State Dept. Daily Press Briefing June 28, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
June 28, 2006
Recent Events in Gaza / Israel's Right to Self Defense / U.S.
Urges that Civilians not be Harmed / U.S. Urges that Hamas Release
Secretary Rice's Recent Contact with Palestinian Authority
Ongoing Quartet and U.S. Diplomacy / Involvement of Egypt
Syrian Ties to Hamas / U.S. Urge for Syria to Take Effective
Action against Terror
Reported Agreement between Hamas and Fatah
Four Russian Diplomats Murdered in Iraq / Reports of Potential
No Official Communications with Russian Government
U.S. Condemnation, Commitment to Work with Russia to Bring
Perpetrators to Justice
Protection of Foreign Diplomatic Personnel in Iraq
Security Capabilities of Iraqi Forces
Alleged Comments of German Defense Minister / No Change in P-5+1
Rescission of Designation as State-Sponsor of Terrorism / End of
Pan Am Flight 103 / Compensation Agreement to Victims' Families by
Potential for Normalization of Relations / Normalization Different
U.S., EU Pressure for Release of Bulgarian Nurses
Cooperation to Fight Terror on Border / Secretary's Visit
Progress toward Resolution of Kashmir Issue / U.S. Supports
Update on Tamil Tigers Incidents / Violations of Ceasefire
U.S. Calls for Resumption of Negotiations and Respect for
12:40 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Hi, everybody. No announcements today, so we can go straight to your questions.
QUESTION: A couple of your best friends, the Israelis and the Russians, are on the move; different situations, of course, Israel trying to find an abducted soldier and knocking out utilities as the beginning of an offensive and the Russians trying to revenge the killing of four Russian diplomats, which you condemned yesterday. What do you think of these two operations? We're kind of high-profile in Iraq ourselves.
MR. ERELI: Well, on the Israeli -- on the events in Gaza, I think our -- we've made our views very clear. Israel has a right to defend itself and the lives of its citizens. Obviously, we urge the Israeli Government to ensure that innocent lives are not harmed. I think it's important to remember that this crisis was precipitated by a hostage taking an attack by Hamas last weekend. We condemn that action. We look to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to release the captured soldier immediately.
The Secretary has been in contact with Foreign Minister Livni and President Abbas and we continue to do everything we can with our friends in Israel, with the PA presidency, and with other countries in the region to bring this crisis to a peaceful solution.
QUESTION: She was in contact with those two parties a few days ago. Is this a new contact?
MR. ERELI: She spoke with Foreign Minister Livni today.
QUESTION: And Abbas?
MR. ERELI: No, Abbas was a couple days ago.
QUESTION: Okay. So she had another conversation with Livni. Abbas is not a remote figure; he's part of the Palestinian Authority and you have been looking to him to maintain security. Do you have anything to say about his performance?
MR. ERELI: We believe that -- first of all, that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority need to clearly and unequivocally renounce terror. That's been our position and the position of the Quartet ever since they came into government. Prime Minister Abbas was elected on a platform of peaceful coexistence with Israel. He remains committed to that policy. We look to him as head of the Palestinian -- as president of the Palestinian Authority to take effective action to curb terror and to prevent violence. And that certainly remains the case and in our conversations with him, he reiterates that commitment.
QUESTION: Just one quick one. The Livni conversation was today, was it?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You say that Israel has the right to defend itself forthwith, so would you support its ground offensive into the Gaza Strip today?
MR. ERELI: I really don't want to go beyond what I just said.
QUESTION: Adam, it appears on the last number of days --
QUESTION: On the Russians?
MR. ERELI: Oh, sorry. On the Russians, I've seen those reports that you refer to, Barry. We haven't had any official communications from the Russian Government. Obviously, we've made clear our horror and -- horror at this crime and condemnation of it and the terrorists who perpetrated it. We also made clear our commitment to working with the Iraqis, with the Russians to see that those responsible are held accountable. As far as actions that the Russians may or may not take, like I said, we don't have any -- we haven't received any official word from them on that and obviously, it would be a matter to be coordinated with the Iraqis and others.
QUESTION: With the Iraqis and?
MR. ERELI: Others.
QUESTION: And others.
QUESTION: Adam, can I --
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Just to clarify a couple of points; basically, what you're saying is that the United States Government is standing ready and willing to participate in joint investigation of the killing with the Russians and Iraqis if such --
MR. ERELI: I'm don't want to --
QUESTION: -- joint investigation occurs?
MR. ERELI: I'm not -- this is all sort of speculative. In other words, a crime has been committed. Russian diplomats have been brutally and senselessly murdered. It is the position of the United States that that is a crime, it's a terrorist act, and those responsible should be held accountable.
In this instance, as in other instances, the United States Government will support that process of investigation and holding accountable -- and accountability. What -- how that specifically transpires in this specific instance, I'm not, frankly, prepared to speak to because it hasn't -- you know, every case is different. But clearly, we share a common outrage and a common commitment to justice with the Government of Russia.
QUESTION: Could you also tell us who is physically responsible for protection of foreign diplomatic missions and foreign diplomatic personnel?
MR. ERELI: That would be the Government of -- Iraq is a sovereign country and they're responsible for that issue.
QUESTION: Do you think it needs to be beefed up because your own -- one of your own combat commanders, General Martin Dempsey, in yesterday's Pentagon briefing -- he's responsible for training new Iraqi security forces. I'm quoting from his briefing, "It's just not appropriate yet to be thinking in terms of independent anything in Iraq. They are not independent at this point in time."
Do you think it needs to be beefed up somehow?
MR. ERELI: Well, I don't know if I --
MR. ERELI: I don't know if I'd link the two -- these two cases. What Dempsey was referring to, which was, broadly speaking, the training of all of Iraq's security forces -- I mean, he said we're not there yet. Well, clearly, we're not there yet. Clearly, there's more work to be done both on the military side as well as the police side. At the same time, there's been significant progress made both in terms of the security capabilities of Iraqi armed forces as well as police forces.
In some cases, Iraqi security forces have control of territory. In other cases, it's joint with the MNFI. In the case of protection of diplomats, this is a distinct mission, a distinct role, and it's something that I think the Iraqis have primary responsibility for. But obviously, on the issue of security, broadly, it is an area where we act in support of Iraqi capabilities.
QUESTION: On Iran --
QUESTION: On Gaza --
MR. ERELI: Back to Gaza.
QUESTION: How much is the U.S. Government leaning on the Egyptians to communicate with Hamas to press for the release of the Israeli soldier?
MR. ERELI: It's really not a question of leaning. As I said before, the United States is working with the Israeli Government, with President Abbas, and with others in the region, particularly the Egyptians, to effect the immediate release of the captured soldier. Obviously, Egypt has, in the past, and continues to play an important role in helping to promote peaceful relations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Israel -- I mean, sorry, Egypt is a victim of terror, has been a victim of terror itself, I think, and recognizes the evil that this practice represents. So they have historically, and I think, in this case, are playing an important and valuable role.
QUESTION: In terms of calls or boots on the ground, are there any envoys from this building who are going to the region or are all of these problems being handled by diplomats in the region?
MR. ERELI: Well, the diplomacy is being conducted at a number of levels; obviously, by the Secretary, as I said earlier. Assistant Secretary Welch is working the issue. Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams and our embassy in Tel Aviv and consulate in Jerusalem, embassy in Cairo are all actively engaged.
QUESTION: But you've announced several times that the Secretary stayed upfront on this, so I feel I have to ask you what it is she's exactly doing. Is she aware, is she being told in advance of Israel's moves? Is she offering counseling on what Israel should do, what Israeli forces shouldn't do?
I mean, you know, you condemn the abduction. You defend Israel's right to defend itself and you keep telling us how hard Secretary Rice is working on this. I just would like to know what kind of input she and others like Welch, are having.
I mean, you're opening the door to a suggestion that you are aware of Israel's moves. Now, are you? Are they telling you ahead of time what they're doing or are you telling them not to do certain things? I mean, if you're in the game, you've got to say how.
MR. ERELI: Barry, we've been over this ground before.
QUESTION: Well, this is a new story.
MR. ERELI: The United States is working, from the Secretary on down, to bring about a peaceful resolution of this crisis, to minimize violence, to minimize disruption, and to forcefully respond -- forcefully and effectively respond to continuing acts of terror. That is the role that the United States has historically played and is playing in this incident. I think that's the way I would describe it. That's the way that the leadership of this administration functions. That's their goal and that's what's behind these contacts.
QUESTION: And that's a moral position and -- I mean, it's a position of morality, I guess. But I think my question is, is she specifically aware of Israel's moves before they make them? Is she tutoring Israel on what they should or shouldn't do? You want a peaceful resolution. And you say Israel has a right to defend itself, so you've already got ambiguity there, a peaceful resolution, but Israeli troops are on the move and Israel has a right to defend itself.
MR. ERELI: Let's be clear, let's be clear --
QUESTION: So in the (inaudible) situation, I'm trying to figure out what it is the United States is doing, if anything?
MR. ERELI: To effect the immediate release of the prisoner; that's what we want to see. That's what the Secretary is trying to bring about. That's what our diplomacy is geared toward, release this -- the captured soldier immediately and put an end to this crisis, which has been provoked by terrorist hostage-taking.
QUESTION: That's what Israel seeks, too, the release of the prisoner.
MR. ERELI: And that's what -- what all of us seek and that's what Prime Minister Abbas seeks, that's what the Egyptians seek, that's what the United States seeks. That's what the Israelis seek. There is, I think, a common position on the way out of this crisis.
QUESTION: Is she engaged or is the U.S. engaged in Israel's tactics or strategy?
MR. ERELI: I'd leave it where I said before, which is that we find ourselves in a situation that has been provoked by a hostage-taking. We want to resolve that hostage-taking. That's what we all want to do and we want to do it with -- would want to protect innocent life in doing that.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Returning to this question, it appears over the last number of days, there has been some sustained effort to President Abbas to get Hamas, at least the -- then to -- the political wing, which appears to be in Gaza, to enter into negotiations or at least to simmer down their rhetoric. However, up in Syria, is the military wing with Mashaal. Do you have any way of talking to the Syrians to -- you wanted their headquarters there in Damascus --
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- to be closed down years ago. Nothing has happened since. Are you speaking, in any way, to the Syrian Government now?
MR. ERELI: There's no new activity on that front that I have to share with you. I think that obviously, Syria has close ties to Hamas, has close ties to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has a long history of being an active supporter of terror and the perpetrators of terror and in this instance, as in other instances, we would look to Syria to act responsibly, to take effective action against terror. They -- unfortunately, they have a pretty poor track record of following that kind of -- those kinds of exhortations.
QUESTION: I don't know (inaudible) -- well, it's kind of tangentially related on the agreement between Hamas and Fatah. You said yesterday you didn't know enough.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts at this point about the potential for this (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: I really -- I really don't. I think our focus is on for us -- our focus is on dealing with the consequences of a terrorist action and that's really where we're devoting our attention. Reports of an understanding with Fatah and Hamas -- I think the Palestinian leadership itself has said that that's on hold, given these events. And I think these events really underscore the problem we're dealing with, is -- while you talk about theoretical -- while they might talk about theoretical ideas and actions on one hand, you've got concrete tangible provocations taking place on another hand and it just indicates the gulf between rhetoric and reality that we need to -- that we need to bridge.
QUESTION: Have you seen the reports that Hamas has suggested a prisoner swap to resolve --
MR. ERELI: I've seen those reports. I think our position is and everybody's position is the soldier needs to be released immediately.
QUESTION: Still on this. Yeah, just one more. This is kind of following up on Barry's question, because your answer was, what can you do in practical terms was just that we're trying to get the guy released. So what is Secretary Rice doing or what is the U.S. doing in these conversations that will help get the prisoner released?
MR. ERELI: Well, I -- it's certainly not our practice to go into the details of diplomatic conversations. We are working to help all parties interested in bringing this to a peaceful resolution find ways to do that. And that means working with President Abbas, working with the Israelis, working with the Egyptians and others to help do what they can and coordinate action in order to get this guy released.
QUESTION: On Iran, Germany's Defense --
QUESTION: I'm sorry, I (inaudible).
MR. ERELI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I'm wondering if you think that Abu Mazen or the Egyptians have any control over the situation. Do they have any idea where this guy is? Do they have any control or contact with the militants who are holding him? There are many people who think that the U.S. is powerless in this situation; we don't talk to Hamas, we haven't been in Gaza in years, we don't talk to the Syrians. What -- I mean, what are our tools here? Because all of the people we talk to -- I mean, are you insinuating -- do you think that Abu Mazen or the Egyptians have any clue where this guy is or any contact with the bad people who are holding him?
MR. ERELI: We think that Abu Mazen, the Egyptians, and others have contacts and have capabilities that can be useful in resolving this crisis. I think the United States obviously has influence and as your colleague said, moral authority on this and we are using that to try to do what we can to help bring this to a peaceful resolution.
QUESTION: So the U.S. is not powerless in this situation?
MR. ERELI: I would say that our role in this crisis, as in others, is to act as a force for good, for peaceful resolution, for protection of innocent life, and for clear and effective response to terror.
QUESTION: But just one last thing. Is it -- some critics are saying that the Administration is --
MR. ERELI: All of which, by the way, Hamas clearly doesn't subscribe to.
QUESTION: Some are saying that the Administration is only sort of engaged in crisis mode right now and that it's generally disengaged on the issue of the Middle East and that now, it's reengaging at a time of crisis.
MR. ERELI: Well, I don't know who someone might be, but I think that's --
QUESTION: Do you --
MR. ERELI: I think that's bogus and belied by the facts.
QUESTION: Germany's defense minister said today that Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium for power generation, provided that UN inspectors can closely monitor this.
MR. ERELI: I've seen that report.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. -- would you support such a --
MR. ERELI: I've seen that report. I'm not aware -- I haven't seen any quotes from the German defense minister backing that up, number one. Number two, we've been in touch with the German Government. They have assured us that there is no change in their policy, that they are firmly and completely with the P-5+1 consensus on this, and that consensus is based on the IAEA Board of Governors resolutions and UN Security Council resolutions.
So I think this report notwithstanding -- and I'd obviously refer you to the German Government for further clarification on it, but this report notwithstanding, there's no change in the P-5+1 consensus. And our views on Iran's nuclear program are fully consistent.
QUESTION: Well, his quote is, when asked whether -- you know, this should be allowed, he said, "I think so, the offers includes everything." That means the civilian use of nuclear energy is possible, but not atomic weapons, so --
MR. ERELI: Well, civilian use of nuclear energy -- we've also -- Iran has the theoretical right to civil use of nuclear energy, but there needs to be specific guarantees, specific safeguards based on specific agreements. So the theoretical right to peaceful use of nuclear energy is not a subject of debate. What the subject of debate and what one of the reports talked about was perhaps suggesting that, you know, they have the right to enrich and that's really where I think some of the confusion might have been caused and what I wanted to dispel.
QUESTION: Well, he was asked directly whether they should be allowed to enrich and he said yes.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. I didn't see the -- you know, that's the quote that I think you're --
QUESTION: Well, that's what he said, "Yes, I think so." He was asked --
MR. ERELI: Well, let me put it this way and that's the way I tried to clarify and I really think you should know how to write the story. I think it's already been overwritten, people looking to make something out of nothing. The fact is there's nothing there.
QUESTION: So in other words, there is not --
MR. ERELI: There's no --
QUESTION: -- there's no division between --
MR. ERELI: There's no division. There's no -- there's full and complete consensus on this very important point and that has been reiterated to us by the German Government.
QUESTION: So in other words, you're saying that the Germans then don't --
MR. ERELI: I'm saying what I said.
QUESTION: Which I don't really understand.
MR. ERELI: There's no division.
QUESTION: You didn't want to be in the talks. The Germans said you should be.
MR. ERELI: There's no division.
QUESTION: That was division, wasn't it?
MR. ERELI: I said there's no division. There is --
QUESTION: Now there is.
MR. ERELI: -- full and complete consensus.
QUESTION: Because you've come to the German position.
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: That you're in the talks.
MR. ERELI: That's not a --
QUESTION: Or you wanted be in the talks.
MR. ERELI: We're talking about different things.
QUESTION: I know that.
MR. ERELI: We're talking, one, about a report on what Iran should or should not, or does or does not have the right to do. On that score, I'm saying there's full and complete consensus. On the question of the diplomacy of the Iran -- of dealing with Iran, I think we've amply demonstrated unanimity of strategy and tactics.
QUESTION: Could I just go back to this.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So have you gone back to the Germans and asked them to clarify their position and have they told you then that they didn't mean this or -- you seem very firm.
MR. ERELI: They said that this is an erroneous story.
QUESTION: On Libya. Was Libya's name formally withdrawn from the state sponsor of --
MR. ERELI: No, not exactly. Today is the last day of the 45-day period. At this stage, in the absence of any information that would cause us to conclude that Libya has resumed its support for terrorist groups or has reconsidered its renunciation of terror, I would expect the rescission to go forward. That would be next steps. It hasn't happened yet.
QUESTION: Can you let us know when that takes place?
MR. ERELI: It will be published in the Federal Register.
MR. ERELI: When it goes forward.
QUESTION: As you know, the families -- we talked about this a little bit yesterday, but the families are upset about the money still and do want the State Department to take a stronger role, even though you're not a party to that. They're now upset that the 45-day period is ending.
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Do you have anything you can say that you didn't say yesterday?
MR. ERELI: I think I should maybe begin by correcting the record, because there was some -- I misspoke yesterday when I said we are actively involved in -- on this matter. I should have said we were actively involved. And in the past, we've been actively involved in extending some deadlines. And that basically is just in the capacity of urging it -- urging the Libyans to do that. That's not the case. That is in the past.
What we're doing right now, frankly, is that the families and the Libyans reached agreement -- a compensation agreement. That's a complex legal agreement supervised by U.S. courts, by a U.S. court. And the implementation of that agreement is to be worked out between the families and the Libyan Government. Historically, what we've done in the past is we've tried to facilitate contacts. We've encouraged Libya to work with the families in good faith and that continues to be our position. But how the deal should be implemented, how the deal should be carried out, that should be done according to the terms of the deal, to which we are not a party.
So obviously, we are supportive of the families. We work to help resolve this or we do what we can to help resolve this in a fair manner, but we're not a party to it and we're not actively -- we're now -- how should I put it -- we would encourage the two parties to resolve it according to the terms of the agreement.
QUESTION: Although, at the end of this period, there doesn't seem to be anything legally stopping the Department from moving ahead with normalization, on Capitol Hill, there have been both a House measure and a Senate measure that urge you not to normalize until this payment is made, nonetheless.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. I guess --
QUESTION: How's that going to hinder you?
MR. ERELI: -- there are two issues. One is the normalization, which is separate from the rescission. And the compensation package negotiated between the families and the Libyans is distinct from and separate from what the United States is -- as a government, is doing with respect to the Government of Libya. And those two issues are not directly linked --
QUESTION: What (inaudible) then?
MR. ERELI: Again, the rescission is based on U.S. law and the legal parameters, legal guidelines for that, so I think if the legal requirements have been met, the rescission should go forward. This other issue of compensation for the families, we will endeavor, as we have historically, to see that it's settled in a fair manner or resolved in a fair manner. We will certainly continue to press the Libyan Government to engage in good faith.
QUESTION: But on these bills, I mean, they could still -- the Hill could still cause you problems whatever -- not approve your ambassador. The State Department would go forward even if both the House and the Senate are opposed to what's happening because of the family (inaudible)?
MR. ERELI: What are you talking about? Are you talking about the rescission or are you talking about just relations with Libya?
QUESTION: Well, the rescission is the first thing that happens, so --
MR. ERELI: There's a -- I think that has a legal basis that is independent of this agreement between the families and --
QUESTION: Well, I think all of it is independent, isn't it? Okay?
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: So it's not just the rescission that we're talking about. We're talking about (inaudible) down the line.
MR. ERELI: Well, if you want -- let's talk about -- let's be specific. If you're talking about the rescission, there's (inaudible) of that. If you talk about relations with Libya --
QUESTION: Moving on, right.
MR. ERELI: -- separately and how those move forward, obviously, the views of Congress are important to us. Obviously, we need to consult with Congress. We need to take into account the views of Congress. And we have done that and will continue to do that.
QUESTION: And when you say this should be resolved in a fair manner, does the Department take any position on what fair would be?
MR. ERELI: I think fair means within the -- according to the terms of the agreement, which provide dispute resolution mechanisms, arbitration if that's necessary, taking into account the concerns of both parties.
QUESTION: Can you be more clear? Can you try to -- can you be more clear on that? Are you urging the Libyans to fulfill the --
MR. ERELI: That's not our role here. We are urging the Libyans, as I said before, encouraging the Libyans to act in good faith.
QUESTION: Well, so what -- but when you say "act in good faith," what do you mean by that? I mean, do you mean that they should honor their agreement or that they should make the final payment?
MR. ERELI: We're not going to interpret the agreement. That agreement, as I said, is a legal document to which we are not a party and which does not come under our authority or under our jurisdiction. It is a legal agreement between the families and the Libyan Government. There are dispute resolution mechanisms in that agreement, including possibility of arbitration. It is supervised by a U.S. court. The Government's -- the U.S. Government's view is those are the mechanisms and procedures that should be used if there's a dispute, if there are issues to be resolved, and we would -- and we have historically, again, facilitated contacts, urged the Libyan Government to act in good faith and try to do whatever we can to bring about a full resolution of this; full resolution meaning that which is acceptable to both sides.
QUESTION: Have you talked to the Libyans directly about this specific matter, about the payment?
MR. ERELI: I'll have to check.
QUESTION: And then one last one on this, if I can remember what it was -- oh yeah, so what you're saying is that the rescission of Libya from the list is totally and absolutely unrelated, in your view, to this --
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- particular payment. And so when you say that it hasn't taken place, have you not determined that any legal --
MR. ERELI: When the 45-day period expires today.
MR. ERELI: Once that period has expired --
QUESTION: You're free to --
MR. ERELI: Then there would be notification from the State Department to the Federal Register.
QUESTION: So -- and you have nothing left to do but notify the Federal Register.
MR. ERELI: No, right.
QUESTION: No checks to make?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: No checks with Congress?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: The Secretary needs to sign it to (inaudible).
MR. ERELI: Yes, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea whether the paperwork has been prepared in advance so she could do that on the road or will she have to return to make that happen?
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Another subject.
MR. ERELI: Anything more? Okay, new subject, yeah.
MR. ERELI: Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Adam, Afghanistan and Pakistan both are fighting over security, al-Qaidas and Taliban, across border terrorism, that they are blaming each other, Afghanistan especially. The president of Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai, is saying that infiltrations and terrorism or Talibans and al-Qaidas are still coming back into his country and Pakistan must stop.
Now the Secretary is there, or was there, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One -- according to the reports, she got a little cool reception in Pakistan. She was not received by her counterpart in Pakistan.
MR. ERELI: She met the Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: And is that anger from the Pakistanis?
MR. ERELI: She met the foreign minister. Time out. She met the foreign minister, so I don't know what you're talking about and -- number one. Number's two, she's spoken to this issue amply in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I don't have anything more to add to that.
QUESTION: Do you believe, though --
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything more to add to what she said.
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: On Turkey.
MR. ERELI: Is it -- on Turkey.
QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, the Washington Times today dispatched that the United States Kurdish allies in Northern Iraq had provided arms, sell them equipment to a value called the separatist movement in Turkey and the U.S. Government should do more to disrupt -- release Turkish Ambassador to Washington Nabi Sensoy said yesterday. How do you comment on that?
MR. ERELI: Didn't see those reports. I think you know our position with regard to the issue of the Kurds and Kurdish separatist movements. We fully support the territorial integrity of Iraq. We cooperate closely with Turkey and Iraq to -- against the activity of terrorist organizations like the PKK. And I think that pretty much covers it.
QUESTION: But he's going now on the -- against the U.S. Government, saying that the PKK units -- Mr. Sensoy said he had received arms, safe passage, and other logistic help from the two leading Iraqi Kurdish parties, both of which are strongly allied with the U.S. Government. How do you respond to this criticism?
MR. ERELI: I don't. I don't know what information he's basing this on. I don't have any information to tell you it's -- to evaluate it. I can tell you what the position of the United States is. The position of the United States is that activities -- that the PKK is a terrorist organization. We'll work with Turkey and Iraq to prevent the territory of Iraq from being used by PKK to attack Turkey. The Kurdish authorities in the north of Iraq are cooperative on this and I don't have any information to corroborate or lend credibility to these kinds of statements.
QUESTION: And in Cyprus, Mr. Sensoy said he hoped the Bush Administration was close to revealing a series of measures to ease the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots after the April 2000 vote on the UN-endorsed plan to reunify the land, divide the Mediterranean island. And he's wondering what happened. How do you respond?
MR. ERELI: Don't know what he's talking about.
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. ERELI: Don't know what he's talking about.
QUESTION: You don't know what --
MR. ERELI: I don't know what the ambassador's referring to, so I don't really have anything to --
QUESTION: He said specifically that --
MR. ERELI: I know what he said specifically, but I don't know what the basis for him saying that is.
QUESTION: And the last one on Libya. Since, Mr. Ereli, you must know that Libya -- do you know what happened with the well-known case with the Bulgarian nurses who infected 426 children with HIV virus back in 2004?
MR. ERELI: They were accused of it and wrongly accused.
QUESTION: Let me finish. And last December, U.S., UN, EU (inaudible) agreement to be released since they were on a humanitarian mission.
MR. ERELI: Yes. We continue to press for the release of these nurses. We feel that they were wrongly accused, wrongly convicted, and should be released. And it remains an object -- an objective of our diplomacy, together with the EU and Bulgaria, to bring this injustice to a just conclusion.
QUESTION: And how do you explain to the Saudis that they used pills to do that?
MR. ERELI: I think -- as I said, wrongly accused and falsely convicted.
QUESTION: But would it hold up your moving ahead on --
MR. ERELI: On terrorism, no.
QUESTION: -- unsafe --
QUESTION: Adam, one quickly on --
MR. ERELI: Yes?
QUESTION: On normalization?
MR. ERELI: Again, you keep asking about normalization. Normalization will proceed based on how our policy interests coincide and how we can work together cooperatively to further mutual interests. And obviously, actions regarding human rights, regarding rule of law, regarding justice will factor into those -- into that process and to that calculation, as well as the views of members of Congress.
QUESTION: So this case is related, then, to how you move forward?
MR. ERELI: Well, let me put it this way. Actions the Government of Libya takes, like any bilateral relationship, have an impact on actions the United States Government takes. I mean, they're not independent of each other. If you ask me, what does this mean for normalization of relationships, I think it is a factor to be weighed in our calculus about how the relationship moves forward.
QUESTION: One quick one on India, Adam.
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: The terrorism in India and Kashmir -- in India and Kashmir is back because now worshippers are being attacked on a daily basis in Kashmir and India and some security forces are accusing again across the border. Where do we stand now, because I understand there was a normalization of relations between India and Pakistan. There are (inaudible) kind of activities and they are sitting and talking and all that, but now suddenly again, these terrorist activities came back.
MR. ERELI: I don't know what specific incidents you're referring to. The United States, as you know, supports dialogue and confidence-building measures and contacts between India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue. The two countries have made significant progress in that regard. Obviously, there are outstanding issues and we look to the two sides to deal with each other to resolve them.
QUESTION: Either yesterday or a couple of days ago, I don't remember correctly, President Putin called on the Bush Administration to formally engage in negotiations over START treaty, which is expiring in three years. Has there been a formal response to that?
MR. ERELI: Let me see if we've got anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Sir. Yes.
QUESTION: Adam, can you bring us up to date of the recent Tamil guerillas warfare -- rebel warfare in Sri Lanka? And apparently, again, they've booted out the EU truce monitors, given them a deadline of September 1st for supposedly granting the Tamil Tigers a terrorist group.
MR. ERELI: Well, there have been a number of incidents recently which bear all the hallmarks of Tamil terror, in which there have been violations of the ceasefire, which we have, I think, strongly and vociferously condemned. We are working with our friends in the -- the Norwegians and the EU and others to bring about -- resume negotiations, resume enforcement and respect of the ceasefire, and we call upon all parties to act in good faith to respect the ceasefire.
QUESTION: Can you just clarify one, please? When you said that there are some outstanding issues between India and Pakistan and Kashmir, but is that -- have anything to do with the killing and murdering the innocent worshippers and innocent civilians in Kashmir when they go to worship places or worship --
MR. ERELI: Yeah, I don't really have anything more to add to that, Mr. Goyal.
MR. ERELI: Okay, thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)
DPB # 108
Released on June 28, 2006