State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for June 25 -
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for June 25 -- Transcript
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
June 25, 2002
1 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
1,10,15,18 Contact with Palestinian Leadership
1-5,7-9,11,13,15-16,19-20 Call for New Palestinian Leadership
2 Contact with Israeli Leadership
2 Reaction to President s Program
5,9 Creation of a Palestinian State
6 Resolving Fundamental Political Issues
3,8,21-24 Chairman Arafat
9,20 Violence in the Region
9,16,18 President Bush s June 24th Speech on he Middle East
9,16 Terrorist Activity
7,11-12,15-16,20-21 Security Cooperation Between Israelis/ Palestinians
14,16 Fulfill Promises of Oslo Accords
14 Opposition to Settlement Activity
17 Third Party Monitoring of Cease Fire
25 Secretary Powell s Travel Plans
25-26 Palestinian Elections
29 US Support for a Democratic Palestinian
30-31 Secretary Powell s Telephone Calls
17 Commitment to One China Policy/Taiwan
17 Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi Meeting
26 Russian Military Involvement in
26 Ailing Prime Minister Ecevit
27 Visa Issuance Authority Under Homeland
28 General Nebjosa Pavkovic
28 Acceptance of US Humanitarian
30 Bilateral Effort to Secure Radioactive
31 G-8 Summit Issues
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, just to note one event. We'll be putting up the notice. The Secretary will be opening the 36th Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival tomorrow, Wednesday, June 26th, outdoor at the Mall. The ceremony will begin at 11 o'clock; the Secretary's remarks will be at approximately 11:40. The theme of this year's Folklife Festival is "The Silk Road: Connecting Culture and Creating Trust." So that's an important one to us, and the Secretary is going to go down and help the Smithsonian open that exhibit.
QUESTION: Richard, (inaudible) actually put that out on Friday.
MR. BOUCHER: We put out the fact sheet of all the support for the exhibit. We haven't actually announced the Secretary's participation -- if my staff is correct, we have not announced the participation yet. We merely detailed our support for the exhibit. Okay?
I'm happy to take questions on this or any other topics. Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: I'd like to hit a little on the Mideast situation. If you take the President literally, you know, we're trying to -- the US is trying to ostracize Arafat and other leaders. Who does the US talk to? Who does Ron Schlicher out there talk to? If the Secretary goes, who does he talk to? How do you communicate with the Palestinian people?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, we communicate quite well with the Palestinian people. We have been I think in touch with the Palestinians over the last few days. We have a variety of contacts between our representatives out in the region, Mr. Burns back here. We talk to others who have been talking to them.
The Secretary talked a few moments ago with Foreign Minister Villepin of France, who had just come out of a meeting with Chairman Arafat. So there's a lot of contact going on with the Palestinian leadership, and we'll continue to work with the Palestinian leadership. The goal in this is to create a new dynamic, and that requires new institutions and new leaders.
QUESTION: Well, let me -- when you say we will continue to work with the Palestinian leadership, do you literally mean the very same people that the President says are enmeshed in terror activities?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, as the President said, we need a Palestinian leadership that we can work with to create a state, that this is not working -- the current institutions, the current set-up, the current leadership is not working for the Palestinians. It's not giving them the economic prosperity they want; it's not moving them closer to the state; it's not creating a responsible partner for Israel; it's not creating a security environment in which we can create the state.
So the goal in all this, really -- when the President and his advisors sat down and worked through very carefully, what is it going to take to create a state -- the goal I think is to actually do that in fact, in reality. And part of that is getting new institutions and new leadership on the Palestinian side.
QUESTION: One quickie. On the Israeli side, the President asked for a few things, the usual -- ease up, economic strictures, et cetera. Are you depending on Israel to read the speech, or is somebody out there now driving the message home?
MR. BOUCHER: We've certainly been in touch with any number of parties. The Secretary has had a half dozen or so more phone calls yesterday to other leaders in the region. Our ambassadors in the region are talking to other governments. Ambassador Kurtzer in Israel has been in touch with the Israeli Government at various levels.
And so, yes, we are actively promoting the President's program, and I have to say, the reaction from governments -- you have seen some of it in public; we have talked to a lot of governments in private -- the reaction from governments is positive, because the President did indeed lay out a path to a Palestinian state, a path towards two states living side by side in security. And that -- we found the governments around the world, particularly in the Middle East, have welcomed that and said they look forward to working with us.
QUESTION: In terms of the Palestinian reform process, do we support the process which has already begun, and is well advanced in the Palestinian Authority? Or are we looking for some new process that cuts Arafat out of it entirely? Palestinians have said that they feel it's important to keep him in place while they produce their own constitution, while they have elections, which he has announced. Or are we trying to completely cut him out of it now, at the start?
MR. BOUCHER: The steps that the Palestinian leadership has taken recently -- some of the decisions, some of the laws, judicial independence, some financial decisions that they have taken -- we have praised these. These have been good steps. These have been positive steps. Holding elections is the right kind of step.
From all this -- this needs to reach fruition, this needs to continue, this needs to go forward so from all this can emerge a new direction, a new dynamic, a new leadership and new institutions that can create a Palestinian state.
QUESTION: You're not asking for a new process parallel to this, or (inaudible) for a certain --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm asking for this to continue to the point where we actually create the new dynamic that the President called for.
QUESTION: I m still puzzled. I want to go back to Barry's question about the Palestinian leaders that you're talking to. Leaving Arafat aside for the moment, do you have -- you're speaking to these Palestinian leaders, and do you have confidence in them as you speak to them? People like Nabil Shaath and Erekat and other (inaudible) you deal with?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not for me to go leader -- to go person by person and say who we have confidence or don't have confidence in. What we --
QUESTION: But you started it. You just said that you don't have confidence in Arafat.
MR. BOUCHER: Who said that?
QUESTION: The President did, and you have on many occasions.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the President mentioned the word Arafat.
QUESTION: Oh, not yesterday, but he's made no secret of the fact that --
MR. BOUCHER: We have made no secret of the fact that we've been disappointed in the leadership of Chairman Arafat. I don't have a problem saying that. But he left aside Chairman Arafat anyway.
We deal with all these people. We talk to all these people. What we're looking for from these people is the kind of -- the kind of tranquility that it takes to finish a sentence -- what we're looking for in this process is the kind of leadership on the Palestinian side that can indeed take the Palestinian community in a new direction, that can reflect the desire of the Palestinian community to really establish a state.
So we'll be talking to all these people, working with all these people. And as you know, there's great ferment on the Palestinian side, a lot of ideas coming forward, and we want to support that process of reform.
QUESTION: Richard, the question is, what makes you think you have the right to say that you don't like the leadership and you want another leadership? I mean, this is a fundamental question of democracy and choice. What gives you this right?
MR. BOUCHER: The fundamental question that the Palestinians can choose their own leaders is not one we question, not one we ever have questioned. But as the President has made clear in his comments and all our comments about Chairman Arafat, and the fact that he hasn't exercised the leadership, he hasn't exercised the authority, it's not even a judgment, almost; it's the fact that this has not worked. This has not brought the Palestinian people to where they want to go. As we have sat down and looked at where they want to go, and what is needed for both Israelis and Palestinians to live safely side by side, we have come to the conclusion, and the President made it quite clear, that this requires new institutions and new leadership. Now, that's an objective, an observation on our part. But I'm not changing democracy by doing that.
QUESTION: Richard, on June the 10th, the Secretary said that he disagreed with the Sharon view that you couldn't deal with Arafat, and he said he was the chosen leader of the Palestinian people and would remain so.
When did he have this sudden change of view? When did this vision strike him?
MR. BOUCHER: I think you're trying to belittle something that I've tried to explain already. Let me try once more.
QUESTION: No, when -- I'm just asking when this happened --
MR. BOUCHER: You're asking a question that doesn't have an answer, because it's based on a false premise. If I can explain one more time, what's clear is that this is not working, and that we're not questioning the fact. We're not going back to the elections of Arafat and raising a new judgment about it. What we're saying is this leadership hasn't worked. These institutions haven't worked. This setup hasn't worked. If we're going to get to a Palestinian state, there has to be something new, there has to be something different on all counts.
QUESTION: Richard, the Secretary this morning said that you guys had come to this decision to dump Arafat or to say that you don't think he's no longer -- to say he no longer should be leader only reluctantly, and only after giving him numerous chances to prove his anti-terror commitment to peace and that kind of thing.
Is that it? Is it too late? The can't-learn-new-tricks kind of thing? Is that it for Arafat? Because the question does arise, if the Palestinians -- and I realize this is a hypothetical, but if there is an election and there are questions about whether one could be free and fair -- but I'll get back to that later -- but if there is an election and Arafat is reelected, you find yourselves in something of a quandary, I believe.
Now, the Secretary said this morning, and I think Jack Straw has said, that you'll deal with whatever the Palestinians decide, whatever their government. But that seems fundamentally at odds with your demand that, for your support of a state, they have to have a new leadership. How do you reconcile those things?
MR. BOUCHER: I think first of all it is hypothetical. We'll just have to see what happens. But second of all, I go back to the fundamental premise that if you sit down, as the President and his advisors have, and say, "What is it going to take to create a Palestinian state?" It's going to take institutions and leadership that can support that state, that can act responsibly on the Palestinian side. And we don't think those institutions and leaders exist at this present point on the Palestinian side. And we have called again and again in the present setup for people to exercise leadership and authority and to take responsibility. That hasn't happened.
So fundamentally there's a choice ahead, and there's a choice of continuing with the kind of setup they have now, which has proven itself incapable of creating a Palestinian state, or moving into a new dynamic, moving into a new prospect of actually creating that state and having peace, living side by side with Israel. And its our hope that the Palestinian people will choose that path of peace.
QUESTION: Right, but is -- okay. So the first part, is it too late now for Arafat? To use a mixed metaphor, has he used up his nine lives, or is it too late to teach the old dog new tricks? What's going -- I mean, is that it?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to use any metaphors. I'm just going to say --
QUESTION: Okay, then don't. But say -- is it too late for Arafat to change?
MR. BOUCHER: That's almost a question of psychology that I don't think I'm in a position to answer. What's clear is that this hasn't worked. As the President said, we need new leaders that are not tainted by terrorism. We need new institutions that are not tainted by corruption. And we have to go forward. And the only way to go forward is with new leadership and a new dynamic.
QUESTION: Okay. Very briefly, can I just -- this is -- I'll be extremely brief. Because the --
MR. BOUCHER: We're going to do separate interviews?
QUESTION: You know -- all right. You know what? Forget it. Let someone else go, because I don't think Phil wants me to ask another question.
QUESTION: Robin. We can come back.
MR. BOUCHER: First, will Secretary Powell ever be able to talk to Yasser Arafat again? And secondly, the President empowered the Secretary to proceed with this process. What is the process? What's next? He didn't talk about a conference. He didn't talk about a trip. What is the Secretary going to do to make this happen over the next month, not just the next days?
MR. BOUCHER: All right, let me answer the second question first, and that will lead me to the answer to the first question. What's next is to talk to the various parties, and especially the leaders in the region. The President has made clear repeatedly, he made clear again in his statement yesterday, that we look to other parties to take responsibility, particularly on the Arab side, to take more responsibility for moving this forward. And we -- the Europeans, the international community, the Arab states -- all look to move this process forward and to work with the Israelis and the Palestinians to move forward down this road. So we'll be in touch with them first through our embassies, phone calls, that kind of communications.
At some point the Secretary will travel, but there is -- I think we want to do an assessment. We want to do some work before that. And an international meeting, ministerial meeting, as we've said before, may be a useful part of this process at the appropriate time.
But as we head down this road, we need to start the momentum going on this process of reform, on this process of a new dynamic, and on the process of making all these events start, period.
As far as, you know, whether the Secretary will at any point eventually, possibly -- it's all hypothetical at this point. There's no travel planned. There are no meeting plans with Chairman Arafat.
QUESTION: But you didn't answer my question. Is he now told not ever to talk to Arafat again, or is that still a possibility?
MR. BOUCHER: It's not something I can rule in or rule out at this point. It's just not on the table right now. There's no plans for such a meeting.
QUESTION: Sort of a follow to that, Richard. When the Secretary has talked about this process in the past, he has talked about three tracks, you've talked about three tracks. There's supposed to be, along with Palestinian reform, a political process that Palestinians can look to. Where is the political component of this? I thought it was supposed to be simultaneous with the reform process?
MR. BOUCHER: And we certainly believe, and I think the President stated it yesterday -- well, we'll find the quote somewhere, but -- that the political process and reform proceed hand in hand; that you can't have a political process that achieves something without the kind of reform that we're talking about, and you can't really have the kind of reform without the political horizon being there.
And so the President did, in his statement, talk about resolving the fundamental political issues, about moving forward to address the grievances that the Palestinian people have, moving forward with Israel's obligations to ease up and to do their part in making all this happen. So those processes need to proceed together if either one is going to succeed.
QUESTION: But just one last thing, and that is he put -- he said that the Palestinian reforms had to come first. The sequencing was very clear.
MR. BOUCHER: I would read the whole speech. I think the President made quite clear that as things start to happen in one direction, that things in the other direction need to happen, too.
QUESTION: My question is unfortunately another attempt at what Robin was asking, because if you say a phone call to Yasser Arafat is hypothetical, then you could also say he doesn't at the moment have plans to talk to any foreign leader again. I mean, no, there's no phone call scheduled, but is he -- he regularly makes calls to the leaders in the Middle East, including Prime Minister Sharon, including Yasser Arafat. Will he not any longer put in any calls to Arafat? Will he not accept any calls from Arafat?
MR. BOUCHER: There's no such calls planned at this point. That's all I can tell you.
QUESTION: Well, would he accept a phone call from Yasser Arafat if he tried to reach him?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that he's been asked to accept one at this point.
QUESTION: Before this political process and reform can move forward, does Arafat have to leave the country? Have you talked with other nations about taking him in? Do you think he must leave?
MR. BOUCHER: The President didn't say anything like that.
QUESTION: Can you work around him if he stays there?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think we have made quite clear and the White House made quite clear yesterday, this is not about an individual. It's about building leadership and authority and institutions on the Palestinian side that can create a responsible state living side by side with Israel. That's the goal of all this. It's not about an individual now, or a particular rule right now. It's about getting this process going to where one can actually see the creation of a Palestinian state as part of this process.
QUESTION: For Radio Romania. I'll be back on the basic question. Who? Who will be your partner for discussions from the Palestinian side in the next -- in the coming weeks, since all the -- Nabil Shaath or Erekat -- all representatives of this Palestinian Authority is undemocratic and unable to deliver?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, first of all, that's not the basic question. The basic question is, how do you create a Palestinian state that brings security for Palestinians and security for Israelis alike? That's the basic question; that's the basic question that the President addressed, the basic question the President and his advisors have worked through. We are not questioning the facts of who is there now; we're not questioning the facts of who works on the Palestinian side. And as I said, we will continue to work and talk to Palestinian leadership.
QUESTION: Yes, but to make changes you have to discuss with someone.
MR. BOUCHER: We have to discuss with all those people in the Palestinian leadership how to move forward to achieve the kind of new dynamic and new leadership and new institutions and responsible institutions that we've been looking for that can indeed sustain this process.
QUESTION: Richard, how does the US justify to the international community at large its unilateral decision, along with Israel, to dictate to the Palestinian people that Yasser Arafat has to go? As best we can tell, the Arab world, while it supports reform on all the other aspects that you've outlined, does not agree that Yasser Arafat should go now.
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, I will leave it to them to express their opinions. Second of all, I think this kind of gets back to the questions that some of your colleagues were asking before. Was Yasser Arafat elected? Yes. It's not a fact that's in dispute. Has he brought the kind of leadership to the Palestinians that they deserve, that they need, that can actually realistically think about creating a state? And again and again, the answer to that question has been no. The President has expressed our disappointment.
So the issue is not about who's there now, how they got there; the issue is, how do you get to that point that they all say they want, which is a Palestinian state? Our observation, our statement, quite clearly from the President, is that this isn't working. This is not getting the Palestinians what they want; it's not getting the Israelis the kind of security that they want. And if we're going to create a responsible partner on the Palestinian side that can support a state, there has to be new institutions, new leadership, untainted by the problems of the past.
QUESTION: But the standards that we've outlined are standards that the US and Israel hold. And who's to say that the same could not be said for President Karimov of Uzbekistan, President Jiang Zemin of China? These are certainly governments that are not democratic, that don't treat -- that have --
MR. BOUCHER: We believe around the world that people have a right to decide who their leaders are going to be, and we accept that.
QUESTION: But you don't see the contradiction, Richard. You're saying on the one hand people have the right to decide -- the Palestinians --
MR. BOUCHER: If I could finish my answer --
QUESTION: Okay, but the Palestinians did choose.
MR. BOUCHER: There might not be a contradiction by the time I finish my answer.
QUESTION: Okay. But the Palestinians did choose. They chose Yasser Arafat, and now we're saying he's unacceptable.
MR. BOUCHER: Is there anything to say -- there's nothing wrong with the Palestinians choosing. The Palestinians are going to choose their future leaders as well. But I don't think there's anything wrong, either, with saying this isn't working; this is not getting the Palestinian people what they want. And when you make your choice, think about what you want to achieve and think about how to achieve it.
Our view, quite clearly expressed by the President, is that if you continue down this path, with these institutions and these leaders, you're not going to get the Palestinian state, because none of this is capable of producing a Palestinian state. If you want a Palestinian state, then you're going to have to think about the kind of leadership you want, you're going to have to think about the kind of institutions you want. And if you look at what is happening on the Palestinian side, there are people and there are legislators, there are observers, there are academics, and there are leaders who are thinking about the kind of institutions they want and the kind of leadership they want, who have supported the cause of reform, who have talked about creating a different dynamic. And we think it takes that new dynamic to actually achieve the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: On April 4th, the President, in his speech on the Mideast, said that Israel needs to withdraw from Palestinian lands it occupied. Once again, the President said that again yesterday, and even mentioned the '67 border. And yet, Israeli tanks, as of yesterday, were in Palestinian towns. They were in there. April 4th, nothing happened; Israel did not withdraw. What is the administration going to do now on the ground to say, Israel, you need to withdraw; the Palestinians, you've got to have an accountable leadership? Because, I mean, in the last two months, really nothing happened. I mean, you know, the President made the speech; things on the ground continued as they were. Nothing really much changed, and now it's back to where it was.
So there's -- it seems that the speech and everything that's being said on the political sense is different than what's really happening on the ground. How does the administration tend to reconcile that?
MR. BOUCHER: It's a good question, but I need to add to the question the fact that things on the ground haven't changed; they've come and gone. But the other thing on the ground that hasn't changed is the bombings. And the bombings on the ground, the violence on the ground hasn't changed, too. So that's part of the picture.
And what the President talked about yesterday was the need to get out of this morass, to get out of this picture, and for the sake of the Israelis and the Palestinians alike to move forward to something different, to create a new dynamic, a new direction and actually do this.
Now, he has laid out very carefully what we need to accomplish. How we accomplish that will be the subject of the Secretary's discussions and other discussions so that we can get going with the reform, the responsibility, the withdrawals, all the other things he talked about -- the obligations on the Israeli side to stop settlement activity, to turn over tax revenues. What we need to do is get that whole process started so these things can start happening, and we can decrease the violence, and we can get on with this process of creating a Palestinian state to live with Israel.
QUESTION: But isn't -- I mean, what's happened is that since Israel has escalated sort of its offensive on the Palestinians, the bombings have increased. They haven't decreased. Sharon has said that, okay, we're going to solve this bombing situation, this terror situation with attacking Palestinian towns and clamping down on terrorists and all that sort of stuff. And that really hasn't -- and increased the bombing. Doesn't that kind of say that, listen, violence is not going to be resolved with violence?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we have always said that the violence in the region doesn't solve the problem. It doesn't get either party what they seek, and that it's going to be the end of the violence and the ending of the violence by responsible people on both sides that's going to move us forward. And that's why the President stressed so much the need to establish that kind of responsible authority, responsible institutions on the Palestinian side that can let us move forward.
QUESTION: What about the Israeli side?
MR. BOUCHER: And the Israeli side has obligations, too. The President made quite clear we look to them to do their part, as the security improves, as the violence goes down.
QUESTION: You've mentioned in the past that Israeli officials have promised not to exile or harm Yasser Arafat. Do you expect that pledge to be kept?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Richard, you have repeated, and the President repeated yesterday, the call for the Arab governments to help this process. That's something he mentioned on April 4th, and you and the Secretary have said it since. We had a parade of Arab leaders here. The Secretary and Secretary Burns went out there. Since these US calls for Arab help haven't -- have just been repeated, can we assume that the Arab governments aren't forthcoming at this point? I mean, it's --
MR. BOUCHER: No, you can assume that they've become responsible and important partners in this process, and that we'll keep working with them as we move from stage to stage, from task to task, from goal to goal. I think in recent months we've found very productive our conversations and work with the Arab leaders. And as I talked about next steps, the sort of assessing views, talking to the different parties, including the Arab leaders, about how we're going to work this together, and that's definitely what we do next.
QUESTION: But the President's words yesterday towards the Arabs sounded fairly harsh, actually. If they are being responsive, why did he need to basically say either you're with us or you're against us in this?
MR. BOUCHER: Because some are with us, and we appreciate that, and some aren't, and he gave the message once more they are either with us or against us.
QUESTION: Is there some sort of litmus test for which Palestinians would not be tainted by the problems of the past, or not be tainted by terrorism? It seems that all the prominent Palestinian figures are connected with the PLO in one way or another, or have been involved in violence.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any particular litmus test, but the real test is whether people are willing to move forward, or whether they're looking for a new way of governing, a new way of moving forward.
QUESTION: So they might not be disqualified by what they've done in the past?
MR. BOUCHER: That's really kind of hypothetical. I don't think I have that authority to say now or maybe not in future.
QUESTION: Richard, I preface this question, keeping in mind that the State Department foreign policy never changes, but what is to become of the prior calls for security discussions and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians? What is to become of the basic tenets of the Mitchell process, which was simultaneous withdrawal combined with a cease-fire enforced by the Palestinian Authority? And finally, what is to become of Mr. Zinni and any missions?
MR. BOUCHER: His question exactly. I don't have anything new on General Zinni, frankly. I hadn't thought about him in the last 24 hours. (Laughter.) So I'll see if there is anything new to say about General Zinni.
But on the previous question, it is a good question, because the fundamental things that we need to do have not changed. We need to have security that's established by responsibility on the Palestinian side, cooperation between the parties, and really the Palestinian responsibility in their areas. What the President talked about in this process, as we go forward, is to create entities, create institutions and leadership on the Palestinian side that are capable of doing that. This current situation has proved incapable of doing that, incapable of taking responsibility for security in the Palestinian areas in particular. And we want the Palestinians to be able to do that for their own sake, and for the sake of moving forward on two states that can live together.
So those fundamental -- those approaches, those steps need to be taken, but the fundamental approach of creating institutions capable of supporting a state is also part of getting to the point where you can indeed have responsibility on the Palestinian side for security, security cooperation that works between the parties, withdrawal of the Israeli troops effectively and completely to the places where they were before September of 2000 -- those kind of things that the President called for. He said as the security situation improves, as we go down this road of creating those institutions, those are the things that should be able to happen.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up? On the one hand you're saying that the current security institutions are incapable of providing security -- I mean, just, can you answer yes or no; will -- does the State Department still expect the Israelis to meet with the Preventive Security Services to share information on terrorism and discuss ways of preventing it, which was the model before? And as recently as January, there were such meetings that were taking place, and you had said before -- you've said from this podium before that you thought that they were effective ways of keeping the violence down. Is that something that you're still asking of the Israeli Government to do?
MR. BOUCHER: That's something we're still looking for, especially as the Palestinian institutions are reformed and as the Palestinians move forward to take real responsibility for those areas. The institutions, as we have said, need to be reformed and changed. But the essential fact of security cooperation between the two parties is something that we want to continue to promote and foster.
QUESTION: Will you promote -- I'm just -- I'm sorry, one more time -- you're promoting and fostering security cooperation. Is that down the road, or is that right now? Because right now there is not an alternative security institution or Palestinian institutions. Right now, with the current people who are in those slots, is that the -- do you want them to cooperate with those people?
MR. BOUCHER: Right now, we think that security cooperation remains important and that there should be security cooperation with whatever institutions are prepared to step up to the plate and take some responsibility. But we have also made quite clear those institutions themselves need considerable reform if that's going to achieve in the long run what these goals are.
QUESTION: It's now a year ago since you adopted the seven days of calm mantra, which you eventually wisely dropped because you realized that it wasn't going to lead anywhere. (Laughter.) You've now adopted --
MR. BOUCHER: That's an inaccurate portrayal.
QUESTION: No, that's quite --
MR. BOUCHER: No, that's a very inaccurate portrayal.
QUESTION: You have now adopted what is essentially a six months of calm, or something like that --
MR. BOUCHER: And that's an inaccurate portrayal.
QUESTION: No, you have because basically -- basically you're saying the Israelis don't need to do anything until there are elections, which you --
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't say that. The President didn't say that.
QUESTION: Yeah. In what sense is this an improvement or an advance over the previous failed model?
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan, if you were deciding policy according to those lights, I don't think I would claim it were an improvement. But luckily, what you're saying is not our policy. The President made quite clear that we expected these steps to go hand in hand, that we expected both parties to begin movement down this path, and that we would be working for that. That's not a seven-day, six-months of anything. That's a let's-move-down-this-path-and-we-can-do-all-this. We can do all this within three years if we set our minds to it.
QUESTION: Richard, sort of along those lines though, as you've just said and the President said yesterday, he doesn't expect that -- the Israelis don't have to make any concessions to the Palestinians until the Palestinians actually move ahead, take these steps. You're talking about improving security.
Who is it that decides when the Palestinians have done enough for the Israelis to reciprocate? Is it like, as was the case with the seven days of quiet that Jonathan just mentioned, is it up to the Israelis to decide when they think they've seen enough that they get to move? Or are you guys going to be sitting in judgment and saying, okay, we think that the situation has calmed to the point where you, the Israelis, should do something in return?
MR. BOUCHER: We will be working with both of the parties to move down this track. Statements like "sitting in judgment," I don't think there's a law or a canon or a milepost that might apply here. But as we work with both parties, we will have expectations of both parties. The President made clear there are obligations on both sides. He made clear that as they were willing to move down this road, the United States was committed to working with them and will be involved in that. And we will be looking to both parties to take action.
QUESTION: Then I guess my question is who decides when the trigger for the Israelis to meet their obligations is pulled? Who decides when that is?
MR. BOUCHER: The obligations are not okay, now do everything .
QUESTION: No, no --
MR. BOUCHER: There are a series of obligations that will have to be met in order to get to this point.
QUESTION: But are those tied to specific -- to specific actions or specific amounts of lessening of violence or --
MR. BOUCHER: Not in that way. That's why I said there's no specific milestone or specific achievement. But as the Palestinian side moves to create institutions that can be more responsible -- for security, for example -- the President made clear we expect the Israelis to pull back to the areas that they were in September of 2001*.
*This should be September 28, 2000.
As we create a situation where there is more responsibility and security on the Palestinian side, and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, we expect settlement activity to stop. So we're all trying to make this happen.
QUESTION: Okay. And does the US consider that Oslo is now dead, or just the part of Oslo where it gave the Palestinians self-government?
QUESTION: I mean, does Area A, B and C still exist?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's a good question. Yes, yes. And it's a good question, and it relates to a question I was asked the other day that I wasn't prepared to answer at the time. But I think now that you know more clearly what the President is thinking, what the President has in mind, what the President has proposed for the future, I think it's correct to say that the premise of Oslo was that the Palestinians would take responsibility in Palestinian areas. That hasn't happened. We've seen violence come from those areas, we've seen bombers come from those areas. It hasn't happened.
What we're trying to do now is to fulfill those promises of Oslo, to have -- support the creation of institutions on the Palestinian side that can take responsibility in Palestinian areas. And that's why the President talked about this as a process that creates two states living side by side. That's
the goal. And that was the goal of Oslo, too. But to do that you need to create the responsible institutions on the Palestinian side that were originally envisaged in Oslo.
QUESTION: On the settlements, from what you said just now, I think you gave the impression that the freeze on settlement activity was something that should kick in somewhere down the road, too. What is the thinking behind that? I mean, settlement activity is not --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I didn't mean to imply that there's been any change in that policy. We have always been opposed to settlement activity. And we made quite clear -- in the Louisville speech, in the Mitchell accord and in the President's remarks last night -- that we felt settlement activity needed to end.
MR. BOUCHER: It's part of this whole process that it needs to end.
QUESTION: No, no, I'm not claiming that it's part of a process. I mean -- and this is not something that contributes to Israeli security, like perhaps incursions might plausibly do. But so should it end immediately, or just as part of the process somewhere down the road when the Israelis feel like it?
MR. BOUCHER: No, the President said neither the one nor the other. What the President said is, "Consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop."
QUESTION: What does that mean, "Consistent with the blah, blah"?
MR. BOUCHER: It means consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee.
QUESTION: Well, but the Mitchell Committee said stop the settlements now.
QUESTION: And all of the President's remarks were -- said that the Israelis didn't have to move until the Palestinians acted.
MR. BOUCHER: No, he didn't -- he didn't. First of all, the Mitchell Committee didn't say "now." But we have said --
QUESTION: It did. Part of the confidence-building measures.
MR. BOUCHER: Exactly. It didn't say "now."
QUESTION: Well, yeah, but at the beginning of Mitchell, before he got to this seven-days thing, which was later than Mitchell, were the confidence-building --
MR. BOUCHER: The Mitchell Committee recommendation was -- the Mitchell Committee statement was that as part of this whole process that the Mitchell Committee was recommending, settlement activity needed to end. Right?
And there were a lot of steps in that process, and there were confidence-building measures. There were steps to -- measures to end the violence and there were confidence-building steps. And they were all together, and some of it was sequenced and some of it wasn't, but it was part of the process of implementing the Mitchell Committee recommendations.
That is exactly the answer I just gave to your colleague that said --
QUESTION: So it can continue for a while? I know I'm --
MR. BOUCHER: No, I'm not saying -- I'm saying two things. One, we've always been opposed to settlement activity, and that hasn't changed. And second of all, it needs to end. And the President said it needs to end consistent with the recommendations in the Mitchell Committee Report.
QUESTION: I just want to get back --
QUESTION: -- former Senator Mitchell's remark today that there's a risky element here that if Arafat goes, who knows? Maybe Hamas or -- you know, it's the old spirit about the czar and long live the czar, because who knows what the next czar will be like. Is there a concern in the administration that this could turn even more difficult?
MR. BOUCHER: There is a concern in the administration that the violence continues, that we're not getting any farther on responsibility in Palestinian institutions, that the economic development of the Palestinian people has been retarded, that the Palestinians are not getting any closer to negotiating and achieving their state. Our concern is how to break out of that, how to do something new, how to bring us to the point where we can achieve those things.
We look for leaders who can do that. We look for institutions who can do that. I think that's our concern.
MR. BOUCHER: Sorry. Eli. And then we'll start back again.
QUESTION: This is back to the Oslo. As part of the Oslo, there were letters of understanding in 1993, I believe, between Yasser Arafat and then-Prime Minister Rabin where Arafat, on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, the institution that needs radically reform now according to the President, would foreswear terrorism. What is the status of that basic understanding at this point? Do you still believe that there's an entity called the Palestinian Authority that at this point is committed to giving up terrorism? Or would there be a new Palestinian Authority that would have to again make that commitment? Because Arafat is now not the leader you'd like to see there, what does his letter or his signature mean in all this?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think the question is the validity of the commitment or the value of the commitment. The question is the fulfillment of that commitment. And the fact that elements in the Palestinian Authority have been involved with terrorism, that there have been ties between people and parts of these organizations with terrorists, is one of the things that has made it impossible to proceed and achieve anything with this present setup. And so the goal is to create security services, responsible economic institutions, responsible political institutions, on the Palestinian side that can fulfill that commitment to avoid terrorism and can fulfill the aspirations that they've set for the Palestinian people.
QUESTION: On security, there was no mention in the President's speech, but is there any thought to providing some kind of peacekeepers, some kind of international presence on the ground that would help get through this very difficult period until the Palestinians have some kind of new institutions? And is there still some sort of working group or discussions with the Egyptians, Jordanians and our CIA about helping create this new security for the Palestinians?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't talked about any particular discussions with the CIA, but I have talked about the need and the involvement of Director of Central Intelligence Tenet in trying to work with the parties in the region and with Palestinians to create a security service that can take responsibility on their side. Reform of the Palestinian security services remains important to us, and we'll work with everybody to do that if we can to help in that process.
QUESTION: International presence --
MR. BOUCHER: There's nothing really new to say about peacekeepers, monitors, observers. That position remains as it was. Should there be a useful role for third-party monitoring in implementing a cease-fire and change, that we'd be willing to consider that. But there's nothing new on that horizon at this point, nor nothing immediate where the question would come up.
QUESTION: Can you just answer something really quick, and you can come back? The China meeting, the Wang Yi meeting with the Secretary and a whole bunch of assistant secretaries -- do you have anything on what they talked and --
MR. BOUCHER: The meetings with Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi yesterday were very good. They were very extensive and thorough. I don't think I'll ever succeed in listing all the topics for you, but we went around the world with him. He talked to our Assistant Secretary for South Asia, he talked to the Assistant Secretary for Europe and people who work on the Central Asian region, talked about the Middle East.
With the Secretary of State they had a fairly short, but I'd say overview discussion. Both sides very pleased with the cooperation that we've had in the Middle East, the cooperation we've had on the Security Council, the cooperation we've had with India-Pakistan. Both sides are trying to work on those areas. And the cooperation we've had with regard to the issues on the Korean Peninsula of trying to move forward in a process that eases tensions there.
The issue of Taiwan did come up -- a brief discussion. The Secretary restated our commitment to the One China policy and the communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act that go with it. And they talked about continuing this sort of positive progress in the relationship with the future meetings of our leaders and future visits back and forth.
QUESTION: Can I get back to the Middle East and what's next? Is there a specific plan of action? For example, you mentioned the responsibility of Arab leaders. Are you asking for the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia to take specific steps in talking to Palestinians about violence, and asking them to undertake certain reforms by -- you know, within some time frame? Are you meanwhile in security trying to get -- is Tenet or the CIA or someone working on a security plan to present them?
What tangibly is going on now? Because I don't have a sense of it.
MR. BOUCHER: Good. You don't have a sense of it because it's not set yet. There are -- (laughter) -- hold on. Come on. I'm making light of it, so you can make light of it, too. Let's get back to the question and the answer.
Some of these things are ongoing. The work to help with the reform of the security services is ongoing. The work on the Palestinian side to reform finance, for example, is ongoing.
QUESTION: What does that mean? What's going on now?
MR. BOUCHER: There are contacts, planning --
QUESTION: Between whom and whom?
MR. BOUCHER: Some of this we can go into detail on, and some of it we can't. I think when Barbara asked about specific contacts by certain agencies with certain governments, I was not in a position to talk about those in specific terms.
QUESTION: Well, what can you talk about?
MR. BOUCHER: What we can talk about is the fact that we have work under way with the parties in the region on reform of the security services. We have work under way with the Europeans and others and the people in the region, and particularly the people responsible on the Palestinian side, to create financial institutions and financial systems that can take money and use it for the development of the Palestinians.
Other things are not quite so far advanced in terms of specifics. We're going to have contacts with the various parties in the region to see how we can all move forward on this process. We have embassies in the region talking to the leaders about the President's statement, about the direction, about the things we need to accomplish and how we can accomplish them. And as we work forward in this, you will find that we'll move forward, that you'll see things that we're doing. We'll be able to talk more about decisions that are made about how we move forward.
QUESTION: So can I follow up? Are you asking anything specific of the Arab leaders you are having conversations with now?
MR. BOUCHER: We're asking for their support and cooperation, their ideas on how to move forward down this track, for them to --
QUESTION: Haven't we -- didn't we do that when they came visiting in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: We talked -- during the series of consultations the President and the Secretary have had, we talked to them about where to move, how to move forward, what was necessary to move forward, what kind of process needed to be set up. Yes, all those things.
Now, having taken all those ideas together and examined the issue thoroughly, the President and his advisors have determined that this is the way we've got to go. This is what we have to do if we're going to get down there the goal that the President stated of a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel.
Now that we've done that, now that we have a road, we have to set the roadmap for it. We have to set the steps that can move us down that road. And that's where we're going to be talking to the parties about how to move down that road. Some of the things that people asked about before -- travel by the Secretary, contacts by Assistant Secretary Burns, specific things that our people might be working in the region, the ministerial meeting -- those will be somewhere down the road. But how they fit on that road is something that first we need to assess and discuss with the parties.
QUESTION: But one thing that I'm a little bit confused about still is the fact that all of that, when we all left the Middle East, was in place -- the ministerial meeting, the consultations. It seems like we're just repeating the whole cycle again.
MR. BOUCHER: It wasn't -- no, it wasn't in place. I mean, it wasn't scheduled, it wasn't set. The sequence wasn't set. The steps weren't set. The actual proposals weren't set. What the President has figured out and done, explained is that how we're going to get to that point is that the things that need to be done, the tasks ahead of us, and how we accomplish those tasks is what we're working on now in some ways. Some of those things are underway, as you and others have pointed out before -- some of the reforms are underway, the contacts are underway, the efforts are underway. Other things need to be worked out.
QUESTION: In any of those Arab consultations, can you tell us anything specific about which country? Did any of those leaders suggest that we bypass Arafat, that the US bypass Arafat? Or if that was something that was being floated to these leaders, did any of them react with -- I don't know, pleasure to this? Was there any kind of reinforcement of the idea?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to characterize their views. The best I can do for you on that is to say across the board in our consultations, and you've seen it in many of the public remarks, the need for reform, the need for responsibility on the Palestinian side, was made quite clear by us, by the President, but also in the views of others who we've talked to. And I've gone over this before. Whether it's people who give money to try to help Palestinians who want to see it spent responsibly, people who were concerned about the security situation and realize the only way out is to have a responsible security organization on the Palestinian side, or people who want to see achievement of that political horizon who understand the only way to achieve it is to have responsible institutions on the Palestinian side.
So the understanding of the need for reform I think is widespread, not only in the Arab world and in Europe and the States, but frankly within the Palestinian community as well. And for that reason, you've seen some of the steps taken there.
But as far as commentary on specific individuals, I think I'd leave that to any particular government to say.
QUESTION: Would you go so far as to say none of them were probably surprised by this yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: I think everybody has understood the importance of reform in the process and the need for reform in this process.
QUESTION: That's not an answer.
QUESTION: I sort of go back to my initial question, because there's -- I mean, the West Bank right now is a war zone, and you're talking about talks, about the process, about talks -- you know, just about everything. But really, I mean, like yesterday six Palestinians were killed, there were two bombings last week. I mean, the situation is getting worse by the day, and you have someone like the Palestinians, like Hamas or Jihad or whatever, and you have Sharon on the other side, and they're both just going at it. I mean, what is the administration -- I mean, when does the President or the US administration see that the violence is going to stop, or what is it going to take for the violence to stop?
And then -- I mean, you talk about reform, yes, but I mean, practically on the ground, do you foresee, like, within a week, two weeks, a month, that the violence is going to stop? Is it a six-months period that, you know, it's got to stop then before the process begins?
I mean, on the ground, what is being done, besides the political sense of what's happening, both on the Israeli and on the Palestinian side?
MR. BOUCHER: I think this kind of gets back to the discussion we had before, that the things that are being done now, the things that are required now for people to take responsibility, issue instructions, dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, exercise some leadership, institutions to be built that take more responsibility over security -- both, all the parties should think about the consequences of their actions. These are all important. And these need to be done. There's no excuse for continuation of the violence. We're not in any way saying you can continue the violence for any particular period. It's got to stop.
But there's the view also that the kind of measures that we've taken in the past, the kind of measures we've called for in the past, haven't effectively stopped the violence. And if we're going to grow out of this, if we're going to get to somewhere where this kind of violence doesn't occur on a permanent basis, we need to create this new dynamic.
QUESTION: Richard, can I go ahead and ask a double-barreled question on security? Presumably you want the new Palestinian security apparatus to be up and running as soon as possible, correct?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: So if this happens before the election, who is that security apparatus going to report to? Surely you don't want them to be beholden to the corrupt and venal current Palestinian Authority, right? So is this -- you know, and presumably you want them under some kind of civilian control. But if there isn't one that you trust, who do they report to?
MR. BOUCHER: The structures that exist, the people who are in leadership positions now, as I said before, we're not questioning that. That's the way things are now. And yes, if you're going to get to somewhere else, there are going to be institutions created, there are going to be responsibilities given, and we hope taken, that may exist within the current structure as we go towards a new dynamic and a new set of institutions. Some of those institutions will appear earlier than others.
So it's not really a matter of saying you can't do this until there's a new leader, you can't do that until there's an election, you can't do this until -- you know, this can't happen until that happens, until that happens, until that happens. It's a matter of getting on with the work.
And we want to see a responsible and clean and untainted Palestinian security service created, established, as soon as possible. They need to have the integrity to maintain that. And yes, they may be part of the present structure for -- as things go forward. There will be a variety of changes in the structures if we're going to create new institutions, and I'm sure maybe not everything will be new.
QUESTION: Okay. And if Israeli concession -- steps to allow a Palestinian state are contingent on these moves towards security by the Palestinians, an election -- well, given that, can an election -- a free -- can the Palestinian people vote in a free and fair election if they are -- where they live is still under foreign occupation?
MR. BOUCHER: That has to be a hypothetical question at this point because when the election is held, certainly our hope is to see an end to the violence as soon as possible and to see the parties take these steps to end the violence as soon as possible, to see the emergence of Palestinian institutions that could be more responsible for security as soon as possible. And we would expect and hope that that could be done so that the question just wouldn't arise.
QUESTION: Okay. So you would hope that the election wouldn't have to -- whatever election it is would not have to take place under -- in the -- with Israeli troops still in the -- in the territories?
MR. BOUCHER: We've said that we want the Palestinians to take responsibility to end the violence and improve the security situation. And as the security situation improves, we look to the Israelis to withdraw. So we want to get on with that.
QUESTION: Just a couple questions. In this process of this road and your developing the road map for, what is the -- is there a role for Yasser Arafat? Is there something you'd like to see Yasser Arafat do at this point?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, the issue, as we have said many times, is not a particular individual. The issue is creation of leadership and institutions that can take this forward.
QUESTION: But Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not designing roles --
QUESTION: He's the most visible Palestinian leader. He's been the leader of this movement for, you know, two generations.
MR. BOUCHER: Decades.
QUESTION: So is there something he can do to get this going? You've asked Arafat to do a lot of things in the past -- give speeches condemning suicide bombs and stuff. I mean, is there something he can do now?
MR. BOUCHER: Certainly he is not absolved of responsibility. He is currently in a leadership position and we continue to look to him to take responsibility, to exercise authority and to exercise leadership. He remains, you know, the -- one of the Palestinian leaders. The Palestinian leadership needs to move forward in this route. It needs to move forward on these issues of creating new institutions, of creating institutions and leadership that can uphold the new state. So the --
QUESTION: -- with respect to the question of whether he can redeem himself, and you're saying to exercise authority, and if he does that --
MR. BOUCHER: No, Jonathan, it brings us back to the end of my sentence, if you don't mind.
QUESTION: No, I mean, the question stands.
MR. BOUCHER: Jonathan, it brings me back to the end of my sentence, if you don't mind.
QUESTION: Okay. What's the end of your sentence, then?
MR. BOUCHER: What was the beginning of my sentence? The United States will work with Palestinian leadership. The United States will work with Palestinian leaders who look to engage in this process, that look to create these new institutions and this new dynamic. But what has to emerge out of this, if we're going to create a -- if we're going to create a Palestinian state, is going to be a new leadership and a new set of institutions.
QUESTION: So why should -- I don't understand. I mean, you said we look to him to exercise authority and show leadership.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: So you're looking to him to --
QUESTION: But, and -- but then you're saying that he has no future and you want a new leadership? It doesn't make any sense at all. I mean, really --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, it does.
QUESTION: It does not. It does not make any sense whatsoever, Richard. Can you explain why he should exercise authority and show leadership when you want a new leadership? I mean, what's the need? Explain.
MR. BOUCHER: My turn?
QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead. Explain.
MR. BOUCHER: There are things that need to be done now. There is no question that people who are in leadership positions now need to take steps now to stop the violence. They need to take steps now to exercise authority. They need to take steps now to be responsible for money and other things on the Palestinian side.
The things that need to be done as part of this process in terms of supporting the reforms, signing the new laws -- Chairman Arafat signed laws on judiciary, the basic law. I'm not sure where we stand on some of the fiscal reform. People need to carry out those steps.
And from this whole process, there needs to emerge a new set of institutions and a new set of leaders that won't be tainted by the past and that can carry the burdens of a new state.
QUESTION: Okay, but --
MR. BOUCHER: That's a process of transition. Whether every -- nothing -- nobody can say that everything or everybody at the beginning of the transition is going to emerge at the end of it. But everybody has a responsibility not only to do what they can now, but to get started down this road. If anybody who is really interested in creating that Palestinian state, we think needs to get involved in that process of transition.
QUESTION: Okay, Richard. But if they do that well, if they take those steps now and they sign these bills and they do all these things which you want them to do, and they're reelected, why on earth should they not stay? Why would you then want a new leadership when the old leadership has performed well and has been reelected?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, you're prejudging the outcome of an election, so I'm not going to go down that road with you.
QUESTION: No, you are by saying you want new leadership. You're saying --
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to go down that road with you. But as I explained before, we think there is a choice here. And as the Palestinian people decide on their choice, they're going to decide on a new path.
QUESTION: But you seem to be holding out in your last -- in the answer before the last one some kind of chance that Arafat could still redeem himself.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not trying to say anything different than what the President said. There needs to be new leadership. And that's --
QUESTION: Well, does that preclude Arafat?
MR. BOUCHER: It precludes the old leadership, yes.
QUESTION: Everyone -- well, okay -- well, then how far down --
QUESTION: We're not splitting hairs, but this is a bizarre conversation that we're having right now.
MR. BOUCHER: I agree.
QUESTION: But are we saying that a new leadership would be Arafat then-elected? Could that be new leadership, just that they had elections, it was a new leadership, but it's the same people? Or does he mean new and different leadership, different people?
MR. BOUCHER: The President has made clear, the Secretary has made clear, I have made clear, that we have been disappointed repeatedly. Our expectations of the current institutions and leadership are not such that we would envisage that kind of circumstance that you're talking about where suddenly they would create the institutions that can go into the future with a Palestinian state.
Furthermore, if we're going to do something responsible and new in terms of the Palestinian state, it's almost a basic premise that it needs to be different; the leadership needs to be different, the institutions need to be different than the kind of leadership we've had in the past. That's what the President explained.
QUESTION: But you're not willing to say the people?
MR. BOUCHER: The people need to be different.
QUESTION: The people, okay.
QUESTION: This may be an academic question at this point, but for several months the administration has said that Arafat had not done enough, Arafat and his ilk had not done enough to stop the violence, and now yesterday the President said the current leadership had been tainted by terrorism. Does this call for new leadership indicate that the US has concluded that the current leadership is responsible for the violence?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd leave it where the President said it and where we've reported on it before. I think I just reviewed a little bit before. There's a responsibility to stop the violence that has not been properly exercised. And second of all, there is a -- in some cases there are elements and ties and indications of ties with terrorism that we think taint the system that exists now and some of the leaders that exist now.
QUESTION: But it's not a logical leap to say that since they haven't done enough to stop it that maybe they favor it? But I take it you're not willing to (inaudible) --
MR. BOUCHER: I'll stick with what the President said yesterday, frankly.
QUESTION: Richard, yesterday there was expectation -- quite high, though now apparently wrong -- that the Secretary was going to be dispatched to the region, and then the President didn't say anything about this. How close was the President to actually sending the Secretary, and he's not very close -- how -- I mean, in this building, there were really of -- the impression was he was going, you know, like tomorrow.
MR. BOUCHER: The answer to how close and how much and what are the chances is always 42. (Laughter.)
But the issue of the Secretary's travel is one that we've addressed before. The Secretary will travel to the region. The Secretary will talk directly with partners in this process in a variety of ways. As he said, as we've said repeatedly here, there needs to be an assessment of where we are, with the reaction of how people can contribute to this process. We're looking for others to contribute to this process and to take their responsibility. There need to be various kinds of contacts with embassies, ambassadors, maybe telephone calls, maybe some kind of conversations here and there, to get a clear idea of what the Secretary could accomplish on the trip for that to be a productive effort. And when it's appropriate, he'll make a trip.
QUESTION: Thirty years ago, the Israelis held municipal elections in the West Bank and in Gaza, and they elected mayors who were deposed within five years. Now, Arafat has been here for six years and he is being deposed not by the occupation, although they'd like to do that, but by the United States. It's a deposition -- that is, a removal -- in the Rose Garden, you might say. What assurance does the -- do the Palestinian people have that if they elect both local and national leaders that there won't be another attempt by the United States and Israel to depose them?
MR. BOUCHER: The Palestinian people, indeed all the people of the region, got the commitment yesterday of the President of the United States that the United States is going to work with them in a process to create a Palestinian state that can live side by side with Israel, that can bring peace to both Palestinians and Israelis, that's good for both Israelis and Palestinians. That's the fundamental of all this, and that's the fundamental that we shouldn't forget.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that. The President said that he was looking forward to multi-party elections. Exactly what parties is he talking about, since Hamas and PFLP are the only other two parties besides Fatah? And I'm wondering if there is an attempt to get rid of the PLO and get a new party in place of Fatah. Is that one of the --
MR. BOUCHER: We're not trying to engineer the political parties. We're trying to say there needs to be diversity of opinion; there needs to be an opportunity for different points of view about how to proceed down this road to be represented.
QUESTION: But there was a Communist woman who ran against Arafat and got, I don't know, 23 percent, something like that, last time. So there was a multi-party election, so to say. Hamas and --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's fundamental to offering people choice of their leadership, choice of direction, to have the opportunity for different parties to contend.
QUESTION: Richard, on that --
MR. BOUCHER: Can we do some of the ones in the back, and we'll come right back? Okay?
QUESTION: At the June 24th press conference in the Kremlin, in Moscow of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a statement in which he said nobody, neither American special forces nor the Georgian special force units trained by Americans, will be able to resolve the terrorist-related problems in the Pankisi Gorge, Georgia, without direct and active participation of the Russian special services and army units. These are the words of the President. How would you comment on the Russian President's statement, especially in the wake of the Russian-American presidential summit in Moscow?
MR. BOUCHER: I didn't see those remarks, and I'm not quite certain if I should try to respond based on your portrayal of them. Let me try to give you the basic US view, which has always been that there needs to be responsibility on the Georgian side of the border and capability on the Georgian side of the border to control activities within Georgia, and there needs to be cooperation obviously with neighbors and Russia.
But what we are doing in Georgia is to try to help train Georgian forces, Georgian border patrol people, so that they can indeed take responsibility and ensure that Pankisi Gorge, and Georgia generally, doesn't become a safe haven for terrorists. So our view of this and our actions on this have always been to see that responsibility is taken on the Georgian side and the capability exists on the Georgian side.
QUESTION: The Prime Minister of Turkey, last 30 days, he is staying at home. He has a very serious health problem. And we never heard any of the US officials send him his get well message. Do you have any problem with the relation with Turkey?
MR. BOUCHER: No, we -- did you do that, Phil, from here?
MR. REEKER: (Off mike.)
MR. BOUCHER: I think our Ambassador has done it as well. Make very clear we certainly hope the president -- that Prime Minister Ecevit gets well, and we wish him our best. And we've been in touch --
QUESTION: And also --
MR. BOUCHER: We've been in touch with him and his staff throughout his illness, and we wish him the best.
QUESTION: And yesterday three senator and five representative, they give some resolution which expand US-Israeli trade -- free trade agreement. Do you, as administration, do you support this resolution?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. I haven't seen the resolution. I'll have to check and see if the administration has taken a position.
QUESTION: Richard, tomorrow you said that there's going to be a hearing on the Hill, the premise of which is should the authority to issue visas be taken away from the Department of State and put under the umbrella of the new Department of Homeland Security. Why is this something that the State Department thinks is not a wise decision?
MR. BOUCHER: The position that the administration has taken, if you look at the legislation, is in Section 403 of the act, and it says that the authority will be exercised through the Secretary of State to issue regulations with respect to administer and enforce the provisions of the immigration and nationality laws.
In other words, it says that the authority for issuance -- for admittance into this country, for issuance of visas and of control over the issuance and denial of visas, does go to Homeland Security because they are the ones ultimately who decide who gets in and who stays and who leaves the country. And so we have to have consistent regulations, and they will establish the regulations.
It also makes clear this authority is exercised through the Secretary of State and that the process of administration and issuance of visas remains with the Secretary of State, with our consular officers and diplomatic officers overseas. And the reason that is is because the issuance or denial of visas is still an essential part of our foreign policy. It's part of what we do to keep the country safe. It's part of what we do to make sure that people, the good people who want to come spend money and go to school and visit relatives, get in, and the bad people who have, you know, drug smuggling or terrorism on their minds don't. And it becomes an essential portion of our foreign policy. It's the way in many senses that we relate to foreign governments. There are often visa decisions, denials, that are made on foreign policy grounds, and we and the Secretary of State need to retain that authority.
QUESTION: How would it be different, this new Homeland Security setup? How would that be different from the way it is now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the element of foreign policy, the element of foreign relations, would be totally removed. We can administer their regulations that are set up by the Homeland Security people for entry into the United States. We certainly, in terms of database checks and information checks, will be coordinating with them, as we do now with domestic agencies. But there is also an element of our foreign relations involved here that we need to administer this process on the ground overseas.
QUESTION: Can you tell us the administration's view of what's happening with the head of the army in Yugoslavia, Pavkovic?
MR. BOUCHER: There is -- I got it. Well, our view is that we are aware of these events and this is an internal matter for the Government of Yugoslavia to work out in accordance with the principles of democracy.
QUESTION: But what do you think he should do? What do you think Pavkovic should do?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, he's been given a decision from the President, from President Kostunica, who is the legitimate civilian authority of the country. And we would very much hope and expect that he would follow it.
QUESTION: Are you worried about what might happen there?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say we very much hope that he would follow it. That's an important principle to us, that military respond to civilian authority. There is a legitimate civilian authority that has made a decision in this matter.
QUESTION: President Khatami of Iran has said that he accepts your offer of humanitarian assistance to the victims of the earthquake. Have you heard that officially from them, and are any steps underway to get things moving?
MR. BOUCHER: We have heard that officially from them, and steps are underway to get things moving.
QUESTION: Through the Swiss?
MR. BOUCHER: You mean how the --
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean the -- well, how did you hear?
MR. BOUCHER: The discussions through the Swiss? I'm not sure exactly how we heard. They --
QUESTION: Have they asked for any specific things?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to work out with them how to make it -- how to make it go. Don't have specifics yet.
QUESTION: Specifics on what it is?
MR. BOUCHER: On what it is or how it's going to move.
QUESTION: But it's still basically the same stuff you talked about yesterday?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, I think it is. That's what we offered. I'm assuming they came back to us and said yes, we need some of those things you offered.
QUESTION: You probably don't have an answer on this, but related to the Iranian earthquake, there was a Middle East Newsline report that said that chemical weapons facilities were damaged in the earthquake. Can you look into that? Is that -- have you seen that?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't seen it. I'm not sure it's going to be the kind of things that we have information that we can share with you on. But if we do, I'll give it to you right away.
QUESTION: Okay. If you're providing satellite photos or anything --
MR. BOUCHER: I know, that's the problem. Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: Very briefly. Yeah, I just want to know -- I want to -- my understanding is now that you guys are saying that the Palestinians have to become a democracy, and you haven't said that with any other Arab state in the region. Is the difference between the Palestinians and the other Arab states there that -- is it the war on terrorism? Is it the Egyptians being on the US side or the Saudis being on the US side, or are these demonstrably non-democratic countries who are not subject to the same kind of demands that the Palestinians are?
MR. BOUCHER: The policy of the United States has always been to support democracy, and that applies around the world. In this part of the world we support more openness, more freedom, more information, more civil society, and we actually take concrete steps to do that.
I think the reason why it's very specific and particular to this situation is because of dealing with the specific situation, that the Palestinian people have aspirations, the Palestinian people want to achieve a state, and we think democracy is an essential part of achieving that. So in this particular situation, I think we also believe that democracy is part of the immediate solution. But that doesn't detract from the need for democracy elsewhere.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, so it's two things, then. It's both the terrorism and the fact that they just happen not to be sovereign state right now?
MR. BOUCHER: No, it's neither the one nor the other. It's the need to create institutions that can move down this road and give them what they want.
QUESTION: Because they're unlucky enough or whatever enough to not have a state right now, they are also the recipient of these wonderful conditions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think my answer was completely contrary to that; that everybody, whether you're in a state right now or not, deserves democracy. We do a lot in the region to foster the growth of civil society, of openness, to support democracy as it's growing in the region, but also more specifically in this specific case, we think democracy is part of the answer, and the sooner the better.
QUESTION: Yes. Yesterday I asked about Zimbabwe and the farmers, and you had a kind of generic answer. I wondered whether you have prepared anything more specific to that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't have anything additional for that.
QUESTION: What about the US-Russian joint project to hunt down missing radioactive material? Did you get anything more on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, I can tell you something more of that, but once again, tell you that the details and the expertise are at the Energy Department.
There are two efforts involving Russia that are underway. The first is the bilateral effort that is designed to secure radioactive material in Russia that could be used in a radiological dispersal device. The second is a tripartite effort involving the United States, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The tripartite effort will work to identify and secure radioactive materials in former Soviet Union countries outside of Russia that could be used in a radiological dispersal device.
The Department of Energy expects to spend approximately $20 million on these efforts in this fiscal year.
We have two or three more.
QUESTION: Richard, tomorrow Turkey is playing against Brazil in the World Cup. As a NATO ally, which team are you supporting right now? (Laughter.)
MR. BOUCHER: We support both teams.
QUESTION: Good boy.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, Nicholas.
QUESTION: You said the Secretary spoke with the French Foreign Minister. Any other calls over the last 24 hours?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, go back 24 hours, you go back into yesterday, where starting in late morning and going on into the afternoon he talked to a number of people. He talked to Foreign Minister Ivanov, he talked to Foreign Minister Maher of Egypt, Foreign Minister Saud of Saudi Arabia, Foreign Minister Muasher of Jordan. He talked to Secretary General Kofi Annan, European High Representative Solana, Foreign Minister Pique of Spain, Foreign Minister Van Aartsen of the Netherlands. Is that it? And Foreign Minister Villepin of France today.
QUESTION: And which ones were before the speech, and which ones were after the speech?
MR. BOUCHER: He tried to get everybody before the speech. I think he actually connected with all but Pique and Van Aartsen before the speech, and so those two were after.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, sorry.
QUESTION: No, Jack Straw -- did he speak to Jack Straw?
MR. BOUCHER: Not yesterday, but they're in close touch.
QUESTION: And not today?
MR. BOUCHER: Not today. But certainly our Embassy has been working with the British and keeping them informed.
QUESTION: Richard, with respect to yesterday's comments by President Bush, is the consensus with the G-8 countries -- of course in the next two days is the Alberta Summit with the G-8 -- and also with respect to the Madrid Quartet, has anything fundamentally changed? And in the discussions here today, a lot of this has been on both political and security aspects, but what would you say to the values conflict, I guess you could say? It's a culture conflict, and in what respect also is it a religious-type conflict on all sides? How -- are they going to be reviewing that up in Alberta?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, the President is going to be talking to the other G-8 leaders about how we go forward, and the ideas that he laid out, the road ahead.
The consultations we have had so far with those governments, with the Quartet, with the Arab governments, as I said have been positive. People have welcomed the fact the President laid out the way forward, laid out some clear thoughts on how we have to achieve that, and look forward to working with us as we try to move down that path.
As far as these other sort of issues of culture and social conflicts, these are real issues that are dealt with in a variety of ways on the ground, but the bottom line for us is people need to figure out -- need to learn how to live with each other. Part of that's democracy, part of that's proper institutions and responsibility.
QUESTION: And a follow-up. President Arroyo of the Philippines I guess gave a reward of $100,000 to the person that led to the breakdown and dismantling of Abu Sayyaf in the last two weeks in the southern islands in the Philippines. Is that a -- how do you see that? As a precedent that --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't -- I hadn't heard about it. You'd have to ask the Philippine Government about it.