U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #83, 99-06-29
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
Tuesday, June 29, 1999
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 US Delegation to the UN Special Session on Populations Issues
1,2 Attack on UN Regional Headquarters / What is stance taken by
3 US is not satisfied with government's position
2 Embassy in Madagascar is still closed
2-4 The verdict of PKK Terrorist Ocalan / Trial was conducted in an
orderly manner/What are the Security Ramifications to embassies in
region?/Demonstration at USEmb in Nicosia / Worldwide caution
announcement was issued
5 Milosevic rule has damaged Serbian livelihoods
6 Forced deportation of Kosovar Albanians
7,8 Foreign Ministers will address many issues
8-9 Demonstration against Milosevic / Orthodox leadership calling for
Milosevic to step down
6 No evidence of atrocities by the Serbs
9 Readout of Secretary Albright Meeting with Mubarak
9 Aegean issues
9 Supreme Court upholds death penalty of Pakistani national
9 Swearing in of Ambassador-designate Hormel in Benjamin Franklin Room
11 Formation of a coalition government
11 Extradition request for President Estrada's top aide
11 No consular access has been granted to detained American citizen
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JUNE 29, 1999, 12:55 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to the State Department briefing. Today, this Tuesday -
if you take yesterday's 12:00 briefing and today's 12:50 briefing, you have
two briefings that began on time at 12:30. So we've averaged out this week
two on-time performances.
We have a statement on the US delegation to the UN special session on
population issues that we'll be issuing after the briefing.
Let me start, however, with the subject of East Timor. On June 29, a pro-
Jakarta civilian militia attacked a recently established regional
headquarters of the UN mission in East Timor in the northwest Boganaro
district with sticks and stones. At least one foreign official of the UN
mission and several Indian local officials of the mission were injured. The
United States condemns this callous attack on unarmed UN personnel in the
strongest terms. The Indonesian Government - which agreed in its May 5
agreement with the UN and Portugal to be solely responsible for security in
East Timor -- must take immediate steps to establish order, apprehend and
bring to justice the perpetrators of this cowardly act.
The United States calls on Indonesian authorities to create conditions in
which the UN personnel, including American citizens, can prepare for and
conduct a popular consultation on autonomy in late August in an environment
that is secure and free of fear and intimidation. Pro-Jakarta militias
which have operated with the acquiescence and support of elements of the
Indonesian military are responsible for much of the recent violence and
killings in East Timor. We call on the government of Indonesia and military
authorities to control and disarm these militias and to prevent further
violent attacks on innocent civilians and UN personnel doing their
duty in East Timor.
QUESTION: You've been following some of this for some time - could you
characterize the stance taken by the government in Jakarta?
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, we're not satisfied with the fact that the
Indonesian military has not taken the necessary steps to bring into control
these militias. So we're not satisfied with -
QUESTION: It's not a runaway military is it?
MR. RUBIN: We're not satisfied with the position of the Indonesian
military and its government. Any more on this subject?
QUESTION: Do you think this sort of behavior is directly condoned by
Habibi, or --
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to speculate on what steps are taken within the
Indonesian Government and its military. What I'm going to tell you is we're
not satisfied with the results.
QUESTION: Other subject?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Ocalan: The White House has commented, but in a part - watch
what you say - but could you touch on how this might bear on security
concerns, terrorism concerns, and, by the way, has the Madagascar embassy
MR. RUBIN: Which first?
QUESTION: Whichever you like.
MR. RUBIN: OK. On Madagascar -- the embassy has not reopened for normal
business. It remains closed today for security reasons. Additional security
measures are being taken by the embassy, the details of which I'm not in a
position to share with you. We will re-evaluate the status of the embassy
on a daily basis. As I've said before, the safety of our people is of
critical importance to us. We believe that the continued suspension of
operations it Madagascar is the appropriate measure to take at this
With respect to the Ocalan verdict, let me say the following: The PKK
terrorist leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was tried in Turkey by a state security
court, convicted of treason, and sentenced to death. Although the trial is
over, the case is not closed. We understand that the judgment is automatically
appealed in the Turkish system. It could also be appealed to the European
Court of Human Rights. Turkey has assumed obligations under international
and European human rights instruments to ensure that a defendant receives a
fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, and has
adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense.
While not specifically required by law, the court did allow access to the
trial to the media, representatives of the Council of Europe, and UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights, diplomats, and some private individuals,
including some working for human rights organizations. On each day of the
trial, our embassy, along with other members of the international community,
sent an official to witness the proceedings. In our view, the Ocalan trial
was conducted in an orderly manner. All sides - the prosecutor, the victims,
and the defense, including the defendant, Ocalan himself, were permitted
to present their cases.
On June 18, we welcomed Turkey's decision to remove the military judge from
the state security courts. On June 21, an observer representing the
parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe submitted a preliminary
report to the Council that the proceedings were handled in a correct
manner. Nonetheless, there have been concerns about the trial. We had some
as well. These concerns include the initial nine days of incommunicado
detention imposed on Ocalan, and the limited access of Ocalan's lawyers to
private consultations with their client, and to written material included
in the prosecution's case. We will continue to keep a close eye on the
With respect to the death sentence, this is a question for the Turkish
judicial system, parliament, and president to decide. All such cases have
to be confirmed by a parliamentary vote, and then approved by the
QUESTION: I hear what you say, but is this - was this a fair trial?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not going to make that kind of legal judgment at this
time. There will be others who have their willingness to step forward.
There's an appeals process that is going on, and whether the conduct of the
trial was consistent with international standards of due process may be
raised during an appeal, so it would be inappropriate for us to lay out our
full view on that subject. I did say, however, that the Ocalan trial was
conducted in an orderly manner. All sides - the prosecutors, the victims,
and the defense, including the defendant himself, were permitted to present
QUESTION: What is - is that what orderly means - that they all were
allowed to present their cases?
MR. RUBIN: That's what I defined orderly as right there.
QUESTION: It doesn't mean anything else?
MR. RUBIN: I don't know how to answer that question; I mean - I -
QUESTION: Well, I mean, are you specifically saying that that's all that
that means - that each side was able to present its case?
MR. RUBIN: I'm trying to give you an impression and you have to draw your
own impression from what I say.
QUESTION: What about the security ramifications? Independent of the
verdict and the appeals process, what are the security ramifications as to
US embassies in the region?
MR. RUBIN: The Department sent a cable to all US diplomatic posts last
week advising them to review their security situation in advance of the
upcoming Ocalan verdict and take additional security precautions where
necessary. Our diplomatic missions in Europe have been operating at a
heightened state of alert since Ocalan's arrest. They continue to operate
at this level. There was a demonstration outside the American embassy in
Nicosia earlier today which consisted of approximately 150 protesters.
Additional protesters threw eggs at the embassy and a guard booth
located outside the embassy. Additional police responded to break up
We are advised that there are likely to be demonstrations scheduled to take
place outside the US embassy in London and Athens later today. We've put
out, as you know, a certain worldwide caution concerning possible violent
reactions to the verdict. The Consulate General in Istanbul and Adana will
close early today and plan to close all day Wednesday. So we're taking a
number of steps to deal with the potential security situation in the
aftermath of this decision.
QUESTION: As a follow-up - do you consider private American interests -
businesses in Europe - to be a target as well? Have you advised them in any
MR. RUBIN: Again, I think our worldwide cautions are designed to apply to
American citizens and American interests outside of the embassy and that
caution indicated on June 22 that violent demonstrations occurred
throughout Europe and in other regions worldwide at the time of Ocalan's
capture early this year. There have been some demonstrations following
announcement of the verdict and sentence in this trial on the 29. Our
Consulate General in Istanbul and our Consulate in Adana will close early
June 29; be closed all day June 30. We have received no specific threats
targeted at Americans overseas. A warden message was issued to the US
citizen community in Turkey. I can provide you the text of that but it's
very similar to the worldwide announcement I just read. The US Government
is taking appropriate security measures for our personnel and providing
Americans and American interests the best information that we have.
QUESTION: Did the embassy - the consulates close early and will be closed
tomorrow, but the embassy stays open?
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: Has that - on that - the embassy - has there been any follow-up
about the shooting death of the two alleged attackers?
MR. RUBIN: I'd have to check that for you.
QUESTION: Yesterday, in her speech at the Council on Foreign Relations,
the Secretary -
MR. RUBIN: One second - any more Ocalan?
QUESTION: Jamie, if I could just ask - the European Union is apparently
urging Turkey not to go through with the death sentence. Why would you say
the US is not doing the same thing?
MR. RUBIN: Well, what I've said is that this is a question for the
Turkish judicial system, parliament, and president to decide. All such
cases have to be confirmed by a parliamentary vote, and then approved by
the president. It is up to Turkey and its citizens to decide how to respond
to such overtures.
We do not believe there is a purely military solution to Kurdish issues in
Turkey. The vast majority of Kurds in Turkey do not support the use of
violence. Any enduring solution lies in the expansion of democracy,
including full democratic, political participation by all of Turkey's
citizens and protection of their human rights. We view the arrest and
prosecution of Ocalan as an opportunity for Turkey to seek a dialogue with
its citizens of Kurdish origin and to strengthen the rule of law and
protection for all - human rights for all its citizens. More broadly, I
don't think there's any secret to the fact that many European countries and
the United States have different positions on the death penalty as a
matter of principle.
QUESTION: You are encouraging a dialogue - that this trial be sort of a
stepping stone for a dialogue with the Kurdish citizens, but you don't have
a view as to whether a carried-out death sentence would be constructive or
conducive to such a dialogue?
MR. RUBIN: What I'm saying is that the death sentence is a question for
the Turkish judicial system -- its parliament and its president to decide,
not us. All such cases have to be confirmed by a parliamentary vote and
then approved by the president. It is also our view that this arrest and
prosecution can be an excellent opportunity for Turkey to seek a dialogue
with its citizens of Kurdish origin and to strengthen the rule of law and
protection of human rights for all of its citizens. So, the short
answer is: Every opinion we have about how a government and its legal
system may want to operate is not necessarily an opinion we would want to
share in public.
QUESTION: Last night in her speech at the Council on Foreign Relations,
the Secretary made a reference to the need --
MR. RUBIN: I agree with it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- for Serbs -
QUESTION: (Inaudible) - the President's.
MR. RUBIN: And I believe it's the President's belief. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- for Serbs to be able to return to Krajina. My recollection
is that either you or she had made a similar statement in recent days. And
I just wondered whether - are you trying to put new emphasis on this? Are
you concerned that Croatians are really balking at the - do you see Kosovo
as an opportunity to put some pressure on Croatia to actually accomplish
MR. RUBIN: We've been trying to encourage the government of Croatia for
some time to pursue the kind of policies and practices that will be
conducive to the return of Serbs to Krajina, and that remains our view. At
various times, depending on the severity of the situation, or our
particular concerns, we've had more strong views. Clearly, the rule and the
reign of Milosevic has been marked by the loss of houses, homes and
livelihoods of Serbs all over the former Yugoslavia; first in Slovenia,
then in Croatia, then in Bosnia, and now in Kosovo. So, we are trying to
make clear to the Serbian people that we understand the damage that
Milosevic's rule has done to their livelihoods and their lives. We
support their right to return to their homes, and to have governments
that are controlling that jurisdiction pursue policies and practices that
are conducive to that. That is the point the Secretary was making.
QUESTION: Well, but the recent emphasis on it - and I realize it's been a
long-standing policy, but the recent emphasis on it is an attempt to show
the Serbian people that there's a balance to US policy - that you not only
want the ethnic Albanians to go back to Kosovo, but you also want the Serbs
to go back to Krajina. Is that --
MR. RUBIN: Well, it's fair to say that our public statements on it are
both a reflection of our policy, in wanting to get them to be able to go
back to their homes, and our attempt, on the public diplomacy side, to make
clear to the Serbian people that we have no quarrel with the Serbian people,
and it's their leadership, Milosevic, that has done such grievous harm to
QUESTION: Jamie, is there a judgment here - the KLA judgment as to how
responsible or not responsible the KLA may be for attacks on Serb
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, it's something that KFOR has been working on. I
think they believe that the KLA has been very responsive to the requirements
of the demilitarization agreement, that several thousand of their fighters
are now in cantoned areas.
I think it's very hard to know exactly who's responsible. I think it's fair
to say that we're facing mostly a situation where Kosovar Albanians were
deported on trains and forced deportations. They were sent to refugee camps
where they lived in tents in the most difficult kind of circumstance; not
knowing what happened to their relatives. They returned to their homes
spontaneously in the last few days and, in many cases, they found a
situation where their homes are destroyed; where their uncles and their
relatives are killed or have been missing; and the Serbs who live on their
block have a perfectly fine house with all their furniture in it.
And the fact that there would be terrible anger and desire for revenge
in those circumstances shouldn't be a surprise to anybody.
QUESTION: No, no, but - I understand, but when there were atrocities
committed by Serb troops -
MR. RUBIN: We have no evidence --
QUESTION: -- you drew a straight line to Belgrade.
MR. RUBIN: We have no evidence of atrocities, Barry. There isn't any
QUESTION: Let me leave out the word atrocity.
MR. RUBIN: No - it's an important distinction.
QUESTION: Responsibility is -
MR. RUBIN: For what?
QUESTION: I'm just asking, I'm not -
MR. RUBIN: For what? For just violence or a specific incident?
QUESTION: Let me start over again.
MR. RUBIN: I don't understand the question.
QUESTION: I'll start over because I put it badly. When civilians were
being hurt - Serb civilians - it didn't take long for the Administration to
conclude that there's a straight line of responsibility here to Belgrade.
MR. RUBIN: Now - you mean Albanian civilians?
QUESTION: Yes - I mean, like Albanians - oh, yes.
MR. RUBIN: You just said Serb civilians.
QUESTION: Yes, I'm sorry. I'm trying to turn the coin around and say if
Serb civilians - as Serb civilians are being hurt, is it sort of random,
vengeful, almost understandable but - you know - or is there some
MR. RUBIN: We do not believe there is a coordinated policy of the Kosovar
Albanian leadership to expel, deport, mass murder, and rape Serbian
civilians as there was in the case of the Serbs. We do not have any
evidence of such a policy. We do have evidence of terrible things happening
to Serb civilians. I gave you an example of reasons why that is happening
and that is deeply troubling to us; we care about all the citizens of
Kosovo, and we want each of them to be treated fairly. But that doesn't
mean that we don't recognize a phenomenon where a million people were
forcibly, by policy, expelled from their homes; many of them were
murdered; women were raped. And they're finding out now all the evidence
in Kosovo, day after day, of the terrible atrocities committed as a matter
of policy by paramilitaries, militaries for which the president of
Yugoslavia has been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal. That was a policy
that we condemned; that we regarded as top-down driven; that the Tribunal
has now declared to be top-down driven, as opposed to the inevitable
revenge and retribution that comes with the kind of case that I gave you
QUESTION: This is still on Kosovo - I just wanted you to talk a little
bit more - give us an update on what to expect tomorrow at the meeting with
MR. RUBIN: I don't know the exact attendees, and you'll have to check
with the UN for the exact attendees. I would expect a large number of the
foreign ministers to be there. I would expect them to talk about the
process by which the major countries involved and the major countries of
concern and the countries who want to be labeled as friends of Kosovo - and
certainly the United States wants to be labeled as such a country - would
want to contribute on the civilian side - that is police, judiciary
questions, reconstruction questions, customs - all the kind of details that
the civilian side - jobs, employment, economic questions, political
questions -- need to be gone through. The UN is just beginning to
stand up its operation.
We're going to be discussing all the different aspects of the civilian
mission. I've given you some examples of that, and ways in which we, the
United States, can contribute to their efforts and we would hope that
others would do that, as well. For example, we might be talking about how
many police we could send and how quickly to be international police
monitors that are going to be sent there; some ideas for how to train
people; how to deal with certain questions that have arisen about how the
UN operation will operate in the situation where it's effectively an
international protected area, where the Serbs do not exercise the control
over the borders, and other issues like that.
So those are the kind of nuts-and-bolts details that the foreign ministers
are prepared to roll up their sleeves and work on to give the Kosovo
civilian mission the greatest chance of success as possible. More specifics
will have to wait until tomorrow.
QUESTION: Back to Milosevic and to follow up -
QUESTION: Can we follow up on --
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: This is still expected to be just a morning meeting - a four-
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, can I --
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: OK. I heard an NPR report that there was a demonstration of
some 10,000 Serbs in a Serbian town that was not named against Milosevic
today. Can you - can you verify that this is going on? And may it in fact
be a trend?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say I don't have any information about that specific
demonstration; I'm aware that that demonstration was scheduled to occur.
Let me say that there is a trend; and the trend is most pronounced and
marked in the statements of the Serbian Orthodox leadership, which in a
rather dramatic way, over the last two weeks, has not only called for the
resignation of Milosevic, but has stated that it is clear to the patriarchs
and others who've been to Kosovo that the Milosevic leadership had
a policy of atrocities in Kosovo, and that it was not the Serbs who
committed those atrocities, but it was the Milosevic regime that is
responsible. This is important, and as I understand the patriarch's
intentions is to have all the Serbian Orthodox Church leaders speak to
these issues in their churches in the coming days, so that the people of
Serbia can begin to come to grips with what was done in their name by the
Milosevic regime. The more the people of Serbia realize that the policies
of Milosevic has not only caused grievous harm to the people of Serbia in
the ways that I described earlier, but have been responsible for the
massive atrocities in Kosovo, the greater we hope the recognition will be
that new leadership is necessary.
QUESTION: So - thank you.
MR. RUBIN: You're welcome.
QUESTION: Could we - just is it - do you know enough about the meeting -
the luncheon - it wasn't luncheon, excuse me - the Mubarak-Albright meeting
to add to what Indyk had to say?
MR. RUBIN: I can try to get something for you after the briefing.
QUESTION: On the Greek-Turkish differences - according to documents, the
Greek Foreign Minister, George Papandreou, is seeking now the first
political solution on the Turkish claims over the Aegean via dialogue with
Ankara; and then the ratification of the political agreements by the
(inaudible) Court of Justice. Could you please clarify once again what's
the US position since it was stated hundreds of times by President Clinton
and most particularly by the State Department - that Agean leaders
should be first addressed through the Court of Justice?
MR. RUBIN: I can tell you that I share, in the fullest possible way, with
all the previous statements made by the President and any spokesman,
including myself, who have spoken to this issue, as well as Mr. Foley, who
may have spoken to it, or Mr. Burns, before him. I would be happy to get
you a copy of such a statement.
QUESTION: If you're worried of the State Department alert, worldwide, in
Pakistan - the Pakistani National Mir Amail Kansi and a death penalty --
the Supreme Court upheld his death penalty -
MR. RUBIN: I have no information on that. I'll check that for you.
QUESTION: This afternoon, James Hormel is going to be sworn in as
ambassador to Luxembourg. I'm curious to know when the last time an
ambassador-designate was sworn in in the Ben Franklin Room - with so much
pomp and circumstance.
MR. RUBIN: I will check for the last time. But I can tell you, I've been
up there many times when it happens. It's very common for such swearing-in
ceremonies to be held on the eighth floor. In fact, the diplomatic
reception rooms there are the most frequently used venue for such events.
Some of us haven't been sworn-in up there; some of us have. But it's the
most common place, and it's the ambassador who chooses the venue for his or
her swearing-in ceremony. It's usually based on where he or she can best
accommodate his or her guests.
Me, for example, I had a very small group, so it took place in the
Secretary's office. But for those who have bigger groups, often use, and
commonly use, that room.
QUESTION: OK. Are all ambassadors sworn-in by the Secretary of State?
MR. RUBIN: Many. I've witnessed her swear-in many ambassadors.
QUESTION: There's not always a photo-op, though?
MR. RUBIN: I can give you a status report of all the eighth-floor events,
but I can give think of five or six that I've been at. I know that Nick
Burns had a swearing-in on the eighth floor. There were plenty of cameras
there, and Greek media covered it widely and extensively, and probably some
other media. So I don't think there's anything unusual about this -- other
than the questions about it, which is unusual.
QUESTION: Just to follow up, though -- I don't know if the right word is
unusual or not, but it seems to me that it is the exception, not the rule
that it be an open-press event, the swearings-in.
MR. RUBIN: That's not correct. Most media are not interested. When we
swear-in the ambassador to Togo, I don't remember getting a large push from
all of you for it to be an open event. So maybe it has more to do with your
interest than our making exceptions.
QUESTION: So the sense that's floating around this town that the
Administration is kind of using this event to rub certain Republicans nose
in the fact that Mr. Hormel is going to Luxembourg -- is incorrect -- is an
MR. RUBIN: I used to work in the political business, briefly, and I don't
QUESTION: Well, is that a yes or no? (Laughter.) Is that not correct?
MR. RUBIN: That I don't - I don't anymore.
QUESTION: No, no, wait, wait. Did you settle with the historians what is
yet to say about the death of the Greek - or the leader of the Greek junta,
MR. RUBIN: I'm going to read the riot act to my staff for not checking
with the Historian's Office.
QUESTION: But somebody should condemn - (inaudible) --
MR. RUBIN: And I will certainly check with them and find out why we
haven't made that inquiry and gotten the appropriate response. I take it
you want to go back to what I know?
QUESTION: Yes. Can I get an answer? Are these people wrong when they
think that - that they think that the Administration is trying to make -
MR. RUBIN: Look, I'm not going to comment on the political statements of
others. I've given you a very detailed description of what we do and
normally don't do here in the Department. I've talked about the fact that
this is a normal process to use the eighth floor when there's a large
audience; I've given you examples off the top of my head of others who've
had very similar circumstances. If others want to draw conclusions about
this, they're welcome to. All I can do is provide you what I know.
QUESTION: Do you know if there's a - never mind - I'll ask the Press
QUESTION: Do you know if there are any large contingents of Luxembourg
press who have been demanding to get into this, do you?
MR. RUBIN: That - (laughter) --
QUESTION: I mean, I know - I know that Washington has got a very active
Greek - community of Greek correspondents; I don't know about Luxembourg.
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check that, too.
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Do you have any observations about the formation
now going on in Israel of a coalition government and the decision by Likud
not to take part?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: I have one more that's not related to -
MR. RUBIN: How about we look forward to the Barak Government putting -
Mr. Barak putting together his government as quickly and effectively as
QUESTION: Do you know anything about an extradition request lodged by the
US to - against a top aide to President Estrada of the Philippines? Mark
Jimenez, allegedly -
MR. RUBIN: I'll have to check that for you; I don't have anything on
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on that woman in North Korea who's
being detained - the protecting power --
MR. RUBIN: As far as I know, she has not received -- the Swedish consul
in North Korea has not yet been granted consular access to the detained
American citizen in North Korea.
QUESTION: Anything new to update on India and Pakistan in Kashmir?
MR. RUBIN: I can read it again, but it's not new.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 1:25 P.M.)