1:04 p.m. EDT
MR. VENTRELL: Good afternoon, and welcome to the State Department.
At the top, I’d like to say that the United States strongly condemns the repeated shelling of Lebanese territory by Syrian artillery resulting in the injury and death of several Lebanese citizens. We express our condolences to the families of those killed and to those who were wounded. These incidents constitute a flagrant disregard on the part of the Assad regime for both Lebanese sovereignty and United Nations Security Council resolutions. The Syrian regime must respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all of its neighbors. We encourage all parties to exercise restraint and demonstrate respect for Lebanon’s security and stability consistent with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701. The U.S. remains committed to a stable, sovereign, and independent Lebanon. And with that, I will turn it over to you.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: -- let’s start with Syria.
MR. VENTRELL: All right.
QUESTION: You’ve seen that Kofi Annan has moved from Iran to Iraq. What’s your impression of his visits so far?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, as you know, he’s going to brief the Security Council tomorrow. We’re also going to look to hear directly from him and hear more about his visit. So I don’t want to prejudge how the trip is going until we get a full readout from Joint Special Envoy Annan himself.
QUESTION: Were you apprised that he was going to go to Iraq? And if so, why? And what role, if any, could Iraq play in trying to stabilize Syria, given that it still has its own internal security issues?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, on everything related to the Joint Special Envoy’s travel, I obviously refer you to his office. We’re in constant communication with his team, but I don’t have anything in terms of this particular stop on his visit.
QUESTION: Annan has said today in Iran that the President Assad has agreed to a new UN-brokered peace plan focusing on containing the most violent areas of the country, then expanding to the entire country. Do you have any idea about this new plan? And do you support it?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we saw that initial transcript from the Joint Special Envoy, and – while he was in Tehran in a press conference. Again, that’s just a very initial readout. We need to hear the entire readout. Broadly speaking, we’ve said that Iran needs to stop its destructive behavior in Syria, and so that’s obviously part of what we hope the Joint Special Envoy delivered in his message. But in terms of what he may have actually – what the Joint Special Envoy has already negotiated with President Bashir, he said himself that –
QUESTION: You mean Assad.
MR. VENTRELL: Excuse me, with President Assad, he said himself that obviously they’ve got to take some of those details to the opposition as well and then brief the Security Council. So I don’t want to get ahead of where we are on this.
QUESTION: Was that a Freudian slip? Do you have any reason – some reason to believe that President Assad will be indicted by the International Criminal Court?
MR. VENTRELL: I misspoke.
QUESTION: It looks like Kofi Annan has now three plans. Which one do you support?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, we broadly support Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan and his efforts. Again, let’s hear from him in the Security Council. We obviously want the violence to stop, but we need to hear how his conversation went both with the regime as well as the wider (inaudible) his team is having with the opposition and see where we are.
QUESTION: So Patrick –
MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.
QUESTION: You haven’t heard from Kofi Annan on these maneuvering? He’s going from Damascus to Tehran to Iraq, and you keep saying that you want to wait until you hear directly from him. None of this has been coordinated with at least the Friends of Syria or with you in this case?
MR. VENTRELL: Clearly, we’re in touch with his team in terms of a direct readout from the Joint Special Envoyat, for example, the Secretary level. I don’t have anything to read out in terms of a specific call at this point, but obviously we’ll be reaching out to him in a more bilateral setting as well as hearing from him directly in the Council.
QUESTION: Is this – his effort, is it part of having, let’s say, Iran and the regime in this case – the Syrian regime and Iraq, which have been sort of lumped together as being one block or one camp along with Russia and China, so to speak, and bridge whatever gaps that may exist?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, I think you’re asking me to try to read out the Special Envoy’s intentions and how he structured this trip. Again, we broadly support his efforts. I’m not going to try to offer a deeper geopolitical analysis of how he’s chosen his stops and who he’s meeting with. But obviously Iraq is a neighbor. It’s important that he meets with the Iraqi leadership as well. What happens in Syria also has an impact on Iraq, so that certainly makes sense that they would meet.
QUESTION: And finally –
MR. VENTRELL: Jill.
QUESTION: I just want – last one. Michel Kilo, an opposition figure, said yesterday that they were willing to accept Manaf Tlass as the transitional government head. Would you support such a – part of a proposal or a plan to have the general --
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, Said, at this point.
Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: Do you know anything about these Russian ships that are on the move again?
MR. VENTRELL: Jill, we’ve seen reports that Russian naval vessels are headed to Syria. We’ve also seen reports that the Russian authorities have said that these ships will enter the port of Tartus for refueling and that it’s unrelated to the conflict in Syria. We, of course, hope that’s true. You know where we are on the broader issue of Russian arms to Syria, which we’ve said repeatedly. And so obviously one thing is refueling, an entirely different thing is a resupply or some other type of visit to a Syrian port. So you know where we are on that issue more broadly.
QUESTION: Are you talking directly with Moscow about it?
MR. VENTRELL: We are in contact with the Russians on this.
QUESTION: Did you get any clarification, further yesterday’s question, on statements coming out of Russia about potentially stopping sales of new arms or existing arms shipments or whatever that – you said that McFaul and company were actually looking to the Russians to get a direct line on what was said and what the policy is. Did you get anything on that?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. I don’t – thanks, Andy. I don’t have a specific readout. Obviously, we continue that dialogue with the Russians, but I don’t have a specific readout overnight.
QUESTION: And is it fair to say that they are now adding questions on these Russian ship movements and that –
MR. VENTRELL: That would be another issue that we’re obviously discussing with them.
QUESTION: How can the ship refuel in Tartus where Syria has a shortage of fuel? I mean, isn’t it, like, strange?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t know what might be at the Russian base in Tartus, I have no visibility here that I can talk about how they run their base and what its significance would be. That’s what they’ve said. We’re talking to them about it to get more information.
QUESTION: Minister Lavrov said that Moscow may host the contact group meeting again soon with Iran and Saudi Arabia invited. How would you look at this?
MR. VENTRELL: We’ve seen that. Obviously we’d want to know what the scope and potential for the meeting is. We’ll be in touch with the Russians. We’ll be in touch with the Joint Special Envoy, so I think it’s a little – I don’t have, at this point, a reaction to their initial plans to hold a meeting, but we’ll be in touch with them, we’ll be in touch with the Joint Special Envoy.
QUESTION: This and Lavrov –
QUESTION: I’m sorry. This and Annan talking about the new plan, does this put Geneva out? Is it a new beginning?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, you know what the process was, where we went from – obviously, through Geneva with the action group into the Friends of the Syrian People, and then giving the Joint Special Envoy this opportunity to try to make the parties live up to the agreement, so that’s where we are. I don’t want to preview next steps, but that’s the plan that we support. We obviously want – for example, the Russians, we’ve said to -- for them to exert all of their influence to – we want them to exert all of their influence to try to --
QUESTION: Anything concrete happen?
MR. VENTRELL: -- change the regime’s behavior. We know they’ve also reached out to the opposition and are cultivating those contacts, which is a good thing. But I don’t have anything further for you.
In the back.
QUESTION: Is there any reason to trust Assad at this point or is this – is there any reason not to think that this is just him trying to stall for more time to kill his people?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Assad needs to go. We’ve been clear about that. What we want is a political transition. And so the political transition would involve members of the opposition and members of the regime at the sort of technical level or those who can – while – we’re not looking to wipe out all of the Syrian institutions. We want some of those to be a part of this transition. But in terms of Assad’s role and his credibility, you know what we think about that.
QUESTION: What about the viability of the observer mission? It’s basically been in the hotel for more than three weeks. A week from Friday is, give or take a day, the end of its mission in Syria, and it’s also the start of Ramadan. Is this mission still viable? Is this still a legitimate part of the Joint Special Envoy’s plan to stabilize and move Syria on from this crisis?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah. Well, Ros, where we are is obviously the Secretary General submitted a report to the Security Council, I believe, last Friday. It’s a lengthy report on potential options about how the mission could go forward, a potential political role for a number of – a host of other options about how to constitute the mission. We’re studying that. It’s going to come up tomorrow in the Security Council. So I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves in the sense that, obviously, the Security Council has to discuss what the Secretary General proposed in his report.
QUESTION: But does it seem that it didn’t matter whether or not the observer showed up; the bloodshed still continued in earnest since late May?
MR. VENTRELL: There’s no doubt that the violence has continued. We’re looking at the best options about what makes sense for these observers to do, and we’ll work with our Security Council partners as we look forward.
QUESTION: Is the option for blue helmets now on the table?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to get into what the options are. I mean, it’s a report that was shared in confidence between the Secretary General and the members of the Security Council.
QUESTION: Do you have --
MR. VENTRELL: Catherine.
QUESTION: -- a comment on the death of the Red Crescent worker? It seemed like he was – some of the reports said he was in an ambulance. Was this deliberate or do you take it as a deliberate action for --
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have more information on that. Obviously, the assassination or killing of any aid worker is deplorable and despicable, but I don’t have any further information for you on that.
QUESTION: Yeah. According to the Hurriyet, a major Turkish newspaper, Turkey has revived the idea of safe haven during the NATO meeting. And it said that United State did reject the idea. Can you confirm that?
MR. VENTRELL: I cannot. My understanding is that – if you’re referring to the NATO meeting of about 10 days or more ago when the Turks brought their – the issue of their plane that had been shot down to NATO, that was my understanding of what (inaudible) was raised. In terms of anything further, I’m not aware.
QUESTION: So you didn’t reject the idea of safe haven recently?
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have anything for you about what may or may not have happened at our – at NATO.
QUESTION: Can I – just to clarify something that you said, you said, quote, “We would want – we don’t want to wipe out all his institution; we want some of those to remain in place.” Surely, you want all state institution to remain, so --
MR. VENTRELL: Right. Let me clarify. We want people with blood on their hands – we’re clear that the opposition doesn’t want people with blood on their hands to be part of the transition, and we share that. Having said that, there are many technocrats and other individuals who have some role in the regime that could have a role in Syria’s future, so that’s the broader perspective.
QUESTION: But who will determine that? The opposition?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, right. There’s this – we have this idea of mutual consent, and so both sides will work together on a transition.
QUESTION: So I’m just curious on that point about – that you don’t want to dismantle the institutions. Is that because that’s a lesson learned from the last time you had a hand in toppling a Baath government?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, what I’ll say is that we think it’s important, obviously, that as this transition goes forward that it’s done as smoothly as possible. I’m not going to go beyond that.
QUESTION: Well, what – I’m just curious. I mean, does this – I mean, it didn’t work very well in Iraq when the last administration dismantled everything. So is your feeling that this is a lesson learned from that?
MR. VENTRELL: We think that, obviously, to the extent that there are folks who don’t have blood on their hands that can play a role in the future of Syria, and to the extent that we’ve learned from historical lessons, that’s a good thing.
QUESTION: So there won’t be a de-Baathification?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to preview exactly how this is going to go forward, but you know what the broader principle is.
QUESTION: And the success of that --
MR. VENTRELL: Dana.
QUESTION: -- is dependent on how organized the opposition is; correct?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, obviously, we’re working very hard with the opposition as they coalesce around their own transition plan, as they work together. And so helping the opposition have greater unity has been an important issue for us.
QUESTION: But can the process occur before the opposition is unified? I mean, isn’t that – is that maybe the – is that the first step before you get into the political transition with the mutual consent? Doesn’t the opposition first have to be unified?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, the opposition did come together in Cairo around a very detailed plan. Every day, they have greater unity. The transition is going forward.
QUESTION: Do you have any --
MR. VENTRELL: Samir.
QUESTION: -- information about the whereabouts of the Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Shara?
MR. VENTRELL: I do not.
QUESTION: But do you mean by a political transition a regime change in Syria?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, the political transition, as we see it and as the document from Geneva said, clearly involves a new interim government that will help guide Syria to the kind of democracy where their – the Syrian people’s rights are respected and they can govern themselves. And so obviously, it’s a change from what exists now. We’ve said that it should be both members of the opposition and some members of the current regime, but that it’ll be a transitional body. So yes, it involves a change to a new government that’ll have full executive authority.
QUESTION: Any plan to still take something to the Security Council?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we said very clearly, the Secretary said it repeatedly that what we need to do is take the entire plan that we had at Geneva, have that endorsed by the Security Council, and include some Chapter 7 measures for noncompliance. And so, we’re doing that. We’re working intensively at the Security Council. Again, tomorrow we have an important meeting on Syria at the Security Council. We’ll continue to work with our partners.
QUESTION: Will it go before the Council before renewing for the observers in Syria?
MR. VENTRELL: I cannot --
QUESTION: Or after? Or it has nothing to do --
MR. VENTRELL: I would never prejudge how the Security Council agenda will work out.
QUESTION: Can we move to Egypt?
MR. VENTRELL: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Yesterday, you were loathe to express any concern at all about the situation in Egypt. The Secretary seems to have come out and said that, in fact, you are a little concerned about the situation there. So I’m just wondering if there is an update on the level of your concern, on contacts with the Egyptians about getting through this latest crisis. MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, Matt, this morning the Secretary in Vietnam had a press availability where she did discuss Egypt at length. We are fully committed to this transition continuing on course. This relationship is important to us; it’s important to the Egyptians. And as the Secretary said, what’s really at the core of this is that the Egyptian people get what they protested for. And what they want is a fully elected government that makes decisions for them and the country going forward. And she also said that it’s not just about one set of votes. It’s about building up the institutions of a full democracy, and so we’re fully committed to the transition going forward.
In terms of, as you said, our contacts with the Egyptians, yes, we’re following this very closely. We are maintaining our contacts with a wide range of Egyptian actors in society as this goes on. Ultimately, of course, this is up for the – it’s for the Egyptians to decide. It’s not for the U.S. to make decisions for the Egyptians. It’s for the Egyptians to do that. And so, obviously, we’re maintaining our contacts. We’re seeking information; we’re following the situation closely; we’re talking with a number of actors. But this is really not for us to decide. It’s for the Egyptians.
Broadly speaking, our framework is going to be how do we keep this transition on track. And we’re going to – the Egyptians – we have a long relationship with them. We’ve been a partner with them for a long time, as the Secretary said. We want to continue to work with them to promote regional stability and so we’re going to continue to do that. And to the extent that they need our help or technical advice on aspects of the transition, obviously, we’re always in a position to help. But we think the Egyptians deserve the full transition, and we expect that they’re going to get it.
QUESTION: So you are or you’re not concerned that the current situation could derail the transition?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, we don’t know. I mean, we don’t want it to, obviously, but --
QUESTION: I know. But are you concerned that it might?
MR. VENTRELL: Obviously, this is a situation where we think that they, as the Secretary said, we urge dialogue and a concerted effort on the part of all to deal with the problems that have arisen from this particular situation. So we want them to get beyond it, and we want the transition to move forward.
QUESTION: I understand that. But I want to know if you are concerned that the current situation could derail the transition that you want so much to see happen and that the Egyptian people want to see so – want so much to see happen.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Matt, I know that you’d like to put that word in my mouth, but I’ve described to you what I think the situation is.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just trying to figure out is – if this is a priority item on the agenda for the Administration. I mean, is it something that you are concerned about, that Egypt’s transition might be derailed by the current impasse between the court and the president or – and potentially the military over the parliament?
MR. VENTRELL: Clearly, what happens in Egypt is important to us. Clearly, the U.S. has a strong interest in Egypt moving forward. But in terms of how it’s going to play out, that’s for the Egyptians to decide.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking how it’s going to play out. I’m asking if you’re concerned about it and I – frankly, if you can’t answer that, I’d like to know what it is that you’re so worried about by – that expressing concern is going to do?
MR. VENTRELL: I mean, Matt, I’ve been pretty clear where we think this is. We think it’s --
QUESTION: No, I don’t think you have been clear at all.
MR. VENTRELL: We’ve been clear about the broad principles of what we want to see happen.
QUESTION: Yes. You want the Egyptians to do – you want the Egyptians to work this out themselves; you think the transition has to go on. But you’re expressing no worry, no concern, that the situation is imperiling the transition that you and the Egyptians want so much to happen. So if you’re not worried about it, I’d like to know that. But if you are worried about it, I’d like to know that as well.
MR. VENTRELL: Obviously Matt, we’d be worried – obviously, Matt, we’d be worried about anything that would derail the transition, because the transition is important to us. And so, clearly this is an issue where there are different actors in Egypt who have a different perspective on how this needs to go forward and we want them to work it out. And so it’s important to us. Clearly, anything that would derail that transition would be a worry. But I think we’re at the point where we’re intensively in dialogue with our Egyptian partners and various actors and we’ll continue to be so. Obviously the Secretary said she looks forward to going to Egypt. She’ll be there about this time next week – a little bit earlier actually. And so she looks forward to meeting with a wide range of Egyptians herself.
QUESTION: In previous instances --
QUESTION: Is it fair to say --
QUESTION: In previous instances where you felt that the transition in Egypt might be in peril, you’ve suggested that the outcome could determine whether or not – that the future of U.S. aid to Egypt, that that was sort of contingent on the transition moving forward as you saw it should. In this case, is the – does the outcome of this particular impasse also have that possible outcome, i.e. affecting how U.S. aid is disbursed?
MR. VENTRELL: Obviously, the outcome of the transition, broadly speaking, will have an impact on how our relationship is with the Egyptians going forward – that’s obvious. I’m not going to prejudge how this particular dispute over the parliament will play into that other than to say – broadly speaking – yes, how this turns out matters to us, and it will matter to our relationship going forward. And what we want is Egypt to be a pillar of – well, first of all, what we want is for Egypt to have the democratic institutions that Egyptians fought so hard for and deserve.
And second of all, we want a stable, prosperous Egypt that lives up to its responsibilities and is a pillar for regional peace and security. And so we want all those things, and our relationship is dependent on those things going forward, broadly speaking.
QUESTION: Let me put this way: Is this a constitutional crisis at all? And if it is a constitutional crisis, how grave is it?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, Ros, they – as you know, they’ve got to write a new constitution. So this is a democracy at birth, and a lot of these major issues are yet to be determined. The U.S. focus is on – and most broadly speaking is on – the Egyptians realizing the goal of the revolution. And so we want them to have these institutions, but they’ve got to get a parliament in place, they’ve got to get a new constitution. There’s a lot of steps that have to go forward. The Secretary was clear about it, that we’ve seen some really historic, monumentous -- important things happen, like the first presidential election and for a democratic president in Egypt’s history. That is historic, and it’s a good thing. But this is – this democratic transition is ongoing.
QUESTION: But we saw “democratic elections” – and I use that phrase in quotes – in countries such as Chile and Argentina when juntas were running them in the 1970s and 80s, and here we have a situation where a parliament that has just been constituted essentially – and not to be too graphic – could be smothered in the cradle. How worried is the U.S. Government about this new government in Egypt actually surviving?
MR. VENTRELL: We don’t know how it’s going to play out, but it’s very important to us that the transition move forward.
QUESTION: Patrick, could you clarify the issue with the invitation of Mr. Morsi to meet with the President? Because yesterday our understanding was that he will meet with the President, but then your counterpart at the White House said that he will meet with him on the margins of the General Assembly, like all the other leaders. What does that mean?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, all I said yesterday was that our Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, when he was meeting with President Morsi, delivered a message, and I referred you to the White House for all the details. And I think the White House – I refer you to Jay Carney’s transcript, where he laid out pretty clearly that the idea is that in New York there would be a chance there for a bilateral meeting. But again, I refer you to Mr. Carney’s transcript yesterday. I refer you to the White House on any of those details. All I said from here is that our Deputy Secretary delivered a message.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. VENTRELL: Jill.
QUESTION: Patrick, you mentioned the Secretary’s trip, and I just wanted to check, there was an incident where she began coughing. I just wanted to make sure that the Secretary physically is okay?
MR. VENTRELL: She is in excellent health. I talked to the traveling party, and she’s doing just fine. Obviously, for any updates, they’re many hours ahead of us out there, and so I refer you to the traveling party.
MR. VENTRELL: Yep.
QUESTION: One, very briefly, do you have any comment in particular on the release of this Palestinian soccer player who was on a hunger strike for the past several months? He was finally released today.
MR. VENTRELL: I haven’t seen that, but I’ll take the question.
QUESTION: All right. And then going back to the question I raised yesterday about the Global Counterterrorism Forum --
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- did you get an answer on that?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, as we said at the time, Matt, that our idea with the Global Counterterrorism Forum was to bring together a limited number of traditional donors, frontline states, and emerging powers to develop a more robust yet representative counterterrorism capacity-building platform. A number of our close partners with considerable experience counting and – countering and preventing terrorism are not included among the GCTF’s founding members. We’ve discussed the GCTF and ways to involve Israel and its activities on a number of occasions, and we’re committed to making this happen. QUESTION: Okay. That last line is exactly what was in the taken question from, I believe, June 8th. Can you say --
MR. VENTRELL: And that’s exactly where we are today.
QUESTION: Okay. What was done between then and this last meeting, which was just yesterday? There was a month span there, and I realize that diplomacy can move slowly. What did you do in the interim period there to get Israel involved? Because it’s my understanding that Israel very much wants to be involved in this and perhaps – and it certainly is a frontline state, as you said yesterday --
MR. VENTRELL: Yep.
QUESTION: -- that it has been the victim of terrorism and has been extremely successful in combating it as well, I think. So other frontline states that you mentioned who were left out – I’m not aware that they have evinced any interests – or any particular interest – in joining this group, so Israel has, so I’m just wondering what did the CT Bureau or whoever’s in charge of this do in the interim to get Israel included?
MR. VENTRELL: We continued to discuss it with the GCTF.
QUESTION: Does that mean that it’s a problem at the co-chair?
MR. VENTRELL: No. It means we’re continuing the discussion, and you know where our position is on this, and we’re working with our partners, and I don’t have anything --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’d just like to know what you did in the interim between June 8th and July 9th to work on this, on your commitment to getting Israel involved.
MR. VENTRELL: I imagine it was raised at a number of different levels, but let me check for you, Matt, and get back to you.
QUESTION: Okay. Because if you have done something, it suggests that there’s some opposition to them joining this, and that opposition – there’s a lot of speculation that opposition would come from the co-chair of this group, which is Turkey.
MR. VENTRELL: Well, let me find out at what levels we raised it and get back to you after the briefing, Matt.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: While we’re on Israel --
MR. VENTRELL: Jill, go ahead, first.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: While we’re on Israel --
MR. VENTRELL: Said.
QUESTION: I know you addressed it partially yesterday, the commission, the Edmond Levy Commission, suggesting that the West Bank is not under occupation and that Israelis have a right to own land on the West Bank. Do you think that the Secretary, once she visits with the Israeli Prime Minister, she will urge him to reject that commission report?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, as you know, as the Secretary has mentioned, she’ll be going to the region next week about this time. Obviously, we’re still about a week out, so I don’t want to prejudge what she may or may not raise in those meetings, but she looks forward to her visit.
QUESTION: But there’s been no change in your position that the West Bank is under occupation?
MR. VENTRELL: Our position – I read out very carefully yesterday about where we are on the issue of settlements broadly speaking, and that’s all I have for you.
QUESTION: Not on the issue of the settlement, the report suggested the West Bank is not under occupation. You certainly reject that, correct? That stands in opposition to your tradition position.
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to characterize where we are on this, other than to say that the U.S. position is longstanding and it hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Apparently at the United Nations there’s a global treaty regulating trade and conventional arms. Do you have anything on that, U.S. support on – I’m presuming you support --
MR. VENTRELL: I do. Hold on one second. Give me just one second. So this is the arms trade treaty, Jill?
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. The United States seeks to negotiate an arms trade treaty that improves global security by requiring countries to implement safeguards to help prevent illicit proliferation to terrorists, criminals, known human rights violators, and those subject to United Nations arms embargos. QUESTION: And so does the U.S. – so is there – I don’t – I just got a question about this. Is this something that exists already and the United States supports that, or is this a United States idea?
MR. VENTRELL: We seek to negotiate an arms trade treaty.
QUESTION: So it’s a U.S. – is proposing that?
MR. VENTRELL: And I understand there have been some meetings ongoing up in New York, but I don’t have anything further.
QUESTION: Is that something that you think that you could get the Senate to approve, an arms trade treaty?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, you know how we are sometimes talking about even treaties that have already been negotiated and signed. I think we’re – if we’re at the stage of still negotiating the treaty, that is like three degrees removed of speculation. So I’m not going to go there.
QUESTION: But you are participating in the negotiations?
MR. VENTRELL: Right.
QUESTION: I have a couple of real brief ones on --
MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- Congo. First, I’m just wondering if you guys have any reaction to the ICC sentencing this warlord Lubanga? He’s the only conviction they’ve had in about 10 years.MR. VENTRELL: Thank you, Andy. Earlier today, the ICC sentenced Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, former commander of the Patriotic Forces for the Liberation of the Congo Militia and president of the Union of Congolese Patriots, to 14 years in prison for his responsibility for war crimes and for enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15. We recognize that this is an important moment for the victims who suffered as a result of his actions. The U.S. expresses its deepest sympathy to those victims and others who have suffered from similar crimes during the hostilities in the D.R.C. And his – it’s an important step for providing justice and accountability for the Congolese people.
QUESTION: Do you have any view on the sort of efficacy of the ICC given that they have such – I mean, this is almost unique in that they’ve managed to get this guy sentenced.
MR. VENTRELL: Right.
QUESTION: And does that say anything to you about the role or the efficacy of the ICC?
MR. VENTRELL: Well while, as you know, the U.S. is not a party to the Rome Statute, we do have an abiding interest in seeing the ICC successfully prosecute individuals charged with war crimes and other gross human rights violations. So broadly speaking, of course we’re supportive, and this is a good thing.
QUESTION: And one – just one more on Congo. The Congolese today are saying – they’re calling this insurgency in Eastern Congo an – effectively, a Rwandan invasion and accusing Kigali again of essentially using these insurgents as kind of an arm of their Rwandan military. I know you have some views – sort of standing views on this. And so I’m just wondering, can you tell me if this building or the Secretary has any contact with President Kagame or other senior officials of the Rwandan Government on this issue?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, what I can tell you, Andy, as you mentioned, obviously as we’ve noted previously, the U.S. Government supports the efforts of the D.R.C. to end the mutiny from its army of a group calling themselves the M23, and to bring justice, the ICC indictee Bosco Ntganda and other alleged human rights abusers among mutineers who were reported to have forcibly recruited child soldiers. The U.S. is deeply concerned about the findings of the UN report that Rwanda is implicated in the provision of support to M23. We have asked Rwanda to halt and prevent the provision of such support from its territory which threatens to undermine stability in the region. Restraint, dialogue, and respect for each other’s sovereignty offer the best opportunity for Rwanda and the D.R.C., with the support of their partners, to resume the difficult work of bringing peace and stability to the broader region.
And in terms of our contacts, obviously we have been in touch with the Rwandans. I don’t have any particular contact to read out for you at this time, but we’re clearly engaged with the Rwandan Government.
QUESTION: One more on Lubanga: You said that the United States has an abiding interest in seeing the ICC succeed. Do you think that by joining the Rome Statute, or relooking at joining the Rome Statute, that could help the ICC with its efficiency and also with success?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, you know the longstanding history of this, which I’m not going to get into here. What I will say is obviously, the ICC – we’ve seen this first successful prosecution today. That’s a good thing. Obviously, we’ve seen the work they’ve done on issues like Libya, which has also been important. But I’m not going to speculate about the hypothetical if we were or were not a signatory.
QUESTION: But is that – but, I mean, is it something that you are considering as the ICC has evolved and as the United States perspective in terms of congratulating it, using it, has evolved? Is the policy on the Rome Statute also evolving?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have an update for you.
QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.)
MR. VENTRELL: I thought you guys might --
QUESTION: Well, yeah.
QUESTION: The Disney characters?
QUESTION: But actually, just to – if you’re going to – do you have something on this?
MR. VENTRELL: I do.
QUESTION: Because minutes before we walked in here, Ambassador Kennard – do you know who he is?
MR. VENTRELL: (Inaudible)
QUESTION: He would be the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: Said that the EU and the U.S. need to be the guardian of innovation and the benefits of the intellectual property system that underpins it for inventors and creators. So given that he’s just said that, I’m very curious to what – to hear what you have to say about the North Koreans.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Well, let me give you our reaction. Broadly speaking, on the D.P.R.K., we think it needs to meet its international obligations. It’s got to become a responsible member of the international community, certainly a responsible – as a responsible member, we would want them to comply with intellectual property rights. But our focus is on the much wider issue of getting the D.P.R.K. to meet their commitments and obligations and to meet the needs of their people.
Obviously, intellectual property rights are important to us, as the Ambassador -- our Ambassador to the EU noted, and how seriously we take IPR. It’s obviously something that our economic officers throughout the world raise continually and constantly, when we see -- we have chronic and repeated instances of IPR abuse. We absolutely raise it through bilateral channels with governments. It’s something that we think is very important. We’re very proud of American innovation, we’re very proud of American products, and of course, we want them to have the appropriate free and fair treatment and access, and to get the appropriate benefit for their creations.
But as you know, we don’t have a bilateral relationship with North Korea, so it’s not the kind of situation where we would raise it in the same way that we could in other countries.
QUESTION: Well, you could get the Swedes to do it. Are you saying that, yeah, it’s an issue but we’re – but it’s – in the grand scheme of problems with North Korea, this is a pretty minor one, so you’re not going to raise it through your protecting power?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, what I’m saying is, is that the D.P.R.K. needs to come in line with its international obligations --
QUESTION: Oh, I understand, but it sounds like --
MR. VENTRELL: -- which are very serious. Obviously, one item among many in terms of international obligations are intellectual property rights, which we take seriously. And obviously, we do regularly raise them around the world, and it’s something that we think is of fundamental importance. It’s part of our economic statecraft that is something that this Administration promotes very actively, and so we work it very actively.
QUESTION: Are there any legal remedies for Disney to pursue, given how angry they are, at least in their public statements, about the appropriation of their copyrighted figures and personages and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, I really refer you to Disney. Obviously, they’re a very major company. They have their products all over the world. So intellectual property rights are very important to them, and I’m sure they can provide you an analysis of this situation.
QUESTION: Well – and one other point: Have they been in touch with you about this?
MR. VENTRELL: They have not.
QUESTION: They – okay. So they don’t think – they, at least, at this point, have not seen fit to --
MR. VENTRELL: At this point, they have not reached out to the --
QUESTION: -- to raise it with – well, not you, personally. But I mean --
MR. VENTRELL: They have not reached out to the State Department, at this point.
QUESTION: Oh. I’ve got one more.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: I – but it’s very brief. Can I – because I don’t think you’re going to have much.
MR. VENTRELL: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have anything more than what the Embassy said about the passage of the adoption – Russian – the Duma – the Russian adoption law? MR. VENTRELL: I don’t, other than to say that I fully endorse the Embassy statement. But I don’t have anything additional for you.
QUESTION: Were you aware that the Russian Duma had passed the adoption law?
MR. VENTRELL: I was, and I saw the statement. And I think it speaks excellently to the issue.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)
DPB # 124