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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (June 14, 1995)

From: hristu@arcadia.harvard.edu (Dimitrios Hristu)

Subject: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (June 14, 1995)


OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

I N D E X

Wednesday, June 14 1995

Briefer: Nick Burns

[...]

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

Bosnian Conflict/Fighting ................................2-12

--Need for Political Solution/Negotiations ...............2,3

--Mobilization of Bosnian Government Troops ..............3,8-9

--Responsibility of Bosnian Serbs for Conflict ...........3

--Arms Embargo Against Bosnian Government ................4

--U.S. Support for Bosnian Government ....................4

--New Initiatives to Address Conflict ....................5

--Role of Mr. Bildt ......................................5-6

--Ambassador Frasure/Milosevic Discussions ...............5,7-8

--Role of UNPROFOR .......................................5-6

--Possibility of NATO Airstrikes .........................7

--Safety of U.S. Embassy Personnel .......................8

--Rapid Reaction Force/Composition, Funding, Function ....9-10

--Report of Integrated Air Defense System ................10-11

--Report that Translators/Drivers Work for Serb Ministry .11

--Need for Increased Monitoring of Serbia-Bosnia Border ..11

--Reported Meeting Between Military Commander of Bosnian

   Serbs and French UN Detachment Commander ..............12

[...]


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #86

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14, 1995, 1:24 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. It's nice to see some of the familiar faces who were with us on the Secretary's very successful trip to the region. Glad you had some time to rest from that trip. Glad to have you back.

It's been a busy day here. The Secretary began today with an early breakfast meeting with the Bosnian Prime Minister, Mr. Silajdzic. The Secretary is currently at lunch with the French President, Jacques Chirac. There's going to be a meeting at the White House in which the Secretary will participate between President Chirac and President Clinton.

After that, there is a U.S.-European Union summit meeting in which the Secretary will participate at the White House with President Clinton, President Chirac, and the head of the EU, Mr. Santer.

Late this afternoon, the Secretary will be meeting with Carl Bildt, the new EU negotiator for the conflict in Bosnia.

In addition to that, the Secretary will also attend a dinner tonight at the White House given by the President for the new French President, Mr. Chirac.

As you know, tomorrow, the Secretary leaves quite early for Halifax. He has a bilateral meeting scheduled with Minister Kono of Japan, and will then participate in the President's meeting with Prime Minister Murayama; and, of course, there will be subsequent meetings throughout the three days at Halifax with the G-7 leaders and with Russian President Yeltsin when he arrives on Friday evening.

So we are already involved in a very busy day here. The Secretary has a few busy days ahead of him. That provides a lot of issues for us to discuss today, so I'm ready to go any questions that you have.

Q Do you have anything to say about the breakfast meeting he had with the Bosnian leader?

MR. BURNS: The Secretary hosted a one-on-one breakfast for the Bosnian Prime Minister. It was just the two of them, without notetakers. After the breakfast, I understand that Prime Minister Silajdzic also had a brief meeting with Assistant Secretary Dick Holbrooke, and with Deputy Assistant Secretary Bob Frasure.

I think it's fair to say the Secretary and the Prime Minister had a thorough discussion of all aspects of the situation in Bosnia. They agreed that it's very useful for the United States and the Contact Group to continue its efforts to try to convince Mr. Milosevic to recognize Bosnia in return for limited sanctions relief.

They certainly agreed on the importance of the Federation -- the Bosnian-Croatian Federation. Of course, they discussed the military situation on the ground pertaining to Sarajevo, the enclaves, and the recent renewed fighting that unfortunately has taken place in Bosnia.

The Secretary underscored our position that the position of the United States that a military solution is not, we believe, the way to resolve this conflict.

We don't believe a military solution to the conflict is likely, and we don't it is possible. We believe that all parties should work very hard towards a political solution to the problems that have tormented Bosnia for so long.

Q Nick, are you saying that the Secretary -- or are you implying that the Secretary told Silajdzic or warned Silajdzic, and through him the Bosnian Government, off of what apparently is the beginning of a Bosnian Government offensive to try to break the siege of Sarajevo? What is the U.S. position on that?

MR. BURNS: There was a discussion of the military situation on the ground. I don't care to go into the details of that discussion because it was private. But I am willing to say -- or just to repeat what I said -- our view, our strongly-held view, is that after all of the fighting over the last couple of years, we do not believe that a military solution to this conflict is either possible or desirable. We don't think it is possible for either side to win militarily on the ground, and we don't think that is desirable for the people of the area.

We think it is desirable that all the parties to the conflict -- and, of course, now, I'm not referring just to the Bosnian Government here, but putting a very heavy onus on the Bosnian Serbs -- particular onus on them -- it is desirable that they try to achieve a political solution. That was the general message that was communicated this morning. That was, I think, the best way I can, in a very general way, describe the nature of that particular part of the conversation.

But what I am not willing to do is to go into a point by point recitation of that particular part of the conversation.

Q Well, can you say at least then -- what is your assessment about the situation on the ground now? There are reports that 30,000, 28,000 Bosnian Government troops are massing for the siege. Is that your understanding of the situation?

MR. BURNS: We have seen the reports. Of course, we are following that situation closely. We know that there has been an upturn, an increase in the level of fighting -- not only over the last month or so, but over the last couple of days. We have seen the reports about the possibility of an imminent offensive by the Bosnian Government. As I said, that issue did come up in the conversation this morning.

Q How can you fault, though, a party in a conflict like this for trying to rescue its citizens?

MR. BURNS: Let me just step back and say, I think our view of the origin of this conflict is well-known. This conflict was produced by the Bosnian Serbs. Most of the fighting that has taken place over the last couple of years, I think, can be tied directly to the Bosnian Serbs. Many of the outrageous pictures that we've seen on television and many of the outrageous events that have occurred can be tied directly or laid directly at the doorstep of the Bosnian Serb leadership in Pale.

We are not, in that sense -- we do not have a neutral, antiseptic view of this conflict, in that sense. We have said many times from this podium and from other podiums that we think the Bosnian Serbs must bear the major share of the responsibility for this fighting.

Having said that -- and that is our objective analysis of the nature of the military conflict over the last couple of years -- having said that, and having looked at the way the war has been prosecuted and having looked at the basic level of military capability on both sides, we don't believe that a military solution or events to win this war militarily are going to succeed by either side. We believe ultimately this conflict will be resolved by negotiations; therefore, by political means.

It is our view, in order to minimize bloodshed and suffering in the area, it's our view that all the parties have got now to turn towards a political solution.

I would just like to reiterate again, it's incumbent upon the leadership in Pale -- the Bosnian Serb leadership -- to draw that lesson and to make the necessary corrections to their policy. But that is, in fact, the message we would also transmit to the Bosnian Government itself.

Q Nick, if the weapon mix was changed somehow -- which you just referred to -- that is, if the Bosnian Government was armed, is it this Administration's view they might have a chance to win?

MR. BURNS: Sid, we don't favor a unilateral lift of the arms embargo. As you know, it's the well-known American position. It may be essentially what you're asking. We don't think that's the answer to this conflict.

We have to deal with the facts as they are on the ground. The facts as they are present a military picture to us which has, in many ways, a rough equilibrium of forces. We don't believe that continued fighting, or an increase in fighting, is the way to resolve this particular conflict.

Q Did you tell Silajdzic, or the Secretary tell Silajdzic today, that if, in fact, the Bosnian Government went forward with the siege that the United States would withdraw its support, its rhetoric support for the Bosnian Muslims?

MR. BURNS: The Secretary did not make that statement. He did not threaten the Prime Minister in any way. It was a very even, very friendly discussion. We have a good relationship with the Bosnian Government. It was a productive discussion, friendly and constructive, and they had a good discussion of all the issues.

The Secretary did not make any threats. We did not try to put undue pressure on the Bosnian Government. We tried to have a good exchange of views, which we felt was necessary. The Secretary was sorry that he didn't have an opportunity last week to meet the Prime Minister because the Secretary was in the Middle East. So we thought it was very important to have this meeting.

But I think I've described in general terms the nature of what we said on that particular issue and I'll let it stand there.

Q Did the series of meetings today result in any new American initiative?

MR. BURNS: I think the series of meetings today are very important to us because they come at yet another critical point in the Bosnian conflict. I don't think it's overstating it to say that this is a critical time.

The meeting with President Chirac is important because France is a leading contributor of troops to UNPROFOR. President Chirac has taken office with a renewed determination to strengthen UNPROFOR. He's part of the U.K.-Dutch-French initiative to form a quick reaction force. All of this, we think, has been positive and has been good.

I know the Secretary, as well as the President, look forward to their conversation today with President Chirac on that.

The conversation with Mr. Bildt -- former Prime Minister Bildt -- will be slightly different. He now becomes -- replacing Lord Owen -- the negotiator of the European Union. He is someone we respect very much. The Secretary is looking forward to this evening's meeting as an opportunity to try to get a sense of former Prime Minister Bildt's thinking as he takes this very challenging position.

He has already had a conversation -- he, Bildt -- with Russian Foreign Minister Kozyrev. He's here to consult with us. He'll be having conversations also with U.N. officials in New York. So it's important that we trade views with him.

I know that Mr. Bildt is also looking forward to a discussion with Bob Frasure about our efforts to work with Mr. Milosevic on the general offer of limited sanctions relief in return for recognition of Bosnia.

In addition to those two meetings -- those two sets of meetings -- of course, there was this morning's meeting. Since there have been problems in getting into Sarajevo over the last six weeks, having Western diplomats get into Sarajevo because of the situation there, we appreciated the opportunity to share views at a very high level with Prime Minister Silajdzic.

All of these conversations, of course, will be useful to us in trying to determine the way forward. We believe the way forward should be centered around the following: The continuation of UNPROFOR and the strengthening of UNPROFOR. That was the core of what the Contact Group decided at Noordwijk. That remains the core of the American position. Despite all of its faults, despite the fact that UNPROFOR in many ways in the past couple of weeks has not been able to fulfill its fundamental missions, we believe that UNPROFOR has got to stay. It has a humanitarian purpose, and that is to feed up to a million and a half people per day. That is not happening. It has not been happening in recent days. We think a way has to be found to continue to supply the enclaves and supply Sarajevo.

So UNPROFOR has got to stay for humanitarian reasons. We also think that UNPROFOR's mandate -- that is, to protect the enclaves -- is important. That's why we have supported efforts to strengthen UNPROFOR. Secretary Christopher made that very clear at Noordwijk, and he joined the Contact Group consensus in our written statement from Noordwijk along those lines.

What has to happen, of course, is that these objectives of keeping UNPROFOR on the ground and strengthening UNPROFOR have got to be put into operation, meaning there have to be negotiations at the United Nations and with the Bosnian Serbs and with the Bosnian Government to make it possible to continue humanitarian shipments and to give UNPROFOR the capability to carry out its existing mandates.

That's where Mr. Bildt's role is so important, and that's where the conversations today with the French President, Mr. Chirac, are so important. I think we'll be in a better position after today's meeting and probably after discussions on the margins over the next couple of days with leaders to tell you what we think of all this and how we would answer all the questions that we're posing.

But they are certainly crucial questions, and I think it's a critical time for the future of UNPROFOR.

Q On the question of military victory, that being aside, is there no understanding in this government for the specific purpose, however, of the Bosnians trying to lift the siege of a city which is being shelled every hour and the hills are alive with snipers, making it a battleground, Sarajevo?

MR. BURNS: We have enormous sympathy with the Bosnian Government, with the plight of the Bosnian people, especially with ordinary people who have been subjected to bombardment and privation because of the outrageous actions of the Bosnian Serbs. That's where our sentiments lie.

But we do believe that we have a responsibility to make it clear what we think is realistic and unrealistic, and we think that a military solution to this conflict is unrealistic at this point. However painful it may be, we think it's important to turn toward -- however difficult it's going to be -- to turn towards political negotiations.

That means that all of us in the Contact Group, in the United Nations, have a responsibility also to assist that process, and the United States wants to meet that responsibility. And it also is, of course, first and foremost the responsibility of the Bosnian Serb leadership to also make that conclusion.

Q Nick, what is your response to Bosnian Government's contention that the embargo virtually works against the government, Muslim government, whereas (inaudible) of supplies are open to Serbs there?

MR. BURNS: We've gone through this time and again. I could only just repeat what we've said many times, and that is that a unilateral lift of the arms embargo we think would lead to a widening of the war, would lead to further casualties and further political and military chaos on the ground, and we don't think that is the appropriate way to proceed.

Steve, you've been waiting to ask a question.

Q Nick, you're insisting that a military solution is not realistic. Recalling the meeting in The Hague where Secretary Christopher went out of his way to say NATO would not foreclose possible future air strikes. Does the absence of realism in a military solution also now mean that NATO is not going to conduct future air raids? And the second part of that question, did Silajdzic talk about the need for NATO air strikes today with the Secretary?

MR. BURNS: It was a one-on-one meeting and so I can't account for all of the conversation. But my understanding is that that particular issue did not come up. However, I can check that.

Steve, I think I would just answer that by saying NATO, of course, always retains all of the options at its disposal, and I'm not leading you in particular direction by saying that. But I would just remind you that NATO as an institution does have many options at its disposal, and NATO retains those options. But I have nothing specific to give you either way on that particular question.

Q Nick, there's a report in the Belgrade Weekly Telegraph that says that Frasure and Milosevic have reached an agreement. Can you categorically deny that?

MR. BURNS: It's news to us. I saw Ambassador Frasure this morning. I'm quite sure that we have not reached an agreement with Mr. Milosevic on the issue that was the point of the discussion between Ambassador Frasure and Mr. Milosevic.

Betsy.

Q Have any of our people been pulled out of Sarajevo -- any of the people in the small Embassy within Sarajevo? Are you concerned enough about the massing of troops that we keep hearing about on the outskirts to be concerned for their safety?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe we've drawn down in the last couple of days. I think we've drawn down in the last several months but not the last couple of days. But I can certainly check on that just to make sure. I've not been advised that we have done that.

Q Does the U.S. now have any understanding as to why Muslim -- Bosnian Government troops are massing in the area around Sarajevo? Your statements today seem to suggest that you think they're trying to have a military victory, but there doesn't appear to be enough soldiers and enough hardware to have a victory. There are reports that what they're trying to do is to open up a corridor so that food and other necessities can reach Sarajevo -- something that the UNPROFOR mission has clearly not been capable of doing up until now. What is your understanding of what the Muslims -- what the Bosnian troops are there for?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe we have any particularly detailed understanding of the tactical intentions of the Bosnian Government military forces or why these soldiers are being massed where they are, if, in fact, that is taking place.

There are a lot of reports that that's taking place. We are, of course, very interested in these reports and are looking into them, but we didn't receive in the meeting this morning any particular level of detail that would make those reports concrete. I'm certainly not denying them. I'm just saying we didn't receive any new information or any additional information about this particular incident.

Q Prime Minister Silajdzic did not confirm that his own troops are massing in large numbers outside his capital?

MR. BURNS: He did not give the Secretary a lot of detail about the reports that we have seen.

Q But did he, at least, sort of give you a general idea of what they were trying to do? I mean, did he not know what his government was trying to achieve?

MR. BURNS: There was a general discussion about the possible future military activities of the Bosnian Government, but it was very general. It was not at all detailed, and there was a general discussion along the lines that I've already described about what should and should not happen from both of our points of view.

Q But did the general discussion go towards military victory or towards relieving the besieged city of Sarajevo?

MR. BURNS: Charlie, I'm just not able, really, to give you a sense of what they are trying to achieve, and I don't think the Secretary left the meeting with a specific sense of whether it was one or the other.

Q Nick, the consequences that you spelled out for a lifting of the arms embargo would seem to apply whether the lift was unilateral or multilateral. Isn't it a fact that the United States now opposes lifting the embargo under any circumstances, multilaterally or unilaterally?

MR. BURNS: No, it's not. The issue that has come up most frequently in the last couple of weeks and months has been the issue of unilateral lift, and our position is well known on that. We have made a distinction in the past between unilateral and multilateral, and we don't have the same position on each. I'm not aware that we've changed our position on multilateral lift.

Q Would a multilateral lift not result in a widening of the war?

MR. BURNS: The fact is that there is no consensus at all in UNPROFOR or in the Contact Group for multilateral lift, so it's really a moot point at this time.

Q Nick, why is the United States apparently delaying the rapid reaction force at the U.N.?

MR. BURNS: It's quite simple. We have been in favor of the idea that UNPROFOR should be strengthened. We took that position publicly at Noordwijk and privately in the Contact Group, and we have in fact congratulated publicly the British and French Governments and the Dutch Government for having developed the idea of a quick reaction force. We are favorably inclined towards it.

However, we have just in the last 24 to 36 hours received a detailed view of the composition of the force, what the force would do, the mandate of the force, and how the force would be funded -- under whose authority the force would be commissioned.

It is incumbent upon this Administration, of course, to look carefully at the details that have been presented to us and also to consult with the Congress. For that reason we have asked our allies to delay a vote at the U.N. Security Council for several days until we can have the review of the situation in our own government, and I think even more importantly have a good chance to talk to the Congress and brief the Congress on what is intended, because this will be, we think and we believe, a U.N. assessed operation.

It will be under the authority of the United Nations, and therefore the United States will have to assume roughly one-third of the cost of the operation. That's a major expense. The estimates that I've seen vary, in the $200-300 million range, and I don't want to give you a specific figures because I've seen several different conflicting figures.

But because it does entail a significant amount of money, we felt it was important that we have a couple of days to discuss this with the Congress. In fact, the Secretary did receive a letter from the leadership of the Congress, asking him to have this kind of detailed discussion with the Congress, and we intend to do so.

After that is completed, then we'll be very glad to see this go to a vote at the U.N. Security Council.

Q How long do you think this will take?

MR. BURNS: I think our assumption is it will probably take until some time next week.

Q Would you need a supplemental or could this be pulled out of other accounts?

MR. BURNS: I don't now if that's been decided yet, Mark. That's one of the issues that will have to be discussed, I'm sure.

Q Another subject.

Q Stay on Bosnia, please. You've been asked a number of times in the last few days about the question of the degree of integration of missile batteries -- Bosnian Serb missile batteries in the main Serbian army -- the former Yugoslav army, and you said at one point that were there to be real integration that would have significant political implications for U.S. policy.

Have you anything new on whether there is real integration, whether it is possible that SAM-6s were delivered, for example, by Serbia to the Bosnian Serbs after the arms embargo was supposed to be in place?

MR. BURNS: David, I don't have anything new to report to you, but I'd be very glad to go over this once again, because it is an issue that interests us, and that is very important to our policy in the region.

The article that appeared on Sunday was based on alleged U.S. intelligence reports which, of course, I can't comment on. But we have been concerned about reports of Serbian military assistance to the Bosnian Serbs despite Mr. Milosevic's pledge to cut off all such assistance last autumn. As a result, the United States has called for increased monitoring on the Serbia-Bosnian border and has increased our contribution to the ICFY monitoring campaign. I believe there are about 200 monitors on that border, of whom roughly 40 are Americans.

Certainly the reports that you've raised will be considered very seriously and very thoroughly in future U.S. decisions on sanctions relief for Serbia, and we're looking into them. I did say the other day, on Monday when we discussed this, that we're not aware that any sanctions regime in the past had been perfect. We do believe there have been some leakages in this particular sanctions regime. We are concerned about those leaks.

We have made those concerns known to the government in Belgrade. That's why we've asked for an increase in the monitors and why we take the role of the monitors so seriously.

We would obviously be exceedingly concerned if we had incontrovertible evidence that the Serbian Government in Belgrade was in fact providing significant military assistance to the Bosnian Serbs along the lines that you've described. So we are looking into this and will continue to look into it.

Q Nick, if I could just follow up by asking whether it is true, as I have heard, that the translators and drivers who work directly with these monitors are supplied by the Serbian Interior Ministry?

MR. BURNS: I can look into that for you, David. I can't answer that now.

Q Nick, as you counsel all sides not to seek a military solution to this, help me understand how you could advise that to the Bosnian Government which has agreed to the diplomatic solution that the Contact Group has put for ending the conflict, whereas none of the other parties to the conflict have for more than six months, since the last plan was put forward, and you have no agreement from Milosevic and no contact with the Pale Serbs, how can you then counsel that aggrieved party, by your own words, not to fight?

MR. BURNS: You're exactly right in the inference in your question, that the onus here should be on the Bosnian Serbs, and that's where we are putting the onus -- we, the United States and the Contact Group.

Q That wasn't the import of my question. My inference --

MR. BURNS: I drew the inference then, but let me just continue. The responsibility for getting to the negotiating table rests now with the Bosnian Serbs. There is a Contact Group map and plan that the Bosnian Government has said it is willing to consider as the basis for negotiations. The Contact Group has had that position, and unfortunately the Bosnian Serbs have not. That's where the responsibility and the spotlight should be directed.

Q Nick, another subject?

MR. BURNS: Any more on Bosnia?

Q I have one on Bosnia. Does this government know anything about an alleged secret meeting between the military commander of the Bosnian Serbs and the French U.N. detachment commander?

MR. BURNS: I don't have any information to impart on that, no.

[...]

(Press briefing concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

END

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