State Dept. Daily Press Briefing October 12, 2006

Published: Fri 13 Oct 2006 01:06 PM
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 12, 2006
Secretary's Meeting with National Security Advisor Steve Hadley
and Chinese State Councilor Tang / Meeting to Discuss Way Forward
with North Korea, UNSC Resolution
U.S. Expects Strong Resolution from Security Council / Objective
to Block N. Korea From Receiving Materials for Nuclear Activity,
World Food Program Aid Should go to Needy, not Military, Elite /
U.S. Will Suspend Humanitarian Food Assistance Until Assured that
Donations Go to Needy / U.S. Will Not Use Food as Weapon / Policy
Based on Facts as We Know Them
Proliferation Security Initiative Will Go Forward Regardless of
North Korea Known to Engage in Illicit Trade
U.S. Supports Japan in Taking Measures Against North Korea /
Individual States Must Decide Appropriate Response
North Korea's Bombastic Rhetoric Further Isolates It From
International Community
North Korea Faces International Condemnations / Not Just U.S.-
North Korea Issue
North Korea's Nuclear Program Can be Reversed
U.S. Seeking Diplomatic Solution
Ban Ki-Moon is Fine Candidate / Balloting for Secretary General is
British Foreign Secretary's Criticism of Guantanamo Bay / U.S.
Looks Forward to Closing Detention Center / U.S. Will Deal with
Detainees According to U.S. Law
French Decision to Classify Armenian Genocide as Holocaust /
Effect on Turkish Ascension to European Union
Andrew Natsios's Travel to Sudan / U.S. Assured He May Travel
Outside Khartoum / Visit is to Assess Situation and Push U.S.
Policy Position on Peacekeepers
U.S. Activities Strong / U.S. Deserves Credit for Peace Agreements
Violence Against Journalists
Travel Difficulties of Palestinian-Americans in Israel / Secretary
Plans to Bring Up Issue With Israeli Officials
12:35 p.m. EDT
QUESTION: Sean, (inaudible) I have to read the 15 questions today? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. Well, that is not welcome news Lambros. (Laughter.) Don't have any statements, so let's get right into your questions. Who wants to start?
QUESTION: It turns out the Secretary and Steve Hadley met with the Chinese envoy at the White House --
MR. MCCORMACK: They did.
QUESTION: -- without announcement --
MR. MCCORMACK: They did.
QUESTION: -- at 9:45 this morning and I wonder if you could tell us what they talked about, what may have been accomplished by the meeting. And also stories from Beijing say that the envoy would be talking to her about a trip to China. Could you get into any of these things, please?
MR. MCCORMACK: A couple things. Secretary Rice did participate in a meeting over at the White House -- Mr. Hadley's office -- the National Security Advisor with State Councilor Tang. I understand reading the press reports from my colleague Fred Jones from the NSC also mentioned that they stopped by the Oval Office so they had a meeting with the President as well.
I don't have any readout of the meeting for you, Barry. I think the White House is probably better positioned to do that than I. The intent of the meeting was to talk about the way forward in the wake of North Korea's announcement that it had conducted a nuclear test and that specifically in the immediate term focuses on what's going to be in this resolution. We're working hard on the resolution right now. We have a draft that's been circulated up in New York. We're working to see -- to try to put that into final form in the coming hours or days. That will depend upon the positions of others on the Security Council and get their input to that draft to see if it's acceptable to them. And that's pretty much where we stand at the moment.
QUESTION: Speaking of the positions of others, the Chinese today said that any sanctions against North Korea should be aimed -- not be punitive but rather designed to get to a peaceful resolution of the crisis. It seems as if there's no sort of softening in their position. That they -- while they are open to talking about some measures, they do not want to see very harsh ones. Do you get any sense that they are shifting position on that and that they're --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, no. I think that ultimately we're going to get a strong resolution from the Security Council in short order. You know, look, is the final product going to look like a wish list of the United States or other states? No, of course not; that's the give and take of multilateral diplomacy. But we believe that what we will get is a good strong resolution that sends a clear strong message to the North Korean regime that they have to change their behavior, that this behavior will not be tolerated. And furthermore, in a very practical sense, a resolution that will further everybody's objective of not allowing North Korea to in any way benefit from outside help that would further development of its nuclear program, WMD programs or missile technology programs. And also not allow them to ship out of North Korea the technology know-how and other items associated with the WMD or missile technology program as best you can ensure that there is a good solid seal so those things aren't able to be exported from North Korea.
QUESTION: Speaking of wish lists, are you open to narrowing the range of measures that you might like to see taken against North Korea in this first resolution and possibly coming back to it a second or a third time with additional measures rather than pushing for something with a lot in the first one?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think what we're looking at is one resolution here. Subsequent resolutions would, of course, be dependent upon North Korea's behavior. But we think it's important to have a good strong resolution, we think we're going to get one and we think that everybody in the room -- that Security Council chamber agrees on that. We'll see exactly what the final product is. Right now it's a pretty robust draft that has been circulated. So we'll see. We'll see how it comes out.
It's multilateral diplomacy. It may not come out looking exactly like the draft we have now. We certainly think that that would be -- it would be appropriate to have everybody support that draft, but we'll see. You know, we'll see how it plays out in the next day or so here.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the food issue briefly?
MR. MCCORMACK: Which food issue?
QUESTION: She repeated again in one of her many interviews just recently that we don't use it as a weapon.
QUESTION: The Chinese are feeding the North Koreans, and there's no question there's terrible need. The rationale for no longer doing it or suspending it is that you want to make sure it gets to the people who need it. How long is it going to take the U.S. to find that out? Would you -- can you go beyond the constant refrain, "Food is not a political weapon"? I mean there's starving people.
QUESTION: And you want to make sure it doesn't get to the Korean army; it gets to people who need the food.
QUESTION: So how -- what's the prospect of coming to some judgment about this that you can sort of rely on and resuming this humanitarian gesture?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we ourselves have come to a judgment that's unchanged and that that is we couldn't participate in the World Food Program -- humanitarian -- could not. We've talked about that before, for the very issues that you raised, Barry. We couldn't assure ourselves that the food that we would donate and that would be delivered via the World Food Program would actually get to those who really need it, the Korean people, and not be diverted to regime elites or the army or whomsoever else. It would -- the intent was to try to help out starving North Koreans.
The World Food Program has restarted on a limited basis its program. It has -- you can talk to them directly, but my sense was, at least as of a couple of months ago, even though they did have some trepidation about starting the program again, that they were able to get some assurances that they would be able to check to make sure the food actually got delivered.
You can check with the WFP to find out exactly the state of their program. Individual states are going to make individual decisions about bilateral assistance. The Chinese will do so, the South Koreans will do so, the Japanese will do so, as will we and other countries around the world.
QUESTION: So the U.S. judgment is that -- keep it suspended, what, indefinitely because you're not sure it gets to the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Until -- until the --
QUESTION: -- gets to hungry people?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, until you -- again, see a qualitative change in the situation whereby we can assure ourselves that our humanitarian assistance, paid for by U.S. tax dollars will actually get to those in need, you're not going to have a change in the status quo.
QUESTION: Are you constantly reviewing that or are you just -- or not? I mean, is that an exception?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, of course, people look at those things. As of right now, I don't detect any change in that policy. It's not a policy -- that change in our particular position at this point, our policy is not to use food as a weapon. We have a very deep concern for the plight of the North Korean people. I think President Bush spoke about that yesterday. We have a very deep concern about not only their humanitarian plight, but the human rights condition there in North Korea. So while people do constantly look at that, there's no change that I'm aware of at this point.
QUESTION: And just to be clear, you said there was no change in your position, that you don't use food as a weapon.
QUESTION: My question was more to whether you were constantly assessing the question of the judgment of whether food aid to North Korea would actually go to the needy rather than to the military.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure. Yeah, we do look at that. We would -- the United States would like to be in the position to reconsider whether or not it would be possible. Now, of course, that becomes a policy judgment based upon the facts as we know them. The facts as we know them right now haven't really changed qualitatively so that you have a different kind of situation.
Yeah, Charlie.
QUESTION: Sean, you mentioned the meeting this morning was to talk about the way forward. My question is might that include Secretary Rice traveling to the region and more to the point, would she travel the region -- would she not travel the region until a UN resolution has been adopted?
MR. MCCORMACK: We'll keep you updated on her travel. Nothing to announce at this point.
QUESTION: I'm not asking for an announcement on travel. I'm asking whether if she goes, would she go -- would she not go until a UN resolution has been passed?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Charlie, we're focused on getting a resolution passed. We'll let you know when she's ready to hit the road again.
QUESTION: But in my original question, I said reports from Beijing say one topic for discussion with the envoy is a trip by her to China.
MR. MCCORMACK: Same answer, Barry.
QUESTION: Did they discuss it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Same answer.
QUESTION: What's the answer? I'm sorry, I'm not --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the original answer, if you remember when I first answered the question, was I don't have a readout of the meeting. So in order to have that information, I would have to have a readout of the meeting, which I previously said I didn't have. But you asked again, so I'm telling you again now that I don't have a readout of the meeting.
MR. MCCORMACK: There you go. All right. Anybody -- yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, one of the points they mentioned apparently in the discussions in New York is whether this -- the resolution would include interdiction of shipping and air and other kinds of transport in and out of North Korea. If that isn't included in -- if that cannot be included in a resolution, is that something the United States using the PSI would -- could so?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, PSI goes forward regardless of this particular resolution. We'll see what's ultimately included in it. John Bolton probably wouldn't look kindly upon my giving away negotiating positions at this point, whether what he's ready to give, what he's not ready to give. We think it is important to do everything that we possibly can as an international community to see that dangerous exports from North Korea, i.e., WMD technology or materials, don't reach hands that might do harm to us or others.
So that certainly is a primary cause of -- you know, a primary objective in our mind. And also to make sure that the regime isn't able to further benefit from development of these technologies. They have essentially an open arms bazaar and they've been known to sell pretty much everything that they have at their disposal. So you certainly don't want to see that fall into the wrong hands and you don't want to see the regime benefit from that kind of trade, never mind the other kinds of illicit trade that it's engaged in.
QUESTION: Sean, Ban Ki-Moon has said that he will be happy to go to North Korea and serve as an envoy or whatever it is to -- actually, he said that even before the test on Monday. Would you welcome a role for him? And can you also talk about your decision to support him on Monday and when that decision was made and why did you wait until late in the process to do it?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he talked about traveling potentially to North Korea in the context of his being Secretary General. He's still the Foreign Minister of South Korea at the moment. I think everybody's focus right now is on getting a resolution passed, implementing that resolution, and implementing it effectively, hopefully to bring about a change in North Korea's behavior.
As for his candidacy for Secretary General of the United Nations, there's going to be a vote Monday and we'll have a chance to raise our hand at that point. We think that certainly he is a fine candidate, think that he certainly exceeds all the requirements that one might look for in a Secretary General. And should he be elected Secretary General by the General Assembly, we look forward to working with him.
QUESTION: But yeah, and there was no particular reason that you held out until pretty much the last moment to support him, at least publicly because I don't know what you voted for in these --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the nature of the process is that these are secret ballots. It moves from a process where all the ballots are the same color and you have no idea who voted for whom or who voted to encourage whom and who voted to discourage whom. It then moves forward to a process where the permanent members of the Security Council have a different kind of ballot, and he won -- all five security members voting to encourage him. Clearly we did. So I think you can safely assume that we have -- since we did in that process vote to encourage him and vote for his nomination that we did so previously.
QUESTION: I was asking because ten years ago the Clinton Administration made its public support for Kofi Annan to replace Boutros Boutros-Ghali very early on in --
MR. MCCORMACK: I think those are two totally different circumstances.
QUESTION: Right. But of course this is the same position and the same process. But just one last thing --
MR. MCCORMACK: But the circumstances --
MR. MCCORMACK: The circumstances I believe are quite different.
QUESTION: Right. Yes, they had another objective of actually getting rid of someone else. But just one last point on any possible travel to Pyongyang by Mr. Ban. You don't -- even though he was talking about once he assumes the position, you don't think that the events this week warrant a possible trip by him as a South Korean Foreign Minister to Pyongyang?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Nicholas, I don't think anybody's talking about that at the moment. What people are talking about is working to get a strong resolution.
QUESTION: Can I just pick up on that?
QUESTION: You have said that the purpose of this resolution is to make Pyongyang see the cost of this nuclear program and the nuclear attacks in an effort to get them back to the talks. So do you see the resolution as standing on its own and then hopefully they'll feel the pinch, or are you intending to accompany that with some kind of diplomacy to continue to show Pyongyang that if they were to change their mind that they can still come back to the table? I mean is it just the sanctions or do you see countries still continuing to talk to Pyongyang to get them back to the table?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you take the steps that the international community is now poised to take in order to achieve an objective. The objective here is to get them to change their behavior.
Certainly our objective on the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons program is to see a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. That's everybody's shared objective. Certainly in the six-party talks that's what the North Korean regime signed up to. So you want to get them to change their behavior.
If at some point they choose to avail themselves of the mechanism of the six-party talks to achieve some of the things that they say they want to achieve, that's certainly positive. We would encourage it. The six-party mechanism remains. It is there. But given North Korea's actions right now, although I don't have insight to their decision-making processes, I'm not sure that now is the moment that they are going to choose to come back to the six-party talks and make an announcement that they are ready to go. I might be wrong. And certainly one would hope that they would see the light and choose the path of the potential for some greater integration into the rest of the world as opposed to just the opposite, further isolation, which is where they're going now.
QUESTION: But what I was trying to get at is when you say that this furthers their isolation, do you see these measures themselves as the isolation, or are you advocating or have you spoken to your allies about continuing to reach out to North Korea diplomatically to try and talk to them, or is this -- are these measures supposed to stand on themselves until -- they know that the door is open and they can knock on it when they want?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think it's -- you know, they read the press clippings. You know, they watch the TV. They listen to the radio. They understand that that pathway is available to them. But right now, the world is focused on getting a resolution that puts in place certain restrictions on their ability to do what they have been doing in the past.
QUESTION: A North Korean ambassador today is quoted as threatening Japan with "strong countermeasures" --
QUESTION: -- if Japan imposes tougher bilateral sanctions. Do you have any comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. You know, I don't know what that means. I don't know what they mean by that. Japan has taken the steps that it believes is prudent in reaction to what North Korea -- North Korea's announcement. Individual states will make individual decisions. We put out a statement saying that we supported Japan in taking those steps, although those decisions are solely theirs to make. Prior to that, in the wake of the -- and in the wake of the missile launch Japan and Australia decided to take some additional measures. So I think you will see individual states doing -- taking steps that they deem appropriate. They'll probably be a little bit different for each particular state. Each state has a different kind of relationship with North Korea. And then all states will be -- depending on the form of the Security Council resolution -- will be subject to its restrictions and its requirements.
QUESTION: Do you think North Korea ought to be making threats like that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, it certainly doesn't further the cause of trying to reach out to the international community and get back to some pathway where they can realize through a negotiated solution some of the things that they want to achieve. It's sort of more bombastic rhetoric from them that has the practical effect of isolating them from the rest of the community.
Yes, Libby.
QUESTION: On the test itself, I may have missed this, but have you guys come any closer to determining --
MR. MCCORMACK: You haven't missed anything, no.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) I came in just a little late. Have you come any closer to determining what actually happened there?
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have any news for you. But as -- you know, as --
QUESTION: Is the time running out to determine that? I know it was a couple days of a window that we'd be able to --
MR. MCCORMACK: No. You know, I can't tell you. The experts who -- that analyze all these things in minute detail -- I couldn't tell you what their window is. But regardless of the -- whether or not this was a nuclear test, the North Korean regime intended the world to believe that it was and make a political statement that it was. You know, we believe that that in and of itself, coupled with the fact that something happened in North Korea, is reason enough alone to move forward with the Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe more tests are coming?
MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have any information on that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Anything else on North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Who has a North Korean, you? Okay, yeah.
QUESTION: Sean, if economical sanctions are to be implemented on North Korea, what's the benefit of these sanctions, especially that North Korea have developed its capabilities in nuclear weapons on its own without the use of the outside world and what's the benefit of these sanctions if North Korea is an isolated country anyways?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, they certainly are isolated and that is in large part self-imposed isolation. As for the extent to which they did this themselves, I can't tell you. I think that if you look back at the historical record, there may have been some outside assistance. They've been at this a long time, you know, decades --
QUESTION: But 90 percent --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- working on the nuclear program. I can't tell you the extent to which this was an indigenous effort and the extent to which there was outside assistance. Our view, however, is that regardless of the state of their nuclear program and how they got there, that this is a reversible step. This can be reversed. There are other examples of countries that have sworn off their nuclear weapons programs and nuclear weapons. You can point to South Africa, Kazakhstan, Ukraine. Libya is the most recent example. So there is precedent for this and our encouragement to North Korea, as well as the encouragement of the rest of the world, is to follow those examples.
I think if you look at each of those countries, each of those countries have benefited from the decision that they took to either give up their nuclear weapons or to give up both their nuclear weapons program and their nuclear weapons. So we would encourage them to do so.
Is there another part to your --
QUESTION: Yes. And what are the measures that the United States would take with its allies so that the situation in Asia would not turn to be a nuclear race? I mean here like Japan and --
QUESTION: -- South Korea.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Japanese Government itself has come out and said that they don't intend to have any changes to their nuclear status. And we, of course, are treaty allies with South Korea and Japan. We have certain obligations and President Bush made very clear that we will fulfill all of our treaty obligations. Our view is that it would not be a positive step that there -- as a result of these actions that there be a change in the nuclear balance within the region. And I think that the indications are -- that are coming out of the region right now are -- track exactly with that, witness the Japanese statement.
QUESTION: North Korea.
MR. MCCORMACK: North Korea, yes. Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Today North Korea has mentioned that if the United States imposed the sanctions against North Korea it would be equal to the declaration of war against North Korea. What is your comment on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: My comment is that they have much greater issues than just the United States. You know, this is a global problem that they have. They are completely isolated on this score. So they want to make it a U.S.-North Korea issue, it's not. This is -- has to do with the world's condemnation of North Korea's behavior not just the United States.
Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: The Secretary met with Chinese President's Envoy State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan this morning.
QUESTION: Do you know if they talked directly about how far the UN sanctions will go?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a readout of the meeting. It was over at the White House. Yeah. They did not have a separate meeting here at the State Department.
QUESTION: President Bush yesterday ruled out the use of force against North Korea. So why are all options on the table on Iran?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, a couple of things. One, what he said, if you go back and look at the transcript, he said we have no intention to invade or attack North Korea. He's said that before, he said that in South Korea. We have tried to reassure the North Korean regime of that fact many different times even in the context of the six-party talks. All that said, no President in the United States ever takes options off the table. You don't want the President of the United States to do that. That is just -- that is the nature of that office as well as the United States. We are, however, seeking a diplomatic solution both to the situation with Iran as well as with North Korea. That is the focus of our energies right now.
Anything else on North Korea?
QUESTION: Yeah, one quickly.
QUESTION: It's still the U.S. Government's position that it has no hostile intent towards North Korea?
MR. MCCORMACK: There is no change from our previous statements on that.
QUESTION: Including hostile intent?
MR. MCCORMACK: Off the top of my head I can't tell you that that's the exact phrase that was used. If in fact that's verified by the transcripts from the President and Secretary Rice, yes. But I'm -- what I do know is that the President has said, as recently as yesterday, that we have no intention to invade or attack. So I can't confirm that particular phrase for you.
QUESTION: Sean, I think the question was: he, the President, said no, and Secretary, too, no plan or intention to attack North Korea, but you would not say that about Iran. And so the question is why. What's the difference?
MR. MCCORMACK: We -- you know -- well, it is a specific issue that came up with respect to North Korea. They were seeking this very specific security statement. As for Iran, the same situation holds. We are seeking a diplomatic solution. We are seeking a diplomatic solution to what is a problem created by Iran. But it is not just an issue with the United States. This is an issue that Iran has with the rest of the world. So in both cases we are seeking a diplomatic solution. And in each case, you will treat it differently according to the specific facts of that case.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about another subject if we're ready for it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if we're ready for it yet. Anything else on North Korea?
Your question, Barry.
QUESTION: Okay, the British Foreign Secretary again, now more critical than ever, says the detention of terrorist suspects in Guantanamo is unacceptable. And I wondered if you had any reaction to that.
MR. MCCORMACK: I saw the news story, Barry. I believe it was with regard to an annual report that they have issued. Look, we don't want Guantanamo open forever. We don't want to be the world's jailers. We certainly would look forward to the day when Guantanamo is closed. At the moment, it's housing some very dangerous people including those who are responsible for the attack on this country which killed 3,000 people. We do now have a process, or in the near future will have a process, guided by U.S. law to deal with the people who are in Guantanamo Bay and we will deal with those people according to the law and according to our international treaty obligations and as were outlined by the Supreme Court. So we all look forward to the day when Guantanamo Bay is closed down.
Yeah. Okay. Sylvie, do you have one?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, we'll come back to you, Lambros, and your 15 questions.
QUESTION: Yeah, I have a question on Turkey, actually.
MR. MCCORMACK: She beat you at your own game, Lambros. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The French parliament voted about the Armenian genocide and I wanted to know if you have any question of that. The law makes the Armenian genocide the same -- put it at the same level as the Holocaust and it's forbidden to deny it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We have our views on this. We've talked about them before. We issue usually an annual statement on the topic. I don't have anything to add to that other statement.
QUESTION: Do you think it's something positive --
MR. MCCORMACK: I would just refer you back to what we've said on the matter.
QUESTION: -- for relations with Turkey?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'd just refer you back to what we've said on the matter.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
QUESTION: Are you concerned that this could hurt Turkish-French relations and Turkey's relationship with the European Union?
MR. MCCORMACK: That will be up to Turkey and France, and Turkey and the EU. We certainly hope that they are able to work through the issues that are quite clearly on the table in terms of Turkey's accession discussions with the EU. It's quite clear there's been a formal process where the issues are before everybody and it's up to the two sides to work through them all.
QUESTION: Should the recognition of the Armenian genocide be a precondition for Turkey's acceptance?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, Turkey and the EU have a process. They have a very clear roadmap for the issues that they have to work through. That is between the EU and Turkey. As for this question that's come up, we have our views on it. It is very clearly stated in the public record and I don't have anything to add to it.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm, yes.
QUESTION: Two interesting developments took place today, Mr. McCormack. Number one: the Nobel Prize was awarded today to Orhan Pamuk, a Turkish intellectual, an excellent writer, who has called on his nation to recognize the Armenian genocide.
QUESTION: Number two, the French parliament adopted the law, much like similar law dealing with the Holocaust, that imposes penalties for the denial of Armenian genocide. Why, despite courageous voice in Turkey and growing pressure from Europe, the U.S. Government continues to reverse (inaudible) effort in blocking a single up-or-down vote on the Armenian genocide resolution before Congress? In light of these developments, will the U.S. Government think twice today its stance on the Armenian genocide?
MR. MCCORMACK: Do you have another question?
QUESTION: But what is the answer? Then I will know.
MR. MCCORMACK: Look at our statement. I don't have anything to add to it.
QUESTION: Okay. The next question is -- (laughter). It's on Turkey and I will stop.
According to reports, the Turkish Free Party leader Yasar Okuyan called the Government of Recep Erdogan to declare the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson "persona non grata." In a recent statement he charges the U.S. Ambassador that "is interfering in Turkey's internal affairs," explaining that the American Ambassador actually insulted the President of the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish armed forces under the chairmanship of General Yasar Buyukanit and the opposition party who (inaudible), when the Ambassador said that "There is no threat of religious fundamentalism in Turkey. It is only noise." Any comment, Mr. McCormack, since his statement against your government and the government of Recep Erdogan who is trying very hard to preserve and protect democracy in Turkey for which everyone is very concerned?
MR. MCCORMACK: Ross Wilson is doing a good job as Ambassador to Turkey.
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Well --
QUESTION: Well, if I can just follow up on that, I mean, the comments of the Ambassador did cause a lot of concern in Turkey. I mean, do you stand by those comments that --
MR. MCCORMACK: I haven't seen this specific report and I haven't talked to Ross about it, but I do know that he is doing a good job there.
QUESTION: Okay, I have -- I have one on Darfur.
QUESTION: Could you tell us about Mr. Natsios's trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: He is going to be leaving, I think, today.
MR. MCCORMACK: He is going to be leaving today. He is going to be traveling to Sudan. He does expect to travel to Khartoum, Darfur and Juba on this trip. He's going to be meeting with government officials, civil society leaders, NGOs, our embassy staff and our USAID staff.
QUESTION: Are there any restrictions that you know of on going where he'd like to go?
MR. MCCORMACK: He's been assured -- we have been assured by the Sudanese Government that he will be able to travel outside of Khartoum to these places.
QUESTION: To the extent that he --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he intends to go to Khartoum, to Darfur and Juba, and we've been assured -- we have been assured that he will be able to do so.
QUESTION: I get that. What I'm wondering is if he wants to be able to go, for example, to particular camps in Darfur, I'm wondering if they've placed any restrictions on his movements.
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I'm -- not that I'm aware of.
QUESTION: Is he expected to meet with President Bashir? Did he ask for a meeting, do you know?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't -- you know, I don't have list of with whom he's going to meet -- be meeting. Just government officials from -- see if we can get you some more on that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Let me ask you if he'll be renewing the President's appeal for Sudan to clear the way for UN peacekeepers.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure, you bet. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. So that's what he's hoping to get out of this trip concretely?
MR. MCCORMACK: What's that?
QUESTION: That's what he's trying to get out of the trip concretely?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he's going to assess the situation and then try to push our policy position as well as the policy position of the Security Council, and that is to, as a first step, allow UN peacekeepers into Sudan. He's probably going to be talking about implementation of the Darfur Peace Agreement as well as the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
QUESTION: He's pushing for that -- is that something he's expecting to get accomplished during the trip?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he's going to -- you know, we'll see what -- we'll see what comes out of the trip.
QUESTION: Could you take Arshad's question about whether there are any restrictions on Mr. Natsios visiting refugee camps?
MR. MCCORMACK: If -- I'll check to see if he -- what camps he intends to visit and we'll let you know if he has any problems visiting those places.
QUESTION: But at least at this point -- I don't mean to belabor it -- but, you know, there are restrictions on visas sometimes, only 25 miles from the (inaudible). Are there any stated restrictions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Regardless of that, regardless of those kinds of questions, we've been assured that he will be able to travel to those places where he wants to go. If he's not, you're sure to hear about it from us.
QUESTION: There's an African Union delegation that's planning on going following the meeting that was held this week and the Nigerian President suggesting that it -- he did agree that it was genocide in Darfur. Do you know if those two visits may overlap at all with Natsios?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don't. We can check for you.
QUESTION: This happened a little while ago. I'm not sure if you had the chance to see the remarks by the Deputy Secretary General Mark Malloch Brown gave a -- well, he gave an address to the Brookings Institution about the United Nations and the use of force and he criticized the United States in terms of the fact that it said that the United States has kind of limited the circle of peacemaking to a small group and that the body isn't really representative of all members. And in that sense a lot of times the kind of pronouncements of the United Nations don't have all that much legitimacy and effectiveness because the circle isn't widened enough to have a representative body.
MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to take a look at his remarks. I'm not quite sure I understand what the criticism is there. The fact of the matter is the United Nations comprises member-states. Member-states are the core of the United Nations. And just a simple fact, there is a limited amount of competent combat capability in the world among military forces and competent professional military forces. That group, that subset is much smaller than the actual existing numbers of military forces all around the world. So that is important to keep in mind when you're thinking about peacekeeping operations. Sure, you can deploy all sorts of forces around the world. But the question is are they effective, are they professional, are they competent? Being able to answer those three questions as well as other questions is important. It's important to not only accomplishing the mission but also the credibility of the UN peacekeeping operation as a whole.
QUESTION: Do you have something else?
QUESTION: Are you on Darfur?
QUESTION: In the same speech, Mark Malloch Brown said the U.S. and Britain are doing a good job in highlighting the suffering in Darfur, but neither country is doing enough in terms of selling the idea of a UN peacekeeping force.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know --
QUESTION: I know that the Secretary has been focusing on this issue perhaps more in the last two weeks than she did previously.
QUESTION: She gave a speech. She raised it with the Egyptian Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: Andrew Natsios has said there's increasing contact with Arab countries on this. But perhaps you should -- maybe I should use your words instead of mine as to what the U.S. has been doing to highlight this issue.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it's quite clear what we have been doing. This was a -- it was a primary topic of conversation during the Secretary's trip -- recent trip to the Middle East most especially in Cairo, when you got the Gulf Cooperation Council+2, Jordan and Egypt together, to talk about this very issue. She talked about it bilaterally with Saudi leadership as well as the Egyptian leadership. She has been out in front in putting the public spotlight on this issue.
So look, I don't know exactly what he said. I have seen comments from him before criticizing member-states for various things, singling out the United States, singling out Great Britain, singling out other states. And frankly, it is not the place of that position to do so. It sounds like another in a series of speeches this guy is giving being critical of others. He might take a little -- allocate a little bit more of his time to doing the job at hand than going out and giving speeches criticizing, criticizing member-states. So, you know, at a certain point it's hard to take those kinds of criticisms seriously, especially when you look at exactly what this President and this Secretary of State and the previous Secretary of State have been doing to try to resolve this issue and to bring public attention to it. If not for this Administration you would not have the level of international attention on this issue, and you probably would not have a Comprehensive Peace Agreement being implemented, and you certainly wouldn't have had a Darfur Peace Agreement.
Now is that a perfect agreement? No, it's not. But it is something that can be worked from and that can be implemented. So in terms of this sort of rhetoric, I think we're going to focus on doing the job.
QUESTION: Wait. In his defense -- this is not a question -- in his defense, I took one little snippet of a speech in which he had kind things to say about the U.S. and this was not an anti-American speech. I just -- I think I should point that out in fairness.
MR. MCCORMACK: But I can only react to what -- you know, the quotes that you're giving me. Certainly if there's praise for the United States and the efforts of other member countries, great.
QUESTION: There have been some ads in the media in the last couple of days by a group of former Assistant Secretaries, Congressmen, Senators, including Lee Hamilton, Anthony Lake, Sandy Berger, Warren Rudman, all recommending -- and they say that they've written the Secretary of State -- in addition to trying to get the UN force in that there needs to be tough sanctions against the government including a no fly zone, embargo of oil imports. Has the Secretary been speaking to this group of former policy heavyweights about the issue?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not aware of any particular conversations on it. But I would point out that the United States has been at the forefront of pushing for tough resolutions. There have been others who have stood in the way of that.
QUESTION: So you do favor tougher sanctions on the government?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'm saying that we have been in the forefront of pushing for tough resolutions, witness the latest resolution that was passed. Would we have hoped for something tougher to have come out of the Security Council? Yes, we would have. We made that clear. But it is something to work with. It is a resolution that can be implemented and should be implemented.
QUESTION: Just a quick one on Iraq. Gunmen stormed into the office of a news satellite channel in Baghdad and killed -- there are varying reports but ours says that 11 employees were killed. The channel was owned by what is described as a secular political party, and its staff was a mix of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds. And the head of the party, who was also -- had some kind of a role in running the news station was killed. Do you have any comment on this, sort of the latest attack on media in Iraq? And do you have any reason to believe that the channel's owner's secular outlook is one of the reasons for this attack?
MR. MCCORMACK: I would have to look into the facts of this. I don't have the facts surrounding it. Very clearly we have supported development of the free and vigorous media in Iraq, and it is. I've been there. I've watched Secretary Rice, the Foreign Secretary Straw at the time, take questions from them. She's taking questions in roundtables from them. It's pretty vigorous questioning. I think it would certainly stand up to the kind of incisive tough questioning that you would get from Western media as well. So there is a vibrant free media in Iraq. We certainly support the development of that. And it is -- and again, I can't comment on the specifics of this report. I haven't looked into it. I don't have it for myself. It is a sad fact around the world that journalists seeking to report to their populations and to the world are sometimes subject to -- oftentimes subject to threat, intimidation, violence and sometimes even murder. And it is a tribute to people in this profession, good journalists around the world, that they keep doing it even in the most difficult circumstances.
QUESTION: And how do you think your plan to secure Baghdad is going more generally?
MR. MCCORMACK: Talk to the military about that.
QUESTION: Sean, on another thing, we're running long here --
MR. MCCORMACK: I've got time, Barry.
QUESTION: I have time, too, if this is really worthwhile. The UN agency is reporting --
MR. MCCORMACK: First, let the record note he -- that was not a sarcastic remark.
QUESTION: No, no, it's not sarcasm, because the U.S. response to these allegations would be very interesting. The Secretary last night, and I guess it isn't the first time she did it, spoke to a Palestinian-American group and spoke of the humiliation of an occupation. I guess she means Israel is humiliating the Palestinians by occupation. Now there's a UN report that says there's a sharp increase in restrictions on travel, very large, very difficult, in effect there are whole areas becoming compartmentalized. I don't know if you've seen the report. But keeping her remarks in mind at all and what you've been trying to do, do you have anything to say about this report or about the situation?
MR. MCCORMACK: To my mind we haven't done an analysis of the report. I saw the news report and I did ask about the increased number of checkpoints, and it gave I think a 40 percent increase.
MR. MCCORMACK: That, I've asked folks to look into to see if we can verify it. I can't at this point, Barry.
MR. MCCORMACK: You heard from the Secretary last night about the general issue. I don't really have anything to add to what she said.
QUESTION: One other thing, then. She made some reference to travel by Palestinian Americans having difficulty I suppose getting to either Israel or the territories. Can you elaborate on that at all?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. There have been some cases, more than a handful, where there have been some difficulties of people that previously have been able to freely cross between Israeli areas and Palestinian areas aren't able to do so.
QUESTION: U.S. citizens?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. Well, they may be --
QUESTION: Or whatever.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, maybe dual citizens. Regardless, they hold U.S. passports as American citizens, so it doesn't make a difference.
MR. MCCORMACK: And this was brought to the attention of the Secretary, and it's something that she's looking into and she's going to raise with Israeli officials.
QUESTION: Has she reached any temporary conclusions? Is it some discrimination or is it based on thin suspicions of terrorism? Is it --
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think --
QUESTION: Is it generic bigotry? What is it?
MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to try to, you know, characterize and broad-brush, Barry. I think that each -- obviously, each individual case will be different. But the fact is there's more than a handful of these cases, and it is something that has got her attention. We're talking about American citizens here.
QUESTION: Passport holders?
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)
DPB # 165
Released on October 12, 2006

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