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US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 19, 2008

Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
June 19, 2008

US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: June 19, 2008

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

Secretary Rice's Upcoming Travel to Germany, Japan, South Korea and China
Secretary Rice to Attend Conference in Support of Palestinian Civil Security and Rule of Law in Germany
Secretary to Attend the G8 Ministerial in Japan
Secretary Rice Will Have Bilateral Consultation in Seoul
Secretary Rice to Travel to Chengdu and Beijing

SOUTH KOREA

US and South Korea Discussions on Beef

ISRAEL/LEBANON

Israel's Call for Talks with Lebanon / Prospects for US Role
Resolution to Shebaa Farms Issue / UNSC Resolution 1701

CYPRUS

US Views Positively Dialogue Between Government of Cyprus and Leadership of The Turkish Cypriot Community

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Status of Exit Visas for Palestinian Fulbright Nominees

MISCELLANEOUS

US Nuclear Weapons / Declassified Internal Air Force Report

CUBA

EU Considering Lifting Sanctions on Cuba

NORTH KOREA

Timeframe for North Korea Declaration
Implementation of Verification Measures

TURKEY

AK Party Court Case

ZIMBABWE

US Views on President Mugabe's Government


TRANSCRIPT:

12:49 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Okay. Good afternoon, guys. I know a couple of you asked this morning about the Secretary's upcoming travel plans. And lo and behold, I have an announcement for you that we'll put out in a paper copy after the briefing, but this concerns Secretary Rice's travel to Germany, Japan, South Korea and China.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel June 23rd to 30th to Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the People's Republic of China. In Germany, she'll be attending the International Conference in Support of Palestinian Civil Security and Rule of Law, as well as doing some bilateral consultations with German and European officials there. In Japan, of course, as she's already noted publicly, she'll be attending the G8 Ministerial there - that's June 26th to 28th - and that will cover the range of issues that the Japanese have put at the forefront of the G8 agenda.

She will also, while there, be participating with her Australian and Japanese counterparts in another round of the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue. And then after Japan, she'll be traveling on to Seoul - and that's June 28th and 29th - for bilateral consultations there. Obviously, part of that will be a discussion of the six-party talks, as I would expect it would be with some of her Japanese counterparts as well.

And then traveling on from there, she'll be going to China on June 29th and 30th. She'll be making two stops there. The first is she's going to travel to Chengdu and will be there to, among other things, express condolences on behalf of the American people for the earthquake, and meet with some local officials and aid organizations that are working on the relief effort there. She'll then go on to Beijing and be there for meetings with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang as well as other senior officials. And again, I expect they'll have consultations on a wide variety of both regional and bilateral issues; certainly, six-party talks among them as well as some of the broader global issues that are always on our agenda with China.

So that's the itinerary as we have it for now. And with that, I'll take your questions on this or anything else. Or not, if you don't have any. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about the decision to go to Chengdu? Will she be the highest ranking U.S. official to go there so far, I guess? Is that right?

MR. CASEY: Certainly - yeah, I'm not aware that there's been any other cabinet-level officials that have gone there, too. Obviously, both our Consulate in the area as well as our Embassy have had people in the region. But this would certainly be the highest level U.S. representative there.

And obviously, you know, this has been a very tragic situation for the people of China. The U.S. and the international community have done a lot to support it. The Chinese have been very cooperative in that effort. And I think the Secretary just wants to be able to go look for herself and talk with some of the folks involved in the relief effort, and again, also just do this as a show of sympathy and support for those people that have been affected by this.

QUESTION: She's staying overnight there? Is it --

MR. CASEY: My understanding is she will go to Chengdu on the 29th and then go to Beijing that evening, so I don't believe she'll be overnighting there.

QUESTION: Do you - will she be meeting with anyone other than government officials on that trip?

MR. CASEY: She does intend to be - meet with some NGO representatives and those involved in earthquake relief and efforts. I'm not - I don't have details of the people she'll be meeting with while there, but I think you can look for it to be a range of individuals and not exclusively government officials.

QUESTION: Would she consider, for example, meeting with some of these parents who have become something of activists for - on the shoddy building issue?

MR. CASEY: You know, I'm not aware of the details of the schedule at this point, but I will check for you and give you some more as we come closer to the date.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The - is there a six-party talks ministerial meeting scheduled during her trips?

MR. CASEY: There is not. And certainly, if we have anything to add to the schedule as announced here, we'll let you know. But that's not in the plans right now.

Yes, Samir.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about the conference in Germany to support Palestinian security?

MR. CASEY: We'll get you a little more on that, but of course, this is part of our ongoing efforts to help ensure that the Palestinians are able to develop their institutions and their systems so that when we all hope we get to an agreement for the establishment of a Palestinian state, that the Palestinian people are in a good position to be able to manage that state and govern it. And that, you know, obviously includes elements of assuring and establishing the rule of law, court systems, police procedures. So if you look at it in that sense, it's broadly about the judicial and law enforcement systems in that country, and we'll be having a little more information for you on it later.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have anything on the conclusion of beef negotiations?

MR. CASEY: Wait a minute, hold - Sylvie, was - same subject? Or --

QUESTION: I'd like to stay on Middle East, but we can go back. We can --

MR. CASEY: Oh, okay. Sorry, would you --

QUESTION: Yeah, I just asked about the conclusion of beef negotiations between U.S. and South Korea.

MR. CASEY: I really don't have anything new to offer you. USTR, of course, has been in the lead on those discussions. Certainly, we intend to continue to work with the Government of South Korea on this and hope that we can reach a successful conclusion.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: I'd like to go back to this conference.

MR. CASEY: Sure, yeah.

QUESTION: It's not a donors conference. How is it going to work? What is it exactly?

MR. CASEY: I'm going to get you a few more details and put that out a little later. But essentially, if you want to look at it, the basic way to look at it is part of an effort to do capacity-building for Palestinian Authority institutions. And that'll involve a variety of players, including those from the European Union as well as other countries in the region. But we'll get you a little more detail.

QUESTION: Like - you mean, weapons? Or --

MR. CASEY: No, no. Capacity-building, meaning the kinds of things I think you would think of in terms of how - our development of legal and law enforcement systems in other countries. That means administration of justice concerns, including how you make legal systems, court systems, the kinds of procedures used in place to ensure that not only for criminal matters, but also for civil matters, you've got a functioning judicial system in adherence to the rule of law. Certainly, I expect that part of that is going to be discussions about security services as well.

QUESTION: Okay. And if we can stay in Middle East, the Israeli press is saying that the negotiations that Israel offered to Lebanon have been - well, apparently, the U.S. were being implicated in that, involved in that?

MR. CASEY: Implicated?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CASEY: Such a lousy word. No, look, I think what I said yesterday on it is, frankly, about where we are. We welcome the efforts by the Israelis and by any parties in the region to resolve these outstanding issues. But our primary focus is going to remain working on the Palestinian track and the direct negotiations there. Certainly, if there are discussions between Israel and Lebanon and they would like support or assistance or ask for help from the United States in that, that's certainly something we'd consider. But at this point, that's not the case. So we'll see what happens, we'll see what - how these talks move forward. And we're certainly supportive of them, but at this point we have not been asked to play a direct role in it that I'm aware of.

QUESTION: So it's not something the Secretary spoke about during her trip in Lebanon?

MR. CASEY: Well, you heard from her, and you heard from her in one of her opportunities to speak with the media out there about the importance we placed, for example, on resolving the Shebaa Farms issue, and that we thought the time was appropriate for her to do that. Certainly, in her discussions with both Lebanese and Israeli officials, they talked in general terms about some of these regional initiatives that the Israelis are starting. But my understanding is we've not been asked to play a formal role in these discussions.

Samir.

QUESTION: Do you prefer solving the Shebaa Farms through negotiations - direct negotiation with Israel, or through the implementation of 1701?

MR. CASEY: Well, there is an existing framework that was established in 1701, and I think, as the Secretary said, we'd be looking to have the UN and the Secretary General use his good offices to help resolve it. And I think that's what - clearly what's been laid out as a means for resolving that issue.

But certainly, you know, I think what everyone would like to see is have it be resolved in as quick and as reasonable a way as possible. How the Secretary General and the UN might use their good offices - whether, you know, that would be through some sort of coordinated discussions or through bilateral contracts - I think that's something that would - is still open for discussion, Samir.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Cyprus, Mr. Casey, the other day, Mr. McCormack told us that there is a momentum and optimism for a solution to the Cyprus problem based on the talks of June 5th between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan. I'm wondering, where did you find the momentum or the optimism since the Turkish Cypriot Leader Mehmet Ali Talat stated a few days ago, quote, "A new partnership state will be formed and will be based on the political equality," unquote, which means, clearly, confederation.

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, first of all, we're diplomats. We're always optimistic. Second of all, I think you heard directly from the Secretary and others about how positively we viewed the fact that the Government of Cyprus as well as the leadership of the Turkish Cypriot community had chosen to engage one another in dialogue and discussion. We certainly also have appreciated the fact that there is support for that dialogue and discussion coming from both the governments of Greece as well as the governments of Turkey. And I think for that reason, we believe it's a moment where we can have some hope that this longstanding conflict will be resolved.

Obviously, though, there is a big difference between saying that we would like to see that happen and we hope for a positive outcome, and actually achieving one. And we'll certainly be continuing to follow this issue and continuing to talk to the parties to encourage them to move forward in dialogue and to develop a resolution.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. position vis-à-vis to the political equality in Cyprus?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, our position on Cyprus remains as it has been. I'm not sure in terms of what comments any of the individual leaders have made on this. I'll let them speak for themselves. Our belief, though, is that there needs to be a resolution to this issue brought about through negotiations and done so through the support of the United Nations and the efforts there. That's been our longstanding view, and I don't have anything new to offer you on that.

QUESTION: And the last one. In the recent days, a bunch of reports are claiming that the catastrophic Annan plan of the 10,000 pages is being tabled back again, the table with a different hat by the U.S. Government. Any comment on that?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we are not pushing any particular view on this at this time any more than we were in the past. The Annan plan, as you know, was something that was worked out under the auspices of the former Secretary General. Certainly, we wish to see that there is an agreement reached that will resolve this issue, but that's for the parties to decide. And we'll be supportive of any agreement that the two parties can come together on.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Charlie.

QUESTION: On a different issue, last couple of weeks, we've been talking about the Palestinians and Fulbright scholarships -

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Four of the seven got their exit visas and three, I am told, have had their exit visas denied for security-related reasons. My question is: Has the U.S. been told that by the Israelis? And whether it has or not, is the U.S. still pursuing the effort to get them visas?

MR. CASEY: Well, Charlie, the U.S. position on this is exactly where the Secretary left it in her interview the other day. She - we have been given no reason to - that she is aware of nor that I am aware of - that would indicate these individuals should not be allowed to move forward. If there's any change in that, I'll let you know, but not that anyone's told me.

Okay. Nina.

QUESTION: Can I ask about NATO bases, particularly NATO bases in Europe that house nuclear weapons? Seems to be some security concerns, there's been an internal Air Force report, part of which is now declassified, which has been obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, saying that there is a problem with security, that these measures fall short of U.S. standards. So are you concerned about -

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm sorry. I'm simply not familiar with the report or, you know, what the concerns might be. Obviously, U.S. nuclear weapons are in control of U.S. forces. Certainly, there have been issues raised in terms of Air Force procedures related to that, but if there are any specific concerns related to the Air Force control or command and control issues related to nuclear weapons in Europe, you'd simply have to ask the Pentagon about that. It's not an issue that's come to our attention here.

Yeah. Sylvie.

QUESTION: The EU is considering scrapping their sanctions against Cuba. Do you think it would be a good idea? MR. CASEY: No. (Laughter.) Is that a simple enough answer for you? No, look –

QUESTION: You don't?

MR. CASEY: I think our policy on this is well known. And of course, we would like to see a real transition occur in Cuba, one that would allow for the release of political prisoners, for democratic opening, and ultimately, for free and fair elections in which the Cuban people could choose their own leadership.

While we've seen some very minor cosmetic changes made by this regime, we certainly don't see any kind of fundamental break with the Castro dictatorship that would give us reason to believe that now would be the time to lift sanctions or otherwise fundamentally alter our policies. So certainly, we would not be supportive of the EU or anyone else easing those restrictions at this time.

QUESTION: And if they do, I mean, it will, of course, affect, I suppose - well, it would weaken maybe the U.S. restrictions, wouldn't it?

MR. CASEY: Well, we'll see. You know, let's see what the EU decides to do, first of all. I don't think, though, that we see a reason to shift policy at this point. And certainly, I would hope that as the EU or any other states contemplated how to deal with Cuba and how to manage their Cuba policy, that any of our democratic friends and allies throughout the world would be cognizant of not taking actions that would appear to give additional legitimacy or otherwise make a dictatorial regime run by a family member of the last dictator any reason to believe that their continued oppression of the Cuban people is any more acceptable now than in the past.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: On North Korea. We're hearing that the declaration's coming soon. How soon is it, is one question. And also, is there anything more the North Korean Government has to do in terms of the abduction issue before they become delisted off the state sponsor of terrorism list?

MR. CASEY: Well, how soon - you would like to know how soon is soon? Soon is what the Secretary said, which is soon. I can't give you any greater timeframe for it. Obviously, we all wish that the original deadline had been met at the end of this past year. I would like to see the declaration be provided as soon as possible. But I'm not in a position to offer you a timetable on that. That'll be a decision that the North Koreans will have to make.

Certainly, once we do have a declaration, as the Secretary said, we also need to make sure that it is fully verifiable, and that is something, of course, that many of the people participating in the six-party talks have been working on, even while the declaration is still being developed. We also want to make sure that anything that is provided by way of a declaration is something that we do have means of verifying to the extent possible.

Certainly, North Korea is a rather opaque political system and is not particularly open. So the things that the Secretary talked about in terms of verification, including on-site inspection and sampling, the ability to review and look at records, to interview individuals who were involved in the program, will all be an important component of that.

QUESTION: And is there anything that they have to do on the abduction issue before they get delisted?

MR. CASEY: I have nothing for you beyond that - beyond what the Secretary said yesterday. And - but as far as I know, you know, there's nothing new on that subject that hasn't already been addressed.

QUESTION: Tom?

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: If you reach an agreement with North Korea, how great an achievement will this be for the Administration?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think it's - I think that what has happened with North Korea has been significant and has been very important for increasing stability and security in the region. Of course, as the Secretary said, you know, while we've made real progress and while we've moved beyond previous agreements that have been reached with the North Koreans, there's still a long way to go in this process. But certainly, it will be a significant achievement for the United States if we get to the point where the Korean Peninsula is verifiably denuclearized, and certainly, that's a goal that everyone is working towards. And whether we achieve it by the end of this Administration or not, it's certainly something that is important and enhances the security of the American people and enhances the security of the world.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: The verification measures that they talked about yesterday, is that something that's already pretty much been agreed on or is that what the U.S. hopes –

MR. CASEY: Well, that's part of what the verification working group's discussions have been about. And those are the kinds of things that have been discussed. Certainly, you know, we will have to see once the declaration is in hand on some of the final details of how to implement those verification measures. But my understanding is there's been broad agreement on those kinds of elements in it.

Yeah, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Casey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan party rejected before yesterday charged in a court case seeking the disclosure for anti-secular activity, argued that any ban would be rejected by the European Court of Human Rights. Do you consider it true that the European Court of Human Rights should be involved in order to protect democracy in Turkey?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, we've spoken about this court case before. First and foremost, we believe that Turkish authorities should be able to deal responsibly with this issue. We firmly support Turkish democracy and we certainly would expect that the Turkish courts, in looking at this issue, would consider the will of the people in making their decision.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Tom, we got a quote out of Downing Street that Mugabe is one step away from an ICC indictment. And I know Ambassador McGee has been quite outspoken on this, but can you reiterate State's position on Mugabe now?

MR. CASEY: (Laughter.) Beyond - you mean beyond what the Secretary said yesterday?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CASEY: What she's saying today up in New York - look, I think it's fairly simple. What we believe needs to happen in Zimbabwe is a free and fair election in which the people have the opportunity to choose their leadership. President's Mugabe's regime has an unfortunate track record over the past many years in terms of taking Zimbabwe from being a net producer of food to a net importer, to a country that used to be able to sustain itself politically, economically and otherwise, to one that is in crisis politically and is unable to feed its people, and that has a government that routinely oppresses individuals who are not fully supportive of President Mugabe and his party. So we believe that the time has to come for the Zimbabwean people to be able to exercise their views and choose their leadership in free and fair elections.

QUESTION: And does State believe he's in breach of international humanitarian law at this point?

MR. CASEY: I can go get you 50 lawyers from upstairs and they can give you an answer to that question after they consider it for about six months. Look, I don't technically know what - you know, what we would consider the legal status of it. What we do - what we can tell you, though, is that we have a president of an important country in Africa who has taken his country from respect to ruin. And you heard from Prime Minister Odinga yesterday describing his views of the government in Zimbabwe and how tragic it has been for the people of that country.

Whatever legal status it has, the fact remains that the government of President Mugabe has done a tremendous disservice to the people of that country. And certainly, the people of that country deserve better than they've gotten from his government over the last few years.

QUESTION: Great. Thanks.

MR. CASEY: Yeah. Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)

DPB # 109
Released on June 19, 2008

ENDS

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