State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 20, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 20, 2006
LEBANON / MIDDLE EAST
Reaction to Statement by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
U.S. Believes Israel Has Right to Self-Defense
International Agreement that Cessation of Violence Must Address
Root Causes of Violence / Solution Must Support Implementation of
Resolution 1559 / Must be Lasting and Durable
U.S. Concerned About Civilian Population, Focused on Humanitarian
Assistance / Suggest Humanitarian Corridor for Flow of
Arab Allies Have Identified Parties Responsible for Violence,
Desire for Violence to End
Secretary's Meetings in New York regarding Middle East
Secretary's Travel to Middle East and Asia
U.S. Watching Developments Closely
U.S. Urges Government of Ethiopia to Exercise Restraint
Tension Caused by Movement of Islamic Courts Forces Around Baidoa
U.S. Seeks Peaceful Dialog Between Transitional Government and
Contact Group to Meet See How to Avoid Violence
U.S. Efforts Aimed at Mutually Agreeable Solution NORTH KOREA
Ambassador Hill's Testimony on Threat of Arms Sales
1:15 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I'm sorry for the little delay. I don't have any opening statements, so I can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Well, Kofi Annan has just condemned Israel, called for an immediate ceasefire and made no mention of Iran and Syria. Secretary Rice is going to see him tonight.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: If you have reaction to his position, I'd be happy to have it. But beyond that, is there enough in common in their views that they can work well together?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think there's a little bit more in his statement than that, Barry. I took some brief notes here. But with respect to Israel, we have made our views clear in that regard. Israel is a state that was attacked. It has a right just like any other state would have -- that was attacked in such a manner has a right to defend itself. So our views are clear on that; they're unchanged.
As for the rest of what he talked about I -- what I took away from it, Barry, was that he was interested in a cessation of violence as are all of us. He was talking about a cessation of violence in the context of a lasting durable solution, which is exactly what we have been talking about, what the members of the G-8 have been talking about. So I think what you are seeing here is a growing international consensus that you want to address the root causes of the violence that we're seeing today. And the root causes of that violence is Hezbollah and its backers and Hezbollah having the keys to the region that allow it to, at its own whim and the whims of its backers, to create violence and instability in the region. And what we are interested in trying to do, and we are working actively on the diplomatic front, is to put together an effort, a political effort, that the political solution that buttresses the ability of the Government of Lebanon to ultimately implement Resolution 1559 and to arrive at a lasting durable political situation that leads to an end to the violence. That's what we're working on, Barry. And I think you heard a lot of that from Secretary General Annan in his remarks.
QUESTION: Right. And I didn't want to suggest there weren't places of agreement, of course. In that regard, building, et cetera, consensus, any recent contacts by the Secretary in the past 24 hours or so, as she has talked to, you know, Solana. She's talked to --
MR. MCCORMACK: She did talk to Mr. Solana. She actually talked to Secretary General Annan prior to his remarks, so they talked about his remarks. And they also talked about -- began the conversation that they are going to continue tonight at dinner when she goes up to New York to see him. She also -- the following day, Friday, is going to have a briefing from Mr. Larsen and his team about what it is that they heard during their travels in the region. She looks forward to both talking to Secretary General Annan and getting that briefing. She'll be back here tomorrow afternoon.
QUESTION: Do you have updates on the Secretary's travel? Does she plan to travel, for example, to -- I don't know -- Egypt or out to the Middle East?
MR. MCCORMACK: She does intend to travel to the region and she intends to travel to the region as early as next week. We will keep you up to date on itinerary, timing and all the stops. We're working on those things now.
QUESTION: Next week she was supposed to go to Asia. Does it change something and is --
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, we'll keep you up to date on all of her travels She certainly does intend to attend the ASEAN and ARF meetings in Asia.
QUESTION: Ceasefire, item number one?
MR. MCCORMACK: Ceasefire --
QUESTION: I mean, a lasting ceasefire is her primary objective on this expected trip, is it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, she -- no final announcements, Barry. I said she does intend --
QUESTION: Well --
MR. MCCORMACK: She does intend -- she's talked about it before. She wants to go to the region to -- when she believes it's helpful and useful -- to help -- work on a lasting and durable political solution to end the violence. You're not going to see a return to the kind of diplomacy I think that we've seen before where you try to negotiate an end to the violence that leaves the parties in place and where you have status quo ante. Whereby groups like Hezbollah can simply regroup, rearm, only to fight again another day and to be able to, as I said before, at a whim, cause violence and instability in the region. I don't think anybody wants -- nobody wants that. Maybe Hezbollah and its backers want that, but certainly I don't think you're hearing that from anybody else.
So that would be her intent to go there, Barry. So I think she's raised the bar in terms of what she wants to accomplish if she does go out to the region.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, when you say that she's raised the bar, what do you mean exactly?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I've talked about it over the past several days. And that is, you want to find an end to the violence that we're seeing right now, but you want to find an end to that violence in the context which will be something that is lasting, that it is not only a tactical end to the violence, but something that changes the strategic picture in that part of the region
What we are seeing is an important moment in the Middle East. It is an important moment because we -- as we have seen in other places throughout the Middle East, we are seeing the end of an old order in the Middle East and the beginnings and birth of a new kind of order in the Middle East was based on democracy. That is based on greater personal freedoms. It is based on people being able to define for themselves what their political future will be, what the future of their country will be through the ballot box. It will also be a future whereby people can realize a more prosperous future, where they're able to think not only at home but in the workplace. So that is what we're talking about here.
There are many states who face choices in this regard. With regard to this particular incident, I think you have seen the vast majority of the states in the region already make their choice. You have Iran and Syria who are now isolated outside a consensus within the region that this attack by Hezbollah was something that was condemned -- states in the region condemn this attack. Syria and Iran didn't. So they are outside that consensus in the region and you see, in this particular case, states making that positive choice. States like Egypt certainly -- not Egypt, Syria -- certainly have a choice to make in this regard. They have for years and years backed terrorist organizations, hosted them. And certainly they could, should they choose, play a positive role in bringing about not only an end to the violence, but also participating in lasting change in the Middle East.
QUESTION: What do you gain by isolating Iran and Syria?
MR. MCCORMACK: They themselves -- they have isolated themselves. It's not --
QUESTION: Well, what does the United States and the other parties gain by doing that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure I get the gist here.
QUESTION: Well, what is the objective?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they themselves have isolated themselves through their actions, through support for Hezbollah, through support for Hamas. It's no -- I don't think it is any coincidence that both in Gaza with the Palestinians and in Lebanon, you had, over the past month, seen some progress along the political track that may have led to some breakthroughs. But just as we are starting to see those small glimmers of progress, you have the attacks by Hamas into Israel, then you -- followed by attacks into Israel by Hezbollah. And the net effect of which is right now, that sort of progress is not being realized.
We hope to get back onto the pathway, both with -- between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Lebanon, where that progress can continue and create the conditions where it can continue. That's what Secretary Rice wants to go -- wants to do if she goes out to the region and she intends to go out to the region. So that's her -- that would be, sort of, the overarching idea behind her travel to the region; that is, yes, address the tactical situation, but also try to address the root causes and bring about a strategic change in those particular situations.
QUESTION: You spoke about a growing international consensus, but EU, UN, Russia are all calling for an immediate ceasefire, which you are not calling for. So what -- where is the consensus and where is the Quartet for the Middle East?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, you -- Sylvie, yes, everybody wants an end to the violence, a ceasefire. Of course everybody wants a ceasefire, but all -- the EU, Russia, the UN, they also all talked about the fact that they want any ceasefire, any cessation of violence to be lasting and durable. So that is the point of agreement. You have a consensus on that and that is a consensus on which we are going to try to build and that Secretary Rice is going to try to build. We all want to see an end to the violence. We have talked to the Israeli Government about the importance, the utmost importance of their exercising restraint in defending themselves, to avoid civilian casualties, to avoid any undue damage to civilian infrastructure and also, actions that might undermine the Siniora government. So yes, we share those concerns. But we do have a consensus on the international front for a more lasting change, a more lasting change that addresses the route causes of the violence, that addresses those who provoke this violence, Hezbollah and Hamas.
QUESTION: But do you think that you can obtain this consensus that you are willing to obtain before calling for a ceasefire, before --
MR. MCCORMACK: These things are inextricably linked. These things have to be inextricably linked. You have to -- in bringing about an end to the violence, it has to take place within a context, a political context where you have not only immediate actions where you don't end up right back where you started, but also a horizon so that there is lasting change and that there is a pathway for lasting change. And ultimately, this involves a political solution. You have to create the political context in which you can have an end to this violence and a context so that that end to the violence is lasting.
QUESTION: So how long do you think this can last?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again --
QUESTION: Or don't think it can last?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we are not in the business of laying out timelines for sovereign countries that are in the midst of defending themselves. Certainly, we would like to see the violence end, but the first stop -- the first steps for violence ending need to be taken by those who provoked this violence; that is, Hezbollah stop the rocket attacks, return those prisoners.
QUESTION: But you say that, you know, a lot of states have made their choice and seem to understand that Hezbollah needs -- and Syria and Iran and this whole problem needs to be eliminated. But as the humanitarian situation in Lebanon continues to grow worse and there are more civilian casualties, how much longer do you think you can have these states support this idea if the reality on the ground is not changing and only the humanitarian situation is getting worse? I know you say that you're not in the business of telling them how to stop the strikes, but how long can you maintain this approach while the -- for the strikes to continue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have --we have actually over the past several days been looking at the issue of humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people. They themselves are victims of the violence of Hezbollah and the actions of Hezbollah. They have been held essentially captive to the whims of this terrorist group. So we have been very active on this diplomatic front. We've been working very closely with Secretary General Annan and the UN staff. We have been in close contact with the Israeli Government, the Lebanese Government and other governments in the region about this idea of creating a humanitarian corridor so humanitarian aid can flow in to Lebanon.
I think this is something that the Israeli Government is taking a close look at, considering very seriously. Ultimately they would play a very significant part in this since there is right now a naval blockade off of the coast of Lebanon. So it's something that we have been working on quite hard over the past several days involving a number of different parties.
QUESTION: Is the establishment of a peacekeeping force on the agenda for tonight as one of the elements of a lasting ceasefire?
MR. MCCORMACK: Barry, well, it gets to a basic issue -- well, the G-8 statement did talk about a security monitoring presence and there are a lot of different ideas out there. I know Secretary General Annan has talked about this some, Prime Minister has talked about this some. Certainly we will come to the table with some of our own ideas about how this might come about. There are a lot of details to work through in such a concept if it is in fact going to work and contribute something.
The basic premise here is the Lebanese army needs to exercise some control over its own territory. This is part of 1559 and something I think logically that any government would -- any democratic government wants to do. So the question is how in fact do you help the Lebanese Government with that task? The Lebanese army is something -- is a group that has certain capabilities but it needs more robust capabilities in order to exercise that kind of control over Lebanese territory.
So I think the idea here is, Barry, how do you help them in that regard, not only in the immediate term of exercising that control over Lebanese territory but also over the longer term so that they ultimately are able to take over that task.
QUESTION: You said yesterday that you were working with your Arab allies. Do you take into account their needs to take account to consider their own public opinion and the growing anti-Israeli feeling that can happen with these bombings?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course it's up to each individual government how it addresses its own publics and how it deals with its own publics. But I think these -- a number of states in the region -- we talked about a few -- Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan -- have come out quite strongly in identifying those responsible for these acts of violence. So I think that these governments in this respect have been quite responsible in pointing out who is responsible for the current situation.
Now, I think that they have also expressed quite clearly their desire to see the violence end. We all share that. But it's ultimately up to these governments in how they deal with their own publics.
QUESTION: Sean, you mentioned that the Lebanese people are the victims of Hezbollah and I know that's the U.S. view, but do you think the Lebanese people right now feel that Hezbollah has brought this upon them or do you sense that they're turning against not just Israel but the United States for not calling for a ceasefire? Do you think that this strategy is really working to bring this on Hezbollah and if the Lebanese people feel that way?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a little bit hard for me to do sort of a man in the street assessment from the podium here. But I've seen a lot of news reporting and I think the information that we have, certainly at least anecdotally, would support that. That there's -- there are a variety of different views, not surprisingly, in Lebanon, but I think there's a substantial group in Lebanon who see Hezbollah as a force for destabilization, that they are more -- look down upon the fact that Hezbollah has really brought this down upon the Lebanese people. They are the ones who provoked this violence.
So you know, again, it's hard for me to say standing here from the podium exactly what the sentiments of the man in the street are and in what direction they may be going. But ultimately, I think -- ultimately, the -- in any democratic state, there would be some degree of unease and nervousness about having a group that is really -- that is not answerable to the public, being able to exercise this kind of control over the direction of their state.
QUESTION: The Lebanese people are also calling upon the United States to ask for a ceasefire and you've seen video of Lebanese people saying call -- you know, can you call America, can you get them to stop this. Don't you think that there's also a chance that public opinion will turn against the United States for not speaking against the Israelis?
MR. MCCORMACK: We're going to do what we believe is right. And what we believe is right is to bring about -- help bring about an end to the violence in such a way that it is lasting and that the people of Lebanon won't find themselves back in this particular situation where a terrorist group has been able to drag an entire nation into an abyss of violence. So of course, we are going to do what we think is right and what we think is best. But I have explained over and over again what our view is and we are going to work very hard to see that we are successful.
QUESTION: You said earlier that we should not probably expect some of the diplomacy we've seen in the past in that -- in similar situations. So were you referring to the shadow diplomacy of the '90s and the '70s?
MR. MCCORMACK: People have brought up different models. They've made various suggestions for what Secretary Rice may do. Look, people in past diplomatic efforts have done what they thought was right and appropriate at the time. It was a different time. We are living in a different era and we are also seeing a changing Middle East. And we are going to -- our diplomacy is going to conform to that different reality and that different Middle East in help bringing about ultimately the kind of Middle East where we have greater freedom, greater democracy, you don't have terrorist groups dragging people into this kind of situation.
QUESTION: Well, the other difference is that before there were always two sides that you could go between. In this case, one of the sides is Hezbollah and you have said that you are not going to deal with them. But they are a side, so supposedly they would or must be some sort of an interlocutor with them, so who will that be?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are various -- well, first of all, they have backers and there are various people who have contact with them. We are going to work. States in the region are going to be very important in this overall international diplomatic effort. And part of what we are doing in our diplomacy is talking to those states about a common approach to bring about a lasting solution. So they're going to play a role. They will have -- they have different contacts, for example, with the Government of Syria and talk to them about the choices that Syria faces here, whether or not they can play a positive role, not only in this -- in bringing about an end to this violence, but also more generally what kind of role do they expect to play within the Arab world.
QUESTION: Is it the Secretary's plan to bring together Arab ministers over the next few days to work on a plan that could encourage Syria to stop its support for -- alleged support for Hezbollah? Is that what the plan is, is to bring together Arab countries so that they could act as the sort of catalysts to try and put pressure on Syria?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we're in touch with Arab governments: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and others. They're going to play an important role, I think, in all of this and they will play a role -- they can play a role not only in talking to the Syrian Government about the choices that they are going to make, but also more generally in the diplomacy. So I would say, Sue, that they are going to -- they are part of an overall diplomatic effort. It would involve the United States, the UN, as well as interested European countries.
QUESTION: Just one more. You also said that you would do what is right to bring about an end to the violence, in other words, you know, get rid of Hezbollah. Israel said today that they've raised the possibility of a ground offensive Would that be something that the U.S. would support?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we don't -- we're not in the business of providing red lights, green lights, yellow lights. That's not, you know, that's not what we do. We as a friend provide our counsel. We've talked about what our messages have been. Those messages in public have been the same as they have been in private.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that particular point?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Even though you don't give any color of lights, a UN ambassador -- the Israeli Ambassador to the UN today said that Israel will take all means necessary, use all possible capabilities, do whatever that it needs to do to make sure that it is eliminating the threat. Do they have a complete carte blanche to do whatever they feel is necessary?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we have made our views on this known and very clear, time and time and time again.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. made any assessment on how much Hezbollah is getting weakened so far?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any particular assessment of that, Samir. I don't know. Difficult to tell.
QUESTION: Today the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we're ready yet, Barry.
QUESTION: Today the Iraqi Prime Minister criticized also the Israeli strikes and he said it was -- they were criminal. Aren't you concerned to -- about the impact this could be -- this could have on Iraq and your Iraq --
MR. MCCORMACK: He is a head of a sovereign government. He has a unity coalition government that he heads up. He has certainly his own concerns in that regard. We have our point of view on the matter. President Bush and he will certainly have the opportunity to talk about that, as well as other important issues for the Iraqis in the coming week.
QUESTION: And what about the image of U.S. in Iraq and the U.S. troop in Iraq after that?
MR. MCCORMACK: After this remark?
QUESTION: No, after the fact that you refuse to ask for a ceasefire and you give time to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we -- it's not an accurate characterization. We want the violence to end, but we -- and, you know, I can go through this again. You don't want to hear me go through it again. We want an end to the violence, but we want an end to the violence in such a way that addresses not only the current situation, but so you don't end up right back in the same place six months from now or six years from now. You don't want to hand the keys back to Hezbollah so that they control the situation where, when they decide, they can throw the region into a state of instability and violence and innocent life is lost. That's not the kind of solution you want.
QUESTION: That's a nice phrase, but do you really think Hezbollah holds the keys or its patrons hold the keys?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Barry, there are a lot of people that talk about to what extent Hezbollah is an independent actor. Clearly, over the course of ten years, they have been able to, with the assistance of their backers, and I'm not trying to let them off the hook here. I'm not trying to let them off the hook here, Barry, but they do have a substantial arsenal and they've shown that they're ready to use it.
Yeah. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Every day, Prime Minister Fuad Siniora is calling for help from the international society. Do you think that the feedback the Lebanese Government is getting is fair enough to the disastrous situation they are facing right now, rather than -- you know, condemning Hezbollah or whatever?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, if the -- again, I understand the Lebanese -- you know, the Lebanese people are facing a very difficult situation and we mourn the loss of innocent life. We are doing everything that we can to work on this idea of humanitarian assistance and allowing humanitarian assistance to flow in to the Lebanese people. So it's an issue of great concern for us. We have a great deal of concern for the innocent civilian populations on both sides of the border, the Israeli side of the border and the Lebanese side of the border. So it's something that we have been focused on. We haven't talked a lot about it. We've been trying to do a lot of quiet diplomacy on the matter, but I think that this is something that states in the region, including Israel, are taking a good, hard look at.
QUESTION: But physically the number of victims falling from the Lebanese side is more than the numbers falling from the Israeli sides.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, the -- every life, every innocent life is valuable and we mourn every one of those innocent civilian deaths. But again, let us remember why it is that we are in this situation. We're in this situation because Hezbollah took the steps that they did.
QUESTION: Sean, we've been talking a lot about Hezbollah. Hamas; where does Hamas fit into this picture and into the Secretary's diplomacy as she possibly heads to the region? You know, is that going to be a big focus of the agenda as well, is what to do with that problem as well in terms of creating stability in the region?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the level of violence in those -- in Gaza and those areas has been greatly reduced in recent times. There still is a level of violence. Of course, she's concerned about that. If and when she does travel to the region, I would expect that that is part -- that would be part of her discussions when she's there. We are -- we want to get back to the point where we're on a footing where you actually can consider moving down the pathway to the roadmap, but -- you know, the conditions to that are well-known: the Hamas-led government meeting, the conditions laid out by the Quartet in its London statement, and an end to these rocket attacks and the return of the Israeli prisoner, Corporal Shalit.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: Can I ask something on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we're not ready yet.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask -- I think that many people in the region do agree with you about a lasting solution to the problem, but what they're asking is, is that worth the hundreds of lives that are being lost in Lebanon right now? Do you have an answer to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Nicholas, let's look at all the lives that have been lost while Hezbollah has been allowed to grow into the force that it is right now. You also -- of course, we mourn the lives of those who have been -- those innocent lives who have been killed in the recent violence. We also don't want to see more. We don't want to see more in the future, either as many or greater numbers. So we -- you know, we just don't want to be back in that situation I don't think the world does and the region doesn't.
As I said, we are seeing this great transition within -- in the Middle East in which you are seeing the beginnings of the end of an old order and the start of a new order. And there are those who have an interest in preserving the old order; groups like Hezbollah, states like Syria, states like Iran. And this is a case where those in the region are choosing which side of the line they're going to be on. And we have been quite heartened by the fact that essentially, every state in the region other than Iran and Syria has chosen the side of positive change, as opposed to the side of preserving a status quo, which means only more violence, more tension, more instability.
Anything else on Lebanon?
Okay, who's --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) other than Ethiopian troops -- Ethiopian troops in Somalia -- I'm sure it seems to be true, but can you verify that? Could they be the forefront of a peacekeeping mission? Does the U.S. approve? However you want to get into this terribly tangled situation.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. It is a complex situation, Barry, but to get to the first part of your question about Ethiopian troops, I can't confirm for you specific locations of Ethiopian troops. We have seen the reports and we're watching the situation very closely. We would urge the Government of Ethiopia to exercise restraint. Now the reason for this increased level of tension in the area have been the movement of some forces from the Islamic Courts in and around Baidoa. And the reason why that's important is that the Islamic Courts, while they have said that they would like to have talks and negotiations with the Transitional Federal Institutions which are resident in Baidoa. They have made these -- what look like threatening military moves in and around Baidoa. So we're watching that situation closely. Again, in Somalia, we don't have all the types of resources to assess the situation that we might normally have in a state which we have resident diplomatic -- a diplomatic presence.
QUESTION: Could --
MR. MCCORMACK: So -- go ahead.
QUESTION: No, I'm sorry. Could the Ethiopians be helpful in protecting the government from Muslim fundamentalists?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we would obviously like to see some sort of peaceful dialogue between the Somali Government, the Federal Institutions and the Islamic Courts. We'll see if that is going to be possible. What we have asked the Ethiopians to do is to exercise some restraint in their actions.
QUESTION: Some analysts out there argue that throwing a couple of thousand Ethiopian troops into the mix exacerbates the problem a lot further in Somalia and that the risk of a full-blown, sort of, civil war is far worse now. What's your view on that? Are you sensing that the situation is becoming more dire in Somalia or do you think the Contact Group might get a handle on this or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- thank you for mentioning the Contact Group. The Contact Group is going to get together to talk about this and to see what we can do to use the members of the Contact Group and their contacts with the various parties in Somalia to see if they're -- we can avoid a new spike in violence. The violence is not new to Somalia. They've -- unfortunately, the people of Somalia have known that awful, awful levels of violence for quite some time. So we will do what we can, working with and through the Contact Group to see that we don't get to that point.
QUESTION: The Somalia Government --
QUESTION: I'm sorry, when is that discussion? When is that meeting going to be with the Contact --
MR. MCCORMACK: We've been in touch. I don't know. I'll try to get for you, Sue, whether or not it's going to be an actual in-person meeting or a virtual meeting where they get together on the --
QUESTION: Is this meeting going to be specifically to discuss Ethiopia or just in general --
MR. MCCORMACK: The situation.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. agree with Ethiopia's assertion or claim that the transitional government of Somalia does not have enough of a force to protect itself, that it needs outside help?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- that's part of the complex web of issues here, Barry, is do -- these institutions, Transitional Institutions are fairly weak. They're not very robust. And part of what the longer-term plan of the Contact Group has been to talk about ways to strengthen those institutions so that they can exercise more and more responsible control over Somalia.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, Mr. McCormack, today is the 23rd dark anniversary of the Turkish invasion and occupation of northern Cyprus since July 20, 1974, when Turkey, using illegally U.S. military aid, invaded the island under the full blessing, of course, of the then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. I'm wondering if you could offer for us any statement in order to give family an end to this tragedy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Of -- what sort of statement are you looking for, Lambros? Look, we -- there have been some recent discussions on -- concerning Cyprus and we have some reasonable hopes that there might be some possibilities for moving forward to come to some mutually acceptable solution. So that is where our efforts are. I think that there's -- and with this, as in many conflicts, there's far too much dwelling on the past and not enough on looking forward and how you actually solve the problems for the betterment of the people involved. So that's where our efforts are going to be.
QUESTION: On PKK, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan dismissed statements by U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson, who cautioned Ankara not to take any unilateral action in northern Iraq, saying inter alia, "It's up to Turkey and not anyone else to decide to launch a cross- border military operation into northern Iraq to destroy PKK bases there," a statement which disturbed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and then President Bush getting involved with a telephone call.
Could you please once again, Mr. McCormack, clarify the U.S. position on this crucial issue, since according to a bunch of reports today, 50,000 Turkish troops are almost ready to start the operation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think that you have comments from a number of U.S. officials, it sounds like, just in that statement. I know Tony Snow talked about the President's phone call and Ambassador Wilson has talked about it, so I don't have anything to add to that.
QUESTION: On North Korea, Chris -- Ambassador Chris Hill testified today that he had seen reports that there was an Iranian presence during their missile launches. Then he later added that it wouldn't be surprising if North Korea wanted to prove its missile prowess to Iran in order to, I don't know, get sales. But how likely is it that North Korea are looking to make Iran one of their customers for their weapons programs?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the -- I don't have anything to add to what Chris said I think he was pretty clear. But North Korea basically, with respect to weapons, anything that isn't bolted down, they're ready to sell. I think we've seen that. So, you know, the bazaar is open. Whether or not they were trying to show how good their wares are, you know, I don't know. Our insight into the decision-making process is somewhat clouded.
Okay, one more.
QUESTION: A follow-up.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: He actually wasn't clear on whether or not he could confirm that there was an Iranian presence. Can you confirm that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing beyond what he did. Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)
Released on July 20, 2006