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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 5, 2008

INDEX:

ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS

Commitment by Both Sides to Resume Negotiations Toward Two-State Solution

IRAQ/IRAN

No Talks Scheduled Between U.S., Iran for Thursday
Satterfield Letter to Congress
Status of Forces Agreement Negotiations Have Not Yet Started

AZERBAIJAN/ARMENIA

Violation of Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh / DAS Bryza’s Efforts
Need for Both Parties to Work Together with the Minsk Group
Deputy Assistant Secretary’s Travel to Armenia / Post Election Violence
Need for Government of Armenia to Lift State of Emergency, Media Restrictions
Political Situation in Armenia and Violence in Nagorno-Karabakh Difficult Issues

KOSOVO

Kosovo Independence / Recognition by Many States Around the World
Need for a Continued Commitment by the International Community
Status of Camp Bondsteel / U.S. Military Part of NATO Presence / Size of Presence

KENYA

Reports of Violence / Importance of Annan-Brokered Agreement

COLOMBIA/ECUADOR/VENEZUELA

U.S. Support for President Uribe / Efforts to Confront FARC / Working with OAS
Need for Peaceful Resolution of Issue / Efforts of Brazil and Argentina
OAS Discussions on Formation of Independent Fact-Finding Body

TURKEY

Turkish Military Operations in Iraq / Need for Iraq, Turkey to Cooperate on PKK


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:43 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Don’t have anything to start you out with. I am pleased to note, as I think you’ve seen from reports that as a result of the Secretary’s trip there is a commitment on the part of the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations towards a two-state solution. We welcome that decision on their part. I know they’ll be talking over the next few days about how they’ll specifically work out the arrangements on it. But pleased to see that’s happened and glad there’s a positive result to report from the Secretary’s visit to the region.

So with that, Barry, why don’t I --

QUESTION: Yeah. The Iraqi -- the Iranians -- I think the Iraqis too -- are saying that the talks, the fourth round between U.S. and Iran, will resume in Baghdad tomorrow. In fact, the Iranian delegation has arrived. Can you verify that?

MR. CASEY: I certainly can’t, Barry. I can verify for you -- in fact, I got off with Baghdad about 15 minutes before I came down here -- that there’s no talks scheduled.

QUESTION: There are no talks scheduled?

MR. CASEY: There are no talks scheduled. So not sure where those reports are coming from, but we certainly haven’t been aware of and aren’t aware of any scheduled talks for tomorrow. And the Iraqis, of course, are the host for these things. Know we’ve been in fairly regular contact with them. But again, as of 15 minutes ago at least, there’s nothing scheduled.

QUESTION: You mean the Iraqis have not notified you?

MR. CASEY: Well, there’s also, just as a matter of technical issues, for example, when we schedule these things we have to have Farsi translators and other kinds of people coming from different places. None of those arrangements have been made. There’s nothing that’s scheduled and we aren’t aware of any plans to hold a meeting tomorrow.

QUESTION: More than just reports; it’s an official news agency in Iran quoting an official delegation had been --

MR. CASEY: Well, look, all I can tell you is the United States Government has no plans to have a meeting tomorrow, there is no meeting scheduled. And as I was just trying to explain to Barry there, logistically it would be impossible to do so. So I’m not sure -- you’d have to talk to the Iraqis or the Iranians about what their understanding is. Ours is that there’s no meeting scheduled for tomorrow.

QUESTION: Just to clarify, you’d be ready for a meeting if they were to happen --

MR. CASEY: We wouldn't be ready for a meeting even if we wanted to do one tomorrow.

QUESTION: You mean because the delegation isn’t there?

MR. CASEY: Because of a number of factors, including translation and the relevant people involved and the fact that you would generally like to prepare for a meeting, I would assume, before you have one. But other than that, it’s all set. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Don’t say that. Someone will report it’s all set. (Laughter.)

MR. CASEY: Thank you, Barry. Other than that. Yeah?

QUESTION: Do you have anything new on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, where is Bryza and are there reports back?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, we talked about this a little bit this morning. We regret that there was a violation of the ceasefire along the dividing line in Nagorno-Karabakh. We’ve expressed to both sides, both directly from Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Matt Bryza with folks in Baku as well as through a phone call he’s had with the Armenian Foreign Minister our concern about this. We think it’s important that there be no further violations and it just points out the need for the two parties to work together with the Minsk Group to be able to come up with a diplomatic resolution of the situation.

Matt, as I noted, is continuing on from Baku to Armenia. He will be having meetings there tomorrow. The primary focus of that and the intention of his visit there was first and foremost to see what he could do to help encourage and facilitate a dialogue between the government and the opposition there in light of some of the violence that we've seen in the post-electoral period.

One of his core messages will be to tell the Armenian Government that now that the situation has calmed down, it's very important to us to see the state of emergency lifted there. We also are concerned about the limitations and restrictions that have been placed on the media, including Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe there and we’d like to see those lifted. It's important for not only us but for -- more importantly the people of Armenia to be able, in this period, to have access to open information.

QUESTION: Have -- has either side -- Armenia or Azerbaijan -- given you any assurances about there won't be more violence or any assurance --

MR. CASEY: I'll let them speak for themselves. Again, we've made our views clear. There has not been a repeat of the incident and we hope that continues.

Charlie.

QUESTION: This morning I asked you about the letter David Satterfield promised Congress yesterday. Do you know if that's been delivered?

MR. CASEY: You know what, we --

QUESTION: On Iraq.

MR. CASEY: -- didn't get anything on that, did we? We did. You know what, I'll try and find that out for you later. As far as I know, the letter was due at three o'clock. I'm sure that members of Congress will happily make it available to you. As you know, our correspondence with members of Congress is not something we make available to you, but at their discretion they will. I can assure you 100 percent that any commitments David Satterfield has made to members of Congress will be honored in full. Close as I can get your right now, Charlie.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: On Kosovo. Mr. Casey, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried, Kosovo will need $2 billion in foreign aid, about half of which be provided by Europe. I'm wondering why from Europe since it's your republic in the heart of Europe.

MR. CASEY: Would you repeat that, Mr. Lambros, because I don't think I understood your question?

QUESTION: He said -- again, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Fried -- Kosovo will need $2 billion in foreign aid, about half of which should be provided by Europe. I'm wondering why from Europe since it's your republic in the heart of Europe.

MR. CASEY: Well, Mr. Lambros, first of all, we are, of course, pleased to see that so many states around the world have taken the opportunity to recognize Kosovo's independence, that includes many members of the European Union. And I expect there'll be additional recognitions coming forward. The United States, the European Union, NATO and generally the entire international community have been working for many years to see a resolution to the situation in Kosovo and see Kosovo's final status be settled. That has now occurred.

And one of the things that we think is important is that there be a continued commitment on the part of the international community, not only to assure for security in Kosovo, which is what the continued presence of NATO forces will be, but to help the people and Government of Kosovo with the process of economic development. You'll recall, of course, that one of the things that Mr. Ahtisaari said in formulating his plan was that one of the keys to being able to provide economic opportunity and development for the people of Kosovo was resolving their final status. So this is something that we and the Europeans are committed to. Dan's opinion as far -- Dan's views is expressed in that hearing represent my understanding of the discussions that have already been held between the United States and various members of the European Union.

So I think all he was doing was stating the simple fact that in addition to U.S. contributions to this effort, that many European countries have already indicated that they intend to make financial contributions as well. And we’ve very pleased that they intend to do so, and we look forward to working with them on this.

QUESTION: According to a bunch of reports, the largest U.S. base (inaudible) in Bondsteel, Serbian territory of Kosovo, is consisting with 300 buildings and your government has decided to transfer that to your base in Aviano, Italy. I’m wondering, Mr. Casey, who is the enemy in Kosovo for such use of U.S. and NATO forces?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I’m sure that folks at the Department of Defense can tell you where each nail and bolt in Camp Bondsteel currently is and whether it’s going anywhere. In terms of the U.S. military presence in Kosovo, that presence, as you well know, is part of the NATO force there. That is part of the international community’s commitment -- the UN’s, NATO’s -- to ensure the safety and security of Kosovo. As you’ve also heard from Nick Burns and Dan Fried and many other people, the intention is for NATO forces to remain in place as we move forward with implementing this agreement until Kosovo’s institutions, including its security forces, are capable of maintaining order on their own.

QUESTION: And what is the political wisdom of the presence of so much force politically, not militarily?

MR. CASEY: Mr. Lambros, I think that there has been not only days, not weeks, but years of discussion at NATO about the appropriate size of the NATO force in Kosovo. And that, of course, includes a full discussion of all its political ramifications. And if you’d like to really delve into that further, I’m sure you and your colleagues who are covering the upcoming foreign minister’s meeting at NATO will have ample opportunity to go into it further there.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Yeah, Kim.

QUESTION: I was wondering if you had a reaction yet to the story from Kenya, allegations of state-sanctioned violence that I mentioned this morning?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, I did look into this. We’ve seen the reports. We certainly don’t have anything that would be able to confirm them. Certainly, we are concerned, as we have been throughout this process, about violence in the post-election period. It’s one of the reasons why it’s important that the agreement that was brokered between President Kibaki and Mr. Odinga under the leadership of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan includes a review and accounting of some of the matters that happened both in the run-up to the election, on election day and thereafter. We continue to look at issues related to those who are responsible for promoting or inciting violence. And certainly, it would be very disturbing to find that any of these reports were true.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Last week, I had asked about any progress on the SOFA agreement. I don’t – I didn’t follow up on that, but do you have anything new to --

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I couldn’t do any better than the multiple hours of testimony that Special Advisor David Satterfield gave to Congress yesterday, but the negotiations have not, in fact, begun yet. I know David, in fact, I think, is traveling to Baghdad in the near future and will be participating in those discussions. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, of course, is the overall U.S. head of the negotiating team for that, but we’ll look forward to having an opportunity to begin these discussions and to arrange for a suitable follow-on mechanism to the current UN Security Council resolutions that authorize and oversee the presence of U.S. and other members of the Multi-National Force in Iraq.

David.

QUESTION: Can you assess the state of play of U.S. diplomacy vis-à-vis the Venezuela – beg your pardon, the Colombia-Ecuador issue? And have you actually observed the kind of military buildup that various countries are saying that they’re creating out there?

MR. CASEY: Well, David, first of all, let me just reiterate what the President said yesterday, that we strongly support President Uribe and the Government of Colombia in their efforts to confront terrorist violence from the FARC. The FARC is an organization that has a long and bloody history in Colombia. They are an enemy of the Colombian people and I think you have seen not only in Colombia, but throughout the world, rejection of any idea that this group has some kind of legitimacy. It’s clearly something that should be of concern not only to Colombians, but to others in the region. And we are working both in the OAS as well as talking with the various governments in the region to encourage both a diplomatic resolution of the immediate issue, which is the result of the military action taken by Colombia over the weekend, as well as working to see that there is general regional support for Colombia in its efforts to confront the challenges posed by the FARC. I don’t think any country should ever be in the position of either knowingly or willingly offering safe harbor for terrorist groups in their territories, financing them in any way or otherwise providing support for them.

So certainly we’ll continue our discussions. I know the OAS is continuing to look at this issue today. But we do believe that there can, should and will be a peaceful resolution of this situation. Colombia and Ecuador have had a good relationship in the past. And up until this particular incident, we believe it’s important that they continue to have those kinds of relations, that they overcome these immediate problems and that they’re able to work together with one another. That’s the message that we are passing both to them, as well as to other governments in the region. I know that countries like Brazil and Argentina and others have been also engaged in discussions with the various players involved, too.

In terms of the other points you made, I couldn’t offer you an assessment of where anybody’s individual troops may or may not be. I’m not aware of what folks may or may not have seen. Certainly, we don’t think it’s appropriate for countries to be responding to this issue with military means. It’s simply something that’s going to have to be resolved through discussions among the parties.

QUESTION: Can I take it from your comment that you tend to agree with the Colombians that Ecuador was knowingly playing host and in effect was aware that the FARC had bases on its territory?

MR. CASEY: Well, one of the things that’s important and one of the things that the OAS is discussing is how to establish a fact-finding body that can independently take a look at this issue. I think there are a number of questions that are out there. They’re fair questions for people to ask. Certainly, though, we want to see whether it’s Ecuador or any other country, do whatever they can to help Colombia confront the problem of FARC terrorism. And we wouldn’t want to see anyone again, knowingly allowing such an organization to use their territory.

QUESTION: Tom, just to follow up, is – does the Bush Administration’s strong support for President Uribe is, as you put it, include an okay to go across an international border in pursuit of the FARC --

MR. CASEY: Well --

QUESTION: -- even if they’re bad guys and we know they’re bad guys?

MR. CASEY: Charlie, look, this particular incident raised some understandable concerns with the Government of Ecuador. They have a right and certainly I would expect they have an obligation to work out those differences with the Government of Colombia. I am not going to try and tell you what specific circumstances Colombia should or shouldn’t use military force. I think that’s for President Uribe and the Government of Colombia to decide. We do, however, think it’s important to recognize that the events that took place were, in fact, a response to the presence of terrorists, including perhaps one of the most notorious members of the FARC in the particular area where that act took place.

Okay, Mr. Lambros. One more shot.

QUESTION: On Turkey. Mr. Casey, any update on the Turkish military presence and aggression against the Kurds of northern Iraq since the area is under U.S. control?

MR. CASEY: Since the area is under U.S. control? I thought the area was under Iraqi control, actually, but --

QUESTION: You have forces, Mr. Casey. What are you talking about?

MR. CASEY: Yeah, but Mr. Lambros, in case you didn’t see the statements from the Turkish General Staff --

QUESTION: I saw it.

MR. CASEY: -- the troops have been out for some time. We’re pleased, as you know, that that operation was limited both in duration and in scope. We continue to urge Turkey and the Government of Iraq to work with one another to confront the challenge posed by the PKK. Know there are discussions that go on on a variety of different levels on that, but certainly there’s a lot more work to do before we can end this threat to both Iraq and Turkey.

QUESTION: Any (inaudible) communication between DOS and Ankara?

MR. CASEY: Well, there’s daily communication between our Embassy and officials in Ankara. We have a very active both military and political relationship with Turkey, which is a good friend and NATO ally. I’m not aware of any particular special conversations at a -- certainly not at a senior level here.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. CASEY: I got one more in the back. That would be you.

QUESTION: Yes. Tom, I wanted to take you back to Azerbaijan and Armenia for a little bit.

MR. CASEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Azerbaijani side blames Yerevan, saying that this is basically an attempt to divert public attention from the inner political crisis going on in the country. Do you see any link between these two events, the ceasefire -- intensive ceasefire violation with casualties and the public unrest in Armenia?

MR. CASEY: I certainly don’t have any reason to link the two, but they’re two problems that both require some work to resolve. The political situation internal to Armenia is one that has raised concerns, and again, that’s why Matt is going out there to try and assist in bringing the parties a little bit closer. I know the EU is sending a similar representative out there as well. But no, I wouldn't draw a linkage between the two of them. But certainly, it does raise concerns for us and is, again, a reminder that this conflict has been out there for many years, and until it’s resolved completely, there’s always the possibility for these kinds of incidents.

QUESTION: There’s an article in today’s Post written by Mr. Ter-Petrosyan, the main opposition candidate, saying that he is surprised and dismayed at the reaction from the West. Did actually any congratulatory message come out from the State Department to the President-elect Sarkisian? And is Mr. Bryza meeting with opposition side at Yerevan as well?

MR. CASEY: Yeah. We have – you can go back and look at our public comments on this. We certainly have not offered any particular messages of support for either party in this. We recognize that there is an ongoing dispute here and Matt is going out there specifically to try and see what he can do to encourage the parties to have discussions with one another. And that, of course, means he’ll be talking both with government officials as well as members of the opposition.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:58 p.m.)

DPB # 40



Released on March 5, 2008

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