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 July 22, 2010
MR. CROWLEY: The United States Department of State is deeply saddened by the deaths of three contractors today in an attack in Baghdad. These men were assisting the Bureau of Diplomatic Security in protecting American diplomats and missions in Iraq. They were all contract employees of the Department of State. They played a critical role in our effort to bring a better way of life to the people of Iraq. And we extend our condolences to the families of the victims.
Of those who were affected, I think three individuals were killed, 16 were wounded, and two of those wounded were American citizens.
I think the Department of Defense will very shortly be announcing that we have transferred two more detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. One resettled to Spain, another to Latvia. We are very grateful to Spain and Latvia for their willingness to support our efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. With these two resettlements, the number of detainees today in Guantanamo is now at 176.
Yesterday, I took a question about whether we’ve had follow-on discussions with the Government of Chad regarding its cooperation with the ICC. We have had such a discussion today with our chargé at the embassy. We discussed the issue of ICC indictments in general and how they specifically apply to Mr. Bashir. That said, we also take note of the fact that in recent days and weeks there has been a significant rapprochement between Chad and Sudan. We view this as a positive development. And any – steps that – to normalize relations can have a very significant impact in terms of security and peace, particularly affecting the people of Darfur. That said, it is important for long-term regional stability that Chad honor its international obligations, including cooperation with the International Criminal Court.
You asked also about, I think, a question regarding Senator Menendez and the status of various reports mandated by the Enhanced Partnership with Pakistan Act of 2009. These reports assess the effectiveness and progress of U.S. Government counterterrorism and security assistance to Pakistan. Three of these reports have already been provided to Congress and a fourth and final one is in the final stages of completion.
QUESTION: Yes, on Chad – in your statement on Chad, you are asking Chad to improve relations with Sudan with al-Bashir. And at the same time, you want Chad to arrest him?
MR. CROWLEY: No, we’re – I just want to note that there has – we recognize that there has been positive interaction in recent days and weeks between Chad and Sudan. There are – obviously going back, there have been a number of years that there have been individuals and groups that have flowed across their common border and the violence that has resulted has significantly affected people on both sides of that border. There has been a significant effort towards resolving these elements of the conflict and moving towards normalized relations between Chad and Sudan. We recognized that as a positive step. That said, we still have communicated to Chad that it has responsibilities as a signatory under the Rome Statute and needs to continue to fulfill its obligations under the – to the ICC.
QUESTION: Same area.
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: Scott Gration is quoted in one of the newspapers this morning, as suggesting that the genocide charges that were launched against Bashir last week is something of an impediment now to his mission because it jeopardizes good relations with Sudan.
MR. CROWLEY: I talked to Scott Gration in Darfur today. And we talked about that article. It stems from comments that he made to a group here in Washington before he left. Let me be very clear, what Scott Gration was reflecting in his comments was that the indictment in – it is viewed negatively for obvious reasons in the eyes of the Sudanese leadership. And because of how they view the indictment and how – they view the indictment as an attempt at international regime change. It is the Sudanese attitude of the indictment that, in Scott’s mind, has added some – has affected Sudan’s willingness to cooperate with the international community and with the United States. It doesn’t change the basic facts and Scott Gration is totally understanding of and supporting of the basis for the ICC action and the need, as he has said to Sudanese officials many, many times for President Bashir to present himself ultimately to the ICC and be held to account.
QUESTION: P.J. --
QUESTION: To follow up – I mean, not to put words in your mouth, but are you saying that since --
MR. CROWLEY: They’re probably better than mine.
QUESTION: Are you saying because of the needs – the need to – for good relations between Sudan and Chad that Chad has been given a pass on arresting Bashir?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I wouldn't say that Chad has been given a pass. But there are – I just want to make sure that there – and there are two imperatives here. One is that improvement in relations between Chad and Sudan will have a positive impact on the ground, including a positive impact in Darfur. If this cooperation continues, lives will be saved on the ground in Sudan and in Darfur. And it takes off the table one source of conflict that we are trying to deal with as we move towards the referendum later this year.
So the fact that Chad and Sudan are working through issues and they have both taken steps to improve the situation and their relations, this is a positive development and will have broad regional impact. That said, it doesn't change how we feel and – on the ICC warrant and the need for all countries – Sudan, Chad, others – to cooperate fully with the ICC.
QUESTION: P.J., on the same sort of region, I have a question on Somalia. The UN humanitarian coordinator is here. He’s asking the U.S. to resume the full spending in Somalia, saying there’s a lot of un-need – unmet needs. And I wonder if you’re satisfied with the measures he’s taken to make sure money doesn't go into the pockets of al-Shabaab.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, first of all, we continue to provide assistance to the people of Somalia. We are the largest donor country to the World Food Program and we continue to provide assistance to Somalia through the WFP and other partners and we continue our contributions to the World Food Program. We have suspended a certain aspect of the program in terms of the support to Somalia in a certain part of the country through UN agencies. We continue to work with the UN on our concerns about security of the people who are making these deliveries and also to ensure that there is transparency and accountability so that the assistance that we’re providing does not in any way benefit violent groups like al-Shabaab. Those concerns are being discussed, but at the present time they are still suspended.
QUESTION: The Treasury Department has put sanctions on some people associated with the Haqqani Network. I’m wondering whether you know whether this has any implications for the Government of Pakistan. Do they have to take any actions to make sure these sanctions are made effective?
MR. CROWLEY: That’s a good question. I’ll take that question.
QUESTION: Can I follow up real quick?
MR. CROWLEY: Sure. I mean, it can have some impact overseas. I’ll see.
QUESTION: Can you bring us up to speed whether they’re – the State Department and Treasury is still considering further action against the Haqqani Network? I know that General Petraeus and Senator Levin have both urged the placement of the Haqqani Network on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list. I just want to – I’m curious whether today’s action is in lieu of that or is --
MR. CROWLEY: No, it’s not in lieu of that. As the Secretary has said on her trip this week, we are looking at whether to designate the group. And that’s – that is a lengthy process and we’re looking to see if it meets the legal criteria that’s outlined in U.S. law.
QUESTION: P.J., on Mr. Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber – going through some of those documents that the Scottish authorities have put on their website, a question emerges. It’s – were assurances given to the U.S. Government that any person convicted for Lockerbie would serve out their sentence in Scotland?
MR. CROWLEY: Yes.
QUESTION: They were. By whom?
MR. CROWLEY: This – were assurances given as we were working constructively to set up the special Scottish tribunal.
QUESTION: So by the UK Government? Or –
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll take that question.
QUESTION: Okay. Because the Scots are saying that the British said there were no legal barriers to transfer Mr. Megrahi – talking about the prison transfer agreement– but that they gave no assurances to the U.S. Government. So it sounds like a complete contradiction.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, whether those were legal assurances, political assurances, it was definitely our expectation as we cooperated in setting up this tribunal that, if convicted, those convicted would serve out their entire time – the entire sentence in Scottish prison.
QUESTION: Okay. And then one other question. It’s very – the whole thing is very complex. But I think the one question that it is in my mind is: Is there any indication that the U.S. Government has that BP, by lobbying the UK Government, had any direct effect on the transfer – for any reason – of Mr. Megrahi to Libya?
MR. CROWLEY: Prime Minister Cameron addressed that this week, and we support what he said.
QUESTION: So what do you think about the calls now? Senator Gillibrand wants a full investigation. Should there be a full investigation of this issue?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, the British and Scottish authorities are, in fact, through their communication, their review of documents, their release potentially of additional documents – we think they are doing exactly what President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron called for this week: to put forward all the facts that were relevant to the decision made. And both the British Government and Scottish authorities have pledged to cooperate fully with the Senate, leading up to the hearing next week. So we think this good faith effort will help people understand what happened. Both the British Government and the Scottish authorities have made it clear, the basis upon their respective actions. We – as we’ve said, we disagreed with that judgment by Scottish authorities. But at this point, there’s nothing that – in our – that we’ve seen to suggest that this process was skewed in any way.
QUESTION: P.J., notwithstanding your statements that the British and Scottish authorities have pledged their full cooperation to the committee, the committee today released a letter from Scotland’s first minister answering a number of questions, but also politely declining to make Scottish ministers available to appear before the hearing. Is that full cooperation by declining to appear at the hearing?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I don’t know that the Senate have asked – has asked for any British or Scottish authorities to appear. It is within the right of any government to agree to make its representatives available or not. I think we are satisfied with the way that Scottish and British authorities recognize the concern that Americans have on this case, given that the expectation that Mr. Megrahi was on death’s door has not materialized. So they understand how we feel about this. I think they are going – they’re making a good faith effort to help put forward the facts in the case. I know in the Scottish letter to Senator Kerry, he addresses one specific question that was raised by senators about whether there was a Libyan medical professional who offered a judgment, how that judgment may have influenced the final decision. And the Scottish authorities made clear that while Libya did commission its own review of Mr. Megrahi’s medical condition, that review arrived after the Scottish authorities had made specific decisions.
So this is a process by which the questions that are quite legitimate are being raised, and I think we are satisfied that British and Scottish authorities are responding appropriately to those questions.
QUESTION: Okay, just – and for the record --
MR. CROWLEY: Sure.
QUESTION: I think the letters released by the committee today include a letter from Chairman Kerry requesting the presence of Scottish officials, and the response from the Scottish first minister politely declines that request.
MR. CROWLEY: And I – we’re not in a position to compel Scottish or British authorities to appear at Senate hearings.
QUESTION: No, but if you’re going to --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t --
QUESTION: -- if you cite them as saying they’re fully cooperating --
MR. CROWLEY: No, but I don’t – I would not say that that necessarily means that British and Scottish authorities are not cooperating. I think they are going through their own processes, as Prime Minister Cameron said they would. This is going to take time to review documents and see if any further documents can be released. I think this is fully consistent with the pledge that Prime Minister Cameron made earlier this week.
QUESTION: It was the question of fully cooperating that was of interest to me, not just cooperating.
MR. CROWLEY: I think we’re satisfied with the steps that are being taken.
QUESTION: Going back to the Pakistan question, in the recent days there have been a lot of statements from the U.S. officials in the region, for example, saying that LET is as dangerous as al-Qaida, and another one is that if there is another Mumbai attack there could be war in the region. So is – are we going to see a shift in the U.S. policy, a kind of new U.S. policy to make Pakistan act against these terrorist organizations?
MR. CROWLEY: We have a U.S. policy. It is to fully cooperate with Pakistan on terrorism and to continue to work closely to help Pakistan battle the insurgency that now is a threat to Pakistan itself. We’ve seen significant progress by Pakistan over the past year. It’s an area that was subject to the Strategic – a part of the Strategic Dialogue that our governments just had in Islamabad. We’ll continue to work on this. There are things, clearly, that Pakistan must do. And certainly, continuing to investigate and bring to justice those who are responsible for the Mumbai attack is an important element. It’s important to Pakistan. It’s also important to India. And we will continue our conversations with Pakistan on the things that it needs to do not only for the benefit of Pakistan but the region as a whole.