State Dept Daily Press Briefing – July 12th, 13th

Published: Tue 17 Jul 2001 10:39 AM
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Friday, July 13, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
CHINA 1 US Reaction to Beijing's Winning Olympic Bid 5 Update on Detainee Gao Zahn
ISRAEL/PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY 1-4 Update on Recent Violence/ Mitchell Report Recommendations 2-3 Reported Plan to Undermine Arafat
IRAQ 4-5 Recent Meetings with Iraqi National Congress
IRELAND 5 Update on Recent Violence / Peace Talks / Good Friday Agreement
CUBA 5 Measures to Help Cuban Dissidents
DPB # 99
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I don't have any statements or announcements and I would be glad to take your questions.
Q: Please tell us what you think about Beijing getting the Olympics.
MR. BOUCHER: First of all, let me make clear this was a decision by the Olympic Committee, based on their standards, their practices and their decisions. As you know, we did not take a position as a government on this.
Second, it is obviously very exciting for China and for the athletes who will compete there. I am sure it will be a great place for our athletes to compete and we will wish them well at the appropriate time.
I would say also that the Olympics is not a political event; it's a sporting event. We are not intending to turn it into a political event. But we do think it is an opportunity for China. It is an opportunity for China to showcase itself as a modern country and as a progressive country, and we would hope they would take that opportunity.
Q: Is it also an option for them to improve their human rights record?
MR. BOUCHER: That would be part of being a modern, progressive country.
Q: On the Middle East, we have been asking you recently about when the period of quiet would start. Can I ask you the reverse question? If the period of quiet shows no sign of starting, how long do you leave it for? What happens then?
MR. BOUCHER: We have, I think, made clear, and the Secretary of State in discussing this at the end of his last trip made clear, that there comes a point when the Mitchell Report, instead of being the bridge from violence to peace talks, the way it should be, ends up being another piece of paper on the shelf if the parties don't go ahead and do it. And that is why we are so insistent. That is why we are emphasizing so much that the parties need to make maximum efforts now to create the quiet, to get that unconditional cessation of violence and to move into implementation of the Mitchell report in all its aspects.
There is not a time table for hanging it up. And I think whatever the status of the Mitchell Report or other things, the United States has a strong interest in peace, we have a strong interest in ending the violence, and we will continue to work in that direction. So it is not easy to say when everything turns into a pumpkin. On the other hand, it is quite clear that the moment is now and the time is now and the effort needs to be made to stop the violence, because people are still getting hurt, people are still unable to live normal lives, and that is what we want to return to first and foremost, and use that as a way to build confidence and get back to a peace negotiation.
Q: There has been some reporting out of Israel suggesting that the Israelis are possibly contemplating like conquering the West Bank and Gaza, driving out Arafat, attributed to various sources. Is this something that has interested the US enough to contact the Israelis about?
MR. BOUCHER: The United States has very consistently been in touch with Israel, urging the Israeli Government, as other parties in the region, to exercise restraint, to avoid anything that would provoke or incite more violence. We have certainly never given any kind of green light for Israeli military action. We have consistently urged them to exercise maximum efforts to end the violence and avoid provocation and incitement. So that has been a very consistent position that we have emphasized all along to the Israelis.
Prime Minister Sharon did call Secretary Powell yesterday, yesterday evening. They talked about the situation in the region. The Secretary once again emphasized the importance of immediate action on both sides to prevent any further deterioration on the ground. So that message of restraint has been a very consistent one the Secretary reiterated yesterday.
Q: Did you say the Prime Minister called the Secretary?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, he did. He called.
Q: And any conversations with Mr. Arafat one way or the other?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not yesterday.
Q: Although you said yesterday --
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, there have been contacts in the region. The Secretary has kept in touch with him, but not yesterday.
Q: Anything today?
MR. BOUCHER: Not yet.
Q: Can you explain why the Israelis chose that moment to call? Whether there was an occasion for the call?
Q: Can I ask my question?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes, please.
Q: Although you said yesterday that, as far as I recall -- you had no -- you weren't particularly aware of this Jane's report. Given that it seems to have had this impact, are you particularly concerned that the Israelis are looking more attentively at more aggressive options regarding the Palestinians right now?
MR. BOUCHER: I think Prime Minister Sharon has said that they are not going in that direction. At least, that is what he is quoted as saying in certain wire services.
The Israelis have not talked to us about any such plan, and as I said, we have never given any green light to Israeli military action. We have had a very consistent view of the importance of restraint and the need to proceed in the direction of calming the violence, avoiding incitement and getting on with the Mitchell Report in all its aspects. So I don't think that changes our opinion.
Q: The Secretary has said many times that there is no Plan B. But within the goal of getting towards implementation of the Mitchell Report, are there any kind of cosmetic things that the United States could do to change the atmosphere? I don't know, more meetings perhaps of the security talks. Dennis Ross has been talking about, last weekend, perhaps the US kind of having a card and marking each side publicly on how their performance is.
Is there any kind of -- without the Plan B, is there anything else you can do, apart from stand up there every day and say, we want the violence to stop?
MR. BOUCHER: We can do what we are doing, and that is working in the region on the ground, with the people involved to try to help them take the steps necessary to stop the violence. It may surprise you, but the chief vehicle for our policy is not to stand up here and make pronouncements, but it is actually to have people in the region working on this every day.
Our representatives are in continuous contact with the Israelis and the Palestinians. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, David Satterfield, is in the region. His talks are focused on security cooperation, on the practical efforts to bring down the violence, and as we say, move forward towards discussion of the Mitchell Report timeline, the actual start of moving through this process. So we have people in the region working on this all the time and we will keep working with the parties to try to get them to take further steps to bring down the violence.
Q: Is the message that the United States gets from the Israelis and the Palestinians still that they want to implement the Mitchell Report, despite what you have seen? Is that what they keep saying?
MR. BOUCHER: Yes. Let's be clear about what we have seen. We saw some days that were quieter last week, again this week, and some days when there has been fighting and flare-ups of violence again. We have seen efforts by the parties and we think we need more efforts; we need maximum efforts from both sides. And we need the parties also to avoid provocation and incitement; steps that further inflame the situation. But as long as those steps have not all been taken, we will continue urging that people take those steps.
Q: Sorry to drag this out, but you said that you can't see what the timetable would be for this particular part as far as its turning into a pumpkin, as you put it. But, I mean --
MR. BOUCHER: Maybe I shouldn't have. (Laughter.)
Q: Presumably, there is a sense of frustration at the moment. So, I mean, if it really continues like this, does there come a point where you would say, all right, there is no point in keeping our people on the ground right now, and stop taking part at that level?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't want to forecast some course of action like that. That is not our intention. We are not intending to find a date that we can get out of this.
And, as I said and I think the Secretary has said, we are involved in the Middle East, we are going to stay involved in the Middle East because it is fundamentally in our interest to work on the situation there to help the parties calm the violence. So I am not threatening a cut and run.
But it is quite clear that the Mitchell Committee Report is there, it needs to be implemented in all its aspects. The time to do it is now. The time to achieve quiet is now. There is no reason why people should have to live with this kind of insecurity, either on the Israeli side or the Palestinian side. And that is why the effort is very much focused on getting a period of quiet and getting on with the Mitchell Committee recommendations.
Q: On Iraq, or more specifically the Iraqi National Congress. I think this came up yesterday when they were in to see -- the Iraqi National Congress representatives were in to see Mr. Burns. Do you have anything --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have anything on that. I think Mr. Armitage may have spoken to a certain wire service about the Iraqi National Congress, but I don't actually know what he said.
Q: Inaudible (Laughter)
MR. BOUCHER: All right, I'll check on that one for you and for all the others that might want to figure out what's going on with the Iraqi National Congress.
Q: If I can ask about Northern Ireland, have you anything to say about the violence there yesterday and overnight, I believe?
MR. BOUCHER: Our focus yesterday, as you know, was to welcome the resumption of the peace talks today, July 13th. I believe that has happened. We think that the parties should continue their intensive efforts to fully implement the Good Friday agreement, and given the increase in tension that we have seen in Northern Ireland, we want to see all sides exercise moderation. And we call on the political leaders to do all in their power to quell the violence.
Q: Do you have anything about new measures to help Cuban dissidents and to stop the blocking of US broadcasts to Cuba?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I think there were indications the White House might. I'll leave it to them.
Q: Has there been a trial date set in the last 24 hours for Gao Zhan?
MR. BOUCHER: Not that I know of. No, I don't think so.
Q: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:45 p.m.)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Daily Press Briefing Index Thursday, July 12, 2001
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
STATEMENTS 1 Peace Talks in Northern Ireland 1 Uzbekistan: Death of Human Rights Activist 2-3 Special Humanitarian Coordination for Sudan
FRANCE 3-4 Ira Einhorn Extradition Update
CHINA 5-6 US Position in China's Olympic Bid
PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATIONS 6 Nomination of Otto Reich, Nomination Designate U/S WHA
COLOMBIA 6 Plan Colombia
CAMBODIA 7 Khmer Rouge Trials
CHINA 7 Detainees Update
SECSTATE 7 Secretary Powell's Travel to Asia
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I could talk about a couple things at the beginning, and then we will get on to your questions about these or any other matters.
First, on the peace talks in Northern Ireland, I want to say we are pleased that the British and Irish Governments and the parties to the Northern Ireland peace talks have considered that sufficient progress has been made in the recent round of negotiations to resume their talks on Friday, July 13. We urge, of course, all the parties to make a maximum effort to resolve the outstanding issues required for the full implementation of the Good Friday agreement.
In addition to continuing to address constructively the issues of policing, demilitarization and establishing the stability of political institutions, there must also be substantial progress on decommissioning. We are concerned that failure to resolve these issues could contribute to heightened tensions and instability in Northern Ireland. We urge all parties to exercise restraint and to redouble their efforts to reach a political accommodation that will make real the promise foretold in the Good Friday agreement.
Any particular questions about that? Elaine?
QUESTION: The British Government has made somewhat of a deal out of the fact that media and others have begun to focus more on the need for IRA disarmament as a way of unlocking the disarmament knot. Is that something that this government sees?
MR. BOUCHER: As I think I said in the statement, there are a number of issues that need to be addressed constructively. But there also must be substantial progress on decommissioning. That is a very important part of the picture for us.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
MR. BOUCHER: Decommissioning needs substantial progress. I'll leave it at that.
Moving along, we will be putting out a statement on the death of an Uzbek human rights activist. But I will leave that one for the paper version for you all to see.
And I just wanted to mention that the Agency for International Development has put out a brief statement about the travel of Andrew Natsios, their head of the Agency for International Development but also the Special Humanitarian Coordination for Sudan who is traveling to Sudan, to northern and southern Sudan for a seven-day assessment mission. He will be going out to see first hand what the humanitarian situation is in Sudan. He will meet with Sudanese government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and UN representatives, visit camps for people who have been displaced by the conflict and the drought and talk a lot with nongovernmental organizations about how we can improve and support our relief operations and their work in the area.
The United States has been the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to Sudan during the span of the country's civil war. We have provided over $1 billion of assistance in the past decade. And this humanitarian situation in Sudan is of grave concern to us. It is very serious, and Mr. Natsios is going out to see what we can do more.
QUESTION: Do you know when he is leaving?
MR. BOUCHER: He is leaving on the 13th. He will begin the trip in the region, he will be in Khartoum on the 15th, and he will end up July 22 in Nairobi, Kenya.
QUESTION: How high in terms of the Sudanese government in Khartoum will he meet with?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know what specific meetings he will have at this point. I don't think that there is a meeting like that scheduled, but I just don't know how it will turn out.
QUESTION: And will his assessment have any bearing on the decision that was made, I guess, a month-and-a-half ago to begin food aid to the north?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not quite sure what "have any bearing" means. We decided a month or so ago, around the time the Secretary was in Africa, that we would begin providing food assistance to the north through nongovernmental organizations. He will be looking at the situation in the north, look at how we do that, and look at how we can make sure we do that well.
QUESTION: But there have been reports from the region that it has been very difficult for some of the AID workers to do what they are supposed to do. Will there be at some point an assessment -- I guess what I am asking, you know, there is only so much we can do in a civil war.
MR. BOUCHER: We see both -- there are many problems in Sudan, many difficult policy issues as well. War and drought have created an enormous humanitarian problem. And we are working on the humanitarian situation, and that is what Mr. Natsios is going out to address, and he will be looking at all those factors and how, within that context, we can best deliver the aid and make sure it gets to the people that need it. That's what we really need to do right now.
QUESTION: The President had a somewhat different spin when he addressed the issue a couple months ago, suggesting that there was -- that the people for whom the assistance had been intended has not been reaching them. Is that -- you put a somewhat different cast --
MR. BOUCHER: That has been true in some cases. I think the way to describe this is a trip to look at the situation, to look at what we need to do and how we can improve the delivery of assistance and make sure the people who need it do indeed get it. That's why he will be going out, to make sure that we are doing everything possible in the best way possible to help out.
QUESTION: Have you picked an envoy for peace --
MR. BOUCHER: Not yet.
That is the end of announcements, so questions on this or other subjects?
QUESTION: A different subject. The Jane's series of publications, one of their reports, has published a story about Prime Minister Sharon having a plan to -- a military plan that if the violence continues at a certain level, that he has a plan to destroy, in effect, the Palestinian authority.
My question is not to comment on that, but my question is, during the recent trip, Secretary Powell -- or at any other time, when Sharon was here for that matter -- has the US been made aware of any such plan by Sharon? And was the US asked for a green light whether --
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of anything that I would describe that way in terms of our conversations. Prime Minister Sharon has made clear that he intends to try to establish security. We have always urged him to exercise restraint and to establish security by cooperating with the Palestinians, by working with them, by avoiding provocation and incitement, just as we have made clear to both the parties that they need to do everything they can. We may ask for the maximum efforts from the Palestinian side to curb the violence. We have also asked for restraint and cooperation in security matters from the Israeli side as well.
QUESTION: That doesn't exactly answer the question. Has he said what he -- or has he indicated what he might do if calm didn't prevail?
MR. BOUCHER: I have not been in every single meeting we have had with Prime Minister Sharon. So I can't say absolutely that the subject never came up. It never came up in any meeting that I was in with the Secretary and Prime Minister Sharon. And we did not give a green light to any military action.
QUESTION: Can I move onto a new subject? The Maddux family is saying it is going to ask this building for help to secure the extradition of Ira Einhorn, who cut his own throat in front of French television cameras in attempt to avoid his delivery to American justice today.
Do you have anything to say on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Not on his personal circumstances, or French television. I can review where we stand on the judicial process. The decision by the French court today, as far as we understand it, ends the French judicial process and the extradition case, and we welcome that decision denying the appeal.
We are obviously following developments very closely. We hope for a prompt return of Mr. Einhorn to the United States to face justice. The US has worked intensively on this matter. We work closely with the French Government as well.
We are very sympathetic to the family of Holly Maddux and the suffering that they have gone through. And we hope to see Mr. Einhorn extradited to the United States.
QUESTION: What -- does it affect somebody's extradition if they are injured? I understand his condition is not life-threatening, but he is in hospital.
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know. That is really a judicial question, and the Department of Justice would have to take care of it.
QUESTION: Is there any other sort of European mechanism that could delay his coming back here? Are there any other kind of overall judicial game-playing that could go on?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know.
QUESTION: Have you heard --
MR. BOUCHER: I just don't know -- no. I am just saying this ends the French judicial process. Whether there is some broader European process that one can go through, I just don't know.
QUESTION: New subject?
MR. BOUCHER: Please.
QUESTION: Can you talk about reports of a memorandum sent to US diplomatic posts around the world about how we might come into conflict with the ABM treaty during upcoming missile tests?
MR. BOUCHER: It won't surprise those of you who see me walk out with my big book every day that we do try to inform our officers of what our policy is and what they might say about it, and we did so with a cable to our embassies that went out to all our embassies and diplomatic posts about a week ago, that lays out the President's arguments for a new strategic framework, that lays out the implications of that for missile defense, for the need for missile defense and the kind of missile defense we might be wanting to build, and which lays out the questions and answers and issues involved with the ABM treaty for our diplomatic officers overseas, so that they can advocate the US position, so that they can support our efforts and hopefully convince people overseas that this is necessary.
Enough of you have gotten hold of this document, it's an unclassified cable, to see that it really parallels closely what the President said in his speeches, what he said in his press conference with President Putin and the other things we have been saying. Also, I would say in general, none of the material comes as a surprise to the allies because we have been talking to them in a series of consultations. You will remember the trips made by Mr. Hadley and Mr. Armitage, Mr. Grossman, Mr. Wolfowitz and others a couple months ago.
In terms of the overall policy and the goals laid out by the President, we are seeking a new strategic framework that encompasses a broad area with a number of steps from offense to defense to nonproliferation. And it is being laid out by the Deputy Secretary of Defense in testimony on the Hill today. So I don't think I have much to add to what he says.
QUESTION: Would you like to respond to the reaction of a senior Russian official in Moscow, who believes that it's -- well, has described it, the policy of consulting Russia, as a smoke screen for the genuine intent, which is to move away from ABM, with or without Russian agreement.
MR. BOUCHER: Is this before he listened to Mr. Wolfowitz's testimony or after?
QUESTION: I can't check that one --
MR. BOUCHER: I can't check that either. But I would say, if he did listen to Mr. Wolfowitz's testimony, he would see quite clearly that we made clear there what we've made clear all along, that our goal is not somehow just to break the ABM Treaty. Our goal is to have an effective missile defense, to work cooperatively with allies, friends and partners in doing that, to move beyond the constraints of the ABM treaty, and that with regard to Russia, our goal is to work this out and reach an agreement with Russia on how we go about putting in place a new strategic framework. That's what the President did when he met with President Putin, what the Secretary has done in his meetings with Foreign Minister Ivanov, and that is what we will continue to do.
QUESTION: Richard, do you have any fresh words on the International Olympic Committee decision due in 24 hours?
MR. BOUCHER: We try not to be fresh around here. No.
QUESTION: Can I follow up? There's still talk on the Hill of a resolution opposing China's bid. Do you think that this resolution is unhelpful, problematic?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't characterize it one way or the other. I think everybody has a right to express her opinion.
QUESTION: During the EP-3 plane incident, there was talk in the Administration of opposing the bid, that Secretary Powell had said that you're not sure what the Administration was going to do. Why did the Administration end up backing up from taking a position?
MR. BOUCHER: We have never taken a position in the past, and we haven't taken one this time. We don't have a government vote in the International Olympic Committee. If the US Government isn't called upon to take a position, we don't take one.
QUESTION: I believe the White House is going to announce or they have already announced the nomination of Otto Reich today.
MR. BOUCHER: I believe they might, and it's a White House thing, and if they do, they do; if they don't, they don't. And I'll leave it to them for the moment.
QUESTION: Has there been any contact between the State Department and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding this nomination?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if there has been any contact yet, but obviously he looks forward to and we look forward to any nominee, if he is -- does become one -- looks forward to cooperating fully with the committee.
QUESTION: New subject? I think it was yesterday Rand Beers testified before a subcommittee panel and said that with Plan Colombia, no American pilots would be piloting Colombian -- these helicopters that we're giving to the Colombians.
Do you -- can you talk a little bit about any phase-out into -- with these new helicopters?
MR. BOUCHER: He knows this subject much better than me, and whatever he said I'm sure is correct. But I don't know it. I don't have anything on that.
QUESTION: For the last couple days, the Khmer Rouge Genocide Law finished its progression with the assembly in Phnom Penh. Does the United States see this now as a sign that the trials will start soon? I mean, does it consider that Cambodia should move quickly towards that?
MR. BOUCHER: We see it as very much a step forward in the process. We have been a strong supporter of bringing to justice the Khmer Rouge leaders, who bear most of the responsibility for the atrocities committed between 1975 and '79. We think it is important that there be accountability in Cambodia in order to promote rule of law and to develop democracy there.
We have always insisted that the extraordinary chambers must proceed in an open and transparent manner in full view of Cambodian society and the international community. We hope that the remaining steps for the establishment of the tribunal proceed quickly and in a way that meets those criteria.
QUESTION: Can I do one more subject? Sorry. The lawyers for Gao Zhan apparently are going back just to see her in the last few days. Can you say whether you have had any contact with them? And also whether your request to witness any trial of Gao Zhan has been answered yet by the Chinese, and any updates on the other cases?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think there is too much new on this. We do know that from -- we know from Mr. Jerome Cohen, who is her US-based attorney, that he has been in touch with her Chinese attorney, and that she has met with her Chinese attorney for about two and a half hours on July 10th. Reports are that she is in good health, and that the Chinese attorney was able to deliver some personal messages.
Mr. Cohen, I think, has said that he is happy to follow up and answer any further questions on this, and rather than do this from somebody who had heard from somebody who had heard from somebody talking to him and bringing you one step closer to the situation. We are continuing to urge the Chinese Government to promptly resolve Ms. Gao's case, as well as the cases of the other detainees so that they can be returned to their families. But I don't have any specific dates or that kind of information on Ms. Gao yet.
QUESTION: About Secretary Powell's Asia trip? He goes to Hanoi for ARF meeting. Is he going to meet with the North Korean Foreign Minister? Any arrangements?
MR. BOUCHER: No new answer to that yet. They will be at the same meeting. It is possible that they could meet, but there is nothing set at this point.
QUESTION: Also, when he visits Tokyo, prior to that, Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka may be out of the country. And are they going to meet, or is the Secretary meeting some other people, like the Prime Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: I haven't seen the exact schedule yet. I can't give you the meetings yet.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)

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