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From the Daily Press Briefing of July 28, 2010
View VideoMR. CROWLEY:
Good afternoon and welcome to the Department of State. A few things to touch upon before taking your questions. You’ll see, after the briefing, a statement by Secretary Clinton expressing our deepest condolences to all those who lost loved ones in today’s crash in Islamabad of Airblue flight ED-202. Included among the victims were two American citizens. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims and all the people of Pakistan at this difficult time. As we’ve seen firsthand in various visits to Pakistan, it is a friend and partner. And as the Secretary will say in her statement, we will continue to stand with Pakistan going forward.
Earlier today, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and USAID Administrator Raj Shaj testified before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. The focus of their testimony was on the joint efforts of the United States and Afghan Government to fight corruption and improve governance in Afghanistan. In their testimony, they stressed the importance of defining success for U.S. assistance efforts in Afghanistan, be they stabilization efforts or long-term development programs. In all such efforts, our assistance programs place emphasis on accountability. They outlined four key initiatives designed to maximize the effectiveness of civilian assistance money in Afghanistan: one, enhanced accountability and oversight; two, implementation of smarter contracting; three, decentralization of our assistance programs and platforms; and four, increased direct assistance to Afghan ministries with proper vetting.
At the same time, Ambassador Holbrooke also expressed thanks to the Congress for House passage of the supplemental request which includes key programs for Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Haiti. These funds are crucial to our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a successful military-to-civilian transition in Iraq, and to help rebuild a better Haiti for the State Department. The amount in the House supplemental amounted to $6.1 billion.
Just a little bit ago, we posted on the State Department website the Compliance Report. It’s actually technically called the Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Agreements and Commitments. It looks something like this, which you’re happy to download. But it is a compliance report regarding activities on compliance with various international treaties and obligations covering the period January 1st
, 2004 through December 31st
, 2008. And the classified report is posted online now. There is also a – I’m sorry, the unclassified report is posted online now. The classified version went to the Congress earlier this month. But it covers a range of treaties; it covers also a range of countries. For example, in the context of the Nonproliferation Treaty, it states that Iran is in violation of Article III of the Nonproliferation Treaty, North Korea in violation of Articles II and III. Those cover enrichment activities, safeguard – a so-called safeguard agreement within the NPT as well as acquisition of nuclear weapons. It cites the fact that Syria has failed to provide critical information required for the IAEA. And it also covers the START treaty and goes through the fact that the treaty – there were a number of complex compliance issues that came up during the life of this treaty, during this timeframe, but that Russia was in compliance with START’s central limits during the treaty’s lifespan. QUESTION:
Can we – just a quick one on the plane crash in Pakistan. MR. CROWLEY:
Can you identify the two Americans or have their – publicly, or have their next of kin not yet been notified? MR. CROWLEY:
We are in touch with the families. We will not be releasing their identities. The families have that right if they so choose. We do – we have had officials on the ground throughout the day in Pakistan assisting with the recovery of remains, or being there as remains are recovered from the wreckage. But we have been in touch with the two families here in the United States who have tragically lost family members.QUESTION:
Is the U.S. sending any federal aviation team of experts to look into the reasons for the plane crash? Has Pakistan requested for such help?MR. CROWLEY:
I’m not aware they’ve requested it. If they request it, I’m sure that we will respond.QUESTION:
P.J., the Pakistani spokesman – or aviation spokesman said that the weather was good, there was no mechanical failure, they’re waiting for a black box. But he seems to suggest other causes. Are you aware of that or have you talked to -- MR. CROWLEY:
Again, I think it’s – it is something clearly that will be investigated. I’m sure if the – if Pakistan requests the assistance of the NTSB, we will be happy to provide that assistance.QUESTION:
You have no reason to suspect foul play, do you?MR. CROWLEY:
At this point, there’s no information that I have that would – that – on any cause of the crash at this point.QUESTION:
Speaking of sanctioned countries, Iran – the Turkish foreign minister today is quoted as saying that the Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki has said that Iran would cease enriching to 20 percent if it were to enter into an agreement with the major powers on a fuel swap. Is that a hopeful sign to you? Would you welcome – do you welcome that they are at least floating the possibility of halting 20 percent enrichment? MR. CROWLEY:
Well, Iran has in recent months made a variety of public statements. Usually, they are heavily conditioned. Iran has in the last couple of days sent a letter to the IAEA. We’ve received a copy of the letter and are – and will be evaluating it. We have clearly indicated to Iran on a number of occasions our willingness to engage, along with other members of the P-5+1, to address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. There have been contacts between Iran and High Representative Catherine Ashton about a prospective meeting.
I’ve got nothing to announce here, but we obviously are fully prepared to follow up with Iran on specifics regarding our initial proposal for – involving the Tehran Research Reactor, Iran’s view of that, and particular issues related to that as well as the broader issues of trying to fully understand the nature of Iran’s nuclear program. We hope to have the same kind of meeting coming up in the coming weeks that we had last October.QUESTION:
When you say the same kind of meeting, you mean a meeting in the coming weeks -- MR. CROWLEY:
Well -- QUESTION:
The meeting that was held in Geneva was among -- MR. CROWLEY:
It was a one-off.QUESTION:
Well, but it was also – if I’m not mistaken, wasn’t the United States represented by Under Secretary Burns?MR. CROWLEY:
It was a political director level meeting. You are hoping to have that kind of a meeting in the next several weeks, or a meeting between Baroness Ashton and some Iranian representatives?MR. CROWLEY:
Those are not mutually exclusive. In other words, what we’re looking for, as we indicated clearly last year, was a process through which Iran would be prepared to engage constructively on a range of issues, including our questions about the nature of its nuclear program, whether there is a deal to be had involving the provision of fuel for Tehran’s research reactor to help Iran address very legitimate humanitarian needs that it has at home. We had hoped that this would be a confidence-building measure, but we have yet to be able to engage Iran constructively and directly on these kinds of issues.
So we will review the Iranian response to the IAEA. We fully support the contacts that have taken place through Catherine Ashton to see if it’s possible to have a meeting with a high-level – with an Iranian delegation. Obviously, the nature of the delegations is something that is also negotiated, so – but as we desired last year and as we repeat here, we are interested in a process, more than one meeting, where we can begin to engage in and hopefully answer many of the questions that the international community has.QUESTION:
I’m sorry, I still don’t get it. I mean, you initially said that you were hopeful for a meeting like the one that took place in Geneva within the next several weeks. That implies P-5+1 political directors meeting with Iranian officials. Is that what you are looking for?MR. CROWLEY:
We would welcome a meeting like that if that is what Iran is willing to agree to.QUESTION:
What’s the link between that meeting and the IAEA letter you’re – what does it have to do to have a meeting like that?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I mean, Iran has to comply and is out of compliance with its IAEA obligations, as we outlined clearly in the Compliance Report that is available to everyone online today. Iran is not in compliance with its treaty obligation. So the international community continues to have concerns about whether – about the true nature of Iran’s nuclear program.
As we talked about last fall, the secret facility at Qom, for example, is inconsistent with Iranian claims that its nuclear program is purely for civilian and peaceful purposes. This is expressly the kind of dialogue that we need to have with Iran to be able to resolve the questions that we have and other countries have. We think the right forum for cooperation is the IAEA and the right channel for communication is through the P-5+1. We’ve had one such meeting in the last year. We would welcome additional meetings and really, a process through which we can have a dialogue on a range of issues. Obviously, as we’ve said many times, at the top of our list are the nuclear issues.QUESTION:
Israel said that the Administration agrees with it, about the futility of the sanctions regime. And they – actually, the only difference, if they have any differences on this, is in the timing, so to speak, in the calendar for further action, suggesting maybe implicitly some sort of a military action.MR. CROWLEY:
Do you concur?MR. CROWLEY:
No. We see important utility in sanctions. Sanctions by themselves will not answer the questions that the international community have. Sanctions by themselves will not assuage the concerns that we have. Ultimately, there needs to be a process and dialogue where Iran can come forward and, we hope, answer the questions that we have about the nature of its program. Obviously, if Iran remains out of compliance with its international obligations, and at the same time, it continues activity of great concern to us and to others, including the further enrichment of nuclear material, then that has consequences and we will evaluate the choices that Iran makes.
But first and foremost, we want – sanctions – we’re using sanctions to apply pressure on Iran. And hopefully, the Iranian leadership will change its assessment of the – its current course and the costs that are attended to that. We think that the sanctions are having an effect and can have an additional effect. We’re seeing companies and countries retreat from engaging in commerce with Iranian entities. And this is making it more difficult for Iran to do business. This is exactly what we hope will cause Iranians – the Iranian Government to assess where it is and move to constructively engage the international community. There’s no guarantee of success, but we think the sanctions are an important tool as we seek to try to answer the questions that we have about Iranian – Iran’s intentions. QUESTION:
What other choices might there be available other than sanctions or beyond sanctions?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, the sanction – we are –QUESTION:
What’s your reaction?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we are very pleased with the sanctions resolution that was passed. Now, we’re going about the business of fully implementing international sanctions, adding additional steps at the national level. We think they’re already starting to have an effect. Clearly, these don’t – these kind of effects that we desire don’t happen overnight. So we’re willing to give sanctions some time and then evaluate their efficacy.
We have a range of options that are available to us. And we are – we do approach this with a sense of urgency because we are conscious of the fact that even as Iran professes that its intentions are peaceful, it continues to enrich fuel in violation of its international obligations. And the longer it enriches, the shorter the distance from a civilian program to a potential military and a breakout capability. So this is not an open-ended process. We are implementing fully national steps – international steps. We are clearly indicating a willingness to engage Iran directly and we’ll see how Iran responds in the coming days and weeks.QUESTION:
You said the U.S. has received a copy of the letter from the IAEA?MR. CROWLEY:
And do you have any initial reaction to the contents? Can you at least say anything about the contents of the letter?MR. CROWLEY:
We are evaluating the letter.QUESTION:
Just a follow-up. P.J., most of the time, sanctions do hurt the common people, not the government, and government enjoys the business. And second, as far as Iran is concerned, because of their oil, many countries are willing to do, still, business with them underground, many companies. And in the past, also, you know the sanctions have not worked on many countries. How long this will continue? Because each time U.S. and international community talk about sanctions and other options and major sanctions against Iran, then they come up with that they are near – nearly or near – they go to near and nearer to have their nuclear program. What will happen one day they will announce they have a nuclear program today and then sanctions have no meanings?MR. CROWLEY:
You put a lot in that question, Goyal. I think first, to your first point, we have tried to tailor these sanctions and direct them at the government and at those entities within Iranian society that support their nuclear program and are connected to our proliferation concerns.
We are seeing that there may well be, as financial organizations around the world step back from doing business with anyone that is in any way touched by Iran, there can be some side impacts. And we are trying to see how we can address those in ways that continue to support the Iranian people while putting pressure on the Iranian Government. So we are actively looking at the impacts as we see them evolve and are trying to fine-tune them so that the pressure is on the government and we don’t add to the misery of the Iranian people.
To the question of how long will we give this, we’ll – we’re going to give this a fair amount of time, but it’s not open-ended. Sanctions are a useful tool. They’re not a panacea in and of themselves. We clearly recognize that.QUESTION:
P.J., on Iran again, some observers have connected Iran’s renewed interest in talking about the research reactor to this – directly to these new sanctions that the Europeans and the Canadians announced in recent days. Do you make the same connection? MR. CROWLEY:
Well, let’s see how Iran – whether Iran is willing to come forward, whether actually we can complete arrangements for a meeting, whether there’s actually more than one meeting. So we’ll test the willingness of Iran to actually engage constructively. We’ve – we continue to make it clear we are ready to engage Iran anytime, anywhere, on the urgent issues that are – that confront us. But we’ll see whether Iran is doing this to try to forestall further action by specific countries.
But I mean, we hope and we do expect that the cost of doing business in Iran is going up and we hope that should Iran come forward and be willing to engage constructively, seriously address the issues that are of concern to the United States and the international community, we’ll be willing to have that meeting.QUESTION:
And we are within a couple days of the first anniversary of the arrest of the three hikers. And I was just wondering whether there will be any special outreach. Will the Secretary be involved in observing this? Will there – any new overture to Iran about it coming?MR. CROWLEY:
I am confident that there will be statements from the United States Government, from the White House and here from the State Department. It is a tragic anniversary that we are approaching this weekend. The hikers are in our thoughts every single day. We’ve made every effort, not only directly in communication with Iran, but also in discussions with other countries and leaders who, in turn, have had discussions with Iran. We have done everything that we can to try to resolve the case of the three hikers. We’ve tried everything that we can to also gain information on the whereabouts of Robert Levinson. And tragically, Iran has yet to respond to our requests.
We want to see the hikers come home. Their return is long overdue. As we’ve said many, many times, these were three hikers that wandered close to or across an unmarked border. Iran has called them spies. They’re not spies. They’re young people traveling the world who had the opportunity to visit Iraq. And their families want them home, the American people want them home. And Iran considers itself a great country, it considers itself a civilized country, it wants to have the respect of the international community and the United States. But respect is earned and if Iran wants our respect, then sending these three young people home would be an important step in that direction.QUESTION:
British prime minister today in India said that we won’t tolerate export of terror by Pakistan. Do you agree? Do you endorse this?MR. CROWLEY:
I – yes. QUESTION:
The British prime minister in India said --MR. CROWLEY:
-- we won’t tolerate export of terror by Pakistan. Do you --MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we don’t want to see the export of terror by any country. We are concerned about and have said many times that extremist elements within the borders of Pakistan, in the tribal areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan, first and foremost, it represents a threat to Pakistan, it represents a threat to Afghanistan. And as we have seen, extremists with links to this – these areas have made their way to Europe, have made their way to the United States. We – this is an important component of our relationship and our strategic dialogue with Pakistan, and we are both satisfied with the aggressive steps that Pakistan has taken in recent months at considerable expense to Pakistan. But as we’ve made clear, there is – we want to see Pakistan stay on the offensive in combating these extremist elements. And I know Pakistani officials in recent days have publicly stated their commitment to continue to do that.QUESTION:
But just – Britain being one of the main allies in that war on terror, and they seem not to be satisfied with the steps Pakistan is taking.MR. CROWLEY:
Well, as we’ve said, Pakistan has, in our view, made a strategic shift in the last year or more. It has taken aggressive action at considerable expense of – to Pakistan. The Pakistani people are suffering as much if not more than any other people in the world from terrorism. But there is clearly more to be done. Our joint concern here is to eliminate the safe havens that exist in the region and to prevent the emergence of new safe havens from which there can be the export of terrorism that can threaten the United States, Europe, or other parts of the world.QUESTION:
Just to follow, a quick one, P.J., thank you. As far as these stories have been going on now for two, three days about leak and all those things and Pakistani involvement, ISI and all that -- MR. CROWLEY:
You’re welcome to bury the story, Goyal.QUESTION:
But this is not new for me because for the last 10 years I have been saying all this in this building and the White House and Pentagon, elsewhere, and the think tanks, that there is a double game, there was a revolving door in Pakistan; during the day they were with you, at night they were with Taliban. And this is what the leaks and these stories are telling all this about.
What – my question is that General Kayani, who has been given now another clear term, he was the ISI chief during those years in Pakistan and his network and all the – question is here that even today, Ambassador Holbrooke was testifying on the – in the Hill and a general from – direct from Afghanistan was also speaking at the DOD. Have you given (inaudible) Pakistan that ISI will not give away your information which you give to Pakistan and they give away to a Taliban, that the door has been shut off now from today?MR. CROWLEY:
Again, Goyal, you’ve loaded a lot on that question. This is part of our ongoing conversation with Pakistan. The Secretary talked to leaders about these issues just last week. But this is a conversation we’ve been having for some time. There are historical relationships.
Ambassador Haqqani, I know last night, was on Charlie Rose and spoke about some of those historical relationships. The Pakistani officials have made clear that – about the contacts with various agencies, including the ISI, with elements of concern to us within Pakistan. We understand what they’re saying and we understand what they’re doing. During General Kayani’s tenure as the chief of staff, Pakistan has, in fact, taken the most aggressive action it’s ever taken against extremist elements within its borders. We want to see that continue. And we continue our conversations with Pakistani officials on how best to accomplish these things which are, we believe, in our shared interest.
So this – I understand what you’re saying. We are having these conversations. They’re candid, they’re direct, they’re respectful, because, in fact, we think this is of shared – these kind of shared concerns that we have about – and what we’re jointly trying to help to mitigate.QUESTION:
Just quick one. That time I had given an interview to (inaudible) of Liberty Free Radio and then – well, General Musharraf and now General Kayani. Do you see any difference?MR. CROWLEY:
Oh, is there a difference between a military-led government and is there a difference between a civilian-led government with the kind of legitimacy that General Musharraf lacked? Of course there is. This is a new government, and even the decision to extend the term of General Kayani was the Pakistani civilian government’s decision to make.
There is a vast difference in this current government. It enjoys more support from its people. And we are trying to help Pakistan build even more trust and support within its population. Some of its institutions are fragile. We are – it’s expressly why the supplemental is important to us that was passed by the House yesterday, to provide the resources so that we can continue to assist Pakistan, build up its institutions of government, have the government be able to deliver stronger services, more reliable services to its people. And through that public support, that’s how you narrow the space that extremists currently have to function.
I have a question on --MR. CROWLEY:
Wait. Hold on.QUESTION:
On General Kayani, what role do you think he has played in the war against terrorism and also in the strengthening democracy in the country?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I just answered that question, Lalit. QUESTION:
P.J., on Friday, President Assad of Syria and Saudi King Abdullah are going to visit Lebanon and to hold a summit with the Lebanese president. How do you view this joint visit?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, I’ll leave it to the countries involved to characterize a meeting should it take place. Obviously, King Abdullah has played a significant leadership role in the region. So his prospective travel to Syria and to Lebanon is consistent with his search for peace, his promotion of the Arab Peace Initiative, and I would suspect also reflects his concern about other regional security developments, including his concerns – his well-known concerns about Iran. So I would – we certainly value King Abdullah’s leadership in the region and certainly would support his having conversations with a country like Syria and hoping that Syria would respond and play a more constructive role in the region.QUESTION:
Could you clarify to us – you said something about the IAEA report saying something about Syria. Could you clarify what you did say?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, as you – when you read – when you download and read the report, it will specify that Syria has yet to provide information to account for nuclear activities that were going on within its borders. MR. CROWLEY:
Direct talks. How do you view the summit that will take place on Friday between Abdullah and the Syrian president and the Lebanese president vis-à-vis the direct talks? Are you talking to them about that particular issue? Are you calling on them, urging them to support the – or urge the Palestinians to go into direct talks?MR. CROWLEY:
Yes, yes, and yes. As I mentioned yesterday, the Secretary has had a number of conversations with leaders in recent days. She did have a conversation over the weekend with Foreign Minister Prince Saud about the current situation. And as I say, King Abdullah has been a tremendous leader in the region in recent years through the Arab Peace Initiative. We want to see the parties get into direct negotiations as soon as possible. We’re having conversations with the parties directly and other countries that we think can be influential in encouraging the leaders to take this important step at this time. But we’ll – we hope that they will arrive at the conclusion that we have already drawn, which is the sooner we get into direct negotiations, the better.QUESTION:
The visit by the king of Saudi Arabia with Assad to Lebanon have lots of symbols. Do you see this as an effort, with your help, to distance Syria from Iran?MR. CROWLEY:
Well, we have made clear that Syria’s relationship with Iran is of concern to us. And to the extent that Syria wants to advance its relations within the region and around the world, it would be much better for Syria to distance itself from Iran and move in a more constructive direction.
The relationship between Syria and Iran gets Syria very, very little and – but Syria has the opportunity to play a constructive role in the region. We think it has failed to do so in recent years in significant ways. That’s one of the reasons why we have chosen to engage Syria to deliver that message directly. And to the extent that Syria would listen to other leaders in the region, such as King Abdullah, we think that President Asad and other Syrian leaders should listen very attentively to what King Abdullah will tell them.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:20 p.m.)