State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 18
Daily Press Briefing for August 18 -- Transcript
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
August 18, 2004
- Al Sadr s Acceptance of Terms / Welcome Move Toward Restoring Clam
- in Najaf / Iraqi Delegation in Najaf / Abandon Mosque / Peaceful
- Expression of Dissent
- U.S. Military Involvement / Working with President Allawi
- Missing Journalist Micah Garen
- Roadmap / Settlement Activity and Construction / Working with both
- Parties / Taking Practical Steps / Ongoing High-Level Discussions
- / Israeli Ambassador / Tenders for New Homes / President s
- Comments about New Realities
- Arafat Comments / Security Forces / Prime Minister Abu Alaa /
- Partial Withdrawal from Gaza and West Bank
- Response to Israeli Attack on Nuclear Facilities / IAEA Commitment
- / Peaceful Diplomatic Engagement/ UN Director General s Report
- Abandoned Children / Repatriation
- Security Council Resolution 1556 / Rwandan Forces Protecting
- African Union Monitors / Secretary General s Report / Human Rights
- Abuses / Genocide Decision
- Statement on Referendum Process / Agreement Between OAS, Carter
- Center and Venezuelan National Electoral Council / Implications of
- Voter Fraud / International Monitors / Transparent and Creditable
- Blockade of Capital by Maoists / Condemnation of Bombing on
- Capital and Sohalti Hotel / Intimidation of Businessmen / Barring
- American Transactions
- Ambassador Boucher Trip to Cyprus for Reception
- DAS Kennedy as Acting Coordinator for Cyprus
- Six-Party Talks / China Working Toward Convening Plenary /
- Consultations Continue / Beijing as Possible Host and Chair
- ANSUS Comments by Foreign Minister / Cross Strait Tensions / U.S.
- Opposition to Force
- Reports of Alex Ho Arrested
- Lawsuit Against U.S. Government Regarding Ahmed Abu Ali / Case
- Before Court
- Massacre at Gatumba Refugee Camp / U.S. Involvement in Talks
12:55 p.m. EDT (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everyone. I don't have any announcements, so we'll just go to your questions.
QUESTION: This late word from Najaf that al-Sadr is willing to accept the peace plan, and this has happened many times in the past, do you have some handle on it, what you might think of what he's trying to do?
MR. ERELI: It's hard, really, to give you too much information, Barry, since it's a breaking news story and we're not there.
I have talked to our Embassy in Baghdad, and what they tell me is that Sadr's spokesman has said that they've accepted the terms that were presented to them by an Iraqi delegation. I'm not in a position to confirm that.
I don't think, at this time, that the situation on the ground appears to indicate a withdrawal by al-Sadr's forces. Obviously, we would welcome such a move and it's critical to restoring calm in Najaf. But right now, I think we just have to wait and see what the developments are.
Obviously, you know that there was a delegation that went down -- an Iraqi delegation -- that went down to Najaf yesterday. Their position was pretty clear that al-Sadr and the militia needed to disarm, needed to leave the mosque and give it back to the government, and needed to disband the militia and needed to, if they wanted to, participate in public life -- do it peacefully through the political process.
Those were the points that the delegation made. Whether that is -- whether al-Sadr accepts that and follows through on that is, I think, something that remains to be seen.
QUESTION: You referred to the mosque. Is the U.S. position that the mosque is off limits to Iraqi forces attempting to disarm him, to look for weapons, to neutralize him?
MR. ERELI: The U.S. position is that the mosque is an Iraqi holy site, and that it is -- that the Iraqi government is responsible for its disposition.
QUESTION: Just one last thing, then I'll pass on to other people. What is -- we talk about al-Sadr all the time, but what is the U.S. handle on him, take on him? What is he trying to accomplish? Do his interests run -- or his goals, as far as you know, run contrary to democracy in Iraq, et cetera? Does he represent popular will?
MR. ERELI: Well, I think one has to, first and foremost, judge on the basis of actions. And the actions we've seen certainly don't point to peaceful expression of dissent. There's a long history of violence and resistance to governmental authority by these militia. The government of Iraq has made it clear that this kind of behavior has no place in the new Iraq, and they're acting, I think, decisively in response to it.
The terms that they laid out, I think, are pretty clear about the direction that they think those who have aspirations to influence public life, the direction that those people need to take, which is to foreswear the use of arms and participate peacefully in political debate. And those are the measurements, I think, by which one should judge a person's intentions, whether they play by those rules or not.
QUESTION: Here's a follow-up, Adam. As long as we're doing this by remote control, there's also a wire report that says, Sadr spokesman says he will leave and the militia will lay down its arms if the U.S., or when the U.S. military pulls out of Najaf. Is the U.S. position that we are willing to do that?
MR. ERELI: No. The U.S. position is we are acting in support of the government of Iraq and we will work with the government of Iraq to have them restore and maintain security and stability as they see -- as they see fit. So we are, I think, we are not a party to this -- to these discussions and these visitations. We are working with the government of Iraq, with Prime Minister Allawi, in a supporting role and we'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Well, if I may follow up again, if the government of Iraq asks the U.S. military to withdraw, will it?
MR. ERELI: I think our approach to all security operations is to do them in consultation, in cooperation with the government of Iraq.
Without getting into any specific scenario or any specific hypothetical, I guess an important -- an important and critical aspect of our operations is that they are done consistent with the needs and desires of the Iraqi government.
QUESTION: Can I shift topics to Israel and these plans for additional housing, settlement housing. Is the U.S. yet willing to say that such plans are inconsistent with Israeli pledges to freeze settlements?
MR. ERELI: What I would say is a couple of points. The Israeli Government has undertaken -- has made specific undertakings with regard to the roadmap and at Aqaba with the President in 2002, and these undertakings concern settlement activity as well as construction of settlement outposts.
We have a commitment from the Government of Israel to the roadmap. We are looking, as we've said all along, to both sides -- Palestinian and the Israelis -- to take practical steps that show real progress on the roadmap. We're looking for the Palestinians to do certain things. We're looking for the Israelis to do certain things. We are continuing to work with both parties to get them to take the kinds of steps -- the kinds of practical steps -- that are needed to follow through on those commitments to the roadmap.
As you know, the Palestinians have obligations in the security area, obviously. The Israelis, there are things they need to do in the area of settlements and outposts that these -- these practical steps that we're looking for, I think, are the subject of ongoing discussions with both sides, and those discussions are continuing. But on this precise issue, this precise story, I don't have a lot more for you.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, clearly, the roadmap calls for a freeze on settlement activity. And you've called for a halt to all settlement activity, including natural growth. And you say that -- I mean, we know about the Palestinians commitments. We're talking about Israel's commitments under the roadmap, and you said they have specific things. So, I mean, is this consistent with that or not?
MR. ERELI: I would say this is a subject that's under discussion.
QUESTION: The Israelis say they held off on their announcement to make sure that they were doing things in accordance with U.S. expectations. Can you say whether any of those -- whether any of that time period was spent in discussion with U.S. officials before this announcement, and what conversations have taken place since the announcement among high level officials?
MR. ERELI: Since the announcement, well, I would put it this way. Both before and after the announcement, there have been ongoing high-level discussions, both at the level of the embassy and in Washington. I'm not aware that there were discussions about the announcement before the announcement.
QUESTION: Or about the concept of building -- not just that they were going to make the announcement, but a thousand new houses?
MR. ERELI: Clearly, the subject of settlement activity and the nature of that settlement activity is an issue of active discussion.
QUESTION: But not of any --
MR. ERELI: But this specific action was not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: Adam, you --
QUESTION: Let me respectively suggest a question -- whether the Israeli ambassador has come here, talked to a high-level official about three weeks ago, precisely about this activity, got an approval of it, is the report.
I can't say that's true. I wasn't there because it was planned before. It goes back a year and a half and it sort of was grandfathered in as okay with us -- a wink and a nod. But, at least, I forget my -- what I'm told happened, but I think you'll find that there was discussion here of it. The Israeli ambassador came here and visited about three weeks ago and there was discussion about -- you want to call it a settlement, it's virtually a city. But it's part of the facts on the ground that the President said Israel would retain.
MR. ERELI: Let me put it this way, there was an announcement yesterday about tenders in four --
MR. ERELI: -- settlements. I am not aware that that announcement was discussed prior to it being yanked. And that's the point I'm making.
QUESTION: You are only making the point that the announcement wasn't discussed, not that they --
MR. ERELI: Yeah. That was the question --
QUESTION: And I asked again.
MR. ERELI: --and I've said, as a general matter, the issue of settlement activity is something that has been and continues to be under discussion.
QUESTION: But the issue of Israel possibly putting out tenders for a thousand new homes?
MR. ERELI: Let me make it -- let me again try to make it clear. You're asking me two questions. One is, do we talk to the Israelis about settlement activity and what they're doing and what our understandings are?
QUESTION: We didn't ask that.
MR. ERELI: Yes, we do all the time, and we continue to do so. If you're asking me about the specific announcement yesterday about a thousand tenders in four different settlements, that, to my knowledge, was not something --
QUESTION: The specific plan --
MR. ERELI: -- we knew about.
QUESTION: Well, but there's something in between --
MR. ERELI: Exactly.
QUESTION: Adam, there is something in between general discussion and tenders. And the in-between, you know, and I'm not suggesting you're evading it, but I say the issue is -- the questions go to whether intentions of expanding these settlements -- the precise mathematical way of doing it aside, weren't those intentions discussed at a high level at the State Department about three, four weeks ago? I'd appreciate you checking it.
MR. ERELI: Let me put it this way -- We generally do not comment on the substance of our discussions or the details of our discussions.
What I will say is that there are obligations that Israel undertook. There are steps that we think are important to making progress on the roadmap. We are discussing these issues, as well as others, in the context of taking those steps and trying to make progress between Israelis and Palestinians.
QUESTION: Adam, you said that you've had discussions since the announcement. Do you get the impression that the Israelis felt that their -- that it's okay -- that Israel had the impression that the U.S. would be okay with this because of the President's speech about the new realities -- about settlements being part of the new realities on the ground in Israel?
MR. ERELI: I really wouldn't want to speculate, and I think it's important to note that, you know, again, the President was speaking in terms of a comprehensive settlement, not in terms of any specific actions at the present time.
QUESTION: Adam, how do you assess Chairman Arafat speech today, who said we shouldn't blame only the occupation? Some unacceptable mistakes have been made by our institutions and some have abused their positions and violated the trust that had been placed in them? And he added, I support my brother, Abu Alaa, and I give him my full support.
MR. ERELI: What does that mean? (Laughter.) I don't know. I mean, I can't interpret it for you.
I think we've been very clear that for -- that a key, a key part of progress being made -- as I said before, both sides, both sides need to take practical steps for progress. On the Palestinian side, a key critical element for progress to be made is for authority over the security forces to be put effectively in the hands of the prime minister, and for real consolidation to take place, and for real action against terrorists to take place. That's what -- that's, at a minimum, and immediately, what I think we think progress would entail.
QUESTION: Yes, Adam, you have been quoted in The Washington Times as saying that you will look into these tenders, where they are, what they are for. Did you look into these tenders? Did you find that these are within the parameters, that this is natural growth that's permitted within the roadmap or not? Did you look into what you have suggested?
MR. ERELI: I think I've addressed that and said this is a subject that we are discussing with the Israeli Government. I don't have anything more in terms of detail for you.
QUESTION: Adam, can you trust
Chairman Arafat? In addition, he is quoted to have said
that he's blaming Israel for creating a security vacuum with
their Gaza pullout plan. In other words, is he being
disingenuous and talking
MR. ERELI: You know, I'd prefer not to really comment on statements by Chairman Arafat. Our view is that, you know, that Chairman Arafat has demonstrated by a record of broken promises that, you know, we can't -- we can't work with him; he's not a useful partner for us.
That said, the Palestinian Authority, under the prime ministership of Abu Alaa, is working to -- working to follow through on practical steps. We continue to work with Abu Alaa, to work with the Palestinians, on ways to take advantage of the opportunity that we think the government of Prime Minister Sharon presents with the withdrawal plan. That is something that the Palestinian Authority is trying to do. It is something that we, the Egyptians, and others are trying to help prepare them for -- to exercise authority over land withdrawn from by the Government of Israel.
Clearly, the fact that Israel is preparing to withdraw from all the settlements in Gaza and some settlements in the West Bank is an important development. It is a development that we see a follow-through on as positive, as providing an opportunity for the Palestinians. The Palestinians are working to respond to it, so that's the track that we're active on and that's the track that others involved, including the Quartet, who have endorsed this, are active on. That's the direction the train is going on. And that's where the -- the train the Palestinians are on.
As far as Chairman Arafat, that's -- you know, what he does is his business.
QUESTION: Could we go back, just momentarily to Iraq and ask you if you have anything on the missing journalist -- Garen, Micah -- if I'm pronouncing it right?
QUESTION: Let's stay on the Palestine issue.
MR. ERELI: Let's stick on this?
QUESTION: On the natural growth, did you check? Because it's the Israelis understanding, reportedly, that it is a matter of interpretation. In the U.S. view, is the natural growth of the settlements subject to interpretation or what?
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on that.
MR. ERELI: Garen?
QUESTION: Yeah, if you have anything -- the family's concerned.
MR. ERELI: Obviously, you've all seen the reports of missing U.S. citizen, Micah Garen, in Iraq.
What I can tell you is that we are in contact with his family and fiancé. Our embassy is in contact with local authorities and forces on the ground in Nasiriyah to try to ascertain his whereabouts. We have not been able to; as far as I'm aware, determine where he is. We continue to spare no effort and do everything we can to locate him and to reunite him with his loved ones. That's about all I have for you at that moment.
QUESTION: Adam --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, in the back.
QUESTION: Iran warned --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Anything more on this?
QUESTION: One more.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Could you confirm that he was kidnapped or --
MR. ERELI: I don't have any more details of his whereabouts or the circumstances of his disappearance.
QUESTION: Local authorities -- do you mean Iraqi authorities, or are you trying, maybe not so regular Iraqi authorities?
MR. ERELI: I think we are leaving no stone unturned.
QUESTION: Got you.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Iran warned of an immeasurable response if Israel strikes on its nuclear facilities at Bushehr. How do you assess such an escalation of threats?
MR. ERELI: As not particularly helpful.
The fact of the matter is that the United States has been saying for some time -- and we believe that it's becoming increasingly clear to others -- that despite its public assertions to the contrary, Iran has a clandestine nuclear weapons program.
Our commitment, the commitment of our partners in the international community, including the EU, and the International Atomic Agency Board of Governors is to address this problem through peaceful diplomatic engagement. That is our approach in the IAEA. It's what we're working towards, and we are committed to bringing an end to this, I think, illegal and destabilizing activity.
QUESTION: Will you get this matter to the UN?
MR. ERELI: We talked about that yesterday, and the short answer was, let's wait until the September Board of Governors and look at where we are, based on the Director General's report.
QUESTION: Can you talk about these children from Texas that were found in a Nigerian orphanage and brought back to the U.S.?
MR. ERELI: We learned, our Consulate General in
Lagos, learned on July 30th, that seven American citizen
children, ages 8 to 16, had been stranded in Ibadan,
Nigeria, by their adoptive mother. At that time -- or, I'm
- - a consular officer from the Consulate General then was able to confirm that the children were, in fact, at an orphanage in Ibadan. They had been placed there by the Ministry of Women's Affairs of the state. The ministry had taken custody of the children on July 28th.
On August 7th, a consular officer visited the children at the orphanage. On August 9th, our Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington located the children's adoptive mother. We then used repatriation funds to purchase tickets for the children so that they could return to the United States, and on August 12th the children departed Nigeria.
A consular official in our Consulate General in Amsterdam met the children when they stopped over in Amsterdam, and consular officials in Washington and Lagos worked with the Texas Child Protective Services to meet the children upon arrival on August 13th.
So, to wrap it all up: we learned about this case; we confirmed the particulars; we acted to repatriate them; and they are now back in Texas.
QUESTION: There seems to be some discrepancy about whether some missionaries were involved in letting you know about this case and helping you track down the children. Can you talk anything about the role of this church or missionaries?
MR. ERELI: I can. What I can tell you is we were informed on July 30th by a local contact that they had been stranded, but I don't have any more information for you on who the local contact was. For, you know, details about the children and what they were doing in Nigeria, I would refer you to the Texas Child Protective Services, in whose custody they now are.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MR. ERELI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I have a different subject.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you talk about negotiations or the State Department involvement in discussions related to the release of Mr. Hamdi to the Saudis?
MR. ERELI: Let me look into it and see what I can say.
QUESTION: On Sudan. Sudan's Ambassador to Britain said that he hopes that the UN will give him more time and that he thinks that what they've done so far will satisfy the UN so that it will give an extension and not sanctions after August 29th. Do you think the U.S. would go for that?
MR. ERELI: I don't want to speculate on what we may or may not do. Let me just review for you a little bit where we are. It's been, I think, almost three weeks since the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1556. The Secretary General's Special Envoy, Mr. Pronk, has been to Sudan. He worked out an action plan with the Government of Sudan. My understanding is he's going back soon to continue to follow up on that.
There are now 155 Rwandan forces protecting the African Union monitors. There are more coming from Nigeria in the coming days. There are talks scheduled in -- between the rebels and the government in Abuja on the 23rd of this month. At the end of 30 days, the Secretary General will make a report to the Security Council. The Security Council will obviously have to decide on next steps based on that report.
So, you know, the question of more time or less time or making decisions now or making decisions later, I think, really isn't the issue. The issue is, the process was laid out in Resolution 1556. Those measures are being implemented and they provide a way forward; they provide a mechanism and, importantly, benchmarks for meeting the -- for the Government of Sudan to meet the international community's concerns. And that's what we're looking for.
QUESTION: Can you say what, Adam, you learned when you checked into reports that refugees who talked to Secretary Powell in camps were detained, arrested, harassed?
MR. ERELI: I can't. Let me see if I can give you some follow-up on that.
QUESTION: Do you know if you've followed up? I mean, you said you were going to. Do you know if they actually -- if you actually got anything back?
MR. ERELI: This is -- I'll put it this way: There are -- there are regular and consistent reports of a variety of human rights abuses which is the subject of our constant attention. So it's not like you get a report and you look into it. It's more like we've got people on the ground, we've got our Embassy in Khartoum, we've got our officials here, all of whom, on a regular and sustained basis are monitoring and assessing the situation in Darfur from a variety of perspectives: from the human rights perspective, from the humanitarian assistance perspective, from the security perspective. So I think -- I think we'll be able to get you something.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Sir.
QUESTION: Anything on the genocide determination?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, a couple weeks ago, said it would take a couple of weeks. Is it going to be this week?
MR. ERELI: I would
not give you a timeframe on it. What we've said is that we
have people in the region interviewing displaced persons,
trying to gather as much information as we can so that we
can make a -- really a -- to give
- - so that we can look at what the facts are and apply them to the legal standards that exist. So that information-collecting process is still underway, but I wouldn't want to give you a timeframe of, you know, when a decision is going to be made. It is something that we keep under constant review. I'd put it that way, based on the information we have available.
QUESTION: Is it fair to say you're delaying the decision?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: And if it takes so long to come to a decision, how, if you ever came down with a finding of genocide, could you make the case that this is a strongly held opinion if it took weeks and weeks and weeks to figure out that the murderous behavior there amounts to genocide?
MR. ERELI: I would remind you there is a legal standard to be met.
QUESTION: I know.
MR. ERELI: And to me, the legal standards you need to have --
QUESTION: It's a little subjective, too.
MR. ERELI: You need to have evidence. Getting evidence, getting evidence that is comprehensive and persuasive and meets the legal standard is not something you do overnight.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. ERELI: But the other point I would make, and it's a point that we've made consistently, is that the process of getting that evidence, the process of coming to a determination on genocide in no way affects what we're doing on the ground in Darfur. So you can't make the argument that, oh, you're dilly-dallying to make a genocide determination; meanwhile, you're doing nothing to stop what's going on or doing nothing to -- you're sleeping while Darfur is burning. That is not the case. We are not doing -- if a genocide determination were made tomorrow, we would not be doing anything on the ground in Darfur different than we're doing today.
QUESTION: All right. But a genocide finding brings legal obligations and consequences and it -- yes, it does. And it creates a situation of pressure on the offending party. So while you're making an incredibly earnest effort, and almost alone among the nations of the world, if you came up with a genocide finding, you would have some added moral and even legal impetus for what you're trying to do.
MR. ERELI: We will make -- our decision on whether it's genocide or not will be determined by the facts as they exist.
QUESTION: Change? On Venezuela -- Perhaps I missed it, but I never saw a statement that you promised yesterday. I just wondered what happened to that and if it will be coming out soon.
MR. ERELI: Perhaps, I was a bit premature in promising a statement.
As it turned out, as we were working the statement through, there were some, I guess, events on the ground that caused us to say, "Well, let's hold off on that statement." Those events on the ground were an agreement between the OAS and the Carter Center and the Venezuelan National Electoral Council to conduct a partial audit of 150 voting stations to address opposition concerns.
In light of that development, and in light of
the fact that we publicly stated what our position was in
the briefing, we thought, we'll wait till they
- - till this audit is done and then make another pronouncement. So what I would say is consider the public statement at the briefing our public pronouncement on the views of the Venezuelan election. And then a statement -- you know, we decided to hold off on a statement until after this thing happens.
QUESTION: Do you see, as the opposition has
called for, indications of
- - indications of voter fraud?
MR. ERELI: What we see is that it's important that these allegations be investigated and that the results of that investigation be shown to the Venezuelan people so that the Venezuelan people can have confidence in the results that have been announced and, as we said, move forward in a process of national reconciliation.
So it's not so much speaking to the validity of the claims or not, but rather to the importance of addressing them in the right way so that they don't undermine what has been achieved.
QUESTION: Is a partial audit acceptable to you?
MR. ERELI: I think what's acceptable to us is what is agreed to between the Carter Center, OAS, and the National Electoral Council.
QUESTION: So you think that will be sufficient to quell any suspicions you have about --
MR. ERELI: We think that the role of international observers has been critical in establishing, I think, transparency and credibility to this process.
Still on Venezuela?
QUESTION: Adam, back to the statement. The agreement yesterday didn't come until very late in the day --
MR. ERELI: Which?
QUESTION: The agreement between the Carter Center and the OAS about the audit. It seems to me, you know, looking at past practices and how long it takes you to issue a statement, you had plenty of opportunity between the time of the briefing and that agreement last night to issue that statement. And I know that there were versions being worked out, but are you saying that you knew that that agreement was coming, that's why you delayed and delayed and then decided not to have it? Or --
MR. ERELI: Well, without getting into a minute-by-minute tick-tock --
MR. ERELI: -- what I would say is that there were various discussions going on at various levels about events in Venezuela, and that given the state of play, we thought it was -- it made sense to hold off and to wait.
QUESTION: Change of subject. Maoists have blockaded the capital in Nepal and also have disrupted, I guess, both businesses and food supplies throughout the country. What are you doing, or working with other governments to end that blockade?
MR. ERELI: We are working to, I think, confront -- we, as well as our international partners, and Nepal are working to confront the Maoists. I think what's important to point out, you mentioned a blockade; there was also a bombing of the Soaltee Hotel in Katmandu. We, first of all, strongly condemn that bombing, as well as the other attempts by Maoists to intimidate Nepalese businessmen into closing their operations. These are reprehensible acts that only harm innocent Nepalese and weaken Nepal's fragile economy.
For our part, we have designated the Maoists under Executive Order, blocking any assets in the United States or held by U.S. persons or wherever located, and barring Americans from most transactions or dealings with the Maoists.
We, for our part, firmly reject their practice of intimidation, terror, and threats of violence against civilians and we are working with the Government of Nepal to see that grievances of Nepalese are resolved through peaceful and political means.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Let's go to Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, Ambassador Richard Boucher, despite his personal trip to Cyprus, had an impressive reception yesterday in Nicosia at the U.S. Embassy for a lot of his friends, inviting, however, only personalities who voted "yes" to the Annan plan, like former President Vassiliou, Greek Cypriot businessman Lordos, and others. Why this type, I would say, discrimination against those who voted "no" to the plan? Do you punish them?
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen a guest list, so I don't know that, in fact, your assertions are accurate. But I would refer you to the Embassy for comment on an event that I don't know anything about.
QUESTION: One more. Do you know if Mrs. Laura Kennedy of the State Department is the new coordinator or "discoordinator" of Cyprus? (Laughter.)
The "discoordinator" apply to the fact that -- did you hear (inaudible) to Cyprus, according to the Providence Journal in the free Cyprus, selection of the Greek-Cypriots about the rejection of the Annan Plan, which would have effectively delivered the free market and democratic republic in the hands of the Turkish generals in Ankara? And in the Turkish occupied territory of Cyprus Mrs. Kennedy dined with Turkish-Cypriot politicians in restaurant, whose Greek owners had been drived out by the Turkish army, something that has never been done before by any other U.S. official since the invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkey. What was exactly her mission in Cyprus?
MR. ERELI: Ms. Kennedy is the recently arrived Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs with responsibility for Cyprus. My understanding is she is also Acting Coordinator for Cyprus.
And as far as the details of her trip go, I don't have a lot for you. I would note, however, that U.S. officials regularly meet with residents and people from Northern Cyprus, and that's fully consistent with past practice.
QUESTION: One on Turkey. Turkish political yesterday appointed the first civilian to oversee the country's influential security consulate in an effort to stem the influence of the military. The appointment is of Mehmet Yigit Alpagan, as Secretary General of Turkish powerful National Security Council. It went into effect of Tuesday, after it was (inaudible) Turkish official gazette. He had previously served as a Turkish ambassador to Greece. The credit belongs to the Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, and of course, to the Turkish Government. Any comment on this great political achievement, which is strengthening, finally, democracy in Turkey for the first time since 1923?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: You don't have any comment on this?
MR. ERELI: No, no comment.
QUESTION: North Korea. Now the Australian Foreign Minister has been to Pyongyang, I don't know whether you've heard from the Australians about his visit, but what is your understanding? Are the Chinese still trying to put together the next meeting of the six-party talks? Are they supposed to be in Beijing? Any chance of doing something like that in New York during the General Assembly? What's going on?
MR. ERELI: The Chinese are still working to convene a -- both a working group and a plenary of the six-party talks. As you know, it was agreed at the last round to convene the next round before the end of September, and a working group meeting before that. That is still the timeline we're working towards. There have been a number of consultations between the Chinese, and -- as well as other -- and other members of the six-party process.
Those consultations continue. We're still
looking at Beijing and other
- - there have been some reports about other places, but Beijing is still -- we're still looking at Beijing as both the host and the chairman of the next working group and plenary.
QUESTION: Australian visit?
MR. ERELI: Australian visit is -- I don't really have too much of a readout on it to share with you.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Australian Foreign Minister's comment on the Australian-U.S. -- it's call ANZUS?
MR. ERELI: ANZUS?
QUESTION: Yeah. They think that Australia -- will not require Australia to support United States in defense of Taiwan, in event China were to launch an attack?
MR. ERELI: I've seen those comments -- or I'm sorry -- I've heard -- I've seen reports of the comments. I haven't seen the comments themselves, so I don't want to speak directly to them. What I would tell you simply is that, you know, first of all, our position on cross-strait tensions is clear. We want to see a peaceful resolution of this issue. We are opposed to the use of force.
I'm not going to speculate on different scenarios that some people throw out there. And as far as treaty commitments, I'd refer you to the treaties that are pretty clear about what's spelled out.
QUESTION: Sorry. So it s not your interpretation of the role of Australia in the situation that China were to launch an attack to Taiwan?
MR. ERELI: Again, we're opposed to the use of military force and I'm not going to speculate on hypotheticals.
QUESTION: And then on Hong Kong, do you have anything that the democratic candidate was jailed in mainland China?
MR. ERELI: I don't have a lot of information, frankly. We've seen reports that Alex Ho, a candidate for the Hong Kong Legislative Council, was arrested and sentenced. We do not have direct knowledge regarding the allegations that are involved. And so, I'm not in a position to comment, based on that limited knowledge. I'd refer you to the Hong Kong legal authorities for information on its case and how it's handled. That's what I can say at the moment.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on this Buddhist leader apparently being held in China? I believe his name is Yu Tianjian, and apparently, he might have an American green card?
MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen that. Let me see if we've got anything on it.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on a lawsuit yesterday against the U.S. Government in the federal court about Ahmed Abu Ali who is detained in Saudi Arabia under -- by request of the U.S. Government?
MR. ERELI: Well, those are allegations. Those are all allegations. Well, first of all, the case is before the courts. The circumstances of his detention that you refer to, I don't have any comment on. I think there are a lot of allegations that are made, but since this is a question under -- or before the courts, I'm not in a position to comment on it.
QUESTION: Adam, two days ago, you issued a statement about the massacre at the Gatumba refugee camp, and there are talks that are going to underway, I believe, beginning today, at Dar el Salaam. Are you, in any way, taking part in those talks and working with both the Congolese, Rwandans and the Burundis?
MR. ERELI: I'm not sure if we have any specific involvement in the talks that are going on, but obviously we are very much involved with the UN and with the governments of the countries concerned to try to bring about a peaceful resolution of this issue. We have been very outspoken on the need for respecting agreements made to the UN and working to -- through dialogue to bring about a resolution of this conflict. And that's certainly what the talks are about, but I don't know what our specific involvement in the meeting today is.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
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