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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #179, 97-12-11

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


671

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Thursday, December 11, 1997

Briefer: James B. Foley

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
1-2		US position of Census in Jerusalem
1-2		Funding for the Census

ISRAEL 2 Percentages for Redeployment of Troops

RUSSIA 2-3 Update on Yeltsin's Health

TURKEY/GREECE 2 Turkish Violations of Air Movement in Northwest Aegean NATO Radar Data 4-5 Agreement on NATO command structure in Aegean

MEXICO 3-4 Extradition of Del Toro from Mexico 3-4 Kidnapping of Amcit in Mexico/Other Kidnappings in Mexico 4 The new police chief of Mexico City, Mr. Gutierrez and Subsequent Suspension Due to Allegations of Drug Trafficking 5 Visit of Prime Minister Yilmaz of Turkey to Washington 5-6 US Position on Turkey and the European Union

BOSNIA 6,7-8 Statement by Ambassador Froelich re: Radovan Karadzic 8 Indicted War Criminals and SFOR's Role 8-9 Conference on Bosnia in Bonn and the FRY Walkout

IRAQ 7 Reports of the Execution of 450 prisoners

CHINA 9-10 Movement of China toward Democracy and Free Press/Ambassador Richardson's Statements to the National Press Club

IRAN 10 Iran Foreign Minister's Statement re: Dialogue with the US 10-11 OIC Summit Statements

CUBA 11 Castro's Denial to Allow Citizen to Travel to Accept Award


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #179

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 1997, 1:10 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. FOLEY: Thanks for waiting for me. I'm more delayed than usual today. I have no announcements, Barry.

QUESTION: Well, this is not the center of attention, but I want to dispose of it, if I could. Does the US have a position on whether the Palestinians should - Yasser Arafat's Palestinians should be able to conduct a census in East Jerusalem?

MR. FOLEY: Well, Barry, as you know, Jerusalem remains the most sensitive of the permanent status issues. We, the United States, have repeatedly asked both sides to refrain from unilateral actions which might be considered provocative by the other side, and which might predetermine the outcome of issues that need to be decided in permanent status negotiations.

QUESTION: Who's the provocative actor here? The census-takers or those who stop the census?

MR. FOLEY: That's a good question, Barry. I repeat what I said.

QUESTION: I think we're already into some combination of (inaudible) thinking here. I'm getting very mystified. But what is - is the State Department perturbed by either party?

MR. FOLEY: I can repeat what I said. Jerusalem is, really, the most sensitive issue. It's one that we believe that the parties have agreed to treat when they get to the permanent status negotiations. And indeed, our objective, as pursued by the Secretary since last summer is to try to move quickly to permanent status negotiations by marrying those negotiations with accelerated implementation of the interim status issues.

We believe, in that context, that anything that we might say on this issue, on Jerusalem, would be unhelpful at this point. So I have nothing further to add in response to your question.

QUESTION: What about the census itself? As I understand it, part of the funds for carrying out the census in the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem are being supplied by the United States, through AID. Do you take any position on whether there should be such a census?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I've already answered that question. Second, to respond to the first point about US funds, I'm not certainly aware that any US funds are directly going to such purposes. Monies can be fungible, but I would be surprised if the United States is involved in any way in that matter.

QUESTION: Leaving aside Jerusalem, though, you don't have any problems with census in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip under Palestinian control?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that we have any problems with that. My answer was specifically related to Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary - (inaudible) - to Netanyahu's specific percentages for the further redeployment of troops from certain West Bank areas? There have been some media reports out of Israel that --

MR. FOLEY: As you know, from this podium, we've never discussed percentages; and I'm not going to begin to do that.

You asked about the Secretary, and as I recall, when she was in Paris, following her meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, she was asked that question and then declined to answer. I believe she said that we weren't discussing percentages, as such.

QUESTION: Well, does the US have a comfortable notion of the census of East Jerusalem that can help guide you as you mediate between these two parties? Does the US know the composition of that area, which is always referred to as mostly Arab East Jerusalem?

MR. FOLEY: I'm sure that our consulate there has general figures at its disposal, as does the Palestinian Authority, and as do Israeli authorities. I'm certain that the ballpark figures are known, Barry.

QUESTION: Without getting into what you don't want to get into, has the US Government raised this particular issue of a census in Jerusalem with either the Palestinians or the Israeli Government?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware that we have, other than to stress, as I said, that we strongly urge both sides to refrain from any unilateral actions that might prejudge the outcome of permanent status negotiations and that might make it difficult for us to get to permanent status negotiations.

Yes, Carol. Is this also on --

QUESTION: No, another subject.

MR. FOLEY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: There's a report that Yeltsin has a recurrence of heart trouble. Do you guys know anything about that?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we have been told by Russian Government officials that President Yeltsin is suffering from the flu. I indicated yesterday that was our understanding. But subsequently we have, in the course of normal meetings, been told and assured by Russian Government officials that he is merely suffering from the flu.

It remains the case that he has not been hospitalized, but 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. As we said yesterday, we wish him a speedy recovery.

You referenced a report, though, to --

QUESTION: Did you specifically ask if - what the condition of his heart is --

MR. FOLEY: Oh, I don't think it would have been appropriate for that kind of an intimate medical question to be put. The Russian officials, on their side, simply volunteered the fact the he was, indeed, suffering from the flu. We've seen the press reports about a heart problem, but again, both the president's spokesman and other Russian officials have denied this, and they've emphasized that his condition is not serious. We have no reason to question that.

QUESTION: Do you have a reaction on the Turkish violations yesterday near the Thessaloniki in Greece?

MR. FOLEY: Yes, I do. We are aware of Turkish air movements in the northern Aegean, near Thessaloniki, which have now been confirmed by NATO radar data. These flights into the northwest Aegean, even if the planes remained within international air space, were needlessly provocative and totally unnecessary. Military activity of this kind undermines confidence and needlessly exacerbates tensions between our two NATO allies. We call on Turkey to stop such actions.

QUESTION: Yes. I'm wondering how your new ambassador, Nicholas Burns, succeeded so fast to figure out the Turkish violations in the (inaudible). And not even one time your former ambassador, Thomas Niles and his associate, Tom Miller, for so many years?

MR. FOLEY: I was quoting NATO radar data, Mr. Lambros.

Other questions? Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any developments today in the Del Toro extradition?

MR. FOLEY: Yes. I believe the Attorney General may have spoken to this earlier this morning. We are in the process of preparing the necessary documentation to request the extradition of Mr. Del Toro, pursuant to our extradition treaty with Mexico.

QUESTION: So Florida has decided, and the Attorney General - forgive me if I missed that - she has - Florida has said it will not seek the death penalty in this case?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware if that has been decided by the Florida prosecutor. My understanding is that Mexico has requested assurances from us that the death penalty would not be sought. Certainly, the prosecutor in Florida has been advised of the request. We're awaiting the response.

QUESTION: Still on Mexico - there's a report by The New York Times, saying that there is more than ten kidnappings in Mexico this year of American citizens. Do you have any comment on that? Have you been getting information from the Mexican Government about these kidnappings, instead of the one that was in Acapulco?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I really don't have much to add to what our charge, Mr. Brayshaw had to say.

These were the cases of which we were made aware. In many kidnapping cases, including those involving Americans, the families of the victims sometimes choose not to inform authorities because they fear consequences for the victim.

But we checked into that, and again, we're not aware of more than ten such cases over the last few years. I believe there have been roughly four that occurred this year, 1997.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment regarding this police chief that was named the new governor of Mexico City? He's supposed to be in the list of the DEA on narco-traffickers.

MR. FOLEY: You're referring to the head of the Mexico City detective?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. FOLEY: Mr. Gutierrez, I believe. He was named the new police chief of Mexico City about a week ago. After he was named, the press raised questions and serious concerns about his background. The new Mexico City administration has suspended him, I understand, until the allegations are investigated.

Although this incident occurred at the local level, the Mexican federal government has made combating corruption and protecting human and civil rights among its highest priorities. We think that the latest incident indicates that these commitments are being followed through in practice at both the federal and state levels.

QUESTION: Jim, could I go back to Turkish air movements? Is that in direct violation of this agreement that was hammered out a couple of weeks ago with NATO?

MR. FOLEY: Well, that's a technical question. I think that maybe NATO would be able to answer it.

I would say, though, that the NATO command structure was agreed last week, when the defense ministers were meeting there, in principle. As I recall, implementing details remain to be worked out for the new command structure to be set up, including in the Aegean.

QUESTION: Well, maybe you can refresh my - what was the agreement that was hammered out? You never did give all the details of it. Wasn't it designed to prevent exactly such provocative air movements?

MR. FOLEY: I believe it was designed to ensure that, on all sides, the movement of military aircraft is properly signaled to NATO, and handled in that way, in terms of the de-confliction and the passage of military aircraft.

Because the agreement has yet to be implemented, it wouldn't have applied in this case. But I think you're on track, though, that this is something that hopefully the new command structure in the Aegean will be able to address.

QUESTION: So you have spoken to the Turks about it?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not specifically aware that we have spoken to them. I'd have to check on that for you. I think, certainly, my comments from this podium were crystal clear. We regarded it as a real provocation, and I wanted to make that clear from the podium today.

QUESTION: When is the Prime Minister of Turkey going to visit Washington?

MR. FOLEY: I believe he's in Washington a week from tomorrow. I believe the 19th of December he's meeting with the President.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the nature of the visit?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think we'll have more to say about it when he's here next week. And of course, I'd refer you to the White House at that time.

When the Foreign Minister was here and met with the Secretary last week, they discussed preparations for the visit. They talked about - without my getting into specifics, though - but about a work agenda for 1998 between our two countries, really to advance the relationship and deepen it across a number of important fronts in the political-economic areas. And we may be able to put more flesh on the bones of that bare bones description for you next week when the Prime Minister is in town.

QUESTION: He's being quoted as saying his country is being treated as a third-class country by the European Union. Does the US have - I know there are categories for accession - does the US have a position, or is it a European issue?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we're careful in commenting about the EU's process of enlargement because it is EU business, and it's not American business. It's theirs to determine the modalities, the procedures, the timetable. But we certainly have made no secret of our view, over the years and increasingly in recent times, that Turkey is a European nation; it has a European vocation. And we've encouraged our European friends and allies to keep the door open to Turkey and to offer real incentives and a credible perspective on eventual membership. But we're not going to get into the business of micromanaging or second-guessing how they go about that, except to state our strong conviction that Turkey belongs in Europe.

QUESTION: Ambassador Froelich has given some valedictory remarks, leaving the OSCE job.

MR. FOLEY: I've not seen them, so --

QUESTION: Well, one of the things he said was, concerning Radovan Karadzic, "the time has come to get on with it and solve this problem." He said that, "one way or another, something needs to be done," and he suggested that what needs to be done is that Mr. Karadzic needs to be arrested; if necessary, by NATO. Do you have any reaction to that? And what is your view of what should happen with Mr. Karadzic?

MR. FOLEY: I spoke to that very issue -- I think Carol was asking me about it a few days ago - and certainly our view hasn't changed in the last few days. We, the United States -- and I believe that I can say that NATO and SFOR, the international community as a whole -- do not rule out any options.

There is a gradation of responsibility that is established in Dayton that places the first responsibility on the indicted war criminals themselves to turn themselves in, which has happened in recent months -- at least on the part of the ten Bosnian Croat indictees. Secondly, and most importantly, the governments where these indicted war criminals reside are committed, obligated under Dayton to turn them over to the tribunal.

SFOR has a mandate to arrest war criminals in the - as SFOR goes about performing its primary tasks, if the tactical situation permits. It's not something that we can talk about in detail, in terms of what might or might not happen in the future. But we remain confident, and we've seen progress in this area over the last six months, as more indictees either willingly or unwillingly have ended up in The Hague. We remain confident that this process will continue.

Ambassador Froelich is absolutely right that Mr. Karadzic, in particular, needs to be in The Hague. It serves justice and it serves the prospects of implementing Dayton and putting Bosnia on a permanent footing of peace and internal reconciliation. But I can't give you, obviously, an indication of what we may or may not be doing in the months to come.

QUESTION: Can I ask one other question on a different subject, while I have your attention?

MR. FOLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: There is a report out of Cairo, quoting Iraqi opposition leaders, that 450 prisoners were executed in Iraq recently, on the orders of Saddam Hussein's youngest son. Do you know anything about the report?

MR. FOLEY: I know only that it was brought to my attention about five minutes ago, five minutes before I came in here. So it's not something I can confirm, but it would not be out of character, I think, for the nature of the regime.

It's a very sad and tragic situation, if it's true. I have no reason to doubt that it is true.

QUESTION: Wouldn't it also be a violation of the cease-fire agreement that ended the Persian Gulf war?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'm not sure that these were prisoners of war.

QUESTION: Yes, they were.

MR. FOLEY: I'm sorry?

QUESTION: The report is prisoners of war.

MR. FOLEY: Oh, I've not seen that. I didn't know that the report alleged that these were Kuwaiti prisoners of war.

QUESTION: I think it referred to them as prisoners of war.

MR. FOLEY: I see. I'd have to take the question, as we look into it further. I just, as I said, knew it coming in.

QUESTION: If they were prisoners of the Persian Gulf war, that would be a violation of the cease-fire agreement?

MR. FOLEY: Well, not only a violation of the cease-fire agreement, a violation of the rules of war, I think.

QUESTION: Well, I think the cease-fire agreement carries certain repercussions that human rights covenants don't.

MR. FOLEY: I'd have to look into it for you.

QUESTION: To follow up on David's question about Bosnia, would you not acknowledge, though, that there is at least a difference in urgency between the United States and Froelich on this issue of Karadzic? I mean, he says the time has come to solve this problem.

MR. FOLEY: I think that there's no difference between Ambassador Froelich and the United States, for example, over the sense of urgency. Secretary Albright has made clear that Mr. Karadzic's place is in The Hague; that there is no statute of limitations; and that we want to see him there, and that his going there will certainly enhance the overall effort to implement Dayton and bring peace on a permanent footing to Bosnia.

But this is not something that lends itself to easy discussion from the podium. It's something that is one of the highest priorities of the international community there. I don't rule any options out in that regard. But it's not something I can signal or forecast from the podium.

QUESTION: Well, let me just try it another way. While both might agree that he should be in The Hague, Froelich seems to go farther than the United States in insisting that the time has come for action to be taken by those who are in a position to take action and cause this to happen. I mean, would you not acknowledge that if the United States felt that this was an urgent matter, it would do something; it would be acting?

MR. FOLEY: We do regard it as an urgent matter. Dayton is clear as to where the responsibilities lie. Beyond that, I can only say that we don't rule any options out. The last thing that I could do from this podium would be to signal what may be in store for Mr. Karadzic down the line.

It's in his interest to go to The Hague. He claims that he is innocent of the charges. He ought to go there and face trial and defend himself. We think it's increasingly in the interest of the people of the Republika Srpska that he go there, and that they have the opportunity to move on from the war period and to begin to enjoy the fruits of peace, which have been delayed.

Peace has prevailed in Bosnia for two years. The fruits of peace, however, have been denied to the people of the Republika Srpska, largely because of the continued influence of people like Mr. Karadzic.

QUESTION: On another subject, does the United States --

QUESTION: Can I ask one more on Bosnia?

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Have you been following that conference about Bosnia in Bonn, in which the Serbs stormed out? What happens next?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not sure I understand your question.

QUESTION: Well, the German hosts said that those who cooperate will be rewarded; those who don't will be deprived of any outside aid. Does the United States, as a result of this walk-out, plan to do anything in terms of punishment?

MR. FOLEY: Well, we think it was self-punishment on the part of the Serbs who walked out at that meeting. It was certainly a poor performance by the FRY. But I wouldn't say that it was entirely unwelcome. As I said, I see it as self-punishment, because what the walk-out did was to highlight what continues to be an important issue on the agenda of the international community; namely, the serious problems in Kosovo.

There's a clear consensus in the international community that the FRY cannot postpone its Dayton commitment to improve the situation in Kosovo. The walk-out by the FRY and the Republika Srpska delegations in Bonn will not alter the resolve of the PIC to address this important issue.

Similarly, Belgrade's objections to including Kosovo in the PIC communiqué only reinforce our determination, the United States' determination and commitment to press for real progress in Kosovo. In that regard, we are working closely with our European partners in support of opening a comprehensive dialogue between authorities in Belgrade and representatives of the Kosovo-Albanian leadership.

You talked about punishment, nevertheless. I would simply remind you, Jim, that the outer wall of sanctions remain; and a critical element in that determination to maintain the outer wall of sanctions has to do with the failure thus far of authorities in Belgrade to adequately address the situation in Kosovo.

QUESTION: Another subject - does the United States think that China is moving towards democracy and has a relatively free press?

MR. FOLEY: Well, that's a very large question. We think that there has been some movement at the local level in rural communities to hold real elections, democratic elections. That's a development - a grassroots democratic development that we encourage.

We also hope that over time the process of opening the economy, of creating a greater distribution of wealth and economic opportunity may expand political opportunities. I think the President of China, when he was here, President Jiang, made some indications that he hoped that the PRC was able to move over time in a direction of more political and democratic openness. But we're certainly in no position at this stage, at the latter end of 1997, to say that China resembles a democratic form of government.

QUESTION: And what about the issue of a relatively free press? I mean, I ask these questions because I have a purpose. The UN Ambassador Richardson said in answer to a question at the National Press Club the other day - he made both those statements; that China was moving slowly towards democracy, and that it has a relatively free press. I just wondered if that reflected Administration thinking.

MR. FOLEY: I'm certainly not going to contradict Ambassador Richardson's comments in that regard. I'm not personally reading the Beijing press, so I really wouldn't want to comment further on his remarks.

QUESTION: I mean, so where am I left?

MR. FOLEY: I don't know.

QUESTION: Does the United States agree that China has a relatively free press, or does it take no opinion on this?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I'd really want to see what Ambassador Richardson said. I've not seen his comments.

QUESTION: Can you get an answer to that, because I would be --

MR. FOLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Jim, Iran's foreign minister today said your offer of dialogue was not sincere. Do you have a response to that?

MR. FOLEY: I simply disagree. Certainly, the question of dialogue between the United States and Iran is not a new development. The United States has said for quite some time that we are open to a dialogue with the Iranian Government. Our only stipulation has been that the dialogue be with an authorized representative of the government, and that they be prepared to acknowledge it publicly. We've had this idea on the table for a considerable period of time. It's not been taken up by the other side.

QUESTION: Is it disappointing that he would respond in this way?

MR. FOLEY: I wouldn't want to characterize it as disappointing. I would say unsurprising, unfortunately.

QUESTION: And can I ask about the OIC summit, - well --

MR. FOLEY: You can ask about it.

QUESTION: There are several statements that were adopted today.

I'm wondering if any one of them caught your eye. --

MR. FOLEY: Well, the problem is that we haven't - I understand there may be as many as 142 statements, which may be coming over the wires in the hours to come, and we've just seen a few scattered excerpts. We haven't seen anything in final form, and nowhere near 142 statements.

But based on what little I do know, we were disappointed in reports that we've seen that indicate the substance of the OIC's resolution on Israel and on the peace process. We certainly don't think that rhetorical attacks further the cause of peace, which most OIC members have supported. What advances the peace process is hard work by the negotiating parties, and that is what the United States is actively working to encourage.

I would note, however, that the Iranian position of opposition -- fundamental opposition to the very idea of the peace process -- was clearly not a majority view. And I believe the Iranian Government has been forced to acknowledge this publicly.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment about the decision of the government of Cuba that they don't let go the journalist who was awarded in Europe to receive the peace prize?

MR. FOLEY: I'm not aware of the report, but - or the prize. What is the prize you're referring to?

QUESTION: Well, he was awarded by the media in France and by - (inaudible). And according to the wires, Castro don't let him go.

MR. FOLEY: Well, we certainly believe that he ought to have the opportunity to travel freely, as should all Cuban citizens.

Thank you.

(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)


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