US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 28 Nov 2007
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 28, 2007
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 28 Nov 2007
Afternoon Personnel Announcement / Special Envoy for Middle East Security
Security Envoy to Have Broad
Work of General Dayton / More Work to be Done / Security Work Essential
Comments by Ahmadi-Nejad / Not Surprising
Syrian Comments / Mostly Constructive
Choice for Palestinians / Desire of the Palestinians for Their Own State / Pathway Laid Out
Secretary's Bilateral Meetings During the Conference
Attendance at Conference / Iraqi, Kuwaiti Choice Not to Come
Comprehensive Peace Between Israel and its Arab Neighbors / U.S. Support for Efforts
Musharraf's Decision to Remove Uniform / Important Step
Need for Lifting of State of Emergency / Need for Credible Elections
U.S. Looking Forward to Working with Pakistan in the Future / Investment In Relationship
Pakistani People will Decide the Power Relationships Within Pakistan
Possible Talks with Iran in Baghdad
Assistant Secretary Hill's Travel to
Pyongyang, Yongbyon / Meeting with Kim Gye Gwan
End of Year a Time with Fulfillment of Obligations Come Due / Disablement / Declarations
Possible Six Parties Envoys Level Meeting
U.S. Expectation of a Full and Complete Declaration of DPRK Nuclear Program
12:35 p.m. EST
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to start off with, so we can get right into your questions.
QUESTION: Can you go beyond anything what you said at the -- I wasn't at the gaggle, but anything that you might have said at the gaggle about General Jones and/or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't say anything about General Jones. You guys were asking a lot of questions.
QUESTION: -- or the idea that the Russians may host a conference in --
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new.
QUESTION: -- the balmy January month.
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Nothing new on either of those fronts. We will have a personnel announcement at 3:15. The Secretary will be making that announcement upstairs in the Treaty Room -- invite all of you to attend. So beyond that, I'm not going to have much more to say about the specifics, other than to say there is -- in terms of the job that she's going to announce somebody to -- somebody which will -- who will fill the position, there's in her mind a need for somebody to take a look at not only internally the efforts of the Palestinians to build up their security forces, but how those security efforts relate to, for example, the Israeli Government and Israeli security efforts, how those efforts also relate throughout the region, looking at the full spectrum of Palestinian security services all the way from, you know, police in the street to their national guard, to their judiciary system. So she's going to look to somebody with some experience in this regard, somebody who has not only experience with the subject matter, but also in the region. And that person will be a special envoy for security issues. This person will work very closely with General Dayton who is on the ground and has tactical responsibility to work day in, day out with the Palestinians on exactly how they are building up all of their security forces. So that's the nature of the job.
QUESTION: Is that the title -- Special Envoy for Security?
MR. MCCORMACK: Special Envoy for Middle East Security.
QUESTION: Is it an end to the problems at the Egyptian border? For an example, the fact that the Israelis want the border between the Palestinian territories and Gaza to be more secure?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this individual will have a relatively broad mandate. Now there's a team that is looking specifically at that involving the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as others, that are looking at that. But I would expect that if the Secretary would like this individual to look into or offer his opinions on those matters, then I'm sure that that's something he would be willing to do. He's going to have a relatively broad mandate with respect to security issues in that particular part of the Middle East, working directly --
QUESTION: So you're -- whoever this person is is going to be a man.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Yes. You got that out of me.
QUESTION: How about a former general?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Wait for 3:15.
QUESTION: But General Dayton is going to stay on at his post?
MR. MCCORMACK: He's going to -- yes, he is. Yes. The Secretary very much appreciates the work that he's doing. It's -- you're essentially rebuilding from the ground up the Palestinian security services and reordering and building up their capacities and making them more professional. And there's been some work that's been done in that regard. There's obviously a lot more work to be done. And getting a security issue right is going to be essential for moving this process forward. We're going to be moving forward separately on the political track, as you heard yesterday, but actually getting to implementation of a potential agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian sides will depend in large part on progress made in building the capacity of the Palestinian security forces.
QUESTION: I'm still a little confused and might even ask you again what the new person's brief will be. Can you delineate the difference between his brief and General Dayton's brief? What is General Dayton doing if not -- I thought he was supposed to be building up Palestinian security.
MR. MCCORMACK: He is. He is. This person will look -- is going to work closely with General Dayton. But that job is really a day in, day out working directly with the Palestinians on the ground in building up those security forces. This is going to be looking at an assessment of those efforts and how they relate -- the efforts within the Palestinian areas relate to, for example, the Israelis as well as others in the region.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: I mean, all -- not that he's going to have a political role, but all of the issues that the Palestinians and Israelis will be negotiating -- these core issues -- have security components to them. Would he be involved in helping the Israelis and Palestinians sort out the various security aspects and how they can be addressed in the event of a long-term settlement. Like for instance, Jerusalem -- you know, divvying up Jerusalem, for instance, would have a lot of security aspects to it --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. No, I get what you're saying now. I think that that falls more clearly within the context of negotiations in the political track.
QUESTION: But sorting those issues out -- one of the reasons that the issues have been so thorny, on the Israeli side at least, is because they have very strict security implications and components. And I'm not -- I'm not saying that he would be negotiating those things, but would part of his job be to look at the various aspects of what the Israelis and Palestinians are doing on the political area and how security fits into that, I guess is what I'm saying?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, certainly the person filling this role is going to report directly to the Secretary, so he's going to have a line directly in to her. And obviously, she is going to look to all of her close advisors for their advice there and so forth on these issues. And inasmuch as she gets to the point where she's going to need some inputs, an assessment on those kinds of issues, I'm sure she's going to draw upon this person's experience. But --
QUESTION: But when you say -- but any type of security assessment that this person would do isn't just necessarily about Palestinian security. I mean, isn't there, you know, a kind of assessment of the security landscape, if you will, rather than just what the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. That's what I'm trying to get at. Looking at what is going on inside the Palestinian areas, and General Dayton is going to be looking at that day to day, but -- and doing an assessment of those activities. But also, how those activities relate to Israel and their efforts as well as others in the region.
QUESTION: Is this person going to be based here or there?
MR. MCCORMACK: Spending a lot of time there, but probably based here. Yeah.
Anything else on this?
QUESTION: On the Annapolis postgame. Iran -- the President, Ahmadi-Nejad -- said that the conference was a "failure" and Israel is doomed to collapse and that it was a mistake for Syria to participate.
MR. MCCORMACK: Once again, wrong on every count. I'm not sure when he's been right recently. Look, he was -- he, along with Hezbollah and Hamas, seem to be the only ones who weren't pleased and actually quite impressed with the accomplishments of Annapolis. And I suspect that that's because he understands, as well as others who try to use violent extremism to further their goals, if you will, they understand that helping to bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, helping to bring about a democratic Palestine where the Palestinian people have a prospect of being able to better define their future, better define a prosperous future for themselves, that is anathema to the kinds of tactics and the goals that people like President Ahmadi-Nejad and those people who use violent extremism -- Hamas and Hezbollah -- have. So they understand the kind of threat that this effort poses to what they want to try to accomplish in the Middle East, so it's no surprise that they are going to criticize it.
QUESTION: A couple of other things. I mean, criticizing Syria's participation in the meeting, you obviously don't think it was a mistake for Syria?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, absolutely not. As a matter of fact, I think most people listening to the comments of the Deputy Foreign Minister in the session, that last session, I think most people would say that they were constructive comments, they added to the discussion.
QUESTION: And then lastly, they said that in the event of any kind of negotiations or settlement, that Palestinian "resistance groups" like Hamas, PIJ, things like that are going to need to be factored in to any type of deal, like their concerns and their -- they have to be brought in at some point.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, you know, eventually, the Palestinian people are going to be faced with a choice. If the political discussions and other kinds of discussions move forward and get to the point where the Israelis and Palestinians are able to reach agreement on all the differences that remain between them right now, the Palestinian people are going to have -- face a choice. They're going to be faced with the choice of going down a pathway where they can define their own future, build their -- build their own state or continuing down a pathway that is represented by Hamas and other Palestinian rejectionist groups.
I can tell you that latter path leads to nowhere and we shall see what choice the Palestinian people make. Most people's assessment that we have talked to is that the Palestinian people want their own state, they want a peaceful future. They don't want their children being recruited to go blow up Israeli youngsters or others in Israel. They want a better future for their family. They want a better future for their people. They want their own state.
The pathway that was laid out by President Abbas, Prime Minister Olmert and President Bush yesterday is the kind of pathway that could ultimately lead to the establishment of that kind of future for the Palestinian people. So eventually, they will be faced with that choice and we will see, at that point, what the Palestinian people choose.
QUESTION: Sean, following Annapolis, do the Palestinians actually have to show some responsibility? Of course, Hamas may just want no part of it. And the activity that you saw in the last day, is that an effort to scuttle the Abbas tenure? In other words, is it for more media consumption than anything else?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't know. You can talk to them, Joel, about their motivations.
QUESTION: Sean, can you go through if -- or let us know about the Secretary's bilats that she may or may not have had on the sidelines yesterday and today with the Annapolis participants? Did she have any?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, as with all these multilateral discussions, there were a lot of side discussions either at lunch or during the sessions. I'm trying to just go down mentally the list. Yesterday, she had a bilat before she went out there with Defense Minister Barak from Israel. Nothing that I would characterize as a formal bilat, but she talked to a lot of the participants, had individual conversations.
QUESTION: Including with the Syrians?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe there was an individual discussion there. Yeah, but I mean, I didn't -- I wasn't by her side the entire time, but I don't recall hearing -- seeing one or hearing about one.
QUESTION: Sean, can you tell us what was the official reason that the Iraqis gave you for not attending the conference? And were you -- was it acceptable to you?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll let them describe their own reason for not coming. They were invited. We would have welcomed their participation. We encouraged them to come. Ultimately, they made the decision not to come. And you can talk to them about their reasoning.
QUESTION: Were you disappointed in any way and did they -- did it make a difference?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we invited them. We thought that they could have made a positive contribution. They chose not to come.
QUESTION: And what about the Kuwaiti?
MR. MCCORMACK: The Kuwaiti?
QUESTION: The Kuwaitis. They were not there. Is it --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, same -- falls in the same category. They can describe their own reasons for not coming.
QUESTION: Were you disappointed they didn't come?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we think that people and the countries that did have representation there made a positive choice and made a positive contribution just by their coming there. And furthermore, I would say virtually all of the comments that were made at the conference were overall positive. So these countries made a choice. They could have come. They could have made a positive contribution. They chose not to. Let's hope that in the future they will choose to participate in a positive way, supporting the efforts of the Israelis and the Palestinians either by coming to some future gathering or perhaps supporting them politically, economically, diplomatically. There are a lot of different ways -- different ways to do it. This isn't the -- I guess the bottom-line answer is this isn't the last opportunity that they will have to support the process.
QUESTION: Sean, you said that most people listening to the Syrian comments found them constructive. Are you among -- is the United States among --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I think -- I think overall, if you listen to the comments of the Deputy Foreign Minister, that most would characterize them overall as constructive and added to the conversation.
QUESTION: And they obviously understand that there's -- the focus is on the Israeli-Palestinian track, and you've said that you want to work towards a comprehensive peace which would include Lebanese and Syrian issues. Do you feel that the Israeli-Palestinian track needs to be resolved with an agreement before any attention should be diverted to the other tracks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, our focus is on that track and there's obviously quite a bit of momentum now behind efforts to resolve the differences between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The track with the Syrians is much less mature in that regard. I can't tell you --
QUESTION: But also much less complicated.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I can't predict how that is going to play out. Again, whatever decisions the Israelis and the Syrians might make between themselves about energizing that track, we don't think that that -- focus on that track is a substitute for focus on the Israeli-Palestinian track. And I don't think, certainly after -- in the wake of yesterday, I don't think anybody is making that sort of judgment.
So we'll see. We'll see how the other half to this plays out, meaning the comprehensive peace part between Israel as well as its Arab neighbors and throughout the wider Arab world. We have hope for that. That's why we included it in the agenda. I think that it's not only important for peace in the region, but also important to Israel that they have a sense of some possible political pathway with others of their neighbors with whom they have not yet come to terms as well as others throughout the region.
QUESTION: But when -- just one last on this. But when the President says that he's willing to devote and the Secretary is willing to devote every possible resource to a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, does that commitment apply to a comprehensive peace in terms of using as many U.S. resources as possible to helping resolve these Lebanese and Syrian tracks?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think our belief is that if we can make progress on the -- if the two parties can make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track, that that could possibly lead to openings along other tracks. I'm not specifying Israeli-Syrian or any other particular track. But I think the sense, if you listen to the participants yesterday, was that if there is progress on that, there is -- we have the potential for openings elsewhere. And that really is at the core of what the Arab League proposal is. So that -- you know, that logic that I outlined is certainly consistent with what the Arab League has proposed. And we'll see how that plays out.
Obviously, we are going to try to encourage the parties on both sides, the Arab side as well as the Israeli side, to take advantage of any potential openings that they see there. It's going to be up to them in large part to determine what sort of energy they devote to those. But the idea here is that if you do move forward and can devote a lot of energy to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian track, perhaps that creates other opportunities.
It is going to require a tremendous amount of effort, tremendous focus and a lot of energy to move forward with the Israeli-Palestinian track. I don't think anybody is fooling themselves about that. As positive as Annapolis was, it was the beginning of something, not the end point. And success is not predetermined, but we are determined to do what we can to help the two parties bring about a successful conclusion of their negotiations.
QUESTION: But do you envision yourself being as involved as an (inaudible) broker or any other tracks?
MR. MCCORMACK: It would -- it would really depend on the circumstances. I don't think, at this point, we could -- we can really predict how any future potential tracks might play out. Of course, we'll have an interest in helping to bring about reconciliation between the Israelis as well as their neighbors and others throughout the region. It's going to depend entirely on the circumstances. I think the parties specifically involved, Israel as well as others, will have a lot to say about that and we would -- if there were any potential openings there, we would talk to them about what role we might play. And of course, we would do everything we can to support them, but it would really be dependent on the circumstances, I believe.
QUESTION: Sean, during the conference, was there any encounter, even brief, between the Saudis and the Israelis?
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't see any.
QUESTION: You're sure there was not?
MR. MCCORMACK: All I can say is I didn't see any. You can talk to -- you can talk to the Israelis and Saudis if -- to see if there was anything.
QUESTION: Did they speak to each other when dealing with --
MR. MCCORMACK: I didn't -- again, I didn't see anything. I didn't see anything.
QUESTION: Has the United States been in contact with Pervez Musharraf since he stepped down from the military post and has he given the United States any indication when he's going to continue, you know, taking steps toward normalizing the political situation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I'm not aware of any contacts, Dave, that we've had with him since he stepped down. This is just a recent event and we have made it quite clear to him, our view that he should lift the state of emergency well in advance of the upcoming elections which he scheduled for January. Our belief is that it's critical to have that state of emergency lifted in order to have the kind of elections that the Pakistani people can have faith in, that they can have faith that those elections will have represented faithfully their views about who they want to see lead them in their parliament.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about this case in *Sudan of the British teacher who was arrested?
MR. MCCORMACK: I've seen the press reports about it, Kirit, but I haven't honestly really looked that closely at it.
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that -- yeah, sure, yeah. I'll let you keep talking before you --
QUESTION: Yeah -- no, no, no, I just wanted to clarify before I ask a stupid, repetitive question, which I want to do. But can you say something --
MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) That was Elise Labott -- (laughter) -- so it's noted in the transcript. Please proceed, Elise.
QUESTION: I know I should, but anyway, could you just comment on President Musharraf's decision to take off his uniform this week and what you think that means for his future leadership in the country and for the country --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's obviously something that he thought was important to do. He had made that pledge previously to the Pakistani people and he has followed through on it. It's an important step for Pakistan as they progress along the pathway to constitutional and democratic rule.
The recent actions of President Musharraf declaring the state of emergency and taking some subsequent actions were a diversion and a detour from that democratic pathway. Our counsel has been to get back on the pathway to democracy and constitutional rule. His following through on his pledge is positive. There's more to do. And we are looking forward to working with the Pakistani Government in the future. We have an investment in that relationship and our counsel has only been to do those things which we believe are in the interests of the Pakistani people and Pakistan.
QUESTION: President Musharraf -- a lot of people in Pakistan say that he drew his power from the uniform and now that he's going to be a civilian president, that a lot of the power will be as it usually is traditionally, kind of ceded back to the prime ministership. Do you see him as an -- as the main interlocutor in Pakistan still or do you think that you may kind of be a little bit more involved with a prime minister that you haven't before?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. Look, we're not going to deal with President Musharraf now any differently than we had when he's president of Pakistan. As for the various political arrangements and the political geometry within the Pakistani political space, that's going to be for them to decide. You know, over the course of time, democracies will develop and the various power relationships will change, but he's President of Pakistan and we're not going to deal with him in any way different tomorrow or Friday than we did on Monday or Tuesday.
QUESTION: You still see him as powerful, as a figure in Pakistan?
MR. MCCORMACK: He's President of Pakistan and again, the Pakistanis themselves will decide these various power relationships among the institutions within Pakistani political life. The military obviously plays an important role, but he was --
QUESTION: But his job as -- his role as the chief of the army was -- you were also dealing with him in that aspect because as president, he had a lot more power than he's going to without being --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I'm not -- you know, I'm not willing to do a political analysis of how the events of the past several weeks are going to play out over time. He is President of Pakistan. He has the opportunity to guide Pakistan through an important political transition. One that will leave Pakistan more free, more stable and more prosperous. He's already done a lot of work in that regard and we are going to continue to work with him. We are going to continue to work with the elected leaders of Pakistan and we're also going to continue having the kinds of relationships that we think are important with members of important institutions in Pakistani society, whether that's the military or civil society or political parties. But I have seen no indication at all of a shift in the power relationship between the Pakistani army and President Musharraf. I don't think you've seen anything coming out of the Pakistani army in that regard.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the Iran talk -- possible talks in Baghdad?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. Let me check for you and see if there's any update.
QUESTION: Sean, can you tell us what Chris Hill is going to do in Pyongyang and why did he think it necessary to go twice within six months?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he is going to -- he's going to be traveling to Pyongyang and then up to Yongbyon to take a look at the state of progress on the disablement activities. I believe there was a Japanese team that did the same thing. He's going to be meeting with Kim Gye Gwan in Pyongyang in the context of the six-party talks -- talk to them about where we stand implementation of the agreement. The end of the year is an important time. That is a time when fulfillment of obligations previously made come due in terms of disablement, in terms of declarations and we obviously have some commitments in that regard and we intend to progress along the way, so that we are able to meet those obligations by the end of the year. That's the general tenor of the discussion. I think that he will also talk to them specifically about the declaration and underline for them the importance of their declaration, their final declaration when they make it, be full and complete and deal with all aspects of their nuclear program.
QUESTION: Do you expect him to go over different elements of the declaration, or do you think it would be just more general?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it would probably be more of a general discussion. He will make it clear to them that all aspects of their nuclear program should be in this declaration. It's not something that's going to be handed over directly to us. It would be handed over to the Chinese, I believe, as chair of the six-party talks. But I don't know how the North Koreans are going to respond, whether they're going to go into any detail about what -- how their declaration is shaping up. We'll see after his meeting exactly what they say to him.
QUESTION: And the other thing from last week, I don't believe we've talked about in detail, but the financial talks. I know that Treasury was in charge of them, but did you find those at all useful or did you find them --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to anybody about it, Nicholas.
QUESTION: Because there is someone from the State Department, right, someone from maybe the mission in New York?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we had an official up there, but Treasury had the lead on it. I honestly haven't checked in on it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) about North Korea. Was there a reason that Chris Hill thinks it's necessary to remind the North Koreans that they -- that the declaration needs to be full and complete? Is there some thought emerging that it might not be?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it's going to be an important element of what they produce as part of their commitments under the six-party talks. But it's also an opportunity to go up and see firsthand what they've done at Yongbyon. And he was traveling to the region with the thought in mind that there probably would be a six-party envoys level meeting. The Chinese have not yet announced anything yet, but I would look probably towards the end of next week as a likely time when there might be one. So it was -- he was able to -- he was able to do several things at once with this trip.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. expect that nuclear weapons will be declared as part of the full declaration?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we expect that they will make a full and complete declaration of their nuclear program.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:03 p.m.)
DPB # 207
Released on November 28, 2007