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Middle East Digest - March 7, 2011


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Washington, DC
March 7, 2011

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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 March 7, 2011

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MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador Marc Grossman is in Islamabad today, returning to the country where he served in his first assignment in the Foreign Service from 1977 to 1979. Since arriving yesterday, he’s had a full schedule of meetings, including President Zardari, Prime Minister Gilani, Finance Minister Shaikh, Foreign Secretary Bashir, Deputy Foreign Minister Khar, as well as opposition leader Nawaz Sharif. In the meetings, he conveyed condolences for the murder of Minister Bhatti and underscored the – that the U.S. and Pakistan have a broad-based, mutually beneficial relationship and a common goal: a democratic, stable, and prosperous Pakistan. But he also stressed the importance of resolving the case of Raymond Davis and stressed again that Mr. Davis, as a staff member of the U.S. Embassy has full immunity from criminal prosecution.

MR. CROWLEY: And finally, just to put a little bit of additional texture into the White House announcement a bit ago, the President has approved $15 million in emergency funds for the – to deal with the humanitarian needs of Libya. The 15 million will go to support ongoing activities of the International Organization for Migration, the UNHCR, the High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross. This is in addition to the $15 million that we’ve already committed. Ten million of that was for USAID and five million for IOM.

Our focus – as you know, we had eight military flights over the weekend ferrying Egyptian citizens home to Egypt from Tunisia. The current immediate need regards citizens of Bangladesh. There are approximately 12,000 third-country nationals currently in the transit camp; most of them are from Bangladesh. And we have an additional 3,700 Bangladeshis out of 4,500 individuals at the Egypt-Libya border. So working with the international agencies I just mentioned, an immediate focus will be to try to help transport these Bangladeshis back home. We have our teams are on the ground in Tunisia and Egypt evaluating the ongoing situation.

QUESTION: P.J., before getting to a call with Juppé and the implications of that, I just wanted you to get a chance – Mark said on the conference call earlier that the – this story that appeared in the British newspaper over the weekend about the U.S. asking the Saudis to give arms to the Libyan rebels, he said that that was inaccurate and said that you might have something more to say about that.

MR. CROWLEY: I will just reiterate what he said.

QUESTION: Well, the reason I’m even asking this, first, is because at the White House, the spokesman there, when he was asked, gave the response, “I have nothing for you on that,” which, to my mind, was either the refuge of the – is the refuge of the inept or scoundrel. Is there anything to this? It’s less than a non-denial denial.

MR. CROWLEY: No, no. Well --

QUESTION: Can you put a stake through the heart of this story or --

MR. CROWLEY: Yes. Well, it’s very simple. In the UN Security Council resolution passed on Libya, there is an arms embargo that affects Libya, which means it’s a violation for any country to provide arms to anyone in Libya. So it’s not true.

QUESTION: Okay, all right.

QUESTION: And you’re not – so then you’re not going to ever consider arming the rebels?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I can repeat if you want.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. CROWLEY: It would be illegal for the United States to do that.

QUESTION: So that you’re eliminating that as an option?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it’s not a legal option.

QUESTION: Well, but the --

QUESTION: So you’re not going to do it?

QUESTION: Your counterpart at the White House said that arming the rebels – he said all options are on the table.

MR. CROWLEY: Yes.

QUESTION: And that that is one of them.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay. I haven’t seen a transcript.

QUESTION: You’re saying it’s – it would be illegal and the U.S. would not violate --

MR. CROWLEY: My understanding is that the UN Security Council imposed an arms embargo on Libya. It’s not on the Government of Libya. It’s on Libya. And as Ambassador Ivo Daalder said in his call a short time ago, the focus of NATO is how to look for ways in which – to enforce that arms embargo.

QUESTION: All right. So then getting to the phone call, her phone call with Juppé, and perhaps a broader issue, the French and the Brits are drafting or already have drafted a Security Council resolution that would authorize a no-fly zone. Would the United States – will the United States support this resolution?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it is something that we have under active consideration. As the Secretary has said, I think Ambassador Daalder himself affirmed that that is something that we would like to see should the international community feel that a no-fly zone is appropriate and necessary.

QUESTION: So --

MR. CROWLEY: So that remains an option under consideration, and if that option advances, we would like to see it preceded by a UN Security Council resolution.

QUESTION: Recognizing that you don’t have a full readout of the call yet with Juppé, was this – do you know if this subject came up at all?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sure they talked about Libya. I don’t know precisely how much detail they went in.

QUESTION: P.J., on the call --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: P.J., can you talk about whether the Administration has had a chance to review the decrees put out by this internal transitional national council? Apparently, they sent a note to the Administration, to Secretary Clinton and President Obama, detailing that they are the legitimate representatives of the Libyan people, naming people who are representing from each of the towns and who it’s headed by. It seems as if the opposition is organizing itself a little bit more. Does the Administration recognize this group as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, or do you continue to recognize the Qadhafi government as the legitimate representative of the Libyan people, even though the President and the Secretary have said that he does not have authority to lead?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we – as we said, we think that the Qadhafi regime, having turned its weapons on its people, have lost its legitimacy. But as I said last week, there’s also legal issues involved in recognizing or de-recognizing governments. We are, as we’ve indicated over several days, been aggressively reaching out to individuals who either are connected with the opposition or have insights into the emerging opposition, and that would include the council.

QUESTION: Well, apparently –

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I finish? Apparently, all of the organizations – all of the embassies whose ambassadors kind of switched sides, if you will, from the government to the opposition. They are recognizing them as their legitimate --

MR. CROWLEY: I do understand that.

QUESTION: So what is the status of Ambassador Aujali? Are you still recognizing him as the legitimate representative or the – of the Libyan people? Or have you had new communications with the Libyan Government that would indicate otherwise?

MR. CROWLEY: I will take the question of communications. Ambassador Aujali is somebody that we have been in touch with. For the moment, he remains the chief of the Libyan mission here in Washington. We have had discussions with him and others about this emerging council, but I believe he’s made public statements of support for. We are still in the process of gaining greater understanding and perspective of the opposition, including the composition of this particular group.

QUESTION: I – just one more. I understand that there – as you said, there are legal issues about the recognizing or unrecognizing governments. But just given the fact, as I said, that the President and the Secretary have said that, and you just said, that Qadhafi has used force against his own people and lost his authority and legitimacy to lead, why does it need to be a legal definition as to whether you communicate with his government?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but you --

QUESTION: Why can’t you just call it communications with the government and start dealing with these people or an opposition --

MR. CROWLEY: I think I just acknowledged that we are having conversations with a wide range of opposition figures, including those who either are members of or supportive of this council.

QUESTION: Are you continuing to communicate with the government?

MR. CROWLEY: All right. However, the emerging opposition includes a wide range of figures – political figures, tribal figures – so if you’re asking has the United States recognized a particular group as representing the opposition, we have not yet.

QUESTION: Are you saying that –

QUESTION: What indications, P.J. --

QUESTION: All right, hold on a second. Are you saying that it’s been a – it’s now been a week since you got that fax. You still hasn’t been able to verify that it came from the Libyan foreign minister?

MR. CROWLEY: We have not made any final determination on that fax.

QUESTION: You got another fax yesterday, though, from Musa Kusa, didn’t you?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of another fax.

QUESTION: Have you gotten any kind of a follow-up diplomatic note?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: When was the last time you had communications with Musa Kusa?

MR. CROWLEY: I took that question.

QUESTION: P.J., clarification on arming of the rebels? Now, you’re saying that the embargo includes Libya and not any particular government in Libya. Suppose that you have a –

MR. CROWLEY: My understanding --

QUESTION: Your understanding.

MR. CROWLEY: -- is that there’s an arms embargo regarding Libya.

QUESTION: Covers the whole of Libya.

MR. CROWLEY: Right.

QUESTION: Now, suppose there is a declaration of a liberated Libya, portions – or portions thereof as liberated, and people that you are communicating with. Then will they be entitled, let’s say, to being armed? Will they be entitled to another UN Security Council resolution – should be covered by another UN Security Council resolution? How do you see – if you can clarify to us, how do you see arming the rebels, should they ask for armament?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there is an existing UN Security Council resolution, and that existing UN Security Council resolution imposed an arms embargo. As events go forward, I can’t predict what is going to happen. We certainly would like to see the situation in Libya resolved without further violence, without further bloodshed. As we have indicated, to us the best way to accomplish that is for Mr. Qadhafi to step aside and then allow for a peaceful transition to a new government and a democratic government in Libya.

So we are focused on that, we’re focused on the humanitarian situation, but we will continue to consult with the international community. And as we’ve said, there are a range of alternatives that are available to us. But right now, based on the existing Security Council resolution, that would not include arming any group in Libya.

QUESTION: Are we – just a quick follow-up. Yeah, just a quick follow-up. Conceivably, suppose this – the rebels in Benghazi or whatever you want to call them – suppose they declare themselves as the government, and this government receives recognition. Then conceivably, they can ask for armament and they would be armed, correct?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, you’re asking me to predict exactly what’s going to happen, and we will consult within the international community, including the UN, including the Arab League, including others who have an interest in the future of Libya. And we’ll take appropriate action as an international community in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions, whether there’s one or whether there’s others in the future.

QUESTION: P.J., are we not sending a mixed message? Because at the White House, Jay said that, to quote him, “It will be premature to send a bunch of weapons to a post office box.” And everything is – so this is his quote.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, what – I’m not – a UN Security Council resolution can be amended with – depending on the situation, depending on consultations that we have with the region and with the international community. So – but I was asked, would we arm rebels today? The answer is, today, based on the UN Security Council resolution, that is not permitted. But --

QUESTION: So are you considering –

MR. CROWLEY: But depending on how events unfold, there are a wide range of options available to the international community.

QUESTION: P.J., every time this – the issue of the no-fly zone is raised, you refer to international community. Well, the U.S. is part of that international community. So what’s the position of your government? Do you think this is the time now, is it the right time, to impose a no-fly zone within some international framework?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that remains --

QUESTION: I’m talking about the American position.

MR. CROWLEY: That is an option available to the international community. And as Ambassador Daalder said, there is planning going on to develop options for the President, other leaders, as they continue to evaluate what is happening in Libya. What is happening in Libya is of great concern to us, so we do note, notwithstanding Ambassador Daalder’s assessment, that in the last couple of days, there have been less employment of air power than had been the case last week.

Nonetheless, there is violence that is ongoing being directed at the Libyan people and those who are standing in opposition to the existing government. That is of great concern to us. We are doing everything we can to address the humanitarian situation in Libya. And at the same time, options are being developed within the – within NATO, should NATO be called upon to undertake any kind of operation. And there are ongoing discussions within the United Nations about next steps, including a no-fly zone.

QUESTION: So you’re just waiting for other partners to decide before making any position on the issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, this would be something that could not be accomplished by one country alone. To put on a no-fly zone, you have to have sufficient aircraft with sufficient capabilities, you’ve got to have a basing structure. So this is something that has to be undertaken by a collection of countries. There are a wide range of ways to do that. At the same time, we want to make sure that whatever step the international community takes, including the United States, it has regional support.

And the issue of a no-fly zone or the issue of any use of significant military force in the context of Libya is something that we are discussing, but obviously, something that is of concern to a variety of countries and organizations, including the Arab League.

QUESTION: So is it safe to say that the U.S. Government hasn’t made a final decision on the issue of the no-fly zone?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, it would be safe to say that we are consulting broadly within the international community, including countries in the region, and we want to make sure that whatever action is taken has support in the region and around the world.

QUESTION: So do you think the Thursday meeting of the NATO could be decisive on that issue?

MR. CROWLEY: As Ambassador Daalder said in his call, defense ministers will meet on Thursday, and in the meantime, NATO will continue to develop this planning further.

QUESTION: P.J., is it your position that NATO could only undertake such a no-fly zone at the request of the UN? Is it your position that only a UN resolution could lead to – authorize NATO to undertake such --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, there are historical examples of where there has been and has not been a formal UN Security Council resolution. If we determine, along with other countries, that this step is necessary, we certainly would favor a UN Security Council resolution if consensus could be built for that.

QUESTION: P.J., the --

QUESTION: Just staying on --

QUESTION: -- GCC foreign ministers have asked the UN Security Council to --

MR. CROWLEY: Michel, I missed the first part.

QUESTION: Yeah, GCC foreign ministers have asked the Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

MR. CROWLEY: Again, this is something that we have under active consideration, and we are consulting broadly to see what views exist. The GC – I haven’t seen that statement, but we have other statements by the Arab League that express some concern about this, but this is why we are consulting broadly to make sure that whatever steps are taken, we have the broadest possible international support.

QUESTION: So P.J. (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Just say – can you just say that you could impose a no-fly zone even without a Security Council resolution? Could that be the case?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m saying – I’m just saying that if you look back in history, there have been example – there has usually been some sort of international consensus for action, but there are examples of where – one example in the context of Bosnia was an action taken by NATO --

QUESTION: Yeah, because Secretary Gates --

MR. CROWLEY: -- not by the Security Council.

QUESTION: Yeah, Secretary Gates in the Senate actually said – and in a clear voice – that to impose the no-fly zone, you need a mandate from the Security Council.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as I said, we would prefer to have Security Council backing for whatever steps are taken, and there’s a discussion going underway. But within the Security Council, no surprise, there are still a range of views on this and other steps.

QUESTION: I’d like to ask you one question quickly. Mr. Qadhafi was a good friend of the United States and also a good --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry, what?

QUESTION: Mr. Qadhafi was a good friend of the United States and also diplomatic relations. My question is that --

MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I’m not necessarily sure there’s a lot of historical support for the term, “good friend.” (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, do you – now, do you have --

MR. CROWLEY: We had diplomatic relations with Libya.

QUESTION: But let me ask you just quickly: Does anybody in the U.S. Government has any kind of direct or indirect connections with his government, or do you still recognize his government?

QUESTION: Well, can we just --

MR. CROWLEY: All right. We – I mean, we --

QUESTION: P.J., (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: We still have the ability to talk to the Government of Libya if we choose.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: Can I go back (inaudible) Senator Kerry?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Senator Kerry said the other day that the Administration should release some of the frozen (inaudible) $30 billion worth to the opposition groups in Libya. Is there any plans --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Sorry, excuse me.

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah, Kerry said what?

QUESTION: Senator Kerry yesterday said that $30 billion in frozen Libyan funds should be going to the opposition groups in Libya. Is there any chance that that’s going to happen?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think the purpose of freezing assets is to preserve those funds for the people of Libya so they can’t be absconded by Qadhafi or his family or his immediate followers. As to what purpose they’re put to, again, that will be --

QUESTION: But does the Administration have a policy on if those funds should be going to opposition groups before the commission --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think our current approach would be that it would be up to the people of Libya and a future government of Libya to determine how to best use those funds.

QUESTION: Actually, on that point, can you take the question and maybe ask someone in the legal advisor’s office if you can even do that legally? Can you just start handing out – because if you are, I’d like some of it. (Laughter.) I mean, if you can do that –

MR. CROWLEY: All right –

QUESTION: If it’s legal for you to take frozen funds --

MR. CROWLEY: There --

QUESTION: -- and just start giving them away to people --

QUESTION: Just one more.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, to Matt’s point, that’s not our money, so it’s not for us to determine.

QUESTION: To release the –

MR. CROWLEY: But I will take the question as to what the – what legal issues are involved in it.

QUESTION: You said to release them – you’re going to release the money to a government that represents the Libyan people. What kind of process are we talking about that could lead to forming a government that you actually recognize so you can release the money to it?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that –

QUESTION: Is it about elections or like –

MR. CROWLEY: Well, in the – we want to see a new government emerge in Libya.

QUESTION: How does that happen? How does that happen?

MR. CROWLEY: And the process through which that should occur will be up to Libya, just as we have seen in other contexts. It’s not for us to determine a process of selecting a different government of Libya. That should be the prerogative of the Libyan people. We will be prepared to help Libya with that – with technical advice and expertise just as we have offered the same kind of expertise and advice to countries like Tunisia and Egypt.

QUESTION: But does that require the – that – Qadhafi actually stepping down before forming that government? Or the Libyan people can form a government in the east and ask for that money to be released?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, these are – there will necessarily be a legal process of either recognizing some element as an interim government, or of determining how to spend assets that are rightfully – that rightfully belong to the people of Libya.

QUESTION: Just one or two more --

QUESTION: P.J., who is responsible for freezing or unfreezing funds, which entity within the U.S. Government that actually does freeze or unfreeze funds?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Treasury Department –

QUESTION: The Treasury Department.

MR. CROWLEY: -- has taken action to –

QUESTION: The State Department –

MR. CROWLEY: -- to freeze funds, and there would have to be a legal process involving Treasury to formally unfreeze them.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: I just have two more on this, and I’ll also take 5 million of those frozen dollars. What is – do you consider –

MR. CROWLEY: It’s an expensive front row.

QUESTION: Do you consider Libya to be in the throes of a civil war or not?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, the term “civil war” has legal ramifications. Certainly, there is an unacceptable level of violence involving the use of lethal force by the government against the people of Libya. But any determination of – formally of civil war – both would necessarily have to follow a fact-based review, a formal legal judgment. We have not arrived at that yet.

QUESTION: And – you’re not there, okay. And then also what – just on this gentleman’s question on what the – on the process of recognizing the government, I mean, what’s the tipping point? What’s the trigger in terms of when you make a political decision to stop recognizing a government? And you say that there’s a legal process. Is that legal process underway?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, our – we are intensively following developments in Libya, and we are actively engaged in reviewing a variety of options, including trying to assess the emerging opposition – who they are, what their agenda is, what their relationship is with the people of Libya, and whether we should engage them significantly going forward. So we – there’s a policy process underway as to what steps we’re going to take. I’m not here to predict that.

QUESTION: But there’s not – it’s not an either/or, that you either recognize the Qadhafi government or you recognize these people. You can decide not to recognize the Qadhafi government at any time. And again, I mean, how many people have said in this government that he no longer has authority to lead?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, but you’ve – I mean, in this kind of situation, you have to see a clear opposition emerge, and you have to see that opposition has the support of the – a majority of people in Libya. And this is something that we are evaluating – whether there is a real viable alternative to the existing government.

QUESTION: You mentioned the legal process. Can you expand on that? Can you define – expand on the legal process? What is that? What do you mean by that? How does it work?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, there –

QUESTION: Because there seems – there’s a political process and a legal process.

MR. CROWLEY: But there are legal steps that one takes if one chooses to de-recognize, if you will, a government, or a legal step to evaluate whether to recognize one leader versus another. Use – the corollary would be there was a formal process that the United States supported in the context of Cote d’Ivoire, where, based on an election and the judgment of the international community, it was the view of the United States and the United Nations that President Ouattara truly won the election in Cote d’Ivoire. And then there was, in fact, a decision by the United States to recognize President Ouattara and not to recognize former President Gbagbo.

QUESTION: Well, that’s –

MR. CROWLEY: So – but it has to be based on a review of facts and then a formal judgment.

QUESTION: Yeah, but that’s the case with elections. What about Libya? It seems – obviously, there’s –

MR. CROWLEY: Again, we – but there has to be judgments made. And again, we are intensively reviewing what is happening in Libya. It is still a dynamic situation. We do see the shape of an opposition. We see some structure that is emerging with that opposition. We have engaged figures who are both part of the opposition or also have a perspective on who is now in opposition to the Qadhafi government. We continue to assess the implications of this, and that feeds into policy decisions we’ll make going forward.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. CROWLEY: Wait, not yet.

QUESTION: Is there factors that you have listed? In answer to her question, are you watching the price of gas at the gas stations in the U.S.?

MR. CROWLEY: I think most Americans are watching the price of gas at the gas station.

QUESTION: Is that – will there be a tipping point where the price goes above a certain level?

MR. CROWLEY: But you’re now going far – Tejinder, you’re going far afield from – I mean, the price of gas has nothing to do with our judgment regarding who should govern Libya in the future.

QUESTION: The White House said that they – it is one of the factors they are looking at.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the White House – it’s an economic factor, yes. But we will say – back to the question of if there’s a legal process that results in our recognizing someone else or a group as an interim government of Libya, the price of gas will not enter into that judgment.

QUESTION: According to Times of India, Colonel Qadhafi has returned a letter to the Indian prime minister seeking help, including arms, to defeat the rebels against him. Are you aware about such communication and his outreach to the other governments?

MR. CROWLEY: We do have outreach to other governments. I’m not aware that – that’s a fact I have not heard until you --

QUESTION: Colonel Qadhafi’s outreach to other governments?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I have no doubt that Qadhafi is reaching out to other governments, looking for help.

QUESTION: What about reports that Israeli officials have traveled to Libya to help the government? Have you heard about this?

MR. CROWLEY: No.

QUESTION: Change topic?

QUESTION: Can I change the topic?

QUESTION: I think I got first dibs on that.

MR. CROWLEY: Hold on. You still on Libya?

QUESTION: That’s because you didn’t see me. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: No, okay. (Laughter.) You want to arm wrestle here for – (laughter).

QUESTION: P.J., one more question on Libya.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: It seems there were some events during the weekend, that Qadhafi forces launched a counterattack. And it seems they succeeded in regaining some areas, even though there’s not much accurate information from Libya. What’s your assessment of the situation on the ground now?

MR. CROWLEY: Fluid.

QUESTION: Are you – do you have any concerns that the next week or the next days might change the tide in Libya and Qadhafi might regain some --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, there’s a – there are clashes among the government and opposition in Libya. People are being killed, people are being injured. We have great concern about this. Our goal all along has been to see a peaceful transition in Libya, just as we’ve seen in other countries. Unfortunately, Mr. Qadhafi has chosen a different course.

QUESTION: P.J., talking about different forces, in Saudi Arabia, the – as you’re aware, there have been calls for protests on this coming Thursday, March the 11th. The Saudi interior ministry – and they’ve been small protests, as you also know, in the eastern province over the last couple of weeks. The interior ministry on Saturday issued a statement pointedly reminding Saudis that protests, demonstrations, sit-ins, marches, demonstrations of any of those sorts are banned. What is the U.S. Government’s view on the Saudis’ right to peacefully protest if they wish?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the United States supports a set of universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Those rights must be respected everywhere, including Saudi Arabia. And the Saudi position that it enunciated over the weekend is actually not new, and we have communicated our position to the Saudi Government as part of our regular ongoing dialogue, and have been for some time.

QUESTION: Do you have any --

QUESTION: Have you said anything – forgive me.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Have you said anything about that since Saturday?

MR. CROWLEY: I can’t say that we have said it since Saturday, but the Saudis are very well aware of our position.

QUESTION: Do you have any position of the Omani Government doing – have you – have anything on this cabinet reshuffle? Apparently they’ve got rid of some ministers that the protestors or opposition were hoping that would be axed.

QUESTION: And as long as you’re there, can you go to Tunisia as well on that?

QUESTION: And I’ll take you to Egypt. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: All right, well, let’s stay in the Gulf for a second. I mean, we are encouraged by the recent steps towards reform taken by the Government of Oman. And we strongly encourage the government to continue to implement reforms that increase economic opportunity and move toward greater inclusion and participation in the political process.

QUESTION: On Oman, you did not issue a condemnation of the killing of peaceful protestors last week. Is there a reason for that?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, actually, I think we did express our concern and encourage --

QUESTION: But you did not condemn the killing.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, let’s – I mean, there – in the case of Oman, as I recall that incident – and remember that – and don’t take what I’m going to say about Oman and necessarily apply it to other countries. But in that particular case, as I remember that episode, there was the use of force on both sides. And we have said that both protestors and governments have responsibilities to ensure that protests can be conducted peacefully. We expressed our concern for that incident, but we’ve seen that the government continues to actively engage its opposition. It’s made some adjustments in terms of the composition of its government in response to the demands of their citizens. And we certainly continue to encourage Oman to – along this path of reform.

Tunisia.

QUESTION: Tunisia, Egypt, all the – and then Yemen, because I want to ask about the authorized departure.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay, let’s start with Yemen. What’s – the question there is --

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you know if – has that begun? Have people started to leave from – the nonessential and family members?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we did update our Travel Warning over the weekend. We are evaluating the situation at the Embassy in light of the demonstrations and violence in Yemen. We’ve – but beyond that, I don't have anything for you yet.

QUESTION: On Egypt, our story out of Cairo said that men dressed in plain clothes and armed with machetes, knives, bricks, and Molotov cocktails confronted and attacked protestors in front of the state security services building. Do you have any comment on that? Do you have any idea who those men, those plain-clothes men, might have been?

MR. CROWLEY: I don't know that we have that perspective. But it is vitally important that Egypt’s transition proceed peacefully and that the ongoing dialogue lead to free and fair elections. And that is the best path to ensure that the aspirations of the Egyptian people are met.

QUESTION: Do you know if --

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, we are aware of the violence being used against protestors in recent days, including the protests around various security services buildings. And we are concerned and continue to encourage everyone involved to refrain from violence.

QUESTION: Have you raised that directly with the – either the military authorities running the country or the --

MR. CROWLEY: We have an ongoing dialogue. I can’t say whether it’s come up today.

QUESTION: But would you take that?

MR. CROWLEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Tunisia.

MR. CROWLEY: Tunisia. What about Tunisia?

QUESTION: Well, there were some changes made today.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, that’s occurring in a number of countries.

QUESTION: Right, that’s why – I guess every day we should just ask you for the U.S. reaction --

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- to the latest cabinet reshuffle in the Arab world.

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, this is an ongoing process, and we continue to encourage the government to take steps to respond to its people. And Tunisia is – still has a lot of work to do to prepare for upcoming elections.

QUESTION: Change of topic. Palestinian-Israel – first of all, do we have an update on the situation of Mr. Abdallah Rahmah?

MR. CROWLEY: I – what’s the question?

QUESTION: My question is: What is the status --

MR. CROWLEY: He remains in custody.

QUESTION: What is the United States – he remains in custody. He’s a prisoner of conscience. And a question was asked by Matt way back in December and --

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah. We raised the issue with the government at that time. I’m not aware that we have raised the issue since.

QUESTION: Are you going to raise the issue?

MR. CROWLEY: That probably is a better question to ask the embassy.

QUESTION: Okay. Follow up – follow up on the peace process. Mr. Netanyahu’s coming to town with a new peace proposal. Are you aware --

MR. CROWLEY: Who is?

QUESTION: Mr. Netanyahu will be coming soon with a new peace proposal.

MR. CROWLEY: We will be listening attentively.

QUESTION: Did he discuss the basics of this proposal with you?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t believe we know the particulars.

QUESTION: Hold on, hold on. On that – just, I mean, the premise of the question is that he’s coming to town with a new peace proposal. And then you’ve answered it – you’ll be listening. In truth, are you – well, are you accepting the premise of the question that Prime Minister Netanyahu is coming to town with a new peace proposal?

MR. CROWLEY: We’ve seen --

QUESTION: Do you know that he is?

MR. CROWLEY: I – we do not know --

QUESTION: Have you seen anything other than rumors --

MR. CROWLEY: -- what the prime minister is going to say.

QUESTION: Is he coming to town soon? You don’t know?

MR. CROWLEY: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Right, okay. Is that --

MR. CROWLEY: No, no, the prime minister does come to town --

QUESTION: No, I understand that. But --

MR. CROWLEY: -- frequently.

QUESTION: -- the question was a – the question was a statement. It was he’s coming to town with a peace proposal.

MR. CROWLEY: No, I – we do – if – I mean, we certainly continue to engage the Israelis and Palestinians, and we certainly – to encourage them to take steps to close the existing gaps in their positions. But beyond that, if, in fact, there is an Israeli – Israeli ideas that the prime minister is about to put forward, we look forward to hearing them.

QUESTION: Right. But the question was – the statement that began the question is that he is coming to town with a peace proposal. Are you aware that that is the case?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not know his upcoming schedule.

QUESTION: Can I ask you (inaudible) question?

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: Change of topic, Cuba.

MR. CROWLEY: All right, hold on.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow up on that?

MR. CROWLEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: He’s allegedly coming to town with a proposal --

MR. CROWLEY: Well, no, no, no, but --

QUESTION: Just let me say – finish please, real quickly. He’s coming to town with a proposal for an interim state. Is that something that is --

MR. CROWLEY: No. I mean, that is your presumption based on some leaked information.

QUESTION: That’s what (inaudible).

MR. CROWLEY: Look, let me be clear. I don’t know what his travel schedule is. I don’t know what his speaking schedule is. We – and if and when Israel offers its own thoughts on how to move the process forward, we’ll be listening attentively. We do not know what the prime minister and his government are thinking at the present time.

QUESTION: P.J., let me ask you, as far as Mr. Davis’s case is concerned, now don’t tell me that Pakistani is not your good friend. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: We are building a strategic relationship with Pakistan.

QUESTION: Many diplomats in the U.S., they get away with many crimes. So does many – some Pakistani diplomats in India, they get away with many crimes. What I’m asking you really, what this case is holding all about so long? And do you consider, compare in a mini-way with the ’79 Iranian – U.S. diplomats in Iran?

MR. CROWLEY: No, I don’t. (Laughter.) I don’t believe in that comparison.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) – actually, what if – can you address whether Grossman – whether Ambassador Grossman raised this when he was – has raised this while he’s in Islamabad?

MR. CROWLEY: I just said he did.

QUESTION: Did you? Forgive me.

MR. CROWLEY: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you know – but just on that, is there any other – is there any update? Aside from Grossman’s talks with the Pakistanis, is there any other update to his condition or his status?

MR. CROWLEY: No update in the status. I think the next event is the higher court hearing on March 14th.

QUESTION: Any word on Levinson?

MR. CROWLEY: I have nothing to add to what the Secretary’s statement said last week.



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