U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #176, 97-12-08
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Off-Camera Daily Press Briefing
I N D E X
Monday, December 8, 1997
Briefer: James B. Foley
1 US-Turkey Joint Economic Commission
8-9 Update on Investigation into Burial of Amb. Lawrence at
Arlington National Cemetery
1,9 Status of PA Representation at UN
1-3 Results of Parliamentary Elections in Republika Srpska
3-4 RS Officials' Commitment to Dayton Process/Ethnic
4 Timetable for a Decision on US Troop Presence Post-SFOR
5 OIC Summit Draft Resolution on Israel
5 Comparison of OIC Summit to Doha Economic Conference
5-6 Iraqi Officials' Travel and UN Travel Sanction in
10-11 Possible Signs of Reform/Moderation in Iranian Activity
6 Taleban Officials Meeting with Asst. Secretary Inderfurth
6-8 License for F15-E Fighter Demonstration Flights
7 Effect on Stability in Aegean Region
9-10 Update on Case of Richard Bliss/Congressional Letter
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFF-CAMERA PRESS BRIEFING
Briefer: James B. Foley
MONDAY, DECEMBER 8, 1997 1:00 P.M
MR. FOLEY: Welcome. I have no announcements to read. I'm
going to post something. We've been asked in the last week about
the US-Turkey Joint Economic Commission, which will be taking
place here today and tomorrow in Washington. I have an announcement
on that we'll post in the Press Office after the briefing.
QUESTION: I understand the question of the desirability
of a Palestinian state is going to come up before the UN tomorrow.
Do you know anything about that?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of that, George. I think the issue
that was before the UN was dealt with last week and was supposed
to come up tomorrow at the UN. It had to do with an upgrade of
the Palestinians' status at the UN, which we opposed. As I understand
it, it will be addressed tomorrow; we hope, satisfactorily.
QUESTION: What would be satisfactory?
MR. FOLEY: That no action will be taken on an upgrade of
the status of the mission there.
QUESTION: The Bosnian Serb vote doesn't seem to have produced
the results that you might have wanted. I'm wondering what your
analysis and judgment of it are?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think that one could argue that the
cup is actually half-full, and not merely half-empty.
We regard the results as indicating really a substantial expansion
of pluralism in the Republika Srpska electorate. No party or coalition,
indeed, has enough seats to dominate the assembly.
Yesterday the OSCE announced its provisional results; but final
results are pending completion of the appeals process, which should
take until next week. So we can't give any sort of definitive
reaction until that's completed.
But you're referring to the fact that the Pale party, the SDS,
has more seats than others, apparently, based on these provisional
results. But we would note that even if that party, the SDS, joins
forces with the SRS radicals, they would still be three short
of a majority. This represents a significant decrease in the number
of seats that the SDS held in the last assembly.
So we would rather conclude that the results show that the people
of the Republika Srpska are simply fed up with the corruption
and the stagnation that has characterized the RS leadership until
now in the assembly.
Now, the next step after the appeals process will be for the new
assembly to hold its first session by December 22, and to begin
the process to form a new government. We believe that the time
now has come for all the parties in the Republika Srpska to work
together pragmatically to break the gridlock of Republika Srpska
politics, and cooperate on Dayton implementation.
It's unclear as of now, and we won't know until later this month,
how the parties, in whatever numbers they are represented, will
work together to constitute a government, but we would look towards
the formation of a moderate government that can effectively work
with the international community to address the real needs of
its residents. That's really the yardstick that we're going to
be applying towards the formation of the government.
QUESTION: But let's look at the other side of the equation,
and that is that Plavsic did not win. Her party did not win, despite
the heavy investment of support and other kinds of interventional
activities by the United States and its allies. So the election
certainly is not an endorsement of Dayton, and it's not an endorsement
of those who support Dayton.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I would challenge that on several grounds.
First of all, I think that you have to recognize the fact that
the Republika Srpska had been in the iron grip of a fairly totalitarian
political party and system over the last several years, and that
the progress towards greater openness and pluralism has really
been dramatic over the last six months, the last half-year. I
don't think anyone in the international community expected, for
example, that Madame Plavsic's party, which was newly formed and
was running against the SDS juggernaut, was going to win a majority
in this election.
I think, if you look at it over time, we would conclude that the
forces in the Republika Srpska that want to work with the international
community on the basis of Dayton are increasing in strength. I
would also point out that there's going to be another parliamentary
election in the Republika Srpska next year, I believe in September.
So I think you have to look at this over the longer run.
And I would also venture to guess that, if anyone took a fair
and free public opinion sample across the Republika Srpska, you
would find solid majority support in favor of a stabilization
of the situation, against a return to the conflict, in favor of
the reestablishment of economic links between the Republika Srpska,
the rest of Bosnia, and the outside world, and we believe that
there is significant momentum in favor of Dayton, in favor of
working with the international community.
So I would not rush to judgment on these elections. First, we
have to see the final results; secondly, how the government is
put together. I would note that we believe that President Milosevic
has an important role to play in this regard, because the party
that is associated with his own party in Serbia won a certain
number of seats, I believe nine, provisionally. We have called
upon him, privately and publicly, to play a constructive role.
He has signed Dayton. He has committed himself to the use of his
influence in favor of implementation of Dayton. We expect to see
that reflected as the new government takes shape in the Republika
QUESTION: Has he given any indication that he's sympathetic
to your view -- Milosevic?
MR. FOLEY: He's indicated to us privately his commitment
to Dayton and commitment to helping to resolve the political stand-off
in the Republika Srpska in that direction.
QUESTION: Did he say straight out that he would urge or
direct his supporters or his allies to align themselves with Plavsic?
MR. FOLEY: I know that Ambassador Gelbard has impressed
upon him the need for him to play a constructive role as this
political situation unfolds and develops in the Republika Srpska.
I believe he has indicated to Ambassador Gelbard that he is prepared
to play that role.
Obviously, we'll have to withhold judgment until we see how the
coalition politics play out over the course of the next few weeks
in the Republika Srpska.
QUESTION: You said you saw progress on a number of fronts,
but I don't think you mentioned ethnic reconciliation. What are
your views on that?
MR. FOLEY: I think, George, that's the hardest nut to crack,
if you will; the one that will take the longest time. When you
consider the nature of the warfare - and it was civil warfare,
which, of course, is historically the worst kind of warfare -
that occurred in Bosnia, those kinds of wounds take the longest
I think that Dayton represents a willingness on the part of the
people of Bosnia to put the war behind them. I think the implementation
of Dayton thus far reflects a willingness on most sides - and
certainly, I would say, on the part of a majority of the people
of Bosnia - to begin to stitch together again the economic ties
that formerly bound them, and that can link them once again to
the wider Europe and to the international community.
But the point you raise - the question of the restoration of a
spirit of good-neighborliness and civilized behavior towards each
other - I think the evidence is anecdotal that there is a willingness
on the part of most Bosnians to try to bury hatreds and to live
together as they once did. But I agree with you completely, this
is the one that will take the longest time.
It is our belief that as peace continues - and we've had peace
there for two years now - as it continues and grows more deeply
rooted, that we will indeed see reconstitution of personal ties.
But that's going to take the longest.
QUESTION: I just want to get this straight. You want Milosevic
to meddle in an election in another country? Is that what you're
calling for here?
MR. FOLEY: I didn't say that at all, Sid. That's a rather
liberal construction of what I said.
QUESTION: Well, if you're going to look at Republika Srpska
MR. FOLEY: You asked whether we favor meddling in elections.
The elections have taken place; they've been supervised by the
OSCE. The OSCE deemed the elections to have been well-run. I have
no reason to challenge that.
We're talking now about the parties that emerged from the election
and their willingness to work with each other on the basis of
a platform of implementing the Dayton accords. We call upon not
only President Milosevic, but anyone with influence to help influence
the decisions of those parties in a positive and constructive
direction. That's what we're trying to do on our side.
QUESTION: But you seem to be indicating that he has a little
more direct role to play than you. What do you - I mean, this
party, he controls nine seats?
MR. FOLEY: I didn't say he controls nine seats. I said
the party that is a sister party of his own party in Serbia, provisionally,
I think, has been judged to have won nine seats. To the extent
that he has influence, we call upon him to play a positive role.
QUESTION: Is there any kind of a timetable yet for the
decision on troops? And is Mr. Hoagland correct in his column
that a decision has been made that there will be no exit date?
MR. FOLEY: Well, you pack a lot of assumptions into that
question. I don't have the article before me that you're referring
to; so I'd hesitate to comment on it.
Your question presupposes, however, that a decision has been made
on a continuation of a military presence in Bosnia upon the expiration
of SFOR's mandate this coming summer; and that's not true.
QUESTION: Actually, I'm just asking whether there's a timetable
yet for when such decision will be made and when it will be announced?
MR. FOLEY: As I understand it, NATO defense ministers began
to address that subject last week in Brussels. They agreed that
NATO foreign ministers, when they meet in Brussels next week,
will provide political guidance to the NATO military authorities
to begin to develop options - a range of options - to cover possible
scenarios beyond June of next year. They're going to provide political
guidance to the work of the military authorities.
I think it's obvious that this decision that will need to be made
by NATO and by its member states, including the United States,
is not something that can be delayed well into the spring. I don't
have a timetable for when the NATO military authorities will be
reporting back with options to the North Atlantic Council. We
might know more about that next week when the foreign ministers
meet in Brussels.
QUESTION: In Tehran, some of the Islamic countries, they
prepared some kind of joint declaration against Israeli-Turkish
military cooperation, not only against Turkey, wherever there
is cooperation with Israel, they are planning to condemn, and
they urge that. Do you have any reaction on the subject?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not going to comment on each and every
report about what may be happening in Tehran, because that conference
is still in progress. It's going on, I believe, for another couple
of days. So I'd rather wait until the OIC meeting is over to provide
our assessment of it after its conclusion.
But I can just say in general terms that we think that Israel's
integration into the region is part and parcel of what we think
needs to happen in order for there to be an overall settlement
of the Middle East problem. So that's something that, obviously,
we've been encouraging for quite some time now. And we have welcomed,
in particular, the cooperation that has developed between Turkey
QUESTION: On that subject, have you noticed a difference
in attendance of the Arab countries in Tehran, as opposed to Doha;
and do you draw any conclusions from that?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I was asked this question, Jim, last week,
so I can repeat, more or less, what I said then. We see it as
comparing apples and oranges. They are really completely different
kinds of events. The OIC is a long-standing, international organization
with nation states as members, and it meets fairly frequently.
The Doha conference is a public-private sector conference that
was only recently established, with completely different aims
and purposes. So I wouldn't want to compare the two in any way.
QUESTION: Well, both, in a sense, are political in the
way that they reflect the political shifts in the Middle East.
Do you see any discernible changes in the way that the US-supported
conference did not receive automatic support from the Arab world,
and this conference apparently did?
MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't read anything into the fact that
this conference is well-attended. The OIC is a long-standing,
international organization. I believe it meets at this level --
I think it's every three years. And it's no surprise that the
Islamic countries of the world will be sending delegations to
attend this meeting. From the United States Government's standpoint,
I would read nothing into that.
The Doha conference is a completely different matter, and I'm
not going to rehearse for you what we said in the weeks preceding
Doha, during the Doha conference, and our assessment of it afterwards.
We believe that it was a successful meeting, especially given
the difficult circumstances, the crisis of confidence in the Middle
East that the Secretary is trying to address and to turn around;
but I wouldn't compare the two.
QUESTION: Under the new Iraqi sanctions, would the Vice
President be allowed to go to this conference?
MR. FOLEY: Well, that's a good question, but it's hypothetical
at this point, because I believe that the Security Council is
only now in the process of determining procedures to implement
the travel sanctions that were contained in Resolution 1137; and
this is not yet completed.
QUESTION: So it doesn't really - it hasn't really gone
MR. FOLEY: It hasn't kicked in yet, no. They're still working
QUESTION: Representatives from the Taliban government are
meeting today, or have met today with Secretary Inderfurth. Can
you shed some light on that? And also, who set up the meeting?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have for you at whose initiative the
meeting was set up. But you're right, Assistant Secretary for
South Asian Affairs Inderfurth, I believe, has now met with the
Taliban delegation that was headed by the Acting Minister of Mines
and Industry, Ahmad Jan.
MR. FOLEY: It's in the Department.
QUESTION: When was that?
MR. FOLEY: Today, it was scheduled for today. I can't confirm
to you that it's already taken place, as your question indicated.
But I would describe the meeting that was part of our general
policy of being in regular contact with all Afghan factions. The
meeting with the Taliban leaders provides us with the opportunity
to reinforce our message of concern over Taliban behavior, particularly
on human rights and the treatment of women and girls.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about the decision of the US
Government to give its consent for the F-15 fighter to be among
other planes that Greece will consider to purchase. Since only
four countries in the world, including the US, have this plane,
how significant is this decision for the US-Greek bilateral relationship?
MR. FOLEY: Well, this is a preliminary decision, if you
will. The Department of State last week authorized the manufacturer
of the F-15E fighter to conduct demonstration flights in Greece
as part of its efforts to compete for a proposed Greek Air Force
purchase of advanced fighter aircraft.
The Department of State previously had issued a similar license
to the manufacturer of the F-16. We understand a number of European
fighters are also in competition.
Senior State Department officials carefully deliberated over this
decision to license the marketing of this sophisticated aircraft
to ensure consistency with our interests in supporting the legitimate
force modernization goals of NATO allies, promoting US industry
and ensuring stability in Southern Europe
But what this decision does is to authorize the marketing of this
aircraft to Greece. In order to allow this company to compete
fairly, if the Greek Government were to select an American aircraft
for purchase, then the State Department would have to decide at
that time whether to authorize such a sale.
QUESTION: And Turkey already has the F-16; is that correct?
MR. FOLEY: I believe so.
QUESTION: So there would be no upset of the strategic balance
in the Aegean, for instance?
MR. FOLEY: Well, there is some - obviously, that is one
of the three considerations that I just mentioned - our concern
for American industry; our concern for the legitimate force modernization
needs of an important NATO ally. But we have to weigh - and that's
why we approach these kinds of decisions with a spirit of very
careful deliberation; because we have to weigh the impact in the
Aegean so we contribute to stability, not to the reverse in any
QUESTION: And it's your analysis that this would not create
additional instability - putting the two air forces on a par?
MR. FOLEY: Well, Sid, I don't want to answer a hypothetical
question, because as I indicated, this decision enables the US
manufacturer to go forward and demonstrate and market the aircraft.
We'll cross the bridge when we come to it, if indeed the Greek
Government decides that it wants to make an American purchase.
QUESTION: But are you saying, then, that the United States
made no judgment about the effect on stability in allowing this
at least preparatory phase to go forward?
MR. FOLEY: I think the answer is contained in your question
- it's a preparatory phase. The tough decision will come if the
Greek Government decides it wants to purchase from an American
manufacturer. So I'm not prepared to characterize that question
at this time.
QUESTION: But the answer must be yes, from what you said,
that - because you're saying that decision about the effect on
stability will be decided if Greece, in fact, selects an American.
MR. FOLEY: We'll have to make that call at the appropriate
QUESTION: Why would you go through this whole, probably
rather costly for the manufacturer, at least, exercise, if you
hadn't given them some sort of preliminary idea that you would
let them sell the planes?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of any preliminary ideas or indications
of that kind. I would just prefer to stick to what I've been saying,
which is that this enables the marketing to go forward, and we'll
make the policy call, if you will, if we have to; and we haven't
faced that yet.
QUESTION: I don't mean to belabor it, but it just seems
to me that the policy question is so fundamental to the decision,
both in terms of Greece's going through this exercise of selecting
a producer, and the producer's exercise of trying to sell its
wares, that if in fact you thought this would hurt the stability
of the area, you have to say it straight out. You couldn't like
say - you couldn't defer.
MR. FOLEY: Well, that's interesting speculation, but I'm
not prepared to join you on that, at least from the podium.
QUESTION: Why are you letting the company go forward with
this? What's the rationale behind that?
MR. FOLEY: To enable them to compete for the potential
sale. We deemed that it was prudent to allow this to go forward.
It doesn't prejudge the final decision, if we need to take it.
We can keep going on this, but I really have nothing more to offer
you on the subject.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MR. FOLEY: Okay. You decide.
QUESTION: You were first.
QUESTION: All right. Would you update us on the State Department's
findings in the matter of the late Ambassador Lawrence's background?
MR. FOLEY: I really don't have anything new today. Let
me be clear, because we faced this question last week, upon the
receipt of Congressman Everett's letter. It's obviously raised
troubling implications and very serious questions. The President
spoke to that on Friday, and he noted that the State Department
is conducting an investigation. I'm not going to be in a position
to discuss piecemeal how this investigation is proceeding, except
to say that this has our highest priority, and we are conducting
an extremely thorough investigation. As soon as we're in a position
to describe the results of the investigation, we will do so, but
not on an interim basis.
QUESTION: Is there a timetable for it to end?
MR. FOLEY: As soon as possible. I can't tell you when we're
going to be finished. I don't think it's going to be a matter
of weeks, though.
QUESTION: Who is conducting the investigation?
MR. FOLEY: The Office of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
QUESTION: Can you speak at all to tomorrow's vote on the
possibility of the Palestinian people being recognized at a higher
level by the United Nations?
MR. FOLEY: I spoke to that at the beginning of the briefing.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Mr. Bliss was released over the weekend. I'm
wondering if you've gotten a response to your protest to the Russian
Government concerning the charges -- whether there's any indication
that they might be dropped.
MR. FOLEY: Well, the Russians - first of all, we welcomed
his release; we were pleased with it. We felt his detention was
unjustified. We believe the charges are groundless, and we've
made that clear, I think, very forcefully from this podium and
in our meetings and discussions with Russian Government officials.
So it is a positive step that he has been released, but the charges
remain, and we would like to see them dropped. We understand,
from the Russian Government that they are continuing their investigation
and we have urged them to complete the investigation promptly
and to resolve the matter promptly.
Mr. Bliss is in good shape. He's in Rostov now; he's been meeting
with a consular representative from our embassy in Moscow. He's
been conferring with his Russian lawyer. And as I said, we hope
that the matter will be resolved as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Congress sent a letter. Some number of congressmen
signed a letter to President Yeltsin, weighing in on this issue
in the same vein you are. But they have a little more direct -
can have a more direct effect on the purse strings right now.
Do you think Congress should be weighing into this right now?
Have you seen the letter?
MR. FOLEY: I've not seen the letter. But we share the concerns
of members of the US Congress that this incident be resolved quickly
and not be allowed to complicate relations, particularly in the
economic and commercial field.
We stated on Friday our concern that if this matter were not resolved
promptly and in a satisfactory manner, that it might have a chilling
effect on the ability of American business to participate in and
contribute positively to the further development of Russian economic
reforms and integration into the world economy.
I have not seen the letter that you're referring to, but I'm certain
that the congressional and Administration concerns are one and
the same in this matter.
QUESTION: Direct American financial assistance - could
it also have a chilling effect on that?
MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't want to comment on that. I think
it is simply a matter of fact that if legitimate businessmen cannot
go about and do their business overseas in any country - in this
case, in Russia - it will have a chilling effect; and I think
not only on American business, but on the ability of the private
sector worldwide to contribute positively to Russian economic
development. I think that's simply a fact of life.
QUESTION: Don't you think the chilling effect has already
happened, though? I mean, the trick now would be to undo the damage
they've done for foreign investors. Would you not agree with that?
MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't, no. I wouldn't want to draw larger
conclusions yet on the basis of the incident that took place.
We believe a mistake has taken place. It's time to rectify the
mistake and to move on. Mistakes are made in life, and we don't
see that this would have a long-term negative consequence, provided
that it is addressed promptly.
QUESTION: Who made this mistake? Was this the FSB; was
this the central government? Who made the mistake?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not in a position to speculate on that.
I really don't know.
QUESTION: Well, it was the Russians. I mean, obviously
MR. FOLEY: The authorities in Russia, yes.
QUESTION: Just one more - a follow on the subject of the
Islamic conference in Iran. Iran is making themselves out to be
a reforming government. Is there any signs that Iran is turning
away from its pariah activities of terrorism and other subversion?
MR. FOLEY: Without going too much over old ground, we noted
the election of President Khatemi as an interesting development
- one that we hoped would translate into a response to the desire
of millions of average Iranians for a better life and a better
connection with the world, dependent, in our view, also on changes
in the Iranian Government's policies in regard to serious issues
of concern: terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and efforts
to undermine the Middle East peace process.
We've not seen changes in Iranian behavior on those international
QUESTION: Do you think the OIC conference is an opportunity
for Iran to show that it has a moderate --
MR. FOLEY: Well, in the areas of concern that we have,
they'll have to show moderation in those areas. A conference does
not change in policy in those areas make.
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 p.m.)