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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-05-04

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

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

Richard Boucher, Spokesman

Washington, DC

May 4, 2001

INDEX:

ANNOUNCEMENTS/STATEMENTS

1 Secretary Powell to Speak at Council of Americas Conference

1 Daily Appointments Schedule On-line

1 Readout of Meeting with Sri Lanka Foreign Minister

NORTH KOREA

2-3 Visiting European Union Delegation

4 Contacts between the United States and North Korea

4 Missile Development Moratorium

UNITED NATIONS

4-8 UN Human Rights Commission Vote

RUSSIA

8 Armenian Reports of Missile Bases on the Russia/Turkey Border

CYPRUS

8-9 Cypriot Entry into the European Union

PERU

9 Update of Investigation Into Shooting Down of Missionary Aircraft

ISRAEL

9-12 Comments on the Mitchell Commission Report

CHINA

13 Readout of Investigation Team Efforts

13-14 Discussion of Cooperation and Return of Aircraft

SUDAN

15 Discussion of Slavery Issues

LIBERIA

15-16 UN Sanctions on Conflict Diamond

MACEDONIA

16 Update of Targeted Violence against Civilians

IRAN

16 Comments on Iranian Elections


TRANSCRIPT_:

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me get started, if I can. A couple of things, a couple of notes in the way of announcements and events, and then I'll give you one statement on our meeting with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister.

But first, on Monday, May 7th, at 8:30 a.m., the Secretary of State will address the Council of Americas Conference in the Loy Henderson Conference Room. So we have put out a notice on that for you.

The second notice is to tell those who are interested in our daily appointments that the daily appointment schedule now goes on the State Department website and goes out by a list serve, and we have a statement for you on how to access it. Obviously you get it through the website at . And my instructions to people are to put it out electronically before it goes out on paper to encourage everyone to go with a modern and cheaper means of communications.

Finally, let me just mention the meeting the Secretary had this morning with the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Kadirgamar. They met and discussed a number of bilateral and multilateral issues. Among those was obviously the security situation in Sri Lanka. That was one of the most prominent issues for discussion.

The Secretary expressed understanding for the terrorist challenge that faces the government of Sri Lanka. He expressed strong support for the territorial integrity of Sri Lanka and great sympathy for the thousands of dead and the hundreds of thousands who have been injured in the conflict.

He also expressed very strong support for the efforts that Norway is making, and that Sri Lanka is making in connection with Norway, to bring about the commencement of peace talks, and in that regard stated very clearly that that was the way to resolve the conflict, that it can't be settled by military means. And furthermore, he expressed our hope that the two sides would make a commitment to cease hostilities and start peace talks as soon as possible.

So we're got a written version of that statement due out as soon as we're finished, and now I would be glad to take questions on this or on other issues.

Q: Well, unless there is a Sri Lanka question --

Q: I have a Sri Lanka question.

Q: There, you go.

Q: You said "some support" for territorial integrity of Sri Lanka? Was that just a slip of the tongue, or is it significant?

MR. BOUCHER: That was a slip of the tongue. Expressed our support, reconfirmed our ongoing support and --

Q: Total support?

MR. BOUCHER: Total support for the territorial integrity issue.

Q: Well, thank goodness you didn't release a memo with "some support."

Could I ask you about Mr. Solana's statement today, but really more directly what the US thinks the situation is so far as North Korea and exports of missile technology? Are they under constraints; are they self- imposed; and, of course, are they verifiable? He raised concerns today.

MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I'm not quite sure what you are referring me to. I'm not sure I have seen anything particular. There are some press reports out of the visit of the European Union representatives to North Korea, and these tend to indicate what Chairman Kim might have said. The European Union will brief us in Washington next week on the trip. As you know, we have been in touch with them all along, discussed their interaction with North Korea with them on a number of occasions, including the visit of the Swedish Foreign Minister to Washington and other meetings that we have had.

So this is part of the whole process that we have supported and encouraged of nations of the world working with North Korea as North Korea emerges more into the world. And that general process has been something that we have encouraged, and we have worked with others in terms of doing that.

We have certainly noted the statements by Chairman Kim about a missile moratorium. We have said before that maintaining the missile launch moratorium is really essential for any future process in our dialogue. If North Korea does maintain this moratorium, that would be constructive.

I would point out at the same time we have supported the engagement policy of the Republic of Korea, and we think the continued North-South dialogue, including a second inter-Korean summit, would also be a positive development.

As you do know, we have our interaction with Korea under review. That review is ongoing. Frankly we don't think that review should affect the pace of the inter-Korean dialogue, and we would look forward to that second summit happening. We will conduct our review in a thorough manner, and we will anticipate completing it in a timely fashion.

Q: That brings a couple of thoughts to mind. One is, are you depending or hoping that South Korea could play the role that the US was also playing when negotiations were alive to try to stop the North Koreans from several things that are alarming, like missile development and missile exports?

And secondly, I understood the review was under way while the ABM question was grappled with, but it looks like there is no clear answer yet what the US is going to do. So is this review pretty much a suspension; and more than that, isn't it in effect an end to the dialogue that the Clinton Administration, I think, successfully had with North Korea?

MR. BOUCHER: Where did the ABM Treaty come in?

Q: I mean the missile defense review.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. If I can put that in a coherent -- let me try to understand what you said and put together the answer.

This is a review. This is a review of policy, of how we should address the issues of concern to us. The President, the Secretary of State and others, have made quite clear that the nature of the regime, the conventional forces, the missile exports, the missile developments -- all these events in North Korea -- have been of serious concern to the United States and remain of serious concern to the United States, and that we need to figure out how best to deal with them.

That doesn't preclude a resumption of a dialogue at an appropriate time, once we've completed our review and decided how we want to proceed. It certainly doesn't preclude the involvement of others in the process of North Korea's opening up which, as a general principle, we have supported, and specifically in the case of South Korea we have supported, because we believe that that engagement has been positive and is positive.

Obviously they are going to want to address the issues on the Peninsula. They have issues of reunification; they have issues of the conventional forces, the threat on the Peninsula that they are going to want to address. So one of the things that we have done, even while our review is ongoing, is to maintain our engagement and our discussion with the South Koreans and with the Japanese so that our trilateral coordination, both individually, bilaterally between these countries but also in a trilateral forum, has continued throughout.

So this is a real process under way that reviews policy, that supports the general outlook that other countries have taken that compares policy and hears from allies as we look specifically, but that looks, in the end result, to figure out in a timely fashion how we can address some of these chief issues of concern to us in this relationship and to make sure that if we, at the appropriate time, renew this dialogue that we address the issues in a manner that is satisfactory to us. And that would involve things like verification, things like raising the issues -- other issues of importance to the United States.

Q: Kim Dae Jung this week in a speech was concerned that the US was actually flagging in its engagement with North Korea. What sorts of things is the State Department saying to the South Koreans on this to maybe assuage some of those concerns? And are there any kind of lower level talks going on in New York right now with the North Koreans?

MR. BOUCHER: We have continued to have contacts with the North Koreans through the New York channel on a variety of issues -- not the big issues of the relationship with the negotiations on missiles or exports or anything like that. We have also continued to work very closely with the South Koreans on issues involving North Korea and have an ongoing relationship with them where we compare notes, what we hear from them, what they hear from us. So I think our coordination with South Korea, and Japan as well, is quite good on those issues.

Q: Can you get any more specific about the kinds of issues that are not the big issues that you engage the North Koreans with? Terrorism? Is that one?

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to go back and look at some of the things that we have taken up in that channel. I think they are more sort of logistical and sort of ongoing relationship issues, not major issues of policy that need to be resolved, because we're looking at how we want to resolve many of those in the course of the review.

Q: The moratorium on missile development by Kim Jong Il, how does this affect your review, and does it make it more likely that you will decide to resume the dialogue? And might it possibly accelerate the pace of your review, which is taking a while?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to make any particular prediction at this point. I think that it will be a thorough review that will conclude in a timely fashion, and I'll stick to that.

Q: Can we change the subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Please.

Q: To the UN -- to the vote at the UN against the US on the Human Rights Commission?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Q: Come on.

MR. BOUCHER: It wasn't a vote against the US.

Q: A vote not for the US.

MR. BOUCHER: Not for the US. That's right. The lack of votes for the United States.

Q: Can you discuss how the Administration feels about the vote and whether you think it said more about other issues and unpopular decisions that you might have taken, rather than just about human rights?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, let me say we are naturally disappointed that Commission members decided not to continue the United Statesí role. Our role has been important and active in this Commission since the late '40s, since Eleanor Roosevelt.

This vote, frankly, follows a very active and successful Commission on Human Rights meeting in Geneva with resolutions on Cuba, on Sudan, on Iran, Iraq, a focus on China, and where the United States stood up to defend Israel.

It is hard to explain how members can vote for Sudan and yet not vote for the United States. It is hard to explain how members can listen to the lobbying by Cuba and China on human rights issues. Perhaps there are people who aren't interested in seeing an active Commission.

But whatever the reasons, whether the reasons for the voting was regional solidarity or not wanting resolutions on particular subjects, I think it does raise questions about the nature of the commitment of some of the members to human rights.

At the same time, on the part of the United States, I would say this can't deter us from continuing to use the Commission on Human Rights and other UN fora to press our legitimate arguments about human rights and to press for greater respect for human rights in the world.

Whatever the reasons for these votes, the United States will remain active on human rights and active in the Commission on Human Rights. It will not diminish our attention to human rights issues. In fact, in this Commission, without being a seated member, we can do everything but introduce resolutions and vote.

So we will participate, we will observe, we will report, we will co-sponsor, we will lobby others, and we will press the view that human rights are an important part of development and an important part of relations between states. We have taken a lead role in the past, and we can be expected to continue to advocate resolutions and take other steps that can help those people who suffer abuses in every corner of the world.

Q: Can you talk about whether this was a surprise to the US and whether you thought you had the votes needed to make the Commission, and whether you feel lied to by some of your allies?

MR. BOUCHER: We did campaign very actively for membership. We campaigned in New York and Washington and Geneva, as well as in capitals of nations that were on the Economic and Social Council and therefore voting. We did receive more than 40 assurances of support but, in the end, we received only 29 votes.

As far as who the dozen or so were that told us they would support us and didn't vote for us, I don't think we know at this point. I would say at the same time, that with three European Union countries competing for these seats, that it is likely that very few of our votes came from the European Union.

I think we look at this situation as one of seriousness about human rights and where the voting should be on the basis of human rights considerations and the willingness of the nations involved to uphold human rights. We recognize that is not always true. There is vote-swapping; there are various arrangements that are made between nations. That may be the reasons why that there are recognized human rights abusers among the members of the Commission.

At the same time, I think our approach has been to say that we are going to be forceful advocates of human rights. We will remain that around the world. And we would hope that that would be the criteria that other countries would use to decide who gets on the Commission and who doesn't.

Q: Richard, I just wanted to check on something. You said you find it hard to see why anyone should vote for Sudan and not for the United States, but, in fact, nobody faced a choice between Sudan and the United States, as I understand the voting system.

Would you say the same, that it is hard to see why anyone would vote for France, Austria and Sweden rather than the United States?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I would put it that way. I think if the people feel that in good conscience they can vote for Sudan, then they should have no qualms about voting for the United States.

Q: But that's not the choice they faced. I mean, nobody faced that.

MR. BOUCHER: They vote for Sudan, even though it is accepted that they will accept the package put together by the regional grouping, right? So this was a case in the regional grouping where the regional grouping hadn't put together a package of three, and therefore they had to choose among and not just accept the whole package that the regional group had put out.

I think the point still stands that if people are willing to vote for some and not for others, one would hope they would be more willing to vote for a forceful advocate of human rights, as opposed to others.

Q: I was thinking of a recent similar -- not similar -- but a recent situation in the UN with regard to Colombia. Are there going to be any repercussions for the 11 countries that said that they promised you a vote and they ended up not delivering?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, two things. One, I didn't say it was 11. I said we had over 40 assurances. So I said a dozen or so.

Q: Okay, over 40. Okay, the dozen or so countries.

MR. BOUCHER: And second of all, it's a secret ballot. The final vote is a secret ballot, so one doesn't know for sure who --

Q: The United States has satellites that can pick up, you know -- (laughter) -- I'm sure you could find who was on the secret ballot.

MR. BOUCHER: Our respect for democracy and for secret ballots is one of the hallmarks of our support for human rights.

Q: Can I just ask, there were some countries that told you in advance that they weren't going to vote for the United States. Did they indicate that it was more about other issues and other areas of international policy that they didn't like, and not only about human rights?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. I know that some of the speculation out there has sort of thrown in everything from missile defense to the kitchen sink. I think we would leave it to other countries to explain their reasons for voting. Possibly there are concerns. We know about the financial commitment of the United States to the United Nations, although that doesn't arise specifically with this regard, but generally that is a question that is raised many times.

There is regional groupings and regional solidarities that come into play, like the European Union members. There are vote-swappings. There's a whole variety of things that happen in these fora, most of which have to do with this forum of the United Nations. I wouldn't throw this into an entire critique of US foreign policy by everybody in the world or anything like that.

Q: Is the Administration expecting a backlash on the Hill as far as paying the rest of the UN dues?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we think the reasons for paying our dues in the United Nations remain valid, and the reason for sticking to the agreements that we have remain valid. There is no separate budget item for the Commission on Human Rights. The Commission's funding comes from the regular United Nations budget. We have met our obligations to that budget for several years, including calendar year 2000. That was approximately $300 million.

So we also make voluntary contributions to the UN Human Rights Commission for specific items, such as the fund for victims of torture and the voluntary fund for technical assistance. So I think we continue to believe that those contributions are worthwhile and help people.

Q: Richard, you said you did campaign very actively. But in retrospect, do you think you could have done more, as some Members of Congress have suggested?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, as I said, we got more than 40 assurances, which, if everybody who said they were going to vote for us had voted for us, would have been more than enough. If you had us on the Commission maybe --

Q: Yeah, but you take any responsibility for -- not you personally, but you as the State Department -- for the failure to ensure that these votes -- they make good on these promises?

MR. BOUCHER: I am sure that in future campaigns we will take this experience into account and modify our behavior accordingly.

Q: The Armenians -- recently they give some bases nearby the Turkish border which the Russians they established some S-300 missile -- this area. Isn't that a violation of the conventional arms agreement in Europe?

And also, second part, one of the Russian generals said that this is the response of the President Bush's missile shield project. What do you say about this?

MR. BOUCHER: I have not heard of that. I will, first of all, find out if it's true, and; second of all, find out if we have anything to say about it.

Q: Here's one close to your heart. Cypriot newspapers, several of them, published reports saying the United States has misgivings at the prospect of a divided Cyprus entry in the European Union and may seek a freeze in the process. I know this came up about six weeks or so ago after --

MR. BOUCHER: It comes up every six weeks from some newspaper or the other, I think. Our position has not changed. I have a guidance from six weeks ago that I'm happy to read to you again.

Q: No, we don't need to hear it again.

Q: I want to hear it.

MR. BOUCHER: We've supported the EU's decision, the EU's method of dealing with this. We've supported the Helsinki conclusions, which laid out the EU's progress. And we've also supported very much the UN efforts, and that is where our focus remains right now.

Q: Okay, but you haven't quite answered the question about whether you have any misgivings about this. I know you don't object or you don't oppose it, but do you --

MR. BOUCHER: No, we support the 1999 Helsinki conclusions, which state that -- boom, boom, boom, boom, boom -- I'll read it if you want me to, but let's take it as read.

Q: Do you have any explanations why these --

MR. BOUCHER: I spent enough time in Cyprus not to try to explain why people write things in the newspapers.

Q: Do you all have any idea yet when the team in Peru is going to be coming back or whether they've been to the site, or anything?

MR. BOUCHER: I'll give you an update on what I know, but the specific answer to your question is there is no deadline on the work down there, and they'll stay for a while.

Let's see. The investigative team, led by Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Rand Beers arrived in Peru last weekend to try to determine exactly what went wrong on April 20th and what we can do to ensure that a tragedy like this never happens again.

The US team has been working with the Peruvian Government team in a joint investigation, and cooperation between the two teams has been excellent. There is no deadline for conclusion of the investigation, but as soon as it's complete and we have the answers that we need, we will share our findings with the public.

I think that's about all I have for the moment on what they're doing down there. They're working with the Peruvians and there is no particular deadline.

Q: So you're not sure when they're coming back?

MR. BOUCHER: That's right.

Q: And you don't know if they've been to the site yet?

MR. BOUCHER: And I don't know if they've been to the site.

Q: Or if they're going?

MR. BOUCHER: I would assume that they will undertake a lot of different activities, but I don't have a list at this point.

Q: New topic? With the drafts of the Mitchell Commission delivered to the parties today, can you say what the US is looking for, what possible recommendations from this report and how that might play a role in coming up with new ideas for a possible ceasefire agreement?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, I need to point out the Mitchell Commission is an independent and objective commission. What we are looking for from them is an independent and objective review of the current crisis, with the goal of preventing its recurrence.

The Commission undertook to try to work constructively with the parties to try to come up with a report, and has delivered a draft of its report to the United States on Tuesday. And as was agreed at Sharm el Sheikh, they also transmitted the report to the parties, to the UN Secretary General, prior to publication, and they will respond -- the parties will respond -- directly to the Mitchell Commission with any comments they might have.

At this point, the process is not yet complete, and so I am not going to be in a position to really release the report or discuss it until they have heard from the parties and they decide to finalize it.

Q: Well, just to follow up, part of the Commission's goal is to come up with recommendations on how to prevent these clashes in the future. Will those ideas be reflected in US proposals or US policy after it? I mean, you've had a chance now to look at some of them.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, but I'm not going to try to discuss it at this point. First, the report is out to the various people that wanted to see it, the parties and the UN Secretary General. The Commission will hear back directly from their with their responses. The report will be finalized, and then we will be in a position perhaps to discuss it. But I think the goal all along was to get an independent and objective view with some recommendations on how to prevent the recurrence. Obviously, once we see the final report, we will take it very seriously and see if those ideas can be useful.

Q: It's not clear to me. Obviously it's not a US commission, but the report comes to the US. Does the US make recommendations while the Palestinians and the Israelis are doing likewise? Do you have input into this?

MR. BOUCHER: Let me double-check and see. We are looking for responses from the parties, primarily. I assume we would have the opportunity to make some response as well, if we felt like it. But at this point, we are really looking for it to be finalized.

Q: Will the UN equivalent commission, the Faulk Commission, be given the same level of consideration by the Department? And do you have any idea of timing? It's already published in Israel. Could you make it available here, even before or after?

MR. BOUCHER: You're talking about the Mitchell report?

Q: Yeah.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to make somebody else's report available to you, and they'll make it available at the appropriate time.

As far as the UN commission, I don't remember the mandate. This particular procedure was decided upon at Sharm el Sheikh, was determined by Sharm el Sheikh, and so it's being followed now in terms of the way the report is prepared, transmitted, sent to the parties, things like that. That's what we're doing here. I would suspect the UN report is under some different kind of mandate.

Q: On the same subject, yesterday I believe Secretary Powell called the committee members, retired President Demirel, and they talked about on this report. Can you say something about what was the dialogue?

MR. BOUCHER: I know he talked to former President Demirel yesterday. I assume it was about this report, but I didn't get a rundown from him of how it went and what they talked about. So I have to leave it at that. Sorry.

Q: Does the US still have a policy as to whether there is a need for a UN commission to go out to the area, no matter what the -- irrespective of what the Mitchell findings may be?

MR. BOUCHER: The question is a UN commission out to the area? I haven't actually heard that phrased that way. You recognize that just a few weeks ago we made quite clear what our view was on some kind of interposition of a UN observer force, and that policy, that view, hasn't changed. It would have to be, in order to be useful, in order to be productive in the situation, it would have to be done with the support of the parties, and that support is not there at this point.

Q: On a related subject, the Israelis are accusing today the Palestinians of reneging on agreements they have been making in the security cooperation talks. Does your representative feel the same way about the way these talks have been going? And how generally do you see the level of compliance with agreements made there, and how do you see the future of these talks?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, we think that the continuation of these discussions is important; and that the fact that they have been held, that the parties are dealing with each other, with our help, on security issues is important. But the obligations that they make are to each other, and the interaction needs to be primarily with each other. So I don't really think I have a US scorecard for you. And I will double-check and see if we are inclined to do one, but I doubt it.

Q: I just want to go over quickly, and specifically because it has emerged as a big sticking point, on the question of natural growth of settlements. Can you confirm that you consider the expansion of settlements even for what the Israelis call "natural growth" to be provocative and inflammatory?

And since the Palestinians in this context keep raising the question of the natural growth of Palestinian villages, what is your position on the granting of building permits to Palestinians who want to build on the edges of their towns and villages?

MR. BOUCHER: I think I don't want to get into a debate over terms and semantics. I do want to make clear I think we have expressed quite clearly what our view is on settlements. Yesterday Foreign Minister Peres explained the Israeli Government's view of settlements to the Secretary, and the Secretary reiterated our long-held view. We have talked about continued settlement activity and continued construction activity as being provocative. We have encouraged both sides to refrain from provocative acts. We have encouraged both sides to be careful not to risk further inflaming an already volatile situation in the region.

So I think our view on continued construction activity, continued settlement activity, has been quite clear. Beyond that, I don't think I can get into --

Q: And this includes -- I'm not drawing any distinction between --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to try to get into playing semantics, because I think different people use these terms in different ways. Our view has been stated in the terms that we use. Different people throw these terms around.

Q: That's not semantics. I'm just -- you are including -- including expansion for what the Israelis call "natural growth"?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, different people use those terms in different ways, and I don't want to try to endorse or decline a specific term. We have explained it the way we explain it, which is that continued settlement activity, continued construction activity, does risk further inflaming an already volatile situation.

Q: And building permits for Palestinians, which was the other half of the equation?

MR. BOUCHER: I would have to go back and look at that and see what the situations are with that. I'm not sure there is an equivalency there.

Q: This is really quick, but could you say how frequently the security talks have been taking place at this point? Are they once or twice a week, or more than that?

MR. BOUCHER: On a regular basis. I don't really know much more than that. I will have to check.

Q: The fact that US assessment teams are examining this plane, is it safe to say that because this is happening that there has been an agreement with China that it can leave, or is that still to be worked out separate from what is going on now?

And the second question is, have you found a date yet for an Administration official to go to China who was going to the region next week?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. First of all, in terms of the return of the airplane, let me make clear we want our aircraft back as soon as possible. We will continue our discussions with the Chinese on the return of the aircraft.

The team in China completed its work with the cooperation of the Chinese. They are planning to depart Hainan on Saturday local time. They will return to Hawaii, and then they will report on the results of their inspection of the aircraft. That's where we are now.

As far as other travelers to China, we had the Asia travel -- the sort of Asia team that is going out to discuss matters related to missile defense. That will be headed by Deputy Secretary Armitage. Assistant Secretary Jim Kelly will be with Armitage on that team. And do I have the rest of the people? No, I don't, but I think we know that.

But they will be in Japan the 7th and 8th, South Korea the 9th and 10th, India May 11th. That's for Armitage. And then Armitage comes back from India to the US on May 12th. Now, Mr. Kelly will travel separately -- this will be after South Korea -- separately to Australia for similar discussions May 11th-13th. He will stop in Singapore the 13th and 14th and visit China on the 14th and 15th for discussions related to missile defense.

And in addition to that, because Mr. Kelly is going for his first visit to the region after he assumes his new responsibilities, he is going to Vietnam on the 16th to 18th for a senior officials meeting of the ASEAN regional forum, and then he will be back in Washington on the 20th.

Q: Is this an opportunity to do more business than -- business beyond the missile defense consultation or explanation?

MR. BOUCHER: I suppose in some cases it will be.

Q: I mean in China, excuse me.

MR. BOUCHER: In China? This will be the first visit by Mr. Kelly. I would expect that since the goal is to discuss missile defense that will be the principle topic that he discusses. But obviously there is an opportunity for other discussions as well.

Q: Can I just follow up on your first answer? Did you say they had -- has there been an agreement yet -- you sort of glossed over that -- about the return of the plane?

MR. BOUCHER: I said we are continuing our discussions about returning the airplane. So I wouldn't characterize that as having an agreement at this point.

Q: Can you shed any light on differing reports about how well the Chinese cooperated and helped the assessment?

MR. BOUCHER: No.

Q: There are some reports that they wouldn't give electricity --

MR. BOUCHER: There were some hiccups, as the Secretary said. There were some things that we had to work out with them. In the end we got the cooperation we needed. We were able to make the assessment we wanted. And the people are coming back to Hawaii to give us their report.

Q: So our final assessment is that they were cooperative enough for us to --

MR. BOUCHER: With the cooperation of the Chinese, we were able to carry out what we needed to do.

Q: Do you have anything you care to supplement the Presidentís of Sudan announcement with sending a special -- appointing a special coordinator.

MR. BOUCHER: A special humanitarian coordinator.

Q: Yes, he made an announcement last night at the American Jewish Committee.

Q: Is that like an envoy?

MR. BOUCHER: No, it is neither instead of nor in place of nor an envoy itself.

Q: What is it?

MR. BOUCHER: It's a special humanitarian coordinator. It's someone --

Q: But it sheds more attention -- it reflects more US attention to probably the most dreadful situation in the world.

MR. BOUCHER: There has been, I believe, a lot of US attention. This is a reflection of the interests that we have in that. It's a chance for the administrator of AID, the new administrator, Andrew Natsios, to provide US leadership, to increase and improve the delivery of aid to the affected populations in Sudan, to promote activities that improve Sudanese livelihoods and self-reliance and to coordinate overall US efforts at alleviating suffering and providing hope for the Sudanese people.

Among the things he will do, he will be a point for coordinating with other donors in the United Nations on the humanitarian plight there. He will be able to expand activities that increase local production of food goods and services. He will be able to address issues which inhibit assistance going directly to the needy, things like the bans on relief flights, the diversion of food by combatants and unnecessary hurdles. So he will be able to take hold of all these humanitarian areas in a way that makes sense and to try to deal with the humanitarian situation out there in all its aspects.

But this is not, in that regard, the appointment of a special envoy of something to replace a special envoy. That part of Sudan policy continues to be under review, including the possibility of a special envoy.

Q: And the slavery issue, is that part of his brief? And does he talk to private groups, church groups, which may or may not be helping the problem?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we will have to see exactly how much gets added to this. I would say first and foremost, the issue is humanitarian for him. Obviously our policy and our concerns about various other aspects of Sudanese behavior have to be integrated into this. But how exactly that will work out, we'll see.

Q: Richard, would you expect him to travel to Khartoum and have contact with government officials, and also, to have meetings with the SPLN?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we will just have to see how that works out. Certainly we would expect him to address these problems and solve them in whatever is the best way possible.

Q: You described what a humanitarian coordinator does, but -- and you said you were considering an envoy. I mean, by contrast, could you say what an envoy in general would do?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say an envoy does whatever they decide for him to do that is not what the humanitarian coordinator is already doing. I'll leave that one for later.

Q: Change of subject. Can you tell us what's going on in Liberia with this authorized departure?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes. And the UN did vote, I think, just in the last hour or two. We --

Q: In favor of the sanctions?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, in favor of the sanction. We warn US citizens against travel to Liberia because we think the security situation there remains unstable and the hostilities in northern Liberia have intensified. For a long time, we have prohibited our dependents from traveling to Liberia.

On May 3rd -- that's yesterday -- because of possible negative reactions to the implementation of the United Nations ban on Liberian diamonds and on this travel of government officials -- Liberian Government officials -- we authorized departure of embassy personnel who are in non-emergency positions.

So, once again, we have advised US citizens to take that into account and to review their own personal security situations in determining whether they should remain in the country.

Q: Have there been blatant threats against Americans, or we're just concerned?

MR. BOUCHER: I think we view it as a very serious and unsettled situation. I'm not sure there is a particular threat. But with this vote in the United Nations to ban diamonds and to ban the travel of senior Liberian Government officials, we are concerned about possible further destabilization and further threats.

Q: Two more, sorry. In Macedonia, the fighting seems to have resumed. And I wondered whether in particular you had any views on the instructions from the government that civilians would be a legitimate target if they wander off main paved roads. Is that something that --

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we have seen the instructions from the government. We have also seen the fact that the extremists are preventing civilians from leaving these areas and thus the extremists are putting them into jeopardy. We certainly urge the Macedonian Government to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties. But we also condemn in the very strongest terms the terrorist violence from the so-called NLA, and want those extremists to cease their acts and allow the civilian hostages to have freedom of movement. We don't think there is any justification for those kinds of restrictions and the kind of violence that they have unleashed.

Q: Okay, and the other one. Yesterday, the Secretary said he was interested in whether Mr. Khatami would stand for reelection. He has announced that he will. Do you have anything to say on it?

MR. BOUCHER: We are interested. Now we know, and that's nice. But no, as far as particular involvement in the election, we are not going to get involved in their election.

Q: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you. [End]

Released on May 4, 2001


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