State Department Noon Briefing, December 3, 2003
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2003
QUESTION: You don't have any -- you don't have any announcements? I expected you to actually announce that the six-party talks are not going to be held in December.
When are you -- what can you tell us about the preparations for this next meeting, which I assume you -- at least the Secretary said that, this morning, that you were still hoping that they'd be before the end of the year.
MR. ERELI: I would say, first of all, that the important point to note is that all parties remain committed to moving ahead with the six-party talks process. That's the key issue. Diplomatic efforts continue. They're intensive. We continue to consult closely with the Chinese, who are working diligently to organize a second round, as well as consult closely with other participants in the talks.
I would say that, I would reiterate what the Secretary said today, this morning, in Marrakech, that we are still optimistic that they will take place in the near future.
QUESTION: The -- and that means in December?
MR. ERELI: We are ready -- we are ready to convene, we support an early resumption of the talks. We are ready to convene a second round as soon as possible. But I don't want to predict when that's going to be.
QUESTION: Sharp criticism of the Israeli Government of Secretary Powell concerning his peace efforts and his meeting with the Israeli and Palestinian politicians, but paralleled also by the announcement of Israel of building new or expanding settlements that contradict President Bush call on Israel to dismantle settlements, to stop the humiliation of Palestinians.
Do you still see a reliable partner, peace partner, in this Israeli Government?
MR. ERELI: Yes.
QUESTION: Good for you.
QUESTION: Well, perhaps, perhaps that wasn't really the question intended to be asked.
MR. ERELI: Okay.
QUESTION: What is the situation with the Secretary in his meeting or drop-by with, with the Geneva people, and are you, is his insistence on going ahead with this and his insistence and your insistence that he's the Secretary of State and he can meet with whoever he darn well wants to? Is that intended to send a message to the Israelis?
MR. ERELI: I think what the important point to note here is that -- well, a couple of things. First of all, it is the Administration's policy that the way forward for peace between Arabs and Israelis is based on the President's vision that he enunciated publicly in June of 2002, and that the roadmap is the way to get there. That is what the governments and the parties to the conflict have signed up to, that is what the international community is supporting, and that is the -- that is what this government is committed to realizing. That's number one.
Number two, as the Secretary has made clear, there are lots of ideas out there. It's not -- it's a good thing that people who care about this issue are talking about it and debating it and coming up with ideas, and it's an appropriate thing for us to meet with them. One does not come at the expense of the other; they are compatible. And that if people want to meet with us to share their ideas, we welcome that. And it's in that context that we also said yesterday, the Secretary said yesterday, that he will be meeting with those people who have been discussing different ideas. He will be meeting with them to hear their points of view.
QUESTION: Do you have a firm time for that yet? Is that going to be --
MR. ERELI: I don't have a firm time.
QUESTION: I'm curious. You just seem to have gone well beyond what people have said in the past. You're saying that the Geneva initiative is compatible with the roadmap?
MR. ERELI: No, I'm saying that -- I'm saying that meeting with people who are involved with the Geneva plan --
QUESTION: No, no, no, you said before -- before you said that, you said they are compatible: "One does not come at the expense of the other; they are compatible." Does that mean that the United States is willing to incorporate ideas -- some of them, all of them, whatever -- from the Geneva initiative into the roadmap?
MR. ERELI: Don't read more into what I said than what I meant. What I --
QUESTION: Well, I'm asking what you meant. You just said --
MR. ERELI: Let me help clarify.
QUESTION: You just said -- you came out and you said they are compatible, which is --
MR. ERELI: Let me help clarify.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MR. ERELI: We remain committed to the President's vision and the roadmap, number one. Number two, we don't think it's wrong to talk to people who have ideas. Just because you talk to people who have ideas does not mean you're not committed to the roadmap and the President's vision, and that the roadmap and the President's vision is the way that we want to move forward. One does not come at the expense of the other.
QUESTION: And it makes sense, they are compatible?
MR. ERELI: So I'm not saying -- I'm not saying the Geneva plan is compatible with the roadmap. I'm saying that talking to people with ideas out there is not inconsistent with being committed to the President's vision and pursuing the roadmap.
QUESTION: So what is your opinion, then, of the Israeli view of this, that it would be a mistake? Is that just, you know, they're entitled to their own opinion and you think they're wrong?
MR. ERELI: I think -- what I -- I think our view -- I have expressed our view.
MR. ERELI: And I will, I will restrict my comments to what the position of the U.S. Government is --
QUESTION: Right, exactly.
MR. ERELI: -- and let other governments characterize their positions.
QUESTION: Right, exactly. So what is the position of the U.S. Government about the Israeli view, that it would be a mistake, for the Secretary to meet with these people?
MR. ERELI: I don't want to -- I'm just not going to comment on it.
QUESTION: I'm not asking you for the --
MR. ERELI: I'm not going to comment on behalf of the U.S. Government of the Israeli -- on the Israeli view.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, it would appear, on the fact that they say that it would be a mistake, and the Secretary and you are now saying that he's going to go ahead and meet them, that you disagree with the Israeli position. Is that an incorrect inference?
MR. ERELI: I would say that we think -- we -- as the Secretary said, it is -- it is a good idea to talk to people with ideas.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. Well, do you think the Israelis are trying to stifle the good ideas, or any, or ideas at all on peace?
MR. ERELI: I don't really have more to say on it than what I've already said.
QUESTION: Does that mean that when the other two come December 12th, Nusseibeh and Ayalon, that the Secretary will meet with them as well?
MR. ERELI: I know there was thought being given to, again, seeing the people involved with that plan. I don't know that it's been nailed down, who is going to meet with them and when, but I can say that we were -- we were looking at getting together with them as well.
QUESTION: Let me just, can I just interrupt? You do not believe that a meeting at a high level, such as the Secretary, with these people on Friday, will distract, or in any way take away from the roadmap?
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: King Abdullah's visit and talks in Washington, do you have anything that details of his agendas and the details of his talks with the high officials?
MR. ERELI: Not for you today. Maybe let me try and get something for you tomorrow.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: China issue a government paper Wednesday, this new export control laws which references international support for international nonproliferation efforts. Do you have comment on that?
MR. ERELI: I do. We welcome the efforts by China to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, missiles, conventional weapons and related material and technologies through stricter export control regulations. We are reviewing these rules. Export controls are necessarily complex. I won't be able to comment further until we've been able to sort of see them and fully analyze them. What I would say is that we continue to work with China on such issues through our ongoing nonproliferation dialogue.
QUESTION: And in the ongoing dialogue, will the United States urge China to step forward to sign up the Proliferation Security Initiative, especially the China's Premier is coming to visit next week?
MR. ERELI: I'm not sure where we are on the political -- on the Proliferation Security Initiative in China. Let me get you our considered opinion on that.
QUESTION: And the last follow-up. Some European countries, like Germany and France, they are currently reviewing whether to lift the embargo against arms sales to China. And I'm just wondering what is U.S.'s stance on that. And also, under what condition the U.S. may start reviewing the embargo to China?
MR. ERELI: We're not -- we haven't started reviewing that, to my knowledge. As far as the decisions of other countries regarding sales to China, I would refer you to those other countries.
On the Proliferation Security -- well, that's about all I have on that.
QUESTION: Yeah, on the -- can you just give us a rundown of what your opinion has been of previous Chinese promises, pledges, on nonproliferation?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. In a nutshell, we think that China has enacted good legislation on this issue, and the focus is on implementation and enforcement.
QUESTION: But have you not, in the past, been disappointed, to say the least, in China's actually living up to commitments that it's made?
MR. ERELI: Obviously, there are ongoing concerns that remain a subject of our dialogue. We don't sugarcoat them. It's an issue and it's one that we are working cooperatively to address.
QUESTION: So you're saying that, in fact, yes, you have been disappointed in the past that China --
MR. ERELI: Don't put words in my mouth. What I'm saying is --
QUESTION: I'm just trying to --
MR. ERELI: I'm saying --
QUESTION: You said you don't want to sugarcoat it, and then you do.
MR. ERELI: What I'm saying is not news, that we have and we continue -- we have had and we continue to have -- nonproliferation concerns which we raise in a frank way between friends.
QUESTION: Okay, and one other thing. Under Secretary Bolton yesterday said that the United States was going to be hosting an experts-level meeting, which I presume he'll be at, later this month on the PSI. Do you have dates for that?
MR. ERELI: I don't. But I can see if we -- if there are any and if we can put them out.
QUESTION: Did you get anything yet on my question from yesterday on Louie Freeh testifying?
MR. ERELI: I did. You suggested that somehow we were blocking a Department of Justice request for -- for FBI officials.
QUESTION: Not necessarily a DOJ request, but -- but a request to have him testify.
MR. ERELI: Yeah, a request. That -- the facts of the matter are this: that the Justice Department recently contacted the State Department for our views on whether two former FBI officials should be authorized to testify in a private civil lawsuit about Iranian involvement in the terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in 1986. We are currently reviewing that request and we are discussing it with our Department of Justice colleagues. We have not raised objections, or, at this point, provided other views.
QUESTION: Well, is it held up then, because you haven't given other -- you also haven't given your approval?
MR. ERELI: I wouldn't say it's held up. Held up means that there is some deadline that we've -- we've missed. The issue is, this is an interagency process. There are a number of other agencies involved in this -- in these consultations. So it's basically a gathering of views, an airing of the issues, and coming to -- coming to conclusion about -- about what should be done.
So, I guess I would just reject the notion that we're holding things up. It is a collaborative, consultative process in which the State Department is involved, along with other agencies.
QUESTION: As I understand it, the FBI and DOJ have both given their approval though.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: And this building hasn't.
MR. ERELI: That, as I told you, that we have not raised objections.
QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any idea, any timeline on when you might be able to -- when you might be able to give them your opinion?
MR. ERELI: I think -- I think that the trial is coming -- the first hearing and trial is relatively soon, so it shouldn't be long.
QUESTION: Speaking of testimony. Has it been raised -- I don't know -- I was gone -- Wes Clark testifying in the -- or the -- has that been raised here?
MR. ERELI: No, it hasn't.
QUESTION: Can you give us your -- is it correct that you're insisting that this be closed testimony?
MR. ERELI: Yeah. I don't know, Matt, let me check. This is -- the testimony at the Hague?
MR. ERELI: Let me check and see if we have a -- if we're taking a position on this.
QUESTION: Okay. And then, on another legal matter, does the Department have any position or any view of the impending Executive Life Credit Lyonnais lawsuit -- or trial, rather?
MR. ERELI: You'll need to give me more details.
QUESTION: Yeah, well.
MR. ERELI: I don't know -- I don't know what the lawsuit's about.
QUESTION: I brought it up earlier. I guess you didn't get it.
MR. ERELI: No.
QUESTION: You don't take a view?
MR. CASEY: No. Go talk to Department of Justice.
QUESTION: DOJ. All right.
MR. ERELI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MR. ERELI: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. On Venezuela, Deputy Assistant Secretary Peter DeShazo for three days' visit in Venezuela. I just want to know, it* was an invitation by the Venezuelan Government, is this in the frame of the bilateral issues, or maybe the U.S. as the part of the global friends of Venezuela, considering that the collection of the signatures has finished last weekend, and it is maybe to think that Mr. Noriega is considering to visit Venezuela, or President Chavez coming to Washington? Thank you.
MR. ERELI: I don't have anything for you on Assistant Secretary Noriega's travel plans. Obviously, I wouldn't be in a position to comment on President Chavez's travel plans. As far as the visit of a Deputy Assistant Secretary from the Bureau of W -- of Western Hemisphere Affairs, these are visits that take place regularly. It's part of our ongoing mission of going to the field, seeing what the situation is on the ground, looking at ways that we can cooperate with our partners in Venezuela on issues of mutual concern. I don't have any specific details for you on this trip.
I wouldn't -- on the subject of the referendum, I think we've made clear that we think that we're -- we are praiseworthy of the fact that the referendum took place, or the gathering of signatures on the referendum took place peacefully, and that there is a constitutional and well-managed process to address -- to address this issue.
QUESTION: But was an invitation made by the Venezuelan Government, or?
MR. ERELI: I'm not -- I'm not aware that there was or there wasn't, but I think it's safe to say that the Deputy Assistant Secretary is going with -- going -- that the Deputy Assistant Secretary's trip is coordinated with the Government of Venezuela.
QUESTION: But you can't say anything on that, on the more details on that -- what is going to --
MR. ERELI: No, I'd refer -- I'd refer you to the Bureau for the details on that trip.
QUESTION: I'm sorry if I missed this earlier, but could you expand on the Secretary's comments on Georgia, and, in particular, do you have -- does the United States Government have problems with some contacts the Russian Government has been having with groups in Georgia?
MR. ERELI: I'd refer you to the transcript of what the Secretary said in Brussels, when this subject came up -- I'm sorry -- Maastricht, you're right -- in Maastricht, when the subject came up, and I just refer you to those that were made on the record and I think were pretty explicit about our views of respecting the territorial integrity of Georgia and the importance of the international community working together to support the peaceful elections and constitutional process underway there.
QUESTION: But specifically on Russia, does the U.S. Government have a problem with some of these contacts?
MR. ERELI: I think the position of the U.S. Government is that the -- as I said, the territorial integrity of Georgia should be respected and that's certainly what we are urging everybody to do.
QUESTION: This is a shot in the dark, but are you able to say today, after refusing to at great length yesterday, that the United States, in fact, opposes independence for Taiwan and not -- and merely does not just not support independence?
MR. ERELI: I'll stick with what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: So, no?
MR. ERELI: Our policy hasn't changed.
Thank you. Oh, one more?
QUESTION: One more. The Embassy in -- the American Embassy in Moscow has started using a new biometric program to issue visas. Is that just Moscow or is this going to happen in other embassies?
MR. ERELI: Let me check. I believe it's something that's going to be used more widely, but at what pace and how fast I'll check.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:20 p.m.)
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