11:56 a.m. EDTMR. WOOD:
Okay, Good – well, it’s just about – it’s still good morning. Good morning, everyone. Happy Monday. Welcome to the briefing. I just want to make just some quick points on the Air – the missing Air France aircraft, and then I’m going to turn it over to our Consular affairs – a representative from Consular Affairs is going to talk to you a bit about hurricane season.
Let me just say at this time, we’re unaware of any American citizens on board the missing Air France aircraft. Consular officers are standing by at both airports, in Rio de Janeiro and in Paris. Our embassy in Paris and our Consulate in Rio de Janeiro are working with authorities on multiple fronts to obtain the manifest. And should we determine that any Americans were on board the flight, we will contact their families directly to offer consular assistance. That’s all we have at this time. I will be updating you on this as we get more information.
I would like to turn it over right now to Michele Bond, who is a Deputy Assistant Secretary in our Office of Citizen Services, who will talk to you about hurricane season. And I will come back and we can continue the briefing.MS. BOND:
Thank you, Robert. Good morning. I’m here this morning because the official Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November. So it’s the beginning of the season, and we want to bring that to the attention of American citizens who reside in the hurricane area or may be planning to travel in hurricane prone regions during the next six months.
The National Weather Service officials at NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, have predicted a 50 percent chance that activity during this Atlantic hurricane season will be near normal. That means nine to 14 named storms, with four to seven of those becoming hurricanes and one to three becoming major hurricanes.
During previous storms, United States citizens have encountered uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous conditions if they are in an area that is seriously affected by a storm, and they certainly have often encountered extended delays while awaiting transportation back to the United States. So we want people who are planning travel to hurricane-affected regions to keep that in mind during the six – the next six months and to take appropriate precautions so that if they are there when a storm hits, they are well prepared.
Some of the examples – and this information is on our website, travel.state.gov – the examples of things that a prudent traveler might do: first of all, register travel plans with the State Department. You can do that on the website at travel.state.gov. That lets us know that you are in a particular spot. Hopefully, you’ve been able to give us very specific information, like the hotel where you’re staying, but even if it’s just general information, that’s a starting point. Provide us cell phone numbers so that we can text messages to you, and that way, the fact that your internet is down or you don’t have access to a computer doesn’t prevent you from getting information from us.
Communicate with a tour operator or airline to know in advance what measures they would take in case a storm hits while you’re in the area, and check with the hotel where you’re staying about the arrangements that are made for people staying in the hotel if they are trapped by a storm. Make sure that you know something about the region where you’re going and what the local medical facilities are and security facilities. That information is on our website, travel.state.gov. But there are other resources too, I’m sure.
Bring along a first aid kit, water treatment purification tablets, in case you need those. Keep an up-to-date list of local emergency numbers, including how to get in touch with the local U.S. Consulate. Anybody who takes chronic medication should carry extra medication so that if their departure, their return to the States is delayed, they would still have access to that. And they should have a copy of their prescription, so if they need to fill it wherever they are, they’ve got it and they’re not trying to get it from home.
Make sure that the people at home know where you are, know how to reach you, know the cell phone that you’re carrying. Some people obtain a cell phone specifically for a trip that they know will work in that region. But the people at home need to know what that number is. It’s also helpful if people at home know what your credit card number is, or if you’re using traveler’s checks, if they know your travelers check numbers. We can use that activity on those accounts to try to figure out where you are if you have moved from where they thought you were going to be to someplace else for safety or other reasons.
Those are a few highlights of some of the things that people can do to try and make sure that they stay safe when they’re traveling and are in a position to get information from us if there’s an emergency and we’re trying to push information out to them.
I would welcome questions.
Thank you. QUESTION:
Robert, can we get back to the announcement that you made (inaudible)?MR. WOOD:
You said that people were working on multiple fronts to obtain the manifest, so you don’t actually have a copy of it as yet?MR. WOOD:
At this point, no.QUESTION:
Okay. And when you say you’re unaware of any American nationals who were on board, are you unaware of that since you don’t have a manifest just because no one has called to say, “Hey, I think my relative may have been on there,” or – I mean, how do you know that – how is it that you know that so far, you don’t know of any Americans there? Just because nobody’s reported it to you?MR. WOOD:
Based on all the – based on the information that we’ve received to date, we have no indication as of now that there are any Americans – that there were any Americans on board that missing craft. And so --QUESTION:
But how do you figure that out without the manifest? That’s what I don’t get.MR. WOOD:
Well, again, just – I don’t have all of the details because I’m not on the ground in either of the two places. But based on what we’ve learned from our folks both in Rio De Janeiro and in Paris, we are not yet able to determine whether there were any Americans on board. That’s all the information I have at this point. We will certainly update you all as soon as we have more information.
Can I ask why you can’t get a copy of the manifest? I mean, the U.S. and French have excellent, I guess, cooperation, and especially considering all the TSA regulations and everything with the VISIT program. I mean, you’ve been getting these manifests of flights. I mean, you know everything --MR. WOOD:
-- about every person that’s on a fight. I just find it a little strange why you weren’t able to --MR. WOOD:
Well, Elise, we will get the manifest. Right now, there is – as you can imagine right now, in both countries, there’s a lot of confusion. There’s chaos. What we’re trying to do is, as I said, ascertain if there were indeed Americans on board. We will be able to get that manifest and we’ll be able to make that determination, but at this point, I just don’t have anything more for you on that.QUESTION:
And you said that there were officials – consular officials at both airports? MR. WOOD:
U.S. consular officials?MR. WOOD:
That’s correct. QUESTION:
Okay. And they’re attempting to get the manifest?MR. WOOD:
Absolutely. If – any more on this? And – because I have a couple of announcements I wanted to make. Okay. Let me just go to a few things.
I just want to give you an update on Ambassador Holbrooke’s travel. Special Representative for Afghanistan and
Pakistan Richard Holbrooke will visit Pakistan June 3rd
and will be leading the delegation of U.S. officials from the Department of State, USAID, and Department of Defense. He is traveling at the request of President Obama and Secretary Clinton to assess the welfare of the people displaced by the security operations being carried out by Pakistani authorities against insurgent extremists. While in Pakistan, Ambassador Holbrooke will meet with internally displaced people and relief organizations, as well as with local and national Pakistani officials.
I’d like to give you an update on Secretary Clinton’s trip. Yesterday morning, Secretary Clinton, together with the full presidential delegation, arrived in San Salvador, El Salvador. Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary attended the Pathways to Prosperity meeting, where she participated in a forum for cooperation and dialogue among leaders in the Western Hemisphere who are committed to democracy and open markets as the best vehicles for social justice and inclusiveness. She also attended an MC – Millennium Challenge Compact signing, which in part provides electricity to Salvadorans in rural areas, and to enhance their everyday lives.
In the evening, Secretary Clinton co-hosted a roundtable of women entrepreneurs with Salvadoran Foreign Minister Marisol, joined by women from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Marisol listened and learned about ways Central and Latin American women are a driving force for economic development and regional progress.
Currently, Secretary Clinton is at the inauguration of newly elected President Mauricio Funes, whom she will also be having a bilateral meeting and joint press availability with later today before wheels up for Honduras for the meeting of the General Assembly of the OAS.
I also, finally, would just like to brief you on a few of the Secretary’s – a couple of the Secretary’s phone calls that she’s had. Secretary Clinton called Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on Sunday to discuss today’s meeting in New York of permanent representatives from the P-5+2 countries. The call was positive and productive, and they both discussed a package of concrete measures that will show the DPRK that actions have consequences.
The Secretary also called Chinese Foreign Minister Yang on Sunday evening. I don’t have a readout for you of that, and I hope to be able to give you a readout of that a bit later. So with that, I’ll take your questions. QUESTION:
Can we go to the Lavrov call?MR. WOOD:
Last week, as you’ll recall, the Russian Foreign Ministry – not, I think, Foreign Minister Lavrov himself, but the ministry spokesman, said something to the effect that one does not need to speak in the language of sanctions with regard to
North Korea. And as you’ll recall, Ian had said that the U.S. diplomats in Moscow had gone into the Russian Foreign Ministry to seek clarification of that remark. Did that come up in this conversation? And did she seek some kind of clarification on that comment that one should not speak the language of sanctions?MR. WOOD:
Look, I know the Secretary had a very, very good conversation with Minister Lavrov. And of course, they talked about next steps with regard to a response to North Korea’s provocative behavior. I think it’s very clear that we are all on the same page with regard to the need to take very strong measures against North Korea. And as I said, the P-5+2 is meeting today at ambassadorial level. They’re going to continue with our discussions on coming up with a strong resolution that responds to the North’s violation of its international obligations. And we will continue to work with Russia and with other countries to try to, you know, come up with a very strong response, as I said, to what the North has done.QUESTION:
Did she raise that issue?MR. WOOD:
I don’t – I wasn’t on the call specifically. But you know, as I said, I’d refer you back to the fact that, you know, we and the other members of the P-5+2 are all in agreement that we need to respond and respond strongly to the North’s behavior.QUESTION:
So you don’t know if it came up?MR. WOOD:
I don’t know. I wasn’t on the call. Sorry.QUESTION:
And then what are the – what are the additional – you know, the package of concrete measures? What’s in there that they discussed?MR. WOOD:
Well, obviously, I’m not going to get into the substance of what may or may not be in that resolution, because the discussions are ongoing. But what’s important here is that we send a very strong and unified message to North Korea that it cannot get away with the belligerent rhetoric and provocative behavior that it’s been engaged in. And so what we want to see, as I said, again, is a strong, unified, and binding resolution that will deal with the North.
Again, this – one has to remember all of this was brought on by the North Koreans, and we want to see them come back to the negotiating table so that we can achieve that verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And that’s what we’re working toward.QUESTION:
Do the measures go beyond simply enforcing those already called for in 1718?MR. WOOD:
Well, one of the things – again, I don’t want to get into the substance of what’s being discussed, but we obviously want to see all previous resolutions – and I’m speaking specifically to 1718 – implemented. And so – but we will, as I also said, be looking for additional measures, additional strong measures to deal with the North.
I should also bring you up to date, if I may, on Deputy Secretary Steinberg’s travel with a delegation from the U.S. Government. Today in Tokyo, Deputy Secretary Steinberg met with Japanese Foreign Minister Nakasone and Vice Foreign Minister Yabunaka and with senior Japanese Self Defense Force officials. They held good discussions on the North Korea nuclear issue and reaffirmed the two countries’ commitment to achieving the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And we will report on, you know, next stops on his trip as they become available.
Do those additional strong measures include unilateral U.S. action against North Korea? MR. WOOD:
Well, we obviously will take a look to see what we can do unilaterally with regard to the North. Those other countries are looking as well. But I don’t have anything beyond that.QUESTION:
Is there some idea for a timeline for Security Council action? You said the discussions are ongoing. Is there an ideal time to approve the resolution?MR. WOOD:
Well, we want to see a resolution put forth as soon as possible. But obviously, at the UN, these types of things take time. We’re working very hard. As I said, the discussions are ongoing, and we hope to have one as soon as possible, because we need to send this message to the North that I’ve been speaking about. We need to do it soon.
On the phone calls that Secretary Clinton made on Sunday, were those made before she left on her trip or were they made from the road?MR. WOOD:
I -- let me see. I –QUESTION:
(Inaudible) today, possibly?MR. WOOD:
Yeah, Lavrov, I think, was yesterday. I’m – I have to double check. Yang was this morning, I believe.QUESTION:
One of each?MR. WOOD:
One of each. QUESTION:
Okay. So Yang was – because I have you saying Sunday evening for Yang.MR. WOOD:
Yang was in the evening, Sunday evening.QUESTION:
Both were yesterday?MR. WOOD:
Yeah. Right. QUESTION:
Okay. But – so one was made from the road and one was made from Washington.MR. WOOD:
That could be.QUESTION:
Defense Secretary Gates stated in his news conference in the Philippines today that there are indications that the North Koreans, despite the various warnings from this podium and others, are preparing to launch a long-range, inter-continental ballistic missile. Is that the view of the U.S. Government, as far as you can discern?MR. WOOD:
Well, James, as you know, we don’t really talk about – you know, and this is our standard policy. We don’t talk about intelligence matters. But again, any ballistic missile launch by the North would be a clear violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1718. And the North, frankly, just needs to end this provocative type of behavior. It’s only inflaming tensions in the region. And we want to see the North live up to its international obligations. And we’re going to be working with our allies to try to see how we can best come up with a – you know, a comprehensive and coordinated strategy for dealing with this problem.QUESTION:
So what was Secretary Gates referring to then? If he doesn’t– if we don’t discuss intelligence information, on what was he basing that? Do you know?MR. WOOD:
Well, look, I haven’t seen the Secretary’s comments. I can just tell you in essence what our policy is, and I think I’ve outlined that. QUESTION:
Are you hoping to entice the North Koreans back to the Six-Party Talks, or to compel the North Koreans back to the Six-Party Talks?MR. WOOD:
Well, look, I’m not going to use either word. What I will say is that the North agreed to a series of obligations within the Six-Party framework. It is not living up to those obligations. It’s isolating itself.
The UN Security Council is going to deal with these actions that the North has undertaken, and we will go from there. But we want to send a very strong, unified message to North Korea that its actions have consequences. And as I said, we’re working very hard in New York today. The Secretary and the President have been working this issue very hard. And we’re going to send that message to the North that it cannot get away with this type of behavior. QUESTION:
What is their incentive to return to the talks if those who – those who participate in those talks are, at present, working to impose punishments on the North? Why should they then return to talks with those very same cast of characters?MR. WOOD:
Well, if the North desires ever to have a normal relationship with the international community, it’s got to live up to its obligations. It’s – as I said, it’s isolating itself every day. It has few friends, few supporters in the world. And the international community is calling on the North to live up to its obligations.
These are not things we’re asking the North to do just for the sake of doing them. This is – these are things the North agreed to do. But instead of living up to those obligations, the North has consistently violated its international obligations, the calls by the international community. And those cannot stand. We have – QUESTION:
I’m sorry –MR. WOOD:
We have to send a signal to the North, a very strong, unified one that the international community means business and the North needs to live up to its obligations.
I’m sorry, I mean –MR. WOOD:
I know you couldn’t wait.QUESTION:
I just don’t know what to say to that. I mean –MR. WOOD:
You don’t have to say anything. We can go to another question.QUESTION:
North Korea, I mean, obviously, is ignoring the will of the international community. The more you call for it to meet its obligations, the more it defies the international community and so I mean, how could – how do you – how can you honestly say that kind of sending this kind of strong, unified message is going to bring it back to the table?
So back to James’s question: Are you going to make it so difficult for them that even the small amount of kind of money and income that they get into the country would be preventive, would they be – they’d be blocked from making any income, that they would have absolutely no choice? I mean, obviously, you know, enticing them with this agreement or anything has not worked.MR. WOOD:
Well, because things haven’t worked doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying. That’s for one thing. We are going to send a message. And we are working, as I said, in New York, on a resolution that is going to be unified and strong. And if you look at the engagement that’s going on with regard to this question, you’ve got – the Secretary’s been very engaged in this. The President has been very engaged. You have Deputy Secretary Steinberg with a high-level delegation out in the region. You have Ambassador Rice in New York working this, you know, pretty much around the clock. There is serious commitment and focus on this issue. There is a unity of purpose. And we are going to send that message to the North that they cannot get away with this type of belligerent rhetoric and provocative behavior. The international community just will not let it stand. QUESTION:
But you’ve said that your patience is not infinite.MR. WOOD:
So what is the cutoff point? I mean, if North Korea makes this long-range missile test, is that the cutoff point?MR. WOOD:
I’m not going to stand up here and try to give you a timeline except to say that, as I mentioned to you, if you look at the type of diplomatic activity we’re engaged in right now, it’s clearly very serious. We are going to continue to work it very hard. And we will look for those measures that we think will best make the North Koreans respond and do the things that they themselves agreed to do.QUESTION:
So you’re hoping that tough measures and sanctions will make them respond?MR. WOOD:
Well, we’re gong to come up with some tough measures in this new resolution. I’m not going to get ahead of the diplomacy in New York, but I can assure you, we’re going to send that strong, unified message to the North. QUESTION:
So then to answer James’s question, you’re hoping to compel them to –MR. WOOD:
Look, I’m not going to get into whether we’re going to compel them or offer them incentives. It’s not about that. QUESTION:
Certainly, these measures are not enticing them back to the table.MR. WOOD:
This – right now, what we’re focused on is getting the North to do the things that we want them to do. And we have to send a message that the international community is unified. It has a set of measures that it wants to impose on the North. And we go from there. I’m not going to get ahead of and start characterizing, you know, whether this is viewed as an incentive or disincentive. The North has obligations it needs to meet, and we’re going to do what we can to make the North meet them.
Ambassador Bosworth’s mentioned several times before that he would visit Pyongyang if its helpful to denuclearization of Korean Peninsula. So is U.S. Government still willing to have bilateral talk with North Korea in Pyongyang (inaudible) if helpful?MR. WOOD:
Well, certainly within the Six-Party Framework we’ve been willing to have discussions with the North. Right now, what the North needs to do is live up to its obligations. That’s what we need to see happen right now. You know, if at some point we feel that those types of discussions would be useful, we would engage in them. But right now, the focus of the international community is on getting the North to do what it needs to do, and that’s where we are at the moment. QUESTION:
Robert, the North no longer regards the Six-Party Talks as an obligation it is supposed to meet. They have stated that they will never return to the Six-Party Talks. Their feeling of being bound by the Six-Party Talks is about as strong as ours on the ABM treaty. So you keep asking them to honor their commitments; they don’t regard that as a commitment they have to keep anymore. So what’s your new game plan?MR. WOOD:
Well, that’s why we have a high-level delegation right now in the region, and we have the Secretary working this issue and Ambassador Rice in New York, because you’re right; I mean, the North is not engaging. So we are working with the other – four other partners to that Six-Party framework and with other countries who are interested in a denuclearized Korean Peninsula to do what we can to send this message that the North’s behavior is unacceptable.
I know what they’ve said, but our focus is on what they need to do. And we’re going to continue to push to get the North, as I’ve said, to live up to its obligations.
Anyone else on this subject?QUESTION:
Yeah, on North Korea.MR. WOOD:
Yeah, go ahead.QUESTION:
Yeah, on North Korea, the journalists in North Korea. Do you have an update on two U.S. journalists?MR. WOOD:
Yeah. My understanding is that the Swedish ambassador, who is – represents – who is our protecting power in Pyongyang, visited with the two journalists today, he had a separate visit with each of them.QUESTION:
Yes, today, June 1. And I don’t have – there’s not much I can say about the visit because there are privacy considerations. But as you know, he also met with the two journalists on, I believe, March 15 – excuse me, May 15 and then March 30. And so we’re going to continue our efforts to try to gain their release. This is a high priority for the President and the Secretary, and we’re going to continue doing what we can to see them back with their families. But that’s the only update I have for you on that.QUESTION:
Are you concerned that North Korea is going to make these journalists a pawn in this whole nuclear crisis?MR. WOOD:
Well, they should not. They need to release these two Americans. The whole nuclear issue is a separate one, and we’re going to continue to work to try to get their release.QUESTION:
Any plans to send anyone? Is there any talk of a delegation to go over there just for this? I know you’re trying to separate the nuclear and this. Is there –MR. WOOD:
No, there is not.QUESTION:
Do you think that would be helpful to send someone of high stature?MR. WOOD:
What would be helpful would be for the North to release the two journalists.
Just related to that. On the Today Show this morning, the families of the journalists spoke out, and the sister, Lisa Ling, actually urged the two governments to communicate better. So is there any response to that request from --MR. WOOD:
Well, we’re in communication through, as I’ve said, the Swedish protecting power. And I know that the Swedish ambassador has been trying over and over and over again to gain access, and it was only recently that he was able to get that second visit that we were trying to arrange.
So, look, we’ve made very clear, and other countries as well have spoken to this issue, that these two journalists need to be released. And that’s what our efforts are geared toward right now. And we’ll continue to do that.
Ambassador Holbrooke’s visit to Pakistan, do you know who all officials are accompanying Ambassador Holbrooke for this trip?MR. WOOD:
I don’t have the names of officials who are traveling with him at this point. I don’t know that we’ll sort of provide those to you. But it is an interagency delegation. And – let me see if I possibly have something here on it. I don’t believe I do. So we’ll see what we can provide at some point, but I don’t have anything more .QUESTION:
Which are the refugees camp or cities where Ambassador Holbrooke will be visiting?MR. WOOD:
I don’t have those types of details at this point. But he plans to visit some of these IDP camps. But I don’t have further details at this point. I’m sorry. QUESTION:
And would he also be meeting the president or prime ministers of the country in Islamabad?MR. WOOD:
He’ll be meeting with officials. I don’t – again, we’ll try and get you more information on that. But I don’t have anything beyond what I read earlier.QUESTION:
And would he also be traveling to neighboring countries like Afghanistan –MR. WOOD:
As I said – at least my understanding is it’s just Pakistan at this point. But if there is additional travel, we’ll certainly let you know.QUESTION:
And two weeks ago, Secretary Clinton had made an appeal to Americans to make a $5 donation for these IDPs, refugee camps in Pakistan to provide medicine by texting the mobile. Do you know how much money has been raised so far?MR. WOOD:
I don’t have any idea.QUESTION:
Can you get this information?MR. WOOD:
I do know that a number of Americans have been, you know, forthcoming in terms of trying to help out the people of Swat. But I don’t have an amount of money for you at this point. QUESTION:
Can you take that one?MR. WOOD:
I’ll see if I can get – I’m not going to promise to take it. I’ll see what I can find out.QUESTION:
Okay. And that shouldn’t be hard to find out though. It’d be an interesting barometer of American support for these displaced people.MR. WOOD:
I’ll do what I can. QUESTION:
Related to Ambassador Holbrooke’s visit, can you just expand a bit on the reasons why he’s going now? Is there any concern about a lack of – or that there could be problems with political support in Pakistan for the operations due to the displacements?MR. WOOD:
Well, I think Ambassador Holbrooke wants to get a sense of how things are on the ground and how we can better, you know, formulate our own assistance with regard to, you know, the IDPs and others who have been affected by what’s been going on in Swat. But that’s really all I know at this point on it. And as I said, he plans to leave shortly and he looks forward to the visit.QUESTION:
Has Pakistan requested for additional aid from U.S. (inaudible)?MR. WOOD:
I don’t think anything beyond what we’ve talked about over the last week or so. I don’t -- QUESTION:
It was 110 plus 67, right?MR. WOOD:
That’s right. I don’t have – I haven’t received any additional information on that. But you might want to check with the Pakistanis to see if they’re planning to make any additional requests.
Anything else? Okay, thank you all.QUESTION:
Wait – I’m sorry, sorry, I wanted to change the subject. MR. WOOD:
Sure.QUESTION: The New York Times
reports today on a series of steps that unnamed officials say the Administration is considering against
Israel if it does not agree to a full settlement freeze of the sort that Secretary Clinton described last week. The steps include the possibility of tempering U.S. support for Israel at the United Nations, at not automatically vetoing Security Council resolutions that Israel objects to, at using the bully pulpit to make clear the President and the Administration’s unhappiness over continued settlement activity.
Are any or all of those steps under consideration? MR. WOOD:
Look, what I can say, Arshad, is that, as you know, the President and the Secretary have made clear that all the parties have responsibilities to fulfill to give Middle East peace efforts a chance to succeed. And U.S. and Israeli officials are in intensive discussions on how this can best be achieved.
As you know, we’ve long worked to ensure that Israel is treated fairly at the United Nations. That will continue. And as you know, Israel is a close friend and ally, and we remain committed to its security. And as I said, that – you know, that will continue. I’m not going to comment on this New York Times
report, but I think the President and Secretary have spoken very clearly to where we are with regard to the settlement question.QUESTION:
Can you say that you are not considering any such punitive actions?MR. WOOD:
Well, you know, Arshad, I certainly wouldn’t want to tell you one way or another what we’re engaged in terms of our discussions with Israel. I mean, there have been a number of Israeli officials that have come to the United States. The Secretary has been in the region. Senator Mitchell, as you know, has spent a lot of time there. We’re working this issue. And as I said, both parties have obligations under the Roadmap that they need to live up to, and we are going to do what we can to help the parties do what they need to do.QUESTION:
And just one other quick one on
Can I stay with the Roadmap?QUESTION:
Oh, sorry. Yeah, please. James, please. QUESTION:
In stating that all the concerned parties have obligations and the United States would like to see the parties meet those obligations, presumably you would agree with me that it is important that everyone clearly understand what the obligations are; yes?MR. WOOD:
I would agree with that.QUESTION:
The United States, in the form of a letter that President Bush sent to then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, made certain commitments to the Israeli state. I have tried to ask whether or not the Obama Administration feels bound by the commitments that President Bush expressed in that letter, which the Israelis would certainly feel comprise obligations on the part of the United States that we have made. Does the United States regard itself as – right now, as being bound by those commitments that President Bush made?MR. WOOD:
Look, what we are trying to do, James, is to get both parties to implement their obligations, written obligations in the Roadmap. We’re trying to get those implemented. Our vision for a two-state solution cannot happen if these obligations are not, you know, held to. And so what Senator Mitchell has been trying to do is to work with the two sides. Both sides have an interest in meeting these obligations. They both want peace. We have said we will be a partner in trying to help them implement them – implement their obligations.QUESTION:
What about the letter?MR. WOOD:
Well, I – look, I speak for this Administration. I’ve told you exactly what we are doing with regard to trying to get both parties to live up to their written obligations.QUESTION:
What about our written obligations? Do we live up to the ones that we set?MR. WOOD:
Look, we – the United States lives up to its obligations. Right now, we are focused on, as I said, trying to get both sides to adhere to the Roadmap so that we can move forward toward that two-state solution. And it’s not going to be easy, as you know. We’ve spoken to that many times. And we’re going to continue to try to do that.QUESTION:
Is the letter binding or not on this Administration? MR. WOOD:
Look, what I’m saying to you, James, is we have – there are a series of obligations that Israel and the Palestinians have undertaken.QUESTION:
I haven’t asked about their obligations and what they’ve undertaken. I’ve asked about a letter that this country sent to Israel. I’d like you to address that letter. MR. WOOD:
Well -- QUESTION:
Is it binding on this Administration?MR. WOOD:
Well, this Administration is – as I said, has laid out its proposals, its strategy for moving forward. And that’s about the best I can help you with on that, James.QUESTION:
Does it entail that letter?MR. WOOD:
I’ve said what I can say on this right now.QUESTION:
Robert, do you realize that by not saying yes, indeed the U.S. Government continues to be bound by the letter that former President George W. Bush sent, you are leaving open in the air the possibility that it does not see itself as bound?MR. WOOD:
I don’t believe I’m doing that at all. What I’m saying to you is we have had a series of discussions with our Israeli and Palestinian partners. We’ve had discussions about their obligations and what both sides need to do. Both sides are well aware of what they need to do, and they know that we are trying to help them meet their obligations. And we’ll continue to do that.
And I’m just not going to get into the substance of what a previous administration may have agreed to. I’m focused on what this Administration is trying to do right now. And that’s where we are.
Okay, thank you all.QUESTION:
Can I do Zimbabwe? That was the last one I – MR. WOOD:
Oh, sure. QUESTION:
The Zimbabweans say that – or the United Nations said that Zimbabwe needs $719 million in urgent humanitarian assistance in 2009. What is – does the U.S. Government have a position on that, on whether that much aid is necessary? And is the Administration moving further in the direction of easing its limitations on aid to the unity government?MR. WOOD:
Well, let me just say, Arshad, we have continued to provide Zimbabwe with humanitarian assistance. We will continue to do that as long as it’s necessary. This particular request, I’m sure it’s being looked at by our Embassy in Zimbabwe.
With regard to the possibility of providing development assistance in the future, we still need to gauge how this government is moving forward on a number of issues, foremost being movement toward democracy, true power sharing, and a commitment to human rights. And we need to see more work in all of those areas before we can consider returning – you know, providing development assistance to Zimbabwe. At this point, we’re not ready to do that. But we are, as I said, providing humanitarian assistance, and we’ll take a look at whatever comes from the government in that regard.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:31 p.m.)