State Department Briefing, October 21, 2003


Tuesday  October 21, 2003

1:20 p.m. EDT
BRIEFER: J. Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman


Transfer of Karadzic, Mladic, and Gotovina to the War Crimes Tribunal
Obligations to the War Crimes Tribunal

Statement on Compliance with Non-Proliferation and IAEA Requirements
French, British and German Foreign Ministers' Negotiations
IAEA Board of Governor's Resolution ^5^Iranian Enrichment Activities

Israeli Strikes in the Gaza Strip
Ongoing Diplomatic Efforts
UN Resolution on Security Fence/International Court of Justice

Iraqi Assets in Syrian Banks

Ambassador Weston Travel/Cypress Settlement
Upcoming Elections
Greek-Turkish Discussions in Athens

Secretary's Travel

Former President Sanchez in the United States
Transfer of Power/Constitutional Order

MR. ERELI: Good morning, everybody. Pleasure to see you. No announcements.

QUESTION: No questions.

MR. ERELI: No questions. Goodbye. (Laughter.) Okay, Lambros has a question. No, who has the first question? George.

QUESTION: Is this going to be a news-free zone today?


QUESTION: I'm only kidding. Have you seen the stories from Belgrade? Ambassador Prosper is quoted as saying that the authorities of Serbia and Montenegro are capable of arresting and extraditing Mladic to The Hague; they could get the chance to try other cases themselves, including the ones which were announced today.

Do you know anything about that?

MR. ERELI: What Ambassador Prosper stressed was that the transfer of Mladic could be an opportunity for transferring cases to Serbia for domestic prosecution, as called for in Resolution 1503. Let's go back to the beginning, which is -- the point of departure -- is Resolution 1503 passed unanimously in August 2003. That resolution calls on all states "to intensify cooperation with and render all assistance to the Yugoslav tribunal, particularly to bring Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, as well as Ante Gotovina and all other indictees, to the tribunal."

That resolution also calls on the tribunal to transfer cases to competent national jurisdictions. Our view, and the view that Ambassador Prosper expressed, is that the spirit of Resolution 1503 needs to be fulfilled. What that means is that the Yugoslav tribunal, and all states in the region, should cooperate full -- what that means -- let me restate that -- is we support the Yugoslav tribunal and urge all states in the region to cooperate with the tribunal. We urge Serbia and Montenegro to apprehend and transfer Ratko Mladic to The Hague.

We also urge the tribunal to begin the process of transferring cases to domestic jurisdictions for prosecution, as called for in Resolution 1503.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on this. The Serbian Prime Minister is quoted as having said that Serbia had an agreement with del Ponte and with the United States, that if Mladic and Karadzic were handed over, that everybody else could be handled by the local judiciary. Was there any such agreement?

MR. ERELI: I'm not aware of any deals. What I would stress is what the resolution calls for, which is both the handing over of Mladic and Karadzic as a priority, as well as the transferring of cases to national courts. There is not an inconsistency there, and what Ambassador Prosper stressed is that such a transfer would be an important development and would provide an opportunity for transferring cases to Serbia for prosecution.

QUESTION: You say you're not aware of any deals. Did the United States at any time give any understanding to Serbia that Mladic and Karadzic were the key ones and that, beyond that, they could then emphasize this other part of 1503 allowing for cases to be tried locally?

MR. ERELI: What the United States conveyed is what I just conveyed, which is our interpretation or our understanding of what 1503 calls for, and our support for 1503, and our doing what we can with other states in the region as well as the tribunal to see that the terms of 1503 are implemented.

QUESTION: So you never gave them to understand that people other than Mladic and Karadzic, if they were handed over, could be dealt with locally?

MR. ERELI: 1503 calls for the transfer of cases from the tribunal to the locals -- local courts. We have said we support that.

QUESTION: But I'm talking about (inaudible). Right, but what I'm saying is, and you haven't denied it, and which is interesting -- all you've said is that you were ignorant of any such deal. What I'm trying to get at, and I would think if it were not true you guys would want to deny it, is that -- particularly because the prime minister of another country is claiming this --

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: Is that -- is whether you gave them to understand that after Mladic and Karadzic, everything else could be dealt with locally. Is that right or wrong? The prime minister said --

MR. ERELI: I think we're playing with words a little bit here: deal or not a deal. I can't speak to what some person might interpret as a deal or -- and what another person might interpret as, you know, our position. Our position is clear, and that is that Mladic and Karadzic should be handed over as a priority and that cases should be transferred from the tribunal to the local courts consistent with the terms of 1503. That's what Prosper stressed, and there's really not much more to say on it than that.


QUESTION: Could I change the subject to Iran? The White House has cautiously welcomed Iran's announcement that it would have -- it would comply on some aspects of what the IAEA has demanded. But yesterday we talked about the fact that you -- the United States did not want any incentives offered to Iran yet. That's basically what the British, French and German foreign ministers were offering: the prospect of some technology if Iran is going to comply.

How do you feel about that?

MR. ERELI: What we said yesterday was that the requirements of -- the IAEA requirements and the requirements of the Nonproliferation Treaty are not negotiable. And that remains the case today.

Let's keep our eye on the prize, which is a common goal that we all share. That goal is Iran's full compliance with its IAEA and NPT requirements. In that context, we welcome the efforts of the UK, French and German foreign ministers to seek to obtain that compliance.

The key point is, if Iran carries out the obligations it has undertaken today, it will show what can be achieved when we, and our allies, send the same firm message on the need to comply with nonproliferation obligations.

QUESTION: But those are the inducements offered, Adam. Yes, if they comply, they would get this. But you wanted them to say there shouldn't be any if/then. You should comply, period.

MR. ERELI: I guess I would object to you characterizing the statements that way and putting words in our mouth. We've been clear. The requirements are non-negotiable, there's been no negotiation, there has been no need and no deal. What Iran has to do is clear under the Nonproliferation Treaty. It's clear under the Board of Governors September resolution. The statement that came out today reiterates those requirements, and we will be watching to see whether they do them.

Now, what steps after they fulfill the requirements are another issue, but this is a -- this is a first step. It is only a first step. That is, the important point is compliance, and that is a point that I would underscore British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw made today when he said that the proof of today's -- the value of today's statement will not just depend on words of the communiqué, but, above all, on the implementation by Iran of what has been agreed to.

QUESTION: And how would you characterize the visit if it wasn't negotiations?

MR. ERELI: I would characterize their visit as something: (a) that we were in close touch with the governments about along the way; and (b) an attempt to bring Iran into compliance with its NPT and IAEA requirements; and that we wait to see whether Iran will fulfill the commitments it made pursuant to those obligations.

QUESTION: Adam, can you talk about how intimately involved or briefed Secretary Powell was on this trip, the discussions before, the discussions after? Was the -- were the Europeans going there on behalf of just those three countries, or was the United States kind of a silent partner in this? And if you can talk about any calls that he has received after the visit.

MR. ERELI: What I can say about that is that the three governments made an effort to keep us informed of their plans. I believe the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Straw today. For other calls, I'd refer you to the party.

QUESTION: Okay, but in terms of -- was the U.S. a kind of silent partner in this, or it was just that they were informing you of what they were doing? How -- when the message was delivered to the Iranians, was it on behalf of Britain, France and Germany, or was it a four-way message including them?

MR. ERELI: The three countries kept us informed of what they were doing. They were acting consistently with what the Board of Governors of the IAEA had resolved in its September 12th meeting. And as we've made clear, this statement today is an indication of what can be achieved when we all work together to send the same firm message that Iran needs to fulfill its obligations.

This is a refrain that has been, I think, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan made very clear in his statement, that this is an issue that President Bush and the Secretary for a long time have been highlighting to the international community, and it is an indication that that message has gotten through, that there is a consensus on the concern and the danger that Iran's program poses to the international community, and on the need to act together to bring it into compliance with its international obligations.

QUESTION: So then the State Department or the Administration supported these countries going to Iran and delivering that message?

MR. ERELI: The United States supports efforts to get Iran to comply with its obligations.

QUESTION: What about the -- well, before I get to that, the Europeans were less confrontational with Iran than we were. They had diplomatic relations and so forth, and they managed to swing this deal. Is this -- does this lend itself to any comment on the two differing approaches?

MR. ERELI: I would take issue with the contention that we're on two different approaches here. As I said before, we share the same goal; that goal was expressed unanimously in the Board of Governors resolution of September 12th about our concern with Iran's program and the need for them to take actions to respond to those concerns. Iran's commitments today, if followed through, would be an important step in the right direction. And getting them there is a multilateral effort which we have been encouraging and participating in fully.

QUESTION: What about the -- what about the -- what is the fundamental difference between the Russians providing enrichment services as opposed to the Europeans providing enrichment services?

MR. ERELI: Right now, nobody is providing enrichment services. So there's no no support from anybody for Iranian enrichment activities because they have concerns about Iranian noncompliance with NPT and IAEA obligations. And what everybody is saying, pretty unanimously, is that they've got to comply with those requirements and answer questions, answer a series of questions to the IAEA, before anybody is going to look at what might or what might not be done in that area.

QUESTION: Well, I'm not -- I mean --

MR. ERELI: Premature to talk about until we see what Iran is complying with.

QUESTION: But that's part of the idea, isn't it?

MR. ERELI: The deal is Iran has made a commitment to fulfill its obligations under the NPT and the IAEA, and it is now up to Iran to follow through on that deal.

QUESTION: But they made a deal with the Europeans in exchange for fuel, right?

MR. ERELI: That's not my reading of it. I do not see anything that says that the Europeans have offered something in return for -- or that the Iranians have offered anything in return -- that anybody has offered -- that there's any quid pro quo, that if you do this, we will do this; that you have to, that you are required to do this.

QUESTION: But you think it's all the same to say that you need to do this or if you do this you can get some nuclear technology at the -- after that? You think those are the two same approaches?

MR. ERELI: I think what's clear is that the Europeans have said that Iran has to demonstrate full implementation and convince the international community that it is complying with its obligations under the NPT, that that is what is required.

QUESTION: But isn't that the same as a quid pro quo there?

MR. ERELI: I think the important point that we see is that there is consensus on the need for Iran to fulfill its commitments and that other issues are contingent upon that, and that therefore, again, that is a restatement of longstanding policy and longstanding consensus.

QUESTION: But the foreign ministers acknowledge openly that they were going there to suggest this, that they would make it easier for Iran to get nuclear technology if they are to meet this deadline and make -- and prove that they're not -- don't have nefarious purposes for their nuclear program.

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: How can you say that that's the same as going there without saying, if you do this, we'll make it easier?

MR. ERELI: Well, I guess what I'm saying is let's see what Iran does. Okay? Iran has made these commitments. Let's see what it does. I really think we're getting ahead of ourselves here. It is important that Iran follow through on these commitments, and that's the first step. And, you know, what happens later down the road, at this point, is purely speculative.

QUESTION: But I don't see why this isn't a fair question. These are statements made by the Europeans, you know, and I understand that there are two sides and you really want to emphasize this side over here because this side just is great. However, this other side is out in the public domain, and all we're saying is, "What about it as well?"

MR. ERELI: Yes. I guess I would just say it's premature to talk about.

QUESTION: But they talked about it.

MR. ERELI: But you're asking me what we think about talking to Iran about things that might or might not obtain once they comply with requirements. And what I'm saying is that let's see them fulfill the requirements first, and until they do, it's premature to talk about next steps down the road. Now, if --

QUESTION: Suggest that to the foreign ministers before they went there and told Iran these things?

MR. ERELI: That's not something I'm going to comment on.

QUESTION: Change subjects? Middle East.

QUESTION: We've settled that one, right? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That one's clear now. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. As you're well aware, Israel launched five -- Israel struck the Gaza Strip five times yesterday with war planes and with helicopter gunships and killed, according to our copy, eight civilians, including a 12-year-old boy.

Do you think that Israel should exercise restraint and particular care, so as not to kill eight civilians a day?

MR. ERELI: The first thing we would say about this is that we are saddened by these injuries and the loss of innocent lives. The second thing I'd say is we have reiterated to Israel that it should consider the consequences of its actions and take all appropriate precautions to prevent the death or injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure.

At the same time, we've also said that, and the President has made clear, that we recognize Israel's right to defend itself against terror attacks. The Palestinian Authority, for its part, must move against those launching Kassam 2 rockets that have a 20-kilometer range and are an improvised missile system, launching these rockets from the Gaza strip into Israel.

And as the Secretary has said, if the Palestinians would take steps on security, as we have urged, then perhaps Israel would not feel the need to act unilaterally in this way in its defense.

QUESTION: At what level did you convey that message to the Israelis, that they should consider the consequences of their actions?

MR. ERELI: That is a message that we communicate regularly, consistently, and at every level. And the latest exchanges, I believe these were communicated to the Israelis through our Embassy.

QUESTION: So, to your knowledge, the Secretary hasn't made any calls on this, or Mr. Armitage?

MR. ERELI: Not to my knowledge.


QUESTION: When is the time ripe for more active U.S. diplomacy, I mean, sending Ambassador Wolf back?

MR. ERELI: Right.

QUESTION: I mean, is there any role here for getting --

MR. ERELI: There's diplomacy going on all the time. It may not be as visible as a Wolf trip back to the region, or a, you know, something else, but we have people on the ground. Our Consul General and his team in Jerusalem are in regular contact with the Palestinians, our diplomats in Israel are in regular touch with their Israeli counterparts, in an effort to get the parties to take the steps to break the cycle of violence. We all know where that starts; it starts with the Palestinians cracking down on, or on dismantling the infrastructure of terror within the West Bank and Gaza.

And that's something we do every day. So to suggest that somehow, you know, everything's on hold, I think, is misleading.

QUESTION: But the cycle -- I mean, it does keep going, and is there any --


QUESTION: Is there -- is the decision that it's not, you know, it's essentially just going to keep going and it's not worth expending the political capital to send more senior representatives to the region?

MR. ERELI: I wouldn't preclude senior representatives going to the region, but as we've said, what, you know, what we're working on now, and what we're waiting for is a Palestinian cabinet that is in place and empowered to move against terror and to take the steps to do that.

QUESTION: And absent such a cabinet, you're content to simply see the violence continue?

MR. ERELI: As I said earlier, we're acting and we're doing what we can to impress upon both parties the need to restrain themselves and to be mindful of the consequences of what they do. I mean, this is not a -- this is not a neither -- it's not, you're in overdrive or you're standing still; there are different speeds at which, you know, at which this train moves.

Same issue? New issue?

Let's go to Mr. Lambros.

QUESTION: I have a follow-up on the tribunal because the Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic, opposing this unexplained move by Carla del Ponte, issuing new indictments, stated, "One should not expect quick arrest and extradition from our side." Since the move by Carla del Ponte, (inaudible) figure offering a new political balance in the Balkans with Albanians in charge, I'm wondering what is the U.S. Government going to do to bridge the difference between Belgrade and tribunal.

MR. ERELI: We appreciate the serious manner in which the leaders in Belgrade have approached their obligations to the tribunal. And we urge the leaders of Serbia and Montenegro to take decisive action to put the Milosevic era legacy behind them, and this includes intensifying cooperation with and rendering all assistance to the tribunal to bring Karadzic and Mladic to the tribunal.

QUESTION: The -- Ambassador Cunningham, yesterday at the UN, said that -- he was asked about the International Criminal Court and the Israeli fence issue, and he said that injecting a new player such as the International Court of Justice into the peace process will complicate matters, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Doesn't the International Criminal Court already handle matters that could be considered political?

MR. ERELI: I think you're talking about the International Court of Justice.

QUESTION: You're right. I'm sorry.

MR. ERELI: Okay. It is our view that international community has long recognized that the conflict over the territories occupied in the 1967 War has to be resolved through negotiated settlement, as called for in previous Security Council resolutions, including 242, 338 and 1397. The issue here is referring the fence to the International Court of Justice is inconsistent with that approach and would, in our view, be unhelpful and delay a possible two-state solution.

QUESTION: Is it something that you think is bereft of legal issues?

MR. ERELI: Without getting into the legalities involved, it's a political issue, not a legal issue.

Let's go in the back.

QUESTION: Do you have a comment on the Syria not cooperating, according to The New York Times, with the delegation from Treasury Department on the $3 billion of Iraqi funds in Damascus?

MR. ERELI: We saw the report about $3 billion of Iraqi assets in Syria. First, let's point to UN Security Council Resolution 1483, which calls on entities with funds from the former regime of Iraq to return them to the government of Iraq, or to the Development Fund for Iraq. We still don't have a clear picture of exactly where all those funds are. We are working with the Iraqi Governing Council, as well as our partners around the world, to investigate -- to investigate this issue. This is an ongoing process, and it's going to take time.

As for Syria, the Government of Syria has accepted a joint U.S.-Iraqi forensic accounting team to work with Syrian officials in identifying former Iraqi regime assets that belong to the Iraqi people, and that should be transferred to the Development Fund for Iraq. To date, I would say, we have not received the level of cooperation we had hoped for, but we continue to work with officials from the relevant governments to gain access to the information we need.

QUESTION: You said you haven't accounted for all that money. Do you actually believe the report that there's 3 billion in Iraqi assets in Syria?

MR. ERELI: It's difficult to comment on the validity of that report, given what we know at this time.

QUESTION: So you just don't know?

MR. ERELI: Sounds high.

Let's go to Tammy.

QUESTION: On Cyprus. Anything on the Tom Weston trips to Nicosia, Athens and Ankara regarding new initiatives on the Cyprus issue?

MR. ERELI: Special Cyprus Coordinator Weston will be in Ankara from October 19th to 21st. He is going to Athens on October 22nd, Nicosia on October 23rd and 24th, and then on to Dublin October 25th through 27th. The purpose of his trip is the same as it's always been when he's gone to the region, to convey U.S. views on the way ahead to a Cyprus settlement, and to discuss this with the parties involved.

Ambassador Weston continues to urge all parties to the Cyprus issue, both sides on the island, as well as Greece and Turkey, to express to the UN Secretary General, as soon as possible, the necessary political willingness he has requested to resume negotiations under the framework of the UN Good Offices Mission on the basis of the Annan plan.

That's what he's discussing on all his stops on his trip, including his stop at Ankara.

QUESTION: Adam, yesterday, you expressed the concern of your government regarding irregularities in the so-called elections in the occupied territory of Cyprus by (inaudible) to Rauf Denktash (inaudible) referendum. I'm wondering what your government is going to do to prevent those irregularities with the UN. You are very much involved for years now to find a solution to the problem.

MR. ERELI: Yes. Yesterday, I believe I spoke to the issue of the upcoming referendum in northern Cyprus. You're asking about another issue.

QUESTION: But what are you going to do prevent those irregularities, as you are involved with the UN to find a solution for years.

MR. ERELI: Yes. Let's not prejudge elections or predict their outcome. We don't do that, and Ambassador Weston hasn't done it.

Ambassador Weston expressed his hope that the elections will be fully democratic, and noted that there's clear support among many Turkish Cypriot political leaders for finalizing negotiations on the Secretary General's peace plan and submitting it to referenda in time for a reunited Cyprus to join the EU on May 1, 2004.

QUESTION: Adam, any comment on today's official Greek- Turkish talks in Athens regarding the Aegean issues between the Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou and his counterpart Abdullah Gul?

MR. ERELI: No, I don't have any comment.

QUESTION: And the last one. Is there any explanation why, finally, Secretary Powell postponed his official trip to Athens tomorrow, since it was planned with cooperation between the Greek Foreign Ministry and the State Department, confirmed by both sides?

MR. ERELI: I don't believe it was confirmed by both sides, and I don't have anything more to say on it than I did yesterday.

QUESTION: Have you guys revised your statements about the Greek press since this came up about a month ago?

MR. ERELI: Mr. Lambros is a fine, upstanding and thoroughly admirable representative of the Greek press.

QUESTION: On the Secretary's travel -- do you have any update on refueling stops in Egypt and Mubarak meetings and all of that?

MR. ERELI: I don't, but I would expect something from the party shortly.


QUESTION: Adam, do you see the government changeover in Bolivia as complete, and is Sanchez de Lozada here permanently? Also, members of his cabinet are in Miami. Would you entertain exile for them?

MR. ERELI: Former President Sanchez arrived in the United States on a commercial flight on a tourist visa. As to his future plans, I don't really have any information to share with you.

As far as the transfer of power goes, we emphasize the importance of observing constitutional processes and the rule of law. We believe that was done, and we are looking forward to working with the new government of the new President of Bolivia, along with the OAS and its neighbors, to support that constitutional process and support Bolivia as it moves forward in its civil development.

QUESTION: Quick one?

MR. ERELI: One more.

QUESTION: De Lozada -- he arrived in Washington yesterday. Has he met with anybody from the State Department?

MR. ERELI: Not to my knowledge. I'll check on it for you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)


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