State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 13, 2001
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 13, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Monday, August 13, 2001
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
EGYPT 1 Reported Delegation Recently Sent to the United States
CHINA 1-5 Rejection of United States Reported Response to EP-3 Recovery Costs 2-4 Expert Meetings On Missile Proliferation
UNITED NATIONS 4 US Participation in World Conference on Racism
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 5-6 David Satterfield's Whereabouts 5-12 Update on the Violence / Implementation of the Mitchell Report 9-10,12 US Efforts to Reach Out to Moderate Arab States to End the Violence 10-12 Chairman Arafat's Personal Responsibility to End the Violence
MACEDONIA 12-15 Signing of Peace Treaty by Opposition Parties 12-13 Possibility of NATO Troop Deployment 13-14 Amnesty for Members of National Liberation Army 15 Possibility of Macedonia Joining NATO
AFGHANISTAN 15-17 Update on Travel Visas / Status of Detained American Citizens
JAPAN 17-18 US Reaction to Visit of War Shrine by Prime Minister
INDIA / PAKISTAN 18-19 Easing of Sanctions Against India and Pakistan 19 Protocol for President Musharraf
ZIMBABWE 20 Political Violence Against White Farmers
CUBA 21 Fidel Castro Turns 75
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING DPB # 115
MONDAY, AUGUST 13, 2001, 1:15 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Well, welcome back, everyone, to the State Department this fine Monday here in Washington. I don't have any formal statements. We will have a statement on the Macedonian initiative, which I will try to put out sometime after the briefing. They are preparing that now.
So I would be happy to begin with your questions, and as usual, we will defer to Mr. Gedda of the Associated Press.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on an Egyptian delegation coming to the US tomorrow?
MR. REEKER: No. Not as of the time we walked in. Thank you for alerting us to that question earlier, but we saw the reports on that. We tried to check with our Bureau of Near East Affairs, and nobody had any information on that. So we will continue to check into it, but I don't have anything as of now.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) since you didn't have anything on that.
QUESTION: Wait, can I ask one more on Egypt, then? Did the Egyptians just decide to send people here and haven't told you about it?
MR. REEKER: Matt, I don't know what the situation is. I have seen some press wire stories on this. We checked in with people on our desk in the few minutes we had before trying to have a fairly on-time briefing. And so I am not in a position to offer you anything on that wire story which emerged moments ago.
Mr. Gedda, please continue.
QUESTION: China apparently is rejecting the offer of $34,000 in compensation for services provided. Do you have any response?
MR. REEKER: Well, we have seen the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Spokesman's statement rejecting the reported US position and urging reconsideration. In fact, we have not yet delivered our formal response to the Chinese Government. Let's remember that from the outset of the EP-3 recovery operation, the position of the United States has been very clear and consistent, that the United States would consider tangible, reasonable costs related to the recovery of the EP-3 aircraft, including some costs associated with the housing of our crew members on Hainan Island.
On June 30th, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented the United States with a request for payment for expenses related to the incident, and after consideration of the Chinese request, the United States has calculated a payment reflecting our position that we will pay only reasonable expenses related to the recovery of the aircraft. We have had technical experts working to determine our calculation of reasonable costs.
So once again we have made very clear to the Chinese that we will pay only reasonable, tangible costs associated with recovery of our aircraft, and we have been in contact with officials from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and we will try to arrange a meeting in Beijing, at which time we can provide our official response and the rationale for our calculation of those costs.
QUESTION: Is it still your position that the sum that the government arrives at is non-negotiable?
MR. REEKER: I don't want to get into any specifics at this point. As I said, we are working with the Chinese to arrange a meeting in Beijing, at which point we can provide our rationale and our formal response on that issue.
QUESTION: Speaking of meetings, have we arranged for expert meetings with the Chinese regarding missile proliferation, and the potential abrogation of the November 21 agreement?
MR. REEKER: Yes. As some of you may have asked on Friday, the United States will send an interagency team to Beijing for missile expert talks on August 23rd, continuing on August 24th if necessary. That team will be led by the Bureau of Non-Proliferation's Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Vann Van Diepen. And I think that you will recall that Secretary Powell announced during his recent trip to Beijing that the two sides will use these talks to discuss missile non- proliferation, including implementation of the November 2000 missile non-proliferation arrangement, at which time, back in November, China committed to not assist any country in any way in developing nuclear- capable ballistic missiles and to put in place comprehensive missile- related export controls.
So, as I said, that team will travel to Beijing and have talks on August 23rd.
QUESTION: On the previous one -- sorry, maybe I wasn't hearing properly. We had been told before the weekend that a letter and a check was on its way to the authorities in Beijing. Are you telling --
MR. REEKER: Oh, the previous one?
QUESTION: Yes, compensation. We were told before the weekend that a letter and a check was on its way.
MR. REEKER: I certainly didn't tell you that.
QUESTION: Well, we were certainly told it by the Pentagon.
MR. REEKER: Well, I can't speak for anybody that may have told you that. My understanding is that we have not yet delivered our formal response to the Chinese and that we are making arrangements with their ministry to have a meeting in Beijing. Given the time change, I don't believe anything is going on right at this moment. So I can't tell you when that meeting would take place.
QUESTION: I believe the Pentagon spokesman said on the record a definite version before the weekend.
MR. REEKER: I will have to leave it to him. My understanding is that we are working to arrange a meeting so that we can deliver not only our formal response to what they submitted, but also explain our calculation for those costs.
Anything else on the EP-3 aircraft and the cost there?
QUESTION: On the (inaudible) talks, can you tell us how many people will be going with Mr. Van Diepen, and what agencies they are from?
MR. REEKER: At this point, I don't believe I have details on that. No, I don't. I would be happy to check into that as we get closer to that August 23rd meeting. But obviously the Bureau of Non- Proliferation will have the lead on that, and let you know who else is doing that.
QUESTION: What's this guy's name? Van Diepen, or is that Vann as his first name --
MR. REEKER: His first name is Vann, V-a-n-n. His last name is Van Diepen, V-a-n D-i-e-p-e-n.
QUESTION: Are we going to -- back to the non-proliferation talks for a second --
MR. REEKER: I don't know that we are --
QUESTION: Sorry, sorry. On the non-proliferation talks.
MR. REEKER: Okay, on the non-proliferation talks.
QUESTION: Are we just meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister, or do we plan on meeting with the military, or military organizations?
MR. REEKER: I don't have a detailed readout of those meetings, which will take place beginning in about 10 days time, other than what the Secretary announced when he was in Beijing. The team will go out there. It is being led, as we said, by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Vann Van Diepen. And we are going to use those talks to discuss missile non-proliferation issues, including that November 2000 missile non-proliferation arrangement and its implementation.
In terms of the schedule of the talks, and exactly who the interlocutors will be, the make-up of the team, we will have to keep looking into that. And I'm sure as we get closer, I will be able to give you some more details on that.
QUESTION: On the World Conference Against Racism, could you just tell us whether any decision is being made whether to attend, and something about the process? Or are you just deciding whether to take it or leave it, based on what you have heard in Geneva, or are there further talks?
MR. REEKER: Let me say that on the World Conference Against Racism, we are disappointed that the preparatory conference was unable to reach an agreement in Geneva. Numerous delegations worked vigorously with us in search of acceptable language on some of the contentious issues, so we are disappointed in the outcome of that preparatory conference.
Assistant Secretary Craner, our Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and some members of our delegation, have returned to Washington, and we are going to decide on US participation in the Durban Conference in due course. I don't have anything to announce today. I understand working group meetings continue in Geneva. Some members of our delegation are still there and will be coming back later. So I don't have anything further for you today on that.
QUESTION: So you are saying there are more talks going on?
MR. REEKER: My understanding is that there are talks going on and working group meetings that do continue there. But our disappointment, as I stated at the outset, is quite clear, that while we were working to have a conference that would be forward-looking, as we have discussed before, that we were unable to reach agreement despite the hard work of a number of delegations in Geneva last week.
QUESTION: Can you update us on Satterfield's meetings today in the Middle East?
MR. REEKER: Middle East.
QUESTION: Can we go back to China for a second?
MR. REEKER: Okay. I will give you a second. As long as it's not a new subject on China. We have had a couple of things out here.
QUESTION: Two questions. One is, can you release the biggest difference between the US bill and the Chinese bill?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't have any details for you on that subject.
QUESTION: Okay. The second then, there is a report that several high- ranking officials, Secretary Armitage and Condoleezza Rice, are going to go to China. Can you confirm those trips?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of a trip by Deputy Secretary Armitage, other than his trip departing for Australia this afternoon. And for Condoleezza Rice's schedule, you would have to contact the White House. But I am not aware of any trips to China.
Betsy, going back to you, I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: Satterfield. The Middle East. Let me just start by saying we remain deeply concerned about the continuing violence and bloodshed in the region, and I think the deplorable incidents over the weekend underscore what we have been saying for some time, that both sides need to recognize that down the path of escalation and retaliation lies disaster, more suffering. So, once again, we urge both sides to take immediate steps and restore an atmosphere of restraint and calm.
In terms of our senior officials here and in the region, and continuing contact with the parties, and your specific question about Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield, he met with Prime Minister Sharon last night and I understand he will see Chairman Arafat later today. I don't have a specific time for you on that.
So we continue to encourage those leaders to reduce the violence and facilitate the implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Is the US trying to sort of broker a meeting between senior Palestinian officials and Israeli officials?
MR. REEKER: I am not aware of any specific meetings other than, of course, security meetings that we have continued to try to press forward on the facilitative role that we have played in those security meetings, which we think are vitally important. We want to see the security meetings continue because we think that is an essential way to reduce tension, foster trust and confidence, and improve the situation on the ground.
You know, it is essential, as I have said -- as we have said so many times before -- that both sides be seen to be doing all they can to stop the violence and we encourage the parties to utilize the trilateral security meetings to coordinate their efforts and advance their common interest in restoring calm. And that is what the goal of that is, after all, so that we can move ahead.
QUESTION: Just a couple questions about this. Can you give any update on the Americans who were arrested in demonstrations outside of the Orient House on Friday? And I guess over the weekend, they were re- arrested. Has the American consulate been in any kind of contact with them?
MR. REEKER: I will have to check on that, unless Chuck can remind me. I don't have any update on that, so we will have to look into that after. Sorry about that.
QUESTION: A couple of questions on this. First of all, what is Mr. Satterfield trying to do?
MR. REEKER: Mr. Satterfield is trying to continue to work with both parties through his meetings with leaders, just as we do in our phone calls and meetings at various levels, just as we do from this podium, in telling the leaders that they've got to take every effort possible, maximum effort to bring down the violence, break the cycle of violence, have calm and focus on the Mitchell Committee recommendations, which are the path back to negotiations for peace.
QUESTION: First of all, you made some remarks -- the State Department made some remarks on Friday about the takeover of Orient House. You didn't say whether you were asking the Israelis to withdraw from those institutions. Could you tell us now, is that what you would like to see?
MR. REEKER: I think I will stand by exactly what Ambassador Boucher said on Friday. I don't really have anything new to add. Orient House has long symbolized the importance of political dialogue and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, and it is vital, as I said earlier -- again as we have said before -- that both parties remain committed to those objectives and avoid actions which threaten the fundamental belief in a negotiated settlement.
So we are concerned about the actions against Orient House. We remain concerned there, and we urge the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority to move quickly to implement the Tenet work plan and the Mitchell agreement and move toward a resumption of negotiations.
QUESTION: Do you support the idea of Foreign Minister Peres meeting Palestinians and setting up a kind of -- some preliminary negotiating process?
MR. REEKER: We support the idea of moving into the Mitchell Committee report recommendations, so that they can get back into a process for resuming negotiations. We want both sides to take maximum efforts to do that. We also support, as I said, the security discussions which we tried to facilitate, the trilateral security discussions, because we think that is a very essential way in creating and enhancing atmosphere of trust that will give them confidence to then move into the next steps of that. So each side has to make their decisions, and we encourage as much working together as possible on this, because the goal is clear. It is the same goal that we have been stating for some time.
QUESTION: Forgive me if I have missed something while I have been gone, but when I left --
MR. REEKER: In your extended absence.
QUESTION: Exactly. When I left five weeks ago, the idea was to try and get -- the idea was to try and get seven days in a row of complete calm. Is that still the operative thing?
MR. REEKER: We need to see calm. Obviously, we haven't seen --
QUESTION: But that agreement, or some formula that was worked out by the Secretary when he was out there in June, is that still on the table?
MR. REEKER: What I would suggest is that you go back and look at the transcripts. We need to see some calm. We need to see an end to the violence. We need to see a maximum effort in reducing the violence. So, anyway, we are suggesting that Matt check what we have been saying in recent times. Both sides need to do that. We need to see calm. Once we have some calm, then we can explore the next steps in getting into Mitchell. That's the next important thing.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. You said we need to see calm. Do you still need to see seven straight days of calm?
MR. REEKER: We need to see calm, and then we can start assessing as we count days. We didn't have a day of calm yesterday. I haven't looked at how the calm is today. What we need to see is maximum effort by both sides in doing all they can to bring an end to the violence, because we have got to move forward, and in order to move forward we need to have calm on the ground.
QUESTION: I'm not trying to be picky, but I know this --
MR. REEKER: Of course you are. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- has been an issue in some meetings in the last couple weeks regarding this. But are you still sticking to what Matt said, the seven days in a row? Are you saying we need to see calm and then we can make an assessment? That's different --
MR. REEKER: I think if you go back to what the Secretary said in his travel there at the time and statements subsequent to that, and what Ambassador Boucher has said, we want to see calm. We want to see days of calm. We have seen individual days and then they have been disrupted by horrific events like those that we saw over this weekend, those that we saw last week. And so, obviously, more effort needs to be done in doing that.
So before we start counting, we have to find a place to start counting, and we are not there yet.
QUESTION: When Secretary Powell was in the region, he said that there was going to be seven days of calm and that both sides would agree, meaning Sharon would agree, who has been reluctant to (inaudible). Is that still the policy? Are we still on that?
MR. REEKER: We would still like to see calm. We would like to see seven days of calm. We would like to see one day of calm and keep moving forward. So what I am saying is we can't count seven days now because we have never gotten into a counting of seven days.
QUESTION: This is important, but are those seven days of calm still a precondition for confidence-building negotiations?
MR. REEKER: I think if you go back to what has been said just as recently as Friday, what we need to see is some calm so that the two parties can then decide when they are ready to move into the next steps and start implementing Mitchell. I think the two parties need to continue the security talks and they can see how they feel as those move forward and see once the violence has been reduced on the ground. It is going to be up to the parties, Eli. And we will continue to do what we can to facilitate that, certainly with the security talks on the ground, and looking for a period of calm so that they can move into Mitchell.
QUESTION: Friday and Saturday were calm. Can you tell us whether you actually started counting on Friday and Saturday?
MR. REEKER: No, I can't, Jonathan. I am just not going to.
QUESTION: If not, why not? I mean, they were calm. As far as I know, there were no injuries or --
MR. REEKER: Well, Jonathan, have you read your wire stories about the events of yesterday? The deplorable incidents over the weekend --
QUESTION: Friday and Saturday.
MR. REEKER: So I am just not going to start to get into counting for you. You can make your own judgment, just as the two parties have to make their own judgment. What we haven't seen is an extended period of calm. So I think we have sort of beaten this to death.
QUESTION: Are you saying the Secretary never endorsed the seven days?
MR. REEKER: I am saying that the Secretary stands exactly by what he has always said. Why you are trying to focus on counting seven days now when we just had horrific incidents over the weekend -- what we need to see is a greater effort to ending the violence, and I think less time spent on dealing with minutiae at this point, where we need to see an effort on reducing violence and trying to have even a day of calm now, and moving forward.
QUESTION: But to the best of your knowledge, the clock had never started?
MR. REEKER: I don't think we have a clock that we are topping, Matt.
QUESTION: The calendar has never started.
MR. REEKER: We watch these things very --
QUESTION: Well, I don't know. That's the way it sounded back in June. That was what everyone was looking for.
MR. REEKER: And we haven't seen it, have we? We haven't seen a maximum effort, and we haven't seen an end to the violence, we haven't seen a break to that. So that is what we continue to call for, and that is what we will continue to watch for, and that is what we will continue to try to support and facilitate, certainly through the security talks and our high-level discussions here and over in the region.
QUESTION: Can we switch to the briefing on Macedonia now?
MR. REEKER: Are we ready to switch? I doubt it. I'm sure we will move on eventually.
QUESTION: I know you think this is quibbling and so on, but there has been this long conflict between those who wanted results and those who wanted effort. Where do we stand now on this? Are you looking -- is a 100 percent effort good enough?
MR. REEKER: I don't think we have seen a 100 percent effort, because obviously we have violence continuing on, and we need to see -- as the President said -- we need to continue with the consistent message that we have had, that there won't be any peace unless we break the cycle of violence. And we are doing everything in our power to convince the parties of that, both officially, and we do from here, to convince the broader populations that they must make a concerted effort -- as the President said, there must be the will -- and make a conscious decision to try to cease this violence.
Still on the Middle East?
QUESTION: Yes. What discussions are going on, or have gone on, including Mr. Satterfield's visits to Syria and Lebanon to talk with Arab governments now, or has the Secretary made any phone calls? What kind of reaching-out efforts are being made to help them -- to ask them for more help in pressuring the Palestinians?
And also, what do you know about the Egyptian delegation coming here tomorrow? What kind of meetings will they have?
MR. REEKER: You obviously came in late. I had a long discussion about that at the beginning. I don't have any information on that. We saw the reports, so we checked into it, and I just couldn't come up with anything in the five minutes before coming out on the Egyptians. But we will check again.
On the first part of your question, I think we continue to have a dialogue regularly at a variety of levels in the region, through our embassies here in Washington with Arab governments. The President mentioned that and the importance of that in making clear to both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, that they have got to make a bigger effort, continue pushing. They have got to have the will to end the violence and head back towards peace.
I don't have readouts of Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield's visits in Lebanon or Syria, and I will try to look into that for you. I just couldn't get it yet this morning. Since he was in Israel, they were focused on that.
QUESTION: Right. We can expect that that was on his agenda? He was also doing some kind of get-to-know-you --
MR. REEKER: I think, yes, if you will recall, when we mentioned his trip, he talked about the various bilateral issues we had with both countries. That was obviously on his agenda. I think the Middle East generally, and of course the Israeli-Palestinian situation. And our hope to see the Mitchell Committee recommendations implemented as soon as possible is obviously part of all of our discussions. And we continue to do that. And as the President said, those countries are important. Egypt, Jordan have also always contributed to the process. So we will continue to keep those discussions, too.
QUESTION: What about phone calls?
MR. REEKER: The Secretary didn't have any phone calls this weekend related to the Middle East.
QUESTION: Just one more on this.
MR. REEKER: One more for Eli.
QUESTION: This is -- with all the horrible violence in the last week, one of the overlooked stories is that Arafat had ordered the PLC -- the Palestinian -- their equivalent of the Congress -- to begin a drafting idea of a unity government, with Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The two groups and its perpetrators, Arafat under the Tenet plan, and I also believe the Mitchell Report was supposed to be re-arresting.
So my question is, have you guys -- has the State Department been watching this? And what -- do you have a position on the idea of maybe Hamas and Islamic Jihad joining the Palestinian Authority?
MR. REEKER: I am sure we have been watching this, just as we watch all the developments there. Ambassador Boucher answered the question on Friday, that we didn't have anything particular on that as a proposal of Chairman Arafat's, apparently, and it is not something I have anything on for you.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Bill Burns, what he is doing?
MR. REEKER: Bill Burns is on vacation. Well-earned.
QUESTION: Quick questions. Another one on Egypt. There are reports that Egypt was considering sending its armor into the Sinai if Israel does anything more against the Palestinians. Do you have any indication of that, or do you expect maybe to be briefed on that tomorrow by this phantom Egyptian delegation?
MR. REEKER: (Laughter.) That's a leading question. I think there's a debating term for that. No, I don't. I know there were some reports on that. Nobody that I could talk to in this building was aware of anything unusual or different in that regard.
QUESTION: Secondly, this building has always been very careful in its comments about Arafat and his responsibility and role in this whole thing. The President today came very close, it seemed to me, to saying that Arafat is behind the violence. Is that -- when he said that he could do a lot more, and then in the next breath, he said this is a campaign of terror. Is that the position --
MR. REEKER: Well, I have the President's remarks here. I stand firmly behind what the President said.
QUESTION: Well, I would expect you to.
MR. REEKER: And I don't really see anything different in his remarks than what we have been saying all along, and that is that Chairman Arafat, we believe, can do a lot more to be convincing the people on the street to stop these acts of terrorism and the acts of violence. And it is important for Mr. Arafat to show 100 percent effort. There you have your 100 percent line, Jonathan.
QUESTION: Is it possible -- does the United States Government believe that he is responsible for this campaign of terror if he has the power to stop it?
MR. REEKER: We believe that Chairman Arafat can do more, and can show 100 percent effort to convince the different parties in the West Bank and the Gaza to stop the violence.
QUESTION: Since you have the transcript and presumably that's an official one, I've got a question about --
MR. REEKER: Actually, I don't have the official one, but it is out.
QUESTION: But does the President say "Europe and modern Arab nations" or "moderate Arab nations"?
MR. REEKER: I believe it was "modern," but I would just refer you to the White House transcript.
Are we moving on from the Middle East?
MR. REEKER: Well, then this gentle lady in the front row may begin.
QUESTION: What would be your comment on signing the framework agreement a few hours ago?
MR. REEKER: Yes, as I suggested, we will put out a statement, a formal written statement that we are working on, and that should be out sometime this afternoon. We welcome the agreement signed today in Skopje by Macedonia's political leaders under the overall leadership of President Trajkovski and with the support of the European Union. Their Envoy Leotard and our Ambassador Jim Pardew played an important role. Our embassy under the leadership of Ambassador Einik has worked hard also to support the Macedonian political leaders in this process.
As you know -- and as we have said so many times -- the United States firmly and fully supports Macedonia's territorial integrity and sovereignty and unity, and we will continue to support Macedonia as it moves forward with implementation of this important agreement. All sides must fully support the cease-fire and fully observe the cease- fire.
To that extent, we utterly condemn the recent attacks by extremists. There is absolutely no justification and no excuse for this type of action by the armed extremists in Macedonia. We urge the government forces to act with restraint. It is important now that the government open the way to reconciliation by offering an amnesty. We look to the Parliament of Macedonia to enact the constitutional reforms and legislations set out in the framework document as soon as possible.
And then, as you know, at the request of the Macedonian Government, NATO is preparing to assist with the voluntary disarmament of ethnic Albanian insurgents. Lord Robertson is in Skopje today. I know some pre-deployment officials have been in Macedonia, NATO officials. But Operation Essential Harvest will not commence until NATO preconditions are met, as we discussed before.
I understand that Lord Robertson will be returning to Brussels this evening, perhaps convening the North Atlantic Council to discuss then the next steps in terms of NATO support for that.
QUESTION: Yesterday, after the one-sided proclamation of cease-fire by the Macedonian security forces, significant attacks by the Albanian extremists were registered near the capital. So what would be the State Department's position if these actions continue after the official signing of the peace accord?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think I made very clear in my comments just now that we believe that both sides must fully observe the cease-fire and that we utterly condemn the attacks like the ones you describe by the ethnic Albanian extremists. There is no justification for them, no excuse for them. And the true interests of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and certainly in the whole region are best served by working through the political process, using the agreement that has been signed in Skopje today as an excellent path toward reconciliation to develop the civic structures in Macedonia that are there, that have functioned for 10 years, to get that process back on track. Because that is the true solution for all the people of Macedonia of all ethnicities to live together in more harmony and work towards economic prosperity, and certainly a better future as part of Europe, joining in the mainstream of Europe and continuing to work toward their better cooperation and work with European and North Atlantic institutions and structures.
QUESTION: What is the position of the United States on an amnesty for the NLA rebels?
MR. REEKER: As I said, we think it is important that the government open the way to reconciliation by offering an amnesty.
QUESTION: You said that?
MR. REEKER: I did say that.
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
MR. REEKER: We should start doing a cut to the videotape. We have the snazzy thing behind the thing -- (laughter). I think our statement will firmly make those points and perhaps a few others.
QUESTION: What are you doing to persuade the Macedonian Government to adopt this view?
MR. REEKER: Which view is that?
QUESTION: Upon the amnesty, your support for the idea of an amnesty?
MR. REEKER: I think I just said it.
QUESTION: Did you?
MR. REEKER: Our view -- you asked our view, and that is our view and that is something they have discussed in their process and it is something they need to work out among the Macedonian leaders.
I think it is time now for Macedonian leaders of all ethnicities and all political parties to really work constructively, to take the solid work they have done under President Trajkovski to come up with this agreement and now move forward and use it as a positive force. And reconciliation is an important part of that. They have not just 10 years as an independent country but they have decades -- some people would suggest centuries -- of living together, ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, as well as all the other ethnic groups that live in Macedonia, in living together. And I think the people there know this. Those extremists who seem not to get the message need to take heed now, that it is time to put down their weapons and use this political track as their way forward.
Let's just switch around a little bit, sir. And then we will come back to Eli, who has had more than his share.
QUESTION: The amnesty is one of the most controversial issues. And I understand the Parliament has to actually ratify the agreement. Do you think the US and NATO's insistence on the amnesty would possibly make ratification a bit more difficult in the Parliament?
MR. REEKER: That is obviously a question for Macedonia's politicians and political leaders and, indeed, for all the people that they represent in Macedonia. As I said a couple of times now, we look to the Macedonian Parliament to implement the constitutional reforms and the legislation set out in the framework document. They have worked very hard. As you know -- we have discussed it here -- it is not an easy process to move forward with the documents.
These are difficult issues for people. These are issues that cut to the heart of many people's lives. But I think everybody will realize these are issues that they can get through, and I think reconciliation is going to be an important aspect of that.
We have said all along, Macedonia has been a model in its 10 years as an independent country, in terms of its breaking off from the former Yugoslavia, where we have seen so much tragedy. And we don't want to see that kind of tragedy in Macedonia and I don't believe that the vast majority of Macedonian citizens -- be they ethnic Macedonian or ethnic Albanian -- want to see that either.
So restraint is an important element. Reconciliation is an important element. And offering an amnesty, as has been discussed, while not an easy thing to work out, can be worked out. They have the structures, they have the political capability of doing that, and we think they should.
Anything else on Macedonia?
QUESTION: Will you be watching the Macedonian Parliament and the Macedonian Government with regard to this agreement in terms of their NATO candidacy? Will it be a factor that you would consider?
MR. REEKER: I don't think one can mix that. NATO candidacy is a different subject. That is part of something that Macedonia has been working on, in terms of having their own partnership plan. They have been active members of the Partnership for Peace for many years now. They have worked towards that. Obviously having their own peace in their country and being able to move forward on their own issues is going to be important to their stability. But we very much want to see them continue to integrate into Europe. We have talked about that so much, a desire to see a Europe whole and free, the Balkans being an important piece of that that isn't there yet, and Macedonia being a vital and important part of the Balkans.
QUESTION: Isn't one criteria for joining NATO that you have to kind of -- I don't know what the technical language is -- but you have to sort out your kind of civil ethnic conflicts? You can't have any type of conflicts of that nature if you want to be a member of NATO?
MR. REEKER: I would have to go back to discussions about NATO. I wasn't aware we were going to do a discussion on NATO expansion at this point. But I think the most important thing right now for Macedonia and for its future, and that would include its further integration into Euro-Atlantic structures, is to use this agreement that they have signed today with great courage and determination to move forward to solve peacefully problems that exist in their country.
And so if you want to have a discussion later on about NATO enlargement and Macedonia's desire on that, we can certainly get you perhaps some people from the Macedonian Embassy that would like to talk to you about their process there. But I think I will leave it at that.
Teri, did you have something on this?
QUESTION: No, on Afghanistan.
MR. REEKER: Does anybody else have a Macedonia question?
There is another group coming in in 10 minutes, so, please.
QUESTION: Our diplomat has gotten a visa today -- all the foreign diplomats got visas today into Afghanistan. But as I understand it, the Taliban is now saying they will not be able to meet with the detainees?
MR. REEKER: The Taliban today issued visas to US, German and Australian consular officers to enter Afghanistan. And our US consular officer, we expect, will travel to Kabul tomorrow, that would be Tuesday, August 14. And the purpose of his travel to Kabul is to visit with the American citizens who are part of the detainees.
We have no detailed information on the status of the detainees, as you know. We have received assurances from the Taliban that they are in good health and we understand that the Taliban are still conducting an investigation and that no trial or sentencing have occurred. So we hope --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- don't you think you may need a little Taliban help to see the detainees?
MR. REEKER: When they issued the visas, the Taliban said they were allowing for -- and I quote -- "travel for meetings with Taliban officials." Obviously, our consular officer will have some meetings with Taliban officials, as is the case whenever consular officers visit detained American citizens. But the purpose of his visit is to gain access to our citizens to assess their well-being and to look after them. So that is the purpose of his visit. He expects to go tomorrow -- that is Tuesday -- and we will have to let the events take place before we can comment on them any further.
QUESTION: So is that a violation of the Vienna Convention, that they are not giving consular access?
MR. REEKER: Jonathan, they have issued visas to consular officers to travel to Kabul. That will take place tomorrow. I don't know how one can prejudge what consular access will take place tomorrow, once our consular officer is there and able to take it.
QUESTION: But the Taliban said they are not going to be given consular access.
MR. REEKER: I have seen a variety of statements, reports about the Taliban. The goal of our consular officer is to go and have access.
QUESTION: Does the Vienna Convention require them to provide consular access?
MR. REEKER: I think you are probably as familiar with the Vienna Convention as I am. I will be happy to get a copy and share with you.
Our goal is to have consular access. That is what we want, that is what we have been calling for. We now have a visa for our consul along with those from other countries to travel to Kabul, and we will have to let them travel there. And the goal of that travel is to have access to the American citizens who are detained and to look after their welfare.
QUESTION: Have you been told specifically by the Taliban that you will be allowed to meet with the Americans? Or have you been specifically told --
MR. REEKER: Let me repeat the information that I have.
QUESTION: No, no, please don't do that. Just answer the question -- (laughter).
MR. REEKER: Matt --
QUESTION: Have you been told whether this guy, whoever he is -- I'm presuming he is going from Islamabad. But have you been told whether this guy will -- specifically whether he will be given access to the Americans that are being held?
MR. REEKER: I don't know.
MR. REEKER: And I believe that our goal and our interest is clear. It has been stated clearly from here and it was stated clearly when we applied for the visa for our consular official to make that travel. So the Taliban should have no illusions about the goal of our consular officer in traveling there. That is to see the Americans that have been detained, to meet with them and assess their situation, gain access to our citizens.
We will continue to press the Taliban for access to the detainees. Our main goal, if I can make it any clearer, and our main concern continues to be the welfare of these American citizens, and we want to be able to meet with them to ensure that they are not being mistreated, that they are being treated fairly under local law. And, of course, our consulate in Peshawar and the embassy in Islamabad continue to be in contact with the families of the two detainees as well.
QUESTION: Where is this consular officer going from, do you know that?
MR. REEKER: I believe from Islamabad, but I would have to check that it is not from Peshawar. I don't know how they intend to enter Kabul. I don't have any travel description for you, but I would be happy to see if somebody knows.
Can we switch to this gentleman here, who I am sure has another subject, and then keep moving around.
QUESTION: Do you have any comments on the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to the Yasukuni War Shrine?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't have any comment on that.
QUESTION: Could you check any of those reports on Iranian aircraft violating Azeri airspace that we were talking about last week here?
MR. REEKER: Did we look into that? I think we did. Do I have an answer? Okay, why don't you talk to me later, because we were still checking on that to try to get a report. As you know, it doesn't involve us directly, obviously, so we are looking into it for you.
QUESTION: On that shrine in Tokyo, that shrine is for, as you know, Japanese Imperial soldiers during World War II, including what United States called war criminals more than 50 years ago. That is why the Chinese and Korean governments have criticized that. Don't you have any comment on that, any regret or --
MR. REEKER: No, I don't. I don't have any comment on that. I don't believe we have ever had in the past, either.
QUESTION: Are you worried about the deterioration of the relationship between Japan and South Korea, which are both very important allies of the United States, because of this?
MR. REEKER: You state a very true fact, that both Japan and South Korea are very important allies of the United States. We certainly made that clear, particularly on the Secretary's recent trip, where he visited the region and visited both Japan and South Korea. So we will continue to have our strong bilateral relationships with both countries, as well as multilateral relationships. We deal with both countries on a number of issues, like North Korea, for instance, and other issues of a regional nature. So we expect to continue that and that will continue to be a priority for us in the future.
Anybody else, since we are sort of in the Far East? No? Let me go to Teri, and then we will come back --
QUESTION: Middle East-ish. Do you have any comments on new accords signed between Syria and Iraq today? Also --
MR. REEKER: I am afraid I don't have anything on that. I haven't even seen the reports on that, so I would be happy to --
QUESTION: Also, while you are at it, could you check on the status of this pipeline in Syria that Bashar -- (laughter) -- promised would come under UN control this summer?
MR. REEKER: I think Eli has an answer for you, so we will be happy to put you two together after the briefing.
QUESTION: On the policy on easing sanctions on India, are you moving forward and does the same apply to Pakistan?
MR. REEKER: I should give you the same answer I gave to all of your colleagues who decided to call me on the weekend.
QUESTION: I should ask, what is visible to the naked eye?
MR. REEKER: What is visible to the naked eye in terms of?
MR. REEKER: Movement. I think, as Deputy Secretary Armitage said to a number of you when he came down to your offices a couple of weeks back and spoke to you on the record, you know that the Administration is currently reviewing policy on South Asia sanctions. We are reviewing the broader use of sanctions as a diplomatic tool very generally, and that review continues to be ongoing. It is a complex area.
But specifically, we are reviewing the policy on South Asia sanctions. No decisions have yet been made -- any headlines to the contrary -- on any changes that would, of course, involve consultations with Congress. That is a very important aspect of all of this.
Just to remind you of what we are talking about here, sanctions were imposed on India and Pakistan under the Glenn Amendment because of those two countries' 1998 nuclear tests, and there were earlier nuclear-related sanctions also under the Pressler and Symington amendments, which also applied to Pakistan. So with Pakistan, we are conducting a separate but similar review of policy as we look at sanctions against both countries.
Obviously, lifting of nuclear-related sanctions would have less impact on Pakistan, because Pakistan is also subject to sanctions under the Foreign Assistance Act because of the October 1999 military coup. Those sanctions can only be lifted if the President is able to certify that a democratically elected government has taken office in Pakistan.
So that is where we stand on that. It is something we are reviewing. I think the Deputy Secretary, as well as Secretary Powell, certainly the President, have spoken at great length about our desire to work on our relationship with India. The world's oldest and the world's largest democracies have a lot of issues to work together on, and we are dedicated to doing that. As you know, Assistant Secretary Rocca was just recently in the region. The Deputy Secretary was there consulting, had other high-level visits. General Shelton was in India recently. And so that will continue. But there is nothing in terms of a decision that has been made. Obviously, we will continue to consult with Congress on those issues.
QUESTION: Did you guys ever figure out what exactly you are addressing Musharraf as now? Are you calling him president?
MR. REEKER: President. I think we took care of that about a day after you berated me for it.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about the whereabouts of the speaker of the Ethiopian upper house, Mr. (inaudible)?
MR. REEKER: Should I?
QUESTION: Well, maybe. I don't know. No?
MR. REEKER: I have had a lot of company recently, but I don't think --
QUESTION: He is reported to have sought political asylum in the United States.
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on it. I haven't even seen that report.
QUESTION: The other one is, there has been a sort of resurgence in the campaign against those Zimbabwean white farmers. I just wondered whether you had heard anything on that in the last --
MR. REEKER: I think we discussed it on and off over a period of many months.
QUESTION: You don't have anything new?
MR. REEKER: We remain deeply concerned about the level of political violence and intimidation in Zimbabwe and that country's rapid economic decline. The situation is taking a toll on southern Africa as a region and it is discouraging foreign investment, creating a potential for a refugee crisis and food shortages and reducing trade within the region.
So we condemn the serious human rights abuses and growing climate of fear and intimidation for which the Government of Zimbabwe bears primary responsibility.
QUESTION: Is that recent language?
MR. REEKER: That is what I just said. It can't be more recent than that. (Laugther.)
QUESTION: Have you said that before?
MR. REEKER: That's for you to figure out. I'm not going to do your job for you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I have three things that can be dealt with with great dispatch, I'm sure. One, do you know anything about an American kidnapped in Honduras?
MR. REEKER: I don't. Thank you for alluding to that. We are checking into it, but we are not aware of even the report --
QUESTION: Two, did you guys have anything to do with the release from INS custody -- I realize you are going to direct me to the INS -- but I want to know if the State Department had anything to do with the release of this 13-year-old girl from Nigeria?
MR. REEKER: Not that I'm aware of. The Africa Bureau told us to direct you to the INS.
QUESTION: Okay, and then the last thing was, do you have any birthday greetings for Fidel Castro, who turns 75 today?
MR. REEKER: You guys all seem to be in on some party I wasn't invited to. What to say? Usually, we don't comment or offer messages on the occasion of birthdays.
Is it your birthday, too, Trudy? Well, I think it is much more appropriate that we recognize the birthday of Trudy Feldman here, everybody. So we want our national, worldwide audience to know that Trudy -- anyway.
QUESTION: Usually, you don't comment but --
MR. REEKER: We do wish to note that inasmuch as Mr. Castro has reached the mandatory retirement age for dictators -- (laughter) -- bringing down the house -- we hope he will be moving on soon into retirement.
And I might add that one often talks about a certain amount of wisdom coming with age and experience. And we would certainly hope, for the sake of the people of Cuba, that Mr. Castro would develop enough wisdom to think about taking steps to let his people celebrate their own freedom and their own human rights under a regime that respects international standards of human rights and allows people the freedom that they deserve.
QUESTION: Who sets the mandatory retirement age for dictators? Is that something the US does or is that a UN --
MR. REEKER: I do, Matt. And I am going to set the mandatory retirement age for young whippersnapper journalists. (Laughter.) Thanks.
(The briefing concluded at 2:05 p.m.)