U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #178, 97-12-10
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
Wednesday, December 10, 1997
Briefer: James B. Foley
1,2,3-4 Yeltsin's health and recent comments/Yeltsin's public
2 Consensus of Palestinians in the West Bank and Jerusalem
2 UN General Assembly Vote on PLO status
3 US treatment of Palestinian Authority as a state
3 OIC Conference/The Israeli-Palestinian track/Khatami
4 Richard Butler's visit to Iraq to talk about access to
presidential palaces and further compliance/New approach
Resolution 1137/Reaction if Saddam fails to comply
5 Conditions required to lift sanctions and Richard Butler's
10 Farrahkan's visit to Iraq
5-6 Turkish parliament's decision on the extension of the
6 Turks-American joint committee
7 US military flights into the Athens FIR/Greek territorial
6 US Secret Service training of Colombia policemen for
6-7 Territorial issues concerning air space of the Aegean and
US military flights
7 Requirement to inform Athens or Ankara about US military
8 Reports concerning "Greek territorial waters and the
international waters of the Aegean,' and maritime borders
10 Visit of State representative to the welfare party
11 Grossman's remarks concerning the issue of Imia being
addressed to the International Court of Justice
7 Issue of US attempts to overthrown Sudan government/
Financial assistance to opposition parties
7,8-10 Greek Minister's Petsalniko's visit with Assistant
Secretary Grossman and Ambassador Schifter/Integration of
the Balkans/Southeast European Cooperative Initiative
8 Four-Party Talks/Chairing of future meetings/Intercessional
8,9 Timetable for talks and issue resolutions/Bilateral
10 Kidnapping of US citizen in Acapulco
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
OFF-CAMERA DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1997, 1:00 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. FOLEY: Welcome back, Barry, you've got the floor.
QUESTION: Oh, well, I don't have any questions. Unless you want to tell
us - maybe I do have a question. Mr. Yeltsin, I'm going to ask about his
MR. FOLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Mr. Yeltsin has made some puzzling statements lately - making
Japan a nuclear power; making Norway Sweden; announcing a warheads cutback
of a third; saying that he's going to get the START treaty ratified. Is the
Administration baffled by any of his recent pronouncements? Do you draw any
conclusions, or do you think he's having a bad hair day?
MR. FOLEY: Well, Barry, I'm not going to address each and every one of
the provocative elements of your question. But I think, to get to the heart
of the matter, you're asking our view of President Yeltsin's health and his
functioning in office.
MR. FOLEY: We have no reason to believe that he's not at the top of his
MR. FOLEY: That he's in good health. He's recovered amazingly well from
the surgery he had. It is true that we've seen reports, as have you, that
he's been suffering from a respiratory ailment. We understand that he has
not been hospitalized, but he is being treated by his doctors at a
sanitarium outside Moscow.
According to his spokesman, he is walking around; but his doctors have
advised him not to go outside. We certainly wish President Yeltsin a speedy
QUESTION: What about his public behavior of late? Has this raised any
MR. FOLEY: No. I think he's certainly a feisty politician, who is an
effective public speaker. Like many effective politicians, he is sometimes
given to spontaneous remarks; he doesn't always limit himself to what's
prepared. I think that's often the frustration of bureaucrats in every
political system, though.
But as I said, we believe he is functioning quite effectively. In his
dealings with foreign officials, including President Clinton and American
officials, he's always demonstrated that he's very much on top of all the
issues in his wide-ranging portfolio.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about another subject?
MR. FOLEY: Do you want to follow up on this?
MR. FOLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Have US officials had any conversations with any of his top
aides, since this aberration of behavior began? Have we been concerned
enough to try to talk to top foreign ministry officials to seek some
MR. FOLEY: Well, as I indicated earlier, I don't accept the premise of
the question. We've certainly - at least to my knowledge - see no
indication of anything that differs from the general assessment not only of
his health, but of his capacities than what I've just given.
QUESTION: Does the US Government take any view on whether there should be
a census of Palestinians in the West Bank and in Jerusalem?
MR. FOLEY: I know what you're referring to, because there was a press
report that was brought to my attention just before coming out here. It's
something that I wasn't able to look into fully, given the press of time
before I came out here. So I'd rather take the question.
QUESTION: Okay, would you? Also on the subject of the Palestinians, you
see the vote in the UN General Assembly - or the outcome of the issue in
the General Assembly went your way. Do you have any formal reaction to
MR. FOLEY: Well, we had made clear all along that we were opposed to a
resolution to upgrade the status of the PLO at the UN. So we were very
pleased with the outcome. We believe the decision to defer consideration of
this issue was a correct decision.
In our view, an upgrade such as was proposed would overturn long-standing
principles of membership status in the UN. It would also have sent a
negative signal for the Middle East peace process and efforts underway to
inject new momentum into that process.
But just organizationally speaking, in terms of the impact on the UN and
other international bodies, we believe a resolution of this nature would
also have opened the door to other non-states or non-members to seek
similar upgrades in status, with serious consequences for international
QUESTION: Don't you have - doesn't the US Government often treat the
Palestinian Authority as if it were a state?
MR. FOLEY: No, we do not.
QUESTION: You don't? When you have conferences and they have a separate
place there, how do they come there? Is it kind of a - I mean, I wish I
could grab right of the air a particular example, but there have been many
MR. FOLEY: Well, of course, protocol is a complicated matter, and it is
rife with symbolism and, indeed, with political importance. And I can't
address the protocol of hypothetical situations or conferences and meetings
that have happened in the past.
I can simply state, though, that we do not recognize the PLO as a
state. That certainly was reflected in our activities at the UN over the
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. FOLEY: I'll come to you next.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering, Jim, if you've seen the comments out of the
OIC conference on the Middle East process - the Israeli-Palestinian
track. I'm thinking about Arafat's comments today and Khatami. Have you
looked at them, and do you consider they have any impact?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I've said here this week that I wasn't going to comment
piecemeal on the conference until it was over, until we've seen whatever
resolutions come out of it.
Certainly in a body that contains so many members, there is a multiplicity
of views. We've seen that reflected already. But I really wouldn't want to
comment on specific resolutions unless they were passed and until we've
seen the end of the conference. Then I'd be quite willing, though, to
provide a State Department response to whatever resolutions they do wind up
QUESTION: On that, as unlikely as it is, have you heard back on your
offer to hold talks with the Iranians that you made yesterday?
MR. FOLEY: No.
QUESTION: Just for a second - have these conclusions, are they drawn on
meetings that you can tell us about with Russian officials? I mean, your
assessment - when the State Department heard that he had another medical
problem, did you get in touch in Moscow, in here? Did anybody come in? I'm
just trying to figure out --
MR. FOLEY: Well, this is, I believe, a development of the last 24 hours -
that he's been recommended by doctors not to be outside, and he's receiving
Now, I am not aware that we have had any official contact with the Russian
authorities, and that we have information that goes beyond the press
reporting that we've seen. I do believe, though, that it is the assessment
of our Russian experts - and, I would assume, of our embassy - that this is
not a cause for alarm, Barry.
QUESTION: On Iraq, Richard Butler is heading over there Friday, I
believe. He's expected to meet with Iraqi officials to induce them into
further compliance; specifically, these sensitive sites, presidential
palaces, et cetera. He's going to meet with them on the 14th and the 15th,
from what I understand. Do you know what his new tactic is? Obviously,
there's some new approach here, because Iraq is still saying no and it's
not allowing the inspections to go forward unfettered. So what makes Butler
confident, what's some kind of new strategy that he's going to implement
this time around?
MR. FOLEY: First, I'm not aware that there is a new approach or that
there is a new strategy. Secondly, I'm not aware that he is necessarily
optimistic about his mission, if you look at the statements of the Iraqi
authorities. However, he is traveling to Baghdad with the solid backing of
the UN Security Council.
This was his decision to travel to Baghdad, and we respect that. He
believes that it would be useful for him to have direct, face-to-face
contact with Iraqi authorities. But his mandate, he has made clear, is to
follow strictly UN Security Council guidelines, as indicated in the latest
resolution, 1137, I believe, which made clear that his discussions will
focus on ensuring that UN inspectors have unconditional, unrestricted
access to all facilities in Iraq, including those declared by Iraq to be
QUESTION: So if he doesn't get any kind of - you said that he's not
optimistic about this visit at all. And the access is still very much a
large concern to the United Nations Security Council. So is the US not
ruling out the eventuality of a military confrontation? Or are you keeping
that in your back pocket? What do we do here? How long do we wait for him
to keep pushing aside --
MR. FOLEY: Well, first, it's a mistake for me, really, to try to
characterize his own state of mind; so I withdraw that. He'll have to
speak for himself on that. He hopes to achieve success; I think that's
Secondly, it's certainly not for me to speak from this podium about the
military options that are at the disposal of the United States. I think my
superiors, to include Secretary Albright and President Clinton, have
indicated on numerous occasions that we have not ruled out any
options. Those deployments remain, and we'll have to see how Ambassador
Butler's mission goes, and see whether the Iraqis are finally going to meet
their obligations under UN Security Council resolutions.
So it's a simple response: stay tuned. As National Security Advisor Berger
also made clear, following Iraq's announcement that the UNSCOM teams could
return, that this crisis, this situation was not over. We're still in more
or less the same mode that we've been in since Iraq instigated this crisis,
back in some five six weeks ago.
QUESTION: Is there any movement on the Bliss case in Russia?
QUESTION: Could I stay on Iraq for one second, if I may?
MR. FOLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Does the US have a position as to what should be done next, in
the event that Mr. Butler comes back empty-handed?
MR. FOLEY: Well, that's the old hypothetical question, David, and you
know how we normally respond to such questions.
QUESTION: Well, it depends on whether you want to send a message or not,
whether you answer hypothetical questions.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I think what you're driving at is where I can't join
you, clearly. But there is a procedural answer to your question; which is,
he will report back to the Security Council. The Security Council will be
seized of the matter, and will have to determine what the next steps are to
But clearly, I hate to bore you with things that we say every day and we've
been saying for weeks, but it is certainly true at a minimum that Saddam
Hussein's hopes for ever achieving a lifting of sanctions will remain
unrealistic and unmet if Ambassador Butler continues to find blockage and
obstruction as he goes about the work that the Security Council has
mandated him to perform.
Betsy, I don't have an answer to your question. We don't have anything new
to report on the Bliss case. I can repeat what I've been saying, which is
that we expect and hope that the charges against him will be dropped in
short order. But I have nothing new to report on the issue.
QUESTION: Extension of the Northern Watch will be handled next week in
the Turkish parliament. Do you expect the sanctioners to go easily? Do you
have any remarks on it?
MR. FOLEY: You're talking about the Turkish parliament's decision on the
extension of the Northern Watch?
QUESTION: Yes, next week they will handle it.
MR. FOLEY: I have no information, no new information on our view of how
that's going to go. But obviously, with the support of the Turkish
Government, we hope that that support is continued within the Turkish
parliament. It's obviously a very important mission.
QUESTION: Okay, do you have anything about yesterday Turkish-American
joint committee meeting?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have a read-out on that. We can try to get that for
QUESTION: Yes, okay.
MR. FOLEY: Do you have any details about the agreement, international
police and the US Secret Service to train plainclothes policemen in
Colombia to protect the presidential candidates?
MR. FOLEY: I have nothing to add to something which, to my understanding,
has not occurred.
The United States Government is not currently providing training to the
Colombian national police for presidential candidate protection. We have
provided training for presidential security staff in various countries in
the past. We would be willing to consider a Colombian request for such
QUESTION: Has there been a request?
MR. FOLEY: No.
QUESTION: So all the handful of stories about this are dead wrong?
There's no truth underneath his?
MR. FOLEY: First of all, we're not currently providing the
training. Secondly, we would be willing to consider a request for such
training. It's my understanding that we have not received such a request.
QUESTION: But there was the announcement by the national police. They
said they were here two weeks ago, and they got the agreement with the
MR. FOLEY: Well, as I stand before you now, my understanding is that we
would be willing to consider a request. I'd be happy to go back and check
the record to see if my information omits that important detail. But as I
understand it, at least, we have not received a formal request. I'd be
happy to check the record for you.
QUESTION: You expressed yesterday once again your great satisfaction for
the recent Greek-Turkish agreement, which divides the air space of the
Aegean - (inaudible) - in the name of NATO. Will the US be required to
inform, from now on, Athens or Ankara, or both nations, politically of any
US military flights into the Athens FIR?
MR. FOLEY: I'd have to refer your question to NATO, where the agreement
on the new command structure that included those air arrangements over the
Aegean were covered.
QUESTION: But I'm asking about US military aircraft. It's a bilateral
point. It's a political decision to be implemented by the military, by the
DOD. So politically -- my question is politically, on a totally bilateral
basis. Will you inform Athens or Ankara or both nations for any future US
military flights into the Athens FIR, based on this agreement?
MR. FOLEY: This is not the first time that it's not easy to define
precisely the nature of the question, but I would refer you to the Pentagon
on that because it involves operational matters.
QUESTION: One more question. I was told that according to a Turkish
document of last March, communicated to DOS via the Turkish Embassy, the
Turkish Government disagrees that the military command over the Aegean will
use the term "Greek territorial waters and the international waters of the
Aegean," on the basis that there are not maritime borders for the
appropriate NATO commanders in the Aegean. I'm wondering, how do you
respond to this Turkish perception?
MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of the report. I'd urge you to ask the Turkish
QUESTION: On Sudan, if you can -- is the US doing anything proactively to
overthrow the government there?
MR. FOLEY: That's a loaded question, Sid. As you know, the Secretary has
decided in recent weeks to ratchet up the sanctions further. But I'm not
aware of activities of the nature that you're suggesting.
QUESTION: How about financial assistance to the opposition parties - to
the one, for instance, with whose leader she met today.
MR. FOLEY: Well, it's our standard, practice when the Secretary is
traveling to a given region, that we don't comment from the podium. We
leave that to the traveling party and the traveling press corps. So I'd
really urge you to ask your colleagues to address the questions there.
QUESTION: The Greek Minister for Macedonia and Thrace was here
yesterday. He met with Assistant Secretary Grossman and Ambassador
Schifter. Do you have any read-out of the meeting?
MR. FOLEY: I have a limited read-out. Minister Petsalnikos is responsible
for the provinces of Macedonia and Thrace in Northern Greece. He's visiting
the United States through December 15, under an international visitor
program sponsored by the US Information Agency. I understand he's also
going to be visiting New York and Boston.
Assistant Secretary Grossman and Minister Petsalnikos discussed regional
integration efforts in the Balkans, including the leadership role that
Greece has played in the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative and in
hosting the meeting of Balkan heads of state in November, and foreign
ministers in June.
Any other questions?
QUESTION: The Korea talks - apparently there was progress. I don't know
if you have anything on the next two days of meetings.
MR. FOLEY: Well, I can tell you what in general terms was
accomplished. There may have been briefings there in Geneva that we haven't
obtained yet here -- and maybe you haven't either - that put some flesh on
But what I can say is that the talks concluded their first session this
afternoon, meaning the end of this first plenary session. Those talks were
cordial and productive.
The US wishes to express its appreciation to the Swiss Government for its
support for this meeting.
At this first session, the four parties presented their initial
views. There was also discussion regarding how to organize in preparation
for future meetings, at which time more attention will be focused on the
specific issues of concern to the four parties.
Now, the four parties agreed at this meeting on several procedural
items. First, as a result of a random draw, that the subsequent order for
chairing the meetings would be first, the People's Republic of China;
second, the Republic of Korea; third, the DPRK; and fourth, the US.
The next plenary session will convene in Geneva on March 16, 1998.
Before that second plenary session takes place, the United States, in its
capacity of chairman of the first plenary session, will organize an ad hoc
subcommittee meeting for intercessional consultations that will take place
in mid-February in Beijing.
QUESTION: What is that?
MR. FOLEY: That means it's a working group, in English, Sid. These
intercessional consultations will consider arrangements for organizing the
work of the second plenary session, and will provide recommendations for
consideration at that session.
QUESTION: Can I ask a follow up? When the United States says that these
talks will last for a long time, do you have in mind, months, years,
decades? What's a long time?
MR. FOLEY: I think Ambassador Roth in Geneva - I did see this - in his
comments, I believe he read the joint statement that was issued, as the
chair at the end. He took a few questions, and he refused to be drawn into
setting a timetable. We would, of course, like to achieve progress rapidly,
given that this is the single most important leftover, hold-over from the
Cold War; an area of great tension.
That's what brings the four parties together - the need, really, to
seriously address the need for the institution of a permanent peace regime,
and to reduce tensions on the Korean Peninsula. So the fact that we are
realistic and expect this to be, as has been stated, a marathon and not a
sprint, does not mean that we're in any way not lacking commitment to a
speedy progress and speedy resolution of the issues. But I can't put a time
frame on it.
We just think, given how difficult and how lengthy the process was to
arrive at the plenary talks, and given the seriousness of the issues, and
the novelty of the forum, it's going to take time. But I couldn't put a
time frame on it.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) diplomatic relationship on the agenda? Has it come
MR. FOLEY: Well, Barry, as you know, we have bilateral meetings with the
North Koreans. There are a number of issues on the agenda. You probably
saw, for example, the MIA issue was addressed in a very positive way in
meetings in New York the other day. That's one of the main issues that we
discuss bilaterally with the North Koreans.
We also have on the table serious concerns about missile proliferation. We
discussed that with them. And, more related to your question, we are
discussing with them the possibility of opening liaison offices, which
could be facilitative of a dialogue. But we are interested in developing
the relationship, and we think that development will also be - progress in
that area will result, we hope, from progress in the four-party forum.
QUESTION: The North Koreans are still interested in opening a liaison -
exchanging liaison offices? Or is that an assessment?
MR. FOLEY: It's my understanding that they are.
QUESTION: They're still interested?
MR. FOLEY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you know the last time you had discussion on that specific
MR. FOLEY: Well, we had, remember, I think, a bilateral meeting here in
the Department with them a few weeks ago, and that was on the agenda.
QUESTION: There are some US officials who seem to think otherwise.
MR. FOLEY: I couldn't tell you from this podium where we are on that
subject, but it is being discussed between us and the North Koreans.
QUESTION: Somebody from the American Embassy in Ankara visited the
welfare party, and talked about the political situation in Turkey including
the case (inaudible). So can you say something about this matter?
MR. FOLEY: I have no information on such a meeting, sorry.
QUESTION: Have you received any information by the Mexican Government on
the kidnapping of a high official of an American company in Acapulco?
MR. FOLEY: There's not a lot I can say about that, because of Privacy Act
considerations. But we can confirm that a US citizen, manager of the Hotel
Princess in Acapulco, was kidnapped yesterday morning near the hotel by a
group of armed men. I also understand that a security guard was killed in
Our embassy in Mexico City is following this case very closely, and is in
constant touch with the Mexican authorities. But as I said, due to
considerations under the Privacy Act and the absence of a waiver, we cannot
provide further information about the case.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea who these people were? Has anybody claimed
responsibility - any affiliation with any group?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have that information at this hour. I'm not aware of
whether contact has been made between the kidnappers and the Mexican
authorities. I just don't have that.
QUESTION: Who owns the Hotel Princess?
MR. FOLEY: I don't have that, either. It's an American manager of the
hotel. I don't know if it's foreign-owned or Mexican-owned.
QUESTION: There is a rumor that it was an economic kidnapping. They are
requesting some money.
MR. FOLEY: That may be true; I just don't have that information now. If
we're able to get more information in the course of the afternoon, we'll
get it to you.
QUESTION: And what's the State Department's reaction to Louis Farrakhan
in Baghdad, being very quiet this time?
MR. FOLEY: Well, I don't have really anything new to add. As you know,
his representatives came into the building; we had an amicable discussion
with them. We laid out for them our concerns about the visit, the fact that
we thought it would be unhelpful and that it might be used for propaganda
purposes. If it's not being used for propaganda purposes, then that's at
least one positive element.
QUESTION: We were told that Under Secretary Grossman repeated to Greek
Minister Petsalnikos that the issue of Imia should be addressed to the
International Court of Justice. Could you please confirm that?
MR. FOLEY: I'll come back to you in a second.
QUESTION: Did Minister Farrakhan go ahead and get his stamp on his visa
to make this trip? And if not, how do you suppose he went into Iraq?
MR. FOLEY: I'm certainly not aware that he received any kind of passport
authorization. As I recollect, he didn't ask for it in that meeting. In
terms of under what circumstances he made his way to Iraq, you'd have to
ask him or his associates.
QUESTION: Will you all be investigating that? I suppose it's a matter of
course that you must. I mean, he's obviously there; he got there in some
MR. FOLEY: I'd have to refer you to the Department of Justice on that.
Mr. Lambros, I didn't understand the question.
QUESTION: About the meeting between Grossman and the Greek Minister
Petsalnikos. We were told that Under Secretary Grossman repeated to the
Greek Minister that the issue of Imia should be addressed to the
International Court of Justice. Could you please confirm if that discussion
has taken place?
MR. FOLEY: If I'm able to, we'll get back to you in the afternoon.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. FOLEY: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)