State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 1, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 1, 2005
Tom Casey, Acting Spokesman
August 1, 2005
Statement by Secretary Rice on Death of First Vice President John
Garang / Travel by A/S Connie Newman and Special Representative
Roger Winter to Sudan / Successor to First Vice President Garang /
Secretary Rice's Conversation with Mrs. Rebecca Garang / U.S.
Delegation to Attend Funeral
Death of King Fahd / State of U.S.-Saudi Arabian Relations /
Counterterrorism Issues / Continued Relationship with Saudi Arabia /
U.S. Delegation to Attend Funeral
Resuming Uranium Conversion / Public Statements by the U.K.,
France, Germany, and the IAEA / Consultations with IAEA and EU-3 /
Implementation of the November 2004 Paris Agreement / Referral to
UN Security Council
General Ward's Ongoing Activities in the Region / Dov Weisglass'
Meetings at the Department / Travel to the Region by Secretary
Rice / Palestinian Authority Security Forces / General Ward's
Future Role / Gaza Withdrawal
Closure of U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Laredo / Warden Message /
Violence in the Border Region
Drafting of Constitution / August 15 Deadline
Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul / U. S. Commitment to Religious Freedom
PKK in Northern Iraq / U. S. Relations with Turkey
U. S. Policy Toward Cyprus
Request from Uzbek Government to Leave "K2" Airbase / U. S.
Dialogue with Uzbekistan / Bilateral Agreement Regarding "K2" /
International Community's Call for Investigation into Events in
Andijan / Uzbek Asylum Seekers in Kyrgyzstan / Democratic Reforms
Formal Notification of Decision Regarding Use of "K2" / Deadline
for Decision on Certification
Transfer of Uzbek Refugees to Romania / Remaining Uzbek Asylum Seekers
John Bolton's Appointment as U. S. Ambassador to the U. N.
Six-Party Talks / Draft Statement of Principles
Role of Zimbabwe's Neighbors
Mistreatment and Detention of Opposition Members / Secretary
Rice's Speech in Cairo / Democratic Reforms in the Region
Ongoing Cooperation in Dealing with Taliban
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to the State Department. I'd like to begin the briefing today by reading you a statement by the Secretary:
"I offer my condolences on the tragic death of Sudanese First Vice President John Garang, to his wife Rebecca Garang, his family and to the people of Sudan. I had the privilege of meeting with Dr. Garang on several occasions, most recently during my visit to Sudan on July 21. He was a man of great intellect and energy and he applied those qualities to achieving a just peace for the people of Sudan. His efforts were instrumental in ending the 22-year-old civil war and offering the hope of democracy and a unified country."
"I welcome the fact that the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement have reemphasized their comment to its full implementation. The United States remains formally committed to the cause of peace in all of Sudan, including resolution of the humanitarian crisis in Darfur. And we call on all parties to work towards Dr. Garang's vision of a unified, prosperous and peaceful Sudan."
And with that I'll take your questions.
QUESTION: I wonder if there's anything on Sudan. Is there any indication of foul play?
MR. CASEY: My understanding is that the preliminary indications are that the crash was caused by bad weather, but I don't have anything, certainly, that would indicate anything other than that.
QUESTION: The death has stirred unrest over there and also a lot of concern that the peace process will unravel. Is the United States, through either Mr. Zoellick or our new envoy, considering a visit out there?
MR. CASEY: Well, we are sending today Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Connie Newman, and the Deputy Secretary Special Representative to Sudan, Roger Winter. They'll be going to Southern Sudan and to Khartoum to confer with the parties and encourage them to maintain momentum on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and on Darfur.
I do want to point out that the peace agreement stipulates that a successor to Dr. Garang should be named by the Sudanese People Liberation Movement within two weeks. And we understand that its leadership is currently gathering in Southern Sudan and they'll be consulting on this issue, but we certainly are looking for and hope to see an orderly and peaceful succession to the new first Vice President.
QUESTION: Have there been contacts with the government in Khartoum?
MR. CASEY: There are some contacts ongoing, both with the embassy and through -- here in Washington. I should also point out as well that the Secretary did just finish a conversation with Mr. Garang's widow, Rebecca.
MR. CASEY: Still on Sudan?
QUESTION: Yeah. Will Assistant Secretary Newman and Roger Winter be the U.S. representatives at a funeral?
MR. CASEY: My understanding is funeral arrangements have yet to be arranged or announced, and so I don't know at this point who would be the official U.S. representative. We would expect there would be a high-level delegation.
QUESTION: You said they were going to the south? Will they also go to Khartoum? Will they see Bashir?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. I said both Khartoum and Southern Sudan.
QUESTION: And they will see Bashir?
MR. CASEY: I don't havedetails on their schedule. Obviously, this has just happened and they're going out today. I expect they'll be meeting with a wide range of both Sudanese Government officials, as well as a representative of the SPLN in Southern Sudan.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia?
MR. CASEY: Anymore on this? Okay.
QUESTION: Could you tell us the state of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia right now?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me just say that it's with great sadness that we learned of the death of King Fahd, who was custodian of the two holy mosques in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And during the course of his 22-year reign, the King was a friend of the United States and played an essential role in regional and world events. And he was a partner in efforts to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the region and we will continue to honor his memory. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and to the people of Saudi Arabia at this time.
In terms of your question, Barry, I'd say the state of Saudi Arabian-U.S. relations continues to be excellent. We continue to have discussions with them on a wide range of issues. We look forward to doing so under the leadership of King Abdullah who has succeeded the throne. And obviously, we will be looking to maintain our cooperation with them on those broad range of issues.
QUESTION: How would you appraise their efforts to counterterrorism?
MR. CASEY: Barry, I think as we've said, we have a close working relationship with the Government of Saudi Arabia on counterterrorism issues. And we would expect to maintain that in the future.
Let's go back here. You had one.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) of any due plan for Abdullah to make after the death of the King? Are there any?
MR. CASEY: I think today the main point is to express our condolences on this. We look forward to continuing our relationship with Saudi Arabia, but I'm not here to try and make any pronouncements on what or give any suggestions to what the new King ought to be doing.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the delegation that will be attending the funeral?
MR. CASEY: No, I don't. I understand that consideration is still being given to that. I think you might want to look for an announcement to come out of the White House on that, since this is a head of state.
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. CASEY: Anybody else on Saudi? Okay, new topic.
QUESTION: Iran has informed the IAEA that it plans to restart converting yellow cake in Isfahan, at its Isfahan facility. Any reaction to this? Does this mean that they've abrogated the Paris Agreement if, in fact, they do this?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think where we are is very much supportive of what the UK said in its foreign office statement yesterday: "Resuming uranium conversion work would be an unnecessary and damaging step by Iran." That's what they said in their statement and we concur with it. The UK has urged Iran not to take any unilateral steps, which would contravene the Paris Agreement and make it more difficult to continue with the negotiations. And France and Germany have also called for a public continuation of the negotiations and a continuation of the suspension.
I think you've seen comments from IAEA Director General ElBaradei, who's also asked that negotiations with the EU continue and called on Iran not to take any actions that might prejudice the process at this point. Obviously, we're continuing to be in touch both with the IAEA and the EU-3. And we continue to support the EU-3's efforts to resolve the issue through diplomacy, but that will require full implementation of the November 2004 Paris Agreement, which requires suspension of all nuclear fuel cycle activities, specifically including uranium conversion activity.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that, Tom?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Tom, I mean, Tom, we're not talking words here, we're talking actions. The Iranians have gone to the plant. They're removing the seals there. What point are you saying -- will you say that they have taken those actions that are in breach of those agreements and warrant going a bit further?
MR. CASEY: Peter, our policy on this has been clear. If Iran does follow through on its threat to break the suspension, we'll be working with the EU-3 and others as a first step and we'll be consulting with the IAEA Board of Governors after that. But as you know, our position has long been that should that occur, that Iran should then be reported to the UN Security Council.
QUESTION: Right, but my question was is that -- the actions they've taken up to now, do they constitute a breach or they aren't in breach yet?
MR. CASEY: Peter, I'm not really in a position to try and parse for you some of the specifics. Again, I think the Paris Agreement makes clear what Iran's obligations are. We expect Iran to honor those obligations to maintain their commitments under the agreement. And if they don't, again, we will then be working with our EU-3 partners and the IAEA Board on what the next steps ought to be.
QUESTION: The Secretary (inaudible) diplomacy, it looks as if the Iranians are looking for the Europeans to sweeten their deal on a comprehensive package for them to give up any uranium enrichment or any type of production of nuclear energy for a weapon -- for what we claim is a weapons program. Are you -- is the United States supportive of enhancing the deals? Are there more negotiations to be done or are you against offering Iran any new inducements?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, Elise, I'm not going to speak for the EU-3 or for their diplomacy. I'm going to let them do that. We have been supportive of their negotiations and of the process that they've done, but that process and what we're supposed -- what it's supposed to lead to is made very clear in the Paris Agreement. That's what we're working off of. That's what the EU-3 is working off of. And we would expect that any arrangements made would get to the end point desired by that agreement.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up?
MR. CASEY: Sure, (inaudible) follow-up.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up? The Paris Agreement always took into consideration that there would be a kind of comprehensive deal. This was, you know, a kind of initial agreement for a suspension and then there was going to be negotiations for a final deal. So, are you supportive of expanding the scope of the discussions in order to kind of reach this comprehensive deal?
MR. CASEY: Again, we're supportive of the EU-3's efforts to reach a comprehensive deal in accordance with the Paris Accords, but I'm not going to try and do their diplomacy for them or outline their proposals or discussions.
QUESTION: So does that mean -- Tom, the Secretary recently reiterated in the Post interview that the EU-3 and the U.S. are on the same page with regard to this diplomatic effort, even though you're not doing their diplomacy for them. Does that mean that there is not a gap between what the U.S. wants with regard to a potential civilian nuclear program and what the EU is willing to accept?
MR. CASEY: Again, I think we're very much on the same page in terms of the goals of these negotiations with the EU-3. I know Under Secretary Burns has been in touch with his EU-3 counterparts today. We're discussing and working this issue with them all the time. Again, though, I would look for them to talk and describe about the proposals they have or will put forward.
QUESTION: What's the U.S. view that -- on civilian nuclear power in Iran.
MR. CASEY: Well, our -- again, our view is that there's got to be full implementation with the 2004 Paris Agreement and that that includes not only currently suspension of all nuclear fuel cycle activities, but ultimately, a full and complete cessation of those.
QUESTION: You do know -- you know that the -- you're saying that you know that Iran has sent a letter saying that it will break the seals. Do you know that they have actually gone ahead and broken the seals or is that something that you're still looking at?
MR. CASEY: I don't. I don't, Saul. There's a lot of back and forth on this. Right before I came out, I saw a wire saying that the Iranians had now said they would wait several days before doing so. I'd leave it to the IAEA to talk about what the exact situation is with the seals. Again, though, you know, I just want to reiterate the point that we do view this issue very seriously and we do believe as the UK Foreign Office said yesterday, that resuming any kind of conversion work would be an unnecessary and damaging step.
QUESTION: Can I ask you on something else or we still --
MR. CASEY: Are we still on Iran?
MR. CASEY: Okay. Sylvie.
QUESTION: Don't you think that if you are on the same page as the EU-3, does it mean that you won't go to the Security Council as long as they ask you to be patient?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, I think that the EU-3 has made its position clear and it's the same thing as ours. Certainly, if, you know, they follow through on their threats to break the suspension, we'd need to consult with them and the other IAEA Board of Governor members. But again, our longstanding position has been should that occur, the next step ought to be that Iran should then be reported to the Security Council.
Well, new -- well, let's go -- I think Barry had something new first.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) with you -- is there some new developments? Is the U.S. pushing Israel to give back a little piece of land to Lebanon?
MR. CASEY: Barry, I don't actually have anything new for you on that. Sorry.
MR. CASEY: Saul.
QUESTION: While we're still on the Middle East -- Sharon's aide, I believe, is meeting with the Secretary this afternoon and as a follow-up to her trip. Israel's main concern is about security and the Secretary has often emphasized how Palestinian forces need to be built up and trained. Has the United States yet drawn up a list of equipment that it wants Israel to allow the Palestinian forces to have?
MR. CASEY: Well, Saul, I think, you know, General Ward's out there in the region right now. He's actively working with the Palestinian Authority and with their security officials, looking at what the range of needs are and how we can be supportive in that process. But I don't have anything more specific for you, other than his ongoing activities there.
QUESTION: Can you confirm (inaudible)? Does this have to do --
MR. CASEY: Oh, I'm sorry. You asked that one. I understand he will be here this afternoon. I don't have any -- I didn't, unfortunately, get a chance to talk about this in detail. Obviously, he'll be here talking with a variety of people about our full range of issues with Israel and, obviously as we get closer to Gaza disengagement, looking at steps as we move down that road. I'll try and get you something after his meetings today that's a little more specific.
QUESTION: He's seeing the Secretary though, right?
MR. CASEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Is this, in any way, a preparation for the Secretary to return to the Middle East before the withdrawal starts?
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything on new travel plans by her at this point.
QUESTION: And on the arms issue, and General Ward's been working for a long time on what they may or may not need and whether you have all the details of the list that he's drawn up, where does the U.S. stand on Palestinian forces being able to have guns? I mean, I know you are okay with radios and trucks and stuff like that, but what about them using guns?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think the best way I could characterize that for you is to simply say that we're working with the Palestinian Authority and with their security forces to make sure that they have the tools that they need and that they are organized properly to be able to carry out their mission and to be able to provide security to the Palestinian people in Gaza and, certainly and particularly, in light of the upcoming withdrawal. But I really don't have any specifics to offer you in terms of specific equipment lists or recommendations. I'd leave that to General Ward and the experts on that.
QUESTION: So, you're saying you're working so that they have the tools that allow them to do that job. Would those tools include guns?
MR. CASEY: I think it would include whatever General Ward and his counterparts would deem appropriate, but again, I'm not offering specifics to you at this point. Yeah.
QUESTION: Another topic?
QUESTION: Can we stay on this?
MR. CASEY: We can stay on that, sure.
QUESTION: Have you come into any more general specifics on well, not general specifics, but have you --
MR. CASEY: More specific generalities? Yeah.
QUESTION: Have you reviewed the Israeli proposal for what they're going to need in terms of U.S. aid for their withdrawal? They gave you a proposal that didn't have specifics, but have you come to any kind of dollar figure?
MR. CASEY: Yeah, I don't have anything new for you on that. I'll take a look and see if we've got anything. Yeah.
QUESTION: Usually, on Mexico usually --
MR. CASEY: Hold on a second. Are we still anything further on Israel? Okay, Joel.
QUESTION: Tom, apparently, the Defense Department, meaning Don Rumsfeld, wants to assign reassign General Ward right after the initial pullout from Gaza, but do you expect a continuity? There's still housing problems which can then cause the various sides to be at loggerheads and Elise mentioned part of it with the investment to preying the 7,000 settlers from Gaza Strip. But does that continuity is that extremely important to work out the next steps and to at least get some stability?
MR. CASEY: Well, Joel, I don't have anything for you about General Ward's future assignments or roles. I would leave that to the Pentagon to discuss. Certainly, he's in the region now. He's assisting the Palestinians in reforming and restructuring their security forces and certainly, that's a very important mission. It's particularly critical now as we get closer to the actual date for the withdrawal to begin. Obviously, with all our policies in the region, we look for continuity, we look for the ability to continue our work, and again, let me remind you that we see the Gaza withdrawal as merely a first step towards gaining further progress and momentum and moving further on down the roadmap.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: The Secretary has mentioned that she doesn't want the Gaza Strip to remain a closed-off prison. Are both General Ward and James Wolfensohn working to enable cross-border type interplay between Israel and Gaza Strip following the withdrawal?
MR. CASEY: Again, the work that General Ward is doing, the work that Mr. Wolfensohn is doing, the work that many of our other diplomats in the region are doing are working on obtaining the kinds of coordination between the parties that are necessary to deal with this full range of issues. And obviously, the economic situation in the Gaza Strip is one of the things that's very much on Mr. Wolfensohn's mind.
Let's go over here. You had a question on Mexico, you said?
QUESTION: Yes. Usually, the State Department closes the consulates temporarily or permanently due to imminent threat in hostile countries, but we saw that the consulate in Nuevo Laredo has been closed. What were the reasons? There wasn't anything any imminent threat for the personnel over there.
MR. CASEY: Sure. I think this is something I don't recall whether we addressed this on Friday or not, but let me just review the situation there for you. Following a series of explosions and gunfire that occurred on July 28th, the Embassy in consultation with the Department here, decided that we would close the U.S. Consulate General in Nuevo Laredo this week in order to review its security posture. And Consulate staff will still be available to American citizens for emergency services.
We put out a Warden message on the 29th to the American community to notify them of the decision. And the Consulate General certainly is in close contact with the Mexican authorities on this situation and we do believe they're providing us with excellent support.
I think you know as well that violent crime along the border has been a concern to us for some time. We've issued public announcements on this. We just recently put forward a new Consulate information sheet that, as part of it, outlines what some of those concerns are. But that's been the reason why we took this measure and obviously we'll be consulting closely with the Mexican Government as well as looking internally at what we can do to improve security around the Consulate.
QUESTION: The Washington Post is saying that this violence is spreading in some of the border states. Do you have any reports that might confirm that?
MR. CASEY: I don't have anything particular to offer you. Again, where we've been emphasizing our concerns is in the border region and I refer you back, both to the public announcements and the Consular information sheet for the specifics on that.
QUESTION: Can I follow-on on that?
MR. CASEY: Oh, yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Do you foresee definitive closure of the Consulate? And if not, when are you going to announce the reopening of it?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, as we have said, in the Warden message, what we have made clear is that we are closing the Consulate to review its security posture this week. Obviously, when we reopen will be based on the outcome of that review. But certainly, I'm not aware of any discussion that would indicate a permanent closure.
QUESTION: Is this the first time that it happens between Mexico and U.S.?
MR. CASEY: I don't have access to the full historical record. I'm honestly not sure.
Saul. Did you have a follow-up on that?
QUESTION: Yeah, what's your understanding of the circumstances in which a U.S. tourist, a woman, was killed, fatally shot by a policeman in Mexico?
MR. CASEY: I'm sorry, I don't have anything for you on that. I'll look into it and see what I can get.
QUESTION: Yeah. (Inaudible). Thank you. I think it's yesterday.
MR. CASEY: Okay. I'll check for you. I hadn't seen that before I came out here.
QUESTION: Iraq? New subject? Iraq?
MR. CASEY: Okay. Let's go to Iraq.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, we've been getting some contradictory signals about whether or not the Iraqis think that they can actually have a constitution ready by August 15th. I know it's the U.S. position that they do want to be ready by August 15th. My question is -- there have been some suggestions that what could be ready on August 15th is an incomplete document that leaves other questions for a bit later. Would this be acceptable to the United States?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me just step back a minute and just say that, again, this is an Iraq-led process. I know that the committee continues its work. We certainly welcome public statements by Iraq's leaders and heads of the drafting committee of their intent to actually meet the August 15th deadline. And we do think it's very important that the drafters be able to meet that timetable and, certainly, we appreciate the statements, as I said, that Prime Minister Jaafari and Talabani have said that clearly support completion by this date. But again, the importance here is that this is an Iraqi process and the Iraqis are going to make the decisions as to what the shape and scope of their new constitution looks like and we are supportive of that process. We've certainly been engaged in discussing it with them and encouraging them forward, but I'm not going to try and judge what they may or may not come up with before a document's been produced.
Yeah, Mr. Lambrose.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. CASEY: Yeah.
QUESTION: On the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Mr. Casey, according to reports from Ankara, the Vice Premier of Turkey, Mehmet Ali Sahim, with a usual statement today, attacked personally the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople Barthlomew, threatened His All Holiness of the Orthodox Church, and that the Erdogan Government is going to take the appropriate legal steps against Him and the Ecumenical Patrichate in Istanbul. Any comment, since the U.S. Government is very sensitive on matters of religious freedom globally?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Mr. Lambrose, I certainly haven't seen those remarks, but I think what I could tell you is that in general you know, we support the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul and talk with the Turkish Government on a regular basis about the patriarchate. And certainly, as you said, the United States is committed to religious freedom, not only in Turkey but around the world. And we certainly would encourage the Government of Turkey and all governments to provide the maximum opportunity for people to freely express their religious beliefs and opinions.
QUESTION: One more on Cyprus.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Turkey's Unilateral Declaration yesterday of non-recognition of the Republic of Cyprus issued, as she was signed, a protocol extending her customs union with the EU, has been characterized by Cypriot President Tassos Papadoulos that it has no legal validity and by the spokesman of the Greek Foreign Ministry George Koumoutsakos as an unfortunate paradox.
What is the position of the U.S. Government on this matter, since you do recognize the Republic of Cyprus and its government as the only legitimate government of the entire island?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambrose, I hadn't seen reports of that declaration. I think you'll not be surprised to know that our policy on Cyprus hasn't changed. Again, we seek a solution to issues on the island using the basis of the Annan plan. The Secretary General, as you know, has spoken with the parties, asked them to come up with some ideas and suggestions on how to proceed forward and that's where we are and that's certainly where our focus is on Cyprus.
QUESTION: Can we go to Central Asia?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Uzbekistan first. Uzbekistan decided to close the U.S. base and it was they said it was after the very vocal diplomacy U.S. diplomacy supporting the refugees in Kyrgyzstan. So, I wanted to know if you have comment on that and also, we heard some rumors about a visit the Secretary would make to Bishkek at mid-August when the new Kyrgyz President will be sworn in. So, I would like to know if you can confirm that?
MR. CASEY: Okay. First things first. On Uzbekistan, let me repeat what I know some of you heard over the weekend, but we did receive a request from the Uzbek Government at the end of last week for the U.S. to leave the so-called K-2 airbase within 180 days. I don't really I would leave it to the government in Uzbekistan to talk about their motivations for this.
Obviously, if you're asking me, though, about U.S. policy on human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan, I can assure you that the United States is going to continue to press our concerns for human rights and democracy in Uzbekistan. Democracy and human rights, economic reform, military cooperation are all part of our relationship. I think we've said previously that we do not view any of these elements as inimical to one another, but we're going to continue to have a dialogue with the Government of Uzbekistan. We certainly expect that that dialogue will continue over time, regardless of the status of the base.
QUESTION: Don't you think it's a pity (inaudible) took the initiative and closed the bases? Why you -- why it's not U.S. who decided to close the bases --
MR. CASEY: Well, I think as we also told some of you over the weekend, this is a bilateral agreement between our two countries. Under the terms of that agreement, either country can choose to terminate it. And the Uzbeki Government has decided to exercise that option in the agreement. So this is certainly part of their right to do so.
QUESTION: Do you see any correlation between recent pressure that you've put on the government to conduct or allow an international independent investigation into the violence that happened a couple of months ago? And if you can talk about the trip that was supposed to be taken by Under Secretary Burns to discuss this matter.
MR. CASEY: Okay. First of all, again, I'd leave it up to the Government of Uzbekistan to describe their motivations for this decision. As you know, there had been a lot of back and forth, some of which predates the Andijan incident over the use of the base. I'd refer you over to the Pentagon for the specifics of the operational details on that. But again, I think it's very important to us that we stand fully behind the international community's calls for a full, credible and independent investigation into the events in Andijan. We still stand behind that. We are still calling for it. And that's the right thing for us to do.
We, as you know, spoke to officials both in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan and elsewhere, as well as folks from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Office to try and arrange and help facilitate a solution to the refugee -- or the asylum seeker situation in Kyrgyzstan that met international standards. That, again, was the right thing for us to do. So we're pursuing our policy in terms of what's appropriate and what's right. And we will continue to have discussions with the Government of Uzbekistan, but we certainly aren't going to change our views on these subjects.
QUESTION: Did you feel that you were faced with the stark choice of kind of letting this slide and keeping the base?
MR. CASEY: Again, I don't think we view cooperation on the war on terror, cooperation on military-related issues, and continuing to engage the Government of Uzbekistan on our human rights and democracy concerns as incompatible with one another. When you look at the history of our engagement with Uzbekistan, part of it includes the agreements that was reached in 2002 under which the Uzbekistan Government undertook commitments to move forward towards democracy, towards free elections.
And so the issue of our desire to promote and push forward with democratic reforms in Uzbekistan has a longer history than just the last few months.
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Let's go over here for a minute.
QUESTION: Just -- just after you complimented Kyrgyzstan in a statement about their treatment of the refugees, they've now said that 15 of them, they are going to send back to Uzbekistan. What's your reaction to that?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Obviously, you saw the statement we issued last week and we were very glad to see the transfer of -- it turned out to be a total of 439 refugees to Romania. But we do remain concerned about the 15 that are still in Kyrgyzstan and we certainly hope that the Kyrgyz Republic will not return the remaining 15 asylum seekers to Uzbekistan where their safety, we believe, would be in serious jeopardy. We certainly hope instead that the Kyrgyz Government will transfer those 15 to a third country for resettlement processing and ensure that their human rights are fully protected.
QUESTION: Were these 15 not part of the -- I don't -- it's not an agreement with you, but part of your pressure on the Government of Kyrgyzstan, your diplomacy with the Government? Why were they left out?
MR. CASEY: We've been talking with the Government of Kyrgyzstan about all the individuals that were at that. I don't actually have additional details on these 15, but again, from our perspective, we believe they should be treated in the same way that the other 439 were and that they should be taken to a third country and -- for resettlement processing.
QUESTION: What about Condi in Bishkek?
MR. CASEY: I haven't heard anything that would lead me to that conclusion.
MR. CASEY: Yeah, David.
QUESTION: The way it seemed to come out on Friday, the Uzbek Government just basically informed you of this move in a note? Is that correct? And has there been any active discourse with them about it?
MR. CASEY: Well, again, this was a formal notification that was provided to us in the appropriate channel, which is through a diplomatic correspondence with the embassy at the end of last week. Obviously, use of the base, how U.S. troops operate at it, our ongoing arrangements for it, have been the subject of ongoing diplomatic discussions since we entered into the initial agreement. The Uzbek Government, as you know, had restricted some of the activities of the U.S. military at the base previously and certainly had given indications that they were considering such a move in the past. So in that sense, I don't think this was something that was either -- came as a complete surprise or was not the subject of ongoing discussions.
QUESTION: On the certification of Uzbekistan because there's $22 million in aid that's subject to certification. Our understanding was this decision had to be made some time in July or maybe just around now to get in for the budget process there. Is there any decision imminent? And does it look dimmer and dimmer that this -- that there would be certification for the $22 million?
MR. CASEY: Well, there actually is no specific deadline for a decision on certification to be made. My understanding is that this can be made at any time during the year. However, none of the money covered, and it is $22 million that is potentially covered by the legislative restrictions, can actually be expended until such time as a certification decision is reached. I don't want to try and preview that decision but I would simply say, as we've noted previously from this podium, that whether the Uzbek Government does agree to an independent investigation into the incidents at Andijan certainly is and will be a factor in that decision.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic?
MR. CASEY: Okay with me.
QUESTION: John Bolton.
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you tell us whether he has been sworn in; who he's been sworn in by, when he plans to go to New York?
MR. CASEY: I endeavored to get you some details on that before I came out here. You'll have to forgive me for not having quite gotten that. My understanding is he will be sworn in today and does plan to arrive in New York some time later in the day.
Let me just say that certainly we're pleased to see that Mr. Bolton -- Ambassador Bolton -- will now be able to take his place in New York at the UN. We've said all along that the President and the Secretary believe he's the right man for the job. And we believe it's particularly critical at this point in time to have a U.S. Permanent Representative at the United Nations.
We're coming up in a very important period as we move towards developing a package of UN reforms. This is something that's important for the UN to be able to carry out its historic mission and it's something that we believe John Bolton will do an outstanding job in carrying forward for the President and the Administration.
QUESTION: How do you respond to the statement made by the Turkish Deputy Chief of Staff General Ilkel Basbug who said, "If the U.S. does nothing to prevent the continued presence of the PKK terrorist organization in Northern Iraq, we could go into the region by ourselves."
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I think you, again, not find it surprising when I tell you that as it has been our long-standing policy, we consider the PKK a terrorist organization. We cooperate very closely with the Government of Turkey on this issue. We are working with them and our friends in Iraq to ensure that the PKK does not have safe haven or is not able to conduct activities out of Northern Iraq. There are ongoing discussions on this all the time and we'll be continuing to work with our Turkish friends as well as our Iraqi friends to see those objectives carry out.
Let me finish the answer before you follow-up. (Laughter).
QUESTION: How do you respond to the criticism by the entire Turkish press today that, "The PKK is fighting for the interests of the United States to weaken the prestige of the Turkish army in order to reduce its political influence."
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, Turkey is a good friend of the United States. It's a fellow NATO ally. We have extremely good relations with Turkey. We certainly look forward to those continuing and we are certainly not engaged in any effort to undermine the authority of the Turkish Government or any of its component institutions.
QUESTION: On North Korea. Could you bring us up-to-date on efforts to get a draft? And also on Russia's suggestion that it may be willing to build a nuclear power plant in North Korea to make up for some energy needs, will that be acceptable to the United States, particularly in light of your -- not -- your rejection of that concept in Iran?
MR. CASEY: Well, let me try and update you in general on where we are with the six-party talks. Discussions, as you note, continued throughout the weekend. We have been working today on a draft of a joint statement. There have also been meetings, again, over the weekend between the U.S. delegation and all other parties. Certainly, as I think you heard Ambassador Hill say earlier in the day, there were differences that remain and we're trying to work our way through them, as we would in any other normal negotiating process.
The history on this at this point is that Chinese delegation on Saturday presented a draft joint statement that was based on the written submissions of all of the parties. They put forward a second draft today and that's what the delegations are now working off of. Certainly, I just refer you back to what both Ambassador Hill and what Sean have said about our concerns about any kind of nuclear activity in North Korea.
QUESTION: They do remain opposed to the idea of a civilian nuclear --
MR. CASEY: Our position hasn't changed on that. Yeah.
QUESTION: With respect to what's going on with Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe, a week ago, tried to get financial assistance from China. He failed, he only got six million and the answer then from the podium was that, you know, he was -- he should try and work with the South Africans. However, the debt that he's incurred and also he's been taking unilateral type steps -- are far outweighed by what the South Africans would be able to accomplish. Where do we go from -- where do they go from here and what is your response to that?
MR. CASEY: Well, Joel, I think where we are is where you heard Sean speak to you from whether it was -- I can't remember whether it was Thursday or Friday that you raised this. But again, we believe it's important for all of Zimbabwe's neighbors to try and play a productive and positive role in terms of encouraging the Government of Zimbabwe to meet its international commitments, to restore civil liberties, to stop doing the kinds of things that they have done so recently in terms of tearing down homes and businesses, particularly for some of the most vulnerable people in the country. That's what we're going to continue to do.
QUESTION: Any -- (inaudible) the weekend in Cairo? There was a protest and the police were pretty rough against the protestors. It looked reminiscent of what happened during a protest in May when the President actually was quite outspoken, criticizing it. What's the reaction this time from the United States?
MR. CASEY: Yeah. Well, I'm glad you asked. We are seriously concerned by reports of mistreatment and detention of opposition members in Cairo during a protest on Saturday. And as you know, we strongly advocate the guarantees of civil and political rights for everyone, regardless of the country or their political beliefs. The Egyptian people are going to go to the polls this fall and certainly any kind of intimidation or harassment of opposition groups would be incompatible with genuinely free and fair elections, you know. And it's obviously something we are raising with the Egyptian Government, too.
QUESTION: Does it not show how little Egypt is actually listening to the United States, that the President could use the prestige of his post to speak out about this type of action and then only a few months later, that we see a repeat performance?
MR. CASEY: Again, Saul, I think as you correctly point out, we have spoken out on this issue. The Secretary made, I think, a very important speech in Cairo during her last trip talking about the need for continued progress on democratic reforms in the region. And we're certainly not going to be shy about continuing to speak out there. I think we have been pleased to see that there's been some movement forward on some of these issues in Egypt. But obviously, this incident is again a serious one and it's one we have concerns about and one that we will speak out on both from here and in our private discussions with the Egyptians.
QUESTION: Will they listen? Will they do anything about it? I mean, have they done so far?
MR. CASEY: I think, Saul, that you'd have to go talk to the Egyptians about how they receive that message and what their reaction to it is.
QUESTION: Well, sir, I'm trying to judge how effective your diplomacy is, the President's spoken out, you cite how the Secretary was out there. And the impression is that they nod and don't do anything about it. Are you thinking of any other tactics to improve your diplomacy?
MR. CASEY: Saul, I'm going to talk about what we're doing today and what we have been doing, but I don't have any new policies to preview for you.
QUESTION: Question regarding this recently enacted Taliban law by the Pakistani Parliament. Now, President Musharraf wants the Supreme Court there to overturn that ruling because it affects the Afghan-Pakistani border where there is all this trouble and normally, you would want to talk at a government-to-government relationship, but do you have anything to say about the Supreme Court?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I want to say that we you know, respect the political process within any country, but more importantly, we have ongoing cooperation with both the Government of Pakistan, obviously, and the Government of Afghanistan in terms of being able to deal with the remnants of the Taliban that are still out there. We deal with those governments bilaterally. We, of course, also talk to one another in a three-party or a trilateral context and obviously, we'll work with them and work with them on any considerations, but I certainly don't have any comment about issues before a foreign government Supreme Court.
(Ended at 1:45 p.m.)
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