US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 28, 2008
Daily Press Briefing
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Acting Deputy Spokesman
July 28, 2008
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: July 28, 2008
Colleen Bargouthi Case
Status of Peace Agreement / End-of-Year Goal Remains the Same
U.S. Continues to Work on Bringing Both Sides Together
Latest on Israeli and Palestinian Negotiating Teams
Secretary Rice's Upcoming Meetings
Recent P5+1 Meeting with
Iranian Representatives / Security Council Resolutions
Waiting on Clear Message from Iranian Government through Official Channels
Internal Dialogue on This Issue in Iran / U.S. Has Seen No Change in Approach
Readout of Secretary Rice's Meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi
Chinese Objections to Exxon-Mobil Deal
Bombings in Istanbul
/ U.S. Condemns Violent and Heinous Act
U.S. Working Closely with Turkish Authorities
Constitutional Court Deliberations / U.S. Believes in Strength of Turkish Democratic System
Clashes in Kirkuk / U.S. Supports Two Sides in Reaching Agreement for Elections
Board of Geographic Names
Decision on Liancourt Rocks
Question of Sovereignty / U.S. Does Not Take a Position
U.S. Welcomes Outcome Agreed To By Both Korea and Japan
Human Rights Reports / U.S. Supports Security for all Palestinians
July 25th Talks / U.S. Hopes for a Mutually-Acceptable Agreement
Series of Blasts / U.S. Expresses Condolences and Abhors Heinous Acts
Removal of North Korea from
State Sponsored Terrorism List
45-Day Waiting Period is a Minimum
Attack in Kabul/Raise Security Issue with Prime Minister of Pakistan
Goals for Pakistani Government / U.S. Will Continue to Assist Pakistan
12:41 p.m. EDT
MR. GALLEGOS: Good morning - excuse me, good afternoon. I don't have anything for you, start with your questions.
Yes, AP, Desmond.
QUESTION: There was a report that Senator Obama asked the State Department to look into the case of Colleen Bargouthi, who apparently says she can't get her four daughters out of the West Bank.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I've - I'm looking into that, Desmond. I'll try and get you something a little later. I don't have anything for you right now on that.
QUESTION: Same region. What does the Secretary hope to achieve later this week in her meetings with Israeli Foreign Minister Livni and Abu Allah?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think the - as you all know, she's been in discussions regularly with both sides. I don't think we have - we publicly announced - I know she's spoken about the meeting she's going to be having. I don't think we've publicly announced the date or the time of the meeting, so I'm going to wait until we have something official for you before I get into the details.
Obviously, this is an effort that we've been working on for a long time. Our goal, of course, although these are difficult discussions, is to have an agreement by the end of the year, something that we continue to seek and that we'll work towards.
QUESTION: On Iran, Gonzo.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the fact that the Iranian President has granted an interview to NBC? He's allowed NBC to broadcast live from the presidential compound - the Iranians have. Do you see this as any sort of, you know, implication of a conciliatory approach to the United States, or a more conciliatory approach to the United States from Iran?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think what we've seen is, over the weekend, an announcement that they wish to move to 6,000 centrifuges; now, an interview with NBC where they are making certain statements about wanting change with the relationship with the United States. I think the world has been pretty clear that Iran has certain obligations to the United Nations Security Council that we believe it needs to fulfill.
Most recently, P-5+1 members, including a member of this U.S. State Department, went and met with representatives of the Iranians, where we had a discussion with them which did not prove fruitful in terms of a statement from them, a clear statement from the Iranian Government on where they are in terms of the demands that have been placed on them by the UN Security Council. What we are waiting for is a clear message from the Iranian Government through what we call the traditional or the established channel of Mr. Jalili to Mr. Solana, which will describe exactly what they want to do, whether or not they're going to proceed.
I believe we have a couple things on the table. Number one is the Security Council resolutions asking them to stop their processing, and the other issue is this freeze-for-freeze, to stop their proliferation means - and the other issue is this freeze-for-freeze that we're waiting to hear from them. So we're looking to a response hopefully, sometime this weekend, I believe, will be the end of the two weeks. And then we'll see what happens after that.
QUESTION: Do you see them making any serious overtures to the United States, though? Is this any indication of that?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think what we've seen is a whole lot of rhetoric, a whole lot of talking. So what we've seen is a couple of different commentaries coming out of Iran to the outside, and I think that, you know, people from this podium, the Spokesman from the podium, who have spoken before about this idea that we feel that there is an internal dialogue going on about this; that there are different voices that we're hearing from Iran who are discussing this issue and talking about where the Iranians are on this issue.
And what we haven't seen is this clear statement that we're looking for at the end of the two weeks. So that's what we're waiting for.
QUESTION: The Iranian President said in the interview today that if the American approach changes, then the Iranians will have a positive response.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think this is interesting, because what we haven't seen is a change from the - in terms of the Iranian approach, which is to faint and dodge, to - frankly, their very clear understanding of what is expected of them by the world, and they have refused to come to an understanding and move forward on those issues. And so what we haven't seen is a change from the Iranian Government. So our position, working with the other members of the P-5+1, is to get to a point where we can get a clearer statement from the Iranian Government where they are, and then hopefully proceed.
QUESTION: Do you anticipate that Ambassador Burns will have any further meetings in that setting, the P-5+1, with the Iranians?
MR. GALLEGOS: I believe the Spokesman and the Secretary have been pretty clear, that that was going to be a one-off deal. We're going to see what they have to say at the end of this two-week period, and then we'll move forward from there.
QUESTION: Secretary Rice is meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi today. Do you have any information regarding their meeting, the topics they are focusing on?
MR. GALLEGOS: Let me see. I have a couple of bullets on that. Excuse me. Well, the Secretary looks forward to meeting today with Foreign Minister Yang. They'll be meeting this afternoon, and then there will be a working dinner tonight. We expect that they'll discuss a broad range of bilateral and international issues of mutual concern as well as topics related to the President's upcoming trip to Beijing.
QUESTION: Yeah, also on China. China last week warned a U.S. company, Exxon Mobil, not to cooperate with Vietnam and oil exploration in the South China Sea. Does State have any reaction to that?
MR. GALLEGOS: I have not heard about that. So I'll take the question. Then one of my staff can work with you and we'll try and get you something later today.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes?
QUESTION: On Turkey, Mr. Gallegos, anything to say on the two explosions in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 16 and wounding 150, the deadliest attack in the last five years?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, we condemn the July 27 bombing in Istanbul, Turkey. We offer our deepest condolences and sympathy to the family and friends of the victims of this violent and heinous act. We don't believe that there's any justification for the killing of innocent people. We continue to stand steadfastly with our ally, Turkey, to fight against terrorism. We'll continue to do that.
QUESTION: Did Ankara ask any help in the U.S. Government -
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is that, as of now, we haven't received any specific request, but obviously we stand ready to assist.
QUESTION: One more question. Any communication between the Department of State and the Turkish Government on this issue?
MR. GALLEGOS: I couldn't speak specifically about it; however, I do know that our Embassy in Ankara has issued a statement about this and I know that they're working closely with the authorities there in Turkey.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: There seems to be a bit of growing tension in the northern part of Iraq. Apparently, there was some news about clashes in Kirkuk in - with regards to the local elections, and Kurds are not happy with the way of - local elections will be carried out. Can you confirm those reports? Do you have anything specific to say?
MR. GALLEGOS: I couldn't speak to those reports specifically. However, I think that, obviously, this is an issue - Iraqi elections. This is an issue that we believe the Iraqis can and will come to an understanding about. You know, democracy is growing, strengthening, and is working in Iraq. And we believe that the two sides can come - well, the sides who are participating, can come together to an understanding and an agreement that would hopefully allow for elections before the end of 2008.
QUESTION: My question is about Liancourt Rocks. Last week, the Board on Geographic Names changed the name of the country that Liancourt Rocks belonged to - from South Korea or oceans to undesignated sovereignty. Did the State Department give any guidelines to the BGN when they made that decision, like as the State Department did in 1977 when the BGN changed the name of the island from Dokdo, the Korean name, to Liancourt Rocks?
MR. GALLEGOS: I appreciate the question. Somebody posed it at the gaggle this morning, and I have more thorough guidance for you today. And I think it's going to be best if I read through it, because it states clearly that the U.S. position for decades has been to not take a position regarding the sovereignty of the islands in question. As we've said in the past, the question of the sovereignty of these islets is for Japan and Korea to resolve peacefully between themselves. We do not take a position on Korea's claim or Japan's claim to the islands. It's a long-standing dispute, which the two sides have handled with restraint in the past, and we expect that they will continue to do so. We'd welcome any outcome agreed to by both Korea and Japan.
In terms of the name the classification, which you asked about specifically, U.S. position - our position has for decades, and I repeat, been not to take a position regarding the sovereignty, and to use the name Liancourt Rocks to refer to the islands. The placement of Liancourt Rocks under the Board of Geographic Names file designation of undesignated sovereignty has no bearing on the USG's position, which has not changed. The refiling was done to be in conformity with U.S. Government efforts to standardize the filing of all features to which we do not recognize claims of sovereignty. The change to the website does not represent a change in U.S. policy, but rather an action to ensure consistency with that policy.
QUESTION: Did the State Department - was the State Department aware that the BGN would change the classification from South Korea or oceans to undesignated sovereignty?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, renewed interest in this issue has prompted U.S. Government entities to independently check to make sure that their internal filing and designations regarding these islets are consistent with our policy, so -
QUESTION: Just to qualify that, was there any communication with either Japanese or South Korean Governments before the change?
MR. GALLEGOS: I couldn't tell you.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on those two human rights reports that I flagged to you that found that there's been systematic mistreatment and torture of detainees by Palestinian Security Forces in the West Bank?
MR. GALLEGOS: No, we haven't seen the report. I believe you said that one was supposed to come out today and the other later on this week. We haven't seen it and we'd want to take the opportunity to review them thoroughly before responding.
However, claims such as this obviously concern us greatly. It's something that we keep an eye out for. This is obviously one of the reasons that we believe it is so important that we can establish a situation where we can provide for the security of all Palestinians. Therefore, before seeing that, I'm not going to comment any further but only to say that this issue obviously concerns us. We're going to take a look into it and we'll see what we can say about it in the future.
QUESTION: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert doesn't expect to achieve an agreement with the Palestinians before the end of this year. Do you have any reaction?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I'll tell you. Like I said earlier, while the goal is ambitious and the negotiations to achieve an agreement are not easy, a peace agreement by the end of the year remains a stated goal of Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. And it's a goal that we share and are working towards, as well. We maintain regular contacts with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in support of their bilateral negotiations and their shared goal of a peace agreement by the end of the year. We continue to urge both parties to work towards this common goal. The conclusions of these negotiations will resolve all outstanding issues between Israel and the future state of Palestine.
We know and understand this is difficult. We have not chosen to speak independent of the talks, apart from the talks, because we believe it's best to bring the sides together and discuss without the pressures from external comments to the media. I think we're going to continue to do that in this end. But in terms of the goal, it remains the same - an agreement by the end of the year. In terms of working with the two sides, it remains the same. We're going to continue working with those two sides to hopefully bring them together.
QUESTION: What's the latest on the visits by the Israeli and the Palestinian negotiating teams? Do you expect a trilateral meeting with the Secretary this week?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think the Secretary last week in some of her transcripts - in some of her commentary mentioned the fact that she was going to be meeting with the two sides. I don't have a formal announcement, but I hope to get something in the next day or two for you with more specifics about what is going to happen, when it's going to happen.
QUESTION: On Cyprus. Mr. Gallegos, anything to say on the talks on July 25th between Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias and the Turkish Cypriot Leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who agree that the negotiation on resolving the conflict will begin in September?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that this is something that we believe is a good thing, that the two sides move towards a mutually acceptable agreement. This is something that we've discussed and our policy has not changed on, so --
QUESTION: One more? According to a press report, you stated, Mr. Gallegos, the other day, "We hope that those full-fledged negotiation will result in early agreement on the reunification of the island." How soon do you expect such an early agreement, approximately?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think earlier will be qualified by how soon the two sides can come to an understanding. We just hope that it can be sooner rather than later.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: This is about the blast in India.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: There was a report that a computer belonging to a U.S. citizen has been seized because it was allegedly used to send an e-mail that alerted the people to this series of blasts. Do you know anything about that?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, these blasts, this series of blasts was obviously heinous acts, something that we abhor. Our condolences go out to those killed and injured, and to their families, as - and we wish them a speedy recovery. In terms of this report, we've seen the reports, but I don't have any more information to verify any of it.
QUESTION: North Korea; there have been some conflicting reports from the White House and the State Department about whether the 45-day period for Congress to review the declaration would be the 10th - August 10th or 11th.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you able to confirm one or two --
MR. GALLEGOS: I haven't been able to confirm the specifics. And I think that comes to a matter of the semantic of, do you count the last day or do you roll over to the following day. Let me see if I can get more clarification. I think, more importantly, it falls on a Sunday, I believe.
QUESTION: The 10th is a Sunday.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, the 10th falls on a Sunday. We'll see. I don't have any greater specificity on that right now. Sorry.
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: There's also been some reports on that, that there may be some delay on removal of North Korea from state sponsor of terror list.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I don't think I'd refer to it as a delay. I think if you see the Secretary's transcript from her trip, the recent trip that she just arrived from, she did speak to the fact that the 40-day* waiting period is a minimum amount of time. Other than that, we've - we're waiting for the 10th. We're waiting for the last day, whether it be the 10th or 11th. We will take a look at what the North Koreans provide us and decisions will be made.
Yes. Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Yes. On Turkey, Mr. Gallegos. Turkey's Constitutional Court with 11 judges begin today, deliberating on whether to close the ruling Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's party on charges of seeking to introduce Islamic rule. Any comment, Mr. Gallegos, since under these circumstances, democracy in Turkey is at a gunpoint?
MR. GALLEGOS: No. We believe in the strength of the Turkish democratic system. This is an issue that we believe that their institutions will come to an understanding about and make the final decisions.
QUESTION: One more? Are you (inaudible) awaiting the verdict, like the European Union and the foreign investors, since this is, Mr. Gallegos, hurting the political uncertainty and the reform process by the Erdogan government?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, this is an issue for the Turkish system to run its course. And when it does, we'll have an answer to it.
QUESTION: President Bush had said that we will get to the bottom of the attack in Kabul outside the Indian Embassy. He had said that -
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: -- will find out who exactly caused this. Was this issue brought up with the Pakistani Prime Minister? Does the Secretary of State plan to discuss this? Because there have been charges that Pakistan is involved in this.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, obviously, the security situation is something that we are going to bring up with the Prime Minister of Pakistan. In terms of what - the discussion between him and the President today, I'd have to refer you to the White House for any readout on that.
In terms of us, look, we're looking for success in Pakistan as a moderate nation, prosperous nation, and a stable democracy. We're looking to assist them in modernizing their educational system, build their healthcare system, modernize the government and improve government functions, looking to help build up their democratic institutions that will guarantee that democracy is a long-term institution in Pakistan, looking to modernize the security apparatus and the military forces so that they can maintain security and stability of the country.
We're committed to Pakistan as a nation, Pakistan as a democracy, and Pakistan as a people deserving the chance to live in freedom, safety, and prosperity. Security questions are tantamount in that. And we're going to continue working with them.
QUESTION: Does modernization of security systems mean more arms sales?
MR. GALLEGOS: More - excuse me?
QUESTION: Arms sales.
MR. GALLEGOS: More arms sales? I think that's a discussion to have, first of all, with the DOD. But, you know, the issue here is to assist Pakistan in building their democratic institutions and providing a stable base which those democratic institutions can conduct themselves, and providing proper balance of security for the country so that it can sustain peaceful operations of those democratic institutions.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)
DPB # 133
Released on July 28, 2008