State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 25, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 25, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 25, 2005
Six-Party Talks / Assistant Secretary Hill's Bilateral Meeting
Focus on Denuclearized Korean Peninsula / Multilateral Security Guarantees
June 2004 Proposal on Table / No Deadlines Set
U.S. Casualties in Sharm el-Sheikh Bombing / Status of U.S.
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Cypriot Foreign Minister / Signing
of Proliferation Security Initiative Agreement / U.S. Support of
Secretary General Annan's Approach toward a Permanent Solution
Under Secretary Burn's Meeting with Archbishop Demetrios
U.S. Response on Situation of President Arroyo
Reports on Release of Statement by Ambassador Khalilzad / Drafting
of Constitution / Structure of Government
Gaza Withdrawal / Disengagement Process / Discussions on Coordination
Steps to Maintain an Atmosphere of Calm /
Meeting with Leadership of AU (African Union) Forces / AU Mission Expanding
Inter-American Development Bank Candidate
Query on U.S.- Sponsored Broadcast News in Venezuela
Reports of Arrest Warrants for CIA Operatives in Milan Abduction
Meeting Reported of Ambassador Sembler and Italian Government Officials
Endorsement of Key Points Made by Secretary General Annan /
Additional U.S. Aid Allocation in Response to International Office of Migration
South Africa's Stake in Restoration
Threats by Al Qaida / Fight Against Terrorism
12:15 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything -- any opening statements so let's just jump right into questions.
QUESTION: Let's talk about the North Korean nuclear talks. In fact --
MR. MCCORMACK: The six-party talks.
QUESTION: The six-party talks. I'm not sure whether they begin Tuesday or Wednesday, to begin with. And there was a meeting, a one-on-one, and Ambassador Hill listed as the substance to it as just to get, you know, get acquainted. Will there be further get-acquainted sessions as the talks proceed because, as you know, they do want one-on-one contact with the U.S. -- the North Koreans do. Give me something to work with, if you wish.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. I'll let you decide whether or not I give you something -- enough to work with here, Barry.
As has been reported, Assistant Secretary Hill is in Beijing. He had some bilateral meetings with the other members -- the other delegations to the six-party talks. They also -- the Chinese also hosted a dinner in advance of the formal commencement of the talks tomorrow morning Beijing time, so it will be Tuesday morning Beijing time.
Assistant Secretary Hill did have a bilateral meeting with the North Korean representative. They, I think, he would describe the atmosphere as businesslike. I think that he also pointed out the fact that this was not a negotiating session. We have in the past met with the North Koreans in the context of the six-party talks. That's how I would describe this meeting.
QUESTION: All right, now negotiating session, to most people means give and take. Now, for instance, when the South Koreans presented possible incentives, that too wasn't a negotiating session, but it was sure important they put something serious forward. It's not a negotiating session because they didn't go back and forth and bargain over it.
Did the U.S., at this session, present anything of substance to the North Koreans?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think Ambassador Hill pointed out that this was, as you said, this was a session in which they were able to get acquainted and that they were able to compare notes about how the talks might move forward. I think we are all hopeful that this round of the talks will allow all the parties to make progress so that it will allow us, as the six-party talks forum, to decide that another round is merited, that we make progress that will allow us all to come back for a fifth round.
All the parties are in agreement that the goal of these discussions is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That is the focus of our discussions. We have a proposal on the table from June 2004. We have yet to hear back from the North Korean delegation about that proposal. I would expect and hope that we hear their response to that proposal and we will, as the six-party forum, move forward from that point. But we have yet to hear back from them.
I would not characterize the meeting that we had with the North Koreans delegation as a negotiation. I will leave it to the South Koreans to describe their own meeting with the North Koreans. And we look forward to the beginning of the six-party talks where there can be negotiations and that would be tomorrow.
QUESTION: Remember the U.S. position was they have to come back to the table and that's not enough. They have to come back to the table prepared to seriously discuss the situation. Did Ambassador Hill get the notion, any notion of how serious they may be approaching these resumed talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, Barry, we're going to have to wait and see what actually happens during the six-party talks. I think that he reported back that the atmosphere was businesslike and that they had previously said that they share the goal, along with the other five members of the six-party talks, that this six-party forum is designed to get to the point where you have a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. So we'll see with the beginning of the talks tomorrow what happens.
QUESTION: You just said all parties agree that there should be denuclearized Korean Peninsula.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: It seemed to me that when Secretary Hill had his dinner on July 9th, he talked about denuclearization. Subsequent to that, the North Koreans said regional denuclearization, without limiting it to the Korean Peninsula. In other words, they want something beyond North Korea that would have to be denuclearized and they left it pretty vague as to what they were talking about. I mean is there any concern that they want something denuclearized beyond just North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I, in response -- as I said in response to Barry's question, all the parties of the six-party talks can bring up other issues if they wish to. The Japanese have mentioned that previously they would bring up the issue of abductions within the six-party talks.
But our focus, again, of these six-party talks is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula and for North Korea to give up its nuclear programs. They have previously signed such an agreement back in 1991 with the South Koreans, so this is nothing new. It's a shared concern of all the parties, all the other five parties to the six-party talks. So that is going to be our focus. We have previously tried to address North Korean concerns in other regards. The six-party talks, the other five parties to the six-party talks, have talked previously about how they were willing to provide the security guarantees in the context of the six-party talks, multilateral security guarantees.
So our attitude towards these talks is that we are prepared to negotiate with North Korea. In the context in the six-party talks, all the other five parties, to try to address their concerns. They are free to raise other concerns, as are the other members of six-party talks.
QUESTION: Switch to Sharm el-Sheikh?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's finish up. I didn't think that we were done with this yet.
QUESTION: According to news from Japan, U.S. would be ready to set up a liaison office in Pyongyang to normalize ties with North Korea if North Korea abandons its nuclear program. I would like to know if you can confirm that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I've seen the same news report that you referred to and at this point, what we're doing to do is we're going to wait to hear back from North Korea on our proposal, the June 2004 proposal, what their response to that is and that forms the basis of potentially moving forward on the -- towards the ultimate goal of the discussions.
I'm not going to get into, you know, I know there are going to be a lot of news reports out there talking about a number of different proposals from one side or the other. Not going to get into discussing those things or trying to, you know, readout the negotiations from here. So at this point, let's --
QUESTION: It's nothing new. You don't see --
MR. MCCORMACK: I wouldn't read anything into this other than the fact that I'm not going to get into talking about what may be a result of our negotiations, our discussions. Where we are right now is we have a proposal on the table that I think has been discussed in some detail previously when it was laid out in June of 2004 -- discussions around that time.
Our general approach to these discussions is that North Korea has to, as the Secretary has said, North Korea needs to make a strategic decision to give up its nuclear program. And if it does make that strategic decision and move forward, it can realize a different kind of relationship with the other members of the six-party talks in that the core idea behind the June 2004 proposal is that good faith acts on behalf of North Korea would be met, in turn, by good faith actions by the other members of the six-party talks. So we'll see how the talks proceed.
QUESTION: There's a report that the United States received a commitment from the North Koreans that this round of talks would be open-ended. Is that an accurate report?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have not set any deadlines for the end of these talks. We are ready to roll up our sleeves to work together. And as we move forward, we'll see what the modalities are that the other members of the six-party talks agree to, but we're ready, as -- well, Ambassador Hill mentioned that he had packed a few extra shirts, so he's prepared to stay there and work through these issues.
Anything else on six-party talks? I don't think you were going to ask about the six-party talks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Tammy. Let's come back here.
QUESTION: Thanks. Sharm el-Sheikh. Two questions. The first is about U.S. casualties, what you can share about the deceased American woman who was killed in the attacks, and also if there are any other American casualties. And then I have an investigation question.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we all -- we learned the sad news recently that there was an American citizen who died as a result of these bombings. Her name is Kristy Miller. I can't share any other information beyond that point. Certainly, out of respect for the family and her friends, I am going to refrain from offering any other details, but certainly our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. It's a tragic event and it -- our thoughts and prayers also go out to all the other victims of this terrible act.
We -- the President has spoken with President Mubarak. Secretary Rice has spoken with Foreign Minister Gheit. We, as a government, have offered our assistance to the Egyptian Government in whatever ways that they see fit, whatever assistance that they need. And, well, I think that's it.
QUESTION: That actually gets to what I was going to ask. Is there any U.S. assistance that's actually being provided, investigative assistance? Is there any -- I mean, can you say at this point if there's a belief that al-Qaida is behind this? Is it connected to London? Anything you can say?
MR. MCCORMACK: With regard to responsibility, I don't think the Egyptian Government has come out and made any pronouncements on that, so I'm going to refrain from speculating about who may or may not be responsible. I've seen the reports of various groups who have put up claims of responsibility on their website. I'm not in a position to comment on those.
Our Embassy has been in contact with the Egyptian Government in terms of any assistance we might provide on the law enforcement or the intelligence front and, you know, we stand ready to offer that support and to assist in their investigation in whatever way is appropriate.
QUESTION: How do you spell Kristy? If you know.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's -- let me take a look here. It's -- the spelling that I have, Barry, is K-R-I-S-T-Y.
QUESTION: And on the groups that claim responsibility. At one point, there were two groups and the second was said to be unknown to intelligence people, to counterterror people.
Can you say whether a new group is surfacing now, one more al-Qaida group to worry about or have you been able to, you know, figure out if there is a new group afoot?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would leave those questions to the intelligence community, Barry, to address.
Yeah. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On casualties, were there any other Americans injured or any other reports?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we have no other reports of injuries or casualties to Americans.
QUESTION: Yes, today the Secretary is meeting with the Foreign Minister of Cyprus. Can I ask, in view of this meeting, does the U.S. continue to support the Annan plan as a basis for a solution in Cyprus? And also if you will continue to promote the policy of economic strengthening of the Turkish Cypriot community?
MR. MCCORMACK: As you point out, the Secretary will meet with the Cypriot Foreign Minister and the main event of this meeting will be the two of them will sign a Proliferation Security Initiative Agreement between the United States and Republic of Cyprus. This agreement reflects our joint commitment to help prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction. They will also meet after the signing ceremony to discuss a number of bilateral issues, bilateral and regional issues of mutual interest, including prospects for comprehensive Cyprus settlement.
We continue to actively support the UN Secretary General's approach toward a permanent solution on Cyprus. Secretary General Annan has urged the Cypriot President Papadopoulos to present his views to the UN and resume progress on a way forward. And we stand ready to assist all sides in that task.
QUESTION: On the policy of strengthening the economic status of the Turkish Cypriot community by the U.S., you will continue to promote that policy?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything for you.
QUESTION: Last Friday, Under Secretary Nicholas Burns met with the Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese here at the State Department for one hour and a half. Do you have any readout on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Under Secretary Burns did meet with the Archbishop and they discussed issues of mutual interests to his Eminence's U.S. congregation and to the U.S. Government, including UN-sponsored negotiations between Athens and Skopje and the Ecumenical Patriarchic in Istanbul.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to what's going on in the Philippines with President Arroyo? Any concerns that some of the turmoil she's going through could affect the cooperation in the war on terror? Anything on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our cooperation with the government and the Philippines and the war against terror continues. And as for the question you raise about President Arroyo, these are questions for the Philippine people to resolve. It's an internal political situation.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the magazine report for Time Magazine that the Iraqi police have been infiltrated by members of the insurgency?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen that report.
QUESTION: I have two separate subjects. One on Iraq. Today, Ambassador Khalilzad put out a statement urging Iraqi constitutional draftists to adopt a model like South Africa. He called it "a weak form of federalism." Is it unusual for the U.S. Ambassador to come out with that kind of statement? Can you give us some background on why he made such a statement, if you've seen it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have not seen Ambassador Khalilzad's statement. We, of course, encourage the -- all members of the Iraqi political -- all members engaged from various parts of the Iraqi political space to come together to push forward on a constitution. We are supportive of the idea of inclusivity, making sure that Sunnis have a seat at the table, that Shia and Kurds, and they all come together to write a constitution that the Iraqi people can support. There has been some progress in that regard and we encourage them to continue to work together to meet the deadlines that they have set for themselves.
Ultimately, whatever form of government they come up with in the constitution, it's going to be for the Iraqis to decide. There have been various proposals, forms of federalism that are on the table, put forward by the Iraqis themselves. They are, I have to emphasize, they are going to have to decide for themselves what ultimately they come up with as a structure for their government and the relationship between the different provinces and different parts -- regions of Iraq to the Central Government and what authorities are apportioned to those entities. So again, this is an Iraqi process and it's going to be ultimately up to the Iraqi people to vote on what their relationship is to their government.
QUESTION: Can I ask the other questions about the Valerie Plame case? Does the State Department have lawyers working with them and can you shed any light on who has been questioned besides Secretary Rice and Secretary Powell, given reports about various other officials in the building, maybe or maybe not, having been questioned?
MR. MCCORMACK: This question has come up before. It came up before we went on our last trip and I'm just not going to offer any -- it wouldn't be appropriate for me to comment on an ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. There has been calls by some Israeli officials and so on to speed up the withdrawal from Gaza, the pullout. Could you update us on that? It's something that the Secretary of State discussed in the last couple of days with Israeli officials?
MR. MCCORMACK: She did have discussions with the Israeli Government and as well as the Palestinian Authority about cooperation on the withdrawal. The Israeli Government has set a timetable for mid-August for this withdrawal to begin and they are working very closely with the Palestinian Authority to ensure that that withdrawal takes place in an atmosphere of calm and that is done in a peaceful manner and that, as the Secretary has talked about, that there is, after the disengagement that there is a horizon for the Palestinian people to see that the withdrawal leads to a reenergizing the roadmap process.
As for the specific modalities of the withdrawal, I'm not going to comment on that. That's for the Israeli Government, working with the Palestinian Authority, to work out.
QUESTION: Sean, you know, there is a great deal of frustration among the Palestinians that the Israelis are not coordinating anything regarding their pullout, despite calls by Secretary Rice. Has there been any movement on coordinating or working together on pullout plans?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think there is a lot of coordination and a lot of discussion going on. We just saw that during our meetings with the Israeli officials as well as Palestinian Authority officials. There's a lot of coordination and a lot of discussion going on at the lower levels, at the working levels, that you don't necessarily see in the press. It's not every time you have -- you see the ministerial meetings, and I think that there are going to be some ministerial meetings planned for this week. So there is quite a bit of discussion and coordination going on. They are working through issues. We hope that they are going to be able to come to closure on some of the outstanding issues that are on the table that will lead to a successful disengagement process. But there is quite a bit of coordination and discussion going on.
QUESTION: Could you give us some example of what's going on in terms of mechanism that has been agreed upon or coordinated together?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'll leave it to the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority to describe this.
QUESTION: One more question. The Israeli Prime Minister, yesterday in the meeting, suggested that there will be a new form of Israeli revenge that's going to be, you know, very brutal -- and I don't know what he termed it -- if there are continued attacks. Have you talked to them or counseled them or asked them for restraint?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there were some incidents just prior to our departure in which there were rockets fired. There was a suicide bomber that you have all reported on. And President Abbas came out and he condemned those, and not only did he condemn those actions but he ordered Palestinian forces to act against those who were trying to commit violence. And those are positive steps and we encourage him and Minister Yusef to continue to take steps to maintain an atmosphere of calm and we encourage both sides to maintain an atmosphere of calm in the run-up to the disengagement as well as during the disengagement period.
And the Palestinian Authority officials understand the responsibilities that they have to act against those who might try to derail the process. There are those who are outside the consensus, like Islamic Jihad. We've talked about the need to act against those who try to derail this process and we have seen some positive steps from the Palestinian Authority and we encourage them to continue to take those steps.
QUESTION: The Secretary met with the -- and you had a very unruly reception in Khartoum last week. Since you've left, today there have been more clashes between the army and the rebels. There's been helicopter and planes bombing entire villages. And what, since they're not listening, what are your next steps? Is it to involve the AU, NATO and other forces to end this chaos that affects Darfur?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure I draw equivalence between the incidents involving the State Department press corps and the Sudanese Government, as well as bombings and strafing.
The Secretary met with the leadership of the AU mission and I think it is -- has impressive leadership. They are dedicated to their mission. And where we have seen deployment of the AU forces, we've seen a reduction in violence. More AU forces are flowing in to Darfur and the area covered by the AU mission is going to be expanding. And we are, ourselves, supportive of that effort, just when we were -- when we landed in Darfur, the Secretary was able to greet some Rwandan troops who are participating in the AU mission. They were flown in by U.S. airlift as part of the NATO effort.
So this is an important component of bringing -- eliminating the violence in Darfur and also helping the parties move to a political solution, which is ultimately the way that the situation in Darfur, as well as other parts of Sudan, is going to be resolved.
We're going to keep it moving. Yes.
QUESTION: On Latin America. The first one: Is the U.S. going to announce any support to the Latin American candidacy to the Inter-American Development Bank?
And the second one is on Venezuela. The U.S. House of Representative approved legislation that will authorize U.S.-sponsored radio and TV to broadcast news to Venezuela to fight against anti-Americanism feelings. Do you have any comments on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of support for candidacy, we'll keep you updated in terms of who we might support for that position.
And on the other, I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: An Italian court is now seeking the arrest of an additional six CIA operatives for the Milan abduction. Have there been any contacts from the Italians, government-to-government, to the U.S. to seek the arrest of these individuals? And what is the United States doing to cooperate with these arrest warrants?
MR. MCCORMACK: My answer on this is the same as it was when this issue first came up. It's been reported that Ambassador Sembler has met with Italian Government officials on the matter, but beyond that I'm not going to have any comment.
QUESTION: Will there be meetings in light of this -- the new arrest warrants?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any further comment.
QUESTION: Slightly old business, but at the end of last week the UN Envoy who went to Zimbabwe to investigate that slum clearance business reported back and basically called it a man-made disaster, et cetera. And I was wondering if you had any response to it or will this spur any action by the United States?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have seen the report and we would congratulate the Special Envoy on her report. We think it's important. I think it's a serious effort and Secretary General Annan is to be commended for supporting her mission.
Perhaps the most disturbing feature of the report is the estimate of the scale of the operation. The report estimates up to 700,000 people have lost their homes, their livelihoods or both. These people were already the poorest of Zimbabwe's poor. Many of them now have no access to shelter, food or health care and the demolitions have deepened Zimbabwe's already serious humanitarian economic crisis.
We would endorse the key points made by Secretary General Annan in his July 22nd statement about Zimbabwe and those are: That the Government of Zimbabwe should end the demolitions immediately and work with the international community on relief and reconstruction operations; and the architects of the housing demolition should be held accountable for their actions; and there should be dialogue between the Government of Zimbabwe, domestic groups, and the international community to resolve Zimbabwe's pressing social, economic and political problems.
And we ourselves -- you asked about the United States' response -- I've talked previously about our allocation of an additional $750,000 in response to an appeal from the International Organization for Migration. This was in addition to an existing $1.1 million USAID facility for International Office of Migration operations in Zimbabwe, so we are responding. We are responding in a serious way.
Yes. Okay. Joel.
QUESTION: This is a follow-up on what's occurred in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe is off for a one-week trip to China. He's asking for financial aid and also for trade-type pacts with China. Now, he owes considerable amounts of money to the IMF and he's trying to work that out with South Africa. Have you spoken to the South Africans and to the Chinese regarding what he's contemplating for Zimbabwe?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, with respect to South Africa, I think it's obvious that South Africa has a real stake in the restoration of political and economic normalcy in Zimbabwe. And a South Africa loan could be a positive development if it results in concrete political and economic reform in Zimbabwe.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: On terrorists? Mr. McCormack, keeping in mind that in the last days and also in the recent past, Europeans cities like London have been attacked by terrorists. Do you think that, along with the existence of the so-called "American al-Qaida for Usama bin Laden," there is also a European one, which functions in the entire Europe? And what do you plan to do?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to leave it to our intelligence community to describe al-Qaida presence and the names of groups and what their activities might be. But clearly there's a -- the threat that free people around the world face from terrorists is very much evident. We've seen it in Sharm el-Sheikh. We've seen it in London. We've seen it in other places around the world.
And what is important is that those people in those countries who share a love of freedom band together to fight terrorism with all the various aspects of national power: intelligence, law enforcement, military power where need be. But this is very much an ideological fight. It's a fight between those who support and love freedom and those who want to take back freedoms that are hard-won from around the world.
So we stand in solidarity with those countries who have been victimized by terror, and we are prepared to work with all of those countries who will work with us in the fight against terrorism.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:45 p.m.)