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Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
October 15, 2008

INDEX:

DEPARTMENT

Deputy Secretary Negroponte Attending Forum for the Future in UAE / Secretary Rice Spoke with Foreign Minister Counterparts – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE – Briefed them on Measures the President Decided upon Regarding the Financial Crisis
Treasury and White House Taking Lead on Global Financial Crisis / Potential Repercussions on Financial Systems and Global Economic Environment / State Thinking about These Issues
Secretary Rice Allegedly Endorsing Harsh Interrogation Methods while National Security Advisor / Mischaracterization / Secretary Has Answered Senator Levin’s Questions / Secretary Rice Has Been Forthcoming / Refer to Senator Levin’s Office for Her Answers / Matter of Public Record

IRAQ

SOFA Agreement / Still Discussion Among the Iraqis / U.S Still Talking to the Iraqis / Need for an Agreed-upon Text / Process is Not Completed
Iraqi Christians Fleeing Mosul / Issue of Concern / Ideal of Personal Security is Critically Important / We are Watching Very Closely / Urge Iraqis to Protect Them from Any Sort of Persecution

PAKISTAN

American Citizen Detained by Pakistan Authorities / No Privacy Act Waiver / Confirm News Reports of Citizen Detained in Tribal Areas / Visited by Consular Officers / Doing Everything We Can Do for Any American Citizen / Alleged to be Held in Waziristan / Embassies Can Provide a List of Lawyers to Citizen; Facilitate Communication with Family Members; Provide Food and Clothing

IRAN/IRAQ

Possible Ambassador Crocker Meeting with Iranian Ambassador / Last Meeting over a Year Ago / Lower Level Contact / Security Situation Has Improved CAMBODIA/THAILAND
Uptick of Tension on the Boarders / We Urge Restraint / Resolve Differences through Political Channels / Have been in Contact with Government at Embassy Level

IRAN/RUSSIA

No Political Director’s Teleconference Scheduled / Process Has Not Been Linear / Passage of Recent Security Council Resolution / Restating a Commitment to the Two-Track Approach / Reaffirming Approach and Sanctions Contained in Resolutions

CANADA

Election / Congratulate All Who Participated / Hard-Fought Elections / Very Closely Follow These Political Events / We Are Prepared to Work with Whatever Government the Canadian People Choose / Close Partnership is Variety of Different Areas

NORTH KOREA

Yongbyon / Reapplying Seals / Equipment Being Put Back / Baseline of Being Disabled / No Date for Next Meeting by Head of Delegation
Japanese Abductees / President Bush Statements and Meeting with Families / Absolutely Committed to Seeing this Issue Resolved / Need to Resolved Tough Emotional Issues / U.S. Stands with Japanese Government and People in Seeing Issues Resolved
North Korea’s Relationship with Rest of the World

RUSSIA

Meeting with Representatives from So-Called Abkhaz and South Ossetian Delegations Representatives / U.S. Awaiting Readout of Meeting

SYRIA

Two Americans Detained / Individuals Can Speak for Themselves / Request Made by Individuals to Syria to Notify U.S. Embassy of Detainment / Syria Responded to Request by Embassy / Syria Not Obligated to Inform of Detained Citizens / Express Our Concern and Displeasure


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

(10:44 a.m. EDT)

MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody.

QUESTION: Good morning.

MR. MCCORMACK: Just one bit of housekeeping from yesterday. We made the announcement that Deputy Secretary Negroponte would be going to the Forum for the Future. And I just want to let you know the Secretary yesterday --

QUESTION: He is still going, yeah?

MR. MCCORMACK: He is still going, yes. No change in that status.

QUESTION: Not – you’re not going?

MR. MCCORMACK: And this – no. And this will – no.

Yesterday, the Secretary spoke with some of her foreign minister counterparts from the Gulf region in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. And she explained the reasons for her decision to stay back here. She briefed them on the measures that the President had decided upon in terms of the financial crisis. And she informed them that Deputy Secretary Negroponte would be going.

QUESTION: Who was it? Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and UAE?

MR. MCCORMACK: Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

QUESTION: Saudi –

MR. MCCORMACK: Yes. And with that, I’m happy –

QUESTION: Are – can I just add – this –

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are all of these countries going to be represented at the Forum?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe they will be, yes.

QUESTION: So was her main goal here to tell them that – sorry, I’m not coming? Or was it to tell them about the financial crisis?

MR. MCCORMACK: It was: Sorry, I’m not coming and here are the reasons why I’m not coming. So and – dual-purpose, to be able to brief them on the steps the President had decided upon that were announced yesterday.

QUESTION: And the reasons that – the reason that she’s not going that she briefed them on is purely the financial situation?

MR. MCCORMACK: Correct. Correct.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that, Sean –

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Travel package. Do you know – I guess, at UNGA, they had that Friends of Pakistan meeting and there was a plan to meet in one month’s time in Abu Dhabi. Do you know if that’s still going to happen and who would represent the U.S. now?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll check for you. I’ll see if that’s –

QUESTION: I’d like to find out if they’re holding any sort of meeting with anyone –

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I’ll check for you, Kirit. I don’t know if it’s something the Deputy is going to substitute for her on at the Forum or we’re going schedule something separately.

QUESTION: Could you provide any further details on the draft SOFA agreement?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, is there one, number one? Do you think it’s a good idea, Sean, or do you just, you know –

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, this is – I knew this was coming because I saw the news reports that were out there. Look, nothing is done until everything is done. Everything isn’t done. The Iraqis are still talking among themselves. We are still talking to the Iraqis.

You know, I see all these terms, you know, draft, final draft, and everything else. But you know, my standard is: Is it done? And it’s not – nothing – it is not done yet, because there are still discussions ongoing. And when that changes, I am happy to be as forthcoming and loquacious as you would like for me to be about it.

QUESTION: So – well, do you think, then, it’s a little bit of irrational exuberance on behalf of the Iraqis, then?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I see a lot of noise out there in the news reports and, you know, a lot of commentary on it. We have studiously refrained from talking about the contents of the negotiations, where we stood, where the Iraqis stood. We are going to abide by that right up until the very end. You know, I see a lot of commentary from a variety of different sources. I, unfortunately, am not in a position to provide any further commentary at this point.

QUESTION: But Sean, by your standard, you won’t say that there’s an agreement until it’s been signed, right?

QUESTION: Many times.

MR. MCCORMACK: No. No, no, no. Until there is, you know, all – that there comes a point where everybody on all sides that needs to approve an agreed-upon text has done so. There are clearly, by the Iraqis own description, conversations still ongoing with the Iraqis. And I can say that we are still talking to the Iraqis. So by that – but – so by that standard, not done yet.

QUESTION: But are you – right, okay. But you’re not suggesting that their draft –

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not going to –

QUESTION: – doesn’t exist, are you?

MR. MCCORMACK: There’s a – there’s paper with words on it, indeed, yes.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Do you or do you not have a draft agreement? I mean, when you had the Indian Civil Nuclear Agreement, the Indian parliament and everybody still had to ratify it. But you talked for months about the fact that you had an agreement and you hoped that the Indian side would pass it. So do you or do you not have an agreement that you hope the Iraqis will sign off on?

MR. MCCORMACK: I gave you my standard. There are –

QUESTION: Why is this case different than –

MR. MCCORMACK: There are words on a piece of paper. Because I deal with each case individually and I’m not necessarily bound by precedent.

QUESTION: So (inaudible) is there a reluctance to call the words on the piece of paper a draft? I’m not sure I understand –

MR. MCCORMACK: No, there’s a text – there’s – obviously, there’s a text that people are looking at. There’s a text, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Is it fair to say that the negotiating teams have forwarded that text now up for further discussion to –

MR. MCCORMACK: They’re still talking about it. They are still talking about it.

QUESTION: So as far as you’re concerned, it’s not done in terms of being –

MR. MCCORMACK: The process is not completed.

Yes, Nina.

QUESTION: Any updates on this guy in Pakistan who was detained?

QUESTION: On Iraq.

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: More than 1,000 Christian Iraqi families have fled from Mosul, threatened by extremists ordering them to convert to Islam or face possible deaths, as Iraqi officials have said. How are you dealing with this –

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it’s an issue of concern to us, as with any case, of people being threatened because of their backgrounds or their religious beliefs, whether that’s in Iraq or elsewhere. That certainly is something that we’re watching quite closely in Iraq. The idea of personal security is, as we have all learned in Iraq, critically important for that country to be able to move forward.

Now there are some areas, I’m sure, and there will continue to be some individual areas where there are issues related to personal security. You mentioned one right here. It’s an issue that we’re watching quite closely. I can’t speak to any specific actions the Iraqi Government is taking, but we would expect them to ensure – to take steps to ensure the personal security of any individual in Iraq and, you know, to try to, as best as possible, protect them from any sort of persecution.

QUESTION: Have you talked to the Iraqi Government?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll check to see what sort of interactions we’ve had on this particular case. But of course, in the – during the daily business that we do with the Iraqi Government in terms of security around the country, this is – you know, this is a fundamental question that we seek to address.

Anything else on Iraq? Nina.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Pakistan man –

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. This is the fellow who was –

QUESTION: Was picked – sorry.

MR. MCCORMACK: This is the American citizen who was in the custody of Pakistani officials?

QUESTION: Yes. Can you confirm that his name is June Kenan – Jude Kenan?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. I don’t have –

QUESTION: Can you confirm that?

MR. MCCORMACK: I do not have a Privacy Act Waiver. I can say that – I can confirm the news reports that we talked about yesterday of an American citizen being detained by Pakistani officials in the tribal areas.

QUESTION: And was any –

MR. MCCORMACK: We have visited this individual. Consular officers from Islamabad have traveled to the place where he is being held. They have spoken with him. And we are doing everything that we can do and normally do for American citizens who are being held by foreign governments.

Beyond that, I can’t offer a lot of details just because we don’t have a Privacy Act Waiver.

QUESTION: Well, can you say where he’s being held?

MR. MCCORMACK: I believe that the last information that I had is that he was being held in Waziristan.

QUESTION: Are you trying to question this person as to see whether he was involved in activities – kind of, extremist activity in the tribal area? Or are you – when you say that you’re doing everything you can as an American citizen –

MR. MCCORMACK: Right.

QUESTION: – are you trying to lawyer him up? Are you trying to get him released? Like, what are your – what are you trying –

MR. MCCORMACK: What we can try to do in these circumstances, and it doesn’t vary whether you’re in Pakistan or anyplace else around the world, is we can provide a list of lawyers that, if an individual chooses to engage a lawyer, they can choose from that list. Typically, these are people with whom the embassy or the consulate has experience, that are known, that are trusted. Oftentimes it will include individuals who speak English.

We can also try to facilitate communication between family members – the individual being held and their family back home. We can try to help provide things like food or other type of – food, clothing and that sort of thing. Oftentimes around the world, the circumstances in which American citizens are held are not what we would expect, for example, in American detention facilities. So we – and I’m not making any particular comment on these facilities, but we try to help them out as best we can.

QUESTION: Do you –

QUESTION: Have you spoken to the family?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not at liberty to talk about that.

QUESTION: Do you know where or could you find out where in Waziristan?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll try to find out. I asked this question before I came down, Matt. And the latest information I have is, in Waziristan, in the district that he was – that he was detained in. But I’ll try to –

QUESTION: Sean, wasn’t he detained farther north? I thought it was –

QUESTION: Have you talked to the Pakistani – or have you talked to the Pakistanis about why this person was detained? I mean, have they told you that he was just there illegally or was there something else going on?

MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Let me check to see what we can say about our interactions and what we may have learned or not learned from the Pakistanis –

QUESTION: But it doesn’t sound like, at this point, that you’re calling for his release. I mean, you don’t feel at this point that he was – and you’ve said in the past about other American citizens whether they have been fairly detained or not. It doesn’t sound at this point that you’re calling for his immediate release, that this was an unfair detention.

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, look, we take each particular circumstance as it is before us. This is very early on. As I’ve said, we have just met with this individual. We’re providing him all the assistance that we would provide any American citizen around the world. I’m not making any value judgments whatsoever.

Yes.

QUESTION: I’ll have to look at my map. But I thought he was arrested northeast of Peshawar and now you’ve said –

MR. MCCORMACK: Which is – or which are in the – that’s part of the tribal area.

QUESTION: But that – isn’t – Waziristan is south, right?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, there are different parts to it.

QUESTION: Well, okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.

QUESTION: You could show us on the map?

QUESTION: I assume from all of your answers that you can’t confirm the report out of Pakistan that he’s been released.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t believe that’s an accurate report.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: There’s a report that he was released and then picked up again.

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t believe that’s an accurate report. I believe that he has been in detention the entire time.

QUESTION: What kind of circumstances is he in? The local police or can you give any specific –

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have those details. Like I said, you know, if I can find out more in response to Matt’s question, perhaps we can get some details and answer your question.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you know whether he was on vacation or whether he was –

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have any information right now.

QUESTION: – sort of wandering around?

MR. MCCORMACK: And frankly, I – you know, I suspect that in the absence of a Privacy Act Waiver that I wouldn’t be at liberty to divulge any of those details.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Anything else on Pakistan?

QUESTION: Just one more thing. They visited him yesterday?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think it was today. Yesterday?

MR. WOOD: It was yesterday.

MR. MCCORMACK: Yesterday.

QUESTION: Yesterday, and they were from Islamabad? They didn’t go from Peshawar?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. They – I’m told that there were people from our Consular Section in Islamabad at the Embassy.

QUESTION: And as far as you know, there hasn’t been any problem with the Pakistanis in getting access. I mean you got access –

MR. MCCORMACK: Not as far as I know, no. It was relatively speedy.

Yeah, James.

QUESTION: Can you say anything more on sort of the impact of this economic crisis on your guys’ operations? You mentioned Condi’s trip. Welch last week was talking about this Libya deal and his concerns that in this environment, it might be tough to get, you know, maybe the financing to fill that fund. Prime Minister Fayyad yesterday was talking about his concerns about, you know, foreign aid possibly – overseas aid being cut back as a result of the crisis. So just anything else you can describe about, you know, how this is impacting things?

MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t offer you any specifics beyond offering up that we – there’s obviously a lot of energy and focus dealing with the immediate issues before the country. And Treasury and the White House are taking the lead on those issues.

Of course, as you’ve heard from the President, Secretary Paulson, Chairman Bernanke, this has been an important crisis in the global financial system. And part of what we are charged with here in the State Department is starting to think through what are any of the potential repercussions from this in terms of, you know, the financial system, repercussions on the global economic environment, how that affects geopolitics and the things that we do around the world. I can’t offer you any specifics at this point, because quite clearly, we’re early on in this process. But I can tell you that people are thinking about those issues, which is only prudent.

Yeah. Lambros.

QUESTION: May I go to Greece? Mr. McCormack, since I have been asked officially to raise all the questions pertaining to the Visa Waiver Program only to you, I’m wondering why you are still relating the approval for Greece would E-S-T-A requirement of the Department of Homeland Security in the name of terrorism, something against the civil liberties of the Greek people?

MR. MCCORMACK: Lambros, I’ve answered your questions about the Visa Waiver Program before, and my answer hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: No, it was too general – nothing for Greece. No, Mr. McCormack –

MR. MCCORMACK: You’ve asked specifically about Greece and I have given you the answer that I’m going to give you.

QUESTION: Okay, but –

MR. MCCORMACK: Look, that – Lambros, that is it. Done.

QUESTION: Okay, for –

MR. MCCORMACK: Done. Done.

QUESTION: Well, why not?

MR. MCCORMACK: Done.

QUESTION: It’s prohibited?

MR. MCCORMACK: Gollust.

QUESTION: Sean, the Iranian Ambassador in Baghdad apparently has announced his readiness to have a meeting in the Crocker channel – you know, the three-way?

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that something that you’re familiar with?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not sure. Perhaps he’s announced it in public. I’m not aware that he’s informed us through official channels that he was prepared to meet. Let me check for you, David. It’s the first that I’ve heard of that and I’ll see if –

QUESTION: When was the last time that –

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, off the top of my head, you know – roughly, I think, what, a year ago, something like that?

QUESTION: Yeah. And there was – but months ago, there was talk of there going to be a meeting and that just never happened, huh?

MR. MCCORMACK: No, it didn’t.

QUESTION: It didn’t happen?

MR. MCCORMACK: There has not been a recent meeting.

QUESTION: It didn’t even happen at the (inaudible) level?

MR. MCCORMACK: There were – yeah, there were lower-level contacts, I know. And again, you know, I’m just doing this off the top of my head. We’ll check the record for you, but I think it’s, you know, on the order of a year or 18 months ago.

QUESTION: Is that a good thing?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, the – one thing we can say about the situation in Iraq, which is the topic of conversation, specifically the security situation, is that it has improved. Now, I can’t say that the Iranians consciously had anything to do with that. I would, you know, refer you over to the Iraqi Government or to our military officials in Iraq for their assessment.

I think the credit for that goes to our forces and the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi Government. So I – you know, I’ll leave it to the security experts to offer any assessment of whether the Iranians had anything to do with it. I would doubt that they had anything if at all – little if at all -- anything at all to do with it.

QUESTION: From your point of view, there’s no particular urgency given the situation right now for – to have a Crocker channel –

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m not aware – yeah – I’ll check for you, Matt, but I –

QUESTION: – talking about security.

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, just thinking back on it, I don’t recall any particular –

QUESTION: You’re not seeking one?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I’ll double check. I’ll double-check my facts here, but I don’t recall our seeking one in recent times.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: The Washington Post carried a story today saying that Secretary Rice, when she was head of the National Security Council, endorsed some rather harsh interrogation methods, including waterboarding. Could you please confirm that she did indeed endorse these interrogation methods?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, again, I’m not quite sure – I – having read the same story and having read the set of answers that she gave to Senator Levin, I don’t think that is an accurate characterization. What I’d do is refer you to Senator Levin’s office and I’m sure that they can provide you a copy of the answers that she provided Senator Levin’s office. He asked a series of questions of her and John Bellinger, who is Legal Adviser here and was legal counsel over at the National Security Council staff. And you can read for yourself how she characterized her view of these issues during that period of time.

If you can’t get those documents from the Senator’s office, come back to me and I’m happy on a case-by-case basis to provide those to you. But I don’t think, from my perspective, that it – that there’s any reason to add or subtract to the answers that she’s given to the Hill. She’s been very forthcoming, I think.

QUESTION: But did the Secretary send a memo to Tenet saying, yes, we agree with these interrogation methods because they’re needed at this time?

MR. MCCORMACK: Again, you can look at the answers. You can look at the answers to these questions.

QUESTION: But what do you think? You were in the Security Council at the time, too.

MR. MCCORMACK: What I think is that you should read the answers to – thoughtful answers that she provided to Senator Levin. And again, if you – you know, check with his office. I’m just trying to follow protocol and be courteous here. These are answers and materials that we provided to his office in response to his questions. And – but if you have any difficulty in getting your hands on those, I’m happy on a case-by-case basis to get you those.

QUESTION: Can you not answer that now, though? Why do I have to go through Levin? Why can’t you answer it now?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, because it’s a matter of public record, her response to these questions. And I think it’s a – these are thoughtful, considered responses.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the tension at the border between Cambodia and Thailand?

MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, we’ve noticed an uptick over the past couple of days in the tensions on both sides of the borders. And we would urge restraint on both sides, to refrain from any use of violence or any provocation to the other side, and to resolve what are clear differences over a border area, to resolve those differences via political channels and political means.

QUESTION: Did you contact the governments or the –

MR. MCCORMACK: We have been in contact with governments at the level of the Embassy.

You’ve had yours. Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Iran, we heard last week that you might have a political directors’ teleconference call.

MR. MCCORMACK: Nothing scheduled yet.

QUESTION: Did Sergey Lavrov’s comments to Howard Berman about sanctions being unproductive, has that thrown a wrench in the works?

MR. MCCORMACK: No. Look, this process has not been linear. We have had various bumps in the road. And you do – the latest marker, I guess you can say, that we have from the international community is the passage of the Security Council resolution just several weeks ago, restating a commitment to the two-track approach and reaffirming all the previous Security Council resolutions, which, by the way, included sanctions – Chapter 7 resolutions. So it is a reaffirmation of not only the approach but the sanctions contained in those resolutions.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Hi. Any reaction to yesterday’s election in Canada?

MR. MCCORMACK: In Canada? Well, we would congratulate all who participated in it. It was a hard-fought election. Of course, we follow very closely political events north of the border. We have our own election that’s going to be going on here soon. And I can’t tell you whether or not officially election results have come out, but I – at least the initial returns that I’ve seen is that Prime Minister Harper is going to lead a government, once again.

QUESTION: It’s another conservative minority government. Any concerns sort of looking forward in the next few months of, you know, working with –

MR. MCCORMACK: We’re – we are prepared to work with whatever government the Canadian people choose. We have a close partnership in a variety of different areas, whether that’s on trade between our two countries or working in Afghanistan to help provide security for the Afghan people and help build that country.

Matthew.

QUESTION: What’s the latest you have on the situation at Yongbyon?

MR. MCCORMACK: Latest? Well, I’ll have to check for you what we have on the latest. I think they’re –

QUESTION: You didn’t have anything coming into the briefing?

MR. MCCORMACK: I didn’t. No, I didn’t. The reversal of the reversal continues. That I know. I can’t speak in specificity –

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: – exactly what’s happening.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: The trend line is, people are reapplying seals, equipment is being put back. They’re getting back to that baseline of Yongbyon being disabled.

QUESTION: And has there been any movement towards scheduling a – the next envoy’s meeting?

MR. MCCORMACK: The head of delegation? No, I don’t have a date yet. I asked this before we came out here and we do not have a date yet for the meeting.

QUESTION: Is there anything more you can do for the Japanese abductees? It seems Washington’s washed its hands of that problem.

MR. MCCORMACK: Far from it. You just look back at the statement that I read here on Saturday morning and you look at the President’s – the President of the United States’ recent statements, having met with the families – some of the family members here. We are absolutely committed to seeing this issue resolved.

QUESTION: But in concrete ways – I mean, are you –

MR. MCCORMACK: Concrete ways –

QUESTION: Can you give incentives to the North Koreans to do it?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, you know, I’ve seen – you know, North Korea isn’t going to have a normal relationship with the rest of the world until all the various issues are resolved, and that’s an incentive that they and the North Korean people will receive benefits from having a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world. We are very early on in that process. And frankly, we do not yet see that North Korea has taken that strategic decision, that irreversible decision, to have a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world. And the metric that I’m using there is on the nuclear front.

But they also have not resolved outstanding issues with Japan. These are tough emotional issues that need to be resolved. You know, the pain of these families needs to be addressed and they need to be given some comfort and some answers to these questions. And we absolutely stand with the Japanese Government and the Japanese people in seeing those resolved.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Apparently, the Russians walked out of the Geneva talks today. Do you have any comment on that, please?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t have any readout of the meeting. I do know that there was an earlier question about the representatives from the so-called Abkhaz and South Ossetian delegations. And I do know that there was an agreement, at least from everybody’s point of view, perhaps, except for, you know, the Russians and the other two so-called delegations that they would not be allowed to participate in the plenary and that – the news story that I read was that the Russians said they would not attend the plenary. Now, I don’t know – I can’t at this point connect the dots for you from A to B. But we’re going to await a readout from our delegation there that’s being led by Dan Fried.

QUESTION: Would you encourage the Russians, though, to participate fully in these discussions and to –

MR. MCCORMACK: They should be constructive. You know, these are – this is part of a ceasefire agreement that they negotiated with President Sarkozy and we would expect, along with all the other attendees at this meeting, that they would in good faith follow through on these issues.

QUESTION: Just going back to the issue of abducted American citizens, have you been able to figure out exactly what happened in Syria?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, in terms of the details and how long they were held and under what circumstances, I’m going to let the two individuals speak to that because I think they are the best sources of information.

What we have learned is that there was a request by the two individuals that the American Embassy be notified that they were being held. That did not happen immediately. What happened is, when we went to the Syrian Government, we immediately got a response back that, yes, two Americans were being held. But there was some interregnum there where there was a request from the individuals that the Embassy be notified and our actually going to the Syrian Government.

QUESTION: And that was how long?

MR. MCCORMACK: I’m going to let the individuals speak to how long they were being held.

QUESTION: No, no, no. Do you know how long it was between the time that they asked?

MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t. That I don’t. That I don’t. And again, I’ll let these two individuals offer their account, which I think is probably the authoritative account.

Now, earlier we spoke about the fact that Syria is not obligated to notify of – custody of foreign citizens Now, there is a caveat to that, and that is that if the foreign citizen makes a request to the government, that their government be notified of their detention, the individual’s detention, that has to be done. And so in this case, you know, through talking to these individuals, we learned that that didn’t happen. And we went back to the Syrian Government, expressed our concern and displeasure over that, and told them we would expect that that would not happen in the future.

QUESTION: But is there – there is no time – set timeframe for that to happen, is there? After the individual makes the request is there – do they – is there a time –

MR. MCCORMACK: It should happen as soon as possible. I don’t know in the Vienna Convention, this Article 36, whether there’s a time limit. But it should happen as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Why –

MR. MCCORMACK: That clearly did not happen.

QUESTION: Well –

QUESTION: If it clearly did not happen, why are you unable to say how long elapsed – or the time that elapsed between their request and when you actually –

MR. MCCORMACK: This is – you know, this is a question that I have – you know, frankly, I have asked, Matt. And from within the State Department bureaucracy, I haven’t gotten a good answer. So –

QUESTION: Because they don’t know. They don’t know or they (inaudible)?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think it’s – I think – look, regardless of what the State Department can generate, it’s best that the individuals tell their story and I would rely on that as the authoritative account.

QUESTION: You have no reason to doubt –

MR. MCCORMACK: I have no reason to doubt their account.

QUESTION: – it did not happen?

MR. MCCORMACK: No.

QUESTION: One more question on this.

MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When you say that you went back to the Syrians and you kind of noted your displeasure, did you formally make a protest or a demarche or you just kind of called them and said this is not the way we do business?

MR. MCCORMACK: I – you know, I’m not differentiating between one or the other. It was an official representation.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MR. MCCORMACK: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:12 p.m.)

dpb # 173



Released on October 15, 2008

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