State Dept. Daily Press Briefing May 26, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
May 26, 2006
Update on Nicholas Burns' Meetings on Iran / P-5+1 Conference call
Scheduled for Tuesday / Minister's Meeting on Remaining Iran
Nuclear Issues Pending
Failed Negotiations Could Result in Security Council Action
Russian Delegation Headed to Iran to Discuss Options / Russian
Message to Iranians should be to Discourage Isolation
Chinese Role in Iran Negotiations Constructive
Russian Sales of Missile Defense System to Iran
US-India Civil Nuclear Agreement / Deal Moving Forward in
UN Security Council Reform to Allow India, Others, Seats on
U.S. Backs Expanded Security Council Membership for Japan
AZERBAIJAN / ARMENIA
Dan Fried's Visit to Caucasus / Meetings with Minsk Group
US, India to Support New Government's Efforts to Strengthen
12:32 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any opening statements, so I'm happy to jump into whatever questions you may have today.
QUESTION: By any chance, could you be a little more specific about when the ministers will meet on the package. (Inaudible) yesterday? I realize it's in play.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. No, no, no. Unfortunately, I can't. It hasn't been finally nailed down. Still sticking with likely in Europe, likely at the end of next week. So we're second half of next week.
QUESTION: Minor question.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Has there been any fine tuning in the interim, you know, since --
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, Barry --
QUESTION: Any calls?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, not at this point, Barry. But Nick -- Under Secretary Nick Burns just got back last night. He has debriefed the Secretary. And I would expect that, you know, she'll have some time to think over what he had to say as well as other members of the interagency and I assume the same process is happening in capitals around the world. There is a phone call with the P-5+1 political directors scheduled for Tuesday morning. So I expect that that will be the next first contact of all of them.
QUESTION: Oh, the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Phone call.
QUESTION: Conference call.
MR. MCCORMACK: Conference call. Yeah, conference call.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to any of her colleagues on the phone?
MR. MCCORMACK: She has not spoken -- no, she has not spoken to any of her colleagues about this.
QUESTION: What does it mean if there is a phone call on Tuesday, then a ministerial on -- later on in the week?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Is it the sign that you need only a few days to nail down an agreement or is it on the contrary the sign that you need the ministries -- the ministers to gather a new time again to nail down an agreement or make tough decisions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I would hope that it is the case when the ministers do get together at the end of next week -- likely, the end of the next week in Europe -- that they'll be able to come to closure on any remaining issues. I think the political directors are going to try to move the ball forward and come to closure on whatever issues remain. If they're not able to during their conference call or whatever other bilateral contacts they have, then the ministers will try to hammer things out.
QUESTION: Okay. So you expect something final to get out of this?
MR. MCCORMACK: We certainly -- that is our hope. That is our hope.
QUESTION: Again, I know it's evolving. Isn't this all in preparation for submission to the UN Security Council?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it depends. It depends. Yeah.
QUESTION: Does the Security Council -- are you expecting to put whatever you come up with before the Security Council at some point?
MR. MCCORMACK: If -- it depends on the Iranians' answer. If they choose the pathway of negotiation, then, you know, then you proceed in negotiations. If not, then you start proceeding down the road of the Security Council, Barry.
QUESTION: So it means you expect a deadline or you expect to give them some times -- some --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I would expect that, you know, again, you have to go through the steps here, you have to come to agreement on the package, you have to present that to the Iranians. And then I would expect there would be some time where they would have the opportunity to consider their options here. I don't have a particular timetable for you right now. I think that's something that the political directors as well as the ministers will be talking about. But you know, we have to get -- finish work on the package first.
QUESTION: Are you aware of reports that a Russian delegation will already head to Tehran this weekend to discuss some of the incentives in the package? And if that's true, it would indicate that it is already -- that at least the incentive side would already be finalized.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'm not sure exactly the extent to which they are going to get into talking about specifics. I am aware that there's a delegation that will be going to Tehran from Moscow, but in terms of discussing the specifics, I think there was agreement among the political directors that until you actually have this whole package put together they weren't going to be -- they weren't going to be talking about it. They may talk in general terms about the choices that the Iranians may face, and I would expect that they would encourage the Iranians to return to the pathway of negotiation as well as constructive engagement. But you should get in touch with the Russian delegation to find out exactly what it is that they're going to be talking about.
QUESTION: Would you be concerned if, as this -- as a quote in this story indicates, they would focus on the proposals for incentives which Iran will enjoy that stops uranium enrichment? That seems pretty specific.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, you don't have a package, you don't have agreement on a package here, and these things all fit together so you can't have incentives in isolation from disincentives if, in fact, they choose not to engage the international community. So you know, from our point of view, you don't have a package until you have everything agreed on both sides, incentives and disincentives.
QUESTION: Neither has the U.S., as I understand it, decided what the manner is in which you will convey the package to Iran.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.
QUESTION: Is that correct? So it --
MR. MCCORMACK: That's right, yeah.
QUESTION: It wouldn't necessarily be the Russians going to Tehran.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Yeah, this is not their going to Tehran to act on behalf of the P-5+1 to present the package.
QUESTION: So have you been in contact with the Russians trying to clarify what they're doing on this trip, or is that not --
MR. MCCORMACK: I know that there was a discussion before -- over the past several days, I know, Under Secretary Burns had this discussion with his counterpart, Russian counterpart, as well as his other P-5+1 counterparts about this trip. We knew about it. Other members of the P-5+1 knew about the trip in advance. But my understanding is that they are not going there on behalf of the P-5+1 to present the Iranians with any decisions because there is not a final decision on the package yet.
QUESTION: What was your understanding that they were going there to discuss then, if it's --
MR. MCCORMACK: You can talk to the Russian delegation about what exactly their message is going to be. We would hope that it's going to be a message of come back into the main stream of international behavior; don't isolate yourself.
QUESTION: You've got the Russians visiting, they're not too isolated.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, it's good the Russians have engaged with the Iranians. It's good if you have various outside entities going to Tehran and impressing upon them the fact that they face further isolation from the rest of the world if they continue down the pathway in which they're proceeding.
QUESTION: You spoke about interagency process. Does it mean there are other ministries involved in this package?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, each government has its own processes and we ourselves have the "interagency" process. And all that means is that the various cabinet departments with an interest in this issue get together and they agree upon, yes, this is the approach that we, as a U.S. Government, should take. Everybody brings their perspectives to the table; that's how we hammer things out in the government. I expect that there are similar processes in each of the other P-5+1 governments. They'll differ according to their structures and their rules and regulations and operating principles. But, you know, for us, we get together, we share the information, people provide their perspectives and then we, as a U.S. Government, will give our answer.
Anything else on --
QUESTION: More on it. In the same way the Russian -- a Russian delegate was going to Tehran, even though we may not have heard about it yet, do you know of any other delegations that might be going to Iran similar to the Russian delegation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not aware of any others, Charlie.
QUESTION: (Inaudible). Has there been any --we haven't, and I haven't heard anything on China, which isn't surprising. They often are tight-lipped. But, you know, everybody's crediting Russia with a more positive attitude, with motion, people are going places. There's a theory that China could go along with whatever Russia does, but is there anything to be said about China's attitude at this point?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that I would characterize it throughout this process as having been constructive. I think that continues. I wouldn't necessarily twin up the Russians and the Chinese as having identical positions. They have their own thoughts. They have their own concerns that they bring to the table. But China has been playing throughout this entire process a constructive role, I think we can say.
QUESTION: As far as the interagency process, how does it work when Nick gets on the phone on Tuesday? Is he going to have an answer from the U.S. about -- I mean, is this going to be like a, okay, here's what we'll accept, here's what we won't accept. Is that the goal --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think they'll -- and I don't have the list for you, and if I did I couldn't share it with you at this point, of the various issues that remain open -- and I expect that they'll organize themselves so that they can go down the list and see if there's a way that they can come to closure on the various issues. Yeah, he will come to the phone call with the considered opinions of the U.S. Government on these previous issues.
QUESTION: So that's happening over the weekend or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- the holidays?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I know. You have to work over the holidays. The taxpayers getting their money's worth.
QUESTION: Did you see comments by the Iranian Foreign Minister that said if the Americans attack Iran, Iran will respond with an attack? I mean, your answer will probably be we are not planning to attack Iran but --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen those comments so, you know.
QUESTION: All right, never mind.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is Bob Zoellick still at his desk, does he still have a parking tag? (Laughter.) Will he be back after the weekend or is he taking an especially long break? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: He is at his desk working -- was there early, early this morning. I've seen him in meetings with the Secretary. As a matter of fact, he met with Foreign Minister -- Mexican Foreign Minister Derbez. The Secretary came down to join their meeting and then the Secretary and the Foreign Minister peeled off to her office for a separate meeting.
QUESTION: Do you want to say anything else about those remarks?
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?
QUESTION: Do you want to say anything else about those --
MR. MCCORMACK: Only, look, I don't play in the Washington rumor game. He's working hard on behalf of the President and the Secretary.
Okay. Anything else on Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh. Yes, okay. Well, we'll go one, two and then three. Okay, Sylvie.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to what the Iranian Foreign Minister said about the talks with Iran on Iraq? He said that they are no longer on the table.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, it's a channel of -- it has always been a channel of communication where we could talk about issues of mutual interest concerning Iran*. As far as we're -- as far as we are concerned, it's a channel that remains viable and open should we both need it.
QUESTION: I just wanted to go back to sort of a military question for a moment. Despite the assurances that they're getting that diplomacy is the way to resolve the problem here, you probably know that Iran has been restructuring its military to be able to respond to an unconventional invasion or even sort of be able to do sort of a guerrilla-type warfare. I'm wondering -- I know you have no embassy in Tehran, but I'm wondering if you've been watching those developments and whether you have anything to say about them.
MR. MCCORMACK: Nicholas, I don't have any information on that. I'm sure that if, in fact, those things are happening, that we in the U.S. Government have people that watch those things. We have people in the U.S. Government who are concerned with Iran and developments there. I don't have anything in particular that I could share with you on that matter.
QUESTION: Sylvie asked my question. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, it's a good question then. Okay. Anything else on Iran?
QUESTION: Different -- related question to Iran but different --
MR. MCCORMACK: Does this have something to do with India and Iran? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: India and U.S.
MR. MCCORMACK: India and U.S., okay.
QUESTION: In recent weeks a lot of, again, talks and briefings and also hearings on the Hill were going on on the U.S.-India civilian nuclear agreement. And recently -- I think London -- Under Secretary Burns met with the Foreign Secretary of India.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's right.
QUESTION: And also yesterday the IAEA chief was here and met with the Secretary.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.
QUESTION: I think he supports it. Where do we stand now on that deal in the midst of this Iranian news is taking more --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, where we stand on the deal is -- I'll go through the various parts here. One, with respect to India and the U.S., Under Secretary Burns met with his counterpart in London. I think that they were able to tie up a couple of loose ends concerning things that the Indian Government owed the United States in order to really move forward on this deal.
On the side of working with the Congress, our Executive Branch is working with the Congress. Secretary Rice has been involved in this process. Under Secretary Burns has been involved in this process, talking to senators and representatives on the Hill about how do you structure the legislation and how do you bring this up for a vote. Our hope is that we can work with the Congress on the structure of the legislation in such a way that they're comfortable, answer their questions that they may have about the legislation, and then work through these issues this spring and summer.
There is a lot of activity up on the Hill right now, but it is our hope that we can move forward with consideration of legislation this spring and summer. We think it's an important deal: it's good for the U.S., it's good for India, it's good for the world. And we're going to -- Secretary Rice is deeply involved as well as the White House in trying to move this process forward.
QUESTION: May I have one (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. There doesn't seem to be much competition here.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Blair today called on the United Nations that India should have a UN seat. What you think Secretary feels about having India -- It's an open call by the British Prime Minister.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, there are a number of different plans out there for Security Council reform. This was a hot topic just towards the end of last year. It's still a topic about which we have conversations with India, with Japan, with other countries that are interested in gaining a seat on the Security Council.
At this point we are working on all aspects, all aspects of UN reform. Management reform -- we've run into some trouble on that, I think as you can see in the newspapers. And on Security Council reform it is really at the point still of discussion among various states, various states floating various different proposals. At this point the only country for which we have come out in favor of a Security Council seat is Japan and there's at this point no change to that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible)? Depending on --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we've talked about the fact that we have -- we support expansion of the Security Council by two or so seats. The -- Japan being one of those seats.
QUESTION: No, I have one more, one more. I should have asked this in the previous round on Iran. But there are reports that Russia has reiterated its commitment to sell Iran the Tor-M1 air defense missile systems.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Have you seen that? Has Russia informed you of that?
MR. MCCORMACK: We are aware of the sale. We are aware of the announcement of the sale. My understanding is it was going to take some time for this to actually take place, the actual delivery of the system.
We would hope that Russia would take a second look at this issue. I haven't seen the most recent news reports on it, Teri.
QUESTION: It just says they've again said they're going to do it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we would hope that they -- if that is, in fact, the case, that they would take a third look at moving forward on the sale.
QUESTION: Are you concerned that this trip may be to actually finalize and set a timetable for that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware that that is the purpose of the trip. You might ask the Russians, see if they're going to bring that up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Hold on, hold on. Nicholas.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Dan Fried's visit to the Caucasus?
MR. MCCORMACK: He's just back, I think today, or he's on his way back. He was there working with the Minsk Group co-chairs, Russia as well as France, to see if we could find a way forward on resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh issue between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I don't have a readout for you, Nicholas, as to what sort of progress they may have made. I know that the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia are scheduled to get together pretty soon in Bucharest, in Romania, I think the beginning of June. And the hope would be that they might at that point be able to come to closure on some of the issues that divide them. They made a run at it while they were in France. They weren't able to come to agreement. We, working with the Minsk co-chairs, are hopeful that they can come together to resolve whatever differences there are. These are tough issues, we know. It's going to require tough political decisions on both sides. But we think that at the end of the day, taking this tough -- tough political decisions will benefit all the peoples of that region.
QUESTION: Is this meeting in Minsk?
MR. MCCORMACK: It was --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I have to check. I have to verify for you. But it wasn't in Minsk, though. I can tell you that.
QUESTION: Has Chris Hill made any progress on North Korea? Do you have anything new to report?
MR. MCCORMACK: He's on his way back. Nothing -- I'm not aware of any new reports and basically the most important question there would be whether or not North Korea had committed to returning back to the six-party talks. I'm not aware that there were any of those commitments. We'll hear back from Chris when he's back in the office, I think on Tuesday, to see what he heard from the Chinese as well as the South Koreans with regard to North Korea.
QUESTION: Okay. Also, I'm sorry if you already mentioned this. Prime Minister Blair said today that the IMF and the World Bank, that there's a very strong case to merge them. What's the U.S. position on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to check. I'll have to check. I'm not sure -- I don't know that we have a position on it, but I will check and get you an answer.
QUESTION: Sean, one more, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) activities or attacks in India is on the rise now from Nepal to India. During the discussions or talks with any Indian officials with Under Secretary Burns or Secretary Rice was discussed this issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nick Burns talked about it when he was in London with his counterpart and they, both the U.S. and India, agreed that we were going to support this new government and their efforts to strengthen Nepalese democracy. They were also going to call upon the Maoists to cease violent activity and to work to become part of the political process, a peaceful political process. So I think that really India and the U.S. are of the same mind on this issue.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thanks.
QUESTION: Have a nice weekend. Happy Memorial Day.
MR. MCCORMACK: Happy Memorial Day.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:52 p.m.)
DPB # 89
Released on May 26, 2006