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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Gordon Duguid
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
February 17, 2009


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • KOSOVO
    • U.S. Congratulates the Republic of Kosovo's on Its First Year of Independence
    • Partitioning is a Concern for the International Community
    • U.S. Prefers to See the Building of a Multiethnic State
  • PAKISTAN
    • Issues Regarding an Imposition of the Rule of Islamic Law
    • U.S. Remains in Close Touch with Pakistani Officials / Committed to Countering Terrorism
  • INDIA
    • Special Representative Holbrooke Meets with Senior Officials in India / Has Returned to Washington
  • UZBEKISTAN
    • General Petraeus Visit Is Not Related to Supply Routes
  • KYRGYZSTAN
    • No Definitive Word from Kyrgyzstan on Manas Air Base
  • NORTH KOREA
    • U.S. Policy Is Under Review
    • Current Policy Focuses on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
    • North Korea Has Made Commitments to the International Community
    • U.S. Regards the Six-Party Talks as Essential to Achieving Objectives
  • RUSSIA
    • Reported Unrest in Vladivostok is Being Monitored
  • IRAN
    • U.S. Policy Is Under Review
  • ZIMBABWE
    • Success Will Be Determined and Assessed by the Results of its Actions
    • Economic Assistance Has Not Resumed / Humanitarian Assistance Continues
  • VENEZUELA
    • Referendum Vote Seen as Fully Consistent with Democratic Practices
    • Venezuela Should be Governed According to the Interests of Its People
    • U.S. Seeks to Maintain Positive Relationships with Venezuela
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Nominations for Senior-Level Positions Are Moving Forward as Expected
    • Several Policies Currently Under Review
    • The Department is Fully-Engaged, as Evidenced by the Naming of Envoys and Special Representatives
  • JAPAN
    • Secretary Clinton's Meetings with Opposition Party Members Are Consistent with Diplomatic Practice


TRANSCRIPT:

11:04 a.m. EST

MR. DUGUID: Good morning, everyone. I have a statement that I’d like to begin with.

The United States congratulates the people of the Republic of Kosovo as they celebrate the first anniversary of the historic declaration of independence, one year ago. Over the past year, Kosovo has moved quickly to build democratic institutions and to implement the principles of the UN Special Envoy and Nobel Laureate Martti Ahtisaari’s plan, including strong constitutional protections for minority rights and religious and cultural heritage.

Fifty-four countries from every continent have recognized Kosovo, including an overwhelming majority of EU, NATO, and OSCE members. As an independent state, Kosovo has welcomed and is coordinating effectively with the EU-led EULEX Rule of Law Mission, NATO, and the EU-led international civilian office and other representatives of the international community, to build a sound and sustainable economy, a single and transparent rule of law system, and other institutions of a modern, multiethnic European democracy.

Thank you. With that, I’ll take your questions. Yes, please.

QUESTION: How does the U.S. view the peace treaty between the militants Taliban in the Swat Valley and the Government of Pakistan?

MR. DUGUID: Well, I’m not sure about your characterization of what has gone on in Pakistan. I’d refer you to the Government of Pakistan for a better readout of that.

We are in touch with the government in Pakistan. We are discussing the issue. But that’s about all I have for you at the moment. We’ll wait and see what their fuller explanation is for us.

QUESTION: Nothing further on the (inaudible) deal about allowing the rule of Islamic law?

MR. DUGUID: Well, as I understand it, Islamic law is within the constitutional framework of Pakistan. So I don’t know that that is particularly an issue for anyone outside of Pakistan to discuss, certainly not from this podium.

QUESTION: But is it a good development or a bad development?

MR. DUGUID: We’ve seen these sorts of actions before. What is, of course, important is that we are all working together to fight terrorism, and particularly to fight the cross-border activities that some Taliban engage in in attacking in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: NATO has said today that they’re concerned that these kind of actions are going to lead to a safe haven for extremists in that region. Are you concerned – do you have the same concerns? I mean, you are a part of NATO, after all.

MR. DUGUID: We are a part of NATO. And I saw those comments. I didn’t see the full context of them, however, so I won’t – I don’t have anything further to offer on that. We are in touch with the Pakistani Government, we’re in touch regularly with them, and we are engaging them on the issues that concern the U.S. and the allies and the coalition.

QUESTION: But will this make it better or worse?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have an opinion on that for you. We’ll look and see what the government’s aims are. And then if I have more to offer on that, I’ll get back to you.

QUESTION: So did the --

QUESTION: Is that because you don’t have all the information about what the arrangement is, or that you don’t --

MR. DUGUID: Well, as I said, our – we are in touch with the Pakistani Government, and our Embassy there is fully engaged with the government to find out exactly what their strategy is.

QUESTION: So the answer is no, you don’t have all the information?

MR. DUGUID: The answer is I, before coming in here, did not have a full readout of all of the details of it. Yes.

QUESTION: Gordon?

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: You may not have gotten a full readout. Do you know if Ambassador Holbrooke got a full readout? Did he – was he aware of this? And just for the record, can you tell us whether he’s back in the building or still on his mission?

MR. DUGUID: Well, for the record, I can tell you he’s not back in the building. He was expected in early this morning back in Washington, and I do not believe that he was intending on coming in this morning. Whether or not he had discussions on this point is something that I have not been briefed on. He was – that is, Ambassador Holbrooke was in India on the last day of his trip. He did meet with a number of their foreign policy establishment, including the foreign minister, the national security advisor and the foreign secretary. And he was talking to India about their interest in regional stability. So he has returned, and I expect that we’ll see him back in the building shortly, but not today, I don’t think.

QUESTION: Can you take it as a question whether you think this is a good or a bad thing – these moves? And --

MR. DUGUID: Well, what I’ve said is that we’re in discussions with the Pakistanis. And I don’t think that I’m going to give a judgment out from the podium when they’ve just announced this. They just started their actions.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Kosovo?

MR. DUGUID: Please.

QUESTION: The Government of Serbia and Russia still have not recognized the independence of Kosovo, and the country is de facto partitioned with the north controlled by the Serbian minority. Isn’t it something of concern for U.S.?

MR. DUGUID: Kosovo has been a concern for the international community for some time. That is why you still have an international mission, or several international missions, in Kosovo. But our concern is to help the Kosovars – all of them – develop a multiethnic, modern European state. We are there because there are historic problems that we’ve all been witness to, that we – many of us understand. And you’re not going to build that state in a short period of time. However, if you look back at where we were 10 years ago, I think there’s no doubt that Kosovo now is much more stable and is on the road to creating that multiethnic democracy. However, problems remain. One cannot (inaudible) over the problems that do remain.

Mr. Lambros, please.

QUESTION: Mr. Duguid, how long you are going to stay in Kosovo?

MR. DUGUID: How long?

QUESTION: Yes. You said (inaudible).

MR. DUGUID: Well, that is not a question that anyone can answer. We will stay there as long as the Kosovars need our help.

QUESTION: Do you know if President Barack Obama sent a congratulatory note to Kosovars?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t, but I just did.

QUESTION: One more question. Albania supporting the so-called independence of Kosovo on the basis of geography, not ethnicity. Since the Kosovars are Albanians, why does your government support the creation of a separate Albania in the Balkan Peninsula with different name instead of (inaudible) union? Many were sure that Secretary Clinton was going to change this policy.

MR. DUGUID: Mr. Lambros, I disagree with the premise of the question and therefore I will not answer that at this particular time. I don’t think it’s factually accurate.

QUESTION: And the last one --

MR. DUGUID: No, you’ve had three. One more here.

QUESTION: What’s the situation with Uzbekistan at the moment? You’re in discussions with them. The U.S. General Petraeus is there today discussing it with the president, you know, how to have alternative supply routes to Afghanistan.

MR. DUGUID: That’s not quite accurate. General Petraeus is there as the Commander of CENTCOM. Part of his area of responsibility for the U.S. mission – the U.S. military does include relations – or military-to-military relations with Uzbekistan. But his visit there is not about supply routes or, as I suspect, the question that was leading to, to the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan.

QUESTION: Yes, right. (Laughter.) So following on with that, but what do you – are you – what are you raising specifically with Uzbekistan at the moment with regards to supply routes?

MR. DUGUID: Well, I will refer you to the Pentagon for anything about General Petraeus’s visit there. I am unaware that we are raising anything about supply routes with Uzbekistan. The general is there as his first visit to that particular country as commander of CENTCOM. As you do on introductory visits, there are a wide range of issues that can be discussed, and it is not for me, who has not had a briefing on what the discussions are, to try and pinpoint where those discussions may have lead.

QUESTION: So has the Kyrgyz Government informed you yet whether they --

MR. DUGUID: They have not, no. I do not believe that it’s – that particular motion has made it out of parliamentary committee. But I refer you to the Government of Kyrgyzstan for greater and probably more accurate detail.

QUESTION: But are you still in discussions with the Kyrgyz --

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: -- authorities on –

MR. DUGUID: Yes, we are still --

QUESTION: At what level?

MR. DUGUID: We are still talking to the Kyrgyzstan officials about our position on the Manas air base. But we have not received an official rejection of our position, if I can put it that way.

Let’s go to the back and then come up again. Dave.

QUESTION: Yeah, Gordon, in the morning newspaper, there was a column by Selig Harrison, who, as you well know, is well connected with North Korea. He says that basically North Korea has completely changed its bargaining position. It’s no longer willing to negotiate over the nuclear weapons it has, but rather to bar them or to oblige them not to create any more. Also, he says – he just visited North Korea. He also says that they want those two nuclear reactors completed that were started in the Agreed Framework. I just wonder is it the United States position that we want them to dispose of their nuclear weapons or – I mean, still their original arsenal, or is this something that you’re taking into consideration now?

MR. DUGUID: Our position on North Korea is under review at the moment. However, the Secretary has outlined in specific what our policy remains, and that is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. I think there was a full stop at the end of that sentence, too.

QUESTION: Yeah. What about the completion of the two light-water reactors that were started in the ‘90s? Is this something that the United States might be willing to resume or --

MR. DUGUID: Again, our position is under review, and it is a comprehensive review that will look at all aspects. But as for the basic point, the end state is a denuclearized North – Korean Peninsula. Thank you.

Yes, we’ll go to the back, please. All the way – please, yes.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about the continued bellicose rhetoric coming out of North Korea despite the somewhat firm warnings from Secretary Clinton in Tokyo?

MR. DUGUID: Well, it’s hard to respond to what statements are reported because they’re mostly media statements. There has been no – you know, no official who has come out and taken credit for any of the statements. But any move to change the Six-Party process or not to live up to commitments to the Six-Party Talks, of course, would be of concern. However, the North Koreans have agreed, have made commitments to the international community, particularly to the members of the Six-Party Talks, to carry out certain functions, certain activities that will provide the – again, going back for a long time, the action-for-action moves that we will take. So they should focus on those commitments that they’ve made rather than statements that are not particularly helpful at the time.

Viola.

QUESTION: Do you have any indication about whether North Korea is indeed preparing to launch a missile? Have you seen any signs of movement in that direction other than the reports? And have you seen any signs of --

MR. DUGUID: I have no information for you on --

QUESTION: -- related to that?

MR. DUGUID: -- their particular preparations.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: In Venezuela --

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have reaction to the result of the referendum, the fact that Chavez has won and now he can stay in power almost indefinitely?

MR. DUGUID: Well, it’s my understanding that the referendum took place in a fully democratic process, that there were – although there were some troubling reports of intimidation of opponents, for the most part, this was a process that was fully consistent with democratic practice. However, democratic practice also requires that the government govern well and govern in the interest of all of the people of the diverse interests that are present in Venezuela.

QUESTION: But what about the result of the --

MR. DUGUID: It was a matter for the Venezuelan people. And as I said, the process was held consistent with democratic principles. Therefore, we have always sought to have a positive relationship with Venezuela. We will continue to seek to maintain a positive relationship with Venezuela. But their democratic processes need to be taken into account on our part. But also on our part, we look for governments who have achieved a positive democratic result to use that in a positive manner.

QUESTION: Do you think it’s healthy to be able to be reelected indefinitely?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have an opinion on the democratic practices of Venezuela. In the United States, we have term limits, but that’s our practice.

Please.

QUESTION: My question will be on Croatia joining NATO. U.S. has been very clear that it wants Croatia to join at April summit. But due to some recent events in Slovenia, the neighboring country and a member of NATO, where a group of nationalists fight for a referendum, these events indicate that this might not happen. I was wondering if you have
any comment.

MR. DUGUID: I would have to refer you to NATO on whether the accession will take place at the summit or not. I am not aware that there has been any move not to have things move forward, but it is an alliance decision, not just an American decision only. So we would make any views that we have on this available in the North Atlantic Council, and I would refer you to NATO for that.

QUESTION: And State Department is following the events?

MR. DUGUID: We are following all events, you know, as best we can around the world, but I would refer you to NATO for comments on NATO’s procedures.

Yes, please. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a question on Iran. The Iranian defense minister is in Russia and – to press for the sale of air defense missiles. Do you know if, when Ambassador Burns was in Moscow last week, this was brought up? Russia said it’s not going to sell such systems to troubled regions, whereas it doesn’t consider Iran a troubled region or country. Do you know anything about this? Did Ambassador Burns --

MR. DUGUID: I don’t know that this particular issue was raised, no.

Okay. Yes, please.

QUESTION: There were reports in yesterday’s New York Times that there are some very serious demonstrations in Vladivostok. And according to some senior officials in the Russian Government, the organizers of these are controlled by foreign agents who want the region to secede from Russia, which, of course, would destabilize Russia and be very risky because of all the nuclear weapons. Do you have any idea if there’s any truth to this, or do you have any information about this at all?

MR. DUGUID: I’ve seen the press reports that were out yesterday, but I don’t have any particular comment or information on the demonstrations themselves or the motivations for those. I would refer you to the members of the Russian Government, who are better able to explain their comments on this.

Yes, Michel.

QUESTION: The Iraqi foreign minister has said today that Baghdad is ready to host any possible discussions or negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. What do you think about this offer?

MR. DUGUID: It will, of course, be looked at seriously, I’m sure. We are reviewing our policy towards Iran, and a wide range of views is being taken into consideration on that policy. I don’t – I did not hear this particular offer mentioned in any of the conversations I had this morning, so I have to leave it at that. Thank you.

Yeah, Sue.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the arrests in Zimbabwe and the charging of a senior MDC official? Do you think that this indicates a lack of goodwill on behalf of President Mugabe towards his new partners in government?

MR. DUGUID: I do not think it indicates any goodwill. We have said consistently from this podium that we will judge the success of the coalition – the government of national unity on the results that it produces in fulfilling the mandate that the people of Zimbabwe gave it, and that is to improve their lives, that is to reconstruct the economy and to stop political oppression. This move doesn’t seem to be going in that direction.

QUESTION: But do you see this as an early indicator that the new government is not going to fulfill what it’s been –

MR. DUGUID: I won’t get into more predictions. I will speak to this particular issue.

QUESTION: But in terms of providing some good – you know, a good amount of U.S. assistance, does this not bode well for you in terms of providing more development assistance? You’ve said --

MR. DUGUID: We haven’t begun to reengage with our economic development assistance as it is. We were waiting to see better results from the government. Of course, that doesn’t include humanitarian assistance, which is not affected by political moves.

Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: Yes, on Kosovo. Two questions. Mr. Duguid, since you created Kosovo, why does the U.S. Government oppose the same rights for the Greeks in northern Epirus, which after all, (inaudible) unrecognized by the League of Nations as precondition for admission of Albania into its (inaudible) and became a state. Why? May we assume that Secretary Clinton is going to help the Greeks in northern Epirus?

MR. DUGUID: Mr. Lambros, again, I don’t agree with the premise of the question, therefore I’m not prepared to answer it.

QUESTION: The second question – I have another one.

MR. DUGUID: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Today, the World Bank – there’s a special meeting about false information provided by its manager to the agency’s Board of Directors for $39 million, politically connected, quote, “coastal cleanup," unquote, project that led to the destruction and the destitution of a powerless Greek village close to Himara of northern Epirus in Albania in 2007, in full cooperation with the Sali Berisha government. I’m wondering if you are aware about that from the human rights point of view.

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have any information on that. But if I can find anything, I’ll get back to you. Thank you.

Viola.

QUESTION: Do you – can you give us an update on the status of nominations for positions related to this Department? There seems to have been a huge gap and delay between --

MR. DUGUID: According to who’s schedule?

QUESTION: -- the approval of – there has been a gap since the last nominations that have – were forwarded and went through the Senate. When can we expect the next round to come forward and what has caused the delay? I mean, some people are even being introduced --

MR. DUGUID: No. Well, I just – I’m going to disagree that there’s been a delay.

QUESTION: Some people are even being introduced –

MR. DUGUID: The Secretary and the President have moved forward on making those nominations and appointing those people that they feel are necessary to move and get the State Department working at the moment. I don’t think it’s been lost on anyone that we have been extremely busy with the Secretary going to Asia, with Ambassador Holbrooke in South Asia, with Special Envoy Mitchell in the Middle East. You’ve seen a fully engaged State Department. As for other appointments that may be coming, those are the prerogative of the Secretary and the President. They will make those appointments as and when they feel that those positions are critical to moving forward further with other initiatives.

QUESTION: Speaking about appointments –

QUESTION: The policy review’s in there, too?

MR. DUGUID: The policy reviews – as you know, some policy reviews are ongoing. Some have come out with a specific end date. Not all have. But indeed, the policy reviews are ongoing. And when we have completed those in as expeditious a manner as possible, the results will be communicated.

Yes, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Speaking about an announcement, do you have any announcement to make about a new ambassador to Syria?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: Wait. All right, two more. Yes, please, in the back.

QUESTION: The President will meet Prime Minister Aso of Japan next week, but Prime Minister Aso is not popular with about 10 percent rating, and Japanese Finance Minister Nakagawa just quit. So do you think with this situation Japan will be ready to conduct a meeting next week? What is expectation for the meeting?

MR. DUGUID: I refer you to the White House for meetings involving the President.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MR. DUGUID: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Secretary just met the – Mr. Ichiro Ozawa, the President of the JDP, the opposition party.

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: I don’t think that kind of meeting happen a lot. Can you tell me why she met Mr. Ozawa in Tokyo?

MR. DUGUID: The meeting with the opposition party is a normal practice of secretaries of state when they visit countries. The opposition parties are part of the democratic process. You do want to hear what the opposition has to say. It’s not only government-to-government relations that are important to the United States, but people-to-people relations.

Yes, please.

QUESTION: About North Korea, there were some opinions that the U.S. and North Korea should have bilateral negotiations besides Six-Party Talks. So does your reviewing on North Korea process include bilateral negotiation?

MR. DUGUID: I think that the Secretary spoke directly to the Six-Party Talks, calling them essential.

Yes.

QUESTION: In terms of policy shifts –

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: -- there seems to have been a shift on attending the Durban conference or the negotiations for the Durban conference. Maybe if you could just illuminate as to why you’ve had that policy shift from the previous administration.

MR. DUGUID: The delegation that we’ve sent to Durban is there in order to try and stop the declaration coming out of that conference from being a document that is not helpful to ending racism around the world. We are there looking at the process. As you know, it’s been some time since we engaged. If you are not engaged, you don’t have a voice. We wanted to put forward our views and see if there was some way that we could help make the document a better document than it appears that it’s going to be. That does not mean, however, that we will take part in future meetings, or indeed, in the conference itself. We’re going to see where our efforts go in Durban.

QUESTION: So what do you want out of the document?

MR. DUGUID: We’d like to see something balanced that addresses racism around the globe and tries to provide a way forward on resolving those issues.

QUESTION: So what don’t you like?

MR. DUGUID: I will leave it for our –

QUESTION: Israel and –

MR. DUGUID: I will leave it for our team on the ground to better describe the U.S. opinion on the current paper. It is a lengthy draft, and I haven’t had time to review all of it.

QUESTION: Can you talk about who is in the delegation, who’s leading the delegation?

MR. DUGUID: I can only – I’ll have to take the question, because I know that the delegation left on Saturday. I didn’t get a full readout of who was in the delegation.

Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:29 a.m.)

DPB # 24



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