THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DAVID JOHNSON, SENIOR DIRECTOR FOR PRESS AND PUBLIC POLICY, NSC
The Briefing Room
1:15 P.M. EDT
MS. GLYNN: Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. At the top of the briefing, some of you this morning asked for a readout on the President's meeting with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman. And so I have David Johnson, Senior Director for Press and Public Policy at the NSC.
MR. JOHNSON: Good afternoon. The President met for about 15 or 20 minutes earlier today with President Tudjman of Croatia that was following a meeting which President Tudjman had with the Vice President for a similar amount of time. There were three main points that the President wanted to cover with President Tudjman and did.
The first is that the United States fully supports the integration of Croatia into the institutions of Europe and wants to work with the government of Croatia toward that goal, but that we all recognize for that to take place we need to fully and effectively implement the Dayton Accords which brought an end to the hostilities in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in the Balkans. For that to succeed we need to implement the results of the elections in Mostar and we need to implement the decision of the authorities -- Croatian authorities in Bosnia to disestablish the instruments of Herzeg-Bosna and reestablish those into the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
After the President finished his meeting, some of Mr. Tudjman's delegation continued conversations at the State Department, and as a result of the President's meeting and the conversations which followed, the two sides have agreed that completion of steps toward establishment of a fully functioning Federation, including transfer of all relevant powers to the Federation's structures and dissolution of parallel structures on both the Bosnian and Croatian sides, and establishment of a functioning city administration in Mostar based on the results of the recent elections are the critical next step for implementation of the Dayton Accords.
As part of that, they both recognize that for the full establishment of Federation structures to take place by August 8 they need to have those structures standing up by August 8, and this step was going to be critical in assuring that the Croatian side can move to implement the results of the Mostar elections and the dissolution of the structures Herzeg-Bosna.
The point I'm trying to
make is those two things are linked.
Q In layman's language --
Q Yes, what happened?
Q That was layman's language. (Laughter.)
Q The President met with President Tudjman today and what happened?
MR. JOHNSON: The President met with President Tudjman; they talked about, principally, the implementation of the Mostar elections and the disestablishment of Herzeg-Bosna. They recognized that Croatia -- I'm sorry the term is difficult for you to understand. It is the Croatian entity which was created during the hostilities in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Q That needs to be dissolved.
MR. JOHNSON: It needs to be dissolved so that Croatian -- the Bosnian Croats can be fully integrated into the structures of the Federation. You may recall that this was a three-sided conflict. The fundamental basis for getting to the Dayton Accords was moving it to a two-sided conflict, and that was done on the basis of establishing the Bosnian-Croat Federation.
There are some structures which remain that are Croatian only. And for Dayton to be fully realized and for peace to be durable in Bosnia, those structures have to be disassembled. The results of the Mostar election have to be implemented. That was what was agreed today.
Q Can you give us an example of those structures?
MR. JOHNSON: They're the structures of a normally functioning government. It's just that they are independent of the Federation and, in some senses, opposed to it. These are city councils, police forces, all the instrumentalities of government. But they are separate from and do not form part of the Federation at this point. They have to be integrated in order for the Federation to be a successful entity which can support the Dayton Accords.
Q Are you saying here that we will supervise and observe and run the election in Croatia?
MR. JOHNSON: No, I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that what --
Q What part will we play in it then?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, we are working with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which are monitoring those elections, making sure that they go forward.
Q Therefore, the answer to my question is yes, right?
MR. JOHNSON: We are one of more than 35 states -- I've lost count -- in the OSCE right now who are part of that. The individual who happens to run that right now is an American. But that's an international organization; he's an international civil servant. He's not functioning as an American diplomat.
Q David, to make things clear -- you're saying that Tudjman gave a commitment that the Bosnian Croats would accept the reunification of Mostar? He gave a formal commitment?
MR. JOHNSON: His delegation after this meeting with the President said that they would implement the results of the Mostar election and have a functioning government in Mostar based on those elections.
Q -- the Bosnian Croats to accept --
MR. JOHNSON: They will use their influence, and we believe their influence will be persuasive.
Q But Tudjman himself did not give such a commitment?
MR. JOHNSON: These discussions took place after the conclusion of the President's meeting.
Q But how can you explain that there was no such commitment by Tudjman in the meeting with the President?
MR. JOHNSON: Because the purpose of the meeting with the President was to make crystal clear to the Croation delegation, and to President Tudjman, our position and our belief that in order for Croatia to do what we believe it really wants to do and it articulates that it wants to do -- and that is be a fully integrated member of the Western community -- Dayton has to be successful; in order for that to take place these things have to happen.
What took place after the meeting with the President was working out exactly how that would take place.
Q Which was a promise, which was their commitment?
MR. JOHNSON: It was made on behalf of their government; we don't think that there's any reason to doubt it. But as we've said when the agreements have all along been made in this, implementation is the key; agreements are not, implementation is.
Q So, David, therefore, to what degree do you believe implementation is realistically going to happen? Because, as you just said, you've had promises before that have been broken.
MR. JOHNSON: That's not what I said. I said that implementation is the key to success in this agreement. We've had an agreement before on the Herzeg-Bosna issue, on dissolving its structures by August 8th. This was to further solidify that. We believe we have that commitment. We believe we have the commitment on the implementation of the results of the Mostar election. But performance is going to be where we measure.
Q Did the President raise the question of war criminals who were indicted and who are now living in Zagreb almost in the open under, apparently, President Tudjman's protection?
MR. JOHNSON: The President talked about the issues, which I raised. The Vice President, I understand, although I was not a participant in the meeting, raised two points which I think are of interest to you, and I'll -- both the issue of war crimes and the need to cooperate with the War Crimes Tribunal and to implement those portions of the Dayton Accord having to do with delivering war criminals to The Hague. And also he raised the issue of press freedom in Croatia and the importance for press freedom to be respected in order for Croatia to realize its goal that it continues to articulate and we believe -- and that is becoming a fully functioning member of the Western community.
Q What was Tudjman's response to that?
Q Why were they not raised by the President himself? I mean, there are not really secondary issues -- or is that the way you really regard them?
MR. JOHNSON: No, I think that what the President wanted to do today and what he did was to get the commitments to push forward on what we believe are the critical next steps in implementing the Dayton Accords so that we can continue on the path that we're on now, which we believe will lead to elections. These were critical issues that need to be done right now.
And I totally disagree with the premise of your question, that because these were raised and others weren't that we consider some issues secondary and some primary. These were of concern today.
Q Well, what commitment do you have from the Croatian government regarding these issues raised by the Vice President?
MR. JOHNSON: I believe he took them on board. He is a signatory to the Dayton Accords, in terms of the war crimes issues. And we believe that he understands that in order to for him to realize this goal of his and this goal that we share of becoming a member of the Western community, the compliance is going to have to be met there.
Q But it doesn't sound like there was any commitment.
MR. JOHNSON: I believe that he understands what the point is and what he has to do.
Q Just for a layman's sake, could you kind of remind people what timetable for implementation will be satisfactory to the United States government?
MR. JOHNSON: The critical question in the next few days is the dissolution by August 8 of those Bosnian Croat structures which remain in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the integration of the territory that they control and those institutions into the Federation.
Q David, what sticks or carrots do we have to ensure this implementation?
MR. JOHNSON: I think the fundamental reason that Croatia will be helpful in this is because it clearly has an aspiration to be regarded in the community of states in Central Europe which are democratic, which respect human rights, which have capitalist systems, and to be looked at like that. And I think it's fundamental that they understand -- and this is part of the reason for the meeting today -- in order for them to be considered that way, they have to fully respect the provisions of the Dayton Accord. And they have to be helpful and use their influence in having them implemented inside Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Q So they can join a Pan-European --
MR. JOHNSON: I don't think -- it's not just a matter of becoming a member of something or becoming a participant in something. It's the respect and regard that they want and, if they fulfill these obligations, will deserve as a member of the community of Western states.
Q Do you have the EU fully on board in terms of the kinds of pressure you're putting on the Croats?
MR. JOHNSON: Certainly in terms of the desire to have the Mostar elections respected and have a city government stood up on that basis, and in terms of having the Federation function, certainly.
Q When I mentioned to EU, I'm thinking particularly of Germany, which does have some influence on Croatia.
MR. JOHNSON: Yes, I have no doubt.
Q Was he, in a sense, summoned then to receive this message, or was this a long planned visit?
MR. JOHNSON: I don't know when it was planned. I would not regard it as summoning, but we clearly wanted to have this meeting so we could get this accomplished and get it behind us.
Q It was just announced this week?
MR. JOHNSON: Yes.
Q But was it planned before this week?
MR. JOHNSON: There had been some conversations about it much before this week, but it was not made firm until, I believe, earlier this week.
Q It comes really in the middle of a big, of a major crisis that looked like you weren't going to get your events by August 8th and he was called in for that reason. Is that accurate?
MR. JOHNSON: I think that there had been conversations about him coming to the United States for some other reasons. We clearly wanted to have these conversations and we pursued the opportunity to meet with him in order to do that.
Q While you're up there, does the administration have any reaction to the death of Mohammed Aideed?
MR. JOHNSON: We do. We understand that on August 2nd, his radio station announced that he had died in Somalia that day, reportedly as a result of surgery during treatment of a gunshot wound that had been suffered earlier in the week during fighting. We understand that he was buried also on the 2nd. His radio station has proclaimed that he has a successor.
We regret the ongoing violence that has prolonged the suffering of Somalia's people, and we hope that his demise offers the Somali people an opportunity to reach political reconciliation and form a government that can restore peace and security, stop the violence that has prolonged the suffering of all the people that live in Somalia.
Q At this point does the U.S. attempt to contact -- what's the relationship here? Are there any contacts with Aideed's group? Do we contact now the successor? What happens from here on in?
MR. JOHNSON: Well, we have continuing discussions with some of the factions there, but I don't think we've made any strong efforts to contact his successor at this point. He's the leader of a faction, not a government.
We clearly hope that while we regret the demise of any of God's creature, that his removal from the scene can set the foundation for a more peaceful future for Somalia.
Q What's his successor's name, do you know?
MR. JOHNSON: Successor's name as reported is Issa Mohammed Siad.
Q What do you know about him?
MR. JOHNSON: I don't have any information about his personal character.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:30 P.M. EDT