State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 19, 2006
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
October 19, 2006
KOREA / CHINA
China's Special Representative Tang in North Korea with Strong
Message / China Working to Persuade North Korea to Comply
September 19 agreement
Secretary in Beijing to Meet with Foreign Minister Li and Others
to Discuss North Korea / Individual Countries Stepping in To
U.S. Board of Geographic Names Decision to Change Official
Spelling of Kyiv
U.S. Space Policy / Space Should Be Used For Benefit of All
U.S. Supports Democratic System and Process
Discussions on Sanctions Ongoing / UN Resolution Not Yet Tabled
President Ahmadi-Nejad's Remarks on Israel Unfortunate
Iran Not Positive Force in Bringing About Middle East Peace
U.S. Has Provided Generous Aid Package / U.S. Supports Sinora
Possible Participation in Donor's Conference in France
Secretary Rice's Visit Will Focus on Implementation of Resolution
1718 and North Korea
SERBIA / KOSOVO
Serbian People Must Determine Vote on Constitution's Wording /
Final Status of Kosovo Should Be Established Through Negotiations
Secretary Rice's Discussed Rafa Crossing, General Dayton's
Mission, Security Situation During Talks With Israelis
11:51 a.m. EDT
MR. CASEY: Okay. Good morning, everyone, since we are still a little before noon. Pleasure to be here with you. I don't have any announcements for you. And the only statement I have in light of game 7 tonight between the Cardinals and Mets is let's go Mets. So with that, Barry, let me take your questions.
MR. CASEY: Didn't think you would.
QUESTION: Well, you have a -- I know there's a planeload of officials. Maybe it's redundant to ask questions here, but let me at least try to ask you for an overall appraisal and basically are they on the same wavelength, the Chinese and the U.S.? The Chinese Envoy has been to North Korea. The Secretary is issuing conciliatory statements that suggest to me there's some compromise so far as tone is concerned because the Chinese are always for conciliation with North Korea. But anyway, do you have any 30 second or a two minute appraisal of the Chinese on whether they're correlating with the United States?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, certainly we know that the Chinese have sent Special Representative Tang to North Korea. We understand he's carrying a very strong message from the Chinese Government about the need for the North Koreans not to engage in additional nuclear tests and to move forward in terms of stopping their negative behavior and returning to the path outlined by the September 19th agreement.
Certainly the Secretary tomorrow will be in Beijing. She'll be having meetings there with Foreign Minister Li, among others. And I expect we'll have a good readout from her after those meetings. But in general, I think as you've heard her say, we know that not only the Chinese, but the other members of the six-party talks, including the Japanese and South Koreans who she has been in conversations with over the last couple of days and the Russians who she'll see subsequently after the Chinese, all supported this resolution and all have indicated that they intend to move forward with the implementation of it. Now obviously there are a lot of discussions and a lot of details to be worked through, as the Secretary said herself, in terms of how that implementation is going to work and each country is in a slightly different position and we'll need to do things slightly differently. A land border is different than a sea border, for example. But again, I think we are very comfortable that the broad and universal support shown by the Security Council for Resolution 1718 is being backed up by steps by the individual countries involved to help implement it. And in that sense, I think we very much appreciate the efforts that all countries are taking at this point to do that.
QUESTION: This is a practical question, Tom. Reports are starting to surface again of a possible five-party meeting. Can you put a stake through the heart of that?
MR. CASEY: Well, she actually addressed that in a transcript you might not have had a chance to see, but was a meeting with some Japanese journalists in Tokyo and I'll just leave it where she said which is while we certainly would always be open to a ministerial level six-party talk meeting, should the North Koreans ever change their mind about that, she does not expect there to be such a meeting or -- such a meeting minus the North Koreans taking place in Beijing.
QUESTION: On Albania and I need your attention because it's very important. Congressman Donald Payne in a statement before the U.S. House of Representatives, September 27, criticized the Albanian Government and the Department of State for being less, according to the records, than forthcoming in addressing the humanitarian mission namely to facilitate the retrieval of the remains of Gregory Stavrou, who was executed by the Hoxha regime in 1953. He was an intelligent operative for Greece who's (inaudible) were shared with the U.S. Government too. According to the same statement, Mr. Casey, his brother, a prominent professor here in the town, has by his own means located the place of his execution and the burial, but the American Embassy in Tirana takes the word of the Albanian Minister of the Interior which claims ignorance in his burial place. Yet, the Embassy refuses to tell the professor why Albania pleads such a type of ignorance.
Question: What problem does the American Embassy in Tirana sees thus far declines to formally request from the Foreign Ministry permission for an American citizen to retrieve the remains of his brother? He knows where they are. Is the Department of State still honoring Enver Hoxha's secrecy laws mainly still on the Albanian books?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros --
QUESTION: It's a humanitarian issue --
MR. CASEY: Yeah, Mr. Lambros, first of all I'm not familiar with this specific case. Certainly I am sure that the embassy in Tirana, as all embassies do, will do anything they can to help American citizens who have concerns in a foreign country.
With regard to this specific case, frankly, I would refer you to the embassy in Tirana. I'm not sure whether there are Privacy Act issues involved here or otherwise, but I can tell you with certainty that I'm sure the embassy in Tirana will pursue any legitimate cases involving American citizens because that's part of what all our embassies do overseas.
QUESTION: May I go to Serbia?
MR. CASEY: Well, let's come back -- let's go down to Sylvie, and then we'll go back to Serbia later.
QUESTION: I have a question about Ukraine.
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: The State Department recently officially changed its spelling of the Ukrainian capital from the Russian transliteration to the Ukrainian language transliteration. I wanted to know why.
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all -- and I'm so glad you asked this question, Sylvie.
QUESTION: You were ready for this.
MR. CASEY: I was, you know -- been waiting for this for several days. First of all, let me explain about decision in Ukraine. The U.S. Board of Geographic Names, which is a federal body, in case for those of you that don't know, it was created 1890 and was established in its present form in 1947. It's comprised of representatives from several different government agencies. And for those of you that didn't know, the Board is authorized to establish and maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government and this is actually a responsibility it shares with the Secretary of the Interior.
Now, this decision was made to change the spelling of the capital of Ukraine to what is now currently spelled K-y-i-v. The reasons for this as I understand the board's decision making was that this is more in keeping with how the Ukrainians themselves pronounce the name of their capital. It is also now in keeping with how a number of international organizations, including NATO and the UN, are now spelling it. So basically it was a change designed to be more consistent both with local pronunciation standards as well as to ensure some consistency with what other international organizations as well as the Ukrainians themselves are doing.
QUESTION: My grandmother's hometown is now Lviv and it's been Lviv for years and years in Ukraine -- it was Lvov. I mean, that switch was made at least ten years ago.
MR. CASEY: Well, I'd refer you to the --
QUESTION: I'm just curious --
MR. CASEY: Honestly, Barry, I don't the answer to that.
MR. CASEY: I'd refer you to the board themselves in terms of their deliberations and how that process works.
QUESTION: But if I may, this decision appears very political because only half of the Ukrainian population speaks Ukrainian and half speaks Russian. So the State Department seems to take side.
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think that this decision has anything reflective in it, other than what I said. The board itself is not involved in foreign policy matters or discussions. And again, I would simply treat it as a continuing effort to standardize practice with other international organizations and in keeping with what the Ukrainian Government's doing.
QUESTION: The State Department is on the board?
MR. CASEY: Yes, we are.
QUESTION: And why haven't you changed Burma to Myanmar?
MR. CASEY: You know, I'll have to get back to you on that one, Arshad. But I think there is actually some public statements regarding that. But for now, Burma is known as Burma.
QUESTION: Did you hear anything from Macedonia lately?
MR. CASEY: I haven't -- (laughter) -- but as you know and as Mr. Lambros well knows there was in fact a change in how the United States Government referred to Macedonia.
MR. CASEY: Yes, exactly.
QUESTION: In spite of -- (laughter).
MR. CASEY: Only as annotated in certain NATO documents.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, since you mention that --
MR. CASEY: Actually, Mr. Lambros --
QUESTION: -- what is the position vis-Ã -vis to the name which is difference between Greece and Skopje in the FYROM government the name because it's very important since FYROM has applied to become a NATO member and also a member of the European Union with the support of the U.S. Government?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, as you know, the decision that the United States made a little while ago with how to refer to Macedonia is a decision that is reflective of U.S. policy. As we've always said, we look to the discussions at the UN between Macedonia and Greece to ultimately work out an agreement between them on the naming issue. That continues to be our policy.
QUESTION: That means also that you recognize also the existence of Macedonia language and ethnicity?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, it means we recognize Macedonia, the country, by its constitutional name. The United States Government does not recognize languages or other sort of sub-national groups like that as far as I know.
QUESTION: Tom, I don't know if you would have any -- it's a new topic. I don't know if you are going to have anything on this about the new U.S. space policy. They -- the U.S. has introduced this new space policy which says that it'll deny adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. interests. And I was wondering -- I mean, there was a whole litany of things in the policy. But I was wondering if you're hearing back from other governments about whether, you know, this affects their space policy and whether new negotiations --
MR. CASEY: You know, this is something that was announced a couple of days ago from the White House and I'd honestly refer you over there for details about it. My reading of it is, it is fairly straightforward and in keeping with longstanding U.S. policy to ensure that space is used for the benefit of all nations and is used in a peaceful way and is not, in fact, militarized or does not become any kind of area for militarization. Again, I'd refer you back over the White House folks for more specifics. As far as I know, we have not heard anything specifically from other countries on this issue. Certainly, I'm sure that there may be questions that people have that might come up in terms of some of the specifics on it. But at the moment, certainly we haven't had any particular reaction that I have to report to you.
Let's go to this gentleman here.
QUESTION: Tom, this is Arshad with the Bangladesh newspaper. Question on Bangladesh. The ongoing dialogue between the two major parties are going nowhere, almost being stalled. And what is the take of the State Department about the progress so far? And the other question is that on the 28th of this month, the current administration is going to hand over power to the caretaker administration if there is no decision. There is an insider move that the President may assume the charge simultaneously as the chief advisor. And in order to arrest civil commotion the army may be brought in just for the sake of a free and fair election. So how would you characterize this position?
MR. CASEY: Well, I don't have anything new to offer you in terms of specifics on this issue today. As you know, as a matter of longstanding policy, we have supported dialogue among the various political elements in Bangladesh and we certainly have strongly supported the democratic system and democratic process there and would not wish to see anything occur that would break with that.
We definitely do want to see the many issues that have come up in the political process there resolved and resolved peacefully. But beyond that, I don't have anything new to offer you in terms of specific comment on where the discussions stand right now.
QUESTION: Could you take this question --
MR. CASEY: I'd be happy to.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
MR. CASEY: Let's go down to Sylvie. The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad again launched an attack on Israel saying that the (inaudible) regime is fraudulent and illegitimate and cannot survive. And he said also that Iran won't give up an inch over its nuclear program. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. CASEY: Well, I haven't seen his remarks. Look, I think our positions on both these issues are certainly well known. We are continuing with our discussions in New York among a variety of Security Council members on a resolution on sanctions related to Iran's failure to comply with previous UN resolutions related to its nuclear program. We certainly wish that the Iranians would have taken up the offer to accept the package offered by the P-5+1 and negotiate. That didn't happen, so we're now on a path towards sanctions.
In terms of President Ahmadi-Nejad's comments related to Israel, I think it just continues an unfortunate pattern of remarks that I think have generally been rejected by most other members of the international community. Clearly our goal, with respect to the situation in the Middle East, is what the President has stated, which is to achieve a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel and with all its neighbors. And certainly Iran has not exactly been a positive force in terms of trying to help bring about that kind of settlement in the Middle East.
QUESTION: And what about the resolution and the sanctions, is it making progress?
MR. CASEY: Well, there continue to be discussions in New York. There is not, as you know, yet a resolution that's been tabled. But we are moving forward and we are continuing our discussions. I'd say they are going well and we're making progress on them. And we'll look forward to being able to have a resolution for people to consider in the near future.
QUESTION: Is the discussion still within the P-5 or have you started discussing the elements of a possible resolution with other members?
MR. CASEY: Well, I think for the moment a lot of the drafting work is within the P-5+1 context, but there have been other discussions outside of that about elements with other Security Council members.
Let's go over here.
QUESTION: I have a question on Lebanon. France recently announced that it's going to host an international Donors Conference in January. And I'm wondering if -- has the Administration made a decision to participate, any contemplation of additional aid or perhaps revising a needs assessment depending upon what happens?
MR. CASEY: Well, as you know, we've already stepped forward with a generous package of assistance to Lebanon in light of the conflict there. It's very critical to us that we do what we can to support the Siniora Government's efforts at reconstruction as well as support the implementation of Resolution 1701.
I'm not sure of what our representation will be at the Donors Conference in France. I believe that's a decision that's not yet been made. But as soon as we have any information for you on that or a decision on that, we'll let you know.
Let's go back here.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, in the meeting between Kim Jong-il and China's Jiaxuan Tang, Mr. Tang also communicated to Kim Jong-il to return to the six-party talks within the year. And I was wondering if you could confirm that?
MR. CASEY: I can't because Mr. Tang works for the Chinese Government not for us. And we haven't gotten a full readout on his discussions. I'd refer you to the Chinese Government for a readout on that right now.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. CASEY: Do you have a follow-up?
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: If the North Korea does return back to the six-party talks within the year let's say, what will happen to the cargo inspections and implementation of the resolution?
MR. CASEY: Well, look, I think first of all let's see what North Korea does. Right now, as you know, the focus of the Secretary's trip has been to work on implementation of that resolution which was just passed. I would be delighted to be confronted with a situation, as I'm sure we all would be, when North Korea changes its behavior, changes its mind and goes back to talks, but I'm not in a position to speculate right now on what might happen if that occurs.
QUESTION: Yeah, kind of a new topic. The Secretary is going to be visiting Moscow this weekend. And surely North Korea is going to be topping the agenda. But while there, would she be speaking with her Russian counterparts about the ongoing conflict between Russia and Georgia?
MR. CASEY: Well, I'm not sure what will be on the agenda beyond the primary purpose of her visit, which is the continuation of discussions about the implementation of Resolution 1701* and North Korea's nuclear program. Certainly I'm sure that she would be prepared to discuss that issue to the extent that it comes up in a conversation.
Obviously, our relationship with Russia is very broad and covers a number of topics. I just don't know at this point beyond the very specific focus there what other items might come up, and I'd frankly have to defer to the party for an answer on that one.
Sylvie's got one more and then Mr. Lambros has one more.
QUESTION: On October 28th and 29th --
MR. CASEY: Or Mr. Lambros has one more and then Sylvie has one more. Go ahead Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: On October 28th and 29th, Serbs will vote on a new constitution. In its preamble declare that Kosovo is an integral of the Republic of Serbia. Any comment Mr. Casey since the U.S. Government is involved very much to find a solution to the Kosovo status?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, obviously it will be up to the people of Serbia to determine how to vote on these issues. In terms of U.S. policy with respect to Kosovo, though, and frankly in terms of the international community's policy with respect to Kosovo, that situation hasn't changed. We continue to believe, as was called for originally and I believe it as Resolution 1244 that the final status of Kosovo should be determined through a process of negotiations. And that clearly is going to have to be an arrangement that is acceptable both to the people in Kosovo as well as to those in Serbia. And we look to the dialogue being organized by former President Ahtisaari to move those talks forward.
*Note: Correct UN Resolution is 1718
QUESTION: A follow-up. Marti Ahtisaari is speaking in Brussels today together with the NATO Secretary General, Jaap De Hoop Scheffer, said that his "Plan" for the future status of Kosovo should be definitely completed by the end of this year 2006. As a member of the contact group, the U.S., do you have any idea about the plan which is going to create a real mess, Mr. Casey, in the Western Balkans involving U.S. troops, NATO, KFOR, and the Albanians having the upper hand?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, certainly we have a number of ongoing discussions with Mr. Ahtisaari. Frank Wizner, our special advisor, is involved in speaking with him. In terms of any specifics of what plan he might develop, I would leave that to him. Certainly though again, we are supportive of the process he's leading.
Let's go, Sylvie.
QUESTION: Yeah, it was a question about the Middle East. Do you have any comment on the raid Israelis is making today in Gaza to destroy tunnels allegedly --
MR. CASEY: You know, I saw the initial press reports on that, Sylvie, but I haven't a chance to look into it. So if we have anything for you, I'll let you know.
QUESTION: Okay. And may I ask again the question we asked yesterday about the demands of the Secretary when she was in Jerusalem to facilitate the circulation of goods in and from the Palestinian territories? What did she -- what is the results?
MR. CASEY: In terms of the discussions on that, well, as you know, she talked about -- in her conversations the need to ensure that the Rafah and other crossing -- Karni crossings -- were open on a more consistent basis. She also talked about continuing the mission that General Dayton is still doing to try and help move forward on the security situation. My understanding is that there is some progress made towards those goals, but I don't have anything specific to report to you right now on that.
MR. CASEY: Thanks, Charlie.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:12 p.m.)
DPB # 169
Released on October 19, 2006