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Daily Press Briefing

Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 6, 2007


Construction in Jerusalem / Roadmap Commitments
No Plans for Secretary Meeting with FM Livni
Approach of December 10 Deadline for Troika / Report to UN Secretary General
Commitment to Peaceful Resolution of Kosovo Final Status Issues
U.S. Support for Ahtisaari Plan for Supervised Independence
History of U.S. Involvement / Post-Deadline Timeline
Concerns re: Parliamentary Elections / Support for EU and OSCE Assessments
President Bush's Conversation with Putin
President Bush's Letter Not a Negotiating Document / US Policy on Six Party Talks
No Reason to Doubt Declaration by December 31st Deadline
Declaration as a Basis for Third Phase Dismantlement
Support for UN Mediation on Naming Issue


12:40 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Well, good afternoon, everybody. Pleasure to be here with you. I don't have anything to start you off with, so Arshad.

QUESTION: Taking you back to something that we've covered each day for the last three days, does the Department yet have a view on whether the building of the 300 homes in East Jerusalem constitutes a violation of the roadmap?

MR. CASEY: Arshad, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you again. I don't have anything for you right now on that. I do hope I will be able to give you answer on that later on this afternoon, but there's a couple of other people I need to check in with first.

QUESTION: Excellent. And listen, just so it's clear, so there's no ambiguity what I'm asking, you know, although given that I've been asking it a lot. I know you understand. But I want to know, one, whether you view it as a violation of the roadmap, of Israel's commitments under the roadmap. Two, if you don't, why not? It's possible that you don't define that area as captured by settlement activity or so-called natural growth. And then three, if you don't regard it as a violation of the roadmap, do you still regard it however as the kind of thing that can undermine the confidence of the other party and therefore the kind of thing that Secretary Rice has repeatedly said both sides ought to avoid while they're trying to engage in negotiations?

MR. CASEY: Understood, and I will try and have something more of an elaboration for you later. Again, just for now, what I'd point out is what I have said in response to this over the last couple of days, which is there are commitments in the roadmap concerning settlement activity. There's commitments on both sides on a variety of issues and we certainly want to see those commitments honored. And we wouldn't want to see either party take steps or actions that would either, first and foremost, prejudge any of the final status issues that need to be negotiated or undermine the confidence of the parties as they move through this process.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Sort of a follow-up. I'd read that either has or plans on happening the Secretary meeting with Foreign Minister Livni. Can you tell us anything more about her plans and an agenda for that?

MR. CASEY: No, I'm not aware that there is any plans for such a meeting at this point. She has spoken with Foreign Minister Livni on a fairly regular basis. I don't actually have a list here of when the last time it was, but I know she's been in contact with her fairly consistently both in the run-up to Annapolis and the follow-on to it. But I don't have any meetings here to announce and certainly we're not -- don't have any travel plans to discuss with her beyond the current trip that she's on both to Ethiopia and now Brussels.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Kosovo. Mr. Casey, CFR, Council on Foreign Relations, Senior Fellow Charles Kupchan, K-u-p-c-h-a-n, in an interview yesterday in Kosovo, predicted another Balkan war within the U.S. military and NATO involvement in the first months of 2008. (Inaudible) Mr. Casey, are the U.S. troops are ready to fight for the protection of Albanian -- of Albanians in Kosovo?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not familiar with what Mr. Kupchan may or may not have said. More importantly, Mr. Lambros, we have been engaged, as you know, in an extensive series of discussions with the parties through the troika. The period for that negotiation is coming to an end, after which point the troika will report to the Secretary General of the United Nations, as required. One of the things, despite the fact that there has not been a agreement among the parties on the terms of final status for Kosovo, one of the things that, of course, we are pleased to see is that both sides have reiterated their commitment to dealing with issue in a peaceful and nonviolent way. Certainly, we would expect them to honor those commitments.

As for U.S. policy on Kosovo, again, we are where we have been, which is that we continue to support a view that the best way forward for Kosovo is supervised independence along the lines of the Ahtisaari plan and certainly, there'll be plenty of opportunities for that issue to continue to be discussed both between now and the formal deadline for the troika negotiations on the 10th as well as after that.

QUESTION: What about his statement about military -- U.S. military involvement in Kosovo?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, of course, the U.S. military has been involved in Kosovo since 1999 as part of the -- of KFOR, part of the UN-authorized, NATO-led forces there. I expect that there will be continued international engagement on Kosovo as we move through this process. Certainly, I'm not aware of anyone who would predict, and I certainly wouldn't predict, violence in response to the passing of this deadline. Quite the contrary, as I said, both sides have reiterated their commitment to working and resolving this issue peacefully.

QUESTION: And the last one. The NATO chief general John Craddock said yesterday that he is ready to send to Kosovo its reinforcement at the first sign of trouble. Kosovo will continue to be protected by 60,000 NATO troops. Since NATO is at least a pillar of U.S. foreign policy, as President Bush said many, many times, do you agree with the NATO plans in Kosovo?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, NATO will, among other things, be discuss the subject of Kosovo at the meetings that are ongoing that the Secretary's at now. I fully expect NATO will maintain its current commitments to Kosovo, and if there's a need to change those commitments in light of any agreement reached or any final status decision, I would expect that allies would discuss it fairly and completely and come to the right conclusions.


QUESTION: Can I ask you a follow-up on this?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Just a planning question. If the December the 10th, you know, Monday deadline comes and goes and there is no resolution, how soon thereafter can we expect the U.S. Government to make explicit or more explicit its position on the status of Kosovo? Are we likely to get something that same day? Is it going to take a couple of days? I mean, how -- when -- how quickly can we get a read on --

MR. CASEY: Well, we aren't the -- I mean, we aren't the only party involved here, Arshad. Certainly, I think what will happen on the 10th is that the troika, as required, will conclude its negotiations, will provide a report to the UN Secretary General, and I expect that'll -- there will be discussions in New York about that. As for our views, I don't think you'll see us say anything different than I just have here, which would be that if negotiations have concluded unsuccessfully without a agreement among the parties, then we would urge and encourage and support a period of supervised independence for Kosovo.

Now in terms of the specific details on that, how that would be organized and arranged and what form it would take, I expect that that's something that obviously is not for the U.S. to decide by itself, but is something that we will be in discussion with all our key partners and allies with after the troika makes its report. So I wouldn't look for anything immediate in terms of a specific detailed proposal from us or, I think, really from anybody else outside of our continued commitment to then move forward on the Ahtisaari plan or on the -- on a solution based on the Ahtisaari plan.

QUESTION: I guess I'm -- I may be wrong, I don't know, but if they declare -- if they make a unilateral declaration of independence, I figure you guys are going to have to say something about that.

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm sure -- I'm sure we'll respond appropriately to any of the circumstances that come up, but I wouldn't want to speculate at this point on what any of the parties are likely to do after the deadline.


QUESTION: With the benefit of a little time for assessment, how does the United States now view the Russian parliamentary elections?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think with the benefit of an opportunity for President Bush to speak with President Putin about it, I'd pretty much leave it where the President did, which is -- he said that he expressed his serious concerns about the elections in Russia for the parliament. I think if you wanted a more detailed assessment, you could look towards the ones that have been provided both by the European Union and the OSCE on this and I -- we would concur with their assessments about the election, which is that there were problems and those are the kinds of things the President talked to President Putin about.


QUESTION: The letter, again, from President Bush --

MR. CASEY: I was wondering when we'd get back to that.

QUESTION: Do you know if there was any mention of the State Sponsor of Terrorism list and normalization of relations between the U.S. and North Korea?

MR. CASEY: Look, I would refer you to my colleagues at the White House. I note Dana was speaking to this issue shortly before I came out here, but what I would encourage you to take from this is that this letter is not a negotiating document. It is a reiteration of longstanding U.S. policy concerning the six-party talks.

So what is the value of having that come from the President? Well, it clearly indicates -- and again, these are letters that went not just to North Korea, but to all the members of the talks. It reiterates, from the highest level in our government, our commitment to the six-party talks, our commitment to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and it also indicates the seriousness with which we take the current state of the process and the need for a clear, full, and complete declaration from the North Koreans.

But I wouldn't steer you in the direction that this letter contains specific references to the very extensive host of other issues that are more properly dealt with in negotiations by the six parties.


QUESTION: To what extent, though, from your vantage point, is the State Department concerned that the deadline is slipping away, that the deadline will go unmet -- the December 31st deadline for the declaration?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think Chris has spoken to this and others have as well. Look, all the parties made commitments to complete this second disablement phase by December 31st. Chris has said that he believes that the North Koreans can meet their commitments, including producing such a declaration, by the 31st. And I don't have any reason at this point to believe they can't. So we look forward to seeing the declaration provided in the timeframe that everyone agreed to, which means before the end of the year.

QUESTION: But did this -- did Secretary Rice urge President Bush to become so directly personally involved, to make this rare demonstration of interest?

MR. CASEY: You know, look, I'll let the White House speak to the reasons behind this. I think that's probably an over-dramatic reading of the situation. I think this was deemed to be an appropriate moment for there to be a clear communication of U.S. policy, again, from the highest levels of our government. And while I know it's certainly unique to have such a high-level communication go between our government and the Government of North Korea, there are, in fact, these kinds of correspondences from the presidential level to any number of other countries on any number of issues. And generally, the main reason for it is to show very clearly that the policies we're pursuing have the highest level of support in our government and that we are very serious about moving forward on the issues involved.

And so I would look at these letters very much as reinforcing documents. They were designed to, again, make absolutely clear what our policies were and show that that -- those policies have the personal attention and support of the President.

QUESTION: Would you dissuade us from a belief that one of the underlying reasons for the letter is that you are worried that the North Koreans may not provide a full and complete declaration by the end of the year, as they agreed to do?

MR. CASEY: I would actually dissuade you from that. I think at least my understanding based on Chris's comments and the feedback that we have gotten from him is that we do believe that the North Koreans can and will be able to produce this document in the timeframe suggested. I certainly don't want to not stress the fact that we do think this is a very critical piece of the overall efforts at dismantlement. And why is it important? Well, it's important because that declaration, in a full and complete form, then becomes the basis for which you negotiate the third phase of this, which means the dismantlement of those programs. And so knowing the full extent and nature of the programs in a clear and consistent and complete way allows you to then move forward with your negotiations in good faith on fully dismantling the program and on absolutely assuring all the parties involved that we get to where we intended, which is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

I'll give Mr. Lambros one more.

QUESTION: On FYROM, one question. Mr. Casey, the UN Special Envoy Matthew Nimitz had talks in Athens yesterday with the Prime Minister of Greece Kostas Karamanlis and the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on the name issue between Greece and FYROM. Upon the (inaudible), Mr. Nimitz stated that the problem is solvable. I'm wondering, during his contacts in Athens and Skopje in the next two months, are you going to provide any diplomatic effort on a bilateral level for a solution?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, all diplomats believe all problems are solvable, and this one certainly is. We very much, as you know, encourage the parties to work with UN mediation to come to a mutually acceptable agreement on the name issue. We certainly want our friends both in Greece and Macedonia to be able to arrive at a conclusion on this that puts this issue to rest. We realize there are a lot of emotions involved there, too, but that's why we think it's important to --

QUESTION: But the question is any practical diplomatic effort?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, we have continued to offer our support to all the parties. And certainly, if there's anything that we can do to help this process along, I'm sure we will.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)

DPB # 212

Released on December 6, 2007

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