The Middle East Digest provides text and audio from the Daily Press Briefing. For the full briefings, please visit daily press briefings.
From the Daily Press Briefing of December 14, 2009
MR. KELLY: Well, I haven’t heard that, Matt. One of them’s been released?
QUESTION: I don’t – I’m asking you.
MR. KELLY: That’s news to me.
QUESTION: Okay. What’s the status of the – of them then?
MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t really have any substantive update in terms of consular access to them. We’re – I don’t think they’ve had charges brought against them as well. We’ve had excellent cooperation with the Pakistani authorities both on the diplomatic side and on the law enforcement side, and the Pakistani authorities granted us access to the six individuals within 24 hours of our request, which is a very speedy response. But I don’t have any --
QUESTION: When was the last time they were seen?
MR. KELLY: I believe the last consular visit was on Friday.
QUESTION: So nothing since?
MR. KELLY: Nothing since that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Are you aware of the order barring their deportation?
MR. KELLY: I’ve just – I’ve seen it in the press that a Lahore court barred their deportation pending a review by the court. I don’t have any comment on that. It sounds to me to be a reasonable judicial procedure.
QUESTION: Ian, on that shipment of North Korean weapons --
QUESTION: Wait a minute, can we stay on this?
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Yeah, sure.
MR. KELLY: Charlie. Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can you tell us whether the U.S. Government has asked for their either deportation or extradition?
MR. KELLY: I am not aware that we have formally asked for their – they haven’t been charged --
QUESTION: I understand.
MR. KELLY: We can’t ask for their – for extradition unless there are charges pending, and there are no charges pending.
QUESTION: What about deporting? Can you ask for that?
MR. KELLY: I’m not sure that we would ask for deportation, frankly.
QUESTION: Well, have you asked for their release?
MR. KELLY: I think we are just – we’re – right now, we are in the process of working with the Pakistani authorities to determine their legal status, and formal charges haven’t been brought.
QUESTION: What would be the next step for the next consular access that they have? Do you have to request that, or do they say they want to talk to a consular official? When does that happen?
MR. KELLY: I mean, normally, the way it works is we make the request for consular access. And I’m not sure we’ve even asked for another visit with them.
QUESTION: Do you make the request only if you think that there’s something new that needs to be done, or is there a standard procedure whereby you see them every few days?
MR. KELLY: I’m not so sure that there’s a standard procedure. Of course, what we’re interested in is that their legal rights are being respected, that local law is being followed, and that they have access to legal counsel. And we normally provide them with a list of lawyers who are available in the matter that they’re being held for.
QUESTION: Okay. So – and you’re satisfied for the moment that all of those conditions are being met?
MR. KELLY: I believe so. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you say just whether, in the past week that you’ve been doing this investigation with the Pakistanis, whether your concern about what they were up to has increased or decreased?
MR. KELLY: I don’t – I think that’s really a question for the Department of Justice, Kirit. I can’t answer that.
QUESTION: Why has the U.S. Government not come to their aid as quick as – or as quick as in other cases, because they haven’t done anything wrong, or it hasn’t been found that they’ve done anything wrong yet?
MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t agree with you that we haven’t acted quickly. I think we’ve acted very quickly on this. As I said before, our obligations are to work with the local authorities to ensure that whatever charges are brought against them are done in accordance with due process and with local law, and that the conditions they’re being held under are decent conditions. And those particular conditions have been met.
QUESTION: What is the U.S.’s role in the conflict in Yemen right now, if there is any involvement? And what’s the reaction to the number of civilians that have been killed there?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think we are concerned about the – with the conflict there, and we’re concerned about the impact on the civilian population. We have called on the – for hostilities to cease, and we’ve called for the need – or we’ve highlighted the need for humanitarian relief organizations to have access to the conflict area. We’re also concerned about the damage to homes and to civilian infrastructure. And I would just – I’d also point out that to date we’ve provided almost $9 million to assist Yemenis displaced by the recent fighting.
QUESTION: Okay. So it’s only just humanitarian efforts right now?
MR. KELLY: Right now, that is our focus. We are concerned about the people who have been displaced, and we’re concerned about getting basic human necessities and medical care to these people who have been displaced.
MR. KELLY: Well, I think I’m going to let the Secretary’s words speak for themselves. I think what we’re all talking about is the need for unity in the international community in sending a very clear message to Iran that they need to abide by the wishes of the international community to make their nuclear energy program more transparent, and to engage with us as we’ve offered to do, and implement a very reasonable proposal that was made in Vienna, which would help us raise that level of confidence in the real intentions of their program, at the same time helping the Iranians with their own humanitarian needs.
And I think that we’re still focused on our dual-track approach, a willingness to engage, but also at the same time, also looking at other options, what we call the pressure track. And I think we’ve seen that Iran has had a very difficult time coming up with a positive answer to this very reasonable proposal of the IAEA. And you’ve also seen what the President has said is that we’re willing to give them some time. The engagement door will remain open. But the longer they take to get to yes on our offer of engagement, the more we’re going to look at the pressure track. And I think that all countries should be aware of that.
QUESTION: So in the case of, for instance, she mentioned specifically Bolivia, which presumably, doesn’t have a big hand in Iran’s nuclear program, what kinds of consequences does Bolivia face if they just are being friendly with Iran generally?
MR. KELLY: Well, you’re asking me to get into the specifics of what kind of options we would look at under the pressure track, and I’m just not prepared to do that right now.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on that real quick?
MR. KELLY: Kirit, yeah.
QUESTION: Has there been anything over the past week or so, or even the last couple of days, that has led you to believe Iran might take you up on the LEU offer? And can you tell us if there’s a P-5+1 meeting in the cards in the next week or so?
MR. KELLY: Regarding the first question, the short answer is no. I mean, I don’t think we’ve seen much to really give us much encouragement that they will accept this very reasonable proposal of the IAEA.
Regarding a P-5+1 meeting, I think that it’s been decided that because of scheduling difficulties, that it won’t be possible this year. I think that they will – they look forward to continuing to consult, as they do on a frequent basis, the political directors of the P-5+1. I would expect that they will continue to consult and probably have one more type – consultation probably by telephone before the end of the year.
QUESTION: End of the year or end of the week?
MR. KELLY: I think by the end of the year, not necessarily by the end of the week.
QUESTION: So who has the scheduling difficulties of each of the six parties?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think – well, we were ready to do it. I’m just – I’m not going to comment on what other countries may have had the scheduling difficulty.
QUESTION: China or Russia?
MR. KELLY: Again, I’m not going to comment on who may have had the difficulty.
QUESTION: Some of the other powers don’t consider it as big a priority as we do?
MR. KELLY: I’m not going to comment on that, Desmond. We are unified in our need to send a clear message to Iran that they have to oblige – or abide by their obligations.
QUESTION: They just can’t find the time?
MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: They just can’t find the time before the end of the year?
MR. KELLY: Well, no, they will find the time. Whether they can all come together in one place, I think – there’s a lot of traveling involved and a lot of scheduling, and telephone conversations are a lot easier to organize.
QUESTION: But Ian, this is a high priority. I mean --
MR. KELLY: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- we all know that there is a deadline that the President is talking about by the end of the year --
MR. KeLLY: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- for Iran to do what the world community wants it to do. So can we expect that there will be some type of movement quickly at the beginning of this coming year?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think – first of all, I think that the – as I suggested, I think that the political directors of the P-5+1 do still need to consult, and I think that will happen. It’s just not going to happen with the meeting. And no one has set a specific timetable for looking at other options. But the President’s made clear that his – that we will be looking, or shifting our focus more and more to the pressure track as Iran is unable to come up with a good answer.
QUESTION: What do you mean, no one set a specific timetable for looking at other options?
MR. KELLY: Well, the end of the year --
QUESTION: The guy who lives down the road has set one.
MR. KELLY: The end of the year. Is that what you mean, Matt?
QUESTION: Yeah. Is that not specific?
MR. KELLY: Well, that’s – yeah, okay, fair enough. He hasn’t given a date certainly, but – well, I guess December 31st is the date. Okay, your point is taken.
MR. KELLY: Well, I need just to say that this is a real priority not just for the Defense Department, for the State Department, too, to try and implement the President’s strategy. I think in regards – the actual physical logistics of how we get the people, especially soldiers, I mean, I can – we can talk to the State Department side of this, and we will, but for the Defense Department side of it, I think you’ve got to talk to the Pentagon on how they actually get each brigade and all the different troops that have been designated into the theater.
QUESTION: But do you believe that’s accurate now that the timeline has shifted? And does that make the exit strategy --
MR. KELLY: Again, I think that’s really – you’re asking me issues of the military implementation and the President’s strategy, so I really have to refer you to my colleagues at the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Yeah. At – the weekend, a number of Afghan police were killed by the Taliban. They were guarding, I think, NATO convoys into Afghanistan. What does this say about the readiness of the police? I mean, if they were designated to protect such convoys, they must have been considered pretty good by NATO. So doesn’t this say something – doesn’t it raise a red flag about training?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think that the Afghan Government and ISAF and the international community that’s participating in this effort are particularly concerned about Afghan policemen because they are – I mean, they are all over the country. Obviously, they provide a presence on the ground and they, of course, are vulnerable – perhaps the most vulnerable of all the security forces – and an important part of our transition to Afghanistan providing for their own security will be this police training effort.
Lach, I don’t know the details of this particular incident, so I don’t know what it says necessarily about their capability. But I do know that we are concerned about their vulnerability.