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U.S. Department of State 96/02/01 Daily Press Briefing

From: DOSFAN <gopher://>

U.S. State Department Directory

Office of the Spokesman




Thursday, February 1, 1996

Briefer: Nicholas Burns



Release of Prisoners ...................................13,15-16

IFOR Mission; Refugees; Reconstruction; Human Rights ...14

Eastern Slavonia Agreement .............................15

Departure of Foreign Forces ............................16

War Criminals ..........................................16-17


Dispute over Sovereignty of Aegean Islet ...............17-21

Assistant Secretary Holbrooke's Trip to Region .........18,20




DPB #16

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 1996, 1:11 P. M.



Q A couple of questions about Bosnia. One, could you just describe briefly who Secretary Christopher will see in Croatia, Sarajevo, and Belgrade, exactly? What is the goal of this trip? What does he expect to achieve with it? And then I've got a second question.

MR. BURNS: Good. The goal of this trip is for Secretary Christopher, in his discussions with leaders in the area, to ascertain the general level of compliance with the Dayton Accords; to look into all the major provisions of the accords, particularly on the civilian side -- the fate of the prisoners; the concerns we have over compliance with human rights, specifically, the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal; the continuing presence we believe of at least some foreign fighters who ought to be removed, should have been removed by January 19 and still remain -- the civilian issues concerning reconstruction; the fate of refugees; our hope that we might play a very big role, a large role, in helping Bosnia get back on its feet; the deadlines that not only approach on Saturday, February 3 -- D-plus-45, when all territory that is to be transferred must be transferred -- and the deadlines that ensue in the coming months. All of these questions will be looked into.

This is a trip designed to have a fairly comprehensive set of discussions with the Bosnian Government, the Croatian Government, and the Serbian Government about the general level of compliance.

He will be meeting with President Izetbegovic and other officials of the Bosnian Government in Sarajevo, with Carl Bildt, the head of the civilian reconstruction force, with some of the Americans who are a part of that force. He'll also be meeting in Tuzla with Admiral Smith and General Nash. He'll be touring places where American soldiers are on duty and speaking to American soldiers.

In Zagreb, he'll be meeting with President Tudjman and Foreign Minister Granic and others in that government about the Eastern Slavonia problem, about the Dayton Accords.

In Serbia, he'll be meeting with President Milosevic on Sunday about all aspects of the Dayton Accords, with particular emphasis on the question of human rights.

So, as you can see, it's a very busy schedule, lots of issues on the table. I can tell you that we're not pleased that the parties have not yet complied with a major provision, which is release of all prisoners and departure of all foreign forces. Those two issues will be raised directly by Secretary Christopher with President Izetbegovic, with President Milosevic, and with others.

Q (Inaudible) figures on prisoners?

MR. BURNS: On prisoners? We believe that the vast majority have been released, but there are still in the neighborhood of 100 prisoners who have not been released. We're concerned about that, and we're going to work on those cases.

Q You had detailed figures a couple of days ago. Are they still valid?

MR. BURNS: I gave you the International Committee of the Red Cross figures on Monday. I did not receive those figures this morning. I don't have them, but we're still working on getting them.

Q Shattuck said 101.

Q (Inaudible) to 100.

Q We think it's roughly a hundred. It's an inexact science because we believe there are some prisoners who may not have been declared who may be secretly held by one side or another. That's also a concern of ours.

Q Your colleagues at the Pentagon seem to be very, very pleased with the way the deployment is going of IFOR and the way IFOR is operating and with the cooperation they're getting from the military forces in the area.

Could you go into a little more detail and give me an assessment of where you think the civilian side stands? Aren't there some pretty major problems developing? Not only the return of prisoners but return of refugees. What about exchange of territory? Do you expect that to go smoothly?

MR. BURNS: I think all of us should applaud the actions of IFOR, the various military components, but especially the American troops. They've done an outstanding job. The report that Admiral Smith gave the President the other day was quite positive in terms of what IFOR has been able to accomplish in the mission that is IFOR's.

On the civilian side. The civilian side is very tough. The civilian presence will last a number of years into the future. Their responsibilities on the refugee side are daunting. Several million people involved in refugee -- transfers of people, movements of people, and the inability of people to go back to their homes.

On reconstruction, which will be a multi-billion dollar enterprise over the next couple of years. On human rights, where, as you know, the United Nations is beginning today to dig up certain sites to help uncover the atrocities that we know were committed by the Bosnian Serbs and by other ethnic groups during the last four and a half years.

In general, I think that the military side is more advanced in terms of the implementation. They have more people on the ground. We certainly would like to see a great many more police officials on the ground as we approach D-plus-45 and D-plus-60 on the transfer of territory and authority, particularly in those areas being vacated by the Bosnian Serbs. So there are a number of concerns there.

The United States is helping. Ambassador Bob Gallucci has been in Europe all week meeting on these issues. He'll be joining the Secretary. Jock Covey, a very talented American diplomat, is on the ground in Sarajevo. Bob Frowick is on the ground organizing the elections. We're putting a lot of effort in helping the civilian side succeed, and that will be a big part of the Secretary's trip to meet with Carl Bildt and to assess progress on the civilian side.

Q How deeply does he get into Eastern Slavonia? There is leeway, you know, to buck the problem for a year. Is that likely to happen? Is this something that will be done when he's not around, or done at a different level -- Galbraith and people like that?

You're only seeing the Croatians. What are you going to do about the Bosnian Serbs? Who are you going to work through? You're seeing the Croatian Government, but the Bosnian Serbs are the other part of that equation.

MR. BURNS: The Secretary does not now have any meetings scheduled with Bosnian Serb officials.

In the meetings on Eastern Slavonia, the Secretary will raise this directly with President Milosevic but also with the Croatian Government, with President Tudjman and Foreign Minister Granic.

The Secretary personally worked out the terms of that arrangement on November 10 in Dayton and personally wrote the compromise proposal that brought them over the top. He has a personal concern, and we have a governmental concern that that agreement be adhered to. We believe it will.

Jacques Kline, an American Foreign Service officer, has been appointed the leading U.N. official in charge of that operation. We're building a U.N. military force to police the area during the transitional period.

Barry, in answer to your specific question, the parties, a year after Dayton, so D-plus-365, decide if they want to invoke the second year.

Q Nick, could I just have one more on that. Is the Secretary's trip a sign that you're worried that the civilian side of the agreements are starting to fray, that the thing could fall apart?

MR. BURNS: We're determined that the agreement not fray. That's why you've seen the Secretary speak so forcefully in public about the importance of adherence. That's why he warned last week that equip and train would not go forward without adequate compliance by the Bosnian Government.

We believe that if we allow exceptions to be made, if we allow aspects of the agreement not to be carried out on time or not to be fulfilled, then the entire agreement will be in danger. That's why you saw such a strong response by Secretary Christopher last week.

He is going, Rick, to Sarajevo, to Belgrade, and Zagreb with that message. All of this is important. All of the agreement. You can't pick and choose parts of the agreement that you want to implement and disregard the rest. You've got to implement all of it.

Q In the hearing this morning, an ambiguity in the Dayton Accords arose in the hearing with Assistant Secretary Shattuck. He said that of the prisoners who have not been released, some at least are accused by the holders of them as being war criminals.

On one hand, the Dayton Accords says that prisoners should be released. But there's another clause in the accord which says that the parties are obligated to detain people suspected of war crimes. So if they let them go, they would violate that provision. If they keep them, they violate the prisoner exchange provision.

MR. BURNS: I understand the apparent conundrum, but I think there's a way to bridge it. We recognize the right of any one of these governments to detain people under suspicion of having committed war crimes, and that is the case. I think all of them have detained people who they say are war criminals. We understand that will happen.

We also believe that their investigation of these individuals should be brief and that these cases should then be turned over to Justice Goldstone and the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal. Here is where it's bridged, Jim.

If the Bosnian Government, for instance, wants to detain people under suspicion -- Serbs under suspicion -- we would not contest its right to do so. But we would expect the Bosnian Government to turn those cases and those individuals over to the War Crimes Tribunal.

We recognize as an ultimate authority, in terms of indictments and prosecutions and incarceration, the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal.

Q Can you confirm that the Muslim fighters have left Bosnia?

MR. BURNS: No, I cannot confirm that. I don't believe anyone can say that. We think that a great number of them, perhaps the great majority of them, have left. But we are convinced -- and I believe Admiral Smith said today publicly, he thought -- I'm just quoting Admiral Smith -- he thought that 200 to 400 people in this category, foreign fighters, remain. Some of them may have a claim to Bosnian citizenship. They may be demobilizing or will demobilize. That is certainly appropriate.

Others who cannot claim Bosnian citizenship must leave, and this will also be on Secretary Christopher's agenda this weekend.

We're still on Bosnia, Lambros. We're going to the Aegean in a minute. I can tell.


Q Karadzic and Mladic, they continue to be there and are indicted war criminals. You said they won't run in elections, obviously. But has their continued presence posed any problem at all to the implementation, domestic or military?

MR. BURNS: We don't believe their continued presence is posing a problem to our military. However, we're opposed to their continuing presence in their governmental offices. We think they should step down. We think they should be turned over to the War Crimes Tribunal for prosecution, and that has been our position for many months and that remains our position.

Anymore on Bosnia before we go to Imia and Kardak?

Yes, Lambros.

Q According to reliable sources, Nick, the Department of State has already a list of some small Greek islands on which you are not taking the position, as you said yesterday, over Greek sovereignty, something which is actually in the same line with Turkey. May we have the list?

MR. BURNS: That's a good question --

Q It's a question that's been known --

MR. BURNS: It's a good question. Let me look into it. I can tell you on the question of Imia/Kardak, we do not recognize either Greek or Turkish sovereignty. We'd like both governments to work that question out in a mutually satisfactory way.

There may be other islands -- minor islets -- that we have a similar position on. I don't have a list. I'll look into it for it.

Q Since you make a strong statement that the U.S. Government is not recognizing this specific island, what do you base this argument?

MR. BURNS: We base it on our conviction that the best way to resolve the problem is for Greece and Turkey to do that together.

Q But there are treaties and conventions pertaining to the status quo of those islands. Do you recognize the existent treaties and conventions pertaining to the legal status quo of the Aegean?

MR. BURNS: As you know very well, both Greece and Turkey claim sovereignty to that particular islet. We have decided, upon reflection, that we will not proclaim our own view of sovereignty but we'll try to work with the Greeks and Turks, perhaps as an intermediary, to work this problem out.

Q Today you don't recognize one island. May we assume that the United States will come to the second one?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

Q Already, as you said today, that you don't recognize the sovereignty of this island. May we suggest that the United States will come with a list of the second island.

MR. BURNS: As I said, I think it's a fair question. I will ask our European Bureau if there is a list of islets or islands upon which we do not have a view as to the sovereignty of that islet or island.

Q Could you then verify information that the initiative of Mr. Holbrooke is targeting the partition of the Aegean , actually the partition of Greece, as Kissinger did in the case of Cyprus.

MR. BURNS: No, no. Dick Holbrooke, when he finishes his trip with the Secretary on Sunday, will be making a trip of his own through Europe, and that trip will take him to Warsaw and Budapest and Nicosia and Athens and Ankara and Rome and Paris and London.

In Nicosia, Athens and Ankara, he will not be initiating a new diplomatic process on Cyprus, but he will be talking about problems in the Aegean, and particularly the problem that we saw a couple of days ago. He will not be introducing any plan to partition any country. He will simply be offering some American ideas for how Greece and Turkey may overcome these problems.

Q According to British Foreign Office documents declassified most recently, Ankara has asked Hitler, quote/unquote, "to guard." It's very important. Actually to find those islands in the Aegean while Hitler's troops were very busy in the Middle East, even Hitler realizing Turkish true intentions turned the offer down. Why then today those islands would be offered to Turkey with a method of partitioning process in violation of the existing treaties?

MR. BURNS: I always hate to be compared to Hitler. (Laughter) It's not a good thing.

Q But it's a matter of fact that we have this situation today.

MR. BURNS: It's always dangerous to answer questions comparing us to --

Q Even Hitler also --

MR. BURNS: Lambros let's be fair to the United States here. I think the United States has done a better job protecting Greece's sovereignty and integrity than Hitler ever did or aspired to -- (laughter) -- or that any other state did. I think we have a better relationship with Greece than Hitler ever aspired to. He wanted to dominate Greece --

Q (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: And I remember that the British had to help protect Greece from Germans during the second World War.

Q And how Greece fought with the side --

MR. BURNS: Thank goodness for the British.

Q -- and how Turkey did with the other side. I'm not going to go into the history. (Inaudible)

MR. BURNS: I can assure you that the United States is a faithful ally to Greece --

Q Excuse me?

MR. BURNS: The United States has been a faithful ally to Greece, and we'll continue to be a faithful ally to Greece. You can be assured of that, and the Greek people can as well.

Q (Inaudible) guarantee the territorial integrity of Greece under this (inaudible).

MR. BURNS: I think we all know that the United States does recognize Greek sovereignty as you look at a map, and the current map of Greece, with all respects, with the exception of a few tiny -- in this case a tiny islet that is no bigger than the State Department.

Q (Inaudible) those exceptions -- those tiny islands you're mentioning are part of the Greek territory.

MR. BURNS: I'm going to try to get you a list of any of the islets that we believe are in dispute between Greece and Turkey, and on which we do not have a legal position of sovereignty, and that's a fair question. I'll do that. But please don't compare our attitude to Adolph Hitler.

Q I'm stating history. It's not a matter of comparing.

MR. BURNS: It's almost comical but not quite. Not quite.

Q And also my question which has been pending for three days about your legal point vis-a-vis the Treaty of Paris.

MR. BURNS: I've responded to that question now for two days, saying we don't take a position of sovereignty over Imia/Kardak.

Q No, no. I'm saying your position vis-a-vis to the Treaty. Do you honor the Treaty of Paris, 1947? This is the question. Do you?

MR. BURNS: We certainly know about the Treaty. The United States was informed of the Treaty at the time. I believe it was 1947. We understand all aspects of the Treaty. On the question of this tiny little pile of rocks in the Aegean, we've decided -- and this is going to be my final answer on this -- we've decided to take a position of trying to be a faithful intermediary to both Greece and Turkey.

Q One more. Mr. Holbrooke stated yesterday at the National Press Club, talking about Greek/Turkish differences, that most he recently studied the Treaty of 1932 pertaining to the start of the war over the Dodecanese Islands, in 1923 pertaining to the rest of the Greek islands in the Aegean. May we have his opinions, conclusions or results, whatever, since he's going to the area in a few days and we may have some questions.

MR. BURNS: He's been a more avid student of those treaties than I have been, and so I think I'm going to let him speak for himself when he gets to Athens. I'm sure that your colleagues in Athens will pepper him with questions, and I'll let him know that he needs to study up on those treaties before he goes.

Q Prior to his departure, will you release some of his points?

MR. BURNS: Excuse me?

Q It will be very beneficial to say some of his points prior to his departure.

MR. BURNS: He has spoken out over the last couple of days about his views on this. He's been very clear about American views on this problem.

Q Also the treaties?

MR. BURNS: I'll be glad to take this question. I'll be glad to take it and perhaps even given you a written answer on this. I'd be very glad to do it. Thank you very much.




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