Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 12, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton's travel to the Middle East begins on Saturday (2/13), after a one-day delay/No changes in her schedule after arrival in Doha/The Secretary will engage in several bilateral discussions and meetings with leaders in the Region
    • U/S Burns travels to the Middle East from Feb. 16 to 19/Will have meetings in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Azerbaijan/The U.S. maintains an interest in a constructive dialogue with Syria
    • U.S. Special Envoy Gration travels to Chad and Sudan from Feb. 13 to 22, visiting N'Djamena, Juba, Kadugli, and Khartoum/Key objectives are to complete implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and election preparations
    • USAID Administrator Raj Shah travels to Haiti tomorrow, along with SOUTHCOM Commander, Gen. Douglas Fraser/They will meet with GoH leaders and review humanitarian and relief efforts
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS/REGION
    • The Secretary spoke with the Quartet's Tony Blair to support efforts aimed at negotiations in the Middle East and a lasting peace in the Region/The efforts of the Quartet are a complement to the work of Senator Mitchell/We are collectively encouraging all parties to move forward
  • HAITI
    • There is no reported change in the status of the ten American missionaries/The case still remains a matter for Haitian legal process and no decision has been reached for their return to the U.S.
    • We are working with OMB on Supplemental Funding for Haiti/This funding will be used to replenish the aid and assistance accounts/The result being no programmatic impacts on other areas in the world earmarked for humanitarian assistance
    • Available numbers of Americans evacuated, casualties, and those accounted for were provided
  • NORTH KOREA
    • No plans exist for a visit to the U.S. by DPRK nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan
    • North Korea is being urged repeatedly to return to the Six-Party Talks/North Korea is hesitating but there is no viable alternative
  • IRAN
    • For an assessment of Iran's nuclear program, IAEA should be consulted/Further enrichment beyond specific levels would be a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions
    • Recent demonstrations in Iran and the resultant crackdown by the government point out the Draconian steps and repressive measures by Iran, such as restricting communications, are producing serious questions and doubt by the Iranian people
  • SAUDI ARABIA
    • Secretary Clinton will meet with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia / Author of Arab Peace Initiative / Important foundation to continue to advance towards comprehensive peace in the Middle East


TRANSCRIPT:

1:40 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Just to continue on with other subjects, obviously, Secretary Clinton will be going to Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Her schedule has been adapted a slight bit. Her departure time was pushed till tomorrow afternoon, but her primary schedule, once she arrives in Doha, will go on without change. And then after arriving in Doha on Sunday, she will then move on to Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, returning to the U.S. late Tuesday night.

Under Secretary Bill Burns will be traveling this coming week to Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. He’ll have meetings in Lebanon with President Sulayman, Prime Minister Hariri, and other Lebanese leaders demonstrating our continued support to a sovereign and independent Lebanon. In Syria, he will meet with President Asad and Foreign Minister Mualem, reflecting our continued interest in further dialogue with the Syrian Government on all aspects of our bilateral relationship. And then on to Turkey for meetings with senior officials to discuss the 2006 shared vision framework for our strategic partnership, and then he will continue on to Azerbaijan for meetings on February 19 with President Aliyev to reinforce our bilateral relations, and he will also be meeting with civil society members there.

Administrator for USAID Raj Shah will be in Haiti tomorrow, traveling there with General Doug Fraser of Southern Command to meet with Haitian leaders and review humanitarian and reconstruction relief efforts. Obviously, and he will be able – he’ll be there during this period of mourning and provide our thoughts and prayers on behalf of the American people as we reflect on the 30-day anniversary of the earthquake.

And Special Envoy Scott Gration will travel to Chad and Sudan this coming week for discussions with members of Sudan’s People Liberation Movement[1], the SPLM, including President Kiir, on resolving the remaining issues around the full and complete implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement. And then he will be in Khartoum on – for bilateral meetings with both the SPLM and the National Congress Party to discuss the census, referendum, Abyei, and all – and post-referendum issues.

I think like all sports fans tonight, we’re looking forward to the start of the Winter Olympics, and we will be rooting for Team USA of course, but also recognizing the value of the Olympics and sports in terms of promotion of our joint international goals. We are grateful to our friends in Canada for hosting this great event.

With that. Yes.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about Bill Burns going to Syria? Can you put that in some context? Is he the highest-level official to go in some time, and why now? Does it have to do with the ambassador choice or --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it doesn’t have to do with the ambassador per se; it has to do with what a return of the ambassador to Syria represents, which is further steps in terms of our bilateral relations. While there, I think he’ll reflect on a number of issues in terms of regional issues – obviously, what – how Syria continues to view the situation with respect to the Middle East peace. But obviously, it reflects our growing interest in working constructively with Syria and the leaders of that country.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about the statement you put out yesterday on Tony Blair? You said that he would be intensifying his partnership, I think was the term you used, with George Mitchell, to deal with the negotiations question, the political negotiations. What does that mean in concrete terms? What will he be doing that he wasn’t – hadn’t been doing? And does it mean George Mitchell will be doing something different?

MR. CROWLEY: No, no, not at all. But we – for example, we continue to work jointly on how to increase the capacity of Palestinian institutions, how we can continue to help the – with the growth and expansion of the Palestinian economy, recognizing that these have the ability to support the efforts on getting the parties into a negotiation. So it is making sure that we are working as closely together as possible so that on the economic front, on the political front, and on the negotiation front, we’re doing everything we can to advance Palestinian interests as a way of encouraging them to continue to prepare for the point in the future which, following a negotiation, we would hope that there would be a viable Palestinian state.

QUESTION: Well, weren’t you doing all of that before?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: And I don’t – so why the necessity to reinforce former Prime Minister Blair’s role? He’s a hardworking guy, he was working all of this stuff.

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But I just don’t get it.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we have had periodic discussions with Prime Minister Blair and the Quartet. And I think we are looking for a variety of ways in which we can encourage the region to move forward. And we certainly think that on the political front and the economic front, there’s an opportunity here to be able to help provide the kind of support to Palestinian leadership that it needs.

QUESTION: So what – just on the political front, I mean, what’s he – because his focus, of course, has been the economic front.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, it has. What --

QUESTION: What is he doing on the political front now then – that he wasn’t doing before? And how does that not potentially duplicate Senator Mitchell’s --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no. But you have to deal with political leaders to make sure that you have the – you’re building the economy. You want to see ways in which the region not – can continue to invest in a Palestinian state, in the West Bank in particular, where there has been encouraging economic news. So I would just think it is a true complement to what George Mitchell is doing, and we are going to intensify our cooperation.

QUESTION: Does Senator Mitchell have any plans to cease in his role or to reduce his role?

MR. CROWLEY: What we were describing yesterday in terms of our cooperation, it is about – it’s not about a plus-or-minus equation. It’s about – George Mitchell is working hard on getting the parties to negotiation. Tony Blair is working on – for his part, in terms of trying to build the institutions that will be necessary for a viable Palestinian state. The United States has a role to play in that as well. So I wouldn’t say that the advance of what Tony Blair is doing comes at the expense of George Mitchell, not at all.

QUESTION: And Senator Mitchell is not going to give up his role? I mean, that’s not --

MR. CROWLEY: Not at all. No.

QUESTION: Okay, good.

QUESTION: One more. Did this come about because you said to yourself we’ve been unable so far to get the two sides to resume negotiations, maybe Tony Blair can do something or somebody else can do something?

MR. CROWLEY: No. But we are looking at how we can through – pull – put every thread into a tapestry that is able to support and advance Middle East peace. And success will involve advancing on the political front, advancing on the economic front, advancing on the social front. All of these elements will be important so that people ultimately have the confidence to take the important steps and make the difficult decisions that are necessary to achieve what we all want, which is comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

Charley.

QUESTION: Thanks for the opportunity to talk to the ambassador. Still on the issue of Haiti, do you have any information about possibly the changed status of the detained Americans? And then secondly, still on Haiti, I think there’s a concern among some international aid groups that the perfectly understandable need to rush emergency aid and money to Haiti may have the unintended consequence of starving some other international aid projects. Is this a concern of yours and what’s being done about it?

MR. CROWLEY: Let me do the first question and come back and clarify. You’re talking in the U.S. context on the second question?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. On the first question, the Haitian legal system continues to evaluate the charges against the 10 Americans. And we have received no formal notification from the Haitian Government as to a resolution of this case, and I wouldn’t expect one through this three-day period of morning. So to the extent that the judge in the case may have something to announce, I would expect that would be early next week.

QUESTION: Informal notification?

MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean, I know there’s a lot of rumors flying out there. We’re anxious to see the case resolved as quickly as possible and as appropriately as possible. But this is a Haitian legal process and when they make a formal announcement, then, as the ambassador said, we’re prepared to provide whatever support is appropriate.

QUESTION: Anything just on the aid issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm. I mean, we have – we are working with OMB on a Haiti supplemental. I’d expect the package to be – to go up to the Hill in the next few days. Obviously, that’s an OMB and a White House decision to announce. The government is not allowed to spend money it doesn’t have. I know that’s a startling fact in Washington, D.C. So in the face of the earthquake 30 days ago, we have been tapping into accounts that were initially set aside for other parts of the world. This is, in fact, how good, solid budgeting and management works.

And then with the supplemental, which we expect Congress will act on expeditiously – there’s a CODEL in Haiti today evaluating their needs – then we will be able to rapidly replenish funding that we’ve borrowed, if you will, from other accounts. This is exactly how the system works when you go through emergencies like this. And I would expect that as far as I’m aware, assuming that the supplemental is acted upon expeditiously, there’ll be no programmatic impact anywhere in the world.

QUESTION: Can you give us a ballpark dollar figure on the supplemental request --

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: -- as it’s now being evaluated?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Still on Haiti. Can you give us sort of a 30-day rundown of where the facts and figures stand, how many Haitian orphans have been brought to the U.S., how many still are in the pipeline, how many Americans are now known to have been killed, still missing?

MR. CROWLEY: Some of that. I think that thus far, in terms of – as the ambassador said, we’ve had roughly more than 15,000 Americans evacuated from Haiti. I think overall, we have been able to account for more than 23,000 Americans in Haiti. We have thus far opened files on roughly 2,200 Americans for which we have not yet been able to fully account for their situation. So there is some work that is – our staff in Haiti is still going through those kinds of details.

I don’t have a current figure on orphans. The last figure I had was more than 700, but I don’t have that with me. In terms of confirmed American fatalities, at this point, we’re at 97.

QUESTION: Ninety-seven, did you say?

MR. CROWLEY: Ninety-seven.

QUESTION: And how many are (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s all I have. I’ve got 97.

QUESTION: And that’s one government employee and 96 --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there were four – last I checked, there were four who were official, of which that included not only the Foreign Service officer that we lost, but I think there was also a military officer that was lost, and then family members as well.

David.

QUESTION: P.J., there’s some reporting out there that the North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan will be coming to the United States next month. Apparently, some sort of – possibly as a reciprocal visit for Bosworth, and also Lynn Pascoe’s mission to North Korea. He came back and he said that they seemed to be disinclined to return to the Six-Party Talks unless the sanctions by the UN are lifted.

MR. CROWLEY: On your – on the first issue, we have no plans for such a visit at this point. On the second, yeah – I mean, we have heard from the North Koreans that they recognize the importance of the Six-Party process. What we need now is for them to pull the trigger and actually come back to that process.

QUESTION: Good choice of words.

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: All right, all right. Of course, that’s the kind of trigger we think is appropriate to pull, as opposed to a trigger that fires something into the air that we think is destabilizing to the region. So they’re hesitating, and they shouldn’t. We think the – obviously, resolving the situation will require them to come back to the Six-Party process to take the kind of steps to meet the commitments that they’ve made in the past. We don’t see any other alternative to this. And it’s unfortunate that it would appear that they continue to hesitate.

QUESTION: You said there are no plans for a visit right now, but does that mean you’re discussing it somehow through the New York channel?

MR. CROWLEY: There’s no discussion that we’re having with North Korea about a visit at this point.

QUESTION: Can you shed any light on the circumstances of when Secretary Clinton was informed about circumstances of when Secretary Clinton was informed about the hospitalization of the former President?

MR. CROWLEY: I cannot. I don’t – I happen not to know. It happened sometime yesterday, and obviously, last night she moved up to New York and to the hospital rather quickly. She’s home right now with her husband and will be back in Washington tomorrow afternoon.

QUESTION: And anything vis-à-vis her decision to continue with her trip and not stay with him?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, as you would expect, first and foremost, she wanted to know about the health of her husband. I’ll defer to President Clinton’s office, but it would appear the fact that he was able to have the procedure quickly, is already home and probably already back at work – (laughter) – would tell you that I think she is confident enough that she can go on this trip as originally planned, with just kind of squeezing the travel time.

Yes.

QUESTION: What’s your assessment about Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s nuclear program or nuclear capability?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CROWLEY: And the question?

QUESTION: Yeah. What’s your assessment?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think in terms of a formal assessment, we’d defer to the IAEA. Iran has been in contact with IAEA inspectors and tried to advise them on what they are trying to do. We believe that any step to further enrich uranium to 20 percent is a violation of their obligations under the – under a number of UN Security Council resolutions, and we think that they should come back and constructively engage in a process where we can – would help them provide whatever their needs are within a civilian nuclear program while reassuring the international community about their intentions regarding their overall nuclear ambitions. But these ongoing statements and ongoing actions are counterproductive and they really call into question whether Iranian claims that their intentions are peaceful are, in fact, true.

David.

QUESTION: There’s some reporting about yesterday’s events in Iran – analysts, I guess you might say, conclude that the protest movement may be kind of fizzling out, given what happened yesterday. I was just wondering whether you had a take on it.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not sure it’s fizzled out. I think what you saw yesterday was Draconian steps by the Iranian Government to suppress the people of Iran and their ability to assemble freely and to voice their concerns about their own government and its actions. We think these are universal rights and we think that it’s important for the Iranian people to continue to have the ability to communicate, to network, to use technology to hold their government to account. And ultimately, the government – any government – has to serve the needs of its people and the interests of its people. We think the ongoing demonstrations show that the Iranian people have serious questions about their government and whether it, in fact, is acting in their own self-interest as opposed to in terms of a narrow self-interest.

David.

QUESTION: Can you discuss the nature of the Iran discussions the Secretary intends to have with her Gulf --

MR. CROWLEY: I think we intend to have a range of discussions with officials in her stops in Qatar and in Saudi Arabia, not only with high-level officials from those countries, but she’ll have the chance during the Islamic World Forum to talk to other leaders. I know she’ll have a bilateral with the prime minister of Turkey as part of this.

So Middle East peace will be an issue that will be discussed, Iran certainly will be an issue that is discussed, other important regional considerations. I think we’ll have the meeting first and then we’ll tell you about it.

QUESTION: On the Middle East peace, what does she expect from the Saudis to advance the peace process?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, she’ll meet with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. And of course, he is the author of the Arab Peace Initiative, and we think that is an important foundation upon which we can continue to advance towards comprehensive peace in the Middle East. So I’m sure that she will follow up on discussions that she’s had recently with the foreign minister on how to use the Arab Peace Initiative to be able to work with the parties and see what progress we can make.

QUESTION: Are the Saudis expected to encourage the Palestinians to take part in these indirect talks?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we will, I’m sure – as we have said to the parties directly, we think that now is the time for them to enter into formal negotiations. The issues that continue to crop up can only be resolved through formal negotiations. That’s our view. That’s the view of many countries in the Middle East. So part of our discussion will be how we push, prod, cajole the parties into that negotiation through which we think we can ultimately arrive at a satisfactory peace agreement.

QUESTION: Just one more. Sorry. Ambassador Mitchell – wasn’t he supposed to go to Saudi Arabia on the 6th of February, or last week at any rate?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know. I’ll take the question as to where --

QUESTION: And why didn’t he go?

MR. CROWLEY: Where – well --

QUESTION: If he didn’t --

MR. CROWLEY: It could well be that some white stuff had some impact on that. But we’ll take the question on what George Mitchell’s schedule right now is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)

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[1] Sudan People’s Liberation Movement

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing -- February 12]