DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release September 23, l998
BRIEFING BY JAMES P. RUBIN, SPOKESMAN
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
September 23, 1998
MR. RUBIN: I will try to do the best I can beyond what I did before,
for those of you who didn't get it. Did we have anybody over there?
MR. RUBIN: Okay, on the Middle East -- but there will probably be a
statement we put out after the Kosovo resolution, which I expect will
be passed this afternoon, last I heard. She is now at a Contact Group
meeting discussing the same two subjects that we talked to you about
yesterday. But I am just here in case anybody has other questions or I
can talk to each privately on your special matters.
Does anybody have a question?
QUESTION: Why don't -- since some of us only heard part of what you
had to say on the sidewalk, why don't you reprise just the short
version of the Middle East progress, or lack thereof?
MR. RUBIN: All right. Short version on the Middle East I would put as
follows. Secretary Albright is going to make a determined effort in
the coming days to work with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chairman
Arafat with the goal of locking in progress where we can on the key
issues in the categories that you are quite familiar with.
I don't think anyone is, given the detailed nature of this work as one
gets down to it, expecting to be able to complete this whole package in
days. On the other hand, there is a feeling that now is a time to
press forward, to put the shoulder to the wheel, and to lock in
progress where we think we can lock it in, in the these separate
categories. So she expects to meet Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister
Netanyahu again. I can certainly say that is our expectation.
As far as meetings beyond that -- either trilaterals with her or other
things you might have heard about -- I just don't have anything for
you. Those are situational and depend on the ripeness quotient.
QUESTION: Can I take the -- I want to ask about locking in, you've
used several times.
MR. RUBIN: For those of you who were there, was that a good summary?
QUESTION: It was fine.
QUESTION: Locking in, I detect as something new in your formulation of
all this. Usually, it's nothing's done 'til everything's done and you
don't bother locking in anything. Now you've made a point seven times
of saying "locking in." Is that just the phrase of the day?
QUESTION: You can't get a deal so you have to get what you can. Is
that fair enough?
MR. RUBIN: Again, all of you have a habit of making everything a
snapshot. You can't get a deal today? No, we're not going to get a
deal today. Are we going to get a deal in the future? We hope so
because we think there is a great interest for those Palestinians and
Israelis who understand that the failure to make progress only makes
the situation worse as we approach with each passing day, near with
each passing day, the May 4 time frame.
So we believe that it is our job to try to press for progress, and what
we are going to try to do in the coming days is lock in as much
progress as we can achieve as possible.
QUESTION: Can you explain "lock in?" That was his question. It's a
good question. That was my question, too.
MR. RUBIN: Yes. I can't tell you any more than there are different
diplomatic ways to do things. I would certainly agree that nothing is
done until everything is done, as a matter of principle. But that
doesn't mean that one can't try to lock things in without everything
QUESTION: My point is you haven't been saying, but that doesn't mean
that one shouldn't try to lock things in that have been agreed to. And
now you're really -- that's the mantra of the day so far.
MR. RUBIN: If I don't try to communicate to you what our goals are
then I am accused of somehow not being helpful. I am trying to give
you a window on what we are trying to do in the next few days. It's
not inconsistent with the objective of completing a whole series of
measures that will put the interim agreement in force and the permanent
status talks juxtaposed on top of that and move forward. That is our
goal, okay? And that goal hasn't changed.
If any of you say that our goals have changed because I use a new word,
I think that would be wrong. But in the course of pursuing those
goals, at different times we have different objectives in a very near-
term sense. I'm being candid in saying right now what we are trying to
QUESTION: So when --
MR. RUBIN: I'm sorry, let me just finish because I understand the
importance of this. We never said to you three months ago, five months
ago, that we thought we were on the verge of an agreement. The only
time that the word "agreement" was used was "agreement in principle."
For those of you who end up trying to look into all the words that go
into these agreements in the past, you will know how excruciating they
are and how detailed they are. We weren't at a phase in the recent
months where we had agreement to all of these items. What happens is
it's a work in progress. You develop some ideas, you talk about them;
you find places where you think that you can make progress; you try to
record that in some way. And then you get it further and further and
further nailed down until you have a piece of paper that is either
signed or blessed in some other way that constitutes an agreement.
We are certainly closer to that today than we were several months ago.
QUESTION: So locking in, does it take the form roughly of saying --
that each side will say, on this issue, provided we get a satisfactory
agreement on the other issues, this is our position and we're willing
to commit to it now?
MR. RUBIN: I don't want to prejudge what each party would say and
exactly what form this will take. I am trying to say to you that we
have identified a few things where we think we can make progress if we
push on it in the coming days. If we succeed at getting agreement in
those, we would like to lock them in.
But I just hope that by telling you that, if it goes slower --- and it
usually does --- than one hopes, that you don't have an exaggerated
notion of what I'm telling you today. What I'm telling you is that
we're trying -- there is some important, some key issues that are now
ripe for a push.
QUESTION: What are those?
MR. RUBIN: I'm not ready to report what they are. I'm trying to tell
you the state of play as best I can without reducing the chances of
getting that progress.
QUESTION: Does that likely include writing something down?
MR. RUBIN: It could, yes.
QUESTION: Can this locking in be done without a meeting of all three
MR. RUBIN: Sure.
QUESTION: You can do it separately. You say, Netanyahu --
MR. RUBIN: That doesn't mean we would but, theoretically, yes.
QUESTION: Is it true that she won't see Netanyahu again until after
she sees Arafat?
MR. RUBIN: Probably not.
QUESTION: You don't feel comfortable sharing with us any particular
item though that you think can be locked in over the next week?
MR. RUBIN: There are a lot of things. Let's pick each of the
categories. Security is a category; and as one looks into it one sees
that it has subcategories and excruciating detail. Further
redeployment is a category; and as one looks at it it gets quite
detailed -- interim issues, airport, industrial estate, safe passage --
those are each issues -- and then the whole question of what do you do
about unilateral actions.
So those are four --- those aren't the four-part agenda because the
four-part agenda included beginning the permanent status -- but those
are four categories of issues where we are going to try to push.
Whether we get one in four or two in four or three in four or four in
four, nobody knows. But we've just decided that it's an opportunity.
There is an opportunity by them being here in New York and there is an
urgency based on the ticking clock of May 4, 1999.
QUESTION: And you're locking in not just completed categories but
MR. RUBIN: Parts of these categories, right. If we were locking in
the whole thing -- well, I don't know. We'll have to see. Yes, "lock
in" is the word of the day.
QUESTION: By the way, do you know -- before it was ambiguous to me --
that she is not likely to see Netanyahu again until after she sees
MR. RUBIN: Not likely, but I wouldn't rule it out.
QUESTION: Can you talk about Iraq a little bit?
MR. RUBIN: Sure. Secretary Albright and Prime Minister Netanyahu had
an extensive discussion of the current failure of Iraq to comply with
UN Security Council resolutions. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed
his view that we were doing the right thing in confronting Iraq and
keeping the international spotlight on Iraq's malfeasance and keeping
it very firm about our intentions if they don't come back into
With respect to next steps, what I can tell you is there has been a
threat, obviously, from one of Iraq's ruling bodies to remove
inspectors. Such a threat, if implemented, would be a further
escalation by Iraq of its noncompliance, and we would expect the
Security Council to take very firm action in response.
In the meantime, we have received very widespread support for our view
that the sanctions reviews and, therefore, the procedure by which
sanctions could be suspended or changed are terminated; and the
comprehensive review of the UN and Iraq's interaction that some had
sought is not going to happen unless and until Iraq comes back into
compliance. People will talk about it up in New York, what it will
entail. Our view is we have no problem having a review of all the ways
in which Iraq is failing to comply with UN Security Council
That is the state of play. We monitor this very closely. We have made
clear that there are no options that have been taken off the table with
respect to military force. And that's where we are.
QDid they talk about Iran at all -- missile threats, anything else?
MR. RUBIN: They did talk about that. I think it's quite clear to both
the United States and Israel and other countries that the Iranian
missile program is a dangerous program. That is why we have worked so
very hard with the Russians -- who she spoke to about this in her
meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov -- to ensure that the change in
government in Russia doesn't mean that the progress we had achieved in
Russia's crackdown on those who might be assisting that program stays
So that is something that there is active discussion on; and,
obviously, the United States and Israel have a common interest in
making sure that all steps are taken possible to prevent that threat
from getting worse.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the Bosnian elections yet?
MR. RUBIN: We don't. I expect to hear about them tomorrow. Again, we
would expect this to be a mixed bag. There will be places in which the
forces of moderation gain strength, and there will be places in which
some of the more nationalistic views are given voice. That is why we
have withheld judgment, although some have jumped out in anonymous form
to make drastic and dramatic statements about the good or ill that this
We know that the formation of democracy in a place that has gone
through the turmoil that Bosnia went through is going to be an evolving
one. We would expect there to be a pattern of -- no pattern -- a mixed
bag -- where in some places, forces of moderation appear to be getting
greater political power, in other places where those voicing
nationalistic views get greater power.
So we have said from the beginning that, given our expectation that
this would be a mixed bag, that we are going to have to judge them by
what they do and not what is said during a campaign or what the
historic experience of any personality is concerned. There have been
personalities who, based on their past experience, wouldn't have done
what they ended up doing under Dayton.
Our principle is a simple one. It's that those who support Dayton will
receive the support of the West, and those who don't won't.
QUESTION: In one case Mrs. Plavsic, the Secretary put a lot of effort
into appearing with her and making it clear that money had been given
to Republika Srpska because of her.
MR. RUBIN: Right.
QUESTION: And she has conceded defeat, as I understand it.
MR. RUBIN: Yes, I am aware of that as well. Again, that trip was
designed to give support to those forces of moderation who understood
that the future of Bosnia would be determined by its compliance with
Dayton, and that positive compliance with Dayton would make a better
future for Bosnia and non-compliance would make a worse future.
Since the elections -- as I hope those of you who work on this -- are
going to be a mixed bag and not one message or another, I hope you
don't only remember the negative message.
QUESTION: The State Department does not rule out working with -- and
I'm not going to be able to pronounce his name, Paplasen?
MR. RUBIN: Right. We won't judge these people. Unless they are an
indicted war criminal, we will judge them by their policies and not
their past history.
QUESTION: But in the case of Paplasen though, I think human rights
groups have made the allegation that he was involved in atrocities
during the war.
MR. RUBIN: We'll have to look into that. I don't have any specific
information on that. But certainly we would have concerns about
working with people directly responsible for war crimes.
QUESTION: Can you talk about Contact Group, Vedrine and Kosovo this
afternoon and what you expect?
MR. RUBIN: You must have missed our little session last night,
Charlie, and I think we went into excruciating detail and I will give
you a transcript of it. But, basically to repeat, with the hoped-for
passage -- and this could be on the record -- with the hoped-for
passage of a strong resolution by the Security Council and the
stepping-up of NATO's efforts to make it possible to use force if
necessary, we are sending a very serious twin message to President
Milosevic that the West's patience is running out and that, if he wants
to avoid the potential for military action, he should stop the
crackdown, stop the repression, and allow the humanitarian work that
needs to be done because of the humanitarian crisis that he created.
Let those people in and start getting serious about a negotiating
process where we think the elements are not that hard to agree to;
where there has been some progress by Chris Hill in laying out a
framework for how you would resolve this pending an ultimate resolution
some years down the road.
So that is the activity that she has been conducting this week has been
aimed at creating that twin message, both in Brussels through NATO
force generation and in New York through a Security Council resolution
under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
QUESTION: And you're on the record with that?
MR. RUBIN: Yes.
QUESTION: Should it pass under Chapter VII, is it your understanding
that the last doubts of our allies on NATO about NATO's ability to make
a decision to use force will be resolved?
MR. RUBIN: No, certainly not last doubts.
QUESTION: Last doubts on a legal basis?
MR. RUBIN: They will have to speak for themselves. I would have to go
on background to give you the reviews of other countries. We don't
normally talk about other countries' positions on the record
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