State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for January 25
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for January 25 -- Transcript
Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
January 25, 2005
Elections / Voter Registration / Polling Places / Monitors
Arrest of Abu Umar al-Kurdi
American Citizen Roy Hallums
Purported Hostage Videotape
U.S. Policy on the Taking of Hostages
Human Rights Watch Report on Prison Conditions
Commitment to Preventing Human Rights Abuses
Training of Troops and Police
Support for Iraq's Territorial Integrity
Sunni Participation in Elections
Secretary Powell's Meeting with U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Secretary Powell's Meeting with German Foreign Minister
EUROPEAN UNION / CHINA
U.S. Opposition to Lifting the EU Arms Embargo
U.S. Urges China to Adopt International Standards
Human Rights Concerns
Resumption of Six-Party Talks
U.S. Programs to Meet President Bush's Goal of Reducing Greenhouse Gases
Partnership with G-8 Partners and Other Nations
President's Commitment to Programs to Address Climate Change
Property Transactions in Northern Cyprus
Operation of Airports in Northern Cyprus
Assistant Secretary Burns Travel / Frankfurt Quartet Meeting
Travel to Egypt, Israel
Discussion of an Israeli-Palestinian Ceasefire
President Assad Meets Russian President Vladimir Putin / Joint Statement
UN Resolutions on Lebanon
Importance of Opposing Terrorist Groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad
Improving U.S.-Syria Relations
U.S. Policy on Sovereignty
U.S. Support for UN Border Demarcation Efforts
Use of the Name Macedonia
12:50 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
MR. BOUCHER: Kalimera sas.
If I can, I would like to take an opportunity at the beginning of this briefing, and I may do this another couple times this week as we head into the Iraqi elections, just to give some of the basic facts that I know you will all want in terms of reporting on the upcoming Iraqi election. And today, I will call it Iraq by the numbers.
The numbers that we have collected on preparations for the Iraq election, I think, are impressive and show that Iraqis from throughout the country and all different ethnic groups are, indeed, interested in participating and preparing for this election. And there are tens of thousands of Iraqis who are already, I think, involved in the preparations for the elections and, obviously, millions who may turn out to vote.
There are 14.27 Iraqis registered for the election --
MR. BOUCHER: Million. Did I say million?
MR. BOUCHER: I said 14.27. (Laughter.) The last guy is going to have a little hard time getting to the balloting box. (Laughter.)
There are 14.27 million Iraqis registered for the election. There are approximately 6,000 polling places throughout Iraq and, as you know, some overseas. There is something like 18,000 candidates, more than 18,000 candidates that are arranged in 256 party lists, and I think many of you who have read the reporting on the election know that voters will be choosing a party list and therefore be voting by the number of -- which numbered list it is. It is important to remember that.
There are 30-some alliances among party lists who are trying to cooperate together and will -- have pledged to cooperate with each other when it comes down to the assembly and government.
We know at this point of 25,000 monitors that have been trained, Iraqi monitors. About half of those are independent monitors and about half of those are people who will represent the political parties at the polling places. So, as I said, there's thousands of Iraqis involved already, 120 different Iraqi NGOs who are involved in this election, particularly on the monitoring side.
As you know, the Iraqi Election Commission has been leading this effort in terms of helping organizing and helping get the polling places together, helping get the lists together, helping get the monitoring process organized, and the international community has been helping, both the United States through our various education outreach arms and the European Union and various others.
So I will leave it at that for the moment and be glad to take your questions on this or any other topic.
QUESTION: Does the apprehension of the fellow reputed to be Zarqawi's assassin, chief lieutenant in assassination, is this a milestone in your attempt to pacify Iraq and beat down the opposition, the uprising?
MR. BOUCHER: I think I'd have to leave people on the ground to evaluate the significance in military terms. I think what it is is a sign of the continuing effort by the Iraqi Government in particular to take more and more responsibility and control of the security situation, to do what it takes to stop the violence, to pursue these people and stop their activities. It is a welcome step in terms of disrupting the terrorist network that has tried to hold the Iraq people back and disrupt the selection process.
Certainly there are plenty of violent people still out there, and they will have to be dealt with as well. But the arrest of Abu Umar al-Kurdi is certainly another sign of the determination the Iraqi Government has in this effort, and the need for all of us to continue to work on this and stop the violence, stop the people who are conducting this horrible violence.
QUESTION: Richard --
MR. BOUCHER: Hang on. Elise had a question.
QUESTION: This is also on the Iraqi elections. Despite the fact that there are five centers in America where Iraqi Americans can vote -- there are some 240,000 eligible Iraqi American voters -- registration in this country seems to be very low. What do you attribute that to?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I would make an assessment at this point. They have extended the availability of voting for another day or so. I may actually have that exact time here -- extended in all 74 registration centers in 14 countries for two additional days through, I guess, the end of the day today.
At this point, there are about 24,000 Iraqis who have registered to vote in the United States by -- as of yesterday. I don't want to try to make an assessment at this point. As you know, these numbers of eligibles, possibles and maybe Iraqi voters overseas have been, I think, very difficult to put together in very gross estimates. So it may be that the estimates were larger than the reality will actually be. We will just have to see how many people end up registering by the end of the day, and I'm sure our friends in the media will go out and find Iraqis in the United States and find out if they never planned or changed their mind or how they approached the registration process.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. satisfied at this point that the Iraqis have been able to minimize any impact from other countries trying to adversely affect Sunday's election?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that one can make a detailed assessment of that, either. We know that the Iraqis have made clear that foreign countries should not be involved in partisan fashion in these elections. They have welcomed the overall sort of general election support from various nations, and especially as it's been channeled through the Iraqi Election Commission and the NGOs that are working with them.
So I think the Iraqi Government has made clear that they do not want foreign countries involved in any partisan fashion, and to what extent they've been able to control and minimize that, I'm not sure I could really say at this point.
QUESTION: Yes, Richard, do you know the nationality of Abu Umar al-Kurdi? Do you guys know anything?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: Zarqawi is Jordanian. Kurdi is --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know his nationality.
QUESTION: Okay. All right, on the election. There was a report in Haaretz last week that Israeli from -- Israelis from Iraqi descent, and there are many of them, are ineligible to vote. Do you know anything about that?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't.
QUESTION: You don't know.
MR. BOUCHER: You'd have to ask the -- I guess the International Organization for Migration or the Iraqi Election Commission.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, one quick follow-up. The Iraqi Defense Minister, Hazem Shaalan, in a lengthy interview on Al Jazeera, said that the neighboring countries were intervening, but then when he laid out his case, it was just about Iran. Are you satisfied that the Syrians and others, the Turks, are not really trying to influence the election?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I'm in a position to make that kind of assessment. I think the Iraqis certainly, as you note, have talked more about Iran, and Iraqi -- Iranian attempts to influence parties or support different parties in Iraq, but I couldn't say that they're the only ones doing it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Charlie. You had something?
QUESTION: This is not on -- it's on Iraq, but not elections, if anybody else wants to stay on elections.
MR. BOUCHER: I guess let's keep moving.
QUESTION: Can we talk about the American hostage, Mr. Hallums, to the extent you can share any information? Can you talk about -- some of his family in California has told the media out there they have not been in touch with the State Department. I don't know if that's because they're -- an ex-wife is involved or not. Can you tell us what the State Department has done, on contacts and --
MR. BOUCHER: We have been in touch with his family since his disappearance in November. This is Mr. Roy Hallums, and we have been in touch with his family since his disappearance in November. I can't get into specifically who we might have been in touch with, and I don't know who others might have spoken to, but we have been in touch with the family since his disappearance in November.
We have been able, now, to obtain a copy of the videotape. We are analyzing it. It purportedly shows Mr. Hallums as a hostage, but I don't have any final judgments on it at this point. I would note that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is also in touch with Iraqi authorities and with the coalition military regarding any information relating to the welfare and whereabouts of unaccounted for American citizens. And that's about as far as I can go because we don't have a Privacy Act waiver.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up in this case, especially since you just mentioned the Embassy is in touch with the Iraqis on any -- well, are there any other missing Americans besides Mr. Hallums that we suspect might be being held hostage?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to do a list. The incident in Mr. Hallums' particular case was where individuals were taken from a Baghdad complex at gunpoint in early November, and he was the only American to have been taken in that incident. I will have to check and see if there are other missing Americans. I don't have any list.
QUESTION: You have no evaluation?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not at this point. We're looking at the videotape and don't have an evaluation yet.
QUESTION: And in your analysis of the videotape, is there any question about when it was made?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, we will be looking at it and looking at all those questions. I don't have any evaluation at this point.
QUESTION: In the videotape, Mr. Hallums specifically asked Muammar Qadhafi for help. And Mr. Qadhafi -- President Qadhafi has offered to help in other similar hostage situations, whether it be in Iraq or Saudi Arabia. Is there any plan to see if he has any contacts that perhaps --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that there's any particular plan. I'll have to check. But I do think it's -- you know, we certainly think that everybody should be telling anybody who wants to take hostages in this horrible fashion that they should stop it and they should release these people right away. That has been our position and maintains -- continues to be our position. There's no excuse for taking people like this hostage. It is not a basis for any policy or any program or any cause or anything but terror. And any person of good will should oppose it and should be speaking out and saying that these poor individuals should be released.
QUESTION: Have you asked the Libyans to do that?
MR. BOUCHER: Again, she's asking me that question. I said that was a question I couldn't answer at this point.
QUESTION: On Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Said.
QUESTION: Human Rights Watch issued a report on the situation in Iraqi prisons, and it's really quite abysmal. Have you taken a look at that yet? And what is your response?
MR. BOUCHER: We have taken a look at it. I would say that we need to examine it more closely, and any particular cases or allegations that we see in there, we will certainly follow up on with Iraqi officials. Any allegations need to be taken seriously by us and by the Iraqis.
We know, in fact, that the Iraqis are committed, as we are, to preventing human rights abuses in Iraq. We would note that the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights announced its own investigation of these allegations, including through enhanced prison visits -- a move that we would certainly welcome.
We will also give our own assessment in upcoming Human Rights Reports and other ways as we look at these things in more detail. We do have an ongoing dialogue with the Iraqis about human rights and about how we can all respect -- ensure the respect for human rights in Iraq. There's an Iraqi Minister of Human Rights. There is an Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights. We know they share our concerns and are active in supporting human rights throughout Iraq.
QUESTION: Richard, I spoke with Human Rights Watch, and they alleged that what is really most disturbing, many of former regime elements are still doing what they were doing during --
MR. BOUCHER: I know that's what they allege --
MR. BOUCHER: But I think one has to take these as allegations until they're demonstrated and investigated.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Elise.
QUESTION: One of the complaints of some of the training of Iraqi troops and police is that because there's such a rush to get them out on the street and doing the patrols, they're giving them the training -- they might be getting the training that they need, in terms of using weapons and things like that, but they're not getting the kind of training that they need to -- about respecting the rule of law, human rights, and that you're creating some kind of paramilitary-type troops because they're not paying attention to these type of human rights concerns.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know why one would jump to that conclusion. Again, we're not doing the training of Iraqi troops. General Petraeus is. The military is. So it's sort of what --
QUESTION: But the State Department is involved with the training police, aren't they?
MR. BOUCHER: Slow down, slow down. So, as far as what the course entails, I'm sure that General Petraeus and others can tell you about that.
We are involved in the training of Iraqi police, and I know that for our part, and I think for the military's part as well, that this is a professionalization course, this is an effort to make sure that people who had a certain experience already in police work or in military work, often a certain -- how do I say -- bad experience with this, are retrained to be a professional military that can serve a civilian government or a professional police force that can serve a civilian government.
Many times these are people who know how to shoot, and what they need is training in how to organize and operate a modern, effective police force or military that can operate with the consent of the citizenry and with the leadership of a civilian government.
So I don't know exactly how many days or hours in each course are spent on these sorts of things, but the whole concept of this training is to take people who perhaps do have some experience in these fields, knowing that their background was in a type of law enforcement or military that went often into excess, and that was the environment that they lived in, and then training them to be a modern, efficient police force subject to civilian control.
QUESTION: Could we move on, please, to foreign visitors, if we're finished with Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: All right. Last night, the plans went as planned. The Secretary and the British Foreign Secretary had dinner at the Embassy. I wondered it was purely a social event, saying goodbye, or did they get into Iran, Iraq, and especially European intentions, over U.S. objections, to sell -- to lift an embargo and sell weapons to China. Did the Secretary and Mr. Straw discuss this, and did the Secretary weigh in with U.S. concerns? Or was he convinced the regulations that the Europeans are considering will be adequate?
MR. BOUCHER: That's a lot more questions than I can answer at this particular briefing. Let me tell you where we are on these things.
First of all, the Secretary did have dinner last night with the British Ambassador and Foreign Secretary Straw and their spouses. It was an informal social occasion, but the ministers are both still ministers, Jack Straw and Secretary Powell, and so they did discuss, had a general discussion of a number of issues. I'm not going to get into a detailed listing of those issues or try to delve into them too deeply at this point.
I would note, similarly, that the Secretary had a good discussion this morning with Joschka Fischer, the Foreign Minister of Germany, who was in town visiting. And again, it was an informal meeting and discussion between friends, but also two friends who are still ministers, who are ministers, and they, in the same way, had both a general discussion as well as touched on various issues.
The issues that you raise -- the EU and Iran, or the EU and its arms embargo on China -- have been issues of frequent discussion with the European Union. The Secretary has raised them in his meetings and discussions with these ministers and others in the European Union. We remain in close touch with the parties involved in the discussions with Iran. We remain in touch with the EU on the subject of China, particularly through the presidency, which is now Luxembourg.
So these are issues that we pursue with Europeans and the European Union in a general sense, yes.
QUESTION: Could you just amend it and say that this was said during their two visits?
MR. BOUCHER: No.
QUESTION: Because you don't know or is it --
MR. BOUCHER: I am unwilling to do so.
QUESTION: You're unwilling to do so. Then we have no, as we say, hook, no angle.
MR. BOUCHER: Oh, that's too bad. I'm sorry. My job is not to stand up here and throw hooks.
QUESTION: No, no, no, that -- well --
MR. BOUCHER: Only baited ones, actually.
QUESTION: No, actually, you have a public policy on this, and it would be nice to know whether, as he exits, the Secretary is reaffirming that policy with would-be suppliers of China.
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not in a position to specify any particular issues on his discussions.
QUESTION: A follow-up --
MR. BOUCHER: Charlie.
QUESTION: -- with an aim to looking for another hook. Do you know if the subject of the President's Inaugural Address came up, and did either of the ministers involved --
MR. BOUCHER: Again, I'm not going to talk about any particular issues.
QUESTION: Following up on the EU and Iran. There are reports that they are meeting today and that the Iranians -- the talks are not going well, with the Iranians resisting what the EU is proposing. Do you have any --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have any updates on European discussions with Iran. This is something we do keep in touch with. I think we have made very clear, the President has made very clear, that we hope those discussions succeed and we hope that the Iranians agree to take the steps that the EU is looking for and to take the steps that would be required to satisfy the international community of Iran's intentions.
QUESTION: Back to China. It is your policy that you oppose lifting the embargo, and it seems to me whatever code of conduct they adopt, you're not going to agree with that step anyway. Is there room for, you know, bridging that gap? I know that the President will be in Brussels next month. Is there an attempt to try to narrow those differences before he goes there?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I think I wouldn't quite characterize our policy in the way that you have. We are, indeed, opposed to lifting the embargo on China. We think it is not the right policy decision, not the right time, given China's human rights record, and sends the wrong signal. We don't think an expansion of arms sales to China is appropriate at this time.
Second of all, we do stay in close touch with the Europeans on this. We've heard them talk about a code of conduct. But I can't reject it until I've seen it. We need to -- we would obviously take a look at it when they come up if they -- if that's the direction they go in and that's what they come up with.
So I think our position has not changed. We have made it clear and we continue to maintain that position. But we will also continue to stay in touch with them as they develop their own policy.
QUESTION: I have a couple of questions on this. One of the arguments of the EU is that it's a very select group of countries, which include Burma, Zimbabwe, some countries where the human rights record, although China is not very good, compared to some of these other countries, that China doesn't fit in that category; and if you're going to ask China to take a greater role in world affairs and become a greater world power, then you shouldn't be lumping them into a group of countries that includes some of the countries that you've called "rogue states" or "states of concern" over the last several years -- states of tyranny, rather, "enclaves of tyranny."
MR. BOUCHER: I guess the simple answer is that doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. The United States has led on human rights irrespective of the size of the country, the noted importance of the country, the relationship that we have with countries. You know, we cut off -- I cite the example, we cut off money to Uzbekistan despite the active relationship there because of human rights concerns. We have supported democracy, change, civil society and justice around the world -- friends, acquaintances. There are various kinds of countries.
I think the United States has continued to lead on human rights and we would expect to, and how we determine whether to pursue a human rights policy in a country is based on the human rights situation in that country, not on whether it's a big country or a little country or an emerging power or a faded power or what.
And finally, I would note that with respect to China in particular, you say China is, you know, emerging as a power in so many areas and growing in importance. Well, that's true. But as China emerges and China grows in importance, I think we have followed a policy across the board where, as China participates more in world affairs -- and we welcome that -- we have also expected China to look at international standards that are followed by other countries who participate in world affairs, whether it's membership in the World Trade Organization and adopting international economic standards or nonproliferation standards, or the kind of responsibilities that people take on at the UN by being a member of the Security Council, which China is now a full participant in and shown a lot of responsibility, or international standards of human rights. And so in all those directions, China's emergence, China's growth should lead in the direction of not only participating more in world affairs, but also adopting international standards.
QUESTION: All right, one more on this.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you solely objecting to the lifting of this embargo because of human rights concerns? Or are you concerned that China, given some of your concerns about Taiwan and other actions in the region, shouldn't be having these weapons?
MR. BOUCHER: Our particular view is that these are human rights problems in China that led to the imposition of the embargo and that we have not seen any change; in fact, we've seen some negative developments that lead us to think it's not the right time to withdraw the embargo.
We would, of course, have particular concerns about particular types of weapons systems that might be sold that could alter or change the military situation in the region, particularly vis-à-vis Taiwan. And as you know, in various cases, we've expressed those concerns before. But at this point, I think it's based on the human rights signal that it would send.
QUESTION: Are the British responding by saying they have not improved either the quality or the quantity of weapons that the Chinese already get from non-European countries? That's why I'm asking if the concern is still --
MR. BOUCHER: Well, that was your colleague's question the other -- just a while back: What do we think of the proposed code of conduct? And the answer is to look at it when we see it.
QUESTION: Well, no, I asked because -- yeah, but that's what it entails -- not giving them better weapons. That doesn't do it?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, but, Barry, she asked, is it the quality and quantity of the weapons, and I said, no, it's human rights. And you're now asking me -- but if you're satisfied on quality and quantity, doesn't that mean it's not a problem? And the answer is, no, it's human rights; it's a human rights problem.
MR. BOUCHER: That's what I said to her and that's what I'll say to you. Okay?
QUESTION: Human rights is on one side of the equation --
QUESTION: But you're also saying that human rights --
QUESTION: Human rights is the rationale for imposing the lifting of the embargo. My question is, granted, they have a terrible human rights record; if the Europeans don't give them better weapons and more weapons than they're already getting, isn't -- doesn't that make the European lifting of the embargo a kind of a nothing to worry about? That's my question.
MR. BOUCHER: No.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: It's (inaudible) --
QUESTION: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: I thought that when I asked, when I said that it seems to me that whatever the conduct -- the code of conduct is, you're still going to be opposed the lifting of the embargo, then you said that's not exactly the way I was saying it.
So I thought you were saying that you might be able to negotiate a code of conduct, the rules by which they would abide, that then you would find satisfactory. But now you're saying again, no, it's a human rights issue and you're not --
MR. BOUCHER: No, Nicholas, that's not the way you phrased it and that's not the way I phrased it. We are opposed to the lifting of the embargo as a general principle because of human rights concerns. It sends the wrong signal.
As far as any particular code of conduct that might satisfy us beyond that, we would have to look at whatever they came up with to see if it satisfied some of our other concerns. But we're against lifting the embargo because of human rights reasons.
Okay, where are we going? Deborah? Okay.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, let her start.
QUESTION: Okay. What are our hopes, what are the U.S. hopes for another round of six-party talks on North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: When?
QUESTION: Any -- soon.
MR. BOUCHER: It's up to the North Koreans.
MR. BOUCHER: We have made very clear we are prepared to go back to talks. We have made very clear that not only we, but other -- we know at least five out of the six are prepared to go back to talks, and it depends, now, on North Korea deciding that it is willing to solve this problem in a peaceful and diplomatic manner.
We remain very committed to pursuing that course. We're working with others to pursue that course. And I think it's time for North Korea to say they want to show up. But despite whatever hints or flavors or feelings that people got from them in the last few weeks, we haven't seen them say yet we're going to be there.
MR. BOUCHER: I would note as well, the President, I think, nominated yesterday or the day before, Mr. DeTrani, our special envoy, for the rank of ambassador so that he could continue to pursue this diplomatic track. And I think that's another sign of our determination to try to pursue this kind of diplomatic solution.
QUESTION: And meanwhile, North Korea is what? Not sitting still, is it?
MR. BOUCHER: It is not showing up for talks and not getting any better and not delivering the benefits that they could have for their people if they were to try to work out their better relationship with the world.
Okay, where were we? We're moving around to go -- you're next.
QUESTION: May I go back to Iraq?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. I thought you were changing topic, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Could you comment on reports about provinces in -- Shia provinces in the south wanting to form their own sub-state or something similar to the Kurdish situation? And my question is -- relates to if the Sunni turnout is very, very low, how concerned are you that Iraq could splinter into three separate political entities?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has always been very, very clear on our support for Iraq's territorial integrity and for the ability of Iraqis to work out their politics and their government organization in a system that allows the participation of all Iraqis of different ethnic backgrounds or religious backgrounds, but also -- but always within a unified state.
So that is the goal that we're seeking. We have looked for these elections to be as open and inclusive as possible, to offer opportunities to all Iraqis to participate in and vote in the election. And that continues to be a goal that we support and will continue to work for.
So I would say generally our goal is to find ways for Iraqis to work out their political issues within a unified state, and that is the task that they have before them as they elect an assembly and then start drafting the constitution. In that process of drafting the constitution, there are a variety of ways for people to participate. The elected members of the assembly will participate. There may be outside experts and others. So we will leave it to the Iraqis to work that out.
And what we see among the Iraqi leaders, whether it is Prime Minister Allawi and the efforts of outreach that he has made, or some of the other groups, is that they're all committed to including Iraqis from different ethnic groups and different religious backgrounds in this process of building a new nation for Iraq, drafting a new constitution, coming up with a new government. So we think there are still plenty of opportunities ahead in this process for Sunnis to participate, whatever the level of turnout is.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on the global warming report that was issued yesterday in London?
MR. BOUCHER: I think this was a private report written by a couple think tanks, and it's -- their intention was to influence British policy as Britain, as the G-8 chair, takes up issues of global warming. So I don't think I can really comment in any detail on the particular report.
We certainly are working with G-8 partners and friends on global warming issues, and the President has made a very clear commitment to carry out programs that address the long-term challenge of climate change.
Just to review what we are doing: We have domestic programs and incentives to meet the President's goal of reducing the nation's greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent by 2012; we have dramatically enhanced the commitment to develop and move to the marketplace cleaner energy technologies that are key to addressing climate change while promoting global prosperity; we have regional and bilateral agreements with major international partners to pursue research on global climate change and to deploy climate observation systems, collaborate on energy and sequestration technologies, and explore methods for monitoring and measuring greenhouse gas emissions; also point to innovative multilateral, international partnerships such as the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, the International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy, the Methane-to-Markets Partnership, the Earth Observation Initiative, the Generation IV Nuclear Forum, and the International Project to Harness Fusion Energy.
So we have been working, I think, in many ways with different partners to address these global climate change issues. The President is committed to doing that, and we will continue to work with the G-8 and others to try to address the real issues of climate change.
Sir. Okay, where were we? Actually, I was heading to the back. Let me go to the back and then we'll come back up.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, Mr. Boucher.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: Any answer to my pending question since last Friday regarding the legal property transaction in the occupied territory of Cyprus? What is the U.S. position?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm leaning to my able staff to see if they got you an answer yesterday. If not, we will get it to you this afternoon.
QUESTION: Okay. Any change --
MR. BOUCHER: We'll get you an answer.
QUESTION: Any change to revise your policy vis-à-vis to the illegal airports in Cyprus, in order not to be operated until a solution is found for the termination of Turkish invasion and occupation?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware we've announced anything one way or the other on the airport in the north. No.
QUESTION: And on Cyprus, the last one. According to a bunch of reports, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is in process to start new initiative to resume the Cyprus talks based on his plan, but this time not in the Alps mountains but in Malaysian mountains. Any comment on this initiative?
MR. BOUCHER: You would have to check with the Secretary General on that.
QUESTION: Yes, but what is the U.S. position vis-à-vis for the resume of the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I don't know that there has been any proposal to resume the talks, so at this point I would say you'd have to check with the Secretary General on where that might stand. Certainly, we think that the Annan plan was a good one, that people should be -- should find ways to accept it. I'll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Richard, on the Palestinians and Israelis.
MR. BOUCHER: All right, go ahead. We'll work our way back front now.
QUESTION: On the Palestinian-Israeli, could you give us some sort of a status assessment of the William Burns visit?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. All right. First I have to say that Assistant Secretary of State of Near Eastern Affairs Bill Burns was in Frankfurt yesterday. I think we might have said Brussels, but, in fact, he was in Frankfurt. The other Quartet envoys were there for a European conference, and so the Quartet envoys had an opportunity there to meet for an informal discussion in the wake of Palestinian elections.
The Assistant Secretary traveled to the region today. He is in Egypt. He plans to have meetings in Egypt, Israel, and will meet with Palestinian officials as well. We are still working on his full schedule and we'll put out his appointments, I think, after they happen.
We have seen a lot of talk in the region of ceasefire. We would certainly welcome that, if it can be made an effective ceasefire. We are encouraged, overall, that President Abu Mazen is taking concrete steps to control the security situation. We are pleased at the coordination that is taking place directly between Israeli and Palestinian officials, and I'm sure Assistant Secretary Burns will want to talk to them about that effort that they are making and to support that effort towards cooperation, coordination and ceasefire.
QUESTION: And the roadmap? Presumably, that's what they talked about in Frankfurt.
MR. BOUCHER: Quartet envoys, yes, talked about the roadmap and how to move in that direction --
QUESTION: Well, obviously, it's still the roadmap --
MR. BOUCHER: -- with these efforts to stop the violence, obviously, being one of the key factors in how fast we can proceed on the roadmap. How we can proceed on the roadmap, period, I guess, is a better way to phrase it.
Sir. You were waiting. Peter.
QUESTION: Sorry, I wanted to ask about (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Sir.
QUESTION: In Moscow today, a meeting between President Bashar Assad and President Putin, they issued a mutual statement after their talks that was -- that put lots of emphasis on fighting terrorism -- was very important to him, and also the necessity to free the Middle East from all the weapons of mass destruction; that would definitely include Israel. And also, that there should -- that we -- that world community must not be selective in choosing the implementations of the United Nations resolutions. That implies that it should be applied to Israel, too.
The Foreign Minister, Mr. Ivanov, also encouraged a positive dialogue between the United States and Syria. What is your reaction to all these matters?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that I'm going to have a reaction to everything the Syrians and Russians said with each other. It is always interesting to note these statements when they happen during visits, and I'm sure in your question you meant to note that there were some fairly significant UN resolutions on Lebanon that have been passed recently as well. And the United States has been working hard, I think, to see the implementation of all these resolutions, some of them by the negotiation process that we have been encouraging and supporting, and I think it's very important to remember the United States has always worked hard on comprehensive peace and continue to be open to the aspects of comprehensive peace.
So, you know, it's always good to see the Russians and the Syrians get together, or anybody meet with them, but this message that everybody's against terrorism needs to be carried out in fact. And countries that claim to be against terrorism need to work against groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and some of the others who have had presence in Syria, needs to work against the supply of weapons to Hezbollah, needs to work against all those who are trying to destroy the peace process through violence. It's not just good enough to go and issue a communiqué saying I'm for the peace process and against terrorism. You have to be against terrorism and support the peace process. That's what I think we and others have done.
QUESTION: Many U.S. officials have admitted or pointed to the Syrian efforts in fighting terrorism and helping the United States in that regard. But my other question is while some people in Washington are talking about worsening relations with Syria because of their own political backgrounds, we see that Russia, China, India, Spain, you know, many other European countries and big countries in this world are having different views than what some people are having here in Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, I'm not going to try to explain the behavior of other governments. What I will tell you is that U.S. policy towards Syria is based on the facts and it is based on the reality of what Syria is doing. When Syria has taken what we think are positive steps, whether its cooperation with us on al-Qaida or some of the steps they've taken with Iraq to improve the situation along the border or returning some assets, we've pointed to those, even if they were small steps, and said those are welcome. But we've also made clear that more steps need to be taken, and Syria's support for terrorism and its attitude towards various groups that are terrorist groups that are trying to sabotage the process through the use of violence is something that, again and again and again, we've pointed to as a problem -- a problem because it undercuts Syrian promises and it also undercuts the ability of the Palestinians to achieve a Palestinian state.
So I think the United States has had a very clear policy that's been based on the facts. We haven't overlooked any facts and we haven't made up any facts. But we would certainly like to move forward in this relationship. And many times, whether it's in the Secretary of State's visits or, you'll remember, the arrival of our new Ambassador in Syria about a year ago now, or with the visits of Assistant Secretary Burns, we've gone through all these issues and made very, very clear that we would welcome a better situation, a better relationship with Syria. But it'll be based on progress, on real issues.
QUESTION: May I -- one more?
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: There seems to be some differences in defining what terrorism is. And the statement, the Russian-Syrian statement today, talked about that, that the need of defining what terrorism is. You call terrorism -- certain actions as terrorism in there and some other people have different definition of that, and they're calling for an international definition of what terrorism really is.
MR. BOUCHER: Well, this is has been, sometimes, a discussion on the international scene, but frankly, we have found it too often an excuse for people who want to continue activities. If Hezbollah, Hamas persist in blowing up innocent people -- Palestinians and Israeli or the like when they're going shopping, or going to school, or riding on a bus -- I think everybody knows that's terrorism.
The Russians know all too well what terrorism is, sadly, from their own experience. So I think if the Syrians are in any doubt, maybe they should look more carefully at this issue and figure out what it is that Palestinian Islamic Jihad or al-Aqsa or, you know, Hamas, or all these other groups are doing. And to anybody, I think, blowing up people on a bus or at a shopping mall or at a restaurant is terrorism.
QUESTION: Back on peace process quickly, just a couple of things.
First of all, are you back to using Abu Mazen rather than Mahmoud Abbas, which you were doing last time he was an official in the Palestinian Authority?
MR. BOUCHER: I think, frankly, we ought to settle on one or the other. We have been -- I have got one note here that says, you know, the Secretary talked to President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and I've got another note saying that we expect to meet with President Abu Mazen.
So I'll tell you what. Whatever I use tomorrow will be the final analysis of this. I think we ought to check with him and see how he likes to be called.
QUESTION: And on the Burns visit, is he just trying to encourage the parties to seriously start talking to each other, or is there a specific mission that he's there to do? Why, at this time, did he have to go?
MR. BOUCHER: The simple answer, why at this time, is because it's after the Palestinian elections, it's a chance to go meet with the Quartet on his way there and to go down and support real effort on the ground that the parties themselves are making. So when the parties, when we see the opportunity there, when we see the change in the situation, we want to get out there and see what we can do to support that change and support progress. So it's a good moment to be there, and Burns is certainly one of our people who can work with both of the parties in a lot of detail to try to achieve progress.
QUESTION: On Kosovo, Mr. Boucher. According to a 40-page report released yesterday by the International Crisis Group, "Kosovo's de jure sovereignty should be recognized by the international community, including the United States of America," which means clearly that the Serbian southern province should have independence. What is the U.S. position on that geopolitical issue?
MR. BOUCHER: The U.S. position is what it's always been and it hasn't changed.
QUESTION: Which is?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll have to get it for you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And on one -- on FYROM, on FYROM.
MR. BOUCHER: Yes.
QUESTION: According to an official announcement yesterday by the UN, "The Secretary General met with Ilinka Mitreva, Foreign Minister of FYROM, on Monday, January 24th. The Foreign Minister briefed the Secretary General on the status of negotiations between FYROM and Greece, on the name issue, and the demarcation of the Kosovo section of FYROM's border with Serbia and Montenegro." What is the U.S. position on those two issues?
MR. BOUCHER: What was the second issue?
QUESTION: The demarcation of the Kosovo section.
MR. BOUCHER: Demarcation?
QUESTION: Yes. To drawing a line.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know our exact position on demarcation of borders, but if it's a matter that's being handled with the UN, we support -- I'm sure we support whatever the UN's doing in that regard.
I don't want to get too flip here, but we have worked very closely with the UN on these matters.
QUESTION: And --
MR. BOUCHER: As far as the name issue, I think we've made very clear that we were going to use the name Macedonia, Republic of Macedonia, for the Republic of Macedonia, but that we also continue to support very strongly the effort that was being made with the United Nations to come up with an internationally acceptable name. We look forward to using whatever the outcome of those discussions would be, using the name that came out of those discussions. So we certainly welcome the continuation of those discussions and the efforts that the parties are making and the UN is making to come up with an internationally acceptable name.
QUESTION: So you are going to accept any outcome to change the legal policy from the so-called Republic of Macedonia to the new name?
MR. BOUCHER: We'll adopt whatever name comes out of those international discussions. We've made that clear before.
QUESTION: And also, last week, the Greek Ambassador, Alex Mallias, M-a-double-l-i-a-s, Director of the Balkan Affairs for the Greek Foreign Ministry, had talks here at the State Department. May we have a readout on those talks?
MR. BOUCHER: I'd have to check for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:36 p.m.)