Gordon Duguid
Acting Deputy Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
February 20, 2009


Index for Today's Briefing
  • ISRAEL
    • U.S. Will Work with Next Israeli Government / Continue to Work for Two-State Solution
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Stephen Bosworth Named Special Representative for North Korea Policy / Ambassador Bosworth Overseeing U.S. Efforts in Six-Party Talks to Achieve Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula / Will Work Closely with Sung Kim
    • Secretary Clinton's View of Recent Events / North Korea an Opaque Nation
  • ISRAEL/ PALESTINIANS
    • State Department Position on Hamas Clear / Need for Hamas to Accept State of Israel and Stop Trying to Rearm
    • Senator Kerry's Trip to Gaza Strip / Hamas Denies Giving Senator Kerry a Letter for President Obama
  • AFGHANISTAN/ PAKISTAN
    • Delegations from Afghanistan and Pakistan Meeting with Ambassador Holbrooke / Providing Input into Policy Review
  • BURMA
    • Burma Policy Under Review / Looking at Ways to Engage Burmese People / Seek Representative Government Responding to Will of People / No Change on Sanctions
  • KYRGYZSTAN
    • President Bakiyev Signed Bill on Closure of Manas Air Base into Law/ U.S. Has Received Official Notification
    • Manas Air Base Currently Operational Under Existing Agreement
    • Offer to Continue Operation of the Base Still on the Table / U.S. Reviewing Contingency Plans and Alternate Basing Options
  • ECUADOR
    • Expelled Diplomat Was Preparing to Leave Yesterday / U.S. Reviewing Options for Response
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    • Concerns About Document Being Produced at Durban Review Conference / Delegation Will Brief the Secretary
  • IRAN
    • Encouraging IAEA to Take Steps to Ensure Iran Lives up to International Commitments


TRANSCRIPT:

11:00 a.m. EST

MR. DUGUID: I’m waiting for you guys. I’m waiting for you. I know it’s Friday, but you know, the fact of the matter is I don’t have any prepared statements, so we’ll go straight to your questions now that you’re here.

QUESTION: Netanyahu. What do you have to – what is your reaction to the choice of Benjamin Netanyahu for --

MR. DUGUID: Well, the president has tasked him to form a government. That is part of the election process in Israel. The United States is a longstanding and firm ally of Israel. We will work with the next Israeli government, however it is composed, and we’ll move on from there to work on bilateral and regional issues together. But as I said, the process is ongoing. There is not a government yet. We are still working, you know, with Israel. But I don’t have a reaction until we have a government – new government sitting in place.

QUESTION: But is the U.S. optimistic about the peace process?

MR. DUGUID: We are always optimistic.

QUESTION: Really?

MR. DUGUID: We have been working on the peace process for a number of years. I think this shows determination by the United States to continue to work for a two-state solution in the Middle East and to help bring stability to the region. That is something that we’ve been committed to for a number of years, and I do not see that changing.

QUESTION: But a move to the right by the Israeli government clearly --

MR. DUGUID: Let’s wait until there is a government formed until we are talking about what the composition of the government is.

Any other questions? Yes, please.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton in Seoul announced that Steve Bosworth would be the new Special Representative to North Korea.

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you could explain a little bit the difference between Special Representative and Mr. Sung Kim’s position as Special Envoy to the Six-Party Talks.

MR. DUGUID: Okay. We did this a couple of weeks ago. A special envoy, in diplomatic parlance, has the authority to negotiate. A special representative, in this particular case, as well as in Ambassador Holbrooke’s case, is an authority who coordinates across the board for the United States. So Sung Kim will remain our Special Envoy and he will handle the day-to-day contact and discussions with our Six-Party colleagues. And Ambassador Bosworth will be the special representative coordinating the overall U.S. Government effort.

QUESTION: Will that be a full-time position or a part-time position?

MR. DUGUID: It will be a position that will take up a lot of his time. The question is leading to – will he be based in this building the entire time? Sorry. Of course, it’s a full-time position, but I mean, I don’t understand the question properly.

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, he’s – it’s been reported that he’ll remain the dean of the Fletcher School?

MR. DUGUID: That is correct, he will.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: So it’s more like a part-time position?

MR. DUGUID: I won’t – I wouldn’t characterize it that way. He will be fully engaged in the – in the effort to try and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. That is work enough for anyone, but he will also retain his current position.

QUESTION: So he will be based in this building?

MR. DUGUID: He will have an office here.

QUESTION: So it’s almost as if he were the U.S. ambassador to North Korea if U.S. had relation with North Korea?

MR. DUGUID: No, that’s not correct. The – Ambassador Bosworth will be our senior official handling North Korea issues and reporting to the Secretary of State as well as the President. The Secretary has asked Ambassador Bosworth to oversee U.S. efforts in the Six-Party Talks to achieve verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner. He will serve as our senior emissary for U.S. engagement with North Korea in close consultation with allies and partners. With regard to the Six-Party Talks, his involvement will facilitate high-level engagement with the North Koreans and other members of the Six-Party Talks. He will work closely with Sung Kim on this.

QUESTION: Will he travel to Pyongyang?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have any plans – travel plans for him at the moment.

QUESTION: You seem to be suggesting that Bosworth will have a role and a dialogue with the North Koreans outside of the Six-Party.

MR. DUGUID: I am not. He is our senior--excuse me--Special Representative for the Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: But he is going to be above the Special Envoy for the Six-Party Talks? Or who is going to decide? Who’s going to be the boss relative to --

MR. DUGUID: Secretary Clinton is the boss.

QUESTION: And so the two of them are equal?

MR. DUGUID: The two of them are working on the Six-Party Talks. Sung Kim does the day-to-day negotiating, and Ambassador Bosworth will work across the process in – for the U.S. Government. Therefore, Sung Kim is doing the State Department part on a day-to-day basis, and Ambassador Bosworth will work across the process coordinating all the U.S. Government efforts. They will work in close consultation.

QUESTION: How is Ambassador Bosworth’s job not a part-time job if he’s maintaining his other position? I mean, can you defend that in any way?

MR. DUGUID: I refer you to – well, I refer you to his – you know, Ambassador Bosworth himself on what he will be doing with his current position. He will not be leaving. But the work that he will do will fully engage his talents as we need them.

QUESTION: Right, but I mean, he’s not going to – if it’s not his only job, how is that not a diminished role than it was under the Bush Administration?

MR. DUGUID: The role that the Ambassador will play will be significant. He will lead our efforts and it will be – not be any diminution of the responsibilities that previous special representatives have had.

QUESTION: Not in terms of responsibilities, but in terms of effort.

MR. DUGUID: I think that he will engage 100 percent of his effort when the Secretary calls upon him to engage in these matters.

Yes. In the back, please.

QUESTION: Just wanted to clarify. Is Ambassador Bosworth – is he going to be attending head of delegation meetings when they have Six-Party meetings, or will that Sung Kim who will attend those meetings?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t think we’ve got that down for you yet. We’ll make the announcement of our delegation when we have those meetings, and it will be based on the conditions at the time.

QUESTION: Okay. And secondly, Secretary Clinton in Seoul – on the way to Seoul, she made comments about the leadership crisis in North Korea and worrying about a transition there. Were those comments based on anything new? Or were they the reports of concern of health of Kim Jong-il or was – because she seemed to come out fairly strongly about concerns. So I was just wondering if there’s anything new or if it’s just the general reports that have been heard.

MR. DUGUID: I think what you saw was the Secretary reacting to her view of recent events and her reading of the situation. As far as we can tell, as we’ve often said, it’s an opaque nation. Their leadership is not public as we understand it in other countries. Their decision-making process is not public as we understand it in Western countries, in particular. So you can only look and see what some of the signals are coming out, and she expressed our concern about those signals.

Yes.

QUESTION: On the Middle East.

MR. DUGUID: All right, staying on – yes.

QUESTION: It’s a related question that has to do with Ambassador Bosworth and also Senator Mitchell and Ambassador Holbrooke. Could you provide us, at some point, whether or not they’re being paid by the government; if so, how much? Are these – I mean, they’re apparently full-time positions, but how do they fit into the, you know, compensation factor?

MR. DUGUID: We’ll take the question and find out what we can get for you.

QUESTION: I would say the same thing for Dennis Ross, but you wouldn’t say that he’s been appointed to anything.

MR. DUGUID: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. DUGUID: Same subject or different subject?

QUESTION: Different.

MR. DUGUID: Please.

QUESTION: During Senator John Kerry’s trip to the Gaza Strip, Hamas confirmed their channels were open for any contact with the new U.S. Administration. How does the State Department feel about Hamas’s willingness to talk, either directly or indirectly?

MR. DUGUID: The position on Hamas for the State Department, for the United States, is very clear. Should they accept the existence of the state of Israel, should they stop trying to violently overthrow the state of Israel, should they wish to reengage in the peace process and stop trying to rearm by smuggling rockets and other arms into Gaza, then there could be a place for them in future discussions. But until that happens, I don’t see our position changing.

QUESTION: What about Senator Kerry’s visit to the Gaza Strip, an area controlled by Hamas? How does the State Department feel about his particular trip to Gaza?

MR. DUGUID: I refer you to Senator Kerry for any reference to his trip. The Senate, or the Congress, is a separate and equal branch of government, and they are the ones who can best answer what Senator Kerry’s feelings were about the trip.

QUESTION: Same subject.

MR. DUGUID: Same subject?

QUESTION: On South Asia?

MR. DUGUID: Please.

QUESTION: The – can you confirm that Hamas gave to Senator Kerry a letter for President Obama through a UN representative while he was in Gaza?

MR. DUGUID: I cannot. And I see – I saw, just before I came in, that Hamas has denied doing that.

QUESTION: Well, but – okay, UN officials have said that the letter is from Hamas. And there obviously is a letter, because the spokesman of the U.S Consulate in Jerusalem confirms that the letter was handed over to Senator Kerry and said it will be handled by appropriate channels.

MR. DUGUID: I haven’t seen that statement before coming in.

QUESTION: Okay. If you could --

MR. DUGUID: So I cannot confirm that for you.

QUESTION: If you could check on, you know, what’s going to happen to this letter that evidently exists?

MR. DUGUID: I’ll see what – I’ll see what we have to say.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. DUGUID: Thank you.

QUESTION: Yeah, next week, Afghan and Pakistan delegation will be coming here. So who all they will be meeting and what’s the purpose of that?

MR. DUGUID: Well, the purpose, as Ambassador Holbrooke has already said, is to provide input into our review policy on Afghanistan. And they will be meeting with the review panel. I don’t have the dates of those meetings for you, but the two delegations will be led by their foreign ministers. And I believe the dates are in the middle of next week, but --

QUESTION: Will they also be meeting Secretary Clinton?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have the Secretary’s schedule for next week to share with you. But as soon as we know what the program is, we’ll get that to you.

QUESTION: On Burma. Is the U.S. planning to lift some of the sanctions against --

MR. DUGUID: No.

QUESTION: No?

MR. DUGUID: Our Burma policy is under review. We are looking at ways in which to engage the Burmese people better. We are looking at ways in which we can try to affect the leaders in Burma. As the Secretary said, many different ways that we’ve tried in the past don’t seem to have affected them much one way or the other, so we are looking at new ways to try and affect their behavior. But the goal remains the same in Burma, and that is to have a representative government that responds to the will of the people, and that will needs to be freely expressed. So at the moment, is there any change on the U.S. sanction regime on Burma? No, there is not.

QUESTION: And this also includes engaging the military junta?

MR. DUGUID: We’re looking at our policy right now, having a review as we are on many other policies, and when we are through with that, we’ll begin making our statements on where we’re going to go from there.

QUESTION: I don’t mean this to be flip, but is there any policy that isn’t under review?

MR. DUGUID: Yes, we are still members of NATO and we will stay members of NATO. (Laughter)

QUESTION: No, I mean, is it fair to say that every aspect of U.S. foreign policy, except membership in certain organizations over the past --

MR. DUGUID: It is fair to say that all of the major parts of American foreign policy are currently under review, that those reviews, however, do not affect commitments made by the United States in international fora or by international agreements. We are looking at the effectiveness of our policies and how we can better achieve our goals.

Most of the goals of our policies have not changed. We are looking for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. We are looking for democratic reform and the establishment of representative government in Burma. We are looking for an end to the violence in Darfur. We are looking for a two-state solution to the problems between Israel and the Palestinians.

The ultimate goals that have been consistent over time for the U.S. remain. The Administration is looking how best we can move forward to try and achieve those goals. I think that is a normal process for a new administration. So the answer is yes, most of the policies are there to be reviewed by the new Administration to look for effectiveness and to achieve results.

QUESTION: And are the timelines all different on all the reviews?

MR. DUGUID: Yes. Yes, they are.

QUESTION: And are there any that are near fruition?

MR. DUGUID: Well, as you know, the review policy on Afghanistan has a 60-day timeline, and that is in process; it has begun.

QUESTION: Do you have any timeline on the other ones at all?

MR. DUGUID: No. Not on the timelines, I don’t.

QUESTION: Going back to Afghanistan, this meeting with the head of diplomacy of Pakistan and Afghanistan, they will meet together with U.S., all in the same room, or it will be separate meetings?

MR. DUGUID: As I understand from Ambassador Holbrooke, they will have a meeting with the review panel, separately, each delegation, and then there will be one in which the U.S. review panel and both delegations meet. That is the plan, although as I said, I don’t have the meeting schedules for you, so I can’t really confirm when these will be or what the – what the real protocol of it will be.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. DUGUID: I can’t at the moment. I can’t at the moment.

QUESTION: Did you go over the – sorry, I came in a few minutes late. Did you talk about notification on the base in Kyrgyz?

MR. DUGUID: I did not. Would you like me to?

QUESTION: Please.

MR. DUGUID: Okay. As you know, the parliament did vote on the closure of the Manas Air Base, and President Bakiyev signed that bill into law. This was not an unexpected move. We have received confirmation, official notice, if you will, that this is what the president has done. We, however, remain in contact with the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Manas Air Base continues to operate under the existing agreement in support of coalition efforts in Afghanistan.

We also have an offer that we had made to the government to continue with the operation of the base, and that, as far as the U.S. is concerned, is still on the table should they wish to discuss it. However, we have alternate basing options and we’re reviewing our contingency plans at the moment.

QUESTION: So the 180 days starts today?

MR. DUGUID: That’s correct.

QUESTION: And – but you’re still going to try to come to some agreement with the Kyrgyz?

MR. DUGUID: That is correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Anything on Ecuador? Anything new on --

MR. DUGUID: Nothing further than yesterday. I know that our diplomat was preparing to leave yesterday. I do not know if he has returned home yet.

QUESTION: Just going back on the base real quick, actually.

MR. DUGUID: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you know when you’re going to start drawing down, assuming that they don’t accept your offers?

MR. DUGUID: I don’t have anything for you on operational details. I’d have to refer you to the Pentagon. We’re working, as I said – excuse me – we’re still operating as we were operating yesterday, fully in support of the mission in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: On Ecuador, no retaliation measures, yes?

MR. DUGUID: We are reviewing our options on this, but we haven’t made any decisions yet.

QUESTION: How long does that review last?

MR. DUGUID: We can keep it up indefinitely.

Please.

QUESTION: Anything more on the – any achievements by our advance team to the Durban racism conference? There’s some reporting that they made some headway in watering and – you know, preventing some kind of language on slavery reparations and that they were able to stop, you know, alteration of language on anti-Semitism.

MR. DUGUID: I believe the meetings have ended now in Geneva. Part of our delegation is – of course, is based in Geneva and part of the delegation is on its way back to the U.S. So I haven’t had a full briefing on their views of what happened. We went into this meeting – excuse me – we went into this meeting with grave concerns about the document that was being produced. And we engaged with other countries in an effort to have the conference produce a document that actually did address racism around the world in a way that could achieve some results.

Our intervention was welcomed by many countries. We had extensive meetings with all of the other representatives there to present our viewpoints on this document and on this process. I can’t predict any success for you at this point, first not having had a read-out from the group. But as I said, there were many things we disagreed with in the document. The document began as a very lengthy piece of work and got longer during the conference itself. The intention was to engage and to try and make something that was flawed better. We did not predict success, and I can’t do that for you now. But we are on – you know, on the record with our international partners as to where we stand on these issues.

QUESTION: So bottom – you haven’t walked away from the process yet.

MR. DUGUID: Well, those decisions will be made once we have a full review and when the team returns and they’ve had a chance to sort of write up, you know, their thoughts and present them to the Secretary. The – it will be a verbal briefing and they will give their advice on where they think the process is going, and whether or not we can affect what is going to happen in the full session. As you know, we’ve had grave doubts about the effectiveness of these conferences in the past.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Iran, does the U.S. plan any further action beyond yesterday’s remarks on the IAEA report? And does it view the amount of low enriched uranium that Iran has to be a matter of concern?

MR. DUGUID: Well, on Iran, we are encouraging the IAEA to take the steps necessary to ensure that Iran lives up to its international commitments. That was the message behind our statement of yesterday. I don’t have anything to add to it today.

Other questions? (No response.) Okay. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 11:22 a.m.)

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