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Public Papers - 1991 - January

Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on the Conditional Release of Military Assistance to El Salvador


The President is sending a report to Congress on Salvadoran Government and FMLN guerrilla compliance with the terms set forth in the Fiscal Year 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriation Act. Today, the President determined that .5 million, the 50 percent of FY 1991 military aid for El Salvador that has been withheld under the law, may be released. The President's decision was based on the FMLN's violation of the conditions against ``engaging in acts of violence directed at civilian targets'' and acquiring or receiving ``significant shipments of lethal military assistance from outside El Salvador,'' contained in Sections 531 (D) and (E) of the Act.

The President has decided to suspend delivery of this aid for 60 days in the interest of promoting a peaceful settlement to El Salvador's tragic conflict. Despite the FMLN's intransigence in negotiating with the Government and its clear violation of standards which Congress has established, we must give the peace negotiations under U.N. mediation every possible chance to succeed. The end of the 60-day period will coincide with the elections in March for the Salvadoran National Assembly. If the FMLN takes a serious and constructive approach to the peace talks so that they result in a political settlement and a U.N.-supervised cease-fire within 60 days, these funds will not need to be released for the defense of El Salvador's security.

The United States is prepared to go the last mile for peace in El Salvador. We are not prepared to sacrifice the security of the elected government or of American citizens. The United States will monitor carefully security conditions in El Salvador, and the President may release military assistance sooner than 60 days in case of a compelling security need.

The President would strongly prefer not to have to use these funds for military purposes, but rather, as the legislation permits, to help monitor a cease-fire and assist in demobilizing combatants and returning them to civilian life. An internationally verified cease-fire would assist greatly in assuring the fullest possible participation in the election and allow us to use our assistance to support a peace settlement and national reconstruction. The time for war in El Salvador is over; the time for a peace settlement is now.

Note: The Presidential determination on military assistance for El Salvador was printed in the ``Federal Register'' of February 6.

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