|Friday, 19 April 2019|
U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-05-30
From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING
Phillip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
May 30, 2001
MR. REEKER: Good afternoon. Welcome back to the State Department, everybody. Pardon me for the delay. Ambassador Boucher should be back tomorrow with Secretary Powell. Their party is expected to arrive back in Washington this evening sometime after 11:00 p.m., so hopefully we can go back to our prompt briefing schedule beginning tomorrow.
I would just like at the outset to welcome three visitors to our briefing today, three journalists from Kazakhstan who are with us as part of the State Department's International Visitor Program through our Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs: Ms. Izmailova, Mr. Yuritsyn and Mr. Drozd. So welcome, we are very pleased to have you here.
With that, I guess I'm ready to take the questions. And, Mr. Schweid, you're up.
Q: Well, it doesn't look like your peace efforts or your security efforts are doing very well nor is the Mitchell Report. Any observations about the continuing Palestinian attacks and the continuing Israeli construction plans? And does this say anything about -- or is it too early to make a judgment on Mr. Burns' efforts?
MR. REEKER: Let's talk about the Middle East a little bit and try to get up to date on where we stand. Obviously we've seen news out of the region today, including another car bomb attack, and we condemn today's car bomb attack in Netanya which has injured at least six, we understand. Once again, we call upon the Palestinian Authority to do all it can to put an end to such incidents. Obviously there can be no justification for terrorism and the targeting of civilians.
As the Mitchell Report notes, the Palestinian Authority has responsibilities to make clear that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable, and to take all measures to prevent terrorism, terrorist actions, and to punish perpetrators.
Just to follow up on your other questions in terms of where things stand today, we discussed a little yesterday -- security discussions that were expected to take place, and indeed the Israelis and Palestinians met last night for security discussions for the first time in several weeks. We attended and facilitated those discussions, as we have in the past, and we are attempting to set up another meeting this evening in Gaza in an effort to continue these efforts to implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations. So we will continue working on that.
In terms of Ambassador Burns, he has concluded his visit to Israel and the West Bank, where he held extensive discussions with both sides aimed at developing a timeline to implement the Mitchell Committee Report in all its aspects and the recommendations that that report has. And I believe they put out a press statement last night from our Embassy there noting that the continuation of violence threatens to overtake the efforts that we're making to implement the Mitchell Committee recommendations. And we call upon the leaders on an urgent basis to take meaningful and practical efforts to bring the violence under control.
So Ambassador Burns is back in Jordan. He briefed Jordanian officials on his meetings today and he will travel tomorrow to Cairo to brief Egyptian officials as well, and then we expect him to return to Washington over the weekend, where he will assume his new responsibilities as Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs.
Secretary Powell has requested that Ambassador Indyk and Consul General Schlicher continue to discuss with the parties how we can facilitate implementation of the Mitchell Committee recommendations in all their aspects. And in facilitating implementation of these recommendations there may also be ways, as we noted yesterday, ways to use elements of the Egyptian-Jordanian non-paper.
So I think that may have covered some of your questions, Barry. Were there other things?
Q: Well, these are things -- Mr. Arafat made a statement in Denmark -- I think in Denmark or maybe to Danish media yesterday -- and I wondered if you thought that was adequate to what you expect him to do so far as making anti-violence statements.
MR. REEKER: I don't know that I've seen that particular statement, so let me just reiterate what I said. The Mitchell Committee Report calls for the Palestinian Authority to be very clear in condemning violence, as I mentioned, and we look to both sides to take those steps necessary and keep working on this to try to implement those recommendations that can bring about a break in the cycle of violence and try to allow us then to proceed with some of the confidence-building measures that the Mitchell Committee Report recommends so we can get back on the right track.
Q: Well, every now and then you say Arafat hasn't spoken clearly enough in understandable terms, or you imply that -- I mean the State Department -- by asking him, urging him, to speak out clearly. After all, these requests have been made for a long time. Is the State Department still unable to make a judgment whether he's done what you'd like him to do? And can you tell us, because I have a lot of problems with this, how his statement is supposed to reach, for instance, Islamic Jihad which claims responsibility for the Netanya bombing.
Do you believe that Arafat can stop those groups, and do you believe he's done enough to try to stop them?
MR. REEKER: As we have said before, Barry, we call upon the Palestinian Authority -- and that would mean Mr. Arafat -- to do all it can to put an end to such incidents like the incident we saw today. And the Mitchell Committee Report notes very clearly that they have responsibilities to make clear that terrorism is reprehensible and unacceptable and to take whatever measures they can to prevent terrorist actions and to punish perpetrators. So we will continue looking at that.
The objective of the Mitchell Report was not to lay blame; it was to help the parties out of the cycle of violence, and both sides need to take those steps to implement some of those recommendations so that they can get out of that cycle of violence.
Q: And I don't know if Israeli construction, which seems to be an in-your- face reaction to the Mitchell Commission Report, the new construction, new homes, does that trouble the State Department?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think our position has been very consistent on that. We have consistently said that continued settlement activity is a provocative activity and inflames an already volatile situation. And we reiterate once again our call for both sides to refrain from unilateral, provocative or inflammatory activities such as this.
Q: If you can explain something to me, I know that the State Department advocates the Mitchell Report and its recommendations and you are encouraging the parties to follow the recommendations and confidence- building measures. But why now are you only -- when you talk about calling for an end to the violence, you're citing the Mitchell Report as calling for an end the violence and you're always citing -- and not only you but other US officials in the statements are not hiding behind, but using the Mitchell Report as suggesting that they should end the violence, and not really speaking authoritatively as the United States any more but kind of speaking, you know, as the --
MR. REEKER: I think I disagree with your entire premise there and refer you back to the Secretary's statement when we responded to the Mitchell Report. We see the Mitchell Report as a useful springboard that provides a framework to use to get out of this cycle of violence. And so I am speaking on behalf of the State Department and the United States. You've heard the President say that; you've heard Secretary Powell say that and other American officials, both here and in the field, say that.
The Mitchell Report contains a carefully considered package of sequenced steps, and that is what we want to stand behind and use as a springboard. And both sides should take those steps immediately.
Q: I understand. When the Mitchell Report came out, the Secretary did speak for himself. But now, in all the statements coming out from the United States you say the Mitchell Report notes Sharon's adherence to a ceasefire. I mean, you're --
MR. REEKER: I'm afraid I would have to -- I don't think the Mitchell Report notes Sharon's adherence to anything. I don't --
Q: You know, maybe not in that specific instance. But every time you talk to the parties about something they should be doing, you qualify it by saying that the Mitchell Report says that they should be doing it, but not any more, ever since the release of the Mitchell Report speaking as if the United States --
MR. REEKER: Elise, I just disagree with you.
Q: Well, you can disagree.
MR. REEKER: The United States calls upon these things. If you want to take out "the Mitchell Report," these are the things that we're calling for. These are the steps. They are outlined in the Mitchell Report. It makes recommendations. Those are the recommendations that we have endorsed - - the United States has endorsed -- if that will make you feel better. And that is what we are working on as the framework, as the springboard, to break the cycle of violence, which we think is so important.
As the United States, we share the Mitchell Committee's emphasis on ending the violence as quickly as possible, and also the concern that the Mitchell Committee reflected -- and I can actually quote you here from that report -- that "security cooperation cannot long be sustained if steps are taken that are perceived as provocative or as prejudicing the outcome of negotiations."
That reflects precisely the types of statements we have made here, even preceding the Mitchell Report. So I think there is a symbiosis there, perhaps, that works quite well. And I guess I am just not quite following what your -- if you have a question there or --
Q: My question is why, in every statement that you make now, you have to qualify it by saying that the -- you called for these things before the Mitchell Report came out. So why are they not US calling on someone anymore, and pointing to the Mitchell Report calling for them to do it?
MR. REEKER: I guess we have a fundamental disagreement, because it is the US calling on us; it is not the Mitchell Report. We are endorsing the Mitchell Report's recommendations, and that is what we are calling on the parties to use because both parties have also agreed to that. I think we have been fairly clear on that, and we will continue to call for that.
Q: What is the United States' view on Arafat's call for international observers to come and help enforce the peace process?
MR. REEKER: I don't think we have any change on that. Again, we have talked about that in the past in terms of something that has to be agreeable to both sides in this disagreement. Right now, again, I guess adding on to what Elise said, or was discussing, we are using the Mitchell Report and that set of recommendations as the framework and the basis to proceed, including the security talks which we have facilitated and will continue to try to facilitate.
Q: But that is not something the United States would now consider in a --
MR. REEKER: That is not something we have been looking at.
Q: New subject? You have issued a Worldwide Caution on US citizens warning them not to travel. Do you have any particular countries that you are really warning them not to be in that area? And I believe this is in connection with the bombing trials in New York.
MR. REEKER: I presume you read our Worldwide Caution that we updated yesterday --
MR. REEKER: -- and released again to note the fact that the trial verdict had been delivered. In that case, that is the only change to that Caution that was released yesterday, updating what had most recently been updated on May 11th.
That is a Worldwide Caution. By definition, that means we are suggesting that Americans should take precautions all over the world, wherever they travel. I would refer you to individual country reports in terms of specific Travel Warnings that we have in existence for countries in certain regions, and generally reviewing our Consular Information Sheets if you are making any particular travel plans.
Q: The Taliban have -- they have condemned the bombing trial in New York, and also they have said that they will never hand over Usama bin Laden to the United States because he is a hero there and he is -- the Afghan people are benefactors of -- they are benefiting from his being there.
Now, since this trial, do you think this is going to open the door for Usama -- for the US to bring him to justice in this country? Or what does this Administration, the new Administration, is doing to bring him to trial?
MR. REEKER: Why don't I refer you first to the statements we made yesterday in which I talked about, first of all, the State Department's being very pleased with the guilty verdicts that were reached on all 302 counts in this initial trial of suspects in the 1998 embassy bombings, and to remind you that more than 200 Americans and Kenyans and Tanzanians died in those crimes, as well as some 5,000 people that were injured. And I know the media has had an opportunity to talk to some of those people and to reflect on what they have been through since that horrible day.
I also noted yesterday that we remain committed to seeing justice done, and the Department will continue to work closely with the Department of Justice and with the FBI and with our friends and allies overseas to track and apprehend and bring to justice all those who were involved. So our position hasn't changed on that.
Q: Well, I have covered the trial in New York, this bombing trial there, and I met a number of victims and their wives and children, small children. Now, what they are asking really is that justice should be done, with them at least, that to bring Usama bin Laden to trial, not these people, but the main person. What this Administration is doing to bring him to trial?
MR. REEKER: I think we have been over this many times. We are seeking, in accordance with United Nations Security Council resolutions --
Q: But it has not worked.
MR. REEKER: -- that Mr. bin Laden should be delivered to a country where he can be brought to justice.
Q: Tom Miller finally will be your next Ambassador for Greece, as it was reported extensively in the press since Nicholas Burns?
MR. REEKER: I missed that, I'm sorry. Say that again?
Q: Do you know if Tom Miller --
MR. REEKER: I don't, and I would refer you to the White House for any news on nominations for ambassador positions.
Q: And any comment on the parliamentarian elections in Cyprus?
MR. REEKER: No.
Q: On Mr. Tobin in Russia, remember Mr. Ivanov said, with some lack of specificity, that when he goes back -- went back --
MR. REEKER: -- would refer to the judicial --
Q: -- Moscow judiciary, or something or other. I didn't know if he meant justice will take its course, or he's going to make some special effort. In any event, has any effort been made on behalf of Mr. Tobin?
MR. REEKER: Let me bring you up to date on what I can say about Mr. Tobin. I think as you may have seen in the press, Representative Maloney and Mr. Tobin, senior, the father of Mr. Tobin, who is being held, arrived in Moscow yesterday and were met by embassy personnel. The Department of State worked to facilitate that trip as much as we could, and a consular officer accompanied the congressman and Mr. Tobin on their visit to the prison today, the 30th.
I think Mr. Tobin obviously is still working closely with his lawyers in terms of next steps in the appeal process, and I think that's about all I have to add at this point. We are still watching that carefully.
Q: Can we go back to Usama bin Laden? You talked about the law enforcement aspect of it, but there are a lot of other ways of dealing with the problem embodied by Usama bin Laden -- political, military, diplomatic, and so forth. Are you prepared to talk about any of those other channels?
MR. REEKER: I don't think there is anything particularly new to talk about. You are quite familiar with the UN Security Council resolutions that are in place and the sanctions that are in place against the Taliban regime while they continue to refuse to comply with those resolutions. That is what we want to see happen. Those resolutions are a sense of the international community -- it's not just the United States, it's the international community -- calling upon the Taliban to deliver Usama bin Laden to a country where he can be brought to justice and tried for the crimes which he is accused of. So we will continue that. We will continue to work with the international community.
Q: Could you talk about the nature of the cooperation with Russia on this issue?
MR. REEKER: I would just go back to what we had -- I believe a statement last week after we had a meeting of the US-Russia group on Afghanistan. I don't have anything particular to add to that, but I can pull it up for you.
We have been working very closely with the Russians on Afghanistan because of the joint problems we face because of the situation we face in Afghanistan in terms of terrorism and our concern jointly with the Russians, as well as others in the international community, about other aspects of the Taliban -- their support for terrorism, including harboring Usama bin Laden, as well as some of their human rights abuses.
Q: Can you talk about Pakistan's role? Are they an obstacle in your quest to do something about Usama bin Laden?
MR. REEKER: I think we have looked to all countries to support us in trying to get the Taliban to comply with the Security Council resolutions and see that Usama bin Laden is brought to justice.
Q: But is there anything you can say about whether the Pakistanis are being responsive?
MR. REEKER: I would have to look into it for you, George, and get more. I just don't have any particular update on that. It is a subject that we deal with with a lot of people in the international community, as I said, working through the UN and the Security Council, and we will continue to pursue that as we work with the FBI and the Justice Department in seeing that these people, the perpetrators, are brought to justice.
Anything else on --
Q: One more on Usama bin Laden. Can I follow, please?
MR. REEKER: Yes.
Q: If I can put George's question in a different way. Don't you think it's time now for the US to hard-press those countries who are very close in helping Taliban, like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan? That's the only way you can bring him to justice because you have no direct diplomatic or direct connection with the Taliban except you are giving them indirect aid in the name of humanitarian aid to the people.
MR. REEKER: As I said, we are committed to seeing justice done, and we are going to continue to work on this. We have four people who were found guilty as an initial trial of suspects. There are additional avenues to pursue, including Mr. bin Laden, and we are going to keep going with that.
MR. REEKER: I believe that is how you referred to him.
And so we will continue working with the international community, with the United Nations, to see that the Taliban comply with their requirements under those resolutions and deliver him to a country where he can be brought to justice.
Q: Two quick questions on the visit of the President of Israel. I understand that the Secretary is seeing him on Thursday at Blair House. Is there any reason for the President being here at this point? I mean, was this an official invitation or was it just --
MR. REEKER: I would refer you to the White House for specific information on the Israeli President's visit here. I don't have details of it.
Q: Will Ambassador Burns be coming back before --
MR. REEKER: As I mentioned, Ambassador Burns is expected sometime over the weekend.
Q: Over the weekend? Okay.
Q: This is about the case of the Mexican migrants that died in the Arizona desert last week. One of them, one of the survivors, is charged for the death of 14 of them. Is he going to -- is he facing any -- what kind of charges is he facing right now? What is the situation?
MR. REEKER: You would want to talk to law enforcement officials about that, either at the Justice Department or local law enforcement officials. That wouldn't be a State Department --
Q: And then there is another situation happening -- well, coming up from the Mexican Government. Starting in June, they will release what they call the Survival Package, which they will deliver in the border in order to assist Mexicans in their journey when they try to cross -- try to get into the United States.
Is there any agreement signed with the Mexican Government? Do you agree with this initiative?
MR. REEKER: I am not even aware of the details of that. I had seen a couple of reports on that subject, and then I understood that the Mexican Government had made some statements saying that that was not a Mexican Government program. But I am really not aware of the details, and I would have to have you check with them.
As you know, we have a framework for continued discussions on migration matters with the Mexicans. I had a date when our next meeting is going to take place, which we talked about last week. So we are going to pursue it through those channels to deal with some of these problems so that we don't have this kind of thing --
Q: Yes, but this is happening in June, starting in June, and this is information that is coming directly from Mr. Juan Hernandez.
MR. REEKER: I think I have told you all I know about that. I have no information on that program at all.
Q: Well, is it violating any treaty where the US --
MR. REEKER: I don't know what the program is. I don't know any specifics of it. I don't know what is involved with it. So it is a little difficult to analyze it or make any determinations about it.
Q: Thank you.
Q: The NATO started yesterday with the participation of the Secretary of State, Mr. Powell.
MR. REEKER: Well, what do you want to know?
Q: I'm asking because as far as there was a disagreement between the Americans and the Europeans.
MR. REEKER: Well, actually, on that subject, I would refer you -- perhaps in the first instance, after you have read the transcripts and talked to your colleagues who have been covering Secretary Powell's commentary and his press briefings from Budapest, you may also want to note Secretary General Robertson's comments, which I believe he made today at a press conference, actually complaining about some of the press coverage of yesterday's discussions and referring to reporting that was, "bizarre in relation to the subject, specifically of missile defense, where the US was said to have brought a firm missile proposal because they have not yet got any firm missile defense proposal."
And in fact, that is exactly right. Secretary Powell made a strong case in Budapest with our friends and allies that the United States and our allies face new threats and need to be able to respond to those threats. We have discussed that many times. He did not seek allied endorsement of a US missile defense plan, as we have made no decisions in our ongoing strategic review. And all of you here know that.
Rather, we and the allies are consulting on this issue, and the Secretary of State continued that process. He was seeking allied views so that we can add that as input into our own review. And the Secretary described the US view of a new strategic framework for deterrence, I think as NATO recognized even back in 1999 when it updated the strategic concept, the alliance increasingly faces new challenges.
And so the meetings in Budapest, which we considered extremely successful, were a fine example of working with our allies, as President Bush has described, our process of pursuing missile defense. This was a real consultation, an opportunity for all 19 allied ministers to meet and discuss these issues, as well as our meetings with the European Union, the joint so-called NAC-GAC, the North Atlantic Council of NATO and the General Affairs Council of the European Union, meeting together.
So countries obviously have questions. There is a certain amount of support for our approach, and we are going to continue to consult with them on these subjects. We didn't expect any kind of unanimity in Budapest on these issues, and the Secretary made that clear before he went there and while he was there and since the meetings have ended.
I think, if you look at the ministers' communiqué yesterday, it reflects the fact that the alliance agrees that among those new challenges that we all face together are weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. So the alliance agreed that we would work together toward a comprehensive strategy, including both political and defense measures.
And as I said, we intend to continue a very substantive, robust give-and- take on these issues in terms of consultations with the alliance. And the next step in that I think will be Secretary Rumsfeld's meeting June 7th of NATO defense ministers, where we continue that. And obviously the President will also discuss the new strategic environment and the new approach to deterrence, and within that context obviously missile defense, when he visits NATO also next month, June 13th.
Q: Do you have anything on the Philippine situation?
MR. REEKER: I don't have anything new for you on that. We are continuing to monitor that situation, working close with the the Filipino authorities, who obviously have the lead on that. But I don't have any new information, no new update.
Q: Do you have anything on the Powell-Ivanov meeting?
MR. REEKER: I don't. I am afraid I would have to refer you to -- I know the Secretary saw Minister Ivanov in a number of contexts while they were both in Budapest, but in terms of specifics I would just have to refer you to the fabled traveling party. Sorry.
Q: Okay. Well, I would have asked if this had come up between them, but I will just ask about it. Apparently the US and Britain have decided to withdraw or delay their proposal in the United Nations on revamping Iraqi sanctions.
MR. REEKER: I saw wire reports on that just prior to coming out, sourced to unnamed diplomats. And I had just been on the phone with our mission in New York -- the US mission at the United Nations, and understand that we are still working on that. We are still in negotiations, discussions, with our Security Council colleagues on that subject, so I think perhaps some of those reports were a bit premature.
Q: You are still trying to get a vote before June 3rd?
MR. REEKER: I don't know if there is a particular sequence laid out in terms of when there would be a vote, but there are discussions still going on among UN Security Council members of the United Kingdom draft resolution. That is continuing today, and we support that draft, as you know.
We are also discussing the goods review list. As we have discussed, some countries, including Russia, have raised some concern, which may take some time to work out. But we believe that issues can be resolved if everyone is serious. And as you know, we are focused on making controls more sustainable and manageable without weakening controls on Iraq, and we remain very much committed to UN Security Council Resolution 1284 and all the other Security Council resolutions with which Iraq must comply.
So those negotiations and talks are still ongoing, and the exact sequencing and timetable of that, I think it is just a little too early to tell at this point.
Q: Do you have anything on the German parliament, I think it is -- yes -- including another hurdle to a slave labor --
MR. REEKER: I don't yet. I had seen those reports, and I am checking with our bureau. I think that was a very positive step, but I just hadn't seen the final outcome of that in terms of the slave labor agreements and the seeking a legal peace, as it's called.
Q: The South Caucasus. The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs has wrapped up another meeting to the region, which was supposed to be the last preparatory one to the Geneva meeting of Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the three co-chairs of the Minsk Group. But it seems there hasn't been achieved agreement on some certain issues, and the next round of negotiations on Nagorno-Karabakh has been postponed. So the situation is somewhat fragile, and the threat of renewed hostilities is always there.
And at the same time, Secretary General of CIS Collective Security Agreement, Valerya Nikolayenko, representing another co-chair country, Russia, states in Yerevan that the application of a military force is possible if one of the member-states of the agreement is threatened by a non-member.
And the question is, as one of the co-chairs, the US, how do you think is it helpful to the peace process?
MR. REEKER: I am just not even aware of those particular comments. I hadn't seen that. I don't know if that -- you said it's coming out of Yerevan. I am not aware of it.
I think I spoke with some of you over the last couple of days about the fact that we are looking at delaying talks that were scheduled to take place in Geneva, while we continue to work through the Minsk process with both Armenia and Azerbaijan so that we can move ahead from the Key West agreements, where we were at Key West, and take the additional necessary steps. But I have to check into those remarks and see if there was anything we wanted to say about that.
Q: Can you tell me your views on the Amnesty International report, which was rather critical of the United States in its . . .?
MR. REEKER: Yes. We are aware of the report. I have seen media reports of the report, but we haven't had a chance to actually study the report itself very closely, as some of you probably have.
We fundamentally disagree, however, with the assertion in the report that the United States has become a "impediment" to the advancement of international human rights. I think anybody who has followed the cause of human rights around the world over the years and the decades will realize that the United States has been and will remain the leading advocate for human rights throughout the world. And I would just say that our record speaks very much for itself and refer you to the long shelf of Annual Human Rights Reports that we put out, painstakingly documenting the human rights situation in countries around the world.
We respect the work, of course, of nongovernmental organizations that work to advance human rights, and we often speak highly of many organizations. But obviously, in this case, we do not agree with every conclusion that they draw.
Q: Just to follow, this report --
Q: Mine is on the report, too. Go ahead.
Q: Go ahead.
Q: Mine is on China and the report.
MR. REEKER: You guys work it out.
Q: Also, the release this morning was accompanied by some criticism of the State Department and its approach to China, including the old favorite, the Gao Zhan case. And I just wondered if we have any news to report on that, or if you could update us on the State Department's efforts to get more information about Gao Zhan. I believe her attorney just returned -- her US attorney -- without -- having had no access.
MR. REEKER: I don't believe I have any particular update on any of those detainee cases, including the non-US citizens that we have raised as part of our human rights argument, as we have with so many other ones. But I just don't have anything new to add.
Q: When was the last time we raised it with -- raised our cases with the Foreign Ministry?
MR. REEKER: We had a working-level meeting in DC a week ago, on the 23rd, and I would have to double-check if there has been additional things. That was here in Washington, as I said. And to find out that specific case when it was most recently raised in Beijing, I will continue to check with the bureau on that.
Q: Still on the report, Amnesty report, that this time Amnesty International not only added the human rights violations around the world, but also they are focusing on the corruption around the world among international world leaders or politicians.
If this Department, since meeting so many foreign leaders and foreign ministers, if this issue have come up with the Secretary?
MR. REEKER: I think corruption is something we raise quite often, and I would just refer you to a statement that the President released on the 28th about the corruption of governmental institutions and how that threatens the common aspirations of all honest members of the international community.
This week, as you know, the Second Global Forum on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity is going to help keep the promotion of integrity and transparency high on the international agenda, and the President underscored the US support for this global forum and applauds the large number of participating states. And we would like to thank the Government of the Netherlands for hosting that forum.
So we will continue to raise issues of accountability, transparency, anti- corruption, and note that we take those very seriously. We have a new brochure, publication, that we can make available to you that was released to coincide with that Second Global Forum.
Q: And one on China? Many Members of Congress are against President Bush - - his intentions to extend another year NTR to China.
MR. REEKER: Right, you saw yesterday the President announced his intention to extend Normal Trade Relation status to China this year, and he said, I believe, that on June 1st -- that would be Friday -- he will formally notify Congress of his intention. And as he said making that announcement, open trade is a force for freedom in China, a force for stability in Asia, and a force for prosperity in the United States. And so he will pursue that, as he said, Friday.
Permanent Normal Trade Relations status for China, which was approved by Congress last year, is contingent upon China's accession to the World Trade Organization, on terms at least equivalent to those contained in the US- China bilateral accession agreement. And so without that step having taken place yet -- I believe June 3rd is the deadline under the existing law -- we will watch for Friday, when the President is expected to make that formal notification to Congress.
Q: (Inaudible) this Department support?
MR. REEKER: Obviously.
Q: Does the Department have any comment on Senator Biden's announcement on taking over the Foreign Relations Committee?
MR. REEKER: We look forward to working with Senator Biden as the new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate. We always look forward to working closely with Congress, and we continue that policy.
Q: A quick one, Phil, on the Moriarti minority report on religious freedom which surfaced on the Hill a couple of days ago. Do you have anything -- any comment on that?
MR. REEKER: It may have surfaced on the Hill, but it didn't -- I think I am still underwater. So -- sorry. I will look into that one.
Q: There is quite a discussion up there.
MR. REEKER: Okay. We will check into that.
Q: Following what you said yesterday on ABM and Russia, can we talk now, after the initial core statements by Secretary Rumsfeld against Russia -- can we talk about the warming up of relations towards Russia on the part of the United States, and is it related to the ABM and missile defense?
MR. REEKER: Well, I think we have a very important relationship with Russia, a lot of aspects to it. The Secretary has just been meeting again with Foreign Minister Ivanov in Budapest in that context, in terms of NATO, in terms of talking about Iraq and the UN Security Council resolutions. We have just had meetings last week of joint US and Russia committee looking at Afghanistan and dealing with issues on that.
In terms of missile defense, we have had consultations with the Russians. We have talked very much about how we have briefed our friends and allies and the Russians about a broad range of potential missile defense-related cooperation. And as I said, I believe yesterday, this could include possibly expanding cooperation in shared early warning or other joint efforts, the possibility of purchasing components, systems from friends and allies, and even Russia.
So we know that we will continue talking with the Russians, just as we will continue talking with our allies and friends in other parts of the world about our strategic review, about missile defense and a number of issues that are of joint concern to us.
The presidents, of course, will be meeting next month in Slovenia, as you know, in their first summit meeting together. So I think we have a lot of things going on with Russia. It is a very robust relationship.
Q: Indonesia? I note that yesterday there was a small statement that was put out, but now it looks like impeachment is more and more likely. I was wondering if the State Department is concerned about political instability and what kind of effect it would have on the region.
MR. REEKER: Well, you did mention the statement we put out yesterday, and I would refer you to that again. We are watching events in Indonesia very closely. They have an ongoing domestic political struggle there, obviously. Our Embassy reports that police in Jakarta appear to be maintaining order. And once again, I would just stress that the United States hopes to see Indonesia achieve a timely resolution of the political crisis, ideally in a way that promotes reconciliation and effective governance in Indonesia.
Whatever the outcome, we are prepared to support any resolution that can be achieved through peaceful and constitutional means. And as I said earlier in our statement, it is difficult to exaggerate the importance for Indonesia's future of avoiding violence or incitements to violence.
So we are in close touch with our Embassy monitoring that. And just to note, operations in our Embassy continue as normal, and there is no threat to the US Embassy there at this time.
Q: India? Chairman Shelton is supposed to leave for India, including India, today, but he postponed his visit. If this had been done in consultation with this Department in any way?
MR. REEKER: Yes. In fact, I was on the phone talking to my counterparts at the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Pentagon just before coming out here, and they mentioned that, and also mentioned that they had put out a press advisory on that noting that General Shelton had postponed his visit to India and a couple of other stops. He had been scheduled to leave today, as you said, but he has got commitments in Washington in terms of being here as part of the Quadrennial Defense Review. And so he will be participating in that, and is now scheduled to depart on Saturday for a separate trip.
So I just refer you to the Joint Chiefs, and you can keep track of his schedule and travel plans.
Q: I have a question on Ambassador Toth yesterday. Is there a change in the US position on the biological treaty?
MR. REEKER: Right, I did look into that. In meetings with US Government officials May 22nd, last week, Ambassador Tibor Toth urged the US to accept his composite text as an acceptable compromise outcome to the ongoing Biological Weapons Convention protocol negotiations. And US Government participants in those meetings have reiterated, and reiterated to Ambassador Toth, our strong support for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention and a desire to enhance its role against the growing biological weapons threat.
We shared with him some views and concerns that we have had, and we reaffirmed with Ambassador Toth that after our own review is completed and a decision on the US position is reached, we would then work with him to develop a strategy to move forward during the next ad hoc group session which is scheduled for July 23rd through August 17th. And that will be the last session before the review conference which begins November 19th, the fourth review conference on that.
So we had a good round of meetings. The officials that met with Ambassador Toth included a number of senior State Department officials: Under Secretary Bolton, Assistant Secretary for Arms Control Bohlen, Assistant Secretary for Verification Sheaks, and Ambassador Mahley, who is representing the United States, Donald Mahley, on the ad hoc group, negotiating the protocol, as well as officials from the National Security Council.
So I think it was a good strong set of talks, and we will continue with our review and look forward then to that next round of them.
Q: You are not saying whether you will support the final text or not at this time?
MR. REEKER: Right, our review isn't complete so I can't give you a final answer on that. But we have talked to him, taken on board his views, shared with him some of our views, and we then should be ready to develop a strategy during the ad hoc meeting that begins in July.
Q: Could you clear up this -- whether it is so that the State Department plans to stop HIV screening in potential employees? There was a story to that effect yesterday, and as far as I know, this building is just saying that is under review, not that it will be definitely changed.
MR. REEKER: Right. And maybe we could hopefully clear up some of the things, or at least figure out what the questions are, so that I can seek to get them answered.
I mean, this all came about -- I think the reporting on this began after Secretary Powell's trip to Africa, where he personally faced numerous examples of the tragedy of HIV/AIDS. And as employers and colleagues, we are concerned about the well-being of our local employees around the world because, as you know, the tragedy of HIV/AIDS poses a complex and evolving management challenge for employers worldwide, including the US Government at our various embassies and facilities around the world.
Pre-employment testing of locally-hired employees is not currently required by the Department of State. Chiefs of Mission at each mission have the responsibility to establish a local policy in concurrence with local laws governing the hiring of individuals who test HIV-positive.
I was able to determine that, in light of the pandemic, our embassies in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda ended pre-employment testing of their local employees. And at the same time, as I indicated to a number of you yesterday, we are reviewing our worldwide policy as well, with a mind towards ending pre-employment testing.
So as I said, pre-employment testing hasn't been required, but it has been up to individual missions to make determinations, partially based on local laws. Obviously, potential funding implications, as well as humanitarian needs, will be taken into consideration on that.
Q: So were you able to establish a percentage or a number of missions that opted to have this pre-employment screening?
MR. REEKER: I wasn't, no. And I can keep trying to look into that.
Q: Do we even know if it is a majority?
MR. REEKER: I don't. I think it was a very small number, in fact.
Q: That did require it?
MR. REEKER: Yes, exactly. But I just don't have an exact figure for you.
Q: So that this change, if it is implemented, would mean that there can be none anywhere? There is no longer any possibility?
MR. REEKER: We are reviewing, with a mind towards ending pre-employment testing. But as I said, that has various funding implications, which is why it requires a review and looking at it. So those places where within the local context and within local law there has been pre-employment testing, we are going to look at it and examine that. And that is obviously we are talking about local hires, not State Department, not our American Foreign Service Officers.
Q: You don't have any cost estimates?
MR. REEKER: I don't have the cost estimates. I think that is part of what is being looked at as they review all this because obviously it has funding implications and we want to have to take all that into account.
Q: Thank you. [End]
Released on May 30, 2001