State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 29, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing April 29, 2005 - Transcript
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
April 29, 2005
Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Travel to East Asia / Meeting Topics
Coordination of Department of State Officials' Foreign Travel
Under Secretary Bolton's Past Meetings with Russian and Israeli Officials
Joint Announcement by U.S. Department of State & Italian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs on the Death of Italian SISMI Agent Nicola Calipari
Investigation on the Death of Nicola Calipari / Issuance of Report and Final Conclusions
Continued U.S. and Italian Cooperation on Matters of Mutual Interest
U.S. Position on Cross-Strait Dialogue toward a Peaceful
Resolution of Differences China President Hu Jintao and Taiwan
Opposition Leader Lien Chan Meetings
U.S. Position on the 1992 Consensus in Regard to Cross-Strait Dialogue
Secretary's Visit to South America / Regional Development of Democracy
Nations' Decisions on Relations with Cuba
U.S. Position on Democracy and Democratic Values in the Region
ORGANIZATION OF AMERICAN STATES
Support for Process to Select OAS Secretary General / Identifying Candidates
Purpose of Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Visit and Topics of Discussion
UN Report on Lebanon / Discussions with UN Special Representative Roed-Larsen
ISRAEL / PALESTINIAN
American Coordination with Russia and Other Quartet Members / Role
of Palestinian Security Forces in Securing Peace / Concern that
Lethal Equipment Remains Secure
Use of Six-Party Talks to Find a Solution to North Korea's Nuclear
Weapons Program / Assessment of North Korea's Nuclear Program
Cooperation with China on Six-Party Talks
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Well, since I have some announcements, we can begin with those before getting to questions.
Let me start with a travel announcement. Deputy Secretary Robert Zoellick will be going to Southeast Asia from May 2nd to 11th. He will travel to Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines. This will be an opportunity for Deputy Secretary Zoellick to speak to our partners in these countries and seek their views on issues of common economic, political and security interests, as well as talking about how we might strengthen ties during the second term of President Bush.
A stop of special note will be Banda Aceh, where Deputy Secretary Zoellick will review our efforts to transition from post-tsunami humanitarian aid to reconstruction assistance. And we will also be consulting with Indonesia and with the other players in the assistance program about how we can best use the additional tsunami-related assistance that Congress will be -- we hope Congress will approve in the 2005 supplemental budget request.
And finally, another stop of note will be Vietnam, where the Deputy Secretary will observe the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam.
And finally, another event of historical interest, the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, which we will be able to observe through events in Vietnam and -- I'm sorry, which we'll be able to observe through events in the Philippines.
So that's the first announcement.
QUESTION: Adam, can I ask you --
MR. ERELI: On this?
QUESTION: No. Does someone have something on this?
MR. ERELI: Okay, because I've got a couple more announcements.
QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry. I came in -- I thought you were --
MR. ERELI: As we wait for the wires, but -- anyway --
QUESTION: No, no, I'm sorry.
MR. ERELI: Okay. On to Italy where as you know we issued a joint announcement earlier today on the joint investigation. I just wanted to draw your attention to that announcement, and to the key point, which I think for us and for Italy is that we all agree that this was a tragic event. We've worked well and closely together to investigate what happened and why. And one thing we all agree on -- or we both agree on is that despite what happened -- and Mr. Calipari was indeed a hero and a valued, a remarkable man and a valued friend of the United States -- but this tragic event will not harm or hurt the long-standing friendship between the people of the United States and the people of Italy, or the commitment of the United States and Italy to work together as allies in helping the people of Iraq and in confronting common challenges throughout the world.
And I think it's important to underscore the strong spirit of cooperation and friendship with which the United States and Italy dealt with this tragic event, as well as how we will work together to deal with other issues in the future.
Any questions on this?
QUESTION: Yes. You say in the statement, in the joint statement, you could not have joint conclusions. The statement also says there was agreement on all sorts of things, like facts. What is a joint conclusion that you cannot agree on? Is it a -- I could stop there.
MR. ERELI: Yes, let me --
QUESTION: Can you not conclude who's at fault? Can you not --you can jointly agree what happened. What is it you can't jointly conclude?
MR. ERELI: I will leave it to the issuance of the report to answer those kinds of questions. The questions you're asking about -- what was agreed to, what wasn't agreed to -- get to the substance of the report that we will be issuing shortly. I don't want to get ahead of that. I haven't seen that report. I can't speak to it. So I'll have to answer your question that way.
The important point for us is that although there might not be agreement about the final conclusion, there were agreements on a number of issues (a); and (b) that there was, I think, a close cooperation between the United States and Italian investigators, and that there was a spirit of cooperation and partnership that characterize this report.
QUESTION: When are you going to release the report?
MR. ERELI: Soon.
QUESTION: What do you mean?
MR. ERELI: I can't -- I can't specify because the State Department's not releasing the report. It would be released by the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: Do you know if it'll be today?
MR. ERELI: I don't know if it'll be today.
QUESTION: Adam, just to follow up on that. To be very clear, you say that there's agreement on a number of issues and I guess the statement says, also, on some facts there.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is it also true to say that there was disagreement on substantive facts, as well?
MR. ERELI: It's fair to say that there was not agreement on a final conclusion.
QUESTION: But that's what it says?
MR. ERELI: It sounds pretty clear to me. There are -- yes -- there is agreement on certain facts, on certain aspects of the investigation. Final conclusions is not -- there are differences about the final conclusions.
QUESTION: Adam, it's been widely, widely reported that the report -- that U.S. investigators found that the American soldiers followed the rules of engagement, did nothing wrong and therefore should not be punished. Is that the central thing that you can agree on?
MR. ERELI: As I answered the earlier question, I'm not going to speak to the substance of the report. It hasn't been released yet. It's important that before speaking to it, that it be released, that people have the chance to see it and then we'll speak to it.
QUESTION: My point exactly, so why have you just issued a joint statement speaking about the report, having failed to issue the report?
MR. ERELI: Because --
QUESTION: Wouldn't it have been smarter to maybe put the report out and then comment on it with a joint statement?
MR. ERELI: No. The report is being reviewed by the governments, and we believed it was important to having -- before putting out the report, while it's under review, to put out a statement saying that although there will not be agreement on the final conclusions, there is -- there are --
QUESTION: You are denying --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry, excuse me. That even though there aren't agreement on the final conclusions, that the United States and Italy have to work closely and cooperatively together on this investigation; that as I said earlier, it is a tragic event that the victim in this event, Mr. Calipari, and his family have suffered a lot and we recognize their sacrifice. And that together, Italy and the United States will continue to work as allies and to share common cause in issues that confront us. And it is important to, I think, make that statement and make that point ahead of the release of the report itself. That's why we did the statement.
QUESTION: Why? Why? Why not just do it concurrently? You know, here's the report and we're good friends, we worked hard on this together?
MR. ERELI: Because I don't think they're ready to release the report just yet.
QUESTION: If I can just follow up --
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- just on one point again. I'm sorry to be very precise. You say there was no agreement on conclusions. Okay, we understand that. But there's also a number of facts that were in dispute: the speed of the car, the reaction time --
MR. ERELI: Right. And that gets to the substance of the report, which I am not going to speak to.
QUESTION: Okay; let me just finish my question. You said there was agreement on some -- on a number of issues. Can we say with accuracy that there was some disagreement on some points of fact, as well as conclusions? I'm not asking you to go into what the report said, but that there was disagreement on points of fact, as well as conclusions?
MR. ERELI: Yes, I think that's probably fair.
QUESTION: So when you're saying they did agree on facts, you just mean that they agreed on more than one fact, but not on all of them?
MR. ERELI: There were -- I would say this: There are a number of areas -- there are more areas of agreement than there were areas of disagreement.
QUESTION: On matters of fact?
MR. ERELI: On matters of fact and conclusion.
QUESTION: Two separate reports will be released -- one by the Italians and one by the U.S.?
MR. ERELI: I can't speak for the Italians. We will be issuing a report, a unilateral report from our end. I can't speak to what the Italians will do.
QUESTION: One question of a political nature. Instead of agreeing to disagree, to say we could not find shared conclusions, diplomatically speaking, to say we share responsibility for what happened, there have been --
MR. ERELI: Did I say that?
QUESTION: No. I'm just saying --
MR. ERELI: Oh. Okay.
QUESTION: -- I'm saying it would have been --
MR. ERELI: Just making sure I didn't say that.
QUESTION: -- just as bland. What was the impediment to doing it that way to -- and I have another question.
MR. ERELI: Again, you're asking me to comment on what the report says, and I can't do that. I think if you look at the joint announcement we put out today, it makes clear that at the direction of President Bush and Prime Minister Berlusconi, this was a joint investigation, that Italian participants were very much a part of what -- of investigating, finding out the facts and in coming to conclusions.
The statement also makes clear that having completed this investigation and having come to the conclusions that we have respectively come to, Italy and the United States are strong allies; have a close and vibrant friendship that is based on shared values and ideals; and that on that basis we continue to stand side by side with the Iraqi people and, under the mandate of the United Nations, to help build a strong and secure and democratic Iraq.
So I think that is a very emphatic statement of political agreement, if you will, political solidarity between the two countries. And it is being made at the conclusion of the investigation. And I think that tells you something about the climate and the tone of the relationship at this point in time.
QUESTION: And a follow-up.
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Follow up. That was the political side, the fact. CBS aired a satellite reconstruction that supposedly said that from the time that the approaching car was seen, was noticed, and the time that they started shooting it as only three seconds.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is that a fact that you both agree on?
MR. ERELI: Again, I'm -- not only am I not going to talk about the substance and the findings of the report, nor am I going to speculate and speak to a television reenactment of the event.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: You said that this was a joint investigation.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: How come there's not a joint report then, based on the joint investigation's findings?
MR. ERELI: Because there is not a shared final conclusion.
QUESTION: Let's say you disagree on the conclusions?
MR. ERELI: You can put it any way you want. I'll put it as, "There's no shared final conclusion."
QUESTION: So -- but if there's a joint investigation and there are certain facts that you both agree on --
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: There are certain conclusions that you both agree on, will that be put in the report? Otherwise, this is your investigation based on your findings and your conclusions, not a joint --
MR. ERELI: No, it is our report on a joint investigation.
QUESTION: And just to be clear, I think you said before that you have no idea whether the Italians will issue their own report on your joint investigation?
MR. ERELI: Let me see if I've got something. I would refer you to the Italians on whether and when -- if and when they will be issuing their own report. I don't have anything to confirm for you on that.
QUESTION: So if this is a joint -- if this is your own report on a joint investigation, isn't this your interpretation of the findings of the investigation?
MR. ERELI: It is, yes.
QUESTION: Will it be in the report what was agreed on and what was not agreed on?
MR. ERELI: I don't know.
QUESTION: So then how can it be -- if the investigation reaches a natural course, how or -- is anybody supposed to know what the Italians -- what -- this is just basically your set of facts, based on an investigation that you jointly conducted with the Italians?
MR. ERELI: It will present -- well, I should say I have not seen the report, so I'm a little reluctant to speak to you about what the report -- in detail what the report's going to include. But it will present the facts as we understand them. It will present the findings of the investigation, based on -- and detail the actions taken during the investigation. I can't tell you whether it will sort of say here's where the Americans -- here's what the Americans think, here's what the Italians think. I don't know. I haven't seen it. But it will provide for you as full and accurate an accounting of what happened as we are able to do.
QUESTION: Will it sustain your final conclusions?
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen the report so I can't tell you what the final conclusions --
QUESTION: But you just told us -- no, no, you cannot use your ignorance of having directly seen the report -- you know, if you're going to say, it will present this and present that, it seems to me perfectly reasonable. You said it will present facts. You said it will present an accounting of what happened. It seems to me perfectly reasonable to ask you, since you have just said it will present those things, will it present your final conclusion about this?
MR. ERELI: I will wait -- I will defer an answer to the question until the issuance of the report.
QUESTION: Adam, just on another dimension of this. The statement and yourself have gone to lengths to say that the United States and Italy remain good allies and strong allies and faithful allies. But you are not denying that this incident has had diplomatic repercussions and has produced some strains, or what is your --
MR. ERELI: I would say that this incident has greatly troubled Italy and Italians, and we recognize that. And it has troubled us because we don't like to see a man of Mr. Calipari's stature and character and integrity come to this end in the service of his country, in the service of peace and in the service of objectives we all share.
So it is unfortunate. And that's why the United States and Italy, starting from our senior-most leadership and down to the working level in the field -- both in Rome and in Baghdad and here in Washington -- all of us have been -- have joined together to try to bring this incident to a resolution that we're comfortable with and that helps to, I think, reinforce rather than undermine the close and strong relationship between the United States and Italy, both at a political level and at a personal level between the two populations. And we think we've succeeded.
QUESTION: But surely -- I mean, you said -- have strived to come to a resolution that we're comfortable with.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Surely you have failed in that unless you're using the royal "we" -- or "we", to refer only to U.S. officials, because the Italians and you have not reached a resolution that you're comfortable with, in the sense that you haven't reached a shared view.
MR. ERELI: I think, as -- and again, that's why I draw your attention back to the joint announcement that points to the fact that having gone through this investigation, having found many more points of agreement than disagreement, having worked together with Italian involvement and participation, and that having come to the conclusions that we have come to, through the course of all that, the United States and Italy remain strong allies, have a close and vibrant friendship, and remain committed to the objectives at hand in Iraq. And that is the key point to take away from all this.
QUESTION: But is that --
MR. ERELI: And I would make another point, just a broader point. In any bilateral relationship, on any issue -- maybe I shouldn't be so categoric. In almost every bilateral relationship and on a large number of issues, there are inevitably going to be disagreements. That's just the nature of relationships, whether they be personal, organizational or sovereign. And the mark of a strong relationship is to be able to work together; to define the areas of agreement; to accept the areas of disagreement; to put them all in the proper perspective; and then to move on and to work together, cooperatively and productively and amicably, on matters of mutual interest.
In the case of Italy and the United States, there are infinitely greater number of areas of mutual interest and agreement than there are disagreement; and in reporting on this incident and reporting on this investigation, I urge you to bear that in mind.
QUESTION: In failing to come to agreement on all of the facts, is that due to either side or both sides wishing to have the facts conform to their views if --
MR. ERELI: I will not speak for Italy. I will say for the United States that the conclusions are based on the facts as we understand them and as we've determined them to be.
QUESTION: Adam, at what level was the decision made that you just couldn't come to a shared conclusion? Did it go up to a presidential level? Was it a foreign Minister-Secretary of State?
MR. ERELI: I'll have to take the question. I don't think it was that. I think it was at the level of those involved in the investigation, but I'll have to take the question.
QUESTION: Adam, when your report is issued by the Pentagon, reviewing this whole situation, are also any specific bullets or conclusions as to how to avoid miscommunications? We've mentioned before there are security details such as DynCorp and other type companies, Blackwater, that are working in conjunction with various embassies.
MR. ERELI: Again, that gets to the substance of the report, what's going to be in the report, and I just can't speak to that.
QUESTION: Can we move on?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Can I ask you if the State Department has a rule -- if "rule" is the right word -- on how officials, State Department officials, try to arrange meetings on trips abroad with foreign officials? Is there a procedure that must be followed? And if so, what is it?
MR. ERELI: I don't know. What are you getting at?
QUESTION: I'm just asking for U.S. policy, State Department policy.
MR. ERELI: Yes, foreign travel is coordinated with those who it needs to be coordinated with.
QUESTION: Does it have to be coordinated -- needs to coordinated with what?
MR. ERELI: Foreign travel is coordinated with those who it needs to be coordinated with.
QUESTION: They, being?
MR. ERELI: It depends on the foreign travel.
QUESTION: It's the embassy or Washington, isn't it?
MR. ERELI: Usually involving some form -- some combination of those two, yes.
QUESTION: And presumably it has to -- no, not presumably. Must it be coordinated before the meeting is held or can it be after the fact?
MR. ERELI: You know, you're asking it on a -- it's hard to answer the question on a theoretical level. I mean, if you ask me about a particular travel or particular meeting, I'll answer it. But there's no -- I'll put it this way, there's no manual in the State Department of how to do this.
QUESTION: So it's practice and custom that there be coordination?
MR. ERELI: It's on the basis of, you know, the circumstances under which the trip takes place and who's making the trip and what the issue is and how it comes about and all that sort of stuff.
QUESTION: So are you --
MR. ERELI: But generally speaking, foreign travel and meeting with foreign officials is a matter that's coordinated with the people that need -- that it needs to be coordinated with.
MR. ERELI: That's -- that was enlightening.
QUESTION: And (inaudible) isn't coordinated with anybody.
QUESTION: But, for instance, if an official were to meet with someone from a particular -- if an official that worked in a -- more of a kind of topic area, like terrorism for instance or any of these kind of other topics, were to meet with a foreign official, would that be cleared through the regional bureau? Not cleared, but coordinated?
MR. ERELI: You know, again, I can't answer the question in the theoretical. If you're talking about a specific meeting or specific event, that would be easier.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, specifically then, I'm assuming that and would like to know myself whether these are about allegations that were touched upon the other day that Mr. Bolton kind of just met with whatever foreign officials he felt that he thought was necessary, without clearing it through the regional bureaus.
MR. ERELI: That is a broad --
QUESTION: Is that a common practice?
MR. ERELI: That is a broad --
QUESTION: Yes, it's a broad -- with many allegations.
MR. ERELI: That is a broad and unspecified question.
QUESTION: Well, it's a broad and unspecified allegation of numerous --
MR. ERELI: I know, which is kind of goofy, frankly. The fact is -- and I think we talked about this yesterday and we went on the record yesterday -- that Under Secretary Bolton, when he had meetings abroad, coordinated those meetings with the embassy and with those who needed to be coordinated with. And that's a standard practice that Under Secretary Bolton didn't deviate from.
QUESTION: Coordinated them before or after the meetings?
MR. ERELI: In an appropriate manner.
QUESTION: Before the meetings?
MR. ERELI: Which meetings?
QUESTION: You just made a statement.
MR. ERELI: Did he ever have any meetings that happened that -- in which not everybody --
QUESTION: No, that's --
MR. ERELI: -- knew about ahead of time? I bet you there were.
QUESTION: No, that's not --
MR. ERELI: That seems like a pretty --
MR. ERELI: -- obvious thing. But in specific cases that have been raised, particularly Russia and Israel, because this is the only specificity that has come out --
QUESTION: And Germany and France.
MR. ERELI: In Russia and Israel, those officials involved at the embassy and in Washington have said on the record that there was -- that they knew what was going on and that there were -- that there was nothing amiss there.
Now, if you want to ask me about a specific visit at a specific time, I'm happy to entertain the question; but there isn't such a question. It's just a broad and generic issue and I just can't -- you can't -- I'm not going to answer something categorically in the absolute. There's just no way to do that.
QUESTION: No, I understand that. I'm just picking up on your statement you volunteered in the course of this series of questions. You said that meetings -- these meetings were coordinated and all I asked you is, is if they were coordinated after the fact or before the fact.
MR. ERELI: And all I'm saying is, what meetings are you talking about.
QUESTION: Can we retouch one thing? Your language was ever so slightly different, I think, when we were talking about Israel the other day. You said that the ambassador had said he was not aware of any meetings that were not coordinated.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Not that there were no such meetings; he just -- if there were, he didn't know about them; right?
MR. ERELI: And he still doesn't know about them.
QUESTION: Right, okay. No, I just wanted to make sure that was the statement.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. ERELI: Oh, please.
MR. ERELI: Yes, ma'am, you.
QUESTION: Okay. We want to know that -- Taiwan's opposition leader, Mr. Lien Chan, reach five points when he visits Hu Jintao in China. I wonder is there any comment from U.S. position. Do you think this five points actually promote dialogue and peace, security in cross-strait? Would the U.S. endorse this?
MR. ERELI: We've made clear our view in our policy on the issue of cross-straits contacts and that is that dialogue is in the interests of both sides to achieve a peaceful resolution of their differences in a manner that is acceptable to both. That is how we view -- that is the context in which we view this ongoing visit. I don't have reaction to the specific -- the specific points that were raised in the meeting between -- the meeting that took place. We see it in -- I would say, we see it in that broad context.
I would make another point and that is that we urge Beijing to reach out to President Chen and his Cabinet, and we note that any long-term solution to cross-straits differences can only be found if Beijing negotiates with the duly elected leadership in Taiwan.
QUESTION: Can I ask you if you know that this opposition leader had as his intention those goals that you support: dialogue, a better relationship? Is that why he did it?
MR. ERELI: I can't speak for him.
QUESTION: But you say -- again, this is getting Jesuitical again. There is, as you know and as everybody in the room knows, another possible construction that he was trying to undercut -- he's the opposition leader -- the President of Taiwan. But you're casting it -- this contact -- as part of your questioned goal of the dialogue, peaceful resolution, etcetera. But you don't know that's why he went there, do you?
MR. ERELI: I can't speak to -- I can't speak for the opposition leader. I can tell you, the way we look at this visit is as an opportunity to pursue dialogue, which is in the interest of both sides. At the same time, we make the point that the dialogue should also include the duly elected leadership of Taiwan.
QUESTION: It's an unusual situation with Taiwan. Do you get -- does the U.S. get a readout, if that's the word? Do you get a fill about what happened at the meeting, any nuances --
MR. ERELI: It's a subject that we follow closely and we discuss with our contacts with both sides.
QUESTION: Adam, a follow-up?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: I'm just wondering if China is reaching out to Taiwan's opposition parties, it becomes a matter of U.S. concern that the new development will be -- across the strait will be out of your control.
MR. ERELI: It's not a -- it's not -- first of all, it's not in our control now.
Second of all, it's an issue that we can -- it's a process that we can support, it's a process that we can encourage, and it's a process that we can try to help the sides work toward. But it clearly requires a will and an initiative and steps that they take themselves. It's not something that we can control or force, although we can certainly lend our -- we can certainly lend our influence and our voice to help move things in that direction, which is what we do.
QUESTION: You wouldn't -- would you support a process just for the sake of supporting a process without having a goal in mind?
MR. ERELI: You have a lot of general questions, unspecific questions, today.
QUESTION: That's not a general question at all. I want at some day, before it's all over, I'd like the State Department to say whether it wants to see Taiwan absorbed by China.
MR. ERELI: We want --
QUESTION: And you keep talking about -- you say dialogue --
MR. ERELI: I'll tell you, we want an outcome --
QUESTION: You never answer -- you never --
MR. ERELI: We want an outcome that reflects a resolution that is acceptable to people on both sides.
QUESTION: This is very specific. So before his meeting with the Chinese President, you thought his meeting would help reduce the tension. So how -- do you still stand by that?
MR. ERELI: I said that dialogue helps reduce tensions.
QUESTION: And his visit --
MR. ERELI: And we see this in the context of dialogue.
QUESTION: So would you call his --
MR. ERELI: I don't have a judgment to share with you or an assessment to share with you on what the specific outcome of this specific visit is.
QUESTION: So you wouldn't even call it helpful or --
MR. ERELI: I don't have an adjective to characterize it other than saying that we see it in the context of dialogue, which, as a general proposition, is helpful.
QUESTION: Do you have something there on -- is this the same subject?
MR. ERELI: I think so.
QUESTION: Chavez. Venezuelan President.
QUESTION: The first point (inaudible) a '92 consensus which the ruling party actually in Taiwan rejected, but --
MR. ERELI: This is in the '92 consensus?
QUESTION: Yes. And Hu Jintao and opposition leader reached agreements they were to resume the consumption -- resumption of the talks based on the '92 consensus. I wonder if U.S. endorsed this position or you will just leave Taiwan's party leaders to decide?
MR. ERELI: Well, as I said earlier, that this visit is notable and important and we've commented on it. But we also think it's important that there be outreach from Beijing to the elected leadership of Taiwan and that that is a step that we think is needed as well.
QUESTION: Okay. Could we try the Venezuelan president?
MR. ERELI: Yes, we can, Mr. Schweid.
QUESTION: Then I'll do so over the fence. How do you feel about his visit, about the deepening relationship, about a hemisphere trade agreement? Do you view this in --
MR. ERELI: I would say that --
QUESTION: -- a positive or negative way?
MR. ERELI: I would say that our focus is on a positive agenda for the hemisphere. That is what the Secretary is discussing on her current travels. She has had good meetings with our friends in Brazil, Chile, Colombia and now El Salvador, that we have been able to, I think -- and she's been able to articulate in her speech in Brazil and her comments in Chile, what that positive vision means. It means developing democratic institutions and democratic processes. It means translating democracies into actions and policies and practices that benefit the people of those countries and show them a real dividend for reform and change and risk.
And that really is a positive vision and a positive agenda and that's where -- that's the direction the hemisphere is moving in. And we have -- I think a good partnership and a good relationship with our friends in the hemisphere on that common agenda. What you talk about is -- and so, that's where our focus is. There are other things going on. There's one country in the hemisphere that, frankly, is swimming against the tide of history. Clearly, that's Cuba. They have an alternate view of how a government deals with its people, deals with their aspirations, deals with their future. That vision is certainly at odds with, frankly, not only the hemisphere, but pretty much the rest of the world. And, you know, we leave it to -- frankly, we leave it to history and others to judge the wisdom or attractiveness of that vision.
QUESTION: However, the question, you know -- you outlined U.S. policy. Nobody can quarrel with that.
MR. ERELI: Good. Did you hear that? Nobody can quarrel with it.
QUESTION: The question is, how do you feel about a growing dialogue between Venezuela and Cuba? And you just spoke five minutes ago supporting a -- and you talk about democracy. You just spoke favorably of a dialogue between Taiwan and China.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: You can't accuse China of being democratic, can you? So how do you feel about this country that you consider undemocratic having a dialogue with Venezuela?
MR. ERELI: Countries are free to deal with Cuba as they wish. If they think they can benefit from it, that's their decision. But I would simply note that there are two divergent paths: one which almost everybody agrees goes in the right direction, and one in which I think almost everybody agrees goes in the wrong direction.
QUESTION: Sure, gotcha.
QUESTION: Just to follow on Venezuela, thank you. Recently, Madame Secretary expressed some concerns on Venezuelan democracy. What does that mean? It means that -- do you still consider Venezuela a democracy or not?
MR. ERELI: I think we've been very plainspoken about our views on this issue, and I don't really have anything new to add. Again, the issue for us is not a single country. The issue for us is helping -- working with our partners in a broad-based effort to address needs and aspirations and ambitions in the hemisphere and between us. That's what our policy is dedicated toward, that's what our diplomacy is dedicated toward. And to the extent that Venezuela wants to participate in that, great. But that's Venezuela's choice.
QUESTION: Okay. Just to follow up the follow-up, okay? This would be on the trip of Madam Secretary --
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- to Latin America.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Is she trying to reach a consensus candidate related to the OAS election, where the positions are --
MR. ERELI: We're all trying to reach a consensus candidate, and we continue to have discussions with our partners in the OAS on that issue.
QUESTION: No, but are you still supporting Mr. Derbez for the candidate?
MR. ERELI: I think there was discussion. The discussions on the OAS Secretary General were ongoing. I don't have anything new to share with you on --
QUESTION: Well, actually, Mr. Derbez just withdrew his candidacy.
MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen that.
QUESTION: Well, this clears the way for Mr. Insulza, the Chilean interior minister. Is that someone that you feel you can support?
MR. ERELI: I think we will work with our partners to come up with a candidate that has the support of the OAS and that can work to help that organization and help all of us confront the common challenges that we face. But I don't have any specific -- anything specific to share with you about individual candidates. It's a process that's ongoing. Until it comes to a conclusion, I don't want to pronounce on it.
QUESTION: I understand, but you did voice support for Mr. Flores, who withdrew.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: And now, Mr. Derbez, who appeared to be the next, second U.S. favorite seemed to withdraw. Do you think -- are you kind of concerned about the direction?
MR. ERELI: Our goal is, frankly, to support a process and support an outcome that produces a common appreciation for who the Secretary -- the successful Secretary General is and how we can all work together to advance a common agenda. That's the approach we take to these deliberations, and that's what we'll -- that's how we will make our decisions.
QUESTION: Well, I know, but the fact that you were kind of backing a few of these candidates and they pushed out -- I mean, do you think it says anything about the fact that the U.S. was pushing these candidates and now they don't seem to be candidates anymore?
MR. ERELI: Oh, I think it says something about the deliberation process in international organizations.
QUESTION: But nothing about, kind of, U.S. backing of these candidates?
MR. ERELI: I think the -- I wouldn't read that into it.
QUESTION: Just on another area, on Vietnam. How does the United States assess the progress of democracy in Vietnam since the end of the war, and normalization of relations? And will Deputy Secretary Zoellick be pressing democracy issues and religious freedom when he goes there, and are there any specific issues?
MR. ERELI: These are all, obviously, issues that will be discussed during Deputy Secretary Zoellick's trip to Vietnam. I think the key points for us will be not only political developments in Vietnam, expanding trade and other ties, promoting regional stability, as well as dealing with human rights, civil rights in Vietnam. It's been a subject of, I think, bilateral engagement for some time. I think we've seen some notable progress. But really, I think, it will be an opportunity for stock taking -- for taking stock, for looking back on ten years of bilateral relations and of significant progress made and common challenges before us. That's the way I would characterize the visit.
QUESTION: Do you think that the democracy issue and religious freedom will play an important part in his talks there? I mean --
MR. ERELI: Those are important issues in our dealings with many countries, and Vietnam is no exception.
QUESTION: Can you update us on the reviewing of Annan report on Lebanon today?
MR. ERELI: In the UN? No, I don't have an update for you. It's, as we said when it was released, a report that we welcome, that we think is valuable and important and that will guide our approach to next steps with Lebanon and Syria. But the report itself is being discussed in the Security Council, I guess. I don't have anything for you on those specific discussions.
QUESTION: There are reports that Mr. Larsen came in the State Department yesterday?
MR. ERELI: We're in regular contact with Mr. Larsen. Whether he was in the State Department or not yesterday, I don't know. But if he was, it's part of the normal, you know, back and forth with the Secretary General's Special Representative who, as a member of the Security Council, we work very closely with.
QUESTION: Can you (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: Sure. Yes.
QUESTION: The Russian President Putin declared today in Ramallah that he is going to supply the Palestinian Authority with military equipment and helicopters and train the Palestinian police. Do you welcome this development?
MR. ERELI: Well, the United States and Russia, obviously, have a common interest and shared approach to bringing peace to Israelis and Palestinians, as is reflected in our work together in the Quartet. So obviously we regularly consult with each other on how best to assist the parties in their pursuit of peace. I think we both recognize that the Palestinian security forces have a critical role to play in that process and that consolidation of the security forces is critical. General Ward, as you know, is working toward that goal, and he has -- developing close relations with the Minister of Interior and others in the Palestinian Authority in order to help the Palestinians reform their security forces, to help train and equip and build those forces for carrying out their duties.
One area of concern, obviously, for all of us is that lethal equipment not find their way into the hands of terrorists and to those who are committed to using violence to destroy the peace process. So our view is that there need to be clear guarantees, clear measures taken to prevent that before moving forward.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Was this Russian offer done in coordination with the U.S. or General Ward specifically?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that it was.
QUESTION: On North Korea. Last night the President talked about the U.S. working with its six-party allies to develop a consensus about consequences if North Korea continues to refuse to return to the six-party talks. Have we begun talking with our allies about the next steps beyond the six-parties; and if we have, what steps have we started talking about?
MR. ERELI: Nothing new to share with you on that. I think the President reiterated what we've been saying for some time, which is he made very clear, first and foremost, that our preferred option and our preferred course is a diplomatic solution through the six-party process to the danger posed by North Korea's nuclear weapons program and that that remains the focus of our diplomacy. So that was, I think, the point that was made first and foremost.
And the President also indicated, as has Secretary Rice and others, that, obviously, there are other options out there should that approach not produce the outcome we're looking for. But at the same time, our focus remains on a peaceful solution through the six-party process.
QUESTION: But the six-party process, I mean, everyone talks about how it's sort of a success to have that framework in place; but yet we're, you know, approaching a year almost when North Korea has refused to come back and yet we still have no results. So is it time to start thinking about another framework?
MR. ERELI: You know, we've addressed this issue every day this week so I don't really have much new to add. We remain focused on getting six-party talks back -- we remain focused on six-party talks, getting North Korea back to the table. We think that's doable. We've made it clear that this process can't go on forever. But at this point, I'm not willing to speculate on what we would do should North Korea decide that it doesn't want to come back to the talks.
QUESTION: I'm sorry --
MR. ERELI: Same thing.
QUESTION: Sorry. What makes you think it's doable? What indications do you have that it's doable?
MR. ERELI: I think we got this question on Wednesday. Based on our discussions with our -- with Japan, South Korea, China, based on our assessment, we still think judging from our -- or based on our common assessment and a joint -- common assessment and a joint appreciation for the situation, that there's still a possibility of getting North Korea back to the table.
QUESTION: Yesterday you had no comment yet on Admiral Jacoby's assessment about North Korea's capabilities. Do you have any comment on that today?
MR. ERELI: Only to say that there's no -- that there's no new assessment on North Korea's nuclear program that I have to share with you. I think we've made it very clear that we have a concern about North Korea's -- well-known and longstanding concern about North Korea's missile program. Our assessment on their nuclear capability, I think, is well known. It's an issue we continue to monitor carefully; but there's nothing -- there's nothing new in terms of conclusions, new information or conclusions that I have to share with you or that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Can I just do on more? I'm sorry.
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: But we've often talked here about how important a role China plays because they have a lot of influence on North Korea. What does the U.S. think is the most productive way for China to exert pressure on North Korea without risking a collapse of the North Korean regime?
MR. ERELI: China -- China has made it clear to us in our meetings that they share -- share our alarm -- or not share our alarm -- share our concern with North Korea's actions, their failure to come back to talks; that they, like us, are committed to getting North Korea back to those talks. And I think we're coordinating very well on, and closely on a common approach to reach that goal. I would simply underscore in that vein Assistant Secretary Hill's recent visit to Beijing and his talks with Chinese officials. And coming out of those talks really is a common appreciation for the importance of six-party talks, the value of six-party talks and the continued relevance of six-party talks. I think we come away from those meetings as convinced as ever that China is a strong and committed partner to this process.
QUESTION: A question about Iran and it's nuclear program. Sirus Nasseri, who is an Iranian negotiator, is quoted as saying, "We have a fuel program and can't hold it much longer," meaning he's speaking not of a Russian fuel program --
MR. ERELI: All right. Let me stop you. Every day you ask me to comment on comments by Iranians, and every day I tell you same thing. So look at what I've said yesterday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Thank you.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)
DPB # 74
Released on April 29, 2005