State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for June 10
Daily Press Briefing Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman Washington, DC June 10, 2003
ANNOUNCEMENTS 1 Welcome to Students from Miami University of Ohio 1 Secretary Powell to Announce Release of the Department s Trafficking in Person s Report 1 Secretary Powell to Deliver Keynote Address at Annual Dinner of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS
SOUTH AMERICA 1 Secretary Powell s Travels to Santiago and Buenos Aires 12-13 Secretary Powell s Comments at the OAS Conference
ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS 2-6 Israeli Helicopter Gunship Attack 2-4 Status of the Roadmap 3-5 Efforts to Combat Terrorism in the Region
NORTH KOREA 6-8 Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group Meeting
BURMA 7-8 Welfare of Aung San Suu Kyi and U Tin Oo
NEW ZEALAND 8-9 Efforts to Expand Reconstruction Efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan
ZIMBABWE 9-10 Update on Tsvangarai Court Case
IRAQ 10 Search for Weapons of Mass Destruction
MAURITANIA 11 Attempted Coup / Status of American Citizens
LIBERIA 12 Evacuation of Nonofficial Americans and Third Country Nationals
VENEZUELA 13 Reports of Embassy in Caracas Revoking Visas of Military Officers
CYPRUS 13-14 Secretary Powell s Scheduled Meeting with Cypriot Foreign Minister
TURKEY 14-15 Aegean Airspace Issue
THAILAND 16 Royal Thai Government Arrested Three Suspected Members of Jemaah Islamiyah
CUBA 16 Concern For the Welfare of Political Prisoners and Dissidents
EUROPEAN UNION 17-18 Efforts to Find Practical Solutions to International Criminal Court Issue
MR. REEKER: Welcome to the State Department. I would like to extend a special welcome to a group of 25 students from Miami University of Ohio who have joined us today. They are here in Washington, DC, to study the confluence of media and politics, which includes media and diplomacy. And I have assured them that our press colleagues will demonstrate the appropriate decorum so as not to disconcert promising young students.
Secretary Powell is in the air, returning to Washington after his visit to South America. As you know, he was at the OAS General Assembly meeting in Santiago, Chile, and this morning was in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Some of you have seen quotes from his press availability there. The party will be returning to Andrews Air Force Base late this evening.
I would just point out that tomorrow, Wednesday, June 11, at 3:00 p.m., Secretary Powell will announce the release of the Department's Trafficking in Persons Report, a report which is delivered tomorrow to Congress. And after the Secretary's opening remarks, we'll have a briefing for you by John Miller, the Senior Advisor to the Secretary on the subject of trafficking in persons, and he can provide some additional information and take your questions.
And then I will note also that tomorrow evening Secretary Powell will delivery the keynote address at the Annual Dinner of the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS. That's being held tomorrow evening, Wednesday, June 11, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
With those short announcements, I would be happy to turn to the questions.
QUESTION: Do you have a time on that? Do you have a time on the speech?
MR. REEKER: I believe his speech begins, according to the notice we released, or are about to release to the press, the speech begins at 8:50 p.m. Dinner begins at 7:30.
MR. REEKER: Eight-five-oh.
QUESTION: That's a bit late for me, Phil.
MR. REEKER: Sorry, Matt. I'll have to drag you off your barstool and take you over to the Kennedy Center. Okay. Some of you guys might not be over 21.
Sir, please begin.
QUESTION: Can you tell us, in the course of his travels, whether Secretary Powell spoke to anybody by phone in the Middle East, and with whom?
MR. REEKER: I would have to refer you to the traveling party for any specific details. I don't have readouts of any phone calls. At this point, as you know, in terms of the Middle East, as the White House has already indicated to you, we have been in close touch with -- obviously, with our Embassy -- but our Embassy and the officials here in Washington have also been in touch with both sides, with the Israelis, with the Palestinians, on that subject.
I'll just echo what you have already heard from the White House, and, indeed, from Secretary Powell when he spoke in Buenos Aires, that we are deeply troubled by the strike of Israeli helicopter gunships that reportedly killed at least two persons and wounded 20 others.
We greatly regret the loss of civilian lives, including innocent bystanders, and we are concerned that this strike will undermine efforts by the Palestinian Authority and others to bring an end to terrorist attacks. And so we have been in direct communication. Assistant Secretary Burns has been talking to Israelis, Palestinians. Our ambassador, Ambassador Kurtzer, in Israel, as well as our Consul General in Jerusalem, have all been in touch on that subject.
MR. REEKER: Yes, Andrea.
QUESTION: You used the singular there. As you know, now there has been a second missile strike. Do you care to amend your statement --
MR. REEKER: I don't have -- I don't have any details on that, Andrea. I'll have to wait and try to get back to you. I know I saw the breaking news reports and other sort of instant pictures. I just don't have the facts, so I'll have to wait and establish those facts.
QUESTION: Who did -- do you know who Burns talked to?
MR. REEKER: I don't have specifics, in terms of phone calls. I know that our ambassador was in touch with Israeli officials. I just don't have names.
QUESTION: Have you guys -- has there been a date nailed down for Ambassador Wolf to head over?
MR. REEKER: We expect Ambassador John Wolf to head over probably by the end of this week. I don't have an exact date for you. I don't want you waiting at the airport, Matt, for his departure flight. But we do expect him to go to the region toward the end of this week to help put in place his team to monitor, coordinate and promote implementation of the parties' commitments with particular emphasis on the roadmap.
Ambassador Wolf is here in Washington preparing for that assignment. Secretary Powell has said we must stop terrorism, we think it's absolutely necessary to move forward. This group should be able to help both sides continue with the momentum of the roadmap that began with the President's meetings at the Red Sea summits, the Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba meetings.
This is the best chance that the Palestinian people have for statehood and for an enduring peace for both sides, for Israelis and Palestinians, and that's why we all have to work together on this.
QUESTION: And you don't expect today's incidents or events to affect his travel schedule at all?
MR. REEKER: I haven't heard of anything like that. Like I said, we expect him to go to the region towards the end of the week and then would expect he would also come back to Washington at appropriate times and then go back.
Andrea, another one on this?
QUESTION: During his conversations with Israeli officials, did Ambassador Burns get any kind of explanation from the Israelis as to why they wanted to target Hamas?
MR. REEKER: I don't have readouts of those calls. I would refer to Israeli officials to let them speak for themselves. But we have made clear how troubled we are by the strike and our concern that this effort undermines efforts by the Palestinian Authority and others to bring an end to the terrorism.
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any UN or Quartet involvement in this effort to bring the Israelis to a sense of different tactics that they might use in containing the terror?
MR. REEKER: Well, we keep in close touch, obviously, with the other parties in the Quartet, with the United Nations, with Russia, with the European Union and also with the Arab states, because all of us, as we have said, all interested parties in the international community have a role to play in this process.
QUESTION: But have you asked them to also weigh in with Tel Aviv or Jerusalem?
MR. REEKER: I think we are making quite clear our position. We're keeping in touch with all the parties. I don't have specific readouts of particular conversations, but it's obviously something that we all want to focus on -- the importance of not losing the momentum of the roadmap, what we saw last week in the region -- and not allowing these rejectionists to affect this process. We need to reject the rejectionists. They are enemies of the peace process. We are seeing that in terms of terrorists who wish to undermine the entire process, and we can't allow them to do that. We have to maintain the vigor of this and work together, all of us involved, to move the process forward because it's in the best interest of all the people of the region.
QUESTION: Has there been any contact with Tony Blair on this?
MR. REEKER: I don't know specifically about calls to Tony Blair.
QUESTION: Along the Quartet line, is it correct that Kofi Annan is coming here tomorrow to see the Secretary?
MR. REEKER: We do expect the Secretary to have lunch with Secretary General Kofi Annan of the United Nations. We'll put that on his schedule. He'll be here, presuming the meeting goes ahead as scheduled.
QUESTION: And what topics?
MR. REEKER: I am sure they will have a whole range of topics to discuss, as they usually do. Obviously, the Middle East process in terms of Quartet involvement and --
QUESTION: I think there was some talk up at the UN yesterday that they were going to -- one of the things they'd be looking at would be trying to arrange for another Quartet principals meeting in the near future. Would that be something --
MR. REEKER: It's certainly something they could look at, yeah. More on this? Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, actually, it has to do with the UN related question. The U.S. has submitted a report to the United Nations in which it says that there's a high probability that al-Qaida is going to attempt an attack using some kind of chemical, biological or nuclear --
MR. REEKER: That was the report from April that was submitted in April.
QUESTION: Exactly. And the question that I have is why does the U.S. believe that there could be an attack within a two-year timeframe? Why so specific?
MR. REEKER: Just for those that hadn't followed this, the United Nations today released the U.S. Government's report, which was prepared in response to the UN Security Council Resolution 1455 -- that was a resolution from January -- requiring this report, or requiring all UN member-states to report on efforts to implement the UN sanctions against al-Qaida, against the Taliban, Usama bin Laden and individuals or groups associated with them. And today, after various translations and other things, the UN issued more than 40 reports. I guess, actually, yesterday they issued those.
We believe the information in these reports represents a significant new contribution to the war on terrorism. Our report was an interagency effort coordinated by the Department of State for submission to the United Nations. In terms of the specifics on those threats, I would refer you to the FBI or to other agencies that could perhaps address that for you.
QUESTION: With respect to these killings in Gaza Strip, we are sending -- meaning the United States and coalition, British, I assume -- are sending combatants from both Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, to Guantanamo, half a globe away.
Would it be -- is Ambassador Wolf going to set up something where some of these combatants can be also placed half a globe away and take him out of that territory completely? Would that be something that you --
MR. REEKER: I have not heard anything to suggest that. Ambassador Wolf is going to the region, as the President said last week, to help monitor with a team on the ground, to coordinate and promote the parties' implementation of the roadmap. There is emphasis on the roadmap. There are steps the parties need to take, in terms of security cooperation, efforts that both sides need to make.
We have seen in the past where Israelis and Palestinians were able to work together at the security level to root out terrorism, to prevent the violence that has got to be stopped, indeed, to reject the rejectionists, as I said. And that's what Ambassador Wolf will be working on with his team in the region.
Do you have something else?
QUESTION: A follow-up. But if they know who the instigators are, is it advantageous to move them out of that region completely?
MR. REEKER: I'll let Ambassador Wolf and his team be on the ground and work with the two sides to move the process forward.
Yes. Are we done with the Middle East?
QUESTION: Just one last question.
MR. REEKER: Gene. Sorry, we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: That's okay. I am wondering if the Department is considering or putting some teeth into the protests of what Israel is doing by holding up on some of the helicopters which are identical with the helicopter that was -- the helicopters that are being used in the retaliations.
MR. REEKER: I don't know, Gene. I have made quite clear what our concerns are about the situation. The White House has done the same. We're troubled by the attack and we're in conversations with all the parties on the subject. And what we want to focus on is positive steps to move forward with the roadmap in this process, not lose the momentum, not give in to steps that would disrupt the process. And that's where our focus is right now.
QUESTION: As a follow-up, would you consider that the Israelis are in violation of the Arms Export Control Act --
MR. REEKER: I don't know, Gene.
QUESTION: -- in the use of these?
MR. REEKER: I have done no analysis of that.
QUESTION: We have done it before, I know. But now?
MR. REEKER: Matt.
QUESTION: I'm going somewhere else I think.
MR. REEKER: Was it on the subject?
QUESTION: No, no.
MR. REEKER: If we're changing subjects then, yes, ma'am. Please go ahead.
QUESTION: North Korea. Can you talk about the trilateral meeting on Thursday a little bit? If it's a regular meeting, is it any different from other meetings in the (inaudible)?
MR. REEKER: I think we had announced before that there will be a Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group meeting in Honolulu, June 12th and 13th. That's where trilateral means the United States, South Korea and Japan will come together to review developments on the Korean Peninsula. This, of course, will be the first one since President Bush's summit with South Korean President Roh and his meeting, summit meeting also, with Prime Minister Koizumi. This is part of our close policy coordination on the Korean Peninsula.
We seek, as you know, a complete, verifiable and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. And in Honolulu, we'll be working together toward a peaceful and diplomatic solution, as the President has described, to find a peaceful resolution to the situation that North Korea has created by pursuing a nuclear weapons program. So this is part of our normal cycle of Trilateral Coordination and Oversight Group meetings. I believe this one is hosted, technically, by the South Koreans.
QUESTION: I guess they will have a joint statement after the meeting.
MR. REEKER: They always do.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, will there be anything different from last meeting? Any progress or any setback? Any new plans?
MR. REEKER: You know, it's a great thing to stand up here at this podium, but I can't predict the future, so I think we'll wait for those statements and let news happen before we try to announce it.
QUESTION: Can I have a last thing?
MR. REEKER: Please. If this is the last thing, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, the Secretary said yesterday a talk with North Korea, the Beijing -- the continuation of Beijing talks must include Japan and South Korea. Does that mean without the enlargement there won't be the second round of the talks happening?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new to announce on that. As we have made quite clear all along, this is a multilateral issue. This is an issue that has direct implications for South Korea, for Japan, for other countries. And we made quite clear in the trilateral talks we had in Beijing with North Korea, China and the United States, that we wanted to see Japan and South Korea included in this. So I have nothing new to announce in that. Our position has remained the same, as I just described, in terms of the President's policy for pursuing a diplomatic, peaceful resolution to this.
QUESTION: On Burma, I presume you have some kind of reaction or response to the meeting between Mr. Razali and Aung San Suu Kyi.
MR. REEKER: As you indicate, the United Nations Special Envoy Razali Ismail met with Aung San Suu Kyi earlier today. He reported that she appeared to be uninjured. However, as all will note, she remains in isolated detention.
We remain deeply concerned about the welfare of Aung San Suu Kyi and also about the welfare and whereabouts of U Tin Oo, a fellow senior member of the National League for Democracy. He was also detained following the ambush of the National League for Democracy motorcade on May the 30th.
I think we are seeing that the Burmese regime's continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and that of other members of her party is outrageous, it's shameful, it's unacceptable. And they should be released immediately -- all of those individuals and any others detained for peaceful expression of their views in Burma.
So we welcome the news that Aung San Suu Kyi has not been injured, but clearly the clock of Burma's progress toward democracy has effectively been turned back.
QUESTION: Is there any reason -- there are some reports out of Burma suggesting that she might be released soon. Do you have any reason to believe that may be the case?
MR. REEKER: I think I just will stick with our view that she should be released immediately. It's already outrageous that she's been held and detained for a long time in isolation, and so that should take place immediately.
QUESTION: But you don't have any indication about when or if?
MR. REEKER: I don't have any news on that front.
QUESTION: Would you care to say how far you think the clock of Burmese democracy has been turned back?
MR. REEKER: Well, obviously it's been turned back to the detriment of the Burmese people. These are unfortunate steps, and the United States and our partners -- I think you're seeing reactions around the world -- need to consider what steps are necessary to deal with the changed circumstances.
QUESTION: And is anything -- how goes the policy review and the -- is it still ongoing? No decision has been made yet?
MR. REEKER: That continues. We are continuing to look at what steps we should take in light of the steps taken by the Burmese regime, in light of this backward step, this backsliding on democratic reform. We're working with members of Congress in both houses for passage of appropriate legislation that will address this and we're in close touch with other countries as well about the situation in Burma.
Anything else on Burma?
Let's start with the lady here and we'll come back to Betsy.
QUESTION: I have two. The first one is on New Zealand, about yesterday's statement that the U.S. is welcoming New Zealand's increased support for coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is this a sign of improving U.S.-New Zealand relations which, I know, kind of had a bumpy patch there? And what about the prospects for their free trade agreement?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on prospects for any free trade agreements. The statement, I think, speaks for itself in that we warmly welcome New Zealand's decision to expand its contribution to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and also to make a meaningful contribution to stabilization and reconstruction in Iraq.
New Zealand has demonstrated a commitment, as well as a partner in the struggle against terrorism. It's a strong and abiding commitment, and we deeply appreciate those efforts. We appreciate their continuing support for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. As the statement noted, New Zealand has agreed to contribute to and possibly lead a provincial reconstruction team and offer personnel to help train the Afghan national army.
New Zealand's offer of an engineering unit to be attached to the United Kingdom-led multinational division in Iraq is particularly welcome and very much appreciated, and we note that New Zealand is also offering to supply agricultural experts as well as 580,000 U.S. dollars in support of efforts by the coalition provisional authority to rehabilitate the agricultural sector in Iraq.
So those are welcome steps and very much appreciated by us, and obviously by the people in Iraq and the people in Afghanistan and others in the international community who are working so hard to see those situations through.
QUESTION: The second's on Zimbabwe. The opposition leader Tsvangirai's been jailed for a month. Can you give us an update and maybe some details on who you've been talking to or what you -- how you'd characterize how things are going forward?
MR. REEKER: Well, as you know from statements we've made here, from other comments we've made for a long time, we deplore the Government of Zimbabwe's harassment and provocation of the political opposition. This is a time when a dialogue between the government and opposition is urgently needed and the government should immediately cease its assault on the opposition and pursue such a dialogue.
We are deeply concerned about the ongoing detentions of Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, which are clearly intended to deny the political opposition its rights to freely express their views and their right to peaceful assembly. We note that the opposition leaders have been accused of treason for their efforts to organize peaceful protests, and, in reality, the violence and coercion that have been propagated by the Mugabe regime-threatened Zimbabwe have inflicted, as anyone can see, overwhelming hardship on the people. These have been inflicted by the government and its supporters and they have disrupted civil society. They've devastated the economy.
And the political opposition has simply sought to organize peaceful marches. We noted at that time last week when they attempted to organize such marches there were beatings of opposition supporters. Hundreds were arrested by Zimbabwe's security forces. And we, as well as other international observers, have called for urgent dialogue between the government and the opposition.
And it's time for the government to think about the people of Zimbabwe as well as the region that this is affecting. Their continued recalcitrance, I think, in the face of the situation there represents, really, a self-defeating repression of the opposition, and this stands in the way of a process forward to improve life for Zimbabweans and to put the country back on the course of democracy and stability and prosperity.
QUESTION: Phil, actually, I think that the second guy was actually released and the charges against him dropped, but you don't --
MR. REEKER: I had not seen that. I think yesterday we noted the arrest -- that would be Mr. Ncube?
MR. REEKER: Well, clearly, we think they should both be released and these spurious charges dropped and that practice should end.
QUESTION: Are you getting the help that you need from the region to solve this problem?
MR. REEKER: Oh, we're in continuous contact with other countries in the region who clearly have an interest in seeing this situation resolved and seeing order and prosperity, democracy, stability returned to Zimbabwe. This type of situation, the rampant inflation, the food shortages which have, in large part, been caused by the politicization food supplies by the government -- these are all things that lead to instability throughout the region, and so the countries of the region have a real interest. We would think that everybody would want to support the Zimbabwean people in pursuing their own freedom, their own prosperity, and democracy will mean a lot for the whole region.
Zimbabwe should be a model, and it should be a breadbasket for the entire region. And all you have to do is look at the situation there and realize that Mugabe's government has led the country down a terrible path to ruin.
Betsy was going to be next, but she forgot what she wanted to ask.
QUESTION: No, I didn't.
Can you tell me if there is anything new on the hunt for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
MR. REEKER: I don't think I have anything to new to report. You would probably want to check with the Pentagon and the folks that are looking there.
QUESTION: There are State Department people who are involved in this search, aren't there?
MR. REEKER: Yeah, I could try to find out exactly the make up of the teams and get details on that for you.
QUESTION: But you are not aware of anything new?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new, no.
QUESTION: I'll just ask if there are any updates on the situation in Liberia or Mauritania.
MR. REEKER: Which one do you want first?
QUESTION: Well, let's start with Mauritania, since U.S. troops arrived there today.
MR. REEKER: Okay. I believe when you refer to U.S. troops arriving there, these are --
QUESTION: -- embassy security force --
MR. REEKER: Right, these are U.S. -- as the President wrote to Congress yesterday, these are an assessment team and a standby response and evacuation force of an estimated 34 U.S. military personnel from European Command, went into Nouakchott, Mauritania, to augment the Embassy security forces there and aid in the evacuation of American citizens, should that become necessary.
Right now, we are pleased that the attempted coup has failed, and that the President Taya has regained control, he and his forces loyal to the government have regained control of Nouakchott, the capital. There have been no reports of rebel activity or violence outside the capital.
All of the American citizens in Mauritania are safe and accounted for, except for one American citizen who remains unaccounted for. He was traveling outside of Nouakchott at the time of the attempted coup. But we have no report of harm befalling this person. So we're keeping in close contact with American citizens in the country there.
Our Embassy is open today in Nouakchott. Obviously, we oppose attempts to change governments through extra-constitutional and/or violent means. And, as I said, we're pleased that this attempted coup has failed.
QUESTION: This one person who is unaccounted for is an embassy employee or?
MR. REEKER: No, it's an American citizen who resides --
QUESTION: A private citizen?
MR. REEKER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Not Peace Corps, or anything like that?
MR. REEKER: That's my understanding.
QUESTION: And Liberia?
MR. REEKER: And Liberia. Where our Embassy reports that, with the exception of sporadic mortar fire estimated to be five to ten miles outside of town, the capital in Liberia, Monrovia, is relatively quiet.
Monday's evacuation of nonofficial Americans and third-country nationals, who were on the compounds of the U.S. Embassy, or some of the European Union missions in Monrovia, that went very smoothly. We would again like to thank France for its role in facilitating these efforts.
And, obviously, we are watching the situation closely to make sure we can take all necessary precautions to provide for the safety and security of U.S. citizens there. We are warning citizens against travel to Liberia. Our Travel Warning and our Consulate Information Sheet notes that the Embassy is one what we call "ordered departure status," so that those non-emergency American personnel left.
And the President also noted that an assessment team and response evacuation force of about 35 U.S. military personnel moved into Liberia to augment Embassy security there over the last day or so.
QUESTION: And did those people, do you know, did they play a role at all in the evacuation? I think they got there yesterday, right?
MR. REEKER: Yeah, I believe they --
QUESTION: So did they help out?
MR. REEKER: Actually, on June 8th.
QUESTION: Oh, two days ago.
MR. REEKER: So two days ago they moved in. They arrived in Sierra Leone on the 7th, moved into Monrovia on the 8th. And I couldn't tell you specifics of the evacuation process, but they supported securing of the Embassy compound, and I would think helped then in the evacuation of individuals from that compound.
QUESTION: You have said the U.S. Government is troubled in a number of areas, deeply troubled in some. How about Latin America? We have just had this major conference down there. The Secretary was there. Are you content with the results of that conference?
The Secretary spoke about Cuba, and 16 of the American republics refused to condemn Cuba. They didn't go along, most of them, on Iraq. There is big trouble on the trade treaty at ALCA. And now, specifically, with regard to the country where I am interested, Venezuela, the Foreign Minister made a big speech there condemning freedom of expression -- I mean, giving it a completely different interpretation.
MR. REEKER: I am not quite aware of that speech, in particular. I think you're aware -- you're aware that the Secretary of State and a rather large traveling party were there at the OAS meeting. The Secretary had a press briefing there. He has your colleagues traveling with him, and I'm afraid I need to defer to the traveling party to discuss specifics of that.
The Secretary had an intervention at the Organization of American States General Assembly in Santiago, and I invite you to review that. We certainly have discussed our concern about the situation in Venezuela and the efforts that we've undertaken with the OAS to help the Venezuelans work through those problems, so I -- but I think I need to let you review what the Secretary said and refer to what his party is saying in terms of the specific responses to them.
QUESTION: Is there going to be a briefing on that conference? If all of us had gotten --
MR. REEKER: I will have to check and see. The Secretary is in the air now, flying back to Washington, as I indicated, and I am sure we'll be able to get you some more information if you want to follow up on the conference.
QUESTION: Well, there are reliable reports that the --
MR. REEKER: Those are the ones I like the most: reliable reports. Take note, students from Miami University. Reliable reports. Okay.
QUESTION: Well, our paper will stand behind them.
MR. REEKER: Okay.
QUESTION: That the Embassy in Caracas is revoking the visas of Venezuelan military officers, high officers, who have been dissident, who have opposed the Venezuelan Government but who have not engaged in uprisings or any kind of -- as a matter of fact, they have explicitly stayed within specific methods. Is that true? Can you --
MR. REEKER: I have no idea. I would have to check on that.
QUESTION: Because that's --
MR. REEKER: I would have to check on that and talk to our Embassy. If you want to make sure we have a country of your report so we ask the Embassy specifically about it, we'll look into it for you.
QUESTION: Anything for the upcoming meeting between Cypriot Foreign Minister Georgios Iacovou and Secretary of State Colin Powell?
MR. REEKER: I'm not sure that I know of such a scheduled meeting, but I would be happy to check into it.
Ah, thank you. See? My trusty staff tell me that I do know about that meeting which will take place tomorrow.
MR. REEKER: Okay. Secretary Powell will meet with the Cypriot Foreign Minister at the Department of State tomorrow, Wednesday morning. There you ago. Among other issues, the Secretary will emphasize our continued commitment to achieving a comprehensive Cyprus settlement on the basis of Secretary General Annan's plan, the UN Good Offices Mission, obviously something he and the Secretary General can also discuss when they have their lunch tomorrow, as well.
QUESTION: On Aegean issue.
MR. REEKER: Mm-hmm?
QUESTION: In the recent days, Turkish military planes are violating the Greek national airspace and infringing the Athens FIR region with a very serious provocative and unusual manner. Any comment on that?
MR. REEKER: Well, we have seen press reports that the Turkish military has denied flying too close to a Greek passenger plane yesterday on June 9th. And we understand that the Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Papandreou, and his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Gul, have discussed this Aegean issue most recently in Madrid. I believe they were both there for the NATO Foreign Ministers summit -- Foreign Ministers meeting.
We certainly are encouraged that Greece and Turkey have continued their rapprochement talks and are undertaking confidence-building measures such as the recent agreements to exchange senior military staff officers and students and other cooperation. So that's a process that I think is important.
QUESTION: According to most of the Turkish leaders, after they admit this and say that yes, they did that, so --
MR. REEKER: The press reports I had seen said that the Turkish military had denied flying too close. We'll leave it for those two governments to work out these issues together.
QUESTION: Mr. Reeker, do you consider this a bilateral issue?
MR. REEKER: Yes. It's a bilateral issue between those two countries.
QUESTION: Do you also consider that it is a NATO issue?
MR. REEKER: No. It is not a NATO issue, it is a bilateral issue between two NATO member countries.
QUESTION: Do you consider that this is international issue?
MR. REEKER: It's an issue between those two countries.
QUESTION: I'm asking this question because, as you know very well, the air corridors with the Aegean has been defined by ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, not by the Turkish military establishment. And that's why I'm wondering if the U.S. Government considered that as international issue, too?
MR. REEKER: We consider it a bilateral issue between the two countries and we are encouraged that they continue to work together to solve these problems when they arise.
QUESTION: I have one other. What about an American issue?
MR. REEKER: An American issue?
QUESTION: That's correct. Because, because in your National Strategy Report signed by President Bush and presented to us in the White House last November, we also learn that when these arise since it seemed inter alia that the stability that the stability in the eastern Mediterranean, including the Aegean, is pertaining also to U.S. national interests. So I was wondering, how do you explain this?
MR. REEKER: That's why we follow this closely and we keep in touch with our two good allies, Greece and Turkey, and why we are encouraged that they have continued their rapprochement, and the fact that their ministers can talk to each other, the fact that they have agreed to undertake other confidence-building measures like exchanging senior military staff officers and students, and various other forms of cooperation.
That's a good and positive thing that is good for Greeks, good for Turks and good for all of us.
QUESTION: As the U.S. Government, did you have any communication with Athens and Ankara for this incident?
MR. REEKER: I have no idea.
Yeah, Matt. Is this on Greece?
MR. REEKER: I don't. We'll get the Secretary's schedule to you when we can.
QUESTION: Phil, the Thai Prime Minister is in town and he is over at the White House today. Perhaps, coincidentally, the Thais announced this morning that they have arrested a bunch of alleged terrorists who were plotting attacks in and around Bangkok, including in some embassies. I am wondering if you guys have any reason to believe that your embassy was one that was under threat.
MR. REEKER: We do welcome news that on June 10th -- that is today -- the Royal Thai Government arrested three suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah in Southern Thailand. It's a positive step forward in the global war on terror. And we certainly commend Thai authorities for their vigilance.
As you know, we have been cooperating with countries all around the world on this effort against terrorism, including financial steps that can be taken, information-sharing, intelligence areas, law enforcement. I don't have anything on particular threats from those arrested by the Thais.
QUESTION: Do you know is Thaksin -- does he have any meetings? The Prime Minister, does he have any meetings over here, or is he just --
MR. REEKER: I know he was at the White House. And, obviously, State Department officials were in that meeting. I believe Under Secretary Grossman and Assistant Secretary Kelly were part of that.
QUESTION: All right, I've got one more.
MR. REEKER: Let's swap around a little bit and we'll come back to you.
QUESTION: The EU has come out rather strongly against Cuba as a result of these recent executions and killings down there. Is there any plan afoot to get together with the EU and bring some more pressure, sanctions, or something on Cuba?
MR. REEKER: We certainly have been quite clear for many years with everybody all around the world our view of Cuba, and we have expressed our concern over the outrageous steps that have been taken recently, in terms of arrests, sentencing of people, again, simply trying to exercise their freedoms to peacefully express their views. And we have seen Castro turn back the clock that really hasn't been allowed to tick on democracy in Cuba.
And we certainly believe that others around the world have noted that, too. The European comments that you just noted are part of that. So we have been, first of all, quite clear in public about our concerns for the health of dissidents and political prisoners who are being held in terrible conditions, and put out statements to that effect. And we continue to try to monitor this situation and keep in touch with others around the world who are concerned about the future of the Cuban people.
We also have expressed our concern over the Castro regime's failure to provide exit permits to nearly 700 Cubans in possession of valid U.S. entry documents. A lot of these denials appear to be a form of official retaliation against the families of persons who have fled Cuban repression in the past, and we raised those concerns at our migration talks that were held last week in New York.
QUESTION: So you are not able to say then that Cuba will be an issue at the EU-U.S. summit that you guys are hosting in --
MR. REEKER: I don't have the specific agenda for that summit that was announced to take place on the 25th of this month, here in Washington, but Cuba is certainly an issue of concern to all of us.
QUESTION: July 1st the deadline for any -- for countries that receive military -- U.S. military assistance to either sign Article 98 agreements or lose their cash. I understand that you have got two new -- you're now at 37. You signed Bolivia and Thailand. But I'm wondering, if you know, how many countries right now have not signed them that would, if they don't sign them by the 1st, lose their U.S. military assistance?
MR. REEKER: I haven't done that math, Matt. I'll have to find the time to sit down with my list of countries.
QUESTION: Well, so have I. That's why I was hoping you guys had done it already.
MR. REEKER: I'll leave you -- I'll leave you to do the calculation and read about it in your --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, then on a related matter then, there was a report today out of the UN that you guys have warned the European Union not to interfere with --
MR. REEKER: Report out of the UN that we have warned the EU?
QUESTION: Yeah, it was datelined the UN. There was a report in The Washington Post today that was datelined United Nations.
MR. REEKER: Okay. I just want to make sure I have got the --
QUESTION: Yeah. It said that you had warned the European Union not to interfere in your negotiations with these -- for these agreements with either current EU members or aspiring EU members. Is there any substance to that?
MR. REEKER: I think we have been quite clear and transparent all along. We certainly discussed it from here in this forum many times that we are trying to work with our friends to find practical solutions to International Criminal Court issue and preserve everyone's interests, and the solution has been to pursue these agreements under the Rome statute under Article 98 of that statute.
We have been very clear with Europeans and others all around the world that we are not trying to sabotage the ICC. Our efforts are geared at, first of all, protecting the integrity of international peacekeeping efforts, and we have respected the European Union's request not to attempt to influence other countries regarding their decisions to become a part of the Rome statute to join onto to the ICC.
We certainly respect the rights of other countries to make their decisions, to become parties to the Rome statute, but, at the same time, we have asked other countries to respect our right not to do so. And so an essential element in that, in respecting our right and separating U.S. citizens from the ICC, is negotiating these Article 98 agreements. And we've taken that quite seriously. It's a serious matter. It's been addressed by our Congress and our laws.
And this was, in fact, the course that was suggested by several EU member-states and we understand was approved by the EU Council. So, once again, our proposal in terms of negotiating Article 98 agreements is couched within the framework of the Rome statute which created the ICC, and we see no conflict either legally or even in respect to the spirit of the treaty.
So we've been quite clear that we want to pursue these as bilateral agreements with individual countries. As you noted, 37 countries have signed Article 98 agreements and we continue to pursue that with others.