USIS Washington 

19 October 1998


(Says regional security is the goal of Kurdish agreement) (8060)

Washington -- The objectives of the U.S.-brokered power-sharing
agreement between Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan,
and Masoud Barzani of the Kurdish Democratic Party, is to "ensure
peace and stability in this area of northern Iraq which for many years
has been plagued by factional disputes and by the interference of
outside parties, and unfortunately by terrorist activity," says David
Welch, Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East.

The power-sharing accord, which was announced by Secretary of State
Madeleine Albright last month, allows both Kurdish groups to work
together in northern Iraq, Welch said October 15 in a USIA Worldnet
"Dialogue" program with journalists in Ankara and London.

"What we were able to do here was bring them together for the first
time and set out a new process by which they ought to have
accomplished certain things," Welch said. He noted that the Kurdish
groups have not met with each other in four years.

This new arrangement was an outgrowth of the Ankara Process, an
agreement advanced by Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States
to stop hostilities between the warring Kurdish groups, Welch said.

He confirmed that the government of Turkey was consulted throughout
the negotiation between the two Kurdish factions. "We made every
effort to bring the other co-sponsors into this process," he said.

"We do believe that the security of everyone in the area is better if
there is a basic understanding between the two principal Kurdish
parties in northern Iraq, and that includes the security of Turkey,"
Welch said.

Welch acknowledged that the accord will not cure all of the problems
in the area, but, he said, it is "an important building block ... and
it was important to take this step forward."

Following is the transcript of the Worldnet "Dialogue" program:

(Begin transcript)

MR. FOUCHEUX: Hello, I'm Rick Foucheux. Welcome to Worldnet's

Last month Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced a
U.S.-brokered accord which has allowed a power-sharing agreement
between Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and Masoud
Barzani of the Kurdish Democratic Party. Many are hoping that this
particular agreement will lead to a general election next year. On
this edition of "Dialogue" we will discuss the northern Iraq accord
and the impact this agreement will have in the area, and U.S.-Iraqi

Joining us to discuss these issues is David Welch, principal assistant
deputy assistant secretary in the State Department's Bureau of Near
Eastern Affairs. Mr. Welch, it's a pleasure to have you with us today.

MR. WELCH:  Thank you, Rick.

MR. FOUCHEUX: Before we begin with our questioners overseas, can you
tell us some of the highlights that have taken place since the
agreement was announced?

MR. WELCH: Certainly. When this agreement was put together it marked
the first time the leaders of the two principal Kurdish parties in
northern Iraq had met personally in some four years. It was a landmark
event in that sense. Since then they have continued their own travels
through the United States and Europe on their way back to their homes
in northern Iraq.

The agreement set out a calendar for its implementation, and we are in
the very early stages of that. We hope that the next event will be
another summit meeting of the two leaders, Mr. Barzani and Mr.
Talabani, in Ankara toward the beginning of November.

MR. FOUCHEUX: Great. Well, once again, we are glad you are here, and
we are looking forward to your insights in today's program.

MR. WELCH:  Thank you.

MR. FOUCHEUX: Our fellow participants are standing by in Ankara and
London. We begin first with Ankara. Please go ahead with your first
question or comment.

Q: Good afternoon, this is -- (inaudible) -- from Turkish news channel
and TV. My question is, you know, there's a big tension at the moment
in the area between Turkey and Syria. How do you evaluate this

MR. WELCH: Well, I think -- first of all, I'm not in the best position
to comment on the day-to-day development in the Turkish-Syrian
situation, because unlike the joint statement between the Kurdish
leaders in Washington, the United States does not play a mediating
role in that dispute. The government of Egypt has. As I understand it,
though, the tensions have calmed somewhat in recent days, thanks to
the good efforts of Egypt. Now, I believe that the parties share an
interest in seeing a solution to the problems between them, and I hope
that they've embarked on a way to reconcile their differences.

In terms of our own views -- that is, the United States' views of the
issues that divide Turkey and Syria -- we have taken a position that
no nation in that area should harbor terrorists, and that would
include Syria. We have encouraged Egyptian mediation to resolve that

Q: Despite the U.S. government's official documents that is showing
that Syria is one of the states that sponsors -- countries which is
supporting terrorism, why don't you clearly support Turkey while it
was trying to push Syria to end terrorist support for PKK?

MR. WELCH: I'm not sure exactly what you are asking with that
question. We have very different relationships with Syria and Turkey.
On the one hand Syria as a U.S.-designated state sponsor of terrorism
is subject to a variety of U.S. strictures and laws. On the other
hand, Turkey is a long-standing ally of the United States, a member of
NATO. There really isn't a comparison in that sense between the two

What we support as an outcome here is a peaceful solution. We believe
that Turkey has a legitimate grievance in this case. That is, we are
quite concerned about Syria's harboring of terrorists and support for
groups that advocate terrorism. Otherwise we would not have listed
them as a state sponsor of terrorism. In that sense I think that we do
support the grievances that Turkey has in this situation, while of
course we advocate a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

Q: Mr. Welch, does the U.S. administration have any idea where the PKK
leader (Abdullah Ocalan ?) lives at the moment?

MR. WELCH: I'm sorry, I can't comment on that. Frankly what I know is
mostly from press accounts and from my own private diplomatic contacts
principally with the government of Turkey. I would prefer not to go
into detail on that. I would note some statements indicating a calming
of the situation on the parts of certain members of the Turkish

Q: Mr. Welch, do you believe a dialogue is a must as soon as possible
between Turkey and Syria during that period unless Syria takes a
positive step to clear its support for PKK?

MR. WELCH: Well, it's hard to be against dialogue almost under any
circumstances. I do believe that dialogue has to be matched with
results. It's been our hope that the two parties would find some
process to come together to discuss these differences in a way that
not only are they resolved but each can be confident that the way to
resolve them is verifiable. The alternative to doing so, that is that
there should be some kind of escalation of the situation between the
two, I think would cause us considerable concern.

Q: Mr. Welch, as you know the Turkish government is not really happy
with the last meeting between Mr. Barzani and Talabani in Washington.
What is the main disagreement between Turkey and the U.S.
administration concerning northern Iraq?

MR. WELCH: Well, I am glad we have now focused on northern Iraq. Thank
you for asking the question. Really I don't believe we have any
significant differences between the parties who are the co-sponsors of
the Ankara process -- that is, Turkey, the United States and the
government of the United Kingdom. There are occasionally tactical
differences or differences in interpretation, but those pale beside
the fundamental agreement on the objectives.

And what are the objectives here? The objectives are to ensure peace
and stability in this area of northern Iraq which for many years has
been plagued by factional disputes and by the interference of outside
parties, and unfortunately by terrorist activity. The Ankara process
was designed to repair that situation to the best extent possible.
Over the years it faltered, largely because the two leaders could not
come to an understanding on how to deal with each other over the very
real problems that divide them.

As I mentioned earlier, they haven't met together in four years until
the event in Washington. What we were able to do here was bring them
together for the first time and set out anew a process by which they
could address their differences. This time it has a calendar attached,
and in has in that sense a verifiable program of action by which they
ought to have accomplished certain things, and the co-sponsors can
monitor their doing so.

Q: Mr. Welch, Ankara still says that the agreement between Barzani and
Talabani that was signed in Washington is not being presented to
Ankara, or Ankara has not been informed about the agreement before it
was signed. What could you say about it?

MR. WELCH: We have consulted with the government of Turkey throughout
this process. The government of Turkey has consulted with us about its
own efforts to promote stability in the north. We made every effort to
bring the other co-sponsors into this process. But in the end the
result was basically because the United States was able to broker a
summit meeting between the two leaders. We felt that that meeting was
sufficiently important in order to break the ice and lend momentum to
forward progress that it should be held here in Washington.

Our concern remains the same -- absolutely the same objectives as
before: We do believe that the security of everyone in the area is
better if there is a basic understanding between the two principal
Kurdish parties in northern Iraq, and that includes the security of
Turkey. If these two parties are able to cooperate, then the
opportunities for outside meddling and terrorism and violations of the
Turkish border we believe would decrease.

Q: Mr. Welch, we have reports in Ankara that the support of the
Baghdad administration to PKK rises day by day. Can you confirm it?

MR. WELCH: This is yet another one of the U.N. obligations on Iraq
that it is regularly violating. That is, the U.N. Security Council
resolutions declare that Iraq should cease its support for terrorism.
We have credible indications that that is not the case, that it
remains in support of extremist groups, including unfortunately the

Q: Mr. Welch, while they are talking about the future of Kurdish
groups in the region under the agreement signed in Washington, what
could you say about the future of Turkomen people in the area, in
northern Iraq?

MR. WELCH: Thank you for asking this important question. I believe --
and my duty in helping to mediate this process has been to achieve
something better for all the people that live there. We think that the
best way to do that is that they should take care of their own affairs
and try and reach some understandings between them. By negotiating
with the two principal armed groups there we did not mean or intend to
exclude anyone. As you may know, I have myself personally visited
northern Iraq twice in the last two years. That's sort of a rare trip
for American officials to make. During those visits I met at length
with various representatives of the Turkoman population there, and I
have spoken to them in Turkey as well. We are gravely concerned for
the future of all the people in that area, be they Kurds, be they
Turkoman, be they Christians, Syrians -- anyone, frankly. We honestly
believe that that future is better if they are able to protect
themselves by greater unity and stability in that area, so that they
are not victim to the interference of either Baghdad or Tehran or some
other outside party that has a mind to upset the situation.

The understanding that we brokered here in Washington provides for a
political role for all people in the area. There are some differences
as to how that would be exercised, but those differences are mainly in
the area of rather basic data, such as how many people are in the
population and what would be their voting apportionment within any
assembly that would be elected. Those are areas which remain to be
clarified in the negotiating process, probably with some help from
outside so that a reliable census for example could be conducted and
electoral rolls established.

Q: Mr. Welch, as you know the Turkish government has recently decided
to upgrade its political representation in Baghdad and decided to have
an ambassador there. How do you evaluate this decision? Thank you.

MR. WELCH: We think this is not the time to signal any change in the
relationship with Baghdad, because at this moment the Iraqi regime
remains significantly estranged from the obligations it must bear
under the U.N. Security Council resolutions. It is not cooperating,
for example, with the U.N. Special Commission, and hasn't been since
early August. Therefore at a time when there is such a division
between the regime in Baghdad and the international community we
frankly felt it wasn't the right signal to suggest an upgrading of

Q: Mr. Welch, since the beginning of the Turkish-Syrian dispute there
were some Arab countries which claimed that Israel is behind this
Turkish policy by provocating Ankara. As one of the key diplomats of
the State Department, how do you evaluate Turkish-Israeli ties, and
also Turkish-Israeli ties are a threat for the region, changing the
balances? Thank you.

MR. WELCH: I'm afraid I don't agree with that hypothesis that some
have that there is some Israeli involvement behind Turkish action in
this regard. My own -- my government's views on this are very clear.
It is quite natural for Turkey, a prominent and significant nation in
that region and internationally, to have relations with whomever it
wants. Israel is a good friend of the United States; so is Turkey.
Naturally we would be pleased if their relationship matures and
improves. We believe that's a healthy thing for the region, not a
problem for the region. I don't consider it to be a threat to the
region, and I certainly do not believe that Israel is in any respect
behind Turkey's action vis-a-vis terrorists who threaten Turkey from
the outside. The government of Turkey takes its own decisions on
matters like this, and is I think quite capable of acting
independently and bearing the responsibility for that. I think it's
quite wrong to suggest that there is some kind of large plot here
behind these moves.

Q: I'm -- (inaudible) -- Los Angeles Times. Before traveling to
Washington, Masoud Barzani said the reason he actually was going to
Washington was because you, during your visit to northern Iraq last
June, had for the first time expressed open support for the Kurds,
that you had finally given the sort of guarantees that the Kurds were
seeking. What sort of guarantees did you offer?

MR. WELCH: Actually I think the most important assurance that we
provide to the people -- all the people, not just the Kurds, but
others as well -- in northern Iraq is an exemplar of international
engagement. It is my belief that the United States should not remain
indifferent to the fate of the people in this area. We have learned
from terrible lessons in the past that if we are indifferent that
tragedy will only repeat itself. Let's remember that the people in
northern Iraq were victims of gross human rights abuses during the
1980s and early '90s. The international community rallied in the early
'90s to support them. And I think the biggest problem they have had in
the period since are their own political divisions. If we could lend
some help to repair that, then the security and welfare of the people
there, all of the people, would have been better.

What I stressed to both leaders -- not just to Mr. Barzani, but also
to Mr. Talabani -- and for that matter everybody else I met with there
-- was that international engagement is available. That is,
international attention is there, including for the United States --
but they have a responsibility to their own people to exercise
leadership to help this situation get better, because if they don't
the risks to their own people are much higher.

I didn't provide any specific assurance. Once they came to Washington
we made clear to them our view that in circumstances in which the two
principal Kurdish parties were divided and fighting each other, and if
they were then subjected to assault from the outside or from Baghdad
it would be much more difficult as a practical matter for the United
States or anyone to marshal international support to help them. The
secretary of state made that explicitly clear to both Mr. Barzani and
Mr. Talabani.

But the converse of that is that if they are united, and if they are
embarked on a process of peaceful reconciliation, then the United
States will be there to help. And if another threat comes from
Baghdad, we cannot remain indifferent to that, and we will be
supportive. This the secretary of state announced publicly at the time
the joint statement was put before the world.

Q: Mr. Welch, if we look at the agreement between Barzani and Talabani
we see some interesting points in this agreement. We see that the
agreement includes an idea of federation between the Kurdish groups in
the future. This federation idea will cause or will lead to a real
state in the future in the area -- do you think that?

MR. WELCH: I'm glad you asked this question, because I know from
talking to my friends in the government of Turkey that this has caused
some concern in Turkey. Let me answer this in several ways.

First, with respect to what is stated in the agreement, it is
explicitly stated in the first part of the joint statement that the
aspiration of the people of Iraq is for a united, pluralistic, and
democratic Iraq. In terms of what the two Kurdish parties aspire to,
they would like some sort of federative solution within a united Iraq.
In terms of the United States' position on that aspiration -- that is,
on that desire of the two Kurdish parties -- we respect their desire,
but we respect the desire of all the Iraqi people to have a united,
pluralistic and democratic country. Frankly, they'd be a lot better
off if they did. In that sense this is a statement of respect for the
right of people to decide their own future within their country --
something that most Americans would readily agree is part of our own
national patrimony. We are, after all, a federal nation ourselves. It
does not mean that the United States proposes any specific solution
for that -- for the nation of Iraq -- that's up to the Iraqi people to
decide, of whom the Kurds are a large part.

Second, what is the position of the United States with respect to an
independent Kurdistan, because I know this is an area where people
have asked some questions. Let me make it clear here, as I have
before, the United States does not support an independent Kurdistan --
be it in northern Iraq, be it any other place. We support a united
Iraq. We believe that Iraq has territorial integrity as a nation in
its own right, and we are not seeking to change its formation. That is
our view on what should happen within Iraq.

Q: During your talks with Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani, did the issue
of the Iraqi opposition come up? And what role, if any, did they
declare themselves willing to play in such a movement? And given the
failure of your previous experiment with an opposition, what new model
or players if any are you looking at? And what's your reaction to Dr.
Ahmed Talabi's (sp) proposal that the crowd prince of Jordan, Hassan,
be the new leader of Iraq?

MR. WELCH: Well, there are several questions there. Let me try and
answer the most important one -- that is, what aspect of the
discussions with Barzani and Talabani dealt with the opposition. I
repeat what I said earlier. The purpose of the effort we launched here
in September was to improve the situation in the north. We didn't set
as an objective that these two leaders should declare themselves as
leaders of the opposition or form any sort of united front against
Baghdad. Frankly, I don't think that is necessary or appropriate under
the circumstances. Let's remember, after all, that these two political
leaders have a substantial experience with Saddam Hussein's regime.
They don't need to be taught lessons by anybody by what it means to be
victims of that regime. In that sense they are like most Iraqis: they
suffer at his hands and have learned the results. We don't need to
encourage them to realize that history. They are self-declared leaders
of the opposition, because they do not want the authority and control
of Saddam Hussein within their area. They would consider themselves to
be worse off if that is the case. And it is our shared responsibility,
frankly, as members of the international community to assure that that
doesn't happen again.

Q: Mr. Welch, as you know Turkey sometimes carries out military
operations in northern Iraq to sweep out the PKK terrorists. Those
operations drew some reactions from some countries in the region or in
the world. But, as you know, you support it. You have been supporting
Turkey for such operations because they were against terrorism. Under
changing balances in the future, will the U.S. continue to look warmly
on such operations by Turkey? Thank you.

MR. WELCH: Well, let me be clear about our position. First, Turkey is
a friend and ally. Second, we respect and support Turkey's right to
defend itself, including against terrorism. Third, Turkey does not
consult with us in advance on any such operations, and we do not
support or preapprove them in advance. Fourth, when Turkey feels it
necessary to conduct such operations, our reaction is that they should
be limited in scope and duration, and scrupulous with respect to the
effect on the human rights of the people in the area. So that is
slightly different from supporting the operations per se. Other
countries obviously take a different position, but then I would point
out that many of those who denounce such operations are themselves
responsible for the circumstances that lead to those operations or for
actual support of the terrorist group the PKK involved.

Our -- we have a good dialogue with the government of Turkey on these
matters. It is my belief that the joint statement concluded in
Washington includes some of the most important security assurances for
the safety and protection of Turkey of any of these agreements so far.
Am I concerned that they should be implemented? Absolutely. I will
monitor this very diligently, together with my colleagues in the
government of the Turkey and the United Kingdom. It's very important
that that aspect of the agreement be firmly adhered to, and it is
fundamental to the involvement of the United States in this process
that there should be a security benefit for Turkey.

Q: Sir, I'd like to repeat my question about the Iraqi opposition and
what new sort of formula you are working on for that opposition. Can
we expect to see such a movement being based anew in northern Iraq?

MR. WELCH: We support the idea of an Iraqi opposition. I think we all
know there is an Iraqi opposition, and it consists of most of the
people of Iraq. The issue before us all is to give it a voice and a
coherence so that it over time will show itself as a meaningful
alternative. This is a long-term effort. It is unfortunately a
characteristic of the Baghdad regime that the superlative
authoritarianism of that government has been extremely successful in
controlling internal dissent -- not in all areas of the country, but
certainly in the center. What we are suggesting from the United
States' side is support for the opposition's efforts to organize
itself and project its voice internationally and inside Iraq. That has
several elements. First, for support of radio broadcasts that would
offer a different voice and view to the Iraqi people. Second, support
for efforts of the opposition to organize itself and bring various
members of the Iraqi opposition together for dialogue and
understanding. Third, we also support an organized and coherent effort
to gather the data about Saddam Hussein's human rights violations and
war crimes, so that over time this can all be put in one place,
studied and analyzed, and perhaps be the basis for some further
international action against him.

Q: Mr. Welch, as you know Barzani and Talabani have been planning to
come to Turkey to get together again in Ankara. Will you join them
during their trip to Ankara, or do you have any plan to come to Ankara
to ease Turkish officials' concerns about the agreement signed in

MR. WELCH: Actually I have spent quite a bit of time with officials of
the government of Turkey in recent weeks. And I hope to continue that.
We suggested that the next step in the reconciliation process be a
meeting at the summit level between Barzani and Talabani with Turkey,
the U.K. and the U.S. in attendance in Ankara.

And let me point out with respect to that meeting its agenda could
cover anything. We had suggested that it must focus on the issue of
security. Why did we do that? We did that because, as I said earlier,
this is the principal element of our involvement here, and a
fundamental of our mediation effort. We didn't mean by suggesting that
that the other issues wouldn't be on the table -- of course they would

Now, it is up to the government of Turkey to invite us all. I hope
they will do so. If they should do so, then I personally will be very
glad to attend. My boss, Secretary Albright, expects me to go there
for that purpose, if such a meeting is held. In recent days I will
tell you that I have spoken to Mr. Barzani and to Mr. Talabani, who
are in Europe and the Persian Gulf respectively, and they have both
indicated their willingness to go if they should be welcomed there.
It's up to the government of Turkey of course to extend that welcome.

MR. FOUCHEUX: Thank you in Ankara. Now we turn to London for their
questions. Please go ahead in London.

Q: Hello, this is -- (inaudible) -- newspaper. I have two questions.
The first one: There are some reports that Mrs. Albright promised Mr.
Talabani and Barzani when they were meeting in Washington that the
U.S. -- it will defend them in case of the Iraqi troops go to the
north of Iraq, like it defends Kuwait. Can you confirm that?

My second question is that you said that the U.S. aid policy is
against the disintegration of Iraq. But from the Arab world view we
see that there is de facto in northern Iraq which makes the basis for
a Kurdish independent state. Thank you.

MR. WELCH: With regard to your first question, Mr. Ibrahim, at the
time the joint statement was agreed, Secretary Albright said publicly
two things -- that the United States cannot countenance a repetition
of the events of the late 1980s early 1990s in northern Iraq in which
many, many thousands of Iraqis, mainly Kurds, died. And, as you may
recall, this was one of the first uses of chemical weapons against
innocent civilians -- by their own government. A second thing that she
said in her statement was that the United States would include the
people of Iraq, and especially those in the north, as among the
concerns to which it would react were Iraq to make a move. I think
this is a warning that Saddam Hussein should not ever attempt this
again, because it would have a price.

With respect to the breakup of Iraq, we have declared until, as the
Americans say, we are "blue in the face" that we favor a unified Iraq.
As a practical matter, the government of Iraq has not controlled
certain parts of its own country for many, many years, including
before the United States was actually involved in this matter. I don't
know if you mean that is the breakup of Iraq. I consider that to be a
failure of the regime in Baghdad; that is, a failure to its own
people. We do not advocate in any respect the severance of a part of
Iraq from itself, and the de facto creation of an independent state in
any part of it; nor, I believe, do the two Kurdish leaders advocate
such a thing. Read carefully their own statements: they want a united,
pluralistic, democratic Iraq. Within that Iraq they would propose that
they have a federative system. Well, that's up to all Iraqis to
decide. We hope that the day will come in which the Iraqis are given
such a choice.

Q: Mr. Welch, my name is -- (inaudible) -- newspaper. And it's well
and good to say that obviously you don't set out to carve out part of
Iraq and try to make it independent or federative, as the two Turkish
leaders would say. But in terms of action this is precisely what is
happening. A, you are starting a broadcasting station for the
opposition; B, there was an attempt by CIA elements in the north not
long ago when Talabani attacked Barzani in Sulaymaniyah, and all the
indications are that you are heading towards that -- you want a larger
international involvement in the north. But you know actions are
different from statements. What would you say to that?

MR. WELCH: Well, I don't agree with most of it. I mean, there are many
opposition radio broadcasts. Why is it that our broadcast is singled
out as the cause of the disintegration of Iraq? What we want is a
different voice for the Iraqi people. We are delighted to support
that, wherever it comes from. We believe that the Iraqi people deserve
a different future. That's our intention here.

Again, my feeling is that there is a nation of Iraq. It has been very
poorly led over the last 20 to 30 years. All you have to do is look at
the comparisons in the region. Iraq has great natural resources, it
has a bright and vibrant population. And what has been done with that
nation? It has been ruined by one regime, and one regime is
responsible for most of the history of the last 25 years. I think we
all know this. Notwithstanding that fundamental challenge presented by
the regime itself in Baghdad, this nation has remained unified. I
believe its coherence, that is what draws it together, has a greater
sense of destiny than what might draw it apart. It is not our
intention to carve it up again; nor, I have to tell you quite
honestly, do I think we would be able to even if we wanted to. After
all, this country fought an eight-year war in which many people
predicted that perhaps one part of its sectarian population -- what
one sectarian part of its population would break away to go to the
other side. Well, that didn't happen, did it? It didn't happen because
I think most Iraqis think of themselves as Iraqis. And if an immediate
neighbor couldn't carve it up, I'm not sure the United States could,
even if we wanted to.

Now, I think at the end of the day, sir, I think there is probably no
way I can reduce to zero the suspicions that may be out there that
that is our intention. But all I can do is reaffirm once again that
that is not the case. And let me put it to you this way: If tomorrow
we all wake up and there is a different regime in Baghdad, and Mr.
Saddam Hussein has retired, then the United States will be prepared
for a different relationship with that regime. Secretary Albright
declared that in a speech at the beginning of 1997, which I would ask
you to go back and read, because this shows that our problem is with
the regime; it is not with the people or with the country.

Q: And how would you, Mr. Welch, then interpret the move by Ankara to
elevate diplomatic relations with Baghdad to an ambassadorial level
immediately following the agreement in Washington? Don't you sense
that the Turks are afraid that in case there is a separate entity in
the north of Iraq the same example would be copied in Southeastern

MR. WELCH: I believe I have answered and can't answer any concerns on
the part of the government of Turkey with respect to the joint
statement between the two Kurdish leaders.

With regard to Turkey's decisions on relations with Baghdad, I was
asked this question earlier by a Turkish journalist, and my answer is
the same: this is a decision up to Turkey. It caused us some concern.
We believe at a time when Baghdad is divided from the international
community it frankly is not a good idea to change one's relationship
with that government. I will watch to see how this decision is

Q: Hello, this is Ali Ibrahim (sp) again. In the agreement between
Barzani and Mr. Talabani which the United States sponsored in
Washington, there is a timetable for going to an election next June.
Some critics say that the agreement is not realistic and there are
lots of things about -- I mean, it will be -- there will be a lot of
problems, like sharing the revenues and all these things, and also
that the United States has committed itself to something which it
can't afford. Thank you.

MR. WELCH: Well, sir, I think this region of the world is
unfortunately littered with many well-intentioned agreements that have
suffered in the implementation. I am hopeful with respect to this one.
I am hopeful because I think I have the personal commitment of both
leaders, as expressed directly to the most senior levels of the
American government of their own leadership and responsibility in this
endeavor. Obviously that alone is not good enough. It remains their
obligation to try and fix their own situation. What we have shown is
that we can help. We can help to bring them together, but we cannot
help them or push them to a solution -- they must do that themselves.
We will monitor, we will cajole, we will encourage, we will push them
to take those steps which are necessary to complete this process. The
end result I think is a great benefit to their people. And if they
don't get there they will have to ask themselves, Have they exercised
their responsibility has leaders of their people to provide them for
-- with a better future?

Q: How do you see the Arab reaction -- I mean the moderate Arab states
towards the Kurdish agreement from your point of view? Did they
welcome it or they are little bit critical of it?

MR. WELCH: Actually I think the reaction has been pretty good. We
briefed many of our Arab friends during this negotiation and after it,
and we found the reaction quite good. I think they see our purpose as
clear, and that is to try and restore peace and stability in that
area. The governments, the moderate American governments who are
American friends, do not have a conspiratorial view of what we are
trying to achieve. They don't think that we are trying to break up

I would point out that in the aftermath of the agreement one of the
leaders has been making a trip to the Arab world. I hardly think he
would be welcome in these places if they didn't like the agreement.

Q: Mr. Welch, let's presume that the agreement has advanced along the
way, and many of its parts have been implemented and then Baghdad was
in a position to see when there is an attempt of them to separate. And
then they cracked on the Kurds. What would then be the position of the
United States? Would it send troops to be on the ground there?

MR. WELCH: Look, I'm not going to answer a hypothetical question like
that. But the message here should be very clear. There is a
resolution, Resolution 688, which obliges the Iraqi government not to
repress its own people. Iraq has never observed that resolution, and
continues to this very day to conduct acts of repression against its
own people.

As we all focus on the arms control provisions of the sanctions regime
on Iraq, we should remember that one as well that is the important
human rights dimension to this issue. What we have established with
this joint statement and the public U.S. remarks made at the time is
that there is a warning there, that the international community led by
the United States will not be indifferent if Iraq tries something
again like it did in the 1980s and early '90s.

Q: Do you see any connection between the accord between Mr. Talabani
and Barzani in Washington and the escalation or the tension between
Syria and Turkey?

MR. WELCH: I don't personally, but I mean inevitably there is some
sort of connection in that I think at the root of the problem between
Turkey and Syria is the issue of the PKK. But you would have to ask
the government of Turkey this question.

Q: Finally, Mr. Welch, you said that you are not seeking to see an
independent Kurdish state. And I don't actually believe that this will
be accepted in the area given the balance of the regional powers --
Turkey on the one hand, Iraq and then Iran. But I mean you are in a
sense encouraging the emergence of an entity in which the
international community will be more and more involved in helping.
Doesn't this sound to you like the beginning of a new state?

MR. WELCH: Well, it sounds to me like ensuring the protection and
security of a group of people who want the right to determine their
own future within their own country; and who in the past, because they
haven't had this kind of international attention, have been victims

I don't believe, and I could not myself countenance remaining
indifferent to their fate. And, yes, by their example we seek to show
to all Iraqis that there is an alternative choice. But this means an
alternative choice for all Iraqis -- not just for those in the
northern part of Iraq. Let's remember that the people in the north are
not the only victims of this situation. There are as we speak ongoing
counter-insurgency operations by the government against people in the
south. And you know unfortunately the situation in Iraq is such that
people don't pay a lot of attention to these things. There are gross
human rights violations committed in the center of Iraq as we speak.
Last year the special U.N. rapporteur for Iraq reported on hundreds of
executions that have been carried out by the regime. And we should all
ask ourselves, Isn't it better to show to any Iraqi who is watching
that the international community knows about this and believes that
there should be a better future for them? This is what we are trying
to do. We are not trying to create an independent state-let in the
north or in the south for that matter -- or carve up this country. We
are simply trying to show that there is an alternative available for
people in which they'd have a better future.

Q: I have one more question. Would the Iraqi opposition use the
northern Iraq again as a base, like what happened before and ended in

MR. WELCH: I am not sure what their intentions would be. You refer to
"the" Iraqi opposition. The Iraqi opposition is somewhat divided now,
and I don't know around what principles or actions they will organize

And let me say this too: there are shades of difference between the
KDP and the PUK over how they will deal with the opposition. So you
must ask them these questions.

But from the point of view of the United States, we are not trying by
this process to encourage a platform or base for opposition activity.
Quite the contrary. We thought that it was worthwhile in itself to
have a process of reconciliation between the KDP and the PUK, that
that would lead to a better situation in the north and protect the
people there.

Now, if in the future they should decide that they want to pursue some
kind of opposition activity vis-a-vis Baghdad, that's up to them. But
that was not an objective of our involvement in this process, and we
are not proposing that they should do so.

MR. FOUCHEUX: Mr. Welch, we've talked a lot about what the accord will
mean in the Turkish and northern Iraq region. Could we broaden it a
bit? Do you see this impacting in any way on the larger question of
stability in the Middle East?

MR. WELCH: Well, yes I do. Let's remember that this is a very volatile
area generally, and some of the most severe challenges to
international peace and security in this decade have evolved around
Iraq, principally caused by the Saddam Hussein regime. And at times
those have involved the people of northern Iraq. For example, I
referred earlier to the human rights violations that occurred in the
late 1980s, including the use of chemical weapons against an innocent
civilian population. I think now ten years later the international
community would not tolerate such a situation again.

Second, to the extent there is greater peace and stability in the
north of Iraq, the chances of a disruption there that some outside
party might take advantage of, with consequences throughout the
region, are lessened. And another example too is if that area is more
secure and these two parties are cooperating, they have committed
themselves to controlling the movement of terrorists and barring them
from operating in that area -- the PKK specifically. That will reduce
the problems that Turkey has from border violations and terrorist
operations against Turkey, and there will be less disruption as a
result if they feel compelled to -- they will feel less compelled to

MR. FOUCHEUX: So this could be a very optimistic step forward in a
very general sense?

MR. WELCH: Certainly it's an important building block. Look, there are
many problems in that area -- this isn't going to cure them all. But
this has been one which has caused particular pain and suffering over
the years, and it was important to take this step forward.

MR. FOUCHEUX: All right, Mr. Welch, let's return to Ankara once again
for another question from them. Please go ahead again in Ankara.

Q: You've repeatedly expressed your concern for the rights of the
Kurds in Iraq, and their right to choose the form of government they
want to live under in Iraq. Can we anticipate you showing the same
concern of the Kurds of Turkey?

MR. WELCH: Turkey is a democratic country. I think people there should
enjoy democratic rights. That's an issue for Turkey. My concern right
now is the lack of any such rights for the people of Iraq. And you
will recall that whenever I was asked the question about what we
support for Kurds, I made clear that we support similar rights for any
Iraqi. I wish that other Iraqis were in a position to exercise such
rights. I wish that other Iraqis had at least the minimum thing that
the people in northern Iraq do, is some freedom from the authority and
control of Saddam Hussein.

Q: John Hemming (sp) from Reuters. What is your attitude to the
continued diesel trade between northern Iraq and Turkey, which is
against United Nations resolutions on trade with Iraq? And secondly,
this has been one of the main divisive issues between the Kurds and is
being supported by the Turkish government, which is an ally of
America, and goes against the sanctions regime.

MR. WELCH: Well, I think the Turkish government is actually trying to
take some steps to control this trade. This is -- there are two areas
in which the government in Baghdad is able to violate the sanctions
regime. One is by the gas-oil trade across that border and the other
is by gas-oil petroleum products trade out of the northern Gulf
region, and that is smuggled to ports in the Gulf. We are trying to
control both of these outflows. They are different in the ways in
which this might happen. These are sources of revenue for the Iraqi
government -- I would not exaggerate their importance. They pale in
comparison for example beside the pre-war oil earnings of the Iraqi
regime. But they are nonetheless important, and we believe they should
be brought under control and regularized according to the sanctions
regime. We have made some proposals as to how that might be
accomplished to the Turkish government, and we are in a discussion
about those proposals with them right now.

MR. FOUCHEUX: Mr. Welch, again we have talked generally about some of
the problems with the Iraqi government. What do you see as major
current specific dangers in the region coming out of Baghdad?

MR. WELCH: Well, we believe that Iraq under Saddam Hussein remains a
significant threat to peace and stability in the area. The principal
problem right now is that Iraq has divorced itself from cooperation
with the U.N. Special Commission and the IAEA in the disarmament
process envisaged by the resolutions at the end of the Gulf War. What
that has done is that it has interrupted the ability of the
international community to verify that Iraq has disclosed and
destroyed all these prohibited weapons. And unfortunately there are
large remaining uncertainties in that process that cannot be reduced
unless Iraq brings itself back into compliance. Presently the Special
Commission and IAEA are operating only on a limited, truncated basis.
Until they are able to restore full operation, I don't think anyone in
the international community can have any confidence about the status
of their weapons programs. And until they have that confidence there
isn't any prospect whatsoever that Iraq can get out from under the
sanctions regime. So unless they bring themselves back into compliance
we are going to see that this sanctions regime continues.

I believe that the alternative is gravely threatening to regional
peace and stability. What is that alternative? It is that we would
accept that there is some potential there that Iraq might rearm itself
or some practical ability actually to use these weapons of mass
destruction. That is simply not going to happen. The international
community decided in Resolution 687 that Iraq shall not have these
weapons of mass destruction, and that is the standard by which Iraq
must live.

MR. FOUCHEUX: And with that our discussion comes to a close. Mr. David
Welch of the U.S. State Department, thank you very much for being in
our studios today. Our thanks as well to our participants in London
and Ankara. In Washington, I'm Rick Foucheux for Worldnet's

(End transcript)