Secretary's call to Montenegro's President
Prime Minister Primakov's trip to Belgrade
Milosevic's proposal / Rambouillet Status
Genocide unfolding in Kosovo
Overthrowing of Montenegro Government
Reports of atrocities / Assassination of ethnic Albanians
Status of Kosovar Liberation Army / Crimes against humanity
Toppling of the Government / Autonomy from Belgrade
Number of Refugees / Aid to Refugees
Visit of Foreign Minister Granic
Inflow of Refugee
Similarities and Differences
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
Implementation/Commitments of the Wye River Memorandum
Closure of Offices
Khmer Rouge Leaders / Cut off of US Aid
US-DPRK Missile Talks
Agreed framework / Food aid
Readout of Secretary's Meeting with President Elect
MR. RUBIN: Greetings. Welcome to the State Department briefing.
Before addressing the question of the meeting between Prime Minister Primakov and President Milosevic, let me say that Secretary Albright called to President Djukanovic of Montenegro on March 29 to express her deep concern about the large inflows of displaced Kosovar citizens and the effects they could have on political, economic and social stability in Montenegro. She indicated that we will be increasing our humanitarian assistance to Montenegro to help care for displaced Kosovars. We are also going to work intensively with UNHCR.
She commended President Djukanovic of Montenegro for his steadfast leadership through difficult times, and underscored that American support for Montenegro is strong and unwavering. She told President Djukanovic that she remains concerned about a possible attempt by Belgrade to oust his government. Any attempt by Belgrade to overthrow the democratically-elected government in Montenegro would only fuel wider regional instability, lead to deeper isolation for the Yugoslavian authorities, and escalate the conflict with NATO.
We are focused on preserving democracy and stability in Montenegro and we have worked closely with NATO to exercise restraint and care in targeting Yugoslav military capabilities in Montenegro. NATO is not conducting air strikes against the people of Montenegro and Serbia, but against President Milosevic's ability to inflict more human suffering, repression and violence against the people of Yugoslavia.
With that statement, let me say with regard to the questions all of you have been asking all day with regard to Prime Minister Primakov's trip to Belgrade, President Clinton spoke to Chancellor Schroeder in the last hour, and Secretary Albright spoke to Foreign Minister Fischer as well as Foreign Ministers Vedrine and Cook. With respect to the President's call, my understanding is that the President and the Chancellor indicated that they see eye-to-eye on the need to continue in a determined fashion NATO's military operations against the brutal forces conducting this crackdown in Kosovo.
With respect to the details of what the Prime Minister received from President Milosevic, let me say that we regard this suggestion as falling far short of what is necessary in order for NATO to stop its air campaign. We have said what is required. Clearly, the proposals put forward by President Milosevic fall far short of what we think is necessary. Our position is clear: Milosevic must halt the offensive against the Kosovar Albanians, withdraw his forces, and embrace a settlement based on the Rambouillet framework.
QUESTION: Could you give more details on the Milosevic proposal?
MR. RUBIN: As far as I understand it, it's an indication that says he's prepared to pursue a political solution and indicates that if the bombing stops, then he would be prepared to reduce his forces and talk about a political solution. This is far short of what we think is necessary. We do appreciate the effort that Prime Minister Primakov made, and any movement towards our demands would be positive; but we regard this as falling far short.
QUESTION: What's the status of Rambouillet at this stage? I'm thinking specifically of the component which gives the Serbs sovereignty over the territory and ensures it by giving them control of the border posts. As we know now, their stripping all expelled refugees of all their papers. So if you have Serbs controlling the border posts, then they'll never come back in.
MR. RUBIN: We do believe that all the refugees must be able to return to Kosovo.
QUESTION: To follow up, does the Rambouillet plan, in that regard, make sense at this stage?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't think simply the fact that the Serb authorities have stripped people of their papers is going to prevent our determination to allow people to return to their homes.
QUESTION: You didn't mention this, but the reports from Europe say that Milosevic suggested a cease-fire. Is that part of your understanding?
MR. RUBIN: It was unclear to me, in my debriefing of what has been proposed, where exactly a cease-fire does or does not fit in. But regardless, we regard the proposals as woefully inadequate. They fall far short of what is necessary for NATO to stop its air campaign.
QUESTION: And on a related subject also, to Milosevic, has this government made a determination whether what is going on in Kosovo now amounts to genocide?
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated yesterday, and you were here, I said that we have very clear indicators that genocide is unfolding in Kosovo. We are looking at a mixture of confirmed and unconfirmed reports at this time. But we don't see any need to await confirmation of genocide; clearly, there are crimes against humanity occurring in Kosovo. Our response to this criminal activity by Milosevic's forces is taking place right now. The full response we are now embarked upon with our NATO allies is fully justified by the crimes against humanity we know are being committed.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary speak to Foreign Minister Ivanov; and if so, did she get a more direct idea of what exactly the proposals are?
MR. RUBIN: As of 3:00 p.m. today, she has not yet spoken to Foreign Minister Ivanov. The meeting just broke a few minutes ago between Prime Minister Primakov, Foreign Minister Ivanov and Chancellor Schroeder and the German Foreign Minister. She immediately got on the phone with Foreign Minister Fischer and then spoke as well to Foreign Ministers Vedrine and Cook. She has not yet spoken to Foreign Minister Ivanov.
The descriptions -- our understanding of this proposal is that they are not based on the demands the international community has set forth.
QUESTION: Today is like the fourth or fifth time in a row that you've had a strong warning from Milosevic about Montenegro, and this one seems to be even stronger than the previous ones. Is the US aware of any plot by Milosevic to try and overthrow the government there?
MR. RUBIN: We have concerns in this regard. We do have information suggesting this is a possibility, and we are determined to make clear our views about it in advance if it is going to occur.
QUESTION: Yesterday you said something like, Milosevic is in danger of losing Kosovo; and today the President, as you know, said that the prospect of international support for Serbia's claim to Kosovo is jeopardized by his current actions. Could you explain what is being said here?
MR. RUBIN: Yes. The fact of the matter is there are some terrible crimes going on in Kosovo. The Serb authorities are committing forced expulsions. We have evidence that houses are burning throughout Kosovo. People are being forced out of their towns and pushed towards the border. We have reports of possible atrocities in many different situations. What has happened is that through this brutality, the Serb authorities are radicalizing the population of Kosovo and making it all the more difficult to imagine a circumstance where the peoples can begin to live together again. We're not saying that's not possible. But clearly the radicalization grows with each atrocity and each brutality the Serbs conduct.
QUESTION: Does that also mean that the United States may not feel as strongly about opposing Kosovo's independence and keeping it within Serbia as a result of these actions?
MR. RUBIN: Our position on independence has not changed.
QUESTION: You are talking about all the refugees have to be returned to Kosovo; but according to all wire reports, all the houses, the villages burned by the Serb's forces. If they return to Kosovo, they don't have any sanctuary.
MR. RUBIN: Well, what we have said is that the Serb forces have to withdraw; the Serbs have to pursue a peace settlement based on the framework of Rambouillet. There were 250,000 displaced persons last fall. When the situation improved, they were able to return to their homes. What we're saying is we're determined that they will be able to return to their homes.
QUESTION: I wonder if you can help me with the middle ground between two of your responses. You say that the population of Kosovo may become so radicalized that it would no longer be able to tolerate control by Serbia; yet, at the same time, the United States does not support independence. Is there something in between there that you are leaning towards that you could tell us about?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: They seem to be contradictory. How do you square that?
MR. RUBIN: There is something in between.
QUESTION: There have been reports out of Europe that some of the ethnic Albanians involved with the peace process have been assassinated and are even being targeted. Do you know if there is anything like a hit list, or are these people just being picked up in the general sweeps that are going on; and what are we doing about it?
MR. RUBIN: Well, obviously, we're getting a lot of reports of these kinds of assassinations and target lists. It's very difficult to confirm each one of those reports. We've had some conflicting reports, for example, on the status of Mr. Agani in the last 24-hours and others. Clearly, there are people being killed in Kosovo for who they are and their ethnicity and their moderate position and their role as intellectuals and others. That is clearly going on.
We are continuing, as I think the Pentagon indicated, an air campaign that is now increasingly focused on a wider range of targets, including the capabilities to conduct these kinds of crackdowns and interfering and disrupting the ability of the Serb forces to conduct these crackdowns. As far as these types of crimes are concerned, we are collecting and will continue to collect all the evidence we can to make sure that those responsible are brought to justice. And we are going to share that information with the War Crimes Tribunal.
QUESTION: Jamie, yesterday you said that the ambassador had talked to Thaci. Has she talked to him?
MR. RUBIN: The Secretary.
QUESTION: Right, I'm sorry. You said that the Secretary had talked to Thaci the day before. Has she talked to him again?
MR. RUBIN: No, he called into the Department today and he provided another chilling account of what's going on in Kosovo. He basically indicated that the situation is worse today than it was yesterday.
QUESTION: Could you elaborate on that -- why it is worse, how it is worse?
MR. RUBIN: He said that the killing is more widespread; that there is shelling of a whole series of towns; that the Kosovar Liberation Army is doing the best it can under the circumstances but that it's becoming increasingly difficult. He indicated that people were being held in the soccer stadium in Pristina; that people were being held in two other locations; that several thousand people who had been evacuated from a particular town, whose name I don't have in front of me, are missing; and a number of other reports of that nature.
QUESTION: Are you able to confirm any of these reports, like the people being held in the soccer stadium, which would be an open target, I presume?
MR. RUBIN: We've heard a lot of reports of that. I'm not able to confirm it. What I am able to confirm is that there is widespread fires in Kosovo in many different towns, and the refugee flows we're able to confirm on our own. But as far as that particularly incident, I'm not.
QUESTION: You dismissed what Milosevic offered through Primakov as woefully inadequate and falling far short, and you restated what seems to be the standing US position without any wavering in it. However, did anything occur on the edges of this situation? Has Primakov made any headway to start any sort of a helpful or constructive dialogue? Is there any room, do you see any give at all in Milosevic's position; or is this a one-shot deal that is flatly off the mark?
MR. RUBIN: I wouldn't rule out efforts to continue to convince President Milosevic to reverse course. We're not going to dissuade people from doing so, if he really will reverse course. But what I've said is that the position as we understand it is woefully inadequate; it falls far short.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Russians have said whether they will make an effort?
MR. RUBIN: I don't have any information on their intentions.
QUESTION: I mean, they didn't tell the US they would?
MR. RUBIN: Oh, she hasn't spoken to Foreign Minister Ivanov yet today.
QUESTION: Primakov has a history of freelancing when on these diplomatic missions. Is there any indication that he did come up with any ideas of his own, other than the message he was supposed to deliver?
MR. RUBIN: Well, he wasn't going at our behest, so he wasn't delivering our message. As I indicated yesterday, the United States and Russia have very different views about the appropriateness of the use of force. So I don't expect him to have gone in there and made the case that we would have made for why the use of force is justified.
Primakov and Foreign Minister Ivanov were well aware of the West's and NATO's position with regard to what President Milosevic needs to do to reverse course. The proposal that President Milosevic proffered falls well short of that.
QUESTION: Given the history of fairly good relations between the United States and Russia, would you have expected Prime Minister Primakov to at least telephone some official in this country before he went to Germany or after he went to Germany? What do you make of this extended pregnant period of time before the Russians contact you, and the Secretary's inability to get a hold of Ivanov?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I didn't say she was trying to get a hold of Ivanov, so that information you suggest is incorrect.
Let me say this -- Secretary Albright has been in regular contact with Foreign Minister Ivanov in the last couple of days. She spoke to him yesterday; she spoke to him the day before yesterday; and she spoke to him on Friday. So we've been in regular contact with Foreign Minister Ivanov. As I indicated to you, the meetings just took place with Foreign Minister Fischer and Chancellor Schroeder just in the last hour and a half. Foreign Minister Ivanov was meeting with Prime Minister Primakov and Chancellor Schroeder and then German Foreign Minister Fischer called her immediately afterwards. So we got a read-out through that mechanism. I don't think the Russians had any doubt that the first person that Foreign Minister Fischer was going to call was going to be Secretary Albright, and I would expect Secretary Albright to be in touch with Foreign Minister Ivanov shortly.
QUESTION: No ill feelings, then?
QUESTION: During Secretary Albright's conversation with President Djukanovic, did she explain what is viewed by the Montenegrin people as a contradiction -- on the one hand the United States expressing strong and unwavering support for the leadership of Montenegro, yet on the other, bombing various sites within that province?
MR. RUBIN: I think the leadership in Montenegro understands there are certain targets -- particularly air defense targets -- that are in Montenegro that we can't responsibly leave off our list. But what we have said is we are exercising restraint and care in the targeting of FRY military capabilities in Montenegro.
QUESTION: Is Montenegrin leadership to understand that the bombing campaign in Montenegro is not finished as far as NATO is concerned?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not in a position to specify future targeting.
QUESTION: One other question on Pristina. From the Thaci conversation or anything else, can you say anything more about what's going on in Pristina? There are some reports that an ethnic cleansing campaign has begun there in a couple of quarters where they are literally clearing everybody out, all the Albanians out. Do you know anything about that?
MR. RUBIN: Yesterday, Mr. Thaci told the Secretary that Pristina had become kind of a dead city. We have also received reports since then of people being moved out of certain neighborhoods of Pristina, and we've received some horrible oral reports about what is going on there.
QUESTION: It looks like the Macedonians have again restricted the inflow of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Does the United States take a position on this? Are you in favor of completely unrestricted inflows?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have been working very closely with Macedonia throughout this crisis. There were times when refugee flows were restricted and then opened, and we obviously want to do all we can and work with the Macedonian Government to do all we can to make it possible for refugees to be cared for and fed and sheltered.
QUESTION: Have you asked them to --
MR. RUBIN: I don't know what specific direct contact we've had, but we obviously want to be able to work with them in making it possible for the refugees to be taken care of.
QUESTION: There have been reports that the Serbs are holding back men in Kosovo, not allowing them to leave. But I believe last night, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, someone from that group, said that some young women -- reports that young women are being held back as well. Can you elaborate on what you're hearing?
MR. RUBIN: Again, we all, I think, are dealing with the same database of reports, oral reports, that some women are being held back and possibly raped. I mean, it's all very horrific. I just don't have any confirmation of it.
QUESTION: Can we bring two things into this discussion? The Yeltsin speech, the Yeltsin message to the nation, would seem to be heavily critical of the Kosovo operation and conciliatory, for instance, on arms control. Is it about what you expected from the Russian leader; have you had a chance to appraise it? Secondly, this is, I guess, a question for a therapist but if you could indulge the question, is there any size-up here of why Milosevic offered what he offered? Is he beginning to feel the pain, or is he playing some game where he will move back about a quarter of an inch if he can get the bombings stopped? What is he up to, do you suppose?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I'm neither a psychiatrist nor a criminal psychiatrist. Let me say that it's not possible for me to ascertain what his motivations are. The fact of the matter is that the Serbs know precisely what they need to do, and they know how to go about doing it. If they choose to reverse course, then NATO's bombing campaign will stop.
With respect to President Yeltsin, he also indicated that Russia did not have any intention of being dragged into this conflict. He indicated there were certain things they were going to continue to work with the United States and the West on -- certain things that they fundamentally disagreed with. It's much like my answer to someone's question yesterday about our views about the effect this is having on the US-Russian relationship. That is very simple: we fundamentally disagree about the question of whether we should have stood idly by and watched, by doing nothing, when President Milosevic and his military and police forces conducted this massive crackdown on Kosovo.
We think that NATO did the right thing by making sure that Milosevic and his forces pay a heavy price for this kind of brutality and barbarism. The Russians have a different view. Meanwhile, we have common interests on arms control, on highly enriched uranium agreement that was worked on, on the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty. As you know, the IMF Director was in Moscow yesterday, working on economic matters. So we will continue to work together where we can and try to overcome the differences where they exist. They clearly exist on this subject.
QUESTION: Jamie, when you say that NATO and the United States expects Milosevic to agree to a cease-fire, withdraw his troops and embrace the settlement of the Rambouillet framework, are we to understand that to include NATO-led implementation force and, obviously, the cease-fire?
MR. RUBIN: Well, our view hasn't changed on this. In the absence of an implementation force, we have no reason to believe that any agreement would work; because in the past, President Milosevic has not implemented agreements that did not have an implementation force to ensure that they were implemented.
QUESTION: The rhetoric coming out of NATO in Brussels seems to be getting harsher. Yesterday it was, this is compared to possibly the greatest humanitarian catastrophe since the end of the Second World War. Today it's being likened to 1975 and Cambodia. Does the State Department or the US share specifically these analogies that are being made in Brussels?
MR. RUBIN: Well, I don't want to comment on every comment a spokesman makes in another part of the world. Let me say that clearly some terrible, terrible things are going on in Kosovo. We're talking about forced expulsions; we're talking about rape; we're talking about mass murder; we're talking about hundreds of thousands of people being moved out of their homes. It's a terrible, terrible thing. Crimes against humanity are occurring, and there are indications that genocide is occurring. There is no need to compare it.
QUESTION: You used genocide -- indicators of genocide yesterday. The White House spokesman, when asked about it, said he'd like to look into it; it has legal implications. Today he said exactly what you said yesterday. It's a term of art but also a legal term. Is there any serious analysis being made within the Administration if this indeed is genocide under international law? Because if it is, there are all sorts of implications.
MR. RUBIN: Let me say we have been and are taking significant action through NATO right now to confront the criminal conduct of the Yugoslav Army and police in Kosovo as a result of the campaign that's going on.
Declaring it genocide wouldn't change our determination to continue to pursue action through NATO.
I fear for my legal hide.
QUESTION: No, you used the phrase "mass murder," and Strobe Talbott, in The New York Times this morning used a phrase, "frenzied slaughter." It implies that you actually have some examples, some facts that you haven't quite maybe given us all the --
MR. RUBIN: Well, I've given you as much information as I can, Roy. I will continue, during my briefings, to provide you as much information as I can in this forum. We are making judgments based on a variety of reporting, a variety of our own information; and we have come to the conclusion that crimes against humanity are occurring.
QUESTION: Jamie, to just follow up on that earlier point, you say you're taking action within NATO. What do you mean by that?
MR. RUBIN: The air strikes that are being conducted every day, the determination we have to see this air campaign through to the end.
QUESTION: In terms of using any sort of prosecutorial means to go after Milosevic or any other members of the Serb leadership, are you doing anything --
MR. RUBIN: No, I think you're mixing apples and oranges there. What I'm saying is that the fact that we know crimes against humanity are occurring has caused us to take military action against the Serbs in a massive air campaign that we're determined to see through the end. Whether or not the formal definition of genocide has been met, there are indicators that genocide is occurring, and our reaction would be the same.
As far as the criminal aspect of this is concerned, let me say this -- we are determined to use all of our available resources to try to determine what's going on there, to try to find the evidence and to make that evidence available so that those who are conducting this criminal campaign are brought to justice.
QUESTION: Do you know what the legal implications are of a finding of genocide?
MR. RUBIN: My understanding is it would be no different than what we're doing right now, which is conducting military operations against the Serbs in Kosovo.
QUESTION: No, no (inaudible) prosecution. The United States took a long time subscribing to the concept of genocide because isolationists felt it would involve the United States in all sorts of international disputes that maybe the US would have a different view of. So if it's genocide, that means the US is obliged by treaty to support, as you said, war crimes, et cetera. It's more than just bombing the Serbs.
MR. RUBIN: It's also to take action, and we are taking action. Our legal scholar in the second row has nodded his head, so I feel much better.
QUESTION: Going back to October '98 and the Holbrooke-brokered truce, up until the start of the bombing, the human rights groups list several hundred people, a number of incidents -- several hundred horrific incidents where approximately 200 or 300 people were killed. Since the bombing began, you've got mass displacement, hundreds of people being killed and so on and so forth. Is there any concern that the NATO cure is worse than the problem to begin with?
MR. RUBIN: We think it would perverse in the extreme to blame NATO for the conduct and barbarity of President Milosevic's forces. This campaign has been going on for 14 months. There are thousands of people that died over the last year; hundreds of thousands that were forced from their homes. In January of this year, there was a massacre at Racak. We had every reason to believe that President Milosevic had both the intent and the capability to conduct offensive operations during the very time we were negotiating in France. Prior to the NATO air strikes, this offensive operation began.
Has it intensified? Yes, it's intensified. The difference now between now and the last 14 months is that President Milosevic's forces are going to pay a heavy, heavy price for their intent and their capability to conduct this kind of crackdown.
QUESTION: Did the North Atlantic Council today reach any consensus on approving a third phase for the air campaign?
MR. RUBIN: I don't want to get into phases. I believe agreement was reached, but you would have to check with NATO.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Montenegro for a second? Two questions -- you said that there are indications that Milosevic might be trying to topple the government there?
MR. RUBIN: Over the last couple of years, there's been many indications that he has worked with certain allies in Montenegro to destabilize President Djukanovic. We have indications in recent days that that is a risk. It justified the Secretary writing Djukanovic a letter, justified her speaking to him yesterday and making clear the points that I made clear to you.
QUESTION: Okay, just to flesh it out a little more and then to follow up, can you say a little more about these indications?
MR. RUBIN: No.
QUESTION: Okay. There's also reports out of Montenegro that the Montenegrins have been doing some things bureaucratically within their government to separate them bureaucratically from Belgrade -- some legal changes, some parliamentary changes -- that are viewed as quite provocative in Belgrade. Can you talk about that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, all I can say is that we believe that President Djukanovic has been pursuing a democratic program in Montenegro, and has been trying to disassociate his government from the criminal program that has been pursued by the Yugoslav authorities in Kosovo. So the fact that Montenegro is taking steps to disassociate itself from the policies that are being pursued in Kosovo, we regard as a good thing.
QUESTION: Do you think that Montenegro might deserve, perhaps, some sort of greater autonomy from Belgrade?
MR. RUBIN: We haven't changed our position on the status of Montenegro.
QUESTION: I'm not sure I've ever heard your position on the status of Montenegro. Do you have it?
MR. RUBIN: It's on the record and it remains unchanged.
QUESTION: Which record is that?
MR. RUBIN: The record we'll provide you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Do you have any refugee counts going into Albania? There have been reports today that it could be up to 100,000.
MR. RUBIN: UNHCR reports an additional 5,000 have fled into Albania since yesterday's reports. This means that some 70,000 refugees have moved into Albania since March 24, bringing the total to over 83,000 refugees. In addition, some 20,000 have moved into Montenegro in the past several days, bringing that total up to approximately 45,000. UNHCR also reports there are approximately 25,000 refugees in Macedonia, and some 15,000 in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
We continue to work closely with UNHCR and other relief organizations to increase their capacity to respond to the conflict. Secretary Albright was informed the European countries are going to be taking significant steps in the next couple of days to assist the refugees. And as you know from the briefing yesterday, we are stepping up our efforts as well.
QUESTION: Do you have anything out of the pledging conference in Geneva?
MR. RUBIN: I have no new information on that.
QUESTION: Is this in addition to the $8.5 million announced on Friday?
MR. RUBIN: As I indicated, as Julia Taft indicated yesterday, there will be reprogramming monies available in addition to the $8.5 million.
QUESTION: Along the lines of the refugee assistance for Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, whomever, have you gotten any requests from any of those governments for American troops to help out with refugee assistance?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware of that. Let me say that we are going to be putting together a plan to try to assist the refugees as best we can.
QUESTION: Given the reports of genocide and the war crimes that you say are occurring, how is the United States encouraging regime change in Belgrade, and are you seeking regime change there?
MR. RUBIN: I have nothing new for you on that. We're conducting a massive air campaign. It's been in operation many days, and it will continue until either President Milosevic reverses course or the military objectives are met. Secretary Albright has been very heartened in her discussions with her counterparts that what has happened in the last few days is the images that have been seen around the world of the terrible brutalities and atrocities of the Serb regime have only redoubled the determination of NATO's leaders from all 19 countries to continue this air campaign until it's completed.
QUESTION: Could I follow up? Did you anticipate anything like the scale of what has occurred and the need for a NATO response?
MR. RUBIN: Absolutely. I think we understood completely that the offensive that we expected this spring, knowing of what happened last fall when 250,000 people were moved out of their homes and put into the hills, that we could be dealing with a situation of this magnitude.
QUESTION: Jamie, the Croatian Foreign Minister is coming in to see the Secretary tomorrow. That brings to mind the Bosnia situation and the apparent lack of spill-over. So it's sort of a two-part question. Is the Secretary is it just he that's coming, or is the Secretary going to have now consultations with other Foreign Ministers in the region in Washington? And if Milosevic is keeping his part of the bargain in Bosnia, why do you suppose he is, or is he?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we don't believe Milosevic has been a helpful influence on the situation in Bosnia in recent months; on the contrary, he's played a negative role in trying to stir up political opposition to the agreement there. Nevertheless, we have NATO's SFOR force on the ground that is ensuring its implementation and is there to provide a secure environment for the peace process to work.
The Secretary will meet with Foreign Minister Granic here in Washington. They will meet at the State Department tomorrow late in the morning. The Secretary plans to review developments in Kosovo and to express appreciation for Croatia's forthcoming stand on NATO operations there. She will also review US-Croatian relations and discuss issues related to implementation of the Dayton peace accords.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- permission for using their airspace -- have they given permission?
MR. RUBIN: You would have to check that with the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Could I ask another question about the goals, as they now seem to be emerging, of the Milosevic campaign? One of the often discussed theories is that he may be trying to clear Kosovo -- certainly at least the top third of Kosovo -- and to resettle that with Serbs and to have the bottom two-thirds either an empty space or whoever is left there. Is there any indication that you've seen that this is actually his goal, his policy?
MR. RUBIN: As far as what his intentions are, I do not want to make any specific comment. All I can tell you is what we've seen; and what we've seen is people kicked out of their homes, tens of thousands of people on the move, terrible reports of atrocities. But I don't want to speculate further.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- partition, because this might also be, at the end of the day, if negotiations ever take place, this is obviously going to be a proposal that people will be making -- to partition Kosovo into a Serb-ethnic --
MR. RUBIN: Our position on basic political configurations in the former Yugoslavia hasn't changed. I have no new positions to provide you.
QUESTION: Follow-up on the previous topic of the alleged Serb atrocities. In light of the reports that you're getting, how realistic is it to work with Milosevic after the campaign ends on peace in Kosovo?
MR. RUBIN: Well, clearly, as the President indicated, the international community is finding his policies increasingly abhorrent. On the other hand, he does now control the military force in Kosovo and in Serbia, and he is in charge. Meanwhile, we are pursuing a democratization policy in Serbia to assist in various ways those who are trying to pursue democracy so that some day Serbia can really be a democracy.
QUESTION: On the KLA, are you getting any reports or information on the status of the KLA now, in light of the Serb offensive? How viable an organization is it now politically and militarily?
MR. RUBIN: Well, clearly, they're having a tough time right now with over 10,000 Yugoslav forces involved directly in an offensive, supported by another 30,000 in the region. They are outgunned substantially with heavy equipment -- 300-plus tanks -- heavy other artillery and armored vehicles that they don't have. They're having a very tough time of it.
QUESTION: Jamie, going back to Bosnia, even the President talked about the similarities between Bosnia and Kosovo. While a lot of analysts think there are similarities, some think there are big differences; one being that while the bombing back in '95 eventually led to Milosevic backing down, in part that's because it came four years into a war -- both sides were tired and exhausted and ready to go to the peace table. But here both sides may not be so willing and they're probably willing to keep fighting. What do you say to that?
MR. RUBIN: Well, there are similarities and differences between Bosnia and Kosovo. One of the big similarities is the brutal policies of President Milosevic. One of the differences is that the international community acted very early on in making sure that we didn't stand idly by as millions of refugees were kicked out of their homes, as they were in Bosnia. The international community got together and is making sure that President Milosevic and his forces pay a heavy, heavy price; that they can't conduct the kind of grisly policies in Kosovo with impunity that they conducted in Bosnia with impunity for many years. That's one of the big differences.
As far as where it will all end up, we're determined to continue this air campaign until President Milosevic reverses course or its objectives are met. That will be different than Bosnia.
QUESTION: Are you really saying that we stood idly by for three years while millions were evicted from their homes in Bosnia?
MR. RUBIN: Well, the air strikes didn't get conducted until 1995.
QUESTION: What does the US make of these appeals by certain prominent Serb politicians that NATO should stop this because they are brother Christians for this coming Holy Week -- not just a Christian holiday but also a Jewish holiday?
MR. RUBIN: I retract the word "idly."
QUESTION: Does that mean you didn't hear the first part?
MR. RUBIN: I heard your question.
QUESTION: Okay. What do you make of these calls? And then an adjunct to that, the Vatican and the Pope have also said that it is bad for this bombing to be going on during this most holy of weeks.
MR. RUBIN: I understand that many of these people didn't think the bombing should start. So that's important information as to the motivations of the speakers who disagree on the rationale and justification and need for the air campaign to begin with.
As far as the religious question is concerned, let me say this -- we obviously respect all religions of the world, and we are going to pursue this campaign based on what's going on on the ground. If President Milosevic is going to be pursuing these crimes against humanity regardless of religious holidays, it would be very unseemly for the West to take into account that the people on the ground aren't getting any advantage of.
QUESTION: The Administration has said the NATO argument is with Mr. Milosevic. Yet every day in Belgrade there are these large gatherings, there are rock concerts and so forth, where thousands and thousands of people come out in support of the policies, wearing targets and so forth. So isn't, in fact, part of the argument with the Serbian people?
MR. RUBIN: The argument is with President Milosevic and those who support his policies, not the Serbian people. I don't believe that all the Serbian people support his policies. Clearly, there was to be expected a certain backlash in the short term. But as people learn more about what's really going on and to the extent they are not blinded by the propaganda and disinformation spewing out of Serbian television, they will find themselves in less and less support for the policies of President Milosevic.
QUESTION: Can we go to another subject? About US policy on an Israeli withdrawal, one reason being that the Israeli Cabinet took those accounts very seriously and it became notations in their meetings yesterday. Could you run us by it one more time? We know there's a parallel situation; if the Palestinians do something, the Israelis have to do something -- somebody has to do something first. There's still an impression -- I don't know how widespread in Israel -- that the US view is the Palestinians have to move first in some additional security areas before Israel would be considered obliged by the US' reading of the Wye agreement to continue the withdrawal. Could you (inaudible) or any version, obviously we can put to rest maybe for a day?
MR. RUBIN: Okay, let me say this. Yesterday, I was asked about a report in a respected newspaper by a very respected reporter, based on a conversation with a senior administration official. I disputed the report because the senior administration official, whoever he or she might be, isn't always right.
Our view -- the view of the State Department and the Secretary of State -- is that our position on implementation of the Wye River memorandum has not changed. The issue is not who goes first. Rather than focus on sequence, the government of Israel should focus on implementing their obligations. We're calling on both parties to focus on a serious process of implementing their responsibilities. If we had a serious process under way, one in which both sides were fulfilling their obligations, we would not be having this discussion.
On the issue of implementation, our position is as follows. During phase one, both sides work together to fulfill their obligations under the Wye River memorandum. Under phase two, the Palestinians have fulfilled some of their commitments, particularly with respect to fighting terror. There are other commitments under phase two that they have yet to fulfill. The Israelis, for their part, have not fulfilled any of their commitments under phase two.
Our view is that both sides should move forward in a parallel phased approach to fulfill all of their commitments under the Wye River memorandum. In short, if we had a serious process engaged right now, we wouldn't be engaged in discussion of sequence.
QUESTION: Today surfaced again another old problem that you might have something on, the US view on: Palestinian offices in East Jerusalem. There's a dispute over them. The Prime Minister is outraged or something, very angry about the situation. There seems to be two types of offices, those that go way back and efforts, perhaps, to establish some presence in East Jerusalem currently. Does the US have a view on this current dispute?
MR. RUBIN: We have seen reports of the closing of offices associated with the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem. As with other issues relating to Jerusalem, we regard this is as an extremely sensitive matter. We urge both sides to avoid steps that further complicate an already volatile issue, and we do understand that both sides are in contact about it now.
QUESTION: Do you have any interpretation of Oslo and Wye and Hebron, all the above, that bears on whether these offices are supposed to remain open?
MR. RUBIN: Not in front of me.
QUESTION: Jamie, on Israeli withdrawal, I seem to remember that when this came up at the time, you said that --
MR. RUBIN: Which issue?
QUESTION: The question of the next Israeli withdrawal.
MR. RUBIN: Okay, we were just on the offices here. You're stepping back, okay.
QUESTION: I seem to remember that you said that you didn't see any justification for delay in the withdrawal. Now you seem to be saying that the Palestinians also have to take some --
MR. RUBIN: I don't think that's exactly what I said when this first come up. I think I've been quite clear: we want both sides to fulfill their obligations. We believe that the Palestinians have moved forward on some of their obligations, including fighting terror. Both sides now need to focus on fulfilling their obligations.
QUESTION: Could you be more specific on what the Palestinians need to do?
MR. RUBIN: All the obligations and the Israelis --
QUESTION: What are they?
MR. RUBIN: I'll be happy to provide you a copy of the Wye River memorandum.
QUESTION: I have it, but you are the judges of what they have completed and what they have not.
MR. RUBIN: What I said is some of their obligations, including fighting terror, they have been implementing. Let me say, our interest here is not to get into a public squabble and a public scorecard. Our interest is in getting both sides to approach this matter seriously.
QUESTION: One more on it.
MR. RUBIN: Okay.
QUESTION: Which comes to mind -- and I won't get into the difficult background because I think you know it, and I know it. Is any assurance in the midst of going out, or has any assurance gone out to the Palestinians on the withdrawal? Should I go a little further?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: All right, you don't want the Palestinians to be making unilateral statehood declarations. It's my understanding part of the deal is that the US, who will submit a statement, that it intends to see Israel to continue to withdrawal. Has any assurance like that gone to them?
MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard about that deal.
QUESTION: See, they are concerned also about yesterday. They think that means you've eased back on withdrawal.
MR. RUBIN: I haven't heard about that deal.
QUESTION: But you're not easing back on withdrawal, that's clear.
MR. RUBIN: Our position remains unchanged.
QUESTION: Yes, Jamie, I have two questions, one on Cambodia and one on North Korea. There was a Reuters report this morning which said that Senator Mitch McConnell apparently told Hun Sen in Cambodia that if Khmer Rouge leaders are not tried in an international tribunal, there could be a complete cut off of US aid to Cambodia. I was wondering whether that reflects Administration policy?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not aware that we coordinated that with Senator McConnell.
QUESTION: Okay, and then also, do you have anything on the conclusion of the missile talk sin Pyongyang?
MR. RUBIN: With respect to the missile talks, let me say that we do have a comment on the missile talks. The US and North Korea met March 29-30, for another round of missile talks. The talks occurred in Pyongyang in North Korea, and the US delegation was led by our Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Einhorn. The talks were business like, substantive and detailed. The entire range of missile proliferation issues were discussed and covered. We used the talks to press our serious concerns about North Korea's development, testing, deployment and export of missiles and missile technology and to call for tight constraints on these activities.
In particular, we stressed that further launches of long missiles or further exports of such missiles or their technology would have serious negative implications for US-North Korean relations. The sides agreed to hold another round of talks as soon as possible. We will work out the timing and venue through the New York channel.
It's not surprising to us that we have not yet reached an agreement. For those of you who ask me about the Kumchang-ni talks time after time after time, you know that negotiating with North Korea is a marathon process with our marathon negotiators, and they are determined to continue to pursue our objectives.
QUESTION: This is a follow up to yesterday question, that the Japanese Government has now confirmed that the two ships they shot at were North Korean. Is there a US reaction; and also, did they discuss this at the missile talks?
MR. RUBIN: The United States remains seriously concerned about the incursion of the two unidentified ships into Japanese waters. We have been in close consultations with our Japanese allies on this issue, and we continue to cooperate with Japan on this matter. As regards whether this came up in our discussions with North Korea, we do not wish to comment on this kind of detail of our diplomatic exchange.
QUESTION: Jamie, when you say that further launches would complicate --
MR. RUBIN: Serious negative implications for US-North Korean relations.
QUESTION: Does that include attempts to launch communication satellites or other types of satellites?
MR. RUBIN: Well, what we're talking about is long-range missiles, and we define that our way. A long-range missile is a long-range missile, but I will try to get a technical answer for you.
QUESTION: But when you say that's serious implications for North Korea, does that mean you're going to cancel the potato program?
MR. RUBIN: Well, we have developed an ongoing process with North Korea, a step-by-step program including the agreed framework and all that goes with it that has very serious programs. We have this food aid; we have a lot of other programs. We have always made our policy on food aid based on humanitarian concerns. I don't want to be more specific on what a serious negative implication would be, other than to say that it would have serious negative implications.
QUESTION: I understand you didn't reach agreement in these talks, but can you tell us whether you saw any progress? And can you in some way describe the response of the North Koreans to these points that you put to them?
MR. RUBIN: Well, from our perspective, we achieved the objective of pressing our concern about the North Koreans' indigenous missile activities and missile exports and of calling for tight constraints on these activities. We've only had four meetings to discuss this important and complex issue. We don't think it's surprising that we have not yet reached agreement. They did agree to hold another round of talks as soon as possible, so we're able to continue the process.
It would not be appropriate for me to get into the details of the talks; however, we made our concerns very clear. We have made clear our concerns with both missile exports and with indigenous development and deployment activities. Both elements must be addressed. We've also made clear to the North Koreans the US is not prepared to "compensate" North Korea for stopping destabilizing missile sales it should not be making in the first place.
QUESTION: Can you give us any readout on the meeting with the President-elect of Nigeria today?
MR. RUBIN: Yes, the President, I think, will be meeting shortly or is now meeting with the Nigerian President, so I don't want to give you too much information about that pending that meeting; except to say that Secretary Albright did discuss bilateral issues, including regional security and the challenges Nigeria faces as it moves to inaugurate its first democratic government in over 15 years.
Nigeria is Africa's most populous country. A successful transition to civilian democratic rule there will impact not only Nigeria but the whole region. We hope to work with Nigeria to ensure its successful transition to the economic, political and social leader it can and should be in Africa.
The discussions will be wide-ranging, focusing on how we can best work together with the current government of Nigeria and the President-elect on the challenges and opportunities Nigeria has at hand. These include economic reform, reconstituting democratic institutions, improved cooperation in counter narcotics efforts and Nigeria's role in regional peacekeeping.
QUESTION: Did you say the Secretary will be going to his inauguration?
MR. RUBIN: I have no detail on that plan or non-plan.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing concluded at 3:45 P.M.)
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