State Department Noon Briefing, March 4, 2004
|Thursday March 4,
U.S. Department of State
BRIEFER: Richard Boucher, Spokesman
THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2004
12:03 p.m. EST
MR. BOUCHER: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. If I can, I'd like to start off by mentioning -- if I can, I'd like to start off by mentioning a matter that concerns us. It's the closing of a radio station by the Ukrainian Government.
We view with grave concern recent attempts by Ukrainian authorities to limit public access to independent news and information. The shutdown yesterday of Radio Kontinent, and the silencing of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, VOA and other international broadcasters, is an assault on democracy. It is very serious in an election year in Ukraine, when the need for news from many sources is at its greatest.
The shutdown of Radio Kontinent, which had agreed to broadcast Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe, comes several weeks after Radio Dovira terminated its broadcast of those stations.
We call on the Ukrainian leadership to act immediately to allow Radio Kontinent to resume broadcasting and retain* from erecting further obstacles to the rebroadcast of international radio in Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities must cease their ongoing campaign against independent media, which directly contradicts Ukraine's stated desire to democratize and to move closer to Euro-Atlantic institutions.
So, with that, I'd be glad to take your questions about this --
QUESTION: Has the Embassy raised this with the Ukrainian authorities?
MR. BOUCHER: No. We've raised it with the Ukrainian Embassy here in Washington, and I'm assuming if the Embassy hasn't had a chance yet, that they will be doing that in Kiev as well.
Did they do it in Kiev as well? Do you know yet? Don't know for sure yet, but I'm sure our Embassy will be taking it up.
QUESTION: Could we ask about the Salam Fayyad meeting?
MR. BOUCHER: Sure.
QUESTION: Well, is that in response to a lot of talk about the Authority collapsing, especially financially, unable to meet its obligation? What did he discuss with the Secretary of State?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, he discussed the situation in -- let me go back a little bit for those who didn't hear. We're talking about the meeting the Secretary had this morning with the Palestinian Minister of Finance Salam Fayyad.
It was a good meeting. It was a good discussion, a fairly thorough discussion of the situation in the region, and, of course, Palestinian finance issues. We have long encouraged more transparency, fiscal and budgetary transparency, in Palestinian finance; accountability in financial institutions; and we've been very appreciative of the steps that have been taken by the Palestinian Authority under the leadership in this area of Minister Fayyad.
So they talked about the situation as regards some of the details of that -- accountability, you know, direct-deposit for paychecks and issues like that that come up -- and that he has pursued, I think, quite consistently in order to provide for better control and more accountability in Palestinian financial issues.
Also discussed the need to continue efforts, we would hope, through Israeli-Palestinian cooperation to make sure that finance is not reaching terrorist groups or violent groups through the Palestinian financial system.
And then, finally, they discussed the overall situation. Obviously, the ideas that are around on Israeli pullouts from Gaza and how that might affect the overall climate and the desire of all of us to make progress on the roadmap, to make progress towards the President's vision based on a negotiated settlement.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you concerned at all that the situation is really deteriorating, I mean, you know, the assassinations are going on, Israel targeting -- targeted killings and lawlessness in the West Bank?
MR. BOUCHER: I think for some time we have been concerned about the situation. The violence is very unfortunate. The deterioration is unfortunate. We think it's important to end the violence. We think a very heavy responsibility lies with the Palestinians to end the violence.
And the Secretary made clear that point in this talk this morning, as he does in all his talks, that the Palestinians need to take steps to end the violence and terror, to end the ability of those groups to operate. They talked about various steps that might be taken in that regard, in terms of the aspects of controlling finance, in terms of what -- potential for Israeli pullout of Gaza. But much of the burden rests on the Palestinian leadership to try to -- to really start taking steps against violence and terror, and try to stop it from that side first.
QUESTION: There were some reports that the World Bank is very disturbed with the financial accountability of the Palestinians though, even though that Salam Fayyad has made efforts, the presence of Yasser Arafat has still led to issues about financial mismanagement.
Was there any discussion about that and whether the U.S. can help the Palestinian case at the World Bank and other international financial institutions?
MR. BOUCHER: I think our view is that there has been a lot done. There is more that can be done, and they talked about that today, about further steps along that lines. But our basic point, the point the Secretary made, is to encourage their cooperation with the World Bank, and to work with the World Bank and other donors, for that matter; they've done a lot with the Europeans in terms of improving transparency and need to continue to do that.
And so I'd say it was more along the lines of Minister Fayyad bringing us up to date on where he stood in his cooperation, his efforts to improve systems, meet standards and work with the World Bank, work with the Europeans and others, and other donors so that donors do have the kind of accountability and transparency that they all want.
QUESTION: I have one more on that. After, you know, President Bush made his, kind of, June 24th speech, and there was a lot of talk and a lot of movement with the Quartet and the United States about reform in the Palestinian Authority and there were all these working groups. Are those still going forward or have efforts kind of stood still because you see a lack of authority on the Palestinian Authority? And does the Palestinian Authority, and efforts in the territories, is that going to be part of the Greater Middle East Initiative? I know you've talked about reform and that --
MR. BOUCHER: The United States will look for ways of supporting reform wherever we can find them. The United States is always on the edge of change, on the forward edge of change, and we'll support it where we see it, where it moves in a positive direction.
So I'll have to check and see when those working groups are. I'm trying to remember when the last so-called ad-hoc liaison group meeting was. A couple months ago, I think, in Rome, if we remember. It wasn't that long ago.
So those efforts do continue and we will continue to work with the Palestinians and with the other donors and with the international community to try to support reform, try to support openness, try to support development in the Palestinian areas, even as we work to end the violence, and in some of the security measures, or some of the measures that Israel has taken that cause hardship among the Palestinians and make it difficult for them to develop their economy. A lot of different pieces to this and to getting real reform and a real economy, real economic momentum in the Palestinian areas.
MR. BOUCHER: You had your hand up two minutes ago --
QUESTION: No, not same subject.
QUESTION: Same subject.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay.
QUESTION: Richard, I'd just like to clarify one piece of the discussion this morning that related to the possible use of monies for terrorist activities. Did you say that they had just talked about it, that the Secretary had asked about it, or that Salam Fayyad had assured him, given him assurances, that money wasn't being used? Can you clarify that for me?
MR. BOUCHER: I would say that what they talked about was improving the transparency and accountability of Palestinian finance, with a recognized goal of making sure the money didn't go to the terror -- none of the money ended up in the hands of the terrorist groups. And they both recognized that where there were indications of money that might be going in that direction, not only did the financial systems need to be more transparent and accountable, but there needed to be cooperation as well between Israelis, Palestinians, other authorities, to try to identify and stop any such flow of funds.
QUESTION: And did Salam Fayyad give assurances to the Secretary that none -- no monies were going?
MR. BOUCHER: I wouldn't want to put words in his mouth. He -- we -- they talked about improving the accountability and transparency of the system so that no money would be able to go into the hands of terrorist groups.
QUESTION: Okay. Change of subject?
QUESTION: No, the same one.
MR. BOUCHER: Stay on this. Okay. Got two more in the back, too.
QUESTION: Given that the Palestinian Authority has a large budget deficit, did he request any particular urgent donation or aid from the States? Did the Secretary pledge anything?
MR. BOUCHER: He described the financial situation, but I'm not going to get into his -- I mean, I can't speak for him on requests or anything like that. He talked about their financial situation, understood where we stood, where we stood with other donors. We're all trying to help the Palestinian people. But there are also things the government needs to be doing as well.
QUESTION: So that any pledge or donation from the United States hinges on the reforms?
MR. BOUCHER: No, this wasn't a pledging meeting of any sort. It wasn't a check-writing meeting of any sort. And so the subject didn't come up in those terms.
QUESTION: A potential Israeli massacre on the Golan Heights could be in the making tomorrow, and the Syrian Golan Heights people are in need for your help as a defender of the human rights. The Israeli Army yesterday rooted up 1,800 trees, fruit trees that belonged to the Syrian people on the Golan Heights. And the political, social and religious organizations on the Golan have called on people to declare tomorrow a day for the defense of the land and challenging the occupation authorities, the Israelis, through replantation of their trees, and to defend that with their human -- a human shield, with their bodies.
So if the Israelis went ahead and confronted those Syrian people and their occupation, there could be a massacre. Do you have anything to say in order to contain Israel aggression on the Golan Heights and prevent such violation of Geneva Conventions?
MR. BOUCHER: I, personally, have not seen anything about the situation there, so I was unaware of it. I'll have to check and see if there's anything to say. Certainly, we -- I don't want to speculate, but we would not want to see anybody put in harm's way, nor would we want to see anybody carry out any provocative actions.
Yeah, in the back.
QUESTION: Sorry I came late, but did you talk about the Palestinian security forces?
MR. BOUCHER: Palestinian security forces?
MR. BOUCHER: No, not yet. Do you want to talk about that?
QUESTION: No? Okay. Yeah, I'm going to ask you a question about that.
Apparently, Arafat has agreed to unify all the security forces and the British going to pay for that. Some people described it as concession from Arafat side. Do you see it as step in the right direction from what the United States has been asking the Palestinian Authority to do?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we have confirmation of that. I think we've -- we've always, ourselves, pushed for the unification of the security forces and for them to be put clearly under the authority of the Prime Minister so that he would be able to take authority for the Palestinian Authority, and be able to govern for the Palestinian government, and be able to establish the kind of institutions that a Palestinian state would require.
So, if that were confirmed, it would be a step in the right direction, provided it was done on that basis. But I don't think we have confirmation. We know the matter is -- we've certainly raised the matter repeatedly. It wasn't done initially with the formation of this government, but any time it really happened for real, it would be a good step.
Okay, are we changing subjects now? I can't remember who had dibs on changing the subject first, but --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, it's going to be Teri and then we'll do the gentleman behind. Who knows where we'll end up?
QUESTION: You'll probably get through mine pretty quickly. Can you give us any confirmation on Egypt's announcement that they are holding Mohammed Al-Zawahiri, the younger brother of Ayman Al-Zawahiri?
MR. BOUCHER: I hadn't heard that.
MR. BOUCHER: A lot of things I haven't heard about this morning, I guess.
QUESTION: So that wouldn't mean that they hadn't confirmed that to the U.S. Government; it just means that it hadn't made it to you, yeah?
MR. BOUCHER: Exactly.
QUESTION: Okay, do you --
MR. BOUCHER: I have no idea if it's true or not. But I wouldn't -- if the Egyptians want to say something, let the Egyptians say it. I don't know that --
QUESTION: Well, it's something the U.S. has been looking into and reportedly requesting a DNA sample from him?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that any confirmation would come from me or us, but if we have anything to say, I'll be glad to look into it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, sir.
QUESTION: A different subject. On Haiti, the Deputy Secretary --
QUESTION: I have another question, just follow up. There is also arrest in Yemen today. A few al-Qaida people being arrested. If you have more details about that and if you -- if this part of the cooperation between the U.S. and the Yemeni authority, considering the Yemeni Foreign Minister was here recently.
MR. BOUCHER: I think all I can say is in a general sense about these sorts of reports. First of all, we leave it to the country concerned to identify, report on and announce any statements about people they might have arrested.
Second, Egypt and Yemen are both good partners in the fight against terrorism. We work very closely with them, cooperate in terrorism. We train together, we work together, we share information together. So it's always good to see when they do make progress, in terms of fighting terrorism.
But as far as the confirmation of specific individuals or more details on specific individuals, who may have been arrested or may not have been arrested, I really can't do that from here.
All right. Where were we? Sir. Haiti.
QUESTION: A couple of questions, yeah, on Haiti. The Deputy Secretary met with a couple of South African ministers this morning. Can you tell us whether that was about Haiti, and specifically, about Mr. Aristide's status? And, if so, what was said?
MR. BOUCHER: First, the meetings were about South Africa. After the Deputy Secretary's meeting, they were having meetings in the Africa Bureau, and those meetings were still going on as I came out here. So I don't have a readout yet. We'll see if there is anything to say later about whether the subject of Mr. Aristide came up or not. But those kind of questions are for the South African Government to decide.
QUESTION: Just as an addition to that, does the U.S. share the South African Government's view that there should be some kind of UN-overseen investigation into the circumstances surrounding Mr. Aristide's departure from the country?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I remember seeing the South African Government state that, but --
QUESTION: Just before, just before the briefing.
MR. BOUCHER: Just before, so --
QUESTION: They're backing the call.
MR. BOUCHER: You guys are reading the wires right up to the last minute. All right, well.
QUESTION: In general terms, is it something --
MR. BOUCHER: All right. Let's deal with the proposition, because the proposition was also stated yesterday, I think, by the CARICOM leaders in their statement. And as you know, it's come up in Congress in some of the lively discussions that we've had up there in recent days.
I think, simply put, the U.S. view is that it's time to look forward. It's time to focus on what we can all do for the people of Haiti. I think there are many who understand the record of -- the unfortunate record of the period when Haiti was in -- well, when Haiti -- when Mr. Aristide was President of Haiti. I think we've all seen the deterioration of the climate in Haiti over the years. We've seen the increase in violence over the years, seen the increased polarization of Haitian society.
So I think we have to recognize that how we came to this point had a lot to do with the way Haiti was governed over the years. There was no kidnapping, there was no coup, there were no threats. We sat down carefully with Mr. Aristide and analyzed the situation with him. We kept in close touch with him. We tried repeatedly, not just with the CARICOM plan, but in many attempts over the years, to try to get him to accept ways forward that would help unify the country and give it fair and stable rule. Sometimes he accepted, but we never saw the implementation.
There was, as I think we know, an 11th hour appeal by Mr. Aristide for some international intervention, but I think we made clear from the start that we weren't prepared to do that, that the idea of putting American life and limb again on the line for Mr. Aristide in these circumstances was not going to happen, and we had to make that clear to him.
So, as this whole thing materialized, from a whole variety of factors, I have to say I think the U.S. role was clear. There's nothing to investigate and we certainly don't encourage, believe there's any need for any investigation; and that now that we are where we are, the focus needs to be on moving forward, the focus needs to be on what, in fact, the CARICOM leaders got to in their statement yesterday, and that's bringing democratic structure to Haiti, to its institutions.
That's moving forward in a constitutional manner in Haiti with the help of the international community give the Haitian people a democratic government and to give them stability and security in their country, and to help with rebuilding the economy and civil society. That's what the CARICOM leaders ended up focusing on in their statement at the end, and that's what we think the international community needs to focus on at well.
QUESTION: Richard, there are -- obviously, there are some Congressmen that, you know, believe that he was kidnapped or whatever --
QUESTION: Congresspeople. But there are others that say while, you know, even if the U.S. kind of, you know, it wasn't a kidnapping or anything like that, that the implications for democracy are grave because if the U.S. -- even if a democratically elected leader -- even if the U.S. doesn't like a democratically elected leader, feels as if they're not, you know, governing well, that they're still, you know, kind of advocating that person stepping down.
So, you know, can you answer the charges that the U.S., kind of, if they don't like a leader, even if they're democratically elected, is still going to maintain that that leader should be able to stay in office?
MR. BOUCHER: Well, let's -- first of all, let's examine some of the premise, the premise being that the United States advocated his stepping down. We did not advocate his stepping down. We made clear we were not going to intervene to prevent him from stepping down. But we did not go to him and say, you know, political failure to govern or other sins, crimes, activities, you need to leave. It's time.
We said, here is the security situation. We discussed the security situation with him and made clear we're not in a position to intervene to save him. We ended up rescuing him by taking him out of the country in the face of almost certain violence. So that's one thing that needs to be remembered.
The second thing that needs to be remembered is the -- I guess it's the opposite, the other side of the coin, the other side of the proposition. If every time the United States believed in democracy, believed in democratic leaders, recognized that a leader had been elected, we were then required to intervene militarily with American treasure and blood to save a leader at any point in his tenure, who might have misgoverned, who might have created more violence, who might have mismanaged his entire mandate, I don't think that's something the American Government, the American people would want, nor do I think it's ultimately good for democracy in the hemisphere.
People who are elected have a responsibility to their voters. Granted, none of us like to see violence. It has a humanitarian cost; it has a political cost as well. But I think we were steadfast in opposing the violence and saying that we would act against the violence when we could, but that we can't be called upon, expected or required to intervene every time there's violence against a failed leader, because we can't spend our time running around the world or the hemisphere saving people who had botched their chance at leadership.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) time that Secretary Powell reached the conclusion that Aristide had to go?
MR. BOUCHER: I mean, it became obvious to us at some point, but we were very careful in how we talked about this with him and with the public to make sure that we were not calling for his ouster, that we were not trying to --
MR. BOUCHER: -- that we were not calling for his ouster, we were not calling for his departure, we were not calling for the violent to -- violence elements to win. We kept pushing very hard for acceptance by both sides of a plan that could save the situation in a democratic and peaceful manner.
QUESTION: A spokesman from Steele security, the security service that provided security for Aristide, I guess composed of former U.S. special forces and so on, said that actual -- that American forces hindered their effort to protect Aristide. And another spokesman says no*, we were working very closely with the American forces.
Could you shed some light on the connection between Steele Security and U.S. forces?
MR. BOUCHER: As with any protection service detail, whether it's hired or local, the United States often cooperates very, very closely in circumstances of violence and danger. We share information. We talk security people-to-security people. That's what we did with the Steele folks. I think they, too, have come out and said that there was no coercion, there was no pressure, that they were with Aristide not only all the way from the house to the airport but all the way to Africa as his protective detail.
There are also these stories somehow running around that we had turned down an augmentation in the size of his protective detail. Those stories are not true. We never got any such request that we would have to approve, and, in fact, we probably would have approved it if such a request had come.
So, you know, that's where we are on this. I know there are a lot of stories floating around, but let's not forget the basic circumstance. We had a situation that developed because of years of polarization and division and support for militias who then turned against Mr. Aristide. And in all this fighting, a lot of the violence was perpetrated by people who had been formerly supported by Mr. Aristide or who were currently supported by Mr. Aristide.
So you ended up with clashes of -- that I think one has to recognize he was, to a great extent, responsible for. And in those circumstances, we did make clear we're not going to intervene to save him, but if he wanted to depart for reasons of his own personal safety, the safety of his family, and, as he said it to us that night itself, for the purpose of preventing further violence, that we would help him depart. And that's what we did.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: There were some reports, denied reports, that basically the U.S. has made a phone call to Aristide, whatever level it was, saying that if you don't leave, it's going to be a bloodbath in Port-au-Prince. And he asked how many and you give him a number, et cetera. So, implicitly, you're putting pressure on him to leave. I mean, do you think that that didn't happen at all?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know of a phone call like that. Maybe that was -- well, that was part of the conversation. He came to us Saturday evening and said -- asked a couple questions about property for himself, property for ministers, and whether he could choose his destination. But he also discussed with us, with our embassy people over the course of the evening, what was the best thing to do. What was the best thing to do for the sake, as he put it, of ending further bloodshed? And that was the context for all our discussions.
And so I think our people were quite clear that the violence was getting out of control, that it was certain that if he remained in Port-au-Prince that there would be more and more violence, there would be further loss of life, and that we were not in a position to come in and protect him personally or to intervene on his behalf, on his side in the violence.
So at that point, you know, he had a decision to make. But he always put it to us in terms of, at least that evening, in, "What can I do? What's the best thing for me to do in terms of stopping the violence?" And we gave him our best analysis of the situation. Ultimately, we answered the few questions that he had. He kept in touch with us. He said he wanted to talk to his family, and he came back to us and said, "Okay, I've decided I'm going to go." It was his decision. It was a voluntary decision on his part.
QUESTION: If memory serves, though, the United States has generally, especially in this hemisphere, had a policy of opposing the violent overthrow of democracies, and it's certainly had a history of that in Central America over many decades.
Is this a new factor in what has been a doctrine that a decision has to be made about whether or not the democratically elected government that's being overthrown had misruled, in the judgment of Washington?
MR. BOUCHER: No, I don't think I was pronouncing a new doctrine. I was trying to describe the specific circumstances that occurred in Haiti.
As far as new doctrines or academic treatises on democracy in the hemisphere, I think I'll leave that to others. But we -- we are very strong supporters, have been very strong supporters, of the Democratic Charter.
I think we all remember that we signed that, the nations of the hemisphere signed the Democratic Charter, on September 11, 2001. It was the day of the Twin Towers. It was very important for us to do that that day, even without knowing what happened; what was -- you know, without knowing who was responsible for what happened, because we felt it was important for the nations of the hemisphere to pull together and to support each other's democratic values and support each other's democracies.
So we have, I think, acted in many ways throughout the hemisphere to support democracy, to further the cause of democracy. We've stood up for threats to democracy in Venezuela, whatever side they might be coming from.
We have supported OAS efforts around the hemisphere in Haiti, in Peru and in other places to try to work on the furtherance and stability of democracy. So there's no kind of new doctrine here. But to do the opposite -- to say that we had to intervene to save every government in every country in the hemisphere -- that would be a new doctrine, and I'm not prepared to do that today.
QUESTION: Yeah, on China.
QUESTION: Oh, still -- I have (inaudible).
MR. BOUCHER: Nicholas.
QUESTION: Yeah, Richard, obviously there are still some concerns among the CARICOM leaders about what happened over the weekend, and you actually want these people to be able to work with them in the future as you go through the democratic process.
How are you going to overcome some of these suspicions that those leaders still have about what actually happened?
MR. BOUCHER: I think the answer is we will work with them. We'll keep working with them, with the other countries, the Friends of Haiti. I think there are even meetings going on today with the various people who've been involved in trying to help Haiti over some period of time, including the CARICOM governments.
They said in their statement that they agreed to participate in a follow-on stabilization force, in efforts to provide humanitarian assistance, the rebuilding of the economy and civil society, and the reconstitution of democratic structures, processes and institutions of the country.
So while they're not looking to participate right now, those are all things that we would hope to work with them on. I think they're going to have further meetings themselves. And as I said, they are talking and working with the international community, as we look forward in Haiti to how we can all help the Haitians reestablish, maintain and build on their democracy in the current circumstance.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
QUESTION: Well, do you have anything on the Secretary and the Prime Minister?
MR. BOUCHER: The political process is moving forward. I'd say, overall, let's remember, the security situations continue to improve; things have calmed down. The United States, France, Canada have troops -- had troops already there. I understand Chileans are starting to arrive today.
Commercial air carriers, we understand, will return to Haiti this week. So, you know, things are calming down a bit, and we hope will calm down completely, as our presence and our effort, along with these other nations, as well as a resolution of the political situation, helps to stabilize the situation.
Politically, the Tripartite Council has been named: Leslie Voltaire is there for the Haitian Government; Paul Denis is there for the opposition and the civil society; and as I mentioned yesterday, the UN Development Program representative, Adamo Guindo, is there for the international community.
So they have begun the work of naming a council of eminent persons, who will then nominate a new Prime Minister and name the members of the new government. So that process that was outlined in the CARICOM plan is proceeding and we'll keep it -- look to them to keep it moving on a smooth basis, as quickly as possible.
QUESTION: Just one quick one. As far as I remember, on Saturday, Guy Philippe said that he's going to hold on to attacking the capital for another couple of days because he saw Ambassador Foley's statement on the website. Was there any contact with any of his rebels or him on Saturday, at any point?
MR. BOUCHER: There was contact with him, I think, starting on Friday, midday, or later in the day. I don't know if there was direct contact on Saturday or not. But, principally, the message that we have conveying was that he needed to stop the violence, certainly needed to hold off on trying to move people into Port-au-Prince, and it was important for all people to spare Haiti from any further loss of life.
As you know, I think he announced yesterday that his group would be laying down their arms and returning to their homes. So we -- that's certainly the right thing to do, and something that we have worked to bring about as well.
QUESTION: So he didn't know what was in the works until Mr. Aristide was out of the country?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know --
QUESTION: As far as you know?
MR. BOUCHER: No reason why he should have. I don't think anybody knew what was in the works until Mr. Aristide made his decision late Saturday night.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to work with him despite -- I mean, his past, notwithstanding?
MR. BOUCHER: We have said these people have no political role, said that yesterday and the day before. The gangs that were the (inaudible) of this violence need to lay down their arms and go home. I think the only thing good that can be said is that, apparently, yesterday they accepted the need to do that.
Okay. Are we still on Haiti anywhere?
MR. BOUCHER: Still Haiti.
QUESTION: Just could you elaborate on this meeting of the -- on the Haiti international meeting on Haiti that you have just mentioned? Where is this taking place?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't have more details for you, so I probably shouldn't have mentioned it. But I'll see if I can get some after it happens.
QUESTION: Is it your understanding that a formal request for former President Aristide to go to South Africa has been made? Because that's been Pretoria's position, that they have not yet received a formal request. Is that your understanding?
MR. BOUCHER: That would have to come from him. I'm not his spokesman, so you'll have to find out some other way. Sorry.
QUESTION: Hong Kong --
MR. BOUCHER: Can we finish with Haiti first? Are we done with Haiti?
Okay. In that case, the lady's going to go --
QUESTION: We learned that Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage are going to meet with Hong Kong legislators tomorrow to discuss the democracy for Hong Kong. In the upcoming meetings and the Congress hearing has -- have been characterized and complained by the Chinese Government as meddling in Chinese domestics issues because this is country, two system. And after all, Hong Kong is part of China. And can you explain U.S. justification of this?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me -- let me start by saying I can't confirm any specific meetings for you at this point. I think it's still being put together.
We have always been very interested in the situation in Hong Kong. We've always felt that for the sake of Hong Kong, for the sake of Chinese promises and the basic law, and for the sake of the future of the people of Hong Kong, that Hong Kong's autonomy needed to be respected; in terms of the basic law, in terms of movement towards universal suffrage and democracy needed to be respected, and made no secret of our support for that process.
We have often met with a variety of people from Hong Kong, talked about Hong Kong with friends from Hong Kong in the government, outside the government, in politics, outside of politics. And so when Mr. Lee comes to Washington, we regularly meet with him at a number of levels.
So there are meetings with various people in this building that will be held, as well as meetings he will have with members of Congress. That's not unusual in our system. That's part of our democracy and it's part of our interest in democracy in Hong Kong as well as around the world.
QUESTION: Where do you draw the line between simply monitoring or concerning the situation in Hong Kong, and meddling in Hong Kong or China's domestic issues? But you won't do that, the same thing, to Taiwan.
MR. BOUCHER: We meet with people from Taiwan, too, at different levels. There's -- we -- every country in the world. I mean, you know, we met with British politicians who are not in power, too. Let's face it, the United States has a very broad interest in a lot of societies. We don't apologize for that. We don't cut ourselves off from talking to people. We've just gone through the big flak a few months ago about Israelis that we were meeting with. It's not unusual.
We're interested in what goes on. We have -- and we're not only interested in what goes on, we have an interest in what goes on. And we want to make sure that we understand the situation from all points of view, and that we do what we can to support what we think are our interests, but also in the interests of the people of Hong Kong, and ultimately in the interests of China, to have an autonomous Hong Kong that can be an active part of its society and economy in its own way under its autonomy.
QUESTION: Other than the one country-two system, and the Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong, recently Beijing put forward saying, a criterion saying only patriotic people can -- it's called "Patriotic Criterion." Do you have any comment on this?
MR. BOUCHER: I think we commented on that at the time. Certainly, we've commented on the notion over the years, as it seems to pop up every couple years. But I would just say, you know, along the basic guidelines of what we were discussing: The basic law; Hong Kong's principles of autonomy that we feel are very important to the future of Hong Kong and the future of China; they need to be respected and they need to be carried out in the way that they were envisaged.
QUESTION: Still on --
MR. BOUCHER: Still on China?
QUESTION: Yeah. Could you --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay, we're trying to get to the back -- these people who have been trying hard and you've been interrupting. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well -- well, anyway, could you comment on China's release of the democracy activist after this Wang Youcai?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: And also, is there any hope now that the Uighur businesswoman, Rebiya Kadeer, might also be released?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see what we know and can give you on that.
First of all, we welcome the release of Mr. Wang Youcai. He's a long time Chinese democracy activist and a co-founder of the China Democratic Party. He was serving an 11-year sentence for peaceful political activities. He was released on medical parole last night, and I think he's currently on an airplane to the United States.
At this point, we have no further information about his plans in the United States. We usually let people, when they get here, decide what they want to do.
We are also pleased that there was a one-year sentence reduction for Rebiya Kadeer; however, we're disappointed that she was not released from prison, as she appears to meet all the necessary conditions for parole in the Chinese system.
Wang Youcai and Rebiya Kadeer are two examples of individuals imprisoned for attempting to exercise basic freedoms of speech and assembly in China. We, once again, call on the Chinese Government to release all prisoners detained for peaceful expression of their views.
QUESTION: Richard, about Cyprus. In the Cyprus negotiation, both sides in the island, they said that Annan plans is unacceptable. Even the Greek Orthodox Church said that Annan plans against the Bible. But, on the other hand, Mr. Weston is also, when he left the island, betrayed the people. They said that if some groups is the vote against -- in the referendum time against this plan, that bad for them or something like that, you know. Why you are --
MR. BOUCHER: Something like that.
QUESTION: Yeah. Why you insisting on this plan? No one wants --
MR. BOUCHER: Because ultimately -- no. No one wants it is wrong. There are a lot of people that want it. It's good for Cyprus. It's good for the Cypriots. It gives them an opportunity. It gives them hopes. It gives Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots hope for the future.
I think you'll see there's a lot of support. There's obviously a lot of political debate about its provisions. But the United States' support for trying to reach a settlement is there, and we think the Annan plan is the way to do it. So there are many people who believe that this is the best opportunity for Cyprus in a long time, who believe this is the best opportunity for Cypriots in a long time.
The Turkish Government has supported working with the Annan plan. The Greek Government has. Both Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots have accepted it to discuss it. They're sitting there now discussing it. I think it's good for us not to overreact to day-to-day statements that the various sides make, but rather to really focus on what can be done to reach agreement.
And that's where our focus is. That's why we sent Mr. Weston, Ambassador Weston, out there. And that's why we have our ambassadors in Cyprus working hard, all in support of the Annan plan, because it is the best way for Cypriots to reach agreement and move forward together into the united -- into the European Union.
QUESTION: In case of deadlock, what will be the next step?
MR. BOUCHER: We break the deadlock and go on.
QUESTION: Mr. Boucher, your Ambassador to Greece Tom Miller is coming again to Washington this coming Monday.
MR. BOUCHER: Good.
QUESTION: I don't know, to visit. But may we know the reason for his visit this time?
MR. BOUCHER: I'll see if I can find out what he's coming back for. He does that. All our ambassadors come back frequently. It doesn't have to be anything special.
QUESTION: Since February 25th, a question is pending to the effect how large is the Greek minority in Albania, when Assistant Secretary Craner briefed us here on the human rights. Is there anything on that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think so. I don't know if it's really a question we promised to try to get back on.
QUESTION: He promised. He said, "I will check on it and let you know."
MR. CASEY: There's nothing on it.
MR. BOUCHER: We don't have any good estimate. I think the answer is, I'm sorry, but we don't -- we couldn't come up with a very good estimate so we don't have anything to share on it. Sorry.
QUESTION: Yes, on the meeting this weekend between President Fox and President Bush, is the Secretary planning to attend that meeting and can we expect any deliverables or results, particularly on immigration?
And in that context, I wonder if you have any reaction or comment on the latest article in Foreign Policy, written by Samuel Huntington, saying that Mexican immigrants threaten to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures and two languages?
MR. BOUCHER: First, the Secretary's planning on attending the meetings in Crawford with President Fox.
Second of all, no, I'm not going to brief in advance on what might come out of those meetings. I'll leave that to the White House.
And third of all, as far as Mr. Huntington's article goes, I don't think I've ever commented on his previous articles so I don't think it's a good time to start now. I'll let Foreign Affairs conduct that debate if that want to. Foreign Policy, is that where it is?
QUESTION: A question about Serbia-Montenegro? The new government was formed yesterday in Belgrade. I understand Mr. Marc Grossman was supposed to travel to Belgrade but his flight was canceled.
Meanwhile, Belgrade media reported Mr. Colin Powell sent -- talked over the phone with Prime Minister Kostunica and expressed a message of support to the new government. Can you tell us more specifically about this message?
And was there any mention of the concern over the fact that the government was supported by socialists?
MR. BOUCHER: Whew. (Laughter.) The Secretary did speak this morning with Prime Minister Kostunica. As you know, they know each other from before, from his previous tenure. And I guess the way I'd put it is, our view of this government will depend on what it does. We have been interested in working with Serbia and Montenegro on issues like reform, like rule of law, like the movement of Serbia and Montenegro towards European values and European institutions. We would hope to be able to continue to do that in various ways.
I think he knows, we all know, that the extent to which we can do that depends on the commitment the government shows to reform, on the commitment the government shows to the rule of law and particularly in the area of cooperation with the International Tribunal in The Hague. It's a matter not only of important policy for us, but it's a matter of law as well, that the Secretary has to look at the situation and decide whether he can certify certain conditions by May -- March 31st of every year.
So that's coming up again as well. So the Secretary did telephone Prime Minister Kostunica this morning. They talked briefly about his just coming into office. I think he's been in office one day. Some of the things on the agenda, including the question of encouraging cooperation with the tribunals, and then looking to see how we can cooperate and we try to talk and keep in touch at various levels.
QUESTION: And about the socialists?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think I can comment on the makeup of the government so much, as to say that it really depends on what they do. We know the history of some of these parties, particularly the socialists and its association with Milosevic. I know that's led a lot of political commentators to tell us not to expect very much. But I think we'll have to see what the government does on important issues like reform, like rule of law, and like cooperation with the tribunal.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) do you know that?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know if he's going to have a chance to. I just heard briefly that flights or something, that he wasn't able to go there. So I don't know when he might be able to get back.
Yeah. Okay. Teri.
QUESTION: North Korea. Can you explain -- I mean, there is more and more background coming out about the three-par -- sorry -- six-party talks. And can you explain whether -- whether it is the Administration's position that they would only continue with the six-party process if North Korea begins the CVID process? You went into the last round, saying there were no preconditions --
QUESTION: CV --
MR. BOUCHER: That's --
QUESTION: Oh, is that the new --
MR. BOUCHER: We're not -- I am never going to say it so.
QUESTION: I mean, what exactly, what exactly was the tapestry of ideas --
MR. BOUCHER: No, our position, I think, has been clear and firm going into the talks. It was clear and firm throughout the talks. There was no change in instructions during the course of the talks Mr. Kelly and the delegation were out there carrying out. The policy has been quite well expressed in public and in private.
As we went into this, they were certainly in close touch with Washington working on every day's events, but no fundamental change. Our goal in going into this round was to get a framework in order to pursue the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs.
We think that we were largely successful in doing that. We think that it was a successful round of talks because it set a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement as the focus for all the parties, particularly, for the five. And as the direction of forward movement, as we go into working groups and another round of discussions, that's what went out to achieve. We think we achieved that.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: Were working groups out there talking to one another?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't think anything's started yet. Actually, if I remember correctly, it's a working group, singular. Whether that produces others, we'll just have to see. But I don't think anything's begun yet, but we're in touch with the other parties, with our partners in this process, to discuss how that shall proceed.
QUESTION: Is there the somebody the U.S. has designated to participate in the working group?
MR. BOUCHER: I'm not aware that we've done that yet. Until something is set up, we don't have somebody to just -- somewhere to send a designee.
QUESTION: So, Richard, would you dispute reports that there was a change in instructions in the midst of the talks?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah, that's not true. But in terms of the United States being fairly firm throughout the talks that we needed to move towards the goal of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement, I would agree with that proposition.
QUESTION: And would you continue with another round of six-party talks, despite a failure so far to get any -- I don't know -- document or any other committal from North Korea?
MR. BOUCHER: Going into this, coming out of this, we were never obsessed with documents. We were happy to work with others on documents.
Early on, as we started to approach this round, during the talks itself, there was a lot work done on possible documents. In the end, what we ended up having was a Chinese chairman's statement because not only the United States, but other parties, were not in a position to accept the changes North Korea wanted at the last minute.
So we -- but we were never tied to a document, nor are we now. The goal --
QUESTION: I said, "Or any other form of committal."
MR. BOUCHER: Well, there has to be commitment, there has to be progress, there has to be action, as we move down this road. But the goal of the process is to get that committal and get that action, and we'll continue to work it.
And as I say, we think we did take a step forward in Beijing by bringing the focus and the direction of the discussions clearly onto the question of complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons pro -- nuclear programs.
QUESTION: What will the change --
MR. BOUCHER: Okay. Steve had one more.
QUESTION: Yeah. I just -- what do you mean by the talks accomplish the goal of focusing everybody on that issue? And I think a moment ago, you said, all parties, or at least the five. Do you mean, in one way, was it successful in getting --
MR. BOUCHER: I think it's clear from coming out of the talks that five of the parties understand that the matter before them, the matter that they want to work on, is the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear programs. The North Koreans have not accepted that phrase.
At the same time, that's what the discussions are about. That's what the focus is about. And that's where the direction of further discussions will be, as we move into working groups and follow-on talks.
QUESTION: This one regarding working group. Can you say your priority for this group, and terms of reference which you prefer?
MR. BOUCHER: Our priority for the group and what?
QUESTION: Oh, I mean, can you say your priority for working group? I mean, what kind of agenda should be discussed?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah. Well, let's -- before I set the agenda, let's set the thing up. So I'm just not going to be able to do that with you in public.
We're starting to talk. We're talking now with our other partners in the process. And as this thing is established and it starts dealing with topics, we'll see what we can tell you about what its composition and agenda will be. It's way too early for me to start describing things that haven't been put together yet.
Okay. Are we still on North Korea for a minute, or not?
Okay, the lady in the back had her hand up for a long time.
QUESTION: Can we change it --
QUESTION: No, sorry. We are still on North Korea.
MR. BOUCHER: We are still on North Korea, then you.
QUESTION: I misunderstood. What are the last-minute changes that North Korea wanted that weren't acceptable to the other parties?
MR. BOUCHER: You can ask the North Koreans that. I'm not speaking for them. Go to the North Korean briefing and ask the North Korean spokesman that. I'm sorry.
No, I'm not trying to --
QUESTION: Well, what wasn't acceptable to you?
MR. BOUCHER: The North Korean changes.
QUESTION: Can I change it to Iraq, please?
MR. BOUCHER: Yeah.
QUESTION: In the light of the attack on Baghdad and Karbala the day before yesterday, the Shiites decided to use armed militia around the holy shrines to protect them because they do not trust the U.S. forces anymore. Do you see this as a trend that might descend to anarchy and obstruct the transfer of power that you wanted to hand over by the 30th of June?
MR. BOUCHER: I see this as an issue that's better dealt with on the scene. I think that's a coalition and military question, that they'll have to talk about how security can or cannot be helped by the formation of groups like that.
I think, generally, our attitude has been that that's not a good thing, that it doesn't provide better security, that the Iraqi authorities, the Iraqi government, has been building up its security forces as fast as they can.
We have been helping as much as we can to establish security, and that that work needs to be accelerated and continued rather than looking for alternatives.
QUESTION: There are statements coming out of the CPA saying that they have -- the coalition has better control over the borders, including, apparently, the Syrian border, which was allegedly the most porous of them all.
Does that mean that you are working better with the Syrians today on this issue?
MR. BOUCHER: Let me see what I have on that situation there. Maybe I don't have anything on that situation there.
I think we're pretty much where we've been, that the Syrian Government has taken some steps with respect to securing the border. We continue to believe more effective border controls are needed on the part of Syria. However, there are still some transits taking place.
I'd point out we don't have indications the Syrian Government is facilitating these transits, but we think that more steps are needed to improve the controls on the border to prevent them from taking place, and that is something that has been a matter of continuous discussion in our contacts with the Syrian Government over the last several months.
Yeah. We've got two more, I think.
QUESTION: Yes, about Iraq. Iraqi Kurdish groups is still continue the harassing the Turkman's parties, Turkman's bureaus, and they are killing the several Turkman's leader in there.
If they -- under a -- if they have a federal system, which will be in the future right now, isn't that scary for the area, Turkmans is the living under this kind of the people's rule?
MR. BOUCHER: Once again, I'm not going to try to write the Iraqi constitution from this podium. The Iraqis are going to have to decide how to reach a -- constitutional principles. They have agreed on a transitional law, and they're going to have to, through the process that's being set up of representation of all Iraqis, including members of all the different groups in Iraq, work out their political arrangements.
Certainly, the United States, from the start, has made clear we believe that any process needs to respect the rights of all Iraqis, and we'll try to make sure that happens. Ultimately, the Iraqis are going to have to decide what the arrangements are that can do that.
QUESTION: What do you say about the attacks about, for the Turkmans group?
MR. BOUCHER: I -- we don't like attacks on anybody. That's as close as I can come to that one. Sorry.
QUESTION: And also, one more. And also, do you decided to deliver Turkey the 11 Turkish Taliban, which they -- you are keeping in the Guantanamo Bay?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know where things stand with Turkey, but when we announce when we have people that we can return, we have made announcements here. So if something happens, we'll tell you.
QUESTION: Mr. Ambassador, do you know who is going to represent the U.S. Government at tomorrow's funeral of the late President of FYROM Trajkovski in Skopje?
MR. BOUCHER: Don't know. The White House has put out an announcement, I'm told.
QUESTION: Anything on the continuing arguments regarding the -- his tragic accident since a lot of criticism is going to NATO, which controls the air corridors over Bosnia-Herzegovina?
MR. BOUCHER: No. I'm not going to get into that one.
QUESTION: The search for a new IMF head is on and that obviously involves a lot diplomacy. Does the United States this time want to avoid a European being selected as the new IMF chief?
MR. BOUCHER: I don't know that we've taken a position on that.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)
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