US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 7, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 7, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 7, 2008
Visit of Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski
Ongoing Discussions on Missile Defense
Prospects for Secretary Rice to Visit Warsaw on Upcoming Trip
Travel by Assistant Secretary Fried to Cyprus
Ongoing P5+1 Consultations / Conference Call
P-5+1 Waiting for Iranian Official Response
Minister Maliki's Remarks / Reported Timetable for Troop
Transfer of Natural Uranium in the Form of Yellowcake Out of Iraq
UAE Appointment of Ambassador to Iraq
Reported Arrest of Two Former Turkish Generals
Interagency Team's Discussions with Yemeni Government Regarding Potential Transfer of Yemeni Citizens from Guantanamo Detention Facility
US Discussions with Serbian Government Regarding Miladin Kovacevic
Reported Israeli-Hezbollah Prisoner Swap
Terrorist Attacks in Islamabad and Kabul
12:10 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don't have anything to begin with, so we can get right to your questions. Who would like to begin?
QUESTION: The Polish Foreign Minister says that he had a good conversation with - productive, I think, is the term that he used -- and said that there was nothing to salvage because nothing had been -- nothing broken down in the first place. Would that be your assessment of the discussion?
MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't completed them yet, and we're still working on them. We're - the fact that the Polish Foreign Minister is here today is evidence of the fact that we are continuing to work on these negotiations. We didn't conclude them in time for the beginning of the Secretary's travel. That doesn't mean we're not going to keep working on them. It's an important issue for Poland, it's an important issue for the United States, and it's an important issue for NATO as well. NATO has given its endorsement to this missile defense effort, so we're going to continue working on it.
And, you know, look, Poland's a good friend and ally. That was true yesterday, it's true today, it's going to be true six months and a year from now.
QUESTION: You said you didn't conclude them in time for the beginning of the Secretary's --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: You were trying to? Was that the -
MR. MCCORMACK: We were thinking about it. We were thinking about it.
QUESTION: And was (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible).
QUESTION: Do the, you know, kill two birds with one stone, as it were?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I wouldn't put it quite that way, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, you know what I mean. She could sign something in Prague and then go to Warsaw?
MR. MCCORMACK: She's going to be - she was going to be traveling in Europe. If there were a possibility of signing it then, that would have been positive. If we conclude an agreement, I'm sure that she will look forward to going to Poland at some point.
QUESTION: Are you ruling it out that it can't - that there's no way that it could happen this week?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm not going to rule it out, no. Look, I'm not going to tie the Secretary's hands.
QUESTION: But it's possible?
MR. MCCORMACK: It is. Yeah, exactly.
QUESTION: Is it possible even if you - is it possible for her to go to Warsaw even if you don't, you know, have a hundred percent of it done?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- she'll make up her mind. If she thinks it's useful and - diplomatically to make a stop somewhere, then of course, she will.
QUESTION: Do you still think it's possible that you can get something by, say, Thursday and that she could swing by on Thursday?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Sue, I just don't do timelines on negotiations.
QUESTION: Oh, go on.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, we'll - they'll be - they'll come to a conclusion when both sides agree that they are prepared to come to a conclusion, but not before.
QUESTION: Was he meeting - Sikorski, was he meeting Rood afterwards or before the Secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't tell you. I don't know. The meeting with the Secretary, I think, was at 10:30 or so --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- and lasted for about half an hour.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate there will be another meeting today with the Polish Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCORMACK: And the Secretary?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't anticipate one, not on the schedule.
QUESTION: So who else is he meeting in the Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. John Rood, he's our point man on negotiations for missile defense both with Poland and the Czech Republic.
QUESTION: Was he going over to the White House to see Cheney or anyone else?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I don't know. Check with the Polish Embassy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, Mr. McCormack, it was reported that Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried is in Cyprus today with an ambitious agenda: number one, to bring the two sides on the highest level for negotiation by September; and number two, to find a solution finally by the end of December. Any comment?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know where Dan Fried is today. I actually talked to him on the phone. I didn't ask him where he was.
Look, on Cyprus, there's a long history of trying to get to an agreement. It would appear that there is some possibility of moving the process forward. Of course, we support this process being moved forward with both parties as well as the international community supporting that effort. But I don't have any particular read on Dan or Dan's mission.
QUESTION: One more question. Whatever Secretary --
MR. MCCORMACK: (Inaudible) where Dan is at the moment.
QUESTION: Whatever Secretary Daniel Fried is doing in Cyprus, he's doing that on a bilateral basis --
MR. MCCORMACK: I have no reason to --
QUESTION: -- or within the framework of the United Nations?
MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, we'll have to get you an answer. I - frankly, I didn't talk to Dan about this particular topic. So in the interest of giving you the most well-informed answer that I possibly can, let me post something for you, okay?
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the conference call with the P-5+1? Were any decisions taken? What were --
MR. MCCORMACK: It was - this was more just touching base - staying in contact as part of the ongoing consultations. We have an offer on the table with the Iranians. We, the P-5+1, have an offer on the table with the Iranians. There have been some preliminary responses or - yeah, preliminary responses given to Mr. Solana, but Mr. Solana and his office are in contact still with the Iranians. And I've seen a number of press reports indicating that there is a possibility of Mr. Solana actually meeting with Mr. Jalili at some point. I think Solana's office probably is in the best position to keep you up-to-date on that --
QUESTION: But do you have any --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- in terms of the meetings. But we're - this is - I mentioned it this morning just by way of illustrating that we are in contact and consultation on this matter. We'll continue to be. And it's also an indication of the fact that we remain committed to the two-track approach that's been outlined by the P-5+1.
QUESTION: About how long was the call? Do you have any details like that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any details.
QUESTION: Is it over yet? Are they still talking or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's over, yeah. Look, I wouldn't read too much into this. This is a phone call that was designed, really, just for consultation purposes.
QUESTION: But in terms of consultation, are you - did you discuss the - did they discuss the meeting that Solana's going to have with Jalili? Did you look at your tactics?
MR. MCCORMACK: They talked - yeah, they talked tactics. They talked tactics. And in terms of, you know, any logistics of getting together with Mr. Jalili, I think you should talk to Mr. Solana's office about that.
QUESTION: And do you have any details of the Iranian response, the formal written response yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don't. At this point, we're not going to do this piecemeal in terms of talking about an Iranian response until everybody considers that they really have given their formal and full response. And I hesitate to offer any sort of details, because quite clearly, you're hearing a variety of - a variation in terms of Iranian responses from a variety of different parts of the Iranian Government. So it would indicate to us on the outside of the Iranian decision-making apparatus that there's some discussion, some debate within the Iranian political classes about this.
So until we really have - until Mr. Solana can say, you know, this is really the final Iranian response, and he's had a chance to consult with the other partners in the P-5+1, we're not going to dribble out a response. I think Mr. Solana indicated in his public remarks that it was a complicated, complex response and they needed some time to work through it, probably also to follow up with the Iranians as well. And that's something that certainly, we would support Mr. Solana doing.
QUESTION: So you don't see that the letter sent on Friday as a final response? You just see that as part of a bigger picture of something?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I - it would seem to us that there is still some work on the part of Mr. Solana with his counterpart to be done at this point.
QUESTION: Could you expand on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nope. No.
QUESTION: On Iraq, it appears that Prime Minister Maliki is suggesting a memorandum of understanding in lieu of the SOFA agreement that you've been working on. Can you shed any light on that and would you support such a move?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I know - you know, again, Kirit, this is - this falls in the category of ongoing negotiations. And I'm not going to talk about every single development -- every single development within the - in the negotiations. I've seen Prime Minister Maliki's remarks. I've seen some reports about it. And at this point, I don't yet have clarification of all of what he said, so I hesitate to offer a more full comment other than to say the negotiations are still underway, and that whatever we arrive at is going to be something that is in the interest of both nations, both Iraq and the United States.
QUESTION: Would you say your timeline is still the same to hope to get something done by the end of the month?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I know our negotiators have talked about timelines. I'll let them talk about timelines. I'm not going to do it.
QUESTION: Sean, to follow up on that. I mean, this is the first time he specifically said that he wants to tie in some kind of timetable for withdrawing --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- American troops into this agreement.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: What do you make of that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's really the part - the point at which I would seek greater clarification in terms of remarks. I've seen the same press reports that you have. But I haven't yet had an opportunity to get greater clarity as to exactly to what Mr. Maliki was referring or if, in fact, that's an accurate reporting of what he said.
QUESTION: I can read you out his comments.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I've read the same thing. You know, again, you can read it if you like. I've read the same thing. Again, I would -- (a) I can't stipulate that that is, in fact, exactly what he said and (b) if so, what greater clarification or context there might be to his remarks. I just don't have that.
I'm happy to provide you an answer here, but I want to do so in an informed way and I don't yet have the information I need in order to provide you a fully informed response.
QUESTION: The UAE has formally appointed an ambassador.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Is this an encouraging sign? Are you getting any indications there are any other Arab ambassadors who will be making any trips or foreign ministers, any high-level visits of that kind?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well, there have been a number of positive developments on the diplomatic front regarding Iraq over the past several weeks. If you rewind the tape to a couple of years ago, there was an announcement by the President talking about not only a surge on the ground in Iraq, but a diplomatic surge. And I think you're starting to see some of the results from that diplomatic surge and the hard work that the Iraqis as well as Secretary Rice has put in.
You see now the UAE announcing debt forgiveness, appointing an ambassador, opening an embassy there. You have the Jordanians opening an embassy, sending - or appointing an ambassador and to open an embassy soon. You have Bahrain doing the same. These are all very positive developments, and developments that only two years ago, none of us in this room were talking about. And a lot of people doubted that they would actually occur.
So this is actually the events of - the announcements today, as well as the events in the past several weeks, very encouraging for Iraq. Iraq is starting to take its place once again in the region. It's important for the Iraqi people, it's important for Iraq, and it's important for the region.
QUESTION: Could you talk more about what the State Department role was in the transfer of nuclear materials out of Iraq and why this is necessary and why it's important?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. This was, just to clarify for people, the information I have here was that this was 550 metric tons of natural uranium in the form of Yellowcake that was transferred out of Iraq to another location outside the country. I understand it was - I've seen press reports stating that it was Canada.
The Department of Defense - I'm just reading off some information here that I have for you. The Department of Defense was responsible for the safe, secure transfer of the material from Iraq to the country of the purchaser. Again, I've seen press reports that that is Canada. I would refer you to the Canadian Government whether or not that's accurate. Our Embassy Baghdad officials served as the primary interlocutors with the Iraqi Government. And our folks at the Embassy also -- and the State Department also worked with Iraqi Government to ensure that the transfer operation was conducted in full coordination with IAEA -- and the IAEA and consistent with all applicable safeguard regulations.
So we were - the State Department wasn't actually involved in handling of this material, but we helped, along with DOD and DOE, to make all the arrangements necessary to make sure it was done according to international standards and according to all safety and regulatory standards.
QUESTION: Do you know how much it was sold for? And was it a security risk when it was there in Iraq?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there were, obviously, security concerns. This was done out of sight of the media for security reasons. And people are happy to talk about it at some greater depth, although I take it from what I've been given here, not that much greater depth. I don't know exactly how much it was purchased for, Charley.
QUESTION: And can you just - does this eliminate the stockpiles of yellowcake and uranium in - left over from the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that --
QUESTION: -- Iraqi nuclear program?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that it does, but let me - we'll double-check that for you.
Lambros, you already had one. Sorry, one more. I'm feeling charitable.
QUESTION: One more.
MR. MCCORMACK: Fourth of July and America's birthday.
QUESTION: Two former Turkish generals with strong ties with active generals, Yasar Buyukanit and Ilker Basbug, along with 50 others, have been arrested on charges of forming an illegal group seeking to overrule the Turkish Government of Recep Erdogan via brutal coup d'etat. One of them is the head of the so-called Kemalist Thought Association. Any comment, since it's a move against democracy in Turkey?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is a matter for the Turkish Government to comment on. It's internal to Turkey. I will just say that there are many questions in Turkish courts these days, and we are fully confident in Turkish democracy and being able to resolve these within the confines of Turkish law and its constitution.
QUESTION: Sean, last week, I asked you about a team that had gone to Yemen to talk about the transfer of --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Did you ever get anything on --
MR. MCCORMACK: They have come back. I think that they had - how do I put it? They had some good discussions. But there's still work to be done in that regard. Something of about just over a hundred of the remaining detainees - I think it's about 270 in Guantanamo - are Yemeni. So this mission was designed to open up or deepen a channel of communication with the Yemeni Government about the potential transfer of some of those Yemeni citizens back to Yemen in such a way that they don't pose any further risk to Yemeni society or anyplace else, and that they are treated in a humane fashion.
QUESTION: Do you know who it was that was --
MR. MCCORMACK: Clint Williamson.
QUESTION: It was him, himself?
MR. MCCORMACK: Ambassador Williamson was there, yeah, along with a team. There was a team along with him, interagency team.
QUESTION: All right. Do you know - but who - do you know who led it? Was it DOD or was it State?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know. I guess I should be up on the protocol of it. But I think he did, but I'm happy - if it's important to you, we can check.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Charley.
QUESTION: Is the United States working to gain the return of the Serbian college basketball player who fled the country?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I checked on that and they had just - on July 6th, our Embassy people met in Belgrade with this individual's family as well as the family's lawyer. We talked to the Serbian Government about the matter. We have urged this person's return, although we have not yet filed a formal extradition request on behalf of the United States. We have also talked to the Serbian Government about the actions of their Vice Consul in New York, and they have promised to follow up on those concerns in terms of his role in this matter.
QUESTION: Has there been discussion of the young man facing trial in Serbia, and would that be acceptable to the United States?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I'm - legal matters, I'm going to defer to the Department of Justice. I can say, however, there has not been a formal extradition request filed at this point, but we have been in contact with the Serbian Government on the matter.
QUESTION: And did you get any sense for how long the period of this discussion might stretch?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. I don't, Charley. No, I mean, clearly, look, it's - you know, this is a painful episode for all involved, and we want to do our part to see that it's resolved as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Has there been any meeting with the family of the victim and the State Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, the family of - this was in Belgrade. This is the family --
QUESTION: In addition --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- of the accused.
QUESTION: In addition to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know that we have - the State Department.
QUESTION: When was the contact with the Serbian Government? That wasn't yesterday. Yesterday was Sunday.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it was a - I don't have - I don't have the dates for that. I just have - again, I don't have some - the dates of it, just in the wake of the incident.
QUESTION: Have you - has this risen to the Secretary's level yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: She's aware of it, but I don't think that she has made any phone calls about it.
QUESTION: Yes. Iran's Secretary - excuse me, the Secretary of Iran's Energy Committee Admad Hosseini said that the proposal for a six-week freeze on enrichment has been accepted by Tehran, and meaning a freeze for a freeze, freeze on sanctions, freeze on their enrichment production.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: But I think our policy is we won't deal with them unless they freeze everything, so would this be acceptable as far as --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we haven't - as I was just saying at the beginning of the briefing here, we and the P-5+1 are still looking for the full Iranian response to the offer that's on the table. We haven't gotten it yet.
QUESTION: What about this response that they're willing to freeze for six weeks their enrichment production --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we're waiting --
QUESTION: -- activities --
MR. MCCORMACK: for the official response through the channel Mr. Solana has established.
QUESTION: So they haven't told you - they haven't --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you're - again, we have - I'm not going to get into the details of the response, but I think that there's more - there's a sense among the P-5+1 as well as Mr. Solana's office that there is potentially more - a more full and complete response coming from the Iranians.
QUESTION: And also one last - and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: -- off of Iran, if you don't mind. Hassan Nasrallah and the Israeli Government have agreed on the prisoner swap. Any comments on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would refer you to the Israeli Government for any comment.
QUESTION: Do you want to say anything about these attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Both -- you know, terrible news in both places, Matt. Both in Kabul as well as in Islamabad, innocent people lost their lives in terrorist attacks and it's a terrible tragedy. We condemn these attacks. And in the incident in Kabul, we have offered any assistance, not only to Afghan but also to Indian authorities in terms of follow-up, determining who's responsible for these attacks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:29 p.m.)