State Department Briefing, June 7
07 June 2005
Sudan, North Korea, Bolivia, Cyprus, Turkey, Israel/ Palestinians, U.S. Policy Toward Terrorist Organization; Lebanon; Uzbekistan; China
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack briefed the press June 7.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
1:00 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Sean McCormack, Spokesman
-- Secretary's Meeting with Garang/Implementation of North-South Peace Accords/Darfur
-- Possible Additional Funding for Humanitarian Aid/Oslo Conference
-- War Crimes Proceedings
-- Security Situation/Process of Integration for a National Unity Government
-- Ambassador DeTrani-Foster Meetings in New York/New York Channel/Not Negotiations
-- Return to Six Party Process/Best Way Forward/Possible Conditions
-- Food Aid/No Decision
-- U.S. Government Unified on Approach to North Korea
-- Resignation of President Mesa/U.S. Urges Peaceful, Constitutional Resolution
-- OAS Offer of Assistance
-- U.S. Support for CAFTA
-- Secretary's Meetings at OAS on Bolivia
-- Concern for Americans in Bolivia
-- Congressional Delegation to Northern Cyprus
-- Secretary's Meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister
-- Hamas a Terrorist Organization
-- Upcoming Palestinian Elections/Transformative Effect of Elections
Diplomatic Contacts with Hamas
-- U.S. Policy Toward Terrorist Organizations
-- U.S. Congratulates Lebanon on Successful Conduct of Elections/On-Going Election Process
-- U.S. Policy Toward Hezbollah/Foreign Terrorist Organization
-- Democratic Society Needs to Be Governed By Rule of Law
-- Resolution 1559
-- U.S. Urges Credible and Transparent Investigation Into Events
-- U.S. Base in Uzbekistan/Karshi-Khanabad
Possible Asylum Request
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
TUESDAY, JUNE 7, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I'd like to start off with a brief description of the Secretary's meeting with Dr. John Garang. She had the meeting this morning. It was a good meeting and they discussed a variety of different topics. They discussed the progress on implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which should lead in early July as scheduled, to the formation of a National Unity Government.
Both the Secretary and Dr. Garang agreed on the importance of bringing the remaining outside groups into the North-South process. This is something that Dr. Garang is working on. They discussed the humanitarian security situation in Darfur and they agreed on the need for a political solution. The ultimate solution to the situation in Darfur is a political solution. And both stressed the need to ensure adequate humanitarian assistance to the south as people return there after the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
So with that, I will be pleased to take your questions.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's okay.
QUESTION: He told a couple of us -- Dr. Garang told a bunch of us outside that he had asked for more humanitarian assistance and quicker humanitarian assistance, citing the -- both -- the return of refugees and also of internally displaced people in the south. And he also, as he had, I think, several months now, sort of, complained or urged donors to make good on pledges that they made back in April. And I remember one did -- Secretary Rice promise him any additional U.S. money for the refugees and internally displaced people, given the drought and the poor harvest in the south?
And second, whether she made any commitment for the United States to make good on its pledges or to encourage other countries to make good on their aid pledges?
MR. MCCORMACK: Just so I'm clear -- this is -- he was talking about the situation in the south?
QUESTION: Correct, in the south -- with the Secretary -- in the south.
MR. MCCORMACK: They did talk about it. They both agreed that it was important to provide adequate humanitarian resources so that the humanitarian needs of the people in the sare met. I think one of the results of the CPA, the signing of the CPA, is that people are starting to come back to the south and as a result, I think that Dr. Garang urged us to take a look again at the level of humanitarian assistance in that region. That is something that Secretary Rice said that she would take a look at.
I would note that we have, I believe, $1.1 billion in the supplemental that is now coming on-line. That money is starting to make its way to the pipeline and some of that assistance is destined for the south in humanitarian assistance. I would just note one interesting fact, that is, that the United States currently at the moment provides about 90 percent of the humanitarian food aid to the south.
So the United States is, as with all aspects of the Sudan issue, deeply involved. And we will urge others to follow through on their pledges that they made at the Oslo conference.
QUESTION: Okay. So just so I'm clear, she didn't actually promise any additional money. She just said she'd look at what -- you could provide any more?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll take a look at the issue. Dr. Garang asked us to take a look at the levels of humanitarian assistance that we currently have scheduled for the south and that is something that we agreed that we would take a look at.
QUESTION: But she didn't promise any?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'd take a look at it.
QUESTION: So she didn't promise anything?
MR. MCCORMACK: I just said we'd -- we'll take a look at it.
QUESTION: And then you said that some of the $1.1 billion is starting -- some of which is destined for the south is starting to make its way into the pipeline. Has any of that actually gotten to the Southern Sudan yet and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to -- I will have to check on that, if we can take that and look into it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, see exactly where it is. Anything else on Sudan before we start?
QUESTION: Well, yes. Did they talk about criminal proceedings, war crimes?
MR. MCCORMACK: That did not come up in the meeting.
QUESTION: Dr. Garang also told us that he had reiterated and offered to send SPLA soldiers 12-14,000 to Darfur to work alongside of the AU. What was the Secretary's reaction to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: He talked -- he talked about the security situation in the context of the National Unity Government. He provided a description of how the SPLA and other forces would be -- or at least certain tension, would be to integrate those into the forces for a National Unity Government. The Secretary listened to his description. She only stressed that it is important to have -- to address all aspects of the situation in Darfur. These are all interlinked that you have to address the security situation, the humanitarian situation. And she underlined the fact that, ultimately the solution for Darfur is a political solution.
We believe that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the subsequent formation of a National Unity Government will, we hope, provide an example for those groups that are in Darfur and demonstrate to them that the way forward to resolve their issues is through a political process. The CPA provides an example of federalism, so again, we -- she underscored the fact that a political solution is the way forward in Darfur.
QUESTION: So she didn't voice support for that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would put it the way I did.
Anything else on Sudan?
QUESTION: Just trying to clarify on that from your answer. This isn't the first time that they've offered SPLM forces. Are you saying that at this point, there's no question of integrating them with AU troops? This would only be something later in the process after there's a political solution, that there would be a useful period?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I would refer you back to Dr. Garang, but the description he provided was of a process where these forces would be integrated into a national -- forces under a National Unity Government. As far as the precise timing of it, it would be linked with, I believe, it would be linked with the formation of the National Unity Government.
QUESTION: On North Korea. The administration is saying that North Korea is committed to the six-party process and yet there are no further New York talks scheduled, let alone, six-party negotiation. It would seem to be contradiction. Could you tell us how you conclude that they are committed? What led -- makes you think so? Did they say it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me go through a few points here and then we'll -- I'll get to your question, Barry. Just for the background of others that may not have this background.
Yesterday, U.S. Special Envoy for Six-Party Talks, Ambassador Joe DeTrani, in the Office of Korean Affairs, Director James Foster, met the North Korean Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Pak Gil-Yon and his Deputy, Ambassador Han Song-Ryol at the North Korean mission in New York.
We met at the request of the North Korean mission. As you point out, the New York channel is used for passing messages and for clarifying positions. It is not for negotiations. At this exchange, we discussed various issues of concern. The North Koreans said they would return to the six-party process but did not give us a time certain when they would return.
As the President and Secretary have made clear, we want diplomacy to be given a chance to work to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. We continue to believe that the six-party process is the best way forward for North Korea to end its nuclear ambitions and to address the concerns of all parties. We, I think, all agree the other five parties in the six-party talks believe that that six-party process is the way to resolve these issues. We believe that it is the way for the North Koreans to get the respect they want and to get the assistance that they say they need. So --
QUESTION: Your statement is --
QUESTION: Very quickly, just on this last piece. You said they said they would return but did not give you a time?
MR. MCCORMACK: They said they would return to the six-party process.
QUESTION: Isn't that the --
MR. MCCORMACK: But they did not give a date certain --
QUESTION: Did they give a date uncertain?
MR. MCCORMACK: They did not give a date or a date certain when they would return to the --
QUESTION: What -- so is it fair to say that satisfies the May 13 request because May 13, you said to them, "come back, this is the only way to get this thing resolved." And now you have them saying, "yes, we're committed to the process." So is that a positive response? Have they done for you just about all you've asked except give you a date?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what you're referring to, Barry, is process.
MR. MCCORMACK: What matters here is the six-party talks. What matters is a constructive engagement -- the North Koreans addressing in a serious manner the proposal that we have in front of them, that we have tabled, I believe, nearly a year ago.
MR. MCCORMACK: Just over a year ago. And as I said, this provides the North Koreans, we think, a basic choice, a pathway forward in which they would, again, be able to potentially realize the respect they have asked for and to get the assistance that they potentially need. We have talked about, in that context, in the context of the six-party process, our willingness to talk about security guarantees in the multilateral form -- in a multilateral context. Others have expressed a willingness to look at their energy needs.
So again, the focus should be on the six-party talk process as the way to resolve the issues concerning and leading to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
QUESTION: I want to take one -- one quick one. One quick additional one, very fast.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There's been a lot of rhetoric flying. By chance, did the Americans say something to the effect, it isn't helpful, all this name-calling, all this charged rhetoric or did you just sort of try to go past that, I mean, without just stirring it up again?
MR. MCCORMACK: We, from this podium, as well as from other places in the Government have noted North Korean rhetoric. Again, we urge the North Koreans to return to the six-party process at an early date without precondition.
All right. Let's just work back down the line here.
QUESTION: Very often the North Koreans say we would return if you do so and so, if you stop your rhetoric, if you fulfill these and these conditions. When they said they would return, did they have any conditions to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: The issue of conditions, I don't think was mentioned.
QUESTION: Sean, on the same subject. Unless I was half asleep this morning, at his gaggle, Scott implied that the North Koreans had shown no indication of being willing to return to the six-party talks.
And then I have a peripheral question, if I may, at his speech -- tough speech -- in Singapore, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld urged China to get more involved and put pressure on North Korea. Was that done? Do we have any indication that that may have tipped the scales, if what you're telling us is correct?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, let's review exactly what I said. And I don't see any difference between, you know, what Scott said this morning and us here. We discussed various issues of concern and the North Koreans said they would return to the six-party process, but did not give us a time certain.
MR. MCCORMACK: When they would return.
QUESTION: What about the China pressure? Any indication that China did, in fact, pick up what Rumsfeld asked for in implied pressure, subtle or otherwise?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have no new information with regard to Chinese efforts to get the North Koreans back to the six-party process. As the President and the Secretary have said, Chinese intervention with the North Koreans, we believe, is an important development. It's an important piece of progress in dealing with the North Korea issue, in having the six-party forum. And we have urged the Chinese in the past to use their leverage with the North Koreans to get them back to the table.
QUESTION: Sean, I have a question. Were you blindsided with the resignation of Bolivian President --
MR. MCCORMACK: Why don't we -- yeah, why don't we keep on North Korea. Yeah. We're working down -- working down the line here.
QUESTION: In terms of issues concerned, would that include a U.S. message or a warning that a nuclear test by North Korea would blow up the whole six-party process?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information that that issue was part of the exchange up in New York and we have addressed that issue in the past.
QUESTION: Just to clarify. Did the discussion of working-level discussions come up during the DeTrani conversations yesterday?
MR. MCCORMACK: Which working-level discussions?
QUESTION: Working-level discussions -- not the plenary sessions as in the six-party talks. But having the working-level discussions prior to the plenary sessions, did that come up in the topics at all yesterday?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is --
QUESTION: The working group.
QUESTION: The working group discussions.
QUESTION: The preparatory meetings.
MR. MCCORMACK: The working group -- I don't have any information on that.
QUESTION: Considering that the North Koreans --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yeah, go ahead, Andrea.
QUESTION: Just a couple of months ago, were saying that they would never return to the six-party talks and that they didn't want to have one-on-one talks with the United States either, something that they had insisted on for many years, does the Secretary view this now as a positive development?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, this was the New York channel. These were not one-on-one "talks." The New York channel is a -- it's --
QUESTION: I'm not implying that it was.
MR. MCCORMACK: I just want to make sure that we were clear on it. I think that we believe it was useful. It's always useful to exchange information. But again, the important thing is that the North Koreans commit to a time to return to the six-party talks and they engage in a constructive manner.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Okay, right here.
QUESTION: Yes. To clarify your argument, I will ask you -- did they just say "we will return" or did they suggest some conditions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I talked about the issue of conditions. I was asked earlier and I don't have anything to add to what I said. I repeated it twice.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Well, hold on a second. I think we have not exhausted the North Korean topic. Okay, in the middle here.
QUESTION: Did they talk about when they are going to meet next time in New York?
MR. MCCORMACK: There is -- no additional meetings are planned at this time. But the North Korea -- the New York channel remains open.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Over here.
QUESTION: I was wondering if the issue of food aid might have come up? And even if it did, are you getting any closer to making a determination about what the United States would provide this year?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, on the New York channel meeting that took place yesterday, this is what I have. In terms of food aid, a decision has not been made with regard to food aid. We have in the past -- over the past two years, provided 150,000 metric tons of food aid to North Korea. And I think that if you look back over the years, we are one of the largest donors of food aid to North Korea.
QUESTION: Sean, over on to North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Charlie.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. side couch in any way its language that's been used in the past about to -- when they return to discuss the proposal that was on the table a year ago?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have encouraged them to return -- you know, again, on the New York channel in terms of the changes, this is what I have.
QUESTION: But was that in the language that the U.S. used yesterday when they went and talked to them?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into the -- into the back and forth -- the exchange of information. This is a private dialogue and -- through the New York channel where we exchange information. So I'm going to keep those exchanges private.
QUESTION: So how would you say that there is no inconsistency between the position of the Pentagon and the position of State on this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would --
QUESTION: Do you know if the final rhetoric--
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say that the -- that from the President to the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Defense, we are all on one page, with respect to North Korea and the six-party talks. I think Secretary Rumsfeld made that pretty clear, as well as Secretary Rice.
Anything else on North Korea? I think we have a couple more back here on North Korea. In the yellow, on North Korea?
QUESTION: On this subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: North Korea.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Still, I could not understand completely. North Korean people have said in yesterday's meeting, they are going to come back to six-party talks. But -- and they didn't keep their time schedule. How did they explain, but why they didn't in -- how did they explain to you why did they -- they didn't give you a time schedule? Did you -- did they explain the reason why they didn't give a time schedule?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think you would have to ask the North Koreans that question.
North Korea? Okay.
QUESTION: You say that it's always good to exchange information and our colleagues here rush to file "urgents" on the wires. But what is the significance that the Secretary and you and the Department and this Government attaches to this information that you got from the North Koreans yesterday, saying they'll come back? Is that a significant development for you? Does it move or would it move the process further if they, indeed, came back to the talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that that's been the point of, you know, our point consistently throughout the six-party process is that six-party forum is the forum in which we can come to a solution of these issues and I think the North Koreans agree with that, that that is -- that it is proper form to address these issues. We can't address those issues, if we don't have all six parties at the table. We have five parties now who have committed to returning to the talks. The ball is in the North Koreans' court to provide a time when they will return to the table and to actually return to the table to engage in a constructive manner.
QUESTION: So were you encouraged by that -- yesterday?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would describe it the way I did.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I said -- again, I said it's useful to exchange information. I think that's how we would view it.
Anything else on North Korea? Have we exhausted the topic?
Okay. Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: Yes, change of subject. Were you in any way blindsided by the resignation of Bolivian President Mesa? And apparently, the Bolivian public has been protesting concerning energy policy and constitutional reform and they don't like his designated replacement -- that's the congressional President Diaz -- even more so? And what are, if anything, were the influences of both Cuba and Venezuela? Did that enter into the discussions in Fort Lauderdale?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that we all recognize that this is a difficult time for Bolivia and the Bolivian people and for President Mesa. I think we would urge a peaceful democratic constitutional resolution to the tensions that you alluded to that exist within Bolivia. And I would say that the United States, as well as other countries in the hemisphere stand ready to assist Bolivia. The OAS has made an offer of assistance, as of yesterday at least. The Bolivian Government indicated that they would resolve any issues that they have internally by themselves. But again, we stand ready to assist, if there is need for assistance.
QUESTION: Thank you. Sean, what is the OAS current position on CAFTA and is there interest in expanding it to cover all of Latin America?
MR. MCCORMACK: Could you repeat your question?
QUESTION: The OAS position on CAFTA -- is there a position?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that you would -- we certainly, of course, support the passage of CAFTA. It's an issue that the Secretary and the President have been talking about. The President urged -- has urged many times passage of CAFTA.
MR. MCCORMACK: I understand. I understand. With respect to the OAS as an organization, I think I would have to refer you to the OAS for an answer on that. I think our position on CAFTA is pretty clear.
QUESTION: Back to Bolivia for a minute?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Was -- in the discussions in Fort Lauderdale, Bolivia had rejected the OAS* -- any suggestion of OAS involvement before the meeting. In discussions there, could you -- since we haven't had a readout of her meetings behind closed doors -- could you advance anything that we don't know about discussions with Bolivia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there is some -- there was some discussion of Bolivia during the private dialogues, the private interventions. I think by practice and -- that we do not get into the details of those discussions. The Secretary did hear from several countries with regard to Bolivia. She did talk about the Bolivia situation in her first meeting with Secretary General Insulza. And she reviewed the situation as it stood then with respect to the Bolivians, as well as the OAS offer of assistance. But I think that's about all I would have on that.
QUESTION: The situation deteriorated from, you know, in the last 24 hours.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Again, I don't have any -- don't have anything other than that to offer on Bolivia.
QUESTION: Is our Embassy there talking to people -- people in the President's office there?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don't have any specific information with respect to our -- the contacts between our Embassy and political officials in La Paz and in Bolivia. But certainly we are watching the situation closely.
QUESTION: Are you concerned for Americans there? I mean, there is a -- do you have a public announcement on it in Bolivia?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that we issued a public announcement on June 1st. And in that announcement we -- it outlined the ongoing social disturbances and it advised tourists and residents to avoid points of conflict and we have been in contact with our embassy wardens who have made sure that the announcement was circulated within the American community in Bolivia.
QUESTION: And you don't know if there's been -- in the weeks since then and in light of the situation, you don't know if there's any review going on now? There's always a review.
MR. MCCORMACK: Somebody slipped you the talking points, didn't they.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: Great. Why don't we move to the back. I'll come back.
Yes, in the yellow.
QUESTION: Still on Latin America and not Bolivia. Assistant Secretary Roger Noriega expressed some concerns on the role maybe played by the Venezuelan Government on the Bolivian crisis. Do you have anything on that? Is it suggesting that Venezuela played any instability role in the region in the South American country? Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen Assistant Secretary Noriega's remarks. I think I'd want to take a look at them before I actually took a shot at answering that question.
Yes, in the back.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, on Cyprus. Since there is a lot of debate on Cyprus, do you know if your Ambassador to Nicosia, Michael Klosson, received the three U.S. congressmen who arrived in the illegal airport of Tymbou in the occupied area of Cyprus? And then is the U.S. law in the Chicago Convention of 1944, during the Memorial Day weekend?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say that the delegation that you are referring to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Made its own decisions on how to travel to the island, so I would refer any questions with regard to the decisions on how they got to the island, I would refer you to them.
As to our policy, the U.S. supports Secretary General Annan's call to ease the isolation of Turkish Cypriots as one way to move toward a comprehensive settlement. U.S. personnel are authorized to fly into Ercan Airport. People of many nationalities fly in and out of that airport every day.
QUESTION: What about your Ambassador? Did he want to (inaudible) the (inaudible) to receive the three U.S. parliamentarians?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: And one question. When you said at today's meeting here at the State Department between Secretary Condoleezza Rice that Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul?
MR. MCCORMACK: What is your question?
QUESTION: Who set today's meeting between Condoleezza Rice and the Turkish Foreign Minister.
MR. MCCORMACK: Meetings are typically set up and requires the agreement of both parties. So there is an initially agreed upon time and date.
QUESTION: So was it by (inaudible) or was it requested by the U.S. Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say that whenever we have -- the Secretary meets with somebody, it is through mutual agreement that we hold the meeting.
Anything else on Cyprus?
Okay, over here.
QUESTION: Yes, to the Middle East? Sean, despite the denials, there seems to be a persistent report that there's an inclination within the administration to engage Hamas in talks as their participation in the political process becomes more and more prominent. Could you explain that to us or -- position has changed or?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say, with respect to Hamas, our position is unchanged and it's well known that it is designated as a terrorist organization and we do not have dialogue with designated terrorist organizations.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) with Hezbollah, you had groups that are on the FTO list that are -- at least members of those groups are doing well in Muslim regional elections. And what is -- can you clarify what U.S. policy is in terms of dealing with -- are we going to talk to mayors in Gaza who are from Hamas? Are we going to talk to lawmakers in (inaudible) in Hezbollah or are you just think they're not worth (inaudible), even through the (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, first of all, I'm not going to group the -- Lebanon and the elections and the Palestinian Authority together. Look, with respect to Hezbollah -- and our position is well known, it is a designed Foreign Terrorist Organization -- that's unchanged.
And the electoral process is ongoing in Lebanon and I would simply state that we -- at this point, we congratulate the people of Lebanon on their successful and peaceful conduct of the elections to this point. They just finished the second round, I think, on Sunday.
We would -- with regard to Hezbollah, we would say that in any democratic society, it has to be governed by the rule of law. And that groups -- armed groups cannot work outside the rule of law. And that Hezbollah and its armed militia are not controlled by institutions that are responsive to the will of the Lebanese people and Hezbollah. You know, imply put, Hezbollah makes Lebanon and its people less secure, not more secure.
And there should -- we believe that there should not be a role for autonomous armed militias, especially those that are financed, armed and/or directed by foreign powers. And I would note also that in Resolution 1559, it calls for the disarmament and disbanding of all militias in Lebanon and has been mandated by the UN and the international community.
With respect to the Hamas, I think you're referring to some parliamentary elections that have not taken place. And as the President has said, we believe that elections can have a transformative effect, not only on the populace but on individuals within the political process, and that he gave the example of President Abbas. President Abbas ran on a platform of peace and security and we believe that the Palestinian people want the same things that everybody wants: want to be able to send their kids to school; they want to live in peace and security; they want to have a more prosperous life. So -- and we believe that if people will vote for candidates that have that platform . But with respect to Hamas, at the current time, you know, our position is well known and unchanged.
QUESTION: Just to follow up real quickly. I mean, you're right, there haven't been been parliamentary elections, but there have been local elections in Gaza, I believe, where Hamas did quite well. Are you saying we're not going to deal with mayors or what have you in Gaza after Israel withdraws?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, you know, you're talking about speculative events in the future and I'm not going to speculate. I'm not going to speculate at this point.
QUESTION: Sean, they have been elected.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: They have been elected.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well --
QUESTION: Why is that speculating?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We're dealing with the Palestinian Authority officials. You know, President Abbas and his cabinet to effect a withdrawl from -- to encourage the dialogue between the Palestinian Authority officials as well as -- and the Israeli Government -- to see that the withdrawal proceeds in a manner that is positive, that can ultimately accelerate progress down the road on the roadmap.
So again, our interactions are well known with President Abbas and that we think that, again, the electoral experience can have a transformative effect on a populace and that people will see that their future lives with those who support a platform of peace and security and a better way of life for their people.
QUESTION: Well, you're not really answering the question. But can I --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of -- simply put, I'm not aware of any context of that sort that have taken place.
QUESTION: Okay. But would they be ruled out because Hamas is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I am not aware of any context of that type.
QUESTION: British diplomat -- Jack Straw has confirmed that British diplomats have already met with Hamas leaders at the municipal level. And they don't have the same views on Hamas that the United States has, but is that undermining at all the desire to isolate Hamas and to sort of keep them out of the political process, even though they have already been put into --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I don't have anything to add to what I've said. I'm not aware of any contacts that you've described and I haven't seen those remarks from Foreign Secretary Straw.
QUESTION: How would you reconcile your policy towards Lebanon and the Government of Lebanon on the one hand, if Hezbollah as 14 seats in parliament and they become part of the Government, then at the same time, they insist on not disarming?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think I've covered pretty extensively our views on Hezbollah and this is -- I would point out -- this is -- it's an ongoing election process so I've made all the comments with regard to the election process that I'm going to make at this time.
QUESTION: If I could just (inaudible) Hamas, one quickly. You talked about the transformative effect that the elections in that process can have on former terrorists or whatever you call them. Is it then safe to conclude that you might -- you would probably say that this is hypothetical, but I'll ask you anyway -- that perhaps you're waiting to see whether any of those mayors now, the officials, will transform and then perhaps you'll have contact with them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, you're right, that's hypothetical so I'm not going to get into it.
Okay, in the back, in the green.
QUESTION: Are we changing the topic or are we still --
QUESTION: I think on a related topic, there's a former professor going on trial this week in South Florida is Palestinian, who's helped finance suicide bombings, both in Palestinian and Israeli territories and perhaps also in Iraq. What impact will that have and will he be then sent to authorities (inaudible) Guantanamo?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'm not going to comment on an ongoing judicial process.
Yes. In the green.
QUESTION: Can I shift to Uzbekistan? Human Rights Watch is urging the U.S. to consider its strategic base interest in the Caspian region based on its own study of the events that happened in Andijan. Is -- I mean, how far is the State Department gotten in its own investigation and is the base situation over there something that we will need to look at in the future about changing perhaps?
MR. MCCORMACK: On the question of Andijan that you raised, we continue to urge Uzbekistan to take credible and transparent -- to undertake a credible and transparent assessment of the tragic events in Andijan, in cooperation with an international partner, as well as undertake fundamental, democratic and economic reforms. The Government of Uzbekistan owes its citizens and the international community a serious, credible and independent investigation of these events.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the study of their (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have not seen the study myself.
QUESTION: And what about the basis of renegotiating -- on renegotiating with the government on the bases?
MR. MCCORMACK: With respect to the access to Karshi-Khanabad, the military airbase there, it has in the past, played an important role in support of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and the United States and Uzbekistan have met several times, most recently in early May, to discuss refinements to that access. And with respect to any other sort of, update with regard to those talks, I'd have to refer you over to DOD.
QUESTION: A question about the Chinese -- the former Chinese diplomat who defected about ten days ago in Australia. According to some media report, he was contacting the U.S. Embassy in Australia. I'm just wondering what did our Embassy in Australia tell him? Did we just tell him to go back to the Australia to try to -- his asylum application has been denied.
MR. MCCORMACK: We do not have any comment at all, as is our practice, on political asylum requests.
QUESTION: It's not -- so he did apply for asylum with the U.S. --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, that's not what I'm saying. With respect to individuals who are requesting political asylum, without respect to whom they are making that application, we do not have any comment.
QUESTION: So you are confirming that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not confirming that, no. No. I'm not. Very clearly I'm not.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 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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