|Daily Press Briefing|
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
September 9, 2008
|New Briefing Time / State Department Photos and Other Resources|
|Reports on Kim Jong-ils Health|
|Six-Party Talks Focused on Outputs|
|U.S. Encourages North Korea to Work on a Verification Regime|
|Three Stages that Lead to an Operational Reversal|
|North Koreas Energy Needs to Focus on Moving Process Forward|
|U.S. View of North Koreas Decision-making Process|
|U.S. Confident North Korea Understands Need to Submit a Verifiable Declaration|
|U.S. Supports the Efforts of President Sarkozy|
|Three Stages That Could Lead to an Operational Reversal|
|U.S. View of North Koreas Decision-making Process|
|U.S. Welcomes Russias Firm Date to Withdraw Troops from Georgia|
|Russia Should Live Up to Its Agreements / Pre-August 6 Positions|
|Assessment of U.S. Russian Relationship / Its Not Business as Usual|
|Issue of NATO Assistance to Georgia|
|Defense Department Addressed Issue of Sensitive Military Equipment|
|U.S. Looking for a Resolution to the Name Issue|
|Up to Greece and Macedonia to Come to an Agreement|
|U.S. Supports Macedonia Becoming Part of NATO|
|U.S. Will Respect the Decision of the Two Parties|
|Secretary Rice Scheduled to Attend UN General Assembly|
|Secretary Rices Schedule Being Developed in Terms of Meetings|
|Secretarys Speech to Historically Black Colleges and Universities|
|Allegations of a Hunger Strike by Aung San Suu Kyi|
|Burmese Regime Should Begin Serious Negotiations with Opposition|
|Nuclear Suppliers Group Granting of Exemption|
|Congressional Contacts Made by Secretary Rice / Hyde Amendment Package|
|U.S. Humanitarian Assistance|
|U.S. Supports the Efforts of the Two Sides to Come to an Agreement|
10:37 a.m. EDT
MR. MCCORMACK: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to the first 10:30 a.m. briefing. Are you impressed, Matt?
QUESTION: Good morning.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m glad to hear --
QUESTION: I haven’t seen myself up there yet.
MR. MCCORMACK: Matt, there’s a reason for that.
QUESTION: It’s 10:35 – (inaudible.)
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m glad you mentioned the photos. We’re going to bring those down in a second. But the reason why I have them up there is I wanted to make a point about the – some of the resources and content that the State Department has. These photos were taken by our photographer who occasionally will travel with the Secretary of State on some of the trips. These photos are available to you; they’re available to the public on State.gov – www. state.gov. You can click on the appropriate section. There are guidelines there for accreditation – State Department and the name of our photographer. But I just wanted to run them by (a) because they are topical from the recent trip, but (b) to make the larger point about some of the resources that are available not only to journalists, media organizations, but the public as well. And with that, I am happy to --
QUESTION: Brief on substance, rather than (inaudible.)
MR. MCCORMACK: This is – no, no -- this is substance, Arshad.
QUESTION: I agree, but I want to talk, you know, about policy.
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah, let’s do this the right way.
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m happy to talk about it. You’ll notice right now that the image has gone to state.gov. So look, there’s – and again --
QUESTION: I wasn’t taking a shot at you.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, no, no. But it’s an important point. I mean, this is – you know, the reason for this technology and the incorporation of this in the briefing is to make the convenience of information not only to you, but to people on the outside who may be watching or listening or reading, a richer and deeper experience. So there is – there is real substance that will be conveyed through this. And I would argue that that does add to the substance of the trip, because it talks about and it shows and it marks, in part, a historic visit by the Secretary of State to Libya – 55 years. The first time in 55 years that a Secretary of State made a trip to Libya. So I think that’s historic and substantive.
QUESTION: As much as that is historic and substantive, perhaps, a photograph of North Korea’s national day parade might – up there might be a --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we have – I don’t have any photographers there.
QUESTION: Well, this is what was going to be in my question.
QUESTION: Do you have – do you have --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, hold on. Hold on, Arshad asked a question. So let’s get --
QUESTION: Do you have – there are now reports out that Kim Jong-il has suffered a stroke. Does the U.S. Government have any reason to believe that those reports are accurate if you do have questions about his health, to what extent is that affecting your negotiations?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ve seen these press reports. Obviously, they’ve been out circulating this morning. I also saw the press reports about the fact that I – we can’t personally attest that he was not present on the podium for the military parade. I can’t offer to you any significance of the presence or not – his non-presence on the podium, and I can’t confirm these reports from – about his health for you. Obviously, this is a very opaque regime, so I’m not in a position to offer any comment to you.
In terms of the second part of your question about the Six-Party Talks, we are, in fact, focused on outputs. You know, we don’t necessarily have a good picture into the decision-making processes of the North Korean regime, but we can see very clearly outputs or lack of outputs. And that’s why we have not – over the past several weeks, we have not seen outputs in terms of their agreement to a verification regime. So that’s where our focus is on. We encourage – continue to encourage the North Korean regime to focus on that output, agree – work on an agreement to a verification regime, that way, the Six-Party process can move forward. That pathway to a different kind of relationship with the rest of the world, with the United States is open. But again, there are certain actions that are going to be required in order to realize that.
QUESTION: Not only have you not seen outputs, but you’ve actually seen the reversal of some of the actions that they have previously taken, because they have taken out of storage some of the equipment that they have previously put in storage at your behest.
MR. MCCORMACK: Correct, correct. And I talked a little bit yesterday about how we view that and what we were seeing on the ground, trying to be as transparent as I can in terms of conveying that information. I broke down, roughly, into three stages. Technical experts, I’m sure, will have a more precise way of defining these things. But I look at it basically as three stages of you can talk about the fact that you’re going to try to take steps to reverse what you’ve done; you can start to take those steps, taking out equipment, breaking seals; and then you can actually get to an operational position of having reversed those things. We don’t see that last stage yet. Definitely you see things happening in that second stage, taking steps that could lead to an operational reversal of what they’re doing. At the very least, what you’re seeing is this process not move forward. And certainly, those steps are not welcome in terms of their taking the equipment out, breaking seals. Their energy needs to be focused on the verification regime; their energy needs to be focused on moving that process forward. Those actions of taking the equipment out of storage, breaking seals, that doesn’t move the process forward.
QUESTION: What does it say to you that these steps or the lack of outputs or the reversals and – the reversals of previous actions, what does it say to you that those started – those things began to happen around the time that these rumors about Kim Jong-il’s health started to surface?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, Matt, I can’t, certainly from this podium, read any significance or non-significance into these reports for you. Our view into their decision-making process is, at the very least, imperfect. And what we know or don’t know about it I’m sure is – falls within the realm of intelligence analyses, which I couldn’t possibly get into from this podium.
So I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you the decision-making processes or how the decision-making processes that exist in North Korea or how they are functioning or not functioning at this point in time.
QUESTION: More specifically --
QUESTION: That’s fair enough, but surely, you must – there must be – you must think something about it that does not border onto the realm of intelligence analysis.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. At this point, Matt, there’s nothing I can offer you regarding those reports.
QUESTION: I mean, being more specific, do you see any sign of disagreement in the regime and the people who you do deal with?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, again, Lach, that’s not – that – going into that area in terms of speculating about how their decision-making processes work is just not something, at this point, I’m going to do from the podium.
QUESTION: Or more broadly, do you see any sign of a power vacuum other than Kim Jong-il not being present for the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, Lach, what we’re looking for are outputs, and we haven’t seen the outputs that we as well as the other members of the Six-Party Talks are looking for.
QUESTION: Do you – can you say at least that you think that it’s unusual or suspicious in any way that he was not present at this parade?
MR. MCCORMACK: Like I said, you know, I’m not going to try to read any significance or not --
QUESTION: I remember in the ‘70s and ‘80s, people from this podium --
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, I know – which I know, yeah.
QUESTION: -- routinely offered that kind of an assessment.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: What’s the difference between --
MR. MCCORMACK: I’m sure – Matt, I’m sure that there are a plethora of North Korea – the equivalent of North Korea Kremlinologists out there and they can offer their assessments for you. I don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: The reports seem to be coming from U.S. intelligence, which must have been shared with the State Department. So why can’t you confirm something that the U.S. Government apparently is putting out there?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t know who the blind quotes are coming from. That’s your job to find out who those folks are.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at the reports about a lack of a written agreement with North Korea over the linkage between delisting and verification protocol or --
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re confident they understand what they need to do, and we’re confident they understand they need to have submitted a verifiable declaration. Part of the verifiable part of that is a verification regime that can be implemented. And again, as I’ve said before, this is not – these aren’t the kinds of measures that are outside the realm of normal international accepted practice. That’s what we’re looking for from North Korea, looking for their agreement to that verification regime. So without a verification regime that you can use to verify the declaration, we view that step as incomplete at this point.
QUESTION: Thank you. On FYROM, Mr. McCormack, according to a barrage of reports, on September 23rd, in the presence of the Foreign Minister of Greece and FYROM, in New York City, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will present a plan to resolve the name issue between Athens and Skopje. On September 24, actually, the U.S. plan will be submitted to the U – National Security Council to be passed as a resolution. I’m wondering if you have anything to say about that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah. Lambros, we’re looking for a resolution to the name issue. Fundamentally, that’s going to need to involve the two parties, Greece and Macedonia. They’re going to need to – they’ve been working hard on this issue. We have encouraged a resolution to it. We have lent our good offices; I guess is the way to put it, to that process. But ultimately, it’s going to be up to those two parties to come to an agreement. And we would hope that that would be done sooner rather than later.
QUESTION: Do you know when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is going to meet separately or together the Greek Foreign Minister and the Foreign Minister of FYROM in New York City?
MR. MCCORMACK: I don’t. I know she is going to the UN General Assembly. And we’ll have more for you on the days of her travel up there as well as the meetings. I can tell you with a hundred percent assurance that the schedule is still being developed in terms of with whom she is going to meet and on what dates and at what time she’s going to meet.
QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, how fast do you want FYROM to become a member of NATO, and under which name?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we’ve made our decision with respect to the name. You know that. We made that decision a long time ago. We’ve also made very clear that we support Macedonia becoming part of NATO. That was a decision that was reaffirmed by every country in NATO at the last summit, except for Greece. This isn’t within NATO. This is still an outstanding issue that we would like to see resolved as soon as possible.
QUESTION: I don’t want to get bogged down. But are you saying that even if there is some compromise reached where there’s a name other than Macedonia, you’re going to stick with Macedonia?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, Matt, I’m sure that we will respect the decision of whatever the two parties --
QUESTION: I just wondered if you have already made a decision --
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, whatever Macedonia wants – Macedonia said it wants to be called Macedonia. We recognize that. And if Macedonia says to the international community that it wants to be referred to by another name, and that is fully supported and agreed upon by the Macedonia Government and the Macedonian people, I’m not sure that we would differ with --
QUESTION: I’m sure the Burmese Government --
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, within reason.
QUESTION: I’m sure the Burmese Government will be very interested in that.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well --
QUESTION: Or the Myanmar.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah.
QUESTION: Actually on Burma, can you verify whether or not Aung San Suu Kyi has been on a hunger strike for the past few weeks?
MR. MCCORMACK: I can’t. We’ll have to take the question for you. But, you know, as we’ve stated before, she needs to – if she needs to have access to medical treatment, she should. She should also be released and the Burmese regime should begin serious negotiations with the opposition about bringing true democracy back to Burma.
QUESTION: When was the last time a U.S. official has been able to visit with her?
MR. MCCORMACK: Don’t know. I’ll check for you.
QUESTION: There are reports in the European press that Vice President Cheney promised Mikheil Saakashvili that NATO will intervene to enable Saakashvili to recover control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Do you know anything about that?
MR. MCCORMACK: The focus is on diplomatic efforts. As you’ve seen --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- we have – we fully support the efforts of President Sarkozy. In his recent meetings with President Medvedev, I understand that there’s been an understanding that has come from those most recent meetings. We fully support President Sarkozy in trying to get Russia to live up to its original agreement back in August.
MR. MCCORMACK: And we welcome the fact that Russia has agreed to some firm dates for withdrawing their troops from Georgia and removing those troops that weren’t previously authorized, basically moving their troops to those pre-August 6 positions. That’s the simplest way to put it.
We also welcome the fact that the EU has committed to putting 200 monitors on the ground. And the deployment of those monitors, as part of this agreement, is also linked to the full withdrawal of the Russian troops. We fully support that.
What Russia needs to do now is to live up to its agreements. It hasn’t done so in the past. The world is watching and the world expects Russia to live up to its agreements. We’ll see if they do.
QUESTION: The Russian military this morning has said that it plans to maintain about 7,600 troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They don’t seem to be doing what you want them to do.
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it would seem that they’re not doing what President Medvedev said that they would do. And he had previously – has committed from the very beginning to removing those troops from – to pre-August 6 positions. I – we can get you the exact number, but I think the number of peacekeepers, or the Russian troop presence in South Ossetia, numbered about – right around 1,000, just over a 1,000. They need to get back to those pre-August 6 positions. So the question – of course, we want that to happen because the Russians said it would happen and that’s what has been recognized by the international community.
The real question is: Is there a difference of opinion between President Medvedev and the officials who are making these statements?
QUESTION: Is the time to correct that the Administration has essentially decided that unilateral actions, unilateral punitive actions toward Russia would be counterproductive, and therefore other than pulling the civil nuclear deal from Congress, which could also be seen as a way of saving it so that they don’t vote it down, that you plan to pursue only collective or multilateral actions?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right now, you know, I’m not going to foreclose any potential policy avenue. Right now, we’re taking a look at our relationship with Russia. Quite clearly, it is not business as usual. And I think yesterday’s action of withdrawing the assessment by the President was an indication that it is not business as usual. And we are still taking a look at what potential consequences there might be in terms of policy for the U.S.-Russia relationship and for Russia’s relationship with the world as well as other international institutions of which we play a role. So we’re still looking at that, and I’m not going to foreclose any particular possibility at this point. I think it’s premature to do that.
I would point out something that you’ve heard from the Secretary of State as well as others: Russia has paid a real price. They paid a heavy price in terms of the perceptions of Russia among the international community, among the international business community, and that has led to very real consequences in terms of withdrawal of foreign exchange reserves, investment decisions that had previously been taken to invest in Russia, perhaps put on hold. So there are very real costs to Russia in terms of what they have done. And we’re taking a look at what else we might do. Again, I’m not going to try to guide you in a particular direction, but they have paid a very real cost.
And we have also had most of our focus at this point, since August 6 to the present day, focused on what we can do for Georgia. That has preoccupied quite a bit of the time. I think you’ve seen some of the results of that thinking, that decision making, those consultations.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary going to meet Foreign Minister Lavrov as she normally would at UNGA?
MR. MCCORMACK: We don’t have anything – at this point, it’s not formally scheduled. I would be surprised if she didn’t. Because at the very least, at the very least, there are meetings, for example, of the P-5 that take place annually up at UNGA, so I would expect that they would see each other.
QUESTION: You were quite proud of the strategic framework for cooperation that you agreed with the Russians earlier this year, pointing out all the areas of cooperation you have. Doesn't that seem completely at stake now based on the Russian response to President Bush’s withdrawing for consideration the nuclear – civil nuclear pact? I mean, isn’t – is it unraveling?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, quite clearly, Russia, through its actions and its choices of, I guess, pathways, opportunities not taken in terms of that relationship, has put some things at risk. And we’re assessing right now what steps we might take based on what Russia has done and the trend lines that we’ve seen. Like I said in response to Arshad’s question, I didn’t – I’m not going to outline for you anything today. Yesterday, we gave a clear indication it’s not business as usual in that one decision that we’ve taken, but I’m not going to foreclose any possibilities right now.
QUESTION: But can you comment on the status of the strategic framework --
MR. MCCORMACK: I --
QUESTION: Is it still in place? Do you --
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s still --
QUESTION: Do you expect it to be in place?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, it – yeah, I don’t have it in front of me so I can’t tick down the list of things. But you know, in general, as I – remembering back to it, basically what it did is it outlined a series of areas where we wanted to cooperate, we wanted to move the relationship forward. And in that sense, it presented a number of opportunities for the U.S. and Russia.
Now, there was nothing that was particularly – that was automatic about it. You had to act on those opportunities and take steps to, you know, realize them, to implement them, to bring them into reality. At this point, you know, Russia seems to have made a different set of decisions. Those possibilities are still out there. It’s regrettable, very regrettable, that they have, at this point, not chosen not to realize the full potential that was outlined in that agreement.
QUESTION: Just to go back to North Korea really briefly --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: -- for a couple of logistical things? Well, I presume that Chris Hill briefed the Secretary yesterday --
MR. MCCORMACK: He did.
QUESTION: -- on his trip to China?
MR. MCCORMACK: He did.
QUESTION: And do you know if the Secretary has made any calls or if – you know, on this specific issue, to the Chinese or --
MR. MCCORMACK: She has not. No, no.
QUESTION: Can we go to civil nuclear deals for 200? (Laughter.)
MR. MCCORMACK: Is there anything else? Viola, did you have anything? Or you have to go --
QUESTION: I want to go back to Russia and Georgia.
MR. MCCORMACK: Okay. Well, let’s stick with Russia and Georgia, and then we’ll move to South Asia.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, in response to the question about NATO, you didn’t directly specify – you said that we’re focused on the diplomacy right now.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.
QUESTION: But are you saying that NATO is not prepared to help or is not doing anything to try to help Georgia recover these republics – control of these republics?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, NATO did say that it was going to offer – look at what assistance it could offer in terms of training and cooperation with Georgia. That was the whole point of the North Atlantic Council meeting, and it issued a statement of support. So I – you know, not having seen the article, I can’t assess for you whether it was referring to that or to something that was different. But quite clearly, NATO has staked out a position and made quite clear its support for the Georgian Government as well as its intention to offer assistance to Georgia.
I said we’d go to --
QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any calls recently to members of Congress to – and specifically Chairman Berman, to talk about how you might address the concerns of some members of Congress about the NSG waiver? And does she have any meetings or conversations planned in the near term to try to push this through during the current session?
MR. MCCORMACK: Mm-hmm. She has made a lot of calls. She does have a lot of meetings coming up. How would I put it? From her perspective, this is a full court press working with the Congress. She is busy working the phones. I know – I don’t have a complete list for you and I don’t want to leave anybody out, but I’ll highlight a couple of names. She’s working – talking to the leadership, meet – she’s going to meet with leadership. I know she’s spoken with Minority Leader Boehner. She has spoken with Senator Biden. She has spoken with the – Representative Ros-Lehtinen. And I know she intends to meet with Mr. Berman and she intends to meet with Senator Reid, the majority leader.
QUESTION: Today, you mean?
MR. MCCORMACK: I’ll check for you. Let me check for the dates. I’m just working from memory here. And she also intends to try to touch base with all the leadership on the House as well as the Senate side. I know she’s talked to Senator McConnell as well. So we’ll try to do a running tally for you. I think it’s going to be impossible to, you know, have a complete list at any given time. She also intends to reach out to a number of other representatives and senators, including those who originally opposed the deal when it first came up for consideration. So we are reaching out to everybody, supporters as well as those who may be on the fence, those who oppose. So we’re going to do everything we possibly can to move the deal forward with Congress. They have a say. That’s the way our system works. And we are working very hard, and the Secretary made very clear to her staff today, she wants to get the full Hyde Amendment package of materials that the Congress says it needs from us and that’s required by the legislation up to the Hill within the next 24 to 48 hours.
QUESTION: Just – that leads to my next question, which is – well, actually, let’s just deal with the – has she talked to Speaker Pelosi?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re going to -
QUESTION: Is she going to see her?
MR. MCCORMACK: We’re going to work on that. Obviously, you know, I know the Speaker, you know, has a lot on her schedule. But we’re going to work to reach out to her in some form or fashion, whether that’s in person or by phone.
QUESTION: And within the next day or so?
MR. MCCORMACK: It’s going to depend on schedules --
MR. MCCORMACK: -- but as soon as we can.
QUESTION: Okay. And then to send the package, as you know, the Administration has to be able – has to be in a position to issue determinations that India has taken certain actions, notably making “significant progress” toward an additional protocol with the IAEA and “formal adherence” --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right, right.
QUESTION: -- to the NSG and MTCR guidelines. Have they done that? As of Sunday, they had not.
MR. MCCORMACK: A full court press with the Indians as well. Like you point out, there are certain – some final pieces that we need to work with on them in terms of, you know, the kinds of assurances you’ve talked about and a couple of other matters as well. So that all needs to be fed into this package. Clearly, we’re – the timelines are tight, to say the least. But we’re committed to doing everything we can with the Indians, and we know they’re committed as well. They’re working as hard as they can. And we’re committed to working with the Hill to get this done.
QUESTION: So you think they’re going to do that within the next 24 or 48 hours?
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, we’re – those are the – I rarely go out on a limb in setting – trying to set these target timelines, but that’s what the Secretary has conveyed to her staff, that she wants to get this up to the Hill as soon as we possibly can, to give the Hill everything that they possibly need in order to make an informed decision. Of course, we’re going to talk to them. We know – you know what we think is the right decision. We’re trying to convince them that it is in America’s interest, in the world’s interest, and the – to get this legislation passed.
QUESTION: One more on this. I mean, as you know, the – if it is to be considered under the procedure that was outlined in the carefully negotiated Hyde Act, it has to sit for 30 days.
MR. MCCORMACK: Those are parliamentary questions I think that can only be answered by the Hill.
QUESTION: No, but it’s – yeah, but it’s an issue that people in this building are grappling with and it’s --
MR. MCCORMACK: Sure.
QUESTION: -- a relevant question here, because in order to get it done this year, you either have to meet the 30-day requirement, which means you have to have a lame-duck session --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- where Congress has to decide to stay in town to do this rather than campaign, or you have to do it in a different fashion, which then opens up two cans of worms. You are essentially asking Congress to reject the legislation that they worked out very carefully, and you open yourself up to the possibility that it gets amended. And so I guess my question is, do you really think you’re going to be able to do this, given that the chances of meeting the 30-day standard are low, and given that doing it as a separate piece of legislation opens it up to a lot of risks?
MR. MCCORMACK: Right. Look, I am not going to get myself in trouble and wading into the parliamentary procedures that govern the daily activities of the Senate or the House. We think that there’s a possibility of getting this passed this year. And we’re going to do everything that we possibly can. We’ll see whether that comes to pass, what – you know, whether it does or not is not going to be for a lack of effort by the Administration.
QUESTION: Just following on --
MR. MCCORMACK: Daniel.
QUESTION: It’s a similar question to Arshad’s last one, but do I understand that you are not going to take any formal position on whether the Congress should adopt a procedure to abbreviate the 30 days, but you’re not going to suggest to Congress --
MR. MCCORMACK: Again, that --
QUESTION: Because you said you’re not going to get involved in a parliamentary – I just want to make sure I understood what you said.
MR. MCCORMACK: I personally am not. Of course, we’re going to talk to the Congress about how they see the way forward. The final decision as to which parliamentary route to take is one that solely resides within the purview of the Congress. Of course we want to see it completed and to see it passed. You know, the first step is whether or not you can have this put up for consideration for a vote, various obstacles notwithstanding. You know, and the second question is the vote itself. And both of those things, the final decision on both of those things, are going to be up to the members of Congress, you know, in the Senate and in the House.
QUESTION: Just one question back on Russia. Are you concerned about reports that the Russians see some sensitive U.S. military material in Poti?
MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I think – as I saw it in one – one news story this morning, the Department of Defense addressed that issue in terms of any sensitive equipment they – just to do a shorthand translation of what they said, they said there wasn’t any sensitive equipment. There were some Humvees, I guess, that were seized, and we’ve conveyed to the Russians we want those back. You know --
QUESTION: But they also said they weren’t sure what it was.
MR. MCCORMACK: What was?
QUESTION: What was in these shipping containers?
MR. MCCORMACK: The story that I read, and I have to admit I hadn’t had a chance to talk to my counterparts at DOD, said that they knew what was in the containers and what was not. And they said that there wasn’t any sensitive equipment. If there was any update or amendment to that statement or if I got it wrong, the folks over at DOD can correct it.
QUESTION: Sean, a different topic. Any fresh contacts with Cuba about humanitarian aid in the aftermath of the --
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check for you. I know that we were considering ourselves internally yesterday about what else we might offer in the wake of Hurricane Ike passing through the area. We’ll check for you. Perhaps we can – maybe we can post an answer on that, get you an update.
QUESTION: Thank you. On Cyprus, Mr. McCormack, how do you respond to a bunch of reports from Nicosia today that the U.S. Government, on May 23rd, 2008, exerted a lot of pressure to the President of the Republic of Cyprus Demetris Christofias during his meeting with the Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat to accept “Partnership of two, constituent states based on political equality” as envisaged in the (inaudible) of the so-called Annan Plan?
MR. MCCORMACK: You know, Lambros – you know, I can’t speak to this particular report. I can tell you that we support the efforts of the two sides to come to an agreement. We have long supported a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. As a solution (inaudible) is a longstanding issue, it’s a hard issue, but it’s one that can be resolved, in our view. We fully support the sides coming together.
QUESTION: One more question. Do you still take the Annan Plan into consideration in those (inaudible) talks, Mr. McCormack, between President Christofias and Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat?
MR. MCCORMACK: Look, I’m sure previous efforts inform current efforts, as they should. There’s a lot to be learned from history. It’s now a matter of the two sides coming together. We as well as others in the international community fully support that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Sean, I have one more.
MR. MCCORMACK: Yeah, sure.
QUESTION: The Secretary yesterday in her speech to the historically black colleges and universities used pretty strong language. She said she has lamented the scarcity of black American diplomats. And she then also talked about minorities generally. She mentioned a couple of the programs, the Rangel fellows and so on. Does the Department track – do you have statistics on and do you track the numbers of minorities in the U.S. Foreign Service?
MR. MCCORMACK: We do, yeah, and the Civil Service and the State Department, yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, but she talked about the Foreign Service and so that’s why I’m going to – I want to focus on that. Can you share those so that – can you make those public so that we can have a sense of whether or not there has been progress on this issue during her tenure or over the last 10 years or the last 20 years? I mean, if she’s so worried about it --
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: -- it makes me wonder, well, gee, maybe there really hadn’t been a whole lot of progress on this.
MR. MCCORMACK: Right.
QUESTION: So --
MR. MCCORMACK: Let me check. I’ll see. You know, oftentimes, you know, these statistics are governed by various – you know, in terms of disclosure, various rules, regulations, and laws. We’ll see. You heard from her a personal commitment to move this forward to make the Foreign Service and the State Department look more like America. As she said yesterday and as anybody walking around this building can tell, it doesn’t yet. And that’s a continuing goal. I know that she has been disappointed that it doesn’t look more like America, but that doesn’t mean that she hasn’t worked hard on it and she hasn’t taken steps personally to bring that – to bring that about.
QUESTION: It would just be – it would be interesting for people to be able to see.
MR. MCCORMACK: No, I agree. Let’s see what we can do for you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. MCCORMACK: I personally certainly am open to that. Let’s see what the rules and regulations say.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 11:09 a.m.)
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