Daily Press Briefing
- U.S. and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington, D.C. March 24/ Tomorrow Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke will brief on it
- Burmese officials released Kyaw Zaw Lwin from custody; he has left the country/We welcome this small but positive step/We assisted Mr. Lwin as appropriate and have informed his family of his departure from Burma
- Deputy Secretary Steinberg and Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean met yesterday/This was part of our continuous engagement with Singapore; exchanged views on regional security, economy, and region
- Special Rep for Afghanistan, Pakistan & Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs work together
- Parliamentary delegation was here under State Department auspices, cut their trip short after significant Washington meetings, objected to screening processes that are in place for everyone using American transportation/We have made clear to the group our TSA processes are not particularly directed at them
- ISRAEL/ PALESTINIANS
- Secretary Clinton had press conference in Moscow, we'll let you know when we have something on conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu /We are going to work with our Quartet partners on looking for ways to move process forward/Senator Mitchell looking forward to returning to the region as soon as he can
- Taken Question on Jennifer Haynes/David Headley has undergone transparent and fair judicial process/U.S. Government will support decision of our courts/Not aware of request by Indian officials for access to David Headley's wife
- We continue to believe, through our part in that through our FBI colleagues, that the individuals were not targeted because of their connection with the U.S. Consulate but leave it to the Mexican authorities to define how and where and when they are proceeding in this investigation
- On the Merida Initiative, on March 23rd we'll have the high-level group consultative meeting, and that is a cabinet-led delegation will go to Mexico City/Will continue to work together on a continuing basis because our work is not done/Efforts against money laundering also a part of the initiative/ We have been working as diligently as we can to try and help Mexico
- Want to have processes, safeguards in place before an election/Will see if have readout on possible delay
- China is moving to a more market-oriented exchange rate/Ambassador Huntsman spoke about the currency issue from a financial perspective/We have a strong bilateral relationship with China/U.S.-China relationship is one that is broad-based and one that cuts across a number of global issues
- Iran has a right to peaceful, civil nuclear power; however, for any nuclear facility, IAEA regimes are required/Iran is in violation of its IAEA agreement and we do not think that moving forward on a business-as-usual basis with Iran is something that we should be doing
- There seems to be politics going on in Iraq/Anytime you have a parliamentary system, you are going to have a very mixed result
- We're concerned about the welfare of the Damas de Blanco and dismayed that a peaceful march was disrupted by the Cuban Government authorities who interfered with the right of Cuban citizens to peacefully assemble and express their support for their family members who are prisoners of conscience
- Not aware of any kind of a deal with Congress that Armenia genocide bill would not go to the floor for a full vote
1:08 p.m. EST
MR. DUGUID: Good afternoon, everyone. I have a couple of notices for you before we go to your questions.
I’d first like to note that the United States and Pakistan will hold their first strategic dialogue at the ministerial level in Washington, D.C. on March the 24th. Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Qureshi will co-chair the talks. Topics for discussion will include economic development, water and energy, education, foreign policy, communications, public diplomacy, agriculture, and security.
Tomorrow at 12:30, the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke will brief the press on the strategic dialogue, here in this press room.
I would also like to note that today, Burmese officials released Kyaw Zaw Lwin from custody and that he has left the country. We welcome this small but positive step. The United States has been working intensely with Burmese officials for some time to attain his release, and we welcome it. We assisted Mr. Lwin as appropriate and have informed his family of his departure from Burma.
And then finally, there has been – or there was yesterday – a request for a readout from the meeting between Deputy Secretary Steinberg and Singaporean Deputy Prime Minister Teo. This was part of our continuous engagement with Singapore. The two men exchanged views on regional security, economy, and the evolving regional architecture in East Asia. Over the years, Singapore has worked with the United States on a number of critical foreign policy initiatives from counter-piracy to counter-proliferation and then counterterrorism. We consistently seek new ways to enhance our collaboration with Singapore on regional and multilateral issues. And Singapore is a highly valued partner of the United States.
With those three, I would like to take your questions. Please.
QUESTION: Can I ask you just a logistical thing on this Pakistan strategic dialogue?
MR. DUGUID: Yes.
QUESTION: Is it correct that Assistant Secretary Blake is going to be out of the country and not attending?
MR. DUGUID: Matt, I’ll have to take that question. I know he’s on travel now and I don’t have his return date, whether it’s before the 24th or not.
QUESTION: Well, who takes the lead in Pakistan strategic dialogue? Is it the special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, or --
MR. DUGUID: Well, the --
QUESTION: -- is it the Bureau of South Asia?
MR. DUGUID: Well, as you know, they work together very collaboratively, that Special Representative Holbrooke has the lead for Afghanistan and Pakistan on security issues. Sometimes, there is overlapping responsibilities, particularly when we talk about economic engagement and other forms of – our bilateral relationship with Pakistan. I will find where I can on Assistant Secretary Blake’s travel for you and get right back to you on that.
QUESTION: All right. Okay. Thanks. Moving on to the Middle East, has the Secretary heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu yet?
MR. DUGUID: I believe the Secretary, you may have seen, had a press conference in Moscow just over an hour ago –
QUESTION: She didn’t answer the question.
MR. DUGUID: -- and she has said that when we have something to say on the particular communication with Prime Minister Netanyahu, that we’ll let you know. As to my knowledge, just before coming in here, I did not have any word that a communication had been received. But when we do have one, we will let you know.
QUESTION: Okay, so the answer is no.
MR. DUGUID: I think I went a long way around (inaudible) there, yes.
QUESTION: Why – yeah. So is it problematic that you haven’t heard back? It’s been almost a week now.
MR. DUGUID: Problematic is not the word I would use to describe the situation. The word I would use to describe the situation is fluid. We are looking for – looking forward to the response, of course, but meanwhile we are still working. We have the Quartet dinner that should be – have started perhaps a half an hour ago, and we are going to work with our Quartet partners on looking for ways to move the process forward and to keep finding ways to get the two parties back to the negotiating table to work on a two-state solution. The Secretary made these points in her press conference.
The – Senator Mitchell is there in Moscow now. He has, of course, been engaged on the telephone and in meetings. He will be engaged in meetings now in Moscow with his counterparts in order to discuss their ideas, to assess their evaluations of the situation, and to try and look for more ways to achieve the goal, which is to get the parties back to the table and get them talking about bringing peace to the region.
QUESTION: There’s been some speculation that Mitchell might go to Israel and the PA immediately after Moscow. Is it correct that you will not – that he will not go until after – until Netanyahu responds?
MR. DUGUID: It’s correct to say that Senator Mitchell is looking forward to returning to the region as soon as he can. We don’t have any particular plans right now that I have for you. As soon as we have his schedule down, we will, of course, let you know that. But for right now, we are not much further in the planning stages for this weekend or past this weekend than we were yesterday. As I said, the situation is fluid but we do have much – there’s a lot of diplomacy taking place and a number of conversations. So as we talk to you every day, we will update you every day where we are.
QUESTION: Right. But is it correct that he won’t go until after you hear from Netanyahu?
MR. DUGUID: Well, I don’t know that that statement is correct. What I do know is that he will go when we have a schedule for him, when we have a schedule built that he can work from. But for the moment, the plans for anywhere beyond the Quartet meeting tomorrow are something that we’ll have to get back to you on.
QUESTION: To put it another way, can you say that the plans for his visit, whether he goes or not, is unrelated to whether Prime Minister Netanyahu responds to the Secretary?
MR. DUGUID: There are a lot of moving parts in the entire picture, and the Senator will speak with those colleagues of his that – I believe in Paris and Berlin – that he was planning on speaking to following the Quartet meeting. We will work with the Israelis to – and to the Palestinian side for when he can return to the region. We look – he looks forward to going back to the region as soon as he possibly can. And when we have the agreement on where all the parties are, we will do that.
QUESTION: But I was wondering – the Secretary said that there are a number of conversations, communications, going on within this process. I’m wondering if, in any of those, the Israelis have given you any kind of reason for the delay. Is it anything that P.J. might describe as logistical, or is there something else? Do we have any understanding what’s holding it up? And does the hold-up in this response in any way affect the ongoing diplomacy, (i.e., are things on hold pending this response coming in?)
MR. DUGUID: Once again, looking on a – the passage of time as an indicator for any sort of reaction from us, I think, is going in the wrong direction. The Israelis will have discussions amongst themselves. They have certainly started out following the phone call with an investigation on how the incident itself happened. That of course, took them some matter of time – I’m not sure how much time, but still that took-up some time.
There are also internal politics that everybody on each side has to work through before we can move the process forward. As soon as people have their positions in place, we will, of course, let you know, and then we will make the announcement at that time.
QUESTION: So the Secretary is going to be speaking in the morning at an AIPAC conference here in D.C. and Prime Minister Netanyahu is scheduled to speak in the evening at the same conference. Will they be meeting? Are there any plans --
MR. DUGUID: As soon as we have anything on a meeting between them, we’ll let you know. That schedule is not yet available to me, and I don’t have anything to pass on to you.
QUESTION: Can you be a little bit more specific about the internal politics on both sides that you just referred to?
MR. DUGUID: No. That is a general observation, that before any side can move forward, they certainly have to make sure that their positions are firm --
QUESTION: No, I’m curious about the internal politics here. You said on both sides. What are the internals? I know you don’t want to speak to the Israeli internal politics, but what are the internal U.S. politics?
MR. DUGUID: Well, on the U.S. side, we, of course, have our positions down. The Secretary is presenting those right now to the Quartet partners and --
QUESTION: So, in fact, there aren’t any internal politics?
MR. DUGUID: I was speaking of the two sides both in Israel and in the Palestinian Authority, not the United States.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary raise the issue of settlements during the speech to AIPAC?
MR. DUGUID: I’m not going to preview the Secretary’s speech at this point. I haven’t seen a draft of the text, but if we can do, I will.
QUESTION: One more thing on Mitchell?
MR. DUGUID: Yes.
QUESTION: You mentioned he was going to be seeing people in Paris and Berlin – that’s after?
MR. DUGUID: Yes, it’s my understanding that it will be after --
QUESTION: So he’s going to Paris and Berlin?
MR. DUGUID: That’s my understanding, afterwards, yes.
QUESTION: So in fact – so he does have some travel plans after Moscow, but just not --
MR. DUGUID: But they’re not fixed yet. Those are two destinations. I don’t have the order in which that will happen or the itinerary.
Same subject or different subject?
QUESTION: Different subject.
MR. DUGUID: Okay, loads of different subjects. Okay, please.
QUESTION: Two questions on India. One is there’s a report out of Mumbai that there’s a young woman named Jennifer Haynes who claims she was adopted out of India by an American couple in ’89 and then deported back. And I’m wondering if the Consulate has any information on this or IF this has been reported to the State Department?
MR. DUGUID: Not to my knowledge. I’ll have to take the question and see if we can find any information for you on this particular case, if we have the Privacy Act waivers to do so.
QUESTION: And the second question is about David Headley. Apparently, in India they feel that because he is pleading guilty today, he’s getting off too lightly. Does the State Department have a reaction to India’s disgruntlement?
MR. DUGUID: I wouldn’t react to reports of their disgruntlement. It’s a very large country, and I’m sure that there are a number of opinion centers in India on this issue.
He is – and this is an ongoing trial. I don’t know that the verdict has been – the plea has been entered at this particular point, or if the verdict has been rendered. What has been clear is that he has undergone a transparent and fair judicial process. And the United States Government will support the decision of our courts.
QUESTION: I understand there is a new plan to add new elements to the Merida Initiative. I would like to know if you can describe what are the elements you plan to add. And I have a second question with regards – which is the current status of the investigation about the murders in Ciudad?
MR. DUGUID: Well, to take the second question first, I’m not aware that the Mexican Government has made any information available on the status of the investigation. We continue to believe, through our part in that through our FBI colleagues, that the individuals were not targeted because of their connection with the U.S. Consulate, but I leave it to the Mexican authorities to define how and where and when they are proceeding in this investigation.
On the Merida Initiative, as you know, on March 23rd we’ll have the high-level group consultative meeting, and that is a cabinet-led delegation will go to Mexico City. That will be led by Secretary Clinton, but will also include, on our part, I believe, Secretary Napolitano. They will meet with the Mexican Government as part of our ongoing discussions on Merida.
The addition, if you will, I’d – Merida was, as you know, a three-year program. And the funding requested for Fiscal Year 2011 is a significant amount of money given the budgetary pressures that the United States is under. This demonstrates the U.S. remains committed to supporting the Mexican Government’s bold efforts to go after drug cartels and organized crime, as well as the corruption that they generate.
While the Merida Initiative was originally organized for those three years, it’s clear now to us that our governments should work together on a continuing basis because that work is not done. I don’t have a list of the new initiatives for you. I do know that what we are doing is we have requested further funding for the initiative and that we will continue along the lines that have proceeded so far in working with the judicial system, in working with the investigative arm of the police and doing police training and working on drug interdiction. The entire process, from top to bottom, has been something that we’ve been working through in order to help Mexico, not only develop the expertise to go after the drug cartels, but the capacity in its judicial system to follow-up with the prosecutions that are crucially needed to make sure that the criminals stay behind bars.
QUESTION: Is there any specific request of the U.S. in order to ensure that the drug lords do not launder more money in Mexican institutions?
MR. DUGUID: Well, money laundering is also a part of the initiative and looking at how we can better stop the laundering in the first place, and then follow-up and find the criminals and prosecute them in the aftermath, if they succeed in doing that, is something that we will be talking about. But again, I don’t have a detailed list of new initiatives for you.
QUESTION: Today, there is very strong critic to the U.S. authorities in regards with what they have been doing with Mexico. The article of The Washington Post is saying that U.S. is not doing enough and not paying enough attention to help the Mexican Government solve these problems. What do you think about –
MR. DUGUID: Well, without directly contradicting that more could be done sooner. More can always be done sooner. We have been working as diligently as we can to try and help Mexico. Again, when you are dealing in capacity-building and training, that takes time. And you can’t put a finite time limit on when you will have completed that capacity-building. So, yes, more can always be done. We are looking on how we can do more. The original initiative was foreseen to be a three-year program. We realize now that we need to continue working with Mexico and taking the Post’s point on that. We are already prepared to do that.
QUESTION: Do you agree that this is a war for survival of the Mexican institutions?
MR. DUGUID: I would not say that Mexico’s institutions are in danger of dying. Mexico’s institutions cover the entire country. We are talking about the particular violence and the particular criminal problems that affect one region, that also has some implication for problems with corruption, some implications for security on both sides of the border.
But this isn’t the nation of Mexico. These are criminals who should be dealt with in the judicial process through police action and dealt with by the judicial and the prison system. I think those institutions are preparing, are helping, are working through the Merida Initiative to try and make sure that they can provide that service to the Mexican people. This is not about Mexico; this is about criminals working in Mexico.
QUESTION: Different subject.
MR. DUGUID: Thank you.
QUESTION: I’ve got two. I’ll just get them out of the way. First one is on China – the bipartisan bill that’s been introduced in the Senate which threatens to punish Beijing with more tariffs on its exports if it fails to revalue its currency. Does the State Department take a position on this bill? Is this a useful thing to have in the mix right now as far as U.S.-China relations go?
And the second one is on Sudan – the Carter Center, after a sort of fact-finding trip there, is saying that they think it’s quite likely that Sudan will be forced to postpone the April elections because of logistical ineffectiveness on the ground. Does the U.S. think that – have any reaction to this? Do you think Sudan should go ahead no matter what the logistics are, or should they wait – should they delay it and wait until they’ve got everything sorted with voter’s rolls and so on?
MR. DUGUID: Without ruling out – on the second question – without ruling out anything, you always want to have all of the logistics, all the processes in place before you proceed with an election. You want to make sure that any election is as free and fair as possible. Now, I don’t have for you an assessment of whether or not a delay is necessary at the moment. But the general point is that you want all of the processes, all of the safeguards in place before an election will proceed. I will see if I have a readout on our position on whether a delay is necessary and will get back to you if I have that.
QUESTION: I think you’re going out on a limb there with that answer. (Laughter.)
MR. DUGUID: Thank you, sir. Thank you. Then I’ve done my job.
QUESTION: And on the China currency thing?
MR. DUGUID: On the China – well, I can – all I can do is quote President Obama, if I may, where he said that China is moving to a more market-oriented exchange rate and that will make an essential contribution to the global rebalancing effort as they do that. I also can say that Ambassador Huntsman was speaking in Beijing either earlier today, or it was our yesterday, in which he talked about the currency issue from a financial perspective. That is the realm of the Treasury Department.
For the State Department, we see that we have a strong relationship, a bilateral relationship with China. We are working with China on a number of issues. We’re trying to work with them to help create jobs, but we’re also working on climate change. We’re working on the issue of Iran and we’re trying to find solutions to a number of international problems. On the specifics of currency exchange rates, however, I will defer to my colleagues.
QUESTION: But the specifics of this bill, you don’t take a position on the wisdom of introducing this bill in the –
MR. DUGUID: The U.S.-China relationship is one that is broad-based and one that cuts across a number of global issues. This particular bill is the provenance of another branch of government and I refer you to the Treasury Department for an evaluation.
QUESTION: I mean it’s the provenance of the Congress, which is another branch of the government. It’s not –
MR. DUGUID: That’s the one I was referring to, yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, but this is the foreign policy organization right here. And, presumably, if there’s legislation on the Hill which is going to – which could affect foreign relations with – or your relations with another country, this building would have an interest. But perhaps you could ask EB or someone if maybe they do have a position on this.
MR. DUGUID: Well, what I can say, of course, is that any particular disagreement that we have with China on any element of our bilateral relationship is something that we will work on to explain to them and work with them. The President is quite clear where we stand on –
QUESTION: Right, but that’s not the – but this question is about the Administration’s position on a piece of pending legislation, and the Administration routinely –
MR. DUGUID: That is not passed yet.
QUESTION: Well, the Administration routinely has positions on legislation on the –
MR. DUGUID: And the –
QUESTION: So perhaps you could look and see if there is –
MR. DUGUID: On the legislation itself, I would refer you to the Treasury Department. On our bilateral relationship and anything that may affect our bilateral relationship with China, we will have disagreements on particular issues from time-to-time. But it is broad enough and comprehensive enough that those particular issues of disagreement, whether they disagree with any legislation that we may have or we disagree with their relationship or position on Taiwan, we may very well have disagreements. But we do also have a broader relationship that keeps the discussion moving forward.
QUESTION: Okay, but that’s not what the question is. Anyway, can we move on? I asked you about Iran.
MR. DUGUID: Thank you for that.
QUESTION: The Secretary, she seemed to suggest today that you guys are opposed to – well, I shouldn’t suggest that she said it – you’re opposed to the Russians going ahead with the start-up of the Bushehr reactor. Prime Minister Putin said today that it was going to go ahead. The Secretary was asked about it and she said that she thought it was premature – that was premature to do so. Is that something that she raised with the Russians? Or if not, is it something that has come up in other conversations during this trip?
MR. DUGUID: Well, as the Secretary was there directly with the foreign minister, they ran through the issues that they did discuss. So yes, it was discussed, I do believe. I don’t have a complete readout of their meeting, however.
On the general principle, the Secretary also said that Iran has a right to peaceful, civil nuclear power. That is not a question. That has never been a question. However, for any nuclear facility, IAEA regimes are required. And, in this case, that is no different from any other nuclear power plant in countries that subscribe to the international – the accepted international regime.
QUESTION: Well --
MR. DUGUID: Samir.
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait.
MR. DUGUID: Oh, sorry.
QUESTION: I mean, again, that wasn’t really my question. Does the U.S. have a problem with the Russians going ahead and starting up the Bushehr reactor?
MR. DUGUID: We have no problems with Iran having peaceful, civil nuclear power at Bushehr or elsewhere. But we do say that the civil nuclear power with Iran is and should – is mandatorily required to be under IAEA auspices.
MR. DUGUID: That is not the case. Iran is in violation of its IAEA agreement and we do not think that moving forward on a business-as-usual basis with Iran is something that we should be doing. The Russians have a position on Bushehr and we will certainly be discussing that with them more.
QUESTION: On Iraq, the Iraq election commission announced today that – or yesterday that 80 percent of the results of the vote showing that the coalition by Iyad Allawi is winning over the coalition by the Prime Minister Maliki. Can you react to this or you’re going to wait till the final, complete results?
MR. DUGUID: There seems to be politics going on in Iraq. That is a good thing, okay? Anytime you have a parliamentary system, you are going to have a very mixed result. Until all the results are in, we won’t know the final composition. But that the process is moving forward day-by-day, that it has shown that there are political alliances that are being forged, or that political alliances exist among Iraqis is a positive development.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. DUGUID: Yes, David.
QUESTION: Gordon, there are reports that a Pakistani parliamentary delegation broke off a trip to the U.S. earlier this month, claiming that the U.S. reneged on some assurances that they wouldn’t have to go through extra airport scrutiny. Are you aware of that, have anything to say about that?
MR. DUGUID: Yes, and I believe – I’m not sure if we released a statement at the time. We did not.
MR. TONER: We do have something. We can get back --
MR. DUGUID: We will get a statement out to you shortly, but in short, yes, a parliamentary delegation that was here under State Department auspices did cut their trip short after significant Washington meetings. But moving on to their second city, they objected to screening processes that are in place for everyone using American transportation. It was not directed at this group nor were anyone else in the traveling party with them exempt from going through this screening process, to my understanding.
But they did not agree with it and therefore broke off their tour. We understand that. We understand that position. And we look forward to working with parliamentary groups in the future under the same sorts of programs. This was unfortunate, but we have made clear to the group that the – our processes under the TSA are not particularly directed at them as Pakistani parliamentarians.
QUESTION: And one more, Gordon.
MR. DUGUID: Yes.
QUESTION: The Cubans broke up a demonstration by wives and mothers of political prisoners. They had tolerated them before, subjected them to some, I think, harassment by kind of a rent-a-crowd. Anything on that?
MR. DUGUID: Well, I believe you’re talking about the Damas de Blanco and I do believe the pictures that we saw either in our newspapers or on the television screens speak for themselves about the Cuban Government’s attitude towards peaceful protest. We’re concerned about the welfare of the Damas de Blanco and dismayed that a peaceful march was disrupted by the Cuban Government authorities who interfered with the right of Cuban citizens to peacefully assemble and express their support for their family members who are prisoners of conscience.
QUESTION: I forgot to ask a quick question about – Indian officials apparently want access to David Headley’s wife. Has the State Department gotten this request?
MR. DUGUID: Not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Just one quick follow-up on Burma. Can you talk a little bit about the diplomacy leading up to this? Was this all handled by the embassy or was there higher-up calls?
MR. DUGUID: I’m afraid I can’t go into the details. The State Department did work on this case both in Burma itself and from Washington. But the good news is that he was released and has left the country. We have, of course, informed his family of all these details and I’m sure that they will be happy to see him very shortly.
QUESTION: Yeah. Gordon, about two weeks ago – I think it was two weeks ago when the Secretary was in Latin America, the Armenia genocide bill went through, and at the time – or it went through the committee. At the time, officials from this podium and off this podium suggested that the Administration had – which opposes this bill – had some kind of a deal with Congress that it would not go to the floor for a full vote. Yesterday, Assistant Secretary Gordon said that was not the case, that there is no deal. What’s the story here?
MR. DUGUID: I’ve – was made aware just before coming out that there were some – there’s some press reporting about Assistant Secretary Gordon’s remarks yesterday. I don’t have a full readout of his interaction with the press. I only had the text of his remarks. I’ll look and see what I can get you on that, but I do believe --
QUESTION: Well, I’m not – it’s not so much a question about his remarks and whether he said what he said or not, but I’m – my question is: Is there a deal with the Hill whereby this bill will not be brought to the floor for a vote?
MR. DUGUID: I’ve not been made aware of any deal that the bill will not be brought to the floor. That is something that Congress will decide. I think the Secretary spoke very succinctly in the – on this – in the interaction that you mentioned earlier, but I am unaware of any deal.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MR. DUGUID: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)
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