Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 24, 2009


Index for Today's Briefing
  • THE SECRETARY
    • Secretary Clinton is in the office today / Met with senior staff
    • Meeting with Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Meredov
    • Spoke to FM Lavrov of Russian and FM Yang of China / Discussed North Korea and Iran
  • IRAN
    • Continue to watch the events in Iran / Consulting with allies and partners
    • Reports of crackdown are appalling and deplorable / Difficult to confirm since Iran has shut down internet and asked foreign journalists to leave
    • Awaiting a response from Iran on the P-5+1 invitation from Javier Solana
    • Monitoring the situation / Will make decisions on July 4 invitations based on our national interests
    • US communicates with Iran in a number of ways / Interested in a substantive dialogue with Iran on important issues / Nuclear weapons / Human rights / Iran has not responded to any communications
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Will not comment of the movements of any ship
  • SYRIA
    • US will return an Ambassador to Damascus / A natural evolution of our reengagement with Syria
    • Syria plays an important role in the region
  • ISRAEL
    • Meeting between Special Envoy Mitchell and Prime Minister Netanyahu will be rescheduled / No date yet / Special Envoy Mitchell will meet with Defense Minister Barak on Monday
  • VENEZUELA
    • Both governments working toward the exchange of Ambassadors / In the best interests of both countries / No names or dates yet
    • Assistant Secretary Shannon spoke with FM Maduro on Monday
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • US does not support or oppose any candidate / Impartial / Goal is to support credible and secure elections / US supports the right of the people of Afghanistan to choose their own leaders
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    • Ambassadorial appointments are a presidential prerogative


TRANSCRIPT:

12:53 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Afternoon, guys. Let me start off --

QUESTION: Is it this cold (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: Did you make it this cold or --

MR. KELLY: I like it cold. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, you know, it’s not very good for the climate.

MR. KELLY: Are we on the record right now or – yeah.

QUESTION: I hope so, because --

MR. KELLY: Okay. I have –

QUESTION: -- if you say you want to fight the climate change, you can start here.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I have noted your concerns and we will look into them and --

QUESTION: It defies the carbon offset (inaudible).

MR. KELLY: Carbon offsets.

QUESTION: We wilt, under the weight of your carbon footprint.

MR. KELLY: (Laughter.) All right.

Turning to more serious matters, the Secretary has been in today. This morning, she met with senior staff. I think you also saw that she had a meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov. They discussed a number of bilateral issues, and also discussed areas of cooperation and some of our bilateral trade issues as well.

The Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Foreign Minister Yang today, and the focus of – in those two phone calls was primarily on North Korea, but they also, of course, discussed Iran.

So with that, I will turn to your questions.

QUESTION: Does that mean you’re willing to pursue something on Iran in the Security Council?

MR. KELLY: We have pursued something in the Security Council --

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MR. KELLY: -- but we’re focused now on implementing the --

QUESTION: On the violence, though.

MR. KELLY: Oh, about Iran.

QUESTION: About Iran.

QUESTION: Yeah, and North --

MR. KELLY: We talked about – for North Korea, we – the discussion was more on implementing the resolution. On Iran, we discussed – we exchanged views and shared some ideas.

QUESTION: On what?

QUESTION: On what?

MR. KELLY: Well, you know that we don’t go into deep detail of --

QUESTION: No, but I mean, if you’re going to say Iran – is it about the protests that you talked about?

MR. KELLY: Yes, it was about the protests.

QUESTION: Or was it about – because you’re pursuing other things with the UN as well on Iran, so --

MR. KELLY: I’ll just limit it to saying that we discussed the very dramatic situation in Iran right now.

QUESTION: Are you considering a more kind of united, robust international response to the crisis in Iran? I mean, perhaps protesting at the UN Security Council or something of that nature?

MR. KELLY: Well, as the President said yesterday, events are unfolding as we speak, and it’s – things are evolving very rapidly, and we’re going to see how things turn out before we make decisions. But we are, of course, consulting with our allies and partners. You – I told you yesterday the Secretary has spoken to several European foreign ministers. She’s discussed the situation as well with the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers. The President, of course, is very actively involved.

QUESTION: So now that she’s talking to the three European president, Chinese --

MR. KELLY: Four Europeans, actually.

QUESTION: -- and the Chinese and the Russian, she spoke with all the members of the P-5+1, do you plan any new sanction against Iran or any P-5+1 meeting?

MR. KELLY: Well, as far as the P-5+1 is concerned, of course, you know that Javier Solana sent out an invitation. We, of course, are waiting for an answer to that invitation, and we haven’t --

QUESTION: But you could meet without --

MR. KELLY: We haven’t received --

QUESTION: You could meet without them. You don’t – you have met several times without the Iranians.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm. As a matter of fact, well, there will be multilateral meetings in both Trieste and Corfu, and I’m sure we’ll discuss the issue of Iran there.

QUESTION: But the international meeting we heard about is not with the Russian and the Chinese. Apparently, they are not going to participate. So that’s why I’m curious to know.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not aware of a set P-5+1 meeting that’s planned. As I say, though, we are talking to them bilaterally, and of course, we talk to them multilaterally at the UN.

QUESTION: Ian, you just used the word, “evolving,” that the situation in Iran is evolving, which speaks of evolution. What do you observe to be the evolution of the situation in Iran?

MR. KELLY: Well, as you heard the President say yesterday, we don’t want to comment terribly much on the way that the political situation is evolving in Iran. What we’re seeing is very dramatic developments on the streets. We’re seeing the Iranian people who want their voices to be respected. We’re seeing these kinds of events happen every day.

QUESTION: Are you seeing the protests ebbing?

MR. KELLY: Am I seeing them ebbing?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. KELLY: I wouldn’t say that they’re ebbing, no.

QUESTION: Would you say that they’re – would you --

QUESTION: Did you see the renewed crackdown today on the street?

QUESTION: Excuse me. Would you say that they’re cresting?

MR. KELLY: I wouldn’t say that they’re cresting either.

QUESTION: So what is it that you – if you wouldn’t see that they’re ebbing, you see that they have maintained the same? Is that your observation?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not going to pronounce how exactly that the situation – I’m not going to make a value judgment on whether or not they’re ebbing or cresting.

QUESTION: I’m not asking for a value judgment on – I’m asking for crowds and just assessments of whether or not the protests are – seem to be continuing at the same scale, scope, size, geographic location, and so forth.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, we – as we’ve said on many occasions, and the President’s said too, we are hamstrung by the fact that the Iranian authorities have closed down the internet, have asked foreign journalists to leave. It is difficult for us to get good, control information on what happened.

QUESTION: So how can you say that they’re not ebbing?

MR. KELLY: I can’t say that they’re ebbing, I can’t say that they’re cresting. I don’t know that it’s necessarily productive for me to say one way or other to you, frankly.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the renewed crackdown or increased crackdown today on the streets of Tehran?

MR. KELLY: I’ve seen reports of it. I’ve seen reports of it on your network. And these reports, if they’re true, are absolutely appalling and deplorable. But again, it’s difficult for us to be able to confirm them.

QUESTION: Just because the President didn’t exactly respond to the question yesterday directly, does the invitation that American ambassadors overseas have been authorized to extend to Iranian diplomats for Fourth of July celebrations still stand?

MR. KELLY: Well, James, as you know, we sent out – or the Secretary sent out a telegram to every diplomatic and consular post authorizing chiefs of mission to extend invitations to our July 4th gatherings overseas. As far as I know, not a single Iranian has accepted one of those invitations. And this may be because our July 4th gatherings, no matter where they are, or whether they’re here or overseas – and I’ve been to about eight different Fourth of July gatherings overseas – they’re a celebration of our basic values, our basic values of independence and freedom, and these are exactly the kinds of freedoms that Iranians are protesting about on the streets. So as I say, we’re closely watching what’s going on. We’re monitoring what’s going on in the streets. We’re going to make judgments based on what we see, based on our national interests.

QUESTION: But the invitation, or shall I put it a different way, Secretary Clinton’s authorization for these invitations to be extended has not been rescinded.

MR. KELLY: As I say, we’re closely watching what’s going on and we’re going to make judgments –

QUESTION: Excuse me, you’re --

MR. KELLY: -- based on what we see on the ground.

QUESTION: That authorization – the authorization that she sent out in this telegram has not been rescinded; correct?

MR. KELLY: We’re – we are watching very closely what’s going on, and we will make decisions based on our national interests.

QUESTION: But isn’t it true that you’re not planning on sending out new invitations to Iranians that haven’t been extended yet?

MR. KELLY: Like I say, we’re closely watching what’s going on. And the Secretary will make decisions based on what we see going on on the ground.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, how much – I mean, so you’ve said that the violence is shocking, you’ve said that the violence is appalling. And you still plan on sending out new invitations? I mean, do you have to see if there’s more violence or see if there’s more --

MR. KELLY: No, no, no.

QUESTION: -- until you make a decision whether you’re going to extend new invitations?

MR. KELLY: Let me just say that given everything that’s going on, given the kind of response that the Iranian Government has had to these desires of the Iranian people to have their voices be heard, to have their basic freedoms be respected – these are the most fundamental political – American political values that we have, I think it’d be incongruous for Iranians to want to go to a celebration like that.

QUESTION: So can we write that you are considering withdrawing these invitations?

MR. KELLY: I’m just telling you right now that we’re closely watching everything going on, and we’re going to make judgments, decisions going forward based on what we see going --

QUESTION: But I mean, why haven’t you made a judgment based on what you’ve seen so far? I mean, have you not seen enough to make a judgment?

MR. KELLY: Well, as I say, we’re closely monitoring what’s going on, and we will be making a decision based on what we see.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t you say the fact that it would be incongruous – incongruous for them to come, you’re discouraging them from coming?

MR. KELLY: It’s – as the President said yesterday, we have extended a number of invitations to the Iranian Government to engage with us. This is their choice, whether they want to engage with us in a dialogue – in fact, whether they want to engage in a dialogue with their own people. They’re at a fork in the road right now, and they need to make this choice: Do they want to respect the political will of their people, and do they want to engage with us in a dialogue – engage with the international community in a dialogue and talk about their responsibilities to the international community?

QUESTION: Can you say how many embassies actually extended invitations?

MR. KELLY: I don’t have that information, Kirit. I know that the authorization for the invitations went out to every diplomatic and consular post.

QUESTION: Is there any way --

MR. KELLY: But whether or not every – and I’m sure there are countries where there aren’t Iranian embassies or Iranian diplomats --

QUESTION: Just for comparison, because you said that no one has accepted, I’m kind of curious --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- if you could get that information for us, how many actually did extend them.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’m not sure right now, as I stand here, how many did extend.

QUESTION: Is it one – last (inaudible) I thought it was a hundred --

MR. KELLY: Yeah – no, that’s true. That’s true.

QUESTION: Can you also take the question whether you’re going to extend additional invitations?

MR. KELLY: Yes, I can.

QUESTION: How can you be in a position to know that none have accepted? Was some effort made to reach out to all of the missions and all the offices and say, please report to us if the Iranians have accepted an invitation?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’m not aware that we’ve actually sent out a – such an instruction. I do know from my previous job that we are in contact dozens a day – dozens of times a day with our respective embassies. And this is a – obviously, a very important issue, and I can just imagine that everybody is reporting in --

Yeah.

QUESTION: Then why wouldn’t you know how many have gone out, if you --

MR. KELLY: Because I haven’t collected that information.

QUESTION: Just – somebody would have had to have researched the issue of whether any have accepted, in order for you to be able to say so in a blanket statement at the podium.

MR. KELLY: I’m saying as far as I know. And I have asked. But we haven’t – again, as far as I know, we haven’t made a systematic attempt to collect that information.

QUESTION: Who did you ask?

MR. KELLY: I just – I’ve been in touch with a number of different bureaus.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yesterday the President also said about Iran that he had been misquoted as saying that he had asked the Iranian people to go – to pour into the streets.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: The – Ayatollah Khamenei during his – the remarks he made on Friday during the Friday prayers, he had said that he had received – well, Iran had received a courteous letter from President Obama, and that he had mentioned something to that effect. Now, can you shed any lights on that letter for us, since – I mean, State Department would have had to have been consulted about this?

MR. KELLY: Well, as we’ve said on a number of different occasions, we communicate with Iran in a number of different ways. We communicate with them publicly, as the President has done, as the Secretary has done. We’re – what we’ve been interested all along in is a substantive dialogue on important issues like nuclear weapons, export of terror, human rights, the kinds of human rights violations that we’re seeing in Iran right now. The Iranians have not responded to any of these communications.

Regarding the letter itself, though, I want to highlight --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. KELLY: -- that this is – you don’t – well, I shouldn’t say that. On this occasion, we’re not going to get into the details of private diplomatic correspondence.

QUESTION: So if there’s a letter, it was sent?

QUESTION: So you’re acknowledging --

MR. KELLY: No, I’m not. I’m not acknowledging that. I’m saying there have been a number of different communications with Iran on a – in a number of different channels. But I’m not acknowledging this particular one.

QUESTION: Are you denying that such a letter was sent?

MR. KELLY: I am not acknowledging that any – I’m not confirming that any particular letter was sent.

QUESTION: Are you denying it?

MR. KELLY: I’m not confirming that any particular letter was sent out.

Yes.

QUESTION: Ian, I’m wondering, in the Secretary’s conversation with the Chinese and the Russian foreign ministers, does she want them to speak out about the situation in Iran? Because we haven’t really heard anything from China or Russia or any other country except from the Western countries.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: So even though you’re hoping that the other Muslim and Arab countries are seeing what’s happening and they might change their mind about the Iranian regime, they haven’t really spoken out about it.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I think the phone calls were basically an opportunity for us to – for the Secretary and her counterparts to exchange views on the situation. We’re all very concerned about the situation in North Korea. We’re all very concerned about getting it right with the implementation of UN Security Council 1874. And of course, we’re concerned about the situation in Iran. Whether or not she asked them specifically to speak out more, I’m just not aware of whether or not that was a topic of conversation.

QUESTION: And on – then on North Korea, did the ship that the U.S. is monitoring that supposedly is going to Burma come up, do you know, in the phone call?

MR. KELLY: We are – we’re not talking about any details of any particular ships. I mean, I’m not talking about any particular details, and I’m not going to get into the details of that conversation.

QUESTION: But you’re not saying that she didn’t --

MR. KELLY: I’m not saying --

QUESTION: -- in the phone call?

MR. KELLY: I’m just saying that this is – we’re just not getting in the details of – the movements of any specific ship.

QUESTION: Can we change the subject?

MR. KELLY: Sure.

QUESTION: There have been a number of reports of ambassadorial appointments given to bundlers of President Obama’s campaign. I was wondering, are there more bundlers in this particular crop of nominees than the past? Does this concern the State Department, or do you think it’s consistent with past practice?

MR. KELLY: Well, as you know, the nomination of ambassadors is strictly a presidential prerogative. I am not going to get into any issues related to White House nominations.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, they are serving at U.S. embassies around the world. And this Administration did say that it wanted to dispense with politics as usual. So don’t you think that, kind of, diplomacy and dollars as usual should be changed?

MR. KELLY: Well, like I say, I’m just not going to get into the details of presidential nominations.

Yeah, Sylvie.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that you decided to send an ambassador again in Syria and Venezuela?

MR. KELLY: I do have something for you on that. As you know, we’re prepared to move forward with Syria to advance our interests through direct and continuing dialogue. Of course, you know that we continue to have concerns about Syria’s role in this region. And we think one way to address those concerns is to have an ambassador in Damascus. So yesterday, we informed the Syrian charge d'affaires in Washington, and our charge d'affaires in Damascus informed the ministry of foreign affairs in Damascus of the Administration’s decision to return an ambassador to Syria.

And this decision reflects the Administration’s recognition of the important role Syria plays in the region. And of course, we hope that they will continue to play such a constructive role to promote peace and stability in the region.

You know, of course, that Acting Assistant Secretary Feltman and his NSC colleague Shapiro made several trips to Damascus, as did Senator Mitchell. And this is part of a natural evolution of our reengagement with Syria.

QUESTION: You said several trips. There were only two; correct?

MR. KELLY: Two, yeah. I meant two.

QUESTION: Is there any date for the meeting between Senator Mitchell and Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MR. KELLY: That meeting will be rescheduled. As you know, as I said yesterday, it was postponed because we wanted to have a meeting between Senator Mitchell and Defense Minister Barak on Monday here in Washington. But no, it hasn’t been rescheduled yet.

QUESTION: What about Venezuela? She asked --

MR. KELLY: Oh, Venezuela, yeah, sorry. I think I have something on Venezuela. Yes.

Since Secretary Clinton and President Chavez spoke during the Summit of the Americas, both our governments have worked toward the goal of returning ambassadors to our respective capitals. We are currently taking the necessary measures to accomplish this goal. And we think that exchanging ambassadors is in the best interests of both countries. But I don’t have any names for you right now or dates.

QUESTION: So the decision is taken? It means --

MR. KELLY: The decision has been taken to – there was a – what happened was there was a – Assistant Secretary Shannon spoke to Foreign Minister Maduro, and we agreed to move forward. This was on June 22nd, on Monday.

QUESTION: There’s no timetable and no --

MR. KELLY: No. I mean, this is a process that --

QUESTION: Does this mean Ambassador Duddy’s going to return?

MR. KELLY: -- depends on a number of factors. It depends on personnel factors and, of course, it depends on the Senate of the United States, too. So there is a process that needs to be followed, and so we can’t really put a timeframe on it.

QUESTION: So Ambassador Duddy wouldn’t return? It would be someone new you --

MR. KELLY: Oh, I don’t know if it’ll be Ambassador Duddy returning or somebody new. Frankly, I really don’t know.

QUESTION: The Senate has already confirmed Patrick Duddy --

MR. KELLY: That’s a good point.

QUESTION: -- so it wouldn’t involve the Senate.

MR. KELLY: That’s a good point. That’s a good point. That would change the timeline. Yeah, you’re right.

QUESTION: Just to return to Syria if we can?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has the United States been asking the Syrians to use their good offices with Hamas to advance the prospects of a unity government with the Palestinians?

MR. KELLY: James, I’m frankly just not aware that we’ve had those kind of discussions. And even if we have had them, I’m not sure that we’d want to make them public.

QUESTION: And is any thought being given to delisting Syria from the State Department’s list of nations that sponsor terrorism?

MR. KELLY: No, not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Can --

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: I have a question on Netanyahu. May I --

MR. KELLY: Back to Netanyahu, okay.

QUESTION: Can – okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. What was the reason, why was it felt that it would be better to have the Barak meeting first? And whose initiative was it, the plan changed?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I think – Bob, I think I addressed this yesterday. It was a joint decision made by respective staffs, and I think that we just agreed that before we had a meeting with the prime minister, we needed to have a meeting with Mr. Barak.

QUESTION: There must have been a change of thinking, because the original plan was to have the meeting in Paris and --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I think there was – yeah, obviously, there was a change of thinking and they decided to have a intermediary step before meeting with the prime minister.

QUESTION: For no particular reason, or any particular reason?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure exactly what the reason would be.

QUESTION: All right. But the announcement came pretty much right after Israel’s – you know, this new settlement activity and --

MR. KELLY: You’re making a linkage.

QUESTION: I am, because, I mean, it’s – you know, it’s a day or two --

MR. KELLY: I’m not prepared to make a linkage.

QUESTION: -- before a meeting, all of a sudden, this announcement comes out and (inaudible) meeting.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m just not – I wouldn’t draw that conclusion necessarily. I mean, it seems natural to me that the Israeli Government would, before we have a meeting with the prime minister, that we would have a meeting with a key member of his cabinet. And I wouldn’t see anything in it beyond that.

QUESTION: If I can go back to Syria. Is the – did the situation in Iran help to take the decision to send somebody back to Damascus (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: As I said before, I think this is just the natural culmination of an evolution of our reengagement with Syria.

QUESTION: There is no link whatsoever?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that there was any influence of the very dramatic situation going on in Iran.

Yeah, you’ve been waiting a long time. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. The Council of Foreign Ministers of the Arab League issued a positive statement today in Cairo committing themselves to be helpful or to cooperate positively with the – Obama’s goal to achieve the comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are you aware of this statement they issued today?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of it. It sounds like something that we should welcome. It sounds like a very positive development. But let me see if I can get you a more formal reaction from the State Department to that.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On Syria, I just wanted to – Syria, just to finish up. If I’m not mistaken, you said that you hope that Syria will continue to play a constructive role?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has it been playing a constructive role so far?

MR. KELLY: Well, without going into too much detail, I think you’ve seen some comments from people like General Odierno. I know that they have played a positive role in addressing some of our very real concerns about foreign fighters crossing from Syria. We’ve had some good discussions with them in those four different visits that we had to Damascus – the two visits, the Feltman/Shapiro delegation, the Mitchell visit, and then you had a CENTCOM visit as well. So yeah, I think that’s a fair assessment.

QUESTION: Was there also a visit by another assistant secretary of state in connection with scouting locations for a new embassy in Damascus?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure about that.

QUESTION: Could you take that as a question, please?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: Didn’t Eric Boswell travel there about – a couple of months ago to check out the security situation in --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. It’s ringing bells, but let me get back to you. I mean, we’re scouting locations for a lot of different embassies.

QUESTION: A question about Pakistan: The information minister Bukhari said that following the latest drone attacks in South Waziristan, he called them counterproductive and said that they would affect relations with the United States. Has the Pakistani Government communicated such a view?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that it has.

QUESTION: And have you – you’ve made no communication with them regarding this latest round?

MR. KELLY: I’m also not aware of that. Let me see if we can get you more information.

QUESTION: A quick question for you on Argentina.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Did Governor Sanford of South Carolina talk to the State Department or your Embassy in Buenos Aires before or after his trip, or during his trip? Did he contact you guys at all?

MR. KELLY: Again, let me get you information on that. I don’t want to shoot from the hip on a question like that.

QUESTION: If you could, please.

MR. KELLY: So, yeah, sure.

Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: In Afghanistan, the U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan has been meeting opposition presidential candidates, which is being opposed by President Karzai and his office. Is the U.S. supporting any other candidate or extending help to some opposition candidates?

MR. KELLY: The U.S. does not support or oppose any candidate in the upcoming elections in Afghanistan. We are impartial. Our goal is to support credible and secure elections, and to help provide a level playing field for all candidates. We support the right of the people of Afghanistan to choose their own leaders. The United States seeks an enduring partnership with the Afghan people, not necessarily with any particular Afghan leader.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:05 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - June 24]