|Daily Press Briefing|
Robert Wood, Deputy Spokesman
December 5, 2008
|Assistant Secretary Hills Meetings with Six-Party Delegations|
|Discussions Regarding North Korean Verification Protocol|
|Secretary Rices Statement Regarding Robert Mugabe|
|Question about Reporters without Borders Awards|
|Removal of Persons Occupying Property in Hebron|
|Will of Israelis and Palestinians to Reach an Agreement|
|U.S. Encourages Pakistans Full and Transparent Cooperation with Investigation|
|Department of State-Department of Energy Memorandum of Understanding of Energy Efficiency
10:40 a.m. EST
MR. WOOD: Happy Friday, everyone. I don’t have anything, so we’ll go to your questions.
QUESTION: Neither do we.
MR. WOOD: Hey, let’s --
QUESTION: I don’t have – I don’t have any questions either.
QUESTION: Maybe update us on Chris Hill? I heard there was a little hiccup with his meeting concerning the North Korean counterpart.
MR. WOOD: No, I didn’t hear about any hiccup on his meeting. I know he was in --
QUESTION: He went to meet with him, and he didn’t – the North Korean didn’t turn up?
QUESTION: Was an abject failure? Is that what you’re trying to say?
MR. WOOD: No, no, no, no. I didn’t – hadn’t heard about anything. Let me just give you an update on --
MR. WOOD: (Laughter.) Assistant Secretary Hill met with the North Korean delegation on Friday at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore. They had a useful exchange of views on verification. Chris will depart Singapore on Saturday and arrive in Seoul the same day. He departs Seoul on Sunday for Beijing, where he’ll meet with his Japanese, Republic of Korea, Chinese, and Russian counterparts in advance of the Six-Party heads of delegation meeting, which we expect to begin on December 8. Assistant Secretary Hill plans to depart for and arrive in Washington on Wednesday, December 10.
QUESTION: Did they actually succeed in getting an agreement on putting in writing the understandings you say you have previously reached with them on verification?
MR. WOOD: Well, what Chris was doing was having discussions. We’re not into that part of negotiations yet. That will take place in Beijing. But really, where we are now is trying to get those understandings and assurances that the North Koreans provided Chris in addition to those understandings of verification, getting all of this on paper and codified at the Six-Party heads of delegation meeting. So the negotiations on that will take place in Beijing, and hopefully, we will have, you know, a final verification protocol after that meeting.
QUESTION: Well, I don’t get it. I mean, are you not – you know, regardless of the sophistry of using the word “discussions” versus “negotiations,” are you not talking to the North Koreans about putting on paper your non-written-down understandings?
MR. WOOD: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Okay. Did they agree to put anything on paper during the Singapore talks?
MR. WOOD: I’m not there with Chris, so I don’t know. But I would expect that they’ve agreed to some things. Which things and how many, I don’t know, but my understanding is that that remains the one major obstacle, and that’s getting a number of these clarifications and assurances on paper.
QUESTION: And just so I’m clear, when you said, “I would expect,” that is a supposition, or you have information that leads you to believe that they have agreed to put some things on paper?
MR. WOOD: Well, I think it’s clear, I think it’s safe to say, that the North has agreed to put some things on paper. And what we’re trying to do is make sure that all of those assurances and clarifications, as I mentioned earlier, are on paper so that we can codify this and we can finish the work on the verification protocol.
QUESTION: Is there any reason to think that the December 8th talks in Beijing will not occur? Have you had any reason to suggest that that might – that meeting might go away?
MR. WOOD: You know, it’s scheduled to happen. I have heard nothing about any possibility of it not taking place.
QUESTION: And can you – previously, I think, it has been made clear – I can’t remember if it’s been from the podium or not – that the – one of the – central of the obstacles that you just referred – to which you just referred is the question of extracting material from Yongbyon to be tested elsewhere, to be tested abroad. Is that still one of the obstacles, or is that one of the things they agreed to put on paper?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to get into – further into the details of those discussions for one reason: I wasn’t a participant. But certainly, that has been one of our – one of the issues that we needed to get further clarified. And as I said, the negotiations will take place in Beijing. Chris has had discussions with the North Koreans about this particular issue and other issues. And we’ll just see how that all comes out by the end of the meeting.
QUESTION: So it is yet to be clarified, though? Did I understand that right?
MR. WOOD: I’m just saying that that was an issue that was outstanding. They had discussions about it. There will be negotiations in Beijing, and we’ll go from there.
QUESTION: You’re talking about negotiations in Beijing. The United States and North Korea make up the working group on verification, correct?
MR. WOOD: That’s correct.
QUESTION: Wouldn’t – so the negotiations are only between North Korea and the United States, and in Beijing they would present whatever they agreed to the others? Is that an error on my --
MR. WOOD: No, this is a Six-Party discussion and this is a Six-Party meeting that’s coming up. And all Six Parties – this is not a U.S.-North Korea endeavor. This is all parties involved in this. And Chris, of course, met with the other members of the Six-Party framework besides the North Koreans and had discussions about verification and other issues – fuel, of course, fuel delivery and other items. And so again, it’s not bilateral; it’s Six-Party.
QUESTION: Can you say anything more on fuel delivery and other nations outside the Six-Party process that might be --
MR. WOOD: Well, that’s still being worked on, the – you know, disablement – the sequencing of disablement and fuel delivery. So Chris had discussions about those two issues. And I haven’t gotten a read out from him, but I think they’re trying to make progress in that area.
Any other questions on North Korea? Okay, Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Albania. Mr. Wood, I raised a question yesterday concerning the personal role of DOS, if any, related to Sali Berisha’s recent comments about his, quote, unquote, “willingness” to resolve issues involving property claims via, quote, unquote, “a legal approach.” I am puzzled to learn that my question was referred to the Holocaust Office. That’s irrelevant to what I asked, and I’m wondering why.
MR. WOOD: We did our best to answer your question, Mr. Lambros. I don’t have anything further for you.
QUESTION: In order to clarify the position, may I repeat – again ask the question?
According to Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Albania and Greece involved in negotiation at the legal level concerning World War II issues on properties of Albanian Nazi collaborators who escaped Greece. And it was said that Department of State plays a role, and I would like to know what exactly you are doing in this process. This question has nothing to do anything with American citizen claims.
MR. WOOD: Mr. Lambros, I think we addressed the question. I’ll take a look to see if there’s any further thing that we can say about it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: Steve.
QUESTION: A question. Yesterday, Reporters Without Borders, they announced their 200 – 2008 Press Freedom awards, and all the (inaudible) countries – Burma, Cuba, North Korea. They’ve been the focus of (inaudible) in Washington. So with that in mind, do you have any specific reaction to yesterday’s awards?
MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, we, you know, applaud the efforts to honor extraordinary individuals and institutions that are working hard to promote freedom of – to promote freedom and freedom of expression. So it’s a very good thing. And you know, we will continue to be at the forefront of promoting freedom of expression around the world, as you know. And no, it was a very good thing. We’re very happy to see those awards given.
Anything else? Oh, Samir.
QUESTION: Robert, do you have a read out on the situation in Hebron?
MR. WOOD: The only thing I can say is that the Israelis are facing a difficult situation on the ground in Hebron. But-- however, the Israelis are doing what they can to deal with, as I said, with the situation. And they were basically arresting people – removing people from a site that they were occupying illegally.
QUESTION: One more, please?
MR. WOOD: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is Iraq still under Chapter 7 from previous resolutions, or it’s only under this current one?
MR. WOOD: I’ll have to look into that and check for you on that, Samir.
QUESTION: A clarification?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, please.
QUESTION: Did you say a site they were occupying legally or illegally?
MR. WOOD: Illegally.
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: I believe Israeli Defense Minister Barak is in town, and I wonder if the Secretary intends to meet him at any point over the next few days.
MR. WOOD: You know, I’ll have to check the schedule again. I know she was scheduled to meet with him and I think was unable to because of travel, but I’ll see if that’s been rescheduled. I’ll take a look and see.
Yeah, we can go to Charlie.
QUESTION: Just to check the box, do you have anything new on Pakistan, India, the Mumbai investigation, and anything the Pakistanis are doing and your reaction to what Secretary Rice asked them to do?
MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have any update, Charlie, except that again we’re going to continue to encourage Pakistan to do what it said it would do, and that’s cooperate fully and transparently with the investigation.
QUESTION: Yeah, back to Hebron.
MR. WOOD: Sure.
QUESTION: Isn’t there a risk of it spreading to the Palestinians, between settlers and Palestinians? And that’s already – there are signs of that happening?
MR. WOOD: Well, I think the Government of Israel is trying to do what it can to tamp down, you know, any kind of violence. And of course, I think it’s trying to do what it can to prevent this violence from – you know, from settlers attacking Palestinians. And so, you know, it’s a difficult situation on the ground. But again, the Government of Israel is doing what it feels it needs to do to make sure that people comply with the laws in Israel.
QUESTION: Could that be a real risk of a flare-up in the transition to a new president and the fact that --
MR. WOOD: It wouldn’t be --
QUESTION: -- the Annapolis process hasn’t – we know now that you’re not going to have an agreement by the end of the year?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to speculate in terms of what impact it may or may not have. Annapolis is very important. The Palestinians and the Israelis are working very hard, as you know, to try to reach an agreement. We hope to see that happen as soon as possible. I think it’s – as we all know, we don’t think it’s going to be possible to happen before the Secretary leaves office. But the two sides are working very hard. And as I said, the circumstances on the ground are difficult. They’ve been difficult for a long time. It’s not easy. But the most important thing, as I’ve said and others have said before is, that the will is there to try to reach an agreement. And so we want both sides not to take steps that in any way will interfere with progress being made in the discussion. So – and that’s what we’ve relayed to both parties.
QUESTION: Is it the subject of any high-level discussions between the U.S. and the Israelis and Palestinians?
MR. WOOD: We talk to them all the time about all of the various issues – outstanding issues as part of the Annapolis process.
QUESTION: Robert, you know, nobody likes to see scenes of clashes between a government’s military and its own citizens. That said, there has been an increase in settler violence against Palestinians over the course of this year. And I wonder if the Administration is heartened or encouraged that the Israeli Government is taking steps to try to, to some degree, rein in settler illegal occupation of land.
MR. WOOD: Well, the Israelis are committed to doing this. They have made these commitments to us that they would do what they could, and this was a clear example of the Israelis doing – handling – trying to handle, you know, a very sensitive and difficult situation, trying to handle it in the best way they possibly could, and we think that that’s important. And they have said that they will continue to meet their commitments to us and to the Palestinians.
And, you know, we also will be working very hard to see that Roadmap obligations are, you know, implemented as well. As you know, Lieutenant General Paul Selva is working on – is in charge for us of monitoring Roadmap obligations. So again, it’s a difficult situation on the ground and we think Israel’s trying to do what it can to, you know, ease the tension and, of course, make sure that – you know, that the laws of Israel are being implemented and obeyed.
QUESTION: I got one more --
QUESTION: On India-Pakistan, there’s some reportage out there that the United States has submitted to the UN Security Council names of some Pakistani individuals who it would like to see added to the UN list of – terrorist sanction list. Supposedly, again, according to press reports, that some former members of the ISR, the Pakistani intelligence service, are on that list. Are you aware of this?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to comment on, you know, names that we may or may not submit to the UN. It would be – it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do at this point, but you know, should we take that step, we will certainly let you all know.
QUESTION: Since --
MR. WOOD: I know --
QUESTION: Since you haven’t let us know, can we assume you have not submitted any?
MR. WOOD: I’m just saying that, you know, if we’re going to take steps, I’m not going to, you know, preview for you something that may or may not – we may or may not do, so – but if we do have something that has some names that we’re going to turn over, we’ll certainly let you know.
QUESTION: Robert, the media note came out this morning saying that the Department of State and the Department of Energy are going to sign a memorandum of understanding here on Monday to work to improve the energy efficiency and environmental management of U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. And could you explain to us by Monday why it is necessary to sign a memorandum of understanding between two agencies of the U.S. Government to do something that seems pretty, you know, common sensical, which is to work together to, you know, better manage their environment and to reduce energy efficiency? It just seems like a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of formal attention for something that should be part of the ordinary functioning of the government.
MR. WOOD: Well, it is the ordinary function of government. This is something that the Administration is committed to, having what we call green embassies, and cooperating with other government agencies is not abnormal for us to do in that regard. I wasn’t – I briefly looked at the media note, but I don’t think there’s anything beyond what I just said about it. It’s, you know, two government agencies working on something that’s, you know, very important to the U.S. Government, important to the United States, and frankly, to the world to try to do what we can to become much more green and --
QUESTION: I just don’t get why it takes an MOU to – you know, to do that.
MR. WOOD: Well, you know, we are – you know, we are the government and there are certain things that we have to do and – but I wouldn’t make anything more of it than that. I think it’s just an example of the U.S. Government trying to do the right thing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: We have a couple questions.
QUESTION: This one is on Zimbabwe. I was wondering if you could elaborate on the Secretary’s remarks in which she said it was time for Robert Mugabe to step down, and also described the power-sharing talks as a sham. Do – does the United States no longer envision the possibility of power-sharing between ZANU-PF and the opposition?
MR. WOOD: The Secretary’s remarks stand for themselves. Our position all along has been that the government – the Mugabe regime needs to share power. We’ve said that. I’m saying it again here. Mugabe needs to share power with the opposition. That’s what he agreed to do.
QUESTION: Albania-FYROM. Mr. Wood, according to an interview, Assistant Secretary Matt Bryza made some absolute statements about minorities in the Balkans. When asked about the status and rights of the Greeks in Albania and FYROM, he dismissed the question as irrelevant, quote, “He had nothing to say about them,” unquote, or, quote, “even to hear the term ‘minority,’” unquote.
Since that reflects your policy, Mr. Wood, I am wondering is there any particular reason why the Department of State seems allergic to hearing about the rights of the Greeks minority in the Balkans by (inaudible) to extra length to determine even imaginary minorities in Greece?
MR. WOOD: Well, I disagree with the premise of your statement, Mr. Lambros. Again, I have not seen what Matt has said, so it wouldn't be fair for me to comment on it. Our policy with regard to Macedonia is well known, very clear. We have said that many times from the podium.
QUESTION: What about the property and human rights of the Greeks in Albania and FYROM? They have been violated totally by both governments, and I am wondering what do you do as Department of State from the human rights point of view.
MR. WOOD: Look, our position on human rights for minorities around the world is fairly clear, sir. I don’t think I need to say more on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. WOOD: You’re welcome.
(The briefing was concluded at 10:39 a.m.)
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