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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #178, 97-12-10

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State
Off- Camera Daily Press Briefing


Wednesday, December 10, 1997

Briefer: James B. Foley

1,2,3-4		Yeltsin's health and recent comments/Yeltsin's public

PALESTINE 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

IRAN 3 OIC Conference/The Israeli-Palestinian track/Khatami

IRAQ 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 visit 10 Farrahkan's visit to Iraq

TURKEY 5-6 Turkish parliament's decision on the extension of the Northern Watch 6 Turks-American joint committee 7 US military flights into the Athens FIR/Greek territorial waters

COLOMBIA 6 US Secret Service training of Colombia policemen for presidential protection

GREECE/TURKEY 6-7 Territorial issues concerning air space of the Aegean and US military flights 7 Requirement to inform Athens or Ankara about US military flights 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

SUDAN 7 Issue of US attempts to overthrown Sudan government/ Financial assistance to opposition parties

FYROM MACEDONIA 7,8-10 Greek Minister's Petsalniko's visit with Assistant Secretary Grossman and Ambassador Schifter/Integration of the Balkans/Southeast European Cooperative Initiative

KOREA 8 Four-Party Talks/Chairing of future meetings/Intercessional consultations 8,9 Timetable for talks and issue resolutions/Bilateral meetings/Liaison Offices

MEXICO 10 Kidnapping of US citizen in Acapulco


DPB #178

WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 10, 1997, 1:00 P.M.


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 health.


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 game.

QUESTION: Shuffleboard?

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 recovery.

QUESTION: What about his public behavior of late? Has this raised any questions?

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 clarification?

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 that?

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 organizations.

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 times.

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 last days.

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 passing.

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?


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 treatment.

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 sensitive.

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 clear.

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 obtain compliance.

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 you.

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 training.

QUESTION: Has there been a request?


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 Secret Service.

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 authorities.

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 the bones.

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 up yet?

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 topic?

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.

Thank you.

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 that incident.

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 fashion.

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.)

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