State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 24, 2005
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing August 24, 2005
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
August 24, 2005
Working with EU-3 on Iran's Nuclear Activity
Visa Request for Iranian President to Attend UN General Assembly in New York
IAEA Report on Iran's Nuclear Weapons Program
Prospects for US-Iranian Meeting at UNGA in New York
Status of Investigation Regarding Iranian President's Possible
Involvement in Hostage Taking in 1979
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Israeli Minister Olmert Today
Reported Israeli Plan to Extend Security Fence
US View of Settlement Activity
Secretary Rice's Meeting with South Korean Minister Ban
Contacts Through New York Channel
Resumption of Six-Party Talks
US Contact with Venezuela Government Regarding Pat Robertson
Security of President Chavez at UN General Assembly in New York
Belarusian Authorities Briefly Detain US Diplomat
Discussions with Palestinians on Plans for Gaza after Israeli Withdrawal
Progress on Iraqi Constitution
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so will be happy to jump into questions. Who wants to start?
QUESTION: Where's Barry?
QUESTION: I was just kidding. Sylbie. I'll defer.
QUESTION: No. I wasn't kidding. But I mean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Front row. Okay.
QUESTION: About Iran, if it's possible? It was (inaudible) question. The President, the Iranian President says he wants to keep negotiating with the EU-3 and he's going to give a lot of innovations. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think the EU-3 has an offer on the table. They have, I think, showed great dedication and perseverance in their efforts to resolve this issue through diplomatic means and we support them in that. We would encourage the Iranian Government to engage with the EU-3 negotiators in a serious and constructive way and we would encourage them to take the offer that is on the table. I think that the EU-3 offer is comprehensive, it's constructive and it addresses the issue, so we would encourage them to take the deal that's on the table.
QUESTION: But would you accept them to keep negotiating after the third of September?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, certainly we think that the EU-3 diplomatic process has legs in it -- well, it still has legs. And we look forward to resolving this -- we look forward to supporting the EU-3 in this effort and resolving the differences that Iran has with the world regarding its nuclear program, resolving those differences through diplomatic means.
QUESTION: Is the UN General Assembly and the expected attendance by the new Iranian President an opportunity for the U.S. to get and a little more directly into this subject? Are you going to be talking on any level with the Iranians? And just a logistical question: Has -- David Welch just said he didn't think so, but he'll check it out with you -- has the visa or whatever is required, is that taken care of or is it a cinch or what?
MR. MCCORMACK: There has been a request made and we're looking at the request now. I think that President Bush has talked a little bit about this issue as well. And I think that he said that we have -- obligations under our agreement with the UN to allow people to come and meet and he said that -- President Bush said, I suspect he'll be there.
As for the issue of Iran's nuclear program and where that issue needs to be resolved, we talked about that a lot yesterday. And right now we're working with the EU-3 and their negotiations. But there are still many, many questions left unanswered concerning Iran's nuclear program where Dr. ElBaradei has a team that's looking at some of those issues.
They are putting together a report and I think they're going to produce that report towards the beginning of September. And we look forward to hearing from the IAEA on what they have found and what they have to say, concerning Iran's cooperation in terms of resolving these issues and we'll also have discussions at the next IAEA Board of Governors meeting, which is at the beginning of September. So I think that's what's on our horizon right now, Barry. As for UNGA or anything else, you know, I couldn't speak to that. But I think that the next step in this process is looking at what the IAEA has to say and then talking about the issues at the Board of Governors meeting.
QUESTION: Are they (inaudible) -- And one quick one, I mean, there are ways to talk to the Iranians and, in fact, the UN format has served as a basis for being at the same meeting and, you know, exchanging some views of that issue or any other issue.
MR. MCCORMACK: Not aware of any plans.
QUESTION: That's the question and thank you. Thank you.
QUESTION: Any update on the Administration's conclusions on Ahmedinejad's involvement in the hostage taking --
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new to share with you at this point.
QUESTION: Is the investigation ongoing?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're -- it's still an issue that we're looking at.
QUESTION: Do you expect to come to a conclusion before UNGA?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll try to keep you updated on any conclusions that we can share with you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, we have a hand up, actually.
QUESTION: Oh, I didn't see it. Sorry.
QUESTION: I'll defer to Barry.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, defer to Barry.
QUESTION: Oh, you have several. I think you have three Israeli, senior Israeli officials here and one today and, again, David Welch was asked about the request. I guess, it's actually a request for $2.2 billion, but he didn't have a figure to give anybody, you know, to develop Negev and Galilee. Can you -- you taking all three visitors together, if you will, why this --
MR. MCCORMACK: Can you list all three for me?
QUESTION: Why this high level --
MR. MCCORMACK: No -- it's (inaudible) question, which three are you talking about? Well, I know Mr. -- I know the --
QUESTION: There were three I think.
MR. MCCORMACK: There's certainly --
MR. MCCORMACK: Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister has both portfolios. Ehud Olmert is meeting with the Secretary this afternoon and, as for any other visitors, I don't -- I'm not sure who that might be.
QUESTION: All right. Well, if it's just the Finance, exclusive Finance, then obviously it deals with financial issues.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: But I wondered if this is an opportunity for the U.S. to weigh in with where it wants the process to go and, you know, if you have some thoughts on that, I'd be happy to take them down.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, the Secretary will meet with the Minister of Finance, Ehud Olmert, today for a broad discussion of bilateral issues. I expect that will include disengagement, the roadmap, the route of the separation barrier and I'm sure issues related to Israeli settlements will also come up. So it's another contact with our Israeli friends and this is one in a series the Secretary has been -- made two recent trips to the Middle East and I expect that we'll have more subsequent to this on these very same issues.
QUESTION: Today, the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, is reporting that plans are afoot to extend this security fence to this settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, which is to the -- quite far to the east of Jerusalem and with some Palestinian complaints that this will hamper certainly Palestinian movement in the West Bank. Do you have any specific response to this? They're talking about some significant amount of territory, I think.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You've heard from this podium, as well as from other places, our views on this subject. They're unchanged. President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon agreed in an exchange of letters in April 2004 that the barrier being erected by Israel must be a security rather than a political measure. And its route must take into account the impact on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities. We've made clear that the fence, which should not prejudge final borders, confiscate Palestinian property or impose further hardship on the Palestinian people. As President Bush said in May 2005, "Any final status agreement or changes to the 1949 armistice line must be agreed to by both parties."
QUESTION: He also said a year earlier that he supports Israel's claim to that area. And on background, we were told that there's no change and he stands by what he had said. So since the U.S. believes that's properly part of Israel, as part of a final agreement, why would you object to securing the area?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Barry, with respect to our understanding of the settlements and settlement activity and with respect to our understanding about any changes to the 1949 armistice line, those are issues that must be agreed to by both parties.
QUESTION: But the U.S. still supports Israel. Could the U.S. support --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again --
QUESTION: Why would you object to Israel securing an area that you support Israel retaining?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Barry, this is our position on the matter. It's not something new to you, I know that.
QUESTION: I was just wondering whether this specific matter would be something that would be raised with Mr. Olmert this afternoon, the Ma'ale Admuim?
MR. MCCORMACK: Let's let the meeting take place. I haven't asked the Secretary whether or not this will come up.
Anything else on this? Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any words of agreement of Secretary Rice saying the Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon? A statement (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: What -- I'm sorry, what was your question?
QUESTION: Do you have any agreement between U.S. and South Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they had a good discussion. We put out a brief description of what they talked about yesterday. They talked about arrangements for the upcoming APEC Summit, which the President looks forward to attending and Secretary Rice will be attending the ministerial that comes immediately prior to the summit. They talked a little bit about the inner-Korean dialogue and various visits that South Korean officials have made to the North, as well as ongoing economic projects in North Korea. They also talked about the six-party talks. They talked about the -- they talked generally about the diplomatic process before the resumption of talks and they also talked about the various issues related to the six-party talks and of ways that those issues might be addressed.
QUESTION: Do you have a date for the next U.S.-North Korea contact, which Ambassador Hill said yesterday is -- that there's going to be one in New York -- you know, those aren't usually announced, so I'm checking with you, if you know whether it's been held or whether it's coming up?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm glad you asked that.
QUESTION: Because it is.
MR. MCCORMACK: There was a meeting -- there was a New York channel meeting yesterday. Ambassador DeTrani met with North Koreans yesterday in the New York channel. This was subsequent to our getting in touch with them earlier in the week to arrange this meeting. And the meeting was part of our overall diplomatic efforts in advance of the resumption of the six-party talks in Beijing.
QUESTION: A statement yesterday --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: It was after the briefing.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, well the briefing was a breakfast time briefing.
QUESTION: No, our briefing.
QUESTION: Oh, your brief.
MR. MCCORMACK: The briefing here, yes.
QUESTION: Our briefing.
MR. MCCORMACK: It was yesterday. It was after your pressroom briefing.
QUESTION: The statement yesterday -- (inaudible) spoke of the APEC meeting, but spoke positively of North Korea's attitude and encouraged by progress, does that reflect the meeting that was held in New York as well as other developments? In other words, was that a positive meeting in New York?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it's part of the diplomatic effort. I think the businesslike approach on the part of the North Koreans to the six-party talks continues, and we look forward to resuming the talks. The Chinese Government is going to be having a series of bilateral contacts, I expect this week, meeting with -- I expect the South Koreans, the Japanese, the North Koreans as well. So we look forward to the date next week when talks resume.
QUESTION: Can you tell us -- do you have the date?
MR. MCCORMACK: The Chinese have not announced the date.
QUESTION: The diplomatic sources say that there is a five percent of a difference between the U.S. and South Korea. Can you tell us what is the five-percent difference?
MR. MCCORMACK: The five-percent difference?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know -- that's kind of a cryptic comment. I don't think I can address that.
QUESTION: The United States was --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Look, I think the Secretary and Foreign Minister Ban had a great conversation yesterday and I think that we are on the same page with respect to the six-party talks and moving forward. They had a good discussion about a variety of different issues related to six-party talks.
QUESTION: Can you talk more about the meeting yesterday? I'm sure you've presumed we would ask about it. How long did they meet? Did it just relate to six-party talks as they normally have? Was it the North Koreans asking questions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, Ambassador DeTrani's.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have the details in terms of how long and those sorts of things.
QUESTION: Any details?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've given you what I have on the meeting.
QUESTION: It was face-to-face?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, meeting up in New York.
QUESTION: And were there others present? Was it just DeTrani and the North Korean UN rep were --
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe it was Ambassador DeTrani. It wasn't anything out of the normal practice of New York channel meetings.
QUESTION: Did North Korea sign off on a statement of principles?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's the subject of negotiation when we resume the talks.
QUESTION: Still a subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Did they indicate in any way they were happy to sign off on it or did they put forward anything else?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, it's all I have for you at the moment.
Yes, sir. In the back.
QUESTION: There was a meeting between the North Korean and the United States yesterday and do you expect another meeting will be held prior to resumption of the six-party talks?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's what we were just talking about. There was a New York channel meeting yesterday with Ambassador DeTrani, between the United States and the North Korean representative.
QUESTION: Yeah. I know.
MR. MCCORMACK: As for the resumption, as for the resumption of the talks and diplomatic context, we have within the contents of those six-party talks, let's see when the date of the resumption of the talks is on the table and then we can start talking about what bilateral contacts we will have in the context of those regional talks.
QUESTION: No, no, my question is do you think there will be another contact?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I just said we had a contact in the New York channel. We don't yet have a date for the resumption of the six-party talks. And when we have a date for the resumption of the six-party talks, I think I could probably talk a little bit more, with a little more assurance about the various bilateral contacts we will have in the context of those resumed talks.
QUESTION: Yesterday, when you -- when we were talking about Pat Robertson, you had an -- U.S. hadn't been in touch, officially, with the Venezuelan Government. Has that changed since then?
MR. MCCORMACK: I did check into that, Barry, and we have been in contact with the Venezuelan Government through our Embassy in Caracas and they -- you know, and the message that we conveyed was the same one you heard from me at the podium yesterday.
QUESTION: Can I ask what their reaction was to --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Is there any special -- I forgot who brought it up, but any special security, safety measures going to be taken when Mr. Chavez is in New York for the UN that you know of? Somebody's raised the question of his safety, in light of what's been said on-the-air.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We have, again, certain obligations when we receive diplomatic visitors as part of the UN General Assembly and I expect that we would extend the same to whatever visitors we may have, from wherever they may be.
QUESTION: Sean, can you just tell us about what level of contact did you -- did someone from our Embassy go to the foreign ministry? Did someone from the foreign ministry --
MR. MCCORMACK: It was our Ambassador and he had a contact with an official in the Venezuelan Government.
QUESTION: There was a report that an American diplomat in Belarus was detained for, at least, sometime today trying to meet with some NGO people outside of Minsk. And I wonder if you have anything on that or reaction to it?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have expressed our concern to the Belarusian Government about the fact that Belarusian authorities briefly detained a U.S. diplomat who was conducting a series of routine diplomatic meetings in the city of Gomel. And again, we followed up with the Belarusian Government on that and made it very clear our serious concern. I understand it was a brief detention, but we did talk to them about it.
QUESTION: Did they say, Sean, what the reason was for the detention?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a response on that for you. I'll check into it. I'll see if there was any response from them.
QUESTION: Can I just quickly go back to the Middle East? And I'm sorry, I was late. I just wanted to ask you, in the past several days, since the withdrawal from Gaza, have you been in discussions with the Palestinians about now building, sort of, institutions and trying to do what they planned -- they have been planning to do in Gaza after the withdrawal, in terms of civil society, government. Have you had any discussions about that in the past few days?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think we have been in daily contact with the Israeli side as well as the Palestinian side and specifically on the issue of building up those institutions that could form the foundation for a future Palestinian state. It is something that we have talked to the Palestinians about.
The President just yesterday talked about the importance of building these institutions and the responsibilities that the Palestinian Authority has, not only in its obligations under the roadmap, but to the Palestinian people. And just several days ago, Assistant Secretary David Welch had a meeting with President Abbas in which we talked about our aid to the Palestinians -- $50 million worth -- to help them build up that infrastructure that you're talking about -- sewage projects, water projects, electricity projects -- these are things that will help improve the daily life of the Palestinian people.
So as the withdrawal process continues, I know that we have reached a certain point in which the Israeli officials have said that settlers have now been removed from the settlements that the Israelis said that they would withdraw from. There still remain several steps in this process in terms of removing some facilities and the Israeli IDF -- Israeli Defense Forces withdrawing from those areas.
So there's still a number of actions left in this process and it's important for all to remain focused on continuing the good cooperation that we have seen at this point between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As this withdrawal process moves forward into its final stages, it's important that the Palestinian Authority not only provide the necessary security for the Palestinian people in those areas from which the IDF has withdrawn, but they also work in a concerted effort to provide those services that the Palestinian people expect -- talking about infrastructure and that it will improve the daily lives of the Palestinian people. That's the responsibility of a government and I think that we have seen every indication that President Abbas is committed to that. He has been in Gaza during this withdrawal process and he has shown exemplary leadership throughout this process.
QUESTION: Iraqi constitution? Are you hopeful about tomorrow, they will hammer out some of the differences that have held them up for the past two days?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is -- it's an ongoing process. They gave themselves -- the Transitional Assembly gave themselves three days to work through a variety of issues that remain on the table. They've made, you know, excellent progress. I think that we should all be -- we should all applaud the process that the Iraqis have followed as they have gone through the drafting of this constitution and ultimately consider it -- for forwarding to the Iraqi people for a vote.
So there are still issues that are on the table. They're working hard on these issues. The Secretary is in contact with our Ambassador on the ground, Zalmay Khalilzad. They are continuing to make progress on these issues and work through the process that is before them.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)