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Daily Press Briefing
Gonzalo R. Gallegos, Director, Office of Press Relations
Washington, DC
June 11, 2008



Incident Along Afghan Border
Ambassador Patterson’s Meeting with Foreign Ministry


Ant-Terrorism Cooperation with U.S. / PKK


Sung Kim Travel


Human Rights Watch Report


Arrest of Stojan Zupljanin


Prime Minister Maliki’s Visit to Iran / Bilateral Relations


President’s Comments on Diplomacy with Iran
Dual Track Process


Status of Civil Nuclear Agreement with U.S.


Criticism by GCC Countries of Trafficking in Persons Report


Beef Issue Discussion Today


Status of Peace Process / Humanitarian Issues in Gaza


U.S. Policy


Merida Initiative / Communication with Congress / Narcotrafficking Cooperation


View Video

12:38 p.m. EDT

MR. GALLEGOS: Good afternoon. I don’t have anything for you. No, it isn’t August, but I am briefing, so welcome.

QUESTION: Anything on the diplomatic fallout of this incident involving the Pakistani troops who were --

MR. GALLEGOS: Oh, on Pakistan? I do have something for you on that. One second. Here we go. Just want to make sure I give you the right thing.

This is a regrettable incident. We’re sad to see the loss of life among the Pakistani military, who are partners in fighting terror. This is a reminder that better cross-border communications between forces is vital. We are sure that military on both sides will look into the matter and review how to prevent recurrence and how to prevent extremists from using this area.

Ambassador Patterson has met with Pakistani’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir to discuss the incident. The Department of Defense, as you all know, has released a statement regarding this, and I’d refer you to them for further details. 

Mr. Lambros, why don’t we get started?

QUESTION: Thank you. On Turkey.


QUESTION: Mr. Gallegos, according to reports from Ankara, General Yasar Buyukanit (inaudible) of those (inaudible) Turkish judges (inaudible) now to get at the constitutional court, in an obvious effort to (inaudible) the government of Recep Erdogan by the end of August via judicial coup d’etat. Could you please once again clarify the U.S. position vis-à-vis to this crucial issue since this fascist move undermines legal democracy in Turkey?

MR. GALLEGOS: As usual, overstated, Mr. Lambros. I’ll take that question and we’ll have somebody call you a little bit later on it. 

QUESTION: Thank you. One more question on Turkey. 


QUESTION: Turkish military police strike again in northern Iraq against Kurdish rebels with prior approval of the U.S. occupation forces in Baghdad. Any comment on that?

MR. GALLEGOS: Our antiterrorism cooperation with the Turkish Government is well known. It is something that we continue, believe in strongly, continue to support. We support their right to protect themselves from terrorist acts. We’ll continue to do so. Any details on any specific actions, I’d refer you to the Turkish Government.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Sung Kim came back from Pyongyang. Do you have anything on what he put into particular issues?

MR. GALLEGOS: Mm-hmm. I don’t have a readout from his meetings. My understanding is that he’s going to be traveling back. He is returning. If he’s left already, he will be leaving shortly, and he’ll be back in Washington tomorrow. We might have further readout then for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Anything on human rights groups, specifically Human Rights Watch, saying that the U.S. should be using its leverage to stop atrocities in Ogaden, where an insurgency is going on in Ethiopia? 

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah, I appreciate the question from the gaggle. I think it opportunistic if these groups, when they leak their reports to the media, if they would be courteous enough to send us copies as well, we might be able to respond in a more efficient way. But we’ll take a look at it and I’ll get back to you. I believe it’s supposed to be released tomorrow, so we’ll see what we have for you then. 

QUESTION: Do you have anything generally about, you know, the U.S. work with --

MR. GALLEGOS: In general, not right now, but I’ll try to get back to you a little later.

Yes, David.

QUESTION: Gonzo, the authorities in Serbia arrested a man who is described as, you know, one of the top Balkans war crimes suspects, a Stojan Zupljanin. And I’m just wondering – this guy was on the Rewards for Justice Program. I wonder if you have a reaction to that, whether -- did Rewards for Justice play into this at all?

MR. GALLEGOS: You know, I’m not sure about the Rewards for Justice. I can’t confirm. We welcome the arrest by Serbian authorities of war crimes fugitive Stojan Zupljanin. He was indicted by the ICTY for torture, murder, and other crimes committed in 1992 in Bosnia-Herzegovina. His arrest is another positive step toward ensuring that those responsible for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia are held accountable, and we hope that the arrest and transfer of the remaining ICTY fugitives Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic will follow. We call on authorities in the region to bring them to justice. 


QUESTION: Could you comment on the results of the visit by the Iraqi Prime Minister to Iran? Would you share any assessment of the result of the visit? 

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don’t have an assessment in terms of that. I think that Sean spoke (inaudible) about what we think about this – the meetings. Obviously, we believe that this is a relationship that they must continue to develop. They’re neighbors. I think Sean’s words were, you know, the map isn’t going to change; they’re going to remain neighbors for a very long time. We hope that the Iranians can engage with the Iraqi Government in a positive manner. We’ll continue to develop that relationship and hopefully we’ll deal with them in a more and increasingly positive manner in the future. 


QUESTION: Can I get your comments on President Bush’s trip to Europe? He made some comments in Slovenia and Germany about diplomacy with Iran, and he said that all options are on the table, he says, but right now, they’re working on solving that diplomatically. But it would seem that he’s – they’re not working on that because Ahmadinejad spoke today as well, and he said that Bush’s era is over and that they’re not going to stop enriching uranium. So that would seem that they’re not going to diplomatically speak. 

Is it possible that – has President Bush made any, or Secretary Rice – have they made any comments regarding a possible military strike against Iran?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I think that the President was very clear in his comments today that he does – this Administration does want to deal with the situation diplomatically, that they will continue to do so. My understanding is that Javier Solana will be meeting with Iranian officials in the days to come to discuss this enhanced package of incentives. I think it behooves the Iranian Government to review it carefully, to come to an understanding of how it can help the Iranian people. 

This is an effort that we’re going to continue. We have our European and other allies with us working towards this goal. We’re going to continue that process. I don’t think I could speak any clearer than the President or the Secretary on this, and this is a message that they repeat constantly.

QUESTION: Is that what President Bush means by, we’re going to – we’re discussing with them diplomatically by sending someone else in to kind of (inaudible) the situation?

MR. GALLEGOS: I think that the President speaks as clearly as anybody else in the Administration, and I’d refer you to the comments he made just a few hours ago.

QUESTION: And also, last comment on that. There are a handful of congressmen, American scholars, journalists, and Iranian ministers, those in the defense and energy sectors, that say that Israel is pushing for this military strike against Iran, more so than the United States, and they’re just kind of, you know, inaugurating that agenda into President Bush’s trip. If you can comment on that.

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I think that when the President states as he wishes and wants to resolve this diplomatically and that we are engaging the full depth of our diplomatic team in doing that, that that’s what he means. And that’s the direction we’ve taken. We continue this process, the dual-track process, the carrot and the stick right now. I think we’re dangling the carrot. It has yet to be delivered. But I think that this is a process that’s ongoing yet difficult, one that needs to continue to take shape, and that we’re going to proceed in that manner.

QUESTION: And your comments on Israel, them pushing the –

MR. GALLEGOS: The comments on Israel, I’d say go talk to Israelis about anything specifically, like foreign affairs policy.

Libby, in the back.

QUESTION: I’ll shout. Going back to the Pakistan incident.


QUESTION: Was – Anne Patterson was called in? I don’t think you said that, or just – she was called in by the Foreign Ministry; correct?

MR. GALLEGOS: What I have here is that she met with the Pakistan Foreign Ministry. I don’t have any particular details on that, so --

QUESTION: Do you have any particular details about their conversation?

MR. GALLEGOS: No, I don’t have a readout of the conversation, so --



QUESTION: Any more information on reports that the U.S.-India civil nuclear deal is close to dead?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that this Administration has been firm in its support for this deal. It continues to be so. Right now, we’re at a situation where this is with the Indian Government and literally with the Indian people. This is a matter for them to decide and then follow through with. We’ve consistently stated that we stand behind this, that we continue to support it, and that we would like to move apace in terms of proceeding with it. 

I think, however, there is – you know, the bottom line is there’s a reality of the congressional calendar that has to be dealt with. We do hope that we can continue and possibly conclude this in the near future.

QUESTION: And any hopes that it’ll be concluded before the end of Bush’s term?

MR. GALLEGOS: I would be the last one – if my boss and my boss’s boss are loathe to commit to dates, I’m – I fear it even more than they do.

Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: The GCC states have criticized the human or trafficking in persons report saying that it’s based on inaccurate information. And they said that American policy toward the states is unfriendly. Do you have any reaction?

MR. GALLEGOS: Yeah. I think that Mark Lagon – I was here for his briefing on the TIPs report. I’d – I’m going to refer you to his statements. I think that he went into substantial, if not great detail about the process in which we gather information, the way that it’s reviewed at our embassies around the world, and then the development and creation of the report itself. I’ll go ahead and let those words speak for that issue.


QUESTION: Were you able to get anything on the South Korean officials meeting with U.S. officials?

MR. GALLEGOS: My – oh, on?

QUESTION: On the beef issue?

MR. GALLEGOS: On the beef issue, my understanding is that we did meet with -- people in our East Asia and Pacific office did meet with some South Korean officials today. My understanding is that they did discuss the beef issue further. I don’t have a readout of the meeting.

QUESTION: Was Hill in that meeting?

MR. GALLEGOS: I’m not sure.

Yes, one more.

QUESTION: Yes. The Palestinian Bureau of Statistics in Gaza reported that since the Annapolis peace process in November, 590 Palestinians have been killed and 30 Israelis have been killed – have been killed, excuse me. And also, Israel continues to build settlements, as you know, and – which is a violation of the Roadmap policies. And also, a couple different organizations – Amnesty International, UN Human Rights Council – have labeled Gaza one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world right now. 

So is the United States doing anything to fix the humanitarian crisis there? Because they haven’t been sending aid. And also, have they pushed Israel to stop building settlements which violate the Annapolis peace process, as well as the daily (inaudible) into Gaza which continue to kill Palestinian civilians?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think others have spoken from this podium with much greater clarity than I can summon today about our support for the Palestinian people and the aid that we’re – and assistance that we’re providing them. Obviously, the death of innocents doing any --

QUESTION: What aid (inaudible)?

MR. GALLEGOS: As I repeat, I believe that others who can provide much greater clarity on that have spoken from this podium. I’d refer you to the transcripts. Someone in my office will be more than happy to direct you to those if you can’t find them yourself on the internet. But I believe that, you know, the President has spoken that we will continue to work towards a settlement in the region. That’s the most – one of the more important issues that this Administration has undertaken. We’ll continue to work closely with both sides. And we will see where we are at the end of the year.

QUESTION: But, sir, not to dispute what you said, but how are they working on fixing that problem when it looks like it’s not going anywhere? Officials from the Palestinian Authority --


QUESTION: -- have even said it’s a broken process, the Annapolis peace process, because of the violations –

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think one of the other issues that we’ve – that we’ve – one of the other issues that we’ve decided not to do is to speak publicly about where the negotiations are. We do believe that there has been progress. We do believe that we have two committed parties on both sides of this. We’re going to continue working with them. We’re only about halfway through the year, and we’ll see what the end of the year brings.

QUESTION: And I’d just like to note one last thing. The Bureau of Statistics also released a report that says no humanitarian aid from the United States, aside from nongovernment organizations, has reached Gaza. And that’s mainly because a piece of legislation that was passed that bans the United States from sending humanitarian aid because of Hamas being elected in 2006.

MR. GALLEGOS: Unfortunately, I don’t see – I don’t have those details at my fingertips. I’ll have to take a look at that.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo.

MR. GALLEGOS: And welcome.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Gallegos. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated before yesterday regarding Kosovo, “A one-sided declaration of independence in Serbian territory was not able to provide any stability in the area.” How do you respond to this criticism?

MR. GALLEGOS: I think that our policy on Kosovo is well known, oft repeated. We support the government and we’ll continue to look towards the future with them.


QUESTION: On Mexico. Is the State Department involved in the negotiations with the Hill in reference to the Merida initiative?

MR. GALLEGOS: I believe that we do provide them information, report to them on issues of the budget, how much money we’re looking to spend, where we’re looking to spend it. So there is an interaction that goes on between the Department and the Hill representatives and their aides as to what we’re attempting to do there.

QUESTION: The reason why I’m asking is because the Mexican Government and the Mexican congress are kind of surprised that the U.S. congressmen don’t understand the situation with narcotrafficking in the border area. They are trying to impose conditions to the Mexicans. And even if you look to the congressmen, the U.S. congressmen for the border area, they really understand the situation. They have mentioned that the narcotraffickers now are operating in U.S. territory, and that’s true.

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think that, you know, what we’re looking at here is diplomacy and negotiation and working with the Mexican Government. We’re not looking to impose. What we’re looking to do is to work and cooperate with the Mexican Government to try and succeed in combating narcotrafficking not only on the border but throughout the entire country of Mexico. This is a process that’s ongoing. We’re pretty much still at the beginning phases of this and we’re going to proceed in open discussions with them to try and come to a resolution that’s mutually beneficial, understood by all parties, and that we can integrate and implement in an efficient way.

QUESTION: But – I mean, can I follow up?


QUESTION: I mean, specifically, are you kind of lobbying Congress on behalf of the Mexicans or working with the Mexicans to try and get some of these conditions softened or reduced? Because I know that this Administration has been concerned that if those conditions do go forward, if that certification progress is – process is kind of – you know, brought back into the equation, that this could turn the clock back on the cooperation. So, I mean, what are you doing to get Congress to drop those demands?

MR. GALLEGOS: Well, I think what we do is we communicate with Congress how we believe is going to be – what we believe will be the most efficient and successful way to implement the program. I don’t think that should be a surprise to anyone. We usually don’t discuss the particulars of those conversations, and I can’t do that with you now so --

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. GALLEGOS: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:55 p.m.)

DPB # 104

Released on June 11, 2008

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