State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 1, 2006
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing March 1, 2006
Press Briefing (Corrected)
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
March 1, 2006
Statement: Secretary Rice Travel to Latin America and Asia /
Reason for Travel to Chile, Peru, Australia and Indonesia
Statement: Deputy Secretary Zoellick Travel to Cambridge, MA for
John F. Kennedy Forum at Harvard University
Visa for Former Taliban Member / Visa Eligibility Requirements
Iran Contradicting Commitments Made to EU-3 and IAEA Board of
Governors / Support for Russian Proposal / Referral to Security
Commitment to Safe, Legal Migration to U.S. / Department of
Justice Will Examine the Ruling from the US District Court
ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
Support for President Abbas' Opposition to Terror / Palestinian
Authority Must Prevent Violence
Killing of Opposition Politician / Government of Kazakhstan Shares
US Concern / US to Provide Assistance in Investigation
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
UAE is U.S. Ally / UAE Observance of Primary Boycott of Israel /
Negotiation of Middle East Free Trade Agreement / Visit of
Commerce Under Secretary McCormick to Region
Civil Nuclear Program Negotiations
12:53 p.m. EST
MR. ERELI: Let me begin with -- by announcing Secretary Rice's travel to Latin America and Asia. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to Chile, Peru, Indonesia and Australia from March 10th to the 18th. She will be having bilateral meetings at all stops, obviously. But in addition, she will attend the inauguration of President Michelle Bachelet in Chile and hold the first ministerial level Trilateral Security Dialogue with Australia and Japan in Sidney.
Also on the travel front, I wanted to make you aware that Deputy Secretary Zoellick will be going to Cambridge tomorrow to participate in an open forum at the John F. Kennedy School of Government on the future of U.S. foreign policy. That'll be an open press event. And I'm now open to your questions.
QUESTION: Daytime or evening?
MR. ERELI: It will be at 6 p.m.
QUESTION: Cambridge, Massachusetts, as opposed to Cambridge, England?
MR. ERELI: The Cambridge where the JFK School of Government is.
QUESTION: Just want to get that clear for all our international --
QUESTION: Is there a theme in a visit to Chile, Peru, Australia? They seem like disparate countries. Maybe she has never been there. Maybe --
MR. ERELI: Well, there are a number of things at play here. Number one, obviously, the inauguration of the President of Chile which marks, I think, another sort of significant development of democracy in Chile and in the hemisphere. Chile is a country where we had a good relationship across the board and I think it's an event that we really look forward to.
Peru, consistent with our broad efforts to promote a positive agenda for the hemisphere. We would note that Peru has recently concluded a free trade agreement with the United States. That is a significant development and part of a broader effort to promote trade economic reform and help the citizens of the region. So it's a good chance while she's in Chile to go to Colombia -- go to Peru and then travel to Indonesia and Australia. You'll remember that there had been previously scheduled travel, so this is an opportunity to make up for that trip.
Obviously, Australia in addition to our very strong partnership as close, close allies, we will be having, as I said, the Trilateral Security Dialogue with Australia and Japan.
And Indonesia, I would note as the world's third largest democracy, have an active program of cooperation in counterterrorism in democratic development, in regional security, and we'll be able to discuss all those issues on that visit as well.
QUESTION: Thank you very much. It's old hat by now, but Iran is saying again that it has no -- sees no need to resume a moratorium on uranium enrichment. This conflicts with negotiations with Russia, but anyhow do you care to have any comment on that?
MR. ERELI: As you said, it conflicts -- well, not only does it conflict with the purpose of negotiations with Russia, it's contradictory to what the IAEA Board of Governors has called for and what they had previously committed to the EU-3 to do. So it is a negative signal. It is a move in the wrong direction. It is cause for concern. That concern was reflected, I think as I said yesterday, in the Director General's report, and frankly that's why -- that's one of the reasons why, after having tried to resolve this issue through negotiations and through a good and reasonable proposal from Russia, we're having to go to the Security Council.
QUESTION: Actually, yesterday, I think, Putin made some remarks that said that he thinks they will be able to get a deal with Iran. Did you see those?
MR. ERELI: I did.
MR. ERELI: We'll see.
QUESTION: Previously --
MR. ERELI: As I said, you know, from the beginning we've said that we support the Russian proposal, it's in the context of the broader EU-3 diplomacy. So far, there's no indication frankly that the terms of the Russian proposal have been agreed to by Iran.
QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, on Cyprus. Before yesterday, you told me that there is no legal prohibition against the trading the U.S. is conducting with occupied northern part of Cyprus. You also asked me to let you know if I can find one. As a matter of fact, there are four. The legal prohibitions (inaudible) legal statements and I will specify each and every one and I would like your response on each one, either now or later as a taken question.
MR. ERELI: Okay. Let me ask you this, Mr. Lambros.
MR. ERELI: I'm happy to take your questions. It sounds like it's going to be a little long, so let's, after the briefing you can give us the four laws and we'll endeavor to get you a response. Okay?
QUESTION: I accept the proposal. For yesterday and we've seen in the last two days there have been talk about the entire Turkish press and we dive in today, nose first, from the legal Turkish Cypriot television by Iraq of the Turkish Cypriot community citing the entire dialogue you and I conducted the other day for this issue, and expressed inter alia that the Greek journalist continued by asking that the U.S. spokesman Mr. Ereli either the Administration has informed the Congress that terminated a change of its policy. Mr. Ereli's reply this time to Greek reporter was even sharper, there is not even a single standing regulation or law that does or prohibits sending goods to northern Cyprus. The DoS -- the spokesman Mr. Ereli for the first time in history officially expressed the view that trading with northern Cyprus is not illegal.
How do you comment and do you agree?
MR. ERELI: My comment is the same as I've made before. I don't have anything more to add. Let's move on.
QUESTION: I just wanted you to change subjects to the recent case of 15 Cuban American -- Cuban -- Cubans, not Cuban Americans that came to Florida and thought they had landed on dry land on a bridge that apparently wasn't attached to the U.S. anymore.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: And a judge in Florida has now rendered a decision asking U.S. officials, federal officials, to use their best efforts to help the deported Cubans come back here, saying that the original ruling was in error. Do you have any comment on what the Interests Section in Havana might be doing to use their best efforts?
MR. ERELI: I don't have details for you on that. What I can say is that, obviously, we are committed to the safe, legal and orderly migration from Cuba to the United States. We'll be looking up at the decision by the decision by the U.S. district court and determining what, if any, steps we need to take as a result.
QUESTION: Can I follow up?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have an opinion as to whether the Coast Guard was justified in sending these people back? Would you like to see them come here? Is there any -- think you can pressure the --
MR. ERELI: I think we've got a clear policy on this. We would urge Cubans not to risk their lives at sea. The Department of Justice has -- or the Department of Justice can comment on the court decision. I don't have any opinion to share with you on the matter, other than to restate what our -- what, I think, our policy is.
QUESTION: Do you plan on exerting any pressure on the Cuban Government in this particular case to allow visas to these particular people -- exit visas?
MR. ERELI: Like I said, I'll check and see what we're going to -- you know, what actions we might take as a result of this decision.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about a couple of killings, just in case you have something to contribute to this? The military chief of Islamic Jihad was killed --
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- in Gaza City. The Israelis say they had nothing to do with it. Have you looked into it, State, you know, something we don't know. Of course some of it isn't being reported about it.
The other one, in a sense, is more intriguing because it's not Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party. Mahmoud Abbas, you extol the promoter of peace. Where they've said the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade has taken responsibility for killing a Jewish settler. I don't know that that promotes peace. But do you have anything on either of those?
MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen the second story. The first story, obviously, I'd refer you to the Israeli Government for comment. I don't have any facts available to shed light on the issue for you. I think you know what our position is on this, on this general issue; that hasn't changed.
MR. ERELI: Okay, here.
QUESTION: All right, never mind. I mean, you know, the other one, in a sense has got more of a Washington element because of your support for Fatah, so it would be interesting if --
MR. ERELI: Well, obviously --
QUESTION: -- were true and if you found it disturbing.
MR. ERELI: I think that President Abbas has made clear his government's unqualified opposition to terror and to acts against civilians. And he has called upon all political groups in the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian territories to subscribe to that political program. We concur on that call and we believe that the Palestinian Authority needs to take every action possible to prevent the kinds of acts that you describe.
QUESTION: Did you get any information on the visa for Mr. Rahmatullah?
MR. ERELI: I did. I thought we shared it with you. The information is that he applied for a visa. We looked at the reasons for his wanting to come here, his eligibility, determined he was eligible and issued him a visa.
QUESTION: Our question yesterday was also how does someone become an ex-terrorist if you were a member of the Taliban?
MR. ERELI: Well, I guess all I can tell you about that is that at the time he applied for the purposes for which he wished to come to the United States and based on a review of his activity in the past, it was determined that there was no basis for ineligibility. Put in simple English, I think what you can conclude from that is -- well, I don't know that if -- if he was indeed a member of the Taliban, being a member of the Taliban in and of itself is not -- was not necessarily and is not -- was not necessarily at the time, given what he was doing and what he wanted to come to the United States, grounds for ineligibility.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: A question on Armenia. Mr. Ereli, following The Washington Post story, the New York Times and the Associated Press of February 25th wrote similar views citing statements by a prominent U.S. congressman that Public Broadcast Service, PBS, must cancel the program on the Armenian genocides scheduled to be broadcast, as I told you the other day, on April 17th due to the point that it includes two persons who denied that the massacres committed by the Ottoman Turks constitute a genocide. What is the U.S. position on the Armenian genocide issue, not on the --
MR. ERELI: Well, I think you know our position on the genocide has been stated very clearly and I will refer you to the public record on it. If you'd like something more detailed, I can get it for you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you have -- have you been watching the situation in Kazakhstan with the opposition and the protests over the killing of an opposition politician?
MR. ERELI: It's an issue that we are following very closely, frankly, and that we have been coordinating with the Government of Kazakhstan on. Specifically I would note, number one, that the Government of Kazakhstan has expressed concern about it and has undertaken a thorough investigation. Number two, I believe --
QUESTION: "It" being the murder?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
MR. ERELI: Number two, that they've already detained a number of people. Number three, that we are working with them to provide investigative assistance for the government. So it's an issue we're aware of. It's an issue we're concerned about. The Government of Kazakhstan shares their concern and we're working together to address it.
QUESTION: Well, today the President made some comments that indicated he didn't want to tolerate any more of these protests.
MR. ERELI: Which president? Our President or the --
QUESTION: In favor of the opposition.
MR. ERELI: Our President or the --
QUESTION: No, the President of Kazakhstan.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, okay.
QUESTION: I don't know if that's --
MR. ERELI: I haven't seen that statement so I can't --
QUESTION: Yeah, he warned that public protests would not be tolerated.
MR. ERELI: Right. I hadn't seen those statements. I can't speak to them specifically. As I said, the murder of an opposition politician is a serious crime. We think based on our dealings and conversations with the Government of Kazakhstan that they recognize that and they have taken actions in response. Obviously, in any situation like this where passions are high, it's important both to, I think, respect citizens' civil and political rights and at the same time refrain from violence and refrain from actions that provoke confrontation and provoke violence and that's a responsibility incumbent on all citizens.
QUESTION: On governments?
MR. ERELI: Including governments. Yeah, citizens and governments. Yeah, that's everybody.
QUESTION: This is on the ports issue.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: A lot of lawmakers on Congress, particularly in the Democratic Party, yesterday raised a lot of objections about the deal, specifically that the United Arab Emirates enforces an Arab boycott of Israel. Is this country really an ally if it's enforcing a boycott against a major U.S. ally?
MR. ERELI: A couple of points. One is the UAE is our third largest trading partner in the region. Point number two, the UAE has been a close and steadfast ally in the war on terror and including, I guess, Afghanistan. Third, I think the UAE is supportive of our efforts and the efforts of the international community to bring peace between Arabs and Israelis and specifically Israelis and Palestinians.
Finally, on the boycott issue, yes, the UAE observes the Arab League's primary boycott of Israel. It has renounced or does not enforce the secondary and tertiary aspects of the boycott, which means that it does business with companies, including American companies, that do business with Israel.
This is -- obviously, you know, the United States wants to see the boycott against Israel dropped completely by everybody, and that's our position and we want to see that. We are working toward that, frankly, with the Government of the UAE and we are working with that in the context of negotiating a free trade agreement which is designed to broaden regional economic integration within the context of the President's Middle East free trade agreement. If you're going to have a free trade agreement, then -- with any country but particularly a country in the Middle East, then this boycott needs to be dealt with, the boycott issue needs to be dealt with.
We have taken a number of steps with the UAE to address this issue. The most recent step was a joint State-Commerce anti-boycott compliance team, which visited the UAE in February. I would note that Under Secretary of Commerce McCormick will visit in March to discuss trade issues of which this will be one. So we are committed; I think the UAE is committed to resolving these boycott issues as part of its FTA negotiation and negotiation process.
And finally I'd make the point that having said all this, the issue of Dubai Ports World and its investment in the United States is a -- and a CFIUS is a security-related issue and all of this we're talking about has nothing to do with security.
QUESTION: These lawmakers, democratic senators are saying that because the UAE, if you look at the voting record of the United Nations and things like that, they don't necessarily side with the United States. Do you feel that this is an ally that's on your side with your international agenda?
MR. ERELI: Very definitely. The UAE has a strong record of being on the right side of the fundamental issue, which is free trade, regional peace and security and the global war on terror. And again, I think that as part of this review process we need to keep a focus on what the issue is. The issue is, is there a threat to national security here. And the basis for that is looking at Dubai Ports World; that's what the review process is focusing on. Obviously, I think we want to answer and be responsive to -- and this is something that U.S. officials across the board have made clear, we want to answer and be responsive to concerns of members of Congress and that's what we're going to do. And certainly within the new review and investigative phase, we're going to follow through on that. I think that's about it.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The trip of the President specifically to India, did he concentrate on the (inaudible) nuclear power and its separation of the military and civil nuclear program? Did the Under Secretary Burns negotiation in New Delhi -- do you expect agreement be signed between two countries now?
MR. ERELI: It depends if we can negotiate a deal. We'd like to do it -- we'd like to get it done. As I said yesterday, we will conclude a deal when the terms are right and that's going to be determined by what's said in the negotiating room, not by who's visiting and when. So the issue here is substance. If we can resolve the substance at the time of the visit, great, but the time of the visit is not going to determine whether we conclude a deal or not. What's going to determine that is whether the terms are acceptable.
QUESTION: Do you expect anything -- any more negotiating regarding Iran?
MR. ERELI: Where?
QUESTION: In the (inaudible)
MR. ERELI: I don't know if negotiate is the word I would use. Obviously, the issue of Iran and Iran's nuclear program is of concern to all of us, including India, and it could well be entirely possible that it will be a subject of discussion. But there are no negotiations going on on that score.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout on the Presidential Memorandum today for the Secretary of State regarding the waiver on the Export and Import Bank to and -- in Libya?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't. I'll see if I can get you something on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:17 p.m.)
Released on March 1, 2006