Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 22, 2009


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton will Not Travel to Trieste for G-8 or Corfu for OSCE Meeting
    • Deputy Secretary Steinberg will Attend OSCE Meeting in Corfu
    • Under Secretary Burns will Attend G-8 meeting in Trieste
    • Secretary Clinton Phone Calls/Italian Foreign Minister and Greek Foreign Minister Bakoyannis to Send Regrets About Missing this Week's G-8 and OSCE
    • Secretary Clinton Phone Call to British Foreign Secretary Miliband/Read-out to be Provided Later
  • IRAN
    • Special Advisor Ross is at Department of State/In Constant Touch with Secretary Clinton
    • Special Advisor Ross Participated in Interagency Meetings Over the Weekend
    • Rapidly Evolving Situation
    • Difficult to Get Good, Confirmable Information
    • Secretary Clinton Following with Great Concern
    • U.S. Made Strategic Decision to Engage with Iran
    • President Obama Made a Very Strong Statement Over the Weekend/Stand-up For Principles
    • U.S. Needs to Coordinate Approaches with Allies/Not Productive for U.S. to be Out in Front
  • CHINA
    • U.S. Supportive of a Lessening of Tensions Across the Taiwan Strait
    • Updated Travel Warning in China Regarding Quarantine/U.S Made Our Views Well Known
    • U.S. Opposes the Chinese Government's Requirement that all Computers Sold in China be Pre-Installed with Green Dam Internet Filtering Software
  • RUSSIA
    • Missile Defense and Strategic Offensive Reductions Are Two Separate Issues
    • U.S.-Russia Conducting Talks in Geneva/Issues Related to the START Follow-On Treaty
  • NORTH KOREA
    • U.S. Calls on North Korea to Refrain from Provocative Action/UN Resolution 1974
  • ISRAEL
    • U.S. Calling on a Cease to All Settlement Activities


TRANSCRIPT:

1:57 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Okay, good afternoon. I think as many of you have heard, the Secretary, on doctor’s advice, decided not to travel to Trieste for the G-8 foreign ministers meeting and Corfu for the OSCE meeting. As Deputy Secretary Steinberg said just a few minutes ago, he will go to Corfu for the OSCE meeting, which is the back end of the trip, and Under Secretary Burns will represent us at the G-8 foreign ministerial meeting.

The Secretary was in the office this morning. She attended her morning staff meetings. She’s already made a few phone calls. She made a bunch of phone calls over the weekend as well. The first calls she made this morning were to Foreign Minister Frattini of Italy and Foreign Minister Bakoyannis of Greece to express her regret that she wouldn't be able to attend those two meetings.

And with that, I will – I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Okay. Other – what other?

MR. KELLY: Go ahead.

QUESTION: What other calls did she make this morning? Sorry.

MR. KELLY: I know that she’s also talked to – if Matt were here, he’d correct me on this. But Foreign Secretary Miliband of the UK. Is that right?

QUESTION: Right.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: What was the topic? What was the topic?

MR. KELLY: I hope to have later on this afternoon a readout for you guys that we can give to you all.

QUESTION: Has she been participating directly in the consultations at the White House on Iran, developments over the weekend and today?

MR. KELLY: She participated via telephone.

QUESTION: Today?

MR. KELLY: Not that – well, I’m not – I don’t know about today. We may have some more information about that later on as well. But I know that over the weekend she was on the telephone with principals.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything more about her condition? In other words, is she having some reaction to medication, something that is prohibiting her from traveling or --

MR. KELLY: You know, I don’t think so. I was in a meeting with her this morning for about 45 minutes, and she clearly has mobility issues with --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. KELLY: -- a big cast and a sling. And she’s a right-hander, so it’s – she’s got some dexterity and mobility issues. But she was on top of her game this morning.

QUESTION: Can you explain to us, Ian, why – Deputy Secretary Steinberg said that Special Representative Holbrooke and Special Envoy Mitchell would also be in Trieste. I think it’s well known, the Afghanistan-Pakistan related meetings.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: But what is going to be Ambassador Mitchell’s – Senator Mitchell’s role in Trieste?

MR. KELLY: I believe there’s also a Quartet meeting. I hope I’m not out of ahead of myself by saying that, but I believe there’s also – yeah, they will be talking about Middle East issues as well.

QUESTION: So he would represent the United States at the Quartet meeting?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure – I’m not sure what – I mean, he would participate.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, Charlie.

QUESTION: If we can go back to the Secretary’s condition, is she still in the building? Is she still conducting business of any kind?

MR. KELLY: I believe that she --

QUESTION: Or did she leave for the day?

MR. KELLY: No, I believe she’s had – I think she’s got a meeting outside the building. I’m not sure whether or not she’s physically here right now.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Ian, two quick questions. So the – Deputy Steinberg is going to Corfu, which as he said is at the end of the week, so why is he also not going to Trieste on the way to Corfu? Why is Bill Burns going to that? Because he’s involved with Iran or the P-5+1, or what?

MR. KELLY: That’s a good question. I think a lot of it is logistical, actually. It is difficult to go from Trieste to Corfu. There’s a lot of different planes that have to be --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) taking the Secretary’s plane (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: I --

QUESTION: Maybe not. Well --

MR. KELLY: Maybe not.

QUESTION: Well, my point is that there was – the Italians had invited the Iranians to attend a P-5+1 meeting in Italy, and there are indications that the Iranians are not sending anyone --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- because of what’s happening over there. So I wonder whether this was a factor in her decision not to go. In other words, did she think, well, if there’s no opportunity to engage Iran at this point, that she might as well stay home?

MR. KELLY: I think right now, she wants to be sure that she is able to pick up a full schedule as soon as possible. She made her decision based on advice from her doctor. And she has a very full schedule of travel, as you know, this summer, and she just wants to make sure she is on the right path to being able to take up a complete schedule.

QUESTION: Actually, we don’t know about her full schedule this summer. Where is she going?

MR. KELLY: She will have a full schedule this summer. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Ian, on Iran, a few different things. First, what is Dennis Ross’ status as far as you understand as of today?

MR. KELLY: As of today, he is – he’s here at the State Department. He has been in constant touch with the Secretary. I know that he spoke with her several times over the weekend. He continues to be the – and I’m probably going to mess up his title, but the special advisor for --

QUESTION: Gulf and Southwest --

MR. KELLY: Gulf and Southwest Asia affairs. A lot of us were in contact with Dennis over the weekend as we were following these very dramatic events in Tehran. So we all here at the State Department benefited from his insights.

QUESTION: Was Dennis participating in interagency meetings over the weekend as far as you --

MR. KELLY: I think it’s fair to say that Dennis participated in interagency meetings, yes.

QUESTION: Will his job be here at State, or is he actually moving to the White House?

MR. KELLY: His job is here at State.

QUESTION: The – Friday’s sermon by Ayatollah Khamenei, did that set back the prospects for meaningful engagement with the regime? It seemed extraordinarily strident and hostile to the West.

MR. KELLY: I think that – well, I mean, you all know our policy about engagement and our policy about preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. But I really think that the focus has to be on what’s going on inside Iran. This is not about us, this is not about our bilateral relationship right now. This is about Iranians and the Iranians having their rights to express themselves, be respected, their political will be respected.

The President made a very strong statement, I thought, standing very firmly behind those who want to have their views respected, want to be able to peaceably assemble, want to have access to the media. So right now, our focus is on this very dramatic situation unfolding inside Iran.

QUESTION: This situation is unfolding in a country with which the Obama Administration over months now has been attempting to engage. And I’m simply asking whether the prospects for that succeeding or not seem to you to be improving or slipping away?

MR. KELLY: Well, again, this is a very rapidly evolving situation. At this point, we are – like all of you, we are following with great interest what’s happening in Iran. And it’s a rapidly evolving situation right now.

QUESTION: Let me put it one last way if I may, and then I’ll yield. A very knowledgeable source told me that right now, the Obama Administration is in the process of recalibrating its entire approach to the nuclear diplomacy issue with Iran. Is that true?

MR. KELLY: I will – what I will say is that this issue of Iran and its refusal to meet its obligations to the international community is a matter of great concern to us. But again, right now, we want to see this process worked out in a way that the will of the Iranian people is respected.

QUESTION: It just sounds like engagement is on hold, is what you’re saying.

MR. KELLY: I’m not saying engagement is on hold. I’m just saying instead that our focus is on what’s going on in Iran right now.

Yeah, Jill.

QUESTION: Ian, it sounds as if you have basically two tracks going on. One would be the nuclear engagement, which is separate from the election; is that right?

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, right now, I don’t – I’m not sure which track you mean, if you’re talking about a real track. And we have – the Iranians have not responded to Javier Solana’s invitation to join the P-5+1 talks, at which we’ve said we are willing to sit down. So there’s not much developments going on, not many developments going on in that track.

QUESTION: Granted that, can you see the situation with the election having a direct effect on how you deal with their – with the nuclear issue?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think it’s fair to say that this is a very dramatic situation going on in Iran, and by all indications, the authorities there are very much focused on this dramatic internal situation.

QUESTION: So what are you saying, that they won’t do anything on nukes?

MR. KELLY: I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying at the present time, the whole world is watching, and all eyes are on the internal situation there.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. still willing to have the idea of a P-5+1 meeting (inaudible) the G-8 despite what’s going on in Iran?

MR. KELLY: P-5+1 at the G-8?

QUESTION: Right. Is the U.S. still --

MR. KELLY: Well, I think that’s up to the Italian hosts. I think you have to ask them.

QUESTION: But the U.S. is (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: We’ve said that if they would respond to our invitation, that we would take it up.

Yeah, Jill.

QUESTION: Just one more on Iran. You were saying, you know, watching with great interest, et cetera. I’m sure that’s happening. Can you be a little more specific on how the Secretary is watching this? Because a lot of the really dramatic stuff is real time, coming over TV, coming over TV reporting, on Twitter, et cetera.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: And also, there was this case of the young woman who died --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- Neda, I believe. Is the Secretary aware of that? Is she making any comments about the role of women in this, which is significant?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think that, as I said before, Dennis Ross is playing an important role in briefing the Secretary. It’s been, frankly, very difficult, as it is for all of you, really, to get good, hard, confirmable information about what’s going on because of the inability of the media, of representatives of your organizations to really cover the situation. It’s been dangerous on the streets, so foreign diplomats, of course, have had difficulty as well.

She is following this situation with great concern, and as I said, these are very dramatic and very distressing images that we see. Most distressing of all is the image of this young woman covered in blood.

QUESTION: Do you know if --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- Secretary Clinton has spoken directly with the President in the last few days about Iran?

MR. KELLY: Yes, she has.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On China --

QUESTION: Can we – Ian --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, one more on Iran?

QUESTION: I have several more.

MR. KELLY: Several more.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: (Laughter.) I’m going to run out of material here.

QUESTION: We’ll supply the --

QUESTION: This isn’t a frivolous question, really. Do you think it’s still appropriate to have Iranians come to these July 4th parties under the circumstances? I mean, is there any thought being given to like, rescinding invitations?

MR. KELLY: No, there’s no thought to rescinding the invitations to Iranian diplomats.

QUESTION: It’s appropriate to have a social dialogue with them if they come?

MR. KELLY: Well, we have made a strategic decision to engage on a number of fronts with Iran, and we tried many years of isolation and we’re pursuing a different path now.

QUESTION: Have they said yes?

QUESTION: The President keeps saying that --

MR. KELLY: I don’t know, Arshad. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The President keeps saying that it’s important for the U.S. to not be seen as trying to influence events inside Iran one way or the other. But the Iranian Government has begun blaming not just the U.S., but also the British --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- the French, and the Germans for meddling, for making social networking tools available --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- for – by just simply saying that they stand with the people --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- accusing them of meddling.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: This morning, we heard from the former crown prince, Reza Pahlavi, also essentially asking President Obama and the State Department to say more. Is this narrow path that the U.S. is treading going to be the path? And if so, why?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what you’ve seen in Iran, what we just saw on Friday is what you’ve been seeing all along. And that’s using us as a kind of foil – using the Great Satan, using the U.S. as a way to justify the policies or gain public support. So we don’t want to get into a polemic necessarily on this. I think what you saw over the weekend, though, was a – as I said before, a very strong statement by the President, setting out these fundamental principles that our country was founded on. And these are the kind of principles that we are going to stand up for, wherever we see them being violated, and --

QUESTION: But if the Iranian Government is going to go ahead and accuse the U.S. of meddling, why wouldn’t there be a willingness to say more or to do more on the U.S.’s part, for example, asking for an investigation of human rights abuses at the UN?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think – as I said before, I think that we’ve already done a lot. And I think because of the reasons I laid out before, I’m not necessarily – I don’t necessarily think we need to get into kind of a Washington-Tehran polemic. I think we need to coordinate, and I think that the Secretary is doing that – coordinating our approaches with our allies. I think we have to do these things together. I don’t think it’s necessarily productive for the U.S. to be out in front on this. I think we need to do these things together.

QUESTION: So there isn’t any element that the U.S. policy toward Iran – engagement, the nuclear issue, direct bilateral relations, July 4th parties – there isn’t a single element in our policy toward Iran that the events of the last 10 days has caused us to rethink?

MR. KELLY: Oh, well, no, I think that what – again, this is a rapidly developing situation. But I think we’ve come out very strongly condemning acts of violence, calling for the Iranians to open up their society, to allow these Iranian protestors to be able to express their views, to be able to assemble peacefully. These are all very strong statements on our part.

QUESTION: But on the broad level – engagement with Iran, our approach toward the nuclear issue on the broad level – these things are undisturbed by the events of the last few days, correct?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I said before, we – right now, we’re not really focused on the bilateral relationship, not so much. What we’re focused on is what’s going on inside Iran.

QUESTION: How focused is the U.S. Government on what appears to be a growing schism among the members of the theocracy inside Iran?

MR. KELLY: I think we’re monitoring all these situations very closely. We’re monitoring how the Iranian people are being treated by their own government. We’re monitoring the way the situation is unfolding, and I’ll just leave it at that.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Ian, you said – you talked about the need to coordinate approaches with allies. How have you done that so far? I mean, we haven’t really seen any joint statements from the U.S. and other European nations or others or any high-level meetings on the matter.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: How exactly are you coordinating the approach?

MR. KELLY: Well, the – as I said, the Secretary has called some of her colleagues today. We’re going to have more opportunities to talk in these two multilateral meetings coming up. As far as joint statements are concerned, I think we’re talking more about common approaches rather than joint statements.

QUESTION: Have you had any contact with the former Iranian crown prince?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of any.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, on China. Could you tell me something about the visit of the Chinese Director of the Taiwan Affairs office? Mr. Wang Yi is visiting Washington, so who will meet with him in this building? What are the names?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure. So if we can get you information, I will get you information.

QUESTION: So what --

MR. KELLY: Sorry.

QUESTION: Sorry, there’s a follow-up question. What’s your comments on the new developments across Taiwan Strait?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry, the new --

QUESTION: New developments across Taiwan Strait, new situation in Taiwan Strait?

MR. KELLY: Well, we are very supportive of a lessening of tensions across the strait, and we would welcome further such developments.

Nick.

QUESTION: Still on China. You issued a Travel Warning on Friday, late Friday, about China and the quarantine that is still taking place now. It’s been almost two months since the Chinese have been doing this. Why did it take you so long to issue this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think we have the – the Embassy’s been in contact with American citizens living in China. And so I know that there’s been contact through the Warden system with American citizens. We’ve addressed this issue, I think in a number of ways, the issue of these quarantine measures.

QUESTION: Have you --

MR. KELLY: But I’m not sure what exactly preceded this advisory of June 19.

QUESTION: Have you – I mean, the statement described some treatment of children and their parents in a way that they will not be treated in this country. They’ve been separated – the children from their parents – because one may display symptoms of the flu or the others not.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Have you talked or discussed with the Chinese this specific issue? And it seemed to me like you’re making an observation, but you’re not doing anything to see whether the Chinese can perhaps change the way they treat people.

MR. KELLY: Well, I know that our Embassy and our consulates are in very close touch with the Chinese Government and getting more information about the rationale for these kinds of procedures, trying to get information about travelers who’ve been taken off of airplanes and put in quarantine. So I know that there’s been a constant communication between our diplomatic missions in China and the Chinese Government.

QUESTION: But so far no success in getting them to change the way they do it?

MR. KELLY: Well, we’ve made our views quite well known. I think we’ve made some progress, but I just don’t have details that I can point to you right here.

QUESTION: Can I follow up?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, go ahead, Kirit.

QUESTION: Can you confirm this report in the Financial Times this morning that the U.S. complained in Beijing to the Chinese Government about its recent internet crackdowns?

MR. KELLY: Officials from the State Department, USTR, Department of Commerce based at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, met with government officials at the Chinese Ministry of Information, Technology, and Industry, and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce to express our concerns regarding the Chinese Government’s requirement that all computers sold in China include Green Dam internet filtering software. We are concerned about Green Dam in terms of its potential impact on trade, the free flow of information, and the serious technical issues raised by the software.

We believe there are other commercially available software programs which provide users with a wide range of choices for shielding minors from illicit or inappropriate internet contact – content, which is the ostensible rationale for this. We’ve also asked the Chinese to engage in a dialogue on how to address these concerns.

QUESTION: Do you feel that this – when you talk about how there’s commercially – other commercially available products, do you feel that this is being used in simply nefarious – you know, domestic spying or to keep an eye on Chinese citizens? I mean, is that really your concern?

MR. KELLY: I think what we’re concerned about is their ostensible reason for this, which is an applaudable reason to try and prevent minors from being exposed to pornography. It’s just that this particular – and I’m going to start getting into an area where I don’t have real technical knowledge, but this particular software has broader applications than that. It has broader filtering implications.

QUESTION: And I guess what I’m trying to understand is, if you don’t think their stated reason is true, is actually their intentions, what do you believe their intentions to be?

MR. KELLY: Well, I’m not going to try and guess what their intentions are. We’re just concerned that this particular software can have broader applications.

QUESTION: But you are, though. I mean, you are saying that --

MR. KELLY: Well --

QUESTION: -- their stated reason is not correct. So why --

MR. KELLY: No, we’re just saying it’s inappropriate software. It’s not – it does a lot more than just filter out those particular --

QUESTION: Like what?

MR. KELLY: It can be used to filter out other websites, too.

QUESTION: So you’re talking about free expression and --

MR. KELLY: We’re talking about free expression, yes.

QUESTION: Ian, isn’t it true that the Chinese have announced that they rescinded that order?

MR. KELLY: I have not seen that.

QUESTION: A taken question?

MR. KELLY: A taken question.

QUESTION: Ian, what do you expect to come out of the U.S.-Russian arms talks this week in Geneva? How much progress have you made in advance of the President’s summit? And also, President Medvedev said over the weekend that Russia will agree to cut its nuclear warheads if the U.S. meets its concerns on missile defense --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- meaning they don’t want the missile defense program to go ahead.

MR. KELLY: I do have something for you on that. The Administration has taken the position in our START follow-on agreement negotiations with Russia that the issues of missile defense and strategic offensive reductions should be dealt with independently. These are two different issues.

We’ve made no final decisions regarding basing missile defense in Europe, which will be based on an assessment of the threat to the United States and its allies. If that threat disappears, that will affect our decision on the need to move forward with missile defense.

Delegations from the United States and Russia are conducting talks in Geneva today and tomorrow, I believe – yes, June 22nd – no, today through Wednesday. And they’ll be discussing a variety of issues related to the START follow-on treaty.

You know that on April 1st in London, at their first meeting, President Obama and President Medvedev agreed that bilateral negotiations should start right away with the objective of achieving a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and eliminating strategic offensive arms, and that the U.S. and Russia would seek to record in the new agreement levels of reductions that will be lower than in the Moscow Treaty.

QUESTION: Do you have any specific numbers yet on those two areas?

MR. KELLY: They’re talking about specific numbers, but I’m not going to talk about specific numbers. We do want to have a significant reduction, though.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea.

MR. KELLY: North Korea.

QUESTION: Yeah. So could you update the situation with North Korean vessel in the Chinese sea trapped by U.S. Navy, and do you have any plan to ask permission to the vessel to make interdiction?

MR. KELLY: I’m not going to be able to tell you any more than I told you on Friday. I think you saw what Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen said last week. I’m not going to go into details of any specific ship, except that, of course, as always, we call upon North Korea to refrain from provocative actions.

What we’re focused on, especially here at the State Department, is we’re focused on a vigorous enforcement of Resolution 1874. And of course, ship inspections are an important element of this resolution. And we also call upon other UN member-states to enforce 1874.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Taiwan. I read an article on Defense News talking about Taiwan plans F-16 upgrade. So what’s your position on this --

MR. KELLY: You have to ask the Defense Department about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: You wanted – go ahead. You wanted something on the record? Is that it?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MR. KELLY: Okay.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MR. KELLY: Go ahead, ask.

QUESTION: He won’t answer. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On Israel, I was wondering what your reaction is to the new Israeli budget that puts tens of millions of dollars for new construction in Ma'ale Adummim in the West Bank and Har Homa in Jerusalem.

MR. KELLY: I’ll see if I can get you more information on that.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just to clarify --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: When you’re talking about no natural growth in settlements --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- does that include any Jerusalem neighborhoods that are over the green line?

MR. KELLY: That – we call for a cease to all settlement activity.

QUESTION: Including Jerusalem --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Including Jerusalem in that?

MR. KELLY: We’re talking about all settlement activity, yeah, in the area across the line.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:26 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - June 22]