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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #83, 99-06-29

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <>


U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing


Tuesday, June 29, 1999

Briefer: James P. Rubin


1 US Delegation to the UN Special Session on Populations Issues

EAST TIMOR 1,2 Attack on UN Regional Headquarters / What is stance taken by Indonesian government?

3 US is not satisfied with government's position

AFRICA 2 Embassy in Madagascar is still closed

TURKEY 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

CROATIA 5 Milosevic rule has damaged Serbian livelihoods

6 Forced deportation of Kosovar Albanians

G-8 MEETING 7,8 Foreign Ministers will address many issues

KOSOVO 8-9 Demonstration against Milosevic / Orthodox leadership calling for Milosevic to step down

6 No evidence of atrocities by the Serbs

EGYPT 9 Readout of Secretary Albright Meeting with Mubarak


9 Aegean issues

PAKISTAN 9 Supreme Court upholds death penalty of Pakistani national

DEPARTMENT 9 Swearing in of Ambassador-designate Hormel in Benjamin Franklin Room

ISRAEL 11 Formation of a coalition government

PHILIPPINES 11 Extradition request for President Estrada's top aide

NORTH KOREA 11 No consular access has been granted to detained American citizen


DPB #83

TUESDAY, JUNE 29, 1999, 12:55 P.M.


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?


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 reopened?

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 time.

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 process.

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 president.

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 their cases.

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 the demonstration.

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 other way?

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 this?

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 them.

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 civilians?

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 evidence -

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 coordination here?

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 before.

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 the -

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 --


QUESTION: This is still expected to be just a morning meeting - a four- hours meeting?


QUESTION: I'm sorry, can I --


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 incorrect sense?

MR. RUBIN: I used to work in the political business, briefly, and I don't anymore.

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, George Papadopoulos?

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 Office.

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?


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 possible.

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 that.

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.)

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