U.S. Daily Press Briefing
U.S. Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
November 24, 2008
Secretary Rice Upcoming to London, Brussels, Rome, Helsinki and Copenhagen
Meet with NATO Foreign Ministers / Participate in OSCE Ministerial
SOFA / Iraqi Parliament Vote
Iranian Influence on SOFA Deliberations / For Iraq to Decide
Meeting Between Secretary Rice and Prime Minister Olmert / Precursor to Meeting with President Bush / White House to Provide Readout
Discussion of Afghanistan Among North Atlantic Council
U.S. Working on Own Assessment and Review
Membership Action Plan / Policy Unchanged / Discussion Among North Atlantic Council
Reports of Shots Fired Near Motorcade of Presidents / No Confirmation
Importance of Deploying All Monitors / Working All Various Tracks to the Ceasefire
Direct Discussion and Interaction between North Korea and South Korea
Verification Protocol / Work to Formalize Agreement
Syria Under Investigation by IAEA
Question of IAEA Providing Technical Information Concerning Nuclear Activities
Amendment Plan / EU Police and Justice Mission / Working Closely with Europeans / Not Turning Back the Clock
Possible Naval Maneuvers / Watch Any Maneuvers Closely / APEC Meeting
Leaders Refused Entry / Trying to Help Zimbabwe Get Back on Track
(10:34 a.m. EST)
MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning. I won’t take this as a personal – a comment on the – personally the fact that, you know, nobody is in the front row except for Matt. Thank you, Matt.
QUESTION: You’re welcome.
MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you for – oh, Lambros, and as well as others back there, thank you very much. I expect others will come in.
I want to do two things off the top, and then we’ll get to it. We have a couple special guests here who are going to some briefings on some really exciting things that the State Department is working on in the area of social networking.
First, a travel announcement. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will travel to London, Brussels, Rome, Helsinki, and Copenhagen from November 30th to December 5th. In London, Secretary Rice will meet with Foreign Secretary David Miliband. She will then travel to Brussels to participate in the annual formal meeting of NATO foreign ministers on December 2nd. And third, after the NATO ministerial, the Secretary will go to Rome to meet with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, then travel to Helsinki to participate in the OSCE ministerial on December 4th, and meet with Finnish officials while there as well. The Secretary’s final stop will be Copenhagen, where she will have meetings with Prime Minister Anders Rasmussen and Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, so back to the news of the day. You guys have any questions? Hopefully, you’ve been enriched by this – by his briefing. It’s really exciting stuff, by the way, really revolutionary.
QUESTION: When are you expecting now a vote in the Iraqi parliament on the SOFA?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know. Talk to the Iraqis about it, talk to the speaker of their parliament. I think they’ve – I’ve seen various news reports about later this week. We’ll see.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout from this morning’s meeting between Secretary Rice and Prime Minister Olmert?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I don’t have anything. That was just a precursor to the Prime Minister’s meeting with President Bush. I’m sure the White House will have more to say about it. But you would expect that they talked about the region, they talked about the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but you can get the full readout from the White House once they’re done.
QUESTION: Just about the – back to the SOFA. What is your most recent level of concern about Iranian interference in the deliberations over the SOFA?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I’ve seen – I can’t speak to – based on any unclassified, hard information that we might have. I can’t share anything in that regard. I’ve seen a lot of news reports about – you guys reporting on how the Iranian Government would be, you know, unhappy to see the SOFA move forward. I can’t tell you whether that’s true or not. I haven’t seen whether or not the Iranian Government has actually commented on it.
But fundamentally, this is an Iraqi decision, and I think the Iraqis have demonstrated that they are going to be very protective of their political prerogatives in deciding what direction their country takes and what kinds of relationships Iraq has, whether that’s with the United States or Iran or Turkey or anybody else around the world.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: When the Secretary is at NATO, what is she hoping to achieve in terms of MAP? Are you hoping that’s going to come up again for Georgia, or is that just dead in the water?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure it’ll – I’m sure the issue will come up. Our policy is unchanged. As we get closer, I’m sure we’ll have more to say about it, but the policy is unchanged in that regard.
QUESTION: But are you looking at a sort of a watered-down version of MAP or an alternate route? I mean, even Gates said recently, during a visit to Estonia, that, you know, MAP isn’t the only door into NATO and that you could --
MR. MCCORMACK: I expect there to be a healthy discussion among the North Atlantic Council.
QUESTION: But as far as – because a European diplomat who spoke to us recently said that as far as he was concerned, MAP was dead, it was --
MR. MCCORMACK: Is there a name to this European diplomat?
QUESTION: No, I can’t give you the name. You’d have to kill me first.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right, right. Well, the moment the European diplomat puts his name – his or her name to it, then we can have a conversation.
QUESTION: But you don’t see it as dead in the water?
MR. MCCORMACK: What I expect they’re going – there’s going to be a healthy discussion among the North Atlantic Council.
QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. McCormack, do you have anything to say on reports that three German officials from the German intelligence agency BND arrested (inaudible) yesterday in Kosovo on suspicion of throwing explosives at the EU office in Pristina?
MR. MCCORMACK: How many different ways am I not going to answer that question, Lambros? Talk to – talk to the countries involved. Yeah. No, no.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no, no.
QUESTION: Marcin Wrona, TVN Poland. Is there any comment or reaction to what happened in Georgia when, allegedly, shots were fired at the motorcade of the presidents of Poland and Georgia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I’ve seen a lot of conflicting reports about this. I have obviously seen the statements from the two presidents involved. I can’t confirm one way or the other. Look, what’s important here and what – you know, what these kinds of news reports and allegations make clear is the importance of effectively deploying all of the monitors in this region, and also working on the – all the various tracks of the ceasefire to – so that there is a more peaceful and better situation in Georgia for everybody.
QUESTION: North Korea announced measures to stop almost all exchanges with South Korea, including tourism and train service. Any comment on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’ve always encouraged direct discussions and direct interaction between the North and South. The North can only benefit from greater contact with the rest of the world, including South Korea.
QUESTION: Also on North Korea, regarding verification issues. The state media again said that sampling is not included on the formal agreement reached between North Korea and the U.S. Is it on the paper?
MR. MCCORMACK: It is part of the agreement, and we hope and would expect that the verification protocol would be formalized in the Six-Party sense after the next heads of delegation meeting, which my boss announced just the other day – yesterday, I think.
QUESTION: Sir --
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s taking place in Beijing on December 8th.
QUESTION: Sir, so that agreement is on paper?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, what we’re going to work to is formalize this agreement. Regardless of which form it may be in, it is an agreement. That doesn’t change it. So what is -- we hope is going to happen at this next Six-Party heads of delegation meeting is that this is agreed upon and put in a form that all the members of the Six Parties can validate.
QUESTION: So just to go back to NATO and flog this horse again, apart from this healthy discussion that you plan to have on MAP, are you – what else would the Secretary like to see covered in those meetings? Are you going to be looking at Afghanistan and --
MR. MCCORMACK: The NAC meetings – I’m sure we’re going to talk about Afghanistan. We’ve been working on our own assessment or review, if you will, of Afghanistan and the way forward. And I’m sure that the Secretary is going to be sharing how we see the situation. I’m sure others involved in Afghanistan will bring their views and the facts to the table as well.
QUESTION: When are you expecting to finish the review? Because if I remember correctly, you said it was a matter of, sort of, weeks versus months?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, it’s coming. You know, it’s a White House-led effort, so they’ll take the lead in responding to that. I think they’re getting pretty close to wrapping things up.
QUESTION: Do you think that you’ll have it finished up by the – by January 20th?
MR. MCCORMACK: I fully expect -- yeah, before then – well before, then, yeah.
QUESTION: Are you going to be looking at troops levels as well, in terms of Afghanistan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Talk to the White House or DOD about that. It’s not our purview.
QUESTION: Sean, please, anything on the latest clash between the United States and the IAEA about providing nuclear information to Syria?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn’t seen the word “clashing.” What were we clashing about? Fill me in.
QUESTION: That ElBaradei thinks that the – his organization should proceed and provide technical information to Syria, and the United States is opposing that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, right. I understand the issue. I hadn’t seen his particular comments, but I know – I’m familiar with the issue, it’s wholly inappropriate, we believe, given the fact that Syria is under investigation by the IAEA for building a nuclear reactor outside the bounds of its international legal commitments, and then for the IAEA to be involved in providing technical information concerning nuclear activities would seem to be contradictory, if not ironic.
QUESTION: On Kosovo, it was reported extensively that the leaders of the ethnic Albanian majority in Kosovo rejected an amended plan of the U.S. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and new conditions for deploying the EU police and justice mission in Kosovo. Anything to say about --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, we’re working on this issue very closely with the Europeans in terms of the deployment of the European Mission and a handoff between UNMIK and the U.S.
QUESTION: Do you share the Albanians’ concern that the revised plan for EU Mission proposed by Brussels at the UN, it will threaten the sovereignty of Kosovo over the rest of the sovereign territory?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nobody’s turning back the clock here. Kosovo is a sovereign state.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout of the Secretary’s breakfast with Prime Minister Olmert? Apparently – did you already go through that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yep. Yeah, we did.
QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. I missed the top of it. Okay. Sorry.
QUESTION: Sure, we did.
MR. MCCORMACK: Send them to the White House.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Any reaction to President Medvedev’s visit – upcoming visit to Venezuela and the fact that the naval forces have arrived and there will be maneuvers?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don’t know. Are they accompanied by tugboats this time? I – you know, look, there’s no – I don’t think there’s any – there’s any question about, you know, who the region looks to in terms of political, economic, diplomatic and as well as military power. If the Venezuelans and the Russians want to have a – you know, a military exercise, that’s fine. We’ll obviously be watching it very closely. Contrast that with their recent meeting in Lima that just took place among APEC members, which they’re talking about effective action to deal with the global economic crisis. I think that’s where people’s attention is really focused.
QUESTION: So you don’t see it as provocational or --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, look – you know, I can’t speak to –
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I mean, the – I don’t know if the intention was provocative. Certainly, we don’t – we won’t view it that way. We’ll watch it closely, but I don’t think a few Russian ships in the Caribbean with the Venezuelans is really going to raise anybody’s eyebrows.
QUESTION: Any reaction to the Zimbabwe Government refusal of a visa for former President Carter?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I understand that there was a group of the Elders, Kofi Annan as well as others, who were refused entry into Zimbabwe. You know, look, it’s – you know, too bad, a missed opportunity for Zimbabwe to try to right itself and to move beyond this really awful period in its history where politically and economically, this government is leading the country in a downward spiral. They can – they should, you know, try to -- rather than turn people away, try to benefit from those who want to try to help Zimbabwe get on to a better track.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 11:12 a.m.)