Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
June 21, 2007
|Timeliness of Assistant Secretary Hill's Visit to Pyongyang|
|Timeline of North Korea's Denuclearization|
|Closure of Yongbyon|
|No Shift in Policy / Dialogue is an Integral Part of the Process|
|Query Regarding Jailed Opposition Leaders|
|Assistant Secretary Welch's Trip to London|
|Role of Special Envoy to Quartet|
|Envoy Should Help Palestinians Build Political Institutions|
|U.S. Representation at Cairo Meeting|
|Possible Russian Rejection of UN Resolution on Independence for Kosovo|
|Bulgarian Nurses in Libya Should Be Returned Home|
12:07 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have any opening statements, so we can get right to your questions. Who wants to start?
QUESTION: What can you tell us about Chris Hill in Pyongyang, his meetings, and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have much --
QUESTION: -- why he's there?
MR. MCCORMACK: On the first part of your question, not much. I don't have readouts of his meetings. I expect that as he comes out, he'll be out tomorrow, probably later on, after close of business our time today, given the time differences. So we'll get a more full readout of all of his meetings. He has, thus far, met with Kim Gye Gwan, his counterpart, the North Korean negotiator for the six-party talks. We expect that he'll probably also meet tomorrow, local time, with the North Korean Foreign Minister. Beyond that, I don't have any information on any other meetings that he has scheduled and I can't give you a readout of what he's hearing back from the North Koreans.
For our part, we thought that this was the appropriate moment, as Chris was doing consultations with the other members of the six-party talks, for him to have direct face-to-face consultations in Pyongyang about several areas. One, emphasizing the fact that we are committed to meeting our obligations under the February 13th agreement and restating our desire; once that -- those obligations have been met by all parties, including North Korea, that we could then move on to the next phase, which is envisioned by a September 2005 framework agreement.
The next phase would involve disablement of the Yongbyon facility as well as a full declaration of all of North Korea's nuclear programs. Now for the other five parties' part, it would involve giving North Korea about 950,000 tons in fuel oil or humanitarian equivalent. So that's the first thing.
The second is to talk to and impress upon the North Koreans the importance of their moving quickly to fulfill the February 13th agreement obligations which were sidetracked by the BDA issue. And that's important so that we can impart momentum back to the six-party process, because that's where the focus needs to be. And it's also an opportunity to do that face-to-face and as -- we thought it was appropriate, given that he was doing these similar consultations with other members of the six-party talks in advance of what we hope is a new round or a next meeting in Beijing, as of yet unscheduled, to do that in Beijing -- do that in Pyongyang as well.
QUESTION: And what do you make of the view expressed by some that this is a desperate move that the building and the Secretary, in particular, have -- are under pressure to show some kind of progress somewhere on the planet and that's why this is happening perhaps not -- this is happening when it is and the appropriate moment may be to show that diplomacy is working someplace.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: You know to what I refer?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. No, I know to what you're referring. Look, there are always accusations of -- well, the Administration has come unmoored from its principles and its policies and it's shifting policies, it's changing policies. And I would submit to you that this is not a change in policy. This is -- we have previously met on a bilateral basis with the North Koreans within the framework of the six-party talks. That's what this is about. And it is -- it's an important moment in the six-party talks because we are testing the proposition that North Korea has made that strategic decision to abandon its nuclear weapons programs and to abandon its nuclear program. We'll see. We'll see.
There are indications -- some indications that they are headed that way, the signature of the September agreement, the signature of the February 13th agreement, that -- now their invitation back to the IAEA to set up the monitoring and verification that would -- that is needed and envisioned under the February 13th agreement. So we're testing that proposition. And this is a dialogue that has been established on the principle of good-faith actions met in turn by good-faith actions. And hopefully that's a cycle that will continue and result in a different Northeast Asia security structure, a different relationship between North Korea and the rest of the world and a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
Now, is engaging in this dialogue, you know, deviating from our principles, no, I don't think so. Dialogue in and of itself is not a reward. It's part -- it's an integral part of the process. It's an integral part of trying to move this process forward. You know, so you're always going to get -- you know, you're always going to get people expressing their opinions and that's good. You know, you should always have people out there checking you and examining, analyzing what you're doing and speaking out and giving their opinions on whether or not you're on the right course. We believe that at this point this is the right course and that this process has promise. Now as of yet, that promise is unfulfilled, but we are hopeful that we're going to be able to get to that point in the not-too-distant future, relative not-too-distant future, where you are starting to talk about actually disabling Yongbyon and that's something -- that would be something new. And a North Korean declaration of all their nuclear programs, again, that would be something new, a real advance. So that's what we're aiming towards.
But we have a very clear-eyed view of the history here. But we believe because we're in a moment now where you have the six-party framework and you have North Korea making obligations not just to the -- making promises not just to the United States but to the other members of the six-party talks that we are in a different period and we're going to test that proposition that I talked about earlier, whether or not North Korea is, in fact, ready to give up their nuclear programs.
QUESTION: Sean, did Ambassador Hill go to the North Koreans with any sort of deadline, when the U.S. would like to see these steps taken?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: And what timeframe are you working on?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we didn't go with a particular date. We didn't circle a date on the calendar here, but he is going there. And he is imparting to them our view that they should move as rapidly as possible and get back -- get the six-party talks back on track with some new momentum.
Now the BDA issue, it took a lot longer than anybody could have anticipated. But that issue is very nearly entirely behind all of us and it's time now to focus back on the real work, the real reason why we've all been meeting in Beijing and elsewhere, and that is to get back to the work of the -- denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: Is there a timeframe at all about how long it might take to begin dismantling, allowing back in inspectors? Is that something that's sort of a few days or weeks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think once you -- I'm not an expert in these matters and you can find other people to comment on it, probably the IAEA are the best because they have a lot of experience at Yongbyon. But I think the commonly held view is that you can have a -- from start to finish -- a shutdown and sealing and implementation of verification procedures in a matter of weeks. But those inspectors need to get back into the Yongbyon facility. The North Koreans have said that they're going to be invited back in. They have invited them back in and that they will be physically welcomed when they physically get back on the ground in North Korea.
QUESTION: Sean, has the United States asked to see Kim Jong Il?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware that we've made any requests for meetings other than the ones that we have. I can't tell you whether or not we are going to have any additional meetings.
QUESTION: I mean, experts always say that in order to get the firmest commitments from North Korea, you really have to go to the top.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And he -- there is no more top than he is.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So would it be valuable? Do you think it would be valuable if they were able to meet?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's see, Carol. I mean, certainly if there were such a meeting offered by the North Koreans, I'm sure that Chris would attend that meeting. I can't tell you that that is the case at the moment and, you know, as we move forward here and in the next day we'll try to keep you up to date on exactly what meetings he's had.
QUESTION: Is the United States considering offering to buy from North Korea nuclear equipment purchased --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I saw that news report and, frankly, I don’t have any information on it. I'm happy to look into it further for you. But just my initial check, I don't have any information for you on that particular report.
QUESTION: And just one final question. As you look towards this very first step, which is the shutting down of Yongbyon --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- okay, how are you defining Yongbyon? How many facilities are you --
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm, that's a good question.
QUESTION: -- do you want the North Koreans to actually --
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me circle back with our experts on that. I -- it is -- there are multiple parts, as you point out, to the Yongbyon facility. There's the reactor, there's the reprocessing facility. I believe that we have taken an expansion -- an expansive view of what constitutes the Yongbyon facility. But let me -- we'll post an answer for you detailing our views on that. But I think our view is that it encompasses all the buildings on that -- within that facility.
QUESTION: And is this a commonly-held view among your other partners in the six-party talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check, Carol. I don't want to --
QUESTION: All right, and one more this. Presumably --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't want to wing it.
QUESTION: -- during all of this long period of gestation, this position has been sort of represented to the North Koreans, namely that you want an expansionist view of what shut down.
MR. MCCORMACK: Expansive view, yeah.
QUESTION: Right. And so, you know, have the -- what have the North Koreans said? Do you have any expectation that they are going to go along with that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check, like I said. Let me not wing this. We'll get you an answer; we'll post it for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Charles?
QUESTION: Can you talk to us about how you came to the view -- or did Chris come to the decision to actually go -- it's obviously a big step since it's the first trip since '02 and Secretary Kelly's trip? Did he just talk to the Secretary -- you know, the President? You've made some other remarks about this.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Who was involved and over what time frame did this come about?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a full tick-tock for you, but this is an idea that has been out there for some time. Others outside the U.S. Government have mentioned it. Our partners in the six-party talks have mentioned it previously. It's been a periodic topic of discussion within the Administration and it was decided on this trip, given the fact that he has engaged in these consultations, it would be appropriate to also go to Pyongyang, as they are a member of the six-party talks, for these consultations. Certainly, the Secretary was working with Chris as he was on the road and she talked to the President and the Vice President about this, I can't tell -- Steve Hadley as well as others. I can't give you a full list, but certainly, all the top officials in our foreign policy policymaking apparatus.
QUESTION: So Vice President Cheney supported that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let his office speak on behalf of him, but there was full coordination at the -- at that top level, absolutely.
QUESTION: And what's the timeframe of that full coordination?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it was over the past several days.
QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) on a deadline for dismantling of Yongbyon previously. Are you now saying that you won't be establishing another deadline or you simply haven't decided yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, because of BDA, the original deadline envisioned under the February 13th agreement has gone by the wayside. What we are looking for is to get back on track with that timeframe. I can't tell you when we would start the clock, but we would hope to move as quickly as we possibly could with it. I think the original deadline was like, 60 days. And we would hope that this would get done as quickly as possible. Certainly, we shouldn't be -- you know, shouldn't be limited by that original deadline, so we'd like to move it as quickly as possible. I can't tell you exactly how long it's going to take.
QUESTION: But you're saying you want to build momentum and how realistic --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- do you think it is to get everything back on track and get this sorted out by the end of -- say, the end of the year?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of the February 13th agreement?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would hope that certainly, we'd be able to do that well before the end of the year, well in advance of the end of the year. As for the next phases of it, we're talking about disablement and all the rest, I can't predict for you how long that would take. We would like to move through that phase as quickly as we possibly could and I think we're joined in that idea by the other five members of the talks and we'll see how the North Koreans react to that idea.
QUESTION: Are you hoping that this new timeframe for this -- you know, for specifically, the beginning of the dismantlement will be decided during these talks tomorrow?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you whether or not -- what the North Koreans are going to offer up. We'll wait to hear from Chris and like I said, I'm not going to try to put a -- circle a date on the calendar here. We'd just like to move it as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: And how long do you anticipate him actually staying in Pyongyang?
MR. MCCORMACK: He'll be -- it'll be an overnight stay, so he'll be leaving -- well, given the time differences, later on today, but -- wait, we're on Thursday, so Friday, local time.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Kirit.
QUESTION: Can you just go through for us why this was the right time to make the trip out there? And also, you know, the BDA issue is not completely resolved in the North Koreans' eyes, and in the past they've shown an unwillingness to talk until that's completely finished. So why now, why before it's completely transacted?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, the North Koreans were comfortable with the meeting. Obviously, it was at their invitation that Chris is there. I can't pin down for you exactly where the BDA issue is, but I believe we're very close to it finally being resolved, having the money transferred to the Russian bank where North Korea has some accounts. So we all hope that this is going to get done in the very near future.
You know, Kirit, I can't offer a full description of the internal discussions about why we arrived at this decision, why the, you know --
MR. MCCORMACK: Why not, right -- we'll just put a tape recorder there on the table and get out the transcripts for you.
It's -- I think it's because we are at a moment in the six-party talks where we are going to be approaching the point at which all the members of the talks are going to see whether or not North Korea has made that strategic decision. We are at a point where we're getting the talks back on the footing where we were prior to the BDA issue arising. And we had previously done consultations, bilateral consultations with the North Koreans elsewhere. We did it in Berlin in the context of the six-party talks. And it was just -- it was our assessment that this was the right time. This is something that -- it was fully supported by the other four members of the six-party talks: China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. And it was the assessment that we would take this opportunity to reinforce with all the members of the six-party talks our seriousness in moving this process forward and that we were committed to the process and we are committed to doing everything that we could to move the process forward.
QUESTION: Sean, it's still not very clear to me what exactly he's hoping to achieve during this visit. But is it more of a gesture because that invitation's been longstanding by the North Koreans. Did he and the Secretary decide that this is a good time to sort of do this as gesture to the North Koreans of goodwill perhaps? Because there just isn't until the money gets to their accounts, there's nothing specific, as far as I can tell, that needs to be resolved right now.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the fact -- a couple things. One, the fact that they invited the IAEA back before the transaction has been finally, finally completed. The fact that they were ready to talk seriously with Chris in Pyongyang about moving the process forward is an indication that they are ready to move the process forward, even in the absence of the final step of the BDA issue being resolved, so that certainly is positive.
As I said before, you know, talking and dialogue is not a reward, it's a part of the process. It's part of what you do in diplomacy. But I think that it does underscore the fact that we are serious about doing everything we can to move the process forward within the confines of our policy and within the confines of our -- the principles that underpin that policy and in the context of the six-party talks. The President, Secretary Rice and others agreed that this was the right moment to do it.
QUESTION: Just -- I don't think this has come -- I was a bit late -- but there actually are reports from Vienna today that the North Koreans have told the IAEA now to hold on to a visit until the money gets into those accounts.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I saw those reports. I'm not sure that we have -- that we have officially heard that from the North Korean Government. I think that it's our expectation as well as the expectation of others that the IAEA activities with the North Koreans are going to move forward.
QUESTION: And just -- okay, is it the understanding at the moment that Yongbyon is still operating?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you.
QUESTION: I'm asking because for several times Chris has said in the past that he wasn't going to go until Yongbyon is shut down, so I'm wondering --
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you, Nicholas. That gets into intelligence matters from our side and I can't get into that.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up (inaudible) question. While you say that there is no change in foreign policy in relation to North Korea --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Do you agree that there's a change in perception in Washington on how you view North Korea over these last five years?
MR. MCCORMACK: The perception in Washington -- on who's part?
QUESTION: How you view North Korea -- I mean, your perception?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. As much as I would like to control the perceptions of others, I can't do it.
QUESTION: But what is your --
MR. MCCORMACK: I do know --
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Right. I do my best. Well, I --
QUESTION: What is Washington's perception on North Korea compared to five years ago?
MR. MCCORMACK: That is sort of a big question.
QUESTION: Do you think that they have changed, in terms of being receptive to giving up their nuclear weapons?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they clearly haven't -- they clearly haven’t demonstrated to the rest of the world that they have made that final strategic decision to give up their nuclear programs. They've given indications that they may be ready to, and those indications have come most recently during those discussions in the six-party talks, but that is as yet a fully tested proposition. We'll see. That's the whole point of trying to move the process forward.
QUESTION: But clearly there is something -- I mean, there is something from when the President came into office first with a -- and Secretary Kelly's trip to Pyongyang. I mean, they went through -- it was a long process of -- or a long period of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- not wanting to have anything to do with them. So there --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: -- has been some change, maybe not -- the change isn’t from this -- from the framework agreement, but it certainly is from the beginning of the first term.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, a few things. Any time you have a new administration coming in, they're going to reassess where they are and they're going to do a review of policies.
Has the policy changed? Well, in a sense, yes, it has changed because when you're talking about Jim Kelly's trip to Pyongyang that was a purely bilateral arrangement. And, you know, some of the other participants notwithstanding in the agreed framework, it was essentially a U.S.-North Korea issue.
But we are in a different policy framework now because of the six-party talks. I know I keep going back to it, but I do think it's -- we think it's crucial that it is -- you know, it is no longer just an issue of the U.S. and North Korea. It is no longer an issue of, you know, the world watching the U.S. and North Korea and encouraging the United States to make whatever concessions it perceives might be needed in order to get the North Koreans off the dime.
But you're now in a position where you have the other five members of the six-party talks sending the same message to North Korea, and arguably countries that have more leverage with North Korea than we do: China and South Korea -- you might include Japan and Russia in that as well. And not just standing on the sidelines either -- active participants, and actively using their leverage to get North Korea to change their behavior, which is, of course, the whole point of this diplomatic exercise.
So yeah, policy has evolved. I would say policy has evolved in a positive way, however, based on opportunities that we saw and most importantly that President Bush saw in involving the Chinese in an active way in this process. And it has paid dividends in several senses.
I'll give you one example. Immediately after North Korea tested a nuclear device, Secretary Rice was on the phone within hours with her other -- her counterparts in the six-party talks, minus the North Koreans, to talk about what we can do. And I think within a week or so, give or take a day, the Security Council had passed a Chapter 7 resolution concerning North Korea's activities and imposed sanctions, something they had never done in the past. And as we all know, the Security Council acting within a week, is acting at light speed for the Security Council. So, that's just one example of the positive benefits that we have seen and we have the prospect of more with the six-party talks. And we believe that this framework and the steps that we have taken laying the groundwork over these past several years to get to this point has been well worth it and we will see whether or not we can reap even greater dividends from that investment.
Anything else on North Korea?
QUESTION: Just -- I'm just curious, you said that this is sort of a natural progression of what has been going on and that the invitation's been there for a while. So why was -- were you and -- so secretive yesterday? I mean, why -- usually a surprise, you know -- surprise visit sort of has to do with security and perhaps going to a war zone. What was it so secret that you couldn't tell us until, you know, late last night that he was going to go to Pyongyang?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, with -- as with many things, you never know if something is actually going to occur until it actually happens and it was certainly our anticipation that it would happen without a hitch. It did. And as soon as it happened, we let you guys know.
QUESTION: Was it a scheduled flight? Do you know? How did -- due to Pyongyang -- was it Beijing-Pyongyang flight, because he was in Tokyo.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know his exact flight path, but it was a U.S. Government flight.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Just one more.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: You mentioned that Christopher Hill is expected to meet the North Korea Foreign Minister. Will that be one of the merits of him having this meeting in Pyongyang, rather than in a third country like you've done previously and what are the other advantages of him traveling to Pyongyang?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it is -- it again demonstrates the fact that we are invested in this process and that we want to move it forward. It's an opportunity for him to meet with other senior officials and other officials that he might not otherwise see at the six-party talks. And I can't tell you what other meetings he might have. But it also is an acknowledgement of the fact that we are at an important moment in the six-party process.
Okay, do you guys want to talk about North Korea or --
MR. MCCORMACK: You're going to have to wait in line.
QUESTION: Down in the weeds a little bit.
MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't been in the weeds?
QUESTION: No, no. In Ethiopia apparently a -- what amounts to a plea bargain arrangement is underway with some of the leading dissidents if they admit they're part of -- being part of the instigation of trouble in 2005, that they're going to be released. Do you have any comment on that? There were reports that the U.S. is involved in this.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I understand it, there is an effort to involve other important figures within Ethiopian societies, some of the tribal elders in Ethiopian society, to try to come up with a solution to bring together both the government as well as these opposition leaders. That's something that we'd like to see. And we'd like to see the issue resolved. We'd like to see it resolved in an equitable manner that protects the rights of these individuals and that doesn't overstep the bounds of Ethiopian law. And I think that the process that is underway now holds the prospect for that. I don't think, at this point, there is a solution, but it does hold the prospect of such a solution.
QUESTION: Any advancement on the idea -- the reports about Tony Blair becoming a Mideast envoy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing to add from my discussion with you guys yesterday.
QUESTION: Can you talk about Assistant Secretary Welch's trip to London, why he was there, and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I talked a little about it yesterday. He was there to meet with British officials and he was there to talk about a whole variety of different things. But I don't think it will surprise you that he was also there to talk a lot about the Middle East and specifically the Israeli-Palestinian issues and -- I'm certain that he also talked about this particular function that everybody agrees is an important function to fulfill; that it is an -- as a political function, it's important to concentrate on the -- all those issues regarding a future Palestinian state; you know, the outlines of it, et cetera -- relation of that state to other states in the region.
But equally important, and this was the point of President Bush's -- one of the main points of President Bush's 2002 Rose Garden statement is that it is equally important as to what goes on inside that Palestinian state and that there are good, solid governing structures and institutions that function on behalf of the Palestinian people and that that would be recognizable as institutions in a democracy. The fundamental importance of that is that the Palestinian people would be invested in it and it's our belief that democracies provide a more stable base for the Middle East and a more -- a prospect for a more peaceful future.
So the job description is important and it's something that on a more limited basis and in a very discreet circumscribed way that Jim Wolfensohn did in Gaza. So it's a -- it's sort of an expansion on that idea. The political negotiating functions still fall to Secretary Rice, President Bush and others in the State Department, but I think there's wide agreement among the members of the Quartet that this is an important function to fulfill.
QUESTION: Can you sort of -- can you just add to that whether -- are you saying that David Welch met with British officials (inaudible) -- well he actually had a meeting with Tony Blair? Can you tell us any details about how that meeting was or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I will let the British officials talk about the schedule of the British Prime Minister. I think that I owe them that courtesy.
QUESTION: You said that everybody agrees this function is important? Russians also want a special envoy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think they -- I'll let them speak for themselves about the idea, but I think that all the members of the Quartet agree that this is an important function to fulfill. It was -- like I said, it's really expanding on an idea that was already out there with Jim Wolfensohn. And he was an envoy for the Quartet on those particular issues, similar issues, prior to the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. So I think there was -- I think if you do some polling with members of the Quartet, you'll find that there's support, certainly for the idea of this job.
QUESTION: So Prime Minister Blair, when he becomes former Prime Minister Blair, wouldn't be dealing with refugees, borders, settlements --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well I -- embedded in your question is a presumption, Charlie.
QUESTION: Yes, yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: As I said yesterday, I'm going to let Prime Minister Blair speak about his plans after he steps down from the prime ministership. I'm sure, given his obvious qualities and stature as a respected international leader, he's going to have many things from which to choose. So I'll let him talk about that.
QUESTION: Okay, then I'll withdraw the Blair portion from this. You describe the job --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- as the Wolfensohn kind of job expanded --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- which was basically an economic reconstruction kind of job in Gaza.
MR. MCCORMACK: But in expanding on that, it's also -- it would also be important to help the Palestinians build up political institutions as well. So there is a political, economic aspect of the position, but it's focused internally within the Palestinian system. You know, it can involve a whole host of things, but looking at things, developing a Palestinian economy, all the institutions that go along with that, helping them develop the political institutions based on their history, their culture, their values, but one that is recognizable is something from a democratic system. So that's essentially the scope, but it's looking internally within the Palestinian system.
QUESTION: Is this a paying job?
MR. MCCORMACK: Is it a paying job --
QUESTION: Or is the reward simply watching the evolution of Middle East peace? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I --
QUESTION: Do you get a company car? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, it's a good question, Matt, I don't --
QUESTION: Did Wolfensohn get --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think that he was supported with logistical support and otherwise. I don't know if he drew a salary. I'm happy to ask, see if there are -- see what the benefits package might be that comes along. Are you interested?
QUESTION: No. (Laughter.) If Blair says no, then --
QUESTION: Is it a full-time job?
QUESTION: Jim Wolfensohn didn't do it as a full-time --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that that would be up to discussions between the Quartet on -- a perspective Quartet envoy on these matters. So I think it would depend on the person's time and certainly, there's a need, there's a demonstrable need and I think that the ability to move forward on it would, in part, depend on that variable of how much time you spend on it. Obviously, the bulk of the answer of how quickly could you make progress on it, you know, lands in the laps of the Palestinians. But I think there would be some effect on how fast you can move forward on it from the time spent on it.
QUESTION: How soon can such a post be filled, especially when there's this --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. Stay tuned. We'll keep you up to date. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can we follow up on the Middle East question on the Cairo meeting that's taking place?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you just tell us -- I mean, will there be any U.S. representation at that meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if we would -- we're not full participants in the meeting. I can't tell if we would observe it; probably not. But we would talk to the parties before and afterwards.
QUESTION: During the Clinton Administration, as you know, the State Department position was that Chechnya was part of Russia. Now if the Ahtisaari plan is implemented and if Kosovo gains complete independence --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- will that affect the State Department position about Chechnya and is that what the Russians are worried about?
MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to the Russians what they're worried about, but -- you know, our view is that the situation in Kosovo in sui generis and it has -- any solution regarding Kosovo has no applicability to any other either frozen or hot conflicts.
QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. McCormack, Russia rejected today the UN --
MR. MCCORMACK: Who did?
QUESTION: Russia rejected today the UN plan for Kosovo independence as unacceptable and will raise veto. Any comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're going to continue working with the Russians, but I think President Bush made quite clear back at the beginning of June around the G-8 summit where we stand with respect to Kosovo and this process where we would allow time for some additional dialogue between the parties to arrive at a solution, some limited time, clearly limited, but the question of independence for Kosovo is not one that is, in our view, up for debate.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried declared independence of Kosovo saying, "My government's view is that Kosovo is independent," talking to Serbian reporters, which means clearly changing borders. However, Mr. McCormack, you stated many, many times from this podium that the U.S. Government supports only the Ahtisaari plan. Could you please clarify? What is going on --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't --
QUESTION: -- in the final analysis since Mr. Fried (inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, I get it, I get it, I get it.
MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, I can't stipulate to the accuracy of the quote as reported. I'm sure -- Dan Fried knows very well what the policy --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- of the President was. He was with the President at the G-8. I am sure in whatever he said in public, that he adhered to our stated policy position.
QUESTION: But do you ignore the UN?
QUESTION: Sean, Mr. Gambari, UN Representative for Burma, apparently has been at the Department this week. And I wonder if you could give me or perhaps post a readout.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we're going to have to post something for you on that, Dave.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Sylvie.
QUESTION: Do you have any news about an agreement on the Bulgarian nurses in Libya and --
MR. MCCORMACK: I looked into that and we don't have -- we don't have confirmation of news reports that there is a judgment coming out from the Supreme Court soon on the matter. Our view is clear, that these individuals should be returned as quickly as possible to their home countries. There has been a tremendous amount of suffering on all sides as a result of this terrible, terrible incident resulting in the deaths of these children as well as others. So you know, it's our view that it is time to move beyond that and it is time to also help in any way the international system can try to redress what happened. You're never going to be able to fully do that. Lives were lost; loved ones were lost. But it's our view that these individuals should be returned home as soon as possible.
QUESTION: And would it facilitate any -- the complete, complete normalization with Libya? There is still no ambassador there, so --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're -- we have a markedly changed relationship for the better with Libya over the past couple of years. There are still some steps to be taken in that regard, but we're still committed to moving forward along that pathway.
QUESTION: This time with (inaudible) on U.S.-China. Is there a readout on what --
MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to get some information for you. Nothing yet. The meetings aren't over yet.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:45 p.m.)
DPB # 111
Released on June 21, 2007
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