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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/06/21 DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

From: Thanos Tsekouras <thanost@MIT.EDU>


OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

I N D E X

Wednesday, June 21, 1995

Briefer: Nicholas Burns

[...]

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

UNPROFOR/Rapid Reaction Force/Funding ....................1-2,6-7

Combination of Bosnian/Croatian Military Operations ......2-3

Operation Deny Flight .....................................2-4

Access of UN Forces Impeded by Bosnian Government ........4

Russian Ambassador Churkin's Activities in Region ........4-5

Role of Contact Group ....................................5-6

Secretary Christopher's Mtg. with Dr. Rugova .............7

[...]


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #90

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 1995, 1:07 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

[...]

Q Can you address the question: Does the U.S. Government have a clear idea of the precise mission of the Rapid Reaction Force, now that there have been talks around the Administration with Mr. Rifkind and the Dutch Defense Minister?

MR. BURNS: This is one of the issues that has been discussed intensively between the United States, Britain, France, and the Netherlands -- the major troop-contributing countries, the latter three, to UNPROFOR -- and those countries that will be the backbone of the Rapid Reaction Force. We're seeking a clarification from those countries on that specific question, but I have nothing further for you today, Roy -- certainly nothing more than what we said yesterday.

Q What clarifications exactly are you seeking?

MR. BURNS: We're seeking clarifications as to the specific role that the troop-contributing countries believe that the Rapid Reaction Force would take.

Q Is there some doubt? I mean, it's kind of several weeks into the process. Is there some -- it seems unusual that even now, after the President said he wants to ask Congress for the money, that you don't actually know what the Force is going to do.

MR. BURNS: We support the creation of this Force. We have supported it since the Noordwijk meeting, and we certainly support it very clearly and unequivocally because we believe that it will help in the quest to maintain UNPROFOR in the region and to strengthen it. That's important, and that is the basis for our support.

We do have an interest in sorting out with our allies what the exact mission of the Rapid Reaction Force would be, and as I said we're seeking clarifications. But I really don't have any information that would take me beyond where I was on this yesterday.

Q Where do you stand on the hunt for funds?

MR. BURNS: Where we stand is exactly where we stood yesterday. We're having discussions with the Congress -- various members of Congress -- and they're quite intensive, they're underway. They have been underway since late last week. When those discussions are concluded, we hope very much that it will have resolved the problem of funding. But I don't have anything for you today on that.

Q Nick, there have been reports about combined Bosnian-Croatian military operations on the ground. Do you have any reports on that? And, secondly, there are also reports coming from Croatia that there has been a scaling-down of the "no-fly" flights.

I know you answered that yesterday, but the reports are still coming out. Do you have anything new?

MR. BURNS: On the second question, I would direct you to the Pentagon for specific information, but I was informed by the Pentagon yesterday and still maintain that the "Operation Deny Flight" will continue in its full dimension and that we are not aware of any drawdown of aircraft from that operation.

Q Nick, and on the first --

Q Croatian-Bosnian --

MR. BURNS: Yes, I'm sorry. On the issue of whether or not Croatia and Bosnia are in fact integrating their tactical or strategic military plans, we've seen the same reports. We don't have diplomats in the region -- that is, at the center of the fighting -- so we can't confirm those reports.

Q On the "no-fly", there's a report that a couple of fixed-wing aircraft were spotted near Banja Luka, that NATO volunteered to take some sort of action. The U.N. said no, which is not in and of itself unusual, but I guess goes to the point whether there was a deal in exchange for the release of the hostages.

MR. BURNS: On the issue of whether there was some kind of a deal or understanding pertaining to the release of the hostages and whether that was linked to the issue of air strikes, I believe that Mr. Akashi has said publicly that there was no such deal.

On the issue of the events or activities that you described, there's a dual-key arrangement in place between the United Nations and NATO which governs the use of air power in the region. That dual key is in operation. So if you're wondering whether one can confirm a specific incident to which you refer, I think really the U.N. and NATO at this time are the best people to go to for that -- the people on the ground.

Q One more incident, really. It would just be one more on top of the very long tally.

I guess the other point is: Why bother continuing with the "no- fly" operation?

MR. BURNS: The "no-fly" operation is an important part of the operations of the United Nations -- of UNPROFOR, in the region -- and we believe it has continuing importance and relevance. We have no plans to limit "Operation Deny Flight"; it will continue.

Q Nick, in the past the "no-fly" zone had been automatic and it was only ground strikes that required the dual key. Has there been a change in that policy?

MR. BURNS: I don't believe there's been a change in the policy. I'm not aware of any change, but I would refer you to the people on the ground for a detailed explanation of that.

Q Nick, another topic --

Q No. Still on Bosnia, there's a report that some Canadian troops are being surrounded or otherwise sort of impeded in their movements by the Bosnian Government forces. What do you know about that, and what do you have to say about it?

MR. BURNS: We have seen the same reports. We've been in touch with officials of some of the countries involved. I'm not aware that the Bosnian Government forces have completely unblocked the Canadian forces today in Visoko or in the region of Visoko.

We have called repeatedly on all parties not to hinder the United Nations forces in carrying out their mandate. We continue to believe that UNPROFOR has a vital role to play, as we've been discussing for the last couple of days, in averting a humanitarian tragedy. Therefore, UNPROFOR's unimpeded access to delivering humanitarian goods is very important and to fulfilling the other missions that it has.

Q What kind of effort, though, has the United States made to use its considerable influence with the Bosnian Government?

MR. BURNS: This is first and foremost the responsibility of those on the ground to try to work out the problem, but certainly we are working towards a resolution of the problem. We don't think this has been a positive action. We call upon all parties, and that includes the Bosnian Government, not to hinder the activities of U.N. forces. We've made that very clear to the Bosnian Government.

Q Have you gotten the report back from Vitaly Churkin on his goings-on in the Balkans?

MR. BURNS: I understand that Ambassador Churkin is concluding his travels in the Balkans, that he's due back in Moscow this evening. We fully anticipate that Ambassador Pickering, the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow, will receive a full briefing from the Russian Government tomorrow morning on the activities of Ambassador Churkin and any conclusions he has drawn from his discussions in the area.

Q But so far you haven't gotten a readout from him on his talks as they progressed.

MR. BURNS: That's right. So far we have not received a readout or a briefing from the Russian Government on his talks.

Q Just to clarify, was he going on behalf of the Contact Group or with Contact Group plans in mind, or on behalf of the Russian Government?

MR. BURNS: I think it's been described by the Russian Government as a Russian mission. I think, as we talked about before, Russia is a member of the Contact Group. It's sometimes hard to distinguish between what is a mission on behalf of the Contact Group and what is a mission on behalf of a particular country, because at this point we do have agreement in the Contact Group around the Contact Group map and plan as the starting point for negotiations.

There has also been agreement in the Contact Group on the offer that the United States has taken a lead on in our own diplomatic missions in the area -- the offer for limited sanctions relief in return for Serbian recognition of Bosnia.

So it's hard to give a blanket answer to that question, Roy, but we're looking forward to our discussions tomorrow and we hope that he had a productive round of discussions.

Q There was some talk that the French had suggested to Yeltsin some mission of this sort and that's how it came about. So in other words, it does have some sanction from within the Contact Group. Is that accurate?

MR. BURNS: I don't have anything for you on that particular report.

Q Because if that's not the case, then it just looks like the Russians are breaking ranks. The solidarity of the Contact Group, which has been spoken about often enough, you would think requires the countries in diplomatic talks to coordinate before the actions happen, not just to get a briefing after the event.

MR. BURNS: I think as we discussed yesterday, it's important to remember that at Noordwijk, which was the last meeting of the Contract Group ministerial -- at a ministerial level -- there was agreement on the major issues that are at play today in Bosnia on the diplomatic strategy pertaining to Belgrade as well as to Pale. We have no reason to believe that the Russians have deviated from the set of agreements that were worked out at Noordwijk; every reason to believe that they are acting fully in concert with those understandings.

Q Last night Mr. Rifkind had a briefing for the press. In the course of his briefing, he said that if Congress or if the U.S. Government as a whole fails to provide aid to the Rapid Reaction Force, it will have very damaging consequences for the credibility of the U.S. Administration. Do you agree?

MR. BURNS: I would say that the President and Secretary have made very clear our full support for the Rapid Reaction Force, and our full support for the activities of our allies who are the major troop contributors to UNPROFOR.

We are the major financier of UNPROFOR. We're the major contributor of money to support UNPROFOR. We have supported the largest airlift in history of humanitarian goods over the last couple of years. We have been involved. We have a voice, and we are supporting those that have troops on the ground.

Q Would it be very damaging for U.S. credibility if we don't provide money for this Rapid Reaction Force?

MR. BURNS: I don't want to deal in a hypothetical question, especially the way it's phrased, frankly. I think it's important to remember that we are on record clearly and unequivocally in public as supporting this force. We are trying to work out the funding issue with Congress, and we hope to work it out very shortly.

Q Again, you're repeating that you favor the force but you don't know what it's going to do. Mr. Rifkind said last night that one thing it will not do is punch through resistance to deliver aid. In other words, if there's a road block, they won't try to break through it. Nor, in fact, will they even use force to get into Sarajevo if the Serbs decide to stop them. So it's not even clear whether they're ever going to take up their posts in Sarajevo.

How can you push for money for a force where we don't even know if they're going to arrive?

MR. BURNS: The troops are arriving. The troops began to arrive two and a half weeks ago. All of the troops are not yet there, but the Rapid Reaction Force is actually taking form physically on the ground. We have pledged to support it with communications and logistics, intelligence, and lift capabilities.

The rationale for declaring publicly our support for the Rapid Reaction Force is the following: We believe it's in our strategic interest to keep UNPROFOR in the region and to strengthen it. We believe that the presence of the force in bolstering the current U.N. mission will, in fact, strengthen that U.N. mission.

You have asked a couple of questions that are good questions pertaining to the specific mandate that the force would have in responding to a series of possible contingencies within Bosnia. We don't have an answer yet. At least, we're not aware that there's any kind of agreement on the part of the troop-contributing countries to answer your specific question, and that's why we're seeking clarification on that end of the deal.

But we certainly think the proposition that bolstering the U.N. force is good and reasonable and makes sense from our point of view, and strengthening it does as well.

Q What's on Secretary Christopher's agenda with Mr. Rugova this afternoon? Is it Bosnia, or is it just the situation of the Albanians in Kosovo?

MR. BURNS: I think the discussion today will focus on the situation, not so much in Bosnia but in that particular region. We expect it to be a good, productive meeting.

[...]

Q Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:39 p.m.)

(###)

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