State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 20, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
June 20, 2006
Rich Mills, Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary, Leaving for
Department of Commerce
Reported Preparations by North Korea for Long-Range Missile Test /
Obligation of North Korea to Abide by Moratorium on Missile Tests
Six-Party Talks / Value of Multinational Diplomacy / September
19th Joint Statement
Departure of Deputy Secretary Zoellick / U.S. Diplomatic Efforts
Query on Reported al-Bashir Comments / Darfur Peace Agreement /
Transition to UN Forces
Planned Meeting between Italian Foreign Minister D'Alema and
Timetable for Response to P5+1 Proposal
Diplomatic Cooperation between Italy and U.S.
U.S. Coordination with Iraqi Government / National Security
Foreign Service Nationals Working at American Embassy in Baghdad
Meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Olmert and PA President
Quartet Endorsement of EU Proposal Regarding Financial Aid for
Integration of Magen David Odom into International Humanitarian
Readout of Secretary Rice's Meeting with the President and the PM
U.S. Support of Annan Plan
Withdrawal of Japanese Troops from Iraq / U.S.-Japan Relations
Bid for Rotating Non-Permanent UN Security Council Seat
Reported Crossing of Ethiopian Troops into Somalia
12:35 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Hey, everybody. Welcome to our briefing for today. If I may begin with one personnel announcement, I'll be repeating what's already been put out by the Commerce Department that our friend and colleague, Rich Mills, the Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary for Public Affairs, will be leaving the State Department, regretfully for us but fortunately for the Commerce Department. He will be assuming his duties, I believe tomorrow, as Public Affairs Director for the Commerce Department. This is, as I said, a great gain for the Department of Commerce and a loss for us here at the State Department. Rich was a fabulous colleague in the Bureau of Public Affairs, a great public servant to Deputy Secretary Zoellick and a good friend. We learned a lot from him. We enjoyed working with him as did all of you I'm sure. We'll miss him and we wish him the best of luck. Thank you, Rich for your companionship and your help.
That's it and open it up to your questions. Yes, Sue.
QUESTION: On North Korea. The U.S. has apparently activated its intercept-to-missile, missile defense system. I wonder whether you have any comment on this and have you received any more information as to whether North Korea is closer to launching these tests?
MR. ERELI: I don't really have any updates for you. I can't confirm reports about operational steps we may or may not have taken. I'd refer you to others for that. As far as our diplomacy goes, we continue to work the issue actively with our partners in the region and around the world. I think what's become clear is that everybody views the reports and indications of preparations for a missile test with grave concern. We all agree that it would be -- any launch would be a provocation. That it is inconsistent with commitments North Korea has made regarding a moratorium on testing, commitments that have been restated time and again over the past couple of years and that were most recently I think reflected in the September agreement of the six-party talks. So the message I think has been delivered loud and clear and we look forward to North Korea heeding that message.
QUESTION: Have you received any communication from North Korea assuring you that -- of their plans or any --
MR. ERELI: Nothing beyond what we've seen in public that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the Secretary's phone calls on this matter? Has she made any?
MR. ERELI: I believe she's -- the most recent call she's had is she just finished a call with South Korean Foreign Minister Ban, but I don't have a readout of it for you.
QUESTION: The possible diplomatic impact if the U.S. has to intercept a missile, can you comment on that? It's not an operational question.
MR. ERELI: A very speculative question --
QUESTION: It is.
MR. ERELI: I don't like to comment on speculative questions.
QUESTION: Well, it's --
MR. ERELI: I think we -- our preferred course of action is that there not be a missile launch, or a missile test, and we've made that clear. And we've also made clear that any such action would result in North Korea's further isolation in the international community.
QUESTION: How could you further isolate North Korea?
MR. ERELI: I think that's the subject of ongoing diplomacy.
QUESTION: Can you comment on John Bolton's talks at the UN? He mentioned yesterday that he was consulting with his, you know, counterparts up there.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. As part of our overall diplomatic effort, Ambassador Bolton has had discussions with individual Security Council members on this issue. I would characterize those as bilateral discussions in the context of our overall multilateral effort to respond to these developments.
QUESTION: But could you lay out for us what kind of measures you're looking at? Are you just talking about resolutions of some kind?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't know that things have gotten that far down the road. These are preliminary discussions, as I said, in the context of broader, multilateral coordination regarding how we respond to events that have taken place, that we've seen and how we can work together to support security and stability in the Peninsula and preserve -- preserve the kind of climate that has been created as a result of the present moratorium and the diplomacy we've had in the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. feel a test is imminent?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any new ways to characterize it beyond what the Secretary and others have said as far as our appreciation of the situation and our interpretation of what North Korea is already engaged in to date.
QUESTION: Have there been any more direct contacts with the North Koreans themselves?
MR. ERELI: No. Not that I've been made aware of. Not that -- nothing that I have to report.
QUESTION: Have you heard through your own methods that North Korea is (inaudible) -- it wasn't a loaded word -- your own channels that North Korea is not going to obey the moratorium and have you checked that out? It's reported in Japanese newspapers, but I wondered if that was something that you've also heard from other agencies?
MR. ERELI: All I can say is that in 1999 Kim Jong-Il declared a moratorium on missile testing that that moratorium has been -- was reaffirmed in 2002, that the September agreement of the six-party talks, or the September joint statement of the six-party talks, emphasized the importance of lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia, that all these are statements and obligations by the North Korean -- the North Korean leadership has made, has entered into and we would expect them to abide by them. And I would say that that's the message that we continue to reinforce. And we would hope, as I said earlier, that they heed.
QUESTION: With these tests in mind, do you still believe in the six-party talks?
MR. ERELI: Of course. Six-party talks again, I think what we've seen in response to these latest reports, is: one, reaffirmation of the value and the importance of multilateral diplomacy, both within the six-party context as well as within the broader international context; two, these actions have reminded us of the importance and centrality of the September 19th joint statement, the goals and way forward that that statement presents. And so that -- all of that is, in a sense, I think a reaffirmation of the importance and the centrality of the six-party process to addressing issues of security and stability on the Peninsula in a comprehensive way.
And for all those reasons, it's critically important that, again, North Korea listen to what the international community is telling it.
QUESTION: Yeah, but all the signs they are giving are not very -- I'm not sure they are really willing to participate anymore in the six-party talks.
MR. ERELI: Well, it continues. The six-party talks, I think, all of us in the process believe that that is the most effective way forward in addressing the kind of issues and the kind of threats to security that missile activity and proliferation represent and nuclear activity represent.
QUESTION: When the Secretary spoke with Chinese Foreign Minister over the weekend, did she particularly urge China to use more leverage to convince North Korea not --
MR. ERELI: When she spoke with who?
QUESTION: Chinese Foreign Minister Li.
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware that she'd had such a conversation with the Chinese Foreign Minister over the weekend.
MR. ERELI: We have obviously -- we've spoken with the Chinese I believe through our Embassy in Beijing. And we and the Chinese are of one mind about the problem that North Korea's actions to date represent with regard to their preparations for missile testing. And we have, I think, a common purpose in addressing that problem by stressing to the North Koreans the importance of them not taking such a provocative action of launching a missile.
QUESTION: Adam, change of subject?
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. Are we done with this? Okay.
QUESTION: Following the resignation of Deputy Secretary Zoellick -- who'll be, of course, here about another month -- would the Administration consider putting in place, for instance, Bill Gates of Microsoft who's been doing much of the work already in Africa or someone of stature? And also does he leave at a time when there is a void in areas such as Darfur, Somalia, as well as perhaps Burma and Nepal? And could you give us those updates, please?
MR. ERELI: On the subject of Deputy Secretary Zoellick's departure, I think he said it best in his remarks yesterday and in his letter which has been made public that in the year and a half that he's been here he's achieved some important and notable successes in terms of setting up an approach, a framework and an institutional structure for dealing with very difficult and challenging issues. Among them China is one.
Another important one is the issue of Sudan and Darfur. It's important to note in that context that this has been an issue that the Administration has been focused intently on since the beginning of the Bush Administration. Deputy Secretary Zoellick has had a critical and decisive impact on our diplomacy and our approach to this problem. But it should be seen in the context of a six-year commitment, diplomatic as well as financial, with billions of dollars to bring peace to -- not only to bring peace to Darfur but also to achieve and implement a comprehensive peace agreement between North and South.
So Deputy Secretary Zoellick has really moved the ball forward in a meaningful and tangible way, most recently with his success in getting an agreement, framework agreement between the rebels and government in Darfur.
He has also, I think, importantly positioned the Department and the U.S. Government well to move forward once he leaves. We've got a very strong team here at the State Department. Assistant Secretary Frazer has been an integral and critical part of the Deputy Secretary's and the American Government's diplomacy on this. We have a strong Chargé in Khartoum who was present during all the -- almost all the negotiations in Abuja. And we have a -- obviously a rock solid commitment from the White House and the highest levels of the U.S. Government to address this problem.
So I think that as we move forward we've got a strong team in place. A lot of good work has been done and he has teed things up to move forward in a, I think, strong and successful way. And obviously with his departure we'll continue to look at ways that we can use our assets in the most effective way possible.
QUESTION: The Washington Post yesterday -- no, not yesterday, on Sunday --
MR. ERELI: Are we done with -- is this on Sudan?
QUESTION: I have something on Sudan.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Omar Bashir said today that he would not allow any UN peacekeepers into Darfur as long as he was in power, so where does that leave you in terms of your plans to, you know, help move forward with the plan for a UN peacekeeping force if Sudan won't accept it?
MR. ERELI: I hadn't seen those remarks, frankly. I think we've seen different statements at different times. Sometimes it's no foreign troops. Sometimes it's some foreign troops but they've got to be under an AU mandate. Sometimes it's foreign troops but African troops. So, frankly, I don't know where to put this latest statement in the panoply of other statements.
But what I would tell you is that the AU Peace and Security Commission has endorsed a transition to a UN force. The international community more broadly believes that this is something that is important for peace, long-term peace and the long-term political solution to the conflict in Darfur. The Government of Sudan has, I think, been cooperative within the context of a political solution with the Darfur rebels. So that's what we're working. I think what's critical to underscore is that all of this is premised on an effective implementation of a political agreement that we've made a lot of progress in pushing forward and that we want to see implemented as part of a broader effort, but central to that broader effort of settling the problem in Darfur.
The assessment mission -- the assessment efforts for transition to a blue-hatted force go on and, obviously, the role of AU troops, or African troops, in that, or African forces, is critical and central.
I would also note that as we've said many a time before, foreign troops are already in Sudan. They've been there for over a year. UN troops have already been in Sudan, have been in Sudan for some time implementing the CPA. So none of this is new, but all of it needs to be done, obviously, in consultation or in concert with a broader political settlement that we have, I think, made a lot of progress in pushing forward.
QUESTION: But there was a lot of momentum after the peace agreement was signed between the two main rebel groups. Are you concerned that you're going to lose that momentum if the Khartoum government keeps dragging its feet and won't allow a UN peacekeeping force to go in or won't publicly acknowledge that they need it? Then where does that leave you?
MR. ERELI: First of all, they have said that a UN force would be -- well, as I recall, would be welcome as part of a settlement with the rebels. We have that. So the two --
QUESTION: But since then they haven't asked you for it or acknowledged it?
MR. ERELI: How shall I put it? This is -- as we've discussed with all aspects dealing with Darfur, this is a -- there are a lot of things that have to happen that are interconnected and I would encourage you not to separate any one from the other because, again, they all go together. Getting a UN -- broadening the mandate or changing the mandate from -- sorry, blue-hatting the AMIS force and incorporating that into the UNMIS force is something that both the AU and the UN have said they want to do. It's critical in order to do that and as part of that to have an effective agreement between the rebel forces and the government, and the Government of Sudan has said within that context they would be supportive of a blue-hatted or re-hatted outfit.
And at the same time, you know, let's not forget that we've got an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur that requires ongoing aid, ongoing access, a level of peace and stability and safety for NGOs and others to work and access to work in Darfur, and so that's pressure that needs to be continued to be exerted to maintain.
So all these things move together. Now, if you ask me what about this statement today or that, you know, that statement yesterday, I would tell you that there's no one statement on any one day that is going to be determinative for the future course of this. This is an effort that requires working all issues all the time in an interconnected way in order to fashion some kind of effective intervention; and all the while remembering, as events have a tendency to remind us, that there is horrific suffering going on that we shouldn't be dilly-dallying in responding to. So that's why we've got to remember that, again, this is all connected, that we need to not take no for an answer on any particular issue, on any particular day, and continue to work all aspects of the problem energetically and consistently to make sure that we can implement an effective international response to a crisis that is going on for far too long.
QUESTION: Do you think that the international community could impose an intervention force on Sudan? Do you think that's an option? Because the one thing that has been consistent here is that they have not --
MR. ERELI: That's not -- that is not our preferred option. Our preferred option and the one that the United States, NATO, the EU, the AU, the UN have all endorsed is an effort under the -- in coordination between the AU and the UN with the support of NATO to help bring effective security and stability to Darfur in support of and in the context of a broader political settlement and that, in our view, is the most effective way to deal with this.
QUESTION: But Adam, it sounds like you're giving the government a pass because there's not a fully implemented peace agreement. You're saying, well, they don't really have to say yes, until the peace agreement is fully implemented when, in fact, they've been an obstacle for --
MR. ERELI: No. I think they've said yes. They said yes.
QUESTION: Well, today let me tell you what he's saying: "This shall never take place."
MR. ERELI: Again, I didn't see the remarks.
QUESTION: But we didn't make them.
MR. ERELI: I think it has gone on record -- the government has gone on record as saying that as part -- in the context of a peace agreement this is something we can accept. We're pushing the peace agreement. We believe we've got the support and the strength of the international community behind this initiative and it's something we're going to continue to push and we believe it's going to be implemented.
QUESTION: Well, I hope you're right, but it just sounds like you believe him one day when he says they can come in. You don't believe him today when he says it's not going to take place. You're picking and choosing --
MR. ERELI: I would just say I wouldn't -- I'm not going to -- I would put it this way. Our diplomacy is not going -- is not a function of what, you know, one day's statement or another day's statement. Our diplomacy is a function of the reality on the ground, the needs of the people of Darfur, the interests of the international community and what we believe -- we and our allies believe is right and necessary and we think that the Government of Sudan will come to understand that as well.
QUESTION: And you think the reality on the ground looks like you're getting somewhere with this?
MR. ERELI: I think the reality on the ground looks like everybody recognize the need and importance of re-hatting AMIS to be a UN operation and that preparations are proceeding at pace.
QUESTION: Can I have something on something else?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. I'm sorry. Are you done with this or do you want --
MR. ERELI: Sudan?
QUESTION: Follow up on this, you've already said that you didn't see his statements, but the Sudanese President has said to "I swear that there will not be any international military intervention in Darfur as long as I am in power."
MR. ERELI: Well, what does that mean? What does that mean? You can interpret it any way you want. I am telling you and we've made clear that there is broad and I think unequivocal support from the AU -- and the Government of Sudan has said this as well -- for a UN peacekeeping operation in Sudan to support a political settlement in Darfur. And we are proceeding on that understanding. I think it's something that -- I don't see any reason to call into question.
QUESTION: Is this a failure of U.S. policy that you haven't been able to secure some kind of commitment by them to allow a UN force to come in (inaudible) when they're getting sort of unfettered access?
MR. ERELI: You know, again, I can't speak to these latest statements. I think there are various ways to interpret them. In our view, the Government of Sudan has a responsibility to protect and serve its own people. And the goal of the international community is to help bring about that outcome. There is a conflict of longstanding in Darfur, which has tested all of us and has costed lives and treasure in the untold millions. We've got to stop it. Sudan has a responsibility to stop it. The international community has a responsibility to stop it. I don't think it's a question of success or failure so much as it is of will.
And our -- I think we've demonstrated that will and that commitment amply over the last six years both in terms of the diplomatic energy we've put to this issue, our marshaling of the international community, the billions of dollars we've spent and the considerable efforts that we've brought about -- we've made to bring about peace between North and South.
So our record of accomplishment in addressing the crisis in Sudan over the last six years, I think, is significant. There are obstacles. There are difficulties. I don't think that it's right to characterize those as a failing of U.S. policy. I think it's right that one should look at those as pressures on all the parties that need to be addressed and solved in order to help the people of Darfur.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on this? Can you please take our question as to whether there's any response to these latest comments from Bashir and let us know if anybody's going to maybe check in -- any phone calls out of this building to check in with the Government of Sudan and see --
MR. ERELI: I'll see if there's anything I can say if we've got anything more in response to these latest comments.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: The Italian Foreign Minister plans to meet tomorrow with the Iranian Foreign Minister.
MR. ERELI: Okay. Yeah.
QUESTION: The Italian Foreign Minister is planning a meeting tomorrow with the Iranian Foreign Minister trying to promote a package. Italy wasn't part of the -- I don't think was part of the formulation of the package. I'm looking for some way to measure whether this is a significant event or was the State Department aware of the meeting? Do you have input into it? I mean, already you've gotten some sort of reaction from Iran. But is this a major test of Iran's interest or lack of interest?
MR. ERELI: I think the major test of Iran's interest or lack of interest is the response that they give to Mr. Solana and to his meetings in Tehran with the Iranians. As far as the meeting with the Italians goes, I don't really have much to say about it. The Secretary -- as you know, the Secretary and Foreign Minister D'Alema met earlier this week and they obviously talked about Iran. I think the United States and Italy are -- have shared views on the issue. We both see Iran's nuclear program as threatening. We both support, obviously, the EU-3 negotiations and the most recent initiative presenting Iran two courses. And I think we're confident and comfortable that what Italy is doing is supportive of that as an ally and as a partner.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. any input in what the Italian minister will say tomorrow?
MR. ERELI: I'm not familiar with the preparations for this meeting, but it's obvious that the United States and Italy broadly, I think, coordinate and work together closely on diplomatic approaches to problems of common concern, and Iran is definitely one of those.
QUESTION: Thank you. A follow-up on that. The Foreign Minister of Italy said today that the cooperation with the American Administration is insufficient on the question of the death of the Italian secret agent in Iraq last year when they were trying to liberate a journalist. So he said we would like more cooperation from the American side. Do you have any --
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I hadn't seen those remarks. I don't know -- I don't know what context he was giving them. I think obviously Italy is an important and valued partner in Iraq. They are a valued member of the coalition. We work together closely with Italy both within the context of MNF-I as well as more broadly. We've had, I think, an ongoing and cooperative relationship.
With regard to this specific incident, if there are concerns that the Italians have, we are eager to address them. I think this is an issue that we've gone over a lot in the past and for specific details of where we are I'd refer you to the Pentagon and those who are dealing with them more directly.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something on Iraq?
QUESTION: Still on Iran.
QUESTION: On the deadline. Has the deadline become a matter of days yet and not weeks?
MR. ERELI: I'll stick with weeks and not months.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) is also saying it's the 29th of --
MR. ERELI: I've heard that.
QUESTION: Of June. You cannot confirm?
MR. ERELI: I'd say weeks not months.
QUESTION: But when we were talking about the G-8 being a deadline, some senior officials here in this building said, "I would encourage you to believe that it's sooner than that."
MR. ERELI: Okay. I'd say weeks not months. On the record and not on background as a senior official.
QUESTION: Iranian Foreign Minister has said today that when the package was offered to Iran, no deadline was given for our answer.
MR. ERELI: So I think we're cutting the baby in half by saying weeks not months.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) respond or want to respond to Secretary Albright's rather pointed criticism in Moscow, saying for instance it's a mistake -- it was a mistake to invade Iraq? The question --
MR. ERELI: I would disagree with that assessment.
QUESTION: You disagree with that?
MR. ERELI: Wholly.
QUESTION: It's worked out then, huh?
MR. ERELI: I think it was the right thing to do.
QUESTION: And it's working out?
MR. ERELI: Iraq is better off.
QUESTION: Iraq is better off?
MR. ERELI: Without Saddam Hussein.
QUESTION: Uh-huh. And she also questions that Russia has earned a place in the G-8. Is she wrong about that, too?
MR. ERELI: That Russia has or has not?
QUESTION: She doesn't think Russia is qualified.
MR. ERELI: No, we're preparing for a G-8 with Russia hosting and I think Secretary Rice and President Bush have made it clear that the way to help Russia move forward is engagement and not isolation.
QUESTION: On Iraq, did somebody -- maybe I'm sure several did -- catch the op-ed piece this morning by the Iraqi national security advisor? He has --
MR. ERELI: Oh, Mouwafak Rubaie.
QUESTION: Yeah, he has a whole scenario to close down this operation that the Administration thinks is so wonderful.
MR. ERELI: Mouwafak Rubaie has been a valued interlocutor, a close partner as national security advisor in Iraq. He has worked closely with us. His relationships with -- relations with the United States and with MNF-I are excellent. And I think that we both have a common vision for the future of Iraq and the future independence and sovereignty and self-sufficiency of Iraq with regard to security, and that General Casey and his team are working very closely with Mr. Rubaie, with Prime Minister Maliki and Prime Minister Maliki's national security team to stand up the Iraqis so that we can all stand down.
QUESTION: He had a roadmap here. I don't know if anybody has tracked it. Does he -- is he on the money with his roadmap or -- I know you're saying basically we have the same goals, but he's got a very specific roadmap.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Frankly, I didn't read it that carefully. I would tell you that coordination with Mouwafak Rubaie, with the Prime Minister, is close and cordial and effective. And I think that we are working well together in charting a practical way forward in transferring responsibility for security from the coalition to the Iraqis. And as an example of that, you saw yesterday the announcement that responsibility for provincial security in Muthanna will be transferred from MNF-I to Iraqi forces.
This is, I think, a significant milestone in the assumption by Iraq of responsibility for its own security. This is the first province to come under -- where security, provincial security, comes under provincial authority. There are preparations for handovers in other provinces and it shows you two things. It shows you, one, the situation in the provinces, the threat in the provinces has decreased, in this province has decreased to the level where we can withdraw and that Iraqi capability of providing for security has increased to the level where they can take over.
So this is a positive step. It's one that I think signals the effectiveness of our plan, of our training efforts, of Iraqi capabilities. It should be -- I think it should be welcomed and one should look at it in the context of this broader effort that Mr. Rubaie talks about and that we're all engaged in, which is to leave Iraq firmly and capably in the hands of Iraqis for security.
QUESTION: On Sunday The Washington Post --
MR. ERELI: Anything on Iraq?
QUESTION: It's Iraq. It's about Iraq.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Published a telegram from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. First I wanted to know if you can confirm the authenticity of this telegram.
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to speak to official documents. It's not something that, frankly, we're in the habit of publicizing. I would say this, a couple things. Number one, Iraqis who work in the American Embassy are brave and dedicated and selfless individuals, and we honor them and value their service. I think it's no secret that Iraqis who work for foreign elements in Iraq have for some time been the targets of those who would seek to take Iraq backwards. And those Iraqis include people who work for Agence France Presse or the New York Times or others.
The fact of the matter is there is a concerted effort to intimidate Iraqis from serving their country and serving democracy and serving freedom and serving liberty, whether they work for the U.S. Embassy or other embassies or contractors or foreign companies or foreign press -- they're all targets. And their commitment to their country should be recognized and commended and we all have an obligation to help protect them and to work to prevent those who would seek to intimidate, harass or otherwise hurt them, to prevent those people from succeeding.
QUESTION: If I can follow up. The reality this telegram speaks about is rather grim and it speaks about the country already going backward. It speaks about the rights of women being attacked. It speaks about power cuts and fuel shortage, kidnapping -- I mean, it's all -- the situation looks dire outside the Green Zone.
MR. ERELI: I don't want to minimize the difficulties of life in Baghdad, but these are things we've all known about and talked about for some time, the fact that there are power cuts, the fact that there are some who would seek to restrict liberties that are enshrined in the constitution and that are reaffirmed by the Prime Minister and Iraq's leadership. So it's clear that there are challenges.
And you know what? Nobody is more forthright and frank about those challenges than the Prime Minister of Iraq, who said we've got to get electricity working in Baghdad, we've got to get control of the security situation in Baghdad, and hey, I got a plan to do it. And he announced his Baghdad security plan last week and you've seen increased checkpoints and you've seen increased measures by Iraqi security forces to protect Iraqi citizens from the kind of depredations that you read about in this article.
So, yeah, these are problems, but they're problems that were -- that fortunately we talk about, we address and we work together to come up with a plan for solving.
QUESTION: But it's not the image President Bush gave when he came back from Iraq last week.
MR. ERELI: I think President Bush has been -- like the Prime Minister, has been very -- and all of us who talk about Iraq, have been very, again, forthright about the challenges that we face. I think it's important to be -- I think it's important to look at things in a balanced way. I mean, it's not like -- and not cry Chicken Little, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. Yes, there are problems. Yes, there are challenges. We are working to solve them. The Iraqi Government is working to solve them. But broadly speaking, you've got some very positive things going on.
So we're not seeking to either minimize the difficulties or inflate the successes. I think our discussion of what's going on in Iraq has consistently been, again, forthright, realistic, frank. And anything that was in that article is consistent with how we've discussed the reality in Iraq.
QUESTION: This Iraqi security advisor that you've just praised a couple of minutes ago says that Iraqis -- he doesn't say terrorists, he doesn't say insurgents, he says Iraqis -- see foreign troops as invaders and not as liberators. Now, he makes that flat statement. So you have all these problems, but your approach to them, the Administration's approach to them, is the sort of eccentric problems, they're out of the way problems, the difficulties you have to overcome. How can that be the case if a prominent Iraqi says the Americans and all the other troops are seen as invaders? How are you going to overcome that --
MR. ERELI: Number one --
QUESTION: -- to build powerhouses for you?
MR. ERELI: Number one, I don't think Mouwafak Rubaie is endorsing that view. Number two, I think that we all want to see, as I said before, we all want to see Iraqi security in the hands of Iraqis and that President Bush has made it clear that we don't want to be in Iraq one day longer than is necessary and we want to transition to an Iraqi-led Iraq in terms of security as quickly as possible.
So we're of one mind in this and I think we recognize that Iraqis want to be controlling security in their country. Great. We're training them. We've stood up about 260,000 Iraqi troops. The Iraqis are really pleased with that, as they've told us in countless meetings. We've got a little bit more -- we've got a little bit more to go. And this is a goal that we all share and that we're all working together on. But I don't think anybody's taking issue with the desire of Iraqis to be in full control of all parts of their territory.
QUESTION: I wasn't speaking of their antipathy, the generic antipathy toward an American presence in the country. That's what he seems to be saying. They see you all as invaders. And if they see you as invaders, how do you expect ever to get to the point where you can beat down this, what you call, an insurgency?
MR. ERELI: Well, let me put it this way.
QUESTION: After all, maybe a liberation movement.
MR. ERELI: We can have a discussion about Iraqi public attitudes maybe another time.
QUESTION: Adam, what's the U.S. expectations from the meeting tomorrow between the Israeli Prime Minister and --
QUESTION: I've got the letter, actually.
MR. ERELI: Go ahead, the letter.
QUESTION: Yeah. It was addressed to Secretary Rice. Can you confirm that she --
MR. ERELI: What letter?
QUESTION: Sorry, the memo here, written by -- that Sylvie brought up.
MR. ERELI: I don't think it was addressed --
QUESTION: It was addressed to Secretary Rice. Did she receive it and is she planning to respond?
MR. ERELI: Let me put it this way, I'm not going to comment on internal official diplomatic communications. It's just not something I'm going to get into.
QUESTION: How many U.S. civilians are missing in Iraq? I think the last tally was about 11. Do you have a --
MR. ERELI: Let me check.
QUESTION: If you could take that as question. Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
QUESTION: Mainly -- they're mainly contractors, I believe.
MR. ERELI: I'll see what our consular folks can get us.
MR. ERELI: On Iraq? I think you had the next question, Samir.
QUESTION: What's the U.S. expectations around the expected meeting tomorrow, the first meeting between Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas?
MR. ERELI: Well, I think you know where we want to see things go between Israel and Palestine. We want to see concrete steps. We're hopeful that concrete steps can be taken to help achieve the President's vision of two states. Central to that is a clear and complete renunciation of terror and effective actions to prevent violence. And I guess what we'd like to see is that the two leaders come to a common understanding about those two issues and find effective ways to achieve them.
I think as we've made clear, President Abbas was elected on that platform. And we all, I think have a common interest in seeing that platform carried out. You've got a problem, which is a government that -- an elected parliamentary government that does not accept the state of Israel and sees violence as a legitimate means to achieve political objectives. That's an obstacle that needs to be overcome.
QUESTION: Are you saying literally you expect this -- you would hope that this meeting could produce that tall an order?
MR. ERELI: That's --
QUESTION: That's the preliminary -- that's your long range hope, isn't it?
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Good. I mean, they're not going to come out of this meeting with a plan for Palestinian statehood, you know what I mean.
MR. ERELI: I'm not suggesting that they will.
MR. ERELI: But I'd say that's where we'd --
QUESTION: That's where they ought to go.
MR. ERELI: That's where the engagement should lead.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Adam, for the first time, the Palestinians, most of them government workers, have received the first $300 in back pay. Now the EU Quartet, I assume, too, the United States, has worked out an agreement to divert money to those workers without it going to Hamas, yet at the same time there seemed to be gunfights in the street, especially in Gaza between Fatah and Hamas and also members of Islamic Jihad. Now apparently we're preventing monies in a very substantial manner to go to the Palestinian authorities where it would be diverted to Hamas and to terrorism-type activities, yet hundreds and thousands of dollars are coming from elsewhere in briefcases with people arriving. There have been press reports concerning that --
MR. ERELI: And the question is --
QUESTION: The question is have we spoken to President Abbas concerning that and made our, I guess our condemnation known to Hamas and some of the other terrorist groups, especially with the hidden money coming --
MR. ERELI: Well, I think, with regard to the EU initiative there is a Quartet statement issued over the weekend, and I think it laid out what the initiative was and it wasn't. It's not payment of salaries for civil servants. It's specific and discrete actions to provide humanitarian relief to the Palestinian people. So the injunction, if you will, on aid to the Palestinian Authority remains and it's something I think that we all -- we all agree on -- agree to be -- that we all agree is an unfortunate necessity. Unfortunate because we want to help the Palestinians, but a necessity because -- we want to support the Palestinians in every way possible, but also a necessity because the PA is being run by a terrorist organization and so there are -- therefore obligations on all of us, legal and political, to recognize that reality. This step that the EU has taken in consultation, in close consultation with us and others, is a way to help relieve that pressure in ways that don't support terror -- that clearly don't support terror.
Now, as far as, you know, other sources of cash, I can't speak to that. I think what's clear to all of us who deal with -- all the governments who deal with the Palestinian Authority and with the Palestinian people is that there really is no tolerance for advocates of terror and that our diplomacy and our actions are based on that principle.
MR. ERELI: On this subject?
MR. ERELI: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Israel. There's been a (inaudible), Israel's membership in the Red Cross. I wonder if there's a U.S. official position on that, if you're doing anything on that. And also our reporter was told that a press conference that was scheduled for this morning that the press club didn't come --
MR. ERELI: By?
QUESTION: By supporters of the move to get Israel to the Red Cross.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: Didn't come off it -- is the State Department either intervening or requesting --
MR. ERELI: I had not heard that. Let me check to see if there's anything to it.
Regarding the acceptance of Magen David Odom, obviously, as you --
MR. ERELI: Is that how you would say it, Barry?
QUESTION: That was nice.
MR. ERELI: Well, thank you. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Now I want to hear your forthright position.
MR. ERELI: Yes. Our forthright position is we have worked to --
MR. ERELI: Yes, we have worked, I think, relentlessly to integrate this organization into the international community and the international humanitarian organizations. The symbols were accepted, I believe, a couple of months ago. There is some activity going on today, I believe in Geneva, but let me check and see if I can get you the latest on what was going on and what our position was.
Sir, you've had a question.
QUESTION: Turkey, Mr. Ereli. The Turkish DA, District of Attorney, is investigating now a lawsuit against personally the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew based in Istanbul, Turkey, for the way the Patriarch is dressed and conducted his religious services in various Christian Orthodox churches. Since this action is an actual implementation of harassment against the religious freedom which the U.S. Government is very concerned, may we have your comments?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of the case, Mr. Lambros. I'll look into it and see if we've got anything for you on it. Obviously, with regard to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, I think you know our position. We've made it very clear; there's no change.
QUESTION: On the Balkans. Any readout on the yesterday talks here at the State Department between Secretary Condoleezza Rice and the Albania leaders of Kosovo Fatmir Sejdiu and Agim Ceku and the invitation of the former?
MR. ERELI: Right. The Secretary had a good opportunity and a good conversation with the President and Prime Minister yesterday. They discussed their vision of the way forward in Kosovo and how we are looking forward to an agreement on final status by the end of the year. The Secretary underscored the very important -- underscored the importance of the people and Government of Kosovo respecting the international principles and international benchmarks that the Contact Group has set for Kosovo and meeting these standards. And we heard from them that they had every intention and every -- and were committed to fulfilling those standards and to be a responsible and law-abiding international citizen.
QUESTION: And now on Cyprus. Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni proposed a new plan, Mr. Ereli, for the Cyprus issue under the title, "European United Cyprus." She explained that the new plan should contain components such as the UN Secretary General's own words today, the reality brought by the Greek Cypriot European Union membership for two years and a half, the will of the two societies. May we have your view since the U.S. Government is involved up to the teeth to find a solution for 32 years of Turkish invasion and occupation of north part of the Republic of Cyprus?
MR. ERELI: Yes. I hadn't seen this latest proposal. Our view is that ideas and discussions with regard to a resolution of the Cyprus issue should be done in a context of the Annan plan and through the good offices of the Secretary General and his staff, who I think have been tireless, or relentless, in their efforts to resolve this difficult issue. And we continue to support that process.
QUESTION: So you're saying any variations in this plan that was not accepted has to be worked out with the UN?
MR. ERELI: And between --
QUESTION: In other words, if --
MR. ERELI: In the context -- no. In the context of the Annan plan and through the process set out in the Annan plan, it's up to the parties to the dispute to come up with revisions to the Annan plan that would be acceptable to both sides in the referendum.
QUESTION: So no harm trying.
MR. ERELI: Exactly.
QUESTION: The Japanese Foreign -- Prime Minister announced on Tuesday that they will withdraw their few hundred troops from Iraq. What is the State Department reaction to this announcement and how will this affect Japanese-U.S. relations?
MR. ERELI: Well, the United States -- I think the decision of the Japanese to redeploy their forces was a decision taken in close consultation with the United States, with the UK, with Australia, with the Iraqi Government and with the MNF-I; and I think it's a reflection, frankly, as I said before, of the progress that we're making in bringing security and stability in Iraq. Obviously I don't want to overstate it because there are serious problems and serious challenges that remain, but at the same time we need to recognize success where success has happened.
And in the case of Muthanna, the Province of Muthanna where the Japanese forces were located, we've got a situation now where Iraqis are taking over security for that province. That means that countries like Japan, who had troops working there on humanitarian missions, can redeploy those assets in ways that help Iraq other places. So what we're seeing is they're taking those troops out; they're going to be conducting increased airlift in support of other coalition efforts in Iraq. So I would look at it as a transfer of activity rather than a withdrawal of activity and a transfer that is a recognition of improved security in one place so that they can focus on continuing challenges in other places.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: And finally, it also gives us an opportunity to thank Japan, Prime Minister Koizumi and the people of that country for their bravery and their sacrifice and their commitment to freedom in Iraq and to playing a strong and positive international role befitting of Japan's status as a great country.
QUESTION: There's a report in the L.A. Times this morning that the U.S. is making a rather energetic diplomatic effort to prevent Venezuela from getting the rotating LatAm seat on the UN Security Council, that the Secretary has been personally involved, that it's -- we've talked to the Chileans about denying them fighter pilot training if they don't play ball, et cetera.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Well, on that last point, my understanding is that that report is false on the Chileans. The story about the Chileans and the F-16s is just a false story.
I think in the Dominican Republic Deputy Secretary Zoellick made very clear our views on this issue. Obviously, it's up to every country to decide who it's going to vote for for a Security Council seat. We think that, you know, the election of a non-permanent member to the Security Council is crucial and it affects how well the Council will be able to address threats to international peace and security. We've got our views on who are good candidates and obviously we think that Guatemala would be an excellent one given its participation in peacekeeping operations. It's -- you know, Guatemalans have shed blood for the UN and they're a -- we believe a strong and -- a strong candidate and deserving of support.
QUESTION: One more?
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: There were reports over the weekend that Ethiopian troops have gone into Somalia, perhaps with U.S. blessing even, to do battle with this Islamic Court --
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: What's your take on that?
MR. ERELI: Our take is that we're not supporting anybody going into Somalia. Not aware that the Ethiopians have done that. But our position is that invading -- incursions into Somalia are not a good idea. We, as you know, have been engaged with the international community in trying to promote reconciliation and peace and strengthening of governmental institutions in Somalia. We've seen the reports of Ethiopian troop movements on the border. We've talked to the Ethiopia Government about it. We've seen no evidence of incursions and we think that all parties in the region need to act responsibly and not take steps to further destabilize or inflame the situation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:34 p.m.)
DPB # 102
Released on June 20, 2006