State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 11, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 11, 2005
Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
July 11, 2005
U.S. Policy on Separation Barrier
Reaction to Palestinian Foreign Minister's Call for Street Protests
U.S. Assistance for Development of Negev and Galilee Regions
Visit of Israeli Director General for the Ministry of Finance
Elections and Formation of a New Government
Commemoration of Srebrenica Massacre
Importance of Bringing Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to Justice
Lifting Restrictions on Assistance
Reaction to Elections Results
Congratulations to President-elect Bakiyev
Concerns for Human Rights Situation
London Bombings Update / American Citizens / Welfare and
U.S. Support for the Territorial Integrity of Iraq
North Korea Returning to the Six-Party Talks
U.S. Seeks North Korean Response to Proposal on the Table
Possible Bilateral Meetings Between U.S. and North Korean Delegates
U.S. Humanitarian Assistance to Darfur
National Unity Government Sworn In
NATO Airlift of Troops
Commitment to Making African Union Mission a Success
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the start of another week here at the State Department. I don't have any announcements or statements for you, so why don't we go right to your questions.
QUESTION: You probably noticed the Israeli decision to work the fence a little more in Jerusalem. And, number one, I know you have a policy on the fence, the barrier, whatever. I wondered if it's the same policy when it comes to Jerusalem? And then while I'm at it, I wondered if you had any reflections on the Palestinian Foreign Minister calling for street protests. Do you consider that incitement?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me just say, Barry, on the separation barrier, you know, we have seen the reports that are out there and we're looking into them. As you know, we've always urged Israel to refrain from actions that might exacerbate the Palestinian humanitarian situation. But I think, in general, our position on the separation barrier is well known and hasn't changed. You know, it's certainly a problem to the extent that it prejudges final borders, confiscates Palestinian property or imposes further hardship on the Palestinian people, but really don't have anything specific for you on this. We'll be looking into the reports.
QUESTION: Thank you. But you're not saying that all the three things that you don't like will result from this barrier. That's the thing you haven't (inaudible.)
MR. CASEY: No, all I'm doing (inaudible.)
QUESTION: It doesn't mean you have an eye on --
MR. CASEY: Yeah. All I'm doing is just reiterating our general policy on the barrier.
QUESTION: Well, because the Palestinians are saying they're being fenced out of -- what they, of course, and the whole Arab world considers their city. Jerusalem to them is, you know, Arab. It has nothing to do with Israel at all.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, I mean, again, Barry, I think we'll be looking into the reports. We'll be looking at exactly what is happening and what's going on. But, again, I think our position on this is well known and really hasn't changed.
QUESTION: Okay. And what about any reflections on the Foreign Minister calling for street protests, saying Palestinians should organize for a higher level of daily confrontation against the wall. Is that the type of new Palestinian leadership you're looking for?
MR. CASEY: Barry, I actually hadn't seen his comments, so I don't want to address them specifically.
QUESTION: Oh, trust me, it's a quote (inaudible).
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm sure if it's a quote from a certain news organization it's definitely got to be valid, but that said I still haven't seen it. Obviously, again, we always urge all parties to operate with the maximum restraint. As you know, what we're focused on right now is moving forward with Gaza disengagement plan. We see that as a tremendous opportunity for both the Palestinians and the Israelis to be able to make progress, move forward on the roadmap. General Ward and Mr. Wolfensohn are out in the region helping to move that process forward and that's really where our attention is focused right now.
QUESTION: I'm sorry if Barry asked this already, but there are some reports that Israel is asking for two billion dollars for -- in U.S. aid for a pullout from Gaza?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I mean, he hadn't actually, so let's go to that.
QUESTION: Could you talk about --
MR. CASEY: That was next on the list, Barry?
QUESTION: Could you talk about what type of assistance the U.S. is offering to the Israelis?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think the assistance that we've offered to Israelis and Palestinians is all out there and I don't really have anything new to add to that. It's true that the Israeli Director General for the Ministry of Finance is going to be in Washington this week. But the principal purpose of those discussions here is to talk about development in the Negev and Galilee regions of Israel. They'll be meetings today, as I understand it, over at the National Security Council and State Department officials will be involved in that and there'll be some other meetings here later, I believe. And we'll certainly be interested in hearing what the Israeli Government has to say on this. But as far as I'm aware, there's been no requests made and certainly can't respond to anything we haven't heard yet.
QUESTION: Well, that development is to take -- largely to take in the Israelis who will be leaving Gaza, in other words, to move them to the other side of the line and build homes in the Negev. Is that something, since you hardly approve of any Israeli pullback, is that something that the State Department or the Administration would help defray the cost of since you've got Israel backing -- moving backwards?
MR. CASEY: Barry, like I said, the Director General is here. We'll hear what he has to say. But I just can't react or speculate on how we'd react to proposals that haven't been made to us yet.
QUESTION: Tom, can I follow up?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: The word we're getting from Israel is it's quite specific. There's a figure - 2.2 billion -- it's in the form of loans, guarantees and other things -- that the Israelis are saying that the Americans are going to give them. Can you say if something is in the works? We've been hearing this for several weeks now.
MR. CASEY: Again, I'm not aware of any specific requests that have been made. So again, I'm not in a position to offer you any response to that.
QUESTION: You said that there were going to be meetings later at State. Do you mean today or later this week?
MR. CASEY: Later this week.
QUESTION: And --
MR. CASEY: I don't have a specific agenda. I'll try and get you an update for them as we go tomorrow.
Yeah, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Yes. Anything in the Balkans -- in the Balkans --
MR. CASEY: Hold on a second. Anything else on this subject or ?
QUESTION: Can I (inaudible) just one clarification, please? Just one clarification.
MR. CASEY: Let's let Peter follow up, Mr. Lambros and then we'll go around.
QUESTION: Okay, again, just looking at our copy, it says that some of this money for $2.2 billion will be used to develop the Galilee and Negev regions, but it would be primarily used to cover the cost of relocating military bases to Israel and improve security on the Egyptian-Israeli border. So you say there are discussions on Negev and Galilee.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you saying categorically they're not going to be discussing this other stuff?
MR. CASEY: No. I'm -- all I'm saying is there hasn't been a concrete proposal for financial assistance that's been put forward and therefore I just don't have anything to react to.
QUESTION: On the Balkans, anything on the Albanian elections?
MR. CASEY: No new updates to offer you right now. As I understand, there are still discussions ongoing on the formation of a new government and obviously we're following that closely, but until that happens, really aren't in the position to offer comment on it.
QUESTION: And today's the tenth anniversary of the tragic events in Srebrenica. Any comment?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think, as you've seen, we have a very strong delegation representing the United States out at the memorial ceremonies with Pierre Prosper -- Ambassador Prosper, Special Representative for War Crimes, Former Assistant Secretary and Former UN Ambassador Dick Holbrooke and, of course, Doug McElhaney, our ambassador in Bosnia.
I think that what we need to remember is that the tragic events in Srebrenica is something that shocked the world and that require us to reflect as we look to move forward. You know, the United States right now obviously supports the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina and particularly the families of those who suffered as Srebrenica, as they commemorate this terrible chapter in history. And we grieve for their loss and we've remained committed to ensuring that those who are responsible for the crimes, most notably that of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are brought to justice. We certainly applaud the strength of the families who've had the courage to return to Srebrenica and rebuild their lives and we certainly are standing with them today at the memorial ceremonies.
I think the main thing to point out though, too, is that we are seeking -- the United States is supporting all those who seek reconciliation and a European future for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia's future and the future of the Balkans lies with NATO and the European Union. But certainly to accomplish this, the Balkan countries need to put the past behind them and a modern democratic Balkan region is an essential element of a Europe whole, free and at peace.
QUESTION: On the Balkans, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns --
MR. CASEY: Teri, did you have something on that?
QUESTION: On the Balkans --
QUESTION: If he -- on the same subject --
QUESTION: Yes, yes, please.
MR. CASEY: Let's go with that.
QUESTION: Mr. Lambros can finish.
QUESTION: Okay. Under Secretary Nicholas Burns, in the yesterday's Washington Post, is talking for every crime in the Balkans, but not a word about their strike of Serbia, by the U.S. and NATO starting March 24, 1999, for 85 days without interruption and grace in order, "has claimed and said the time to protect the Albanians of Kosovo, destroying everything in the entire Serbia and killing innocent people, too." I'm wondering if anyone from this building could offer a statement for this inhuman catastrophe, too.
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think the rationale and the discussion of the air campaign in Serbia and the need to take those actions to support and to end the process ethnic cleansing in Kosovo are on the record, are well known and I refer you to back to them. I think today, our focus and our attention is on commemorating this terrible anniversary and in trying to remind people of the work that still needs to be done to make sure that those that were responsible for that massacre are brought to justice.
Teri, let's move over to you.
QUESTION: State Department officials have said in the last couple of weeks, I think it was, that the Serbians had shown a good deal more effort in bringing Mladic and Karadzic in and thought that we would see some concrete action very soon, possibly even in these months. But as far as I know, we haven't seen anything. Are you disappointed? And can you tell us if that optimism is being maintained?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think just -- I think the one thing I can say is that there's nothing that would be too soon about seeing either Karadzic or Mladic brought to justice. It's long overdue. We want to see them face justice for their crimes. And we certainly hope that the government in Serbia and governments elsewhere in the region will do everything that they can to see that they are brought to justice and that they are held accountable for the crimes they committed.
QUESTION: Because you can't say that the Government of Serbia is, as was told to us a couple weeks ago, now showing a new inertia in doing this.
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything new to offer you other than what you've heard from some of those senior officials a couple of weeks ago. I think we believe that the government in Serbia is interested in seeing this move forward. But again, we need to see those actions take place rather than just statements of interests in doing so.
QUESTION: Can we take a look at Kyrgyzstan for a moment where the interim leader --
QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: On more thing. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: If I'm -- unless I'm wrong, a couple of weeks ago you lifted some restrictions on aid to Serbia on the basis that they're doing better on this issue. Was that correct?
MR. CASEY: That's correct and you can go back and look at the statement -- the numbers of people that they have handed over for prosecution in the Hague for war crimes. That decision was in recognition of the steps that they had already taken, not so much on steps we expected to see. Obviously, the lifting of that suspension was done in recognition of what had been done to date. But for continued progress to be made a number of things have to happen and that includes getting to the very serious issue of turning over the two most important war criminals who remain outstanding and that's Mladic and Karadzic.
QUESTION: Then my question -- then, on that, is that as the time goes and we don't see any progress that we expected on that, is there now the renewed threat that there will be additional measures on sanctions against Serbia?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, there's a certification process, a determination process that's out there. I don't want to prejudge that at this point. Obviously, as we've said previously, we're looking for the government in Serbia to meet its commitments. And looking forward to move forward and do more and do some of the things that are required of it, and this is obviously part of it.
MR. CASEY: Let's go to Kyrgyzstan.
QUESTION: All right, the new leader, the interim leader, or the elected interim leader, I don't know -- is questioning U.S. use of the bases by the United States, a constant U.S. presence instead of a temporary presence. It sounds familiar. Is there something there that -- of course, the Pentagon might be the place to ask it, but is there something there that distresses the State Department?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, if you'll let me, let me just give you a quick reaction to the election itself and then we can talk a little bit about that issue. The Central Election Commission in Kyrgyzstan has declared acting President Bakiyev the winner of the elections. We congratulate him and the Kyrgyz people on the election, which we believe marked a significant step towards long-term stability through democracy via the Kyrgyz people's selection of a legitimate president in a democratic election.
The preliminary report of OSC observers that was out there, including people from the International Republican Institute, noted that the election showed tangible progress towards meeting OSC commitments and other international standards for democratic elections. Again, this represents a marked improvement over the previous round of elections for the parliamentary vote in February and March, and we're very encouraged that so many of the citizens of Kyrgyzstan exercised their right to vote and did so in a calm and peaceful way.
In terms of the specific question that you've raised, I've seen some reports of the President-elect's comments. Again, we're very appreciative of the cooperation we have received from a number of countries in the region, including Kyrgyzstan in terms of support for the U.S. military and military operations that are done in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. I, frankly, would refer you over to the Pentagon, though, for any specific comment about our basing arrangements or their future.
QUESTION: Dumb question concerning what just occurred in the Pakistani Parliament. There's some Islamic injunctions following Taliban moral policing which effects the northwestern province in Pakistan. And also just within the last number of days, another woman has been butchered in one of these so-called both rape-style trials involving family, brother-in-laws and others in a small rural town. What has to be done in your estimation and does this particular behavior drive Pakistan back to a tier three as far as its religious freedoms and its regular behavior in your reports?
MR. CASEY: Boy, Joel, there's a lot in that question. I'm not sure I'm familiar with the specific piece of legislation you're referring to. Obviously, we have a number of concerns related to the human rights situation in Pakistan. Really, I don't have anything new to offer you, though, beyond what we've said here previously and what's available in our religious freedom and human rights reports.
QUESTION: Switch to the London attacks last week?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any updated U.S. casualty figures?
MR. CASEY: A little bit that I can update you on. First of all, as you know, we have confirmed four American citizens were injured in the blast. Two of those, as I said on Friday, were treated an released. Two others are still hospitalized as of today. Again, don't have Privacy Act Waivers for them, so I really can't give you any additional information.
The one thing that occurred since Friday when we last spoke is that we now have one American citizen who is missing and is presumed dead. Our offices here in Washington and the Embassy in London are working with the family members and British Government officials to provide assistance to the families. We'll be looking to see what we can get in terms of authoritative answers to this. But again, for the moment, we have reason to believe that that individual is presumed dead.
Total numbers of calls that we've received in our 24-hour Consular Task Force are over 25,000 now. Right now in terms of welfare and whereabouts inquiries, we received a total of 1,052 and 212 of those are still outstanding. And obviously, we'll be working both here and the Department and in London to get resolution to those cases. One thing we'd also like to ask of American citizens out there who may have called in our Welfare and Whereabouts inquiries is if people who have previously called into the toll-free number and in the meantime have heard back from their loved ones, we'd very much appreciate having them call us again, make sure that we have that information. We believe that'll help us reduce and ultimately eliminate all the outstanding Welfare and Whereabouts cases that are there.
QUESTION: Was the American you presumed dead a man or a woman?
MR. CASEY: I honestly can't say at this point. Mr. Lambros, you want to go back to you?
QUESTION: How do you respond to the comment of the Turkish Prime Minister --
MR. CASEY: Hold on.
MR. CASEY: Let's stay on London.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay.
QUESTION: Is this person that -- were you aware of this person's potential -- that this person was potentially missing before or why did we only know about the four and this one wasn't even on the list of Americans that were --
MR. CASEY: This is information that's come to light as we've looked into Welfare and Whereabouts cases. But basically we have reason to believe that the individual was in harm's way and has not turned up or otherwise made contact with his friends and family members in London. And we're looking to verify the situation. But for those reasons, similar to what we saw in the tsunami, because we have strong belief that they were in harm's way and that there's no other accounting for them at this point, we think it's likely that that's the case.
QUESTION: So you (inaudible).
QUESTION: Is that the generic --
MR. CASEY: That's a misuse of my -- it's a generic on my part, yeah.
QUESTION: So you learned about this from phone calls from friends and family?
MR. CASEY: Right. We learned about this during inquiries, yeah.
QUESTION: On Iraq. May I?
MR. CASEY: If we're ready to go to Iraq, let's go to Iraq.
QUESTION: Yes. How do you respond to the comment of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Ergodan in San Francisco the other day that the division of Iraq into three separate states is wrong and is becoming a troubled area?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I would say simply what our longstanding policy is, which is that we support the territorial integrity of Iraq and that's what we're working for, that's what the Iraqi Government is working for and that's what we expect to see happen.
Let's go to the back here.
QUESTION: Yes. Can I move to the six-party talks?
MR. CASEY: Sounds good to me.
QUESTION: Yes. Many people say if next round of talks would not produce any specific progress or result, it would become the last meeting. What is your response to those opinion and do you agree with those opinion?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me just say, as you've all heard from the Secretary on this over the last few days, but certainly we welcome the decision by the Government of North Korea to agree to return to the six-party talks the week of July 25th. We look forward to seeing those talks take place. As you know, we have a serious proposal that's on the table. We certainly want to hear from the North Koreans about that. And as the Secretary said, we expect people to come to these talks ready to make progress on it. There isn't much point in having talks simply for the sake of having talks. I really don't think, at this point, it's appropriate to speculate on what will happen if different things happen in those talks. The place for discussions right now is at those six-party talks. I think it's important that those take place. We're looking forward to seeing it happen. And again, I think our expectation is that all six parties will come prepared to talk seriously and to make progress.
QUESTION: How can you say that if both parties are -- if she says that the U.S. proposal will not be "enhanced," was her word -- in other words, the U.S. is going to come to the talks, if I understand it correctly, and say this is our proposal. And then, you know, kind of wait for the North Koreans to say something. Is that -- that doesn't produce progress by standing still, does it?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, we've put together a serious, thoughtful, credible proposal. We've put it on the table. At this point, we've yet to hear a response from the North Koreans.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay.
MR. CASEY: When we hear a response, we can deal with that. But for right now, that's the proposal that's on the table and that's what we're working off of and all of the other parties to the talks agree that that's the starting point.
QUESTION: So the progress would be getting a response?
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: If you get one.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, we need to not just have a response but we have to have a willingness to move forward. As the Secretary said, there really isn't a point in just having the talks for the sake of having them. So we want to make progress on this.
QUESTION: Is this the U.S. willing to move forward on its position? She says no.
MR. CASEY: Well, the U.S. would like to hear a response to the proposal has put on the table, we haven't yet.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up and ask in a sort of different way? The proposal that the United States has on the table, they're expecting a response from the North Koreans. Is this a take-it-or-leave-it proposal by the U.S. or is the U.S. prepared, in terms of content and sequencing of events, to discuss just a reshaping?
MR. CASEY: Look, this is a serious proposal and we need to see what their reaction is to it. The place for the negotiations or discussions is in that six-party meeting, it's not for you and I here to say what will happen if they do or if they don't. I'm just not prepared to speculate on it.
QUESTION: May I --
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: But when you're saying, we're looking for a response, are you looking for a yes-or-no response? Are you looking for feedback on the proposal as to what you offered and whether they would ask for additional things that you might consider at a later date?
MR. CASEY: Well, we think it's a wonderful proposal and it'll be great if they accepted it in whole. But --
QUESTION: But it also will be very short if you're looking for yes or no and --
MR. CASEY: Yeah. We're looking -- we're looking for them to respond. We're looking for them to say what they think about the proposal. How we'll react to their response, we'll just have to see what their response is. I'm just not prepared to speculate on it.
Let's go in the back.
QUESTION: Basically, have you reached any concrete schedule which (inaudible) to start?
MR. CASEY: You mean in terms of the timing?
QUESTION: Yes, timing.
MR. CASEY: No, the Chinese are working out the logistical details right now. I know that they've agreed and offered to host the talks on the week of the 25th. Assistant Secretary Hill is going to be leading our delegation as our senior representative, but I don't have logistical details as to the exact date or schedule for the talks yet. That's something I think the Chinese are working on, and you might want to ask them about it.
QUESTION: Those are -- I guess you are going to have a bilateral talk with North Korea in -- of course the context of six-party talks. How do you have bilateral talk with North Korea? I mean in the past, in the past, whenever you had a meeting with the North Korea you did in the same room, like a conference room where every other party could see you to have talked with North Korea, you know, to have like transparency. But then this time you have said over and over you extend on bilateral talk with North Korea. So I'm wondering do you have any talk in a separate place, like in a separate meeting?
MR. CASEY: I think we're getting ahead of ourselves a little bit here. Again, I know that in the past, in the context of the six-party talks there have been bilateral meetings held between members of our delegation and the North Korean delegation. Whether that will happen in this round, in what form, at what time, we'll just have to see. We'll see as the schedule develops.
Yeah. Let's go in the back, Diane.
QUESTION: Thank you. I understand that the denuclearization will be the major topic during the talks, but I'm wondering are you going to talk about other issues, such as the Japanese abduction issue?
MR. CASEY: Well, I mean again, I think as we've always said, individual parties to the talks can always find opportunities to raise other issues there. That's been the pattern with the first three rounds. I don't see any reason why that would change, but I don't have anything specific for you in terms of plans to raise other issues.
QUESTION: Over the weekend facts came out from the AU and they estimate it's nearly $200 million that's needed just to keep the policing that's needed both in Darfur and as well in the south of Sudan. Is this money going to be forthcoming, as well as humanitarian aid and assistance for both those regions?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think I'm familiar with the facts you're referring to, but the U.S. certainly remains committed to assisting the AU mission in Darfur. We have been a major contributor to that mission, as well as the leading donor, humanitarian donor, in aid to Sudan. We have, as the Deputy Secretary pledged in Oslo, over a billion dollars on the table for supporting the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And, of course, the Deputy Secretary was just in Sudan as our representative to see the National Unity Government sworn in, which is a major step forward towards resolving permanently the divisions, North-South. And we believe also helps in terms of setting a precedent and a framework for being able to work on the Darfur issue.
NATO has now begun to airlift troops for the African Union to get to its larger level of deployment in Sudan. I believe they started with some Nigerian troops and I think there are Rwandan troops that'll be airlifted later this month as well. So it's a lot going on and a lot of support happening. But without talking on specific figures, certainly the international community and the United States are very much committed to making that African Union mission a success.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)