Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 1, 2010


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton Departed on Five Day Trip
    • Paid Respects to the Late Senator Byrd
    • Advisor Appointed to Office of Children Services
    • Senator Mitchell Met with Palestinian Officials
    • Under Secretary McHale in Meetings in Kenya
    • Assistant Secretary Posner Will Meet about China Human Rights
    • Resignation of IAEA Official
    • Special Representative Holbrooke Meeting on Afghanistan
    • Holbrooke Meeting with Matthew Gould
  • IAEA
    • IAEA Will Designate a New Leader
  • CYPRUS
    • Alleged Spy Released on Bail/ Will Check on US Contact with Cypriot Government
  • IRAN/SYRIA
    • Transfer of Radar to Syria/ Issue of Concern/ Ongoing Military Relationship between Iran and Syria/ Concern about Transfer of Technology to Hezbollah/ Grave Concerns about the Stoning to Death of a Woman/ Disproportionate Treatment of Women
  • TURKEY/ISRAEL
    • Conversations with Both Countries/ Relationship Important to Both Countries and the US
  • ISRAEL
    • US Encourages Israelis and Palestinians to Begin Direct Negotiations/ US Role to Move to Direct Negotiations/ Different Expectations on Both Sides/ Demonstrate That Progress Can be Made/ Volume of Aid to Gaza Expanding/ Early Report on Gaza Flotilla Investigation
  • GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL
    • Arrangement of Reimbursements/ NIC Can Provide Information re. Offers of Foreign Assistance
  • NEPAL
    • Important Peace Process Moves Forward
  • SOUTH KOREA
    • US Defers to South Korea on Arrests
  • CHEONAN
    • G-8 Statement of Support for South Korea/ US Continues to Seek UN Security Council Statement against North Korea's Provocative Acts


TRANSCRIPT:

1:35 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State – a handful of things to mention before taking your questions.

Secretary Clinton departed for Ukraine late this morning, the first stop of a five-country, five-day trip to Central Europe and the Caucasus. Before she departed, she paid her respects to the family of the late Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia as he lay in state at the U.S. Capitol.

You’ll see an announcement from us after the briefing that Secretary Clinton is pleased to announce the appointment of Ambassador Susan S. Jacobs as special advisor to the Office of Children’s Issues. A long-time advocate for children, Senator Clinton has created this new foreign policy position to address inter-country adoption and international parental child abduction. In her work on these important issues, Special Advisor Jacobs will actively engage with foreign government officials to protect the welfare and interests of children.

Turning to travel by senior Department officials, today Senator George Mitchell met with the Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad concluding his trip to the region. He will be returning to the United States as we anticipate the arrival on Tuesday of Prime Minister Netanyahu for an important meeting with President Obama.

Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale was in Kenya today where she met with youth leaders, embassy staff, Kenyan entrepreneurs, and media officials. She also launched the Department of State-sponsored Apps for Africa competition and met with Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. You’ll recall she also attended and met with Secretary Clinton last year when the Secretary was in Kenya.

Later this afternoon here at the Department, the Secretary – Assistant Secretary Mike Posner will meet with leaders of human rights organizations with a particular interest in China to provide a readout of the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue which occurred last month – or not – in May and also the Strategic and Economic Dialogue in Beijing in late May. And he will reconfirm the Administration’s commitment to the importance of respect for human and political rights in our bilateral agenda with China.

We learned today – you saw the announcement at the IAEA that Olli Heinonen, a long-time professional inspector for the IAEA has announced that he will be departing. The United States has great respect for Olli Heinonen and many – his many years of excellent service devoted to the IAEA as head of the Department of Safeguards. He has led a contingent of expert, dedicated inspectors who have insured that the vital safeguards work of the IAEA will continue. And we appreciate the very fine work that he has provided. And we trust that the IAEA will maintain a strong team of inspectors very capable of fulfilling their mandate, including detecting cheating and pursuing the investigations of countries like Syria and Iran.

Richard Holbrooke met this morning with Staffan de Mistura, the Special Representative to the Secretary General for Afghanistan. They discussed the upcoming elections and the Kabul conference, which, of course, will be co-chaired by the UN. Special Representative de Mistura was in New York yesterday where he participated in a Security Council meeting to review progress on Afghanistan and report it to the Council that despite recent attacks, he believes that the political objectives in Afghanistan remain on track.

You had stumped the spokesman yesterday. Someone asked about a meeting between Richard Holbrooke and British Ambassador designate to Israel Matthew Gould. They are long-time friends and they met for breakfast. With that –

QUESTION: They met for breakfast?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: And that was a meeting that – two old friends meeting for breakfast is something that warrants putting on the –

MR. CROWLEY: It was put on the State Department official calendar of events, yes.

QUESTION: Do you – on a housekeeping matter, do you have a preference for who replaces Mr. – what’s his name? The IAEA guy. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: There is a very strong cadre of inspectors in place. I am sure that the IAEA will designate a new leader who will continue the fine work of the IAEA. I’m not aware that we have a preference.

QUESTION: So you’re not. Okay, so if an Iranian or a North Korean were up for the job, you wouldn’t have a problem with it?

MR. CROWLEY: Highly doubtful that that would occur.

QUESTION: All right. Can I ask a different subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: What your contacts have been with the Cypriot Government about the case of the spy – alleged spy on the loose?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know if we have been in touch with the Cypriot Government. We are disappointed that Christopher Metsos was released on bail following his arrest in Cyprus. As we had feared, had been given unnecessarily the chance to flee, he did so. I’m sure we will be in touch with the Cypriot Government. I’ll see if we have already launched or filed our concern and our protest.

QUESTION: You’re concerned and a protest? You are going to?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’ll check and see if we have.

QUESTION: Well –

MR. CROWLEY: But we are clearly disappointed –

QUESTION: According to the Embassy, the ambassador met for an hour with, I think, the Cypriot president.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay, well then we have done so. But I’m just not aware of that meeting.

QUESTION: Well, has there –

MR. CROWLEY: I will check and see if we have had a direct meeting with Cypriot officials regarding this development.

QUESTION: There’s – on a different note –

MR. CROWLEY: I thought we were going to set a record. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: On a different note, there’s a report – I believe it was in The Wall Street Journal today – talking about Iran supplying radar equipment to Syria. Is that something that you’re aware of? If it’s true, would there be concerns that the U.S. would have about that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s hard for us to determine if such a transfer has taken place. We have concerns about the relationship between Iran and Syria. And as we’ve said before, we don’t believe that Iran’s designs for the region are in Syria’s best interest. And Syria is subject to UN sanctions depending on the type of – I mean, radar is, by definition, a defensive system, but there are some technologies that could potentially be a violation of the – of those sanctions. And if that were the case, it wouldn’t obviously be the first time that Iran has flouted its international obligations. But we can’t say for sure that such a transfer has taken place, but obviously this is something of concern to us.

QUESTION: Are there suspicions that it has taken place? Is that something that’s being investigated?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there’s definitely – I mean, there’s definitely an ongoing military relationship between Iran and Syria. Our concern, among other things, on the one hand, countries do have the right to protect themselves. On the other hand, our concern, obviously, in the case of Syria is the transfer of technology to Hezbollah. And this is – broadly speaking, providing advanced technology to Syria with the prospect it could, again, change hands is an ongoing concern to us and is something that we do raise with Syria in our periodic discussions with them.

QUESTION: Just to fill the (laughter) --

MR. CROWLEY: Once again, (laughter) –

QUESTION: Just to fill the void (laughter) –

MR. CROWLEY: Trying to cheat death again; it didn’t work. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Talks between Turkey and Israel, did the U.S. have any role in sort of promoting these talks? And do you think that they’re – what’s your reaction –

MR. CROWLEY: We have had conversations with both countries individually. In those conversations, we have reinforced that -- a relationship between Turkey and Israel is not only in the best interest of the region, it is in the interest of – and supports our interests in the region as well. It is – it has been a valuable relationship. There have been several times in the past where Turkey has played an important mediation role with Israel and other countries in the region. Turkey is a long-standing – has had long-standing relations with Israel, one of the few in the region to do so. So we recognize the importance of the relationship and we certainly support this kind of dialogue that hopefully can help repair the fractures that have existed in recent weeks and months.

QUESTION: The Israeli prime minister, as you said, will be here next week meeting with the President. What are you hoping that the Israelis might offer in terms of concrete action that will encourage the Palestinians to come to direct negotiations?

MR. CROWLEY: That was the subject of George Mitchell’s meetings this week with the prime minister, with President Abbas, and other officials. We continue to encourage both the Israelis and Palestinians to demonstrate that they are ready to take the step from the proximity talks to direct negotiations. There are areas that both sides are looking for. Our role is to try to help each understand what the other is – feels it needs and to try to move them to a point where we think direct negotiations are possible. We’re not there yet. So there are still different expectations on both sides of what they feel they need to be able to take that step. We’re going to try to continue to work to reach a common understanding that we think can help them get to direct negotiations as soon as possible.

QUESTION: On the –

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. President Obama, on Tuesday I believe, when he met with the Saudi king, called for bold moves in the peace process. What do you have in mind? What does that mean? And is it addressed to the Israelis or the Arabs or both?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, to both. There are questions of substance. There are ongoing steps being taken to try to raise the confidence level that should both leaders commit to enter into direct negotiations, that there’s a solid prospect of progress that would lead to an agreement. So, obviously, having both sides commit to direct negotiations would, in fact, be the kind of bold step that we are looking for. But we recognize that some spade work has to be done to prepare the ground for each side to be confident that they can take that step. So, in the meantime, we’re trying to demonstrate that – or to show that progress can be made through the proximity talks. But we recognize that proximity talks are limited by themselves; that ultimately, to resolve the important issues between the two sides, a direct negotiation is required.

So there has been some posturing, say, in recent months. We’re trying to move them from posturing to a solid, substantive commitment to engage directly. And that’s what George Mitchell has been doing in recent weeks. And the President will have the opportunity to see where the – where Prime Minister Netanyahu is. I’m sure, obviously, in addition to getting his sense of the prospect for direct negotiations, we’ll also review the recent progress with respect to a change in policy on Gaza. Again, we see the volume of aid to the people of Gaza expanding. I’m sure the prime minister will give the President a report on the early stages of the Israeli investigation into the flotilla tragedy. So there are a range of issues that I’m sure the two leaders will discuss.

QUESTION: More on it?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: I just want --

QUESTION: Is that another subject?

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Also on Israel, kind of related, discuss – reports by – in Jerusalem that Israel is very concerned about a radar system that Iran provided to Syria –

MR. CROWLEY: We talked about it.

QUESTION: Oh, you did. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, she said that you didn’t. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I was daydreaming, sorry.

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t top that.

QUESTION: On the oil spill aid offers, P.J., has there been any clarification on who actually is reimbursing – who’s doing the initial reimbursement to the countries who are – to the companies who are offering this stuff? Is it the U.S. government and then you bill BP, or is it BP directly?

MR. CROWLEY: It actually can be either one depending on how the arrangement is structured. In cases where it’s a government-to-government arrangement, there might be an intermediate mechanism such as the oil liability trust fund. In the case where there’s an agreement between a foreign country or a foreign entity and BP, there’s direct compensation from BP. So, it’s – I know it’s not a satisfying answer; it depends. But --

QUESTION: Well, how has it been done thus far?

MR. CROWLEY: Both ways.

QUESTION: Well, how – okay, so how much --

MR. CROWLEY: In the case of Canada, it was, as we announced back in, I think, May, that was an arrangement between the United States and Canada. The – there was a transfer of funding to Canada from the oil liability trust fund and then we will expect – it hasn’t happened already – that BP will reimburse the trust fund for that money.

In most other cases, the typical arrangement is that BP is directly reimbursing governments or foreign entities for the services that they have offered, for the most part on a full repayment basis.

QUESTION: All right. How much was that with the Canadians? And any others that have been done that way --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. I should just say we – after the confusion yesterday between our numbers and the numbers at the NIC, we have determined that pretty much from this point forward, Admiral Allen will take on the responsibility of updating on foreign – on international foreign – international offers of assistance. I’ll get you the number; I don’t have it here.

QUESTION: Completely different topic.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: In Nepal there’s been – there have been some political developments there. The prime minister quit. There’s some talk that the Maoists may return to the helm of government. Does the U.S. have a position on this as – on whether it better be concerned or whether the peace process could go forward with the new government?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s vitally important that the peace process should go forward. And Assistant Secretary Bob Blake was in Nepal in the last couple of months, encouraged all sides to continue constructive dialogue and to reach an agreement. And perhaps the departure of the prime minister gives yet another opportunity for the various elements within Nepalese society to come together and reach an agreement that allows for the process to move forward and return stability to their country.

QUESTION: Just back on the oil spill thing for a second.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Does that mean what you said that the NIC or whatever it’s called is going to take over talking about the --

MR. CROWLEY: The National Incident Command.

QUESTION: Yeah. Does that mean that their numbers were right and your – your guys’ numbers were wrong?

MR. CROWLEY: I have not yet received a – I mean, one number might be how you treat offers of assistance whether it’s an offer of assistance that includes multiple entities or multiple things, or whether you count each separately. But there is a bit of a disagreement over how many countries have offered assistance. Again, it might be a definitional issue between that –
where the 44 might be a combination of governments that have offered assistance and private entities in foreign countries that have offered assistance.

But at this point, because Admiral Allen is now briefing every day, he’s closer to the action, we are drawing on international support more significantly, we’re going to let Admiral Allen take the lead in terms of characterizing where we are in terms of offers of assistance and acceptances by the National Incident Command.

QUESTION: Well, that’s – that – which is all well and good --

MR. CROWLEY: I have not --

QUESTION: -- if you want to speak with a single voice, but what’s the right number?

MR. CROWLEY: The short answer is – the numbers I had yesterday, the numbers Admiral Allen deployed yesterday – I’m still looking for an explanation of why they diverge. We will provide that explanation.

QUESTION: Oh, I have one more. Do you have any comment on the conviction in South Korea of these North Koreans who were allegedly sent to --

MR. CROWLEY: We’ll defer to Republic of Korea to comment. No, I don’t have them.

QUESTION: The Republic of Korea will comment for the United States on this?

MR. CROWLEY: We don’t have --

QUESTION: Is that what you’re saying?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not have a comment.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Oh, I have one. Sorry if I got (inaudible) about the --

MR. CROWLEY: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- Iranian woman who faces death by stoning for adultery. Do you have any comment about this? I think the first person to ever face stoning, or in many, many years.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this is an issue that comes up in many countries, certainly in a country like Iran. We have grave concerns that the punishment does not fit the alleged crime. And for a modern society such as Iran, we think this raises significant human rights concerns, and disproportionate treatment of women in terms of how society metes out justice.

QUESTION: Do you consider adultery a crime?

MR. CROWLEY: It may be a crime in --

QUESTION: His wife does. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: It may be – no, no. It may – I’m not an expert on the Iranian code. It may well be.

QUESTION: Or adultery laws. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: But obviously, from the United States standpoint, we don’t think it’s – putting women to death for adultery is an appropriate punishment.

QUESTION: You said that this is an issue in many countries?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: How many other countries stone --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean – well, there --

QUESTION: -- have death by stoning as the --

MR. CROWLEY: In many countries, you have crimes that are – for the consequences of which fall disproportionately on women.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. That’s the issue in many countries, not the actual sentence?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we don’t execute people for adultery in this country. I think that’s --

QUESTION: That’s left to the spouse. (Laughter.) And the divorce lawyers.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you think the level of the G-8 statement on the Cheonan incident will be enough for a statement coming from the UN Security Council?

MR. CROWLEY: Once again, do I think the --

QUESTION: The level of the G-8 statement last Saturday over the Cheonan incident will be enough for --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there – I mean, I don’t see those as mutually exclusive. In other words, there was a statement of support for South Korea in the G-8, and we continue discussions in New York with countries regarding a statement by the UN regarding the sinking of the Cheonan. We continue to support South Korea and want to see a significant statement come out of the Security Council that makes clear to North Korea that its provocative acts will not be tolerated.

QUESTION: You think the G-8 statement is significant enough?

MR. CROWLEY: I expect that there will be a response from the UN in addition to the statement from the G-8.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:59 p.m.)

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[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - July 1, 2010]