Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 16, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • South and Central Asia Assistant Secretary Robert Blake Travels to India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Belgium/Will Deliver Keynote Address at Asia Society Corporate Conference in New Delhi on March 20
    • U.S. Continues to Make Preparations for the International Donors Conference on the Future of Haiti
    • U.S. Welcomes the Decision of the Governments of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania and Niger with Their Meeting Today to Collectively Confront Threat of Terrorism
    • Secretary Clinton Met Today with Ireland's Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward/Secretary Will Meet Later with Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and Northern Ireland's First and Deputy Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness/Secretary Clinton Addresses Tonight the American-Ireland Fund/Compared Notes on Similarities Between the Peace Processes in Northern Ireland and the Middle East
    • Senator Mitchell Remains in Washington/He Will Not Have Meetings with the Parties Prior to Moscow/Continue to Talk to the Parties/Details on the Meetings are Still Being Worked Out
    • U.S. is Grateful that Both President Calderon and Mexican Foreign Secretary Espinosa are in Juarez to Communicate Condolences on Behalf of Mexican Government/Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Espinosa Talked on the Phone to Work Closely Together on Investigation of Tragedy
  • ISRAEL/ PALESTINIANS
    • Issue of Logistics of Senator Mitchell's Travel/Simply Not Enough Time for Meaningful Discussions with the Parties Tomorrow/Delayed Departure So That He Would Be Informed by the Israeli Response to the Secretary's Conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu/Mitchell Will Have Follow-on Meetings with the Parties in the Coming Days to Follow Moscow
    • U.S. is Looking for a Commitment by Both Parties to Demonstrate Their Commitment to the Process/ Anticipate Having a Conversation with the Secretary and the Prime Minister/U.S. Wants to Have Next Set of Meetings be as Productive as Possible/Continue to Talk to Palestinians and Others/U.S. is Committed to This Process/ The Process is in U.S. National Interest and Both Israeli and Palestinian National Interest/U.S. wants to Make Sure Their Words are Followed by Actions
    • There are Some Meaningful Logistical Issues This Week/Gaza Will Be a Significant Discussion at the Quartet Meeting in Moscow on Friday/Secretary Planning to Speak at AIPAC
    • Administration Had Early Commitment to Get More Significantly Engaged in the Peace Process/Qatar and Saudi Arabia Commended the Administration for Its Commitment and Its Resolve /U.S. Has not Changed Its Position on Settlements/Parties are the Ones Who will Resolve the Issues/ Will Point Out to Israelis and Palestinians Where Their Actions Fall Short/Issues Cannot be Addressed Unless It Gets to a Formal Process/Have not Heard the Word Crisis Used at State Department/U.S. Continues to Feel There is a Sense of Urgency Moving this Process Forward
  • IRAN
    • U.S. Has a 30-year History with Iran /Disappointed Iran Has Not Engaged Meaningfully/Continue to Work with P-5+1 Process and Others/U.S. Condemns the Execution of Political Prisoners
  • CHINA
    • Secretary Clinton Will Welcome Ambassador Zhang Yesui as China's New Ambassador-Designate to U.S./Looking for a Resumption of Six-Party Talks/Secretary Spoke with Foreign Secretary Miliband About His Visit
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Swedish Embassy Had Contact with Detained American Citizen
    • Continue to Work within the P5+1 Process


TRANSCRIPT:

2:12 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. Several announcements before taking your questions:

Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Robert Blake will be traveling over the next couple of weeks, departing tomorrow for India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Belgium. He will deliver a keynote address at the Asia Society Corporate Conference in New Delhi on March 20th as well as having consultations with Indian and American business representatives as well as discussions with his counterparts in the Ministry of External Affairs.

In Afghanistan, he will meet with embassy officials and travel to Kunduz to meet with local officials and visit with one of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams there. In Pakistan, he will meet with federal and provincial officials, civil society representatives, religious leaders, and business representatives in Islamabad, Karachi, and Lahore, and will hold consultations with the EU in Brussels about our ongoing dialogue in South and Central Asia.

I think you saw an announcement a short time ago – we continue to make preparations for the International Donors Conference on the future of Haiti on March 31st at UN headquarters in New York to follow up on the devastating earthquake of January 12. And now, attention is turning to longer-term recovery and reconstruction needs of the country, even while the relief effort continues.

And we welcome the decision of the governments of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger with their meeting on March – today in Algiers to collectively confront the threat of terrorism. We hope the meeting will build upon the ongoing efforts to strengthen regional cooperation and further consolidate collective action against groups that seek to exploit territories in these countries and launch attacks against innocent civilians.

Today is Irish Day at the Department of State. Earlier today, the Secretary welcomed Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheal Martin. She also met a short time ago with UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Shaun Woodward, and will meet later today with Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams as well as Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. In the meetings she has had already, talked about the hard work that’s been done regarding the successful devolution process that is underway in Northern Ireland and the – and – but as well, the work that still remains ahead.

Tonight, she will address the national gala of the American-Ireland Fund on the eve of St. Patrick’s Day to reaffirm the historic bonds between the United States and Ireland, praise Ireland for its partnership on a range of issues, including Afghanistan, closing Guantanamo Bay, food security, economic recovery, and of course, the peace process in Northern Ireland.

QUESTION: Those topics can be a longer version of her comments upstairs.

MR. CROWLEY: Indeed. (Laughter.) And --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Middle East.

MR. CROWLEY: -- regarding the Middle East peace process. And I think what’s interesting about the meeting she just had with Shaun Woodward, comparing notes with both he and Foreign Minister Martin about the similarities between the peace processes in Northern Ireland and the Middle East and actually commented earlier, the legendary patience of George Mitchell, which will be required in the weeks and months ahead.

Speaking of Secretary – Senator Mitchell, he remains in Washington, and given the logistics currently and the Quartet meeting scheduled in Moscow for Thursday and Friday, he will not have meetings with the parties prior to Moscow. But we continue to talk to the parties and we expect to have meetings with them as soon as possible. Those details are still being worked out.

And finally, we are grateful that both President Calderon and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa are in Juarez today. I think Foreign Secretary Espinosa will meet with consulate staff while she is in Juarez to communicate condolences on behalf of the Mexican Government to the American community. They’re – last night, Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Espinosa did talk on the phone and talked about continuing to work very closely together as we both investigate this tragedy and continue to find ways to support Mexico in this tremendous effort to improve institutions so that Mexico, with the support of the United States and others in the hemisphere, can help to reduce and ultimately defeat these groups that are executing this violence on both the American population and the Mexican population.

With that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: P.J., can you explain what these logistics are that are holding up Mitchell’s travel?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s simply – it’s the tyranny of the schedule. In other words, here we are midday in Washington, D.C., near the end of the business day in the Middle East. He is due to be in Moscow, together with the Secretary, on Thursday. So there’s simply, we felt, not enough time to be able to have meaningful discussions with the parties tomorrow, in order to be in Moscow for the Quartet meeting on Thursday. So I would just say that it was our judgment that we will organize these meetings as soon as possible, but they will not happen before Moscow.

QUESTION: Yeah, but considering the fact that he could have left Saturday night – could have left Saturday, he was planning to leave on Sunday and he was planning to leave on Monday. The excuse that it’s logistics right now seems, you know, laughable at the least and lame at the worst. He could have gone and made this. He doesn’t have to be in Moscow until – the Quartet meeting isn’t until Friday. I realize there’s a dinner Thursday night, but it’s – the time – the difference between Tel Aviv and Moscow is not – flight time is not outrageous. It seems to me that there must be another reason why Mitchell decided at the very last minute, last night, not to go.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, his original schedule had him leaving over the weekend for meetings today. We did delay that departure so that we would – he would be informed by the Israeli response to the Secretary’s conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Friday. And we do expect to have the Israeli response shortly. But once we delayed his departure, I mean, his schedule, as we said yesterday, was not set. His schedule today is not set. But at this point, we really are up against a travel schedule by not only the Secretary, but also George and others. And so we will be working with the parties to set up meetings.

QUESTION: Well, maybe I’m –

MR. CROWLEY: But I would not read – I mean, it is true that we delayed George’s departure so he would be informed about the Israeli response to the Secretary’s conversation, but we are not sending a signal here in that – he will have follow-on meetings with the parties in the coming days, and it is simply exactly what we just said.

QUESTION: Well --

MR. CROWLEY: It will not happen before the Quartet meeting in Moscow.

QUESTION: Forgive me for disagreeing, but you are sending a signal, because you could have – because he could have gone out before. And the reason isn’t logistics; it’s the lack of an Israeli response.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, no. I mean, Matt – all right, I’ll try it again. We did not feel it was fruitful for George to depart Washington on Sunday before hearing from the Israelis in terms of how they – how – the prime minister’s response to the Secretary’s conversation. And we are – while we await the Israeli response, we are now up against a strict schedule.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, then why is it a leap to say that he’s not going because you haven’t gotten a response from the Israelis yet? It’s not logistics at all.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean at this point –

QUESTION: I mean it may be logistics –

MR. CROWLEY: At this point, it is logistics.

QUESTION: -- but it’s caused by a lack of Israeli response.

MR. CROWLEY: Were it not for the Moscow meeting, we might be able to tell you when the meetings would take place. But given the schedule and the Quartet, the meetings that we’ll have with the parties will follow the meeting in Moscow.

QUESTION: But P.J., if the point here is that he really is being held up because the Israelis will not answer, what Secretary Clinton wants --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Jill – all right, we do expect – I mean we are in contact with the Israeli government as we speak. We’re in contact with the Palestinian authority as we speak. But we are gaining perspective and now it really is a matter of the schedule. So he will have meetings in the coming days with both parties, but those meetings will follow the Quartet meeting in Moscow.

QUESTION: And are you convinced that both parties are willing to have, not face-to-face, but indirect discussions and negotiations based on the criteria that the Secretary laid out in that conversation with Mr. Netanyahu?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I would anticipate that, very soon, there is likely going to be a conversation between the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu. I’m not forecasting that will happen today. We will hear from the Israeli Government. It’s response to the particular issues that the Secretary raised, during her call on Friday. As she said upstairs a short time ago, we are looking for a commitment by the parties that – to demonstrate their commitment to the process. I would also say that there are, obviously, still issues that we are discussing with the Palestinians as well. So as we – given what’s happened in the last few days, we want to reaffirm the commitment by both sides that we will continue with these proximity talks on the current day. That is our plan.

QUESTION: P.J.?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: How would you characterize the Israeli response to date? I mean, Netanyahu was pretty clear yesterday that he’s not backing off. (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we anticipate having a conversation with the Secretary and the Prime Minister and we will hear formally from him as to the Israeli response to the criteria that are the issues that she raised in the call.

QUESTION: Are there any plans at this point for anybody – the Secretary or any other officials – to meet with Netanyahu when he’s here for the AIPAC speech next week?

MR. CROWLEY: We obviously are conscious of travel schedules, both ours and going to Moscow, the prime minister’s in coming here. And there might be an opportunity for that kind of a meeting. We’ll see what – how the schedules unfold.

QUESTION: With the Secretary on that level, you mean?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not forecasting. All I’m saying at this point is whatever meetings will take place will not happen before Moscow. They will happen as soon as possible. And obviously, with the prime minister coming here next week, that provides an opportunity. As to who he meets with on what days, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Is Senator Mitchell’s return trip to the region in any way contingent on the content of the Israeli response?

MR. CROWLEY: No, I – it’s a very good point, Andy. It’s very, very important. We wanted the – we want to have our next set of meetings be as productive as possible. We thought it was important to be informed by the Israeli positions on some of the issues that the Secretary discussed with the prime minister. I wouldn't say meetings are contingent on that response. Obviously, when we have the Israeli response and as we continue to talk to the Palestinians and others about what their sense of where we are in the process, that will inform the next set of meetings that we have. But I would not say – we’re going to have meetings with the Israelis, we’re going to have meetings with the Palestinians. But obviously, to make them as meaningful and effective as possible, it’s useful to be informed by their response to the particular issues that we raised last week.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Do you expect in the phone call, I assume, that you anticipate between the Secretary and the prime minister – do you assume that’ll be before his speech to AIPAC – in other words, this week?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, I would expect it to be this week.

QUESTION: Just – I just – I think you just contradicted yourself. You’re saying that --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m shocked by this.

QUESTION: You’re saying – you just said in response to Andy’s question that Mitchell’s trip is not contingent on an Israeli response, and yet that’s exactly what you said earlier --

MR. CROWLEY: No, no, I – I mean, what I said, which is what I –

QUESTION: His question --

MR. CROWLEY: -- I was trying to communicate to you --

QUESTION: But his question was: Is the content of the Israeli response – does that have any bearing on Mitchell’s plans?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it has a bearing in the sense that, obviously, it will contribute to the agenda for the next meeting that we have both with the Israelis and with the Palestinians.

QUESTION: But he won’t not go because --

MR. CROWLEY: So I mean, I don’t think I was contradicting at all, which is we held George Mitchell here so that when he next has meetings with the Israelis and Palestinians, we are informed by the Israeli response to the particular issues raised in the Secretary’s call and we’re also informed by the Palestinian commitment to continue the proximity talks despite the tension that’s been raised over the past few days. So it is still – we’re still looking for that commitment on both sides. But informed by the Israeli response is not necessarily that – that whether there will be a meeting is contingent upon what the Israelis tell us.

QUESTION: So, in other words, Mitchell – regardless of what the Israeli response – I mean, Netanyahu could get on the phone with the Secretary and say, “Well, thank you very much for your suggestions, but I think they’re all crap and I’m not going to do any of them,” he’s still going to go out there?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are committed to this process. This process is in the U.S. national interest. We think it is – this process is in the Israeli national interest. It is in the Palestinian interest. Absent indirect talks that lead to negotiations that lead to ultimately a settlement, there is no prospect of ending this conflict. We think it’s in everybody’s interest to continue this process. We’re committed to it, but obviously, as we go through the next set of meetings with both parties, we will be informed by how they both have responded to what has happened over the past few days.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the point of that. If there is – if there is no sense on the U.S. side that the Israelis are truly committed to the process, if they aren’t giving you satisfaction on this demand for recommitment to the peace process, why would you go ahead and go do it anyway?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, you go there because they’re obviously giving you a perspective – we have – we will respond to their response. We are committed to this process. So we are determined. We understand these are difficult issues. And as we have in the past, we’re not – we don’t toss it over the side and go do something else just because, at any particular time, we’ve confronted an obstacle. And we’re going to continue to work with the parties. And, oh by the way, they told us they remain – they remain committed to the process. We just want to make sure that their words are followed by actions. That’s the tenor of what the Secretary was looking for from the prime minister: What are you prepared to do to contribute to the climate that makes the proximity talks successful, leads to negotiation, leads to ultimately a peace agreement? So this – we’re continuing to pursue this process because it is in our interest, just as it’s in the interest of Palestinians and Israelis, to continue with talks that lead to negotiations that ultimately lead to a peace agreement.

But given the – an Israeli response and given a Palestinian response, we will take that onboard and that will help us understand what we need to do next.

QUESTION: Given the travel schedule that you mentioned, particularly Prime Minister Netanyahu being in Washington next week, I mean, is it possible that Mitchell might not go to the region for some time – I mean, for – I mean, I guess I had assumed that you say that he won’t go there before Moscow but that he could go there immediately afterwards, provided you get – provided the – you are --

MR. CROWLEY: We could do a lot of things. I’m only taking you through Friday.

QUESTION: Well, fair enough. But I mean, is there a possibility that Mitchell would go to the Middle East next week or this weekend or next week?

MR. CROWLEY: Lots of things are possible.

QUESTION: Well, what are the – I mean, could he have meetings here with the Israelis in Washington?

MR. CROWLEY: I understand you want to project forward. Look, all we’re saying is we await the Israeli response. Next steps will be informed by the Israeli response. We continue our dialogue with the Palestinians as well. Once we have that perspective, we’ll continue to work with both sides. We’ll set up meetings --

QUESTION: Right. I --

MR. CROWLEY: -- as soon as possible. Whether they happen Saturday, Sunday, Monday -- I can’t project at this point.

QUESTION: I’m more interested in the where.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, that’s part of the logistics of this.

QUESTION: The reason I’m pressing on this is because if it’s – if the response comes and everything is okay and he’s going to want to – and he’s going to want to have these talks, if he doesn't go to the region, the proximity of your proximity talks becomes – it’s – the distance becomes vast. You have him seeing – potentially seeing Netanyahu in Washington --

MR. CROWLEY: You’re reading --

QUESTION: No, and it’s about – but the remaining Palestinians --

MR. CROWLEY: You’re reading an awful lot into this, Matt. All right. Look --

QUESTION: I just want to know --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, hey, I mean, you’re now asking about logistics, having dissed the logistical argument. There are some meaningful logistical issues here --

QUESTION: The logistical argument for him not going this week.

MR. CROWLEY: Right. No, no, no --

QUESTION: Not for something next week.

MR. CROWLEY: All right. There are some meaningful logistical issues this week.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: You have movement by the Secretary and, as you’ve identified, you’ve got movement by the prime minister. And I’m sure that President Abbas has his own schedule. So we are committed to meet with the parties as soon as possible, and we are actively working that out as we stand here.

Yes.

QUESTION: Similar issue, sort of. Rachel Corrie’s trial is underway in Israel right now and Joe Biden – Rachel Corrie is the American who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003, and now her trial is finally underway in Israel. And President – or Vice President Biden met with her family and said that a U.S. diplomat would sit in on the trial to see if they would address a possible investigation back into the killing of Rachel Corrie. I was just wondering if there are any updates on the diplomat that’s apparently sitting in on --

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question. Normally, we do have diplomats who do sit in on legal proceedings that are of interest to Americans. And we’ll take the question as to what those plans are.

QUESTION: And if I could --

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Just two more things on that. Any statements on – it’s been seven years – it’s the anniversary today of her death. Is there a statement on her death as far as --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have one here at this moment.

QUESTION: And on Gaza, this past Friday, you mentioned that Secretary Clinton addressed the issue of Gaza with Netanyahu. I’m just wondering what was discussed in that conversation in relation to Gaza.

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to go into the detail, as we’ve said, about the specific conversation in the 43-minute conversation with the president – with the prime minister and the Secretary. Gaza has come up. It’s an important issue. The Secretary talked about it earlier today. It was a subject of her discussion with Foreign Minister Martin. We – and as she said, we – it – the humanitarian situation is of great concern to us. We are working with the Israelis and with others to try to alleviate the humanitarian crisis that does exist in Gaza. I would expect that Gaza will be a significant issue of discussion at the Quartet meeting in Moscow on Friday.

QUESTION: Thanks, P.J. Several lawmakers issued statements today saying that the Administration’s requests of Netanyahu go far beyond what he would be able to deliver politically, and they present this as the Administration overreaching or trying to take advantage of the situation to press the Israelis for things that – beyond what they had already agreed to. What’s your comment on --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, the Secretary was asked about that and – I mean, we are pursuing our national interest. We are pursuing peace in the Middle East. We’re looking for the best way to get the parties into formal negotiations that lead to a comprehensive peace agreement. That is in our interest. It is in Israel’s interest. It is in the Palestinian interest. And we are playing the role that we’ve always played in this peace process, and we’re going to push the parties as hard as we can, as far as we can. Ultimately, they’re the ones that have to sit together and work through these challenging issues. We’re just trying to find the right recipe to get them to the table.

Jill.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up? Sorry, just a quick follow-up. One of the loudest critics was AIPAC. Are you – can you guarantee us that Hillary Clinton will definitely speak on Monday at the AIPAC conference?

MR. CROWLEY: She is planning to speak at – to AIPAC, yes.

QUESTION: P.J., there were a lot of really strong comments coming by John McCain today up on the Hill. Just – I can read a couple of them: “Perception of our political resolve. This is what concerns me.” He says he’s “concerned that Iran has spurned engagement with no real consequences for doing so, deadlines have slipped, no consequences,” then he gets into Syria – “Few changes to Syria’s destabilizing behavior in the region even though there is engagement with them. In short, I’m concerned that we’re headed toward a situation in the broader Middle East where our friends don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear us because both doubt our staying power, our determination, and our resolve.”

How would you answer some of that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the meetings that we’ve had both today and in the recent past answer Senator McCain’s questions. Again, Foreign Secretary – or Foreign Minister Martin commended the Secretary privately – I think he mentioned it publicly – the early commitment of the Administration to get more significantly engaged on the peace process. So I’m intrigued by the two last questions. On the one hand, we’re too engaged; on the other hand, we’re not engaged enough.

Everyone in our recent trip to Qatar and Saudi Arabia commended the Administration for its commitment and its resolve. I mean, we are in this for the long-term. These are intractable problems. Minister Martin talked today about the fact that – the legendary patience of George Mitchell, the fact that we are still working on the details of the Good Friday and St. Andrews accords more than 10 years after the agreement was actually signed. We have a 30-year commitment and running on direct engagement in Middle East peace. These are hard issues. They’re not going to be resolved overnight.

We have a 30-year history with Iran. On the one hand, we’re disappointed that Iran has not engaged meaningfully. On the other hand, we continue to work with our partners in the P-5+1 process and others on an effective sanctions package that will have an impact on this situation. It came up in the Secretary’s meeting with her Irish counterpart as we prepare for action, both in the United Nations, but also specific steps that countries can take nationally to send a very strong signal to Iran. I don’t think anybody expected us to resolve our issues with Iran in a year. I don’t expect that anybody expected us to resolve all of the difficult issues in the Middle East peace process in a year.

We are determined to continue at this. We are going to put pressure on Iran. We’re going to show our resolve. We’re going to show our commitment to the parties in the Middle East peace process. That’s what the American people expect us to do.

QUESTION: Okay. One – if you put it into layman’s terms, some people would say what happened with the Israel was the U.S. basically caved on settlements initially. Israel said it wasn’t going to do it, would not comply with what the United States wanted to do fully. The United States basically caved. And now, this is an attempt, by using the language that the Secretary has used – insulting, et cetera – it’s a way to really kick them a little bit, show that this Administration is strong, that it can’t be kicked around, and that you overplayed your hand.

And now, you’re waiting for a phone call from Benjamin Netanyahu that may never come. Or he may say, “Forget it, we’re going to do exactly what we want.” And it would be very difficult for the United States because you will look weak. What do you say to that? (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I’m just quoting. I’m just quoting.

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m struck by the contrasting – there are voices who say --

QUESTION: Well, just take mine. Just take my little thesis.

MR. CROWLEY: -- we’ve overreached and there are voices who say we haven’t done enough. I mean, we haven’t --

QUESTION: It’s a perception of weakness.

MR. CROWLEY: We haven’t changed our position on settlements. We have not changed it one iota. And this is something that is important to the parties and this is why we have pressed them to take the steps they’ve taken, even as we recognize, in the past week with the Vice President in the region, that there continues to be activity that impedes progress in this process. We are firm in our resolve. Our positions have not shifted. And ultimately, this is not really about what we say; it is about what the parties themselves ultimately do.

As we have said many times, only by getting into a formal negotiation will you get at the issues at the heart of the settlement activity, the housing issues in and around Jerusalem. Until you address specifically the issues of borders, refugees, security, and the other issues inherent in the – in Jerusalem, the other issues inherent in the process, you cannot get to an agreement. But it ultimately is the – is what the parties themselves have to do. They have to step up, they have to show the commitment, they have to sit down, they ultimately have to compromise. We are here to help them do that.

But this is not about – this is about us doing what we’ve always done – pushing the parties. But ultimately, they’re the ones that have to resolve these issues. We can’t do it for them. We’ll help them along the way, but they have to show the political courage, the imagination, and ultimately, the will to get us to a comprehensive peace agreement. We will help them every step of the way.

QUESTION: To follow up on Jill’s point, though, about this perception of weakness, at what point – you said just a few moments ago, essentially, that the U.S.’s next steps will be dictated by the Israeli response, and as one of – my other --

MR. CROWLEY: I didn’t say that. I said it will be informed by --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. CROWLEY: -- the Israeli response.

QUESTION: Suggested. One of my other colleagues pointed out though already that really that response has come already Monday when Netanyahu defiantly defended four decades of settlement construction in East Jerusalem. So what more of a formal response --

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t --

QUESTION: -- I guess, is the U.S. looking for? And if I could just finish.

MR. CROWLEY: I wouldn’t – I don’t agree with you.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, is the U.S. willing to use its leverage in the U.S.-Israeli relationship in order to further this process? As one of my colleagues said, you’re waiting for a phone call that may never come or might politely say – I think you used the words, “Your suggestions are crap.”

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we don’t subscribe – I will mention a word “crisis” – we’re not the ones who use that word, but somebody affiliated with the Israeli Government did. So on the one hand, someone is saying crisis and on the other hand, you’re asking, are we going to use our leverage to move the parties forward. That’s exactly what we’re doing. As we have said many times, we will point out to the Israelis where we think that their actions fall short of a genuine commitment to pursue talks that lead to negotiations. When the Palestinians fall short, we will say the same thing.

As we said yesterday, we are concerned about statements that could potentially risk incitement because we recognize that there’s a great deal of tension in the region right now. Today, you had Hamas say “Call for a day of rage.” This is irresponsible. And this is where you do point back to the experience that came in Northern Ireland as just one example of where ultimately, it was the population that said to the extreme voices on both sides, “Enough. It’s time to move to a negotiation that gets to a settlement.”

We are trying to move in that direction now, which is not to say that once we actually get into a negotiation – and hopefully, sooner rather than later – that does not in itself resolve the issues that are inherent in this process. We have to find a solution to Jerusalem. We have to establish borders of a viable Palestinian state. We have to help Israel gain the security that it deserves. We have to solve the issue of refugees. All of these issues have to be addressed. They cannot be addressed unless you get into a formal process. And we continue to push the parties as hard as we can, as far as we can, and as fast as we can to get them to that point. We’ve been doing that since we came into office more than a year ago.

So are we using our leverage? We are using our leverage. But we also recognize that these are difficult issues for both sides. So we are using our leverage, but we have to be realistic at the same time.

QUESTION: P.J., you said that no one – you said that someone on the Israeli side had used the word “crisis.” Who would that be?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to point fingers.

QUESTION: You’re referring to the media reports? Okay. And I just want to make sure – you said that no one in this building or no one on this side has used the word “crisis” in connection with this?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t – we are – obviously, we are concerned about what happened last week. We are now looking for the Israelis to come back and demonstrate their commitment to the process. We’re looking for the Palestinians to come back and demonstrate their commitment to the process. As the Secretary said this morning, notwithstanding our concerns about specific actions that have happened recently, our commitment to Israel, the bond that we have – the two countries – remains a fundamental aspect of our Middle East policy.

QUESTION: You haven’t been in any meetings where a senior official has used the word “crisis” in relation --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the Secretary herself said she doesn’t – she didn’t – she doesn’t buy that concept. I mean, we’re working hard.

QUESTION: That’s not – that’s not the question, though.

MR. CROWLEY: Right. I haven’t heard the word --

QUESTION: You haven’t? Okay.

MR. CROWLEY: -- “crisis” used here.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: Anything else going on in the world? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: May I have just one follow-up --

MR. CROWLEY: Not yet. Kim.

QUESTION: -- on the same subject? You just said it’s often about people on both sides of a conflict saying that enough is enough and that’s what puts pressure on the leaders to go into talks. Well, there isn’t that much pressure coming from the Israeli public on Israeli leaders, because for the last few years, it’s been relatively safe and they feel like they’ve dealt with the problem to some extent, even if the potential for violence is still there. So perhaps the problem is that Israeli leaders and the Israeli people don’t feel they really need to do this, that the cost – it’s – they don’t feel that the urgency is there at the moment.

MR. CROWLEY: I think we continue to feel there is a sense of urgency in moving this process forward – getting into a negotiation, addressing the issues specifically, reaching an agreement. If we didn’t think there was an urgency, we wouldn’t be doing this. But – and we will just go by what the leaders have told us. They are committed, they have made public commitments to the process and to proximity talks. What will challenge them now is – okay, you have the words that say you’re committed to a two-state solution, you’re committed to a process; now back up those words with specific actions.

Yes.

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton met with Chinese ambassador today?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure that meeting has happened yet.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I mean, she will meet today with the incoming ambassador to China.

QUESTION: Can I ask the topic of this meeting?

MR. CROWLEY: You may. I mean, she will welcome Ambassador Zhang Yesui as China’s new ambassador-designate to the United States, and she will accept a copy of his letter of credence. And she looks forward to working with the ambassador-designate to build a positive, cooperative, and comprehensive relationship with China.

QUESTION: One more question on --

QUESTION: Speaking of China --

QUESTION: One more question on --

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Six-Party Talk, yeah. We know that there has been a lot of efforts between Six-Party countries recently to resume the Six-Party Talk. And most recently, China and South Korea and Japan had consultation in Beijing and Seoul last week. So are you going to the direction to the resumption of the Six-Party Talk, or will it – just stopped again because North Korea doesn’t give the answer that you want?

MR. CROWLEY: I think you answered your own question. I mean, we’re – we – as we’ve said many times, we’re looking for a resumption of the Six-Party process and we’re looking for North Korea to make its commitment and then to follow through on that commitment with specific steps towards denuclearization.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Is there any update on U.S. citizen being held in North Korea? You mentioned it yesterday.

MR. CROWLEY: We – the Swedish Embassy has had contact with the American citizen. I believe they’ve had additional contact over the last 24 hours. But beyond that, I have no update.

QUESTION: Back on China for a minute?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to Foreign Secretary Miliband at all about his visit there?

MR. CROWLEY: They did talk last week.

QUESTION: I have a feeling that might have been about something else, though.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think that he did give her a debrief on his trip as part of that discussion. It was – there was another topic as well.

QUESTION: Well, wait. Today or --

MR. CROWLEY: It was last week.

QUESTION: But that was before his visit.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll --

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking is because the Chinese have come out again and said that they’re opposed to new sanctions (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: And we continue to work within the P-5+1 process on it.

QUESTION: Can you actually – can you tell what was the topic of conversation between the Secretary and --

MR. CROWLEY: I believe they talked on Friday and I believe that China was discussed as part of that discussion.

QUESTION: How about the Falklands-Malvinas?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) I’m not aware that that was a topic of discussion.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting today with General Dayton?

MR. CROWLEY: They did have a meeting, and I think General Dayton, as he does periodically, was updating the Secretary on the security cooperation that we have with the Palestinians and their progress.

David.

QUESTION: A readout on the meeting between the Secretary and the Indian foreign secretary which did occur?

MR. CROWLEY: I actually think the – well, the Indian foreign secretary was here as part of a delegation meeting with her counterpart, Under Secretary Bill Burns. And I believe the Secretary is planning to stop by, but this is part of the ongoing dialogue that we have with India on our strategic dialogue.

QUESTION: And the Iranians sentenced some more people to death for participation in the election protests. Any reaction to that?

MR. CROWLEY: We condemn the execution of political prisoners and we urge the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and call on the Iranian Government to respect the civil rights of its people. Under Iran’s own laws, all detainees are entitled to due process. The right to a fair and public hearing is embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a treaty ratified by Iran. If the Iranian Government wants the respect of the international community, it must respect the rights of its people.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:53 p.m.)

DPB # 30

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - March 16]