State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 12, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 12, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 12, 2005
Gaza Disengagement / Opportunity for Progress on Roadmap
Palestinian Terrorist Groups / Need for Security
Reaction to Suicide Bombing
Israeli Plans for Development in Negev and Galilee / U.S. Support
Support for Annan Plan
American Citizens Missing/Injured / Welfare and Whereabouts Enquiries
Reaction to Attacks on Deputy Prime Minister
Resolution 1559 / Syrian Withdrawal
Offer of Humanitarian Assistance to Victims of Hurricane Dennis /
Offer Turned Down by Government / Funds for NGOs in Cuba
South Korean Aid / U.S. Food Aid
Report of UN Commission on Human Rights / Need for Independent Investigation
Support for Dialogue to Resolve Cross-Strait Differences
BOSNIA AND HERZOGOVINA
Anniversary of Srebrenica Massacre
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the State Department. I don't have any statements or announcements for you here at the top, so let's get right to your questions.
Peter, do you want to --
QUESTION: Yeah, I'll start with one. We have a statement by Prime Minister Sharon at a news conference today. And I quote here, "I want to make clear that there will not be any other disengagement and that there is no stage two the disengagement plan after Gaza."
Now, I know that the administration has been very eager to follow up the Gaza withdrawal with the next steps there. Do you think this is a helpful statement?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I just saw the same press reports you did about his remarks. Again, I think where our focus is for right now is ensuring that the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank does move forward. We do believe this creates a new and genuine opportunity for Israelis and Palestinians to move forward and to make progress on the roadmap.
Obviously, that progress would have to continue and ultimately we want to see the President's vision of two states living side-by-side in peace achieved. But for the moment, again, I think our focus is on what we can do right now to move the disengagement plan forward. And I think I'll just leave it at that.
QUESTION: The first stage of the roadmap requires the Palestinians to dismantle terror groups under their control. They haven't done that. So while you're enchanted -- the U.S. Government is enchanted with Israel withdrawing and the opportunities that you see for more Israeli withdrawals, which you always look forward to, what about the Palestinians meeting their obligations -- how can you move forward on a roadmap that precisely says, step one, requires the Palestinians to dismantle terror groups and they haven't done that? So how can you move forward, no matter how fast or peaceful Israel pulls back?
MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I think one of the important parts for us about the Gaza disengagement plan is having us work with the Palestinian Authority to help them improve their security forces and improve their ability to take actions against those who would commit violence or be opposed to the peace process. That's why General Ward is out there and he's working very actively with the parties now.
Now, President Abbas was elected on a platform that rejected terrorism and violence. And which was committed to peaceful resolution of the conflict and that's something that's important. Obviously, both sides need to do everything they can to meet their commitments on the roadmap and one of the important ones for the Palestinian side is taking action against terror groups. But this is a process that has to be moved forward and we certainly are doing everything we can to assist the Palestinian Authority to be able to better control the situation and deal with security threats that are there.
QUESTION: I'm sure you saw the -- there was an attack just recently in Netanya. Would you say that the Palestinian Government -- first of all, I don't -- I think it's probably too soon for me to know anything about the attack, but if you know anything, perhaps any Americans injured or killed? And do you think that these are just rogue elements? Or is the Palestinian Authority not taking enough steps to crack down on terror, as evident by this bombing?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me start out by saying that yes, I've seen the reports and obviously we condemn this terrible attack and give our condolences to both to the families of those who were killed and obviously those people injured. I don't have any reports, at this point, of American citizens who may have been involved in this incident. Obviously, we'll be looking at that carefully to make sure. This really is just another example of violence being perpetrated by those who oppose peace and who have nothing but a rejectionist agenda to sell. It's all the more reason why our focus has to be and has to continue to be on helping the Israelis and the Palestinians move forward on the roadmap and helping them deal with the challenges that are out there.
I don't honestly -- I've seen claims of responsibility that are out there. I can't independently verify them for you, but obviously this just shows that more work needs to be done to bring into line those that are still actively working to oppose the peace process.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on this one?
MR. CASEY: Yes.
QUESTION: In case -- aren't you then expecting, at least, a stop of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The Israelis all along said that they will stop the operations for any sign of new violence and today we have another example.
MR. CASEY: Look, I -- this attack has just happened. I really don't have much more information than what I've given you now. Obviously, it's very important for all parties to consider their actions carefully. We certainly acknowledge and support Israeli's right to defend itself. Of course, as always, we ask them to consider the consequences of any actions they might take.
QUESTION: That was --
MR. CASEY: Sorry, let's go back to Barry.
QUESTION: It's relevant. I mean, should -- as the U.S. advice to Israel is to -- the U.S. advice to Israel to go ahead and continue along the track of withdrawal, despite this incident. Should Israel not let this incident deter the abandonment of Gaza and part of the West Bank?
MR. CASEY: Barry, I'm not going to try and provide advice from here publicly to the Government of Israel. I will just reiterate what I've told you already, which is that we remain very supportive of the withdrawal plan, and we'll be continuing to work that through the various channels that we have.
QUESTION: Now that the Israelis have made a presentation of how much money they believe they will require from the U.S. to assist in the withdrawal, what can you say about that? What sort of reaction does the administration have for the request?
MR. CASEY: Well, I -- first of all, let me say there, as you know, there was a meeting yesterday afternoon over at the National Security Council. State Department officials participated in that. That meeting was useful in giving us a better understanding of Israel's plans for development in the Negev and Galilee regions. And I think we'll now be considering how the U.S. can best assist Israel with those efforts.
This was basically an initial presentation that they made to us yesterday. And at this point, what we're going to do is study the presentation they gave to us, think about and see what other additional questions we might have and then continue our discussions later on. They described a number of programs to us and, again, we'll be seeing what we can do to assist them in making some of those plans a reality.
QUESTION: Was it a $2.2 billion request as reported?
MR. CASEY: I don't have a specific price tag associated with it.
QUESTION: Is the U.S., in general, favorably inclined to give money?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think we're going to see what we can do to support it, but I'm not prepared at this point to say anything in terms of specific commitments that might or might not be made.
QUESTION: Well, can you talk generally about what you see U.S. responsibility in terms of helping the Israelis in this? Are you -- do you expect to be helping them with the development of new kind of settlements or -- not to use the word "settlement" -- but new kind of development for housing infrastructure or do you see your role as more of helping with the security?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think there's a lot of things to consider and they've put a number of proposals on the table. At this point, I'm just really not prepared to respond in terms of what the specifics of our assistance might or might not look like.
Yeah. Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Cyprus. It's a long one, but very interesting.
MR. CASEY: Uh-oh. Okay. (Laughter).
QUESTION: According to a bunch of reports in these days in Nicosia in Athens, is a lot of discussion in these days regarding a statement attributed to Under Secretary Daniel Fried, who, in the presence also of Under Secretary Matt Bryza, and more than 20 Greek Americans, including Cypriot Spokesman Cypros Chrysostomidis, in the Wheeler Hotel here in the town, on June 12, 2003, stated Fried, "when we were trying to persuade Turkey to allow the passage of our troops through its territory into Northern Iraq, we offered Turkey two incentives, several billion dollars in grants and loans and Cyprus in the form of the Annan plan." When Turkey refused passage, the billions were dropped. However, the Annan plan survived until it was rejected by the Cypriots on April 24. I'm wondering if you could check on this in order to clarify this mess and what exactly happened?
MR. CASEY: Boy, is that an interesting story, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Your embassies involving Nicosia in Athens, et cetera?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me -- Mr. Lambros, let me just answer your questions this way. I think our policies on Cyprus are well known. Our support for the Annan plan has been longstanding and has been continuous. We continue to support the efforts of the Secretary General and his representatives to achieve a peaceful resolution in the situation on the island. And I think that's always been the main focus and the main point of U.S. policy. As to comments that are alleged to have occurred several years ago, involving a variety of different officials, I simply don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Right. Thank you. Take this question?
MR. CASEY: No. I'm not going to take that question. Our policy on Cyprus is clear and that's the real issue.
QUESTION: Lebanon. Yeah, Tom, do you have any (inaudible) AM radio in New York was identifying the American who was killed in London as a Michael Matsushita, an Asian American. Do you have any more information for us on any of that?
MR. CASEY: I do actually have just a small amount more I can share with you.
QUESTION: I can confirm for you that the individual that I discussed yesterday as being missing and presumed dead and that is the category in which we still place him, as an American citizen named Michael Matsushita.
Again, I think our condolences go out to his family and his loved ones. We are continuing to work both through our Embassy and here in Washington to try and absolutely ascertain the facts of this case as we have with other individuals involved. I don't really have any more information for you because of the limits of what I can get into because the Privacy Act.
In terms of -- let me just give you a rough update on some of the other --
QUESTION: Can do you spell his name just for me?
MR. CASEY: Can I spell his name for you? Yeah, sure. Michael is obvious. Matshushita: M-a-t-s-u-s-h-i-t-a.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) you can confirm his age and (inaudible) from?
MR. CASEY: I can confirm his name now because his family has publicly spoken to this issue.
QUESTION: And his family said you can say who it is, but you can't say how old he is or where he's from --
MR. CASEY: I don't have any -- I don't --
QUESTION: Or what he was doing in London?
MR. CASEY: No. And again, out of respect for the family, we --
QUESTION: This is respect; this is not legalisms anymore?
MR. CASEY: It's not legalisms.
QUESTION: Can you confirm his age is 37? Do you have anything?
MR. CASEY: I don't actually have that for you. Let me go through what else we have on this issue. Again, I have nothing new for you in terms of injuries to Americans. That number still stands at four. Again, two of those individuals were treated and released; two remain hospitalized.
Welfare and whereabouts inquiries, we've had a total now of 1,072 welfare and whereabouts inquiries. Of those, 132 are still outstanding. And Consular officials are again working to try and ascertain the whereabouts of those individuals.
Again, as I said yesterday, if anyone has called in requesting information on the whereabouts of friends of family members and have subsequently heard from them, we'd love to hear back, saying that you've heard from them and they're safe and sound.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Israel and Palestine, if you'd like?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you think what happened today, apparently from the early news, it was a suicide attack in a mall. Do you think it's dangerous enough to derail whatever efforts for peace were done so far? Could you draw this conclusions at this moment?
MR. CASEY: I'm not in the speculation business. I really don't have anything more for you on it. Again, I think from our perspective it's important that we do all work together to try and see where we can move forward and make progress. But in terms of what reactions will be to this, just have to see.
QUESTION: It doesn't weaken Abbas, for example, the policy and -- it weakens him.
MR. CASEY: Again, I'll leave the political commentary to others.
QUESTION: All right.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Samir
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the bombing in Lebanon today?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, I think I do have something on that. Again, just as with the situation in Israel, we condemn the attacks against the Deputy Prime Minister that took place this morning in Beirut. And we certainly wish him and all those who were injured in this attack a full and speedy recovery. And our condolences go out to those who lost their lives in this incident.
Attacks such as these are clearly an attempt to sow fear and instability and to undermine the faith of the Lebanese people and their governing institutions. Frankly, we believe that -- and are confident that the Lebanese people won't let this kind of violence deter them from the path they've chosen to develop their institutions, to develop a democratic society and to move forward.
QUESTION: Most of the other assassinations and attacks have been directed at reformers or, you know, kind of pro-democracy activists. This gentleman seemed to be a kind of pro-Syrian politician, former Interior Minister, who's spoken out in favor of Syria numerous times. Does this say anything to you about the kind of widening of violence in Lebanon and what's going on over there?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure. I mean the attack just happened this morning, and I'm certainly not in a position to say who was responsible for it. But, again --
QUESTION: But you can say, at this point, that -- I mean it was directed at a kind of pro-Syrian politician and I asked if you --
MR. CASEY: Certainly, I think --
QUESTION: Kind of pointed the finger at Syria in terms of creating the kind of instability that led to these types of attacks.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, but I don't think our opposition to bombings is related to people's political affiliation. And obviously, anything -- that is, any actions that are taken, any forms of violence to try to serve a political end, to try and intimidate people, regardless of their political persuasion is something that we would oppose and oppose under any circumstances.
QUESTION: Okay. Could we still maintain that idea, that it is (inaudible) spread now, I mean, that the United States Government may think that Syria is primarily responsible for the political atmosphere leading to this kind of violence? Are you still with the same position?
MR. CASEY: Oh, I think we're still in the same position that we believe Resolution 1559 ought to be fully and completely implemented. And that means, not only as Syria has done -- withdraw all of its military forces -- but it does mean that we believe that they should withdraw all of their intelligence, including their clandestine intelligence forces. We obviously have many concerns about those security forces or intelligence forces that may remain in Lebanon. And certainly we have concerns about Syria's continuing involvement in Lebanese politics. Those issues are longstanding.
QUESTION: But do you mean to the (inaudible)?
MR. CASEY: This --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the atmospherics even?
MR. CASEY: Again, all I mean --
QUESTION: I mean, that's their policy, of course.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, all I mean to do, Barry, is to reiterate our longstanding position on 1559. I'm not trying to assert responsibility for any individual actions now.
QUESTION: Last night, you released a statement on an offer of aid for Cuba.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: And President Castro has now rejected that and said that he wouldn't accept it even if it were millions and millions of dollars. Do you -- can you tell us how you received -- what response you did receive from Cuba to the offer?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me -- just for those that might not have seen the statement, let me just walk through it, too.
On July 10th, we let the Cuban Government know that the United States was prepared to provide immediate humanitarian assistance and emergency supplies to the victims of Hurricane Dennis. And we also offered to deploy an assessment team to Cuba that would have helped determine what relief supplies were needed. And the Castro Government did turn us down on that.
Our offer was -- it was conveyed by our Interests Section to the Cuban Foreign Ministry. And the "no" that we received as an answer came back through those same channels. What we are doing, despite that rejection, is we're trying now to work with a number of nongovernmental organizations to provide them with disaster relief funds to be able to help deliver relief provisions as quickly as possible to the Cuban people that are affected.
I also should note, too, that there are opportunities for American citizens or private groups that might want to contribute to work with some of the NGOs that already have humanitarian licenses to operate in Cuba and assistance can be provided through private means that way as well.
QUESTION: Well, how do you get the aid -- how do you get the aid in opposition to the Cuban Government?
MR. CASEY: Well, NGOs that have an opportunity and already authorized to work in Cuba would basically be the vehicle for us to work through. In normal circumstances, embassies would offer a disaster declaration or would make some immediate funds available. We would then, as you know, often send out an assessment team and see what else could be done. And many of those funds would be channeled through government-related organizations or provided directly. In this case, we'll have to work indirectly simply because the Cuban Government doesn't want to accept our assistance.
QUESTION: Do you have any -- or just a quick follow-up to --
MR. CASEY: Sorry.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on how much is being provided to which NGOs? Is that -- has it reached that stage yet?
MR. CASEY: No. We're still working with the NGOs now to determine what their needs are and how much assistance we can offer at this time.
QUESTION: You could release the name -- when -- if you're asking for Americans to contribute, how would they know?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. There's information on that available through the Treasury Department website. And we'll also be having, I think, more to say on this once we've been able to consult with some of the NGOs and made a determination of what funding we can make available and how much they need.
QUESTION: South Korean Unification Minister announced a plan about supplying significant amounts of energy and some rice aid to North Korea. Did the U.S. know about this proposal and does the U.S. support this proposal?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think as far as the issue of providing rice and food support to North Korea, I think Secretary Rice actually addressed that already in her discussions with Foreign Minister Machimura. And as I recall, which she said at the conclusion of that meeting is just as the United States has offered 50,000-metric tons of food aid to help deal with the severe humanitarian crisis in North Korea and that that decision was taken outside of the terms of the six-party talks that we certainly had no objections to the South Koreans providing similar kinds of food assistance. On other issues involving the six-party talks, again, I really don't have anything new to offer beyond what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: I have one on Cuba.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: When you made your offer of humanitarian assistance and emergency supplies and offered to send a team there, was the provision of such assistance and supplies contingent on the team going there and making the assessment or was that an addition? You said, "We'll give you those, plus we'll send a team in, if you want."
MR. CASEY: It's -- they are not linked to one another. The offer of initial assistance was the deal with the obvious immediate humanitarian needs, the offer of a team was to help do a damage assessment as we do in many other countries around the world to see after that initial assistance was provided, how best we could channel aid.
QUESTION: Do you have anything much to say about U.S. security, apropos the London bombings? You've put a -- you know, lot of extra security on. Is it still on? Are there any relevant changes in what you're doing around the world or -- especially in London? Or is sort of rolling along as normal?
MR. CASEY: Well, I mean, I think all of our embassies are doing an ongoing assessment of their security situations. Obviously, they're responding to the local conditions on the ground. We did take a very serious look at, and implement some additional security measures with a number of our other posts overseas in response to the London bombing. I honestly don't know, as of today, where each individual embassy stands. But, again, obviously it's something we're taking a look at all the time.
QUESTION: I've got a question on that.
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you making any -- apparently, the military had originally put out a statement or a kind of request to military or an order, rather, not to visit certain points in London and then it kind of rescinded that request after certain complaints and newspaper stories. Have you made any direct restrictions on U.S. Embassy employees or any U.S. diplomats in the country?
MR. CASEY: Nothing that's not covered as part of the public announcement or the Warden messages that have gone out. I'm not aware of any special restrictions that apply only to U.S. Government employees. And, in fact, we have an obligation, if we do put such restrictions on our employees, to let the public know about it.
QUESTION: So they're not -- so, no diplomats or embassy employees are prohibited from using the tube or anything like that?
MR. CASEY: Nothing beyond what's in the public announcement, no.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: Sorry, one --
QUESTION: Can you do one on the Middle East if you allow me? Between Syria and Lebanon, if you have something to say. The last two days, the Syrians closed the main crossing points for Lebanese trucks into Syria. Do you have any reaction on that because over there in the area, it's big news? It's hurting the local Lebanese economy. Many think that Syria now is taking some revenge steps against the new Lebanon that is emerging.
MR. CASEY: Again, I honestly don't have anything specific on that. I'll have to check on it for you.
QUESTION: On Uzbekistan?
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: There is a report of the UN Commission of Human Rights saying that the cracking down on Andijan may have been mass killing. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think what I can say is that the UN report certainly adds to the many reliable eyewitness accounts of the shootings by Uzbek security forces of hundreds of people in Andijan back in May.
Certainly, the Uzbekistan Government owes its citizens and owes the international community a serious, credible and independent investigation of these events. And we are continuing to push for such an investigation with the Government of Uzbekistan and with our partners in the international community.
We certainly stand ready, as we always have said, to cooperate and assist in such an investigation, whether that's done by the UN or the OSCE or any other credible body.
Now, you back here.
QUESTION: Now, (inaudible) a new Iranian President in the embassy takeover of '79?
MR. CASEY: No, I don't actually. I don't have anything new on that.
Let's go back here because she's been waiting a while.
QUESTION: On cross-strait contacts. First, Chinese President Hu met with Taiwanese opposition leader again today and, meanwhile, President Chen of Taiwan also urged Beijing to set aside the one-China precondition and so the two sides can start leader-to-leader, government-to-government dialogue. What's the U.S. position on those cross-strait contacts and Chen's call to China?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have anything specific for you on those meetings. Obviously, our policy on Taiwan remains the same and is guided by the communiqués as well as the Taiwan Relations Act. We obviously support peaceful resolution of cross strait differences through dialogue. But I really don't have anything for you on much beyond that.
QUESTION: How about --
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: This is on Srebrenica. Do you have anything on the memorial ceremonies in Srebrenica, since the U.S. Government sent a very strong delegation, as you told us yesterday?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have anything beyond what I told you yesterday related to that memorial service. Again, I think Ambassador Prosper and former Ambassador Holbrook were both very public and made a number of strong statements while they were out there. And I'd just refer you to those.
QUESTION: One --
MR. CASEY: One more?
QUESTION: One more on HIV? It was reported that the five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor who were on humanitarian mission in Libya and allegedly infected with HIV virus 426 children, awaiting as you know death execution as you know in November, used pills. Something is happening for the first time in the history of this catastrophic disease. I'm wondering if the Department of State have anything on that issue?
MR. CASEY: No, I don't have any information for you on that. And obviously, our policy on that particular and very tragic case is well known.
QUESTION: I'm saying that as far as using pills, that's a more --
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything --
QUESTION: But taking this question --
MR. CASEY: No, I'm not going to take this question. Again, our position on that issue is well known.
QUESTION: Thanks, a lot.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)