|Philip Reeker, State Department Acting Spokesman|
Excerpt from the Daily Press Briefing
Department of State Press Briefing Room
Washington, DC, June 1, 2000
Assistant Scretary Harold Koh's meeting with Toledo's Peruvian representatives
Eduardo Stein, leader of the Electoral Observation Mission, presents report to Permanent Council
U.S. Delegation to the General Assembly of the OAS in Windsor, Ontario, June 4-6
U.S. Ambassador to the OAS Luis Laredo withdraws OAS Resolution 1080 proposal
Status of OAS Resolution 1080
QUESTION: You've had 24 hours to digest the OAS Permanent Council meeting yesterday on Peru, and also if you have anything to say about the meeting that you said the representatives of Mr. Toledo had here.
ACTING SPOKESMAN REEKER: Let me take that second part first. As I mentioned yesterday, there was to be a meeting and, in fact, Assistant Secretary Harold Koh of our Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor met with two Peruvian representatives of Mr. Toledo this morning here in the Department; discussed the recent flawed election in Peru and the need to make this issue a priority at the OAS General Assembly meeting in Windsor.
In terms of your first question, yes, I have had 24 hours to review the OAS meeting yesterday. I must say that in terms of some of the press reporting that I read and the actual outcome of the meeting, I found some real opposition. I don't know if some of the newspapers were, in fact, covering the same story, the same meeting in which we participated yesterday.
We are delighted with the results of the May 31st meeting of the OAS Permanent Council. We achieved our two principle objectives: first, the Foreign Ministers at the June 4-6 OAS general assembly in Windsor, Ontario, will review the situation in Peru and decide on appropriate measures to take in response to that; secondly, OAS members joined us in expressing their concern about the fairness of the Peruvian elections and their strong support for the findings of the OAS observer mission to Peru. There was very clear agreement that the irregularities of Peru's electoral process are serious and must be urgently addressed. And as the President said, we will be working with our partners in the hemisphere to promote a vigorous response. The President put that statement out Friday.
We are now today, and throughout the rest of the week, continuing to work very closely with our partners in these days before the Windsor meeting. Eduardo Stein, the leader of the observer mission, presented his interim report to the Permanent Council. That report, as I noted previously, detailed numerous deficiencies in Peru's electoral process, and we are urging our partners in the hemisphere to study the report carefully to prepare for Sunday and the meetings in Windsor.
QUESTION: Are you going to renew your call for this Resolution 1080?
MR. REEKER: I think we need to look at what Resolution 1080 was. It's a mechanism that Ambassador Lauredo put on the table as a remedy. There was sort of a uniform feeling that this needed to be dealt with at the foreign minister level, and that was what 1080 was all about. On a technical basis, it was determined and felt that we could use regular Article 61 approach, and that is what has now put this on the agenda of the foreign ministers meeting which is taking place in Windsor. I mean, Lauredo withdrew the 1080 proposal because we didn't need it. I mean, we had consensus on having the foreign ministers meet.
QUESTION: Well, didn't -- no. Didn't he withdraw it because he knew that he wasn't going to get a consensus among the members? And isn't the 1080 really -- I mean, I know that it's a mechanism to discuss this, but doesn't it kind of determine that the democratic process has been interrupted and set up a whole -- and mandate a whole course of action and a negotiating team to negotiate a new settlement?
MR. REEKER: What Resolution 1080, as I understand it, does is instructs the OAS Secretary General to convene the Permanent Council in the event of a sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic process in a member state. The Permanent Council would then decide on convening a meeting of the foreign ministers or a special session of the General Assembly to decide on appropriate action.
Well we have a meeting of the general assembly, and so what transpired at the OAS meeting was a determination, you know, with very uniform feeling that we did need to have this addressed at the foreign minister level, and we have a meeting starting Sunday in Windsor. And I think that's where some of the reports seem to get this a little bit wrong in terms of, you know, failures and losses.
QUESTION: Ambassador Lauredo said yesterday to CNN that he didn't want to denounce his call for the 1080, and still leave it on the table.
MR. REEKER: Sure. I don't think he was planning on denouncing anything. I think what they did was worked and came to a consensus and a uniform feeling that this needed to be addressed, certainly a uniform acceptance and support for Ambassador Stein and the OAS mission and a very strong and deep concern expressed all around the table about the systematic manipulations of the electoral process that took place in Peru. So nothing is off the table from yesterday's meeting. I think that's the bottom line. And now we're working, consulting continuously, and we'll go to the ministerial meeting beginning on Sunday.
QUESTION: But the foreign ministers meeting was scheduled long before this Permanent Council, so why would you bring up the 1080 anyway if you didn't think it would serve any purpose since we already had a foreign ministers meeting?
MR. REEKER: It's a mechanism, Terri. It's a procedural mechanism. What's important is that everybody agreed that this was a very serious situation that we want to address, and that it should be addressed at that level. We have a meeting going on in Windsor on Sunday, and so it was put on the agenda through, as I said and as I was told, it's an Article 61 approach to this.
So I think the sort of mechanics of this which, you know, certainly didn't worry us -- what was important was the outcome. Frankly, I think the outcome was more than expected in terms of the support that was given, the confirming of support for Stein and the OAS mission there, and the concern expressed uniformly about the situation in Peru.
QUESTION: Phil, is it now the US expectation, now that you've been able to hear from your OAS colleagues, that during the foreign ministers meeting there will be that same consensus, unanimity of feeling, about the flawed election process that you feel has happened?
MR. REEKER: I certainly think that was reflected yesterday.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) actions would be taken?
MR. REEKER: That was reflected yesterday and we're right now in the phase where we're working with our allies, as I said, talking very closely with partners in the hemisphere, to get a very vigorous OAS response. As the President said on Friday, again referring to his statement, we would hope that Peru cooperates with the OAS. And we always reserve the right to take steps and actions on a bilateral basis as we deem necessary. Things are moving forward; now we need to let the next news occur, and that will be the meeting taking place beginning Sunday.
QUESTION: You talked about a vigorous OAS response. Is the United States circulating or planning to circulate a draft resolution for the OAS meeting?
MR. REEKER: I'd have to check on details of that. We're certainly having consultations with all of our partners, and if that's part of that consultative process, that would be perfectly normal. I don't have details on those conversations and consultations, and we'll need to wait for the process to go ahead in Windsor.
QUESTION: You were characterizing the position of other countries at yesterday's meeting, and I'd like to know if you know how many, besides Ambassador Lauredo, referred to 1080?
MR. REEKER: I don't have exact nose counts for you, and I would refer you back to the OAS to get that. Again, Ambassador Lauredo presented -- put forth 1080 on the table, as a remedy, as a way of proceeding. There was a uniform feeling that this needed to be addressed. There was as I said, sort of frankly an outcome more than what we expected, in terms of the expressions of support for the OAS mission, and of concern for what's going on in Peru.
QUESTION: And there were also a lot of statements which seemed to express concern about interference in Peru's internal affairs.
MR. REEKER: Well, I noticed that the Peruvian delegate did that. Let's just remember that it was Peru that invited in the OAS mission to come there and monitor their election. As the President noted, Peru could have taken steps to have even a slight delay in the election Sunday, that would have allowed the OAS mission to take steps to be able to verify the election as a free and fair election. They didn't take those steps, and consequently the flaws that we've discussed are evident.
QUESTION: If journalists were covering the wrong meeting, than maybe some of the ambassadors were at the wrong meeting as well, because some of them are saying that the US was getting ahead of the other ambassadors, and that they weren't yet -- the other countries weren't yet prepared to go that far; that they still wanted to see more information, see more results, and then decide how far they were prepared to go. Are you saying that the US is not in any way disappointed that 1080 was not taken up at this meeting?
MR. REEKER: I think, in fact, we're delighted, and that's how I started this out.
MR. REEKER: Because it was a mechanism, Rebecca. It was a way to do it, and they chose to do it another way. The outcome is the same, and it is exactly what we wanted to see. We achieved the two principal objectives, along with our partners in the hemisphere, which is what we wanted: to have the foreign ministers address this, using the meeting that was already scheduled, adjusting the agenda accordingly to review the situation, and decide on appropriate measures, and; secondly, the overwhelming support that was given, the expressions of concern about the fairness of the elections, and the overwhelming support for the mission and the report of Mr. Stein.
QUESTION: Can you clear up for me -- it seems like it is still possible to have 1080 considered at the Windsor meeting, because people are saying they're still looking to consider it at that meeting. So how does it work?
MR. REEKER: Let's go through, to my knowledge, and I looked into this in preparation for your question. As I understand it, Resolution 1080 instructs the OAS Secretary General to convene a Permanent Council, convene the Permanent Council immediately in the event of some sudden or irregular interruption of the democratic process in one of the OAS member states. Then the Permanent Council decides whether to convene a meeting of the foreign ministers or a special session of the General Assembly.
We don't need to do that, because there is a meeting of the General Assembly. So the procedure by which you would go to putting this on the agenda of a meeting of the General Assembly of the foreign ministers is irrelevant. What's important, and what we are extremely pleased about, is that we're going to go forward with that, and we're going to continue the meetings that we're having with our partners in the hemisphere and in the international community, and we're going to go to Windsor on Sunday, and then we will pursue talks there, and the process, and work with our allies to have a vigorous OAS response.
QUESTION: There's some confusion about that, because some are saying that they're still willing to consider it at the next meeting. Let me ask you another thing. When you say bilateral do you mean that the United Sates is now willing to consider, if they don't have some type of agreement at the OAS meeting, is the US willing to consider unilateral --
MR. REEKER: We have always been. What I have said all along is that no decisions or determinations have been made, but nothing is off the table.
QUESTION: Is the range of options open to the OAS under Article 61 any smaller than the range of options open to the OAS under 1080?
MR. REEKER: I would have to refer you to my OAS specialists on that. I just am not familiar enough with the details of that, but I believe that was the article under which they could then put on the agenda for the foreign minister's meeting. There are processes to these things. There are structures, there are things that are --
QUESTION: I mean, and this is basically the same overall question. It's just that why did he propose it in the first place if you knew -- I mean, why didn't he just come out and say look, why don't we get together and talk about this under Article 61? And if people had said no, then he could have said let's do it under 1080. Or is it done because 1080 is stronger and that's what --
MR. REEKER: Again, I can't characterize the details of OAS workings and the processes that have to go on in a body that runs according to rules and to articles of its charter.
QUESTION: Then the confusion, because when you propose some things and then withdraw it, it doesn't look like a victory to anyone except for, I think, the people here.
MR. REEKER: I don't know why, because the outcome -- the problem is, why aren't people looking at the outcome? This is what puzzled me, and a number of articles seemed to understand what the outcome was. This desire to sort of, I think, have articles that talk about failure and loss I think sometimes gets us a little ahead of things. This isn't about winning or losing anything; this is about a process that we're following. The only losers here are the Peruvian people, who have been denied the opportunity to have their will represented in a free and fair democratic election.
QUESTION: I just want to move a couple steps down the road to understand why it is that the US is so confident that the OAS, if it does make a decision that the democratic process has been interrupted, will be able to reverse what has happened, because as you may know, in 1992, the OAS invoked Resolution 1080 with Fujimori, and he's still there. It took him several --
MR. REEKER: I'm not going to make any predictions, and I'm not going to talk about any particular confidence. What we're very happy about is the process that's gone forward. I outlined for you at considerable length over the last couple of days the only decisions we've made in terms of steps, and that was to meet at the OAS, which took place yesterday. We're very pleased with the outcome of yesterday's meeting, and the results that will mean that this will be dealt with at the ministerial meeting, the General Assembly meeting in Windsor. That's a couple days down the road.
In the meantime, we'll continue talking and preparing for that, and working with our allies to have a vigorous OAS response. We would hope that Peru would cooperate with that, as a member of the OAS, and the country that invited the OAS mission into Peru in the first place. Then we will look at the situation, and move on to the next steps that might be considered. So it's premature to speculate beyond that. What I'm saying is that, contrary to some reports, we're very pleased with yesterday's meeting, and we are looking forward to continuing the work this week, and taking up this serious matter at the OAS Ministerial in Windsor.
QUESTION: Isn't there a little bit of a concern that some of the other countries in the OAS feel that they don't have the moral authority to make such a strong statement on Peru given that a good portion of them are having their own election and democratic problems right now?
MR. REEKER: I'd have to refer you to those countries and their determination of their own moral authorities.
QUESTION: Also on Peru, the Berenson case, there's an article today in the Post that's quite critical of the State Department's assistance to Lori Berenson, and saying the State Department should be more supportive of her, and implying that the Clinton Administration is being soft on Fujimori in this case, much the same criticism as has come from some sides on the election.
MR. REEKER: I did, and many of us read and were frankly dismayed to read that column this morning, and its implication that the US Government has not been fully engaged in this case. I would note that the columnist never contacted us for any comment about that. In fact, the United States Government has at all levels been actively involved in Ms. Berenson's case since her arrest in November 1995. We have consistently maintained that Ms. Berenson's military trial did not meet international standards of due process, and we have repeatedly urged the Government of Peru to grant her a new trial in civilian court with full due process protection.
QUESTION: Have Toledo's representatives ever brought up this case in any of their meetings with the State Department?
MR. REEKER: I'm not sure. We had the meetings of his representatives this morning, and I don't have exactly what they discussed.
QUESTION: So those are the first meetings between Toledo's representatives and State?
MR. REEKER: I think we met with representatives of Toledo before. We meet often with opposition leaders in many countries, but I don't have any specifics on that.
QUESTION: Could you find out if that case has come up in those meetings?
MR. REEKER: I'd be happy to look into it.
QUESTION: On the OAS meeting, do you have the language of Article 61 there?
MR. REEKER: I don't. No, George, I don't.
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