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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 18, 2005


Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 18, 2005

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT
Secretary Rice's Meeting with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan /
Topics Discussed / Scheduling of Meeting

SYRIA/LEBANON
Implementation of 1559 / Mehlis Report / Concern for Syrian
Behavior / Next Steps

JAPAN
Ongoing Discussions on Status of U.S. Base in Okinawa
Prime Minister Koizumi's Visit to Yasukuni Shrine / Possible
Impact on Six Party Talks

AZERBAIJAN
Detention of Opposition Leader Rasul Guliyev

IRAQ
Post Election Update / Review of Ballots in Twelve Provinces

TURKEY
U.S.-Turkey Discussions on Issue of PKK

UNITED KINGDOM
Congestion Tax on U.S. Diplomats

CHINA/TAIWAN
Visit of Former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to Washington
D.C. / Chinese Concerns


TRANSCRIPT:

(12:32 p.m. EDT)


MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so I'd be pleased to get into any questions that you may have.

(Cross talk.)

QUESTION: Sean, can you tell us anything more about the Secretary's meeting with Kofi Annan this morning and specifically what they might have discussed on Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: All right. Well, the -- just as a little context, they do get together from time to time. This was a good opportunity to compare notes. Secretary Rice, as you know, recently returned from a trip, including stops in Moscow, London and Paris, where she talked about a variety of different issues: Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq.

Secretary General Annan recently had some interesting discussions concerning Latin America. They had an opportunity to compare notes on those issues. They talked a bit about the situation in Ethiopia, as well as Sudan. I think on the issues related to Syria and Lebanon, there is a busy calendar of events coming up over the next week in which Mr. Mehlis is going to provide a, I think, what they referred to as a technical report to Secretary General Annan and as well as Mr. Larsen concerning implementation of UN Security Council 1559. I think those reports are being handed over this week to Secretary General Annan.

And then the following week there's going to be, I think, at least as scheduled now, a public discussion in the Security Council of both of these reports. So they talked a bit about the calendar coming up. I think that probably the main topics of conversation were Syria, Lebanon, I think, Iran, Iraq. But they also did spend a good bit of time talking about Ethiopia and Sudan as well.

QUESTION: Just follow up. Why didn't you tell anybody she was going?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, on her schedule we don't always list every meeting that she has. We work out in conjunction with the parties with whom we're meeting, what gets listed on the public schedule and what doesn't get listed on the public schedule. We always endeavor to try to inform you as best we can of her meetings as well as what was discussed in those meetings. So immediately after the meeting I tried to inform reporters to the fact that there was a meeting as well as some of the topics that they discussed.

QUESTION: And just one last thing from me. After these reports were out, does the United States intend to push for tougher action against Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think at this point what we want to do is see what these reports say about 1559 implementation as well as the findings in Mr. Mehlis' investigation. As I said, I think the Mehlis report is going to be a technical report -- might consider it an interim report. When we take a look at those reports, we don't have copies of it yet, have not had a chance to review his findings. He's going to share those this week with Secretary General Annan.

I would expect at some point prior to the Security Council discussions next week that we'll get our own copy of the technical report. We'll have a chance to look at it. And I think at that point, we'll have an opportunity to analyze it. We'll have an opportunity to discuss those -- both of the reports with the other members of the Security Council as well as members of the international community that have an interest in this topic and talk about what actions, what further steps, if any, might be warranted by what's contained in the reports. But we have to see what's in the reports first.

QUESTION: Sean, it's not like, it's not like the Mehlis report and the Hariri assassination is the only issue you have with Syria, so why would you only have to wait until after the report to see what other steps might be in the works? You've still got the flow of foreign fighters over the border. And Jim Jeffrey just said at the Foreign Press Center that you haven't seen a change in Syrian behavior and the U.S. is getting impatient.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first --

QUESTION: Let's talk about the Mehlis report.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. You do point out, we do have -- let me step back -- the region and the world have a number of issues with Syrian behavior. That's the question here. It's a question of Syrian behavior. And I think that certainly we have stated our concerns about Syrian behavior but so have Syria's neighbors. The Iraqi Government has encouraged and spoken to the Syrian Government to stop the transit of foreign fighters through Syria. The Palestinian Authority has spoken to the Syrian Government about their support for rejectionist groups and the actions of those rejectionist groups in trying to derail the progress that has been made between the Israelis and the Palestinians in terms of the Gaza withdrawal and looking at what further areas of cooperation they might work on.

The Lebanese Government has also had several different issues with the Syrian Government. I point out that the Syrian Government has yet to open up an embassy in Beirut. That would certainly be one -- that's one tangible sign of one state's respect for the sovereignty of another state. We have yet to see that from Syria. So this isn't a matter of, you know, solely a matter of United States concerns with Syria. It's really -- Syria has problems with all of its neighbors, virtually all of its neighbors in the region.

QUESTION: So together with your allies, what are you thinking of doing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we, you know, it's going to be a busy calendar in the coming week or so, with regard to -- with regard to Syria, with regard to Lebanon. We'll take a look at what new information has come out in terms of the recent reports and take a look, and I think collectively, we will take a look at where we are with regard to Syria's behavior. And if there, as I said, if there are any further steps or actions that are warranted by that look at where Syria is in terms of its behavior or failure to change its behavior, then we'll have a good discussion about that up in New York and elsewhere.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the breakfast this morning? Can you tell us when this was scheduled?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think they worked it out over the past couple of days. I think -- Tuesday I think was --

QUESTION: Did she go up last night? Did she go up the first thing --

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, she went up last night.

QUESTION: She went up last night.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, she did.

QUESTION: Now, over the years, visits by the Secretary of State to the UN have always been announced in advance and maybe there was a compelling reason not to do it this time. I just thought I might point that out.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Take that on board.

QUESTION: What's the compelling reason, can you tell us?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, as I said in response to Peter's question, we always work out scheduling issues when things get published on public calendars with the other parties involved in the meeting.

QUESTION: Annan asked for it to be kept secret?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I didn't say that. What I said was when we work out what is on the public schedule, we always consult with the other parties involved. And also every meeting that she has is not on her public schedule, but again, we try to keep you informed as best we can about these meetings.

QUESTION: But you could have informed us yesterday. That's not as best as you could.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, you know, choices get made and this is where we came out.

QUESTION: But was the choice your choice, Secretary Rice's choice that the meeting not be publicized en masse?

MR. MCCORMACK: It's -- the Public Affairs Office is the one that puts out the daily schedule.

QUESTION: Sean, you're not answering the question. Why couldn't you tell us?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I have provided you an answer into how we work through these things in general. We work through them in a cooperative way with the other parties involved in the meeting and we try to keep you as informed as best we can about when her meetings are and what is said during those meetings.

QUESTION: Who requested the meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it was Secretary Rice that asked to meet with Secretary General Annan, but I think both of them thought it was a good idea.

QUESTION: Ambassador Bolton wasn't there, since he was here to testify, or is that correct?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that's correct, yeah.

Yes.

QUESTION: You had mentioned, though, that she did have discussions about Syria when she was on her trip, and I assume that would be in Britain, in France and in Moscow. We've gotten a lot about the discussions on Iran but we really haven't had a whole lot of what they discussed about Syria. Can you give us some idea? Is there a growing consensus about the need for stronger action against Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that, you know, as I said, concerning her meeting with Secretary General Annan, there is -- everybody is aware of the calendar coming up and I think that it was a good opportunity for her to raise the issues surrounding the calendar, the fact that we have these reports coming up, kind of compare notes in terms of where we were with regard to Syria's behavior as well as implementation of 1559.

QUESTION: What sort of feedback did she get from the Russians on this issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you know, I think it was a good general discussion. I'm not at liberty at this point to go into the details of the diplomatic exchanges but again, I think the nature of it is kind of looking ahead over the coming days and weeks as actions related to Syria and Lebanon are on the public calendar and we have these reports coming up.

Yes.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary General have any specific suggestions on what kind of action could be taken against -- realistically could be taken against Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: I had a brief discussion with the Secretary about her meeting. I didn't get into a detailed readout of the meeting. If I have anything else more that I can share with you concerning the meeting, we'll get it out this afternoon.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary make any specific suggestions, lay out options?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, it was an opportunity for them to compare notes.

Yes.

QUESTION: You mentioned the fact that Syria doesn't have yet an embassy in Beirut. Are you aware if the Lebanese have attempted to open an embassy in Damascus?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware. You'll have to check with the Lebanese.

Yes.

QUESTION: Should we expect to hear about Syria tomorrow when she talks to senators at the Foreign Relations Committee? Is she going to make that a focus of her statement?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, if she gets any questions on it, I'm sure she'll be ready to answer. The focus of her testimony is going to be on Iraq.

QUESTION: Both Syria --

MR. MCCORMACK: It's focused primarily on Iraq. If there are any questions related to Syria, she'll be ready to answer them.

Yes.

QUESTION: Just thinking. I want to ask about the base realignment in Japan -- base realignment in Japan. This year, ten years have passed since the rape crime in Okinawa, Japan in 1995 committed by U.S. military personnel. And in October 1995 there was a huge protest gathering in Okinawa and bases is occurred. And then Special Action Committee on Okinawa was starting, as you know. Then ten years have passed. But nevertheless, this discussion is ongoing now and still Marine base is still now there. And how do you think about this situation -- long-time discussion by now?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's obviously an issue of mutual concern to the Japanese Government as well as to the United States Government. I think that those discussions are ongoing. They're, you know, they are ongoing in a serious way. We have listened very carefully to what the Japanese Government has to say about what the local representatives from Okinawa have to say. But you know, beyond that I don't have any detailed description of where those discussions stand.

QUESTION: And for -- on this month, at the end of this month, so-called two plus two meeting -- ministerial meeting will be held, I hear. Do you have any schedule or something?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: No. Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, apparently, the Azerbaijani Government turned away a opposition leader who tried to reenter the country and he had to go to Ukraine. I wonder if you're aware of that and whether -- any reaction to it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Is this with regard to Mr. Guliyev?

QUESTION: Guliyev, yes.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. To the best of our knowledge, Mr. Guliyev attempted to return to Azerbaijan on Monday. Our understanding is that he was detained by Interpol in Ukraine after his charter flight stopped for fuel. We aren't at the moment in a position to comment on the legal merits of the case against Mr. Guliyev, which is centered in Azerbaijan. We believe that any legal case should be handled in a transparent manner with full respect to due process.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Iraq, do you have any comments on these allegations of vote rigging on the referendum and have you received any reports of vote rigging that you think need special attention?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's you know, back up here a second. The IECI, the Iraqi Electoral Commission of Iraq, because of their built-in procedures has instituted a review of some of the votes in twelve of the provinces. Now those automatic procedures are triggered whenever you have a yes or a no vote with greater than 90 percent in either direction, either a 90 percent yes or 90 percent no. So my understanding is right now that the ballots are being flown into Baghdad. They're going to do a count of the ballots. This is something that's also being done in conjunction with the United Nations as well. They're offering their counsel and their expertise, so that's the technical side of it.

I think as a general comment about this, we're going to refrain from any comment about what final results may or may not be until we have an official statement from the Iraqi Government, the IECI, about the results of the referendum. I think that the Iraqis should be praised for the fact that they are very serious about following the procedures that they have put in place that are consistent with international standards to ensure the integrity of this vote so that the Iraqi people as well as the Iraqi -- the international community can have confidence that this vote does, in fact -- will, in fact, reflect the results of the vote, will, in fact, reflect the will of the Iraqi people concerning the referendum. And we're going to wait to see what the final outcome of the review process and then the final vote count before we have any final statement on it.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Today Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that we cannot wait to make cooperation to PKK terrorist organization. Do you have any response for that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know that this has been a subject of discussion between Mr. Matt Bryza -- Deputy Assistant Secretary Bryza recently with the Turkish Government as well as General Abizaid had discussions with the Turkish officials on this matter. Certainly, the PKK is a terrorist organization and we certainly stand with the Turkish Government in our common fight against terrorism. Our officials in the multinational forces in Iraq certainly are aware of the problem related to the PKK and they are taking steps to address it.

Yes.

QUESTION: Did you find out whether there's been a solution to the driving tax in London?

MR. MCCORMACK: My understanding of that is that, as you pointed out, there was an action by the local officials in the UK to put a tax on some of the American diplomats in London, a so-called congestion tax. We have sent a note back to Her Majesty's government citing the Vienna Convention, I believe it's Article 34, in which any, you know, personal dues or taxes cannot be placed upon diplomats in another country. So we've made our views clear on this issue and we hope that it's resolved.

QUESTION: Do you think this is a different -- a different matter than parking fees in New York, for example, or for parking tickets?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think at this point what we're talking about is a question between a tax, which is governed by the Vienna Convention very specifically in that article, and then we're talking about, in the case of the parking tickets, an actual violation of local laws.

QUESTION: Should we declare a defense?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, Nicholas.

QUESTION: Sean, are you going to -- obviously, the mayor of London is saying, well, it's not a tax, it's a charge. So are you going to negotiate with them? Are you going to perhaps agree that the personal vehicles of the Embassy personnel could be taxed but not the business vehicles of the Embassy? Are you going to negotiate or just going to wait and see what --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have made our views known to her Majesty's government on this through a diplomatic note. I think that we are always open to discussion.

QUESTION: It's the mayor of London, it's not the country's government.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we don't have diplomatic relations with the mayor of London. We have it with the UK government, so that's our interlocutor. Of course we're open to, you know, a discussion about this matter, but we have outlined where we stand at this point on the matter.

QUESTION: But then the government, the British Government to be sort of a mediator between you and the mayor of London.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything to add at this point.

Yeah, Peter.

QUESTION: Sean, can you confirm that the Secretary will be seeing Palestinian President Abbas tomorrow night, which is on his schedule anyway? And if so, what is going to be the message that she's going to give him?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check. I haven't looked at her schedule for tomorrow. We'll let you know.

QUESTION: According to his schedule, he's on the schedule for 7 o'clock tomorrow night.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Like I said, I haven't looked at her schedule for tomorrow so I'll let you know.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Do you have any comments regarding Chinese concerns about former President Lee Teng-hui visiting Washington?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that this was a private visit and you know our policy with respect to visitors from Taiwan.

QUESTION: Was it transit related?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, it was transit related.

QUESTION: Just one more. Are you concerned about the -- Prime Minister Koizumi visit to Yasukuni Shrine might have negative impacts on the upcoming six-party talks?

MR. MCCORMACK: We talked a lot about this yesterday. In terms of the six-party talks, I think all the parties see that as a separate issue. We have encouraged any parties with concern about Prime Minister Koizumi's visit to this shrine -- we have encouraged all parties involved in that question to have a diplomatic dialogue. I think that we all understand the historic concerns, and we urge all the parties involved to work through and overcome what may be some past historical differences on the issue.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Taiwan, quickly. The former president needs a visa to come to this country and the State Department obviously is the arm administering that process. Do you know if when he was considered for a visa, if he has already been, so if any considerations in terms of diplomatic or political concerns over in China might have been taken into account?

MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of, no. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)

DPB #178

Released on October 18, 2005

ENDS


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