invaded his Arab neighbors, and
we're watching him, and he has to be on notice that we are watching him,
and the message is, "Don't mistake our resolve - the resolve that was
clearly demonstrated by President Bush and by many other world leaders in
1990 and 1991." There are no military maneuvers to worry about right
now, but it's always good to put him on notice.
QUESTION: Nick, I understand the need to remove any ambiguity in Saddam
Hussein's mind, but in his briefing yesterday, General Peay also said that -
he was talking about Saddam Hussein putting his wife under house arrest and
his son having gangrene in the leg. What on earth does that have to do
with your message today?
MR. BURNS: Listen, Sid, you know, I think there was a very impressive
briefing given at the Pentagon yesterday, and we would stand by what the
CENTCOM commander has said ON THE RECORD, when he was on the record.
Obviously, I can't speak to any background briefing, because we don't do
that here. But the U.S. Government has a unified position - the Pentagon,
the State Department, the White House, other agencies of the U.S.
Government - on Saddam Hussein. We've been effective in the past, and we
plan to be effective in the future in containing him. That is the
strategic objective that the United States has towards Saddam Hussein -
containing him so he doesn't threaten his neighbors.
QUESTION: Is demonizing also a strategic objective for the United
MR. BURNS: We don't need to demonize him. He is a demon, and he's done
it to himself. I mean, look, Sid, he took 600 Kuwaitis prisoner and they
were never heard from again. What happened to the missing Kuwaitis? He
invaded another country and inflicted punishment on the civilian population.
He's responsible for the deaths of thousands of people there. He violated
his commitments to all of his Arab countries. He's trying to build nuclear
He's trying to build chemical weapons. He lied to the United Nations for
five years about his program to build chemical weapons.
This is a guy - he's subjugated his own population and is guilty of
massive human rights violations against his own people. He lets kids
starve, because he builds palaces to himself but won't give them the food
they need and the medicine they need to get along. He's created this image
of himself, which is true, for himself. We haven't demonized him. He has
become something quite dark in the landscape of the Middle East.
QUESTION: I agree with you, Nick, but to an observer you are trying to
make sure that no one thinks he is becoming less of a demon with these
briefings about putting his wife under house arrest and his palaces and
popping his head out of the foxhole he's dug. What's the purpose of
MR. BURNS: As Secretary Albright said in her maiden press conference
here the other day, she said, "Let's tell it like it is." When she
addressed the Department employees, she said, "Let's speak plainly." Why
in the world should we mince words about the reality of who Saddam Hussein
is, given everything that he's done to destabilize the Middle East and
ruin his own country?
We need to speak plainly from time to time about events in the world, and
this frankly is a black-and-white situation, where we have a very, very
serious disagreement with all of his policies and with who he is, and we're
not going to have a normal relationship with that country as long as this
guy continues doing what he's doing.
Still on Saddam, or we've exhausted Saddam Hussein, haven't we, Mr.Lambros?
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in yesterday's meeting between Secretary Albright
and the two European Union officials, and I'm wondering if they also
discussed the Aegean and Cyprus issues.
MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright had an excellent meeting with Hans van
Mierlo, the Dutch Foreign Minister, and with Sir Leon Brittan of the
European Union Commission. That meeting centered on the following
subjects: on the Balkans, a quite lengthy discussion of Serbia and Bosnia
and all of the attendant problems; on NATO enlargement and the NATO-Russia
dialogue; on a variety of U.S.-European Union issues pertaining to the new
transatlantic agenda; on the need to commemorate in some proper fashion the
fact that 1997 is the 50<SUP>th anniversary of the Marshall Fund
which saved Europe in the aftermath of the second World War and which
represents the beginning of a new American relationship with Europe; and a
very good discussion of Cyprus, of Turkey and of Greece.
That was essentially - those were the issues that were covered in
Secretary Albright's meetings with the two Europeans, and she spoke to the
press about some of this yesterday.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on events in Albania, Serbia and
Bulgaria? A lot is going on in the Balkans today.
MR. BURNS: Did they talk about those events?
QUESTION: Do you have anything -
MR. BURNS: Do I have anything?
QUESTION: Yes, on Albania and Serbia and Bulgaria.
MR. BURNS: My goodness, I mean, I think I'd bore all of you. I could
say a lot about Albania and Bulgaria. Very briefly, let me just say,
because we haven't talked about it -- we're concerned about it - the United
States remains very concerned about the current political and economic
unrest in Albania. We have called upon all Albanians to address this
problem through peaceful means.
These are economic problems caused by the collapse of unregulated pyramid
schemes, which have created substantial anxiety and hardship.
Our Ambassador in Tirana, Marisa Lino, an excellent American Ambassador,
of course, has been in touch with the government.
We are providing some technical assistance to the government in the person
of two American economists - Dr. Peter Vander Nat of the Federal Trade
Commission, and another economist from the Department of Justice. Dr.
Vander Nat is an expert on pyramid schemes, and he is present in Tirana,
trying to give some advice to the Albanian Government about the consequences
of unregulated pyramid schemes.
So I've got a lot more to say. I won't do it, because I'm not sure it's
required right now. We can get to it later if you'd like. But in Bulgaria,
we understand that President Stoyanov has delivered a mandate to the
majority party in the parliament to form a new cabinet. That's the
Socialist party, and our Ambassador, Avis Bohlen, and her staff, of course,
are watching this closely, because we want to see Bulgaria a stable,
peaceful country where reform can continue. We have an important
relationship with both of these countries, both Bulgaria and Albania.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) some Europeans are very angry about your support
to the 250,000 Muslim army in Bosnia. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Oh, I don't know who's angry with us. No one should be
angry with us, because we're simply fulfilling the mandate of the Dayton
Accords. The fact is the Dayton Accords stipulate that there should be a
stable military balance among the former warring parties in the Balkans,
and that's why the United States has engineered the $100 million commitment
that we have to the train-and-equip program. That's why we're working
very well with a variety of countries, mostly Moslem countries, to support
the Bosnian Government. Our colleague, Ambassador Jim Pardew, gave a press
conference this morning in Sarajevo, where he announced the very latest
steps in the train-and-equip program.
We want to see an effective Federation armed force, and Ambassador Pardew
has worked tirelessly for that. We want to see civilian command, civilian
authority over the Federation armed forces.
We want to see good relations between the Bosniac and the Croatian
commanders. I think they've talked about an internal organization or
reorganization of the Defense Ministry and Joint Command. There are
procurement decisions to make. They have $100 million in U.S. support and
substantial support from Arab and Moslem countries.
This program is a success, because the strategic rationale is, if you
elevate the capabilities of the Bosnian and Federation military forces, you
reduce the possibility of any inducement to further warfare on the part of
the others in the Balkans who are previous combatants in the Balkan
QUESTION: Could I go back on the EU talks.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: The Turkish Foreign Minister today said that Turkey would
block NATO expansion if it doesn't get full membership in the European
Union. That's one thing. And the other thing the Turks are very upset
about is the sale of Russia's sale of an anti-missile aircraft system to
Greek Cyprus. What is the United States doing to shore up support for its
policies with the Turkish Government?
MR. BURNS: On the second question I'll be very brief.
We've spoken many times in the last couple of weeks about the opposition
of the United States to the acquisition by Cyprus of the anti-aircraft
system made in Russia. But President Clerides has promised us that this
system will not be operational during the next 16 months; indeed, none of
the parts of the system will even be imported into Cyprus. He has given us
an opportunity to try to lower the temperature and see that this issue is
I should also tell you that I have not seen a text of Foreign Minister
Ciller's remarks, but I cannot believe that she's been quoted correctly,
because Turkey is a member of NATO and has supported in January 1994 at
Brussels the head-of-state decision to enlarge NATO. Turkey was present at
the NATO Ministerial - the NAC Ministerial - in December in Brussels, where
the decision was made that in Madrid on July 7<SUP>th and 8th
of this year, NATO will identify its negotiating partners for the
enlargement of NATO. There can't be any miscommunication or misunderstanding
on that fundamental part. Turkey is supporting NATO enlargement, as far as
QUESTION: On the same subject. Concerning Secretary Albright's talks
with the EU, did she urge them to speed up EU membership for Turkey? Did
she say that the United States was concerned that the process was
MR. BURNS: There was a very brief discussion, not specific, about the
question of Turkey and the EU, but she did refer to the fact that we're
very pleased that the Customs Union is working,
I think Sir Leon Brittan reported to her that the Customs Union has
actually worked quite well between Turkey and the EU. It's an EU decision,
not an American decision, as to which countries should become new members
of the EU as the EU enlarges, and Secretary Albright did not attempt to
give any advice to the European leaders on that.
But she gave them a strong sense of the American view towards Turkey, and
that is that Turkey is a European country; that Turkey's future is not only
in southeast Europe, it's not only in south Asia or towards Asia, it is
also in Europe; that we need all of us to make sure that Turkey is embedded
in the major Western institutions - not only in NATO but in a stronger
affiliation with the European Union.
That's our very strong sense of the importance of Turkey throughout the
West, and there was a very strong sense of that in the conversation.
But she did not give any specific advice, nor would she, on this issue of
membership, because that's something for the EU countries alone to
QUESTION: Was there any talk about the EU linking rather directly
Turkey's membership in the EU with Turkey's progress on human rights, the
Kurds and a resolution in Cyprus? And maybe I should ask the question a
little differently. Does the United States believe that improvements on
Turkey's human rights record on Cyprus are necessary prerequisites before
Turkey gets into the EU?
MR. BURNS: Turkey is a member of the Western alliance of countries that
have made Europe a stable place for the last 50 years. Turkey is in NATO,
and Turkey is not going to be held to any conditions that no one else is
going to be held to, to maintain its membership in NATO. The EU question
is a separate question. That's for the European Union to decide, not for
the United States.
But we are arguing - and I think the Bush Administration argued - but this
Administration has argued quite strenuously that Turkey's place ought to be
in Europe, affiliated with Western institutions.
All of us recognize - and you'll see tomorrow in the publication of our
Human Rights Reports - that there are human rights problems in Turkey, and
we talk about them with the Turkish Government as well as publicly.
But there is a strategic rationale for maintaining Turkey's position in
Europe, and the United States would not favor creating any artificial or
any new conditions that might prevent Turkey from playing a full role in
Europe. We're in favor of full inclusion by Turkey in these Western
institutions. But sometimes, Carol, the decision is not ours. We don't
have a vote in the European Union. This is up to the Europeans. But we've
urged the Europeans to be open to greater association with Turkey.
QUESTION: Nick, are you saying specifically that the United States
considers a direct link between EU membership and human rights and the
Cyprus situation to be those kinds of conditions that you do not favor?
MR. BURNS: It's not for the United States to establish the conditions
for EU membership. I want to be very clear about that. But it is our
position, Carol, that one needs to look at the full scope of our relations
with Turkey. The human rights issue is important; the strategic military
relationship is important; the economic is. On balance, there is a strong
case to be made by the United States that Turkey should be more fully
integrated into Europe, despite the fact that there are problems on
human rights. We ought to go ahead with this process, because Turkey
is strategically and historically important.
The secular democracy that Turkey has been since the early 1920s is really
the foundation upon which our relationship with Turkey has been built, and
it's that secular democratic tradition which we believe is very important
to preserve in uniting Turkey with the West.
QUESTION: Does the Administration have or has the Secretary expressed
here yesterday any concerns that Turkey may turn away from the West if the
EU makes a permanent decision of rejection?
MR. BURNS: Secretary Albright did not say anything of the sort
specifically, but we have said for a long time, and she's clearly conveyed
yesterday the sense that it's important to send the right signals to
Turkey. It's important to be open to Turkey - all of us in the West. The
United States has certainly done that in its own policy, and we urge the
Europeans to have a similarly open view towards the Turkish Government and
the Turkish people.
QUESTION: Nick -
MR. BURNS: I think Mr. Lambros has a follow-up.
QUESTION: A follow-up - with the same -
MR. BURNS: You would agree with everything I've said, I'm sure, because
Greece is a NATO ally of Turkey.
QUESTION: But answer this question, and then I will answer your
question. Okay. With the same Turkey, do you support Cyprus to become a
full member of the European Union as soon as possible, as in the case of
MR. BURNS: The United States has an excellent relationship with Cyprus -
the Government of President Clerides - and we wish to see Cyprus stable.
We wish to see a resolution of the Cyprus problem, but the decision as to
whether or not the European Union takes in new members is a European Union
decision. It's not for the United States to give public advice to the
European Union, but we certainly will urge that Cyprus be - that there be a
European commitment to Cyprus, as there surely, clearly is already,
in general. But I'm not talking about membership here.
QUESTION: You urged to become a full member (inaudible) or after the
solution of the Cyprus problem.
MR. BURNS: It's up to the European Union.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Greece. You said earlier that they discussed all
sorts of -
MR. BURNS: It was a very general conversation about all the countries.
We all agreed that Greece and Turkey are valued members of NATO, and we all
believe that quite strongly.
QUESTION: On a different subject. There's been a lot of talk in recent
days, especially about what did or did not - what Prime Minister Rabin did
or did not agree to do in regards to Syria. The Syrian Ambassador here,
Walid Moualem, says in an interview that he agreed to give it back - full
withdrawal back to the '67 lines. The Israeli Ambassador says this
morning that there was no such agreement, not through the Americans
to Syria, not to Syria, not written, not oral, not - could you clear
up all this confusion, please?
MR. BURNS: It's interesting to read all of this. I think the simplest
thing for me to say - and I said this in the past - is if there had been an
Israeli-Syrian agreement on the Golan in 1995, we wouldn't be standing here
debating this. There would be peace between Israel and Syria, and there
isn't a peace treaty - a peace agreement between the two today. So that's
the first thing I'd say.
But I'd also say this from a process point of view. The United States is
a mediator, intermediary between Syria and Israel. We'll continue to play
that role. The basis of our credibility is that we don't talk in public
about all of the negotiations.
We don't confirm who said what or who agreed to what, and I'm not going to
start that today.
But I will say this, just to finish this, Sid, that I think the President
made himself very clear on this yesterday, Secretary Albright did on
Friday. The United States wants to help Israel and Syria re-energize their
peace negotiations. We want to see Israel and Syria make peace, as we do
Israel and Lebanon. Therefore, completing the comprehensive peace
agreement that is needed in the Middle East nearly 50 years after the
creation of the State of Israel and the outbreak of the first Arab-Israeli
But our ability to do that will depend in great measure on the efforts of
Syria and Israel and Lebanon, and we need to look to them for the strength
and the resources and the vision to make the peace. As the President
clearly indicated yesterday, we are ready to help them towards that
QUESTION: Just philosophically now on this topic, is a deal a deal when
it is verbal and not written and not signed?
MR. BURNS: Sid, I'm going to bring you back to my main point. If there
had been a peace agreement agreed to in the fall of 1995, we wouldn't be
having this discussion right now. But again I don't want to get between
the Israeli and Syrian Ambassadors - men - we respect both of them. I
don't want to get between them. I don't want to comment in any detailed way
on who said what, who agreed to what - orally, written - because our
reliability as a mediator is dependent upon our discretion. Sometimes
in diplomacy, it's very important to be discreet and not to say in
public everything that's happening in private.
Steve, on this subject?
QUESTION: Belatedly, Mr. Marzook said in a statement in New York today
that he had given up his fight against extradition, because he was a
political prisoner who could not get a fair trial in the United States.
Thus, he was going to his primary accuser, Israel, to seek a fair trial.
Does the State Department care to comment upon that allegation?
MR. BURNS: What I can do here - because this is a matter that the
Justice Department currently has authority over - I can just tell you the
background - what I think is pertinent, and I hope it will be helpful.
In May 1996, a U.S. Federal Court in New York found Mr. Abu Marzook
extraditable to Israel. Under the terms of the U.S.-Israel Extradition
Treaty and applicable U.S. law, that court found probable cause to believe
that Mr. Abu Marzook had committed crimes under the Israeli penal code
relating to numerous bombings and attacks on civilians.
The court's May 1996 Order of Extraditability was stayed while Mr. Abu
Marzook challenged his extradition under procedures in U.S. law. If he is
now abandoning that appeal, which seems apparent, the Order of Extraditability
will be come effective, and the matter, of course, will have to be
considered by the Justice Department.
It's with the Justice Department, and if the Justice Department intends to
proceed, at some point it will come over here at the State Department. That
will be the mechanics of how this issue, like any other, is involved.
Pertaining to the legal aspects of what he's saying, about what he intends
to do, I'm going to have to leave that to the Justice Department, because
the Justice Department has authority over this case at the moment.
QUESTION: Nick, his attorney also said that extraditing him might damage
the peace process, and he thought the State Department might step in on
that basis and not extradite.
MR. BURNS: Listen, I'm just not going to get ahead of the issue. The
Justice Department has the issue now. If at some point the issue moves to
the State Department - to the Secretary of State's jurisdiction - then, of
course, the State Department will become involved in this. But the State
Department has not been given authority to act on this-- has not been asked
to make any decision, and I've really got to leave it with the Justice
QUESTION: On what grounds can the State Department step in? How does
MR. BURNS: No, it's just a mechanical process. If the question is
extradition, of course, the Secretary of State has authority of decision-
making on extraditions. There is an extradition treaty between the United
States and Israel that has been in force since 1963. As you know, even in
the past five or six years we have extradited to Israel several fugitives
who have then been prosecuted under the Israeli legal system. So that's the
process. But the Justice Department has the action now, Sid, so I
don't want to get ahead of the judicial process that is underway.
QUESTION: Is there any choice, for lack of a better word, whether he
goes to Israel-proper or to the Palestinian Authority for prosecution?
MR. BURNS: I don't believe there is.
QUESTION: Nick, I asked you earlier about this meeting of January 16
with the heads of state of Eritrea, Ethiopia -
MR. BURNS: I just want to make sure there's no follow up on Mr. Abu
Marzook before we -
QUESTION: The meetings with the three presidents from the Horn of Africa
in London -- I'm given to believe also that Paul Kagame attended that
meeting from - the Defense Minister of Rwanda. I was wondering if you have
found any indication of when that meeting occurred and what were the
subjects that were discussed at it?
MR. BURNS: No, I haven't. I would refer you to the governments involved
- or allegedly involved in this meeting. I don't believe the United States
participated in this meeting.
QUESTION: Can you tell me, then - yesterday, in the London Times it
was reported that rebels in the Kivu province of Zaire were being trained
by Ethiopian and Eritrean military instructors.
Doesn't this really cast a strange shadow on the two crisis in Sudan and
in Zaire and maybe indicate, with all due respect, to our closest dearest
allies that somebody is fishing in murky waters or murking the waters in
order to fish in it, in terms of both these crisis which seem to be
MR. BURNS: I haven't read the London Times report, and I can't comment
on newspaper reports that may or may not be based on a foundation of
QUESTION: Can you comment, then, on a measure taken by the West German
Bundestag that all the parties of the Bundestag, on the basis of a motion
by two SPD members, have called for a fact-finding mission in eastern
Sudan? This was also, of course, a request by the President of Sudan that
the U.N. appoint a fact-finding mission. Would not the United States be in
favor seeing that all the facts don't seem to be clear as to who is
involved in this -- in a fact-finding mission in eastern Zaire?
MR. BURNS: No, I don't wish to comment on parliamentary proceedings in
Germany. Germany is a democratic state and doesn't need the United States
to comment on its internal political proceedings.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: It is reported that some North Korean assets were frozen at a
banking institution in the United States. I have two questions. Number
one, what is the size of the frozen assets? Number two, do you have any
plan to remove the freezing of the assets?
MR. BURNS: I'm just going to have to get back to you on both of those
questions. I'm not aware of this report. I don't have any information on
it. We'll look into it and see if we can get you an answer.
Still on North Korea? Yes.
QUESTION: There's another report that the U.S. and North Korea have
reached a tentative agreement on the opening of the Liaison Office. Can
you confirm the reports? Do you know anything of this?
MR. BURNS: I'm sorry, I was looking at this piece of paper. I
QUESTION: The U.S. and North Korea have a tentative agreement on the
opening of that Liaison Office.
MR. BURNS: Yes. You're asking what the status of that is?
QUESTION: Not the status. There is a report that the U.S. and North
Korea had an agreement on the opening of the -
MR. BURNS: I don't believe that's the case. We have as a longer-term
objective, and we set this with the authorities in Pyongyang, the opening
of Liaison Offices in our respective capitals, but there's been no
agreement to do that. There are some remaining technical details that need
to be worked out before we can agree to the establishment of Liaison
MR. BURNS: We're still working the issue; right.
QUESTION: This process, the U.S. and North Korea agreed on opening the
Liaison Office by the end of the first half of this year?
MR. BURNS: This issue is on our agenda in New York when we meet with the
North Koreans. But I don't believe we finished the discussions. I don't
believe there is an agreement to open the Liaison Offices. We need to do
more work on it.
QUESTION: Has the site of the (inaudible) talks been definitely been set
MR. BURNS: I believe the talks will be in New York on February 5. We
have every reason to believe that the North Koreans will be there, having
proceeded with their own discussions on grain with private companies.
We're looking forward to these talks.
QUESTION: Chechnya - the Sunday elections?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: Unofficial results give victory to a guerrilla leader called
Aslan Maskhadov who wants independence from Russia.
Do you have any comment on the conduct of the elections and its results?
MR. BURNS: We believe the elections in Chechnya were an important step
forward in the process of reconciliation between the Russian people and the
Chechen people. The OSCE has stated that the elections were conducted with
no serious infringements upon the electoral process and that the results
reflected the will of the Chechen voters.
We've seen reports that Mr. Aslan Maskhadov has won a decisive victory,
but we understand that the official results will not be ready until
February 2 - until this weekend. In the meantime, of course, we've also
seen some very positive reports by the Russian Government in Moscow
indicating their intention to work with Mr. Maskhadov in this process of
reconciliation. We would commend the Russian Government's comments.
They're quite responsible.
Yes, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Before yesterday, I told you that Senator Arlen Specter of
Pennsylvania circulated a resolution against the Greek sovereignty over
Imia islet. Specifically, this Senator calls the Governments of Greece and
Turkey to submit the issue of sovereignty of Imia to the International
Court of Justice and says that its decision should be bound by both
countries. Do you agree on that?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen Senator Specter's proposal so I'm quite
hesitant to comment on it. But our well-known position is that we believe
that Greece and Turkey should decide this question.
Should they need the assistance of the United States or any other
consensual body like the International Court of Justice, then, if they
decide to do that, they will have the support of the United States. But
the action here is with Athens and Ankara. Not with Washington.
QUESTION: To remind you, that even expressed by the President - you're
supporting only the issue of (inaudible) Imia should go to the International
Court of Justice?
MR. BURNS: I can't improve upon the very clear and, in fact, sometimes
even brilliant statements the State Department has issued on this
QUESTION: Can you say anything more about the Secretary's conversation
with the Ukranian Foreign Minister, Udovenko? Did they talk at all about
the Crimean problem? Is there any significance to the fact that she has
spoken to him before talking to the Russian Foreign Minister?
MR. BURNS: I must hasten to say that the Secretary is making these phone
calls not in any kind of order of priority:
Number one is most important, number six is not as important. It's not the
case at all. She is simply trying to reach people who are important.
She's doing this without regard to any geographic preference. We have
interests all over the world, so she's made calls to Latin America, to
Europe, and she's making calls to Asia.
Sometimes the order of the calls is determined by the availability of the
Foreign Minister in question. She had a good conversation with Foreign
Minister Udovenko. There's no question about the importance of Ukraine to
the United States, both in security terms as well as politically and
economically. Ukraine is another country that we believe should have
strengthen ties to the European and other Western institutions. Secretary
Albright looks forward to good relations with Ukraine.
Of course, she wants to have the best possible relations with Foreign
Minister Primakov. She's looking forward to early discussions with him.
Russia will be a priority, of course, for Secretary Albright as well as
Ukraine in our policy in Central Europe.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. In addition to confirming revelations by
Director Freeh about problems in cooperation in Saudi Arabia - the
investigation of Khobar - the Attorney General last Thursday also confirmed
that there were negotiations in progress with regard to difficulties, or
impairments, in cooperation between the United States and Mexican law
enforcement - drug enforcement - in northern Mexico, and said that there
were going to be a series of discussions. I believe Mr. Madrazo, the new
Attorney General of Mexico, was here on Monday.
What I want to ask, Nick, does the State Department have a role in these
negotiations to straighten things out in Mexico with regard to U.S. law
enforcement people being able to take their guns with them when they go to
MR. BURNS: Bill, there's an established process. General McCaffrey is
coordinating American counternarcotics and narcotic strategies with other
governments. He has a team. He relies upon the State Department, the
Justice Department, and other agencies of the government. We're a united
We are talking to the Mexicans. The Mexican effort is important to both
countries. We're satisfied with the progress that is being made. But, of
course, we want to make further progress in the future.
QUESTION: The State Department is involved in this - let me clarify
this. The State Department is involved in this process currently, Nick,
with the Attorney General?
MR. BURNS: I think people want to go to lunch. That's the feeling I'm
getting in the room. The State Department is absolutely 100 percent
involved in the effort to have a good narcotics relationship with the
Government of Mexico.
(Press briefing concluded at 1:52 p.m.)