US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 16, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Director, Office of Press Relations
June 16, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 16, 2008
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
UK Travel Advisory
U.S. Monitoring Situation In U.A.E. / Worldwide Caution
U.S. Continues to Advise U.S. Travelers to Maintain Vigilance
Afghanistan-Pakistan Border Region Communication and
Cooperation Benefits Afghanistan and Pakistan
Involvement of U.S. Ambassadors in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Kosovar Constitution / U.S. Support of
Question on Serbian President Tadic’s Statement on Kosovar Independence
East China Sea Dispute / U.S. Urges Restraint and Peaceful Resolution
Embassy Operations in Chad
Non-Emergency Staff Temporarily Repositioned in Cameroon
Decision to Reposition Embassy Staff
Irregularities in Re-run of Parliamentary Elections
U.S. Supports ODIHR’s Assessment
U.S. Urges Macedonia to Ensure that Elections Meet International Standards
U.S. Supports Macedonian NATO Membership
No Update on Chris Hill Travel Plans or use of New York Channels
Question About Congressional Letter on Albanian-Greek Relations
Importance of Free and Fair Runoff Elections in Zimbabwe
EU Position on Iran Sanctions
No New Announcements on North Korea Food Aid
1:49 p.m. EDT
MR. GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. I don’t have anything for you.
QUESTION: I’ve been watching golf.
MR. GALLEGOS: A definitive moment.
QUESTION: Nothing on the UAE? I hear there’s a Warden message about – that might be --
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, let me tell you where we are on that. You know, we’re aware of the UK travel advice and we’re monitoring the situation in country in order to keep American citizen travelers apprised of the most current safety and security information. Right now, we have a current U.S. worldwide caution that was issued January 17th that notes the potential for terrorist attacks in the region against American citizens and interests, and those public places are areas of concern. We’re going to continue to advise American travelers to maintain a high level of vigilance and practice good security awareness and we’ll continue to advise them as we see necessary.
QUESTION: You don’t have anything specific?
MR. GALLEGOS: No. On the UK one, no, I don’t. But I think if you guys keep a close look to our cautions and warnings, we should have something more on that later.
QUESTION: New subject if that’s all right. I may have missed it at the gaggle, but what’s your view on this verbal squabble over the border – I mean, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the Afghan President’s threat to send (inaudible) troops across the border?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think you heard the President talk about this a little bit earlier today. You know, ultimately, we continue to believe that active cooperation and communication between Afghanistan and Pakistan officials is indispensible to focus efforts on defeating our common enemies.
As the President has just said, consultation and dialogues, such as continuing the fruitful Jirga process begun last August, can bring great benefits to both countries and the United States. With the new government leaders in Pakistan and with the Pakistani military, we found a mutual understanding that cross-border infiltration by violent extremists hurts both Pakistan and Afghanistan leaders on both sides – and Afghanistan, excuse me.
Leaders on both sides understand that illicit cross-border infiltration must be stopped. Taliban and other insurgent elements are a threat to both Afghanistan and Pakistan and cross-border infiltration must be stopped. Both countries understand that. Any solution must seek to deny the extremists access to the border region. To render these areas inhospitable to terrorists and violent extremists, solutions must be enforceable, comprehensive, and promote sustainable development throughout the region. And we continue to work with both governments to help them with that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the stories over the weekend about Pakistan and A.Q. Khan. Is there an update on how the State Department feels about the access to A.Q. Khan and whether or not he’s going to be – that Pakistan has done enough to secure its nuclear arsenal and the possibility that their secrets were sold to Libya and Syria and Iran?
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I don’t have anything on that.
QUESTION: On Kosovo. Any reaction to the Kosovo’s new constitution, which went in force since yesterday after nine years of U.S. – excuse me, of UN administration?
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I – our policy on Kosovo is well known. This is something – we issued a statement earlier – I’m sorry, we issued a statement yesterday on that noting our support for Kosovo and the fact that we continue to look forward with them to the development of their democracy.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. GALLEGOS: (Inaudible)
QUESTION: How do you respond to Serbian President Tadiæ Boris’s statement that his government will insist on a new round of internationally mediated talks in Kosovo?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think, you know, that train has left the station. Kosovo is an independent country. We recognize it and we’re continuing to move forward with them. Our policy has not shifted on that.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on this boating dispute between Taiwan and Japan in the East China Sea?
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I did get something on that. I just have to find it.
I’ve seen the reports on the development. As we’ve stated before, we urge all claimants to exercise restraint and to ensure that this issue is resolved by peaceful means. Our position on this subject is well known. We have consistently maintained that any dispute should be settled by the parties themselves through peaceful means.
QUESTION: Did you get anything on the situation with Chad Embassy?
MR. GALLEGOS: I did.
MR. GALLEGOS: As you know, we have an Ambassador there who is pretty forward-leaning. He looks hard at problems, situations. As you remember from the last time they had a situation there, he did maintain U.S. presence throughout his time, albeit at the international airport. However, the U.S. did maintain official presence there throughout.
The Embassy right now is functioning with the minimum staff and is providing services to American citizens in Chad as needed. Non-emergency staff have been repositioned in Cameroon temporarily. At this time, visa services have been suspended until further notice; however, the Embassy is urging all Americans outside the country not to travel to Chad and urges all those in Chad to heed the Department’s Travel Warning. We’ll update our Travel Warning and other information to Americans traveling or in Chad as events warrant.
QUESTION: So they were – basically, you’ve gone to Ordered Departure for non-essential personnel?
MR. GALLEGOS: No, technically, we haven’t. We’ve temporarily repositioned some of the staff there into Cameroon.
QUESTION: Did they have a choice?
MR. GALLEGOS: I believe there was a discussion. The Ambassador’s Chief of Mission decided that this would be the best plan of action. We decided to listen to him, and so they’ve moved some of the staff out of the country into neighboring Cameroon and they’ll be ready to return as the conditions warrant.
QUESTION: Yeah, but if they didn’t want to go, do they have a choice?
MR. GALLEGOS: I think the fact that they’re there – the important thing is that they’re there. The Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary makes the decisions, much like the captain of a ship, and the loyal Foreign Service officers there followed his directive.
QUESTION: So he told them to leave?
MR. GALLEGOS: They are repositioned. Yes, yes.
QUESTION: Any reaction on the election regarding FYROM (inaudible)?
MR. GALLEGOS: Okay. The conduct in the June 15 partial re-runs of Early Parliamentary elections were a substantial improvement over the June 1 elections, which were marred by fraud, intimidation, and violence.
Yesterday’s broad re-runs, which were held in a substantially improved security environment, restored to most voters the opportunity to freely exercise their democratic rights, which was denied them on June 1.
Nevertheless, there were further, serious irregularities in a number of polling substations – excuse me, polling stations, including family and proxy voting, ballot stuffing, and incorrect procedures.
We support ODIHR’s assessment, which noted that despite significant improvement in the re-runs and well administered elections, the overall parliamentary election process, taking into account the June 1 polling, did not meet some key OSCE and COE commitments.
The government must continue to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and sanction, according to Macedonian law, the perpetrators of election fraud, violence, and other criminal acts. We call upon the government and political party leaders to take the necessary steps to ensure that future elections clearly meet international standards, in keeping with Macedonia’s aspirations for Euro-Atlantic integration.
QUESTION: So you are not satisfied with the results?
MR. GALLEGOS: I think exactly what I said right there. We continue to strongly support Macedonia for NATO membership. We support the ongoing talks under UN auspices toward resolving the name issue between Macedonia and Greece, and encourage both sides to find a near-term solution that will allow them to put this issue behind them.
I think that took care of you, Mr. Lambros. Yes.
QUESTION: Coming back to Afghanistan-Pakistan border situation, in the wake of recent statements, has any senior U.S. official contacted the leadership of both countries to comment on the tensions?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think we have both our ambassadors on the ground there. I haven’t seen any word of additional calls from other senior Department officials.
QUESTION: But I mean, these kinds of statements, do they help to address – in addressing the situation, or --
MR. GALLEGOS: I think that what we’ve noted and what we’re trying to say here is that the most important thing is that the – all sides, including the United States, become more involved, that we bring the sides together to help them to communicate better, to know and understand the danger that is posed there, and to coordinate and communicate in that – in a much clearer way.
QUESTION: Do you have any more update on Chris Hill travel plans?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have any update on the Chris Hill’s travel plans. And as soon as I do, if we can share them with you, I will.
QUESTION: Okay. Related to that, last month – or last week when Sung Kim returned, he mentioned that they were going to exercise some New York channels for further discussions. Any update on whether or not this is happening?
MR. GALLEGOS: No update on the – any New York channels. Sorry.
Yes, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: On Northern Epirus. Congressman Gus Bilirakis has written Secretary Rice about continuing Albanian statement against the Greeks in Northern Epirus and urging the Administration to press Tirana to respect the basic rights they are entitled under international agreements. I’m wondering if Secretary Rice is concerned about that since (inaudible) government most recently systematically attacks the Greeks in (inaudible) of Northern Epirus?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think in terms of communications, congressional communications, I’m sure that we – I haven’t seen whether or not we have received that or not. But I can assure you that it will be appropriately addressed and an appropriate response will be given.
QUESTION: On Zimbabwe, there were weekend reports that we are seeing that the parties in Zimbabwe are seriously negotiating the postponement of this June 27th runoff. Should that happen, would America support the idea of postponing it under the current circumstances? And secondly, are you talking to the people in that region about this situation, in any case?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think ultimately, we’ve stated, you know, through our Ambassador and others – I think the President mentioned this earlier today – we have stated that we believe that the runoff – a free and fair runoff needs to – needs to happen here. The President also reiterated the importance of providing substantial monitoring of the runoff election, how important this is. I can tell you that we have been and continue to be in communication with the various parties, countries, and the international groups and organizations in Africa and will continue to press for a free and fair election by – in Zimbabwe.
QUESTION: Can I just follow on that? Has Secretary Rice had any personal communications with any of those leaders, or is this all being handled at lower levels?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t see any calls from her over the last week during her travel.
QUESTION: Yeah, can you just clarify what’s going on now with the EU and the U.S., conflicting announcements about the timing of these new Iran sanctions? Because last time I spoke to the EU spokeswoman, she was still saying that they hadn’t been fully decided on –
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t know. I think the – let’s see, I have not seen any press reporting that states that the EU is not going to look at sanctions. And in fact, the latest press reports that I have say that the EU is going to proceed with sanctions, so --
QUESTION: But can we expect a more formal announcement tomorrow (inaudible)?
MR. GALLEGOS: I would – I would – I would refer you to the EU on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: David.
QUESTION: Earlier you were asked about a possible announcement on North Korea food aid. Is there anything that --
MR. GALLEGOS: You know, I took a look at that and asked the people who are supposed to know that in this building, and they told me that no, they have not heard that. So that was something new to them. They’d looked and there wasn’t anything scheduled.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded was at 2:01 p.m.)
DPB # 106
Released on June 16, 2008