|Tuesday, 25 February 2020|
U.S. Department of State 96/02/27 Daily Press Briefing
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U.S. State Department Directory
U.S. Department of State
96/02/27 Daily Press Briefing
Office of the Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
I N D E X
Tuesday, February 27, 1996
Briefer: Glyn Davies
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 1996, 1:06 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
[...]Q New subject, Glyn?
MR. DAVIES: I'm going to go here, first. Mark.
Q Does the United States plan to protest, or has it already protested the Serbian Government's crackdown against media and civic groups that are sponsored by the Soros Foundation?
MR. DAVIES: We've made clear to the Bosnian Government that --
MR. DAVIES: I'm sorry, the Serbian Government. Thank you very much. -- that we're not at all happy with the closure that was just announced the other day of the Soros Foundation offices. We would note that this follows by just a matter of a few days their closure of Studio B in Belgrade. So there appears to be, if you will, kind of a campaign underway to restrict freedom of the press and freedom of expression.
Our hope is that the Soros Foundation will be able to continue its work in some form in the future. What we know, of course, is that it was the Serbian Supreme Court which on the 23rd upheld a decision from last year by the Serbian Ministry of Culture that revoked the registration of the Soros Foundation and banned Soros from engaging in any activities in the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
The Soros Foundation has been doing good work in trying to promote the development of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Their office has been open since 1991. They've been heavily criticized by the regime in Belgrade.
Last year, the Ministry of Culture moved against the Foundation. As a result of their actions, we have this announcement of the 23rd that they are to close down.
We condemn what we view as unjustified action on the part of Serb authorities against the Soros Foundation. We would simply note that this action, combined with the takeover of independent broadcaster Studio B just recently, appears to be part of an orchestrated campaign by Milosevic and his ruling party to hamper opposition parties in advance of the elections that are coming up this year.
We've told the government in Belgrade all of this, and they know that we're not pleased with the actions they've taken.
Q Are you going to do anything to fulfill the breach that will be left by the removal of the Soros Foundation, assuming this is carried out?
MR. DAVIES: We would hope, first, Roy, that Soros would be able to remain and continue its work and that this is not the end of the story with the Soros Foundation.
We've approached the Government of the former Yugoslavia and urged them to allow the Foundation to continue its work unhindered. So we'll have to see if the government in Belgrade comes around and allows Soros to reopen, which they should.
Q Do you have any reason to think they will? This is an action that started with the government. It's been carried out by their Supreme Court. What would lead you to believe that they're now about to reverse course?
MR. DAVIES: We hope simply that the government in Belgrade listens to us and listens to others who believe strongly that the work of the Soros Foundation ought to continue -- and that they either reverse themselves on this -- or perhaps there's another way that can be found for Soros to continue its work. But I don't know technically how that might be worked out.
Q Would this have any effect on American willingness to allow Serbia to re-establish contact with international financial institutions?
MR. DAVIES: It's certainly the case.
Q The outer wall --
MR. DAVIES: Sure, the outer wall -- the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the government in Belgrade, will have to -- the outer wall is fairly tall here and they'll have to get over it on this matter as well many others. They've signed up. Dayton, I think, has language that commits the parties to certain standards of human rights and maybe even something that goes specifically to this issue of freedom of the press. I'm not certain about that.
But we will absolutely look at this action in terms of that outer wall of sanctions that remains.
Q But you don't have to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to this in order to purchase Milosevic's compliance with Dayton?
MR. DAVIES: That's a loaded question, Mark; a really loaded question. No, there is going to be no purchasing of Milosevic's ear or his eyes or his mouth or anything else.
Milosevic signed the Dayton Accords. There are quite a few requirements in there, among which are requirements that pertain to observance of certain standards of human rights, and we're going to hold them to it. We're not going to turn a blind eye to these types of activities.
Q But is there any kind of fallback being discussed in the building should Soros be forced to pull out? The entire independent media, in a sense, collapses with it. It certainly would not be in the framework of goals of U.S. policy, would it?
MR. DAVIES: Roy, I can add another category of things that we would never discuss and that is "fallbacks." Seriously, though, I'm not going to get into speculating about the range of options or positions that we see on this.
Our position on Bosnia and on the signatories to the Dayton Agreement is very clear. We've spoken about it many, many times in public.
Q But this is not technically even part of the Dayton Agreement. I don't see where the two fit together, frankly. This is internal Serbian affairs.
MR. DAVIES: I don't know. I'd have to haul out my copy of the Dayton Agreement to see whether there isn't some connection here. I think there might be.
The point is that we're concerned about what appears to be a campaign on the part of the government in Belgrade to gain political advantage by silencing certain independent groups, and opposition groups. This is obviously an important development, a negative development that we're concerned about.
Q How concerned are you that a lot of this has happened subsequent to the visit by Secretary Christopher in which he sought, and supposedly received, assurances from Milosevic that this is exactly would not happen?
MR. DAVIES: I think President Milosevic has to understand he's not operating in a vacuum when he makes these kinds of decision, and that the world is watching; certainly, the United States is watching.
When we see actions taken that we believe are not on, we're going to say so. We're going to point them out and condemn them. We've condemned this action on the part of the Belgrade Government.
Q Is there any consultation with European allies and others who are concerned about the state and fate of democracy in Serbia to make sure that these independent media do not collapse in the near term?
MR. DAVIES: Are there any discussions underway?
Q Yeah. It sounds like you're just taking this as a routine event without any sense of urgency?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think that we're taking this as a routine event at all. We've condemned it. We've gone to the government and said to them that this was wrong and that we believe the Soros Foundation ought to be allowed to continue its work there. So I don't agree. We're not taking this in stride or looking past it or sweeping it under the rug.
We're very, very concerned. We've told the Belgrade Government of our concern and we expect them to allow Soros to continue to operate there.
Q Wouldn't it have been helpful, Glyn, on the Secretary's visit had he gone out of his way to meet with independent groups that are affiliated with Soros? I understand that he didn't.
MR. DAVIES: The Secretary had a packed schedule in his visit to the Balkans. He accomplished a great deal. It's always nice to, in hindsight, say, "Gee, he should have talked to this group or that group." In point of fact, the man was going 18 hours a day, as he always does, and had to set priorities. We're not going to make any apologies for his not having seen that foundation or any other group.
MR. DAVIES: Bosnia.
Q Following up on yesterday's discussion of training the Bosnian military, Bosnian generals who are touring U.S. military bases now will apparently be meeting with some of the prospective contractors at the end of the week who will be undertaking the training of the Bosnian army --
MR. DAVIES: Right.
Q -- and may even be letting a contract at the end of the week, we were told last night.
In view of that, what's to prevent them -- these contractors -- from beginning the training ahead of your requirements that all foreign fighters be out of Bosnia?
MR. DAVIES: They won't be.
Q What if a contract is let this weekend? What if they designate the contract?
MR. DAVIES: U.S. policy is that train and equip is not to begin until foreign fighters are out of Bosnia.
Q Can you reasonably have that assurance? Can you physically prevent one of these firms --
MR. DAVIES: It simply hasn't --
Q -- from going in there?
MR. DAVIES: Judd, it hasn't come to that yet, and --
Q You know, this could potentially happen this weekend when the foreign fighters are not out.
MR. DAVIES: I don't know that actual training can necessarily begin this weekend. I'm just not sure about that. But our position is clear on that.
Q Yes, but the contract might be let this weekend.
MR. DAVIES: Regardless of whether the contract is let, train and equip is not going to begin until foreign fighters are out. That's a clear position. The government in Bosnia knows that; and every day that goes by here and the fighters aren't out, they compound the problem. And it's their problem.
Q Well, my question is that you're making this government -- the State Department has made a big point that this is going to be a private firm. Can you physically prevent a private firm from doing this?
MR. DAVIES: I don't even see that as being an issue at this stage -- whether we're going to have to physically prevent a private firm from --
MR. DAVIES: I'll be happy to -- since I won't be briefing. (Laughter)
Q The Greek Prime Minister, Mr. Constantine Simitis, stated on February 23, in Paris, regarding the Imia issue: "Our position is that the case should be submitted to the International Court at The Hague," and a Greek spokesman clarified, "If Turkey goes to the International Court, Greece will not observe it because Greece considers that this is a legal problem which has to be settled under international law."
Since it's obvious that these statements are in response to your proposal -- ideas or suggestions, whatever it is -- could you please comment on that?
MR. DAVIES: I don't think that those suggestions have been conveyed to us directly. Our position on Imia-Kardak is one that we've gone over repeatedly, and it's a matter to be worked out between Greece and Turkey -- to be worked out peacefully -- and we've made our suggestions to both of the governments concerned.
I don't think we need to get into reacting to every statement that's made or reported.
Q Your proposal, expressed also by President Clinton on February 11, reads as follows: "The issue of ownership of Imia should be addressed to the International Court of Justice." Taking also -- Mr. Davies -- into consideration that since February 1st, the U.S. Government does not recognize Greek sovereignty over Imia Island.
I'm wondering if the statements are still right.
MR. DAVIES: We stand by all U.S. Government statements made on this issue.
Q Did the Greek Government so far file a protest with the U.S. Government regarding the Greek sovereignty over Imia, which is not recognized by the U.S. today since February 1st?
MR. DAVIES: I don't know of any Greek protest that's been filed. I don't know why the Greek Government would file a protest with the United States Government, since we're not the authority that will decide this.
Q Because it's February 1st -- it does not recognize Greek sovereignty over this island. So I'm wondering if the Greek Government protested.
MR. DAVIES: What I'm not going to do is comment on the substance of our diplomatic exchanges with either Greece or Turkey on this matter.
Q According to a State Department memo attributed to an expert, as I was told, questions like delineation of the continental shelf and interpretation of international treaties -- referring to the rocky islands in the area in question in the southeast Aegean Sea -- could be addressed to the International Court of Justice. Such a procedure could assist the peaceful solution of the thorny issue of the extension of the Greek territorial waters."
Could you please confirm that, and may we have your comment?
MR. DAVIES: I'm not going to comment on it; and perhaps you have another ten questions, I'm not sure. But given the fact that we've been going at it here for about 65 minutes and your questions sound like serious detailed questions that I'm simply not set up to get into today, why don't we do what we did last time and get you together with some experts on international law and U.S. policy and see if we can't get you better answers to your questions than I can provide?
Q But so far I did not get any answers to my questions from the past.
MR. DAVIES: I haven't provided any answers? What I've given you is the U.S. position on Imia-Kardak. We've given it to you and to everybody ad infinitum, and I'm just seriously --
Q And the last one, Mr. Davies, it's very important.
According to international law and international practice, your proposal promotes actually the delimitation of the Greek-Turkish borders in the southeast Aegean prior to the delimitation of the continental shelf. I'm wondering why you're promoting these, since that favors the Turkish positioning on the issue?
MR. DAVIES: I don't even think I can accept the premise of that question -- that we're favoring the Government of Turkey over the Government of Greece. No, we're not; we're not. What I'm not prepared to do today, for a variety of reasons, is get into discussions of the continental shelf or of treaties that date back to World War II or shortly thereafter.
But those are good questions for an expert, and let me try to get you together with an expert. Okay?
[...]Q Thank you.
MR. DAVIES: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 2:02 p.m.)