U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (June 14, 1995)
From: email@example.com (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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.)