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U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing, 01-05-23

U.S. State Department: Daily Press Briefings Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Department of State Foreign Affairs Network (DOSFAN) at <http://www.state.gov>


DAILY PRESS BRIEFING

Phillip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman

Washington, DC

May 23, 2001

INDEX:

ANNOUNCEMENTS

1 National Missing Children’s Day

1 Visiting Seniors from Archmere Academy of Wilmington, Delaware arranged by Senator Biden’s Office

MIDDLE EAST

2 Implementation of Mitchell Committee Report Recommendations

INDIA / PAKISTAN

2-3, 8 Indian Government Calls Off Ceasefire

CHINA

3-5 Readout of Secretary Powell’s Meeting with the Dalai Lama and other State Department Officials

4 Chinese Objects to Visit of Dalai Lama and President Chen Transit of U.S.

VIETNAM

5-6 U.S. Ambassador Peterson Will Resign from Post on July 15, 2001

AUSTRIA

6 Kurt Waldheim in Visa Lookout System / No Change in U.S. Position

GREECE

6-7 Readout of Secretary Powell’s Meeting with Foreign Minister Papandreou

AFGHANISTAN

8 Requirement of Non-Muslims to Wear Identification

GERMANY

9 U.S. / German Relationship


TRANSCRIPT_:

MR. REEKER: Hello, everyone. Sorry for the delay. We are just waiting for some visitors who are joining us.

Why don't we go ahead and get started. I do have one statement that I would like to begin with today, and hopefully our visitors will come in during that.

The Department of State takes this opportunity to acknowledge that today, May 23rd, is National Missing Children's Day. This is a day that is set aside to remember and focus attention on all the children from throughout the United States whose whereabouts are unknown. These children may be runaways, or they may be victims of stranger or family abduction.

The Office of Children's Issues in our Bureau of Consular Affairs has as its overriding mission the reunification of children parentally abducted overseas with their left-behind parents in the United States. Over the past four years alone, the Office of Children's Issues has facilitated or assisted in the return of over 1,100 children to the United States.

We will continue to work assiduously on the cases of those hundreds of other parentally abducted children abroad whose whereabouts remain unknown or whose return to the United States has not yet been realized.

They, their parents, and everyone who has been touched by this tragic phenomenon of international parental child abduction are particularly in our minds and hearts on this day set aside to focus on their plight.

And with that, I want to note, for the record at least, that we will have a group of seniors from the Archmere Academy of Wilmington, Delaware joining us this afternoon, part of their studies here in Washington with the assistance of Senator Biden's office, learning about diplomacy and government.

So we welcome our students. And go ahead and take a seat in the back.

I would be happy to then go to the questions, beginning with Mr. Schweid, if you have any.

Q: I do. The Middle East, not surprisingly -- they are still fighting, despite the President's call. If you want to address that, that would be good.

But where is Mr. Burns? How is he doing? Who has he seen? And have you heard anything from any governments -- positive, negative, or neutral -- on this newly energetic effort the US is making essentially to stop the fighting?

MR. REEKER: I think, as you probably know, the White House already mentioned this morning that the President talked to Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Sharon today to encourage both of them, both sides, to seize the opportunity presented by the Mitchell Committee Report. And we continue to urge them to work with us to implement that Report's recommendations, which Secretary Powell discussed with you on Monday.

In terms of people in the field, as the Secretary said, we are working with the parties to facilitate implementation of the Mitchell Committee Report's recommendations in hope that those recommendations can help the parties break the cycle of violence and rebuild trust and return the parties to negotiations.

Ambassador Martin Indyk and Consul General Ronald Schlicher have met with Prime Minister Sharon, as we've discussed. They will be meeting with Chairman Arafat soon. Our ambassador in Jordan and the Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Designate, William Burns, has arrived back in Amman and he will soon be joining these efforts.

And, as you noted, Barry, we have been in touch with regional leaders. I think we discussed some of the phone calls the Secretary had made. The White House mentioned yesterday that President Bush had spoken with King Abdallah of Jordan and President Mubarak of Egypt. Also, our chiefs of mission at our embassies in the region have spoken with regional leaders to request their assistance in encouraging the parties to take those difficult steps necessary to facilitate implementation of the recommendations in the Mitchell Committee Report.

Q: Do you happen to know if the Saudis have been asked to lend a hand?

MR. REEKER: I don't have anything specific on individual leaders. I know we've been in touch, as I have said, with leaders in the region. I believe that includes the Saudis. And we are looking for all of the leaders in the region to take this opportunity to -- as we have -- encourage the parties to seize this opportunity to implement the recommendations contained in the Mitchell Report, which are a great springboard for confidence-building measures and trying to tame the violence that has plagued the region.

Q: On India and Pakistan and Kashmir, the Indian government has called off the ceasefire after extending it twice and now says that it would be willing to invite or plan to invite General Musharraf for talks. Do you have anything on US reaction to the ceasefire?

MR. REEKER: Right. We have just seen the press reports on announcements by India and these developments, and we certainly applaud India's invitation to General Musharraf to go to India for talks. We have encouraged both countries, as you know, to engage in a process of dialogue, and I think they have the opportunity now to make real progress towards a reduction of tensions and a resolution of their differences through peaceful means.

As you know, we continue to believe that it's important for all sides in Kashmir to exercise restraint and to seek to reduce violence, so we will continue to watch that situation closely.

Q: Would you have liked them to extend the ceasefire one more time in addition to inviting --

MR. REEKER: I think the important thing here is that there is going to be dialogue. I believe -- I have seen wire reports just now that there is a positive response from the Pakistanis. So we would welcome that.

Obviously, we will follow this as it evolves throughout the day and coming days. And that dialogue is, of course, a good opportunity for the two sides to engage, to address these issues.

Q: Can I follow up one more time?

MR. REEKER: Sure.

Q: In the Middle East, you have said, though, that you can't have negotiations without meaningful kind of cessation of violence on both sides. Would you say that that's applicable to the Kashmiri situation, that --

MR. REEKER: I think we have always called for restraint in the Kashmir situation as well. And I don't think we should start mixing apples and oranges in terms of situations and problems around the world.

What I have just said in terms of the South Asia context is something we have talked about for a long time, and we welcome India's invitation today and what I have seen, at least a preliminary response from the Pakistanis, and hope that dialogue can move forward.

Q: Do you have a readout on the Secretary's meeting with the Dalai Lama last night?

MR. REEKER: Yes. As I believe we discussed prior to the meeting, Secretary Powell met yesterday with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. This was followed then by a lengthier meeting with the Deputy Secretary, Mr. Armitage, and our Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Paula Dobriansky. She was present at both meetings and, together, that lasted about an hour.

All of the officials here in the Department were very pleased to have met with the Dalai Lama as their predecessors did. The meetings provided an opportunity to exchange views with the Dalai Lama about the situation in Tibet, and Secretary Powell expressed our strong interest in working to protect Tibet's unique cultural, linguistic, and religious heritage, and in seeing respect for religious freedom there in Tibet, something we have often talked about.

So, as usual, as has been our practice, we met with the Dalai Lama as a spiritual and religious meeting, as we have in many previous meetings with him. He is also a Nobel laureate and we enjoy the opportunity to exchange thoughts and views with him.

Q: Was the situation with China and China's attempts to eradicate their culture discussed?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think we have discussed for a long time now our interest in preserving the unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage of the Tibetan people, as well as calling for greater protection of their human rights. We discuss that every year in our Human Rights Report and that is a subject that we raise regularly in our dialogue with China and in our broader discussion of human rights. So, again, we respect and honor the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader, as a Nobel Prize winner, as I noted, and enjoyed the opportunity to share views with him.

Q: Has the Chinese government at all objected to the Secretary and today the meeting with the President?

MR. REEKER: The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing called in our Charge d'Affaires today, May 23rd, to deliver their objection to the Dalai Lama's visit and, obviously, we took that on board. This is consistent with our longstanding policy in terms of meeting with the Dalai Lama as a spiritual and religious leader. We certainly heard the Chinese views before on that subject.

Q: Was this a two-for? Did he also complain about the presence of the Taiwanese president?

MR. REEKER: Since you mention it, George, yes. It was a two-for. My understanding is that when our Charge d'Affaires, Mr. Mike Marine in Beijing, went to the Chinese Foreign Ministry today, the Chinese objected -- as they have quite publicly prior to this -- both to the visit of the Dalai Lama and the transit of Chen Shui-bian in the United States.

Q: Can you tell us anything about their objections? I mean, did they say anything specific?

MR. REEKER: I will let them speak for themselves. I think they have done it quite publicly on many occasions.

Q: Well, did you -- three times today and once yesterday, it seems the State Department made an extra effort to describe the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader, which he is. He may represent more than just a religious and a cultural strength. He also represents the Tibetan people in some way.

I don't mean to prolong this, but are the Chinese objecting that he is being given more attention than a spiritual leader should have?

MR. REEKER: I will let the Chinese speak for themselves in terms of their own objection. Our views, our longstanding policy I think I have explained, and as the White House mentioned in a statement today, President Bush commended the Dalai Lama's commitment to non-violence, and declared our support for the Dalai Lama's tireless efforts to initiate dialogue with the Chinese Government.

We believe that restoration of a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the People's Republic of China is an important component to diffuse tensions. But certainly we will continue to express our interest in preserving the unique cultural and linguistic heritage of Tibet.

Q: To follow up on that, one of the kind of focus of the campaign for Tibet is that Chinese development of Tibet, whether it be a railway or kind of pipelines extracting resources from Tibet, are not benefiting the Tibetan people, and also are kind of marginalizing the population.

Is that something that you are discussing with the Chinese Government?

MR. REEKER: I don't have specifics for you on what we do, other than to say that we raise, as a regular matter, and I know we discuss it here quite often, our concerns about preserving the unique aspects of Tibetan culture and religion and their linguistic heritage. We think that is important, as do many around the world, and obviously the Dalai Lama is in a unique position to talk about that. That is what he is interested in as well, in a sort of peaceful, non-violent way.

So that will continue to be a subject of interest to us. It is part of our human rights dialogue, and we will continue to raise that with China.

Q: A couple of quick ones. Do you have anything to say about the resignation of the Ambassador to Vietnam, beyond what was issued by the Embassy?

MR. REEKER: I would probably just note what Ambassador Peterson himself I believe issued in terms of a statement from there. He has submitted his resignation as United States Ambassador to Vietnam and expects to leave the post, I believe, on July 15th.

During his four years of service, Ambassador Peterson contributed enormous personal energy to the normalization of relations with Vietnam, beginning with the issue of accounting for American personnel missing in action from the Vietnam War, and culminating in the signing last July of the bilateral trade agreement. And for that, we are very thankful to Ambassador Peterson for all of his outstanding service.

Q: Unless it's on the same subject, I have another one. Following up again on this meeting between the Secretary and the Austrian Foreign Minister on Monday. I understand from comments at the briefing yesterday that the Secretary believes that this Department is not in a position to do anything about Waldheim (inaudible) the Austrian Foreign Minister said she understood that a review would be undertaken of an aide mémoire that she gave to the Secretary.

Can you tell me anything about that?

MR. REEKER: Well, I think further to what -- perhaps Ambassador Boucher addressed the subject earlier. Secretary Powell made it very clear that we are not in a position to change the US Government's determination on Waldheim, and the Secretary took absolutely no new positions on this matter.

I think I should just note, for those of you that have been asking about this, Mr. Waldheim was put into the Visa Lookout System based on his wartime activities on behalf of Nazi Germany. The recently declassified files from the CIA only concerns post-War matters, and it was those files that had raised apparently some interest in reexamining this matter.

So the Justice Department made the initial ineligibility determination and its report, explaining Mr. Waldheim's ineligibility, is available upon request from the Justice Department. So we have absolutely no change of position there.

Q: Can I just follow up? She said herself that he had promised a review. I mean, does this just mean that he said he would read the aide mémoire? Or --

MR. REEKER: Well, we are always happy to read something that a foreign official gives us. But what I think I tried to explain just now was that if there was a suggestion that new information, because of these recently released documents, might change something, that in fact is not accurate, because those documents don't address Mr. Waldheim's wartime activities on behalf of the Nazis.

And so we don't have any change of position on that.

Q: According to press reports, one of the many issues that was discussed with the Greek Foreign Minister, George Papandreou, and the American (inaudible) Secretary Powell and the CIA Director George Tenet was (inaudible) in Greece in connection with activities (inaudible) terrorist organization.

In the meantime today, Secretary Powell has provided (inaudible) dispatcher of the Simitis Government, in cooperation against terrorism. May we take your comments?

MR. REEKER: Let me start by saying that some of what, or perhaps a lot of what I understand is written in the Greek press today is wrong, is just wrong. We discussed aspects of the Secretary's meeting with Foreign Minister Papandreou. In fact, the Secretary himself had comments with the Foreign Minister after that meeting. He talked about our excellent relations with Greece.

We noted that it was a very useful and productive working lunch that they held on Monday. And, in fact, this was their third meeting. And, as you know, Greece is a very key partner in the region. They discussed issues about the Balkans and regional issues, and also discussed bilateral aspects, including terrorism, which is something that we consider as very important.

As the Secretary noted and Ambassador Boucher noted, following the meeting, they discussed the positive steps the Greek Government has taken to fight terrorism. And the Secretary noted that, while we are encouraged by these steps, of course they don't substitute for concrete results in the form of arrests and prosecutions. So we will continue to work with the Greeks on this.

Our meeting certainly was not contentious. We meet with our Greek allies in a very respectful atmosphere of partnership and discuss these issues, which are obviously of mutual concern to us, and we will continue to do that.

Q: (Inaudible) was reported extensively for the arrest of suspects in order to bring them here to the United States to be tried by the Department of Justice?

MR. REEKER: Again, I don't have --

Q: And any discussion to the point that did you ask the arrest of suspects in order to bring them here to the United States?

MR. REEKER: I don't have any further details to give you of our meetings, other than to note that a number of the Greek press reports are flat out wrong.

Q: In Venezuela, there are lots of reports of political unrest down there and possible coups. And today in The Washington Times there was this full- page blast by the so-called Junta de Emergencia Nacional, which contains very serious accusations.

Now, in view of the fact that Venezuela is such an important supplier of energy to this country, what can you tell us about the situation down there? What's your --

MR. REEKER: I don't have any updates for you on the situation in Venezuela. I noticed some press reporting but, frankly I didn't have time to read any particular reports. I'm not aware of anything newsbreaking.

Q: Well, in the light of Resolution 1080, which was supposedly strengthened at Quebec, would the United States be prepared to invoke that resolution in case any of these accusations prove to be true?

MR. REEKER: I'm not even going to begin down a road of hypotheticals based on an article I haven't seen or accusations I'm not familiar with. So I'd be happy to look at the article and if there is something substantive and direct to talk about, we can perhaps look into it later.

Q: Is the United States not at all worried about that situation down there?

MR. REEKER: I think our Embassy and our experts here in Washington monitor the situation in Venezuela as we do situations all over the world. I just don't have anything particular to offer for you today.

Q: The Taliban. Has the US been in direct touch with representatives of the Taliban to tell them of US displeasure at their plan to make people who are not Muslims wear badges?

MR. REEKER: I believe we have made representations to Taliban officials, I believe in other cities. I am not exactly sure where. But we have been in touch to let them know of our views on those reports, which I think Ambassador Boucher addressed yesterday, and the fact that we would find reprehensible and offensive the idea of forcing certain social or religious groups to wear distinctive clothing or identifying marks to stigmatize and isolate those groups. That can certainly never be justified.

And it, again, as we pointed out, would add to the long list of outrageous oppressions afflicted by the Taliban authorities upon the long suffering people of Afghanistan.

Q: If I could just return to India for a moment? You said that you welcomed or that the US welcomed the invitation to Mr. Musharraf and encourages dialogue in the Kashmir. Now that this step has been taken, do you foresee any US role in the dialogue that might happen in the Kashmir to facilitate it, or any other US role?

MR. REEKER: I am just trying to make my own little passage to India here. As you know, that was very new news just prior to my coming out here, and I certainly checked with our folks here in the Department and told you what our initial response is to that in terms of welcoming dialogue. That is what we have always said. We have called for restraint. We have called for a resumption of dialogue so that they can find peaceful solutions to that problem.

I don't have anything particular to add. I think we need to see how it evolves and where we go with them.

Q: Is there anything you can say about the German cable today, about either the complaints, or (inaudible) resulting, or any communication of displeasure about it from the United States?

MR. REEKER: Let me just say, as we continue with this rather gossip-based subject that has plagued our briefings over the last few days, there are no strains in the US-German relationship, as some press reports have suggested. We are in very close touch with the German Government regarding every aspect of this matter, and we are fully satisfied with our discussions of that. We have an important relationship with our very close ally, Germany. And we continue to pursue our diplomatic relations with them with utmost vigor.

As I said, there are no strains in our relationship over this. I will just refer you to the Germans for questions on that matter.

Q: (Inaudible) the Secretary about the Mexican amphetamine kingpin who is now up for extradition to the US?

MR. REEKER: I don't know if I saw that or not. I see so many stories. But I don't have anything on it for you. So we can look into that.

Q: Well, rather than jump around any more --

Q: Well, if you want to go check on it, and we'll just wait here.

MR. REEKER: Okay.

Q: Thank you.

MR. REEKER: Thank you very much. [End]

Released on May 23, 2001


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