State Dept. Daily Press Briefing December 6, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
December 6, 2005
Videotape of Purported American Hostage / Gathering Facts About
Do Not Comment Publicly About Specific Rendition Cases / Response
to Mistakes Made in Practice of Renditions
U.S. Respect For International Partners and Their Sovereignty /
Respect for Legal Obligations and International Law / Actions to
Pace and Scope of Democratic Change / Link Between Development of
Democracy and Relationship with the U.S.
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Chancellor Merkel
ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
Attack in Netanya / Quartet Statement Condemned the Action /
Engaged to Help Palestinian Authority Prevent Future Attacks
Use of Violence to Derail Peace Process / Threaten Progress in the
Palestinian Islamic Jihad Claims Responsibility for Attack /
Contacts Between Syria and Palestinian Islamic Jihad / Call on
Syria to End Ties
Detention of Ayman Nour / Trial Should Conform to International
Developments Since Parliamentary Elections / Wrong Signal About
Egypt's Commitment to Democracy and Freedom / Arrest of Muslim
Secretary Rice's Speech in Cairo / Importance of Democracy,
Democratic Aspirations of Egyptian People / Multi-party Contest of
Presidential Elections Was Positive Step
Query About Security Threat to U.S. Embassy
U.S. Concern About Human Rights Situation / Regular Part of
Dialogue with Chinese
High-level Strategic Dialogue / Remarks by Deputy Secretary
Zoellick on Scope and Aim of Dialogue
Anniversary of Attack in Jeddah
Six-Party Talks / U.S. Actions Against Counterfeiting and Other
Activities Pursuant to the Patriot Act / Measures Against Macao
Bank / Offer to Brief North Koreans on Patriot Act
Support for Annan Plan
MR. ERELI: Hello, everybody. We can go straight to your questions today. I don't have any statements.
QUESTION: What could you tell us about the latest U.S. hostage in Iraq, beginning with his name?
MR. ERELI: We have seen the videotape of an individual that is purported to be an American taken hostage in Iraq. We are studying the video. We are trying to gather the facts as to who this individual might be. We don't have those facts, Barry, and absent concrete information, I'm not able to confirm for you right now the individual's identity. I think you'll understand that before we do that, we want to be sure of what we're talking about, we want to be sure we've got all the information and that information is reliable. Until we do so, I won't be able to make any sort of definitive statements for you on who this individual is. All I can say is that we've seen the video, we're studying it, we're trying to gather information and as soon as we're in a position to share with you information that we can have confidence in, we'll do that.
QUESTION: Do you know who's holding him?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: Is there an American missing? That --
MR. ERELI: That's what -- that's what's on the videotape.
MR. ERELI: And that's what we're trying to confirm.
QUESTION: So you don't know if there's an American missing nor whether this person on the videotape is an American?
MR. ERELI: I'll put it this way: We are trying to match the person purported to be on the videotape with those who are in Baghdad. At this time, I can't say that a definitive match has been made and until we're sure about it, I don't want to confirm anything.
QUESTION: Have a contractor or an NGO said someone is missing?
MR. ERELI: The most I can say at this point is we're trying to gather the facts. I don't want to -- I'm not in a position to lay out for you every communication we've had with all the different potential players. The best I can do for you is to say we are trying to -- we are contacting every group or individual that may be able to provide information about who this person is supposed to be and when we've narrowed it all down, we'll be able to tell you.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on Masri? There seems to be a bit of a discrepancy between whether the Secretary acknowledged making a mistake over his detention and --
MR. ERELI: Who? Who?
QUESTION: Masri. Al-Masri. And also -- because Merkel said in her news conference -- Chancellor Merkel said that the U.S. had acknowledged making a mistake over this particular case. But I understand that on the flight to Bucharest, U.S. officials have said that, indeed, that was not the case and that the U.S. did not acknowledge it. So there seems to be a bit of a discrepancy between the two versions.
MR. ERELI: Well, you have sort of -- and it's difficult because you're asking me to give real-time commentary on events that I'm not in.
QUESTION: Then, I'll be straightforward. Did the U.S. make a mistake?
MR. ERELI: I think the Secretary was very clear in her public remarks and I will echo those remarks. Number one, we're not going to comment publicly about specific cases. And number two, if and when mistakes are made in the lawful practice of renditions, we will take every effort and every step possible to rectify them and ensure that they don't happen again.
QUESTION: Also, Mr. Al-Masri was denied entry to the United States on Saturday. Do you have any details as to why? Was he on the no-fly note? This is probably a Homeland Security issue but do you have any details on that? Have you provided any more information to that?
MR. ERELI: I don't have any information about that.
QUESTION: If I could just follow up. Why do you not comment on a case if it is indeed a mistake and this man is innocent and something has happened to him that's been untoward? Why do you not acknowledge that?
MR. ERELI: This gets to the whole -- and this is part and parcel of the whole issue about what we do and how we do it. And that is not something we're going to comment public about, beyond -- it's talking about individual cases and specific actions, beyond saying that what -- when we act, we do so lawfully, in accordance with our laws and international laws. And as again, the Secretary said, no system is perfect, no legal -- no system's perfect. And if and when mistakes are made, we will take actions to rectify them. But again, it's a principle and I think a reasonable one not to talk publicly about specific cases.
QUESTION: Do you plan on issuing an apology to --
MR. ERELI: You know, this is not a case that I have the details on and that I'm in a position to provide you information about.
QUESTION: Well, without getting into details about the specific case, can you say whether the Secretary did discuss a case with the German Chancellor and what she is disappointed that the Chancellor raised it? I mean, did she make comments to the Chancellor that that the Chancellor like really shouldn't have made public?
MR. ERELI: Well, I was not in the meeting so I'm not able to speak to the specifics about what was said or not said in the meeting. It is my understanding that the Secretary made privately the same points that she made publicly, which is that we work in partnership with our friends, including Germany, to confront a common threat. And we do so mindful and respectful of our international -- of international law, of U.S. laws, of the sovereignty of our partners and that was the message.
QUESTION: Well, it must -- I mean, that's a far cry from the United States admitted that they made a mistake in this particular case. So I mean, without telling us-- I understand that you don't want to talk with us about specifics of the case, but can you say whether she spoke to the German Chancellor about the case and the Chancellor, you know, kind of made her private --
MR. ERELI: Well, again I would --
QUESTION: -- to make her private comments public.
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to the public remarks of the Secretary where she said that she did say to the Chancellor that when and if mistakes are made they'll be rectified.
QUESTION: Why didn't Secretary Rice correct the Chancellor in the press conference if Merkel misspoke? Why did they wait until afterwards to do that?
MR. ERELI: I don't know if I'd agree with that assessment about the remarks that were made. I mean --
QUESTION: The Chancellor did not misspeak?
MR. ERELI: I can't -- look, I'm not going to interpret for you the Chancellor's remark. I will speak for you about what U.S. policy is, what the message of the Secretary of State is and that, frankly, the meeting was cordial and I think agreement and understanding on the points that both were making.
QUESTION: Well, Adam, is it correct to say then, as Chancellor Merkel did, that the United States accepts that the Al-Masri case was a mistake.
MR. ERELI: I didn't see that she said that.
QUESTION: "I'm pleased to say we spoke about the individual case which was accepted by the United States as a mistake."
MR. ERELI: I think I've characterized for you what the view of the United States is and what the Secretary said.
QUESTION: No, you haven't.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up here? Adam, I'm sorry. What we're looking for is to connect the dot here is are you denying what the Chancellor said, which is that she said Secretary Rice spoke to her, acknowledged that it was mistake. Are you denying that that happened?
MR. ERELI: What I'm saying is not being in the conversation, I can't speak to what this Chancellor said. What I can tell you is the American position is that without speaking to the specifics of any particular case, any individual case, we do make the point and we did make the point that if and when mistakes are made, they will be rectified.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about something else or --
QUESTION: No --
QUESTION: This is productive.
QUESTION: Everybody knows this was a mistake and yet you are not prepared to accept that it was a mistake or to apologize for it. I mean, does this get to the heart of the way you conduct foreign policy, that if you can't -- if you do make a mistake, why couldn't you just simply accept it?
MR. ERELI: I don't think there's any -- I think the United States has made a couple points which are important and which underscore, number one, our respect for our partners and respect for their sovereignty; number two, our respect for our own legal obligations and international law; and number three, our recognition that this is the war on terror and the actions that we and our partners in the war on terror take to prevent our enemies from killing our citizens, that those actions are -- taking action on those issues presents very difficult challenges in a new -- in the new environment in which we face; and that we are working diligently to take action that protects our citizens, that is consistent with our law, that is responsive and is effective and is legal and is done in partnership with others. We have been very clear that meeting all those standards is a challenge and does require us to adapt, and I think that by and large there's a recognition and -- a recognition and an understanding of that.
So I guess I'd answer your question that way.
QUESTION: Can we try something else? Israel has imposed a closure on Palestinian travel, a response to the terror attack in Netanya. The Ambassador has said the obvious, has said what's -- by obvious, I mean what's said all the time. You know, Israel has a right to defend itself and the Palestinians ought to shoulder their responsibility. Presumably, he means to act against terror groups.
Is there anything you can add to that?
MR. ERELI: As we said yesterday, the attack in Netanya was a condemnable act of terror. It's one that killed innocent Israeli citizens. Israel has a right to defend itself, as does any other nation when it's been attacked in this way. We've made it clear, as we generally do in these situations, that it's important that in taking actions all sides weigh their decisions carefully. I would also note that the Quartet principals issued a statement yesterday in which they condemned the action, the terrorist attack, and called on the Palestinian Authority to take effective action to thwart terror.
I would also add that we are actively engaged through our missions in the region and continue to consult with our Quartet partners to find ways to help the Palestinian Authority to move decisively to prevent these kinds of attacks from taking place in the future.
QUESTION: What does that mean? You mean to find ways to dismantle terror groups?
MR. ERELI: Among other things, yes. To act against terror groups, to accelerate their -- the rationalization of their security services, the effectiveness of their security service actions and their coordination with Israelis and others.
QUESTION: The closure itself, without -- you know, without -- putting aside whether it was justified or not. Isn't this a setback? You were just celebrating. The Secretary of State was virtually on the doorstep of the Nobel Peace Prize for officiating the opening of the Gaza borders, and now there's a closure again. Is this a setback from --
MR. ERELI: Well, obviously, the movement of people and goods is important. It's important as a follow-up to withdrawal. It's something that I think both sides want to see and I think it's important that -- and it underscores the need and necessity of real and effective action being taken against terror so that steps like this aren't necessary.
QUESTION: The main -- the Gaza's main cargo crossing remains open, by the way. But still --
MR. ERELI: As I said, it would be good that -- and we would like to see actions taken so that these kinds of steps aren't necessary and that, you know, let's remember there are those such as Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and others who want to use violence to derail the peace process and to frustrate the desires of the great majority of Palestinian people. That's why it's important for all of us to do everything we can to prevent groups like this, that remain, frankly, outside the pale, to succeed.
QUESTION: Well, but do you think that these agreements to kind of open the borders and allow the movement of people or goods are worth anything if they continue to be closed? Or do you think there should be more provisions and more plans in place in the event that security can be tightened but the borders can't be closed? I mean, you know, if they keep becoming closed every time -- I'm not saying Israel doesn't have a right to defend itself. But I'm saying that if they're going to continue to be closed, well, where's the progress then? I mean, it's like very --
MR. ERELI: I guess I'd put it this way, I think all sides have long recognized that terror is the enemy of the peace process and actions of terrorists are designed to frustrate the good, honest peaceful intentions of Israeli and Palestinian officials and this is but the latest example of that. The agreements that were arrived at between Israelis and Palestinians about Rafah, about the opening -- about transport or transit between Gaza and West Bank are a hopeful and positive sign that point the way toward broader engagement, expanded trust and confidence and further progress.
All of that is threatened by groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad and that is why we are so emphatic about the need to act decisively against them and the actions they take. That is why General Ward and his successor have been relentless in their efforts to support the Palestinian Authority and it's also why I think the Quartet and the international community are so actively engaged.
This is same subject?
QUESTION: Same topic. The Quartet statement made specific mention of Syria yet again. Is there specific indications that they may have known or have been involved in planning this?
MR. ERELI: Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for this attack. Palestinian Islamic Jihad is headquartered in Syria, or has offices in Syria. There are regular interactions and contacts between Syria and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. That should be of sufficient concern to anybody who wants to see peace and fight terror, and I think one needs no more evidence than that to justify the international community's call on Syria to do the right thing, end its ties with a group that kills innocent civilians and expel them from Syria. It's not -- you know, it's not a hard thing to figure out.
QUESTION: But you have virtually no contact with the Syrian Government. I mean, wouldn't this be an instance that, if there was more dialogue with the Syrian Government, that you could talk to them about closing their --
MR. ERELI: I think it's a question of doing the right thing and Syria's -- the issue is not dialogue. The issue is Syrian leadership making the decision to be on the right side or the wrong side of an issue. Right now, they're on the wrong side. They're on the side of terrorists, terrorists who kill innocent people and undermine the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinians, the Palestinian people. That's something that the Quartet makes clear. It's something that we make clear. It's something that the UN makes clear. So this is not an issue necessarily for dialogue. This is an issue for the Syrian Government to decide what it wants to do about it.
QUESTION: Human rights groups are reporting some widespread violations in the Egyptian elections and there's been 69 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were arrested today, and also Mr. Nour has been detained. So I just wondered whether your assessment of the Egyptian elections so far is the same as it has been in recent weeks, or do you think so far that it is a free and fair vote? And I just wondered if you had any further comment on how it's progressing. I think it's the final round on Wednesday.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. There are a number of, I think, points to make. We've seen the detention today of Ayman Nour, who is a prominent leader of political opposition in Egypt. We've also seen a number of developments over the past couple weeks during the parliamentary elections that raise serious concerns about the path of political reform in Egypt. Those developments include the arrest of opposition candidates and their supporters. They include clashes between Egyptian security personnel and voters, physical abuse of domestic monitors and journalists, as well as the barring of domestic monitors and in some cases even voters from polling places.
Clearly, these actions send the wrong signal about Egypt's commitment to democracy and freedom, and we see them as inconsistent with the Government of Egypt's professed commitment to increased political openness and dialogue within Egyptian society. I would note that in this context the Egyptian people themselves are having a debate about these latest developments and on Egyptian TV, both government and private, you see a vigorous debate about these developments and about what they mean for the future of Egyptian democracy and Egyptian society.
So it's not just us that's saying this. It's the Egyptian people themselves that are noting these developments with concern and asking serious questions about how it may relate to the future of their own country. And that's as it should be.
With regard to Mr. Nour's case in particular, I think that I would note that the presiding judge has ordered that he be remanded to custody pending a hearing on December 10th. We would call upon the Government of Egypt to make every effort to ensure that this trial conforms to international standards and we've also made it clear that we will be watching this trial closely, and that with respect to this trial, as well as the other political activity in Egypt, we and the international community, I think, believe that the Egyptian people should be free to speak and assemble and choose their leaders in an atmosphere free from intimidation.
QUESTION: And what's your view of the arrest of the 69 Muslim Brotherhood --
MR. ERELI: Yeah. As I said --
QUESTION: -- on the eve of the vote and if they should be released --
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Well, first of all, I don't have the details of those cases. We view these arrests in the context, as I said, of a political process that has been characterized, as I said, by intimidation and harassment and is inconsistent with the Egyptian Government's commitment to openness and freedom. So without getting to the specifics of these cases because I'm not familiar with the specifics, I can say that they are part and parcel of an atmosphere, a general atmosphere, which, frankly, does not meet the expectations of the international community or, frankly, the Egyptian people themselves.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with the -- sorry -- have you been in touch with --
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. What is the follow-up?
QUESTION: You seem, the words that you're giving us now, you seem to be taking a harsher stand on this. Have you made any formal complaints to the Egyptian Government or am I reading the tealeaves a bit too much?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: You seem to be making a much more forceful criticism than previous --
MR. ERELI: I think we've been fairly outspoken frankly about how we see things going in Egypt from the beginning. Starting with the Secretary when she went to Cairo and gave her speech at American University where she was very forthright about the importance of democracy, first and foremost, to Egyptians and the people of the region, as well as to the United States.
Second of all, in the presidential election, we provided you with our assessment of things, but also made the point that -- and I think this is an important one and it should not be lost in our discussion -- that this is first and foremost an issue for the Egyptians to wrestle with and to come to terms with, their democratic development, their process of reform and their fulfillment of the democratic aspirations of the Egyptian people.
And in the context of the presidential elections, we said that the -- amending the constitution to allow for multiparty contestation of the presidency was a significant and positive step and that in the wake of those elections we looked to the Government of Egypt to follow through on its commitments to make progress in meeting standards that it had set for itself in the parliamentary elections. And during the course of these parliamentary elections, we have said that in many cases, those standards are not being met.
QUESTION: Adam, if I can follow up on that. I think it was last week, it was either you or Sean, that you were saying that you were convinced that the Egyptian Government did share the U.S. goal of ensuring free and fair elections. Do you think that is still the case?
MR. ERELI: That is the stated commitment and stated position of the Egyptian Government and take them at their word.
QUESTION: While, okay, take them at their actions as well. Do you think their actions fulfill their --
MR. ERELI: There are, you know, there are actions that we have noted and that, again, let me emphasize, the Egyptians themselves have noted, that are disturbing and that raise concerns. And in our representations to the Government of Egypt of which there have been numerous, at both the senior and working levels, we have urged the Egyptian Government and civil society as well to act in ways that meet international standards, are consistent with commitments and stated policy of the Government of Egypt, and help advance the development of democracy in Egypt. Is it perfect? Have there been problems? Is it perfect, no. Have there been problems? Yes. Has progress been made? Certainly. If you look at where Egypt is now in terms of reforms and openness and democratic development versus where it was a year or two years ago, I think it's important to note that there has been important progress made. Are there problems still? Yes. Are these problems that the Egyptian Government is aware of, the Egyptian people are aware of? Yes. It is something that they themselves are debating and working through and trying to resolve? Yes.
And our role, the position of the United States is to try to help them do that, to try to identify -- help them identify and work through issues that are problematic, to help cooperate with civil society and others to ensure openness and transparency and to engage in a common endeavor, in a spirit of partnership and alliance so that, frankly, the desires of the Egyptian people can be fulfilled.
QUESTION: Adam, when you first started talking and when the Secretary and the President first started talking about this whole democracy agenda, you said that your relationships with countries would be governed in part by their commitment to freedom and democracy. In your representations to the Egyptian Government are you making clear that this could have a negative impact on the future of U.S. relations, given the fact that you do have very close relations with the Egyptians on many issues, including the Middle East and Iraq?
MR. ERELI: Right. Right. You know, we make the point worldwide that, you know, we've talked about it with respect to other countries as well, that -- I guess, two points: One is the pace and scope of change is something for every country to decide, based on the circumstances and the history of that country.
We've also made the point that as democracy develops, as fundamental freedoms blossom, so does the relationship with the United States and that, I think, you can apply it to other countries. The development of -- there is a link between the development of democracy and the depth of the relationship with the United States, simply because the fuller the democracy, the greater the share of interest and the more we have in common and the more we can, I think, the more we can engage, the broader can be our engagement, the deeper can be our engagement.
That doesn't meant to say that if there are problems and things are slow or things take a while, that's going to hurt the bilateral relationship, but I think I'd put it in a more positive perspective. And that is, as they grow and develop and become a fuller, richer, more vibrant democracy and more vibrant civil society, so does the relationship with the United States.
QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the security threat in the Philippines to the U.S. Embassy?
MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of that. Let me see what I can find for you. I have not seen anything on it.
QUESTION: I think that was today.
MR. ERELI: It might have been. It just didn't pass (inaudible).
QUESTION: According to several international human rights organizations, Chinese organizations, and many reports, including in our own newspaper, there were hundreds of activists who were rounded up, placed under house arrest or otherwise silenced during President Bush's recent visit to China. Unless -- including 30, I think, who were picked up on their way to the church where he was trying to draw attention to human rights and issues and freedom issues. Unless I'm mistaken, I have not seen any public pressure from the Administration or public statements, since the visit, about the plight of these dissidents. Is there a reason for that, that we're not trying to --
MR. ERELI: I have not -- I haven't, frankly -- not seen those reports. Certainly, I think you know very well that the United States is very outspoken about the situation, the human rights situation in China, that when there are incidents that we feel compromise or impinge on the fundamental freedoms that we believe all people should enjoy, including those in China, we speak out about it. It's true when people are detained, when people are detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms. It's certainly true in the case of religious freedom where we speak out regularly on that subject. And I think, obviously -- and it's part of our regular dialogue with the Chinese, so that is a general proposition.
With respect to the specific incidents that you refer to, as I said I just had not seen anything on them. I can check and see what we know and if we have any comment about that.
QUESTION: Just follow on that. The High-Level Strategic Dialogue resumes tomorrow with Deputy Secretary Zoellick and his Chinese counterpart.
MR. ERELI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Will this be an issue, these dissidents who were specifically targeted as a result of President Bush's visit? Will that be an issue that he raises with the Chinese tomorrow?
MR. ERELI: I don't want to make any detailed sort of predictions about specific issues to be discussed tomorrow. I would refer you to two statements. One is the one that we issued, I believe, on Friday announcing the enhanced dialogue and providing you information about what the issues covered are.
Number two, I think it's useful to look at the Deputy Secretary's remarks at the conclusion of the last meeting in Beijing in July, I believe. Where he outlined for you the scope of this dialogue and its aims and those are very broad and strategic and cover, I think, a number of interrelated issues but at the, again, at the strategic level. So I think that will be, frankly, the focus of our discussions. But obviously, as I said earlier, the United States or the issue of human rights is a perennial part of our dialogue with the Chinese at all levels.
QUESTION: A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman called your remarks on the need for a democracy timetable unwarranted and inappropriate and said the U.S. should keep out of Hong Kong's affairs. I wondered if you had anything to say about that?
MR. ERELI: My statements yesterday were a reiteration of long-standing U.S. policy and I stand by them.
QUESTION: A new topic. Today's the one-year anniversary of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah. Given that five foreign security personnel were killed in that accident, do you still consider that attack to have been a failed attack?
MR. ERELI: The terrorist attack on Jeddah a year ago was a tragic event and a blatant act of terror. Four of our valued local Embassy staff were killed during this attack and we grieve their loss. I think it's important to remember that there are thousands of brave, dedicated -- brave and dedicated men and women of the Department of State working abroad in our consulates and embassies who are serving on the frontlines in the war on terror. The attack on our consulate in Jeddah was part of that war and it was thanks to the courage, the bravery and the quick thinking of our American and local staff that those terrorists were either killed or captured and that they were not able to penetrate the consulate building.
I would note that obviously the highest priority for those of us in the Department of State are the safety and security of our personnel. There were security systems in place at the time of the attack that, as I said, along with the actions of our staff and the Marine security guard detachment in place, prevented the terrorists from penetrating the consulate building.
But it's also important to remember that -- and this attack reminds us -- that we can never be complacent, that we have to be constantly reassessing our security posture and the threat that is out there and that's why we are constantly taking measures to upgrade, to improve, to make ourselves even safer than we are. But it's also important to remember that that there is an enemy out there and that he is looking at ways to get us. And as symbols of the United States, embassies and consulates are one of the most attractive targets.
QUESTION: If I could follow-up, the Accountability Review Board that looked at the security procedures in place at the time of the attack, do you intend on releasing that or can you talk about some of the reviews that have taken place?
MR. ERELI: I think you'll appreciate that, given the fact that there are those who are studying our facilities and our movements very carefully, there's a good reason not to make public the kind of measures in place -- the kind of measures that are in place to thwart the attacks of those terrorists. So whenever there's an incident involving the -- such as Jeddah -- there is an after-action review or accountability review board taken, with the intention of assessing what happened and making recommendations as a result of that, that's as it should be. As I said, we should never be complacent. We should always be looking for ways to improve, that's what we do. But at the same time, we try to do that in ways that don't signal to the enemy how we are working to defeat them.
QUESTION: North Korea's official media was saying today that a U.S. crackdown on North Korean financial assets is preventing the six-party talks from resuming. Is this how the U.S. reads this? Apparently, this is the first time that this issue of clamping down on financial assets is holding up the talks, according to the South Koreans.
MR. ERELI: Yeah. Well, obviously, from our point of view there's no linkage whatsoever between the two issues. First of all, the six-party talks are to deal with North Korea's nuclear program and there was agreement at the end of the last round, in November, to resume talks as soon as possible. There are, unrelated to the six-party talks, there are measures in the United States to take action against counterfeiting and other activities that can be used to threaten the United States pursuant to the Patriot Act.
These measures on counterfeiting and against the Macao Bank were taken as part of that legislative requirement. They're completely unrelated. From the U.S. point of view, we agreed to come back to talks to discuss the nuclear program at the earliest possible date and we continue to look forward to resumption of the talks at the earliest possible date.
QUESTION: But, if I can follow up, but you can see where even though you don't link the two issues, you could see where the North Koreans are using this perhaps as a bargaining chip to get you to stop the (inaudible) --
MR. ERELI: Right. And then I would point out that we obviously acknowledge that this has been raised as an issue, which is why we offered to provide the North Koreans with a briefing on the Patriot Act and on the measures taken. And on an informational basis, also made clear that this isn't a matter for negotiation, this is applying U.S. law, and that it should be distinct from and unrelated to six-party talks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: I'm sorry. We've got one more in the back.
QUESTION: I just wanted -- plenty -- than one.
MR. ERELI: Plenty.
QUESTION: Mr. Ereli, on Cyprus. The U.S. Government position, repeatedly expressed by the Department of State, is the U.S. supports the UN and its good offices for all initiatives regarding the reunification of Cyprus. The majority, however, of the Greek Cypriots do not believe this is the case. They believe that the U.S. has enormous influence and (inaudible) the UN process to reunite Cyprus. Could you please explain specifically the relations between the U.S. and the UN relating to the initiative to reunite Cyprus?
MR. ERELI: The position is as we've described it previously -- Secretary General Annan has presented a plan for resolving the Cyprus issue. We support that plan. Unfortunately, the Cypriot community is -- Cypriot community has rejected that plan, Greek Cypriot community. We -- Secretary General Annan is continuing his efforts to rework the plan in a way that's acceptable to both sides. We support that effort. But this is a UN-led effort. It is a process that the Secretary General is personally and directly involved in. We think that is appropriate. We think that with commitment and goodwill the parties should be able to achieve a settlement with the involvement and commitment of the Secretary General and that this is an opportunity that they should seize and that they should work with the Secretary General in a spirit of conciliation to achieve agreement.
QUESTION: What about --
MR. ERELI: And we will continue to support the Secretary General in his efforts.
QUESTION: What about your role and your influence vis-à-vis to the UN efforts?
MR. ERELI: It was as I've just described.
QUESTION: One more question. The Cyprus TV station, Mega Channel, reported that U.S. secret planes landed at Larnaca International airport, too. And the next day your embassy staff in Nicosia contacted the TV station, confirmed the landing saying, however, that they did not transfer prisoners or terrorists. Could you please comment on that because it's very important?
MR. ERELI: We don't comment on specific allegations like that.
Yes. Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:41 p.m.)
DPB # 207
Released on December 6, 2005