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Reporters “Work Over” State Dept. Spokesman, Ian Kelly, on Honduras

November 4, 2009

At today’s State Department press briefing, reporters pummeled Ian Kelly with questions about President Zelaya’s reinstatement and whether this is necessary for US to recognize the Honduran elections.  Ian Kelly was the same as he always is:  floating between “I dunno” and  poor attempts at snarkiness.  The reporters could probably have beaten him up even longer, but given that he is incapable of a straight answer, they gave up after ten minutes.  If you prefer, you can watch the video of the press briefing rather than wading through the transcript below.  The Honduras section begins at minute 21:00.

BUT, before the Honduras excerpt, check out this question about a Pentagon document concerning the US-Colombia military agreement which contains a contingency plan for threats to US security and stability from “anti-US governments.”

 

NOVEMBER 4, 2009

STATE DEPT. DAILY BRIEFING

IAN KELLY, SPOKESMAN

EXCERPT ON US-COLOMBIA MILITARY AGREEMENT:

QUESTION: A Pentagon document presented to Congress in May of 2009 reveals that one of the reasons for the military agreement between U.S. and Colombia was to provide a full spectrum operation center – and I’m quoting – where the U.S. security and stability is under threat by anti-U.S. governments. It also talks about the possibility of a full-scale military operation if needed.

This basically contradicts everything U.S. officials and Colombian officials have been saying about this agreement. So how do you respond to this? Who are these anti-U.S. governments in Latin America?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know what document you’re referring to.

QUESTION: It is the military construction program fiscal year 2010 budget estimates —

MR. KELLY: That sounds like —

QUESTION: — by the Air Force.

MR. KELLY: That sounds like something you’d have to refer to the Defense Department about. I know that we have an agreement with Colombia. It doesn’t provide us with any kind of bases in Colombia. It provides us with an opportunity to cooperate with Colombia in some issues related to counternarcotics and interoperability in that regard. But you’re asking me about a Defense Department document that not only haven’t I seen, but the State Department doesn’t have any jurisdiction over.

QUESTION: But it’s basically contradicting what the U.S. State Department has stated.

MR. KELLY: It may or it may not. But I – you really have to address that question to the Defense Department.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2009/nov/131346.htm

 

NOVEMBER 4, 2009

STATE DEPT. DAILY BRIEFING

IAN KELLY, SPOKESMAN

EXCERPT ON HONDURAS:

QUESTION: On Honduras?

MR. KELLY: On Honduras. Yeah.

QUESTION: Mr. Zelaya sent Secretary Clinton a letter asking whether there’s been any change in the U.S. position regarding his restoration prior to elections at the end of November. Has there been a response and has there been a change in the policy? Mr. Lagos, the co-chairman of the verification commission said when he arrived in Tegucigalpa that he has to be restored. So the question is: Must that be a condition for the elections to go ahead and be recognized as legitimate?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think about the letter to Secretary Clinton, I understand that he did send a letter asking for the Secretary to clarify the U.S. position regarding the coup. And our position has been very clear from the very beginning that we did consider what happened in June in Honduras to be a coup. We’ve made our position on President Zelaya and his restitution clear. This is a – we believe he should be restored to power. This is now a Honduran process that was started by the agreement over the weekend.

Our focus now is on implementing this process and creating an environment wherein the Hondurans themselves can address the issue of restitution and resolve for themselves this Honduran problem. We are committed to the agreement. We’re committed to its implementation. We’ll continue to assist and support the implementation process, but it’s up to the Hondurans to actually carry through.

I think you’ve heard that U.S. officials have arrived in Tegucigalpa. It’s – we have a member on the verification commission. They arrived yesterday. Our representative is Labor Secretary Solis. They held a formal installation ceremony yesterday, and the commission has been meeting with leaders from various sectors of Honduras to discuss the implementation of the accord.

QUESTION: But my question is whether the U.S. interpretation of the agreement is that Mr. Zelaya must be restored to office prior to holding the elections.

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry. I’d just like to really emphasize this is – we’ve now – I mean, we were happy that we played a role in mediating this, mediating this dialogue between the two sides. This is now a Honduran process. We will continue to play a supportive and facilitative role, but it’s not for us to interpret the agreement. We want to help the process along, but this is going to be a Honduran process. The next step in it is for the congress to approve it, in consultation with the judiciary. And so we’re going to stay very interested in this and we’re going to support it, particularly Labor Secretary Solis. But this is a Honduran problem that will have a Honduran solution.

QUESTION: Once the agreement was announced, the U.S. dropped its freeze on visas for Honduran personalities. Didn’t that constitute some measure of pressure on —

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure I know what you’re referring to. We opened our – we reopened our visa section. Is that what you mean?

QUESTION: Right. Yeah.

MR. KELLY: I don’t think we’ve removed any of the restrictions, though.

QUESTION: Well, was that prompted by an – any understanding of how that – this agreement was to go forward?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think it was just a – it was a gesture to show that we support this Honduran process. We haven’t made any decisions about assistance and about some of the visa restrictions that we have. We want to see how this goes forward.

QUESTION: But the agreement seems to be a non-agreement because now the Honduran congress delayed the vote and the people are back in the streets. So how do you respond to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what happened was the congressional leadership met yesterday and wanted to get opinions regarding the restoration from the supreme court, the attorney general, and the human rights ombudsman before they considered the issue. This is entirely consistent with the details of the accord. There’s a – I think it’s article five of the accord states that the congress shall consult with other relevant authorities, including the supreme court, in making its decision on restitution. So I mean, I don’t see that this is – in any way runs contrary to the agreement.

QUESTION: On the same topic. What Mr. Zelaya is arguing is that these are just tactics for delaying the implementation of the accord up until, you know, the day of the elections. And the question here is: Will the U.S. still support an election, recognize an election, without implementation of the accord?

MR. KELLY: Look, we’re focused on only one thing, and that’s the implementation of the accord. We’re talking – this is day two and it’s entirely within the rights of the congress to ask for the opinion of the judiciary. I mean, it’s in the accord. So I don’t see any reason for concern on the part of the United States right now.

QUESTION: So then there’s no guarantee —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: So then there’s no guarantee in the U.S. view that Mr. Zelaya needs to be restored as part of this agreement as long as the congress acts one way or the other?

MR. KELLY: Again, you’re asking me to speculate.

QUESTION: If the congress —

MR. KELLY: We support the accord. The accord is going forward.

QUESTION: If the congress votes not to restore him —

QUESTION: It’s not the same as —

QUESTION: — does the United States still regard this as compliance with the accord?

MR. KELLY: You have to repeat that question. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: If the congress votes not to restore him or if the congress does nothing before November 27th, does the United States regard that as a violation of the accord?

MR. KELLY: We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Right now, nothing in – nobody’s voted against anything right now. Everything that’s happening now is laid out in the accord. So we’re going to let the process play out. We’re going to support the process. We’re going to encourage the people to stay focused on this and make sure that it’s implemented.

QUESTION: Another topic? Another topic, Southeast Europe?

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Hold on a second. You say that you’ve been very clear about your position. You say that you’ve been very clear about your position that it was a coup. But in fact, that legal determination was never made even though there were some steps taken. So that’s (a) not clear.

(b) You say you’ve been clear about Zelaya’s restitution. But it sounds like, and from what Tom Shannon and others have said, that as long as the Honduran – all – the Hondurans can agree, it doesn’t really matter to you whether Zelaya gets back into office or not.

MR. KELLY: All right. Well, first of all, on the first point. We have said all along that it was a coup, but the determination was, was whether or not under U.S. law it could be determined as a military coup. And you’re right; we never made that determination, but we have said on multiple occasions from the President on down that we considered what happened in June to have been
a coup d’état, the way that Zelaya was bundled up, put on a plane, and flown out of the country.

I’m sorry, what was the second part?

QUESTION: It appears as though, as long as the congress agrees on something, you’re willing to accept it even it falls short of Zelaya being restored before the election.

MR. KELLY: I think what we’re saying is that we want the two parties to agree.

QUESTION: Yeah, and if they agree on something that falls short —

MR. KELLY: We want a Honduran solution. If President Zelaya agrees, if the de facto regime agrees, if it’s in accordance with Honduran law and democratic principles, then we support it.

QUESTION: Even if it falls short of his —

MR. KELLY: Well, again, you’ve got the “if” there. We haven’t gotten to that point.

QUESTION: Even when it falls short?

MR. KELLY: Oh, you think it’s going to fall short?

QUESTION: Well, it’s already fallen short. Come on.

MR. KELLY: Like I said, patience, patience. Stay tuned.

QUESTION: The other thing I want to ask is you say it’s now day two, but in fact, we’re talking about something that’s —

MR. KELLY: No, but the accord was only signed a couple days ago.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

QUESTION: But you’ve been calling for his —

QUESTION: You’ve been calling for his return, or saying that you want him to return, since the day he was packed off to Costa Rica or wherever it was.

MR. KELLY: Well, I —

QUESTION: El Salvador.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Let’s just see how it works out.

QUESTION: The verification commission is the arbiter of the agreement, how it’s carried out. Does Secretary Solis have instructions from this government on how to interpret that agreement in terms of whether Zelaya needs to be in office before the elections?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know if “instructions” is the right word.

QUESTION: Well, as the representative of the United States Government.

MR. KELLY: She, of course, is in very close consultation with the State Department. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly is down there with her. The Embassy is very much involved. But again, we are supporting a Honduran process here. This is – the U.S. is not a party necessarily to these discussions between Zelaya and the de facto regime. By saying that she has instructions, it implies that we are somehow involved in a bilateral negotiation with another party, and we’re not.

QUESTION: Well, then —

MR. KELLY: We are simply supporting a Honduran process.

QUESTION: But the commission has to interpret whether the accord has been complied with.

MR. KELLY: That’s true.

QUESTION: So Mr. Lagos seems to believe that Mr. Zelaya has to be restored before the congress – before the elections can be held, and therefore that’s his interpretation.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’m sorry. I haven’t seen what Mr. Lagos has said, so it’s difficult for me to comment on —

QUESTION: Can we move on?

QUESTION: Can you talk about other topic we are trying to ask something for —

QUESTION: Just a quick one. Will there be —

QUESTION: — thirty minutes?

QUESTION: — a reply to Zelaya’s letter or not, a formal response to it?

MR. KELLY: A formal response? Well, Secretary Clinton is back in the office tomorrow. We’ll see. I don’t have an answer to that right now.

Yes.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2009/nov/131346.htm

QUESTION: On Honduras?

MR. KELLY: On Honduras. Yeah.

QUESTION: Mr. Zelaya sent Secretary Clinton a letter asking whether there’s been any change in the U.S. position regarding his restoration prior to elections at the end of November. Has there been a response and has there been a change in the policy? Mr. Lagos, the co-chairman of the verification commission said when he arrived in Tegucigalpa that he has to be restored. So the question is: Must that be a condition for the elections to go ahead and be recognized as legitimate?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think about the letter to Secretary Clinton, I understand that he did send a letter asking for the Secretary to clarify the U.S. position regarding the coup. And our position has been very clear from the very beginning that we did consider what happened in June in Honduras to be a coup. We’ve made our position on President Zelaya and his restitution clear. This is a – we believe he should be restored to power. This is now a Honduran process that was started by the agreement over the weekend.

Our focus now is on implementing this process and creating an environment wherein the Hondurans themselves can address the issue of restitution and resolve for themselves this Honduran problem. We are committed to the agreement. We’re committed to its implementation. We’ll continue to assist and support the implementation process, but it’s up to the Hondurans to actually carry through.

I think you’ve heard that U.S. officials have arrived in Tegucigalpa. It’s – we have a member on the verification commission. They arrived yesterday. Our representative is Labor Secretary Solis. They held a formal installation ceremony yesterday, and the commission has been meeting with leaders from various sectors of Honduras to discuss the implementation of the accord.

QUESTION: But my question is whether the U.S. interpretation of the agreement is that Mr. Zelaya must be restored to office prior to holding the elections.

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry. I’d just like to really emphasize this is – we’ve now – I mean, we were happy that we played a role in mediating this, mediating this dialogue between the two sides. This is now a Honduran process. We will continue to play a supportive and facilitative role, but it’s not for us to interpret the agreement. We want to help the process along, but this is going to be a Honduran process. The next step in it is for the congress to approve it, in consultation with the judiciary. And so we’re going to stay very interested in this and we’re going to support it, particularly Labor Secretary Solis. But this is a Honduran problem that will have a Honduran solution.

QUESTION: Once the agreement was announced, the U.S. dropped its freeze on visas for Honduran personalities. Didn’t that constitute some measure of pressure on —

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure I know what you’re referring to. We opened our – we reopened our visa section. Is that what you mean?

QUESTION: Right. Yeah.

MR. KELLY: I don’t think we’ve removed any of the restrictions, though.

QUESTION: Well, was that prompted by an – any understanding of how that – this agreement was to go forward?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think it was just a – it was a gesture to show that we support this Honduran process. We haven’t made any decisions about assistance and about some of the visa restrictions that we have. We want to see how this goes forward.

QUESTION: But the agreement seems to be a non-agreement because now the Honduran congress delayed the vote and the people are back in the streets. So how do you respond to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what happened was the congressional leadership met yesterday and wanted to get opinions regarding the restoration from the supreme court, the attorney general, and the human rights ombudsman before they considered the issue. This is entirely consistent with the details of the accord. There’s a – I think it’s article five of the accord states that the congress shall consult with other relevant authorities, including the supreme court, in making its decision on restitution. So I mean, I don’t see that this is – in any way runs contrary to the agreement.

QUESTION: On the same topic. What Mr. Zelaya is arguing is that these are just tactics for delaying the implementation of the accord up until, you know, the day of the elections. And the question here is: Will the U.S. still support an election, recognize an election, without implementation of the accord?

MR. KELLY: Look, we’re focused on only one thing, and that’s the implementation of the accord. We’re talking – this is day two and it’s entirely within the rights of the congress to ask for the opinion of the judiciary. I mean, it’s in the accord. So I don’t see any reason for concern on the part of the United States right now.

QUESTION: So then there’s no guarantee —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: So then there’s no guarantee in the U.S. view that Mr. Zelaya needs to be restored as part of this agreement as long as the congress acts one way or the other?

MR. KELLY: Again, you’re asking me to speculate.

QUESTION: If the congress —

MR. KELLY: We support the accord. The accord is going forward.

QUESTION: If the congress votes not to restore him —

QUESTION: It’s not the same as —

QUESTION: — does the United States still regard this as compliance with the accord?

MR. KELLY: You have to repeat that question. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: If the congress votes not to restore him or if the congress does nothing before November 27th, does the United States regard that as a violation of the accord?

MR. KELLY: We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Right now, nothing in – nobody’s voted against anything right now. Everything that’s happening now is laid out in the accord. So we’re going to let the process play out. We’re going to support the process. We’re going to encourage the people to stay focused on this and make sure that it’s implemented.

QUESTION: Another topic? Another topic, Southeast Europe?

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Hold on a second. You say that you’ve been very clear about your position. You say that you’ve been very clear about your position that it was a coup. But in fact, that legal determination was never made even though there were some steps taken. So that’s (a) not clear.

(b) You say you’ve been clear about Zelaya’s restitution. But it sounds like, and from what Tom Shannon and others have said, that as long as the Honduran – all – the Hondurans can agree, it doesn’t really matter to you whether Zelaya gets back into office or not.

MR. KELLY: All right. Well, first of all, on the first point. We have said all along that it was a coup, but the determination was, was whether or not under U.S. law it could be determined as a military coup. And you’re right; we never made that determination, but we have said on multiple occasions from the President on down that we considered what happened in June to have been
a coup d’état, the way that Zelaya was bundled up, put on a plane, and flown out of the country.

I’m sorry, what was the second part?

QUESTION: It appears as though, as long as the congress agrees on something, you’re willing to accept it even it falls short of Zelaya being restored before the election.

MR. KELLY: I think what we’re saying is that we want the two parties to agree.

QUESTION: Yeah, and if they agree on something that falls short —

MR. KELLY: We want a Honduran solution. If President Zelaya agrees, if the de facto regime agrees, if it’s in accordance with Honduran law and democratic principles, then we support it.

QUESTION: Even if it falls short of his —

MR. KELLY: Well, again, you’ve got the “if” there. We haven’t gotten to that point.

QUESTION: Even when it falls short?

MR. KELLY: Oh, you think it’s going to fall short?

QUESTION: Well, it’s already fallen short. Come on.

MR. KELLY: Like I said, patience, patience. Stay tuned.

QUESTION: The other thing I want to ask is you say it’s now day two, but in fact, we’re talking about something that’s —

MR. KELLY: No, but the accord was only signed a couple days ago.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

QUESTION: But you’ve been calling for his —

QUESTION: You’ve been calling for his return, or saying that you want him to return, since the day he was packed off to Costa Rica or wherever it was.

MR. KELLY: Well, I —

QUESTION: El Salvador.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Let’s just see how it works out.

QUESTION: The verification commission is the arbiter of the agreement, how it’s carried out. Does Secretary Solis have instructions from this government on how to interpret that agreement in terms of whether Zelaya needs to be in office before the elections?

MR. KELLY: I don’t know if “instructions” is the right word.

QUESTION: Well, as the representative of the United States Government.

MR. KELLY: She, of course, is in very close consultation with the State Department. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Craig Kelly is down there with her. The Embassy is very much involved. But again, we are supporting a Honduran process here. This is – the U.S. is not a party necessarily to these discussions between Zelaya and the de facto regime. By saying that she has instructions, it implies that we are somehow involved in a bilateral negotiation with another party, and we’re not.

QUESTION: Well, then —

MR. KELLY: We are simply supporting a Honduran process.

QUESTION: But the commission has to interpret whether the accord has been complied with.

MR. KELLY: That’s true.

QUESTION: So Mr. Lagos seems to believe that Mr. Zelaya has to be restored before the congress – before the elections can be held, and therefore that’s his interpretation.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’m sorry. I haven’t seen what Mr. Lagos has said, so it’s difficult for me to comment on —

QUESTION: Can we move on?

QUESTION: Can you talk about other topic we are trying to ask something for —

QUESTION: Just a quick one. Will there be —

QUESTION: — thirty minutes?

QUESTION: — a reply to Zelaya’s letter or not, a formal response to it?

MR. KELLY: A formal response? Well, Secretary Clinton is back in the office tomorrow. We’ll see. I don’t have an answer to that right now.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2009/nov/131346.htm 

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