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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (June 19, 1995)

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

Subject: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING (June 19, 1995)


OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

I N D E X

Monday, June 19, 1995

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

[...]

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

War in Bosnia

--Report of UN-Bosnian Serb "Deal" re: Hostages ..........4-5

--NATO Air Strikes Option ................................5

--Reports of Serb Air Strikes of Croatian Territory ......5

--Rapid Reaction Force: Consultations w/Congress .........6,12-13

--Russian Ambassador to NATO Churkin's Activities in

Region ...............................................6-7

--Secretary Christopher's Meeting with FM of Bosnia ......7-8

--Withdrawal of UN Personnel from Weapons Collection

Points ...............................................8,10-11

--Role of UNPROFOR .......................................8-11

--Secretary's Advisor on Bosnian Federation Affairs ......13-14

[...]

TURKEY

Turkey-EU Relationship ...................................20-21,26-27

CYPRUS

Cyprus Issue .............................................26-27

[...]

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #88

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 1995, 1:24 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[...]

Q A question on Bosnia? There seems to have been a deal worked out by the U.N. and the Bosnian Serbs for the release of the hostages. It's described differently in different places, but one component is obviously the release of the four Serbs who were held by the U.N. The other seems to be the withdrawal of all U.N. forces from the weapons depots.

Do you have any comment on those elements of what seems to be a deal?

MR. BURNS: I really don't, Roy. I would just have to refer you to the United Nations, and specifically to Mr. Akashi, who is the lead U.N. official on the ground, who took the lead in discussions with the Bosnian Serbs.

Q The Serbs have been saying that they have won a cessation of air action against them by releasing the hostages. Does this government have a comment?

MR. BURNS: I really don't have any comment on that.

Q Nick, do you believe there was a deal? Does the United States believe there was a deal?

MR. BURNS: I'm just going to have to refer you to the United Nations on that one. Mr. Akashi said over the weekend there was no such deal. It was his responsibility to lead these discussions; he led them. I would just refer you to the United Nations for comment on that.

Q Could I take you through several parts of the Bosnia equation and see what U.S. policy is today?

At this point, does the United States favor or not favor the use of airstrikes in Bosnia?

MR. BURNS: David, as you know, that has always been an option throughout, at least, the most recent phase of this conflict. That option has been exercised in the past and it remains, of course, an option. But I'm unaware of any plans that would put that option into effect right now.

Q Are you aware that there are reports that this weekend Serbs bombed Croatian territory with their aircraft?

MR. BURNS: I've seen the reports, yes.

Q And the U.S. doesn't feel there's any need to retaliate against that or take any action against that?

MR. BURNS: At this point, as far as I'm aware, David, we have just seen the press reports on that and are looking into those press reports, seeking to clarify them. Certainly, you don't want to initiate any type of activity just in response to reports. You have to check things out and try to ascertain the credibility of reports first.

Q What about the Rapid Reaction Force and the money for the Rapid Reaction Force? What's the U.S. position on that today?

MR. BURNS: The U.S. position on that today is the same as the U.S. position on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The position of the U.S. Government on that is that we're determined to work with our allies and with the Congress to work out the funding issue. We are exploring different approaches, but I'm certainly not going to speculate on the final outcome of this issue. It's highly complex, and it's undecided.

Q Are you in consultation with Congress? Is there some reason to believe the money will be --

MR. BURNS: There were consultations with Congress last Friday. We sent a senior U.S. official, Dick Holbrooke, to Capitol Hill for discussions with Congressional staff. The consultations with Congress have continued and will continue for the next couple of days.

We are exploring different approaches to this problem, and we are determined and committed to work out a resolution of the issue. It's a very difficult issue, and I can't really lead you in any particular direction today as to how this is going to turn out.

Q Nick, what do you know about Churkin's comings and goings? Apparently, he saw Milosevic and then was heading for Pale.

MR. BURNS: We are following Mr. Churkin's activities in the Balkans with great interest. He is someone who has had a lot of experience in that area before he became the Russian Ambassador to NATO. We certainly look forward to the opportunity to be in touch with Mr. Churkin about his activities in the area.

Q But has he not been in touch with, say, Frasure or Holbrooke or somebody in this government to coordinate what he's doing? Or is he just fulfilling, in the Russians specific way, the general commitment that Yeltsin gave to try to be influential?

MR. BURNS: We've always looked to the Russians to try to be influential with the Government in Belgrade and as much as is possible with the Bonsai Serb leadership in Pale. In fact, the Russian Government, on a number of occasions over the past year, has been very helpful to the Contact Group's efforts to understand the positions of both Belgrade and Pale and to communicate messages.

In this particular case, I'm not aware that Mr. Churkin has been in contact with either Ambassador Frasure or Assistant Secretary Holbrooke. I can check on that. I just don't know at this point, and it wasn't mentioned in the conversations I had with at least one of those people this morning.

Q So are you suggesting that the Russians are freelancing again, or do you think that this is well intentioned?

MR. BURNS: Actually, as a result of the meeting in Noordwijk of Contact Group foreign ministers, we have had very good cooperation with Russia in recent weeks. We have been in close contact with them. Of course, there was a lot of discussion of this issue in Halifax, both in some of the meetings and in the margins of the meetings, and there has been daily contact between us through our capitals and through our respective embassies.

It's no secret that since the Contact Group was formed in the winter of 1994, from time to time we've had some serious disagreements with the Russian Government on tactical issues, but in recent weeks it's been quite good. I would just remind you at the Contact Group meeting in Noordwijk, Minister Kozyrev gave very forceful, open, public support to Bob Frasure's mission to convince Mr. Milosevic to recognize Bosnia in return for limited sanctions relief. We know of nothing that would indicate that the Russian Government has changed its view on that particular matter.

So I don't think we view Ambassador Churkin's activities with any great deal of concern -- certainly not of any negative concern -- but we do want and expect to be fully briefed on his conversations as we fully brief the Russian Government on Ambassador Frasure's conversations. And I'm sure that will take place.

Q As a follow, as far as today there's a meeting upstairs with Mr. -- pardon the mispronunciation -- Sacirbey, the Foreign Minister of Bosnia. Was that an appointment that had been arranged for some time, Nick, or is that something that came up after G-7, or can you say?

MR. BURNS: Yes. Secretary Christopher will be meeting the Bosnian Foreign Minister this afternoon at 5:00 here in the Department. That was a request that came from the Bosnian Foreign Ministry for this appointment, and it came rather late, and it was just put on the Secretary's schedule this morning.

That is why the first edition of the Secretary's public schedule did not include this, but we have since published an updated version for you.

Q Can you possibly get us a photo op?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe so. I think it's the intention to have this meeting take place without a photo op.

Q The removal of the U.N. personnel from the weapons depots in a sense destroys the weapons exclusion zone, and this is something that the United States put an awful lot of energy into establishing.

So, first of all, can you tell us what the status is of this whole zone, and what you'd like to see done about it?

MR. BURNS: Roy, we are now seeking clarification from the United Nations, both in New York and in the field, in Sarajevo and Zagreb and other places, about exactly how it intends to proceed now that the U.N. personnel have been withdrawn from the weapons collections points. Those are going to be very important discussions.

Q Nick, do you have an idea how you'd like to proceed yourselves in the United States and in NATO -- as the leader of NATO, because basically NATO helps bring this whole zone about. As I say, it was certainly a great deal of focus in this room and in the White House at that time in February '94.

MR. BURNS: I think it's fair to say that there are a couple of different strands coming together, and they have been coming together for a number of weeks. First and foremost is the question of whether UNPROFOR should stay in Bosnia, and we believe that question has been answered affirmatively, both by the Noordwijk meetings and by subsequent decisions made by the French, British and Dutch Governments.

The second is can UNPROFOR in staying in Bosnia have a chance to fulfill the mandates that it has received as its leading responsibilities. The leading edge of this question, of course, is the issue of the rapid-reaction force and the attempt now by the three governments that I mentioned to try to strengthen UNPROFOR by including now a rapid-reaction force.

That leads me to a third question: What will be the role of UNPROFOR if it does stay and does have this component of a rapid- reaction force. I don't believe that that question has been fully answered either by the United Nations or by the leading troop contributors to UNPROFOR, and it remains your right to focus on it -- one of the most important questions.

It's the one that we are discussing with them bilaterally. It was discussed in the meetings at Halifax, in the margins of those meetings and is being discussed in the field. It remains, I think, the greatest unknown about how UNPROFOR will proceed.

What has happened amidst all of this diplomatic contact in these three levels that I just talked about is that UNPROFOR over the last couple of weeks has been unable to carry out most of its missions. Not only the mission that you described in terms of weapons collections of heavy weapons, but also the mission of feeding the populations in Sarajevo and the enclaves. It has been unable to carry out those responsibilities.

The question now for the United Nations and for countries like the United States that are -- well, the United States is the major financial support of UNPROFOR -- is how can we now proceed to develop a situation and develop a commitment from the West whereby these major responsibilities can be carried out.

I've posed these questions. We've discussed them in the past couple of weeks. I don't believe it's possible to say that we have answers to those questions yet. That remains the crux of our own diplomacy, to work with Secretary General Boutros-Ghali and with all the leading troop contributor countries to try to see if we can get to the bottom of those questions.

Q It sounds as though from the tone of your remarks that you might -- that the U.S. view may be evolving toward a more narrow role for UNPROFOR, simply because the other functions are not sustainable.

MR. BURNS: Carol, I wouldn't say that's the U.S. view at all. Our view, as expressed by the President and Secretary Christopher, have been for many weeks now -- as we've been in this period of flux and uncertainty -- that not only should UNPROFOR stay, it should be strengthened, and we want to see it strengthened.

But I am not in a position to affirm to you positively that all the countries involved in UNPROFOR have worked through all of these problems to the extent that I can say with any degree of certainty or satisfaction that UNPROFOR will be able to do this.

I think it remains to be seen whether UNPROFOR can organize itself to that extent. We very much hope that will be the case, because, as we have said many times before, the humanitarian mission, which gets less publicity I think than some of the military activities, the humanitarian mission is important for all of the people -- over a million and a half people who live in the affected areas.

The military mission is important as well. But at a time when the hostages have just now been released, when UNPROFOR will have added to it a rapid-reaction force, where the decision has been made to continue UNPROFOR in exceedingly difficult circumstances, we haven't with our partners answered all the questions on a level that we can answer Roy's question with any degree of specificity.

Q Isn't it also true, Nick, and doesn't it follow that you can't answer the question whether UNPROFOR will stay in the long term? I mean, that the rapid-reaction force is just here to bolster it temporarily?

MR. BURNS: That's not our understanding. That's not the assurances we've been given in private -- not only in public but in private by the major troop contributing countries. What we have been told, and we have no reason not to believe this -- we do believe it -- is that this rapid-reaction force is intended to strengthen UNPROFOR and to strengthen the ability of the United Nations to protect the military forces that are in the region. That force is now arriving by various degrees. It is not fully operational in the field, and all the forces have not yet arrived, but we hope that will happen rather quickly.

Q Do you support the closing down of the weapons exclusion zone -- I mean, of the regime? Because in all of your remarks this morning you haven't uttered a word of criticism of the U.N. decision, and it is a U.N. decision.

MR. BURNS: We supported the beginning of the effort last year. We supported the creation of the collection points, although we were not the lead backer of that particular way of doing things.

At one time the United States believed it might be more beneficial just to take the weapons completely out of the affected zone. That was not possible because of the climactic conditions present when this decision was taken, and we certainly now are going to seek clarifications on the decision that was made and the impact that the decision will have on an activity that most of the troop contributing countries and supporters of UNPROFOR, like the United States, felt was a worthwhile activity.

I'm not in a position to give you an answer I think that will satisfy you, frankly, today. I'm simply in a position to say that this action has just been taken, and we need to work through some conversations with our partners in the U.N. before we can speak more definitively about it.

Q One possibility that -- one reason you might not be criticizing it is that it has the advantage of removing troops from harm's way who have been previously subject to hostage-taking, and in a sense it frees you up. But also, obviously, there's a downside, which is that the weapons are now free to be used against civilians in Sarajevo.

MR. BURNS: I wouldn't argue with your characterization of the outcome of this decision.

Q So in a sense would you be welcoming this closing down? Maybe it was an idea whose time had passed.

MR. BURNS: Certainly, we have felt for quite a long time now that -- and this was really the basis for the discussion at Noordwijk -- that UNPROFOR had to go through a process of assembling its forces in defensible positions and in relieving of itself the problem of having many, many small groups of people in isolated areas. This was the reason why so many people were taken hostage after the NATO airstrikes against the Pale ammunition dump.

But, having said that, I wouldn't want you to believe that we were somehow cheering from the sidelines when this decision was taken. The decision was taken. We are now trying to have good discussions with the United Nations to ascertain just how it intends to proceed now to accomplish some of the functions that have been among its primary functions.

Q Nick, would the United States fight against the U.N. determination that the peacekeepers should be withdrawn if that came out of this discussion?

MR. BURNS: We do not believe that UNPROFOR should be withdrawn. We believe that UNPROFOR should stay. We believe that UNPROFOR has a mission that is important, and we believe that UNPROFOR, if properly configured, can be put in a position to accomplish that mission. We have a very clear position on that question.

Q You seem to be going along with everything else that the U.N. is doing there, at least not objecting to it publicly. Would that be the case? If the U.N. decided it was time to withdraw the peacekeepers, would the U.S. go along with that?

MR. BURNS: I can't answer philosophical or hypothetical questions. But what I can do is express to you our current policy, and that is -- and our policy hasn't changed in a long, long time -- we believe UNPROFOR should stay. We are taking steps to help UNPROFOR stay. We are going to be giving a lot of assistance to the rapid-reaction force.

As you know, Secretary Perry and General Shalikashvili have spelled out what that assistance is, and we want UNPROFOR to stay in the region. We do not support a withdrawal of UNPROFOR at this time.

Q Still on Bosnia, were there exclusions zones -- I mean, were there weapons collection points for Bosnian weapons as well as Bosnian Serb weapons, and, if so --

MR. BURNS: I believe so.

Q -- what should happen to those now? Should they be given back to the Bosnians?

MR. BURNS: David, I think that's just another part of the issue that has to be looked into quite carefully with the United Nations.

Still on Bosnia?

Q One more on Bosnia. Anybody else?

Q Yes.

MR. BURNS: Steve, on Bosnia.

Q Doesn't the reality of the situation now suggest that if the rapid-reaction force isn't there to withdraw troops, that it will have to go on some sort of military offensive to fulfill the mandate of the U.N.? In other words, how is it going to get to these places to feed people if it doesn't fight its way in?

MR. BURNS: That is a question that has been asked, and that is an issue that has been debated about the role and mandate of the rapid- reaction force. It does remain to be seen exactly how the rapid- reaction force will accomplish its business. The way you've described it, Steve, is certainly one possible scenario, but I would remind you that that has not been how the major troop contributing countries -- the Dutch, the British and the French -- have described the role of the rapid-reaction force.

The United Nations has also put a lot of stock into the continuing hope that it might be possible to talk to the Pale Serbs -- the Bosnian Serbs -- in order to relieve the siege of Sarajevo, in order to facilitate the flow of humanitarian food and medical assistance to the aggrieved populations.

At this point, certainly, that latter course of action does not appear to be working. It's certainly not working. So we'll just have to see what transpires. But I don't believe that question has been fully illuminated, and it may not be for some time until this force is assembled and until there can be further talks between the troop- contributing countries and the U.N. officials on the ground.

Q On Bosnia?

MR. BURNS: Still on Bosnia.

Q Nick, in today's Washington Times, an AP article by Ms. Bielman, reporting that a Major Gregg Thompson, U.N. Spokesman stated, "One fact you can't dismiss is the Americans are now advising them" -- them, being the Bosnian Muslim army. Is the United States military currently involved in helping advise the Muslims?

MR. BURNS: We are not involved in advising them on either their military strategy or their military tactics. This was an article that also caught my attention. Thank you for raising it, so I'll be glad to go into a little bit of background to this.

I believe that the thrust of this story is based on speculation and a distortion of the facts as we know them. General Sewall is an advisor to Secretary Christopher on military issues related to Bosnian Federation affairs. This includes the integration of Bosniac and Bosnian Croat forces within the framework of multi-ethnic democracy in Bosnia and pertaining to UNSC Resolution 713.

In the course of his duties, General Sewall has met with Bosnian Federation officials to discuss the effective integration of the Bosniac and Bosnian Croat commands.

Let me give you some examples. He's been working with them on organizational issues pertaining to the Federation and pertaining to the hope for integration between two military commands.

He's been working with them on a military's role in a democratic society. He is not providing advice on either a military strategy or military tactics. He is not living in the region. He is based here in the D.C. area and he makes periodic trips to the region.

The Defense bill, which prohibited last autumn U.S. enforcement of the arms embargo, did contain funds for training Bosnian and Croatian officers in English language skills and in the role of the military in a democracy, which is one of General Sewall's responsibilities on the ground.

To date, no Bosnian or Croatian officers have traveled to the United States for training under this program. So I think I can say quite categorically this article, I think, was off base.

[...]

Q Early last week a senior Administration official during a briefing at the Foreign Press Center said that Turkey would be among the top agenda items in Halifax. Was the issue of Turkey discussed in Halifax, and, if so, what's your reading?

MR. BURNS: I can't give you a complete account of all the discussions at Halifax, but I can tell you that whenever American officials meet their European counterparts, we talk about Turkey. I know Turkey was discussed at least in some meetings in Halifax, particularly the very strong view of our government that Turkey and the European Union should work to create a close relationship, and that there should, we hope, be an agreement between Turkey and the European Union on a customs agreement.

You know our policy towards Turkey. Turkey is one of our most valued allies. We believe that the process of Turkey's integration with the West through economic institutions and political relationships is a very important process for the future of Turkey. We also believe that the foundation that Turkey provides, a stable foundation in its part of the world -- which is a troubled part of the world -- is a very important factor in European security and that the European countries have to take account of that when they develop their policies towards Turkey.

[...]

Q Following your remarks about Turkey and the European Union, I'm wondering: this Turkish-European approach which you suggested a few moments ago, should take place prior or after the solution to the Cyprus problem? And I have to ask this because Ankara still occupies the Republic of Cyprus.

MR. BURNS: I think you know our position on Cyprus. Assistant Secretary Holbrooke, Ambassador Boucher, Mr. Beatty, Mr. Williams -- all four of them are working very hard on the Cyprus problem these days.

Q We know this.

MR. BURNS: We're encouraged by some of the progress that has been made, but we think that obviously a lot needs to be done. Our relationship with Turkey stands on its own. Turkey is a NATO ally of the United States. It is a strategic ally. The President and the Secretary of State have a very close relationship with the current government in Ankara. We stand by our attempts to try to convince our European partners to integrate Turkey into the European Union eventually, but certainly to facilitate the Customs Union agreement.

Turkey will remain one of the most important countries in all of Europe to the United States, and our policy is based upon that fundamental fact.

Q There is no question about that, but the question is prior or after the solution of the Cyprus problem? It's very important, this process you are suggesting.

MR. BURNS: It is unclear when the Cyprus problem will be resolved. In the meantime, we will on a parallel track continue our efforts to promote the idea of Turkey's inclusion into Europe; and therefore it is not tied.

Q Thank you.

MR. BURNS: Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 2:24 p.m.)

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