US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: Jan 29, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
January 29, 2008
Sung Kim Meetings on Status of Declaration and Disablement
Resignation of Political Director Mitja Drobnic
Want All Neighbors In Region to Help Move Forward with Ahtisaari Plan
Sentencing of Simon Trinidad / Three U.S. Hostages
Secretary Rices Visit / Free Trade Agreement
Death of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece
Secretary Rices Meeting With ICRC President Kellenberger
Political Agreement of Cooperation Between European Union and Serbia
Reports of Ahmadinejads Travel to Baghdad / President Talabanis Travel
Focus on Goodwill and Positive Relationship With Government
MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon guys. [A cell phone rings.] I don’t have anything to start you with, except that cell phone ring. And so I’ll go to your questions.
QUESTION: I don’t have anything.
MR. CASEY: Well, there you go. (Laughter.) That’s easy enough, Matt.
Let’s go back here.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on – Hill apparently met with Sasae and Burns at a meeting yesterday?
MR. CASEY: Who apparently met with him?
QUESTION: Chris Hill. Sasae – Ken Sasae and Nick Burns.
MR. CASEY: I’m not sure whether they did or not. Again, though, when you look at what we’re working on, the six-party talks, and we are, again, continuing to work with all the parties to try and urge the North Koreans to meet their commitment for a full and complete declaration. As you all know, Sung Kim is now in Seoul. He’ll be meeting there with South Korean officials before heading on to Pyongyang. While he’s there, he’ll have an opportunity to talk with officials from the South Korean Foreign Ministry, as well as their Ministry of Energy about the status of disablement as well as issues related to the declaration. Someone had asked me this morning whether he intends to visit the Yongbyon facility. He doesn’t currently have plans to do so, though I wouldn’t rule out the possibility if he thinks it’s in his interest.
QUESTION: So that meeting was six-party related?
MR. CASEY: Don’t know. I’ll have to check for you and we’ll post something later. Generally speaking, when Chris has met with him, they have done a lot of business related to the six-party talks. I can almost guarantee you if they’ve met, that they probably did have an opportunity to at least touch on that, as well as any other bilateral issues they might have covered.
QUESTION: I’m a bit better prepared than during the gaggle.
MR. CASEY: Okay.
QUESTION: The Slovenian Foreign Minister announced the resignation of Mitja Drobnic, who supposedly met with Daniel Fried. And Daniel Fried supposedly said what the Slovenian side’s priorities should be for the European Union presidency. Do you have any comment on her resignation?
MR. CASEY: Well, other than to say that her resignation, like that of any other officials within a government is an internal matter and that’s something that I’d refer you to the Slovenians for. It’s not an issue, as far as I know, that we’ve had any conversations with them about.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey on Albania. Any readout on the today’s meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Albanian Foreign Minister Lulzim Basha. Well, the Secretary did have an opportunity to meet with Albanian Foreign Minister Basha earlier this morning. They did have good conversation about a number of bilateral and regional issues. That, of course includes Albania’s desire to become a member of NATO and the Secretary certainly encouraged Albania to continue the progress that it’s made along the specific criteria that NATO has outlined as part of the Membership Action Plan. They also did touch on the situation in Kosovo as well. And -- I believe the Secretary also did have an opportunity to thank the Albanian Foreign Minister for Albania's continuing contributions in the war on terror including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
QUESTION: What did they discuss on Kosovo? Did they mention anything specifically -- the UDI?
MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, I think -- you know, we want all of the neighbors in the region to play a constructive role in this effort to move forward with the Ahtisaari Plan (inaudible) the Albanian Government has been trying to do so and we appreciate those efforts and certainly hope they'll continue.
QUESTION: May I go on Greece?
MR. CASEY: Let's go back here first.
MR. CASEY: Sure.
QUESTION: What's your opinion about the 60-year sentence that was given yesterday to Simon Trinidad? And this morning the FARC sent a message saying that -- literally "give us back our guerilla members and we'll give you your three spies", American spies, talking about, of course, the three American hostages. What's your opinion about that?
MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, Simon Trinidad's sentence is the result of a fair and appropriate legal proceeding and trial in the United States. He was given a sentence that fits the crime and more importantly was the determination made by the legal system here. In terms of the hostages, not only the three Americans but all the hostages held by FARC, they should be released immediately and unconditionally. That's what we've called for and that's what we'll continue to work with the government of President Uribe to achieve.
Okay, Mr. Lambros, one more.
QUESTION: Mr. Casey --
MR. CASEY: I'll tell you what, Mr. Lambros, hold on on Greece.
QUESTION: It's about the same -- it's about the same. Simon Trinidad said yesterday that he's open to talk with the U.S. Government and he said something that he had already had some conversation with the Department of State. Is that true? Do you have that information or are you like willing to have a conversation with Simon Trinidad?
MR. CASEY: I'm not aware that he's had any conversations with State Department officials. But let me just make one thing clear, he was arrested, extradited, convicted in a U.S. court and sentenced. That's an independent judicial procedure and that's where those lines are. We certainly would welcome the FARC doing the right thing, which is releasing all the hostages -- Americans, Colombians and others. But I don't see that having any kind of impact on his sentence and the only people that would be able to have an impact on it would be the Department of Justice, which is an entirely separate entity.
Yeah, okay, Mr. Lambros, you want to do Greece --
QUESTION: Mr. Casey, anything to say about the death of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos?
MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, let me -- let me see what we can get for you. I want to make sure we say the appropriate --
QUESTION: And I have one more question.
MR. CASEY: Well, let's go down to Lach first.
QUESTION: Did the White House put a statement on it?
MR. CASEY: Did the White House put a statement on it? Okay. I’ll go get the words from the White House statement, but I won’t – I just want to make sure we do it right. Let's go to Lach first, then we'll go back to Serbia.
QUESTION: Are the U.S. authorities refusing to let Robert Badinter, the former French Justice Minister to visit Guantanamo Bay and meet with Omar Khadr, a young Canadian arrested in 2002, and if so why?
MR. CASEY: I’m not familiar with the request to visit, but that's really something you need to talk to our Pentagon colleagues about.
QUESTION: Well, maybe we can use this opportunity to bring up the meeting with the Secretary and Mr. Kellenberger this morning.
MR. CASEY: Well, you can, but as promised, the readout is very, very brief in keeping with the confidential nature of our conversations with the ICRC. Certainly, she appreciated the opportunity to speak with him. I know he’ll be speaking as well with other U.S. Government officials around the town. We always take into consideration those recommendations and those views that are presented to us by the ICRC, not only at the senior level, but in their working-level visits and meetings with U.S. officials in detention centers, including Guantanamo Bay, where the ICRC does have access.
QUESTION: On Serbia, Mr. Casey, anything to say on the political agreement of cooperation between EU and Serbia, which has been announced by EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana and is going to be signed February 7th and the Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic greeted as a major step toward Serbian-EU membership?
MR. CASEY: Well, we certainly support Serbia’s desire for broader representation in Euro-Atlantic institutions. Obviously, it’s up to the EU to determine who will be members and under what circumstances, but we would hope that Serbia would continue to look outward and look towards the – its broader relationship with Europe, the United States, and the rest of the international community. It’s also one of the reasons why we continue to support resolution of the longstanding issues that remain from the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, including a final status resolution on Kosovo as well as the ultimate trial of certain wartime leaders for crimes committed during the war in Bosnia and elsewhere.
QUESTION: How do you comment on Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica party reaction that this political agreement would have been better if the West abandoned plans for the unilateral independence of Kosovo?
MR. CASEY: Listen, Mr. Lambros, our views on Kosovo remain the same, so let’s leave it at that. Let’s go over here.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that Ahmadinejad has been invited to Baghdad and does the State Department have a word on this? And there is a rumor about President Talabani visiting D.C. Can you --
MR. CASEY: For both those things, I’d refer you to the Iraqi Government. Who they have or haven’t invited to visit their country is up to them. In terms of President Talabani’s schedule, I’m not aware of any specific plans, though he certainly does come to Washington on a not-infrequent basis and we always welcome his visits here.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. CASEY: We got one more on the back.
QUESTION: Venezuela. President Chavez said that there is a (inaudible) between Colombia and U.S. to get a military occupation in Venezuela or something like that. What is your opinion about that?
MR. CASEY: Well, there is definitely collusion between the United States and Colombia to pass a free trade agreement in the U.S. Congress, which we believe is very important for the future of both our countries. And the Secretary, of course, was just in Colombia last week with a group of congressman who’ll have a very important say in whether that moves through.
But our focus in the region is on a positive agenda that features things like free trade and economic development, not on any kind of wild conspiracy theories. And our focus towards Venezuela is on having good relations with that country, which we’ve traditionally enjoyed over the years. So there’s certainly no truth to any statements that we wish anything but goodwill towards the Venezuelan people and wish to have anything more than a positive relationship with its government.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:51 p.m.)
DPB # 18
Released on January 29, 2008