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


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton's Trip to the Balkans / Meeting with Officials and Members of Civil Society / Dedication of New Embassy and Street
    • Parliamentary Elections in Kyrgyzstan / Building an Inclusive Democratic Society
    • Sudan Talks / Resuming of Negotiations / Abyei Referendum / North-South Referendum
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Peace Council / Sanctions List at the UN / Guantanamo Bay Prisoners / Reconciliation / Afghan-Led Process
    • Resupplying International Forces / Working with Pakistan
    • Iran's Interest in Afghanistan
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Direct Negotiations / Contributing Ideas / Preconditions / Political Commitment / Continue to Encourage / Core Issues / Arab League
    • Recognition of Israel
  • UNITED NATIONS
    • Election of Members to the Security Council / Significant Engagement of Emerging Powers
    • Security Council Reform
  • INDIA
    • Global Role / A Welcome Role
  • CHINA
    • Respecting Rights
    • Defense Articles to Taiwan / Taiwan Relations Act
  • ARMENIA/TURKEY
    • Armenian-Turkish Protocols / Committing to Resolving Issues
  • IRAN
    • Undermining Lebanese Sovereignty
  • BURMA
    • Electoral Process / Opening up its Society


TRANSCRIPT:

1:05 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: Just three items to mention before taking your questions. As you all know, Secretary Clinton is in the Balkans underscoring our continued commitment to the Balkan states as they build prosperous, peaceful, and democratic societies and move to take their rightful places as full members of the European and Euro-Atlantic community.

Today, in Sarajevo, she met with Bosnian – the Bosnian tri-presidency, as well as High Representative Inzko, and held a town hall meeting with students and members of civil society. She was – and most poignantly, while she was in Sarajevo, she dedicated a street where the new Embassy compound is scheduled to open soon in honor of Ambassador Robert Frasure who died outside of Sarajevo in 1995, along with his counterparts from DOD Joe Kruzel and from the National Security Council Nelson Drew. And all of us who were in government at the time remember their sacrifice. Ambassador Frasure’s widow and children attended the ceremony as well.

And in Belgrade, where she is now, she has met today with President Tadic, Prime Minister Cvetkovic, Foreign Minister Jeremic, and Defense Minister Sutanovac. And this evening, she will also meet with civil society in Belgrade.

Over the weekend, obviously you’re aware of the successful parliamentary election in Kyrgyzstan. The United States congratulates the people and Government of the Kyrgyz Republic for carrying out orderly parliamentary elections. The voters in Kyrgyzstan demonstrated their – by their participation in this historic election, they are committed to selecting their government through peaceful democratic means. The United States, in close coordination with international partners, supported a number of projects designed to improve the conduct of this election, discourage fraud, and informed voters about issues and political parties. And as the final results are known in the coming days, it will be crucial for political leaders to come together, form a new government, and then begin the hard work of building an inclusive democratic society and a functioning market economy.

And finally, regarding Sudan, following nine days of productive talks, the Sudanese signatories to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement decided to recess and will resume negotiations in Addis Ababa at the end of October to reach an agreement on the full range of issues pertinent to CPA implementation, including Abyei. While the parties made progress on a number of issues, they were unable to reach agreement on voter eligibility criteria for the Abyei referendum. Abyei and other matters will be negotiated when the parties reconvene. A resolution of these remaining issues is the responsibility of the CPA signatories, but the United States is committed to doing all it can to ensure that these issues are finally and fully resolved.

The United States is encouraged by recent progress on preparations for the North-South referendum, such as the agreement on voter registration, but more needs to be done. And to help facilitate this process, both in terms of the ongoing preparation for North-South referendum as well as Abyei, Ambassador Princeton Lyman will travel to Khartoum and Juba to encourage – to engage both parties on ongoing referendum issues.

With that, I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: I have a question on Afghanistan. Members of the new peace council are saying that the process could be jump started if the U.S. were to make a few gestures such as releasing more prisoners from Guantanamo Bay and supporting the removal of Taliban figures from the UN sanctions. Are those things that the U.S. is interested in doing?

MR. CROWLEY: What’s the second part of it?

QUESTION: Supporting the removal of Taliban figures from – people from the UN sanctions list.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, on an ongoing basis we are evaluating modifications to the individuals on the sanctions list at the UN. We’ve made some adjustments during the course of this year. And as we work through issues and in collaboration with the UN and other members of the Security Council, that is certainly possible. I can’t see where – we have a process ongoing in terms of the situation at Guantanamo. We have returned a significant number of individuals at Guantanamo to their countries or to third resettled – third countries based on our assessment of the dangers that they pose to the United States and to others. But I would not connect our ongoing activity to work to close the facility at Guantanamo with the efforts at reconciliation and reintegration in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Can you --

QUESTION: Change of topic?

QUESTION: Why is U.S. not part of the peace talks, because without U.S., nothing can be achieved in there? You are the in the middle as to why U.S. (inaudible)?

MR. CROWLEY: This is an Afghan-led process. We will support that process. But ultimately, you’re talking about the composition of the political structure and civil society within Afghanistan, and this is rightly decisions for the Afghan Government and Afghan people to make.

QUESTION: P.J., just quickly – yeah, one more, I’m sorry. As far as (inaudible) is concerned now, is open if you can confirm, but what I’m asking you – what went wrong between the United States and Pakistan as far as blockage was concerned. And where was –

MR. CROWLEY: As far as what is concerned?

QUESTION: The blockage.

QUESTION: He’s talking about the –

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, the gate?

QUESTION: Right. Yeah. And what – where was Special Envoy (inaudible) Ambassador Holbrooke since he was the instrument between the two governments?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not sure that I would say that anything went wrong. The gate is now reopened.

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. CROWLEY: There are trucks flowing through that gate and on their way to resupply international forces in Afghanistan. We successfully worked through the issue with the Pakistani Government and – but in the meantime, we did have other avenues available to us to continue to resupply U.S. forces and international forces.

QUESTION: But what I’m asking is that out of hundreds of trucks or thousands of trucks, there are only handful – like 30, 40, 50 were burned or something – that means somebody was there giving information to the Taliban or whoever was burning those trucks.

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I – I don’t know that I would agree with that statement.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just to change topics to Israeli-Palestinian matters. What do you make of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s apparent offer of extending the settlement freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’ll be important for both parties to continue to create conditions for the direct negotiations to continue. It will be ultimately up to them to determine whether they see value in continuing this process. We certainly continue to encourage Israel and the Palestinian Authority to continue in direct negotiations as we continue to emphasize to them, there is no way – no other way to resolve the core issues except through this – these direct negotiations leading to what we hope to be an agreement. It’s not for us to endorse this idea or this idea. We have offered to both sides our thinking on things of importance to the Israelis, to the Palestinians. We would hope through this kind of dynamic where now you have the leaders saying this is what I’m going to contribute to the process, this is what I need to get out of the process to be able to convince my respective constituencies that there is value in continuing. So I think we endorse what the leaders are doing in terms of contributing ideas that we hope will help continue the process. But it’s not for us to say, “This is a pretty good deal, you ought to take it.” That – ultimately, it will be up to the prime minister and President Abbas to continue this kind of dialogue and see if through these kinds of statements and other ongoing discussions if both sides will make the commitment that we hope they will make to continue in the process.

QUESTION: I mean, from the Palestinians’ point of view, I think they feel that what they’re being asked to do is to, if not give away the store, to make a very major concession. The corollary to acknowledging Israel as a Jewish state is, effectively, abandoning the so-called right of return for Palestinians to whatever – become the ultimate borders of the Israeli state. And that’s a major – what used to be called, “final status,” question – is it constructive to float offers or ideas like that just to get back into talks?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we think it’s constructive for the parties to put forward and to continue to put forward their ideas on – to demonstrate their commitment to and the importance of and the value of these negotiations. And this has to be something that’s done by both sides. They’re in the direct negotiations now. We want to see those direct negotiations continue. There is a pause in the action as we kind of work through the issue of the moratorium and settlements. But if Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has offered his thoughts on both what he’s willing to contribute to the process, what he thinks he needs for his people out of the process, we would hope that the Palestinians would do the same thing, and through this ongoing dialogue will gain the commitment on both sides to continue and to resume in these negotiations.

We will continue our discussions with both parties. We hope that a formula can be arrived at, conditions can be established that allow the prime minister and the president on behalf of their respective people to make the political commitment to stay in this direct negotiation. So this is the kind of process that we think is needed at this time. But ultimately, it will be up to the prime minister and the president to decide if they’re seeing enough, they’re getting enough, and they’re offering enough to sustain this process.

QUESTION: So the ball’s in the Palestinian’s court now? You want to see them make a counter offer or put some ideas out there?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s the responsibility of both the parties. This ultimately is – has – you work from back to front. This has to be an agreement that they make. It’s not something that we’re going to impose on either one of them. As we get down the road in this process, as we’ve said all along, we’re willing to offer specific proposals that might get beyond the inevitable challenges that we know we will face. We’ve offered our ideas to both sides to try to navigate through this particular issue that we currently confront over the settlement moratorium. But these are judgments that the leaders have to make. We want to see both of them stay committed to the process. We want to see both of them offer their thinking about what needs to be advanced and agreed to that allows both sides to stay in these negotiations. That’s what we want to see them do. But ultimately, it will be up to both to say these – that this is what we need to be able to make the difficult political decision that we know both of them face, whether or not stay directly engaged in negotiations.

QUESTION: Well, P.J. --

MR. CROWLEY: Michel.

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I – it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. We will offer our ideas on – based on our conversations what our assessment is that – of what each side needs to be able to make the political commitment to remain in these direct negotiations.

QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has – it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that – the special character of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?

QUESTION: P.J., it’s – do you want to answer his question or --

QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a– as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. My question is it’s been less than two months since this whole process started and already you’re seriously hung up on the settlement issue, and I just would like to know what you guys are doing to break the deadlock, but more importantly, how you’re going to prevent this from happening over and over again.

MR. CROWLEY: That’s a very good question. We – that’s what we are involved in right now. We are working with the parties. We’re trying to find a formula that allows the direct negotiations to continue. And then through this negotiation, one of the issues that we recognize is a core issue is the issue of borders. And we want to be able to see and use the time that is available to us. If we can make progress on the issue of borders, then largely speaking, the issue of settlements is then resolved and both sides will understand how to manage this process going forward.

We are offering our thoughts to be able to move the process towards a final agreement within the next eleven months. It is not our intention to confront this issue every few weeks. We want to – and that’s why it’s important for the parties to make the political commitment, to stay in the negotiations for the long haul so we can get to – into greater detail on the core status issues.

QUESTION: So do you think it’s really helpful for Prime Minister Netanyahu to have made this demand, a final status core issue demand, right up front, early on in the process in exchange for just two months? I mean, you said that you were looking for both parties to make contributions that indicated they wanted to continue.

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: A lot of people would not say that Mr. Netanyahu’s request fits that description.

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we want to see the direct negotiations continue with enough room for us to move from where we are towards a successful negotiation that resolves the core issues. As we’ve said since the outset in late August, we believe that this can be accomplished within a year’s time. But we have to see – we have to get the commitment from both sides to stay into – in the direct negotiations. That’s what we’re trying to do now. And in trying to resolve this immediate issue, we’re trying to resolve it and create sufficient time and space so that we do not have to confront this, whether it’s two months from now, three months from now or six months from now. We want to see a clear path so that the parties can continue the process.

I mean, in what we’ve done so far, there have been some discussion of the core issues. We believe, based on the discussions that have been done so far, that there actually is the opportunity to resolve this conflict once and for all. That’s what we believe and that is the essence of our commitment to this process. So we don’t just want to push the can down the road two months. We want to create a clear path that allows the parties to begin the arduous process of addressing the core issues one by one with the intention of reaching a successful negotiation within a year’s time.

Samir.

QUESTION: Did you say that you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not making any news here. The President, the Secretary, and others have said this before.

QUESTION: Because Abbas said they recognize the state of Israel. Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some – I’m trying – I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the – what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the – a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

Now, so the prime minister has put forward his ideas and what he believes his people need to hear so that they can make the commitment that we’re seeking to stay in this process and to reach a successful conclusion. This is not a one-way street. It is a two-way street. The prime minister is offering something and asking for something. It is perfectly within the rights of the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas to say there’s something I need and there’s something I’m willing to give. This is the essence of the negotiation that is ongoing and the essence of the negotiation that we want to see continue.

QUESTION: P.J., I’m a little – I want to get something straight. I understand what you say and what other Americans have said for years, decades even, about the leaders in the region have to decide, that we can’t do it for them. But you also said something 10 minutes ago, 15 minutes ago, about it is not for us to say this is a pretty good deal, you ought to take it. And I’m wondering if there’s really a conflict there and if you are really suggesting to us that an American negotiator, whether it’s Senator Mitchell, Secretary Clinton, or the President, would not go to one of the two leaders at some point and say this is a pretty good deal, you ought to take it. And I’m not referring to this --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there’s a difference between the advice that we might offer privately and we have shared our ideas with the – with both parties. But ultimately, they have to make the commitment. And as I said, George Mitchell, I expect in the coming days, will be conferring again with the leaders and – to determine where we are and, in essence, sort through whether we believe that the conditions are right for direct negotiations to continue. That’s what we’re trying to do from this point forward, help the parties create conditions for these direct negotiations to advance. That’s what we’ve been doing for the past few weeks and we hope that both parties can and will make the political commitment to continue.

QUESTION: P.J., what do you think about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal timing? What about the timing?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, you had what we thought was an affirmation by the Arab League last week where everyone sees the value of the direct negotiations. And at its essence, the Arab League said we’re willing to give more time for the United States to work with the parties and see if we can’t create a formula and create conditions for the negotiations to continue. So in that context, the prime minister is – offered some thoughts before the Knesset yesterday as to what his view is of the balance needed on both sides for the negotiation to continue. Now, on the one hand, there’s some voices within the Palestinian Authority that have said that’s not what they consider the right answer. That’s fine. So then from a Palestinian standpoint, what are their ideas for the negotiations to continue?

So this – so in a sense, we see on the – we see both sides seem to want the process to continue. Now it is up for both sides to continue to share ideas with each other and with the United States on what is needed, what are the right conditions for this negotiation to go forward. That is – so this is exactly what we think is necessary to get both sides to make that public and political commitment to stay engaged.

QUESTION: Apart from Netanyahu’s proposal to break the deadlock, is there a separate U.S. proposal on the table right now, or is that the only game in town right now?

MR. CROWLEY: We have shared our ideas with the parties, and beyond that I’ll leave our advice to the parties, private.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Would you like to comment on today’s UN vote where India got the nonpermanent membership? And also, what is the U.S. position on India’s efforts to secure a permanent membership – member seat?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, the United States welcomes the election of South Africa, India, Colombia, Portugal, and Germany to the Security Council. We look forward to working constructively with all members of the Security Council. We trust that all new members will work to support the principles of the charter, contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of the council, and uphold its role in maintaining international peace and security.

On your second point, we are committed to finding a way forward with our other member states on Security Council reform that preserves and strengthens the council’s efficiency and effectiveness so as to enhance its ability to carry out its mandate and meet the challenges of the 21st century. But beyond that, I won’t speculate on what actions the UN might ultimately take.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that?

QUESTION: Has U.S. endorsed --

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on, Goyal.

QUESTION: This was the first time that the BRIC countries will be member of the UNSC – Brazil, Russia, India and China. Do you see them as emerging as a different bloc, a separate bloc within the UNSC as they have been working outside --

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: -- different issues like climate change --

MR. CROWLEY: These are countries that have been playing significant roles and in some cases increasing roles in their respective regions for some time, and we welcome their participation in the Security Council. As we’ve said, we – the global challenges that we face cannot be solved by any one country. They’re going to need significant engagement, involvement, and support from these emerging powers, and you’ve got a very strong list of emerging powers who can rightfully play a more leading role on global issues.

QUESTION: Can we expect a more strong support for India’s efforts during President Obama’s visit?

MR. CROWLEY: We are well aware of India’s aspirations to play a more significant global role. We have welcomed that expanded role by India both on regional issues and global issues. But again, we will work within the UN and within the Security Council because we recognize that there are a number of countries in the world that have those same aspirations.

QUESTION: P.J., what I’m asking just does U.S. endorse India’s permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

MR. CROWLEY: We are committed to continue to work constructively on UN reform.

QUESTION: On China, does the U.S. have any concerns about the reports that the wife of Liu Xiaobo has been confined to her home and Western diplomats have not been allowed to see her?

MR. CROWLEY: We do – we are concerned. It is something that we are watching very closely, and we believe that her rights should be respected and she should be allowed to move freely without harassment.

QUESTION: There was one-year anniversary of the Armenian-Turkish protocols a couple of days ago, and the protocols were largely mediated by the U.S. Government. I was just wondering what’s going on now and are you still involved in the process. Is the U.S. Government still working with the sides, not just the Armenian and Turkish side but also with the Azerbaijani counterparts because there are obviously some objection from Azerbaijan?

MR. CROWLEY: We remain committed to resolving these issues. It was something that Secretary Clinton discussed last month at the UN with a wide range of leaders, and we remain committed to it.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: P.J., last week you said that President Ahmadinejad’s visit or trip to the south of Lebanon is not a good idea. Tomorrow he will be going to Lebanon and on his schedule a visit to the south of Lebanon too. Do you have anything to add?

MR. CROWLEY: We are concerned – we remain concerned that Iran continues to take steps that undermine Lebanese sovereignty and security, and we would hope that Lebanese officials will keep that in mind during the president’s visit.

QUESTION: On Burma quickly. P.J., Amnesty International and Free Burma Alliance are meeting in New York over two days conference, and what they are saying is that they need help from the U.S., that Burma should stop violation of human rights and also displacement of 3.5 million Burmese by the military government.

MR. CROWLEY: We remain engaged with a wide range of countries on Burma. We have great concern about what is happening within Burma. We’ve expressed our concerns about the upcoming electoral process, which we do not believe will be free or fair. We continue to insist both in conversations that we have had with Burma and conversations that we have had with other countries that have influence within Burma that Burma has to open up its society, have greater dialogue with various ethnic groups and political groups that exist within its population. And we will watch events as they unfold in Burma and hope that a new government will take a different approach than it has in the past.

QUESTION: On China, the U.S. and Chinese military stopped talking for about 10 months this year, and obviously, those talks just resumed. The Chinese are once again upset about weapons sales to Taiwan. Did you take that any more seriously this time than in the past, and is there any consideration being made to halting arms sales to Taiwan?

MR. CROWLEY: We – our consideration of these issues and our provision of defense articles to Taiwan is consistent with our law, the Taiwan Relations Act, and we will continue to follow our law.

QUESTION: And is there any considerations to halting arms sales to Taiwan?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: In Afghanistan, Afghan forces have seized weapons made in Iran. So is this an issue of concern to you? This has happened --

MR. CROWLEY: Lalit, start again? I --

QUESTION: In Afghanistan, on the border of Iran, the Afghan security forces have seized large amount of weapons which were made in Iran, smuggled out of Iran. Is this an issue of concern to you, and do you see any Iranian role in this?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Iran has an understandable interest in the future of Afghanistan. That said, we have been concerned in recent months, the last couple years, about Iranian meddling in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. It is something that we continue to watch closely.

QUESTION: Different topic, about East Asian summit – upcoming East Asia summit. I understand Secretary Clinton is going there. Any issues the U.S. specifically wanted to touch on there, including South China Sea and Burma?

MR. CROWLEY: We are still a few weeks off from that. We’ll have more to say as we get closer to it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CROWLEY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)

DPB #165

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - October 12, 2010]