U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #73, 98-06-19
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
Friday, June 19, 1998
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Secretary's Meeting with Bosnian Prime Minister and Deputy
1 Refugee Working Group Intercessional Event on Vocational
1,15-16 Secretary's Visit / Earlier Visits
1-4 Differing Views on NATO Actions and Options / Russian
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
3 Amb Holbrooke's Confirmation Hearings
4-5 Update on Situation re Access to US Ambassador's Residence
/ Possible Recall of US Ambassador / EU Ambassadors
Recalled / Potential US Retaliation
5-6 Specific Actions in Secretary's Speech / Iran's Reaction to
7-9 Government-to-Government Authorized Dialogue / Various
Exchanges, Including Soccer Match / President Khatami
Election Reflects Change / President Clinton's Message
9-10 Appointment of General to High Position / Court Ruling on
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
14-15 Banks Lawsuit Settlement
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
QUESTION: In the speech Indonesia came in for a few compliments - sorry,
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
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
QUESTION: That means you want the United States to win.
MR. RUBIN: That would be the logical conclusion, yes.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
MR. RUBIN: Well, your assessment of the situation is remarkably similar
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
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
(The briefing concluded at 1:55 P.M.)