State Dept. Press Briefing July 15, 2005
Daily Press Briefing for July 15 – Transcript
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 15, 2005
Secretary's Travel to Senegal, Sudan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Secretary's Participation in Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation
Forum Under the Auspices of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA)
Gaza Withdrawal / Disengagement
Assistant Secretary Welch's Travel
Palestinian Authority Actions to Stop Terrorism
Secretary's Phone Calls to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
Bilateral Relations / Visit of Prime Minister Singh
UN Reform / Security Council Expansion
"Alliance For Civilization" / Dialogue with Muslim Communities
Muslim Scholars and Leaders Speak Out Against Violence
Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill in Seoul / Trilateral
Meetings / South Korean Energy Proposal / Importance of Resuming Six Party Talks
Reaction to Comments by Chinese Military Official Reserving the
Right of a Nuclear First Strike on the United States
Congressional Travel to Northern Cyprus
Sumate / Judicial Proceedings / Elections
President Bush's and Secretary Rice's Conversations with Machado
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Before we get into questions, I have a brief announcement concerning the Secretary's travel next week. We'll put out a paper statement following the briefing.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Senegal, Sudan, Israel and the Palestinian territories from July 19th through the 24th. In Dakar, Senegal, she will participate in the 2005 U.S. Sub-Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum being held under the auspices of the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act. The acronym for that is AGOA. AGOA is a key pillar of the Bush Administration's policy to spur economic development, alleviate poverty and encourage trade between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa countries.
In Sudan, the Secretary will emphasize U.S. support for implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and will urge further steps to resolve the crisis in Darfur.
The Secretary's travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories will continue our efforts to spur the parties towards cooperation as part of the disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
And with that, I'd be pleased to take your questions.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary going to Darfur?
MR. MCCORMACK: She is. She is. Well, as get closer to the trip, I think on Monday, we'll have more details of the schedule for you. But yes, she will. She will travel to Darfur. She will meet with members of the new National Unity Government, Government of National Unity, the government that was formed under the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and she will travel to Darfur.
QUESTION: She will visit a displaced persons camp?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, she will. Yes, she will.
QUESTION: Is there a possibility of other stops in Africa, or just those two?
MR. MCCORMACK: Those two. That's it.
Anything else on the trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not looking for questions. Just asking. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On the Mideast in general?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, please. That's fine.
QUESTION: Okay. Her trip comes at a particularly delicate time right now because there's an increase and a spurt in violence and we're getting close to the planned withdrawal from Gaza. Is there a growing concern in the Administration here that this growing violence could prove -- could compromise not only the withdrawal but the successful withdrawal from Gaza?
MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks for the question. I think that as a general statement about disengagement that I would say that all parties need to do more. The Secretary has said -- you heard her in her previous trip to the region -- that all parties need to make a maximum effort, and now we find ourselves about a month away from the planned beginning of this disengagement effort and we need to see that maximum effort. All the parties need to make the maximum effort to see that this disengagement process is a success. It's a potentially historic moment and the parties should seize the opportunity to realize all the potential from this disengagement.
The Secretary is going to travel to the region. She thought it was an appropriate time, an important time, to go there and to try to spur the parties on to make -- to have the effective cooperation between the two parties that is needed to have an effective withdrawal and disengagement.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Just to put it another way, the Secretary was saying the same things when she went last, in, I think, in mid-June, around mid-June, that they needed to take urgent action and they needed to accelerate and have high-level contacts. Since then, we haven't really seen, at least visibly, progress in all the myriad details that we were discussing a month ago. We have seen a sort of outburst of violence there. Is there concern that the process is not getting done right now?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, like I said, we need to see that maximum effort. I think that the parties -- you need to make that maximum effort, both individually as well as together cooperatively, because it is that cooperative effort and the accompanying building of trust and confidence between the two parties that will lead to this withdrawal being successful.
We have been closely engaged with both sides on this. Assistant Secretary Welch has been out in the region. He is, today, in Cairo for a Quartet envoys meeting. Mr. Wolfensohn has been in the region, working with all the parties on the economic aspects that are within his mandate. And General Ward has been on the ground there, working with each of the parties separately and to encourage the cooperation on the security front.
I would say that we have seen, just recently, the Palestinian security forces acting against militants in Gaza. And the fact -- and we also welcome the fact that President Abbas condemned the suicide bombing in Netanya and he rightly pointed out that these actions are actions not only against the Israeli people and acts of terror, but they are truly acts against the Palestinian people and their aspirations for a better, more prosperous, peaceful life.
QUESTION: Okay. Just one last thing. The dates that she's going to be in Israel and Palestinian territories?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll get a breakdown of the trip for you. We'll try to do that this afternoon, if not Monday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: But that's your order? Would that be -- is that the correct order that it's in?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's the order. Yes.
QUESTION: The Senegal visit. Will this be an Africa-wide conference there or what?
MR. MCCORMACK: There are going to be, I believe, 30-plus senior representatives at this forum and we think it's an important forum. The President talked about it when he met here in Washington with the four African leaders, I think, maybe three weeks or a month ago.
At that time, he said that there would be senior-level representation to the AGOA forum and the Secretary thought it was important go to the forum to support it and also to highlight the fact that this is a key pillar of our approach to help in Africa with development, alleviate poverty and help provide a more secure and stable environment for the African people in each of these countries.
QUESTION: A different question, please, a different subject. I know Dr. Rice is doing a really great job as far as India-U.S. relations are concerned and she had visited India quite a few times recently also. Now, on the eve of Prime Minster of India's visit to the U.S., and she's going to meet with him, he's arriving on Sunday. Yesterday, in the UN Security Council -- I mean, Ambassador Kelhi, she vetoed the resolution by India, Japan, Brazil and -- four countries, I believe -- Germany, as far as expanding the UN Security Council. And I think earlier Dr. Rice also said that India will not get the -- a Security Council seat.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- I don't think she said that, Goyal.
QUESTION: U.S. --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think what we have said is --
QUESTION: What I'm saying --
MR. MCCORMACK: Wait, wait a minute, I don't -- I want to correct this point. What we have said and what she has said is that we have a longstanding commitment to support Japan for the Security Council seat. And you've heard from Under Secretary Burns in his briefing here several weeks ago when he said that, you know, we support Security Council expansion to two or so seats, by two or so seats. One of those seats we have made a commitment to Japan, and we support Japanese ascending to the Security Council.
We have also said that, as Ambassador Tahir-Kheli said yesterday, that it's -- this is not the right moment to vote on Security Council reform because we think it is not right to have Security Council reform sprint out ahead of consideration of other very important reforms, including management reform, Secretariat reform, a Human Rights Commission, establishment of a Democracy Fund agreement on a Convention Against Terrorism. These are all things that have a great deal of support within the UN and we think it is important to make progress on those before you start voting on expansion of the Security Council. So just, you know, we can get into your question but I just want to make sure that we clarified what we have actually said on those issues.
QUESTION: What I'm saying, really, what kind of message U.S. is giving to the Prime Minister of India to India on his eve of his arrival here on fostering the U.S.-India relations and going forward in many, many areas of world's largest and most powerful and the richest democracies?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the --
QUESTION: Where we do, let's say, when he arrives here, far as Dr. Rice is concerned, meeting with him?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Prime Minister is coming here to meet with the President primarily. The President looks forward to hosting the Prime Minister. I'm going to leave comment on the visit, for the most part, to the White House. But the Secretary will be hosting a lunch here for the Prime Minister and she looks forward to seeing him and meeting with him. We have had a -- she has met with the Indian Foreign Minister, she has met with the Indian Defense Minister and we have had numerous contacts in the run-up to prepare this meeting. We believe it is an important visit that signals the increasing depth and breadth of the U.S.-India relationship across a variety of different topics and those have been outlined in the next steps for a strategic partnership. It covers a wide variety of different areas, from energy to cultural exchanges to the beginnings of a military-to-military relationship. So I expect that they will be talking about all of those issues as well as things that happen to be on the mind of the Prime Minister as well. And she looks forward to those discussions.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one more, please, on a different subject? Yesterday -- I'm sorry, go ahead.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this? Yes.
QUESTION: A question about Gaza.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll come back to that.
QUESTION: Yesterday, of course, Tom gave a great briefing. Yesterday, I asked a question about the bombings in London and when he said really -- of course, he was right when he said that colleges or Muslim colleges or Muslim scholars and imams, they are speaking out against the bombings in London. But yesterday, Prime Minister Tony Blair ordered to deport all teachers, scholars, imams and Muslim leaders who are involved of teaching hateful message in the madrasas and also in the mosques. So where do we stand as far as, because this goes also here in madrasas abroad and here and in mosques here that those -- that we depend on those imams and mullahs in the mosques that teach hateful messages against the West and that's why we have bombings in the U.S., in New York, in London, in India and Israel.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm going to leave the British Government to comment on whatever actions they may or may not take. But let's be clear where the United States stands. We believe, and the President has talked about this, that Islam is a religion of peace. There are a few -- a very few -- extremists who want to use a great religion for purposes of hate. They twist it. They use it to encourage others to take the lives of innocent victims around the world for -- in the name of an ideology of hatred.
But we have seen consistently, leading Muslim scholars and religious figures speak out against this kind of violence. And they themselves say this is not -- these people do not speak in the name of Islam. You have seen it recently in Amman. There was a meeting of Islamic scholars and religious leaders, and they said that those who are issuing fatwas and orders in the name of Islam, encouraging people to kill, kill innocents, don't speak in the name of this great religion. And I would only say that we in the United States certainly do not look upon those few who would try to pervert this great religion as at all representative of Islam.
QUESTION: Do you have anything in the United States and Japan, Korea three-party meeting in Seoul?
MR. MCCORMACK: Ambassador Hill did have meetings in Seoul. He met with his Korean counterparts. He also met with his counterparts together from Japan and South Korea. They had good meetings, talking about the upcoming six-party talks scheduled for the week of July 25th, and talked about the modalities of the talks. They talked a bit about the South Korean proposal. They talked about the proposal that the United States currently has on the table and the fact that we are waiting for the North Koreans to come back with a response to that proposal and engage in the talks in a constructive manner.
I think all the three representatives and the three governments speak with one voice when we urge the North Korean Government to come to the six-party talks ready to engage in a constructive manner towards the goal that all the six parties now have said is the goal, and that is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
QUESTION: Is this meeting the final six-party talks meeting there will be?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's take one meeting at a time. We're ready to see if the North Korean Government has made a strategic decision to give up its nuclear weapons. Again, that's the immediate objective of these talks so we will see what the outcome of these talks are.
QUESTION: Because the South Korean Minister of Unification Chung Dong-young said that if the time is no worry, they will maybe take about one month. So --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we're talking about the modalities with the other members of the six-party talks, but we are ready to roll up our sleeves and engage in a discussion. But what has to happen first is we need the North Koreans to engage in a constructive manner, respond to the proposal that they have before them.
Yes. Anything else on this topic? No? Okay.
QUESTION: On Russia? We talked about this a bit yesterday with Tom, but was there any formal complaint by Russia, any démarche or anything like that, that Nevzlin was here, speaking to Congress. He's wanted in Russia --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: We talked about the extradition, et cetera, et cetera. But was there any -- given that there's no extradition treaty, was there at least, I don't know, any kind of communication of displeasure from the Russian Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you, Teri, to see if there was any sort of démarche, any sort of formal démarche.
QUESTION: Okay. Will you -- you'll post if you have that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Jonathan.
QUESTION: I'm sure you saw the comments by the Chinese general on the question of whether or not China should reserve the right for a first strike against the United States to using nuclear weapons if it gets to that point. Any reaction on it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that we would say that I hope that these comments don't reflect the views of the Chinese Government. I haven't seen all the remarks, but what I've seen of them, I would say that they were highly irresponsible. But again, we hope that these are not the views of the Chinese Government.
The United States is not a threat to China. We have a broad and deep relationship in which we are trying to -- we try to work closely with the Chinese Government on a variety of issues. The Secretary has talked about the fact that this is a relationship that is probably the best U.S.-China relationship we've seen in quite some time. There are mixed elements to it. But again, she was just there and had good discussions with Chinese leaderships. Secretary Zoellick is going to be traveling to China later this month to begin a strategic dialogue with the Chinese leadership. So we have, we believe, constructive -- good, constructive relations with China and I think that the remarks from that one individual are unfortunate.
QUESTION: So what about them is highly irresponsible?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think, Jonathan, I think the remarks speak for themselves. I'm not going to try to dissect them. But I think that, again, given the relationship of the U.S. and China and the fact that the U.S. is not a threat to China, that those remarks are certainly unfortunate.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Congressman Mike Bilirakis in an extensive statement expressed his concern regarding the legality of U.S. citizens and U.S. Government officials and members of the Congress flying direct from Turkey to the airport of Tymbou in the occupied north part of Cyprus, saying that the Department of State is allowing that in violation of the U.S. and international law. How do you respond to this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm aware that there was a letter and we will, of course, provide an appropriate response to the Congressman. But as far as I am aware, given the particular facts that he addresses in this letter, that there are no violations of U.S. or international law.
QUESTION: But how -- why did they use that with -- why did they do that with the permission of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, as I understand the facts as outlined in this letter, there are no violations of U.S. or international law.
QUESTION: And one more question --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we're going to move on.
QUESTION: On Venezuela, on the civil society organization, Sumate, (inaudible) for lack of transparency. In the next election they are going to be held in Venezuela in August. Do you share the same position as Sumate?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I haven't seen all of their remarks. Certainly there are some ongoing judicial proceedings with regard to Sumate and some of the leadership of that organization that are quite concerning. We've spoken out against -- spoken out about those judicial proceedings. The President and the Secretary have met with Ms. Machado and had good discussions.
You know, we, of course, in all cases would support free and fair elections and that means not only the day of the election but in the run-up to the election in terms of access to media and the ability of opposition candidates and parties to participate in those elections.
Yes. In the back.
QUESTION: Yesterday you urged the Palestinian Authority to take action to end violence and terror. What kind of actions did you mean and does this mean that if you mean stronger actions, does it mean that you're against the dialogue between the Palestinian Authority and the various Palestinian groups?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think what we need to see are the effective results from the actions that the Palestinian Authority has taken. Again, we have seen in the past several days a suicide bombing and then rocket attacks. Those actions need to stop and the Palestinian Authority needs to take actions to prevent any further similar actions. We are not going to prescribe exact things that they might do. But I think all -- I think the Palestinian Authority understands what they need to do. They need to act against terror and we need to see the results of those actions.
QUESTION: Did you mean like crack down on these groups and --
MR. MCCORMACK: What we need to see from the Palestinian Authority -- and we have seen some actions very recently in which the Palestinian security forces have acted against militants in Gaza. Those actions need to continue and what we need to see as a result of those actions is a cessation of things like these rocket attacks and terror attacks.
QUESTION: And are you still with the approach that with the President Abbas has, and that is the dialogue between --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have said repeatedly that in terms of the Palestinian --decisions with regard to the Palestinian political scene, those are decisions for the Palestinian people to make.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Over here.
QUESTION: Same subject. I think it was this week Sharon said that he didn't -- he blamed Abbas basically for not doing enough in the wake of the most recent violence to crack down and then you -- your phrasing just now. My question is this: Does the United States recognize that Abbas, if he goes and does everything within his power, that there are still elements in that area who can, in fact, commit bombings, rocket attacks and so forth; so that therefore, it is not really possible for Prime Minister Abbas to be held to account for every single act of violence that occurs in this area at this time? And therefore, is it -- the Israelis have often, rightly or wrongly, used these sort of things as reasons to delay moving forward. And so my question is: How do you feel about this particular question about whether he must be held responsible for all of these acts?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as the Secretary has said, all the parties need to make a maximum effort. We need to see that effort now. And for the Palestinian -- the list of the tasks ahead of both the parties, both individually and together, is well known to both of them in the security and the economic fronts. And we need to see that maximum effort.
President Abbas was elected by the Palestinian people. And part of that election platform he ran on a platform of peace and security. And part of the responsibility of any government is to protect its own people and to take steps to provide for a stable, peaceful environment where the people who are governed can realize their full potential, where they can realize a better future for their children, where they can live in peace and security, where they can start a business, where they can send their children to school. That's the responsibility of any government and it's the responsibility also of the Palestinian Authority, who is elected by the Palestinian people to provide those things.
So it is the responsibility of President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to take every step that they possibly can to see that there is a peaceful environment free from terror, and that is what the Palestinian people themselves have demonstrated that they want in voting for President Abbas.
QUESTION: But the question is that President Bush himself recently -- one of his statements is that the terrorists only have to be right one time and the governments have to be right 100 percent of the time. So the analogy, I think, is appropriate here: Can President Abbas be right 100 percent of the time, lest he be held to account for every act of terrorism that's committed by some element?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have said -- we have stated very clearly what the Palestinian Authority needs to do. They need to act to stop terrorism, like we have seen recently in Netanya and the rocket attack. So they need to act. We have seen some steps very recently that they have taken. What we need to see is some effective results as a result of those steps.
QUESTION: Sean, Israel seems to have upped the ante with some of its military activities in the last 24 hours, using rockets fired from helicopters against vehicles. Have you talked to the Israelis about that? And, I mean, there's some suggestion that things could spiral out of hand if something like that continues.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Secretary Welch has been in the region. Secretary Rice has spoken to President Abbas. She spoke with Defense Minister Mofaz today. And as you can see by those actions, we're closely engaged with both sides and we encourage them to take appropriate steps to restore order and calm. And it's important that both sides, as I said, I repeat again, that they need to make that maximum effort that the Secretary has called for, you know, both individually and working together to stop -- to ensure that this withdrawal is a successful withdrawal.
QUESTION: The Secretary initiated that call to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Both of those, yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan and the Prime Minister of Spain Jose Zapatero, the announcement by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan expressed the initial "alliance for civilization." Do you support this idea? What is the U.S. position?
MR. MCCORMACK: We've seen the plan that was announced at the UN and we certainly appreciate the efforts of Spain and Turkey. We certainly agree that there's a need to strengthen dialogue as we advance the President's agenda of supporting those who strive for freedom and democracy. The Broader Middle East and North African Initiative is an existing framework for dialogue and cooperation with Muslim communities. And we welcome the broadest support for participation in what we refer to as BMENA activities.
We would welcome consideration of how the alliance for civilizations, which you referred to, could complement this effort.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Thank you.
(This briefing was concluded at 1:08 p.m.)