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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 26, 2008

INDEX:

TURKEY/IRAQ

U.S. Urges Iraq and Turkey to Coordinate on PKK Issue
PKK is a Longstanding Problem / Solution is for All Parties to Work Together
U.S. Would Like to See Military Operations Conclude as Quickly as Possible
Need for Any Military Operations Taken to be Limited in Duration and Scope
Multinational Forces in Iraq Under UN Mandate at Iraqi Invitation
Status of Forces Discussions / Objective to Provide Common Framework Agreement

IRAN

Political Directors Meeting / U/S Burns / Variety of Discussions on Nuclear Program
Draft Security Resolution / Need to Move Forward / Possible Minister’s Statement
IAEA Report / IAEA Technical Briefing / Iran Had Program for Nuclear Weapons
Previously Agreed to Package of Incentives / Dual-Track Approach / Role of Solana
Goal is to Convince Iranians to do What We Believe is in Their Best Interest
Goal is to Obtain Good Security Council Resolution / No Timetable on Vote
Plenty of Incentives for a Country Seeking to Have Civilian Nuclear Program

KENYA

Secretary Rice’s Conversation with Annan / Update on Talks
U.S. Disappointed that Leadership in Kenya Have Been Unable to Reach Agreement
U.S. Looking at a Range of Possible Actions / Revocations of Visas First Step

KOSOVO/SERBIA

U.S. Recognizes and Respects Difficulty of Issue
Serbia’s Role in Balkans, Europe / Consequences of Breakup of Former Yugoslavia
Troika Negotiations / Representatives Frank Wisner and Mr. Ahtisaari
U.S. Has Worked with Serbia Throughout this Process / Discussions with Russia

DEPARTMENT

Deputy Secretary’s Attendance at White House Meeting with Czech Prime Minister

NORTH KOREA

New York Philharmonic’s Performance a Private Cultural Exchange
U.S. Government Activities with DPRK Tied to Progress on Nuclear Issue

GEORGIA/RUSSIA

U.S. Support for Sovereign and Territorial Integrity of Georgia


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:35 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start you out with, so let’s see what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Anything on Baghdad’s demands for the Turkish – immediate Turkish withdrawal?

MR. CASEY: Well, I talked a little bit about that this morning, Anne, and I think you know our basic policy on this. And we believe what’s important is that the Iraqis and the Turks work together and coordinate to the extent possible. In terms of responding to the PKK, we’ve said previously that we would hope that any incursion by Turkish forces into northern Iraq would be of limited duration and scope. That still continues to be our belief. Certainly, we’ll be talking with them. And I believe our Embassies both in Iraq and in Turkey have had an opportunity to talk with officials there about this. But you know, I think this is an issue that understandably raises concerns on both sides of the border and there’s going to be these kinds of political comments and reactions to it. And we’ll certainly do whatever we can to help facilitate a dialogue between the two.

QUESTION: Well, then this takes it up a notch diplomatically in their – the – one ally of the United States is calling on another one to do something particular and it has been going on for several days now and you all just keep saying you want it to conclude quickly. I mean --

MR. CASEY: Well, that’s true. Look, this is not an issue that’s going to be resolved today or tomorrow or next week or probably even next year. The PKK has been an issue that has been out there for many, many years. This has been a problem between Iraq and Turkey for a long period of time. What’s important, though, is that the solution to this is for all the parties involved, for the United States, for Turkey and for Iraq to be able to work together because everyone agrees that this is a common threat and this is a common challenge. So what our goal has been and will continue to be is, to the extent possible, to ensure that there is cooperation and discussion and coordination, where possible, between Turkish and Iraqi officials. And understandably, there have been concerns raised on the Iraqi side about this, there have been concerns raised on the Turkish side as well. So what we would like to see happen again is to see these military actions conclude as quickly as possible. And again, to the extent that there is a role for us to help facilitate and bring the two sides together for further diplomatic discussions on it, we’re certainly going to pursue it.

QUESTION: Can you be any more precise about what “as quickly as possible” means and have you told the Turks what you – what they should interpret that to mean?

MR. CASEY: I don’t have any further definition for you on it. I think it’s pretty clear that we all want to see the minimal impact possible, particularly on civilian populations in Northern Iraq.

QUESTION: Have you told the Turks anything in particular about what that phrase means?

MR. CASEY: Again, I don’t have anything more detailed for you -- to offer you than that.

QUESTION: On the same issue.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, it is true that you warned Ankara not to expand its military (inaudible) against the Kurds?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, again, this is something – like I said, we’ve been in conversations with both the Turkish Government and the Iraqi Government about this. As we’ve always said, we believe that any military operations that are undertaken need to be limited in scope and duration and I’ll just leave it at that. That’s certainly a message we’ve clearly conveyed to the Turkish Government on any number of occasions.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister of the semiautonomous area of Kurdistan Nechirvan Barzani stated today, “Turkey is targeting the Kurdistan region itself. I am surprised by Baghdad's weak response to this clear violation of its sovereignty.” How do you respond, Mr. Casey, since the entire (inaudible) with the U.S. invasion and occupation and your (inaudible) too for the continued Turkish aggression against the Kurds of northern Iraq?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, let me take exception to your characterization of the role of the Multinational Forces in Iraq. They are there under a UN mandate at the invitation of the free and independent Iraqi Government. In terms of, you know, what conversations there are between the Kurdish region and its regional government and the central government in Baghdad, I’ll leave the ample number of Iraqi politicians that are there to comment on that. Again, I think our policy on this is pretty clear.

Sue.

QUESTION: On Iran --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Sue --

MR. CASEY: Oh, same subject. Sorry, Michel.

QUESTION: On Iraq, tomorrow, the negotiations between the U.S. and Iraq will start regarding the presence or the future of the American presence there. How – what do you want from these negotiations and how do you view these negotiations?

MR. CASEY: Well, you’re referring to the discussions on a Status of Forces Agreement. But as we’ve talked about before, look, I think our objectives and the Iraqi objectives going into this is to establish a clear legal framework and basis for operations for U.S. forces in Iraq once the current UN Security Council mandate expires at the end of the year. And in that sense, those discussions will look like the kinds of discussions we’ve had with any number of other countries throughout the world and we’ll basically provide that kind of common understanding and common framework for being able to have the possibility for continuing U.S. military and other kinds of security operations, training activities, counterterrorism cooperation and that kind of thing with the Government of Iraq.

So, you know, as we go into this, what we hope to be able to conclude is a good, solid understanding and framework agreement that will allow current and future Iraqi leaders and current and future U.S. leaders to make some rational decisions on how to best utilize U.S. forces in that country.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Sue, sorry. Okay, over to Iran.

QUESTION: Over to Iran. I know that you put out some talking points yesterday --

MR. CASEY: Right.

QUESTION: -- on Iran, which were a little scant, I have to say, but --

MR. CASEY: I thought they were the usual full and complete readout of yesterday’s conversations that we would normally give you.

QUESTION: Well, in the spirit of this dual-track approach that you’re taking --

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- that was mentioned in the statement, what are you offering the Iranians? Are you coming up with anything new so that diplomatic – there’s a lot of discussion about various inducements that are being put on the table, sweeteners for the 2006 deal, so --

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: What did you actually discuss yesterday? Because there seem to be quite a few press reports out there.

MR. CASEY: Well, yeah, there seem to be quite a few press reports and in this case, I don’t think you should believe everything you read. Look, what was – what was discussed yesterday? Well, the political directors did meet. Under Secretary Burns was our representative there and they had a variety of discussions related to Iran’s nuclear program.

First and foremost, they did talk about and just reaffirm the commitment of all the parties to the dual-track approach and to the process that we’ve been working through. They also discussed the draft Security Council resolution and again agreed that we should be moving forward with that and we look forward to seeing some vote take place on that in the coming days. Again, the nonpermanent members of the Council do have something to say about that, of course, so we are still, I know, working through those issues in New York, but the agreement to the P5+1 is we definitely will be moving ahead with it and look forward to a vote shortly.

They also did discuss putting together a ministers statement that would be issued together with the resolution and this was part of the discussion about the dual-track approach. This is something that’s going to simply reaffirm the consensus of the P5+1 on those issues. They also did have a discussion as well about the IAEA report that came out. I know too you can -- the discussion, I think, talked not only about that but also about the technical briefing that the IAEA gave.

And just if I can take a quick parenthesis on that, I would hope that countries, based on that technical briefing, would share the concerns that we feel were reiterated by it. It’s clear that Iran, based on that technical briefing as well as what you’ve seen in the NIE, had a nuclear weapons program that not only includes its ongoing activities of enriching and reprocessing uranium and includes its ongoing missile program, but very clearly it has had a specific program designed to work on the necessary components for putting together a warhead, for putting together that vehicle for transporting a nuclear -- for managing a nuclear weapon. And it’s clear to us that while our estimate says they suspended work on that program in 2003, the estimate also says that we can’t be certain whether or not they’ve restarted it. And we also don’t have great confidence in -- as I understand it, and you can look at the NIE language -- in if they were to restart it, how quickly we would be able to detect it.

So I would hope that what the IAEA is saying to people in this technical brief, as well as the information that we’ve made publicly available through the NIE, would give serious concern to people, particularly as Iran, as reported by the IAEA, continues to move ahead with their uranium enrichment activities, including the possible installation and operation of P2 centrifuges, which are much more efficient at producing highly enriched uranium. So again, this was a subject of discussion in terms of making sure we all had a common understanding of what was being said by the IAEA.

In terms of -- and you knew I was going to get to the point you actually cared about eventually, Sue. There are a lot of press reports today talking about a new set of incentives or a new package of incentives. And let me be clear: There’s no new package of incentives. That’s simply not the case. What there is, is a package of incentives that the P5+1 agreed to at the beginning of this process back in Vienna, and there has certainly been, over time, discussions, including in this meeting, about how you present that package to the Iranians. Because again, we do -- when we talk about a dual-track approach, what we’re talking about is not just sanctioning the Iranians. We would, frankly, prefer to be in a position where we’re at the negotiating table with the Iranians talking about that incentives package and talking about how we get to a point where Iran can have the civilian nuclear program it says it wants without having to cause great concern in the international community by word and deed that they are, in fact, intending on using that program as a cover to build a nuclear weapon.

So there certainly were discussions and have been discussions over time, about how Mr. Solana, who’s our channel for this, can present that set of incentives that have been agreed to, and do so in a way that might make them more likely to get a positive response from the Iranians, particularly in combination with the sanctions that are in place, with the sanctions that are likely to be added to them in the next few days at the UN, as well as the threat of potential additional ones.

QUESTION: So aside from kind of presenting it with music and chocolates and other things, I mean, what on a practical level are you looking at in terms of the channel? Have you concluded that the Solana-Jalili channel is a worthwhile channel, or are you looking at other ways of presenting it?

MR. CASEY: Well --

QUESTION: Maybe if you could just expand on what you mean by, you know, other ways to present it. That’s a little --

MR. CASEY: Well, when I say that -- and you’ve heard Mr. Solana talk about this, too -- there are -- you know, there’s a pretty broad range of incentives that are in the package. And certainly there’s ways to emphasize different aspects of it, or explore different aspects of it, that, I think, you know, are part of the flexibility within those incentives that are there. But in terms of Mr. Solana, we very much appreciate the role he has played. He has been a good interlocutor for the P5+1 with the Iranians and we believe that that channel should continue to be open.

Again, the goal here isn’t to sanction Iran. The goal here is to convince the Iranians to do what we believe is in their best interest, which is to negotiate with us over their nuclear program. And part of the benefit that they would obtain from doing so, if you reached a successful agreement, would be the incentives that are there and that Mr. Solana has to talk about. And that’s just part of the normal way of doing diplomacy. You always try and have not only something that people wish to avoid, but something that they might wish to get coming out of the negotiation.

QUESTION: Sorry, just one more thing. So Mr. Solana’s going to continue to be the interlocutor?

MR. CASEY: Absolutely. I’ve not heard anything that would indicate that he would not be the channel for continued official discussions between the P5+1 and the Iranians. Now obviously, other countries do have diplomatic relations with Iran and I know that the individual members of the P5+1 all conduct their individual bilateral diplomacy on that. But in terms of how the P5+1 is approaching the nuclear issue, this is – continues to be a united presentation of our views and the official channel for doing that is, again, through Mr. Solana.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: You said you’ll hold a vote in the next few days. What is more important? That the resolution is voted before the Russian presidency of the Council or is it more important to get – to have unanimity on the resolution?

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, we’re greedy. We want it all. We would love to have a unanimous resolution passed as soon as possible. We would have loved to have had it passed by now already. You know, look, I think what’s important is that we get a good, strong resolution that clearly shows that the international community remains united in opposing Iran’s continued defiance of Security Council resolutions, of Board of Governors resolutions, and in many ways, of the common sense of what’s in the interest of their people.

So I’m not trying to predict for you exactly when it’ll – when the vote will happen and again, I also think it’s important that the nonpermanent members who are still reviewing this have the opportunity to have any concerns that they may have addressed too. So whether that happens this week or next week or at some other point, we’ll see, but I do think the expectation is we’d be able to do this somewhere in the next few days.

QUESTION: But is the unanimity still an important factor or is it something you think now you can forget?

MR. CASEY: No, we always want – you always want to see resolutions be passed with as strong a consensus as possible. We’re very pleased that all the previous resolutions on Iran’s nuclear program have been unanimously supported by members of the Council. We’d like to see that happen again in this case as well. But again, I’m not prepared to tell you or try and tell you how members are going to vote on this. That’s always an individual decision of individual Council members.

David.

QUESTION: Tom, the crux of some of these stories that I read is that there’s sentiment among some in the P-5+1 to add more carrots and – I mean, is your view that there are enough incentives in this already?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think when you look at the package that’s there, there certainly are plenty of incentives for a country that legitimately is seeking only to have a civilian nuclear program. And again, I’d also point out people keep on saying, “Well, you know, the United States needs to offer something in this.”

Well, the United States is offering something, frankly, unprecedented in the last 30 years of U.S.-Iranian relations, which is a freestanding offer from the Secretary of State to go meet anyplace, anytime, anywhere with her counterpart so long as they meet the very basic and simple criteria of the UN Security Council and suspend their uranium enrichment and that that discussion with her counterpart and the other P5+1 ministers would not only be about their nuclear program, but that would be about any other issues that the Iranians would care to raise in their relationship or lack thereof with the United States right now. It really is a historic offer and it’s very surprising, I think, in many ways that the Iranian regime hasn’t seen fit to take us up on it.

Sir.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, unless anyone’s – yep, I think we’re done with Iran for now.

QUESTION: Yeah, let me take you to Kenya now.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: The – I saw the statement that you issued – the Secretary of State issued today. It does look that you are really disappointed about the developments there. My reading was that you are saying to them if you don’t reach a coalition as soon as possible, we’ll slap you with sanctions. Is that a good reading? And how long are you still prepared to give them time? This thing has been going on since the 27th of December. It’s almost two months and those guys are still (inaudible).

MR. CASEY: Well, as I mentioned to those of you that were here this morning, the Secretary did have an opportunity to speak with former Secretary General Kofi Annan and got an update on the status of his talks. As you know, those talks have not yet produced a agreement on a unity government, which is absolutely essential to implementing the rest of the agreement, including dealing with some of the longer-term political issues that properly need to be addressed to prevent the kinds of conflict that we’ve seen as a result of this election happen in the future.

And we are very disappointed that the leadership in Kenya, both President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga, have not been able to reach an agreement. The Kenyan people deserve better than what they are getting from their political leadership right now. They turned out in huge numbers on election day to cast their ballots to choose a new government. The election, as we all know, was extremely close. There were serious incidents of abuse and of fraud that were committed there. This process that the AU has been working on and that we have endorsed will help deal not only with the immediate problem of establishing a new consensus government for Kenya, but will also help deal with those longer-term issues that are out there. And it’s unfortunate that the two leaders have not been able to reach an agreement.

In terms of follow-on U.S. actions, as you saw, you know, we are looking at a range of possible actions, as the Secretary said, and that will be, in part, based on what conclusions we draw about who is responsible for lack of progress there. As you know, we have sent letters to a number of Kenyans explaining to them that they may have their visa privileges revoked. That, I would look at as a first step and certainly, if we – there is not an agreement between the parties, then I expect you will see other measures taken as well.

Okay, Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Casey, the Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is, in response specifically to your – yesterday’s statement said, “Kosovo does not exist. There will be no stability in the region and the world until that decision is annulled.” Any comment?

MR. CASEY: Look, Mr. Lambros, our position on Kosovo is quite clear and we’ve been consistent about it. We recognize that this is a difficult issue for Serbia and for the Serbian people. We respect the fact that this raises many emotional issues for people in Serbia. But you know, we want to have a good relationship with Serbia, with its government and with its people. Serbia is an important country in Europe with a very significant history. It is a country that is critical to stability in the Balkans. It’s a country that is critical to assuring that the vision that many of the leaders, who were in place at the end of the Cold War, laid out - of really having a Europe that was free and whole and at peace - to take effect. Serbia needs to be a part of that, Serbia should be a part of it, and we want to work with Serbia to make sure it is a part of it.

But the reality is that part of dealing with the consequences of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia includes a final status agreement on Kosovo. And again, you know what our position is on that. I don’t need to repeat it for you. But you know, we’re going to continue to move forward on this, working with the rest of the international community, and we certainly hope that we will be able to continue to have a respectful dialogue with the Government of Serbia as we move forward.

QUESTION: Mr. Casey, according to Reuters News Agency, you stated yesterday, “We are going to continue to try to work both with the Russians and the Serbs.” I am wondering how you are going to work since your position in Kosovo is a catastrophe for the territorial integrity of Serbia, (inaudible) your chosen people of the Balkans, the Albanians.

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, look, I think you -- as you well know, we have worked with the Serbian Government throughout this process, including through the Troika negotiations and our representative Frank Wisner there, long before that with Mr. Ahtisaari in support of his efforts. We have regular discussions with the Russian Government on this issue as well as on many others. Certainly, we respect the fact that there is a disagreement between us on this, but that doesn't mean we shouldn’t be able to keep talking about it and, again, do so in a respectful manner, in a manner that’s free of violence and intimidation, and in a way that ultimately will allow us to reach a common understanding.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Tom, did you find out if the Czech Prime Minister will have a meeting today in --

MR. CASEY: I did check. He is not going to have a separate meeting with Deputy Secretary Negroponte, but Deputy Secretary Negroponte will be at the White House for the Prime Minister’s meeting with the President.

David.

QUESTION: Yeah, Tom, on the general subject of traveling orchestras, Secretary Rice apparently told her traveling press contingent that she thinks that political -- I mean cultural exchanges with Korea should be held regardless of the dialogue that we have with them on the nuclear issue; whereas, Ms. Perino over at the White House suggested that future engagement depends on their meeting six-party obligations. Is there a difference between those?

MR. CASEY: Boy, we’re really short on news today, huh, David? Look, absolutely not. I think you heard the Secretary say here on Friday that, you know, and just to reiterate, the New York Philharmonic’s program in North Korea was something that was arranged independent of the U.S. Government. It’s a private culture exchange. We’ve supported that activity and I’m sure we’d support similar kinds of activities in the future. As the Secretary said, the Korean people, the North Korean people, have been very isolated, kept deliberately so by their government. Engagement and having some kind of window into the outside world certainly is not a bad thing. I do think, as she said, you have to be realistic about what kind of impact such things would have on the leadership of the country and its policies, but certainly, there’s no problem with these kinds of private cultural exchanges.

In terms of our policy related to U.S. Government relations and U.S. Government activities with North Korea, you’ve heard from her and you’ve heard from Chris Hill and you’ve heard from Dana and you’ve heard from me and you’ve heard from others that, basically, progress in our bilateral government-to-government relations with North Korea is very much tied to the progress that has been made and that needs to be made on the nuclear question. And certainly, whether we are talking about the steps that the other five members of the six-party talks have agreed to take in response to North Korea’s forward steps on denuclearization or whether you’re talking about a future political horizon for North Korea with all of its neighbors after full implementation of the September ’05 agreement, again, all those things hinge on progress in the nuclear field, and I don’t see any contradiction between that statement in support of general cultural exchange by the Secretary and Dana’s position and our position that progress in our bilateral political relationship needs to be tied and is tied very directly to progress on the nuclear front.

QUESTION: Would you like to hear a thank you?

MR. CASEY: I think we’ve got a gentleman back here who wants one more. And then, Charlie, yeah, I think a thank you would be very thankful indeed. Yeah, okay.

QUESTION: Another topic, Russian elections?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: The polling stations have been opened in breakaway Abkhazia by the Central Election Commission of Russia without any permission of Georgian Government, so is there any commentary?

MR. CASEY: I’m not aware of that particular issue, but look, you know our longstanding position. We support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. We’ll continue to work with the Georgian Government on this issue. We do believe it’s important that these issues be resolved and be resolved peacefully through diplomatic means.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:02 p.m.)

DPB # 34



Released on February 26, 2008

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