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 February 7, 2011
MR. CROWLEY: Moving on, the Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides is visiting Iraq this week to discuss transition issues and the future of the U.S.-Iraqi partnership under the auspices of the Strategic Framework Agreement. And he’ll meet a series of leaders this week, led by Foreign Minister Zebari.
And, finally, since you’ve been tracking the flow of U.S. citizens from Egypt, we had one flight over the weekend. And at this point, it’s our assessment that those Americans, either official or private, who need to -- who felt a need to -- or are a part of the ordered departure, have, in fact, left Egypt. At this point, we’re reducing our consular activity at the airport. American citizens that wish to travel to -- or travel from Egypt now, we believe there are sufficient commercial opportunities for them to do that.
QUESTION: Just on that -- on that last point.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: The USS Kearsarge had moved into the Red Sea, and there was some discussion that it was for the purpose of evacuating Americans from the Embassy or had something to do with the State Department’s evacuation efforts. Is that not the case?
MR. CROWLEY: Actually, I believe the -- we routinely have ships on station in the region. There are a variety of challenges in the region at this point, whether it’s Yemen or Somalia or Egypt or other things. The Kearsarge is in the Red Sea, I believe, but it has not been placed there at the request of the State Department.
QUESTION: P.J., without getting -- without repeating the well-worn talking points, which I’m sure you would love to do, without repeating them though, about orderly transition, et cetera, et cetera, free elections, does the Administration believe that Mubarak’s departure at this point would be unhelpful and might actually complicate the reforms?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we believe there should be an orderly transition -- hang on, Matt, I’m going to -- and who plays what role in that transition is up to the people of Egypt.
QUESTION: I’m not asking what --
MR. CROWLEY: I understand that.
QUESTION: I’m asking you if the Administration -- recognizing that you’re not telling the Egyptians what to do, is it the Administration’s view that his hasty departure could actually complicate matters?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, we’re not focused on personalities.
QUESTION: I’m not asking you if you’re focused on personalities.
MR. CROWLEY: And I’m trying to answer your question. There are things that have to be done to get to a free and fair, credible, and competitive election. There’s more than one path to get there. There’s plenty of room in this process for a variety of players. We want to have an inclusive process. The role that President Mubarak plays in this, the role that others play in this, those are decisions to be made inside Egypt.
QUESTION: But I’m not asking what role he should play. I’m not asking that at all. And I’m not suggesting that you’re -- that this has anything to do with broad, inclusive dialogue. I’m just asking if the Administration itself thinks that a hasty departure by Mubarak would complicate things.
MR. CROWLEY: I know you’re focused on President Mubarak. I mean --
QUESTION: It’s not – I’m --
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, but let me move beyond President Mubarak for a second.
QUESTION: But I’m not asking to move beyond President Mubarak.
MR. CROWLEY: No, no, but I --
QUESTION: I’m asking you about Mubarak.
MR. CROWLEY: Let me attempt to be responsive to your question.
QUESTION: Well, from what I’ve gotten so far, I’m not sure that’s possible. (Laughter.)
MR. CROWLEY: Thank you very much. Look, if President Mubarak stepped down today, under the existing constitution, as I understand it, there would have to be an election within 60 days. A question that that would pose is whether Egypt today is prepared to have a competitive, open election, given the recent past where, quite honestly, elections were less than free and fair. So there’s a lot of work that has to be done to get to a point where you can have free and fair elections, whether the focus is the parliament or the focus is the presidency. There is a clear opportunity here. We want to have Egypt take advantage of this opportunity. It’s why we’re encouraging a broad, serious set of discussions.
And there is clearly -- there are commitments that have been advanced in the last 24 hours by the Government of Egypt. It will be up to the Egyptian people and those who are in Tahrir Square and others to determine whether those commitments translate into real actions and whether that process is credible. Again, what role that President Mubarak plays in this is up to him and up to the people of Egypt.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you say that, why is it so hard for you to say that, yes, you think it would complicate things if he stepped down? Do you think Egypt can be ready -- if Mubarak stepped down today, could Egypt be ready for a free and fair and credible election in 60 days time?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that would be a challenging undertaking.
QUESTION: Okay. So why is it that difficult to get that out of you? I mean, you could have said that – the very first answer to my question.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Could you tell us where President Mubarak is?
MR. CROWLEY: It’s entirely possible the Embassy knows where he is. I do not.
QUESTION: P.J., could you talk about Ambassador Wisner – to clarify his role? Because there is a lot out there today about exactly what he was trying to do. But something pretty simple is the conflict of interest charges that he works for Patton Boggs, a company which represented – represents the Egyptian Government, so in other words, the person who is representing the United States is actually working for a law firm that represents Egypt. And is that not a conflict of interest?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me tackle that in two blocks. First, Frank Wisner made some comments on Saturday to the Munich conference. He did so as a private citizen and those views are his own, and they do not reflect the views of the United States Government. In terms of what he did last week, he is a private citizen, he gave generously of his time. We asked him to undertake a one-time mission. And during the course of that mission, he delivered a blunt and candid private message. And we feel he was uniquely positioned to deliver this message and have it heard by President Mubarak.
At the – when he came back, he briefed the Secretary on his discussions in Egypt. At that point, his mission was completed.
QUESTION: P.J., do you know if he was the lobbyist at the time when you had dispatched him?
MR. CROWLEY: We are aware of his employer. By the same token, we’re also aware he is a distinguished diplomat, former ambassador to Egypt, and we felt that he was uniquely positioned to have the kind of conversation that we felt needed to be done in Egypt.
QUESTION: When you say you were aware of his employer, you mean Patton Boggs, right?
QUESTION: So you don’t think that perhaps – could I just follow up, please? You didn’t feel that perhaps this conflict of interest could discolor his position as we have seen over the weekend?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’ve given you the answer I’m going to give you.
QUESTION: You say you were aware of his employer. You mean you were aware that he worked for Patton Boggs; correct?
MR. CROWLEY: We know Frank Wisner.
QUESTION: And then when you say that we sent him over, is “we” the State Department or the White House specifically? Who actually sent him there?
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, the United States Government did.
QUESTION: P.J. --
MR. CROWLEY: These – everything that we’re doing in the context of Egypt we do as an interagency. So the United States Government dispatched him, asked him to go, and he did what we asked him to do.
QUESTION: And then back on these comments that he made as a private citizen, do you think that those comments were helpful?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, they’re his own conversation, they’re his own comments, and they don’t reflect the views of the United States Government.
QUESTION: Well, P.J., you say that they don’t reflect the views of the Administration, but in answer to my question, finally, they seem pretty close to the Administration’s view. Wisner told the conference that Mubarak was critical to the transition process and that he shouldn’t step down – that if he stepped down, it would be – right now, it would be problematic. He cited the same constitutional concerns that you just did. You said that it would be challenging.
MR. CROWLEY: No, let me --
QUESTION: You said an election in 60 days would be challenging.
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a true statement.
QUESTION: Exactly, so – but it seems that Wisner does reflect the views of the – maybe you’re not so whole-hog supportive of Mubarak as – you wouldn’t consider him utterly critical, as Wisner said, but you certainly think that his departure would be a problem.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, you are focused on personalities. We are focused on an orderly transition and the process of making commitments, translating those commitments into specific actions, opening up Egypt for an open political dialogue – open political process, and the end result being free and fair elections. There’s a lot of work to be done to get from where we are today to what we support for the people of Egypt.
QUESTION: Sorry, P.J., what --
QUESTION: P.J., on the process issue, President Obama said this morning that he believed they were making progress in these transition talks, and I’m wondering what – if you share that view, what evidence the U.S. has that there is progress being made given that the opposition seemed to come away saying nothing had been achieved.
MR. CROWLEY: I mean, there are discussions underway, and last night, for example, Vice President Suleiman put forward at the end of a particular meeting some commitments that are – that can be part of this process. What’s important now is Egypt – the Egyptian Government needs to translate those commitments into specific actions. And it still has to find ways to make this – these meetings and these discussions more broadly representative. There is an expanding group of distinguished people that are included in this process, but there are also some people who either have not been invited in or have chosen to keep the process at arm’s length.
At the end of this, it’ll be the Egyptian people who judge whether this is a credible process and whether it fulfills their aspirations. We believe that the broader the process, the more inclusive the process, the more likely the result will be an open political campaign and free and fair elections.
QUESTION: Have you guys had any contact with the opposition figures who were involved in the talks or ones who weren’t? And what kind of feedback are they giving you? Are they --
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m – every day from the Embassy, starting from Ambassador Scobey on out, we are having active outreach to a variety of players within Egyptian society. I don’t want to get into a discussion on any given day as to – today we talked to this person, yesterday we talked to that person. We’re – this is a broad outreach and we’re encouraging them to test this process and make sure it delivers for the benefit of the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: P.J., do you think – will the Egyptians will be able to conduct free and fair elections if President Mubarak and his regime stay in power?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, the Egyptian people will be the judge of the process and then who plays a role in this process. There’s a great opportunity here for the Egyptian people. They’re standing up and demanding more of their government. To get to that point, they need a government that broadly represents a cross-section of Egyptian society. They need to seize this opportunity. How they do that is truly up to them. There’s not one way to accomplish this.
QUESTION: P.J., when you said a blunt and candid message, what was that message? And isn’t there anybody in this building who could deliver it pretty adequately, as opposed to Mr. Wisner?
MR. CROWLEY: Jill, we’re going to keep our – the messages that we’ve provided to President Mubarak and others, we’ll keep private.
QUESTION: Were you pleased with the message that he delivered? I was – I mean, was the Administration happy with the message and the way he delivered it?
MR. CROWLEY: He delivered the message that we asked him to deliver.
QUESTION: You mentioned the meeting that Suleiman had last night. Could you share with us, who did he meet with? Were there U.S. officials, locals? Who were they?
MR. CROWLEY: The meetings were with various opposition figures, the elders, and --
QUESTION: Are you speaking for Suleiman?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not. I’m just – I’m just saying that --
QUESTION: Oh, okay. I’m just curious as to why you would answer the question like that.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware there was anybody in the room. This is not our process. This is an Egyptian-led process.
QUESTION: Can you – you say that you were pleased? You said that Wisner delivered the message that you asked him to deliver to Mubarak and that you were pleased with that, you were happy with it?
MR. CROWLEY: No, I just said he delivered the message that we asked him to deliver.
QUESTION: Well, right. I mean, he – well, okay. The message that he delivered to the security conference on Saturday, were you happy with that?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ve been over – I’ve plowed that ground.
QUESTION: Well, fair enough. But I mean, here’s a private citizen making some comments, and yet you felt compelled, in the middle of the night where we were in Munich, to put out a statement disassociating yourself from him --
MR. CROWLEY: So now --
QUESTION: -- reminding everyone that he was a private --
MR. CROWLEY: -- whenever we do meeting notes, I’ve got to have a Matt clock, and depending on where you are, they’ve got to be --
QUESTION: Well, it doesn't matter. I mean, it was – the point of it is not when it came out, but there was obviously some --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, always – there was a point. You – this middle-of-night thing.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you were at dinner. But anyway, the point of the matter is that it obviously caused some consternation and you felt the need to remind the world that Frank Wisner is not an employee of --
MR. CROWLEY: We need to make sure from now on Matt gets to clear our statements and their timing before we do anything. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’m not concerned about the timing, honestly. Why did you feel the need to remind the world that Frank Wisner is not an employee of the government and that his views don’t reflect the views of the Administration, even though they clearly do?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that is what you say. I mean, clearly having just done a specific mission on behalf of the United States Government, we wanted to be clear that there was separation between the mission we asked him to do and his own views of how the situation was perceived.
QUESTION: Okay. So you were concerned that people would perceive his comments as those reflective of --
MR. CROWLEY: We wanted to make sure that his appearance to the Munich conference was his own and differentiate from formal U.S. participants.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton – not this past weekend but the weekend before – told Candy Crowley, “Look what we have. We have an event on the calendar.” And she made reference to the upcoming presidential elections in Egypt. And Ambassador Wisner’s remarks seem aligned with those remarks in the sense that both are saying, in essence, let’s keep who the president is now president until those elections arrive.
Is it still then the view of Secretary Clinton that we should wait for that – that calendar event should remain where it is?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, these are decisions for the Egyptian people. What she was saying was there already is one action-forcing event on the calendar, and that can be helpful in driving the process forward. Now, there are many, many steps that have to happen as we go through – or as Egypt goes through this transition. Judgments have to be made on the emergency law. And we’ve called repeatedly over the years for the emergency law to be rescinded. That’s one issue that bears on the environment through which this election campaign will take place. There are constitutional adjustments that have to be made to enable an open political campaign to occur.
There may be judgments about what to do about the sitting parliament which came into being through an election process that was less than free and fair. The opposition figures have to decide how they’re going to participate in this political process, how they coalesce around particular segments of Egyptian society. It’s not for us to have a list that says you must do A, B, C, D, and E by this particular date. These are judgments to be made by the Egyptian people. If they want to hold to the existing schedule, that’s their decision. If they want to advance the schedule, that’s their decision. What we want to make sure is there is a real transition that leads to fundamental change and a political process that produces a credible, free, and fair election.
QUESTION: But implicit in Secretary Clinton’s remark – implicit in Secretary Clinton’s remark was the suggestion that the kind of elections you would like to see happen could conceivably be conducted in the period of time between the time she said it to Candy Crowley and the date of the election. She wouldn't hold it out there as a useful or potentially helpful event on the calendar if she didn’t think that that would be a suitable period of time in which to hold the kind of elections you imagine, yes?
MR. CROWLEY: Just to reinforce what I said a moment ago, there’s a great opportunity here for the Egyptian people to have a greater say in who will lead their country in the future. They need to seize this opportunity. They need to join this transition process. They need to test the seriousness of the government and others that they will participate in a peaceful democratic process. The sooner this can happen, the better. The Egyptian people, including those are even as we speak standing in Tahrir Square, they are crying for change. They are crying for a government that is more responsive to their aspirations. We identify with those aspirations. Now there has to be the hard work of building a process and making the fundamental changes necessary to produce free and fair elections.
QUESTION: Doable within eight months, she suggested. Correct?
MR. CROWLEY: It is doable within eight months but a lot depends on what happens from this point forward.
QUESTION: It doesn’t seem like you have the urgency that – the Administration as a whole, it doesn’t seem there’s that urgency there that we heard last week, when we kept hearing change has to begin now; the process has to begin now. Is – was there concern it was moving too fast?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, and – no, but there are steps being taken. And our concern is that the – so far, the discussions that are happening are not broad-based enough. And this does have an issue ultimately as to whether the people of Egypt will see this as a credible process. There are people who have not been invited in. And this needs to be inclusive. There are people who are holding the transition process at arm’s length because they don’t believe it’s going to be credible. And our advice would be test the seriousness of the government and those who are participating to see if it can deliver. And from this, people have confidence that change is actually going to occur.
QUESTION: So it was moving too fast?
MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?
QUESTION: You think it was moving too fast there?
MR. CROWLEY: No, I think we want to see this move expeditiously, as the Secretary stressed in her various interviews yesterday.
QUESTION: Who is being excluded? Who’s – actually, who is not being invited?
MR. CROWLEY: There are major figures in Egyptian society that we think have – should be able to play a role in this, and so far they have not been invited.
QUESTION: Can you tell us who they are exactly?
QUESTION: President Mubarak held his first cabinet meeting today. He also ordered a full investigation into the corruption of his previous ministers. How do you see this? Is this a step to consolidate his power or is it a step in the right direction?
MR. CROWLEY: Again, I mean, our advice to any government anywhere in the world is to fight corruption, reduce corruption, challenge corruption wherever it occurs. It undermines effective governance. So any government that embraces a need for full accountability has our support.
QUESTION: No, but the fact that he was presiding over a meeting today publicly – there’s pictures of him – it doesn’t give us an impression that he’s going to leave anytime soon.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, I can’t stress often enough these are decisions to be made by President Mubarak and by the people of Egypt. It’s not for us to dictate what happens in Egypt. But this has to be a real process. I mean, we do have a sense of urgency, not so much in the timeline as in where this process is actually seen as credible and seen as delivering change as the people of Egypt have embraced.
QUESTION: Regarding credibility, we are still seeing a crackdown on journalists, so how can people believe in the changes of this government –
MR. CROWLEY: And this is one of the ongoing concerns that we have, that there are some elements within Egyptian society – they’re cracking down on journalists even as we speak. They’re cracking down on other figures within civil society. And this undercuts the ability to demonstrate that real change is forthcoming.
QUESTION: But does it mean that the government is responsible for this crackdown?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we’re concerned about the crackdown on journalists or crackdown on democracy advocates or crackdown on bloggers or crackdown on ordinary citizens by whatever authority directed it. Clearly, there seemed last week to us to us to be a campaign, a concerted effort, to interfere with the work of journalists. Your colleagues that have been released, we fully anticipate will be sharing their experiences and who they feel are responsible. We’ve made that clear – the Secretary, in her discussion with the prime minister over the weekend – that these actions need to stop.
QUESTION: On the Google executive who was released, do you have a reaction?
QUESTION: P.J., just one more on this – on the meetings with the opposition. When you say that there are actually people who are not being invited in, major figures, does the U.S. have confidence in Vice President Suleiman that he is legitimately carrying out a credible process, I mean, if right from the get-go they’re not inviting people in?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, that is something that we will be watching very carefully as it unfolds.
QUESTION: On the Google executive, do you have any reaction to his release?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as I just said, Secretary Clinton delivered a firm message to prime minister this weekend that these actions are counterproductive and they need to stop. And so we, of course, for anyone, whether it’s a journalist, an activist, or anyone else that has been unjustly detained, we’re gratified that they’ve been released. But we have made clear the Egyptian Government that these actions need to stop.
QUESTION: Is the Department hearing from corporations, U.S. corporations that do business overseas in the Middle East, and particularly in Egypt, about threats to their employees, their personnel, their executives?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, it’s contrary to where Egyptian society needs to go. Go back to the Secretary’s comments this weekend.
QUESTION: Are you hearing from corporations to that effect?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can’t give you a catalogue of conversations that we’ve had. I would say that certainly it calls into question the pledge of political and economic reform that President Mubarak himself made last week. And – but again, it’s not just for us to judge this. It’s really for those who seek to open up Egyptian society for more political activity, more economic activity, to be able to meet the needs of a young population.
To generate job growth and economic opportunity, you need to have significant investment by the private sector. Anytime you have a situation where corporate representatives or other members of civil society are being shaken down, detained, or attacked, it’s going to have an impact. Capital’s going to go where it’s comfortable, and if you don’t have a right dynamic inside your society, chances are you’re not going to achieve the economic growth that your population desperately needs.
QUESTION: P.J., related to --
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
QUESTION: No, no, no. No, no, no. We’re not nearly done with this. Can I just broaden this out a little bit? What, if any, special efforts are you making to explain your position or your – the Administration’s policy to other Arab leaders in the region?
MR. CROWLEY: I believe --
QUESTION: And have there been any efforts --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, put it this way. I believe the Secretary said on the airplane – you may have heard her say that within the State Department and the White House and DOD, we’re in touch with almost everybody around the world that we can touch base with. So we have broad contacts in the region, and we are encouraging governments to understand what is happening. The people of the region are standing up. They’re demanding more of their government. They’re demanding a greater role in determining the direction of their government. And it’s important for these countries to respond to these aspirations.
QUESTION: So there’s no special effort that you’re aware of?
MR. CROWLEY: We are in touch on a continual basis with our friends in the region.
QUESTION: There’s no – I understand that there’s an emissary of some sort meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia, who is currently in Morocco. Is that not the case?
MR. CROWLEY: I do not know.
QUESTION: Do you deal with that as a region-wide issue, or are you waiting to deal with each country as it goes through its own upheaval?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, those are not mutually exclusively. As the Secretary said in Doha, there’s a broad regional challenge from the Gulf to North Africa, that you’ve got young populations, highly educated. And country by country, they’re not generating the economic opportunity or political opportunity that the young people in the region want and deserve. How that unfolds will vary country to country. The challenge in Morocco is not the same as the challenge in Yemen. Tunisia is a country with a fairly significant middle class. Yemen is the poorest country in the region. So the solutions will differ from one to the other. But it is vitally important for governments to respond to this new dynamic in the region.
QUESTION: P.J., Iran has considered itself winning in the region. And they --
MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, Iran what?
QUESTION: Considered itself winning in the region, and the U.S. is failing, they said. Do you have anything --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think we want to see democracy win in the region. And clearly what Iran did in June of 2009 undercut any democratic processes that we’re familiar with.
QUESTION: Speaking of Iran, do you have anything on the trial of the hikers?
QUESTION: Just wait. Still on Egypt.
MR. CROWLEY: All right, Josh.
QUESTION: Thank you. Many of the activists and journalists released over the weekend said that the Egyptian military was directly involved in their arrest, detention, and interrogation. Last week from this podium, you praised the stance of the Egyptian military as being neutral arbiters. I’m wondering if you have a revised assessment and whether or not you condemn their direct involvement in these activities.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, as I just said, Josh, we condemn any authority that was responsible for the detention, interference, and abuse of journalists, bloggers, activists, whoever was caught up in this activity last week. We have heard those same reports that perhaps there were military police involved at some point in time. Now, having said that, we also recognize that it was military units that responded, I think, to the Hilton, was it, where there were concerns about security there, and many of your colleagues were residing there. You look at the military performance in Tahrir Square, it was very constructive. So I would say that to the extent that there were elements within the military that participated in these abuses of journalists and others last week, they should be held fully accountable. By the same token, when you look at the streets of Cairo over the past several days since the violence on Wednesday, the military did play a constructive role.
QUESTION: And have you raised this in your contacts with Egyptian military representatives, which are obviously ongoing?
MR. CROWLEY: We – yes.
QUESTION: And you thought that it was important Friday --
QUESTION: The hiker trial.
MR. CROWLEY: All right. We are aware that the trial is proceeding. I think there is -- it’s underway, but I believe that there has been a continuance. And we continue to call on the Government of Iran to release the two hikers. They’ve been in custody for far too long.
QUESTION: There is a report that says in -- on Iraq or Iran?
QUESTION: Just one more quick one on Iran. Do you know -- was anyone from the protective authority, the Swiss, allowed in the courtroom? Are you aware if there was anyone?
MR. CROWLEY: I think that -- I don’t know. The Swiss are trying to find out the status of the ongoing proceeding. I’m not aware that they were in the courtroom.
QUESTION: There was a report on Iraq on the weekend that Ambassador James Jeffrey has said that the U.S. troops might stay in Iraq beyond 2011, and there is a new threat to regional stability. Can you confirm that or talk to the --
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I’m not familiar with Ambassador Jeffrey -- I know he was here last week and testified before the Hill. He might have been responding to questions that were posed to him from senators who have asked questions about military presence.
Look, we are proceeding based on an existing Strategic Framework Agreement and Status of Forces Agreement, which says that all military forces will be out of Iraq by the end of this year. We are working on that transition where many of the activities that have been performed by military personnel will be performed by State Department personnel. So we’re proceeding on the current strategy. We’re going to have a long-term partnership between the United States and Iraq. And we’ll define with Iraq going forward, the nature of that relationship. To the extent that we have military cooperation going forward, we’ll be happy to have that discussion with the Government of Iraq.
QUESTION: On Pakistan, the widow of one of the two individuals that was killed in Lahore last month by the American there has apparently committed suicide. I trust you have some reaction to that.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we are aware of this. And it is clearly a tragedy for that family. The matter of the deaths of three individuals involving our diplomats is still under investigation.
QUESTION: P.J. --
MR. CROWLEY: But that said, we continue to make clear to the Government of Pakistan that our diplomat has diplomatic immunity, in our view was acting in self-defense, and should be released. Pakistan should fulfill its international obligations under the Vienna Convention. Ambassador Munter met today with President Zardari to continue to make that point.
QUESTION: P.J., sorry, just to follow up on that, did the Secretary bring that up with Kayani when they met in Munich? And there’s been some suggestion that this whole incident has kind of slowed down U.S.-Pakistan contacts, some meetings may have been canceled or postponed because this situation hasn’t been resolved. Has there been any sort of effect like that?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Secretary had a discussion with General Kayani on the margins of the Munich Security Conference. Ambassador Munter talked to President Zardari today. The Secretary talked to President Zardari last week. So we continue to have contacts with our Pakistani counterparts, and we continue to emphasize the importance of resolving this case.
QUESTION: How about further down the line though? Have there been any slowdown on sort of contacts at a lower level, because this issue remains unresolved?
MR. CROWLEY: We continue to have contacts with the Pakistani Government. We continue to express to them the importance of resolving this. And we continue to express to them the fact that our U.S. diplomat has diplomatic immunity and should be released.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, did you say that she had -- the Secretary had mentioned this to General Kayani.
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: She did.
QUESTION: And did she mention it on the phone call as well with Zardari?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
MR. CROWLEY: The phone call with President Zardari was largely about this issue.
QUESTION: Okay. Hold on a second, I want to follow up on something real quick. There are several Pakistani officials now who are challenging your -- or the U.S. Government’s, I guess, take on what exactly happened, saying that the two individuals who were pursuing him were not robbers, were actually members of the ISI. Do you have anything to say about that? Do you stand by your version of events?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: That they were robbers?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: Were the robbers ISI as well?
MR. CROWLEY: Again --
QUESTION: Were they robbing members of --
MR. CROWLEY: Again we have heard those media stories. I don’t think that we have information on that.
QUESTION: Sorry, wait. You don’t have any information to support that, or do you find them not credible?
MR. CROWLEY: We don’t find them credible.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more on this too? There’s also a report that three more consular officials are now not allowed to leave the country because of the ensuing chaos where they allegedly hit a civilian.
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of that.
QUESTION: On the Quartet, is there a particular position for – of the United States that is more important than other position that will be discussed?
MR. CROWLEY: I’m not sure I understand the question.
QUESTION: Okay, let me rephrase it. Do you have a particular point that you want to raise in these meetings? Is there any particular point?
MR. CROWLEY: I missed the predicate.
QUESTION: The predicate the Quartet meeting.
MR. CROWLEY: What about the Quartet meeting?
QUESTION: About the Quartet meeting, is there something that you – because the Palestinians are saying that they are disappointed in the Quartet, and the Quartet has not delivered on its framework and so on. So is there any particular point that you want to raise in the meeting?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, we haven’t changed our view that we do want to see a framework agreement. We will continue to work with the parties on particular issues. We recognize that in order to reach a framework agreement, at some point, there has to be a return to direct negotiations. We do recognize that it was a challenging situation before recent events in the regions, become perhaps more complex as a result of recent events, and we will continue to engage and work through these issues.
QUESTION: Okay, so you see the Quartet as a place where you can push for direct negotiations?
MR. CROWLEY: We continue to believe that the Quartet has a constructive role to play, yes.
QUESTION: The van that went through the city and plowed into people, it looked like an embassy van. And the State Department said – or the embassy said that it – that vans had been stolen and damaged. And I wanted to find out – at that point they said it was absolutely, categorically, not correct that there were any U.S. employees involved? Is – could it – could there have been any local hire U.S. embassy employees? And also, is there any better explanation as to how that many vans were either taken or damaged? Twenty seems like a lot.
MR. CROWLEY: I don't have an explanation as to how that happened, other than someone broke into our facility.