State Department Briefing, October 12
12 October 2005
Azerbaijan, Syria, UK/Northern Ireland/North Korea, Macedonia, Iraq, China, Israel/Palestinian Authority, Sudan, Greece, Balkans
State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli briefed reporters October 12.
Following is the transcript of the State Department briefing:
U.S. Department of State
Daily Press Briefing Index
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
12:45 p.m. EDT
Briefer: Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
-- Asylum Case/Rasul Guliyev
-- Political Process in Azerbaijan
-- Death of Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan
UK/NORTHERN IRELAND/NORTH KOREA
-- U.S. To Request Extradition of Sean Garland Regarding Counterfeiting Case
-- Macedonia Name Issue
-- Zawahiri's Letter to Zarqawi on Terrorists' Cause
-- Iraqi Constitution and Referendum Update/Compromise
-- U.S. Ambassador Khalilzad's Support for Iraqi Efforts
-- China's Second Manned Space Launch
-- Kidnapping of American Citizen and British Citizen in Gaza
-- Violence in Darfur/Impact on Humanitarian Operations in Darfur
-- Appointment of Cameron Hume as US Charge in Khartoum
-- Travel of A/S Frazer and Special Representative Winter
-- Reported Greek Protest Regarding Comments by U.S. Representative
-- Under Secretary Burns' Travel to the Region
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2005
(ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Greetings, everybody. Afternoon, I think. Whatever.
Let's start with your questions since I don't have any announcements.
QUESTION: There is an Azerbaijani political asylum person who is returning from the United States to Baku on Monday and is probably going to be arrested -- his name is Rasul Guliyev. Do you have any position on that?
MR. ERELI: Right. We've spoken to this earlier. Obviously, we've seen reports that Mr. Guliyev intends to return to Azerbaijan. I'm not in a position to confirm those reports. Our understanding is that there are criminal charges against Mr. Guliyev in Azerbaijan. I don't have any particular comments on the specific case. Obviously, we believe that any legal case should be handled in full compliance with international standards for due process and transparency. We call on the authorities in Azerbaijan to respect the rule of law and the rights of any individual who is under charge.
With regard to the political process in Azerbaijan, obviously both the government and opposition parties should participate in an atmosphere of calm, of mutual respect, of dialogue, of adherence to established processes and institutions, and we would expect an election that is reflective of the -- results that are reflective of the will of the people.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. ERELI: Unless there are more questions on that?
QUESTION: No. Okay. Do you have reaction to the suicide of the Syrian Interior Minister?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any particular reaction -- other than to note that this is obviously an issue that we're following closely. I would leave it to the Government of Syria to comment on the facts behind the recent events. I would note, obviously, that Mr. Kanan was a central figure in the Syrian Government's occupation of Lebanon for many years. His role and that of other key officials in the Syrian leadership has come under increased scrutiny lately, in light of recent events in Lebanon, in light of the Mehlis reports activities. We would call on the Syrian Government to end its interference in Lebanese affairs and to cooperate fully with the investigation of Mr. Mehlis into the murder of former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Hariri.
QUESTION: Does your counter -- does your juxtaposition of those two issues lead you to conclude that there is a connection between the Mehlis investigation and this --
MR. ERELI: I'm not making any such conclusions. In fact, as I said at the beginning, we would look to the Syrian Government to come forth with whatever their assessment is of the circumstances of Mr. Kanan's death.
QUESTION: But would it be an implication of -- to the actual report? Because it's going to be released in a few days from now and he was one of the people that was investigated by Mr. Mehlis.
MR. ERELI: So the question is?
QUESTION: Will it be an implication to the final results of the investigation? Would his death have any implication on --
MR. ERELI: Well, I don't know what -- we don't know what's in the report. We don't know what Mr. Mehlis' findings are or what his conclusions, which have not yet been written, will be. So I wouldn't make, frankly, any connections between this event and the Mehlis report and what the Mehlis report might say other than to note that Mr. Kanan was a central figure in Syria's occupation of Lebanon for many years. And beyond that, we'll just have to wait to see what the report says.
QUESTION: Two things to follow up on that. One is there any indication at all that it may have not been a suicide or that anybody is looking at it?
MR. ERELI: Frankly, the extent of our knowledge is what we are reading in the press reports and the statements coming out of Syria, so I couldn't really answer the question.
QUESTION: And the second thing is that apparently, there is some sort of note that he left. Are you seeking to get the Syrian Government the full contents of --
MR. ERELI: We would expect that the facts that are out there would be communicated in a timely way. But again, this is something the Syrian Government needs to deal with.
QUESTION: Do you have any information about the fact that -- sorry, about the fact that report said he is taking bribes from Rafik Hariri?
MR. ERELI: Other than those reports, but I don't have any information to substantiate them or to refute them.
QUESTION: It's a related issue and that is to the Embassy in Damascus. The Ambassador is still out there I believe. Is that correct?
MR. ERELI: That is correct. And it is in the able hands of our Chargé.
QUESTION: Fine. And does the Chargé and his or her able colleagues meet with Syrian foreign ministry regularly?
MR. ERELI: Regularly. Yes.
QUESTION: So it's not a complete shut off, it's just --
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: We don't have an Ambassador there.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Just taking a question on that as well. You know that the Treasury has frozen his money.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: What will follow after that? What will happen in the -- after his death?
MR. ERELI: Regarding how the relevant laws apply in this case, I think I'd have to refer you to the Treasury Department, which is sort of responsible for applying the regulations. I honestly don't know. It's a good question. It's a technical one. I'll see if we have anything we can share with you on that, otherwise I'd refer you to the Treasury Department.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on something you said you'd check on yesterday, and that is on this North Korean counterfeiting case?
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Did you get anything on that? There's now been an indictment.
MR. ERELI: I've got a little bit on it. First of all, regarding the individual in question who has been charged with involvement in counterfeiting hundred dollar bills, we will be requesting his extradition from the United Kingdom. This is a gentleman named Sean Garland.
For more specifics regarding the case and how we're going to prosecute it and actions we look to take, I'd refer you to the Department of Justice since it is now a law enforcement matter. Obviously, as I said yesterday, we take the issue of counterfeiting very seriously. There is, I think, a determined effort on behalf of the United States Government to work with our partners around the world to prevent counterfeiting and particularly in cases where that counterfeiting is going to regimes, to fund illicit activity.
QUESTION: Is this anything that has come up in, I don't know, in the sidelines of six-party talks or anything --
MR. ERELI: No, not that I'm aware of. It's a -- obviously, connected to countries like North Korea that do this, but not a subject of discussion in six-party talks.
QUESTION: Do you think it will have any implications for the, I don't know, hopefully changing relationship between the two countries, us and them?
MR. ERELI: Look, our -- the way forward with North Korea is -- there are a number of elements involved. Obviously, their involvement in illicit activity is one, their human rights practices are another, their weapons programs is a third, and they're all parts of a whole. And I would say that how our relations evolve with North Korea will be affected by all three of -- by actions in all three areas.
QUESTION: On FYROM. The Associated Press dispatch: "Washington has expressed full support for the proposed UN compromise negotiated by Nimetz." Do you deny or accept that since you told us a totally different story yesterday?
MR. ERELI: I said yesterday that we support the role of the UN and the efforts of the UN to find a compromise and a mutually agreeable solution to this issue between Greece and Macedonia and I think that's fully consistent with what you're saying. We don't endorse or reject a particular proposal. That is for the parties to deal with. What we are supportive of is the process and the role of the UN in this issue.
QUESTION: But I was told yesterday that the Nimetz proposal was a U.S. and not a Kofi Annan product.
MR. ERELI: I don't know who told you that, but they're wrong.
QUESTION: No, it's a reliable source. I'm not --
MR. ERELI: Well, the source is wrong.
QUESTION: -- Judith Miller to disclose my source.
MR. ERELI: It's not a U.S. proposal; it's a UN proposal and it's a process and a role for the UN that we support.
QUESTION: But may I continue my question?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. And it's giving the impression that the UN is an extension of the Department of State.
MR. ERELI: That's a wrong impression.
QUESTION: Okay. It's not mine. Actually, I'm --
MR. ERELI: Then you should write that the State Department says that the UN is not an extension of the Department of State.
QUESTION: Okay. Actually, I'm fully aware of the (inaudible) memo received by Nimetz, which is totally unacceptable, Mr. Spokesman, in its context against the territorial integrity of Greece. Any comments since it is called UN/U.S. proposal?
MR. ERELI: I can just tell you that I don't know who's calling it, but I can tell you it's not a U.S. proposal. It's a UN proposal. How can I be more emphatic than it is a UN proposal? It is for the parties to discuss and debate and engage with the UN, and that is a process that we support. And we support the UN in its important, independent, influential role in helping to broker a compromise on this issue.
QUESTION: One more question on this issue. Joseph Stalin and Joseph Tito had followed the same policy, something which provoked --
MR. ERELI: Sorry, I'm going just cut you off and --
MR. ERELI: -- and if you're going to bring Stalin and Tito into this, we've gone too far afield.
QUESTION: No, no, no, it is very important. May I finish? Joseph Stalin and Joseph Tito had followed the same policy, something which provoked extreme reaction by the then-Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius, who stated on December 26, 1944, "The Department of State" -- that's his writing -- "The Department of State has noted with considerable apprehension increasing propaganda rumors and semi-official statements in favor of an autonomous Macedonia, emanating from Bulgaria, but also from Yugoslav Partisan and other sources, with the implication that Greek territory would be included in the projected state."
MR. ERELI: And your question is?
QUESTION: Let me finish.
MR. ERELI: No, no, I'm not going to let you finish. What's the question? You're taking up people's valuable time with a reference to something written in 1945. I will tell you, and I will end this here because I don't want to just go on forever on this. I told you what the U.S. policy is: We support the UN. If you want to bring in history from 50-plus years ago, you're free to do so, but let's do it at a time when you're not imposing upon others. Thank you.
QUESTION: I have a question on the UN. Do you have any comment on this former French Ambassador Merimee being indicted in connection with Oil-for-Food?
MR. ERELI: I do not.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, this is about the letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al- Zarqawi. It talks about that they feel that they're launching a battle within the media. And I was wondering if you could talk about whether you think in this letter that al-Qaida is kind of laying out their battle for hearts and minds of Muslims around the world with America.
MR. ERELI: Well, I think what the letter shows clearly is that -- it shows clearly the nature of the enemy we're dealing with. And this isn't a question of hearts and minds; it's a question of bodies and gore, quite frankly, meaning that this is a network and this is a confederacy of evil that will stop at nothing to advance its radical agenda. And that agenda was made very clear. It's a caliphate that will start in Iraq and move to take over Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria, and practice the kind of abuse and intolerance and perfidy that we saw under the Taliban in Iran -- I'm sorry, under the Taliban in Afghanistan, which was in cahoots with these guys. So that's what we're facing.
Yes, they use media. Yes, they use communications. But I think the best advertisement for what these groups are about is the writing in their own hand, which we've put forward in English and, I would note, in Arabic, so that those who claim to be speaking -- that those who claim to be speaking in the name of Islam and representing Islam, can be seen by Muslims to be the perverters of the religion that they are.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the deal achieved yesterday in Iraq on the constitution?
MR. ERELI: The United States welcomes the agreement that was reached on the Iraqi constitution by the political parties and leaders and people of Iraq. This is certainly a positive development. It shows, frankly, that the political process in Iraq is working. Why? Because the political parties in Iraq, the Government of Iraq, and frankly the people of Iraq were able to work through their differences by using dialogue and compromise to come up with a solution that all sides find acceptable and that leads to broader and fuller participation in public life and in the decisions affecting the citizens of that country. That's a good thing and I think it's a positive sign for what's -- a positive sign about what's happening in Iraq and a positive indicator about the future of Iraq.
Now, obviously, the next step is to, on October 15th, to vote on -- for the Iraqis to vote in a referendum on the constitution. Today's agreement signals that that vote will be broadly inclusive, or certainly we hope it will be broadly inclusive, and that once it takes place Iraqis can have confidence that their views and their desires will be reflected in the final outcome.
And then beyond October 15th we have a December 15th election for a new government, a new permanent government, presuming the referendum passes, that will be charged with carrying forth on what the elected representatives of the Iraqi people have decided today.
So what we're seeing is a political process that is working and that is producing dialogue and compromise over very sensitive issues for all the communities in Iraq.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that?
MR. ERELI: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: To what extent was Ambassador Khalilzad involved in the last final moments before they reached the deal, and to what extent was it his influence that brought it together?
MR. ERELI: Look, the United States is a friend of Iraq. The United States wants to help Iraqis develop a vibrant and dynamic democracy. And we've been playing that role from the very beginning in helping work out the Transitional Administrative Law, in helping support the elections, the initial elections in January, in terms of the work helping Iraqis, supporting the Iraqis as they wrote their constitution, offering ideas as they were solicited, helping forge compromises when there were differences and bridges that -- or gaps that needed to be bridged. And frankly, that's the role we played in these latest developments. The Ambassador, I think, is a trusted and respected counsel to Iraqis from across the political spectrum and he's been acting to support their efforts in that role.
QUESTION: On China?
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: The U.S. has tightly controlled any space technology exports to China and we know U.S. has no -- any cooperation with China in this space area. I'm wondering if you have anything to say about China's successful lift-off, this second manned spacecraft yesterday.
MR. ERELI: Well, obviously, China's space program is a Chinese program; it's not one that we've provided any assistance to. We, obviously, congratulate China on the successful launch of its second manned space mission. And furthermore, we would applaud China and its success as only the third country to launch people into space. I think our view is that the peaceful use of space is something that is appropriate and, as I said, we welcome China's developments in this area. I don't know that there's much more to say.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Do you have any details on the reported abduction of a British and an American journalist in Gaza today?
MR. ERELI: The information I have for you is limited. First, I can confirm that there was an American kidnapped in Gaza today. We don't have a Privacy Act waiver so there's not much I can share with you in the way of information about the person's identity. Our staff from our Consulate General in Jerusalem and our Embassy in Tel Aviv are working in response to this kidnapping. Specifically, we have been in touch with senior levels of the Palestinian Authority who are working to resolve it. They're on the case. They believe that they have a handle on it. And we look to them to resolve it to everyone's satisfaction.
QUESTION: What does that mean?
MR. ERELI: What's it mean? It means that --
QUESTION: They believe they have handle on it. They think they know who did it? They think they know who's responsible?
MR. ERELI: Yeah, that they have leads that they believe are productive.
QUESTION: Do you --
MR. ERELI: There's been no claim of responsibility and so our understanding is that the Palestinian Authority is working with -- through their organizations, through their services to both identify those responsible and intervene to obtain the release of the people captured.
QUESTION: So, Adam, just to be clear, you're leaving this -- I mean, you're in touch with the Palestinians and you're in touch with the family -- but are you leaving the investigation and securing the release of this American to the Palestinians? Or are you also trying to secure the release on your own?
MR. ERELI: I think the way to put it is, we are working closely with all competent authorities to affect the release of the kidnapped American.
QUESTION: One more question. The United Nations reports today that up to two-thirds of the area in Western Darfur is now so violent that they can't even get aid in anymore, so it seems that things are definitely getting worse there. And, of course, there was the incident earlier with the detentions of AU and an American. Do you have anything -- anything to say about that? And is the United States, you know, making any contact with the Sudanese Government to say they need get on the ball here?
MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen those comments, quite frankly. I'm not -- relief -- the information available to us is that relief and humanitarian operations in Darfur continue. Obviously, I think, we're all very alert to and sensitive to any developments that have an impact on the humanitarian situation there because obviously that is -- those are the people that suffer first and foremost. So it is a situation that we follow very carefully and that we act to address should there be actions or developments that impact the fate of the internally displaced people there or the vulnerable populations. But as far as I am aware, the food situation is still okay. There is, obviously -- there have been attacks against IDP camps in the last two weeks, those were -- those stopped but the situation, as I said before, is inherently unstable.
QUESTION: But there are reports today those haven't stopped and there are new attacks on refugee camps.
MR. ERELI: I have not seen those reports. Obviously, when we do get reports like that, our first action is to try to contact the AU, try to confirm them, find out what the facts are, but I had not seen those -- the latest reports.
Again, you know, any one day -- let me put it this way -- any one day there may be incidents of violence and that is something that we consistently work to contain in a number of ways, which I've outlined for you extensively in previous briefings, both through supporting the AU, intervening with the Government of Sudan, intervening with the rebels in Abuja and in other capitals.
I would tell you this -- that we have made it clear to the Government of Sudan in Khartoum -- we've made it clear to the rebel leadership in both Darfur and in Abuja that these acts of violence are: 1) contrary to pledges they've made before, specifically in the ceasefire agreements and in subsequent discussions with their officials; 2) that they are unacceptable to us and that they have to stop; 3) that we will act in coordination with the AU and our international partners to ensure security to the extent that we can in the areas where there are vulnerable populations. And number three, that we will continue to press -- I'm sorry, I don't what number, maybe four -- 4) that we will continue to press forward in both Abuja and with the Government of National Unity and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement so that the contributing factors to the unrest and to the violence that we see are addressed effectively.
On that score, I do have something new to tell you today and that is that we are appointing Ambassador Cameron Hume as our Chargé at the Embassy in Khartoum. Ambassador Hume will be leaving for Khartoum shortly. He is one of our most senior and distinguished diplomats, having served as Ambassador to Algeria and South Africa. And I think his appointment reflects the high priority that we place on implementing the CPA and resolving the crisis in Darfur. I stand corrected -- he leaves for Khartoum today.
Also, I think I mentioned this to you yesterday, but I have a couple more details to provide for you on the travel of Assistant Secretary Frazer and the Deputy Secretary's Special Representative Roger Winter. Assistant Secretary Frazer is currently in Liberia and she will be in Sudan October 20th and 23rd. Special Representative Winter will be going to Nairobi and then South Sudan to do follow-up on the CPA implementation and then he will be meeting with senior representatives of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement and other key actors to push for progress in resolving the Darfur crisis and implementing the CPA throughout Sudan.
So the point here is that, yes, we see incidents of violence; yes, we are aware of what some of the push factors behind them; and we are addressing this issue in a variety of ways and, most immediately today, by sending out a new Chargé and our senior officials to work the issue.
QUESTION: But, Adam, it could also be seen as an upgrade in diplomatic relations because our government --
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't -- no, it's not an upgrade. We had a Chargé before and we have a Chargé now, so I don't see how you can conclude from that there's any upgrade in relations.
QUESTION: When did the last Chargé leave?
MR. ERELI: The last Chargé left a couple weeks ago.
QUESTION: Okay. With these visits, though, it could be seen that you are not necessarily going to put the squeeze on them but --
MR. ERELI: It depends on what the message is, doesn't it?
QUESTION: It does --
MR. ERELI: And the message is a tough one, which is respect your agreements, follow through on what you said you would do and compromise on the fundamental issues, as you have done in the past.
QUESTION: Or else what though? I mean, where does the government and the rebels see the consequences of not implementing what you're asking them to do? I mean, we went over this yesterday, but you've been saying this for a very long time and obviously they seem -- they're acting with impunity.
MR. ERELI: Well, first of all I'd say they're not acting with impunity, that there are obviously things the Government of Sudan wants that they're not going to get if they continue to do this; 2) that there are additional measures that could be taken, depending on the circumstances, depending on events on the ground; 3) you have an ongoing situation of conflict in Darfur between rebels and militias that are supported by the government, that this is a conflict that has gone on for too long in which it is an incumbent on all sides to take actions and which a process has been developed for addressing those fundamental issues. That is the Abuja process and it has produced results, limited though they are and incomplete though they are, that process continues to move forward. So I think what you -- the way you look at it is, there is a cost to be paid in both opportunities and benefits lost; and there is, as we look at events over the course of time, a cost that can come based on the assessment and conclusions of the international community.
QUESTION: Can you just check on if you guys have anything more to say on the fact that there have been new attacks on --
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Some of the UN people can't leave their locations to --
MR. ERELI: Yeah. I'll check and see.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: I'm just -- historically, when was the last time we had ambassadorial-level representation in Khartoum? Was that, like, 20 years ago?
MR. ERELI: It was a while ago. I can check the archives and get back to you. I want to -- I've got a date in my mind -- but it was several years, but I'll check and see.
QUESTION: Mr. Ereli --
MR. ERELI: One more question if it's a short one.
QUESTION: What was your response to the Greek protest for the statement delivered by your representative to the OSCE Felice Gaer on September 28th about the existence of non-existent ethnic minorities in Greece?
MR. ERELI: I'll see if I've got something on that for you.
QUESTION: Any readout about Under Secretary Nicholas Burns' visit in the Balkans?
MR. ERELI: No.
(The briefing was concluded 1:17 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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