U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Other State Department Archive SitesU.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
U.S. Department of State
Home Issues & Press Travel & Business Countries Youth & Education Careers About State Video
Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 2, 2007

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

Secretary Names Eliot Cohen as Counselor of the State Department
Reasons for Eliot Cohen’s Appointment

IRAN

Yesterday’s P-5+1 Political Directors’ Conference Call
Work on Next UNSC Resolution / Elements / Drafting / Possible New Sanctions
Cooperation Among P-5+1

SAUDI ARABIA / IRAN

President Ahmedi-Nejad’s Visit to Saudi Arabia

SOUTH KOREA

Secretary’s Meeting with Foreign Minister

AFRICA

State Department Participation in New Africa Command
Importance of Civil-Military Interaction

CHINA / TAIWAN

U.S. Missile Sale to Taiwan / Chinese Concerns / Taiwan Relations Act

SUDAN

Andrew Natsios’ Visit
Deployment of AU/UN Force / Timeline / Pledging of Troops

LIBYA

Bilateral Relationship

SYRIA / IRAQ

Assistant Secretary Ellen Sauerbrey’s Visit to Syria / Iraqi Refugee Issue

EUROPEAN UNION

Open Skies Agreement Signed

UKRAINE

Secretary’s Meeting with Yuliya Tymoshenko


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:34 p.m. EST

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. One quick opening statement for you. We'll have some paper out on this after the briefing. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has named Eliot Cohen as counselor of the State Department. In making this appointment Secretary Rice looked into a number of different factors and I think Eliot brings a lot to the table in terms of being a counselor, being somebody who can be an intellectual sounding board for her, somebody who can cover a number of different issues of particular interest to the State Department, in particular, that nexus between civilian and military affairs. I think that he's going to spend a lot of time thinking and working on issues related to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Civilian Response Corps, as well as other tasks that the Secretary asked him to take on.

He is currently the Robert E. Osgood professor of Strategic Studies and the director of the Strategic Studies program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. He is a distinguished scholar in the areas of defense policy and military history. He previously served on the policy planning staff of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and directed the U.S. Air Force's Gulf War Air Power Survey. He is also a member of the Defense Policy Board and other governmental and private advisory committees. Among other books that he has authored, he in 2002 produced the award-winning Supreme Command, so we look forward to welcoming him onboard. As I said, we'll have this out in paper form after the briefing for you.

And with that, I'd be happy to take your questions.

Mr. Lee, welcome aboard.

QUESTION: Thank you. Sean, can you give us any -- enlighten us at all any more about the conference call yesterday, what was achieved, what remains to be achieved and the prospects for a stunning breakthrough I'm sure in tomorrow's call?

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. We'll leave the sarcasm aside.

QUESTION: It wasn't a sarcasm.

MR. MCCORMACK: Put out some notes yesterday on this. Very basically let me recap. What the P-5+1 political directors were doing on the conference call is they were really working on the guts of the resolution. What are the major elements that comprise the resolution in terms of new steps that the Security Council is going to take? Made a lot of progress on that. There are still a few remaining issues that need to be done, so the political directors decided that they were going to take their homework back to capitals, work on it, reconvene tomorrow in the morning. And we expect that by next week, the action can shift to the Perm Reps up at the UN and they can actually start drafting the language of the resolution, the pre-ambular paragraphs and sort of the connective tissue of these resolutions. But the work on the major elements, what actual sanctions will apply in sort of the parameters of those sanctions, that's what they're working on right now. Now, I know the next question is, well, what exactly is going to be in the resolution and we are going --

QUESTION: No, I don't know want to know (inaudible) resolution. I want to know what they agreed to in the phone call. The resolution we can leave until next week.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. And you'll see it when it's being circulated around.

QUESTION: So they have -- so you're saying that they have agreed on the outlines of what the sanctions, new sanctions that will be --

MR. MCCORMACK: That's not what I said. What I said is that they made progress on a lot of these issues on the major elements. There's still some work to be done. That's why they're going to have another call tomorrow. And then that will -- once that work is done, that really is sort of the centerpiece of what the resolution will eventually be, what the sanctions actually will be, the parameters of those sanctions. There's still some work to be done on that, and that's what they're going to be working on tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay. But is it your understanding or is the U.S. feeling that everyone is onboard pretty much basically? I mean, when you talk about the parameters of the sanctions, I mean, that could be anything from, you know, what exactly they're going to be to specific targets or, you know, specific organizations or people.

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct.

QUESTION: Where are you --

MR. MCCORMACK: It can be all those things.

QUESTION: And where are you now, though?

MR. MCCORMACK: We'll probably be talking more about that next week. But in terms of -- you make a good process point here. This is the P-5+1, so you can get agreement among the P-5+1 but you still have to deal with the elected ten members of the Security Council. So I'm sure that there will be some suggestions, some modifications to it along the way, but most of the major work on the -- what will be the guts of this resolution, that's what's being worked on now. And we expect that that should be able to be wrapped up tomorrow in the conference call, then action shifts up to New York with the perm reps.

QUESTION: You talk about major elements, but I mean, can we be expecting major new elements in this resolution in terms of major new sanctions? Because the French Foreign Minister today is really -- his description is really tinkering around the edges, adding a few entities and individuals to the list of asset and travel freezes, and maybe some complementary measures, he says. Now --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, distinguish between the major elements of the resolution, the major elements that comprise the guts of the resolution, from overall where are we in this process. And where are we in this process is that this resolution, I would expect, would be incremental, we've said that from the beginning, and that it will be proportionate to the response that the Iranians have given the international community to this point.

Their continued defiance of the requirements of the international system is going to be met by increased pressure in the form of a -- in the form of this resolution. So I would -- up front I will tell you that this is going to be an incremental resolution. But let me make one other point, and that is that the December resolution that was passed, we readily admitted that this was not the resolution that we ourselves would have drafted. We would have included other elements in it.

But what's very interesting is that in the implementation of this resolution as well as the collateral effects of the resolution there has -- it has actually been a very effective mechanism by which to pressure the Iranian regime. And one indicator, public indicator, that I would point to in that regard is the conversation that is now taking place in public in Iran about the wisdom of the course that the regime is pursuing with respect to their nuclear program.

So the December resolution has actually had much more of an effect than even we would have predicted, and most of that is centered around the reaction of the international business community and the international financial community. What they have seen is a country now under Chapter 7 resolution. That's a big red flag to the business community when they're making investment decisions that are going to take years and years to play out, investment decisions that involve substantial sums of money. And capital can flow in a variety of places around the world, so the business leaders, financial leaders, are going to take a look and say, "What's our risk assessment? Are we really going to be able to realize the return on the investment? What are the attendant political as well as other risks of that investment?" And some of them are saying it's just not worth it.

And that is due solely to the pathway that this regime is taking the Iranian people down. Now, we wish that that were not the case and there still is another pathway that is open to them. There is a pathway to negotiation. And we have put -- we along with the other members of the P-5+1 have put a very attractive offer out there on the table. Thus far, the regime has decided that they're not going to take us up on that offer. But that's still out on the table. So there are two pathways here still open to them. We would hope that they choose the pathway of negotiation. Thus far, they have not chosen to pursue that pathway and, as a result, we're going to get another Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: Can you give us some examples of people saying it's just not worth it? Some business leaders or banks or --

MR. MCCORMACK: I can -- I'm just citing public sources. Look in the newspapers over the past couple of months, you can look at some of the European banks that have decided they're not going to do any more business with Iranian entities. Off the top of my head, I don't have them listed for you but I'd be happy to afterwards cite a couple of them that have been remarked upon in public source documents.

Yep.

QUESTION: How are you, Sean? Since I'm a little new at this, could you lay out what the sanctions entail at present and how they differ from what's being talked about? Are they different in type or degree, and are we talking about travel bans on people involved in the nuclear industry, freezes of assets of people involved in the nuclear and missile technology industry? Is that the type of thing on the table now?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'm not going to get into exactly what are the elements currently being discussed. But I would just say very generally that these are -- the new sanctions are going to build on the ones that are currently in place. And the ones that are currently in place touch on some of the things that you mentioned: the travel restrictions, restrictions on doing any sort of business with certain entities with Iran that are related to their weapons of mass destruction program. So I would expect that these new sanctions that come out in the Security Council resolution would build on those. I caution you: They are going to be incremental. But again, we have seen that even small steps within the international system in the form of these sanctions resolutions are actually quite effective.

QUESTION: So you think it is a difference of degree or a different type of sanction?

MR. MCCORMACK: We haven't finished work yet on this particular resolution, but it's incremental. It's going to build on what's already there.

QUESTION: And if you don't mind, one more thing. Since it took China and Russia quite a while to come around to the December resolution, what makes you think they'll come around at all to a new one?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I guess you never know until people raise their hand in the Security Council to vote on a resolution. But just judging by the meetings that Nick Burns has had with his P-5+1 counterparts meetings and phone calls, the tone is really very, very good. Nick commented to me that these past meetings and phone calls have really been some of the best ones that he has had in the past couple of years in terms of readiness to work, roll up the sleeves at the table and really hammer out the elements to a resolution in a pretty rapid fashion.

QUESTION: And one more thing. One source we have today says that China's dragging its feet and is again the stumbling block or they'll holding off on this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, I think the tone --

QUESTION: Did I say China? I meant Russia. I meant Russia.

MR. MCCORMACK: Russia, no. We have had very good discussions with our Russian counterparts. First, Secretary Rice with Foreign Minister Lavrov when she was in Berlin and then follow-up conversations between Nick Burns and Mr. Kislyak, his counterpart.

Joel.

QUESTION: Sean, earlier the Saudis were interceding --

QUESTION: Can I (inaudible) something?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: I just want to ask a little bit -- a broader question. You said that -- in there you said the December resolution, and you're admitting that the December -- I won't say admit -- the December resolution is not what you would have wanted.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. We said that at the time.

QUESTION: But then you say that the December resolution has had more of an effect than what we would have expected.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you guys drawn any policy -- you know, policy-formulating conclusions from this that perhaps, you know, what the U.S. wants, it may not always be the most effective?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You didn't get what you want and yet you're happy with the results.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: So perhaps --

MR. MCCORMACK: I guess, you know, it's sort of a life lesson. You know, we can all say that, right? There's a Rolling Stones song to that effect: "You Can't Always Get What you Want."

QUESTION: Is that now guiding U.S. foreign policy? Is that it? No, Sean, come on. You were the one that brought -- no, it's a serious question. Have you drawn a conclusion -- have you drawn any conclusions?

MR. MCCORMACK: That's not a serious question. Joel.

QUESTION: Recently, in the last month or two, the Saudis were interceding with both Hamas as well as with the PA with President Abbas. Now, President Ahmadi-Nejad is just now visiting Riyadh. Have you asked the Saudis to do some preliminary legwork before this resolution reaches the UN?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we, of course, knew about the visit, but it's going to be up to the Saudi leadership to decide how they interact with the Iranian President. We would hope that they send a message to the Iranian President that across a wide spectrum the Iranian behavior in the region and around the world is just unacceptable, whether it's their support for terrorism or their pursuit for weapons of mass destruction or their efforts to block any sort of progress in building a democracy in Lebanon or in the Palestinian areas. We would hope that the message to the Iranian leadership is that they need to change their behavior.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Could you please preview the Secretary's afternoon meeting with the South Korean Foreign Minister?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, she's going to be meeting with the Foreign Minister this afternoon. They're going to, first of all, I would expect, talk about progress that has been made in implementing the agreement that was signed three weeks ago in Beijing among the six parties. I would expect they would also talk about a couple bilateral issues, maybe progress on the U.S.-South Korea free trade agreement, as well as talking a little bit about the implementation of the agreement that was signed between the Korean Defense Minister and Secretary Gates concerning transfer of operational control during wartime. So that's sort of a rough outline. If you're interested, we can try to get you something afterwards about what it is that they talked about.

Nina.

QUESTION: Iraq, Sean. Can you talk about this appointment of Cohen? I mean, he's been highly critical previously. Can you elaborate on this, say why he's been appointed, why you think he's the man for the job?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the Secretary -- first of all, let's back up. For those of you not familiar with the job of Counselor, it is not something that -- it is not a job that is Senate-confirmed. It really is at the discretion of individual secretaries whether or not they fill the job. Secretary Powell chose not to fill the job. Other secretaries have.

Secretary Rice has found that it's very useful to have somebody in that job who can be an intellectual sounding board, somebody that can dig down into issues that she is interested in that does not have line management responsibilities, for example, like you would have with an assistant secretary or an under secretary.

I would expect that he would spend some time thinking about Iraq, looking into some of the details of our civil-military interaction both in Iraq and Afghanistan. He's an expert in this, has written many papers and books on the subject. He is widely respected within military circles. And so he -- he'll -- first off, he'll be able to really look at our posture in both of those places and make an assessment for the Secretary and then, of course, come back to her and provide any suggestions that she may -- that he might have about how we would -- how we might change or adjust that posture.

QUESTION: And what would you -- how would you address critics that are saying that he's coming with a very neoconservative agenda, he's got his own political bent? Would you -- how would you respond to that?

MR. MCCORMACK: That the man is a widely respected scholar. I don't think that there's any dispute about that. He brings a lot to the table. In terms of -- you know, in terms of his political views, I read a newspaper account today that made just the opposite point; he's actually been a critic of the Administration on the implementation of its Iraq policy.

So in anybody's record somebody can find something that they can use to make their point, but the fact of the matter is he -- I think everybody agrees that he is a distinguished scholar, an expert in a number of the issues that are of critical importance to our foreign policy today, and the Secretary is very pleased that he's coming onboard.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more general question?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: About Africa and its sort of increasing importance and the role in terror. I believe even as a special deployment the Old Guard that normally guards the Tomb of the Unknown are being sent to Djibouti, apparently, as part of your force there, your hearts and minds force. Could you just talk generally about, you know, AFRICOM and its increasing importance of that continent in --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. In terms of the deployment of the Old Guard, I don't know that fact. You'll have to check with DOD. I'm not disputing it.

Africa is very important and I think one indication of that, one manifestation of that within the bureaucracy, is that the Department of Defense is creating an Africa Command and they have asked the State Department to participate in that Africa Command in some new and interesting ways. Really, there's an offer there of embedding in the command structure of the Africa Command, which is really very interesting and exciting as it really gets at this issue of civil-military interaction. And once you have a conflict, you need to get the post-conflict right as well, and that involves the civilians and military working very closely together.

There are a lot of different examples, if you look around the continent, where this kind of interaction is very important. We are recently emerging from that kind of experience in Liberia, where the military played an important role but there was a handoff there to the civilians, in helping the Liberians rebuild their country after years of civil strife. You have current examples in -- current challenges in Sudan and Somalia. So it is a -- it's very important in that regard.

You also have a lot of concerns about terrorist activity in East Africa, in that Horn of Africa; that's why you have the CENTCOM with a forward deployment in Djibouti to address the threats, the various threats in those areas. So it is -- it's a critically important area not only for U.S. foreign policy, but for our national security policy as well.

QUESTION: You say that Somalia is number one at the moment -- it's number one priority?

MR. MCCORMACK: In Africa?

QUESTION: Yes. In this particular respect.

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I don't know if I'd prioritize it like that. Certainly Sudan is of great concern in different ways. Somalia is of great concern in separate ways.

QUESTION: Another one.

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you familiar with the 15 missing Western tourists in Ethiopia in a remote area?

MR. MCCORMACK: Seen the news reports. Don't have any information for you. Happy to look into it for you.

QUESTION: AFP is ahead of us of us on that story.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I'll leave that one there, George.

QUESTION: That answered your question?

QUESTION: It was asked this morning at the gaggle, but I don't think it really a thing, about the Chinese complaining about the sale of missiles to Taiwan or they're demanding that that be canceled?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. Well, we're --

QUESTION: Solemnly.

MR. MCCORMACK: What's this?

QUESTION: Solemnly.

MR. MCCORMACK: Solemnly.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MR. MCCORMACK: Solemnly requests that they're -- that it be canceled. Well, the sales in question are consistent with the provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. The United States assists Taiwan in meeting its legitimate self-defense needs. Bush Administration remains firmly committed to fulfilling the security and arms sales provisions of the Taiwan Relations Act. And as for the China -- China expressing concern about this, they apparently do this on a regular basis, concerning U.S. arms sales to Taiwan. And when they do so, we explain that U.S. arms sales are consistent with our "One China" policy, the three joint communiqués and the Taiwan Relations Act. The Act requires the U.S. to make available to Taiwan defense articles and services necessary to -- for Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability and we believe that the sale in question is consistent with our responsibilities on that policy.

Michel.

QUESTION: Sean, do you have any readout on Andrew Natsios visit to the Sudan? What are the new ideas he wants to discuss with the Sudanese officials?

MR. MCCORMACK: No readout. He's just arriving today. As a matter of fact, he plans to be in country for about 10 days and he's going to be meeting with Sudanese officials to push forward the phase one, two, three deployment of the AU/UN hybrid force. He's also, we hope, going to be able to travel out into Darfur as well as down into the south. The message is -- obviously, there's a lot of other details that he's going to be talking about with Sudanese leaders as well as NGOs and other regional leaders. But the basic message here is to move forward with the deployment of that AU/UN force.

QUESTION: There are stories on new ideas. He wants to discuss it. Do you have anything on this?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think I'll let him discuss new ideas with the Sudanese officials before we start talking about them in public.

QUESTION: This is a spring break from his teaching routine?

MR. MCCORMACK: (Laughter.) Well, it is a bit of a diversion, spring break in Sudan.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you think he's going to meet with President Bashir? Do you have any information on that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have any information on his schedule at this point, but we would hope that he meets with the Sudanese leadership.

Yes.

QUESTION: Sean, can it be said that we're running out of patience with their refusal to bring that force in? I mean, we're talking about wanting to have something done in the beginning of January and it's now the beginning of March.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we are operating under the assumption that he has already accepted the deployment of phases one, two and three. Others have raised some question about that, but we are operating on the basis that he has already accepted deployment of those forces. So the Sudanese need to acquire more of a posture of being ready, willing and active in encouraging that deployment. On the other hand, you also have the UN peacekeeping operation that frankly needs to speed up its operations. They have a standard deployment playbook that they have and there are timelines associated with that. And frankly those timelines need to be looked at and reduced. It's too important an issue.

So there are two sides to this and we are pushing on the Sudanese, we as well as others, to make sure that those forces are able to deploy in the areas that they need to deploy to and push on the Sudanese to do everything that they can to stop the violence and implement the Darfur Peace Agreement. But there is also an international aspect to this. And we encourage the UN to work with more dispatch and we also encourage member-states to step up and meet the requests that the UN has outstanding for more troops. It's important to fulfill those requirements. So those are the two sides in which we're pushing. Andrew on his trip is going to be pushing on the Sudanese side.

Yeah.

QUESTION: You say that timelines needs to be looked at and reduced.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can you elaborate on that? Can you be more precise?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the UN peacekeeping operation, they have a standard procedure which they follow in preparing the ground for deployment of forces as well as for the deployment of forces. And this extends out over, you know, a period of a year or so. That timeline needs to be reduced. This is too critical a humanitarian issue and we've spoken about this in the past and we've spoken about it in public. But it is an issue that needs to be addressed.

QUESTION: So when do you want the force to be deployed?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have -- well, as soon as possible. I don't have a specific timeline for you, but I can tell you, having a deployment stretch out over the course of more than a year is too long.

Yeah.

QUESTION: You've been saying for weeks that people aren't offering the troops that you need.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: I mean, what's happening on that front? I think Denmark is the only country I've read has actually said something about a certain number of --

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't have a precise update of who has pledged troops. I know that there are a couple of countries who have pledged troops, but there are many more who are in the category of thinking about it that need to fall over into the category of making an actual pledge and standing behind it.

QUESTION: In the meanwhile the situation in Darfur is --

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, we work in capitals, we work here in Washington on this, but we are not the only ones that need to be doing this. The United States certainly has quite a bit of leverage within the international system to try to make these things happen, but others also need to put their shoulder to the wheel and make sure that these pledges get made.

QUESTION: Same issue.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has phase one been fulfilled?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check for you, George. The last time I checked into this was, I don't know, about a week ago or so and it had not been fully completed the last time I checked.

Yeah, Steve.

QUESTION: Sean, one more thing on Iran if you don't mind.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything -- well, wait a minute, anything else on Sudan?

QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.

MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, you've got it.

QUESTION: Okay. Back to the timing of this, we have sources saying while the U.S. is on one side, the European Union's in the middle, China and Russia are on the other side and this may not be the last conference call and we may not be ready to put stuff on paper next week and it could be a slow -- long, slow diplomatic process. How does -- if that were true, how does that square with the IAEA saying Iran is moving full speed ahead with its installation of centrifuges and is time of the essence?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Absolute this is an urgent matter and that's why we're pushing forward with another Security Council resolution. I think the picture -- look, you never -- as I said, you never know until people raise their hands to vote yes or no on a resolution. But our read of the diplomatic state of play right now is that we're actually getting very good cooperation among the P-5+1 on coming to agreement on the elements of a resolution. I think there's broad agreement on the outlines of what that resolution should comprise and the various steps that need to be taken.

In terms of the picture you paint, that does not bear a resemblance of what I am hearing from our diplomats that are engaged in these conversations. You know, we shall see how the process unfolds. But our expectation is that Perm Reps should be able to begin drafting the actual text of the resolution next week in New York.

Matt.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Korea just for a second?

MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you be any -- give any more details or be any more specific about what the Secretary will be talking about with the Foreign Minister as it relates to next week's meetings this afternoon?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don't know if they will talk specifically about the working -- U.S.-North Korea working group meeting, but they'll talk broadly about what it is that we are doing and what others are doing and what South Korea is doing in terms of implementation of the agreement. I'll try to get you more afterwards. Yeah, more afterwards about what they actually spoke about.

QUESTION: Do you have any dates on the meeting on Monday night and Tuesday? You know, where it will be and --

MR. MCCORMACK: We have designated a point person for all of these details, as your colleague, Arshad Mohammed has requested. So we will after the briefing give you the name and phone number of that individual.

QUESTION: And I have another question.

MR. MCCORMACK: So you can stop asking me.

QUESTION: (Inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, it is, actually. He's probably going to hide after we give his name out. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I have another question about Libya. The Libyan leader Maummar Qadhafi has been very critical of Western powers, especially U.S. Yesterday, where he said that the enemy doe not launch a frontal attack but is mobilizing its agent to achieve its interest and steal power away from us as it did in Iraq. So what does it mean? Is Qadhafi getting impatient with U.S?

MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn't seen those remarks. But we're working with Libya to develop a different kind of relationship and we have come light years from where we were four years ago in that relationship, largely because Libya's made a strategic decision about where its posture vis-à-vis turning away from terrorism and turning away from weapons of mass destruction programs. And that really was the -- that decision was the key that unlocked a lot of possibilities. And what we're engaged in right now is developing that relationship so that we can realize all the different possibilities in it. There are always going to be, on one side or another, differences over how fast that relationship is progressing but we are committed to moving forward with the relationship.

QUESTION: Yeah, but it didn't move for months now. What's preventing you?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, sometimes the wheels of diplomacy don't always turn as all would wish, but they do move forward and they are moving forward.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Ellen Sauerbrey's visit to Syria, will that be strictly on immigration issue and refugee issue?

MR. MCCORMACK: On refugees, yes.

QUESTION: Will there be any talk on Syria's role in Iraq with her? Can you just elaborate on what the purpose of her trip is?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, the purpose -- the purpose of her trip -- and she's going to be paired with a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees -- is to talk strictly about the issue of Iraqi refugees both already in Syria and future individuals who may try to enter into Syria from Iraq. And it's to look at a couple different aspects: one, how can we, the international community, assist with the humanitarian burden that comes along with taking care of a lot of different people who have been displaced and left their home country; and two, how do you efficiently work through the process of evaluating who among the those people qualify as refugees and then start processing them and work them through the pipeline so that they can be resettled in various countries around the world. We have talked about the fact that we are ready to take on part of that burden consistent with our international humanitarian obligations.

So Ellen along with the UNHCR representative will visit with many of the nongovernmental organizations who are doing the work in assisting these refugees on a daily basis and also who are working with these individuals to start the refugee processing pipeline. I expect that she will probably have a meeting with her counterpart in the Syrian Government, while that has not yet been scheduled, and the topic will be solely on refugees.

QUESTION: Will she deliver any message to the Syrian officials?

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing -- the topics will be limited to refugees.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Different topic. Apparently, a tentative deal on an open skies agreement was agreed -- was struck this morning between the United States and European Union. Do you have any initial comment or reaction?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's very positive. This would be the first such open skies civil aviation agreement between the U.S. and the EU. It is potentially very important for industry, the airline industry but also for all those millions of passengers that transit back and forth between the United States and EU countries.

My understanding now is that this agreement will go to the transport ministers for their agreement and their signature, and then potentially, if it moves forward from there, it will be ready for the U.S.-EU summit, which I think is in May.

Yeah. All right, Lambros. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. On Cyprus. Mr. McCormack, the Turkish Petroleum Corporation has decided to move its oil and gas exploration for 2007 to the Mediterranean Sea, and Ankara extended selectively the territorial waters of the Turkish coast in that area to twelve miles limit, challenging the Republic of Cyprus, Egypt and Lebanon. Do you have any anything to say vis-à-vis to this particular issue? Otherwise, are you concerned about this activity?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll have to look into that for you, Lambros.

Yeah. Dave. Yeah, caught you off guard there.

QUESTION: A readout, if you could, on the Secretary's meeting with Ms. Tymoshenko of Ukraine? She's pushing a new parliamentary election there to try to break up a stalemate and I wondering does the meeting reflect a U.S. kindly view toward that?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I'm not going to get too deeply into the details here. The Secretary has met with Ms. Tymoshenko several times before, and including in Ukraine. They talked about the domestic political situation within Ukraine. They talked about the domestic political situation within Ukraine. They talked about Ukrainian energy needs and the various sources that Ukraine might tap into for their energy needs. They talked a little bit about the Millennium Challenge Corporation. The Ukraine has qualified for consideration of Millennium Challenge Corporation grants. They talked about regional issues as well, regional international politics. That's really about it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)

DPB # 37



Released on March 2, 2007

  Back to top

U.S. Department of State
USA.govU.S. Department of StateUpdates  |   Frequent Questions  |   Contact Us  |   Email this Page  |   Subject Index  |   Search
The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, manages this site as a portal for information from the U.S. State Department. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
About state.gov  |   Privacy Notice  |   FOIA  |   Copyright Information  |   Other U.S. Government Information

Published by the U.S. Department of State Website at http://www.state.gov maintained by the Bureau of Public Affairs.