02 December 2004
State Department Noon Briefing, December 2
Bosnia/Herzegovina, Ukraine, North Korea, China, Israel/Palestinians, United Nations, Iran, Middle East, Sudan, Turkey, role of U.S. Ambassadors, Cyprus, Colombia
State Department Richard Boucher briefed the press December 2.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, December 2, 2004
1:00 p.m. EST
Briefer: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
BONSIA & HERZEGOVINA
-- Transition of NATO-Led Force to European Union-Led Force
-- Addressing Past Crimes High Priority
-- U.S. Policy on Apprehending War Criminals
-- Presidential Election
-- Comments by Presidents Kuchma and Putin on the Territorial Integrity of Ukraine
-- U.S. View on Situation and Its Resolution
-- Legal and Political Process in Action
-- U.S. Discussions with Russia
-- Foreign Influences in Efforts to Resolve Situation
-- Status of Six-Party Talks/U.S. Contact with Parties
-- Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai
-- Secretary Powell's Meeting with Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai
-- January 9 Palestinian Presidential Election
-- Responsibilities of Palestinian Leadership
-- Importance of a Smooth Election/U.S. Support
-- Deputy Secretary Armitage's Meeting with Palestinian Finance Minister Fayyad
-- U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Palestinians
-- U.S. Consideration of Assistance to Palestinian Authority for Elections
-- Query Regarding Travel of Assistant Secretary Burns to the Region
-- Oil-for-Food Program/U.S. Support of Investigations
-- Iran's Commitments to Transparency
-- International Atomic Energy Agency Access to Facilities
-- U.S. Support of Comprehensive Peace in the Region
-- U.S. View of Direct Talks Between the Parties
-- Acts of Violence/Humanitarian Operations
-- Reception for Visiting Lay Leaders of the Orthodox Church
-- Role of U.S. Ambassadors
-- Query Regarding Letter from Senator Snow to Secretary Powell
-- Query on Exchange Between the Government and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 2, 2004
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:00 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's good to be back with you after a brief absence, and thank you for your forbearance in waiting for me.
I'd like to start off, if I could, just to note we will release a more extensive written statement in writing that today marks the transition from a NATO force in Bosnia to a European Union-led force. And the Secretary of State has a statement to mark the occasion, which notes that for nine years the men and women of SFOR, as it was called, and their predecessors in the implementation force, provided a safe and secure environment for the implementation of the Dayton Accords for the people of Bosnia.
That mission has now been completed. As you all remember, on July 31st of this year, the Secretary of State was in Bosnia. He reviewed with the officials there of the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as with the commanders in the field, the process of transition as it was envisaged at the time, and he's very pleased to see that the arrangements are working out as smoothly as was planned.
I do want to make -- he makes a point on this occasion that the United States and NATO are not leaving Bosnia. New NATO headquarters in Sarajevo, working in close cooperation with the European Union, will continue to work, take up the challenge of defense reform, apprehending indicted war criminals and working with local authorities to combat terrorism. So this marks a transition -- the end of one mission and the beginning of another mission by the European Union to help the Bosnia and Herzegovina Government and the people of the nation, to complete their reforms to bring themselves closer to Europe. As the EU undertakes that mission, we certainly will support it, and believe this is a major event for the people of Bosnia as well.
QUESTION: To follow up, does the Secretary have any opinion on the lack of apprehension of Karadzic and Mladic after nine months?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, the Secretary continues to believe, as the U.S. Government does, that this remains -- needs to remain a very high priority; that finishing with the crimes of past is important to get on with the future and important to the eventual integration of Bosnia and Herzegovina and all its parts with the Euro-Atlantic institutions, and with their becoming a full part of the Europe that's whole, free and at peace, as we say. So this remains a high priority. It's for that reason the United States and NATO have left a force there. And it's for that reason that we continue to remind all the people of the region that they have a responsibility, too, to apprehend war criminals and to carry out the mandate of The Hague tribunal.
QUESTION: Do you have a notion why they haven't been apprehended, lo, these many years?
MR. BOUCHER: I suppose there's a lot of reasons. I don't think I could probably go into them all here. But we definitely think that this has gone on far too long and that a concerted effort and a display of will by all the people in the region could -- should be able to resolve the issue.
QUESTION: It's been a long time since I tried to check what the U.S. instruction is to its own people there. It was at one point -- and I'm not trying to satirize this, but if they fell into the hands of Americans, Americans would, you know, take them into custody. Is there any more aggressive -- have you -- is there any more aggressive --
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think that's a mischaracterization of the past.
QUESTION: Well, it was a long time ago, so to heck with it. It's probably --
MR. BOUCHER: Please, let's forget about it.
QUESTION: What is the going U.S. guidance to American forces?
MR. BOUCHER: The going U.S. guidance to U.S. forces, you'll have to check with the Pentagon on.
MR. BOUCHER: The going U.S. policy on this is to apprehend these people and to lend every possible assistance to forces in the region and to people in the region who need to participate in that effort. Our goal is to get these guys, and we will do that in cooperation with people who are out there.
QUESTION: But is the goal to actively go out and hunt for them or assist the Bosnians in tracking them down and letting Bosnians do the work?
MR. BOUCHER: Any way you can.
QUESTION: Okay. Another subject, maybe? If you have anything, frankly, to add (inaudible) talked about and no one have you go through the whole thing again, that Mr. Putin is saying pointedly about Ukraine, you know, outsiders stay out. Outsiders apparently can play a positive role, for instance, but do you have any response to that? And he said something like you could have three or four elections until you got it to come out your way. Well, it's a little more difficult than that, isn't it? What's the view here? And isn't Russia intruding while it's telling everybody to stay out?
MR. BOUCHER: I think that was about 17 questions.
QUESTION: But there's a general theme here that's easy to --
MR. BOUCHER: I think I can note a couple general themes. One, at a press conference in Moscow today, President Putin and President Kuchma, together talked about -- emphasized over and over again the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the need to avoid any effort that would split Ukraine, and indeed, the need to make every effort to have this process be carried through in a way that maintains territorial integrity.
Second of all, I think if you look at the words, "president spoke" when he was just in a photo operation with President Obasanjo, he said, "we're watching very carefully what's taking place, but any election in any country must reflect the will of the people and not that of any foreign government," which, frankly, is surprisingly close to what President Putin said this morning.
Our view has been and remains that the turmoil needs to be ended quickly and fairly in order to get past the problems caused by the fraud of the November 21st vote, that this needs to proceed through legal and political processes of Ukraine. We're very pleased that the roundtable negotiations were productive and that the parties made pledges yesterday to refrain from the use of force and they affirmed, again, their support for Ukraine's territorial integrity, as the President did this morning. We thank the President of Poland, the President of Lithuania and others, EU Foreign Affairs Chief Solana, as well as the Russian Duma chief who was part of this group, for their contributions to the negotiating process.
The process as it's unfolding now in Ukraine is you have two -- these two -- we talked about the legal and political process. You see them in action today. You see the Supreme Court's continuing its deliberations out there on the validity of the results and how the election process went. They may have results soon from that deliberation. Second of all, the Rada has started to take up, now, the questions of how to implement the agreement that the various parties reached yesterday.
And so we think the process is proceeding forward. We want to see it move forward. We have maintained contact with the various parties out there. We've also maintained contact with the Russians, frankly, and we -- our understanding is that they, like us, want to support this Ukrainian process to find an outcome that can reflect the will of the Ukrainian people, and that they will endorse and support the outcome that is agreed to yesterday and implement it through these various mechanisms that are underway in Ukraine. So that's the way we see the situation today.
QUESTION: You're crediting them with -- you didn't use the word "constructive." It sounds like the U.S. today thinks the Russians are pretty much on the same track as we are?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I think we're pretty much on the same track. As I noted, they had a representative as part of these discussions. They've said some of the same things as we have. And I just think our view is one that these processes need to proceed so that the will of the Ukrainian people can be reflected in the outcome.
QUESTION: Richard, two quick ones. First of all, yes, the two presidents said that there shouldn't be foreign influence, but I guess it was directed at each other, not themselves. When the Russians say that they want no foreign influence, they mean American out; when the Americans say they don't want foreign influence, they mean Russians out.
But my question really is, in this meeting today --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think it's quite so crude as that.
QUESTION: Okay. But in this meeting today in Moscow, apparently you've found the only silver lining in saying that they agreed on the territorial integrity of Ukraine. But was it appropriate for the President of Ukraine to be whisked to Moscow at this time and meet with the president of another country?
MR. BOUCHER: He's doing a lot of things at this time. He's meeting with a lot of people. There have been people down there to visit with him and to support this process. We certainly believe that the President of Ukraine has a responsibility to look at the overall process, to try to make the outcome one that reflects, I think, the historic movement in Ukraine towards a more open society, towards a more -- a society that's more integrated in international and European institutions, for example, and that this process needs -- the outcome of the fraudulent election and the turmoil that's ensued needs to be one that moves Ukraine forward towards more democracy, more openness and more reflection of the will of the Ukraine people.
The fact that there are foreigners who have views on this who want to help is not a surprise to us. We are, indeed, part of that effort. But I think the point that I'm trying to make is that everybody's effort needs to be focused on how to help the Ukraine, people of Ukraine, use these various legal and political processes to achieve an outcome that reflects their will, not the will of any outside party. And I think that's certainly our view, very clearly stated by our President. And it seems, as I said, to be the direction the Russians are going in as well. I didn't claim an identity of views. I didn't look for a silver lining. I just said that our understanding, based on what we've seen him say in public and what we've seen from our conversations with the Russians, is that they, too, are looking for an outcome from the legal and political process under way in Ukraine that will satisfy the needs and the wishes of the Ukraine people.
QUESTION: But, Richard, that didn't seem to be the U.S. take on it in the weeks up to the election and through the election. So do you think that the Russian position has evolved as a result of your --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll let the Russians characterize the evolution of their position. Our take on things has very, very consistently been, from months and months ago as well as right before the election, there needed to be a free, fair and open election that reflected the will of the Ukraine people.
QUESTION: No, I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that you didn't used to characterize the Russian position as constructive or helpful in the weeks up until --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I was characterizing it one way or the other these days. The most I said about the Russian position was to note certain similarities and similarities of direction. Our understanding is that they, too, are looking for the outcome of these legal and political processes in Ukraine, and that they're looking for an outcome that can reflect what the people of Ukraine want.
QUESTION: Is it appropriate, given all these calls for no foreign intervention, influence, is it appropriate, then, for President Putin to have said there shouldn't be a repeat runoff?
MR. BOUCHER: I really think that, now, just staying with what I've said, that we -- our understanding of the Russian view is in some way similar to ours, and that they, too, are looking, as we are, for the outcome of these legal and political processes for an outcome that reflects the will of the Ukraine people.
QUESTION: When you say that he Russian position is somewhat similar to yours. What do you disagree on?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not here to do a compare and contrast. I, honestly, everybody's doing it for me, I know. But there are certain things that are sort of obvious. There may be many more where we don't agree completely. But the basic, fundamental point that I keep making, I think, is one that -- is something reflected in our discussions with the Russians as well.
QUESTION: You said that you've stayed in contact with the parties and with the Russians. Have there been any more calls to Yushchenko and Mr. Yanukovych?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not from Washington. But our representatives in the field are keeping touch, I don't know if directly with them, but certainly people, all the people involved in this matter as well as with some of the foreigners who have been involved as well.
QUESTION: Can I try something else?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. Want to try something else?
QUESTION: Yeah, sure. Delighted. I have other things. One is, the Japanese think from an interview that Mr. Armitage gave that it looks like the six-party talks may be resumed in January. Is there anything like that over the horizon that you can tell us about?
MR. BOUCHER: We -- you all have seen the transcript of Mr. Armitage's interview (inaudible).
QUESTION: Well, I've seen the transcript, but since I believe in wire services, I have a wire service story.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't -- not that I don't trust wire services, --
QUESTION: It isn't our wire service.
MR. BOUCHER: -- but I have the State Department transcript of what Mr. Armitage said. He said our whole emphasis is to get talks started again maybe, maybe some time in December, certainly in January. But the answer to that question doesn't lie in Washington, it lies in Pyongyang; you'll have to ask them.
So, bottom line is, he is saying, as we have said before, that we're ready for talks at an early date. We would like to see them commence soon -- this month or early next month. But I can't say that there will be talks until North Korea agrees to come to talks as they have agreed to in the past. And there will be issues still outstanding because we haven't seen or heard anything from North Korea on the subject.
QUESTION: And your partners feel pretty much the way you do about --
MR. BOUCHER: As far as we know, and, frankly, this is confirmed in very regular contacts with other partners. Having meetings today with the South Koreas. The Secretary is going to see Chinese Special Envoy today, Ambassador Dai Bingguo, so we keep in very regular touch with the other members of the -- it was laid on, I think, after the public statement was sent.
QUESTION: The e-mail says (inaudible), by the way, for a change.
MR. BOUCHER: We keep in very regular touch with our partners on these subjects and, as far as we understand, everybody is not only ready for talks, but is using every mechanism to encourage talks at an early date.
I think if you remember the President's meetings and the Secretary's meetings in Chile during APEC, we had the opportunity to meet with the Japanese, with the South Koreans, with the Russians, with the Chinese and that all four of those parties to the talks made clear they not only were ready, but wanted to see early resumption of the six-party talks, and therefore continue to work in that direction. Unfortunately, North Korea has still not, as far as we know, agreed to come to such discussions.
But -- okay, we'll start here and work back there.
QUESTION: Yeah, something different?
MR. BOUCHER: Something different? Let's finish with North Korea then.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. BOUCHER: Lori
QUESTION: After the meeting yesterday that Mr. Armitage had with Mr. Dai, was the same timeframe was discussed during the meeting? What do you hear from the Chinese side on this timeframe -- this month or next month, or if you have --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I -- it's, you know, what Mr. Armitage said is our desire would be to see talks this month or next month.
QUESTION: What's the results from that?
MR. BOUCHER: As far as we know, there is no desire shared by the North Koreans on that as I just, I think, went through in some detail. Everybody, including the Chinese, including us, in the talks, is looking for an early resumption. But North Korea has not yet agreed to that.
QUESTION: I guess I was trying to ask what the Chinese response to --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, you have to ask the Chinese, but as far as I know, they don't have any new information on what the North Koreans are up to. But the Chinese have very consistently said they wanted early resumption.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. I just wanted to know if you have a readout of the whole meeting.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. The Deputy Secretary Armitage and Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo met yesterday. They reviewed a whole host of bilateral, regional and global issues similar to the issues that President Hu and President Bush addressed during their recent summit discussion in Santiago.
Now, obviously, our efforts to -- in the six-party talks were a main topic of discussion. The Deputy Secretary thanked the Chinese for their efforts that they have made to end North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons and to move forward on the talks.
They also discussed Taiwan; they discussed questions of the International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran and a variety of other things, follow-on the discussion from the presidents. The Secretary will have a meeting with Special Envoy and Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo today. They'll again, I think, go over the same topics similarly but not necessarily in the same amount of detail as they did in the meeting with the Deputy Secretary yesterday.
QUESTION: Richard, you said that they talked about Iran.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. asking China to curtail its oil purchases to Iran in an effort to perhaps, you know, to use leverage with Iran against -- on the nuclear issue?
MR. BOUCHER: We don't really address it that way. We address it in terms of the responsibility of members of the Board to ensure that Iran lives up to its understandings, to its commitments, both to the Board and to -- but to the IAEA and to the Europeans, and that Iran lives up to the requirements of resolutions. That's a responsibility we think all members of the IAEA Board of Governors have.
QUESTION: But in terms of the kind of carrots and sticks that everyone has talked about in terms of getting Iran to stop its nuclear program, I mean, obviously, the U.S. looks to the Europeans to put -- to use its influence with Iran, but do you think that China has an influence?
MR. BOUCHER: As we've said, we look to all the members of the Board of Governors to do what they can to see that Iran complies with its requirements.
QUESTION: If the meeting today produces anything definitive, for instance, on North Korea's willingness or unwillingness to meet, could someone let us know that? I don't know when this meeting is. It's a late add-on.
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's five minutes from now.
QUESTION: Oh, well, then there's plenty of time for us to be informed whether they discussed a variety of bilateral issues or if you have some news.
MR. BOUCHER: Barry, I don't expect any news out of it this afternoon in terms of overnight information since the meeting with Deputy Secretary Armitage, but if there is, you and your colleagues will be the first to know.
Thank you. Nicholas.
QUESTION: Richard, I know that you probably couldn't give us any interesting answer to this, but why --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll give you a very interesting answer -- maybe.
QUESTION: Why does he have to meet with the Secretary if he met and talked in such detail about issues with the Deputy yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: It's frequent practice and custom that you go through various issues at some length with various interlocutors around town when you know that people discuss similar subjects when they come to town with different departments of our government, sometimes different people. I think most of the people who come to town on this subject also meet with Assistant Secretary Kelly. Usually, with the Secretary of State, there is less time to go through all of the subjects in as much detail, and so, the -- you might -- how can I say this -- sort of pick and choose among the various topics when you meet with the Secretary and go through the whole agenda with others. And that's where we are.
QUESTION: But would you say that meeting both the Deputy and the Secretary is not very usual?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not a required or a regular practice, but the Secretary, as you know, takes great personal interest in this subject and has frequently met with Chinese envoys on the subject of North Korea.
QUESTION: Richard, as long as we're getting into the intricacies of these two meetings, did Assistant Secretary Kelly sit in yesterday and is he going to sit in today?
MR. BOUCHER: Frankly, I forgot to check, but I have to assume so.
QUESTION: Could it be that the Annan meetings gives the Chinese time to make a phone call or two or check with some other people back home to see if -- in response to U.S. requests of some sort?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, does it give them time to make phone calls? Sure.
QUESTION: So that gives them time --
MR. BOUCHER: They have had plenty of time to make phone calls but I don't know anything at this point that -- yeah, I mean, if you are saying did they make a phone call back home and get a date out of the North Koreans --
QUESTION: Yeah, that's what I'm saying.
MR. BOUCHER: -- I'd be a little surprised if that happened in the last 24 hours, but we'll see.
QUESTION: Well, I think the question is --
MR. BOUCHER: No, the question he just confirmed was what I said. Now, if you have another question, I'm glad to take it.
QUESTION: Was the meeting with Deputy Secretary Armitage so productive and yielded so much in positive and optimism that you felt it necessary to add on with the Secretary. I mean, is there something that you want to build on from the meeting with the --
MR. BOUCHER: It was a very good meeting with the Deputy Secretary. They had an extensive discussion of all the issues. We're very glad that he has -- he's available today to meet with the Secretary somewhat more briefly. This is an example of the very positive and productive cooperation we've had with China on these issues. It does not portend that there is some dramatic new development. That's as much as I can tell you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay?
QUESTION: Do a bookkeeping -- make a bookkeeping request of -- dangling before us is the possibility the reporters actually will be able to talk to the Secretary today. It says media to be determined. Could we request that we do have a chance to ask a couple of questions after that -- that's the Nigerian meeting by the way?
MR. BOUCHER: At this point, there is no plan for anything in particular, but as you know, in previous, including some very recent visits to hotels, and the like, to meet with people, he sometimes does stop when there's people outside. So I'm not telling you to go out and stand in the cold because you're -- at this point, the plan is to disappoint you and lead you out there to freeze by yourselves.
QUESTION: Oh, we've been disappointed before.
MR. BOUCHER: But we all know that occasionally the stalwarts have been satisfied.
QUESTION: So there is more to say today about Mr. Barghouti's decision to run for the Palestinian presidency. I understand that Secretary Powell, at least today, said it was maybe problematic. That's his word.
MR. BOUCHER: I think we've gotten you all the quote of what the Secretary said yesterday, down in Haiti, even if we haven't been able to get -- I'm not sure the full transcript is out yet, but we got that section out to you last night, as he said, and he's quoting it correctly, which I assume means we got it to you.
I really don't have anymore to say on a particular individual or a particular individual's candidacy. I think we need to remember what the big issue is here. And that's working with the Palestinians to ensure that the January 9th presidential election results in an outcome that produces a credible and clear result, that it goes as smoothly as possible, that all the parties who have an interest in seeing a smooth outcome take the steps to support it. That means us; that means the Israelis, it certainly means the Palestinians, in terms of their organization, the Europeans, other members of the Quartet. And that's something, as you know, we've been working on.
The emergence of a leadership, Palestinian leadership, that's committed to democracy, the rule of law, transparent government and an end to violence and terror is indeed critical. It gives the Palestinians a chance to build the institutions of the Palestinian state. It gives them a representative who can negotiate on their behalf in a credible manner. It gives them a representative who can stand for them in international meetings and discussions.
So we think this is a very important step in the process and we should all be committed to doing that and seeing that kind of outcome.
QUESTION: Well, that was the root of the question yesterday. We weren't asking so much about Mr. Barghouti, and now today it's surfaced the possibility of another candidate who may be under house arrest in the U.S.
MR. BOUCHER: We just saw that report. I'm checking that out. I don't know if that's true or not. Yeah.
QUESTION: No, no, this is -- but what I was driving at yesterday was whether, considering the U.S.'s, you know, call for democracy reform -- you know, your aspirations for real change since Arafat, if you had guidelines -- I know it's not your election, it's theirs. But if you had guidelines -- it sounds like from what you said just now, you do have guidelines. You would like candidates to be people, for instance, who aren't convicted of murder. That would seem to be plausible.
MR. BOUCHER: I think you have to step back a little bit from the way you've stated it in that the goal here -- first of all, the judgment is ultimately up to the Palestinian people. Second of all, objectively, if you look at the roadmap, if you look at what's required to move forward, you need Palestinian leadership that can take responsibility, that can stop the terror and violence, that can represent them in discussions and move forward. We think that's where their focus ought to be and that's where our focus ought to be in trying to help them have a smooth election.
So it's not the U.S. laying down a series of guidelines or rules for who can be a candidate and who can't be a candidate. It's just looking at the situation right now. We need -- it's important to have a smooth election that results in credible representatives of the Palestinian people and we're sure the Palestinian people want to keep that in mind as they go forward.
QUESTION: I won't prolong it, but Yasser Arafat was the choice of the Palestinian people, they said he was elected, he was recognized by most countries. The U.S. did not want to deal with him.
MR. BOUCHER: But isn't that what I just --
QUESTION: No, you said --
MR. BOUCHER: The parallel to that is what I'm saying right now, that it was not the fact that Yasser Arafat was elected that in the end proved whether or not he could help create a Palestinian state. It was what he did or -- more important -- didn't do.
QUESTION: I understand.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay? And what we're saying now is we not only need a smooth election, but it's -- we need somebody who can do this process of creating the institutions, creating the state, negotiating on their behalf and establishing the credibility of the Palestinian people. And that's not a set of rules laid down. That's an objective judgment on how we need to proceed forward, consistent with the roadmap, consistent with the kind of vision the President's laid down.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on what you said about the importance of having a smooth election?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you give us any more information on what assistance, if any, the United States is providing to the Palestinians to ensure that a smooth election takes place? And in particular, I'm wondering, does the U.S. plan to send any observers to the Palestinian territories to monitor the elections?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have an answer on monitors or even international monitors at this moment. That's certainly an issue that we'll be looking at and I'm sure that various groups in the United States and elsewhere, particularly elsewhere, will be looking at.
We are considering how best to provide support to the Palestinian Authority as they go into this period. That's something, as you know, we've been talking to Congress on. I don't have any final words for you on that yet. But as you know, that's something that has been under consideration.
We also have encouraged others who do have more direct financial relationships with the Palestinian Authority to see what they can do, and that's something we'll continue to do with others in the Quartet, for example, and the international community.
And finally, I think, we are working with neighbors; we're working with other governments, including the Israeli Government, to see what they can do to help with the election. So on a lot of different fronts we're trying to move this process forward. In terms of financial assistance, we provide something like $200 million a year of financial assistance either through the UN or through nongovernmental organizations to Palestinians to help them with their needs, their development, their humanitarian needs. But at this point, whether we supply something directly for the elections or not is still under consideration.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate a decision on that before the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee meeting next week?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll just have to see.
QUESTION: But is that going to be one of the subjects that the Deputy Secretary is talking to the Finance Minister, who you are pleased with as a reformist?
MR. BOUCHER: The Deputy Secretary and Finance Minister Fayyad will go through a number of issues, including the current situation in Palestinian areas, the issues of donors and money and how Palestinians are working, how we can work with the Palestinians to help revive the Palestinian economy, the issue of how to build up Palestinian institutions, including security institutions, to take responsibility and control violence and terror. They'll talk about how to fight corruption in Palestinian areas. They'll talk about the reforms and the questions of building democratic institutions, and I'm sure they'll also discuss the current situation with regard to proceeding towards elections.
So it's a bit broader than just the topic of how we can help the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority in this period, but that will probably be one of the topics that comes up.
QUESTION: I have one question.
MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Charlie's going to follow up, though.
QUESTION: Speaking of finances and the Palestinians, does the U.S. Government have a view on whether there are missing millions or tens of hundreds of millions of dollars from Mr. Arafat's days, and is that part of the broader discussion, financial discussion, with Mr. Fayyad?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't believe that's a subject we've had anything to say on.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have a view on it?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't believe that's a subject we've had anything to say on.
Yes, sir. Same thing?
QUESTION: Yeah. Is the meeting likely to include a discussion on the presidential candidates, the Palestinian election?
MR. BOUCHER: Our goal is not to choose presidential candidates in the Palestinian election. It's not to judge the presidential candidates in the Palestinian election. Our goal is to talk to Palestinians about how they proceed to create the institutions of a state, how they proceed to create the responsible institutions that can control violence and terror, how they propose to move forward with reforms and progress to create a Palestinian state, a democratic Palestinian state that can live side by side in Israel.
QUESTION: I have some questions concerning the UN. Yesterday we --
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Back to Barghouti. He's obviously popular and will probably now be the frontrunner in the election. Do you still encourage the Israelis to cooperate with the election if the election looks like it could put someone in power who has called for violence against them? And if you're looking for aid for the Palestinians, what's your argument to congressmen saying we think the Palestinians should get aid when that aid could well be going to somebody who has been espousing violence?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't want to prejudge the outcome of the elections like you're doing. I think it's important for us to recognize this is a critical moment for the Palestinians as they look to choose their new leaders that they need a process that will produce credible leaders that can do the things that are necessary to proceed down the roadmap. And we'll just keep it at that for the moment.
QUESTION: Would you understand an Israeli position that withdrew some of its cooperation --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think you're characterizing an Israeli position that I've seen yet, so I'm not going to speculate on what the United States position might be should something happen and then the Israelis might take another position. I think you're about seven degrees of speculation. We don't do that here.
QUESTION: But, Richard, also on Barghouti, you've asked the Israelis to cooperate and help facilitate the elections. Does that cooperation including letting Barghouti out of jail?
MR. BOUCHER: We have not said that. We've said that he is in jail, he's been incarcerated for crimes that he was found guilty of.
QUESTION: A follow-up on Saul's question. If he is accepted as a candidate --
MR. BOUCHER: That sounds like an eighth degree of speculation here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, he submitted papers. He could well be -- I mean, my question is, when you consider giving any sort of aid to the Palestinians to hold elections, would that be any factor in your decision to or not to give them any sort of aid?
MR. BOUCHER: Our position is not based on particular candidates. Our position is based on the need for the Palestinians to have an election that moves them forward, and that moves them forward along the lines the roadmap, and we want to help them do that. We think others in the international community do, too.
QUESTION: Are you willing to work with whoever the Palestinians elect?
MR. BOUCHER: That -- I -- yes, but don't interpret something that I don't intend. That's an obvious yes. At the same time, remember the Secretary said yesterday that the candidacy of Barghouti is problematic because of the kind of reasons that you might well conclude, should that happen. But I'm not going to speculate on it at this point.
QUESTION: Richard, I have some questions concerning the UN. We mentioned --
QUESTION: Can I just have a follow-up?
MR. BOUCHER: Adi.
QUESTION: Would it be fair to say that you won't make a definitive declaration of what kind of financial support you'll provide to the Palestinians until after their elections in early January?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Could I clear up a small point? If there is assistance for the election, is that above and apart from the resumption of assistance to the Palestinian Authority?
MR. BOUCHER: Should we decide on assistance to the Palestinian Authority, we'll describe to you the funding sources and how that relates to the other assistance we give to the Palestinians through nongovernmental or UN agencies.
QUESTION: So it may be new money or it may not be new money; you don't know?
MR. BOUCHER: Should we decide to do it, we'll describe how it's being done.
QUESTION: But you've already said you want to resume assistance to the authorities --
MR. BOUCHER: I said we're considering it.
QUESTION: Let me ask the question this way, then: Is the U.S. considering giving assistance to the Palestinian Authority to help them hold elections, or only to giving them assistance to help them with their humanitarian and other needs?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a different issue.
QUESTION: No, it's the same issue.
MR. BOUCHER: We are giving --
QUESTION: I just phrased it in the way that you're comfortable answering.
MR. BOUCHER: No, you're trying to phrase it in a way that you can impute something that I don't intend.
MR. BOUCHER: We are giving assistance to the Palestinians, to the people who live in this area --
QUESTION: I know that. Is it going back to the authority now?
MR. BOUCHER: No, Barry, let me finish the sentence, okay? We are giving assistance to the Palestinians, as you just said, for humanitarian purposes through the UN and the NGOs. We are considering giving assistance to the Palestinian Authority to help them with their current needs during the period of elections. There is no decision on that. So should there be a decision on that, we will tell you how we're funding it and we'll tell you how we proceed.
But you ask are we doing one or the other? We are doing one. We are giving assistance to Palestinians to help with their humanitarian needs; and furthermore, we are considering assistance to the Palestinian Authority to help during this particular period, including through the elections.
QUESTION: Now here's another question. You used to assist humanitarian needs through the Authority, then you --
MR. BOUCHER: No, we did one --
QUESTION: Wait a minute. Then you ceased doing it because of your suspicions of corruption and Yasser Arafat's modus operandi, and you started to deal through the UN, et cetera, at least for one long year you did. Now my assumption was when this was first discussed that, with Arafat gone, you're considering going back to the previous way. Now I'm hearing, maybe I'm hearing wrong, that you may do both: assist the authority and continue to assist through the UN.
MR. BOUCHER: How far back are you going?
MR. BOUCHER: How far -- you may be going well before my time, but I don't remember where we gave direct money to the Palestinian Authority --
QUESTION: You don't?
MR. BOUCHER: -- except for one time last year, we gave $20 million. "Used to do something," if we did it one time last year, doesn't strike me as the correct characterization.
QUESTION: All right, let's drop it.
MR. BOUCHER: We did one time last year give $20 million directly to the Palestinian Authority. We have consistently for many years provided humanitarian assistance to Palestinians as people through the UN and through the NGOs.
Okay. We're changing subject now, or no? No, there's an endless font of questions here.
QUESTION: Given that you're keeping in touch with the parties, are there any travel plans by senior officials? I think Israeli media has reported that Mr. Burns is going this weekend. Is that true?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: So there are no plans and it's not true?
MR. BOUCHER: There are no plans by Burns to go this weekend.
QUESTION: Any other officials?
QUESTION: How about Mrs. Burns?
QUESTION: Mr. Hadley?
MR. BOUCHER: How about Mrs. Burns? You'd have to ask at the NSC about NSC officials.
QUESTION: Is Mr. Burns going to another area of the world, for instance?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know where Mr. Burns is going to be this weekend. I just checked and he is not going anywhere.
QUESTION: Is he going to need an overcoat?
MR. BOUCHER: All right. You were changing the subject first. Are we changing the subject now?
Go ahead, Joel.
QUESTION: I have some questions concerning the UN and this whole, I guess, controversy over Oil-for-Food. It also involves Kofi Annan's son. And does Senator Coleman, who's been interjecting his thoughts, have the authority to have done so, obviously, as a senator? And secondly, has U.S. Ambassador John Danforth been in any way instructed how to deal with this particular situation?
Now, as of this morning, the UN, meaning various diplomats within the group, have rejected the call for Kofi Annan's to resign, so they seem to be backing him. And what would be your feelings? Currently, ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton has been eyeing that particular vacancy, if it should occur.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to speculate on who might get a vacancy, should one occur anywhere, not in Washington, not New York, nowhere.
Number two; does Senator Coleman have a right to say what he wants to say? Absolutely. He can say what he wants to say.
Number three, on the question of the suggestion that Kofi Annan should resign, I think our spokesman addressed it yesterday. The President took the question this morning.
On the issue of the investigations, I think -- and you asked what are Senator Danforth's -- Ambassador Danforth's instructions in New York. He's been very supportive. We have been very supportive of the various investigations that are going on, the investigation being carried out of corruption and -- of allegations of corruption and mismanagement in the Oil-for-Food program being carried out by Paul Volcker, former Federal Reserve chairman.
The United States has been very supportive of that investigation and looks forward to seeing those results. We've also been very supportive of the Congressional investigation. We believe the U.S. Congress has a right to investigate and it's certainly an interest in finding out all the facts with respect to this program.
As Ambassador Danforth has said, it's not our job to prejudge the facts but the priorities are on uncovering the facts and letting these investigations proceed. So we've been cooperating with Mr. Volcker's inquiry. We've been cooperating with several Congressional investigations that are underway. And we have urged the United Nations to make available documents that Congress has requested so that those investigations will have access to all the facts that they need.
QUESTION: And Richard, finally, also affecting the UN, the UN diplomats have said today they have lacked the authority to inspect further in Iran. They want to go to a military complex, and they have been impeded in that effort.
MR. BOUCHER: I have seen some of those reports and I guess they're anonymous diplomats. I don't know who those might be. But I think it frames the question in the wrong manner, that the issue here is Iran's commitments to transparency, Iran's commitments to openness, Iran's repeated statement that they're not seeking to develop nuclear weapons, and how Iran can build confidence in the world, that they are -- that that is indeed sincere and true.
And one would think that if they really wanted to demonstrate to the world that they were not developing nuclear weapons, they would absolutely no problem at all in allowing inspections of any facility anywhere on any suspicion, on any grounds because they'd have nothing to hide. So, once again, I think we find a sort of an anomaly in Iran's behavior.
They say they have nothing to hide. They say they're not developing nuclear weapons. And yet, as was documented by the Director General in his reports, he has asked -- he says this in his November 15th report, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency says that the International Atomic Energy Agency has made repeated requests to visit a suspicious site at the military-controlled Parchin explosive testing facility and that those have not yet been answered by Iran.
So, once again, I'd say that we, as we've said in Vienna during the recent discussions, we expect Iran to provide prompt and immediate access to -- prompt and unrestricted access to the International Atomic Energy Agency, and we think this is an issue where Iran needs to try to demonstrate the truth and sincerity of its statements.
QUESTION: Does that go to their failure to respond to an IAEA request for a list of military components that anonymous diplomats are saying in Vienna raise suspicions about what the Iranian military is up to? You're talking about visiting sites.
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: How about complying with requests for a list of --
MR. BOUCHER: I think we would expect Iran to want to comply with all requests from the International Atomic Energy Agency, that if Iran truly has nothing to hide, one would expect them not only to comply, but to do so with gusto. I don't know how better to say it.
QUESTION: Con brio.
MR. BOUCHER: Sir.
QUESTION: And do you have any comment on what the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said today that he's ready to meet President Bashar Assad with the conditions?
MR. BOUCHER: Our view, I think, is simple to characterize, that we have always supported the idea of comprehensive peace in the region. That has been one of the tenets of diplomacy. That's what we have said frequently, including the Secretary reiterating it most recently in his meetings with the Syrian Foreign Minister when they met in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Second of all, that we have always believed that direct contacts between the parties are very important to this process, and so we would encourage any direct contacts that the parties feel it's appropriate to have in order to make progress on comprehensive peace.
QUESTION: Are you willing to facilitate those talks?
MR. BOUCHER: We have always been willing to help out the parties, if they should ask.
QUESTION: This summer, Secretary Powell said that acts of genocide had occurred and were still occurring in Darfur. Is it the position of the State Department that, indeed, those acts of genocide are still occurring?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't quite know why that question should come up today. I think the kind of violence, for example, we saw last week was very much along the pattern of the violence that we have seen in previous months, the pattern that we characterized as genocide. So I think as long as that pattern of attacks supported by the government with the militias continues, one would have to say that those acts are still occurring.
I would note that the situation this week is a bit more stable than it was last week. Some of the violence has calmed down. The relief agencies are returning to Tukwila and one of the places they had had to leave in north Darfur. The government has lifted travel restrictions for that area. The UN has opened the road in that area to traffic once again. So the fighting that had impaired humanitarian operations in that area, indeed, impaired humanitarian operations outside of El Fashir, appears to have subsided to the point where the UN can resume a lot of those operations. But it's still, you know, we think that all the parties need to abide very strictly by the ceasefire and need to stop the kind of actions that we've seen recently and in months ago.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, on Turkey, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan stated yesterday that he is not going to allow foreign diplomats to give to a Turkish citizen the title "ecumenical," speaking about this All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, based in Istanbul, Turkey, who has represented the Orthodox faith worldwide, making the point (inaudible) of this title against the national interests of Turkey.
Mr. Erdogan was referring specifically to the invitation, which had been sent by your Ambassador to Ankara, Mr. Edelman, to his guests for a dinner at the Embassy in the Turkish capital and calling on Father Bartholomew using the invitation to the Patriarch as a religious title.
May we have your comments in the framework of the religious freedom rights for which America is very concerned and sensitive universally?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, there's a couple things to say on this. And firstly, for those of you not familiar with this, there is a visit under way of prominent lay leaders of the Orthodox Church to Turkey. We very much supported this visit to Turkey. These leaders traveled on a mission to highlight religious freedom and we hope they'll be able to meet with as many Turkish officials as possible.
Ambassador Edelman is hosting a reception for them. We would note that there is, as reported, I think, a decision of the Turkish Government not to have officials attend the reception. But we would also note that Foreign Minister Gul met with the delegation today in Ankara.
Finally, on the more general point, we have long regarded the Patriarch as ecumenical, and thus is the spiritual leader for many inside and outside Turkey.
QUESTION: One more on Turkey. Since, for this reason, your ambassador to Ankara was attacked by a number of Turkish officials and the Turkish (inaudible) about his role in the way he's conducting his business, could you please explain to us from your own experience, too, which is the role of your ambassadors assigned to any country representing your country and invading into internal affairs since this invitation creates such a huge story?
MR. BOUCHER: Our ambassador's role is to uphold the standards, the principles and the values of the United States of America. We do that around the world. I know of many instances, even in this region, other places in this region, where our ambassadors are attacked for doing that, but they continue to uphold American values and American interests despite that.
QUESTION: One on Cyprus. In the longstanding and well-documented letter dated November 29th to Secretary Powell by the distinguished Senator Olympia Snow on Cyprus, she sadly criticizes your recent actions to give a legal status to the two illegal airports on the occupied territory of Cyprus. Senator Snow, inter alia, emphasizes that these actions against the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, and the U.S. more specifically the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, your recommendations adopted by the National Security Council does not accept your explanation, Mr. Boucher, that these actions are helping to end the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community by the invasion occupation forces. You proceeded without any prior presentation of the legitimate government of Cyprus and they are detrimental for the entire air space of the island and the sovereignty of the Republic of Cyprus.
How do you respond to these charges?
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I think we will respond to all congressional correspondence appropriately and directly to the Senator; and second of all, that I think we've adequately explained where we stand on those issues at this point and I really don't have anything new to say today.
We have one more back there. We have two more back there. Looks like the --
QUESTION: The U.S. and --
MR. BOUCHER: -- the front and these guys get in at the end. So, please.
QUESTION: May I come back to six-party talk? I understand at this point you cannot know when six-party talk resume. But I'm wondering, how long can you wait for? In other words, do you have any intention to set up a deadline?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States, and we believe the other parties to the talks, are very interested in pursuing it in a six-party framework. We will continue to make efforts in that direction. If other steps are necessary, we'll decide those at the appropriate time. I don't have any specific timeframe for you.
QUESTION: How long can you wait?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any answer to those questions. We'll continue to pursue this to try to get the North Koreans to come back to what they agreed to, which is to participate in six-party talks.
QUESTION: On Colombia. The Colombian Government is going to release 23 guerillas from Colombian prison for humanitarian exchange with the FARC. I'm wondering if you have any commentary about that.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't right now. I'll see if I get something later.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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