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

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Secretary Clinton delivers remarks today in NYC in Honor of the 15th Anniversary of the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing
    • The Secretary will also attend a bilateral meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
    • The Secretary made several calls today, including leaders in the Middle East whom she encouraged to participate in the indirect peace process talks
    • A/S Kurt Campbell continues travels in Asia/Arrived today in Brunei/While in Thailand he expressed disappointment and concern about Burma's annulment of its 1990 election, calling it a "setback"
    • In her call today to PM Netanyahu, the Secretary reiterated the United States' strong objection to Tuesday's announcement, not just in terms of timing, but in its substance/ She made it clear that the US considered the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel's approach to the bilateral relationship
    • A/S Feltman and Senator Mitchell have also made numerous calls to leaders in the Middle East, aimed at keeping President Abbas, as well as all parties, engaged in the indirect talks regarding the peace process
    • Regarding any letter allegedly sent to the Secretary General on NATO on the topic of nuclear negotiations, the Secretary General should be contacted/START Talks began again on March 9th and we are committed to concluding negotiations/It is important that we arrive at a quality agreement
    • Consular officers in Dublin have conducted a consular visit to a detained U.S. citizen in Ireland/The U.S. Embassy in Sana'a has contacted Yemeni authorities to set up a consular visit to ascertain the identity and citizenship of the person being detained in that country


1:02 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. I’ve got a few announcements before taking your questions.

This afternoon, Secretary Clinton will address the final day of the 54th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and that will happen in New York. She’ll reflect on the progress achieved in the 15 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing – where the world said with one voice that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights – and on the work that still must be done to fully realize the dreams and potential of Beijing.

The Secretary will argue that the status of the world’s women is not only a matter of justice. It is also a political, economic, and social imperative. When women flourish, their families, communities, and countries flourish as well. She will say that the world cannot make lasting progress if women and girls are left behind.

Fifteen years after Beijing, the Secretary’s message will be: Women’s progress is human progress and human progress is women’s progress. She will discuss how the Obama Administration has put this principle at the heart of the foreign policy of the United States because we believe that women are critical to solving virtually every shared common challenge that we face.

She will also have a bilateral with Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, where we expect they will discuss the upcoming Quartet meeting in Moscow, as well as the situation in Gaza, and look ahead to the Haiti donors conference at the end of this month.

The Secretary had a number of calls this morning. First, she had a brief conversation with Egyptian First Lady Suzanne Mubarak where she wished President Mubarak a safe and speedy recovery following his surgery of March 6. The Secretary also spoke with Armenian President Serzh Sargsian, and during the call she extended an invitation for President Sargsian to attend the upcoming nuclear security summit here in Washington. They talked about the importance of staying engaged on the normalization process with Turkey and about the Minsk process and the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Secretary Clinton also spoke this morning with Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to reiterate the United States’ strong objections to Tuesday’s announcement, not just in terms of timing, but also in its substance; to make clear that the United States considers the announcement a deeply negative signal about Israel’s approach to the bilateral relationship – and counter to the spirit of the Vice President’s trip; and to reinforce that this action had undermined trust and confidence in the peace process, and in America’s interests. The Secretary said she could not understand how this happened, particularly in light of the United States’ strong commitment to Israel’s security. And she made clear that the Israeli Government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.

And finally, just before taking your questions, Assistant Secretary Kurt Campbell has arrived in Brunei from his stop in Thailand. And just to reiterate what he said during a media availability in Thailand, he expressed again our disappointment and our concern regarding the five election laws released this week. He called them a setback, and reiterated that while we will continue to engage in dialogue with Burma, we also will continue the complementary aspect of sanctions as we seek to encourage a different course of action in Burma.

With that --

QUESTION: Can I ask you a couple of questions --


QUESTION: -- about the Netanyahu call?


QUESTION: One, do you have any idea about how long it was?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not.

QUESTION: Two, knowing that from the podium you all use your words very carefully, you just called – you referred to the prime minister as Bibi Netanyahu. Is that intentional? You’re not wanting to quote him by his full first name?


QUESTION: You’re using a nickname, which --


QUESTION: -- could be seen as pejorative by some.

MR. CROWLEY: No. That was my choice of words.

QUESTION: Okay. And then, third, why three days after what happened, and the Vice President’s own condemnation of that happened, was the need felt to deliver this quite harsh rebuke?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’ve wanted to have a conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu for a couple of days, and the call finally happened.

QUESTION: I’d go the other way – why did it take three days for that call? Why wasn’t it an immediate call?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, I would – obviously, the Vice President was in Israel as well, so we also had a means of communication directly between the Vice President and the prime minister.

QUESTION: Can – has anyone talked to the Palestinians yet to try to encourage them not to walk away from the proximity talks?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Senator Mitchell and Assistant Feltman spoke to a range of leaders in the region over the past day, including President Abbas, Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit of Egypt, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan, Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs al-Thani, UAE Foreign Minister Al Nahyan, and Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa. So we have reached out, as we said yesterday, to a range of leaders. And I think we jointly remain committed to this process, acknowledging that obviously it is a difficult environment given the Israeli statement.

QUESTION: All of those calls were made by Feltman and/or Mitchell.


QUESTION: And they were all intended to encourage the Arabs not to push Abbas away from the talks and to Abbas himself to keep him on board?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I believe that President Abbas himself has indicated that he remains committed to --

QUESTION: Right, but the Arab League advisory committee has come out and said that they should not – that the Palestinians are – has withdrawn their endorsement of the --

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that. And as I said yesterday, we are – we do not know that – as far as we are – we understand, we remain committed to the indirect talks that both sides have agreed to.

QUESTION: Okay. And then my last one. You said the Secretary told Netanyahu that she could not understand how this happened. Does that mean that you do not accept his explanation that he didn’t know anything about it, that it was going to happen?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we’ve also said, we accept what Prime Minister Netanyahu has said. By the same token, he is the head of the Israeli Government and ultimately is responsible for the actions of that government.


QUESTION: Different subject?


QUESTION: It’s my understanding that the Russians sent a letter to the NATO secretary general relaying their views on proposals to unblock the situation with regards to the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty. I was wondering if you have received this letter, if you had a chance to study it, and if you have any comments on the --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, if the letter was sent to the NATO secretary general, it’s possible that that has been shared with the permanent representatives in Brussels. I would probably defer to my colleagues in Brussels to see if we’ve seen it and we have a chance to have a view on it.

QUESTION: And do you have any updates on the talks on the follow-on to the START treaty?

MR. CROWLEY: They are ongoing in Geneva and we are committed to concluding negotiations. What is important is we arrive at a quality agreement.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on. Charley.

QUESTION: Do you have any information, please, about reports from Brownsville, Texas that a Mexican helicopter strayed into or was seen hovering over houses in United States communities, possibly a Mexican navy helicopter?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not. But in terms of air space, I think I would defer to the military and to Northern Command.

But, Matt, before we wrap up, just – you had asked a question yesterday regarding what we knew about arrests in Ireland and Yemen. We have had a consular visit with a U.S. citizen detained in Ireland today. By virtue of the Privacy Act, we do not have permission to share that name at this point. And we have contacted Yemeni authorities to set up a consular visit to verify the citizenship of a person being detained in Sanaa, but we haven’t had that meeting yet.


QUESTION: Yeah. Is the – I’m sort of coming in a day late. But the arrest in Ireland, is this connected to the counterterrorism case in Pennsylvania?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as to that kind of investigation, I’d defer to the FBI.

QUESTION: One more question, please.

MR. CROWLEY: Charley.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about how many stimulus projects in the State Department budget have been launched? There’s some estimates that only – after 13 months, only one-third of the money is being used.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:12 p.m.)