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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #73, 98-06-19

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>


949

U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing

I N D E X

Friday, June 19, 1998

Briefer: James P. Rubin

STATEMENTS
1		Secretary's Meeting with Bosnian Prime Minister and Deputy
		  Prime Minister
1		Refugee Working Group Intercessional Event on Vocational
		  Training

JAPAN 1,15-16 Secretary's Visit / Earlier Visits

SERBIA (KOSOVO) 1-4 Differing Views on NATO Actions and Options / Russian Reluctance 3 Situation Update / Food Shipments 4 Refugees Arrival in Albania / UNHCR Access/Pres Milosevic Failures re Contact Group Requirements, Security Forces, Mediators /Amb Hill's Contacts

USUN 3 Amb Holbrooke's Confirmation Hearings

BELARUS 4-5 Update on Situation re Access to US Ambassador's Residence / Possible Recall of US Ambassador / EU Ambassadors Recalled / Potential US Retaliation

IRAN 5-6 Specific Actions in Secretary's Speech / Iran's Reaction to Speech 7-9 Government-to-Government Authorized Dialogue / Various Exchanges, Including Soccer Match / President Khatami Election Reflects Change / President Clinton's Message

INDONESIA 9-10 Appointment of General to High Position / Court Ruling on US Assistance

IRAQ 10-11 Report of Oil Smuggled Into Turkey in Violation of Sanctions / US Supports Sanctions

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS 11-14 Israel Considering Expanding Jerusalem Boundaries / Provocative Step / Peace Process Continues / Secretary's Contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu /US Contact with Chairman Arafat / US Position & Patience

SWITZERLAND 14-15 Banks Lawsuit Settlement


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

DPB #73

FRIDAY, JUNE 19, 1998, 1:00 P.M.

(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)

MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department. Welcome to the State Department briefing. We have two statements we'll be posting after the briefing, one on the Secretary's meeting with the Bosnian Federation Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, and another on the refugee working group intersessional event on vocational training.

Thirdly, before turning to you questions, let me say that it is Secretary of State Albright's plan at the close of the President's state visit to China to travel to Japan for meetings with senior government leaders. The Secretary will arrive in Japan on July the 3rd and hold meetings with senior officials. The purpose of the visit will obviously be many-fold and, given the many-fold relationship we have with Japan, it will include briefing Japanese leaders on the results of the President's meetings in China with the Chinese leadership and, obviously, she will also cover the full range of bilateral and international issues that we normally touch on or discuss in depth with our Japanese allies.

QUESTION: Jamie, weeks and weeks ago when it came out - I didn't expect this announced - but weeks and weeks ago when it came out that the President would go only to China, some eyebrows were raised about not going to Korea, not going to Japan, on the theory that it's a long way to go to go to just one country when there are other major US interests. Is this in some way a makeup for the President not making the stop in Japan?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I wouldn't put it that way. I would say this: that President Clinton has traveled to Japan twice, I believe, and Prime Minister Hashimoto is expected here in Washington in the next month or so, and so there has been a number of very high-level meetings between our two governments and Prime Minister Hashimoto will be here. In addition, I would add that it's not unprecedented for a President to go to China and not go to Japan, and I believe the President's first trip overseas was to Japan.

So there's no question that we have the full depth of our relationship with our Japanese ally, but we do think that China's position in Asia is something of importance to our Japanese friends, and that is why we thought it was appropriate to have the Secretary be in a position to brief them on the discussions that the President had in Beijing.

QUESTION: May I ask you on another subject and I'll pass the baton because there are a lot of things today. Another friend of yours - or the US Government's - the French Prime Minister is here and again you're hearing from an ally that you don't need a UN resolution for NATO to take actions. The other day we asked the Secretary if Yugoslavia was taking advantage of lack of total unity among the allies and she thought that there was a lot of unity. Do you have a problem? Is it an academic situation now? Can you size it up now that the French have said what, I guess, the British were saying?

MR. RUBIN: We would fully expect on a matter of this political and legal significance and democracies for emerging positions to come out at various times. But what is important here is that President Milosevic should see - and I'm sure the other comments of the prime minister will bear this out, as have the comments of the British prime minister, as have the comments of the President - that the major Western powers are now seriously considering their options here and military planning is going on.

In a situation where the use of force might occur in democracies, it is natural for there to be public discussion of it. President Milosevic saw a lot of public discussion prior to NATO's devastating air strikes on Bosnian Serb territory, so he would be making a big mistake if he thought that because major countries that they regarded as having a very powerful impact on it - and those of you who follow the Bosnian situation closely know that the Bosnian Serb leaders were devastated by the fact that Tomahawk missiles were arriving in Banja Luka. And if you want more accounts of that, for any of you who might have had a view on something I just said, you might look at Mr. Holbrooke's book and you'll get a view of that.

So he is quite aware of the fact that discussion precedes decision in Western democracies, and that planning is going on. And we have said that we do not believe that such a resolution is imperative or required but, rather, such a resolution would be desirable if the decision is made to move forward. And in the end, what is being discussed here are different options for what might take place if several other steps don't happen. And so it's premature to speculate on what if we had a resolution, what if we don't. We haven't even formally sought a vote on such a resolution. It is something that has been discussed in New York but not on a fast track.

The fact that NATO planners are continuing their work and that a set of options will soon be finished, a whole set of options - and NATO has confirmed that in Brussels - should make abundantly clear to President Milosevic that this possibility is a live one.

QUESTION: There have been some suggestions that NATO, in fact, was getting cold feet about this military option scenario, and you sound like you disagree with that.

MR. RUBIN: Yes. People can comment on what they are hearing from NATO councils but what I can tell you is that when NATO's military planners engage in the very serious business of discussing the possibility of the use of military power, that is a serious matter. It doesn't happen very often. And that work is going on on an accelerated basis and that is the situation.

In the meantime, that is not our preferred course of action. It is our preferred course of action that President Milosevic get the message that the situation in Kosovo can only be resolved successfully for the Serbs who live there and the Serbs throughout Serbia and the former Yugoslavia by a peaceful resolution, and that with every day that President Milosevic allows his security forces to crack down in these drastic ways on innocent civilians, as well as others, he is only making it less likely that the problem can be solved without more force being used and raising increasingly the specter that NATO's work may need to be considered. Right now, NATO is doing the planning. You have to do the planning before you make the decision, and that planning is going forward on an accelerated basis.

QUESTION: There is some reporting today that the violence, in fact, has abated in Kosovo. Do you have a similar assessment?

MR. RUBIN: We continue to see reports of scattered fighting along the Prizren-Pristina Road. We also have some reports of isolated violence in the Klina region. The humanitarian hardships in Kosovo are easing somewhat with the arrival of approximately 60 metric tons of food supplies to the towns if Itstok and Klina. In northern Albania, refugees continue to trickle in with the overall numbers stabilizing at around 13,000, and we haven't seen any additional reports of cross-border activity, which is certainly - the absence of which is certainly a good thing.

As we have said repeatedly, Milosevic's failure to adopt the requirements of the Contact Group, including the return to barracks and the cantonment of the security forces, is a major problem. In addition, his failure to allow international mediators and make clear that he's prepared to have the international presence in a dialogue is a major problem. We do, however, have a dialogue ongoing and it is going on in a sort of a proximity way because Ambassador Hill is in regular contact with both sides. But until that dialogue becomes more fruitful and until President Milosevic stops the crackdown and starts the cantonment of his forces, he should realize that a failure of him to do those steps will result in a qualitatively different response from members of the Contact Group. So that is where we are today on Kosovo.

QUESTION: Jamie, in light of the things that you've been talking about here, has the State Department asked the Congress to hasten the confirmation hearing of Ambassador Holbrooke?

MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that. He was just named yesterday and I'm sure there's some paperwork that needs to be filled out, and before all that gets done, it would be inappropriate for us to make any comment. He's now the President's designee and the paperwork has to be prepared, but I am not sure that the link exists between his work as UN Ambassador and Kosovo; his work will be as the UN Ambassador.

QUESTION: On Kosovo?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: The Russians - at least one of their colonel generals named Leonid Ivashov, I believe is his name - has spoken out very strongly against NATO military intervention in Kosovo, saying that the Russians will see this in a very negative way and this could bring about another Cold War between NATO and Russia. I think this just got on the wires this morning. Have you any comment to this particular point of view? The Russians say there are numerable ways to settle this without war.

MR. RUBIN: Let me say first of all that we and the Russians have agreed on the steps that need to be taken. We agreed on those at the Contact Group meeting in London and, clearly, all those steps have not yet been taken. It is also true that Russia's reluctance in this area was mirrored by previous policies with respect to Bosnia and other areas, and that's not a new phenomenon.

What is a little hard to understand is this raising the specter of a return to the Cold War. People in Russia - like people all over the world - should have realized by now that the Cold War is over; it is dead, it is buried. And to raise it as a specter is simply not serious.

QUESTION: Just one other point, a little different. There were wire reports this morning, Mr. Rubin, that no refugees - the flow of refugees or, in fact, no refugees - were getting into parts of Albania and there was also no access by the UNHCR to Kosovo to places they wanted to go in Kosovo. Is this --

MR. RUBIN: I've seen those reports and we'll will have to get something for you on that. The information that I had was current as of the briefing, but we'll try to get you some more on that report. I saw that before I came in.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) end of the Cold War given, say, about what's going on in Minsk?

MR. RUBIN: If you remember, the Cold War was a global conflict between two ideologies of communism and freedom which was spread out across the globe. That doesn't mean there aren't places where some Cold War attitudes still prevail, but that's very different than the Cold War, as I'm sure you know.

With respect to what is going on in Minsk, the US Ambassador in Minsk and his colleagues from other countries were denied access to the Drozdy compound where they reside. When the ambassadors returned to their compound in the middle of the day, their cars were stopped. They were informed that vehicles are not being allowed to enter the area and that they can access their residences only on foot. Although the Belarusian authorities have referred to permits to allow vehicular access, they have made no provision for obtaining such permits; therefore, our ambassador was compelled to walk over a mile to rejoin his spouse and children in their residence. Water, electricity and telephone services to the residents were shut off without any prior notifications.

These actions to deny normal access and cut off utility service are an obvious violation of Belarus' obligations under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, and obviously as well, of the lease that we signed with the government in 1992. Let me be clear: Unless normal access and utilities are restored, we will, in consultation with the European Union and other countries, be recalling our ambassadors for consultations. That could happen in a very short number of days.

QUESTION: You want it restored immediately?

MR. RUBIN: We want it restored immediately, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Some of the - is it correct - is it your understanding that some of the EU ambassadors have already been recalled?

MR. RUBIN: You would have to ask them. I don't have a full list of what all the ambassadors' steps have been, but if this doesn't change immediately we will be recalling Ambassador Speckhard.

QUESTION: Would you leave the embassy open, such as it is?

MR. RUBIN: Such as it is, we will leave a presence there. And there will be a charge and I believe there are about a dozen or so US employees.

QUESTION: Any retaliation here?

MR. RUBIN: Well, that is the first step and we will see what is appropriate after that.

QUESTION: What is your understanding about why the Belarusians are doing this?

MR. RUBIN: We've talked about this here in the briefing room before. Again, frankly, whatever their rationale is, it's a violation of the Vienna Convention. And they can try to justify it with any number of excuses, none of which we accept. And their motivations, whatever they are, are unacceptable.

QUESTION: In addition to potentially recalling the ambassador, have you contacted a welder or is any other retaliatory action contemplated?

MR. RUBIN: Well, we obviously have options available to us, but the first step is to recall the ambassador, and that decision has been made provided there isn't a change in circumstances immediately.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: Iran seems to be less than impressed with the Secretary's speech, and I am wondering your reaction to that.

MR. RUBIN: I wonder where - do you guys have a chart from which you pick up your precursors to your questions - "less than impressed," "set back," "didn't like it," "didn't go over well," "the left hand doesn't ...." I mean, is there a card from which you pick? I just wonder. Please continue.

QUESTION: No, it's go with the news.

MR. RUBIN: Let's go with the news.

QUESTION: Go with the facts.

MR. RUBIN: Right.

QUESTION: Iran seems to be less impressed. I mean, how do you react to that? And the fact that there weren't more sort of concrete actions, they're saying they're looking for action, which is often the US mantra. I mean, the fact that there weren't more specific actions suggested in her speech, does that reflect, you know, differences of opinion within the Administration about where to go on Iran?

MR. RUBIN: Well, the last one is the easiest which is that the Administration on subjects like Iran and pretty much every subject always has a healthy debate about any tactical decision or strategic decision. That's the nature of government, but it's not appropriate for us to make public every difference of view. I don't think, to my knowledge, this issue is marked by any more or less healthy discussion of any issue than any other subject.

With respect to the Iranian reaction, let me say this: We're not going to be going into a back and forth every day. The Secretary's speech was a clear statement of our views, and we expect that Iran will wish to take some time to develop a considered and careful evaluation of what the next steps might be. With respect to their public comments, they did not come as a surprise. There were some comments that were positive and some that were looking for policy actions. We, obviously, believe that the best way to move the situation forward is for us to talk, to develop an understanding of what the problems are that each side has, to get commitments to change those problems and ameliorate them, along which there would be a set of parallel responses.

So we have not changed our actions in the form of the economic measures, including sanctions, including the pipeline issue, and that was not what the speech was about. The speech was about - well, I needn't repeat it for you. You heard the speech and saw the remarks we have made since then. So we expect there to be a reaction that will come over time and not overnight.

QUESTION: In the speech Indonesia came in for a few compliments - sorry, Dave.

MR. RUBIN: Are you still on Iran?

QUESTION: On Iran.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MR. RUBIN: Yes.

QUESTION: What is your view, if you have one, as to why it is that the Iranian government doesn't seem ready to have a government-to-government authorized dialogue?

MR. RUBIN: They have to make that decision for themselves. And we - as the Secretary said, we're certainly encouraged by the civilizational dialogue that President Khatemi talked about through cultural exchanges, academic exchanges, and the kind of sporting exchange we're going to all see this weekend, a subject about which, by the way, that some people may have misinterpreted something I said, I guess, yesterday. And I'm going to break my rule on sports to answer this question.

Just as my predecessor, as a person coming from the State of Massachusetts - the great State of Massachusetts - had a desire to see the teams coming from where he lived win international sporting events. I can point out that I was born and am a citizen of the United States. Now, with respect to why they --

QUESTION: That means you want the United States to win.

MR. RUBIN: That would be the logical conclusion, yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. RUBIN: Well, we'll have to see. I think we'll all be watching. And soccer is a great game, and the opportunity for fans and people to talk about such a game is a healthy thing, as the President has indicated and taped a message accordingly. And so we'll see how it goes on Sunday, but we'll be watching it closely.

With respect to why the Iranian Government has not chosen to begin an authorized acknowledged dialogue with the United States, the short answer is that's for them to explain. We are not going to try to divine the reasons, but we would like to see it happen and we think that their concerns can be best addressed in a dialogue, just as we think the best way for our deep concerns over the subjects of sponsorship of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction can best be resolved through dialogue.

QUESTION: Could it be that the decisions like that are not made by the President - that he's just one voice, as Ambassador Akins pointed out in a very detailed, thought out column in the Los Angeles Times last week that there are lots of voices there and the voices of the mullahs are really the predominant voice?

MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't think that was the essence of his column. We've obviously studied this carefully.

QUESTION: He thinks you're misreading Tehran. That was the essence of his column.

MR. RUBIN: That is the essence of his column.

QUESTION: That you think you'd like things to happen that haven't really happened to the extent that - and that's before the speech.

MR. RUBIN: Right. We believe that President Khatemi's election was a reflection of the demand for change of the people there. That was powerful and serious, and that demand for change is what we are responding to and the Secretary responded to in her speech. And those who didn't read it carefully seem to have missed some of that subtlety.

At what point a government - however it makes its decisions - chooses to respond to the United States and what steps it takes in response to that is something we intend to measure very concretely, and it's not that complicated to do. In the meantime, Ambassador Akins is certainly encouraged to speculate as to what he thinks is going on there, and there are different speculations. It's hard to know for sure. But what we will know is if the government, through its authorized representatives, is in a position to begin a dialogue and make decisions that affect our national interests in a way that we would like to see happen. That's what governments do and, in the meantime, it is appropriate for analysts to speculate as to who's up and who's down, but not for government spokesmen to do so.

QUESTION: I'd like to get back to the soccer match because it's huge in Europe. I mean, without pushing it, when Iran says it wants to have a concrete action from the United States - I mean, here's an event --

MR. RUBIN: Would throwing the soccer match be a concrete action? No, it's not something we're prepared to consider.

QUESTION: No - well, I mean, there's a Presidential message that will be aired before this match, and here you are talking about it. Is this a concrete way of showing Iran that you mean it?

MR. RUBIN: It's certainly concrete in the exchange area to have sporting events of interest, like the soccer match is of interest to peoples in Iran and Europe and in the United States, and the President's decision to talk about that match as part of the process of developing greater understandings between our two peoples is part of this "civilizational dialogue." But I think both we and the Iranian Government have talked about concrete actions in terms of - we have, very clearly - in terms of state sponsorship for terrorism, in terms of weapons of mass destruction, in terms of other steps, and they obviously see steps that we've taken in the economic sanctions areas as what they are looking for.

And what I am suggesting is that in that area, the best way to get progress from our standpoint - and this is our judgment - is to have an authorized acknowledged dialogue in which we can agree on what the benchmarks are and work from those to seek concrete improvements. That's what we want to see and I would be surprised if the Iranian Government, in pursuit of its own national interests, wouldn't want to see parallel responses. But we're saying that that is concrete action.

In the meantime, pending such a decision, we are actively supporting a variety of exchanges and we support the idea of the great game of soccer, including a game between the two countries' professionals, and that will continue. And we, as I said and you would expect, I personally would want to see the American team show the flag as well as possible on Sunday.

QUESTION: Aren't you reading too much into the soccer match? I mean, that's the luck of the draw.

MR. RUBIN: I was trying to respond to a question.

QUESTION: No, but I mean, it is the luck of the draw. It's an international competition and, you know, I mean the numbers came up. It's different than the exchange of wrestlers, isn't it?

MR. RUBIN: No. I would say it this way - is that yes, it was the luck of the draw and it is different in the sense that it's not a planned trip by a group of esteemed journalists from one country to the other or visa versa. But in the context of this kind of event, the fact that the President has chosen to talk about it is a way to bring home the point that it is a way to bring greater understanding between the two peoples.

QUESTION: We've kicked this around. Can we move?

MR. RUBIN: We've kicked this around. Very good.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: In the speech, the Secretary had some kind words and noted some developments in Indonesia she found positive. Not a surprise. Anything after Soeharto, I suppose, would seem to be positive. But I wondered what the State Department thought about the appointment of the general that was supposed to have overseen the massacres in East Timor to a high post. Does that sort of set you back a little bit?

MR. RUBIN: We believe that it is important that President Habibie fully consider the backgrounds of his appointees and he should do so. But at the same time, on a practical level, we don't expect that this particular person's role as a personal advisor to the President should affect bilateral relations. Furthermore, we have repeatedly urged the Government of Indonesia to insure that all those guilty of human rights abuses are held responsible.

With respect to the issue of a court judgment, which is raised in some of the reporting on this, there is no treaty in force between the United States and Indonesia regarding the reciprocal enforcement of money judgments. The Department would oppose making US assistance conditional on that as simply a matter of principle. If every time a court judgment existed in every country in the world that people tried to reduce our foreign assistance, we wouldn't be able to do business and we've had enough times when the Congress has tied the President's hands behind his back and made it difficult for us to conduct diplomacy, and this would be another such example.

QUESTION: But there are things you could do short of that kind of move to encourage the new government to have this man make restitution or whatever he supposed to be doing - no? I mean, is that something you would consider?

MR. RUBIN: We have made clear and we will raise with the government our desire - our strong desire - to see that those guilty of human rights abuses are held responsible and pay a price for that. As far as what we will specifically do in this case, I can't say further other than to say that with respect to bilateral relations, being an advisor as opposed to a formal role in the cabinet or something like that, we don't think it will have an effect.

QUESTION: There's a report that Turkey is importing oil from Iraq in violation of the sanctions against Iraq. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. RUBIN: Yes. That report obviously is no surprise to us. This is a situation that we've been dealing with for some years now. And let me say several things.

First of all, the US strongly supports enforcing UN sanctions on Iraq, which have cost Saddam Hussein $15 billion a year since the 1990's. Turkey is a valued member of the Gulf War Coalition and has obviously suffered economically from our containment policy in Iraq. It has played a major role in containing Iraq.

It is true that there is some smuggling of oil into southeastern Turkey. We have raised this issue and our concerns with the Turkish government, and they have expressed their willingness to work on bringing the illicit trade under the UN sanctions regime. We have raised the matter several times and I think, in respect to the comparison between that which may be leaking through the Gulf as opposed to this area, I think it's important to point out that we have a multilateral interdiction force actively curbing smuggling in the Gulf and there is no parallel interdiction force that exists in landlocked northern Iraq.

The amount of smuggled oil varies, but is in the neighborhood of some 45, 000 barrels per day and several groups profit from this oil trade. However, I think in any fair analysis of the embargo against Iraq, people should realize that the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq have been the most comprehensive, most leak-proof, and longest lasting set of sanctions in their comprehensiveness in history. And yes, there will be leaks just as there are leaks in other areas, but the comprehensiveness of the sanctions is real and it is unprecedented.

QUESTION: Jamie, look - one of the points, or one of the main points of this story is you're looking the other way, and you don't even have to be a member of the proud Gulf Coalition to be allowed to import and deal with Iraq. Jordan got special privileges because you like Jordan and because Jordan was in economic trouble. Turkey is not a rich country either.

Aren't you verifying that - you say this has been going on a long time. I don't have any sense from your remarks that you've been beating on the Turkish government to cut it out. Is this something the US has sort of acquiesced in with the notion that Turkey has taken a heck of a beating economically and maybe a little bit of leakage isn't the worst thing in the world?

MR. RUBIN: The short answer to that, Barry, is no. The US strongly supports the enforcement of UN sanctions because of the powerful instrument they are in the containment of Iraq, and we have raised this issue with the Turks and they have expressed their willingness with the Turkish government, and they have expressed their willingness to work on bringing this illicit trade under the UN sanctions regime.

With regard to what is being discussed in New York in the Sanctions Committee, I'd have to tell you that it is before the Committee, but those deliberations are confidential. But perhaps our able Ambassador and others in New York could give you more information.

QUESTION: Some very quick back questions. When did you - you said it's been going on for some time. When did you first raise it with the Turks generally, and when did the Turkish government first tell you maybe we can bring this under the legal arrangements under the UN?

MR. RUBIN: I don't have dates and times of every event.

QUESTION: How come it's been going on for years?

MR. RUBIN: What I can tell you is that throughout the time when we've received reports of leakage, when we believe there is leakage as part of our effort to make sure that the sanctions regime is a tight as it can be, we raise those reports with the Turkish government. And the response that most recently that I can say publicly is that they have expressed their willingness to work on bringing this illicit trade under the UN sanctions regime.

QUESTION: There is a report out of Israel today that the Israelis are considering expanding the boundaries of Jerusalem, if I understand the stories correctly. Do you have any response to that with regard to the peace process and final status talks?

MR. RUBIN: Let me say the following: We have raised this issue that you mention with Israel and conveyed our concern about the matter to the government there. At the moment, it is not clear what the cabinet will be presented this weekend or what they intend to do. But for our part, we believe it is extremely hard to understand why Israel would even consider taking such a provocative step at this sensitive time in the negotiations.

As part of the regular contact that Secretary Albright has with the Israeli Government, I think she's expected to be in touch with the Prime Minister today, and I would expect her to raise our concern about this matter in that phone call.

QUESTION: Is that the purpose of her phone call primarily? Or is it part of --

MR. RUBIN: As part of the regular contact which she is --

QUESTION: The goal is provocative. Do you care to narrow or specify - because it's a complicated plan. Do you find the whole thing provocative? Is it the expansion that Betsy focused on? Is it just drawing boundaries for Jerusalem or is it the fact that Israel thinks that Jerusalem is its capital and can make arrangements in its own capital? What do you find provocative? The expansion?

MR. RUBIN: Jerusalem is an extremely sensitive and emotional issue for Israelis, Palestinians and Arabs alike. The unilateral action that this implies only undermines any sense of trust and confidence between the parties that is so essential to creating an environment for serious negotiations. They also create the impression that Israel has determined the status of key permanent status issues before these negotiations have begun.

We have encouraged Israel, as well as the Palestinians, to avoid any step that would make it more difficult to restore the environment. I am not going to get drawn into a reaction to every specific part of this reported plan, but the fact that taking such a provocative step is being considered now is unfathomable to us given the sensitivity of the current moment, given the difficulty we've had in trying to get the peace process back on track, given the extraordinary efforts we are trying to make in helping the Israelis pursue their objective of getting an accelerated permanent status talks started so that these issues can be resolved and then many concrete actions can be taken in the aftermath of a resolution of these issues.

QUESTION: What is so difficult to understand? The Prime Minister was elected saying Jerusalem would never be divided and now he's doing exactly what he said publicly. Why is that so difficult for you all to understand that there's a politician in this world that keeps his promises?

MR. RUBIN: I have no comment.

QUESTION: But could you address the main Palestinian - what appears to be one of them at least - one of the main Palestinian complaints that it's an attempt to maintain a Jewish majority in Jerusalem? Is this something also that the US State Department feels is beyond - is provocative?

MR. RUBIN: It's not a question of the rationale for these decisions; it's a question of the fact that we have made clear there are several issues that are extremely provocative. And the decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to consider these steps at a sensitive time on the issue that is the most sensitive issue in the negotiations, even while we have been unable to make progress in restoring the peace process, it's difficult to understand because this is the worst kind of time for considering such steps when there is no peace process back on track, when there are no negotiations between the Palestinians and the Israelis, when the multilateral peace talks have broken down, when there is no Israel-Palestinian - sorry - Israel-Syrian track, no Israel-Lebanese track, when the whole panoply of negotiations that were painstakingly built up that built confidence among the people there -- to take a provocative step that could lead to responses is a ticket to further instability. And what we are trying to do through the peace process is to stabilize the situation and meet the demands of the peoples of both sides. And so for both substantive and timing reasons, we don't understand the logic.

QUESTION: Given everything you've said then, does this call into question in your mind - and I mean that in terms of the US Government - Netanyahu's real commitment to peace - to the peace process?

MR. RUBIN: If we didn't think it was worth our time to pursue peace talks with the prime minister and his government, we would not do so. We are continuing to discuss these matters and negotiate on behalf of peace and try to get agreement, narrow the gaps on the remaining areas where we've made progress in recent weeks. But as I've said before, an inch is as good as a mile until you close these agreements. And given the difficulty of closing these agreements, we find it particularly hard to understand why this decision was made. But to get to the intent of your question, if we didn't think we had a chance to successfully complete this process and if we didn't have reason to continue the work, we would stop it.

QUESTION: When the Secretary speaks to Netanyahu today, what exactly is she going to ask him to do? Reverse this decision? I mean -

MR. RUBIN: Well, I would certainly think you would understand that the Secretary would like to be able to have that discussion with him privately before it is discussed publicly.

QUESTION: Does she or Dennis have any plans to talk to Arafat today?

MR. RUBIN: We are in regular contact with the parties, and I try to give you information that is relevant to a situation that's in the news because I go about finding it out. But I will not be in a position to detail for you every contact we have between our government and the Israelis and our government and the Palestinian Authority. So I have no information for you on any specific contact.

QUESTION: Do you think the US's mediation role is hurt by the US telling Israel that it doesn't have - it isn't entitled to have control over its own capital? Settlements aside, you know, expansion quotas; I mean, basically your position on every Jerusalem issue, whatever they do - you know, a housing project here, a plan for redistricting the city, whatever - it all gets down to the same thing that what the Israelis are doing but they shouldn't do anything about Jerusalem, basically, except collect the garbage.

The State Department's position is that Jerusalem should remain sort of, you know, status quo until it is addressed by the two sides. Isn't that something that maybe hurts your efforts to reach a settlement between these two sides?

MR. RUBIN: I would think you would have started by premising your question with demonstrating our consistency.

QUESTION: Oh, you are consistent on Jerusalem. You've been consistent on Jerusalem for 30 years.

MR. RUBIN: And that's what we think, from our experience, is the best way to promote peace. And we've had -

QUESTION: To tell Israel that Jerusalem is an open issue?

MR. RUBIN: Barry, can I please finish the answer? You've asked a lot of questions, taken up the floor, and I need to be able to address them. We've had a lot of experience in negotiating and assisting the parties in the pursuit of peace. There have been a number of agreements. You are familiar with them. I won't list them all, but there has been major progress, whether it's on the Jordanian-Israeli side, whether it's on the Oslo Accords, whether it's on the Hebron agreement, whether it's on a whole panoply of issues where the United States role is regarded by both Israel and the rest of the world as indispensable.

And since you correctly characterized our position as consistent, it is our view that to take provocative steps on a subject as sensitive as Jerusalem makes it harder for us to do our job. That is our judgment. Others may have other judgments. But our track record in this area, although it has been slow, but it is an excruciatingly difficult subject for those of you who follow it, is I think sufficient justification for us to make those judgments and stick with them.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. You don't preview the Secretary's phone call, but would it be fair to say that on this subject - I'm sure there will be other subjects - the tenor of her conversation will be much as yours has been?

MR. RUBIN: Well, as a matter of practice, we try to have our public and private messages have the same general message. That doesn't mean there won't be significant nuances, however.

QUESTION: It's now been just about six weeks since the London meetings between the Secretary and Arafat and Netanyahu. Two questions: Do you get the idea that the Israeli government may be trying to stretch out the clock, for whatever reasons-- maybe settlements, maybe Jerusalem -- and; two, at what point does the American patience run out?

MR. RUBIN: When the American patience is run out, we will tell you. As far as speculating as to the Israeli motivations, there is a very able, effective press corps in Israel that regularly speculates on Israeli motivation. Speculating on motivations is not what we do from the podium.

QUESTION: I was going to ask about a different subject. The Swiss banks apparently are saying that they are prepared to, you know, offer $600 million to settle this suit. And I wondered (a) since the United States is sort of leading these negotiations, I wondered (a) what you think about them going public with that offer and; (2) whether you think it's going to work..

MR. RUBIN: At the request of both parties, Under Secretary Eizenstat convened talks last December in an effort to facilitate a settlement. A confidentiality order agreed by the parties and signed by the court prevents us from commenting any further on the talks. While one or both of the parties appear to have discussed publicly proposals for a settlement, we intend to abide by the confidentiality agreement and will refrain from commenting on this matter.

QUESTION: Even if the lawyer for the Jewish groups say no way, Jose, this is a ridiculous offer, you figure the agreement's confidentiality still must be upheld by the State Department, right?

MR. RUBIN: Well -

QUESTION: It strikes me the confidentiality agreement has been pierced a little bit.

MR. RUBIN: Well, your assessment of the situation is remarkably similar to ours.

QUESTION: But you don't want to say how the State Department feels it's a niggardly offer, right?

QUESTION: So what happens next?

MR. RUBIN: You might get - we might get another fax on that.

QUESTION: What happens next?

MR. RUBIN: I will have to check with Under Secretary Eizenstat.

QUESTION: On the Secretary's trip to Japan, you said she is flying there on the 3rd of July. How many days or how much time will she -

MR. RUBIN: The exact agenda that she will have there is still being worked out, but considering that I did get a very well-timed question about this, I wanted to give you an answer.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, is she going to go directly, because you've got a Fourth of July and you got a Hawaii, a fun in the sun break. Does she not take the fun in the sun and just go to Japan?

MR. RUBIN: We will give you answers as best as we can on the schedule.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) travel out to other countries outside of Asia besides Japan?

MR. RUBIN: At this point, I'm only aware of Japan.

QUESTION: And when is the next briefing?

MR. RUBIN: Next week. And we have a briefing in about five minutes on China.

(The briefing concluded at 1:55 P.M.)


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