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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 18, 2009


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Clinton Addressing Barnard Commencement at Columbia University
  • PAKISTAN
    • U.S. Government Committed to Helping Pakistan Meet Extreme Threat / Direct National Interest / Should Not Make Link between Assistance Package and Nuclear Capability / Working Closely with the Government of Pakistan / Making Sure Assistance Package is Spent Well / Confidence in Command and Control / Strengthening the Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime / Identifying Resources and Ways to Assist IDPs / Instability within the Border
  • BURMA
    • U.S. Diplomatic Presence at John Yettaw Proceedings / Charges Relating to Immigration, Trespassing and Subversive Acts / Embassy Expresses Strong Interest in Case
    • Aung San Suu Kyi / Personal Physician Released / Unjust Charges / Call for Immediate Release / Release of other Political Prisoners / Getting Leverage in the Region
    • Policy Review / Considering a Range of Options
  • MIDDLE EAST
    • Two-State Solution / Regional Approach / Prime Minister Netanyahu Meeting / Intensive Talks with Special Envoy Mitchell / Strengthening and Deepening Partnership with Israel / Comprehensive Peace in the Region
  • NORTH KOREA
    • American Journalists Held / Swedish Ambassador Meeting with Journalists / U.S. Remains Concerned about Welfare
  • INDIA
    • Elections / Largest Free and Fair Election in History
  • SRI LANKA
    • Situation in Sri Lanka / Welcome an End to Fighting / Engaging with Tamil Tigers / Creating a Political Arrangement / Providing for the Needs of IDPs / IMF Loan / Secretary Clinton Consulting with Friends and Allies on Next Steps /
  • RUSSIA
    • Obama Administration Committed to Further Reductions in U.S. - Russia Nuclear Forces / Discussions in Rome
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Civilian Component


TRANSCRIPT:

12:01 p.m. EDT

MR. KELLY: Well, sorry for the delay. Good afternoon. Hope you all had a good weekend. Just to remind you that in little over an hour the Secretary is up at one of my alma maters – I do have several. She will be addressing the Barnard commencement at the campus of Columbia University. I went to Columbia University grad school, so that’s why I say one of my alma maters.

QUESTION: Barnard --

MR. KELLY: No, I didn’t go to Barnard. (Laughter.) I actually taught --

QUESTION: News.

MR. KELLY: I taught at Barnard, though. I was a teaching assistant at Barnard. I taught Russian I at Barnard. Anyway, so with that, I’m sure you have lots of questions and I’ll --

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on The New York Times story about U.S. concerns that Pakistan is trying to expand its nuclear arsenal?

MR. KELLY: I do have some reaction to that story. I think that one thing going on here is that we really have two separate issues. On the one hand, the U.S. Government has committed to helping Pakistan meet the extremist threat from within. We’ve made the commitment to help them establish stability. We’ve said this is in our direct national interest to do so. So I wouldn’t link these two issues: the idea of our providing an assistance package and the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear capability.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up quickly?

MR. KELLY: Sure.

QUESTION: Wait a minute. Just one thing on this. I don’t quite get that. I mean, I realize that the story partly carried the inference that money from the assistance package could potentially strengthen the nuclear capability, and if not directly, at least implicitly by freeing up resources that might be used for the nuclear side because of the size of the --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- economic assistance that might come through. So I don’t quite get why – I mean, it doesn’t address the underlying question of whether you believe the Pakistanis are indeed trying to strengthen their nuclear capability.

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I’m not going to address the issue of whether or not the Pakistanis are increasing their nuclear capability. I think Admiral Mullen addressed that, and so I’ll defer to the Pentagon and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But the reason why I’m saying, you know, that we shouldn’t connect these dots, that we shouldn’t make this connection, is because this assistance package is for very specific purposes. And we’re going to work very closely with the Government of Pakistan for us to meet our joint goal. We have a joint goal with our Pakistani partner here of helping them reestablish stability. I don’t see necessarily a connection between the two.

We’re going to make sure that the package is well spent. We’re going to work closely with the Government of Pakistan to make sure that the money is spent for the specific purposes that the U.S. Congress had in mind.

QUESTION: And just to go to Congress for one sec. Do you believe that the legislation now before the Congress has sufficient accountability provisions to ensure that money is not diverted from X to Y?

MR. KELLY: Well, I personally have not seen the legislation. I’ll say, as a general principle, we, of course, are very scrupulous custodians of the U.S. taxpayers’ money, we are very responsive to Congress, and we always consult very closely with them on the money that they appropriate for us.

QUESTION: Ian, following on that, are you specifically referring – in your answer to Arshad’s question – to the Kerry-Lugar assistance, or are you also referring to the coalition support funds or to the emergency supplemental that would include the $400 million and the $700 million total? What are you referring to?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. No, I understand your question. I’m referring to our assistance in general, but more specifically to the recent packages that we sent up.

QUESTION: Meaning Kerry-Lugar more specifically?

MR. KELLY: It’s the assistance package.

QUESTION: So including the emergency and the supplemental?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, including that all. Yeah.

Yes.

QUESTION: A question on Burma, if I could --

MR. KELLY: Any others on --

QUESTION: Can we stick with this?

MR. KELLY: Sure, yes.

QUESTION: What surety can you give to Congress and the Pakistanis in Pakistan that their nuclear weapons are safe and they are not going to go into the hands of Taliban because there are now heavy campaigns going on against Taliban and millions of Pakistanis are being displaced, and what U.S. doing about that?

MR. KELLY: Well, on the issue of the security of the nuclear capacity, the President and Secretary have addressed this already. We have confidence in their command and control. In very general terms, I’ll say that one of the very highest priorities of this Administration, and of really of any administration, is to ensure that nuclear weapons do not fall into the wrong hands. So we are looking forward to strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime. You know, we have talks leading to the renewal of the treaty next year. So it is an important issue for us.

On the issue of the IDPs, let me see if I have an update on that. Just hold on a second. I’m sure I do. The number of IDPs has risen dramatically from over 500,000 to over 1.5 million. The U.S. and the international community are trying to identify resources and ways to assist the people and Government of Pakistan quickly in meeting the needs of these IDPs.

And then, you had a question on --

QUESTION: Yeah, just a couple questions. But first, is there a specific dollar – additional dollar amount of U.S. aid to assist the displaced persons?

MR. KELLY: You know, I don’t have a specific dollar amount.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: We’ll get that information back to you.

QUESTION: I think the Pentagon said this morning – not a dollar amount, but they talked about halal MREs, stuff like that. Do you have any detail on that?

MR. KELLY: No, I don’t have any detail on that.

QUESTION: So we can – can we just go back to the Pakistan nuclear arsenal? I wasn’t sure in your initial answer whether you said that the United States opposes Pakistan increasing the size of --

MR. KELLY: No, I didn’t say that. I hope I didn’t say that.

QUESTION: What is – does the --

MR. KELLY: I simply stated a fact, that Pakistan has a nuclear capability and that we shouldn’t draw any links between the issues of our assistance package and their nuclear capability.

QUESTION: Does the United States oppose the idea of Pakistan increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal?

MR. KELLY: I think I referred you back to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on that.

QUESTION: And what you referred us to the Joint Chiefs of Staff on was the question of whether or not it is, in fact, expanding its nuclear arsenal. And the chairman was quite explicit in stating that Pakistan is, in fact, expanding its arsenal. The question that Charlie’s asking, which I’m seeking to follow up on, is whether or not the U.S. believes that to be a good thing.

MR. KELLY: I’m not going to comment on that, I’m afraid.

QUESTION: Why not?

MR. KELLY: It’s just – I don’t think it’s my place right now to comment on the issue of whether or not it’s a good thing if they expand their nuclear capability.

QUESTION: The Department has been very vocal in stating what things Pakistan must do in order to contribute to stability, which you just identified as a key goal of ours. So what should prevent you from addressing whether or not the expansion of a nuclear arsenal would or would not contribute to stability?

MR. KELLY: You know, James, I appreciate the question. And welcome back, I hope you had a good break.

QUESTION: (Laughter.)

MR. KELLY: But I’ll just say that we are working very closely with the Government of Pakistan – with the elected Government of Pakistan. We have this joint effort, as I said before, to help them deal with the instability within their borders, and help them deal with the threat of extremism within their borders. But, you know, it’s – I’m not going to speculate on their intentions, whether they’re increasing it or not increasing. These are intelligence matters and I’m just not going to make a comment on it.

QUESTION: If U.S. officials continually tell us publicly that for Iran to achieve a nuclear weapons capability would be destabilizing, I don’t see why we can’t address as well whether Pakistan’s expansion of its nuclear arsenal, which the chairman of the Joint Chiefs confirmed is happening, also contributes to stability or destabilizing its region.

MR. KELLY: Well, I draw a bright line between Pakistan and Iran. On one hand, we have – in Pakistan, we have an elected democratic government who is our partner in dealing with extremism. And I wouldn’t link them in the same sentence.

QUESTION: One last question if I might, and Arshad raised this a bit, which is that essentially, money is fungible. So as scrupulous as you might be in steering U.S. taxpayer funds to directed purposes in Pakistan, the fact is that since money is fungible, we are indirectly contributing to the expansion of the arsenal that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs confirmed; correct?

MR. KELLY: I don’t think I agree with that. And the reason why I agree with that – or I don’t agree with that is because, as I said before, we’ve designed a very specific package for very specific purposes. We take our responsibility as custodians of appropriated funds very seriously. We’re going to work closely with the Government of Pakistan to ensure that this money goes to the purposes to which they’re intended.

And I’ll just – I’ll finish by saying – and I will move to another topic after this – I’ll finish by saying it is in the U.S. direct national interest to make sure that Pakistan is able to meet the threat of extremism within its borders. Now I’ll take another question from – go ahead.

QUESTION: One on Burma.

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: Could you explain what the U.S. diplomatic presence at the Suu Kyi trial is? There are reports that there is someone who is admitted to the proceedings, but it’s unclear whether it’s for the American who swam across to her compound allegedly or for her trial.

MR. KELLY: There was an American consular officer present in the courtroom today for the proceedings against Aung San Suu Kyi and American citizen, John Yettaw. He was there to observe the hearing. Mr. Yettaw faces charges relating to immigration, trespassing into a restricted zone, and violating a law that protects the state from those desiring to cause subversive acts.

QUESTION: Could you repeat those three, please, quickly?

MR. KELLY: Charges related to immigration, trespassing into a restricted zone, and violating a Burmese law that protects the state from those desiring to cause subversive acts. Our Embassy in Rangoon continues to express our strong interest in Mr. Yettaw’s case and our concerns for his health, welfare, and fair treatment.

We also understand that Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal physician, Dr. Tin Myo Win, was released over the weekend, more than a week after his detention by Burmese authorities. We are deeply disturbed by the actions of the Burmese Government and reiterate that the charges that the regime is bringing against Aung San Suu Kyi are unjustified. We call on the regime to end its incarceration of Aung San Suu Kyi and to release her immediately and unconditionally along with the more than 2,100 other political prisoners that the regime holds.

QUESTION: Did this officer also see – did he see Suu Kyi’s trial or just – are they separate events and he only saw one? Or did he see hers as well? And if so, could you tell us what he saw there?

MR. KELLY: I believe the trial is – I think – believe it’s one trial --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: -- but I’m not a hundred percent sure. I don’t think they were separate trials.

QUESTION: Is it possible to clarify --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, we can clarify that.

QUESTION: -- what he saw as far as Suu Kyi?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And one other thing on this. You said, if I understood it correctly, that the United States Government was deeply concerned about the Burmese Government’s actions, and in particular, that it believed that the charges against Aung San Suu Kyi were unjustified. Do you have – and forgive me if I missed it – but do you have a position on the charges against Mr. Yettaw? Are they also, in your view, unjustified?

MR. KELLY: I think that – in terms of Aung San Suu Kyi, I think we are very concerned about these charges. These charges are being used as a pretext to either extend her house arrest, or even more disturbingly perhaps, justify a prison sentence. I think in terms of Mr. Yettaw, I’m not a lawyer, I’m not going to – I don’t think I can comment on the kinds of charges that were brought up against him.

We, of course, would call on the Burmese authorities to conduct this in a very open and transparent way, as we would call on any judicial proceedings. But beyond that, due to the fact that we have an American citizen on trial, I don’t think I want to get – I don’t want to get into the – into any kind of situation where I may jeopardize in any way his legal process.

QUESTION: Just one thing, though. I mean, the fact that you’re not a lawyer, you know, is consistent, whether you’re talking about his case or Aung San Suu Kyi’s case. So I don’t understand why that prevents you from commenting on the charges brought against him. You and the Secretary have, for example, described the charges against the two Americans held by North Korea as baseless, and so on. So it’s sort of striking that, you know, you don’t have anything to say about the charges brought against Mr. Yettaw.

MR. KELLY: Again, I don’t want to get into a case where – into a situation where his case may be put in any sort of jeopardy. It’s an ongoing investigation, and I’m just not going to comment any further.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more related on Burma?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up real quickly --

QUESTION: Oh, yeah, please.

QUESTION: On Yettaw’s case?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: You mentioned that you had some concerns for his health. When your consular officer attended the proceedings, did they – did he or she notice anything alarming or of concern about his health?

MR. KELLY: About Mr. Yettaw’s health?

QUESTION: You had mentioned that you had some concerns for his health and well-being.

QUESTION: His diabetes.

MR. KELLY: Well, I think it’s just in general terms, I’m not aware that he has a specific health condition.

QUESTION: Okay. And then – I don’t know if we’ve actually covered this one that came up last week, but have you, in the consular meetings that have been made with him, has there been any confirmation that he did in fact go into her home? Has there been any confirmation of that, or is – or are these trumped up charges?

MR. KELLY: Any confirmation of?

QUESTION: That he did, in fact, go into Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, as he is charged with.

MR. KELLY: You know, I’ve – I’m not aware that he has. And I don’t think that we would go into those kinds of details any way.

QUESTION: Not aware that he has told --

MR. KELLY: Gone – I’m not aware that he has told us that he actually entered the – her home.

QUESTION: Sir –


MR. KELLY: Yes.

Yes.

QUESTION: I understand for the last many, many years the U.S. has been warning and giving statements about her arrest August 20th, and years of anniversary on and off in jail and house arrest and all that, but the military in Burma is not listening, though, either from the UN or U.S. or international community. So now what’s the future?

MR. KELLY: Well, I think as I mentioned on Friday, the – and as the Secretary mentioned on Thursday in her joint press availability with the Malaysian foreign minister, we are – we’re looking at this – we’re looking at trying to get leverage in – from many different angles. I believe I told you on Friday that she called the ASEAN – the secretary general of ASEAN. She had plans to call other leaders in the region. I believe she was going to call the Thai foreign minister.

So it’s a very frustrating and distressing situation. How do we get them to do the right thing? And I think our approach is the best one, and that’s to approach it from a multilateral perspective to get as much leverage as we can. But yes, we’re frustrated, absolutely.

QUESTION: Are you calling on China too?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure that we’ve raised it. The Secretary has spoken recently. But she certainly will when she talks to China. And I’m sure that our Embassy in Beijing has as well.

QUESTION: Is there some sort of push at the United Nations on this?

MR. KELLY: A push on the --

QUESTION: On what’s happening to Suu Kyi in the –

MR. KELLY: I’m sure there is at the – up at the UN, but I don’t have any specific information on it.

QUESTION: Or whether the U.S. is leading some sort of push for a --

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware that we’re leading any kind of – that doesn’t mean we’re not, but I’m not aware of any right now.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. KELLY: Yes, James.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I stay on --

QUESTION: Please.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: As you’re aware, on Friday late afternoon, President Obama sent a notification to Congress stating that he determined that the national emergency with regard to Burma would continue beyond its scheduled expiration on May 20th, therefore providing for the relevant U.S. sanctions to continue.

Two things; One, Secretary Clinton herself, early in her tenure, I think, in – on her trip to Tokyo, questioned the utility of sanctions against Burma, basically pointing out the fact that they have not worked. So I would be interested in your judgment on the utility of extending the sanctions, given her own judgment that they haven’t worked?

And then secondly, is the Administration giving any consideration to the imposition of additional sanctions notwithstanding her judgment that they haven’t worked so far?

MR. KELLY: On the latter issue, we are right now involved in a thorough interagency policy review on Burma and how to get them to do the right things vis-à-vis Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma. I think the – this review will consider a whole range of options, including sanctions.

On the issue of the President’s --

QUESTION: Including additional sanctions, just so we’re clear? That was my question.

MR. KELLY: Well, just – they’re not going to take additional sanctions off the table. They’re going to discuss a wide range of options available.

On the issue of the President’s declaration on Friday, I know we have specific guidance on this, so let me take the question and we’ll post it for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just one follow-up on that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Does what happened to Suu Kyi last week and what’s happening this week with the trial make it more difficult to sort of ease any kind of sanctions, if that was the direction that the Administration was going?

MR. KELLY: I’m just going to say it certainly doesn't help.

QUESTION: I mean, is there – can you elaborate on that at all?

MR. KELLY: No. (Laughter.) The review is still going on. I’m not going to elaborate.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Different subject?

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: Middle East?

MR. KELLY: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Forgive me if you covered this in my absence. I’m interested in the selection of Egypt as the site for the President’s major address to the Muslim world. As you know, the Bush Administration had kind of a fitful experience in trying to prod Egypt toward democracy. Is this an effort to revive those attempts?

MR. KELLY: You know, when you weren’t here last week, James, I said I’m going to occasionally exercise the prerogative of a rookie and take some questions that pertain to some global issues like this. And so I’m sure that we have something that we can give you on that.

QUESTION: Do you think presently Egypt is playing a constructive role in the war against terrorism?

MR. KELLY: I’m going to take that one too, James. I think we have a broad, constructive relationship with Egypt. We have a lot of cooperative programs, including in counterterrorism. But again, let me see if I can get you something a little more interagency-approved, if you don’t mind.

Yes.

QUESTION: Middle East peace?

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: Where does the Secretary stand in regards to the possibility of a two-state solution and dismantling the settlement buildings in the West Bank?

MR. KELLY: Well, our policy regarding Middle East peace, I think is pretty clear. We are for a two-state solution for two countries living side by side in peace and stability. We look forward to discussing these issues and coming up with a regional approach to Middle East peace with Prime Minister Netanyahu. You know he’s at the White House now and he’s coming over here for dinner with the Secretary in the evening.

On the issue of settlements, you know, I’d just – I will say only what we’ve said pretty consistently, that we call on all sides to refrain from any actions that might undermine the process that we have in place.

QUESTION: If I can follow up with that, you mentioned Netanyahu’s meeting here tonight. During the Bush Administration, Condoleezza Rice cut Egypt’s military funding because of Ayman Nour, and it’s been policy that you won’t talk to Iran under – unless preconditions, they have to stop enriching uranium. Are you willing to say something to Israel, like we’re going to cut your military funding unless you comply with the two-state solution? Because it doesn't seem like Netanyahu is too into the --

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m not going to – I’m not going to prejudge anything that might come out of these meetings. I think the agenda is going to be very broad. I’m not aware of any kind of specifics such as the specifics that you just referred to. So let’s just see – let’s see what comes out of these meetings today.

QUESTION: But he – they are looking to create a Palestinian state in the first four years of President Obama’s term. But if the Israelis aren’t too into that, then how – how would you get them to comply with your agenda of a two-state solution, dismantling the settlements, and opening the borders to Gaza, if they don’t want to comply with your agenda?

MR. KELLY: You know, again, this is something that – I mean, we believe the best way to achieve a lasting – a regional peace – is via what we call in shorthand the two-state solution of both states living securely within their borders and being able to address long-term issues like the prosperity of their own – of their own countries. And this position is well known to all sides, and I’ll just reiterate that this is the – we believe this is the best solution and it’s in everybody’s interest. And again, I’m just not going to prejudge what Prime Minister Netanyahu may or may not say today.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on the Middle East, you say the U.S. position, the Obama Administration’s position, is clear on the goals --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and the Middle East peace process. But will the Obama Administration be rolling out practical steps to get the ball rolling again since things are stalled, and would they involve, say, getting the Arabs, broader than just Palestinians and Israelis and even Syrians – be getting all the Arabs involved and the Israelis involved in that?

MR. KELLY: Yeah, yeah. As I said, we’re interested in a regional solution. We think that we have to get all the neighborhood to buy on to this. Special Envoy Mitchell has been working very hard and has had some very intensive talks with a number of leaders in the region. He will continue the talks today, of course, with his participation in the meetings. But I’m just not prepared to talk about what – any kind of details of any kind of specific new proposals we would make in any kind of new rollout until we see the results of the meeting today, or any case --

QUESTION: So we can expect something, then?

MR. KELLY: No, I wouldn’t say that you can expect anything. I said I’m not going to prejudge what may come out of the meeting, though.

Yes.

QUESTION: On the schedule, you’ve only got Secretary Clinton meeting with Netanyahu at the 7:00 p.m. dinner meeting. Does that mean she’s not participating in his meetings with Obama at the White House or in any other meetings with him today?

MR. KELLY: That is correct. She is right now – well, in a half hour, will be at Columbia’s South Lawn --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. KELLY: -- to deliver the commencement address. This was a long-term commitment of hers that she wanted to keep.

QUESTION: But she couldn’t have met with him before she left?

MR. KELLY: Met with?

QUESTION: With Netanyahu, because they were --

MR. KELLY: She’s been in New York. She’s going to meet with him tonight.

QUESTION: I thought this morning, she was on this – oh, the Eleanor Roosevelt thing this morning was in New York?

MR. KELLY: That was in New York, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. KELLY: She stayed in New York through the weekend and just stayed up there.

QUESTION: Ian, could you at least dispel some speculation that has been fairly widespread in anticipation of these meetings that this is some kind of juncture at which the United States and Israel, historical allies, find each other at loggerheads over policy?

MR. KELLY: You know, I think yes, I can dispel that. I mean, I wouldn’t – I certainly wouldn’t – I wouldn’t describe it as loggerheads by any stretch of the imagination. You – this is going to be the first – I believe it’s the first formal visit – meeting between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has just recently formed a government, and we’re just looking – looking at this as an opportunity to explore a number of ways that we can, on a bilateral level, strengthen and deepen our partnership, but also in the broader context of looking at steps that all parties can take to help achieve a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the settlement issue for a moment?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When you were asked about that, I think you said something to the effect that you would urge both parties not to do anything that --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- would prejudice, right?

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: Today, there’s news out of Israel that the Israeli Government has issued tenders for building an additional 20 housing units at a settlement called Maskiot, if I’m pronouncing it correctly. What is your specific reaction to that?

MR. KELLY: Well, I don’t have a specific reaction because I haven’t seen the press reports. I’ll just reiterate what I said before in very general terms, that we just urge all sides to refrain from actions that might slow down or prevent us from reaching our ultimate goal, which is a comprehensive peace in the region.

QUESTION: And those press reports were not brought to your attention?

MR. KELLY: I’m not aware of them, Arshad.

So, new subject or --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR. KELLY: Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Friday afternoon, you put out the statement saying that the Swedish ambassador had a chance to see the two --

MR. KELLY: Right.

QUESTION: -- two American journalists being held in North Korea. Can you give us any more details – how long the meeting went and the condition of the journalists, why they were – why he was suddenly granted access? Can you give us any more details on that?

MR. KELLY: I can’t give you a whole lot of details, but I’ll give you what I have. As you know, the Swedish ambassador to North Korea met with the two detained journalists on Friday. This was the second visit, as you know. The last one was March 30th. We remain concerned about their welfare and hope they can be returned to their families in the U.S. as soon as possible. We’re in regular contact with the families, as I said, I think, on Friday.

And I’ll just repeat again that we have no higher priority – we in the State Department and the U.S. Foreign Service – than the safety, welfare and protection of American citizens abroad. We continue to work on this matter through a number of channels, but unfortunately, I’m not able to give you any details of the meeting itself in terms of duration or their health condition or any details.

QUESTION: You can give us nothing? You can’t – nothing at all?

MR. KELLY: Because of privacy considerations, I’m unable to do it.

QUESTION: He met separately with them? And does that mean that they are being detained separately? In other words, did he meet the two together or are they being held together?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure about that. I don’t have that information.

QUESTION: Is the concern about their welfare just general or is it --

MR. KELLY: Just general.

QUESTION: -- because of something that (inaudible)?

MR. KELLY: No, I’m just saying that in general, as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, this is the highest priority we have.

QUESTION: Why do privacy considerations affect your telling us where he met with them?

MR. KELLY: Well, okay. That wouldn’t necessarily be privacy, Charlie. I’m not sure where they met. You’re right; point taken.

QUESTION: Is it a situation where they have not been able to sign a privacy waiver? Are they refusing to sign a privacy waiver? Where do these privacy concerns come in?

MR. KELLY: You know, I’m starting to get into really shaky ground here, but I will say that they did decline to sign a waiver --

QUESTION: They being?

MR. KELLY: -- allowing me to talk to you about their – the details of their --

QUESTION: So it’s their choice?

MR. KELLY: It’s their choice.

QUESTION: They meaning who? Whose choice? The families or the --

MR. KELLY: No, the two journalists themselves.

Same issue?

QUESTION: A new subject.

QUESTION: Same issue.

MR. KELLY: Same issue?

QUESTION: Yeah. North Korea Government granted diplomacy, so do you also see this as a positive signal for their release?

MR. KELLY: I’m sorry, say that one more time.

QUESTION: What was the question?

QUESTION: I mean, North Korea granted the diplomat’s visit to these two reporters, so do you also see this gesture as a positive sign for their release?

MR. KELLY: I think that in terms of whether to characterize it as positive or not, I think that what I would like to see them – is just to release these two. I’m not going to characterize it as a sign that they’re going to be released.

QUESTION: But it’s quite a reasonable question because Secretary Clinton, as you recall on Thursday, when asked about the scheduling of a timetable for their trial, welcomed the timetable and said, you know, that this was, you know, sort of a positive sign.

MR. KELLY: But you were asking if they were granted access – whether that was a positive sign, right? Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, because they’ve obviously been denied consular access by your protecting power for two months.

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, it’s almost two – you know, about two months now. So --

MR. KELLY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- do you have any kind of a view on the fact that the North Koreans have indeed allowed consular access? Is that good, bad, indifferent, or are you just in a position --

MR. KELLY: Well, it’s a good thing. Sure, it is a good thing. But whether it’s a positive signal that they will be released, I’m just not --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. KELLY: -- prepared to say that. I hope they will be released and very, very soon.

Same subject? Yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Any – do you have anything on the elections in India, sir?

MR. KELLY: Do I have anything on the elections in India?

QUESTION: The President addressed it.

MR. KELLY: The President addressed it, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah, he did.

MR. KELLY: Very --

QUESTION: But anything from the Secretary, anything from Clinton? Has she made any statements (inaudible) --

MR. KELLY: We – I think that this was the – in terms of overall numbers, this was the largest free and fair election in history. And we congratulate the people of India for conducting these elections, and we look forward to continuing to work with the government. But I would refer you to the President’s statement.

QUESTION: Is she planning any visit to India?

MR. KELLY: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, uh-huh.

QUESTION: -- please? Okay. Sri Lanka --

MR. KELLY: Sri Lanka.

QUESTION: -- okay – announces that they have won the war against the Tamil Tigers. Two questions. One, what is your comment, if any, on the government’s belief that it has secured a conclusive, decisive military victory against the Tigers? And secondly, Secretary Clinton told us on Thursday that it was not the right time for the IMF to consider a $1.9 billion loan to Sri Lanka. Does – has that view changed, or is it still the Department’s view that this is not the right time to consider such a loan?

MR. KELLY: Let me first just comment in general on the situation in Sri Lanka, and then I’ll talk about next steps. The Department of State welcomes the fact that the fighting has ended, and we are relieved that the immense loss of life and killing of innocent civilians appears to be over. This is an opportunity for Sri Lanka to turn the page on its past and build a Sri Lanka rooted in democracy, tolerance, and respect for human rights. Now is the time for the government to engage the Tamils, Sinhalese, and other Sri Lankans to create a political arrangement that promotes and protects the rights of all Sri Lankans.

It is also vital for the government to provide for the needs of the 280,000 civilians now living in relief camps. Providing food, water, shelter, basic health care, and sanitation, as well as expediting their return to their homes should be a top priority for the government.

And I think on the specific question about what the Secretary said about the IMF loan, I haven’t talked to her today specifically about this. I would just say that in general our focus needs to be on this very urgent short-term problem of providing for the needs of IDPs, internally displaced persons, and then to begin the process of reconciliation of a political process that includes all of the people of Sri Lanka.

On the specific issue of the IMF loan, let me just limit myself to saying that the Secretary will be consulting with friends and allies on next steps. But it’s too early really to comment on the IMF loan.

QUESTION: Can you take that question, only because she addressed the matter not three days ago and --

MR. KELLY: Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’ll get the same answer I just gave you.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m pretty sure of that, too. But if you could check, I’d be grateful.

MR. KELLY: All right, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: So just following up on the humanitarian side, has the U.S. Government been in touch with the Sri Lankan Government about providing access to the UN and all the other agencies --

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: -- that have been denied?

MR. KELLY: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: So on the ground you’re expecting --

MR. KELLY: On the ground through Ambassador Blake.

QUESTION: So you’re expecting that any time soon, or should it have started already? They’ve allowed them that extra --

MR. KELLY: I --

QUESTION: -- manpower and --

MR. KELLY: I would certainly hope so.

QUESTION: What’s the --

MR. KELLY: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you please first provide an assessment of whether U.S. sanctions over the years have actually worked or had any influence in this, or was this purely just a military victory by the government over the --

MR. KELLY: Sanctions --

QUESTION: -- American sanctions and, you know, the blacklist that various companies from Sri Lanka have been put on around the world?

MR. KELLY: Yeah. Well, I – yeah, don’t think I’m in a position really to characterize whether or not the sanctions have worked. I’d just say again that we welcome the fact that the fighting has ended after 25 years, and it appears anyway that the long suffering of the Sri Lankan people are – is now over.

QUESTION: Any idea about that state of – I mean, the companies that are on the blacklist stay on the blacklist?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – you know, as I say, I think we’re going to have to consult not only with our friends and allies, but also to consult internally too, on what the next steps are. So let me leave that at –

Same issue, James?

QUESTION: Yeah. With LTTE designated by our government as a foreign terrorist organization, why are you not congratulating Sri Lanka for concluding a decisive military victory over a foreign terrorist organization? Why are our comments all couched in sort of moral equivalent terms of the fighting is over, we’re glad that this has ended? Isn’t this a victory over terrorism?

MR. KELLY: I don’t like you saying that I’m using moral equivalent terms, I have to say, James. Look, I mean, we are less than 24 hours into what I hope is a new era for the Sri Lankan people. And as I said before, our focus is on addressing these very urgent needs of the Sri Lankan people, these almost 300,000 dispossessed, displaced people. Our policy on the LTTE – the Tamil Tigers – has been very clear. We see them as a terrorist organization.

QUESTION: So is this a victory against a terrorist organization? Isn’t that worth celebrating?

MR. KELLY: Again, I think our focus is going to be on taking care of the urgent needs of the people. I’m not saying at some point we may not say something else. But we want to take care of the urgent needs of the people and start looking at how we can put into place some kind of political process that takes into account all the peoples of Sri Lanka.

QUESTION: But, sir, as far as humanitarian doors, they are not still open because hundreds of Tamils were demonstrating in front of the White House and despite a presidential statement that he was calling on the Sri Lankan Government and the UN and the international community that this is urgent need. But still the campaign is still going on against innocent people in Sri Lanka.

MR. KELLY: Well, I mean, we’ve been very consistent and very clear that the Government of Sri Lanka has to ensure that these hundreds of thousands of civilians are cared for, that they have to provide for their needs, and these are very basic needs. And we believe that these – taking care of these basic needs should be a top priority for the government.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just quickly, different topic?

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there any light you can shed on the situation of four contractors in Afghanistan who were involved in a traffic accident and a shooting – American citizens --

MR. KELLY: This happened today?

QUESTION: No, the – it happened over the past week or so. It doesn’t seem to be --

MR. KELLY: I’m taking that one.

QUESTION: Just quickly --

QUESTION: Sorry, Ian, I have a question.

QUESTION: -- do you have anything on (inaudible) START (inaudible) maybe in Moscow?

MR. KELLY: Yes. I don’t know if it will satisfy your hunger, but I do have something. Yes. The Obama Administration is strongly committed to further reductions in U.S. and Russian nuclear forces, as directed by President Obama and President Medvedev. The chief negotiators for the U.S. and the Russian Federation began discussions in Rome on April 24th, and they’re now continuing these discussions in Moscow this week regarding the negotiation of a new treaty that would replace the START treaty that expires in December. And because these negotiations are ongoing, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any specific proposals that might be made.

QUESTION: But they started then today in Moscow?

MR. KELLY: Well, I – my information is, yes, it started – well, it says this week, so I assume yes.

(Inaudible) I’ll give you one last one.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. KELLY: It better be an easy one.

QUESTION: Okay. Admiral Mullen this morning was referring to the civilian ramp-up in Afghanistan.

MR. KELLY: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And he talked about some estimates being that 500 civilians are needed, and other estimates being upwards of 2,000. So we know that the review has taken place. What is going on in terms of the timeline for ramping up how many State Department civilians are going to be sent there? And if you don’t know the answer, can you take it?

MR. KELLY: Well, I can give you a general answer, that this is a key part of our Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy to have a bigger civilian component. I don’t have the numbers in front of me or the timeline that would be needed to get these people on the ground. But, yes, I’ll be happy to take the question for the specifics.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MR. KELLY: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:45 p.m.)



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