State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 22, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 22, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
August 22, 2005
Drafting of Constitution / Week-Long Extention / Iraqi Process
Iraqi Decision / Ambassador Khalilzad Engaged in Process / Rapidly
Moving Process / Working Together to Resolve Differences
Saddam Hussein Letter Regarding Self-Sacrifice / Tyrannical Reign
/ Iraqi Judicial Process
Working with Hill Lawmakers
Evolving Middle East / U.S. Stand with People of the Region /
Secretary Rice's Cairo Speech / Democracy as a Process /
U.S. Libyan Relationship Evolving / Weapons of Mass Destruction
Program / Issues Still to be Addressed
Six-Party Talks / Assistant Secretary Hill Meetings with
Representatives / Secretary Meeting with South Korean Foreign
Minister / Careful Diplomatic Preparations / New York Channel /
Diplomatic Process / Statement of Principles
Lefkowitz Appointment as Human Right Advocate / Mandated by Law /
Engaging in Human Rights Discussions / Working on a Work Plan
Working with EU-3 on Iran's Nuclear Activity
U.S. Urging Venezuela to Play Positive Role in Hemisphere / OAS
Summit / Need for Transparency
Withdrawal Process / Urging Parties to Act to Promote Calm /
David Welch Meeting with President Abbas / $50 Million in Direct
Assistance / Infrastructure Projects
General Ward Remains in Region
Embassy Security Vehicle Struck by Explosive Device/ Two Americans
Injured / Investigation Underway
Secretary Rice Meeting with Foreign Minister Tokayev / Bilateral
Relations / Free and Fair Presidential Elections
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so let's jump right into questions.
QUESTION: Last week, when the Iraqis missed their deadline, the Secretary of State said they'll get the job done and she clearly meant within the week they gave themselves. How does it now look? Does it look like they can get the job done with just a little more delay or what?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they continue to negotiate, continue to work through the issues related to drafting their constitution. They're making progress. Reports back from Baghdad, I think, both news reports and reports that we have ourselves indicate that they are making progress. They still have some work to do. They have some time left before their self-imposed weeklong extension. So I'm going to defer any comments that I might have and let the Iraqis talk about where they stand in the process and where they stand on the issues that they have resolved and where they might stand on any issues remaining to be resolved, if any.
QUESTION: There have been some complaints, I wish I could -- I wish I'd remembered to bring along where it was printed, but the complaints that the Ambassador had been unduly heavy handed, so far as this group is concerned -- I think it's the Sunnis, but I'm not sure. And we do know he's playing a very active role. Anything to be said on that subject so far as -- you're eager, of course, to get the job done, but is anybody overplaying this hand, you think?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think Ambassador Khalilzad is doing a terrific job in Baghdad. He is working on behalf of the U.S. Government in support of the Iraqis at their request. When they have asked for his advice or assistance in a variety of matters throughout the constitution drafting process, he has been willing to provide it. And he will continue to remain engaged in this process as our U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, but this is an Iraqi process. This is an Iraqi drafting process. This is an Iraqi draft constitution that is going to have to be voted by nobody else but the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: There are lots of questions, but I want to give others a chance, but can you say, simply, what from the U.S. perspective are the major hang-ups now? What difficulties?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I'm going to let the Iraqis talk about, as I said, what progress they have made on a variety of issues, in what way they have made progress and what, if any, issues they have to resolve.
QUESTION: Given that there's been a number of concessions and compromises that have to be made to force this to a conclusion before the deadline, is it better that there's a bad constitution compared to no constitution?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that, again, in terms of the draft constitution, what it contains and what the political compromises are that are enshrined in the language that the Iraqis decide on, are going to be decisions for the Iraqis to make, nobody else's. And we will, once the Iraqis have produced a draft constitution. We will, of course, analyze it. Take a look at it. I'm sure that we will have comments on it.
But again, the only final comment that really matters is the comment of the Iraqi people when they vote on this draft constitution. And I think the people engaged in the drafting process are very aware of the fact that they are answerable to the Iraqi people. The product that they produce has to be voted on by the Iraqi people and I'm sure that what the drafters are now doing is working on a product that can be approved by the Iraqi people. And that will involve a number of different political compromises. The Iraqis themselves have talked about that over not only the past week but over the past several weeks. So we'll see what the draft constitution they come up with is.
QUESTION: On Friday, officials were saying that Ambassador Khalilzad was working very closely with the Iraqis. He was being asked to present ideas and he was presenting ideas. Can you characterize what kind of ideas he was working with the Iraqis on? And this compromise that seems to be -- that they're working through -- that seems to reach, how much of that is related to the ideas that he presented?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, this is a rapidly moving process. Even in the course of the day I think you're going to have the Iraqis talking about and working on several different issues. We've seen the process evolve over the course of the week in this way where they'll move from one issue to another. The fact of the matter is, until you have a final draft constitution, you don't have a final draft. So I'm going to let the Iraqis talk about, as I said, what issues remain, if any, and in what way they have come to compromise on the issues that are before them.
Ambassador Khalilzad has been certainly involved at the request of the Iraqi representatives in support of the drafting process because, again, this is -- these are the Iraqis coming up with the language, putting it down on paper to reflect the ideas and the compromises that they've come up with. So I expect the Ambassador to continue to remain involved in a supportive fashion in the drafting process.
But you know, I think that all are watching the progress that is being made in Baghdad. They continue to work but I'm going to let the Iraqis talk about the good work that they've done before I have any comments on it.
QUESTION: Has Secretary Rice been directly in touch with any of the senior Iraqi players?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any calls to report to you. Certainly she's been in touch was Ambassador Khalilzad who is our person on the ground there.
Yes, anything else on Iraq?
QUESTION: Do you have any comments or any kind of perceptions on this letter by Saddam Hussein saying he's willing to kind of sacrifice himself for the Arab cause?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think our views on the tyrannical reign of Saddam Hussein are well known. He was a force of terror and fright for the Iraqi people. He was a supporter of terrorism in the region. He worked to promote instability and violence in the region. And right now the Iraqi people are engaged in a judicial process and we encourage that and we expect that that judicial process would be open and transparent, to hold Saddam Hussein to account for his actions over a period of decades.
QUESTION: Is he losing it? What is his mental -- as far as you know, what is his mental capacity?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not in a position to comment on that, Barry.
On Iraq, anything else? You have one, okay.
QUESTION: It has said that the United States sided with the Shia for writing in the document that Islam is the main source of law. If that is the case, then what will happen the Iraqis' women rights?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, on any particular issue related to the drafting of the Iraqi constitution we are going to wait to see the final draft that is produced. We are going to let the Iraqis talk about the process that they've gone through in their draft constitution. And I'm sure at some point we will take a look at the draft, we will have an analysis of it, and I'm sure we will have plenty of opportunities to answer questions about it. Right now is not that moment though.
QUESTION: Senator Hagel filled a lot of space yesterday with his remarks about Iraq and says he's a loyal Republican. Is it bothering the Administration at all that people like Hagel and the Governor of Utah are beginning to have questions about this continuous costly engagement?
MR. MCCORMACK: As for any sort of political commentary, Barry, I'm going to leave that to others. Certainly, we work closely with senators up on the Hill on issues related to Iraq, from funding to Congressional visits there. But beyond that, I'm not going to have any comment on political issues.
QUESTION: Just to go back to Senator Hagel, he said that the U.S. involvement in Iraq could further destabilize the Middle East. What's your reaction to that? Do you think that the Middle East is further destabilized or do you believe that it's -- your actions have been a stabilizing factor?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that certainly with respect to the situation in Iraq right now, we've talked about the real challenges that are before the Iraqi people and what the multinational force and the United States is doing to assist them. But I think if you look across the region -- and we talked a little bit about this last week -- you see a different kind of Middle East that is evolving, from elections in the Palestinian areas in which they elected a president based on a platform of bringing peace and security to the Palestinian people; to multiparty presidential elections in Egypt; to women getting the vote in Kuwait; to political -- the beginnings of political reforms in Saudi Arabia. You have a different kind of Middle East that is evolving.
Our job is to stand with the people of the region as they call out for a change, as they call out for a greater political -- a greater say in their political destiny, as they cry out for greater freedoms. And that is the focus of this Administration, the focus -- certainly a focus of the Secretary, as you heard from her in her Cairo speech.
So this is -- all of this is to say that this is a beginning and the process of greater democracy, greater freedom and greater prosperity in that region is going to take some time. This is -- as I said before, democracy is not a single point in time; it is a process. So our job is to stand with the people of that region as they move through that process. There are going to be ups and downs in that process. Big historical changes aren't always linear. There will be real challenges ahead. But again, as we've said before, we'd rather have the hope presented by those challenges that are before us than the sort of malignancy of the status quo that was presented to us before.
QUESTION: So you would disagree with his --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm going to keep with what I said.
QUESTION: When you talk about this new Middle East, do you have any sense that the new Middle East is actually more radical? Hezbollah has a cabinet member for the first time. Hamas is stronger politically in the Palestinian territories. And in Iraq, the political voice that the Sunnis listened to was that of the insurgents, who said boycott the elections, so they did.
MR. MCCORMACK: These are all -- the situations, as you point out, are all separate situations. And in each case -- for the Palestinians, for the Lebanese, for the Iraqis -- they are going to define the development of their political systems in their own way. With respect to Hezbollah and Hamas and certainly with respect to the terrorists and the insurgents that we see in Iraq, our views are very clear on those issues.
But you know, as I said before, this is not going to be without challenge. Certainly, as -- and again, as the people of the Middle East call out for a different kind of Middle East, I think that you would hear from many Sunni leaders an expression of regret that they didn't participate more in the January 30th elections. And as we've seen the political process evolve in Iraq, you've seen greater Sunni participation. You have Sunnis now on the constitution writing committee and they are involved in the process. There's a lot of consultation going on among all those various groups.
So again, change is not necessarily going to be linear. It's not going to be without challenges. But it is in response to a call from the people of that region for greater freedom and greater prosperity.
Anything else on Iraq or Middle East? Joel.
QUESTION: Sean, are these deadline dates advisable? Because it seems the Sunnis are -- they have much apprehension and unhappiness. Everything in Iraq apparently is not equitable. There's more oil in the north and oil in the south but not in the middle of the country. And what is the overall influences from Iran? Is entering into any of this?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what -- again, Joel, you point to some issues and some differences in resources and differences in Iraq among the various groups. Well, that's what political process is all about. It's resolving those differences but resolving them in a peaceful way. And that's what we see the various groups -- Sunni, Shia and Kurd working together, and others as well -- working together to resolve the differences that they have. And that's the democratic process that we're watching unfold right now.
QUESTION: Can we go to another subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you tell if Libya has done everything expected of it to have a normal relationship with the United States? Is its human rights record clean enough now? Has it done -- followed through entirely on the weapons front? Qadhafi's son is expecting an Embassy announcement within the next few days. My impression is that Libya has a few steps to take still. Could you get into that a little bit -- touch on that for a bit?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that I ought to say we have -- if you go back two or three years, now we have a dramatically different relationship with Libya than we had had over recent history. And that changed relationship has its roots in the Libyan decision, strategic decision to give up its weapons of mass destructions program. And we working with others in the international community, most notably the United Kingdom, have engaged Libya. And in exchange for their acts of good faith, we have in turn have met their actions with our actions of good faith.
And we are engaged with them now in a dialogue on a variety of issues. You mentioned human rights. You mentioned democracy. You mentioned issues of terrorism. I think that we have certainly come a long way in -- from where we were in our relationship with Libya, but there are certainly issues that still need to be addressed and we're working with Libya on those issues. If they continue to make progress along the pathway that we have laid out, we again will meet their acts of good faith in return.
Senator Lugar was just in Libya. He met with Mr. Qadhafi and we do have diplomatic representation on the ground in Tripoli now. So again, we will see how the relationship evolves. But the relationship will evolve in a way that reflects actions and facts on the ground.
QUESTION: Are they doing any house hunting?
QUESTION: Wait, I have a follow up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Are you saying that comments by the president's son that there's going to be an Embassy in the next announcement, in the next few days, are premature?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'm going to stick with what I said. I said what I said.
Yes. Saul, did you have anything on this or do you want a different subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, let's go back here and then we'll come back front. Okay, yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Yeah. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon has mentioned that North Korea should be allowed to keep nuclear power for peaceful purpose. It is very different from the U.S. policy. In the meantime, Minister Ban still keep saying there is no difference between the U.S. and South Korea. Can you tell us what is the truth?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that we are working very closely with the other four members of the six-party talks and we are -- we have had diplomatic exchange with North Korea just last week through the New York channel. Assistant Secretary Hill is meeting with Chinese representatives, South Korean, as well as Japanese representatives this week, in order to prepare for the second part of this round of the six-party talks.
Secretary Rice is meeting with Foreign Minister Ban from South Korea tomorrow. I expect that they're going to talk about our approach -- and our shared approach -- to the six-party talks. I think that, you know, again, I'm not going to get into specific issues right now. You know our positions with respect to the question you mentioned are unchanged.
But the overall atmosphere in all of these contacts is one, I think -- it's a follow-on from the first part of this round, that there is a desire, that there is a willingness, to try to make progress in this round. And that's what we're doing. We're doing careful diplomatic preparations in anticipation of the beginning of the second part of this round. So we'll continue those preparations this week and we'll try to keep you updated on where we stand on various issues related to six-party talks.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Charlie.
QUESTION: Are you expecting the second part of this round to start on the 29th or is it the week of the 29th?
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have a specific date. I know Chris Hill was talking to the Chinese representatives about that today. So I expect probably this week we'll have -- well, obviously this week we'll have a better idea of the exact starting date.
QUESTION: Has the North Korean channel been used again since they used last week you told us about?
MR. MCCORMACK: Last week. Yes, I believe that there was a contact there, yes.
QUESTION: Since DeTrani delivered his message? You told us about that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct. Yes.
QUESTION: So was that the North Koreans getting back to you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that was last week. Last week, what happened, to my knowledge, there were two diplomatic exchanges. The first one was from -- through the New York channel from Washington up to the North Korean delegation at the UN. And then -- the basic message there was we again stand ready to answer any questions that you may have, clarify any positions that you heard from us in Beijing.
Then there was another contact between Mr. DeTrani and the North Korean delegation. They had a diplomatic exchange. And that was last week. And there was -- and there has been again today one, through the New York channel, diplomatic contact.
MR. MCCORMACK: Today.
QUESTION: So that's the third one?
MR. MCCORMACK: The third one, right.
QUESTION: Is --
QUESTION: What kind is that again? You remember last week, you left open the possibility that the contact could have been anything, a phone call --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) meeting --
MR. MCCORMACK: I would refer to this as a diplomatic exchange. We don't, as you know, don't have diplomatic relations with North Korea. So in this case, the New York channel serves as a diplomatic channel in which we have diplomatic exchanges.
QUESTION: Yeah, no, but I mean, it's -- they meet.
MR. MCCORMACK: It happens a variety of different ways. It could be on the telephone. It could be in person.
QUESTION: Is this North Korea seeking clarification on U.S. positions?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think at this point I'm just going to say it was a diplomatic exchange. I'm not going to get into the details of the diplomatic exchange. Only to say that it is part of the diplomatic process in anticipation of the second part of this round of negotiations. But I will make clear that the six-party talks are the place for negotiation and all of these diplomatic contacts take place within the framework of the six-party talks.
QUESTION: I mean, not to be difficult, but you opened the door to the idea of seeking clarification. The U.S. made an offer: Do you want clarification on positions?
MR. MCCORMACK: It is answering questions. Answering any questions they may have. Again, this is all part of the diplomatic process. The New York channel is the channel that we use to have a diplomatic exchange with the North Koreans since we don't have diplomatic relations with them. And beyond that, I'm not going to characterize it.
QUESTION: Sean, what's the problem with telling us whether they sat down, whether they talked by phone? I mean, what is that giving away to explain that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that, you know, I'll have to check in terms of last week exactly what it was, if it was a meeting or a telephone conversation. That's just a matter of checking facts.
QUESTION: Okay. And what about -- can you give us the range of dates, the first -- the initial U.S. offer to North Korea to answer questions? Do you know the date, the dates?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check. I'll see exactly what that was.
QUESTION: You raised a question. I didn't know that rounds had second -- second sections. There's a second part of the current round?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, what happened, Barry, is that we have -- there's a -- I guess the appropriate term is "recess" in this round. It's still the current round.
QUESTION: No, the only reason -- I'm not trying to quibble. The reason I bring it up is my understanding as of last week is you've got a statement of principles floating around and we're going to decide if it's a basis for having another rounds of talks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we haven't -- back up a second. We haven't completed work on the statement of principles and that's the reason for having this recess. I think all the parties agreed that it was appropriate and useful to have a recess, to take a step back, look at the work that they've done and make another run at completing that -- maybe completely that statement of principles in that round. So that's where we are now.
QUESTION: Oh, but --
MR. MCCORMACK: And that's what we hope to do --
QUESTION: This is the thing that you were hoping that you'd get to.
MR. MCCORMACK: But -- and that's what we're going to be talking about when we go back to Beijing.
MR. MCCORMACK: To hopefully complete the statement of principles.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Saul.
QUESTION: Still on this subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Can we get a little bit more of the tic-tock? It was the United States that initiated the very first one --
MR. MCCORMACK: Last week, last week.
QUESTION: Yeah. Then was the second one the North Koreans getting back to you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. And the third one today was --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check for you, Saul.
QUESTION: So you don't know who initiated today?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. I'll have to check for you on that.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you about the second one? The first one was, we're ready to answer any questions.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: When they got back to you, were they saying, well, we've got some questions. Here they are.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the way that I would put it, Saul, is that we -- it was a diplomatic exchange, trying to prepare the way for this second part of this round of talks.
QUESTION: Iranian government news agencies said --
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, the same subject. Sorry. We'll get back to -- go over here.
QUESTION: There has been some reporting that there was some feeling within the Administration that the naming of Lefkowitz sends a human rights advocate for North Korea wasn't particularly a very good idea, maybe ill-timed, might be an irritant in relations. And the kind of low-key way that it was announced was seen as evidence of this, that maybe the Administration wasn't terribly excited about it. Could you respond to that and what sort of activity is he doing now?
MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, I think an announcement from the White House of a Presidential appointment isn't exactly a low-key way of going about things. I think certainly the Secretary is looking forward to speaking with Mr. Lefkowitz at some point in the near future. She thinks that he is absolutely the right person for this job. This job was mandated by law. Mr. Lefkowitz will be administratively part of the Department here -- of sitting in the Bureau of Democracy, Rights and Labor. And I would expect that we'd hear from Mr. Lefkowitz in the coming weeks. I think that he'll probably be around the Department here towards the beginning of September. I don't have an exact date for you right now.
He's going to be working on -- his responsibilities include engaging in human rights discussions with North Korean officials, supporting international efforts to promote human rights and political freedom in North Korea, consulting with NGOs addressing human rights in North Korea and making recommendations regarding support for human rights and democracy programs in accordance with the North Korean Human Rights Act, reviewing strategies for improving protection of human rights in North Korea and developing an action plan for supporting implementation of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Resolution on human rights in North Korea. So those are the issues that he's going to be engaging on. And it will be up to Mr. Lefkowitz, working with Secretary Rice, to decide on what his path forward is in terms of these issues he's going to be working on.
QUESTION: Has there been any indications the North Koreans, per se, are interested in talking about this subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's certainly an issue they're aware of both in our public statements and our statements in the six-party talks of our concerns about this issue. I think you've heard directly from the Secretary in public on this issue. So it is an issue that we will continue to speak out on and an issue, at this point, that we see as separate from the six-party talks. The focus of the six-party talks is on attaining the goal of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That is a shared goal of the parties in the talks and that's where our focus is on now. But Mr. Lefkowitz will, I believe, in the coming weeks, start his work and work on a work plan.
QUESTION: Last week, you made the point that there are ways to talk through international conferences, conferences that North Korea could be attending. Have you staked out a particular event yet so he can begin to make his points?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'm going to leave it to Jay to come up with his work plan. He's going to be working with the Secretary as well as well as others in the Department as well as the White House on these issues.
QUESTION: So there's no international meeting on the horizon?
MR. MCCORMACK: At the moment, I don't have anything. I don't have anything to share with you on that.
QUESTION: Can you bring us up-to-date on food shipments? When they were announced, it was still going to take two to three months to get them off the ground. Do you happen to know if food on its way to North -- at least on its way to the groups that distribute the food?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll check for you, Barry, and see where that is in the pipeline.
QUESTION: The second contact, the one that the North Koreans initiated --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, today. Or no, wait a minute, which one? We were -- there was -- there are three all together. The first one, last week, was us. The second one, they got back to us. Diplomatic exchange. And then there was the one today that I have to check for you to see exactly who called whom.
QUESTION: Can -- either you know now and can tell us, or could you check, the second one? What day was it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I will.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Okay. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: South Korean Ambassador in Iran expressed his government support for Iran peaceful nuclear activities. Knowing this fact that South Korea is your partner in six-party talks, on the other hand, the United States said that Iran is not pursuing the peaceful nuclear activities. What's your comment about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I haven't seen the Ambassador's comments so I would defer any comment on that specifically.
With respect to Iran, we are working very closely with the EU-3 and certainly our concerns, as well as the concerns of the international community and the EU-3, center on Iran's activities in pursuit of a nuclear weapon under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. And specifically, our concerns focus on Iran's having access to the nuclear fuel cycle, the technologies and know-how associated with it. So we are now working with the EU-3 and with the IAEA to address those concerns.
QUESTION: A quick one on Venezuela, please. The United States accuses the Venezuelan Government of destabilizing Ecuador. Ecuador is going through a crisis at the moment, protests interrupting oil supply. Venezuela has responded to a request from the Ecuadorian Government and is going to loan it oil at no cost. It seems like a move that helps stability in Ecuador. So is the U.S. Government revising its thoughts about Venezuela being a destabilizing factor in Ecuador?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, Saul, we have talked in the past about some of Venezuela's activities in the hemisphere. With respect to Ecuador and other countries in the region, I think what we would say is that we expect Venezuela, as any other country in the region, to play a positive, transparent role in the affairs of other sovereign countries in the hemisphere. With respect to these oil shipments, I don't have a particular characterization to share with you other than to say that we, as I said, reiterate the fact that we expect Venezuela -- wherever it may be in the hemisphere -- to join other countries, its neighbors in the hemisphere, to play a positive role.
One of the focuses of the most recent OAS summit was coming to the aid of fragile democracies, coming to the aid of those neighbors in need. And what we would encourage any country in the hemisphere to do is, if they do come to the aid of a neighbor, do so in goodwill, do so in a transparent manner, in a way that isn't intended to undercut or influence the political affairs of another country.
QUESTION: But so I'm not really sure about the answer about -- I know what you expect Venezuela to do and you say you're not characterizing this particular move with the oil shipments. But then you're saying -- maybe it's you're hinting that what they're doing isn't transparent, that they're coming to the aid of this fragile democracy but they're doing it with some other intention than to help? I just want to be clear. Is that what you're saying?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, with respect to, again, this transfer, I don't have any particular characterization of it. I think the fact that we are talking -- talking about the -- a public event, that certainly that is an open and transparent effort on the part of Venezuela. I think that what we are concerned about and other countries in the hemisphere are concerned about in our past statements about Venezuela are different attempts to perhaps in a less than transparent way participate in events in neighboring countries.
QUESTION: Different topic. The last of the settlers have been pulled out from the Gaza Strip today. How would you basically look at the end, officially bringing to an end the Israeli occupation four decade -- nearly four decade occupation? And how -- what are the immediate challenges you see to the roadmap of peace?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, part of the withdrawal process is also withdrawal from four Israeli settlements on the West Bank and that process has not ended so I'm going to defer any sort of summation of how we view the overall process until the overall process has, in fact, been completed.
I think a few things. One, as I said last week, I think that anybody who watches the television images of Israeli solders and the settlers has to understand how difficult and painful this was for Israel. And I think it underscores the fact that this was a bold and courageous decision by Prime Minister Sharon.
I think also we can look at the cooperation between the Israelis and the Palestinians in this part of the withdrawal process, and I think Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas have shown exemplary leadership and at all levels, from that leader level on down, you've seen good cooperation and that sort of cooperation builds trust and confidence between the two sides.
So we, again, continue to urge that all parties act in a way that promotes calm and that allows the withdrawal process to move forward in an atmosphere free from violence and that all parties in this regard have responsibilities.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout on David Welch's meeting with President Abbas?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't have a detailed readout, but they did have a good meeting. They talked some about U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority. We talked with President Abbas about $50 million in direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority. This was something that was announced by President Bush earlier this summer and that this is, I believe, the third time that we have had provided direct assistance to the Palestinian Authority for various infrastructure projects: electricity, water, sewage projects. And that was able to happen because Minister Fayad and President Abbas have put in place, in the Palestinian Authority, financial controls that allow us a level of comfort that the money provided to the Palestinian Authority will in fact be spent on those projects that we agree that the money should be spent on. And beyond that I don't really have much else to add.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on this?
QUESTION: Did Welch meet with any Israelis? Did he talk about money for the Israelis that goes for the withdrawal or things that happen after the withdrawal? And when is he back here?
MR. MCCORMACK: He is on his way back now and he will back in the office tomorrow. As for other meetings, Charlie, I don't have -- don't have an update on that, so we'll try to get you something on that.
Yes. Teri? Joel?
QUESTION: Same subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Same subject.
QUESTION: Do the activities of General Ward now end as pertaining to Gaza? And I guess the shift of focus now is to the West Bank, but there are, of course, two opposing groups -- the activists such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others and there's also the Jewish extremists or activists. Are there going to be working groups to settle that out so that there is a chance for the Palestinian elections in mid January?
MR. MCCORMACK: General Ward remains in the region and he is still in touch with both sides concerning the withdrawal process.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, could you update us on an incident that happened over the weekend with some Embassy officials being caught in a crossfire?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Let me go through it. A United States Embassy security vehicle -- this was over the weekend -- was struck by an improvised explosive device outside Kabul earlier today. The security vehicle was part of a convoy on routine Embassy business. Two Americans experienced minor injuries in the explosion and have been treated and released. The incident is currently under investigation and we don't have any other details at this time.
QUESTION: Any implications for the Embassy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing else to share with you at this point, no. We're looking into the incident, the securities officials there are.
QUESTION: Could you preview the Secretary's meeting with the Kazakhstan Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. It's going to happen in about 40 minutes. The Secretary is going to meeting with Foreign Minister Tokayev, who is in town for regular bilateral consultations. I think he's also going to be seeing other folks around town over at DOD and the White House. He was last here in June of 2004. I expect that the Secretary and the Foreign Minister will review bilateral relations and mutual interests on a number of different issues, including security, energy, democratic reform and the importance of free and fair presidential elections in Kazakhstan in December.
Also, I think the Secretary will touch on the importance -- as she has in other meetings that she's had -- the importance of civil society, having a vigorous civil society as part of any vibrant democracy. And I think that we will also encourage Kazakhstan to display leadership with respect to its OSCE commitments, particularly with respect to democracy and human rights in the context of its candidacy for OSCE chairmanship in 2009.
QUESTION: Would you expect the Uzbek situation to come up?
MR. MCCORMACK: On the Uzbek situation, what do you mean?
QUESTION: I mean the long-running problems there with the Andijan violence and the refugee situation in Kyrgyzstan --
MR. MCCORMACK: I certainly hope that Kazakhstan chooses a different direction.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)
DPB # 144
Released on August 22, 2005