State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 28, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
October 28, 2005
Invitation to UN Special Rapporteurs to Visit Guantanamo Bay
US Policy on Treatment of Detainees in Accordance with
International Obligations and Principles of Geneva Conventions
Quartet Statement on Middle East Peace
Quartet Condemns 10/26 Terrorist Attack on Hadera Market
Secretary's Meeting with Leader of Turkish Cypriot Community
Mehmet Ali Talat
US Support for Annan Plan
Current Situation in Iran / Demonstrations
Chinese President's Visit to North Korea
US-Japan 2+2 Ministerial at Department of Defense
Secretary Rice's Working Dinner with Japanese Foreign Minster
Ministerial-Level Meeting in New York Monday
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Hong Kong's Chief Executive Tsang
12:45 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I have a couple opening items for you, then we can get right into questions.
First one and we'll put out a media note on this after the briefing. The Department of Defense has extended an invitation to the United Nations Special Rapporteurs to visit detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba. The invitation was extended in an effort to broaden the understanding of the U.S. detention operations and to demonstrate that detainees at Guantanamo are treated humanely. So we'll have a paper statement on that after the briefing.
Also, I have a statement from the Quartet. It's titled "Quartet Statement on Middle East Peace." Representatives of the Quartet, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Russian Foreign Secretary Sergei Lavrov, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, High Representative for European Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solano and European Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner spoke today on the situation in the Middle East, that conversation was earlier this morning and lasted about half an hour.
The Quartet condemns the October 26th terrorist attack on the Hadera market, responsibility for which was claimed by a Palestinian Islamic Jihad headquartered in Damascus. The Quartet urges the Syrian Government to take immediate action to close the offices of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and to prevent the use of its territory by armed groups engaged in terrorist acts. The Quartet denounces all acts of terrorism and urges all parties to exercise restraint, avoid an escalation of violence and keep the channels of communication open. The Quartet strongly encourages and supports the Palestinian Authority in its immediate effort to take steps to prevent armed groups from acting against law and order and the policy of the Authority itself. The Quartet believes it is imperative that all involved act decisively to ensure that terror and violence are not allowed to undermine further progress in accordance with the roadmap. The Quartet will remain seized of these matters. And we'll have this out in paper form after the briefing.
With that, I'd be happy to take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you give us a reading of the -- a readout of the meeting with Cyprus -- the Cypriot -- Turkish Cypriot President?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can do that for you. The Secretary's meeting with the elected leader of the Turkish Cypriot community, Mehmet Ali Talat, reflects our continuing effort over 30 years to support a just and lasting Cyprus settlement under United Nations auspices. Such meetings underscore our support for pro-settlement political forces on the island. They also facilitate reunification by mitigating the isolation of Turkish Cypriots to reduce economic disparities between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
This is, I would note, not the first meeting between a Secretary of State and a Turkish Cypriot leadership. Secretary Powell met with Mr. Talat in 2004 and Secretary Baker met with Rauf Denktash in the 1990s.
QUESTION: May I ask a follow-up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: When Mr. Powell met with Rauf Denktash, as you said in your statement, and why?
MR. ERELI: He wasn't talking about Talat.
QUESTION: No, no, I'm saying Secretary --
MR. ERELI: Baker.
QUESTION: -- Powell and --
MR. MCCORMACK: And Baker.
QUESTION: We have two meetings, with Mr. Powell --
MR. MCCORMACK: Powell and Mr. -- Powell and Talat, and then Secretary Baker --
QUESTION: Baker with Mr. Denktash.
MR. MCCORMACK: That's it.
QUESTION: That was here or the UN?
MR. MCCORMACK: I believe the meeting with Secretary Powell between Mr. -- Secretary Powell and Mr. Talat was at the UN. And as for Secretary Baker, I don't have that information.
QUESTION: Any announcement to Mr. Talat today by Dr. Condoleezza Rice of additional steps on behalf of the U.S. Government towards the so-called end of the isolation, as you mentioned, of the Turkish Cypriots, who are hostages of the Turkish invasion and occupation forces?
MR. MCCORMACK: We, of course, support a settlement. We support Mr. Annan's plan. And this meeting was -- took place in the context of Mr. Talat being a representative of the Turkish Cypriot community. There's no change in our policy regarding recognition.
QUESTION: And any additional movement in how the U.S. Government vis-à-vis to the Annan plan, do you want this as it is to be implemented or with marginal changes?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we support the Annan plan. We support parties reengaging with Mr. Annan to find a solution.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, in your opinion, who is responsible for the isolation of the Turkish Cypriots?
MR. MCCORMACK: Excuse me?
QUESTION: Who is responsible for the isolation of the Turkish Cypriot?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think that, again, this is a longstanding issue and what people need to do is not engage in an exercise of finger pointing and the blame game. What's needed is for people to focus on finding a solution and that's where we're focused.
QUESTION: Change the subject? Can you talk about reaction to what's going on in Iran with these huge demonstrations, including the participation of the President and this anti-Israeli stuff? It just seems like it's really getting out of hand.
MR. MCCORMACK: We talked about this over the past couple days and I think what you are seeing in terms of the statement from President Ahmadi-Nejad just the other day about wiping Israel off the face of the map. His previous defiant statement at the United Nations concerning efforts on the part of the international community to engage with Iran in a responsible manner to address the problem of their seeking nuclear weapons under a civilian nuclear program. These are all data points that really are, you know, as a result of this we're starting to get a more full picture of the real nature of the Iranian regime.
And I would say that based on the actions of the leadership of this regime, that Iran today finds itself more isolated from the international community than six months ago. And this is only because of the rhetoric which represents these policies and as stated most recently by President Ahmadi-Nejad concerning Israel. One can only say that the policies are outrageous.
So I think what you are seeing is a pattern here of Iran further isolating itself from the international community, further isolating this regime, further isolating the Iranian people from the international community and we would call upon Iran to act as a responsible member of the international community, stop pursuit of nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear program, stop support for terrorism and stop oppression of the Iranian people. This region is 180 degrees off from where the rest of the region is headed. The rest of the region is headed toward -- along a pathway of greater freedom, greater openness and greater democracy.
And here you have a regime that is trying to take the Iranian people in a different direction. I would note, also, concerning the most recent comments, if you look back at some of the international reaction to these comments, I think it's quite striking. And I saw a comment from Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian, which talks about the fact that the Palestinians are trying to build a Palestinian state and work together with Israel in that endeavor. Again, which is, if not 180 degrees, 160 degrees off of where you find President Ahmadi-Nejad taking Iran.
QUESTION: Sean, the Iranian people today, in the tens of thousands, are joining Ahmadi-Nejad in demonstrations for this position. So while the U.S. stands with the Iranian people and you're saying that he's isolating them, they are apparently willingly out in the streets today.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I can't -- you used the words "apparently willingly" -- again, we don't have diplomatic representation on the ground in Iran, but I think you have, over the past decades, seen examples of the Iranian regime organizing protests in support of some of their more outrageous policies. I can't speak to whether, in fact, that is the case with these particular protests, but I would just note that there is a history of that kind of behavior.
QUESTION: So you're suggesting that perhaps they were forced --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we are not on the ground there. We don't have diplomatic relations with Iran, but I think that's certainly a point that bears noting.
QUESTION: Have you talked to anybody -- I mean, we have proxies there, have you talked to Europeans or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any particular conversation on that point.
QUESTION: Is it something that is of enough concern to you that you think you may look into it or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think the statements by President Ahmadi-Nejad are quite concerning, they're quite concerning to the international community and I think we've heard the international community's opinion and reaction to those statements.
QUESTION: Demos -- I meant the huge demonstrations.
MR. MCCORMACK: If we have anything further I'll let you know.
QUESTION: We've heard from Tony Blair and, you know, other international leaders. Do we expect to hear anything about these comments from the President or from the Secretary, you know, seeing that they are quite concerning, as you said?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think certainly if there is an opportunity for them to respond in person in these remarks, we'll certainly look for that opportunity. But at the moment, I think, again, we -- you know, various members of the Administration, from this podium, Under Secretary Burns, Scott McClellan over at the White House, have had a reaction to this.
QUESTION: Deputy Ambassador of the DPRK to the United Nations Han Song Ryol said yesterday in Washington, North Korea must have light-water nuclear reactor before they give up nuclear program. That is totally contrary to the agreement made last six-party talks in Beijing. What do you think North Korea's true intention is?
MR. MCCORMACK: You'd have to ask the North Korean Government about that. Look, they were at the table along with the other five parties to the talks. They know what they agreed to. They agreed to return without preconditions to the six-party talks. They understand perfectly well what the sequencing is that everybody has agreed to. So we look forward to an early return to the six-party talks.
QUESTION: Because he is a high-level office in North Korea but ongoing, maybe waiting for next six-party talks. How would they affect this -- his statement in -- yesterday he made a statement in Congress.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think that everybody involved in the six-party talks is operating off of the common understanding that everybody, including North Korea, had at the most recent session of the Beijing six-party talks.
Yes. Any other questions? Yes.
QUESTION: As you know, in 1993, former Secretary of State Warren Christopher joined the Convention Against Torture, Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment. Two days ago, an advisor to Human Rights Watch expressed a great deal of concern about the Administration's effort to authorize the CIA to use torture. From a pragmatic point of view, he said that, first of all, torture is not an effective means of getting accurate intelligence; somebody tortured will sign anything or say anything. And he said it would impede our efforts to intervene in other countries in defense of human rights. So what is the Secretary's position on this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Our position, which has been stated many times over, is that the U.S. policy is to treat all detainees in accordance with the international obligations and the principles of the Geneva Convention. The President has also come out very clearly and said the United States does not engage in torture.
QUESTION: Yes. Regarding base realignment agreement with Japan. And can I confirm have you already done the final approval step in your government -- the day before yesterday you said -- on the process.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I think what you can -- and thank you for the question. I think what you can look for is tomorrow a "2+2" ministerial with the Japanese delegation, which will take place over at the Pentagon. Secretary Rice will participate in that meeting tomorrow along with Secretary Rumsfeld. I would expect at that point that they have a final announcement on the basing agreement.
QUESTION: Tomorrow morning?
MR. MCCORMACK: Tomorrow, yeah. You can check with the Pentagon in terms of the details, but I think it's probably around 10 o'clock or so.
QUESTION: In State of Department?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, over at Department of Defense. At the Pentagon, yes.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Let's move -- we'll come back. Yeah.
QUESTION: Chinese President is now -- he's visiting DPRK. How do you comment his (inaudible) next time that six-party talk will be held in Beijing next month?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, there have been -- there are, of course, numerous interactions between the Chinese Government and the North Korean Government. We certainly welcome the efforts of all parties involved in the six-party talks to encourage North Korea to return to the talks as agreed to, to engage in a constructive manner towards the goal that all share. That is a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That was what was agreed to at the last round of the six-party talks in Beijing and that's what we look forward to negotiating at the next round of six-party talks, based on the statement of principles that was agreed to.
QUESTION: So how do you comment with, first of all, to DPRK and the Chinese President?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think I just answered your question. The Chinese President is another in a series of visitors to North Korea. I expect the issue of the six-party talks will come up. As for any comment on the visit, how they view the situation, I'd refer you to the Chinese Government or the North Korean Government.
QUESTION: Monday -- is the New York firm for talks at the UN on the ministerial level?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, there is going to be a ministerial level meeting on Monday. Yeah. Secretary Rice looks forward to attending and I don't have the full lineup of who will be there, but I expect that the vast majority of the 15 members of the Security Council will be represented at the ministerial level.
QUESTION: Is there anybody you know of who won't be there? Has anybody positively declined?
MR. MCCORMACK: The last time I checked, Teri, there were -- people were still trying to work out travel schedules -- some of them. But the vast majority of them I expect to be there on Monday.
QUESTION: Do you have the information about that -- today's evening meeting with the Japanese Minister -- Foreign Minister Machimura?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Secretary Rice will host Foreign Minister Machimura here at the State Department for dinner. I expect that they'll cover bilateral issues, regional issues that are on the agenda. We have a, obviously, a very close, broad and deep relationship with Japan, so I expect that they'll cover the waterfront on those issues.
QUESTION: Can you return to the Quartet statement for a minute?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Quartet usually meets, you know, semi-quarterly and puts out a broad sheet for it. For what about the genesis of this one? Is there a conference call? Who started it? Can you explain a little bit?
MR. MCCORMACK: There were a number of discussions yesterday. I mentioned yesterday that Assistant Secretary Welch had a conference call at the envoy level of the Quartet and I think those conversations, along with our conversations with the Palestinian Authority, I think really led to the ministerial level conference call that happened this morning among the members of the Quartet.
And the real focus of the discussions was on Damascus's continuing support for Palestinian rejectionist groups. I think you'll note in the statement that I read, the Quartet urges the Syrian Government to take immediate action to close the offices of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and to prevent the use of its territory by armed groups engaged in terrorist acts. And I think it's safe to say that all participants in the conversations over the past couple of days, including the Palestinian Authority, have expressed real concern about continuing support for these rejectionist groups, in particular the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is operating outside of the current consensus of the Palestinian factions.
And I think the approximate cause for and the genesis of these discussions was the suicide bombing in Hadera. And Palestinian Islamic Jihad claim credit for that bombing, in which several people, several innocents lost their lives.
QUESTION: It certainly has been Syria's contention, at least, that these groups only have informational offices in Damascus. Are you saying that their operations are being run out of Damascus, that their operational orders come from there?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, at this point I'm not going to draw any specific link between the Hadera bombing and any particular orders that may or may not have come out of Damascus. I'm not trying to draw that line at this time. But I think it is very clear that you have senior leadership of some of these groups, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, resident in Damascus. I would point to just -- I believe it was about a month ago -- President Asad had a public event with members of some of these rejectionist groups, including Ahmed Jabril, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad has been responsible for rocket attacks out of Gaza, the Netanya bombing earlier this year, the Hadera bombing. So this is a terrorist group that is intent upon subverting progress that the Israelis and the Palestinian people are attempting to make along the pathway to a -- the shared goal of two states living side by side in peace and security.
So as a result of that, the Quartet members thought that it was very important to speak out very clearly and to issue a clear call to the Syrian regime to end its support for these rejectionist groups and, in particular, to close down the offices of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Damascus. I would point out that there are already Security Council resolutions -- I would note 1373 -- that call upon all states to not -- to take actions to stop terrorist acts and to end support for terrorist groups. So this is not a -- this shouldn't be news to the Syrian regime, but this is a specific call from the members of the Quartet, a quite clear call from members of the Quartet for Damascus to take action.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Secretary Rice meeting this afternoon with the Hong Kong Chief Executive?
MR. MCCORMACK: She will meet this afternoon with the Chief Executive. I expect that they'll discuss a broad range of issues of interest, including our strong support for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. The United States supports democratic reform in Hong Kong. And many in Hong Kong, as well as the U.S., believe that the goal of universal suffrage could have been achieved for the next round of chief executive and legislative counsel elections in 2007 and 2008. We believe it is for Hong Kong to maintain its unique and important role in China and to meet the aspiration of Hong Kong's people. The goal of universal suffrage should be achieved soon -- as soon as possible. The people of Hong Kong should determine the pace and scope of political reform and we believe this is in the interest of Hong Kong, China and the region.
QUESTION: Does Secretary Rice have any expectation of Hong Kong's role in terms of the political reform of China?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'll try to keep you updated. We'll try to do a little readout of the conversation after it takes place.
QUESTION: Because I noticed that the Deputy Secretary of State mentioned in his last news comment on U.S.-China relationship, mentioned that China needs a peaceful political transition. That's why I'm asking.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think you can take from the Deputy Secretary's remarks, as well as from remarks by other officials our strong support for greater freedom, greater openness in all its forms in China. We think that it's important for the Chinese people to be able to think at home as well as at work. That is an important process that is underway in China, where we have differences with China in terms of the pace of opening up to its people allowance for these greater freedoms. We discuss it with them. But again, we have a broad and deep relationship with China. There are many areas in which we have agreement. There are areas where we disagree. And where we disagree, we talk to them quite clearly.
QUESTION: I also notice that originally the Guangdong Province Governor was going to participate in part of the events here with Hong Kong Chief Executive, but it turned out he was not here. And I also learned that there is a rights group appeal to ask the State Department to bar his entry, actually, because he was deeply involved in torture and persecution of Falun Gong members in his province.
And so my question is does it -- is it routine for the State Department to check on the rights record of any official that is visiting the United States?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, let's -- we'll try to find out any particular information with regard to the individual that you're talking about, and if we have anything else that we can share, we'll get it out to you.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, another try?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, since you are seeking a solution via the contacts of the two sides, when Dr. Condoleezza Rice is planning to invite also the president of the republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you up to date on all the Secretary's schedule and any meetings she may have.
QUESTION: At 12:45 p.m. somewhere here in the building -- I don't know, to be honest with you -- there is a special briefing only for the Turkish reporters on Cyprus issue and you excluded the Greeks. I am wondering why this discrimination, what it's all about, and do you prepare any coup d'etat to the direction of the so-called recognition, like in the case of FYROM November 4th, 2004?
MR. MCCORMACK: We certainly try to make our officials open to all reporters. We'll certainly take a look if there is any -- I'm sure that there was no intent to select out and exclude any particular group of reporters from that briefing, but we'll check into that for you.
QUESTION: One more. Do you know when Valerie Plame served in your Embassy in Athens as a Foreign Service Officer because she was a diplomat?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have no information on that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)
 Ahmed Jabril is leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -- General Command