State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 29 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 29, 2005
Secretary Rice's Meeting with German Foreign Minister / Travel to
Germany / Meeting with Chancellor Merkle and other Members of
German Cabinet / Ukraine Travel / Consolidating Gains from Orange
Revolution / Freedom and Democracy in Belarus
Reports of Alleged Overflights and Secret Detainee Sites / U.S.
Activities Comply with International Laws / EU Letter of Inquiry /
Working Together to Fight a Common Enemy / Secretary Rice Prepared
to Answer Questions / Inquiries from other European Countries /
Tarnishing of U.S. Image Abroad
Deputy Secretary Zoellick's Meeting with German Foreign Minister
Joint Press Availability with German Foreign Minister
German Hostage / U.S. Assistance
GAO Report / Terrorist Financing Efforts / U.S. Progress in Terror
Financing / Cooperation between State Department and other
Report of American Hostage / Four Workers Missing
U.S. Congressional Delegation Visit / Debarkation Denied /
Decision to Leave
Cooperation and Working Relationship with Government
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Palestinian Minister Erekat / Rafa
Agreement / Fatah Primary Elections / Parliamentary Elections /
CHINA / HONG
Support of Democracy and Universal Suffrage in / Determination of
Pace and Scope of Political Reform
U.S. Official Visits
1:03 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any opening statements, so I'd be pleased to get into your questions right away.
QUESTION: The Secretary just saw the German Foreign Minister who did raise the question of the secret prisons. What was the Secretary's response to him? Did she give him any assurances on this at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, let me tell you that it did come up. They did discuss it, but that was certainly not the topic that dominated their conversation. They had a -- it was their first opportunity to meet face to face. The Secretary looks forward to working with the Foreign Minister. She's going to be going to Germany next week and she will see him there along with Chancellor Merkel and other members of the new German cabinet. They talked about Afghanistan. They talked about Iran and the EU-3. They both agreed on the importance of working together to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapons capability. They talked about the importance of the U.S.-European relationship and the U.S.-German relationship as part of that and working on democracy issues in Europe itself. There's still work to do there.
The Secretary will be traveling to Ukraine. They talked a little bit about the importance of the Ukrainian Government consolidating the gains from the Orange Revolution. They talked about the importance of pushing the boundary -- the frontiers of freedom and democracy in Belarus. So they had a wide-ranging conversation.
Now to your specific question, they did discuss the reports of alleged overflights as well as secret detainee sites. The United States realizes that these are topics that are generating interest among European publics, as well as parliaments, and that these questions need to be responded to. We have done so in part from -- in interviews and from this podium as well as other podiums. And Secretary Rice assured the Foreign Minister that United States activities comply with all U.S. laws and the Constitution and that we comply with our international obligations.
We understand that the presidency of the European Union is going to be sending an inquiry to the United States concerning these issues and the Secretary assured the Foreign Minister that the United States would respond to that inquiry.
And I do have to point out -- and the Secretary made this point -- they had -- the Foreign Minister and the Secretary had a good discussion on this point -- that all of these questions take place within the broader context of fighting the war on terrorism. This is a shared responsibility of all countries. The terrorists know no boundaries. They know no regulations or rules or they don't comply with any laws. They don't wear any uniforms.
So what we are together working to try to do is to fight this common enemy that we have which is determined to attack our very way of life, the freedoms that we share with Germany and with European countries. So we are all working together to fight this common enemy and that both the Foreign Minister and the Secretary agreed that it is the highest duty of any government to act to protect its citizens.
So this is the larger context in which these questions arise and they had a good discussion on the issue. Certainly, if it comes up during her visit, she again would be open to any discussion on the topic. She emphasized the fact that friends should be able to talk about whatever topics may be out there and she pledged to the Foreign Minister that the United States would be responding to what we understand is a forthcoming letter from the European Union presidency.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: In two ways. One is that did she give any details about what may or may not be happening that is soliciting this concern and secondly, this is maybe the first time I've heard the high-level expression that -- or acknowledgement -- that it is raising concern in Europe. Do you think that it's been a mistake of the United States not to take these European complaints more seriously earlier?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think, again, we have been responding to them in a variety of fora. I think I can remember talking about this two or three weeks ago when these reports first came out. In terms of the specifics of the conversations, I think what I have given you here is actually a very close readout of their discussion and the back and forth between the two of them. I think you can also talk to the German Foreign Minister and get his impressions of the conversation, but I think it will track pretty closely to what I've told you here.
QUESTION: Did the Foreign Minister ask specifically whether there had been overflights of Germany territory? And when you said that they had a good discussion, I mean, was he raising specific complaints or, you know, questions with her about things that had actually -- you know, did this happen, did that happen?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that I would characterize the situation the way I have for you here; they have discussed these reports of the alleged overflights. They have discussed the reports of the alleged secret detainee sites. In terms of more specifics, I think that that is -- the way I have described it is about the level of specificity that the conversation took place.
QUESTION: But I mean, would -- did that discussion include complaints from him?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it was -- I wouldn't characterize it certainly as complaints. I think that it was a discussion between the foreign ministers of two close allies.
QUESTION: Yes. If asked, is Secretary Rice prepared to tell European officials which countries these alleged sites are in?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we have said that when there is a letter from the EU presidency concerning these issues that we are prepared to respond to that letter. If these topics do arise during her upcoming trip to Europe, I would expect that she is prepared to answer these questions. She did so in an interview yesterday with USA Today. We published the transcript of that interview.
QUESTION: Well, but --
MR. MCCORMACK: So, of course, she is prepared to answer these questions and she has pledged to the Foreign Minister that when we do receive a letter from the EU presidency or whatever form of communication that takes, that we are prepared to respond to it.
QUESTION: So does that respond -- when you say you're prepared to respond, that would include actually discussing the locations of these sites?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, there are these -- there are reports about alleged secret detainee sites. I'm not in a position to discuss or confirm for you those reports.
In terms of what might be included in a response, I think we are going to wait for the actual correspondence of the inquiry to come in from the EU presidency before we get into what might be in that response.
QUESTION: And just to follow up, you had mentioned -- and she said this in the USA Today article interview as well -- that the President has been very clear and not countenance behavior and activities that are outside our laws and outside our international obligations. However, apparently, these black sites are illegal in the countries in which they exist, according to the CIA officials. So it seems like there's a -- what about the illegality of these sites in those countries?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I've seen these news reports, Glenn, and I'm just not in a position from this podium to be able to confirm for you those allegations, so I couldn't get into the substance of what it is that you're talking about here.
QUESTION: No, I don't think I'm asking what -- you to confirm it. I'm talking about the position of the European Union that this appears to be illegal and it seems like the phraseology that both the Secretary of State and you at the podium just now have used about that there -- we're following U.S. laws and we're following, you know, U.S. international obligations. What about -- well, if it is found that these sites are illegal under U.S. -- under EU laws, are you prepared to concede that you might be violating EU laws or those countries might be violating EU laws?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, in order to address the specifics of your question, Glenn, you have to first be able to confirm the allegations that have been printed in many news reports. Like I said, and we have said many times from this podium, I'm just not in a position to confirm those reports.
And again, I have to remind everybody that these questions all arise -- as I have said before -- these questions all arise in the context of a broader war against terrorism that we are all fighting. The terrorists that we are fighting -- al-Qaida and other terrorist groups -- they don't follow any international obligations. They don't follow any set of laws. They don't have any political agenda. Their only agenda is to attack the very freedoms that we are trying to protect. And it is the highest obligation of any leader, whether it is the Chancellor of Germany or the President of the United States to act to protect their citizens within the confines of the laws of that country, as well the international obligations that those countries have under --
QUESTION: -- maybe I could just rephrase the question. Does the United States feel any obligation to follow European laws?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again --
QUESTION: Just a broad, general --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Glenn, all U.S. actions comply with U.S. laws. They comply with the United States Constitution and they comply with our international obligations. I'm not a lawyer. I can't tell you exactly what European laws are and how they mesh up with U.S. laws. I can only tell you that U.S. actions comply with U.S. laws. We don't ask our U.S. Government officials to do things that are illegal. They comply with the Constitution and they are consistent with our international obligations.
MR. MCCORMACK: Teri.
QUESTION: You know, there have been reports and I think you even acknowledged that there have been discussions with European officials about these sites and overflights, so why -- are you saying that you did not give answers to those officials when they brought them up in bilateral meetings, be it with the Secretary, with Dan Fried? You keep saying you're going to be waiting for this EU letter to respond. Why did you have to wait for a letter with the governments that have already asked you for responses, including the UK and have you gotten the response to them?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I can't speak to Assistant Secretary Fried's meetings. I didn't --
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't talk about the back and forth that he had in Europe. What I have told you here reflects what the Secretary's conversation with the German Foreign Minister today.
In terms of a letter from Foreign Secretary Straw in his capacity as the representative of the EU Presidency, we have not yet received a letter. I think that I've seen the press reports that --
QUESTION: That it was sent.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- they intend to send one. No -- it hasn't been sent yet. We haven't received yet. When we -- and I anticipate that we will receive such a letter. I've seen the press reports. I have every indication that we will receive the letter and that we will respond to that letter.
QUESTION: What about -- what about the inquiries that you -- that it's been reported you've gotten from Spain, weeks ago, when the story first came out? Have you not responded in any way to those governments who have asked you previously?
MR. MCCORMACK: We have received a number of different inquiries from around Europe -- I talked about this yesterday -- and that we are going to take a look at those inquiries and that we will respond to those inquiries to the best of our ability and in as forthright, in as timely a manner as possible.
QUESTION: Nobody has received a response yet then?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not to my knowledge.
QUESTION: What's the timeframe for that EU inquiry? Do you know when you expect to have this thing in hand, how long it will take you to respond and will that response be public?
MR. MCCORMACK: Three questions. One, I'm not sure when it will arrive. I anticipate in the next several days. I don't know. In terms of the timeline for an inquiry and what the -- as far as the timeline for the inquiry, like I said, we will respond in as forthright and as timely a manner as we possibly can. And as for the substance of the response, I think that we will wait to receive the inquiry and I will make every effort to make that response public or as much as the response is possible public. But that's an issue that I'll take up on your behalf.
QUESTION: Sean, you mentioned the concerns of the public and the parliaments in Europe.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: But you didn't mention the concerns of governments. Does it mean that governments were aware of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't mean to leave out governments. Certainly governments, publics and parliaments, yes.
MR. MCCORMACK: Saul.
QUESTION: Given that this is the first time you do acknowledge the concerns that the report has raised, do you also acknowledge then that the report, whether or not you end up confirming it or denying it, has tarnished the U.S. image abroad?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in as much as I am here now talking to you about this issue and not talking to you about the great cooperation we have had with the EU-3 -- the expanding cooperation we have had with the EU-3 as well as other countries -- to confront Iran's growing nuclear program, not talking to you about what we are doing together in Afghanistan to help that country emerge from the shadow of the Taliban and years of civil war and not talking to you about the cooperation that we have with respect to Iraq or in the Balkans or fighting the war on terrorism, certainly I think that in the public discourse it is a topic that is taking up quite a bit of time.
I can only tell you in the private meetings, in the private exchanges, it is not a topic that dominated the conversation between the Secretary and the Foreign Minister. I went through list of topics that they talked about and I expect that that will form the basis for the upcoming dialogue between the U.S. and Germany, not only for Deputy Secretary Zoellick's trip to Germany; he leaves today for Germany, but the Secretary's trip to Europe, including to Germany.
In terms of your question about does this tarnish the U.S. image abroad, I can only say that the struggle in which we find ourselves is a common struggle between -- with the U.S. and Europe and other freedom-loving countries around the world fighting terrorism.
Nobody has said that the issues with which we are confronted are easy issues. This is a different kind of enemy. This is a different kind of war. And in that war we use all manner of national power to fight that enemy, whether that's drying up the terrorist finance networks, whether that's confronting terrorist elements militarily, whether that's through law enforcement or whether that's through intelligence cooperation. It is a different kind of war than we or anybody else has fought in history. So, we in the United States, as well as countries in Europe, are trying to deal with the best ways to confront terrorists wherever they may be found and to protect our citizens. And that means in many cases acting against those who would plot or intend to do our citizens harm.
These are difficult issues. But the President has said, the Secretary of State has said and affirmed for you that the United States in its actions does not break U.S. law. All its actions comply with the Constitution and we abide by our international obligations. And all we can do is do our best to try to explain that to publics around the world, to our own public and to European publics or wherever the question may arise.
QUESTION: Sean, are you saying that the Europeans are missing the big picture here, that they're making a mountain out of a molehill and that, you know, there have been the subject of -- I think the Secretary referenced the attacks in England and the attacks in Spain, you know, terrorists are everywhere and that they should not -- that this is -- they're losing focus on that by focusing on the possibility there might be a few black sites in --
MR. MCCORMACK: No that is not what I am saying at all. As a matter of fact, in the Secretary's meeting, in my readout of the Secretary's meeting, we acknowledged that this was generating interest among publics and governments and parliaments as well. And we understand that these issues need to be responded to and the Secretary pledged to the Foreign Minister that we will respond to the EU presidency inquiry.
So, no, I am not trying to minimize the interest of publics in this issue. These are -- in response to these published reports, these allegations, these are certainly legitimate questions that are posed by the press and publics and we will do our best to respond to those questions. But I think it is important -- for everybody -- the media as well as publics, to step back and look at the larger context in which these questions arise. And we think it is just an important issue to note. That's all I'm doing.
QUESTION: Sean, what's taking so long for you to get your answers to them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: What's taking so long for them to get -- for them to get any answers from you?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we are taking a look at those inquiries and we will get back to these governments, as well as to the EU presidency, when we have the inquiry to us in as forthright and timely a manner as possible.
QUESTION: Right. So why is it taking so long?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we are taking a look at these inquiries.
QUESTION: That's not -- that's not an answer.
QUESTION: How long did the last the meeting between the Foreign Minister and the Secretary Rice, because it appeared to last longer than expected?
MR. MCCORMACK: It lasted about 40, 45 minutes.
QUESTION: Forty-five minutes. He did not meet with Under Secretary Zoellick?
MR. MCCORMACK: He did meet with Deputy Secretary Zoellick. Yes, he did. It was prior to meeting with the Secretary.
QUESTION: Has it been the case --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. I'll come back, Saul. Let me move back here. Yes.
QUESTION: You're saying that the Secretary today acknowledged that she discussed the reports of the sites. She did not go beyond reports, is what you're saying? She did not give any information today? This is what I'm hearing from you. Is that the correct understanding of the meeting?
MR. MCCORMACK: What I have given you here in terms of the readout of the meeting I think reflects the Secretary's responses to the German Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: And the second question is that months ago the German officials talked about submitting an official inquiry to the Americans about Al-Misri, Al-Masri, who was a German salesman that was taken by the CIA in Macedonia and dropped off in Albanian after having spent some time in one of these sites, believed to be in Afghanistan. That was like three or four months ago but the lawyer of that man said they were working through the foreign ministry and were expecting a response from the Americans. Do you know if his case has come up recently or if the United States has responded to the German Government on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: It didn't come up in today's meeting. I will look into whether or not we have received an inquiry and whether or not we have provided a response, and we'll do our best to get that information to you.
QUESTION: Another subject?
QUESTION: New topic?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't think we're quite done with this one yet. (Laughter.) Nicholas and we'll come back to the front.
QUESTION: You said we needed to step back and look at the bigger context. Does that mean that if the existence of any sites likes this or any other flights like these discussed here and elsewhere, that the context could be an excuse for the existence of those places?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. That is not what I'm trying to say. First of all, as I responded to Glenn's question, I talked about reports of these allegations, allegations of overflights, allegations of these secret detainee facilities. I can't get into confirming or denying the existence of -- the accuracy of those reports.
I'm not trying to do anything more or less than what I just said in terms of noting the context they are in -- just reminding everybody the context in which these questions arise; that reminding publics, as well as the media, when they ask these questions that we are fighting a war and that is, as I said, a different kind of war in which we as a government and a society have to deal with issues with which we really haven't had to deal in neither the depth or scope that we have -- that we are right now.
QUESTION: All right. So that means that you can't be as open as you would like to be because of these reasons you just pointed out. Is that what you're saying?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: You would like to be more open, but you can't because it's a different kind of war. Is that what you're saying?
MR. MCCORMACK: What I am saying is that there are these news reports, there are these allegations -- you can't get into those. But what I am trying to emphasize to you is the fact that any government needs to act to protect its own people. If -- ask yourself the question -- if you are able to detain a terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands of people before that act took place -- absolutely, a government would make every effort in order to do that.
But the context -- so that's an example of the kind of -- the context in which this struggle takes place. But the American public and foreign publics need to understand that the leadership of this country, the leadership of this State Department does not ask its people to break U.S. law, to do anything that would contravene the U.S. Constitution or that would contravene our international obligations.
QUESTION: Just one more on the meeting with the Foreign Minister. Did -- I'm sorry, I missed your quick readout, but I assume that the UN reform came up in the meeting with the Foreign Minister.
MR. MCCORMACK: Did not -- did not come up at all.
QUESTION: Did not come up at all. Okay. Thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Saul.
QUESTION: Can you explain the reasoning behind not having a joint news conference between the officials? If I'm remembering rightly, during the Bush Administration, I don't think a German Foreign Minister has come for a substantive meeting and not had a joint news conference.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- both sides simply made the decision that they wanted to take more time in order for the two of them to get together to talk through the long list of issues that we have. The meeting actually went longer than scheduled and I'm sure Secretary Rice will have an opportunity to appear in a joint press availability when she travels to Germany. She looks forward to doing that. It should be absolutely no negative indication of the welcome in which we wanted to give the German Foreign Minister here.
The Secretary was very pleased to receive him and to have the discussion that they did and as I said, the discussion actually went longer than originally scheduled.
QUESTION: So as you calculated that it was worth spending more time in the actual meeting than sort of being open to the public about what was said. Were you at all concerned that that might leave the impression that in fact you didn't want to appear in public because the questions would all have been about the controversy over the secret prisons?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think I have, in fact, been very open about the discussion. What I have tried to do here is try to give you as faithful a reflection of their discussion as possible. Now I understand I'm a distant second to the Secretary of State, but she looks forward to traveling to Europe. She looks forward to appearing before you in joint press availabilities when she travels and she also does that on a regular basis here at the State Department as well.
QUESTION: Did the issue of a German hostage come up?
MR. MCCORMACK: The German Foreign Minister did thank the United States for its support on that issue. It did come up and certainly we will do everything that we possibly can to provide the German Government whatever information we have on this issue. And we certainly want to see that individual returned to their family safe and sound at the earliest possible moment.
QUESTION: Just a follow up on the hostage situation. Can you bring us up to date on the missing U.S. person presumed to be a hostage and the reports of Al Jazeera having a video -- do you have anything you can add?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have seen the news reports and our people have not had an opportunity to review the videotape to either confirm or deny its validity, whether or not the people who appeared in that videotape are the ones that the captors purport to say who they are. I know that the organization that has sponsored these individuals has confirmed that there are four of their workers who are missing. They have not released their names. And I think that in the interest of the family, I'm not going to be able to get into any -- many more details than that. Safe to say, we are in contact in close contact with the American citizen's family and that we want to do everything that we can to see that this individual is returned to their family safe and sound.
Anything else on that topic?
MR. MCCORMACK: Venezuela.
QUESTION: The latest row with the Venezuelan Government. There seems to be three versions here: the Venezuela Government's, the congressional delegation and the embassy. Central to this whole question seems to be whether the delegation was denied to get off the plane and that's why they had to leave or whether they were tired of an hour, an hour and a half of negotiations and decided to leave.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure what version of events has come out from the Venezuelan Government, but I can tell you that they have apologized for what happened. So I'm not sure what they said prior to the apology, but they have apologized for what happened. What I believe happened -- the reports that we have gotten back -- is that the delegation landed in Venezuela and that they were not allowed to disembark according to the procedures that had been already agreed with under the Venezuela Government.
Our people on the ground sought to fix the situation with the Venezuelan Government. They weren't able to, despite their best efforts, despite an hour and a half of trying to fix it and to get the Venezuelan Government to comply with the agreement that they had reached with our Embassy concerning the disembarkation of the delegation.
After an hour and a half, I think the delegation decided that that was long enough to try to fix the situation and they decided to leave.
QUESTION: Do you expect them to go back and try to resume their schedule at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: You'll have to check with the Congressman's office on that.
QUESTION: On Venezuela, too?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: A main political party in Venezuela has withdrawn from the parliamentary election next month. Do you have any reaction about it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Libby.
QUESTION: New topic. Sean, the GAO office -- GAO released a report today that says, "The U.S. Government lacks an integrated strategy for coordinating training and technical assistance to foreign countries to help disrupt terror financing." Do you have a reaction to the report's conclusions and is there a need to resolve interagency disputes between State and Treasury and Justice, as the report suggests?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we haven't seen the final version of the report.
QUESTION: It's --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I understand that it -- I've seen the news reports, actually, that highlight some of these conclusions. I can only say that we will take a look at the report and if there are areas in which we in the State Department or we in the U.S. Government can do better in drying up these terrorist finances, of course we're going to take a look at how we might do better.
But I think that in the past five years we have made extraordinary progress in -- on this fight -- on this front in the war against terrorism. We have dried up millions and millions of dollars of potential terrorist financing. This is the lifeblood of terrorism. This is what allows people to travel. This is what allows people to buy the explosives that kill innocent civilians. So we have made tremendous progress. If you look back where we started five years ago, I think we have made significant progress not only in our internal mechanisms within the U.S. Government but also working with foreign governments.
But that said, if there are ways that we can do better, of course we're going to take a look at them.
QUESTION: Have there been, you know, disputes between the State Department and Treasury as to who leads the effort?
MR. MCCORMACK: I couldn't speak to that. We'll take a look at the report, and if there are any issues to resolve, we'll resolve them.
Let's move to the back row. We'll go in the back. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Given the GAO's concern about interagency friction, shall we say, can you characterize your relationship with the CIA and the Pentagon as regards the secret prisons and the answer that you may have to give to the EU presidency inquiry?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think in a -- to get to the substance of your question, I think I've addressed it in the way that I can address it. In terms of the general issue of U.S. Government interagency coordination, our cooperation with the intelligence community and the Department of Defense, I think we have excellent cooperation between the State Department and other elements of the interagency.
That is not to say there aren't disagreements, that there is not healthy debate. You want that in an interagency process. You want all views to be aired. But what is important at the end of the day when a decision has been made by the leadership, whether that's at the principals level or at the level of the President, it's important that all those elements of the U.S. Government work together. And that's what we try to do on a daily basis here at the State Department and I think probably in other agencies in the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: The nugget would be if you have a strong enough relationship with the CIA and the Pentagon to know with confidence about the details of any secret prisons that exist. Do you feel that way?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, on the substance of your question, I think what you're trying to get at is the same thing that Glenn did, the same thing that Nicholas did, and certainly I respect your question, but I'm going to have to refer you back to the answers I've already given on that.
QUESTION: Do you have any concerns about -- sorry, changing subject -- about Canada's Government falling and any progress then that may be stilted on issues that are underway right now?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this is a domestic political development in Canada. This is, you know, democracy at work. I think that the Canadian people will have an opportunity to go to the polls at some future date.
In terms of our ability to work with the Canadian Government, that is ongoing. Certainly, you know, my understanding is that the Martin government will continue in office until elections, and we look forward to working with that government until that point. And then if there is a new government after elections, then we will work with that government as well.
QUESTION: But surely there's got to be some impact if the government is having to spend its time in new elections and candidates and running that they won't be able to devote as much attention to the critical cross-border issues that you're working on.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that -- you point out that there are certainly critical issues between the United States and Canada. We share such a long border and we have such a deep set of overlapping interests and because those issues are so important, we're going to continue working on them. The business of government continues even though the political system may be churning. So we're going to continue working at the -- certainly the working level as well as the political level with the Canadian Government.
QUESTION: And one last -- are you hopeful that an incoming government might be more pro-U.S. than perhaps the outgoing government?
MR. MCCORMACK: We are prepared -- we've been very pleased in our cooperation and working relationship with Prime Minister Martin's government and we look forward to working with whatever Canadian Government comes into office.
QUESTION: Do you have any details -- well, it's a change of topic. Do you have any readings on --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll go -- and then we'll go back there. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you have details on the meeting with Saeb Erekat? Afterwards, he said that he asked the Secretary to please put more pressure on Israel in the buildup to the elections.
MR. MCCORMACK: They talked about a lot about the issues that you would expect they'd talk about. They talked about implementation of the Rafah agreement. The Secretary underlined that it is very important that the Palestinian Authority work to uphold its end of the Rafah agreement. I would note that Palestinians continue to pass through the Rafah crossing, so that is certainly a positive sign. But implementing other aspects of the agreement is also important. They have some deadlines coming up concerning travel between Gaza and the West Bank, so she urged Mr. Erekat and the Palestinian Authority to keep their eye on the ball and to work to implement this agreement.
They talked about a little bit about the Fatah primary elections. I understand that they did move forward in some areas. In other areas, the Palestinian Authority is going to have to provide additional security but I think, we understand from Mr. Erekat, that those primaries will move forward. The Secretary underlined the importance of the Palestinian political process continuing to move forward with an eye toward parliamentary elections in January. And what she did was also underscore to Mr. Erekat that the importance of the Israelis and the Palestinians working together on all variety of issues, including preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections and that we will certainly urge both sides to work closely together on those issues. She emphasized the importance of the Palestinian Authority living up to its obligations with regard to security as well.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. encouraging the Palestinians to come up with some sort of criteria or qualifications for candidates running for legislative elections so as to try to not have potential militants or terrorists running in those elections?
MR. MCCORMACK: This gets to the Hamas issue that's come up. Again, she underlined in this meeting as she has before, that it is important for the Palestinian people to deal with the fundamental contradiction of having groups that want to keep one foot in the camp of terrorism and one foot in the camp of governance. You can't do that. Government has to have the sole right to use force in order to public order as well to fight terrorism.
As for how the Palestinians deal with that issue, that is up to them. We have said this repeatedly that the manner in which they deal with that issue, the timetable in which they deal with that issue is one for the Palestinian people to decide on. It is fundamentally -- this is a question about how their political environment is going to unfold.
And one of the things that we have seen -- it's very interesting -- is when people stand for elections, up to this point in the Palestinians areas, those people who are running on platforms of bringing a more peaceful, stable environment to the Palestinian people are the ones that are succeeding in these elections. The best example is President Abbas. He ran on the platform of bringing peace and stability to the Palestinian people and delivering to them a brighter economic future.
So we will see how the Palestinian people vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections. But in terms of the question that you raise, our -- the Secretary underlined again our position on that issue.
QUESTION: So that came up in the meeting. Are you -- but what about the idea of some sort of specific winnowing out process before those elections take place? Is that something that you've encouraged?
MR. MCCORMACK: That topic didn't come up in the meeting. They talked generally about how the political process is unfolding as well as issues of security as well.
QUESTION: And did he indicate whether the elections were on track for January or that they might be delayed?
MR. MCCORMACK: We don't have any indication that they are going to be delayed at this point.
QUESTION: Did they talk about frozen funds?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Did they talk about Palestinian funds frozen and the U.S. lawsuit?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
Yes, sir. Okay. Is this on the same topic?
QUESTION: Yes. It's on the same topic.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Then we will come back to you. Sorry about that.
QUESTION: I wanted know if they spoke about this Palestinian leader, the Fatah leader who was in jail in Israel and got very good (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Marwan Barghouti.
QUESTION: Yes. Did they speak about him?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. No.
QUESTION: Change the topic. About Hong Kong? The Secretary had friends from Hong Kong, which is a prominent democracy fighter, Mr. Martin Lee.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: They have half an hour talk and this is the third time they meet together. I'm not sure, question one, the Secretary (inaudible) on December 4, there will be a mass demonstration on Hong Kong, which is urging the Hong Kong Government, an essential government, to support the universal suffrage in Hong Kong at ASAP or as promised in Hong Kong's Basic Law. So question one, did the Secretary (inaudible) on December 4 there will be another mass scale demonstration on the street?
And question two, did the Secretary support universal suffrage in Hong Kong?
And question three, the Secretary met the Hong Kong Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, weeks before. Compared with these two visits, did the Secretary express the same message to these two prominent leaders in Hong Kong?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that she expressed our position with respect to the questions that you raised and our position is thus: That we support democracy and universal suffrage in Hong Kong and that in both of these meetings -- and in today's meeting, the Secretary emphasized our conviction that the people of Hong Kong should determine the pace and scope of political reform in accordance with the Basic Law. We believe that this is in the interest of the people of Hong Kong, China, and the region and will allow Hong Kong to maintain its unique and important role.
QUESTION: In terms of the scale that the visit -- will you compare this two visits with Martin and Donald?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to compare the two. She was pleased to meet with both gentlemen.
QUESTION: But, yet last time, Donald have a chance to meet the Vice President. This time, Martin has only the chance to meet the Secretary. So is it Martin has less attention than Tsang?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nice try. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Mr. Lee said that he told the Secretary that democracy in Hong Kong is in trouble. Did she respond to that and did she give any specific support for direct elections in Hong Kong?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of universal suffrage, I answered the question. We believe that the people of Hong Kong should determine the pace and scope of political reform in accordance with the Basic Law. And the Secretary did underline our very strong support for democracy and universal suffrage in Hong Kong.
QUESTION: Mr. Lee also said that he invited the Secretary to visit Hong Kong as soon as possible so that she could see for herself what the situation was like there. I just wondered whether she had -- is considering this.
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you updated on her travel schedule.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: When President Bush visit Asia early this -- well, in past the few weeks, he did mention that China should embrace democracy and cited Taiwan as an example. Do you think Hong Kong -- the democracy process in Hong Kong will have any implication for this -- for democracy in China as well as in Taiwan?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of our position with respect to democracy in Hong Kong and I think I've outlined where we stand on the issue.
QUESTION: How about China?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Teri.
QUESTION: Not on China. Are you done?
QUESTION: On Hong Kong. Just quick one?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Would a visit to Hong Kong be even in consideration? I mean, it's, you know, it's not a sovereign state. Will the Secretary of State go to a place that is under the sovereignty of another government because --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're going to be sending quite a few people there to --
QUESTION: In the Doha --
MR. MCCORMACK: For the Doha round. So --
QUESTION: Of course, but that's not bilateral.
MR. MCCORMACK: Exactly, but I just wanted to make the point that U.S. officials do go to Hong Kong and I think on a regular basis. In terms of the Secretary's travel schedule, we'll keep you updated on that.
QUESTION: My question is yesterday you said you would check on whether there had been meetings to this point between Ambassador Khalilzad and --
MR. MCCORMACK: There have not been.
QUESTION: Oh, there have not been.
MR. MCCORMACK: There have not been.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:49 p.m.)
DPB # 202
Released on November 29, 2005