US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 09 Nov 2007
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 9, 2007
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 09 Nov 2007
Travel / Cote D'Ivoire / Nigeria / Burkina Faso / Mali
Secretary's Intent to Travel to Africa in the Future
Secretary's Meeting with German FM Steinmeier
Status of Free Trade Negotiations / Domestic Consensus on Trade Fragile
Opening Trade Around the World to the Benefit of People Around the World
for Moderate Forces in Pakistani Political System to Work
Together / Bhutto
Need for the Peaceful Expression of Views / Pathway to Democracy and Constitutional Rule
U.S. Call for Responsible Members of Political Class to Maintain Calm
Best Interests of Pakistani People is Served by Quick Return to Constitutional Rule
President Musharraf's Pledge to Remove Uniform and End State of Emergency
Ultimately, the Pakistani People Will Get a Say as to Who Their Leaders Will Be
Aid Review Still Ongoing / U.S. Legal Obligations / Bilateral Relationship with Pakistan
U.S. Urging Pakistan to Allow Independent Media to Function Freely
Disappointed by Actions of President Saakashvili / State of
Dialogue with Georgia About Aspirations for a Relationship with NATO / Conditions
President's Meeting with the Prime Minister /Beginning of Dismantling of PKK on Iraqi Soil
Iranians in Baghdad / MNF-I Statement / Detainee Review
Nothing New on Possible Crocker Meeting with Iranian Counterpart
Schedule of Inspections of New Embassy Complex in Baghdad / No Timetable
Reports that U.S. Protested Appointment of Former KGB
Up to Countries to Decide How to Reconcile Political Past
12:37 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I do have something to start with. This is regarding the travel of the Deputy Secretary. We will put out a media note on this.
Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer will depart today for Cote d'Ivoire, then travel on to Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Mali. Just to give you a little bit of his schedule, leaving today, arrive in Abidjan, spend the day on the 10th in Abidjan, be in -- he will be in Abuja on the 11th. He will be in Ouagadougou on the 13th, Bamako, Mali on the 14th for the --
QUESTION: In Ouagadougou when?
MR. MCCORMACK: 13th. And he will be in Bamako on the 14th for the Community of Democracies meeting. We'll put out a media note with all that information in it for you after the briefing. With that, we can get right to your questions.
QUESTION: And he stops in Islamabad, perhaps, after all this?
MR. MCCORMACK: As I say, always with travel to some parts of the world, we will keep you up to date on travel plans of senior officials.
QUESTION: So is the Deputy Secretary going sort of in the place of the Secretary? Because the Secretary still hasn't been to Africa except for one or two quick fleeting visits. Is he sort of taking her place?
MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, I wouldn't necessarily characterize her travels to Africa as fleeting. And she intends and looks forward to making a long trip to Africa at some point in the future. I think everybody understands that there are difficult decisions when it comes to budgeting travel time and various competing policy demands, but she very much looks forward to traveling to Africa. She has made several trips to Africa, including as her -- during her tenure as National Security Advisor.
Deputy Secretary Negroponte is quite pleased to be able to make these stops as well as represent the United States at the Community of Democracies and Secretary Rice is quite pleased that he's able to do so.
QUESTION: Is that meeting -- I'll check myself -- but is that a ministerial-level meeting? Will he be --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that he is --
QUESTION: -- among numerous foreign ministers?
MR. MCCORMACK: As with many of these multilateral international meetings, there are going to be -- various countries are going to be represented at various levels. Just at --
MR. MCCORMACK: Just at Istanbul, for example, Matt, there were people at a variety of different levels. We happened to be represented at the ministerial level and I'm sure that that will be the case for this meeting as well as any other international multilateral meeting that you might find.
QUESTION: Your assumption that I am trying to imply some kind of negative thing is not correct. I was just wondering (inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: Forgive me for my cynicism and wariness. (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Anything else?
QUESTION: Benazir Bhutto has been released around now. I wonder if you have anything more on that.
MR. MCCORMACK: We understand from the government spokesman that she's going to be allowed to leave. And as we have said for the past week, we believe it is important for those moderate forces, moderate forces within the Pakistan political system to work together, to get Pakistan back on the road to democracy and constitutional rule.
They are under a threat from violent extremists who seek to undermine the gains that had been made prior to the imposition of the state of emergency. So we believe that it is positive and it should -- in any decision-making with respect to getting Pakistan back on the road to democracy and constitutional rule, the bias should be in favor of greater openness and dialogue among those forces who want to take Pakistan in a positive direction. The bias should be in favor of allowing peaceful expression of views no matter what they may be saying about the existing situation. Oftentimes, the pathway to democracy is difficult. It is oftentimes not easy, but it is, in the end, to the benefit of the population that the leaders of Pakistan move forward, move forward quickly, and return Pakistan to the pathway of democracy and constitutional rule.
QUESTION: The timing is pretty good for this release, since I don't think she can hold the rally now. It's too late over there.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we -- individual political leaders, political parties are going to have make their own decisions about how they manifest their peaceful expression and their views, whether that is speaking out through the media or otherwise. But it is important they be able to do so. We have expressed that clearly to the Pakistani Government.
We have also called upon all the responsible members of the Pakistani political class, those forces who want to take Pakistan in the political direction to maintain an atmosphere of calm, you can express your views in a peaceful manner without resort to violence or without resort to provoking violence. That is important. Pakistan is at an important moment in their history. We believe and others believe that it is important that those forces that have a positive vision for Pakistan work together to get Pakistan back on the road to democracy.
QUESTION: You have been speaking about responsible leaders. Do you think it was responsible from Mrs. Bhutto to call for a giant rally after the bombing that killed many of her supporters right after her return to Pakistan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sylvie, again, I'm not in the business of making decisions for political party leaders in other countries or political party leaders in this country, for that matter. They are going to have to do what they think is in the best of interest of their country. And at the moment, our counsel is that the best interest of the Pakistani people are served by quickly getting back to constitutional rule -- rolling back the emergency decree, rolling back the restrictions on press freedoms, releasing those people who are merely expressing their political views, their opinions in a peaceful manner and work together in a concerted way to put Pakistan back on a democratic path.
That means that President Musharraf should roll back the state of emergency, schedule a fixed date for elections coming up. He committed to those elections no later than February 15th and he also recommitted to taking off the uniform. He should make that commitment publicly and fix a date for the Pakistani people so that they have an expectation that they are in fact going return to constitutional rule and a pathway to democracy. They had benefited over the past years from President Musharraf's program of political and economic reform, prior to the imposition of the state of emergency. That's the kind of pathway Pakistan should return to and the kind of pathway that is going to benefit the Pakistani people.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Charlie.
QUESTION: Earlier, you said that the moderate forces are under threat from extremists. It would seem that Ms. Bhutto is under a threat from Musharraf and the army that he heads.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: There's no criticism at all about that action.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, I'm not aware of any threats of violence against former Prime Minister Bhutto from the government. They did, for a period of time, not allow her to leave her house. And that was not a step in the right direction. Now the government has said that she will be allowed to leave her house. She should be allowed. She should be allowed to travel freely, as should other members of Pakistani political party leaders, Pakistani civil society leaders, and they should be able to express themselves peacefully. That should be a source of strength for Pakistan at this time. It should not be viewed as a hindrance to getting Pakistan back on the road to democracy; it isn't. In fact, those values and those actions would in our view, in fact, increase the ability of Pakistan to get back to that positive pathway.
QUESTION: Does the pathway to democracy still include a power-sharing possibility between Musharraf and Bhutto, from your perspective?
MR. MCCORMACK: From our perspective, those are decisions that political party leaders are going to have to make. And ultimately, the Pakistani people are going to get a say in who their leaders are going to be when they are able to vote in parliamentary elections. I expect that they are looking forward to that.
We have said for some time prior to this imposition of a state of emergency that we encourage moderate political forces in Pakistan to work together. Now if that means President Musharraf and former Prime Minister Bhutto or others, then that is a decision for those people to make. It's a decision for the Pakistani people to make. We were only making the point that there are political parties, there are people, there are leaders in Pakistan who want to take Pakistan in a positive direction. In our view you know what that means. That means greater freedom, greater economic reform, greater promotion of democracy within Pakistan.
There are those who want to subvert any of the gains that have been made over the recent years in Pakistan and want to take Pakistan in a very different direction which, in our view, would be negative for the Pakistani people and certainly negative for our interests. We have not hidden the fact that we have interest in seeing Pakistan maintain the kind of course that they were on prior to the imposition of the state of emergency. We have interests in a Pakistani Government and a Pakistani nation that has an interest in fighting terrorism. They have an interest in that as well. It's as much a threat internally to Pakistan as it is to Pakistan's neighbors and ultimately to us.
QUESTION: Is there an update for us on the status of the aid review?
MR. MCCORMACK: The aid review is still ongoing. I don't have a timeline for you, but it is ongoing. We are looking at our aid programs with respect to our legal obligations. And then once you perform and complete that task, of course, you have to make a decision about those programs up against where we stand on our bilateral relationship with Pakistan. And obviously, events in Pakistan will influence that.
QUESTION: Change of subject to Georgia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Pakistan? Yes, sir.
QUESTION: All (inaudible) TV channels are still off air in Pakistan. Is there any further communication between U.S. Government and Government of Pakistan on that subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that is among the actions that we have urged Pakistan to take, and that is to allow independent, free media to continue to function, whether that's television stations or radio stations or newspapers. It's a vital part of any democracy and a vital part of any aspiring democracy that the independent media be allowed to function freely. It's very important and we have told that to the Pakistani Government both in public as well as in private.
QUESTION: To Georgia. Do you have any more details on Matt Bryza's visit? Who is he going to see? What exactly is his message going to be? And seeing as you're reviewing aid to Pakistan because a state of emergency was declared, are you doing something similar in Georgia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, Matt is going to be traveling this weekend to Georgia. He'll be there for several days, probably into early to mid next week. I expect that he will see the top echelon of the Georgian Government leadership, to include President Saakashvili.
We are quite disappointed by the actions that President Saakashvili took in imposing a state of emergency. We are disappointed by the fact that the parliament voted to ratify his decision to the proposal to extend it to 15 days vice 2 days. We are going -- our clear message is that the state of emergency should be lifted immediately, that the government should follow through on its promises and its decision to hold elections as well as to hold a dialogue on the prospect of parliamentary elections.
Again, the same holds true in terms of the functioning of the independent media and allowing people to peacefully express themselves. That's going to be Matt's message while he is there.
In terms of any aid programs, I'm not aware of a review. I'll check for you to see if there is anything that (a) is legally required and (b) that we would take a decision on a political/diplomatic basis to do. They are a Millennium Challenge Corporation country. We have a compact with them. And at this point, I can't speak to what, if any, effect the actions that the government has taken would have on the compact. I'll look into it, and happy to share with you anything I might find.
QUESTION: In the gaggle this morning, in terms of their NATO membership and whether this would affect their hopes and aspirations for NATO, you said there wouldn't -- you weren't rushing to any sort of snap judgments.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: This is going to be something that you're going to be looking at. Maybe if you could just expand on what exactly you're going to be looking at and how you might --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there are various levels of relationships with NATO. There are membership action plans. There's -- and you can move on from there. NATO is a consensus-driven organization. Each country is going to have an input to it. There was a dialogue with Georgia about their aspirations for a kind of relationship with NATO. I expect that that is going to continue.
But of course, any progress along that pathway is going to be dependent on a country meeting a certain set of conditions. And those conditions are uniform. There are no -- we don't give mulligans for countries meeting the conditions. They have to meet a certain standard.
And of course, we're going to take a look at conditions on the ground along with every other member of NATO, and see how those conditions match up against the requirements for NATO for moving along the pathway. As I said this morning, I'm not going to try to offer a snap judgment based on a few days' worth of events, but I'm sure people will take a considered look at what the situation is on the ground, how it evolves and what the final results are.
QUESTION: Can we take it from your last comment that the baseball season is officially over now?
MR. MCCORMACK: Baseball (inaudible), Matt?
QUESTION: And that golf has begun?
MR. MCCORMACK: It just -- yeah, well, I can leave in some baseball metaphors.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a somewhat logistical question about the Secretary today in Crawford? Do you know if she plans to meet or if Steinmeier is even going with Merkel to --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I --
QUESTION: Do you know if she --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe -- I don't believe the Foreign Minister is traveling with the Chancellor. You can check. I'm trying to remember -- she did see Foreign Minister Steinmeier in Istanbul. They had breakfast together. This was just a few days ago. They talked about Iran, they talked about Afghanistan. They talked about transatlantic issues. They talked a little bit about Russia as well. But you'll have to check with the Germans to see if he's traveling with Chancellor Merkel.
QUESTION: Sorry, just one more on Georgia. Has the Secretary spoken to Georgian leaders --
MR. MCCORMACK: She has not.
QUESTION: -- in recent days?
MR. MCCORMACK: She has not, no.
QUESTION: On Turkey, are you -- do you feel relieved that they're not going to launch an incursion into Iraq now?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think you heard from the President on this one. Prime Minister Erdogan was here just a few days ago and we believe that there was a good discussion about how to improve cooperation and how to get effective results from that cooperation in terms of fighting PKK. Part of that equation is working with the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi Government stepping up to the plate and actually taking measures that will have a meaningful effect, an effective effect on terrorist actions not taking place and the beginning of dismantling the PKK on Iraqi soil.
QUESTION: Can I ask a very general question about U.S. trade policy?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, take a shot.
QUESTION: Well, the deficit is at its lowest level and (inaudible) is doing very well.
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm already in trouble. (Laughter.) Go ahead.
QUESTION: Because (inaudible). You've had a successful trade agreement with Peru. Do you have confidence in these upcoming other deals with Panama and Colombia and South Korea? Are you confident they will be passed in Congress? Are you anticipating any problems with that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's going to be a tough fight. The -- just to divert a bit into commentary about domestic politics in the United States, for the benefit of those overseas, the consensus on trade is, there -- a very fragile one at the moment in the United States.
And I expect that this is going to be -- the discussion about these future trade agreements is going to be something that plays out over the coming weeks in Congress. I expect it to be an energetic discussion on all sides, but we clearly believe that these agreements are to the benefit of the United States. Otherwise, we wouldn't have put them forth to the Congress. They were negotiated over months, in some cases, years. And those were tough negotiations and we believe that we have the right agreements to benefit the American people as well as America.
And it is our view - it is the Administration's view -- that continuing to increase and open up trade around the globe is to the benefit not only of the American people, but people all around the world. When you combine the power of economic openness and increasing the ability of people to trade freely with the benefits of democratic governance, we believe that that is something that benefits people around the world. We've seen some of the positive results of that around the world, as well as in the United States, and it is important to continue those efforts to open up trade and break down barriers of trade around the world.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) China. China is one of your biggest trade partners and we've had all these recalls and all that kind of thing. What's the status of that relationship at the moment?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think you better talk to the Treasury Department and the Department of Commerce about that.
QUESTION: Can you talk a little bit about the reason these Iranians were released in Baghdad
MR. MCCORMACK: And the U.S. Trade Representative as well. I don't want to leave them out.
Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any insight you could provide us with on the recent release of these Iranians in Baghdad?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know the MNF-I has put out a press release about this announcing that these nine individuals had been released. They were released because they were deemed no longer to be either of intelligence value or a threat to our troops. We wouldn't release anybody that we thought was going to pose a continuing risk to our troops.
So there's a review process that all security detainees undergo. They have periodic reviews. There are joint reviews with representatives from the Iraqi Government as well as from MNF-I. The full range of the United States Government has an ability to input to that process should they need to.
And I believe that this was a decision where the various situation involving many of these detainees were briefed up the chain. Ultimately, it was a decision that commanders on the ground took.
QUESTION: (Inaudible), but was this something that President Bush had to sign off on or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think if you ask the White House, what they would say is he was briefed on the matter, but it was a decision that was delegated down to the field, the commanders in the field to make.
QUESTION: And then last one, do you know if there's any plans or desire to have Ryan Crocker meet with his counterpart in Baghdad?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new on that. It's a channel that's available to both sides, should there be mutual agreement that it was useful to meet. At this point, there's nothing new in terms of the two sides getting together in that channel.
QUESTION: Ryan Crocker said last week in Istanbul, actually, that he's going to meet soon --
QUESTION: And within in the next few weeks, he said --
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, there's nothing scheduled. I will let you know if there's a meeting.
QUESTION: Speaking of Baghdad, Sean, it's been quite some time since you said the Secretary's patience was not unlimited when it comes to the opening of the new embassy there.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: What is the latest -- what is the now -- the expected completion date for the embassy that you're hearing from General Williams and the OBO?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, as I understand it, and I have to admit, I have not checked on the status of the inspections recently, but there was a schedule of inspections that were supposed to be undertaken before we would sign off on actually taking possession of the embassy from the contractor. To my knowledge, those weren't -- they weren't scheduled to be done with those before Thanksgiving. I think that was sort of the notional schedule that they had in mind.
Look, she's testified about this before Chairman Waxman. She wants to make sure that we get our money's worth, in terms of the embassy, want to make sure that it is up to standards for our people. And I don't have a timeline for you, Matt. I can't tell you exactly when it might open. That will be dependent mostly on the results of those inspections.
Yeah, got one back here.
QUESTION: Different subject, North Korea. This morning at the Wilson Center, South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon was asked about his understanding of the agreement -- his understanding of the terrorism list and the second phase actions. And he said that there is an agreement there; the agreement is that North Korea will disable in return for the U.S. lifting sanctions on the state sponsors of terrorism list and the Trading with the Enemies Act.
And he went on to say that both sides need to keep this agreement because if it's not kept, it justifies -- it gives justification for the other side to walk away from the agreement. Just wondering, is he misunderstanding that -- about this agreement between the terrorism list and the second phase or is there an agreement between the U.S. and North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think Chris has spoken to this numerous times. He's been asked this quite a bit, most recently when he was in Beijing and folks caught him in the lobby. I don't have really anything to add to what he said.
Yes. In the back.
QUESTION: There was controversial news that the U.S. Ambassador to NATO in Brussels informed the U.S. Ambassador and the Hungarian Ambassador to NATO in Brussels that it is unacceptable to have a former KGB as the head of the Hungarian national agents -- Hungarian national security agency.
I was wondering, what is your comment. Can you confirm it or deny it? And also, if you could tell me is it a sign that the U.S. is encouraging to have the former Soviet personnel change?
MR. MCCORMACK: First of all, we typically don't comment on diplomatic exchanges between governments and I'm not aware of any particular exchange between Ambassador Nuland and the Ambassador in Brussels from Hungary.
Look, ultimately, countries are going to have to make decisions for themselves as to how they reconcile their populations and their political paths. We can, of course, offer our counsel. We can, of course, offer our comment where we think it is specifically needed, but in general terms, it is going to be up to individual countries to decide how they deal with their political past as well as their -- and how to reconcile that with their political present and future.
QUESTION: So you are not aware if there was --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any particular comment. No, I don't know.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, great.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)
Released on November 9, 2007