State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 27, 2001
Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, June 27, 2001
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
YUGOSLAVIA 1-4 Donors Conference Attendance / US Contribution / Congressional Consultation / Timing of Decision / Conditions
ZIMBABWE 4-5 Meeting with Opposition Leader / U.S. Position
MACEDONIA 5-6 Travel Warning / Aracinovo Withdrawal of Rebels / Ceasefire / Position on Discussions
UN 6-7 Contributions for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and World Food Program
CUBA 7-8 Migration Talks
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 90
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 27, 2001 12:45 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to the State Department, those of you that are still here with us and not traveling with the Secretary's party in the Middle East.
I don't have any formal statements to begin with, so I would be happy to start with the questions of the Associated Press.
Q: Could you break the suspense and tell us about Yugoslavia?
MR. REEKER: I think I can start off by saying that Secretary Powell has decided that the United States will participate in the June 29th European Commission and World Bank donors conference for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to be held in Brussels.
US participation has been made possible by the recent steps taken by the Yugoslav and Serbian governments to meet Belgrade's obligation to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and by Belgrade's commitment to transfer indicted war criminals to The Hague and fulfill all legal obligations to the Tribunal.
In attending the conference, the United States is expressing strong support for building a democratic and progressive society in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and overcoming the legacy of Slobodan Milosevic. We also strongly support the steadfast commitment of the Yugoslav authorities to economic reform.
Disbursement of the US assistance pledged at the conference will be contingent upon Yugoslavia's further steps to cooperate fully with the Tribunal. And Ambassador Larry Napper will lead the US delegation at that conference in Brussels this Friday.
Q: What are you thinking about in terms of a contribution?
MR. REEKER: We have been discussing with Congress, consulting with the Hill, in terms of our decision on this, and we will have continued consultations with the House and the Senate, and will announce the total amount of our pledge at the time of the donors conference. So our contribution will come from the support for East European democracy funds and the humanitarian assistance funds, but at this point I just don't have any specific figures for you.
Q: Do you know what (inaudible) those two accounts are?
MR. REEKER: I don't have figures for you in those, Eli. You could look in the budget briefings we have had previously.
Q: Can you give us sort of a minimum/maximum, a range of figures?
MR. REEKER: I don't have figures for you at this point. Maybe we could look into that.
Q: Maybe zero.
MR. REEKER: I think our contribution, our pledge at the conference, will reflect what I indicated and the fact that we strongly support the building of democratic and progressive society in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia so that they can overcome the legacy of Slobodan Milosevic. And we support the commitment of Yugoslav authorities to economic reform, which is so vital to moving the country forward.
This is in our interests, in the interests of the United States, that Yugoslavia remain on the democratic path, that they be allowed to move forward now that they are rid of Milosevic and his regime, that they can move forward with economic reform, continue with their democratic reforms and pursue a progressive, more prosperous society. It is in our interest and so we will support that, and going to this donors conference is an expression of that support.
Q: The fact that you can't give us a figure at this point, does that reflect that you have not agreed on a figure within your negotiations with Congress? And as a follow-up to that, have you been -- I'm assuming you've been in touch with Senators Leahy and McConnell, who wrote you a letter two weeks ago urging you not to participate in this conference. What kind of a reaction have you gotten?
MR. REEKER: I don't have a readout for you on specific reactions. I would leave that to any individuals from Capitol Hill. But State Department officials at the most senior levels have been in touch with senators, with representatives interested in this issue. We have had, already, consultations extensively with members of the Senate and staff as well, and also the House of Representatives of course.
The Secretary made his decision based on recommendations from the Bureau of European Affairs and other bureaus in the Department, as well as recommendations from our Chief of Mission in Belgrade, Ambassador William Montgomery. And all along, we have consulted very closely with Congress. So this is important to us and we are going to continue those consultations, as I indicated, on the Hill. And I indicated also where we expect these funds to come from in terms of the budgetary sources.
And as I said, let me remind you that Secretary Powell clearly stated that our support for the donors conference depends on Yugoslavia's cooperation with the ICTY. This has not changed at all. It is our same position and we have conditioned disbursement of funds that are pledged on Yugoslavia's fulfillment of its international obligations to the Tribunal.
Q: Can I follow up on that? The decision to come up with a dollar amount from the two accounts that you mentioned before, that rests solely with State or does Congress have any kind of authority to determine where those funds go?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think as you know, Eli, the money is appropriated by Congress.
Q: Right. Money is appropriated. I know that.
MR. REEKER: That's right. And we consult with Congress and notify them of our intentions on what we do with that money. And I would be happy to get you more specifics on the process we go through with each of those.
Q: I understand that, but is the money that you are committing at this conference from money that has already been appropriated, or are you looking at the funds for FY 2002?
MR. REEKER: I just don't have those details yet. I would have to let you know once we actually have something to announce in terms of specifics on the money.
Q: Are you going to tell us when the recommendations reach the Secretary's desk and when he took the decision?
MR. REEKER: Well, the Secretary made the decision last night. I don't have an exact time for you. Ambassador Boucher talked about it yesterday from this podium. This was a very important decision for us because we believe very strongly, as the Secretary indicated back in April, that while we want to support Yugoslavia, we believe they must meet their obligations to the International Tribunal.
So we carefully reviewed Belgrade's efforts toward cooperation with The Hague, including the steps that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has taken to transfer ex-President Milosevic to The Hague, and the Secretary decided last night that we will attend the donors conference, as I described.
We have assurances of Prime Minister Djindjic that the government of Serbia is committed to meeting its international obligations and to extraditing Milosevic to The Hague in the quickest time possible.
Anything else on this?
Q: You have had obviously quite an effect on the government in Yugoslavia by waiting as long as you have to make the decision to participate in the conference. Why did you not wait until the very last minute, 8:59 Brussels time on Friday, and maybe you would have gotten more assurances -- I mean, since it seemed to be working so hard? Can you kind of get into more specifics about at what point did you feel comfortable? When you got those assurances from Djindjic?
MR. REEKER: The Secretary made his decision last night. He has had conversations with Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic going back to last Thursday. I know he spoke with him -- I believe he spoke with him yesterday. He has assurances from the Prime Minister of Serbia, Mr. Djindjic, that the government of Serbia is committed to meeting its international obligations. That is very important to us. That is something we have said all along.
And in answer to your question, or perhaps just underscoring what you said in a statement, we have waited. We have not been able to commit to going to the donors conference until this time because of our focus on the importance of Yugoslavia meeting its obligations.
So this is very important for US interests to see Yugoslavia be able to pursue its democratic path, its movement in a progressive fashion to pursue economic reform. That is important to us. We have always said we want to see that. But it is also very important to us that they meet their commitments to the ICTY. And that is how we are moving forward now.
Q: What can you say on the donors who put conditions on their donations as well? Or would you push that?
MR. REEKER: I think that is up for other donors to decide, obviously. But we do feel that it is very important -- the stand that we have taken has been very important, as I just described. We think it is absolutely important for Yugoslavia to meet its obligations to the ICTY. And we will always stand by that point.
Q: Who will be there besides the US? Will it be essentially the OECD countries?
MR. REEKER: I would have to check on that for you, George, or I could refer you to the European Union or the World Bank, who are sponsoring the conference in Brussels.
Anything else on that? Other subjects, or are we done for the day?
Q: Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, is in town, as you may know. I'm just wondering if he is meeting with anybody from the State Department.
MR. REEKER: I would have to double-check. I was not aware of a meeting, but that doesn't mean it is not going on. It is a big place, so I will check into that for you.
Q: Can you just clarify the US position on the situation in Zimbabwe?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think the Secretary has addressed it, certainly during his Africa trip, our concerns there, our desire to see movement forward on a democratic track, our concerns about human rights, our concerns about freedom of the press. A number of those things we have discussed from here in the past. Certainly our Human Rights Report has illustrated some of the other concerns that we have with Zimbabwe. We want to see Zimbabwe on the right track, because we think that is what best for Zimbabweans.
So I will just leave it at that at this point.
Q: New subject? Macedonia?
MR. REEKER: Macedonia.
Q: The Travel Warning issued last night said that there have been numerous acts of intimidation against Americans, and talked about an extreme anti-American -- anti-Western sentiment. It talked about acts of intimidation against Americans.
Can you expand on that at all?
MR. REEKER: I actually didn't see that in the Travel Warning. So I would probably have to re-read it. I have it here in front of me. I do note that the Travel Warning that we did issue last night -- frankly it's an updated Travel Warning, because we have had a previous Travel Warning for American citizens in terms of getting information on Macedonia. Last night, we updated that Travel Warning to warn American citizens to defer all travel to Macedonia due to increased anti-Western sentiments, and we suggested that US citizens living in Macedonia should continue to review their personal security situations and exercise caution and, if appropriate, depart the country.
All of you that have watched the news and paid attention to events are aware of the fact that the situation in Macedonia is unsettled and potentially dangerous because there have been armed clashes in the country between Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian radicals, armed extremists. And I think we discussed from here the fact that, on the 25th of June, rioters and Macedonian police reservists staged violent anti-NATO/EU protests in downtown Skopje and there was a degree of uncontrol at that time in terms of the crowd. So the Department has authorized the departure of US Embassy personnel in non-emergency positions and family members of Embassy personnel.
I would note that this is an authorized departure that you are familiar with. It is a voluntary departure so that those family members or personnel in non-emergency positions who wish to leave the country may do so. And we will continue to follow the situation in Macedonia very closely, obviously. We made this determination, I think, as a precautionary measure. It is certainly in no way indicative of any lessening of our support for Macedonia, for the government and for the peace process under way. So we will continue to monitor that, as I said, quite closely. And as I said again, this is a step that allows Embassy personnel and their families to make their own decisions and consider voluntary departure. Essential operations will continue, and the Embassy does remain open. I just want to make that very clear.
Q: Do you know if these anti-EU and anti-NATO sentiments in the country are fueled or provoked by the operation in Aracinovo where American troops helped supervise the withdrawal of the KLA?
MR. REEKER: I think that is an analysis that people on the ground will have to make, and you will have to ask your colleagues who are talking to people that were perhaps involved in that. I would note that there have been no further demonstrations or violence in Skopje since the events of the 25th of June, and we very much welcome President Trajkovski's address yesterday in which he called upon all citizens of Macedonia to remain peaceful, to remain calm and support the political process. I think it is the time for Macedonian citizens of all ethnic groups to take a step back and think very carefully about what they want for their future and to think about the successful decade they have had as an independent country and the proper way to move forward and what kind of future they want to have.
It is important now to continue the cease-fire that is in place in Aracinovo, and we believe it is important to expand the cease-fire formally to cover the entire country. As I said, it is the time now for restraint, for calm, and that provides the best atmosphere for the political reform dialogue to proceed and to produce concrete results. And I believe very firmly that all the people of Macedonia, regardless of their ethnic heritage or background, understand that this is the time for calm, the time to allow the political process to move forward.
So we are urging the political parties to continue their dialogue, bring it to closure as soon as possible. We want to welcome the efforts of Robert Badinter, the French constitutional expert who is discussing with party leaders their different positions and providing his expertise on constitutional reform. And we also welcome the appointment by the European Union of a new special envoy, Francois Leotard, I believe a former defense minister from France, and I believe he is expected to arrive in Skopje tomorrow.
Q: Concerning Mr. Leotard, yesterday he made some controversial statements saying that the Macedonian Government would have or should be engaged or start discussions with KLA or Albanian guerrillas. Is it your position that --
MR. REEKER: We have seen those press reports, Christophe, and some of the statements that were attributed to Mr. Leotard. And actually, checking in to them, we don't even know if they are accurately reported. I think you are all aware that it has always been our view that armed extremists have no place in the political dialogue.
I would also note, since we are talking about Macedonia, that Secretary Powell spoke yesterday with President Trajkovski before the Secretary departed for the Middle East. Ambassador Einick has met with President Trajkovski and, as you know, we have been very engaged at the highest levels with Macedonian officials.
Q: Completely new subject. I noted that you announced a contribution to the World Food Program, coming on the heels of an additional contribution to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. I was wondering if that has anything to do with the High Commissioner's remarks last week about the shortfall in money to meet needs for refugees and the lack of response from donor countries.
MR. REEKER: Well, I think as you are all aware, the United States has been a robust donor to both organizations. On the World Food Program, we did release a statement earlier today announcing an additional contribution of $11.61 million to feed refugees, so this really covers both of your topics there.
We are contributing this to fill the critical gaps in refugee feeding operations across the African continent -- in Algeria, in Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
We are the largest single donor to the World Food Program, and with this latest contribution, we have given more than $424 million to the World Food Program so far this calendar year, which is nearly 60 percent of all contributions.
So we will continue to support the organization. We think it is very important, and this is going to benefit more than 1.5 million refugees and conflict victims in those countries.
Q: Did you do this because the UN asked for it? Is this something that --
MR. REEKER: I think we have been regular donors. We have put out a series of announcements every time we have made one of these contributions, and I can (inaudible) detail for you the amounts to which countries and exactly what it is.
So we are, as I said, the largest single supporter of the program with nearly 60 percent of all the funds given to it. And we will continue to remain so.
Q: I asked about US-Cuba migration talks yesterday, have you researched that?
MR. REEKER: Sure. Yes. As you know, the United States and Cuba have been meeting twice a year since 1994 to discuss migration matters. On Tuesday, June 26th -- that would be yesterday -- a delegation led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, William Brownfield, met with Cuban Government officials at the Council of the Americas in New York City for the latest round of this semi- annual US-Cuba migration talks.
The meeting reviewed the implementation of the existing migration accords. The talks were technical in nature and dealt exclusively with migration matters.
As you know, the United States is committed to full implementation of the Migration Accords, and we believe the Accords are achieving their central purpose of encouraging safe, legal and orderly migration between our two countries.
However, as we have noted in the past, there are areas of concern, and we again voiced our concerns over Cuban barriers to legal and orderly immigration as called for in the Accords.
So as in our previous talks, we continue to discuss the marked shift towards organized aliens, smuggling of Cubans into the United States. This form of criminal activity for profit needlessly exposes men, women and children to loss of life or serious injury, despite the existence of ample alternative means of safe, legal and orderly migration.
Both sides expressed their commitment to put a stop to this dangerous practice. And I would just reiterate our commitment to the Accords and express our belief that programs like the Special Cuban Migration Program, as the Cuban lottery, are making a difference, and moreover they are saving lives.
Q: Did the US side raise concerns, as it usually does, about the fees that Cuba charges immigrants?
MR. REEKER: Yes, some of the concerns we raised in terms of, as I mentioned, the barriers to legal and orderly immigration included the government of Cuba's continued denial of exit permits to certain Cuban nationals in possession of valid US entry documents, and disproportionately high fees charged by the government of Cuba for passports and exit permits. And we are particularly troubled by cases involving the separation of families and barriers imposed by the government of Cuba against legal migration of medical professionals. I think we have raised those issues in the past.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)