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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 13, 2007

INDEX:

MIDDLE EAST

Quartet Meeting on July 19 in Lisbon, Portugal / Secretary Rice Will Attend
Tony Blair Will Attend the Quartet Meeting / Blair’s Mandate / Not Aware of Any Attempts to Alter the Mandate

KOSOVO

U.S. Supports Mr. Ahtisaari and his Recommendations

PAKISTAN

U.S. Views on Pakistan Have Not Changed / Musharraf is a Valued Partner and Ally

NORTH KOREA

No Communications with North Korea to Elaborate on Press Statement
Moving Toward Resolution of Korean Conflict
Discussions for a Permanent Peace on the Korean Peninsula


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:41 p.m. EDT

MR. CASEY: Afternoon, guys, TGIF happy Friday. I don't have anything to start you with so Matt.

QUESTION: Well, maybe you can enlighten as to the Quartet meeting status since the UN seems to have come out and said that Secretary General Ban will be attending one in Lisbon on the 19th.

MR. CASEY: Well, enlightenment is a hard thing to come by in this building sometimes. But I did just check with her office and I can now confirm that what the UN Secretary General spokesman said --

QUESTION: He's not lying.

MR. CASEY: -- is true. There will, in fact -- we understand now there will, in fact, be a Quartet meeting on the 19th in Lisbon. It will be an opportunity for the ministers to follow up on some of the work that's been done by the envoys, including -- at the envoy level, including at their meeting this past week in London. And I do understand as the statement from the Secretary General's office says that Tony Blair will, in fact, be there and that will certainly be the first opportunity for the Quartet envoys collectively to talk with him and talk a little bit about the role and mission he's going to be playing for them.

QUESTION: So before -- more questions on the meeting -- does this mean that we can assume that the Secretary's other stop on the trip of the increasingly dwindling itinerary is still on?

MR. CASEY: You could assume that as we said yesterday the intention at this point is to go to both Lisbon and to Ghana for her to participate in the AGOA meeting.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. in conversation with the Europeans as to Tony Blair's mandate and what his role's going to be? There were I think ten European foreign minister who wrote an open letter to Tony Blair in Le Monde on Monday and they seemed to encourage him to take a larger role in negotiating between the Israelis and Palestinians.

MR. CASEY: Well, I think the Quartet statement issued previously when we announced this gave a general idea of what his mandate and role intends to be. I know there have been some additional discussions about that at the envoys level at their recent meeting. And I'm sure they'll have an opportunity to discuss some of the specifics of how his mission will operate and how he will function as the Quartet's envoy. But I think the mandate that's been provided by the Quartet on this is pretty clear and, again, I think it's -- what that mandate is is extremely important. It's a prerequisite for a Palestinian state to have functioning Palestinian institutions and it's certainly a prerequisite to have a Palestinian state that serves the interest of its people and that functions well. So I think that's a fairly substantial mandate to begin with.

Certainly, Prime Minister Blair -- former Prime Minister Blair -- is a respected world leader with tremendous authority and someone who as the President says when he speaks people listen to him. So I'm sure the ministers and others will be happy to listen to whatever advice he has. But I believe the mandate that he's been given by the Quartet is fairly clear. It's a very substantial and important role and I know it's one he looks forward to playing.

QUESTION: Have any of the European countries approached the U.S. with an effort to expand that mandate?

MR. CASEY: Not that I'm aware of. But of course the EU and the EU countries are represented in -- as part -- they are part of the Quartet and certainly if there is a EU view on this issue that is different than what the EU signed on to at the time the mandate was given, I'm sure that their representatives will be happy to make that case. But it's not something that's been raised with us as far as I know.

QUESTION: Were you able to check to see if Mr. Blair would be having any talks pre-Lisbon with the Secretary or --

MR. CASEY: I did and he's not scheduled to meet with anyone here.

QUESTION: Okay. And then do you know -- as far as you know, is the mandate -- I'm assuming from what you said before but I just want to make sure. The mandate issue for the United States is settled and this is not something that's going to be brought up at the meeting in Lisbon.

MR. CASEY: Again, the mandate as I understand it is what was put forward in the Quartet's statement and I'm not aware of any desire on anyone's part at this point, before he's even begun that work, to change it.

QUESTION: Except for the letter that was signed by the ten --

MR. CASEY: Well, again, I'm referring to the members of the Quartet. And at this point I have -- there has been no discussion that I'm aware among the members of the Quartet to, again, decide to change, expand or alter the mandate of someone who has a very important job to play and who's yet to even begin that work.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: But you still think he shouldn't speak directly to Hamas?

MR. CASEY: I -- we're exactly where we were on that subject, yes.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Casey, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested today Martti Ahtisaari unfitness* to mediate further talks based on a bunch of reports that Albanian mafia bribe the UN Kosovo mediator, something which has been most* confirmed by Washington-based Global Information System, GIS, and Gregory Copely of Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute. Given the U.S. Government concern about corruption at the UN, should the U.S. Government be calling for an investigation into this matter? How do these allegations impact U.S. confidence in Ahtisaari's fitness to mediate further talks in Kosovo?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think that the reports you're referring to probably fall into the category of spurious. But look, Mr. Ahtisaari is a distinguished former head of government of Finland, a person with a tremendous amount of experience and a track record in working on these issues. He has the full confidence of the Secretary General who appointed him UN and certainly the plan that Mr. Ahtisaari put forward has the full endorsement of the United States as the basis for moving forward.

We've put forward a Security Council resolution with others that calls presently for a period of additional discussions among the parties prior to implementation of those recommendations. But again, I don't see any reason why there should be any question about the work that he did. We very much appreciate and respect the efforts that he made. We believe that he came up with a good plan and one that's in the best interests of the Kosovars, of the Serbian people and of the region as a whole.

QUESTION: One more on the same issue. According to reports, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon already started an investigation about these payments, confirmed the existence by a report prepared for him by the German intelligence agency BND unit assigned to the UN mission in Kosovo. Any comment on it?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, you're free to go ask the UN what investigations it has or hasn't started. The facts are very simple here. There needs to be a resolution of the situation in Kosovo. The plan that Mr. Ahtisaari came up with is the best solution possible, we believe, as a basis for such a resolution. That's what we're working forward on. If you'd like to pursue shadows, feel free to talk to the UN about it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Please, a question about Pakistan. Can you say how concerned the United States is right now about the grip on power of its important ally, President Musharraf, particularly reports coming out of Pakistan that there's been a split between Musharraf and hard-line religious forces inside the country in the aftermath of the mosque siege and the military action against it?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don't think our views on Pakistan are any different today than they were yesterday or last week. Pakistan is an important country in the region. President Musharraf has been a valued partner and ally. Certainly, Pakistan has been the subject to threats from various kinds of extremists. That's why we've been working with the Pakistanis to try and deal with the concerns that we have in the FATA with Taliban infiltration across the border.

Certainly as well, we've known that there have been direct threats to Pakistan's government and leadership, and no one knows that better than President Musharraf, who has been the subject of several assassination attempts over the last couple of years. But again, I think we share with him an understanding of the future that we would like to see for Pakistan and that is one that we believe is shared by the vast majority of Pakistanis, which is for a modern, moderate Islamic state that works with the United States and other members of the international community to fight against extremists like al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Matt.

QUESTION: Anything to add or any more information than you had two hours ago about the North Koreans and their --

MR. CASEY: No, I --

QUESTION: -- alleged offer of military --

MR. CASEY: Basically, it's the same thing. We've seen that press report. There have been no communications between the North Koreans and us that would elaborate, in any way, on that press statement. I went back and looked too and if you look at the September '05 agreement reached between the parties, of course, it does note that the various relevant players would, at a -- in a separate forum, sit down and discuss the resolution of the Korean conflict and move from the current armistice to a permanent peace treaty.

But again, that's something that's further down the road. I'm sure when we next have a meeting of the six-party talks, that if the North Koreans have some specific ideas on this subject, that there'll certainly be an opportunity both in that six-party framework as well as in whatever individual meetings Chris has with his counterpart there to elaborate on this.

QUESTION: But you talked about moving from the armistice to a more formal peace treaty, but isn't that something that civilian -- civilians would do, not --

MR. CASEY: Well, one would presume, Matt, that establishing a different relationship between the parties establishing a permanent peace would also have an impact on the military situation and that there would be military involvement in that.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but it's the civilians who made -- civilian leadership makes peace, right?

MR. CASEY: Right, but I would hope a civilian leadership would take into account the concerns and considerations of our military officials. It usually works that way, anyway.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:51 p.m.)

DPB # 124



Released on July 13, 2007

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