U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #3, 00-01-13
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
Thursday, January 13, 2000
Briefer: James P. Rubin
1 Secretary will deliver annual Rostov Lecture on International
Affairs at Johns Hopkins
Biotechnology's Forum; UNHCR $100 Million for refugees
Ho Chi Minh City begins full NIV Processing
1-2 Should be an active partner in building a bright future for its region
Many political leaders see the catastrophic results of Milosevic's
January 10th agreement of the Serb opposition.
2 Rejection of some US flood relief assistance / US asking for
$25 million disaster assistance package
MIDDLE EAST PROCESS
2-12 Leak of working document / Ha'aretz story
Assistance from Europeans, Japanese and Arab states
Meeting of multilateral working group scheduled for February 1st
President spoke to Asad / Every Middle Eastern country is different
Talks are scheduled to resume on January 19th / Location not yet
Permanent status negotiations process / President and Arafat meeting
Status of settlers / Participation of Lebanese officials
12 Execution of Ocalan postponed
7-8 Elian Gonzalez case / Politics
8 Plane crash
8-9 Secretary Albright's trip / Proposed aid package
12 Secretary's schedule while in region
9-11 Visit of Chechen official to US / Working-level officials will meet
Continued fighting is concern / Urge both sides to implement an
US does not recognize him as the FM of an independent Chechnya
12 US regularly consults Seoul on best means of ensuring deterrence on
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JANUARY 13, 2000, 12:34 P.M.
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. RUBIN: Welcome to today's briefing on Thursday, January the 13th. I
hope you will notice that this is another in many of the on-time
performances we try to provide for you here -- other than a few technical
I have several announcements and one statement. Secretary Albright will
deliver the annual Rostov Lecture on International Affairs at the Johns
Hopkins Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies on January 18th
at 10:00 a.m. It is at 1740 Massachusetts Avenue. We will have more details
for those of you who might be interested in covering that. We have a
statement on the forum on biotechnology that we are holding a conference
on. There is also a statement on the $100 million for refugees that we are
going to make available to the UNHCR, and on visa processing in Ho Chi Minh
I do have one statement< that I would like to read to you. This is a
statement that has been agreed to by the foreign ministers of France,
Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States of America on the
occasion of the Orthodox New Year. At the beginning of the Orthodox New
Year, we stand also at the beginning of a new century and a new
millennium. Across Southeast Europe, most countries are making substantial
progress in democratization and economic transition. In this regard, we
welcome the result of recent elections in Croatia and we look forward to
working with its new government to speed Croatia's movement along this
We are also willing to help Serbia end its isolation and to take its
rightful place in the region. The responsibility for the isolation of
Serbia and the suffering borne by the people of Serbia lies entirely with
Milosevic's policy of aggression and intolerance. The people of Serbia
deserve better. They have a proud tradition. Serbia should be an active
European partner in building a bright future for its region. We stand ready
Many political leaders and others in Serbia see the catastrophic results of
Milosevic's policies. We have been discussing with them the support that we
want to provide, to help Serbia resume its rightful place in a stable and
more prosperous region. We know that more and more people in Serbia,
including some within the administration and state structures, are
disillusioned and frustrated at their country's poverty and isolation. We
need to reiterate our willingness to welcome them if they are ready to
build a democratic Serbia. The people of Serbia must take responsibility
into their own hands. They need to start down the path of change, as the
people of Croatia have just done.
We do not underestimate the obstacles they will face. The powerful
beneficiaries of Milosevic's rule will want to hang on to their power at
any cost. Those who have made corrupt fortunes at the expense of their own
people will fight change; so will those in the regime who rightly fear that
freedom will bring justice.
We welcome the January 10th agreement of the Serb opposition to adopt a
unified approach to such change. Change will come. Most people in Serbia
want a decent life for themselves and their families. This quiet, powerful
force -- in our view -- will produce that change.
With those opening comments, let me turn to your questions.
QUESTION: Did you notice that the Government of Venezuela has rejected
some US flood relief assistance, on grounds that it involved deployment, in
Venezuela, of US military personnel?
MR. RUBIN: We've seen the reports of that. We're asking the Government of
Venezuela for clarification. In a December 24th letter from their minister
of defense to our ambAsador, Venezuela specifically requested the
assistance of US military engineers, to open up a humanitarian corridor for
flood-ravaged coastal communities. We authorized the deployment after close
coordination over several weeks, between the Venezuelan military and US
military officials on the composition, timing and mission.
The project is part of the $25 million package of disaster assistance that
we have made available. So the fact that we were prepared to do so, and the
work that we did to make that possible, was the result of a request from
Venezuela initially. We are seeking clarification as to what the current
government's intentions are.
QUESTION: Is it true that a vessel - a Navy vessel departed Norfolk en
route to Venezuela? And if so, has that been turned around?
MR. RUBIN: I will have to check with my Pentagon colleagues as to the
status of any vessels. We certainly - we authorized the deployment on
January the 9th, and so we were in train, certainly, when these reports
QUESTION: On another subject: I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear that
there was a leak of the working document from Shepherdstown. Can you
confirm the authenticity of it: the leaked document?
MR. RUBIN: Let me say this. I am shocked - shocked - that there are leaks
in the Middle East peace process. With respect to what appeared in Ha'aretz,
I think it is our view that it is particularly unhelpful for working
documents, and the confidentiality of the negotiations, to be jeopardized.
That does make our work harder.
Let me also be clear that the document that we put forward was put forward
after consultation with the parties. We discussed with them the idea of
putting forward such a document, and then we did so. So this was something
that both sides thought was a useful tool.
What I can say - and I'm going to be very reluctant to get into any of the
details of what's in the newspaper substantively - but on procedural
grounds, there was an important aspect of what we put forward that I didn't
see in the Ha'aretz report. On each page of the document that we put
forward, we indicated in a sort of a footnote -- or a note on each page --
that the draft text prepared by the United States has no official or legal
status, and does not necessarily reflect the views of any party. Its
purpose is to serve as a tool in discussions and not as an aid to
interpretation of any official text.
The material presented in brackets is an effort to identify areas where
discussions may need to focus in particular. The other material included
has also not been agreed, and it might be linked to satisfactory resolution
of other issues in the minds of some. It is not intended to constitute an
official proposal by any party.
The text also contains further notes, pointing out topics for which no
draft language is set forth at this stage. The failure to mention other
topics is not intended to exclude their consideration. That is something
that was in the document,, that is a procedural point, that I think is
quite important as people try to make judgments as to what is in the
newspaper and what the significance of it is in the newspaper.
Finally, let me say that the document is a work in progress, and it will
change as we receive comments and clarifications from both sides. And so I
would caution you against assuming that any particular version is
definitive at that particular time.
I am not going to answer your question directly. I do not want to compound
the problem that already exists.
QUESTION: You say, in your view, that it's unhelpful. But, in one respect,
couldn't it be helpful in terms of engendering support for the Israeli
government in the forthcoming referendum, when it comes?
MR. RUBIN: My view is: The only people who benefit from this kind of
unhelpful leaking is all of you. And I understand that you have a job to do,
and your job is to try to develop as much information as possible, and to
share that information with the public. That's your job. Our job is to make
a peace agreement and - sorry. Our job is to assist the parties in making a
peace agreement, and to help them to decide how to proceed.
We do not, and it is not our judgment, and I think this won't come as any
surprise to you, Jim, that we don't think that this negotiation can take
place in Dupont Circle, as some have suggested, or that it is so well known
that we could have an open forum in which all the discussions could take
Anyone who suggests that doesn't really understand the sensitivities of
these issues, the difficulties of these issues, the attempts by some to
look to prove that every opening position by one side or the other wasn't
achieved. It's simply not going to be possible for both sides to achieve
their opening positions. And both sides are going to have to make some hard
We do not believe that this document was anything more than - the one that
we put down - an attempt by us to reflect the opening positions of either
side so that we could establish where the gaps are, and try to move
forward. But I would disagree with the implication of your question: that
this kind of a negotiation, involving this kind of sensitivity and intense
feeling, benefits from being conducted in the full light of day.
We do believe that, at the end of the negotiation, if an agreement is
struck, there will be plenty of time for there to be a full discussion of
the benefits and the costs of this agreement. And so I don't agree that
this is helpful. On the contrary, if you care about promoting peace, you
want to be able to give the negotiators the flexibility to have frank and
open discussions, without the danger of every single comment and every
single idea being put forward for public scrutiny.
QUESTION: The Middle East process (going to be costly). The President
acknowledged that he wants some help from the Europeans, the Japanese, the
Arab states. The Arab states and the Gulf are questioning, now, what is
expected from them. Can you shed any light on the cost? And what is
expected from the states?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I would hesitate to provide specifics at this point. I've
hesitated to provide specifics as to what we think the United States would
contribute. But I think I can say the following, in general: If we are able
to achieve a peace agreement that closes the circle of peace in the Middle
East by bringing Syria and Israel into an agreement - and hopefully Lebanon
and Israel into an agreement - that will mark a profound change in
the strategic situation in the Middle East. It will open up enormous
opportunities for the peoples of the Middle East, politically, economically
and culturally. That will - in our view, if both sides can come to an
agreement they believe is beneficial - will greatly enhance the potential
future for the peoples of the Middle East.
We have long asked for a role -- a proper role -- to be played by countries
in the region. As you know, a multilateral working group meeting at the
foreign minister level has been scheduled for, I believe, February the 1st
in Moscow. My understanding is that all of the Arab foreign ministers have
agreed - who are part of the working group - to participate, with the
exception of Syria and Lebanon. So we do believe that all of the countries
in the region and all of those who care about peace have a role to play,
both in political terms and, possibly, in economic terms.
I think if we're going to achieve this kind of agreement, we do need to
have a contribution, and a proper role played by all of those who care
about peace, including Arab governments in the region.
QUESTION: Back to the Ha'aretz story. Have you made clear your displeasure
to the Israeli side over the leak of this document?
MR. RUBIN: Well, as I'm sure you know, it is never easy to make a
judgment as to precisely who is responsible for disclosures --
QUESTION: You don't think the Syrians are --
MR. RUBIN: -- for disclosures to the media. I'm sure the journalists
themselves would be the last to want to see governments going on witch
hunts, to try to figure out who gave some information to a journalist.
Suffice it to say that we believe this makes our job more difficult. It
makes the cause of peace more difficult. But we intend to persevere,
QUESTION: There's a report that the President talked to Asad this morning,
and the Israelis are saying the United States is looking for a gesture from
Asad, some sort of personal gesture -- in the realm of symbolism -- to make
it easier for the Israelis to sell this at home. Is the United States
looking for a gesture from Asad and the Syrians, a public relations sort of
thing? The second part of the question, of course, is: Shouldn't the
peace agreement be sold on its own merits? What does it need gestures
MR. RUBIN: Let me try to answer the question in the following way: First
of all, the President did speak to President Asad this morning. They had a
conversation in which they discussed the need to make progress, and they
talked about the status of the talks and the potential when the talks
Let me take your substance of your question in two parts. With respect to
gestures and that sort of thing, there is really two types of issues here.
One is what I would call humanitarian issues, where Israel has been seeking
to try to resolve certain humanitarian cases in Lebanon involving its
servicemen. We have said that we believe that Syria should do all it can do
to try to resolve these kind of humanitarian cases.
It is something -- I think I told you last week -- that the Syrians have
indicated that they would want to be able to do that, in principle, and
that they are prepared to take whatever steps are necessary to try to deal
with some of those humanitarian issues. I don't have any specific details
to offer you in that realm.
Finally, with respect to a lot of commentary that's been made, that
suggests that this peace will not be a worthwhile peace in the absence of
certain things being said or done by the Syrian leadership and the Syrian
people: Let me try to urge all of you in thinking and "commentating" and
deciding how to report on the Middle East, that Syria is not Egypt. Syria
is not Jordan. Syria is not the Palestinian Authority.
Every country is different in that part of the world, and every authority
is different - if anyone took that to mean that I was making a larger point
there. So there is a tendency to equate different situations. The Egyptians
have a different approach, and have had a different approach, to the region
than Syria. We think that this agreement will stand or fall on its merits.
We think that this agreement, if it occurs, must stand or fall on
its merits. And the Israelis certainly will be judging the content of the
peace. And one of the issues, the committees, that is part of this, is the
Normal Peaceful Relations Committee and that is where that kind of issue --
of the relationship between Israel and Syria -- is to be discussed.
I was often asked, at Shepherdstown, about whether there were handshakes
and things like that. It has not been the practice, prior to peace
agreements being struck with enemies, to have a warm and fuzzy relationship.
I think Prime Minister Barak correctly pointed out that his predecessor,
Prime Minister Rabin, only shook Chairman Arafat's hand at the end of the
process. If things were warm and fuzzy, and the Syrians had sought to
develop a more normal relationship with Israel prior to this time, things
would have been a lot different.
So we should distinguish between the way we would wish things to be and the
way things are. And the way things are is that we don't have peace between
Israel and Syria, and the only way we are going to get peace between Israel
and Syria is if they talk to each other, with our help, and get their needs
-- in security terms, in normal political relations terms, in terms of
water and in terms of security arrangements and in terms of borders
-- resolved. It is those issues that are under discussion, and it is those
issues that will determine that each of the countries decides that its
needs can be met, and therefore an agreement is in their interest.
I am not going to comment directly on the point of whether we are asking
the Syrians to do anything, other than to say that the discussions that the
President had with President Asad were focused on the peace negotiations,
and the issues at hand there.
QUESTION: Jamie, will the President or anyone else have to apologize to
the Serbians - Serbians - to the Syrians and explain - or explain the leaks
- you were talking about Serbians earlier. Did the Syrians object? And is
there any delay in the reconvening of the talks?
MR. RUBIN: No. The talks are scheduled to resume on January 19th. To
answer that question - to answer that question would be to answer Matt's
question, which presumes and purports to assign blame to the leaker. Let me
say we've been through a lot of peace talks. We've been through a lot of
times where damaging leaks have occurred. We understand that. I don't think
there was hair being pulled out, here at the Department, in the sense that
we recognized that this was a possibility. But we still think that
it is damaging. It harms the cause of peace, makes it harder for the kind
of confidentiality that's necessary to make decisions to be understood or
expected by those who have to make decisions. I'm not aware that we've had
a major discussion with Syria about this aspect of it.
For those of you who were in Shepherdstown, you know that there was an
issue of what was in the Arab press last week, and whether that purported
to be the document. And so there is a little bit of this process that is
going to go on. But suffice it to say that we believe that the peace
process will benefit, if everyone concerned protects the confidentiality of
the discussions and the documents.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to say, though, that the leaking of this
document has increased the urgency with which you are looking for a more
secure or a different type of venue for the next round of talks? And are
you any closer to finding it?
MR. RUBIN: I think it's fair to say that the motivations and calculations
that drove us in the days since the talks at Shepherdstown recessed have
not been changed by the leaking of this document. So the calculations that
we have been making, in terms of deciding where to resume the talks, have
not changed in any way, to my knowledge, about the location of the talks
as a result of what was in the paper last night.
QUESTION: Have you decided where to resume the talks?
MR. RUBIN: I think you could have imagined that, had I had a location to
offer you, I would have done so voluntarily at the beginning of my
discussion of this issue, and all of you have to make your own decisions
about your own logistical arrangements. But as soon as we know - definitively
-- where the talks will be, I would be delighted to tell you.
QUESTION: You are not just keeping a secret from us so you guys can book
up all the good hotel rooms, wherever it is?
MR. RUBIN: I am confident that journalists will do what they always do
well, which is making sure they get the best possible arrangements they
QUESTION: Can you confirm that this document, because it is published in
Ha'aretz, is in fact the text?
MR. RUBIN: Before you came in the door, your colleague, Mr. Anderson,
asked me that question, and I answered it twice in my own way. And I'm sure
Jim would be happy to give you my answer.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) leak of a document, you more or less confirmed that
this is a document that is being - we understand it is getting updated all
the time. Can you say this was an earlier version of the document?
MR. RUBIN: I think that was just the same question as your colleague
asked, and so what I am saying to you is: I am trying to give you as much
information as I can about where - how the United States believes these
talks are unfolding, and what the publication of - the impact of certain
publications are. I don't want to compound the problem by discussing, in
public, documents that purport to contain American proposal - I'm sorry -
purport to contain American working documents.
QUESTION: A question about the Gonzalez case: Do you believe that
Republicans are playing politics with this boy's life?
MR. RUBIN: I take it that you are not a regular participant here at the
State Department. In the briefings that I have held, I try to avoid - the
Sate Department is, to the best of our ability, a nonpartisan operation,
and I think, from this podium, I have certainly tried to avoid - your
snickers aside - from engaging in political discussion during a campaign,
and that kind of thing. So I hope you would respect that, and if you are
seeking political responses, there are plenty of outlets for that.
QUESTION: But the question is somewhat fair. Do you think that what's
happening on the political stage is damaging the process itself, which is
supposed to -
MR. RUBIN: Well, beyond saying that we would like to see this resolved
quickly, and in a fair way, I really don't have any comment on the Gonzalez
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Libyan plane crash?
MR. RUBIN: No, I really don't. I just was made aware of it.
QUESTION: And, secondly - is there follow-up on that? I'm going to go to
MR. RUBIN: Go ahead. You have the floor.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. It is about Secretary Albright's
She is going down with a proposed aid package of $1.6-ish million (sic,
billion) which actually hasn't gone through Congress yet in its final form.
So is this - is she going down there to talk to Pastrana about what this
aid package would mean to them, but also to bring back some more assurances
that he has done some of the things that the US has asked him to do to get
aid? It's still very controversial in Congress.
MR. RUBIN: Let me try to respond to your question. The Administration now
has a plan, a $1.6 billion plan for assistance to Colombia. We have worked
this plan out, there has been a lot of consultations with members of
Congress. Our general view is that it has received strong and largely
positive responses from members of Congress, leaders in Congress. There are
some who still have some questions. Some have asked about how we can be
sure that it's not used by those who violate human rights, or that
it's not simply aiding one side but recognize that paramilitaries are
involved in the drug trade.
So let me say that we have protections, will continue to have protections,
to make sure that this assistance is only going to those entities that have
been vetted, to be sure that they don't contain those who have committed
human rights abuse, and the anti-drug assistance is designed to be used
against all of those who engage in drug trafficking, regardless of their
political bent, meaning both paramilitaries and members of the FARC who
support or participate in the drug trade.
As far as your general question is concerned, she will be - Secretary
Albright will be consulting with the government of Colombia in two ways:
First, she will be letting them know how we see our support for their plan
unfolding, and what the specifics of our package are. And she will then be
seeking, from them, information from them about what their detailed plans
are for the timing, and some of the details of how their Plan Colombia will
unfold. And, finally, she will be talking to them about how to gain
greater international support for Plan Colombia, in the World Bank,
the IMF, the countries in the region and our European friends and
allies. So this - we recognize the bill has not passed Congress, but we do
believe there is strong support for it, general support for it, and we
think it is appropriate to have this kind of consultation.
QUESTION: And is it fair to say that General McCaffrey is behind this
plan -- that he was a large part of making it up?
MR. RUBIN: Well, this has been put together in an interagency effort, and
General McCaffrey accompanied Secretary Albright at the initial announcement
of this, and he is quite supportive.
QUESTION: Let me change the subject. Yesterday you said that you were
going to look into and try and clarify a Russian announcement that they
were going to try to stop Chechen men and boys from returning home. I am
wondering if you have done that, and what your reaction to the policy is.
And also, I am wondering if this self-styled Chechen foreign minister has
managed to finagle a meeting with anyone here?
MR. RUBIN: We have raised our concerns with Russian authorities about the
reports with respect to what will happen to Chechen males between 10 and
60. We are still seeking more information directly from the Russian
government on any new policies being implemented in this respect. We
believe that it is essential that Russia respect the fundamental human
rights of civilians in and around Chechnya, not endanger the lives of
noncombatants, and ensure freedom of movement for displaced persons.
With respect to the - Mr. Akhmadov, who arrived in Washington on the 11th,
he was invited by two outside organizations. He has had meetings at a
number of research institutes, and with the media. He has requested a
meeting with officials at the State Department.
We do not recognize Mr. Akhmadov as the foreign minister of an independent
Chechnya, but as a private citizen of the Russian Federation. The
Department of State, as a matter of practice, has consistently sought out a
wide variety of viewpoints from different regions of Russia. We also have a
long history of meeting with all parties to a conflict.
On that basis, working-level officials, desk-level officials from several
bureaus -- the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; the Bureau for
Population, Refugees and Migration; and working-level officers from the
Office of Russian Affairs will meet with Mr. Akhmadov, to discuss the
conflict in Chechnya, including humanitarian and refugee concerns, which
have been foremost in our minds as we've talked about this.
These discussions do not constitute a change in policy, or recognition of
Chechnya in any way, shape, or form. We continue to hold the view and
recognize Chechnya as a constituent part of the Russian Federation. We will
make that very clear to Mr. Akhmadov, the consistency of our views on
Chechnya, and our support for the territorial integrity of Russia.
We are concerned that continued fighting is causing unacceptable death and
suffering to innocent civilians, and indicate our intent to urge both sides
to implement an immediate cease-fire, avoid indiscriminate attacks on
civilians, ensure freedom of movement for people displaced by the fighting.
We will also make clear to Mr. Akhmadov our strong opposition to terrorism
in all its manifestations, as well as the need to combat lawlessness
inside Chechnya, and work for the release of all hostages in Chechnya.
QUESTION: Do you know when the meetings are going to be?
MR. RUBIN: I would assume it would be sometime during this day, but I
don't have a time for you.
QUESTION: OK, and --
MR. RUBIN: Let's finish over there.
QUESTION: I just wanted - did he ask for and was denied meetings with
MR. RUBIN: I assume that he asked, as is normal in these cases, for
meetings at the State Department -- not putting out any particular name.
And I'm sure he'll tell you that most people want to see - if possible --
QUESTION: The Secretary.
MR. RUBIN: -- see the highest-level officials. It is my understanding
this meeting will take place outside of the State Department. It will not
take place in the State Department.
QUESTION: So it's just one, and all together?
MR. RUBIN: That's my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: Is he not part of the official Government of Chechnya, the
elected Government of Chechnya?
MR. RUBIN: If he is, that wouldn't have any impact on what I just
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I don't understand why you would discussing all
these issues with a private citizen? I mean, either he's part of some
government or some structure, or else he really is a private citizen. You
wouldn't ordinarily see --
MR. RUBIN: Right, we recognize that he has some role inside Chechnya. But
we don't recognize him as the foreign minister of an independent Chechnya.
He is recognized - in terms of the word "recognition," which has special
meaning here in the Department of State, as I'm sure you know - if he's
recognized as something, it's as a citizen of Russia who, obviously,
has ties to those who may have some authority in Chechnya. But that's
different than recognizing him in his own description of his own role.
QUESTION: And you explained this whole thing to the Russians?
MR. RUBIN: I am sure the Russians are informed of our intentions.
QUESTION: Did the Russians share with you, by the way, their new film
that demonstrates the terror-creating capacity of the Chechen rebels?
MR. RUBIN: We have not drawn any conclusions as to who was responsible
for the bombings. I'm familiar with the reporting on this. I don't know
what has been shared or not shared. I know in general we've had some law
enforcement cooperation with - in general, by that I mean, there has been
law enforcement cooperation between us and the Russians. I don't know what
specific data has been transferred back and forth.
QUESTION: Same subject.
MR. RUBIN: Same subject, yes.
QUESTION: Would you speak to clarifications from the Russians - you said
yesterday you asked for clarification. They are reiterating today the same
policy of 10-to-60, anew.
MR. RUBIN: Well, again, what I would distinguish for you is the
difference between a statement of what their overall intentions are, and
our understanding of what practical effect that might have, in terms of
what they're going to do in their practices. We're seeking information on
that. We're trying to clarify it as best we can. I have made very clear our
strong opposition to any non-respect for the fundamental human rights of
citizens, civilians, in and around Chechnya.
QUESTION: Can you give a sense of the feedback you've been receiving from
Aaron Miller on the progress of the permanent status negotiations, and how
that might affect a meeting next week between Chairman Arafat and Clinton?
Are you eager to have a trilateral with Prime Minister Barak, as well?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have --Aaron Miller has been reporting to us about
his discussions, and we have been receiving updates in a variety of ways. I
don't normally provide a good news-bad news type of --
MR. RUBIN: -- general response to that sort of thing. He's there to
prepare for this meeting with the President and Chairman Arafat, and to get
an assessment from the parties and the negotiators of where things are. I
would only say that I wouldn't rule out the possibility of some sort of
meeting like you've described. The President is definitely going to meet
with Chairman Arafat. The meetings with Prime Minister Barak and Foreign
Minister Shara will be taking place in the general Washington area. So I
wouldn't rule out the possibility of some meeting of the three, as
you've described. But I don't want to predict, a week in advance,
what will happen.
Our eagerness or non-eagerness is more a reflection of the state of play.
We have said that if there is a sufficient basis in the month of February,
Secretary Albright would recommend to the President a summit process by
which we could get a framework agreement, which has been envisaged and
hoped for during that month of February.
QUESTION: Turkish coalition government leaders: yesterday, they decided
to postpone the execution of the Kurdish PKK terrorist organization leader
Ocalan. Do you have any reaction on the subject?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, Prime Minister Ecevit announced his coalition government
had agreed not to send the execution order against convicted terrorist
Ocalan to parliament, which must approve all executions, until the European
Court of Human Rights has had a chance to rule on the appeal.
We have said all along that this is a matter for Turkey to decide,
consistent with its laws and its international obligations. So I refer you
to the European Court for further information on the necessary steps they
are going to take. In Turkey, if the European Court did make its judgment,
Ocalan's execution order still would need to be transmitted to parliament,
confirmed by a parliamentary vote, and approved by the President.
QUESTION: Going back to the trip to Latin America, specifically on
Mexico: Can you give us more details about what she's going to do in Oaxaca,
especially on Saturday. Is she going to arrive in Mexico City, and then she
is going to Oaxaca? Or she will arrive directly to Oaxaca? And if she's
going to ask the Mexican authorities the result of the pending investigation
on the incident in Matamoros, where FBI agents and DEA agents were almost
killed by the narco-traffickers?
MR. RUBIN: Before Secretary Albright leaves I will see what I can do, to
get those of you interested, some sort of detail on her schedule, and what
her general topics are in each of the countries. I don't have anything
specific to offer you on meetings that will take place several days from
now right now.
QUESTION: In AFP today, there was a report which said that the United
States has delayed shipment of torpedo parts to Korea, because of some
concern that the guidance systems are compatible with missile guidance. Do
you have anything on that?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, on South Korea you're talking about?
QUESTION: South Korea.
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I wanted to make sure that's what you said. There is no
embargo on South Korean-US export licenses. All export licenses for missile-
related items are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. All licensing decisions
are made on a case-by-case basis. Beyond that, it would be inappropriate
for me to comment on any specific license. In context of our close
bilateral relations with South Korea, we regularly consult on the best
means of insuring deterrence on the peninsula. We have stressed that we
will cooperate with South Korea to ensure strong South Korean defense and
deterrent capabilities, while continuing to promote our regional and
global nonproliferation objectives. We have discussed, with South Korea,
issues relating to its interest in extending the range of South Korean
missiles. Considerable progress has been made, but important issues
QUESTION: I have three more questions. First of all, when the President
spoke to Asad, was here any sense of - was he satisfied with the overall
results of the progress of the talks? The second question is, the settlers -
the text that you have talked about before I came, it says that settlers -
that Barak is proposing that the settlers remain in the Golan Heights even
after it's turned over to Syria. Could you comment on that? Finally, is
there any suggestion that the Lebanese are prepared to attend the
next session of the talks, which are going to take place at a venue
as yet unspecified?
MR. RUBIN: Well, one out of three is easy. The third question: We are not
expecting Lebanese officials to participate in the talks that resume on
January the 19th.
The first question: I am not going to characterize President Asad's views
on the negotiations as a result of a confidential phone call with the
President. Secondly, I am not going to comment on any of the substantive
components of the text issue that we have been discussing. I don't think it
will help the negotiations to have specific, substantive issues raised and
discussed in public.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more question, Jamie? On this question of the
settlers, where does that fit in the four committees -- at Shepherdstown?
MR. RUBIN: There has been four issue areas, that I have described to you
in the past: water, security arrangements, withdrawal and --
QUESTION: Normal peaceful relations.
MR. RUBIN: -- normal peaceful relations. So I think you can assume, with
that slight modification, as opposed to what the committees are named, but
what the subject areas are, I think you can probably answer your own
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 P.M.)