Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 25, 2009


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton Whereabouts / Meeting with President Obama
    • Under Secretary Burns Travel to G-8 Summit in Trieste / Bilateral Meetings with FMs Lavrov and Nakasone
    • Special Envoy Mitchell Travel to Trieste
  • VENEZUELA
    • U.S. and Venezuela Exchange Diplomatic Notes / Rescinding of Declarations of Persona non Grata / Full Diplomatic Representation to Resume / Advancing of U.S. Interests
  • SOMALIA
    • Concern over On-going Violence / State Department Supplying Weapons and Ammunition on Urgent Basis / In Accordance with UN Security Council Resolutions / Transitional Federal Government Best Chance for Peace / Focus on Djibouti Peace Process
  • ERITREA
    • Concern over Role Played in Somalia / Financing of Extremist Groups / Improving Relations
  • IRAN
    • Election Aftermath / Iranian Need to Address Real Concerns of the People / Monitoring Situation / Secretary Clinton Contact with Counterparts / Concern from Russia and China
    • Rescinding 4th of July Invites
  • NORTH KOREA
    • North Korea Provocative Actions / UNSC Resolution 1874
    • Humanitarian Aid / Absence of NGOs
    • Detained Journalists / Secretary Clinton's Involvement / Working Different Channels
  • KYRGYZSTAN
    • Manas Airbase / Setting Up Logistics and Transportation Hub / Facilitate Transportation of Personnel and Equipment to Afghanistan / Welcome Efforts of the Kyrgyz
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Military Activities in the West Bank / Easing of Manned Israeli Defense Force Checkpoints / Positive Steps / More Work to be Done / Security Concerns / Two-State Solution
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    • Appointment of Special Representative to Muslim Communities / Farah Pandith / Global Role
  • MAURITANIA
    • Murder of American / Working with Local Police / On-Going Investigation / Al-Qaida Claim of Responsibility
  • CHINA
    • Green Dam Censorship Filtering / International Concern / Serious Technical Issues with Software / Letter from USTR to Chinese Officials / U.S. Seeking Dialogue / Impact on Free-Flow of Information


TRANSCRIPT:

1:00 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Okay. Listen, just a few things at the top if you don’t mind.

Secretary Clinton worked from home this morning. I think you know she has a meeting with the President this afternoon – that will be closed press. Regarding the meetings in Trieste today, Under Secretary Burns arrived for the G-8 foreign ministers meeting. As you know, he is representing the Secretary there. He’s already had a meeting with the G-8 political directors, and has on his schedule for later tonight bilateral meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Japanese Foreign Minister Nakasone. This will be followed by a G-8 foreign ministers working dinner. Special Envoy Mitchell has also arrived as – or no, actually, only Secretary – only Special Envoy Mitchell has arrived in Trieste. Special Representative Holbrooke arrives tomorrow.

Also today, the U.S. and Venezuela exchanged diplomatic notes. We have agreed to rescind the declarations of persona non grata issued in September 2008 and return U.S. Ambassador Patrick D. Duddy and Venezuelan Ambassador Bernardo Alvarez to their respective posts in Caracas and Washington. An experienced career diplomat, Ambassador Duddy, of course, enjoys the full confidence of President Obama and Secretary Clinton. With his return, full diplomatic representation will resume. This important step will help advance U.S. interests by improving bilateral communication and enhancing our outreach to the Venezuelan people.

QUESTION: Is he already there?

MR. KELLY: He plans – no, he’s not already there. He plans to arrive, I think, by the end of the week. But he plans to arrive very soon.

QUESTION: Can we go to Somalia? Is the United States providing weapons to the transitional government in Somalia? And if so, are those – what kind of weapons? Are they U.S. weapons and ammunition, or are they simply funded by the United States, bought elsewhere, and then sent there?

MR. KELLY: As you know, we remain deeply concerned about the ongoing violence in Mogadishu and attacks against the Transitional Federal Government. At the request of that government, the State Department has helped to provide weapons and ammunition on an urgent basis. This is to support the Transitional Federal Government’s efforts to repel the onslaught of extremist forces, which are intent on destroying the Djibouti peace process and spoiling efforts to bring peace and stability to Somalia through political reconciliation.

Any State Department – let me just finish.

QUESTION: Please. Sorry, I thought you had.

MR. KELLY: Any State Department assistance to the TFG underscores our longstanding policy of supporting the Djibouti peace process. This is also supported by the international community and follows on to our participation in International Contact Group meetings in Somalia.

QUESTION: As you know, the UN Security Council has had a longstanding ban on arms shipments to Somalia. But I believe in May, they, I think, passed a resolution that would allow for this, provided that such shipments were approved by the relevant UN committee. Did the United States seek and obtain the approval of the committee and, therefore, this does not in any way violate UN resolutions?

MR. KELLY: Well, Arshad, it’s my understanding that all this assistance is provided in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

QUESTION: And is there – can you – what – two things: One, what kind of weapons and arms are the – and ammunition is this? And second, is it U.S. weaponry and ammunition, or are you buying it elsewhere?

MR. KELLY: Arshad, I just don’t have that information, I’m afraid.

QUESTION: Could you take those? Would you mind?

MR. KELLY: If I can get the information, I’ll be happy to give it to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And when this was transferred, please?

MR. KELLY: I understand we’re providing it on an urgent basis. In terms of the exact chronology of it, I’m not sure. But it is – we’re providing it on an urgent basis.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about another aspect of the military support for the Somalian Government, the training of Somali security forces? Has a decision been made by the U.S. Government to assist in some way in that training, either in country or in a third country?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. The short answer is I don’t know. But I would imagine if you ask my colleagues in the Pentagon, they may be able to give you a better answer.

QUESTION: But isn’t that – that’s part of a State Department program, as I understand it.

MR. KELLY: Through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, INL, you mean?

QUESTION: I’m not sure that’s --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I think INL would provide training to police forces, I think. But if you’re talking about – and I may be misspeaking here, but if you’re talking about training of military forces, I think that’ll be --

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, let’s say police then. That’s – what --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, that – let me see if I can get you that information.

QUESTION: Okay. Also, do you know anything about a $10 million package of assistance? Is that what this is about, or is there some other figure?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I think I’ll have to get you --

QUESTION: On that same vein, can you --

MR. KELLY: I think I’ll have to get you that information, David.

QUESTION: Can you give us a dollar figure for the arms and ammunition you’re providing --

MR. KELLY: We’ll see what we can do, Kirit.

QUESTION: Are you afraid that the – I mean, you referred to the onslaught by the insurgents. Are you afraid that the Transitional Federal Government is in danger of collapsing, of being overwhelmed by the --

MR. KELLY: Well, we are concerned. I mean, we think that this government, the Transitional Federal Government, represents Somalia’s best chance for peace, stability, and reconciliation. This is the best chance – this government is the best chance they have had in the last 18 years. And in addition to this threat to the government, this is causing real suffering. This kind of violence is causing real suffering for the Somali people, and it’s just prolonging the chaos and preventing the country from getting on stable footing. So yes, we are concerned.

QUESTION: Ian, is the decision, which I understand was a byproduct of the review of Somali policy, which is ongoing, is that – first of all, is that correct?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think in a broader context, that that’s fair to say. But this was in response to a request by the Somali Government.

QUESTION: Is the decision broader than that? Does it include other contemplated or decided forms of support beyond political support of the --

MR. KELLY: I think what we’re focused on now is these urgent needs to help the government there deal with this – these attacks. If I can get you more information about a broader package, I can ask my colleagues in the African Bureau to get it for you.

QUESTION: Is that – yeah, I had the impression that it wasn’t just a single element of the --There are other things that --

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Let me just see if I can get you more information. We’re – I mean, we’re very focused on this Djibouti peace process, helping this Transitional Federal Government deal with this immediate threat. But in a broader sense, of course, we’re looking to help them establish more stability

QUESTION: Is the Government of Djibouti going to play a role in any other form of military assistance like training, since there is a training base there? There’s a base, as you know. Is that going to be part of the --

MR. KELLY: Well, again, that’s probably something that my colleagues in the Pentagon would know more about.

Any other on this?

QUESTION: On this one, the U.S. Government and others have repeatedly accused Eritrea of arming and training the al-Shabaab and other insurgents in Somalia. I believe Assistant Secretary Carson has made public his desire to visit Eritrea, and there have been some issues over whether he would be granted a visa and so on. To your knowledge, has there been any break in the logjam there? And do you have any expectation that he may soon go to Eritrea, in part, to address this issue?

MR. KELLY: Well, on the specifics of Secretary Carson’s travel, I’ll have to look into that. I’m not aware of his specific plans to visit Eritrea. What I can say is that we are very concerned about the role of Eritrea. We think they are providing material support, including financing, to some of these extremist groups, most particularly al-Shabaab. We’ve taken these concerns up with the Government of Eritrea. I want to emphasize that we remain open to trying to improve relations with Eritrea, but that this country’s support, Eritrea’s support for al-Shabaab and other extremist groups is a serious obstacle to any improvement that we can make.

QUESTION: Can you particularly check on the issue of – even if he doesn’t have a scheduled trip, if maybe they’re granting a visa or made clear that they will grant a visa – the Eritreans?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. I’m not sure I can get that information, but we can check with our colleagues.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Other – a new issue?

QUESTION: Yes. On Iran?

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: On Iran, sir, I was wondering – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that the Obama Administration is behaving like the Bush Administration, and said there wasn’t much point in talking to Washington unless it apologizes to Iran. What – how is the State Department going to deal with this?

MR. KELLY: Well, as the President has said many times, what’s going on in Iran now is not about us. They’re – the Iranian Government has to focus on addressing the very real concerns of the Iranian people about their desire to be more involved in the political process. They can’t solve their problems by blaming them on us. They have to be focused, as we are, on what’s going on right now inside Iran.

Yes.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran? Sorry.

MR. KELLY: One more question? Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, obviously, it’s becoming more and more difficult to know what’s happening there because of the expulsion of so many journalists. And I wonder whether you might pursue something at the UN. Is that a venue that you think might help to address how the international community responds to this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think I addressed this yesterday in very general terms. We’re closely monitoring everything that’s going on there. As you point out, Nick, it’s getting harder and harder to monitor what’s going on there with this – with the closing down of the internet, to the expulsion of foreign journalists, the intimidation of the Iranian people, and the violence committed against those who are trying to exercise their universal rights to self-expression, communication and the right to assemble.

Secretary Clinton is in constant contact with her counterparts. We are consulting. We’ve got – as I said yesterday, we’ve got a couple of multilateral meetings coming up in Trieste and Corfu. And Iran, of course, will be a subject of discussion there. And as I also said yesterday, things are developing very quickly there. We’re very concerned about what’s happening. And we just need to see how this is all going to shake out.

QUESTION: Right. Although that doesn’t necessarily answer my question. But I’m wondering, in those meetings that you’re talking about, is the U.S. going into those meetings with an open mind or perhaps a suggestion that eventually these will move to the UN and specifically to the Security Council? Is there anything that you’ve done, any homework that you’ve done here before going to those meetings that might lead to that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, we’re – I mean, we’re discussing a lot of different options multilaterally and within the government. As we’ve said many times, we are – we’re very concerned about what we see going on on the ground. We want the will of the Iranian people to be respected and we’re coordinating with our allies and partners.

QUESTION: And just one last one. Have – I wonder whether you’ve been – whether you’ve noticed or have been discouraged or encouraged by anything that Russia and China might have said about the situation in Iran so far?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think as far as Russia and China is concerned, as I said yesterday, the Secretary spoke to both Foreign Minister Lavrov and Foreign Minister Yang. Russia and China have – they’ve expressed their own concerns about Iran and the path that it’s on. We have, of course, offered a forum for – to address some of these concerns that we have.

QUESTION: I was asking about this – the post-election situation, because they’ve –

MR. KELLY: No, I – well, that’s what I’m talking about too.

QUESTION: – they’ve barely spoken, but they’ve said a few things that’s not exactly what the West has been saying. They actually are supporting the election result as announced by the government in Iran.

MR. KELLY: Well, what I’m focusing on is what we’ve discussed with them in terms of the way forward, particularly in terms of getting Iran back to negotiating on some of these concerns that the international community has. I’m just going to have to refer you to Moscow and Beijing to get their views on the internal situation.

Yes.

QUESTION: On Iran again, yesterday, we asked you how many invitations were sent to Iranian

diplomats. Do you have this figure now?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have that figure. I mean, you saw what happened yesterday. The Secretary sent out a message to all diplomatic and consular missions asking them to rescind the invitations that have been issued. And this was – we made this – or she made this decision based on what’s going on in the streets of Tehran. And that’s all there is to it. I mean, I don’t have any information about how many invitations were issued.

Yes.

QUESTION: North Korea. President Obama has mentioned yesterday the United States may extend one more year on economic sanctions against North Korea. Can you confirm that?

MR. KELLY: I’ll just – I saw that, too. I’ll let the President’s declaration speak for itself. You know that we have very deep concerns about North Korea and its provocative actions. And we’ve very much focused on implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1874.

QUESTION: Okay. Will the United States still provide humanitarian assistance to North Korea even if you have economic sanctions against North Korea?

MR. KELLY: I mean, we provide humanitarian aid to a lot of countries. We’re focused on helping relieve suffering. In terms of specifics of North Korea, though, I think, yeah, we do. Yes.

QUESTION: How did you verify what you have any kind of food assistance to North Korean people that they can --

MR. KELLY: I would imagine that that’s very, very difficult to do since they’ve thrown out a lot of the NGOs, if not all the NGOs.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, Peter.

QUESTION: Ian, can I ask you about a new agreement that United States concluded with Kyrgyzstan about Manas Air Base? Does it include military presence of the United States on the base or only civilian presence? And does it include transportation of the military cargos or civilians – or only civilians? And how about this previous agreement that was denounced? After it was denounced, it was said that U.S. military presence should be finished by August 18. So is it still the case, or it will change?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think what we agreed to is setting up a logistics and transportation hub at Manas International Airport. This is to facilitate the transportation of personnel and equipment that are en route to Afghanistan. We see it as a very positive step. We welcome the efforts of the Kyrgyz Government to continue to play a role in helping the international community bring peace and stability and security to Afghanistan and the whole region.

QUESTION: But military presence will be there in Manas?

MR. KELLY: Well, it’s – there will be – of course, there will be military personnel who will be transiting there, and there will be military personnel who are helping with this transportation and logistics hub. I don’t have any specifics on numbers, though. The agreement was just concluded.

Yeah, Bob.

QUESTION: Given that that’s been apparently settled, does that have any meaning for the effort the Administration was making to improve relations with Uzbekistan, including using, I think, their rail system to provide additional transport and logistics. Will you continue with that effort?

MR. KELLY: You know, I think I’ll see if I can get specific information on that. I know that we’ve concluded – I know from being on the Russia desk before that we were looking to conclude overland agreements. I think Uzbekistan was one of them. But let me get the specifics on that.

QUESTION: One more?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, go ahead. Also on Kyrgyzstan?

QUESTION: No, separate, separate topic.

MR. KELLY: Okay. Anything else on Kyrgyzstan? Yeah, go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Israel – an Israeli military official has said that Israel plans to curtail the activities of its military in four West Bank cities. A Palestinian official that we have quoted derides this as a sham and notes that the Israelis reserve the right to continue to punch into the cities in cases of urgent need. What is your assessment of this? Is it a good thing that Israel says it is curtailing its military activities in those West Bank areas, and do you concur with the Palestinian view that they should stay out of the cities entirely and not reserve the right to go back in?

MR. KELLY: Well, let me say, first of all, that we understand that this has happened, that Israel has taken steps to improve movement and access in the West Bank, including by removing or easing some manned Israeli Defense Force checkpoints. We appreciate these positive steps which are consistent with the Israeli Government’s commitment to help improve lives of average Palestinians, but we also recognize that there’s also more work that has to be done in this regard.

Let me also say that we recognize that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must be – that must continue to be safeguarded. Efforts to maintain security while maximizing movement and access for Palestinian people and goods are critical. And of course, our ultimate goal is a comprehensive peace based on a two-state solution. This is our objective, and of course, we’re pursuing it vigorously and we’ll continue to pursue it vigorously in the coming months.

QUESTION: Just so I’m clear, is it your understanding that the removal of some Israeli military checkpoints is directly related to this decision to pull out; in other words, the movement and access things you’re talking about are recent and related to this?

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: Not old --

MR. KELLY: I believe so. I believe so, Arshad.

Yeah.

QUESTION: On the same subject.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: The Hamas leader Meshal has said that regarding Obama’s Cairo speech that he likes the words, but they’re seeing little action on the ground. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t agree with that. I think we’re working very hard to – for us to meet our common objective. I mean, we are – we’re encouraging all parties to take steps that will lead to a positive context, that will lead to renewed negotiations, and the goal that we need for the region, a comprehensive peace agreement. So I don’t agree with that assessment.

QUESTION: Was this speech monitored by the State Department – the – Meshal’s speech?

MR. KELLY: You know, I don’t know the answer to that question.

Yes, over here.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary appointed a special representative for Muslim communities?

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: When was this?

MR. KELLY: This was – you know, she’s actually a friend of mine. I worked with her very closely in the European Bureau, Farah Pandith. She was a special advisor for outreach to Muslim communities in Europe. The Secretary has appointed her to more of a global role. And I think it’d be a good idea for her to come down here and talk to you guys about her role.

QUESTION: Could you put something out in the meantime about her appointment and --

MR. KELLY: Sure. Yeah, absolutely.

QUESTION: Just out of curiosity, is she a Muslim?

MR. KELLY: You know, I can’t answer that question.

QUESTION: You’re friends and you don’t know?

MR. KELLY: Sorry?

QUESTION: You’re friends and you don’t know? (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: I haven’t asked her her religious affiliation.

Yes, Dave. I’m sorry. You have a follow-up?

QUESTION: When was this appointment made?

MR. KELLY: I believe it was made two days ago.

QUESTION: It was recent?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, it was either yesterday or the day before.

QUESTION: Is there some reason you guys didn’t announce it?

MR. KELLY: Well, there was an announcement, and I know it was sent out to the State Department community. But we will put it out more broadly.

QUESTION: That might be interesting for – just for a broader Muslim community other than those in the State Department, you know.

MR. KELLY: Fair point. Yes.

QUESTION: A faction of al-Qaida has apparently taken responsibility for killing an American in Mauritania and saying that he was proselytizing. I just wonder what you know about that case and the state of cooperation with the Mauritanian Government.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, if you just give me a moment, I’ll – I do have something for you. We’re closely working with the local police as they investigate this terrible murder. The investigation is ongoing, so I don’t have a whole lot of details. We’re not able to corroborate or dismiss the claim that it was a terrorist attack. It’s too early to tell if this was just simply rhetoric or propaganda on the part of some of these groups. And so because of that, because it’s ongoing, we can’t really speculate on the motive yet.

Yes.

QUESTION: The two journalists. Today is 100 days since they were detained in North Korea. There were some concerns about that it takes a long time to get them released. So what’s your reaction, and is there any update of this case? And can you confirm that – is it processing right now to get them --

MR. KELLY: Well, we’ve said many times the Secretary is very involved in this. We think they should be released immediately on pure humanitarian grounds. We think they should be reunited with their families. We’re working a number of different channels. We, of course, are seeking to make representations and get more information through Ambassador Foyer, our – the Swedish protecting power in Pyongyang. And as I told you before, he was able to gain very rare access to the two journalists a couple of days ago.

QUESTION: Do you have any more news about (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think as I’ve said many times, because of privacy considerations, I can’t give you that information from the podium.

Yeah, in the very back.

QUESTION: The USTR and the Commerce Department sent a letter to the Chinese complaining about the Chinese Government requirement that Green Dam censorship filtering software being installed in all computers in China. What is the State Department doing with regard to this matter?

MR. KELLY: Well, this is really an international concern. It’s not just a matter for the State Department. The State Department shares the concerns raised by international technology companies and by Chinese citizens regarding the potential impact of this software on trade and the free flow of information, and we think there are also some serious technical issues raised by the software. As you note, the U.S. Trade Representative Mr. Kirk and the Commerce Secretary Mr. Locke sent a letter to their counterparts at the Chinese Ministry of Commerce and the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. This letter laid out some of our concerns. Regarding the contents of the letter, I’d just refer you to Commerce and USTR.

QUESTION: Do you know if the U.S. Government has received a response to the letter at this point?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that we’ve received a response yet.

QUESTION: So are you seeking that the Chinese repeal this decision to --

MR. KELLY: What we’re doing is we’re seeking a dialogue with them. We have concerns about the software. We think it has a real impact on the free flow of information, so we’re seeking a dialogue to see what we can do to ameliorate these concerns. But not only we have, but the whole international community – not the whole international community, but many in the international community.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) group go in to see Chinese authorities about this last – was it last Friday?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, uh-huh. I think I addressed this --

QUESTION: Yeah, the other day.

MR. KELLY: -- on Monday. I think I addressed it on Monday. Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)

DPB # 106

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[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - June 25]