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State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 17

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing for Dec. 17

Daily Press Briefing
Richard Boucher, Spokesman
Washington, DC
December 17, 2004


- Statement on European Union Accession Negotiations with Turkey
- Query on Phone Calls Made by Secretary Powell

- Discussions on the Cyprus Issue
- Turkey's Entry into European Union

- U.S. Reaction to Cuban Government's Erection of Billboards

- China Considers New Law on Anti-Secession
- Continued U.S. Dialogue with Parties in China and Taiwan

- Embassy Statement on American Hostage
- Examination of Categories

Middle East
- Designation of Al-Manar Television on Terrorist Exclusion List
- Hezbollah An Active Terrorist Organization

- Rising Violence on Both Sides
- U.S. Emphasizes Peace Talks Between Parties

- U.S. Position on Bobby Fischer's Requests to Icelandic Government

- Reports on Criticism of United States and Drug Manufacturers Over AIDS Drugs


2:05 p.m. EST

MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like to pass on to you a few words from the Secretary about Turkey and the European Union. So this is a statement from Secretary Powell; we'll get out the written version, I hope, right away.

The United States welcomes today's decision by the European Union to begin accession negotiations with Turkey on October 3rd, 2005. We congratulate both the European Union and Turkey on this historic day. Today's positive decisions reflect Turkey's impressive reform accomplishments and are a great success for both Turkey and the European Union.

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We're confident that the accession process and Turkey's eventual membership in the European Union will bring great benefits to Turkey and to the European Union. The Turkish people have much to look forward.

A Turkey that is firmly anchored in Europe and sharing European values will be a positive force for prosperity and democracy. This is good for Turkey, for the broader European region, and for the United States. And that is why successive U.S. administrations have consistently supported Turkey's European aspirations.

I'd note as well, the Secretary called Foreign Minister Gul today, having spoken to him and Prime Minister Erdogan several times in the last few days. The Secretary called Foreign Minister Gul this morning to congratulate him, to say that this was a very great victory for Turkey, in terms of what it has accomplished in its own reform program and what it has accomplished in terms of its path towards Europe.

I'll stop with that and take questions on this or other topics.


QUESTION: The Secretary also called other European leaders today?

MR. BOUCHER: He hasn't -- I don't think he's had any other discussions with other European leaders, but he has regularly kept in touch with European leaders on the matter of Turkey's accession. As you know, it's something that comes up frequently in his conversations with other European leaders.


QUESTION: Your response to Cuba's erection of billboards bearing swastikas and Abu Ghraib mimickings?

MR. BOUCHER: We finished with Turkey for a minute or not?

QUESTION: Oh, I'm sorry.

MR. BOUCHER: Let's finish with Turkey.



QUESTION: Did they also discuss about the Cyprus issue?

MR. BOUCHER: It came up because it's one of the issues that's being discussed in Europe, but just the desire, I think, on both their parts to continue to work on the Cyprus issue and, obviously, the United States has an interest in that. Turkey has had an interest in that, and I think we'll continue to work together, along with others, to try to help resolve that.

QUESTION: Richard, you've seen that animosity firsthand while you were a U.S. ambassador to Cyprus. Are the Greeks and Turk Cypriots to the stage where they can amicably settle their differences? And secondly, there's a group up in the north, the Kurds. Does that have any bearing on the entry by Turkey into the EU?

MR. BOUCHER: The Europeans and the Turkish Government have worked on the issues involved in Turkish entry. We have also all worked on trying to solve the Cyprus problem today as these events relate to Turkish entry into the EU, and yes, there were certain matters related to Cyprus that the EU and Turkey appear to have moved -- have worked out. Not questions of settlement or even questions of recognition, just some questions about how it's handled in the accession process.

We're glad that they've done that. That's what the news is today. It's not a question of reviewing the entire Cyprus issue and, as I -- I think we all know the history on this. We know that the United States has worked hard over the years to try to bring about a settlement. We had the Annan Plan. We had a positive vote among the Turkish Cypriots and a negative vote among the Greek Cypriots. That's where we remain. We're trying to open up some space with the Turkish Cypriots and keep their interest in a settlement, but at this point, we'll just have to see what happens in Cyprus.

What is -- the issues that were involved today in terms of Turkish accession, I'll leave it for the Europeans and the Turks to talk about.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, Tammy gets first dibs on Cuba.

QUESTION: Oh, sorry, Tam.

QUESTION: Cuba. If I could ask your reaction to the Cuban Government's erection of billboards near the U.S. Mission, which bear swastikas. And also, if the U.S. is considering any -- any more responses of its own?

MR. BOUCHER: I think, first of all, any government that puts up swastikas ought to answer its own questions about why it does that. But I guess this is how the Cuban Government responds to Christmas lights. As far as the Christmas lights go, we think they're entirely appropriate for the season. We think the remembrance of the 75 people in jail is entirely appropriate to the season, and we intend to leave the lights up.

QUESTION: Any further steps you plan to take?

MR. BOUCHER: We intend to leave the lights up.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, Richard, obviously that was a -- what the Cubans did was a provocative action and --

MR. BOUCHER: I'll let them answer for their own actions. I'm not going to try to explain it.

QUESTION: Well, no, but they're saying it in response to what they see as a provocative action.

MR. BOUCHER: This is how they respond to Christmas tree lights. I'll let other people judge.

QUESTION: Richard, it's more than Christmas lights. I mean, it's sending a political message and they're sending a political message in return -- I mean --

MR. BOUCHER: No, number 75 of actual political prisoners in Cuban jails, who are being remembered at this time is not the same as swastikas, sorry. Let's let them explain.

QUESTION: Is the swastikas in particular that you have a problem with, or is it the photos of Abu Ghraib?

MR. BOUCHER: I'm not going to try to explain the Cuban Government's actions in this matter.

QUESTION: No, but what is it in -- do you have --

MR. BOUCHER: What is it that we think?

QUESTION: No, but are you singling out, in particular --

MR. BOUCHER: We think it's an appropriate time to put up Christmas tree lights and remember the people in jail.

QUESTION: Are you singling out in particular the swastikas, or is it the whole Iraqi photos and the word "fascist" that you --

MR. BOUCHER: We think it's appropriate for this season to put up Christmas lights and to remember the people in jail. If the Cuban Government thinks that there is a different way to commemorate this season, let them try to explain it. But we've done what we think is appropriate for this season.

Yeah, ma'am.

QUESTION: Can I change subjects? Richard, on China. China is considering a new law against any split of national territory, and this seems to be, you know, targeting Taiwan. I wonder, does the U.S. Government have any position on that? Would that be a challenge for the status quo?

MR. BOUCHER: We have seen the press reports. We've had some conversation with the Chinese about the idea that they would have a new law on anti -- I guess an anti-secession law. We have not seen the law. We have not seen the legislation, had a chance to study it, so we are not in a position to comment in any detail.

But I would repeat our longstanding position that we've stated many times, whether -- whatever was being contemplated in this regard, and that is that both sides should really focus on engaging in dialogue, try to peacefully resolve their differences. Neither side should do anything to unilaterally change the status quo. So we think it's the time to focus on dialogue and not for hardening of positions.

QUESTION: Taiwan's minister -- you know, spokesman, the Minister of the Foreign Affairs said they talked to the U.S. Government and got the impression that U.S. is against this law. I wonder can I confirm with you that?

MR. BOUCHER: Well, we certainly keep in touch with all of the parties on this subject. It has come up in the last few days and we've kept in touch with -- as I've said, we've talked to the Chinese and we've talked to some people in Taiwan and we're following this development, but our view is the one that I just stated and the view that I think we stated in other cases and matters that have arisen like this, that we think it's important for both sides to focus on dialogue. It's not time to harden positions or take unilateral stances.

QUESTION: Change of subject. In Iraq --

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up?


QUESTION: So, I mean, I understand U.S. policy's One China policy and maintaining status quo, but obviously the Chinese effort to this law is to anti-secession. So would you see this coinciding with the U.S. policy?

MR. BOUCHER: We'll have to see the actual text of the legislation. In terms of the step being taken, we've encouraged the parties to look for dialogue and not to look for staking out positions or hardening their positions.

QUESTION: An enacting of such a law is hardening the position?

MR. BOUCHER: I'd just leave it at what I said. I think we said the same thing in other cases as well.

Yeah, Teri.

QUESTION: Okay. In Iraq, apparently, the embassy has confirmed that they are working to free an American who has been held hostage for seven weeks and they gave his name. An embassy spokesman said they think he's alive and they are working to free him.

MR. BOUCHER: Good for them.

QUESTION: Can you tell us more?


QUESTION: Can you confirm --

MR. BOUCHER: I can confirm the embassy made the statement. They have the information obviously because they're working on it out there, and I'd just leave it to their statement to speak about this.

QUESTION: Well, are you confirming that there is an American hostage that you're trying to free?

MR. BOUCHER: The embassy has done that, and I'll leave it to them.

QUESTION: But why can't you give it to us on camera here?

MR. BOUCHER: Because I just saw they made the statement and I don't have a copy of it with me.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you remember --

MR. BOUCHER: Since we're going to speak --

QUESTION: Do you remember from what you saw --

MR. BOUCHER: -- speak on that level.

QUESTION: -- that Roy Hallums is the correct name? Is that -- or will you get --

MR. BOUCHER: Again, the embassy has spoken to the question. I'm sure everything they said is absolutely right and accurate. I just don't have it here.

QUESTION: Can you get us a statement if it's not on the website?

MR. BOUCHER: I will find it and see if we can get it for you, yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, Tammy.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about that incident in Iraq? There are reports that four diplomats, Turkish diplomats were killed by terrorists today.

MR. BOUCHER: I'm sorry, where?

QUESTION: In Iraq and on Mosul, I think.

MR. BOUCHER: Polish?

QUESTION: Four Turkish diplomats were attacked by terrorists and killed.

MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't -- I'm sorry. I don't have information on that. I didn't see those reports.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on this declaration of Al-Manar, the TV station, the Hezbollah TV station, as a terrorist organization, can you describe to us exactly what does that mean? Are they going to be barred from distributing in the States? Are their correspondents going to be expelled, if they have any here? I don't -- what is the practical consequences?

MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Let me look it up because it is a legal matter and I want to get it right.


MR. BOUCHER: The designation is to put Al-Manar Television on the terrorist exclusion list because of its incitement of terrorist activity. Our law says that the organization can be put on the list if it commits or incites to commit any terrorist activity, and that is what we've found them.

What we have done, therefore, is to exclude aliens who have certain -- have associations with Al-Manar, based on the designation of the organization under the terrorist exclusion list. For example, an alien would be found inadmissible, that is ineligible, for visas or subject to deportation if the alien is a member of Al-Manar, if a person solicits funds or other things of value for Al-Manar, if he provides material support to Al-Manar, or solicits any individual for membership in Al-Manar.

So those individuals, individuals who carried out such activities on behalf of Al-Manar, are supporting Al-Manar, or were part of the organization, will be excludable from the United States and not eligible for visas because of that.

QUESTION: What about any Americans in this country that provide programming or things like that? Are --

MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what the legal implications might be. I think this list, in particular, only has to do with the exclusion of aliens from the United States. So whether there are other designations that might imply something for Americans, I don't know. I'm not aware of any restrictions at this point on finance or things like that.


QUESTION: Just two quick follow-ups to that. Is there anybody specifically that is now under orders to leave? And second, I believe there's an Iranian station in California that distributes some stuff by Al-Manar. Are they going to be barred from doing that now?

MR. BOUCHER: At this point, we are examining whether there are people that fall in the categories as defined. I don't have a list or any definitive word yet on design -- identification of individuals.

QUESTION: Okay. And the bar that --

MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Or activities -- particular activities, right.

QUESTION: And whether or not they can distribute through the California station? Is that part of it?

MR. BOUCHER: Again, you've given -- I've given you the criteria. We will be examining people and activities to see whether they fall within that criteria.

Yeah. Sir.

QUESTION: Many people in the Middle East are seeing this step by the United States and the previous one by France as a -- an evidence of the extreme power that the Israeli lobby is having in this town and in Paris, also, to prevent a free speech. What would you answer these people?

MR. BOUCHER: I would say that that's not an appropriate conclusion in the circumstances, that the fact is that Hezbollah is an active terrorist organization. People in the Middle East know as much as we do of the attacks they carry out, the weapons they smuggle, the people they kill, the violent opposition to the peace process, the violent opposition to a Palestinian state that the Palestinians are peacefully trying to create.

Their television arm, as anybody who watches it can tell you, as they have told me, serves to incite that kind of terrorist violence. And therefore, it's entirely logical that if we view Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, which it is, that their propaganda activities through this television station should be barred. It's not a question of freedom of speech. It's a question of incitement to violence, and we don't see why, here or anywhere else, a terrorist organization should be allowed to spread its hatred and incitement through the television airwaves.

QUESTION: Avi Jorisch, he is from the AIPAC, the Israeli-American Public Relations Committee. He said on CSPAN about a couple of weeks ago that they were trying so hard with the United States State Department and the Congress to carry this campaign against the Al-Manar. So he made it really obvious that they were working so hard toward this conclusion. So, is that an evidence that the Israelis actually are -- their friends are -- have a hand in this?

MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm sure there are plenty of people who think this was a correct and appropriate step. And the U.S. Government looked at this carefully on its own. The U.S. Government examined it from the basis of law and from the basis of the evidence and the basis of the sheer logic of the situation. This was a conclusion reached and decided by the U.S. Government, not by any outside group.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. BOUCHER: Sure. Please.

QUESTION: To Darfur. An African Union general from Nigeria said it looked like massive amounts of arms are being brought into the region for a possible government offensive. Do you have any signs of that, and any reaction?

MR. BOUCHER: I don't. I didn't see that statement, but obviously, the African Union people on the ground are the best place to try to tell us about those kinds of things and that kind of situation that might be developing.

We have been very, very concerned about the violence recently, both -- the violence from both sides. We've seen rebel attacks. We've seen government attacks supported by Jingaweit. We've seen attacks on aid workers and the rising violence from all sides has been a matter of great concern to us.

We have reemphasized the need for the parties to engage in peace talks. We've reemphasized the need for the parties to abide by the ceasefire. We have reemphasized the need for the African Union to continue its deployments, and to take an active role. And in fact, the African Union troops who are there have been very active in getting out and about and trying to preempt situations of violence before they occur.

So we've very much supported that activity with money and with diplomatic effort, and we'll continue to do that.

QUESTION: Change of subject? Would the United States allow Bobby Fischer to go to Iceland?

MR. BOUCHER: First of all, questions on admissibility are for individual governments to make, so the Icelandic Government will have to make that decision. We would note that he is indicted in the United States and wanted in the United States.

QUESTION: The South African Government has criticized partly the United States Government as well as drug manufacturers over AIDS type of drugs which can prevent the spread of AIDS through newborn infants, and very harsh comments. What is your reaction to this?

MR. BOUCHER: The South African Government has criticized it?


MR. BOUCHER: I guess I haven't seen those reports. I'll try to get you something on it. I know there's been some controversy about some of the administration of those drugs, but I'll get something on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)

DPB #208 [End]

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