State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 1, 2005

Published: Wed 2 Nov 2005 12:10 AM
State Dept. Daily Press Briefing November 1, 2005
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
November 1, 2005
Egyptian Involvement in Gaza / Rafah Crossing
Recent Violence / Quartet Statement / Responsibilities Parties
have Under Roadmap
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's Contact with President Abbas
/ Urge Palestinian Authority to Live Up to Obligations and Take
Action Against The Palestinian Islamic Jihad
UN Security Council Resolution 1636 / Need for Syria to Cooperate
with Mehlis Investigation / Next Steps
Preview of Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Deputy Secretary
Zoellick's Meeting with Government of National Unity
Vice-President Salva Kiir
Query on Possible Request for Lifting of Sanctions and Removal
from Terrorist List
Query on Requirements for Lifting of Sanctions
Attack on International Mine-Clearing Team
U.S. Assistance to African Union Mission and in Support of
Comprehensive Peace Agreement
Query on Whether Secretary Condoleezza Rice or Deputy Secretary
Zoellick Plan to Visit Sudan in November
Readout of Secretary Condoleezza Rice's Meeting with Foreign
Minister Jonas Stoere
Readout of Secretary Condoleezza Rice's Meeting with Foreign
Minister Erkki Tuomioja
Issue of Freedom of the Press
Query on Whether There Will Be Any Meetings on Avian Influenza
Date for Resumption of Six-Party Talks
U.S. View of Elections / Possible Election Irregularities
U.S. View of Upcoming Elections
1:58 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon. I don't have any openings statements, so I'd be happy to go right to your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any observations about Egypt assisting now or going to assist in Gaza, taking on a larger role? Does this mean more mobility for the Palestinians is something you approve of and did you have a hand in it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, this has been an issue that the Israelis and Palestinians have been working on directly. I would note that there were some statements today concerning some preliminary steps that the sides have taken to reach agreement on this point. This is concerning the Rafah crossing. Egypt has played a very useful and helpful role on this issue. I still think that there are some issues that need to be worked out -- some i's dotted and t's crossed -- between the Israelis and the Palestinians on the issue, but it's moving in the right direction. In terms of addressing an issue that is important to the Palestinian people, and important to the future economic viability of the Gaza strip.
So I think at this point, Barry, we can't make any final pronouncements on it because there's still work to be done. It's moving in the direction and I think all sides certainly appreciate the good work that the Egyptian Government has done on the issue.
QUESTION: Can we stay in the Middle East?
QUESTION: The situation is very tense right now. Israel launched raids against Gaza and Jenin now and the Palestinians asked -- requested last weekend the help of U.S. Did you do anything to try to calm down the situation?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think what we -- one of the important steps that the Quartet took was we issued a statement on October 28th which I shared with all of you. And in that statement, it said that the Quartet strongly encourages and supports the Palestinian Authority in its immediate effort to take steps to prevent armed groups from acting against law and order and the policy of the Authority itself. The Quartet believes it is imperative that all involved act decisively to ensure that terror and violence are not allowed to undermine further progress in accordance with the roadmap.
So what does it say?
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
MR. MCCORMACK: What this -- right. But this still applies and I think the principles that the Quartet statement refers to are still applicable. What are those principles? The principles are that under the roadmap all parties have responsibilities. For the Palestinian Authority those responsibilities include that they must act to prevent acts of terror, they must act to prevent violence, not only for the wider goals of moving along towards the ultimate goal here of two states living side by side in peace and security, but for the Palestinian people. They also have an obligation to act to dismantle terrorist networks. And that is something that we have been trying to assist the Palestinian Authority in doing in terms of building up through building up the capabilities of the Palestinian security forces. So we and the members of the Quartet encourage them -- strongly encourage them to take steps, to take actions, to stop terror and to dismantle those terrorist networks.
We certainly understand Israel's right and need to defend itself. We understand that in any democratic society that people look to their government to protect them. What we do in our public statements as well as our private diplomatic communications is we urge Israel in taking steps to defend themselves to consider the consequences of their actions on the overall goal that all share and that is moving towards two states living side by side in peace and security -- re-energizing the roadmap.
QUESTION: Was there a phone call? Did Secretary Rice call the Israelis since Sunday?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think when we issued the statement, we talked about the fact that she had spoken with President Abbas. She also spoke later that day -- later -- that's right, yes, exactly. And what we are looking for is the Palestinian Authority to take steps to act to prevent terror. We are looking for them to act against those terrorist networks. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a group, a very violent group that uses terrorism to try to derail this process. They are operating outside the consensus of the Palestinian factions. We urge the Palestinian Authority to take action. We have been working -- we and others have been working quite closely and very diligently with the Palestinian Authority to build up their security force capabilities and they have made great progress. So we encourage them to live up to their obligations.
QUESTION: Are there any plans to withhold aid to the Palestinian Authority because of this upsurge in violence? Are you using that as a sort of a -- as a threat?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of anything under consideration to that effect.
Yes, Joel.
QUESTION: Yes, Sean. Since your trip to New York to the United Nations yesterday, Syria today has rejected the talk at the United Nations and their Foreign Minister is saying that they're convinced that Syria is being disparaged against before it comes to trial and they seem to be moving to other Arab countries to take on the United Nations in this resolution yesterday.
MR. MCCORMACK: You're referring to the resolution that was --
QUESTION: Exactly.
MR. MCCORMACK: -- passed yesterday, Resolution 1636. I think that the message from the international community in the form of a Security Council resolution could not have been more clear to the Syrian Government. That message, as Secretary Rice talked about, was that it must cooperate with the Mehlis investigation. The world and the Lebanese people are owed an answer to who is responsible for the assassination of their former Prime Minister. Those individuals must also be brought to justice. That is what is at the heart of this resolution.
The resolution also speaks to the fact that states cannot use threats of violence, use terror to try to influence the course of a political development of another country or to -- for political ends. I think the 15-0 vote, again, the message could not have been more clear to the Syrian regime.
Let me point out that the reason why Syria finds itself in the position in which it finds itself currently is because of the behavior of the Syrian regime. It's going to try to blame the United States. It's going to try to blame others in the international community. The fault lies with the Syrian Government. It is their behavior that has gotten them to the point where they have had two Security Council resolutions passed on this issue.
So we -- Foreign Secretary Straw talked about it, talked about it yesterday, and this statement to which you refer seems to only add to where the Syrian Government seems to be heading in its response to this resolution.
We encourage cooperation, as Foreign Secretary Straw said yesterday. From what we have heard, we're not holding our breath, but we -- the Security Council resolution, I think, speaks for itself in the need for Syria to cooperation in this investigation.
QUESTION: If you're not holding your breath, then presumably you have some idea for what you will do when they don't cooperate. What will that be?
MR. MCCORMACK: James, we're going to -- again, this is about Syria's actions and we are going to wait to see what it is that they do. And right now, where we are is the next step in this process is with Mr. Mehlis in his investigation. His team, I think, is in the region and it will be up to them to determine what the modalities are in working with the Syrian Government in terms of the interviews, who they request to interview in order to fulfill the mandate of their investigation, and that is to find out what happened, who is responsible for the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri.
So that's where we are in the process. We'll wait to see what Mr. Mehlis reports back to the Security Council. He has a target date of December 15th now to report back his findings to the Security Council. My understanding is that he can report prior to that, but we would expect a report on December 15th, at least by December 15th, as to what he has found.
At that point or at some point before, depending on when he does report, we will see what other potential steps might be required; what individuals, for example, might he name as being complicit in the planning or execution of the plot to assassinate former Prime Minister Hariri. Those individuals would then be referred to a committee of the Security Council for a potential travel ban and freezing of assets.
And in the case of a finding of non-cooperation with the Mehlis investigation, 1636 leaves open other potential steps, but at this point I wouldn't prejudge any other potential actions. But I would note is that it does come under a -- it is a Chapter 7 resolution which provides for a number of different possible remedies, including application of sanctions.
QUESTION: I'm pretty sure you and I had a private deal never to use the word "modalities" with each other, but I'll let it go this one time.
MR. MCCORMACK: It's a great State Department (inaudible). (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Sean, is it fair to say that the U.S. is not confident that Syria will change its behavior?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll see. The international community I don't think could encourage a changed behavior more strongly than with a 15-0 resolution, so we'll wait to see. We'll wait to see what the reaction is. Initial indications aren't too hopeful, but we'll see. We'll see what they do.
QUESTION: Change of subject.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Teri, we'll -- I'll come back to you. Let's move to the back.
Yes. Yes, Lambros. Yes, indeed.
QUESTION: Albania. Today in Albania, Mr. McCormack, in the heart of 500,000 Greeks minority, Albanian mob succeeded to postpone an official meeting between the President of the Republic of Greece, Carlos Papoulias, and his Albanian counterpart, Alfred Moisiu for security reasons. The Greek Government strongly protests the inability of the Albania Government to control the Albanian armories. Since Albania is today, I hate to say, your proxy or a puppet in the Balkans, like 65 years ago lawyer to the Fascist, Benito Mussolini and that awful Hitler and Greece is your strategic partner in the Balkans according to President George W. Bush? I'm wondering if you could comment on this unfortunate incidence.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I understand that there was a planned meeting and that it was cancelled. I think that questions about the meeting and the reasons for its cancellation are best referred to the two governments that were involved in the meeting. Neither of those two was the United States.
QUESTION: A follow up? Since the U.S. Government is trying today to preserve the entity of Kosovo, which was created by Hitler in 1943 transferring 300,000 Albanians from the mainland of Albania against the Serbs. I'm wondering why your government, with the same token, is not trying to preserve the Greeks in Albania to have their own destiny and then entity (inaudible) why this policy of partiality vis-à-vis to the Albanian minority of Serbia and to the Greek minority of Albania?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think I have anything for you on that. I don't have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: I know the meeting is going on now, but I wonder if you could preemptively read out the Secretary's meeting with Salva Kiir, the Sudanese Vice President?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't know if I can provide a preemptive readout of the meeting, but what I can say going into the meeting are a few things. One, this is the first meeting between the Secretary and Mr. Kiir. I believe it's his first visit to the United States. His first visit as a First Vice President in the Government of National Unity. He's also going to be meeting with Deputy Secretary Zoellick later in the day.
This is a meeting at which we're going to cover a number of different issues and talk about the state of play in implementation of the Government of National Unity. We're going to talk about the situation in Darfur. We're going to talk about the importance of Mr. Kiir leading by example, working to complete implementation of the Government of National Unity and also to have him encourage those remaining rebel groups in the south that are outside the Government of National Unity to engage in the Abuja process. It is through this process of political negotiation and dialogue that we believe that they will find an answer to those long-standing armed disputes.
We believe that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the example of the formation of the Government of National Unity is a positive example for those groups that are on the outside of this process right now to follow. It provides a kind of roadmap for how you might come to a political solution and serves as an example that there is a political solution to previously held differences between two groups.
I think, at this point, regarding again, regarding Darfur, the situation is, as we see it now since the beginning of the AU -- actually, since the beginning of this year, we have seen a great -- an end to the large-scale organized violence. Yes, there is still violence in Darfur and we call upon all groups to take every possible to step to end that violence. The AU mission is -- in those areas in which it has operated -- has succeeded in bringing down substantially the levels of violence, but it hasn't ended and we are going to, again, encourage all parties, including the Government in Khartoum, to do everything it can to end that violence. The United States is at the forefront of providing humanitarian assistance. I think we've provided about $600 million to date to alleviate the suffering in Darfur. We have been at the forefront of providing assistance to the AU mission, I believe to this point about $160 million.
So these are the general topics that we're going to discuss with Mr. Kiir. I believe Deputy Secretary Zoellick is also going to step out with Mr. Kiir, at which they might make a few statements and they might be open to some questions as well.
QUESTION: If this goes according to plan, would you mind having the Press Office pass a simple message to the effect we did -- you know, we raised this point?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. We can -- yeah, I can --
QUESTION: So we can past-tense them.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Understood. We'll try to get you some information that you can use. Yeah.
QUESTION: Sean, a follow-up.
QUESTION: Mr. Salva Kiir came here saying that he would ask the Administration to lift sanctions against Sudan and take it off the terrorism list. Will he be going home happy on those scores?
MR. MCCORMACK: At this point, Dave, I don't have any indication one way or the other what the Secretary or Deputy Secretary's reaction would be to those particular requests. What I'll try to do in following up on Barry's request is, from the Secretary's meeting, get you a post facto readout. And then with respect to Deputy Secretary Zoellick, I think he may have a few words to say on his meeting with him.
QUESTION: Just one more semi-related. Apparently, there was a lethal attack on mine-clearers in Sudan today, in southern Sudan. It was an international mine-clearing team. And I wonder if you have a reaction.
QUESTION: Three were killed.
QUESTION: Three guys were killed.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I don't have any reaction at this point to it. It certainly is a tragedy -- those who are there trying to help people in distress. It is, you know, quite a tragedy when they lose their lives.
In terms of the circumstances surrounding it, I don't have any particular information for you at this point.
QUESTION: Just to go back to the sanctions issue, what, in your opinion, needs to happen before sanctions can be lifted against Sudan? What are the kind of benchmarks that you perceive as being important?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, these are some of the things that the Secretary, I'm sure, and Deputy Secretary, will discuss with Mr. Kiir. It's a topic that we have talked to the Sudanese about over time. I remember when the Secretary was in Khartoum it was a topic that came up and it's something that we tell them we'll take a look at. They're, again, in the laws and regulations specific requirements, their outlined for all to see.
In terms of the terrorism list, I know that there were some requests for -- specifically to lift sanctions on, you know, very specific items related to transportation. Those are -- I know that we were taking a look at those requests. At this point I don't have any update to share with you. If there's something that has changed with regard to the sanctions, I'd be happy to share it with you.
QUESTION: Change of subject? Another thing on the Hill, there seems to be the view that the State Department is not doing enough to push for more money for the AU troops and that not enough money is being passed that way. And there seems to be some moves on the Hill to block some funding for AU troops?
MR. MCCORMACK: I wasn't aware of those questions being raised. As I said, we have provided, to date, about $160 million to the AU mission.
And also, on a separate subject, in the Norway donors conference, the United States indicated that it would seek up to $1.7 billion in support for implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, as well as for reconstruction in the south.
Now, we're working on -- we are working through that process right now. For '05, I think we have committed upwards of $400 million for that. And then we're also looking at the '06 and '07 budget requests. So we are working to fulfill the pledge that we indicated we would seek to take in Norway and we also have encouraged others to fulfill their pledges as well. I think that in some cases, there has been some lag in terms of follow up on pledging, so we've encouraged all parties to fulfill their pledges that they made in Norway.
So I think the overall picture when you look at the assistance provided to the AU, you look at the humanitarian assistance as well as the additional assistance that we indicated that we would seek. And at Norway, you have quite a substantial sum of money that the United States is devoting to Sudan.
QUESTION: So I just have to ask one more follow up.
QUESTION: In the meeting with the Norwegian Foreign Minister, did you touch on Sudan at all and what was that meeting about? And also maybe if you could give readout on -- was it Finland? What was it this morning -- was it Finland? Finland -- Finland and Norway, what did what was that about?
MR. MCCORMACK: On the meeting with the Norwegian, we talked about -- the Secretary did talk about the importance of continuing support for the AU mission. Norway was part of the -- as part of NATO, provided airlift to that mission. They also hosted the donors conference and the Secretary underlined the importance of working with the Sudanese Government to see implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. They also touched on -- the Secretary underlined the importance of Norway's participation in NATO missions in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Norway -- on Iraq, the Norwegian Foreign Minister indicated that they would continue to support Iraq by a variety of different means, including through police training and through economic support.
And you asked also for -- on the meeting with the Finnish Foreign Minister, that was this morning. They discussed a number of issues related to Finland's assumption of the EU presidency in 2006, including the need to further OSCE cooperation in advancing democracy in Europe and the Middle East. The Secretary and Foreign Minister also discussed issues related to Iran's behavior, including on nonproliferation, human rights and the importance that Iran start to play a constructive role in the Middle East and that's about it.
Yes. Let's move it around. Samir.
QUESTION: There's a press report that Secretary Rice is planning to visit Sudan this month. Can you confirm that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can confirm that that is not happening.
QUESTION: What about Mr. Zoellick? Is he planning to visit Sudan?
MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of his travel schedule, we'll keep you updated on that.
QUESTION: If there's a modality change, you'll let us know, right?
We have a couple more. Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. Yes, on Taiwan and the issue of freedom of press. Does the State Department today have any response to the Chen Administration's attempt to shut down a major cable news network for its coverage of government corruption and scandal?
MR. MCCORMACK: This is in regard to the TVBS?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would say on that that the United States places great importance on freedom of the press which, as we all know and have talked about, is a key democratic principle. We understand that Taiwan leaders and Taiwan people also place great importance on press freedom and we hope this will continue to be guaranteed in Taiwan.
Yes, Libby.
QUESTION: On bird flu. The President outlined his plan, preparedness plan, for the U.S. today. I'm wondering if there's any plans to get together the group of nations that met a few weeks ago at State and sort of follow up on what they talked about in that preliminary meeting.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have been -- we'll try to keep you updated in terms of meetings. There have been a number of actions and we've been very active on the international front on the issue. Under Secretary Dobriansky has been working quite closely with Health and Human Services Secretary Leavitt. They have -- as you pointed out, they hosted a conference here just a across the street in which we talked about the importance of essentially getting organized in order to, if there -- in the case there is a pandemic in which you have an outbreak of human-to-human transmission of avian influenza, that you have an effective monitoring network, that you have an effective response network.
And we have been working closely with these countries -- the Secretary -- Under Secretary -- in the Southeast Asia region. Under Secretary Dobriansky has talked about the monies that we have spent in order to make more robust those networks, those reporting networks, those prevention networks. Also, I know that the ministers of health and others recently met in Ottawa. We were up with Secretary Rice meeting with the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister. We also got a briefing from the World Health Organization's Special Representative talking about what steps that they are going to be taking.
As the President's speech indicates, this is an issue that is at the -- that has the attention of the highest levels of this government and we'll try to keep you updated in terms of what specific actions Under Secretary Dobriansky and the Department is taking in terms of meetings. But you can -- rest assured, we are working intensively with those countries in the region most affected at this point, it would seem, by avian influenza.
QUESTION: Sean, do you have any comment on the elections in Zanzibar? And also, I would like to know if you can confirm that the six-party talks will start on November the 9th.
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't think there has been an official announcement on the date for the six-party talks. We look forward to returning at an early date and we hope early in November, but an official announcement of a date that has been agreed upon by all the parties would come from the Chinese as the host of the talks.
In terms of the election in Tanzania, my understanding is that the election commission has announced that the Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party won both the parliamentary and presidential elections. I also understand that the opposition Civic United Front is contesting some of the results of those elections. International observers, including from the National Democratic Institute, are on the ground. They are doing their own assessment about these reports of irregularities.
I think the NDI did note in their assessment that these elections were a vast improvement over previous elections. NDI has been working -- has worked for several years in the country to help improve the infrastructure that is used to run elections, not only in the run-up but in terms of vote counting and encouraging the maximum transparency and all of the -- in the vote counting right now.
I think at this point, because we are still in a process of looking into potential irregularities -- not we, but the government and some of the international organizations, including NDI -- we're going to wait to see what their findings are in terms of what happened and what they have to say about these irregularities before we have any final opinions on the elections.
We would encourage the government to investigate any accusations of irregularities in a thorough and transparent manner, but I would note in terms of the overall direction in the running of elections and the execution of these elections, we have seen a considerable improvement over the last set of elections they had.
QUESTION: Election related. The group Human Rights Watch yesterday issued a report that basically said that the tactics of the Government of Azerbaijan preclude the possibility of a free and fair election there November 6th. I was wondering if the U.S. shares that kind of assessment?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we put out a statement on October 26th concerning our hopes for the elections. We're watching the elections in Azerbaijan closely. It is something that our Embassy monitors on a daily basis. I know that they have the attention of Assistant Secretary Fried and Secretary Rice is also interested in how these elections unfold.
The elections, I understand, will take place on November 6th, in a set of parliamentary elections. At this point I think that we are not going to -- we're not going to make any final pronouncements. We're not going to prejudge how an election that hasn't happened yet has turned out and I think that that is only fair.
We have noted some positive developments in Azerbaijan and there have also been some developments on the negative side of the ledger that we have talked about previously. So I think at this point we would encourage the Government of Azerbaijan to follow through on the pledges that it has made, including having accurate voter lists, having reliable voter identification documents and then finger-inking to eliminate multiple voting. So we're going to -- we have encouraged them to follow through in doing what they said they were going to do and then, you know, once the election takes place we'll have some final opinions not only about the run-up to the election but also election day.
James Rosen.
QUESTION: Do you expect that Ambassador Khalilzad will speak to reporters tomorrow after he gives his members-only briefing at the Senate? Do you have any idea?
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't talked to him about it.
QUESTION: Can we consider this a --
MR. MCCORMACK: A request?
MR. MCCORMACK: You can consider it a request, yes.
QUESTION: It goes one step beyond a request. A plea.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Cyprus. I caught by surprise last Thursday seeing at The Brookings Institute the former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbot under Bill Clinton's Administration presenting the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat as "president of Turkish republic of northern Cyprus," but I was told by Brookings Institute source -- I was there -- that Mr. Talbot appealed at the suggestion of the Department of State.
Could you please clarify for us this unusual political involvement because it's very important for the Cyprus problem?
MR. MCCORMACK: I -- you know --
QUESTION: Can you check? Otherwise it --
MR. MCCORMACK: I can't confirm that there was any discussion with Mr. Talbot concerning his meeting with Mr. Talat.
QUESTION: Presentation, not meeting. He presented in the public.
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you'd have to talk to The Brookings Institution about that.
QUESTION: But they told me that somehow it was suggested from here. That's why I --
MR. MCCORMACK: I have no information that would --
QUESTION: And the last one. Did you find the reason why DOS official has briefed exclusively the Turkish reporters excluding, however, the Greeks last Friday immediately after the end of the meeting between Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice and the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat here at the State Department? Why this act of discrimination?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think we talked about this on Friday.
QUESTION: No, you didn't. You told me you were going to check.
MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else? Joel.
QUESTION: Yes. Adam -- or, sorry, Sean --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm the good-looking one. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Right. There seems to be interference -- sorry. There seems to be --
MR. MCCORMACK: The smart one, too. Smart and good-looking.
QUESTION: There seems to be interference with the helicopters, aside from weather. There was a reported rocket-propelled grenade that missed, and it appears that both India and Pakistan are more working together. Are you -- been asked in any way to work the situation out? There was a recent Indian bombing this past week. It is the new year and it appears because of the winter weather they want to move the whole population south of out that Himalayan region.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the bombing in India, the Secretary did put a statement out this past Saturday.
Okay? Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:33 p.m.)
DPB # 186
Released on November 1, 2005

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