State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for August 24
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
August 24, 2004
- Japanese Order to Deport Bobby Fischer
- Marine Corps Helicopter Crash in Okinawa
- U.S. Position on Settlement Activity
- Humanitarian Conditions in Occupied Territories
- U.S. Technical Team Departing for the Region
- U.K. Foreign Secretary Straw s Trip to the Region
- Interim Report on Implementation of Resolution 1556/September 2
- Assessment/Jan Pronk
- Closing of the Sudanese Embassy to the United States
- Designation of Two Banks as Financial Institutions of Primary
- Money Laundering Concern
- Upcoming Six-Party Talks/Rhetorical Outbursts
- Threat of North Korea s Nuclear Weapons Programs
- Role of U.S. Embassy in Najaf Standoff/Support for Iraqi
- Greek Security Performance in the Olympic Games
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Good afternoon. Welcome to our briefing today. I have no announcements to begin with so we'll go to Mr. Gedda for the first question.
QUESTION: What can you say about the Bobby Fischer case?
MR. ERELI: I can say that a consular officer from the Embassy in Tokyo visited Mr. Fischer indetention on July 15th. We have been in touch with Mr. Fischer concerning his request for a consular visit, and that a consular officer will visit Mr. Fischer soon. Beyond that I really don't have much to add because either (a), it concerns information that is covered by the Privacy Act Waiver or (b), it concerns information that is really the place of the Japanese authorities to talk about.
QUESTION: May I follow up?
QUESTION: What about a follow-up?
MR. ERELI: Follow-up?
QUESTION: Yeah. Is "soon" used because you don't know? I mean, is this a timing or --
MR. ERELI: It's just because it hasn't been scheduled, but it will be in the near future.
QUESTION: Were you asked, and if you were, forgive me, just, whether you are pleased by the order to deport him?
MR. ERELI: It's not something really we have an opinion on. This is a Japanese ruling about Japanese -- based on Japanese law, and it's the Japanese process working itself out. It's not something to be pleased or not pleased about. It's a -- it is a administrative, judicial ruling.
QUESTION: Well, but it increases the likelihood of him actually facing U.S. law, which, presumably, is something that the U.S. State Department is in favor of.
MR. ERELI: The question of the judicial process and what, what charges there are, and how those charges will be disposed of is something that I'm not going to offer an opinion about. I'd refer -- I'd leave it to the Justice Department to speak to how they see this process playing itself out, and to characterize their reaction.
QUESTION: And do you know where he's being deported to -- to the United States?
MR. ERELI: I do not. I do not.
QUESTION: Isn't he also in trouble with Japanese authorities? He s apparently lived there for over three years with fake documentation?
MR. ERELI: I -- you'd have to ask the Japanese authorities what their position is regarding his presence there.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. ERELI: New subject, sir.
QUESTION: The Arab-Israeli conflict.
MR. ERELI: That's not a new subject.
QUESTION: It's a very old subject. Not bad, not bad. That's good.
Adam, I know that you addressed this issue yesterday and on Friday and so on, but what is exactly the position on the expansion of settlements? Can the State Department issue a statement and say, we disapprove or approve --
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to my briefing --
QUESTION: There's a lot of confusion.
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to my briefing of yesterday --
QUESTION: I saw your briefing yesterday.
MR. ERELI: -- and where I reiterated what the President said in June 2002, and where I said that we are -- we are -- and I reiterated what our position was with regard to the roadmap, and I said what we're doing with Israel at the present time in terms of working to achieve progress toward what was agreed in the roadmap.
QUESTION: Okay, so --
MR. ERELI: So I think that pretty much covers it.
QUESTION: So would you say -- will you say that you are still opposed to the expansion of settlements, including what is called natural growth?
MR. ERELI: I would say that we are looking for practical steps from both sides and particularly on, specifically on the Israeli side, to making a progress toward a freeze in settlement activity.
QUESTION: Okay, on the prisoner issue?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. You know, the Palestinian prisoners have been on strike for ten days. I don't know if you're following this issue --
MR. ERELI: I don't think as closely as you are, but go on.
QUESTION: No, I'm sure not. But also, two human rights groups -- B'T selem, which is an Israeli group, and Friends of the Detainee, the Palestinian Detainee -- issued a very disturbing report about child prisoners. There are about 400 children under the age of 14; 250 of them are in Israeli proper; they're disallowed visits by their parents, and if they do, because of the difficulty of getting from the West Bank and so on. There's also a punishment for this. Apparently, organizations send money and so on to these children and the Israelis deduct them. They take their money away for punishment, as a form of punishment of these children.
Are you aware of that or are you following up on that?
MR. ERELI: I had not seen the specific reports you're alluding to. Obviously, humanitarian conditions in the occupied territories is of great concern to the United States. It is something that we regularly engage with the Government of Israel on and it is certainly something that we pay very close attention to and document in our Annual Report on Human Rights Practices.
But as to the specific cases that you're mentioning, I don't have -- I don't have information to share with you. I will check into it and see if we can get you something.
QUESTION: A follow-up from yesterday's discussion on settlement activity. Do you have a definition of what constitutes settlement activity that you could offer today?
MR. ERELI: No, and I would really discourage -- discourage you from looking for that, simply because this is (a) an ongoing issue of discussion and, you know, (b) I think I wouldn't be able to give you -- make a -- how should I put it? -- get into a legalistic definition because, frankly, what our objective is is less legalistic than, I think, political, in the sense that, yes there are, there are definitions or, yes, there are understandings that need to be arrived at. But at the same time, what we're looking for, and this is what I spoke to yesterday and what we'll speak to in the future is practical steps -- practical steps that each side can take that engender confidence in the process, engender confidence in the other side and allow forward movement on the way to a two-state solution. That's the sort of philosophy and basis of the roadmap, and that's where our energies and diplomacy are directed toward.
QUESTION: Do you have an exact date yet, as to when the State Department team will go out to the region?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: And also --
MR. ERELI: And I wouldn't call it a State Department team, I would call it a technical team. I don't know that -- I don't have the facts of its composition, so I don't think -- I couldn't confirm to you that it would be accurate to call it a State Department team. The way it's been described to me is, as a "technical team." But since I don't know the exact composition and from where all these people will be going, I wouldn't call it a State Department team. I also don't have the details of when they'll be going, but it would be in the near future.
QUESTION: There was a report today -- excuse me -- there was a report in a newspaper today saying that Mr. Weisglass was coming here to Washington on the 9th of September. Is the technical team going out to the region before or after the 9th?
MR. ERELI: I don't know. I do not know. What will they do, George? I think they will -- you know, as I said yesterday, we are working with the Israelis to clarify their intentions with regard to settlements. I think this technical team will be part of those discussions.
QUESTION: On Darfur.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Britain's Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said on Tuesday that we are all in a position by the end of next week to make judgments about whether there is sufficient progress. There is not enough progress, but and the question is whether there is sufficient progress. What's your comment on that?
MR. ERELI: My comment is, I'm reluctant to comment on comments that are put to me out of context. I will say this: Foreign Secretary Straw is in Sudan. He is there to get a firsthand impression of what's the situation there. We will be consulting with him, as we will be consulting with our other Security Council partners to, consistent with Resolution 1556. This -- I believe there's a meeting today in the Security Council to hear an interim report on implementation of Resolution 1556. The Security Council will meet to hear the Secretary General's Special Representative's assessment on September 2nd.
So this is -- Secretary Straw's visit, I think, is a part of our collective effort to gather information, see what the situation is, work together to come to a common understanding of how effectively the Security Council resolution has been implemented, and what steps to take on that basis.
QUESTION: When is the time of the meeting? Sorry.
MR. ERELI: The Secretary's September 2nd meeting is when Mr. Pronk, the Secretary General's Special Representative, will report to the Security Council and provide his assessment.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: A British diplomat at the UN said something that has been echoed by others, and that is that he doesn't believe there will be support to do anything stronger than the resolution that's already been passed against the Government of Sudan; and the Government seems to be counting on that as well. Does the U.S., in its talks behind the scenes up there, get the same impression?
MR. ERELI: I don't think we're quite prepared to make that sweeping a statement. We continue -- our view is, first and foremost, let's collect the facts, let's see what the Secretary General's Special Representative comes up with, let's reflect -- let's reflect calmly, coolly, with due deliberation, and as a group, decide what is the best course of action to take.
QUESTION: But surely --
MR. ERELI: But I'm not, at this point, prepared to preview or prejudge or handicap what that decision's going to be.
QUESTION: But surely the interim progress reports you've seen so far aren't encouraging that you're going to see a whirlwind of difference in the next week.
MR. ERELI: I think we've been pretty upfront about what we're seeing and what we're concerned about. You know very well that there has been some improvement in the ability of the international community to provide humanitarian assistance.
Capacity is stretched, but access has improved. The security situation, as you know is -- remains inadequate with continued violence, continued fear of internally displaced persons from going, returning to their villages, a lack of security in the countryside.
So these are all observations that the Secretary General's Special Representative will put together in his assessment that will be the subject of discussion at the Security Council. I don't want to prejudge it.
QUESTION: Adam, the Sudan Embassy, here on Western Massachusetts Avenue, is closed with a notice saying, "Closed until further notice." In any way, did the State Department specifically ask that they close it and/or put pressure on them to do that?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of any such actions.
QUESTION: On Cyprus -- I'm sorry -- on Mr. Powell. Did you finalize the schedule of Secretary Powell's meetings during his visit in Athens?
MR. ERELI: No, not final yet.
And on Cyprus. According to the Department of the Treasury, Office of Public Affairs, in another step to protect the integrity of the U.S. financial system and identify the rogue financial institutions, the U.S. Department of the Treasury today designated two foreign banks: first, Merchant Bank of the so-called -- the so-called is mine -- called "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" and "Infobank of Belarus," as financial institution of primary money laundering concern, pursuant to Section 311 of the USA Patriotic Act.
Do you have anything on that?
MR. ERELI: No. I think the Department of Treasury, they're the -- the department that put out the statements would be the ones to talk about it.
QUESTION: But your Department is not concerned about what is going on up in Northern Cyprus to this effect?
MR. ERELI: No, we are -- the U.S. Government is, and the Department of Treasury is part of the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: In Japan, U.S. Marine Corps (inaudible) Japanese University, but because of the SOFA, the Japanese side couldn't join in the investigation, so the local government is now the -- requesting a review of SOFA. What's your position on SOFA?
MR. ERELI: Well, I don't really have a comment on that issue, per se. Let me say that, with respect to the helicopter crash and the fallout from that, it was an accident. It is an accident that we have expressed our serious regret over. We have made clear to the Government of Japan that we take safety very, very seriously. We are conducting an investigation. My understanding is that, certainly, at the scene of the accident, cooperation and coordination between the United States and Japan was excellent. We are very mindful of Japanese concerns, Japanese needs, in this area, and taking -- doing everything we can to work closely with our Japanese partners. There is an investigation underway, as you mentioned, and we are taking every possible precaution to ensure the safety of our flights and the security of our Japanese friends.
QUESTION: Well the local mayor is requesting is the return of U.S. Marine Corps Air Base, Futenma. How are you working on that issue?
MR. ERELI: We are, as I said before, we are working with Japanese authorities in a close and cooperative way.
QUESTION: North Korea made another statement yesterday that they had no hope; they came to have no hope for the next six-way talk, because American attitude toward North Korea, they said. So does the U.S. have any method or leverage to bring North Korea to the table?
MR. ERELI: Do we have any --
QUESTION: Does -- do you -- does the U.S. have any method or leverage to bring North Korea to the table?
MR. ERELI: I don't think it's a question of the United States having leverage to bring North Korea to the table. Let's remember how this process works.
First of all, it's a six-party process, so that it's not a question of the United States versus North Korea; it's a question of a multilateral diplomatic approach to a common problem, number one. Number two; it is being worked through multilateral diplomacy, with China as the host of the talks. And number three, all the parties to the talks agreed at the last plenary to hold the next plenary before the end of September in -- to hold the next plenary at the end of September.
So that's what was agreed to. And as far as we understand, that agreement remains in effect, notwithstanding different things that we hear from different elements in North Korea.
QUESTION: Are you saying there's a split in the North Korean hierarchy there?
MR. ERELI: No, I didn't suggest that. I just said we're hearing different things from different elements.
QUESTION: Have you sought clarification in the last 24, 48 hours?
MR. ERELI: No, not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Adam, the North Korean Government has just been hurling insults at President Bush for the last couple of days, calling him a tyrant, lots of other things -- just a long list of kind of interesting things that they say. Do you think that these kind of statements are productive? Do they contribute to any loss of confidence that the talks will be successful?
MR. ERELI: You know, I wouldn't make the connection, certainly, between these comments and the talks. I would simply reiterate what we said yesterday, that obviously we take issue with those statements. We do not believe they're appropriate to diplomatic discourse. You know, our focus, frankly, is on trying to work with our partners internationally to address a problem of regional concern, which is the threat that North Korea's nuclear programs represent, and to find a way to eliminate that threat in a multilateral context.
That's where our focus is. It's not on sort of rhetorical flourishes or outbursts. It's on steady, consistent, dedicated work to bring about the end of the nuclear threat on the North Korean Peninsula -- on the Korean Peninsula.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Adam, could you give us an idea on how Ambassador Negroponte is working to defuse the situation in Najaf, if he has any role at all? Because you don't read anything in the news. What's going on? What kind of role is the U.S. Embassy having or is this a purely military matter?
MR. ERELI: I think the best way to put it is that this is a situation that the Government of Iraq is resolved to settle, that they have -- that the Government of Iraq and Prime Minister Allawi have made very clear their approach to this, both in terms of what they want to see the Mahdi militia do and how they -- how they propose sort of moving forward to bring them into the political process.
The position of the United States is, and the activity of our Embassy is directed toward supporting the Government of Iraq and Prime Minister Allawi in their efforts to bring this -- I don't know what to call it -- this standoff to an end, peacefully if possible, but to do what we must to help assert the central government's authority over -- over the country. That's an important principle to establish.
Another important principle to establish, I think that we agree on, is if you're going to -- if you're going to dissent against central government authority, you need to do it peacefully and you need to do it within the context of the political process. This is an important message, not just for the Mahdi militia, but to anybody in an emerging democracy who is dissatisfied and wants to protest. There are ways to express your grievances and there are ways to protest. Taking over a mosque, shooting innocents, and provoking violence is not one of them.
One more. Yeah.
QUESTION: On the Olympics. According to USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Washington Times, and some other big newspapers, the anti-Americanism terrorism in Greece was a big zero, nothing. And the San Jose Mercury wrote today, we apologize to Greece for all negative stories so far. Any comment on that? You are laughing. It's a matter of laughter.
MR. ERELI: No, I'm not laughing.
QUESTION: Any comment? (Laughter.)
MR. ERELI: Comment on the newspaper's comments?
QUESTION: That's exactly -- there was discussion --
MR. ERELI: I think that -- I think that, as we said before --
MR. ERELI: Greece has put on a great Olympics Games and they deserve full credit and praise for that.
QUESTION: And one more. According, however, to a bunch of reports, Ambassador Tom Miller, who carried, also, the Olympic flame, he was soundly criticized because he was the only U.S. official who advised the American athletes and the American tourists that terror exists over Greece and asked them not to show their pride, not to display the American colors, and not to sing loudly the American national anthems of Francis Scott Key, in order --
MR. ERELI: I don't --
QUESTION: -- let me finish -- in order to be protected by a mass of angry anti-American Greeks, (inaudible) even presidential candidate John Kerry, to ask athletes and tourists not to follow those type of advice. My question is, since Secretary Powell is going to Athens, is he aware about Tom Miller's such tactics, should consider (inaudible) interests, and it's an obvious effort to disgrace Greece --
MR. ERELI: Okay, hold on. That's enough.
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MR. ERELI: That's enough. That's -- no. That is enough.
QUESTION: (inaudible) to bridge the gap between the American and Greek people.
MR. ERELI: Sir, let me -- no, let me tell you something right now.
QUESTION: Yes, please, explain his role.
MR. ERELI: I am not going to explain his role, because your information, I think, is not accurate. You are basing your question on a false presumption, and that presumption is that somehow the American Ambassador acted in a way that was -- that distorted the facts and was contrary to the interests of Greece and contrary to the interests of good bilateral relations, and he didn't do it. So the premise of your question is just not there.
QUESTION: No, I'm --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, that's what I have to say.
QUESTION: No, it's of value -- his statements to the press. It's of value. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)