|Daily Press Briefing|
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
July 14, 2008
EAST ASIA PACIFIC REGION
|Chris Hill Reached an Agreement on a Set of Principles with Six Parties in Beijing|
|Principles Will Guide the Specific Implementation of a Verification Regime|
|The Secretary is going to ASEAN/Currently No Plans to Meet with North Koreans|
|U.S. is Working on an Agreement with the Iraqis|
|Agreement Goal is to Assist Iraqi Forces with Security and Fight Against al-Qaida|
|Agreement Will Provide a Framework for Relationship Between New Iraq and U.S.|
|Secretary to Meet With FM Nalbandian to Sign Agreement on Nonproliferation|
|Meeting Will Also Cover Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenian Economic Reform|
|The Secretarys Meeting Jordanian FM/Readout|
|U.S. Will Talk with Countries, Including China and Russia, about Zimbabwe|
|Part of the Idea is to Work with Like-minded Nations to Influence Zimbabwe|
|The U.S. Lost Nine Brave Americans in Kunar Province|
|There is Deep Concern About Cross-Border Infiltration from Pakistan|
|Pakistan Understands the Importance of Engaging in the Counterterrorism Fight|
|A.Q. Khan and His Network is a Matter of Continuing Interest for the U.S.|
|The U.S. Does Not Have an Observer at the Mediterranean Summit in Paris|
|The U.S. Is Supportive of the Efforts of the EU and Mediterranean Countries|
|Any Promises Made to Give Access to Sec. Rice Have No Connection to Reality|
|The U.S. Will Examine the Specific Charges Put Before the ICC Judges|
|The U.S. Will Review the Request for Information from the ICC|
|South Korea Is Recalling its Ambassador from Japan|
12:37 p.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have anything to start off with so we can get right to your questions.
QUESTION: Do you have any reports back from Chris Hill since he’s been back on the meeting over the weekend – the statement that was issued? Anything new on that? Any timeline yet for a ministerial?
MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing new. I know, obviously, he’s talked to the Secretary and briefed folks up around Washington about his travels to Beijing for the Six-Party Talks. As you noted, they reached an agreement on a – the set of principles that would guide the specific implementation of a verification regime. The sub-working group, or the working group on verification, is going to take hold of those principles. And they’ve already started working on the practical steps on how you go about doing this.
The principles, as the Secretary talked about, contain some basic standard and essential elements of any verification regime: on-site inspections, interviews, various collection of samples and analysis of samples, looking at documents, those kinds of things. So what they’re going to do is try to go through a very detailed list of how you go about implementing these things. And that is the work for the next 45 days for this verification working group.
In terms of the ministerial, there’s no date yet set for it. It’s not necessarily tied to the 45-day clock on the verification working group. It’s just that at this point, the six parties have not yet agreed on a date, time for a ministerial-level meeting.
QUESTION: Do you think that it’s possible when the Secretary is going to ASEAN, which you mentioned this morning --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right. Yeah, she is.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s possible that she may have, sort of, pull-asides there with all of the states or --
MR. MCCORMACK: Entirely possible. I’m not going to tie her hands diplomatically here. As you mentioned, we – as you mentioned that I mentioned, she is going to be going to ASEAN. We’ll try to get a trip announcement out for you, and I’ll try to have a little bit more information for you as we progress in the week as to any meetings, pull-asides that she may be having.
QUESTION: Can you say whether the Administration still hopes to conclude a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq by the end of the Administration?
MR. MCCORMACK: What we’re working on, Kirit, is an agreement with – you know, an agreement with the Iraqis, whether that comprises one or two documents, we’ll see – regarding the continuing U.S.-Iraqi relationship across a variety of different aspects, whether that’s the cultural exchanges or economic or diplomatic, political and security. And very specifically, what we want to do is work on some agreement between the United States and Iraq that will allow our forces to do their job, provide protections to our forces that they need to do their job, working with the Iraqis to provide a security environment.
Of course, we all share the same goals here, the Iraqis and the United States, in terms of providing a security environment, fighting al-Qaida, fighting against those elements within Iraq. We want to try to turn back the clock on Iraq. So that’s generally what we’re working for. And we’re optimistic that we’re going to be able to get there.
QUESTION: And the kind of agreement that you’re trying to look for now, is that, as Ryan Crocker had told us in the past, was a longer term Status of Forces Agreement? Or is it, as has been reported recently, more of a bridge agreement that would take you through the two electoral cycles, the one here in the U.S. and the one in Iraq this coming fall?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the focus – you know, again, in terms of the exact nature of the agreement, what is on the top line, the title of it, or the bumper sticker description of it, that’s not, you know, the most important thing that’s going on here.
What’s important is that we both work together on a way that will allow our forces to work with Iraqi forces to operate, to offer them certain protections, fight against al-Qaida, help provide a better security environment, you know, after you have the Security Council resolution expires, which is, again, the basis for our forces being there right now. So you want to conclude something that will allow them to continue operating.
QUESTION: And what’s the timeline on that? I mean, how long would you like to see that agreement cover?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, Kirit, these are all things that are going to be worked out during a negotiation. I’m not going to get into the details of our position or the Iraqis’ position or where we stand right now on those negotiations.
QUESTION: And when do you expect to be able to– do you still expect to be able to complete something by the end of the month?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re pushing hard on it. We’re pushing hard on it. Again, I don’t like to give specific dates. I’ll leave that to others to do. But we’re dedicating quite a bit of effort to it, as are the Iraqis. You know, this is an important agreement for them as well. It’s an important agreement for their future.
And you’re starting to see a dynamic here, like – a little bit like you saw in Basra, where you’re more and more starting to have Iraqi-led operations, Iraqi-conceived operations, Iraqi-executed operations, where we are playing a role, whether that’s a support role or a more central role. So that is representative of the kind of relationship that’s changing between the United States forces and Iraqi forces.
Sorry, we’re getting a little feedback here.
QUESTION: Sean –
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, feedback. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Sean, maybe – can you talk a little bit about what the sticking points are, though? I mean, you mention a whole series of things and – you know, are you hung up on the educational and cultural exchanges?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Matt –
QUESTION: What exactly is the (inaudible)? Do they want to go to bigger universities and you’re prepared to allow them to or –
MR. MCCORMACK: Let’s wait to get the sound fixed here. Are we all set on the sound?
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay, good. Matt, look, obviously, a lot of the issues –
QUESTION: Or is it the traditional dance thing that’s got you hung up?
MR. MCCORMACK: Oh, come on. Look –
QUESTION: Well –
MR. MCCORMACK: No, obviously, the security issues are – focus on some of the most sensitive issues for both sides here, for both sides. You know, I mentioned the full range of relations between the U.S. and Iraq because that is part of this. And let’s not let that – lose sight of that fact, that we’re intending to work with the Iraqis to try to negotiate an agreed-upon framework for a relationship between a new Iraq and the United States going forward. Of course, this will provide a framework or an outline or a foundation for that relationship. But that’s important, too.
In terms of the negotiations, I’m not going to specify exactly what are the issues at hand and what our position is, what the Iraqis’ position is. I’m not going to negotiate from the podium. But obviously, security issues are a big part of this. And the role – what is important for us, and I think it’s a shared sense with the Iraqis, is that our forces continue to be able to do their jobs with the protections that allow them to do their jobs.
QUESTION: So – okay, so that’s what you would describe, in general, as the main issue of concern right now is the security –
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I am not going to –
QUESTION: – security issues and the –
MR. MCCORMACK: I am not going to narrow it down. I am not going to be more specific about where we are in the negotiations, Matt.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you give a little bit more detail about what the Secretary will be signing this afternoon with Foreign Minister Nalbandian?
MR. MCCORMACK: With Armenia? Well, we are going to be putting out a little bit of a greater description for you coming up here. But it basically is an agreement designed to protect against nuclear smuggling, and obviously, an issue that we can all agree upon, that there be good cooperation between the United States and countries overseas. So it’s an important agreement for the United States and Armenia, certainly in terms of our nonproliferation efforts.
They are also going to touch upon issues in their meeting related to deepening political as well as economic reform in Armenia. And I’m sure she’ll talk a little bit about Nagorno-Karabakh and where those discussions stand.
QUESTION: Is this the PSI you’re referring to? Are they signing up on PSI or something or is this another --
MR. MCCORMACK: No, this is a – it’s a separate agreement, a separate agreement, yeah.
QUESTION: Can you give us a readout of the meeting with the Jordanian Foreign Minister?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, they talked about several issues – U.S.-Jordanian bilateral issues. Not surprisingly, talked a great deal about where the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations stand. The Secretary shared with him how she saw things and he was able to provide her some information as well. They talked about regional issues, various threats as we both see them in the region. It was a good discussion.
QUESTION: On Zimbabwe, this morning you said that you were going to be speaking to others, you know, like-minded people –
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: – probably not China and Russia, I would assume – on how to proceed on Zimbabwe. What are you looking at –
MR. MCCORMACK: Well –
QUESTION: – specifically and who are you talking to?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have a list for you, Sue, but certainly you can go down the list and start with the list of countries that voted for the resolution. The nine countries that voted for the resolution that would have passed absent those vetoes that you mentioned. Look, we’ll continue to talk to the Russians and the Chinese, although they have clearly not expressed the depth of commitment to the issue that we have. And those other eight countries have.
And we’ll also talk to other like-minded countries in Europe and around the world to see what we might do to keep the focus on the issue of Zimbabwe, the plight of the Zimbabwean people, and how we, as an international system, might facilitate that country and that country’s political system moving beyond where it is right now, which is really in crisis and chaos. If Zimbabwe continues down this road, it will continue spiraling downward economically as well as politically.
QUESTION: Sean, can I go to –
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Unless I missed it, there wasn’t any formal reaction on Friday from this building. Maybe there was and I missed it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, Ambassador Khalilzad – Ambassador –
QUESTION: Well, right, but from here. Well, I just –
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, he is part of the State Department.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well – yeah, but he’s in New York and this is here, and you were on – you were at the briefing saying that people that vote – countries that --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: – voted against this would be on the wrong side of history, and you didn’t see how anyone with – in any good conscience, could possibly vote against it. So are the Russians and the Chinese now on the wrong side of history?
MR. MCCORMACK: I said it at the gaggle this morning. If you had been there, Matt, I –
QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry.
MR. MCCORMACK: I did indeed say that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, yeah, they – I believe that they were. Countries who voted against it were on the wrong side of history.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: But what can you do to punish the Zimbabwean Government while not making the situation even worse for people on the ground who are facing, kind of, runaway inflation? What imaginative ideas do you think you can come up with?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that’s what we’re trying to work out, Sue. I don’t have – look, there is no one simple answer here. And in the wake of the Security Council vote, we are looking at what else might be done.
QUESTION: But I mean, the U.S. and Britain don’t really have much sway when it comes to Zimbabwe, if one’s realistic. I mean, what about South Africa? Has the Secretary reached out to South Africa in the last few days? I know that –
MR. MCCORMACK: She has not. She has not, no. And part of – you know, part of the idea is to work with like-minded nations, not only to try to influence Zimbabwe, but try to influence those with influence on Zimbabwe and their decision-making apparatus.
QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the situation in Afghanistan in the last couple days? Not the specifics of the military side, but from the State Department’s point of view?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not – no specifics to offer, Charlie. I know that we did lose nine brave Americans yesterday in a firefight in Kunar province. I’ll leave it to DOD to describe the specific circumstances of that. But I would urge you to consider that this may have been a case of the U.S. and international forces and Afghan forces taking a fight – taking the fight to the enemy rather than the other way around.
QUESTION: Well, has the Secretary been engaged on this issue since the last – since this particular incident? I mean, has she talked to Secretary Gates? Has she done anything we should know – would like to know about?
MR. MCCORMACK: I think she has lunch with Secretary Gates today in a pre-scheduled lunch. Look, they – the – and she has a call every single morning, or virtually every single morning with Secretary Gates and National Security Advisor Hadley, so they are in constant, constant communication.
QUESTION: Over at the Pentagon, they’ve been saying that one of the reasons for the – this increase in violence in Afghanistan is because Pakistan is not doing enough. In your discussion with the Pakistani – or with the Secretary’s discussion with him on Friday, did you discuss any specific new ideas that you could curb the number of fighters crossing over? What was the outcome of that meeting in terms of concrete suggestions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. Well, I’ll leave it to the military folks to describe the situation on the ground, where they see the threats coming from. But generally speaking, there is a deep concern about cross-border infiltration from Pakistan into Afghanistan, and then back over the border into Pakistan once again. And as you might imagine, it’s a complicated issue, but it’s fundamental to the security of both of those countries, because you have people operating out of Pakistan that pose a threat to Afghanistan. But ultimately, too, let’s remember that those kinds of groups, those kinds of individuals aren’t necessarily content to direct their energies outwardly, and they pose a real threat to Pakistan and the Pakistani people as well. So – and Pakistan, I believe, understands this. They understand the importance of engaging in the counterterrorism fight. We talked to them about that. I don’t want to get into specifics. I’ll leave that for closed-door diplomacy. But it is a real concern for us.
QUESTION: Can you speak up a little bit? It could be – we’re talking – either the volume is not up or you’re talking lightly.
MR. MCCORMACK: I think we’re having – we’re having audio issues today. Yeah.
QUESTION: Okay. On the agreement – back to the agreement that the Secretary is signing today with Armenia, is there – do you have similar agreements like that with other countries, or is there a particular reason that it’s needed for Armenia specifically?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well,I can’t detail the list for you, but I do believe we have similar agreements with other countries.
QUESTION: What is U.S. reaction on Mediterranean Summit in Paris? (Inaudible.)
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s an effort that’s being led by the EU and countries around the Mediterranean. We don’t have an observer there. We don’t have a place at the table. But I think generally, it’s an effort that we can, at the least, be supportive of. You know, what the specific outcomes of this grouping will be, you know, we’ll see. But it would appear that they had a good first meeting.
QUESTION: Sean, any reaction to that report that a fundraising pitch for the Bush library promised access to Secretary Rice and other members of the Administration?
MR. MCCORMACK: I hadn’t seen that. But certainly, if anybody is making promises like that, they’re making them on their own accord and own volition. And there’s no relation to reality.
QUESTION: So there was no instance in which an exiled Asian leader was promised access to Secretary Rice that you know of, if, you know, he’d pumped funds into the Bush library?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, Sue, I don’t know of any such incident, but I can tell you that if somebody is making promises like that, they’re making promises on their own accord, again, with no current connection to reality.
QUESTION: Can you address the Sudan situation and the ICC? What – I think you mentioned something this morning about looking at your own – that the U.S. is looking at its own laws in relation to this. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I talked a little bit about the fact that the United States is – has been at the forefront of holding those responsible for genocide accountable, whether that’s from the – whether those individuals are from the Government or from rebel groups or other groups.
In terms of the ICC, we are not part of the ICC. We’re – we are not the signatories of the Treaty of Rome that created the ICC. In terms of the specific charges that were put before the ICC judges today by the prosecutor, we’ll examine them closely to glean any information that we might from those. We are constantly looking at what information we have on our own that might help hold accountable those individuals responsible for genocide or other atrocities.
There have been – there has been a request for information from the ICC and we had pledged that we would look at that request. That request is not related to the request for warrants against President Bashir today.
QUESTION: But you said previously that you didn’t know of a request. Now you know of a request, is what you’re saying?
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I talked about on Friday the fact that there was a request.
QUESTION: A request for what?
MR. MCCORMACK: For information. Information.
QUESTION: No. I don’t believe you did.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes, I did.
QUESTION: This morning you said that you were –
QUESTION: No, this morning you said no.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I said with respect to President Bashir.
QUESTION: I see. Oh, I see.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: So what is the request for, then?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to get into it.
QUESTION: But it’s to do with Darfur?
MR. MCCORMACK: Yes.
QUESTION: It’s not to do with the LRA or –
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: When was that request?
MR. MCCORMACK: I – you know, I don’t know. I don’t know exactly when it was.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. And what is the position on how to respond to the request?
MR. MCCORMACK: We review each request as it would come in. We made a commitment when this issue came up. And the issue came up in the Security Council debate related to Sudan and whether or not the Security Council would vote in favor of the ICC and ICC prosecutors dealing with this issue, holding to account those responsible for genocide in Sudan. We abstained from that resolution. But we stated at the time that if there were a request for information from the ICC, that we would consider each of those requests in turn, not necessarily with – trying to signal which way – in which way we would respond. But of course, the basis of a response probably would be what information we had, whether or not there was a match between a request and information we had.
QUESTION: Do you know if there has been a response?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, there has not.
QUESTION: There has not been a response?
MR. MCCORMACK: No.
QUESTION: You mean from the U.S.? The U.S. has not responded yet to the request?
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct. Correct.
QUESTION: My understanding was, Sean, that actually, you guys had made available – after Secretary Powell made the determination or announced the determination that it was a genocide, that you had, in fact, already forwarded on information that led to that determination – I don’t know to the ICC, but certainly to the UN.
MR. MCCORMACK: You know,Matt, I can’t speak to former Secretary Powell’s tenure here.
QUESTION: So the fact that you’re considering, you know, this request, does that mean that you’re opening the door a little bit to joining the ICC – that you’ve opened the door?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not at all.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
MR. MCCORMACK: Not at all.
QUESTION: Just thought I’d check.
MR. MCCORMACK: No. I mean, what it is, it’s a fulfillment of our obligations as we see them.
QUESTION: And you received that request when?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know exactly when it was. It was recently.
QUESTION: What obligations are those?
QUESTION: Recently as in?
MR. MCCORMACK: As I’ve stated before, that if there were a request from the ICC for information, that we would consider it.
QUESTION: Just to flip around, have you asked the ICC for more information about the Bashir case?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we, of course, have access to what has been publicly released in terms of the request by the prosecutor to the ICC judges. I don’t believe we have anything beyond that.
QUESTION: But you haven’t – could you just check whether your – whether the legal counsel’s office is asking for more specific details?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll ask, but I don’t expect that we are.
QUESTION: Because if they’re asking you, it would stand to reason that you’d ask them?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it would stand to reason that the prosecutor would probably put his best case forward.
QUESTION: Sean, on Friday, you got back – there was a TQ on Americans in – official Americans in Darfur.
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: It said that a small number of people who were on TDY from the Embassy had gone back to Khartoum. But I’m just wondering were you – are there any support staff for UNAMID, who are Americans who are there that you’re aware of?
MR. MCCORMACK: Not that I’m aware of, no.
QUESTION: Can you give any reason why the – or explain why the request has not been responded to yet?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re looking at it.
MR. MCCORMACK: Samir.
QUESTION: Are you having any talks with Bashir or his people about this development?
MR. MCCORMACK: With whom?
QUESTION: President al-Bashir of Sudan and his people? Are you having any (inaudible) talks recently?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, not that I’m aware of, Samir. We, of course, have an embassy in Khartoum and we are in contact with Sudanese officials. I’m not aware of any recent contacts with President Bashir.
QUESTION: So the fact that you haven’t responded to it yet, is that – that must mean that it was a fairly recent request or are you just taking your time over it?
MR. MCCORMACK: No, it’s fairly recent.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: South Korea announced that it’s recalling its Ambassador from Japan. Does the U.S. have any reaction to that?
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s an issue for the two countries. I understand it’s – relates to a longstanding territorial dispute between the two countries.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up real fast? Is the U.S. concerned at all that there seems to be a troubled relationship between two allies in the region?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think they have a history of some differences on some issues. But I think, overall, the – they have a good relationship. I think you can leave it to both South Korea and Japan to each describe that relationship. We, independently, have good relationships with them.
But this is a not a new issue, this goes back a ways. And I think every three years or so, it’s an issue that comes up specifically on this territorial dispute.
QUESTION: When you say that the Secretary may have meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN ARF, does that include meetings with the North Koreans?
MR. MCCORMACK: There’s nothing on the schedule at this point, no.
Yes, sir, in the back.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. Jamal from ARY TV from Pakistan. A quick follow-up for Afghanistan and Pakistan. There was a report yesterday published from Associated Press saying that last month about 300 fighters from jihadis group came together for a secret gathering. And yesterday attack that took about nine U.S. soldiers’ life. And there is some official, Western Pakistani official, blaming that these militants were behind that attack. Do you have anything?
MR. MCCORMACK: I have no information that would suggest an answer to that one way or the other.
QUESTION: These people that – reports say it was that these fighters were from the Kashmiri groups.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Again, I don’t have any knowledge on – about the matter, and I don’t know any connection between the firefight yesterday and that report.
QUESTION: There was also a report over the weekend that the Pakistani Government had decided not to investigate the allegations that A.Q. Khan made that the Pakistani military was involved in shipping nuclear components to North Korea. Is that something that the United States raises with Pakistan? I mean, I assume it’s a pretty big concern.
MR. MCCORMACK: What, A.Q. Khan?
QUESTION: Well, what they – specifically his allegation that the Pakistani military was involved in shipping some of the nuclear components to North Korea.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to get into any specific allegations. But certainly, learning more about the work of A.Q. Khan and his network certainly is something we are interested in. It’s a matter of continuing interest for us. We’ve learned a lot. The network’s broken up. It’s out of business. But we’re – I think we as well as others are still plumbing the extent of all of A.Q. Khan – all of the A.Q. Khan’s – the A.Q. Khan network’s activities.
QUESTION: But not directly? I mean, the Pakistani Government’s never given the U.S. access to A.Q. Khan?
MR. MCCORMACK: That’s – to my knowledge, that’s correct.
QUESTION: Is there any ongoing pressure to allow that?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know what the most recent discussions were about it. But it’s a matter – I know it’s a matter of continuing interest for us. The – again, determining exactly the full extent of that network’s activities with A.Q. Khan being at the center of it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:03 p.m.)
DPB # 125
Released on July 14, 2008