Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 15, 2010

Index for Today's Briefing
    • Government of Uganda to send 2,000 additional troops to support AMISOM / Governments of Burundi and Uganda commitment to African Union mission in Somalia / U.S. commends Burundi and Uganda for their role in bringing regional stability to unstable areas in East and Central Africa
    • Arrival of FBI team in Uganda to assist in the recent terrorist bombing
    • Senator Mitchell arrived in the region today / Schedule of meetings
    • Ambassador Holbrooke arrived in Germany today
    • Special Envoy Gration travel / Schedule of meetings
    • Civilian Response Corps reaches 1,000 members on its two-year anniversary
    • U.S. has had multiple conversations with the Government of the United Kingdom to clarify their position on the Iroquois lacrosse team / UK decision not to make exception to travel document requirements / U.S. reiterated offer to expedite U.S. passports for qualified team members
    • U.S. support for AMISOM
    • U.S. welcomes the meetings between Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi and Indian Foreign Minister Krishna
  • IRAN
    • Mr. Amiri came to the U.S. of his own free will / Departed U.S. of his own free will
    • Iran should release the three American hikers on humanitarian grounds as soon as possible
    • U.S. has sought Iranian cooperation on the welfare of Robert Levinson / Received no cooperation from Iran
    • Decision on direct talks is up to Israeli and Palestinian leaders
    • Negotiations between the United Kingdom and Libya on a prisoner transfer agreement were well known / UK and Scottish authorities have indicated that the return of Al-Megrahi to Libya was not part of the prisoner transfer agreement / U.S. disagreed with the decision to return Al-Megrahi to Libya
    • State Department will review the letter received by the senators / Will respond directly to the senators


12:29 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon again and welcome to the Department of State. A couple of things to quickly mention:

We understand that the Government of Uganda intends to send 2,000 additional troops to support the AMISOM mission and has called on other African nations to do the same. Both the Government of Burundi and the Government of Uganda have reiterated their commitment to the African Union mission in Somalia and will continue to provide peacekeeping troops. We commend the critical role that Uganda and Burundi continue to play to bring regional security to the unstable areas in east and central Africa, particularly through their leadership of the AU mission in Somalia.

On Uganda, we have seen the arrival late yesterday of roughly, I think, a 63-man FBI team. They are fully engaged in the investigation in support of Uganda authorities, will be there for several days as we continue to determine who is responsible and what happened in that tragedy on Sunday.

QUESTION: I thought you already knew who.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, we know. Well --

QUESTION: Sixty-three guys to go there and tell you what – that Al-Shabaab did it?

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much.

Senator George Mitchell arrived in the region today. He will see Defense Minister Ehud Barak this evening, then Prime Minister Netanyahu tomorrow. On Saturday, he will meet with President Abbas and then Prime Minister Fayyad. He will also meet with the Quartet envoys as well as the Quartet Representative Tony Blair and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, who are in Israel at this time.

On Sunday morning, he will travel to Cairo to consult with President Mubarak and meet with Arab League Secretary General Moussa. Later that day, he will fly to Abu Dhabi to consult with UAE Foreign Minister Abdallah bin Zayid.

QUESTION: Could I – did you say what day he was meeting the Quartet people? Is that Saturday as well?


Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke is in Germany today where he is meeting with counterparts and government officials there, and then he will travel to the region to meet up with the Secretary as she departs Washington early next week.

Special Envoy Scott Gration leaves Washington this evening where he will head first for Khartoum to meet with officials from the UN and African Union and consult with the Sudan envoys from Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, Norway, and the European Union. He will also meet with National Congress Party and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement teams who are negotiating post-referendum arrangements in addition to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission.

I think you’ve already seen a release today where the Secretary marked the plateau that the Civilian Response Corps has reached – 1,000 members – on its two-year anniversary. The corps is the only expeditionary interagency civilian force in the U.S. Government dedicated to conflict prevention and peacekeeping and – conflict prevention and peace building.

And just to bring you up to date on the Iroquois lacrosse team, we’ve had conversations with the United Kingdom this morning just to continue to clarify their position on the status of the Iroquois lacrosse team. And we understand that the UK has examined this issue and concluded that it cannot make an exception to travel document requirements for the Iroquois travelers. We understand that the UK has offered to waive the visa requirement and accept the Iroquois document if accompanied by a U.S. passport. We have reiterated our offer to assist qualified team members with expedited issuance of U.S. passports.

QUESTION: Did you ask the Brits to accept the letter without a U.S. passport?

MR. CROWLEY: We made sure that they understood that from our standpoint, to the extent that the UK wanted assurances that the team, after the tournament, would be readmitted to the United States, from our position, we clarified that we would readmit the team to the United States, but it was the UK’s decision not to give them entry into the country.

QUESTION: Can you say why --

QUESTION: Did that decision come as a surprise to you?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say it’s a surprise to us, no.

QUESTION: Can you say specifically why the British didn’t want to let them in --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that --

QUESTION: -- given the government’s --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, that’s a decision for the United – the UK to explain.

QUESTION: Is this an --

MR. CROWLEY: This was their decision based on their policies and procedures and security requirements that they have put in place.

QUESTION: But what did they tell you were their reasons? Did they say they had security concerns, that this would set some sort of precedent that they didn’t want to create? Are they concerned that perhaps these lacrosse players might decide, oh, we’d rather live in the UK than in the U.S.? I mean, it’s not enough for them just to say --

MR. CROWLEY: It’s not my impression that they had – and that – once we clarified through the letters that we provided to the team yesterday, it was clear that we would readmit team members to the United States following the tournament. I think this was just on the existing policies, procedures, and requirements that exist under UK law.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. – is the U.S. disappointed that the British made this decision and that they didn’t deem the letters that you thought might be adequate actually to be adequate?

MR. CROWLEY: We did our best to, from our point of view, satisfy initial concerns that the UK had, that they wanted to be assured that the team members would return to the United States and be readmitted. We felt that we had done what we could do, and through these one-time letters of waiver.

Again, we and the British, I think, have the same view that ultimately, it’s important for these people and others to have travel documents that are internationally recognized. And from our standpoint, for those who qualify for U.S. passports, as we’ve said all along, the best way for them to ensure the ability to travel freely around the world is to have a U.S. passport.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary get involved in this conversation with the Brits?


QUESTION: Could you say whether you were aware of the additional British concerns prior to issuing the one-time waiver? It seems like they had some additional concerns.

MR. CROWLEY: We had indicated to the United Kingdom yesterday what we – what – the steps that we are preparing to take. But this was a decision that we had multiple conversations with British officials yesterday and today. They looked at – we’re satisfied that they looked at this thoroughly, but from their standpoint, they’ve made the decision. They made it with – certainly, it’s their prerogative to determine and decide who qualifies for entry into the United Kingdom.

QUESTION: I understand, but I’m just trying to understand the timeline of – at what point did they voice the additional concerns that apparently disqualified them from entering, if yesterday you thought the letter would be enough?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t want to speak for the United Kingdom, but --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: -- we knew all along that notwithstanding the letters that we were providing to the team members yesterday – and we emphasized in this briefing yesterday it was still a requirement for the team members to apply for and receive visas from the United Kingdom. That was always clear that the final decision on who would – whether the team would enter the United Kingdom, that was a UK decision. So I can’t say that we’re surprised by this because, quite honestly, we’ve had the same concerns about the existing travel documents. That’s why we have said throughout this that we were prepared to issue passports to those team members who qualify. So on that basis, we’re not surprised by the UK decision. The United Kingdom, the United States, others have obviously definitely strengthened requirements in terms of travel documents that are needed in this day and age. But this was a UK decision to make.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. looking at possibly reviewing the treaties with various Native American nations to look at this travel document issue, given the times of which we live? Because it seems now as if there’s a whole class of American citizens that will not be able to travel. If they’re having trouble going to the UK, then ostensibly they’d have the same kind of difficulty if they wanted to travel on their nation’s passport and not on an American passport.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we – this is an issue that the United States Government has had with state authorities, tribal authorities, for some time. Now, much of this conversation and much of these issues revolve more around the Department of Homeland Security than the Department of State. We continue to believe that – and have strengthened the U.S. passport so that we have confidence it is a secure document to identify those who wish to travel around the world. And whether the tribe is working to bring its own internal documents up to this standard, that’s a decision for them to make and I’ll defer to tribal authorities to describe what they’re doing.

It’s important that for those people who live within the borders of the United States, they in essence have dual citizenship. Many people around the world have dual citizenship and carry, perhaps, passports from more than one nation. The fact that you might be part of the Iroquois Nation and also be a U.S. citizen to have a U.S. passport in our view in no way diminishes your citizenship as a member of the Iroquois Nation. So there are plenty of ways to accommodate this so that in the future you have the ability to travel worldwide while maintaining your citizenship both as a member of the United States and a member of the Confederacy.

QUESTION: So are you suggesting that it’s now up to the Iroquois Nation, Tohono O’odham, Pima, Apache, that they all need to take a look at whatever documents they give to their residents?

MR. CROWLEY: What I’m saying is that at the heart of this, this episode is based on specific decisions that individuals and team members have made. They – many of them, not all of them – qualify for a U.S. passport. They have chosen not to procure one in many instances. And obviously, as you’re seeing today, that choice has had a consequence.

QUESTION: P.J., the letters that the – the documents that you gave them were specific to this tournament and they couldn’t be used in another case, correct?

MR. CROWLEY: This was a one-time-only document –

QUESTION: Well, I’m just saying it’s –

MR. CROWLEY: -- specific for a limited time frame to accommodate this particular tournament.

QUESTION: And it said that in the document?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes, it did.

QUESTION: Do you think that the Canadian factor played a role in the British decision?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, and I can’t say as I stand here that I know exactly what decision Canada made because, obviously, some team members qualified for Canadian passports, not for U.S. passports. So our solution applied to many members of the team and many members of the delegation, but not all. So I can’t tell you what decision the UK has made vis-à-vis those team members who qualify for a Canadian passport.


QUESTION: P.J., is the United States supporting in any tangible way this augmentation of troops in – by the –

QUESTION: Somalia.

MR. CROWLEY: Somalia.

QUESTION: -- by the Ugandans? Are we providing logistical support or money or (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. I mean, I think the Ugandan authorities have just made this announcement. If we can be supportive, we will be. We have reviewed since Sunday the support that we’re providing to AMISOM. We are going to beef that up. So I wouldn’t predict. If Uganda needs support in terms of its additional troop complement, we certainly will continue to support AMISOM. We’ve been the major contributor to the AMISOM mission. That won’t change.

QUESTION: Can you – this is a new topic. Can you comment on the case in the European Court of Human Rights to uphold the indictment of Kononov in Kononov v. Latvia? He was the anti – member of the anti-Hitler coalition 60 years ago and he’s being tried for war crimes because he fought against Latvia and collaborators who were armed, and therefore can’t be considered civilians. But he is being tried as a war criminal because he fought against the Nazi collaborators. This is a dangerous precedent, it would seem, because, if this is upheld, then the allies could be convicted as war crimes for the firebombing of Dresden or Truman for the bombing of Hiroshima.

So this – there’s a rise of – as I’m sure you know, of Nazism in the Baltics and there has been in Ukraine. But this seems to be a turning of history upside-down where the whole allied forces during World War II are actually in jeopardy of being held accountable as war criminals because civilians were killed during the war. But this is a case where Kononov was fighting against armed civilians who were Nazi collaborators.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. I’m afraid that’s all I can tell you. I’m not familiar with that case. Let’s look into it and see if we have a comment.

QUESTION: India-Pak peace talks in Islamabad. What’s your impression about the meeting between Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers in Islamabad today?

MR. CROWLEY: I haven’t had a readout in terms of any specific things that have been accomplished. I think – I heard that the meeting went on longer than had been anticipated. We certainly welcome this high-level meeting between the foreign secretaries Qureshi and Krishna. It is expressly the kind of dialogue that we think will help to address and resolve issues of interest between the two countries and of consequence in the region as a whole. So we welcome this – the increase in and level of dialogue between the two countries.

QUESTION: Will this issue come up for discussion when the Secretary meets Indian foreign minister in Vietnam next week on bilateral?

MR. CROWLEY: Our discussions with Indian officials are broad. I’m sure when they see each other they’ll talk about bilateral and regional issues.

QUESTION: Shahram Amiri. Can the U.S. categorically say that he was a defector?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, he chose to leave Iran. He chose to come to the United States. He has chosen to return to Iran.

QUESTION: And I know that you had gone into this a couple of days ago, but can you elaborate on what efforts the U.S. undertook to try to convince him to stay? Was there any real concern about his family’s safety, for example?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, these were – this was his decision to make. He chose to come here, and we supported him in coming here. And he chose to go home, and we freely allowed him to do that. That is what we do in this country. He came here of his own free will, and he has departed and returned to Iran under his own free will.

And it is on that basis that we continue to believe that Iran should release our three hikers. They are exactly as we have described them – three hikers who walked up to an unmarked border. They are in custody. They have not been charged. And we believe strongly that they should be released on humanitarian grounds.

QUESTION: Now, he was given a hero’s welcome when he landed in Tehran overnight, our time. And it looks as if Tehran is trying to use him for a very blatant propaganda operation against U.S. intelligence. How worried is the U.S. Government about this development? And to follow on, is there any concern that perhaps Iran put him up to defecting and coming here?

MR. CROWLEY: I think we have every confidence that he was here by his own decision. He departed under his own decision. I don’t know that we can say why he left Iran, why he chose to return. I don’t think that there’s going to be any particular propaganda value in this. In fact, it points out the dichotomy. We allow people to come here, go home. We have our own citizens who have traveled to the region and are now in Iranian custody. We’re also obviously conscious of the case of Robert Levinson. We’ve sought Iranian cooperation to try to determine his whereabouts and welfare, and we’ve received no cooperation from Iran.

So Mr. Amiri – his return to Iran, I think, should underscore that we expect the same kind of treatment for our citizens when they travel to Iran.

QUESTION: P.J., two things on this: One, you said, “We supported him in coming here.” What exactly does that mean?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not going to get into particulars. But obviously, he made his way to the United States. We were happy to --

QUESTION: Was there money involved?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not here to speak about money.

QUESTION: Well, but you are speaking – hold on. Hold on. You are speaking about --

MR. CROWLEY: I have no information --

QUESTION: All right.

MR. CROWLEY: -- that I can tell you about money.

QUESTION: And the second thing is that the other day, you said that there was no swap envisioned at all.

MR. CROWLEY: We are not negotiating a swap.

QUESTION: No. Right, I understand that. But you’re being now more explicit than you have been for the past couple days about the – you’ve got this dichotomy. Are you really hoping that this – that your allowing Amiri to go back to Iran is going to sway some – sway the Iranians into releasing the three hikers?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the two cases are not connected. I know that --

QUESTION: Well, you’re connecting them. You just did, totally unprompted.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not – I’m – put it this way: I will state categorically we have three American citizens in Iranian custody. They’re not guilty of any crime other than crossing an unmarked border. They have not been charged. We’re coming up on the first anniversary of their incarceration. We want to see them released and returned to the United States.

This is an example where Iran demands respect from the international community. But we have shown with an Iranian citizen who chose to come here and has chosen to go home that we’re – he’s free to do so. We would expect the same consideration when it comes to our citizens when they travel to the region and up to the border between Iraq and Iran.

QUESTION: Well, what --

MR. CROWLEY: We would like to see our citizens home. The mothers of the three hikers were in Iran recently and made a direct appeal to Iranian authorities. But this – to the extent that the Iranian people are seeing Mr. Amiri return to Iran, we would like to have the same opportunity to welcome home to our country the three hikers and have information, at the same time, on the status of Mr. Levinson.

QUESTION: Mr. Amiri, though, was not accused of any crime in the United States.

MR. CROWLEY: And our three hikers are not guilty of any crime either.

QUESTION: Well, but you just said that they crossed the border.

MR. CROWLEY: They crossed a border.

QUESTION: Well, that’s --

MR. CROWLEY: An unmarked border.

QUESTION: Well, if someone did the same thing here, that’s a crime.

MR. CROWLEY: I have great confidence that if people wandered across this border, they would be swiftly returned to the country from which they came.

QUESTION: But you also suggested that Amiri was in regular contact with the State Department and its --

MR. CROWLEY: I didn’t say who he was in contact with. All I’m saying is did we know that he was here? Yes. But he chose to come here, he chose to leave.

QUESTION: P.J., I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but if --

MR. CROWLEY: All right. Hold on.

QUESTION: -- three Iranians crossed the U.S. – crossed into the U.S. illegally, you think that they would be sent home immediately? I think that in a situation where Iran regards the United States as its enemy and the United States does not regard Iran as a friend --


QUESTION: -- that the circumstances are not that – if a member of – a Canadian member of the Iroquois nation crossed the border without a passport, it’s not the same thing.

MR. CROWLEY: All I’m saying is every day, there are people that wander across our border, and every day, there are people that we return home to the countries of their origin.

QUESTION: There was a claim made that Mr. Amiri was offered $5 million, but these funds were frozen, part of the (inaudible).


QUESTION: Could you shed some light?


QUESTION: Could I change topics?

MR. CROWLEY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could we move on to something else?


QUESTION: So what do you expect Mr. Mitchell to do once he’s done with meeting with Abbas and Fayyad and so on? Are these direct talks – are they likely to be launched within a week, two weeks?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of – I mean, obviously, this is a decision that is, first and foremost, up to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. They have to make a decision that after working on the details of the process, they have enough confidence to move into direct negotiations. That is what we’re trying to do. As to whether that – I mean, I think we have a strong belief at some point in time, direct negotiations will be renewed. Whether that’s days from now or weeks from now, I don’t think we’re in a position to say at this point.

QUESTION: Would you say that the impetus behind this particular visit is really to restart the direct negotiations?

MR. CROWLEY: The – our overall purpose with any conversation that we have with Palestinian and Israeli authorities is to move to direct negotiations. This visit is no different than George’s previous trips to the region.

QUESTION: New topic?


QUESTION: BP. BP is now confirming that they lobbied the British Government about Libyan prisoner transfers. I’m wondering, have you taken this up with the British Government? Are you seeking clarification about what the process was there? And does this have any bearing on your decision on whether or not to launch the investigation that the senators have asked for?

MR. CROWLEY: I think it’s important to clarify that the negotiation between Britain and Libya on a prisoner transfer agreement – I believe it was done in 2007, maybe 2008 – that that negotiation was well known. As to why BP chose to lobby the British Government on the prisoner transfer agreement, who knows? That’s up – BP has tried to explain that today and acknowledged that they did.

I think all the British authorities and Scottish authorities made clear last year that the issue of Megrahi was not connected to the prisoner transfer agreement. As we’ve said many times, including throughout last year as Scottish authorities were making this decision, we felt the decision to release Mr. Megrahi was a mistake. We thought it then; we think it now. But it was a decision by Scottish authorities to make. We’ll leave it to British and Scottish authorities to explain what they did then and what – the factors that they evaluated.

I have nothing – I don’t know that there’s anything – the --

QUESTION: But from what you’re saying, it doesn’t sound like you think there’s grounds for the investigation that’s been requested.

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we have the letter from the senators – the quartet, if you will – and we will respond to that. As I said yesterday, it’s unclear what actually there is to negotiate. BP said today it weighed in with the UK Government on the prisoner transfer.

QUESTION: That was over a year. It’s not --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. BP has said they had no conversation with British authorities or Scottish authorities with respect to Mr. Megrahi. We’ll take that into consideration as we evaluate anything we might do or could do. We’ll respond to the senators.

We understand their concern about this issue broadly. We share that concern. As we’ve said many times, we are unhappy that Mr. Megrahi sits in Libya today as a free man. We understand the outrage that the families of Pan Am 103 and their elected officials feel about this. We share this frustration. But as to whether there’s anything that really is there to investigate, as we – as the BP clarifies what they did today, we’re – we understand more about what might or might not have happened. But --

QUESTION: P.J., you said the British told – the British and the Scottish told you that Megrahi’s release was completely unrelated to the prisoner transfer agreement?


QUESTION: How is that possible? How – are you aware of any other prisoner --

MR. CROWLEY: I’ll just – again --

QUESTION: -- that’s been transferred between these --

MR. CROWLEY: Again --

QUESTION: -- two countries other than him?

MR. CROWLEY: Go back to what Scottish authorities said last year. They said that this was a decision made on purely humanitarian and medical grounds. We disagreed with that decision. We disagreed with that judgment. We continue to believe today that Megrahi should be still in a Scottish prison.

QUESTION: So your understanding is that his --

MR. CROWLEY: But did they tell us that this was an isolated decision about Mr. Megrahi and had no bearing on any other negotiation that they had with Libyan authorities? That’s what they told us.

QUESTION: So it’s your understanding --


QUESTION: -- that in the absence of – even if there hadn’t been a prisoner transfer agreement concluded that Megrahi still would have been sent back?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, these are questions --

QUESTION: Is that your understanding?

MR. CROWLEY: -- that should be directed to British and Scottish authorities.

QUESTION: Well, what is your understanding?

MR. CROWLEY: They made this decision. We objected to that decision before it happened.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MR. CROWLEY: We objected to that decision after it took place.

QUESTION: I understand that. I’m asking if it’s your understanding that without the prisoner transfer agreement in place, whether – if that wasn’t there, would Megrahi have been – would he have been able to be released?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that’s a better question to be addressed to British authorities.

QUESTION: I understand that.


QUESTION: But I’m asking what your understanding of it is.

MR. CROWLEY: We accepted at face value what Scottish authorities told us, that this was a humanitarian decision that they made based on the medical information that was available to them. We said categorically that this was a mistake and that is still our view today.

QUESTION: Have you had any contact directly with the British since this whole subject came up about this issue? Have you raised this?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say in the last few days that we’ve had a specific conversation with the British about this.

QUESTION: Is all the U.S. can do is simply raise the issue? There’s no legal recourse that the U.S. can take in this; correct?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we weren’t a party to it. The – Mr. Megrahi was convicted by a special Scottish court under extraordinary circumstances, but it was a duly convened Scottish court. We recognize that it was within Scottish authorities to make this decision. We regretted this decision. We objected this decision. We told them beforehand, “Don’t do it.” They did it anyway. We’ve made clear our dissatisfaction on a number of occasions since. I can’t say we brought it up today, but our view of this is well known to the British Government and well known to Scottish authorities.

We are looking into the – we have the letter from the senators. As the Secretary said yesterday, we’re evaluating what they have requested of us and we’ll be responding to the senators. That’s not to predict what we will or won’t do about any of the details of this, whether it’s what BP might or might not have done or the quality of the medical information that was made available to Scottish authorities. We’re going to look – we’re going to evaluate what we’ve been asked to do.

But our position has been clear all along: We regret very much that the Scottish authorities made this decision. It is ultimately up to them to explain why they did it and how they feel about this in light of other information that has come to light.

QUESTION: Have you talked to the Libyan authorities about the situation?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, since last year, yes. In the recent days and weeks, I can say that we have.

QUESTION: I’m not sure – quite sure I understand your position on this case. Did you or did you not oppose Megrahi’s release?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.) Can I say this one more time?

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:00 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - July 15]

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