State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 15, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Wednesday, August 15, 2001
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
EGYPT 1 Senior Egyptian Delegation to the US
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 2-10 Situation Update / Palestinians Seeking UN Resolution / Communication with Region Leaders / Israeli Plans / US Views / Potential Russian Involvement / Targeted Killings Policy / Arafat's Actions / Iraqi Involvement / Recent US Actions
IRAQ 10-11 Pact with Syria
MACEDONIA 11-13 NATO Deployment Announcement / US Involvement / Amnesty / Cease-fire Status
COLUMBIA 13-14 Arrest of Alleged Irish Republican Army Members 15 Involvement of President Fox
MEXICO 14-15 Discussions with Foreign Secretary Castaneda
CHINA 15-19 Compensation for EP-3 Recovery / Next Steps
KENYA 19-20 Anti-Corruption Authority Legislation
JAPAN 20 Prime Minister Koizumi Remarks
GUATEMALA 20-21 Prosecutor for Cases Involving Killed US Citizens / US Agency Assistance
AFGHANISTAN 21-22 Update on Detained Americans / Meetings with Taliban
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 117
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 15, 2001, 1:15 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Well, it feels like Friday but it is just Wednesday here at the State Department. But I want to welcome you all back, regardless. I don't have any announcements or other notes for the day, so I would be happy to begin with the questions, and Mr. Schweid is here representing the Associated Press.
QUESTION: Thank you. There is an Egyptian delegation and it will be here on Friday to see the Secretary. But are any meetings going on at other levels that you could tell us about?
MR. REEKER: I think as we mentioned yesterday, Mr. Osama El-Baz, the National Security Advisor to President Mubarak of Egypt, is visiting Washington this week. He will have meetings with senior administration officials, as you indicated, Barry, including a meeting with Secretary of State Powell on Friday morning.
The meetings, as I indicated yesterday, will cover the broad range of our bilateral and regional issues between the United States and Egypt, including the current situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As we have said before, we have long valued Egypt's critical role with the parties and we welcome this opportunity to consult on the situation.
In terms of details of other meetings, I just don't have anything else for you at this point, Barry. You may want to check with others around town to confirm other meetings, and I believe the Egyptian embassy had some scheduling information for Mr. El-Baz.
QUESTION: Just a quick question. Will there -- I know you said you can't talk about other meetings. What about in this building? Will there be a meeting with Under Secretary Bolton and will, in that meeting, discuss sort of further nonproliferation issues?
MR. REEKER: At this point, I don't know. I don't have a full schedule or readout of his program. But I will continue to try to do that.
QUESTION: Are you guys trying to schedule it at this point?
MR. REEKER: I don't know, Eli. I have said as much as I have in terms of information on the gentleman's schedule, and we will try to get more information as the Friday date approaches.
QUESTION: Can you give us some idea of what the Administration is doing to try to stop the violence in the region?
MR. REEKER: Sure. We have discussed this at -- (laughter). Charlie seems to have an answer for you, so we will be happy to let Charlie come on up here to the podium, if he cares to have my job. I'm sure I could get paid more in Charlie's job. So when you want to do the switch, Charlie, you let me know.
Betsy, I think, as you know, as we have talked about for a long time, as the President said yesterday, as Secretary Powell also indicated yesterday, ending the current crisis means halting the violence and, in this regard, the Palestinians need to do a great deal more to control the violence, preempt attacks by suicide bombers and arrest those responsible for the violence. Without such an effort, it will be impossible to move through to implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects.
And, at the same time, as we have said before, Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas are provocative, they do not stop the violence and they undermine efforts to defuse the situation. Both sides need to recognize that down that path of escalation and retaliation lies disaster and despair, and at this time of heightened tension, we are continuing to urge both sides to do all they can to reduce the violence, promote an atmosphere of calm and exercise the utmost restraint. There is no military solution to this conflict.
As we have also discussed before, senior officials, both here and in the region, are in continuing contact with the parties. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Satterfield has met recently with both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat. We continue to give the same messages to those leaders as we do publicly, that they need to reduce the violence and facilitate implementation of Mitchell. These recommendations remain the only path to safe and normal life for Israelis and Palestinians, and a return to negotiations towards a peaceful settlement.
QUESTION: There is word that the Palestinians may be seeking a resolution at the UN. Do you have anything on that?
MR. REEKER: I'm sure there have been a number of reports about that. I think, as I just indicated, and everyone realizes, from the beginning of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, our objective has been to end the violence and restore trust and confidence, and create circumstances for the resumption of a political process.
We feel that action in the United Nations Security Council will not contribute to these objectives. But we will assist the parties, will be the continuing focus by the international community on the goal of moving to full implementation of Mitchell, and moving to that goal as quickly as possible.
So we and others in the international community will continue to work in this direction with the parties. As you know, we will be meeting with the Egyptians this week. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary of State is in the region. He is in Amman now. He will also be traveling to Egypt. Attempts to force a solution on the parties by a third party will only frustrate efforts to move forward with the implementation of Mitchell. And that is our main focus at this point.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell yesterday -- I think it was yesterday -- with the Seeds of Peace campers, said that there isn't a day -- forgive me if this is not when he said it -- but he did say in the last few days that there is not a day that goes by that I am not in touch with leaders in the region.
So we haven't really talked about specific phone calls that he made in the last few days, and if you could --
MR. REEKER: Right, I think I was able to tell most of you yesterday there were no phone calls to the region yesterday. Secretary Powell is in touch with leaders through his emissaries and representatives. As I said, our senior officials both here in Washington and in the region are having regular meetings. The Secretary is often in touch directly on the phone with Prime Minister Sharon, with Chairman Arafat and others, and I will continue to try to update you on any individual phone calls.
But the message is clear, and our contacts remain continuous with both parties.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? You keep calling from this podium, and also other officials are talking with leaders in the region, to take steps to stop the violence. Do you think that maybe a higher level of continued engagement -- I know the Secretary is very busy, but daily calls by higher level officials, or daily contact by higher level officials might induce the parties to take steps? Do you think that people on the ambassadorial level or the Deputy Assistant Secretary level are enough to induce the parties to take these steps?
MR. REEKER: I think our senior officials carrying out the actions which we have described in terms of delivering our message personally and directly, as we also do from here, as the Secretary himself does, as the President did yesterday. I think our contacts are continuous, they are at a variety of levels, and I think the message has been the same. It has been consistent and that is what we will continue to do. They know the message, they know the steps they need to take.
Both sides have said that they want to move to Mitchell, they want to begin that process which is the process towards peace, and they need to get the violence down, make the maximum effort necessary to get the violence down, break the cycle of violence, so they can move into Mitchell.
QUESTION: Can I try one more?
MR. REEKER: Sure, and then we'll move to Teri next.
QUESTION: The parties really got used to having President Clinton call them often, have them at the White House. Secretary Albright, when she was in office, traveled there frequently. So do you think that perhaps the parties are seeing the fact that they are not talking to the President or seeing the Secretary of State or hearing from them that often as not as strong of a message as perhaps during the previous administration?
MR. REEKER: I think the message is very clear. And our message has been clear and consistent and from the highest levels. And it is also a fact that we are looking for results on the ground, and that is what we want to see. We have made very clear what we think needs to be done. The international community has worked together to present a roadmap through the Mitchell Committee report and its recommendations for the parties. It is up to them to take the steps necessary to reduce the violence and move into that process of implementing Mitchell.
QUESTION: Even while Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield is there and having these meetings, the hot spots are popping up all over the place, as they have been. For example, yesterday these Israeli tanks went to the outskirts of Bethlehem, I believe, and there were armed Palestinians possibly waiting to meet it. This happened late in the day yesterday.
So can you tell us what -- both if there is reaction to those latest movements, and otherwise what has been the result of Satterfield there speaking with both Sharon and Arafat? Is there anything you can report back on those meetings?
MR. REEKER: The results will be what we see on the ground when the parties take the steps that only they can take to reduce the violence and move into implementation of Mitchell. Our reactions are what I described earlier. We have made very clear, the President did yesterday, so did the Secretary, that the Palestinians need to do a great deal more to control violence, preempt attacks by suicide bombers and arrest those responsible for violence. And at the same time, we have also made very clear that Israeli incursions into Palestinian- controlled areas are provocative; they don't stop the violence and they undermine efforts to defuse the situation. So we need to see them concentrate on the security process. We have also taken steps to help them develop a security process where we facilitate meetings where they can deal with security issues, which helps to create an atmosphere more conducive to then moving towards the Mitchell Committee recommendation implementation.
It is up to the parties. They have got to take those significant steps. We will continue to be available to facilitate, as I just described. We will continue to stress the points that we have made, what the President said and what the Secretary has said.
QUESTION: Well, if the results that you see on the ground is a deterioration, what's the use? You say the results are what you see; well, yesterday you saw tanks --
MR. REEKER: We are not going to give up on this, Teri, just because you say, what's the use. We're going to continue to --
QUESTION: It was a question, Phil, not a recommendation.
MR. REEKER: We are going to continue to stand by what we have been saying. We have been consistent in what we have called for. We have worked with the international community and directly with both parties to give them the opportunity to take the steps that they need to take to reduce the violence and take those forward steps into the path towards peace.
QUESTION: There was a big headline in USA Today about Israel weighing invasion options. Is that true, at least in a --
MR. REEKER: You would have to ask the Israelis that, John.
QUESTION: Is the United States aware of any plan? Does the United States have any view, and is Satterfield expressing any view to the Israelis on that possibility?
MR. REEKER: I think I made very clear, I think three times already now, that Israeli incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas are provocative. They don't stop the violence, and they undermine the efforts to defuse the situation, i.e. undermine the efforts that we are supporting, that we have called for.
QUESTION: I guess my question goes beyond the question of small-scale incursions into a concern about a more --
MR. REEKER: Small-scale or large-scale incursions, I think our position is very much the same.
QUESTION: And a follow-up question, there have been some reports that Satterfield, when, for example, asked by the Palestinians for a greater US role or a more concrete, perhaps, US role, has replied that he is there only on a fact-finding mission, and no authority to shift, adjust, or change or offer new US ideas or proposals. Is that accurate?
MR. REEKER: I think we have discussed Ambassador Satterfield's or other officials who have gone to the region to continue pressing the points that we make publicly, that the Secretary makes in his direct conversations with the leaders, that the President has made as recently as yesterday. It is the same message that we have continued to convey regularly and will continue to do. And so Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield will continue to do that. He will be coming back to Washington at some point obviously to report to the Secretary, and we are going to continue to work on this process. But ultimately it is up to the parties to take the steps necessary to make the efforts, the maximum efforts necessary to reduce the violence so that they can move into their process of implementing the Mitchell Committee recommendations.
QUESTION: Can I (inaudible) a question on your UN answer? Do you mean to say that the US will oppose any action in the UN Security Council on the Middle East dealing with the Palestinian issue? Because I understood there is a possibility of there not just being one resolution, the usual one about international protection force or monitors, but also one having to do with Orient House. Is the US opposed to any discussion or any action on anything?
MR. REEKER: Well, to clarify the basic point, there is nothing before them at this point. So I don't want to prejudge anything. But our position is that action in the Security Council isn't going to contribute to the objectives that we have had, and that what we need to do is continue as we have with the international community, focusing on implementation of Mitchell.
On Orient House, we certainly understand the concerns about Orient House. We talked about it at the time and several times since. It has long symbolized the importance of political dialogue and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians, and it is vital that both parties, both sides remain committed to those objectives. So we are actively engaged with them. We have discussed that and are urging them to implement the Tenet work plan, and the Mitchell Committee recommendations so that they can move beyond those things. That has got to be the process, not a third party process, not actions in the Security Council.
QUESTION: Not the Security Council. Okay. And can you shed any light on -- apparently the Russian Foreign Ministry this morning released some kind of a statement saying that Powell and Ivanov are calling together for Mid-East reconciliation? Do you know anything about this? Was there a phone call?
MR. REEKER: I don't know of anything specific. I do believe the Secretary has spoken with Foreign Minister Ivanov recently. I will have to check on exactly when that was. But I think it is quite consistent with what we have said for a long time --
QUESTION: I am not saying it is inconsistent. I am just wondering if you have a --
MR. REEKER: If I could finish the sentence?
QUESTION: The answer is, no, you don't know anything about a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry?
MR. REEKER: Right. If that is your question.
QUESTION: That was the question, simply ask that..
QUESTION: Do you have any specific comment on the latest targeted killing?
MR. REEKER: No, I don't have anything specific on it. I have seen the same press reports you are probably reading. You know our position on targeted killings; it has been stated many times by many people. I don't have anything specific on that one. But our position on targeted killings remains the same.
QUESTION: On the question of maximum efforts, when the Israelis bomb Palestinian police stations in the Territories, does that degrade Arafat's ability to arrest militants?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I am not in a position to make that determination.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have a position on that? It would seem -- you keep talking about maximum efforts. Is it sort of a self- fulfilling prophecy --
MR. REEKER: Whose self-fulfilling prophecy?
QUESTION: You need police officers to arrest people and, obviously, police officers need a base, a police station. When they are blown up, and two have been blown up in the last week, it's harder, I would imagine --
MR. REEKER: Eli, our position, as it always has been, is that both sides can do more, can take further action to bring down the violence. We have said they need to make a hundred percent effort. We haven't seen that.
QUESTION: Do you take a position on what appears to be the arbitrary destruction of empty police stations? Do you think this --
MR. REEKER: You are clarifying something as arbitrary destruction --
QUESTION: -- regardless of the effect on the police --
MR. REEKER: Our position is on the broad issue of both sides breaking the cycle of violence, taking the actions necessary to break that, exercising maximum restraint. That is what we have called for, it is what we will continue to call for.
We have said before -- about provocative actions -- we have said before, and again today, that the steps that need to be done, a great deal more that needs to be done, in terms of controlling violence, preempting suicide bombers, for instance, and arresting those responsible for the violence.
QUESTION: Can I ask you another one? Since you --
MR. REEKER: What if I said, no? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: -- agreed to the seven days of quiet, I think in the last two days most of the acts of violence have been from the Israeli side. And since it is the Israeli side who are asking for the days of calm, is there any reason why you should not count these two days --
MR. REEKER: I am just not going to get into counting now. We don't feel that we have seen calm.
QUESTION: But as a matter of principle. I mean --
MR. REEKER: We don't feel that we have seen calm. Our position is what it is. You have heard it. You all get exasperated that we continue to say the same thing over and over again. You continue to ask the same thing over and over again. So I don't think I really have anything further to add to you, other than that we feel both sides need to take additional steps. We don't feel that there has been a hundred percent effort. They need to take the steps, they need to exercise maximum restraint, get the violence down and move into implementation of Mitchell.
QUESTION: Okay. So you seem to be saying that the Israelis, by continuing to play out these incursions, can delay implementation of the Mitchell Plan indefinitely.
MR. REEKER: We have been saying that we have not seen the calm that needs to take place for them to move in to Mitchell. We need to see more restraint, we need to see greater efforts at ending the violence. I mean, it's just days, Jonathan, that we have been talking about suicide bombers, horrible actions that have cost the lives of many innocent people. That needs to stop. There needs to be an end to the violence and there needs to be a greater effort exercised by the leadership on both sides to bring that about.
QUESTION: If I can just follow back on the police station question. Do you -- you said before that you see more effort from Arafat to arrest people as one of the parts of -- formulations of maximum effort, and I'm asking you, do you think that Arafat still has the same capability now as he did a week ago to arrest people?
MR. REEKER: I think he can continue -- as the President said yesterday -- Arafat can do a lot more to take the actions, I said, of controlling violence, preempting things like suicide bombers, and arresting those responsible for that. And that is what I say now, that is what I said before, that is what I will continue to say tomorrow.
QUESTION: And you don't want to comment on what seems to be Israel's policy of systematically targeting the security infrastructure that Arafat was given under the Wye Accords for that purpose?
MR. REEKER: Arafat can take more action.
QUESTION: Can we go to Macedonia?
QUESTION: One more on the Middle East. It's slightly different. Saddam Hussein called for --
MR. REEKER: That is different.
QUESTION: There you go. Called for Iraqis to volunteer to go and help their Palestinian brethren. Are you concerned that this might in fact happen? There are reports that people are training.
MR. REEKER: I am not really even familiar with those particular reports. Very little that Saddam Hussein says to grab media attention surprises me. Obviously, our efforts are focused on working with the international community, and I don't mean pariahs like Saddam Hussein, to work with the parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians, to try to help them implement the Mitchell Committee process. That is what we have been calling for; that is what the international community has provided them through Mitchell.
So I don't have anything for you, Betsy, on reports from Saddam Hussein. What we want to see is peace. The path to peace is through Mitchell. And they have got an obvious road map to get there and move ahead. Our concerns about Saddam Hussein and his threats to the region, his threats to his neighbors, his threats to his own people, are well discussed, well documented, and remain our concerns.
QUESTION: Do you know of any Palestinian arrests in the last -- pick your town time frame? You asked for -- the Administration asked Arafat to do more, to verbally discourage attacks on Israelis, but also to see that the people who carry out attacks are brought to justice. Have you seen any evidence of arrests being made?
MR. REEKER: I have seen various press reports, Barry, but as the President said -- President Bush -- earlier this week, we believe that Chairman Arafat can do a lot more to stop acts of terrorism and violence. And I have said already several times today that we think it is essential for Chairman Arafat to show 100 percent effort and do everything possible to convince those responsible for the violence to stop. I am not here to do your tic-toc of reports out of the Middle East. You can do that quite capably.
QUESTION: No, no. I would think that -- the United States, I would think, is looking into this situation. You would think that keeping a careful watch of attempts -- or if he is not active, of the Palestinian Authority making arrests.
MR. REEKER: And we do.
QUESTION: Okay. But you have no, you know, even round figures for us?
MR. REEKER: I am not here to provide that for you.
QUESTION: One more on Middle East. I'm just curious -- in one of your last answers you said the United States is committed to doing everything it can to help the parties get to Mitchell. Other than just saying the same thing every day, what are you doing to help?
MR. REEKER: We have presented them, as part of the international community --
QUESTION: Yes, that was months ago, Phil. Now, in the last couple weeks. Is Satterfield over there trying to help them?
MR. REEKER: Matt, they need to take the steps. Only the parties can take the steps necessary to bring down the violence and move into implementation of Mitchell, which is the solution that both of them have embraced.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Iraq and Syria?
QUESTION: On the targeted killing? Is the United States making a distinction between what one would call a targeted killing and what some might call an assassination policy?
MR. REEKER: We have a policy on targeted killing. It has been well stated before, and I don't have anything new to tell you.
QUESTION: Well, but do you consider this an assassination policy? There's a difference.
MR. REEKER: I don't even have details or reports on this latest one. We have a policy on targeted killing; we stand by that.
QUESTION: What about an assassination policy?
MR. REEKER: I am not going to play word games with you. We have a policy on targeted killings. It has been enunciated numerous times.
QUESTION: Any comment on the -- what appears to be a mutual defense pact that has been reached between Iraq and Syria? And are you concerned that that could be a destabilizing development for the whole Mid-East peace process?
MR. REEKER: I saw a variety of press reports, none of which I could find, that alluded to a "mutual defense pact." But I did see reports about discussions and friendship pacts or something between Iraq and Syria. I don't have any specific information on those and I will continue to ask the Bureau if they could look into that. I think Teri had asked about that a couple of days ago.
So by the very definition of the reports about Iraq and Syria, I don't know that we necessarily would have a lot of information on their exact discussions, but I will look into that.
QUESTION: Just to elaborate on that, I'm not sure -- the pacts themselves, the friendship pacts seem to be economic in nature. But there was a comment from the Iraqi official involved who said they did have a defense element. It was a mutual defense pact in the event of a war with Israel. So if you could look --
MR. REEKER: Sure, we will look into the whole, broad thing. Like you said, there are various press reports on that. We will certainly ask the Bureau to keep trying to check into that.
QUESTION: Could you comment on the announcement in Brussels about NATO -- partial NATO deployment in Macedonia, please?
MR. REEKER: I think you saw the announcement in Brussels, as you said, that NATO has decided to deploy a Task Force Harvest headquarters, communications assets and other elements to prepare for possible deployment of Task Force Harvest. We discussed yesterday the process that NATO goes through in deploying these things. As you know, NATO has been working for some time to develop a mission that could go in to support Macedonia, in terms of disarming, collecting arms from the ethnic Albanian extremists.
There were a variety of preconditions which we have discussed at length in terms of an enduring cease-fire and the general political agreement, which was signed on Monday, an agreement with the Macedonian Government on the status of NATO forces that would be in Macedonia, as well as a plan specifying modalities and time tables for weapons handover and the explicit consent of the National Liberation Army, that they are prepared to surrender their weapons.
So NATO has taken that step. They are continuing to go through the process that's involved at the NAC. As you know, NATO is a security organization that operates on consensus, so I probably need to refer you to NATO for the step-by-step process and how that goes. But we have seen, obviously, as you have, that they have taken this first step there.
QUESTION: Will US elements be involved?
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I would have to refer you to the Pentagon or NATO specifically on those operational elements in terms of this first headquarters and communications assets that NATO has decided to move in there. So the details on how NATO will structure that.... We have talked before, of course, about US participation in terms of providing command and control and communications and medical and logistical support, drawn largely from our forces in Kosovo and already deployed in Macedonia in support of the Kosovo force. And while we haven't determined yet exactly how many US personnel would be involved, the number is expected to be a few hundred. So you might want to check with DOD for operational details.
QUESTION: Very briefly, and I don't know whether this may have been a slip of the tongue or perhaps we missed it. The name of the operation hasn't changed, has it?
MR. REEKER: I don't believe so. Did I say something --
QUESTION: I think you might have left out a word. It may have been us mishearing it.
MR. REEKER: It is Operation Essential Harvest, is what I understand.
QUESTION: And the substantive question has to do -- I assume that you are pleased to see this announcement from President Trajkovski's office that they are going to go ahead with the amnesty, or he wants to go --
MR. REEKER: Yes, we saw some recent reports on that. As you know, we have said for some time that we believe the Macedonian Government should open the way to reconciliation by offering an amnesty, and it appears that they are moving ahead on that. It is something obviously for the Macedonian Government to do. They are quite capable of working that out and the modalities of that, and we do welcome that, because we think that is an important aspect of reconciliation, so that they can move forward as the political agreement outlines.
One more on Macedonia. I'm sorry. We do get to these things eventually.
QUESTION: Even though there is an agreement signed and NATO is talking about possible deployment, there are still skirmishes. Would you consider the cease-fire to be in effect or are you still waiting?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think those are determinations that NATO has to make. They are obviously monitoring the situation very closely in terms of their preconditions and their determination of those aspects. I think we have seen a cease-fire in place, largely. There have been reports of some skirmishes. There is no excuse for continued actions by the armed extremists. So that is really a determination that NATO will have to make on the basis of their preconditions.
QUESTION: So you don't know if it's like a day of quiet, like in the Middle East that you are looking for a day of quiet? Are you supposed to have --
MR. REEKER: Let's not mix apples and oranges, or regions.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Are you supposed to have a certain number of days of quiet and absolutely no attacks?
MR. REEKER: As I said, I can't say when NATO makes their determinations and how. That is a question for the operational people, SACEUR and for the North Atlantic Council to make a determination. But what I can tell you is that the alliance is monitoring the situation very closely and NATO is prepared to deploy rapidly once the Council has authorized deployment. We have seen this first step in deploying a headquarters, communications assets, and we will just need to continue to see the NATO process work in terms of that.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, but we are not asking what NATO -- whether NATO thinks there has been a cease-fire. Can you say just what the US, as the most powerful member of NATO -- whether the US --
MR. REEKER: I think I just indicated that we have seen -- I think I just said it, Eli. We have seen largely calm. We have seen reports of sporadic gunfire and reports of violence here and there. But overall, the situation is calm. It is very important that that cease-fire hold. Obviously, that is a crucial element in bringing in the NATO deployment as an element in this whole process. It is important for the Macedonians to have a cease-fire in place so that without violence they can move ahead on their political thing.
We have always said that the violence has to stop. I think we have seen largely a cease-fire in place. There have been reports -- your organization has probably written some of them -- suggesting that there have been isolated and sporadic incidents of violence. We want to see, obviously, all violence stop.
QUESTION: So today, Wednesday, day two of the cease-fire, US still sees cease-fire? It's still a cease-fire?
MR. REEKER: I can say it all over again. There is a cease-fire.
QUESTION: There is a cease-fire. Okay. That's all --
MR. REEKER: We have seen reports of individual ....
QUESTION: Yugoslavia and the UN have reached agreement about the buffer zone between southern Serbia and Kosovo will not exist after Friday. Does the US support that decision?
MR. REEKER: I am not even aware of that decision, so I would have to look into that.
QUESTION: Okay, Colombian army captured three members of Irish Republican Army, who apparently were training Colombia FARC members to make bombs and other explosives. What is the US Government's opinion about it? Do you think it could have a serious repercussion for peace talks in Colombia?
MR. REEKER: I have seen those reports, and as you know, information is just beginning to come out on the three IRA -- apparent IRA members -- arrested, and their apparent affiliation. We understand from press reports that at least two of them -- two of those arrested in Colombia have prior affiliation with the provisional IRA, and we will be monitoring the case, obviously, in the coming days as more information emerges. But that is all I have at this point.
QUESTION: Do you think that something has happened with the peace process in Colombia, because they are training Colombia's guerillas? I don't know.
MR. REEKER: Again, I don't know all the facts on that situation. We have seen the reports. We understand that two of the people that have been arrested have prior affiliation with the provisional IRA. We are going to monitor that; we are going to look for facts and further information in the coming days. Until we have that, it is very difficult to make any sort of judgment on the peace process or any further comment.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, one more. The United States, or the State Department, has some reports about that some relationship between Irish Republican Army and FARC? Do you have any report?
MR. REEKER: Let me say it one more time, and try to get this clear. We have seen these reports that have been emerging, the same reports that you are referring to; that is, that the Colombians have arrested some individuals. We have seen reports that at least two of them have prior affiliation with the provisional Irish Republican Army. I don't have any more details on that. We are going to monitor the case. We will be interested to see what further information emerges, and until we have further information, I don't have anything else to offer you.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. This is on Mexico, immigration. Yesterday, Foreign Secretary Castaneda made a comment in regards to the negotiations that the US is having with Mexico on the guest worker program. He said that basically what they have to this point is not enough to fulfill the needs of undocumented Mexicans in this country. So, I mean, I'd like to know if that topic -- if that was brought up during the conversations last week with Secretary Powell --
MR. REEKER: I would just refer you back to exactly what Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Castaneda said after their meeting.
QUESTION: Actually, I was here, so I heard that.
MR. REEKER: Right. And so you heard them answer your question for you, that they have talked about that. These are discussions, as they both indicated, that are ongoing. That process continues. We have a working group on that. I know Secretary Powell and Foreign Minister Castaneda remain in touch on this, as they pledged to do. This is all under the rubric of working together as the two presidents suggested, President Fox and President Bush, calling for this important work to help make migration safe and legal.
And so I don't think there is anything really further to add. You know, we have been looking at a variety of ideas, including the temporary worker program as one part of the discussion. There are a lot of details still to be worked out, and so it really is premature to comment on any specific approach while we continue to work on it.
QUESTION: As far as we know, there's more than three million undocumented Mexicans in the United States, but the guest worker program will not benefit all of them. And what is the criteria that you guys are -- or what is the guideline that you are following in order to -- for these talks? Because you guys talk about specifics, but we don't know much.
MR. REEKER: Again, in fact, we didn't talk about specifics. I think that was the bottom line. We talk in our meetings about specifics. But while the discussions are ongoing, as Secretary Powell indicated and Foreign Minister Castaneda indicated, we are going to keep working on it.
A temporary worker program is one part of the discussion. And there are a lot of details that have to be worked out. It is obviously premature to comment on the effectiveness on any particular approach, any one of various approaches, before those details get worked out. A temporary worker program is an idea we have discussed with Mexico. Secretary Powell and Foreign Secretary Castaneda said that. We are going to be pursuing the concept in greater detail in the months ahead.
And I think all I can do is echo what Secretary Powell said last week when he made clear following his meeting with Secretary Castaneda that the most important consideration is that we do this right, that we do it in a careful way that is seen as fair and equitable by the people both of the United States and Mexico. And so we want to work on options for a temporary worker program that are grounded in reality, meet the needs of our economy, doesn't hurt US workers, brings together willing workers and willing employers, rests on a carefully worked out partnership between the sending and receiving countries, and recognizes the contributions that undocumented Mexicans are making in the United States.
Anything beyond that would be purely --
QUESTION: Just to follow up, he also said that they were not in a rush to reach an agreement. But people from the White House are saying that there might be an announcement when Mr. Fox comes.
MR. REEKER: The operable word is "might." And let me just repeat again what the Secretary said last week, as I said right now, the most important consideration -- as Secretary Powell said -- is that we do this right. And so we are approaching this in a very methodical manner. We are working very closely and working very well with our Mexican counterparts at all levels in this process and that is what we will continue to do.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Let's let somebody else try to do something. Let me just go to this gentleman here.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the Colombian. At the end of your last answer, you mentioned that you will monitor -- you will continue to monitor this particular case, the IRA capture in Colombia. If there is any confirmation --
MR. REEKER: Why don't you stop right there, because "if" by definition is a hypothetical question. I have no more information on the situation. As I tried to tell your colleague, I don't have anything else to say on the matter.
QUESTION: This is on Colombia also. There was an interview with Raul Reyes yesterday, a leader of the FARC guerrillas in Colombia, in a Mexican magazine, where he mentions that President Bush is utilizing President Fox to pressure them in talks in Colombia to reach an agreement on peace. Also that President Bush and the Administration of the United States is using President Fox's influence to expel the FARC from Mexico. They have an office in Mexico.
Do you have any comments on these reports?
MR. REEKER: I think our views on the FARC, a designated terrorist organization, are well known. I think our relationship with Mexico, and President Bush's relationship with President Fox are both outstanding. President Fox will come to the United States as our first state visitor next month. We have so many issues between our two countries. We have a tremendous border together, we have tremendous economic, cultural, migration issues to deal with, and that is what we are pursuing in a very vigorous relationship.
And so President Bush and President Fox will continue to discuss all of these matters. Our concerns about regional issues, including Colombia and the influence of terrorist organizations like the FARC are obviously something that we discuss. I will leave it for the Mexican Government to describe their feelings about this, but I think our feelings are quite well known.
QUESTION: Mr. Reeker, in the recent days there are extensive reports in Athens, Nicosia and Ankara for the resumption of the Cyprus talks sometime next month in New York City, and I was wondering if you have anything on that.
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything. You might check with the United Nations, and I will be happy to look into it, if we have any updates on that.
QUESTION: China. Can you tell us what is going on with this compensation thing over the plane? Because the Chinese Foreign Ministry has come out again saying that they reject an offer that you said earlier this week you hadn't made yet. I'm just wondering if you had made the offer and if you --
MR. REEKER: I think yesterday we actually went through the fact that we made the offer. Let me let you finish your question first.
QUESTION: Yes, well, they rejected it and say that you are being cheap, measly and demanding an explanation. So --
MR. REEKER: As I said yesterday, US Embassy officials met with their counterparts at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the 14th of August, yesterday --
QUESTION: You didn't say this yesterday, no. And I wouldn't have asked the question then.
MR. REEKER: Didn't we discuss this?
QUESTION: Not at the briefing.
QUESTION: On Monday you told us there had been no meeting.
MR. REEKER: We will go back to all the transcripts and check. So I will go through it now, and then we can confirm. If it's done twice, that's fine; if it's not --
US Embassy officials met with their counterparts of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing on August the 14th, yesterday, to discuss payment of reasonable costs associated with the recovery of our EP-3 aircraft. The Chinese did not accept our offer to pay reasonable costs of the operation. We believe that the calculation of reasonable costs that we offered to the Chinese is appropriate, and in response specifically to Matt's question, I would direct you to the Chinese for any explanation as to why they did not accept our offer.
We made quite clear that we are only going to pay reasonable, tangible costs associated with the recovery of the aircraft, and we believe that our calculation was a reasonable calculation. We have presented the offer for reimbursement of costs for the recovery operation to the Chinese; it remains on the table, and it is up to the Chinese as to whether they choose to accept it.
QUESTION: Is this a take-it-or-leave-it offer, or is this something that you think is open to negotiation?
MR. REEKER: We have made the calculation we believe is reasonable for reimbursement of costs. The offer remains on the table, and it is up to the Chinese as to whether they choose to accept it.
QUESTION: Do you care to confirm the figure that the Chinese and others have said given as the figure of --
MR. REEKER: No, I think we have always said, I am not going to get into specifics regarding our calculation of the reasonable costs, but we believe that the calculation we have made is indeed reasonable.
QUESTION: On the same subject, why is the US offering to compensate the Chinese for something which was not our fault?
MR. REEKER: As we said, Betsy, all along, we wanted to discuss reasonable costs associated with recovery of our EP-3 aircraft, and we believe that it was possible to calculate, and we did calculate reasonable costs that we offered to the Chinese, that we thought was an appropriate step to make. There were certain tangible costs associated with that, that we were willing to look into, to calculate. That's what we did. We have made that offer, presented that to the Chinese, and it remains on the table. It is up to them to deal with.
QUESTION: That wasn't my question. My question was, why are we offering to pay them anything, when the incident was not our fault?
MR. REEKER: Because in the course of the incident, we believe there were some reasonable expenses regarding recovery of our aircraft that we said from the beginning, Betsy, that we would look into calculating in terms of making a reasonable, tangible -- a calculation of reasonable and tangible costs involved. That is what we have done, and as I will say once more, that offer remains on the table.
QUESTION: Is the dispute over the amount in each category, or is it over the categories of costs which should be -- I mean, are they asking for --
MR. REEKER: I don't know. I don't know.
QUESTION: Did you include in your costs lodging and food and that type of stuff for the crew?
MR. REEKER: As I have said, we are not getting into specifics of the costs. We made a calculation that we believe is reasonable, and that is what we presented to the Chinese.
QUESTION: Does it follow from that then -- and I realize you are going to give me a snide remark -- but you will appreciate --
MR. REEKER: I am never snide.
QUESTION: You will appreciate that I have to ask this.
MR. REEKER: I am only as snide as the question is.
QUESTION: Does it follow from your remark that you are willing to pay reasonable costs that what the Chinese are demanding is unreasonable in the US position -- in the US eyes?
MR. REEKER: I think I will have to let you make the linguistic distinction there. Our position has been that we would make a calculation of reasonable costs. That is what we have done. That is what we have presented to the Chinese.
QUESTION: So you are not prepared to call their demand, you know, outrageous? (Laughter.)
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything further to say on that.
QUESTION: Are China's actions in these negotiations those of a friend, or someone seeking friendship with the United States?
MR. REEKER: I am not going to do that kind of analysis. Let's move on, Eli.
QUESTION: My question is, what happens next? Are the Chinese expected to ask for another meeting? Will we ask for another meeting?
MR. REEKER: We presented our offer for reimbursement of costs of the recovery operation. Our offer remains on the table. It is up to the Chinese as to whether they want to accept it.
QUESTION: But you will not discuss -- I am asking, will there be more discussions.
MR. REEKER: It is up to the Chinese if they want to accept it. We have left that on the table. It remains on the table. I am not aware of any further discussions.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) -- left them a check or something and said, here, cash it if you want?
MR. REEKER: I don't know the modalities of the human interaction that took place in this meeting.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the thinking on the Durban racism conference?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to update. As I think we indicated, we expect to have a decision on our participation soon.
QUESTION: If I could get another quick one in? You were asked yesterday about the Kenyan parliament.
MR. REEKER: And I promised I would look into that.
QUESTION: And the anti-corruption. And you said you would look into it. Did you look into it?
MR. REEKER: Yes. And --
We regret that the Government of Kenya and the opposition were unable to reach agreement allowing the passage of the Kenyan Anti-Corruption Authority legislation, which we discussed yesterday. As you know, the United States supports the establishment of effective and autonomous anti-corruption mechanisms in Kenya. We urge the government and the opposition to consult with each other on the most effective way to address this issue.
In order to revitalize its economy and win the confidence of investors and international financial institutions, Kenya needs to begin tackling corruption seriously. And so that is our reaction to that development in the parliament.
QUESTION: To follow up on that, what attitude will the United States take in multilateral lending institutions towards Kenya if this legislation is not passed?
MR. REEKER: I think in order for any IMF lending, International Monetary Fund lending, to resume, Kenya has to meet certain well- established benchmarks, and we certainly urge the Government of Kenya to meet those benchmarks. For a discussion of those specific benchmarks, I would refer you over to the IMF.
QUESTION: Can they meet them in other ways, other than by passing this legislation, as far as you know?
MR. REEKER: That is something I would have to check with the IMF, more likely.
QUESTION: Did you see Prime Minister Koizumi's remarks this morning? He went further than previous prime ministers in expressing remorse about what happened in the 1930s and '40s.
MR. REEKER: To be perfectly honest, I didn't have a chance to see his remarks. Is there a specific question?
QUESTION: Any response to his remarks?
MR. REEKER: I don't think so.
QUESTION: This is on Guatemala. Do you have anything on the decision by the Guatemalan Government to name a special prosecutor for cases involving Larry Lee, an American journalist, and other US citizens killed in Guatemala?
MR. REEKER: Yes. I think, as you point out, last week, the Guatemalan Government named a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into the murders of Mr. Lee and seven other US citizens who have been killed since December of 1999. And I think I would point out that this action is the direct result of constant US Embassy prodding, and we hope it will lead to more thorough investigations of all those cases, including Mr. Lee's, and ultimately, prosecutions and conviction of the guilty.
I do want to point out, since you raised the subject, that the assertion in, to be specific, a Miami Herald editorial today that the embassy, our embassy in Guatemala, has paid attention to this subject only because of media scrutiny, that that assertion is patently unfair and incorrect. The United States Embassy in Guatemala has worked with the Lee family and with Guatemalan officials since the murder of Mr. Lee in December 1999. The post is in regular contact with the family of Mr. Lee to provide them updates, and senior US officials, including the President of the United States, have raised our concerns about the handling of these cases with senior members of the Guatemalan Government, including President Portillo. We have long urged the Guatemalan Government to appoint a special prosecutor and to request FBI assistance, and due to our constant pressure, both from officials in Washington and through our embassy in Guatemala, both of these things have now happened.
Obviously we welcome the fact that they have appointed that prosecutor, and we look forward to them moving forward vigorously with the investigation in that case.
QUESTION: Any word from the government as to whether they are going to invite the US to assist, the FBI or any other agency to assist?
MR. REEKER: Yes, as I just indicated, both of those things happened, including the FBI assistance on --
QUESTION: So they did invite them in?
MR. REEKER: Yes. The government of Guatemala on August 2nd formally requested FBI assistance to investigate the eight unsolved murders of US citizens. We are now working with the FBI and the Guatemalan Government to arrange for this assistance. Again, it is something that we had long been urging the Guatemalan Government to do, and we are hopeful it will lead to positive movement in the investigation of these murders, including the case of Mr. Lee.
QUESTION: You said the President raised this issue. Was that this President Bush, or was that Clinton?
MR. REEKER: This President, President Bush personally raised the issue of unsolved murder cases when he met with President Portillo at the White House on July the 5th.
QUESTION: Afghanistan? Is that good enough, Matt? An update on our American citizens, and whether our diplomat is getting anywhere?
MR. REEKER: The American Consul General from Islamabad, David Donahue, was not able to gain access to the two detained Americans today in Kabul. As you know, he and his German and Australian counterparts are in Kabul seeking access for him to the American citizens, and obviously for the other citizens of their countries. They were unable to follow up yesterday's meetings with Taliban officials about the case. They continue to make it very clear to the Taliban that they want access to their citizens, they want a readout on the charges facing their citizens, and they want more information on how the case will proceed under the Taliban legal system.
So they remain in Kabul now to continue to press the Taliban for access to the detainees, who of course are our main concern in this situation. And we want to be able to meet with our citizens to ensure that they are not being mistreated and that they are being, in fact, treated fairly.
QUESTION: You said you were unable to follow up with the Taliban. Does that mean a meeting they had with the Taliban didn't go through, as well as a meeting --
MR. REEKER: We talked yesterday about meetings that they had with the Taliban. Today they did not have any meetings with the Taliban. They did not follow up yesterday's meetings with Taliban officials about the case.
QUESTION: Do we know if that was our choice?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any further readouts on that. But what I do know is that Mr. Donahue remains, again with his counterparts from Australia and Germany, in Kabul, and it is quite clear what our goal is, that is to meet with our citizens and to look into their well- being.
QUESTION: I just want to figure out if you have anything to say yet about this Ethiopian woman who is reportedly seeking asylum here?
MR. REEKER: I still don't. INS would be the place to look in terms of any comments on that at this point. I don't have anything from this building. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but that's the way it is.
QUESTION: No, well, you're not really disappointing me. It's just very inconsistent when you do comment on some of these things and you don't on another, and it depends -- it seems to depend entirely upon what area of the world it happens in. Anyway, that's all.
MR. REEKER: A little editorializing from the Agence France Presse there. I'm sure we will see that their reporting is consistent in the areas it covers
(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)