|Daily Press Briefing|
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Acting Deputy Spokesman
July 23, 2008
|State Department Will Not Meet with Group from Syria|
|U.S. Welcomes European Union Announcement of Expanded Sanctions on ZANU-PF|
|U.S. Wants to See the Will of the Zimbabwean People Reflected in Resolution|
|Venezuelas Arms Purchases from Russia|
|Venezuelas Relationship with Russia|
|U.S. Condemns Violence in Niger Delta; Encourages Peaceful Resolution of Disputes|
|Visa Requirements for U.S. Diplomats Traveling to EU Countries|
|U.S. Continues Working toward Expansion of EU Countries in Visa Waiver Program|
|Process of Rescinding North Koreas Designation as State Sponsor of Terror|
|U.S. Will Work Through Six-Party Talks to Develop Verification Protocol|
|Next Six-Party Ministerial|
|Rewards for Justice / Radovan Karadzic|
12:41 p.m. EDT
MR. GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. Thank you for coming. I don’t have anything for you.
QUESTION: Well, I hardly have a question, but just to – we’ll try and do something till the (inaudible) get here. You were going to look into the details of the U.S.-Syria delegation meeting earlier – or later this week? Did you --
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, as a matter of fact, I did. I did get some news on that earlier this morning.
Representatives from the State Department will not meet with this group from Syria. Upon review of their program and changes in schedules, ultimately, this did not work out. We understand they will continue with their other activities. Our understanding is this group did not come here to meet with U.S. Government representatives. However, we believe it is still important that international visitors are exposed to Americans and our way of life, and are happy that they will continue with that program.
QUESTION: You said, you know, reviewing their – you mentioned two factors, but --
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- it’s not clear which of those is causal. One was their schedule – their program, and the other was the schedules for the U.S. --
MR. GALLEGOS: We – well, we reviewed the program, we reviewed their requests, we reviewed our schedules, and we decided, ultimately, we weren’t going to be able to meet with them.
QUESTION: Why? But why?
MR. GALLEGOS: That’s what I have for you today, Arshad.
QUESTION: But it’s perplexing because the State Department – I mean, you said yesterday, on the record, there will be a meeting.
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding at that time was that we – they had requested it, that we had looked at the meeting, and we had – we were going to meet with them today. Conditions have changed, and we’re not going to be meeting with them.
QUESTION: Well, was there something on their schedule specifically you’d like to refer to to tell us --
MR. GALLEGOS: Not that I can refer to specifically.
QUESTION: Well, if not specifically --
MR. GALLEGOS: Kirit --
QUESTION: What was the problem with their program? I mean, what --
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t understand – I don’t see if there – I don’t believe there is a problem with their program. We’ve reviewed their schedule. We’ve taken a look at their program. They are going to be meeting with other groups and individuals here in the United States. And unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to have this meeting with them this week.
QUESTION: Well, is there a problem with some of the participants on the delegation?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t know. I don’t believe so.
QUESTION: Is it just a matter of not having the right officials available in this building to meet them?
MR. GALLEGOS: I would say that we’ve taken a look at the schedules, we’ve reviewed their request, we looked at the program that they are going to participate in outside of meeting with the U.S. Government representatives. The fact is that they did not come here to specifically meet with a U.S. Government representative. And my understanding is that we’re unable to meet with them now.
QUESTION: Just to put it this way, is it that you can’t meet with them because of schedule or you won’t meet with them because of substance?
MR. GALLEGOS: I will say I have exhausted my points on this. You can look back to my previous comments.
QUESTION: But Gonzo, you said this yesterday that it’s so critical to meet people like these guys who come over here to explain to them the policies of the government and – you know?
MR. GALLEGOS: No – and I believe, ultimately, we do believe that, that it is very important that international visitors are exposed to as many degrees of American life as possible. We would hope that that would include U.S. Government representatives, at the proper time. We’ve taken a look at the scheduling. We’ve taken a look at their schedule, their program, and we’re not able to do that at this time. However, we do see that they are going to meet with a generous representation of Americans and be exposed to our system of government.
Yes, in back.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic?
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the European Union slapped rather tight sanctions against the Government of Zimbabwe, President Mugabe and his associates, and they added some more people into the list of those who are sanctioned. First of all, do you support that move by the European Union? And secondly, are we about to see you following soon with the --
MR. GALLEGOS: The European Union yesterday announced – did announce expanded sanctions. We welcome this move by our European partners. Expanded sanctions at this critical juncture will keep the pressure on the ZANU-PF to show good faith in these talks. I understand the talks were originally scheduled to begin today, but we’re aware of media reports that they may not start until tomorrow. We’re going to continue to watch. We’re going to continue to see what happens there. Ultimately, as I’ve said before, from here, what we want to see is that the will of the Zimbabwean people is reflected in the results of this or any talks that may take place to come to a resolution to this situation.
QUESTION: Could I just quickly follow up? Aren’t you afraid that slapping sanctions while there are talks going ahead at the same time, that that might delay their own talks, that --
MR. GALLEGOS: I think the issue here is that we try to ensure that there are actually talks, that people do come – that both sides do come to the table, and that they are able to discuss, in a clear and effective way, how they might come to a resolution to this crisis, a resolution that reflects the will of the Zimbabwean people.
QUESTION: Are U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe or additional sanctions contingent on the outcome of the talks?
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is that we’ve been reviewing our options. We’re going to continue to do that. And when we have – when we’ve made the decision, we’ll ultimately announce them.
QUESTION: But is it contingent on the outcome of the negotiations?
MR. GALLEGOS: We’re continuing to watch the situation. We’re continuing to weigh our options, and we’ve seen what our European allies have done. And we’ll continue to do that. And when we have an appropriate announcement, we’ll make that.
QUESTION: On Venezuela, what is your reaction to this alliance or partnership that President Chavez from Venezuela is trying to have with Russia in relation to oil and weapons?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think, number one, is we’ve seen the Venezuelans’ substantial purchases from the Russians, in terms of arms. This is something that we’ve expressed concern over. The fact is that Venezuela is expending an awful lot of resources to obtain an awful lot of military hardware, some would say much more than they actually need if you reflect on their actual defense needs. However, that’s a decision for the Venezuelan Government to make for themselves.
In terms of their relationships with Russia, they’re a sovereign state. They will have these relations with them. In terms of any gas deals or other economic issues, I think we’ve expressed our belief in the past that what we believe is that multiple sources, through multiple means of transportation, when it comes to any sort of fuel, based on the open market system, is what we’re concerned about seeing. So that would be the criteria that we would review any discussion or agreement that they may come to.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the story in Nigeria about the government-- state-run oil company paying off militants $12 million?
MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I’m not going to comment on this general threat; however, we condemn any resort to violence in the Niger Delta. We encourage all parties to use peaceful means in resolving their disputes. And we’re going to remain supportive of efforts, including the promotion of political dialogue, to deal with legitimate grievances in the Delta.
QUESTION: I raised this question this morning about a European Commission threat to impose additional visa requirements on U.S. diplomats traveling on official business, as of January 1. I’ve talked to DHS --
MR. GALLEGOS: Yes.
QUESTION: -- and I understand that visa, but there’s just one part that I don’t get, which I think the State Department is the right place to comment. Is it your understanding that, at present, U.S. diplomats are required to get visas to make official travel in the European Union, or not, or sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t?
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding of this – I did a bit of an inquiry and I got some answer – is that some countries do allow U.S. diplomats to travel on diplomatic passports for short periods of time or for specific reasons without diplomatic visas. Those are some – other countries do not, and other countries we automatically need to request a visa to work diplomatically.
QUESTION: So it depends.
MR. GALLEGOS: To work – to travel on that diplomatic passport. So that’s where we are.
QUESTION: And are you dismayed by the threat of this retaliatory action on the part of the European Union?
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think we knew that this was coming down the road, and we continue to stress the fact that we, the U.S. Government, is continuing to work on expanding the number of European countries that are included in the Visa Waiver Program. So we are going to continue to work to move forward with that. Obviously, as you know and understand, this comes down to security matters, comes down to what kind of passports that each country is able to use and produce. And so there are a lot of details that have to be worked out, and we’re continuing to do that.
QUESTION: Still looking for anything specific that you might have on once the 45-day period is over and, if the U.S. is satisfied with the verification protocol, what, if any, action the Secretary has to take.
MR. GALLEGOS: Well, what we’re doing right now is we’re in the process of reviewing exactly what the North Koreans have done, what they are doing, and ultimately we’ll see, there around August 10th, what they will have done at that point in terms of verification. You know, the President on June 26th in the Rose Garden, when he spoke of this, spoke of his intention – of his notification of Congress of his intention to rescind North Korea’s designation as a state sponsor of terror. He said, “The next 45 days will be an important period for North Korea to show its seriousness of its cooperation. We [will] work through the Six-Party Talks to develop a comprehensive and rigorous verification protocol. And during this period the United States will carefully observe North Korea’s actions -- and act accordingly.”
And ultimately, what we’re doing is seeing what’s happening. The Secretary’s out in the region right now. She’s had a meeting today. We’ve shared the transcript with you. And we’ll see what happens August 10th.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up. When Libya was de-listed, I looked back on some State Department records – she just announced the de-listing. Did she or the President have to sign something?
MR. GALLEGOS: I’m – the mechanics, I’m not quite sure of. I think we’ll – I’ll have to ask about that, so –
QUESTION: Has anyone registered a claim on the U.S. bounty for Radovan Karadzic?
MR. GALLEGOS: My understanding is no, no one has claimed any reward from the Rewards for Justice Program for him.
QUESTION: Just to follow on North Korea, are you expecting to schedule a ministerial before August 10th?
MR. GALLEGOS: I think there’s been discussion of one. We don’t have anything scheduled now. There’s been a discussion of a ministerial, not specifically before August 10th. I don’t have any information on one now.
QUESTION: Is there anything more on the technical briefing for the Secretary in relation to the IAEA safeguards?
MR. GALLEGOS: I don’t have anything for you on that, Param. I’m sorry. And I’ll get back to you this afternoon with that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:54 p.m.)
DPB # 131
Released on July 23, 2008