U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE 95/06/22 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
Thursday, June 22, 1995
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
War in Bosnia
--"No Fly Zone" Mandate ..................................1
--Rapid Reaction Force: Karadzic Letter; Effectiveness;
Funding; Mandate; Dialogue w/UK, France, Netherlands .11-21
--Ambassador Churkin's Briefing of Contact Group Members .11-12
--Secretary Christopher's Mtg. w/President of Kosovo .....12
Report of Greek Parliamentarians' Visit to PKK Leader ....21-22
Report of Greek Agreement w/Syria re: Jet Fighters .......21-22
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JUNE 22, 1995, 1:15 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department
briefing. Delighted to see all of you here. Welcome back. I'll be
happy to go to whatever questions you have.
Q What do you think of the U.N. rejection of the NATO request
for permission to attack the Serb-held airfield in Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Let me just say a couple of words on the issue of the
"no-fly" zone in general, because it's been a subject of some concern in
the press, and we want to allay any concerns that you may have on this.
The North Atlantic Council decision mandating the "no-fly" zone has
not been changed. The United States continues to believe that the "no-
fly" zone is a critical mission that must continue.
I know that Secretary of Defense Perry spoke about this publicly
this morning at some length, described the incident that took place
yesterday, and I think I would just refer you to his comments.
Q Can we go back to Bosnia?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I knew sooner or later we'd go back to Bosnia.
Q Have you seen the letter from Asushi Akashi to Karadzic in
which he purports to calm their fears about the Rapid Reaction Force?
MR. BURNS: We have not seen a copy of the letter. We had not as
of late this morning. We were seeking to obtain a copy of that letter
so that we could see what was in it.
Now that we're on the subject of Bosnia, let me give you some news
in response to some questions that have been occurring, I think, at each
of our meetings this week.
The Russian Ambassador to NATO, Mr. Churkin, has returned to
Moscow. He has briefed this morning and this afternoon the Ambassadors
of the Contact Group nations, including Ambassador Tom Pickering, our
Ambassador in Russia, and we are now awaiting a report from Ambassador
Pickering on those discussions.
So upon his return to Moscow from his sojourn in the Balkans,
Ambassador Churkin has now briefed the United States and our other
Contact Group members, and we'll be very interested in Ambassador
Pickering's report on that meeting. We don't have it yet,
Q Do you have any response to all those questions that Roy and
others were raising yesterday about the rules of engagement for the
Rapid Reaction Force?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I have a few things I can say on the Rapid
Reaction Force. The Rapid Reaction Force will be part of UNPROFOR.
UNPROFOR is authorized to use force, if necessary, in carrying out its
mission in Bosnia. This would also apply to the Rapid Reaction Force.
The United States would like the Rapid Reaction Force to help
UNPROFOR to continue its operations in Bosnia and to strengthen itself.
This, of course, was the primary American concern heading into the
Noordwijk meeting of the Contact Group Ministerial, in which Secretary
Christopher participated. This was the result of that Ministerial that
UNPROFOR would take this decision to stay and strengthen itself.
So when the U.K., France and the Netherlands proposed a Rapid
Reaction Force, we quickly supported it. We still support it. We
clearly and unequivocally support it, and we now understand that it will
be part of the UNPROFOR mission.
We want this force to be effective, effective in helping UNPROFOR
to fulfill its mandate, and we are asserting this view that it be
effective; that steps be made to make it effective with our allies. We
are emphasizing the importance that the force strengthen UNPROFOR, and
that's an important point.
On funding, we're still discussing a variety of options here in
Washington with members of Congress. A possible solution would be the
creation of a voluntary fund which could be a combination of a financial
contribution -- cash -- from the United States and equipment from the
United States to support the Rapid Reaction Force.
This is one possible solution to the question of funding, but we
have not yet achieved a final outcome of the funding discussions, and we
look forward to that. The more effective that UNPROFOR and the Rapid
Reaction Force can be, the broader support for it, I think, we'll see in
the United States among both Congress and the Executive Branch.
Q Nick, I don't understand something. If it's going to be
under the U.N., then the U.S. bellies up to the bar with 30, 31 percent.
It's required to do so. How are you -- it sounds like you're trying to
finesse this a little bit and saying putting it under the U.N. and then
make a call for donations. I don't understand how you're able to get
around your U.N. obligation.
MR. BURNS: I think it's clearly understandable in this respect,
Sid. There is a discussion underway between the Congress and the
Executive Branch about whether or not it is appropriate to fund this
force. You know that. It's a public discussion. It's been underway
since -- well, certainly over the last seven or eight days, and we are
conducting that in discussions now with Congress to try to bridge the
gap and resolve this problem.
We have a very clear position -- the Clinton Administration -- and
that is that we support this force, and we'd like to be in a position to
help this force come about. As I said, one possible outcome would be a
voluntary fund, a combination of cash and equipment. That is a little
bit different than some of the talk last week about a U.N. assessed
mission of 30.4 percent, but that could be the outcome in this
particular matter because of the discussions between Congress and the
I don't want to say that will be the outcome because we're not
Q Nick, does that outcome still hinge upon answers from the
French and the British about what this force is going to do, because you
have said that it's going to be part of UNPROFOR, that UNPROFOR can use
force by its mandate, therefore the United States wants the Rapid
Reaction Force to continue and to strengthen that force, and you want it
to be effective. But you have not answered the question about whether
the British and the French have said that it would take offensive or
more robust measures.
And I'm asking, first of all, have you gotten those assurances?
And, secondly, does the level of funding depend upon those assurances?
MR. BURNS: Steve, let me say this. We are certainly asserting our
view that this is a relevant question for the Clinton Administration,
for the Executive Branch, and it's certainly a relevant question for
members of Congress.
Mr. Rifkind was here over the last couple of days, and the nature
of his discussions with both Congressional leaders and with
Administration leaders was along these lines. We are interested in
knowing what the specific intention of the troop-contributing countries
is about the mandate of the force, about how it would react and respond
to certain situations that will likely occur on the ground in Bosnia.
It's important for us to understand this because we believe the
more that we can demonstrate that this force will be effective -- which
I think is the best way to describe this -- the broader the support
there will be in the United States.
Q Have you gotten those assurances or any answers?
MR. BURNS: We are in the process of getting them, but these are
conversations not just with the Government of the United Kingdom but
also with France and the Netherlands. These are conversations taking
place not just in Washington but in the United Nations in New York and
also on the ground in Sarajevo and in Zagreb.
Q Are you suggesting that UNPROFOR backed by the Rapid Reaction
Force should, for example, shoot its way into Sarajevo to deliver aid?
MR. BURNS: I was not suggesting that in my comments today, Judd.
I was simply suggesting that we have a dialogue underway with the three
governments, and one of the central questions in the dialogue is what
the mandate of this force will be.
I prefer to use the word "effective" in asserting that we think
that the Rapid Reaction Force must be effective because we have a
strategic interest in strengthening UNPROFOR. We have had a very
specific dialogue, which I don't care to go into, with these three
governments. I don't think it's appropriate to go into exactly what we
are proposing or they may be proposing until we get to the end of that
dialogue and there is some resolution of that matter.
But I have spoken before about the general climate in which all of
these discussions take place. This is a period of transition. It's a
period of critical transition and of considerable flux. UNPROFOR right
now is not constituted to meet its mandate and responsibilities. It is
our hope that UNPROFOR will be given the tools to strengthen itself and
carry out its mandate.
The other alternative that some people are asserting is a
withdrawal of UNPROFOR, and we think for a variety of reasons that that
would be disadvantageous to the United States and to our allies because
it would lead, we think, to a widening of the war, to more bloodshed,
and it would probably cripple, at least in the short term, the political
It's a difficult choice here, because we have a situation on the
ground which is highly imperfect and deeply flawed. But the conclusion
we bring about in analyzing the flawed nature of UNPROFOR is not that it
should withdraw but it should stay and be strengthened, and the creation
of the Rapid Reaction Force is a very element in trying to strengthen
Q Well, Rifkind in a number of venues here seemed to be
suggesting, at least to me, through my interpretation of it, that unless
there's a greater commitment from the international community in terms
of giving troops beyond the British, French and the Dutch that UNPROFOR
can't meet those mandates, and he seemed to be suggesting the United
States, among others, in this context.
MR. BURNS: We are in a period of transition. We are seeking
answers to these questions. There are at least three major troop-
contributing countries with which we are holding discussions; and, when
we get to the end of those discussions, we'll have a much clearer view
of what a uniform view is within the Rapid Reaction Force of its mandate
and its role. I don't believe we're at the end of those discussions
Q I think its mandate has been determined. Is it the
Administration's understanding that one of its functions is to deliver
humanitarian aid throughout the country with force, if necessary?
MR. BURNS: Sid, the mandate of UNPROFOR is determined. The
mandate of the Rapid Reaction Force is not yet specifically determined.
The mandate of UNPROFOR is to do several things, and one of the most
important is to deliver humanitarian assistance to the more than half
million people who live in the enclaves throughout Bosnia.
Whether or not UNPROFOR or the Rapid Reaction Force take the kinds
of measures that you describe to deliver that aid is still an open
question. It was an open question during Mr. Rifkind's visit here, and
it remains an open question which we don't believe has been finally
decided by the United Nations and the troop-contributing countries.
It's one of the questions in which we have a strong interest, and
we're asserting those views in our discussions with these countries.
Q But are you saying that the United States favors the creation
of a mandate that would make safe areas safe, for example, or are you
just limiting your phraseology today to the use of the word "effective"?
MR. BURNS: I was trying to, George, but --
Q You succeeded.
MR. BURNS: I succeeded for a while. What we're saying, George, is
that it's important that UNPROFOR fulfill its missions. We haven't
changed our view as to the importance of UNPROFOR fulfilling its
missions. But to be completely frank and direct, since we are in a
transition point, and it is right now unclear whether or not UNPROFOR
will be able to fulfill those missions, the discussions surrounding the
mandate of the Rapid Reaction Force are particularly important and
particularly interesting, and I'm not in a position to say that we have
a 100 percent clear view of what the mandate and role of this force
We are seeking that from our allies, but it just wouldn't be fair
or honest for me to say that we are at the end of those discussions,
because we're not. But that remains the crux of the matter.
Q But you said the force would be part of UNPROFOR.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q So it would have the same authorization as contained in the
mandates that UNPROFOR has operated under, would it not?
MR. BURNS: Yes. It is part of UNPROFOR, so therefore in the
question of having authorization to use force, if necessary to carry out
its mission, we think that this would apply to the Rapid Reaction Force.
That is clear.
But what is unclear is in a situation where UNPROFOR is not now
able to fulfill its mission, what difference will the Rapid Reaction
Force serve in allowing UNPROFOR to meet its responsibilities and its
mission. It's our very strong hope -- we don't have a neutral view of
this -- that the Rapid Reaction Force will be constituted in such a way
that it is -- to go back to that word -- "effective" in allowing in the
United Nations to carry out its mandate. That's our objective here.
Again, we're not at the end of these discussions.
Q Have you asked the British, French and Dutch these questions
and just not gotten answers, or have you been told that those questions
are in fact open even at this point to negotiation? There's a
MR. BURNS: We've addressed ourselves to all of these questions in
our discussions with those three countries and with officials of the
United Nations. The best thing I can say is that those discussions are
ongoing and will continue for a short while. I can't choose a date when
they'll end. When they end and when there is a clear view as to what
the mandate is, we'll be ready to discuss it with you.
Q Because it didn't seem when Rifkind was here that this is in
fact an open question, and he made it sound like it has been decided.
Are you satisfied that these governments are still open to --
MR. BURNS: I think it is sure that these governments are open to
further discussion of this. There has to be further discussion, yes.
Q Mr. President Carter is reported to be planning to go to
North Korea as a go-between --
Q Could we stay on Bosnia for a second?
MR. BURNS: Let's go back to Bosnia, and then I'll be glad to go to
Q Nick, there's a suggestion that if the British, French and
Dutch say 10,000 troops are not enough to take that effective action as
you suggest, or it turns out that on the ground it's shown that it's not
enough, that the U.S. would favor increasing the size of the Rapid
MR. BURNS: Right now, Judd, we're dealing with a proposal that is
of a force of roughly 10,000 troops. To my knowledge, we've not been
given any alternative suggestion for a stronger force -- to my
knowledge. We're dealing on the basis of that in our consideration of
the funding issue, where you would have to calculate the annual cost,
and that's roughly the size of the force that we have been advised is
envisaged by the three major troop-contributing countries.
Q Is the idea to have voluntary contributions pay for this --
this is something that's been proposed by the United States in these
MR. BURNS: The discussions that are underway, just to be clear,
are between the Clinton Administration and senior members of Congress.
Of course, we're keeping our allies informed about those discussions and
consulting with them, and they have a direct and great interest in those
One of the possible solutions is the creation of a voluntary fund;
yes. There are other possible options, but right now we don't have a
final answer to this question.
Q When you all sat down in Noordwijk and agreed this is a good
idea, did the United States tell its allies that it's a great idea, but
we're going to have to check with Congress first?
MR. BURNS: I think it's fair to say that at Noordwijk there was
only a very general discussion of the creation of this force. I think
it's also fair to say hindsight that there was a slight misunderstanding
between us and some of our allies about the funding issue.
When it became clear what the troop-contributing countries had in
mind by way of funding -- namely, that this would be a U.N. assessed
operation; at least some of them said that last week -- then, we quickly
asserted the view that, of course, we had to consult with Congress. Any
Administration would have to do that.
This entails a considerable amount of money. It's the
responsibility of the Congress to look into this question along with the
Administration. So last week, I think, was the week when this became
abundantly clear to us. Therefore, the question of Congressional
consultations became most important.
Q What did the allies lead you to believe would be the source
MR. BURNS: When?
Q In Noordwijk.
MR. BURNS: Let's go back to Noordwijk and try to recreate a little
bit the environment, to answer your question.
The Noordwijk meeting followed, of course, NATO airstrikes and the
Pale ammunition dumps and the taking of several hundred hostages. The
question in Noordwijk was: What is the future of UNPROFOR? Should
UNPROFOR remain? Should UNPROFOR be withdrawn? What reaction would the
major troop-contributing countries -- France and the United Kingdom --
have at this series of events?
We were very satisfied with the outcome of the five and half hours
of discussions in Noordwijk on this issue; that all of the countries,
including the United States and Russia, agreed that UNPROFOR had to stay
and had to be beefed up. We were very pleased to see the suggestion
that a Rapid Reaction Force should be created to give UNPROFOR more
beef, more armor, more solidity, and to allow UNPROFOR to be able to
stay in the region.
There wasn't, at least to my knowledge, any specific detailed
conversations about how it will be funded, how it will be structured,
and so on and so forth. Those conversations began after Noordwijk, and
particularly after the Secretary's return from his subsequent visits to
Lisbon and Madrid.
Then when we began to get into this question, it became clear that
there might have been a misunderstanding about funding. That was
clarified last week on the eve of President Chirac's visit. So for a
week now we've been dealing with the problem of funding, with a very
clear understanding of what we and the allies are talking about.
Q What was the misunderstanding?
MR. BURNS: We've gone over this a number of times. Let me just
limit myself to saying, there was a misunderstanding because the United
States was not completely clear from the initial conversations at
Noordwijk that this would be a U.N. assessed operation. We are now very
clear that is what the allied countries intend -- the troop-contributing
countries intend -- and we're operating on that basis.
Q Can I follow on that? Because Rifkind, at the British the
other night, said that it was clear in Paris, which was the Saturday
after Noordwijk, or the same week, that this would be an UNPROFOR
operation and therefore there is no need to discuss funding because
funding would normally flow from that fact.
Was that this government's understanding at Paris?
MR. BURNS: Well, someday there's going to be a history written on
Bosnia. The book is going to be several thousand pages long. This will
be a sub-chapter. If you want, on some other occasion, we can go into
all the details of all the conversations. But I think it's pretty clear
where we are now, how we got here, and I think I've given you a fairly
direct view of the issues with which we are now discussing with our
Q A follow on that. I'm unclear what the discussions are about
between the U.S. and the allies. Are you asking clarifications, or are
you telling them that unless they make the Rapid Reaction Force really
effective, you're not going to convince Congress to fund the force?
MR. BURNS: We're having very constructive, friendly, amicable,
productive discussions -- non-controversial -- with our allies. Our
solidarity with our allies is very important to us. The fact that they
have made the decision to stay is important to us and motivates us to
want to answer this question of funding.
We are asserting views in these discussions about what we think
should happen; what type of focus the Rapid Reaction Force should have.
We have views and we are asserting them. I don't want to go into the
specifics of that because that wouldn't be very productive, and those
countries are not going into the specific nature of the discussions
But we want to get to the end of this, and we want to have, as a
result, the creation and the deployment of a Rapid Reaction Force --
strong U.S. support for that force and some solution to the funding
I have offered one possible solution today, I believe for the first
time, in our meetings together. That may be the end result of this. We
just are looking forward to the time when we can move on, beyond the
funding issue, to the issue of full deployment and to the primary focus
here for the United States, which is, keep UNPROFOR there, bolster
UNPROFOR, and try to get UNPROFOR into a position where it can perform
the task it currently is unable to perform.
Q There's legislation on the Hill that the Administration has
threatened to veto that would change the way the -- alter U.N. funding.
It would give Congress more oversight over peacekeeping operations. The
President and the Secretary of State have said it would infringe on his
constitutional prerogatives to conduct foreign policy, that it would
spell the end of peacekeeping.
Those comments, to me -- correct me if I'm wrong -- seem a tad
hypocritical now; that you all are doing the same thing with this Rapid
Reaction Force -- or attempting to do to influence the funding of this
Rapid Reaction Force in a way that seems very consistent with what
Congress wants you to do, in the first place?
MR. BURNS: We are dealing with reality. The reality is that the
Congress and the Administration are discussing funding for a force. The
Administration does not have the authority to go ahead on its own to
make these kinds of financial commitments. There have to be
consultations. The Administration is committed to them. We deal with
reality. We don't deal with things that are in a world of illusions.
The reality is that these discussions have to take place. I
wouldn't be as negative in characterizing this as you are, Sid.
Q Two days ago, I believe, a (inaudible) Greek parliamentarian
they had a press conference in Athens. They announced that they visited
the Syrian territory; they visited PKK terrorist organization leader
Abdullah Ocalan, and they give him some kind friendship plaque. I don't
know what it is.
Also, last week, some of the Greek defense officials, they visited
Damascus. They had an agreement with the Government of Syria to base
some jet fighters in Syrian territory.
I'm asking two questions: What is the reaction to this, is the
first time Syrian-Greek parliamentarian to giving friendship to some
terrorist organization leader? And the second one, what would be the
reason to base, outside of the territory, some aircraft or air force
plane based on Syrian territory? Do you have any reaction on both of
MR. BURNS: Unfortunately, I'm unaware of both events, so I don't
have any specific reaction. But let me take the opportunity just to say
once again, very clearly, that the PKK is a vicious terrorist
organization; that we very much agree that Turkey has a right and
responsibility to fight that organization because it is responsible for
many acts of terrorism within Turkey that have victimized Turkish
Our position on the PKK is very clear, but I can't help you out on
your specific questions because I'm unaware of the events.
Q Can I follow Sid's question? These two events, they are
showing that the Syrians have a base for terrorist organizations. The
world is very quiet on the Damascus government. Actually, we are saying
this in some words but we are not acting actively against the Assad
MR. BURNS: We have made clear time and again our very serious
concerns about the issue of terrorism with the Government of Syria and
that will continue; that dialogue will continue. We've been very clear
about that in our human rights reports and in our public statements.
Q Do you have any comment on yesterday's meeting between
Secretary Christopher and Mr. Rugova?
MR. BURNS: Yes, I have a short comment. They had an excellent
meeting, a very good meeting. The Secretary was glad to have the
opportunity to meet him and to exchange views on the situation in
This was a meeting that took place late in the afternoon. I
believe it was 30 to 40 minutes in duration. We certainly look forward
to the opportunity in the future to have further conversations.
Q Thank you.
(Press briefing concluded at 2:05 p.m.)