Daily Department of State Briefing by Robert Wood, March 23, 2009

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–March 23, 2009 – 12:37 p.m. EDT
MR. WOOD: Okay. Good afternoon, everyone. Happy Monday. Welcome to the briefing. Let me just start out with a brief statement on secretarial travel, which I think most of you have seen but I’ll just go ahead and read it for those who have not.
At the invitation of Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will travel to the Netherlands to attend the “International Conference on Afghanistan: A Comprehensive Strategy in a Regional Context” in The Hague on March 31. Building on the achievements of the conferences held in Bonn, in London, and most recently in Paris last year, The Hague Ministerial should reaffirm the solid and long-term commitment of the international community to supporting the Government of Afghanistan in shaping a better future for Afghanistan and its people.
Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke will accompany Secretary Clinton. The ministerial discussion will be co-chaired by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan Kai Eide, Afghan Foreign – Afghan Minister for Foreign Affairs Spanta, and Foreign Minister Verhagen. While in the Netherlands, Secretary Clinton will also have a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Verhagen to discuss issues of mutual interest.
And with that, I will take your questions.
QUESTION: There’s no mention of the Iranians in that. Have you reached out? I suppose – who would you reach out to for a bilateral on that? With the Swiss? I’m not —
MR. WOOD: I don’t know, but I had mentioned to you in the email –
QUESTION: But – yes – yeah, yeah, okay.
MR. WOOD: I don’t have anything on any kind of meetings at this point.
QUESTION: Just also on that, I think the Secretary had mentioned that she was hoping to hold a trilateral meeting at some point with the Pakistanis and Afghans. Is that going to happen before she goes out there? I mean, what —
MR. WOOD: I’m not aware. I mean, I’m not going to rule something like that out. But I haven’t heard of any trilateral meetings. I think there may be one coming up – now that I think about it – some time in the next couple of months. But I don’t think there’s anything scheduled right at this point.
QUESTION: Not before —
QUESTION: Did you —
MR. WOOD: On the same subject? Sylvie.
QUESTION: Did you get any sign from the Iranians that they are going to attend this conference?
MR. WOOD: I haven’t heard anything about the Iranians attending. But I would refer you to the host of the conference or to the Iranians.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary still meeting with Kai Eide today? And can you give us a flavor on what that meeting is going to address?
MR. WOOD: Well, obviously, she will be discussing with Kai Eide, you know, how we go forward in Afghanistan, talk about the ongoing review that the Administration is conducting. And we’ll try and see if we can get you a readout following the meeting. But that’s —
QUESTION: I mean, is this – like, I know that you said it’s going to be – the meeting is going to be run by him, but is she, I mean, working in terms of helping set the agenda for the meeting or is it a complete UN −
MR. WOOD: Well, they will talk about the upcoming meeting. But again – but the UN and the Dutch are the – excuse me, the UN is the host.
QUESTION: But it was her idea to hold the meeting in the first place, so I mean, that may be —
MR. WOOD: It was certainly a proposal, yes.
QUESTION: The Dutch may be the venue, but it was certainly her brainchild, so —
MR. WOOD: Well, I mean, you can expect that the Secretary’s going to share her ideas on conferences. I said last week that we would be involved in terms of contributing to planning. But we are not the planner of the conference. This is something that is being hosted, as I said, by the UN and, you know, with the co-chairs being the Government of Afghanistan and the Government of the Netherlands.
QUESTION: But Iran could be very helpful in – with the United States in terms of Afghanistan. So would the Secretary find it useful maybe to have a separate meeting with the Iranians? Because the President has already said you’d like to have constructive ties with the Iranian people and its government, and that this would be a fabulous opportunity for you to do that.
MR. WOOD: Sue, as I mentioned many times before, we are in the process of reviewing our policy toward Iran, so let me leave it at that.
QUESTION: Well, aren’t you – I mean, the – never mind, actually. It doesn’t matter.
MR. WOOD: (Laughter.) Okay, sure. Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, Robert, apparently – well, on March 27 there will be Shanghai meeting in Moscow, Shanghai group. Apparently, the United States will be represented there by Assistant Secretary of State level —
MR. WOOD: That’s right.
QUESTION: Deputy Assistant Secretary of State. At the same time there will be Iranians there.
Do you expect any contacts between U.S. and Iran officials?
MR. WOOD: This came up during Friday’s briefing, and as I said, there were no planned meetings scheduled between Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Moon and the Iranians.
QUESTION: On that, one thing very, very briefly on this. Once she – is that her full list of activities that she’s going to be doing in The Hague? She doesn’t plan on, you know, stopping by a certain court that happens to be located there that is —
MR. WOOD: Not that I’m aware of, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. I have a housekeeping issue from last week. Have your ace bean counters in AF and USAID and MCC managed to come up with the amount of non-humanitarian assistance to Madagascar that’s being suspended?
MR. WOOD: No, Matt, we’re still working on trying to get those numbers for you. Let me just say that for fiscal year 2009, USAID requested $27 million for humanitarian assistance and developmental aid. I don’t have the specific amounts that are being allocated to each. We’re working on trying to get you that information. I can tell you that the Millennium Challenge Corporation placed a hold just recently on a poverty reduction program for Madagascar that I think totals about $110 million. So as soon as we’re able to get you those figures, we will get them to you. And I apologize for not being able to get them to you sooner.
QUESTION: Well, you know, surely there’s got to be someone in this government who knows how much money it is that you’re not going to —
MR. WOOD: What we’re trying to do is make sure that we get you —
QUESTION: — be spending to help Madagascar right now —
MR. WOOD: What we’re trying to do is get you the most up-to-date, accurate figures, and that’s what I’m going to do for you.
QUESTION: Yeah, but you’ve just – for fiscal year 2009, that’s a delayed —
MR. WOOD: Matt, I’m giving you the best I can give you right now. I promise we will get that to you as soon as we have it.
QUESTION: Speaking of delayed readouts, do you have anything on Alberto Fernandez from last week?
MR. WOOD: In fact, there is a response to that taken question and it should be issued a little – I’ve seen a draft of it, so I’m – we’ll have it for you a little bit later. So just be a little patient and we’ll give it to you.
MR. WOOD: Same subject?
QUESTION: On Darfur, or Sudan.
QUESTION: Okay. I’m sure it’s the same question on Bashir’s —
QUESTION: Bashir’s travel to – yes, his visit to Eritrea.
MR. WOOD: Oh, I saw the reports. You know, our position remains the same with regard to, you know, people who have been accused of committing crimes, atrocities, that they need to be held accountable. And he – I’m sorry?
QUESTION: You are not disappointed he has not been arrested in Eritrea?
MR. WOOD: We’re – what we are disappointed in is this decision that Bashir took to kick out these international aid organizations, and we want to see him reverse that decision. Going back to the ICC indictment, as we’ve said before, those who have committed these types of atrocities or been responsible for the commitment of these types of atrocities need to be held accountable. And so our policy has not changed.
I’m sorry. You’re —
QUESTION: Well, what does this say about the Eritreans, though?
MR. WOOD: Well, look, that’s a decision for the Eritreans. If they decide to arrest, you know, President Bashir or not, that’s a decision for the Eritrean Government. However —
QUESTION: What they did was they welcomed him with – you know, with full honors.
MR. WOOD: Well, we wouldn’t do that here, I can assure you. That’s a decision for the Eritrean Government. I can’t say more than that.
QUESTION: But will – well —
QUESTION: You don’t think that —
QUESTION: What do you mean, you wouldn’t —
QUESTION: — (inaudible) to arrest him?
MR. WOOD: As we have said, we want to see those who commit these types of atrocities held accountable. I don’t think I can be any clearer on that.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: When you say that you would not do that here, what does that mean?
MR. WOOD: Well —
QUESTION: Would the United States be prepared to arrest President Bashir if he —
MR. WOOD: Look, what I’m saying is he would not be welcomed in the United States in any way. My point is only that, as we have said over and again, these types of atrocities, when you have people who are responsible for them, they need to be held accountable, they need to be brought to justice. And that’s been – we’ve been very clear on that.
And what I’m saying to you is that what we are very disappointed in right now – and I’m going to continue to make this point, as well as others – that this decision that President Bashir took with regard to kicking out these international aid organizations needs to be reversed and reversed immediately. We’re very concerned about the plight of the people of Darfur, and we’re going to continue to push until we can get that reversal. If we are unable to get him to reverse his decision, then we think it’s incumbent upon a number of countries in the international community that have relations and influence with the Government of Sudan to use that influence and to also try to fill in the gaps with regard to assisting the people of Darfur.
QUESTION: Just to take it a step further, when Charles Taylor was being sought, the United States appealed to neighboring countries to do everything they could to ensure that he was handed over, and Nigeria was involved in that. But what are you doing in terms of countries where Bashir is visiting? Are you appealing directly to those countries to hand him over to the ICC? Are you asking them to, you know, take it one step further? I mean, you say he’s not welcome here, so I would assume that means that you would just arrest him and send him on his merry way on a plane.
MR. WOOD: Well, first and foremost, we’re not a party, as you know, to the Rome Statute. There are countries that are parties to the Rome Statute, and they have obligations, international obligations under that statute. What I’m saying to you is, and this is not just with regard to President Bashir but with others who have been responsible for committing these types of atrocities, that they need to be held accountable and brought to justice.
QUESTION: Did this come up with the Nigerians today?
MR. WOOD: The question of the situation in Darfur came up, but not with regard to – that I can recall, that that specific issue came up.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout on this meeting between the Secretary and the Nigerian foreign minister?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, they had a very good meeting. It was their first meeting. And they talked about Nigeria’s role with regard to peacekeeping in Africa. Nigeria, as you know, is one of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping forces. They talked about democracy issues and good governance. And the Secretary made clear that it was important and that the United States wanted to see this decision of President Bashir that I’ve already spoken to reversed. And I’m certainly not going to speak for the Nigerians, but I think they see the issues in pretty much the same way that we do.
QUESTION: To go back to Darfur and to Bashir?
MR. WOOD: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: The previous administration considered what happened in Darfur as a genocide. Is it the position of this Administration too?
MR. WOOD: Well, certainly, what’s going on in Darfur is genocide. There’s no question about that. And as I’ve said time and again, we’re very concerned about the situation on the ground in Darfur and the plight of Darfurians. And I’m not going to repeat myself, but that decision of President Bashir needs to be reversed and reversed immediately.
QUESTION: So if it’s genocide, isn’t it the duty of every country to arrest Bashir —
MR. WOOD: Well, look —
QUESTION: — and the duty of the U.S. to press for his arrest?
MR. WOOD: Well, first and foremost, we are pressing to try to relieve the humanitarian situation on the ground in Darfur. This decision by President Bashir has just had a profound impact on the ability of the international community to assist the people of Darfur. And you know, I’ve said it many times here. We’re going to continue to push that. As I’ve said before – I’ll say it again – people who commit atrocities or are responsible for committing these atrocities need to be held accountable.
QUESTION: Some new subjects.
QUESTION: I just wanted to clear up one more thing. Because the U.S. has not subscribed to the ICC, does that mean that you wouldn’t legally be bound to actually arrest him, so therefore –
MR. WOOD: I’m not an international lawyer, to be very frank. But as I said, we’re not a party to the ICC. But with regard to providing information – I think we’ve spoken to this before – to the ICC, we’ve done that when appropriate. But I’m sorry, Sue, I’m just not an international lawyer. I can’t answer those types of questions for you.
QUESTION: Could you take that as a question as to what the U.S. responsibility would be?
MR. WOOD: Sure, sure.
QUESTION: On the same subject, in addition to calling on Bashir to reverse this decision with regard to the aid organizations, does the U.S. Government also call on him to surrender to the relevant authorities?
MR. WOOD: Look, we’ve made no link between that ICC indictment and this decision of President Bashir.
QUESTION: Nor did my question.
MR. WOOD: What was your question again? That was my understanding of it.
QUESTION: In addition to calling on him to reverse this decision about the aid organizations, does the U.S., and for the purposes of our question, independently of the aid groups decision, call on Bashir to surrender to the relevant authorities? Should he turn himself in?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’ve said, and I’m not going to – try not to repeat myself very often on this. We’ve said those people who commit those atrocities need to be held accountable, James.
QUESTION: Well, why —
QUESTION: I’m not – excuse me, excuse me. I’m not asking whether or not he should be – or if steps should be taken to hold him accountable. I’m asking whether – you are in the habit of urging him to do certain things. Is one of the things that you are urging him to do to turn himself in?
MR. WOOD: Look, that is a decision he has to make for himself. There is an —
QUESTION: So, he —
MR. WOOD: Let me finish. There is an indictment out from the ICC on this. You know, he, in the end, is going to do what he feels is in his best interest. Frankly, as I’ve said, those who are responsible for committing these types of atrocities have got to be held accountable. But I – you know, sure, he should turn himself in. There’s no question about that. But what I say from the podium here doesn’t really matter. And what I’m dealing with —
QUESTION: Okay, turn off the lights.
MR. WOOD: No, no, with regard to this particular —
QUESTION: Then let’s – just go on up and turn off the lights.
MR. WOOD: No, no, let me finish. You didn’t let me finish what I was saying. What I was saying is it doesn’t matter to him what I say from this podium. But what he’s doing and the impact he’s having on his people is what’s of – is what is the most of concern to us. And that’s all I can say on it. I think I’ve spoken to all of those questions already.
Another issue? Dave.
QUESTION: A different subject. I mean, just sort of a return to another subject. I just wondered if you had any response to the rather cool reaction by the Iranian supreme leader to the Obama message.
MR. WOOD: I’ve seen some news reports on his response. I don’t have much I can offer on that except to say that our hand, you know, is still outreached to the Iranian Government and people. It’s a question of whether Iran will reciprocate. I can only go by actions and not so much in the way of words.
QUESTION: A new subject. It’s on Egypt. Apparently, there are some American – a handful of American citizens in jail who have tried to adopt children and were arrested. Basically, they are charging that the U.S. turned them in to the Egyptian authorities because they’re – they’ve said that it’s illegal to adopt in Egypt and said that their documents were forged and that the U.S. turned them into Egyptian authorities. Can you —
MR. WOOD: I’ll have to look into that. I haven’t heard anything about it, sorry.
QUESTION: You haven’t heard anything about, like, six Americans that are in an Egyptian jail right now?
MR. WOOD: This particular case, no, I haven’t. So I’ll look into it and see what I can get you.
Let me go somewhere else, please.
QUESTION: It’s a different subject. Last week, Spain – they announced that they would withdraw their troops from Kosovo. During the weekend, they’re having like a mixed message from the Spanish Government about how that they’re going to (inaudible) message that they conveyed to you last weekend. So my question is: What message that the Spanish Government gave to you about how are they going to do the withdrawal?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’m not going to get into the substance of the conversations that we’ve had with Spanish officials over the last few days, but we’ve been assured by the Government of Spain that it will coordinate its withdrawal with commanders on the ground and not move precipitously. And so that’s – I gave some detailed comment on Friday. We had subsequent discussions with the Spaniards, and as I said, we’ve been assured that they will coordinate.
QUESTION: Did they get you a calendar or a timeline about the —
MR. WOOD: No, but I would refer you to the Government of Spain for any kind of timeline.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the prime minister called Secretary Clinton during the weekend and that he explained the Spain position and that she —
MR. WOOD: I’m not aware of any call from the Spanish prime minister to the Secretary.
QUESTION: The foreign minister.
MR. WOOD: The foreign minister? I don’t believe there was a phone call with the Secretary. I’ll double-check. And if there was, I’ll let you know, but I don’t believe there was.
QUESTION: On Saturday?
MR. WOOD: Yeah, on Saturday. I’ll have to check and see if there was.
QUESTION: Are you still disappointed by this decision?
MR. WOOD: Well, look, we were certainly – we received very little warning with regard to this decision. But again, we’ve had subsequent conversations with the Spaniards, and as I said, they have reassured us that they will coordinate with commanders on the ground with regard to their pullout.
QUESTION: There is in the press today the Spanish foreign minister – that asked you and that he talked with Hillary Clinton, with the Secretary, about the seriousness of Spain as an allied country.
MR. WOOD: Well, yeah, I don’t know if they spoke over the weekend. They may have spoken prior to that, but – and I remember Foreign Minister Moratinos was here and – I think it was a couple of weeks ago – and spoke with the Secretary. But I will check into it and see if there was a phone conversation.
QUESTION: Just on phone —
MR. WOOD: On the same subject?
QUESTION: Just on phone conversations, actually, just back on Sudan. Was there any conversations by – with the – or calls by the Secretary urging countries to help get Sudan to change its mind on the NGOs to any of its neighbors, to the Chinese or —
MR. WOOD: Over the weekend —
QUESTION: I know some were expected. I don’t know if they had —
MR. WOOD: Not over this weekend. I know Ambassador Rice in New York had a number of conversations late last week with officials. But I don’t believe there were any phone conversations over the weekend with the Secretary on that subject.
QUESTION: Sorry. Is there any updated news about or following the arrest of the two American journalists in Korea – North Korea?
MR. WOOD: Yeah – no, no, of course, I know the issues you’re talking about. The North has confirmed that it’s holding two American citizens pending an investigation. As I said Friday, we’re working this diplomatically, and I think the less that I can say – the less I say from here, the better. And let me leave it at that.
QUESTION: Have they confirmed that to you now? Because before, they hadn’t.
MR. WOOD: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: They’ve confirmed that to you in your contacts – the United States?
MR. WOOD: We’ve received confirmation, yes.
QUESTION: Directly?
MR. WOOD: We received confirmation. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Did you —
MR. WOOD: On this subject?
QUESTION: Did you hear —
MR. WOOD: On this subject?
QUESTION: Same – North Korean. Did you hear any – from anything in New York on North Korean Embassy, or did you directly contact with the North Korean diplomat at UN?
MR. WOOD: As I said, I don’t want to get into discussions we may or may not have had on this subject. It’s a very sensitive case and we are trying to work it diplomatically, so let me just leave it at that.
QUESTION: Different subject?
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Polish foreign minister was quoted recently as expressing some concern that his country had taken some significant political risk, as he put it, in cooperating – agreeing to cooperate with American missile defense plans. He was further quoted as saying, “We signed with the old administration, we patiently wait for the new Administration, and we hope we don’t regret our trust in the United States.”
Has the Polish Government conveyed to this Administration some anxiety about, to put it colloquially, being left high and dry?
MR. WOOD: No, no one has been left high and dry. We’ve had discussions with the Government of Poland with regard to missile defense over, you know, a number of months. The Polish Government is aware that we are taking a close look at this missile defense program. We want to make sure that it’s cost-effective and that it works. We will continue to have discussions with the Government of Poland on this. We look forward to cooperating with Poland on a wide range of issues, but I don’t have anything more than that for you, James.
QUESTION: The comments by the Polish foreign minister which I just read to you and the accuracy of which I trust you don’t challenge suggest that they are growing impatient, or that at least they feel that they are not being consulted fully on the plans of this Administration.
MR. WOOD: Well, I can’t speak for the Polish Government, but we certainly have been consulting with that government on the issue of missile defense. Again, we’re reviewing missile defense policy, and the Polish Government is aware of that. And you know, once we are able to complete our review, we will have further discussions with the Government of Poland. But I don’t have anything more than that to give you at this point, James.
Let’s see. Here, this gentleman’s got —
QUESTION: Different subject. Do you have any response to the South African Government’s decision not to grant a visa to the Dalai Lama to attend a peace conference in the country, and are you seeking any clarification of the decision?
MR. WOOD: No, I don’t have any – that’s the first I’ve heard of it, but I don’t have any response to it.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Afghanistan?
MR. WOOD: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yesterday on 60 Minutes, President Obama said in regards to troop escalation to Afghanistan, he didn’t want it to drift towards a perpetual end. Will Secretary of State Clinton be discussing an exit strategy in Afghanistan on her trip?
MR. WOOD: She will be discussing the entire situation in Afghanistan in terms of how we go forward, we the U.S. Government, in consultation with the international community. Look, there have been lots of reports, I know, written over the weekend about our review and what’s going to come out of the review and what we may or may not be doing in Afghanistan. Let me just say that, look, the situation in Afghanistan, as you well know, is very complex. It’s complicated. We’re working to try to get the right mix of contributions in terms of dealing with political, economic, and military issues.
The President, I think, in the 60 Minutes interview was very clear in saying that, you know, we – in essence, what we want to do is be able to allow Afghans to eventually take responsibility and control for their security. We don’t want to be there forever. The Afghan people will not want us to be there forever. And once our review is completed, and I think you all know that that’s coming very soon, you’ll see that we will hope to be able to get the right mix so that we can deal successfully with the problem. We’re very concerned about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and along the border, its border with Pakistan.
So once that review is done, we will be making very clear and articulating what our policies are going to be and, as I said, consulting closely with the allies, because this is a situation that’s only going to be solved – and I’m talking about the situation on the ground in Afghanistan – if we’re all working closely together and cooperating on dealing with the major challenges that confront the Afghan people.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up with that?
MR. WOOD: Sure.
QUESTION: I think a lot of that criticism was focused on how that – a lot of what you said sounds a bit similar to the response during the Bush Administration in regards to Iraq, that you want to give Iraq back to the Iraqis, you want to – you know, escalating violence, you want to see that go away. So just your thoughts on that criticism, and also if you engaged the Chinese and Indians and Iranians, as I’ve seen in some reports recently.
MR. WOOD: Well, look, with regard to the previous administration’s policies, look, it was working with a certain set of facts on the ground, as we are. We are inheriting some of the – you know, we are inheriting – we, the international community, are having to deal with some very severe challenges on the ground. And there are no easy answers to dealing with the security situation on the ground in Afghanistan.
But we’re conducting this thorough review. And we’re – we’ve incorporated the views of our allies. We will have further conversations. As you know, the Secretary is going to The Hague for that conference on Afghanistan. And we will try to chart the best possible path forward. It’s not easy. It doesn’t mean we’re going to be successful right away. It’s going to take time. But as the President made very clear, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s the, you know, old administration or the current Administration, we don’t want to be in Afghanistan any longer than necessary. The Afghan people do not want us in Afghanistan any longer than necessary.
So the challenge for us as an international community is to try to make sure we’re marshalling our resources, our efforts, so that we can do the job and leave. And that’s – and what we’re trying to work out now in our review is what are the best modalities for taking that effort forward.
QUESTION: And will you be engaging the Chinese, Indians, and Iranians?
MR. WOOD: Well, we’ve engaged the Chinese and the Indians on this question. We’ve – of course, in the past, we’ve engaged Iran on discussions with regard to Afghanistan. Iran is going to be at this conference with – in The Hague. And we go from there. It’ll be a broad dialogue of the international community in trying to go forward in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Is Iran going to be at the conference? Do you know that for certain?
MR. WOOD: I shouldn’t have spoken for certain. I don’t know. I’m assuming that they will be there. But to be honest, you probably just need to confirm that with the host of the conference.
Mr. Lambros.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Wood. Do you know if Mrs. Clinton is going to see today the Greek Archbishop Demetrios at 2 p.m.
MR. WOOD: Indeed, she is. And I’ll see if I can get you a readout of that meeting.
QUESTION: And do you know the reasons for this meeting?
MR. WOOD: I don’t, Mr. Lambros, unfortunately.
QUESTION: Why you didn’t publish it in the today’s bulletin news?
MR. WOOD: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Why you didn’t publish it in the today’s bulletin news?
MR. WOOD: I think it was a meeting that was put on at the last moment, so —
QUESTION: And the last one. Who asked for the meeting, the Greek side or the America side?
MR. WOOD: Well, I’ll roll that in too and get you a response.
QUESTION: Excuse me?
MR. WOOD: I’ll get you a response as part of the readout.
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: On the Secretary’s trip to Mexico, in addition to discussing drug problem and related violence, do you expect any other issues to be at the top of the agenda?
MR. WOOD: Oh, sure. I mean, there – she’s going to talk about with her Mexican counterpart and other officials in the Mexican Government the situation in the hemisphere, you know, and how we can further spread prosperity throughout the hemisphere as well as ensure that democracy, you know, takes a firm hold, continues to take a firm hold in the region. So – and there are likely to be other issues that they will discuss that will likely come up, but I can’t tell you whether or not they’re going to or not.
QUESTION: On the same subject?
MR. WOOD: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you think it was a coincidence that, you know, this past Friday, President Calderon announced the detention of the alleged perpetrator of the attacks against the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey – you know, knowing that the Secretary will be visiting Monterrey?
MR. WOOD: I don’t – I would assume it’s a coincidence. I don’t know. I’d have to defer you to President Calderon’s office.
QUESTION: Any comment on the election that was held in – over the weekend in Macedonia?
MR. WOOD: Oh, sure. I’ve got something for you, Dave. I knew you’d be asking about that. Give me a second.
The United States – excuse me, the United States congratulates Macedonia and its citizens on the March 22 first round of nationwide presidential and local elections, which generally went smoothly and without violence. The people of Macedonia deserve credit for coming out to vote in large numbers despite heavy snowfall.
The OSCE’s ODIHR preliminary assessment is that the elections met OSCE and Council of Europe commitments and standards for democratic elections. They were well-administered and free of the violence that clouded the parliamentary elections in 2008. Demonstrating the capacity to conduct successful elections is crucial for Macedonia’s further progress in Euro-Atlantic integration.
We urge the government and other relevant authorities in Macedonia to sustain their efforts in the coming two weeks and to ensure that voting can again take place under safe, free, and fair conditions in the second round scheduled for Sunday, April 5.
QUESTION: Are you going to cooperate with any president of FYROM? Yes, it’s a basic question.
MR. WOOD: We look forward to cooperating with —
QUESTION: What about on the name issue?
MR. WOOD: — the president of Macedonia.
QUESTION: You don’t have anything?
MR. WOOD: Next question.
QUESTION: Does the United States support the call by the UN rapporteur Professor Falk before the UN Human Rights Council for an independent inquiry into possible war crimes in Gaza by both Israel and Hamas?
MR. WOOD: Look, we’ve expressed our concern many times about the special rapporteur’s views on dealing with that question, and we’ve found the rapporteur’s views to be anything but fair. We find them to be biased. We’ve made that very clear.
QUESTION: But my question is: Do you support the call that was also echoed by Archbishop Tutu and Amnesty International to call for an independent inquiry – committee of inquiry into possible war crimes?
MR. WOOD: Well, as I’ve said to you before, those types of investigations with regard to where there are charges being made, whether it being it’s one side or the other, there will be, I’m sure, people, organizations will be looking into these. And we need to let those go forward. I don’t have anything further beyond that.
QUESTION: In the framework of the Human Rights Council?
MR. WOOD: I’m just saying – I’ve already spoken to, I think, our view about the Human Rights Council, certainly to the UN special rapporteur’s role, and we viewed them as biased. And I don’t have anything further to add to that.
QUESTION: Wait, I just want to make sure I understand. You do – you support an investigation into war crimes?
MR. WOOD: No. I’ve said – you are trying to twist my words.
QUESTION: No, no, no, I’m not.
MR. WOOD: What I said —
QUESTION: I’m trying to make sure I understood what you just said.
MR. WOOD: What I said was —
QUESTION: You said there are going to be calls and inquiries.
MR. WOOD: I said there will be calls and —
QUESTION: And that they should go ahead.
MR. WOOD: No, no, no. What I —
QUESTION: I’m not trying to twist your words. I just want to make sure I understood what you said.
MR. WOOD: What I was trying – what I’m saying here is that you’re going to have these types of investigations and calls for, you know, there to be investigations, whether it be of one side or the other. And that’s likely to be something that will happen, and that’s not going to be anything that we’re going to be able to do – excuse me, to prevent. What we want to see, if there are going to be these types of investigations, they need to be non-biased. They need to take into account the situations on the ground, the realities on the ground, and go from there.
MR. WOOD: Okay. Thank you all.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:10 p.m.)
Source: state.gov