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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 27, 2006


Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 27, 2006

INDEX:

ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
Payment of Salaries to Hamas Bureaucrats within Palestinian
Authority / Quartet Views
Release of captive Israeli soldier taken by Hamas

IRAN
Postponement of P5+1 meeting / Connection to Situation in Lebanon
/ P5 and G8 Progress

DEPARTMENT
Confirmation Hearings of Ambassador John Bolton

ISRAEL / LEBANON
Shebaa Farms proposal
Chinese push for Presidential Statement on Death of UN
Peacekeepers in Lebanon / Need for Full Investigation
Next Steps on Diplomacy / Counselor Zelikow discussions with NATO,
EU / AS Welch, Director Abrams work with Israeli, Lebanese
Officials / No Discussions with Iran, Syria
Options for Composition of Peacekeeping Force / Possible
Contributors
Evacuation of Americans from Southern Lebanon / State still
Committed to Assisting Americans in Lebanon
Role of Syria / UNSCR 1559 / UNIFIL

MALAYSIA
Secretary Rice's Musical Performance at ASEAN Regional Forum

UNITED KINGDOM
Alleged Transit of U.S. Weapons to Israel via UK Airports

JAPAN
Announcement by Government of Japan that it will Import U.S. Beef

KOSOVO
U.S. Support for Negotiated Solution to Status of Kosovo

SOMALIA
Dialogue Among Various Parties Essential

GREECE / TURKEY
Talks between Chiefs of Staff of both Countries


TRANSCRIPT:

12:53 p.m. EDT


MR. CASEY: Afternoon, everyone. Welcome back. Happy Thursday. Don't have any statements or announcements for you, so let's get right to your questions.

QUESTION: Well, actually, let me try something that's a little bit off the mark. Mr. Abbas has decided to pay some bureaucrats in the PA and I wondered what you thought of that and I wondered if the U.S. knew what -- whose money he's using and if you knew whether Hamas people are getting paid? Anything you can do to elaborate on the State Department's view of this?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I've seen those press reports and I really haven't gotten any confirmation of them. What I can tell you on this is that the U.S. position remains quite clear. We certainly don't support the payment of salaries to employees of the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority Government. And certainly we would be looking for Hamas to come into compliance with the terms that the Quartet's laid out for it before we would be supportive of anything, even remotely along those lines. As you know, there is a June 17th statement from the Quartet that endorses a temporary international mechanism to provide direct assistance to the Palestinian people, but we certainly wouldn't include in that salaries to a Hamas-led Government. So we'll try and see if we can some more information and clarity for you. But initially, I'd -- what I'd make clear is that our position certainly hasn't changed on that.

QUESTION: Well, what isn't clear is whether they're making payments as well as who's getting the payments.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Absolutely. I don't have information either to confirm that they're making those payments or who've they've made those payments to. And certainly before we'd respond to that, I want to make sure we have some clarity on it.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Still on Abbas?

MR. CASEY: Same subject or different subject?

QUESTION: It's not the same subject.

QUESTION: Well, it has Abbas in it.

MR. CASEY: Okay. (Laughter.) Well, it's a stretch, but we'll go for it, Teri.

QUESTION: No. What do you know about these? I mean, if the U.S. has any independent information about reports that there may be an imminent solution on the soldier (inaudible)

MR. CASEY: Other than the press reports, I don't have any information that I can offer you right now. Obviously, it has been one of our longstanding goals in this situation to see the release of the captive Israeli soldiers, both those held by Hamas and those held by Hezbollah. President Abbas has been one of the people that we have been talking to to try and help move that process forward. Certainly, we would love to see that happen. We believe it would be an important step forward in dealing with some of the issues that prompted the current military actions in Gaza and the West Bank. And so we certainly hope it's true, but I don't have any independent confirmation for you.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: The 5+1 meeting on Iran was postponed today at the UN and some diplomats said that it was because of disagreement on Lebanon. Do you think the disagreements on Lebanon between U.S. and its partners in the Quartet or in the international community could have an impact on other big items on the agenda like Iran or North Korea?

MR. CASEY: Well, Sylvie, there are ongoing consultations in New York on a resolution on Iran's nuclear program. Those consultations are moving forward in a variety of fora. I think we've made some good progress in the last few days and I know we certainly hope to have a resolution passed as soon as possible. In terms of the impact of other issues on this, certainly I think there is still a clear and consistent agreement in the international community about how to proceed on Iran's nuclear program. That was laid out very clearly by the P-5+1. It's also been addressed by the G-8, among others. Part of that is getting this resolution at the Security Council and I think we're confident that that's going to move forward.

QUESTION: Can I ask you something else?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Same subject?

QUESTION: It's the Middle East. It's

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Same subject?

QUESTION: It's the Middle East, it's to try to resolve all the disputes. The Shebaa Farms has been a difficult item of contention between Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. Has the U.S. -- is the U.S. pushing in some way -- not necessarily Secretary Rice but is the U.S. pushing the Israeli Government in some way to try to get this on the agenda and get it resolved as part of any settlement?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, I think that that is an issue that's outstanding, as you say, not only between Israel and Lebanon, but between Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. Obviously, when you look at how you come up with a long-range solution to the problems in the region, that is an issue that has to be addressed. I don't have anything for you in terms of specific conversations on that subject, but certainly, it's an issue that's an ongoing concern and one that people, I'm sure, will be looking at and discussing as we move forward.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Teri.

QUESTION: UN, sort of. Are you getting nervous at all about Mr. Bolton's confirmation? You still getting a hard time on --

MR. CASEY: UN, sort of?

QUESTION: UN, United Nations Ambassador John Bolton.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Look; I think, as you know, Ambassador Bolton's having his confirmation hearing today. It started at 9:30 and I believe it is still ongoing. I certainly will leave it to the Senate to act on this and make their own decisions, but as you know, we think Ambassador Bolton has proved in his time up in New York that he's done an outstanding job of representing the Administration's positions and views, that he's made good progress in the Council on a number of tough issues, including on working things like North Korea and Iran and the whole panoply of issues, including management reform, that have moved forward. We certainly hope that after they give their careful consideration of his nomination, that the committee and eventually, the full Senate will vote to give him -- vote to confirm him.

QUESTION: What do you -- what would you be concerned about if they didn't? I mean, that would leave a lot of things undone at the UN. You're in the middle of so many difficult issues.

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, the important thing is that we do have a strong ambassador there right now and again, we have every belief that if the Senate looks at this issue carefully and reviews it completely, they'll come to the same conclusion that we do, which is that John Bolton's doing an excellent job in a tough job, in a tough time, and that he should be allowed to continue to carry out the President's policies there.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Again, about UN. China today is again pushing for a resolution -- not a resolution, sorry, for a presidential statement on condemning the Israeli attack on the UN barrack in south Lebanon. And I wanted to know if U.S. would be ready to give China some satisfaction so it would unblock the Iranian story?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I'm not -- I don't think I would draw the linkage between those two, but let me just repeat what we've said about the tragic death of the UN peacekeepers in Lebanon. This is a terrible incident. It is a tragedy. It is something that the Israeli Prime Minister has apologized to Kofi Annan for, on behalf of his country to the United Nations. The Israelis have said that they are conducting a investigation into this. That's appropriate and that's right and that's what should happen. And we think that that's the way to proceed.

In terms of discussions on this issue, I know there are ongoing discussions in the UN Security Council. I don't have a really good update for you on where those are, but I think certainly that all those discussions should ultimately reflect the state of the situation, which is that this is a terrible incident. It did, in fact, happen in ways that raised questions that need to be addressed through this investigation, but that it is also something that the Israelis have acknowledged, apologized for, and in fact are independently moving forward with an investigation on.

QUESTION: Yeah. But, sorry if I can follow up. The problem is very -- there was one Chinese peacekeeper among the dead and China is still not satisfied. And Secretary Rice is in Malaysia today and the U.S. needs China on the North Korean issue. So what are you going to do?

MR. CASEY: On what?

QUESTION: About China.

MR. CASEY: What are we going to do about China? Well, we have a very fine, strong relationship with China. And as you know, if you read Chris Hill's briefing transcript from a little earlier in the day, she's going to be meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Li tomorrow, among her other meetings in Malaysia. I'm sure if there are issues to discuss related to this that she'll be happy to talk to them about it.

Again, I think in terms of the UN discussions on this matter, I think that whatever the outcome of those discussions, they simply need to reflect the facts as they exist, which is that there is -- this terrible incident has happened. It is a tragedy. It is something -- and we certainly mourn the loss of life of those involved, but it is something for which we certainly need to see an investigation move forward and need to see a result of it.

QUESTION: You said some questions ought to be answered --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- taken up. Can you give us an idea of what questions are on the U.S.'s mind? Could one of them possibly be Hezbollah setting up alongside a UN encampment?

MR. CASEY: Well, Barry, look, certainly it's a well-known fact that Hezbollah does stage itself within civilian areas. I do not -- and I don't want to speculate about this incident -- I do not have any reason to believe that did or did not occur in this incident. What we know happened -- the facts that we know at this point are that peacekeepers were killed as a result of Israeli military action. The facts surrounding that remain in question. Those facts rightly ought to be -- and the Israelis are proceeding to do an investigation into them. And that's the right thing to do. And before we start speculating about what happened, I think we need to have that investigation go forward and see what the results are.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The question that was raised yesterday but you didn't have anything on it. I'm wondering if you have an answer today on the British request for an inquiry into the transfer of these weapons. Now I believe DOD has acknowledged that it's been requested. Do you have anything on that?

MR. CASEY: I really don't in terms of any specifics. And for specifics on this I would refer you over to the Department of Defense.

But let me just say a couple of things in general about the issue. First of all, as I think is clear to everyone, we do have a very special and very close relationship with the United Kingdom. And obviously we want to make sure that everything that we do with the United Kingdom is done appropriately, is done according to -- and with full respect for everyone's laws and procedures. There have been obviously some concerns raised by the Government of the United Kingdom about this and this is definitely something that we will be speaking with the Government of the U.K. about, because among friends as close as we are, we certainly need to make sure that we avoid any confusion or any misunderstandings.

QUESTION: But as far as you can say from the U.S. side, everything was done in accordance with the agreements?

MR. CASEY: My -- again, as far I know, there is, again, questions that have been raised about this. I don't have the specific details on any flights that might have been involved. That's again something I'd refer you to the Department of Defense on. But the main point of it is, this is not an issue where either of us should worry about the kinds -- or let these kinds of details, or these kinds of questions, stand in the way of our broader relationship. We're good friends. If there are questions out there, and we know that the U.K. has some, then we're going to work with them to address them. Because the important thing is we do have the kind of relationship where we can have those issues addressed and discussed and I'm sure we'll be able to answer any questions that are out there.

Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date on the diplomacy following Rome from the Secretary's travel plans, to the extent you might be able to help us, down to Assistant Secretary Welch, Counselor Zelikow, other officials who might be acting?

MR. CASEY: Sure. Well, as you know, the Secretary talked about this a little bit in her briefing to some of your colleagues en route to Kuala Lumpur. There are a number of officials, U.S. officials, who have remained in Europe or in the Middle East to work on follow-up to the actions decided upon in Rome yesterday. Phil Zelikow, the Counselor for the State Department, is one of them. He is in Brussels today. I know he's had conversations with the NATO Secretary General. My understanding, he was also going to be meeting with NATO military officials and also have some discussions with officials from the European Union.

Again, this is looking towards how we go about designing and organizing the international force that was agreed upon in Rome and also to discuss the obvious part of that, which is who might be willing and able to contribute troops to that operation. So that's where Phil is today and that's what he is doing.

David Welch and Elliott Abrams stayed on in Rome. They have now gone back to Israel. They will be continuing discussions with the Israeli and Lebanese officials there. And again, the focus of their efforts is, as the Secretary said, the agreement to move forward on the deployment of this force. There's going to be an agreement, a political agreement, involving the sovereign Government of Lebanon and the sovereign Government of Israel. And so David and Elliott Abrams will be working and talking with Israeli officials, they'll be working and talking with Lebanese officials, again, to make sure that there is common agreement and an understanding on the terms of this force and how it'll operate.

QUESTION: What about the Secretary?

QUESTION: As a follow-up.

MR. CASEY: Sorry. I'll do Charlie and then I'll move over to you, Barry.

QUESTION: No, he asked about the Secretary's travel.

QUESTION: Can I assume -- well, yes, I don't know if you have any update on the Secretary's travel plans, but can I assume from what you didn't say that the U.S. has no diplomatic efforts going on with Syria or Iran?

MR. CASEY: You can assume that there's no change in the status on that, yeah. In terms of the Secretary's travel, Barry, she just said in her last public event in Kuala Lumpur that she certainly was open to the idea of returning, but she hadn't made any final decisions. I don't have any additional travel plans to announce for you, but we will try and keep you updated.

QUESTION: Is it contingent -- two questions, related. Is it contingent on some progress being made on an international force? And secondly, you're still speaking in NATO terms, I believe. I thought that's been ruled out by President Chirac that the French don't want NATO in there, per se, and the objections of one NATO country is sufficient to torpedo an idea like that. Is the possibility of a NATO force still a live one as far as the U.S. is concerned?

MR. CASEY: Barry, I think there are a number of possibilities out there. Obviously, NATO has a lot of experience and assets that it can draw upon.

QUESTION: Sure.

MR. CASEY: But again, one of the things it will be looking to decide over the course of the next few days is the exact nature and mandate of the force. So I'm not prepared to rule in or rule out any particular options at this point. There's obviously things that are going to be under discussion. I know a number of officials have made comments about it.

But I think the important thing for us is that there is agreement that there will be a force, that it will be a robust one, that it will be in a position to do what everyone in Rome agreed that it should do, which is support creating those conditions for a permanent end to violence along the lines of Resolution 1559, which means helping the Lebanese Government to establish sovereignty over the full length and breadth of its country.

QUESTION: And is progress on that the contingency of returning to the area?

MR. CASEY: Well, as she said herself earlier today, she's going to evaluate the situation. If she thinks that her presence, again, can help lead to progress on these questions, then she'll make that decision to go. And I'd expect we'll have something on that for you in fairly near future, but we'll let those announcements come from out of the party.

QUESTION: There's been an ever-changing list of -- a small list of countries that are willing, in one form or another, not necessarily for NATO, for -- contribute security forces. Do you happen to know what the U.S.'s understanding of who might be available?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think at this point, Barry, we're going to let other countries speak for themselves as to -- you know, whether they intend to contribute troops to this operation. Obviously, part of that includes the kind of discussions that Counselor Zelikow is having today in Europe. Because of course, people's ability to contribute to this force depends, in part, on how it's going to be structured and its mandate. But I think we are exploring -- you know, a wide range of options there, both for who winds up heading up that force, as well as nations that would be contributing to it.

QUESTION: On Iraq --

MR. CASEY: Let's go to Mr. Lambros, then let's go to Samir and then come back down.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, why you are focusing only in the European Union and NATO and not other countries -- in other countries to formulate this international force for Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think we are focusing exclusively on any one nation or region to support this effort. But obviously many European countries participated in the Rome conference. I think it is logical that when you look at potential support for this kind of operation, you turn to individual countries or organizations that have experience running and operating similar kinds of measures. NATO is obviously one of them, but it certainly isn't the only possibility there, too. And I expect you'll see conversations going on with a number of other countries from other places as well. It's just logically, since the meeting was in Rome, Counselor Zelikow started there and the logical, sort of first starting point for him in these discussions would be in Brussels.

QUESTION: But NATO did not succeed in Afghanistan, did not succeed in Iraq, so how -- Why then should NATO go again (inaudible) the Middle East?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, as you know, I have some great sympathy and personal feelings about NATO and I would certainly contest the notion that NATO hasn't been a successful organization or hasn't conducted successful military operations in the past. I certainly think if you look at its record in the Balkans and elsewhere, you'll see that it's made some great contributions to peace and security in Europe and now increasingly outside of Europe as well. But again, what I wanted to make clear is that we are going to be working broadly to look at all the options available for organizing this force. And certainly we'll be looking not at any narrow or exclusive list of countries in which we might be able to draw support from.

Let Samir -- let's go over to you and then let's go down the second row.

QUESTION: The Lebanese Prime Minister listed yesterday in Rome about seven or eight items that will help solve the crisis. Among them he's suggesting that the Shebaa Farms to be transferred from Israel to the control of the United Nations until a settlement is reached for the Shebaa Farms. Are you open for his position on this or what's the U.S. --

MR. CASEY: Samir, again, I don't want to get ahead of the diplomacy there. I think, as I said to Barry, that this is -- this is an issue that's going to have to be discussed in the context of finding a resolution to the problems that are out of there. But I'm not in a position to give you a thumbs up or a thumbs down on any particular options at this point.

Let's go to Kirit.

QUESTION: Do you have an update for us on the efforts to get the Americans out of southern Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: I think I've got a little bit more, though I think most of what I had you got yesterday. And let me just see if I can check my statistics here. Yeah, as I noted for you yesterday, we had a group of American citizens that did, in fact, deport from -- depart from the Port of Tyre yesterday on a Canadian-charted vessel. The number I'm given for that is 173. There were several other, a smaller -- other American citizens who have also departed on some other commercial ships. I do not have any additional convoys or other activities specific to the embassy to report. We've got 173 that departed, is in addition to the 500 others that I understand we were able to assist to leave Southern Lebanon. Those individuals, as you know, were taken at an earlier time directly to Beirut for transport by sea over to Cyprus.

We are still working with both our own people, our aid director, our security people, and others as well as with NGOs and Lebanese authorities to try and locate any other American citizens that may be out there in Southern Lebanon who wish to depart. Obviously, again, this is a difficult situation and one where there are a lot of ongoing security concerns. But we're still working on it, we're still working on it, we're still trying to make sure that if there's anyone out there we can reach and get to and assist, that we help them get out.

Let's go -- yeah.

QUESTION: Thanks, Tom. Is there a checklist of critical mass that would bring Secretary Rice back to the region? And since Rome, everybody kind of dispersed. Where would continued talks happen if she were to come back?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I don't want to try and speculate on her future travel. Again, I think we'll have answers on that soon enough. The main purpose, just as she said before she left on this trip, she's going to go if she feels she has a positive contribution to make to achieving a lasting and enduring end to the violence. I think we've made some very good progress and had some real success coming out of Rome. We now have these other senior officials working in the region on follow-up to that and I think she'll make her evaluation, in part, based on what she hears from them as to how and whether she, at this particular moment, will be -- would be able to help move that process forward through her presence.

QUESTION: Is it possible to know whether it would automatically be Rome or perhaps somewhere else?

MR. CASEY: Again, I'm just not going to speculate at this point on where she might go. I think you know where she's traveled on this current route. Whether any future stops would take her there or elsewhere, I'm just going to leave to the party to announce.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CASEY: Okay, Joel.

QUESTION: Yes. Tom, Secretary Rice continues to say that Syria knows what it has to do. What is your view concerning Syria and their continued interference with Lebanon? President -- Lebanese President Lahud, in a television interview, says he backs Hezbollah. And is the UNIFIL force past its prime?

MR. CASEY: Joel, I think we've covered most of this before, but I'm happy to do it again for you. The Secretary's spoken on Syria's responsibility, but more importantly, the international community has spoken as a whole about Syria's responsibility. It's laid out very clearly in Resolution 1559. Syria has a clear choice about how it wishes to proceed. Does it wish to, along with Iran and Hezbollah, remain on one side of the divide with the international community or does it wish to try and change its behavior and be a positive actor? But I think you can sum it all up very simply, in that Syria and all other outside forces in there, whether that's Iran or anyone else, needs to leave Lebanon to the Lebanese and that's really what this is all about.

Sylvie.

QUESTION: Yeah, do you have any comment to make after the sale of weapons by Russia to Venezuela?

MR. CASEY: Beyond what I've said the last two days on it, no, not really.

Let's go over here.

QUESTION: On North Korea, North Korean officers said today in Kuala Lumpur, unless United States lift financial sanctions, North Korea would never return to the six-party table. What is the U.S. position on that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen the comments, but again, I'll just repeat what we've said previously. I don't know of any country in the world that believes it is appropriate to allow other individuals, entities, or nations to engage in illicit financial transactions, whether that's counterfeiting, whether that's money laundering or otherwise. Our efforts against Banco Delta Asia are the efforts that any government would take when presented with a concerted effort to cause harm and damage to our financial system. So, you know, these are measures that we take under the Patriot Act and they are applied not just to North Korea, but to any country that engages in those kinds of activities. So this really is an issue that is completely separate from the issue of North Korea's nuclear program and the six-party talks. We again urge the North Koreans to do what they've committed to do, which is to sit down with us in the six-party talks, negotiate off of the September statement, which would lead to a -- what is everyone's stated goal, which is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Assistant Secretary Hill spoke to this as well and I'd refer you to his transcript for a little more -- a few more details.

QUESTION: But does the United States have any best idea -- bring North Korea into the six-party talks this time in Kuala Lumpur?

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, our understanding at this point, as you know, the Chinese had called for an informal meeting of the six-party talks in Malaysia. Our understanding is that they have -- the North Koreans have decided not to attend that meeting. So what I believe we will be doing instead is having the other five parties consult amongst themselves and with several other interested countries from the region, specifically Australia, Canada and Malaysia, which is of course the host of the ASEAN meeting.

But again, while that is certainly useful and helpful in terms of having a good discussion of these issues, the thing that would really be best would be for North Korea to make the right choice and decide to come back to the talks.

Let's go over here, because I think she's on the same subject.

QUESTION: I have a different subject.

MR. CASEY: Oh, okay. Well, let's go over to you anyway, unless someone else has something similar.

QUESTION: Thank you. It's on Japan and U.S. beef. The trade officials didn't answer because the agricultural secretary is out of the country at the moment. Earlier today the Japanese Government re-opened their borders to U.S. beef and what is the Administration reaction to this?

MR. CASEY: Well, certainly we welcome Japan's announcement today that it will resume imports of U.S. beef from cattle aged 20 months and younger. We believe American beef, obviously is very safe for all consumers and we're pleased to be able to demonstrate to Japan that our system's in full compliance with its requirements. And we certainly look forward to continue working with Japan to strengthen our trading relationship.

QUESTION: And just to follow up also. Because Japan is only opening this market to a very specific category and also limiting its imports, does it look like the U.S. beef will still be a sticking point between U.S. and Japan relations?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'll leave it to the trade negotiators and the agricultural secretary to give you details on further conversations, but certainly we welcome today's decision.

QUESTION: A question on Brahms, please.

MR. CASEY: Opus 118 or is it 108 in D Minor? Can we get the tape of the Secretary's performance, please?

MR. CASEY: If I have it, you can have it. No, but yes, for those of you unfamiliar with this ritual, at the ASEAN meetings there is always a portion of it that involves skits or musical performances by the leaders involved. In this instance, the Secretary performed a Brahms piano concerto. I can get you the specific name of the piece if you don't already have it. She did that in conjunction with the Director of the Malaysian National Symphony Orchestra who accompanied her on violin. And part of the reason for choosing this, and she dedicated this to her goals of peace in the Middle East, obviously while there have been a number of sort of more humorous presentations that have been done over the years on this, I think she believed, under the circumstance, it was appropriate to do something a little more serious and in recognition of some of the things that were happening in the world.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Anything to say about the failure of the Kosovo talks according to Martti Ahtisaari?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, Mr. Lambros, I think we all share a common objective and goal for those talks. It's clear that the time has come for the parties involved to reach a mutual agreement and a clear settlement on the status of Kosovo. We realize, and I don't think anyone was -- under illusions that these talks were not going to be easy. And obviously the parties involved have some real differences between them. But the important thing is we do want them to continue talking, to continue to move forward in future rounds. And we believe ultimately, that reaching an agreement among the parties is going to be in the best interests of everyone in the Balkans. Because let's remember too that when the Balkans conflicts began, that the ultimate goal here was not only achieving a general peace and one agreeable to all the citizens of the region, but then being able to have the region move forward and make progress and become fully integrated into European and Euro-Atlantic structures. You know, the people of the Balkans, the people of Serbia, the people in Kosovo, the people in the region, in the region as a whole certainly deserve a better future. And what we need to do is get beyond the legacies of the conflicts of the end of the last century so that they can go ahead and do that.

QUESTION: But it was reported yesterday by the public radio that the U.S. is sending again special military units to Kosovo. And an American solider actually answered to a question, said that he's going to Kosovo with his special unit in order to save the Albanians. Since the decision for more troops from the U.S. to Kosovo is a political one too, besides the military plan, I'm wondering what's going on? Are you prepared for another war in the area?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, first of all, let me just clarify a couple of things. U.S. troops that are in Kosovo are there as part of --

QUESTION: 1800.

MR. CASEY: And they are there as part of the UN-authorized NATO mission there. I certainly know that my dear friends out at NATO can talk to you in detail about any troop movements that are there. But again, I think I need to stress to you what the -- you know, what our policy is. And our policy is to support a negotiated agreement among the parties for a peaceful settlement that allows the people in Kosovo, the people in Serbia, and the people in the whole region have a safe and secure peace and one that allows them to move forward.

Let's go over here, Barry.

QUESTION: The Somalia situation again. You know, the U.S.-backed interim government is basically falling apart. Twenty members of parliament resigned, accusing the government of being inept. Anything new to say about this? You're asking the Ethiopians to leave. I thought they were your best hope for resuscitating, if that's the word, the government.

MR. CASEY: Barry, look, I --

QUESTION: What's going on? Are you still content to just let them hammer it out themselves?

MR. CASEY: Barry, again, I think that the solutions to the situation in Somalia are going to be created by Somalis. The Transitional Federal Institutions and the Islamic Courts both need to be able to sit down, talk to one another, and engage in a dialogue. And that dialogue also should be broadened out to other elements of Somali society.

Look; this is a country that has basically been in turmoil for 15 years and it's a situation where there has been some progress made towards trying to develop institutions, but ultimately, the Somalis themselves are going to be the ones that are going to have to decide how to move forward on this. And we are encouraging them and we are encouraging all our friends in the region to try and assist in that process.

Let's go back to Mr. Lambros and then --

QUESTION: One on Greece.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The initiative of the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, almost after 50 years, Mr. Casey, for the first time, the Greek and the Turkish Chairman of the Chief of Staff Admiral Panayiotis Hinofotis and General Hilmi Ozkok met in Ankara for two days, since yesterday, to discuss CBM -- confidence-building measures. How do you comment on this new Greek-Turkish military rapprochement?

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I don't really have any details on that meeting, but let me just say in general that, of course, we support good and friendly relations and confidence-building measures being developed between our good friends and NATO allies, Greece and Turkey. And obviously, resolution of any differences that exist between those countries is something we'd support.

Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:28 p.m.)

DPB # 125

Released on July 27, 2006

ENDS


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