U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #179, 97-12-11
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
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
2 Percentages for Redeployment of Troops
2-3 Update on Yeltsin's Health
2 Turkish Violations of Air Movement in Northwest Aegean NATO
4-5 Agreement on NATO command structure in Aegean
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
5 Visit of Prime Minister Yilmaz of Turkey to Washington
5-6 US Position on Turkey and the European Union
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
7 Reports of the Execution of 450 prisoners
9-10 Movement of China toward Democracy and Free
Press/Ambassador Richardson's Statements to the National
10 Iran Foreign Minister's Statement re: Dialogue with the US
10-11 OIC Summit Statements
11 Castro's Denial to Allow Citizen to Travel to Accept Award
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
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
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
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
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: 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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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: 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
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
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.
(The briefing concluded at 1:30 P.M.)