U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #21, 99-02-17
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Wednesday, February 17, 1999
Briefer: James B. Foley
1,2 Rambouillet: Peace Agreement Economic Sanctions / Serbian
Opposition to Implementation of NATO -led Peacekeepings
2,3,4 Amb Hill's meeting with President Milosevic / Milosevic
failure to comply with international community
1,3,6,7 demands / Negotiation deadline / NATO airstrikes / Ottawa
Sanctions / US policy /
4,7,8 Outerwall Sanctions / Position of Kosavar Albanians
8,9,11 Today's meeting with Assistant Secretary Inderfurth and
Taliban Repersentative Abdul Hakeem Mujahid
10 Whereabouts and Expulsion of Usama bin Laden
9 US Policy reiterated on harboring of terrorists
9 Honoring Human Rights Norms
11 US assistance to Afghan Earthquake Victims
12-14 US-Palestinian Bilateral Committee meeting/ Promotion of
Economic Growth in the West Bank and Gaza / Expansion of
American Investment and Trade / Cultural and Educational
12 Movement of the Offices the Mufti of Jerusalem
14-15 US Policy toward Iran / ILSA Law
15 Apprehension of PKK Leader Ocalan
16,18 PKK Narcotics Trafficking / Humanitarian Treatment and
Trial of Ocalan / US Policy on Terrorists
18 Policy toward Political Activities and Human Rights
18,19 UN letter to Libya on the transfer of Pan Am #103 Suspects/
US Commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1192
20 Sale of Military Equipment
20 Iraqi Threats Against Turkey
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 1999, 1:50 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: I apologize for keeping everyone waiting. Barry, does anyone
else have a birthday here whom I can offer the floor to in your place?
QUESTION: No, but do you have any statements or should we --
MR. FOLEY: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Before you get to old business like the Palestinian meeting
yesterday and whether you've come around to any kind of a judgment about
the Mufti's new office, let me ask you about Kosovo.
MR. FOLEY: You're signaling your future questions.
QUESTION: I figured, you know, you put some tabs in the book.
MR. FOLEY: Thank you.
QUESTION: On Kosovo - is it as bleak as it seems? Apparently, what's his
name, the Deputy Prime Minister said his country, Serbia, would be prepared
to come to terms in a fair settlement. He made some reference, though, to
political and other institutions, apparently referring to sanctions being
lifted - some set of sanctions, the outer wall. What is the situation now;
and will Albright go there, of course, to Paris?
MR. FOLEY: The questions on the situation - you threw a lot in there, and
I'm sure we'll cover all of that ground.
QUESTION: Is there a conciliatory gesture lurking behind all the
MR. FOLEY: First of all, there is a fundamental issue on which we're
lacking Serb agreement, and that is Serb agreement to the introduction of a
NATO-led peace implementation force which is, as I said yesterday, a sine
quo non for a successful and peaceful settlement in Kosovo.
Yesterday Ambassador Hill traveled, at Secretary Albright's request, to
Belgrade and delivered a very clear message to President Milosevic. There
can be no ambiguity on his part following that meeting - if there was any
before that meeting - on the decision that he confronts.
I'm sure you're aware that Mr. Milosevic issued a statement following that
meeting indicating that there had been no change in the Serb and FRY
position against allowing the introduction of a peace implementation force.
So on that fundamental point, there has been no change.
I would note that Foreign Secretary Cook and Foreign Minister Vedrine, who
visited the talks, met with negotiators and I believe with the two sides in
Rambouillet today, made clear that the deadline on Saturday is a real
deadline and that time is of the essence. President Milosevic has just a
few days to see the light, to see that it's in his country's interest as
well as in the interest of the people of Kosovo to not only agree to the
political settlement, but to agree to a peace implementation force.
In terms of how it's going there on the ground in the negotiations, I don't
have much in the way of detail for you. But what I can say is that it was a
very busy day, as it was yesterday. I believe that the important development
which occurred yesterday is that both parties gave their substantive formal
replies to the negotiators, their substantive comments, and proposed
amendments or modifications to the terms of the political settlement that
was presented by the negotiators on behalf of the Contact Group.
So today, the negotiators and some of the lawyers on the negotiating team
met separately with both sides to go through some of their comments. They
are now attempting to incorporate those that they can to modify areas that
they can in conformity with the main elements of the Contact Group
proposal. I believe the negotiators may be in a position by tomorrow to
present the sides with an updated or revised Contact Group draft -- again,
on the terms of the political settlement.
So I think progress is slow there, but my understanding is that there has
been some progress and that they are moving forward and working hard on the
nuts and bolts of how Kosovo is going to look following the agreement, a
Kosovo enjoying real self-government and real autonomy.
But going back, though, to the point I was making a few minutes ago about
the fundamental difference that remains, as I said, President Milosevic
continues to insist that NATO forces will not be permitted on FRY soil to
help implement an interim settlement. By his refusal to allow a NATO
implementation force, President Milosevic is leading the FRY down the path
to further violence, to further isolation and misery for his people and
away from a political settlement in Kosovo and integration with the
His intransigence is clearly not in the interests of his people or his
country. As Secretary Albright has said, an agreement without a NATO force
to implement it is no agreement at all. And if there is no agreement,
whichever side is responsible for blocking it will suffer swift and severe
consequences and, in the case of the Serb side, will face the prospect of
NATO air strikes.
President Milosevic should be under no illusions about NATO's resolve. NATO
stated clearly on January 30 that it is ready to take whatever measures are
necessary, including air strikes, to compel compliance with the demands of
the international community and the achievement of a political settlement.
President Milosevic is not only blocking the achievement of a settlement,
he has also - until now - failed to comply with virtually all of the
demands of the international community as expressed in relevant UN
Security Council resolutions, the OSCE and NATO verification agreements,
as well as the FRY's own unilateral commitments.
QUESTION: I'm trying to get a little bit beyond the rhetoric, though, to
find out if the Serbs -
MR. FOLEY: Well, a lengthy question demands lengthy answer sometimes.
QUESTION: No, no, I understand; I know you are sort of displeased with
Milosevic. But I'm asking whether the Serbs have floated the idea that they
would be agreeable to what they would call a just agreement, provided it
dealt with political and financial institutions, which is easily translated
to a removal of some sanctions that deprive them of participating, for
instance, in international financial institutions. Is there a "Jeff"
to the Milosevic "Mutt" is what I'm asking you? Are they doing a "Mutt and
Jeff" act -- that some of them are taking a more lenient, conciliatory
position, while the boss is taking a very hard position?
MR. FOLEY: I hesitate to say that you're dating yourself, Barry.
QUESTION: It's still used by the police department.
MR. FOLEY: But there are economic and financial aspects to the agreement
itself involving Kosovo. I don't think that's what your question alludes to
QUESTION: No, I'm asking if the Serbs are taking this hard line or
proffering a willingness to reach a fair agreement -
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that that issue has been raised, the particular
one you're talking about. You're implying the question of sanctions. I can
state, if you're interested, what the policy of the United States is in
I think Mr. Rubin, the Spokesman, at one point a few weeks ago, when asked
about the question of sanctions, allowed, speaking only hypothetically,
that if the Serb side were to agree to a political settlement, allow a
peace implementation force and therefore cooperate fully with the
international community on Kosovo, then some of the sanctions that were
implemented by the international community last year in specific response
to specific Serb acts of repression in Kosovo might be placed by somebody
on the table. I'm not saying that the United States is proposing this;
it's just a theoretical question at this point that those sanctions
that were specifically geared to Serb repression in Kosovo might look
different if there were no Serb repression in Kosovo but rather a peace
agreement and an implementation force.
On the question of the outer wall of sanctions, the position of the United
States has been clear for quite some time; that we continue to support the
outer wall of sanctions. They are related to a number of issues that are
separate from the Kosovo issue, having to do with succession issues,
cooperation with the ICTY, cooperation on Dayton and democratization issues
inside Serbia and the FRY. I would conclude simply by noting that the so-
called outer wall of sanctions are enshrined in US legislation, passed
by the United States Congress. So they are not only the policy of the
government, they are the law of the land.
QUESTION: So is it a fact, then, that the Serbs in the negotiations --
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of that.
QUESTION: have made any offer to enter a just agreement? Is all their
talk no, no, no?
MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, I thought you were referring to the sanctions.
QUESTION: No, the sanctions I understand; you explained that. I'm just
wondering if they've made a conditional offer to accept a just agreement.
MR. FOLEY: My understanding, at a great distance and greatly removed from
the scene of the negotiations, is that they are grappling with and dealing
with the concrete nuts and bolts issues having to do with how Kosovo will
look under a peace agreement - a Kosovo enjoying genuine self-government
and autonomy; a Kosovo running its own affairs on behalf of the people and
the peoples of Kosovo.
In that respect, I think that one can infer that the Serb side is dealing
with the prospect of a peace agreement. The problem we see on the Serb side
is rather their opposition thus far to the introduction of a peace
implementation force, which, given the long and irrefutable track record on
the Serb side of non-compliance, of repression of the Kosovar Albanians, we
believe, as Secretary Albright said, a peace agreement without a peace
implementation force is no agreement at all.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about that, Jim. So if Milosevic continues
to hard-line and says, no, we won't let you come, then the next step could
very well be some military action; is that correct? And then with that
military action, then Serbia would be in a position not to be permissive,
not to be agreeable. They might be forced to do it, but the permissible
part of the goal in this negotiation goes out the window, does it
MR. FOLEY: Well, President Clinton has made it very clear that as far as
the United States is concerned, we will not participate in a peace
implementation force in anything but a permissive environment, in anything
but a situation in which the parties both have agreed to a peace settlement
and have agreed to invite a NATO-led peace implementation force into
Kosovo. So that is, as stated by the President, crystal clear as far as the
United States is concerned.
In terms of the Serb refusal thus far to agree to such a force, we do not
regard the issue as closed. President Milosevic is still against the idea,
but he has time still to see the light, as I indicated; to see that it is
in his country's interest to allow a peace to come to Kosovo and allow his
country, the FRY at large, the prospect of a different future and a future
ultimately of reintegration into Europe and into Western institutions and
a future that is free of the violence and barbarity that's been
occurring in Kosovo.
We think it's in his interest and he still has time to see it as in his
interest. But as we have said, the deadline is Saturday and NATO is
prepared to act. Secretary General Solana has been empowered or authorized
by the North Atlantic Council to conduct air strikes against the FRY in the
event that the Serb side does not conclude an agreement. So the consequences
are clear if they do not change course and come to terms with the demands
of the international community.
Your question, though, about what would happen after such a hypothetical
action, my point that I made at the start of my remarks remains the same:
it would have to be a permissive environment. If it takes some military
action to bring Mr. Milosevic to his senses and to reverse course, so be
it. We hope that that's not what will happen. We hope that they will agree
by Saturday to the peace settlement and to the introduction of an
QUESTION: Just two brief details. By Saturday, NATO has full authorization
to act; is that correct?
MR. FOLEY: Excuse me, Secretary General Solana has had authorization to
act since, I believe, January 30 in the event of Serb repression in Kosovo,
actions in violation of civilized norms, of FRY commitments in Kosovo,
actions that would be similar to what happened in Racak last month. If
something like that happens, Secretary General Solana has ongoing authority
that was delegated by the North Atlantic Council to order air strikes
against the FRY.
The second part of the authorization, though, to Secretary General Solana,
dealt with the negotiations. If the Serbs blocked progress, refused to
agree to the Contact Group proposals, then the Secretary General is equally
authorized to conduct, to authorize or order air strikes.
QUESTION: Just one other detail - sorry, Sid. The detail is, then, no
NATO troops can be introduced into Bosnia (sic). Is it same with other NATO
nations as it is with the United States - unless there's a permissive
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that any of our NATO allies has a different
position in that regard.
QUESTION: What about the other question, Jim, of whether the Secretary
was prepared to go back to Rambouillet.
MR. FOLEY: Did you ask that question earlier?
MR. FOLEY: There were so many, I didn't catch all of them. There's been
no decision in that regard.
QUESTION: On Saturday at noon, can you sort of explain how it happens? Do
the bombs start dropping immediately? Do they start dropping if there's
recurrence of repression? And doesn't --
MR. FOLEY: Well, on the second point, recurrence of repression, as I
indicated to Bill, is an existing authority the Secretary General has.
That's not tied to a Saturday deadline.
QUESTION: Doesn't he have to hand authority, trigger authority, to the US
Commander in the field? I mean, it appears there's now been another dual-
key set up where the civilian director of NATO says yes and the military
guy in the field says yes as well. If that's wrong, correct me.
MR. FOLEY: Secretary General Solana has the authority. He doesn't need to
go back to the North Atlantic Council. As a practical matter, we would
expect he would consult with the United States and with other NATO allies.
But he has decision-making authority.
QUESTION: So he will go back again?
MR. FOLEY: Not to the NAC. The NAC has acted formally in that regard. But
as an operational matter, though, he would certainly be consulting with the
US and perhaps other NATO allies.
QUESTION: And then at noon on Saturday, NATO starts flying air strikes
over Serbia, is that --
MR. FOLEY: I'm certainly not going to preview any operational details or
time lines of that nature.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I'm sorry, I'm trying to get a - what is it --
MR. FOLEY: That's something I can't give to you in a public forum.
QUESTION: Well, what would be the justification for air strikes? I mean,
is this sort of general punishment of the Serbs? I mean, the point, I
thought, was to get them to the peace table.
MR. FOLEY: Well, you're going over ground that's old ground, that was
covered when NATO made its decision.
QUESTION: No, maybe it's a month later --
MR. FOLEY: When NATO made its decision following the Contact Group
meeting and endorsement of the terms of the peace agreement. When the
Contact Group called the parties to Rambouillet, NATO subsequent to that
acted and authorized Secretary General Solana to order air strikes if two
conditions obtained - the two that I mentioned earlier.
QUESTION: Jim, you mentioned the integration of Yugoslavia into Western
institutions as one of the inducements to Milosevic to deal seriously with
the proposal at Rambouillet. Are outer wall sanctions in any way a
MR. FOLEY: Mark, I answered the question on the outer wall of sanctions.
QUESTION: Let me rephrase it. Is Kosovo in any way a factor in decisions
to lift the outer wall of sanctions; and did Ambassador Hill convey
anything regarding the outer wall when he spoke with President Milosevic?
MR. FOLEY: Certainly not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: He did not?
MR. FOLEY: Certainly not to my knowledge. He went there with the purpose
that I described yesterday and reiterated today, which was to bring home
personally, on behalf of Secretary Albright, to President Milosevic of what
the stakes are involved -- the outstanding issues, notably, the need for
the Serbs to agree to the introduction of a NATO-led peace-implementation
force and the fact that the consequences include NATO military air
strikes if he doesn't reverse course.
I'm not aware of other elements that he may be addressing. But I think I
already answered the question about the outer wall of sanctions. I listed
the areas of Serb and FRY activity that are tied to the outer wall of
sanctions. I didn't mention Kosovo simply because I was mentioning the non-
Kosovo elements. But Serb policies in Kosovo are one of the several
elements that are tied to the outer wall of sanctions, not certainly the
QUESTION: You mentioned that Saturday is a clear deadline. If there is
progress by the weekend, could another extension be given for negotiations?
MR. FOLEY: That's a hypothetical question I wouldn't want to entertain. I
think that what Foreign Secretary Cook and Foreign Minister Vedrine said
today reflects the position of the United States, that that is a real
deadline; that, in fact, there was a seven-day deadline that was extended
last weekend by the Contact Group. That is the deadline. We expect
agreement by then.
QUESTION: Are the US and the Contact Group 100 percent satisfied with the
position that the Kosovar Albanians are taking, or is there room for
improvement on that side as well?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not giving a score card or readout of how the talks are
going, of who is saying what, of who's agreed to 60 percent versus 80
QUESTION: No, let me - is the US happy with the position that they are
taking? I mean, obviously, you are unhappy with the position that the -
MR. FOLEY: Well, Secretary Albright had an excellent meeting with the
Kosovar Albanian delegation. I believe that she was pleased with the
progress they're making and the fact that they seem to be in favor of the
essence of the proposals of the Contact Group -- namely autonomy and true
self-government. So I think the signs are good on the Kosovar Albanian side,
but beyond that I'm not going to get into how the negotiations themselves
QUESTION: There's no reason to issue the same kind of warning - albeit,
it's not air strikes - for them -- to the Albanians, is it?
MR. FOLEY: Well, if you heard the words I uttered about 10 or 15 minutes
ago, I said if there is no agreement, whichever side is responsible for
blocking it will suffer -
QUESTION: But you're not saying -
MR. FOLEY: -- swift and severe consequences. We have not indicated that
the remedy, as it were, would be the same for the other side.
MR. FOLEY: I think we are - we do have reason to hope that the Kosovar
Albanians will agree to the settlement.
QUESTION: New subject - I don't know - any more on Kosovo? Okay, great.
Can you tell us what 's going to happen at today's meeting between
Assistant Secretary Inderfurth and the representative of the Taliban?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs,
Karl Inderfurth will meet this afternoon in the State Department with Mr.
Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, who is a Taliban representative based in New York
City. We have regular meetings with representatives of all Afghan factions,
including the Taliban.
Now, this specific meeting today is at the request of the United States to
follow up on Mr. Inderfurth's meetings in Islamabad on February 3 with the
Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister, Mr. Jalil. Mr. Inderfurth will be seeking
further information in this meeting today on the whereabouts of Usama bin
Laden, and he will reiterate the strong message that he delivered in
Islamabad that bin Laden must be brought to justice for his crimes.
The presence of bin Laden in Afghanistan has been detrimental to the
interests of the Afghan people and poses a major obstacle to the Taliban in
its desire to gain greater international acceptance. Mr. Inderfurth will be
raising other issues. I can go through them with you, including the need
for cooperation on the Taliban's part with UN Special Representative
Lakhdar Brahimi's ongoing efforts to help reach a political resolution of
the Afghan conflict; the need for the Taliban to honor internationally
accepted human rights norms, including, in particular, the rights of women
and girls. He'll also be raising the need to end poppy production
and narcotics trafficking in the areas occupied in Afghanistan by the
Taliban. Mr. Inderfurth will further inform the Taliban that the United
States has proclaimed a disaster in Afghanistan following the earthquakes
there during the past week and will be providing humanitarian relief
QUESTION: Are you saying that bin Laden is still in Afghanistan?
MR. FOLEY: We have no information on his current whereabouts. But given
some of the press reporting that came out of Afghanistan and the region
over the weekend, we felt it was necessary to ask the Taliban directly what
they knew about his whereabouts. His whereabouts have been shrouded in some
mystery and confusion over the last days, and we're looking to see if the
Taliban can shed some light on his whereabouts.
We do not have information that he is not in Afghanistan. We believe that
it is the responsibility of the Taliban inside Afghanistan to ensure that
he is expelled from Afghanistan and brought to justice for the horrible,
unspeakable crimes against civilians that he has committed.
QUESTION: Follow-up, Jim. I mean, in what way is US policy being
reiterated to the Taliban that military action could be used to deal with
any terrorist or any person who harbors terrorists?
MR. FOLEY: Well, our understanding, without getting into any sort of
security details, but I think it's not a secret that bin Laden continues to
threaten Americans, American civilians, American interests. Therefore, his
presence anywhere but in the hands of justice is unacceptable to the United
States. As President Clinton indicated in August, at the time of our
military action against bin Laden's facilities in Afghanistan, we, the
United States, reserve the right to act either in anticipation of
to prevent terrorist attacks or in retaliation against terrorist
attacks. I think the President indicated that as far as we're concerned,
there will be no sanctuary for terrorists.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on the meeting that ran late yesterday on
the Palestinians and the US?
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: In this meeting that Inderfurth is going to hold, is Pakistan
Embassy invited as an observer status or something?
MR. FOLEY: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: And what exactly is the US expecting out of Pakistan in these
negotiations? I mean, is there anything in particular that the US wants
Pakistan to help out with?
MR. FOLEY: Well, to the extent that Pakistan may have influence inside
Afghanistan, we always urge our Pakistani friends to exercise that
influence in the interests of our common interests against terrorists.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - to what you said earlier, but if bin Laden is
handed over by the Taliban, is the US leaning towards recognizing the
MR. FOLEY: Our policy has been unchanged concerning Afghanistan; it
remains unchanged, which is that we don't recognize any particular faction
as the official, legitimate government of Afghanistan. We understand the
Taliban exercises some control and presence over and throughout much of
Afghanistan. But we believe that the question of the constitution of a
legitimate government that would be recognized by the United States and the
international community has yet to be decided.
It has to be decided on the basis of working with Secretary General's
representative, Mr. Brahimi, on the basis of reconciliation, dialogue,
discussion among the parties, as a predicate to the constitution of a broad-
based government in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: You're saying there's a question whether or not Taliban has
effective control of the government? Because as far as I know, the task of
recognition is not whether you like somebody or not or whether they follow
constitutional principles, because we could spend hours talking about the
governments you deal with at the highest level that don't recognize any
constitutional rights of its people.
MR. FOLEY: But we don't recognize --
QUESTION: But it used to be that if someone is in control, you've got to
deal with them.
MR. FOLEY: I didn't say they were in control of all of Afghanistan.
QUESTION: That's what I'm asking you.
MR. FOLEY: I didn't say that they are, in our view, exercising governmental
authority. We don't recognize factions as heads, as governments.
QUESTION: Well, when the faction eventually takes control of the whole
country, you --
MR. FOLEY: That's not happened.
QUESTION: This hasn't happened?
MR. FOLEY: That's not happened.
QUESTION: Okay, that was --
QUESTION: Jim, how much are they getting in the way of humanitarian
MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, I don't understand your specific question.
QUESTION: Didn't you say that --
QUESTION: Earthquake relief.
MR. FOLEY: That they were getting in the way -- I didn't say that.
QUESTION: No, how much will they be getting?
MR. FOLEY: Oh, how much will they be getting? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Not getting in the way of , but getting in the way of.
MR. FOLEY: The journalists and the spokesman are two peoples divided by a
common language, I'm afraid.
On the subject of humanitarian assistance, first of all, preliminary
estimates from rescue workers are that about 30 people died in the
earthquake; 100 injured; 3,000 to 4,000 homes destroyed. Those are just
preliminary assessments. The earthquake hit in Wardak province, south-
southwest of Kabul.
International organizations, including the UN and the ICRC are assessing
damaged villages and have begun distributing relief materials. Some relief
supplies were pre-positioned in the area as part of USAID-funded disaster
preparedness program following earthquakes last year.
Assistant Secretary Inderfurth, who was acting as our ambassadors in the
field would normally act - we obviously don't have an embassy in Afghanistan
- but he had the authority to declare a disaster in Afghanistan. The US
Agency for International Development will coordinate US relief efforts with
the UN and other international organizations to provide appropriate
humanitarian assistance to the victims of the earthquake.
I don't have any specific figures on that, George, but if I get those I'll
bring them to your attention.
QUESTION: Can we clean up the Palestinian situation? You had a long
meeting yesterday; it's possible you have a statement now. And, of course,
has anybody made a judgment on Israel's request for you to look into the
Mufti establishing an office in the mosque area?
MR. FOLEY: The US-Palestinian Bilateral Committee that was chaired by
Assistant Secretary Indyk and Abu Mazen, Secretary General of the PLO
Executive Committee, met yesterday and focused primarily on economic and
The two sides discussed the need to promote economic growth in the West
Bank and Gaza and ways to expand American investment and trade. The
Committee noted the importance of USTR's November 1996 duty-free proclamation
for the West Bank and Gaza. They discussed the need for US assistance to
address pressing social and economic development issues over the next three
years, including promoting private sector growth, improving social services
and encouraging democratic governance.
There was also a discussion of cultural and educational exchanges.
Anticipated US assistance includes increased funding for people-to-people
activities. The two sides noted the importance of scholarships for
Palestinian graduate-level studies in technical fields in the United
States. Both sides also shared ideas on encouraging increased contact and
exchanges between the US Congress and the Palestinian Council.
The Committee decided that it would meet at least twice a year and report
once a year to Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat. Subcommittees on
trade, investment, assistance, legal issues and exchange programs were
established. An advisory committee from the American and Palestinian
private sectors will be created to provide input on ways to promote
investment, trade and economic growth in the Palestinian Authority.
Finally, the next meeting of the US-Palestinian Bilateral Committee will be
held in the West Bank or Gaza in mid-year, mid-'99.
QUESTION: Business about the Mufti's office?
MR. FOLEY: Yes. Moving the offices of the Mufti of Jerusalem is an issue
which relates, obviously, to Jerusalem. As such, it is a very sensitive and
volatile issue. For this reason, we urge both sides to refrain from steps
that create tension or upset the current situation.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, why did you say before current situation?
MR. FOLEY: We urge both sides to refrain from steps that would create
tension or upset the current situation.
QUESTION: Okay, so you shouldn't move the office, right?
MR. FOLEY: Well, as I said, we view it as a sensitive issue and we urge
both sides to not do things which will change the situation or create
tension. I think the implication of my remarks is pretty clear.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - so I won't quibble with you. But you're not
calling it a final status issue, are you?
MR. FOLEY: Well, it's Jerusalem; it's in Jerusalem; therefore, there's
QUESTION: The meeting with Secretary Albright and the Palestinian today;
is that over yet?
MR. FOLEY: No, I don't believe - well, it may have started by now but I
obviously don't have a read-out on it until after the conclusion of the
QUESTION: Do you know what's going to be or what was supposed to be
MR. FOLEY: Well, she's, as you indicate, she's meeting with Abu Mazen,
the Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee, also members of his
delegation who attended yesterday's meeting of the US-Palestinian Bilateral
They're going to be discussing issues related to Wye implementation, as
well as review what the Committee accomplished yesterday on bilateral
issues, especially the economic challenges of generating trade and
QUESTION: Several weeks ago there was a report in The Washington Times
that Janet Reno was looking into --
MR. FOLEY: Just a second.
QUESTION: To finish up the same subject, the level of this meeting, of
these types of meetings are generally Vice Presidential - like Gore-
Chernomyrdin, Gore-Mbeki, that sort of thing. How come the level of
representation of this meeting was dropped down not only below the
Secretary of State, but down to the Assistant Secretary of State level,
when the purpose, as you all explained it, was to foster better relations
between the two countries?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I wouldn't call it dropping down. When it was established
- and it was established, I believe, December of last year - the meeting
took place under the auspices of Secretary Albright and Chairman Arafat.
I'm not sure that you'd find a uniformity of practice in our bilateral
relations around the world where we have joint committees or bilateral
committees where it's necessarily the Vice President chairing in each and
In many cases, you have senior officials who launch such bilateral fora
initially, but then leave the work to the working level experts. I wouldn't
read anything significant into that.
QUESTION: But when it was launched, you all were calling it the Albright-
Arafat committee. Are you still calling it that?
MR. FOLEY: I never heard that formula.
QUESTION: When Nick Burns announced it, that's what it was called. Are
you still calling it that?
MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry; I think I misspoke. It wasn't launched, obviously,
in December; it was launched in November '96.
QUESTION: Is it still officially known as the Albright-Arafat committee?
MR. FOLEY: Sid, I'm not familiar with that formula; I've never heard
QUESTION: There was some word several weeks ago that Janet Reno was
looking into possibly trying Augusto Pinochet here for the Letelier-Moffitt
affair. Is there any word about that since then?
MR. FOLEY: I've not heard anything. I'd have to refer you to the Justice
QUESTION: Two quick ones, I hope. Does the United States still consider
Iran to be a rogue state? This is sort of a loaded question.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I know what you're talking about. It's clear you read
the newspapers, and you read in a Washington newspaper today that a State
Department official, John Limbert, had given a speech the other day. Mr.
Limbert was invited to address a conference on the 20th anniversary of the
Iranian Revolution in light of his long experience in Iran and as one of
the last US diplomats to serve there. He is currently working on African
affairs; he's not engaged in US-Iranian policy development, but he's a
very eminent figure not only in the State Department, but in academic
circles, for his work on the subject.
His speech was cleared by the Department, but it was not a formal statement
of policy, rather the views of one US Government official. I don't really
care to get into a semantic exchange.
QUESTION: It was cleared by the Department?
MR. FOLEY: Yes, it was.
QUESTION: Okay, so can we read anything into this in terms of mellowing
MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure that the phrase inside the newspaper article that
you clearly read today was in his prepared statement or was in a Q&A
format. That's not terribly important because, as I said, it's a semantic
issue; it's not really related to the substance of US policy, which remains
There is no change in US policy towards Iran, as Secretary Albright and
other senior officials have made clear. The US has serious concerns
regarding Iran's support for terrorism, also its pursuit of weapons of mass
destruction and ballistic missiles and its support for groups that use
violence against the Middle East peace process. We are interested in a
government-to-government dialogue with Iran to address these and other
issues of mutual concern.
QUESTION: Well, just one more on Iran; I promise I'll be quiet after
that. Yesterday Iran approved a $200 million deal with a Canadian company
and British company - an oil deal. Now, people who know about this stuff -
not me - indicate --
MR. FOLEY: Not me, either.
QUESTION: Not me. Indicate that we usually sanction countries that have
oil deals with Iran in excess of $20 million. This is a $200 million deal.
It's a Canadian company, Bow Valley, and a British company, Premier Oil
QUESTION: I asked this question yesterday.
QUESTION: Oh, and we got nothing?
MR. FOLEY: Did you ask it - not in this --
MR. FOLEY: Well, I've not heard the report, apart from what journalists
are asking. I've certainly not seen any reference in the State Department.
QUESTION: Are we going to take any sanctions against them?
MR. FOLEY: We will certainly apply the law; we'll apply the ILSA law in
this case and any other similar case. But I have not been made aware of the
report and so I have to take the question. If I have an answer, I'll get
back to you tomorrow on it.
QUESTION: I have a question. The Kenyan Foreign Minister -
MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry, who?
QUESTION: Kenyan Foreign Minister talked that the PKK leader, Ocalan, was
taken to Kenya by an arrangement of the Greek Government, and was hosted as
a guest for a period of time. He also said that Ocalan was brought to Kenya
by Greek officials by a false name and passport given by a Cypriot. What is
your position, or could you comment on these very serious developments?
MR. FOLEY: I am not aware of the facts of the case. You'd have to refer
your question to the Greek and Kenyan authorities.
QUESTION: Do you have an opinion to express on - as we become aware of
the Greek role in all of this, do you have an opinion to express on what
they did; why they did it -- their explanation for doing it and so
MR. FOLEY: I imagine we've been in diplomatic contact with the Greek and
other governments on the issue, but I have no information to provide that
sheds any further light on those developments.
QUESTION: It's pretty clear - at least in one point - that they were
harboring a man that you all consider a terrorist. What do you think about
MR. FOLEY: Well, I, again, am not going to get into the substance of our
diplomatic contacts on the subject. I think the Greek Government has spoken
to its actions and it indicated that it acted on the basis of humanitarian
reasons. I'm not going to comment on, again, what we may have been
discussion privately with the Greek Government, but I think what is of
interest to the United States is the fact that a wanted terrorist -- a
leader of a terrorist organization designated as such by the United
States -- has been brought to justice.
QUESTION: I'm just curious - the videotape is misleading. Have you had
the opportunity to see the videotape the Turks took of him as they were
lashing him to his chair in the airplane and apparently giving him some
sort of medication or tranquilizer or something, whether that would qualify
as the humane treatment? You said yesterday - you read yesterday -
MR. FOLEY: I have no knowledge of any of the facts you're talking
QUESTION: Well, you might take a look at it; it's all over the TV today.
The Turks took videotape of him as he was being -
MR. FOLEY: You would have to ask the Turkish authorities what they've
QUESTION: There are reports that several thousand Turkish troops went
into Iraq to hit Kurdish bases. Do you have any comment?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I have seen those reports. I can't confirm them. What I
can do is state our long-standing policy, which is that we do support the
right of the Turkish government to defend itself against terrorism. They
have been dealing with this problem for some time. We expect that if there
are operations across the border, that they will be limited in scope and
duration and will fully respect the rights of the civilian inhabitants of
QUESTION: One more question also about the PKK -- what is the US position
as to the PKK's involvement in drug trade?
MR. FOLEY: Well, we're aware of reporting to that effect. There have been
persistent reports that the PKK has been involved in narcotics trafficking
through Turkey. According to information that we're aware of through these
reports, the PKK reportedly uses "taxes" which are extracted from narcotics
traffickers and refiners to finances its operations. They may be more
directly involved in transporting and marketing narcotics in Europe.
QUESTION: Was that part of the State Department's drug report?
MR. FOLEY: I don't believe it's incorporated in our latest report, but
I'd have to check that for you.
QUESTION: Given the fact that the Cuban legislature has now approved the -
QUESTION: Excuse me, George, one more on that. How will the United States
monitor the progress of the trial of Ocalan? Do you have any comment on the
reported Turkish denial of entry to the European lawyers who -
MR. FOLEY: I've not seen that report. We made very clear yesterday our
expectation that Mr. Ocalan will be given a fair trial through an
independent judicial process; that Turkey will uphold its obligations under
international human rights instruments. I think it's very premature to
comment on the rules and regulations surrounding such a trial, whether
there will be international observers allowed to attend, whether it will be
open to the press, including the Turkish press and international media. We
would hope that, since we fully expect that the such a trial will
be conducted in accordance with international standards, that the
Turkish authorities will not have any reason not to allow such a process to
Again, it's a little early to comment on the details surrounding such a
trial, but I think that Prime Minister Ecevit gave a commitment yesterday
as to the nature of the trial. We have no reason to expect that it won't
meet those standards.
QUESTION: What was his statement?
MR. FOLEY: That he'll be given a fair trial through independent judicial
QUESTION: Would your standards of an transparent trial include permission
of the media to observe it?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to be prescriptive here from this podium.
He's just been arrested. I don't know when the trial is going to take
place. I've simply stated the view of the United States that we expect it
to be a fair trial in accordance with international human rights instruments
and international norms.
I also added that I would expect that the Turkish authorities would wish to
give publicity, to have attention drawn towards the conduct of a trial that
would be conducted in line with international standards and that would be a
normal expectation. But as to what specifically the arrangements for such a
trial might be, it's way too early to say.
QUESTION: Just a couple questions ago you talked about the Turks' right
to defend themselves against terrorism by regularly making these forays
into Iraq. I wonder whether you consider their snatch operation in Kenya to
fall under the heading of defense against terrorist attacks -- whether you
endorse the operation, whether you think it was within their rights.
MR. FOLEY: Well, we support bringing terrorists to justice. The United
States undertakes, in pursuit of terrorists who are indicted in the United
States for acts of terrorism, different kinds of efforts to obtain custody
of those terrorists or to retaliate against terrorists, all measure of
activities involving law enforcement cooperation internationally, military
steps, diplomatic steps to apprehend, deter, bring to justice those who
committed terrorist acts against Americans. So I wouldn't quarrel with the
fact that terrorists ought to be brought to justice. We applaud the
fact that has happened in this case.
QUESTION: I understand that. But do you endorse the method - that
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of the particulars of the case, as I indicated
QUESTION: Given the fact that the Cuban legislature has approved tougher
measures against those who engage in political activities, are you prepared
to go further than you did yesterday when it was still in the proposal
MR. FOLEY: Well, I would repeat what I said yesterday -- just that we
weren't surprised by it. It's very regrettable, but it's certainly in
keeping with almost four decades of repressive police state policies in
Cuba. It's unfortunate because it goes so counter to the overall trend in
the world and in this hemisphere towards greater respect for human rights
and political freedoms and democracy in the hemisphere. Instead of moving
with the rest of the hemisphere, Cuba's moving in the opposite direction,
in a retrograde direction. That is just very sad when you think about
what's in the interest of the people of Cuba.
Thank you. I'm sorry, you have one more?
QUESTION: Different subject -- Kofi Annan is preparing a letter to send
to the Libyans on the transfer of the two Lockerbie suspects for trial. Mr.
Pickering, I think, met with Annan yesterday. Are the contents of this
letter acceptable to the United States?
MR. FOLEY: Well, it is true that the Secretary General, in responding to
Libya's request for clarification, has discussed his response with the
United States and the United Kingdom, also in an earlier phase with The
Netherlands and France, to ensure accuracy and clarity. His current
response simply puts into a UN letter the same points that we and the
United Kingdom have made publicly.
I would add that Under Secretary Pickering did meet with Secretary General
Annan yesterday. That was not the sole or even primary focus of his
discussion. He goes periodically to consult with the Secretary General and
UN officials on a whole range of issues.
QUESTION: Some of the families are very upset. They think that the US
Government is selling out - the families of the victims, that is - saying
that one of the stipulations of this is assurances that the Libyan
Government will not be investigated. How do you react to their concerns?
MR. FOLEY: Well, their concerns are unfounded. We are very committed not
only to our initiative, but to the terms and the integrity of our
initiative, which was non-negotiable and remains non-negotiable. Our policy
is embodied in UN Security Council Resolution 1192. It has not changed. Our
aim is obtain justice - long delayed justice both for the victims and their
surviving family members through a trial of the Libyan suspects in a
Scottish court under Scottish law in The Netherlands.
We have made our position very clear on this matter, both through public
statements and diplomatic contacts. What we say privately is exactly what
we say publicly, and vice versa. We've made that clear to other states
which have asked us about our policy, including South Africa, Saudi Arabia,
Egypt and others. Nothing has changed in our approach, in our policy, or
our goals. What matters now is for Libya to transfer the two suspects to
As you know, the Security Council Resolution 1192 asks Secretary General
Annan to facilitate the transfer of the two Pan Am 103 suspects to The
Netherlands for trial and also to serve as a channel for clarifications as
requested by Libya regarding the initiative. Clarifications - certainly not
negotiation or change to any aspect of the US-UK proposal.
Within that framework, the Secretary General and his staff have had a
variety of contacts with the Libyans since the initiative was announced
last August. His current efforts are in that context only. There is no
negotiation. Your specific question had to do with the -
QUESTION: The families being upset. Basically would the US Government
agree to any kind of solution that would ensure that the Libyan Government
would not be investigated; that is, it wouldn't go beyond the two suspects,
this whole issue?
MR. FOLEY: Well, our interest is in a trial. We want to see a trial of
the two suspects. It would be just that - a trial of Abdel Basset Megrahi
and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah -- the two suspects. It will focus on the matter
of their guilt or innocence in the bombing of Pan Am 103 on December 21,
1988. I cannot predict how such a trial might unfold. It's impossible to
predict. That is a matter for the Scottish court.
Certainly the accused will receive all the rights due suspects in cases in
Scotland. A foreign defendant in the United States, for example, both
before and after conviction enjoys certain due process protections,
including the right of consular access by representatives of his or her
country's embassy. Scottish law provides parallel provisions for non-UK
citizens being tried under UK law.
But in terms of the conduct of the trial, let's let the trial proceed. Our
interest is in getting the suspects to The Netherlands. Then they will be
put on trial for the crime of which they are accused. It's up to the
prosecutors to determine how they proceed in the trial. We'll let the chips
fall where they may.
QUESTION: Is there any deadline?
MR. FOLEY: Well, we've indicated that if the transfer hasn't taken place
by the time of the sanctions review at the end of this month, that we'll be
looking to propose further measures.
QUESTION: Shara gave a news conference in Moscow today -- perhaps you saw
it - talking about his and Russia's intention to go ahead with the sale of
military equipment, including anti-tank weapons - something you all have
said you would be obligated to consider trimming about $50 million worth of
Russia's assistance. I'm wondering if you saw his comments.
MR. FOLEY: I've not seen the comments. I'd be glad to take the question.
You're right, we have addressed the issue earlier.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: The Vice President of Iraq said that "Incirlik base is our
target." What's your comment?
MR. FOLEY: I addressed that comment very clearly yesterday. I don't want
to bore your colleagues. I think you can look at the --
QUESTION: He said it again today.
MR. FOLEY: He said it again today? Well, he's made a second mistake in
saying it. If the Iraqis attempt to make good on those threats, they will
regret that. We've demonstrated very clearly and our allies and friends in
the region, including Turkey, have demonstrated that Iraq bears the
consequences for its flouting of the will of the international community.
Nobody is fooled by either Iraqi lies or Iraqi threats. I think, as I said,
it would be a very big mistake if Saddam Hussein tried to act on any of
those threats. The US will react and react very, very strongly.
I'm sorry; I'm approaching the time when I have to depart.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up for you.
MR. FOLEY: Okay, we'll talk about it afterwards.
(The briefing concluded at 2:45 P.M.)