|Friday, 24 January 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #118, 00-11-22
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
Wednesday, November 22, 2000 Briefer: RICHARD BOUCHER, SPOKESMAN
SERBIA (Kosovo) 1 Statement by Secretary Albright on the Violence in Kosovo MEXICO 1-2 New Cabinet Announced / Secretary Albright to Lead Delegation for Fox Inauguration SYRIA / IRAQ 2 Reports of Iraqi Oil Flowing Through Syrian Pipeline / Approval under Oil-For-Food Program SOUTH ASIA 3-4 Assistant Secretary Inderfurth's Travel to Region HAITI 4 Upcoming Election / Security Situation in Haiti PERU 4-5 Update on Situation in Peru 5 Situation in Peru and Plan Colombia COLOMBIA 6 Under Secretary Pickering to Brief on Colombia on Monday RUSSIA 5-6 Case Against Grigory Pasko LIBYA 6 Status of US Passport Use Restriction AUSTRIA 6 Status of Possible Travel by Secretary Albright to Austria CUBA 6-7 Update on Child Abduction Case UNITED STATES 7 Elections and International Attention EGYPT / ISRAEL 7-8 Egyptian Ambassador's Return to Cairo 8 Secretary of Defense Cohen's Meeting with President Mubarak CHINA 9 Congressional Criticism of Decision to Waive Sanctions
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 2000, 2:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: We have two wires, a TV and a newspaper. That's enough to go for it, right? Not to mention all our other friends. Well, I don't expect a great quorum since really the Secretary has said the most important things for the day. She usually does.
All right. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. Let me just mention that we are putting out another statement in writing, a statement in the Secretary's name about the violence in Kosovo. The bomb ripped through the residence of the senior Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Representative in Kosovo. Clearly we strongly condemn that attack, call upon the parties to cease this kind of violent confrontation. And the Secretary says more about it in her statement. We will have that available for you, we hope shortly after I finish.
QUESTION: Does it say who had done the dirty deal, as far as the US knows -- the dirty deed? Because the stories don't.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think we know. Let us see if we try to answer that question more directly. No, I think in the end, I do not have that information. The Kosovo force led by NATO and the UN interim administration in Kosovo will have to get details of the incident as far as they can determine who might have done it. But certainly it is in all our interest and their interest and ours as well to bring the perpetrators to justice.
All right. Other questions?
QUESTION: This probably doesn't gain a response, but I'll try anyhow. The Mexicans have announced their cabinet, the new Mr. Fox. Does the State Department have any observations about the foreign minister and other personnel?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: We've been asked to ask.
MR. BOUCHER: I realize you have to ask, and you realize that we never comment on the makeup of foreign governments. That is for them to decide. We certainly look forward to working with the new government. And I think as the White House mentioned this morning, the Secretary will be leading the delegation on the President's behalf to the inauguration in Mexico on December 1st.
QUESTION: Can you provide any more information about the Israeli-Palestinian mechanism than --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I can't really. The Secretary answered that question as best we can at this stage. It is something we are going to have to talk to the parties about.
QUESTION: With all your satellite technology, I imagine the United States Government has some kind of view on whether oil is being exported from Iraq to Syria. Please, can you share it with us.
MR. BOUCHER: That's a tempting question. I could just say -- no, I won't. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, can you say whether --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, here is what I'll say. I'll say, first of all, we do know of these reports. We are taking them very seriously. There are a lot of press reports out there. We are looking into this. The issue is being discussed in Damascus by our Embassy. Ambassador Crocker has met with the Syrian Foreign Ministry. We are talking about it in New York and in Washington as well with the Syrians.
So, as we have said before, we are not opposed to oil going through this pipeline provided that the UN Security Council approves it as an export route under the Oil-for-Food Program. That would mean that the payments would go under UN control in order to ensure that the money is used for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.
The Security Council contemplated an additional oil export point under the Oil-for-Food Program, and affirmed that possibility in Resolution 1284. So they need to bring it up. But as far as whether oil is actually flowing in this pipeline, that is precisely what we are checking into with the Syrians.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to reports that Iraq says it will let arms inspectors back in if the mission is short and if that means it will get its sanctions lifted?
And do you have any confirmation from other diplomats, such as, I guess, France, Russia? There are various countries they said that they have discussed this with.
MR. BOUCHER: I think there is a very simple point to make on 1284. All that is needed is for Iraq to accept it and implement it. We are not interested in negotiating 1284. The international community has been quite clear, I think both ourselves and others, even those who have been interested in humanitarian aspects of what is going on in Iraq. It is quite clear that the way for Iraq to get any kind of suspension is for it to implement 1284 and implement it fully. It is not to be negotiated; it is to be done.
QUESTION: Richard, let me ask you once again, that one cease-fire announced by the Prime Minister, and asking to join all the parties during this holy month of Ramadan for the Muslims, since India has one of the largest Muslim communities.
And, number two, Mr. Inderfurth is going in the area but excluding Pakistan. Do you have any plans of why he will be in the area, especially because of the cease-fire, or special reasons for his travel?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me answer both questions, but let's not go looking for special reasons. He is making a fairly extensive trip, and you can't go everywhere on every trip.
Starting next week, Mr. Inderfurth will be in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and Bhutan. He is also going to participate in a meeting hosted by Switzerland of the Afghanistan Support Group, which coordinates donor policy towards international humanitarian and relief assistance for that country. Assistant Secretary Inderfurth is making this a working visit to the region because he has a number of issues to pursue, including the bilateral ones. So it is a fairly extensive trip.
He will be traveling with the Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration Affairs Julia Taft in Nepal and Bhutan. Among the issues to be addressed in Nepal and Bhutan are our continuing efforts to find a resolution for the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal during part of the visit.
During the second term of the Clinton Administration, US relations with South Asia have received increased attention. As the Clinton Administration draws to a close, we want to complete action on several remaining areas of unfinished business, which is why these particular four countries were chosen. With the transition to a new administration set to begin, they are not planning to start any new initiatives on this trip.
QUESTION: Will he be carrying any message from the President or from the Secretary of State?
MR. BOUCHER: I do not have any particular message or letter that I am aware of. I would have to check on that. But obviously the policy that he conveys is the policy that the President and the Secretary of State have been pursuing.
As far as the cease-fire, I want to say we welcome Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee's announcement. President Clinton has said that for the Kashmir dispute to be resolved, there needs to be restraint, respect for the line of control in Kashmir, rejection of violence and renewal of dialogue. Prime Minister Vajpayee's announcement is fully consistent with those principles. We hope it represents an opening towards the process of dialogue that is needed to bring about a lasting settlement for Kashmir.
We would note that the All Party Hurriyat Conference of Kashmiri Opposition Leaders has said that if the announcement is a serious and sincere step towards the resolution of the Kashmir problem, it reflects a positive change in the thinking of Indian leaders.
At the same time, other Kashmiri militant groups have rejected the Indian announcement. We would urge them to reconsider their positions and to use this opportunity to begin a process to end the conflict.
QUESTION: One more, finally. If she has spoken with either of the parties in India or Pakistan, with the Prime Minister of India or anybody in Pakistan during these last few days?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of in the last few days.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the upcoming presidential election in Haiti -- I believe it is Sunday -- and especially on the climate of violence which seems to prevail there?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything specifically on the upcoming elections. I will have to get you something on that. I would say we are concerned about the security situation and the renewed political violence, as well as an increase in violent criminal activity. Haitian authorities have been unable to contain many of the violent and dangerous situations.
The elections are scheduled for November 26th. Some candidates and political organizations have falsely blamed the international community for the security situation. We think this kind of rhetoric is dangerous; it has fueled protests and violence targeting foreign missions and residents, including demonstrations in front of the Embassy and a November 16th shooting of a clearly-marked United Nations vehicle.
So we are very concerned about the security situation there, and we have an advisory that we put out on the 19th -- my copy is kind of marked up -- 17th -- warning Americans against travel to Haiti because of the unstable security situation.
QUESTION: Without asking you to comment on their abilities as members of government, could you perhaps tell us if you have a message for the new Peruvian president and prime minister?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's talk a little bit about that situation in Peru. We don't support any particular individual or party in the transition. Our support is for the process. We are pleased to see that the process has remained open, it has remained transparent, and it has followed the constitutional principles. And that is a good thing. We certainly welcome the individuals who have assumed these offices, and we look forward to working with them. The parties involved do really appear to be handling the succession process peacefully and in compliance with the Peruvian constitution.
Now that a successor is determined, we think the focus should be on a cooperative effort towards new elections, democratic reform, and national reconciliation.
QUESTION: If I could follow up, can you say how the developments in Peru would affect the US-backed Plan Colombia, or in general the drug fight? Can you comment on that at all? I mean, there have been some officials who have been down there.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know what to say. I'm not sure exactly --
QUESTION: Well, they are a neighboring state.
MR. BOUCHER: Let me remind you of a couple of things. First of all, Plan Colombia is important for Colombia; it is important for the United States, because 90 percent of our cocaine comes from that region, and it is part of an overall drug effort.
But, in particular, Plan Colombia -- the Colombia portion of Plan Colombia -- while significant, is also associated with a regional portion as well to help other countries in the region and work with other countries in the region on the anti-drug effort. One of those countries is Peru. Obviously, having a democratic government in Peru that we can work with probably helps that effort, but I would not say it changes it in any significant way.
And, finally, let me remind you that Ambassador Pickering will be here on Monday afternoon. Or is it a Senior State Department official?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. We just had, as you know, a trip down there with several of our people to talk to Peru about economics, drugs, all kinds of things, so there will be a briefing on that trip, a background briefing, on Monday morning. And then, in the afternoon, you will get a briefing on the record from Ambassador Pickering, Under Secretary Pickering, at 3:00 p.m. to talk about Colombia and the implementation of Plan Colombia. So he will answer your questions at even greater length than I can.
QUESTION: On Russia, I understand a Russian court has decided to reexamine the case against environmentalist Grigory Pasko, who is claiming that Russia is turning into a torture chamber. Given your past comments on trials there, do you have anything to say?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we do. We are quite aware of the situation. We have been following it. The Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court ruled on November 21st that the espionage case against Pasko -- who is, as we know, a former Navy captain -- should be sent back for further investigation and retrial.
He was arrested in 1997 on treason and espionage charges after he passed information to a Japanese television company on the Russian Navy's dumping of toxic waste in the Sea of Japan. He served almost two years in pretrial detention before being convicted in 1999 on a lesser charge of misuse of official position. He was released under an amnesty granted to those convicted of minor crimes.
I cite all these things because I think it stands out as one of a number of criminal cases that have been brought against journalists, as well as human rights and environmental activists, who have been critical of the Russian Government. It does, for us, raise concerns about judicial independence and manipulation of the legal system to harass civil society, to intimidate political oppositions, and to limit freedom of the press and freedom of speech. So this is a situation that we are quite concerned with and that we will be following very closely.
QUESTION: Is there any clarity yet on whether the Secretary will have an opportunity to raise this and other issues with Foreign Minister Ivanov in Austria this week?
MR. BOUCHER: No, no clarity yet.
QUESTION: Just a couple of things that might be in the works. Tomorrow is a day off, so have you anything to say about the deadline of the Libya travel thing? Do you think you will have a decision by Friday? And anything to say about whether the Secretary is going to Vienna?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we will have a decision on the Libya question by Friday because Friday is the day that the current restriction expires. We will try to get that out as soon as the decision is made, but I can't promise it at any particular moment.
The question of whether or not she travels to Vienna is still being looked at. We still have not gotten a final decision on that. There are actually some things happening in Washington that impinge on her ability to make the trip, so we are still trying to put together a schedule that works.
QUESTION: Questions on the Colombini case in Florida. Have you all been in touch now with the Cuban Government about whether the mother has taken the boy to Cuba?
MR. BOUCHER: As we said yesterday, our immediate goals here are to locate the child and verify the child's well-being. In deference to Mr. Colombini's wishes, we had up to now not been in touch with the Cuban Government. He had asked us not to. He has now removed that request, and so now we are proceeding to do so. So we will be in touch with the Cuban Government on this situation, as I said, in order to locate the child and verify the child's well-being, and then try to see the child returned, as appropriate.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the child was, in fact, kidnapped? Does this come under federal statutes?
MR. BOUCHER: That is a question that the law enforcement authorities in Florida would have to answer.
QUESTION: And do you know what the custody situation is with the child?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see if I've got that. The information that has been presented by Mr. Colombini indicates that he and his ex-wife share joint custody of the child, Jonathan. Under US federal law, therefore, the removal of Jonathan Colombini from the United States could be considered a felony.
It is important to emphasize, however, that our primary focus at this time is locating Jonathan and making sure he is okay. Any further questions about the legal case, as I said, need to be referred to the FBI or to the local authorities.
QUESTION: One more, please. Do you see this as a simple case of possibly this woman just taking the child and going back home? She is a green card holder, I understand, and is from Cuba. Or are there extenuating circumstances?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that is sort of the other side of the question you asked about legal responsibility and possible criminal action. Until we know more about the situation, I am not able to characterize it one way or the other.
QUESTION: A quick question on the elections here --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, next question.
QUESTION: The world is watching, diplomats are watching, ambassadors are watching here, and they are on hold, as Americans. Now, what my question is really, if Secretary is in touch or anybody has asked her, or if this question comes to her that -- what's happening at home. Is it affecting any --
MR. BOUCHER: I think what she found, what we all found in Brunei, what the President found in Brunei, is obviously people are paying attention. They are watching, they are talking about it at dinners, a little chitchat at every meeting. But nobody that I am aware of, either out there or to her personally or in our official cable traffic that I have seen, has raised it as a matter of official concern. We have a President. We have a President who is taking action on foreign policy issues in the interests of the United States, and he will continue to do so until January 20th, and then a successor will take over. We just can't tell you who that guy is.
QUESTION: So they can't tell you -- (inaudible) -- who, if it will make any difference for them who is going to come or --
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of, no.
QUESTION: I know that the Secretary just spoke about the Middle East, but we didn't get a chance to ask this question. I guess the President last night was on the phone with King Abdallah. The Jordanians today withdrew their Ambassador. Can you just keep us up to date on, or give us another update on, diplomatic efforts right now to try to normalize the situation there in terms of Egypt and Jordan with Israel?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I really have anything new on Egypt, and I was not aware of the Jordanian situation. But I guess if the Jordanian Ambassador has left, we would say we would hope that he could return as soon as possible as well.
The Egyptian Ambassador to Israel returned to Cairo this morning, having been summoned for consultations. You may have seen that Secretary of Defense Cohen met with President Mubarak earlier today. He encouraged continued engagement by the Egyptians with the parties and reiterated our hope that Ambassador Bassiouni will return as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Let's get a little more specific on that, if we can. I mean, Egypt and Israel have signed a peace treaty; they recognized each other more than 20 years ago and have held up as a landmark, an example of what other Arab countries and Israel should do.
Isn't Egypt obliged to have some sort of diplomatic relationship with Israel, and not just use it -- turn the spigot on and off when it wants to, as yesterday I think you called -- you said emotions are running high. Isn't there supposed to be some sort of a cool about having diplomatic relations?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I have made quite clear we think people should remain engaged. I will stick with that.
QUESTION: But, I mean, does anybody tell Mubarak this, or is he the honored middleman?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, we have told that -- I just told you the Secretary of Defense told Mubarak that. Right?
QUESTION: But it didn't work.
MR. BOUCHER: This is hours ago, Barry. I mean, come one. Let's not start accusing us of failure every single minute. Give us an hour or two before you call us failures.
QUESTION: Speaking of longstanding problems, the Yugoslav -- let me check which minister. I think the Foreign Minister has said that the position for now is not to extradite Milosevic. And I was wondering whether it would be a fair assumption to make that the United States is willing to give President Kostunica some time before insisting that this step is taken?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position on this whole issue of Milosevic and the War Crimes Tribunal has not changed. I really do not think there is anything new to say, and so I won't.
QUESTION: A final question, maybe. Any comments on Pakistan's Ambassador to Washington? She blames the Clinton Administration tilting towards India and not paying attention to Pakistan, and also she believes that the Bush Administration may be better for Pakistan.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Sorry. If I could follow-up back on a similar topic. I guess yesterday a number of Republicans came out and criticized the arms deal that was signed with China that you announced yesterday. How do you respond to when they say that China has made commitments in the past not to sell missiles and has broken them? I mean, what is different this time, if you could just sort of elaborate on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I do not want to get into a political debate on this, but I think the facts can speak for themselves; that the Chinese Government in this situation has addressed our concerns, has said it is going to implement a set of policies, including licensing requirements, that are quite specific and quite detailed.
I think it is quite clear in this situation what the Chinese have promised to do. We have stressed all along -- and I think I mentioned yesterday that the Secretary and the President in their meetings with the Chinese in Brunei stressed -- the importance of full and complete implementation, and that is what we will expect to see.
We have had agreements on this subject with the Chinese in the past, and I am trying to look for the exact citation. But I think on the specifics that they agreed to in the past, they have indeed implemented those things.
What we have done here is have the Chinese announce a very, call it a very comprehensive set of controls that will deal with the problems in a very comprehensive way, not just part of the exports or part of the technology, but any assistance, anything that can assist any country in any way, and that is a much more comprehensive commitment, as well as a set of detailed provisions to carry it out. And we will obviously watch closely and work with them to ensure the complete implementation, which is what the Secretary and the President have stressed.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:15 P.M.)