US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 29 Oct 2007
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
October 29, 2007
US State Dept Daily Press Briefing: 29 Oct 2007
Look Forward to Working with Prime Minister Kirchner
Secretary Rice's Meeting with Foreign Minister Moratinos
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Discussion
Status of Embassy in Baku / Limited Operations Due to Credible Threat
Civil Nuclear Agreement / Secretary Spoke With Foreign Minister Mukherjee
Forces Working Toward Moderate Pakistan / Undergoing Political Transition
Secretary Rice Will Discuss U.S.-Turkey
Continuing Violence / Attacks By PKK / Find Diplomatic Solution
Turkish Foreign Minister Babacan Met Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad
Millennium Challenge Corporation Postponed Signing of Threshold Agreement
State Department-Disney Video / Niagara Falls
Meeting Between Deputy Secretary Negroponte and Deputy
Secretary of Defense
Blackwater Investigation / Pat Kennedy Recommendations
Darfur At Top of International Agenda
12:50 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. Don't have anything to start with, so we can get right to your questions. If anybody wants to talk about the Red Sox, we can spend some time on that.
QUESTION: How much will they give A-Rod?
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?
QUESTION: How much will they give A-Rod?
MR. MCCORMACK: We've got a third baseman. We've got a good third baseman and they should re-sign him.
QUESTION: The election in Argentina?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. We congratulate President-elect Kirchner on her electoral victory. We also congratulate the Argentinean people on a free and fair election. We look forward to working with President-elect Kirchner in the future on the bilateral as well as regional issues.
QUESTION: Can you go through the Secretary's meeting this morning with Foreign Minister Moratinos, and in particular whether (a) the question of whether or not Russia will invite in OSCE observers and (b) reports that they intend to restrict the numbers or otherwise sort of hamper their work came up in that conversation (inaudible) the Secretary said?
MR. MCCORMACK: It did, briefly. And Foreign Minister Moratinos told Secretary Rice that they were continuing to work on this issue. And Secretary Rice underlined what our position is, and that is that Russia should invite in these monitors. It's something that we do. We wouldn't advise Russia to do something that we ourselves aren't -- weren't willing to do with respect to elections. It's a very healthy thing to do, not only in the run-up to elections but on election day and afterwards.
So that was really the extent of the conversation. It wasn't -- it wasn't a lengthy conversation, but she did emphasize where we are on that.
QUESTION: Did the issue of -- I'm told that there are reports that Russia plans to restrict the number of OSCE -- the number of overall election monitors. Did that come up at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: That did not come up, no.
QUESTION: And then last thing on this -- on that meeting. Did the issue of Kazakhstan's desire to leave the OSCE come up and did either of them express an opinion on the appropriateness of that given the Kazakh Government's human rights record?
MR. MCCORMACK: They did talk about that. And Foreign Minister Moratinos briefed Secretary Rice on his latest discussions concerning that issue. I would say only that that is an ongoing matter of discussion between the OSCE and Kazakhstan. I don't think I would comment any further. But Secretary Rice was very interested in what Foreign Minister Moratinos had to report.
QUESTION: Do you think it's a good idea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, it's -- there's an ongoing discussion between the OSCE and Kazakhstan about the issue, and I don't want to go any further than that.
QUESTION: You don't have a position on it as yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, they are talking so I'm not going to get into the middle of ongoing diplomacy.
QUESTION: Sean, on the elections. The OSCE, when they send observers here, do they come for all congressional -- is it national elections, all of them, like congressional elections, or do they only come for --
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't -- Matt, I can't tell you. I know that they come for presidential elections. I remember last time in 2004 --
QUESTION: There are two separate --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I know. There's (inaudible) election and there's presidential election.
QUESTION: And if you're -- so I'd just be interested to know if they've come for elections that are off-year.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- I'll check for you, Matt. But I think they've come for off-year as well as local elections, yeah.
MR. CASEY: (Off-mike.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Charlie.
QUESTION: Any update on Baku, the Embassy there, the terrorist threat?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's still closed to the public. I expect they'll probably today and tomorrow have limited operations, but the Embassy took what they believe were appropriate steps in light of threat information, working very closely with the Government of Azerbaijan. I expect that we'll be up and running with normal operations in the not-too-distant future.
QUESTION: Do you have any details on the nature of the threat, and even general?
MR. MCCORMACK: There was some specific and credible threat information concerning the Embassy and plans by militants to in some way do harm to the individuals in or around the U.S. Embassy there. But we have worked very well with the Government of Azerbaijan. Now, I think that they have ongoing law enforcement operations designed to address the source of the threat.
QUESTION: A couple of questions, Sean. When you say, "do harm to individuals in and around," are you talking -- were there specific individuals that were targeted or just the Embassy?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, just the Embassy. The site, yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. And then also can you talk about whether this was related to an incident over the weekend where an army officer was found to have stole weapons from the army to share with radical groups to -- as part of this plot?
MR. MCCORMACK: I am not aware that there's a linkage between the two things, Elise. This is still an unfolding operation within Azerbaijan, as I understand it now. So further linkages might appear as we look deeper into this. That may or may not be the case. I can't tell you at this point, based on what I know.
QUESTION: This morning you said that you thought the Embassy would be back to normal operations within a few days.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: Is that still your expectation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, yes. I would expect today and tomorrow that there would be limited operations. Today, it's closed to the public. It's likely that it'll be closed to the public again tomorrow. But I would expect in the coming days, in the not-too-distant-future, that it will be back up and running with normal operations.
QUESTION: And there are no plans for any kind of authorized or ordered departure?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, no. At this point, no.
QUESTION: Different question on a different subject. Sean, one on India. Treasury Secretary Mr. Paulson is in India and he's trying his best again as far as U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement is concerned. You think Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is she still hopeful of the agreement?
MR. MCCORMACK: She still supports it going forward. We have conveyed that to the Indian Government at a number of different levels. They're working through some domestic politics. I know that there is an intense debate within India right now concerning the civil nuclear deal -- proposed civil nuclear deal with the United States. The Indian people and the Indian political system are going to have to work out whatever resolution of that debate there will be. But we continued to urge the Indian Government to move forward with this deal and we are prepared to move forward with it as well.
QUESTION: I mean, is she still in touch with somebody in India, like her counterpart, Foreign Secretary, Foreign Minister or anybody on this deal?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. She did speak with Foreign Minister Mukherjee today.
QUESTION: Second, if I may have on Pakistan. As far as Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's return is concerned, it's causing a lot of problems there. I mean, so many bombings going on, unrest going on. And some reports are saying that there may be a kind of civil war because the presidential election of General Musharraf still is in -- hanging in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. And is there concern here as far as the unrest and the situation in Pakistan?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't think I would describe the situation in Pakistan quite as you did, Goyal. But Pakistan is undergoing a political transition. There are a number of positive developments in terms of moderate forces within the Pakistani political system working together for a moderate Pakistan. That is something that we have encouraged. That said, we don't pick candidates or political parties. Ultimately, who leads Pakistan is going to have to be a decision for the Pakistani people.
In terms of the violence in Pakistan, it's well known that Pakistan faces a threat from violent extremists operating on its own territory. It's as much a threat to Pakistan as to, say, the United States or Pakistan's neighbors.
So we're working quite well with the Pakistani Government on how to address those threats. Pakistan is taking the lead on those, but we are fully supportive of their efforts not only to move towards greater political and economic reform, but also to address the threat from violent extremism resonant in Pakistan, directed against Pakistanis as well as outward.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. Does Ms. Bhutto enjoy the support from the U.S. as far as her return or to be the next Prime Minister to form the --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think I addressed that -- the answer to that question in my previous answer.
QUESTION: Did you say that the Secretary had spoken to the Indian Foreign Secretary today?
MR. MCCORMACK: Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister today?
MR. MCCORMACK: Foreign Minister Mukherjee, yes.
QUESTION: And can you give us any more of the flavor of that discussion beyond --
MR. MCCORMACK: It was -- underlined -- again, underlined the same points, that we continue to support the agreement and continue moving forward with the agreement, made it clear that the resolution to the political discussions within India are for the Indian political system to resolve, but she wanted to underline and reinforce for the Indian Government that we continue to support moving forward with the agreement.
QUESTION: And is there anything that you think the U.S. Government can do to try to advance that? I mean, you've ruled out absolutely, and I assume that that continues to be the case, there's no renegotiation that is possible with the agreement as it was reached; correct?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't believe that there's any consideration of that or any discussion of that on either side at this point.
QUESTION: Yeah, so there is anything else you think you can do to try to help with this process?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, I believe it's really a matter for the Indian political system to resolve. There are questions about it in -- and whatever that resolution is, it's going to be up to them, however they -- whichever way they decide to go.
QUESTION: Was that the only topic of conversation?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a full read of the phone call, but that was the primary topic --
QUESTION: That was the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, primary topic of the conversation, yes.
QUESTION: But Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah -- Goyal, no -- no, Goyal, we're going here.
QUESTION: Okay, should -- other subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the trip the Secretary is going to make this week in Turkey and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- the Middle East? She goes first to Ankara to -- for bilateral meetings?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Why? What kind of -- what is she going to speak about in Ankara?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I suspect she's going to talk primarily about the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship and talk about the fact that it is a good, strong relationship. There have been some perceptions of strains in that relationship and I would say certainly, for our part, that nothing could be further from the case and I suspect from the Turkish Government's perspective, nothing can be further from the case.
But these strains, these perceptions of public strains, emanate from what is a very sensitive topic for the Turkish people and the Turkish Government and that is the continuing violence and terrorist attacks by the PKK against the Turkish people. And we've talked over the past several weeks about our efforts to work with the Iraqi Government and the Turkish Government to find a diplomatic solution so that the Iraqi Government will act against this terror group, a terror group that is operating on its soil.
The first step is to make sure we don't see any further terrorist attacks against the Turkish people perpetrated by the PKK. And there also needs to be a wider, more permanent, durable solution, whereas you get to the dismantlement and the elimination of the PKK. I expect that in -- that will be a significant topic of discussion, as it's an important topic for the Turkish Government and the Turkish people, which can be --
QUESTION: Does she --
MR. MCCORMACK: Go ahead, go ahead.
QUESTION: Does she expect to bring a practical proposal for implementing that agreement?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are -- what we are working to do is try to bring the Turkish Government together with the Iraqi Government. There were some meetings just over the couple of -- past couple of days. They did not arrive at a solution. I think that there was a constructive diplomatic exchange, but they did not arrive at a solution. At this point, we're going to keep working that -- going to keep working the diplomatic angle. Just because you don't, in the first, second, third or fourth round of discussions come up with a solution, that doesn't mean you keep -- you don't keep trying to find a way for these two governments to resolve what is a significant issue between them. And we are looking to the Iraqi Government to act, to act to prevent terrorist attacks, and ultimately to act to dismantle that terror group that's operating on their territory.
QUESTION: First, second, third or fourth? How many more are you planning to have?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm just -- I'm just pointing out that we have had a number of different meetings between the Turks and the Iraqis. I can't tell you exactly how many we have had.
QUESTION: But is it --
MR. MCCORMACK: But it's just to make the point that there has been some diplomacy. It's not succeeded at this point in finding a durable solution between the two countries, but we're going to keep on working it, keep on trying.
QUESTION: Is there any reason to -- is there any movement closer?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think --
QUESTION: Or is it --
MR. MCCORMACK: The last set of discussions were constructive. They didn't come to a solution, but it's an important enough topic that we're going to apply some considerable diplomatic capital to trying to find a solution that's mutually acceptable to both sides. I think the -- at this point, the -- there's a heavy responsibility on the part of the Iraqi Government to come up with some proposals that -- if it will actually be effective in preventing terror attacks and then getting to the root cause.
QUESTION: And to this point, they have not done that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they have taken some steps. I think more needs to be done. They have proposed some good first steps, but there's more that needs to be done.
QUESTION: If I can follow up. After Ankara, she goes to Istanbul for the neighbor - the Iraqi neighbor conference.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: The last time, for the last conference of the same type, she met briefly with her Iranian counterpart in Sharm el-Sheikh.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: And longer with her Syrian counterpart.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Do you think it can happen again?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, there are no plans on -- for her to meet with either of those two counterparts. I can't tell you whether or not they will encounter one another in the plenary meeting hall, but at this point there's no scheduled meetings with either her Syrian counterpart or her Iranian counterpart.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the -- just the previous topic?
QUESTION: Yes, sure.
QUESTION: Why do you -- I mean, in fact, at one point you said strains and then you went back to this perception of strains. Why can't you just say that there have been strains, because clearly the Turkish Government has not been pleased despite the efforts of the U.S. Government, despite the efforts of General Ralston, to try to resolve this matter? It's been going on for years now. Is it --
MR. MCCORMACK: Because I really want to not leave you with the impression that there aren't good conversations going on between the United States and Turkey on this issue, and that we have a foundation of a good, strong, solid relationship that goes back decades. They're NATO allies. They're good friends. So I don't want to leave you with the impression that in our exchanges with Turkish Government officials that this is in any way strained. They're concerned about the issue. Absolutely, as are we. But I think there is certainly a perception of strains when you see people protesting in the streets. You see a lot of editorials. You see a lot of news stories. Absolutely. I get that. I understand that. I acknowledge it.
But I don't want to leave you with the impression that there is really tension at an official level between the United States Government and the Turkish Government on this issue. I mean, we're both very much aware that we want to find a solution to it and we're applying quite a bit of energy to that, but the exchanges are good, strong and constructive.
QUESTION: Can I go back to --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we can -- well, we can circle back to your original question.
QUESTION: Yes, yes. Last time, for -- about the meeting with the Iranians and the Syrians, last time the meeting was set up by the Egyptian host, the meeting with the Iranian.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: If it happens again, would she refuse to meet with him or would she be --
MR. MCCORMACK: If the issue comes up, then we'll deal with it at the time. I don't think there's any violin players with red dresses around, but --
QUESTION: Okay. And then she goes to Middle East again for preparing, I suppose, the conference or the meeting --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- on Middle East. Do you think she will announce the date of the conference at that --
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see.
QUESTION: -- (inaudible)?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. She's going to take stock of where the two parties are and talk to Prime Minister Olmert, talk to President Abbas as well as others about where they stand in their discussions not only on preparations for the meeting, the document that they are preparing, but also where they are in terms of implementing elements of the roadmap. She wants to see where progress is on both of those tracks.
And we'll see. We'll see if, at this point, it's appropriate to announce a date. I wouldn't want to put that sort of burden on this trip. We'll see where we are. And she's going to make those kinds of decisions based on what she's seeing and hearing on the ground.
QUESTION: So have the invitations been engraved?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think we've (inaudible) anything up yet, Matt.
QUESTION: Are you any closer to issuing invitations?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, we're going to -- she's going to look for the right time, based on what she sees on the ground, where the parties are in terms of their discussions.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
QUESTION: Actually, can I follow up --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: -- just on the conference real quick?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: Can you just kind of outline the U.S. goals for this conference in Istanbul?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think that we've talked quite a bit about that over the past. What we want to do is have the two parties come to some understanding of some of the issues that are between them. I don't expect that this is going to be a conference where you're going to resolve all issues, certainly not. That's going to take quite some time. I don't think anybody's putting that set of expectations on the meeting, but to put down on paper some of their understandings on -- about some of the issues that are between them and that -- and --
QUESTION: I think you're talking about the wrong conference.
MR. MCCORMACK: What, the --
QUESTION: I was asking about Istanbul, the Istabanul Iraq --
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, I thought you were talking about the --
QUESTION: That sounded suspiciously like --
QUESTION: Where's he going with this, but okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: I was talking about the --
QUESTION: I was really concerned. No, the international conference on Iraq in Istanbul.
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, the international conference on Iraq, okay. Yeah, this is where we try to build on the progress that we had in getting together the initial conference. What we would like to do is -- and I don't know if we're going to be able to achieve this at the Istanbul meeting -- is to see if you can have this meeting be -- have more of a concrete structure in the sense that it is a bit more regularized as a forum where Iraq's neighbors can get together to discuss the various issues that are a source of concern to not only the Iraqi Government but to Iraq's neighbors.
We think that that would be a way of supporting the Iraqis in a variety of different ways, that you have this more fixed structure, if you will, and really, even talk about whether or not you have a secretariat for this neighbors meeting, in some way making it more regular so that you're not every time trying to make ad hoc arrangements for the conference; and also, to have a more permanent way or a more fixed way of the various parties being able to exchange information, ideas and proposals other than bilaterally, but have it in a multilateral way.
QUESTION: Is there any concern that with especially Turkey playing host to the conference, that the recent spat with the Kurdish rebels will impede your efforts to achieve any of those goals?
MR. MCCORMACK: It's one issue that will be on the agenda. I don't think, by any means, that it is the only issue on the agenda. There is a lot of work to do with respect to Iraq. One would hope that we could make some progress on the issue of the PKK prior to the meeting. I don't know if that will happen. But there are larger sets of issues beyond the PKK, as significant as that issue is, but there are larger issues, and I would expect that those will also be topics of conversation at the meeting.
Anything else on this? Yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Will she bring a new proposal for an action plan to eliminate PKK? What you can say about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, of course, we'll bring our ideas to the table. But fundamentally, this needs to be something that's acceptable to Turkey and something that the Iraqis can pull off. So we will have our own ideas. I don't know if Secretary Rice is going to be bringing anything specific that she's going to talk to the Turkish Government about or the Iraqi Government about, but it's something that we're -- we're working this on a daily basis. So we'll provide our thoughts to the Turkish side as well as the Iraqi side.
QUESTION: Are there any other options on the table in addition to diplomacy?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of -- no, our focus is on diplomacy at this point.
QUESTION: Still on that. You talked about the proposals that the Iraqis have had in the past couple days.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There were reports about an idea that would have American troops along the border and the Turkish were not -- were reported to not be very excited about the idea. Have you heard back from them? Are they --
MR. MCCORMACK: From whom?
QUESTION: From the Turks. There were reports yesterday or the day before that they were not excited about having American troops when they want their own troops to be there. Have you heard anything from them on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm just not up on any such discussions, Nicholas.
QUESTION: And if I can, just for a second, go back to the -- I know we're jumping up and down today, but the OSCE, the meeting with the Foreign Minister this morning. Did the Secretary say whether she was wanting to attend the annual meeting of the OSCE in December?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think she talked about it and I don't think it came up.
QUESTION: All right. Thanks.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, Elise.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject, everybody?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: On Yemen.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yemen.
QUESTION: Can you talk about the latest information that you have about the release of this gentleman, if he's in -- there were some reports that he could be in house arrest and --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: Also about the decision of the Millennium Challenge Corporation to suspend a payment because of the issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. On the latter, my understanding from the MCC is they have decided to postpone the signing of -- I think it's a threshold agreement. But check with them about the details of that.
In terms of the first part of your question, our Ambassador is actively working that issue right now. I can't say that we have a firm understanding of exactly what the situation is with respect to this individual. Suffice it to say, in our view, this is somebody that needs to be behind bars. He was part of -- an active part of the Cole bombing plot, so he needs to be behind bars. And that is definitely the message that we are going to be conveying to the Yemenis.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, we don't. No.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) been asking for it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we are trying to nail that down.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Is the Yemeni Government giving you any excuse for not giving you a straight answer? I mean, if the Ambassador was in today to talk about the issue --
MR. MCCORMACK: All I can tell you, Elise, is I checked on this just before I came out. I don't have a readout of the meeting between the Ambassador and the Yemeni Government. I know that our Ambassador -- what message our Ambassador conveyed. I don't know what we got back in terms of the status of this individual and where he is.
QUESTION: If he is released, what effect do you think this will have on the relationship with Yemen?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, serious issue -- a serious issue. As I said, this is not something that should be -- somebody who should be running free.
QUESTION: Yes. Mr. McCormack, the Foreign Minister of FYROM, Antonio Milososki, in an interview to the Greek daily newspaper Eleftheros Typos, is claiming that his country has already one foot in NATO, due to the fact that it has sent soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Any comment since those soldiers, Mr. McCormack, have been some -- under U.S./FYROM diplomatic agreement at the request of Washington?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not familiar with the specifics of the -- of what you're talking about, Lambros. But if it gets to the name question, you know what our position is with respect to the name, you know what the position of NATO is with respect to the name, and you know what the issue is with respect to the name in the UN. So you have all those answers.
QUESTION: One more on Turkey --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. You've used up your question.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about this video that was produced by Disney and endorsed by the State Department. It apparently -- it's supposed to promote U.S. tourism. But one sequence shows Niagara Falls, but it actually shows a waterfall that's in the Canadian side of the border. What does the State Department think of this?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, first of all, it wasn't to promote tourism. It was to promote understanding of the United States. And look, this is a shared natural wonder between the United States and Canada, and we're very proud to have part of it in our territory and I know the Canadian Government is very proud to have part of it in its territory. And as such, it really is a gateway for both of our countries. And I think when people look at it, people will think Niagara Falls and they'll think the United States and Canada.
QUESTION: So it doesn't matter that it's a Canadian waterfall? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: There are two sides to every waterfall. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible) any question?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm aware of at this point. Yeah.
QUESTION: Do you --
QUESTION: I think we should both be proud of the fact that it wasn't a land grab.
QUESTION: Sean, do you expect any meeting between Ambassador Crocker and his Iranian counterpart in near future?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new that I'm aware of.
MR. MCCORMACK: Kirit
QUESTION: Just a Blackwater question for you. Do you have any sort -- did that meeting between Negroponte and England take place on Friday? Is there a readout from that?
MR. MCCORMACK: It did. And they -- what they did is they agreed to set up a working group, and that's going to be at the Pat Kennedy level. So we're going to talk through with DOD counterparts some ideas, some issues, and take a look at this whole issue of strategic coordination on the issue of personal security contractors in Iraq. Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates are going to have lunch tomorrow. I expect they may touch upon it at their lunch, but it will not be the main topic of conversation between them.
QUESTION: What's the main topic?
MR. MCCORMACK: They get together almost -- I don't know -- every week. And I'm not going to tell you what they ---
QUESTION: Oh, come on. Let's just rule out all the things that are not --
QUESTION: Are the secretaries --
QUESTION: I mean, how many more working groups do there need to be on this? Can't someone just sit down and make a decision? I mean --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: -- can't the Deputy Secretary of State and the -- what is he, Secretary of the Army, or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Deputy Secretary of Defense.
QUESTION: Deputy Secretary of Defense. Can't they come to -- can't they propose something that doesn't have to get referred to -- through the bureaucratic mess once again?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I wouldn't say giving it to Pat Kennedy and some of his colleagues --
QUESTION: Well, Pat Kennedy has an awful lot on his plate.
QUESTION: And he's been working on this over and over again for weeks, right? So --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, it's -- it is a big, complex issue in terms of the coordination at the strategic level. We think we have a good answer on the tactical level of coordination in terms of some of the things that Secretary Rice has said are going to be implemented. So that should -- that should really take care of a lot of the field level coordination. And they're talking about some of the larger issues. You know, both of them have a lot on their plate as well, so we thought it was appropriate to talk through the issue a bit.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean, the incident that brought this to light is now a month and a half old.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And what I would -- what I would put to you is that the steps that Secretary Rice has ordered be put in place will go a long way to ensuring that there is not a similar kind of incident, though it is not a guarantee that in operating in this kind of environment that there won't be loss of innocent life. We're going to do everything we possibly can to make sure that doesn't happen. And in the event that there is an incident, we will now have a much better forensic record, if you will, in terms of cameras, in terms of recording, in terms of having another set of eyes on scene that can recreate what happened exactly and have a better sense of whether or not there was any violation of the rules and, if so, how that can be dealt with.
QUESTION: But one of the major shortcomings of the situation as it existed back on September 16th was this lack of coordination between the State Department and the Pentagon, or the lack of coordination between the contractors themselves and the military people on the ground there. That's been identified --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I think there was -- well, go back and look at the report. I think there was a lot better coordination than might have been portrayed in some of the news reports. The trick was that you wanted to make sure that that coordination between the State Department and the Department of Defense, that exchange of information was -- went up and down the various chains of command on both sides, both the DOD side as well as the State Department side. We've taken some steps, we think, that will improve that. So part of the issue was information flow between the two agencies, which was actually a lot better, I think, than has been portrayed in some news reports. And then there was a separate issue of coordination within the various organizations. And I think Pat Kennedy's trip out there, along with the efforts of General Joulwan, Ambassador Roy and Eric Boswell went a long way to identifying that as a need. And I think -- I think because of their efforts, we'll see an improvement in that. And hopefully, at the end of the day, you will also see an improvement in the perceptions of how the two agencies are working together out there in the field.
QUESTION: And how goes the FBI investigation into this? It's been quite a long time --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think -- check with the FBI. They have the lead on it and it's probably -- it is best for them to answer any questions about it.
QUESTION: They haven't told you --
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not --
QUESTION: Because one of the recommendations that Pat Kennedy did before he was -- just been volunteered to be in this new working group --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- was that, you know, that as soon as that investigation is finished that the Embassy come up with a recommendation about what to do about the specific companies who are working for you. So --
MR. MCCORMACK: I assume -- I assume that we will be informed once the FBI has finished their work. I wouldn't presume to try to glean any information about an ongoing investigation, law enforcement investigation.
QUESTION: I'm not looking for information about the -- I'm just -- do you have any idea how close it is to being completed?
MR. MCCORMACK: I couldn't give an estimate, Matt, no.
QUESTION: Do you expect this issue to come up -- I guess be bumped up to the Secretary level? Will they have an actual meeting on this topic?
MR. MCCORMACK: On this topic? If they need to, they will. At this point, though, neither side sees the need for a formal meeting between the two of them devoted entirely to this topic.
QUESTION: And when do you expect that new Pat Kennedy group to actually come up with a recommendation or report or --
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a timeline for you.
QUESTION: Different topic. Did -- back to Minister Moratinos. Did he brief the Secretary on the mission they took with the French and the Italian Foreign Ministers to Lebanon regarding the presidential elections?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, not on the portion of the meeting that I was in. They had a separate one-on-one meeting for about 15 minutes, but I didn't talk to the Secretary about what the two of them discussed in that session.
Yeah, all right. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Turkish Foreign Minister Babacan met Iranian President Ahmadi-Nejad over the weekend about combating the PKK and they agreed on cooperation. Will you be concerned about this cooperation between Iran and Turkey?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, they're neighbors and I expect that they're going to have good -- one would hope they have good, friendly relations that are transparent and constructive. That's not something that we have ever discouraged Iran's neighbors from doing. We would hope that in the course of those relations that the Turkish Government would underline some of the concerns that the world has with Iranian Government behavior. But we always encourage good, transparent relations, cooperative relations.
QUESTION: A follow-up, Mr. McCormack?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: Sean, are the criticisms that were outlined in today's Washington Post over Darfur -- it was a front-page exposé -- justified and are the Chinese at the heart of the problem? And the rebels again say they won't come to the peace conference.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Joel, we're working very hard on the issue of Darfur and I think nobody will dispute the idea that the issue of Darfur wouldn't be on the -- at the top of the international agenda without the United States putting it there. And while we have not succeeded to the point that we would have wished, we are continuing to work very hard on the issue -- the humanitarian part, the security part as well as the root causes here, the political disputes.
Now, there's an -- there's a meeting that is still underway. Some of the rebel groups have decided not to participate. We are continuing to urge them to participate. The AU is as well as the UN. So those discussions aren't over. We would hope that all the parties could make some significant progress during those discussions.
QUESTION: Thank you, Sean. Just quick (inaudible) question from the U.S.-India civil nuclear agreement. What (inaudible) are saying in India really that some provisions in the agreement are not acceptable. Is U.S. willing to negotiate or (inaudible) on those?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not sure that the Indian Government or the United States Government is talking about that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: You have a question? Yeah.
QUESTION: Completely different subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: What would you say the U.S. hoped to accomplish at last week's climate change meeting, and what would be considered a successful Bali meeting for the U.S.?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll have to get you an answer on that.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up on the Argentine elections. Did the Secretary reach out to the President-elect?
MR. MCCORMACK: She has not. I would suspect that that first phone call, when it comes, will be from the White House down there. I would just offer my congratulations on behalf of Red Sox Nation here at the State Department to World Series Champion Red Sox. That has a nice ring to it. And with that, I don't think we have any more questions.
QUESTION: Thank you.
was concluded at 1:25 p.m.) DPB # 190 Released on
October 29, 2007
DPB # 190
Released on October 29, 2007