Daily Press Briefing
- US assistance to Yemen in FY 2009 and requested for FY 2010
- Threat to US Embassy Yemen; US Embassy Sanaa to reevaluate threat posture daily
- Secretary's statement that the threat to US Embassy in Yemen "predated" the holiday season; status of Embassy operations
- French and British Embassies in Sanaa closed temporarily
- Repeated attacks against Embassy Yemen
- Concerns about al-Qaida in Yemen; increased US counter-terrorist assistance
- US efforts to improve relations with Arab and Muslim world; resolve Middle East conflict; increase development funding for Arab world and South Asia
- Secretary Clinton not satisfied with visa processing procedures; all US diplomatic posts instructed to include visa status when submitting VISAS VIPER cables
- UK denied Abdulmuttalab visa request based on consular grounds, not security grounds
- Transportation Security Adminstration (TSA) revised procedures for arrivals from certain countries; selection process
- WHITE HOUSE EVENT
- Additional uninvited attendee at White House State Dinner
- Press reports on efforts to restart negotiations; no specific date for Special Envoy Senator Mitchell travel to region
- Under SecretaryRose Gottemoeller to return to Geneva soonfor START follow-on talks
- NORTH KOREA
- US remains hopeful that North Korea will resume the Six-Party Talks
- No change in status of detained American citizens; US Consulate in Lahore staff attended today's court hearing in Sargodha; we believe they are well treated
- No information regarding India's new visa regulations
2:05 p.m. EST
MR. KELLY: Happy New Year.
QUESTION: Happy New Year.
MR. KELLY: Well, you saw the Secretary had a press availability and she did discuss a couple things that are on your minds. But let me just talk to you a little bit about our development assistance to Yemen, because I’m sure that’s something you’re all interested in.
In Fiscal Year 2010, the President asked for a significant increase in foreign assistance to Yemen. In Fiscal Year 2009, assistance to Yemen – that’s development and security assistance – totaled 40.3 million. The Fiscal Year 2010 appropriation contained a total of 52.5 million in direct assistance to Yemen. Although final determinations have yet to be made, we expect total Fiscal Year 2010 assistance to be as much as 63 million. This amount represents a 56 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2009 and a 225 percent increase over Fiscal Year 2008 levels.
These totals do not include the so-called 1206 funds, which are counterterrorism funds which are programmed during the year. No determination has been made about the use of those funds right now for this year. In 2009, Yemen was authorized 67 million in equipment assistance via 1206 funds to support its counterterrorist and border control forces.
Through our diplomatic security, we’ve been providing antiterrorism assistance training in Yemen since 1998. We’ve also provided training to develop the Government of Yemen’s capability to counter terrorist financing. And in addition to that, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor have provided for two programs involving Yemenis that focused on strengthening independent media and civic participation, and also programs focusing on religious freedom.
And with that, I’ll take your questions.
QUESTION: Can you give us --
QUESTION: Are you going to put all that out as a separate note?
MR. KELLY: Charlie?
QUESTION: Are you going to put all that out --
MR. KELLY: I can, we can. We can do that, sure, yeah.
QUESTION: Can you bring us up to date a little bit more – the Secretary only spoke about it in a broad, broad sense, but about the threat to the Embassy and what the situation is there right now?
MR. KELLY: Well, I can’t – I mean, obviously, because this is – this does involve sensitive information, I can’t go into details about the specific nature of the threat. But it was a very specific threat, and when this kind of information is received, normally what happens at an embassy – and this is what happened in Sanaa – the regional security officer conveys the Emergency Action Committee and they look at all the different aspects of it, and then they make a recommendation to the ambassador on what should be done.
These kinds of committees are convened often, particularly in high-threat posts such as Yemen. And in this instance, it was decided that, in the best interests of the personnel at the post, that they not come into the Embassy because of this – the nature of the threat information that they had. Also, of course, when you open an embassy to the public, you also expose members of the public to the danger. And this, of course – as the Secretary said today, this is why we always advise American citizens – exercise a high level of vigilance, especially when they’re around American facilities or areas where Americans are known to gather.
When a decision like this is made, the EAC will meet daily. And what they do is they reevaluate the threat posture to the embassy. Depending on the nature of the threat, there’s a number of actions that an embassy can take that almost always involves coordination with the local government, with the local security forces to try and neutralize the threat, whatever it is, and also to enhance the security posture of the embassy.
QUESTION: When she spoke, the Secretary made reference to this Warden Notice that went out on the 31st.
MR. KELLY: Right.
QUESTION: But then she said that this threat predated the holiday season. There are some reports that these four would-be suicide bombers who the Yemenis killed in a raid – much earlier in December, December 17th – may have been the specific threat --
MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- to the Embassy. So I’m just wondering about the timing here. Was there an additional threat afterwards? And how – if there was, how is it that – or why is it that she says that this predated the holiday season?
MR. KELLY: Well, Matt, I can’t talk about what exactly the information that came in and I don’t think I can talk about when it came in --
QUESTION: Can you explain why she would talk – okay, when did it come in?
MR. KELLY: Well, no, I can’t talk about that. I think perhaps what she was --
QUESTION: Well, why did the Warden Notice go out on December 31st if she said --
MR. KELLY: Well, the Embassy was closed in that period. So the decision was: Should we open for business when it was – when the Embassy was going to open up normally. This would have been January 2nd.
QUESTION: So you mean you knew about it, in fact, and you didn’t put out a Warden Notice?
MR. KELLY: We did put out a Warden Notice on December 31st.
QUESTION: Well, I know, but that’s in the middle of the holiday season and she said this predated the holiday season, so --
MR. KELLY: I think – well --
QUESTION: -- why – so if there was a threat to U.S. interests, why did she – why is she talking about December 31st? That’s three days --
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I mean, I’ll have to see, I mean, I, of course, heard what she said. But I – as I understand it – the way I understood it was that the information was right before the holiday closure. The holiday closure, of course, would have been part of New Year’s Eve and then New Year’s Day.
QUESTION: Ian, isn’t it true that not only were there the four al-Qaida would-be bombers, or whatever you want to call them, that were killed or captured by the Yemenis, but isn’t it true that there were another four that were still at large and that’s why the Embassy was closed?
MR. KELLY: Again, Elise, I can’t talk about what the specific information was.
QUESTION: Well, but I mean, you’re talking about --
MR. KELLY: But all I can say is it was very specific, and it – and I think it was a pretty easy decision for the EAC.
QUESTION: Well, but you’re talking about that you – or, kind of, the EAC is meeting and you’re talking about when to reopen the Embassy, but you’re also talking about neutralizing the threat. So presumably, if these four are still at large, then that doesn’t neutralize the threat. And I don’t know how you would then open up the Embassy unless you’re --
MR. KELLY: No, not necessarily.
QUESTION: -- adding to – you’re planning to take additional security precautions even though the threat still looms.
MR. KELLY: I mean, there are – the way we look at the – protecting our people, there are – there is an ongoing constant threat. There are people out there who want to do us harm, and that’s why we have the procedures in place that we have. These procedures include setback to minimize any damage from a bomb blast, and sometimes it can entail closing streets, too. It all depends on the physical situation of the embassy. It depends on where employees live. You can increase the kind of securities for the employees themselves, too. We do have to – we do have a very important job to carry on. We have to remain open. It’s important, especially at this particular time in our relationship, that we maintain diplomatic relations with the Government of Yemen. We have – we also have business to conduct with the people of Yemen in terms of issuing visas and --
QUESTION: You’re issuing visas from Yemen right now?
MR. KELLY: Not right now because we’re closed.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. But when the Embassy opens, you’re going to be authorizing visas from Yemen?
MR. KELLY: The decision has to be made to reopen the Embassy. And of course, as you know, there’s a review going on of the whole process conducted by the President.
QUESTION: But is there a suspension of – I mean, the Embassy closing notwithstanding, are you still processing visas from Yemen?
MR. KELLY: I would – I don’t know this for a fact, but I imagine that we would be, yeah.
QUESTION: You might --
MR. KELLY: Official visas, certainly. I mean, other visas, of course, we need to have an interview, though.
QUESTION: My question really goes to the timing of this all. I don’t – when was the – can you read the Warden Message – it’s very short, I think – that was issued on December 31st?
MR. KELLY: You want me to really read the --
QUESTION: Not the whole thing, just the top paragraph of it.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen is closed today, Monday, January 4, 2010.
QUESTION: Yeah, but that didn’t come out on December 31st.
MR. KELLY: Oh, you’re right. That’s – you’re absolutely right. That’s the 4th now.
QUESTION: The one on December 31st, unless I’m mistaken, said only that – referred to the incident --
MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’m sorry. I don’t have the December 31st.
QUESTION: -- referred to the incident in Detroit and reminded people to take security precautions. It didn’t talk about a specific threat to the Embassy.
MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What I’m trying to get at is why the Secretary said that this threat predated the holiday season, when the first time in some months, I believe, that a Warden notice went out from the Embassy was on December 31st.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. The December 31st – what I have here is that the – we sent a Warden message to all American citizens in Yemen to remind them of the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against American citizens and interests throughout the world.
QUESTION: Right. But it didn’t say anything about the closing of the Embassy four --
MR. KELLY: No, that only --
QUESTION: -- three days later.
MR. KELLY: No, that only went out January 3rd.
QUESTION: Right, okay. But I thought that there was this no double-standard rule. So if --
MR. KELLY: There is a no double-standard rule.
QUESTION: Okay. So if the threat predated the holiday season, why was there no earlier Warden message than December 31st?
MR. KELLY: I don’t --
QUESTION: I mean, I realize there were months ago --
MR. KELLY: -- know the specific answer, and I don’t know if I can even give you that specific answer.
QUESTION: Well, when the Secretary --
MR. KELLY: All I know is what – I mean, we have said on the record – the Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan said yesterday there’s a very specific threat against the Embassy.
QUESTION: But is – when the Secretary says that these threats predate the holiday season, is she talking about the specific and credible threat that caused you to close the Embassy or is she just saying that there was a high threat level against U.S. interests in Yemen that predated the holiday season?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. The way I understood it --
QUESTION: Can you clarify --
MR. KELLY: The way I understood it is the latter, that there is an ongoing threat, particularly in places like Yemen where you have an active al-Qaida presence. And of course, there would be an ongoing threat in a place like Yemen.
QUESTION: Are you able to comment on the French now closing their embassy after the Brits? Is it the same threat that was directed at the Americans? Are you able to talk about that at all?
MR. KELLY: All I – I can just repeat what I just said is that it’s obviously a very high-threat environment in Yemen, and each country has to make its own decisions about its security posture.
QUESTION: But this December 17th or 24th operation – it’s unclear to me in which one these four were actually targeted or killed, or one of them was found wearing a suicide vest, presumably that this person was going to – did you think that you had foiled the Embassy attack then, and then realized that the threat was still ongoing when you --
MR. KELLY: It’s hard for me to answer that because I just can’t discuss any kind of intelligence matters or any kind of decision making in intelligence channels that would have led to any kind of --
QUESTION: Well, I mean --
MR. KELLY: -- actions.
QUESTION: If you just kind of look at the timeline, there was the airstrike or whatever that killed four of the al-Qaida operatives that were believed to be targeting the Embassy – three of them. One of them was wearing a suicide vest. And then you still close the Embassy anyway. So presumably, there were more than four.
MR. KELLY: Well, again, as the Secretary said, there’s a very active al-Qaida presence in Yemen, and we just have to be – we have to be vigilant and we have to maintain our very close cooperation with the security and law enforcement forces in Yemen because, of course, we are responsible for the security of the ambassador and the Foreign Service personnel there. But the – beyond the perimeter, of course, it’s the Yemeni authorities who are responsible for the security.
QUESTION: Well, but this --
MR. KELLY: And part of this, too, is we have to look at the security of people who are coming to our embassy, too. I mean, there have been instances where suicide bombers have come up into – outside an embassy and killed local guard force and killed people who are --
QUESTION: Well, that’s --
MR. KELLY: -- coming to our embassy.
QUESTION: This Embassy has been targeted, I guess, four times – this would have been the fifth – in the last two years, plus there were other attacks in years before that. I mean, has there been given any thought to finding a more secure embassy compound that isn’t necessarily in the city center, to doing something to fortify this Embassy a little more than you’ve done over the last seven years?
MR. KELLY: Well, these are – yeah, I mean, this just highlights the danger that we all operate under when we represent our country overseas. And I’m sure that in the case of Yemen that the ambassador there is looking at all these different factors about how we can increase the security for our own personnel but also ensure that as we do business that other people are not harmed as well. And there’s always a balancing you have to do. I mean, you want to be in a location where you can best represent the United States interests in terms of having access to the local government, in terms of giving access to people who want to do business with the U.S., too. I mean, that’s – we do overseas to promote U.S. interests and also to promote U.S. business and promote travel and exchanges and contacts. So it’s a very, very difficult balance that has to be maintained.
QUESTION: I understand. But if the Embassy has been attacked five times – or this would have been the fifth – sorry, four times in the last two years, I mean, how much more evidence do you need --
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- that this Embassy is not secure and --
MR. KELLY: Well, these are all issues and factors that will have to be taken into account. I totally agree.
QUESTION: This is al-Qaida attacks and al-Qaida presence in Yemen, so that means they are getting some advice or some directions from somewhere from their headquarters. And according to some reports, they have been trained and getting training and also their directions from Pakistan. So what are we doing about as far as Yemen and Pakistan and now you have a high alert also as far as --
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- aviation and travel and airport security, including Pakistan and Yemen, and other countries --
MR. KELLY: Yeah, yeah.
QUESTION: -- and most of them are Muslims and Arabs.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, that’s all right, Goyal. We’re very concerned about the emergence of al-Qaida in Yemen, and that’s why we’re increasing our efforts to help the Government of Yemen deal with the terrorist threat, to help enhance their border and customs procedures, and why we’re increasing our training and also looking into increasing the so-called 1206 funds to help them with their counterterrorist efforts. And it also points out the need for a multilateral approach to this, too. It’s not just going to be done on a bilateral basis. It has to be done in cooperation with our allies, who also have, of course, important capabilities. And also, it has to be done in cooperation with the region as well, with other countries in the region.
QUESTION: Just quick a follow-up. As far as diplomacy is concerned, President and Secretary and many – everybody spoke about a clear a message to the Arab and Muslim world. Is that message reaching, because we are back again to the same square one?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think that we have taken real pains to try and put our relationship with the Islamic world on a different footing and emphasize our readiness to cooperate with them in trying to provide for a safer and more prosperous future for all the people of the Middle East. That’s why we’re expending such efforts in trying to resolve the Middle East conflict. It’s why we’re increasing our development funding for the countries of the Arab world and South Asia in general.
QUESTION: Ian, on Yemen, the Secretary today said that the review had been done of specifically what the State – what actions the State Department had taken in reference to warnings about this young man.
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: And she said that it seemed that the State Department procedures had been followed, and then she added yet we are disappointed or we’re not satisfied, something to that effect. So she referred to tomorrow this meeting with the President. What specifically was she saying they were not satisfied with if the State Department followed all of its procedures? Is she saying that the procedures are insufficient, that there need to be more procedures if a reporting is made about someone? Or what was she unsatisfied with?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think that what we all have to – I think we can always do better. I think when it comes to the security of the American people, we should and we are constantly reviewing our role in helping keep Americans safe. I think you probably have all seen that as of a result of the attempted attack that the State Department has already directed all embassies to – all embassies and consulates to include in the so-called VISAS VIPER cable not just biographical information, but also to proactively state in the cable that the subject holds a certain kind of visa and just use this as an active way of alerting the end users of this information – this goes into the whole counterterrorism coordination process – and more actively help them determine further action to be taken on the case.
QUESTION: Well, is it just about procedures, I mean, or is it people using their brains and saying, oh, were you – we’re making a terrorist threat about this guy; maybe we should include the fact that he has a visa and can enter the country at any time.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I think that it’s – I think we do want to take a more active, participatory role in the whole process. I mean, State Department is one of the spokes that go into the hub of collating all of this information. Our role is to send in this information as we get it, this derogatory – possibly derogatory information. It’s the kind of information that should go into this central clearinghouse process that would gather all the different snippets of information to provide the kind of overall database from which the – our colleagues in the counterterrorism community can make a decision on possible action to be taken on an individual.
QUESTION: Well, I mean – I know, but you just – I mean, it’s kind of like the Secretary was saying, like, okay, well, we checked all the boxes and, you know, we did everything technically we were supposed to do. But, I mean, is this agency raising a bunch – training a bunch of like, box-checkers, or kind of looking at – looking for their employees to, you know, look at a situation and evaluate it and determine what information needs to be sent out? I mean --
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- yes, they did everything they were supposed to do.
MR. KELLY: Right.
QUESTION: But, I mean, wouldn’t it have behooved someone that was reporting on this guy to see that he had a visa, and the person that reported this guy didn’t think that it was relevant?
MR. KELLY: Well, it’s – I mean, there are very specific guidelines to consular officers overseas who are participating in this process. I mean, you can go on the State Department website and you can see what procedures they’re supposed to follow. These are procedures that were laid out after September 11th. And the Embassy in Nigeria did everything they were supposed to do. The --
QUESTION: Well, they did everything that was, like, on the list of things that they were supposed to do. But are you disputing the fact, or is the Secretary disputing the fact that had someone had thought a little bit more analytically, would have thought that it was relevant information?
MR. KELLY: Well, there’s lot of relevant information that is already in the database from every time any individual applies for a visa or comes into contact with the Embassy or provides some kind of information that could be seen as suspicious. What the VISAS VIPER cable up till now has done is provide the new information, and that’s what they did in this cable.
QUESTION: Well, if that’s the case, then – you said some information that’s relevant. And what about red flags? I mean, he was denied a visa to the UK. This brings into question the relationship and sharing information with one of our biggest allies. Shouldn’t that have been a big red flag?
MR. KELLY: Not – no, that was not a red flag.
QUESTION: But he was denied a visa.
MR. KELLY: He was denied a visa because he provided false information on his visa application, the kind of thing that happens hundreds of thousands of times all over the world.
QUESTION: And his dad came to the Embassy.
MR. KELLY: Well, that – yes, that information was provided. But the fact that the British denied him a visa, it was not on terrorism grounds. It was on immigration grounds.
QUESTION: Well, but you talk about this, like, interagency process. You’re always from this podium, or other spokesmen are talking about this robust interagency process. What is the use of an interagency process that doesn’t provide everybody the information that they need to make this kind of analytical judgment? I mean, what are you doing in these – the whole interagency process on this guy – there was an interagency meeting, there was an interagency process that decided not to pull his visa. Where in the interagency process was there a full discussion about this guy?
MR. KELLY: Well, that’s exactly why we’re – that’s exactly why the President has asked for this review. That’s really all I can say to that, Elise.
QUESTION: Change --
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: As you know, TSA last night changed the – added – amended – revised rules for people coming in from a certain country or people of certain nationalities. I’m curious to know why Nigeria is on that list. Is it specifically because of this one guy?
MR. KELLY: That’s not for me to answer. I mean --
QUESTION: Well, unfortunately, it is, according to TSA.
MR. KELLY: Well, I --
QUESTION: They say it’s the State Department that had the --
QUESTION: The State Department was --
MR. KELLY: Then I’ll have to take the question because I’m not aware --
QUESTION: Can you?
MR. KELLY: -- this is really a State Department issue.
QUESTION: Apparently, the State Department was in the lead in compiling the list. So why --
MR. KELLY: Okay. I have to take the question. I just wasn’t --
QUESTION: Well, and if you could also --
QUESTION: But let me just – let me just say --
MR. KELLY: I know that TSA consulted with us.
QUESTION: But if you could get a wider issue of how these countries were selected for this particular list?
MR. KELLY: Yeah.
QUESTION: Well, actually, not – my question – that’s a fine question for Elise, but my question is specifically about Nigeria --
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Okay.
QUESTION: -- and whether it was this specific incident or if there are broader concerns about potential radicalization of Nigerian Muslims.
MR. KELLY: Well, first of all, I’m not even sure that we’re even talking about who’s on the list. I don’t even – I’m not even sure about that. I don’t know if that’s public information.
QUESTION: It is now.
MR. KELLY: Well, apparently.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, it’s out there, Ian. I mean --
MR. KELLY: I know it’s out there. I know it’s out there.
QUESTION: There are 14 countries on the list and --
MR. KELLY: I don’t have a good answer for you, so if I can get – if we can get a good answer for you, we’ll get it for you, but I can’t comment on it right now.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. KELLY: Yeah. Kirit.
QUESTION: Can I ask about a different topic if we’re done with that? The Secret Service has put out a statement saying that there is now a third person who entered that state dinner without an invitation and this person was from the Indian delegation and was under the, I guess, control of the State Department in his movements. Can you tell us if there’s been any review into that on the State Department end and what you guys have learned and how this happened?
MR. KELLY: We did participate in a review on this. I think that you’ve all seen the Secret Service’s press release on it. You’ve noted that in that press release that we’ve already instituted some procedural changes for any kind of foreign delegation that may be under our responsibility – these delegations who are slated to go to the White House. This is now a matter that’s under investigation. It’s a very serious ongoing criminal investigation. And this issue popped up on my computer screen literally 15 minutes before I came down here, so I don’t really have much more to add to it than what I’ve just said.
QUESTION: Well, can you say what the procedural changes that you’ve implemented are?
MR. KELLY: I don’t – well, first of all, they’re procedural changes that the Secret Service has put in place, and since they’re security procedures I don’t think we would talk about it.
QUESTION: Well, is there some kind of – my impression from your answer was that they were State Department procedures, no?
MR. KELLY: Well, they would be State Department procedures in coordination with the Secret Service. Maybe you’re right, Matt. Maybe we’re not talking about sensitive security information here. So if we do have information, I’ll let you know.
QUESTION: So this means that this third person was authorized by the State Department?
MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: That means the third person or the earlier first person was authorized by the State Department?
MR. KELLY: No, he wasn’t authorized by the State Department, but – I should be very careful what I say here. But apparently, there was a group that was under our responsibility that went from a local hotel to the White House and there was a person who was not authorized to be in that group who inserted himself or herself into that group.
QUESTION: Ian, is that person an Indian national, do you know?
MR. KELLY: I don’t know the answer to that, Kirit. The people who were in the group were Indian nationals.
QUESTION: So it would stand to believe that this person was as well?
MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t know. I just don’t know the answer to it.
QUESTION: Can you --
QUESTION: Now, according to --
QUESTION: Can you take that question, please?
MR. KELLY: If we can answer it, we’ll answer it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Now, according to the reports, the first earlier person --
MR. KELLY: Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: Thank you. Earlier person seems to me what reports are saying also an Indian background or also from India, maybe father or mother or something, Indian citizen – U.S. citizen but --
MR. KELLY: You mean this third – this third individual who got into --
QUESTION: The first one.
MR. KELLY: You mean the individual that was in this group under our responsibility?
QUESTION: The couple. First couple.
MR. KELLY: Oh, the first couple. Yeah, I don’t – I’m not going to address that. That was not State Department.
QUESTION: Another topic. There’s an unsourced report in the Israeli Hebrew language daily Ma’ariv, and there are a bunch of other reports out there elsewhere, talking about the possibility of an imminent resumption of peace talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas under an American plan.
MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.
MR. KELLY: Well, first of all, we’re not going to discuss any of the private correspondence or private discussions we have had with either side, including with the Israelis. I mean, you know what our goal is. Our goal is to get the two sides to agree to sit down and resume the talks, and so all of our efforts really are really directed toward that. And it wouldn't – I mean, it’s not appropriate for me to talk about what may or may not have been in any kind of private correspondence.
QUESTION: But are you on the verge of re-launching the resumption of talks?
MR. KELLY: I hope so. But I don’t have any information to announce on that.
QUESTION: Ian --
QUESTION: I’m sorry, you don’t have any information to what? To --
MR. KELLY: To announce. I don’t have any --
QUESTION: Do you have any information --
MR. KELLY: -- information about the imminent resumption of the talks --
QUESTION: Do you have any information to substantiate the reports?
MR. KELLY: No, I don’t.
QUESTION: Ian, Arshad’s question didn’t mention the word "correspondence" or "discussion."
QUESTION: Why do you feel necessary to say that you don’t discuss private correspondence or discussions when you weren’t asked about any correspondence or discussion?
MR. KELLY: Because that’s what’s written down here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But the question – presumably, the question is – the question to which that answer was written for was of something a bit more specific than what Arshad said, so let me ask --
MR. KELLY: Which is quite possible.
QUESTION: So let me ask the question. Has the United States prepared letters for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and possibly the Arabs that it believes would help re-launch negotiations and that the said letters would be delivered by Senator Mitchell when he next travels to the region?
MR. KELLY: Thank you, Matt. We will not comment on internal – (laughter) – discussions or a private discussion with the parties and our allies in Europe and the region.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just one more on this. This is kind of a semantic question, but upstairs the Secretary said that she hopes this year is going to be better than last year and that you’re going to – you’re even more committed this year than you were last year. Well, when Senator Mitchell was appointed last year, it was said that this was the top priority of the Administration. So were you really kind of faking it last year? Or who’s --
MR. KELLY: No, no, no, no, I --
QUESTION: You weren’t trying as hard as you could have?
MR. KELLY: No, this Administration --
QUESTION: Because how are you going to --
MR. KELLY: -- is trying extremely hard.
QUESTION: So how are you going to do any – how are you going to do anything more?
MR. KELLY: Look, I mean, there are obviously a lot of problems and a lot of difficulties --
QUESTION: But how can you be even more committed --
MR. KELLY: -- a lot of internal --
QUESTION: -- than you were last year if you were already 100 percent committed last year?
MR. KELLY: Well, we’re going to be 101 percent committed then. No, seriously, I mean, as I said in relation to the – our solemn responsibility to protect Americans, there’s always – we can always do better. There’s – we can always do more.
MR. KELLY: And I mean, we really are very committed to kick-starting these talks and getting them resumed again and getting to the goal that both sides share, and that’s a comprehensive peace.
QUESTION: I think we’re talking about the same report here, which says that the U.S.’s latest proposal envisions a Palestinian state within two years. The Israelis say that’s unrealistic. Is this a real report? I mean, is it coming from you guys?
MR. KELLY: I don’t really have any information about the specifics of that particular report.
QUESTION: Is it realistic, though, to think that the Palestinians could have a state within a couple of years?
MR. KELLY: I certainly hope so. I hope it’s before that. But whether it’s realistic or not, I can’t say.
Michel, you’ve got a question.
QUESTION: Any plans for Senator Mitchell to go to the region soon?
MR. KELLY: I know that he’s planning to go, but there’s no specific timeframe yet.
QUESTION: Is Rose Gottemoeller back in Geneva at the --
MR. KELLY: I don’t think so, Desmond.
QUESTION: Do you know --
MR. KELLY: I know she plans to go back soon.
QUESTION: Do you have a date for resumption of the talks?
MR. KELLY: I don’t have a date. It’d be very soon, though.
And the last question --
QUESTION: No, no, no.
MR. KELLY: No, no, Matt. Sorry. Matt.
QUESTION: No, but go back there first.
MR. KELLY: Go ahead. Okay.
QUESTION: Okay, on North Korea. North Korea state media start with joint new year editorial two or three days ago which reflect North Korean Government’s policy and it demands better relations between U.S. and North Korea to secure peace and security of Korean Peninsula. It also demands that North Korea wants to achieve peace regime and denuclearization of Korean Peninsula through dialogue and negotiation. So can I ask your reaction to that statements from North Korea Government?
MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t have a specific reaction to that statement, but we hope that North Korea will agree to resuming the Six-Party Talks. We are hopeful that we’ll get some actions toward that end and not just words, and we are again – as I just suggested with the Middle East, we are hopeful we can all sit down and reach our desired goal, which is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a verifiable manner.
QUESTION: Do you have any reason for those hopes, or is that just the sort of hope springs eternal? You know, because sometimes there are reasons why you are hopeful, and it’s not clear to me if there are reasons here or if this is just your general --
MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, we’ve had direct talks for the first time in some time. And we expect there to be some follow-up to those talks in some form. And yes, I think there’s reason to be more hopeful now than certainly a few months ago.
QUESTION: And the follow-up would be actions by the North Koreans, or did you mean follow-up talks?
MR. KELLY: Follow-up actions with – specifically agreeing to return to the Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: And anything else they need to do besides agree to return to the Six-Party Talks?
MR. KELLY: I think that’s the main thing right now. Once that starts, we can – a lot of other actions can take place.
QUESTION: Well, do they need to agree to return to the talks, or do they actually have to return to them?
MR. KELLY: Well, both. First they have to agree, then they have to return.
QUESTION: Because it seems as if a lot of times, they agree to return and then they don’t return --
MR. KELLY: Right. Well, that’s the main thing.
QUESTION: -- and you give them all these carrots for agreeing to return.
MR. KELLY: That’s why I say actions are important, not just the words.
QUESTION: But there are no other actions other than an agreement to – and then returning to the talks?
MR. KELLY: I’m sorry, Arshad. Repeat that, please.
QUESTION: There are no other actions that you are looking for from them prior to resumption of such talks --
MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, there’s a number --
QUESTION: -- other than just coming to the talks?
MR. KELLY: There’s a number of actions that we, of course, are looking for from the North Koreans. First and foremost, in the very immediate term, is information on Mr. Park, who they said they have detained for crossing their border.
QUESTION: And anything new on that?
MR. KELLY: No, I’m afraid I don’t have anything new on that.
QUESTION: And is that a condition of resuming talks?
MR. KELLY: No, no, no. No, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to suggest that. I’m just saying that there are a number of actions we would like them to take.
QUESTION: Okay, okay, okay.
QUESTION: Ian, today in Pakistan, these five Americans who have been detained there had a court hearing. I understand there were consular – at least one consular officer from Lahore who – the Consulate in Lahore who was in the meetings.
MR. KELLY: Yeah, that’s right.
QUESTION: Do you have any information about the hearing, what they might be charged with, how the Pakistanis are going to proceed?
MR. KELLY: Yeah. I don’t have a whole lot of information. As you point out, there were staff from the Consulate in Lahore who were present today at the court hearing in Sargodha. This was for the five arrested U.S. citizens. In terms of consular access, the last time they visited the prisoners was on December 22nd. We’ve now visited them three times and will continue to do so as appropriate. They have not signed a Privacy Act waiver to talk to the media, so we can’t comment too much further on that, and that would include commenting on their charges, of course.
QUESTION: Well, but there’s some talk in Pakistan that these guys are going to be charged with offenses that could be punishable by death. And so even though the U.S. cooperated with the Pakistani authorities which led to their arrests, can you say that you’re going to ensure that they’re going to receive due process under Pakistani law?
MR. KELLY: Well, we certainly hope so, and that’s one of the most important roles of our Consulate and our Embassy out there, to ensure that they do have access to legal counsel, that all – every step along the way, that they are treated appropriately and under due process under local law.
QUESTION: Are you consulting with the --
QUESTION: You say you hope so, but --
QUESTION: Are you consulting with the Pakistanis as to what these gentlemen should be charged with?
MR. KELLY: I don’t think that’s necessarily our role.
QUESTION: Because – well, there’s some discussion about whether they should be charged here in the United States, not in Pakistan.
MR. KELLY: There is discussion about that and I’m sure that there’s quite a bit of information sharing with the Government of Pakistan, but I don’t have --
QUESTION: So there won’t be an agreement with you and the Pakistanis as to where should – they should be charged?
MR. KELLY: There may be or there may not be, but I don’t have any information on whether or not there will be.
QUESTION: You say you hope they’ll be treated fairly; are you demanding it?
MR. KELLY: Yes, we are demanding it, absolutely. That is one of the most important things that a consular officer does is to ensure that American citizens are treated like anybody else under the local law there. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Really? What about in Iran? Is that – wait, wait, Ian, on this, but – the Pakistanis, have they been treated well so far?
MR. KELLY: It’s my understanding that they have been treated well so far.
QUESTION: And there hasn’t been any contact between the consular officers and the prosecute – I mean, there has – sorry. There hasn’t been any consular access since the 22nd, which is nine, ten --
MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- more than that?
MR. KELLY: That is not unusual, though. I mean, we --
QUESTION: Well, so --
MR. KELLY: I mean, just because we don’t get in to actually see them, we get – the Pakistanis share information with us about their disposition.
QUESTION: Can I have just a quick related question on India, please? India has new visa regulations and also --
QUESTION: How is that related in any way? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, as far as security --
MR. KELLY: Goyal, go ahead. Ask your question.
QUESTION: No, because India is also in high-alert security threat and you have – State Department has issued a terror warning for Americans to visit to India and also --
MR. KELLY: An advisory. I don’t think it was a warning. It was an advisory, I think.
QUESTION: Terror alert, yeah.
MR. KELLY: Terror alert.
MR. KELLY: There are different gradations of the --
QUESTION: Right. One, was there any specific threat from any terrorist groups in India or traveling to India?
MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of any specific information. This is something that we – that our Bureau of Consular Affairs does for many, many countries around the world: provide regular updates sometimes keyed to certain local holidays, keyed to news about demonstrations or increased tension in a particular region. It’s not necessarily keyed to some specific dire terrorist threat, though.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: And also, India has a new – sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: No. Finish, please.
QUESTION: India has new visa regulations. Is that – U.S. supports or in consultation with India? Because entry and reentry to India – U.S. is going to follow the same?
MR. KELLY: Well, I know that visas very often – our visa laws are – mirror the visa laws of other countries, especially in terms of fees that are charged. I’m not sure of this specific instance, but we can take that, Goyal.
QUESTION: So before you leave the podium, Ian, for this last time, I thought we should just --
MR. KELLY: I don’t know if it’s the last time, Matt.
QUESTION: Oh, is it not? That’s what we were told.
QUESTION: I had a question too.
QUESTION: Go ahead. Is it? Is it not? (Laughter.) Can you say? Do I – should I say something or should --
MR. KELLY: No, no. I plan to come down to the podium to prepare to have my – to have a hearing. You know that I’ve been named --
MR. KELLY: -- as Ambassador Designate to the OSCE, and I want to be sure that I’m well prepared for this particular event.
QUESTION: All right. Well, if in fact this does turn out to be your final briefing from the podium, on behalf of all of us, I’d like to say thank you. You’ve done an outstanding job in this.
MR. KELLY: Well, thank you.
QUESTION: And the verbal jousting is always appreciated.
QUESTION: And congratulations.
MR. KELLY: I enjoy the verbal jousting.
QUESTION: And have fun. Have --
QUESTION: I actually still had a question.
MR. KELLY: Can I just say one thing?
QUESTION: Before he finishes the salutation --
QUESTION: Have fun in Vienna.
QUESTION: -- I actually had a question. (Laughter.) Sorry, I’m still trying to ask my question.
QUESTION: And congratulations. And --
MR. KELLY: Wait, wait, can I just say one thing? I just want to say that I came into this job. I was in a panic before I came up here. I thought this has got to be the most stressful job in the State Department. In fact, it’s the most interesting and stimulating job in the State Department. It’s because of you guys. I’ve really enjoyed the give and take that we’ve had in the last eight months. And who knows? We may still continue to do it because the world’s greatest deliberative body has to confirm me and I hope they do, but if they don’t --
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. KELLY: Thanks. Oh, one more thing: Hi, Mom. (Laughter.) Hi, Fran.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:50 p.m.)