State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for October 22
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
October 22, 2004
- MEPI Funding Statement
- OSCE Observers in United States Elections / Query on whether OSCE
- Observers Report to Department of State
- Russia's Ratification of Kyoto Protocol / U.S. Policy Towards Kyoto Protocol
- Elections and Ukrainian Policy in Iraq
- U.S. Policy Towards Ukraine and View of Elections
- Query on U.S. Reaction to Belarus Elections
- Impact of International Assessments of Elections and U.S. View
- Airing of Programs by Al Manar Television in U.S. / Hezbollah's Role
- Query on what Steps U.S. can take to Stop Broadcasts
- Status of Six Party Talks / U.S. Position
- Air Connections/Travel from North Cyprus
- Query on the Isolation of Turkish Cypriot Community
- Destruction of Chemical Weapons Stockpile
- Issue on Destruction of Chemical Weapons Stockpiles / Involvement of International Observers
1:00 p.m. EDT
MR. ERELI: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to our briefing for today.
If I may, let me begin by saying we will be putting out an announcement after the briefing calling attention to the awarding of an additional $18.5 million in economic support funds as part of the Middle East Partnership Initiative. This money will go to support projects in Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, the West Bank and Gaza that focus on our effort to help these people -- civic organizations, citizens groups, educational institutions in these countries that reform and develop.
Specific projects funded will include alternative dispute resolution, training, women's leadership and networking skills training, promoting primary and secondary education. We will also be funding seven university partnerships totaling just under $700,000, and we will be putting together with a Jordanian institution an interactive curriculum for English as a Foreign Language in the Jordanian educational system.
So these are exciting projects, I think, that underscore our continuing commitment to supporting the peoples in the regions and desire for progress, for change. It's an important program. It's one we're committed to. And it's one that we continue funding and continue working on, so details will be available after the briefing.
QUESTION: Is this an appropriation already approved by Congress?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. This is money appropriated -- a total of 220 million has been appropriated since fiscal year '02, and this is coming out of that money.
QUESTION: So this is a program that, as it moves along, you make judgments to whom to give the money. And this reflects that judgment?
MR. ERELI: It's -- the money is appropriated. We work in partnership with local organizations, local institutions. When they have ideas, we look for -- we look to work with them on ideas, on projects that meet the criteria of the Middle East Partnership Initiative standards, and when we work out the modalities we fund them. And we've got an ongoing engagement with groups throughout them Middle East looking for ways to support their efforts at change, at reform, at progress. QUESTION: Congress -- so the idea being Congress appropriates the money and then you get together with these people and decide on specific projects, on specific countries?
MR. ERELI: Right.
QUESTION: Congress doesn't say, give Jordan and this and give --
MR. ERELI: No, no.
MR. ERELI: Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Yes. Can we have your reaction to the Russian Duma adopting --
QUESTION: Can we stay on this subject?
MR. ERELI: Sure, we'll stay here. Go ahead.
QUESTION: There was a briefing at the Foreign Press Center by Scott Carpenter, and I believe it was on this same subject. And he gave us a $17.5 million figure, and there was -- it was a little different list on those countries. I remember Saudi Arabia was in there. I don't remember Algeria. There may have been a few other changes, but it was quite vague. And I guess I'm wondering, you know, I was, you know, among the people who weren't pleased with the briefing because we weren't really given very much information, it was rather thin. And we asked for, you know, more details and we thought we'd get them.
And anyway, my question is: Why (a) would we be invited to something yesterday where we didn't get this information; and (b) why would the numbers and the countries change overnight?
MR. ERELI: Why don't you just hold your questions until we -- or let's see if the statement we're putting out and the information we're putting out in the statement doesn't answer those questions.
QUESTION: Now, is this the authoritative account of the project?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: So I don't have to ask you why Saudi Arabia needs American money, do I? Are oil prices falling or something?
MR. ERELI: This is -- this is a program that works with local organizations, local citizens groups, local institutions to support their efforts at development, at reform, at citizen empowerment, at providing, I think, at -- providing an opportunity for their fellow citizens. There are certainly possibilities for doing that in Saudi Arabia and for our contributing to those efforts in Saudi Arabia, but I don't have any specifics on Saudi Arabia to announce today.
QUESTION: Yes. The Russian Duma ratified today the Kyoto Protocol and there were many calls across the world on the U.S. to do the same. Have you changed your views on this?
MR. ERELI: No, we have not changed our views. We do not believe that the Kyoto Protocol is something that is realistic for the United States, and we have no intention of signing or ratifying it. At the same time, we've consistently made it clear that it is up to other nations to evaluate for themselves whether ratification of the treaty is in their national interests.
Russia has certainly had a vigorous debate on this subject. We note the actions taken today, but I'd refer you to the Russians for opinion or comment on their rationale for ratifying it. Ours -- our position against it remains the same.
QUESTION: Can I stay on the region?
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Andrei Sitov from TASS. I wanted to ask you about you about the Ukrainian situation. One of their leading candidates for the presidency, Mr. Yushchenko, wants to bring their soldiers back from Iraq. Speaking at the meeting in the Crimea, he said, "It's time to bring our lads home. We don't want to contribute to building democracy in Iraq at the price of undermining democracy in our own country."
Are you concerned with this sentiment of a leading candidate? And I have a follow-up, please, after that.
MR. ERELI: I don't want to get drawn into Ukrainian campaign politics. Clearly, Ukraine has been a steadfast partner and valued ally, not only in the war on terror, but also in helping to contribute to stability and security in Iraq. The United States notes its important contributions in Iraq, and we appreciate everything they've done for the Iraqi people and for the international coalition working on behalf of the -- of Iraqi aspirations.
As to what the future holds, certainly at the present time we have every reason to have faith in the steadfastness and the commitment of the Ukrainian Government to fulfill the mission in Iraq. As far as what might happen if different individuals might be elected, that's far ahead in the future and uncertain enough that I don't feel comfortable speculating.
QUESTION: My follow-up on that would be he kind of feels close to the U.S., Mr. Yushchenko, I mean. And he, actually today he suggested that there may be some sort of a blacklist developed in this country for Ukrainian officials to be sanctioned in the case that Washington might not like the elections in the Ukraine. Can you tell us whether, to the best of your knowledge, there is such a list being prepared?
MR. ERELI: I didn't see the remarks that you refer to. There's no such list that I'm aware of. The position of the United States is fairly clear: We are committed to supporting Ukraine's future as an independent, democratic and prosperous country that is increasingly part of the Euro-Atlantic community.
We are prepared to work with whoever wins the upcoming elections in Ukraine as long as that victory is done in a free and fair election that meets international standards.
We are also prepared to move quickly on a number of fronts of issues of importance to the Ukraine. So our view is, the important thing is that the elections be free, fair, transparent, meet international standards, and are -- and fulfill commitments that Ukraine has made so that the winner of these elections can have the stature and credibility to engage on the important issues that confront Ukraine as it seeks to become an even more valued part of the Euro-Atlantic community.
QUESTION: Frankly, this is the kind of answer that I expected. And so how do you feel about other countries actually kind of appealing to the U.S. as a higher authority in their own political battles back home?
MR. ERELI: I don't think it's a question of appealing to the United States as a higher authority; it's a question of meeting international standards and international commitments. It's not just something -- it's not just the United States that the -- it is not the United States that is the arbiter of that. It is the international community as represented by organizations like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the EU and others. So this is not something that gets the seal of approval or the not seal of approval. This is something that I think -- has to be seen in the broader context of a web of international relationships.
QUESTION: Well, can I follow up on that? I mean, without speaking directly to who wins or who doesn't win, I mean, obviously, Ukraine, given its size and important relationship with the U.S. is seen as an important -- this is seen as a very important election right now. And given what you just did in Belarus, I mean, was that, you know, kind of -- how important is it that you kind of keep pushing for democracy in the region? I mean, is -- was this in any way a signal to the people in Ukraine about what will happen if this is not a free and fair election?
MR. ERELI: Is what a signal?
QUESTION: Is the action that you took this week in Belarus, for instance, a signal in any way to other countries holding elections in the region that this is what's going to happen if there is not a free and fair election?
MR. ERELI: Each circumstance is different. Each country is unique. There are -- each has its own special set of circumstances. What remains constant and, I think, consistent is that in order for the international community to have confidence in the results of elections, and in order to feel comfortable that those elections reflect the will of the people, there have to be minimum standards of transparency, inclusiveness, equity and accountability met. And those standards are clear. Everybody knows what they are. Governments make commitments to meet them, and I think elections are assessed on their -- on whether or not they meet those standards.
So it's what we look at in Belarus; it's what we look at in -- it's what we'll look for in Ukraine; and it's what we look for in other elections, as well. So without saying what we do in one place is what we're going to do -- you know, what we do in Belarus is what we're going to do in Ukraine, I can say that there are certain constants that we do look for.
QUESTION: But, Adam, in Belarus, you say that you're looking for an international assessment. You say the OSCE assessment counts; the EU assessment counts, the American assessment counts.
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: The CIS, the community of the former Soviets made their own assessments. They said there was nothing wrong with a referendum in Belarus. So do their assessments count to you?
MR. ERELI: I have not seen the assessment that you speak of. Certainly, you know, as elections are analyzed, as people look at how things went, there are a number of streams of information that are taken into account. The OSCE, for its part, has said that a -- you know, they had an initial reaction after the first day. They said their final assessment wouldn't be done for two weeks.
So this is a process. This is something we look at. This is something we take into account. We take into account a variety of points of view. But at the same time, you know, there are, as I said before, there are clear, I think, mutually agreed upon standards that need to be met. And that's the benchmark by which assessments are made.
QUESTION: Yeah, the State Department issued a Travel Advisory on Laos today warning about possible bombing attacks in the country during next month's ASEAN conference. Do you have any more on that; and can you tell us what groups you're concerned with?
MR. ERELI: No, I don't have anything to add to what's in the announcement. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I have something a little bit off the beaten track, but I think you might have something on Hezbollah TV. There has been a lot written about Hezbollah TV lately and the kind of U.S. concern about its anti-American, anti-Semitic broadcasts, and apparently it's able to be seen in the United States right now. Is there anything the U.S. can do about that, the State Department, for instance? Because the FCC is saying that if the State Department says to shut it down, they'll stop broadcasting it.
MR. ERELI: I'm not sure that's how it works, frankly. Al Manar Television is a TV station in Lebanon, which is broadcast through satellite TV here that is funded and run by Hezbollah, which is a designated terrorist organization. Al Manar Television regularly has programs that perpetuate intolerance and can be viewed as inciteful, but at this point, I'm not in a position to speculate about what steps may or may not be taken as a result of that.
I'd say Al Manar Television and its relationship with Hezbollah is something that we note and follow carefully, but I'd leave it at that.
QUESTION: Is there anything the U.S. can do to pressure Lebanon or Syria to stop these broadcasts? Is there anything that's being done on that front?
MR. ERELI: Well, you know we make it very clear to both Syria and Lebanon that we consider Hezbollah a terrorist organization. It has been implicated in terrorist attacks against civilian targets and it has a history of assassination and kidnapping. And we certainly take action by listing it as a Foreign Terrorist Organization; that is designed to isolate and work against that organization. And we consistently call upon countries that provide support to Hezbollah -- Iran and Syria -- to take action that is consistent with their professed policies of not supporting terror.
But I'm not aware of any specific initiatives we have undertaken with regard to Al Manar TV. I just have to -- I'll see if we're doing anything more, but at this point I'm not aware of it.
QUESTION: On North Korea, according to a report from South Korea, North Korea sets three condition for six-party talk to resume. Have you heard any of this report and, if so, what is your comment?
MR. ERELI: Our view is that a commitment was made at the last plenary to resume six-party talks before the end of September. We were ready to do that. The other parties were ready to do that. North Korea was not. We regret that. And we remain committed to six-party talks as the best way forward in dealing with the threat posed by North Korea's nuclear programs. And we remain ready to resume talks at the earliest possible date without any preconditions.
QUESTION: But they brought, they mention new condition. They said that the United States should discuss so-called South Korean nuclear program. How do you think about this?
MR. ERELI: I think we should resume talks as soon as possible without any preconditions.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, any answer to my yesterday's pending question regarding the inspection by U.S. officials of the two illegal airports in the occupied territory of Cyprus by the Turkish invasion and occupation force? I am wondering, are you doing that unilaterally or in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization, which already characterizes your involvement as inappropriate, against the international law on the aviation.
MR. ERELI: As Ambassador Boucher said yesterday, it is our policy to look at ways to support the Secretary General Annan's recommendation that facilitate a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem by ending the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot community. As part of that policy, we are looking at obstacles that stand in the way of establishing air connections between North Cyprus and other destinations, including in the United States.
Two working officials from the Transportation Security Administration visited Ercan on October 20th and 21st. The purpose of their visit was to develop more information about airport security and the security of air travel into and from North Cyprus. We have not made any decisions about whether to establish flights between the United States and North Cyprus; and the International Civil Aviation Organization was not involved in this visit.
QUESTION: And then my question is: Who is isolating the Turkish Cypriots, the powerful Turkish army or the Greek Cypriots?
MR. ERELI: The situation, as it prevails, the division of the island is an isolating factor for the North Cypriots.
QUESTION: U.S. Representative Frank Pallone, a Democrat of New Jersey, in a letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, urged the Department of State to strongly condemn the new penal code adopted by the Turkish Government the other day that it would punish Turkish citizens, all groups with up to 10 years in prison, if the confirm the fact that the Armenian Genocide in Ottoman Turkey, or, the most important, call the end of the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus. Any comment on that or any response by the Secretary?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of the letter. I'm not aware of the Turkish law. And I don't have any comment on -- I don't think I would have any comment on Turkish law.
QUESTION: And also, on Albania, it was reported today in Washington Post that you allocated $20 million to destroy 16 tons in barrels full of chemical and nuclear material in Albania left behind by the communist China that could be loaded easy into bombs and artillery shells, according to the story, to be used by international terrorists against the Balkans to deter southeastern Europe, of course, including Greece.
Since this material was there in past, for a couple of years after the collapse of (inaudible) communist regime, why you decided to act now, due to the unfolding crisis in the western Balkans after the elections in Kosovo this coming Saturday, and of course, the referendum in Skopje in November 7th, and not earlier?
MR. ERELI: As you may know, Albania is a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention. As a signatory to that convention, they have -- they are working with us and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to identify and destroy their chemical weapons stockpile. This cooperation has been excellent, and as a result, we have -- Albania has made a complete declaration under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
We have identified 16 tons of bulk chemical agent as a result of this declaration that must be destroyed. Because Albania lacks the expertise and funding to do the destruction itself, we are working with Albania under the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to provide assistance to determine how best to destroy this chemical agent and then to proceed forward with the destruction of it.
So this is really a good news story. It's a story that says that international agreements work and that bilateral and multilateral cooperation can succeed in removing threats from Cold War days and countries can move on to more, I guess, fruitful endeavors.
QUESTION: Adam, are you planning to do this destruction with the presence of international observers or by yourself?
MR. ERELI: At this point, the Defense Department is sending a survey team in Albania to determine the project parameters. I would remind you that the Defense Department is in charge of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. It would be my expectation that, you know, as part of Albania's adherence to the Chemical Weapons Convention and as part of their cooperation with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that there is a multilateral aspect to this project, but I don't have the specific details.
QUESTION: And the last question, the American election, do you follow the example already done by 20 international observers in five states on the upcoming election of November 2nd?
MR. ERELI: As you know, this is -- the presence of international observers in our elections is the outgrowth of a commitment that all members of the OSCE have made since 1990, to have observers of all member countries. So they are here as part of that multilateral commitment we have, partnership to support democracy. But their programs here are organized by local election officials, state and county election officials. So that's where you can get information about where they're going and what they're looking at.
QUESTION: Do they report to the Department of State or the Department of Interior?
MR. ERELI: No, they do not. They don't report to anybody. The invitation to the OSCE office that handles this was delivered by our representative to the OSCE in Vienna. The groups come here and then we put them in contact with local election officials who organize their visits and facilitate their activity here, but they don't report to anybody. They will, I think, go back to OSCE headquarters and share the information that they gathered there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the formal arrest of the researcher working for the New York Times in Beijing?
MR. ERELI: I think we spoke to that yesterday. I don't have anything new to add.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you think that would be something Secretary Powell would mention during his meeting?
MR. ERELI: As Ambassador Boucher said, it is something that could come up. It's certainly the issue of human rights. Respect for fundamental freedoms is a regular and consistent part of our bilateral dialogue with China, including at the level of the Secretary. But whether this specific issue comes up, I just -- I don't know.
(The briefing ended at 1:35 p.m.)