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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 29, 2009


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton Opens Briefing/Discusses Honduras, Iran, Iraq
  • HONDURAS
    • U.S. Foreign Assistance to Honduras
    • Recognize Political Conflict in Honduras/Must be Worked Out in a Peaceful and Democratic Dialogue
    • U.S. Working Primarily Through OAS Permanent Council
    • U.S. Stresses Actions in Honduras as Deplorable/Condemns
    • Actions Outside the Bounds of Democratic Principles and Constitutional Norms/Needs to be Reversed
    • U.S. Signed on to OAS Statement/President Zelaya Must Be Reinstated
    • Need to Restore a Democratic and Political Process in Honduras
    • U.S. Ambassador Llorens is on the Ground in Honduras
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • U.S. Remains Committed to Counter Narcotics Efforts in Afghanistan
    • U.S. to Increase Efforts to Alternative Crop Development, Public Information, Interdiction
    • U.S. Supports the Afghan Government's Counternarcotics Efforts
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Ambassador Goldberg to Lead Interagency Delegation on Implementation of UNSCR 1874
    • Delegation will Depart Soon for Beijing
  • GAZA
    • Two Palestinian-Americans Detained in Gaza/Aware of Situation/Privacy Act Limitations
    • U.S. Ability to Provide Consular Services in Gaza is Limited
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Special Envoy Mitchell to Meet with Israeli Defense Minister Barak to Meet in New York Tomorrow
    • Israel and the Palestinians Need to Comply with Obligations in the Roadmap
  • IRAN
    • U.S. Received Large Numbers of Visa Applications for Iranian Delegation
    • On June 16 the Iranians Requested U.S. to Return the Passports Including, First Vice President Davoodi, Without Visas
  • IRAQ
    • Withdrawal of U.S. Troops Tomorrow/Agreement is Clear on U.S. Forces Moving Out of Cities


TRANSCRIPT:

1:15 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: All right. Well, it’s tough to follow the headliner [Secretary Clinton's briefing], but I’m happy to take your questions.

QUESTION: Can we start with Honduras?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I know that it’s always hard for U.S. Government to aggregate all of the money it gives to any given country. So question one is: Do you know what is the total amount of U.S. assistance to Honduras? If you don’t know that, question two would be: Can you lay out even some of the line items? I know that the Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact is five years, 215 million. Are there any other line items that you can give us to give us a sense of the size of the aid that might be – might someday be in question?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, let me see. I mean, the answer is, of course we know how much aid there is. Let me check and see if I have it here. I know that we asked the Millennium Challenge people and the USAID people to come up with those figures. As the Secretary said, this is – we’re still analyzing what’s happening. I mean, and it just happened yesterday. We know that there are some restrictions on assistance that the U.S. can give to a country where there has been these kinds of – overturning of the Constitutional order. But we’re very cognizant of that. And we’ll get back to you with the actual data on the amount of assistance.

QUESTION: Great. If you can give that to us today, I’d be –

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.

QUESTION: So Ian, I’m sorry, just to confirm – so you’re not calling it a coup, is that correct? Legally, you’re not considering it a coup?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think you all saw the OAS statement last night, which called it a coup d’état, and you heard what the Secretary just said. Having said that, we’re also very cognizant of the particulars of U.S. law on this. So let us get back to you on the legal definition issue. I don’t want to necessarily make policy up here.

QUESTION: Can you check if you’ve actually begun the process yet of determining from a formal legal standpoint whether indeed it is a military coup?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Okay, sure.

Yeah, Jill.

QUESTION: When the Secretary was answering the question that I asked about – she said it’s important to stand back and look at the big picture, but she also said that there are some concerns that the United States has, and that seemed to be, obviously, actions by the President who has been deposed, kicked out of the country. When she met with Zelaya, did she urge him not to go ahead with that referendum?

MR. KELLY: I know, because I attended that meeting. I knew that there was some broad discussion about it. I don’t – we don’t normally get into the details of our diplomatic exchanges. I think our consistent line throughout, both in Tegucigalpa through our embassy and then through OAS channels, is that we recognize there’s been a political conflict there and that we believe very strongly – as strongly as we can as the United States that these kinds of political conflicts have to be worked out through dialogue and have to be done in democratic and constitutional ways, and that we can’t support any kind of extra constitutional approaches.

QUESTION: But it looks like – I mean, if you analyze what’s been going on, it looks as if the U.S. has really failed to make any impact whatsoever. I mean, if she – you won’t go so far as to say that she said, “Please don’t go ahead with this.” But they did talk about it. You had previously good relations apparently between the Honduran military and the United States. Now they won’t even, apparently, take calls. What else? I guess that would be two of them, at least. So obviously, they’re not listening to anyone right now in the United States or maybe even in the rest of the world. Have you talked to them? And also, doesn’t this show that there’s some weakness on the part of the United States in at least trying to encourage democratic behavior?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, I wouldn’t say that we’ve necessarily failed. I mean, this just happened yesterday. We are working primarily through the OAS – the Organization of American States – Permanent Council. There’s going to be a meeting of foreign ministers tomorrow – I’m sorry, next week. And I mean, we could not have made stronger statements that these actions are deplorable. We use the word “condemned”; the OAS used this word “condemn.” And so what we’re looking to do is make it clear to the various parties in Honduras that this is absolutely outside the bounds of democratic principles and constitutional norms, and it needs to be reversed.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? Are they taking your calls, then?

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: Are they taking your calls?

MR. KELLY: Absolutely, yeah. I mean, we still talk. I mean, we still have an ambassador down in Tegucigalpa.

QUESTION: Who is he talking to?

MR. KELLY: I can’t say exactly who he’s talking to, but he’s – I know he’s been talking to people in the Congress. But I – I’m just – I’m not going to talk about the details of his conversation.

QUESTION: Is the military taking your calls? Because yesterday, as Jill is alluding to, one of the senior Administration officials who briefed on background on the phone said that they had stopped taking your calls. And so I guess – I think that’s a relevant point, because as of yesterday, the military wasn’t talking to you, and they’re the ones who put him on a plane –

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I don’t know the answer to that question today, actually.

QUESTION: Can you take the question?

MR. KELLY: Sure.

QUESTION: And can I follow up? I mean, it’s unclear what you’re really looking for, because you’re not calling for the restoration – you’re calling for the restoration that’s in the democratic order in the constitution, but you’re not calling for the President, who you say is a legitimately elected president of the country, to go back. So do you –

MR. KELLY: Yes, we are.

QUESTION: – Secretary Clinton just said – no, Secretary Clinton just said that she doesn’t know what the U.S. is calling –

MR. KELLY: We – I mean, we signed up to that very strong statement from the OAS Permanent Council that demanded that President Zelaya be reinstated as a legitimate president.

QUESTION: Is that the only way constitutional order can be restored? The only way democratic rule is restored is if he is brought back to power?

MR. KELLY: I think that’s the most important aspect of it that we are focused on now.

QUESTION: A return?

MR. KELLY: His return to power.

QUESTION: As opposed to --

QUESTION: But, Ian, I mean, most institutions in the government – their congress, the military, most of the ministries, the clergy – nobody supported what he did. And even senior Administration officials say it was not a smart move and it possibly was borderlining on illegal. So how does he go back and be the president, given that he has no confidence by the rest of his country?

MR. KELLY: You know, it is – what happened yesterday was as I said; it was deplorable. But I think we have to keep focused on what’s important here. And that’s that we need to restore a democratic and political process in Honduras, and Mel Zelaya is the democratically elected president.

QUESTION: But he wasn’t acting within the democratic norms that you’re talking about right now.

MR. KELLY: Well, I – I’m not going to address that. I know that there was a political conflict, of course, within the country over the issue of a referendum, but these kinds of conflicts need to be worked out in a – through peaceful and democratic dialogue.

Yeah, James.

QUESTION: Do you regard that if the situation is not resolved along those lines, let’s say if the status quo prevails, that the United States will not recognize the legitimacy of the next round of elections in Honduras?

MR. KELLY: The next round of elections which are in November? Yeah, well, you’re asking me to speculate on something that may or may not happen.

QUESTION: Well, it never requires a great flight of speculative fancy to imagine that the status quo will continue. So --

MR. KELLY: Oh, I don’t know about that. We didn’t (inaudible) this is 24 hours ago.

QUESTION: Right. But so, you know, whether he gets in – back into power or he doesn't, you’ve got elections on the 29th of November.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: So will the United States regard those as legitimate elections?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think, again --

QUESTION: He wouldn't have been running.

MR. KELLY: I’m not going to speculate on the legitimacy of elections that are in six months time.

QUESTION: Ian, apparently, tomorrow, there’s going to be a move at the OAS to call for all the countries in the hemisphere to break relations with Honduras.

MR. KELLY: I haven’t heard that.

QUESTION: Okay. Would the U.S. be willing to go along with that?

MR. KELLY: Like I say, I haven’t heard that. We have an ambassador in Tegucigalpa right now who is very engaged in assessing the situation and reporting back to us. But I’m not aware of any move to break off relations.

QUESTION: Is there any (inaudible) withdrawing the ambassador?

MR. KELLY: Like I say, we have an ambassador on the ground at this very unstable time. We think it’s important to have an authoritative voice there. We think it’s important to have Ambassador Llorens there.

Kirit, yeah.

QUESTION: Has your ambassador been in touch with the, I guess, interim president? And what has your message been to him?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of that, and I’m not sure – I mean, I can see if we can find out that information. But I know that he’s, like I say, very much engaged.

QUESTION: Well, what would your message to him be speaking for the government now?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, the message is that they need to have a legal consensual solution to this situation.

QUESTION: Well, would you ask him not to step down from his power, to allow --

MR. KELLY: No – well, you know, I can tell you what our overall message is, but I’m not going to tell you what specific – I don’t know. I’m not there. I’m not sure --

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: You don’t have to be on the ground to know what your government would like this interim president to do. I mean, what would you like him to do?

MR. KELLY: We want the constitutional order to be restored in Honduras.

QUESTION: And you said legal and consensual.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s not consensual for anyone else in the country to return him to the presidency.

MR. KELLY: I don’t quite understand that.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, when you say consensual, it means that everybody agrees. And obviously, if most of the institutions of the government kicked him out and expelled him, then no one’s going to consent to agree to bring him back.

MR. KELLY: I am – you know, I just – that may be, that may not be. I don’t know. I mean, I’m not going to pronounce on what the consensus is in Honduras right now. What I do know is that Mel Zelaya is the democratically elected president.

QUESTION: What about the resignation letter that was read out in his name?

MR. KELLY: I’ve seen reports on that, but given the way that he was hustled out of the country, I don’t know if I would give a lot of credence to it.

QUESTION: Ian --

MR. KELLY: Can we move to another subject? I’ll take one more question on Honduras.

QUESTION: I’m just a little confused. And I guess what’s happening is Secretary Clinton said it evolved into a coup, which is a very interesting phrase. There seems to be a lack of clarity. I mean, is the U.S. Government – did they go to the constitution of Honduras and read it in Spanish and say, okay, this is permitted, this is not permitted? I mean, it’s almost like saying a little bit pregnant. You know? Is it illegal? Is what they did illegal according to the Honduran constitution?

MR. KELLY: I believe that it is, but I am not an international lawyer. I think that --

QUESTION: Isn’t that the crucial issue when the U.S. looks at this?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I believe that it is illegal, yes. I mean, I don’t think that there was – look, I will take this question. As I say, I am not an international lawyer. But this was not a democratic solution to some of the conflicts that we saw leading up to yesterday’s events. And I think that’s – that’s our real issue with this, and I think that’s the issue with all of our colleagues in the OAS.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that the Secretary said, look, as a practical matter, this is a coup, but we’re not yet making that formal legal determination, which would, of course, then trigger the cutoff of most aid.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: That you were essentially trying to create some space to try to reach a negotiated outcome?

MR. KELLY: I think that we – right now, we’re calling on all parties to come to a negotiated solution.

QUESTION: And among the questions that you agreed to take, would you mind considering taking one other one which is -- and I honestly don’t know what the answer is – how much time – is there any limit on how long the Administration may take to determine whether a military coup has taken place?

MR. KELLY: I don’t believe that there is, but we’ll let you know if there is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yeah, and could you take the question about what contacts – because it seems a little bit unclear. Yesterday, the Administration officials were saying that there was no contact with the new government or with the military.

MR. KELLY: No, no, I think they just said with the military.

QUESTION: All right, well, if you could take that.

MR. KELLY: Okay.

QUESTION: And they also called it illegal and illegitimate, so presumably, you should have no hesitation in doing that from your podium.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, under normal circumstances I would have no problem saying it. Given the fact that I have absolutely no legal training though, I would prefer to have my colleagues in the Office of the Legal Advisor respond to that.

QUESTION: What time will they be briefing? (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: In about five minutes, I hope.

Yes.

QUESTION: Afghanistan – Richard Holbrooke on the weekend at the – I believe at the G-8 Foreign Ministers meeting said that U.S. policy with regard to drugs was changing, that instead of eradication, which he described as shooting Afghan farmers, there would be a policy of stopping the drugs, of – what was the word that he used – interdiction combined with support to the farmers in Afghanistan. I was wondering, do you have any strategy for how this interdiction should work? Would it be a NATO operation, would it be in cooperation with other countries in the area which are affected by the flow of drugs from Afghanistan? Is there a clear roadmap on how that would work?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think first and foremost, this is an Afghan operation. And our efforts and the efforts of our NATO allies have been to support the Afghan Government’s efforts to deal with this problem of narcotics.

We remain committed to counternarcotics in Afghanistan. I think what we’re talking about here is we would like to increase our efforts to alternative crop development, public information, and interdiction, rather than eradication. Again, this is really – it’s up to the Afghan Government to determine how they go about their own counter narcotic efforts. But we do support them, of course.

QUESTION: Well, the Afghan Government seemed to indicate – or the Afghan forces, counternarcotics forces, seemed to indicate that they are happy with the policy as it’s now working. And there was some discrepancy there in regard to –

MR. KELLY: Yeah, well, I haven’t seen any statements from the Afghan Government in that regard.

Yeah, in the back.

QUESTION: Two questions about North Korea. Could you update the schedule of Ambassador Goldberg’s trip to Asian countries? And the second one is, Financial Times yesterday reported that Kim Jong-il’s son has traveled to China and met some of the leaders there. These kinds of reports appear sometime, and do you have any comment on that? And what do you think about succession process ongoing?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’ll answer your first question. Then I’m going to ask you to ask your second question, because I’m not sure I understood it.

In regards – Ambassador Phil Goldberg – as you know, he has been named Coordinator for Implementation of UN Resolution 1874. He plans to depart soon to lead an interagency delegation, including representatives of the National Security Council, Department of Treasury, and Defense. Their first stop will be Beijing.

And of course, the purpose of this trip is to consult with our partners in the region on the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1874. But I don’t have specific details on his itinerary yet.

Yeah, Bob.

QUESTION: Do you have an answer to the question that was raised last week about the two Palestinian-American boys who could not get out of Gaza to get their –

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I might. I might. Hold on a second. Okay. We’re aware of the situation. Due to Privacy Act limitations, we have no comment at this time. We’d like to emphasize that our ability to provide consular services in Gaza is quite limited. And of course, all along, we’ve urged citizens to refrain from traveling to Gaza.

QUESTION: So they have no – there’s nothing you can do about it?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that we – I can’t comment on the particulars of it because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver for them.

QUESTION: I have a couple questions on Israel.

MR. KELLY: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: It’s been reported that Ehud Barak is going to present some sort of compromise to your Mideast peace envoy tomorrow at their meeting that reportedly would have some sort of three-, six-month freeze on new constructions. Is that acceptable? Is that dead in the water? Does it go far enough or too --

MR. KELLY: Well, as you probably know, Defense Minister Ehud Barak is going to meet with Special Envoy Mitchell in New York tomorrow morning. Of course, we’ve been working with all the parties to try and come up with an environment conducive to the resumption of negotiations. And we look forward to sitting down and talking about what we can do to move this process forward. But let’s see what – I’m not going to prejudge what happens tomorrow. Let’s see – this is tomorrow morning they’re going to meet.

QUESTION: In the past, the Secretary and others, including the President, have said that they would accept no settlement growth and they put a full stop at the end of that. It doesn’t sound like you’re saying that now.

MR. KELLY: What I’m saying is that in order to create this environment that I talked about that would be conducive to the resumption of negotiations, both Israel and the Palestinians need to comply with their obligations under the Roadmap. And both sides know exactly what that means. For the Palestinians, it means ending incitements to violence against Israel and demonstrating an ability to provide security. For Israel, it means: stop the settlements, which is laid out very specifically in the Roadmap. A freeze on all activity relating to settlements, including natural growth, is what it says in the Roadmap.

QUESTION: So no compromise is really acceptable then?

MR. KELLY: Well, inherent in the word “negotiation” is, of course, sitting down and finding what one side – what the other side wants and then working out a way to come to a resolution that leads to our goal of a lasting peace in the Middle East. I’m not going to say we’re not willing to compromise or – I mean, let’s just see what happens.

QUESTION: And then one other question on Israel. The Human Rights Watch has put out a report faulting Israel for using precision drone attacks that resulted in civilian casualties in Gaza earlier this year. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. KELLY: I haven’t seen that actually, that report. I think, in general, of course, we’ve been calling on all sides to avoid actions that would lead to more tension. But beyond that, I don’t really have any comment.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Another question on Iran. I might have missed the answer on this, but did the United States deny a visa to the first vice president of Iran to attend a meeting at the United Nations last week as their mission claims?

MR. KELLY: I think the short answer to that is no. But we do have more information that we can give you – I need some more details on that. I just – I mean – never mind, I do have that. Hold on a second.

We are aware of this statement of Iran’s UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee where he said that the first vice president of the Islamic Republic of Iran was denied a visa. We did receive a large number of applications to this UN conference on the world financial and economic crisis and its impact on development. On June 16, however, the Iranian mission requested that we return the passports, including Vice President Davoodi’s, without visas.

Late on June 23rd, the applications for a large Davoodi delegation were submitted too late to be processed for a conference that began the next day on June 24th. In addition, the Department did expedite the processing and issuance of visas for a smaller delegation led by Foreign Minister Mottaki. All in all, seven visas were granted for that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Just on Iraq, with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from major Iraqi cities tomorrow, our reporter on the ground down in Mosul is saying the military there is keeping six U.S. military posts inside the city due to recent tensions between the Kurdish and Arab communities in Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. Is your understanding that the agreement is to pull back from all major cities within Iraq? Is that how you – are there any exceptions to that as far as you know?

MR. KELLY: Well, as far as I know, the agreement is very clear: June 30th, U.S. forces pull out of urban areas. And we’re – we are very committed to fulfilling the terms of that agreement. Regarding this specific instance, I’m not aware. But of course, we want to do what’s right by Iraq. We’ll have to look into this specific instance. It may even be a question for the Pentagon and not for us.

Okay. Thank you. Oh, Kirit’s got one more. Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) was asking about earlier (inaudible) report of Kim Jong-il’s son traveling to China with a military delegation and what you thought of that and whether you’ve received any sort of confirmation of that from the Chinese.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I just seen press reports on it, but I don’t have any confirmation of it.

Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:40 p.m.)

DPB # 108

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