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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 12, 2008

INDEX:

BELARUS

Status of Ambassador Stewart

RUSSIA

Secretaries Rice and Gates to Continue 2+2 Process in Upcoming Trip / Seeking Meetings with the Highest Levels of Government

ESTONIA

Memorandum of Understanding on Visa Waiver Program
U.S. Working Out Arrangements with Individual Member States


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:40 p.m. EDT

MR. MCCORMACK: Good afternoon, everybody. I don’t have -- at least we have two people in the front row, as opposed to yesterday, when there was nobody here.

QUESTION: We were a bit busy yesterday.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t take it personally. I don’t have anything to start off with, so we can get right into your questions.

QUESTION: Yeah, actually, I have one. Did you -- do you have any precision on the status of your Ambassador in Belarus?

MR. MCCORMACK: I do. And you were right and I was right. She’s actually -- she left earlier today, local time. She’s going to spend some time in Vilnius. I can’t tell you how long, a short period of time, a matter of a day or so. She will also travel to Brussels on her way back to Washington for consultations. And we expect that after her consultations have been completed, that she would return to Belarus.

QUESTION: So she’s back for consultations?

MR. MCCORMACK: She’s on -- I guess technically, she is on her way back now for consultations here in Washington. She’s going to stop along the way, I think, to talk to officials -- officials in Brussels as well as Vilnius.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The White House just announced the joint --

MR. MCCORMACK: I saw that, yes.

QUESTION: -- Gates-Rice trip. I just wondered what you had to say about that and what the -- what Secretary Rice hopes to get out of this visit. I mean, what is the reasoning behind it at this moment?

MR. MCCORMACK: It’s a continuation of the 2+2 process. This particular trip had been contemplated for some period of time and I think when Secretaries Rice and Gates were last in Moscow for the 2+2, they said that there would be another meeting of the 2+2 at some point. This is it. It’s a very useful forum and format, certainly for us, and I think the Russians feel the same way about it.

They’re going to talk about a variety of different issues. I would expect they’ll talk -- touch on missile defense. They’ll probably touch on START and post-START arrangements as well as a variety of other issues. But it’s -- you should view this as part of that 2+2 consultation process.

QUESTION: Are you planning on discussing Kosovo as well, the Middle East, other things? Will that come up, or maybe Lebanon in the context of --

MR. MCCORMACK: Perhaps. I’m not sure that that’s --

QUESTION: The USS Cole?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I’m not sure that that’s on our agenda, but of course, we’re always ready to talk about any of those -- any of those issues with the Russians. Given the fact that you have the, you know, foreign minister and defense minister from both sides in the room at the same time, I’m sure those as well as other issues might come up.

QUESTION: And anything else in terms -- I mean, you’re going to be meeting both -- are you going to be seeing Putin at the same time? And --

MR. MCCORMACK: Let me -- we’ll -- as we get closer --

QUESTION: And (inaudible) whatever?

MR. MCCORMACK: As we get closer to the trip here, we’ll try to flesh out the schedule for you, but I think we are going to be seeking meetings with the highest levels of the government there.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Estonia has just signed a memorandum of understanding on joining the Visa Waiver Program.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Apparently, this is over the objections of Brussels.

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any concern about the -- how these negotiations are being done that Brussels is not in the loop, or how are you navigating this situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I’m not sure it’s a situation for us to navigate. If the EU has some dispute internal to the EU, then the EU needs to work that out. We have arrangements that we are working out with individual member-states, and I would expect that that is going to continue absent some sort of agreement within the EU to the contrary.

Charlie?

QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.)

MR. GALLEGOS: That may be a record. We’ve got close to a record. You almost set a record.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:44 p.m.)

DPB#45



Released on March 12, 2008

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