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Daily Press Briefing

Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 6, 2007

INDEX:

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
Three-Way Meeting with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas / Secretary Rice's Travel Schedule / Discussions Would Concern Issues on the Framework of a Possible Palestinian State / Various Issues Discussed By Each Party
Secretary Rice Committed to Lay a Foundation for Israel and Palestinians to Resolve Differences
Israeli-Palestinian Discussions on Issues Related to Political Horizon
Bilateral Agenda with Set for Each Party
U.S. Efforts to Bring the Two Parties Closer Together / U.S. Working with Both Sides on Preparations for Meeting
SAUDI ARABIA/PALESTINIANS
King Abdullah's Efforts to Bring Together Palestinian Factions to Reduce Violence
Efforts to Form a Government of National Unity Between Fatah and Hamas
Saudi Efforts to Get Solutions on Security Issues and to Reduce Level of Violence
Saudis Have Various Regional Concerns
MISCELLANEOUS
Query on the Convention for the Protection of All Persons and Enforced Disappearances / U.S. Participation in All Meetings
IRAQ
Secretary Rice's Formation of Task Force on Iraqi Refugees / U.S. Working with UN High Commissioner For Refugees
Allocation of Refugee Slots / Working with Related Agencies on the Issue / Congressional Funding for Resettlement of Refugees / Quota System
Query on Iraqis That Worked for U.S. Government / Concern That Refugees in Surrounding Countries Will Place Strain on Infrastructures
Refugee Issue An Ongoing Concern / Limited Program at Department of Defense for Iraqis / Congressional Funding on Resettling Refugees
Shared Global Responsibility on Humanitarian Principles / Look at Potential Need that Exist in Iraq
Department of Defense Investigation into Friendly Fire Incident of UK Soldier
TURKEY
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Deputy Prime-Minister Abdullah Gul/ Topics Discussed
Turkish Government Played Positive Role in Lebanon
Congressional Armenian Resolution
ITALY
Query on Op-Ed by Ambassador Spogli / Italian Troops in Afghanistan
Reports of U.S. Interference in Italian Political System
MISCELLANEOUS
Query on Nomination of John Rood as Bob Joseph's Replacement


TRANSCRIPT:



1:48 p.m. EST

QUESTION: The three-way meeting with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas is going to be on February the 19th?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's scheduled for the 19th, indeed, it is. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Why couldn't you have told us that five minutes before the Prime Minister announced it?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, it's as a matter of courtesy, I think, the Prime Minister announced the date for the meeting. But yes, it is on the 19th. The Secretary looks forward to the meeting. I think we're still working out some of the modalities in terms of location, timing, et cetera, et cetera. But many of you will be there to report on the meeting and we look forward to briefing you in as much detail as we possibly can after the meeting.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about where else she will go on that trip, whether it would include the -- what are the typical visits to -- you know, the Palestinian territories and Jerusalem and so on or --

MR. MCCORMACK: There are a couple of other stops. I expect she probably will -- based on the schedule as we have it right now, which I caution you is not final, I would expect that she would probably make a stop in Ramallah and there will probably be a couple other stops as well. But again, in deference to those host countries, we're going to wait to work out all the final details before we give you a little bit more on the schedule. But we're more than a week out from the trip, so as we get closer, we'll have more details for you.

QUESTION: And you do expect the three-way meeting to occur in the region, not somewhere else --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: -- like Europe of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: And on the three-way meeting, can you tell us what the Secretary hopes to get out of the three-way meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we'll see what the results of the meeting will be. In terms of going into the meeting, our expectations are that this is an initial opportunity for these two leaders to start a discussion about those issues that would concern the framework of a possible Palestinian state. Again, each side will have various issues that they want to bring up. This is their first opportunity to discuss these in more than six years, so I would expect that would involve issues related to security, issues related to economic and trade, issues related to all the political questions that we know are out there with respect to borders, et cetera.

But again, the agenda is one that is being worked out. It'll be worked out in consultation with us as well as the Palestinians and the Israelis. And we would hope that this venue would be one that the Israelis and the Palestinians avail themselves of into the future as they work on the day to day issues, issues related to checkpoints, but also work on those issues related to a political horizon. Secretary Rice will continue to be involved at both of those levels, if you will, and when she feels that it is appropriate, when they feel it is appropriate, I would expect that you would see more of the tripartite format as opposed to just the Israelis and the Palestinians.

But I would expect the -- we would hope that the Israelis and Palestinians would take advantage of this particular forum. And ultimately, it comes down to the Israelis and the Palestinians working out the differences between them and coming to some form of agreement on issues from the most mundane up to the most politically sensitive.

Yes.

QUESTION: Are you expecting this to be the beginning of shuttle diplomacy of the type of previous administrations? I mean, will this just be a one-day meeting or do you anticipate this could continue for several days?

MR. MCCORMACK: At the moment, it's scheduled for a one-day meeting, one portion of the day. As for what form Secretary Rice's involvement will take into the future, she's going to be making many visits to the region on a variety of issues including on this one. She has committed publicly to dedicating her focus and energies to trying to lay a foundation so that one day the Israelis and the Palestinians can realize the dream of having two states living side by side in peace and security. She will also in her travels to the region work to advance the Freedom Agenda. She will work on issues related to Lebanon, Iraq, as well as other issues that are in our national interest and of interest to our national security.

QUESTION: Just to follow-up on that, you talked about how you hope that they will avail themselves of this venue, this sort of tripartite venue. Do you expect that there will be additional meetings, if not at her level, but at some three-way level below her level to work on these issues?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that that's a detail that we'll have to work out. We'll see if -- see what the Israelis and the Palestinians believe is useful coming out of this meeting. They do have contacts at lower levels, working on issues related to security, issues related to, for instance, checkpoints and that transit across various checkpoints if they discuss issues related to the economy and trade. So they already do have contacts and I'll let them speak to the frequency and format of those contacts. It will be -- I think it will be in part up to them what they decide is useful. In terms of the level of contact and the format in which they have those contacts.

QUESTION: But the thing that's interesting to me is you -- I mean, you almost extended an open-ended invitation for them to, you know, take up this venue, this tripartite sort of mechanism and I wonder if you're hoping that they'll keep wanting to do that in a tripartite manner.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, when this initiative was first announced during Secretary Rice's last trip to the region, she talked about the fact that this could be the beginning of a forum where the Israelis and the Palestinians could raise with each other issues related to the political horizon and that she did not envision herself being at -- she didn't envision herself being at each and every potential meeting, that she would participate as she saw fit as well as the participants, as well. She certainly doesn't want to be an uninvited guest, but she is going to work to try to bring the parties together to at least start this discussion and we'll see what direction that discussion takes and what form that discussion takes.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Why can't you announce the date of this three-way meeting? Is it because you -- the two other parties didn't --

MR. MCCORMACK: We just did.

QUESTION: The Israelis did.

MR. MCCORMACK: The Israelis did. Yeah, the Israelis did.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: That's okay. We have to turn the sound up in here so Sylvie can hear.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sean, does the fact that she's going to Ramallah mean that she's going to - does it mean that she's going to meet with both sides before Monday, before the meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: I expect that she probably will.

QUESTION: So she'll go and prepare the way for --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We'll have more details, but she'll have -- there will be a bilateral agenda with the Israelis and a bilateral agenda with the Palestinians as well.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit.

QUESTION: Just to talk about the expectations, it seems like you're sort of lowering the expectation that there'd be a giant headline or agreement out of the meeting.

MR. MCCORMACK: What? Me trying to lower expectations? (Laughter.) Heaven forbid.

We want to be realistic about this. The Secretary has talked about the fact that it is important to prepare each and every step along the way as we try to bring the parties together, because ultimately they're the ones that are going to have to come to an agreement at some point in the future, that she's not looking to impose some American-made plan that is not coordinated with both sides. They have to -- they're the ones that have to feel comfortable with the pace of the discussions as well as the ultimate outcome of the discussions.

So as I said, the Secretary is ready to dedicate her time and energy and focus to this issue, and we're going to take this one step at a time. But that does not mean in any way, shape or form that she is not going to be energetic in encouraging the sides to come together to come to some common understanding on those issues from top to bottom.

Yes, Janine.

QUESTION: Sean, has the Secretary gotten a readout of the talks in Saudi Arabia? And --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh, you already talked about that?

QUESTION: No, I want to talk about the same thing we were talking about.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Just one last thing on expectations. Does the Secretary hope to see a Palestinian state by the time she leaves office?

MR. MCCORMACK: Charlie, she's talked about the fact that what she wants to do is she wants to lay a foundation where the Israelis and the Palestinians can come together and resolve all the differences between them from the most sensitive to the most -- to those daily issues of irritation to both sides, whether those are checkpoints or other types of issues.

That is her goal, and exactly how that process will look by the time she leaves office as Secretary of State, I can't say. I don't think she can say. We can't predict. But what she can say is that she is going to, with the support of President Bush, dedicate herself to doing everything she can to move forward that agenda of two states living side by side in peace and security.

QUESTION: Just one more. But you're not giving any consideration to the -- or she's not giving any consideration to naming a special envoy to work on these matters, is she?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I haven't heard any mention of that.

QUESTION: Sean?

QUESTION: Can I ask my question now?

MR. MCCORMACK: You may.

QUESTION: Thanks. Has she gotten a readout of the talks in Saudi Arabia and how does --

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: How -- okay. So how does that mediation effort between Fatah and Hamas impact her trip and her peace effort?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly we appreciate, and I think all of the region appreciate, the good offices of King Abdullah in bringing together the Palestinian political factions to try to reduce the violence. I think everybody can applaud that effort.

And I understand that there is another agenda there, helping Hamas and Fatah come together to form a government of national unity, and we have spoken to that issue in the past, that any such government should be internationally acceptable based on the Quartet principles.

Well, we'll see. We'll see what comes out of these efforts. I don't have a read on them so I can't give you any update. You might check with the Saudis or the Palestinians.

But we do absolutely encourage all responsible parties in the region to make every effort they can to help bring down the level of violence in the Palestinian areas because ultimately it is the innocent civilians who get caught in the crossfire who pay the price for that violence.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. How can she make progress on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking when you've got warfare in Gaza between the Palestinian factions?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, because -- just because you have a certain level of violence in the Palestinian areas doesn't mean that you should forego opportunities to try to advance the cause of Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, an Israel and a Palestine living side by side in peace and security.

It also doesn't mean that you should forego efforts to try to resolve issues related to security at checkpoints, security at border crossings. So she firmly believes that there are the underpinnings in the region that exist to make some progress, to exploit the -- exploit an opening, to try to bring the sides closer together.

There are challenges. Certainly, the challenge -- the Palestinians have a great challenge not only in reducing the level of violence but trying to resolve the fundamental political contradictions within their system. That is something that only they can do. Those on the outside can try to help them on both of those tasks -- reducing the violence and trying to resolve those contradictions -- but ultimately they're going to have to be the ones that make the hard choices.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: Is the goal in this bringing the Turks to this conference to go for more of a regional type of outcome, in other words, working with the Palestinian-Israeli section and perhaps even the Lebanese between Christian and bolstering the Siniora government to get the Turks possibly involved with that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Are you talking about the Saudi meeting, Joel?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. MCCORMACK: The one in Mecca?

QUESTION: Is the goal to enlarge that to really hit both locations at the same time --

MR. MCCORMACK: Joel, you'll have to talk to the Saudi Government about exactly what their aspirations were in calling for this meeting. Certainly they have in public talked about the fact that this has two specific purposes: one, to get at a solution to reducing the violence in the Palestinian areas; and the second is to try to help the Palestinians form a government of national unity. As for any other interests they may have in calling the meeting, you'd have to talk to them

We, of course, understand their interests as well the interests of others in the region in trying to support the Siniora government as it struggles against forces of opposition within Lebanon that are trying to undermine the Lebanese desire for a more stable, democratic, peaceful Lebanon.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah. May I ask on Turkey?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll come back to you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: When you go into this meeting are you going in with a fixed agenda to come up with a framework of what a Palestinian state could look like? I mean, are you going in with a very fixed agenda to the meeting? You've been canvassing various Arab states and the Quartet has been looking at it. I just wondered how you would start off the meeting.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that is going to be in large part, dictated by what agenda items the Palestinians and the Israelis wanted to bring up. We will of course, make suggestions and we're working with both sides on preparations for the meeting. We want it of course to be a good useful meeting for both sides as well as for us. I don't -- I'm not aware that there's a set agenda at this point. That is in the course being developed right now. So as we get closer I expect that we'll talk about it. I expect the Israelis and the Palestinians will talk about it as well.

Nicholas.

QUESTION: Do you expect, Sean, David Welch to go out to the region before the Secretary gets there??

MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to him about his travel plans. He has done that very often. There are other times when he's traveled out with the Secretary. I think it will depend on the circumstances.

Yeah, David.

QUESTION: A response to this work that's begun today in the -- around the Mosque -- Al Aqsa Mosque, Temple Mount area in Jerusalem which has created some protests from Jordan and some other states as well.

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into it. I'm afraid I'm not aware of the issues. We'll get some details for you afterwards, see what we can find out.

George.

QUESTION: Did you notice that 57 countries signed a treaty today that would basically bar governments from holding secret detainees and the U.S. did not join?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. This is -- I understand that there is a Convention for the Protection of All Persons and Enforced Disappearances. And I know -- I have some information on it here, George. I confess I don't have all the details. I do know that we participated in all the meetings that produced the draft. Beyond that, I can't give you specific reasons here from the podium as to why we didn't sign on to it. We've put out a public document that I can give you the citation for afterwards and it explains our reasons for not participating in the draft. But I think just as a general comment, clearly the draft that was put up for a vote or put for signature was not one that met our needs and expectations.

Libby.

QUESTION: Switching topics. To Iraq, I wanted to ask you about this new Iraq Refugee and Internally Displaced Persons Task Force you announced last night. You know, I saw the release. What prompted a task force to be formed or -- I mean, is there growing concern in this Department about a crisis brewing or what is it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the security situation in Iraq has by public reports as well as private estimates led to not only Iraqis leaving Iraq, but also Iraqis within the country being displaced as well and that's of concern to us. I have to point out that as a starting point, there already were substantial numbers of Iraqi refugees in neighboring states who left because of the oppression under Saddam Hussein, so there already were a number of -- there already were a number there. But on top of that number, there were many others who, because of the security situation in Iraq, have decided to leave. And what the Secretary wanted to do in forming this task force is underline the fact that we are going to try to address this issue as best we can on a number of different fronts.

One, we want to immediately work with the UN Commissioner for -- UN High Commissioner for Refugees to provide the humanitarian support that is needed for those individuals who have left Iraq and who are resident in neighboring countries. We want to work closely with them on their processes for identifying those people who may be at -- in danger of continuing risk if they return to their home country, therefore being classified as refugees.

Third, we want to take a look at, for those individuals who are classified as refugees, what can the United States do to do its share to take in those individuals from Iraq and from the region who are classified as refugees.

Now this gets into a complicated system of -- you know, overall numbers and quotas for various reasons, but the total overall number -- excuse me -- of refugees for the current year that we are mandated to allow in by Congress is 70,000. And that number is then allocated by regions. There is also, in that, within that number, about 20,000 slots that are not allocated to a specific region. So the folks in the task force are going to take a look at what refugee slots we could possibly allocate to those Iraqis who are classified as refugees so that we could take them in. That is work that needs to be done. You have to look at not only the slots, but also match that up against the funding that we've received from Congress.

The fourth part to this is to take a look at what the United States Government and, primarily, in this case, the State Department and related agencies can do vis--vis those Iraqis who have worked with us, who, because of that work with us, may face some continuing threat if they remained in Iraq. And again, the Department of Defense has a limited program in this regard, so we are taking a look at whether or not some similar program, although perhaps not exactly like the DOD program, but some similar program might be instituted for those who work with the State Department and related agencies.

QUESTION: So two things, the 70,000 number, what is that number again?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's the overall number -- every single year -- this is basically based on money.

QUESTION: Oh, right.

MR. MCCORMACK: And every single year, Congress mandates or allocates a certain amount of funding for resettling refugees in the United States. Costs -- you have costs of not only processing, but doing the appropriate background checks, then getting people from one place in the United States and then helping them out, once they're here, get resettled, so this all is tied to budgetary numbers. So the number -- it's about 70,000 that we were allocated for this year. And --

QUESTION: This fiscal year?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think it goes by fiscal year, Arshad. I'll double-check that, but I believe it's by fiscal year. And then there's a sort of rough quota system that's broken -- the world's broken down into various regions that roughly approximate the bureaucratic breakdown we have in the State Department. And different number -- you have, for each of the regions, different quotas and that's based on past experience as well as current needs.

Within that -- so you have -- you're at 50,000 that are clearly identified within the 70,000, then you have 20,000 that are not, at this point, identified or associated with a specific region. And so we're going to take a look at what numbers we can allocate for potential Iraqi refugees not only from the existing Middle East quota number, but if there is a need to try to access some of that 20,000 as well.

QUESTION: Okay. And the other question I had was, in terms of personnel having to process -- I guess, what is it taking, you know, for our embassies in the region that are maybe having to deal with the refugee problem? Is it a strain on the resources at all of U.S. State Department personnel having to deal with the refugees?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, because there is a well established system in which we work with the UNHCR as well as NGOs that participate in this process. It's a well established process in which various international organization states and NGOs play a role. Now, one of the concerns is that these refugees in surrounding countries will place a strain on the infrastructures in those countries. Now, that's of course a concern to the individual countries as well as to us. So we want to work with UNHCR to see what we can do as well as others to address the real humanitarian needs that exist.

Yeah.

QUESTION: About Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Can we stay on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll go with Afghanistan -- Turkey and then Afghanistan and we'll stay with this.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we have some kind of update about the status of this investigation into this Iranian diplomat?

MR. MCCORMACK: Let's stay with this.

QUESTION: First of all, what is the number associated with the NEA region of the 50,000? Do you know (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have it in front of me.

QUESTION: Can you get it for us?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. It's easy to get. It's a publicly available figure.

QUESTION: Second, do you know what is the number and I believe it came out in congressional testimony recently and I think it was about 200, but I'm not certain. What is the number of Iraqi citizens or Iraqi refugees who came to the United States last year? Was it just 200?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a low number. I believe it is in the hundreds, but we'll get both of those. They're publicly available.

QUESTION: And do you feel like you're doing your share? I mean, this was the standard that you set to see if the United States can do its share. Are you doing your share, do you think, or not and that's why you've set up this commission to see if you can do more?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. We want to try to answer that question for ourselves. There is a need. Clearly, there is a need that exists and there are problems that need to be addressed. And we want to take a look to see if what we are doing currently is appropriate to the need as well as to answering the question: Is this -- are we doing what we should be doing?

QUESTION: I have one last one on this. Do you feel that the United States has a special obligation to try to address this problem given that, without ascribing direct causality, it is presumably the U.S.-led invasion and subsequent events that have led to this enormous refugee influx into neighboring countries? Do you feel like you have a special responsibility or not?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's a shared global responsibility based on the humanitarian principles outlined in the UN charter. I would point out to you that a substantial number, if not the majority of the Iraqis who are currently outside of Iraq, who could potentially be classified as refugees, were outside of Iraq because of Saddam Hussein, because of the oppression -- the oppressive regime of Saddam Hussein. So this is not an issue that originated with the liberation of Iraq. And then the subsequent deterioration in the security situation in Iraq. So it is -- it has been an issue of ongoing concern for some time. But as I said, we want to do what is appropriate, what is right under our obligations under the UN charter and providing our fair share of relief for those individuals who have been classified as refugees.

QUESTION: On the number -- another question. I don't know if you have it. If you have, I'd love to have it, but if not, could you get for us the number of Iraqis and presumably their family members who have worked for the State Department and related agencies who might be candidates?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. That's one of the things we're working to identify, Charlie. I don't think that we have a good estimate of that at this point.

QUESTION: And on this, Sean, would these people who work or have worked for the State Department would they be classified as refugees and will they have to go under that --

MR. MCCORMACK: It would be -- yeah, because you get into -- well, it gets into their specific situation and this quickly becomes very -- a complex issue. The basic breakdown is if somebody is outside of the borders of Iraq then they are potentially classified as a refugee. If they're inside of Iraq they're an internally displaced person. So it's a question that you can really only answer based on the specific circumstances of an individual. It's not one you can answer --

QUESTION: So there isn't a blanket way to classify these people in terms of legally bringing them into the country because they are not refugees, then they have to be some sort of permanent resident?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you're getting into the details of what may be a solution. Again, we're -- I caution you -- we're not there yet. We're trying to look at the problem to see what it is that we can do and what we should do.

QUESTION: Is the basic idea, without getting into details, is the basic idea of that program to give preferences to Iraqi citizens who may have worked for the U.S. Government in Iraq to come to the United States? Is that the basic idea?

MR. MCCORMACK: There exists a DOD program which I think has been well reported that gives some preference -- immigrant visa preference to individuals who have met a certain set of conditions working for the Department of Defense, working for the military I think primarily as translators. We want to as a State Department look at that program, look at the potential need that exists in Iraq for those people who have worked with the United States Government and to see if there is a potential similar solution by which we can make an offer to those who have worked with us. Again -- and that is the task that has been assigned. I'm not going to try to prejudge what the outcome of that discussion might be. It is a topic that we're looking at.

QUESTION: To make an offer, Sean, to reside here or to work for the government once they come here?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, the DOD program is based on, I believe, a type of special immigrant visa. So it is allowing people to immigrate to the United States based on meeting a certain set of conditions, most important of which is some length of service working for the United States Government -- specifically in this case working for the Department of Defense.

Yeah.

QUESTION: What about Iraqis who have worked for U.S. contractors who have been spending, you know, this $20-odd billion reconstruction funds? Would they also be covered?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sue, you're getting way head of the task. I've tried to outline for you specifically what the question is and I'm not going to try to prejudge a particular outcome.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Is there anything you can do in the short term to try to stem the outflow of Iraqi civilians, you know, not just ones that worked for the U.S. Government, but ordinary Iraqis that are trying to get out of the country? Is there anything you can do in the short term to stop that or to try to stop it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, each individual is going to have their own individual reasons for deciding either to move or to try to leave the country. Certainly we understand that the security situation in Baghdad as well as other places is responsible in part for people either moving within the country or trying to leave the country. So ultimately, the solution for Iraq is a more stable security situation in which people see the opportunities to make a better life for themselves inside Iraq and to be able to live wherever they may choose, whether that's in Baghdad or other parts of the country. In the short term, we are working with the Iraqis as well as international NGOs to try to help out those who may have been internally displaced within Iraq, we have programs to try to address those needs and those issues.

Anything else on this? Okay, why don't we get --

QUESTION: Just a suggestion. In view of the intense interest, perhaps Ellen Sauerbrey could brief us?

MR. MCCORMACK: She is not -- she's on travel at the moment. But we'll try to --

QUESTION: I assume she'll be back.

MR. MCCORMACK: We will -- well, I thought you were talking about immediately, the next time.

QUESTION: No, no.

MR. MCCORMACK: Certainly we'll try to get together a briefing for you guys.

Okay, on Turkey. In the back.

QUESTION: Sean --

QUESTION: One more on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: One more.

QUESTION: Any comment on the measures taken by the Sudan Government toward the refugees?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yep, we'll get to that after -- yep.

QUESTION: It's on Secretary Rice's meeting with Abdullah Gul. I understand they talked about PKK and Armenian genocide bill. Can you give me any details about their discussion on PKK, especially the ways to eliminate PKK in northern Iraq? Did they discuss that? And did they also discuss Armenian genocide bill that is supposed to be discussed at the Congress in March?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, they had a private discussion, a one-on-one meeting that was just the two of them. They may have had one or two other aides present. Then they had the discussion at lunch. I was present for the discussion at lunch. Let me go down the list of topics that they discussed at lunch.

They talked about Lebanon. They talked Iraq as well as the PKK issue. They talked about Turkish-EU relations. They talked about Kosovo. And Foreign Minister Gul also did bring up the discussion within the U.S. Congress about a possible Armenian -- a bill focused on the events in 1915.

In terms of the discussions within the U.S. Congress, look, we understand very clearly that this is a sensitive issue not only for the Turkish people but for the Armenian people. We have made our views known on the potential for a resolution or for a bill. I have talked about in the past. You can look back at the transcript at what I've said.

In terms of the PKK, I think that everybody is in agreement that we want to try to resolve this issue. Innocent Turkish citizens have lost their lives as a result of terrorist acts of the PKK. I think Turkey as well as Iraq have -- both have an interest in trying to resolve the issue. We have appointed General Ralston as a special envoy to work with both sides. Secretary Rice talked with Foreign Minister Gul about where the situation stands now, what General Ralston has been doing. And we have made it clear, obviously, we do not want to see a resort to greater -- any greater violence. Everybody believes in the territorial integrity of Iraq -- Turkey, Iraq, the United States -- so we want to try to work on this issue in such a way that is acceptable to two sovereign states. And we're doing what we can to help them come together to solve what is a tough problem.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Any response to the Japanese Foreign Minister's comments the other day about U.S. Iraq policy and has there been any communication with the Japanese Government either before his comments or after his comments?

MR. MCCORMACK: I have to admit I didn't -- I'll have to come up to speed on his comments. We'll take a look at what exactly was said. We'll post an answer for you guys.

Yes. Any new topics? Samir.

QUESTION: You said they discussed Lebanon. Can you say anything about that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Turkish Government has endeavored to play a positive role in trying to bring a more stable, secure situation to Lebanon. The Turkish Government has played a positive role in working with Prime Minister Siniora to see if there is a mechanism or a formula by which the political crisis in Lebanon can be resolved by the parties in Lebanon. It was just a discussion of the Turkish efforts in that regard.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: George.

QUESTION: On the treaty that was approved today in Paris, did the U.S. non-vote have anything to do with the fact that terrorist suspects have been sent by the U.S. Government to secret prisons?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I've exhausted my knowledge on this one, George. We'll try to post up for you the document. I have a document number here, but we'll try to get our hands on it and send it around to you guys.

QUESTION: Since you couldn't answer that one, could I move quickly to an unrelated topic?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: There are reports in the Italian press that the U.S., Canada and Britain sent a letter to Italian authorities urging them to maintain their commitment, troop commitment in Afghanistan. Do you have anything on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think there was a -- there was some story about an editorial that Ambassador Spogli, our Ambassador to Italy, published. This is -- it was an op-ed that is fully consistent with what President Bush has said, what Secretary Rice said recently in Brussels during the NATO ministerial meeting concerning Afghanistan. It is consistent with what Secretary Gates has said on the topic of Afghanistan.

So I know that there's been some stir within the Italian political system about this and some talk about the Ambassador in some way making statements that aren't consonant with U.S. policy. Let me assure you that the editorial that he signed and submitted was fully consistent with U.S. policy, that we were fully aware that he was posting it in the Italian newspaper.

QUESTION: Yeah, but there wasn't any --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. MCCORMACK: Hmm?

QUESTION: Was there a letter?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. I don't know if there was a letter, George. I know there was an editorial.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: But what we say in private and what we say in public on this topic are the same thing.

QUESTION: On the friendly fire incident, has the United States now given permission for the full transcript and for the video to be aired publicly?

MR. MCCORMACK: Check with DOD. This is something that was handled through military-to-military channels.

QUESTION: So there hasn't been any diplomatic discussion over this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you whether or not we served as a pass-through, but it's a -- it's a mil-to-mil discussion. My understanding is that the investigation on our side had been completed, the investigation on the UK side had been completed. From the military's perspective, they had another step that they had to go through in terms of a civilian investigation, and that is where the question arose whether or not the tape could be released to the civilian investigation and whether or not it could be released to the public. That decision is one that is going to be made on our side over at the Department of Defense.

I think if you look at the transcript of what was said, everybody understands that this was just a terrible, terrible accident. It took place on the battlefield in the fog of -- in the fog of battle. And everybody -- you can hear -- just look at the words, read the words. You can almost hear the horror and regret on the part of the pilots. So I think that the -- as far as I am aware, the Department of Defense has concluded that this was a terrible, terrible accident.

QUESTION: But has the United States been asked to grant permission for the pilots to go to Britain for an inquiry, to attend an inquiry?

MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk --

QUESTION: Still the Pentagon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, talk to the Pentagon about that. Yeah. You had one on Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Yes, about the Spogli letter. Today the Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema expressed surprise and disapproval for the letter, saying it can be interpreted by some as interference in the debate in Italy about Afghanistan. What do you feel?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course we're not trying to interfere in the decision-making processes of the Italian political system. We are, however, going to speak forthrightly about where we stand vis--vis NATO and individual NATO member-state participation in the efforts in Afghanistan. This is a NATO-wide commitment. We've talked about this openly within the alliance. You should be able to have these discussions openly among friends and allies. And that is all that Ambassador Spogli was doing and is doing.

QUESTION: Do you have something on these Iranian diplomats? The status of the investigations --

MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the news reports. I know the Iraqis are looking into it, trying to track down the ground truth. At this point, I don't have anything more for you.

QUESTION: Can you acknowledge that he was -- he disappeared?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I have seen -- all the -- the extent of my knowledge on this at this point stops at the news reports. We're trying to get the facts, get the ground truth for you guys. And as soon as we are able to determine that, I'll be happy to share with you what we know.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Iran.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Iranian Ambassador has accused the U.S. of being behind it. Can you at least deny that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Behind --

QUESTION: Behind the kidnapping of their diplomat.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, I can't confirm the specific act, but I would know of nothing that would substantiate that view at this point.

QUESTION: Your colleague at the White House said that they are going to nominate John Rood to replace Bob Joseph. Can you confirm that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes, indeed. Good choice.

QUESTION: Okay. And any commentary?

MR. MCCORMACK: He has earned it. He is somebody who is well respected within the national security community. He is somebody who can get things done within the bureaucracy. He is also a thinker on these topics. And while we all are sad to see Bob leave, he -- we respect his decision and I know Bob is confident that the T family of bureaus will be in good hands if John is confirmed.

Yeah.

QUESTION: You may not have anything on this, but if you don't, if you could take it, I'd be grateful. There's an Interfax report saying that Russia is seeking a -- partly as a response to the missile defense plans, U.S. missile defense plans, that Russia plans to seek some kind of a nonaggression pact with the United States. Is there any -- it quotes a Russian foreign ministry official. I'd be interested to know if Russia has actually made any kind of signals or raised this issue at all with the United States about seeking such an agreement.

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you --

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that -- I'd be happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:31 p.m.)

# # #

DPB # 21



Released on February 6, 2007



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