|Thursday, 21 January 2021|
U.S. Department of State 95/12/19 Daily Press Briefing
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Dimitrios Hristu)
U.S. State Department Directory
Subject: U.S. Department of State 95/12/19 Daily Press Briefing
Due to the Government furlough, this is an unedited transcript of the daily press briefing.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19, 1995, 1:10 P. M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BURNS: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department briefing. I hope that when you were called to the briefing just a moment ago, you recognized the mellifluous voice of the senior correspondent, Barry Schweid. That was, I think, the first time that he has been given the honor, I think, of calling the briefing, and I hope it was a worthwhile experience for you, Barry.
MR. SCHWEID: You can the end the briefing right now. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: It's fine with me. I mean, it really is fine with me.
I have a couple of things before I go to Barry and George.
The first is that Secretary Christopher called his colleague, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev this morning to have a discussion about the Russian elections that took place two days ago and to congratulate Minister Kozyrev on his election as a Deputy in the Duma from Murmansk.
They had a very good conversation about the elections, and we understand that Minister Kozyrev won by a very wide margin in Murmansk.
Secondly, the Secretary yesterday afternoon after -- I guess at the end of my briefing while it was going on and afterwards -- visited several offices in the State Department. He went down to the European Bureau and visited the people who have been working on the Bosnia peace negotiations. He then went to the Near East Bureau and visited the people who have been working on the Middle East negotiations. He went to the Bureau of Personnel and talked to a lot of people there.
He wanted to talk to people who, unfortunately, had to leave work yesterday and go home because they were not declared emergency personnel. He wanted to convey to them personally that he believes that all of our employees in the State Department -- both those who work in Washington and those who work at our Embassies and Consulates overseas are valuable to us; that all of them do worthwhile work.
This morning at his usual 8:30 staff meeting, he asked the Under Secretaries present -- and this has also been conveyed to the Assistant Secretaries -- that everyone here responsible for a Bureau or an Office makes sure that we remain in contact with our employees who are at home and explain to them what's happening with the negotiations with Capitol Hill.
I wanted to mention this, particularly because we really do believe we are a rather lean Department here. We're one of the smallest Cabinet agencies; that our employees are valuable to us. That is the message that he conveyed in writing from the Middle East when he was on his trip. It's also a message he tried to convey personally yesterday.
On Bosnia, I think, as you know, Admiral Leighton Smith will arrive in Sarajevo tomorrow. He's scheduled to participate in the transfer of authority ceremony at 11:00 a.m., and he will then be making calls on President Izetbegovic and Prime Minister Silajdic, and he'll be meeting with the resident NATO Ambassadors later in the day.
As you know, there will be a transfer of authority. It's very important that the NATO forces will take over. United Nations administrators will depart. It's a very important event scheduled in Sarajevo.
I also wanted to mention that Ambassador Robert Frowick, who is a Foreign Service Officer, a serving member of the Foreign Service, was formally named today to head the OSCE mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the Dayton peace agreement, the head of the OSCE mission also serves as the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, which is a key role in insuring the success of the Dayton agreement.
As you know, the Dayton agreements call for elections to be held within six to nine months of the signing, which took place last Thursday. Mr. Frowick will also, under the authority of the OSCE Chairman and office be responsible for supervising elections, process for monitoring human rights and facilitating negotiations on confidence- building measures and arms control in the region.
Finally, now that we're talking about arms control and confidence- building measures, I wanted to let you know that the Bonn Conference, which was held on those issues, concluded successfully last evening. The two major issues were to look at Annex 1-B of the Dayton agreement and to decide what confidence-building measures should be instituted by the international community.
And, secondly, to engage in a round of negotiations to discuss arms control measures for the region, which is in accordance with Article 4 of Annex 1-B of the Dayton agreement.
The conferees at Bonn decided that in early January, the first week in January, there will be specific conferences in Europe held on each of these two issues -- confidence-building measures, such as creation of a demilitarized zone, removal of equipment, limitation on forces, and also on the arms control regime which we believe is very important to help the Dayton agreement become a self-sustaining agreement.
When IFOR leaves, roughly a year from now, we hope that there will be in place a rough parity of power among the military forces there so that there will be no incentive by any of the parties to re-ignite the war.
So that was a very important conference that took place in Bonn yesterday. We were represented by Ambassador Bob Gallucci, our Ambassador-at-Large, and also by Ambassador John Kornblum, who's the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs.
The next step in the Bosnia process will be a conference tomorrow and Thursday in Brussels, and that is hosted by the European Union and the World Bank, and that's on the economic dimensions of the Dayton Accords, and specifically on reconstruction assistance, on assistance for refugees -- a lot of the questions that right now are very important as NATO takes control and has authority in Bosnia.
Q Did Kozyrev's future as Foreign Secretary, Foreign Minister come up in his conversation with Mr. Christopher? As you know, a columnist has suggested Kozyrev is going to go into the consulting business in New York and no longer be Foreign Minister.
MR. BURNS: I think Minister Kozyrev spoke to that publicly this morning. I saw a very good wire this morning from Moscow. Minister Kozyrev said that he would have to talk to President Yeltsin about this decision that he must make, and that he would have nothing to announce publicly before he talked to President Yeltsin.
I think, as you know, the Duma regulations stipulate that serving members of the Duma -- elected members of the Duma cannot serve as Ministers concurrently. So it's clearly a decision that Minister Kozyrev has to make, and we all need to await that decision. We certainly have nothing to offer in that regard.
But Secretary Christopher had a very productive phone call with him and a very positive phone call, which, of course, is consistent with the nature of their relationship, which is a very good working relationship.
Q But did the change in Minister Kozyrev's status come up during the conversation with Secretary Christopher?
MR. BURNS: You mean, Mark, you wouldn't want me to go into all the details of their conversation. You wouldn't --
Q Perish the thought.
MR. BURNS: Perish the thought. You would not want me to do that, and I wouldn't want to do that either. Let me just say that it was a very good, positive discussion. The Secretary was calling to congratulate him upon his election. I don't believe the results are official yet, but clearly the results that have come in from Murmansk show him to have a commanding lead in that race. I think close to 70 percent of the vote has been won by Minister Kozyrev. And also to congratulate him on the conduct of the Russian elections, which, as you know, all international organizations have reported those elections to be free and fair and consistent with the evolution of Russian democracy that has been so striking over the last four years.
You look dissatisfied, as if I haven't answered your question.
Q That's right, you haven't. (Laughter)
MR. BURNS: Okay.
Q Did you see the story about Germany in the Post this morning -- the United States is supposedly dissatisfied that Germany intends to withdraw from a U.N.-sponsored operation in Iraq related to monitoring.
MR. BURNS: To the UNSCOM mission.
Q Right. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: I do. I mean, I can't say that I agree with everything in that particular article, but I can say this. The international community has a huge stake in UNSCOM because it has been led superbly, I would say, by Ambassador Ekeus. It has now uncovered a massive campaign of lies and distortion by the Iraqi regime pertaining to their involvement with weapons of mass destruction. It's very clear for all to see that Iraq has been cheating for many years and lying to the United Nations and to the international community.
Therefore, it really is in the self-interest of all European countries, as well as the United States, as well as others around the world, to make sure that we support UNSCOM; that UNSCOM has all the necessary material support and service support, including airlift, so that it can do its job. We have been urging the German Government to maintain its current level of support for UNSCOM. We'll continue the discussions that we've had. Germany's airlift deployment serves the German and the international interests.
We have recently been increasing the frequency of inspection visits, and the German airlift deployment has supported a resident monitoring mission in Iraq. I don't think there's any crisis here or a huge problem between Germany and the United States. We simply believe that the German participation has been exceedingly valuable, and we wish it to be continued.
I will say that this article mentioned that the United States was so displeased that we were going to withdraw our support for a permanent German seat in the Security Council. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The truth is that the United States does support the addition of Germany and Japan as members of the U.N. Security Council. You know that. We haven't changed that one iota. We have an excellent relationship with the German Government.
The Secretary has had an excellent set of meetings with Foreign Minister Kinkel in recent months. He sees them in all these international conferences. George, that's what I meant by I think that this article is a little bit overwritten.
Q What's the upshot of that? Will Germany continue to support -- to provide helicopters for UNSCOM or not?
MR. BURNS: We hope it does. We hope it does, and we continue to make that point to the German Government. It's up to the German Government to announce whether it will or not. I can't make that decision for them.
Q What happens if they --
MR. BURNS: I think we're confident that all the members that have played such a key role in support of UNSCOM have to see now that with the recent revelations of Iraqi duplicity and lying, now's the time to keep supporting UNSCOM so that Ambassador Ekeus can do his job on behalf of the international community. That's the point we're making to the Germans, and we hope very much that this can be resolved shortly.
Q If we can take it out of the subjunctive, Foreign Minister Kinkel announced that the air support would be reduced but would be maintained at a somewhat lower level. It was announced in the Bundestag this morning.
MR. BURNS: Jim, I did not see that particular statement, but I do want to just put a cap on this by saying we've had a good set of discussions with the German Government. We'll continue those, and we hope very much that the current level of support will be maintained.
Q Based on your former experience in past undisclosed sites like Fort McNair and an office building on M Street, what will you do this time around to make sure that the Syrians and the Israelis will have an informal environment that will encourage meals together, maybe a walk in the woods, and anything that was not in Fort McNair the last time. And did you choose the site already?
MR. BURNS: We have not yet chosen the site where the Syrian- Israeli talks will begin on December 27. We're busy trying to decide which is the best site. We want it to be close to Washington so as not to inconvenience the negotiators. We do want it to be some place outside of Washington, some place secluded, some place that would have, certainly, a certain amount of security around it, so that they can meet informally. They can stay there for three days. They can negotiate day and night, if they choose to. And I think it will be a site that affords them all the benefits that they need, and it will create an atmosphere of informality that is important to these negotiations. But we haven't chosen it yet.
Once we do choose it, we will at some point announce what it is. But I just wanted to repeat what I said yesterday: There will be no press -- unfortunately for you -- press availabilities during the three days. The press will not be allowed on the site, and we will not be giving any press updates on a daily basis about what's happening.
As to what we say at the end of these particular talks on the 29th of December, that's really going to be up to the Syrians and Israelis and Ambassador Ross.
Q (Inaudible) in the site itself?
MR. BURNS: Yes. They'll be staying at the site.
Q Will the Syrians speak for the Lebanese? Will there be Lebanese in the Syrian delegation? How is this -- well, I mean, you have Serbia representing Bosnian Serbs sometimes. You have all sorts of arrangements to take in little brothers and big brothers. How are you going to -- or are you just going to have Lebanon await the results of the Syrian-Israeli negotiations?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't draw too many parallels between Dayton and Site X in Washington -- the Middle East site in Washington. The fact is that they're very different, and that they have been in different stages. I mean, Dayton was at a very different stage than this set of negotiations. Dayton included heads of state, and this set of negotiations does not in Washington.
Syria is going to represent itself. These are only Israeli-Syrian track discussions. There's an Israel-Lebanon track, Barry, as you well know. It's separate. There were some conversations in 1994, but there haven't been any significant conversations since then.
We hope very much that if there is progress in the Syrian-Israeli track, it can perhaps build confidence in making progress on the Israeli-Lebanon track, because our objective here as a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and that includes Lebanon.
Q But aren't the two situations interlocked?
MR. BURNS: Which two situations?
Q The Lebanese-Israel conflict, if you want to call it that, and the Syrian-Israeli conflict? Aren't there -- isn't there an interlacing there? Isn't the situation in southern Lebanon pretty much determined by Syria? Why would you -- why wouldn't you want to do everything comprehensive, one of the State Department's favorite words? Why not approach peace comprehensively?
MR. BURNS: We are approaching peace comprehensively, in fact. We've had an Israel-Palestinian track, and Israel-Syrian track. We have an Israel-Lebanon track. But the Syrian-Israeli and Israeli-Lebanon tracks are separate tracks.
Of course, Barry, any student of the Middle East knows that there are obvious links between Syria and Lebanon, and they're obvious links that one can't deny.
But the negotiating tracks are very much separate, and we hope that there will be progress on both tracks, because the goal is peace -- Israel's peace with all of its neighbors.
Q Will the second set of Washington area talks be also at the sub-cabinet level?
MR. BURNS: Yes, it will.
Q Same people?
MR. BURNS: We would imagine that the same people would take part. Each delegation, of course, would be free to add or subtract members. It's really their decision. I know that our representatives will be identical -- the American negotiators. Then after those talks, Secretary Christopher said that he'll return to the region, and he'll assess directly with President Assad and Prime Minister Peres the results -- the substantive results -- and frankly the procedural results of these two sets of talks.
By that I mean did this mechanism -- procedural mechanism -- work? Should we continue it? Should we adopt a different set -- a way to negotiate? One of the things that was apparent over the weekend when we were in the Middle East is that all of these parties remain open to a flexible framework for these negotiations. We can anticipate bilateral talks, trilateral talks, and we're just going to keep an open mind about the format.
Q Pardon me if this was covered yesterday. I don't think it was. Do you have anything in Shara's comments in Beirut that the Secretary carried a ten-point plan from Peres to Assad who accepted nine of those points, rejecting the tenth, which called for a summit meeting between him and Peres? And, beyond that, that he had suggested, hinted at or offered a withdrawal completely from the Golan within a matter of months rather than a staged withdrawal?
MR. BURNS: Steve, that was not covered yesterday. I was not asked about that. But now that you've asked the question, I can say exactly what Secretary Christopher said over the weekend. "We will not be able to be true to our role as an intermediary if we talk in public about the substance of these negotiations." So, therefore, I don't have any substantive comment on those remarks or on the existence of these points.
Q Not all of the points are substance. Some of them are procedural. For instance, the meeting between Assad and Peres. Does the U.S. think that would have been a good idea? Did the Israelis ask the U.S. to convey that thought? How could he say, "No, thank you."
MR. BURNS: In this context, Barry, I don't have any comment on the procedural aspects of what was reported in the press, because here is the rub. When the Secretary went in to see President Assad and Prime Minister Peres, he went on a confidential basis, and they assume that the United States will keep our conversations confidential and private.
Our success as an intermediary, I think, is directly linked to our self-discipline. So we're not going to be discussing any of these matters in public.
Q Would you in that case then encourage Mr. Shara to keep his mouth shut about this in the future?
MR. BURNS: Actually, Steve -- first of all, Steve, with all due respect, I wouldn't phrase -- I certainly wouldn't phrase the question like that, because we have great respect for Minister Shara and for President Assad and their role in this process.
Secondly, you know, it's really up to the Syrians and Israelis what they want to say in public, but it's not up to the United States to take the initiative. It's their negotiation. They're the ones that have to make peace. We're trying to help them on the way. So we're certainly not going to give them any advice as to what they say in public. If they choose to go public, that's really their own decision.
Q Is that the situation even when the talks are underway near Washington, unlike -- again, unlike Dayton, there is no pledge of silence, is there?
MR. BURNS: Actually, I think there is an understanding that the best way to conduct the Washington Site X discussions will be to limit any kind of public comment, because that really just reduces the pressure on these diplomats to have to think about what we say to the press and what can we agree or not to agree on specific points.
Q There are all sorts of ways of looking at public access, you know. It's makes it harder for them to make secret deals. It makes them more answerable -- at least the one that's a democracy, it makes them more answerable to the public if the public knows what they're doing.
But, in any event, there was something -- oh, yes -- a procedural question. Do you know if there will be high-level military people in these delegations?
MR. BURNS: We don't know the exact composition of either of the Israeli or Syrian delegations. We have an indication as to who some of the people are, but I don't believe we've been given a specific list of who will participate. They are free to send whomever they would like to send.
Q You remember while this was -- during this last trip to the Middle East, there was some discussion of how Israel had dropped its demand to begin with military talks. Put it several ways. One was to return to where they were in June. The second is that those talks be resumed. Another variation of that was that discussions begin with the security situation.
This probably is one of the several concessions Mr. Peres has made, we were told. Can you tell us now how large -- how the security issue figures on the agenda for these secluded talks in -- I don't know what - - Hagerstown, Maryland?
MR. BURNS: I wouldn't think Hagerstown, Maryland.
Q Well, there's a place in -- maybe West Virginia might be well be used.
MR. BURNS: I think it's important for me to note -- and we've done this before -- and that is the agreement last weekend was not to pick out exactly where these countries left off last June.
The fact is they said quite openly they want to open up these discussions and have a more flexible format. Security issues remain at the heart of the differences between Syria and Israel. They will certainly be on the agenda, as will other issues. These discussions in Washington or in this site near Washington are not restricted to security issues.
Q I didn't think they were, but security issues are very much part of the discussions.
MR. BURNS: Certainly.
MR. BURNS: Still on the Middle East?
Q Yes. What's going to be the role of the United States in these negotiations in comparison to the role it played in the Oslo II?
MR. BURNS: Our role is a full partner with both Syria and Israel. We are in effect an intermediary partner. Ambassador Ross and his colleagues will be directly involved in these talks. We have been very closely involved with Syria and Israel each step of the way during the good times and during the bad times, and we'll continue that. We'll be directly involved in these talks.
Q Could I ask a question about China?
MR. BURNS: One more on the Middle East here.
Q Will there be sessions where there's just Israelis and Syrians and no Americans?
MR. BURNS: That's up to them. I don't believe right now we're planning any such sessions, but I certainly can't discount the possibility that they will make a decision like that. But I think that both parties have indicated to us they would like the United States to be intensively involved and regularly and constantly, continuously involved.
Q China. There's an interview with Harry Wu in a magazine called "Freedom Review," which is put out by Freedom House. I'm sure you're familiar with them.
MR. BURNS: Yes.
Q In it, he says that the reason that the Chinese authorities were able to nail him instantly at the border upon his entry was that they had his name in an American computer system, and they just punched it in and up he came, and there he went off in handcuffs.
Among other things, he said his prison guards were communicating with each other very efficiently with Motorola cellular telephones and radios.
In light of such information from such an authoritative source as Harry Wu, does the United States have any second thoughts about allowing that technology into China?
MR. BURNS: I haven't seen this article by Harry Wu. I'm simply not familiar with the technology, particularly in the first question about what technology was present at the border. I believe he came in through the Kazakh border.
Q Right, and the immigration people had computers --
MR. BURNS: I'm just not familiar with the technology. In general, China has been modernizing its economy for many, many years. The reality of life internationally is that lots of advanced modern technology is available to China for civilian uses. I think, Jim, it's difficult to turn back the clock on some of that, and we do believe that it's important for American companies to be able to trade with China, and we certainly want to see that continue.
It's a very important issue for the United States and for our companies. It is also true that the United States believes that human rights should remain very closely at the center of our discussions with the Chinese on our agenda continuously.
The Harry Wu case was an important case of someone who was held unjustly and tried unjustly, and fortunately there was a happy ending for him. But we have been disturbed by other events recently. Certainly, the trial of Wei Jingsheng. We were outraged at the sentence and continue to be.
So I think there's always a question of balancing interests here. The fact is that the United States has an ongoing interest in human rights and an ongoing interest in our economic relations with China, and I don't believe that will change.
Q The question is, is the United States taking into account the possible uses of such technology in methods of oppression in places like China?
MR. BURNS: I think certainly if we had specific evidence that certain technologies were used improperly and in a repressive way, of course, that would concern us. I just can't say, Jim, and on the basis of our brief discussion right here without having read the Harry Wu article, I can't really comment on the two specific examples of technology you've given me. We'd have to give that a closer look.
Q Generally, in meetings between Chinese and American officials, human rights is raised as part of the talking points. Is that correct?
MR. BURNS: That's certainly correct. Human rights is a major issue in our agenda, and we've raised it at every opportunity with the Chinese leadership.
Q I think it's the Northeast Asian Arms Control Talks are getting ready to resume in Beijing, and the United States is planning to go. Will that delegation also raise human rights?
MR. BURNS: I don't know. I'm not familiar with the specifics of those talks, Sid. I don't know if they have it on the agenda. There are thousands of contacts between American officials and Chinese officials on a yearly basis, and I can't say to you that in each of those contacts on any issue -- visas, passports, arms issues -- that in every instance human rights are raised.
But I can tell you this: In the most important encounters between President Clinton and President Jiang Zemin, between Secretary Christopher and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen these issues are raised. When Winston Lord has discussions with his Chinese counterparts, these issues of human rights are raised, and that's what's important.
But I just can't pledge to you that at every time an American official talks to a Chinese official, human rights always comes up. That wouldn't be very realistic.
Q I mean, I just thought that given the proximity of this meeting to the conviction of Wei, that it would be an opportunity -- the most senior meeting since then -- it would be an opportunity to raise it.
MR. BURNS: Actually, you know we have an Embassy in Beijing, and our Charge, Scott Hallford, has raised the Wei Jingsheng case with Chinese authorities. Winston Lord has raised it with the Chinese Ambassador, so we don't really need this particular conference to be a vehicle for an expression of concerns on human rights. We've already taken the initiative on human rights.
As you know, we spoke out the day before his trial and the day of his trial very forthrightly and directly and criticized quite strongly the actions taken by the Chinese court.
Q Also, is North Korea -- are they going to be attending those talks for the first time, do you know?
MR. BURNS: I don't know.
Q Could you take that?
MR. BURNS: I'd be glad to take the question, yes.
Q (Inaudible) that the Wei case is being raised at the highest levels. Isn't is also important that the Chinese simply chose to ignore these very high-level protestations by the United States? Doesn't that send to you a very powerful impulse?
MR. BURNS: It's most unfortunate that the Chinese Government did not take steps to alleviate his sentence. We actually thought that he should not have been brought to trial in the first place. The fact is that Wei Jingsheng has been incarcerated and now convicted for the peaceful expression of his political views. He is a champion of human rights. He is a well respected figure, and we don't believe the trial should have taken place in the first place, and we have made that clear to the Chinese authorities. So it's most unfortunate that he was tried and convicted, yes.
Q And isn't it important that they ignored such a high-level series of urgings by U.S. officials, including the President?
MR. BURNS: It is unfortunate. The reality is that the United States and China are never going to agree on every issue. We don't have a relationship like that with any country in the world. We want to improve our dialogue on human rights. We want it to be more regular. We want John Shattuck to be involved -- Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck -- and we certainly would like to see a greater commitment by the Chinese authorities to maintain the civil rights of its citizens, and particularly citizens like Wei Jingsheng who have been so courageously in the forefront of the democracy movement.
This is an ongoing issue of difference between the United States and China, and it is important to us that we pursue these differences, and hopefully we'll be able to convince the Chinese Government -- along with others in the international community -- that this is an important issue that deserves more attention, more careful attention from Beijing.
Q Nick, do you know when Ambassador Sasser is supposed to arrive?
MR. BURNS: Ambassador Sasser -- we're very, very pleased that his nomination now has been confirmed by the Senate, and I believe he's still making final preparations for his trip to Beijing. I think he'll be arriving some time in January, but I don't have a specific date for his arrival.
Q Nick --
MR. BURNS: Still on China, Chris?
Q No, not on China.
MR. BURNS: Still on China?
Q On China. You said you'd like to see John Shattuck continue to play a really active role in the human rights dialogue over there, but I understand that Wei Jingsheng was essentially brought back to the Chinese attention and essentially convicted because of his meeting with John Shattuck. So what exactly -- what kind of support can you give to dissidents who will be meeting with Shattuck in the future?
MR. BURNS: I think that's a very curious way of looking at the situation; that somehow because the United States had a meeting with a prominent dissident, we are responsible for his incarceration and the unjust way that he was treated by the Chinese legal system and the Chinese Government.
The fact is that countries have to be responsible for their own actions. The Chinese Government is responsible for what happened to Wei Jingsheng, not the United States Government, and it was certainly in the great tradition of this country's commitment to human rights that we took the time and gave the attention to him that he deserves to meet with him and talk with him.
I think the American people would expect that its government would want to support a champion of human rights the way that John Shattuck did.
Q Do dissidents run a risk by meeting with people like Mr. Shattuck?
MR. BURNS: Look, I mean, this is a complicated situation. You can equate it to the situation of the dissidents in the Soviet Union in the late 1970s. Many of them paid a price for contacts with Western journalists, as well as Western diplomats.
This is a decision that these people have to make themselves. If they want to talk to us -- if a prominent person like Wei Jingsheng wants to have a discussion with an American official, it really wouldn't be wise for us, prudent for us, to turn away from those discussions.
In the very difficult environment in which these people live, they've got to make these decisions, and we respect the fact that they make them. He wanted to have contacts with American officials, and we wanted to talk to him.
We are not responsible for what happened. The Chinese Government is responsible. It's a curious logic to assert that somehow we're responsible for this.
Q There isn't anything curious about that, I don't think.
MR. BURNS: It is curious.
Q I think you're over -- I mean, we had one famous Secretary of State who now writes Op Ed columns on American foreign policy and appears frequently on television who took a totally different tack in the early 70s. His approach was the best way to help the people in authoritarian regimes was to practice quiet diplomacy. That Administration -- which actually was two administrations -- was succeeded by the Carter Administration, which said they were going to put human rights first, and they made a public issue of human rights.
It's always been a debate, and you folks criticized the Bush Administration for not putting enough emphasis on human rights in your dealings with China. You come into office, and you totally divorce human rights from economic consideration.
So going at a meeting with dissidents, when it's well known that you have no real influence on China, because you'll never hurt the trade privileges they have, means that you are putting them at risk.
MR. BURNS: I don't agree. I don't agree at all. I think it's an outrageous accusation and it's a weird --
Q It's not an accusation.
MR. BURNS: It's an unusual way --
Q A dissident --
MR. BURNS: Barry.
Q -- takes a chance if he meets with John Shattuck. He infuriates -- he's a courageous person to do it, but, you know, he's running a risk, and it's up to them to run the risk, I guess, but there's been another theory that rather than expose people to risks, which you won't back up anyhow if they're put in harm's way, that you might as well go back to quiet diplomacy and make private appeals and not put their heads on the chopping block. That's all.
MR. BURNS: Can I respond?
MR. BURNS: Good. Look, I think the American people expect that their government is going to stand up for human rights around the world, and that's what this Administration and other Administrations in the past have done. These individuals who live in these dictatorial societies unfortunately need to make decisions, tactical decisions, about who they meet with and who they don't meet with.
The fact is that Wei Jingsheng and other dissidents like them have wanted to have contacts with Americans, Germans, British, French diplomats, and we have not turned away from those conversations, because we feel that if there's interest there, it's in our interest to get to know them, to talk to them, and to support them in whatever way we can.
But let's be very clear about something in the real world. When you're talking about a dictatorship, the kind of system that exists in China, it's the responsibility of the Chinese Government -- and only the Chinese Government -- for what happens to its citizens in its own judicial system.
I'm just replying to the previous question and the things that I've seen in the press over a couple of days. It is very curious logic to accuse the United States of culpability in the conviction of someone -- the unjust conviction of someone -- when it is very clear who is responsible for the detention and the prosecution and the incarceration of that person. It's just very curious logic. That's all I'm saying.
Q Nick, I don't think that I was trying to phrase the question as being culpability for the United States. I think maybe just looking to the future, is John Shattuck going to be meeting with dissidents in the future, under the understanding that they run such huge risks?
MR. BURNS: Any time anyone lives in a society like that, they do unfortunately take risks sometimes when they talk to foreigners. It's a decision that these people have to make, and we'll respect the decisions either way. But I don't think the American people want their government to turn away from the issue of human rights and the contacts with individuals like this, or to conversations that we have with the Chinese Government on these issues.
They're important issues, and they need to continue to be an important part of the U.S.-China agenda.
Q Nick, there's a story that North Korea might sell Scud missiles to Peru. Do you have anything on that?
MR. BURNS: I have something on that. Yes, I do have something on that. I would just quote or paraphrase the spokesman for the Peruvian Embassy who said, "There hasn't been any sale, and we're not planning to have any sale." That sounds like an authoritative statement to me.
Q Have they been in talks on this issue?
MR. BURNS: You'll have to ask the Peruvian Government or the North Koreans, if you can find them. I just don't know.
Q It was reported extensively in The Washington Post today, citing actually several U.S. officials, that your government is (inaudible) information of a so-called "Balkan League's Alliance," consisting by four Balkan countries. The papers claim that it was proposed by Greece in cooperation with Serbia, against even America and Turkey in the Balkans. I'm wondering if this information is true, since Greece has fully cooperated with the U.S. and NATO on the Balkan crisis, and could you please comment on that?
MR. BURNS: Lambros, I'm not familiar with this report. What paper was it in?
Q Washington Post today.
MR. BURNS: Washington Post
Q Full page.
MR. BURNS: What is the title of that story?
Q U.S. forges military bonds to monitor Serbia's power.
MR. BURNS: Okay. I don't have any particular comment on your question.
Q Officials said agreement (inaudible) So I would like to have your comment and if the permission is true --
MR. BURNS: I just don't have any particular comment on your question.
Q Another question: It was reported today that in the French news service in Paris, quoting U.S. officials, that somehow your government in general is going to take a strong new initiative on the Cyprus problem. I wonder if it's true. Any comment on that?
MR. BURNS: We've always been interested in a resolution of the Cyprus problem. We've always been interested in that. The President has a Special Envoy, Mr. Beattie, and we have also Ambassador Williams, and we have Ambassador Boucher, and they're all involved.
Assistant Secretary Holbrooke has been involved and I think will continue to be involved in this, certainly before his departure from office, but I have no specific information to give you about any initiatives.
Q You said (inaudible) he's going to launch this subtle diplomacy next month and in 1996 there's going to be a big push on Cyprus.
MR. BURNS: Yes, I saw that same story.
Q As you say, the State Department has been working on it fairly intensively for the past few months. What is going to be new in that initiative next year?
MR. BURNS: Chris, unfortunately, I don't have a lot of specific information to give you. We've had an ongoing effort -- "we," the United States. The United Nations has had an ongoing effort, and I know that Assistant Secretary Holbrooke, before he leaves -- and he'll be leaving some time in the next couple of months -- before he leaves would like to make a trip to the region, as part of a broader trip to Europe, to see if we can make progress on Cyprus.
But I don't have dates for you, because they haven't been decided. I can't tell you what our negotiating position is, because I think we're still thinking about this issue. Ambassador Beattie and Ambassador Williams were in the region from December 4th through the 6th, and they had talks with the parties then. I can't say that they were wildly successful talks. I can't point any particular progress. It's a very daunting problem to take on, and we need to give this some thought before we give it any more public expression.
Q Nick, also the subject, the (Cypriot) Government protested to the State Department over Administration plans to sell ATACM missiles to Turkey, and it sought for assurances that those missiles won't be used against Cyprus. Are you prepared to give them those assurances?
MR. BURNS: We received some inquiries from the Cypriot Embassy, but I can't really go into the specifics of our diplomatic exchanges. I can say, Patrick, that this sale makes sense for the United States as well as for Turkey.
There are substantial contractual restrictions on all U.S. weapons sales abroad. These are well known to you. They're described in U.S. law. They're described in our agreements with Turkey.
But I can tell you that U.S. law limits the purposes for which we can sell military equipment for self-defense purposes, and I can tell you we've had discussions with the Turkish Government on this. But I can also say that we intend to go forward with this, because it's in our interest to go forward with it.
Q Can you state here very clearly that a final solution in Cyprus will come first before Cyprus can apply and be admitted to the European Union?
MR. BURNS: I don't think I want to get into that. Do you think I should get into that? You're acting like I shouldn't. I think I shouldn't get into that, because I heard just a gasp from the back of the room.
MR. BURNS: I think it's better to let Ambassador Beattie and Ambassador Williams and Ambassador Boucher and Ambassador Holbrooke, the "Four Horsemen" of our Cyprus policy, tackle this in private and really have private discussions with all of the parties concerned, rather than have me jump ahead of them and try to limit their diplomatic maneuverability on this. I'd like them to have a free field here and not to be weighed down with statements made from this podium.
Q The President's most recent report on Cyprus was, I think, signaling a shift in policy. Before, U.S. Administration was saying a settlement -- a final settlement of the Cyprus is necessary for Cyprus to be accepted into the European Union, which President Clinton's report was saying, acceptance into European Union is a crucial part of the solution in Cyprus. So it gave the impression that there was almost like a reversal of the policy. That's why I asked the question.
MR. BURNS: We very rarely reverse ourselves publicly, and I don't think I want to start today. So I have to limit my comments on this. But we hope for peace and progress in Cyprus. We certainly do.
Q Arming Ankara up to the teeth, you are saying to us -- do you take into consideration the threats of Turkey against Greece over the Aegean? You are giving missiles, equipment and --
MR. BURNS: It would be great if you guys all sat together once. (Laughter) I can just kind of turn -- Greeks and Turks together. At least Greeks and Turks together in our briefing room as a sign of solidarity.
Q We are.
MR. BURNS: That's right. I'm sorry. I didn't even look far enough. Greece and Turkey are valued NATO allies, and we support both Greece and Turkey, and the defense needs of both Greece and Turkey are important, and we attend to those needs as best we can.
Q Nick, did the Algerian Government play a role in the humanitarian operation to repatriate with U.S. assistance and Argentina assistance from Sahara camps -- Moroccan prisoners last week?
MR. BURNS: Yes. I understand that the Algerian Government did provide important support, and I think I was remiss a couple of weeks ago when we discussed this by not mentioning that support. I apologize for that, and we did, of course, have the good cooperation of the Algerian Government in that operation. Yes.
Q Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:52 p.m.)