|Wednesday, 17 July 2019|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-05-29
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Phillip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
May 29, 2001
MR. REEKER: Good afternoon, everyone. Hope everybody had a nice, long weekend. Welcome back to the State Department. I have no formal announcements this afternoon, so I would be happy to begin with your questions.
Q: Security talks in the Middle East arranged by the US. Do you have anything?
MR. REEKER: Let's talk a little bit about where we are in the Middle East. As I think has been reported over the long weekend, Ambassador Burns, Assistant Secretary Burns, has met twice with both Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat over the course of the long weekend. He has urged both sides to implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations and to resume bilateral security discussions.
It is our understanding that the parties will meet this evening to resume these discussions and, as we have done, we will try to facilitate that. We have also discussed with the parties how to build upon the constructive ideas in the Egyptian-Jordanian non-paper. So we're continuing our active engagement with the parties to implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations and bring an end to the violence. We recognize that that road will certainly not be an easy one, but we are supporting the parties in these efforts and, as I said, urging both sides to resume security discussions, which we understand will happen this evening.
Q: On the kidnappings of two American journalists by -- I'm sorry, did you --
MR. REEKER: No, go ahead.
Q: By the Fatah Hawks, who are a group that say that they are associated with the Palestinian Authority. Apparently, there is some discrepancy.
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything on that. I don't know if that was a -- I do have something on that. Thank you, Chuck. A late-breaking story. Let me just see what it is that we have, actually.
This does mention an incident involving the kidnapping of a Newsweek bureau chief and his staff who were all released late this morning, Washington time. Obviously, in situations like that we condemn these incidents of violence in the West Bank and Gaza, as we have condemned all violence in the region. There was a shooting this morning near Neveh Daniel settlement southwest of Bethlehem which left one American citizen dead and at least two other Americans seriously wounded, we understand. Obviously our thoughts are with them and their families.
And as I mentioned, there was a separate incident, which appears to have been resolved, that involved the kidnapping of a journalist, American journalist, and his staff. We understand that three individuals were released later this morning.
So again, we condemn all such incidents and call upon Palestinian Authority officials to do what they can to end these attacks and obviously, as I just mentioned, look to the Mitchell Report in implementing the recommendations there to try to break the cycle of violence.
Q: If I could follow up, this group -- the Palestinian Authority is saying that it's not associated with this terrorist group that did the kidnappings, but this group is saying that they are a faction of the Palestinian Authority. And can you say at this point whether you think -- I know you're calling on the Palestinian Authority to do what it can to prevent these attacks, but have you -- are you satisfied that the Palestinian Authority is not perpetuating these attacks?
MR. REEKER: I think as the Mitchell Committee Report notes, the Palestinian Authority has responsibilities to, first of all, make clear that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable; and secondly, to take all measures to prevent terrorist actions; and thirdly, to punish perpetrators.
And so those are the types of steps that the Mitchell Committee recommends in their Report. That is what we are calling for and we will continue, as the security dialogue continues, to push those points as well, obviously so that we can break this cycle of violence. Everybody needs to contribute to making extraordinary efforts to break the cycle of violence so that we can proceed to confidence-building measures that can hopefully get us back on the right track.
Q: Do you have any reaction to the embassy bombing verdicts, and particularly any fear of retaliation by Al Qaida or Usama bin Laden?
MR. REEKER: Well, let me just say we are watching, obviously, as the verdicts emerge. As I came out here, we were still seeing verdicts emerging in terms of press reports. Clearly we will look for the formal verdict to be delivered and study that closely.
But I can say that based on the initial news, the Department of State is very pleased at the guilty verdicts reached in this initial trial of suspects in the 1998 bombings of our two embassies in East Africa. That would be Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
As you will recall, hundreds of Americans, as well as Kenyans and Tanzanians, died in these heinous attacks, and some 5,000 people were injured. So we also know that the families of the victims have suffered tremendously. Many of these were colleagues of ours here in the Department of State, and we will not forget the sacrifice they and their loved ones made.
We certainly hope guilty verdicts will bring some measure of peace to the families of the victims. We remain committed to seeing justice done. We will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice and the FBI and our friends and allies overseas to track, apprehend and bring to justice all those who were involved in the cowardly attacks on our embassies.
Q: Second question. Any fear of retaliation? Any thought that the Worldwide Caution needs to be strengthened, or perhaps retooled to --
MR. REEKER: We clearly will be looking into that. You know our cautions are -- our Public Announcements are based on information, when we feel there is something that needs to be shared with the public. So we will obviously watch all of our sources closely and keep the public informed when we have any new additional information.
But those Public Announcements remain in effect, and we certainly advise all Americans to remain alert, and when they are planning travel, to consult our Consular Information Sheets.
Q: Given that you knew that the verdict was going to be handed down soon, were there any specific extra security precautions in addition to the kind of Worldwide Caution Public Announcement? Were there any specific beefing up of security --
MR. REEKER: Nothing that I have to share here.
Q: There are some meetings with the Turkey and the USA about ESDI and the NATO issue. And my question, what is the latest position about that? Do you have anything about that?
MR. REEKER: I would really want to refer you to the Secretary's party. He is obviously in Budapest continuing the NATO meetings that have been ongoing today, and they'll continue tomorrow on those subjects. And those I best leave to the traveling party, as it were. They have been having briefings. The Secretary just spoke earlier at a press conference, and so I would refer you to your colleagues that are covering those events out there.
Q: The Turkish Prime Minister Mr. Ecevit said he has a solution for the Cyprus problem, and he said that his solution based on the Czechoslovakian example is the two different states, the Czech and the Slovak state.
Do you have any reaction on this subject?
MR. REEKER: I don't. I haven't seen those specific comments. I don't think I have anything new to share on Cyprus.
Q: On Cyprus, the Greek Foreign Minister Yeoroyios Papandreou in an interview to a Greek newspaper said that if Cyprus become -- the Greek Cyprus becomes a member to the European Union in 2003 without the problem being solved, the United States will have no objection. And he said on that interview that that's what he -- what was told to him in Washington.
Is that the U.S. position?
MR. REEKER: I haven't actually seen those remarks either, and I would have to check and see if there was anything different to share on our --
Q: Can you comment on the U.S. position?
MR. REEKER: -- if there was anything different to share in our position on Cyprus. As it's been now, as I understand it, the Greek Foreign Minister as well as his Turkish counterpart and our Secretary of State are in Budapest for those meetings. In fact, they're having tomorrow the so-called NAC-GAC, the North Atlantic Council and the European Union General Affairs Council meeting.
So I --
Q: What is the U.S. position on Cyprus --
MR. REEKER: I would need to refer you out to the party there to see if there was anything new to add in regard to positions there.
Q: Even if not, I mean, what exactly your position on Cyprus becoming a member to European Union?
MR. REEKER: It's exactly what it was the last time we discussed it, and I'll be happy to pull that up for you from the previous transcript.
Q: Will Secretary Powell, when he meets Mr. Ivanov, mention the offer, you know, as expressed by The New York Times about missile defense, changing the ABM, buying the missile SS-300; is that correct?
MR. REEKER: Well, obviously Secretary Powell will be seeing Foreign Minister Ivanov in Budapest. They met, as you know, just over a week ago here in Washington and will continue to discuss those things. I don't have an agenda for you to share, and there may be more information available from Secretary Powell's party.
We have talked with friends and allies and with the Russians about a broad range of areas in terms of potential missile defense related cooperation. I think just to recap a little bit what we have said before is that President Bush believes that it is important to move beyond the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty because it codifies a relationship based on distrust and mutual vulnerability. We have discussed the fact that it's no longer 1972 and the world has changed and that our political relationship between the United States and Russia has moved forward to new cooperation and, at the same time, we have new and often unpredictable threats that we face. So it is time really for our strategic concept and our forces to be brought up to date.
The President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, have all made that quite clear that it is in our mutual interest between the United States and Russia to counter new threats, and there is no reason that the Russian Government should view our defense efforts as directed against Russia. So we want to move forward with Russia on a cooperative basis, and we are committed to moving forward with vigorous research and development and testing and deploying a program to defend against that range of threats.
So as I said, we have obviously shared some of these ideas. We have held discussions. They certainly weren't the last of the discussions, the many discussions we plan to have on this topic. In terms of potential cooperation, this could possibly include expanding in terms of shared early warning and other joint efforts, the possibility of purchasing components, systems or even whole systems from allies or friends, and potentially even the Russians.
As you know, the Russians have invested heavily for years in advanced air defense and missile defense technologies, and some of those may be of significant value to us in our development and deployment of limited defenses against today's threats. So we will continue to have those conversations and look forward to talking with our friends and allies and with the Russians on them.
Q: May I follow up? About The New York Times items, if you are planning to buy or purchase the S-300 missile from the Russians, did you -- according to the news items -- did you discuss with the Turkey for the base of this new S-300 missiles?
MR. REEKER: Well, I read those news articles as well, and I think even the articles indicate that it was certainly premature to say that any decisions have been made. As I said, those are subjects for discussion, things we can look at as we move ahead in looking at how we will develop this and how we will counter the threats we face. But it is obviously far too early to suggest any specific items or specific systems, other than to say that we would be looking at the broad range of possibilities. And obviously, as I said, we will be discussing with all of our friends and allies, Turkey included, as we move forward on this.
Q: Can I move on to Macedonia?
MR. REEKER: Can we move on to Macedonia?
Q: When is the Secretary meeting Ivanov?
MR. REEKER: I don't have an exact schedule for you. Do we, Chuck? Let me just look and see if they have -- I don't think when I came out I had their updated schedule. Hold on one second here.
They are planning to hold a bilateral meeting in Budapest, as the schedule allows. And when I came out, the latest schedule I had just indicated that tomorrow Secretary Powell will attend the North Atlantic Council EU General Affairs Council meeting that I mentioned, the NAC-GAC, as well as the Euro- Atlantic Partnership Council meeting, and the NATO-Ukraine Commission meeting.
So you might want to check with your colleague traveling, and I am sure they are updating the schedule as that evolves.
Sorry, we were going to move on to Macedonia.
Q: Given that Mr. Frowick has now left, are there any plans to have other U.S. diplomats, retired or otherwise, now going to get involved in the efforts to get negotiations back on track?
MR. REEKER: Well, I will remind you that Ambassador Frowick, who is a retired U.S. diplomat, was there in his capacity as envoy for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and I believe in fact he is still in Vienna at this time meeting with OSCE officials. So you might want to check with them in terms of his plans and the OSCE's plans.
I think Secretary Powell, as well as his other NATO colleagues, have discussed Macedonia at length. Lord Robertson certainly mentioned it in his remarks at his press availability, and I don't have a lot to add to what NATO put out in the joint communiqué that was released, where they reaffirmed NATO's solid commitment to Macedonia's sovereignty and territorial integrity and support for the process of reform through a broad inter-ethnic coalition there.
And again, you will have noted that the NATO foreign ministers repeated the call for leaders of the ethnic Albanian communities to condemn acts of violence by armed extremists. And we, and all of the NATO ministers, emphasize the fact that the extremists must immediately cease their violent activities.
Q: There's no plans by people in this building to go to Macedonia to --
MR. REEKER: I think we've had people in Macedonia. We have an active embassy there. I know we've had people from our Bureau of European Affairs have visited there. But I don't have any major travel to announce, no.
Q: Do you have anything on the U.S. citizens kidnapped in the Philippines?
MR. REEKER: I think as a lot of you may have seen from other press reports, the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of 20 persons, including American citizens, as you note, on May 27th from an island resort in Palawan Province of the Philippines.
The United States roundly condemns this latest act of terrorism by this group and we remain in close touch with the government of the Philippines about the matter. All of the hostages should be released immediately, safely, and unconditionally.
Q: Do you know who the Americans are?
MR. REEKER: The Americans are Martin Burnhan and his wife Gracia Burnham, and I can't confirm the status of the third individual who has been named in the press. I just don't have anything further on that. And as I said, we are in close touch with the Government of the Philippines, which obviously has the lead in resolving the situation. So I just don't have any more specifics at this point.
Q: How do you spell her name?
MR. REEKER: I am told it's Gracia, G-r-a-c-i-a.
Q: To follow up on that, does the United States support the tough stances the Philippine Government has taken in that they will not allow any ransom, that they will go under a rain of bullets?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think everyone is familiar with our policy which is against paying ransom, which is well known, and that remains our position. Obviously, as I said, we are close touch with the Philippine Government. They have the lead in resolving this, and I just don't have any more specific information to get into at this point.
Q: Do we have any clarification on whether there is or is not an agreement or the status of discussions with the U.S. and China on the plane? There have been, as you know, several reports that there was an agreement, but they usually come out of China, so I want to know if we have any to match this time.
And also, could you explain anything about why the American warship Inchon was denied access to the port?
MR. REEKER: Sure, let's start on the EP-3 plane. I know we dealt with this a little bit last week when we were still discussing things on Thursday. We have agreed now in principle that an Antonov 124 aircraft can be used to remove our EP-3 aircraft from Lingshui Airfield on Hainan Island. Details of the recovery operation remain under discussion, but that agreement in principle is now set.
As you know, we have been engaging in ongoing discussions with the Chinese about the return of our plane, and now we have an agreement in principle with a number of technical issues obviously that still need to be resolved, and talks on those issues will need to continue.
So I don't have any further details to offer, but that looks like the plan of action we'll take now, and that is using an AN-124, an Antonov aircraft, to remove our plane from the island.
Q: And the warship?
MR. REEKER: Oh, the warship. I'm sorry, let me just finish your thing.
Just to make sure we're talking about the same thing, this is the Inchon. China informed our consulate in Hong Kong on May 15th -- I guess that would be about two weeks ago -- that it has denied a request for the USS Inchon, a mine countermeasures command-and-control ship to visit Hong Kong. That request had been for a port call June 28th through July 3rd. And I don't believe a reason was given for the disapproval, so you would want to ask the Chinese that.
Q: Is it unusual?
MR. REEKER: I think as we've discussed before over the last couple of years, in terms of the U.S. Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, I believe, recognizes Hong Kong's special status, and most of our official interactions with Hong Kong continue to be handled separately from official U.S. Government interaction with the PRC. So we have maintained the port calls by our ships in Hong Kong are distinct from official U.S. Navy ship visits to mainland Chinese ports, and we have had a number of port visits to Hong Kong at times. Others have been denied.
Q: So it would be unusual that China was interfering in this one, you would say, because --
MR. REEKER: I don't know if I would call it unusual per se. We look at it as Hong Kong having a special status. There have been ship visits that have been denied before. This one that was proposed for a certain date, as I mentioned, at the end of July, has been turned down without any particular explanation.
We will obviously have to send our ship somewhere else for a liberty call. I don't have details as to where and when the crew would take liberty. You might want to check with DOD on that. And as I said, we continue to believe that U.S. Navy port calls to Hong Kong are in our interest. Hong Kong is a port that provides services and facilities and convenience for those things.
Q: The other visits that have been denied, were reasons given for those denials?
MR. REEKER: I would have to check back, George, and see. I don't know that we have had specific things. I would probably refer you to the Chinese on those.
Q: Do you see a link between this refusal and the review by the Pentagon of its military-to-military program with China?
MR. REEKER: I don't. I would let you ask the Pentagon or the Chinese that.
Q: Do you have anything on the meeting over the weekend in Hawaii between U.S. -- the trilateral --
MR. REEKER: I think, in fact, over the weekend they put out a joint press statement following that Trilateral Coordination Oversight Group, or TCOG, meeting between the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Our Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs James Kelly headed our delegation to that meeting in Honolulu, and as I said, they did put out a statement on the 26th, on Saturday, which we can certainly get a copy for you, as well as a press conference that day where Assistant Secretary Kelly talked a bit about the fact that we are -- I think as no surprise to you -- in the final stage of our comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward North Korea, and went over some of that.
Just to highlight a few of the points from the joint press statement that was issued on Saturday, the three delegations expressed strong continued support for the Republic of Korea's, South Korea's policy of reconciliation and cooperation with North Korea, the Sunshine Policy, and President Kim's leading role in resolving inter-Korean issues.
We reiterated the importance of continued close consultation and coordination on policy, which is why we have these meetings. And in this regard we expressed a shared hope that North Korea would take steps to address the concerns of the international community. And we reaffirmed -- all three delegations reaffirmed our commitment to continue the 1994 Agreed Framework, which we discussed a little bit last week.
I think the U.S. and Japanese delegations voiced hope that a second inter- Korean summit would contribute to expansion of the North-South cooperation, and exchanges lead to some reduction of tension on the Korean Peninsula. And in that regard, we -- I think Assistant Secretary Kelly mentioned that we would hope that the commitment by Chairman Kim Jong Il of North Korea to reciprocate his visit going to South Korea, hope that that could take place as soon as possible.
And as I previewed on Thursday, I believe, we presented -- the U.S. -- I presented some preliminary elements of the Administration's review of policy toward North Korea and invited the Republic of Korea and Japan, our allies, to provide comments and suggestions on that. And we were deeply appreciative of the excellent exchanges of views that we had on that subject. So we hope that will help bring our own review to a conclusion fairly soon.
Q: We heard that Vice President Cheney and Greek Foreign Minister, Mr. Papandreou, when they met in the White House, they discussed about they connect Turkish and the Greek pipeline for to provide to West Caspian basin energy. In the same token, the President Bush energy plan or project, in May 16 which they published, they mentioned in the same situation connecting with the Greek and the Turkish pipeline for providing to the West to Caspian energy.
And when the Greek Foreign Minister and Secretary Powell, when they met in here, did they discuss on the subject?
MR. REEKER: I would have to go back and check. I think the Secretary and the Greek Foreign Minister made some remarks following their meeting, and I believe Ambassador Boucher tried to give you a readout of that meeting. So I am not familiar with the details there.
I think certainly on the first issues you raise, in terms of the Vice President's meeting and the energy policy, you need to go to the White House and ask there on those specific subjects. I just don't have anything on details of that. I'm sorry
Q: Do you have any response to Ukraine's parliament selecting a new prime minister?
MR. REEKER: I don't at this point.
Q: That's a shame. They'll be very disappointed.
Well, would you like to comment on the fact -- I don't think this has come up -- that I know the United States was not too happy about the investigation into the murder of Gongadze, the journalist, and apparently the interior minister has now said, well, actually we didn't really know for sure that the people who killed him are dead.
So do you have any response to that?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think at the time we said that we wanted to see a thorough and transparent investigation into that murder. As you know, we sent experts at the request of Ukrainian officials to help in identification of a body as part of that investigation.
I guess when it last come up, in response to suggestions that the perpetrators of that crime were dead, we had said at that point that we still hope to see a thorough and transparent investigation. And it sounds like perhaps that investigation is still ongoing. I haven't seen those specific comments, nor have I spoken with our Embassy in Kiev, but we will continue to watch that situation closely because we believe that is very important for Ukraine.
Q: Did you see the story from Colombia -- I believe it was an Air Force chieftain who said that the numbers of flights by narco-traffickers has increased substantially since the suspension of the surveillance flights?
MR. REEKER: I didn't see that story, so I can't really comment on that report.
Since you bring up the issue of the suspension of the surveillance flights, and regarding the tragic accident that occurred in Peru in terms of the shooting down of the plane carrying the American missionaries, just to update you, I think we mentioned Thursday that we were continuing our work with the Peruvians in a joint investigation. We have had excellent cooperation.
The latest development is that over the weekend, the Peruvian team returned to Peru, and as I indicated last week, we expect to have the report finished in the next few weeks, probably sometime in early June. And as soon as it is complete and we have the answers that we need, then we will try to share with the public the findings that we made and the next steps to be taken in that.
Q: Russian President Putin, I believe, has been speaking both to Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Sharon. Is this something that is being coordinated with Washington?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think, as you know, the Russians have been a valued partner in the pursuit of regional peace since the Madrid Peace Conference a decade ago. So we welcome Russian efforts to assist the parties in implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations.
I don't have anything specific in terms of President Putin's contacts with leaders in the region, but I know we keep in touch with him. As we already discussed, Secretary Powell will be meeting with Foreign Minister Ivanov in the context of his meetings in Budapest today, tomorrow. As you know, they are also preparing for the meeting between -- the summit meeting between President Bush and President Putin. So I know there is regular talk and contact on these issues, and we do consider Russia a valued partner in pursuit of that regional peace.
Q: Henry Kissinger refused yesterday to testify about the disappearance of a French journalist or French citizen in Chile, and he was summoned by a judge. And the U.S. Embassy referred to you, the State Department, for comments.
Do you have any?
MR. REEKER: I love it when the embassy does that. No, absolutely, that is totally correct.
Yesterday, which as you know was a holiday here in Washington, the Department was informed that former Secretary of State Kissinger had received a summons to appear to testify in a French court, and our Embassy in Paris worked with French officials to help inform the court that Dr. Kissinger wouldn't be available to appear in court, but recommended the court transmit its questions to the U.S. Government through official channels.
Obviously their interest in this case, which deals with former Chilean President Pinochet, has to do with Dr. Kissinger's official capacity when he was National Security Advisor and Secretary of State. And so since this would be official matters, we will pursue it through official channels. And I think that is how the Embassy working with us is going to do.
As you know, a number of documents in the last year or so pertaining to Chile have been released, declassified through a massive operation. And so we should be able to help facilitate what we can in terms of official information that we can pass on in that context.
Q: Do you have anything to say about the way the presidential elections are being prepared in Iran? And apparently, where they had planned to have 80 polling stations in the (inaudible) and now are only going to have two.
Do you have anything on that?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything specific on that. I would be happy to check into that. As you know, we don't have an embassy in Tehran, so it is a little more difficult for us to comment on these things.
Q: Do you have any response to what the Zimbabweans are saying about the Secretary's suggestion that perhaps it is time for President Mugabe to step down?
MR. REEKER: I don't. I saw the Secretary's remarks in terms of his speech from the University of Witwatersrand on Friday, and I will just stand by those. But I haven't actually seen specific Zimbabwean remarks. I will try to follow up on that.
Q: Is the Foreign Minister of Japan is expected here in Washington anytime in June prior to the visit by the Prime Minister?
MR. REEKER: I don't know that there is a particular schedule for that. I think we would obviously be happy to see the Foreign Minister when we can work something out, but I don't have anything to announce at this point.
Q: You're actually working with the Japanese counterpart?
MR. REEKER: I will have to check with our Bureau and see if there is anything specific. It would be natural, often before a prime ministerial visit, if that is to take place, to have the foreign minister also visit. So we will look into that, and as soon as we have something to announce, probably both from here and Tokyo, we would get back to you on that.
MR. REEKER: Thanks. [End]
Released on May 29, 2001