|Friday, 24 January 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #115, 00-11-14
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
U.S. Department of State
Tuesday, November 14, 2000
Briefer: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
ANNOUNCEMENTS 1 Welcome to Three Students From American University Observing Briefing/ Revised Notice to Press on Austrian Property Restitution Talks/ Stuart Eizenstat Briefing the Press at 3:30 p.m. in the Loy Henderson Building/ International Education Week U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION 1 Florida Vote Count BOSNIA 2 November 11 Elections/ OSCE Supervises the Elections/ Ambassador Holbrooke's Attendance at Fifth Anniversary of Dayton Accords SERBIA (FRY) 3 Jim O'Brien Trip/ Conversations With Yugoslav Officials/ Exchange of Letters Between Presidents Clinton and Kostunica/ European Union & G-7 Leaders Meeting to Consider Policy on Yugoslavia/ Issue of Milosevic Being Turned Over/ Reestablishing Diplomatic Relations BANGLADESH 4 Editor Charged With High Treason/ State Department View of Press Being Harassed and Human Rights Violated/ Embassy in Dakar Following Situation COLOMBIA/PERU 4-5 Payments Received by President Fujimori ENVIRONMENT 5-6 Global Warming Conference/ Climate Change/ Kyoto Protocol/Assistant Secretary Sandalow's Opening Statement SYRIA 6-7 Claim Regarding Bashar Asad Creating Conditions for Guerilla War/ Absence of Syrian President From Sharm Negotiations/ State Department's Position on Relatively New Leader in Syria/ When Secretary Albright Last Spoke With President of Syria MEXICO 7 Recent Violent Developments in Chiapas/ Whether Secretary Albright Received Invitation to Inauguration of President Fox RUSSIA 7-9 Status of Boris Berezovskiy's Visa/Consular Officer's Visit to Edmond Pope/ Trial Suspended Until November 15/ Review of Medical Tests/ Exclusion of US Consular Official From Courtroom 9-10 Moscow's Position on NMD CHILE 7-8 Disclosure of State Department Documents/Augusto Pinochet Link to Orlando Letelier Murder/ Expected Indictment of Augusto Pinochet/ Withheld State Department Documents
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2000 1:10 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Greetings, everybody. Welcome back to the State Department on this fine Tuesday, November 14th. I would just like to take a quick moment to welcome three students from American University today: Maria Cox-Alomar, Jennifer Strong and Albasari Caro. We are very pleased to have you here with us to observe the briefing. I am sure our journalist friends will be happy to share their thoughts with you after the briefing.
Just a couple of quick notices. You all should have seen the revised Notice to the Press about this afternoon's briefing on the Austrian property restitution talks. Just to remind everyone that Stuart Eizenstat, the President and the Secretary of State's Special Representative for Holocaust Issues, will be briefing the press at the conclusion of the second round of talks this afternoon at 3:30 in the Loy Henderson Conference Room here in the building, if anybody is going to that.
And just to point out that this week, November 13th through 17th, is International Education Week, as proclaimed by President Clinton on the 13th. He signed a Presidential Proclamation that this would be International Education Week and urged all Americans to observe this week with events and programs that celebrate the benefits of international education to our citizens, our economy and our world.
I would draw your attention to the Secretary's statement of September 26th previewing this week, and note that we have a partnership, the Department of State, with the Department of Education to provide a global forum for promoting and celebrating the benefits of international education in the spirit of the President's statement. It was designed as part of the White House Millennium Events Series.
So with that, I will turn to your questions.
QUESTION: Is there anything in that statement about mathematics in Florida?
MR. REEKER: We'll leave that for the Agence France Presse to review, but I would be happy to turn to George's questions.
QUESTION: Which assumes that I have one.
MR. REEKER: If you have one. You are welcome to defer to our friend from the Agence France Presse.
QUESTION: You haven't got a follow-up, Matt?
QUESTION: No. I actually don't have -- I have no questions today.
MR. REEKER: That's great. All right.
QUESTION: I don't.
QUESTION: This briefing is not contributing much to education.
MR. REEKER: Okay. Well, we will be happy to let you go to all the events of International Education Week, and inform yourselves that way. Is there anything I can fill you in on? If you want to --
QUESTION: Actually there is the -- do you have anything to say about the elections in Bosnia?
MR. REEKER: In Bosnia. Sure. As you know, there were elections on Saturday the 11th, and the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina voted to elect representatives in six different levels of government. We welcome very much the democratic process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the latest in five successful elections since the end of the war in Bosnia.
I can't say much since we don't expect final results to be available until at least Friday, so it would be premature to comment on the elections. But the OSCE, which supervises the elections, as provided for under the Dayton Accords, they also had 700 international election supervisors on hand, and it was estimated that 63 percent of eligible voters participated.
I will note that the OSCE chairperson in office, the Austrian Foreign Minister, on Monday welcomed the peaceful and orderly conduct of the general elections there. So we are confident in OSCE's work there, and obviously we will have to wait till the end of the week when we have the final results to announce anything.
I will point out that November 17th or 18th will be the fifth anniversary of the Dayton Accords. There will be celebrations in Dayton, Ohio attended by senior US, European and Balkan officials.
QUESTION: Who other than Holbrooke is going to that?
MR. REEKER: We can get you a list afterwards. I know Ambassador Holbrooke will be the senior person representing us. I believe Jim O'Brien will be there, Ambassador Dobbins and others. But we would be happy -- Chuck -- afterwards to get you something and have some sort of statement on that.
QUESTION: Staying in the region, do you have anything on Jim O'Brien's travel plans this week?
MR. REEKER: Well, as I think you knew, Jim O'Brien left yesterday for Yugoslavia. I believe he is in Belgrade now, but he has just arrived there a little earlier today so I don't have any details on what he has been doing. I believe he went via Budapest and would be in Belgrade. We can check this afternoon if there is any update on any activities today; otherwise, we can look into it for tomorrow.
QUESTION: And how goes the resumption of diplomatic --
MR. REEKER: I think that is obviously one of the topics, or a broad series of topics, that Jim O'Brien will be discussing in his conversations with Yugoslav officials there in Belgrade.
QUESTION: Richard was saying last week that this basically is an -- well, what it involves is an exchange of letters between Presidents Clinton and Kostunica. Is Jim carrying a draft of this letter?
MR. REEKER: I am not certain that that is something that he has at this point. I think there are still discussions going on, and obviously that is what he will be doing, continuing discussions on some of those details that need to be worked out. But we do, of course, intend to pursue resumption of full diplomatic relations with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and I think we are still describing that as something that should take place very soon.
QUESTION: The European Union and G-7 leaders are meeting to consider their policy on Yugoslavia, and they say that they're expecting membership in the IMF and IBRD by the end of the year. Is the US completely in support of this? I know that we had mentioned right at the turnover of power that the issue of Milosevic being turned over would come up again as Yugoslavia is seeking to integrate with Europe but, in the piece that I read, it is all about debt repayments and Milosovic doesn't come up.
Will the US be bringing that up?
MR. REEKER: I will have to check because, as we just discussed, Jim O'Brien is there now. I am not sure exactly what things he is discussing with Yugoslav officials, as well as discussions that may be taking place with European officials. Obviously we are in close touch with European officials often on these issues broadly, but I just don't have specifics of where we stand on these things.
QUESTION: This wouldn't have been a position that we already knew how we stood?
MR. REEKER: I would be happy to look and see. I think it is something that is emerging in terms of focusing now, for our part, on reestablishing diplomatic relations with Belgrade, and then we can look into some of these details. So I would be happy to check into that and see if I have something for you specifically, or when Jim gets back we can look into it.
QUESTION: Thank you. This is Arshad with the Daily Inquilab in Bangladesh.
MR. REEKER: Yes.
QUESTION: As we speak, the press freedom is now in the process of being muzzled in Bangladesh once again by the current administration of Sheikh Hasina. The editor of my newspaper of the Daily Inquilab is being harassed, hounded, and his house has been raided and he is facing an arrest, and he is still in the supreme court premises just to stay away from being arrested under the pretext of the infamous Special Powers Act which the Prime Minister's father has imposed 29 years back.
Now, this has been a very grave situation. This has not only incensed -- it went far beyond that. The editor's son -- brother, I'm sorry, rather, has been arrested already and detained for one month without bail, and constantly the journalists in Bangladesh are being harassed under this administration. And the testimony to that is the combined opposition have also voiced their strong opposition of the high-handedness of the government of Sheikh Hasina.
What is the comment of the State Department in the light, in the view of the press being harassed and human rights being violated?
MR. REEKER: In terms of the specific case at hand involving the newspaper and the editor and the publisher, the Embassy, our Embassy in Dhaka, is trying to follow the case closely. I don't have details or specific reports back from the Embassy at this point, so I am not in a position to make specific comments on that.
I would certainly refer you to our Annual Human Rights Report which would give you our comment on the state of human rights, including press freedom, in Bangladesh. And, in general, I think you know that our belief is that freedom of the press is very much a vital component of free society and strong democratic institutions in any country. So that is something we generally stand behind. But, again, in terms of your specifics, I just don't have enough information to give any more definitive comment.
QUESTION: As a follow-up to that, will the United States, through its Embassy in Dhaka, would be taking this matter up with the authority, like the Ministry of Home Affairs who deals with this situation?
MR. REEKER: Well, the Embassy will be following the situation and trying to understand all of the details, and then take appropriate action as they deem necessary.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Phil, there is a report through the American media Philadelphia Inquirer in Colombia, saying that the late narco-trafficker, Pablo Escobar Gaviria made some payments to the president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, to deal with the transportation of drugs in South America. Do you have any comments regarding those reports?
MR. REEKER: I don't. I did see some reports to that effect, but I will have to check into it. I mean, there are an awful lot of reports out there, but I don't have anything specific on that. But I would be happy to look into it for you.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments regarding the latest report by the newspaper?
MR. REEKER: No, that is exactly -- those are the reports that I have seen, but I don't have any comments. Obviously journalists are able to make those reports, but I don't have any further information to add to it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the International Conference in The Hague on Global Warming, where there seems to be an intractable standoff between yourselves and your European friends?
MR. REEKER: Well, there is the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which began yesterday, I believe, in The Hague, and it is lasting, as I understand it, for two weeks, through November 24th. The focus of the conference is very much what is known as the Kyoto Protocol, in terms of developing rules and procedures for the flexibility mechanisms of that protocol, also known, I believe, as sinks, and other issues that have to do with that. And there are over 150 countries with delegations there participating in the conference.
The head of our delegation is David Sandalow, who is Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans, Environment and Science, and he will also be joined by Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, Frank Loy, who will be there at the ministerial session which begins next week.
I think probably to get you to sort of more specifics on our position, it would be easier to get you somebody that can run through with you some of the details on that, since it is a rather involved thing. But obviously climate change is a premier environmental challenge for the 21st century. It is something that the United States is committed to dealing with, to meeting the challenge through domestic actions that we can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and by helping shape an environmentally sound, cost-effective response under the UN framework, and this Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocols.
So we are committed to completing the work on the protocol and to the ratification of that and its entry into force as soon as possible. I can get you right away a copy of Assistant Secretary Sandalow's opening statement at that conference yesterday. But in terms of further details I just don't have a lot now, but we will be happy to set you up with the right people from there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- the statement?
MR. REEKER: The Press Office has it. I won't put it out as a separate statement, but Sandalow delivered it yesterday in The Hague.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Israel's Deputy Defense Minister, Ephraim Sneh, speaking at The Washington Institute, reiterated his claim that Bashar Asad was green-lighting terrorist activity on the Israeli-Lebanon border. Does the State Department share this position at this point, that Bashar Asad, he said, is actually creating conditions for a guerilla war in that area?
MR. REEKER: There were certainly lots of remarks yesterday. I have discussed various things that have come out of a variety of places on the whole situation in the region. And generally, I think as we have made clear, we are less concerned with what people are calling particular confrontations than with the overarching goal of ending the violence and restoring calm and working our way back ultimately to the negotiating table. So I don't have anything specific on the variety of comments and reports that we have seen out there.
We expect all sides to avoid actions and words that can escalate or can contribute to the cycle of confrontation and violence, and I think, as we have said many times, we want both sides, including all the regional leaders as well, to try to support the implementation of the Sharm agreements, see a return to -- a lessening of the violence, an end to the violence, and ultimately a return to the peace process.
QUESTION: If I could follow up, Bashar Asad was noticeably absent from the Sharm negotiations. On Sunday at the Organization of Islamic Conference he made reference to the al-Aqsa Intifada. I mean, what is the State Department's position on this relatively new leader in Syria, a critical country in the region? Is he hurting or helping?
MR. REEKER: I don't have an analysis to give you from here on the president of Syria. I would be happy to try to set you up with somebody who may be able to go into that more fully, but I just don't have anything, I think, to add to what I had.
QUESTION: I don't want to get into a philosophical discussion, but you just said "We expect all sides" to refrain from actions. How can you still expect that? I mean, wouldn't it be better to say, "We would like to see all sides to stop doing what they're doing"?
MR. REEKER: Matt, I don't want to get into a semantic argument with you.
QUESTION: Exactly. But I don't understand why you say "we expect" because you obviously can't expect.
MR. REEKER: I think we do expect that. There were agreements that were made at Sharm el Sheikh. That is what the parties agreed to and that is what we would like to see. So I am not trying to argue with you semantically on that. That is obviously the goal. That is what we want to pursue. That is what we think is the most important thing now is obviously ending the violence and trying to take steps to get back to the peace process.
QUESTION: On the note about Syria, do you know the last time that the Secretary has spoken with the president of Syria?
MR. REEKER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments to the recent violent developments in Chiapas?
MR. REEKER: I don't.
QUESTION: You don't?
MR. REEKER: I have seen some press reports on those, but I don't have anything particular.
QUESTION: And did you or the State Department receive an invitation for the inauguration of President Fox? The Secretary has been invited to that?
MR. REEKER: I am not sure. I would have to check into that. I know that the expectation is December 1st -- correct -- for that inauguration. I don't have anything to announce on who would be attending from the United States. As you know, in our scheduling and planning process, December 1st is a long time away. I can get back to you on that.
QUESTION: Moving on to Russia, Boris Berezovskiy has said he will not go to court as demanded in Moscow and that he is going to stay in exile. And I was wondering, given that he recently spent quite a long time in the United States whether he has kind of an open-ended visa or whether the United States might be willing to accept him as a citizen?
MR. REEKER: That is a question I could look into. Usually, visa issues have a certain Privacy Act thing. I don't know the status of Mr. Berezovskiy's visa in terms of what it allows for his travel to the United States. I would be happy to check with Consular Affairs people, but obviously we don't make his travel arrangements and plans.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the executive director of the National Security Archives praised the State Department for its phenomenal disclosure of 90 volumes of documents on the 1973 coup in Chile and subsequent events. And one of the documents the State Department released linked Augusto Pinochet directly to the murder of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt here in Washington. They expect, I was told, an indictment of Augusto Pinochet for the murders here in this country.
Can you comment upon that?
MR. REEKER: Well, we talked a bit yesterday about -- and we had a press release that was, I believe, identical to the statement put out by the White House about the declassification project. And as you know, a major goal of that project was to put the original documents before the public so that the public, including the press, can judge for themselves the historic record.
We also did mention yesterday that some documents related to those murders, the murders of Orlando Letelier and Ronni Moffitt, had been withheld from release because of the Justice Department's ongoing investigation into that matter. So I really have to refer any questions regarding that investigation or those murders or potential indictments to the Justice Department.
QUESTION: So the State Department records that were withheld were withheld because the Justice Department is engaged in investigation now?
MR. REEKER: We described yesterday that there were a certain number of documents that were withheld, some because of legal requirements under visa law, and then some in terms of equities, which I am told is the legal term when an investigation is under way and certain documents may be required as part of that investigation or part of a pending legal case.
So, again, any details on that case, the status of that, you would have to go to the Justice Department. Generally, however, we are just going to let the documents speak for themselves. As you mentioned, they are very available publicly, and there is a lot of material for people to go through.
QUESTION: Any update on Ed Pope?
MR. REEKER: Yes. In fact, Mr. Ed Pope -- we had, after great delay, a consular visit yesterday -- I'm sorry, today. A consular officer from the Embassy in Moscow visited Mr. Pope in prison earlier today, Tuesday. We are waiting for a full report of that visit, but obviously we are not in a position to discuss details of the visit until we have reviewed with Mr. Pope's family the visit by the consular officials.
That was our first visit since October 11th, you will recall. You may also know that the trial was suspended until November 15th, according to Mr. Pope's lawyers, to allow the court's experts some time to review the degree of secrecy of the information allegedly received by Mr. Pope. As you know, we don't have access to the trial, and that is a problem we have raised repeatedly with the Russian Government, but we understand from press reports and from things that Mr. Pope's lawyers have said that that is the status of the case at this point.
We are reviewing the medical tests that the Russians provided us with, the information from those tests, and they are being reviewed by Mr. Pope's doctors as well.
QUESTION: Here in the States?
MR. REEKER: All I had was that they are being reviewed by Mr. Pope's doctors, his people. So I don't know if that is technically here in the States or what, but once the Russians provided them to us we were able to turn them over to his doctors. And obviously we can't make any comments on those. We will leave that for his doctors and his family.
QUESTION: Well, Phil, are you happy with the fact that he got a consular -- that you finally got a consular visit, or is this just something that you are not going to welcome because it should have been done anyway, according --
MR. REEKER: Well, we will certainly welcome it because it is the right thing. It should have been done long ago. And as we have made quite clear, I think, over a period of time now, I think Ambassador Boucher called it outrageous that our consular officials had been denied access to Mr. Pope for that period of time. We are talking October 11th. Today is November 14th. So obviously we are pleased that that visit was able to take place, but we are still considering outrageous the time that elapsed in between visits.
QUESTION: What about the fact that a US consular official is excluded from the courtroom?
MR. REEKER: That we have also continued to raise, not only from here but with Russian officials at every opportunity. We don't have access to the trial. Consular officials aren't able to observe what goes on there so we have to look at press reports. We do understand from the press reports that Professor Babkin, Anatole Babkin, testified that he had not worked with classified information for many years, and had not provided any classified information to Mr. Pope.
Again, reportedly Professor Babkin told the court that the statement he gave to the Federal Security Service after Mr. Pope's arrest back in April was given under pressure, when he was suffering from heart problems, and we think this again underscores what we have said now for a long time, from the outset of this case, that we have seen no evidence that Mr. Pope has violated any Russian laws, and he should be released immediately and reunited with his family.
QUESTION: Phil, is there a legal precedent under Russian law to exclude US consular officials or foreigner -- other foreign consular officials?
MR. REEKER: I don't know enough about Russian law that I would be able to give you a legal precedent analysis. I think probably people on the ground would be able to do that. We would like to see our consular officials, obviously, have access to the trial so that they can observe the proceedings there. But the Russians have not allowed that, for reasons they have described.
QUESTION: One more on Russia. Arms control and Foreign Ministry officials in Moscow have now apparently clarified General Yakovlev's comments yesterday. Is the United States Administration now satisfied that Moscow has in fact not changed its position on NMD, or do you have nothing to add to what you said yesterday?
MR. REEKER: I don't have a lot to add. I mean, I think we sort of went through what we had seen from the statement from President Putin that was released yesterday. In the context of discussions of Start III, over a period now Russia has indicated its preference for a 1,500 warhead ceiling. We have said previously on a number of occasions that the US proposes to proceed from the level agreed to at Helsinki back in 1997, and that is 2,000 to 2,500. We have also said previously we are prepared to hear out Russian proposals for lower ceilings, which would include the even lower ceilings that were indicated by President Putin yesterday, below 1,500. So obviously those are discussions that will be ongoing, but beyond that I don't really have anything more to add.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MR. REEKER: Great.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 P.M.)