State Dept. Daily Press Briefing July 17, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Tuesday, July 17, 2001
BRIEFER: Philip T. Reeker
RUSSIA 1 Secretary Powell's Meeting With Russian Foreign Minister / Reaction to the Russia-China Friendship Pact
ISRAEL/ PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 2-6 Update on Recent Violence / Mitchell Report Recommendations / Secretary Powell's Upcoming Meeting with Ehud Barak
IRAN 4 Reported Arms Shipments to Hizbollah 11-12 Extradition of Liberal Opposition Leader
PERU 6-9 Investigation of the Downing of the Missionary Plane / Surveillance Flight Resumption / Changes in Interdiction Program / Possible Increase in Air Trafficking of Drugs
INDIA/PAKISTAN 8-10 Peace Summit / Discussions Over Kashmir / Future Talks / Pakistani Support For Kashmiri Separatists
MACEDONIA 10-11 Ceasefire Update / Ongoing Peace Negotiations
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
DPB # 101
TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2001 1:10 P.M. (ON THE RECORD UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED)
MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome back to the State Department. As you are aware, or should be aware, Ambassador Boucher is accompanying the
Secretary. They are en route to Rome as we speak, having departed around 8:30 or so this morning.
I don't have any formal announcements, so we can go straight to questions and begin with the Associated Press, Mr. Schweid.
Q: He is seeing the Foreign Minister of Russia tomorrow? That's still --
MR. REEKER: That is my understanding, yes. I do believe that will take place in Rome, obviously.
Q: Was it kind of a snap reaction yesterday to the Russia-China friendship pact? If you don't have anything, the State Department doesn't have anything to add, that's fine. But it's a -- you know, it was -- I don't want to say dismissed, but it was dealt with from the podium as a natural thing -- they have a long border, they want to be on good terms -- but they are jointly critical of the US missile defense program.
Is there anything that the State Department wants to add to yesterday's instant appraisal of the treaty?
MR. REEKER: Well, I don't think I would call it "instant appraisal," Barry, in the sense that, as Ambassador Boucher indicated, this was something we were aware of for quite some time. We talked about it when both Russia and China had been discussing this, and I think both from here and from the White House, we noted that the world of international relations is not a zero-sum game. And I really don't have anything further to add to what we said yesterday, in terms of a treaty of friendship between Russia and China, two countries that obviously have interests in maintaining a solid bilateral relationship, and that is important for us, too.
So we will continue to pursue our own relationships. We will continue to pursue our own interests in a missile defense system. That doesn't change anything in terms of our policies and what the Administration is pursuing.
Anything else on that?
Q: Things appear to be getting worse and worse. Does the United States have any plan to step in to change things? The Israelis want more pressure on the Palestinians; the Palestinians want more pressure on the Israelis. Do you think -- go ahead.
MR. REEKER: Well, our representatives in the region obviously remain in continuous contact with Palestinians, with Israeli leaders, both on the political and the security sides, as we indicated yesterday. Deputy Assistant Secretary David Satterfield remains in the region. He has had high-level meetings. Our efforts, of course, are focused on security cooperation and practical efforts to bring the violence down. As we have said before, as Secretary Powell has reiterated, we have got to bring the violence down, to break the cycle of violence so that the parties can move forward on discussion of a timeline for implementation of the Mitchell Report in all its aspects.
I think we noted to a number of you yesterday afternoon that we condemned in the strongest possible terms the suicide bombing yesterday that killed at least two people and wounded several others, and our condolences go out to the victims and their families.
We welcome the Palestinian leadership's condemnation of this act and we continue to call upon the Palestinian Authority to take steps to combat terror and violence and to bring to justice those responsible for actions such as these.
We continue, at the same time, to encourage the Israeli Government to exercise restraint and not allow the cycle of violence to go on. There can be no military solution to this conflict. Again, as we have said before, both sides have an obligation to exert maximum efforts to halt the ongoing tragedy, avoid escalation, desist from provocation and incitement, and strive to create and
sustain through words and deeds an environment of trust and confidence that will permit them to move forward with the implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations, as I said, in all their aspects.
Q: If I could follow up, what are those practical efforts? You said that you're focusing on practical efforts to bring the violence down. What are these practical efforts?
MR. REEKER: I think if you have been following the situation over these weeks and months, the Director of Central Intelligence Mr. Tenet was in the region and came up with a work plan, agreed to by both sides, on security measures that
could be taken, that should be taken, that they agreed to take, to bring the
violence down. We've got to get the security implemented so that the violence can stop, and then we can move forward as the Mitchell Committee Report outlines.
Q: So you don't want to give any of the specifics of that; for example, rounding up Hamas people or rounding up weapons of Hamas people? Is that something the United States is requesting Arafat to do?
MR. REEKER: We have talked generally about the need for bringing to justice
people responsible for acts like those we saw yesterday, and the other steps
that the two sides agreed to under the Tenet work plan.
Q: As sort of a follow-up on that, does the State Department at this point feel that the Palestinians are making the maximum effort at this point to contain the violence?
MR. REEKER: I think we have seen that it is within the power of the parties to bring the level of the violence down. There is still violence going on. We saw that yesterday. Both sides need to continue to make a maximum effort. We need to see the violence reduced, and I think we believe that both sides can continue to bring the violence down by using everything in their power, making the 100 percent effort necessary.
Q: Just to follow up, you said both sides need to continue to make a maximum effort. So they are currently making a maximum effort?
MR. REEKER: I don't want to qualify and get into word games about maximum efforts or not, Eli. Simply that both sides need to take the steps called for in the Tenet work plan that will reduce the violence so that they can get on to the track of implementing the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects. That is the path forward. There is no military solution to the problem there. Everybody knows that. And so they need to stop the violence. They need to make that maximum effort so that we can move on, as they have an opportunity to do.
Q: I don't think we are playing word games if you say -- and the Secretary has said continue as well. So, I mean, I don't think we're playing word games when we just want to make sure we get the straight answer. The Tenet work plan, the Mitchell Commission Report -- a lot of things have been out there that have set very specific steps for both sides to take, and you are saying if both sides
need to continue, then that means that they have been making the maximum effort, yet there is still this violence.
So, I mean, is it -- can you just say, yes, they have or they haven't?
MR. REEKER: It is not for us to decide, yes, they have or haven't. They need to continue taking steps to bring the violence down. We have seen days where there has been calm, where there has been less violence, and we have seen days like yesterday, where there has been increased violence, tragic violence, which doesn't accomplish anything. So both sides need to exercise 100 percent effort. It is within their power to bring the level of violence down.
Q: The Israelis say it is very unfair to talk about both sides as having the responsibility for violence. They say that the Palestinians commit the violence, and then they do a response or a reprisal.
What do you say to that?
MR. REEKER: We continue to call upon the Palestinian Authority to take steps to combat terror and violence and bring justice to those responsible for actions like those actions that we saw yesterday. And we continue to encourage the Israeli Government to exercise restraint and not to allow this cycle of violence to go on, because there is no military solution to the conflict.
So that is the same message we have been delivering to both sides, and we will continue to say that. They have got to bring the violence down. They have a path forward outlined in the Mitchell Committee recommendations. Both sides
have agreed that those recommendations are the way to proceed; the entire international community supports that process; and now the two sides need to
make a maximum effort, bring the violence down so that they can proceed accordingly.
Q: The topic of Peru?
MR. REEKER: I think we are going to still be on the Middle East.
Q: Once again, I mean, the question that Barry asked a couple days ago, is there no Plan B? I mean, things appear to be falling apart basically. I mean, it was quieter about a week ago, and now it's just getting worse and worse and worse.
MR. REEKER: I will repeat what the Secretary said again yesterday: it is within the power of the parties to bring the level of the violence down. We
keep representatives in the region working closely with the parties. They are in contact with the Palestinian and Israeli leaders on the political aspects, on the security aspects. I mentioned again that Deputy Assistant Secretary Satterfield is in the region.
So we will continue to do what we can to help the parties with this process, but they must make the maximum effort. It is within their power to bring the violence down so that they can move ahead with the Mitchell Committee recommendations, which outline a path back to the peace table, which is the ultimate solution obviously.
Q: We were told yesterday that the Secretary talked to Chairman Arafat, I believe, Saturday. Has the Secretary spoken either again with Mr. Arafat or
with the Prime Minister?
MR. REEKER: I understand that he spoke to Prime Minister Sharon from the airplane about noon, Washington time, today.
Q: I have a question about Peru, which I think somebody --
MR. REEKER: Are we done with the Middle East?
MR. REEKER: Let's keep up with the Ben Barber briefing. Go ahead.
Q: The Iranian Supreme Religious Leader, Ali Khamenei, has said today that Israel is a scourge and needs to be erased. The Israelis have said -- I mean, there has been a report that they have shipped 8,000 Katyusha rockets to the
Hizbollah. Is the State Department aware of this?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on that report. I haven't even seen it.
Q: (Inaudible) the meeting between the Ehud Barak and the Under Secretary Armitage today?
MR. REEKER: I believe that meeting will be Thursday.
Q: Oh, Thursday. Sorry.
MR. REEKER: I believe Mr. Barak is in this country on a private visit.
Q: Phil, a couple of fine points. Yesterday, the Islamic Jihad said it was
responsible for that incident you all condemned. In your statement yesterday, you called on the Palestinian leadership to make arrests.
There is an assumption -- I mean, there is an inference there, but I would like to be clear about it. Is it the State Department's position -- this has come up before -- that -- and you never mention Yasser Arafat by name, which is a whole other matter. But is it the State Department's view that the Palestinian leadership -- presumably you mean Yasser Arafat -- has it within his authority to control the Islamic Jihad, or are they sort of somewhat erratic and on their own?
MR. REEKER: I think our views of Islamic Jihad and Hamas are well known. They both have long been designated by the Department as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. We condemn them. We condemn their acts. They do absolutely
nothing to resolve the problems in the region; they only exacerbate that problem.
We have, as I said, called upon the Palestinian Authority to not only condemn the violence and terror, to take steps to combat it, but also to bring to justice those responsible for actions such as these.
Q: So you assume that their authority stretches that far?
MR. REEKER: They have an authority over a region, an area, and that's what we would like to see.
Q: And I might as well bring into the discussion today's Israeli attack, which Israel says extinguished two Hamas operatives. I hate to put you on the spot in a situation like that because you just told us what you think of Hamas, but does the State Department consider that also part of the cycle of violence, or do
they see some --
MR. REEKER: In terms of what you are referring to, Barry, we have seen those reports of aspects today and we're checking into the details, but I couldn't get all the facts even before I came out of here.
Our message to Israel remains the same; it's what I indicated earlier, it's what we've indicated all along: exercise restraint and to try to break the cycle of violence. So that we can all remember there is no military solution to this
conflict. Once again, we need to end the violence, pursue the Mitchell recommendations.
Q: Well, it sort of sounds a little bit like the State Department thinks Israel should have done what they reportedly did.
MR. REEKER: Barry, what I told you was I don't have facts, and I'm not going to comment on something about which I don't have facts. So if you have another
Q: No, I'm asking -- all right, then the question is the State Department's
reiteration today of its cautionary note to Israel not to -- to use restraint and not to -- to do everything it can to halt the cycle of violence -- does that apply to attacks on Hamas?
MR. REEKER: Our statement, our encouragement of the Israeli Government to exercise restraint and not allow the cycle of violence to go on, stands exactly as I said it.
Anything else on this?
Q: Well, on this Jerusalem Post -- if I can read this fine print here.
MR. REEKER: Has anybody got glasses for Barry?
Q: Yeah, I'll butcher the name. No, it's the name that I can't -- Barghouti? The Jerusalem Post says a Fattah leader, Marwan Barghouti, who Israel accuses of directing Palestinian violence in the West Bank, received an invitation to attend this month's American Independence Day celebration at the US Consulate in Jerusalem -- that's the Jerusalem Post has learned.
Do you know if there is any substance to that, by any chance?
MR. REEKER: I don't, and generally we don't discuss details of guest lists to official functions at our diplomatic missions overseas. So I can't start trying to get guest lists of all the July 4 functions or any other functions we have at our consulates and embassies abroad.
Q: Are we done with Middle East?
MR. REEKER: Anything else on the Middle East?
Q: Other countries in the Middle East, if we can go back here. Elaine wants to go to Peru right now.
MR. REEKER: Okay, everybody wants to go to Peru.
Q: Thank you. I just wanted to ask, since there seem to be reports suggesting the content of your review on the shootdown of the missionary plane, and also suggesting that you actually blame the Peruvians for it, which I understand is not the case, could you tell us whatever you can tell us about what is in that review or report?
MR. REEKER: As you know, the US and Peru have been conducting a joint investigation of the tragic incident from April 20th, and that investigation has expanded into a broader review of US aerial interdiction programs in Peru and Colombia.
We have discussed before that we feel very strongly that we need to make sure that every possible safeguard is in place to prevent the accidental loss of civilian life as a result of our important counter-drug air interdiction operations in the Andes. So the review is drawing upon findings of the Peru
investigation report, which continues to be finalized, examining safeguards and procedures in both countries, and also making any necessary recommendations on measures to prevent a repeat of the tragic events of April 20th.
We expect that review to be completed in the near future, and at that time we plan to release the findings of the review and the accident investigation. Obviously we will have consultations with Congress and release that publicly. And so at this point, without the report being completed, I just can't really comment on a report that isn't finished.
Q: Can you at least say then whether you believe the Peruvians are to blame for the --
MR. REEKER: Well, first of all, as we have made clear from the very beginning of this investigation, the investigation is not intended to place responsibility on any individual or any country, but to establish what happened on April 20 in what was clearly a tragedy, and the context in which it happened. And as I said, we added to that investigation a broader review of the US aerial interdiction program, not only in Peru but also in Colombia.
And so that is the process that is still ongoing. And often when reports come out, when press reports come out before the official reports are completed, that can lead to some erroneous information that may include inaccuracies. And we just need to wait for the report to be done. This is not a finger-pointing game. This is to try to establish what happened and the context in which it
happened so that we can put into place the best safeguards possible so that it doesn't happen again.
Q: If the procedures weren't followed, you're not going to point that out in the report?
MR. REEKER: The report will review what happened and how we can prevent that from happening again, the context in which it happened. It is not trying to
blame or do the proverbial finger-pointing; it is trying to establish facts so that we can take as much action as necessary to have safeguards, George.
Q: If one side or the other did not follow procedures, I would think the report would be remiss if it didn't point that out.
MR. REEKER: I think it is not worthwhile arguing about a report that isn't complete. I have never said that the report isn't going to establish facts and what happened in it. What I am saying is this isn't a blame game; this isn't about accusing a person or a country of doing something; it is establishing facts and finding out how things can be corrected or changes can be made to the interdiction program so that we don't face tragedies like this in the future.
Q: It seems that not only procedures, but as well language barrier may have
been a factor in the shooting down of that plane. If that is also a factor,
would the US share responsibility with the Peruvians?
MR. REEKER: You are asking an "if" question about a report that isn't complete, so I am just not in a position to comment on the report. When the report is
done, as part of this broader review, we plan to release that, and hopefully
fairly soon. And then we will be able to discuss it in full and present it to you and to the public so that you can also see the findings we have. But, at this point, I just can't go down that road because the report isn't done.
Q: Will the surveillance flights not be resumed until the report is out?
MR. REEKER: I think, as you know, it is a little difficult to speculate on the outcomes in terms of the report, and so I can't really say when assistance to aerial interception programs may resume. It hasn't resumed yet. The report
still isn't done. I don't want to try to tie the two together necessarily, but we do expect the report to be done soon, and until that's done I don't want to speculate any further on when the program may resume. We will just have to see.
Q: There will be any changes on the procedures from the US interdiction program, I mean, since the report--
MR. REEKER: Again, the report isn't done, the review isn't done, so I just can't comment. The goal of the review is to look at what happened, to establish the facts, so that if changes in procedure are necessary to better implement
safeguards and prevent that kind of tragedy, then that's what the report will point to. But until the report is done and until we can release it and discuss it with you, there is no sense in trying to discuss it.
Q: The interdiction assistance is still suspended on Colombia also?
MR. REEKER: Yes, right.
Q: On that point, not on the point of the report, has the US noticed an increase in air trafficking of drugs since the interdiction program has gone
MR. REEKER: I would say that we're looking at the impact of that, but at this point we are not in a position to issue any sort of definitive judgment.
Q: Do you have any reflection of the ending of the India-Pakistan summit? It seems to have gone --
MR. REEKER: Are we done with Peru? Okay.
On the India-Pakistan summit, let me just say that the serious and constructive atmosphere of the talks that we saw in Agra indicate that both sides are committed to resolving their differences. Obviously this will be a difficult and lengthy process, and it is important to keep this meeting in perspective. The two sides were grappling with very difficult issues that have divided them for over 50 years. As you know, we welcomed the dialogue when it was announced and while it was taking place. Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharaff had extensive talks. Their meeting ended a two-year freeze in high-level contacts between India and Pakistan, and we think that Prime Minister Vajpayee's agreement to visit Islamabad for further discussions is itself a positive step.
Foreign Minister Sattar of Pakistan and External Affairs Minister Singh of India both have indicated that their governments want the dialogue to continue. And again, we welcome that. We think dialogue is the important feature of this.
It's important for that to go on.
So, as we have said before, we will strongly support the sustained engagement at a senior level between India and Pakistan because the best way to address longstanding bilateral disputes and make real progress toward a reduction in
tensions and peaceful resolution of their differences is through dialogue.
Q: That sounds like an old New Yorker's silver lining department. I mean, you said nice things which nobody could challenge of course, but weren't the accomplishments --
MR. REEKER: Barry, I'm sure you could try.
Q: No, but didn't it fall a little short of what the US would like to have seen happen?
MR. REEKER: What we have always called for was dialogue on these very difficult questions. What we saw and what we welcomed was an end to the two-year freeze in high-level contacts, an important step in itself, and we saw a serious and constructive atmosphere with the two leaders meeting, which we believe shows
that both sides are committed to resolving their differences.
While they didn't reach a final agreement or agreement on a final joint statement, as I said, it is important to keep the meeting in perspective. And we want to just encourage a sustained engagement at a senior level. We think that the agreement of the Prime Minister of India to visit Islamabad for further discussions is itself a positive step, and the two foreign ministers have indicated that they expect the dialogue to continue. So we welcome that.
Q: Does the United States have a position on the Indian contention that Pakistan funds and arms the terrorists or freedom fighters -- however you look at it -- in Kashmir?
MR. REEKER: I don't --
Q: Well, that was one of the issues that some would say led to not-so- constructive an atmosphere and Musharaff was never willing to really own up to this. So, I mean, does the US have a position on it?
MR. REEKER: That is for the two sides to discuss. Our position has been that they need to have a dialogue on these issues. It is only through dialogue that they are going to solve these problems. There is not a military solution to the situation there. The two leaders need to continue a dialogue, and that is why we welcomed this step.
After two years, we see a return to some high-level contacts, and those contacts need to continue. In order to resolve this, they need to discuss their differences. They are difficult issues. And as I said, those issues have been dividing the two countries for over 50 years.
Q: Does the State Department have any information about Pakistani support for rebels in Kashmir?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything to share with you.
Q: I have a question on Macedonia. Do you have anything new about the situation there? We have got two different statements today. One --
MR. REEKER: Two different statements? From whom?
Q: One was from official statement from the leaders of the ethnic Albanian party that they fully agreed with the proposal, the political document that the talks are on. And the other one was from the ethnic Macedonian party that they are further of the point to reach the agreement than ever.
MR. REEKER: Well, in terms of the readouts I have gotten from our Embassy in Skopje from our officials that have been involved there, President Trajkovski and all the party leaders have been engaged, as you know, in a process of intensive negotiations. They have made progress on narrowing the differences between them, with the support of Ambassador Pardew from the United States and the European Union Envoy Mr. Leotard.
As I think Ambassador Boucher indicated yesterday, all documents are now on the table and we think that a political settlement is within reach. Negotiations of this sort are difficult. Difficult decisions, difficult actions, need to be
We think that now is the time to bring the negotiations to closure and come to an agreement because obviously a political agreement is the only solution to the problems that we have seen in Macedonia over the last many months. We expect the parties to come to closure rapidly, as I indicated, and there has been, we believe, significant progress and we expect them to continue moving forward. So I am not going to comment on every statement that comes out from one group or the other in that process because all sides need to make the effort to pursue this seriously.
Also, I would say that all sides need to continue to respect the open-ended cease-fire agreement they signed. There is no expiration to the cease-fire. I think it is important to remember that. And that is a very important aspect in keeping the atmosphere one in which the political process can move ahead.
So I think now is the time for the two sides to really make that effort to come to a political agreement, because that is ultimately the solution to get Macedonia back on track and so that they can then pursue a better society for all the people there.
Q: When you say you expect them to reach a conclusion rapidly, do you mean you want them to or that you think they are going to?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think we see it within their grasp as doing it. Obviously it is up to the sides. Our Ambassador Pardew, Special Advisor for the Balkans, as well as the European Union Envoy, have been working with the parties to help them move ahead in the process. So we think it is within their reach. We think it is important that they move ahead and have a political agreement.
Obviously this is a lengthy process, but that agreement is very important in
terms of, as we have discussed, NATO's preparations to deploy a task force in Macedonia. That will not commence until a general agreement on a political solution to the problems is reached. So that is one important incentive for
them, obviously, in moving ahead on that.
Q: Do you have anything on a guy by the name of Ebrahim Yazdi? He is an Iranian liberal opposition leader who is in America right now seeking medical treatment. But he was recently -- there were charges that were formalized against him, I guess today in Iran, meaning that if he stays here we would be harboring --
MR. REEKER: I don't.
Q: You don't have anything? Can you take that as a taken question?
MR. REEKER: What is the question?
Q: The question is, do we have any response to the fact -- I mean, I know we don't have an extradition agreement with the Iranians, but do we have any response to the fact that we are now harboring somebody that they --
MR. REEKER: I think you would want to talk to the Justice Department, if you are looking for something. Remember, in the United States, that is Justice Department; outside the United States, State Department.
Q: Thank you.
MR. REEKER: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)