State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 19, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 19, 2006
Secretary Rice's Travel to New York to Attend UN Briefing
Timing for Secretary's Travel to Middle East Region
Secretary Rice's Phone Calls
U.S. and International Community Want Durable End to Violence in
International Diplomatic Effort to Resolve Situation and End
U.S. Discussions and Contacts with Lebanon / U.S. Support for
Israel's Right to Self-Defense / Israeli Operations / Timelines
Lebanese Prime Minister Says Lebanon Needs Humanitarian Assistance
Possibility of Security Monitoring Presence
Inflow of Arms from Iran and Syria to Hezbollah
Department's Decision to Waive Requirement for American Citizens
to Reimburse U.S. Government for Travel Costs in Departing Lebanon
Current Department of State Travel Warning for Lebanon
American Citizen Complaints Regarding Inability to Reach
Movement of American Citizens to Points of Departure in Lebanon
Update on the Numbers of Americans Departing Lebanon
Discussions by UN Security Council on Situation in Region
UN Security Council Resolution on North Korea
Secretary Rice's Travel to ARF and ASEAN / Discussion of North
Status of Six-Party Talks
US Pledge at Donors' Conference in Brussels
Role of AMIS Mission / Prospects for Expansion
Status of UN Security Council Resolution on Iran
U.S.-Turkish Bilateral Relations
Secretary Rice's Meeting with New Zealand Foreign Minister
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. How are you? I don't have any opening statements so we can get right into your questions. Who wants to start?
QUESTION: Well, I could start but I think you'd announce if she had a time to leave. You know, it's still in the news that she'll be in Israel on Sunday and make it a return trip. Do you want to update things or just want us to watch this space?
MR. MCCORMACK: No update for you right now on the schedule other than I do have one in the United States travel update. The Secretary will go up Thursday night for dinner with Secretary General Kofi Annan. She'll stay the night in New York. In the morning on Friday she'll have a briefing along with Secretary General Annan from the UN team that will have just returned from the region to hear what it is that they were hearing in the region, hear their thoughts about the way forward. She'll integrate what she hears into her thinking about the diplomatic way forward.
So that's one travel update for you, Barry. Nothing beyond that.
QUESTION: All right. Now, just interested if you could expand on the officials -- foreign officials she may have talked to. A ceasefire is mostly -- ceasefire planning is mostly on our minds. But you know, she had spoke and she had the Egyptian here, the Belgians here today. She talked to the Israelis. She talked to Solana. Any luminaries to add to that list?
MR. MCCORMACK: She did speak with King Abdullah of Jordan.
QUESTION: That was this morning?
MR. MCCORMACK: This morning.
QUESTION: Oh, Jordan. Excuse me. Jordan's Abdullah.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: They had a good conversation about the situation in the region, talking about the diplomatic way forward.
QUESTION: If I can follow up on that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: They had a good conversation, but King Abdallah just called for an immediate ceasefire. So they still disagree on the ceasefire?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think anybody disagrees on the desire to end the violence in the region. But let's remember what the root causes of that violence are. The root causes of that violence were an attack by Hezbollah into Israel, the killing of two Israeli soldiers, the capture of two others and the continuing rocket attacks emanating from Lebanese territory by Hezbollah. That's why this started. The G-8 laid that out. Everybody agrees that that is the root cause -- that is the source of the current violence.
So the question then is how do you bring about an end to that violence in a way that is lasting? Everybody wants to see a ceasefire, but when you talk about a ceasefire, our view is you don't want to leave the situation as it stands at that current point in place. What you want to see is a solution that is durable and lasting so you do not have an entire region and entire states subject to the whims of a terrorist group about whether or not they want to drag that region into an abyss of violence. Because that's what's happened right now: A terrorist group, Hezbollah, and their backers have dragged this region and innocent people into the current situation.
So Secretary Rice's view, President Bush's view, and it's a view I think that's widely shared, is you want to arrive at an end, a cessation of violence, but you want that cessation of violence to unfold in such a way that you have a solution whereby we don't end up -- the world, the region, does not end up in the same place it is right now three weeks from now, three months from now or three years from now.
QUESTION: You said this morning that you are working with the Arab allies and you spoke about Egypt, Jordan, Saudi. What do you expect from them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think in resolving this current crisis, in reaching the kind of solution that we're talking about, states in the region are going to play a critical role. Leading states like Saudi Arabia, like Egypt, like Jordan. They are going to play an important role in not only bringing about an end to the violence but also ensuring that that end to the violence is something that's durable.
Secretary Rice has had extensive consultations with leaders and her counterparts from that region. Just yesterday she met with Foreign Minister Gheit from Egypt. So right now the current state of play is that those states, which have condemned the attack of Hezbollah on Israel, can play an important role in bringing pressure to bear on the backers of Hezbollah -- Syria and Iran, those states that do have leverage with Hezbollah, who could help bring about an end to the current violent situation. Again, the G-8 laid out -- identified the problem. Everybody agrees on the root causes of the problem and they laid out a potential pathway forward. So that's what -- that's the basic framework that we're working within and that we are working with other states to try to achieve.
QUESTION: So you are telling us that even if you don't agree on the ceasefire you agree on the -- you agree with them on the fact that they are going to exert pressure on the backers of Hezbollah?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think everybody agrees that we want to have an end to the violence and I think everybody agrees and certainly the G-8. And I think if you polled other countries in the region, they would agree as well that they want to see an end to the violence that is durable so they are not dragged back into this kind of situation again.
QUESTION: No, but they called for a ceasefire, an immediate ceasefire.
MR. MCCORMACK: And again, everybody wants to see an end to violence. We want to see an end to the violence. But we don't want a repeat where you have the kind of ceasefire where Hezbollah is allowed to regroup, rearm, strengthen, only to pose an even greater threat to the stability of the region.
QUESTION: Quickly, just to go --
QUESTION: Well, no, it's a direct follow on this question.
QUESTION: All right. Fair enough.
QUESTION: Every time somebody brings up ceasefire, you say we all want an end to it. And -- but nobody else goes into the explanation that you've gone through three times here today, that the Secretary goes through. They just want a ceasefire.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I think --
QUESTION: They don't see the need --
MR. MCCORMACK: Go back and look at just what -- first of all, go back and look at the G-8 statement. All the G-8 countries agree on the conditions for that ceasefire. Go back and look at what Foreign Minister Gheit said yesterday as well. He talked about various conditions that could lead to a ceasefire and an end to the violence.
So other people are talking about conditions. I don't think anybody wants the situation to return to status quo ante. The only people -- the only individuals and groups who want that are Hezbollah and their backers because, they want to benefit out of the current situation. And the rest of the region, the world, is saying that that should not be allowed to happen, that they -- you have Hezbollah, Hamas, Iran and Syria on one side of the line, you have the rest of the world on the other.
So it is -- a beginning to the end of this violence could come about easily with those states that are backing Hezbollah and Hezbollah taking -- releasing the prisoners unconditionally and stopping the rocket attacks on Israel. That's how you begin.
QUESTION: Part of those U.S. conditions are already contained in a Council resolution approved by the Security Council. So you're not asking people to adopt some new position; it's there already. But it hinges, doesn't it, very much on Lebanon's ability or even willingness to move into the south and move its soldiers there. Can you bring us up to date of any discussions that the U.S. may be having with Lebanon about its responsibilities under the UN resolution?
MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice has spoken numerous times with Prime Minister Siniora since this crisis has begun -- several times, not numerous times -- and we support the Prime Minister Siniora and his efforts. We believe he's an important leader for the people of Lebanon once they emerge from this crisis to chart a pathway forward for a more stable, prosperous, democratic Lebanon. And as you point out, there are existing Security Council resolutions which call upon the Lebanese Government to do certain things.
We and the international community have over the past year or so talked to the Lebanese Government about their progress towards political and economic reform. And I would point out that in the period of -- in the months prior to this attack by Hezbollah on Israel, there were actually some positive signs of movement within the Lebanese political classes in trying to come to terms with a new kind of Lebanon where you don't have militias operating outside the control of the government; you don't have terrorist groups who say they want to have one foot in politics and one foot in terror.
So we do have confidence in the leadership of Prime Minister Siniora and we have -- part of our thinking and the thinking of other countries around the world about how to come to a durable solution to the current situation is centered around: How do you help the Government of Lebanon strengthen its institutions? How, for example, do you help the Government of Lebanon exercise control over all of its territory -- the Lebanese armed forces?
So certainly that is part of our thinking about how to chart a way forward. I know that that is something that is on the mind of Prime Minister Blair, on the mind of Secretary General Annan as well as others, and it was talked about at the G-8 summit as well. So that certainly -- implementation of those Security Council resolutions is going to be key, we believe, to charting a way forward.
QUESTION: By the way, does she plan to come back to Washington after her UN briefing?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: How do you react to these reports that the U.S. has given essentially Israel a green light to act within a time scale? I mean, the report suggests the time scale of week. I mean, is there any truth, any credence, to those reports?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen these news reports. I think we very often get into the discussion, have gotten into the discussion over the years, about red light, green light, yellow light with respect to Israel and its military actions and actions of self-defense. And every single time -- and it holds true in this case as well -- we support Israel's right to defend itself. And in particular, in this case you have an example where any state that was attacked in the way that Israel was attacked would act in its self-defense. We have talked to them about our concerns regarding damage to civilian infrastructure and that innocent life is spared in these attacks and also our real concern that any actions they might take do not undermine the government of Prime Minister Siniora.
So our -- what we have now -- what we have underway right now is a international diplomatic effort to try to resolve the situation. The timing of that resolution, it could certainly be very much accelerated by Hezbollah and its backers releasing those prisoners and stopping those rocket attacks. That could certainly accelerate an end to the violence, a de-escalation of the situation. So what we are working on right now is exactly what I described. We are looking to consult with our partners in the international arena about the diplomatic way forward to find that durable solution. That is going to require some consultations.
As I said, Secretary Rice is going to hear back from the UN team up in New York and that is going to play into her thinking about what are the diplomatic next steps when we chart that way. We are trying to chart that way forward now. Part of that effort is going to be talking to Secretary General Annan, as well as the diplomacy that we have ongoing in the coming days and weeks.
QUESTION: Sean, I'm not quite whether -- I mean, the question about a timeline. Has that been discussed with Israel? And indeed would the Secretary of State go to the region if Israel was still in its current military phase of launching attacks on Lebanon?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, you ask about coordination that would -- with Israeli military actions. The United States does not provide advice to the Government of Israel on its particular military actions. Israel is acting in its self-defense.
As for the timing of her travel, she has laid out the conditions under which she thinks she would travel. She intends to travel to the region. She will do so when she believes that it is helpful and that it is useful to charting a way a forward, to actually achieving a way forward for a solution that is durable.
QUESTION: Can I just ask one other question on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Siniora has said that his country needs humanitarian help. Is the U.S. going to assist in that request?
MR. MCCORMACK: That's one of the things we're looking at. How do we -- certainly the Lebanese people, who have been victimized by Hezbollah and its actions, will have needs -- will have needs given the current situation. So certainly we want to look and have began discussions with our partners in the international arena about ways in which we, as an international community, might help the Lebanese people.
QUESTION: On the whole idea of creating the conditions on the ground to make sure that this doesn't happen again, how much of that centers around some kind of monitoring or a force to ensure that there are no more arms shipments from Syria or Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly we have talked about the possibility of a security monitoring presence and the G-8 statement talked about that. It's a very interesting idea. That plays into the thought of how do you help the Lebanese armed forces and the Government of Lebanon exercise full authority over Lebanese territory. I think right now we're in the formative stages of the discussion about that security monitoring presence. And I don't think -- there are a lot of different ideas out there, so we're trying to have a number of discussions on that. It's going to be a topic I'm sure the Secretary talks about with Secretary General Annan when she's up there. It will be just one part of the discussion.
Now in terms of the inflow of arms from Iran and Syria, that is again, that's addressed by Security Council resolutions and we would hope that these two states, which say they would like to see a solution to the current crisis, that one certainly -- one other step they might take is to stop the inflow -- any possible inflow of arms coming in from those countries into Hezbollah.
QUESTION: In the absence of them being willing to do that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- is any kind of international agreement or diplomacy centered around that specific aspect of making sure that Hezbollah can't be resupplied?
MR. MCCORMACK: It would certainly be something that we would look at. How do you move from Hezbollah being in a position of a militia, a terrorist organization operating outside the government, that continues to be armed, that is growing in its military capabilities, how do you move to something that is -- that ends up with the application of Resolution 1559, which means the dismantlement of militias operating outside the control of the Lebanese Government?
QUESTION: Thanks. Can we talk about decision that came out last night to drop the fees for U.S. citizen evacuations?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: And how did you decide that this case was different from others where people have been forced to repay them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Secretary Rice decided that given that this is really an extraordinary situation where you have large numbers of people under real duress in essentially a battle zone that -- and a situation that was -- that came about quite rapidly, she thought it was the right thing to do. We know that there are a lot of people, American citizens, in Lebanon who want to leave. We are doing everything that we can working flat out to make sure that everybody who wants to leave can leave. We are moving -- we started this process on Sunday. We're now moving into a stage of movement of these people where we're moving -- we're going to be moving thousands of people at a time. I think over the course of tomorrow and the day after you're going to see thousands of people move. I think we had over a thousand people move out from Lebanon today.
Now, so that's one thing we want to do. We want to make sure that we have a safe, orderly and timely movement of people for everybody who wants to get out. Secretary Rice looked at this matter and she wanted to go the extra mile and make sure that she was removing any other sources of concern that people might have who are clearly leaving what is a very difficult situation at a very tough time for them.
So she talked to members of Congress because this is a matter that involves U.S. law. She also spoke with the White House -- this is a decision President Bush supports. So she -- this is really a decision taken by her to really go the extra mile to help out these American citizens who are in a really tough spot. And it's really in the best traditions of our country when you have fellow citizens that are in a time of need and a time of trouble that we do everything we can to help them out.
QUESTION: It was Congress that passed this law and it was also Congress that came out and was very critical of the State Department for then having to follow through on it. Do you think this is going to set a precedent and possibly make changes in the law? And do the Americans who have already left and paid for it, do they get reimbursed?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't speak to any particular case, but the policy is that those who are being assisted by us in leaving Lebanon won't have to -- won't be charged. We won't seek collection for that.
As for the questions of reimbursement, we have Maura Harty who is going to be down here at 3 o'clock to brief along with her counterpart from DOD. She might be able to get into some of the technical aspects of it.
As for seeking any changes to the law, that's really something for down the road. We're concentrating now on getting Americans out of Beirut.
QUESTION: And one final one. What about the fact that there was already a travel warning urging Americans not to go? There's some discussion that the U.S. Government should not be responsible for people who went against your advice; now you're paying for them to get out.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, Secretary Rice thought this was the right thing to do.
QUESTION: Could I just interject? Well, maybe Harty will be the person to ask. You remember yesterday it was said that once they get to Cyprus they can decide, you know, whether to go ahead, go to other countries, go home. What are you waiving? Are you waiving the cost of leaving Lebanon or are you paying somebody's fare to go all the way to Hawaii for a holiday maybe? (Laughter.) Well, you've got one suitcase. You know, maybe you're worried about the dog you left behind, but you got one suitcase and presumably you could buy new clothes in Europe or --
MR. MCCORMACK: That sounds like an American Express commercial.
QUESTION: You know, some of these people are not without resources.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. No, I understand, Barry. I understand.
QUESTION: Not to be cynical, but what are you waiving?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, here it is. Somebody who is leaving Lebanon and wants to go back to the United States to -- I think we're getting people back to BWI, Baltimore/Washington Airport in the region here -- they will --
QUESTION: On charter flights?
MR. MCCORMACK: On charter flights, yeah. There's no charge for that. We will not seek reimbursement, any reimbursement for that.
Now, there are going to be people who go from Lebanon to Cyprus, which is the staging area out of Beirut, and they want to travel elsewhere. They want to go to Europe or some other destination. We'll help them with those travel arrangements but the cost of those travel arrangements will be borne by them.
QUESTION: Is this going to come out of the State Department budget or is Congress going to grant you some more money?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll look at funding issues. We'll look at -- again, Maura can talk a little bit more about the money aspect of this. But what we want to do is we want to make sure that people get out and then we'll take a look at the money issues as we go along here.
QUESTION: Sean, reports on the ground in Lebanon from some Americans -- I know live news reports have shown Americans that are upset with not being able to get through on the State Department hotline, you know, having to wait or not getting through at all. Some have complained that they have registered for e-mail updates but aren't getting e-mails. Is the State Department doing anything to improve communications? Have you heard those complaints that people are, in fact, able to get through?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I have heard some of these complaints. I've seen some of the broadcasts and the print reports about this. People are doing everything that they humanly can to help out their fellow citizens in this time of need. We have in anticipation of one channel of communication going down, we have tried to establish several channels of communication for people whereby they can call the U.S., they can have family members call to the State Department here in Washington, they can also try to contact the Embassy. One thing we have urged people to do is to try to register via the websites for e-mails. Everybody that we are -- that we have been in contact with and who wants to leave -- we are trying to schedule a time for them to leave. Upstairs in the task force that's what they're doing: working with the Embassy right now to get in contact with people to give them a time and place to go so that they can get a ship or a helicopter to get out.
This is a battle zone and we understand that people -- it's a very tough situation for people so I'm not going to stand here and try to judge people who are having a tough time. Certainly that's very understandable. But what I hope they understand when they get back here, or family members understand when they're reunited with their loved ones, is that the highest priority we have, that the people working on this situation they have, is making sure that those people who want to leave are able to get out in a safe manner and in a timely manner. That is absolutely our highest priority. And we have a lot of people from the State Department and from the Defense Department that are really focused on that one -- those two goals and working on behalf of their fellow citizens.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up. Do you have any sense for how Americans are prioritized? There was some concern on the ground there that Lebanese Americans, dual citizens, were given lower priority to full-blooded Americans? Is that --
MR. MCCORMACK: You've got a blue passport, you're an American. That's how we do this. There were some people who had medical conditions, unaccompanied minors, elderly people who needed some assistance. Those people we really -- in the first few days, starting on Sunday, those are the people we tried to get out on the helicopters. Clearly they had needs that really exceeded the vast majority of the other people. Granted, they're in a very difficult situation. But I think those people who had those very particular needs we tried to -- we try to move to the front of the line, which I think is understandable. It's the type of thing -- it's the type of triage that you do in these kinds of situations.
QUESTION: But otherwise how is it done now, the prioritization?
MR. MCCORMACK: Libby, I'll have to defer to Maura on that, what system they're using.
MR. MCCORMACK: We -- I would add that we are working to get people to the embarkation points from other points in Lebanon, from the south as well as from the north. Moving from the south to the north is a little more difficult because clearly there's a lot of military action that's ongoing in that region. But we have a plan in place. We have put some of the logistics in place, so it's just a matter now of executing.
QUESTION: You were saying now that you believe thousands, but how many thousands? What's your guess -- what's your best guess now? How many thousand do you want to leave?
MR. MCCORMACK: How many thousands do want to leave?
QUESTION: Right. You said we're going to be -- we're going to be transporting thousands of people. Do you have any estimate?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let me clarify, we have the -- we will have the capacity over the next couple of days to move thousands of people. I think the military has cited a figure of about 6,000 more people.
QUESTION: Six thousand more than --
MR. MCCORMACK: Six thousand more now Thursday and Friday. When you add up the total capacity, it's right around 6,000 that we have. We'll see exactly how many seats we're able to fill. I anticipate we'll be able to fill the vast majority of those seats.
Maura, when she comes by and briefs at three, will probably have a little bit better idea of exactly the scale of the operation. I think that's one of the things that we talked about very early on here. We have about 15,000 people who are actually registered with the Embassy. There will be some percentage of those people who want to leave. At this point, we don't know what that percentage is. It will probably evolve over time but we want to give everybody a chance -- everybody who wants to leave give them a chance to leave. We have heard from people with whom we've been in contact who say we don't -- we're not going to leave. So we'll see exactly how many. At this point, I can't give you a percentage.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject?
QUESTION: Just one more on --
MR. MCCORMACK: Jonathan.
QUESTION: You said earlier the U.S. has confidence in the Lebanese Prime Minister.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Where is the evidence of that? Because, you know, this man has asked for a ceasefire. You say he hasn't done enough to tackle Hezbollah.
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't say that.
QUESTION: You're not condemning Israel's attacks on his country.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I didn't, you know, I didn't say that he hasn't done enough with Hezbollah. You have to look at the context in which Prime Minister Siniora prior to this action found himself. He is a prime minister of a fledgling democracy, a democracy that was emerging from the shadow of the Syrian occupation, two decades worth of Syrian occupation. He was also trying to throw off the shackles of Syrian influence which, even though the overt visible Syrian presence of the Syrian military had been removed, certainly there were continuing attempts to try to influence the direction of Lebanese democracy.
Secretary Rice has met twice with Prime Minister Siniora in person and she has a good working relationship with him and we have -- she talked -- she had long discussions with him about his plans for political and economic reform in Lebanon. And we want to get back to a place where he can start again work on those political and economic reforms.
So he is a person in which we have confidence. She has spoken with him, I think, two or three times. I don't have the exact count. And we are confident that he is a person with whom the international community can work to chart a way forward out of this crisis and somebody with whom we can work to implement in a serious way Security Council Resolution 1559.
Anything else on Lebanon?
QUESTION: Sean, one of the problems throughout this buildup and this current war has been the religious animosities. And the Syrians, of course, deny that they've been supporting Hezbollah all this while, meanwhile cleric Nasrallah is now a cause celeb. There are pictures of him that we see on TV along with the -- President Assad in Syria, banners in the streets, flags and so forth. The people in the street, they're getting into groups with marches and such. And what are you doing in any way to moderate that media blitz that the opposition is doing and also are you working with any religious entities here, the Muslim and/or other religious or think tanks that are willing on the private side to go in and maybe talk to individuals both in Syria and Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, with respect to the question about the media, Joel, we have taken steps with regard to Al-Manar TV, which is Hezbollah TV. And with respect to reporting on the situation, I suggest you talk to your colleagues about their reporting if you have any questions about it.
QUESTION: Sean, I wanted to follow up on Jonathan for a second. Siniora was quoted in The New York Times today stating that the international community is stopping short of exercising necessary pressure, which implicitly gives Israel a green light to continue. You know, so could you talk about if the United States is not outwardly pressuring Israel to stop, isn't that implicit green light? And are you taking Siniora's concerns into account?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think everybody wants to bring pressure to bear on those parties responsible for this situation. Who's that? That's Hezbollah and their backers. And there is, I believe, quite a bit of international pressure now on those parties to take the steps that the world has outlined, put down on paper for them to take. That's the beginning of the way out of this situation. So I think the international community is responding to those who are really responsible for this current situation.
QUESTION: Just -- sorry. Kick me later, if you want. The President was very clear yesterday in saying that he believed that Syria was orchestrating this. Is that a view shared by the State Department? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: We are one government, Jonathan, and we have -- from the very beginning, we have spoken out about the role of Syria in this. Look --
QUESTION: There's a difference between being -- supporting Hezbollah and actually orchestrating to try to get back into Lebanon, which is what the President essentially said yesterday.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, they've been -- ever since they got out, they've been trying to orchestrate ways to get back in. I don't think that they -- I think it's safe to say that they never fully accepted the fact that the international community brought enough pressure to bear on them that they had to leave, so I think that they absolutely were looking for ways to get back in.
QUESTION: Will you do a couple on South Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we've exhausted the other topics here.
QUESTION: I may have missed what you just said.
QUESTION: North Korea.
QUESTION: I'm still on this. I may have missed what you just said. But he was quoted -- Siniora was quoted saying, "stopping short of exercising pressure on Israel" -- that the international community has not taken steps to do that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have talked to Israel about certain -- exercising restraint in what it is that they're doing to defend themselves. So there is, I believe, considerable international attention to Israel's actions. That said, this was a state that was attacked by a terrorist group. Their sovereign territory was invaded by a terrorist group. Their citizens killed. Their citizens captured. So again, let's remember how this all started.
Okay, anything -- do you have anything else on this, sir? Are you --
QUESTION: We're done.
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry has been itching.
QUESTION: Yeah, well, it's been a while.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: And there are other issues in the world, like Korea, nuclear weapons. Any new strategy, particularly what are you and South Korea doing so far as any new approaches, any new efforts to revive negotiations?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we did work very close together with South Korea as well as other states on the passage of the Security Council resolution, a very significant step. We talked about how long it's been since the Security Council acted in the case of North Korea and their behavior. As for any particular contacts with South Korea, Barry, I think it's the normal set of contacts that we have with them on this issue.
I believe when Secretary Rice travels to the ASEAN and ARF forums there'll be plenty of opportunity to meet in bilateral format as well as in groupings to talk about the North Korea issue and the way forward.
QUESTION: It is reported that the United States is contemplating to put additional pressure on North Korea to get them back to the six-party talks. Would you tell us what is the content of that extra pressure?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure to what you're referring. We have for quite some time urged North Korea to return to the table and engage in a constructive manner. They've heard that from the other four members of the six-party talks as well. So I'm not sure exactly to what you're referring.
QUESTION: I have another question to ask.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, yeah.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice had postponed her planned trip to South Korea. Can you tell us what the reason -- the reason why?
MR. MCCORMACK: We don't have any updates of her travel schedule. I know that there are a lot of people who are very interested in her travel schedule over the coming weeks here. We'll try to keep you updated on changes to it. At this point, I don't have any formal announcements for you.
QUESTION: On North Korea. I think a South Korean high official indicated that there could be a meeting of five parties instead of six parties, excluding North Korea. Do you think it's possible to have such -- five-party talks instead of six?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, that there are going to be opportunities at the ASEAN as well as ARF meetings for bilateral contacts and groups to get together to talk about the North Korea issue. At this point, we don't have any announcements with regard to particular meetings. But you can be certain that North Korea's going to be a topic of heavy discussion at those meetings.
QUESTION: On Darfur. Do you have any details of the U.S. pledge at the conference yesterday?
MR. MCCORMACK: I do, as a matter of fact. There was yesterday an announcement of a U.S. pledge of $116 million -- 1,6 -- 116 -- $116 million at the donors conference in Brussels. The U.S. commitment of $116 million in assistance to AMIS through the end of September 2006 comes in addition to the $247 million in U.S. contributions to AMIS since 2004. The contributions will be used to continue the current base operations in support, to train and equip AMIS troops to UN standards, support airlift and build and maintain camps for two additional battalions.
And then one other very interesting figure. Overall, since 2004, the United States has provided $1.6 billion in humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance in Darfur.
QUESTION: There are a lot of experts that say that the AMIS mission should be expanded because they don't have the authority -- their job is to protect civilians, but they really can't go after the Janjaweed in any meaningful way or help disarm them. Do you think that the AMIS mission should be expanded to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the particular role of AMIS --
QUESTION: -- the authority?
MR. MCCORMACK: The particular role of the AMIS mission and as it transitions into a UN peacekeeping operation, the mandate of that mission is going to be subject to a Security Council resolution and will be subject to discussions up in New York.
As for the Janjaweed, the Government of Sudan has certain responsibilities under the Darfur peacekeeping agreement to not only prevent further attacks by the Janjaweed but also to disarm the Janjaweed militias.
QUESTION: But, I'm sorry, one more on this. But they don't seem to be doing that. So I mean, do you think that until -- it could be a while before, even by anybody's conservative estimates, by the time the UN force gets in there. So in the meantime, since this AMIS mission is being expanded through -- possibly throughout the end of the year, do you think that they should have additional duties in the meantime?
MR. MCCORMACK: What we think should happen is that the capabilities and resources of the AMIS mission should match the mission and mandate of that mission. That is one of the reasons why we have made these additional contributions to make a more robust AMIS mission. The idea is that that mission will be -- will form the basis of the UN operation. In the meantime, the parties to the Darfur Peace Agreement have responsibilities. We think that it is very important that they live up to those responsibilities. It's something that we work on with all the parties to the Darfur Peace Agreement.
So the answer to the question is that parties need to live up to their commitments. We are doing all that we can diplomatically to see that they do; where parties fall short, to point that out to them and to work with them, apply pressure in certain cases to get them to live up to those commitments. What is -- the violence in Darfur needs to end. It is a very difficult, complex problem. We do have a roadmap to a solution, however, and that is implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. So that's the effort that we're getting behind at the moment.
QUESTION: Could I go back to the Mideast thing for a moment? (Laughter.)
The Israelis are saying this operation could go on for weeks and there were reports that it might involve Israeli ground forces. If the Secretary's plans are to go to Israel, obviously if she goes to the region, and circle back perhaps a week later, does that mean that the U.S. is imposing, not exactly insisting, but suggesting that the operation have an end point, a discernible end point -- that may be another week or so of this would be sufficient?
MR. MCCORMACK: I will refer you to my previous answers about timelines. And as for the Secretary's travel, Barry, we'll keep you up to date.
QUESTION: Then forget the travel part. Does the U.S. feel that Israel -- you know, you think they're justified in what they're doing, but do you have any thoughts about how long it would make good sense for this operation to continue? Is that something for them to decide?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Jonathan asked this question, Libby asked this question; I'll refer you to those answers, Barry. I don't have anything to add.
QUESTION: Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie. Yeah, we'll come back to you, Samir.
QUESTION: I have a question on Iran. Do you have any news for us about this UN resolution on Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: There have been a couple meetings of the perm reps, or actually one meeting yesterday; I think there's one scheduled for this afternoon. Experts have been talking and the political directors have also been doing informal consultations. Nick Burns has been working on this.
The agreement has laid out the substance of what it is the Security Council is going to do. The form of it is laid out. There is some discussion about some language fixes, but I expect in the period ahead that we are going to have the Security Council pass a resolution as agreed by the ministers in Paris.
QUESTION: Okay. But so the political directors conference call as a --
MR. MCCORMACK: They've been talking. They've been talking a lot. I don't know if they've all gotten together on a conference call, but the process is moving forward.
MR. MCCORMACK: Samir.
QUESTION: So the Secretary on Friday will attend the Security Council meeting to get a briefing from the UN --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't expect it to be a Security Council meeting. I would expect that it's a briefing with the team members.
QUESTION: I see. And what --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. They may be doing something else in the Security Council, something a little bit more formal with all the Council present, but she's going to have a meeting with them herself.
QUESTION: So you are not looking for a new resolution or something --
MR. MCCORMACK: We're talking to Security Council colleagues now. I know that there are some ideas about resolutions or presidential statements that are out there. We're talking right now to them about what the not only the form but the substance of the Security Council response should be to the current situation. We think -- certainly, we want to have the information from the UN team to inform those actions by the Council, so we're having discussions.
QUESTION: So is Friday the time to decide on if they want to send an international force, like, or to extend the mission of --
MR. MCCORMACK: I would expect, Samir, that the -- that there would be ongoing discussions. I couldn't give you any particular timeline for when the Council may act in the form of either a resolution or a statement, or there are other ways that the Council can act.
QUESTION: One final question. When do you expect your consultations will end regarding if you want to send relief aid to people in Lebanon?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it is now a topic that people here I know are thinking and people elsewhere. I know President Chirac has talked about some ideas. So there are ongoing discussions about that, Samir. At this point I don't have a timeline for you on that, but it's certainly a topic that people are thinking about.
QUESTION: Will she happen to meet Iranians in New York?
MR. MCCORMACK: None scheduled.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Lambros.
QUESTION: Yes. On Greece, Mr. McCormack. Do you have consultation with the Greek Government regarding the Middle East crisis?
MR. MCCORMACK: I know that within the past week and a half or so, I know Under Secretary Burns spoke with the Greek Foreign Minister. I'm sure our embassy is having consultations with the Greek Government, but nothing else to report.
QUESTION: What about with the Turkish Government?
MR. MCCORMACK: With the Turkish, the same would apply in terms of embassy and foreign ministry and other government contact.
QUESTION: The Washington Times reported yesterday (inaudible) the Turkish Government over the most popular Prime Minister Recep Erdogan under the title: "Can Washington Trust Turkey?" Any comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Turkey's a good friend and ally. Secretary Rice has a good working relationship with her counterpart. I know that President Bush has had numerous conversations and face-to-face meetings with Prime Minister Erdogan. And Turkey is a good friend and ally. We share a number of similar concerns in the region and we are certainly working together on those issues.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Yeah. This one fellow back here.
QUESTION: Secretary meets with Winston Peters from New Zealand this afternoon. Can you give us a sense of her priorities going into that meeting and specifically does the Department take a view on whether U.S. military forces should be allowed to train alongside New Zealand forces, given that they fight alongside them in places like Afghanistan -- in Afghanistan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. The Secretary looks forward to her first meeting with the Foreign Minister. They're going to talk about a range of topics. I expect Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, probably talk about the situation in the region, specifically with respect to East Timor, maybe some of the islands in the region as well. As for the specific question about military training, I think you'd have to talk to my colleagues over at the Department of Defense on that issue.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:27 p.m.)
Released on July 19, 2006