U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing
January 13, 1997
Briefer: Nicholas Burns
3-4....."This Day in Diplomacy" Series: Fourth Anniversary of the Signing of the Chemical Weapons Convention
2,4.....Visit of American Diplomat Carey Cavanaugh to Cyprus
2,4-7....--Discussion of Cyprus Government Decision to Acquire Russian Missiles
2........--Steps to Reduce Risk of Incidents Along the Ceasefire Lines
2........--Moratorium of Greek and Turkish Combat Aircraft over Cyprus
11-12...Reported Russia-Belarus Merger
15......New York Talks
What else do we have here? I spoke to our American envoy, Carey Cavanaugh just about an hour and a half ago from Nicosia. He was leaving there for Athens. Let me just tell you about my appreciation of his talks over the last 24 hours.
He was able to meet yesterday and today the leaders of the two sides on Cyprus. He thinks those meetings were very useful and positive. He made clear the view of the United States that the recent decision by the Government of Cyprus to acquire Russian missiles in the future was a mistake and that the United States will remain opposed to this purchase of the anti-aircraft system.
Similarly, he stressed very firm United States opposition to some of the aggressive statements made by the Turkish Government -- by the Turkish Foreign Minister and Defense Minister -- late last week.
He had a meeting with President Clerides and he was able to obtain concrete assurances that no component of the SA-10 surface-to-air missile system will be delivered to Cyprus during the next 16 months. This effectively, in the view of the United States, diffuses this atmosphere of crisis over the missiles in Cyprus. It provides time to the Government of Cyprus, the Greek Government, and the Turkish Government to resolve this issue.
He also discussed with President Clerides and Mr. Rauf Denktash, the Turkish Cypriot leader, additional steps to reduce the risk of incidents along the cease-fire lines. Both President Clerides and Mr. Denktash agreed to give their full support to immediate implementation of the package of measures proposed by the United Nations. This includes further unmanning of positions along the cease-fire lines, the unloading of weapons, and the adoption of a code of conduct which makes clear that force can only be used in life-threatening situations.
We understand that the U.N. forces in Cyprus representatives will be engaging both parties on this particular package of issues during the week.
An additional item raised during Carey Cavanaugh's visit was the U.S.-sponsored moratorium on the flight of Greek and Turkish military aircraft over Cyprus. Discussions on this question will continue when Carey visits Athens tomorrow and Wednesday, and Ankara, I believe, on Thursday. He'll be seeing Foreign and Defense Ministry officials in both of those countries.
I think Carey is off to a terrific start. I think he's been able to articulate what is at the heart of the issue here, and that is that problems should be resolved peacefully and not through the threat of force or the use of force.
I should also tell you that Assistant Secretary of State Bob Pelletreau has arrived in Ankara just a couple of minutes ago. He's going to be conducting talks among the Kurdish factions beginning tomorrow. The Turkish and U.K. governments will be presented at those talks. These follow on the very successful talks we had here at the Department of State last week. You remember, our goal is to try to promote a reconciliation among the various factions in northern Iraq and also to make sure that we do everything we can to reduce the influence of Saddam Hussein in northern Iraq.
Finally, I thought after eyeballs were -- after your eyes were glazing over Friday when I did my last "This Day in Diplomacy," I thought I would try to give you one today which is directly tied to a current policy issue, and that's the Chemical Weapons Convention. Four years today, Secretary of State Larry Eagleburger signed, in Paris, the Chemical Weapons Convention. I believe since then 160 countries have signed the treaty; 67 have ratified it.
You know our position on chemical weapons. They're capable of causing mass and indiscriminate loss of human life. A drop of nerve agent the size of a pin head can kill people. A carefully executed poison gas attack against unprotected troops or civilians can cause many thousands of casualties.
We reflect upon the fact that this treaty was committed to you by the United States four years ago, by President Bush and by Secretary of State Eagleburger. As you know, the ratification of this treaty is a priority for the Clinton Administration. Ambassador Albright said in her hearings last week this would be one of the earliest priorities for her tenure as Secretary of State. That's certainly true of all of us in the Administration.
We mark the Fourth Anniversary in the hope that the Senate will see its way forward to ratification so that the United States can participate in the committees that will run this convention and, therefore, have a hand in designing the rules and regulations under which we all must live in the future.
QUESTION: Just back to Carey Cavanaugh's mission. You said that they had accepted in principle the four steps you mentioned?
MR. BURNS: Yes.
QUESTION: A ban on overflights, the code of conduct, unmanning some positions, and continued talks?
MR. BURNS: They agreed to give their full support to those initiatives. These initiatives are in a package of measures proposed by the U.N. forces in Cyprus -- the U.N. representatives in Cyprus. The U.N. will be pulling them together, the Turkish Cypriots and the Cypriot Government, this week to see if they can nail both of them down on full acceptance of them. So full support is the language that Carey and I talked about.
QUESTION: But it hasn't yet been accepted?
MR. BURNS: I think in diplomatic parlance you're right to assume that. "Full support" means they've said they're going to give their full support to it. It doesn't mean they sign on the dotted line yet.
QUESTION: Also, Mr. Clerides didn't agree to cancel the missile sale; he just agreed not to deploy the missile purchase? Not to deploy for 16 months?
MR. BURNS: My understanding is that President Clerides is standing by his decision to purchase the system but has pledged to Carey Cavanaugh today that he will not deploy any aspect of it or introduce any element -- not even import the parts -- into Cyprus for 16 months. That should do away with some of these very aggressive statements that we've seen from the Government in Turkey. There's no need for the Government of Turkey to exaggerate the importance of the events this week. They have a lot of time to work with the Cypriot Government to defuse any kind of misunderstandings.
QUESTION: And if he agrees not to bring any, physically, to the island for 16 months, what does that do to the deployment schedule?
MR. BURNS: We understand all along, from our discussions with the Cypriot Government, that deployment would be roughly 16 to 18 months or more from the date of purchase. The date of purchase, I believe, is sometime a week or so ago. I think it's certainly a good and reasonable move by the Government of Cyprus to commit itself, to give us this period of reflection so at least the Turkish Government can understand that there's no need to exaggerate at all the import of what has happened here, and that the Turkish Government might devote itself to a reasonable discussion of these issues in contrast to some of the statements that were made by the Foreign and Defense Ministers last week.
QUESTION: Nick, even though you don't like the sale, might this not turn out to be somewhat of a master stroke or at least a causative way to put a bookend on -- and put pressure on the parties to a negotiate a peace agreement?
MR. BURNS: We hope that the current sense of crisis produced by the purchase decision by the Cypriot Government and the corresponding remarks by the Turkish Government might lead both of them to reconsider the avenues in which they were heading. We hope very much that this will lead to some kind improvement in the political discussions and more progress than we've seen to date. It's been 22 years where people have been talking about peace in Cyprus and there isn't peace yet. We hope very much that 1997 could be that year.
QUESTION: Did Cavanaugh get any sense that, in fact, there was more interest revived in trust in a negotiated settlement?
MR. BURNS: He's only completed one-third of his trip. He has to see what he hears and see what they say in both Athens and Ankara. I don't want to predict any kind of sea change in the attitudes of the parties out there, except to say that the United Nations, the United States and a lot of European countries are committed to doing everything we can to help in these negotiations. We've got a Special Presidential Emissary, Mr. Beattie. We have Ambassador Ken Brill. We have a lot of people who can work on this. What the international community needs is, we need some willing partners in the parties to the Cyprus problem.
QUESTION: I don't understand how the disclosure of what was already known, in other words, that it would be 16 to 18 months before these weapons were available to the Greek Cypriots changes anything. You say it gives time. If that is the case, is the United States hoping that the Greek Cypriots change their mind and send these things back, or don't go through with the purchase? Or that the Turks, indeed, will accept the deployment of these? I don't understand.
MR. BURNS: I think President Clerides' statement today, his promise to the United States, is significant in the following light, Steve. Cyprus could
have decided to advance the deployment of these missile systems, especially given the very hostile response by the Turkish Government. That could have produced a real crisis in the eastern Mediterranean. Instead, not only has Cyprus said it will not deploy in 16 to 18 months, President Clerides has given concrete assurances that no component of the entire system will be delivered to the island in the next 16 months. There won't be a piece of hardware over which the Turkish Government can launch any objections. That is a reasonable, good faith effort by the President of Cyprus, we think, to try to help reduce the sense of crisis.
QUESTION: But how? Eighteen months from how the crisis resumes.
MR. BURNS: The problem we had last week, Steve, with the reaction of the Turkish Government was, it was exaggerated; it was much too reflexive and knee-jerk. The fact is that there are 16 months to talk about the potential deployment of an anti-aircraft system. It's not going to happen next week or next month, and so this saber rattling from Ankara really ought to stop, because it's not consistent with where the diplomacy is. President Clerides' actions today, I think, are testimony to that.
QUESTION: Nick, could I nail something down on the Middle East talks.
MR. BURNS: Yes. I think we still have a lot on Cyprus. We will just stick to that. Yes, Yasmine.
QUESTION: Actually, I'm confused about several things -- I'm sorry -- first of all, on Steve's question, can you say that the U.S. Government is hoping that in 16, 18 months there will be a major change in this situation so that Cypriot government will cancel the deal for good?
MR. BURNS: The United States has not changed its position enunciated a week ago today. We are opposed to the acquisition by Cyprus of the surface-to-air system. We are opposed to its deployment, and we cannot force the Government of Cyprus not to deploy. That's a decision that only the Government of Cyprus can make.
On the other hand, we're very much opposed to the hostile and aggressive statements of last week by two senior officials of the Turkish Government. We think the situation ought to calm down. We think that all sides should show restraint. That's what we're arguing for. President Clerides has given us now a considerable period of time for that kind of restraint to be imposed.
QUESTION: Also, you talked about several measures for the immediate implementation of which both sides expressed full support, you said. These measures -- I might be mistaken about -- but these measures at this point do not include the moratorium, do they?
MR. BURNS: These are the measures that I talked to. It does not talk about a moratorium, no.
QUESTION: But my term is still on the table.
MR. BURNS: But it talks about some practical ways to reduce the potential of conflict along the cease-fire lines. We've seen two people killed over the last six months -- a Turkish soldier and an innocent Greek Cypriot civilian both killed over the last six months. We'd like to work with the parties to try to reduce that number to zero.
QUESTION: And what about the demilitarization talks? Are they part of this conversation at all?
MR. BURNS: They're certainly part of the broader conversation that Carey Cavanaugh is having with all the parties this week. But I referred in a specific way to the ideas of these cease-fire line ideas, because they're important; and it's important to make a start, to get some progress between the parties in order to encourage them to make additional progress on other issues.
QUESTION: Nick, is there any possibility for the U.S. to use the missile deployment as a negotiating tool in the future initiative by the United States on Cyprus?
MR. BURNS: I think you know the United States will be active diplomatically in 1997 on Cyprus. We're going to have to deal with all the issues as an intermediary -- a good-faith intermediary, an objective partner to everyone. I can't anticipate specifically what the components of any American program will be, except to say that we are willing to put a considerable amount of diplomatic resources into resolving this misunderstanding, and in fact trying to make progress on the broader question of peace in Cyprus.
QUESTION: You don't exclude the possibility to use this as a -- the missile deployment as a negotiating tool on the table?
MR. BURNS: I don't want to commit Mr. Beattie or any of our other
negotiators to any specific options.