Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 23, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Deputy Secretary Steinberg leads interagency delegation to Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Republic of Korea and Japan, September 25 - October 1
    • Major destination for Afghan heroin / Russian anti-drug agency director Ivanov will meet with White House Office of National Drug Policy Director Kerlikowske and INL Assistant Secretary Johnson
    • Large scale eradication efforts have not worked to reduce funding to the Taliban / U.S. supports Afghan efforts to provide farmers with alternative means to support themselves / Part of the overall U.S. strategy is to support the Afghan government standing on its own
    • U.S.-Russia cooperative programs on counternarcotics and counterterrorism
    • U.S. calls on both sides to exercise restraint / Should take this opportunity to begin dialogue
    • President Zelaya is at the Brazilian Embassy / Situation has calmed down / Water and power restored / Food and water is being delivered to the embassy / Staff has been allowed to depart with police coordination / U.S. played a helpful role
    • U.S. welcomes invitation from the de facto regime to a group of foreign ministers from OAS countries to visit Honduras
    • Brazil has requested a UN Security Council meeting to discuss safety and security of President Zelaya and Brazilian facilities and personnel in Honduras
    • President Arias has done an outstanding job as mediator
    • Goal is the denuclearization of North Korea / Commitment to Six-Party Talks
    • U.S. welcomes the election of Madame Bokova and looks forward to working with her
    • U.S. calls on both parties to abide by their obligations as a means to an end / U.S. goal is to relaunch negotiations / No change in U.S. policy
    • U.S. Embassy is closed today / Will be closed on Thursday for a South African holiday / Expects to reopen for normal business on Friday
    • U.S. appreciates the support and cooperation of the South African government


1:15 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Good afternoon. I have a short statement I want to read at the top regarding the travel of Deputy Secretary Steinberg.

Deputy Secretary of State James. B. Steinberg will lead an interagency delegation to Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Republic of Korea, and Japan from September 25th to October 1st. The delegation will travel to Hanoi and be there September 26, 27; Kuala Lumpur, September 27, 28; Beijing, September 28, 29; Seoul, September 29, 30; and Tokyo, September 30 and October 1st.

In all capitals, Deputy Secretary Steinberg will exchange views with senior-level officials on a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. And he will reaffirm the United States commitment to engagement with our allies in the region. And the delegation will return to Washington on October 1st.

So with that brief announcement, I will take your questions.

QUESTION: Russia, and particularly its drug czar, is urging the U.S. to go back to poppy eradication by air. What’s your response to that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. We did take note of that. Of course, Russia is one of the major destination countries for Afghan heroin, and of course, because of that, has been long concerned about international counternarcotic efforts in Afghanistan. They’ve been active in the Paris pact, a consortium of nations committed to assist Afghanistan combat illicit drug production and trafficking.

As you note, Viktor Ivanov, who is the director of their anti-drug agency, is in Washington, and tomorrow will have meetings with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, with Director Kerlikowske, and here at State with David Johnson, who’s our Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

In general, I think just to sort of lay out what our general policy has been, we believe that large-scale eradication efforts have not worked to reduce the funding to the Taliban. And we believe that it’s also worked as a kind of a recruiting tool by driving farmers who have lost their livelihood into the hands of the insurgency. So we’re supporting the Afghan Government’s efforts to provide farmers with alternative means of supporting themselves.

And because of this new policy, we’re reducing support for eradication. We do provide some targeted support for Afghan-led efforts where we think they will work on a case-by-case basis. But our assistance will focus on increased efforts for alternative crop development, and this is part of our overall strategy in Afghanistan of supporting the people and Government of Afghanistan to stand on their own.

QUESTION: Is there any direct cooperation with Russia on these issues?

MR. KELLY: I think it’s mostly through multilateral efforts. I don’t have all the details, but I know that there have been some cooperative programs that had been run, especially some training programs; programs that have been – some of them are based in Central Asia, in Central Asian countries, some of them have been in Russia itself. There’s a counternarcotics center in Domodedovo, which is just to the south of Moscow. I know they’ve run some programs there.

I know that we’ve had this counterterrorism working group, and this has been one of the components of that working group with Russia. It’s been one of the most – in fact, it’s been one of the most productive and effective parts of our counterterrorism – our bilateral counterterrorism efforts with Russia. And it’ll be part of the talks of the bi-national commission that’s going to meet in mid-October, chaired by Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov.

In the back.

QUESTION: Thanks, Ian. A quick question about the secret return of President Zelaya to Honduras. I mean, it was described by Hugo Chavez as courageous. Do you feel that it is helpful, it’s a good thing to have him come back in that way?

MR. KELLY: Well, in foreign policy, we deal with the facts that we have, and the fact that we have is that he’s in Honduras. We do have our concerns about the possible impact it may have on the situation on the ground, especially with the possibilities for clashes. And for this reason, we’ve called on both sides to exercise restraint with this new situation.

But also, since we are dealing with this fact, you’ve heard Secretary Clinton a couple of days ago say, let’s take this opportunity to open up channels of communication. So, that’s basically – I mean, our efforts are in those two tracks: take advantage of this opportunity for dialogue, but at the same time, urge restraint on both sides.

QUESTION: Is there any talk of maybe helping him leave if things get really violent, or --

MR. KELLY: No, we’re not at that point. President Zelaya is still in the Embassy, in the Brazilian Embassy. It looks like things have calmed down there. Water and power have been restored. Food and water are being delivered to the Embassy. And also, the staff has been allowed to depart under police – with police coordination. And we’re happy that we were able to play a helpful, facilitative role in helping restore these services and lower the tension around the compound.

QUESTION: What exactly was the U.S. role?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think that we helped as to reinforce the message that the – not Geneva – Vienna Convention had to be respected, the inviolability of the Brazilian Embassy had to be respected. We helped get some of the personnel out. We provided some vehicles. But mostly, it was a liaison role to help restore the power and water, and also get personnel out and back to their homes.

QUESTION: And were they diplomatic vehicles? How many people were traveling in them?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure of the exact details of what kind of vehicles they were, but I know that we played a role in helping get people to safety.

QUESTION: You have no idea of the numbers of people who were --

MR. KELLY: No, I’m afraid I don’t.


QUESTION: A follow-up on Honduras. Do you – are you aware of any multilateral initiatives which involve the OAS or the United Nations, or the bilateral level, which has to do with --


QUESTION: -- the President of Costa Rica?

MR. KELLY: Yes. Let me give you an update on where we are on some of these initiatives. We understand the de facto regime’s foreign minister, Carlos Lopez Contreras, publicly invited a representative group of foreign ministers from the OAS – from OAS countries to come to Tegucigalpa and help promote a dialogue. We welcome that announcement, and we look forward to supporting that initiative.

In addition, the Brazilian Government has formally requested that the UN Security Council convene to discuss the safety and security of President Zelaya and Brazilian facilities and personnel in Honduras. And as we are the – we have the presidency of the Security Council this month, and in our capacity as the president of the Security Council, we’re working on this request.

In general, we continue to work with our partners in the UN and the OAS to come up with means to promote a dialogue and defuse the tensions, of course with the ultimate goal of resolving the crisis. And we’re continuing our consultations with our partners in the region, and enlisting wherever we can their assistance in this process. I want to say that President Arias has done an outstanding job as a mediator, and we hope that his services can continue to facilitate the crisis.

And finally, on the 22nd, the OAS met yesterday. The OAS Permanent Council met and issued a statement calling for the immediate signing of the San Jose Accord and the restoration of President Zelaya to office.

QUESTION: Do you know when is this team of the OAS going to Honduras?

MR. KELLY: It’s – like I say, we welcome the openness of the de facto regime to receive this team, and even as we speak, this is all being worked out: who exactly will go and what the context will be for dialogue.

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, on Korea – North Korea?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you said if North Korea takes irreversible steps leading to complete denuclearization and firmly upholds commitments made in September 2005 joint statement, U.S. and partners will prepare to discuss some kind of packages of steps that you could take. Is this the same – same – same idea with what South – South Korea President Lee Myung-bak has termed “grand bargaining” in his speech at CFR Monday, or not?

MR. KELLY: Well, I make it a practice not to comment on the remarks of other leaders. I just have to refer you to the Republic of Korea for details of his proposal.

But I will say that there is just a very broad and a very deep consensus on the way forward among the five parties, and that’s the ultimate goal of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and a commitment to the Six-Party Talks as the best mechanism to attain that. And so we remain committed to it.

And I think as I said yesterday, I quoted the Secretary, where she said that if we get to our ultimate goal, which is irreversible steps by North Korea to denuclearize, that we would be prepared and our partners would be prepared to reciprocate in a comprehensive way. And I’m not going to prejudge what that would entail, what sort of reciprocal steps we would take. But that has been our position all along, and it is a – it is very much a shared position among the five parties.

QUESTION: Just going –


QUESTION: Sorry. Just going back to Honduras, on the Brazilian request to convene the Security Council to discuss it.

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any sense – well, I just wanted to get an idea of what the U.S. – how you received that and whether there’s a concern that perhaps it could be seen as rewarding what people have described as pretty reckless behavior by Zelaya.

MR. KELLY: Well, I think it’s just all part – it’s just another part of the whole process of trying to attain our ultimate goal, and that’s the restoration of democratic and constitutional power in Honduras. And we have consistently taken a multilateral approach. Our efforts are focused mostly in the OAS, and they will continue to stay in the OAS. But we, as the president of the UN Security Council, we of course are going to consider this request and move it forward. We don’t have any details on when exactly the meeting will take place, but we’re looking at it positively.

Yes. Samir, you haven’t asked a question.

QUESTION: Yes. The Egyptian Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, declared today – he accused today the U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO, that he fought very hard to prevent his election as a new Director to the UNESCO. What can you say on this?

MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t seen – I have not seen those comments. I think, in general, we welcome the election of the new Director General, Madame Bokova, and we look forward to working with her; but I don’t have any comments on these press reports.


QUESTION: Can I ask – moving on, if we may, to the trilateral between President Obama and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, does the fact that the President is no longer insisting on a freeze to Israeli settlements, is that a bit of an about-face? Or, I mean, has policy changed?

MR. KELLY: Well, I thought Senator Mitchell really put it very well yesterday, and that’s that we’ve always looked at our calls to all the parties to abide by their obligations as a means to an end, and there has been no change in our focus on that end. And the end is the re-launch of negotiations that can concede [1]. That’s the goal that we’re seeking. And the actions that we asked them to take were not an end. They were a means to this end of getting the two sides to sit down and begin negotiation. We never saw them as any kind of precondition.

We still continue to believe that the best way for us to create the kind of context for successful negotiations is for all sides to live up to the commitments that they made. And you know what they are: for the Israelis, it’s an end to settlement activity; for the Palestinians, it’s raising trust in their ability to provide for security in the region; and for Arab states, it’s taking steps to normalize. But our focus has always been re-launching the negotiations. So there’s been no change in our policy.

Going once? Going twice?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: Thanks. One more? Okay.

QUESTION: Could you give us an update on the situation in South Africa, the Embassy?

MR. KELLY: Oh, yes. I don’t have much of an update, really, but what I can tell you is that the Embassy is closed today as well. It will be closed tomorrow, but because tomorrow is a national holiday. The Embassy, I’m told, expects to open for normal business on Friday, September 25th. And we’ve been working very closely with South African Government authorities, and we are very appreciative of their support and cooperation as we face this issue.


QUESTION: One more.

MR. KELLY: Samir, yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to Qadhafi’s speech at the UN speech today? It was one hour and a half, lots of stuff in it.

MR. KELLY: I was so busy preparing for this briefing, I actually did not see the speech. But no, I don’t have any reaction at this time. Thanks a lot.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)
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