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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 23, 2009


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary at Home Reviewing Documents; Making Phone Calls to Foreign Ministers and Others; and Attending to Other Office Business
    • Deputy Steinberg Delivered Remarks at Meeting Regarding Comprehensive Peace Agreement; Special Envoy Gration also Delivered Remarks
    • Senior State Department Official to Brief Today Regarding OSCE and G-8 Meetings
    • Deputy Secretary Steinberg Spoke of "Genocide" in the Sudan in Today's' Remarks; Was Referring to the Genocide that Took Place in Darfur; Humanitarian Disaster Must be Resolved in that Region
  • KYRGYZSTAN
    • Agreement Reached for Continued Use of Manas International Airport
    • Arrangements Provide for a Transit Center to be Operated by the U.S.
    • The U.S. Welcomes the Efforts by the Kyrgyz Republic in Playing Such a Key Role
    • The Transit Center will Aid Logistical Support and Personnel Rotations Into and Out of Afghanistan
    • The Parliament in Kyrgyzstan Must Now Vote on the Proposed Agreement
    • Financial Details Relative to the Agreement to be Forthcoming
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Update on the Two Detained American Journalists
    • Visited Today by the Swedish Ambassador
    • Swedish Ambassador is in Constant Contact with DPRK Foreign Ministry and Seeking Information Regarding Their Health and Welfare
    • The U.S. Continues to Call for Their Immediate and Unconditional Release
  • SOMALIA
    • The U.S. is Following the Rapidly Evolving Situation There Very Closely
    • Reports That Somalia is Calling for Outside Military Forces
    • It is Important that the Transitional Federal Government Continues to Operate
    • The U.S. Urges Neighboring Countries to be Supportive in Ending the Threat of the Extremist Element
  • RUSSIA
    • The START Talks and U.S. Missile Defense Plans are Two Separate Issues The U.S. Sees no Linkage Between the Two
  • IRAN
    • The U.S. has Seen Statements by the Guardian Council Regarding the Recent Election
    • Iran Must Take Election Results Seriously and Deal with any Infractions
    • Iran Should also Pay Attention to the Concerns of its Population and Not Suppress Free Expression
    • It is the Responsibility of the Iranian Government to Resolve These Issues
  • ISRAEL
    • Regarding Reports of Additional Housing to be Constructed in Settlements, the U.S. Reiterates its Position that all Such Construction Must be Ended
    • All Sides Must Adhere to the Roadmap and Honor Previous Commitments
    • Special Envoy Mitchell and PM Netanyahu to Postpone Their Meeting in Paris
  • VIETNAM
    • Removal of Vietnam from "Country of Particular Concern" List in 2006
    • Vietnam Must Improve its Religious Freedom; Expressed Commitment to Work with the West


TRANSCRIPT:

1:41 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Afternoon. I just have something I want to give to you at the top. The Secretary’s working home – working from home today. She’s reviewing documents, the same kinds of documents that she’d be looking at if she were in the office, briefing memos and the like. She’s making – continues to make phone calls to counterparts overseas and also within Washington. As I said to you yesterday, she spoke with Foreign Minister Miliband yesterday. She also spoke with Foreign Minister Steinmeier, and she spoke with Foreign Minister Kouchner today. And I’ll see if I can get you more information on that later.

QUESTION: Kouchner was today, the other two were yesterday?

MR. KELLY: That’s right. I want to say also that we should have given you a heads up – this is a mea culpa from the podium – that Deputy Secretary Steinberg spoke today at the Comprehensive Peace Agreement conference. We put out a transcript of his remarks. If you’re interested, we also have a video that we can share with you. The forum – the conference is called the Forum for Supporters of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and it’s intended to refocus international attention on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. There will be a communiqué later today at the conclusion of the meeting.

Finally, after this briefing, at around 2:30, a Senior State Department Official will speak to you about the upcoming G-8 and OSCE minister – meetings at the foreign ministers level. And as you know, these two meetings are at the end of the week, and this briefing will be on background.

So with that, I will take your questions.

Yes, Lach.

QUESTION: Do you have any more details on the meeting with the Sudanese today?

MR. KELLY: I do have some more sort of general information. As I said, this conference is intended to refocus attention on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The conference is being headed by General Gration, as you know, who’s our Special Envoy for Sudan.

As you probably know, there are only eight months left until national elections, and 19 months until the referendum on self-determination for Southern Sudan. We believe that key implements – key components of the CPA have been implemented, but critical aspects of the agreement must be addressed urgently in order to keep agreement on track in its last 24 months before the referendum. These include elections, resolution of the census issue, passage of security and other laws, wealth sharing – I’m going to mispronounce this – Abyei border and boundary demarcation, and preparations for the post-referendum era.

Sudan is represented at the CPA forum by two high-level delegations, the National Congress Party and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. Both are signatories of the CPA. Also attending the forum are more than 32 countries and organizations, including foreign ministers and development ministers from South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia, and the Netherlands, as well as members of the Sudan troika.

QUESTION: Yeah, so how will these – how will this international presence then buttress the other components that haven’t been solved yet – elections, and wealth sharing?

MR. KELLY: Well, the conference is ongoing. And as I say, there will be a communiqué at the end of the conference. But I think what General Gration wants to do is bring together a number of international players who have supported the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and get us all on the same page.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we change the topic? There are reports out of Kyrgyzstan that the United States and the Kyrgyz Republic have reached an agreement on the Manas air base and the United States continued use of it. Is that right and can you give details? Particularly there’s a report that – or a Kyrgyz official is quoted as saying that the U.S. payment will go up to $60 million from, I think, 17.4 million.

MR. KELLY: Well, I can’t give you details on the agreement, of the actual details of what we agreed to. I saw the report, actually, on Reuters about this. But what I can say is that we welcome this decision by the Kyrgyz Republic to submit to the Kyrgyz parliament a new agreement for use of Manas International Airport as a transport and logistics hub for our mission in Afghanistan.

These arrangements provide for a transit center operated by the United States at Manas International Airport. And this transit center will provide logistical support to coalition forces in Afghanistan. And we welcome efforts by the Kyrgyz Republic to continue to play a role in the international community. And we welcome this broadening role that they’re playing in the region.

QUESTION: So it is clear, then, that you do indeed have an agreement and they have now submitted this agreement to their parliament; correct?

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not sure exactly when they’re going to submit the agreement. That’s a matter for the Kyrgyz to decide. As I understand it, the next session of parliament is in a few days.

QUESTION: Okay. But you do have an agreement?

MR. KELLY: I think it’s on June 25th.

QUESTION: You do have an agreement?

MR. KELLY: There is an agreement, yeah.

QUESTION: And you’re happy about it?

MR. KELLY: We – yeah, we’re happy about the agreement.

QUESTION: And then are you – even if you can’t go into the details, are you paying them more money – even if you can’t say exactly how much – than you were before?

MR. KELLY: I’m really not aware – seriously, I’m not aware of the exact details of it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: But Ian, this was, it seems, the main problem for this agreement not to have been reached three months ago when it was an issue. And at the time, everybody was saying it’s – the money is not the problem.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And clearly, money was the problem, because now, all the reports – I mean, there are actually two or three reports saying that the U.S. will pay about three times as much as --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- it used to pay. And so I’m not clear that – it sounds as if both countries are ashamed to admit that this was about money, but you’re refusing to discuss details.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, is there anything wrong with the fact that you were paying rent for something you’re using?

MR. KELLY: No, not at all. In fact, all over the world, I mean, we pay our way. The U.S. military pays its way, the U.S. State Department --

QUESTION: Right. So why the secrecy? I mean --

MR. KELLY: No, it’s just that I don’t have the details of what was spelled out financially in the agreement.

QUESTION: Can you take that?

MR. KELLY: If I can get you more information, yeah, we’ll be glad to get it for you.

QUESTION: Can you also tell us, were there any discussions with the Russians about this? Because Bill Burns, when he was in Moscow with Mike McFall three months ago, he did talk about this.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any more recent discussions?

MR. KELLY: Well, I know – I’m not aware of any more recent discussions. I know that when Under Secretary Burns went to Moscow, of course, they talked quite a bit about Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Or even the Russian desk (inaudible) now.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, that’s true, yeah. And I do recall that it came up. Whether Manas specifically came up – I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

Yeah.

QUESTION: How is the new mission different from the old mission at this point?

MR. KELLY: What I understand – well, it’s more of a logistical hub. It is a – and I think another aspect of it that differs is the fact that there are Kyrgyz security elements that are providing security for the base. But that’s – beyond that, I don’t know many more details.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the two journalists in North Korea? Has the Swedish ambassador been in to see them?

MR. KELLY: I do have an update. The Swedish ambassador, as you know, has met several times with the journalists, and he met today with the journalists. The last one before that was June 1st. Of course, our thoughts and prayers are with these two journalists and their families. This is a very difficult time for them, for the journalists, and for their families. And of course, as I always say, and take every opportunity to say we urge North Korea to grant the immediate release of the two journalists on humanitarian grounds.

This meeting just happened a – really, just a few hours ago. I don’t have any more details except I know what happened in Pyongyang. We haven’t gotten a full report on it from the Swedish ambassador. But I want to just lay out the caveat that even if we did have full details, I wouldn’t be able to share them with you because of privacy concerns.

QUESTION: Do you know where physically they were when they met, whether it was at prison or --

MR. KELLY: I don’t know. I don’t know where they were physically when they met.

QUESTION: Would you say it was in Pyongyang?

MR. KELLY: It was in Pyongyang.

QUESTION: Can you shed any light on the timing of these visits by the ambassador? Is he pressing for them on a regular basis? You said the last one was June 1st.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Today is the 23rd. So if it were up to him, would he be seeing them every day, or what is the rationale for the timing as far as you understand?

MR. KELLY: Well, I know that he’s in constant contact with the North Korean foreign ministry, is constantly pressing them for more information about these two young women. Regarding how the North Koreans make a decision on when to grant access, I can’t really address that, but --

QUESTION: But is he seeking weekly access and we just happened to get it 22 days later, or what are we seeking or what is he seeking in terms of the schedule of access?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I – James, I don’t have an exact answer for you on that except to say that I know that we are very thankful to the Swedish ambassador for all of his efforts. He takes this – his mission as the protecting power very seriously, and is in constant communication with – or is constantly trying to get more information about these two young women. But why they seem to grant him access every three, four, five weeks, I --

QUESTION: Well, are they granting it whenever he seeks it or --

MR. KELLY: No.

QUESTION: No?

MR. KELLY: No, I feel on very safe ground saying that he has sought access more than every month or so.

Yes.

QUESTION: On – you said that he’s --

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I’ll get to you next.

QUESTION: You said that he’s constantly pursuing more information. And besides the infrequent visits that he’s granted, is it a two-way street? Are they answering his questions, or is it one way where he’s just asking? Is he getting anything in response?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I just don’t have the answer to that question.

QUESTION: What’s the U.S. doing to try to get the release? Are you working through the New York channel? Are you appealing to the North Koreans directly through diplomatic means on your own?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, this is a very important issue for us. This is a – whenever U.S. citizens are in distress, it is a top priority. But I also know that it’s a very sensitive issue. And beyond calling for their immediate release, I don’t want to really characterize what other avenues we’re pursuing. You’ve heard the Secretary say that we’re pursuing many different avenues.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Sudan for just a moment?

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more on this?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, please. Yeah.

QUESTION: Then we don’t have to go back and forth. Do you know if the ambassador has transmitted any information about their well-being, their health, are they – how are they doing? Do you know?

MR. KELLY: Well, you’re getting into an area where I really can’t get in, because of privacy concerns. I --

QUESTION: But I assume you would --

MR. KELLY: We are very appreciative of all the efforts that he’s making on their behalf.

QUESTION: But I assume that you would, in private, relate anything that you know to the police?

MR. KELLY: We’re very appreciative of all the efforts, the many efforts that he’s made on their behalf.

QUESTION: What do you discern from the fact that the North Koreans are granting semi-regular access?

MR. KELLY: I don’t discern anything on that necessarily.

Yeah, Arshad.

QUESTION: Back to Sudan, Deputy Secretary Steinberg referred to the killings in Darfur as genocide, although the construction of his sentence used it, I think, in – sort of in the past tense. And I wanted to ask you if you could tell us what is – obviously, you’re aware of the, you know, sort of our kerfuffle over the – well, I shouldn’t say kerfuffle, it’s a really serious matter – but the discussion over the use of the term since Secretary Powell first concluded in September of ’04 that genocide had indeed transpired in Darfur.

What is the Obama Administration’s position? Is genocide still taking place in Darfur?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think you heard my esteemed colleague, Mr. Crowley, address this. And I’ll just reiterate what we said, is that there’s no question that genocide has taken place, and we continue to characterize the circumstances in Darfur as genocide. What this government and what the President continues to demand is that we resolve this humanitarian disaster. And that’s exactly what Scott Gration is doing, and that’s one of the main reasons we’re holding this conference today.

Yeah.

QUESTION: The authorities in Somalia in the interim administration have put out a call over the weekend basically for emergency and military help from their neighbors within 24 hours, suggesting that the demise of this government might be imminent. Is that your take on it?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. We’re following the situation very closely, monitoring it very closely. We’re aware of their calls for outside troops, but we don’t have any information on how other people are responding. We urge international support for the Transitional Federal Government because it is Somalia’s best chance for peace and stability. We’ve – of course, we many times have called for an end to any support for extremist elements in Somalia, such as al-Shabaab. And we’ll just continue to monitor it very closely.

QUESTION: Well, are you – have you been advising countries in that area such as maybe Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia to come to be responsive to this call?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, we’re – as I said, we’re urging the neighbors of Somalia to be supportive. We’re urging international support. And this is an important moment for Somalia, and we do believe that this Transitional Federal Government is Somalia’s best chance right now.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: A question on Russia. I know you talked yesterday about the U.S. position on missile defense and the START talks. Russia’s president is saying that he wants those talks to be – missile defense talks to be part of START. You say they’re separate.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is this going to be an impediment before the talks even start, the difference over --

MR. KELLY: Well, both presidents have set before themselves the goal of significant reductions in strategic arms, and that’s what each country is working towards. I think that we have made progress in the talks that we’ve had so far. The talks continue this week in Geneva. I’ve said that we don’t make the linkage. We’ve heard what the Russian side has said. But I think we’re just going to focus on the goal the two presidents have set for themselves, and that’s significant reductions in these dangerous arms.

QUESTION: But is having this difference not going to be a problem before the talks even begin?

MR. KELLY: Well, this is something that I believe will be worked out between the two sides. And I don’t want to talk about what might be an impediment or what might not be an impediment. We have negotiations going on. I do believe that we will reach the goal that the two presidents have set before them.

QUESTION: Has this been an issue in the preliminary talks that are going on?

MR. KELLY: I’m not going to get into what the details have been in the talks.

QUESTION: Even generally if this is one of the things you guys are talking about?

MR. KELLY: I just would really prefer not to get into the details of the talks.

Yes, James.

QUESTION: A different subject, if we may, on Iran? The American public comment from officials has moved along two tracks from the very beginning of the post-election period. American public officials have commented on the voting irregularities, the apparent voting irregularities, and also on the regime’s response to the protests.

Setting aside the regime’s response to the protest and focusing on the initial American public official calls for there to be transparency with regard to the review of the election and so on, I wonder if you, having been one of those officials who has made those calls, are satisfied with the statements we’ve heard out of the Guardian Council, which is the body that the supreme leader has tasked with conducting those reviews?

Just in the last couple of days, we’ve seen the Guardian Council state that they found voting irregularities in 50 of 170 districts, but that the election won’t be annulled. Just today, the Guardian Council has apparently agreed to a request for more time for reviews.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: What do you make of these actions and statements by the Guardian Council? And are they meeting the standards that the American public officials like yourself set at the very beginning when you called for transparency and for these kinds of concerns to be met?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, as I’ve said before, we think that Iran has to take very seriously these doubts that have been cast upon the election process. There are a number – there’s a significant number of Iranians who have very serious concerns. And Iran has to heed these concerns. I’ve also said from this podium that I don’t think it’s really productive for me, at this very important moment in Iranian history, to try and characterize what’s going on inside Iran. I think, as I say, this is – or as the President said, that it’s a profound moment. And it’s a moment for Iranians to be heard and to have their political will respected. But you’ll forgive me if I don’t want to get in – too much into detail into characterizing internal Iranian politics.

QUESTION: Well, when you stand at a podium and you say they need to take these concerns seriously, and Iran then announces certain steps in that direction, it seems to me that if you arrogate onto yourself the wherewithal and the latitude to make the original call, it’s incumbent upon you to answer forthrightly questions about whether or not the steps taken meet your expectations.

MR. KELLY: As a general principle, I agree with you, except when I don’t think it’s productive for me to do so. (Laughter.)

Let’s go to the back now.

QUESTION: Do you have any response to claims from Pakistani (inaudible) officials that a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan near the Afghan border has caused some major casualties?

MR. KELLY: I have not seen those reports. I think – in general, I don’t think that we would comment. But if we can, I’ll see if we can get you more information.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Israel, I think there were reports that Israel has authorized – I guess, building of an additional 240 settlements in the West Bank. Looking for comment on that. I think the number was 300, but I --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Just give me a second here. Well, I mean, I’ll reiterate our – what we always say or what I always say and what others say: We oppose continued settlement activity. All parties have the responsibility to help create the context that will support renewed, meaningful negotiations that can be concluded quickly. The bottom line is that we expect all parties to honor their commitments. Our position is that settlement activity has to stop consistent with the Roadmap.

We continue to hold discussions with the Israeli Government. As far as Jerusalem is concerned, our policy in Jerusalem has not changed. Jerusalem is a final status issue. Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to resolve this status during negotiations.

QUESTION: And does Mr. Mitchell still intend to meet with Mr. Netanyahu tomorrow?

MR. KELLY: I think as – you’ve probably seen press reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu and Special Envoy Mitchell jointly decided to postpone their meeting. This meeting was scheduled for Thursday in Paris. This was done because we want to give Special Envoy Mitchell a chance to meet with Defense Minister Barak, and that visit will take place on Monday where we hope to advance discussions on a range of issues.

QUESTION: That’s Monday here in Washington?

MR. KELLY: Monday here in Washington.

QUESTION: And do you know why it was – why it was felt necessary that Defense Minister Barak should first meet with Senator Mitchell?

MR. KELLY: I think it was – they saw it as a matter of steps – first, meet with Defense Minister Barak and then with the prime minister.

QUESTION: I get that. I’m just wondering why. I mean, Barak obviously has – you know, is directly responsible for what goes on in the West Bank and so on. And I wonder, for example, if it is related to movement and access issues that Senator Mitchell wants to discuss with him, or more broadly to settlements and the Israeli Government’s refusal thus far to adhere to the U.S. call for --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I really don’t have any information on that. But we’ll find out on Monday, I hope.

QUESTION: Can I ask you two quick ones on --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- Palau.

MR. KELLY: Palau?

QUESTION: Yeah. There are reports that the Uighurs have raised concerns about the possibility of being resettled to Palau, and in particular, fear that – that, you know, that the Palau authorities couldn’t protect them from China there. Are you aware of those reports, or more specifically, of any such concerns on the part of the Uighurs? And do you see a way to resolve them, or might they have to go elsewhere?

MR. KELLY: Well, I can honestly say I’m not aware of those reports --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: -- which is always a good thing. And I’ll see if I can get you more information.

QUESTION: The other thing is that there seemed to be a suggestion that the Palau authorities might wish for greater compensation in connection with resettling the Uighurs, and if you could see if you can get more information on that.

MR. KELLY: Okay. All right.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Ian --

MR. KELLY: Last question. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. I actually asked last week about this and I thought it was going to be a taken question, but apparently it wasn’t done, about religious freedom in Vietnam, the commission’s meeting with the Secretary last week. Do you have anything on that?

MR. KELLY: I do.

QUESTION: Great, thanks.

MR. KELLY: If you just hold on for a second here. And we do apologize for not getting back to you.

Vietnam was removed from the Country of Particular Concern list in 2006 after taking substantial steps to improve religious freedom. There are problems that remain, however. We continue to urge Vietnam to accelerate the pace of registrations and the training of local officials in the new laws. Removing Vietnam from this list does not mean that religious freedom problems have ceased altogether. It means that Vietnam no longer fits the definition of a severe violator – that’s the category – as defined in the International Religious Freedom Act.

We continue to monitor and report regularly on the religious freedom situation in Vietnam, and in over 190 countries. This happens every year in the International Religious Freedom Report, which is being released again this fall. And we’ll undertake another review at that time.

And I’d also like to add that Vietnam is committed to work with the U.S. to advance religious freedom and we’ll continue to press for additional progress.

QUESTION: Is this a new determination or is this just – is this something that was included in the original report on Vietnam?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think this is a new determination, no.

QUESTION: Yeah, it came up in the list in --

MR. KELLY: Was ’06, yeah.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:09 p.m.)



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