State Department Briefing, June 23
23 June 2005
Albania, North Korea, Reports that Export Controls are Barriers to Space Exploration, Israel/Palestinians, Guantanamo, Iran, Zimbabwe, Sudan
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli briefed the press June 23.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Thursday, June 23, 2005
1:05 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
-- July 3 Election/Code of Conduct/Democratic Progress
-- New York Channel Meetings/Assistant Secretary Hill Contacts and Testimony
-- Need for Six Party Talks
-- World Food Program
-- Interaction with Parties to Six Party Talks
-- Reports that Export Controls are Barriers to Space Exploration
-- Ban on Diplomats Travel to Gaza/Authorization of Travel in Support of Wolfensohn and Ward Missions
-- Insufficient Cooperation of Palestinian Authority in Investigating DynCorps Killings
-- UN Requests to Visit Guantanamo/Record of Cooperation with UN Special Rapporteurs
-- Releases from Guantanamo
-- Pew Poll on Worldwide Opinion of U.S./Challenge of Public Diplomacy
-- Concern over Destruction of Shantytowns
-- Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Ismail/AU Peacekeepers/Darfur/Continuing Violence
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
THURSDAY, JUNE 23, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
(1:05 p.m. EDT)
MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everyone. Let me begin with a statement on the Albanian elections. As you may know, Albanian voters will go to the polls on July 3rd. This is a very important event in the history of Albania and it's one that we are watching closely. It is an opportunity for the leadership of Albania, political leadership and civil society of Albania, to show the world, show their neighbors that they are meeting international standards and making progress towards joining the international community as a member of an integrated Euro-Atlantic community.
I would note that they have, with the political leadership and political actors in Albania, have developed a code of conduct. This is an important step forward and an important milestone in their political development. We look to them to act according to that code of conduct. And we have been working for many years with Albanian civil society and with Albanians to help develop a healthy and strong democratic tradition. And these elections will be a key indicator of progress they've made on that front and we will be looking forward to it.
That's my announcement and I'm free to take your questions on this or other topics.
QUESTION: Two questions on North Korea. For one thing, when was the last meeting in New York?
MR. ERELI: A couple weeks ago.
QUESTION: Not last week?
MR. ERELI: I'll check, I don't think so.
QUESTION: The Wall Street Journal has a story today (inaudible) to Chris Hill talking to -- was he talking (inaudible) Washington lawmakers. I don't know where those lawmakers work. But included is U.S. officials saying they met in secret last week in New York, I think -- the last meeting I know about is two weeks ago.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I didn't see that article.
QUESTION: We've asked you a number of times about whether there will be initial contacts through the New York channel and you consistently said no.
MR. ERELI: I said that there have been no meetings that I'm aware of. That's what I said.
QUESTION: Others -- I'm not questioning what you said, the veracity of what you're saying. I'm saying others in the building will say more vaguely, you know, the lines of communication remain open --
MR. ERELI: Let me -- let me answer your question in this way. Let me --
QUESTION: In other words --
MR. ERELI: Let me answer your question in this way. The last meeting in the New York channel that I'm aware of is the one we discussed several weeks ago. I will check --
QUESTION: June 7th.
MR. ERELI: If there are -- have been other meetings in the New York channel since then and get back to you.
QUESTION: Do you know if anything -- do you happen to know about Secretary Hill testifying or was it an informal meeting or --
MR. ERELI: Secretary Hill did testify this week, I believe. I'll have to check -- last week. There are regular discussions, questions, calls with members of Congress, that's the normal course of business. But there's -- if he's testifying on the Hill, that is a matter of public record.
QUESTION: And you would assume -- one would assume it'd be listed in the State Department schedule?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, or the congressional -- right. So --
QUESTION: We can't (inaudible) the State Department calendar.
MR. ERELI: Right. I guess I'm not clear about what your asking. Has Ambassador Hill had contacts with members of Congress, yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Well, now it sounds like a Wall Street Journal article. Was there a hearing? Was there a committee meeting?
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to --
QUESTION: (inaudible) you're free to go up and down the --
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to public record.
QUESTION: All right. The reason in this is interesting -- one reason is that it's a very interesting story. One is that he's quoted as having, as saying, "We're planning a strategy for the talks falling apart." Then the story also quotes the Pentagon, so -- a guy's supposed to be in charge of the subject of man named Lawless, Richard Lawless, as saying, "We're preparing for the possibility that the North Koreans have made a strategic decision to abandon the talks." We heard differently from Robert Joseph some of us this morning. His hunch, he says, is they're going to come back to the table. Is there some disagreement, I mean, in reading the tea leaves from North Korea?
MR. ERELI: No, I think the Administration is consistent on this score. Number one, six-party talks remain the way to deal with the problem of North Korea's nuclear program. We are focused on achieving a diplomatic solution to this problem. We remain focused on efforts in concert with our other partners in the process to get North Korea back to talks to engage in a substantive dialogue and a substantive discussion of the issues.
We've also been very clear that this is not a process that can go on forever.
QUESTION: That's the quote --
MR. ERELI: And that that's a reality that we live with and that we plan for. Those two positions are not inconsistent.
QUESTION: Obviously, there's planning for almost everything, like the sun dissolving, but is there planning going on for failure, for at some point in time the U.S. concluding, all these gestures and hints aside, they're not coming back to the table? Do you then have a plan, whatever that might be?
MR. ERELI: Not that I really have to share with you. I think that the best way to put this is our focus and our attention is on getting them back to talks. And, obviously, there are discussions of other scenarios, but we believe that our efforts need to be focused, first and foremost, on making the six-party process work.
QUESTION: Adam, there is one thing in the Wall Street Journal report. It says that the Administration is preparing an executive order that would bring new pressure on North Korea, Iran and Syria by cracking down on companies that are thought to be helping those three countries with their weapons programs. Is that true?
MR. ERELI: Nothing I have to share with you on that.
QUESTION: So it is true?
MR. ERELI: (Laughter.) I don't have anything to share with you on it.
QUESTION: Well, let me phrase the question differently. Is there consideration being given to such a --
MR. ERELI: I'll have to see what -- I'll have to see what I can say about that.
QUESTION: Okay. But, please, the last meeting -- we still want that last meeting.
MR. ERELI: Oh, absolutely. Sure.
QUESTION: In fact, as you see it, the prospects for the six-party talks remain open?
MR. ERELI: Indeed.
QUESTION: Yeah, but North Korea has rejected and did not give any date in the InterKorea meeting yesterday.
MR. ERELI: That's true.
QUESTION: And (inaudible) being asked for such a date.
MR. ERELI: That's true.
QUESTION: And that's the benchmark for any prospect of talks --
MR. ERELI: That's true.
MR. ERELI: We are continuing to work with our partners -- South Korea, China and Japan and Russia to move North Korea to come up with a date. We think that's reasonable, we think that's possible, we think that North Korea has an interest in going that route. And we'll continue to encourage them to make that decision.
QUESTION: About yesterday, when you announced you're (inaudible) the World Program -- World Food Programs are the, you know, it's generous but it's not enough. They're looking for over 240,000 tons and they said that the U.S. is really only providing only about one-tenth of the North Korean -- of what they're providing to North Korea.
MR. ERELI: Actually, I'm reading that report with a bit of puzzlement because reading the quotes in the World Food Program Director didn't track with the tenor of the article because the way we read it was the World Food Program Director says, you know, here's our total request, the United States is giving this percentage of that request, in other words it's 50,000 out of what the total was. But it didn't strike us as a criticism of the United States or saying the United States is not giving enough, it's just that here's the total, here's what we're asking, there's obviously a need for more. And we're looking for the committee for more.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that the World Food Program did ask the United States for a lot more than 50,000.
MR. ERELI: The appeal was a general appeal, number one. Number two, 50,000 is consistent with our previous giving. And it doesn't preclude additional contributions in the future. But this is what we can do now, based on what the need is, based on as I said what competing needs are elsewhere, and based on access and monitoring. We think it's important, we think it's responsive and we think it is consistent with our humanitarian policy.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on one of the apparent Robert Joseph comments. He said that the administration doesn't believe China is doing all it can to affect North Korea. And that possibly there would be consequences for the U.S.-Chinese relationship. Can you talk about what messages may have been sent, if any new ones have been, to China recently about --
MR. ERELI: The message to -- the consistent message to everyone is, we need to do everything possible to continue to work together to support six-party talks and to bring about substantive engagement on the issues that are before us in that process. That's true for China, it's true for all of us. And that's, I think, a message we continue to reiterate in all our dealings with all our partners on this.
QUESTION: But are you -- are you also assessing whether they are doing everything they can because these comments indicate that you don't believe they are.
MR. ERELI: We're, you know, this is an issue that we, you know, have under review constantly. It's an evolving process. It's not something that you just sort of stop thinking about, stop looking at, stop talking about. With China, we have regular interactions; with South Korea, we have regular interactions; with Japan, we have regular interaction and we look at ways what we can all do to make this work.
Yeah, we encourage everybody to do everything they can.
QUESTION: So you're not going to answer a direct question about whether you think China is doing all it can?
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to -- I don't have anything new to add to that subject that hasn't been said already.
QUESTION: With all due respect, you know, we all know that Russia's considered the most influential of the five that are at the table with --
QUESTION: China, sorry -- I was going to say by contrast we don't hear daily about big meetings between Russia and North Korea in which the Russians are saying go back to the table. China's carrying the ball. And you're muffling Mr. Joseph's message, which is --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, I was not there.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) be there and he says they're not doing what they should. They have a lot of influence.
MR. ERELI: I'm not taking issue of with anything that Mr. Joseph said.
QUESTION: No, I know you're not. But I'm just saying --
MR. ERELI: Or I'm not taking issue with anything that you said Mr. Joseph said. I wasn't there. But I do not dispute his comments nor am I -- nor should what I say be taken as walking away from this --
QUESTION: No, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be -- I'm being offensive. But I don't mean we all have the same responsibility. China has a much larger responsibility but China has influence.
MR. ERELI: China has unique influence.
QUESTION: Unique influence.
MR. ERELI: And we believe that all the parties to this process that should use what influence they have to help support our common objective.
QUESTION: Can we change the topic?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: I hope you may have something on a new report suggesting that the United States should relax its export controls because they interfere with space cooperation with other countries. Do you have anything on that?
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen the report. I've seen press reports about it that suggest that State Department controls are impeding international cooperation on space exploration. I think I would take strong issue with that suggestion for a couple of reasons.
Reason number one is the State Department is required by law to provide licenses for commercial satellites and related equipment, so we have that statutory obligation.
Number two -- and that was something that was mandated by Congress in 1999. Since that time, we have approved -- we have reviewed and approved hundreds of such licenses, so it's not as if we're being restrictive.
And number three, as a result, we don't believe that these congressionally mandated controls have been in the past or will in the future be barriers to international cooperation in space exploration.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Probably (inaudible), but while I have it, I have a notion this is sort of an imperfect account. But according to an Israeli newspaper, the U.S. has lifted an 18-month ban, protective ban, on American diplomats going to Gaza and that some have been going. It wouldn't seem to make sense considering what's in the offing.
Could you get into that a little bit?
MR. ERELI: Sure. Our ban on American diplomats traveling to Gaza remains in place. However, in view of the unique circumstances and opportunities presented by Gaza withdrawal, the importance of security coordination, the importance of supporting Mr. Wolfowitz in his activities --
MR. ERELI: Sorry -- Wolfensohn in his activities as Special Quartet Envoy, we have drawn up special procedures to authorize limited travel on a case-by-case basis to facilitate the work of Mr. Wolfensohn and General Ward. Now, in that --
QUESTION: Do you have any --
MR. ERELI: To Gaza.
QUESTION: To support the work there?
MR. ERELI: Travel of Wolfensohn and General Ward to Gaza to support their work.
In that regard, I would note that Mr. Wolfensohn did travel to Gaza on Tuesday, I believe, for a couple hours.
QUESTION: Are they the two exceptions to the rule or are there others?
MR. ERELI: Their mission -- support for their mission is the two exceptions to the rule.
QUESTION: So someone else could be --
MR. ERELI: If there is a demonstrated need and special precautions are taken place, yes, they could go to Gaza to support Ward or Wolfensohn.
QUESTION: Thank you. And you gave one example. Have there been several?
MR. ERELI: I think the Wolfensohn visit was the first that I know about.
QUESTION: May I (inaudible) alluded to the Travel Warning, in the revised Travel Warning that came out about a week ago?
MR. ERELI: I'll have to check. I'll have to check.
QUESTION: It gives specific street names that you can go on.
QUESTION: Earlier this morning -- about a week.
MR. ERELI: I don't -- I'll have to check. I'm not sure.
QUESTION: Related to that, has the Palestinian Authority been any more cooperative on the murder case that, you know, that --
MR. ERELI: Not really, frankly. You know that we have consistently demanded since the attack that left three DynCorp -- where they killed DynCorp employees in 2003, we have consistently demanded that the Palestinian Authority take action to locate, apprehend and bring to justice the killers of our colleagues.
The performance of the Palestinian Authority on this issue remains insufficient and unacceptable to us. We, in our meetings with the new Palestinian leadership, have made clear that we look to them to arrest and prosecute and convict those responsible. Dr. Rice has raised this with President Abbas and President Abbas has been very clear to us that he understands this issue and that he is committed to bringing the individuals to justice.
QUESTION: I'm confused of the question of whether Mr. Wolfensohn's visit to Gaza was, indeed, the first under these new guidelines?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you. It'd be interesting to know -- I'm sure nobody's trying to compromise General Ward's security, but if he's gone a couple times, it'd be nice to be able to report that in retrospect.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you say anything about a request by the EU to visit prisoners in Guantanamo?
MR. ERELI: The EU? Not aware of the EU. I've seen reports from the UN out of Geneva that they -- they would like to visit Guantanamo and that's certainly an issue that we have been working with the UN Special Rapporteur on. I would note that our Ambassador At-Large for War Crimes Pierre Prosper, our acting -- our former acting Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Michael Kozak and our U.S. Ambassador in Geneva Ambassador Moley, met with UN Special Rapporteurs in April regarding the prisoners at Guantanamo that our Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs provided briefings also in April in Geneva for UN officials. I think we are -- we have a strong record of cooperation with UN Special Rapporteurs. We understand what they're looking for. We're working with them. And I think our record of cooperation on this is pretty good.
QUESTION: When you said your Deputy Assistant Secretary, is this the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for --
MR. ERELI: No, for -- of Defense.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Thank you. Why not let them go?
MR. ERELI: That's a decision that resides with DOD. I'd refer you to DOD on the logistics of a visit. From on behalf of the State Department, I can tell you that we have been engaged regularly and consistently to provide them -- to respond to their requests for information, to engage with them and to help facilitate their work.
QUESTION: Adam, they say the request has been held up for a year. How helpful is that?
MR. ERELI: We have met with them. We have talked to them. We've provided them information. As far as the decision-making process for access to Guantanamo goes, I'd refer you to the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: Adam, you guys often push for UN Special Rapporteurs to have access to other countries like, say, Burma. And I wonder why, in keeping with your general call for transparency, you would not push for UN Special Rapporteur to have access to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that -- let me put it this way, we are not opposing this and we are endeavoring to be responsive to their request. I think our consistent and continued engagement with them is a testament to that. I would also point out that the ICRC has visited Guantanamo. Again, as far as the specifics of this request go and the specifics of arranging the visit, and what's involved there and what, you know, what considerations are at play and why it's taken a year. For that I'd refer you to the Defense Department.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a Guantanamo-related question? A Yemeni human rights group, quoting a Yemeni intelligence source, says that one Yemeni detainee was handed over more than a year ago and that three more were handed over -- in other words, released from Guantanamo Bay about three months ago. Can you confirm that?
MR. ERELI: I'll have to check. And we've -- as you know, there have been hundreds released.
MR. CASEY: We did check that and don't have any information to corroborate on that.
MR. ERELI: Did check; don't have any information to corroborate.
QUESTION: So you think it's not right?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any information to corroborate it. We've released -- there have been hundreds released from Guantanamo. I do not have information that these three specifically are among those.
QUESTION: Okay. I guess to confirm, the State Department is not opposed to the UN visiting Guantanamo?
MR. ERELI: We are -- we have a record of cooperating with the UN Special Rapporteur. We have engaged with them consistently and we continue to work with them in a spirit of cooperation.
QUESTION: What's holding up the visit then?
MR. ERELI: As I said, you'll have to talk to the DOD about the logistics of arranging their visit to Guantanamo. That's not in our hands.
QUESTION: So basically, the logistical arrangements are hindering this visit other than in principle -- rather than the principle --
MR. ERELI: We have a strong and good record of cooperating and supporting the work of the UN Special Rapporteurs.
QUESTION: Are there prisoners being held in American custody whose situation has not been disclosed to the ICRC?
MR. ERELI: You know, I'm really not the person to ask on that one.
QUESTION: Who should one ask that question?
MR. ERELI: I'd think the people responsible for the detainees.
QUESTION: On the Presidential elections in Iran tomorrow, does it matter who win for the U.S. among the two? Does it --
MR. ERELI: With Iran?
QUESTION: Yes. Does it matter who wins between --
MR. ERELI: Well, we have spoken to our view of the elections in Iran and the fundamental flaws, which characterize them. We've also spoken to our views of what we'd look to the Iranian leadership for and that is a decisions that bring that country into concert with the rest of the international community, as opposed to a past record of action which is contrary to the direction that the rest of the world is moving in. And that's what I would say about tomorrow's vote.
QUESTION: But there's one centrist candidate and one fundamentalist. I mean, do you have any preference?
MR. ERELI: Our preference is for the Iranian people to have the right to freely choose their leadership and for that leadership to make decisions that take Iran on a path that is consistent with the standards and principles that most of the rest of the world follows. And right now we've seen neither.
QUESTION: You really don't have a preference? I understand one of these guys is a neo-Con?
MR. ERELI: What's your point of reference? (Laughter.) Our view is that, again, that the preference should -- the question of preference should be posed to the Iranian people: Who do you have a preference for? And the answer would be they're not really being given a choice in the sense that they're voting for two people out of a potential candidate pool of over 1,000 that were eliminated -- 99 percent of whom were eliminated from even running. So the question is not who does the United States prefer, the question is who do the Iranian people prefer. And the sad answer is they're not being given a choice.
QUESTION: I just had a couple. The Pew Research Organization is releasing a poll with a great deal of fanfare this afternoon that it says shows a continuing decline in, basically, in the esteem with which the United States is held around the world, with some notable exceptions -- Indonesia and Pakistan -- and a lot of antipathy directed personally at the President. And I'm just wondering, have you had any reaction or does this reflect a failure of public diplomacy efforts since the last poll was taken in 2002?
MR. ERELI: I think -- I don't know what it reflects. It can reflect how the question is asked, it can reflect what the local situation is. I mean, clearly, with or without this poll we know we have a public diplomacy challenge and that challenge is not lessening by the day. And I think that's why, starting with the President but also, you know, certainly as evidenced by the activities of the Secretary of State, we are getting out there. We are being, I think, open and upfront about what we think, what we believe in, what we stand for, and trying to explain that and present a case for our actions and our beliefs.
But importantly, we're trying to listen and hear what people think, hear how people feel about us and what they think about what we're doing, and try to be responsive to that. And in that context, I would simply point to initiatives like the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative that are an outgrowth of what we're hearing in the region, what people are saying they want, and, frankly, over time, as we hope and will work for, conditions improve and opportunity grows, attitudes will change.
QUESTION: I have just one more. On Zimbabwe, today a number of international human rights groups got together, issued basically a statement calling on the Government of Zimbabwe to desist from this shantytown demolition. In addition, the local media -- I mean, the official media in Zimbabwe has admitted that children were killed when some of these structures were bulldozed. I wonder if you had any additional response.
MR. ERELI: The issue of the Government of Zimbabwe's treatment of the shantytowns and its own population today, as yesterday, continues to be a subject of deep concern for the United States Government. We remain as engaged as ever in seeking to use all the influence at our disposal and engage diplomatically with Zimbabwe's neighbors and countries that it listens to to prevent these kinds of outrages against its own population.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: A couple points. The question is, can you tell us about the Deputy Secretary's meeting with Ismail. A couple of points to make. Number one, the Deputy Secretary spoke extensively about Sudan yesterday in his House International Relations Committee testimony on Sudan policy. In his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs he continued what is a pattern of active engagement on the full range of issues.
They discussed a number of substantive points that are worth pointing out.
Number one, they talked about Darfur and in particular the importance of continued support for humanitarian aid and for the expansion of the AU peacekeeping force and the importance of removing any impediments to the expansion of that force.
The Deputy also stressed the need for the Government of Sudan to take action and all sides to take action to halt the violence. They also discussed in the context -- in this context the Abuja peace process.
On the North-South issue, they talked about steps being taken to finalize the interim constitution, to stand up the Government of National Unity, including the various joint commissions that will support its works, and to manage the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement. They also talked about efforts to facilitate South-South reconciliation.
The third big issue they talked about was the recent violence in eastern Sudan involving the Beja Congress. The Deputy described to the Foreign Minister steps that we are taking to stop this violence. These steps include the discussions between our Ambassador in Asmara and the Government of Eritrea, efforts that our Embassy in Khartoum has taken to be in contact with those forces that have taken Sudanese soldiers and efforts that we're making through Dr. John Garang to calm the situation there.
The fourth issue they talked about was the Lords Resistance Army and the problems that that group is causing in the region, and Foreign Minister Ismail told Deputy Secretary Zoellick that Sudan considered the Lord Resistance Army its enemy and he described to us the steps they were taking against it.
On the humanitarian front, the Deputy Secretary raised two issues. One is the IDP camps around Khartoum and the importance of protecting the people there. And he also noted that the Government of Sudan had dropped charges against Medecins Sans Frontiers personnel and that the Ministry of Justice of Sudan had sent a letter several days ago to Medecins Sans Frontiers strongly supporting its work.
Finally, the Deputy Secretary talked about the possibility of his going to Khartoum for the July 9th inauguration of the Government of National Unity. That trip would be made if the process of forming the government remains on track and, if he did go, he would expect to visit Darfur again as well.
I would just note that they talked for about 90 minutes. That's a long meeting. The Deputy, I think, in conclusion, reiterated something he said in his testimony, which is that we are looking to results in Sudan and that actions speak more loudly than words.
QUESTION: Is there anything (inaudible) Secretary that genocide is not taking place in Sudan?
MR. ERELI: Our views on that, I think, are pretty well stated and pretty well known. We've spoken to it. We are acting, I think, resolutely to address the humanitarian situation in Darfur and it was in that spirit that the Secretary made very clear the need for all parties, including the Government of Sudan, to take concrete action to stop the continuing violence.
QUESTION: The meeting was here?
MR. ERELI: Yes, yes.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35p.m.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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