|Friday, 24 January 2020|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #119, 00-11-28
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, November 28, 2000
_Briefer: RICHARD BOUCHER, SPOKESMAN
SERBIA (Kosovo) 1-2 Cross border incursions by militants from Kosovo 2 Release of Albanian militants being held in Kosovo YUGOSLAVIA 2 Secretary Albright meeting with Yugoslav Foreign Minister 3 Ceasefire agreements under KFOR auspices 9 Buffer zone CAMBODIA 3 Gun battle in Cambodian Capital 3 Arrest warrant for American citizen RUSSIA 3 Aide Memoire / Gore-Chernomyrdin pact 3-5 Aide Memoire / Albright-Ivanov meeting 9 Update of American citizen Edmond Pope HAITI 5-6 Recent Elections 6-7 USAID assistance to Haiti 7-8 Security Situation in Haiti
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 28, 2000, 12:50 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. BOUCHER: Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here with you today. And I don't have any statements or announcements, so I will be glad to take your questions.
QUESTION: The Yugoslavs are concerned about these cross-border incursions by militants from Kosovo. Do you have anything to say about that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, because we are concerned as well, and this is a subject that we have discussed with the Yugoslav Government as well as people in the area. Let me bring you up to date on where we are.
The NATO-led Kosovo force continues its dialogue with both the Albanian and the Yugoslav leaderships in order to further reduce tensions there. There is no reported fighting today between Albanian militants or Serbian security forces in the Presevo Valley region in Serbia, nor are there any reported violations of the military-technical agreement of June 1999 which was between the Kosovo force and Yugoslavia, which included this 5-kilometer ground security zone along the Kosovo border which the Yugoslav security forces are not allowed to enter.
The Kosovo force led by NATO is in touch with Yugoslav authorities, as well as with the Albanian militants in Dobrosin, in the ground security zone of the Presevo Valley. There is an ongoing dialogue between the Kosovo force and Yugoslav officials that's conducted within the context of those called the Joint Information Council that was created by the military-technical agreement.
Second, the United States is actively engaged with our allies, with Albanian leaders in Kosovo and elsewhere in the valley, to stop the violence in the Presevo Valley region.
I have to say in the Secretary's meetings at the OSCE Conference in Vienna, with the Russians, with the French, with the Germans, with the foreign ministers that she met with -- the Greeks as well, if I remember correctly -- the issue of the violence in this area did come up. Everybody is concerned about it and wants to do everything possible to stop it and is happy to see that the Kosovo force is taking active steps, which I can go through as well.
They have closed the border crossing near this place, Dobrosin. They have conducted extensive border searches of vehicle and individuals at other crossing sites away from the confrontation areas. They have detained suspected Albanian militants, and they have increased patrols and the overall surveillance of the ground security zone.
Also, at the OSCE Conference in Vienna, the Secretary had a chance, on the sidelines of the meeting, to meet for five or ten minutes with the Yugoslav Foreign Minister. They had a very brief but direct discussion about the situation in Kosovo, and particularly in this area, agreeing that it was a concern to both of them, and that people need to take steps to try to prevent violence in this area. And that is what they both intend to do.
QUESTION: Do any of these discussions involve, I guess, the release of 800 or so alleged Albanian terrorists that are being held in Yugoslavia?
MR. BOUCHER: That came up in the Secretary's meeting with the Yugoslav Foreign Minister. It has been a subject of ongoing consideration by the new government in Yugoslavia. You'll have to ask them how quickly they can move and how they are going to act. But certainly we have expressed before and continue to have an interest in seeing political prisoners that were imprisoned under the Milosevic regime released now that Yugoslavia has a democratic regime.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary offer the Foreign Minister any reassurances about what KFOR would do in the buffer zone? And, also, does the United States have a view of whether the rules could or should be changed governing Serbian security forces in that region?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, I don't think there is any request to do so. Obviously, KFOR is in touch with both parties, with the Yugoslav Government as well as Albanian militants, to look at what needs to be done and what can be done to prevent further violence there. So the way the rules are now is that the Yugoslav forces won't go in, and what we heard from the Yugoslavs -- I think publicly as well as in our meetings -- is that they did not intend to enter the buffer zone.
I think that answers your questions, but if there was part of it I missed, tell me.
QUESTION: I understand -- sorry, if I may follow up -- that President Kostunica has actually written to -- I'm not sure, I think the UN and to NATO, suggesting that these rules should be changed governing those forces. What would the US view be of that?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not seen such letters, and I have to say, as far as I know, the subject did not come up in her meetings yesterday.
QUESTION: And did you -- sorry -- did she offer any assurances?
MR. BOUCHER: She offered assurances that we would be continuing to take steps to try to prevent violence in this area. This has been an area of ongoing concern going back some time, and that is why more than a year ago we worked out the special arrangements for this particular area. It has been a subject we have worked on before. We have taken steps in the past and will continue to take steps, and I have just outlined some of the ones the Kosovo forces are taking at this point.
QUESTION: There are reports today saying that an indefinite ceasefire was agreed between the Serb forces and the Albanian rebels under the auspices -- negotiated under the auspices of KFOR. Are you aware of that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't. That is probably a little more up-to-date report than I had when my information was prepared. But clearly, the goal of KFOR's contacts with both sides is to prevent further violence and stop the fighting.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on last Friday's gun battle in the Cambodian capital?
MR. BOUCHER: We issued a statement yesterday, which I think runs through fairly clearly our views. I mean, first of all, we deplore the violence. We recognize that the attack was apparently intended to undermine the country's democratic processes. We stressed our strong support for democracy in Cambodia, and said we oppose any effort to undermine democratic development there.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister, Hun Sen, apparently said that he would -- (inaudible) -- if extradited from the US, where it seems he is a US national into Cambodia for trial. Is there any movement under way to get that done?
MR. BOUCHER: We have seen some reports --seen the press reports basically -- that the Government of Cambodia issued an arrest warrant for an American citizen said to be residing in Thailand, but at this point we don't have anything directly that we can confirm.
QUESTION: You have copies of your press statement in the office?
MR. BOUCHER: As many as you want.
QUESTION: Can we talk about Iran and Russia, and the, I guess, tenuous Gore-Chernomyrdin pact? I understand --
MR. BOUCHER: I reject the accusation.
QUESTION: Sorry. But can you give us any more information on, I guess, talks between experts on this agreement?
MR. BOUCHER: In terms of detail of the actual talks, the talks will be in Moscow next week. That's about as much as we have for you at this point. This was a subject of extensive discussion between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Ivanov at their dinner on Sunday night in Vienna, and then including follow-up discussions with Foreign Minister Ivanov the next morning.
And at that point, we were able yesterday to put out the information that they had agreed that experts would get together. They agreed that experts would get together to deal with the question of arms sales to Iran and that these would be handled -- where's my piece of paper? I'm trying to do this from memory. Anyway, that they would try to deal with these situations.
So that's what the experts will discuss. They'll get together next week in Moscow to discuss the issue of arms sales to Iran, and we hope that the overall situation, which is the lack of Russian arms sales that would be destabilizing, that that situation is recognized as beneficial to all of us.
QUESTION: Well, hasn't it lapsed?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, what the Russians informed us of in the letter was that they would not consider it binding as of December 1st, that they were withdrawing as of December 1st. But, you know, I think that's the only way to characterize it, is that at this point it's not December 1st.
QUESTION: Do you have a view of what the Russian Defense Minister's plans to travel to Iran and what that suggests about Moscow's intentions regarding sales, given that the Defense Minister now seems to have overriding control over arms exports?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have a particular view on that. I just saw the press report involved, but I think the press report also indicated that it might not be something that would happen until January. And obviously the first thing on the agenda for this issue is to have the experts discussions next week in Moscow.
QUESTION: At this point, is it fair to say that the United States is considering imposing sanctions if an agreement or the agreement itself can't be salvaged?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's fair -- what is fair to say is what we have said, and that we have made clear to the Russian Government that there will be consequences if Moscow withdrew from such a commitment, and that certain kinds of arms sales could lead to sanctions. But I said the next item on the agenda is for there to be these experts discussions in Moscow, and we'll see where that gets us.
QUESTION: So that is not something that is automatically activated by law under US law?
MR. BOUCHER: I think it frankly depends on the sales. And the fact is that this aide memoire has worked for five years to prevent destabilizing Russian arms sales to Iran, and therefore to keep us away from areas that might imply US sanctions, and also to keep the situation more stable and secure, not only for us, friends in the region, but for Russia as well.
And I think the most important thing is to recognize here that these policies contribute not only to the safety and stability of the United States, our people who operate in the region and our friends, but they also contribute to Russia's own security. And that is where we need to really concentrate the discussions and make sure that Russia is prepared to take the steps that do contribute to its own security.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate that these talks could change the Russian -- you know, their mind on this matter? Or, I mean, what is it that you are looking to get out of it?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, really, all we have is agreement for them to sit down, work out proposals, work on proposals that can deal with their concerns on this issue and our concerns about arms sales to Iran. At this point, there are no other steps or actions that are agreed to.
QUESTION: Could you be more clear, please, on the kinds of arms that you see could lead to sanctions?
MR. BOUCHER: It is a matter of law frankly for us. And I think the word is "advanced conventional weapons." Is that the exact phrase? We'll look it up. There is an exact phrase that is involved.
QUESTION: The Russian News Agency Interfax today announced that there will be another meeting tomorrow in Washington between the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Mr. Mamedov, and Deputy Secretary of State Talbott -- can you -- to discuss the START III issue.
MR. BOUCHER: I will have to check, actually. I didn't see him this morning. I didn't know that he was having the meeting, but I wouldn't be surprised. They have been having ongoing discussions. But I will have to check to confirm the meeting. I will have to check to confirm.
QUESTION: Can you give your view of the turnout in Haiti's election. The Haitian electoral board said 60 percent, and the opposition says that is a hallucination.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as you know, because of the irregularities in the May election process, we did not have observers there. Neither the United States, nor I think international observers, went and were present to observe or to provide electoral assistance.
So we don't have, I think, a definitive answer, but we saw the reports from local and international media. We have seen some analysis from resident diplomatic missions, including our own, that really indicates voter turnout was quite low. But I can't give you an exact figure.
QUESTION: You're accepting the legitimacy of Aristide's election?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I don't think final results have been announced, nor has Mr. Aristide claimed victory, as far as I can tell at this point. We are again in a situation where, because of the serious irregularities in previous elections, we did not have observers there; we didn't have electoral assistance.
Obviously we do want to continue to work with the Haitian people. We have said that in a statement. Our assistance goes down there through nongovernmental organizations, but will continue. We will have discussions with the government as we need to. But I think we have to say that they have a responsibility to amend and remedy the electoral flaws that have been apparent in these elections that they have had during the course of this year, and we look to them to do that.
QUESTION: Does that mean you want the election -- another election? Or are you talking about future elections?
MR. BOUCHER: Let's get this one over. But we have made quite clear that the irregularities with elections in Haiti needs to be addressed, need to be addressed in a very serious manner. And that remains our position. That was our position before this current election, and that remains our position now.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting that the supporters of Aristide are not the largest party -- I mean, that they did not win these various elections, the disputed elections, the senate elections that were three months ago?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, we were quite clear on that, and we think the counting process was flawed and that there should have been more runoffs than there were.
QUESTION: Did you believe that Mr. Aristide's party would not win the runoffs?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't make predictions on who is up, who is down. We look at the electoral process and how it handled, and whether it is handled openly, whether it is transparent, whether it is legal. And there were serious deficiencies on all those counts.
QUESTION: Can I ask you -- I'm sorry, just following up here. US aid programs -- can you give us an idea of what the US aid is for Haiti? And, also, is there some aid that is being held up, whether it is international aid or bilateral aid?
MR. BOUCHER: Funny you should ask. All right. Let me try to go through the aid as much as we can here.
The United States has traditionally had a very large humanitarian assistance program in Haiti, given the unemployment, health, nutrition and education indicators, which are among the worst in the hemisphere. Assistance moved from the emergency program level of 1995, which actually -- I got a chart with all the numbers, but in '94 it was about 90 -- let me get this right -- 90 million. Nowhere in this chart do they say these are thousands. Okay, yes, 90 million in '94 to 193 million in '95. That was an emergency program level, and now we've moved to what we call a long-term sustainable development program that's more consistent with the historic levels. So '99 was about a 100 million US dollars.
Since 1987, USAID has provided Haiti with more than $1.2 billion in assistance.
QUESTION: Since '97?
MR. BOUCHER: Since '87.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay? In the Fiscal Year 2000 we've provided 50 million in project assistance and 26 million in food. In 2001 the request is $76 million. Our assistance to Haiti seeks to increase income for the poor, slow environmental degradation, improve education performance, and support the provision of health and family planning services, including HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis. So its programs -- USAID assistance to Haiti is provided entirely through nongovernmental organizations.
We work to strengthen democratic institutions, especially through civil society as well. So it's a program for humanitarian reasons, for education, for health, democracy and economic growth.
QUESTION: If Haiti does what you want Haiti to do as far as its electoral process, what would that trigger? Would that trigger additional foreign aid? I mean, we hear that there's certain hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance that has been held up because they didn't have a government in place or the elections were not suitable.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, the programs are entirely with nongovernmental organizations, so these are ongoing. There is requests, there is money flowing. I'll check if there was anything that was held up or made impossible because of lack of government. But as the government -- as the program is currently structured, it goes through nongovernmental organizations.
QUESTION: And explain to me -- you said that there were no election -- US election monitoring observers, but at the same time you said that the Embassy did observe.
MR. BOUCHER: No, I said they had analyzed information that was available. I mean, we didn't -- there is a difference between having sort of formal election observers and having people in Haiti who know what's going on. Our people in Haiti know what's going on.
QUESTION: Okay. And your people in Haiti who know what's going on, do they say that Aristide is basically the favorite?
MR. BOUCHER: Our people in Haiti who know what's going on don't declare election winners. They wait to see the final results come out.
QUESTION: They analyze these results in the elections? When you consider what, I guess a group of three nongovernmental organizations, they went down there on a volunteer basis to observe the elections, and they have said that there is a 70 percent voter turnout; despite the isolated incidence of violence, that in fact the elections ran fairly smoothly.
How do you filter this information?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, you know, as far as the level of violence there, there were reports of isolated violence but, by and large, the balloting proceeded without significant incident. How we filter the information is we ask people who are on the ground who are aware of all the various information and the different reports that are coming out to analyze it for us and give us their best judgment. And I think I gave you their analysis, which coincides with the analysis of other diplomatic missions, as well as a lot of the media reporting.
QUESTION: One more question. The United States sent 20,000 troops in there to restore democracy in '94, and invested a lot of money. Some people in this country and in Haiti say that the whole operation has been a failure, that the United States has failed to -- whatever -- to reform the society or to -- I mean, how do you assess the whole US effort in Haiti? Did you pull back too soon? Did you fail to carry through? Is Haiti a success or is it a failure vis-à-vis 1994, what you went in to do?
MR. BOUCHER: I guess what I have to say is that in the middle of an election process is maybe not the right time to try to draw grand assessments of such things. I do think it is important to remember that we see sort of democracy and development are very ongoing processes, and sometimes they take a lot of time. You've got to keep working at them. And what I have described to you in terms of our aid program is a program that is committed to trying to help Haiti not only deal with its humanitarian problems, but also to develop the kind of civil society that is necessary. And we certainly believe in democracy, we believe in civil society, we believe in democracy in this hemisphere, as do many others in this hemisphere. And we are willing to work on it.
But the flaws that are there need to be remedied by the local authorities, and there are a lot of indications, including low voter turnout, the violence that was in the pre-election period, that show that they need reconciliation within Haitian society. There are electoral and democratic flaws that need to be addressed and remedied, and we look to whoever is in charge down there to take care to address these problems. There is always a limit. You know, you can't impose democracy. That was clear at the Democracies Conference that we held in Poland and in the discussions we had there with democracies from around the world. And so people on the ground in the country have to make the choice, have to make the decisions, and have to take the steps necessary to make democracy grow.
QUESTION: And so when you use the word "low turnout," that means that your assessment is that there was a low turnout?
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I told you ten minutes ago.
QUESTION: Okay. Just checking.
MR. BOUCHER: Still the same. Haven't changed.
QUESTION: If I may just clear up one loose end from my question about Yugoslavia. I understand that the Secretary said that she would -- told the Foreign Minister that she would raise with NATO officials Belgrade's concerns that the KFOR were considering going into the buffer zone. Has she done that yet?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, that's not the way I would describe the conversation.
MR. BOUCHER: But I'm not quite sure who she has been in touch with since she has gotten back. Certainly we have coordinated with other governments, with NATO, with KFOR people, and so we are continuing to work within the US Government. I don't think she has spoken directly to anybody from NATO at this point.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: Ed Pope? New evidence?
MR. BOUCHER: (Inaudible) -- have an update on the situation.
MR. BOUCHER: The trial is adjourned until Wednesday, November 29th. The prosecution will present its closing arguments on the 29th. Mr. Pope's attorneys present theirs on November 30th. We actually understand a verdict could come as early as December 1st, or possibly the week following.
As I pointed out before, we still don't have access to the trial itself, and our position remains the same: He should be released immediately and be allowed to return to his family.
His attorneys have apparently presented a very strong defense. We continue to say that we have seen no evidence that Mr. Pope violated any Russian laws. His contacts were open. His business dealings involved acquisition of commercially available technologies. We do believe, once again, that he should be released immediately and reunited with his family.
The Secretary raised this matter in her discussions with Foreign Minister Ivanov in Vienna.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 P.M.)