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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 26

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 26, 2004

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
- Announcement of Tenth Anniversary of Jordan Israel Peace Treaty
- Election Observers / OSCE / Global Research Observers

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
- U.S. Vision of Two States
- Prime Minister Sharon's Plan on Gaza Disengagement
- Withdrawal of Settlements in West Bank
- Status of Hamas and Palestinian Authority
- Health of Yasser Arafat

CUBA
- Fidel Castro's Ban on U.S. Dollar

CHINA/TAIWAN
- U.S. Perspective on China-Taiwan Relations

SUDAN
- Airlifting of African Union Troops into Darfur
- Schedule of Airlift Operation
- Opening of Bank Account by Mission of Sudan

IRAQ
- Additional Funding Requested
- Memorandum on the Transfer of Detainees
- Query on Missing Munitions

IRAN
- Upcoming EU-3 / Iran Meeting in Vienna

CHINA
- Discussions on Human Rights

CONGO
- Amnesty International Report / Ongoing Violence

GREECE
- Reported Airspace Violations


TRANSCRIPT:

12:40 p.m. EDT

MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our briefing today. If I may, I'll begin with a short statement that we'll be putting out after the briefing, recognizing the 10th anniversary of the Jordan-Israel Peace Treaty. We are recognizing that 10 years ago today, the leaders of Jordan and Israel signed a treaty of peace between the Hashemite Kingdom and the state of Israel.

We take this opportunity to honor the courage and vision of King Hussein and Yitzhak Rabin, both of whom dreamed of a better future for the people of the Middle East. Since their courageous and far-sighted step, Jordanians and Israelis have reaped significant benefits, including increased trade, improved security, and are moving forward down the path of mutual understanding.

It is also a good opportunity to look ahead and to reiterate our aspiration for a comprehensive peace between Israel and all of its neighbors, as well as with the Palestinians. And the United States will continue to work with all the parties of goodwill to expand the just, lasting and mutually beneficial peace that Jordan and Israel have achieved.

QUESTION: The chief negotiators were here just a couple of weeks ago, and they both made the point that pretty much the job was done without the United States -- didn't say that critically, but making the point that it depends on the parties primarily, U.S. coming in toward the end.

Do you have any view as to whether that's the way to go currently, for instance, with Israel and the Palestinians, or do you still think your roadmap is the way to go, where you're telling them what you think they ought to do?

MR. ERELI: The United States remains committed to the vision articulated by President Bush in June 2002. It is a vision of two states living side by side in peace and security. I think by consensus with the parties, the roadmap is the way to get there. It provides a practical and realistic approach to realizing the vision of two states. It is something that we remain committed to, something that the parties have reiterated their commitment to, and we continue to look for ways to move ahead in making progress on that roadmap and making progress towards the realization of two states living side by side.

QUESTION: October's almost over. You used the word "practical." Do you think it's practical, still, to refer to President Bush's hope, vision, whatever -- they call it vision over at the White House -- to have a Palestinian state next year? There's nobody for Israel to negotiate with.

MR. ERELI: We think it's practical and worthy of pursuit, the vision of two states living side by side. That's the only solution that we think will work. It is a solution that recognizes the aspirations of both peoples to live in peace and security within secure borders. It is something that is consistent with Security Council resolutions. It is something that meets the needs and desires of both Israelis and Palestinians. So, yeah, it's still practical, it's still realizable, and it's still something that we are committed to working toward.

QUESTION: Next year, still practical?

MR. ERELI: I think, you know, you have to take into account the realities on the ground. I'm not going to give you any timetable for it. It's a goal that we're working toward.

Yes, Elise.

QUESTION: New topic?

MR. ERELI: Sure.

QUESTION: Well, while we're at it, Sharon has been able to beat back people in his party who don't really see the point to just giving up Gaza for nothing in exchange. Are you pleased that Sharon has achieved this political -- apparently has achieved this political victory?

MR. ERELI: The vote in the -- on Sharon's plan is taking place in the Knesset today. I'm not -- I don't believe that vote has actually taken place, so I think I'll hold off on reacting to it until it's actually final.

We have made it clear that it is America's belief, the United States' belief, that the Gaza disengagement plan, as presented by Prime Minister Sharon, offers real opportunity for progress and a return to the political process. Israeli disengagement from Gaza, if done in a way consistent with the roadmap and with the support of the international community, has the potential to move both parties closer to a realization of the President's two-state vision.

QUESTION: Do you think Israel will be more secure giving up Gaza?

MR. ERELI: We think that the plan, as presented by Prime Minister Sharon, is a good opportunity and it is one that helps both parties achieve what we're all working towards.

QUESTION: How confident are you that Israel is not going to withdraw from Gaza and resettle and put more of a presence into the West Bank?

MR. ERELI: The parameters of the way forward, and the guidelines and principles, I think, are pretty well laid out in the roadmap. And that issue, I think, is dealt with in the roadmap.

We've made it clear, and I think it's the subject of ongoing discussion, with the Israelis, with the Palestinians, what we think the parameters are, what they've agreed the parameters are, for settlement. Obviously, it's up to them to negotiate that settlement, but clearly the withdrawal from Gaza offers the opportunity to give Palestinians control over an important part of territory, to give the Palestinians responsibility for their own affairs.

The withdrawal from settlements in the West Bank, as provided for in the plan, is an important step. As we've made clear, settlement activity is something that we're concerned about. It is covered under the roadmap and obviously has an impact on what the final negotiated settlement is going to be.

Yes.

QUESTION: Over the last, I guess, three years now with the Intifadah, there seems to be this whole adverse reaction to lack of security. And it's as if Hamas, al-Aqsa Brigades and other type groups have, in effect, hijacked the PA authority. Does this whole peace agreement that you're envisioning with the roadmap go forward if Hamas suddenly, and other groups, take over the Palestinian Authority? And right now, Chairman Arafat's health is very much in question.

MR. ERELI: Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Hamas has not taken over the Palestinian Authority. There is still a Prime Minister, Abu Alaa; there's still a Palestinian Authority responsible for the state of affairs in the Palestinian Authority.

Our view, and the view which we have, I think, reiterated very clearly, is for this, for the roadmap to work, for progress to be made, Abu Alaa, the Palestinian Authority, has to -- Abu Alaa has to have authority over the security forces, it has to be consolidated in his hands, and the Palestinian Authority has to take concrete steps against organizations such as Hamas that is using violence to block progress and, frankly, to undermine the aspirations and thwart the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

Abu Alaa, both Abu Alaa and Abu Mazen, I think, have made it clear when speaking of the Intifadah that, after four years, the question has to be asked: What has it gotten the Palestinian people? Are they better off now than they were four years ago?

The answer, in our view, clearly is no. And one of the reasons the answer is no is because groups like Hamas have used violence to impede progress, impede political negotiations, and as long as they continue to be allowed to operate, it's going to represent a serious obstacle.

QUESTION: On Arafat's health.

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you doing anything to encourage the Israelis to, should he have to seek medical treatment outside of Israel, allow him to return?

MR. ERELI: It hasn't gotten to that point yet.

QUESTION: Okay, but -- but I think some people -- it's speculation, but that perhaps he's afraid to leave the area because Israel won't allow him to come back. In the past -- in the past, the United States has encouraged Israel to guarantee his return.

MR. ERELI: Right. That is speculation. The circumstances, as we understand them, have not gotten to the point where any intervention has been called for, is needed, has been asked for. This is a situation that is being dealt with between Israelis and Palestinians, and their interaction, I think, has resolved the issue.

QUESTION: New subject?

MR. ERELI: Christophe.

QUESTION: On Cuba. Do you have any comment on Fidel Castro's decision to ban the use of the U.S. dollar in his country?

MR. ERELI: We think that this move is yet another indicator that Castro is refusing to do what's best for his own people. It shows that he's cynically trying to preserve a bankrupt regime at his people's expense. We see it as a confiscatory measure that demonstrates that our -- that President Bush's policy is working; it's squeezing the regime and causing them to take extreme measures that underscore its own inherent weaknesses.

Our commitment is to work toward a day when the Cuban people are free to build the strong democracy and a thriving economy that is denied to them by the Castro regime.

QUESTION: So you think that this measure indicates that Cuba's feeling the pinch from your harsh --

MR. ERELI: Sure. When they prevent their people from spending dollars and require them to exchange them for a 10 percent commission, that's pretty draconian.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Taiwan, in response to Secretary Powell's statement, President Chen Shui-bian responded that Taiwan is a sovereign country again and said that nobody, with or without diplomatic relationship to Taiwan, can deny that. I wonder, is there any response from State Department?

MR. ERELI: I think we dealt with the matter fully yesterday and don't have anything to add to what we said yesterday.

QUESTION: The Taiwanese in Taipei, the Taiwanese said that they would seek clarification of his response. And did they actually seek clarification and did you provide them any that satisfied them?

MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on that today.

QUESTION: What President Bush said last year when Wen Jiabao was visiting here, he said, well, President Chen show he has a willingness to change the status quo. Is that still a continuing concern from U.S. sides?

MR. ERELI: Our concern is that neither side should act unilaterally to change the status quo and that differences between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan are matters to be resolved peacefully by people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait absent the threat or use of force, and should be acceptable to people on both sides of the Strait.

Yes, David.

QUESTION: Adam, there was a report today that U.S. efforts to airlift AU troops into the Darfur area of Sudan has been delayed, possibly by feuding among the countries who are party to this. Do you have a read on that?

MR. ERELI: I think that's -- plans -- I'll put it this way. Plans to airlift African Union troops into Darfur are proceeding apace. The troops have been identified. The airlift has been identified. The airlift is actually in theater. It is -- I think the final logistical arrangements are being made and we expect it to take place shortly.

This is a sign, really, I think, of outstanding international cooperation and coordination between the Security Council, between the United States, between members of the African Union, and among -- and it shows that Africa and African nations are assuming a very important role in bringing assistance and providing for security for a problem in their own continent with the help and support of the international community, including the United States, including the EU, which has pledged, as we said yesterday, $100 million to this operation.

So this really is a good news story, I think, and augers well for the commitment and cooperation that is going to be needed to address the very serious problems that Darfur continues to suffer. And so, as I said, we are expecting this deployment to take place shortly.

QUESTION: There's no delay, then? It's exactly on your schedule?

MR. ERELI: There was no specific deadline to meet. To say that there was no delay, I mean, obviously, there are -- obviously, things happen that -- and circumstances arise that need to be dealt with, so -- but, you know, frankly, the operation is moving forward. The troops have been identified and they will go in a coordinated fashion.

QUESTION: And what are the circumstances that arose that had to be dealt with?

MR. ERELI: Frankly, I think it was a question of timing and logistics.

QUESTION: But not of what David had suggested, of --

MR. ERELI: Feuding?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. ERELI: I don't know if I'd call it feuding. I think I would call it simply that, you know, you've got large numbers of people to move long distances and there are necessities for coordination, and it's working through those that require -- you know, require time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. ERELI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on reports about the Administration seeking $70 billion extra in funding for Iraq, what might the State Department be requesting as part of that?

MR. ERELI: I really don't. I mean, really it's at a very preliminary stage and it's something that the Office of Management and Budget is coordinating, and I would really refer you to them for comment on -- if they can, at this -- again, at this preliminary stage, what's being considered, what's being looked at.

QUESTION: Do you know if -- and you may not know -- but do you know if any of the money is nonmilitary, is sort of more reconstruction money, or do you know?

MR. ERELI: I do not know.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Did you see anything interesting in Iran's latest hint that it might stop enriching uranium in the right circumstances?

MR. ERELI: It would be really speculative at this point. There will be a meeting with the EU-3 and Iran in Vienna tomorrow, I believe, and we will look forward to hearing about the outcome of that meeting from our European friends and seeing what happens.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Iraq and the decision by the Administration, the opinion to not treat -- to not afford non-Iraqi detainees provisions under the Geneva Convention, can you talk a little bit about that?

MR. ERELI: I really don't have too much to add about that. There was a memorandum that was discussed in press reporting about the Administration position on the transfer of detainees. We reviewed -- we were part of the Administration's deliberations on this issue. We provided our input. But as far as the findings and the decisions and the legal interpretations that came out of it, that's really a Justice Department issue and I'd refer you to them for comment.

QUESTION: The nuclear -- I think it may be ElBaradei himself, I can't remember -- are now raising the possibility that others have raised, not in the government, of course, but outside the government, that some of those missing munitions may have ended up in the hands of insurgents. It was just 24 hours ago that you, you know, briefed us on what you folks think. Is there anything you want to add to that about qualms about the whereabouts of those missing explosives?

MR. ERELI: No, I don't have anything to add to what I said yesterday. It's an issue that's being looked at.

Yes, Joel.

QUESTION: It's concerning our election here on November 2nd. The State Department, through the U.S. Congress, worked out a deal for international observers to come to various 50 states, and they've been denied some type of status in both Ohio and Florida right now. Has the State Department been asked to resolve that?

MR. ERELI: I don't believe so. I'll have to look into it. As we've made clear, our role is a purely facilitative one, to issue the invitation as a member of the OSCE, and as a member of OSCE is required by mutual agreement to do, and then to put the visitors in touch with local election officials, who arrange for their access and logistics and schedule.

So this was a decision, apparently, by local -- if it was -- the only thing I know about it is what you're telling me. But it's not something that we're directly involved in. It's something that takes place at the local level. I'm not aware of any requests or other kinds of communications that have been brought to us as a result of the reported incidents that you raise.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: In those groups, do you provide the permission? Because -- who has provided the permission, then, for the Global Exchange, who did a thorough research already from September 13 to the present?

MR. ERELI: I'm not familiar with the Global Exchange that you're speaking about.

QUESTION: It's global research. It's another group of international observers, 20 of them from various countries, who already prepared a report and here is in the U.S. for the election from September 13th to the present. And the report released the other day, 48-page, is detrimental, totally detrimental, whatever the report.

I was wondering, do you provide also permission to those groups besides the other one you mentioned earlier?

MR. ERELI: Yeah. I'm not aware of the group you're speaking of or if they have any relationship with the OSCE. It's not a question of permitting people to have access or not permitting people to have access. It's a free country. People can come, and as long as they observe the proper procedures for visiting the United States, which we all know about, come and look and observe and come to whatever conclusions or judgments they want to come to. It's an open society.

So I'm not familiar with the group, I'm not familiar with the report, but I do want to take issue with this suggestion that somehow we give them permission to come or don't give them permission to come. The access to the United States is the same for them as for anybody else.

With respect to the delegation from the OSCE, that is something, as I said before, that we work with the OSCE and local authorities.

QUESTION: And you are members, yes.

QUESTION: China?

MR. ERELI: China, yeah.

QUESTION: The Chinese spokesman from Foreign Ministry said that they are ready to resume the human rights dialogue, and I wonder, do you have any follow-up?

MR. ERELI: No, I think the Secretary spoke extensively on this subject in Beijing. I don't have anything, really, more to add to that than that.

Yes, Nick.

QUESTION: The Sudanese Government has threatened to close the American Embassy in Khartoum if you don't let the Mission of Sudan here open a bank account. Can you confirm that, first, and is there anything you can say about it?

MR. ERELI: I've seen the reports out of Khartoum, but I haven't -- I don't have independent confirmation of that.

I would take issue with the way the question was phrased because it's not a question of the United States letting Sudan open a bank account. To the contrary, the United States believes that all diplomatic missions, consistent with U.S. law and regulation, should have access to banking facilities. This is certainly the case with Sudan.

We have been, I think, very diligent and persistent in working with the Government of Sudan, working with its diplomatic personnel here, as we would any embassy, and working with local banking authorities to facilitate the provision of banking services to the government -- to the Embassy of Sudan. That is something that we take, you know, very seriously as part of our diplomatic duties. We do it for others the same way we'd expect others to do it for us, and we're hopeful that a resolution to this issue can -- will be arrived at shortly.

QUESTION: So, at this point, it's banking authorities who are not letting them open up an account; is that right?

MR. ERELI: At this point, it is an issue with banking authorities. It's not a question of the United States Government standing in the way of anything. To the contrary, we are working assiduously to help solve this issue.

QUESTION: When you say banking, you're talking about private banks?

MR. ERELI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And has there been, to your knowledge, any discussion with, if not government institutions, organizations like the New York Federal Reserve, for example, for them to take on this responsibility? You know, you're working solely with private banks?

MR. ERELI: We've investigated a number of options and tried, but I'm not aware of all the specific institutions we've contacted.

QUESTION: But you're concentrating on private banks, right?

MR. ERELI: Yes, mm-hmm.

Joel.

QUESTION: Adam, any response to Amnesty International's report that 40,000 women and girls have been raped over the last six years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in their civil war?

MR. ERELI: I had not seen that report. Obviously, as you know, we are very supportive -- we are very concerned with the ongoing violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are very supportive of the UN's efforts to bring that conflict to an end, to foster a dialogue between -- a political dialogue between the government and rebels in that country. It is a situation of great humanitarian suffering, as you suggest, and something that we are, I think, very eager, along with the rest of the international community, to try to contribute in bringing an end to.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: On Cyprus. According to Reuters News Agency, finally the United States Agency for International Development allocated $6.4 million for the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots to say a big "yes" to the Annan Plan, or the referendum of April 24th. May we have the list in order to see who got the money from both sides of the island; for example, politicians, reporters, TV commentators, et cetera, et cetera, to have an idea of what is going on?

MR. ERELI: Did you say from the U.S. Agency for International Development?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MR. ERELI: I'll see if I can get you something on that.

QUESTION: And also, do you know -- okay, it is the same one. Do you know -- do you have anything to say on the recent unusual violations on infringement of the Greek airspace, international airspace, and also the violation of the Greek territorial waters in the Aegean Sea by Turkish military establishment?

MR. ERELI: I am not aware of those reported violations, and it's not a subject that I would really be prepared to comment on.

Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB#175

[End]


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