Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 22, 2011


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton Releases Statement Expressing Deep Sadness at News Second Major Earthquake Struck Christchurch
    • Secretary Clinton Releases Statement that Condemns the Murder of Four AmCits Seized by Pirates off the Coast of Oman
    • Secretary Clinton's Statement on Libya
    • Secretary Clinton Meets with Latvia Foreign Minister Girts Valdis Kristovskis, Our NATO Ally
    • Deputy Secretary Steinberg and Assistant Secretary Phil Gordon Depart Today for Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan
  • NEW ZEALAND
    • Second Major Earthquake in New Zealand / U.S. Ready To Provide Assistance to Government of New Zealand / USAID Dispatching D.A.R.T. Team / Search and Rescue
  • LIBYA
    • Ordered Departure for 35 Employees, Their Families, Other AmCits / Tripoli Airport Remains Open / Safest Course for Departures / Land and Sea Options / Several Thousand AmCits in Libya / Dual- Nationals / Grave Concerns regarding Libya's Response to Protestors / Security Council Meetings Today / Security of AmCits / Conversations with Regional and European Officials / Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman Has Multiple Conversations with Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa / Bloodshed Needs to Stop / Meeting as an International Community
  • KENYA
    • U.S. Coordinates with Countries Like Kenya Who Have Assumed a Leading Role in the Prosecution of Pirates
  • SUDAN
    • Definitive End to Conflict in Darfur
  • SOMALIA
    • Transitional Federal Government (TFG) / Improve Governance in Somali / 13 Pirates Captured / Department of Justice (DOJ) is the POC regarding Legal Consequences / AMISOM
  • UGANDA
    • The United States Applauds the People of Uganda: Presidential and Parliamentary Elections
  • PAKISTAN
    • Ambassador Munter Meets with Pakistani Official to Resolve Issue Concerning Raymond Davis
  • EGYPT / IRAN
    • Under Secretary Bill Burns in Cairo, Egypt / Economic Reforms / David Lipton / U.S. Monitoring Movement of Ships / Decision between Egypt and Iran
  • BAHRAIN
    • Commend Steps Taken by King Hamad and Crown Prince Salman to Restore Calm / View Recent Announcements to Launch a National Dialogue and the Release of Political Prisoners As Positive Steps Towards Addressing the Concerns of Bahraini Citizens
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Inter-Korean Dialogue


TRANSCRIPT:

1:13 p.m. EST

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. I have several things to go over, given the news from around the world.

Starting first in New Zealand, we just released a statement by Secretary Clinton expressing our deep sadness at the news that a second major earthquake in six months has struck Christchurch. On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, we send our sincere condolences and sympathy to the people of New Zealand. When the earthquake struck, American and Kiwi officials were in the middle of a meeting in Christchurch discussing plans to further develop and expand the broad partnership between our nations.

The United States stands ready to provide whatever assistance to the Government of New Zealand and to the brave people of Christchurch that they need. Our long history of friendship and mutual support in times of need is an example of our enduring bond. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this terrible tragedy, especially the families of the victims and all the people of New Zealand.

In that regard, USAID is dispatching a search-and-rescue team from Los Angeles. They are at the airport and they might well be airborne at this hour, but the U.S. DART team – Disaster Assistance Response Team – from AID is overseeing this effort.

QUESTION: What’s their ETA?

MR. CROWLEY: I think – what, for New Zealand, it’ll be --

QUESTION: It’s a long time.

MR. CROWLEY: -- a long time, but sometime tomorrow, New Zealand time.

Secondly, also, a statement by Secretary Clinton that we just released: The United States condemns the murder of four U.S. citizens whose yacht, the QUEST, was seized by pirates off the coast of Oman. This deplorable act firmly underscores the need for a continued international effort towards confronting the shared security challenge posed by the piracy in the waters off the Horn of Africa. Our deepest sympathies go out to the victims’ families at this time. We will honor their memory by continuing to strengthen international partnerships in order to bring these maritime criminals to justice. The United States encourages those members of the international community concerned about stability in Somalia and piracy to continue to support AMISOM by providing material, financial, and logistical support. The United States also encourages additional African contributions to the AMISOM peacekeeping effort.

QUESTION: Can we stay on that for just one second?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you’re still not particularly thrilled about efforts by private companies contracted by various Somali authorities to – you’re not too happy about those activities?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure that I’d put those two together. Clearly, on a case-by-case basis, shipping companies that have vessels that are transiting in these waters certainly have every right to have beefed-up security on board these ships. We are doing as much as we can in terms of the combined task force that has been – of naval vessels that continue to patrol these waters. The ultimate solution to the piracy challenge rests on land. We have engaged not only – well, we are not only supporting the Transitional Federal Government, the TFG, in its efforts. We also have engaged authorities in Somaliland and Puntland to try to help bring stability to --

QUESTION: Right, but in one of those – I believe Puntland – they’ve contracted with a private company for their own – for a private army, basically, to go after – is – are you still – you still think that the effort should be focused with AMISOM and the task force?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, ultimately, the solution is to bring a government – improved governance and the economy in Somalia, resolve the conflict that is ongoing there. Those are not necessarily functions that a private security contractor can perform.

QUESTION: P.J., just quick clarity questions on that, Vice Admiral Cox in the morning went – Fox – Vice Admiral Fox in the morning briefed at the Pentagon, and he said that he couldn’t give us the details about the negotiations. So what was any --

MR. CROWLEY: About what negotiations?

QUESTION: -- on the negotiations on the U.S. navy ships that were going on? Was there any money being offered? What triggered the –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as a government, our policy is not to provide ransoms to anyone in these circumstances.

QUESTION: And then another thing he said – that because of this mother ships that are now supporting the pirates, it has gone up to as far as India, China. So what are you, the U.S., doing about that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I will actually defer the operational details of what transpired here. I believe after hearing gunshots, forces did move towards the yacht from the ship. My understanding is that we have captured 13 pirates. There are already two pirates in U.S. custody. And now we’ll turn to the Department of Justice to determine the status and future legal consequences.

I would just say we take the prosecution of these pirates very seriously. We just had a successful conviction of the lone survivor of the Maersk incident from last year, and he just received a sentence in a New York court of 33 years.

QUESTION: And P.J., where would these men be tried?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that’s a fair question. I will defer at this point to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: And one other question, please. Does the State Department get involved in the repatriation of the bodies?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that probably – at some point, perhaps. It depends. I’m assuming at this point that you have military forces that have assumed command of the immediate area there where the yacht was. And at what point I’m – they will –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CROWLEY: They’ll bring them to shore at some point, and obviously, we will assist in their repatriation.

QUESTION: Vice admiral said this is an FBI investigation and the area is now a crime scene, so he cannot say more.

MR. CROWLEY: True. Yeah, but normally, once – if lives are lost overseas, regardless of the consequence, we will perform our consular duties and assist in the repatriation of remains as needed.

QUESTION: Do you coordinate with neighboring countries in --

MR. CROWLEY: In – coordinate on --

QUESTION: Somalia. Yeah, I mean, you coordinate the efforts to combat the pirates.

MR. CROWLEY: Oh, of course. I mean, we have coordinated with countries like Kenya, who have assumed a leading role in the prosecution of pirates. The court has been set up in other locations as well. But yes, this is a – at one level it’s a regional challenge, but really it’s a global challenge. And part of the answer here is that any country whose national interest or citizens are put at risk need to take responsibility for prosecution of those who commit piracy on the high seas.

QUESTION: Do you have more?

MR. CROWLEY: I do. This afternoon, the Secretary will meet at 2 o’clock with the Foreign Minister of Latvia Valdis Kristovskis to review a wide range of issues of mutual concern with our NATO ally, including security in Europe, crackdown in Belarus, Afghanistan, and other global concerns.

Regarding Sudan, the United States remains committed to reaching a definitive end to the conflict in Darfur and is deeply concerned about statements from the Minni Minnawi rebel faction that it intends to begin launching offensive attacks on airports in the Darfur region. The United States strongly discourages such actions and urges all parties to the Darfur conflict to commit to an immediate cessation of hostilities and to join international efforts to reach a negotiated settlement. Attacks by any party that place innocent civilians, peacekeepers, and aid workers at risk are unacceptable and inconsistent with the spirit of working collectively toward a peaceful and more prosperous future for the people of Darfur.

Staying in Africa, the United States applauds the people of Uganda for their participation in the February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections, and congratulates President Museveni on his reelection. The elections and campaign period were generally peaceful, but we note with concern the diversion of government resources for partisan campaigning and the heavy deployment of security forces on election day. We urge the Government of Uganda to undertake the electoral and administrative reforms that will substantially improve future elections and will strengthen the country’s commitment to democracy and human rights for the next generation of Ugandan citizens.

QUESTION: Hold on, before you go on on that, if there was this redirection of government funding into partisan campaigning and a heavy presence of security on the streets, why are you congratulating him on his reelection?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – notwithstanding our concerns, we felt that, generally, the election was free and fair, and the results reflect the will of the people of Uganda. But clearly, there are still some structural issues that need to be undertaken to improve elections in the future.

Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, along with Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Phil Gordon, are departing pretty much as we speak for a trip to Europe. They will visit Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Albania, and Bosnia, discussing a wide range of bilateral and regional issues in each location.

And finally, before taking your questions, turning to Libya, yesterday the Department ordered U.S. Embassy family members and non-emergency personnel to depart Libya, and they will depart over the next few days. The safety of all American citizens in Libya remains our paramount concern. At our Embassy, we have approximately 35 employees and their families who are affected by this ordered departure. We continue to evaluate a range of transportation options to help them depart, along with other U.S. citizens who are present in Libya.

The airport in Tripoli remains open, but it is kind of a very challenging circumstance at the airport currently. Many international air carriers are increasing the number of seats available to respond to the demand for flights from Libya. And for American citizens who are there, they should maintain contact with their airline if they have tickets to depart.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that real quickly?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Just on the evacuation question. Can you tell us why they weren’t able to move out of the country already? My understanding was there was some expectation they would have done so yesterday.

MR. CROWLEY: We are – as I said, we have some options. We’ve been in touch with airlines, asking them – those that have regular commercial service and have been allowed to land in Tripoli – to perhaps send larger aircraft so that there are more seats available for those who wish to depart. We have charter flights standing by to travel to the airport if necessary. This is something that we continue to work with Libyan authorities. But the fact is, today we were not able to move any of our personnel out of the country.

QUESTION: Is it –

QUESTION: And why was that?

QUESTION: Can you – first of all – hold on a second. I want to understand why that is the case. And then is it not true that some of them did go to the airport and then for some reason did not leave the country?

MR. CROWLEY: Kirit, I’m --

QUESTION: Why they didn’t leave already, and is it not true that some of them went to the airport and then did not board flights?

MR. CROWLEY: I think I just said for our official party, we are not able to move any of them out of the country today. And we will do our best, working with Libyan authorities, to move them out as quickly as we can.

QUESTION: And would you – are you considering any sort of sea routes as opposed – or overland routes as opposed to the airport?

MR. CROWLEY: We are evaluating, as are other countries – we’re not in this – other countries have made similar decisions to ours. They are looking for the safest course of evacuation. Land is an option, sea is an option, the commercial airport is open. Obviously, there are a great many people who are trying to depart Tripoli currently, so – and – but we’re working this with Libyan authorities.

QUESTION: And do you consider the airport to be a safe place for people to be right now?

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we’ve made this decision because we are concerned about the safety of our citizens, and – but we’re working as hard as we can to help our citizens depart.

QUESTION: P.J., number one, recognizing that it’s not a completely accurate figure, how many Americans are there registered with the Embassy in Libya?

MR. CROWLEY: Matt, it’s a good question. There are several thousand American citizens in Libya. Most of them are dual-nationals. Of those who have American citizenship, we’re talking in maybe the 600 range, give or take. Now, some of them work for energy companies, and as you’ve seen and reported, they themselves are shutting down their operations and making their way out of the country today. So as to how many require assistance from the Embassy, hard to know at this point. Our Embassy itself, as you can see in the numbers, it’s a relatively small post.

QUESTION: All right. And then more broadly, what did you make of Qadhafi’s speech?

MR. CROWLEY: I actually haven’t received a debrief on his speech.

QUESTION: Well, surely you saw some of it.

MR. CROWLEY: I did see some of it.

QUESTION: Enough – what did you think of him vowing to stay and to die a martyr and never to give up?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, this is ultimately and fundamentally an issue between the Libyan Government, its leader, and the Libyan people. They, like others, are standing up and demanding a greater say in the events of their country. As the Secretary indicated yesterday in her statement, we have grave concerns about the Libyan response to these protestors. We continue to be guided by our fundamental principles; we don’t want to see any further violence. And she called directly on the Libyan Government to cease the – its response that has led to significant bloodshed in Libya. We want to see universal rights respected and we want to see the government respond to the aspirations of its people.

QUESTION: P.J., this is essentially a bloodbath that’s going on there, and it seems when you were talking about this that it’s a very calm approach. I mean, many people are saying that something has to be done right now to help the people who are being attacked by airplanes, air attack. So what is the United States doing? Is there a sense of urgency?

MR. CROWLEY: Of course, there’s a sense of urgency. Our first focus is on the security of American citizens in Libya. But I mean, our response has been joined by many others in the international community. There was a Security Council meeting this morning. There will be another Security Council meeting this afternoon, and I expect that the international community will speak with one voice in expressing its ongoing alarm at events as they unfold in Libya.

QUESTION: Thank you. What is the Secretary doing specifically on this?

MR. CROWLEY: We have had a number of conversations as a Department over the weekend. The Secretary has engaged with many regional and European leaders. Our Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman had multiple conversations over the weekend with Libyan officials, including Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa. We have been in touch with also other leaders in the region, and there is a united view here. We view the situation in Libya with grave concern.

QUESTION: Just one more. Just one more. Their ambassador to the Arab League calls this genocide, and in cases of genocide, there might be a consideration of taking some type of united action to rescue people. Is there any consideration for that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, Jill, I would just simply say that right now our challenge – just as your challenge is to fully understand what is going on in the country. Just as you have had difficulty in getting your reporters into Libya, we have a relatively small post, and we’ve had difficulty in verifying some of the horrible reports that are emanating from Libya. I’m not minimizing our level of concern here, but it’s going to take some time to evaluate and understand exactly what is happening, what has transpired already. We are focused right now on trying to do everything that we can working with others who are in touch with the Libyan Government and Libyan leaders directly to stop this bloodshed. We have great concern about this, but we are still trying to fully understand exactly what’s happening in a very complex, very difficult environment where we do not necessarily, as we have in other countries, have as many eyes on the ground.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. Government contacted Qadhafi directly? Have you – has an effort been made either from this building or from the White House?

MR. CROWLEY: We are aware that others have contacted him directly, I think, over the weekend. The Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had a direct conversation with him. We have not.

QUESTION: I want to start to understand something here. In the case of Egypt when there was clearly less violence taking place in the streets, the U.S. was not – well, was hesitant, but then eventually called for Mubarak to step down. Why are you not calling on Qadhafi to leave?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I challenge that – what you just asked me is actually, I don’t think, factually correct.

QUESTION: Well, let me ask you why – just to explain why you –

MR. CROWLEY: Again, just –

QUESTION: -- would not ask him step down.

MR. CROWLEY: Just as we have said quite carefully in each of these cases, it’s not for the United States to choose the leader of Libya or the leader of any other country. It is for the people of Libya who are standing up and protesting the policies and actions of their government. Ultimately, they will be the judge of what is happening in Libya. We are expressing our grave concern and alarm, as the Secretary’s statement said yesterday. And certainly, we can see that there is a contrast between the decisions made by Egyptian security forces in response to these protests, and the contrast is very stark between the response of the Libyan Government.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, but there was a certain point when the U.S. did call for Mubarak to leave. And yet, at this point, you’re not doing that in this case. Why is that?

MR. CROWLEY: Kirit, I’m – I’ve – we’ve expressed our concern about the ongoing events, and we will not hesitate to –

QUESTION: I understand that you’re doing that. I’m curious why you’re not doing the next step.

MR. CROWLEY: Kirit, I can’t say it any better than what the Secretary said yesterday.

QUESTION: Hold on a second. When was it that the U.S. asked – told Mubarak that he had to get – when was it that you asked him to leave?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t recall that we ever publicly –

QUESTION: So reframe that question –

QUESTION: So why –

MR. CROWLEY: All right. No, look, as I said –

QUESTION: Why didn’t the answer reflect that?

MR. CROWLEY: This is a matter between the Libyan people and the Libyan leadership. Ultimately, they should have every right to choose who leads their country. These are not decisions for the United States.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Let’s reframe that question, P.J. Today, the Wall Street Journal says that you guys had far more enthusiasm for toppling Mubarak, although you did not say it, as you have shown towards Qadhafi, who has repressed his people for some 42 years. And I know there’s actually been – had several animosities toward the U.S. and so on and coupled by a bloodbath that is going on. I mean, there has to be – shouldn’t there be some sort of an urgent effort to stem that bloodbath?

MR. CROWLEY: And Saed, I’m not saying there’s not. We have been in multiple discussions with Libyan officials over the weekend. We – as an international community, we are expressing our grave concern about what is happening there. We want to see the bloodshed stop. Our calls have been very clear and very compelling. I don’t know that we can do anymore at this point.

QUESTION: Aren’t you worried that Libya might devolve into a Somalia with oil? I mean, with all the tribal factors and so on, how do you weigh in all these factors?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, clearly you have a situation where there is a splintering – there are emerging divisions within Libyan society. You’ve had a number of Libyan diplomats stand up and themselves criticize the actions of their government. But this, at its heart, is – needs to be a debate within Libya about the future of its country and the nature of its government.

QUESTION: Did the ambassador – the Libyan ambassador seek asylum in Washington?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware that he has sought any particular status here in Washington.

QUESTION: P.J., the U.S.’s approach –

QUESTION: How can –

QUESTION: -- to monitor and the EU to have direct access to these who pilots who have defected, have you been successful? Have you got the –

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know that we’ve had any particular requests of that nature.

QUESTION: P.J., how can you frame the debate as it’s internal things between the Libyan people and the government when some reports talks about thousands of people dead, and one of – part of the Qadhafi’s speech – I don’t know if you heard it or not – he was talking about the violence has not been used yet against the demonstrators. Isn’t surely the responsibility of the United States to stand up against the thousands of people being killed?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, and the Secretary of State said very clearly and very compellingly in her statement yesterday that the bloodshed needs to stop. We condemned the violence that’s occurring. I don’t know that we can be any more clear.

QUESTION: Well, P.J., what more you could be clear on is sanctions. I mean, you could re-impose sanctions. Senator Kerry suggested that this morning. Is that something that’s under consideration? And if not, why not?

MR. CROWLEY: Andy, as I said a moment ago, you tell me, what day are we involved in this? We are trying to ascertain facts, trying to understand exactly what is happening within the country. Right now our primary focus is moving American citizens out of Libya. As we – the Security Council is meeting today, and that meeting is also to try to gain as much knowledge as possible as to what is exactly occurring in Libya. As we gain a greater understanding of what is happening, we can take appropriate steps in line with our policies or our values and our laws.

QUESTION: So you may consider Senator Kerry’s suggestion in future days, depending on --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, as with aid to any country, any country, we’re – we believe – or any relationship that we have, where we believe that actions are contrary to our values, our laws, our interests, we will review aid; we’ll review relationships as we go forward, absolutely.

QUESTION: P.J., I just want to make sure --

QUESTION: The National Security Advisor Mutassim Qadhafi, one of his sons was here two years ago meeting with the Secretary. Has anyone spoken to him? Has anyone spoken to anyone else who still claims to work for the Qadhafi government directly? Or is Ban Ki-moon acting as the interlocutor here?

MR. CROWLEY: I just – no, no, no, no. I just said that Assistant Secretary Jeff Feltman has had multiple conversations with Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa and others. We’ve expressed our concern directly. We’ve explained to the Libyan Government exactly what we’re doing in terms of the ordered departure. We’ll work with the Libyan Government as we move our families and our diplomats and American citizens out of Libya. So we are – we have been in, more or less, daily contact with the Libyan Government through this last few days.

QUESTION: Because during Qadhafi’s hour-and-a-half long speech, he indicated that he wasn’t listening to what the U.S. or what the Europeans wanted, that he would be willing to die until the last drop of blood, and that he would then go house to house to try to put down this rebellion. That’s – how effective is the U.S. conversation then with Libya if he can go on television and say these things and make these threats against his own people?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, which is why I said earlier that ultimately this is an issue between the Libyan Government and the Libyan people.

QUESTION: But how many people have to die? I mean, we’re already hearing of hundreds of people.

MR. CROWLEY: We don’t want to see anybody die. We want to see – again, go back to what the Secretary made clear yesterday, and she’ll have a press availability after the meeting, and I’m sure you’ll ask her what our views are today. We have said very compellingly that we have grave concerns about what’s happening. We have said very compellingly that we want the bloodshed to stop. But, as you say, the leader has his own views.

QUESTION: What are you doing in this regard?

MR. CROWLEY: All right, I – Michel, I’ve just – I’ve just been laying out for you everything that we’ve been doing, from our own bilateral conversations, our consultations across the region, the Security Council meeting that we are a part of going on both this morning and this afternoon. We are doing everything that we can to try to encourage Libya to stop the violence.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Feltman speaks to Koussa Moussa. What do they --

MR. CROWLEY: Moussa Koussa.

QUESTION: What do they talk about? (Inaudible) (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I’m not going to – it’s a diplomatic conversation. We have both expressed our direct concern over the reports that we’ve heard, and we’ve also requested the Libyan Government’s cooperation as we remove our citizens and our diplomats and their families from Libya.

QUESTION: Do you support a no-fly zone over Libya?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Do you support a no-fly zone over Libya?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we are meeting as an international community. We are trying to gather facts on what is happening. And I’m not going to forecast what steps might be taken.

QUESTION: P.J., could you clarify the forced – the ordered departure? Could you clarify? You said you couldn’t get them out. Were there actually charter flights on the ground and you couldn’t --

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: There were not? Were the people gathered there as you were trying --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, Jill, I can’t give you a play-by-play from here. Our family members, the 35 or so that are affected by this, are prepared to leave. They may well be at the airport. I don't know. I’m sure there are American citizens at the airport who are attempting to leave. We are going to do everything in our power to help them. But right now, we’re working through existing commercial airline arrangements. We have the ability to bring in charters or other means to get people out if that becomes necessary. But that also requires the support of the Libyan Government.

QUESTION: So what --

QUESTION: So in other words, the Libyan Government said you cannot do this? They --

MR. CROWLEY: No, the Libyan Government has said that they will cooperate as we remove our citizens. And we are working with them on these arrangements.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) about oil production? I think Qadhafi or others in his circle have said that protesters could sabotage the oil production in the country. Is there any concern about that?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, those are better questions to ask the Department of Energy?

QUESTION: What do you expect of the United Nations Council in the afternoon --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, let’s not get ahead of it. There was a meeting this morning. There will be another meeting this afternoon. I – and --

QUESTION: But these --

MR. CROWLEY: Pardon?

QUESTION: There is any proposal --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, that is why the meetings are being held today in New York.

QUESTION: On the evacuation, overland evacuation, there are allegedly like a million Egyptians that are crossing the border with – between Egypt and Libya. Would the United States coordinate with Egypt also, evacuating its citizens?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we are in touch with other missions that are themselves evacuating diplomats and family members. Our security officers at the Embassy are trying to evaluate the security situation and the best means of departure. Right now, we’re focused on the airport.

QUESTION: P.J., don’t you think the Qadhafi government is repeating the same thing what Mubarak did? And then also, his son was there while (inaudible) is also Qadhafi’s son, who is just saying that bloodshed or rivers of blood will be throughout Libya. What do you think about those statements?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, as I’ve said, Goyal, we want to see the bloodshed stop. We want to see the government engage its citizens rather than attacking its citizens.

QUESTION: Well, P.J. --

QUESTION: Is there any concern about --

QUESTION: -- the problem is that here you’ve been talking about how this has to solved within – resolved through an internal debate in Libya; you want to see the government engage the protesters. And the problem with that is that the debate so far has been anti-aircraft guns and bullets and fighter jets bombing the people. That’s the government’s side of the debate.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.

QUESTION: They have shown no willingness to engage.

MR. CROWLEY: I understand --

QUESTION: And Qadhafi’s speech, which you didn’t watch --

MR. CROWLEY: I watched. I didn’t --

QUESTION: -- said exactly --

MR. CROWLEY: I watched some of it.

QUESTION: -- said that they’re not going to engage and that he’s going to go – that the people who are protesting deserve the death penalty --

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: -- and they’re going to crack down on them. So I don’t --

MR. CROWLEY: And Matt --

QUESTION: So there’s no indication that they’re listening to your message. And by saying that you don’t know, you’re waiting to find out the facts on the ground, you can’t confirm any of these atrocities that have been reported, you’ve put yourself squarely in the camp of your favorite Western Hemisphere dictator Fidel Castro, who wrote exactly the same thing and said that no one – people shouldn’t be blaming Qadhafi yet. I mean, you haven’t come out and condemned Qadhafi himself for doing any of this.

And he -- the other thing that Castro said was that – I think this is along the lines of the no-fly zone – is that NATO was preparing to invade Libya. So, setting Castro aside for a moment --

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Why is it that you’re taking such a light touch with Qadhafi right now --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not --

QUESTION: -- who is clearly calling the shots and telling his military to attack people?

MR. CROWLEY: Matt, I reject the notion – I reject that notion categorically. There is a Security Council meeting that happened this morning. There is a Security Council meeting that’s happening this afternoon. We are going to respond as an international community, and I would just point to those meetings this afternoon we’ll – and we’ll have a response through the Security Council.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t – but you said – why is it that in this case you are going through the Security Council without – and in previous cases in Bahrain --

MR. CROWLEY: We’re going through the Security Council because --

QUESTION: -- Tunisia, Egypt --

MR. CROWLEY: -- it’s not just the United States, but the international community as a whole is gravely concerned about what’s happening in Libya. And we will respond with one voice in expressing our concern and demanding that the bloodshed stop.

QUESTION: But why is it not appropriate for the United States itself to come out and condemn or criticize --

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I --

QUESTION: -- Qadhafi himself for his activities?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t – the Secretary’s words, I thought, were very compelling yesterday.

QUESTION: P.J., as far as --

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve got about two more minutes before I’ve got to go to the bilateral upstairs.

QUESTION: P.J., as far as these events are concerned --

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on, Goyal.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: Any update on the American diplomat in Pakistan? Because yesterday, the Lahore court has given till March 14 for the federal government there to answer.

MR. CROWLEY: I can say the – Ambassador Munter met today with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar, continuing our work with Pakistani authorities to resolve the issue.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. As far as New York Times and Washington Post, other reports are concerned that Mr. Davis, while working for the CIA, what – my question is: Whether he was working for CIA or for the U.S. Embassy, still he was diplomat. He had – still had immunity, right?

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: P.J., a quick question on Egypt.

MR. CROWLEY: Wait. Any on Paksitan?

QUESTION: No.

MR. CROWLEY: No. Egypt.

QUESTION: On Egypt, the Europeans are lifting the ban, the travel ban, to Egypt, and in fact, German and Dutch tourists are going back. Are you considering lifting the ban – the travel ban to Egypt?

QUESTION: There is no travel ban to Egypt.

QUESTION: There is.

QUESTION: No, there’s not.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry, travel advisory?

QUESTION: They have a warning.

QUESTION: Warning, okay. I stand --

MR. CROWLEY: Wait, no, no – well, put it this way, Under Secretary Bill Burns is in Cairo, second day of meetings there along with David Lipton. I mean, we are looking for ways to help Egypt. Certainly, Egypt depends significantly on tourism, and we want to see that pillar of the economy restored and also economic reforms that lead to a healthier, more broad-based economy for the people of Egypt.

QUESTION: My last question on Libya: You said that your priority now is to secure the evacuation of American citizens. Is this something that you were worried that the Libyan Government might retaliate from the American citizen if you speak up loudly or criticize them?

MR. CROWLEY: We obviously are concerned about the safety of our citizens. We’re working with the Libyan Government. They’ve pledged to support us in our evacuation, and we hope that cooperation will be forthcoming.

QUESTION: Real quick on Bahrain, do you have anything to say about the latest developments, the release or – what is it – yes, the release of prisoners, the efforts to start a dialogue by the government?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we commend the steps taken by King Hamad, as well as Crown Prince Salman and others, to restore calm to Bahrain, to allow peaceful demonstrations to take place. We review – we view recent announcements to launch a national dialogue and the release of political prisoners as positive steps towards addressing the concerns of Bahraini citizens.

This has got to be the last question.

QUESTION: On Egypt, back to Egypt. As you know, the Egyptian Government has given right of passage to Iranian warships to pass, to go through the Suez Canal. Are you worried if the – they apply the UN Security Council sanctions in inspecting the vessels – on inspecting the vessels? The UN Security Council resolutions have cautioned about inspecting Iranian vessels?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, at this point, we’ll continue to monitor the movement of these ships and their actions.

QUESTION: You don’t regard – you don’t share Israel’s fear – concern about this? You don’t think it’s a provocation?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, we will be watching carefully to see where these ships go and the implications of that.

QUESTION: But the mere fact that they’re transiting the canal into the Med doesn’t make you – you don’t see that as a --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, we, the United States, have for a long time supported freedom of navigation. So the decision to allow them to transit the canal is a decision between Iran and Egypt. Obviously, we have concerns about Iran’s behavior in the region. We will be watching carefully to see the implications of this ship.

QUESTION: But the mere fact of them going through – the Egyptians giving them permission and them – and those ships transiting, you do not see as a provocation?

MR. CROWLEY: That was a decision between Egypt and Iran.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the report that North Korea has proposed defense ministers talks with --

MR. CROWLEY: Has proposed what?

QUESTION: North Korea has proposed defense ministers talks with the United States.

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we have long supported dialogue between North and South Korea as a means of --

QUESTION: North Korea has proposed defense ministers talks with the United States.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, I know that. We support dialogue, period.

QUESTION: And the U.S. is (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: No. Right now, we’re focused on inter-Korean dialogue.

QUESTION: Another North Korea question?

MR. CROWLEY: Come on up. I got like, two minutes.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:55 p.m.)

DPB # 25

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - February 22, 2011]