Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
July 30, 2009
Farewell to Press Officer Amanda Harper
U.S. takes the situation in Sudan very seriously
Assistant Secretary Carson provided a broad outline of the Secretary's trip / Africa is a priority / New approaches to development, more emphasis on investment, economic growth
U.S. will engage with North Korea multilaterally through the Six-Party Talks
U.S. has many ways to communicate with North Korea
Six-Party Talks and detention of American journalists are two separate issues
U.S. is following the Aung San Suu Kyi trial closely / U.S. Embassy official present for final arguments / Will attend tomorrow / U.S. calls for immediate, unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other 2,100 political prisoners
H1N1 Task Force / Coordination with international partners
Disturbed to see reports of security forces breaking up a graveside demonstration / U.S. stands by the Iranian people who seek to demonstrate peacefully
U.S. Embassy officials met with the Government of Iraq / Important to fulfill commitment to treat camp residents humanely
U.S. forces are providing medical assistance at Camp Ashraf
Essential for all countries in the region to take parallel steps to create an atmosphere for negotiations
12:33 p.m. EDT
MR. KELLY: Okay. Well, welcome to part 2. We much appreciate Assistant Secretary Carson taking the time to come down and brief you guys. I just have a couple of really personal announcements to make at the top.
Today is the last day of Amanda Harper, who is going on to, I hope, better things. We will certainly very much --
QUESTION: So this is her last day?
MR. KELLY: Sorry?
QUESTION: Her last day at the State Department?
MR. KELLY: I think – well, last day in the Press Office here at the State Department. And speaking of last days, this is my last day for a couple of weeks. And I do – I’m leaving tomorrow to go out to Chicago, where I’m going to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. So I do want to take this opportunity to say Happy Birthday, Dad, and I hope your middle age lasts at least another 10 or 20 years.
And with that, I will take your questions.
QUESTION: Is there anything Sudan-related that’s going to – on the Secretary’s trip to Africa?
MR. KELLY: I’m just going to take that question, Matt.
QUESTION: No – all right, this is just – I mean, I’m sorry. You know, there is an 11-day, seven-country trip coming up and we have a briefing which is, very nice, on the record, but, you know, it’s got to be longer than 20 minutes and longer than three questions. Related to – related to --
MR. KELLY: We’re very happy to give you the time of the Assistant Secretary.
QUESTION: Related to Sudan, this morning --
MR. KELLY: Who gave you a briefing on the – did you ask the questions except at the end when he had to leave?
QUESTION: I asked one question and then I allowed my colleagues to ask questions. I asked a question about Somalia.
On Sudan, this morning, Scott Gration, who, as you know, is the Special Envoy for Sudan, said that there was absolutely no evidence that Sudan – the Sudanese Government was a state sponsor of terrorism. Is this the Administration’s position? And if it is, when are you going to take them off the list?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I have not seen these remarks. When I see the remarks, we’ll be happy to provide comment on it.
QUESTION: There seems to be a debate within the Administration. When the envoy, General Gration, was here a few weeks ago, he talked about the remnants of genocide, said it was not an ongoing genocide. This caused an uproar in the Darfur advocacy community as well as within the Administration. And I believe you or one of your colleagues kind of had to walk it back, the statement, the next day.
How big of a debate is there going on in the Administration about what’s going on in Sudan, and how do you deal with it?
MR. KELLY: Well, look, I certainly don’t want to give you the impression that we don’t take this seriously. In fact, we take it so seriously, I want to be sure that we give you a completely accurate and thorough characterization of what our policy is. So I will take your question and we will get back to you this afternoon.
QUESTION: But this is not rocket science. I mean, either there’s a genocide or there’s not genocide. I mean, this has been something that has been going on within the Administration --
MR. KELLY: Sue, I have answered your question. I will – we will get you an answer this afternoon.
QUESTION: I mean, what is the – I don’t understand.
MR. KELLY: Are there any other issues that you would like to ask about, please?
QUESTION: Also on the Africa trip, just really quickly, would you be able to highlight some of the differences between Secretary Clinton’s upcoming visit and past administrations’ visits, kind of what they’re focusing on, the purpose of the trip?
MR. KELLY: I think that Assistant Secretary Carson gave you the broad outlines of it. We also – we – Secretary Clinton has spoken to it as well. We had a trip announcement on it. I think that this is – in many ways, it is similar to some of the messages that we gave when we went to Southeast Asia, that we are trying to highlight that we want to make Africa a priority in our foreign policy. She wants to discuss some new approaches to development, including more emphasis on investment and economic growth. I think you’ll see that. She is being joined by the Secretary of Agriculture, the U.S. Trade Representative. And as you guys have pointed out, it’s a very intensive trip with seven countries in some 11 days.
QUESTION: The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has mentioned yesterday he support direct talks between United States and North Korea. That is quite contrary to establish of the United – policy of the United States. What is your comment on that?
MR. KELLY: Well, I – we’ve seen his remarks. As you know, our approach on North Korea is we feel very strongly that we have to engage North Korea multilaterally through the Six-Party mechanism. And that is our approach and we’re – that is the approach of our five partners in the Six-Party Talks as well.
And regarding his remarks, I mean, I just would refer you to the United Nations to characterize his remarks.
QUESTION: On a different topic, on Burma, Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi’s verdict is supposed to come out tomorrow. I was just wondering if you had an update on what the United States is doing, if there’s diplomatic representation in the court room, and whether there is any statement that the United States has ahead of it in terms of what the United States wants to see.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, of course we’re following it very closely. I think as I told you yesterday, we do have – we did have a U.S. Embassy consular officer present during the final arguments. As you know, there is an American citizen who’s also on trial. We’ve received assurances that a consul will be able to attend tomorrow as well.
And regarding our diplomatic engagement, I mean, we have consistently had a very consistent public message that we believe that she should be immediately and unconditionally released, along with the 2,100 other political prisoners in Burma. I know Secretary Clinton has been very engaged with her colleagues, with some of her foreign minister colleagues. It was a topic at the ASEAN meeting, and she took every opportunity to urge her colleagues to make a similar message on the need for Aung San Suu Kyi to be released conditionally.
QUESTION: On a separate issue, tomorrow the Secretary is going to be meeting the Swiss foreign minister. Does the Secretary plan to discuss the UBS tax evasion case? Is this on the agenda with her meeting?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I haven’t seen the agenda. I would be surprised if it wasn’t on the agenda.
QUESTION: If it were not?
MR. KELLY: I would be surprised if it were not on the agenda. But let’s see if we can get you more information about the meeting tomorrow.
QUESTION: Because by delving into this – these – the case, that means the Secretary is looking at, you know, ongoing judicial cases. So is this a common thing that the Secretary does?
MR. KELLY: No, I wouldn’t say that’s common for the Secretary. But again, let me see what’s on the agenda for tomorrow.
QUESTION: But why would that be important for her to be looking at that? I mean, is that particularly a bilateral –
MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that it would be an issue that would be natural to come up in the meeting.
QUESTION: Two questions about North Korea. First up, according to Japanese Mainichi Shimbun, North Korea made an offer that the U.S. send Special Representative Bosworth and Ambassador Sung Kim to send to North Korea to release the two American journalists issue. Can you confirm that?
Number two, South Korean lawmakers made a suggestion of a movement among international lawmakers in the world to link the issues of the two American journalists and a South Korean worker detained in Kaesong. What’s the U.S. position on this suggestion?
MR. KELLY: Well, on the first issue, as we’ve said many times, we have a number of ways for us to communicate with North Korea. We don’t get into the business of characterizing the details of some of these communications.
We’ve been very clear about our position on any kind of bilateral talks. We feel very strongly that any talks that we have have to be in the context of the Six-Party Talks in the context of the – in a multilateral context. And that position hasn’t changed.
Regarding the case of the South Korean detainee, I’m afraid I’d have to – I’ll have to see if I can get more information on that.
QUESTION: Sir, do --
QUESTION: Last one on North Korea?
MR. KELLY: Yeah, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You stated several times that you see the Six-Party Talks and these two journalists as two separate issues.
MR. KELLY: Yes.
QUESTION: And yet, you’d do anything to – in your power to facilitate their release. Why can’t you talk about sending two envoys to talk about this issue?
MR. KELLY: Well, first of all, I’m not going to confirm that we’ve had any kind of invitation like that. And second of all, as you say, these are two separate cases, two separate tracks. And Ambassador Bosworth is – and Sung Kim are representatives to the Six-Party Talks, and any meeting that they would have with the North Koreans would have to be in that context. But you’re right; we are trying every avenue possible to try and get these two young women freed.
Yes, in the way back.
MR. KELLY: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh, great. Thanks. This morning, Ambassador Loftis was going to speak at a briefing, HIN1 Looking Ahead, and that was canceled. And the swine flu was such a highlight in the news with the military going to assist FEMA. And I’m just wondering what is on the State Department’s agenda, either in working with other countries or competing to get the vaccine.
MR. KELLY: Well, remember, we have an H1N1 task force here. We have been coordinating closely internationally. Regarding this particular briefing, though, I’d have to get you – I have to get back to you on what further information. I’m not sure.
QUESTION: Okay. So could you just give me a little bit more information about what the task force is doing?
MR. KELLY: Yes, we can do that. Okay.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the North Korea thing? You were just saying – you’re saying that Bosworth and Sung Kim, there’s no way that they would ever get into any --
MR. KELLY: No, I’m not going to say --
QUESTION: You said any meeting that they would have with the North Koreans would have to come in that context, meaning the context of the Six-Party Talks, and not having anything to do with the two journalists.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I do not like to use the word “never.” I will say, though, that these two individuals, these two diplomats, have a very specific purpose, and that’s to advance the Six-Party process. And --
QUESTION: Well, you seem to – were you intending to rule out the possibility that they might get involved in --
MR. KELLY: No, no, I’m not going to rule it out.
QUESTION: Any reaction to the latest in Iran? Apparently, in the cemetery, they were going to mourn some of the protestors and this was sealed off.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. have concerns about that?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I think it’s – I’ve seen the same reports you have. I think it’s particularly disturbing to see security forces use force to break up a graveside demonstration, to break up a group of people who are trying to exercise an important ritual under Islam, the mourning after 40 days. And just in general, I’ll just repeat what we always say, and that’s that we stand by the Iranian people who are seeking to exercise their universal right to self-expression, to demonstrate peacefully.
QUESTION: Have you had any further conversations with the Iraqis about the closure of this Camp Ashraf, gotten assurances that they won’t be forcibly sent back to Iran, et cetera?
MR. KELLY: Yeah, I do have something for you on that.
Embassy officials met yesterday with representatives of the Government of Iraq. We wanted to stress the importance to the Government of Iraq, the importance of Iraq fulfilling its commitment to the U.S. Government to treat the camp residents humanely. And we also proposed permitting an assessment of injuries and possible deaths, an assessment by U.S. forces.
The Government of Iraq did agree to allow U.S. forces to provide medical assistance to those who were injured in Camp Ashraf. And there is, right now, a U.S. medical team there performing this assistance. We’re providing medical care and treatment, medical supplies, and assessing any kind of follow-on treatment or support that these residents might require.
And regarding other issues regarding Camp Ashraf, we’d refer you, of course, to the Government of Iraq.
QUESTION: Have they told – have they said that they’re going to just flatly close this place? And where are they going to – what are they going to do with the inhabitants?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I think you have to ask Baghdad about that. I’m not – I think that is the understanding, that they want to kind of regularize the situation there. What they are trying to do is set up a police station inside it.
Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia and other – seven Arab countries stated yesterday that they are not ready to take any steps for building confidence with Israel before the Israelis freeze completely the settlement activities. And what is the U.S. reaction to this? Because you have been urging Arab states to take such actions.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, as you say, we have been urging Arab states to take steps towards normalization – that – we’ve said repeatedly that it’s essential that all countries in the region take parallel steps that create a context where – or create an atmosphere whereby negotiations can begin.
QUESTION: And might this come up any time soon with the Saudis?
MR. KELLY: Might what come up any time soon?
QUESTION: The idea of taking steps to build confidence with Israel?
MR. KELLY: Well, I hope so.
QUESTION: Any one-on-one meetings that might be happening maybe tomorrow?
MR. KELLY: Meaning they have some information tomorrow for you.
QUESTION: Hi. Thanks, Ian. As a part of the comprehensive package that Turkey – Turkish Government is launching to finish off the PKK, there seems to be a three-party meeting in Ankara – U.S., Iraqi, and Turkish officials. Can you give us any details? Do you have anything on that? I mean --
MR. KELLY: No, I don’t. This is the first I’m hearing of it, but we can certainly get you the information.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. KELLY: We’ll take that question.
MR. KELLY: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:50 p.m.)
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