Remarks
Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC
February 24, 2010


MR. CROWLEY: Let’s see, first of all, it’s a great day if you’re a hockey fan. You’ve got the United States and Switzerland. You’ve got Russia and Canada. I suppose the United States is officially neutral in the Russia-Canada --

QUESTION: Can we have the Secretary curtail her testimony?

MR. CROWLEY: I hear you. I hear you.

Speaking of testimony, the Secretary was on the Hill this morning testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and other programs, defending the proposed State Department budget of $52.8 billion, including significant funding for our efforts on the front-line states, as well global initiatives and development and making sure that we have resources for – and the right kind of people and infrastructure to do global diplomacy around the world.

We can announce that the Secretary will depart Washington on February 28 and will be traveling to Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. A number of you will be accompanying her on this trip. She’ll be attending the inauguration of President Mujica in Uruguay on March 1st. She’ll then travel to Santiago, where she’ll meet with President Bachelet and President-elect Piñera. And on March 3rd, she’ll be meeting with President Lula and Foreign Minister Amorim in Brasilia. In Costa Rica on March 4th, she’ll be the keynote speaker at the Pathways to Prosperity in the Americas Ministerial Meeting and will meet separately with President Oscar Arias and President-elect Laura Chinchilla. And in Guatemala, she’ll follow-up on a recent meeting that she had here at the State Department with President Alvaro Colom and will have a meeting with leaders of Central American countries and the Dominican Republic to discuss a number of issues – I suspect, including Haiti.

QUESTION: That’s on March 5th?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: That’s on March 5th?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. No, that’s – yeah, that’s on March 4.

QUESTION: So Costa Rica and Guatemala in the same day?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a fair question.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, but she’ll return – no, you’re right, she’ll meet – that will be on the 5th and she’ll return to Washington on the 5th – clarification.

We are – we’ve had, in the last 24 hours, some resettlement of detainees from Guantanamo. You’ll recall that last week, Spanish Foreign Minister Moratinos announced that Spain would be willing to take five detainees currently held in Guantanamo Bay. One of those five was transferred today. And in addition, three detainees were resettled from Guantanamo to Albania, and we are grateful to both nations and their governments for their willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. And as of this point, we have 188 detainees remaining at Guantanamo.

QUESTION: So one of the five was transferred today; what about the other four? Are you awaiting transfer of them or --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, when did they go to Albania?

MR. CROWLEY: Today.

QUESTION: Today. What did the three who went to Albania do – not to get Spain? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible) --

QUESTION: They’re not – or pullout -- . These aren’t Uighurs are they?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: Did they say what nationality they are, P.J.?

QUESTION: Are they from Yemen?

MR. CROWLEY: The detainee that went to Spain is Palestinian. The three detainees that went to Albania are natives of Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.

Ambassador Steve Bosworth had good discussions with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei today on North Korea and the delegation will depart from Beijing for Seoul tomorrow.

And a number of you have been following the case of six orphans in Haiti that were briefly held up for questions over paperwork. They did depart for Florida today and should be arriving there sometime early this afternoon. And the Government of Haiti has reaffirmed that all children who have been approved for humanitarian parole by the Department of Homeland Security and whose departures have been approved by the Haitian prime minister will leave the country, and we are continuing to work on still a fairly significant number of cases.

With that.

QUESTION: What’s fairly significant?

MR. CROWLEY: I think there are still a couple of hundred kids in the pipeline that we continue to work with the Government of Haiti, and obviously officials here in this country, to process them and bring them here to the United States.

QUESTION: But these aren’t ones that were identified for adoption? These are like a humanitarian parole, like they have a relative here or some other reason outside the fact that they’ve been matched with a family?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t – that’s a good question. I don’t know that we can make that as a categorical statement as you just did. I think in – I think these are people who were in the pipeline for adoption at the time of the earthquake.

QUESTION: But maybe not that far along?

MR. CROWLEY: Right. But we’re – there were some who were just about done at the very start, and we are to move those. And there were those that we moved through the pipeline in the last weeks since the earthquake. But I – their status in coming to the country is on the basis of special humanitarian parole.

QUESTION: On North Korea.

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Ambassador Bosworth had two discussion in Beijing with Wu Dawei, so now are you more hopeful about the possibility that North Korea will come back to the Six-Party talks?

MR. CROWLEY: I think that’s remains a question to basically ask North Korea. We’re prepared to, as we’ve indicated, for months that we’re prepared to reengage within the Six-Party process. And all we’re looking for is North Korea to say that they’re ready as well.

QUESTION: So you still don’t have any plans to (inaudible) North Korean officials (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: And there has been no sign from North Korea (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: We’re still waiting for their yes.

QUESTION: I think North Korea give any sign to the Chinese, Wu Dawei or must – I think t’s something they have signed.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, but – obviously, we’ll continue the consultations. But I would say that we’ll still looking for a firm signal from North Korea that they’re prepared to constructively reenter the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: And there was nothing in that meeting that indicated that this discussion between Bosworth and (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think, as Ambassador Bosworth noted in his brief press encounter, that the Chinese have had several contacts with the DPRK recently and it was a good time to exchange views on where we think we are.

QUESTION: P.J., last night, Mr. (inaudible) said that the two presidents were about to have phone conversation that’s being worked out by both sides on START, and that something could be imminent. Do you have any confirmation of that or any --

MR. CROWLEY: Confirmation of what?

QUESTION: Of an imminent, or maybe already has taken place, telephone call between the two presidents to discuss START.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would defer to my colleagues at the White House as to the status of that call.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. No communication from this side other than what we heard yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I’m not disputing that there may be a phone conversation. But if it has taken place, I’ll defer to the White House to announce that.

QUESTION: Any status report you can give us on START?

MR. CROWLEY: The negotiations are ongoing.

QUESTION: P.J., let me ask you about the statement that Russian minister of foreign affairs Lavrov made yesterday. He said that on March 19th there will be a ministerial meeting on the Middle East on the level of ministers of foreign affairs. Do you know if the Secretary will take part in that meeting or anyone on the U.S. side will go?

MR. CROWLEY: As we said yesterday, the Secretary and Minister Lavrov did talk about a Quartet meeting. They did talk about mid-March as a prospective timeframe for that. But I think we’re checking with the availability of the other members of the Quartet, so we have nothing to announce at this point.

QUESTION: P.J., can you comment on the announcement by President Karzai that he would appoint all the members of the Electoral Commission in Afghanistan?

MR. CROWLEY: What’s the question?

QUESTION: Is there any comment? Is there any American comment on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we are promoting Afghan sovereignty. We – it is important for the Afghan Government to take over responsibility for its own governance. It is within the province of the president to name members of the Electoral Commission. Obviously, these are very important posts. The credibility of future Afghan elections is vitally important to giving the Afghan Government the legitimacy in the eyes of its people. So I think we are supportive of the Afghan Government stepping up and assuming responsibility for its own processes. But we obviously recognize that it will be very important for the government to be transparent and credible and name appropriate officials to these posts that will give the Afghan Government – the

Afghan people confidence that future elections will be free, fair, and legitimate.

QUESTION: But I mean, he circumvented and rewrote – I don’t remember if it was the constitution or the law itself – to allow himself to appoint these people. I mean, it wasn’t in the constitution that he was given the right to do that. So I mean, does that – what kind of signal does that send that after this whole protracted election and the fact that you kind of were working very closely with him and the new government to make sure that there’s this new accountable government, that he’s up to his old tricks again?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, your --

QUESTION: It’s not just – it’s not a good early sign --

MR. CROWLEY: -- there’s a presumption in your question.

QUESTION: -- is all I’m saying.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, put --

QUESTION: Well, it’s not a good early sign --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, turn that around for a second. It would be highly unusual that in a functioning government you would actually have foreigners who are assuming positions that are rightfully the responsibility of a sovereign government. So --

QUESTION: But not the president himself.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean – well, I’m – I don’t consider myself an Afghan constitutional scholar, so --

QUESTION: Well, I am. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there is a parliament that has stepped up and it is, where it feels appropriate, challenging appointments that the president has made in terms of the ministers within his government. There is an Afghan court system that has the opportunity to review whether the steps that he’s taken are within his authorities. I think what we’re most interested in is, okay, if you’re going to step up to the challenge, who are the people that you’re going to name, do they give everyone in the process confidence that they will conduct free, fair, transparent, legitimate elections that the results give you – give the government more legitimacy. This is really the challenge for the Afghan people – for the Afghan Government to be seen as pursuing the broadest possible interest of its people.

QUESTION: But --

MR. CROWLEY: So the judgment here will be made not by the United States, but the judgment will be made by the people of Afghanistan and by Afghan institutions, as it should be.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just on the – one other question on Mullah Baradar. There’s like some reports that the Pakistanis are willing to turn him over to the Afghans for prosecution. And I mean without -- I mean, if you have anything on this particular issue, but in general, how does the U.S. feel about Afghanistan taking possession or imprisoning senior members of the Taliban like Mullah Omar or this guy, or the very top echelon of the Taliban, or does the United States want to take captivity of them themselves?

MR. CROWLEY: I think that we have been pushing for significant action on both sides of the border. We certainly welcome cooperation on the security front between Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have helped to facilitate that over the past months and years.

So without commenting specifically on whether that report is accurate or not, I do not know. But certainly, I think, we would welcome mutual steps by Afghanistan and Pakistan to simply narrow the territory within which these insurgents can operate.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean, the question is more about the senior – even if you don’t want to talk about this particular case – senior members of the Taliban, who should be – who do you consider the best person to take them to trial or prosecute them or whatever? Are they considered co-conspirators of 9/11? And should they be part of – like, I’m sure, if you found Usama bin Ladin, you would want him for yourself. So I mean, are these type of people – like – do you consider these same of the senior members of al-Qaida that they should be tried in the United States? And if the Afghans were to take possession of these senior members of the Taliban – we’ve heard reports that President Karzai, for instance, would be willing to negotiate even with Mullah Omar. So how do you feel about the fact that these senior members of Taliban could be running around Afghanistan free one day?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, there’s a significant presumption in your question.

QUESTION: What’s the presumption?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that someone would take possession of somebody and then release them.

QUESTION: Well, he pretty much said that. Didn’t President Karzai say he’d be willing to have some negotiation with Mullah Omar, which is part of the reconciliation process?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, any – on – let me go through your detailed question. I think, to the extent that there are questions as to whether we would seek extradition of an individual, or individuals, for a trial here in the United States, that would be something that we in the State Department would look at with our colleagues in the Administration, particularly at the Department of Justice.

I think separate and apart from whether these individuals have broken the laws of the United States, Pakistan, or Afghanistan, we certainly appreciate the aggressive action that is being taken on both sides of the border with regard to insurgents that threaten Afghanistan and Pakistan and the United States. And I think we will work cooperatively with – as we are – with all of those governments in doing everything we can both militarily, judicially, to bring to justice those who we think are guilty of specific crimes, but – or are participating in the current military conflict.

As the Secretary has said, part of a counterinsurgency strategy is to deal aggressively with those who we think are ideologically committed to the struggle, and – but to peel off those that we think are foot soldiers who are not ideologically committed to the struggle and might be willing to give up their weapons, renounce violence, and play a constructive role in Afghanistan or Pakistan in the future.

But there certainly are some who we think are eligible to participate in a political process. We also think that there are others – Mullah Omar would be a good example of those that we think are not redeemable.

QUESTION: What about Mullah Baradar?

MR. CROWLEY: I – not for me to pass judgment. But I would think that as the leader – as a senior leader of a group that is very closely tied to al-Qaida and perhaps committed to the struggle, we would have to look at that very carefully.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the verdict in Italy against (inaudible)? There was a posting of a video, bullying of an autistic child in the (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with the case.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

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PRN: 2010/214

[This is a mobile copy of Remarks to the Press]