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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 14, 2009

Index for Today's Briefing
    • There will be no Daily Press Briefing next Friday (8-21-09)
    • The Department has released statements by the Secretary congratulating both India and Pakistan on the anniversaries of their independence
    • U.S. Marines will soon begin training a Georgian infantry battalion to prepare it for deployment to Afghanistan in support of ISAF
    • Tomorrow (8-15-09) is the final day on which to apply for credentials in connection with the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh (9-24/25-09)
    • On her final stop, the Secretary met with Cape Verde Prime Minister Jose' Maria Pereira Naves
    • The Secretary is now en route to the United States, having concluded a successful seven-nation visit in Africa
    • Her remarks throughout the trip focused on increased trade, partnerships, respect for human rights, and reformation of good governance
    • Secretary Clinton strongly urged a cessation of gender-based violence and praised outstanding PEPFAR efforts in Africa
    • Freedom of expression and religious freedom are hallmarks of stable, progressive societies in the 21st century
    • We believe that those societies that practice tolerance will be those that advance the most
    • In the aftermath of the typhoon, the U.S. continues to evaluate how best to assist Taiwan and provide humanitarian needs
    • The critical element is the timetable for providing assistance
    • The State Department delivered the report on human rights to the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday
    • As to the resultant report provided to the media by the Senate staff, we have yet to see it
    • Negotiations on a bi-lateral Defense Cooperation Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia are still proceeding in Washington
    • Such an agreement would provide access to Colombia military facilities for counter-narcotics operations
    • Even though this is a bi-lateral matter, both the U.S. and Colombia are open for dialogue with other countries in the region
    • Regarding a possible early release and return to Libya of convicted terrorist Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, we have spoken with Justice officials in Scotland and expressed our position that he should serve out the entirety of his sentence
    • We have repeatedly urged North Korea to return to the Six-Party process, as it is a tried and tested way of helping to address the concerns of both the U.S. and other countries in the region
    • We will certainly listen to any suggestions that Secretary General Ban Ki-moon may have in furtherance of bringing stability to North Asia
    • North Korea signed on to an agreement in September 2005 and committed itself to end its nuclear program
    • We are willing to engage; however, we will continue to use sanctions to enforce the UN Security Council resolutions
    • As to the reported testing of short-range missiles by Syria, there has been some evidence of a relationship between Syria and Iran, and reports of dialogue between Syria and North Korea
    • This is partially why we have chosen to resume dialogue with Syria and eventually return an ambassador to that country
    • We encourage Americans to exercise proper care and caution when traveling abroad and stress that it is unwise to venture across borders
    • Some cases are handled as legal issues and some become humanitarian in nature, often necessitating dialogue with the country that is detaining them
    • As for Senator Webb's visit in Burma, embassy officials will participate in his official meetings
    • We encourage members of Congress to travel the world and to interact with various government officials


12:09 p.m. EDT

MR. CROWLEY: A hail and hearty group for a Friday in August in Washington, D.C. In fact, I’m told I’m violating the letter and spirit of the “no briefings on Friday” rule at the Department of State. So I promise that next week, we’ll not have a Friday briefing.

QUESTION: Promises, promises (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Promises, promises.

MR. CROWLEY: But the – we can dedicate this briefing to Miller and make it less filling, but highly tasty.

Good afternoon, and welcome to the Department of State. I think, first of all, to our colleagues here in the room, you’ll see statements by Secretary Clinton wishing Pakistan and India happy birthday, happy independence day.

The Secretary is airborne, coming back to Washington, D.C., after her compelling trip to Africa. She met this morning before departing Cape Verde with Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves. But obviously, the trip represents the commitment of the Obama Administration and the Secretary to a partnership with Africa. Obviously, a great deal of discussion over the past 12 days about reform on the continent – electoral, judicial, police, constitutional; about stability in different parts of Africa ranging from Sudan to Somalia; the United States interest both in promoting trade between Africa and the United States, but also promoting trade among the states of Africa; a great deal of discussion paid to the outstanding PEPFAR efforts in the continent, both in terms of combating HIV/AIDS, but also malaria; her trip to Goma, where she focused on the crimes of gender-based violence; and very direct conversations with a number of countries about the imperative of good governance and transparency in the continent.

We have a statement today that the Government of Georgia will contribute a Georgian military infantry brigade to Afghanistan for service under U.S. Command in the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, and that some Marines will be arriving in Georgia beginning on August 15th to implement a training program that will commence on September 1st to prepare that Georgian battalion – I’m sorry, battalion for service in Afghanistan.

And I think you were just served a notice that tomorrow at 11:59 p.m. is the deadline for those who wish to obtain media credentials for the Pittsburgh summit.

With that, I will take your questions. Yes.

QUESTION: Any follow-up to the question I had asked yesterday? The U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom has put India on watch list for religious intolerance, and India has officially termed this as a regrettable view from the USCIRF. Secretary Clinton was there last month on the ground. What is her full sense about religious freedom in India?

MR. CROWLEY: I think that, obviously, we talk at the Department of State about many universal principles. We’ve talked about them in a variety of contexts. But certainly, freedom of expression and religious freedom we think are hallmarks of stable, progressive societies in the 21st century. It is obviously important to us.

I can’t say to what degree it came up during the Secretary’s conversations last month, but clearly, this is an area which we think it obviously is, across the globe, a source of potential stability. And we believe that those societies that practice significant tolerance will be those that advance most significantly in the coming years.


QUESTION: Can I follow yesterday’s questions on the (inaudible) typhoon in Taiwan? Did the State Department receive a formal request from Taiwanese Government for the rescuing equipment, such as like a helicopter? And if so, will U.S. supply, and what’s the mechanism?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, the Taiwan authorities have requested additional assistance, and we are currently considering how best to assist Taiwan with its urgent humanitarian needs. What form that takes, I think it’s too early to tell. Obviously, we will look at what Taiwan feels it needs. We’ll compare what we are able to provide with what might be flowing from other countries in the region. And obviously, what’s critically important here is a timetable. What we can provide in an urgent timetable that allows Taiwan to begin to alleviate the impact of the typhoon.

QUESTION: They did mention about Sikorsky helicopter. Will that be available?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we understand that Taiwan is seeking additional assistance, and we’re evaluating how to best help them.


QUESTION: Can you give us any information on the human rights report on Mexico that the State Department sent to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees yesterday?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as – no, we can’t. As is perhaps not unusual, the group in question has provided the report to the media before it provided a report to the State Department, so we have not seen it yet.

QUESTION: On the (inaudible) Colombia issue of the base, the bases, are we getting closer now to the condition of an agreement?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I wouldn’t predict – we are in discussions with the Government of Colombia on a bilateral agreement to promote U.S.-Colombian cooperation against counternarcotics, transnational crime, and terrorism. What we’re discussing would provide access to Colombian military facilities in order to undertake mutually agreed upon activities. If we are successful in this, it will be similar to agreements we have with many other close friends around the world. But those discussions are ongoing.

QUESTION: But given the reaction of other South American countries, including Brazil, do you think it’s a good move?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think this is strictly a bilateral issue, but obviously, we and Colombia will continue to have discussions with other countries in the regions. But it is strictly a bilateral agreement, and it’ll allow us to function within Colombia to help with Colombia’s needs in terms of security.


QUESTION: Is there anything new on Lockerbie? Can you bring us up to date on what efforts the U.S. is making and its views expressed --

MR. CROWLEY: Obviously, we continue to talk to Scottish authorities about this particular case. Secretary Clinton, in the past day, talked to Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and expressed strongly the United States view that Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland for his part on the bombing of the Pan Am 103 flight.

QUESTION: Just the one call to the justice minister?

MR. CROWLEY: I believe that in the past few days, also the Attorney General has called the same individual.


QUESTION: Yesterday at the peace conference in Jeju in South Korea, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has proposed Northeast Asian multilateral conference to exist in place to Six-Party Talks to make a breakthrough. What is your comment to this?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with the Secretary General’s specific proposal. I think that we have encouraged North Korea to come back to the Six-Party process, which we think is tried and tested and an effective way of helping to address the concerns that the United States has, but also other countries in the region, about North Korea.

But obviously, we will continue to listen to the Secretary General about his ideas on how to move forward. I think we have a common interest in bringing stability to North Asia and we have a common interest in seeing North Korea abide by its obligations and eventually take action that leads to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.

Yes, (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yeah, following on North Korea, North Korea’s vice foreign minister said today that they always keep the doors open to negotiation with U.S. So has any message conveyed recently from North Korea to U.S. to have a new dialogue between two countries?

MR. CROWLEY: I think that we have indicated that we are open to dialogue with North Korea, but we want to see North Korea come back to the Six-Party process. Within the Six-Party process, there can be bilateral discussions not just with the United States, but other countries as well. But we continue to believe that the Six-Party process is the most effective way to deal with the issues that we have with North Korea, and that we share with Russia, China, South Korea, Japan, and that we await – we encourage North Korea, as we have continually over the past few months, to come back to the Six-Party process.

QUESTION: P.J., just a clarification on Secretary Clinton’s call to the justice minister – is that the Scottish justice minister or the U.K.?

MR. CROWLEY: The Scottish – just to – yeah, exactly. Obviously, this case falls within the purview of Scottish authorities, so he is the Scottish justice minister.


QUESTION: There is a report on – that Syria test-fired some short-range missiles in May, and that was done with cooperation with Iran and North Korea, that they were both there for the test and cooperated in developing that missile. Do you have any --

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not familiar with that.

QUESTION: Do you have any – can you talk about cooperation between Iran and North Korea and Syria on missiles or nuclear technology?

MR. CROWLEY: There have been some indications of cooperation. I mean, obviously, there’s a relationship between Syria and Iran. It’s of concern to us. It’s a concern to others in the region. It’s one of the reasons why we have reopened dialogue with Syria. Likewise, there are reports of cooperation between Syria and North Korea. We have the same concerns. So this is one of the reasons why we have made the decision we’ve made to resume dialogue with Syria, to eventually return an ambassador to Syria so we can have a detailed and lengthy and comprehensive discussion. But beyond that, I won’t comment.


QUESTION: Considering that there have been multiple instances of U.S. citizens being detained abroad lately, how do you think their detention and different means of release affect U.S. diplomacy?

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t think that we can stress enough that it’s unwise for American citizens to wander across borders into hostile countries.

QUESTION: Are you considering taking any preventive means?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, as we’ve said – look, preventative means – we obviously encourage Americans to travel around the world, but obviously they have to be prudent when they travel. I think that as a general matter, it is important to note that individual cases like this should be handled as a legal issue in some cases, as a humanitarian issue in some cases. In the case of a couple of countries that have been in the news recently, we have significant issues to discuss with those countries, and we have made it clear that for a country like North Korea, for a country like Iran, we want to have dialogue. We want to be able to address not only the concerns that we have about those countries, but the concerns that they may have about U.S. policy.

But in terms of holding Americans hostage to those discussions or hostage to those interests, we think that’s completely inappropriate.


QUESTION: This missing cargo ship, the Russian cargo ship that had been last seen, I think, two weeks ago after being attacked by pirates near the English Channel has been found a couple hundred miles off the coast of Cape Verde. Do you know if this came up in the Secretary’s meetings with Cape Verdean officials?

MR. CROWLEY: I do not know.


QUESTION: Senator Webb met the Burmese Senior General Than Shwe today. Isn’t this sending conflicting signals to people?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I think Senator Webb arrived in Burma today. U.S. official – embassy officials are and will participate in his official meetings.

As to precisely what he’s doing there, who he’s going to talk to, I would refer you to Senator Webb’s office. He is not carrying a specific message from the Administration. This is his own schedule, and I’ll refer you to him.

QUESTION: But isn’t this sending a conflicting signal -- at one hand you are not trying to engage the Burmese Junta. On the other hand, people are saying this – sense – signal that you are trying to engage the junta directly?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, certainly Senator Webb, a distinguished senator, member of a couple of relevant committees. We encourage members of Congress to travel the world to interact with various government officials. But this agenda is his own.


QUESTION: Can I go back to North Korea?


QUESTION: At yesterday’s special briefing, Ambassador Goldberg said that the sanctions continue until North Korea take irreversible steps to deal with this denuclearization. So the denuclearization step is a very long step; it includes many steps. A long process.

MR. CROWLEY: It doesn’t have to be a long step.

QUESTION: So my question is what North Korea should do to stop these measures that U.S. Government has been taking to implement this U.N. resolution.

MR. CROWLEY: What can North Korea do?

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, if North Korea wants to stop this measure by U.S. today, what specific action they need to take?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, North Korea signed on to an agreement in September 2005 and committed itself to end its nuclear program. We would like to see North Korea return to the Six-Party Talks and to begin to take irreversible steps consistent with the agreement it made in 2005, and move aggressively towards a denuclearization.

This can be a technically complex process, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lengthy one. It requires a political commitment by North Korea to meet its obligations and to join in a dialogue and eventually an agreement with others in the region who have concerns about North Korea and its provocative behavior and its track record as a global proliferation risk.

So I think there’s no mystery here as to what we expect North Korea to do. We are just
waiting to see if North Korea is actually going to follow the path that the international community has laid out for it.

In the meantime, as we have said consistently, we are willing to engage North Korea, we are willing to talk to North Korea, but we will continue to use sanctions to enforce the UN Security Council resolution and to have North Korea pay a significant price for its current intransigencies.


QUESTION: Can I go back to Lockerbie?


QUESTION: In addition to the contact with Scotland, are there any contacts with London on that issue?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have talked to the United Kingdom Government about this as well, but obviously, the decision rests with Scottish authorities. But we have made our views clear not only to Scotland, not only to the UK, but also to Libya.

QUESTION: So wait – the release of Megrahi, can it create tensions between London and Washington?

MR. CROWLEY: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We have made our view clear. We think that there are compelling reasons, given the tragedy that affected the United States, affected the United Kingdom. Obviously, our interest is justice, and our interest is the commitment that we made to the families that we would not only find the perpetrator of this terrorism act, bring him to justice. Working with the United Kingdom and with Scotland, he was brought to trial. We had a fair trial. He was convicted. He’s serving his time, and we think he should stay in jail.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:28 p.m.)

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